Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This is my annual Christmas-related fic. I got the idea while going through our cemetery tonight and wrote it in one sitting. The descriptions of the cemetery are based on what I've seen here. For newcomers, I should mention that this, like all my YGO fics, takes place in America. It is part of my Pendulum Swings timeline, but is meant to be read as a stand-alone. Merry Christmas!
The residents of Domino City loved Christmas. Downtown was always decked in twinkling lights and beautiful decorations attached to street lamps and stretched as archways across the streets. Carols and other holiday music played on speakers in and outside businesses. Churches set up lit Nativity scenes and put on pageants. And overall, there was that special feeling of magic in the air. The gentle snowfall on Christmas Eve only added to the excitement and anticipation.
The good people of the city strived to make sure that no one was forgotten this season. Charity drives had been put together by various organizations and even by some individuals. The homeless shelter hosted a large and successful dinner for all those without a place to live.
And the departed were remembered as well.
To see the Domino City Cemetery on Christmas Eve was a beautiful and sobering experience all at once. Still-living family members and other loved ones left festive items by and around the headstones. Many bore wreaths, while shrubs and trees were decorated with Christmas lights. Small, pre-lit Christmas trees had also been placed by some graves. It was also not unusual to see plush animals at the headstones of children.
And the great majority of the resting spots also welcomed candles. The cemetery was a sea of white paper bags with nesting candles, shining their beacons for all to see---both living and dead.
That, however, was only true for those who still had loved ones able to come visit. To look at the older sections of the cemetery was a completely different, lonely world. There were very few, if any, decorations; no wreaths, no trees, and no lights of any kind. Every now and then a few candles would be seen shining from some of the scattered newer graves, but for the most part the old part of the cemetery was in darkness.
A lone figure trudged among the isolated graves, a dark coat pulled around his shivering form. His hair, the color of the snow that was blanketing the ground, hung into his face as he walked with his head bowed. He kept himself separate from the others who had come to remember their departed loved ones, both because he walked this path out of necessity and because he wanted to remember those who had been forgotten.
He hoped they had loved ones around them in the afterlife. Many, he supposed, did not have any living relatives nearby to tend to their graves. But there would also be those whose family lines had ended, those who literally had no one who could visit even if there was posterity around somewhere.
It made him sad to see the barren stones, especially in contrast to the brightly-decorated ones nearby. He wished that he could do something some year to make sure that every person buried in the cemetery was remembered, perhaps to set a candle or some token on each grave. But every year was the same---he never got it done.
He sighed softly as he stepped under a protective pine tree. Its branches were hung low over those who had been laid to rest under its care. He was almost there now, to the two graves at the rounded corner of this section of the cemetery. He had long ago memorized the way; he made the journey not only on every important holiday, but also on birthdays and whenever else he wanted to come.
The cemetery had alternately fascinated and frightened him as a small child. He had never liked passing the lonely place with the iron gate surrounding it on all sides. And yet at the same time, something had always drawn him to it. He had peered through the bars when passing by, staring at the tombstones and those coming to visit. He had wondered about so many things---where the spirits of those in the ground were, what the people visiting were thinking . . . and about the graves where no one ever seemed to come.
He had never once dreamed that he would become as close to the resting place for the dead as he had. The tragedy that had claimed half his family had left a lasting impression and a growing interest---even obsession---with death and all aspects of it. And he had taken to visiting the graves whenever he could. His fear of the cemetery had diminished and then vanished altogether. His greatest fear was the crushing loneliness that on some days had threatened to swallow him in its depths. But in the cemetery, he never felt alone.
Here he was. He knelt down in the snow, a sad smile crossing his features as he carefully brushed the collected snow away from the two matching, heart-shaped headstones.
Beloved Wife and Mother
Both stones bore the inscription Gone to join the angels and a carving of one of the heavenly winged beings. Amane's was a cherub.
He placed a sealed envelope beside each grave---each containing both a Christmas card and a letter. He brought cards every year and letters whenever his heart ached so badly he had to write them. This year, he also had a small angel bear plush for Amane and a poinsettia plant for their mother. He set them in place, then leaned back, his hands on his knees.
"Well . . . another Christmas season has come without you, Mother and Amane. . . ." His breath came out in frozen puffs as he spoke. "There's so much I could say . . . so much I tried to say in the cards and letters. . . . But I never can quite capture all that I'm feeling and put it into words.
"I miss everything the holidays were when you both were here. I miss your cooking, Mother. . . . I miss cookie parties and Christmas music on the radio and how you danced with me and Amane. You got all of us to dance together to the Christmas songs. . . . We'd link hands and dance in a circle, while Father watched. He hardly ever joined in, but I remember him sitting and smiling at the kitchen table.
"I miss playing in the snow with you, Amane, and hanging our stockings by the fireplace when we came inside. I miss seeing the Christmas ornaments you'd make every year for our tree. And I miss the excitement of trying to get you to sleep when you just couldn't. Remember when you convinced me to sit up with you waiting for Santa?" He chuckled softly. "We woke up having fallen asleep at the window. But he definitely came. All the stockings were filled. . . . And the tree looked so magical with all its wrapped packages. . . ."
He reached out, turning the angel bear just slightly. "I miss sitting in the living room, with only the glow of the fire and the Christmas tree, as we read the Christmas story and sang carols. Do you remember how it always felt, Amane? It was like nothing could ever go wrong. But then so much did. . . ." He swallowed the lump in his throat, but it only came back.
"I wonder what it's like to celebrate Christmas in Heaven? Do you get together with all of our other loved ones who have passed on and have a feast? . . . I guess people don't eat in Heaven, though. . . .
"Do you sing in a heavenly choir? I know little Amane would be a big hit."
He weakly smiled, then looked up at the sky. A few stars were visible, glistening in the night, but the clouds were quickly concealing them from view. There was going to be another snowfall.
"Sometimes," he said now, "do you even see Jesus Himself? I've always wondered about that."
He looked back to the cold headstones. ". . . Father and I are getting by alright," he said. "This season he's actually been around more than he has been in years." He smiled again, a bit wistful. "I just hope it lasts. He really seems to have had a change of heart, however. I always prayed for that, but I'd long ago lost hope.
"And that spirit I've told you about. . . . He's been given some kind of second chance. I don't really understand what's going to happen, but there's some battle in the future that they want him to fight in, so they gave him this magical item that allows him to be mortal.
"I always wanted to think he really cared about me, you know, and well . . . it's a long story, but I found out that he definitely does. He's gruff, but he's like an older brother. So . . . this will be a very interesting Christmas." He sighed quietly. "I just wish both of you were here to enjoy it too. . . ."
He lingered for a moment in silence before getting to his feet. "Well," he said, "I should be getting back, I suppose. Merry Christmas, Mother. Merry Christmas, Amane. . . . I'll come by again as soon as I can."
The first snowflakes descended from the gray sky, twirling and spinning to the ground. And as they fell, two voices seemed to carry on the gentle wind.
"Merry Christmas, Ryou."
He looked up in wonder, holding out his hands to catch the snowflakes. And he smiled.
He was not alone.