For the type of concert it was hosting that evening, showcasing the talents of the local region's recipients of music scholarships to a prestigious performing arts university, the Breckinridge Music Center was a large venue. In keeping with the old "glass half full" metaphor, the fact that only one-third of the seats were empty was not an indication of poor turnout. The audience, mostly filling the front of the center section, was large enough that Elle and Morgan had little worry that Byron Sheffield would, while on stage, happen to spot their faces out of the crowd, recognize them as the same FBI agents who had spoken to his parents, and then recognize that one of the people sitting in the same row was Sarah Jean Dawes. Particularly since Sarah Jean was wearing an extra large bandana not just to cover her short haircut but to obscure much of her face; she had also managed to avoid reporters and photographers after her release from incarceration, so that the public had no image of her more recent than fifteen years ago. Frank and Gayle Sheffield were given VIP seating near the front, while the block of tickets they'd mailed to Morgan were almost squarely in the middle of the center section.
Morgan and Elle seated themselves next to Sarah Jean and Mrs. Mason, with JJ on Elle's other side, Reid between JJ and Garcia, and Dr. Manahan on Garcia's other side.
The program indicated a dozen instumentalists and seven vocalists, opening as an ensemble with playing and singing the National Anthem. Then individually and in seemingly random order, each artist playing or singing one or two classical solos, and the concert ending with the entire ensemble doing the Ode to Joy finale from Beethoven's Ninth. The Master of Ceremonies and ensemble conductor was the Dean of Musical Instruction at Tarkington University. Byron Sheffield was scheduled to go just before the intermission, playing Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.
Once the curtain rose, the music exceeded the audience's already high expectations from such a select grouping. As much as they were absorbed in the music along with the rest of the audience, it wasn't long before the BAU members yielded to their ever vigilant and observant natures. Reid was the first to notice, then Garcia and JJ both noticed the subtle and occasional turning of his head and looking behind out the corner of his eye. Garcia and JJ were equally subtle and not a word was exchanged, but before long, all five BAU members were aware that the man sitting in an otherwise empty row about a dozen rows behind them was Jason Gideon.
Then it came time for Byron Sheffield to take Center Stage with his cello. After brief applause when the Dean/MC announced his name, the audience as a whole was at the same level of very soft murmuring as with the previous performers. But in the BAU's row, the team members and Dr. Manahan were reverently silent, while Sarah Jean and her mother both began sniffling and weeping as soon as Byron stepped out of the wings and appeared from behind the curtain.
As Byron began his Bach Suite, the FBI members continued their reverent silence, while Sarah Jean and Mrs. Mason continued to weep and escalated from sniffling to sobbing, although not so conspicuously as to draw attention from others besides their immmediate neighbors. Subtly glancing backwards, the BAU members saw that their colleague behind them was quiet and may have been weeping, but they couldn't be certain of the latter due to the distance and low lighting. By the time he was finished and the audience erupted in its loudest applause to that point, Sarah Jean and her mother were clinging to each other and crying into each other's shoulders.
As he finished and some of the audience started to stand up, the Dean/MC stepped back up to the podium and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, before we actually start our intermission, young Mr. Sheffield has requested and been given a chance to do a short second number, which was too late to include in the program. The number is a cello arrangement for Anton Rubinstein's Kamenny Ostrov, or Stony Island."
"No way!" Reid raised his eyebrows and gasped to Garcia. "No way this is just a coincidence!"
"No way what is just a coincidence?" Garcia whispered back.
"Shh!" Reid raised his hand as Byron raised his bow and began the haunting adagio.
"Oh!" Garcia gasped loudly after Byron played a few bars, then said much more softly, "You're right! I didn't know the name of the piece, but I know exactly what you're talking about!"
"What's going on?" JJ whispered from Reid's other side.
"We'll explain afterward," Reid whispered back.
Sarah Jean and her mother resumed their weeping and soft sobbing at the melancholy music, but Reid and Garcia surmised to themselves that they were unaware of any hidden meaning. As Byron finished, the audience burst into applause that matched that which they gave his Bach Concerto.
"The Walking Dead, an old Boris Karloff movie from 1936," Reid explained to JJ, careful not to let Sarah Jean and Mrs. Mason overhear. "They used Anton Rubinstein's Kamenny Ostrov as the theme music."
"The Walking Dead?" JJ looked at him with a bemused smile.
"Boris Karloff plays a man on Death Row," Garcia added, "wrongly convicted of murder. He's a bar musician who's been framed by gangsters. The order from the governor vacating the conviction arrives too late for him, but after he's electrocuted, a mad scientist claims his body and brings him back from the dead."
"Kamenny Ostrov was originally written for piano," Reid continued, "and Karloff's last request is for it to be played as he's walked to the Death Chamber, but there's no piano available so they find a cellist to play it for the walk."
"Wow!" JJ whispered, shooting a quick glance toward Sarah Jean, "You're right! No way it's just a coincidence!"
They joined the rest of their party and the majority of the audience in going up the aisles toward the lobby. Morgan and Reid reached the exit just in time to see Gideon step into the Men's Room at one wing of the lobby area.
"Shall we?" Morgan smiled as he and Reid glanced at each other.
"May as well," Reid shrugged.
They entered in time to see Gideon zip up his fly and step away from one of the urinals, then stand before the row of wash basins and start washing his hands.
"You know, Gideon," Morgan said softly as he and Reid moved to flank him, "the Sheffields had reserved seats for you and Hotch in our row if you want to join us for the second half. And of course you're welcome to fly back with us in the morning."
"No, thanks, Morgan," Gideon turned to him, a frown barely detectible on his lips. "I'm here on my own dime, both with airfare and admission."
"Just making the offer," Morgan said, then after a pause added, "Byron sure has all the talent he's been said to have, and then some."
Gideon looked at him with his frown more pronounced, then drew a deep breath and pursed his lips before saying, "Yes, and now he knows his biological father was a serial rapist and killer. Everything Sarah Jean was willing and prepared to go to the chair to keep from happening."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Morgan asked. "The Sheffields haven't said a word to the kid!"
Gideon turned to Reid. "You're the big classical movies fan! You want to explain to him the significance of a cello arrangement of Anton Rubinstein's Kamenny Ostrov?
"That's what Garcia and JJ and I were whispering about," Reid said to Morgan. "We didn't want Sarah Jean or Mrs. Mason to overhear." He quickly repeated to Morgan what he had told the others about The Walking Dead.
"Okay, so the Sheffields must've told him," Morgan rolled his eyes. "They're the only ones who could have. Had to have been within the past couple of days or so, because when the Sheffields sent me the tickets on Tuesday, they said our row was far back enough that Byron wouldn't be able to recognize me, Elle or Sarah Jean from the stage. They were still worried about keeping the truth from Byron at that point. But he's a bright kid. He may have figured it out himself."
"Either way," Gideon replied, "this is something we could have avoided."
"My God, Gideon!" Morgan looked at him in disbelief. "Are you telling me that after all that mess with IA, and the ass-chewing you and Hotch got from the Director, you still think we should've let Sarah Jean go to the chair and take her secret to the grave?"
"That's what she wanted."
"Three weeks ago! You haven't even talked to her since." He shook his head, threw up his hands and stepped over to the urinals. Reid followed him slowly, unsure whether to say anything more to Gideon.
At the other end of the lobby, Sarah Jean and Deb Mason were still overwhelmed with emotion, requiring support from JJ, Garcia, Elle and even Dr. Manahan to regain their composure as they sat in the outer lounge of the Ladies' Room. After over fifteen minutes, mother and daughter both managed to stop weeping and dry their eyes, but decided to forego reapplying eye makeup.
"Ready to go back out there?" Elle asked them.
"Yes," Sarah Jean nodded and whispered. Her mother nodded in concurrence.
The four female FBI members escorted them through the door back into the lobby. They took only a few steps before a woman about Sarah Jean's age approached them.
"Good evening, Sarah Jean. It's been a long time!"
Sarah Jean and her mother both jumped and then froze. She knew who it had to be even without recalling the voice or the face and allowing for fifteen years of aging for both.
"Gayle!" she gasped. "I... I'm sorry! I... I know I owe you and Frank my life, b... but please! I... I can't be seen with you!"
"Of course you can!" Gayle Sheffield smiled. "And there's someone who'd like to meet you!"
Gayle stroked Sarah Jean's shoulder. "It's all right, Sarah Jean!" she whispered.
Gayle turned toward the open doors to the auditorium and nodded. Byron Sheffield stepped out and toward them with Frank a few steps behind. His apprehension was nearly as great as Sarah Jean's and Mrs. Mason's. He reached out and took both of Sarah Jean's hands in his, both pairs trembling, just as Gideon, Morgan and Reid crossed the lobby to within earshot of them.
"Hello," Byron smiled nervously, looking into her eyes.
"Hello... Byron," Sarah Jean said at barely above a whisper, tears streaming.
"Thank you for everything you've done for me," he said. "Especially everything you were willing and about to do for me, but I'm glad you didn't!"
"You're welcome. And I'm so sorry!"
"Please don't be," Byron replied. He continued to search her face, and then closed his eyes and breathed deeply for several seconds, then looked at her again. "I remember you now. Faintly. I thought I was remembering an old dream. You're the Man-in-the-Moon lady!"
Sarah Jean sobbed loudly.
"Even when we're not together," Byron continued, "the Man-in-the-Moon will always be watching both of us!" He turned to Deb Mason excitedly. "And I remember you too! You're my Nana! Both my parents' mothers are still alive, but I always had a faint memory of another Nana, and it was you!"
"Riley!" both Sarah Jean and Deb cried out, then enveloped him in a hug. After a second, Sarah Jean said, "I'm sorry! I mean Byron!"
"It's okay. You can call me by any name you wish. You've earned that right."
Gayle and Frank Sheffield stood behind their son as he continued to embrace his biological mother and grandmother. After the embrace loosened, Gayle spoke up. "Sarah Jean, Byron has already discussed this with us. We'd all like you both to be a part of his life from now on. And since Tarkington University is just across the state line, he should be home often even when he starts there."
Sarah Jean embraced Gayle. "Oh, thank you! Thank you!"
"We realize you've been out only a few days, " Frank added, "but if you ever want your old job with us back, it's waiting for you anytime!"
"Thank you. I'll think about it."
From inside the auditorium, they heard the muffled sounds of a French horn player warming up. Those other audience members who were still milling around the lobby began to press back toward their seats.
"For now," Byron said to Sarah Jean and Deb, "I'd like to sit with you for the rest of the concert, until it's time to get ready for the finale."
The remaining performances were just as flawless as those in the first half. In between, as the performers moved off and on stage, Byron took the opportunity to explain to Sarah Jean and Deb the significance of his choice of Rubinstein's Kammeny Ostrov for his encore.
Morgan continued glancing back the several rows to Gideon still sitting by himself. Even witnessing the intensely emotional reunion of Byron Sheffield with his remaining biological family had failed to nudge the slightest concession from Gideon that he and Hotch had made the wrong call, and that only the last second intercession of Frank Sheffield at his home had prevented the two of them from morally if not legally murdering Sarah Jean Dawes. None of the other BAU members still had any details of what had transpired behind the closed doors of the Director's inner office, but Gideon's lack of contrition kept bringing to Morgan's mind a cynical line from the movie Gettysburg by Tom Berenger playing Confederate General James Longstreet: "We'd rather lose the war than admit to the mistake!"
Toward the end of the last solo performance, Byron got up to return backstage. Morgan rose also and preceded him to the aisle, and then instead of returning to his own seat, he stepped quietly to the row where Gideon sat. As the soloist finished to a round of applause and then stepped behind the curtain with her flute, Morgan sat in the next seat and, leaning toward Gideon's ear, said softly, "'And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child and nursed it.' -Exodus 2:8-9."
The curtain opened to reveal the full ensemble, with Byron seated with the rest of the string section and the Dean/Maestro taking the podium. They quickly launched into Ode to Joy, the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the vocalists singing in the original German. They finished, of course, to a standing ovation.
Sorry for taking so long to finish this. Personal issues.
If what Morgan does with Gideon at the end seems contrived and cheesy, I still had to get the ending quotation in there with Morgan (being the central protagonist of this story) delivering it, and this seemed the best way to do it.
Well, as a reminder, this is my first attempt at a Criminal Minds fanfic. How'd I do?
A quick glance through my fanfic writing will show that what I enjoy doing the most is bringing back characters from the dead who shouldn't have died, reunite couples who shouldn't have split, and often both. In my first fanfic, I keep Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years together. [This was actually a spec script for submission to the TV show. I chose not to post it here on fanfic dotnet, but only on my own website. You can find it by using my full real name, Lyle Francis Padilla (minus the spaces) dotcom, and following the links.] In the Bridge to Terabithia universe, I bring Leslie Burke back from the dead and bring her and Jess Aarons together as a couple. I reunite Kolchak the Night Stalker with his fiancee Gail Foster and then give them Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her sister Dawn as granddaughters. Elsewhere in the Buffy universe, (specifically the spinoff Angel) I bring both Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Winifred Burkle back from the dead and reunite them as a couple.
Riding the Lightning was the one Criminal Minds episode that screamed out to me for one of my type of fanfics. As I said in my notes to an earlier chapter, I hated to have Hotch reamed out by the Director of the FBI, but that's the way the original episode played out.
If there are any other Criminal Minds episodes that cry out to you for the MadTom treatment, I'm open to suggestion.