Baby Grand by AndromedaMarine
Author's Note: Sequel to "Metronome."
Of Flying Lessons and Pent-Up Anger
When Katrina Elizabeth Sheppard woke the next morning the first thing she noticed was the metronome had been replaced on her shelf. The older child dressed, her mind mulling over the odd events of the previous night. It was the first time in years she'd woken to hear her father at the baby grand.
John Sheppard was the quiet genius on Atlantis, as opposed to Rodney. Closet math whiz, piano protégé, and surprisingly good with kids, the military commander had become the pushover dad on base. Katrina was smart and tactful enough to avoid asking John about his playing the piano. His daughter knew John rarely touched the instrument following Elizabeth's tragic death.
Her father was pulling on his combat boots when she left her room. He looked up, a sad expression in his eyes and a forced smile on his mouth. "Good morning, Kat. You're up early. Want to join your old man for breakfast?"
Katrina nodded, not trusting herself with words. They passed Evan and Rodney in the corridor, both of whom were escorting their own children to unspecified locations.
Elizabeth Weir-Sheppard was a touchy subject in their family and, in tandem, the city. Katrina thought over what to say to her father about the piano. They sat near the balcony door. "You're unusually quiet this morning, Kat," John observed. "It's not often I don't hear you talking up a storm."
Katrina grimaced. "Dad, about that..."
John looked up from his plate with an unreadable expression.
"I don't remember Mom as well as I'd like. I hear just about everyone mention her but you...it's almost like you've forgotten her. I just want to know what happened."
John's hands balled into tight fists, his knuckles turning white.
"I just...want to know who she was."
John kept his eyes averted from his daughter's. "This is not the time or the place, Katrina. Eliz...Elizabeth died for this city. Do not ask me again in public." He refrained from training his gaze on the child who every day reminded him of Elizabeth's long-gone face and smile, as tears worked their way into his eyes. "Have a good class today," he continued stiffly. "I believe Evan will train you on the Jumpers." He stood quickly and practically stomped away.
Eleven years hadn't distanced John's heart from Elizabeth's memory.
Elizabeth cooed at the young boy situated in the crib. John stood behind her, his older child Katrina in his arms. The colonel studied Elizabeth's distinctive features, storing them in his permanent memory. Their lives were perfect – the Wraith were finally being taken down, the last of the Replicators were crushed in the vacuum of space for eternity, and Earth had sent two more Daedalus-class ships protect Atlantica.
Their son had just turned one, and Katrina had reached the young age of three. John couldn't believe his luck in the universe – a wonderful, loving wife, two precious children, and a city of friends supporting his role in the job he loved. It was no surprise hat children on Atlantis were becoming as common as adults; at least Katrina and Jack would have semi-normal lives.
John and Elizabeth were joined in marriage for five years before the civilian leader was killed in a renegade-Wraith ambush on a supposedly "diplomatic" mission. He swore never to forget her; to never let the flow of their fingers across the keys be lost in the grief. His children grew without a true mother. Katrina quietly noticed that the ring of gold never left his finger, a testament to his lost connection of true love; that the piano would inevitably be alone and silent.
Jack Sheppard saw that a cloud of sadness always surrounded his father. Colleagues would become silent as he approached if they had been talking about Elizabeth, whose name eventually became taboo. Soon her name was never said in public.
To the Sheppard children it felt as if their mother hadn't existed at all. Kat and Jack soon found ways to overhear conversations without being caught and learned the small details about their mother that John had never mentioned. Was it really true that the Genii had captured Atlantis and held Elizabeth and Rodney captive? Was it true that John had risked his life during the same storm to save their mother? Why wasn't this worthy of recognition – of praise? Why was her memory a forbidden thing on Atlantis? She'd led them to Pegasus, and died to protect Atlantis. John knew she wouldn't have had it any other way, yet he couldn't bring himself to let go.
He would not forget.
Katrina couldn't concentrate on the Jumper controls. Evan was in the co-pilot's seat, giving her instructions that she didn't hear. He snapped his fingers in front of her glazed-over eyes. The thought crossed his mind – he was glad he'd flown them to the plain on the mainland. There weren't any trees to knock over. "Kat," he said impatiently. "Katrina Elizabeth Sheppard, pay attention!" He never liked using her full name, but when she wouldn't pay attention to him he had to. "Katrina!"
The girl blinked twice and focused her gaze on the colonel. "Hmm?"
Evan slumped back in the seat, a hand over his eyes. "I swear you're about as bad as my Gideon..." he muttered. "Grip the controls, Kat. Let the gene power the engine and think of the HUD."
Katrina didn't do anything he said. She released the controls and mimicked his slump, falling backwards into the seat back. "Honestly, Colonel," she insisted.
Evan practically choked. "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?" he asked. To him 'colonel' was still way too formal for his best friend's daughter to be calling him. "To everyone it's Evan or simply Lorne. 'Everyone' meaning you too."
Katrina rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Evan," she rephrased. "I think I might be going mad." She bit her lip and stared absentmindedly at the in-ship DHD. "Why won't anyone talk about my mom? Why does my dad act like it's a foothold situation whenever I mention her?"
Evan rubbed his chin, sighing. "Kat...you've got to understand that this isn't my place to talk about Elizabeth – your mom. I understand that you want to know who she was and why no one talks about her...but I can't be the one to tell you. Your dad has a lot to deal with on top of her passing – that's right...he still hasn't gotten over her. I think if I were in his position I wouldn't either, but that doesn't change the fact that she died for the city."
Kat groaned. "See – just like that: 'she died for the city.' That's all I ever hear about her. There aren't any pictures in his quarters, no memory of her except the damn baby grand piano and the stupid metronome that I'm beginning to wonder even belonged to her! I don't even know her...and I miss her."
Evan looked like he was in pain. He was so overly-grateful that his son, Gideon, didn't have to go through the same thing – thanks to John himself Laura was still alive.
"And another thing," she continued, "he can't look at me without being reminded of her."
The lieutenant-colonel squeezed his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I wish I could say I understand...but the fact-of-the-matter is I don't. It may not be my place to tell you...but if you really want to know without getting me or yourself in trouble..."
"What?" Kat asked eagerly.
"Go bother Rodney."