Title: Damage Control
Summary: Lookit! AU!Angst. Where everyone lives in a small town and nature wreaks havoc upon them.
Spoilers: Uh, is it considered a spoiler if it’s all AU and there’s OMG!SO!NOT!DED Grodin & Markham, Pre-Wraith!crak!d Ford and Cameron Mitchell being used as a cheap plot device? *swoon at the pretties*
Disclaimer: Not mine. Never will be. But I’m blaming all this on my drug induced crak!dream whence it came (note some plotty changes)... and mentalmichael for saying, and I quote: “Have you heard of the Wild West Stargate AU? Because this would make a very good story!” Thanks for the ebil plot bunny dude, it’s been haunting my every other thought.
A/N: Beta'ded by alianne and aoihikari. Supper huggles and love to them. This fulfills the 'D' slot in the ABCs. This is like putting the damage on... I'm not really in this space anymore cos this took frakking forever! Since June methinkst. So I don't really like it, but since I'm doomed to fail my end of the year self-challenge I figure I'd try my best til the end of Dec and then extend like a stay of execution until I finish the ABC-SPARKY-FICATHON... which will prolly be never. So please, snark at will. I appreciate it. :D
There was an earthquake. The structural damage to the one room schoolhouse was severe. It had garnered them a collapsed roof, cracked foundation and strewn glass. Miraculously, no one had gotten hurt. But the fact that there would be no school for several weeks at the least no doubt was a source of rejoicing for the kids.
Ronon had recruited Lorne, Markham and Kavanaugh for some heavy lifting and clearing out some of the debris from the roof. Halling and John were in the garden the children had set up as a science project. Tools were scattered across the field and the obliterated shed. The place was a mess.
So, here they all were pitching in to mend the harm nature inflicted and John was in a snit. It wasn’t that he had to work on his day off and was missing the game. He was fine with that. The problem was his latest epiphany that something other than his own stupidity could have taken her from him. She would be gone before he could say how he really felt. The acknowledgement unnerved him.
Looking back on it now, he marveled at the fact that they had been together at all. In almost everything, they were opposites. He was rash, she, methodical. He was a light sleeper, nearing the point of insomnia. A stampede of wild horses couldn’t disturb her slumber. All that he did was made up along the way. Elizabeth planned and thought out every possible outcome, mulled over her decision, then, made her move. She was all about communication. He was more of the ‘actions speak louder than words’ mentality.
That was what broke them he now understood. His lack of emotional engagement and communication drove her away. John was never one to bear his soul for all to see. Cameron on the other hand was easier to wear down in that department. So maybe it wasn’t an accident that his best friend had ended up with the woman he loved. It was his own fault and he was aware. He could break her heart by hurting himself and he hated doing it.
Rage was building in him again. It wasn’t enough that he tortured himself everyday with those thoughts. But with every passing second, he chewed on what his life would be like if she were ripped away from it by a force indomitable. He would be helpless, small. Taking the anger and channeling it into his task gained a few sideway glances from Halling. John hadn’t realised he was throwing things around until a hand on his shoulder steadied him.
John’s head snapped around.
He fought to contain his anger.
“What?” He asked a little curtly.
“Are you all right?” Halling was ever so calm. John envied that.
He lied. “I’m fine.”
Halling nodded a silent acknowledgement. Deciding to let John fight his demons alone he picked up a pile of wood and made a move to the trash pile. Silently, John followed the larger man picking up a bundle of tools. Using an old wine barrel in the stead of proper lodging for the gardening equipment would have to do for now. It didn’t help that there were more tools than barrel as they all came crashing down on his head.
“Son of a...” he hung on to the offending tool with one hand as the other clutched at his open wound. Now more than a little pissed off he slammed the delinquent to the ground.
~ * ~ * ~
Laura, Aiden and Peter were repairing sections of fence alongside the designated play area.
Jinto was the unofficial waterboy.
“What’s with Sheppard?” Aiden asked following his swig from the water Jinto had passed to him. “Looks like someone just killed his dog.”
“He’s brooding,” Laura chirped. “He always gets like that whenever something dramatic happens.”
“Well,” Peter contributed. “I’d rather have him sulking about than hovering. Do you remember last year?”
Peter traded his hammer for a bottle of water.
“Thank you Jinto.”
The young boy nodded his welcome.
“Last year?” Aiden’s curiosity always needed to be satisfied. “What did he do?”
Laura smirked at his wonder.
“Oh, come on,” Ford continued his request. “I was in still in OTS last year, remember?”
“You tell him,” Laura nodded to Peter. She took a few gulps of the water Jinto had brought.
“Sheppard stepped up his rounds about the school to an actual post after that convict Stevens escaped,” Peter was always good at informing. “We only required his presence for the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-ups. He stuck around anyway. He made the children feel safe and everyone was grateful for his vigilance, but all he really succeeded in was distracting Elizabeth. They fought about it everyday. She thought he was being paranoid. He thought she was unreasonable.”
Aiden chuckled. “Yeah, but can you say ‘over compensation’?”
“What does that mean?” Jinto piped in.
The adults were almost surprised at the child’s question or more so that he had stuck around to listen to their conversation.
“Sometimes,” Laura went to bat. “When you have a friend who really cares about something or someone, they tend to do things that are a little extreme when they don’t know how to handle certain situations. And sometimes the way people react is called over compensation.”
“Oh,” was all the young boy could think to say. The child looked confused. “Does that mean when something bad happens you get over compensation?”
“Well, it’s not really something that you get it’s more of an emotional thing.”
Then he soon pieced everything together. He continued with the train of thought his observations garnered. “If Sheppard and Miss Weir care about each other, why don’t they just say so?”
Awkwardness suddenly made itself noticeable. Why did children have the ability to be so discerning?
“It’s not always easy Jinto. They have a lot of,” Laura was groping for words. “...history. It’s not always so easy to express what you want to say or feel.”
“In time,” Peter contributed. “You’ll understand.”
The young boy nodded a semblance of comprehension. Jinto had no idea being a grown-up was hard. Not being able to say how you feel must be difficult. He decided he would try to stay a kid as long as possible.
“I better get water to everyone else.” He went in the direction of his father towards the garden.
“Jinto,” Carson acknowledged as he met the boy on the way. “Thank you for the water delivery. You’ve been most helpful.”
“You’re welcome Doctor Beckett.”
“How are you doing love?” Carson said as he approached the group and gave Laura a peck on the cheek.
“I’m good,” she beamed back. “How is everyone?”
“They’re fine. Just a few scrapes and bruises. The children are a little shook up but Kate and Elizabeth will be with them until their parents arrive.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Aiden as he picked up another post to hammer into the ground.
“How are you lot doing?”
“Hot,” Peter complained. “But, by the looks of things, we should be done in a few hours.”
“Remember to keep hydrated. We don’t need anymore people fainting.”
“Who fainted?” It was Laura’s turn to be curious.
The quartet attempted to stifle their laughs to no avail.
~ * ~ * ~
From the doorway of the schoolhouse, Elizabeth could see the damage John was inflicting on to an already broken garden shed. Helplessly she watched him become his own worst enemy. She looked to Kate, who was escorting the remainder of the children to their waiting parents.
“I got it,” Kate grinned over her shoulder.
“Thank you,” Elizabeth sighed. Well, she had better make her way over to him before he finished what the earthquake had started and destroyed the last of their supplies.
“Maybe we should start naming these forces of nature after people in this town,” she shouted out to him grabbing his attention.
“Ha-ha,” John replied.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“John you’re bleeding from the head. That’s the furthest definition of ‘fine’.”
He gave up and followed.
~ * ~ * ~
From farther away Carson started to move for the same destination.
“Wait,” Laura stopped him gently. “Maybe they need this.”
Carson understood the want everyone had for the two of them to work things out; life would be so much easier. Still, holding to his Primum Non Nocere training he contested.
“Love, it’ll only make things more complicated,” empathy written all over his face. “Not to mention, if it goes badly, our lives will be very miserable. I should go check, if not as a friend then at the very least as a doctor.”
Standing a short distance away Aiden and Ronon had begun horsing around. Before long, Aiden began to scream, “No, no, no, no wait!”
Shortly following his protest was a painful groan.
“Looks like you’ll have to reschedule that appointment,” she smugly grinned.
With a roll of his eyes, Carson changed his course towards the immediate situation. “What are you two doing? You are worse than twelve year olds. We’re supposed to be helping, not adding to the damage.”
~ * ~ * ~
“Sit,” Elizabeth commanded.
There was no place to sit. The room was in shambles.
“Where?” John asked.
“Here,” she gestured to her desk that she had turned right side up earlier. She began to search the storage closet behind her for something to stop the bleeding on his forehead. The closet was a mess too. It took her a while to find what she was looking for.
He got up to leave but silently retook his seat as she turned with her eyebrows raised.
Gently she began tending to his wound. He tried not to stare. She could have been hurt or worse but at least he knew she was safe and alive. He wanted to tell her how he felt but he didn’t know how.
“Thank you,” she broke his train of thought.
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Thank you for spending all that time with the children, preparing them for a disaster like today,” she smiled. “It went off without a hitch.”
He studied her face in the half-lit room.
“Stop,” she scolded as if reading his mind.
“Stop worrying, we’re fine. No one got hurt.”
He stopped her mending as he brought his hands to her wrists tenderly. Something deep in his throat wouldn’t surrender to speech. I can’t do without you, he wanted to say. I’m sorry, was his apology.
“You could’ve died,” came out instead. Damn, why couldn’t he say what he meant when it mattered?
“Not this time.”
“It’s my fault,” he began.
“You can’t control the movement of plate tectonics.”
“That’s not what I meant,” there was something breaking inside of him.
He hung his head.
She waited for him to finish.
“I couldn’t give you what you needed. I didn’t know how,” he brought his eyes up to meet hers.
“I know,” she told him.
“He does.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah,” she smiled slightly as regret tugged on the fringes of her heart.
“Good.” So that was it. If it wasn’t him making her happy then he was glad it was someone he trusted. He had nothing to give her so he couldn’t ask for anything more.
“But that’s not what I want.”
Before he had the chance to notice, she was invading his personal space. She hadn’t been this close in a long time. He never forgot what that felt like. There was some part of him that deemed this wrong. They didn’t have the right to be doing this. He didn’t have the right to claim her this way. She didn’t have the right to initiate any of this. After years of her stoic neutrality, her moving on while he lingered in what was, she set in motion all he’s ever wanted. That didn’t seem right. It confused him.
“What are we doing?” He pulled away breathlessly.
“I don’t know,” she confessed.
For the first time he was seeing that she was in the same pain he suffered.
“We can’t,” his forehead rested on hers and everything inside of him was screaming.
“If I should die,” she whispered. Her heart was pounding with that sharp dull throbbing.
“Don’t”, he tried to interrupt. She wasn’t supposed to think this way.
“Shh,” she silenced him with a kiss.
He tasted her tears. It made him listen.
“If I lived my life without letting you know I’ve never been more complete than when I am with or I found peace and calm in you then I might as well be dead…”
It hurt him to see her ache so openly. That was his job, to spare her all the hurt.
“Don’t,” he tried again.
He knew she was going to say it. Once the knowledge was out there, there was no taking it back. It was for keeps. He could see she was going to lay it out anyway.
“Because I never stopped loving you,” she was pulling the words straight out of his heart. “I never stopped being in love with you.”
His actions spoke for him once more as he kissed her senseless.
“Eliz…” Kate burst through the door causing them to break apart. “Sorry, uh, Cam just pulled up.”
“Thanks Kate,” she avoided eye contact.
“I’m just…” she left the doorway rather quickly.
“So,” John stood up. Their hands lingered.
He left without another word. Cam was his best friend. It didn’t matter Elizabeth was his first, not that you could ever own a woman like that. He couldn’t betray him. He’d just have to live in his own personal hell. Story of his life.
John squinted at the sunlight. Cameron met him halfway.
“You get into a fight Shep?”
“Something like that. Tool attack.”
John knew the moment Elizabeth came out of the schoolhouse by the look of relief on his friend’s face. It was like someone just saved his life.
“She’s okay,” John reassured Mitchell.
“Thanks man.” Cameron patted John on the shoulder and made his way over to Elizabeth.
Carson was the next to greet John.
“Let me take a look,” the doctor was in. Carson silently examined John’s open wound.
“Well, it’s only superficial. You’ll not need any stitching. Just keep it clean, change the dressing and put some Neosporin on it.” He paused. “You should be fine.” The Doctor made room for his friend persona.
“Yeah, but it still hurts.” John responded as he forced himself not to look back.
“Aye,” Carson agreed. “Well, you should know Ronon’s going to be out for a while.”
“What?” They made their way to the huddled masses.
“He and Aiden were horsing around earlier.”
“Great. That’s just great.”
Ronon was prone lying on the grass.
“Looks like you’re gonna be doing patrol solo for a while,” Laura said.
“Come on it doesn’t look that bad.” John stated to Ronon. “It’s just a gash, with, a, protruding bone. Okay so you’ll be out for a while.”
“It’s not my fault,” Ronon grumbled throwing a glare at Ford.
“I said I was sorry,” Aiden defended.
“Alright, alright. We’ll figure out assignments later,” John halted the argument. “What’s the assessment?”
A rundown was being given but he wasn’t paying attention. He’d press Teyla for details later. He was too busy distracting himself from not thinking about where he stood with Elizabeth. Or what she was feeling for that matter. But this was the story of his life, speechless and chained to regret.
John Sheppard never really stood a chance.