Title: Lonely Man of Faith
Characters: McKay, Sheppard
Warnings: deathfic (minor spoilers for Outcast and Sanctuary)
Summary: McKay feels more guilty about Sheppard than he'd like to admit. Sheppard is seeing things in the desert.
Keller comes up with a plausible coroner’s report and a week later the body is released for burial.
As if anyone is going to ask questions about the death of a washed-up ex-detective who finally solved his greatest case at the cost of his own life.
Mckay isn’t quite sure how or why, but a week later he is standing on the doorstep of an impressive Virginia home with a box of Sheppard’s paltry affects sitting in the trunk of his rental: Two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts, a few changes of underwear, one Johnny Cash poster, a faded, dog-eared photo of a pretty brunette in uniform and a few dollar bills folded into a battered leather wallet, a bag containing five thousand and eighty three dollars, a worn leatherbound bible with the name Elizabeth Sheppard written inside the front cover in precise, old fashioned, cursive script and a tiny crucifix on a delicate silver chain.
Testament to a life cut short well before it ended in a suicidal shoot out somewhere in the Nevada desert.
He thinks back to Sheppard’s bullet riddled tomato red Camaro.
Hard to believe that wreck of a man hailed from the comfortable serenity of this estate with its manicured lawns, stables and elegant good taste.
His first impressions of the Sheppard residence make him leave the pathetic box of possessions in the car. Staring at the door Mckay has second thoughts, returning to the step with the fragile weight of the crucifix in his left hand.
He doesn’t remember noticing the chain around Sheppard’s neck when they met, wonders whether it’s some kind of lucky charm he wore on missions, maybe a gift from his dead girlfriend or perhaps Mckay’s little pep talk about the nobility of Sheppard’s AR double rekindled long lost faith.
The weathered old bible inclines him toward the last option. When he picked it up the book had fallen open to a well thumbed page, smudged fingerprints highlighting Psalm CXVI.
Who would have thought it, John Sheppard, lonely man of faith? Maybe that’s what allowed him to live with himself all these years, trying to redeem himself in the den of iniquities that is Vegas.
He thinks about sinners and the road to Damascus, eyes being opened to redemption.
It occurs to him that noble self-sacrifice is perhaps the only suicide option for the believing man. An image comes into his mind of Sheppard as a sort of St George slaying the dragon. Patron saint of soldiers, martyred for his faith by the very leader in whose army he served.
It takes a further 10 minutes of concerted effort for Mckay to summon the courage to ring the bell and when the door is opened by a clean cut beautifully coiffed man in a preppy sweater and khakis he almost mumbles that he has made a mistake with the address.
Almost, but not quite.
“David Sheppard? I’m sorry, I have bad news” he begins.
He opens his mouth again and for once in his life has no words.
How do you tell someone their deadbeat estranged brother has finally gotten himself killed, even if he did save the world?
It isn’t as if he can come out and say that John Sheppard sacrificed himself to save humanity from a bunch of evil life sucking aliens.
For all that Mckay is a multi-Phded potential Nobel laureate many times over, chief scientist of the most sensational, top secret programme in the planet’s history, presiding over scores of the finest minds Earth (and several other worlds) have ever produced, he still doesn’t know how to do this.
Sheppard’s brother stands in the doorway eying him coolly, assessing.
“I…” Mckay begins again. There is no easy way to do this and he can’t believe how worked up he’s getting over a man he hardly knew. Not in this reality anyway.
“Your brother, your brother John, I’m sorry, he’s dead”
Not the most sensitive way to inform the next of kin, but then this isn’t exactly Mckay’s area of expertise. Blunt directness always has been though.
For the umpteenth time he mentally wacks himself upside the head and wonders what the hell he is doing here, him, the brilliant Dr Rodney McKay instead of some SGC pyschologist whose job this actually might be, what illogical sense of duty to an almost stranger has him travelling across the continent just so he can be here in person for one of the most awkward moments of his life.
“So now it’s official” is all Sheppard’s brother says. “I’m surprised he made it this far”
And David Sheppard just stands there, his face a blank neutral, looking him up and down for a few more seconds, taking in the stylish but official looking suit, the way Mckay is nervously twisting his hands.
“Doesn’t the Air Force usually send someone in uniform for things like this?”
Mckay doesn’t know what response to expect from the bereaved brother, but he doesn’t think it’s this.
It’s dusk but the rocky desert still retains the searing heat of the day, intensified by the flaming debris scattered around.
Despite this Sheppard feels an icy cold seeping into his bones as he stumbles away from the bullet riddled wreckage, his legs finally giving out a short distance from his beloved Camaro.
Lying there with the desert around him he gets disoriented for a moment, memories of a remote crash site in Afghanistan flooding his mind.
He looks around, expecting for a moment to see familiar faces, familiar long dead faces, but even as his vision starts to grey out around the edges he realises the truth of his situation, that this time he really is finished, this time it really is his time.
He would laugh if he had the strength, surrounded by fires and bullet casings. Talk about a blaze of glory.
Yes, finished is a good word.
His dimming eyes take in the darkening sky, the first pinpricks of stars.
As he turns his head he feels the barely there weight of his mother’s crucifix catch on his collar.
He thinks that this is the point where his life is supposed to flash before him but all he can actually think of is his mother. When she died all those years ago people comforted the boys with platitudes about their mother looking down on them from heaven, watching over them.
He sure hopes she isn’t. He wouldn’t want her to see the mess he’s made of things, the sordid existence he has led, the waste of his life. Wouldn’t want her to see her wayward youngest son dying out here pathetically alone.
That’s when he notices the white light, so bright it sears his mind.
Another death cliché then.
But this isn’t a tunnel or a gateway or anything remotely resembling “the other side”
It swirls around him like a giant glowy Tinkerbell.
Well, perhaps more of a glowy squid.
He wonders if this is the angel of death, made more user friendly without his black cloak and scythe.
A light breeze ruffles his hair and for a minute it doesn’t feel like a breeze at all, too soft, too tender, the way his mother’s hand used to when he was a boy.
Suddenly he realises that it – she from the sound of the voice – is speaking.
“You can do this John, you can release your burden, leave your failures, find yourself worthy again.”
He’s imagined dying a lot of different ways during the course of his life, but this, this is not what he expected, not in a million years.
“She is waiting for you” says the feminine voice, and he doesn’t have the energy left to form all the questions filling his dying brain.
“This does not have to be the end Johnny” and this time her voice is more coaxing, almost pleading with him.
“You did good Johnny, you did good”
The light resolves itself into a face, a face he never thought he’d see again, soft hazel eyes framed by raven hair.
A delicate glowy tendril morphs into a long fingered hand, reaching for him, enticing him, beckoning.
With the last of his strength he reaches up with his own and takes it.
(Sequel can be found here:I Said in my Haste, All Men are Liars)