Summary: My version of "John finds out why he got promoted in 'Intruder.'"
Bingo 2012: Protection
Author's Note: Yesterday's "Table Stakes", "The Final Frontier" from years ago, and this were things one thru three of a "Five Times Elizabeth Saved John" fic I never finished. If anyone wants to take these and write the last two to make a complete set, I'd love it! :)
John bursts into her office after dark and Elizabeth nearly jumps out of her skin – first, because she thought he was with most of the off-duty Atlantis and Daedalus crew celebrating the Athosian harvest on the mainland, and second, because he looks pissed. She’s seen him have an awful lot of emotions, but she’s never been on the receiving end of this one before.
“We need to talk,” he says.
Not pissed, she realizes. Betrayed, disguised as pissed. She’s never been the target of that, either.
“I had a drink with Colonel Caldwell tonight,” he starts.
John and Stephen have a tenuous working relationship at best; the two of them drinking together is high on her list of undesirable situations. It’s a ridiculous thought, because they’re all professionals who manage to coexist, but for a brief flash she pictures John actually killing him.
Other than murder, though, she can’t think of anything in particular that might have happened that would put him in this mood, and her stomach tenses at the possibility that Stephen shared some knowledge about upcoming Earth-side Atlantis policies that she hasn’t heard yet.
He does, then works his jaw for a moment before saying, “He told me how I got promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”
It’s been almost a year of Wraith and long-shot survival and alien possessions since then; she honestly never expected it to come up again. “What did he say?”
“He said you made them promote me.”
She waits for more, but that’s all gives her.
“Yes, I did.” She didn’t tell John at the time that the promotion was her idea, figuring it would mean more to him if he thought it originated with the Air Force brass. Maybe she should have; it would have been better coming from her because John takes everything Stephen says as an attack. All that aside, she considers scoring John’s promotion a shining moment from that otherwise heartbreaking trip to Earth, and she never expected he would be angry about it.
She adds, “You more than deserved it.”
He glares at her. “Not according to Caldwell, or General Landry.”
She’s going to have a talk with Caldwell later. “That’s ridiculous, John, and it isn’t about you. General Landry wanted a known quantity in command here, and Colonel Caldwell was his first choice. I didn’t know he was still bitter about it.”
“So Caldwell was right. It had nothing to do with me. I only got this rank because you forced a deal with the SGC.”
Now she’s getting annoyed. “I’m your boss, John.” It’s been a long time since she’s thought of their relationship in such Earthbound, cut-and-dry terms. “Of course I fought for your promotion. General Landry didn’t know you, and I did. You didn’t deserve to lose your position because of someone’s interpretation of your service record.”
His expression looks like he’s eating something bitter. “Caldwell made it sound like they were about to send me back to Antarctica.”
She remembers how furious she was. She’s since mended fences with Landry and Caldwell – the general has actually told her that was the moment he knew he’d like working with her – but at the time, she would’ve taken them down with everything she had. “I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
John sinks down in his chair, deflated. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
She sighs, and thinks, to avoid this conversation. “Because then you would’ve thought you didn’t earn it, when you did.” He walked taller afterwards, like by bestowing him a new title, the Air Force was forgiving all his past mistakes. She teased him at the time for his newfound smugness, but she liked that confidence on him. She still does.
He frowns. “So now what am I supposed to do?”
“Thank me?” She scrubs her hands over her face. It’s too late at night for this, she decides. If he’d confronted her over breakfast, she’d probably work harder to soothe his ego.
He’s quiet for a long time. He picks up a small wooden figure off her desk and turns it over in his hands. “Do you ever think...”
He winces. “That they were right?”
Her heart sinks. She isn’t sure if his uncertainty is because of something specific that Stephen said over Athosian ale, or if he always carries this self-doubt around with him. They’ve lost a lot in the last year and she’s disagreed with his decisions more than once, but her answer is immediate and honest:
John nods, puts the figure down, and gets up to leave. He’s almost to the door before he turns and gives her a wry smile. “Thank you, by the way.”
She smiles back. She’ll seek him out for lunch tomorrow, to make sure he isn’t still stewing over this. “Good night, John.”