John took a deep breath and, swallowing the painful lump in his throat, entered the cemetery. It was the first time he was stepping foot in this cemetery, and the first time he was coming to pay her a visit. His heart was pounding so hard and loud in his chest that he felt like he was disturbing the quietness of the place. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he made his way through the graves, until he reached the far end of the cemetery, where the most recent graves had been placed. With a heavy heart, he looked at the names, searching for hers.
But he didn't have to search very long, as he found Taylor, Joss' son, sitting in front of her grave. John immediately recognized his long figure typical of a fast growing teenager and his familiar curly hair. John wasn't expecting him to be there, and he wasn't sure if he was ready to face the young man who had just lost his mother. Maybe he should just turn away and leave Taylor with his mother. But he must have made some noise, because the young man startled and turned around, quickly jumping to his feet.
John tried to smile at him, but failed miserably. "Hi, Taylor," he said in a raspy voice. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you."
"What are you doing here?" Taylor asked abruptly.
"I came to… I wanted to visit her, to…" John started.
But Taylor cut him off. "Why couldn't you save her?" he shouted, darting a dark and angry look to John. "I thought that was your job. Where were you?"
His voice broke and tears started falling down the young man's cheeks. "Why couldn't you save her?" he repeated in a whisper.
White as a sheet, John was unable to move. In his chest, his heart shattered into pieces. He clenched his teeth very hard to try and hold back his own tears. Seeing Taylor's distress was only adding to his already unbearable pain over his failure to save his friend.
Taylor turned his back to him to face the grave and let himself fall to the ground. He wrapped his arms around his folded legs and put his chin on his knees.
Taking a couple of forced deep breaths, John tried to collect himself. He wiped his nose with the back of his sleeve and sat cross-legged next to Taylor.
"I'm very sorry I couldn't save her," he said in a low voice. "I wish I could have." Guilt was piercing through his heart, sharper than a stab wound. "She was protecting me… It should have been me…"
Not today. Joss' voice echoed in his mind. He failed her. He should have been the one protecting her. Why couldn't he protect those he cared about the most? Day after day, he was saving people he didn't know, but he kept losing those that meant something to him. After Jessica, now Joss… Overwhelmed by the pain of his memories, John closed his eyes, desperately trying to chase away the images of Joss dying in his arms. Don't let this…
"You were there?" Taylor asked timidly.
John opened his eyes and looked at the young man who was staring at him with tearful eyes. John nodded sadly.
"She wanted you to know that she loved you very much." He said softly. "Your mother was a true hero. She was the bravest and most honest person I've ever met."
Taylor sniffed. "Why weren't you at the funeral, then? Everyone was there. I thought you'd come."
John looked away. He had been too busy fighting his own vengeful quest, looking for Simmons. If it hadn't been for Finch, he would probably have killed Quinn and Simmons. Or died trying. At the time, it felt like the only thing to do. The only way to right a terrible wrong, and the only way to release all the rage John had felt boiling inside. But Harold was right, this is not what Joss would have wanted. That was not the right thing to do.
"You're right, I should have been there. That was wrong of me," he admitted finally after a long pause. "I'm sorry."
They remained seated side by side in silence. John finally raised his gaze to look at the headstone, her name, Jocelyn Carter, engraved in the stone, and the dates. March 7th 1972 - November 14th 2013. He had seen way too many graves in his life, each new one just as painful as the old ones.
"I know how you feel," he told Taylor.
"No, you don't," the young man replied defiantly.
But John ignored him and went on. "Sad, and angry. You want to cry, but the one person that could comfort you is not here. There's so much rage in you and you don't know how to release it. You hate everything and everyone because it's all so unfair and you just want to scream."
Taylor looked up at him, his anger suddenly subsiding.
"I lost my dad when I was ten," John said with an apologetic smile. "There was a day, where that fire inside me was so bad that I just went out of the house and started running, as fast and hard as I could. I didn't know where I was going, and I have no idea how long I ran. I ran until I collapsed on the sidewalk."
"I miss her," Taylor said after a while, his voice trembling. "I miss her so much…"
John put a comforting hand on Taylor's shoulder and the young man leaned in until he buried his face in John's shoulder.
"I miss her too," John said, gently patting Taylor's back. "It's okay to be sad, and it's normal. If there are times where you're allowed not to feel strong, it's times like this." He marked a pause before going on. "But remember, Taylor, you're not alone. You still have a father that loves you very much. And you have your friends. I'm here, too, if you ever want to talk."
Taylor let go of John and brushed his tears with the back of his sleeves.
"How do you make the pain go away?" he asked.
John swallowed the lump in his throat. He wished he knew. "It eases with time. Give yourself time. And remember that your mother still lives here," he said, putting his hand on Taylor's heart. "She lives in you. She made you who you are. Make her proud, and she'll live forever in you."
"Have you made your dad proud?"
John bit his lips. He had pushed himself into that minefield all on his own. Was he making his dad proud? This was a question he'd asked himself many times along the years. He'd tried to. When he was protecting his classmates from the junior high bullies, when he enrolled in the army to serve and protect his country, following his dad's steps, and later when the joined the CIA, every time, he was hoping he'd made his dad proud. And yet, every time, it seemed to only lead him into troubles.
Had he made his dad proud? At times, he felt he did. But that feeling didn't last. Would his father have approved all the killings, all the executions without trials? His son becoming an assassin for an obscure greater good? Probably not.
But with his new job, saving people with Harold, even if it wasn't infallible, John was hoping he would redeem himself a little bit.
"I'm trying…" he whispered. Despite everything, he wouldn't give up the hope that one day, he'd make his father proud.
They remained seated side by side in front of the grave, each of them lost in their respective thoughts. Finally, Taylor stood up and picked up his backpack from the ground.
"I have to go, I have class in half an hour." He marked a pause and added. "Mom would probably not approve me being late to school."
John smiled and nodded approvingly. He unfolded his long legs and stood up too. He brushed the grass off of his coat and walked with Taylor back to the street, and the world of the living.
Before they parted ways, Taylor turned to John.
"Thanks," he said.
John nodded with a small smile. "Anytime."
Taylor readjusted his backpack on his back and waved at him before disappearing into the closest subway entrance.
John turned around and slowly walked back to the library. Joss would probably not approve of him being late either and he was determined to make her proud of him as well.