I am not lost…

March 17, 2017

FICTION FRIDAY: St. Patrick’s Day

Apologies if this is choppy and not as up to par as usual. Part of that is the emotion of the scene, I think, making Alistair’s narrative less flowing for me than it usually is. He wasn’t good about keeping focus. The other part is that while I was writing, the website I was using to write on kept eating my words overnight, and being the foolish, stupid, and trusting soul that I am, I thought it had stopped doing that. You’d think my hard drive debacle would have taught me. So some of this is rewritten over words I’d already had, and so it doesn’t, again, flow as nicely.

Also, there are spoilers for my novel SON OF THE REVOLUTION below the cut. Kinda huge big ones. So if you don’t want to be spoiled for anything before its release, just know that it’s an emotional take on the holiday, after the events of the book. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Otherwise, enjoy!

It was strange, sitting at the bar and just waiting. Didn’t really know what I was waiting for, to be honest, but it felt like the right thing to be doing. Just…waiting.

Beth kept glancing over at me, silent. She knew what was up. It was going to be a hard day for all of us.

Jace had agreed to come out with me, a rare occasion that he ever set foot in Alpha+, but I think he knew how much this meant to me…how much it was going to mean to everyone.

“You okay, AC?” he murmured, watching Beth pace back and forth.

“I don’t know, man. I really don’t.”

He nodded, resting a hand briefly on my shoulder. “Missy says she’ll be out in a little bit, and she’s willing to stop by.”

“That’s…wait, really?” I looked over at him. “Missy’s coming out to Alpha+?”

He shrugged. “I told you, she’s getting better about it. She’s heard us talk about all these people, and now she wants to meet them. I can’t exactly say that I blame her.”

“I wish she could have met him.” I stared at my drink. I hadn’t had nearly enough to drink yet, and it was still early in the night. I needed all the alcohol I could get.

Vic silently wandered over and set two pints glasses in front of us, deep brown liquid unmistakable inside. He sat down across from us with a third. “I know it’s not the drink any of us would necessarily prefer, but I find it suitable for today, for several reasons. Don’t you agree?”

All I could do was nod, now with two drinks to stare at.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. It just felt wrong. It was the first St. Paddy’s Day since all the bullshit went down in the Capital, the first since any of this had happened…the first since Padraic had gone missing, presumed dead. The first since we’d lost Bantam.

I’d only ever had one St. Patrick’s Day with Bantam, but he’d made sure it was one to remember. Then again, Bantam could make almost anything a night to remember, but he’d gotten almost blackout drunk–a difficult thing for a geno to do–and had passed out on the floor of Alpha+, right in front of Cooper. I’d laughed my ass off, and then helped them figure out where his drunk ass was going to stay for the night, because none of us knew where he was keeping haven.

Padraic, on the other hand, had been a common sight at our drunken fests for years now. Even back then, before all the hostility had started between the genotypes and the DSD, it had always been nice that Padraic made a concerted effort to be around us, to be friendly, to make sure we realized that no matter how bad it might sometimes feel, we still had a friend on the inside.

We see what that friendship got for him, but he’d known the risk he was making. …Part of me still hoped that he wasn’t dead. That they’d just beaten the shit out of him and taken him somewhere, and maybe he’d be able to come back home some day. Soap opera rules, man: until you see a body, no one’s really dead.

But this year neither of them were here. We were all drinking Guinness and Jameson alone. Dammit, I didn’t even like Guinness that much, but it didn’t feel like I could drink anything else. Bantam loved this bread-in-a-glass shit, and I’d never seen Padraic drink any other hard liquor except for Jameson. What was I supposed to do?

What my sister had begun to suggest I do–and she realized about halfway through the suggestion that it was a royally bad idea–was that I just go out and party with everyone else. Drink green beer and get smashed on awful who-knows-what and just party like there was no tomorrow.

But I knew how it felt to think there was no tomorrow. And for my friends, there hadn’t been. I couldn’t forget them, not today.

Not that I was really ever going to be able to forget them. I’d carried Bantam…god, it still hurt to think about. I could still feel it all if I closed my eyes.

A hand rested on my shoulder, and I opened my eyes to see Vera standing behind me, pain etched across her features, tight and stiff. “Hey,” she offered in little more than a whisper.

“Hey.” My voice wasn’t much better. She slid into a seat nearby, complete with her own pint of beer. I looked around: Vic, Beth, Vera…me…Jace and Missy–when had she snuck in?–but they weren’t part of what I was counting.

Beth saw me looking around. “Esme…said she was going to be late. She’s coming in from the Capital, but the drive is taking her longer than she wanted.”

I nodded. I hadn’t been sure if Esme was going to be able to make it at all. After…well, after everything, Esme had moved out to the Capital full time. I don’t know how she stayed there; the few conversations we had made it clear that she couldn’t understand how I was staying in Philly. We each had our own way of dealing with our grief.

“Has Katie said anything?” Beth asked from the bar. I wanted to say I wasn’t sure why she was hovering behind the bar, since she’d closed down for the day–death to a bartender, but we needed this one to ourselves–but I knew why. It was comfortable. It was something she knew, somewhere she was safe.

I think that’s what all of us were hoping for, honestly.

I shook my head. “No, I haven’t heard from her.” Katie and I were on better speaking terms than we had been, but I still wasn’t going to invite her over for Thanksgiving anytime soon. She knew that her position on this was tenuous, especially given that she still worked for the DSD. But she had said that she’d been more vocal against the initiative, and I allowed that at least that was a step in the right direction.

We just sat in silence. No one knew what to say. It wasn’t until almost an hour later that the door opened, and finally we all seemed to wake up again. Once I saw who was in the doorway, hair pulled back in a messy attempt to tame the curls, and eyes ringed with red, I was immediately on my feet–and Beth was only a pace or two behind me.

Esme wrapped her arms tight around me in a hug I returned just as firmly. “Hey there, Esme,” I murmured against her shoulder.

“Hey, AC.” Her voice was rough, her grip on me tight. I felt Beth set a hand on both of our shoulders. “Good to see you.”

“Better to see you. I didn’t expect you to make it.”

She pulled away from me after a moment, managing a shadow of her usual smile. “He wouldn’t want me to be anywhere else. He’d…he’d want me to be here with all of you.”

“Come sit,” Beth said, her voice soft as she led us both back to the gathered chairs, and made sure everyone had a drink.

All of us, minus the two who would have enjoyed it the most.

“Should…” Vera started, but her voice faltered as everyone looked over to her. I gave her a small nod, and she swallowed. “Should we say something?”

“Rather begins to resemble a funeral,” Cooper muttered.

“No.” My voice was stronger than I’d imagined. “It’s a wake. A proper Irish wake.” We’d had a wake for Bantam–and nominally for Padraic as well–when we’d all come back, but it seemed fitting that we’d have one properly for both of them…today.

Vic offered a small smile. “Indeed. A true memorial of the lives lived before us…and the celebration of ours yet to come, continuing on in their memory.”

I don’t know why I was surprised when everyone looked to me, to offer whatever was going to be said.

I cleared my throat, staring into my pint glass. “None of us would be here if it weren’t for Bantam and Padraic. Directly, indirectly…both of them played a huge part in all of us being able to stand here. Being able to say we took down Saul and all his bullshit plans. And knowing both of those guys, they wouldn’t want us sitting around and moping because they weren’t here.” That got a small chuckle from the group. “So we make today a celebration. Of who they were, of their heritage, and of what their strength gave us the power to do.” I blinked. “What’s…what’s the soldier saying? About giving your all?”

“All gave some, and some gave all,” Vic answered.

“Exactly.” Bantam had been given a proper military funeral, and I’d never forget the feeling of hearing the gunshots go off, staring out at the sea of white headstones at Arlington. “We all gave some, and they gave their all. And now we have to make sure that their sacrifice isn’t in vain…and that they aren’t forgotten.” I raised my glass. “To two of the finest Irishmen I’ve ever had the honor of knowing, and two of the bravest souls around. To Bantam…and to Padraic.”

“To Bantam, to Padraic!” We all drank, and slowly broke off into smaller groups and chatted, and I could hear snippets of stories about our Irish friends being passed around on the waves of soft laughter.

Jace and Missy stepped over to me, and Missy gave me a small one-armed hug, which I easily returned. “Thanks for coming out, Missy.”

“Hey, just because I never got a chance to meet them doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what they did.” We both knew there was more to it than that, but if she was willing to leave it at this, then I’d stay right with her. “I kinda wish I had been able to meet them. They sound like nice guys.”

“They were.” I swallowed, trying to kick the frog out of my throat. “I think you would have liked Bantam. He would have hit on you constantly, but I think you would have liked him.”

She giggled. “I think I could have handled that.”

There was a moment of silence, as I watched Beth and Vic coax a proper smile and laugh out of Esme, and I smiled instinctively in return. “You okay?” Jace asked after a moment, echoing his earlier question.

I shook my head. “Not really. But…for once, I think I will be. I think we all will be.”

“Happy St. Patrick’s, AC.”

“Same to you, man.”

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