'Uncle John' stiffened briefly at the unexpected shout. He rolled his shoulders before turning to face the new comer.
"Sorry," Torren said, smiling sheepishly. "Mom wants you. I think she broke the –"
"I did not break it!" An indignant female voice called from the kitchen.
Ex-colonel John Sheppard slouched further into his squishy brown leather couch. It was times like these that he missed living on Atlantis. There he never had to deal with Teyla and her knack for, um, causing appliances to become dysfunctional in her presence.
"Um, right." Torren rolled his eyes, sharing a knowing look with his uncle. "The microwave isn't working."
Sighing resignedly, John levered himself up from the couch. His thoughts turned back to Atlantis. Teyla had never had these sorts of 'problems' with any of the Ancient technology they'd found there. But, then again, Rodney would probably have mailed her to the Mainland in a box if a member of his own team broke his precious gidgets on a regular basis.
Unbidden, images of Rodney teaching Teyla how to use a computer, operate the transporter, or even simply turn the lights on to her quarters rose to the forefront of his mind.
His jaw clenched.
He should be here, dealing with Teyla's curse – not John, the Grunt with the Hair.
Self-consciously, he ran a hand through his dark hair, now tinged with gray. He felt old.
A muffled 'bang' from the kitchen jolted him back to reality and he scampered into the kitchen.
ooo oo ooo oo ooo oo ooo
Torren sighed. After the microwave incident Uncle John had sort of shut down. His mom had refused to explain it, only saying that 'John has lost something he should not have – and sometimes he remembers'.
He had no response to that. He had carried the microwave into the garage as it had been labeled 'hopeless' and placed it next to a totaled toaster oven.
They had quite a collection of broken appliances and other devices. Torren had contributed a few items himself, although he refused to be blamed for the flattened green alarm clock that perched rather precariously on top of a slightly charred shop vac.
All the devices were broken, most beyond any hope at all, but Uncle John refused to throw them away.
Sometimes, when Dr. Radek came to visit he would try to fix something. Most often he would shake his head and suggest a better brand appliance.
Torren didn't understand why Uncle John would not allow any of this junk to be thrown out, or, at the very least, taken to a professional to be repaired. His mom, while usually very honest and open, had nothing to say on the subject.
Dr. Radek had gone into a rant when he'd asked – in Czech – leaving Torren even more confused and frustrated than before. It had taken nearly ten minutes before the man calmed enough to speak English.
One of his mom and uncle's closest friends, Dr. Jen, had only said that his Uncle John was too stubborn for his own good.
For all that everyone seemed to disapprove of his Uncle John's habit, no one truly tried to talk him out of it. When it was mentioned the arguments were feeble at best, not even able to withstand Uncle John's most sullen glare.
Torren could tell that whatever was causing his Uncle John to hoard broken appliances in his garage was much more than just an odd obsession. It stemmed from something more, and, sometimes, Torren imagined he could feel Uncle John's pain.
It was not healthy, this habit – it seemed to be a statement of rebellion. Or un-acceptance.
Torren wondered if his mom felt the same way – and Dr. Jen and Dr. Radek.
Frustrated, he slammed his hand down on his desk.
This had been going on as long as he remembered – and that was far long enough.
The teenager refused to put up with extended childish behavior in adults en-masse. Allowing Uncle John his obsession was the same as participating in it.
Resolved, Torren shrugged on his jacket and eased open his window.
His room was on the second floor, but that hadn't been a problem since he was ten. Gracefully, he shimmied down the drain pipe and crouched low to the ground.
It was after dinner and nearly three hours till his 'bed time'. Enough time to visit a friend without being missed.
At that thought he rolled his eyes. All of his friend's parents allowed them to 'go out' without supervision. He was fourteen, after all. His mom and Uncle John, though, were paragons of over protectiveness.
Climbing over the back fence, he wondered if he'd get into less trouble if they were less stifling all the time.
Shaking his head he trotted off towards Mr. Deck's house.
Mr. Roland Deck lived about three blocks down, two streets over. He'd met the older man in the city one day.
After ignoring his mother's admonishments to not wander off, he'd landed himself in a spot of trouble with a local gang. He'd been putting up a good fight, but he doubted he'd been able to make it out without Mr. Deck's timely intervention.
Torren had thought it was a rather strange coincidence that Mr. Deck lived in his neighborhood. Still, that had been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
He arrived at the small gray house only slightly winded and immediately circled around back.
It was a rare occurrence that Mr. Deck couldn't be found out in his shop, working.
He knocked loudly on the open door. Deck looked up from his carving and grinned.
"Been awhile," he commented gruffly.
Mr. Deck was a very large man with a tall but lean stature and not given to many words. He lived simply, hand carving anything from furniture to decorative figurines. He did most things with his hands – the man didn't even own a phone or a TV. Torren could imagine Mr. Deck as an old timey warrior, back when men fought for honor with sharp blades instead of automatic weapons.
"I came by last Tuesday." Torren grinned exasperatedly – no matter how often he came by Mr. Deck always said that. Even so, Torren could only visit so often. He didn't think his 'guardians' would disapprove… but he wasn't about to chance it.
Torren wasn't offended by the abrupt question. His concern for his Uncle John was probably clearly stamped on his face. Even if it wasn't, Mr. Deck would probably see it anyway.
"We-el." Torren hesitated. He wasn't sure what he expected his friend to do about it. "It's like this, Mr. Deck –"
The other man growled.
"Told you not to call me that." Torren rolled his eyes.
"You won't let me call you Roland. And whenever I say Deck-" Torren raised his voice a little at the name and smirked when the other man lurched forward, shoulders hunched defensively. "You do that. Least you don't make it all the way to the ground anymore." The first time he'd shouted Deck the other man dove behind his workbench and nearly put Torren's eye out with a rather nasty looking awl.
Roland Deck glared at him. He didn't like being reminded of that incident. Torren was guessing that the phrase 'hit the deck' had saved his life more than once.
"So, it's like this, erm," He shrugged. If the big man didn't like his name he should change it. "Uncle John hoards a bunch of broken junk in his garage."
Deck raised his eyebrow.
"Electronic appliances, mostly, but I think there's at least one stapler out there. He won't explain why he keeps it all – no one will. But I don't think it's just a harmless quirk."
Roland frowned and pushed a dreadlock off his shoulder.
"Everyone just tolerates it, even though I can tell they don't think it's good either."
The other man stood up abruptly and marched off towards his house. Torren followed without prompting.
Once in the house, Mr. Deck went straight to his bed room and pulled a cell phone out of his bottom dresser drawer. He thrust it into Torren's shocked face.
Taking the phone, he curiously opened the contacts' file. There was only one number. He looked up at his companion but was met with an impatient expression. Having known Mr. Deck for nearly a year, Torren immediately understood what was expected of him.
He pushed the call button and turned speakerphone on.
It rang six times before a rather angry voice answered.
"This had better be important."
"McKay." Torren's eyes widened at Mr. Deck's tone.
"What? No – I don't think so. You don't get to call on this phone and just 'McKay' me. If it's important you can expl-" Apparently 'McKay' wasn't nearly as impressed.
"McKay." Deck tried again.
"No. Whatever John has gotten himself into this time, he can just –"
Torren's eyebrow rose. Did he mean Uncle John? He looked over at Mr. Deck.
"He keeps broken stuff in his garage."
Yup, they were talking about his Uncle John alright. McKay didn't respond.
"The kid is worried."
"What kid? And why do you think I care? I happen to be a very busy man, although I'm sure the thought-"
"Will you stop that already? I don't know what the hell you want me to do!"
There was a small pause and Torren instinctively braced for an explosion.
"What? I just said I was too busy for this stupid phone call, you Neanderthal. What the hell makes you think I have time to gallivant across the ocean because John Sheppard has a cluttered garage?"
"You need to fix it."
"What –" Torren could hear another spluttered, long winded argument coming on, but Mr. Deck interrupted harshly.
"McKay." Deck loomed over the phone, which Torren held out at arm's length. "Now."
A few seconds later a flat, unwavering dial tone sounded harshly in the quiet room.
"Now what?" Torren wanted to know. He actually wanted to know a whole lot of other stuff, but asking Mr. Deck questions was always a risky business. He decided to start with one that he was relatively sure the other man would answer without a fuss.
Snarling slightly, Deck strode out of the room, presumably going back to the shop. Sighing, Torren trailed behind. He was slightly startled when a noise from the kitchen prevented him from opening the sliding door that led out into the backyard.
Torren laughed. If Teyla and John were the epitome of paranoid parents, then Mr. Deck was the exact opposite. He'd caught Torren with a pack of cigarettes once and hadn't batted an eye. Torren had come back the next day and surrendered the pack, minus one, to the big man. He had fervently vowed never to smoke again. Deck had just smirked smugly.
"Sure… you do know that's illegal, though, right?"
Deck snorted and twisted the top off two bottles before handing one over.
"So, who was that man you called?"
Deck took a long swig of his beer before moving to the sparsely furnished living room. He plopped down on the couch that Torren had help pick out. He'd complained that Deck only had uncomfortable wooden chairs to sit in until the quiet man had broken down and agreed to purchase a sofa.
"Sheppard and Teyla lied to you."
Wow, that was a bombshell. Torren carefully schooled his reaction. His mother often cautioned him to get the whole story before deciding how to react.
"You not from here."
Torren groaned internally. He glared irritably at the erstwhile story teller. This was like pulling teeth.
"What do you mean?"
Deck took another long drink, and then sighed. He acted like speaking hurt. Maybe it did.
"You... weren't born here. Earth."
Torren opened his mouth, and shut it again. This was batty. Completely off-the-wall crazy. Everyone knew that aliens didn't exist. And even if they did, his doctor had assured him more than once that he was a completely healthy teenage boy.
But, then, his Uncle John had joked more than once about believing in life outside of planet Earth. Torren had always thought the man sounded strangely serious.
Oddly enough, this topic did seem to come up fairly frequently at home.
Mr. Deck sat quietly, giving Torren time to absorb this new information.
Torren thought back carefully. Some of the late night conversations he'd eavesdropped on suddenly made much more sense now. He nodded slowly, ready for Deck to continue.
"We're from the Pegasus Galaxy."
"About twenty years ago Earth people came to Atlantis. It was an abandoned city built by dead aliens."
Torren blinked. He just realized that if Deck wasn't a nut job, then he was an alien. Huh.
"They accidentally woke the Wraith – bad aliens that feed on humans."
"We fought the Wraith for a long time, but eventually had to move the City. We came to Earth."
Torren's mind was teeming with questions, but he knew better than to harass the other man when he was talking. When Deck spoke again, it was in the same calm, measured tone Torren had come to expect from him.
"While we were in Pegasus we fought the Wraith and fought to survive. There were teams."
Deck's expression turned hard and his voice slightly hoarse. Torren's stomach tightened.
"Me, Sheppard, Teyla, and McKay were one. McKay was the scientist."
Torren took an experimental sip of his beer. He still didn't understand and his head was starting to hurt. He trusted Mr. Deck implicitly. He might have a hard time accepting what he was being told, but he knew it was true.
"McKay fixed stuff. Anything was ever broken, he could fix it."
Deck turned away, staring blankly at a bare wall.
"A year after Atlantis came to Earth – you were three – there was an accident. Four people were killed." Deck sighed. "Everyone blamed McKay. So he left."
"Everyone?" Torren's eyes narrowed as he observed the other man. "You?"
"Maybe." He shrugged. "At first. But I followed McKay. The other's did, too, but I found him first."
There was another long pause and Torren wondered if he was going to have to come back tomorrow for the rest of the tale.
"But McKay wouldn't go back. He was hurt – Sheppard was the worst. I stayed with him."
The big man's expression morphed into something Torren didn't recognize. It was fierce, harsh, and almost terrifying. It was gone in a second and Torren saw loyalty.
"Was afraid he'd do something stupid."
"But you're here now…"
"Came back. Two years ago."
Torren nodded. Whatever reason Deck had left the other man to fend for himself really wasn't any of his business.
Hell, this whole mess wasn't really any of his business.
"Mom and Uncle John don't know." It wasn't really a question.
Deck shook his head and swiped Torren's beer, draining the less than half-empty bottle in one long pull.
"Couldn't tell them – McKay set up aliases for the both of us."
"So you think McKay has something to do with Uncle John's garbage collection?"
Deck grunted in what Torren assumed was the affirmative.
"So." Torren braced himself to ask what seemed to be his favorite question. "What now?"
"We go get McKay."
A/N: Yes, I've started another story. Yes, you can shoot me.
Although, a review or two would be nice...