by Eildon Rhymer (rhymer23)
When you are suddenly released from your responsibilities, what do you do?
Note: This was written the day the news of the cancellation of Stargate Atlantis came out, and was my response to the news. It is a strange mixture of humour and poignancy. It was also written for the Vacation challenge on SGAflashfic on LJ
There was no resistance. They had been prepared to die, if they had to, but the hallways were deserted. They rounded corners, guns ready, but no-one fired back. Cocoons had been ripped open, bare human footprints visible in the slime, but there was no-one there.
It was Ronon who first saw it, his chin jerking towards the place where it lay half hidden in the darkness. His question was silent, but even so, it was a long time before Sheppard felt himself able to respond.
"That's… uh… It's a flip-flop, buddy."
Behind him, he heard Rodney take in a sharp breath, doubtless preparing himself to launch into the tirade of necessary questions, but Sheppard stopped him, raising his hand sharply. There was a sound ahead of them. His finger tightened on the trigger…
"ABBA," Rodney breathed on the exhale. "Dancing Queen."
Sheppard's feet continue to edge him treacherously forward. The singing broke off. "Ah, Colonel Sheppard." The Wraith Queen's smile was disturbingly attractive. "I'm so glad you decided to drop by. I thought I was going to have to say it all by postcard."
"Have I gone crazy," Rodney hissed, "or is she wearing braids? And is that a--?"
Bikini. Yes. It went into the case. Sheppard fought the urge to scrape his hand across his eyes. He had been drugged. Yes, that was it. Drugs.
"It's a trap." Ronon's growl sounded slightly desperate.
"The guys have already gone to Vegas," the Queen said, "but packing is something that shouldn't be rushed, don't you think? I favour a cruise, myself. Karaoke in the evening. A swimming pool. Somewhere to relax while I decide what to do with the rest of my life. A librarian, perhaps? It's so tiresome being evil all the time."
He was lying in the infirmary, his thoughts gone crazy because of drugs and fever. It wasn't real. It couldn't be real.
"Well…" she said. Sheppard had a vague impression of movement, but he wasn't looking, he wasn't looking. Something pink and fluffy danced on the fringes of his vision, but his attention was entirely on the ceiling. "It's been a pleasure, in a strange sort of way. No hard feelings for the things they made me do, right?" The pinkness floated closer. "Come on, my loves. Group hug!"
"What…?" Rodney's voice was replete with all the gaping that Sheppard could not put a voice to. "How…? Why…? Wh--?"
"Oh. Didn't you know?" Although he definitely wasn't looking, he saw the Queen's hands fly to her mouth. "I thought you knew."
It had to be asked. "Knew what?"
"That the show's been cancelled."
The show's been cancelled.
Not many things called for beer. No, that wasn't true. Many things in the Pegasus Galaxy called for beer, but there were very few occasions when Sheppard could allow himself to drink it, what with the need to be constantly ready to save the world twenty times a year.
This was definitely one of those occasions.
"But I've only just arrived," Woolsey lamented, arms limp at his sides. "I sold my house. Do you have any idea how much it costs to ship a conference table half way across the universe? I wouldn't have bothered if I'd known they were going to do this to me."
For the fourth time, Sheppard offered him a drink.
"No," Woolsey said, then stopped, frowning. "To Hell with it." He tugged off his tie and fumbled at his top button. "I gave up everything for them. Do you know what it's like to have to live in a suit all the time, even at home? To have to memorise rules? I gave up years of my life for them, and sometimes they only called me once a year. Just once a year! I used to have a promising career as a surfer, you know?" A second button came undone. "To Hell with it. I'm wearing t-shirts from now on. With slogans. Dirty slogans. Pass me a beer?" He snatched the bottle hungrily out of Sheppard's hand before Sheppard had fully grasped it.
"I never even got a name," said a technician in the background, staring disconsolately into his empty glass. "I was hoping that in the next season I… No, never mind."
Woolsey clambered onto the table. "Let's play drinking games!"
Afterwards, long afterwards, as the sound of singing still echoed round the halls of Atlantis, Sheppard and his team sat in the mess-hall, surrounded by scuffed vacation brochures open on shots of exotic beaches and cocktails with umbrellas in.
"No, no, it's a good thing, really," Rodney was saying, turning his empty glass round and round on the table. "A lab of my own. Minions who don't argue back. I can get on with my work without being interrupted by idiot military types. I can do serious work without having to spend half my time sorting out ridiculous problems. Just you wait." He gestured with his hand, miming his name in lights. "Rodney McKay, PhD, Nobel Prize winner in physics."
"So soon?" Sheppard voice was hoarse, perhaps from Woolsey's sing-along. "You're going straight onto another job?"
"Of course." Rodney's voice was bright and brittle.
"Not me." Sheppard managed a smile. "I'm taking a long vacation first. Somewhere where nothing's trying to impale me. Vegas? No. Too full of Wraith. Hmm… Europe?"
Rodney snorted. "You'd break it."
"Only if you came along for the ride." Sheppard turned to the others, feeling his heart speeding up. "What do you say, guys? A road trip across Europe. Mediterranean beaches. Wine. Art galleries. Just while we decide what we're going to do now that…" His hand tightened. "Skiing in the Alps. Sailing. A couple of weeks, perhaps, or maybe a month or two."
Forever, he thought.
"A vacation would be nice." Teyla looked wan, made smaller by the news.
"You'll come, too?" Sheppard turned to Rodney. "While your minions are setting up the lab?" Just a few more weeks with the four of us together, please? he thought, but could not say it. "It doesn't have to be Europe. Anywhere. You name it."
Rodney grunted, but said nothing. Ronon, Sheppard saw, was gripping his glass so tightly that his knuckles were trembling.
Even the food had gone, just scattered crumbs on empty plates. Sheppard looked out at the two moons sinking into the silver sea. The sky was vast and full of stars, each one calling to him to fly among them. He thought of shining ships that let him soar higher and faster than he had ever thought to fly before. He thought of the people – a family where he had never thought to find one; a home where he had never thought to have one. He almost said something, but didn't trust himself to. The others were also gazing out of the window, he saw. There was no singing in the hallways now, and specks of light showed where other people had broken off what they were doing, to stand at balconies and on walkways, looking out at the home they were being forced to leave.
I don't want to leave this, he thought. He didn't want to spend a few weeks – even a lifetime – wandering around Europe with his team. He wanted to stay here, with them as they were.
"I say we don't accept this," he found himself saying.
Rodney's head snapped round, as if Sheppard had dragged him out of his own long train of thought. His eyes were glittering, but all he said was, "We don't have a choice. They've decided it – the powers that be."
"Since when has that stopped us?" Sheppard pushed his chair back, almost standing. "They gave me a back-story of disobeying orders, remember? They shouldn't have done that if they didn't want to face the consequences. Hell, I'm fighting this."
Teyla had been tracing patterns in a patch of spilled beer, her finger going round and round. "I do not feel ready for this to end," she said, "but--"
"It's not just us who's affected," Sheppard told her. "There's people out there… We owe it to them. They depend on us."
"I hate to break it to you, colonel," Rodney said, "but all those poor little innocents on oppressed planets are probably half way to Australia right now. There's no-one left out there for you to get all heroic and protective about."
"There's the fans."
"Fans?" Rodney snorted. "There's a posse of them who like nothing better than to hurt you – did you know that?"
"Yeah." Sheppard shrugged. "And half the rest of them are desperate for me to have hot sex with one of you. But it doesn't matter. They're good people. They're our people. Leave no-one behind. I refuse to abandon them. They've got so much invested in us – communities, friendships, emotions…"
"What part of 'cancelled' don't you understand?" Rodney blazed, sounding suddenly furious. "It's over. It's done. Wave bye-bye, go on your stupid vacation, and do something new with your life."
"No." Sheppard stood up. "I won't. And you know what? I don't think anyone's going to do it. Woolsey… He'll be in a suit again tomorrow. The Wraith will be back. That technician – what's his name? – will be back. Let the powers that be cancel us! We're stronger than that. We'll carry on. And, you know, I think this could be for the best."
"And how do you work that out?" Rodney demanded. "Although, of course, it is for the best. Nobel prizes, etcetera." He added it like a hasty afterthought.
"They can't touch us now." Sheppard clenched his fist. "We can't be killed off just for ratings, or because some actor wants to leave. They can't put us through ridiculous amounts of anguish, then expect us to act as if it didn't happen. We won't have to jump any sharks. We won't be affected by strikes. Remember what happened to those kids over in Sunnydale? They got put through Hell in their last few seasons. We're free from that. We're evergreen."
Ronon pushed his glass away, and surged to his feet. Teyla looked up, eyes shining with unshed tears.
Yes, Sheppard thought. A vacation with these people would be good, but this was the true vacation. It was staying here for the rest of his life, evergreen and ever young. The powers that be might no further use for them, but as long as the fans needed them, they would be here. "No," he said, out loud, responding to his own unspoken thought. They would still be here long after the fans had moved on and forgotten them. They would be here forever now, and nothing could touch them, and nothing could divide them.
"That's the thing about Nobel prizes," Rodney said suddenly, his eyes glittering. "They've over-rated, don't you think?"
"Definitely," Sheppard said, and he had no idea who started it – perhaps it was all of them, all at once – but they clasped hands together in the middle of the table, all four of them, and they smiled, because they were here, and they were home, and they were together, and nothing could bring that to an end. Nothing.