TITLE: Night of the Reindeer
SPOILERS: Based in season 2.
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: Colonel Sheppard's team should never go through the gate on Christmas eve. It just never works out. An SGA Christmas tale..
Night of the Reindeer
He couldn't believe that someone had dumped the vile thing on his desk. His desk. What had he done to irritate someone so much that someone would do this to him? Well, there was no way in hell he was getting stuck with the damn thing. Christmas was just a day away and wasn't re-gifting a totally acceptable practice nowadays?
He didn't care if it was or wasn't the proper thing to do. He wasn't accepting the damn thing and would feign ignorance or brain damage from the chemicals he inhaled all day. Dr. Rupert Grange scratched at his thinning red hair, but then it came to him: he knew exactly upon whom to inflict the hideous creation.
And it wouldn't be any real problem as he wore gloves all the time, so he'd leave behind no telltale fingerprints. He knew exactly where to place the package. In fact, within a few hours, it wouldn't even be in Atlantis, let alone on the planet. Rupert cackled, realizing he sounded so much like the Grinch that it amused him. He'd always played the Grinch in school plays.
John Sheppard's head was slammed down so hard on the wood that he was sure his jaw was probably broken from the blow, but he really didn't care at that point if that had happened or it he'd had several teeth knocked out because he really had a lot more pressing problems at the moment.
"Guys, we can talk this out!" he almost begged.
Two sets of burly hands pressed his shoulders against the wood, and even the strong tactical vest didn't prevent the pain of the wood's sharp edges from digging into his collarbones but then again, he didn't care. Nor did he care that his fingers were probably turning purple as they'd bound his hands so tightly behind his back that he was sure he was probably going to have permanent nerve damage.
No, what had his heart racing like he'd ingested a bottle of illegal drugs was that someone grabbed his head and pinned it down to the wood with a thick leather strap, all the while stretching his neck out like a turkey the day before Thanksgiving.
He could hear the frantic noises from his teammates, who were similarly trussed up and waiting in line for their turn with the executioner, except that they were all gagged. Tersen, the leader of the Lubri society, had tired very quickly of Rodney's loud and non-stop protestations of innocence, and he'd ordered everybody gagged hours ago, leaving Sheppard to try to talk his way out of this mess. And he'd done a lot of talking. His voice was getting ragged from talking. And he knew that in a few minutes, he'd lose that capability forever.
Sheppard felt one set of burly hands on his back relax for a fraction of a second and he threw his body's weight back with all his might. He felt something score and tear over an ear but for a moment, but he was free, falling back to the dirt behind him to land in a very undignified heap. Escape was impossible as his feet were tied together as well, yet he tried to scrabble away, digging his feet into the dirt. The two thug types simply grabbed his upper arms so hard that he yelped from the pain. They slammed his head down on the wood again. This time he saw stars and tasted blood. He knew he wouldn't taste any of the massive spurts of blood when they lopped off his head.
The snick of the huge axe being removed from its leather holder echoed sharply in his ears. His eyes shot open. His team was staring at him in sheer horror. Rodney looked like he was ten seconds away from having a stroke. It would be a better death, that's for sure.
Tersen's face was suddenly just inches away as the large man knelt down in front of him. Sheppard had really gotten a bad feeling when he'd first seen the guy: beady black eyes, a thick beard that any pirate would give his right hand and hook for, and an attitude that belonged in a pro wrestling ring. "You cannot escape punishment," the beefy man warned.
"Listen, we're not from Elasat!" Sheppard protested for the hundredth time.
"Yes, you only wish to trade," spat Tersen. Sheppard really hated that he was going to die with the jerk's spit on his face. "Then why does that one-" Tersen pointed angrily at Ronon. "Carry a sword of Elasat metalwork!"
"Because he picked it up at a friggin' swap meet!" Sheppard shot back angrily, and then yelped at a pain in his ear. Great, drive a damn splinter into his head before they kill him. "Ungag him and ask him!" As if he hadn't begged for that about three dozen times already.
Sheppard realized he really had to work on panicking. He did not do panic well. He did not do being beheaded well. Especially being beheaded in a case of mistaken identity! It was one thing to be tied up for hours and threatened with the fate. Being laid out on the wood was a totally different scenario.
"The Elasat cannot be trusted." Tersen stood, but not before running his finger across Sheppard's exposed neck as if marking just where the blade would fall. "Had you brought a token of your trading intentions, then perhaps we would be open to negotiations."
Token? "Why the hell didn't you ask before? Just look in our stuff!" Sheppard gestured for a quick second with his head, before thug #1 smashed it down on the wood again. He was trying to point out McKay's backpack, which had been removed from the scientist's back hours ago and simply dumped like trash underneath a nearby tree, along with Ronon's sword and everybody's weapons. Good god, he really hoped McKay had some stupid piece of technology stashed away in there that they'd ooh and ahh over and figure it wasn't was worth slicing off their heads after all.
"What of your vest?" came a terse, nasal voice. That was Catton, Tersen's obvious right-hand man who had extremely sinewy forearms poking out from beneath the dark-brown, fur jackets they all wore.
"Yes, fine, search me," Sheppard said with almost a sigh. He couldn't believe that he had to give permission for them to search them, but they'd had no problem with beating them into submission, trussing 'em up like turkeys for the slaughter, and hovering a sharp blade over his neck! Hell, they could strip search him if it stopped this insanity, but he'd sure as heck draw the line at any body cavity searches.
Thugs #1 and #2 yanked him off the block, much to his relief, but didn't bother to untie his hands as they ripped open and emptied all the pockets in his tactical vest. Medical supplies, some powerbars, ammo clips and the like fell to the ground.
Tersen poked at the scattered items with his heavy boot. His large hand grabbed into Sheppard's unruly hair, yanking his head back at a sharp angle. "I see no tokens here." Sheppard's head was slammed back on the wood, the thick leather band tied back down.
"We're not from Elasat," repeated Sheppard dismally, spitting out some more blood. Those words would be chiseled on his gravestone. Oh wait, was anybody even going to find their bodies so they could have graves?
McKay's strangled noises were increasing. Sheppard looked over at his doomed companions, forcing reassurance into his eyes even though he knew he was just as scared out of his wits as they were. He sincerely hoped that McKay would pass out before they dragged him to the block. Teyla would be able to handle it stoically and he really truly hoped that Ronon mangled one of these maniacs before he met his maker.
A sharp, scraping sound filled his ears. Hands pressed down on his shoulder like a vice. Crap, they were sharpening the blade. Well, better a sharp blade than a dull blade. He'd hate to have to endure the edge of a blunt axe.
He stared at McKay, whose piercing blue eyes were staring back at him like hubcaps. He was wobbling on his knees. The Lubri had kept them on their knees for hours, but then he noticed… what the hell? "Backpack," Sheppard nearly screamed in realization. "Check McKay's backpack!" Why the hell weren't they doing that? Were these people deaf or something? Did they need a sticky note stuck on their foreheads to remember?
"The sharp-pitched one?" Catton said in disgust, gesturing at McKay as if he were an undesirable rodent to be exterminated.
"Yes, yes, you have my permission to search his pack. Before you hack my head off, if you don't mind," Sheppard added under his breath.
A reprieve. A precious few more seconds of life as he frenetically tried to think of any way to forestall the permanent inevitable fate they were all spiraling toward. "Talk to Teyla," he ordered Tersen. "She's from Athos. Surely you've heard of Athos. You trade after all. Teyla heard of you from the Luciets, who in turn heard from—"
"Silence!" Tersen snapped. Sheppard obeyed, only because he figured if he didn't, they'd shut him up in a very permanent way.
"Athos was destroyed by the Wraith," said Tersen, eyes narrowing to contemptuous slits. "It no longer exists."
Catton picked up McKay's backpack, rifling through it like a common criminal, pulling out a variety of items both useful and useless on a mission. Oh god, please let there be something in there that's acceptable. The man's a veritable packrat!
Seconds later, a dark glance was exchanged between Catton and Tersen. The other Lubri men, who all stood around quietly in the village square, looked on with ambivalence. His fate was sealed. The thugs pinned him down, tightening the strap across his head. He heard one last scrape of a sharpening stone against the blade. Oddly enough, he couldn't think of any last words to say, but heard the rush of air as the big guy with the axe hefted it up. He shut his eyes, trying to think of something pleasant so he wouldn't have a look of horror on his face when his head rolled off.
A strangled cry and then a thud against the dirt filled his ears. With a perverse delight, he realized Rodney had fainted. Good, he wouldn't have to see what came next.
The blade came down, the cold steel slicing his neck.
Sheppard held his breath, waiting for the excruciating pain to explode and end his existence, but nothing came. Instead, the cold vanished as the blade was lifted. Something landed with a loud thud right in front of his closed eyes.
"What manner of token is this?" Tersen sounded both intrigued and confrontational.
A second later, someone smacked him on the cheek and he blinked open his eyes. Oh, he must have lost his mind from the stress. He was looking a gaily-covered package, rectangular in shape. A herd of cartoon deer with big bulbous eyes and trinket-covered antlers, interspersed with bold red and white candy canes with little arms and legs against a background of diagonal stripes of bright silver, green and red, greeted his eyes.
There honestly might have been more decoration on the gaudy wrapping, but it all got fuzzy around the edges and turned to gray, just before Sheppard passed out.
Big thanks to everyone for your comments. They're much appreciated:)