fic: Hairline Fractures [sga]

A different sort of survivor's guilt.

Spoilers for "The Long Goodbye"

Stargate: Atlantis belongs to someone else.


Hairline Fractures
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.
*claps* Nice job! It's refreshing to see Caldwell be a reasonable fella in fanfiction. Bravo! :D
I liked him in this episode. You'd think people would play a bit more with the fact that for at least some of the time he was being (sort of) a jerk, he was probably actually a goa'uld.

Thank you!
Nice. It's good to see a story or two where Caldwell isn't made to be the bad guy. And poor John, always wondering.
Thank you!

. . . I was going to make some intelligent response about John, but I lost my train of thought.
I liked "TLG" for the purely hormonal reason that John running and John shooting are very sexy, so lots of running and lots of shooting makes my pants happeh. ;)

But I've always figured that John, despite his reassurances to Elizabeth, would have been much more personally affected by this than he seemed to let on. He is a very private person who depends on the trust of his team, and both of those things were damaged. *hugs John*

And thanks for the positive portrayal of Caldwell. I've liked him from the beginning and I've never considered him as the unreasonable hardass that fic writers love to make him.

I'm really enjoying the insight of your fics. Always looking forward to more! :)
I was struck by John's visible reluctance over the whole "getting zapped with an alien consciousness" thing at the very beginning, and he was positively stabbing his PDA at the end - so yeah, definitely affected by the whole mess.

"The Long Goodbye" is definitely one of my favorites from that season, except for the laxness of security at the beginning and the ease with which John and Elizabeth took out the marines. Oh well - it's tough being a red shirt, even when you're in olive or tan or whatever.

I'm really enjoying the insight of your fics. Always looking forward to more!

Loved it. Nice portrayal of Caldwell (I liked him in this ep too), and a great description of how his team's mistrust hurt him. Good last line too.
Thank you! For some reason fandom seems to have set Caldwell up as a big meanie, which I really don't understand. He's just trying to do his job. And as much as John would probably be upset by being prisoner inside his own head, I think what would hurt more would be Ronon and Teyla's inability to tell that it wasn't him.

I'm glad you like the last line. I wavered over whether or not to end with that, given that it's sort of a downer, but I think it's true - things can never go back to the way they were.
Okay, yes, I see what you've said to wildcat88, but I still want to bust into the room and tell him, "John, John, believe him!", because for the people who matter most, things will be normal, which means they'll be as loyal to him as he is to them, and all the other stuff that affects their relationships they'll muddle through with, as always.

...Though looking back on the remainder of Season 2's eps...oh, poor John!! =(
I think they're able to build something stronger, afterward, but it's still not the same as it was before. Does that make you feel a bit better?

Yeah, season 2 was a bit rough on John, wasn't it.