Everyone coped differently, of course. At heart, they were still human, and humans are all different.
Most became warriors, soldiers or policemen, the perfect excuse for them to be fit, healthy and familiar with weapons. He'd done that a few times, but ultimately found it a boring way to live, and being too macho encouraged morons to challenge him. So he switched it up, disdaining exercising, panting heavily on the stairs, and doing his practicing late in the night. Few looked past the pretense to notice the power in his strong thighs and broad shoulders.
Most avoided notoriety. Having your face become known was unwise when you had to keep reinventing yourself. He followed that path, though lately he'd been pretending differently, proclaiming that he intended to win awards, even as he worked on projects that would never see the light of publicity.
Many became taciturn in their words, the long years of hiding and loneliness, the need for pretense making them careful about sharing. He'd always been a bit different, often becoming louder and more talkative. It was another element to make people misjudge him, as no one believed he was capable of being quiet, until they learned he could be deadly too.
He had the advantage of meeting another of his kind, around the time of the Clearances. They shared blue eyes, and with practice, mannerisms. Siblings traveling together were less suspicious than a lone man, and less questioned than a single woman. Perhaps that was part of his advantage, someone who understood.
Her needs for others went too far for his liking, as she often gathered a family around her, a foolish risk. Even as he complained, he helped her to organize adoptions, or most recently, a surrogate. Each time he left her alone to enjoy her fantasy. Ultimately she would be devastated by loss, and he'd return to help put her back together.
Others of their kind had come and gone in their lives. His apprentices, her apprentices. Then the young were pushed out of the nest, to live or die by their own strength. Except for his adopted sister and his sword, people and possessions were transitory, irrelevant.
Like all of their kind who survived, he kept learning new skills, a necessity that became his reason to be. The ability to create a new life that could survive scrutiny was his first talent. He'd been a master calligrapher hundreds of years before he learned to hack computers. Now he played the Game only when forced, because he wanted to live, to learn more, first of the world, and then of the universe.
"Major, think about where we are in the solar system," Meredith Rodney McKay, of the clan McKay, ordered, watching planets unfurl overhead before gazing at the pilot in the chair, studying his wild hair, contemplating the personality indicated by someone who sat where he shouldn't, and most importantly, feeling the subdued buzz that presaged an unborn one. How had this daredevil reached his third decade without becoming their kind?
Rodney mentally added another sword to his packing list. No one knew if the Pegasus Galaxy would have swords or Immortals, but intuition told him that Major John Sheppard would get himself killed eventually. When the time came, he would need a good blade for his new apprentice.
Life in the Pegasus Galaxy was fabulous. Sure, being hunted by 10,000 year-old, soul-sucking, space vampires kinda... well, sucked, but Rodney understood always being on the alert. One immortal stalking him was more stressful than a spaceship of Wraith trying to breach the city's shield, especially since Sheppard and his soldiers positioned themselves as the first line of defense.
He even got to allow himself wild moments of loud panic, which not only did he find a great way to release stress, but his hysteria seemed to help everyone else. His underlings felt their worry was justified if the boss shared it, and the soldiers puffed themselves up with pride as being the protection for fretful civilians.
The city itself was amazing and worth the risks. It was unbelievable to think that if he hadn't been born as an Immortal, he would have died without even knowing how to read and write, and now he was here, studying a city that could fly.
Sheppard was the biggest surprise though. His ability to survive was superior to a cat's nine lives. Indeed, if Rodney didn't know better, he would have assumed Sheppard already was an Immortal, hiding his multiple deaths. He even checked after each mission where they were separated, but each time, could only sense the tamped-down buzz of the unborn.
And then the man even became his friend, which was... wow. Rodney had done the military thing a few times, but he'd never been fond of it. Too much hanging around, waiting to take orders from mortals with limited intelligence before exploding into periods of extreme violence, was a frustrating experience for him. So he'd never bonded much with his fellow soldiers. Not like he did with Sheppard, a man who could be both killer and goofball.
At first, he'd worried that Sheppard wouldn't last in the Game long. Dropping bombs from the air was far different from the killing a man looking you in the eye. But then he shot his commanding officer and stabbed a woman, sure a Wraith, but still a female, straight through her gut without a moment's hesitation, and Rodney decided Sheppard handled violence just fine.
Sheppard being unborn was probably for the best when Kolya started feeding him to the Wraith. Rodney had no idea what would happen if a Wraith fed on an Immortal, and frankly, he was okay with ignorance on this one subject. Watching Sheppard suffer made him viciously angry, but at least he knew that Sheppard would survive. They went on the rescue mission and he dutifully kept up appearances, shooting wildly at a rat, promising himself that if he ever met Kolya on his own, he'd break cover long enough to spill his entrails all over his shiny black boots. Rodney had a great big sword hidden in the jumper, and the man was owed a painful death.
Sometimes when Rodney had to do something monumentally clumsy in battle, Sheppard would give him a quirky look, as if he wanted to ask, "Dude, why aren't you better at this fighting thing yet?" But he didn't, because in his own way, Sheppard was kind. Still, Rodney was glad Sheppard had missed the rat thing.
Then Jeannie came to Atlantis. "I can't believe you haven't told him yet," she hissed. "Or killed him. Why haven't you killed him?"
"I can't just kill him! He's my friend. He wouldn't understand."
She hit him on the shoulder. "He'll understand when he wakes up. He's almost 40! His knees will go soon." She'd flounced off to tell his friends stories of how he'd been tormented by school bullies. The stories were pure fabrications, but she'd given them a grain of truth from Rodney's tales about his actual awkward childhood. Kids were always cruel to other kids, even in a small Scottish village hundreds of years before the development of a formal educational system.
Then Rod came, and Jeannie had someone else to hit. "What do you mean, your Sheppard is still unborn too? You men are so thoughtless."
"It's not exactly an easy thing to kill a military commander!" Rod whined, and Rodney was grateful to see the man wasn't always coolness personified. How had he made his persona so much more likeable than Rodney had ever managed?
Rodney came close to telling John the truth when Jeannie was infected with malfunctioning nanobots. He was sure they couldn't kill her, not completely, but he feared that they might keep killing her after she revived, which would be torturous for her, and ultimately reveal their secret to everyone. He thought Todd could feed on him without killing him, and if he just let John in on the secret… but then John convinced the insane multi-millionaire to sacrifice himself, and disclosure was avoided.
To a small degree, Rodney felt sorry for Henry Wallace and his possibly unnecessary death, but he reminded himself that the man had a suburban housewife kidnapped and would have killed her. Then he was fine with John's action, and even more convinced that he would make a superior immortal when the time arrived.
But that was the problem, wasn't it? Somehow five years had passed and the time had never arrived. Rodney gazed out over the San Francisco bay, his arm around Jennifer, wondering again how he'd managed to end up with her. He hadn't intended to compete for her hand, even if Jeannie did nag him that a wife both improved his cover and strengthened his connection to humanity, but relinquishing the field without a fight had seemed weak, and he'd been getting a bit tired of being weak.
So, time to take charge again. He knew his priorities.
1. Get Atlantis back to the Pegasus Galaxy.
2. Dump Jennifer or get her to dump him.
These priorities could be switched in order. In fact, they might be best switched, if ending the relationship would make Jennifer stay on Earth.
3. Have John die in some way. It was looking like a bullet to the heart might be necessary, as much as the thought pained Rodney.
4. Train John.
These priorities couldn't be switched, since Rodney was pretty sure that John would think him insane if he whipped out big swords and said, "Fancy a go?"
It was a short list, and after all, he was a genius. It should be easy for him to accomplish.
~ the end ~