Title: Keeping Promises.
Setting: Second season. Between 'The Siege part 3' and 'Intruder'
Disclaimer: All characters etc are owned by someone else. No money made. No copyright infringements intended.
Summary: Sequel to 'Promises, Promises'. A promise is redeemed.
As always, Beta'ed by Kiky – Thanks again Kiky ;-)
He glanced down at the sheet of paper in his hand. This was the right address. He looked up at the large, redbrick, 1950's house standing back from a pleasant, tree-lined street. He'd asked the taxi to drop him at the end of the road and walked the last hundred yards, frightened that, even now, he wouldn't have the guts to go through with this; not wanting the taxi driver to see him lose his nerve.
He crunched along the gravel path and stood before the solid, wooden door. Lifting his hand to the bell he hesitated, drawing back and running his fingers through thinning hair. Taking a deep breath he stepped back up to the door and firmly pressed the bell. A large dog started barking somewhere inside the house and a few seconds later the door was opened by a tall, distinguished-looking man. There could be no doubt who this man was; it was a face he had seen almost every day for nearly a year; thirty years older and lined with grief, but the same face.
"Mr Grodin?" He waited until the older man nodded before extending his hand in greeting. "My name is Dr Rodney McKay. I worked with your son, Peter."
Rodney McKay's eyes wandered around the comfortable sitting room as he waited for Mr Grodin to return with the pot of tea that he had insisted on making. They took in the scenic prints and small collection of amateur watercolours before finally settling on the family photos which covered the wall above an open fire: a smiling child waving at the camera; a small group playing cricket on a wide, windswept beach; a young man in a cap and gown, holding a roll of parchment. Rodney could remember the pride that he had felt when he received his first doctorate but could only imagine the pleasure of sharing that moment with loving parents.
He looked away guiltily as Peter's father returned with a tray and placed it on a low side-table.
"I received official notification from the Americans a few days ago." The older man's voice sent a shiver through Rodney's spine. It was like hearing a ghost talk. "It was good of you to come in person, Dr McKay."
Rodney gave a small cough to clear his throat before replying. "I was in the neighbourhood." That was a lie. In fact it had taken him 15 hours of travelling to get here, time he should have been using to choose his new staff and to find replacements for those they had lost. Those like Peter.
He reached into his pocket and took out an envelope, still sealed with the American Military crest. Almost half of the photos that he had scrounged had been removed by Air Force Intelligence, claiming that they showed more than the general public was permitted to see. He broke the seal and slid the remaining pictures into his hand.
"I thought you might want these." It sounded trite, even to himself, but the old man thanked him graciously, and slowly worked his way through the small collection. They all showed Peter smiling and surrounded by his friends, Rodney had made sure of that. If his host thought it odd that McKay himself didn't appear in any of them, he didn't show it. Maybe he thought that Rodney had been behind the camera; it really didn't matter.
Minutes passed in silence. Rodney self-consciously sat in the warmth of the open fire and drank tea while Mr Grodin looked through the pictures of his son. He reached the last photo and the silence extended for a few more moments before he started to speak.
"The Americans said that there was an explosion." Mr Grodin let the question hang in the warm air.
Rodney closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He remembered the searing light of the Wraith weapon slicing through the darkness to destroy the satellite. He nodded. "Yes, Peter was working in a difficult environment and there was a problem." He licked dry lips before he continued. "He became trapped. We couldn't get back to him; then there was an explosion."
"You were there?"
Rodney nodded again.
"Can you tell me any more?" The old man's voice cracked slightly and he looked back down at the photos in his hand.
This time McKay could only shake his head. "No, I can't. I'm sorry."
Rodney suddenly felt like an intruder. Why had he come here? He could offer no answers to this man who had lost his only son. There was nothing he could say beyond the official 'explosion'. Was he here to comfort Peter's father, or to selfishly lay his own ghosts to rest? He started to get to his feet.
"I should be go…"
"He spoke about you, you know?" Mr Grodin didn't look up from the pictures as he spoke. "I had a video from him a few weeks before…" His voice caught and he took a second to continue. "He looked tired, overworked."
McKay sat back down, still feeling uneasy at trespassing on the man's grief. "Yes, there was a lot of pressure on us at the time. Peter handled it better than most."
A sad smile crossed the older man's lips. "He said that he was glad that he had gone; that you had insisted that the expedition leader put him in your team."
Rodney winced. "Maybe it would have been better if I hadn't."
Mr Grodin looked up sharply. "No. He was proud of what he was doing, although he couldn't say what that was." This time, there was no implied question. He obviously accepted the need for secrecy, but Rodney wanted to offer something.
"It was important. What Peter was doing: it was important."
Peter's father smiled again. This time it reached his eyes and when he spoke there was pride in his voice. "Thank you."
An hour later, Rodney walked into the public bar of the 'White Hart' and smiled as he recognised the name on the hand-pump.
"A pint of Bishop's Finger, please." He watched the barmaid expertly pull the drink into a tall glass.
"That'll be £2.85, love."
McKay emptied a handful of change from his pocket onto the bar and sorted through the Canadian, American and British coins. Sliding three £1 coins into his hand, he passed them over to the young woman.
"Thanks." She took the cash and turned towards the till.
McKay took a carefully folded scrap of paper from his jacket pocket and smoothed it out on the bar.
'An expertly pulled Bishop's Finger with a perfect head on top'
"Excuse me." McKay called the barmaid back. "Would you mind taking this as well?"
She gave him a bemused look as he held out the scrap.
"It was a promise from a friend." He explained.
"OK, love." The barmaid took the paper and propped it up next to the till.
Rodney took a sip of the smooth beer, unconsciously licking the creamy froth from his top lip.
Bleagh! Warm beer; who could drink the stuff? He carried the pint over to a seat by the window and sat, sipping occasionally, until it was gone.