December 2015

S M T W T F S
  12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930 31  

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Monday, October 22nd, 2007 11:48 pm
Title: Wash Me Away
Author: [personal profile] bluflamingo
Fandom: SGA
Rating: R for incidental slash
Words: 5945
Feedback: Yes please. Even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad.
Disclaimer: No, I don’t own them. To my profound disappointment.

Summary: Elizabeth takes a deep breath and says, “I’m sorry, John, your father passed away two days ago.”

A/N: Highly likely to be jossed sometime this season, but I didn't know that when I started it. Minor spoilers for the end of SGA season 3 and SG1 season 10; spoiler free for SGA season 4.



Wash Me Away

John’s scrolling down the emails the data-burst has just dropped in his inbox, wondering how they can have so much to say to him after only a week, when someone knocks lightly on his open door. He looks up to see Elizabeth standing there, hands folded in front of her, watching him solemnly.

“Hey,” he says, waving a hand at his guest chair and holding back his sigh. Elizabeth in his office is never a good sign. “What’s up?”

Elizabeth crosses her ankles and leans her hands on the edge of his desk. “There was a message for you in the data-burst. General Landry asked me to deliver it.”

“Okay,” John says slowly. He’s pretty sure he hasn’t done anything to make Landry drag him back to Earth, at least not lately, and if Landry’s asking Elizabeth to deliver it, it’s probably not about how the Ori will be at their door tomorrow. Anything else can’t be that bad.

Elizabeth takes a deep breath and says, “I’m sorry, John, your father passed away two days ago.”

Of course, John’s been wrong before.

*

John’s mom died when he was eight. His dad came over to his friend Will’s, where John was doing his homework, sat him down and explained quietly that someone had run a red light, that his mom had died straight away.

John remembers biting his lip and nodding, trying not to cry. He remembers asking who’d make breakfast in the morning, and saying, “Really?” when his dad said he would, of course.

He remembers that his dad held his hand the whole way home.

*

“Okay,” he says. Elizabeth’s eyes are dark and sympathetic, and John looks down at the screen of his laptop so he doesn’t have to look at her. Subject: USMC Training Schools, it says, and Subject: Proposed uniform changes. “Do you know what happened?”

“He slipped away in his sleep. He wasn’t in any pain.” John sees the shape of her move on the edge of his vision. “His funeral is the day after tomorrow,” she says softly.

“Okay,” John says again, stupidly. He pushes his chair back a few inches, makes himself look up in Elizabeth’s general direction. This shouldn’t be such a shock, he knows his father’s almost seventy, but he feels as though he’s trying to think with only half of his brain cells. He hears Rodney’s voice in his head *as if it’s not bad enough when you’re thinking with all of them* and feels a hysterical laugh bubble up.

“John?” Elizabeth leans forward slightly, frowning.

John shakes his head. “It’s fine. Um, I should…”

He must look as lost as he feels, because Elizabeth takes pity on him. “The SGC have you booked on the first flight to Washington tomorrow morning. That should give you plenty of time to hand over anything urgent to Major Lorne before you go through the gate. They’ll give you details of your hotel when you get to Earth, and someone will arrange a car to take you to the service.” She smiles, brief and sad. “They know how to do this, John.”

“Yeah.” Of course they do – he knows, he’s done it before, on Earth when they had to get one of his people halfway across the world in an unexpected hurry. “It’s a return ticket?”

“Open ended, as long as you’re back in time for the next data-burst. General Landry’s taking the opportunity to send a few things through before the next Daedalus run.” She leans back in her chair again, still watching John. “I’ll leave you to make your arrangements here. We’re scheduled to dial in at 1800.”

John nods. “Thanks.” He stands when Elizabeth does, and wonders for one horrifying moment if she’s going to try and hug him.

She doesn’t, maybe because his desk is conveniently between them, just pats him on the arm, gives him another sympathetic smile, and leaves.

John sits back down and lets his head rest on his clenched hands. Just for a few seconds, just long enough to breathe.

Then he pulls up his email again, and starts shunting everything urgent looking into a file to send to Lorne.

*

They didn’t move all that much when John was really young, though he remembers playing in packing crates when he was about four, and leaving behind his favorite toy car when he was six. His dad promised to ring up the new people in the house and ask if they’d seen it, and John was beside himself with glee when it came in the mail a few days later, happy enough to pretend he hadn’t noticed that the postmark was wrong, because it was *exactly like* his old car. Even when he was six, it mattered more that his dad had made the effort.

His mom let him run the car all through the half-unpacked boxed until he nearly tripped her as she was carrying a vase to the dining room. After that, she made him help unpack instead, talking about his new school and the park down the street where he could ride his bike.

They moved a lot more later on.

*

Lorne’s smiling at whatever he’s reading when John walks into his office and closes the door behind himself, but his face grows serious as soon as he looks up. John has no idea what his own face looks like, but clearly it’s nothing good.

“Everything okay, sir?”

John wishes for something in his hands and settles for putting them in his pockets. “Not exactly. I’m going back to Earth in a few hours. You’re in charge while I’m away.”

“Yes, sir.” Lorne’s face never shows anything he doesn’t want it to, but his usual mask of mild, wry amusement is gone. “Is there anything I can do?”

John hands over the flash drive with the important looking emails from the data-burst. Lorne’s probably got all of them anyway, but Lorne makes better notes for the off-world team meetings than John does, so this is the best he can do. “There’s nothing that can’t wait,” he says. “I’ll be back in a week.”

“Okay.” Lorne looks at him like he’s trying to convey something he doesn’t want to ask out loud and John takes pity on him.

“My father’s funeral is in a couple of days,” he says; the words sound wrong, the same way it does to speak the smattering of Ancient he knows. “Dial in’s at 1800, I’ll be on radio till then.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorne says, right before John lets the door swing closed again between them.

*

John’s dad got posted to Germany four weeks before John was supposed to start middle school. He already had a uniform, and books, and he’d been with his class to meet their new teachers.

He sulked for a week, didn’t speak to his dad at all and refused to come out of his room when his dad was home. Mrs Lennox was looking after him that summer, because his father didn’t think he was old enough to be home by himself all day – they’d disagreed about that, as well, and John had lost – and John liked her because she didn’t say anything about it at all.

At the end of the week, John’s dad came home with a brochure for a boarding school in the next town over. “If you really don’t want to go, Johnny,” he said, while John stared at the glossy pages, confused and nervous. “I’ve spoken to the head of this school, he’s happy for you to take the entry test.”

“Um,” John said. The picture under his thumb showed a big, red brick building and a driveway lined with trees, the sun shining on three boys in matching uniforms. He scrubbed a hand through his hair.

His dad patted his shoulder as he stood up. “Think about it.”

John buried the brochure under a pile of old Wall Street Journals, and left his passport on the kitchen table. A couple of days later, his dad left two plane tickets in the same place.

*

John’s shining his dress shoes, the one’s he only ever seems to wear to funerals these days, when the chime on his door sounds. His watch tells him it’s been seven and a half minutes since he sent the email – he didn’t really expect it to hold the rest of his team off, but they’re supposed to be busy people.

The chime sounds again. John knows it’s impossible, but it sounds impatient. He puts his shoes down and touches the control to open the door.

“You’re going back to Earth?” Rodney demands, shoving past him into the room. John takes a second to look for Ronon and Teyla in the corridor, but there’s no sign of them. They’re scheduled to be sparring with some of the marines, and John assumes Rodney didn’t think to interrupt them. He closes the door and leans against it.

“For a week,” he tells Rodney, who’s paced the length of his room and turns to glare at him.

“We’re supposed to go to M3K 903 in a couple of days and you’re just going back to Earth.”

“Yes.” I have to go back to Earth for a few days, from tonight, he put in the email. Mission’s postponed till I get back. He didn’t know how to put into black and white that his father, who he’s never said a word about, who he’s sure they all assumed was dead like their own parents, is gone. He knows they’ll find out – Lorne and Elizabeth are good at keeping secrets, but neither of them will expect to be keeping this secret from his team.

“So.” Rodney looks at him impatiently, arms crossed. He looks like he’s moments away from tapping his foot. “Why are you going back?”

John takes a deep breath. “Personal reasons,” he says quietly, letting Rodney catch his gaze and hold it. He can do this. He owes them this.

Rodney’s eyes widen and he takes a small step towards John, before John stiffens helplessly. “John –“ he says quietly. “I’m sorry.”

John’s got twelve files on the table by his bed. He’ll have to check, see if there’s anything important in any of them. “Thanks.”

*

John liked Germany, mostly. They had an apartment in Frankfurt, and John went to the international school with a bunch of kids from all over the world, and on weekends, his dad took him out to the base to look at the planes. He got to like apfelstruden, and skateboarding, because that was what most of the kids did after school, and he picked up a lot more German than he’d realize until he was posted back there, years later.

He shrugged when his dad said they were going back to America. There wasn’t any point arguing and it turned out that having spent two and a half years in another country made him sort of cool at his next school.

When they moved again after eight months, John kept quiet about it.

*

His team comes to see him through the gate, duffel bag in one hand, dress uniform in its dust cover hooked over his shoulder. Rodney claims he’s there fixing a hiccup with the sensor display; Teyla chooses that exact moment to step out of Elizabeth’s office; and Ronon says he’s looking for someone to spar with.

None of his team are as good at lying as they think they are, but John’s hands are shaking and he’d give anything for an emergency to keep him in the city. Unfortunately, everyone’s on world for once, and Lorne’s perfectly capable of running the place without him for a few days.

Teyla comes down to the gate room floor as John waits for Elizabeth to give the order to dial the gate, the first time he’s seen her all day. She puts her hands on his shoulders, tilting her head to touch their foreheads together. John closes his eyes and breathes in her calm. She’s never been to Earth, he thinks, then the gate symbols start lighting up and they separate. “Be well, John,” she says quietly.

Ronon claps him on the shoulder silently, and John nods back.

*

It’s 0700 on Earth, and the Mountain is buzzing with activity. Landry’s assigned an airman to collect John from the gate room, take him to the guest quarters, and pick him up when his ride to the airport is ready.

John goes through the paperwork on the desk – ticket for the flight from Denver to Washington, hotel reservation print-out, a three-page reminder on how not to mention that he’s living in another galaxy and fighting space vampires – and changes into regular clothes. He can hardly travel inconspicuously in an SGC uniform, and he hates traveling in his dress if he doesn’t have to.

He lies back on the bed – twice as big, easily, as the ones in Atlantis – and stares up at the ceiling. He’s not really sure what he’s doing there, other than Elizabeth’s assumption that he’d want to go. He’d give a lot for his team right now, for one of them, because he doesn’t belong here, not any more.

He tries closing his eyes, taking deep breaths, thinking of clear blue skies, but that just makes the ache in his chest worse, thinking of ferris wheels with his parents when he was really small, and once with his father, not long after they came back to the States. Thinking of Rodney, dying by degrees from the Ascension machine, Ford lost in Pegasus somewhere, Beckett’s and Hernon’s bodies when John over-rode the lockdown and went in with Lorne because they agreed, without saying it, that no-one else had to see.

“Get a grip,” he tells himself firmly. “Nothing’s going to happen to them.”

He paces round his room once, wishes for a window, something to look at. Shoves his documents in his jacket pocket, checks he has his travel papers. Turns on the cell phone someone left for him.

Can’t stand to be in there a single minute longer, and takes off down the corridor towards the gate room.

*

Sergeant Harriman looks up when John walks in as casually as he can manage, which he suspects isn’t nearly as casually as he’d like. “Colonel Sheppard.”

“Sergeant.” Landry calls him Chief, and Mitchell calls him Walter, but John’s kind of stuck on the formal title. “Do you know if Colonel Mitchell’s around anywhere?”

“Yes, sir,” he says, then, “No, sir.” John blinks at him. “I mean, yes, I know, and no, he’s not. SG-1 is off-world till tomorrow morning. Assuming they keep to their schedule.”

Off-world. Of course. “Okay. Thanks anyway.”

*

John went to three different high schools, not counting Germany, which he mostly doesn’t. It would have been four, but his dad’s transfer came through January of John’s senior year; he didn’t want to take John out of school, and a friend he’d known since the Academy agreed to let John stay with him and his wife and their two young boys.

“It’ll work out better for you like this,” his dad said, and John nodded. It was better, he wouldn’t have to move again, settle somewhere new just in time to go to college, and the Meechams were nice people. They had a lot of rules, a lot more rules than his dad, but that was okay. John was good with rules, back then.

He didn’t see his father until graduation, when he shook John’s hand and said he was proud of him. “Thank you, sir,” John said, and his dad’s grip on his hand tightened, just for a second. It took John ten minutes to realize he’d never called his dad that before, and then it was too late to take it back.

They argued, outside the Meechams’ house when his father dropped him off before heading back to his hotel room. John remembers it as an argument about him deciding, months ago, that he was going to do ROTC at a regular college, not the Academy like his dad, but he thinks that it was a lot more about how his dad hadn’t been there to try and change his mind, to know it might need changing.

College wasn’t like school, not even German school where everyone was different and you were abnormal if you only spoke one language. His room-mate had been turned down by the Marines and liked to make Air Force jokes that John mostly ignored. His freshman classes weren’t all that much harder than senior year at school, and he got to sleep in if he wanted, though he usually didn’t, getting up to go jogging round the campus instead. He missed his dad’s calls more than he caught them, but his room-mate was good at taking messages, and they both wrote letters, sometimes.

He’s still got no idea why he agreed to go to a party with Chris, his Calculus study partner, but he did; turned out Chris’ room-mate had a girlfriend off campus, and spent a lot of time there. Enough time that he didn’t care how much time John had started spending in Chris’ bed.

He’s pretty sure that’s when he started avoiding his father’s calls instead of missing them. He doesn’t like to think about why his father stopped writing.

*

John’s bad with commercial flight, any flight he’s not in control of, has never met a pilot who isn’t, but he’s done thirteen hours in a puddlejumper with McKay flying, he can handle five hours in a commercial plane. Particularly with alcohol.

He gets dropped off outside the Holiday Inn, which is just like every other Holiday Inn he’s ever stayed in and is grateful that he’s just got one bag so he can refuse the help of the busboy who wants to tell him all about how close they are to the White House.

His room is painted a mildly disturbing shade of pale peach, with orange curtains and bedspread, but Atlantis’ night is currently Earth’s day, so he’s been up for the better part of twenty-four hours. He checks what time he’s being picked up in the morning, sets his alarm, and crashes out in the middle of the bed.

Of course, that means he wakes up to complete darkness, startled out of sleep by something he can’t name, disoriented and breathless until he rolls over and recognizes the lamp by his bed. Earth. Washington. His father.

He’s done this enough times to know that he isn’t going to fall back to sleep, and he’s becoming very aware of everything he hasn’t done since Elizabeth stopped by his office. Eaten. Showered. Shaved. Drunk anything that wasn’t filled with caffeine or alcohol.

He flips the lamp on, blinking in the sudden brightness, and checks his watch. 4.30. He’s pretty impressed he managed to sleep that long without anything waking him up, but maybe that’s just because he’s so used to his radio going off at least once every night back home.

There’s a phone on his desk, along with a card giving instructions about cost and how to dial out, but he can’t imagine Landry being willing to put through a call to Pegasus because John’s… whatever he is. Missing people. Lost. He’s not like Rodney, never going anywhere without a laptop, and even if he was, he has no idea what he’d write in an email. Especially an email that will get back at the same time he does.

He gets up instead, pulls on his sweats and his boots because he forgot to pack his running shoes, pockets his key card and a bottle of water from the mini-bar, and takes off.

Running on concrete is weird, and so is running outside when it’s not accompanied by gunshots, but he settles into the rhythm easily enough. The sky’s beginning to shade from black to gray, but the streetlights are still on, throwing orange pools for him to run between, passing an occasional pedestrian. He counts his own footfalls, tracking how far he’s going, heading in the right direction for the river, everything just on the edge of familiar because he’s been here before, too many years ago to pick out the changes, but often enough to see the outlines of them.

He hits the river after a while. There are more joggers down there, a few dog walkers for John to weave between, keeping the river on his right until he spots a sign that he recognizes and heads back onto the street.

He stops at a coffee shop on his way back and buys a steaming cup of black tea, loading it with sugar to compensate for not eating before he went out and running himself into the kind of sugar crash Rodney’s always threatening. He’s well aware that the last thing he needs is caffeine, though he’s sure to end up consuming a lot of it.

*

It’s late enough for breakfast by the time he’s showered and shaved and dressed, but he wimps out and calls for room service, not ready to face the looks he knows he’ll get in his uniform in the dining room.

The waiter says, “Thank you, sir,” a lot when he brings John’s food, eyes fixed on John’s medals. John bites down the urge he always has to either start explaining why he doesn’t have an Iraq ribbon or tell him he’s got nothing to be grateful to John for. He leaves before John can say anything, which is probably a good thing; he’s pretty sure the latter urge would have won out, today.

Most of his food is still on his plate when the call comes for his ride. He’s suddenly, stupidly, tempted to make a run for it, but they’re still skating thin ice with the IOA and he doesn’t need to give them anything else.

He straightens his shoulders, and heads for the elevator.

*

It’s not until he arrives that he realizes he has no idea who arranged this, or who sent the message asking him to come – if anyone sent it, or if someone just recognized the name and put two and two together. It’s too late to ask now, so he joins the scattered groups of people moving inside and stands at the back, hoping no-one will recognize him, or even want to speak to him, trying not to notice that he doesn’t see any familiar faces.

*

His dad took him out for dinner the day he got accepted into the Air Force, both of them in their dress uniforms from the ceremony, and it was the first time John had felt comfortable around his father for months. It helped that Chris was gone, driven off by John’s insistence on the Air Force, so John didn’t feel like he was keeping secrets, or at least not like he was keeping secrets he might accidentally spill.

His dad knew about every promotion John got, every reassignment, and he always wrote with congratulations that John struggled more and more to respond to. John liked to pretend that he never knew about the things that went wrong, about the time he was shot down in Bosnia being somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be, doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing, about Holland in Afghanistan, about Mitch and Dex and the black mark that sent him to the bottom of the world. His dad had stopped writing by then, and John had stopped calling long before that, struggling for words to explain how wrong he felt, sometimes, how out of place in the only place he’d ever wanted to be.

It was easier like that, and he was a grown up, he didn’t need his parents.

*

The graveside service is complete with military honors, and John’s done this before, knows how it goes. That doesn’t change the way the salute makes him start, getting him an odd look from a woman he doesn’t recognize. He wonders what this makes her think about his service record, if she’s even curious about who he is, half the age of the rest of the mourners but tucked away at the back where he won’t draw attention.

He doesn’t see who the flag is presented to, but he guesses that answers one question: no-one here knows who he is; maybe the SGC tracks the relatives of everyone stationed on Atlantis just in case.

The car’s waiting for him when the service is over. “Straight to the wake, sir?” the driver asks through the intercom.

John leans his head back against the cool leather of the seats and swallows past the lump in his throat that’s trying to choke him. “No. Just back to the hotel.”

*

He thinks about staying in Washington, all through the ride. He has his father’s house keys on the same ring as the keys for his motorbike, the one he hasn’t ridden since they came back to Earth after the siege, suffocated from a day in LA trying to explain what had happened to Ford. He has no idea if he’s been left anything in his father’s will – he assumes he must have been, but, like the occasional papers everyone else receives, it will eventually find its way to Atlantis for him. For all he knows, his father was living with someone who will object to John letting himself into their house while they’re mourning. He doesn’t think so, since he never heard his father mention another woman after his mom died, but it’s becoming abundantly clear that he didn’t know shit about his father’s life or the people in it. He’d rather not find out for sure that they didn’t know about him, either.

In the end, he rings the airline and throws around his military credentials to get himself on a flight back to Denver the following day.

*

Like everyone else on Atlantis, he has a standing offer for quarters in the Mountain, should he need them, but he checks into the Broadmoor, in the end. It’s familiar, from their first trip home from Atlantis, even if it is far more luxurious than he really needs.

He orders room service, and ends up leaving it to go cold in favor of a long, long shower, and several small bottles from the mini-bar, hoping that the combination of the two will relax him enough that he’ll be able to sleep when he finally undresses and gets under the covers, even though it’s early afternoon at this point. He’s still on a Pegasus sleep cycle, out of step with the rest of the world.

He manages to fall into a half doze, light enough to know he’s dreaming, but too deep to wake himself up, flashes of Wraith and Genii and Replicators dancing through his hotel room, every bad mission they’ve ever had, every time one of his people has come home injured or dead, until he finally pulls himself out of it and gets up, more tired than he was when he went to bed. Too tired to go for a run, too wired to try and fall back to sleep.

He lasts for thirty seven minutes, then slings a jacket over his jeans and clean shirt and heads for the Mountain.

*

Beyond checking his ID at the gate, no-one gives him a second look as he makes his way down the elevator and through the corridors. He’s got over being surprised at how many people are around the base at any given time of the day or night – Atlantis is no different, after all – so it’s no surprise to have to duck around scientists and airmen. It gives him something to focus on, stops him from talking himself out of what he’s doing.

Mitchell’s office door is open and John takes the opportunity to lean in it and just look. Mitchell’s in his uniform, typing and frowning behind his computer. Mission report, then, but it’s not the kind of frown that makes John think anything can have gone disastrously wrong, and he looks good, no obvious bruises and none of the strain John saw when he talked about Dr Jackson’s absence during John’s last brief trip to Earth. He hopes someone’s looking at Atlantis and saying the same thing about her people, since he’s not there to keep an eye on them.

He must make some kind of noise, because Mitchell looks up and the frown slides into something John can’t pin down as Mitchell stands. “You’re back already,” he says, guiding John into the office with a hand on his shoulder and closing the door behind him.

“Yeah,” John says. “Washington’s not –“ And he has no idea how he was going to end that sentence, but it turns out not to matter, because Mitchell says, “I’m sorry about your father,” and hugs John.

John’s not good at hugs, never has been and has always envied Mitchell a little bit over the years they’ve passed each other on Air Force bases, for the easy way he dispenses affection and touch to people he thinks need it. This isn’t the first time John’s been on the receiving end, though, so he’s had chance to work past the initial urge to pull away, and the weird burst of panic he still gets when most people try to hug him. He leans in instead, the slightest fraction, resting his hands on Mitchell’s waist for balance, and when Mitchell says, “You want to get out of here?”, he can read exactly what Mitchell means and only has to nod his head yes.

*

There’s no suggestion that they find a bar or go back to John’s hotel room. He follows Mitchell out to the parking lot and into his car, half listening to Mitchell’s voice rising and falling in some story from his mission, but it’s just another kind of comfort, the easy kind that doesn’t require anything from John in return.

Mitchell’s place is as neat as John remembers it being, as neat as everywhere Mitchell’s ever lived has been, but John doesn’t get to see much of it, since Mitchell doesn’t bother turning on any lights between the front door and the bedroom, and only a single bedside lamp there.

He kisses John in the middle of the room, both of them still wearing their jackets and boots, slow and careful like he’s afraid John’s going to break. He’s not the only one, and John holds onto the soft leather of Mitchell’s coat, closes his eyes against the way the world is tilting around him.

Mitchell undresses him in near silence, touching John’s newly bared skin with his fingertips until John’s shuddering under it, his knees close to giving out. They fall gracelessly onto Mitchell’s bed, pressing close together, kissing and kissing with their hands on each other’s cocks, Mitchell coming with a groan before turning his attention back to John.

John cries out when he comes, clutching desperately at Mitchell, who wraps his arms round him, holds onto him, doesn’t say anything, and John’s never been more grateful to him in his life.

*

Mitchell’s gone when John wakes up the next morning, leaving behind a hastily scribbled note explaining an Ori attack on a planet the SGC has promised aid to, taking him off-world for another few days, and offering John use of his apartment until he goes back to Pegasus.

John makes himself coffee, takes a shower, finds a calendar. Then turns on the radio so he can check what day it is and discovers he’s due back at the Mountain the next day. It doesn’t feel like he’s been on Earth for a week, but when he tries to count up the days, it seems he’s lost some along the way.

*

On his way out the door, he turns the note over, intending to leave one in return, but in the end all he writes is Thanks. They’ve been doing this for each other for years now, and he knows he’ll return the favor eventually.

*

He’s back at the Mountain an hour before he’s due to go through the gate, back in his Atlantis uniform and feeling more whole than he has all week. He figures he’ll wait down in the gate room, since there’s no summons from Landry and he has nowhere else to be. They’re still trying to conserve power on the ZPM, in case they need it for the Ori attack, so he might as well be down there and ready to go with whatever packages Earth’s sending for them.

He’s strolling past the control room when he hears a voice call his name, and Sergeant Harriman catches up with him and hands over a box. “This came for you, sir, this morning.”

“Thank you.” It’s been opened already, but John’s spent years on military bases and he’s used to it.

“You’re welcome,” Harriman says with a little more sincerity than John would have reasonably expected, and ducks back into the control room.

John’s glad there’s no-one in the corridor when he lifts the flaps on the box and sees the folded flag from the funeral. He’s pretty sure no-one would believe it was allergies, this far underground.

He shakes out the packaging, looking for a note, but there’s nothing, and the postmark’s smudged. He can’t remember any familiar faces from the graveside, and he suspects he’s never going to know who this came from.

In a warped kind of way, he thinks that might not be so bad.

*

Standing in the gate room on Atlantis, Teyla touches his arm, and bends his head to hers, saying, “John,” quietly; Ronon pats him on the shoulder and says, “Sheppard,” and Elizabeth touches his hand and says, “it’s good to have you back,” and John lets all of them do it without grinning or trying to be charming, the box tucked under his arm. He has no idea what he’d say, anyway.

Teyla lets it happen until right before John would have to make his excuses and escape, then says, “Rodney wished me to let you know that he is in his lab.”

John swallows. “Thanks,” he says, and Teyla nods, letting him go.

*

The thing is, he wasn’t close with his father, not for a long time, but he always knew his dad was there. There was always the possibility that things would get better, that the next data-burst would include a message for him, a chance to apologize for an offence he was never entirely clear on, to say, I missed you, and, I needed you. I still do.

He wants to say, please,, though he has no real idea what he’d be asking for. He’s never been any good at putting names to things, neither of them were, but he thinks now that six weeks on Earth should have been long enough to try.

He thinks he’s grieving more for lost chances than he is for his father, and that just makes it worse.

*

Rodney says, “ah, Colonel, you’re back,” and carries on with whatever he’s doing like John’s been gone a couple of days on the mainland, but he lets John lean on the edge of his desk, and curls his fingers, tight, round John’s wrist for a few seconds, both of them looking down at their hands and not at each other, because John’s eyes suddenly sting, relief and affection and longing and grief all tied up in his wrist under Rodney’s hand.

It’s how he knows he’s finally home.

Tags:

Reply

From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.