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Title: A different measure. The rules of thermodynamics: The Pegasus remix part 5
By: scarlettandblue
Prompt # 46 Ascent.
Warnings: Something that seems true might not be.
Pairing: John and Rodney

Part one of this story and the disclaimer can be found here link to The Rules of Thermodynamics, The Pegasus Remix Part 1

The blue-green shimmer in the distance grew brighter almost imperceptibly as John flew back towards Atlantis. The planet reflected the light of its sun like an opal caught in the depths of a tropical sea.

Rodney had made the final selection on which planet they should choose to permanently relocate the city. John had been at all the meetings, had heard all the reasoned arguments that led to just the most logical decision. That this planet was the only choice.

All those arguments had made sense at the time. Woolsey had agreed. Hell, even John had agreed. But now on his way back from the darkest place he had ever been John wondered if all those arguments had been superfluous. John was certain that Rodney had chosen this planet for one reason and one reason only. Because it was the most beautiful celestial object he had ever seen.

As the planet grew closer, as John grew nearer to Atlantis he fought the urge to kill his feelings. To push them away, to repress them as he had done so often in his life. As he had done so recently, to save the city and everyone in it. Everyone except Rodney. But he hadn’t held those feelings in check once the crisis was over.

The desperation. The despair. That thing he felt for Rodney that he still dare not put a name to, even in the quiet of his own mind. All of it had flowed out of him and into the city. Just as ugly and messy and painful as his feelings always seemed to be.

Always wanting what he shouldn’t want. Always needing what he couldn’t have. Things no son of Patrick Sheppard was ever going to be allowed. Things John Sheppard had learned to do without.

All of that had poured out into the city. A tide of want and need and aching desire to recover what had been lost to him, and the city had melted before it. The city had set in motion whatever it took to make it right. John knew it.

And doing it, letting go his restraint, had hurt so fiercely. Unlearning the lessons of never really wanting anything, because he wasn’t going to get it anyway, had been wrenching at the time. But now he felt lighter.

He knew he was heading back into the unknown. And there was no reason to believe anything might have come of what he asked the city to do. There was every reason to believe it wasn’t possible.

But as he headed back towards the planet, that beautiful planet which McKay had chosen to be their home, and towards the impossible city that was the only place he had ever felt he belonged, John was travelling with an unexpected swell of emotion. For the first time in forever he allowed himself a little hope.

As he neared the city, swooping through the stratosphere, into the atmosphere and down through the wispy clouds that always seemed to form high above the tallest spires, John could feel power flowing through Atlantis. The gruff sweet voice of his favourite jumper that had whispered to him in the dark void of space, was drowned out by the voices of the city of Atlantis.

It was a symphony of activity and potential, the city was like a huge purring engine. John could feel the power of it, waiting for his command. Its complex interlocking systems pulled him into a kaleidoscope, creating incredible patterns in his mind. It was like the music of that intelligent rock band McKay was always saying reminded him of Mozart. It wasn’t John’s style at all, but he couldn’t help but be pulled into the intricacies.

When he stepped out of the jumper Lorne gave him a salute and reported that the city systems were all back to normal. He gave John a look that seemed to beg him not to do anything that would result in Lorne having to take some kind of drastic action against his CO.

Woolsey was also part of the Welcome Committee that was waiting for him in the jumper bay and John turned to him and said, “I’m sorry I left like that. I handed command to Lorne before I went, and I realise that any decision about what happens now is up to you.”

Woolsey had that impenetrable look on his face, and John figured he’d probably messed up for the last time under his leadership. It was easier to contemplate than he thought it would be, after all it wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to him that day. But it still felt a little like the world had just dropped away from under his feet.

Seconds later Carson was there, actually pushing John’s shoulders back to keep him upright, as he said, “Steady there lad! You were in The Chair for eight hours and you’ve been flying for another six no doubt. Have you eaten? Have you rested at all?”

John stared at him blankly.

Carson shook his head and tutted, “I’ll take that as a no.” and then he turned to the people crowded close and said, “The rest of this can wait until the morning. I need to run some tests then the Colonel needs to eat and get a good night’s sleep.”

As the sound of the protests, and the group seemed to close in even more Carson added sharply, “Doctor’s Orders. For the love of all that’s decent people, think what you asked of the man today! Let him get some food and a decent rest before you start demanding more from him!”

And just like that everyone melted away. Except for Zelenka, who had been hovering near the door.

John thought Radek looked even worse than he probably did. He was obviously exhausted, with dark circles under his eyes and his hair was in even more distress than usual. And there was a look of utter bleakness about him that seemed to have aged him.

John steered himself and Carson towards the scientist.
Zelenka began to speak as they reached him, “I apologise, Colonel Sheppard. I made serious error in judgement. I should have insisted McKay take someone with him. I was tired and McKay shrugged off danger, said he would be okay. But is still no excuse.”

“Don‘t…” John tried to interrupt because he‘d had plenty of time to think about what had happened, about what had been said. And he understood, Zelenka had not been cruel for cruelty’s sake.

But Zelenka ignored John’s interruption and continued, “I should not have spoken as I did. And now we have lost the most brilliant mind I have ever known and a good friend as well, and the fault is mine. I do not forgive, so you cannot, I understand this. But for what I said to you, I am truly sorry.”

John grabbed the scientist by his shoulder and squeezed hard. It was pretty alien for him, reaching out to someone like that. John wasn’t a tactile person, except, strangely, he had been with McKay, but he recognised the misery Zelenka was feeling at the loss. “Hey, Zelenka, I know things don’t look good. But you need to know something. I did something while I was in the chair, and Atlantis is working on it.”

“Working on what?” “Did? What did you do?”
Carson and Zelenka both spoke at once.

John shrugged and said, “I’m not totally sure. Maybe…. something? I was kinda… uh… upset?”

Carson glared at him and said. “Maybe? Kind of?”

And John figured if he was ever going to make good on his pathetic promise to himself to be more honest about his feelings. Or even just admit to someone other than himself that he occasionally had actual feelings. Then admitting to being upset over the apparent demise of his best friend, his possibly more than best friend even if he wasn’t planning on admitting that part out loud to anyone else any time soon, was something most normal people would do without even thinking about it.

Of course John had known for a long time that when it came to feelings he wasn’t a normal person. But he had finally begun to hope that maybe one day he’d get there.

So he nodded at Carson and said, “Upset, yeah. Really upset.” And he felt a rush of heat spread up his neck and into his face hearing himself saying it out loud.

“Aye laddie, we all are.” Carson’s blue eyes were watery and for a terrible moment John thought the tears might spill over. And just like that he suddenly realised that this really was Carson.

He wasn’t just some fake doppelganger, a creepy, unsettling copy. This was the real man just as Rodney had insisted, oh so many times since they had found the cloned doctor, when John had always felt obliged to make the distinction. And it made John even more sure that whatever had happened to Rodney, and whatever Atlantis was doing to put things right, to bring McKay back, it was sure to be something miraculous and incredible. Because if the horrible perverted experiments on flesh and bone that Michael had done had somehow managed to bring Carson back to them, then surely Atlantis could achieve so much more.

“Colonel, what systems activated?” Zelenka had some of his old spark back, his eyes were bright behind his glasses. “Transporters? Stasis pod? containment field generator?”

John thought about it, he could feel the nudge of something familiar from the background hum of Atlantis. He said “Maybe check the Transporter logs? No that’s not it“ Then the vision of a streak white light shooting up towards blue blue skies burst inside John’s mind. A memory of another time when he thought he had lost everything. When he had been dragged inexorably into a portal and no one came for him. When he thought he’d been abandoned by his team, left behind and forgotten. All he could say was “…Oh….”

Suddenly a rush of air it seemed to swirl around the three of them, as if someone had opened a door and let a breeze sweep through the jumper bay. John felt something brush gently against his cheek and across his lips. Inexplicably he could taste the bittersweet flavour of mocha. Then just as suddenly it was gone, swirling up and away through the open hatch in the ceiling of the bay.

And John knew what Atlantis had done. He understood where Rodney had travelled to.


It took them two weeks to figure out exactly how it had happened. To trace the chain of events that had led to what seemed like an impossibility. Of course if they‘d had Rodney it would have been figured it out in no time. But they didn’t have Rodney and that was the point, wasn‘t it?

Radek found the links to what John had set in motion from the control chair. Atlantis systems had created a strange combination of elements from the transporter mechanism, a time dilation field generator, a stasis chamber, the ascension machine, a mysterious fifth element that might be part of the process to create a ZPM, and some equipment in a shielded lab that they couldn’t locate, even after tracing the energy signal.

And then things got really crazy

When they checked back to the time of the accident the system logs began show errors. There were conflicts and entries that appeared to have been overwritten in ways that shouldn’t even be possible, and time stamps resetting from when John activated the control chair and again from when he landed the jumper back in Atlantis all those hours later.

Finally Zelenka came to see John. He had a data pad with him. The Czech scientist looked drawn and ill, lack of sleep and a heavy dose of guilt were still weighing him down. Despite John’s almost daily assurances that he didn’t blame him for what had happened, Zelenka clearly still blamed himself. “I have isolated footage from internal sensors. I should watch. I know if boot was on different foot McKay would watch, would want to know because he had mind of true scientist and I have poor excuse for scientific brain that cannot separate fascination of discovery from pain and misery over death of esteemed colleague and friend.”

“Hey, Zelenka, buddy, don’t beat yourself up. I know that McKay was kind of a monster when it came to the finer feelings. But he knew you were a true friend. And he wouldn’t have wanted you to feel bad like this, about something you had no control over.”
John swallowed and made a grab for the data pad.
“I’ll watch it.”

Zelenka made a half hearted attempt to hold on to the computer and said.
“No, you should not have to do this. You and Rodney…. I know this.,… I should not have come…. it is wrong for you to see.”

“No!” John held on to the computer. He put all the force of his years in command, and all the feeling of his maybe, someday, possibly now, feelings for Rodney into that one word, and Zelenka let go.

“If anyone should have been with him, it’s me. If anyone should see what happened, what he did, what his last moments...” John stopped.

He hadn’t broken down, not once, not in all the briefings, nor writing any of the reports, not even when he had come back every night to the rooms that he had been meant to share with McKay. But now the idea of seeing what had happened it made John’s throat close and there was a tight feeling in his chest. Because even though he knew, he absolutely knew that the outcome of all of this was that Rodney hadn’t died. That Atlantis had thrown McKay a “Hail Mary Pass” in the last seconds of the game. Even knowing that he still had to will himself to watch.

John watched. Then he watched again and again until he had seen it all, and suddenly he couldn’t hold back what he felt. He tried to swallow it down but it burst out of him hard and painful and yet joyous too.

Laughing or somthing that wasn't exactly laughter but wasn't far from it as he stared at the image of McKay turning towards what ever it was that was trying to interrupt his important schedule of repairs. There was fire in those bright blue eyes,you could see that even on the poorer quality of the surveillance footage, and McKay's eloquent hands were already gesturing for emphasis, as he was swallowed up and swept away in a familiar flash of bright white light by the weird space folding-time travelling-ascension generating-containment field thing.

And John was left with the after image, a fleeting second before he was gone, of McKay giving oblivion or immortality or ascension the death to all idiots glare and what looked suspiciously like the finger. It was priceless.

The next part of the story can be found here:link to The Rules of Thermodynamics, The Pegasus Remix Part 5B.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 14th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
Glad to see more of this, even though all you're doing is tantalizing us. :-)
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:35 am (UTC)
Ah, you know me so well :-)
But you know I'll get there in the end...


Edited at 2012-04-15 10:06 am (UTC)
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
Very, very cool.
Apr. 15th, 2012 09:47 am (UTC)
Thank you, you are very kind.
And look your icom is kind of perfect for this part of the story, having just the right icon.... now that very very very cool :-)
Apr. 14th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
There's so much emotion in here--really intense and moving. I like this very much.

So he nodded at Carson and said, “Upset, yeah. Really upset.” And he felt a rush of heat spread up his neck and into his face hearing himself saying it out loud.

That's a great moment right there. Oh, JOHN.
Apr. 15th, 2012 10:05 am (UTC)
thank you for you very kind words,
I have to admit that this episode started out as a response to prompt #36 Dare, but I missed the posting deadline! so then it became my response to prompt #42 Home but I missed the posting dealine! Again!
So it finally ended up being in response to this prompt, which I have to say was almost spookily perfect, thank you to the Godesses of the prompts, in light of the direction this chapter was going.

And a by-product of all those changes was that I stumbled along writing a bit more, or tweaking what was already written to change the focus of the chapter, each time the prompt changed, and that had the lucky outcome of making several intense moments. But I'm very flattered and pleased that you liked it.
Apr. 14th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Somehow I've only just discovered this series but I'm hooked. Poor John, having to face his feelings and emotions but at least he knows what happened to Rodney now.
I hope there will be more soon :)
Apr. 15th, 2012 10:13 am (UTC)
Hi, I am always thrilled to hear from a new reader :-)
And thank you for your very kind words.

Yes this story follows my usual pattern of starting out all light and fluffy and hopefully a little funny, but then taking a nosedive into a great big bucket of angst. Still I'm hopeful that eventual outcome will be angst free.
Apr. 15th, 2012 03:35 am (UTC)
I love the idea of Rodney going with his Death to all idiots glare in place. But poor John, Carson, and Radek :'( What a sad chapter.
Apr. 15th, 2012 10:22 am (UTC)
Thank you for your kind words.
And yes, I had that image of Rodney turing to meet his fate with that glare, that Really? You pick now to interrupt me? attitude, and lest we forget, due the the way you can precicely freeze frame on the Atlantis internal security footage half way through a hand gesture, also giving oblivion or fate or what ever the finger. Even though it's sad it's still a perfecly Rodney moment to me
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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