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10 February 2008 @ 02:16 pm
Happy When It Rains (SGA, John/Nancy)  
Title: Happy When It Rains
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing: John/Nancy
Rating: PG
Word count: 1406
Summary: John left this morning, Nancy knows, because his bags aren't in the closet where they usually are when he's home.
Notes: Many thanks to zulu for the encouragement and the audiencing. I would say that there aren't any Outcast spoilers beyond the fact that Nancy exists.

John left this morning, Nancy knows, because his bags aren't in the closet where they usually are when he's home. It must have been early, before she even woke up. She vaguely remembers him saying something -- over dinner, maybe -- but things had been a little crazy at the office so she probably hadn't really registered it. She's pretty sure he didn't say where he was going; he never does.

The rest of her morning is almost painfully dull, her usual cereal and the morning paper. She turns on the radio because it feels too quiet, even though she hates the morning radio DJs and it's not like John was ever particularly loud. It's raining outside, barely, the kind that can last for days. Her hair refuses to cooperate.

Once, Susan talked about how she and Todd couldn't stand to be apart, still starry-eyed and in love. "Are you and John like that?" she asked. This was just after the honeymoon, and Nancy knew that Susan was expecting to hear about their torrid, intense love affair, but the truth was that Nancy knew better. John would always leave her. All she could do was hope that he always came back.

Nancy's always prided herself in being a pragmatist. It's what makes her good at her job.

After breakfast, she slides her decent-but-not-great shoes on and tucks an umbrella under her shoulder. It's not raining that hard yet, but she thinks she might need it eventually.


John calls a few days later, from a base she can't know the name of.

"Hey," he says, his voice so familiar in her ear. Nancy thinks she can hear the rumbling of engines in the background, but she might just be imaging that.

"How are you doing?" she asks. She doesn't know why she does. It's not like he'll tell her anything.

"I'm-- I'm good," John replies. "How are you doing?"

Nancy can remember a time when they'd been easy, when she loved him and he loved her back and they liked each other's parents and even though she'd known he was military, it hadn't mattered, not in the scheme of things. He proposed to her on a park bench next to the duck pond during a warm Spring day, going down on one knee, looking tense and nervous, and she remembers saying yes without hesitation. She wishes for that now, that clarity of purpose, of understanding.

She decides to tell him about Jimmy and Bobby, their interns, and their copier mishaps, their juvenile pranks. He laughs in all the right places, says all the right things, and she knows he'll barely remember who Jimmy and Bobby are the next time she calls. She realizes halfway through that they're still easy, that she could keep doing this for years without trying too hard. She could let him leave, and she could stay, and it would get easier every time. Maybe, in the end, she'd stop caring.

"I have to go," she says eventually. "Bye."

"I'll talk to you later," John says.

Nancy hangs up first. She's always hated dial tones.


There's a re-election campaign and lobbyists and people who expect her to do their jobs for them, and all of it sucks so much that by the end of the week, her face hurts from all the fake smiling.

Her mother calls on Friday from Vermont and asks about grandkids in the least subtle way possible. Nancy wants to scream.

"But Nancy," her mother says, "I need someone to spoil. Heaven knows your brother isn't going to provide me with them."

"He could adopt," Nancy says. "He could even find a surrogate if he wanted to."

"It's not the same." Her mother sighs, wistful. "Have you even talked it about with John?"

Nancy hasn't. There's never enough time, between his job and hers, and there's something about it -- pregnancy, child-rearing, the works -- that terrifies her, that exhausts her even now. "No," she says.

Her mother tsks from the other end. "Don't you think he should have a say?"

That statement makes her irrationally angry at John, for not being there, for giving her mother a fake ally on this stupid issue, and she just doesn't want to deal with it any more. "No," she says before she hangs up. "I really don't."

Her house feels too big and too small after that, empty and claustrophobic. She wants to leave, wants to get out of here, but she's tired. She doesn't think she could talk to anyone without biting their head off. It's dark out, night, and it's rained recently, the ground slick under the streetlights. She wants a cigarette, even though she hasn't smoked since college.

She ends up watching some CNN, because she knows she should, knows it's important to know what the media's covering and how, but it just makes her angrier. She eventually decides she just needs some sleep, needs to get this shitty week behind her.

As she brushes her teeth, she lets herself imagine what it would be like to leave, to just pick up her things and go. It would be easy, she thinks.

John's never made it look like it's very hard.


She wakes up alone, and the sky outside her window is covered in silver-gray clouds. In the cold light of morning, it seems stupid. The anger evaporated over the night, leaving behind a strange ache, and without it, she feels hollow, unresolved. She can't just leave, can't just throw this all away.

Their wedding song was "Rocky Raccoon" because of that one stupid line that John always found so amusing, and she remembers the way they danced to it the first time, goofy and silly and over the top, his hand warm in hers. His father still calls her 'MacGill' when he sees her, an inside joke so old she's almost forgotten where it came from. He makes chicken noodle soup, the Campbell's kind, when she's sick, and feeds it to her when she's too lazy to do it herself. They spend Christmas with his parents, because she loves them even though he hates it, even though he and his father are only barely on speaking terms. Once, he wrote a song about her that he sings like Johnny Cash, voice pitched low and gravelly as he strums along on his guitar. She's never quite as happy when he's not around.

John calls early in the morning, forgetting the time difference, probably. "Hey," he says.

"Hello," she says back. "How are things going?"

"They're okay," he says, and even though John's a good liar, she knows it's nothing close to the truth. She absently wonders what happened, knowing full well that she'll probably never find out.

"I'm sorry," she says, glancing out the window. Their street is empty, quiet.

"I miss you," John says, voice slightly strained. It's the first time he's ever said that to her, she realizes, and with a strange, bitter clarity, she knows she can't keep doing this. Can't stay here, can't stay with him. There's no anger in it, just resignation.

"I miss you, too," she says back. She thinks she's going to miss him for a while yet.

After she hangs up, she starts packing her things. Jane can put her up for a few weeks while she looks for an apartment. She finds out that it is as easy as John always made it look. What she takes isn't all of it, because there's too much to carry, too much she has to leave behind. That makes it easier somehow. She takes only what she needs.

The note on the kitchen counter is the fifth draft she wrote, the simplest. I couldn't keep waiting, it says. I'm sorry. She doesn't expect him to understand, not yet. But maybe, one day, he will. Maybe she'll find the words to explain that she's sick of staying, sick of waiting for the other shoe to drop, sick of playing the war widow. To explain that she knows he'll never love her more than he loves the air, that she knows he'll always pick flying over her. To explain that she does love him, but that it isn't enough, not anymore, not for her.

The sky is still overcast as she steps outside, but it's lightening, more white than stormy gray. She thinks it might clear up soon.

wraithfodderwraithfodder on February 10th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
Wonderful story as to how Sheppard's marriage slowly dissolved, and I liked that it was from Nancy's point of view.
thedeadparrot: silent sighthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I really liked her in Outcast, and I wanted to know what her story was.
alle, alle auch sind frei: SGA//blindingthedaytheystop on February 10th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, especially the hints of their lives in a wider perspective--talking to Nancy's mother and going to John's parents' for Christmas. Your Nancy was wonderful and I loved the last line! :)
thedeadparrot: it's alrightthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I love coming up with those little details, and I love to think that their marriage had its ups and downs and that Nancy acknowledges it all.
Vera: buddhacopracat on February 10th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, how sad. You write that empty space as two people pull apart very well.
thedeadparrot: beauty breakdownthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you! That was pretty much what I was going for, so I'm glad it came across.
Pocusabracah on February 10th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
Nice job! Nancy did come across as the type who knew what was best for her and even though it was tough, she knew she had to do it to stay who she was. I liked how you said "She could let him leave, and she could stay, and it would get easier every time. Maybe, in the end, she'd stop caring." That seemed like an unacceptable change for her.

Now we need a reaction from John reading her note.
thedeadparrot: atlantisthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:13 pm (UTC)
Thanks! You pretty much hit on how I see her, as someone who realizes that it's better for her to go than it is for her to stay.
(Deleted comment)
thedeadparrot: crouching tigerthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really did want to write her as someone with very understandable reasons for doing what she does.

And that seems like an awesome comm! Thanks for pointing me to it.
Roga: sga: teylaroga on February 10th, 2008 10:56 pm (UTC)
ROCKY RACCOON! That's perfect. And I love this relationship you've built between them, this characterization of Nancy that I want to read more about. Your touch is magic.
thedeadparrot: shepthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
The Beatles, seriously. You know John's dorky enough to do it. And thanks! I really liked Nancy, from what we've seen. I hope we get more of her soon. Or ever, even.
sheafrotherdon on February 10th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is absolutely beautiful. What a gorgeous look inside Nancy's mind. ♥
thedeadparrot: going placesthedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
maxinemayer: JohnBlackandWhitemaxinemayer on February 11th, 2008 02:42 am (UTC)
Happy When It Rains - story
Excellent story from Nancy's viewpoint. Very realistic. Thanks for sharing.
Love, max
thedeadparrot: Let it bethedeadparrot on February 11th, 2008 04:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Happy When It Rains - story
Thanks! I was hoping that it felt real and honest.
(Deleted comment)
thedeadparrot: shepthedeadparrot on February 12th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yeah, I think John tried, you know? And in the end it still wasn't enough.