R.I.P Evel Knievel! Still wish mom let me have the stunt bike... I mean, come on! I just rode my bike down a flight of stairs to prove my worth! Jumped off the roof, doing stunt man stuff. Think I deserved daredevil status...

The Last of the Gladiators

They watched John Sheppard listlessly tap his pencil against his blank tablet. Carter had stopped speaking minutes ago after asking for the colonel's report. He jerked to attention when Rodney kicked his shin.

"Ow! What?"

Sam quietly cleared her throat and shuffled her papers, while McKay glared at his best friend. "She asked you a question, Colonel. Quit thinking about Twin World, so we can get out of here."

M6J-297 just happened to have a large population of twins inhabiting their world. Keller said it was a genetic fluke. McKay said it was inbreeding. "What?" he had said. "I watched Angels and Insects."

"I'm not thinking of Twin – 297," Sheppard mumbled. "Sorry, Colonel. What was your question?"

"I wanted to know your opinion on the defensive outpost." Even though Sam knew all the information about the planet from McKay's report. However, in her short time getting to know the colonel, she recognized his strategic abilities. She had seen those multi-colored eyes sharpen then lose focus as he planned his solution.

Can't McKay answer that? Sheppard sighed and straightened in his chair. He gave his report and opinions, then settled back into silence. The briefing was over; John almost missed Carter's dismissal. Shuffling out of the room, he wandered down the stairs contemplating the rest of his day. Doctor Keller had mentioned (demanded) he should take more naps (sleep more) on his downtime.

A small smile curved his lips. Bothering McKay was always good for an hour, but the chief physicist would ask too many questions. Frowning, he made his way towards his quarters.

"What is with you today, Sheppard?"

John covered his start with a shrug and barely audible, "Nothing."

Rodney gave a derisive snort. "Oh please, Colonel Melancholy. You look like someone stole your dog."

At that moment, Sheppard couldn't understand why he was feeling this way. I didn't even know the guy! Just a stupid picture. "It really doesn't matter McKay."

"Apparently it does, because you -"

"Drop it, McKay!" John snapped.

Such behavior led Rodney to believe it wasn't just anything that upset the other man. Nevertheless, he dropped the subject. Nervously tapping his tablet against his leg, he asked about lunch.

Sheppard wasn't in the mood to another game of Are You Gonna Eat That? with his friend. "No, I'm good. I'm just gonna go for a run."

McKay stopped in his tracks. This was unacceptable. "Sheppard, I know for a fact you haven't eaten since yesterday. And if Keller finds out –"

The colonel narrowed his eyes. "Finds out what, McKay?"

Sighing greatly, Rodney resumed his walk beside the colonel, matching his sluggish pace. "Look, I know something's up, John. You don't normally have such mood swings."

Sheppard's brows marched up to his hairline. "Mood swings?"

"Uh, yeah, Colonel," Rodney said as he rolled his eyes. He finally waved his hands, conceding the point. "Fine, fine. Go on your second run today and have your third shower. You know where to find me."

Watching his friend enter the transport chamber, Sheppard tried to dodge the trademarked I'm Very Annoyed With You Right Now frown. Shuffling toward his quarters, John decided he needed a nap.

As he drifted off, the photo next to his bed was the last thing he saw.

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"Mom, where are we going?" John asked for the fifth time.

"It's a surprise, honey," his mother sing-songed. He knew when she reached that point, he'd better be on his best behavior. John kept quiet, but grew restless. Sitting still for too long led to swinging legs, fidgeting, and tapping. His father drove quietly, and there was no way John was going to upset the man.

Craning his neck, six-year-old John watched the trees give way to open sky. Endless grassy fields and the occasional shrub lulled him from excited to sleepy. As the car slowed, he snapped awake. Suddenly there were banners, flags, and hundreds of people milling around cars lined in ragged rows.

Their car turned into the field, and John rubbed his tired eyes. As he took in the scenery, his eyes grew larger trying to see everything at once. The next thing he knew, his mother had opened the car door, and his father lifted him off the ground onto his shoulders. Ignoring his father's complaints about the dust and his skinny son, John watched the crowd from above.

They broke through the swirling masses to find a seat in the bleachers. Shielding his eyes from the summer sun, John saw the line of buses, then he saw the motorcycle. The whole day was a blur until he heard the bike rev up. Evel Knievel jumped ten buses!

While the stunt man was in the air, John held out his arms imagining himself soaring with the bike.

In the blink of an eye, his father took John's hand leading him through the crowd. Soon he was handed off to the legend himself. His mother shook her head with a smile; his father shook Evel Knievel's hand. John wasn't sure which of his parents were more impressed.

"Smile, Johnny."

"Now that's the biggest smile I have ever seen! Did you have fun?" Evel asked, ruffling John's hair.

"Yep!" John thought seriously for a moment. "What happens if you crash?"

The smiles froze on everyone's faces. "That's something I try not to think about, kid." Evel patted his shoulder and set him down. "Catch ya later, Johnny!"

After he was shuffled off to his parents, they made the long walk to the car. Once again, the scenery made him sleepy. Watching the sky, John dreamed of flying through the air with a star-spangled cape flapping behind him.

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Rodney entered the mess hall and loaded a tray. He spotted an empty table at the back of the room, closer to the other grunts than he liked, but it was solitary. A well-read newspaper dated two weeks ago lay on the next seat. As he ate, Rodney slowly turned the pages looking for something of interest.

Then he saw the headline on page 6: Daredevil Evel Knievel Dies at 69. Everything fell into place, like the last equation to solve the complex problem known as John Sheppard.

Major Lorne nodded toward the scientist, and McKay waved him over. "I can't believe I'm about to do this," he mumbled to himself. "Major, I need a favor."

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Three weeks later, Sheppard entered his quarters. He was beyond tired, smelly, and dirty; he immediately headed for the shower. After half a bottle of shampoo, and several attempts to divest the drain of grass and mud, John left the bathroom with a towel around his waist. When he finally dried his hair, he collapsed on the bed with a sigh. Something shifted underneath, painfully poking into his side.

Raising his exhausted body, John pulled out the rectangular objects. Through blurry eyes, he read the titles of the dvds.

Evel Knievel's Spectacular Jumps and The Last Gladiator.

A chuckle became a laugh, and some inexplicable weight had been lifted. Tiredness forgotten, John quickly dressed. Before he left the room, the colonel grabbed his radio. "Sheppard to McKay. Ya busy?"

The scientist launched full tilt into Sheppard's possible reason for asking inane questions. John smiled fondly as he listened to Rodney's rant. When John reached the lab, he held up the dvds, effectively shutting up McKay. "Did I ever tell about the first time I met Evel Knievel?"

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The end.