It takes a while to get used to speaking English. He’s so used to having the TARDIS translate his words for him. Plus English makes his teeth hurt. But he gets used to it — eventually. Because, you know, Time Lord and all that.
But keeping on the slow path? That he never gets used to.
He never got used to it when Susan wanted to stay in one time zone for school. Or when his people banished him to Earth. Or when he got stuck in 1969 with Martha. Or the week in 17th Century France. Or any of the other times without his TARDIS.
But he isn’t just separated from the TARDIS this time. The TARDIS is gone this time and he feels broken.
She died. He died. He came back (because that’s what he does). But she didn’t (because she can’t).
And now he’s alone. He’s the last of the Time Lords - without a time ship.
He’s stuck. He hates it.
After almost two thousand years traveling with homo sapiens he’s found that he’s fairly good at imitating them. Their odd quirks, their beliefs, their…humanity.
So when the men on the base look at his uniform -the one he took from the helpful soldier (who died, along with the TARDIS, helping stop the invasion) when he regenerated - and decide he’s their late-to-arrive Air Force Captain, he plays along. It helps that no one here has ever met Captain John Sheppard.
He tells himself he’ll just act till the Air Force wises up. They never wise up.
By the time he’s stationed (banished really) to McMurdo, he’s figured out a number of things. Mostly how to tweak the minds of doctors when they realize they can hear two heartbeats. He’s also figured out this body seems to be a magnet for trouble and bullets.
He’s also figured out how to get a promotion to Major. He knows that you don’t leave men behind. And that flying the antiquated US Air Force planes is as close he can get to the stars.
He doesn’t think about time travel. Or aliens.
(Pissing off the authority figures isn’t a new skill. He’s been doing that since before he was born. And that was twelve bodies ago.).
He doesn’t expect the bogie. Not in the middle of the ice fields of Antarctica. Not on a milk run.
It’s one of the first times he’s happy to be flying such an archaic bird. He never could have maneuvered like this in the TARDIS (well, he could have, but she wouldn’t have been happy with him. There would have been a lot of smoke.).
When he approaches the drone, half buried in the snow, something begins to itch at the base of his skull. The itch gets stronger as he and the General continue on their way. It surges up in his mind.
‘Welcome my child. Have a seat,’ she greets him in an outpost under the ice.
So he does. Then the world lights up for him.
He wants to tell them why his gene works. He wants to tell them about the Time Lords and the children who left Gallifrey ages ago. Those children who spread their seed, their technology across two galaxies.
He almost doesn’t go through the gate. He’s not sure if he wants the reminders of his people, of his people’s cousins. A General’s words and a coin toss persuade him to take that step through the event horizon.
(That and the cheeky grin from the young — far too young — lieutenant. The one who flings himself backwards, away from his home world. He likes this kid already.)
He decides quickly that he likes the chief scientist. The man’s loud and abrasive. A certifiable genius by anyone’s standards. Cowardly but with such potential.
So he trades barbs with the scientist and shows off his math skills just to get the man to — for Rassilion’s sake — relax. And it works.
(He doesn’t tell anyone, but McKay reminds him of himself. When he was younger and naïve and wore an atrocious coat.)
He would have spent more time with McKay, exploring the beautiful, wonderful, familiar city.
But there’s no power. And the Colonel insists he come along on the expedition. He doesn’t want to leave the comforting, sleepy hum of Atlantis but he follows orders.
He’s happy he decided to tag along when he meets Teyla. It may just be that she’s the first non-human he’s met in years but he likes her. She’s strong and soft all at the same time.
(Her coat makes him think of Leela. Her size makes him think of Rose and Susan. Later he’ll realize how much she reminds him of Barbra, and Ace, and Sarah Jane, and all the rest.)
Then the world falls apart.
The Colonel and a number of Marines and Athosians are abducted. He takes the surviving Athosians back to Atlantis with him. The city still has no power. She comes to life, shining brightly in his mind for just a moment. She rises high, through the water, out into the sky.
But he can’t help thinking of those he lost. So he takes more Marines to rescue them. The Colonel gets his life force fed upon by a space vampire (Teyla calls them Wraith). He shoots the Colonel — a mercy killing. Then he manages to really piss the Wraith off by killing the caretaker (he gets the feeling this will come back to bite him in the ass).
The next time he takes a moment to breathe, he realizes he’s suddenly in charge of the safety of the entire party of Earthlings.
He was hoping to never have that responsibility again.
A few weeks later (after the incident with the energy cloud) Elizabeth starts making noise about exploring the Pegasus Galaxy. He can’t help but agree with her. The expedition is in desperate need of two things: power and food. His pockets are big but they aren’t infinite. He only has two days worth of food. And he stopped carrying around zero point energy sources lifetimes ago.
All of this means they need gate teams.
So he takes a good look everybody in the city. He knows he wants a scientist, for obvious reasons. Someone needs to be able to apply the scientific method out in the field (and he doesn’t want to do it). There probably should be an actual representative of Earth’s military. And he’s found that the best tour guides are the natives. So it doesn’t take him too long to come back to Elizabeth with his list.
Rodney McKay, for all his bluster and fatalism, is remarkably easy to enlist. The man is overjoyed at being asked to join a gate team — when he isn’t drawing up charts on all the horrible ways to die.
Once the situation is explained to her, Teyla Emmagan readily agrees to join the cause. He’s slightly concerned if Elizabeth will agree to let Teyla join the team. He’s ready to fight for Teyla’s addition because he needs her (her serenity, her people skills, her knowledge of the locals) on the team. But apparently there is precedence for non-Earthling members on gate teams. He can’t help but find that very forward thinking.
He’s surprised at how hard it is to get Lt. Adien Ford on the team. Elizabeth and Sgt. Bates both have issues with the only two officers on base going out exploring. He manages to appease Bates by putting him in charge of security. Elizabeth is harder to persuade, but he has two thousand years worth of cunning to help him. He manages to get permission to have Ford on the team — barely. Ford follows his orders to join the team, but he can see self-doubt in the kid’s eyes
Eventually his team is complete. He can’t help but think, as they head out on their first mission that they represent the best traits of humanity. They’re smart and naïve, strong and weak, brave and cowardly, fragile and unbreakable. In his own way he loves them. He cares about them and thinks (hopes) they care about him in return.
Which is why he doesn’t worry too much when they find out he isn’t human. (Because, after all, there’s only so many ways to hide a respiratory bypass system when one is suffocating).
They keep his secret safe.
Peter Grodin is dead.
It’s another name he has to add to the list of people he’s failed to protect. Even with all of his knowledge, the list is getting longer everyday. Which is what he’s thinking about as McKay discusses the plan to remotely fly the puddle jumpers.
Of course this is when a technician interrupts their meeting to tell them the command chair is gone.
Their interface to the city has just disappeared. He and McKay rush down to investigate, thinking it’s some sort of trick. But it isn’t. Where there once was glowing blue chair of the Ancients there is now a multi-sided console.
He can’t help it. He has to laugh as strokes the oh-so-familiar control panel.
“Oh you beautiful, beautiful ship. Did you do this for me?” he asks in Gallifreyan.
He’s dimly aware of Teyla and Ford joining them, and McKay asking questions, and the countdown to the Wraith in his earpiece.
“I can get us out of here,” he interrupts McKay. “The whole city, I can move it.”
His three team members stare at him.
“I don’t know where or when we’ll end up, but it won’t be here.”
They exchange looks. Ford is the first to speak. “I’m with you, sir.”
Then McKay: “As long as you don’t kill us? Anything’s better then here.”
And Teyla says, “It is your decision Doctor.”
He grins and turns back to the console. A strange organic, grinding noise fills the air. The city begins to shake and toss. He instructs his companions to press this button and hold that lever. He’s stretched across the panel as he flicks on his radio.
“Hold on to something,” he tells the humans. He flips the last switch and the city disappears.
Into time and space.