Fic: Not Single Spies, But Battalions
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Title: Not Single Spies, But Battalions
Author: Quasar (quasar273)
Date written: March/April 2008
Length: ~1000 words
Spoilers: through mid fourth season
Warnings: death fic, major character death, not for readers who hate death
Summary: What might have been in a world a few minutes different.
Author's note: Thanks to argosy for swift and insightful beta. Originally written for the sga_flashfic Family Challenge.
Jeannie blinked and licked her lips. She wasn't really thirsty, thanks to the IV, but her mouth was dry, her lips papery. Nothing hurt, though; she felt pretty good, all things considered. She turned her head and found John Sheppard standing next to the bed, hands clasping opposite elbows.
"Hey," he said tersely. "How you feeling?"
Jeannie smiled creakily, shaking the dreams from her head. One of them had involved Sheppard, and lots of wandering through long corridors... even as she reached for the memory, it was gone. "Medical comas are weird."
"Yeah." His mouth crimped oddly. "Your legs okay?"
She blinked and looked down the bed, moving them under the blankets. "They feel fine."
Sheppard nodded. "The docs said the breaks were all healed up, but you might need to drink some extra milk for a month or so."
"How long was I out?" Jeannie sat up carefully and swung her legs to the side of the bed. Bathroom sounded like a very good idea.
"Just under a day," said Sheppard.
Jeannie blinked. "That was quick." Mer must have worked fast, but still, after less than a day he couldn't be that exhausted; he must be avoiding her. "I take it Mer was too embarrassed to face me?"
Sheppard's face, already more still than usual, went positively stony.
"What is it?" Jeannie demanded. "Did something go wrong? Are the nanites still in me?"
Sheppard swallowed. "Rodney... I'm sorry, Jeannie. Rodney's dead."
"Is this a joke?" She tried to laugh, but it didn't work. "What are you talking about?"
"No joke. Rodney was killed --"
"A few hours ago, by a Wraith."
"Okay, now I know you're joking, because this is Earth. Not Atlantis. Not Pegasus Galaxy -- Earth! There aren't any Wraith here."
"It was the one that was working with Rodney on the nanite base code --"
"We brought it here. To help with... Rodney said he couldn't --"
"I'm sorry. I got there too late. I tried to keep Rodney out of the lab, but he got around the lock."
"Where is he? I have to see him."
Sheppard winced. "You really don't want to --"
"Yes, yes I do! I need to see him."
"He's not really very... recognizable." But Sheppard handed her some slippers and a robe, and led her to a chilled room nearby. Of course the morgue was convenient to the infirmary, Jeannie thought hysterically.
She looked at the mummy-like corpse in the body bag and had to choke back something -- a scream, a sob -- that tried to escape her throat. It didn't look much like Mer, except that she knew her brother and could see him even in that shriveled thing. Sheppard just looked on as if he were carved from granite.
"What happened to the, the -- the thing that did this?" she rasped.
"Over there," said Sheppard, pointing at another body bag in the corner.
"Tried to escape, right after the nanite code was uploaded. Nothing we could do," said Sheppard shortly.
Jeannie didn't ask if there had been witnesses; she had the feeling Sheppard didn't much care. "What about the code he was working on, with Mer? The anti-replicator code?"
"We'll find another way," was all Sheppard would say.
Jeannie had never thought of John Sheppard as a jittery man, someone like her brother who couldn't stay still for even a moment. But over the next day and a half she saw a new stillness about Sheppard that made his previous behavior seem manic. It was more chilling than Ronon's dark glower and curled lip. Sheppard had only known Mer for a few years, so why did it seem that his loss was somehow more profound, more devastating than Jeannie's?
They got the formalities taken care of and Jeannie went home, cried on Kaleb's shoulder, and let Madison cry into her shoulder. She scattered half of Mer's ashes near their childhood home. The other half had gone back to Atlantis, to be scattered in space from a jumper. She didn't think about how Sheppard's face might look as he piloted that jumper.
A month later, like some horrible kind of déjà vu, Colonel Carter was there on the Miller porch in a dress uniform.
"If this is a job offer, I can't leave my family," Jeannie said at once.
"It's not a job offer," said Carter, but her attempt at a smile was brief and unconvincing.
"Well, if you're here to inform me my brother is dead, I already know that." Jeannie hoped the quiver in her chin wasn't visible.
"I'm sorry. I'm afraid I have bad news, and I didn't want you to hear about it through rumors. Could we talk about this inside?"
Jeannie conducted Carter into the living room, and brought out coffee and cookies, and heard the news. She was still sitting there, alone, the coffee in her cup gone cold, when Kaleb and Madison got home two hours later.
"Atlantis is gone," she whispered to Kaleb once Maddie was distracted by her newest DVD. "It was destroyed by replicators. Almost everyone evacuated safely, but..." She gulped. "Not Colonel Sheppard. He didn't make it."
Kaleb's face showed shock and dismay, but also some traces of anger remaining from last month. He had said all the right things, supported her through her grieving, but she knew he was at least a little glad that her big brother wouldn't be getting her into trouble again.
"Kaleb, what if it was because of me? They were working on a way to defeat the replicators, but then Mer... and the Wraith..."
He held her, but she couldn't cry this time. She remembered the look on Carter's face as she explained how Sheppard had tried to salvage a single jumper from the dying city, then failed to get through the wormhole before it collapsed.
Carter hadn't said it out loud, but her frown said Sheppard had done it on purpose. Jeannie remembered that expressionless face, the grief that surpassed words or tears, and figured Carter was probably right; that was exactly how Sheppard had wanted it.