Author's Note: Fill for LiveJournal Week 45 Friday one word prompt "grave" for Wash and Taylor. To be fair, he doesn't actually appear in this, but it's about him and Wash.
Note, I'm distracted by the prompts and my NaNoWriMo project. I intend to write more And Baby Makes… but, well, my brain can only handle so much at once!
This is set in the context of my other stories, pre-series, during the time when Wash was still in the future but Taylor had already gone through the portal.
Disclaimer is the same as always – don't own them, just borrowing, no profit here.
Alicia picks her way through the old fashioned cemetery, idly reading names and dates as she goes. Some of the headstones are over two hundred years old, generations of families together in eternal rest. Or at least Alicia hopes that whatever comes after you end up here is restful.
She looks around at the withering trees and plants, dying in the poisonous air and weak gray sunlight. The pallor of the day, just like all the other days before and after, seems fitting in this place of loss and sadness.
She adjusts her rebreather and pulls her leather jacket tighter around her. Fall has closed in, and it's cooler than she expected it to be today. At least it's not raining. Yesterday, when she made this same visit to her mother's grave, she was accompanied by a greasy, unpleasant drizzle that made her feel the need to stand under her shower for nearly an hour when she got back to her guest quarters at the base near where her mother was buried.
She's been to this particular place once before, for the funeral of the person whose grave she now seeks. It's been a surreal few years since then, and the events that have occurred since are what precipitated this visit. Getting to the section where she knows the grave is, her eyes seek and find the headstone she wants.
When she gets to it, she looks at it quietly for a few moments, running her hand over the top of it and tracing her finger over the name. Ayani Taylor, beloved wife, mother and friend. Her heart jumps to her throat when she sees the poem on the stone, one Ayani loved by Robert Frost.
Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
"Nothing gold can stay indeed." Alicia mutters under her breath. She sinks into a sitting position facing the headstone, pulling her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. "I have so damned much to tell you, Ayani. I don't even know where to begin."
In her head, Alicia can almost hear Ayani's light, tinkling voice admonish her. "Start at the beginning, Alicia. It's the only proper way to tell a story."
Alicia nods, suddenly glad that the cemetery is deserted, given that she appears to be talking to someone who isn't here. She starts to talk, telling Ayani about her recovery from her injuries in Somalia, about Nathaniel coming to her with his insane project, about learning about all the different dinosaurs and plants they'll need to be able to deal with, and about how much hope it gives them for the future.
"It'll be green, Ayani. Green. Even the relatively unpolluted areas in Asia and Africa aren't particularly green anymore." Her excitement at that idea fades quickly, though. "He's there alone, Ayani. The portal shut down before I could follow him. It's been over three months. The scientists promise me that it should reopen in around two weeks."
She hugs her knees even tighter to her chest. "He's alone. He's the one going through something, and I'm the one sitting here scared and feeling sorry for myself. I feel like all I have right now are regrets. There is so much I'm hopeful for, and yet all I can see is what I regret."
She closes her eyes for a moment. "I went to see Mom yesterday, and now I'm here to see you. There are two reasons for that. The first is that I needed to say good-bye to both of you. The second is that you two are the only people I've had in my life besides Nathaniel who have been able to make me see possibilities." She pauses. "And I need to apologize to you too, Ayani. I feel like I've let you down in so many ways."
Taking a deep breath, she shakes her head. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you and Lucas, Ayani. I tried. We all did. There were just so many of them…" She wipes at her eyes, remembering the pain and frustration of that awful day when Ayani and Lucas were taken.
"And Lucas is so damaged, Ayani. He hates Nathaniel. I didn't realize it until I went to see him last month to tell him what happened to Nathaniel. Lucas blames him for choosing to let you die, he hates him for being who he is. And he hates me because I'm loyal to Nathaniel." She shakes her head again. "I said some awful things to him, Ayani, and I had no right to say them. I told him you'd be ashamed of him. I can't believe I did that."
Alicia falls silent for a moment, and in her mind's eye, she can almost see Ayani looking at her, head cocked at an inquisitive angle, eyes sharp. "From what you told me, my dear, it sounds like my boy needs a boot to the head. I'd guess that my Nathaniel is far too guilt-ridden to deliver it. I'm glad you tried, at least."
Alicia nods again. "Ayani, there's one more thing, and I don't know what to do about it. My other regret is what I didn't say to Nathaniel before he went through the portal." She looks at the words of the poem on the headstone. "I love him, Ayani. I love him so much, and I didn't tell him when I had a chance before he left. I can barely admit it to myself, but somehow I can admit it to you. I shouldn't feel this way. He's my CO. It's not allowed."
"You know," Alicia gets a sheepish look on her face, "Most people would be appalled at the idea of talking to you, his wife, about this, the fact that you're dead notwithstanding. But I have a weird feeling that you'll be happy for us if we find our way to each other. You were always too kind and practical to expect him to mourn forever, and I think you loved me too."
She goes quiet for a moment. "It's strange, Ayani. If you weren't gone, I'd never have even imagined Nathaniel as anything other than my best friend. I know he'd likely say the same. But you are gone, and that has changed everything. I think we need each other, Ayani. I feel empty without him right now. I feel lost. If he's not OK when we get there, if he's not there and alive, I don't know what I'll do."
"I should go." Alicia sighs, standing up and staring silently at the headstone. She runs her hand along the top of it again, closing her eyes and picturing Ayani. "Good-bye, Ayani. Peaceful rest, my friend."
One last time, Alicia hears her voice in her head. "Take care of yourself, dear Alicia, and when you get to where you're going, take care of him too. I feel quite certain he's waiting for you. I miss you both. I hope I see you again someday, but not for a long, long time. Be happy, Alicia. Both of you should be happy."
When Alicia opens her eyes again the voice is long gone, but her heart feels just a little lighter. She looks down at her watch, and she's amazed to see that she's been here close to an hour. She'll have to hurry to catch her transport back to Chicago. She hugs her jacket close around her again, and she turns her face into the gust of wind that stirs up the dead leaves on the ground, making them swirl and dance haphazardly. Alicia watches them, a small smile on her face.
Turning to go, Alicia puts her head down and her hands into her pockets. She can almost feel her heart unclenching, a releasing the ghosts that Alicia has carried with her since Somalia. She knows, deep down, that the people, her parents, lost fellow soldiers, and Ayani, will stay with her, but the memories suddenly seem just a little less painful.
Alicia looks back towards Ayani's grave one last time. "I hope you're right, my friend. I need him to be all right, and I truly, truly hope you're right that he is. I love you, Ayani. You were my sister in my heart, and I miss you more than I can say."
With that, Alicia leaves, getting into her borrowed jeep and heading back towards the base where she'll hop her ride home. As she drives, she murmurs, "Two weeks, Nathaniel. Just hold on for two more weeks. We're coming. I'm coming."