Takes place about 12 years after PKWars.
Resting In Shadows
The suns are still shining, drawing closer to one another as they begin their slow decent below the horizon, and with their departure will come the chilled night air. Dark clouds are billowing up to the south of us, telling me of the storm that will eventually arrive in our wake. Not our usual calling card, dad would say.
Shadows dance in the distance, but not too far. Close enough for me to watch them move and grow. If I close my eyes, I think I feel them. Those shadows, and the trees they belong to. I don’t want to be here right now. Don’t want to be standing on this planet, next to him while he’s lying in a box. About to be completely taken from me forever. I know that if I stay much longer, there is no way I can hold on until the end.
I bite my bottom lip, hoping to hold back the tears that want to come from the real pain inside of me, and I draw blood. Quick glance up, and I can see my mother’s attention on the priest.
Or was it a preacher?
I can’t remember. There are so many things that have happened the last few days. Most of them spent trying to stay busy. To not think of him gone. To not think at all. Licking my lip fast, I hope that she didn’t see the blood there, or me swatting at the insects that began buzzing around the small cut.
I haven’t said anything since we arrived a few arns ago, staying mostly by myself.
He loved this planet, always coming back whenever Moya was in this system. I just want to leave here. Everything reminds me of him, of the things he’d told me about since I little. It hurts, and I don’t want anyone to see how scared I am. Or the tears that I know are going to start falling if I look anywhere but at the top of my boots. Mother told me it was okay for me to cry, that – that this was normal, but she couldn’t possibly have meant the pain that is stabbing me in the chest, making it feel as if something is sitting on top of me.
Everything is going to be different now. There was nothing anyone could do to bring him back.
It isn’t fair.
I can’t help but want to do something for him, to help take away the sting of the inevitable. It’s becoming hard to ignore the knots in my stomach that continue to grow as I watch D’Argo stand across from me. He’s trying his best to be brave now, but D’Argo doesn’t have the experience to keep it hidden well, at least from me.
There is so much in life I want to teach him, but not this. This, this one lesson I wanted to wait a few more cycles before he learned that life was cruel, until he is much older and capable of understanding. But if there was one thing I have learned over the cycles, that is to expect the unexpected.
My attention shifts from D’Argo to one of this planet’s religious leaders. Losing my concentration momentarily as the wind picks up and I have to brush the hair from my face. The meaning behind the man’s words are not lost to me. I have seen rituals such as this many times over the cycles. His words are supposed to comfort us, secure in the fact that our loss is not in vain.
A loss of life is that. A loss. We can never regain what is taken from us, even if it is a natural part of life. Instead, the accomplishment of those words was to remind us that the man who’d unintentionally led us all to this place was gone. Forever.
This time there was no way to go back to the beginning.
I see him for the child that he is, with just a hint of hard edges and the man he’ll become beginning to show through. Familiar shifting of the shoulders, and I know he won’t last much longer, even if he is surrounded by family. He is so much like his father at moments, it terrifies me.
Two cycles ago, he snuck me away from the others. We spent the day eating whatever sweets we could find as we looked at the different goods sold in the market. At least, until I got sick and threw up all over his shoes. I was almost too heavy for him now, but he carried me back at the transport. When we got there, mother was standing at the top of the ramp, waiting for us. I could barely stand when he stood me up, never letting go of me as I swayed under her scrutiny.
Mother looked as if she were going to shoot him on the spot.
She put me to bed back on Moya, she wiped my face with a wet rag after each time I became sick in the waste bucket he’d sat beside me.
He’d stood in the doorway, shifting nervously from one foot to the other as she asked us both if it was worth it. We'd smiled at each other and told her it was.
There were so many times like that. Secret trips planned with just the two of us. He taught me about games on Earth, things like football, and card games.
We had our own little world…
I can’t help but jerk when a hand falls on my shoulder. “I’m going to miss him too, son.” I don’t want to look up into those eyes, to see the tears that I know are running down his face.
But when he drops to his knees, I can’t help myself. I watch him place his hand on top of the coffin, shoulders sagging under the reality.
“I guess this time it’s goodbye for good, Dad. You – You made me so happy when you agreed to come back with us. To see D’Argo grow up, and teach him like you did me. We’ve done this a couple times already. I thought I was ready for this, but – I’m not. I wish…I wish…”
I find myself stepping forward, and this time it’s me that tries to comfort. I may have lost my grandfather, but Dad…he’s lost so much more than that. And I don’t know what to do.
Dad turns away and looks me in the eye; he doesn’t stand up yet, but stays on his knees. “It’s okay, D’Argo. He lived a long time, and he is, was, so very proud of you. Just like I am.” He reaches up and cradles the side of my face, thumb brushing away the tears that are determined to fall no matter what.
I feel like a little kid, but I reach for him and wrap my arms around his neck. “I’m going to miss him so much, Dad. I don’t want him gone yet. Not ever.” The sob breaks away from me and I don’t care anymore about being brave, I just want my grandfather back and I want my dad to make it all better.
“That’s it, let it out, son. It’s okay.” His arms tighten around my waist, and he stands, brushing the back of my head as he carries me back home.