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Week 9: Tied With a Bow

Title: Tied With a Bow
Author: stella_pegasi
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Genre(s): Character study, angst
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing: John Sheppard
Spoilers: Set a few months after Outcasts (mention of events in episode)
Warnings: None
Het/Slash/Gen: Gen
Word count: 2,238
Disclaimer: I do not own them, I would have treated them better.
Summary: John Sheppard confronts his memories, which are tied with a faded bow.

Written for sga_saturday Week Nine Prompt: Bow


By stella_pegasi

It was the rainy season on New Lantia. Thunderstorms had been erupting all day, drenching Atlantis in monsoon heavy rains, flashes of brilliant lighting, with almost continuous rumbles of thunder. The weather hadn't helped his mood. After a late dinner where he all but ignored his teammates, John Sheppard had given up and headed for his quarters. He didn't want company, not tonight.

Pulling off his boots, BDU shirt, and holster, John dropped onto his bed, crossing his arms beneath his head. Memories were flooding his brain, memories he had repressed for a very long time, memories that he didn't want to relive.

He lay on the bed fighting the thoughts racing through his head for a long time before he rose, stripped off the rest of his clothes, and headed for his shower. If he had to choose a favorite thing about living on Atlantis, it would be his shower. He had chosen these particular quarters as his for one reason, the huge shower. It came equipped with multiple shower and steam heads and hot air vents to dry off. There was a narrow window and a long, wide bench; his one luxury and he reveled in it. As he stood under the large rain head, he hoped the hot water would wash away his anxiety; fifteen minutes later, he realized that wasn't going to happen.

After another five minutes, he thought the water off and the hot air vents on, basking in the hot air as it passed over his tall, wiry frame. He stepped out of the shower, wrapped a towel around him, and padded across the floor to the large window next to his bed. The storms were still raging. He opened the window a bit, feeling a warm breeze enter carrying the fragrance of the salty ocean air into the room. The rumbling thunder surrounded him and somehow felt soothing.

The shower released the tension in his body but not his mind. It had been four months since his father died and the unease he had felt since had not dissipated. The unease caused by the wooden box currently hidden in the bottom drawer of his dresser.

He had returned to his father's house…Dave's house…after the incident with the replicators in an attempt to mend their last conversation. He didn't want Dave to believe he had attended the funeral for his father's money. He didn't want any part of the family business, and he didn't want any part of the fortune his father had amassed with Dave at his side. He didn't want the trust fund that his father had set up for him, but Dave insisted, saying that one day he might need that money. He had laughed inwardly when Dave uttered those words; he didn't need money on Atlantis, and he never expected, or wished, to be anywhere else.

At least, he and Dave had come to an understanding, and their parting was more amiable than he had expected. Dave had even invited him to return for the holidays, but Sheppard doubted that would happen. After he called for a taxi that would take him to the airport, Dave had retrieved the box from a safe in his father's office.

His brother explained that there were two identical boxes, one for each of them; boxes containing memories that their mother had begun adding for them when they were born. Dave appeared embarrassed when he admitted his father had given him his memory box on his twenty-first birthday, but had refused to give his youngest son his when he turned twenty-one. Dave related that when he asked their father why, Patrick Sheppard had turned away from him, saying, "John can have his when…if…he returns home."

John sighed deeply; he never did return home. Now, more than twenty years later, the memory box his mother had made for him lay hidden in a piece of alien furniture, on an alien spaceship, on an alien world. He wondered what his father would think about that, then scoffed, he doubted Patrick Sheppard would think much about it at all.

He had never opened the box. His mother's death when he was eight years old had been the most devastating day of his life. His father had turned from him that day, turned from him because his resemblance to his mother was too difficult for his father to bear. That his father loved his beautiful mother was undeniable, but that love led to his father pushing him away. His father pushed him away over something he couldn't control and for most of his childhood, didn't understand.

As midnight approached, John felt drawn to the wooden box. It was time to open the box and reveal the memories his mother had wanted him to have. Reluctantly, he rose from his bed, opening the dresser drawer where he had placed the box after returning from Earth. The box was nestled under an old fleece jacket he rarely wore. As he touched the polished wood surface, a tremor coursed through his body. He removed the box, placing it on his bed.

It was the size of a flat cigar box, but twice as deep and crafted from dark-stained cherry wood. The sides were curved and his initials adorned the center of the lid. He traced the initials with his fingertips, then opened the box using the small key that was taped to the underside. The interior was lined with dark-blue suede and lying inside was a packet of letters along with two other items.

He smiled as he withdrew a lock of dark hair, his hair, tied with a sheer blue ribbon. Next, he picked up a small band of tiny beads, barely large enough to fit his thumb that spelled out his full name, John Francis Sheppard. He slipped the band over his little finger not wanting to stretch the tiny object for fear of breaking it. He realized as he reached for the letters that his hand was trembling, he recognized the handwriting on the envelope, his mother's stylish cursive.

The packet consisted of eight envelopes held together by a faded navy blue ribbon, tied in a bow. Trembling, he untied the ribbon, gingerly opening the envelope with the words "John One Year Old" written on it. Inside was a folded note and a picture, a picture of his mother, father, Dave and a small infant, him. They were all wearing party hats and there was a cake with his name on it and one candle for his first birthday party. He unfolded the note, and read his mother's words.

My beautiful John,

It is hard to believe that you are one-year-old today. Your father and I had almost given up on having another child. We love your brother very much, but we wanted another child to make our lives complete, and here you are. We didn't expect this many years to pass before you were born, but having a brother, who is five years older, will provide you with someone who will love you and look out for you as you grow up.

I began this tradition of writing a note on each birthday when Dave turned one, and it gives me great joy to begin this memory box for you. I promise not to annoy you with a litany of your life during the year. I only want to remind you each year that you are loved for the unique person you are.

Your first year has been filled with love and happiness. You are a very good baby, stubborn but so very well behaved. No doubt, you inherited that stubbornness from your father, although he insists it has to be from my side of the family. I think he was quite pleased that you look like me with your thick dark hair and those beautiful green eyes. You never lost your thick hair like most babies, but those cowlicks are driving your father crazy. You will learn that your father prefers the world to be an orderly place. Fortunately, for him, Dave is very orderly, despite all my efforts to uncover his free spirit. However, I suspect you will follow me as you go into life, looking for adventure and joy. Promise me that you will never lose that little half-grin that you give me when you are happy. My heart would break to never see that little smile again.

Happy First Birthday to my handsome John; may your second year be filled with fun, laughter, and love.



John realized that he was holding his breath, and sucked in a lung full of air. His heart was racing from reading his mother's words. His mother; part of him didn't know whether to be thankful that he finally had the opportunity to read her words, or to be furious with his father for keeping them from him.

Quickly, he read the other letters, reliving his young years through his mother's eyes. The second year's picture was of the family at a ski resort on his birthday; his mother had dressed him in a tiny blue ski suit. His father was beaming, his arm tightly around his mother's shoulders. The yearly notes were full of anecdotes; his mother wrote about his first pony ride, the time when, at four-years-old, he jumped in the lake by himself, causing her to panic, and his father to rescue him. He remembered that day; it was the first memory he had of his father telling him he was reckless, silly and needed to grow up. The memories continued with his first day of school, and his mother's pride when he was tested and declared a math prodigy. With each picture, as he grew, his mother smiled beamingly, her arms wrapped securely around him. However, with each passing year, his father retreated further away from him, his attention focused on Dave.

John's hands trembled as he picked up the final letter. His mother died five months after his eighth birthday. That late May morning, in the sunroom of their new Maryland home, she was helping him make a kite when she looked at him strangely, then fell to the floor. She died instantly of a brain hemorrhage, and part of him died with her that day.

As he opened the envelope, the last picture fell into his lap. The photo was of his mother and him, taken at an air show they attended every year, since he was six. Even as a toddler, John had been enthusiastic about airplanes, and his mother took him to every air show she could. His father and Dave had gone with them once, but were bored and hadn't joined them again.

John carefully unfolded the final note; it was brief, as the others had been. He fought back tears, his eyes misty and his vision slightly blurred, as he read the last words his mother wrote to him.


You have had an exciting year, my handsome son. Your father and I are so proud of your academic achievements. I am still trying to keep your father from attempting to bribe MIT to admit you as a student now. However, he is determined that you receive mentoring from MIT's engineering department. His dream is for you to become an engineer and join the company, as I am certain, his 'mirror image' Dave will do. I know your destiny lies elsewhere. I promise I will ensure you are able to follow your own path to the stars, John, not the dreams that your father has for you. However, you must promise me never to forget that your father loves you; he only wants the best for you.

Whatever the future holds for you, I want it to be yours. Remember, I will be there with you always.

Happy Eighth Birthday! May your next year be filled with fun, laughter, and joy.

I love you, John.


The letter slipped from his fingers, as silent sobs racked his body, tears welling in his eyes as he remembered his mother. Her name was Gisella, the dark-haired Cajun beauty from the bayou. She had olive-green eyes, and an infectious smile, which captured his father's heart and his. He sat quietly for a while, remembering his last moments with her, until the soft chime on his watch startled him. It was midnight, the start of a new day, a very special day. He picked up the letters, returning them to their envelopes, and tying the ribbon around the packet. He slipped the tiny bracelet from his finger, and along with the lock of his hair and the packet of letters, he tucked everything into the box. As he began to close the lid, he had a thought.

John hurried to his desk, grabbing a small notepad, and wrote something down. Returning to the box, he read the note once more before he folded, then slipped the small piece of paper under the faded bow. In his scrawling hand, he had written a message to his mother on her special day.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

John closed the lid gently, locked, then slipped the box of memories into the dresser drawer, hidden once more under the fleece jacket. For the first time in months, the constant anxiety seemed to drift away; a little half-grin appeared on his face as he realized some memories are best when tied with a bow.

The end…


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I really do want to shake Patrick Sheppard....

But there's also a certain rightness that John gets these letters when he needs them most. At 21, they wouldn't have had the impact that they do now.

Very nice!
Jul. 25th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
I know...Patrick Sheppard can be quite infuriating. I wrote a story some time back about John as he was graduating from high school and found myself really not liking the Patrick Sheppard I was writing! Not one little bit...

Nice observation about the letters meaning more now than they would have. I think you are absolutely right.

Glad you enjoyed, I appreciate your comment.
Jul. 26th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Aw, this is so much YAY. I adore this glimpse into John's relationship with his mother. I esp love that she encouraged him to "follow his own path to the stars"--which he definitely did! How prescient of her! :-) Thanks so much for this!
Jul. 26th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
You are welcome. Thanks for your comment, I'm glad that you enjoyed this little look at John's past.

Jul. 26th, 2011 11:00 am (UTC)
U made me cry, but in a good way.....

John did find his own way into the stars.....

Jul. 26th, 2011 02:27 pm (UTC)
OOh..didn't mean to make you cry, but so glad you enjoyed the story. Yeah, our boy did find his way to the stars!

Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it!
Jul. 26th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
I've said it before but I'll say it again....beautiful hon. A touching story which leaves the reader wanting to hug Sheppard. I feel all awwww and warm inside after reading this lovely lovely story.

I know I've left a comment elsewhere but for such great work, more than one comment is deserved!!
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate you taking time to comment on my journal and here. So glad that you enjoyed this...I do think Sheppard needs a hug.

Thanks again!
Jul. 27th, 2011 09:54 am (UTC)
*sniff* Lovely, but sad.
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
Oh...a little sad for his loss but he gained some wonderful memories of his mother. Glad you enjoyed.

Thanks so much!
Jul. 27th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
I LOVE this insight into John and part of his childhood. The idea of his mom writing them a letter on their birthday each year was so cool. Brought tears to my eyes. It's kind of nice that John now has something of his mom to keep with him forever. And I love the picture!!
Jul. 27th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed. And thanks for the comment about the picture, I appreciate it.

I like writing about John's childhood, but I always seem to end up hating Patrick Sheppard when I do. Poor John...

Thanks again!!!
Jul. 30th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
What a lovely lovely tradition. I love how John finally has some proof that someone has loved him all along.
Jul. 31st, 2011 01:07 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you enjoyed!
Jul. 31st, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
This was beautiful and sad and so perfectly John right down to that gorgeous half smile. Thank you so much for sharing this.

And that idea of the memory box is a beautiful one too.
Jul. 31st, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I'm pleased that you enjoyed this. A bit sad, yes, but I hope I left John with good memories of his mother. I have a friend, who is about to be a grandmother (she protests at much too young an age), and when she read this, she told me that if her daughter-in-law didn't adopt the yearly note, she was going to for her granddaughter. Nice to think that someone will be writing notes for a memory box.

Appreciate your comment, thanks again!!
Jul. 31st, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
How wonderful to have think the idea might spread.
Aug. 3rd, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)
This was very moving and emotionally charged story I could feel the tears pricking the back of my eyes. I loved how John wrote his mom a note at the end, so sweet. Great work! Thanks for sharing.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

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