STONES OF SILENCE
Characters: Sheppard, McKay, Teyla, Ronon
Rating: PG-13, Gen
Word Count: Approx. 4,100 words
Disclaimer: SGA characters belong to MGM, SciFi, but the story, etc. belong to me
Synopsis: “…it was only because the death had been certain and instantaneous, and that their own lives had been in danger, that no rescue had been enacted. Not that there would have been anything left to rescue.”
Notes: Won’t say anything more than I originally penned this for the SGA_Flashfic “Ways to Die” challenge so you’ll have to read to see what happens and who’s dead and who’s not and well, just read :) Contains Sheppard whump and takes place some time in season 4.
Teyla trudged toward the Stargate in the distance, her feet numb from the travel, her mind set only on the goal of reaching the gate and returning to Atlantis. She did not want to think of what had transpired less not long ago for it threatened to tear her soul apart. The knee length grass fluttered and grasped at her legs like tiny, unwanted hands, as a swift wind sped past. The silence contradicted the fury of the storm, which had been furious yet brief. She brushed furtively at her face, foolishly telling herself that the hot tears which still stung at her eyes were from the dirt and sand thrown about by the sudden storm, and not from the loss.
Ronon walked alongside her, his brooding silence a testament to the incalculable cost of the mission, which had been one of peace and trade, but had turned to bloodshed and death. He’d screamed, raged at the sky above and it was only because the death had been certain and instantaneous, and that their own lives had been in danger, that no rescue had been enacted. Not that there would have been anything left to rescue.
“Stupid, selfish bastard. He had to be the hero! Had to save the—“
“Shut up!” Ronon roared.
Rodney blinked, staring hard at the Satedan, but his ire did not diminish. He was on a tear, as Sheppard had once called it, and it was the scientist’s way of dealing with death. Kate had once told her that the death of a loved one ran five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. It had been impossible for any of them to deny the death of John Sheppard. They’d seen the entire rock wall, hundreds of pounds of stone that surrounded a building, collapse atop and flatten him like a tiny insect trod upon by a giant. Fortunately the rocks had collapsed so deep and far that they did not see what remained of his body, but Rodney had screamed desperately, as they all had. Yet, Sheppard’s action had saved the lives of a dozen children the raiders were about to slaughter, and he’d taken several of those raiders to the grave with him.
John Sheppard had died a hero, but that was little consolation to any of them, and in particular, Rodney McKay, who was still firmly entrenched in the anger phase of his grief.
“Ronon, let him be,” Teyla soothed but the former runner simply glared at the scientist, then stalked off ahead, leaving his two teammates behind. His heavy footsteps against the hard earth faded into the distance.
“Rodney, John did what he felt he should,” Teyla said, repeating what she had said during the hour-long journey back to the gate. “He was trapped and…” She sighed, pulling forth the strength that she hoped would help Rodney through his grief, trying but failing not to see John propped up against the massive stone wall, blood pouring from his wounds. “He would have died no matter what. The raiders had him surrounded and he was grievously injured.”
“He survived Iratus bugs, nearly being turned into one. For god’s sake, he got sucked dry by a damn Wraith and survived and now he gets squashed by a rock wall!” Rodney’s pain-filled words echoed off into the distance of the uncaring landscape. “How stupid can anyone be?!”
“He did what was necessary,” Teyla replied, feeling her chest tighten at his continued anger. She added quietly. “You should respect his choice.”
“I—“ Rodney stopped in his tracks. His face was slightly red, no doubt from the yelling, the non-stop litany of how screwed up the whole mission had been, but his eyes were also moist from crying. She’d never seen Rodney cry before, and it had been not until they were safe, until the village was safe, that they were able to mourn their loss.
“It was stupid,” Rodney decided in a flat tone, making Teyla wonder if he was now moving into the next stage of grief. He wasn’t one for procrastination. “Just think, another five minutes, the storm that raged through and washed away all those raiders with the flash flood… if it had just come earlier, just five damn minutes earlier.” He stared at his feet, still caked with dry mud from the flood.
Teyla nodded, her heart beating numbly within her chest. Had they all not thought that? It was miraculous that the villagers had only suffered minor injuries, and not the planned deaths the raiders had in mind. Even if John had not died, the odds had been seriously against the team. Only the four of them against at least two dozen of the black clad, heavily-armed men who had surged into the village from the nearby forest, intent on pillaging the entire town.
Kefta, a soft-spoken woman whose child was one of those saved by Sheppard’s selfless action, profusely thanked them for his sacrifice. She, as well as others whose children who would now live to see another day, had insisted on doing an impromptu memorial to Sheppard. Rodney had balked, but despite the pain, Teyla had persuaded him to please let them do it. Ronon had stood impassively, his emotions unreadable at that point, but he respected the villagers’ desires. It had not taken much time, but for Teyla, it had helped assuage an ache that would take a long time to vanish from her soul, if ever.
In the distance, like a forlorn statue, Ronon stood next to the gate. He hadn’t dialed out. He was waiting, and staring into the distance, away from the tiny village Teyla knew so well for their variety of grains. Four of them had arrived, and now only three were returning. Teyla thought, abstractly, that Colonel Carter would no doubt order a team to return and ‘recover’ John’s body, but the weight of the rocks, the explosion John had set off…. There would be precious left to recover, except perhaps his dogtags.
She turned. Rodney was still staring at his feet. His eyes were empty, the blue of his irises seeming almost to fade in the muted daylight. Teyla stepped forward, then calmly wrapped her arms around him. A moment later, he reciprocated, as if only just realizing what she was doing. She could sense that the anger had drained from his him. “It’s not fair,” he whispered, his breath hitching as she felt it wisp past her hair. “We can do nothing,” she replied, letting a tear slide down her cheek. She could not find it within her heart to say aloud that they should celebrate John’s life, or his sacrifice, because she knew that Rodney realized it and did not need to hear it.
Slowly, she released her hold on Rodney, then crooked her elbow into his, slowly propelling him forward. They needed to return home, where she knew that once through the gate and into the safety of Atlantis, the impact of John’s death would hit them again. Hard.
The gate’s DHD lay silent as they approached. Ronon waited, as motionless as a dead tree against the graying landscape. He didn’t seem eager to return. Or maybe the act of going through the gate would be the final proof that John Sheppard was dead.
Teyla pressed her hand against a symbol.
A blinding white flash enveloped the DHD and all of them. Teyla pulled back, her hand instinctively across her eyes, lowering it only as she heard Rodney gasp “Oh my god!”
John Sheppard stood next to the DHD. Alive. Breathing. In one piece and- Teyla blinked in astonishment. It could not be. It simply could not be.
“Uh, hi guys,” John stated very simply.
“John,” Teyla replied, her voice barely a whisper.
Ronon was speechless, but the grin threatening to crack his face in two spoke volumes.
“You’re naked!” Rodney screeched.
John’s face abruptly blanched, then reddened, as he looked down to make that horrendous discovery on his own. Teyla’s mind had processed this unusual piece of information but she’d been so astounded, so happy to see him alive that she hadn’t even been able to speak. John clutched his hands to cover his crotch and strategically ducked behind the bulk of the DHD. He scowled up at the cloudy sky above and shouted, “Thanks a LOT!” and then quickly looked back at his team, all of who had taken a step toward him. “Uh uh. Not a step closer!” It seemed he was going to bolt like a cornered prey animal, yet with only the DHD, the Stargate and acres of open empty plains, there was nowhere for him to hide in his rather vulnerable state.
Rodney was making sputtering noises, which meant his mind was spinning so fast he was trying to think of what to say to John, but he finally settled. “You ascended, didn’t you? Like Daniel Jackson! I can’t believe it! Of all the people to--”
“It’s not what it’s cracked up to be,” John started to cross his arms, but suddenly thought better of that action and its possible repercussions.
“You turned into energy?” Ronon obviously recalled Rodney’s one lengthy lecture on ascension during a very long jumper ride.
“Yeah, guess so.” John shrugged, then looked more than a bit uncomfortable. “Can somebody pass me some clothes? It’s sorta chilly.”
The problem was the weather had been warm when they’d arrived, so they’d not brought jackets. After a second, Rodney realized everybody was looking at him. “What? WHAT? Me? Excuse me, but I’m not walking back buck naked into the gateroom!”
“And neither am I,” shot back John. “Just give me your pants.”
“I die, ascend, get ki- uh, de-ascend and this is my welcome back?” John put on his best ‘kicked puppy dog expression,’ as Carson once called it, but all it did was raise Rodney’s hackles. Teyla found the conversation to be surreal, to say the least, yet the normalcy of the sarcastic banter between the two men was like a soothing balm on a burn.
“You can have my vest,” Rodney decided finally. He’d worn pants, short sleeve shirt and tac vest on this mission.
“Oh wait, I get it.” John smirked. “What is it? Canadian flags or those Godawful kiwi briefs Carson told me about?”
Rodney’s eyes narrowed in contempt. “Whatever happened to doctor-patient confidentiality?”
“Hand them over or I’ll take ‘em off,” Ronon added.
“Now you have a thug to do your dirty work?” Rodney seemed to reassess quickly that statement considering the much larger Satedan was within arm’s reach. “No insult meant,” he quickly said to Ronon, who just cocked an eyebrow menacingly. John nodded while Teyla graced him with a sympathetic expression, but also added. “If you would not mind.”
“I am doing this under duress and I will write this up in my mission report.” Rodney reluctantly shed his pants, glaring at everybody when they got a full view of his shorts. Bright green with yellow pineapples, at least Teyla believed that was the fruit represented on the cloth. “They were on sale and they’re very comfortable.” He threw his pants with all his might at John, who quickly caught them before they overshot him and he’d have to risk exposing himself further to get them. After a second, John looked a lot more relaxed now that he was partially clothed. Rodney looked affronted and miserable, until he snapped his fingers.
“What did you say? You ascended and then you were… what was that word between ascended and de-ascended?” he persisted, then added, “And, de-ascend? Puh-lease. I mean, that’s not even a word.”
John came out from around the DHD, holding on to the waist with a tight grip. “You need to lose some weight, Rodney.” Teyla surmised that if he let go, the pants might slide off his lean torso.
“Uh uh, stop avoiding the question.” Rodney crossed his arms defiantly against his chest. Teyla thought that yes, he did look rather silly with his vest, bright shorts and boots.
“Well, um, that ascended stuff, it’s just not what it’s cut out to be and- ARGH!” And John yelped because an older woman, her hair pulled back in severe braids, clad in flowing yellow robes that went down to and covered her feet, and sporting a stern expression, suddenly appeared out of thin air right next to John. Ronon had his gun aimed at the intruder immediately but John waved at him to put the weapon down, then caught the pants’ waist before they slid off.
CONCLUDES IN PART 2