Grounded – Chapter Four
The second jumper was already on the ground when he and McKay reached the pier. Sunlight was glinting up off of the water, making everything shine. One of those days where there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky. John would have liked to have had time to enjoy it, lean on the railing and stare out at the water, just lose himself in something other than crisis or paperwork. It was just too damn bad that he didn’t have the time right now.
The hatch of the newly landed jumper was open, but John didn’t immediately see their newest time traveling guests. He stopped in the doorway, looked out over the pier, and nodded at the three Marines that were keeping watch. Just in case, Elizabeth had said, and John was on board with that. Sure, these two visitors were just he and McKay, some eighteen years from now, but that wasn’t to say that they weren’t a threat in some way. It was possible that something in the future had warped them, twisted their minds, made them less than friendly.
It wasn’t a scenario that was very likely. Still, that didn’t mean that it was completely impossible
, and he wasn’t willing to rule out the possibility just because the guy wore his face. After everything they had seen and done out here, that would be stupid on his part. So – Marines standing by, at the ready, just in case
Of course, the fact that there were two relatively normal teenage girls lying in the infirmary right now spoke a lot for the trustworthiness of their future selves. If they’d grown up with dads that were evil or a little round the bend, they’d be much weirder. Well, weirder than any kind of his or McKay’s could be, anyway. John smirked a little at that. His kid was a daredevil troublemaker, and McKay’s was a smartass brainiac, and they were friends
. Go figure. The universe really did work in mysterious ways.
Also - very frightening
in many ways.
From next to him, McKay sighed and sniped, “So are we going to go out there anytime this century, Colonel? Or did we just plan on observing from a distance and praying for random telepathy to crop up so that we could discuss this without ever having to see them, hmm?”
It really was pretty damn amazing how much sarcasm Rodney could fit in just a few sentences. If they could figure out a way to harness the power of pure snark, Atlantis would never have to worry about the Wraith again. Rodney’s mouth alone could keep them safe.
Sniggering internally, Sheppard rolled his eyes at the dramatics. Well, at least one of them was eager to get out. Sure as hell wasn’t him
, though. The more he thought about it, the more this sort of creeped him out. “You don’t think it’s… weird at all? We’re going out there to meet ourselves
“Yes, because that’s something I’ve never done before.” Came the response, with an impatient hand flap and a roll of the eyes. The look McKay gave him was pure ‘why-do-I-put-up-with-your-stupidity. “Rod? Remember?”
“Right.” How could he have forgotten that
memorable event? John nodded once. Well, maybe Rodney had done this before, but he
hadn’t. And it wasn’t even really the same thing, because Rod had been an alternate Rodney
, whereas the guy that was out there somewhere on the pier was Rodney from the future
. Same Rodney, just older. For that matter - same Sheppard, just with a few more years on him.
On one hand, he was very curious about the Sheppard of the future. Had he found love with Ahn’s mother? Were there any more promotions for him to look forward to somewhere down the road? Obviously he stayed in Atlantis. So did McKay. Beyond that, though, everything was a mystery.
And while he was sure that his future self wasn’t going to clue him in on anything important, John did
know that just standing here wasn’t doing a damn thing for unraveling what-was-to-come in the least. Time to get this show on the road. Convincing Ahn and Merry to stay in the infirmary while he and McKay went to meet their dads had been difficult enough as it was. He didn’t want to put Beckett in the position to have to restrain or sedate them if they decided that they’d waited long enough. As it was, the two girls had been eager to see their dads meet their past selves, and vice versa.
“Okay, let’s do this,” John said, and it didn’t sound nearly as apprehensive as he’d thought it might. Really, just how weird could it be?
“Finally,” Rodney huffed in a put-upon sigh. But he followed John out onto the pier without any further complaint, side-by-side. Out of the corner of his eye, John saw that McKay didn’t look more resigned than eager, and that made him feel a little better.
There was a clang from inside the first of the jumpers – the one that John had nicknamed Delorean in his head for lack of anything better to call the time machine - as they approached. He cocked his head to the side and listened, recognizing a pair of familiar voices in heated conversation. The words weren’t clear, but the tone was.
John smirked and shook his head, sharing an amused glance with Rodney. Nice to know that their friendship didn’t change much in the next eighteen years.
“Some things never change,” Rodney muttered, but it sounded more affectionate than irritated.
“Sort of glad to know that, actually,” John admitted quietly with a shrug. No matter what else might change, they stayed friends. That had to count for something. Clearing his throat, John raised his voice for the benefit of the men inside the jumper. “Anyone call for a welcome wagon?”
The voices stopped suddenly and John recognized his own snorting laughter echo through the ship and out of the hatch. Then, Future-Rodney groaned loudly and footsteps sounded on the jumper’s floor, moving towards them. “Great. Two of you. My greatest dream come true. Oh, wait, I meant nightmare
John really wasn’t sure what he’d expected Rodney of the future to look like. But the man that stepped out from the jumper was still so very similar to the Rodney standing at his side that John couldn’t help but feel a little flicker of something sort of like disappointment. There were a few silvery strands in his hair, and maybe it was a little sparser on top, but not noticeably so. He definitely wasn’t balding by any means. Future-Rodney was more buff that Current-Rodney, too. The t-shirt that hugged his upper body was stretched across muscles that John knew for a fact Current-Rodney didn’t have. Not incredibly surprising, three years into their stay in Atlantis and Rodney had already lost a lot of that chubbiness he’d started the expedition with. Another eighteen years apparently saw the same trend continue. There were little lines near the corners of his eyes, but, other than that, he wasn’t looking bad for a guy that was approaching his mid-fifties.
Whatever other observations he might have made were cut short by the appearance of a second figure, right next to Future-Rodney.
“Don’t forget that there’s two of you, too, McKay. Talk about a nightmare,” Future-John drawled as he rounded Rodney and stepped down out of the jumper, leaning back against the side in a move that was so… so… him
, that it made John snort at the absurdity of seeing it from this angle. Arms over his chest, one leg hooked over the other. It was one of those ‘look at me’ poses that he’d perfected as a teen, used to his advantage all during his twenties, and had kept doing even to this day just out of habit, long past the days when he cared whether or not his looks drew him any kind of attention.
Dark hair was peppered with silvery-gray, but otherwise hadn’t been tamed in the least. Still stuck up at weird angles or, as Rodney liked to say, defied the laws of gravity
. Black t-shirt, gray cargo pants, and a thigh holster. He, too, had some small wrinkles that spoke to his age clearer than anything else.
John got the most relief from the fact that neither of them were disfigured or scarred. They both had all of their limbs and seemed perfectly healthy. Life in the Pegasus galaxy had not beaten them down or battered them too badly. Did Rodney notice those things? That they were both in one piece as far as the eye could tell? That even Future-Rodney looked happy, not worn down?
“Hey, you in there?” Fingers snapped in front of John’s face, and he blinked in surprise, taking an involuntary step back. His future self laughed. “Stop over-thinking.”
“I’m not!” John argued, his eyes following his future self’s hand as it dropped back down to his side. Something had caught his eye, a little glint in the sunlight, and he wanted to see it again, to know what it was. Had a feeling that it might be important. Future-John’s hand turned as he slid it into his pocket, and John grinned. “You’re married.”
Future-John’s smile slipped, confusion spreading over his face. “Um – yeah?” Then he frowned. “Oh, I forgot, sorry.” A sheepish smile quirked at the corner of his mouth. “Anya didn’t tell me – you – that when she was here.”
“Didn’t tell us much of anything,” Future-Rodney snorted then shook his head and fixed the two of them with a look that might have been apologetic if John didn’t know Rodney better. This was more of a I-hate-being-out-of-my-depth-but-will-play-along-anyway look. “It’s weird – our memories are getting changed as things happen to us. I mean, to the two of you.” He waved a hand between John and Current-Rodney. “I can remember telling her that she wouldn’t get any lab time for a month when she got home.” He frowned at his younger self. “Think I might have to overrule myself on that one. I’ve had to keep an eye on her pet projects for the last week while I worked out a way to find her and Sheppard Junior. There’s no way in hell that I’m going to keep it up for another month.”
punishment,” Future-Sheppard drawled, pushing off of the jumper with careless ease. “That whole month with no flying thing?” He laughed. “That might teach Anya not to listen to Meredith’s crazy ideas.”
“How do you know it was Meredith’s
crazy idea?” Future-Rodney whirled on him with a spark in his eye that John knew all too well. And feared. Sort of. Not that he’d ever admit to it. “Anya is irresponsible, reckless…”
As they started to really get into the argument, John heard Rodney whisper. “Sounds like someone takes after her father.”
John snorted and elbowed Rodney in the side, maybe enjoying the gasp of pain a little too much. “Yeah, Mer
does take after her dad, doesn’t she, Meredith?”
They never did find out why the girls had been trying to go to the future, though Rodney was guessing his future counterpart had gotten it out of the pair of them as soon as they were away from prying eyes. That didn’t matter. On top of everything else they’d seen, heard, learned, whatever reason those two could have had for trying to bend time and space to their will was immaterial.
matter was that he – his asshole of a future self! – had taken every scrap of the time machine with them when they’d left, with no more than a “You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Should only take about eighteen years.”
What a horrible, horrible thing to do! Oh, yes, he well understood that time needed to play out as close to the correct timeline as possible. That there had already been too many little, subtle changes that had happened because of the girls going back in time. But that didn’t make it right
, and it certainly didn’t make it easier for him to take.
A time machine, he bemoaned silently as he watched the jumper with the four travelers disappear into thin air, breaching time with no more than a silvery pop of light. A real time machine
and he hadn’t even gotten to study it.
The world really wasn’t fair sometimes. At all.
“Cheer up, McKay.”
“Cheer up?” Rodney repeated, casting an incredulous glance at Sheppard. The man was certifiable. Or an idiot. Perhaps a certifiable idiot. Because how the hell was he supposed to ‘cheer up’ when his future self had just whisked away such beautiful, wonderful technology?
Sheppard’s smirk grew until it was smug and teasing and Rodney just wanted to wipe it off of his face. “Yeah. Cheer up. Or else I won’t let you in on a few things that I, well, told me
- this me, that is – about the future Mrs. McKay and Mrs. Sheppard.” He made a pained face. “This whole I, me, you, him
thing just gets weird with time travel.”
That was an understatement if he’d ever heard one. Still, “He told you something? About… what – our wives? I get married
?” His blood pressure went up just thinking
about getting married. Yes, there had been the possibility – okay, more like likelihood
- of his being married what with little Meredith Junior and all, but…still… married? Him?
“Sheesh, McKay. Calm down before you pass out from manly terror.”
“I’m not –“
“You so are,” Sheppard cut him off with a wave of his hand. “And, yes – you’re married. To Mer’s mom, even. Go figure. A woman you didn’t chase away by being your charming self.”
There was that urge again. The one to wipe the smug look off Sheppard’s face by making sure that he never had a hot shower again while he was in Atlantis.
“You’re a funny man, Colonel,” he bit off. “Now – tell me what exactly future-you said.”
Sheppard shrugged. “Nothing much. Just that we’d know it was them because we’d think they were crazy within ten minutes of meeting them.”
Well that was… absolutely no help. There were a lot of women that he thought were crazy shortly after meeting them.
“Well, it’s a pretty good guess that mine has red hair. That color doesn’t run in my family.” He smirked. “You, on the other hand, don’t have anything to go by, do you?”
“I’ll think she’s crazy?” Sheppard repeated, eyebrows going up with questioning innocence. Then he shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, McKay. Whether we know who they are from the start or not, it’ll all work out.”
“How very zen of you,” Rodney rolled his eyes to the skies over their heads.
“That’s me – zen. I’ll be raking sand and arranging rocks in no time. Now, c’mon. The Daedalus is due in a few hours, remember? New recruits to terrify? Minions to cow?”
It wasn’t a time machine, but Rodney supposed it would have to do.
The next morning brought no new revelations or insights on the little slipups and hints their counterparts from the future had given away during their brief time in Atlantis, and Rodney found himself more irritated than anything by the entire situation as he stalked into the conference room, coffee cup in one hand and laptop tucked under his arm. He glanced around the room, nodding a greeting at Sheppard. Elizabeth wasn’t there yet which, as it was her meeting, was pretty inconvenient. Rodney sighed and dropped unceremoniously into the chair next to the Colonel, sipping his coffee with a grateful hum as he opened his laptop.
“Didn’t bring me any?” Sheppard asked in that tone of voice that said he was being completely sarcastic and did not in any way expect that Rodney would – ever – bring him coffee.
“Yes, it’s there in the invisible cup right in front of you. Drink up.” Rodney waved his hand at the empty table, catching Sheppard’s grin as he turned back to his laptop. Eighteen years from now they’d still be doing this, baiting each other. The fact that he was looking forward to both giving and receiving that verbal abuse probably said more about him than any psych exam that Heightmeyer could give.
Rodney hummed into his cup, looking over the data on his laptop. Another spectacular screw up courtesy of the so-called scientists he worked with. They’d set research in one lab back by at least a week after activating what they’d eventually figured out was no more than an Ancient’s version of a balloon filled with paint. Highly sticky, smelly, paint. The entire lab was blue and smelled of tulips. Rodney felt the urge to pop antihistamines just stepping into
Next to him, Sheppard sucked in a sharp breath, just as Elizabeth greeted them. “Gentlemen. Good morning.”
Rodney glanced up, then back down at his laptop. Then back up again. There were two women with Elizabeth. Mid-twenties, if he had to guess. They must have arrived on the Daedalus, because he’d never seen them before. And he was sure that he’d remember at least one of them, given all the thinking he’d done about redheads last night.
The door to the conference room shut behind the second of the pair, a dark haired woman that met his eyes with a smirk. She moved like…well... a lot of how she moved reminded him of Sheppard, actually. Loose-limbed, completely at ease with herself and how good looking she was.
Could these be…? No. Not likely, he told himself, fighting down that feeling of hope in his chest, because, really? What were the chances that they’d meet them so soon after bidding a not-so-fond farewell to their futuristic guests?
And these two didn’t look like they were crazy. Not in the least.
“I’d like to introduce the two of you to our liasions from an organization called the Council. We’ll get to what that means in just a moment, however,” Elizabeth offered with a small, tight smile. “Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay – this is Willow Rosenberg,” she gestured to the redhead, “And Faith Lehane.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Sheppard drawled, standing up to offer his hand to the two women. He lingered a little on the brunette. Maybe he had the same idea that Rodney did, then? Still – the odds were against it. Rodney gave them both a nod, turning his mind from thoughts of future brides to whatever this ‘Council’ could be.
“All right, ladies,” Elizabeth continued. “I’ll turn the floor over to you since you can undoubtedly explain your organization better than I could ever dream of. I’m still having trouble believing it’s all real.”
Willow laughed, and it was soft and sweet and made Rodney’s stomach do an unpleasant little flip. He really should have had something other than a powerbar for breakfast.
“Well… okay…,” she started slowly, taking a seat at the table. “It’s like this…”
Approximately seven minutes later, Rodney knew he’d met the woman he’d marry.
Because anyone that believed in vampires and magic had
to be crazy.
A/N: So... anyone else want to see more of this 'verse?