Title: Separation Anxiety
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Disclaimer: Stargate belongs to MGM and affiliates. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material
Summary: John said he kinda liked it in Antarctica. What if he really, really hadn't? - Rising AU.
After six months in Antarctica, John put the word out. He wanted out, and his twenty years just wasn't worth the wait. Notes of encouragement came back, from guys he'd known, trained beside, and flown with, testaments to life outside the service. Every so often, the grapevine carried back word of job possibilities, but even Antarctica was better than the endless repetition of corporate piloting. LA to NY and back again, and again, and again was its own special hell.
Nine days before outflying an alien missile in a helicopter, John heard from Mitch's brother Gary. How he got word, John had no idea, but his father-in-law worked for a company that developed new, experimental planes for the military. They wanted test pilots, the email said; guys who could fly nearly anything, who'd flown in combat, and could really put the planes through their paces. John tossed a coin, and downloaded the separation forms.
He told the base commander mostly the truth: that he wasn't sure the Air Force was for him anymore, and Antarctica definitely wasn't. And if John was thinking that after Afghanistan he'd never get to fly combat again, and if the base commander was thinking that after Afghanistan, John would never want to again, neither of them said a word. The words John did say were, "amazing job opportunity" and "as soon as possible" and the base commander nodded understandingly and said he'd do what he could to expedite things.
Being temporarily transferred to an underground science lab to act as an on/off switch didn't affect his paperwork at all, which was winding its way through normal approval channels, but hadn't yet reached his file. He had told Weir he wasn't interested, but never even got the chance to utter the word "resigned." He didn't want to dim her enthusiasm, so when she leaned toward him, a hand on his arm, eyes intense, and uttered, "Think about it, Major. Spend some time here, see what we're doing. You could be a part of this," he just nodded. He'd thought about it, while the other half of his brain was thinking "on" and "off" and "Pegasus" and "Milky Way." If introducing John to McKay was Weir's first mistake, introducing him to Sumner was her biggest. He could see his future in Pegasus laid out before him, and it made Antarctica look like a surfer's paradise.
Four days later, he found himself standing outside Weir's office, steeling himself to deliver a disappointment that she had, somehow, avoided seeing coming.
"Major! You have some news for me?" She asked with a hopeful, expectant smile, and John almost felt bad for what he was about to do. Except he had told her no, more than twice, and really this shouldn't be any kind of surprise.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, standing at attention because the occasion called for it, because he'd almost but never quite adjusted to disappointing his superiors. "My separation papers have come through. I'm going to need transportation back to McMurdo."
John had been told she was a diplomat, but maybe she wasn't one all the time, because her confusion was obvious even before she said, "Separation? I'm afraid I don't understand."
"I've resigned my commission."
She didn't say anything, and he felt the weight of her stare as she regarded him. "Resigned? But… I thought… Don't you want to come to Pegasus?"
"No, ma'am," he said, and there was nothing else to say. Her expression was so surprised, so disappointed, he actually pitied any guy who had to break up with her. He almost wanted to apologize for leading her on, except he hadn't, and how do you apologize to someone when they're the one to blame?
"This is a surprise," she said, completely unnecessarily, and John bit back the impulse to ask, "why?"
When she just stared at him, as if it was his turn to say something, he offered, "I filed my separation papers two weeks back. The final paperwork just came through yesterday."
Something crossed her face, too fast for John to pinpoint. "I see. So you never planned to…"
He assumed the rest of the sentence was supposed to be, "go to Pegasus," and didn't know why she didn't finish it. "No, ma'am." And then, tired of this, added, "As I told you, that very first day."
"Yes, I suppose you did," she said softly. "I just thought you understood how important you were to this expedition." It was beyond absurd, to get this reaction. She had scientists, marines, generals, and had known his name for four days. Whatever she wanted from him, whatever she expected from him, she would surely find another way. Someone else could turn the lights on.
"I have plans lined up, a new job waiting for me." John smiled pleasantly, waiting for this interview to be over. It was over, for all purposes. He just needed to wait for her brain to catch up.
"So, I guess I can't tempt you to go as a civilian?" John couldn't believe she actually had the balls to ask, but he just shook his head and mentally repeated, don't smirk, don't smirk.
"Well, I appreciate you letting me know. I'll arrange for you to fly back to the base in the next run over."
He thanked her and left, but stopped outside her door. As expected, she was dialing the phone. He gave her a 20% chance of dialing McMurdo, and she didn't surprise him. The first words out of her mouth were, "General O'Neill. We have a problem."
The Air Force had been not-so-subtly trying to get rid of him since Afghanistan. The irony that his separation was a problem appealed to John, but it was done now. Gary had a bunk for him, until he could find his own place. He was off to California, to live by the ocean and fly the coolest planes ever built. Atlantis had nothing on that.