Chapter Three - Disowned and Dismayed
Everything I do just comes undone
And everything is torn apart
Lyrics from ‘The Hardest Part’ by Coldplay
Rodney and John had stepped through the gate back to the SGC and, thankfully, no one at the SGC had bothered them as they headed out to Canada for the funeral of McKay’s parents. Sheppard was grateful for that, knowing that some of the higher ups wanted to take the opportunity to talk to Rodney in person about the events at Doranda, but in the light of McKay’s personal situation had been persuaded to wait on that. He knew Rodney suspected he would need to defend himself at some point before returning to Atlantis. But right now, he figured that Rodney was fighting enough ghosts from his past without having to rehash his recent mistake as well, especially for people who were probably looking for a scapegoat.
McKay had been strangely quiet since returning to Earth, but he put it down to the stress the guy was under. He knew Rodney wasn’t looking forward to the funeral, hadn’t even wanted to go really. That the astrophysicist was afraid of his sister’s reaction to him being there.
They arrived in Toronto the evening before the funeral was to be held. Rodney had made it quite clear that he didn’t intend to do any more than attend the ceremony, and then go back to the SGC, to face whatever was waiting for him. Get it over with, and then just wait for the Daedalus to arrive from Atlantis, and head back as soon as possible.
John was hoping he could get Rodney to put off the return to the SGC for a day or two, to give him time to deal with the personal problems this was bound to cause. And he had no doubts there would be some problems from all of this. McKay might be doing his best impression of an uncaring individual where his parents’ deaths were concerned, but he knew differently. There was a lot of pain in there, and he didn’t want Rodney anywhere near the SGC when it hit him. And it would hit him, he was sure of that.
And he would be there for him when it did. It was what friends did for each other, and he wasn’t going to abandon McKay when he needed a friend most of all. No matter what he thought of past events, McKay was still a friend, and he intended to make sure the scientist knew that. He hoped it would help settle some of the ghosts lurking in McKay’s past.
There were maybe twenty people in the chapel, which surprised Sheppard. He had expected more. Everyone were paying their respects to McKay’s parents before sitting down for the start of the service. He hadn’t realised it would be an open casket service, and he looked at Rodney, concerned that it might be too much for him. McKay had seen enough dead bodies without seeing his parents’ as well. But Rodney didn’t seemed surprised, so he had probably already known what to expect.
“I suppose I should say my goodbyes.” Rodney said reluctantly, heading down the aisle. Sheppard kept pace with him, trying to ignore the looks from the other mourners. He was a stranger here, and he had a feeling that Rodney was as well to many of these people.
Rodney stopped by his mother’s casket, his face unreadable, then moved on to his father’s. And then turned abruptly and stalked out. Sheppard had to move fast to keep up with him. Crap, but McKay could shift when he wanted to.
He caught up with him outside, leaning against one of the chapel’s walls.
Rodney looked at him, and John was disturbed to see that his eyes were red. It was clear Rodney was holding back tears. McKay looked away.
“Not really,” he whispered. “You know, before I got here, all I felt was relief. Relief that I would never hear them tearing me apart ever again. But now, seeing them…” McKay closed his eyes and turned his head away, trying to get control of his emotions. “They don’t deserve my grief. I shouldn’t feel like this.”
“Hey, they may have been rotten parents, but they were still your parents. It’s bound to affect you. Just means you’re human, like the rest of us.”
“I don’t think I can go through with this.”
Sheppard placed his hand on Rodney’s arm, patting it gently.
“That’s okay. You don’t have to go back in if you don’t feel up to it.”
“I know.” Rodney looked out over the graveyard behind the chapel. “It’s all a sham, you know? This Christian burial.”
“Look, I know you don’t believe, but others do…”
“That’s not what I mean!”
“My parents only ever attended church for christenings, marriages and funerals. They didn’t really believe in God. They thought the bible stories were just stories. Fables made up a long time ago. If they were Christians, they wouldn’t have believed that. So this whole thing is a sham. They weren’t believers, so they shouldn’t be having a religious ceremony.”
“No. It’s all lies and deceit, just like they were. Fitting, I suppose. It’s all about image, not about belief. And that’s how they were, all image. I bet most of the people didn’t know what they were really like. Probably didn’t know about his drinking, for a start. That was secret, after all, they had an image to preserve. An image they need to preserve even in death.”
Rodney fell silent after his outburst. John waited, knowing there was nothing he could say to help right now.
“I should go back in before the service starts.” McKay gave a sour huff of laughter, “they have an image to preserve, and my being there will help preserve it. But I won’t be joining in any of the service. I don’t believe, and I won’t be a hypocrite by pretending otherwise.”
“Okay.” Sheppard said, following McKay back into the chapel. McKay took a seat right at the back, as far from the other mourners as possible, and John sat next to him, offering a silent support.
All through the service, McKay sat stiff and silent. He scowled during the eulogies, obviously disagreeing with every word said. But he kept silent.
When the service ended, they quickly slipped out and McKay moved off to one side so that the other mourners could follow the casket bearers to the graves first. He then moved after them, hanging back.
“So, which one is Jeannie?” John asked.
“The one at the front, with her husband and two sons.”
“Oh. Any other relatives here?”
“No cousins or uncles or aunts?”
“No, we don’t have any cousins and the only aunt we had died some time back. Most of the people here are presumably my parents’ friends and associates, maybe a few of Jeannie’s. I don’t recognise any of them.”
“Is that why you’re hanging back?”
“Huh. They probably don’t know who I am, or if they do, they’ll have heard all the bad things about me. Either way, I don’t intend to go near them.”
They arrived at the two graves, situated next to each other, and remained silent throughout the interment. Afterwards, everyone started to drift away, until only Jeannie and her husband were left at the gravesides. Rodney moved towards her, but stopped when Jeannie’s husband glared at him over his wife’s shoulder. He sighed.
“I guess now isn’t a good time.”
McKay turned to leave, but Sheppard held onto his arm. Jeannie had looked over to Rodney and was now heading his way. McKay turned back, and waited.
“What are you doing here?” Jeannie asked, sounding angry, “come to make sure that they’re really gone?” She looked at him in disgust, “well, you’ve seen for yourself that they are, so you can just go now.”
And with that, she turned her back and walked away, not waiting to hear Rodney’s reply.
Rodney stood there, stunned by her anger, her hatred. Sheppard made a move as if to go after Jeannie, but McKay grabbed his arm.
“She had no right to do that to you.” Sheppard said, incensed at Jeannie’s words. He had never seen his friend looking so dejected before, and all he really wanted to do was shake some sense into McKay’s sister.
“It’s what I suspected. Not what I hoped for, but what I expected. Going after her won’t make any difference.” Rodney turned away, “let’s just go.”
Sheppard stood for a moment, anger warring inside him, but finally relented and headed back to the car with McKay.
As soon as they reached the hotel, McKay disappeared into his room, stating that he wanted to be alone for a while. Sheppard wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, but decided to let him be. He’d check up on Rodney later, drag him off to the restaurant for a meal, or order room service. Whichever seemed appropriate.
In the meantime, he went for a run around the hotel grounds, hoping that he could jog some of his anger at Jeannie and McKay’s parents out. He needed to be calm when he met up with Rodney later.
McKay sat on the couch in his room, trying to hold back tears. There was no way he was going to cry. Not for his parents. Not even for Jeannie. He wasn’t going to let them take him down, hurt him. Not anymore.
But…he hadn’t realised how hard it was going to be, seeing them in their caskets, dead. He hated them, told himself so over and over again…but they were his parents. And deep down, he knew he cared. He just wished he didn’t. After all, they had never really cared for him.
And Jeannie…he knew, he’d known before seeing her, that she still hated him. He shouldn’t have allowed John to talk him into this. He really hadn’t needed to see her hatred for him up front like that. And yet…at least he knew where he stood now. And that was alone. Well, as far as blood relatives went, anyway.
So, who needed them? Who needed her? It was only since being on Atlantis that he had allowed himself to admit that he still cared for Jeannie…but seeing as she didn’t care about him, it was time to let that go. To forget about her. Or, at least, try to. He didn’t need her or her brood. He didn’t need blood relatives.
He had people like John, and Carson, and Radek, maybe even Elizabeth and Teyla. He snorted, even that Ronon, perhaps? Maybe. Who knew? The guy was so taciturn, he almost made Teal’c seem verbose. Hmm, now that could be an interesting situation if the two ever met…
Anyway, going back to his friends, sure, they were still pissed at him for Doranda, but they still cared. John had said so, and he believed him. Had to, or else he really would have no one but himself. And he didn’t want to be alone anymore. He’d spent most of his life alone…so called friends tended to use and then discard him, so he’d given up on friendship. But now…now he had tasted true friendship. And he didn’t want to go back to how he was before.
So, forget about his so called family here on Earth. He had a surrogate family on Atlantis, and he may be in disgrace, but they wouldn’t turn on him. He had to believe that. And that they would forgive him.
And tomorrow…he had a meeting set up in the late afternoon with General Landry and some others to talk about Doranda. No doubt they would be putting all the blame on him…and he was to blame for a lot of the events, he knew. But he wasn’t going to let them blame him for everything. For the loss of a potential weapon, for a start. No one could have made it work, no matter how long it was studied for. He knew that now. Wished he’d realised it before…but he knew it now, and he’d make sure they knew it too.
He sighed. The worst part would be the fact that Sam would be there. And he really didn’t want to have to face that. He knew that any respect he might have earned from her was probably gone. Would be after the meeting, for certain. And that hurt more than he wanted to admit.
If he was honest, and right now he seemed to be being honest with himself, he knew she barely tolerated him. She didn’t hate him, or at least, he didn’t think so. Not any more. But that didn’t make them friends. Certainly didn’t make them more than friends…despite his wish otherwise. Damn, but she was hot! And intelligent. And not interested in him.
He admired her. He wanted her respect. But…he guessed that Doranda would merely confirm her worst thoughts about him and his ego. And destroy any respect she had for him. He didn’t want to see that in person. Really, he didn’t. He wished she wasn’t going to be at the meeting, but they needed someone there who could understand the ‘techno-babble’. And better Sam than someone like that Dr Lee. How he remained employed at the SGC was beyond Rodney. Really, the guy was a moron.
This was so not helping, sitting here wallowing in self-pity. A nice hot shower, a change of clothes, and some food would be good.
And some company, too.
Rodney entered John’s room, glad that they had gotten two rooms next to each other with an adjoining door. He wasn’t surprised to see that Sheppard wasn’t there. He looked round the room, and spotted a note propped on a table, which he read.
Gone for a run round the grounds.
Took the cell, ring me if you need me for anything.
He smiled. Typical. Okay. He’d go for a walk around the grounds. Sooner or later the Colonel and he would cross paths. But there was no way he was going to be talked into joining him for a run. Uh, uh, no way. Besides, he wasn’t wearing the right clothes for that.
He left the hotel and headed into the gardens at the back. They weren’t very big, so it wouldn’t take long to find Sheppard. And then maybe they could go eat. He knew of a bar not far from here. Well, if the place was still there and still served the best steaks in Toronto. It had been years since he’d been back to his home city, so who knew what the place was like now? Still, it was worth a look, especially if it hadn’t changed in all this time. Those steaks were to kill for. Well, not quite literally, but almost…
John had jogged around the hotel grounds, making several laps as they weren’t very big, when he spotted McKay sitting on a bench, watching him approach. He stopped when he reached him.
“Hey,” he said, starting to do some stretching and warming down exercises.
“Nice run?” McKay asked.
“Yeah. You okay?”
“Sure. I was thinking about checking out a bar I used to go to now and then. Served the best steaks in Toronto. I’m hoping it’s still there, and still as good. I still dream of those steaks…”
Sheppard laughed at the dreamy look on McKay’s face.
“Trust you to dream of steaks,” he teased.
“Oh, and you weren’t dreaming of popcorn when it ran out that time?” Rodney responded.
“No,” John said, adding somewhat sheepishly, “well, okay, maybe once or twice.”
“Oh, I’m certain it would have been more than that.” Rodney stated with assurance, “So, you want to shower first, Mr Sweaty?”
John looked at his sweaty clothes and smiled.
“Oh, I don’t know, thought I’d go like this…”
He grinned at McKay’s disgusted expression, and then shook his head.
“Only kidding, McKay. You going to come in or wait for me here?”
“I’ll wait here. But I’m warning you now, I’m hungry, so you’d better hurry, or I might just go without you.”
“No, you won’t. Or have you forgotten that I’ve got the car keys?” He smirked, and headed for his room. It was nice to have the last word for once.
After John had showered and changed, he and McKay headed towards the hire car. John decided now was as a good time as any to convince McKay to postpone the return to the SGC.
“You ever been to Niagara Falls?”
“Yes, why?” Rodney answered suspiciously.
“Well, I was hoping we could go tomorrow. I’ve never been, and seeing as we’re virtually next door to them, I thought it would be a good time to go.”
“I have a meeting to attend tomorrow, you know that.”
“I’m sure they’ll understand if you want to rearrange it, what with everything.” John looked at Rodney, and carried on before he could interrupt, “come on, one day won’t hurt. I’d really like to see the Falls.”
“They’re not that special, not when compared to some of those falls on M1K-439.”
“McKay,” Sheppard hissed.
“What? Oh come on, no one’s listening to us! And it’s true. You’d be disappointed after….”
“It’s not the same,” John interrupted him, “I want to see the best that Earth has to offer. If we were close to the Grand Canyon, I’d want to see that too!”
“Humph,” Rodney looked annoyed, “Niagara isn’t the best. The Angel Falls in Venezuela are taller for a start, the tallest on Earth in fact, and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is the largest curtain of falling water. Niagara just happens to be the most famous.”
“You’re a real spoilsport, aren’t you? And how come you know all this? It’s hardly physics.” John grumped good naturedly.
“I got fed up with people going on about Niagara being the greatest waterfall on Earth, and so memorized why it isn’t. It really used to annoy my,” there was the slightest of pauses, “parents.”
“I can imagine,” Sheppard said, “but I still want to go. It’s not like I’ll be going to the other two any time soon. Come on, don’t be a pain.”
Sheppard watched carefully, ready to argue his point more if it was necessary. Of course, he also threw McKay his best ‘puppy dog’s eyes’. McKay merely snorted at the look.
“Okay, fine. We’ll go,” Rodney shook his head, “you’re worse than a little kid. And you know what I think of them.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
“You, however, can ring the SGC and rearrange the meeting. You want to go so much, you can deal with the paper pushers.”
“That’s okay. I’ve already rearranged the meeting for the day after tomorrow anyway.” John grinned. Oh, the look on McKay’s face when he realised he’d been had… it was priceless.
“You, you…” Rodney spluttered, and then threw his hands up in defeat, “you’re a real pain, you know that? What if I’d said no.”
“I wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” John grinned even more, “and would have used the fact that I’d already rearranged the meeting as a reason to go, if needed.”
Rodney rolled his eyes at that, while John smirked. He was glad McKay hadn’t made things too difficult, but there was had been no way he would have accepted a ‘no’ on this. He’d have pushed for another day if he’d felt he could get away with it, but somehow he knew that would have been asking too much. McKay could be stubborn at times… well, most of the time, actually.
“So, you hungry? What am I saying, you’re always hungry. Let’s go find that bar you mentioned,” John said, as they finally arrived at the hire car.
“I’m not always hungry. Can I help it if I need to eat regularly to avoid a hypoglycaemic attack?” Rodney huffed.
“You’re always hungry, McKay, take it from someone who knows.”
The good natured bantering continued all the way to the bar, which was still serving the best steaks in Toronto.
They spent most of the next day at the Falls, with McKay complaining about how commercialised the place was, and what was it with all these damned tourists and their crass souvenirs. Sheppard managed to drag him onto the boat that went close to the falls, after threatening to drag him onto one of the air tours instead, and spent the time putting up with further comments from Rodney that if he wanted to be cold and wet there were much more interesting places to do it, and he didn’t want to be cold and wet in the first place. And that if he caught a cold Sheppard could look forward to some nasty paybacks in his near future…
Sheppard was just glad to see Rodney back to his normal self.