Mike is numb. He sits, frozen, in the pew, not caring that the hard wood is beginning to make his legs fall asleep. He can't move, he can't think. He can't even feel.
A small, soft hand slips into his.
She hasn't called him that in years, ever since she was a little girl. It makes Mike start out of his trance. It is only then that he realizes the church is empty. Everyone else has already left.
"Daddy, we have to go," she says. "They're waiting for us."
The internment. Mike had forgotten all about that.
"Andy, I'm sorry, I…"
"I know, Dad," she says, her eyes swimming with tears behind her glasses. "I miss her too."
Mike looks at Andrea, and something in him moves with a hollow thud. She looks so much like Vicki. The same brownish-blond hair falling to her shoulders in soft waves, the same determined fire behind her eyes. Even the same glasses, although in Andrea's case it's just nearsightedness.
The last three days have been a blur for Mike. Ever since he came home to find Vicki on the couch, cold to the touch, he can't think. He can't even function. Heart attack, they said. Not common in one so young, they said. Sixty was too young to die. He had always thought his Vicki would live to a ripe old age. She was too determined, too full of energy to go like that, in the blink of an eye.
Mike looks up at Andrea, thinking of the call he had to make to her, the worst call of his life.
"Andy, honey? It's your mother. She's had a heart attack. Andy… she's dead."
Andrea tugs at his hand.
"Dad? We've got to go. They're waiting for us," she says again.
Mike lets her lead him out of the church, and into a silver sedan. Steve, her fiancé, is driving. Instead of getting in the front seat, Andrea slides in the back with Mike. She sits with her head on his shoulder, like she used to when she was small. They don't say anything.
There is an emptiness in Mike's heart. He knows without a doubt that it's that place that Vicki has occupied for the last thirty years. He's loved her for so long. His life is divided into two parts – before Vicki and after Vicki. Now there is nothing.
It seems ironic that she is to be buried in Mount Pleasant. All the time they spent there, killing demons and chasing after mummies and werewolves and generally avoiding the apocalypse, running in and out between the headstones. Now she was going to be one of those headstones.
The interment is blessedly short. Mike is handed a flower to toss onto the coffin. People cry softly as the revered says his words. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From dust you were made, and to dust you shall return. Mike doesn't cry. His grief is beyond tears.
From across the coffin he sees Coreen, her usual dramatic makeup toned down in favour of tastefully mute colours. Her husband holds her hand as she turns away, tears streaming down her face.
Clouds are gathering in the sky. Mike thinks there's some pathetic fallacy in that, since he feels as though the sunshine is gone from his life now.
The reception is at Mike and Vicki's house, the one they bought right after they got married, but Andrea has taken care of everything. There is punch and little finger sandwiches. The sun goes down as Mike shakes hands with people, hears their empty words of condolences. There are many people from the precinct present.
"She was a good cop," they say. "She went too soon."
"Don't worry, Mike," Coreen says. "I'll keep up Nelson Investigations." Even though she's been practically running it since Vicki's eye surgery, "Andrea's a really big help."
"I guess she got a double dose of the crime solving gene," Mike says. His eyes scan the room for Andrea, wanting to be close to her, wanting to be near his baby girl, even though she's twenty-two and almost finished her degree at U of T, and not his baby girl any more. He scans the room, and doesn't see her anywhere.
"I'm going to go find Andy," he says.
Coreen nods. She puts a gentle hand on Mike's shoulder.
"If there's anything I can do for you, Mike, anything at all…" she trails off, and looks away. "I'm going to miss Vicki too," she says, her voice breaking.
Mike nods stiffly, because he doesn't know what to say, and then hurries away.
He finds Andrea in the kitchen, leaning against the counter.
"Thank you for your condolences," she says.
Mike is about to interrupt when he sees who she's talking to. He freezes, every inch of his body turning to stone.
He looks just the same. Long hair, carefully styled to look careless; deceptively boyish features; clothes dark and expensive.
Mike can't believe it. He can't believe he's got the guts to show up here, now, of all times and places. After disappearing without a trace for so many years, and now he's back, looking just the same. Mike burns with anger.
"I don't recognize you," Andrea says. "Were you one of my mother's clients?"
Henry's smile is just as charming as ever.
"I'm Henry Fitzroy, and you are...?"
"Andrea. Andrea Celluci."
"Celluci," Henry says. Then he shakes his head. "Celluci. That shouldn't surprise me. You look so much like Vicki, Andrea."
"Did you know my mother?"
"Yes," says Henry. He even sounds the same – smooth and oily. Like some sort of salesman. "She was a dear friend of mine."
"I heard her talk about a Henry Fitzroy, but that can't be you. It was from before she married my father."
"I age well," Henry says. "I cared about Vicki very much. I was very upset to hear of her passing."
"It was very… sudden." Andrea's eyes fill with tears. "Very unexpected."
Henry places a gentle hand on her arm.
"I am so sorry," he says.
Mike has seen enough. That blood drinker touching his daughter, in any capacity, is too much for him.
"Get away from my daughter, Fitzroy," he says, stepping into the kitchen.
"Celluci," Henry greets him. "It's nice to see you again."
Mike is stiff with anger.
"What are you doing here?"
"Paying my respects to Vicki, of course. She is – was – still my friend."
"You left all those years ago and you never came back."
"And it was my mistake," said Henry. "I thought… I thought she would be happier without me."
The anguish in Henry's eyes took Mike's breath. It was almost as fathomless as his own.
"You are not the only one who loved her," Henry says, quietly. He nods to Andrea, and then disappears, leaving Mike still and silent with fury. A part of him knows that Fitzroy has every right to come to Vicki's funeral. Another part of him doesn't care, he just never wants to see that blood drinker's face again.
Mike tosses and turns in the big, empty bed. Andrea offered to stay the night, but he thought it would be best if she spent some time with Steve, let herself grieve. So he is left alone in the house. He still expects Vicki to be there, around every corner. Her essence infuses the whole house, her things left carelessly various places. Mike doesn't have the heart to move the book on the kitchen table, the toothbrush in the bathroom, the glasses on the beside table.
He turns over in the bed, half expecting her to be there, with a sarcastic remark ready to fire at him. But all he finds is empty sheets. The empty hole in his heart aches, but still no tears come. He stares at the ceiling, still numb. It's like his love for Vicki, his loss of her, is so intense that his mind is protecting him from it, locking it up somewhere where he can't feel it, lest it consume him.
Suddenly the urge to be with Vicki, in any capacity, is overwhelming. He can't lay there in the dark without her any longer. With a sense of purpose, he dresses, and gets into his car.
The drive to Mount Pleasant isn't difficult. At this time of night, even Yonge street isn't crowded, although there are still people walking from bar to bar. Mike parks, and walks into the cemetery like a man in a dream. He knows the way to Vicki's grave, even though he has only been there once, that afternoon.
The plot is fresh, the dirt stark against the white of the headstone.
Mike reads the inscription, lighted as it is by a neon overhead light.
Victoria Nelson Celluci
1976 - 2036
Partner in law, partner in live, partner in love
Mike stands before the stone for a long time, looking at it, tracing every curve as if it were Vicki's own form.
He hears the footsteps behind him, but he doesn't have to turn around. He already knows who it is.
"I know you don't think I'm capable of it, but I loved her too," Henry says. "I've thought about her every day. I understand what you're going through."
Sharing Vicki's memory is almost as bad as sharing her affection.
"I am her husband," Mike snaps, turning to face Fitzroy at last. "You can't possibly understand what I feel."
"I know you hate me for it, but I loved her too," Henry answers, his eyes flashing.
"Do you blame me?" Mike yells. "You were always there, even when you left. A shadow between us. I spent twenty three years wondering if she was looking at me and wishing she was looking at you!"
The clouds that have been gathering all day finally release their burden. The raindrops fall with soft plunks on the gravestones around them.
"At least you had time with her," Henry says. "You have years and years worth of memories of her."
Mike thinks of all his memories of Vicki. The way she looked on their wedding day; her eyes alight laughter at something he said; her face when she told him she was pregnant; the day she had her eye surgery that stopped her eyes from deteriorating further; the sleepy look she got in the morning when she had just woken up. A million joys and sorrows and smiles and tears flashes before his eyes. He also remembers the day he found Vicki sobbing on the couch in her office because Fitzroy's apartment was empty, the wild look of abandonment in her eyes.
"You left of your own free will," he says to Fitzroy. Then, with a sigh, he adds, "Sometimes I think she only married me because I was the only one who didn't leave her."
The rain is soaking his clothes, plastering his graying hair to his forehead, but Mike doesn't care.
"I had to," Henry says. "For her own good. For my own sanity. I had to leave." Then, quieter, "I asked her to come with me. She refused."
"I always wondered," Mike says. "I could see it in her eyes sometimes, I could see her regretting her decision."
"She made her choice," says Henry. "She chose you." He rests a hand on Vicki's stone. "Oh Vicki," he says, and his voice breaks on her name. "I will never stop missing you." There are tears in his eyes.
The sight of Fitzroy's tears are what finally undoes Mike. Something inside him breaks, the barrier goes down. He covers his face with his hands and weeps.
"I miss her with every breath," he chokes out. "It's like the place where she used to be is an empty hole now. She was everything, everything. Oh, Vic!" his shoulders shake with the force of his sobs.
Fitzroy lays a hand on Mike's heaving shoulder.
"I know," he says. "I know."
The rain is falling all around them now, on Vicki's grave. It mingles with the tears on the cheeks of both the men who loved her, washing them away. It feels like redemption.