Summary: Bobby finds John after a mission has gone very, very badly.
'Poor, poor Ghost,' she murmured, 'have you no place where you can sleep?'
'Far away beyond the pine woods,' he answered, in a low dreamy voice, 'there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold, crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers.'
Virginia's eyes grew dim with tears, and she hid her face in her hands.
'You mean the Garden of Death,' she whispered.
'Yes, Death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of Death's house, for Love is always with you, and Love is stronger than Death is.'
The Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde
Bobby found John where he thought he would find him. The graveyard was small and looked out onto the sea that broke against the cliff on which the graveyard was built. A willow stood only a few meter away, right behind the church and curled some of its branches against John’s shoulders.
Bobby approached him from behind and although he was sure that John knew he was there, he didn’t tense, didn’t turn around, didn’t start a fight.
‘How did you find me?’
‘You always left school on the 23th March but none of the teachers ever said something. It wasn’t hard to guess why.’ Bobby brushed the willow branches from John’s shoulder and curled his own hand around it. Over John’s shoulder he could see the tombstone:
God takes the best of us and leaves the rest of us
‘I had angina. It had rained outside and my throat ached like hell. It was a Thursday. Gwenyth had threatened to eat all the ice cream our parents wanted to buy for me if I wouldn’t give her my last chocolate bar. On the way home the guy in front of them lost control over his car. He wasn’t drunk or anything. It was an accident. Only a stupid accident.’
‘How old were you?’
‘Nine. One foster home after the other until I was eleven, nearly twelve. Woosh!’ John gestured and a small flame exploded into hot air that brushed Bobby’s face. He could see the absent grin John always wore when he talked about his power.
‘It felt like liberation. Suddenly I was strong enough to be on my own.’
‘You ran away.’ Bobby guessed.
‘’Not immediately. My foster family was a decent one. Nice people. I had been with them about six months when someone decided that I should go back to the former one. The one where…’ he trailed off, but Bobby knew. He had seen the long welts on John’s back. Bobby’s hand left John’s shoulder and he circled his waist with his arms instead. John leaned back against him.
‘You should be in a hospital.’
‘I’m dying anyway. I wanted to be here, with my family.’
‘What for? Because I have a list as long as my arm, so you need to be a bit more specific.’
‘I’m sorry for letting you go.’
‘The one thing that has nothing to do with you and you apologise for it. I would have joined Magneto anyway, maybe not then but I would have gone.’
‘But if I hadn’t let you go…’
‘Then the reactor wouldn’t have overloaded and condemned me and my group to a slow and painful death?’
‘Yes.’ Bobby was sure of that: ‘How long?’
‘A few hours. Maybe.’ John opened his hand. He held his lighter and a small capsule.
‘Mystique showed us how to make them. It’s a matter of minutes.’
‘Radiation disease doesn’t have to be lethal. If you go back to the hospital or maybe the mansion – ‘
‘Bobby!’ John interrupted him: ‘I’m dying. Accept it, okay? I want to die in peace. So if you can’t face it, leave.’
‘I don’t want to leave you.’ Bobby’s arms tightened around John, but John loosened himself from Bobby’s embrace and sat down at the cliff’s edge. Bobby followed him and sat down behind him, with his legs at each side of John.
‘My family used to go to the beach down there. My sister was the best swimmer in our school and my mother sang while my father and I built the campfire. Gwenyth and I, we used to sneak out at night and walk over the graveyard while telling each other ghost stories.’
He leaned his head back to rest it against Bobby’s shoulder.
‘I don’t regret going with Magneto. Not even now.’
‘I didn’t expect that you would.’
John turned his head slightly so that he could look at Bobby.
‘Why did you look for me?’
‘I didn’t want you to die alone.’
‘We’re friends, right? That’s what friends do.’ He laughed: ‘It was amazing, you know? I never had a friend like you. We’re so different and yet we were hell of a team, weren’t we?’
‘I mean I could tell what you were thinking or going to do and I knew that you knew all that about me, too. When you meet such a person you’re not supposed to try to kill them.’
‘They’re not supposed to be on the other side of the war, either.’
Bobby threaded his fingers with John’s and held them against the horizon.
‘Do you think that this is love?’
‘Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.’
‘Maybe it was fate that we met.’ He dropped their hands: ‘I’m going to miss you.’
‘I should hope so. I’m quite memorable.’
‘I won’t miss your humour.’ Bobby said flatly.
‘Liar!’ John exclaimed with a grin.
‘Yes, but you already knew that.’
A long silence followed when they both looked out on the horizon. The sun was sinking behind them and they could see the growing darkness over the ocean. From here it seemed endless and the idea impossible that there could be land on the other side.
John shifted in Bobby’s arms.
‘Are you ready to let me die?’
‘Can that question ever be answered with a yes?’
‘Can you answer it?’
‘No, but I know by now that I can’t keep you.’
‘Do me a favour?’
‘I want to be buried here, next to my family.’
John took his lighter into his other hand and swallowed the capsule down.
‘A minute. Two at most.’
‘I think I love you, John.’
‘Yeah? That’s good, because I love you too.’
His head rested between Bobby’s neck and head and Bobby could feel John’s breath on his skin.
‘Maybe I’m seeing my family on the other side.’
‘I hope so.’
‘Thanks.’ John said quietly.