Chapter 9

"Damn it," Daniel muttered as the raptor soared away. He looked down at his sword, bright with fresh blue raptor blood, and shook his head. "Why didn't that kill it?"

Kelly moved beside him and put her hand on his shoulder. He wasn't sure whether she was offering moral support or seeking it. Or just looking for help to stay standing as she looked at what the raptor had done to the woman's body before Daniel had been able to drive it off.

Daniel didn't look. He touched Kelly's hand on his shoulder, then walked away and sat down on a bench in front of the building. The sword slipped from his fingers and lay on the concrete, and he wrapped his arms around his stomach, looking resolutely away from the woman's body.

"Why bother?" came Rachel's voice, floating across the breeze. "She wanted to die. What does it matter now? Did you even know her?"

Daniel slowly shook his head. "No, I didn't," he said. "But I... I just couldn't let it. I mean, she deserves to rest in peace."

Kelly lowered herself into the bench next to Daniel. "She deserved," she said softly, "to live."

"She deserved to choose," Rachel's voice cut in sharply. "Give her that much. It's not like there's that much else left."

"You cold bitch," Kelly said through clenched teeth.

"Me?" Rachel threw her head back and laughed. "Yeah, fine. Whatever. I'm not the one who's trying to force someone through a living hell. Have a good life, for whatever that's worth."

She turned and walked away, not giving the body a glance as she walked past.

Kelly swallowed hard. "She shouldn't have died," she said hoarsely.

"I don't know," Daniel said softly. "Rachel did sort of have a point. It's not our choice."

"But she didn't even care," Kelly said. "She acted like it was just someone turning the TV off or something. She didn't even look at her, for God's sake. She just let her die."

"I know," Daniel said. He rubbed his wrists and stared absently at the sword. "But... well, if you don't attach a stigma to suicide, then it's really between the person and their friends and family." He tried to smile. "And not everyone has that much family left around here."

Kelly snatched his arm in an iron grip. "Jesus, Daniel, don't tell me you're thinking about committing suicide too."

He took her other hand in his. "Don't think I haven't thought about it," he said quietly. "If I knew for sure that I was never going to see Anna again, I... I don't know. But she's not the only one who matters." He gave her hand a quick squeeze.

She took a ragged breath. "Don't scare me like that," she said. "You're --" She bit her lip, then stared down at their hands. "Damn," she said in surprise. "Your hand is ice cold, you know that?"

"My hands do feel weird," he admitted. "I don't know, maybe I've got some kind of carpal tunnel thing going with waving this heavy sword around. My fingers are tingling."

She frowned. "Yeah, I know," she said. "I can feel that."

"What?" he said, looking at her in considerable surprise.

"I can feel them tingling," she said, surprised herself. "I was wrong. They're not really cold. It just kind of feels that way. It's kind of like running your fingers over snow, or... I don't know, like it feels when you lick the contacts on a nine-volt battery."

He looked at her in wonder, then looked down at the sword, lying on the ground. She followed his gaze, and, letting go of him, she reached down and touched the hilt. Her eyes widened, and she sat back up, folding her arms together in her lap.

"What? What is it?" he asked.

"Same thing," she said. "It feels the same way." She glanced at his hands again, ran her hands across her thighs, then swallowed hard and rose abruptly. "We should do something for her," she said, looking at the body.

"We can't save everyone," he said quietly. "We can't bury everyone."

"But --" Kelly sputtered. "It's not right! We can't just leave her lying there! Doesn't she deserve a proper funeral?" She blinked, then began to laugh hysterically.

"Hey," he said, reaching up and helping her back down into the bench. "Calm down."

Gradually, her laughter subsided. Finally she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, and slid over to rest her head on Daniel's shoulder. "I just don't want to leave her without burying her or something," she said. "It just doesn't seem right."

"Funerals aren't really for the people who've died," he said, almost to himself. "They're for the people left behind. We never knew her." He slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick hug, then rose to his feet. "But yeah, I agree. We should do something."

While Kelly watched, he walked to a now-bedraggled flowerbed near the building's entrance. Pulling out several different-colored blossoms, he walked to the broken, lifeless body sprawled on the ground. He carefully placed one blossom on the woman's forehead, then stood and dropped the others to fall where they would. "Spirit of life, unto Your breast we commend her spirit," he said.

A cool breeze rose, ruffling the petals of the flowers and stirring the fallen woman's hair. Daniel stood for a long moment with his hands clasped in front of him, then turned slowly and made his way back to where Kelly sat watching.

"How was that?" he said, taking her hand.

"That --" she said, then swallowed the lump in her throat. "That was good." She rose to her feet, then watched as Daniel retrieved the sword and wiped the blood from its blade. Finally she spoke again. "I thought you didn't believe in God."

"I don't believe in the Christian God," he said.

"Do you think less of me because I do?" she said, huddling into herself.

He looked up. "No," he said. "No, I don't. I may not believe in God, but I'll tell you this: I do believe in faith."

She laughed bitterly. "What, like Mark Twain does? 'Faith is believing something that you know damn well ain't true'?"

"No," he said. Leaving the sword on the ground, he stood up, and touched her shoulder. She looked up at him, her eyes intent and searching. He met her gaze, and said, "I agree with Mark Twain on a lot of things, but not that. I think faith is a belief that gives you strength."

She stared back into his face. Her lips parted briefly, her eyes bright. Then she nodded briefly and tore herself away, going to stand next to the bench and look at the flower petals trembling in the breeze.

He looked at her for a long time before finally kneeling to continue cleaning the sword.

"That really was nice," she said finally, still looking at the flowers. "It was better than a lot of funerals I've been to."

He smiled briefly. "Just because I don't believe in the Christian God doesn't mean I'm not spiritual," he said, not looking up.

It was her turn to look at him.

He finally finished cleaning the sword, and met her gaze as he rose to his feet. "What now?" he said.

Her stare was intense. "How honest do you want me to be?" she asked softly.

He looked at his wedding ring and swallowed hard. "I wish I knew," he said.

She was trembling slightly as she reached out to take his hand and pull him closer. She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. He closed his eyes and ran his hand through her hair. "God, I wish I knew," he whispered.

"Yeah," she said, releasing him and stepping back. She bit her lip and pulled Mary's cap from her pocket, and stared at it for a long while. "Yeah, me too."

He looked at the cap too, and reached out to run his hand down her arm. She shivered.

"Come on," he said. "It's getting late. Let's get back."

Her questioning eyes met his. Then he gave her a shaky smile and turned away.

"Yeah," she said, with a catch in her voice. "Let's go." She began to walk quickly down the road.

He watched her as she walked. The way her shirt moved around her figure as she walked, the way her arms moved, the way her hair swayed. "God damn," he whispered. "Did I really once think that being a grown-up would be easy?"

Then he followed.

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