This is an old SGA ficlet I wrote a long time ago, put up on my near-empty LJ, and never put on AO3 or here. I think of it occasionally, and I had intended to have it be part of a Five Things dealie, but I couldn’t make five of these. So here it is, too short to stand alone, too dark to go with anything else. And too glaringly-obviously one of my abortive experiments in present tense. I don’t know how all y’all BNFs can do present tense, it’s torture for me.
847 words, tw: suicidal ideation
John Sheppard, Afghanistan, 2003
The wind’s like a hairdryer tonight. John’s out on the roof, looking out over the darkening landscape. There’s a windbreak, an old bit of canvas they staked up to keep the dirt off the battered metal table they’ve dragged up there. It’s the smoking lounge, but nobody’s around to smoke anymore; all the guys that smoked are either rotated out or dead, by now. Last one died today, in Landstuhl, where he’d lingered for about a week with a brain injury and almost all his limbs blown off.
John flew that evac. It was a crazy bit of flying, coming in under fire and balancing one fucking wheel on a goddamn boulder and hovering low enough that they could haul the wounded and dead into the bird. He sort of wished he hadn’t pulled it off, though; it had been that one poor maimed bastard who lingered, plus four dead guys in component pieces, and if he’d taken his sweet time instead, Ruel wouldn’t have had to fucking suffer so long in the hospital. It wasn’t like he’d ever really regained consciousness, even. There had been no point to it.
John doesn’t smoke, but he has a lit cigarette between his lips anyway, in Ruel’s memory. There’s no booze here, so they all poured out Gatorade for him earlier. John’s a little dizzy from the nicotine, a little nauseated, but he’s going to finish this fucking cigarette anyway. It’s about the third he’s smoked in his life, and is definitely the last.
He’s cleaning his pistol to have something to do with his hands. It’s pitch-dark up here but he doesn’t need to see to do it— just getting the grit out, putting a fresh coat of oil in it. He reassembles it, packs away the cleaning kit, loads the magazine, and while he does he works pretty hard not to think about the divorce papers he’d just signed and put back in the mail today. He hadn’t said anything to anybody, there was nothing anybody could do and he doesn’t need the sympathy.
Sympathy doesn’t do a damn bit of good. She’s gone, and her last note was a mean one bitching him out for dragging his feet on those papers. For God’s sake, John, de Nile is in Egypt, not Afghanistan.
Ha ha. Cute. He deserved that, though.
He wrote her a postcard, you were the best thing that ever happened to me, but he’s just burned it in the ashtray. No fucking point to sending it. What would it do, besides maybe making her feel even shittier? He’s caused her plenty of that, no need to pile it on.
He slots the magazine into its place and racks a bullet. The cigarette’s almost gone. He takes one more pull, lets the sickening rush hit, and stubs it out in the ashtray with the finely-flaked postcard remains. All that’s left now is the pistol, a solid and familiar, reassuring weight in his hands. He holds it for a long moment, turns it over. Thumbs back the hammer, slides the safety off. So much power in there. He knows precisely what one of those bullets will do to a human body, to a human skull; he’s shot people in the head with it before.
So easy. Nothin’ to it.
Wouldn’t feel a thing.
Shit, it’s tempting.
The barrel’s between his teeth before he’s really thought it out, and it’s thick, and the angle’s awkward, but there’s no doubt it would be pretty fucking effective like this, blow the whole back of his head right off instantly, no more fuss, no lingering on life support once the brainstem’s fucking obliterated.
Jesus Christ, he wants to do it.
But he hasn’t taken her off the paperwork yet, and she’s still listed as his next of kin. She’d get the call, and then she’d get the signed divorce papers with today’s postmark, and fucking Christ, John, could you be any more of a fucking piece of shit? What the fuck is wrong with you?
He pulls the gun carefully out of his mouth, slides the safety back on, thumbs the hammer back down to uncocked, puts the pistol down on the table. Yeah, real fucking nice, John. Just spit in her fucking face on your way out, because you didn’t do enough damage to her in all the years she put up with you.
Slow breath in, shaky breath out, elbows on knees, face in hands. Yeah, no, John, not like that. Not now. At least let the divorce go through, take her off the paperwork. It’s not her fault. Don’t make it her fault.
His gut untwists slowly, and he stands up, shoves the pistol back into the holster, picks up the ashtray and dumps the ashes out downwind. Fuck. He puts the ashtray back on the table and heads back to the rickety ladder, back down into the building where the others are playing cards.
He leaves her on the paperwork, because it stops him two more times before the tour’s over.