So, I swore I'd never write anything like this… I have a hard enough time reading tragic fics, let alone writing one, but for some reason, this just came to me today, so here you are. Many thanks to recoilandgrace for her advice and help!

Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, I'd never do this to them for real. NEVER.

Ghosts

Most of her life, she has believed in an afterlife. When her grandparents died, it was a comfort to think they were in some heavenly ether, at peace and with each other. When she counselled a woman who was dying of cancer, it helped her to share the woman's conviction that she was heading to another portal of existence when she departed from this life. When she hears of tragedy and human loss, she wants to believe that the victim has found the way to a new form of being, somewhere – that the moment their life was extinguished was not the moment every part of them vanished. It's easy, sometimes, to think that there must be something beyond the life we know here and now, perhaps because admitting there might not be is far too unbearable. How can a person be gone forever, how can who they are, who they were, be reduced only to a pile of papers, a collection of objects and stories those left behind have to tell? There must be more, there must be a place – a way – for them to continue existing. Somehow.

When it comes to ghosts, her beliefs are a little more hazy. In some respects, it seems ludicrous to believe that ghosts exist; perhaps it's the world of cinema and television that makes it seems so absurd - people appearing as blurry figures or deathly white incarnations of themselves, hovering in the room, conversing with those they'd left behind in eerie whispers - just seems a ridiculous notion to entertain.

But sometimes she'll hear his voice, even though she knows he's not around to let it reverberate around the bare walls. She'll catch a glimpse of someone on the street, and think for a second that it's him. A knock at the door, and she'll look up, expecting to see his face peering around at her, before the agonising reality hits her that it can't be. Sometimes, when she's sitting at her desk, allowing the chair to sway ever so slightly from side to side in a rhythm that would be comforting if it weren't for the fact that she is beyond comfort, she'll feel like he's there with her. Somehow.

She's becoming more like him, in a lot of ways; she'll sometimes make a comment that sounds like something he'd say, and she wonders if he's speaking through her, guiding her to act as he would. She'll make a decision, take a risk, do something reckless that she wouldn't have done before, and she isn't sure if that's because he is somehow reaching her from wherever he's gone, or if she is just trying to act like him to keep up the illusion, just a little, that he's still there with her.

She's not sure that she believes in ghosts; not the kind that float around the room or appear as transparent images of their former selves, anyway. But it can't be too preposterous to believe that when someone close to you dies, a part of them stays with you. Surely it doesn't make you crazy to feel the autumn breeze on your neck and imagine, for a moment, it's their breath, proof of their life, of their closeness to you. If your love for someone is strong enough, even after they have physically gone to a place where you cannot follow, it can't be impossible to believe that some imprint of them will remain on this earth, that their goodness, their character, their soul can live on, in all those who cherish their memory and keep them alive in their hearts. And maybe it's not too ridiculous to believe that sometimes, in whatever way the universe will allow, they can come back to you. In an echo of a smile on their child's face, in the brush of the wind against your skin, in the warm rays of sunlight that stream through your window, attempting to penetrate the darkness that settled the day their light disappeared forever. She can't reach out and touch him, can't ask his advice, can't argue with him, banter with him, laugh and joke and talk or just sit, in companionable silence, with him. But he's there. Even if only as a kind of ghost, he's there. He always will be.