February 14th, 991
Riley recovered, as she always did, but seemed more attached to Patrick than ever. She didn't like to be anyplace alone for any period of time and Patrick was willing to support her the best he could, though he did wish he had a more effective arsenal of words to comfort her when she started crying. In the past, he had always just looked at her or let her cry until she stopped, but he somehow he felt as though he should be doing more than that these days.
Oftentimes, Riley left the house early in the morning, saying she'd be home later, and she'd simply go. Patrick would usually lie in bed and stare at the empty space where she once lay. Sometimes, he heard her get up in the middle of the night and cry in the bathroom. That was something his mother used to do.
So, one morning, when Riley got up, Patrick sat up as well. "I'll come with you today," he offered.
"I'm not going anyplace interesting," Riley warned him.
"I want to go too," Patrick said, quickly changing his shirt so she wouldn't have to wait for him.
He took her by the hand and led her out the door. From there, she led the way. It didn't take long for him to figure out where she was headed; the graveyard. He knew she spent a lot of her free time there even before her mother died, often going there to visit people who had been killed on missions.
Patrick found himself unusually hesitant when they reached the gate. Riley took a step towards the path and noticed Patrick suddenly wasn't following her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I don't know," Patrick admitted. "I've been to the Fourth Level Squad gravesite plenty of times, but now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever been in this one."
"Never?" Riley said somewhat skeptically.
"Well, once when my father died," Patrick said. "But that was a long time ago."
"Not even to see Anne?" Riley clarified.
Patrick shook his head slowly. "Should I have?" he asked.
"Probably," Riley said. "Come on, visit her now."
"Not now," Patrick said.
"Now," Riley insisted. "If I don't take you now, then you're never going to do it, are you?"
Patrick knew she was right and, as she led him through the pathways and appeared to know exactly where to go, Patrick wondered if perhaps Riley had paid Anne the courtesy of visitation when he had not. There were a lot more headstones than he imagined there would be and he did find himself slightly taken aback with just how many dead people there were buried under their village.
He pondered their stories as they wound the paths and passed by graves with loving messages engraved on them. He did simple math in his head with each headstone they passed and tried to figure out how old each person was when they died.
"Here," Riley said, stopping short in front of an average gravestone which didn't look any different from any of the others.
At first, he thought there had been a mistake. It had Anne's name on it, in a way: Anne Willow, loving daughter, wife, September 21st 966-March 10th 987. He figured, at first, Riley had taken him to the wrong grave, but the same birthday and death day could not be just a coincidence.
"Anne Willow?" Patrick read out loud.
"Anne got married a few months after you dumped her," Riley said. "You didn't know, I guess?"
Patrick was astounded. It didn't seem plausible.
His face was absolutely transparent, so much so that Riley commented on it, saying, "You really think she would go on not loving again?"
"I just…didn't know," Patrick said. That was the saddest thing for him; he had no idea.
"She had a lot of things to offer a husband," Riley said. "I bet she was a good wife. She would have been a good wife for you, even, Patrick."
Again, Patrick had the opportunity and the desire to make Riley his wife right then and there but he didn't think Riley would appreciate it at a time like that.
"Wait," said Riley with a frown. "If you've never been to this grave except when your dad died, then that means there are tons of people you've never visited besides Anne."
"Like who?" Patrick questioned.
"Todd Toph, for one," Riley said. "I bet if you saw him, you'd get some closure to that whole mess where you ripped his arm off and punched his face in and—"
"Riley, you have to stop."
"Sorry," Riley said, slapping her forehead. "I'm so stupid, really! But come on, I'll take you to see Todd. He's not far from here!"
She grabbed his hand and began to pull him away. Patrick lingered in front of the grave for a few seconds longer and felt relieved somehow that Anne had been in love before she had been killed. He had always imagined her sitting by herself when Dane Slate took her over, but there was always her husband—Mr. Willow. Whoever he was.
Finally, he allowed Riley to coax him away from Anne's grave, and he found himself waving absentmindedly at it. As they were walking, Patrick tried to do a little more than just simple math as he went to each gravestone. He read the names and, with each grave he passed, he started to realize just how many of these people he actually knew.
"Abbot," Patrick said as he stopped walking and pointed at the gravestone. "Ronin Abbot."
"What about him?" Riley asked.
"I was just wondering what happened to him the other day," Patrick explained. "And I guess this is it."
Ronin Abbot, treasured son of ours, December 22nd 969—September 12th 986.
"So young," Riley noted.
"Four months older than you," Patrick pointed out. "I bet if neither of you had been so exceptional, you both would have been in the same class."
"What do you think killed him?" Riley asked, kneeling down in front of the grave. "He was the one who always made you mad because he did better than you, right?"
"What happened around that time of his death?" Patrick pondered. "You're the expert on remember things that happened in the past."
"That's when it all started with Dane Slate," Riley mused. "But I don't think Ronin had anything to do with that. He was probably on another mission that day and things just went badly wherever he was going."
Patrick stared at the gravestone and then down at the line of them.
"Where were we about to go?" he asked.
"Todd Toph," Riley said.
"Let's go," Patrick said, standing up and walking away from his former casual rival.
When they reached a new row of headstones, Patrick found Todd Toph's fairly quickly; Todd Toph, beloved son and brother, July 2nd 952—October 27th 987.
"Was he that old?" Patrick found that was the only thing he could say.
"It's not that old," Riley laughed.
"Strangely…I feel good here," Patrick said. "I think I should have come to this place a long time ago."
"Do you have anything to say to him?"
Patrick waited a few seconds, as if there was confusion as to who she was speaking about. "I don't know," he said. "Even though he was assigned to be my teacher, I guess I hardly knew him."
"Was he a good teacher?"
"I don't really know that either," Patrick confessed. "I rarely showed up for training and then I was promoted off the team. I never went on a mission with him."
"You sound disappointed."
"I am, a little," Patrick said. "On the first day of training, he told me that he thought I was a great Change but I didn't believe him."
"I guess I thought he was just trying to get on my good side."
Riley bowed her head at the grave and then asked, "Is there anyone else you want to see?"
"To be honest…" Patrick started and then trailed off. He thought for a long time and wondered if there really was anyone else he was interested in visiting. Over his years, he had known a lot of people who had been killed in missions or for various other reasons. He felt the recent deaths like a sting, but soon realized that there were some deaths which occurred so long ago that they hardly even felt like deaths anymore.
The first person who had ever died in his life was his little sister, Stephanie. Most of the time, he never even thought she existed. Mother had been pregnant for a long time, even after he had returned from training with other children his age. According to Alexander, Stephanie's death was when his father really stopped being a cohesive person.
"I remember wondering if they buried my little sister," Patrick said. "You know, if they made a tiny coffin for her and put her in the ground."
"Do you want to find her?" Riley asked.
"Your sister," Riley said. "We'll find her. I bet she'd me next to your old man, so you can say hi to him too while you're there."
"My dad?" Patrick clarified.
"Yes, your dad, who else?"
"I don't know. It seems weird."
"Come on," Riley urged.
Again, she took the lead. He wanted to say that he recognized certain landmarks on the way to his father's resting place. But that had been almost twenty years ago, and it was dark, and it was raining that night. Other than that, he didn't think he remembered much about that day. This thought was confirmed when Riley suddenly stopped walking again, and Patrick looked up to see an average sized gravestone; Stephanie Leary, February 14th 971, survived by a mother, father and brother.
"What's the date?" Patrick asked.
"Today?" Riley said. "The fourteenth."
Patrick took a breath. "This would have been her birthday," he said.
"Stephanie's?" Riley asked.
"Yeah," he said. "She would have been twenty. Today, she would have been twenty, if she had survived. She would have been just a year younger than you, Riley. Maybe the two of you would have been friends."
"I can't imagine having two of you," said Riley. "You're tiresome enough, but of course I would have loved to be friends with her."
Patrick crossed his arms and contemplated the baby, trying to imagine what she would look like. She would probably have curly hair like him and his father, but then again, maybe she would have looked more like his mother.
There was an empty patch of dirt next to the baby's grave and a blank headstone. "Your mother probably reserved a plot for herself," Riley noted.
"She wants to be buried next to Stephanie," Patrick observed.
"And someone else," Riley said, pointing at the grave on the other side of the blank one.
Patrick knew who the stone belonged too, but it still felt like a surprise as he basically crept up on it and looked down to see that he was standing in front of his father. Riley held onto his hand for a few moments, and then started to let it go and back up. For a few seconds, as he stood there with his hand extended towards Riley while she stood a few paces behind him, he felt weirdly abandoned.
"Where are you going?" he asked, trying not to sound urgent.
"Nowhere," Riley said. "It's just, I never knew him. Actually, I don't really know anything about him."
Patrick's eyes fell on the headstone, displaying: Andrew Leary, July 1st 948—March 11th 973, survived by a wife and son.
"I don't really know anything about him either," Patrick realized.
"You know a few things," Riley convinced him. "Say what you do know about him."
"I know he was a great Change," Patrick said. "Alexander says he was a considered a master. He and my mother met while he was on a mission in her village and he took her back here. I know he was killed by an arrow in the back of his head, but he and I have the same ability."
"What?" Patrick asked.
"Well, that's all stuff people told you about him," Riley said. "What did you know about him?"
"He died when I was really young," Patrick reminded her.
"Yeah, but you have to remember some things about him. Everything you just said is stuff anyone could have known. What do you know about him?"
She kept saying that: What do you know about him? Admittedly, he didn't think he knew anything about him at all. At least not anything that someone else wouldn't have been able to tell him.
"I guess…" he said, trying to remember his father. "He was tall. And I always thought he wanted me to be a great Change more than anything else, but I think he did love me as a son too."
He looked to Riley as if to say, "Is that good enough?"
"What else?" she led.
Patrick sighed and turned back to the grave. "But…he also respected me, too. He… collected my baby teeth. When my mother complained about me, he would defend me. All along, he knew I had inherited his ability but he was waiting for me to tell him first. He always kept a small photo book of his family with him when he went on missions. And…"
Patrick thought hard as he stared at his father's death date.
He did simple math. Twenty-five, just barely older than Patrick.
"He was young," he decided finally.
Young and dead.
"Your father would be proud of you," Black's voice fluttered in his ear.
"I'm proud of him too," Patrick decided in a voice only Black could hear.
Riley knelt down next to Patrick and put her arm on his shoulder. "Sorry, Riley," he said, looking back at her. "I dragged myself along and you had to take me to all these places."
"I'm glad I could learn a little bit more about you and your dad," Riley said. "Sometimes I think I expect I know what you'll do next, and you surprise me. I know I don't know you as well as I think." She leaned her head on him. "What's the earliest thing you remember about him?"
At first, Patrick was going to dismiss her question as impossible. There was no way for him to sort through his memories and decide which one was the first in the chronological order. But then, the more he stared at the gravestone, the more things seemed to come together. As he thought, he heard the sound of footsteps, and he checked over his shoulder to see an old couple walking past them, perhaps on their way to visit their own loved ones.
He watched them go unacknowledged and then looked up at the blue sky. Black flickered by, soon followed by Lucy as they did laps around his head. He closed his eyes and thoughtfully imagined he could almost see his father, peering down at him, looking quizzical, pondering aloud, "Well, he doesn't look very smart, now does he?"
Patrick finally opened his eyes, placing his arm around Riley as well, and looked up, as if to say, "Well, look at me, Dad, do I look smart now?"
End part 2! If the people so demand a part 3, then you shall receive a part 3! And I hope you demand it because I've already started it. I don't know about you guys, but I definitely want to keeping watching Patrick grow up. Truthfully, Patrick does some things occassionally that even I don't expect until after I've written it. I know this section got a little dark in the middle, but I promise there will be lots of happiness (AND SURPRISES!!) in the next part, with also much more action too. Of course Patrick will fight more foes, but as you can see, he has Riley. Keep tuned in! It's going to be astronomically wonderful!