One Year Later
Allison starts her day with a smile, a little more forced than usual, until the moment she holds Jenna in her arms. That's when the smile becomes real, and the world feels most at peace. She sits with the little girl in her lap, and Allison begins to fiddle with the diamond strung around her neck.
It's been a long time since she's done this. She used to do it a lot just after Nathan's death. She'd bring him back in holographic form, whisper heartbroken I loves yous to his ghost. Then, when Jenna was born, she brought him back in the privacy of the baby's room just so that Jenna could see her father. She hasn't done it since then, but today, she will.
She fiddles with the diamond til it hits the light sneaking in through the curtains in just the right way. Nathan appears as a flash, looking solid enough to fool most eyes.
Jenna giggles happily, and Allison whispers down to her, "He'll always love you, even if he never got to meet you."
Jenna lets out a happy baby gurgle as a single tear falls onto the top of her head.
It's a habit now, and most days, he hardly even thinks about it. There are much more direct routes to his office, but Fargo doesn't use them. Instead, he passes through the Nathan Stark Memorial Hallway, the one he'd spent many hours making sure was built, cleaned, and respected. He's been taking this route everyday since it was completed.
Today, he takes an extra moment to stop at the photograph of Stark, hanging prominently on the wall.
Fargo stands and looks at it, sees a smidgeon of dust gathering on the edge of the frame. He wipes it clean with his sleeve and assesses the photo.
Nathan Stark, the man who had given him his career. His idol for so long...
Fargo wants to say something, but he doesn't. He just nods his respect and hopes that somehow, somewhere, Stark understands this to be the best compliment Fargo can give him.
Henry buys the thank you card impulsively, almost without knowing why.
It's silver and blue and to the point, and it feels right.
He lets it sit on his desk for awhile, blank save for the already-printed text. It stares at him, in that way. It makes him understand.
One year ago to the day, Jack Carter had told everyone in town what had happened. He told them how Nathan Stark had a choice, how Stark had known the risks, and had known what was at stake. Jack told them of Nathan's sacrifice: Nathan Stark had saved the town's existence, losing his life in the process.
Jack had spoken with the respect one shows a hero, and now Henry knows it's time for him to do the same.
He grabs a nearby pen.
Nathan, so much has happened. Your little girl is beautiful. You've given us all so much. Thank you for giving us this year. Thank you for letting Eureka remain home for so many.
We miss you here,
It wasn't enough, wasn't nearly enough, but Henry's sure that Nathan would appreciate it.
Jack often forgets things, but he couldn't forget this day. He doesn't know if it's because he's lived it so many times over, or because it changed life so fundamentally for all of them.
He awakes remembering. He has coffee for breakfast and goes to work, almost like normal, except the feeling is there. It's grief and it's mourning and loss, but it's also friendship and acceptance and new beginnings.
It's been one year.
The day goes by smoothly, for once. No disasters, not a single crisis, just a few routine traffic stops for excessive speed.
He finishes some paperwork at the station, and since the evening glow is peeking in through the window, he decides to call it a day.
Cafe Diem and dinner is waiting for him.
When he walks inside the restaurant, he's surprised to see how crammed it is with people. People at every table, people along the walls, so many people he wonders vaguely if it's exceeding maximum occupancy.
And that's when he sees the banner, and suddenly he understands. Suspended in air, large silver words like floating tinsel shine out over the dining counter. In Loving Memory of Nathan Stark.
Carter doesn't know who planned this, but he isn't about to guess. He presses through the throng of people as politely as he can and stops at the dining counter. A framed photo of Stark stands proudly beneath the shining words.
I almost forgot he had that stupid smirk, thinks Carter. In his head, he fills in Stark's likely retort. "Stupid, Carter? Should we take another look at our IQ test scores?"
Carter rolls his eyes, then focuses on the greeting card laying next to Stark's photograph. It's a thank you card, very simple and sleek. Carter opens it with curiosity. Words of thanks jump out from every corner, filling almost every spot. They are 'thank yous' of all kinds, in different handwriting and colors and inks and writing utensils, including crayon and marker.
Mr. Stark, thank you for being a hero.
Carter smiles and immediately reaches into his jacket for his pen. He finds one of the last remaining available spots on the card and squeezes his note of thanks among all the others. Just as he finishes, Allison finds him through the crowd.
"Come on," she says in greeting, and then she takes his hand and leads him to one of the tables.
It's there that he finds Zoe, cooing at Jenna who sits giggling on her lap. Our daughters together, and Carter doesn't know whether it's beautiful or sad or some strange mixture of both. Kevin is sitting quietly nearby as Lucas and Henry chat, and as Jo and Fargo argue over nothing of any real importance. Everyone looks up at Carter's arrival, and Henry pulls up a new chair. "Have a seat, Jack."
Jack takes it, sitting just left of Allison. "Did you plan all this, Allison?" he questions.
She shakes her head, with that wonderful Allison smile of hers. "Vincent had the banner ready when I came in for lunch today. I gave him the picture, Henry bought the card. And everyone just sort of...showed up, you know? Some were just picking up orders but decided to stay for this and pay their respects."
"We've got a good town," Jack acknowledges. "We have a lot of good people here."
Allison nods. "We certainly do."
As they chatted, Vincent had been busy supplying his customers with beers and other drinks, until there was a glass for everyone person in the restaurant.
Vincent hands out the last drink and the crowd falls silent without any prompt. They all find themselves waiting for the same thing.
"Henry," Allison whispers. There are tears in her eyes and Jack pats her hand comfortingly. "Will you do the honors?" she asks.
"Of course, Allison," Henry stands, and the rest of the crowd follows his lead.
"One year ago today, we lost someone very special to Eureka," starts Henry. "He was a good man, a strong leader, a dedicated friend. One year ago today, he risked his life so that others could live. We stand here now because of him. I am proud to have known him as well as I did, and today we celebrate his life and his memory. To Nathan Stark, may we always remember his life and sacrifice." he finishes, and raises his glass.
"To Nathan Stark," the crowd says in unison, and Jack wonders, with the tone that had flavored their grudging friendship, how big Stark's ego is now.
Kevin's day is normal, for the most part. His mom wakes him up and sends him to school. He does his listening and reading assignments. The teacher gives him a gold star sticker and tells him that he's done a good job. He eats lunch with his friend Pete, and after school he goes home to the nanny. She makes him a snack and plays games with him, then she cleans up the house. His mom gets home right on time. She hugs him and Jenna, then makes them all some dinner. She asks him about school. He answers the best he can, and she smiles.
His day stops being normal when his mom suggests that they go to Cafe Diem for the evening. It's different because they've already eaten and he knows bath and bed time isn't that far off, but his mom doesn't seem to care. She packs him and Jenna into the car and he watches houses and shops pass by through the window.
There are a lot of people in Cafe Diem when they get there, and this is different too. It's a lot of noise and there are shiny silver words that look pretty, and a picture he recognizes. They sit at a table for awhile. Zoe is there and so is Jo. They're nice and he likes them, so he's happy enough to sit here quietly and listen.
Then the man his mom likes, the one with the badge, shows up. Carter. That's his name, Kevin reminds himself. Zoe's dad. Carter sits by his mom and she smiles, talks to him for a bit. Then she turns back to Kevin. She hands him a cup of juice and whispers that he should hold it up when everyone else holds up their glasses.
Then Henry says a lot of words, not all of which Kevin understands, but he puts his cup up just the same, just like everyone else.
His mom cries, but just a little bit. Not too long after he finishes his juice, they say goodbye to lots of people. Most of them hug his mom, some even hug him, like Carter and Zoe and Jo. Then they leave the restaurant.
When they get home, he helps his mom put Jenna to bed. Then she tucks him into his bed, kisses his forehead and says, "I love you, Kevin."
He's heard these words lots and lots of times before, and he knows what they mean. Love is what he feels when his mother kisses him. Love is what he feels when he gets to hold Jenna. He knows these words are important. "Love you too," he says quietly. His mom looks a little surprised, but then she just smiles. "Goodnight, baby."
When his mom leaves the room, Kevin sits up. He reaches for the picture on his bedside table. It's a photo of his mom smiling next to a man with curly hair. Nathan. Kevin remembers Nathan, but he hasn't seen him in a long time. He misses Nathan. He knows that this is why his mom still cries sometimes, because Nathan is gone and he can't come back.
Alone in his room, Kevin traces the picture of Nathan with his fingers, much as he's done every night for the past year.
He knows the words are important.
"Love you, Nathan." he says quietly, and then he sets the photograph back down on his bedside table.
Kevin likes to think that Nathan can hear him. It's a thought that is confirmed when Kevin falls asleep, because when he dreams, he sees Nathan again. "Of course I heard you, Kev," Dream Nathan says comfortingly, with the friendship he had always offered Kevin in real life. "And I love you too. Promise to take care of Mom and your sister for me?"
"I will," replies Kevin, and he smiles, both in his dream and in his sleep. This is how he remembers Nathan, because this is who Nathan truly was. And Kevin is happy to know that this is how so many others – his mom and Carter and Jo and Fargo and Henry - remember him too.