Out With The River
“Cuz sometimes you’ve gotta let love go
Even though it’s hurting, even though
And sometimes you’ve got to let love slide
Out with the river, the river of life.”
Heather Nova, “River of Life”
Well, that was a hell of a first day in a new galaxy.
I’m not even sure what was the weirdest thing. The whole “Atlantis is literally a city under the ocean” thing or the lights switching on everywhere any of us natural gene carriers walked in or the space vampires or, you know, being told that “no, Lieutenant, you will definitely not be going off-world” by Sumner, along with the other three female Marines – two more Lieutenants and a Corporal – in the Expedition, while, mysteriously, none of the male Marines were given desk jobs.
Mh. On second thought, I’d say it definitely was the last one. I’ve seen a lot of weird shit in my year with the SGC so yeah, cities under the ocean, lights switching on and space vampires I can totally take in stride. Being told I wouldn’t get to do what I was trained to do? That was one hell of a weird and disturbing thing.
I mean, I knew that Sumner was more of the old school variation of a Marine officer – not overtly sexist in the cat-calling, down-talking way, more in the condescending “a female Marine’s job is to free a man to fight” way – but for Heaven’s sake, all us female Marines have been part of the SGC for at least a year and know how to hold ourselves in a fight. Aside from that, at the SGC, no one even questioned our presence. Sumner’s first reaction to female Marines was looking right through us. His second was putting us all behind desks.
I’m not saying that I’m glad that he died, because I’m not – apparently, according to the already well working grapevine, dying the way Sumner died is horrible – but… contrary to most of the male Marines, I don’t find the thought of being commanded by someone like John Sheppard such a bad thing, actually. I don’t know much about him, since he was brought in to the Expedition even later than I was but I’ve been serving under another Air Force guy with a not so sterling reputation. It wasn’t so bad, actually.
Oh, who am I kidding? It was one of the best things that ever happened to me and I threw it all away because I was afraid I might fall in love with that guy. Because I was afraid he might fall in love with me – conceited much, Lieutenant? – and because I’d seen what that did to another Major Moore. I…
Okay, Maureen, get a grip on yourself, will you? City’s been saved in the last minute, there’s a big party in our newly minted cafeteria and what am I doing? Exactly. Sitting in my bare quarters, only two half unpacked crates and my backpack for company, trying not to cry at the thought of probably never being able to see or at least speak to my team again. I have never been prone to homesickness, but right now, my heart is aching with it.
All I can think of is that those one-hundred and seventy-four people – less now, actually, because we already had our first casualties on the first day here – who came through the Gate with me might very well be my last ever connection to the planet I have been living on for the first twenty-four years of my life and that my team isn’t part of those one-hundred and seventy-four people. One-hundred and seventy-odd people in this city – and that’s not even counting the Athosians in – and I feel more lonely than I have ever felt in my life before.
Which is ridiculous. I have never, never felt truly lonely in my entire life, I swear. Not even when my parents died. I was sad and I grieved, yes, and I still think of them every day in one way or the other but lonely wasn’t ever on the list of feelings attached to their death. I’ve always been someone who actually enjoyed being alone. I never needed much social contact to be happy and now I’m missing my team so much that it hurts.
I miss Laura’s wry observations and every time I have to listen to yet another McKay speech, I keep wishing she’d appear out of thin air to give a trademark running commentary, making me laugh. I haven’t even been able to put my hands on the little “Pegasus Survival Package, trust me, you’re gonna need it” she gave me shortly before we set out for Atlantis because I know that if I do so, I will be reduced to a little heap of incoherent sobbing.
I miss Dee’s quiet presence, his knowing little grins, his dry humor. He’d have something to say about Sumner confining all four female Marines of the Expedition to the city, and it wouldn’t have been nice and he would have had some of his sage sergeant wisdom to help me cope with the feeling of utter frustration at having to deal with Sumner’s particular brand of sexism. I haven’t been able to even only open the old worn-out field manual he gave me even though I’m probably in dire need of some of the annotations he alluded to when he gave it to me.
And I miss, miss the Major and his smirks and snorts and absolutely inappropriate bouts of insolence. I miss the way he runs a hand through his hair when he’s out of his depth and I miss his stupid jokes that aren’t even funny and I miss the way he keeps looking at me when he thinks I’m not noticing it. I deeply regret the whim of taking the NYC snow globe he gave me for my birthday with me because every fucking time I look at it, I’m reminded of the fact that he didn’t even have the guts to tell me good-bye personally and that the last thing I saw of him was him staring down at me through the control room window with an unreadable look in his eyes. Just staring, not even raising his hand or anything. Bastard couldn’t even get off his high horse to…
Huh? Chirping sound. What was that chirping… oh, right. My doorbell. The chirping sound is my new doorbell. Must remember that.
And will definitely not answer it, even if it just chirped a third time. Not going to answer… “Come on, Lieutenant, I know you’re in there. Don’t make me exercise my rights as a medical officer and call someone to override your door control. Just open up, will you.”
Right. German accent just strong enough to faintly carry through the door’s material, tone of a guy who knows he’ll eventually get what he wants… definitely sounds like the only guy I could kind of make a connection to yet since apparently, Laura got to know him at med school and introduced us to each other at the going away ball the DOD gave us. German Army doctor Stabsarzt – a Captain, but apparently, he has this stupid quirk of insisting that people use his German rank – Dr. Matthias Morsberg, at my service.
I sigh, getting up from my bed. Trying not to look too insolent – he does outrank me, after all – I open my door. “Sorry, sir, been sorting through some stuff…”
“I’m not here to ask you to join that party in the cafeteria.” What? “I’m pretty sure you were just going to tell me that if I were here for doing that, you’d unfortunately have to decline. Weren’t you?”
You know what the Major would say now? He’d say “Fuck me, Kid. You finally found your match.” He’s been steadily claiming to all and sundry that I am psychic – which I’m not, just good at reading people and especially him is all – and he’d be practically cackling with glee by now. Because that was exactly what I was going to tell Morsberg. I blink at him and then can’t help defiantly folding my arms in front of my chest. “Got me there, sir.”
That makes him grin a little too cocky for comfort – not in the way the Major would, just… cocky – and then say, “Good to know I’ve still got it.” Right.
Idiot. I try not to glare at him. “So, if you’re not here to very covertly make sure everyone socializes according to the psychologists’ recommendations, then why are you here?” Hey, guy still outranks you, even though he looks even younger than you. “Sir.”
“Oh, I’m just here to make a delivery.” A what? “Shortly before we took off, your commanding officer asked me to give you this once we’re on the other side.” I’m about to ask him what the fuck he’s talking about when he pulls a small box out of his pocket to hold it towards me. It’s unremarkable; black cardboard or something, rectangular… “Maureen… is everything okay?”
Fucking medical officers. They see you hesitating to pick up a small black box for a moment too long and think something’s wrong with you. Now I do glare at him and snatch the thing from his fingers. “No, everything fine. Good evening, sir, I really need to get back to my unpack…”
“You’re not going to open it, are you?” Goddammit.
In my head, I can just hear the Major full on laughing and telling me that yes, this is exactly how he felt every time I did that to him – which, by the way, was never intentionally. “I’m… I’ll do it when I get to it, sir. I just…”
I don’t even know what I was going to say next but I don’t need to, anyway, since for some reason, I’m feeling my throat constrict and my hand clamp around the little box. I’m not even sure if I’m chocking with anger – he had to give whatever is in there to a stranger, didn’t he? Didn’t even have the guts to give this to me in person – or with hurt because he did give me something, after all. I try to take a deep breath. “Sir, I…”
“Look, I’m just a surgeon, only took the mandatory classes on mental health at uni but if you need someone to talk, I’m right here. You just need to ask.” My first instinct is to tell him again that I’m fine, thank him very politely and then shut my door for another round of trying really, really hard to remember that Marines just. Don’t. Cry.
But he’s right here, and he’s my only link to home right now and maybe that’s why, in the end, I just nod and step aside. He hesitates for a moment – frightened by your own courage, sir? – but then comes in and the door slides shut behind him. I gesture towards the bed and he nods.
There’s some really awkward silence when we make our way over to the bed and apparently, he isn’t very good at coping with those because I hear him say, “And, by the way, you can lose the sir,” before we even sit down on the edge of the bed. I’m about to tell him that this is not how Marines are raised but he doesn’t let me, just adds, “In case you were about to ask what to call me instead: Matthias works. Or Mats. Couple of friends in Munich kept calling me that. Mats is fine, really.” He pronounces it the German way, ah instead of a and I have a feeling that there’s a story behind “Mats”. Just something in his tone that suggests that at least parts of that story aren’t exactly happy parts. I decide not to delve into that. Everyone’s allowed to have their little sad secrets.
We sit down on the bed. He’s giving me expectant looks.
… what? “Aren’t you, you know, going to open it?”
Probably one of the rudest things anyone ever said to me, considering that we don’t really know each other and that farewell gifts can be extremely private things. And yet I don’t immediately throw him out. Instead, I look at the box sitting on my flat palm again. It’s really unremarkable. Not even a bow or something. Just a stupid box. Nothing to be afraid of.
I take a deep breath. Nothing to be afraid of.
With as little hold-up as possible and enough determination that my hand almost doesn’t tremble, I finally take off the box lid and… the bastard.
That absolute fucknut asshole stupid as a log bastard.
“Maureen? Are you…” No. No, I’m not.
I’m not okay because the thing my former boss gave me as a parting gift are Captain’s bars. His Captain’s bars, if I’m not completely wrong. Captain’s bars, and a stupid little note on a stupid piece of paper, saying Sorry for being an idiot, Kid. Expect to see those on your shoulders soon as I see you again.
Who does he think he is?
“He’s a piece of shit, that’s what he is.” Did I just say that aloud? “How dare he do this? How dare he write such a piece of crap? How dare he… how…” I must have said that aloud because I definitely heard my voice. I also must have started to cry – when did I start to cry? – at some point because my cheeks definitely feel wet and I feel like choking again, like something’s stuck in my throat why is something stuck in my throat…
Morsberg – Mats – doesn’t say anything but I feel something heavy being draped across my shoulders… that’s his arm, must be his arm, no other explanation, really. His arm’s draped around my shoulders and he must have moved me because I’m leaning against something surprisingly solid and there must be his other arm draped around my shoulders as well and I realize that I’m being held by a German Army medical officer I have known for maybe a day and a bit, in my quarters in a city in another galaxy with no means or ways to contact Earth and I just can’t stop crying.
It never was supposed to go like this. My first day in a new life wasn’t supposed to end in crying my fucking heart out and yet here I am, feeling myself being unable and unwilling to stop. So, in the end, I give up trying – what’s the point, anyway? – and succumb to it, let a guy I barely know hold me while I cry out all the loneliness, all the regret, all the homesickness I have in me and maybe that’s gonna help somehow. What other choice do I have, anyway? What is there left for me to hope, really? And maybe, if it starts like that, chances are it’s only gonna get better from here. It has to be.