TITLE: Prelude to a Duet
AUTHOR: Wraithfodder
RATING: T
CATEGORY: Gen, humor, angst
SPOILERS: Season two episode "Duet"

Copyright Disclaimer: The Stargate Atlantis characters, as presented on the series, belong to MGM, Sci Fi, and other registered copyright holders. No copyright infringement is meant or intended by the writing and posting of this material. I'm just borrowing the characters and the universe for a piece of non-profit 'fan fiction' and will return in one piece (well, usually). However, all original characters and story material are copyright to author. Please do not repost this fiction, in whole or in part, anywhere, without expression written permission of the author.

SUMMARY: A follow-up to the second season episode "Duet," from Sheppard's point of view, of the events that transpired as well as what happened afterwards


Prelude to a Duet

PART 1

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

I couldn't believe the extent of the devastation on S2M 6L8. Another world culled to hell and back by the Wraith. No survivors as far as we could see, but we could just hope that someone had escaped into the hills. We couldn't cover the entire planet, but this particular little village was toast. Even Teyla, who'd lived her entire existence under the threat of the Wraith, had been shocked. I could hear it in her voice, and all I'd had to say was a witty remark about too many "hands to feed," or something like that. You couldn't dwell on carnage like this or else you'd go nuts. There was nothing we could do for the dead except to survive and beat back the Wraith.

We were heading back to the gate when Lieutenant Cadman called in a report of a Wraith dart. Shit! There was no way we could let it get through the gate. I gave the order to have it shot down. If word got back to a hive ship that Atlantis was alive and well and just pulling off a monumental bluff, we'd all be fish food before nightfall.

I'd assigned Cadman, a newbie who came in off the Daedalus - one of the many replacement troops that Atlantis got - to keep McKay and Beckett out of trouble. I'd thought about sending Major Lorne with him, but he's trained in the larger ordinance, so I brought him with my group. And, Cadman had just jumped at the chance to keep the two men in line. Had to be a masochist to want to willingly listen to those two complain and argue; I only hoped she was as good as her record led me to believe.

I'd made it to the open Stargate, just before hearing the drawn-out stattaco of gunfire at the dart, and an explosion as a missile hit its mark. Unfortunately, it hadn't been the dart meeting its maker. I could hear that cold screaming whine approaching my location, like some demonic hornet, just as Beckett screamed into the radio that McKay and Cadman had been swept up in a Wraith beam. Fuck. Wasn't it bad enough that Ford had deliberately run into one of those beams just days ago? Now McKay had met that same fate? God forgive me, Rodney, but I can't let Atlantis fall. I aimed my gun at the approaching dart and fired, and kept firing till I scored a hit, then watched the accursed ship plow into the area above the top of the hill, spewing up a black cloud of smoke and dirt. Dammit, I'm sorry, Rodney.

When I got up there, I found Beckett, covered in dirt like a mole, approaching the downed dart and its pilot, who was still alive. I couldn't fault Beckett for not firing his gun, not really. He's trained to save lives, not take them, but I scared the shit out of the poor guy when I shot the pilot dead, several times. Wraith just don't drop dead. You have to make sure. Carson has yet to be in a real combat situation, except for the siege on Atlantis, and he wouldn't know a Wraith self-destruct switch from a radio knob. He argued that we'd never get McKay and Cadman out of the ship now that I'd killed the pilot, but I also knew - and kept my mouth shut - that we wouldn't be doing much of anything if we'd been blown up into bite-size chunks across the landscape.

I swear, as much as I've adapted to having them around, scientists and civilians are like squirrels on a highway. Disaster happens and they don't know what to do. Well, that's not true. Give 'em a disaster in a controlled environment and they'd make me look like a ventriloquist's dummy, but damn, how the hell had Beckett nearly been run over by the dart? Didn't a huge flying object coming in low give him a hint to run in another direction? Squirrels, damn squirrels.

Atlantis' most brilliant mind had now been 'beamed' into the Wraith computer storage unit, or whatever they called it. That sucked, because if it had been Cadman and Beckett instead, McKay would have had this figured out in the same amount of time it takes to boil a pot of eggs. Instead, I dragged the second most brilliant scientific mind, at least I think he is, off Atlantis and had him shoved through the gate. When something shorted out on the rear of the dart, and he jumped around, head swerving here and there, all I could think of was squirrel stopped on the roadway as a truck bore down on it to turn it into a flat furry puddle. A quick question and yup, it was Zelenka's first trip off-world. I couldn't remember if he'd gone off with any other teams. Seems every time I took my team off-world, we'd get ourselves into a mess of trouble, so what other teams were doing at the same time wasn't always my priority, and names tended to blend together after a while. Unless someone died, then the names were practically burned into my mind. Markham, Gaul, and so many more after the Wraith attacked Atlantis.

I couldn't believe it. Now Zelenka, who just seconds ago told me we could pull one person out of the memory and the choice was so obvious it could have been a headliner in Vegas, was now telling me he had no idea which blip on the screen was Rodney. Crap. I could have sat there from now till doomsday trying to figure out which dot was Rodney, and I'd choose McKay no matter what because he could figure out how to get Cadman out in one piece as well. So, I just pointed at the closest dot. If I'd been in Vegas, I would have rolled seven and won the jackpot, but this was even better. A brilliant beam shot out and a second later, McKay appeared, looking none the worse for wear. I asked him if he was okay. I think he might have made some kind of noise, but then he just toppled over like a fallen tree.

Being in command sucks at times. I couldn't allow myself the luxury of accompanying Rodney back through the gate. I was stuck coordinating sending him back plus getting the remains of the dart back to Atlantis, and, since paranoia was in vogue these days, we had to cover our tracks, literally. By the time the team was done, there was no sign of the mechanized tracks of the equipment we used to haul back the dart, no gum wrappers, nothing. It was like we'd never even been there.

I hovered briefly at the infirmary, but Carson told me there was nothing I could do. McKay was still out of it, hooked up to enough electrodes that it made me think of all the wires attached to the back of a home entertainment system. Rodney was suffering the same effects of a Wraith stun, but he was also the first person we'd retrieved from a dart. I could have grabbed a chair and stared at Rodney, which I did briefly, just to get off my feet, but then I went down to see how Zelenka was doing with the dart. The man was so much more relaxed once he was in the environs of Atlantis: the safety of walls, security everywhere, no chance of a Wraith sucking you up to a grisly death. But it wasn't so easy to get Cadman out of the Wraith ship. Damned incompatibility and friggin' power units. It was like trying to make a Mac and a PC cooperate or whatever the scientists were always mumbling about in crabby voices. The Wraith equipment was fried, but the good news was that Cadman's essence, body, whatever, was being kept in good storage. I couldn't do anything there so I went to find our newest guest, Ronon Dex.

A simple tap on my radio gave me the info I needed. I found him in the commissary, chowing down rather enthusiastically on food. Read food. Not foil-wrapped reconstituted chemical wads of something that can rip out your teeth. The man has no idea how lucky he is to have arrived on Atlantis after we got supplies, otherwise he'd have gotten just a PowerBar or two, but I can't lie and say the rest of us didn't attack real food rather voraciously as well when it got here. Who cared if the mashed potatoes were fake? They were hot and tasted familiar. We'd run out of the fake spuds months before the Daedalus arrived. While the Athosians had begun supplying us with some of their homegrown delicacies, nothing could beat mashed potatoes and gravy.

After watching him eat for a few minutes, I handed him the knife and fork he'd neglected to use. Stuffing your face with your fingers was fine and dandy when it came to fried chicken and watermelon, but mashed potatoes weren't finger food. I knew he came from a world that wasn't primitive. Even the burnt out husks of buildings we'd seen on the MALP's footage indicated some pretty inventive architects. As to whether their technology rivaled Earth's or even the Ancients was unknown - he still wouldn't say where his weapon was from - homegrown or picked up along the way – but his world wasn't primitive enough to not have invented a fork, or even chopsticks. But on the other hand, living life on the run probably means you eat on the run, too.

We talked a little longer, or rather, I did the talking. Dex isn't the most talkative of people, but then again, seven years on the run, he's been avoiding people, so the art of communication looks like another skill he needs to polish. I can't place my finger on it. The man is an enigma. He's grateful to us for removing the tracker from his back and freeing him from constant Wraith pursuit, but he's also a man without a country - hell, without a world. I think he's waiting to see what our next move is, which is solely up to me. I'd made the decision to bring him back to Atlantis. He could have gone elsewhere, but Beckett insisted on checking up on the incision, which was a wise move as the fight he'd had with Ford had ripped out all the stitches Carson had put in not long before.

So I had to make a decision, and knew it had to be fast. Ronon Dex didn't look like the kind of guy who just wanted to hang around. He was thinking, I could tell, but about what, I didn't know. I know that Colonel Caldwell viewed him as a security risk, but then everybody in Pegasus was a security risk. It wasn't like you could get an unlisted gate address.

I'd seen Dex in action on the planet. The man was damned good at staying alive, but I wanted to see him in a more controlled environment.

Then Beckett called with the news. It was great to hear that Rodney was alive and well, walking and talking, and complaining. Right as rain. Carson then had to just dash it all to hell, explaining that Lieutenant Cadman's consciousness had somehow ended up in Rodney's noggin. Excuse me? I mean, that's straight out of a Star Trek. The old one, what folks call "classic" or whatever. Kirk had had some evil whacko woman's mind in his and she took over, plotting world domination or whatever the villains did in shows like that back in the sixties.

On the flip side, Rodney was in control of his own body. His MRI was fine, so no brain damage, but after watching him for a few minutes, I was beginning to question Carson's diagnosis. We made our way back to the lab where Zelenka was still struggling to solve the problem with the dart. What a nightmare. Rodney's not always pleasant but with someone else in there, what little patience he did exhibit pretty much evaporated with Cadman knocking about inside his skull. I'd seen McKay and Zelenka argue before but McKay was pretty much teetering on the abyss of a breakdown when he began arguing with both Zelenka and Cadman at the same time. Then, he'd yelled so loud at Elizabeth that everybody in the lab stopped and stared as though they'd just witnessed a cataclysmic car wreck. Rodney managed to gather his emotions together but by then, we were beginning to worry about his sanity. I think we all did a pretty good job of not letting it show on our faces, although I did make a remark about 'being crazy' that thankfully didn't tick off either McKay or Cadman. Thank god Elizabeth is the bastion of calm. I was thinking that having a few Marines grab McKay by the arms and haul him back to the infirmary was looking good because I really thought he was beginning to lose it. He gets that lost look in his eyes and lips start to quiver. Instead, Elizabeth sent him down to see Heightmeyer, hoping the psychologist could do something. If nothing else, it got McKay out of Zelenka's hair, which looked frayed enough as it was.

I had some of the new Marines working with Dex in the workout room. They were gung-ho, eager and raring to take on an 'alien.' I just made myself comfy, leaning casually against a workout dummy and doing my best not to wince in sympathy as I watched the much larger Dex just wipe the floor with Wilkins, Bennett, and Rollins. It was brutal but Dex showed he knew he wasn't there to kill but to fight. If he'd snapped one of my men's bones, I'd have to reconsider my gut feeling on the man. In a situation like this, command had is perks - I could delegate this task off to the younger and more eager, and I wouldn't come out of it black and blue and practically crawling away, like Wilkins.

For some foolish reason, I thought I'd impress Dex with our primitive Earth weapons, but before I could even get the name of the weapon out of my mouth, he'd grabbed the weapon in question and in each instance, made short work of the middle of the target. Damned good aim. But he preferred his sidearm, and when I saw the middle of that target just blown away and the sandbag backing behind it singed black, his words from not long ago of "you're lucky I had set that to stun" came to mind. My arm had stung from the stun shot, but hell, I wouldn't even have an arm if he'd used that setting. Could sure use an arsenal of those weapons in the armory.

The day flew by as I put Dex through a few more tests, and he passed with flying colors. The man was a lethal weapon on two feet. No doubt about it. I'd approach Elizabeth tomorrow about him joining my team. I knew it would take a trial mission to make the decision 100 per cent, but I was willing to take the risk.

I ran into Rodney roaming the halls at night. I was roaming, too. The entire dart fiasco still weighed on my mind. Visions of Ford running into the light from just days before, of aiming my weapon at the dart and knowing full well that I was probably killing Rodney, was not conducive to a good night's sleep. Major Lorne had been upset that he'd missed the dart with the missile, but in the long run, the innocent tree that gotten in the way had in turn saved McKay and Cadman from being blasted into oblivion.

I'd heard that McKay and Zelenka had had another run-in at the lab. Zelenka's worried for Rodney. Rodney's making mistakes in his calculations, which isn't like him at all. The man lives and breathes to be correct and to let everybody know that. The damage to the transformer was repairable, Zelenka had told me, but … he wanted McKay to stay out of the lab. It was impossible to work with the Canadian screwing things up. I never thought I'd hear the words 'screwing up' applied to McKay, but in this situation…

I'd given a quick thought to not approaching Rodney - the man had enough problems - but then maybe he needed someone to talk with and, I was concerned about him. I mentioned the transformer test, just briefly, testing the waters. He didn't explode, giving me the impetus to mention the dart. I wanted him to know that it had been me who'd given the order to take down the dart, even knowing that he'd been in it. Astoundingly, McKay was 'fine' with it. I was sort of shocked - I'd expected a blow-up but it hadn't occurred. "So, we're cool?" I'd ventured. Still looking tense, McKay had replied, "No, you're cool, I'm fine." Rodney McKay has the most incredibly honed sense of self-preservation that I've ever seen in a man. He can do some foolish things to jeopardize his life if the need arises and there are lives to save, but he doesn't like people trying to kill him. Ford had shot at him, had threatened to kill him. Maybe that hadn't caught up with him yet; it had only been a few days. But then Rodney indicated that basically dead in a blown-up dart was better than the alternative: being dined upon by a Wraith. I could see in his face, in his eyes, that everything was catching up with him. He looked bone-tired so I told him to get some rest. He cocked his head, pointed at himself, and said that Cadman said she was tired, too. Then I realized why I'd been leery of approaching him. This whole two minds in one head thing is too weird. I'm talking to Rodney but Cadman is sitting inside him, listening, watching, like, I don't know, some scifi kind of voyeur-vision. It's too weird and bizarrely creepy. Great, now I'm thinking about how that little Asgard kept staring at me on the Daedalus. Earth was never this convoluted.


Author's Notes: Hope you enjoyed it! More to come very shortly. I didn't think there was enough Sheppard in the episode, well, enough Sheppard with Rodney (no, not slash, just as friends).