skeddy_kat: (CG)
[personal profile] skeddy_kat
Title: Taking Arms Against a Sea of Troubles
Author: skeddy_kat
Pairing : None. Gen.
Warnings/Spoilers: Set after “This Mortal Coil” with spoilers for that episode. Characters die, but they are dead in canon.
Word count: About 1200
Summary: What if one of the duplicates survived the jumper crash?

John wakes up surprised; he isn’t dead. Near as he can figure, his personal Frankensteins had modified his nanites so the replicator weapon had rendered them stunned, not inert. The rest of his team hasn’t been so lucky. Their injuries must have been too extensive for their nanites to repair. He sits in the crashed puddlejumper with their bodies for hours, hoping.

Without a shovel, he knows he’ll never manage adequate graves. He won’t leave them for animals to find. Instead, he builds an enormous pyre. He lays each body gently atop, arranging limbs and smoothing hair. When he watches them burn, if tears run down his cheeks unchecked – well, smoke in a person’s eyes, and all that.

Alone again, John Sheppard is both devastated and unsurprised. He considers renaming himself, taking something from each of their names. After all, he isn’t really John Sheppard anymore. John Sheppard had damn well better be back on Atlantis capitalizing on the opportunity their sacrifice bought him. “El-te-nan-John-Rod” shows promise for all of about sixty seconds before he hears Rodney’s voice in his mind, “Ridiculous. Far too long and brings up images of ‘Crocodile Rock’ and bad costumes. And for God’s sake, eat something”

John smiles, wondering when the voice in his head began to sound like Rodney. Eating an MRE from the jumper’s stores, he tries out variations of his name, their names, even a few from fiction. “How about Kirk, Rodney?” he asks softly. No, he never was Kirk, despite Rodney’s accusations. He finally settles on Cash.

Cash leaves the planet the next day, carrying a pack filed with things scavenged from the Atlantean jumper and the remains of the equipment from the tent where the Rodneys were working.

He becomes a wanderer, travelling from planet to planet, offering help where he can. He considers joining Larrin’s people, knows they’d welcome him, but he can never bring himself to do it. He takes comfort where it’s offered, never staying with the same partner for more than a night.

Rodney’s voice in his head is joined by Teyla’s, then by Ronon’s, and sometimes-even Elizabeth’s. He knows, at least he’s pretty sure, they’re only figments of his imagination or his subconscious. However, on particularly lonely nights, John likes to believe that he carries a piece of them, that somehow he ended up with some of their nanites and those nanites retained individual identities. The Rodney voice mocks him for the impossibility of it all, but John takes comfort in it (as the Teyla voice agrees that believing does no harm.)

He learns the hard way to be wary of activating Ancient technology, even to help. While the occasional village offers their thanks and trades for food, that turns out to be the exception. Mostly, it ends badly. Sometimes the natives want to worship him, sometimes they want to kill him, sometimes they want to hold him prisoner until he impregnates their women.

When he arrives on Merle, there is a raiding party attacking. His weapons help the villagers repel the raiders. The town baker, Lena, has an extra room. Lena is like a bizarre mixture of Rodney’s wit and Teyla’s serenity. Cash feels more at peace than he has since his team died. At the end of the first week, Lena’s extra room is free again.

Cash helps plan the village’s defenses and teaches hand-to-hand combat skills. One week turns into two, then into a month and he is beginning to think he might stay. With Lena, he laughs and loves and fights and begins to live again. Life is good until the day he throws himself in front of a bearlike creature trying to grab a five year old. Little Garran is fine, but a swipe from a massive paw opens Cash’s arm from shoulder to wrist before a desperate shot brings it down.

Half the village, including Lena, rushes to help him. Instead, they end up with a front row seat as his wounds magically heal. He tries to explain how, but the easy trust and friendship vanishes. Even Lena seems afraid of him. He packs his things and walks to the gate, forcing himself not to look back. He’s alone again.

So he visits new places, saves the day, and then moves on. It’s his job, his purpose. Teyla’s and Elizabeth’s voices urge action to save the day, even as Ronon offers pragmatic asides and Rodney calls him an overly principled moron with a death wish. Rumors spread of a man in black, beautiful to look at and handy in a pinch.

It’s inevitable, really. On a beautiful spring evening, on an unremarkable planet, he runs into Sheppard and his team. Cash (he no longer thinks of himself as John) sees an orange glow and smells smoke as he crests the hill near the town. Fire is never a welcome visitor in a town of wood and the strong spring breeze helps spread the blaze through the three and four story buildings.

At first, he thinks he’s seeing things as he watches Ronon dash into a building and help a mother and child over to where Rodney stands. When he sees himself run out of a nearby building with a toddler around h his neck, he realizes who they are.

He runs over to Sheppard and asks where he can help. Sheppard starts to raise his weapon when a woman rushes over to them hysterically screaming that her three children are trapped on the second floor of her home. She points out the building and together the two men run and fight their way through the smoke to the upper floor. The first floor is nearly all ablaze. They don’t have much time.

The children are hiding and they lose precious seconds searching before finding them huddled under a bed. John grabs the older one and Cash the two toddlers. They sprint for the hallway, John in the lead. There is a terrible screech as part of the hallway falls away between them. Setting one of his charges down, Cash manages to throw the other to John. He picks up the other, but the gap between them widens.

“The window!” he screams to John. John nods acknowledgment and runs for the stairs.

Choking and half blinded by smoke, Cash returns to the bedroom. He throws a chair through the window. John appears underneath, having shed his load along the way. Cash holds the third child by the hands and lowers him out the window. With a mighty effort he swings the child out and away from the building, into John’s waiting arms.

“Jump!” John yells.

As he sets his hands on the sill to climb out, the floor beneath him collapses. His last coherent thought is the Rodney voice saying, “You just couldn’t wait to join us, could you?” He joins his team.

During the following year, Cash becomes a popular name as grateful citizens on many worlds honor deeds a mysterious stranger performed, asking for little to nothing in return. History doesn’t even note that a surprising number of children born that year have the gene of the Ancestors and eyes that are sometimes green and sometimes brown.
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