Stargate: Atlantis belongs to someone else. This vignette was previously posted here for the sga_flashfic doppelganger challenge.
Sharp and Sided Hail (II)
by Brat Farrar
“All I want to do is fly,” John says, voice slightly muffled because he’s got his face mashed up against the wall. It’s a nice wall, very hard and solid. “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.” Which is a lie, but John’s world has gone kind of loopy, so he feels entitled to fib a little if he feels like it.
“Then why are you here at all?” Here, in this case, meaning any number of places: John’s current location several floors underground, the sky where he currently isn’t, his post at McMurdo. Here at Antarctica, where he’s been living in quiet exile.
The burn under John’s left shoulder blade still aches a little, despite having healed long ago, and he hunches his shoulders as if that will change something. “You know why,” he tells the wall, and leaves it at that. He has other wounds that aren’t yet done scabbing over, and this is one of them. If he picks at it too soon, it might start to bleed.
“Black mark. Disobeyed orders. Ran out to rescue a couple of buddies and came back with everyone dead.” There is no mockery in the recital, no derision. There doesn’t need to be for it to sting. “Came back without a scratch on you.” Not a scratch, just a long red welt from where a bullet had slid along his back. The irony of that is biting, especially when spoken in the accents of John’s childhood.
“All I want to do is fly,” John says again, but he isn’t sure what he means by fly anymore, just as he isn’t sure what—or who—he is. And everyone who might be able to tell him is either dead or never really knew in the first place.
“Is that really what you want?” John’s never felt this strong an urge to turn and look behind him, but he’s had his share of bad luck—no need to add to it voluntarily. So he closes his eyes, and tries to remember the answer to the question.
He lost himself for a bit, out there in the desert with nothing and no one to anchor him, and while he’s found most of the pieces again, there are still holes. And he’s beginning to think that flying isn’t enough to fill them all.
It’s been a while since anyone’s wanted him, wanted John, since he’s had any real companion besides the one standing at his back. If he looks hard enough at the back of his eyelids, he can see the face of the woman who tried to recruit him, see the desperate need she thought she was hiding. Almost as desperate a need as the one he still feels for the sky.
And he can feel the memory of that freaky chair, the way it sang to him as nothing besides flight has for years and years. His world is still wavering around him in the aftershock of it, and it feels like something inside him might have been shaken loose, a piece of himself he once locked away. It’s like seeing in color again, and he’s not sure he can just walk away from it and willingly return to a world of black and white.
“Is that really what you want?” his doppelganger repeats patiently, as it has for years now, and John can’t ignore the question any longer, can’t continue to pretend that the earth doesn’t matter. He’s not an albatross, able to go the rest of his life without touching ground, alone with nothing but sea and sky. “Is that really all you want?”
“No,” John says, and opens his eyes.
I vacillate over this one - it came out rather different from the first, and I'm not sure if it works as well. But I do like the ending.