"You know, I hated this damn holiday when you were alive, Sarah." Chris Larabee bent down to place a simple bouquet of lilies on the grave. "And I hate it even more now that you're dead." His voice caught a bit on the last few words and he straightened back up, scowling.
"I suppose you think I should get on with my life, don't you? You'd tell me that I deserve to be happy and all that crap, wouldn't you? If you were here. But you're not here, are you?" Chris turned and started walking away.
He paused when he reached the cemetery gate, turning his head back for one last look. "I miss you and Adam not being here, you know." He said the words quietly, leaving them to linger behind him in the still night air.
+ + + + + + +
"I loathe Valentine's Day, you know." Ezra Standish stared down at his expensive Italian loafers with a frown. His frown deepened when he saw the grass and mud marring the supple leather.
"I mean really. You have cheap confectionary, cavorting cherubs, crass commercialism. What's not to loathe?"
"But..." Ezra sighed theatrically. "Since I do not wish to be accused of oafish behavior..." He knelt and held out a small box wrapped round with a jaunty red bow. He held that pose for a brief moment, head bowed, before setting the box gently on the ground
"They're your favorites." Ezra ran a gentle hand over the smooth surface of the headstone marking the gravesite. "They used to be my favorites as well."
"I seem to have lost my taste for them." The breezy tone sounded a bit forced and Ezra got quickly to his feet. It was time to go. There was just one more thing.
"I don't miss them half as much as I miss you." The words were barely audible, only the faintest of whispers in the still night air.
+ + + + + + +
"This is your big surprise?" Casey Wells glared at her companion in outrage.
"Well, yeah. I thought..." JD wasn't quite certain what had gone wrong.
"You thought a cemetery would be a romantic place for a picnic? On Valentine's Day?"
"Well, yeah. No. I just..."
"You just thought what, JD Dunne? That I'd like to fly all the way from Denver, Colorado to Boston, Massachusetts just so I could spend Valentine's Day in a cemetery?"
"I just thought I'd like for you to meet my Mom. She's buried over there under that tree." JD shrugged slightly. He was beginning to wish he'd just bought Casey flowers or candy or something, instead of a plane ticket to Boston. Buck was right. Never try to surprise a woman without telling her about it first.
"Oh, JD. Now look what you've done. You've made me cry and now I look terrible and what in the world will your mama say?" Casey clutched his hand, her eyes brimming with tears. Funny, though. She looked happy. Even though she was crying. Another thing Buck was right about. JD would never understand women. Never.
"Uh, Casey. She probably won't say anything. She's sort of dead. Remember?" JD spoke hesitantly, feeling like he was in a bed of quicksand.
"Just hush up, JD and take me over there and introduce me." Casey tugged on his arm.
"Uh...sure. Ok." JD gave up trying to understand anything and just began escorting her in the direction ordered.
"JD?" Casey pressed a little closer to him as they walked. She was soft and warm and she smelled good.
"This is a wonderful spot for a picnic."
Women. JD shook his head. Who said you needed to understand them?
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner didn't bother to glance around at the sound of the voice. He just took another gulp of whiskey out of the bottle in front of him and nodded his head. "Yep." He took another drink.
"I mean, it really stinks." The voice continued.
Again Vin nodded. "Yep." It did. He should know. Why else would he be sitting here leaning against a tombstone in some godforsaken cemetery that apparently wasn't as forsaken as he'd thought.
"Valentine's Day ought to be against the law."
"Yep." That was a damn good idea in his opinion.
"I believed him when he said he was getting a divorce. How stupid was that? I mean who really falls for that line nowadays except for idiots like me?"
"You'd be surprised." Vin muttered, finishing the last of the whiskey in his bottle.
"Don't tell me you're a fellow idiot?"
"Maybe we should form a club or something."
"Yeah. We could call it the Guys and Ghouls Club."
"There's no need to get snippy. I was going to offer you a drink even."
Vin started to shake his head, no.
"You're sitting alone in a cemetery in the middle of the night on Valentine's day and you're worried about cooties?"
"Oh come on. See, if I can have a friendly drink with a guy and not get homicidal then I'll know I'm ok and that I'm not some closet neurotic with self destructive tendencies who secretly hates all men. I don't want to hate all men. Just the vast majority of them will do."
Vin pursed his lips He could use another drink. And it probably wasn't a good idea for him to be arguing with a woman who liked to hang out in the local cemetery, anyway. He turned his head for the first time to glance up at his companion. "Ok. I'll take you up on that offer of a drink. Much obliged to ya, Miss..."
"Christina Laramie. My friends just call me Chris."
"Chris." Vin repeated, staring at the gorgeous blonde standing next to him.
"So what's your name, cowboy?" She smiled and sat down at the foot of the grave next to him
"Vin. Vin Tanner."
"Nice to meet you, Vin."
"Well, Happy Valentine's day." She handed him the bottle.
"Yep." Vin smiled. Who said meeting interesting people was so hard to do?
+ + + + + + +
"Rain?" Nathan called softly, as he approached the secluded bench overlooking the cemetery.
"Here." Rain answered. Her voice was heavy, its lilting tones muted.
"They told me you'd be here. Said you'd had a rough shift."
"Oh. I thought you were going to stay at home since I had to work most of the evening."
"I thought you were angry with me because I broke our date to go into work."
"Then why have you come? It is late. You..."
"I had no call to get mad at you." Nathan interrupted. He sat down next to her on the bench and sighed. "It's just... we get to spend so little time together."
"I thought that was supposed to be the woman's complaint."
"Yeah, well. You ain't like other women."
"No. I suppose other women would not be sitting in a cemetery on the eve of St. Valentine."
"I'd rather be here in a cemetery with you than out at the fanciest restaurant with one of them."
"Really." Nathan smiled.
"The cemetery is very peaceful. I like to come here sometimes and think about things. But there is nothing wrong with a fancy restaurant."
"I don't think anything too fancy is going to be open at this hour."
"We can always go home then and just have dessert." It was Rain's turn to smile.
Hand in hand they walked back to Nathan's car, leaving the soft echo of their voices in the still night air behind them.
+ + + + + + +
"You don't have to stay here." The tired, careworn blonde glanced at Buck Wilmington as she turned away from the lonely gravesite.
"A young woman shouldn't spend Valentine's day alone." Buck replied softly.
"She's dead, Buck. It doesn't matter anymore to her."
"It matters to me."
"It wasn't your fault. Sometimes you can't help them no matter how hard you try. And you try harder than anyone at the shelter."
"Maybe. But the least I can do is stay with her for a while."
"Do you want me to...?"
"No. Thanks." Buck softened his refusal with a smile.
"I'll see you later then."
Buck watched her go and then sat down near the edge of the grave. He traced the simple inscription. Just her name. Carol Ann Palmer. It didn't say that she'd just turned sixteen. Or that she'd died from a heroin overdose. Or that she'd been a prostitute since she was twelve. Or that she'd never gone to a prom or had a boy give her a kiss instead of take one. It didn't say a lot of things. But he could.
"Well Carol, it's just me and you. What would you like to talk about? Girls always like to talk about clothes, don't they? I bet you'd look real pretty in one of them long satiny dresses. Blue. Or maybe green."
Buck talked til his voice gave out and then he sat there silently for a long time before getting to his feet.
"Happy Valentine's day, Carol Ann." The words hung in the air as he left the cemetery with its lonely occupant behind him.
+ + + + + + +
"Dear Lord, It's Valentine's day today. I know a cemetery must seem a strange place to be spending a day that's supposed to be a celebration of love and life. But this is where those damn crows led me, so here I am. I still ain't dead, no matter how many times I see those birds. Thought sure that's what they meant. Instead they led me to the six men I now call friends. Sometimes I think death might have been a bit more relaxing, but I suppose you know what you're doing.
I'm not sure what my friends are doing today, Lord. But wherever they are, they could probably stand an angel or two apiece to watch over them. They have a way of attracting trouble. I'd appreciate it if you'd take care of things.
I guess that's all I have to say for now. Amen."
Josiah Sanchez opened his eyes and gazed around the small graveyard. He frowned thoughtfully and tilted his head back to glance up at the sky.
"One more thing, Lord. I wouldn't object if next year on Valentine's day you saw fit to maybe have those crows lead me to a beautiful woman. Just a suggestion."
Josiah's last prayer rippled through the air behind him, leaving something that sounded almost like gentle laughter in its wake.
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