sholio: Sheppard sitting on Atlantis stairs (Sheppard moody)
[personal profile] sholio posting in [community profile] sga_flashfic
Title: Voyage of the Wraith Hunter
Author: [livejournal.com profile] friendshipper
Rating: PG or so
Pairing: former Teyla/Kanaan is implied; current John/Teyla (very background)
Word Count: 3200
Summary: "We always thought you were a legend," the Traveler captain says. Takes place ten years or so post-canon. Based on this, of course.
Notes: Kind of post-apocalyptic. Some character deaths are mentioned.



They drop out of hyperspace into a friggin' firefight, of course, because that's the way their luck runs. Two cruisers and one Traveler ship are blowing the hell out of each other. There's no way they can make a difference with one little hyperdrive-equipped jumper with a dwindling supply of drones.

John cloaks. Ronon glances at him. "Now what?"

"I don't know. Give me a minute." This isn't what they do. They're a tiny, fast-moving strike team — in and out before the Wraith knew what hit them. They sabotage Wraith ships, rescue prisoners, infiltrate on-planet facilities. They don't go up against cruisers in a dogfight, because there's no way they can win.

They get a radio hail from the Traveler ship before John has time to think about it, though. "This is the Swift Abiding Joy. We picked up your hyperspace window, stranger, but cannot read your ship now. Are you here to help us, or our enemies?"

John glances over at Ronon and shrugs. "This is the Wraith Hunter," he says, and hears an intake of breath on the other end of the connection.

"We always thought you were a legend," the Traveler captain says. "Or one of Larrin's flights of fancy."

John grins. They've done a lot to keep it that way, traveling the galaxy in a cloaked ship, seeding rumor and misinformation as often as truth. "Not a legend, and we're on your side," he says. "What can we do to help?"



******




It's been ten years since he and Ronon stole a hyperdrive-equipped jumper and came home without Atlantis. They're both feeling their lifestyle a little more these days. Ronon has a permanent limp after falling off a hundred-foot cliff and breaking both legs. John hasn't suffered anything that dramatic, but he has scars — they both do — and he can tell that he doesn't run as fast these days, and it takes him a little longer to wake up in the mornings.

But in the meantime, they've built a wild and crazy reputation for themselves as Wraith hunters of legend — the men who can get things done. They rarely stay long in one place, but they have connections on dozens of trading worlds where messages can be passed to them.

They can't help everyone who needs it. For every family they rescue from the Wraith, every village that's freed, every new recruit they add to Teyla's ever-growing interplanetary network of freedom fighters, there are a thousand names to add to the infinite tally of Wraith victims and Wraith devastation.

But they're doing all they can.



******




"I'm Clevin, by the way," the Traveler captain says, after John's latest crazy plan, Ronon's ridiculously stealthy ability to sneak on and off Wraith ships without being noticed, and the Travelers' Frankenstein-esque cobbled-together technology have saved the day. The Wraith cruiser is so many pieces of glowing debris burning up in the atmosphere of the planet below them, and they've brought the jumper into the docking bay of the Swift Abiding Joy for repairs.

"Nice to meet you, ma'am." All Traveler ships, with rare exceptions, are run by female captains. John remembers being told once, by an anthropologist back on Atlantis, that Pegasus had a far greater than expected number of matriarchies and female leaders. The anthropology department had hypothesized that it was the Wraith influence, leaving a lasting mark on the human societies they encountered. John is vaguely curious about that, but he certainly knows better than to bring it up to any of his Pegasus friends.

"We can fix your ship, if you will allow us to study its systems." Clevin and her engineers have been looking over the jumper, brisk and curious and efficient. She gives him a quick look, to see if he'll argue, but John just shrugs. He doesn't care if they reverse-engineer some of the jumper's modifications. Hell, it can only come in handy, especially if he and Ronon run into the Swift Abiding Joy again.

"That'd be appreciated."

Good mechanics are hard to find in a galaxy where most worlds are still figuring out the steam engine. But the Travelers are the best anywhere. Raised on ships, most of them learn basic mechanics and engineering by the time they're out of diapers, the way other kids learn that cows go moo and sheep go baa. They won't fix anything unless they feel they've been appropriately compensated, but helping to save a ship full of people from a Wraith cruiser is pretty good payment.

"We can drop you off at your homeworld, if you like," Clevin says. She's obviously fishing for information, but John can't blame her. After all, she's been lucky (or unlucky) enough to encounter the mysterious, half-mythical Wraith Hunter, the ghost ship that appears when people are in trouble and vanishes afterwards. The fact that they jumped into the middle of her desperate battle for survival was a total accident, but it'll just add to the legend as the story spreads.

He names an uninhabited star system that's a short hyperspace hop from New New Athos — John's private joke; the Athosians just call it Athos — and also about a half-dozen other, equally well-populated worlds. There's no way she can guess where he's headed from that much information, and John likes it that way.



******




John doesn't think about Atlantis much anymore. It's still back in the Milky Way — it must be, because surely the return of the City of the Ancestors to the Pegasus Galaxy would have made enough of an impression that one of Teyla's connections would have passed it along to them. He tells himself that he doesn't miss it, that he doesn't miss Earth, and it's mostly true. That was another lifetime.

He misses football sometimes. There are similar games on many worlds, but somehow it's not quite the same. He misses pizza. He misses the Internet, being able to look up all that information on anything with a few keystrokes. There have been a lot of times when it would have come in handy.

He misses the Air Force. He misses people he used to know.

He misses indoor plumbing.

But mostly, he doesn't think about it.



******




The Swift Abiding Joy lets them out in an asteroid field. A red sun hangs in the jumper's windshield, and the Joy's hyperspace window winks out beside it.

"Athos?" Ronon says, and John nods.

They haven't been back in a while. John doesn't think of it as home — the jumper is home, the Pegasus Galaxy is home, but no single world or town has been, not since Atlantis. But it's been awhile since he saw Teyla.

The little Athosian village that he remembers has grown, over the years, into a good-sized town. With their numbers depleted by Michael's predations, the surviving Athosians have welcomed displaced refugees of all worlds, and now John figures that there must be ten thousand people here. So far, they haven't come to the attention of the Wraith. Of course, the Wraith aren't what they used to be — weakened by internal struggles, weakened still further by constant harassment from the Coalition and the freedom fighter network.

Still, each time when he flies through the Athos gate, John half-expects to see smoking ruins where a thriving town once stood. It's happened too many times on other worlds. But the town they've begun calling Athos City is just as he remembered — maybe a little bigger, even, with some new neighborhoods where there used to be fields and forests.

When she's home, Teyla lives with her family and some of her close Athosian friends at a compound on the edge of the town. Teyla's compound is a little village-within-a-city — a collection of skin-covered houses, very like the ones John remembers on the edge of the lake all those years ago, within a palisade wall around it. The town is big enough now to have crime, and gangs, and even the creeping whisper of Wraith worship. Most of the refugees the Athosians have taken in are decent, hard-working people who welcome their new lives. But in a galaxy as fundamentally broken as this one, where so many families and cultures have been shattered, it's unsurprising to John that there is crime, violence and desperation; he's only surprised that he doesn't see more of it. A testament to the resilience of these people, he thinks as he sets down the cloaked jumper in Teyla's compound.

A light rain is falling, and Torren is playing under an awning with his sister Siva and with Halling's two young grandchildren. "John! Uncle Ronon!" He runs to greet them, with Siva scampering along behind.

"What did you bring me?" Siva asks, as Ronon sweeps her up onto a broad shoulder.

"Mercenary little kid," Ronon tells John.

John nods. "I don't know what Teyla's been teaching them."

"I heard that." Teyla comes to meet them, in her training clothes with sweat glistening on her toned arms and forehead, and takes each of them into a quick, stylized Athosian greeting hug. She holds it with John somewhat longer than with Ronon. When they break apart, she is smiling and her eyes hold promise for later.

Kanaan's been dead for almost four years now, which is about as long as Teyla and John have been dancing around whatever it is that they have. There's no place right now in their lives for each other. John and Ronon are doing what they do, and Teyla is doing what she does — running the freedom fighter network and supervising a growing city while raising her children. She can't pull up roots and take off in a little jumper, any more than John and Ronon are willing to settle down and become farmers.

John suspects that one of these days he'll come back to find that someone new has taken up residence in the compound: someone who's there in her bed every night, someone who calls Athos home in a way that John knows he never will. On some level, he hopes she does meet someone new, because Teyla deserves someone who sees her and her kids more often than one day out of every ten. But it hasn't happened yet, and he's selfishly glad for that. It's nice to have a place to come back to.

John and Ronon distribute candy for the smaller kids, who run off chattering among themselves. Torren tags along after the adults, looking serious and clearly attempting to cultivate a dignified grown-up air.

"Will you be staying for a while, or do you have to move on?" Teyla asks. John can see her checking them both over with quick glances — looking for fresh bandages or new scars, probably.

He and Ronon share a look; Ronon lifts a shoulder in a small shrug.

"A few days, I guess," John says.

Teyla smiles, and takes his hand. "There is a new eating-house in town that serves excellent Kodorian cuisine. I would like to take you both there. And we have another guest for dinner, as well."

John starts to ask who, but just then, Jennifer Keller emerges from one of the houses across the compound, shades her eyes against the sun, and waves before starting over.



******




Keller had been a surprise.

John hadn't had any idea that she'd end up coming back with them. He hadn't expected she'd want to, and he hadn't wanted her to know about their plans in the first place. The only people who knew about it in the beginning were his team and Carson, and the only reason why they told Carson was because John knew Earth made him miserable — it did little more than remind him of who he wasn't, and what he'd lost. John knew that there might be other people on the expedition who'd want to come, but coldly, selfishly, he wasn't about to offer them a chance. They'd get one shot at this, and the more people who knew, the more of a chance that it wouldn't work.

If he could steal Atlantis, he would have. That had been the original plan. Atlantis was well guarded, but even so, they might have had a shot if Rodney hadn't tipped off the SGC to what they were planning.

Rodney had been set against the idea from the beginning. He argued that they finally had the opportunity of a lifetime: to study Atlantis in safety, on Earth, without being constantly interrupted by Wraith attacks and Replicators. They could unlock the secrets of the Ancients here: the construction of ZPMs, of shielding and cloaking technology, of the Stargates themselves. The IOA was willing to fund it, and they'd offered the head-of-research position to him on a silver platter.

In a way, John couldn't blame him for taking them up on it. As much as Rodney liked to claim he did his best thinking under pressure, he'd hated going offworld, being shot at. He'd missed the creature comforts of Earth. Each time Rodney had come back to Pegasus with the rest of them, John had been genuinely surprised.

But despite it all, he hadn't expected Rodney to go to Woolsey, and Woolsey, of course, went straight to the IOA. Who called O'Neill, and before John knew what had happened, the gate room and chair room had been locked down tighter than Fort Knox.

The fact that they weren't all immediately kicked out, security clearance yanked, was a surprise of such magnitude that John could only conclude that O'Neill had been pulling strings behind the scenes for them, giving them one last chance. Their narrow window couldn't last, though, and that was when Plan B — jumper theft — came into play. There was one hyperspace-equipped jumper, but it was treated just like a normal jumper, and was in the jumper bay with the rest of them. John thought it ought to be pretty easy to get to it, because everyone expected them to steal Atlantis, but no one expected them to steal a jumper — why would they bother?

Atlantis was nearly a ghost town at that point, but Jennifer walked in on them when they were filling boxes with medical supplies in the infirmary. For a minute, they all stared at each other. Then she said, "Take me with you."

"Why?" John had said. At that point, he was halfway convinced that it was another attempted betrayal. He was still staggered by what Rodney had done; he wouldn't put anything past anyone just then.

"Because we've been back for two months, and I can see the shape of my life now, and it's just one long echoing gray corridor of nothing." She was talking so fast that her words tumbled over each other. "I thought I wanted to come back. To Earth, I mean. But now I'm back and — and I can't just forget that there's a whole universe out there, and go to Target and Olive Garden like it doesn't even matter. Here, I'm another cog in a big machine. Out there, I can make a difference. Out there, I mean something."

"You know this is a one-way trip, right?"

"I know," she'd said, white-faced but calm.

John had expected it would take her maybe two days in hyperspace, trapped in a too-small jumper with the rest of them, to change her mind, though of course by then it would be much too late. But she'd proven him wrong.

Sometimes people surprise you. In Rodney's case, it had been a very unpleasant surprise. In Keller's case, it was a good one.



******




She's wearing a long leather coat, and there's a gun on her hip. Three years ago, a panicked Wraith survivor slashed her across the face; the scar twists from just below her hairline to the edge of her jaw, narrowly missing her right eye. When she hugs John after greeting Ronon, he can feel the solid, wiry muscle under her leathers.

John never has been close to Keller. He's always liked her well enough, just doesn't have anything in common with her. They still aren't close, but he thinks they understand each other better now.

"How's life in the itinerant clinic business?"

"It's all right." She laughs. "The Coalition wants to register us. They've been hassling us at some of our regular stops to obtain a medical license, but I can't afford the fees. It just figures — I thought I came out here to get away from bureaucracy, you know?"

She's the sole proprietor of the clinic now. She and Carson had run it together until his death at the hands of the Wraith, six years ago. John isn't sure whether she and Carson were lovers, and he's never asked. But they all keep losing people. It never ends.

"Are you staying for dinner?" Keller asks. "Teyla says there's this new restaurant —"

"Kodorian. My favorite," John says, wondering who the heck the Kodorians are, and hoping that they don't serve anything too weird.

The restaurant is located in one of the new parts of town. John remembers when this was all just woods and meadows. Now there are muddy streets lined with houses of rough-cut, unseasoned wood. Teyla has been trying to control and plan the growth of the city as best she can; she and John have stayed up late some nights with their heads together over hand-drawn maps of the area, talking about water supplies and the germ theory of disease, trying to avoid epidemics, mudslides and other hazards of rapid, uncontrolled development. But John sometimes feels like they're reaching the runaway-snowball stage anyway, when all you can do is get out of its way and let the snowball keep rolling. There's a town council now, he hears, to assist Teyla and Halling in running the place. And the Coalition has already come knocking a few times, first politely asking and then pressuring them to join. If it comes to it, he and Ronon have already pledged the Wraith Hunter to defend the town's independence.

Kodorian food turns out to be pretty good: flatbread wrapped around spicy meat and stir-fried vegetables. They eat on the restaurant's veranda, while a gold and pink evening settles on the world. The air smells like rain, and the deck is still wet, but the storms have moved into the mountains and there are only a few clouds mottling the brilliant sky. On the edge of the veranda, Torren supervises the play of the younger children; their laughter rings bright and clear in the evening air.

John looks around the table at his companions. He will not see peace in his lifetime, he knows, even if he does manage to live to an old age — which he doubts. But this is what he fights for, what he's always fought for: these moments of peace and tranquility, with good food and conversation and laughter. It's the life he's chosen — in the Air Force, on Atlantis, and now in the Wraith Hunter — and he doesn't regret a damn thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 03:20 am (UTC)
kazbaby: (Back to Back (Sheppard/Ronon))
From: [personal profile] kazbaby
Wow! This was really really good. I love the little details that I hadn't expected peppered throughout the story.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perspi.livejournal.com
That is bittersweet, and twisty, and heartclenching, and wonderful. I love that John catalogs and keeps track of all the ways their lifestyle has changed them, I love that Ronon and John have stayed together as brothers-in-arms, and yes, I even love the surprises you threw in there.

Excellent!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 04:00 am (UTC)
rhianona: (Ronon)
From: [personal profile] rhianona
Lots of fun. I like the hints we get of their life in Pegasus. Also, I thought it interesting that Rodney betrayed them and Jennifer came with them. Nice twist. Glad John finally acknowledges at least to himself, what Teyla means to him, even if he won't act on it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 04:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sgafan.livejournal.com
Wow! The whole story is great but I think the last line tugged at me more than anything:

"John looks around the table at his companions. He will not see peace in his lifetime, he knows, even if he does manage to live to an old age — which he doubts. But this is what he fights for, what he's always fought for: these moments of peace and tranquility, with good food and conversation and laughter. It's the life he's chosen — in the Air Force, on Atlantis, and now in the Wraith Hunter — and he doesn't regret a damn thing."

That is just... wow. So John Sheppard.

Lovely work! I love the detail! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 05:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ninja007.livejournal.com
This was incredibly good! Very well written. As usual.

Loved this. It's a keeper!!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 11:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gaffsie.livejournal.com
This was awesome. I can believe that they'd end up just like this.

Sometimes people surprise you. In Rodney's case, it had been a very unpleasant surprise.

That must have been such a gut-punch for them.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 11:54 am (UTC)
ext_24338: (John 1)
From: [identity profile] leesa-perrie.livejournal.com
Heart wrenching in places and some good twists! I like how you were able to tell so much about their life in such a short fic!

Rodney's betrayal hurts - and yet it is a believable possibility! If they stole Atlantis, he'd never get to see Jeannie and Madison again, and I think now that they've been reconciled, he'd find that hard. So, yes, plausible - if painful!!

Excellent!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] leesa-perrie.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-08-20 02:47 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 12:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kassrachel.livejournal.com
Oh, this is wonderful! Your characterization of Rodney makes me sad -- that's not how I want to imagine things going down -- but I love what you've done with John and Ronon and Teyla and Keller.
Edited Date: 2010-08-20 12:07 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 12:12 pm (UTC)
ratcreature: RatCreature as Ronon (ronon)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
This was very cool.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 01:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildcat88.livejournal.com
I really enjoyed this. The details - Traveler captains being female, Ronon's limp, Keller's scar, Halling's grandchildren - make it so rich that I felt like I was there. Heartbreaking but filled with determination. Excellent.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bratfarrar.livejournal.com
This--this I could see happening, although I'd like to think it wouldn't have to. But if it did, this is exactly how things would fall out. (It would be a very cool TV show.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 02:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thatratorpheus.livejournal.com
Just awesome. I would so watch a TV show like this - you've got all kinds of srcs and little threads set up to make people wonder what will happen next. And who knows, maybe in a moment when everybody's feeling comfortable and it's time for a cliff-hanger, Rodney will show up to throw everything off balance. :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 02:48 pm (UTC)
ext_24338: (Rodney 48 Hours)
From: [identity profile] leesa-perrie.livejournal.com
Definitely would second Rodney turning up to throw things off balance!! *g*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 02:40 pm (UTC)
ext_19377: (Default)
From: [identity profile] tieleen.livejournal.com
I like this end (or not-end) for John, and this view of the world around him, the details and the bigger things. And Keller really was a lovely surprise.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-20 03:47 pm (UTC)
ext_1810: (J&R penguins snowy)
From: [identity profile] mrshamill.livejournal.com
Holy cow, that was just amazing. Such a depth to the story, I could feel and almost hear the backstory in my head as I read this. Mark me down as someone who wants to read more, because this felt like just a teaser to an epic.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-21 06:40 am (UTC)
tielan: Wonder Woman (SGA - john 2)
From: [personal profile] tielan
Oh, sweet!

I figured that if anyone was going to write this, they'd write it exactly as Flanigan suggested it and leave Teyla behind because she's "unimportant". I was all ready to do that flinching thing that you do when you just know the blow is coming and waiting for it to hit, when it turns out Teyla's still around!

Thanks for not leaving her behind. Although it is sad about Rodney. And unexpected about Keller. The little backstory about the SGC shutting them down was brilliant. In my head, Jack knew what they were doing and gave them a second chance with something smaller - only a tiny chance, a sliver of hope. Which is why ten years have passed and no-one's come after them.

I love the little bits and pieces of Pegasus society and culture, the Travellers, the Coalition (and their unsubtle 'one government' tactics), and all the little bits and pieces.

Really well done!

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] tielan - Date: 2010-09-04 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] tielan - Date: 2010-09-04 05:31 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] harmne.livejournal.com - Date: 2013-03-01 10:07 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] harmne.livejournal.com - Date: 2013-03-01 11:26 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] harmne.livejournal.com - Date: 2013-03-03 12:04 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-21 09:03 am (UTC)
ext_2027: (Default)
From: [identity profile] astridv.livejournal.com
I loved it! Great take on the prompt, I really love where you've taken the characters. This made my morning.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-22 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kriadydragon.livejournal.com
Very cool and very interesting. I like how unexpected it was, that it wasn't all neat and tidy, with Rodney turning them in and Jennifer going instead of Rodney. Excellent twist, bittersweet in a way that works and works well.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-22 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kristen999.livejournal.com
Wow, this was awesome. You packed so much into very few words, spanning years. This was truly believable, even Rodney's betrayal which really hurt, but didn't come out of left field. Keller was a wonderful surprise and I loved the 'legend' of the Wraith Hunter. Wonderful use of Teyla, her hands involved in many ways, but still raising a family. Bittersweet that her and John have this loose relationship that isn't what they'd either deserves, yet..John and Ronon's lives are spent living for the next moment.

Wonderful.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-23 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wedjatqi.livejournal.com
No, no, must have more!! Please.

A great fic, so much packed into so few words. What a future world you created! Wonderful. And please write more...

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] wedjatqi.livejournal.com - Date: 2010-09-05 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand

Wow, this was great!

Date: 2010-08-29 01:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] misty4me.livejournal.com
Not your usual take on the characters and their behaviors. You almost made me like Keller.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-08-29 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] michelel72.livejournal.com
This is really vivid. I hate the thought of Rodney betraying them (by messing up so badly), but you make it make sense. And the imagery Keller with the long coat and gun, plus the growing network of freedom fighters and interplanetary ships, plus the growing pressures of the Coalition to standardize and unify ... I get a sort of proto-Firefly vibe, too, which is also very cool.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-22 06:20 pm (UTC)
ext_417449: Atlantis, 50,000 C.E. (The Last Man) (Default)
From: [identity profile] skaredykat.livejournal.com
Pretty much exactly what [livejournal.com profile] michelel72 said (Oh, Rodney, no! -- but, Space Western and the lawmen! \o/ ). Anyhow, I thought this was really cool. It stands well alone as is, but if there's ever more snippets, I'd certainly enjoy them. :)

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