Title: Falling in winter
Author: Kodiak bear
Rating: T
Summary: I'm writing Winter, which is the aftermath of It's Always Autumn in the Old Trees of Despair, but it's going to be written in Heightmeyer's POV as she deals with all of the five afterwards, and because of that, I wrote a short little snippet to highlight some of Sheppard's internal conflict.

Falling in winter,
Short missing scene from Winter

OoO

Tangled sheets, and tortured dreams. Sheppard shoved both away, and rolled from his bed, tired and achy. Two weeks of mandatory counseling and he felt like telling them all how far to shove their concern, their talking, their hovering…their caring. When they did it right, it only served to highlight how screwed up the whole ordeal with Naem had been. Caring wasn't about hurting; the two were never meant to be connected, not like the yin and yang of love and hate – it wasn't the same thing.

Maybe the two weeks had counted after all. Kate, McKay, Carson and almost everyone else that got near him, seemed to be drilling that point home. Teyla ran soft fingers through his hair whenever he fell asleep watching movies, squashed between her and McKay, who would tuck a blanket around him, and straighten his legs. Ronon let Sheppard eat his cake without acting like he'd stab John with a fork for trying.

There weren't any chains, or rituals. No hidden rules and humiliation.

Should there be? There never were before. Naem hadn't changed who he was; one man can't change a lifetime of experiences; and yet, wasn't that what Heightmeyer claimed was part of his problem – that his lifetime had taught him no one cares unconditionally. Love is offered with strings, and if you trip, the hands holding them will cut you free just as soon as pull you back to your feet.

Everyone he'd ever loved had cut him free. His mom died when he was young; left him with a father incapable of accepting his son for who he was. To General Sheppard, John would always be lacking. Patience, persistence, ability and attitude. The Air Force hadn't been any better…Sheppard had served with everything he had, fought for those around him, fought where the military said he had to, and when he tried to save lives, he got a secret court martial and sent off to serve in a frozen wasteland.

And General O'Neill had the balls to act like Sheppard owed anyone anything after that.

A flip of a coin; will I go, will I stay.

Should he have gone, should he have stayed?

His dad would never know what he was doing, where he was. Did it make Sheppard any better than Naem for wanting to hurt his dad even while he wanted to be held by him? All he'd ever wanted was a simple, "Good job, Son." It made him feel sick that as much as he wanted that, he wanted to tell his dad what he was doing, and seeing -- not for getting the respect -- but as a way of saying, "I'm doing something better than you ever could've possibly dreamed about doing. At the end of all things, my side of the scale will weigh more."

The cup he'd picked up was cold in his hand, the ice mostly melted, condensation heavy on the bottom half of the plastic. Taking a drink, John set it down, and stood in the mostly dark room, padding over to where his shirt was draped on the chair, along with his pants.

He got dressed, and stole out the door, heading for the Jumper bay.

Restlessness tagged his body ever since they'd returned. Sleeping was a joke, and John knew Heightmeyer wasn't missing a thing. Then again, neither was McKay, hence, the blanket tucking when the insomnia caught up to him, and Sheppard dozed in front of people. It was embarrassing, making him feel like a little kid again, and that made him spin right back to his dad and Naem, and every conflicted emotion slammed him down, hard, heavy and unrelenting.

It's winter, always bleak winter, inside. There never is a spring or summer for me, and Naem never realized why I couldn't be the hope he needed. In the end, dead trees never sprout…they just cast a thin sickly pall over the woods they crowd.

His team didn't realize it, no one did. Sheppard wasn't sunshine, and smell the roses. He was the storm on the horizon, the gray that blanketed vibrancy, cloaking everything in wrong choices, bad decisions, things that always exacted a cost from those around him. Dex, Mitch, Sumner, Ford…the Genii. His mother.

The body count was stacking up…not all chains were physical.

Jumper One sat quietly in her berth, the hatch opening as John approached. He'd given up the balcony since coming back. They always found him; morning, afternoon or night. The fresh air wasn't worth the price of pretending, especially not during moments like these where he had to work hard enough just to keep his fist from slamming into the wall.

Pain.

As he stepped through the rear of the ship, Sheppard realized he missed being in pain. Why? Maybe it was because at least then he'd felt something. Anything. Right now, he woke and lived and slept with a constant numbness that permeated him from his head to his toes. Sometimes he wasn't even sure his feet were touching the ground.

Maybe he would fly, like Naem's falcons.

Jumper One powered up.

/Fly/

I want to. Fly straight upward, to the nearest star, and burn like a blaze of glory, hot and fast.

Not pathetic, sad, and depressed, sitting in his ship seeking comfort from an inanimate object because he couldn't wrap his mind around the truths that his experience had revealed to him.

Sheppard didn't know how to be cared for anymore than he knew how to care. He'd never had enough of the one to teach him the other. Naem had waltzed in that opening and gave him more caring in the span of months than he'd ever had in his previous thirty plus years, and even with the pain he'd caused John, the caring…it'd woken something up inside of him that he hadn't even realized was sleeping.

Need.

/Fly/

The ship didn't understand his need any better than Sheppard did. What did he need? Friends – he had that, at least, he supposed that he and McKay were friends; Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth and Carson, even Radek. Possibly Lorne. Not so much Ford after that last stunt, assuming the Lieutenant lived…no, he wouldn't be on John Sheppard's Christmas card list after that.

So, he could do friends, surface-wise. Maybe that was the problem. None of those people really knew him. He didn't have anyone to sit down at night and talk about his hopes and fears, his screw ups and accomplishments. No one stood next to him and rooted him on, cheered for him when the home team was two plays down and the ninth inning was looming. For all that Sheppard enjoyed being around these people, he didn't truly believe he was important to them.

Loneliness was dragging him down, taunting him with Naem, whispering that the pain was worth it, maybe. It'd been so long since John had leaned on anyone, told them why he was sad, angry, afraid…

"John, there was nothing you could do." His mother cupped his chin, raising it until he looked at her, tear stained cheeks and hands full of his dead puppy, swaddled in blankets. "He was sick, and sometimes not even doctors can fix the ones we love."

It wouldn't be many years later that she'd hold him again, head to her chest, and tell him that all things must die, and that it was her turn. John had cried, and clung to her, as if his short pudgy grip could anchor her body in life. His dad had pried him away, sent him to bed with frustration equal to John's desperation. His dad hadn't understood that John was trying to save her. That's all he'd wanted to do was save her.

The only problem with trying to save everyone else is he'd forgotten to ask, who was going to save him?