Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Dee/Ryo, Mother Superior, OCs
Word Count: 3,283
Date Written: 8 October 2018
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission. Everything else belongs to the author.
He tried not to slump down at the table. It had been a long and trying day, and Ryo wanted nothing more than to fall into his own bed and sleep soundly without, for a change, setting his clock. He often teased Dee about not being punctual and wasting too much time sleeping, but a part of him envied his partner. Dee only kept to a schedule when he had to for work; otherwise, he did as he chose, slept when he chose, worked when he chose . . . It was a good life, Ryo thought, poking at his steamed broccoli with his fork, and one he’d never allowed himself to have.
“See? Even Ryo doesn’t like the mess!” Dee’s laughter brought Ryo out of his reverie.
“Nobody likes it,” Bikky retorted, sticking out his tongue.
Ryo glanced at the end of the table, expecting the Mother Superior to have something to say about Bikky’s ill manners. He hadn’t wanted to come tonight, but his partner needed this weekly visit more than he would ever admit. He needed time with his family, including the kids who now surrounded him and about whom he claimed not to care. He claimed he didn’t, but Ryo knew better. He’d seen him with the old nun and the children and saw a part of his partner that came out in this place that Dee never released elsewhere. He was at home here. There was a part of Ryo that wished they could just stay here forever, even if another part did still long for his own apartment and bed.
“I like it fine,” he muttered, blushing lightly and taking a bite. He’d always been good about eating his vegetables, but then he could remember a time all too well when he’d been excited to have anything to eat, even if it was green and leafy. Dee was lucky to have Mother Superior having taken over raising him when his own parents had been unable, or unwilling, to do so. Ryo still didn’t know exactly which one it was, but he did know that the kindly, old nun had cared for Dee, as she did all her children, just like the very best of mothers.
A lump formed in Ryo’s throat, and he swallowed it down hard. After all these years, he still missed his own parents. Dee had never really known his folks. He’d never had a chance to love them, let alone miss them. There wasn’t a day that went by that Ryo didn’t think of and miss his parents and rarely a day that slid by when he didn’t wonder about Dee’s family. He knew his partner had to still have questions himself, but he never spent time on them. Why should he, Ryo asked himself, when he had a perfectly fine family right here?
It still wasn’t the same, though, he reflected, poking at his food again; it couldn’t be. The meal, prepared by a couple of the older kids, was delicious, but Ryo just didn’t have an appetite tonight. His mind was too full of questions, memories, and other things he’d much rather forget. He heard a scream in his mind and closed his eyes tightly against the flashback.
Chuckles passing around the table brought his eyes back open. Ryo glanced around him to see the boys laughing and talking with Dee. “So how about it?” a boy, who Ryo guessed to be about twelve, asked his partner. “Will you join us?”
“Sure, Mikey. Why not? It’s Halloween. We could use a good, ghostly laugh.”
Ryo went back to stabbing his carrots with his fork. He’d almost forgotten that it was Halloween, a time when people liked to claim to believe in things they normally knew did not exist. He remembered believing for years in ghosts and then slowly losing that belief when he lost his parents and never saw them again. Surely if the dead had a way to haunt the living, his mom, if not his dad too, would have come back to him, or at least tried to return. They would have wanted to reach him if, for nothing more, than to reassure him of their love.
Once more, Ryo shoved a lump back down his throat. Once more, he heard a scream, and once again, he saw innocent, blue eyes widened by terror. He heard a sickening splat, remembered the latest dead body he’d seen, . . . and once again, forced his tears away, his misting eyes focused on his plate.
“Earth to Ryo!” Dee called merrily. He reached out and playfully jabbed his partner’s shoulder. “Earth to Ryo! Anybody home?”
Ryo blinked. “Y-Yes. What is it, Dee?”
“I was just asking if you wanted to come along.”
“Yeah,” Bikky joined in. “You might have to protect Dee from the big, bad, girl ghost.”
Ryo frowned. “What are you talking about?” What kind of strange scheme had the two people closest to him, who both claimed not to care about or even like the other, but who he knew really did, concocted this time? “Ghosts don’t exist,” he said, taking a bite of his meat. He knew the orphanage rarely had the funds for decent meals. It was rarer that the Mother Superior served meat. She usually kept it for a special occasion; yet, here it was on his plate. He glanced questioningly down at her.
His mother’s adopted mother watched him with her steady, unblinking, and seemingly all knowing gaze. Ryo felt a chill run down his spine as she placed her fork down beside her polished plate. “Dee, I do believe your partner needs a chance to rest this evening.”
“Th-That’s all right, Mother,” Ryo spoke quickly, blushing that attention had again been called to him. “I’m fine really.”
Far from convinced, she raised an eyebrow at him. “If that’s the case, my son, why have you barely touched your food?”
He blushed again. “I’m sorry, Mother. It’s just . . . I don’t have much of an appetite tonight.”
“Protecting this city from all the scum that runs through it is taking a toll on your health.” She slid her chair back away from the table, wiped her mouth on her napkin, and dropped the piece of paper onto her emptied plate. As she stood, she looked directly into Ryo’s eyes. “Why don’t you walk with me, Ryo, and we’ll leave the boys to doing what children do best and playing their little ghost hunting game?”
“Hey!” Dee exclaimed. She shot him a look that had him swiftly pressing his lips together before he could say anything else.
“We’ll take care of the dishes, Mother,” the eldest girl spoke.
Mother Superior inclined her regal head in a nod. “Thank you, Mary. Ryo?” she asked, holding out her arm. “Will you escort an old lady?”
Dee snorted but was cut short again by his mother’s stern look.
“Careful, Dee,” Bikky said, laughing, “or she’ll have you washing dishes too!”
“Bikky, why don’t you join the girls in clearing the table and cleaning up? You can always join the boys afterward.”
“Aw, man!” Bikky snatched his cap off of his head and slapped it against the table while Dee just leaned back in his chair and laughed.
Ryo, meanwhile, had moved to stand beside the Mother Superior. He took her arm wordlessly in his, feeling that she had a reason for wanting to separate him from the others. She didn’t speak to him again as they exited the dining room, but she did glance at him in that knowing way she possessed. Since the very first day he had met her, Ryo had felt like this woman could read his very soul with a single look.
She remained silent as they walked out to the back yard. The moon was out and looked big and yellow though it was not yet full. Ryo was surprised he could see it so well, but somehow it looked closer to the earth than it usually did. He chalked it up to his imagination. Halloween night even affected him. He sighed, the hand of his free arm sticking into his pocket as he walked beside the mother. He well and forlornly remembered all those Halloweens he’d spent believing he would see his parents again.
And now, if ghosts did exist, there was every reason for another one to haunt him. But they didn’t exist, he reminded himself sternly. There was no scientific basis for phantoms to actually exist, and if there was such a thing as the dead visiting the living, surely he would have had such a visit paid to him many years ago. It was all just childish imaginings and fairy tales, and he had no use for either in the live he lived.
“Oh, Ryo,” the Mother Superior sighed, her calm, quiet, and compassionate voice cutting into his thoughts. “You really are too hard on yourself, my boy.”
He blinked in surprise and eyed her questioningly. “You barely know me,” he said, frowning.
“I know enough,” she said. “I see enough. I see the changes you’re making in our Dee and in that wild, young spirit, Bikky.”
“You -- You think I’m changing them?” he asked, even more surprised.
“I know you are,” she answered calmly. “I see it every time you visit me, and Dee pays me more visits now than he has in years.”
It was true, Ryo admitted silently; he did try to make certain that Dee visited his mother and adopted family at least once a week. “I do try,” he said, “to set a good example.”
She smiled, seemingly humored by something although he saw nothing funny in the admission he’d made. “You do a fine job.”
“Do I?” he asked, reaching up and loosening his collar. He looked down at the grass over which they were walking. “At least I do right with something.”
“What happened today,” she spoke gently, “was not your fault.”
He pulled away from her before he could remember his manners. He looked at her in shock and more than a little anger. “What did Dee tell you?!” he demanded.
“Not a word,” she replied earnestly. “You told me everything.”
He frowned. “I didn’t say -- “
“You didn’t have to. I saw it in your distraction and in the haunted look in your eyes. You lost someone today.”
He sighed, lowered his head, and nodded. Tears again filled his eyes, but he remained too stubborn to let them fall. “She was a young girl,” he said, “a prostitute who got mixed up in a bad drug deal.” Slowly his tear-filled eyes dared to raise to hers. “She was barely fourteen, Mother!”
He saw the pained look the nun expressed before she could hide it. He almost bit his own tongue as he recoiled from her. He should never have told her! The sister had far too much to worry about already; she didn’t need a reminder that she couldn’t save every child, no more than he had needed to lose that child today.
“We can’t save them all,” she spoke humbly, lowering her head. She didn’t look at him accusingly. She didn’t ask him why he had failed to save the child. In fact, she suddenly looked as guilty and remorseful as he felt! “I know,” she added. “God knows I know.”
They stood in silence for a moment before she stepped away and slightly to the side. “Ryo, I know you do not believe in ghosts, and I also suspect I know the reason why, but tonight is a very special night.”
His frown deepened. “What do you mean, mother?”
“It’s Halloween,” she said matter-of-factly, and then she added, almost making his jaw drop open in shock that she would believe in such a fairy tale, “the one night a year that the dead can visit the living. Oh, don’t look at me like that!” she chastised him. “I used to believe the same way you do. I used to be just as stubborn in my belief that the dead don’t return to the living. But then it happened to me. Besides that, the Bible speaks often times of spirits.”
He stared at her. “What happened to you, Mother?” he asked slowly.
“I received a visit,” she answered, raising her head to meet his gaze. “One of my young charges, a girl I failed, came to me. She had gotten sick before she’d come to me, and though I tried everything I knew, I could not save her. She wanted me to know that she didn’t blame me and to ask me to stop blaming myself. Sound familiar?”
He looked at her through wide, disbelieving eyes. “Mother -- “
“That’s where the legends come from,” she said, continuing before he had a chance to speak further. “That’s why there are whispers that the orphanage is haunted, because we are. It is seldom, however, even on full moon nights, that anyone sees her ghost. But she still visits me once a year on Halloween.”
“Mother -- “
“You don’t have to take my word for it, Ryo.” The Mother Superior stepped to the side and gestured with her hands. “Look for yourself.”
Ryo swung his head in the direction she indicated. His eyes widened even more. His mouth gaped in a soundless gasp. There, not more than five feet from where they were, stood a young girl in a circle of silver moonlight.
“She looks better every time I see her,” the mother commented with a sage and knowing smile. “She shines more powerfully every year, and she feels better and is happier now than she ever was during the time I knew her in the living world.”
Ryo heard her, but it was as though she spoke from far away. He rubbed his eyes hard and looked again, but the glowing girl was still there. She looked like she was no more than nine at the most. She was looking directly up at him through eyes that held no life or light in them at all.
“She’s right,” the girl said. He heard the words as though they were carried on the rising wind, but her lips didn’t move. His eyes widened even more. “I didn’t blame her, no more than Celeste blames you.”
A chill went through him. He finally found his voice to ask, in growing shock, “You know her name?”
“Of course.” The phantom child smiled up at him. “She’s near you now, but she doesn’t have the power to show herself, not yet, not even tonight. She says you did everything you could. You tried your best to stop her. You had actually talked her down out of killing herself when her foot slipped. Because of you, she didn’t purposefully take her own life.”
“But she still -- “
“She still died, yes. But now she can go home to her parents.” Tears glistened in the phantom’s big, dark eyes. “She’s free. She doesn’t have to sell her body to men any more to survive.”
“She should have never had to! She should have asked someone for help!”
“She did, but she asked the wrong people. She didn’t have a Mother Superior or a Ryo to help her until this week.”
“And then it was too late,” Ryo said, his bottom lip trembling. A tear fell down his face.
“Yes, it was too late -- for her body, but not for her soul. She’s happy now, Ryo, and she doesn’t want you to be sad any longer for her. You helped her. You saved her.”
“No, I didn’t! I tried to, but -- but she still fell!” He had tried so hard to help her, but the poor girl had seen and endured too much. When she’d seen those people get shot, she’d been spooked, and her terror had only built when she’d been arrested. She’d managed to break free, but she had believed there could be no future for her. She was slated to go to juvie, and there was no way he could have stopped that. She also could not have stopped it except for the way she had. He’d believed he’d been talking her down, he’d been reaching her. She’d actually been about to step down from the ledge when her foot had slipped and she’d fallen backwards . . . and he’d reached the ledge too late to reach her.
Hot tears started spilling down his face. Mother Superior stood beside him, gently stroking his arm. “It’s hard,” she admitted in a choked, emotional whisper, “the hardest lesson I or anyone else who truly cares for the lost innocents in this world have to learn.”
“I was so close -- “ He sobbed. “So close!”
“You did save her, Ryo,” the ghost said gently. “She’s free now, and her future looks a lot brighter than it ever did when she was on the streets or facing juvie.”
“But she’s dead!” he cried.
“Precisely. That means she can finally be with her parents.”
Ryo hushed as that realization slowly sank into him. He remembered all those times he’d wanted nothing more than to leave this world and go home to his family. He had a new family forming now with Dee and Bikky, but he still terribly missed and longed for his parents.
“And there’s someone else,” the girl said softly, “who want to see you tonight. They say they’ve tried to reach you before, but they’ve never been powerful enough on their own.” She inclined her head in a humble bow and closed her eyes as if concentrating.
Ryo watched in disbelief as the girl faded and two other people, both taller and older, came into view. He gasped. “Mom?! Dad?!”
“Ryo, my sweet boy!” his mother cried out. She seemed to run to him, but he couldn’t see her legs. There were no feet touching the ground, but it was definitely his mother’s face, her torso, and her gentle, loving arms which wrapped around him. No one had ever touched him like she had. He sobbed as she held him. He tried his best to return her embrace, and although his fingers felt nothing solid against them, he could still feel her hugging him and hoped she could feel his hug.
“You always were too hard on yourself, son,” his father spoke. His hand tried to clasp Ryo’s shoulder, but his fingers went right through him.
“A little harder,” the nun who’d fallen back whispered. “Just concentrate a little more.”
His father clasped his shoulder, and Ryo pulled both his parents closer to him. Mother Superior smiled sadly as she looked on. Ryo was soon completely oblivious to her presence, and she raised her eyes to the moon that shone brightly above them all. “Thank you, Father,” she whispered, “for bringing another lost child home. Happy Halloween, Ryo,” she added after a moment, watching him as he continued to embrace his long dead parents.
“Good work, my children,” she concluded, nodding to the girl she could no longer see and the other deceased children whose presence she felt just as strongly. They’d brought Ryo home not to a place but to something far better, someone, his parents who he’d needed just as much tonight as he had when he’d first lost them as a young boy. They had restored his hope with love that would also restore his confidence, and because of them and the gift they’d given him on this most magical of nights, Ryo would continue on. He’d save many more lives, the Mother Superior knew, and touch countless more, including her own boy and that other troubled child. Now Ryo could move on; he could truly live again. “I’m proud of you,” she said, smiling. “Happy Halloween, all!”