DISCLAIMER: No musicians were actually harmed during the making of this tale.

Again, I was done with this. Then Jon and Neal started talking behind my back, about something that supposedly happened when Steve dropped by Jon's house. Then I got 'Baptism Day' stuck in my head, and since the details hadn't been made available yet, I invented them. I don't know if that's enough to acquit me. But then my sister walked into my apartment one day, looked around, and said "What's with all the rocks?" Which she had every right to do, since I have the damn things all over. Don't ask. I immediately thought, "These people and their damned stones," which combined with Jon and Neal's conversation, started this ball rolling again. Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends...

(c) 1998 B Stearns
It wasn't no war--but I've never been quite the same.
--Gary Numan, 'Down In The Park'

July 14th, 1998

The two men walked between another pair of headstones, navigating them carefully out of respect. The well manicured expanse of lawn, dotted with granite and marble monuments of various shapes and sizes, sloped gently upward and away from them. It was looking like rain, uncharacteristically cool for July in northern California, and they felt none of it.

The slighter of the two paused again, wincing at the incline, sweeping his dark bangs out of his face again with a grimace. His hip and back were just as uncooperative in bending toward this task as he was personally.

The other man paused with him, even less willing to continue, careful to avoid looking at him. The observance of his pain would only enrage him, and for once neither was in a mood to battle with the other. The sight of the cemetery and the events of the past several days had taken it out of them. Neither quite believed what was happening, yet, despite the evidence they'd been handed. They were about to get further proof, and neither wanted it. But it had to be done. They'd acknowledged that point right away, and agreed on it.

Steve walked on again, stubbornly refusing to limp any more than he had to.

"There," Neal said, the dread in his voice making Steve glance at him involuntarily. The guitarist was pointing to a bit of statuary, an angel with outstretched wings that gazed raptly heavenward. A tagger had claimed the angel by spraying his or her initials across the base of it in black paint that the curators hadn't gotten around to sanding away yet.

They moved toward it, and Steve thought, the desperations of the living disregard the dead. Then he pushed it away and trailed slightly behind Neal as the latter cast around among the smaller stones within the radius of the defiled angel's base. A slightly raised granite monument, marred with age, tilted its once-polished face up to them. Deeply engraved lettering, blackened by time, shouted something that froze them both in place.

Feb. 26, 1950--July 17, 1960
Lord, Welcome Our Angel Home

They stood shoulder to shoulder in the gathering gloom and stared in mute horror, waiting for someone to awaken them or shout that it was all a joke. When Steve could lift his head, he saw the rain heading across the cemetery toward them from the south. There was a wall of it coming all at once, engulfing them. Neal didn't notice. He leaned over to trace part of the name on the stone with a forefinger. Then the guitarist sat cross-legged before the stone in the rain and put his face in his hands...

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