Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate: Atlantis or 'How to Save a Life' by The Fray. I'm not that lucky.

Summary: SGA-1 return to Earth in the aftermath of their friend's death. Tag for Sunday.

Author's Notes: I haven't written a song-fiction in a very long time but I was listening to this song the other day and this fiction just came to me. I know many of you are probably itching to review telling me 'song-fictions aren't allowed' but I have never come across that rule and have read and written a large number of song-fictions :P. Thank you :)

Sheppard closes his eyes and sighs as the plane hits yet another pocket of turbulence; after having spent three years flying puddle jumpers in space, a commercial aircraft was a bit of a joke, not to mention almost primitive, particularly as a passenger as opposed to the pilot. He hears Mckay swear under his breath as the tremors cause him to narrowly avoid spilling his fifth – or was it sixth? – cup of coffee since take off, and the only reason for his apparent tact is the glaring mother-of-two sat in the row in front.

He still loves flying and given the slightest inkling of a chance he would be in the pilot seat of an Air Force jet before his commanding officer could so much as blink but being the passenger just sucked. He grits his teeth as the plane shudders and groans a little as the pilot tries to guide it through a rather more powerful patch of turbulence, he hates this, he really, really hates this; if he was flying they would have missed that pocket all together; he feels helpless and if there is one thing John Sheppard despises, its feeling helpless.

Generally he avoids that sensation all together, and on Atlantis that isn't too hard, there's always something for him too do, even if it won't necessarily help, or could very well kill him, there's always something. The closest he has ever gotten to feeling this helpless was when the expedition was shut down a few months back, stuck on Earth manning useless teams and procrastinating filing copious amounts of paperwork as he listened to Mckay bitch and whine over the phone. But even then… even then he had been able to bury himself in something, even if it was only frustration or a façade of cool indifference. Now it was different.

Carson's death has brought the city to a grinding halt; silence rules with a rod of iron, the infirmary is silent and the nurses meticulous and practical. People are queuing out the door to see Heightmeyer; thankfully, Elizabeth has been too preoccupied to make the visits mandatory. Teyla's been once or twice, Ronon remains as aloof as usual, and as far as he knows Mckay hasn't been, however Kate's made a point of visiting him in his lab and, Sheppard thought ruefully, if he hadn't showed up when he had, things could have turned ugly.

"Rodney," Kate says, standing hesitantly in the doorway, although the proper term was probably not 'hesitantly'; it was more than likely some sort of psychological thing about making him feel like he was the one in control because it was his workspace, and she shouldn't disturb it.

"I'm busy," Mckay says absently as he finishes rewiring something in the device next to him.

"How're you feeling?" she enquires, and it's clichéd that she dares ask, condescending even but she doesn't mean it and he should remember that.

"Busy," he repeats, his tone it's usual sing-song of 'I've got better things to do'.

"When was the last time you got a decent night's sleep?" she asks, stepping further into the lab, it should cross his mind that, that probably signifies his loss of control, it doesn't but it should "or had something more substantial to eat than an MRE?"

He laughs out loud at that "I haven't had a good night's sleep since Grad school," he points it out as if she should know that, she does, he complains about it enough.

"Doctor Beckett wouldn't…" His silence cuts her off as abruptly as if he had actually spoken; forever tactical she takes a breath, waits a moment and continues "Doctor Beckett wouldn't want you getting hypoglycaemic because of him,"

"Doctor Heightmeyer," he says the word 'doctor' like he doubts she's earned the title "I'm perfectly aware of my own medical conditions,"

"Rodney…" she tries again, approaching his workstation, the powers shifted dramatically and he needs it back, she has no right to take it away from him, no matter how 'qualified' she is to deal with this.

Kate's nice enough so long as he doesn't have to talk about things that actually matter, nightmares about Wraith attacks, his stress levels, the whole being held hostage by Koyla three years ago, that matters, of course it does, just not as much as this. He doesn't want to talk about it and if there's one thing Rodney Mckay has down to an art it was messing with psychologist's heads, after all, you can't make an A-Bomb for the science fair and not be sent for counselling.

"You need to talk about this,"

Why do all her lines sound like she's parroting them all of a sudden? As if she's reading them off cue cards, if he wasn't a genius, he would have already checked for that. Maybe she's memorised them, in any case it doesn't matter because he won't answer, and she can't make him.


"Is dead," he spat; she'd done it, how? She'd said his name, made it personal, he can deal with her calling him Doctor Beckett, but by calling him Carson… she doesn't have the right to do that "talking about it won't help,"

"It might," she says softly, placing her hands on the desk and leaning a little, her perfume smells sweet and wafts into his face, it's nice, expensive, probably too expensive "Teyla says you believe you've seen his spirit,"

What happened to doctor-patient confidentiality, he wonders, the Hippocratic Oath and all, or don't psychologists have to swear that? "That's ridiculous," he says.

"You didn't see him?"

If she'd said 'his spirit' he could have answered that, deflected the question but she had to ask directly and that screws everything up because he's lousy at lying "I saw him," he replies and he doesn't mean to be all cryptic and mysterious, that's Ronon's job, no it just comes out like that and he's too tired to stop it.

"What did he look like?"

He glares at her "he looked like Carson," he snaps as if she's stupid and she is compared to him.

She steps back from the desk and he's grateful, her perfume was suffocating and he simply refuses to surrender to her "sometimes we think we see the spirits of loved ones as a way of coping with their death, it helps us to release certain… issues we have with them," she looks back at him, bright eyes piercing but gentle, "did you talk about your fishing trip?"

She's grasping at straws, he tells himself, and she has no idea what she's talking about, how could she? She's just a psychologist, she's paid to pretend she cares, to act like she knows what she's doing, to be the one who 'knows how you feel'. He used to like Kate.

Sheppard's been standing in the hall since Heightmeyer arrived, Mckay knows that, and is puzzling over whether he's grateful the man hasn't interrupted or angry that he's heard anything at all, his mind is made up when just as he's about to tell the poor doctor what he thinks of her and her pseudo sciences the cocky flyboy saunters in, flashing his winning smile at Kate and a similarly powerful one in his direction; he wonders if Kate's going to challenge Sheppard on how his smile isn't as bright as it had been three days ago.

"Hey doc," he slurs in his casual Californian drawl, fake concern flitters across his face, he looks almost panicked "am I interrupting something?" he wouldn't care if he was, it's all part of the façade, the smoke screen; he'd done the same after loosing Ford but it was worse now, more intense.

"Yes," Kate replies at the same time as Mckay says "no,"

Mckay ignores her and observes his friend critically, "what is it?" he just-short-of-snaps because he wants to act irritated but he's not, the reprieve is welcomed.

"Just wondering if you were planning on coming to team movie night," he shrugs because it's a lame excuse and they both know it "Teyla's picked 'X Files',"

It'll be boring, Mckay knows that but given the choice between watching Mulder and Scully save the world and being interrogated by Heightmeyer, he picks the prior, in any case if he and Sheppard insult the film, the worst that will happen is Sheppard'll get his ass kicked the next time he spars with Teyla, and it's not like that doesn't happen anyway. He refuses to contemplate the repercussions of choosing Kate.

Sheppard nods and waits a moment for the scientist to shut down his computer before ushering him out the door, Heightmeyer's left standing in the middle of the empty lab on her own and for once, he really couldn't give a damn because she deserves it for thinking she has the faintest idea what any of them are going through.

The air hostess grins at him and he smiles vaguely back, he's not in the mood to flirt with her and she's probably not interested anyway. He closes his eyes and tries to imagine that he's in a puddle jumper, dodging Wraith darts and swerving vicious attacks from the angry natives below, "Dial the 'gate!" He barks the order and Mckay scrambles for the panel, hitting the keys harder than necessary but he doesn't care, the HUD shows two more darts on approach so he performs a violent U-turn which almost throws Teyla out of her seat, they can't let the darts follow them back to Atlantis and they're in weapon's range…

"Colonel Sheppard," Teyla says and her voice is awful quiet for someone who just got tossed onto the floor, maybe she hit her head? He can't take his eyes away from the HUD to check though. "Colonel Sheppard we have landed," landed? What was she talking about? They were still hovering fifty yards from the 'gate, one of the darts blows up in a fantastic display of fire and debris, the natives shout and start chanting obscurely.

"Oh for… Sheppard!"

He jumps and opens his eyes; it occurs to him that he was dreaming as he blinks dopily at Teyla's face, a glance to the right shows Mckay's the one responsible for the unceremonious wake up call and Ronon's stood in the gangway, shifting from foot to foot like a child filled with pent up energy.

"Are you feeling well?" the Athosian asks and he smiles at her, it turns into a grimace as his neck creaks in protest of being in one position too long.

She blinks at him and waits for a verbal response "I'm fine thanks Teyla,"

Nodding, Teyla allows Ronon to pull their hand luggage off the top shelf, ordinarily she would be insisting upon doing it herself but she's still injured and Beckett would have ordered her to take it easy, she never would have if he were still around to give the order, but some how it seems more important now he's not around. His replacement, Keller is good, but nervous, she's preoccupied and obsesses over making mistakes; she's trying to live up to the impossible, he should tell her she should just be herself but he couldn't find the energy before they'd left the city and to be honest, he wasn't in the mood to be giving pep talks.

As they exit the plane, Mckay's quiet, and it's almost painful because it's snowing and even if he is Canadian, Mckay always has something to say about the weather.

Sheppard grins at his team almost boyishly and Teyla smiles back, turning her face into the sky and watching the flakes dance down, tickling her cheeks and melting as soon as they make contact with her flushed face; she looks prettier than ever.

"It is most beautiful," she says and Sheppard wonders if they ever had snow on Athos, he doesn't want to ask and it seems she doesn't expect him too.

Ronon looks as indifferent as ever, the white dust flecking his dreads and gathering on his shoulders, water is already climbing his pant legs and his coat is trailing but he doesn't seem to have noticed "what're you grinning at?" He grunts but it isn't as unpleasant as one would expect.

"It's snowing," he replies as if that's the most amazing thing in the world.

"Indeed," Teyla agrees quaintly, readily looking their team leader in the eye.

Sheppard shakes his head and glances at Mckay who's huffing out breaths in clouds, muttering as he taps the life signs detector pointlessly; they won't find anything today and should probably head back to Atlantis given the weather conditions but its snowing and that's just too cool; he smirks at the awful pun.. "'Sup Mckay?" he asks.

"It's freezing," is the curt reply "the MALP said nothing about a blizzard,"

"This is hardly a blizzard Rodney," Teyla corrects gently and she's right, the snow is barely a foot deep and the wind is more of a breeze than a howling gale.

He glares at her and she stares calmly back.

"You're Canadian," Sheppard says incredulously.

"That does not mean I have an ingrained adoration for cold weather," he replies abruptly, giving up on the life signs detector and tucking it back into his pocket, rubbing his hands together over-dramatically "if I get hypothermia Colonel, I'm blaming you,"

"C'mon Rodney," he intones "you saying you never had a snowball fight or went tobogganing when you were a kid?"

Mckay bristles "once," he says "I broke my ankle helping Jeannie pull her sled up a hill,"

Sheppard has nothing to say to that but instead turns into the wind and closes his eyes for a moment, relishing the cool wind whipping gently around his face, they'll head back to Atlantis soon, but for a few minutes he just wants to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Glasgow airport is milling with people and they have to wait on the concourse for nearly an hour as the taxi navigates the blocked roads, he wants to break the silence, spark a conversation but Mckay hasn't bantered with him since Carson died, Teyla has this infinite way of making him feel vulnerable and Ronon is precisely the sort of person you avoid asking how he finds the place because Sheppard can tell Ronon despises the planet and he's grateful the Satedan hasn't said anything because he would have to agree. Compared to Pegasus, Earth is pathetic.

At least in Pegasus they're happy, they may be living under constant threat from the Replicators, rogue Genii groups or the Wraith but they live they're lives content, they love each, celebrate, forgiving each other's transgressions, and welcoming strangers like old friends. On Earth everyone walks around like the world is about to end, they fight and they argue, if they don't kill themselves they kill each other, holding grudges and are loathe to let anyone old, or new, into the private confines of their lives.

They all squeeze into the taxi, Sheppard's pressed right against the door so as to avoid crushing Teyla between himself and Mckay, he tries to be discreet because she would surely hit him if she knew he was trying to stop himself from hurting her, either that or smirk in that knowing little way of hers, saying 'you will not hurt me Colonel Sheppard,' but he would. She may be a wonderful warrior but she is still much smaller and daintier than him.

Ronon is in the passenger seat, immediately fiddling with the controls to get some extra leg room, Sheppard winces and bites his lip as the chair slams into his knees, crushing both his legs, Ronon doesn't move the chair forward and he doesn't ask him too. He just hopes that the hotel the SGC booked isn't too far.

As soon as they arrive at the hotel, Ronon's out of the car like a jackrabbit, it's still snowing and the sky's got a purple hue to it. Cringing as his knees crack in a way that makes it sound like they're broken for sure as he too clambers out of the car, Sheppard fumbles for his wallet and curses when he realises all he's got is thirty dollars and his American Express card. Sighing pointedly Mckay produces his own wallet, plucks out two twenty pound notes and hands them to the driver, whose thick Scottish brogue makes Sheppard feel sick as it conjures memories he'd rather forget.

Not bothering to check the change, Mckay takes the money the driver hands him and shoves it into the back pocket of his chinos; feeling foolish Sheppard heads for the front door, holding it open from Teyla and Ronon and waiting patiently for Mckay to catch up.

The lobby is sparsely decorated but nice and there's a pretty woman at the counter, smiling politely in their direction "cannae help ye?" she asks and once more Sheppard's stomach churns, he swallows.

"Reservations under John Sheppard," he says, his voice is too croaky and his throat too parched; he should have drunk more than coffee on the plane.

The woman's perfectly manicured nails tap on the keyboard tonelessly as she checks "four singles," she looks up, nodding almost undiscernibly in the direction of the other three.

Sheppard nods and she produces four key cards, putting them on the desk and asking for his card, he doesn't listen to the cost as he hands the previously discarded American Express card over to the pretty woman, he signs the piece of paper she hands him and for all he knows it could be a waiver of some kind but at the moment he's exhausted and can't be bothered to check.

"Enjoy yer stay," she says, handing him back his card, the keys and a pamphlet describing the facilities the hotel offers.

He hands out the keys and bids them all goodnight, the only verbal response he gets is from Teyla who looks pale and tense, he makes to ask her about pain pills but she's already in her room before he can get the words out.

The room is predominantly blue, the curtains are rich and already closed so he strides over to the window, draws them back and immediately throws open the windows; a rush of cold air hits his face and it bites at his nose. He should know how to deal with this by now, he's lost so many men and women under his command, composed so many letters to loved ones to tell them that their 'son/daughter died in the line of duty, protecting his/her people and country' it makes him feel frustrated that he can't say exactly what has happened to these people's children, they're little boys and girls that they had watched grow into the best the US Air Force and Marine Core could offer.

Seconds, or it could be minutes, later he looks at the crumpled leaflet in his hand, there's a garish picture of the hotel building on the front and underneath it the declaration that the staff are 'friendly, well trained, and always willing to help'. He flicks it over, scanning patron's reviews and advertisements for some fancy restaurant or other, tossing it into the trash he heads for the mini bar and isn't sure whether to be grateful or irritated that it's only half full. There's no beer so he settles for Scotch and there's nothing to have it with save for water so he pulls a glass from the cabinet and pours himself a double, it tastes strong and burns his throat but he's had Athosian moonshine and Scotch hasn't got a patch on it. He pours himself another and heads back over to the window.

He can't get drunk because this isn't a social visit and he's pretty sure neither Ronon nor Teyla would approve of his coping methods. He swills the amber fluid around the glass, contemplating it; after Mitch and Dex he'd closed off, he'd been put on leave for two months after his commanding officer had accused him of turning into a 'kamikaze pilot who was endangering the mission'. And he'd spent three weeks locked in his apartment, drinking himself to sleep every night; his wife had left him, his friends were dead and he'd been effectively suspended, that generally left him with nothing and no one other than the bottle to seek comfort from.

There's a knock on the door and he puts the drink down on the sill, sighing as he goes to answer it, he can't say he's surprised to see Mckay stood there but he waits for an explanation anyway.

"I uh…" he pauses, brow wrinkling in confusion and that's more than enough vindicating for Sheppard.

Sheppard steps aside, goes back over to the bar and pours another shot of Scotch for his companion, on after thought he opens the tiny freezer and pulls out an ice tray, dropping a couple of cubes into both his and his friend's glasses, he replaces the tray and presses the freshly poured drink into Mckay's hand.

They stand by the window in silence and in a way that's better than standing alone, their shoulders are just touching and that in itself is a comfort. The sidewalk below is a great expanse of white and car headlights reflect off the slushy mess that the road has become; windscreen wipers are working over time to try and clear the slew of snow cascading over the cars and obscuring what the driver can see.

"I miss him," Mckay says after a moment, blue eyes darting from the road, to his friend's face to his glass, before settling on staring back at the snow blanketed city.

"Me too," Sheppard adds, stiffly moving his arm to clink his glass against Mckay's, they both drink and neither has to say who their toasting.

It stops snowing sometime in the early hours of the morning and when Sheppard wakes up the first thing he notices is how cold it is because the window is still open, the second is the God-awful taste in his mouth and the third is the man sprawled over the couch, snoring softly.

Rubbing his eyes and suddenly becoming aware of the stabbing pain in the back of his head he immediately regrets the drinks he had last night, he doesn't feel nauseas which is a good sign he supposes and groaning softly he staggers out of bed and into the bathroom, downing three glasses of water before he allows himself to look in the mirror.

His mouth doesn't feel so dry anymore and the headache seems to have come to fruition but isn't as bad as some of the hangovers he's suffered; a couple of Tylenol and he'll be fine. His hair is flat to his head and looks ridiculous and he's pretty sure he smells awful considering he hasn't had a shower since leaving the SGC. Turning the taps in the shower to full he strips off as the water heats up, stepping under the spray he feels a wave of relief as every muscle in his body relaxes, running his hands through his hair to ensure it's wet he reaches for the hotel-provided shampoo and pops the cap; it smells like almonds as he lathers it into his scalp and lets a small smile play about his lips as his headache starts to ebb.

By the time he's finished in the shower, the water is cold and he's starting to shiver so he wraps a towel around his waist and wanders back into the bedroom, he doesn't care if Mckay sees him because they're team mates and have seen each other in enough poorly-concealing hospital gowns to not act horrified if they see each other shirtless. It doesn't matter because when he checks the couch, Mckay's already left and for a moment Sheppard wonders if he has a headache too which he should because he drank more but that's spiteful so he ignores that train of thought and rummages through his bag for clean underwear.

Breakfast at the hotel is full English and despite being in Scotland Sheppard decides to be courteous and have it, he only eats half and Teyla gives him a concerned look over her Cornflakes but he smiles and shrugs it off. Neither Ronon nor Mckay appear until well after breakfast is over, Ronon looks flushed and his hair is damp; apparently he's been for a jog and Mckay looks a little worse for wear but snatches a piece of cold toast off the table, practically inhales it before swallowing two Aspirin dry even when Teyla offers him her glass of mineral water.

"We need a car," Sheppard says, looking at his watch "anyone know any good rental companies?" he's joking and as a result is surprised when Ronon responds.

"Saw one not far from here," the Satedan replies, scarfing what's left of Sheppard's breakfast even though it's cold and the bacon is probably chewy.

"How far is 'not far'?" Mckay asks snidely.

Ronon cocks his head at him, almost challenging but not quite, it would have been funny were the situation not so serious "'bout five minutes," he elaborates.

Sheppard nods, that means is probably about fifteen because Ronon has bigger strides than the Michelin man and is about twice as fast, "let's go," he gets to his feet, and ignores the glare Mckay sends his way as he leads his team from the dining area and back up to their rooms to get coats because it might have stopped snowing but that doesn't mean it's not still cold.

The rental company is middle-of-the-range and the car Sheppard manages to hire from them is decent enough, an SUV with tinted windows and an electric sun roof, it's about six years old but smells like new leather inside, only downside is that it's red and both he and Ronon would have preferred black.

Teyla makes a sharp hissing noise as she climbs into the backseat and he's sensible enough to act like he hasn't noticed as he walks around the vehicle and slides into the driver's seat. It occurs to him that maybe he shouldn't be driving and briefly tries to remember when he stopped drinking but figures it has to be at least eight hours ago and that means he should be legal. It feels odd to be sat on the right but this is Scotland, not America so it shouldn't really.

He has no idea how to navigate the city and when he reaches the outskirts he fumbles blindly in his pants pocket for the slip of paper Elizabeth had given him with the address on it.

The mess hall is empty save for himself and a couple of botanists in the far corner, he looks mildly down at his tepid coffee and tries imagining Mckay's reaction to him wasting it, the images won't come so he gives up, holding his breath and swallowing the coffee in three mouthfuls. A slim shadow falls across the table, it's faint because Atlantis has the lights so bright, he wants to turn them down but whilst he knows he can he shouldn't because he's not alone and he doesn't have the right.

"John," she says softly and he looks up, smiling a little in greeting, it's weak and he knows it but he has to try.

"Hey Elizabeth," he replies equally gently "do you want…?" he gestures to the seat in front of him and she takes it.

"How're you holding up?" she's fiddling with something but he can't see what.

"I'm good," he answers, pretending to take another swig of coffee even though the mug is empty and he couldn't bare one more sip.

She nods and it's worth more than she realises that she doesn't accuse him of lying or try to contradict him "the funeral was today," she says, glancing at her fingers and stopping fidgeting like she's only just realised what she's doing.

He nods too because he can't think of anything to say to that; this is all wrong, it's like the city itself is mourning the loss of the CMO. He shouldn't be sat here feeling sorry for himself he should be in his quarters asleep, or in the gym sparring with Ronon, hell even bugging Mckay in his lab but he shouldn't be here.

Maybe he should request some downtime on Earth, take the others with him, they could go bowling, he hasn't been bowling since college, or they could take Ronon and Teyla to see a movie, with surround sound and a huge screen; they'd have to go to a late viewing to avoid screaming kids and giggling teenagers but it would be fun to introduce them to Earth's culture – they could even try and catch a football game, or see if a fair was in town; he'd always promised to show Teyla a Ferris wheel and the image of Ronon in one of those spinning tea-cup rides almost makes him smile, almost, but not quite.

Elizabeth doesn't say anything as she rises to her feet again, pressing the paper into his hand she kisses him tenderly on the top of the head, he smiles foolishly at her when she glances back at him for a second and he unfolds the paper in his hands she leaves the room; it's an address.

They haven't spoken to each other about it and he isn't sure he'd be willing to if she tried; it was a small gesture but this had hit harder than any of their other friends on Atlantis and he knows his team needed the closure; he refuses to admit that he does too.

The neighbourhood is nice, and one man even waves as they pull up outside a house with a snow covered conifer in the yard, there's two steps leading up to the front door and the path from the gate to the porch is cobbled.

Ronon slams the door harder than is necessary but Sheppard doesn't rebuke him, Teyla merely clicks her tongue in disapproval but Ronon's passed grief now, Ronon's just angry and Sheppard envies him for that.

The doorbell chimes pleasantly and he stares unfocusedly at the frosted glass in the top of the door until a latch is slipped and the door is opened as far as the chain will allow.

"Who is it?" her voice is soft and her accent thick, the shadows hide her features but Sheppard knows she has a kind face because that's how he's always imagined her.

"I'm Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, US Air Force, ma'am," he reports politely "this is Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagen and Doctor Rodney Mckay," he swallows because the next bit is hard to say "we're friends of your son,"

She makes a breathy noise in the back of her throat and Sheppard feels guilty for having caused it, the door closes for a second, there's a clink as the chain is slid free and the door opens entirely.

The woman looks so much like Carson his chest hurts, and judging from the expression on Mckay's face he feels the same way. The woman is short and a little plump, she has big round eyes and her son's cheeky grin, it's not genuine, it's a façade but it's nice that she's trying. There's a man stood several feet behind her but he looks nothing like their friend, his face is sharp and angular, his mouth is a gash amongst a mass of curly hair that passes for a beard, and his small grey eyes are beady and are darting from person to person. He disapproves. Sheppard doesn't care.

"We are sorry for your loss," Teyla says with all the sorrow and empathy she can muster, the line does not sound natural but Carson's mother obviously didn't notice.

"Thank ye love," she says, pressing a lace handkerchief to her mouth and inhaling sharply, her hand drops and she steps aside, shuffling in her purple house slippers "come in," she says gesturing them through the door.

The house smells of spices and lavender and Sheppard's stood with his back ram rod straight, he feels like he should be in his military blues but reminds himself walking around a Scottish town in his uniform would surely raise questions and this visit isn't on the behalf of his government, it's for Teyla and Rodney and Ronon; he shouldn't take that from them.

"Cannae get ye anythin' to drink?" she asks, wide eyes blinking hugely and Teyla just wants to hug her, her heart has not ceased aching since Carson's death and she does not wish for it to stop.

She has lost many of her people, many of whom were children she grew up with and she knows better than she wants too that the pain of loss is more welcome than the numbness that comes with forgetting. She remembers how guilty she felt the first time she laughed after her childhood friend Hallen had been killed, how furious she had been with herself that she had dared contemplate happiness in the face of his death; she had been so scared that she had forgotten him.

Her father had taken her to his chest and whispered so many things in her ear that night she could not remember them all but he had explained to his young daughter that you do not forget loved ones in the sense that you forget where you put your comb, but in the sense that they become a part of you; their memory resides in your heart forever and by laughing you are merely accepting the duty laid upon you to look after those memories the best you can.

The hearts of Carson's friends are still raw and Doctor Heightmeyer refers to it as the grieving process but that does not stop her from wanting to comfort Carson's mother.

Sheppard's "we're fine thank you," overlaps with Mckay's "a glass of water would be nice," and Mrs Beckett nods once, smiles and totters off into the kitchen.

The man is too old to be a brother but Sheppard knows Carson's father died years ago so it's safe to conclude that he must be an uncle, or a family friend, the photos on the mantle suggest the prior.

"Sheppard," he says, sticking his hand out awkwardly, the man doesn't take it and as much as he knows he shouldn't, all Sheppard can think is 'well fuck you then' because he's trying and it's moronic bastards like him that make it so much harder.

"Derek," he grunts and Sheppard supposes it's a start,

"Mckay," the astrophysicist says and he couldn't make the fact he doesn't care about the pleasantries any more obvious.

Oh he wants to be here all right, he just hates small talk, Mckay despises anything pointless, and there's rarely anything as pointless as phatic exchanges between people who don't like each other and are just pretending to for argument's sake.

Teyla gives Derek a pleasant smile and it would seem that the bearded gentleman wasn't as much of a Neanderthal as he first came across because he makes the effort to smile back, his small eyes show no sign of empathy but his furry lips twitch and that's at least something.

"So," Mrs Beckett says, shuffling back into the room, a tall glass of water in her knarled, old hand, she hands it to Mckay before hovering somewhere between the patio door and an armchair with a disgusting floral pattern on it, "yer friends of Carson's?" her voice goes higher as she says her son's name and her eyes sparkle as if by merely mentioning him it causes her physical pain.

Sheppard nods and glances at Ronon who stares stoically back, God how he envies the Satedan; he wants to be angry, he wants to hate the world, the universe and everyone in it, he wants to say that it doesn't hurt but it does and it's not that it shouldn't, it's that it's so damn inconvenient. Emotions always are and he's never felt comfortable with them, Nancy left him because of it, there were a multitude of other reasons as well, but his refusal to partake in anything that meant admitting he felt something more than raucous joy and embittered anger probably laid the foundations of the divorce before the marriage had even gone through.

They sit in silence for a while and it's not in the slightest bit comfortable, and suddenly they're all tumbling over each other to say something. They pause and Derek takes the floor "so why're ye here?" his accent is brutal; nothing like the soft brogue they're used to and Sheppard notices Mckay's wince even if no one else does.

He resists the urge to glance at his boots, they're black leather, shined and polished to military-perfection, there's no need to check if they're still there "we…" that's wrong, he doesn't know what they want to say and whilst they're here it's not a team thing, it's a group of friends mourning another friend, there's no speaking on the behalf of the others, no leader, no rules, it's just them and his family, these four walls in this little neighbourhood, no aliens, no guns, no stunners, just them and it feels so strange; like being at sea but he's a pilot and as a result has never been a big fan of boats "I just wanted to say that I'm sorry-"

Derek huffs, and scratches his beard, folding his arms and turning away in frustration, he's angry too, why can't Sheppard be angry? Why's he still stuck in the depths of depression and self-doubt? What's so special about Ronon Dex and Derek Beckett?

"Derek," Mrs Beckett chastises and it occurs to all of them that they don't know her first name, perhaps it's none of their business "go on love," she coaxes and her expression is warm, almost desperate for him to say something worth saying but his words are cold and their meaning rehearsed and he doesn't know how to stop it.

"I'm sorry for your loss," he glances purposefully at Derek's back and the man turns back round, fixes the Colonel with a glare before deciding him unworthy of the attention and looking away, "look, if it's a problem us being here…" he goes to rise to his feet and he realises he doesn't remember sitting down; will the world constantly be in a haze now? Is that what happens when you lose too many people? Everything just shuts down, you start functioning without even being aware you're doing it; what a life to lead.

"No," Mrs Beckett assures him, "no, it's fine; it's lovely to see some friends of Carson's… it's been so long since…" she chokes and Sheppard looks away, he finds himself staring at Mckay's knee; he's wearing jeans and he doesn't remember ever seeing the scientist in jeans before, he shakes his head and looks up, purposefully avoiding the funny look Mckay sends his way.

Derek gives him a terse nod of approval and Sheppard returns that nod with one of his own, he's not sure what they're agreeing too; maybe a truce of some kind, but he does it anyway. Not really paying much attention to what he's doing.

Some sort of window to your right,
As he goes left and you stay right,
Between the lines of fear and blame,
You begin to wonder why you came,

He's terrified but he shouldn't be; he fights space vampires, giant bug-human hybrids and self-replicating computer chips every day. He's lost so many people he would love to say he's lost count but he hasn't, the number a permanent brand at the back of his head, like his IDC or the serial number on his dog tags,

He should have done something, should have saved him… there's no such thing as impossible, everything's possible you just have to know what you're doing. Only that was the problem wasn't it? He didn't know. He rarely did. He could fire a P-90 or M15 fast as you liked, he was one of the best pilots he'd ever seen, puddle jumpers were like an extension of his own body, the city just as soothing but in real-life situations, the ones where he's not high on adrenalin or exhaustion, he's not absurdly excited about the fact he gets to fly a fuck-off great big space shuttle, the ones where he has to think and process information without the aid of fear or elation or fatigue, where he has to do it on his own… well he just sucks at that.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,

"I just…" he glances at his hands and his fiddling with the cuff off his shirt; he hasn't felt so nervous since he proposed to Nancy – a part of him must have known at the time that it was the wrong thing for both of them – but the churning in his stomach is different, heavier, grounding, horrible "he was a great man,"

Mrs Beckett grins at him, her blue eyes sparkling for a moment, emerging from the depths of mourning to greet this compliment with all the fire and passion she can muster "Carson always was a special boy," she reminisces and it's obvious to all of them how awkward she feels talking about her son in the past tense, like she's testing foreign waters for the first time but she's drowning in them; they all are "did ye know he want'd to be a Doctor since he was five years old?" she contributes information like it'll make everything okay and it won't, it'll stop the pain for a while, Sheppard's aware of that, but when she's alone again, when they've left and Derek's sulking on the deck in the frigid snow she'll be sobbing into her handkerchief like she can't stop and the saddest thing is that, that is how she will spend her solitude for the rest of her life; weeping over her lost child. He should have saved him.

Derek's glaring at him and Ronon's glaring back, Sheppard's grateful that's all he's doing.

Teyla reaches over and covers Mrs Beckett's fidgeting hands as she twirls the lace edge of her handkerchief in her fingers "he is greatly missed," she says and her accent is soft, her tone gentle.

"I was meant to go fishing with him," Mckay pipes up when the silence gets too much, he looks awkward and painfully out of place but he's trying even if he is bringing up that missed trip yet again, he knows he should talk to the scientist about his misplaced guilt but he can't. not yet, he doesn't want to talk to Rodney about it, he's not sure he can, instead he settles for fixing his friend with a nonchalant gaze, avoiding letting any emotion slip onto his face that could later be used as ammunition against him, not that Mckay has the social skills to pick up on them.

Mrs Beckett's breathing hitches and Teyla squeezes her hands forcefully "does it… did he… was…" she blinked back tears "did he suffer?"

The chorus of 'no's sound fake even to him but they shouldn't because he hadn't; there'd barely been enough of him left to put in a casket and send home. Death had been instantaneous, immediate; he wouldn't have even had chance to think, it's ironic that death brings peace and immunity from weakness, fault and pain, but life is filled with all of those and more; why do we cling so harshly to it?

"No," Sheppard swallows and licks his lips "it was… quick,"

Let him know that you know best,
Cause after all you do know best,
Try to slip past his defence,
Without granting innocence,

"Ye Americans and yer stupid lies," Derek mutters and Sheppard half expects Mckay to jump in with the 'I'm Canadian' line but he doesn't "was it quick like Vietnam was justice? And Iraq really did have weapons of mass destruction?" he glares at him so hard Sheppard feels like he's fourteen years old, standing in his father's study and telling him he doesn't want to go to Harvard, but he's not a perfect little straight A student and never was "it's all codswallop and lies,"

"Derek," Mrs Beckett pleads but he doesn't stop.

"I'm sorry Gladys but it's true and ye know it," Derek's still glaring and Sheppard still feels unnerved but he refuses to yield "Carson wasn't even an American citizen and they still sent him into a dangerous situation, he wasn't a soldier and they still made him fight-"

"Doctor Beckett-" Teyla starts but the burly Scot still talks over her.

"He died for yer people, yer country and the best yer government can do is send a half-cocked group of misfits nearly a week after the bloody funeral!"

"We're not here on the behalf of the US Government," Mckay chips in and Sheppard doesn't fail to notice that 'US' is said with marginally less mockery in his tone "we're here because we want to be,"

Lay down a list of what is wrong,
The things you've told him all along,
And pray to God he hears you,
And pray to God he hears you,

"And ye!" Derek whirls back around to face Sheppard but the pilot doesn't care he's tired, he's sick and he's so depressed he's not sure why he even bothered coming "yer a bloody soldier and he still wound up dead!"

"Hey," Ronon jumps in, his voice low and rumbling "back off," it's amazing the fists haven't already come out for a round but Sheppard thinks even the Satedan accepts that these are extenuating circumstances, Derek however just keeps pushing, he's either too angry or too upset to recognize how dangerous it would be to antagonize the broad shouldered giant to his left.

"No I bloody well will not 'back off'!" he snaps "my nephew is dead because of the incompetence of these cowards who call themselves soldiers, who lay their lives on the line for their country and it's men; if that had happened then Carson would still be alive,"

"Derek that's not fair," Mrs Beckett admonishes as she weeps "these people were Carson's friends, can ye not let them mourn in peace?"

"They came here Gladys, they came here and they expected forgiveness, I know these types of people, I've known 'em all my life, they're nothin' but cold hear'ed killin' machines,"

The words are so far from the truth they barely hurt anymore or maybe that's the point, that they've been driven so deep it's numb. He's a soldier, he's been trained to kill since he was sixteen, he's killed so many people, so many friends… does it really matter if some bearded Scotsman starts trying to hold him accountable for one of the few deaths of Atlantis that weren't directly dependant on his own actions?

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,

He knows Derek is angry and in pain and that he needs to lash out at someone, he knows that Derek means every word of it and he's not naïve enough to think he'll ever get an apology out of Beckett's uncle but that just makes it worse. He knows, realistically that the CMO's death wasn't his fault but a part of him is stuck in the endless loop of what ifs and maybes. Because maybe if something had happened differently, maybe if Mckay had gone fishing with him, maybe if he'd insisted someone else carry the damn bomb then it would have gone another way. A marine's hands might have been steadier, they might have been faster or… or maybe he was just procrastinating accepting the inevitable fact that there was absolutely nothing anyone could have done.

Ronon is furious, his usually dark eyes are narrowed and his entire body is tense, muscles rippling under a shirt that's just a little bit too tight, he's in fight-or-flight mode. Ronon always is, and it's putting him on edge that he can do neither – it isn't appropriate and Sheppard is all to aware of how much effort it's taking for the Satedan not to just give Derek a demonstration of his right hook.

Teyla is serene and giving the impression that she is coping perfectly but she's not and Sheppard is as amazed at how good she is at pretending the fact as he is that Ronon's controlling his temper. She's the picture of the girl-next-door in her hip-hugging jeans and loafers, how does she do it? Lithe, graceful and the epitome of well-contained indifference, her eyes are her only traitor, sparkling bright and filled with so many untold emotions he's forced too look away.

Mckay's shoulder's are slumped, and Sheppard is doubtful he has ever seen him so dejected, depressed sure; for who hasn't seen the esteemed scientist wallowing in the depths of his own sorrows? But this… this is different. This is crushing and deep and dark and Sheppard knows just how it feels, how hard it is to dislodge that lump in his throat, how bitter he is, how much he just wants to say to hell with it and shoot and blow up every fucking thing in his path. Because despite Rodney's frequent protestations; he likes watching things explode as much as the next guy.

The old phrase 'it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you' comes to mind; except its not just the world, it's the whole damn universe; it screws you over so many times you lose track of which way is up, then it does it one more time for good measure.

They shouldn't be sat here, in this room; with frail little Gladys Beckett and her brother-in-law staring them down like the cruel impostors they are trying so hard not to be. Carson should be here. Doctor Beckett with his soft brogue, quick tongue and swifter fingers; this is wrong, out of shape, jaded and morphed; nothing fits right.

As he begins to raise his voice,
You lower yours and grant him one last choice.
Drive until you lose the road.
Or break with the ones you've followed.
He will do one of two things.
He will admit to everything.
Or he'll say he's just not the same.
And you'll begin to wonder why you came.

No matter how much he wants too he shouldn't start yelling and shouting, at least not yet, he's a soldier, he knows self discipline, even if he doesn't apply it too often, he knows tactic and strategy and even if this isn't a battlefield it still feels like it. There're still mines and bombs and secret little passageways he doesn't know how to navigate so he's lost in enemy territory, unarmed and without a chance in hell of an easy escape.

"That's not fair," Ronon speaks gruffly and somehow he manages to not sound the slightest bit petulant; he sounds angry, determined; he sounds certain but more than anything he's sincere, brutally so. He's giving Derek a warning that for some reason Sheppard thinks he still deserves.

"Ronon," he says, pausing a moment before looking up at the broad Satedan, and staring at his eyes; it's not pleading or desperate it's a mutual exchange between men, he's thanking him and asking him to stop at the same time.

He used to feel awe that he was the only one Ronon would listen too; that he was the only one on Atlantis Ronon had enough military respect for to obey, the only one to which Ronon would stand down. Sure he respected the others, Elizabeth, Mckay… Beckett… but in their fields; when it came to negotiation he let Weir step forward, Mckay he would bicker and banter with but when it came to reprogramming the DHD, he let him get on with it. Beckett… it was about trust. Trusting them all to do their jobs; Ronon trusted him to come up with strategies and plans of attack or defence. He shouldn't have done.

"Ye laddie," Derek says, his finger was shaking in anger as it pointed straight at the Colonel "ye are a selfish bastard,"

"I'm sorry," he says and he means it, or maybe he just thinks he does because it's not his fault.

It would be selfish to think it was; it was an accident, a cruel, violent, unnecessary accident, but an accident all the same. No one meant for him to die, it just happened; Beckett had known the risks, he wasn't naïve or a child, he didn't need protecting against threats he exposed himself too on purpose; he was good at what he did and Beckett died saving lives, just as Janet Fraiser had done back at the SGC three years ago. Sheppard could not take the blame for something that wasn't his fault; he wouldn't let Elizabeth do it, or Ronon or Teyla or even Mckay – no matter how much they all feel like they played a part.

"I should have just gone fishing with him," Rodney says for what must have been the millionth time, but it's still as poignant and Earth-shattering as it had been the first time he said it and would continue to be so for a very long time.

"It is not your fault Rodney," Teyla said, reaching through the seats to clasp her delicate hand over his; she smiles encouragingly when he turns his hand and squeezes her slim fingers with a firm gentleness Sheppard's not sure he's seen the other man demonstrate before.

"She's right Mckay," Ronon intones without looking round, flicking through a magazine that is oddly intriguing despite bearing a horribly close up picture of Britney Spears on the front cover "it's nobody's fault,"

Sheppard looks at him sharply but Ronon doesn't say anything after that so Sheppard thinks it might have been his imagination. It's not long after that Teyla lets go of Mckay's hand and the scientist reclines in his seat, makes a half-hearted comment about his back and hoping that there are chiropractors in Scotland before pretending to be asleep until the stewardess comes around again with the drinks.

"Ye bloody are aren't ye?" Derek fumes "sorry for ye bleedin' self, sorry we won't forgive ye," he pauses "yer a sorry excuse for a soldier laddie,"

The words are poignant but filled with anger, the filter through all the walls and blockades he's held up for so long, seeping through the cracks and fissures in the paintwork. Maybe getting angry wouldn't be the right thing to do because from where he's standing now he's not sure if he could control if it he did.

Ronon doesn't care about the fall out of his temper and even if he did, there's a careful measurement in every action he's taken, every breath is countered, every word contemplated a thousand times before he says it.

Teyla's fuse is ten times longer than anyone he's ever known, her fury burns in her eyes and only those who care enough to look can see it there, but mostly people don't because the ones who care are all too aware of how much it pains her to do so. Because it means that she has to admit to herself that she's lost control and the lithe movements of all the Athosions, the prayers and traditions of their culture mean that they are taught discipline at a far stricter degree than the confederates of the United States Air Force are.

Mckay doesn't seem to get angry, he gets pissy and scared but anger is a rare emotion to flicker across the scientist's face, he gets annoyed with his 'underlings' and he'll shout until he's blue in the face if a marine so much as looks like he's going to think about taking his eyes off of the extremely delicate could-go-off-at-any-moment-though-no-one-knows-what-it-does Ancient device. But anger… this sort of anger is different.

This anger's raw, and primal, it's screaming just because he can, crying because he's man enough to admit that it takes a man to cry, shooting the shit out of anything in his path because he's convinced himself if the body counts high enough then the pain will stop even though he knows it won't; ever.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,

It'll dim and it'll fade, the world may come to know of what Carson Beckett did for the people residing in the Ancient City of Atlantis but the pain those who knew him felt when he died won't go away just because people know he saved a few people - as Joseph Stalin once said 'The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.'

People would think of Carson Beckett as a hero because that's what they were told to think, they wouldn't know it, because it's impossible to truly conceive the notion that if he hadn't of died, dozens of others could have, because people didn't know him, it would be 'oh, he saved people, that's really cool; good for him.' No one but those on Atlantis that day would be able to picture the dozens of faces that could have been killed had Beckett not done what he had.

So yeah, he was sorry, he was sorry it wasn't him, that he hadn't done something to stop it. He was sorry that Beckett was dead, and he was sorry that Derek and Gladys had lost their nephew and son but he was not sorry, and never would be that he had known the man they so clearly adored because no matter how hard he tried, chances are, he'd never be able to be so much of a hero as Beckett was. Beckett saved people, he healed them, so he did the same; Beckett didn't have to kill other people to do so. He wasn't prejudiced against who was good and who was bad, unless the line was so clearly drawn, it didn't matter who they were, or what they'd done; he still tried. And Sheppard only wishes he could see the world that plainly.

Besides, he's not sure he has the energy left to get angry, not any more. It doesn't help, it doesn't fix anything, but this numbness, this feeling of being lost and trapped and drowning is horrible and all he wants is for a second, one moment in which he can breath again. In which it will stop and then that'll be it. No more of this… helplessness.

"That's a nice picture," Mckay says and it's only then that Sheppard realises he's been bated into a staring competition with the burly Scotsman so eager to knock him down even further than he's knocked himself.

"Ye think so?" Gladys heaves herself to her feet and clasps Mckay's hand tightly, he flinches but Sheppard refuses to look away from Derek and his ice cold gaze so he pretends he doesn't notice.

Mckay nods mutely, allowing himself to be tugged to stand much closer to the painting on the wall.

"Carson bought it for me jus' 'afore he went to work for yer government,"

The astrophysicist goes to protest about it not being his government because he's Canadian and there is totally a difference but Teyla stares heavily at him and he doesn't, whether because he sees sense or because the thought of being beaten up by Teyla and her bantos sticks instils more fear in him than Sheppard thought.

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,
How to save a life,
How to save a life,

"Are ye stayin' for lunch?" Gladys turns on them after she semi-forces Rodney to study the painting he had so foolishly complimented for several long moments "yer more than welcome,"

"Don't encourage them Gladys!" Derek growls "I want 'em out,"

"We can leave," Sheppard rises to his feet "it's no problem; we just came to give you our condolences-"

"After ye bloody killed him!" Derek's seeing red and Sheppard suddenly hates that phrase because he's seen far too much red in his life to ever want to see it again, he will though, he'll see enough to bathe in it twice over within the next three months because that's how it goes in Pegasus; it's like there's some sort of checklist and they're being knocked off, one by one.

It's not fair. And he hates how ridiculous that sounds even in his own head, how childish but it's not. It's not fair. It hurts and he wants to cry but he's not even got the spine to admit he needs too. Why do the good people die? The ones who make it all worth it, why can't the bad guys die? Why can't the people who make it difficult, who try and lessen his grief by telling him he doesn't have the right to feel it go rot in hell because he does deserve this. He does. And maybe if he keeps telling himself that he'll eventually believe it.

"He didn't kill him!" Mckay exclaims and Sheppard finds himself jerking to look at his friend, watch him as the razor-tongued scientist rebukes the man who dare make them all feel even worse than they already do "Carson's death was an accident, he chose to save those people. If you want to blame someone then blame Carson because he's the one who made that decision. Not Sheppard,"

Rodney's angry now, but he's not angry with himself, or Sheppard or Ronon or Teyla. He's mad at Carson and damn, that takes guts because he's angry at the man whose name they barely dare speak, whose memory is used in reverence. No one's thinking about the mistakes he made, about the Hoffan drug, or the stupid things he said and the ridiculous things he did. Carson's become an angel, a saviour and he's barely been dead a week. God, they've betrayed him already.

Instead of remembering the man they knew, they were remembering the man they thought they knew. They were remembering perfection and Carson Beckett wasn't perfect. He fucked up. He made mistakes. He was human. How could they forget that so soon?

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,

"Lunch would be lovely," Teyla says, and she glares at Derek and well, it just fits in with how petulant and tired his feeling that he wants to stick his tongue out at the other man as if to say 'ha – she's on my side you ignorant jerk' but he doesn't because he's forty not four and he's never been one for digging himself stupid holes.

Sure, he's made an idiot of himself, dug himself great trenches that he's struggled to climb out of but it would be just plain stupid to aggravate a man who was merely trying to cope with a loss he, John Sheppard, should have had the power to stop. Not to mention the fact that Beckett's face was already blurring, it wasn't quite a sharp an image as it was before, sort of hazy… he was fading and it was too soon. Far too soon. How could they be losing him again already?

Mckay's watching him; he can feel the ocean blue eyes piercing at top of his head as he studiously scrutinizes the carpet beneath his feet why didn't he take off his shoes? He refuses to look up because if he does, he'll have to face the half-hidden searching expression on his friend's face the one that says 'I did good… didn't I?' because every time he does something like that, Rodney looks for approval, a nod a smile, a quick word or clap on the back. It's not ego-feeding, it's reassurance that he's not as much of an ass as the general population seems to think because as much as he likes to pretend it doesn't matter to him; other's opinions do matter to Rodney, he just figures its safer to act as if they don't.

It's different this time. It's different because unlike the dozens of times before he can't just throw himself into his work, he can't push himself to the edge; he can't act like it doesn't hurt because he has friends who he has to wait for. People who need the time to mourn, who want to go through the motions; denial, anger and self-blame; the city had all but come to an out and out halt.

There'd been missions but most had felt guilty for going because if they dared act like they were okay with this then either Weir or Heightmeyer would have been after them. It had been silent even though it shouldn't have been. Those left on the city had just been so still, bated breaths and an unseen, dam like pressure building inside of everyone – why was no one willing to take the action they all wanted too? Why couldn't they all just throw themselves into doing something useful?

It had been meant to mark a time when people could come to terms with what had happened but what had made Carson so special? What made him better and more valued that Ford or Griffiths or Grodin? Or anyone else who had died doing their duty? It wasn't the person that made it unique, he realises, it was the day. Sunday, it had meant to be a holiday, and then panic, uproar as something disturbed it, an explosion that ripped through the solitude that Beckett had insisted upon. Sunday would be a day he would forever observe as a mockery now.

A door slams and his head jerks up to see what it was; Derek's stood outside on the deck, the patio door is shaking slightly from where it had been slid shut so violently. He glances at Gladys and she's shaking her head and once more biting back tears.

"Would you like some assistance?" Teyla asks as Gladys towards the kitchen.

Gladys looks at her, squinting a moment before realising what the young woman had asked "a hand would be wonderful love," she smiles and its genuine, while it lasts she makes sure to look each of her guests in the eye; they can't help but smile somewhat weakly back.

"Ronon," Gladys says, clucking her tongue when she sees the unlit fire "there's some logs in the shed out in the garden, can ye do an ol' lady a favour an' get some for the fire?"

Ronon nods once, and makes for the patio door as Gladys leads Teyla off into the kitchen.

"Ronon," Sheppard says and the Satedan looks at him, raising an eyebrow when he realises what his team leader is saying by looking pointedly at the obnoxious old man just outside.

The big man takes in what Sheppard's saying to him and he steps outside, making a point to close the door much more softly than Derek had, before striding the length of the garden to get the kindling.

There's silence for a few moments and he only looks up when Rodney clears his throat and he's trying to be quiet so Sheppard doesn't call him on it.

"I… uh… I'm just going to take this through," he feels awkward, they all do so Sheppard nods and neglects to mention that going into the kitchen with an elderly woman is not the brightest idea the astrophysicist has ever had; nevertheless Mckay goes anyway and Sheppard finds himself sat alone in the living room.

Derek's back is to the door and his shoulders are hunched over. He has a right to be angry, to hate them; their impostors, strangers standing in his house telling him that they're sorry and that they didn't mean for it to happen. Sheppard knows himself that, that doesn't help, he was just under the illusion that this time would be different because how could someone so gentle natured as Carson Beckett be related to someone who was… well… an ass?

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life,
How to save a life,

Sighing, he gets to his feet; the sliding door makes a soft rumbling noise as it moves along its tracks and it's sort of rhythmic when he closes it behind him. The air outside is like a wall of ice whooshing against his face; he can feel his nose turning red and his ears sting as the breeze pinches them. Derek glances back at him but says nothing even when Sheppard goes and leans against the wooden fence along the front of the deck next to him.

They stand in companionable silence for a while, and Sheppard figures it's better than nothing; he nods at Ronon when his friend passes them, his arms laden with the firewood he'd been asked to collect; the expression on his face is so very Ronon; so very 'want me to beat him up?' that he almost laughs. It's getting better, which is bizarre because it shouldn't be not so soon, not so quickly, or maybe it's because he's found people who are in it deeper than he is, than his friends are. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe it's not.

"Why'd ye come?" Derek asks and his voice is as brash as the breeze that's suddenly doubled its force into a light wind.

It's starting to snow again, white flakes flitting down from the purple-hued skies, hey land like needles against his skin. He's not sure how to answer that, because Derek doesn't want to hear that they're sorry, he doesn't want to know that they miss him and he sure as hell isn't interested in the finer details of how his nephew died. Sheppard wishes he didn't know that, never mind anyone else.

Derek makes a noise in the back of his throat that irritates his companion for some reason, possibly because it sounds so derisive, so 'I thought so' that it spurs an answer out of him.

"He saved a lot of people," he starts and he's not sure where he's going but doesn't try and stop "a lot of people are alive because of him, me included,"

"And t'others?" he jerks his head in the direction of the house, meaning Ronon, Mckay and Teyla.

He nods and swallows "yeah, them too,"

Derek gives a sharp sort of half nod.

"Look," he says, hoping that Derek will at least look at him but he doesn't so he continues "I know us being here probably doesn't make you feel any better-"

"Huh," the noise is an odd one, one of agreement but the sarcasm is evident anyway.

"But as I said, he saved our lives more than once… I guess we're just trying to thank him for that," he stops because this is useless, he's awful at talking and he sounds pretentious and so… not him, that he can't stand to continue "we'll be gone after lunch and you'll never have to see any of us ever again," he goes to go back inside.

Derek shakes his head "Sheppard," he grunts.

Sheppard frowns in confusion and stops, watching as Derek turns to look at him; his eyes aren't so cold any more, they're not warm, but their not so paralysing as they had been either.

"Thanks," he says before turning back to observe his backyard with the same unfocused gaze as before.

He's not sure what he's being thanked for but he supposes that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Sheppard pauses for a long moment before he goes back inside, he hears Teyla's musical laugh from the kitchen and something catches in his chest as he and Ronon move to find out what's so amusing.

"Nice apron Mckay," he taunts as he catches sight of the scientist standing by the counter, he's dusted in flour and Sheppard has to admit that, that in itself is pretty funny, especially when you consider that the only other person with flour on them is Teyla. He's not sure what happened but that's not the point.

Teyla sees him and freezes, they all do because they'd laughed, Gladys observes them carefully and before she feels like such an outsider that she remembers why they're here in the first place – like she could forget, but Sheppard knows what he means even if no one else does – Sheppard glances at her, letting her know that it's all right because it is. It is okay to laugh, to be happy, because – to quote the cliché – that's what Beckett would have wanted.

The smiles that follow aren't exactly real but they're not fake either so that's okay because they're not. They're not okay, but they will be, even if for a little while they have to pretend.

Author's Notes: I'm not sure what to think of this, I'm not even sure where it came from, I just started writing it a couple of months ago and this is what came out… review if you liked it, don't if you didn't…

Step one you say we need to talk,
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk,
He smiles politely back at you,
You stare politely right on through,