Gone, Not Forgotten

~ Written for the left behind challenge on sga_flashfic

She understands. Dolores tells her husband, and she means every word. She understands because it's the nature of babies to grow up and move out and move on. They leave and sometimes they don't come back, because that's just life. She's raised five children and nine grandchildren and she's just started on her second great-grandchild -- although mostly, now, she just holds the babies in her arms and sings to them and lets their grandmomma be the one to chase after them and lets their mommas be the ones to deal with broken toys and diapers.

Then there's the nephews and nieces and lord she can't count all the cousins anymore. Two uncles still alive and one sister -- Dolores reminds herself to give Bea a call, later in the week. Have some coffee and bake some sweets for the little ones who'll come around on Saturday and she tells herself she won't count heads.

Because she understands, even though Clarence doesn't believe her. He still asks, when they've climbed into bed and the world is growing quiet. He reaches over and takes her hand, gives it a squeeze like he's done for the last fifty one years. Mostly he asks how her day was, sometimes he'll ask about relatives she's talked to that day. Sometimes he tells her about something he's fixed around the house or what needs calling for someone else to take a look at.

When it's cold, he fusses over whether she wants another blanket and just isn't asking because he knows she knows he's more warm-blooded than she is. But she's fine, she's always fine, even when he rolls onto his side and looks at her, dark eyes still sharp and clear.

"Do you want me to call around?" he asks, as though that would tell them anything more than they already know.

"Don't be silly," she answers, like always. She reaches over and pats him on the cheek. "There's no flag. That means he's fine."

He's somewhere out there -- God knows where, and God ain't telling. But until that Marine shows up on their doorstep, solemn and dress uniform, then she knows he's fine.

Aiden's out there, somewhere, and God's keeping an eye on him because she can't anymore. It's the way of things -- babies grow up and move out and move on. She understands, because that's the way of things sometimes. She accepts it, because there isn't much use in fighting what's just life.

But that doesn't mean she has to let them know she knows, in her heart, that he's gone.