This is something of a continuation of chapter 18. Also, super short. Forgive me, I've been studying for makeup tests.
“It is not what we do that defines us, but what is in our heart.” - Anonymous
Ray stood up, suddenly. His gesture broke the uneasy, guilt-ridden silence that had yet again come between them.
“Where are you going?”
“To sleep, Way. Or at least to try to. I think I've done my share of thinking for the night.” He handed Gerard the bottle. “Want it?”
Ray wiped the dust off of him as Gerard turned around and started to make his way back towards the camp.
Ray's voice made him stop abruptly, turn to face him.
“You meant it, right?”
“When—when you said that I'm a good man.”
“Of course I did, Ray. Of course.”
“And I didn't mean to hurt Frank. I didn't, I swear.”
“I know, Ray. You're a good man, I've known you my entire life.”
Toro took a step forward.
“You—you're not going to ask me how I hurt him?”
Way swallowed. He wanted to, but something told him it was better for all of them if he didn't know.
“No. It's between you and him.”
“But you're his--”
“I don't want to know, Ray. I don't want to know what the fuck's going on in your head. Not now. Not ever, probably.”
The other man sighed.
“It's better. For the both of us.”
Ray lowered his gaze.
“You've been my friend for years, Ray. You took care of Mikey whenever I wasn't there. You loved my brother as if he were your own brother. And nothing's going to change that, okay?”
Ray nodded slightly.
Gerard turned around and continued to walk.
Toro turned towards the crosses instead. It pained him a little to have to leave her there: it didn't seem right. He felt obliged to stay next to her until he was sure her spirit had found closure.
Until he was sure he'd let Michael go completely.
The thought of doing that terrified him.
It's going to take years, and you know it. But he could've started, at least. The earlier he started, the sooner he could've found peace.
He crouched one more time next to her cross, fixed the record up straight against the wood.
Ray heard Gerard stop to listen.
He smiled to himself, deeply sad.
And then, even though he knew Way was standing close by, he foolishly let slip out:
“Sleep well, Michael.”
He knew Gerard had heard him: he could hear him run.