Seven- John Sheppard's POV
So I chickened out- so what? I could see Rodney giving me the evil eye, when I refused to say at my brother's house. But I was honest enough with him, I didn't want to put him out, and I really needed my own space. I'd not expected to see Paul. Stupid of me really- I mean why wouldn't he still live here? Tell you what, it through me thorough a loop, but good. It was so strange, almost otherworldly seeing him in the graveyard, with the morning light shining behind him, giving him a holy glow, a bit like in those old fashioned painting of saints and such like. Bizarre, very bizarre. No wonder McKay said I looked like I'd seen a ghost. In many ways I had. In many ways so had he.
Coffee was nice, pleasant and civilised. After we'd both had our little cry over mum's grave, things seemed clearer- cleaner too. It started off being really uncomfortable, with the waitress staring at me, like I'd walked in with a green head and no arms! I had reason to be thankful for Rodney once more, when he revived our stilted conversation by aiming jokes at me. It gave us a hook, and both Paul and I grabbed it, like the hapless fools we are. Before long we were laughing and joking about our childhood, remembering the fun times at school. Remembering mom. As I talked about mom felt like a great weight had been lifted off me. I'd not spoken about her or Paul with anyone, since I'd left Grandma's house the day after mom's funeral. There was no need really.
People are strange creatures, they'll ask how you're feeling and pretend to be concerned, but the truth is, people don't want to hear about your heartache and misery; they have more than enough themselves. They'll nod or agree, 'yeah that's a tough break kid', over a bottle of beer, but come morning, they've forgotten why the new guy was balling his eyes out in the bar. Heck, they've probably forgotten the new guy's name. I'd seen it happen countless times over the years. Mostly people liked other people to be happy, or if they can't do that, then to be quiet. Keep it private. Locked away. So that what I'd done. I stopped talking about my family with others, even my wife.
She knew I had issues with family and we always spent Christmas and new years with her folks. The were nice people, even her crazy single sister, who'd get drunk and tell me I'd married the wrong one, then fall asleep in the corner with a Santa hat and glass of wine. Crazy Emmy, with her long brown hair, violent blue eye shadow and crimson lips; God, I liked her- she made me smile. She knew how to party; I'll give her that. The girl could out drink most men I'd ever known, including me. Hell, maybe I did marry the wrong one- Although I can just imagine the poor children, growing up with an absent father and a crazed mother. Yeah, on second thoughts, I did marry the right one of the two. Just not sure she was the right one for me.
My Wife was so different to Emmy, they had the same sweetness and kind faces, but where Emmy masked her pain with booze, Nancy was like me and threw herself into her work. I never told her my heartaches and she never asked. She told me a few bits about hers, like how embarrassed she was by Emmy. Yes, I know what your thinking- no wonder your marriage broke up. But we did love each other and for a long time I'd thought that was enough. I was wrong.
Sitting in the café drinking coffee, talking with my brother, about mom, really cut me. I spent the whole time laughing and crying, crying and laughing. I felt like I'd been thrown in the wash, and was ready to be hung out to dry, by the time we parted. He invited Rodney and myself to dinner at his house. We slept for half the afternoon, woke, showered and drove to my brother's place. As we pulled up I felt my mouth drop open. His house was massive, with a long sloping lawn hedged with pretty flowers. It was a newish building, maybe fifteen years old, all painted white with ivy growing across the front. We parked up and made out way to the door, hardwood with a dark, racing green stain, varnished to perfection. This house was clearly cared for.
Paul opened the door, threw his arms around me, while greeting Rodney merrily. I spied a pair of figures hanging back, whom Paul introduced as his wife and son. His wife was a similar age to us, with short light brown, slightly thinning hair with the odd grey speck. She wore a burgundy polo top, fine jewellery and smart black trousers. She reminded me of Elizabeth a bit; she had that same gaze of authority and caution. Must be a 'woman' thing. The second figure was obviously 'the son' I'd heard about earlier. I couldn't help the smile that curved my lips, when I took in his appearance. He had nearly black hair, just like mine, and a soft face. He wore ripped jeans and a dark coloured T-shirt which read 'Practice safe sex; use a condiment', with cartoon pictures of sauces on the front. He was as tall as Paul and had the same lean build as me. A few years before, people would have mistook him for one of us. Apparently he was causing trouble at school, something I could relate to.
Laura made a lovely meal of pasta, garlic bread and salad. The conversation on the table was mostly Paul's family asking about me, and me evading their questions as best I could. After dinner we sat in the den and drank beers, regaling each other with comic stories. Before Rodney and I left to return to Colorado and then Atlantis, I spoke with John Jr. he was hiding in his room playing computer games, when I did the unimaginable and invaded his privacy for a little chat. He was surprisingly open with me, and told me a few of his troubles. To be fair, they weren't exactly life or death, but to a teenager they certainly seemed it. I offered a few bits of sagely advice, not sure if I helped, but I'd like to think I did. I paraphrased Mom when I told him that his dad loved him, as the man he is, and the man he's going to be and that both Laura and Paul are proud of him. I told him that I didn't know until this morning that I had a nephew, but now I have I don't want him to ever feel unloved or useless in anyway. We had a short awkward hug and parted. I'm pretty sure John Jr went right back to computer games, but at least I tried.
We arrived back at Cheyenne Mountain late in the next evening. Unloaded our gear from the hire car, and made our way sombrely into the complex. The Journey back had been a lot quieter than the trip down. We took turns driving, keeping the CD player on low, just as background noise. Rodney seemed to be thinking about something or other, and I was wrapped up in reliving the past days events. There were so many memories, old and new flying about my head, it was like trying to hold on to water. We stood in the elevator together, and Rodney surprised me from my thoughts, when he banged his fit into the 'emergency stop' button.
"You kept your family a secret from me. I never knew you had a brother, or even a wife. Why? I need to know why my so-called-best-friend felt he couldn't tell me, about such an important thing in his life." He spoke calmly, annunciating each word carefully.
"Why are you attacking me?" I felt anger rise within me. I knew he felt hurt, but I'd kept my past a secret from everyone, not just him.
"I'm not attacking you, Sheppard. I just think I have a right to know. I've just spend two days supporting you, and I'd like an explanation for why I was kept in the dark for so long." McKay, was clearly having trouble keeping his own anger in check.
"I didn't ask you to come with me, McKay. And I certainly didn't ask for your support." I tried for sincere and failed miserably.
"No, but you appreciated it." I looked at Rodney's face and he saw that same concern back again.
"Yes, Yes I did. It was nice to have company. Look, I didn't keep secrets out of malice or anything like that, its just… its just…" Rodney placed a reassuring hand on my arm.
"It's just that it, you know… it hurt to talk about it. So I chose not to." I looked at the floor, ashamed of his feelings.
"It's not a sin to have feelings. But when you hide stuff like that, you only end up hurting yourself- trust me, I know from past experiences. Lots of experiences." McKay pressed the 'emergency stop' button again, and the elevator continued to transport us to our destination.
"Thanks Rodney." I knocked his shoulder with mine, as we came to a stop.
"Yeah, yeah, just talk to me next time." I smiled as we walked down the corridor.
"Will do. See you at 0700 for breakfast?"
"Sounds like a plan, batman."