Victim of the Time
Alpha Reader: millifiore who
made some excellent suggestions, most of which I used. She's worth $50!
"It makes happen
what has already happened," McKay said with a frown.
"It makes happen
oh, look," Rodney snapped irritably. "We really need
Elizabeth to translate this. She's better at translating Ancient than I am," McKay
dismissed his lack of knowledge with an annoyed flick of his hand. Anything he didn't know
he didn't consider worth knowing.
"Makes happen. What do you think that means?" Sheppard ran his hands over the
odd, stasis-tube shaped artefact they were investigating.
"Well, it appears to be some kind of time machine don't play with that! Stop
touching it. And I'm assuming
by what's written here, it consolidates time lines.
Leave it alone."
"Relax, McKay, it's not even on. It looks dead," Sheppard quirked a teasing
eyebrow at McKay, as he continued to poke at the machine they'd found in the depths of
Atlantis while McKay frowned at the writing on the walls. A time machine could be exactly
what they needed to fight the Wraith. Perhaps it was similar to the one in the jumper that
Elizabeth used to travel back ten thousand years. With something like that, John could get
in and stop himself and Sumner waking the Wraith. Now that would be cool. "But what
does consolidate time lines mean? Is it a time machine or not? Can we use it to go back
and change the past?"
"No, not according to this. I'm not sure what the purpose of this machine is yet, if
it's even still viable, like you said it could be inert. According to what I can make out
here, it doesn't change anything, it simply
aligns the fates? Aligns
the events? Why couldn't the Ancients make anything simple? Everything has to be
"Complicated?" he stood inside the tube and watched McKay through the slightly
"I was going to say 'esoteric'. But yes, complicated works."
"So, I couldn't get in this, and say
travel back in time twenty years or so,
Rodney?" John said, but by the time he got to 'Rodney' he wasn't in Atlantis anymore.
?" Okay, so apparently it wasn't dead technology after all.
John turned in a full circle, surveying the dark bricks of the alley where he'd landed.
"Twenty years?" he muttered to himself, "and how many light years across
space?" because it was obvious he hadn't just gone back in time to Atlantis 18 years
before they'd arrived, but he that was now back on earth. The rich smell of rising damp,
distant pizza, and a nearby dumpster made it all too real to be an illusion or some kind
of holographic projection.
But this wasn't anywhere he recognised. Twenty years ago he'd been
actually remember which school he'd been in, since they rarely stayed anywhere more than a
few months, but he was pretty sure he'd never been eighteen and standing in this
particular dank alley.
Where he was, though, wasn't the biggest problem, but when. If he had, rather stupidly,
sent himself back in time twenty years, the biggest problem was now how to get back.
And the worst of that was that the only person he knew that he could trust to get him to
return to twenty years in the future was
twenty years in the future.
He walked into the noise and bustle of a main street, ignoring the people who looked at
him askance in his uniform, and someone, obviously very confused, yelled out: "Hello,
sailor!" and John nodded and smiled at them. Maybe they were drunk. He hoped he
didn't meet anyone who demanded ID for his carrying a conspicuous side arm already
people were looking at that with nervous curiosity.
There were not a lot of possibilities that John could think of at the moment. He
couldnt go to the SGC, because he was pretty sure they didn't exist yet. Or, if they
did, not only did he not know how to contact them, but he wasn't all that sure they'd
believe him anyway. Daniel Jackson would probably believe him, but what use was a teenage
anthropologist? Jack O'Neill, whatever rank he was at the current moment, would probably
have him shot on sight.
The air force wouldn't recognise him, in fact most official organisations would probably
just arrest him or lock him up for being insane. His family weren't an option, and he
really didn't have any friends who'd be any use in this situation anyway. There was no way
John could get back to Atlantis and get into the machine again, so he had to find a way to
reverse the process. Somehow.
It all came down to Rodney McKay. As usual. John sighed to himself; he was placing his
life and health in the hands of the same genius as always. All he could hope was that
Rodney, even a Rodney who was probably only 16 years old, would be able to solve this
problem. No matter how old, he was still probably the smartest guy on the planet. John
tried to remember what he could of Rodney's childhood revelations by 16 Rodney
what? No, in year six Rodney had built an atomic bomb and ended up working for
the FBI. Or was it CIA? CIA, John thought, wishing he'd paid more attention to Rodney's
ramblings. But he wouldn't be actually working in the CIA at that point. At least John
knew which school Rodney would be in; he'd seen the certificates on the wall. By 16 Rodney
was working on a Ph.D or a masters or something, and he was, John hoped, at Northwestern
A few minutes in a phone booth with the phone book provided, and John had an address.
Directions from some passers-by gave him the way to go, and within fifteen minutes, John
was standing outside the University and asking at the main info desk for the Physics
department. The fact he'd wound up so close to Rodney's University pretty much confirmed
that he had, by saying 'twenty years or so, Rodney', wound up in Rodney's past, not his
own. Those Ancient artefacts could be so picky.
By asking questions around the Physics building John found that a lot of the people there,
students and faculty, had heard of Rodney McKay, very few were surprised to find out the
military was looking for him, even fewer seemed to like him, and most were content to
believe that John was there to recruit McKay and take him out of the school and their
lives and were happy to point out the dorm room where McKay was assigned.
Answering John's knock, though, was an enormously tall young man with curly black hair,
who called himself 'Bobby' and looked John up and down with an almost clinical interest.
When John asked where Rodney was, the man ducked back into the tiny, messy room he
apparently shared with McKay, and wrote on a slip of paper the address for a street near
the same damned alley where John had materialised in the first place.
That took John by surprise, he didn't think McKay would have ever needed to get some part
time student type job, not the way he bragged about how smart he was. He'd always thought,
if he'd even given it a thought, that McKay would have had a free ride on scholarships.
"Do you have a business name? The shop where he works?"
"No. You'll see him. Just go there and wait. It's Tuesday and the judge usually drops
him off around six," then the door was slammed shut in John's face.
So John ended up right back where he'd started, leaning against the wall near the entry to
an alley way, with people walking past giving him weird looks. He tried to lean as
nonchalantly as possible, smiling and nodding to those who stared, as if he had every
right in the world to be there, but that just earned him more suspicious glares. It wasn't
hard to work out why, either, as he was being approached, he thought, by just about every
street walker in the city.
And quite a few people appeared to think he was a street walker, as well. As he was given
the hairy eyeball, yet again, by some guy cruising slowly in a car, he snapped out:
"What, the gun isn't a big enough clue? I'm not a hooker!" and the guy revved
his engine and sped off.
John wondered whether he should look into the coffee shop across the road, although he
couldnt see McKay selling coffee. If anything, he'd drink all the profits, insult
all the customers, stuff his pockets full of muffins and be fired within an hour of
starting. There wasn't, as far as John could see, a computer supply shop or video store in
the area, and those were the types of places he could envisage a young McKay hanging out.
Insulting customers, still, but at least he'd enjoy what he was doing. Then again, John
wondered, were there computer shops and video stores in the mid 80s? He tried to remember
his own teenage years, and decided that those things were probably just becoming popular
about the time he was in high school, and McKay was only a year or so younger than
himself, so those things made sense.
He turned down yet another offer of company, as politely as he could manage through
gritted teeth, and had just decided to be more proactive in his hunt, when he turned to
catch sight of a car disgorging one of the skinniest teens he'd seen in a while. T-shirt
sleeves rolled up in a style John had been happy to see left back in the 80s, acid wash
jeans that did nothing to flatter someone so thin, blond hair in a scruffy do like
something off M-TV.
It wasn't until the young man walked closer and looked directly at John, only one side of
his face crumpling into a lopsided smile that John even recognised him.
" John stuttered in surprise. Had McKay ever been that
thin? That blond? That
dominated by eyebrows? McKay had definitely grown into his
eyebrows over the past twenty years, never mind at least doubled the width across his
shoulders. He was kind of hot in a gawky, teen boy kind of way, not quite as markedly
lopsided, but not quite
fully Rodney yet, John thought. Kind of proto-Rodney.
"Woah, hey, yourself," young Rodney said, looking John up and down and not
losing the smile. And that was weird in itself, McKay never smiled that easily, and not at
people he didn't know.
need to speak to you," John said, not quite over his surprise.
It occurred to him that his brilliant idea of getting McKay's help probably wasn't so
great. Sure, McKay had always told him that he'd been a genius even at this young age, but
he looked so
different, with his knife edge cheekbones and full head of hair. There
was no way this dishevelled young guy was going to be any help with Ancient Technology,
time travel, or getting John back home.
Perhaps it was time John looked into living like a king in the past on gambling winnings
from remembered sports games and fights. Who said Back to the Future couldn't teach
important life lessons?
"Sure," McKay nodded, and jerked his head to one side. "This way. Unless
you have a hotel room or a car
"Er, no car," John said, casually, trying to maintain his cool at McKay's words.
This wasn't good. He didn't want this in his head. Not this.
He made to catch up, but Rodney hissed at him: "Don't walk beside me, walk a few
steps behind, you idiot," and he let himself lag, oddly comforted by the fact he'd
just been called an idiot. Even twenty years in the past, Rodney was still Rodney.
He followed, the requested distance behind, into what appeared to be a deserted factory.
The whole place was covered in graffiti, but at least it smelled fairly clean it
kind of looked like the type of place John expected would smell like pee.
McKay grinned at him again, grabbing his arm and pulling him into a room with no doors and
incompetently boarded up windows. Other than a few dried up paint cans and a couple of
foam mattresses, it was empty, with only a few shafts of light coming through the window
in jagged lines, and walls that proclaimed that a great many people had 'been there',
leaving phone numbers and badly illustrated pictures of primary sexual characteristics.
"So," Rodney said, tilting his head in a coquettish manner that the adult McKay
could certainly never pull off as he pulled John to sit down on the mattresses with him.
"You wanted to
"Yeah, so, this is going to sound kind of crazy
" John started.
"That's fine, I have no problem with crazy. Fifty dollars."
"Yeah, you can get as crazy as you want, you know, but well, not totally crazy, I
mean, you can't start punching me or anything, and I'm not going to do everything, there
are some limits, but yeah, fifty dollars. Up front."
John felt his stomach land in his boots, "I'd kind of been hoping you weren't a
"And I was kind of hoping that my parents would pay my school fees before all my of
my university scholarships kicked in, but hey, we can't all get the pony we've always
wished for, can we? Fifty dollars."
"Look, I just need to talk to you."
"Talk, suck, fuck, whatever, fifty dollars. You want to talk dirty, I can talk dirty,
"Dont, Rodney. That just sounds weird coming from you."
"How did you know my name?" McKay suddenly shed his somewhat unconvincing
'streetwise' slouch, dropping his shoulders and lifting his chin nervously.
"I uh, okay, this is where the crazy comes in. I'm from the future."
McKay's eyes opened wide briefly, but he just nodded.
know each other. In the future. I was sent back in time by accident, and
I'm hoping that you can help me get back where I belong."
McKay continued to just look at him, interested and polite. It was freaky. McKay was never
interested in or polite to other people.
know each other," McKay put an emphasis on 'know' that could have
been intended to be obscene, but from him just sounded sceptical.
McKay made a show of looking John up and down, eyes lingering on the gun.
"I'm in the air force. Lieutenant Colonel," John said, perfectly aware he
sounded smug as he pointed to his Colonel stripes.
"I'm not," McKay said, pointedly.
"No, of course you're-"
"Because no matter how desperate I get, I'm not joining the military. I dont
care if they offer scholarships, I'd rather suck dick than join the army."
"Hey!" John was pretty offended by that. "There's nothing wrong with
wanting to serve your country!"
"I'm just saying. If you're here to recruit me, forget it. I've told you guys
"I'm not here to recruit you! But aren't you supposed to be working with the CIA or
something by now?"
"How do you know about that?" McKay eyed him suspiciously.
"I told you, we know each other, we work together. You tell me stuff about yourself.
Look, you're a genius, right?"
"Right," McKay gave him a brilliant smile at that. "Probably the most
brilliant person you'll ever meet!"
"Yes, you are. Smartest person in two
in the world," John confirmed,
content to flatter McKay's ego if it kept him on track. He knew he couldn't lose his
temper and yell at young Rodney, or he would be out of here like a bullet from a gun.
"You're an astrophysicist, specialising in Ancient
in all sorts of things, with
"I do? I mean, not that I believe this bulldust, but you know, it's still good to
hear. Just in case it's real. Because, you know, I am somewhat concerned, I mean, I know
I'm smart enough to do it, but just trying to get the money together to pay all the fees
and food and rent and stuff until the scholarships come through, and I don't know why they
have to make me wait for them, it's not like I'm getting any younger here, and it was hard
enough making the money to pay my undergraduate fees, because no one will give a well
paying job to a twelve year old, and I mean, I'm almost sixteen and I should have finished
my Doctorate by now, but no, they keep jerking me around and-"
"And you're probably the only person who can figure out how to get me back to my
Rodney pointed his fingers at John. "Okay, so you're the hot air force Colonel, and
I'm the brilliant astrophysicist."
"Yes!" John said triumphantly.
"Whatever game you want to play, it's fifty dollars. I don't have a white coat or
whatever, I mean, I do, but it's back at the school, but you're already in costume, so
hey, we can pretend, right? I'm not so great at role play, I usually start to laugh
inappropriately, and I get this twitch, but-"
"Rodney! This isn't a sex game! I'm serious! I'm stuck back twenty years in the past
and I have no idea how to get back to my own time and if I don't get back there the space
vampires will probably kill everyone."
"Space vampires?" McKay looked almost sad as John said something so outrageous
no one could role play it.
"Yes. Okay, they're not actually vampires, they suck the life out of people, but
yeah, okay, that was probably too much information all at once, so just ignore that, but
I'm stuck here. Look," John dug out his wallet and found the small amount of cash he
kept there on the possibility he would go back to earth sometime, and maybe need a taxi
from the SGC or just to get some junk food, but mostly because it was just habit to always
have a few greenbacks in his pocket. "Here's $20. I'll give you the rest when you
help me, okay?"
"Cool!" McKay grabbed the money and jammed it into his jeans pocket eagerly,
eyeing the few bills that remained in John's wallet.
"Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!" John tried, making puppy dog
eyes at McKay.
"Oh, you're kidding me," McKay gave him a dirty look. "I'm supposed to fall
for a line like that?"
"What? I know you love that stuff. No, wait, you prefer Star Trek, right? Hey,
look," John turned his head to the side, "Pointy ears!" What the heck,
Rodney was always teasing him about his Vulcan ears, why not cash in on them to try and
get McKay's trust.
"Yes, yes, very cute. Put those away before you put someone's eye out. So, talk, I'm
going to need more information if I'm to help you with your crazy, wacked out delusion and
get the rest of the money you owe me."
"Oh, you're just as sweet and polite now as you are in my time. I bet you get a lot
of repeat customers!"
"Oh, low blow!" McKay looked genuinely offended. "I'll have you know I'm
very good at everything I do!"
"Oh, sure. I bet you're still a virgin."
"Hey, look at the size of my mouth," McKay pointed and grimaced widely, "I
can suck a dick sideways!"
"Argh," John stuck his fingers in his ears, "I don't need to hear that,
McKay! I have to work with you in the future! Don't tell me things like that! I'm having
enough trouble dealing with the fact you're a
as it is."
"Yes, thanks for being so blunt. I thought you liked women, anyway!"
"How many women do you see lining up to pay for sex?" McKay waved his arms
around to point out the complete lack of horny women with open cheque books. "I like
women just fine," McKay illustrated a basic hour glass shape in the air, heavy on the
boobs, "but I like guys, too. They're
"Okay, I don't need to hear too much of this, thanks. You know, this is going to make
things so awkward if I ever manage to get back to Atlantis."
"Atlantis? Atlantic City? Delta Hub? Great airport? Home of Coca Cola?"
"No, Atlantis, sunken city, Pegasus Galaxy. Home of aliens and, um, stuff."
"Oh, sure, you're not insane at all!"
"McKay-" Sheppard tried to put some threat into his voice, something that
usually got McKay's attention.
"And the other reason I know that you're either insane or lying, which is a shame as
you're really hot for a nut job, is because if you were from the future," McKay said,
obviously not caring at all about John's attempt at sounding threatening, "you
wouldn't tell me these things, because it would probably change the future!"
"You watch too much science fiction TV, McKay. From what I understood of what you
told me before I came here, it doesn't matter what I do, because I've already done it. If
I tell you anything that influences your future choices, that's okay, because you made
those choices and got to the future where I came from because of them, so
"Oh, how convenient, so you have complete carte blanch to change my future? What
what if I was going to invent something really important, like a new clean energy
source or something that saves thousands of lives!"
"I will?" McKay suddenly looked a bit more interested in what Sheppard had to
say. Of course, Sheppard realised, playing to McKay's ego was probably going to be the
best way to go to get his co-operation.
"Yes. In the future you will be incredibly important to a lot of people. So will I.
It's vital that I get back to the future so that you and I can continue being important
and saving people's lives, okay?"
"Okay, so say I believe you and Im not just humouring you because you're really
hot and I want the rest of the money you owe me, how did you get here anyway?"
"Well, there was this device-"
"Did I build it?"
"No, you haven't invented a time machine. Yet. You found this one."
"So who did build it?"
"Right, well, this might be a bit hard to believe," John said, although he had a
feeling that Rodney was pretty much on the same page as John now, despite his continuing
protests, because something like this would be just irresistible to a mind as hungry for
knowledge and new ideas as Rodney's.
"Because everything you've said has been so incredibly plausible up until now."
Of course, John thought, Rodney still had to mouth off. Time for the big guns.
"You're allergic to citrus, you like cats, you used to have a dog but your father
wouldn't pay for a licence and it got lost, you have a sister called Jeanie but you're not
really all that close to her, and you used to play the piano but quit because you didn't
think you were good enough and all that stuff about having 'no art' is utter crap because
I know you and you're as much an artist as anyone I've ever known, you just can't stand
not being the best at something. I know about you! I've worked with you for years, McKay.
I know this sounds crazy, but just listen okay?"
McKay looked at him like he'd grown two heads, but he just muttered under his breath,
"Still not buying it, but whatever."
"Thanks for giving in so gracefully. Anyway, there are these guys we call the
Ancients. They were around about 10,000 years ago."
"No, Homo sapiens like us, but from another galaxy."
"Oh sure, yeah, evolution be damned, hmm?"
"Shut up, McKay, we're the second evolution. Or something."
"So humans existed before humans existed, right, got it."
"Yeah, well, something like that," Sheppard rubbed his temples where he could
feel a headache starting. "So they had all this cool technology. We use it to travel
to other planets and we've just found out how to get to another galaxy."
"Cool space ships?"
"Oh yeah, seriously cool."
"How many heads?"
"Oh, no, they all look human. Well, not all, mostly though. I mean, there were these
guys all made of mist, and we've met a few odd ones. Actually, there are also these snake
guys, but that's not important, yeah, most are human looking."
"I bet they're all really hot and speak English, too."
"Um, yeah, something like that. I'm not sure about the English thing, though, it's
something to do with going through the Stargate, it changes your brain so that you
understand what other people are saying."
"Not a universal translator, then? Or a babble fish in the ear?"
"You're never going to believe me, are you?" John sighed.
"Nope, probably not. Maybe. I mean, it's really cool, though, even if it's nuts. At
least you're not asking to spank me or something, though. But we've been at this a while,
I think your $20 is starting to run out and no, I still dont really believe any of
this. You know how utterly improbable it all is? Time travelling air force pilots who talk
to aliens and snakes that walk through galaxy gates? Not exactly making a lot of
scientific sense here."
"You're the one who understands this stuff, not me! I just
go along with it.
Anything I need to know about the Stargates or how it all works I just ask you. You're the
expert in this stuff!"
"I am?" Even if he claimed didn't believe it, McKay was perking up at being
called an expert in something. John was sure he had Rodney hooked now.
"Foremost expert in Ancient technology on Earth, yes. That's why
I mean, you
have to have some propensity for understanding this stuff even if you don't believe me.
You love this stuff, you take to all these alien technologies like a duck to water, I just
some sort of insight or I don't know, just try, okay?"
McKay silently held out his hands, showing them empty, no technology, no science at his
finger tips, nothing that he could offer John in the way of aid.
"I'm stuck, aren't I?" John finally said. "I guess
I do know how a
lot of football games play out in the future, I could gamble on those, get some fake ID.
Maybe this is what's meant to be. Maybe this is what really happened, I never do go back.
Maybe I just stay here, stop you selling yourself, get you on the right track or
"I'm on the right track! I'm doing fine. What I do is none of your business!"
"Sorry, I don't mean to sound judgemental, I'm sure you're doing what you have to in
order to survive. But seriously, McKay, why dont you get a job in McDonald's or
"What, at three dollars an hour? Do you know how brilliant I am? I'm not wasting my
brains on something like that! I have a few steady clients and I can make $200 an hour
catering to a couple of kinky old guys with a schoolboy uniform fetish, although I've got
to say that streetwalking can be a major waste of my valuable time," Rodney gave John
a snide look, "so you don't get to judge me and what I do. I survive and if anything
you've said is true then I'm going to be very important one day!"
"Yes, that's true, but do you know the damage syphilis will do to your brain? AIDS?
You do know about AIDS, right?"
"Oh, be serious, I know how to use a condom, Colonel. I'm not a complete idiot."
"Yeah, it's none of my business, I guess." John sat quietly for a moment and
thought about how much time he'd spent here and how hungry he was. If he was hungry, McKay
would be about ready to eat his head. "Hey, can I buy you a burger?"
"Oh sure", McKay jumped to his feet. "That's the only thing you've said
that doesn't sound completely nuts!"
John stood to follow him. "I just
I shouldn't have been playing with the time
tube thing, I suppose. Maybe this will teach me listen when you tell me not to touch
"Hah, well, thirty more dollars and you can touch whatever you want," McKay
winked over his shoulder. "Hey, are you my boyfriend in the future?"
Rodney looked pissed at John's shocked denial, so John continued hastily. "I
I thought you were straight, anyway. You're always talking about this one
"What's she like?" Rodney asked eagerly.
"Tall, blonde, brilliant
"Oh, wow! Are we married? Are there kids? I don't like kids, really, but I think with
a brain like mine I'm kind of obligated to pass on my genes for the benefit of
actually, not to disappoint you, but I think it's all a bit one sided.
You're a lot more keen on her than she is on you."
"Oh, well, that sucks. Am I like fat or something?"
"No, no, you're um
" John made a vague gesture. "Big shoulders.
You know. Arms."
"And you dont go for guys with big shoulders?" Rodney asked with a grin.
"No, well, it's not just that, I mean, I like women. And anyway, the military
"Still? Even in the future? Well, that's disappointing. I always hoped that things
would be better in the future, but I suppose racism and homophobia and violence and all
that bad stuff, that's just part and parcel of humanity, isn't it? That's why people like
me, brilliant people, should be encouraged more and supported, and not wasting our time
having to support ourselves like this so that we have more time to solve all of humanity's
"Well, I suppose if anyone is going to solve humanity's problems, it'd be you,
Rodney," John said with a smirk.
"Stop humouring me, Colonel. It's completely unnecessary. I'm fully aware of my
"Shut up. Anyway, it's a shame your time tube thing didn't have a remote control or
something. You'd think that people who travelled the galaxies would have some sort of fail
"Most of their stuff did, I guess I didn't notice this time."
They walked together out of the building, and John followed McKay toward what he guessed
was McKay's favourite diner.
"So how does their stuff usually work?"
"Well, usually I just think at it. Like, I think 'on' and it turns on, it responds to
"Ah, voodoo, wand-waving, pseudo-science, no wonder you ended up stranded,"
Rodney said with a wave of his hand that said stupid things like that wouldn't happen if
he was in charge of inventing the time machines. "Well, maybe that's all you have to
do this time. I mean, maybe you don't have the technology in your hand, maybe it still
responds to your thoughts. Maybe all you have to do is click your ruby heels together and
think 'there's no place like home' and
John closed his eyes, listening to the pitch and squeak of McKay's voice and thought about
that same voice a little deeper, and the room he'd been in, and smacked his face into
something that wasn't quite plexiglass
"Colonel!" Lieutenant Keller's voice was sharply surprised and obviously
John opened the door properly and stepped out of the time tube into the same laboratory in
"I'm home? I'm home." He gave a small wave to Lieutenant Keller and looked
around, breathing a sigh of relief. "How long was I gone?"
"A few hours, Colonel, everyone's been panicking. McKay and the other scientists have
been tearing through the data base trying to find a way to get you home again. I'll let
everyone know you're back."
The Lieutenant started talking into his radio, announcing John's return. Zelenka skated
into the lab followed by several relieved looking white coats. No sign of McKay, though.
John wanted to see him, to make sure he hadn't actually changed anything with his
unexpected trip through time, but he had an idea that might have to wait.
"How did you get back?" Zelenka snapped.
"Good to see you, too, Radek. I just went and found young McKay, asked him how to
return to this time. He told me how, so now I'm back."
"Just like that?"
"Yep, just like that."
"So you return how?"
"Just had to think about it. Simple, really. Trust McKay to work that out, huh?
Lieutenant Keller? I'm going to the infirmary, check out that this trip didn't do any
damage, and I want you to post a guard on this lab. No one gets in or out under any
circumstances, not even Doctor McKay, understood?"
It didn't take too long to get released from Carson's lair and he put off the inevitable
talk with Elizabeth about the military benefits of the Time Tube (and there had been some
arguments over his calling it that, but he used it first so he got to name it) until later
on the excuse he was just too tired after his trip to go into things in any great detail.
He also just wasn't all that sure this thing would be of great help. If all it did was let
things be exactly as they already were, then it was almost impossible to tell when it
would be needed, never mind find a way to use it against the Wraith. John's trip certainly
hadn't seemed to have changed anything, although of course he was sure Rodney would tell
him how if the future had been changed, maybe he wouldn't even recognise that it had been
or something equally mind bending about time paradoxes.
Except that he hadn't seen McKay since he'd returned. That wasn't at all surprising. It
was likely that McKay was having completely paranoid fits about the kind of knowledge that
John now had. Did McKay remember his visit, and if so, why hadn't he recognised John from
before his trip? Or had he? These were things they could discuss later, once McKay had
calmed down and realised that John wasn't going to use this against him in their ongoing
mutual torment sessions. He couldn't raise his usual level of glee about teasing McKay
over this. Whenever he thought what great blackmail material this could be, he flashed
back to how young and vulnerable Rodney had been, and all he could feel was fury that any
family would leave a sixteen year old kid to fend for himself like that, specially someone
as special as McKay. No wonder he'd grown up so
He wanted to believe he would be above using something like this to torment or tease
McKay, but certainly the knowledge was eating at him. There was just no way he could
No. It wasn't any of his business. He turned to pace the tiny space of his room, door to
What would Johnny Cash do? he asked himself, stopping to stare at the poster over his bed.
"What do you think, Johnny? The poor and the beaten down, livin' in the hopeless and
hungry side of town?"
He flipped open his lap top, and set up an email cc'd to every member of the military on
"Out in front, there ought to be a man in black," he sang softly to himself as
he carefully composed his note.
John fussed over every word, requesting complete confidentially and any cash that any of
them had brought with them. He figured that a lot of the people who came on the expedition
would be like himself, comfortable knowing they had a few dollars to make getting around a
bit easier when returning to the SGC; a couple of bucks to get something from a candy
vending machine, buy a cup of coffee, rent a no-questions-asked hotel room while on leave.
He gave his word that all cash would be refunded as soon as John could arrange it, and
within minutes there were knocks at his door, marines with their game faces on to hide
their curiosity, handing over crisp new notes or rumpled and dirty wads of cash. He spent
some time counting it, writing down every name so he could repay it all later. He couldn't
help noticing 'Best of luck!' written on a hundred dollar note and wondered if that had
come from some mother or father, someone left behind in another galaxy who had no idea
that money was going to be no good where their child was headed. He counted and noted and
said thank you until his hands were black with the ink and muck of all the accumulated
He stuffed it all into a gym bag, piled on some chocolate bars, a few of his new shirts
and a pair of socks, anything he thought he could spare. Then he changed his mind and took
out the shirts and socks, because there was a point at which charity became patronising.
Besides, comfortable socks were damned hard to find in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Lieutenant Slaviat saluted him smartly as he returned to the lab with the Time Tube, and
he locked the door behind him. "Twenty years ago Rodney McKay," he said again
and marvelled at how smooth the trip seemed to be. There wasn't a moment of
disorientation, he just found himself standing on a street again, watching some guy in a
crumpled business suit press McKay up against a wall.
McKay was grinning at the guy, apparently trying to organise payment terms, and the
business man was furtively checking out the area while he ran a hand up McKay's arms and
asked him what John considered to be very inappropriate questions for a man of that age to
be asking a teenage boy.
"Move along, sir" John said, his voice calm.
"Hey, man, you can't come here telling me what to do
" but the man shut up
really quickly when John calmly pushed the barrel of his gun into the man's cheek.
"I'm moving, I'm moving
" McKay looked at him, eyes huge and blue. "You you
"Don't call me a 'you you'," John said and smirked his most charming smirk.
"You vanished! You just vanished into thin air!"
"Yep. It worked. You were right, I just had to think myself back to my own time.
Thanks for that."
"Yep, got that. Time travel, McKay, remember what I told you?"
"Time travel, stargates, aliens
" McKay wasn't quite babbling.
"Yep. All that and more. There are many wonders awaiting you in the future, McKay,
and I don't want to sound like an after school special here, but seriously, you deserve
than doing this!" Sheppard waved a hand up and down the street in
"Oh, sure," McKay drew himself up to his full height. "The whole world owes
me a living because I'm brilliant and apparently have a wonderful future fighting space
vampires to look forward to. Do you have any idea how expensive my education is? Believe
me, Mr Hot Air Force guy, if I had a choice, I wouldn't be out here, but this is the most
logical option I have at this time. Anyway, it's probably only going to be like this for a
few more months, then I hope to get at least two of my scholarships coming in, and there's
a chance the CIA will actually start funding me properly, at least enough to cover my rent
and I dont see what business this is of yours, but um, how did you vanish
John grinned as the outraged rant changed to the eager seeking of knowledge. "Don't
worry about the space vampires, and I'm sure you'll work out the whole time travel thing
once you get a chance to take that machine apart. Come on, let's go get that burger I
"Yeah, and the thirty dollars. Also, you just chased away that guy and he was so into
me, so that makes eighty you owe me now."
"Okay?" McKay started leading him back to the burger joint, just as led by his
stomach at this age as he was in John's time. "Because seriously, I need that to make
my rent this week. I don't want to have to work tomorrow night as well, I've got way too
much stuff to do to be out here wasting my time."
"Well, yes, I mean, if you work with me in the future you obviously know how
important I am. Going to be. I am, right? You said I was. Going to be."
"You are. Very."
"Oh. Cool." McKay grinned widely. "Here. They do good burgers here. Hey,
does your money have like dates from the future on it? Be careful where you pass that,
then, you dont want people thinking you're passing counterfeit."
"Hey, you!" the woman behind the counter shouted angrily at them. "I told
you never to come in here again! I'm going to call the police!"
"He's paying!" McKay said, and John obediently handed over payment upfront for
the massive quantity of food that McKay ordered, which pacified her, but she still gave
him a filthy look, which John supposed was to be expected for a guy in his late thirties
who hung around with someone like McKay.
"Sorry about that, Colonel. Sometimes I do a runner from these places."
"Rodney," John leaned forward as they waited for their food to arrive. "The
way you're living
you're not on drugs, are you?"
"Excuse me? Extremely valuable brain here!" McKay pointed to his head. "I'm
hardly going to do something that stupid. Frying my brain would totally negate all the
work I've had to do to get here in the first place!"
"Well, that's good to hear."
Food appeared and disappeared pretty quickly, Rodney shovelling it with the same
enthusiasm that Ronon had shown when they'd first brought him aboard. John had to agree,
these were pretty good burgers. At least he was getting some good food out of this weird
"You know, Rodney. I always pictured you
something. Like your parents would have been
"Really," McKay said, giving John a disbelieving eyebrow quirk, mouthful of
fries on display.
"Yeah. I mean, when I first met you, you didn't seem
know. I just didn't see you being such an alley cat."
McKay grinned, apparently flattered at the allusion. "Huh. I'm full of surprises. So
what's your name, anyway? You never did tell me."
"You'll find out. In about twenty years." John didn't overlook how Rodney had
shifted attention away from himself, but he didn't push it. "I'm thinking, when I get
back, I'm going to try to disable the Time Tube. It would be just too much of a
temptation. Then again, I don't know. I'll have to talk to you about it when I get back.
Get your input, you'll probably have a better idea of how to utilise it."
"Because I'm brilliant," McKay said, slurping up the last of his chocolate shake
loudly, already eyeing the pie behind the counter.
"You are. Now, I have to go back to my own time again, but before I go," John
put the gym bag on the table. "I'm serious here, McKay. It doesn't matter if you
think you can look after yourself, or if you think you're safe, you're not. This is not a
healthy life style or a clever choice. You're better than this, okay? Just go back to
school and focus on your studies and I'll see you in twenty years."
"What's in the bag? Is that for me? What am I better than? Hang on," Rodney
stood as John got up to leave, "I have more questions!"
John shook his head and waved Rodney to sit down again and left the diner, easing down
beside the building where no one could see him. He closed his eyes and concentrated
and stepped out of the Time Tube again.
He was tired now, not just faking it to get away from Carson, and kicked off his shoes as
soon as he got to his room. It was late, he estimated that it was close to 3:00 a.m.
Atlantis time now, but someone who obviously didn't read their watch knocked on his door.
Groaning, he went to answer it.
"McKay," he wasn't sure if he was surprised to see McKay this quickly or not.
But then McKay was never one for backing down from a confrontation. It was comforting,
John thought, to see McKay fully grown into his eyebrows, shoulders like a football line
backer, muscles where there had been bones before. Seeing Rodney as he was supposed to be
filled John with a feeling of warm comfort. This was John's time and he was more
comfortable here, with these people as they now were, in this place, than at any other
time in his life. Space vampires and all.
McKay silently handed him a yellow envelope that looked like it had been carried around
for a long time. He took it, raising a questioning eye brow before looking inside. He
didn't have to count the notes there to know that he'd just been repaid all the money.
"I've been carrying that around for years. I didn't recognise you, though, until
today. I mean, I remembered that some guy had given me that money, but it
have your face really. In my mind
it was like," McKay stuttered, trying to
explain. "There was
you didn't look like
"It hadn't happened then, I think. Or something. I dont know, McKay, you can
probably explain it better than I can."
"Yeah, I'll have to
think about it or something. Anyway, I had to give you
that. You always said you'd see me again in twenty years, so as soon as I could, I started
saving the money so I could pay you back. I don't know how you managed to get that here,
or why you'd carry so much cash around anyway, but I added some interest, and I didn't
even take out the eighty dollars you owe me. You're not getting the chocolate back,
"Of course not," Sheppard grinned. Money they had plenty of and couldn't spend.
Chocolate, though, was more precious than gold.
"I trust that
" McKay shuffled awkwardly, hands twisting, not meeting
John's eyes. "What I did
"We all have to do things to survive that not everyone would understand."
"That's true, but-"
"Nothing I learned will ever go further than you and me."
"Thank you, Colonel." McKay still looked nervous, but he took that at face value
and turned to go. "Oh, and Colonel?"
it really made a difference, okay? What you did."
"It meant a lot to know that one day I'd know someone who would do something like
that for me, even if it was just so I'd be able to save your life in this time. I was
really looking forward to meeting him. You. You know. I can't believe I didn't recognise
John gave him a deliberately lopsided grin, "Goodnight, McKay."
"Yeah, uh, goodnight, and yeah, thanks again," McKay waved over his shoulder and
entered the transporter.
"Goodnight, alley cat," John said once he'd vanished.
Why this story when it's just all so awfully unlikely? I was complaining to friends (while
a little bit drunk) that SGA fandom is sadly short on the hoary old fandom classics of elf
fic and prostitute fic. The Professionals was always full of elves, HP fandom is full of
prostitutes and Lord of the Rings has loads of Prostitute Elves! So rosemending
and edgehd and slashingthefox
dared me to write this. There are no elves in this story. Despite John's ears.
Also, go look at photos of David Hewlett when he was a teenager. All eyebrows and legs.
And blond hair. I think he looks better now, but he was kind of a hottie then, too. A
When I first thought of this fic, I thought I'd write John going back in time to every bad
time in Rodney's life pre-Atlantis and helping or just being there or whatever. You know,
he asks Rodney for a list of 'dates' when Rodney thinks John might have helped him out or
something. Except one time John gets there and it's a small Christmas party with Rodney
and his friends and they have beer and play silly games and laugh a lot and when John gets
back he's like 'What the
?' and Rodney says, 'hey, I haven't had a totally horrible
life, I just thought you might like some fun for a change'. And the story would end with
Rodney asking John for a list of his 'dates' and awwwwww.
But that would have taken forever to write, and I'm not prepared to invest that much time
in crappy fic anymore.
Note on the story Title: From the Johnny Cash song that John sings in this story, "Man In
Black". Isn't Johnny Cash just the shizzle now? He's so Emo! If he was born
today, he'd be all about the eyeliner. Black eyeliner and lots of it.