Category: AU, Angst, McKay/Sheppard
Disclaimer: I don't own the Stargate universe or anything in it, I'm just borrowing it for a while.
Author's Note: Thanks to Lilas who beta read this for me, and FCOL who I'm writing this for. She's the one who initially let go of the bunnies that lead to this fic. Hope you all like it. Oh, and by the way, you should note that there are some british spellings in here that are different to the American ones.
A small boy, only five years old, looked up at the planes flying in the sky over the small patch of concrete behind his home, and promised to himself that some day he'd escape. He'd leave this place where his mother is gone most of the time and his father tries but just can't do anything for his children. This place where he feels alone and isolated.
He'd escape this. Just watch him.
In another country a boy only a year older stared as his father donned on a dark uniform he's intimately familiar with and leaves his mother and him again.. He doesn't want to be him, doesn't ever want to be like that man. He doesn't want to put his mom through this too.
He'd be different. Just watch him.
Grey walls surrounded him, and like any other military institution he'd ever been to, there didn't seem to be a lot of colours around that weren't needed except for the ones used for uniforms and directions. And, of course, the obligatory photos of planes and war ships scattered around; how could we forget them? How he'd ended up in a military base as an adult was beyond him, and working for them was beyond mystery. Oh, they'd asked him to work for them before, to join this force or that force, to serve his country. To take him away from any home he might have. Yet here he was on their pay roll, in their base, and he wasn't too upset about it like he really should be. This, he suspected, wasn't all that unusual of a feeling among the civilians here. Especially those in his project – come and work under civilian command, ignore the military presence, and run research projects to your hearts content!
And then this comes along. Well, that was just great.
He watched, hand on his younger sister's shoulder, as his father drove off slowly, unsure if he should be grateful or not. It hadn't set in properly that their father had given him and his sister up, and the part of his mind that realised the truth knew that their father had done the right thing to help them. He'd gotten them away from a mother who'd become physically abusive.
He'd make sure that didn't happen to others. Just watch him.
Standing sombre beside his mother he watched as people came up and gave their condolences about that man who was supposed to be his father. Missing in action, gone, and presumed dead. Abandoning his so called family because he just couldn't say no. Refused to stay with them, support them.
He'd never abandon what he was responsible for. Just watch him.
For years he'd watched as Lt Col. Carter went off on the primary team, saving the world and generally becoming famous in their world of gate travel and interstellar life. He had to admit he was slightly jealous. Who wouldn't be? Eventually he got his own team though, SG-17, and they did well, becoming one of the best. Made allies, found technology, protected those who needed it whenever they could. People could never get a hang of him, a scientist like most of the civilians, but even more attuned to the military aspect of his life than the infamous Sam Carter. It wasn't to say he was like one of those macho idiots that frequented the organisation, far from it. And it wasn't to say he was stupid, because he was a genius. He simply thought more about the fighting, the protecting people aspect of the job.
The main benefit of being the type of person he was, was that he was put on this expedition they were going to launch soon. And really, that was more than fine with him.
The eleven year old smiled the biggest smile he could remember smiling as he walked into the building in front of him. His adoptive parents had recognised his talents, and when a professional they'd taken him to told them he had a genius level IQ, they had fully embraced it. So much so that they'd moved the family across the country so he could attend this place – the best school in Canada, specifically designed for people like him, to help challenge them.
He was going to love this place. Just watch him.
Twelve years old and his so-called father had been found at last by the military, but he'd barely lasted a week in the hospital before he died. The body was being lowered into the ground before him, his mother at his side sobbing and frail. That man had caused so much pain and grief, he was hardly sorry to see him go.
He'd never do this to her. Just watch him.
If there was one thing he knew, and he knew a hell of a lot, it was that life wasn't as simple as the rules that governed it. Multiply seven by two and you'll always get fourteen, but that didn't mean people would work the same way. No, he'd learned that a long time ago now. So when he'd learned that there was a group of people in the military (though not entirely military themselves) who stuck together as family no matter what, he'd been surprised, but accepted it as something very rare, an anomaly. He'd then gone on to meet people who served their countries in various armed forces and discovered it wasn't quite so rare as he'd thought, that there was another side to this military gig that he hadn't seen as a child.
Not that he regretted the way his life had gone, he couldn't be happier. Not really.
He was doing well in school, acing science like it was a course designed for idiots, not doing terribly badly in the arts (though he couldn't paint or draw to save his life). Geography he had to work at, he could do it but it wasn't his area – it was obvious he wouldn't be doing that for a living. What he wanted to do had shocked his family, his sister especially. He was joining the Canadian Forces, Air Command to be exact, where they'd let him carry on his education and do what he'd wanted to do since a child.
He was going to protect people. Just watch him.
Mathematics was the easiest subject around. He could see numbers and equations in his head, sort them out, and force them to become more. Science wasn't that hard either, when he tried, and he liked seeing those numbers not only make sense like they innately did, but go towards something else. Explain how that building block of the world could do something else. His family had never been rich, and paying for college would be a struggle. His mother had encouraged him to accept the military's offer to pay for it if he joined up. He refused.
He was going to be a mathematician and a scientist. Just watch him.
Time to leave, and who knew when he was going to get back. He'd made his calls to his sister and her family, to his parents in their small Toronto flat. He'd packed his bags with some civilian clothes, a photo album, some DVDs, coffee and chocolate. Jeannie had suggested Lemon Bonbons but had received several sharp comments for her trouble. Looking out over the sea of people around him, there were military personnel like him, and civilians, all mingling around trying to be useful. Pretending not to be nervous about what they were going to do. The military commander of the expedition, Colonel Sumner, was hovering around looking stern and forceful, trying to intimidate the civilians. Though from the looks of things it wasn't working on the Scot he was standing next to, whom wasn't going to give in.
Right there across from him quietly laughing at the scene was a man he'd never scene before but had definitely heard of, standing tall and relaxed. Long, black hair fell to his shoulders yet managed to be some how rebellious and thick in a way most men's hair like that couldn't. And why on earth was he even thinking these things anyway? He had far better things to think of than the hair of a civilian who was going to be working in another department all together.
It had been a long time since he'd seen his biological father and mother. A long time, but what he'd had trouble accepting then, he embraced now as a source of what he had become and the choices he'd made. In which case, it was only right to go see him, let him know what was going on. What he hadn't expected, and never would have thought, was to find out that his mother was dead and his father about to die. The one thing he could take comfort in was that the old man was proud of him, of his son and daughter.
He was going to earn that pride. Just watch him.
Graduation day, the first of many to come with twin majors in mathematics and physics. Next he was going to get a few PhDs, maybe two or more. Not like he had anything else to do really, and the fact that he'd won a scholarship from a major technology company helped with the money. Out there in the crowd he could see his mother and his boyfriend standing side by side. Looking at him with such hope for what he'd achieve in the future, such joy.
He was going to be brilliant just like they hoped. Just watch him.
A man was staring at him from the edge of the room, military judging from the dark colours he wore on the new Atlantian uniform. He'd seen a picture of him and been told he was going to be second in command of the military only because they couldn't have an AIRCOM Major in charge of the science department. He was well toned with short hair, yet not particularly stunning in the visuals department. Despite that something struck a cord within him and he had a feeling that man was something special, something that gave him hope this trip would mean more to him than discovery of new science. His instincts were normally right, and John couldn't help but lick his lips slightly at the thought of possible futures. He grinned when the other man visibly straightened, noticing his action.
The head of the military, no where near as interesting as the Major, left the Scot and started berating him. How he'd no idea why a son of a fine military man like his father would choose to go civilian and so he'd be watched. He wasn't trusted, so watch what he did. He'd heard certain things about him and if he saw anything unusual there'd be hell to pay.
It occurred to him that he'd probably annoyed the Colonel when he didn't so much as become scared and intimidated, or even retaliated. But merely stood there with a calm if bored expression.
This was going to be a lot more fun than he'd thought.
As the gate started to dial and the expedition leader stepped in front of them all to give a speech, every person in the room stilled to listen to her. She was strong, he could tell, and wouldn't take crap from anyone – he liked her already. He had one thought as he stepped through the wormhole into oblivion and a new galaxy.
This was it.
When he'd been fifteen he'd come to the inescapable truth that women really didn't do anything for him. He liked them just fine, but he didn't get excited over them like the rest of his class did. Instead he spent his time dreaming about the boys at school, or men in the media he found good looking. Which lead to a few embarrassing moments with his mother, who he was scared to talk to. What if she rejected him, what if he was sent to another set of parents, to the orphanage? The time came though that he couldn't keep it from her anymore; she was his mother, even if it wasn't by birth, and had a right to know. Besides, he needed to talk to someone about this, about what he was feeling. That night she'd held on to her trembling teenage soon as he told her the truth and sobbed in relief when she said it didn't matter, he was her son and that was all that mattered. She loved him.
He'd never doubt her again. Just you watch.
Through his teenage years a truth came up on him that he'd never looked for and never expected. He was sexually attracted to men. That wasn't all though. He was as attracted to them as he was to women, pretty much. He never acted on it though, only dreamed, until one day in university he met a man a few years older than him. Liam Bursch. They'd fallen in love quickly, forcing them to tell their parents who hadn't minded in the least. Then, one day not long after he'd graduated the second time there was a car accident and the two people closest to him in the world died. He didn't know how to cope. How to live.
He'd never feel that pain again. Just you watch.
He couldn't believe he'd done that, but he had. He didn't have a choice about it at the time; he'd been freeing a man from pain and torment. Those eyes, Sumner's eyes stared at him no matter where he went, he couldn't escape them. He was a liberal kind of man, believed in euthanasia, but this was something else. Something much, much darker. It was the right thing to do, logically, and he knew that, but… but it didn't help his mind calm down, and it wouldn't stop the nightmares coming. He'd come here to protect, not kill, and that's all his heart knew. Elizabeth coming up to him, the look on her face, the notification that he was officially the military head, it was all salt to the wounds. Some of the other soldiers, airmen and marines, came up to him to offer their sympathies and faked understanding.
He didn't need it, didn't want it, and was very vocal in the matter.
When the long haired scientist walked past him he merely turned his head, nodded and walked on with some small air of understanding in his eyes. Something that said he'd been through more than you could tell by his happy-go-lucky ways.
At the moment though, it was all irrelevant. He was CO now and in charge of the primary team, one he'd yet to choose. It needed to be well balanced, with different disciplines if it was going to be the first contact team. They already had the physicist and commander in him, all he needed were two soldiers/warriors and someone good with languages and cultures.
This was going to be hard.
They'd been in Atlantis not even a week when the first alien attack hit the city in the form of a dark cloud, and he'd nearly had a heart attack when one of the scientists had put on that shield device they'd been playing with, before walking into the mist and saving everyone. It wasn't the first time the city was invaded and someone had to save it, and it wasn't the first time he'd almost been given a heart attack. Several times by the long haired scientist that he'd gradually become closer to. Months passed, their relationship became romantic and the most treasured thing in his world view.
He wouldn't let John down. Just you watch.
Despite the vow to never have his heart broken again, he couldn't resist the pull of the military leader, couldn't resist liking him and loving him. Every time the other man went out on a mission with his team he worried, and every time he came back he was able to breathe again. When he came back to Atlantis after the storm to find the Genii had invaded, his only thought had been of him.
He'd protect him with everything he had. Just you watch.
The Wraith were attacking the city from above, and despite his ATA gene, despite all his knowledge of math and science and sheer will power there was no way to start up the Jumpers by remote and save Atlantis without any more deaths. There was a way to solve this though, and it was so infinitely simple that he could see it in his head, numbers aligning next to the image to display chances of success. The probability that Rodney would live was also shown. He'd made a promise to himself, two of them, and that meant he had to go up there with the bomb himself.He knew Rodney would come to the same conclusion and try this himself.
He wouldn't allow that to happen.
So he ran out there as fast he could with barely a farewell. Not giving the other man a chance to catch up to him he ran through corridors, transporters and eventually into the Jumper where his boss and head of Science was waiting. They'd become friends as the year went on, but all he had time for was a small smile in his direction whilst closing up the hatch and rising into the air.
This would work.
It had to.
Ignoring the sounds of his lover of over the radio, he piloted the small vessel into space, cloaked and prepared to die and face the music with his dad for being bi. Not that any of it mattered, not now, not when he was safe in the city bellow.
He'd been at war, he'd seen people die, close friends fall under bullets and grenades. This reality wasn't strange to him, and was one he'd long accepted. It was military life, something he'd chosen, and that was the price to pay for protecting others who had no means to do so themselves. One time, years ago, his best friend had been sent on patrol with him in a dangerous area they were helping to look after. That friend didn't come back, dead from a small piece of metal with Rodney's name on it. It had been a hard time, he had hated it, and it'd only resolved his aim in life.
He'd protect people, with his life if needed. Just watch him.
During his life he'd seen a father walk out on him and his mom and vowed to never to do that. He'd lost a man he'd loved with all his being, and vowed to never feel that pain again. He'd watched the news and saw wars, destruction, fathers away from their children and a cold world in which no one cared about anyone else. He'd gone to the south pole and the Ancient outpost there, forced to work alongside the military hearing stories of a legendary group that were family. He learned that this world wasn't as cold as he'd thought. He'd fallen in love deeper than ever before with a military man, and vowed to protect him.
He'd keep those vows though. Just you watch.
He'd failed. He was supposed to protect people. He wasn't supposed to let John down, and yet he had. It was blatantly obvious to him and anyone else that looked. Failing, however, wasn't important. It was the consequences of that failure that mattered. John was going to die. Up there. In space. Alone. He wasn't supposed to, was never supposed to. He was a civilian. They weren't supposed to do these things.
Blood rushing, racing through his brain.
Breathe in, breathe out.
He'd made many vows in his life, and he'd succeeded in keeping them for the most part. The two most important ones didn't coincide together anymore: never to walk out and abandon those close to him, and to always protect Rodney. No longer could he do both at the same time, and the choice between the two was simple. Rodney's life won over the reality that he was walking out on him. He loved the man, and that he was alive and healthy was more important than anything.
Oh god, oh god. This couldn't be. He couldn't die. How could he do this to him? And he realised, he knew exactly how. Because he'd do the same thing if given a chance. Would have done, if John hadn't run off and gotten to the Jumper first.
As a boy he'd resented his father for doing what he did, and as a teenager he could barely care that he'd died. As an adult though, he could understand because he was doing the same thing. And he hoped that Rodney would understand what he was doing now too.
This was it, there was no time left. The sensors registered and explosion, dispassionate and unfeeling, and how could anything be like that when John had died? How was it possible? He didn't even register his body falling until he felt Carson supporting him on the floor, quiet support that countered Elizabeth's pointed stare. Sympathy didn't do any good. It didn't bring John back.
This couldn't be. He was alive. It wasn't possible, not after a nuclear explosion. He was… he was standing on an Earth ship? They were early, they'd saved him. It didn't matter anymore. He didn't care about what they were saying. None of it was important, the only thing that was, was getting back to Rodney. Hug him, get as close to him as he could so they could both know the other was alive. Had to get back, had to –
His mother had abused him, his father tried to save him by giving him away. He'd left his entire family behind and none of it would ever compare to this.
One thing he'd grown to love about Rodney was his sheer stubbornness and ability to stick to what he thought was right. It was also something he found rather annoying at times. Not that he'd change the man for the entire universe.
People were talking. He could hear it in the background, noise over the radio and silence overhead that was as loud as the fighting previously taking place. It didn't reach him though, not until a single voice was heard. One he'd never thought he'd never hear again, unless there was an afterlife. Maybe there was, maybe he was dead too. Death from grief.
He'd believed in euthanasia, yet strangely he'd always been critical of suicide. People killing themselves because they were picked on seemed selfish, as if they couldn't recognise the problems others had. Problems far greater than their own. Of course, the man he'd fallen in love with had never sacrificed himself before now.
Life was a gift, but it was yours to do with as you liked. He didn't believe any one else had the right to force you to live when all you wanted to do was die. He'd never been fond of those who arrested people for aiding in suicide, or those who were so obsessed with stopping a person from killing themselves they'd do anything to stop it. Of course, the man he'd fallen in love with had never wished himself dead before now.
Touch. He needed to touch him. Talk to him. Make him believe that he was alive and well, that they were together in life and not in death. He needed to talk some more, Rodney was starting to respond to him, that much he could see. The face lifted up, and it was a sight he'd never seen before. Eyes scarlet red, cheeks slightly wet, completely tired right down to the soul, and sad. Unbelievably sad, in a way he'd never imagined before in his mind let alone on his lover's face. So uncertain, as if he didn't know what to believe, didn't know if this was real.
As if there'd never been space between them, he strode up and brought him into his arms in a fierce hug that could break ribs. Sitting there, waiting, smiling with relief when arms came up on his back in an equally tight hug, tighter even. Nothing could separate them now, nothing.
Because they were alive, together, and drawing in the presence of the other in an endless and reassuring loop that kept them alive. Unaware that their friends were watching them, not that they even cared about that.
"John, don't leave me like that again."
"I can't promise you that. You know why."
And that's all he needed to say, all either of them needed to say. For the moment, this was their world, and it was life. A life that would continue, for many years he hoped, but none of that was important yet. In that moment, he made another vow, one he knew Rodney was silently making too.
He'd make the most of this life with the man he loved. Just you watch.