Don't own SGU; don't want to
A very happy Christmas to my Stargate Universe LJ friends; this is for you

Career Planning
By EllieV

Meredith Williams was good at her job. More importantly, she liked it. She liked being the 'careers lady'. She liked going to schools and talking to kids about their future. Sure, occasionally she met some difficult kids who had had completely unrealistic expectations, especially the ones in economically deprived areas.

Today, she was in Glasgow. Not a completely economically deprived area but it was pretty much the next suburb over. The headmaster, Mr Ferguson, met her at the door, described his school proudly and the type of children enrolled there, mostly from shipyard families. It was a typically poor Catholic denominational school, one she'd come across so many times. The school was neat, if rundown, and in general the students didn't do too badly. She'd looked it up before coming.

She had twenty-four 16 to 17-year-olds, a mix of boys and girls. Meredith usually had the class to herself but Ferguson introduced her, abjured the kids to behave themselves and settled back. He looked at his watch then down the room. There was one seat vacant. She got started and paused when the door opened. A slight-looking boy came in, a schoolbag slung over his shoulder and a notebook in his hand. He was scribbling in it. He was neat but his hair was shaggy and fell into his eyes. He paused after closing the door then looked up and around. Every other kid in the class stared him as he stared at them. His head turned to Meredith and he frowned at her over the top of his glasses.

"Mr Rush," Ferguson said. "Class started ten minutes ago." The boy lifted his left wrist and peered at his watch. He raised an eyebrow as if in challenge. Ferguson said, a certain amount of amused resignation in his voice, "Take a seat, Nicky. We're talking about what people want to do after they leave school. This is Ms Williams."

Meredith put on her friendly voice. "Hello, Nicky."

Nicky didn't respond, though he made a slight face. He fell into his seat and was poked in the back by the student behind him who said something she didn't catch. Nicky half-turned and said, "Piss off."

"Nicholas," Ferguson said warningly.

Meredith's smile slipped as Nicky scowled, opened his bag, and pulled out a book. He started reading. Ferguson didn't say anything; he folded his arms and leaned back against the desk. Meredith was just about to start again when there was a knock at the door. A woman stuck her in head and made a 'come here' motion at Ferguson. He went over to the door, listened, came back and said that he had to take care of something. He added softly, "Good luck" and left.

Good luck?

She started with the simple one: writing down what they wanted to do when they left school. Nicholas Rush didn't write anything down. He simply read his book. She put up with it for a while, picking students at random.

"Mary, what did you write down?" Meredith asked.

"I'd like to be a model, miss," said short, dumpy Mary who gave her a yes-I'm-winding-you-up grin.

Meredith played along. "And what do you have to do to become a model," she asked.

"Grow at least three feet, miss," Mary sneered.

Meredith laughed to let the class know she was on their side. She went through a couple of other kids hopes and aspirations. Some were sensible; most of them were fantasies. At one point, after the boy behind Nicky was firmly told that he'd perhaps need to apply himself to get into a trade, she said, "I like hearing your dreams but honestly, you also need to be realistic."

Nicholas Rush looked up at this.

"Nicky," she immediately said. "You didn't write anything down."

Everyone in front of him, turned to watch. Every single eye was focused on him. He held his book loosely in his hands.

"No," he agreed.

"Perhaps you could tell us what you want to do when you leave school then," Meredith said.

"Can I ask a question?" he said. She nodded and said, of course. "What do you mean by realistic?" He didn't give her an opportunity to respond. He went on, "I mean, I've sat here and listened to you drone on and on, pretty much telling everyone that because of where we live anything beyond what our parents did is out of reach."

"Well …" she began graciously.

He cut her off.

"It's just a wee bit patronizing, don't you think?" he said dismissively.

He opened his book again and lowered his head to read. None of the students said anything. At this point, she'd have expected a giggle at least but there was nothing. It was like they were waiting for her reaction.

"I think, Nicholas, that you can stop reading and participate in the class," Meredith said. "The book, please."

He looked up, the hair falling into his eyes. He seemed utterly amazed that she was holding out her hand. His eyes narrowed and he closed the book and handed it to her. She tucked it under her arm.

"Now," Meredith said. She'd come across smart-mouthed students before. "What do you want to do when you leave school please, Nicky."

The atmosphere in the room tensed as if they had been waiting for him to be asked the question.

"Weeeellll," he drawled. "Something indoors, I think."

"Indoors," she said. "Like a librarian, perhaps, if you like reading."

"Not really," he said.

"You're a clever shite, Nicky," said a kid down the front. "You should go to university."

"Well, that's an option," Meredith said, feeling a little bit more relaxed now they were back on her turf; she ignored the epithet. "Scotland has a number of very good universities."

"I'd rather go to Oxford," the uncooperative but clever "shite" said immediately.

"Well, that's a good example of what I mean by realistic, Nicky," said Meredith. "Oxford is very hard to get into and it's very expensive."

"Scholarship," Nicky said, upping the ante.

"Which are also very hard to get, particularly to somewhere like Oxford," Meredith said patiently. "You have to be very good to be accepted into an Oxford college in the first place"—Balliol would be fine, said Nicky mockingly; Meredith felt her teeth start to grind—"Yes, Balliol is excellent but it is far more likely that you'd be accepted into a Scottish university, isn't it, if your marks are good enough. You can't just decide you're going to Oxford, Nicky, and expect to get in. What's your end goal?"

"Nicky's good at science," the boy behind him offered. "You could be a mad scientist, Nick. I mean, you're already nuts, pal."

Nicky lifted a hand and stuck a middle finger up at the boy without looking at him. Everybody laughed. Nicky's face twitched and dimples appeared as he looked up at her through his hair.

"Okay," Meredith said, clapping her hands and ignoring that Nicky then got his notebook out and started scribbling in it. "Let's move on."

The class was a little easier after that, as though they had got past a hurdle. Ferguson arrived back with five minutes to spare and as the room emptied, he asked her how it went.

"Well, I think," she said. "Aside from a little run-in with the boy who was late."

"Nicky," Ferguson said unsurprised.

"Yes," she said with a grimace. "He seems to think he's a law unto himself, that boy."

Ferguson gave a genuinely amused smile. "Oh yes," he said. "We do our best but he's remained an unsociable little beast."

"I'm sure that will hold him in good stead at Oxford," Meredith said bitingly.

"He'll do very well at Oxford," Ferguson said.

"What?" Meredith said startled. "Oh please, tell me you haven't fed that little joke."

Ferguson's smile faded. "What happened exactly?" he asked.

She told him. "I admit he seems quite a clever boy, Mr Ferguson," Meredith said. "But I do try to inject a note of realism into these career days."

"What's the book?" Ferguson asked. He pointed to the book she'd taken from Nicky and put on the table. "Is that what he was reading?"

She glanced at it. "Yes," she said. "I confiscated it after he was extremely rude; mind you, he then just spent the rest of the class scribbling in his notebook."

She admitted to herself that Nicholas Rush had got under her skin.

"Take a look at it," Ferguson said gently.

Meredith picked up the book but turned to the classroom door as it opened. It was Nicholas Rush.

"Hello, Nicky," Ferguson said genially. "How are you getting along with Descartes?"

Meredith looked at the book in her hand. Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy. She opened it. It was in Latin.

Nicky shrugged. "It's all right," he said indifferently. "I liked Leviathan better—given the historical context of the English Civil War, that is."

"Your mum said your visit went well," Ferguson said.

"Aye, I suppose," the boy said. His dark eyes looked tragic and he sounded suddenly uncertain.

"Come and see me after school," Ferguson suggested. "You can tell me about it."

Nicky nodded and said to Meredith. "Can I have the book, please?" he asked politely, his manners now exquisite, as if his earlier acerbity was an aberration. "It's due back at the library tomorrow."

She handed it over and he backed away.

"Come and see me after school, Nicky," Ferguson repeated. "I think you've got football now."

Meredith turned to Ferguson after the boy left, a query on her face.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Ms Williams," Ferguson said, a glimmer of a smile on his face. "Our young Nicholas Rush has a full scholarship to Oxford. He'll be reading Physics and Philosophy. Balliol. You weren't to know, of course. He's just spent a couple of days there."

"Balliol," she said gobsmacked. She'd been had, the little shit. "Why is he even going to class then? I mean, a careers class?"

"If you added together the IQs of everyone in this school including the teachers, you'd still not be half of how clever that boy is," Ferguson said. "Nicky knows that and he knows it sets him apart from every other kid here, so we try to make things as normal as possible for him. In reality, we haven't taught him anything for years. Our job is to make sure he's not isolated. We make him come to class and participate. He plays football and he's a damned fine referee, too. He's cooperative because he knows his parents worry about him and he knows that science has to be collaborative, despite his preference to work alone. And in spite of his IQ, above all else he's just a young kid who's about to leave home to go to a place where just his accent is going to mark him as different and he knows that, too." He smiled. "Come on, you look like you can use a tea."

Yes, she bloody well could, she wanted to snap but she excused herself and said that she had an appointment elsewhere in the city. She didn't, she just wanted to get out of there. She understood why Ferguson had intended to remain in the class but she really didn't like being made a fool of. She walked towards her car but stopped as she saw Nicholas Rush ahead of her. He was talking to the boy who had been sitting behind him.

"So, what did you make," Nicky asked, his arms folded.

"What d'you mean?" the other boy said.

Nicky's acerbic tone was back in full force. His accent was strong and thick.

"Don't give me that little old innocent bullshit, Tommy," he said. "You were taking bets."

"Was not," Tommy denied. Then, "Ow, shit, Nicky!" as he got a smack across his head.

"You were taking bets on my little performance in class," Nicky said. "What did you make?"

Tommy suddenly grinned. "Twenty quid," he said.

He pulled money out of his pocket and waved it at Nicky. Meredith was outraged. Nicky plucked a couple of pounds out of Tommy's hand.

"Oi," Tommy said objecting. He made a grab for Nicky who adroitly moved out of his way.

"No, no, doesn't work like that, Tommy," Nicky said soothingly, pointing a finger at Tommy. "You took bets on whether your clever pal was going to show up the careers lady. Well, I acted as expected; Academy Award winner, me. I think 20 per cent of the profits is only fair, son. Oxford, as Ms Williams pointed out, is expensive."

Meredith debated whether or not to go get Ferguson, though given his reaction to Nicholas Rush he'd probably just grin self-indulgently and pat the little bastard on the head.

"You're a shithead, Nicky," Tommy offered.

"Aye, but I'm a clever shithead," Nicky said, with complete tranquility. "And you're still well up anyway."

"How'd you know I'd run a book?" Tommy demanded.

Nicky patted his arm. He looked past Tommy to where Meredith stood watching. He took another couple of notes out of the protesting Tommy's hand and walked over to Meredith. He handed her four pounds.

"Even seemingly random events are predictable," he said. "Your share of the profits."

She said, annoyed, "You knew that would happen; that it was a set up."

"Oh aye," he said. "I meant what I said, though."

"Most people don't have stellar careers, Nicky," said Meredith. "Most people don't have IQs like yours; you're always going to be the cleverest person in the room."

"Maybe, maybe not," he said.

She looked at him and said suddenly, "What are you going to do if you meet someone who won't instantly hand you everything you want?"

"I don't know," he said, his voice mild. "Let's hope that doesn't happen."

He smiled at her.

Meredith shivered.

FINIS


Note: Someone had to make an attempt at Rush socialisation. :D