SUMMARY: John visits his family when he's back on Earth. Sorta an Intruder missing scene.
SEASON/SPOILERS: Set season two, between Seige III and Intruder.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We never saw John visit his family and this little piece just struck me this morning, so I just needed to write it. Angst ahead for Shep.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Stargate: Atlantis or anything associated With it. I'm simply borrowing, but I promise to return all in one piece. Eventually.
"We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten." - Cesare Pavese
He walks through the double door, listening to the slight sound
they make as they part for him. The sun shines in from the outside,
sprinkling the carpet with rays of light and brightening the artificial fluorescent light.
He approaches the reception desk. Maggie greets him, her brown eyes friendly. She smiles.
"John. It's been a while," she says as she reaches for the visitor's book and a pen. She slides the book across the table top and he signs without thinking.
His name. The date. Person visiting. Time of visit.
Maggie hands him a visitor's pass. "She's in 222, now."
He frowns. "Why did she move? Do something happen?" He tries to not let the worry seep into his voice. The constant worry he can't make disappear, no matter how hard he tries.
Maggie reaches for his hand. "No. She's fine. 222 has a better view of the garden."
"She likes the garden," he says.
"She does," Maggie agrees. "The room opened up. So she moved. Take a right when you get off the elevator."
He nods. "Thank you."
The elevator rides lasts forever. Or seems to. He stares down at his visitor pass and fingers the plastic. He's not sure what to say to her.
He's never sure what to say to her.
He doesn't know what he stresses over it; she doesn't remember what he says. She doesn't even remember who he is.
But he stresses. He could not leave again without seeing her.
He takes a right at the elevator and sees room 222. The door is open. He hears voices. The TV is on. He takes a deep breath and heads in.
She isn't watching. Instead, she sits at the window. The garden is below. The perfect view, as Maggie had said.
He pauses behind her a moment. He is again, lost for words and wishes, for once, he could call her name and she would turn to him and smile and say, "John."
He touches her shoulder instead. She does turn, but her gaze is not familiar. It is confused.
"Hi, Mom," he says and tries to smile. It comes out forced.
She blinks. "Who are you?" she asks and he swallows past the lump in his throat.
"It's me, Mom. John. Your son."
"Son?" she repeats. "I have a son. His name is John. He's going to be a pilot when he grows up. Fly all around the world, so he says."
The lump gets bigger. "Really?" Sometimes it was easier to play along than to take the effort to try and convince.
She smiles. "Oh yes. His father will be so proud."
The lump is so big that he fears it will never disappear, even after his visit was over. To her time stood still. He watches it march forward. His father is dead; had been for over twenty years. He wonders if she even knows this, has stored it in some place in her fractured mind.
"I'm sure he will," he tells her and notices the battered copy of War and Peace on her dresser. He picks it up.
"I can read to you if you'd like." She nods. He knows she loves to be read to. It's the one thing that remains and if he closes his eyes he can pretend he's twelve again, sitting next to her on the couch, reading aloud.
"You can read it yourself," he used to tell her, but she'd always shake her head.
"It sounds better coming from you," she had told him. "War and Peace is a classic. You're twelve and old enough to begin understanding it." She had opened the book and settled it on his lap. "Now, go ahead."
He had started and she had closed her eyes, a smile settling over her face, listening to the words.
He shakes himself from the memory and opens to the first page. She looks at him in expectation, and for just a brief fleeting moment, he sees the pilot light of memory flicker in her eyes. Then it leaves, only a blankness remaining behind.
"I love you, Mom," he says softly before turning to the first paragraph and reading.
An hour later, she's asleep in her chair, a smile on her face. He shuts the book and gets up to replace it on the dresser. Before he heads for the door, he pauses in front of her chair and leans down to kiss her forehead.
"Good-bye, Mom," he whispers and walks to the door.
He lingers a second in the doorway, holding his breath, hoping for a half a second, she may someday whisper back, "Good-bye John."
Only silence greets him.
He moves forward, returns the visitor's pass, signs the book again, and heads for the airport. He has someone else's family to see.
----"She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes." - Frank Deford