Title: A Good Man
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story was created for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s), not me. Thank you to the amazing writers, producers, actors, crew and directors who bring these shows to life.
Characters: Sheppard & McKay (wee tiny bit of Teyla and Woolsey), plus Elson and Renni.
Status: Complete in one part
Description: A Tag to Episode 5x12 – Outsiders.
Sheppard stood to one side, watching as Elson and Renni looked around at the planet, like a couple checking out their first new home—except this was a really, really big home. Renni had her arms crossed, her eyes squinted slightly. She walked forward, the two marines guarding her keeping pace without crowding her. She looked to her left, towards the snow-capped mountains in the distance.
“Mineral rich, did you say?” she asked.
“From our scans,” John replied, “yes.”
She nodded, still looking up at the mountains. “How far are they from here?”
“About twenty miles to the larger foothills. Then another twenty or so before you reach the first set of caves.”
She stood for a moment, her arms still crossed. Finally, she sighed.
“That is far from the Stargate. Where we were before, the Stargate was very close to the mountains, already in the hills.”
John frowned slightly. “I know, but of the uninhabited planets we’ve explored, this is as close as we can get to what you had before.” He shrugged. “Maybe you could purchase some drams, or invent a mode of transport that would make the distance shorter.”
“We’ve never had livestock before,” she said, looking away from the mountains to what looked like an ocean in the distance. “At least, not large ones.”
“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it,” John said, the words letting the memory of his family’s ranch to sneak through to his present thoughts. He crushed it quickly.
Renni didn’t reply to his comment. She just walked further away from the Stargate. After a time, her head dropped, her gaze switching to the green grass under her feet. Stopping, she crouched down to press a hand to the soil.
“And the ground?” she asked.
“Nutrient rich down here. Better in the valley down there.” He pointed vaguely to the right. “Less so up in the hills.”
She picked a small wildflower, lifting it up to look at it. From this distance, all John could tell was that it was a purple color, like a violet. She just stared at it, before tossing it away and standing again, brushing her hands off on her dark brown skirt.
“No one lives here?”
“Why not?” She turned to look at him, her eyebrows lifting. “It seems idyllic.” In other words, what’s wrong with it?
Sheppard’s jaw tensed, then released. The answer was easy, but horrible. The people who had been here had been wiped out by the Replicators. No visible sign of them remained above the ground, not even the skeletons of houses. It was if they had been wiped from the planet. Still, once Elson’s people started digging, they’d eventually find some evidence of the previous habitants.
“They were culled,” he said finally, finding that lie easier than telling the truth. Renni still looked at him, her gaze unwavering. If she guessed he was lying, she didn’t say it out loud. Instead, her gaze switched to Elson.
Her village leader had said nothing upon arriving here, his expression distant.
“Elson?” Renni called. “What do you think?”
Elson didn’t answer, so John nudged him, resulting in some rapid eye-blinking from the older man. Glancing up at John, he then looked forward, clearly realizing he’d been called based on the frown Renni was giving him.
“I’m sorry. What?” he asked her.
“This planet,” Renni said, frowning a little less, a measure of concern in her gaze now. “What do you think?”
“Oh, um…” He looked around, blinking quickly. “The, uh…” He focused on the mountains. “The mountains are quite far from here,” he said, sounding a little helpless.
“Yes,” Renni agreed, frowning again more deeply. “We’ve already discussed that. Colonel Sheppard says this is the best he can come up with.”
Elson flinched slightly at the words, and John looked away, forcing himself to school his own expression. He knew why the man had flinched: those were the same words he’d used when describing his plan to kill the Wraith in the mine back on their home planet.
“I see,” Elson said finally. “Then I suppose we don’t have a choice.”
John closed his eyes, sighed, and opened them again.
“Fine,” Renni said, walking back towards them. “Then it’s settled. Do you want to inform our people tonight?”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Elson said, his voice listless. Renni reached them, her gaze skimming across John to Teyla, who was standing by the DHD. She nodded at the Athosian, and Teyla nodded back, turning around to dial Atlantis.
John finally looked at Elson again; the village leader had taken to staring at his feet now. He didn’t look ready to leave yet.
The Stargate whooshed into life, and Teyla informed Atlantis that they were returning. Renni and a couple other council-members who had come on the survey walked through the Stargate, followed by the rest of the marines. Teyla stopped at the event horizon, holding it open with her presence as she turned back to wait for John and Elson. The village leader still hadn’t moved, and, for that reason, neither had the colonel.
John really hoped Elson wasn’t about to start talking.
But he had a bad feeling that he was.
“I’m going to resign tonight,” Elson said quietly.
Damn. John hated being right.
“Oh?” he said, trying not to encourage him.
“Because of what happened. With Jervis.”
“Oh,” John responded.
Since John didn’t ask anything else, or perhaps because he didn’t ask anything else, Elson looked up at him. He seemed to study John’s face for a moment, before letting his own soften in anguish.
“Do you think I should resign?”
John felt his heart grow cold. He shrugged. “It’s up to you,” he said. “You have to do what you think is right.”
“But how do I know?”
John pinched his gaze, which was focused on a spot just past the Stargate, where a bird was playing in a wind current. He had no answer for that. He really didn’t. Because there were times, hell, most of the time, he didn’t know himself.
“You do what you have to do,” he said finally. It wasn’t an answer, and Elson knew it. The village leader studied him a moment longer, before frowning in frustration.
“How….” He seemed to struggled a moment, before trying again. “How can you be so cold, Colonel, after what we did?” he asked, his voice fairly creaking with emotion.
John tilted his head slightly, before shaking it slightly. “I try not to talk about it,” he replied honestly.
“You mean you bury it,” Elson said.
“I mean,” John stressed, staring hard at Elson now, “that I don’t talk about it.”
Elson frowned again, puzzling this out. After a moment, he looked saddened. “Oh,” he said finally.
“Colonel?” Teyla called.
John nodded. He’d heard Chuck’s question over the radio about what was taking them so long.
“We need to go,” he said to Elson. “They’re waiting for us.”
Elson just nodded, already walking away from John, his shoulders slumped and his head down. John watched him for a moment before following.
At the event horizon, he met Teyla’s worried gaze briefly before walking through.
On the other side, Renni took Elson’s hand and the two walked away. Woolsey watched them go with a smile, having apparently already been informed that they had found a suitable planet. His smile became a grin as he looked up at John.
“So, found our lost lambs a new home, then,” he said cheerfully.
John forced a smile. “Looks like.”
“Good,” Woolsey nodded. “That’ll make maintenance happy. Cleaning up after 670 new people without warning has taken its toll. I’ve already received several complaints about cold showers and backed up toilets.” He shook his head, turning away from John and Teyla to head to the stairs. “I’m glad I never became a landlord, like my father. How he managed all those people, I’ll never know. You should have heard some of the horror stories I heard as a child, mostly involving college boys….” He shook his head again, still talking as he walked up the stairs, though John (and everyone else), had already stopped listening.
John’s smile faded.
Teyla touched his arm. “Do you want to talk?” she asked quietly.
“No,” he replied quickly.
She sighed, a long-suffering one. After all, he said “no” to her after almost every mission like this one—she was used to it. Didn’t mean she didn’t keep trying.
“In that case,” she said, “I think I will go find Kanaan. He is supposed to be teaching some Athosian fighting skills to some of Rodney’s scientists, and I fear he’ll be reaching that point of frustration by now where he’ll use our son as an excuse to leave.” She smiled weakly. “Plus, I’m sure Miko will be tired of baby-sitting.”
“Fat chance,” John muttered. Miko loved baby-sitting. Rodney thought it slightly creepy how attached the scientist had become. But you couldn’t deny that she was also a very good baby-sitter.
Teyla smiled again, patted his arm and headed to the armory. Releasing a soft sigh, John followed her out.
He had intended to head to his quarters. He was tired, he was morose, and he was feeling every minute of his forty-one years in his bones. So, it was strange to find himself walking into Rodney’s lab.
The devil himself was sitting hunched next his lab bench, his chin resting against on one hand while the other pecked away at a keyboard. He was scowling.
John plopped down on the bench next to him.
Rodney glanced at him, and then returned his attention to his screen. If anything, the scowl deepened.
“What’s the matter?” John asked.
Rodney glanced at him again, before rolling his eyes and sitting up a little.
“Nothing,” he muttered.
John nodded. “Carson still won’t have lunch with you, eh?”
Rodney snorted. “Three days in a row, I’ve asked him. And three days in a row he’s insisted he’s too busy. At some point, the refugees we’re caring for will find a new planet, and then, boom, he’ll probably be off again, once more trying to save the universe one snotty, bacteria riddled child at a time.”
John cracked a half-smile. “Well, he does have a lot on his mind, Hoffan plague and all that.”
“Oh please,” Rodney snarled, waving a hand about. “Who are you talking to here? No one is busier than me. I’m the head of science and research, for goodness sake—that includes Carson and his voodoo. His work is just a ripple in the pond of what I have to deal with. I mean, come on! Carson thinks he has problems? Look at the hell you and I have unleashed! It’s not like he sent killing machines out into the galaxy with the sole purpose to destroy. Everything he did, he did with the goal of everyone, even the Wraith, surviving. He’s the Florence Nightingale of world-shakers. He’s got nothing on you and me.”
John looked down. He couldn’t disagree.
“I mean,” Rodney continued, oblivious, “talk about a...” He lifted his fingers in air-quotes. “’Good man.’ You should have called Carson that, not me. Not that he’d listen, since he’s all caught up in his need to save the galaxy.” He frowned unhappily, slumping down once more on his bench with his chin in his hand. John kept his eyes cast down.
“You’re both good men, Rodney,” he muttered. He couldn’t keep the darkness from his voice, and he instantly regretted saying anything at all.
From the way Rodney stiffened, John knew his friend had heard the underlying tone. He also knew that the scientist was probably now replaying what he’d just said in his head. Like he’d been punched, Rodney’s shoulders hunched again, his arms drawing in to cross over his chest.
“Um…” Rodney grimaced. “I didn’t mean to suggest that…that because of what you and I…that you’re not…I mean you know you’re a better man than—”
Rodney stopped, his brow furrowed unhappily.
John frowned, keeping his gaze down on the floor, and then swallowed harshly. “Elson….He told me he’s going to resign as leader. He’s going to do it tonight, after he tells his people they’ve found a new planet.” He looked up finally.
Rodney was watching him, his eyes soft and blue as he took that in. “Oh,” he said.
“Yeah,” John said.
“Because of that guy with the fugly sideburns?” Rodney asked quietly, his fingers dancing by his cheek.
“Yeah. That’s what I said.”
“You said, ‘oh’?”
“Oh.” Rodney frowned, and then sighed. “Well, what else were you supposed to say?”
“Yeah.” John quirked a smile.
Rodney’s expression then suddenly turned fearful. “Wait. You, uh….You telling me this because….I mean, are you, you know, thinking that maybe you…? Cause, you know, that’d be stupid, right? Really stupid.”
John winced slightly, then shook his head, scratching at his hair. “No, I just….” He shook his head again. “I don’t know why I told you.”
Rodney frowned again, his brow knitting as he puzzled that through. Finally, he looked away, back to his monitor. John returned his gaze down at the floor. After a few seconds, he released a soft sigh. Maybe he should go back to his quarters. Try to get some rest. He didn’t know why he’d wanted to bother Rodney, anyway. Just that, for some reason, Rodney…. Rodney always seemed to help. Not that he could explain how or why, exactly, just that….Of course, Rodney wasn’t helping much right now….
Oh, man up, Sheppard. Leave Rodney alone. He has his own demons, many of them the same as yours.
He frowned at that thought. Christ, the two of them were one hell of a pair, weren’t they?
He shifted forward on the bench, putting a foot down so he could stand up.
“I guess,” he began, “I should probably—“
“What do you think that girl meant by ‘funny stories?’” Rodney asked suddenly.
John looked up. “What?”
Rodney was pressing his lips together, his expression one of patented McKay annoyance. “Funny stories, that girl said, the pretty one from the village. Nova or something. She asked Carson if I was the one from all those ‘funny stories’.” He looked at John. “Do you think she meant funny ha-ha, or funny weird funny?”
John’s eyebrows lifted. He’d forgotten about that. “Well, uh…funny….” He tilted his head as he thought about it, and then nodded. “Funny ha-ha, definitely.”
“So, not weird,” Rodney said, watching him carefully, as if daring him to lie. John smiled slightly at the look.
“No, not weird,” John declared, nodding once to show he was certain. Rodney pursed his lips again and looked away. Then he frowned anew.
“Wait,” he said, eyes narrowing as he returned his gaze to John. “Funny ha-ha meaning I’m a funny guy?”
“Yes,” John agreed readily.
“No, no,” Rodney waved a hand, “I mean, funny witty, as opposed to funny…” his right eye twitched and the hand flapped more quickly, “not witty.”
“Not witty?” John repeated, smiling more. “What does that mean?”
Rodney rolled the same hand impatiently. “The opposite of witty,” he stated firmly, looking extremely peevish now.
“Well, you’re not, not witty,” John said. He stood up suddenly. “How about lunch?”
Rodney stood up as well, as if he’d been waiting for John to ask. “Well, since Carson ditched me again….” he said, scowling. “Why not? I mean, I do need to eat.”
“You do,” John agreed with mock-solemnity, nodding his head slowly. “You always need to eat, Rodney.”
“Damn right,” Rodney said. “You’d think Carson would know that.” He started walking out of the lab and John jogged a step in order to catch up. He smiled as he matched the other’s purposeful stride. Rodney still had his “pondering important universe-changing ideas” face on, and it made him smile even more.
“I would have come after you, you know,” John said suddenly, startling himself. His smile disappeared; he didn’t know why he had just said that. It had just sort of come out.
Rodney stared at him. “Yeah,” he said, curling his lip like John had just said something blatantly stupid. “I know. That’s like, the universe is huge, obvious.” He waved a hand. “Stop talking. You’re distracting me.”
John just shrugged. “Okay.”
Rodney’s eyes narrowed, and he stopped in the hallway, holding up hand to John’s face. “Hang on, wait a minute,” he said, pointing a finger at John, and, for a second, dread filled him, just as it had when Elson had looked at him on the planet. “What does that mean,” Rodney demanded, “‘not, not witty’?”
John’s eyebrows lifted, the dread disappearing in an eyeblink. “It means what you said it means. The opposite of witty. But not.”
“What?” Rodney shook his head. “No, no. You’re talking nonsense. I didn’t use a double negative.” He frowned and started walking again, moving even faster than before. “Why don’t you just say I’m witty?”
“Well…” John looked up at the ceiling. “Hey, are the lights brighter?”
“No, and stop changing the subject!” They rounded the corner and headed towards the transporter at the far end. Rodney crossed his arms as he walked. “You don’t think I’m witty, do you?”
“I wonder if they’re serving chicken for lunch. Ooh, maybe there’s chicken pot pie.”
“I’ll have you know that I was considered one of the funniest kids in my high school. People were forever inviting me to parties—sure, there were those times when I must have written the address down wrong and I’d end up at junkyards and stuff, but when I did finally get to the parties, I was always the center of attention. Funny McKay, they called me.” He grinned proudly.
“I’m sure they did,” John said, stepping into the transporter behind his friend and hitting the button for the mess.
“Wait,” Rodney said as the doors slid shut, his voice filled with horror. “Oh God. Do you think they meant funny witty, or mock-the-science-geek funny?”
John grinned as the doors closed with a soft snick.
Yes, Rodney McKay was a good, good man.
(And, yes, so is John)
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