Secondary Author (2ndary_author) wrote,
Secondary Author

and call me in the morning

Title: Sixty-Eight Whiskey
Author: 2ndary_author
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Characters: Sheppard, OC
Rating: PG-15
Words: 1, 423
Notes: for the First Aid challenge at sga_flashfic, originally here. Epigraph by Orison Marden. (yes, I resisted the urge to cheat and repost this)

Summary: SGC's personnel review and new-hire interview/orientation

There is no medicine like hope...and no tonic so powerful as the expectation of something better tomorrow


Second Lieutenant Hawley’s maternal grandfather was a surgeon; his paternal grandfather pulled teeth in the back of a general store during the Great Depression.  Further back, he comes from a long line of midwives and snake-oil salesman.  More recently, there’s his Dad, who was a combat medic with the 173d Airborne Brigade in Vietnam.  There’s even a family story about a great-great-great aunt mixing up a poultice for George Cook as the Union general chased Jubal through the Valley in 1864.  (Hawley has never looked too closely into that story, lest it turn out not to be true).  All of these things flick through his head when Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard asks him why he became a doctor.  

“Heard base hospitals were a good place to meet cute nurses, sir.”  

As an answer, it’s a gamble.  In the three weeks since he’s known of the Stargate program’s existence, Hawley’s asked around the Mountain, been told that Sheppard does not stand on ceremony, that Atlantis is a bit of a frontier-town.  Of course, if his intel is bad, if that’s not the case…well, Hawley figures he’d best learn sooner than later.

Sheppard doesn’t even crack a smile.  He barely even glances up from the resume in front of him. “You should know, Lieutenant, that thirty-four percent of our nursing staff on Atlantis is male—” he holds up a hand when he sees Hawley gearing up for another smart remark.  “That’s not an invitation to tell, soldier, ‘cause I am not asking…thirty-four percent is male, and one hundred percent could kick your ass. Is that likely to be a problem?”

“Yes, sir.  That’s a problem, sir.”  Hawley doesn’t budge from attention; Sheppard raises an eyebrow.  “Means I should be spending more time in the gym, sir.”

That gets a weary smile.  “Shouldn’t we all, Lieutenant? Now,” Sheppard’s gaze returns to the paper in front of him. He looks older than Hawley had expected.  Maybe he's just tired. Interplanetary jet-lag must be a bitch.  (And good Christ, interplanetary — Hawley feels a thrill crawl up his spine). “My understanding is that you’ve been offered your choice of duty stations coming out of the North Arabian Gulf.”

There’s an unspoken question there—it’s a sweet deal, more generous than the American military is wont to be.  Sheppard knows it, and Hawley’s glad: he won’t ever again serve under someone too naïve to realize how the game is played.  At the same time, he’s made a promise.  His reports will be seen only by the people who need to see them, the Army will do some restructuring, and he’ll get stationed somewhere far, far away from the brass in the Middle East.  Kind of like how his mom used to separate him and his brother when they got to picking on each other. It’s a fair decision—the changes that need to be made will get made; nobody else needs to know, the point was never to smear anybody—so Hawley ignores the silent curiosity.  He intends to keep his end of the bargain.  Sheppard should know that, too. 

“Why military?”


“You’ve got an excellent degree from a top medical school. What made you decide to join up instead of going into the private sector?”  

“Couldn’t afford the malpractice insurance,”  Hawley quips, and he knows in an instant that he’s gone too far.  Now he has Sheppard’s full attention.

“And do you make a lot of medical mistakes, Lieutenant?”  Sheppard’s expression hasn’t changed at all, but his tone says clearly that Hawley should think very carefully about how he answers this one.  

“Rarely, sir.  And never the same one twice.”  It could be a joke, but it isn’t.  Rumor has it that Sheppard considers these SGC hiring junkets as exercises in Earth-bound bureaucracy, but his teams’ medical care is serious territory.  Deadly serious, and Hawley gets that.  He can’t guarantee that he’ll never slip up, never make the wrong call under fire—he’s pretty sure Sheppard wouldn’t take on someone who could make those glib guarantees.  But he can promise his errors will be as rare as humanly possible, that they’ll never be taken lightly, that he’ll learn from each and every one of them.  

Sheppard holds Hawley’s gaze long enough that the doctor swears he can feel his retinas burning and then dismisses the answer with a lazy nod. “Last question, Lieutenant Hawley, and thank you for your time. What makes you want to join the contingent on Atlantis?”

Not how did you even know Atlantis exists?—too late for that question, and Sheppard hardly seems the type to cry over spilt milk.  But why not cash in your pension and go work a three-day week in a family practice somewhere?  Why not choose a cushy spot out at some midwestern training facility, handing out band-aids and giving little lectures on STDs, never hear another gunshot except when the new recruits head out to the firing range? Hawley won’t say he wasn’t tempted.  He could’ve done it, lain low for a few years, convinced the Powers That Be that he really was going to keep his mouth shut, lived long and peaceful.  But it wouldn’t have done any good: he’s pretty sure he’s not done with the US armed forces, and he’s damned sure they're not done with him. 

Hawley’s father, the war hero, had left him just after his eighth birthday. Dad had ended up in a hunting cabin on the Montana High-line, where he could sleep whole nights without dead men stumbling through his dreams, screaming for a medic.  Hawley had gone up there a few summers in his teens, mostly ‘cause Brian wanted to go and Mom didn’t trust Dad alone.  He’d spent his days reading paperback spy novels on the front porch, ignoring his father, patching Bri up when he fell out of trees or walked into wasps’ nests.  Dad had watched silently one day as Hawley bandaged his brother after the kid tripped into an old barbed wire fence.  

“He’ll need a tetanus shot,” Hawley had said flatly, not looking away from Brian, frustrated by the stupid plastic on the back of the band-aid, aggravated by his brother’s clumsiness, annoyed at even being in this dumb, backwards state.  

“I’ll go start the truck,” was all Dad said, but he’d slid a metal box across the table on his way out the door, and Hawley hadn’t been surprised at all to see the red cross emblazoned across the medical field kit.  Dad kept it fully stocked.  None of those dollar-a-pack bandaids, anyway.

That night, after Brian had finally been coaxed to sleep (“yeah, I know it itches—don’t pick at it.  Jesus, Bri, it’s your own fault, you gotta look where you’re going.  Now, do you want me to read the Gandalf section or what? And no, I'm not doing the voices, so don't even ask”), Hawley’s dad had called him out into the back yard.  Not so much a yard as a prairie, the start of grasslands that stretched to Canada.  There was a telescope, one of those dinky mail-order ones, trained on the dozens of stars salting the Montana sky at night.  

“They say it’s international territory, all that up there.” Dad had gestured to the stars. “They’ve got all kinds of treaties and pacts so nations won’t ever fight over it.”

 “Well, we came in peace for all mankind,” Hawley had said, and he’d meant for it to be sarcastic.  He was a teenager, he didn’t believe in those kind of fairy tales any more; his heroes were all nihilists and rebels.  Somehow it didn’t come out that way.  (He's tried it a few times since, talking to his reflection in the privacy of the mirror.  The result is always the same: he is chronically incapable of making those words sound snide or cheap or insincere).

They hadn’t said much more after that.  They'd simply sat out on the back porch rail, Dad peering through the telescope and Hawley watching the moon rise. 

“Well, I…I like that we’re sending as many doctors and social workers and scientists as we are soldiers and…I, that is, uh, I figured I could be some use...” Hawley stutters finally, not sure how to explain all of his past—any of his past—to Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, USAF, Military Commander, Atlantis Expedition. “I can help with that. The rest of it—well, it’s kind of complicated. You know, long story.”  He bites his tongue.  Stupid.  What a stupid fucking thing to say!  Nobody goes through the Gate without the backing of the American military, and the military likes men who follow orders, men whose only question is how high?, not men who want to haul along their personal baggage in their army-issue footlockers.  Hawley has an Armed Services first aid field kit in his footlocker, a glorified tin box, manufacture date circa 1969, and goddamnit. He should know better by now. Baggage slows the empire-building.

Sheppard scrapes a hand through his hair, shuffles the resume back into a file. “Well, Lieutenant.  It’s a long trip, even through hyperspace.  I look forward to hearing all about it sometime.”

Tags: fic, sga
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