There's No Place Like A Mythological City To Call Home

~ Explanatory note: Wolfling and I have this huge long series about centaurs. This story takes place in that universe, but with the SGA folk. I've also a story in this universe in Buffy (co-written with Byrne), and Sentinel, and Batman fandoms. The centaur universe is the AU That Eats Fandoms.

John Sheppard sat in the mess hall which was blessedly empty. Everyone was off doing things -- anything they could think of to get ready to open the Stargate for that one point three seconds. Ford was still recording goodbyes and John was thinking about his own.

Rather, his lack of goodbyes. Ford had given him those little boy eyes when John had told him he had nothing to say to anyone, but he'd taken John's refusal and not badgered him about it.

But, really, who was there to send a message to? He hadn't had anything to do with his family since he'd been fostered out. He couldn't imagine any of them wanting to hear from him -- even if he dared send something via the US military to a herd of mythological creatures hiding in the wilds of Colorado.

Ironic, of course, that he was sitting in *Atlantis*, worried about protecting his people's identity. But he was, and thinking cynical thoughts about the USAF was easier than thinking about the fact that the only people he had to say goodbye to where here.

Because he might still have to say goodbye to them, and he really didn't want to. He didn't like dying, didn't like seeing people he cared about dying. Didn't want to think about the fact he should have some control over whether or not they died -- and he didn't. The Wraith were coming and there was nothing that a bachelor stallion could do about it.

John looked up as he heard footsteps; a minute later Dr. Beckett came into the mess hall. He gave John a nod and went over to grab a cup of tea. John waited, watching silently until Beckett headed towards him -- stopping a decent distance away.

"Sure," John said, nodding towards the chair opposite him. He and Beckett didn't really get along, but right now he found he'd prefer company over sitting alone with his thoughts. Beckett sat down and started drinking his tea, not apparently pushing for a conversation.

Finally, just to break the silence, John asked, "Did Ford come by with his camera?"

"Aye." Beckett nodded. "I recorded a message for my mum."

"Your mother?" John was surprised. "You-- you still--?"

Beckett nodded. "Of course. I still see -- saw -- her, occasionally." He saw the look of surprise on John's face and added, "She left the herd years ago, right before I would have been fostered out. She raised me, actually."

John was stunned. "You're kidding. You-- I didn't know they could do that."

"My mother does anything she darn well pleases," Beckett said, smiling and shaking his head. Then he frowned, slightly. "I take it you don't... didn't stay in contact with yours?"

"No one," John said, bitterly. WHich wasn't at all what he'd expected to feel. He'd spent years telling himself he didn't care that he'd got booted out, that he'd gone from being surrounded by everything he loved -- save one thing -- and abandoned to live among strangers. His foster mother had done one thing for him, though. She'd ignored common sense and taken a teenaged John up in a helicopter.

He'd fallen in love, and discovered that he wasn't quite like everyone else.

"I'm sorry," Beckett said, and he sounded perfectly sincere. It was almost nice, and a definite change from the way they usually avoided each other.

"Thanks. I... got used to it, I guess." He shrugged. He was feeling a little antsy around the other stallion -- but nothing he couldn't ignore. Beckett seemed calm enough, as well.

"You'd think there would be better ways," Beckett said.

"Better ways for what?"

They looked up as Radek Zelenka walked up. He sat down heavily, with a steaming mug in his hand. "I'm joining you, so if either of you decide you want to take offense, please wait until I've had my coffee because otherwise? I shall pass out and save you the trouble."

"I don't mind," Beckett said, grinning a little.

"Me, neither," John admitted, because -- weirdly enough, he didn't. Every other time in his life he'd found himself unable to stay within twenty yards of another stallion with wanting to beat his face in. It was hard to even be around humans if they were too aggressive or -- unfortunately -- too authoritative.

Maybe he was just tired, or far enough from home that he'd rather be with anyone than no one. He looked over at Beckett, who caught his glance. Hesitantly, Beckett smiled at him, and John gave him a half-grin back. Zelenka was falling asleep over his mug, apparently inhaling the steam as a more efficient way to ingest the caffeine.

John had the most absurd urge to find a blanket and drop it over him. He shook his head. No. No, no.

Even if he did look--

John closed his eyes. Crap.

Suddenly he knew exactly why. Sumner's fault for getting himself into trouble, needing to be killed. And John had taken over the entire expedition from him....

John let his head hit the table. Crap. He'd acquired a herd of nearly 200, civilians, military, human, centaur. Months ago, and no one had told him.

Crap.

Beckett coughed and John looked at him. Beckett was winking at Zelenka. Zelenka was looking bemused, if almost dead.

"What?" John demanded.

"Oh, tell me you aren't this slow," Beckett said, shaking his head, and now a few other things were becoming clearer. Like why Beckett never argued with him directly in staff meetings.

"Well, I am. I'm a mutant who likes flying, hates beer, and doesn't notice when he becomes owner of--" He broke off and turned to watch as Rodney wandered in.

"Oh, good, there he is. Hey, Zalinko, wake up."

"Let him sleep," John said, then winced. Crap. Beckett was smirking at him, so he gave the other stallion a quick glare to shut him up.

Rodney was looking at him oddly. "What's going on?"

"John's just--" Beckett began.

John gave him a real glare that time. Just because he owned them, didn't mean he wanted the humans to *know* about it.

"Just what?"

"Concerned that any work he does while he's barely awake, will result in our being blown to smithereens," John finished.

"Am 'wake," came a vague comment from Zelenka's direction. Zelenka was looking around, trying to keep his eyes open.

Crap. Crap, crap, crap! He even looked -- no, he wasn't going to say 'adorable' because just because he owned stallions didn't mean he suddenly wanted to snuggle them.

John went over and took him by the arm. "Come on, let's get you to a bed." He gave Rodney a dark look. "And you, too. One hour -- then you can get back to saving our lives."

"I think that can wait until *after*," Rodney began.

"No," John said, knowing fully well it wouldn't work. But while they argued, Beckett was helping him get Zelenka moving towards a bed.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "When the Wraith show up I'll tell them to come back in an hour, shall I?"

John just looked at him. "Sounds good." Then he helped Zelenka out of the mess hall, listening to Rodney complaining as he trailed behind them.


Next Story: Centaur Lullabye