Back In Black

Even after two months of working together, Elson wasn't quite sure what to make of the scholar from Atlantis whom Col. Sheppard had sent to assist with the Coalition's effort to catalogue the laws of various member worlds and codify those that were common to all, a move suggested by Dimas of Riva in an attempt to strengthen the Coalition into a real confederation of the sort that had existed before the Great Holocaust. The man was tall, built like the Satedan on Col. Sheppard's team, but his brown hair was longer than usual for a Lantean, and though he was gracious and willing to listen and had charmed quite a few reluctant elders into cooperating, there was something in his green eyes and in the way he moved that suggested that he was far older and far more dangerous than he appeared. He didn't have a title, either, unlike most of the Lanteans he'd met.

Elson liked Sam Winchester. He just didn't understand him.

They'd been working for several hours in the library on Karkaa that afternoon when Master Winchester stretched until his spine popped, rubbed his eyes, and glanced at the chronograph on his wrist. "I think I need to take a break, get something to eat," he sighed.

Elson put his quill back in its stand. "There's an excellent pub not far from here. May I join you?"

Master Winchester looked somewhat surprised, but he smiled as if glad of the company. "Yeah, sure. Thanks."

They chatted about inconsequential matters on the way to the pub and through most of the meal, but though Elson had previously been able to learn that Master Winchester was new to Atlantis and had prepared to study law on his own world (wherever that was), the younger man deftly avoided most of Elson's attempts to learn more personal details about him. Instead, he pressed for more details about life around the galaxy, how the Coalition was faring against the Wraith, the kinds of plant and animal life, whether any other non-human sentient life forms existed, and so on.

Midway through the meal, the conversation was interrupted by the arrival of two more Lanteans, a man and a woman, whom Master Winchester introduced as his brother Dean and Sgt. Mehra. Elson found Master Dean doubly odd—he had never heard of Lanteans working with their siblings before, never mind the fact that neither brother had a title. The Winchesters didn't look alike at first glance, but Elson thought he could see some family resemblances in the color of their eyes and the shape of their mouths and chins, as well as some of the intangibles that had intrigued Elson about Master Sam. And the longer they talked to each other, the more obvious their brotherhood became, especially when they talked in half-sentences about certain friends of theirs, Gabe and Cas, who had just arrived in Atlantis on what sounded like military business.

Elson found himself missing his own brother, gone these fifty cycles at the hands of the Wraith.

Unfortunately, that point in the conversation was about the time Master Sam went still and looked around warily, like one who had the Gift, and Master Dean handed Elson a handgun and ordered him and Sgt. Mehra to cover one window of the pub while the Winchesters took the other and everyone else in the pub stayed on the floor. No sooner had they done so than seven Wraith strolled into the village and made a demand: hand over a group of newcomers from a village called Croya and no one would get hurt.

"Hoffan plague," Sgt. Mehra whispered, and Elson's heart sank to hear his suspicion confirmed. The incident that had driven Elson and his people off their home planet two cycles earlier had begun exactly the same way.

But before this village's leader could say yes or no, the Wraith leader's head suddenly snapped to the side with a sickening crunch as if struck by an invisible force, and it fell dead. Startled, Elson looked over at the Winchesters and saw Master Sam glaring out the window. Master Dean patted Master Sam's shoulder once, and they seemed to have a silent conversation for a moment before Master Sam shouldered his repeating rifle and Master Dean motioned for Elson and Sgt. Mehra to meet them at the double door. Between them, Elson knew, they could easily block the entry.

"Too many civilians," Sgt. Mehra murmured.

"Aim for the head," Master Dean replied.

Master Sam's eyes narrowed dangerously, and the warrior Wraith, who had been looking around in confusion, suddenly turned and started running toward the door of the pub. Elson and the Lanteans mowed them down in no time flat—and the bodies suddenly burst into flame and were consumed in a matter of seconds.

As the smoke cleared, Master Dean punched Master Sam on the shoulder. "Nice going there, Ace," he said sarcastically.

"Habit, Dean," Master Sam sighed. "Or would you rather leave these people to solve a dilemma like that on their own? You escape between the horns or you don't escape at all."

Master Dean blinked. "Escape between the horns?"

"Intro to Logic, Intro to Rhetoric—I don't remember now." Master Sam sounded weary, as if he were speaking of something that happened a lifetime ago... yet he could not be so much as thirty cycles old. "Disprove the disjunctive premise, and the syllogism fails. The point is, these people needed another option."

Master Dean shook his head. "Dude, I have got to teach you how to speak English again."

"You couldn't teach a dog to do that; you can only train elephants!" said an unfamiliar male voice from beyond the brothers, and Elson turned to see another Lantean leaning casually against the wall beside Master Sam. He had no idea where the shorter brown-haired man had come from or how he had gotten into the pub, since they were still blocking the only door. Sgt. Mehra looked as startled as Elson felt.

Master Dean frowned. "That doesn't even make sense."

"Hey, Gabriel," Master Sam nodded. "Where's Cas?"

"Watching the Gate," replied the newcomer—Gabriel? Was this the 'Gabe' Master Dean had mentioned? "We need to get these people out of here; the hive ship's about five hours out, and the queen's not gonna be pleased to find herself down thirty henchmen. And if you think Kali had a temper..."

Both brothers shuddered.

Sgt. Mehra looked even more startled than she had before. "The two of you took out twenty-three Wraith by yourselves? You're not even armed."

The fact hadn't registered for Elson until she mentioned it, but it was true. Gabriel wasn't carrying a gun—or wearing one of the Lanteans' special waistcoats, for that matter, and if he had a knife, it was well concealed. Nor did he bear himself like a warrior; if Elson had had to guess, he would have said Gabriel was a doctor like Beckett or McKay.

Gabriel snorted. "Please. Castiel took out twenty-three Wraith. Compared to what just happened in Soofalls, this was a cake walk."

The Winchesters frowned at exactly the same time and asked, "What just happened in Soofalls?"

"Nobody got hurt," Gabriel assured them soberly, then added more lightly, "Well, no one human, anyway. But you won't be hearing from Meg again."

"Dammit, Gabriel..." snarled Master Dean.

"They're fine, Dean. We'll tell you the rest later. Right now we've got five hundred people to get off this planet."

And Elson jumped because suddenly there was another Lantean standing beside Gabriel, this one with black hair and piercing blue eyes but likewise unarmed and too thin to be a warrior. "The Wraith hive has dropped out of hyperspace and is attempting to contact its messengers," he said without preamble. "We must empty this village before the ship arrives. I don't think they'll waste time talking. Hello, Sam."

"Hey, Cas," Master Sam grinned. "Uniform looks good on you."

'Cas'—Castiel? That Castiel?—looked down at his clothes as if they puzzled him, then looked back at Master Sam and shrugged. "It serves its purpose," he said vaguely.

Master Dean snickered.

Master Sam cleared his throat to stop himself from laughing and turned to Elson and Sgt. Mehra. "Uh, Dusty, Elson, you wanna... talk to the village council? Dean and I'll go back to the library and pack."

Master Dean pulled a face, but Sgt. Mehra looked grateful to be on familiar ground again. "Sure. You know these people, Elson?"

Assuming she meant the village leaders, Elson nodded. "Yes, we've traded here many times. I'll make the necessary introductions."

"You and Gabe pack," Elson heard Master Dean say as he and Sgt. Mehra left the pub. "Cas and I'll watch the Gate in case they send Darts, call Atlantis, let 'em know what's going on."

Master Sam laughed. "Okay."

There was a sound like someone snapping his fingers. Elson glanced over his shoulder, but all four men had vanished.

"That was freaky," Sgt. Mehra muttered.

Before Elson could form any kind of response, they were surrounded by wide-eyed villagers. "Elson!" cried Vajezatha, one of the councilors. "What just happened? What manner of men are these?"

Elson shrugged helplessly. "They are Lanteans. Master Winchester has the Gift, it seems. I don't know any more than that."

"Are they Ancestors?" someone called from the crowd.

"No," said Sgt. Mehra quickly, but Elson wondered if she was as unsure as he was about Gabriel and Castiel.

"Are they sorcerers?" asked another voice.

Here Elson was on firmer footing. "Atlantis has a great deal of advanced Ancestor technology that even the Genii do not understand. I'm sure that's all it is."

"Exactly," Sgt. Mehra agreed, though he could tell that she was bluffing on that point. "Look, we just got word from Atlantis that they're tracking a hive ship headed for this planet. It'll be here by nightfall. Once the Wraith find out what happened, they'll level this village, deal or no deal. But if you come with us, we can move you to another planet where you'll be safe."

"This is exactly what happened to my people," Elson added. "Betraying the Croyans will not save you, nor will handing over the Lanteans. Your only hope is to come with us through the Ancestors' Ring now."

The villagers exchanged silent, terrified glances until Master Sam walked out of the library. "Hey, um... do y'all want us to pack up the library along with our stuff?"

No one answered for a moment, but then Vajezatha took a deep breath and let it out again. "Yes, please do."

Master Sam nodded and went back. The other villagers stared at Vajezatha, still too stunned to think straight but not certain his choice was wise.

"Listen," Vajezatha replied, "I have known Elson for thirty cycles at least. He trades fairly, and he has yet to mislead me on matters of great import."

Elson knew the qualifier was due to a series of friendly pranks he had pulled on Vajezatha when they were both much younger and had to bite back a smile.

"He trusts the Lanteans. Therefore, I believe we also ought to trust them. And Master Winchester has never been anything but kind and polite to us. I believe he wishes only to help us. What's more, the Wraith know we are here and can come for us at any time if we remain, even if we give them everything they want and they choose to spare us this time, but on a new world we will all be safe now and may remain so for generations unless other humans betray us."

"Can you be sure of that?" one of the other councilors pressed. "They found the Croyans here."

"The Wraith are not gods," Vajezatha shot back, starting to lose patience. "Their information has to come from somewhere."

"Oh, believe you me," said Gabriel from somewhere just behind Elson, "even gods have their limits. But Vajezatha's right—the Wraith aren't gods, and they don't know everything."

"Don't do that!" Sgt. Mehra said through her teeth.

Gabriel's response was to look the painfully false picture of innocence, which told Elson that the stranger had not simply sneaked up on both of them. And that was when Elson also realized that Gabriel had called Vajezatha by name even though, to the best of Elson's memory, he hadn't been introduced, and Master Sam had always stumbled over the name so badly that Gabriel couldn't have gotten it from him.

"Are you a god?" asked a child nearby.

Was that a flinch before Gabriel chuckled? "Nah, not me. But I did play one on TV for a few years."

That answer meant nothing to anyone present, apparently including Sgt. Mehra, and Elson suspected that Gabriel had said it for precisely that reason. He didn't know whether to be annoyed or amused.

"What do we need to do?" Vajezatha asked.

"Pack your bags and meet us at the Gate," Sgt. Mehra replied. "Bring only what you can easily carry. The faster you move, the faster we can get you to Atlantis."

Gabriel glanced away as if listening to the communicator in his ear—except that he wasn't wearing one. Then he looked back at her with a smirk, and Elson decided that it was time for discretion to be the better part of valor before Gabriel said or did anything else bizarre. "We will await you at the Ring, my friend," Elson said to Vajezatha, ignoring the sense he got that Gabriel had rolled his eyes.

Vajezatha nodded and grasped Elson's hand. "Thank you, Elson."

There was a pause while Elson, Sgt. Mehra, and Gabriel walked away from the pub, and then Elson heard the murmuring crowd disperse.

"You think they'll come?" Sgt. Mehra asked.

"Vajezatha will," Elson shrugged. "I believe the others will have sense enough to follow. But then, I never dreamed that Jervis would betray the Balarans."

Gabriel chuckled wryly. "Free will. Gotta love it."

Sgt. Mehra glared at him. "You're annoying."

"So I'm told," Gabriel replied cheerfully.

When they arrived back at the Ring, Castiel and Master Dean were quietly discussing something they were looking at on a tablet computer. Master Sam was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's Winchester 2?" Sgt. Mehra called to the other men.

"Took the library stuff back to Atlantis," Master Dean replied. "Think he's gonna get Teldy and Lorne to come help with the evacuation. In fact, he should be dialing back..." He checked his chronograph. "Right about... now."

Sure enough, the Ring activated and Master Sam came through it, accompanied by Maj. Lorne, Maj. Teldy, and five or six military men Elson had seen during the various times he'd stayed in Atlantis overnight. Upon getting an update from Sgt. Mehra and Master Dean, Maj. Lorne began ordering the military men into positions at the edges of the clearing around the Ring while the Winchesters and their friends withdrew to one side to continue their hushed discussion and Sgt. Mehra pulled Maj. Teldy to another side. Elson was left standing alone near the dialing device, feeling awkward—but he didn't miss the troubled looks the two women kept shooting at the Winchesters.

The other thing he thought was odd was that Master Dean was the only one who ever touched the tablet. Master Sam even visibly restrained himself from taking it once. But Elson had seen Master Sam use a tablet many times. Yet, on further reflection, he realized that Master Sam's chronograph was fully mechanical, not like the ones most Lanteans wore. He knew his grasp on Lantean technology was minimal, but it did seem as though something connected with Master Sam's gifts—not simply the Gift, but whatever it was he had done to those Wraith—caused some side effect that made Master Sam temporarily unable to use anything more complex than the mechanical tools Elson was used to.

It was useless to speculate. Elson was completely out of his depth. All he knew for certain was that however it might appear, what Master Sam and Gabriel and Castiel did was not sorcery. It had been too effortless for that.

Elson's musings were cut off by Master Dean summoning him and the Lantean officers to confer. "Okay, here's the idea," Master Dean said when they were all gathered. "You guys work on getting these people out of here. Elson, we want you to go back to Atlantis with the first wave. We'll stand guard on this side of the Gate. Everyone but the four of us needs to be in Atlantis before the show starts. When the hive arrives, Gabriel will deal with the ground troops while Cas takes Sam and me up to deliver some things that go boom. We'll rendezvous back here and dial Atlantis."

"We don't have a Jumper," Maj. Teldy said warily.

Gabriel scoffed. "Jumpers are slow. And besides, Dean hates to fly."

Master Dean glared at him. Master Sam coughed.

"You know, we don't have to do anything about the hive," said Maj. Lorne. "Chances are that we'll get another shot."

Master Dean huffed. "Due respect, Major, but we're not gonna gamble with anyone's lives but our own. We can't wait around for another shot when there's people on other planets about to get eaten or just be killed because they're poison. This will be one less hive Atlantis has to worry about, one less hive that the Coalition has to worry about."

"We've tackled harder missions with less backup," Master Sam noted so quietly and dispassionately that Elson felt a sudden chill. Gone was the affable scholar; in his place stood a hardened warrior. And for that matter, the same was true of Master Dean, who spoke to Maj. Lorne almost like a superior.

Part of Elson ached to know what these men had seen, had lived through, to make them so deadly in the face of danger. Part of him feared what the answer might be.

So instead, he simply said mildly, "I will be happy to return to Atlantis when the first group departs."

Maj. Teldy gave Maj. Lorne a questioning look, and Maj. Lorne nodded reluctantly. "Okay. This isn't anywhere close to standard operating procedure, but we'll go with it."

There were nods of acknowledgment from both Winchesters, and there the discussion ended.

Vajezatha and about fifty others, mostly Croyans and members of Vajezatha's extended family, arrived within the hour and were promptly sent to Atlantis. As he walked toward the Ring with them, Elson could hear Maj. Lorne reporting to Col. Sheppard, which was a relief. He wasn't sure he understood what was happening well enough to explain it to anyone else. Instead, his only responsibility was to introduce Vajezatha to Col. Sheppard and Teyla Emmagan, as well as Teyla's two-year-old son Torren, who was running around the room chattering happily with everyone. Teyla and Torren led most of the refugees to the mess hall, where there was room enough for everyone to sit down, but Elson and Vajezatha remained in the Ring room with Col. Sheppard, discussing options for relocation. Dr. McKay, it seemed, was already searching Atlantis' great store of information for a suitable planet.

It wasn't until Vajezatha mentioned the intricate pattern on the floor beneath the Ring that Elson noticed that it had changed since his people first came to Atlantis. Before, it had been a simple circle with lines drawn out of its center; it was still a circle, but there were letters and symbols inside it now, as well as... well, he'd have to see it from above to be sure, but it looked like a huge seven-pointed star.

"It's called the Key of Solomon," Col. Sheppard explained. "It's a trap for a certain species of bad guy on our home planet. There was an incident last year where we thought they might try to invade Atlantis, so... that was the Winchesters' suggestion. The problem was resolved, but Mr. Woolsey though we should leave it—better safe than sorry, y'know."

The next group of Karkaans arrived then, saving Elson from having to ask what kind of creature could be trapped by simple lines on the floor. After that, they had their hands full keeping a relatively steady stream of refugees moving out of the Ring room and to the mess hall, and the pauses in between were filled with more practical conversations.

Finally, Maj. Teldy, Maj. Lorne, and their teams returned with the stragglers. "That's it," Maj. Lorne announced. "We actually managed to convince all five hundred of 'em to leave. Winchester said they'll dial in as soon as they've taken out the hive."

Col. Sheppard didn't look pleased, but he nodded. "Thanks, Lorne. Teldy."

The military people took that as their dismissal and left.

Col. Sheppard turned to Vajezatha next. "You're welcome to go join your people. We're still working on getting your quarters assigned, but you don't have to hang around here."

"I would prefer to stay, if I may," Vajezatha replied. "I wish to know that Master Winchester is well."

"As do I," Elson agreed.

Col. Sheppard nodded and showed them upstairs to a meeting room where Elson had met with the Lantean leaders a few times before. There they could have some refreshment and sit down, but they were still close enough to the Ring room to hear the Ring begin to activate. When at last it did, all three men ran to the control room and paused long enough to hear "Winchester's IDC" before racing down to meet the Winchesters and their friends.

And the four of them ambled through the Ring as if they had been on a pleasant stroll through the countryside.

Master Dean was laughing. "That was fun."

Master Sam shook his head, but he was chuckling as well.

"You have a strange definition of fun, Dean," Castiel replied with a straight face, which made the Winchesters laugh harder.

"What happened?" Col. Sheppard demanded as the Ring shut down.

"Gabriel has been setting a bad example for the Pegasus garrison," Castiel reported, but his eyes were dancing with amusement and affection, which took the sting out of the accusation.

Gabriel smirked. "Turns out, Wraith don't appreciate it when you turn their illusions back on them."

"They also don't appreciate being suckered into feeding on an immortal," Master Dean added.

"Hey, how was I to know they were allergic to angel blood? I betcha even Todd didn't know that."

Col. Sheppard was clearly trying not to laugh, but he couldn't suppress a snort.

"Long story short," said Master Sam, "sighted hive, sank same."

"Good work," Col. Sheppard nodded.

"Couldn'ta done it without backup," Master Dean drawled, slapping Castiel on the shoulder.

Elson was completely bewildered. Gabriel and Castiel were still unarmed, and the Winchesters had no more weapons on them than they'd had when they arrived on Karkaa—probably fewer, if they'd used their C4 on the hive. Who were these people?

"You should be more careful, though," Col. Sheppard cautioned. "You guys get busted for witchcraft, I'm not bailin' you out."

"Yes, sir," the Winchesters chorused.

"Woolsey's gonna want a debrief. Better head on up there."

Master Dean saluted sloppily, and the Winchesters and their odd friends headed up the staircase, Master Dean singing as they went:

Back in black,
I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back...

Col. Sheppard shook his head and turned to Elson. "Come help me get these people settled. We'll see what McKay's come up with tomorrow."

"Very well," Elson nodded and motioned to Vajezatha to follow.

It wasn't until much later that evening, when Elson found himself in need of something more than water to drink, that he encountered the Winchesters and their friends again. They were at a table near the door to the mess hall, and Elson paused out of sight when he heard their voices conversing quietly. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, but he didn't want to interrupt, and he was very curious about them.

"Lisa's okay, though, right?" Master Dean was asking. He sounded worried.

"Yes," replied Castiel. "She was shaken, but she and Ben were unharmed. I believe she is beginning to reconsider her decision to remain."

Master Dean sighed. "I just want them to be safe, Cas."

"Lisa can look after herself, Dean," said Master Sam.

"Yeah, but she shouldn't have to. They're in danger because of me." Master Dean paused. "T-tell her I want them to come. Please. 'Cause I do miss them. A lot. And I think she and Teyla would be great friends. Maybe Jennifer and I can talk Woolsey into letting Lisa add yoga to the PT schedule."

"I will talk to her again when we return," Castiel promised. "Perhaps hearing our view of Atlantis will make the difference."

"Thanks, Cas. Just—don't mention what happened today."

"Why not?" That was Gabriel. "She knows you're a hunter. And you've taken on worse things than Wraith."

"Yeah, but it's not like we would have tried to take on that hive without you guys. And as much fun as that was, it's not what we do every day, and I'm... kind of enjoying bein' on the Geek Squad."

"Zelenka's just glad to have someone else to send to 677," said Master Sam, and Master Dean chuckled. "Seriously, dude, Teldy says you are awesome with those kids. And you still get the maintenance done in, like, record time."

"They're good kids. And I'm pretty sure things have settled down now that there are actual adults around, compared to what it was like when they first made contact. It's weird though, sometimes, kind of like living in Logan's Run. Keras is always asking questions about Bobby, what it's like to actually be old."

"Bobby's not old."

"I know that. But Keras has never met anyone older than McKay."

"Maybe they need to start trading more." Master Sam raised his voice then as he asked, "What do you think, Elson?"

"Dude, you seein' through walls now?" Master Dean asked as Elson sheepishly entered the mess hall.

Master Sam chuckled. "Nah. Lantea told me."

"I think I'm jealous." But Elson could see a sparkle in Master Dean's eye that meant he was joking. "Hey, Elson. Come sit down." Master Dean patted a chair that stood between his seat and Castiel's.

Gabriel snapped his fingers as Elson approached the table, and a steaming mug of some fragrant dark liquid appeared on the table in front of the seat Master Dean had offered him. The others each had a similar one.

"Thank you," said Elson and sat down and took a sip. The drink was hot and stout and bitter and sweet all at once, and Elson vaguely remembered having had it once before when his people had evacuated to Atlantis—coffee, Dr. McKay had called it. It was bracing, too, and seemed exactly the sort of thing one should be drinking during the kind of conversation he'd walked in on. If one wasn't drinking ale, that is.

"I didn't mean to listen," he added once he'd swallowed another mouthful. "I do apologize."

Master Dean smiled and waved it off. "Nah, that's cool. Sammy says you're a good guy, and after what I saw today, I have to agree with him."

Castiel tilted his head and studied Elson for a long moment, and Elson suddenly got the sense that Castiel and Gabriel were not only very old and very powerful, but also... well, there weren't many tongues in Pegasus that had a word for it, but it was the sense he got when visiting sites that were truly sacred. He found himself unable to look Castiel in the eye for very long. The events of the afternoon had brought back too many memories of his own people's experience, and his part in the deaths of Jervis and his men was too near the surface.

"We have all done things we regret, Elson," Castiel finally said, and when Elson looked at him again, he thought he caught the barest hint of compassion in those unblinking eyes. "The fact that some of them were necessary, perhaps even just, does not change our sorrow over them."

Elson glanced at Gabriel, who was studying his coffee, and the Winchesters, who were sporting identical looks of empathy. Confused, he stammered, "What... I mean..."

"Scars," replied Master Sam, rubbing his wrist as if it ached. "Not the kind that are easy to see, but... well, we probably understand better than most. I mean, I don't know what you did, but we... I... we almost caused the end of the world. Of all worlds. Thank God, we were able to stop it, but..."

"Let's just say redemption ain't cheap," Master Dean concluded, his voice sounding more hoarse than usual.

Not knowing what to say to that, Elson took another drink of coffee.

Gabriel drew a deep breath and looked at Castiel. "Hey, um... we should..."

"Indeed," Castiel nodded. "Excuse us, Elson."

And suddenly they were gone.

Master Sam snorted. "Cas has been hanging out with Teal'c too much."

Master Dean shook his head. "They were practically twins to begin with. Think Vala's been a bad influence on Gabe, though."

"What... um..." Elson wasn't sure of the most delicate way to phrase his question.

"They're angels," the brothers said at the same time.

"They're not... well, I guess they're kind of like Ancients," Master Sam continued, "except that they've always existed in spirit form, and they're a lot more powerful than an ascended being. I think it's only among the Tau'ri that they show themselves in human form."

That both explained a lot and made Elson's head spin. "And yet you call them friend?"

Master Dean let out a wry chuckle. "It's a long story, Elson."

"Helps that we share some of the same enemies," Master Sam added.

"Is that why they're here?" Elson asked.

"Not directly," Master Dean replied. "They were just tellin' us about something that happened to some friends of ours. They've got other business here, nothin' to do with... that."

"But it's why you're here."

Master Dean flinched a bit but shrugged. "Our friends are safer with us here. They'd be safer still if they joined us."

"Facing the Wraith does not seem particularly safe."

"At least you can shoot Wraith," said Master Sam.

Master Dean sighed. "Our enemies, Elson... they're way worse than Wraith. And trust me, we've talked to Todd; we know how bad the Wraith are. But unless something goes way wrong, we've made sure the monsters can't follow us here."

Elson wasn't sure what monster meant, but he didn't deem it important. "And when it is safe, will you return home?" He didn't know if he wanted the answer to be yes or no.

The brothers exchanged a look.

"I dunno," said Master Dean. "I mean, there are things I miss..."

"But Atlantis is awesome," agreed Master Sam. "We're getting to like Pegasus, and there are things we get to do here that we couldn't do back home."

"And this, today? This is what we do best."

"Saving people, hunting things..."

"The family business," they finished together.

And somehow, Elson found that thought oddly comforting.


A/N: I can't imagine that Elson's planet was the first or the last to receive the kind of ultimatum presented in "Outsiders." Team Sheppard just happened to be there on that occasion, and Team Winchester just happened to be there on this one.

"You couldn't teach a dog to do that..." is a line Davy Jones ad-libbed when he and Micky Dolenz were recording an extremely goofy version of "Gonna Buy Me a Dog" for the Monkees' first album; he was referring to the fact that Micky's first starring role was on the TV series Circus Boy. (The producers made them do it straight at least once, but the silly version was the one that wound up on the album.)

"Soofalls" = Sioux Falls, which would not be an intuitive spelling for Elson.

The bit about "feeding on an immortal" was inspired by Jennytork's SGA AU story "Queen of Atlantis" (on her LJ). I imagine a Wraith's experience of feeding on an envesseled angel, if it were even possible, would be some sort of cross between eating too much lembas and ingesting the Hoffan drug. And I can just hear the Gabester cackling madly over the outcome!

Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride! I had no idea when I started "Snakeheads" that it would turn into anything nearly this long, but it's been a fun universe to play in, especially given the cruel and unusual time jump in SPN Season 6. And while this is the end of the Tok'ra Apocalypse storyline, I may yet return to this 'verse if the right plotbunny bites.

And now, till we meet again,
Adios, Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen—Good night!