If you get this, it's because I'm not coming back.  Not because of what you said, but because I can't.  Where I'm serving… well, it's pretty remote here, there's no hope of an evac and we're facing some pretty big trouble.  Huh.  Damn big trouble.  And there's no way out.

The Air Force isn't going to be able to tell you much, because this is classified so high even I'm not cleared to know about it…  that was a joke.  Look, I know you always thought I used that as an excuse not to tell you much, but… well, it's not an excuse.  I can't say where I am, except I'm not in Antarctica, and I've been here in ...  I was posted here about a year ago.  It's been amazing.  It's different… I can't tell you how different.  It's been a good times and bad here and I… you know, in a funny sort of way, I kinda like it here.  I've made some good friends.  But it's… it's pretty dangerous and that trouble we're facing is… well, we aren't going down without a fight, but …  shit, I can't tell you any of this…


[Resume recording]

You wouldn't care anyway, would you?  This has nothing to with making money, or good business or investments, or scoring off the other guy, or boasting at the country club.  It's none of the things you wanted and I …

[Stop recording]











Yeah, I know.  You weren't expecting to hear from me, right?  And you know, I wouldn't be sending this if I wasn't in trouble.  Like you always said, proverbial bad penny.  I don't turn up if I'm not in trouble.  Well, this time, there's no getting out of it.

If this message gets through, the Air Force will send it on to you.  If you get this, it's because I … well, I won't be coming back.  Not this time.  Not that you ever thought I would, I guess, after what you said when me and Nancy split.  I figured that was pretty final and you didn't want to see …


[Stop recording]











You know what?  I don't know why I'm doing this, recording a message to someone who won't give a damn anyway.  I should have just stuck with what I said to Elizabeth and not bother.  It's what we always do about each other, isn't it, Dad?  We don't bother.

You've got Dave.  You stick to him.  You always did, anyway.


[Resume recording]

I command marines out here.  They say, shit happens.  Well, Dad, I guess I was the shit happening in that perfect Sheppard life of yours.  Never did what you wanted, never was what you wanted.  And now we can't do anything about it. 


[Resume recording]

I worked it out, you know.  You were always my Dad, but I was never your son.  Not the one you wanted. 


[Stop recording]











Hey Nancy.

It's been a while.  I guess this'll be a surprise, hearing from me.  And I guess that you'll be wondering what I want.  I er… I.. damn it, there's no way to say this easily.

Look, I was deployed about a year ago, just after it was all finalised.  I can't tell you where.  Yeah, I can just see your face… all scrunched up and cross and that bullshit meter of yours going overtime… but thing is, it's true, Nancy.  A lot of the stuff I did before, the covert stuff?  Absolute peanuts compared to this deployment and this place.  So I'm not bullshitting.  I can't tell you where this is or what I've been up to, just that it's been the most amazing year of my life.  Some good, some bad… a lot of people would say mostly bad, but I dunno… there are some great people here, and they're mine.  I ended up as military commander… I won't say how, I already did that message.  But I've got all these civilians – scientists, mostly – and I command marines… well, I probably shouldn't have said that, but it's mostly harmless.  I think the Air Force will let that one through.

Listen… we're in trouble here, big trouble, and there's no getting out and no getting any help to us.  I don’t think I'll be coming back this time.  So, this is just to say that you're still… I didn’t change the will.  The stuff I get from the Sheppard trust funds goes back to the fund, but what my Mom left me, that's coming your way.  It's a fair amount.  Take it and get something you really want with it, and do that for me.  Because I was a complete jerk, and I know it.  And… and I didn't mean to be.  It just…

Dad said marrying you was the best thing I ever did.  I… erm… I… look.  Look, I know I wasn't good for you, really.  You wanted more and I… shit.

Huh.  I'm no better talking about this stuff than I was when you and me... Look, Nancy, I'm sorry that I messed you around.  It wasn't ever you.  You were good for me… but… but you know why it didn't work out.  I shouldn't have tried… shouldn't have used… I messed you around.  It wasn't fair…


[Resume recording]

Last big fight I had with Dad, he said you were seeing someone.  That, and I was a damn fool for letting you go, but… he just thought I was a damn fool, period.  Whoever he is, he better be good to you, Nancy.  Give him hell.


[Resume recording]

There's someone here… not together, not the way I… just someone I could have…  it doesn't matter now.  It's not import… I gotta go.  I just wanted to tell you about the money so you didn't get a surprise.  That's all. 

So you be happy, okay?  I want that for you.  I do want that.

[Stop recording]




"Sheppard?  You done?"  McKay barrels straight into John's quarters, as usual, in his usual oblivious-to-everything rush, not looking right or left or caring before he leaps off the kerb.  And certainly not bothering to knock.

John wonders, sometimes, if Rodney doesn't care about the social niceties because one time he sat down and calculated how much of his life might be spent being polite (and, you know, being Canadian about it), and by using logarithms and calculus and making spreadsheets and covering whiteboards with formulae in spiky black lettering, proved to himself that time spent being nice was time not spent on unravelling physics and bending the universe to his will.  Which is why Rodney lives and breathes, to make the universe his and prove every other physicist in any possible dimension is just so totally wrong.

John wonders, sometimes, if Rodney is just a jerk, after all.

"You know, Rodney, you got to learn to use the doorbell.  I could have been doing anything in here.  In the can, beating off—"

"To camera?"  McKay twitches and John's gratified to see that the tips of his ears go red.  "That'd get SGC's attention."

"Yeah.  Except Cam Mitchell would email it around the entire world and I'd be inundated with requests for dates."

"Kirk." McKay's flush has reached his cheekbones.  "Look, are you finished?  You're the last one to do this and I need to get the data burst ready."

John looks at the screen.



"Almost finished," he says, his hand curling over the mouse.

"Elizabeth said you were doing a message for Sumner's family."  McKay's nervous, John can tell.  He can't stand still, is picking stuff up and putting it down again on the packing case that does duty as John's desk, constantly moving and shifting his weight from one foot to the other.  He's pink and there's a little trickle of perspiration running down the side of his right temple.  He raises a hand and rubs it away.

"She made me."

"Huh.  Probably counts as cruel and unusual punishment." McKay holds out a flashdrive.  "Download it onto there and I'll add it to the databurst."

John obeys.  He'd finished that message first and it's ready to go.  He drags the file over to the flash drive file manager window.  He hesitates, looking at the screen.



"I did a message for my sister," says McKay, suddenly, and like someone's reached into him and jerked the words out of him, one at a time.

"Your sister?"  John looks up.  "I didn't know you had a sister."

"Like I'd tell you!  Kirk."

John sighs.  "Rodney, I gotta tell you that joke's wearing kinda thin."

"One word, Sheppard.  Just one word.  Chaya."

"Glowy sex does not count," says John, grinning because that is exactly the one word he's expecting.

"All sex counts," says McKay, sadly.  He adds, "Well, it's not like you can use your wiles on Jeannie.  We aren’t close.  Not anymore." 

John mouths use your wiles because it amuses him and is so far from the truth as to be ridiculous.

McKay doesn’t notice.  "She got herself knocked up by an English major."

"Wow!  A man who reads books!  I can see why you hate him."

"Very funny.  She was good, Sheppard.  Not as good as me, obviously, but as good as… say, Radek on one of his best days.  Or Sam Carter, maybe, without the blonde hair and… you know…"  McKay's hands make little cupping motions at his chest, which leads John to wonder if McKay's sister is a little under-endowed there.  He hadn't taken much interest in Sam Carter's chest when they'd met, briefly, at SGC, but he'd seen Rodney's tongue hanging out.  "We had a fight when I realised she was giving it all up for motherhood and apple pie.  Giving it up, Sheppard!"

"It happens," says John, remembering Nancy.  Losing the baby when he was five days late from a covert job and didn't call her, and knowing he was (if anything) relieved about it when he did get back, was the final nail in the coffin for their sham of a marriage.  He looks at the screen again and his hand curls back over the mouse.

McKay is pacing now, and his voice is rising in pitch, words tumbling out as he talks about his sister's poor choices, the iniquity of people too stupid to understand physics and way too stupid to keep it in their pants, Carter, books being essentially useless and people who wrote essays about them rather than disassembled the universe even worse, Radek's shortcomings, Carter, the waste of his sister's life and (more important) her brain, Carter …

John watches him, frowning.  When McKay stops beside him, still talking furiously, his eloquent hands waving about in emphasis, John finally really sees him.  McKay's hands are trembling, his eyes are wide and dark and his crooked mouth is set on an unhappy slant.

"Hey," says John, understanding at last.

McKay stops dead, his mouth working.  For a long minute he stares down at his feet.  "There's no way out of this, is there?"

"No," says John.  "We run or we fight.  And if we run, there's nowhere in the galaxy like Atlantis, nowhere where we can stand and fight like we can fight here.  We'd be as helpless as most of the other Pegasus people.  Not much of a choice, Rodney."

McKay nods.  His face is still downcast, but John can see his mouth quivering.  "It's just.. I'm not used to…"

"Hey," says John.  He glances at the screen, and acts.



He gets to his feet and puts a hand on Rodney's right shoulder.  It's strong and hard under his palm, warm and solid. 

"I'm scared, John," says Rodney.



John's heart is thuddering away in his chest.  He brings his other hand up to Rodney's left shoulder.  Rodney's starting to shake now, his whole body trembling.  Rodney shakes his head from side to side, as if in denial. 

It might be the only chance he ever gets.  The Wraith are on their way and he doesn’t think they'll survive this time.  But Rodney's here, warm and alive and frightened and he just used John's name for the very first time.  John doesn’t normally like people getting too close.  It scares him.  It scares him more than the Wraith,

But this is Rodney.  This is Rodney with his brilliant brain and the brightest blue eyes, his crooked mouth and a tongue sharper than a shard of glass.  Rodney. 

John pulls him in close.  Rodney's arms come up slowly, hesitantly, to curve around John and hold him.  John rests his face on Rodney's hair and breathes him in, sweetly.

"I'm scared," says Rodney, again.

"Me, too," says John. holding on.  "Me, too."

2127 words

Notes: If you watch Letters from Pegasus (S1), you might notice an intriguing thing about John's contribution to the databurst going to the SGC: he records his letter to Col Sumner's family against a completely different backdrop than his "Goodbye" done to camera, when he is clearly in his quarters with the Johnny Cash poster behind him. I don't claim any particular powers of observation here – rivier pointed it out to me – but you can't help but conclude that perhaps John did record a separate, private message or two after all, and maybe to his family. I doubt that they were ever sent, given the family relationships shown in Outcast in S4, but he just might have done them and then thought better of it.

The process, to make this work: John is speaking to camera and instantly downloading the files onto his laptop, to be compressed and included in the databurst.