Word Count: ~11,000
Summary: Star Warrior - working title: Space Snakes Attack! – was an instant money-making favorite in the sci-fi and romance sect.
Spoilers: None after The Return Part 1.
A/N: This is a STARGATE AU. This is CHOCK FULL of whatifs, is crossed over with SG1 more than once, and is at times, I've been told, meta-ish. I also really love this one. More thanks than I can properly express go to chopchica for the blunt love, and helping me work out more than a few kinks, and also to devildoll, who did an extremely awesome beta job, as usual.
There is now an awesome book cover by tardis80.
The Long Journey Home
When he was twenty-five, the bulk of the world thought Rodney McKay was a woman. Or, well, they thought M. R. McKay was a woman. To be specific, they thought he was a slim redhead with green eyes and a guileless smile, the stock photo of an aspiring writer who’d been slick-talked into giving up her image for a minute percentage of any residuals.
At the beginning it’d been a monumental fuck-up by an editorial shit named Laughlin, but the bigwigs had been gung ho about the idea, and what had been tongue-in-cheek was suddenly “a romantic adventure full of passion, humor, and a love that transcends time and space.” Which was utter tripe, of course, but Star Warrior - working title: Space Snakes Attack! – was an instant money-making favorite in the sci-fi and romance sect.
Although, really, it came as no surprise to Rodney that a story about a man with gravity-defying hair and sharp hipbones stumbling his way through the cosmos and having more sex than was surely considered healthy with a big-breasted space princess was embraced so heartily. And as long as he got a fat check out of it all, he was content to snub his nose at the public and pretend he was a lithe, pretty, twenty-two-year-old woman instead of a bad-tempered, budding astrophysicist already showing signs of premature baldness.
When he was younger, Rodney had dreamed in numbers. He’d dreamed in diagrams and schematics, in algebraic formulas and spatial relations. In his sleep, faces were mapped in points, skin was a number-scale of pale shades. His nightmares were stark and vivid and tinged with theorems, and he built a bomb for his grade six science project – albeit a purposely non-functioning one – because that’s the way the world ended once, in permutations of 238U → 234Th + α.
He woke up screaming trace elements and scalar quantities, and he started scribbling everything down in notebooks, journals, napkins, scraps, anything that would take a pen.
When he was twenty-five, his dreams burst into Technicolor landscapes, the details almost painful in their brightness, and his mind created Captain John Sheppard and his impossibly moronic ‘gate team - the first of many over the years, with clumsy Marine sergeant, Elliot, and lucky-beyond-belief Dr. Lancet, led by a trigger-happy colonel who chewed cigars and wore ratty, fingerless gloves all year round - and a world full of wormholes and parasites that possessed humans, enslaved planets, and his numbers became words and his words became intergalactic romance novels for the mass market.
According to reviews, M. R. McKay had a “poetic soul,” and a “deft hand with the fluid nuances of love.” He figured his sardonic wit just didn’t translate properly on paper. Which actually made him a pretty crappy writer, he thought, but hey. It sold.
When Rodney opened his door the morning forever after known as The Morning The World Went Insane, he was blurry-eyed and slightly hung-over and he hadn’t had his third cup of coffee yet, so it was perfectly understandable that he was struck dumb. It’d never happened before, of course - and he was vehemently certain it would never happen again – but there were only so many words he could say to a man as large and hairy and hot and leather clad as the man looming in his doorway, and none of those words were particularly intelligent, so he was better off gaping, he figured, and rubbing the heel of his palm into his eye socket.
Until his gaze dropped down to the behemoth’s hands, and the thick paperback curled in his fingers.
He rolled his eyes, but gamely crossed his arms over his chest and ventured, “Yes?”
“I’m looking for M. R. McKay.”
Rodney yawned. “You found him.”
The man arched an eyebrow and growled, “You’re M. R. McKay.”
“Yes,” Rodney snapped impatiently, “I’m Meredith R. McKay. Meredith Rodney McKay.” His eyes narrowed when the man let out a dry chuckle. “Dr. McKay.”
“Can I come in?”
“Oh, yes, of course, because I always let strange, hairy giants into my home. Here, allow me to escort you to the kitchen and its fine assortment of sharp, pointy knives.”
“No, thanks,” the man said, pushing Rodney aside and stepping into his living room. He turned and grinned down at him. With teeth. “I brought my own.”
Rodney backpedaled hastily and flattened himself against the corridor wall. “That’s, um, great.” He mentally calculated the distance to his phone on its cradle in the bedroom upstairs, versus the time it’d take to dig his cell out of his overstuffed briefcase, and whether or not it was a good idea to run out the front door without any pants on.
As it was, though, the man palmed the door shut and moved to stand in front of him, digging the book spine into Rodney’s sternum. “You wrote this,” he said, and duh. Rodney was pretty sure they’d covered that already.
He nodded his head jerkily, though, because the man had knives – Rodney was willing to take his word for it – and Rodney valued his life above all things.
He really hated his publisher. His shitty editor, Larry, was going to burn in hell for giving this crazed lunatic his home address, because although it was common knowledge that M. R. McKay was a man – a hard secret to keep after ten years as a celebrated author – they’d kept the back covers’ bio stories the same, professing that M. R. was a thirty-two-year-old woman who lived in Wisconsin with her husband, Ted, and their five pet cows.
Most people who showed up at his door with a copy of one of his books in their hands were Larry’s way of saying he needed to get laid.
The stranger didn’t seem particularly interested in that, though, and pushed closer, dipping his head down to meet Rodney’s eyes, his own brown and intense and more than a little menacing. Rodney was suitably cowed.
“Where’s Sheppard?” he demanded.
Rodney’s eyes went wide. “Uh.” This was usually where he’d point out that Sheppard was not, in fact, a real person, except he didn’t want to upset the crazy man. Instead, he settled on, “What makes you think I know where he is?”
The corner of the book pushed painfully into Rodney’s chest, the thin t-shirt a feeble barrier. “It’s been weeks, McKay,” he ground out, jaw clenched, and Jesus Christ, it was times like these that he wished he hadn’t let Jeannie talk him out of the panic button. He knew that cliffhanger ending on the last book would come back to bite him in the ass.
He stuttered, “Listen, I. I’m a writer. Well, technically I’m an astrophysicist, but.” He flapped a hand. “I teach. I don’t, I mean. You get that this isn’t real, right?”
The guy just glowered silently at him, still as a statue, dreadlocks spilling over his broad shoulders, and something. Something about him seemed strangely familiar.
Tentatively, Rodney brought his hand up to clutch the book, twisting it out of the man’s grip. He glanced at the cover. Yep, serial number seventeen, Star Warrior and the Ancestors of Faith. “He went back to Earth,” Rodney offered, because although Larry had talked him into the cliffhanger – it’ll generate anticipation and up sales! – he hadn’t actually thought about the plot beyond that.
“Uh,” Rodney scrambled to remember if he’d ever given Sheppard a place to call home on Earth, “California?” Or, wait, “Colorado?” Damn it. “I’m sure if you just,” he waggled the book a bit, “showed up at the Star-Crossed Convention in Toledo next—ow! Watch it, sasquatch!” he yelped as he was manhandled further up the wall, blunt fingers digging into his shoulders. “I’ve enough trouble with my back as it is. I don’t need some mentally imbalanced—are you on drugs? That’s it, isn’t it? I’ve got—” Well, he had a good deal of money, actually, but he didn’t necessarily want to give it away. Especially to some sort of crack cocaine addict.
“You’re starting to get annoying, McKay,” he warned, and Rodney spat out, face hot, “Oh, I’m becoming annoying, am I? Try to get this through your nearly impenetrable skull, you ham-fisted yokel! Sheppard isn’t real! Dex and Teyla aren’t real! Carter, although incredibly sexy, isn’t real! It’s called fiction, apparently, and I’ve heard it’s employed by a great many—”
“I’m real,” the man cut in, brow crinkled with bemusement. He eased back a little bit and Rodney sagged against the wall.
“Good for you,” he said tiredly.
“And,” the guy pulled a disgusted face, “Carter’s an android.”
“Carter’s an.” Rodney stared at him, deeply offended on Dr. Samantha Carter’s behalf. “No, no, she’s not.” He’d been accused of making her too incredibly perfect and beautiful and intelligent to be a believable, lovable character - although she always tended to sell the most merchandise at conventions - but no one had ever called her an android before. Hunh. His mind spun speculatively. That honestly wasn’t a half-bad plot twist.
“Pretty sure she is,” the man insisted.
“Who are you, anyway?” Rodney demanded.
The teeth were back. “I’m Ronon Dex.”
The thing was, the Ronon Dex who was steadily eating his way through Rodney’s kitchen cabinets –
Dex, Satedan warrior, sworn to avenge his planet’s destruction, laid bare his blade against Sheppard’s throat. “You can’t help me,” he growled. “You can’t keep me.”
Sheppard’s answering grin was cocky. “Hey, come on, big guy. You hate the Space Vampires, I hate the Space Vampires. Let’s hate those Space Vampires together.”
– wasn’t the Ronon Dex that usually showed up at conventions.
Rodney had actually never been to a convention himself, of course - because that kind of horror couldn’t even be imagined - but he always got piles of glossies and recaps and videos after the fact, and fans never got Dex’s hair right. There was never enough of it, or they’d skip the goatee completely, or they’d go with tight curls instead of dreads, or, heaven-forbid, a dyed, household mop.
And the faces; the bland, humorless faces were always wrong.
It wasn’t anything that Rodney could ever define, exactly, until he stared at the man prowling his living room, and then his kitchen, and finally slouching down on a chair with a huge bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch. He held a spoon like a five-year-old, fisting the handle, eating quickly and nosily, and even though Rodney had given Dex a meticulous education on Sateda before he’d joined their military, it was absolutely perfect. That was Ronon Dex. That was what years of loneliness and hunger and pain had done to him, and no one else had ever seemed to carry that out of the books. It was the ridiculousness of his character, the hugely fascinating contradictions; that he could be so childlike and menacing and serious and focused and knowing, wrapped up in a dirty leather casing, when he’d once been a scholar and a formally trained officer and, yes, a family man.
Rodney wondered briefly if he could hire him.
The saner parts of his brain were screaming for him to call the police.
“Let’s, just for a minute,” Rodney said, poised near the door but immobilized by the likely assumption that Ronon would tackle him into submission before he even made it past the stairs if he made a break for it, “suppose you really are Ronon Dex, and that everyone I’ve ever wrote about is actually,” he paused, “out there somewhere. How did you connect out there with me?”
Ronon shrugged. “Carter knew.”
“Carter knew,” Rodney echoed. “How?”
Ronon shrugged again. “Don’t know. She’s pretty good at figuring stuff out.” He glanced up at Rodney, milk dripping down his chin. “Android.”
“She’s not.” Rodney stopped, shook his head. “Okay. Okay, so Carter figured it out, and then you...?”
Ronon gave him an are-you-stupid? look that was just eerie. “Found you.”
“Yes, all right, but how?” Jesus, it was like pulling teeth.
Ronon just said, “We should go,” and lumbered to his feet.
Rodney blinked. “Go where?” Forced entry and kidnapping. It was turning out to be a red letter day.
But Ronon ignored him and put a finger to his ear. “We’re ready,” he said, and then he pulled out what looked like an excellent replica of Dex’s alien raygun and shot him.
Rodney woke up in the backseat of a midsize sedan, squished between Ronon and a man with messy hair and small, round glasses. He groaned, “Oh my god,” and the messy-haired man bobbed his head and said with a thick, Slavic accent, “Good. You are awake.”
Ronon snorted and grumbled, “Took him long enough,” to the tinted window.
“Oh my god, I hate you,” Rodney hissed through clenched teeth, jabbing him in the side with a daring elbow. Then he said, “Ow, ow,” and, “You shot me, you Neanderthal!” and, “What the hell is wrong with you people?”
Rodney shifted closer to the little foreign guy. “Want to call off Cujo here?”
“Ronon,” someone said in a lightly chiding tone.
Rodney glanced towards the passenger seat, taking in a small, dark-eyed woman and her expressive eyebrows. They arched high under his regard.
“Dr. McKay. I am pleased you have decided to help us find John.” She inclined her head slightly, and Rodney snapped his fingers, pointing at her.
“Teyla,” he blurted out, and a small smile curved her lips.
“It is good to finally meet you.”
“Of course, of course.” His gaze traveled down her slim arm, lingering on the fine-boned wrist draped across the center console. “You’re, uh, much tinier than I pictured.” He couldn’t hold that against her, though, since he tended to be sparse on the physical Teyla-details. In his head, she was always an Amazon. Tall, strong, well-muscled. She had the mannerisms down pat, though—
Teyla Emmagan slowly pressed her forehead against Sheppard’s, fingers light on his arms. “Brother,” she whispered reverently, and for once Sheppard didn’t fidget, didn’t grimace over the overt affection in her tone.
He closed his eyes and breathed her in until his exhalations paced hers.
—along with that strange inner calm.
Which had to make the little foreign guy Zelenka, if they were going with the present “The Morning The World Went Insane” theme, with his small knowing grins and deep hatred of children.
Rodney watched him warily out of the corner of his eye. He had a handheld cradled in his palm and was muttering under his breath; Czech nonsense, mainly, but Rodney’s ear caught “ZPM” and “naquadah” and “ATA,” and he kind of wondered if they were all in some sort of cult. Which was oddly flattering, actually, if not any less scary.
All he could see of the driver was spiky, bright blonde hair, precisely placed hands curled around the steering wheel – ten and two – and the outer curve of a blue-sleeved arm. He had a horrible suspicion that she was supposed to be their version of Carter.
“Look, this is all very, ah,” Rodney circled his hand in the air, trying to rein in his irritation so as not to get shot again – Jesus; had that really been necessary? - “nice, but I don’t really know what you want with me, and I’ve got a lecture tomorrow to prepare for, so if you wouldn’t mind dropping me somewhere...”
Zelenka furrowed his brows. “I am afraid that is not possible,” he said.
“Okay, no, I lied,” Rodney spat out, “this isn’t nice at all. This is fucking frustrating, and if one of you delusional freaks doesn’t let me out of here right this minute I’ll, I’ll.” He fumbled, because he didn’t exactly have the upper hand, and there wasn’t very much he could do beyond shouting.
“Calm down,” Ronon said gruffly.
“Don’t you have anything better to do than torment me?” Rodney asked, almost a whine, slumping defeatedly in the seat. “Distribute pamphlets? Build a compound?”
“Ronon, did you not explain the situation properly to Dr. McKay?” Teyla asked quizzically, still twisted around in her seat.
Ronon shrugged, jostling Rodney into Zelenka, who cursed and shot Rodney a glare.
“Oh, you don’t get to glare at me, you tiny Czech bastard,” Rodney said, glowering back. “I made you.”
“Actually, I believe you simply have a precognitive link with Colonel Sheppard, and a minor ability to influence and manipulate his thoughts and actions across space and time.” Carter’s clear blue eyes caught Rodney’s in the rearview mirror.
“Minor?” Rodney asked faintly. He could drown in those big beautiful eyes.
“I always thought he was crazy,” Ronon offered, and Teyla narrowed her eyes on another low, “Ronon,” while Carter held Rodney’s gaze and said, “You carry a device.”
Rodney instinctively groped for the pendant roped around his neck, fingers curling around the always-cool metal. He’d stumbled across it during his extremely brief stint at some backwater government facility in the Caribbean, fresh off his first PhD, before he realized everyone there was a complete moron, and he had to either leave, or be driven irrevocably insane by their stupidity and kill them all.
He didn’t believe in luck, good or bad, but he’d never been able to convince himself he didn’t need the flat, heavy triangle; didn’t need to press his thumb into the smooth indentation in the center, didn’t need to trace his fingers over the shallow carvings, the two men bowing towards a sun.
Zelenka bent over and rifled in a bag stuffed by his feet, pulling out a thick brown folder and dropping it on Rodney’s lap. The tab read Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay in thin red ink. The seal on the front was American military.
“Unfortunately,” Carter went on, “you were deemed too high profile to recruit into the program without rousing public suspicion. I’m sure you would have been an incredible asset, but General—”
“What?” Rodney demanded again.
Carter quirked an eyebrow at him before shifting her attention back to the road. “You were never recruited. General Hammond always thought your personality was too abrasive, and that you weren’t worth the risk.”
“Here,” Zelenka said, sliding a piece of paper on top of the folder, shoving a pen into his hand, “sign this.”
Rodney had a white-knuckled grip on the pen, but his next, “What?” was considerably fainter. It was a non-disclosure agreement.
“Sign, and I will explain,” Zelenka urged, and Carter said, “Go ahead, McKay,” which was just weird.
The diner wasn’t the most secure place to discuss aliens and space travel and freaky mind links, but on the other hand, no one was really paying them any attention. Terms like “Wraith” and “Ori” and “puddlejumpers” and “Stargates” weren’t unheard of in the circle of Rodney’s public conversations, either. They’d just never been real before.
Rodney hugged a steaming hot mug of coffee to his chest and groused, “Is shooting and kidnapping standard procedure for the United States Air Force?”
Teyla stared at Ronon blandly.
Ronon didn’t look up from his menu. “He was annoying me. What’s scrapple?”
“An amalgam of the most delicious parts of farm animals,” Rodney said, lulled slightly out of his bad mood by the promise of food shortly joining his coffee. Then he eyed Carter skimming the laminated menu and asked, “You eat?”
“What kind of question is that?” she demanded pissily.
“Don’t get your circuits in a bunch. I just didn’t think robotics had evolved to include digestive tracts, but hey, aliens—”
“Ronon!” Teyla cried, and she certainly spent a lot of time doing that, really.
“I’m not an android, McKay,” Carter ground out, sending Ronon death glares.
Ronon grumbled under his breath, “Whatever,” and it was probably a good thing Carter wasn’t an android – although Rodney found himself strangely disappointed - because he figured she’d be the sort with laser beam capabilities.
Rodney ordered pancakes and scrapple and Ronon ordered the same, with a side of bacon and eggs and home fries.
Teyla ordered eggs, Zelenka asked for buttered toast and jam, and Carter made do with a blueberry muffin – which was still creepy, Rodney thought, even if the android rumor was false; now that Ronon’d gotten the idea into his head, he couldn’t quite shake it. She was eerily perfect.
“It’s fascinating,” Carter said, leaning forward onto her elbows. “We think Sheppard activated the device almost a decade ago, right after he joined the program. We didn’t even know the Ancients existed back then.”
“And I, in a rare and ridiculous display of serendipity or coincidence or whatever the hell you want to name it,” Rodney flapped a hand, “happened to be in possession of its sister—”
“Base component,” Carter corrected. “Colonel Sheppard activated the remote, which mapped to his particular molecular make-up, and then translated his information to the base, identifying you, and allowing a stable thread to form.”
Rodney blinked at her. “You realize how incredibly stupid that sounds.”
“It was something subtle,” Carter went on, ignoring the jibe, “that built upon itself over time. At first, we suspected your books were products of a possible security breach, but you were too distant from the program.”
“Okay.” Rodney paused, staring at the chipped formica tabletop, following the spidery fingers of age with a thumb. He frowned thoughtfully. “Can I read his mind?”
“You can read his world, McKay,” Zelenka clarified.
Carter half-grinned. “He was a little freaked out when he realized that. You, he feels only vaguely. Like an intangible presence.”
Ronon snorted. “He got really pissed off-world once. When you kept calling him Kirk.”
Bizarre. Utterly, utterly bizarre. And everything just kept getting stranger. He jabbed a finger at Carter. “I’m still not one hundred percent certain this isn’t all just an elaborate ruse,” he said. “The totally deserved yet disturbing Cult of Rodney McKay has not been completely swept off the table.”
“You don’t have to believe us, McKay,” Carter said. “You just have to help us find Sheppard.”
Their brilliant plan to find Sheppard – and Rodney meant brilliant in a purely facetious way – was to let Rodney sleep on it. The bond was strongest on Rodney’s end during REM, Carter explained. Never mind the fact that Rodney had been sleeping for three weeks without a single spark of Sheppard inspiration; the longest he’d ever gone, actually, which made him kind of antsy.
Teyla – just like the Teyla in his books, and that hadn’t gotten any less weird – enjoyed a good, long stretch of meditation, and although Rodney tried to impress upon her the fact that relaxing for the sake of relaxing had never been part of his repertoire, and thus wouldn’t make any difference in channeling his inner Sheppard, she gave him her intensely disappointed stare until he huffed and muttered himself into a quiet, cross-legged slump in the middle of the motel room bed.
“Look, what if he’s just found a way to block me out, stop the device?” Rodney suggested, feeling ridiculous and tense and kind of thirsty.
She arched a brow without opening her eyes.
Rodney scowled. “This isn’t going to work.”
“Shhh. You must focus, Dr. McKay,” she said softly, calmly.
Rodney found himself settling, staring down at the brown and orange paisley bedspread. He filled his lungs slowly, following Teyla’s steady, even breaths.
Ronon bit into an apple with juicy crunches.
Teyla’s eyebrows twitched.
Rodney’s stomach grumbled. Finally, he said, “Seriously, this isn’t working.”
“I can shoot you again,” Ronon offered, taking a menacing step towards him.
Rodney yelped, tumbling off the far side of the bed. “Stay away from me,” he demanded.
Teyla looked like she was trying very hard not to laugh.
Rodney glared at her. “I’m assuming you’re concerned about Sheppard, right? So you might want to lay off the threats and general amusement at my expense, since I’m apparently your only chance at figuring out where he is.”
“Not only, McKay,” Carter said, standing in the doorway separating their rooms.
“Best, then,” Rodney amended, although the American military must’ve been more incompetent than he’d ever thought, since they’d lost one of their lieutenant colonels.
Carter rolled her eyes. “Any luck?”
“Dr. McKay is having trouble relaxing,” Teyla said, and Rodney got to his feet and crossed his arms over his chest and snapped, “I don’t relax. I sleep, occasionally, mostly at night and usually abbreviated, and you expect me to just nod off at one in the afternoon by meditating? You’d be better off getting a voodoo practitioner to pump me full of valium, and don’t even think about doing that,” he jabbed a finger at Carter, “because even that probably won’t work, since getting my brain to shut down is difficult under normal conditions, and will be nearly impossible after I’ve been kidnapped, and told some ridiculous story about aliens—”
“No, no, you listen to me, didn’t you tag him before you released him back into the wild? How does an Air Force lieutenant colonel just disappear?” He was close to hyperventilating, and considering locking himself in the bathroom for a good long cry, and the only thing stopping him was the hairy giant looming directly in his path, still eating that goddamn delicious-sounding apple. He was missing his afternoon lecture, not to mention his precious, precious lab time, and he just knew that bastard Franklin was messing with his papers, sabotaging his math, stealing his research, usurping his eventual Nobel Prize.
Zelenka popped up behind Carter. “Come,” he said, “I have an idea,” and that was how they all ended up at a freaking carnival, but Rodney was content to let them ply him with cotton candy and corndogs and funnel cake and pizza and probably the best homemade ice cream he’d ever had in his entire life.
“Mmmmm,” Rodney moaned, half-sleepily, leaning into Ronon with his second ice cream, already licked down to the sugar cone, just resting on his lips, chocolate melting against the gentle part. Best. Ice cream. Ever. He’d lost his fear of the yeti sometime after the funnel cake, when they’d both been plastered up against the roasted nut cart, soaking in the honey-salt warmth.
They were currently teetering near the very top of a lazy-turning ferris wheel. He knew what they were trying to accomplish – hello, genius! Like his publisher hadn’t insisted on making “I like ferris wheels, college football, and anything that goes more than 200 miles per hour” Sheppard’s official tagline. At least they hadn’t made him ride the roller coaster, because that monstrosity looked about three turns from falling completely apart, and after all the food he’d eaten, he was fairly sure he would’ve vomited all over everything.
The ferris wheel was kind of nice, though. He yawned, and only gave a half-hearted protest when Ronon maneuvered the ice cream cone out of his hand. It’d been starting to droop, anyhow, and better Ronon finish it than having it melt all over his lap.
On his other side, Teyla was humming close to his ear, the wind stealing any melody and leaving behind a simple, pleasant buzz.
It was autumn, but the sky was clear and the sun was warm, and Ronon was blocking the worst of the chilly breeze, and before he knew it he was drifting off to sleep, snuffling a little into Ronon’s surprisingly soft leather coat.
He woke up in the sedan again, and he suspected they might’ve slipped him something to knock him out so completely, but on the other hand, he’d been kind of exhausted. A couple of all-nighters, compounded on the stress of the situation and the huge amount of comfort food he’d consumed, and it wasn’t all that far-fetched to think he’d been passed out enough that he hadn’t even felt them carry him off the ferris wheel and back to the car.
Zelenka leaned over him. “Anything?”
“Yeah, yes,” he said after clearing his throat and straightening up in his seat. “Why didn’t you tell me he’d gone back?”
Replicators. He’d dreamed of the Asurans and the Alterans and Carson and Elizabeth and Lorne, and the Air Force probably had two less officers, if General Landry’s tone had been any indication. Beyond that, though, he had no idea what had happened. Not yet.
Ronon was rigid next to him, as if the subject was sore, and it probably was, since Sheppard’d left him and Teyla behind. Rodney awkwardly patted his arm.
“It wasn’t deliberate,” he said. “He wanted to take you, but you were both too far away.” They’d been visiting overseas, touring Europe, staying with Zelenka, and he’d felt Sheppard’s frustration and his immediacy. There hadn’t been any time.
“That’s all?” Carter asked, disappointed.
Rodney’s mouth twisted. “I get that this is all residuals, that this happened, like, weeks ago, and then you lost contact, right?”
Carter’s knuckles turned white on the wheel.
“And now you, what?” He flailed a hand. “Don’t have enough power to open a stable wormhole? Don’t want to waste a trip out to Atlantis?”
“The ‘gate won’t lock, McKay,” Carter said tightly. After a pause, she added, “As far as we know, Atlantis is gone.”
Rodney never figured out why they needed four people to drive him down to the mountain, but he was grateful for their presence. Ronon, silent and steady. Teyla, strong and gentle. Zelenka, smart and sharp. Carter, there and... android-like.
He felt surprisingly bereft. Mere hours after learning Sheppard was real, somewhere, out there, ridiculous hero complex and all, and suddenly he was – most probably – dead, and his heart was heavy, there was a lump lodged in his throat, and his eyes itched with suppressed grief.
It was stupid; and god, if this whole thing actually did turn out to be some sick cult, he was killing someone.
In the days it took to get to Colorado Springs, they were all mainly silent, lost in their own thoughts. Rodney tried a dozen more times to dream of Sheppard, but he couldn’t get past the Athosian camp, Halling and his grave, long face, agreeing to help fight.
He was so deeply miserable that he only got a glimmer of excitement out of seeing the SGC, meeting Teal’c, touring the grim halls and staring up at the hugely complex Stargate. Strangely, it wasn’t until he was lying in a narrow bunk on the Daedalus that the adrenaline kicked in. He was on a spaceship. There was a pants-less alien on the bridge.
All his genius, all his brilliant theoretical knowledge; there were... there were things he could prove, there. Things he could take apart and put back together and change and make better, and, all sorrow aside, it was pretty much the greatest thing to ever happen ever. He hooked the radio Carter had given him over his ear and hailed Zelenka.
“Yes, McKay,” he said.
Rodney took a deep breath. “I want to meet Hermiod.”