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Honor Guard (SGA_Saturday Week 18)

Title: Honor Guard
Author: goddess47
Rating: PG
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Pairing: Gen; McKay/Sheppard if you squint
Length: 750 words
Summary: For the  sga_saturday Challenge #18: Stand

"Sheppard reporting for duty," John saluted Sargent Stefanski. There was no rank here, only fellow soldiers.

Stefanski saluted smartly. "Thank you, sir."

"Thank you," John said softly. "Relieving you of your post."

"I am relieved." Stefanski turned and gently touched the box he had been guarding and if he whispered anything, John tried hard not to listen. He limped down the darkened corridor.

John fell into parade with his back to the box, guarding against any further harm.

Captain Jennifer Gromada was scheduled to return to Earth today and it had become tradition among the military on Atlantis to watch over their returning fallen soldiers. There was a 24 hour honor guard that took turns watching over their comrades.

There was no official assignment, soldiers showed up when they were able or felt that they needed to. John never said anything but he had always taken the middle of the night shift, when Atlantis was dark and quiet and few were about. It was the least John felt he could do, allowing team mates and friends to get some rest before the assembly for the final trip back to Earth.

Standing honor guard let John pay his respects to soldiers, some of whom he knew better than others. Regular contact with Earth expanded the military contingent and he didn't get to know some of the new recruits as well as he would like.

Gromada had been a natural ATA gene carrier and a pilot, so he had gotten to know her flying missions together. She had been cheerful and friendly, good looking in a girl-next-door sort of way. She had giggled for a full minute the first time she sat in the pilot seat to take a Jumper out and sobered when she saw John watching.

"Sorry, sir," she said, eyes dancing.

"No, I understand," John replied easily. "It is amazing."

She grinned back. "I'm flying a spaceship with my mind!" she blurted.

"It never gets old," John assured her with his own grin.

She had died on what should have been a simple rescue mission. Lorne's team had been investigating the plant life on PXD-479 and had been stranded by flash flooding and rockfall. They had been close enough to the gate to get a message through and John had no worry sending Gromada's team.

Rodney and Radek had muttered about "fucking stupid Ancients" as they later figured it was something about the flying craft that triggered the automatic weapon that the team on foot had not. A laser beam had shot out from a close-by hillside, slicing through the unshielded Jumper. Jennifer had died with the single strike as the laser cut through the front window. Her team was badly injured when the Jumper dropped out of the sky like a stone – two were still in the infirmary and one was bad enough to be going back to Earth for additional surgery. Stefanski had escaped with a broken shoulder and ankle to go with multiple contusions.

In the dark of the night, John paid honor to the fallen, working hard to not take each death personally… he was in command and responsible and some things were out of his control. But it was hard. Standing guard was his own apology to those he failed to protect.

O'Neill had made him come fishing with him one time on Earth. They hadn't talked about it directly but O'Neill had told him stories over beer and steaks – they never did catch any fish – about some of SG1's missions that hadn't gone well or about leading the SGC and knowing how it was to send teams on missions that might get one or all of them killed.

It wasn't any one thing in particular but knowing that someone like Jack O'Neill didn't have any good answers was at least faint comfort to John.

So John remembered Gromada flying Jumpers, running PT with her team, playing poker late at night, performing 'light switch' duty in the labs, arguing cheerfully with Ronon over the last serving of tormack in the mess.

Rodney ghosted in and John knew that the next shift was about to appear. Rodney always came to stand with him for at least a few minutes, the same way John came to stand with Rodney when it was one of his scientists.

Lorne and Parrish came together.

"Lorne reporting for duty." He saluted. Parrish waited near the door.

"Thank you," John returned the salute.

"I am relieving you of your post," Lorne said formally.

"I am relieved." John turned and saluted the coffin.

Rodney fell in at John's side as they walked away.


( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 29th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
That was lovely...what a fitting tradition for the members of the expedition to do. Very nice.

Edited at 2011-09-29 10:42 pm (UTC)
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you... We didn't see enough of traditions and I know the military has a ton of them.

But then John would make his own for his own people.
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
very nice. feels real.
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:23 pm (UTC)
Awww.... thank you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
Oh, I really like this.

Standing guard was his own apology to those he failed to protect.
This sounds very much like John. Well done!
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah... John Sheppard takes each death personally!

Thank you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
this was wonderful, and sad. I do love the tradition. and you drew such a terrific portrait of Gromada with such few words, it made me feel their loss as well.
Sep. 30th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
It was something that was bouncing around in my head and it was sad writing it... and of course, I'm writing in an airport, sniffling at my computer.... I should know better....

Thank you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
Oh, how sad and touching. John cares very deeply for everyone on the expedition, not just his team. Captain Gromada sounds like she would've been a fun character to see in action. :-(
Sep. 30th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
John takes it all to heart... which is one of his greatest strengths and one of his greatest weaknesses....

Yes, she would have been fun!

Thank you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
You effectively made me care for Gromada by making her a very real person that others cared about. You also pointed out how simple and unadorned death can be while in service and how those who lead bear the burden of that. Simply, beautifully, well done.
Sep. 30th, 2011 02:04 pm (UTC)
The real backstory is that "Jennifer Gromada" is a name on a tombstone in the same mausoleum where my mother is buried. It gives her name, dates (1973 - 2000) and says "USAF".... In the end, her death was while she was in the service, senior Airman, but related to 'advanced respiratory illness".... but I didn't look until after I had written this. I like to see her as a good person who would have loved Atlantis...

Thank you.. ::smishes you::
Sep. 30th, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)

This is so very powerful - the grief, the joy, the guilt...

Thank you!
Sep. 30th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
Awww... thank you (and for the pingback!)
Sep. 30th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
What a beautifully, sad but and touching story hon. I love that Sheppard takes his turn to stand with the fallen soldiers withour any pomp and circunstance....just one of the soldiers mourning their fallen comrades.
Your picture of Jennifer Gromoda made me like her a lot.
Sheppard feeling the loss of his people is always part of his character that appeals to me as it makes him so caring. I'm sorry for him that he has to carry this guilt on the other hand. His time with O'Neill, 'fishing', w
Sep. 30th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you for all of this....

Yes, John takes it all personally and even Jack O'Neill, who is the same way, doesn't deal with it well, either...

Glad you like Jennifer... she was fun to work with...

Sep. 30th, 2011 02:51 pm (UTC)
(carrying on where I fired off too quickly!!).....was really good!
Thanks for a really nice,special little story. Short but extremely sweet.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 30th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Awwww.... thank you.... yes, Atlantis would have it's own rituals... life is too precious there to not honor it.

Oct. 1st, 2011 01:39 am (UTC)
This is a beautiful bit of writing. I love John's voice in this, very true sounding. With the arrival of Rodney for the last few moments, I wanted to hug you for this; made even more heart rendering with the arrival of Lorne and Parrish. Good, good work. Thank you.
Oct. 1st, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
::hugs you back::

Yes, Lorne would not be happy with Sheppard if he didn't get to pay his own honor to someone who had essentially died coming for him and his team.

Thank you!
Oct. 1st, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
Totally could see John doing something like this! Great fic my dear
Oct. 1st, 2011 03:30 pm (UTC)
Awwww..... thank you!
Oct. 1st, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Lovely. I actually got a little teary. Nicely evocative of responsibility, respect, and the comaraderie between soldiers.
Oct. 1st, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
We didn't get to see enough of that but for all John wasn't 'by the book' he believed in the military as family and would fight to respect that bond.

Many thanks!
Oct. 1st, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
felt like I was watching a scene as part of an episode - very nicely written.
Oct. 2nd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
High praise, indeed! Thank you!
Oct. 1st, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
This is really a touching custom.
Oct. 2nd, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
Awww... thank you!
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( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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