Let's take a moment to talk about anr, and how she is awesome. She writes, hands down, the most jawdropping "omgthatissoawesome" fanfic on the intarweb. Practically every ficathon out there is her fault. She makes Rare Collector's Item Icons (rare because she has a life, Collector's Items because they are so beautiful). And more importantly? She is ridiculously kind and sweet and the bestest intarweb friend a fangirl could have. Am I right, people? This girl gave me a permanent account for my birthday! (Which she probably thought I would use for, I don't know, fanfic, and instead I have spent it talking about how my job would be so much better if it was a TV show and I could sometimes just hit the Series Record button and take a day off.)
So what to give to anr for her birthday? (Which is tomorrow, by my calendar, but I am yet to figure out how timezones work in Australia and I'm pretty sure she is living IN THE FUTURE.) She deserves the bestest fanfic ever every day of the year! And I had some brilliant plans that involved a number of WIPs, but you know how that goes. So then I thought "ANGST! She thinks I don't write enough angst fic. She likes angst."
And then, instead of a proper angst fic, I write a future-fic that is probably less "angsty" than "really kind of depressing," and not so much a thing to give someone on their birthday.
Happy birthday, Nessie. If you don't like it, and even if you do, I've got a number of other fics that are YOURS as soon as they are done. <3 <3 <3
Pairing: Sheppard/Weir, other/other. Future!fic.
Summary: He wants it to be over because he wants to know, for sure, if he'll be able to do this without her.
Author's Note: This was supposed to be the first part of a "Five Men Who Loved Elizabeth Weir" story, but it insists on standing alone for the time being. I really like it. I suspect most of you will not.
The phone buzzes between breakfast and dishes, while Peter's reading the sports section.
It's the default ring, factory programmed when he got the phone a year ago, so it isn't anyone from work calling to bother him on a Sunday morning. 'Dad,' says the caller I.D. Peter doesn't answer it, lets it ring through.
"L.A. lost again," he comments aloud.
"Lousy Dodgers," Emily quips back from across the table, doing the crossword puzzle and nibbling on toast. She's his long-term fiancee, five years in July. Emily is from L.A., a former child actress, famous for fast-food commercials and Steven Spielberg's last big movie. She doesn't care about sports. It always takes her an hour to get through breakfast. She never needs his help with the crossword.
The phone buzzes again.
The third time, Emily raises an eyebrow. Emily's a weekend luddite: buys the newest technology, turns it all off when she's at home.
"John," Peter explains, not answering.
It doesn't ring a fourth time.
Half an hour later, after dishes, it rings again to the tune of the Monster Mash -- his cousin Ian. He usually calls on Christmas and whenever he needs a place to stay.
"Hey, buddy-boy," Peter greets him. "You in town?" Emily has a bit of a crush on Ian, the perpetual college dropout with perpetually long hair, the black sheep of the otherwise proper side of the extended family. Peter likes to tease her for it.
"Your mom's in the hospital," Ian says.
Something thumps him hard in the chest, but nothing in the room has moved except him, springing up from his chair. "How serious?"
He knows it's serious.
"Your dad didn't say, just told me to call you. Does he still not have your number?"
"Fuck," Peter says, thinking about the eight meetings he has on Monday, designing the new Seattle airport terminal. He can't cancel. Tuesday, he can cancel.
"I can go," Emily offers.
Peter cancels everything and flies out that night.
It's after visiting hours when they arrive, but Emily's with him -- ("Are you really Emily Payne?") -- and they're let into ICU, no problem.
She's on a respirator. There's an I.V. taped to the back of her hand. It seems like she's lost twenty pounds and five inches, a doll in a hospital bed who only sort of reminds him of his mother.
He's disgusted, can't quite talk. Emily looks at the chart attached to the foot of the bed. "Pneumonia," she diagnoses.
The nurse who escorted them in fiddles with the oxygen dial on the wall, then speaks to Peter. Her eyes dart shyly to the floor near Emily's shoes between sentences. "She has been responding to treatment. The hope is that she will be able to breathe on her own as early as tomorrow."
"And her memory?" Peter asks. He's afraid to touch her. Emily isn't, straightens the blankets, touches her hand.
"She was lucid for a few minutes when she came in. I was here. She asked for Peter," the nurse smiles, comfortingly, though she's saying, There's no way to know.
Mom knew other Peters. He's named after someone she used to work with, in another life.
Emily gets him a chair, goes to look for coffee and John, if he's there. Calls a hotel.
Peter sits, holds the hand without the I.V. Skin like paper, spotted with bruises. "I'm here, Mom," he says, kisses her fingers, brushes her hair from her forehead, ignores the mechanical whirr of the respirator.
He wants to breathe youth back into her, hold her like she held him.
That night in the hotel, he squeezes his eyes shut and presses his lips to Emily's shoulder.
"I kind of wish it was over," he admits. The midnight flights, the ICUs, the setbacks. There are drugs that manage Lehnertz's, a new type of Alzheimer's, and she's been on all of them. They help keep things from being worse. Keep her at home, docile, walking, not walking into the street. She sounds like herself. Peter has the same conversation with her on the phone every week, sometimes twice in a row.
"We should get married," he says into Emily's skin. He proposes whenever Mom gets bad.
"Later," Emily tells him.
Mom, Mom, Mom, he thinks, apologizing for his earlier awful thought. He wants it to be over because he wants to know, for sure, if he'll be able to do this without her. When she goes, he'll lose his father too, and there will be only him.
He sleeps a bit, on and off, and works on his laptop, designing an airport.
"John," Mom rasps, off the ventilator, one hand reaching out for his, smiling.
"Peter," he corrects.
She pauses, studies, then beams with recognition. "Of course. Peter! You'll have to forgive me. I've been forgetting important things again. It's embarrassing." Her eyes are glassy with the medication that keeps her from being scared. He kisses her on the cheek. Her hand grabs his shirt, holding him there for a moment.
"You look good," she says. "Like you're finally eating right."
He introduces Emily, again. They get along famously, like they always do.
Emily asks, "Elizabeth, will you help me with the crossword?" Mom remembers who won the gold medal for pairs' skating in 2002, but she forgets the last five, ten years, more. Asks Peter about university. Says she needs to get back to work, to the control room, to Atlantis. Then she asks Emily about her latest benefit work with the Red Cross that they told her about last month, like nothing at all is wrong.
Peter hears John's voice in the hallway, talking to doctors, tight, clipped, worried, angry. He doesn't come in, watches from the door, hovering. Peter wants to punch him. He's never tempted to violence, except with him.
John creeps in when Mom's asleep. "It's good you could come," he says diplomatically, looking at Emily, meaning Peter. His hands are stuffed in his pockets, shoulders hunched. "Means a lot to her."
Peter: "We're not here as a favor." He keeps his voice low to let Mom sleep.
"Don't worry," John snaps. "I didn't think you were. She could have been dying. Least you could do was pick up your phone, for her."
Emily's eyes are on him, waiting expectantly.
Peter disappoints her, waves off the argument. "I'm going to get a sandwich. I'll bring you both something." Emily gets along with John, would probably appreciate a few minutes with him, might say something to make him be civil, might apologize on Peter's behalf. Peter asks, "Do you still like turkey?"
John shrugs, burying himself in a chair. Never takes his eyes off Mom. "Yeah. How's she been doing with you?"
"She doesn't remember why she's in the hospital." That's typical when she has any medical setback -- she'll forget the past few weeks entirely, like she forgets her address, forgets that her dog Laika died five years ago, forgets that Peter moved to upstate New York with Emily. Peter doesn't know what she forgot to make her take his father back after fifteen years more apart than together.
"Do you need help getting lunch?" John asks, doesn't look at him.
He's trying, Mom always says, even when her marriage was at its worst, claimed Peter couldn't understand, always defended his father. A peacekeeper by occupation, by nature. You've got to meet him halfway, Peter.
John retracts the offer before Peter can say no. "I should probably stay here. In case she wakes up." Straightens her blankets once, twice. Adjusts the oxygen tube under her nose.
Emily glares, tells them what to do. "I'll stay. Go."
They go together, father and son, but they don't say anything of substance.
Mom is less lucid by evening, exhausted, coughing. Her oxygen is upped, painkillers, different antibiotic. Talk of ventilating her again.
"I can't see her like this," John tells Emily. "I've done this too much." He gets that look in his eyes that he does when he's thinking about Atlantis. He gets that look a lot, most of Peter's life. As a child, Peter never could find a way to tell his parents that he hated that he could never have all of them, even when they were with him, that one foot was still in another galaxy. Mom tells him he used to go around saying, "I'm your baby," when he was three, like he was competing with invisible siblings, or an invisible city.
John and Peter take turns pacing. Emily goes back to the hotel, needs to sleep, is flying out the next day for a meeting. Back on Friday.
"How are you?" John asks, awkward, when it's his turn to sit.
Peter tells him about the airport.
"I know. Elizabeth always tells me after you call. She thinks it's ironic that you're doing work related to flying after all." John taught Peter to fly when he was barely five. Later, Peter swore up and down he'd never be a pilot. John still offered to take him, whenever he was in town, once or twice. It didn't take long for him to give up. Peter stopped calling him Dad, because he knew it would hurt him.
"Mom's a big fan of irony, John."
"Fuck," John says. "I'm here, aren't I?"
An opening. Have it out. You left her, left us, left me, became your own father dressed up in some notion of intergalactic duty, I'm becoming you. Look just like you. Irony of genetics.
"Do you even love her?" Peter asks, and it's a weird question, because that's the one thing about his father he never managed to doubt. John adores her, needs her, but bailed when things got tough and kept on bailing.
Until now, until the disease, but Peter's still holding his breath.
John stands up, walks out; Peter isn't surprised. Listens to Mom's rattled breathing. There's something inside her, trying to get out.
John returns with coffee for both of them. Peter's is black; he only drinks it with sugar and milk. He's trying, Mom always says. Peter takes a sip, puts it down.
John sits next to him. "I don't know how the hell Emily puts up with you." Then he laughs, bitter, sorry. "Same reason your mom puts up with me."
Because she thinks she can make him better.
"I'm not you," Peter says, sounds sullen, like he's fifteen.
John looks like he might hit him or hug him, if he wasn't so tired. "Thank God."
When Peter goes for the night, he forgets the keys to his rental car on her nightstand. When he comes back for them, John's head is on the bed next to Mom's, hand over her heart, whispering something.
"You shouldn't have cancelled your meetings," Mom says, frowning. She's better in the morning. Ups and downs. "Don't interrupt your life because of this."
Peter squeezes her hand. "Nothing is more important than this."
She scoffs, coughs. He pats her on the back, helpless. "I'm okay, Peter. Your father's here. You have your own life." Her eyes narrow. "Unless I'm dying, and everyone's lying to me."
"No, no, no. You'll be fine in a week or two. Just pneumonia. You need to take better care of yourself." Pauses, sees her smiling. Teasing him. "Stop that!"
Mom coughs instead of laughs. "You're too easy a mark. Where's Emily?"
He already told her. Tells her again.
Mom takes his hand, examines each finger. "God, I love you, Peter. But I forget... so many things. It must be awful for you. I know where you got this scar." She says 'I know' when she means she doesn't.
Peter tells her, and tells her where they lived when he was little, all the schools he went to, the friends he had, how he met Emily when he broke his leg skiing. Mom was there, in the ER, yelled at him for being careless. She never yelled. She got Emily's phone number for him, held it hostage until he swore not to ski alone ever again.
Mom cries, on and off, as he talks.
"I'm so glad you're here," she says. Calls him John.
Peter presses a kiss to her forehead. "I'm glad, too."