Summary: Surprisingly, TLM!Lorne is back... and he's fed up with his sister trying to make him move on from his late wife, Captain Laura Cadman-Lorne.
A/N: I can't believe he's back. Seriously, after If It Kills Me, I really thought I was done with writing stories from the AU in 'The Last Man' but quite obviously I was mistaken and he just needed some time to come back with a vengeance or something (because, you know, apart from this one there's a second piece waiting to be published...). Anyway, timeline wise, this takes place between The Faith That Cleans Your Wound and Like a Song Without a Melody, eight years after Laura Cadman-Lorne died in Atlantis (BTW, all Defining Moments pieces in correct reading order can be found here).
Of course, the wonderful mackenziesmomma has betaed this. Everything that still doesn't feel right is my fault, and mine alone. So of course she's the one to get dibs on making him all better, girls.
Defining Moments: All Of My Heart
“I would have given you all of my heart
but there's someone who's torn it apart
and she's taking almost all that I've got
but if you want, I'll try to love again
baby I'll try to love again but I know
The first cut is the deepest, baby I know
The first cut is the deepest.”
“Hey,” Anna says, trying to sound casual, “you’re wearing your ring again. How come?” His first impulse is to tell her that he really doesn’t want to talk about it but then again… she’s his sister and she wouldn’t let it go anyway.
So all he does is sigh and say, “Didn’t see sense in not wearing it anymore.” He hopes she’ll leave it at that but apparently he actually achieved the opposite and made her interested again.
Realizing that there’s a bigger story behind his taking up the habit of wearing his wedding band again after he finally decided to take it off a year ago – it had been seven years since Laura died, after all – Anna shakes her head and takes a sip of her coffee. He’s prepared for her trying to wheedle it out of him… but he’s not prepared for her doing her mind-reading thing again. “You broke up with Christine, didn’t you?”
It’s not so much the question in itself that’s bothering him but rather the slightly disappointed and worried undertone Anna added to it. He knows she’d been hoping he’d finally let another woman into his life, maybe even let her take away at least a little of the pain Laura’s death caused him… and for a while he had managed to make himself believe so as well. But just as lies go… you always had to face the truth eventually. So all he does is shrug his shoulders and tell her a little gruffly, “It just didn’t work out.”
Hopefully that will tell her enough to quit asking about it because in truth there had been a little more to it than just an incompatible taste in movies or toothpaste in the sink. “What happened?”
Yeah, right, that had to be expected. He starts to feel uncomfortable; vulnerable because he’s not used to discuss his private life in public places. They’re sitting in a café close to the Pentagon because he’s in D.C. for a conference and she would have probably killed him if he hadn’t given her a call. So he shifts a little and murmurs, “We disagreed on too many things. Listen, Anna, could we please just…”
“What. Happened?” Dammit. She will not make him tell her about the day Christine had decided she’d gotten fed up with him avoiding bringing her to his place and showed up on his doorstep quite unexpectedly. She definitely will not… because if he tells her that he managed to keep Christine away from his place for almost a year she’ll probably declare him a nutcase once and for all.
He presses his lips together and then nearly grinds out, “Like I told you. It just didn’t work out. End of story.” Because, in the end, that is the truth, even if it’s extremely simplified. It’s not like he hadn't tried – he’d figured that he owed it to Laura because he had kind of promised her on her grave he wouldn’t chase away every woman who was remotely interested in him just because he felt obliged to his dead wife – but the moment Christine had started quizzing him on the pictures of Laura sitting on his mantelpiece after she’d simply brushed past him into the living room, he’d known he’d been lying… both to Christine and to himself, right from the beginning.
“But… you two seemed to… you know, click,” Anna says, sounding genuinely confused and a little put off.
Yeah, he’d thought that, too. Or at least he’d hoped it would work like that some day in the future. But the way she’d gone on questioning him and hadn't really realized that talking about Laura had been painful for him… it had told him she’d never… understand. And it had told him that he didn’t even want her to understand. A little helplessly, he shrugs. “I thought so too for a while. But we didn’t. So could we please…”
“Evan…” Anna says, shaking her head and he gets the bad feeling she has seen through all his pretenses, “I know I said it before but… really, you have to let her go.”
He so did not want to hear that. He’s… fed up with everyone trying to tell him what he has to do or not to do. It’s his life, dammit, so he frowns at her and has a hard time keeping his voice level. “Don’t you think I tried?” Crap, now his voice is breaking and he needs to take a deep breath to get a grip on himself. “For eight years, I tried, Anna. Eight fucking years. I’m done trying.”
Exasperatedly he runs a hand over his face and suddenly the whole setting – the café, all the people buzzing around them – seems to make it impossible for him to breathe and without preamble he gets up and leaves Anna sitting at their table, dumbfounded. He needs to walk a few steps and trying very hard not to breathe in gasps he sits down on a bench a few yards away from the café. With his head in his hands he sits there, doing his best to keep from breaking down in public.
After a while of working on controlling his breathing with a few exercises Teyla taught him a seeming eternity ago, he hears Anna beside him say, “Evan, I’m sorry… but I just… Look, don’t you see you’re denying yourself a chance to be happy?”
Taking heart he forces himself to look up again. Anna looks very serious and worried and it touches him. She’s been his anchor in the eight years since Laura died and she deserves that he gets a fucking grip on himself. But that doesn’t mean he won’t tell her the harsh truth. “I was happy, Anna. And it’s never gonna be like that again.” With a startling clarity… he sees that now. Just like he saw that no matter if he took off his ring or not, he’ll always be married to Laura – and only Laura – shortly before he’d made breaking up with Christine final.
Anna, though… is not one to give up easily. “But don’t you think… you could be happy in a different way?”
Instead of answering her right away… he opts for another strategy. “You know how the day before Laura died went?” That… was a risky move because there had been a fucking reason he never talked to anyone about his married life with Laura. But he just has the feeling that right now is the moment he has to do it.
So he continues, haltingly and in a very low voice at first, “I… woke up to her off-key singing in the shower and the sun in my face. Didn't get up for a while and she came back into the bedroom, determined to wake up Major Sleeping Beauty. It was... a very rare spare day so we didn't... feel in a hurry to leave the bedroom anytime soon.” At that, he risks a glance to Anna and to his surprise, she simply gives him an amused half-grin and he can’t help joining her for a brief moment.
But then he goes on, his voice a little stronger now. “When we finally did, I took her to... a rather remote part of the base to finish a painting I'd started ages ago. She just sat there and watched me and I can still hear her voice reading Little Women to me and telling me it would be the second book she'd read to our children, right after The Princess Bride.”
Here… he has to stop, needing seemingly forever and a day and at least three attempts to finish with one simple sentence, “I never... I never finished that painting.” So no, I don’t think I could be happy in any other way, he wants to add but his voice doesn’t let him because it seems to have deserted him.
For a while… neither of them says or does anything but then Anna moves to take his hand and squeezes it, silently holding on to him for another little eternity. In the end, the words she finds are, “I just… don’t want you to be… all by yourself and… lonely.”
Smiling a sad little smile, he moves to grip her hand and squeeze it in return. “It’s okay, Anna, really. Look… I’ve got you and Charlie and the boys… mom, dad… friends, co-workers… I’m neither all by myself nor lonely. It’s just that… I simply realized I need to accept that there will never be another woman for me and that I just should stop forcing myself to do something I neither can nor want to do.” Even though he still feels a little like failing Laura ever since he came to that resolution… but it’s really the only thing he can do.
Anna takes her time with her answer and for a moment it looks like she’ll make one last attempt at trying to convince him otherwise but then it looks like that little simple open-hearted confession did more to convince her than all the heated arguments and stone-walled silence from all the years before. “Just… promise me you won’t turn away from us. Ever.”
Okay… okay, yeah, he can do that. He lets go off her hand and nods, a little defeated. “Promise.”
She grins a little, relief shining through. “Cross your heart and hope to die?”
Not able to resist a sigh, he assures her, “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
Obviously satisfied by his half-solemn promise, she gets up, determined to leave the gloomy conversation behind her… for now, at least. “So… you got anything planned for today?”
Somehow glad that she accepted his unwillingness to talk about this any longer and his need for some time to come to terms with all his realizations, he joins her in trying to pretend the whole conversation from before had never happened. “I’m gonna meet Matt and Jenna for dinner but until then… I’m free. Got any interesting ideas?”
“Actually… yeah.” She grins and it doesn’t bode well… but anything is better than dwelling on Christine and Laura and the ring that’s in its rightful place again… because he may have failed Laura in finding a woman to share his life with but he certainly won’t fail her in living. He just knows she’d want him to smile once in a while and be with people he loves and he’s determined to fulfill that part of his silent agreement with her, at least. So he lets Anna drag him along and the sting he feels when she talks about her married life is not as bad as it usually is. Maybe… maybe one day things just will fall in place again and he’ll get that big chance to… to right things the universe damn well owes him. It’s been about time for that for quite a while already now.
TBC in Never Gonna Say Again.