NOTES: Allisnow and I have been playing 'fic-tennis' over on our LiveJournals. I post a fic, she posts one back using a theme I introduce in my story, back and forth. This is story #5 and was prompted by her fic 'John Sheppard's Reasons Why (Not)' and the phrase 'maybe he was growing up'.

Change Is The Road From Childhood

The churning spume of the river dampens her boots and the ground around her as she stands on the muddy bank over the icy flow and feels her blood churn through her veins like the water below.

No sound comes from behind her, but she knows he's there all the same.

"I hope you're not thinking about jumping." The words are blithe and teasing, but she can feel his gravity beneath.

She makes no answer. He seems to expect none as he comes to stand beside her. She can feel his gaze on her hair, wind-whipped, on her cheeks, tear-streaked, on her eyes, red-rimmed, and silently dares him to speak of it.

He does not.

"Beckett's gone back to the city," he says after a moment. "I'm your ride when you're ready to go."

When she gives him no response, he lets out something like a sigh, and from the corner of her eye, she sees his mouth twist. It's a quirk that sometimes comes with a smile, and sometimes with a frown, but is always an indicator that he has much on his mind. "Well, whenever you're ready."

She lets him take a step away before she speaks, the words forced from her mouth.

"Charin was the last of my elders."

She doesn't turn, but knows he paused, his boot squelching in the soft earth. It is his turn to remain silent as she looks down at the water crashing past. Perhaps it would be easier to throw herself into the water and be lost in the flow - so much simpler, an easy death. Finally, she speak. "It is said, among my people, that when one's elders are gone, one is no longer a child."

Still no sound comes from him, but the wind rises, tugging at the strands of her hair, tickling at her cheeks. She lifts a hand to brush the strands back. "I am no longer a child."

The words ache in her lungs, in her belly, in her soul.

Maybe once he'd have had a quick reply to her words. Maybe once he would have said something off-hand and casual to deflect her. Maybe once he, too, was a child.

But the man he has become remains silent, with no words to say and enough knowledge of her to avoid filling the silence with meaningless comfort.

His silence anchors her as the soul-storm tosses her in its throes. He waits for her to turn to him from her contemplation and grief with more patience than she expected of him.

But then, he is no longer a child, either.

- fin -