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Square Peg

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JOHN

Most of the personnel sent to Atlantis were tenderized by the SGC hammer beforehand (unlike John), taught and trained and introduced to all the weird shit by the people who’d been doing it for the past ten years (or so).  (The military, anyway.  The scientists all seemed pretty kosher with it all regardless, probably because they were all operating on no sleep and pure caffeine 99% of the time.)  It was rare that Atlantis would get assigned military personnel that were gate-virgins, but it had happened.  Three times, actually.  The first was John.  The third was Corporal Spencer.  The second was Major Drake Morris.

It really pissed him off that Morris was so good at his job (and that Morris hadn’t gone through the Holy shit!  Aliens! phase John and Eliot both had), though he tried not to admit it, not even to himself, because being angry that Morris fit Atlantis and did an exemplary job was the same as wangsting over the fact that he wasn’t special anymore, and John had already been through puberty once, thanks, and didn’t need to experience any of that again.  He couldn’t help feeling like the awkward 14-year old loner again though, sitting in an Ancient version of an overstuffed arm chair (one of the scientists had theorized they were made of some sort of pliable nanite-metal-polymer, which was why all the furniture had lasted for so long, and no one had sat down for a week) off to the side and watching his old team joke and laugh their way through a re-showing of Episode 4 (not the remastered version, thanks very much) with Major Morris, feeling like a goddamned fifth wheel.  He used to be the one who shared the in-jokes with them, where one person only had to say, “And the- the tree!” and three people snickered while the fourth blushed or argued, the things that were never funny when explained to someone who hadn’t been on that mission.  

They were still laughing, and John shot Ronon a quick, open grin when the big guy skewered him with a perceptive glance; Ronon wasn’t fooled though, he never was.  People always thought the big guy was dumb because he didn’t say much, but John had learned better.  Ronon was scary good at reading things people never wanted known, and just as good at pretending he couldn’t, until you were drunk off your ass with him at the 15,726th  harvest festival and confessed some deep dark secret and he just looks at you and says simply, “Yup,” with no surprise or anything, just like you were confirming something you’d already told him earlier.

It was only John’s second day of being the active commanding officer of Atlantis while not being officially assigned to AR-1.  He hated it so much he felt it as physical pain.  It’d been easier when he’d come back from retirement and left Jesse on Earth with Eliot because it was just one crisis after another and he’d worked with McKay and Teyla and Ronon like usual, only noticing the extra soldier tagging along after them in a peripheral way because he’d had other things on his mind, like keeping Atlantis from blowing up and not being drained to a withered husk by the Wraith that’d managed to infiltrate the city.  And then there’d been that thing with Jesse, and then the Wraith were being quiet so the Odyssey had stood guard over the galaxy while Atlantis was granted a six-month leave to Earth for repairs and most of the personnel had been on mandatory leisure shore-leave for that time, including John.  

So today was really the first time it’d hit home, the fact he wasn’t a part of his team anymore, when he’d sent AR-1 through the gate in search of something McKay and the rest of the science department desperately needed for some reason John hadn’t paid attention to, just like he’d never paid attention to the reasoning behind requests for gate travel before.  (If McKay spent less than five minutes trying to convince John, it really was a priority.  If he went on for over half an hour, it was just something he had a hunch about or that the science team wanted but didn’t need, so he didn’t even really have to listen to what McKay was saying, just surreptitiously time him.  (If it was urgent, they went, no matter what.  If not, they went if John could fit it into the ‘gate schedule.)  There hadn’t yet been a request for gate travel that had landed in the no-man’s-land of roughly eight to 27 minutes, and John had a pretty respectable sample size by now.)  AR-1’s mission had been a success (hence the movie-night celebration) in that they’d made tentative plans to negotiate with a potential new trading partner and that no one had been killed, injured, shot at, kidnapped, drugged, gotten married or proposed to anyone (on either side of the negotiations), and a failure in that they hadn’t found the wunder-tech McKay had been looking for.  It was the same old thing, except now John was on the outside looking in.

After a few more minutes of torture, he made his excuses and used Jesse as a get out of jail free card.  Ronon, however, was apparently not the only one who’d seen through him.  A little over half an hour later, after checking on Jesse to legitimize his excuse (sleeping soundly in his room, twitching with puppy dreams and clutching his threadbare bear so hard it was a wonder the stuffing hadn’t fallen out yet; normal Jesse night-time behavior), John found himself actually catching up on his paperwork, sitting on the couch with the balcony doors open for the night breeze, when his door-chime went off.  He didn’t check with Atlantis to see who was at the door before opening it, because after his abrupt departure he expected he’d have to explain himself to either Teyla or Ronon (McKay probably hadn’t even noticed he’d left), but that wasn’t who he opened the door to.

Major Morris was standing stiffly at attention outside his door, and John just blinked at him in confusion (and a little annoyance) for a moment.  “Relax, Major.  What’s up?”  He finally asked when Morris kept staring a little past him and not saying anything.  He figured someone would have got him on the radio if something had happened, and his radio was making the quiet soft static sound (he’d quickly learned to ignore it and it didn’t bug the hell out of him anymore) that meant it was on and functioning properly.

“Sir,” the marine finally met his eyes, and seemed to be considering his next words carefully.  “Permission to speak freely?”

John blinked.  Rolled his eyes.  Sighed.  And when none of those got Morris to retract his question, John capitulated.  “Fine,” he agreed evenly, and stood back to wave Morris into his quarters.  When a soldier asked you if he (or she) could speak freely, it generally meant they were gonna say something best not said in the hall where everyone could hear it, in John’s experience (from both sides of it).  Morris seemed a little startled at the invitation, but came in anyway, and took a seat in one of the armchairs when John waved him at it and sat back down on the couch.  “What is it, Morris?  Medicals came back with something hinky from the post-mission after all?”

Morris coughed into his fist, probably hiding a laugh.  Hilarious, Major,  John thought sourly, Let’s turn you into a bug and see how funny you think it is then, shall we? Sometimes (all the time) he wished that mission report wasn’t part of the required reading packet for personnel new to Atlantis.  

“No, sir,” Morris answered after ‘clearing his throat’, “I was just wondering if you had a problem with me, sir,” he half-asked, half-stated in that strange accent John could never pin down.  The Major’s consonants were clipped enough to almost sound as British as Grodin had, but that was the only similarity Morris’s accent shared with the British accents John had heard.  Though, come to think of it, he sounded an awful lot like England’s new Prime Minister, the one who’d just come into office, so maybe Morris was British after all.  Definitely not Scottish, he didn’t sound anything like Carson, and John had plenty of recent experience to make sure—the SGC had managed to lure Dr. Beckett (2.0) back to the CMO position on Atlantis, as John had found out yesterday as they lined up for the dial-out to Atlantis.

“No, no problem,” John lied absent-mindedly—of course he had a problem, but it wasn’t the Major’s fault he’d been the one tapped to take up the slack when John had taken early retirement, and most of the time John even knew that.  “Where are you from, Major?” he finally asked, the question of Morris’s accent’s origin suddenly more important than John’s communion with his wangsty inner adolescent.  

Morris narrowed his eyes at John in what appeared to be confusion, sitting a little forward in his chair.  “I’m English,” he said slowly, as if he was worried his commanding officer had suddenly started exhibiting signs of outside/Ancient/alien/nanite influence.  “I’m your military liaison with the U.K.”

John blinked.  Huh.  That’s probably something he should have known.  Then again, he’d really only been here, paperwork wise, a few days, so maybe he could cut himself some slack on that.  “So, you’re not a Major, then, you’re a, a, what is it?  A Corporal?”  

Morris eyed him with what looked like surprise.  “No, sir,” he answered slowly, “I’m U.S.M.C., not Royal.  Moved to the States when I was 17, joined up then.  Colonel Donalson appointed me the liaison because ‘I spoke the same language,’ sir, not because I’m a Royal Marine.”  His impression of Donalson’s thick West Virginian accent was actually pretty good, John admitted, even though he’d only met the man a few times during the crisis-cascade the SGC had pulled John out of retirement for.  Donalson was actually the one commander who’d followed himself that John had actually approved of upon reading up on the past few years of his new-old command, and the only one who’d managed to last over six months in Atlantis without dying, going crazy, getting kidnapped, or getting mutinied under (that one had tried to negotiate with the Wraith; the Athosians and a few other trading partners in exchange for leaving Earth alone.  Unsurprisingly, there had been no official reprimands or black marks on the permanent records of the mutineers, and John was pretty sure that commander had met some lucky Wraith’s ‘dietary requirements’).

“So, do you do any liaising, then?” John prodded.  

Morris shrugged.  “I’d interpret what the old Prime Minister’s office was saying the few times the Colonel had to talk with them.  Haven’t had much to do with the new P.M., since he entered office after Colonel Donalson transferred back to the SGC.”  A faint expression of distaste flickered across Morris’s face, and, considering how well liked Donalson had been, John wondered what Morris had against the British Prime Minister.  Probably didn’t agree with his politics.  God knew John had been really un-fond of some Presidents in his time.

“Well, you probably don’t have to worry about that anymore, considering I can usually understand what people are saying.”  Just not always what they mean.  “Anyway.”  John dragged the conversation back on track, and slapped his knees with his hands to emphasize how on-track he was being.  “No, Morris, I don’t have a problem with you.  I have a problem with not being on my team anymore, so treat them right and keep them alive and in one piece and you won’t have anything to worry about.”

Morris looked a little unsettled, and John grinned sharply at him.  Good.  Because if the kid let one of his team get hurt, John would…  do something to him.  Something bad.  He’d come up with something before it was needed; maybe he’d even let Rodney give it a stab.  McKay was good at thinking up ways to make people regret their existence without leaving lasting physical damage (though, according to the scientists, psychological trauma was a definite possibility), and he was always best when it was his own possible injury and/or demise he was revenging.  “I won’t, sir.  I mean, they’re my- team.  Friends.  Fam- team, sir,” Morris turned to tell John at the door, as John was ushering him out.  And just like that, John’s good mood deflated like a punctured balloon.  

Morris should be close to his team, they should be like family to him, hell, that’s what had kept John and Teyla and Rodney and Ronon alive for so long, kept them from giving up so many times.  But Morris was taking John’s place in the field, in the team, in that family, and it fucking hurt.  

Goddamn Laura for dying, anyway.  Not that he thought she would have been a stay at home mom, but one of them could have stayed with Jesse while the other was offworld, they could have taken turns…  And then one of them would have gotten injured or kidnapped or drugged or killed, because this was Pegasus and it was freaking inevitable, and Jesse would have had to deal with that.  No.  This was-  Not going offworld, it wasn’t better, but it could be worse.  He could be stuck on Earth again—not that he didn’t love the ranch, but in a contest between Atlantis and the ranch, there was no question of which his heart voted for every time.  At least this way, John was in his city.  And god, did he envy Jesse for getting to grow up in Atlantis, for however long it lasted.

But, shit.  Watching his team grow away from him—and not doing anything to stop them from growing away from him or doing anything to sabotage their newfound closeness with Morris (because that would be the same as sabotaging their safety on future missions)—was going to be hell.  And what was he going to do, replace them?  With who, the Spencer boys?  Yeah, right.  The only way John knew how to form close friendships was under fire, and that wasn’t going to be happening again anytime soon, seeing as he was flying a desk now (well, a city, but it was the same thing).  

Disgusted with himself and the pity-party he was apparently throwing himself, John buried himself in his paperwork until the wee hours of the morning, falling asleep in the middle of filling out a form that approved yet another form requisitioning more storage space allotted to peanut butter, ammunition, condoms and morphine on the next Daedalus run.  Because, as sad as it was, those were the things Atlantis went through the most.  John woke up the next morning with a crick in his neck, and a laptop in two pieces on the living room floor, monitor snapped away from the body like it was manufactured by Lego and not the United States military (or whoever the hell they were contracting computers out to that week), that’d broken after it’d fallen to the floor from his lap during the night.  

His week was just getting better and better.