Spoilers for "The Long Goodbye"
Stargate: Atlantis belongs to someone else.
by Brat Farrar
Once Beckett released him from the infirmary, John surreptitiously bolted for the safety of his own quarters, using all the least-used corridors, desperate to avoid being seen by anyone. Beckett believed he was himself, as did Elizabeth and Caldwell, but no one else seemed willing to meet his eyes. Not even his own team, although they all had their own reasons for that. It was personal for them in a way it wasn’t for everyone else, and so hurt him both less and more.
With the door locked behind him, a barricade against both pity and distrust, John let himself collapse against it, sliding down until he was on the floor and could go no further. He stared at his hands, gray-smudged in the unlit room, and saw only the horrified fury of Ronon when he’d realized how he’d been tricked, the hardness in Teyla’s eyes as she treated him as Thalan even after he was himself once more.
He’d been sure she would be able to tell—as military commander, he had to approve of her wariness, but as John, just John, he felt like something between them had shattered. It was a too familiar feeling, and had he been twenty years younger he might have cried over yet another loss. As it was, he put his head back against the door, closed his eyes, and began the slow and painful process of identifying all the mistakes he and his people had made over the course of the affair.
His butt had gone numb, and he’d nearly convinced himself he was sure to be reassigned, busted down a rank or two, when the door made the whirring noise that meant it wanted to open. He got up slowly, feeling like he’d been beaten physically as well as mentally, and told it okay. It slid open to reveal Caldwell.
“Sir,” John said, and tried to settle himself into a posture that looked a little less bruised.
“Colonel. Mind if I come in?” Caldwell asked, apparently unfazed by the lights in the room suddenly flicking on. John managed not to wince only because he’d been braced for it—both the lights and the request. He was surprised that Caldwell hadn’t shown up sooner.
“Sure,” John said, and stepped out of the way, trying as he moved to hide the stiffness that was all in his head.
“You should probably avoid mirrors for a while.” And that was certainly not what John had been expecting to hear. “It’s too easy to think you see your face being worn by someone else. Just try not to be obvious about it, or you’ll make people nervous.” If there had been the slightest hint of patronization in Caldwell’s tone, John probably would have gone for his throat. “And don’t blame yourself for any of the entity’s actions, no matter how tempting it is. It’s a good way to screw yourself up.”
“I did say yes,” John felt obliged to point out. “If I’d just followed my gut and said no, the whole thing never would have happened.” That was the kicker—that he’d simply allowed Thalan into his head, however reluctantly.
“And you only agreed because Elizabeth—or what seemed to be Elizabeth—requested it. It was an apparently charitable act on your part.” Caldwell frowned when John opened his mouth to protest. “There was nothing to indicate what the real situation was, Colonel. I was there, and I let you do it. If anyone should be feeling guilty about this whole mess, it’s me. Let it go, Colonel.” And John had never wanted so desperately to follow an order, but it wasn't that easy.
“At least you at a snake,” he was horrified to hear himself saying. “You had a body—or at least an x-ray or something. All I have are brainwaves and Beckett’s word about it. People will be looking at me funny for a long time, and I’m not sure they’ll be wrong to. Sir.” he added a trifle belatedly, and wished he had some excuse to lock himself in the bathroom.
“Just don’t give them any reason to doubt you,” Caldwell said, but John didn’t need to be told that. He’d learned it long ago, and was still paying the price of the education. “A few missions, a couple of near-disasters, and it’ll all go back to normal.”
They both knew he was lying.