AN: THIS STORY HAS SLASH! If you don’t like slash, pretend the last story was the end of series (“And Xander lived happily ever after. Or not.”), hide this story, and go read something else. This is set FIFTEEN MONTHS after the events of WELCOME TO THE KEEP, its prequel. Anything canon after SGA season 3’s Echoes will be ignored. Anything canon after SG1 season five will be subject to blatant altering, switching around, or even deletion.
Warnings: Violence, bad language, adult situations, SLASH, implied sex, Fake!Science, Fake!Biology, Fake!Ancient, blatant disregard for canon, SLASH pairings with major characters, SLASH pairings with minor characters, SLASH pairing with Xander, SLASH pairing with Rodney McKay, Slash pairing Xander/Rodney, M/F pairings all around, rudeness, major and minor character deaths, Super!Xander, clichéd plot lines, mismatching timelines, etc.
Disclaimer: Neither Stargate (SG-1 or Atlantis) nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to me. I claim no ownership of them and recognize that they belong to the various people and companies who own them. I do this solely for my own enjoyment and, should our interests mesh, the enjoyment of others. I have made no money off of this and do not ever plan to. Anything that even looks vaguely familiar (such as brand names, culture references, etc) also does not belong to me.
Series: Return to the Blood Lands
Story: The Ancient Prophecy
The halls of the great city-ship were as active and bustling as they always were in some areas and yet completely dead and lifeless in others. It made sense. It was efficient. The expedition was only a few hundred strong while the city-ship was built to house, according to an estimate by the science department, at least a few thousand at bare minimum.
The fact was Atlantis could be operated using a mere fraction of the city’s space. But sometimes, while in a nostalgic mood, John couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like all of those thousands of years ago when all corners of the city had been bustling with activity. Men, women, and children alike inhabiting the strange place he now called home.
He had dreams occasionally where he imagined how this must have looked and often shared the experience with his team. Though strange it was (because while the Ancients looked like modern humans, they sometimes seemed to lack elements of emotional expression), the dreams themselves always were a nice reprieve from OTHER dreams- the ones he DIDN’T share with his team mates.
“Sir.” A marine acknowledged, passing by. “Good luck with your mission.” John smiled, a little tense. Everyone knew how his team’s missions tended to turn out. Without fail, his team always managed to run into some kind of problem or minor crisis while off world. This even prompted Weir to suggest that he stagger their missions over a two week period because, according to her, they needed at least a two week period of recovery for whatever crisis they managed to drag in through the stargate.
Lorne’s team went out and studied PLANTS, for crying out loud! And not ONCE did any plant try to kill anyone and/or take over the city. Sure, Lorne occasionally got himself kidnapped, trapped under enemy fire, or involved in some Wraith mess but it happened so infrequently that it was hardly worth mentioning, especially when compared to Rodney’s kidnap resume alone- a veritable who’s who of enemies and fickle allies.
Regardless, John had a mission briefing to get to. It was a mission he was dreading. As much as Elizabeth wanted them to moderate how many missions they went on, she had forced this mission after five weeks of John stalling. This really wasn’t a mission he wanted to go on but he and Elizabeth had a check and balance kind of relationship. He called her on her shit as much as she called him on his own. He would just have to suck it up and take the mission.
Not that he was going to show up earlier to the briefing or anything. He had his own free will, despite the gossip that claimed otherwise. He had to stall for another, oh, five or ten minutes. Just to make the point. He wasn’t being an ass for the hell of it. It was the principle of the matter!
Rodney glanced at his watch out of the corner of his eye. There were five minutes until the mission briefing, a whole five minutes AFTER the time he usually showed up for such things. It grated at him but he kept his mouth shut, for Katie Brown was the only person in any world who he would pretend to have tact for.
He marveled at his own patience. He was big on lusting for the pretty botanist but she really wasn’t his type. He usually went for blondes with degrees in science , not for red heads (who were occasionally brunettes and why was that anyway?) who thought that being elbow deep in dirt was the best thing ever. Considering that Rodney hated dirt (and all the creepy crawling monstrosities commonly found within), even he was surprised that he wasn’t mocking her, like he had mocked other botanists and lesser scientists throughout his whole life.
Which made him feel bad because, despite her botany kink, he really liked Katie. He just couldn’t take her seriously when she talked about it.
“Oh, look at the time.” She said, glancing at her own watch. Rodney immediately shot up out of his chair, nearly knocking it over in his haste. Instead of calling him on his readily apparent desire to run, she simply smiled at him and said, “Same time tomorrow?”
And that was the other reason why she really wasn’t his type. His girlfriends (or pseudo-girlfriends, like in the case of the lovely Samantha Carter) usually tended to bite back verbally. But Katie was sweet, which meant that Rodney found himself working twice as hard to avoid being… well… HIM, in a word, which was exhausting and irritating but worth it.
Rodney was snippy with her once and had to watch as she visibly wilted, like one of her damn flowers. He felt so bad about it, like he had kicked a puppy. Or worse (since he didn’t like dogs, attention whores that they were), like he had kicked a cat.
“Uh, not sure if that will work.” Rodney admitted. He smiled sheepishly when she looked up from collecting the dishes. “Mission and all.”
“Ah, that’s right.” Katie said, looking away. One thing she tried to talk him out of was his permanent placement on one of the teams. And yeah, maybe she was right. Maybe he did get hurt a lot- thrown around by Wraith, shot at by natives, or kidnapped by anyone who felt like they needed a scientist.
But, when off world, Rodney was given the opportunity to do so much more than he ever imagined when he first agreed to join the expedition. He remembered his elation when John (Major Sheppard then) asked if he would not only join HIS team, but the premier flagship team of the expedition on a permanent basis.
Of course, there was no better choice than him and John would have been a fool not to recognize his superiority. But Rodney had been so pleased. He thought he hadn’t been allowed to contribute as much as he could have to the SGC (kind of hard to when he was freezing his ass off in Siberia!) and Atlantis, as much as it was the most important thing to happen to Earth in the last thousand years, it was also a chance for Rodney to prove himself without a doubt.
Rodney wanted to help people too; he just never was able to articulate that well enough. In Atlantis, he was allowed to and the team was the best way, perhaps even the ONLY way, he could do that the best. He wasn’t going to give the team up, not even for Katie.
“Good luck.” She said quietly, giving him a brave smile. She still didn’t like him going but accepted he wasn’t going to budge. “I hope that you will do well.”
“Don’t I always?” Rodney looked down at his watch. Two minutes until the briefing. “I have to go.” Katie clearly was waiting for something but Rodney, though he had the thought that he should probably be DOING that something, had no idea what she wanted. “Um, good bye?”
Katie sighed deeply, her disappointment hard to miss. But she smiled at him again and echoed the sentiment, taking a step forward as she pressed a kiss to his cheek (OH, that’s what he was supposed to do!). She looked at him for a long moment, then pulled away, exiting the labs without a look back.
Rodney paused for a second (because it seemed required after such an exit) and then exploded into action, grabbing his things and hurrying to one of the transporters. Juggling his laptop, his coffee mug, and several thick files, he snapped for the marines to get the hell out of the transporter or get coffee in their face.
The three marines, all over six feet tall and extremely well trained killers, leapt out of the way of Doctor McKay, knowing better to mess with the scientist. He thanked them shortly as the transporter doors shut. When they opened, he was near the central command and only a few seconds away from the briefing room.
He liked to get to the room early, way before everyone else. There was a practical reason for this too. There was only ONE comfortable chair in the entire room and with a room full of identical looking chairs, it was often a matter of hide and seek to find the best one. And to make matters worse, some smart ass thought it was a great idea to switch around the chairs every once in a while, so it wasn’t even a matter of position that determined the location of the best possible seat.
So, before every meeting, he’d test the seats. And it wasn’t like he got there early because he was shy about his tests- which were totally and completely scientific. Ronon often helped, when he could be bothered, finding that one of the funniest things to do with a rolling chair was to roll it really really fast when someone was still on it. Teyla usually alternated between offering advice and keeping to herself, depending on how fast Rodney snapped at her. And John usually just mocked him, the fluffy haired bastard.
He still had time. Elizabeth usually didn’t come in to start the briefing until John showed up. John was usually on time except on those days that he was feeling a little prickly. On those days, he was, on average, five to seven minutes late. And today, he was feeling pretty damn prickly, if the impression Rodney got during breakfast in the mess was correct.
If John REALLY wanted to make a statement to Elizabeth, he should just grow a pair and not show up at all, not come rushing in a few minutes late like a chastised school boy.
“Doctor McKay.” The curt greeting met him the second he crossed over the threshold. He turned as he heard her, an unpleasant look crossing over his face. She was in the corner, a five foot seven blonde marine with heart of stone. “You’re thirty seconds late.”
“Lieutenant Alvarez.” Rodney greeted coolly. Now John’s pissy attitude was starting to make sense. He knew that his CO was trying to stall until Ronon got better but hell! She was NOT a good substitute, in any meaning of the word! “How unpleasant to see you.” The marine stood still, at attention. He didn’t even bother to pretend it was for him. She would continue to stand rigidly until John ordered her to sit down. “Do you hide in the shadows often or just during your assassination attempts?”
“Depends.” She replied, her eyes cold. Lieutenant Alvarez was the realization of every academic’s boogeyman military figure, the kind that in movies would take a poor scientist’s hard work and burn it up in flames, all in the name of patriotism, national security, or suppression of secrets. Naturally, she was also the type of person who thought that the scientists should stay in their labs and not go off world.
Rodney did not like her and opposite was true as well.
Rodney set his stuff on the table and sat down in the first seat that met his ass and, to his annoyance, it was an uncomfortable one. But there would be no testing today, not with such a hostile person in the room. He exaggerated his comfort in the chair though, knowing from trying it how taxing on the muscles it could be to stand so rigidly for such a long period of time. Her eyes narrowed at him but she did not acknowledge his barb, which disappointed Rodney. There was nothing in the world more entertaining than pissing off uptight oppressive military people.
Although the SGC could be a little rigid and conservative, they collectively failed at oppression. BADLY. All one had to do nowadays was mention the possibility of using a self-sustaining wormhole for practical purposes of travel within a public lecture and BAM! Immediately hired by the government for a secret military project. Whoo.
If they really wanted to oppress what they thought was ‘leaks’, then they shouldn’t award the people who were leaking with a six (and sometimes seven) figure salary. It went against common sense but, hey, that was the US government for you.
“So…” Rodney drawled, tapping his pen on the table annoyingly. Her face was tense and he was awarded with a brief glare at the pen- not that that moved him to stop. “Eat anyone today?”
“The day isn’t over yet.”
Rodney had a feeling that this mission wasn’t going to go well.
John slid into the briefing room- three minutes late. Teyla was there, as was the young lieutenant and Rodney. He briefly saluted the lieutenant and told her to take a seat before he took a seat of his own.
Oh! Comfortable chair. Nice.
“So, how are you all doing?” John asked of the table amicably. His good will was not reflected. “Okay, I’ll take that as a not well at ALL.”
“Now that John has decided to show up-” Because Elizabeth was the only one who was allowed to be late, apparently, and woe to the one who dared to call her on it. “We can begin the meeting.”
Mission briefings were always the same but this one seemed more repetitive than usual. John realized it was because Weir was trying to impress upon the lieutenant the importance of the information she was giving her. He knew he would be doing the same later on- basic stuff, like always have your weapon up, stay near your civilian, and never leave a man behind.
It was really tedious but it had to be done. The lieutenant was a new arrival from the Daedalus and, as such, was likely not used to how the expedition worked. John sensed potential problems (since their expedition was weird, especially in command structure) but wasn’t too worried because the other marines settled in without complaint.
“Teyla.” Elizabeth said, turning to her right as she started to wrap the meeting up. “What is it that YOU know of this place?” Teyla straightened up slightly, her hands crossed together on the table in front of her.
“This planet has been rumored to have been a haven for the Ancestors, but I know nothing more of it than that.” She said regretfully, her gaze shifting from Weir to briefly meet everyone else’s. “My people do not know of anyone who lives there and neither have we traded with them.”
“Thank you Teyla.” Elizabeth said. Teyla acknowledged it with a nod. Weir turned to everyone else. “You know the objectives. Search for any villages, make contact. Try to open a trade negotiation.”
“And?” Rodney said leadingly. She quirked a smile at him.
“Go after any significant power readings.” Elizabeth acknowledged humorously before turning serious as she addressed everyone. “We’re not sure if this place has a ZPM or even Ancient technology but, as usual, keep an eye out.” She stood and it was a sign for everyone to stand as well. She looked at them all with deep concern. “Be careful.”
Carson would be on standby, John knew. He also knew it was highly likely that they would need his attention. Dammit! John didn’t like going anywhere without Ronon and now was not the time to break in a new lieutenant, especially when the team doing the breaking had the worst streak of luck in the history of the expedition.
His team was no competition for SG1 though, and they turned out alright in the end.
“Sir!” The lieutenant snapped off a salute, despite the fact that John had told her at least twice in the last day that things were a little less formal around here. She must have thought it was a test and upped the formality as a result. “I’m going to suit up, sir!”
“Yeah, go ahead and do that, lieutenant.” John said with a sigh, saluting her back after he realized she wasn’t going to leave without it. It was sloppy and without form but it was apparently good enough for the standards of Lieutenant Sarah Alvarez, who quickly turned and left, each movement sharp with military precision.
He sighed. John was NOT happy with her presence on the team and would have rather had any other marine on base replace Ronon.
It wasn’t like he disliked the young woman. He was sure she was very nice but she was a very by the book and thus not suited for Atlantis’ command environment. There was a REASON why he kept things casual as opposed to adhering to a stricter military approach like the one she was expecting.
This wasn’t a normal command and a great majority of the people on the base weren’t normal people- they were civilians. And not just civilians, but civilians who got pissy and trigger happy with their weapon of choice when well meaning military types attempted to order them around. ATTEMPTED, being the operant word.
As evidenced from some of the complaints about her from Rodney (not that McKay didn’t complain all the time about everyone), she didn’t seem to get that yet but John was sure, as the only positive outcome to her addition to the team, that she would. Eventually. She seemed like a pretty smart gal.
“Ever notice how monotonous these meetings have become?” Rodney said out of nowhere, typing something into his laptop.
“No.” He sat down on the table next to Rodney. “You’re just an adrenaline junkie. Can’t be bothered with meetings unless there’s five minutes on the clock to the next time the Wraith want to end the world.” John frowned because the word ‘world’ was kind of world-centric, when, in reality, many worlds were in danger, not just their own. “Or something.”
“It’s not my fault that the only person standing between us and total destruction is, oh let me think, uh, ME.” McKay was unimpressed, drinking his coffee with one hand as he typed on the keyboard with his other.
“Did you forget something?” John prodded, closing Rodney’s laptop for him, the kind CO that he was. The scientist jerked his fingers out of the way just in time.
“What?” McKay was confused.
“Oh, right.” Rodney said vaguely, heading off to the locker room. Shaking his head as he followed his scientist, John stopped when he noticed someone skulking by the briefing room. Super secret ninja, his friend was not. He was too… conspicuous.
“Hey Ronon.” John greeted cheerfully. Tall people had a hell of a time hiding and blending in, which made Ronon all the more impressive, if you thought about it. “How’s the leg?” The man looked up, not even pretending to be guilty about eavesdropping on a private mission briefing. John realized something was missing and pointed at him. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on a crutch?”
“Look, I know you’re probably pissed off that you’re not going on this mission with us.” Ronon grunted. Was that supposed to be a yes? “You have to realize that the last thing I want is for you to get injured off world. With a prior injury-”
“I know that, Sheppard.” He looked frustrated. John couldn’t blame him. Every mission that his team went on without him drove John up the WALL. “I just wish I didn’t get this thing in the first place.” ‘This thing’ being the thick cast wrapped from his knee down to his ankle. John didn’t remember which of the two bones had been broken but it HAD been broken in three places.
“Not your most graceful moment, huh?” John smiled because it was funny. “Parrish was lucky you didn’t kill him.” Most people would have assumed that the Runner was injured during an epic hand to hand battle with a Wraith- not by an absent minded botanist in the mess during the lunch hour rush. Who dunnit! Doctor David Parrish, honorary lemming of the Atlantis expedition!
Thank god Parrish was Lorne’s problem and not his.
“And hey, as long as you’re not going …” John made ‘gimme’ motions towards the Satedan, who started to smile.
“My gun?” Just to tease, he took it out, doing one of his fancy gun tricks. John personally never tried to do that with his own nine millimeter. With his luck, he’d undo the safety and end up shooting his foot. Ronon offered the hilt to John, and then yanked it out of reach when John tried to take it. “Hell no, Sheppard.”
“Darn.” John snapped his fingers, grinning. One of these days…! “It was a nice try.” Ronon’s smile dimmed and he looked tired all of the sudden, probably an effect of the meds he was undoubtedly on. It was just one more piece of evidence that pointed out that Ronon Dex wasn’t Superman.
But John LIKED thinking Ronon was the Man of Steel and liked having him on his team, just as he imagined General O’Neill liked having the Jaffa Teal’c at his six. Seeing your guy take out a dozen enemies was one hell of an ego and morale booster- just as long as you didn’t start comparing scores.
“I’ll see you guys off.” Ronon said gruffly. John hesitated, then started walking to the locker rooms, very aware of Ronon limping behind him. Carson was going to lecture the hell out of them later but John couldn’t bring himself to say no. Ronon was concerned, as much as John was. While his team was together, they might have come back bruised, damaged, and even disheartened from their missions, but, dammit, they CAME back!
A strong hand clamped on his shoulder. “Don’t get in trouble.”
“Ha!” John said dryly. “You ask for the impossible.”