Warnings/Spoliers: not your usual "Outcast" rewrite
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: In which John has an office
Notes: I desperately tried to turn this into a story but couldn't, so it it remains.
A Stargate: Atlantis drabble
"I felt for a moment that the whole Wilcox family was a fraud, just a wall of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs, and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic and emptiness."
EM Forester Howard's End
The thing about Sheppard's office isn't that he doesn't know where it is, though lately the more senior members of the Expedition have taken to telling the newbies that to save time and explanations. No, John knows exactly where is office is. The problem is that no one else does. It's location is a jealously guarded secret that no amount of chocolate, coffee, or alcohol has ever been able to pry from him, and on the rare occasions someone actually manages to stumble upon it, it is moved within forty-eight hours.
Nobody's really sure why John does it.
Rodney figures it has something to do with Antarctica. After all, John had been posted for a long time at McMurdo, longer than most of the scientists even, and people get weird if they spent too much time in such a barren, remote place. Not that John probably hadn't been a little off beforehand, but Antarctica had probably made it worse. Probably. Either way, weird like that doesn't just go away. No, it lingers on long after the snow and the ice has been left behind.
Or, at least, that's how it'd been for the first couple years of the Expedition. At this point, over four years in, it's become sort of a game. Well, maybe not a game, but a tradition at least, and so every couple of months or so someone will make a concerted effort to find the mythic place that is John's Office. And every time someone actually manages too, John moves it again.
Which is how Rodney winds up wandering around the South-West Pier with a life signs detector in hand and a package about twice the size of a shoebox tucked under his arm, trying to figure out where John's latest office is. It takes him two hours, seven different towers, and a walk across an extremely narrow footbridge with railing only on one side, but he does eventually find it - it being this time a surprisingly large space with the Ancient equivalent of a kitchenette in one corner and a private balcony off the other.
"Nice place," Rodney says.
John looks up, momentarily startled, before giving him a small, tired grin. "Hey you."
"I've got something for you."
John smirks at him and closes his laptop. "Do you now?"
Rodney rolls his eyes, but allows John to give him a quick kiss before surrendering his package. "You're impossible, I hope you know. And need I remind you that we're supposed to be keeping this," he gestures fervently between them, "quiet so that your bosses don't decide to draw-and-quarter you next time we're on Earth."
"There's no one here, Rodney."
"And yet the mail clerk - the new one, only arrived on Daedalus' last run - knew enough to give me your mail. That's not exactly on the down low, John."
"We're on the same team. I'm sure he'd have given to Ronon or Teyla too."
"He better not have," he mutters darkly. "But who do you know in Baltimore?"
"Baltimore?" John asks, examining the package for the first time. It's a slightly battered, slightly beaten affair wrapped in brown paper and twine, with nondescript return address and a Baltimore postmark from almost three months ago. He's actually kinda surprised it made it this far. "Why would they...?"
John pulls out his KA-BAR and cuts the twine. The brown paper falls away, revealing an even more battered and beaten cardboard box. The most current label says
in heavy block lettering. He can't make out any of the others, but a couple of the crossed out words look like they might be French.
"John?" he asks-
-but John doesn't say anything, just frowns and uses his knife to cut through the masking tape.
An envelope of heavy, cream-colored parchment sits atop a bed of styrofoam peanuts. When John makes no move to open it, or even investigate the box further, Rodney does with an impatient huff that lasts only until he's managed to read the first sentence of the letter within aloud:
"I regret to inform you that our father passed away on 29 April at Johns Hopkins, of complications resulting from his lung cancer- What kind of person tells someone by letter that their dad's died?"
"My brother, apparently."
"I didn't know you have a brother."
"Half-brother, actually," John shrugs like it doesn't matter, starting to dig through the box, peanuts going everywhere.
"We were never exactly close."
"I didn't know you're dad was sick either."
John pulls a small, silver-framed photo from the box. "I didn't know either."
"They didn't tell you?" Rodney asks, surprised. He's more than familiar with dysfunctional families, but silence on such an issue seems a bit extreme, even for that.
"Oh no. I've not talked to any of my family since 1992."
"What happened in 1992?"
"I joined the Air Force."
"Ah," he says, and before either of them can say anything else both their radios go off, and they're out the door, off to solve the latest crisis.