Title: Mind Over Matter
Summary: When Sheppard returns from bereavement leave after his father's death, a discovery leads Atlantis to a new world and potentially valuable allies. But a secret from the planet's past might just wind up costing Rodney and Sheppard their lives.
Timeframe: Set directly after Outcast.
Spoilers: In this chapter, more spoilers for Outcast, and a reference to the conversation at the end of "Travelers."
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate Atlantis, but if Sheppard and Rodney are missing…I plead the fifth.
A/N: I'm sorry that this chapter wound up a little late! School has been very hectic. It's hard to believe it, but this is the last chapter. :) I've said it many times before, but thank you to everyone who's been reading, and more especially, everyone who has reviewed! Your comments mean a lot, and I'm so glad that you've enjoyed it!
I hope you enjoy this last part too, and please let me know what you think!
As always, I thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Whose mercies are renewed every morning.
Mind Over Matter
Chapter 10 - Epilogue
As far as planets went, Itharia ranked pretty high up there on the list of worlds Rodney would have been perfectly happy never to see again. After all, the Itharians had almost gotten them killed, just because they didn't know what was going on, right under their feet.
Rodney sighed. Okay, fine, so he couldn't really blame them, as much as he wanted to. Amirelle had kept herself hidden, and the Itharians had had no way of knowing that the Ancients had kept an outpost on their world to observe them, let alone that a deranged Ancient was still lurking around beneath their city.
Besides, according to Ronon, as soon as they'd been taken by Amirelle's droids, Perfect Varrin's Chief of Security had launched a full investigation, and he and his men had been right alongside the Atlantis teams as they'd searched. So, the Itharians were, apparently, genuine potential allies - genuine potential allies who were willing to give Atlantis access to all the data they had on their EM generator. That alone would have been reason enough to continue the negotiations.
But, the Itharians prided themselves on superiority, excellence, and perfection, and since, needless to say, Atlantis's first trip to Itharia had been less than ideal, they were desperate to make up for it. Perfect Varrin and the Itharian High Council had invited a delegation to Itharia to finalize the alliance. They'd even arranged a large formal dinner to mark the event, and requested that Rodney and Sheppard attend as the "guests of honor."
Of course, they had been thoughtful enough to postpone the dinner until both he and Sheppard were well enough to attend. They'd had to be pretty patient. Sheppard had spent five days on the ventilator - five very long days as far as Rodney was concerned - and two weeks total in the infirmary. Even, now, a week after he'd been released, Sheppard still tired easily, so he was restricted to light duty, and probably would be for a while. Rodney himself had only needed to spend a couple days in the infirmary - not counting all the time he'd spent with Ronon and Teyla, keeping Sheppard company - and all he had now was a new scar on his leg and a limp that was almost gone. He and Sheppard had both undergone a battery of neurological tests as well, and though they were probably minus a few brain cells due to lack of sufficient oxygen, they'd passed the tests with flying colors - much to their relief.
Still, when Jennifer had given them the all-clear and Sam had brought up the dinner, Rodney had suggested they say thanks, but no thanks. Sam, though, had reluctantly pointed out that it might be considered an insult if they didn't attend, and Sheppard had agreed.
So, Rodney now found himself back on Itharia, sitting next to Sheppard at the front of Perfect Varrin's dining hall, trying not to think about how close they were to Amirelle's lab.
Or, what was left of it, anyway.
The Itharians had shut down the EM generator for a few hours so that Atlantis could use their equipment to find the exact location of the Ancient outpost. After figuring out how to access it, Zelenka and Lorne had gone in with two teams of Marines to make sure that Amirelle wouldn't be coming back. Rodney still would have preferred dropping a couple of nuclear warheads, but since the outpost was directly under the city, the Itharians probably wouldn't have gone for that. But, Lorne and the Marines had done the next best thing. They'd moved from room to room, leaving the structure intact, while destroying everything electronic, until, as Radek had said, all that remained was scrap metal.
But, still, who could say for sure that there wasn't another crazy Ancient skulking around somewhere?
That cheerful thought was not making the dinner an enjoyable experience for Rodney - that and the fact that the Itharians, with their obsessive need for perfection, apparently expected formal etiquette at a formal dinner. Go figure. Their rules of etiquette were actually very close to classical etiquette on Earth, something that, of course, fascinated Atlantis's cultural anthropologists. They already had a dozen theories about how it was possible that etiquette could be almost identical in two different galaxies.
Rodney didn't care how it was possible, he just wanted to eat the rest of his meal without worrying that the Itharians would change their minds about letting them access the data on the generator, just because he didn't know which spoon to use with his soup.
And the soup looked really good, too.
Rodney sighed, and took another drink of Itharian wine, scowling at the many pieces of silverware laying around his plate as he tried to decide which one to pick up.
He'd been to these kinds of dinners on Earth before - plenty of them, actually - he'd even been the main speaker at several, in fact (before the majority of his work had been classified). He'd just been so busy dazzling people with his intellect that he'd never learned the particulars of formal dining.
Why did it matter which spoon he used, anyway? The two spoons infront of him were essentially the same, made of the same type of metal (possibly the same type the Genii used in their weapons manufacture, which was a vaguely disturbing thought) with just slight variations in size and shape. If anyone noticed that he was using the wrong spoon, they were paying entirely too much attention to his eating habits, because really, he-
Sheppard nudged him under the table with his elbow, and Rodney turned to him in annoyance.
"It's the one on the right," Sheppard offered.
"If you're looking for the soup spoon, it's the one on the right."
Rodney frowned. "How do you know that?" he demanded.
Sheppard took another bite from his own plate, chewed, swallowed, then pointed with his free hand, "Salad fork, dinner fork, dessert fork," he pointed to the right side of the plate, "dinner knife, tea spoon, soup spoon."
Rodney stared at him incredulously, and Sheppard shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable. "My dad made me and Dave take etiquette lessons when we were kids."
Rodney blinked. "Really?"
Sheppard nodded. "Yeah. We went to a lot of formal dinners growing up - business dinners and that kind of thing. I think Dad was afraid we'd embarrass him. Never figured it would come in handy now."
Rodney tried to imagine Sheppard attending formal dinners, and just kept picturing a bored kid in a suit, trying to remember not to put his elbows on the table. Then again, being Sheppard, he'd probably put his elbows on the table anyway.
He'd never really thought about that before - how different Sheppard's life must have been because his family was rich. Sure, there were perks - probably a lot of perks, but he was starting to see why Sheppard might have been anxious to leave, too.
Silence fell again, now that Rodney wasn't worried about causing a diplomatic incident, and could enjoy his meal. Say whatever you wanted to about the Itharians, but they knew how to cook. He shifted in his seat and winced when his leg gave a small twinge, reminding him that it wasn't completely healed.
Of course, Sheppard noticed. "You okay?"
Now it was Rodney's turn to shrug. "I'm fine." He froze as he realized what he'd just said, and turned to glare at Sheppard. "See? I told you, now you've got me doing it! It's contagious or something!"
Sheppard raised an eyebrow, confused. "Doing what?"
Oh, right. Sheppard had been unconscious for that part.
Rodney sighed. "Never mind. Just something I said when you were…you know," he waved a hand in Sheppard's direction.
Sheppard blinked. "Oh." He grimaced a little, and looked down at his soup. "Yeah, about that…sorry if I worried you."
You should be! a part of Rodney wanted to retort. But it was hardly Sheppard's fault that Amirelle had decided to use him as a bargaining chip, or that Keller had needed to put him in a medically induced coma, and even if he was frustrated with Sheppard's self-sacrificing tendencies, he just wouldn't be…well, Sheppard, without them.
"And, uh," Sheppard continued awkwardly, "thanks. For getting me out of there, I mean."
Now it was Rodney's turn to shrug uneasily. "You're welcome."
Hoping to give them both a break from the awkwardness, Rodney had another spoonful of his soup, and glanced around the room. It was almost completely full, with Atlantis personnel and Itharian high society taking up almost every seat. Ronon was a few chairs away with Teyla, who had been cleared to come too, since this was a peaceful contact, and not an official mission. Sam was at the head of the table, talking to Perfect Varrin, and to Rodney's left, Edison had actually managed to start a conversation with the Chief of Security, even if all that Jaris was doing was nodding seriously every few minutes.
"So," Sheppard said at last, drawing Rodney's attention once more, "I guess you got what you wanted." At Rodney's confused look, he clarified, "Getting kidnapped by a hot alien."
Rodney's look turned into a grimace when he remembered his comments after Sheppard had been kidnapped by Larrin a few months earlier. "Oh, that." He cleared his throat. "It's…uh, not all it's cracked up to be," he admitted.
Sheppard snorted. "Tell me about it."
Rodney frowned thoughtfully, remembering Amirelle the first time he'd seen her, before he'd realized that she was a computerized psychopath. That form-fitting teal dress, and those curves… "She really was hot, though," he added.
Sheppard nodded in agreement. "Yeah, she was."
"But, then again," Rodney continued, still frowning, "she was a hologram. She could make herself look however she wanted to. She probably didn't look anything like that when she was alive. So really, this doesn't count."
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "Does that mean you're hoping to get kidnapped by someone else?"
"No!" Rodney retorted immediately, glaring when Sheppard smirked. "No. I've filled my kidnapping quota for a while, thank you." There was a beat of silence. "But, you know what I could really use? A vacation. I've got months of vacation time saved up." He glanced sideways at Sheppard, his expression turning hopeful. "I hear your family has a beach house in Malibu…any chance I could, you know, borrow it?"
Sheppard snorted and rolled his eyes. "No, Rodney."
"Aw, come on! It's not like you're planning on using it!"
"No, but my brother might be, and I'm not gonna ask him about it."
"You know, this is why I didn't tell you that my family was rich."
"That's not what you said before!"
"Well, I lied."
"I don't believe you."
"Come on, Sheppard, seriously. Just for a month."
"I saved your life, remember? How 'bout a couple weeks?"
"A few days?"
Their argument continued on and off for the rest of the evening, but Rodney couldn't help thinking that the dinner hadn't turned out to be so bad after all.
Besides, he wasn't giving up.
"Well, if I can't use the beach house, what about those cars of yours?"
A/N: Again, thank you for reading! If you like the way I write Rodney, you might want to check out some of my other Rodney fics: "Life's Melody," a character study, "The Last Chance," a drabble for alt/future!Mckay from the episode, "The Last Man," and "Burdens of Conscience," an AU horror fic (warning on that last one though, it is fairly dark and involves character death). If you read them, I hope you enjoy them!
Take care and God bless!