Episode and type: tag to Vegas (spoilers for Outcast, Enemy at the Gate, Sanctuary, some SG1)
Characters: John Sheppard, David Sheppard, OC, a little McKay
Warnings: (brief) character death, apocafic
Wordcount: 6, 494
Notes: This is an AU of my Vegas tag AU explored in“Lonely Man of Faith”. Will make most sense if you read that first. An AU sequel or possible AU of “I said in my Haste, all Men are Liars”. I guess in theory that could make this an AU of an AU of an AU. The three stories work as an extended trilogy tag to Vegas. I blame this all on McKay and the rip in space-time.
If there is one saving grace in Atlantis it’s that protocol and rules aside, they do seem to get it, the innate code that is both John’s salvation and his undoing.
They get that no is left behind and orders be damned.
It lands him into no small amount of trouble, but mostly the people there seem to value his personal creed.
In the precarious existence that is Pegasus they see it more as an asset than an insubordinate vice.
He believes it’s his personal creed but his mother’s crucifix is heavy round his neck as if it’s made of wood and iron not delicate silver, weighing him down along his own personal Via Dolorosa.
John is out of time with Dave.
Too late he realises that he has become so much of a stranger to his brother that there is no trust left to bank on.
All his attempts at charm and pleading and rational appeals fall on deaf ears.
No way to convince him to just follow John’s lead this once.
He only gets away by promising to check himself into a local hospital.
It’s humiliating and heart-wrenching but John can’t think of another way out short of actually getting into a full fledged fight.
And that would hardly help his case.
Dave and Laura and their kids are going to be Wraithfodder and there is nothing he can do to stop it.
He feels like a fraud right now because no matter how hard he has tried he hasn’t been able to save those he most wanted to save.
He wishes he could force himself to stop caring.
John has lost track how many times his gate team has rescued civilians from the Wraith, how many times they have stumbled through the ‘gate with a ragtag group of scared Pegasus natives looking for a new home.
He just never expected to be in the same position with ordinary folks from Earth.
After his disastrous escape from Dave he discovers that Apollo is too busy to beam him so they tell him to make his way back aboard the first flight he can find to the civilian airport nearest the facility.
There isn’t time for secrecy now, and the powers that be simply divert his plane, and all the hundred plus civilians on board, to an emergency landing strip somewhere in the desert.
There is confusion, hysteria and general mayhem breaking loose all around but he is already hurrying out of the crowded hangar where they’ve stowed the startled passengers and crew when a hesitant voice calling his name pulls him up short.
“John? That’s your name isn’t it, John?”
There’s a gaunt, ginger bearded, disheveled man in glasses holding a baby in his arms, two little girls tugging at his trouser leg.
Could be John’s age, probably younger, hard to tell because it doesn’t look like he takes care of himself.
The man seems totally unfazed by the surrounding panic.
John doesn’t recognise him.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
And he really is trying to keep it polite, but in the context of his crappy week, today’s even crappier news and the all round air of impending doom he just doesn’t have the patience for pleasantries right now.
His voice comes out hard, terse.
The man’s smile doesn’t falter.
“It’s been a few years, I think you were about sixteen the last time I saw you”
He has John’s attention.
The world is about to end, he needs to get to his post and he should just go but it occurs to him that the way things stand he may never get to finish this surreal conversation if he does.
“You taught me and my sister to ride.”
“And we did make a run for it on your horse. Twice.”
His little girl is peeking out at John from behind the skirt she has wrapped around herself and her father’s leg, impish gap toothed grin lighting up her face, wiry hair escaping from unraveling braids, toy F-16 clasped in one hand.
An image of John’s teenage self pops into his head, a tall, tomboyish younger girl riding shotgun on his bay hunter behind him, woodland and meadows flashing jarringly by in the thunder of horse’s hooves.
It felt like flying.
It’s not something John’s thought about in years.
In a week of picking at old wounds and digging up the past it feels like the first recollection he is actually glad to remember.
The man must see the cogs turning because he disentangles one arm from the baby, shifting him to his other shoulder, and extends a hand to John.
“Nate” he says “Our dads went to Harvard together.”
“My sister Julie is here somewhere, she went off with my wife to try and track down some snacks for the kids.”
“Nice to run into you again” John smiles back.
Genuinely this time because he really is pleased that someone from his past has actually reminded him of something happy, however bittersweet.
He thinks that the end of the world is a strange place to renew old acquaintances, but better than never at all.
Nate seems to take in John’s uniform with its shiny silver insignia for the first time.
“Don’t suppose you could tell us what’s up? It’s a family trip, we were hoping to get to Mom’s 70th this evening.”
John can’t save his own family, but maybe fate has let him rescue someone else’s.
He’s still smiling when Nate says “How’s Dave doing these days?”
John feels relieved when suddenly Mitchell is there hustling him over to the improvised situation room throwing out words like evacuation, resistance and last defence.
All around them personnel are rushing efficiently to their posts, the clanging alarm making the threat of imminent apocalypse feel all the more tangible.
John is loping along down one of the endless grey concrete corridors with Mitchell, making haste for the situation room.
Mitchell’s gregarious chatter usually drives him nuts at times like these but for once the other man is grimly silent, leaving John to his thoughts, to his memories of childhood revisited.
In the midst of all this chaos John feels like something has melted inside him, like that chance freak encounter with childhood friends has unlocked a vital part of him.
It feels totally inappropriate right now, but then he thinks he did forgo that whole life flashing in front of his eyes bit the last time he was about to die.
Nate is a year older than him, hesitant, shy, a boy who prefers holing up in the family room to climbing trees.
He seems to want to blend into the heavy wooden furniture and exotic houseplants of the grand Sheppard home.
He hangs around with Dave, wanting to be taken seriously, wanting to appear more grown-up.
Julie is another story altogether, tall and lanky, sort of foal like, and most people think her much closer to John’s ten years than her six.
It helps that she likes reading Scientific American.
He picks it up too just to make it clear he’s no dummy. Doesn’t make much sense to him, but she seems to understand it, is even willing to explain it back to him.
He thinks he should be bothered by having a six year-old teach him about things like evolutionary biology and how supernovas are formed, but he isn’t.
He thinks it’s kind of neat.
Julie’s expositions on science are the only times her dad seems to swell with pride for someone other than himself.
John’s dad only gets that look watching him on the driving range.
She looks too much like her dad to be considered a pretty girl, but at ten he doesn’t really mind, and most of the time he doesn’t even really notice she’s a girl anyway.
He thinks that it could be fun to have a little sister like her.
Dave teases him that he has a “baby girlfriend”.
Nate stifles an awkward giggle.
John doesn’t care.
She’s a lot more fun than Nate or Dave.
Dave who wouldn’t believe him.
Dave who is probably now lost to him for good.
Down in crisis central John discovers that things are even worse than he thought.
There are not one, not two, not three, but a whole frickin’ fleet of hive-ships popping out of hyperspace just beyond the moon.
Turns out McKay was wrong about the signal not reaching Pegasus.
Just didn’t reach their Pegasus.
Well, not yet.
And now endless hiveships from across the interdimensional rift are pouring through that tear in space-time to Earth.
McKay, Carter and Zelenka, the people who might be able to fix this, are in another galaxy.
Apollo is the only ship currently in Earth orbit.
Screwed is just too good a word.
The only positive news is that at least the stargate still works – both the one at the SGC and their backup here in Nevada.
He goes to The Chair and they send out the Earth based 302s but it’s no good.
He manages to down a couple of hiveships with his drones and the 302s damage a few more, but the hives just keep on coming.
John is just buying time for the lucky few citizens of Earth who are guaranteed an off-world escape.