All around him there was Christmas chaos.
He had started early this morning pulling out all the Christmas boxes, most he hadn’t seen in several years, not since… He started outside and put up the outside lights. Once that was done, he opened and assembled the tree he had bought a couple of years ago. It was an ordinary six foot tree with lights already attached. He only had to fit the three pieces together then fluff the braches out like his sister told him to do the year he got it.
In the years prior, they had always gotten a real tree, David had insisted. However without him Evan just couldn’t make himself go out and get a real tree without him. Yet he still celebrated the holiday. He didn’t want anyone to think he wouldn’t or couldn’t go on. It had pained him that first year to go buy an artificial tree still it was less painful than the thought of going out to the farm to cut down a real tree.
Once the tree was up and the lights plugged in, he wrapped a white sheet around the trunk. Usually this is where he’d stop, but this year he decided it was time to add ornaments. Ornaments he hasn’t seen since his last Christmas with David. Evan glanced to the neat stack beside him; boxes ready to be opened… It should have made him feel good to hear the Christmas music playing in the background, the smells of gingerbread in the oven, the tree lights twinkling invitingly, waiting for him to continue what he had started, to decorate the tree.
He opened one box then another, looking at the various ornaments – with them brought a tale, flooding him with memories. Tonight he was expecting John, Ronon, and McKay to come over for dinner, why he wanted everything to be up and look nice. Still Evan couldn’t stop the feeling of pending doom. A feeling he had woken up with. In fact, for days he’d been in knots, but purposely ignored the warning. Now, no matter what he did the sorrow in his heart expanded, bleeding out from his soul. It wasn’t like this was the first year since David died; in fact it’s been four years and fives Christmas’ without him. It’d be twelve years next July since they first met on Atlantis and David had joined his team, and then ten years since they secretly married on MR-17. Then shortly after they returned to Earth in ‘09 Evan opted to end his commission and leave the military. Afterward they made it official and legally tied the knot.
Their life wasn’t idyllic. Adjusting to life after Atlantis had its share of problems. Yet together, with their friends it was good if not a perfect balance of everything right because they had each other. Then one afternoon, a kid texting while driving and in thirty seconds, David was gone. He had died at the scene. There was no lingering good-bye, no nothing just a brief kiss that morning with a rushed ‘I’ll see you later’ to nothing.
Evan shook his from the memories, he tried not to think other than cut off and shove the unwanted feelings down. It didn’t work. In fact, it got worst. He moved from one project to the next. Opening each box rambling through it, trying and failing to get involved in the task of decorating – what a joke. He had done nothing other than make a mess, and add to the turmoil that was already in his heart and mind.
In the end all he did was create a mirror of everything he was feeling – overwhelming chaos. Everywhere he looked there was an open box with piles of stuff on every surface: ribbons, ornaments, icicles, figures; every seat had something on it. It was overkill.
Suddenly the smell of something burning caught his attention – his gingerbread.
Scrambling over and around boxes, Evan made his way to the kitchen and grabbed an oven mitt to pull out the smoldering burnt bread - it was a perfect mess.
A swell of anger hit and he threw the pan haphazardly into the sink. It landed with a loud clang leaving him a smidgen of satisfaction, but it wasn’t enough to quell his sudden anger. Turning he kicked a box and followed it back into the living room, kicking it again. The action broke an internal dam, as words spilled forth, yelling out everything he had been holding back since that day, “Damn it, David, why did you leave me!”
Without thinking Evan turned facing the wall, and punched it– once, twice, each time was harder than the last.
Ignoring each hole he created or the splintered run of cracks in the plaster, or the broken skin and smeared blood on his knuckles. Panting heavily he stopped and leaned against the wall, tears streaming down his face. A small part of him was freaked out that he was getting so upset; he hadn’t been like this since that first night. Although another part of him nudged him to continue – to let it out- with it brings another wave of anger. “I can’t do this alone anymore!” Glancing around, his eyes landed on the tree, “I don’t want Christmas, not WITHOUT YOU! I won’t, I can’t…”
Grabbing the tree, Evan pulled on the cord to unplug it then started to take the six foot tree apart smashing and squashing branches down so it’d fit back in the box. He moved like a whirlwind shoving things back in their boxes, but instead of bringing them back in the storage room he stacked them behind the sofa. He had a plan - they had to go – he didn’t want to see them, didn’t want to remember what was… Once every box was stacked haphazardly, Evan looked around the bleak room. It was only when he glanced at the clock that he remembered he had invited his friends over. He couldn’t let them see him like this. He wouldn’t know what to say, how to explain… He had only one choice, he had to cancel.
Grabbing his phone, he scrolled down until he found John’s name. There was no way he could talk so he clicked on the bubble, and started to type a text.
Hate to do this so late minute, but I have to cancel tonight. I’m just not feeling up to it. Sorry! Raincheck? My treat, at McKay’s favorite restaurant, okay? Talk to u soon - E
He had just hit send when it his phone dinged back.
Hey, we’ll all a little under the weather, how about we bring take out, no cooking required?
Lying wasn’t his thing, but going on about how he just had a temper tantrum, and was still strung tight humming with anger. Besides there was nothing anyone can do, David was gone, he’d never hold him again, tell him how much he loved him, feel David’s warmth in his arms…
Through a curtain of tears, Evan typed I can’t do company, just I’m really fucked up right now…
He didn’t have long to wait before John responded, Okay, I get it, we all do… But if you change your mind, we’re here for you
Seeing John’s response, Evan exhaled the breath he had been holding, relieved that they were going to leave him alone. A couple of minutes passed, then his cell dinged again, You have a free pass for tonight, but I will be checking on you tomorrow, in person, understood?
Evan nodded silently and typed k and hit send. Alone, knowing no one was coming over Evan’s body rocked, suddenly his knees buckled and he dropped to the floor crying like a baby. It was one of those ugly cries, uncontrollable, snot running down mixing with his tears, but he couldn’t stop or hold it back even if he wanted to. He just lay there on the floor and curled up, crying through every painful thought and memory he’s had without David.
Feeling cold, completely groggy and disoriented, Evan woke up. He had a headache although it didn’t throb as badly as his hands. Sitting up he realized it was dark outside and he was still on the floor. He nearly jumped in his skin when someone knocked on his door.
Hanging his head, he ignored whoever it was, without any lights on, he hoped they’d get the message that no one was home. He stood up to go crawl into bed, but stopped when he heard McKay’s voice, “You don’t think he went out?”
Ronon answered, “His car is still here.”
“Well then he’s here.”
“In the dark? There’s not a single light on.”
“Maybe he’s sleeping?” Carson asked.
McKay gasped, “It’s only five thirty.”
Evan cursed under his breath. There was no way he had slept an entire day away – so what part of: he didn’t want company, didn’t Sheppard get? Disappointed and a little pissed Evan yelled out “Go away.”
He didn’t have to see it in order to know John was grinning when he told the others. “See he’s up.”
“He doesn’t sound very happy that we’re here.”
“That’s not the point. Evan, open the door or I’ll have Ronon break it down.”
“Or I can let McKay and Radek take a shot and pick the lock.”
Aggravated, Evan unlocked the door but stood there blocking their entry. Tersely he stated, “I cancelled tonight.”
“Yes, but I said I’d check on you tomorrow, remember?”
Evan wavered; there was no way he slept on the floor that long. “I didn’t…
Sheppard interrupted and pushed past him, “Didn’t exactly say Pacific Time, but it is tomorrow, in Atlantis.”
“We’re not on Atlantis.”
It didn’t seem to bother John or the others as they herded into his living room.
McKay shrugged, “Not to belabor the point but it’s already tomorrow in Paris and London.”
Zelenka injected, “Czech Republic.”
“Right, see, half the world.”
Around him lights were being turned on as people milled around looking at everything, at him, fully exposed to their scrutiny.
Evan held his breath and waited for someone to say something, but no one did. Not about what he must look like, or about the holes in his walls or the mess scattered throughout the house. Instead without saying a word Carson directed him to sit down and started to clean and tend the cuts on his hands. John took the bags of Chinese food he had been holding and set them in the kitchen then came back with a bottle of Jack. He poured a tumbler and handed it him, ordering, “Drink it.”<
Evan did, as soon as the glass was empty John poured him another shot. He was about to down it as quickly as he did the first, but Carson stopped him. “Nay lad you better be sipping that one; doctor’s orders. When was the last time you ate?”
When Evan didn’t answer, John did. “Gotcha Doc. We’ll have dinner then we can get to work on decorating – unless you don’t want us to….
Evan just stared at the man like he’d lost his mind. However when he didn’t protest John just nodded his head approvingly and smiled then went back to the kitchen calling over his shoulder. “I got kitchen duty – dinner will be ready in twenty.”
Next Ronon chipped in, “I got this.” Evan looked to see what this was – it was his discarded Christmas tree and he watched in amazement as Ronon secured the legs before inserting the middle into the pole then the top. While Radek and Mckay got the boxes and started to open them, taking one ornament after another out- arguing about the best way to decorate. One wanted to hang things by size the other by color… it wasn’t until Ronon had enough and just started to randomly putting the ornaments on without them.
Carson interrupted, “They’ll be a bit sore in the morning, but you’ll heal.”
Evan stared down at his hands and saw his hands were wrapped. He’d been so engrossed by Ronon, McKay and Zelenka he hadn’t realized Carson had bandaged his hands. Confused he muttered, “I don’t understand…”
Carson met his gaze, his voice solemn though there was a twinkle in his eyes. “Major, there’s nothing to understand, it’s what family does when one is in pain” then as if he couldn’t bear the seriousness, he broke out into a grin, “and you lad, just have to grin and bear it.”
Evan just stared at the man then his gaze went around the room - they were there when he met David, they had watched when he clumsily tried to court David. Then it was several long weeks following that catastrophe, before he finally won David over. When they returned to Earth, he asked Sheppard to stand up as his Best Man. At the wedding and all of them were there and then again he had to say goodbye they were his pallbearers.
Carson was right they were family. Suddenly he was overwhelmed and humbled. Although he was still hurting somehow his pain eased just a fraction for one simple fact - he wasn’t alone. They were his family, and he’d never been more grateful to have each and every one of them in his life.