It wasn't a sight any sane person expected to see and Rodney had to choke back the urge to throw up when he realized exactly what was in front of him.
Hands. Dozens of dismembered Wraith hands with their feeding slits looking like open wounds slashed across the palm. Some hands were rotted with decay while others looked as if they had been hacked off their owner only days before.
Rodney glanced across at John and noticed he actually looked a little pale beneath his suntanned face, his mouth a thin line as if he was holding back the urge to throw up too.
In front of them the market stall trader was obviously very proud of his wares, and a few customers were lingering in horrified fascination, tentatively reaching out to prod at the obscene pile on the corner of the stall before some made a purchase. It took very little coaxing to discover how the stall owner came by his gruesome stock. It appeared Michael's version of the Hoffan virus had destroyed complete hive ships and a few brave entrepreneurs had scavenged one that had crashed onto their world.
"This one is especially interesting... and expensive," the trader stated, holding up a hand that must have come from the Queen judging by its finer, more delicate form.
Rodney stepped back as it was thrust towards him, words failing him for once.
"Maybe next time," John stated with a tight smile before grabbing Rodney by his TAC vest and dragging him away.
Michael was long dead but his legacy had ended the scourge of Pegasus with those remaining Wraith desperate to find new food sources or take Carson's retrovirus to curb that particular appetite for a human's life force. It had changed the galaxy and had changed the role Atlantis played accordingly. The I.O.A. had always held firm to their insistence on Atlantis remaining a civilian outpost with a military presence and now, seven years after they first stepped into the lost city, the I.O.A. was sending teachers and diplomats to help rebuild the human civilizations in Pegasus.
Rodney's role had changed too. He was still Chief of Science but he was no longer on a permanent away team, spending most of his time working on science these days with just occasional trips out of the city. Although John spent most of his time on Atlantis these days too, he always insisted on accompanying Rodney, and Rodney wouldn't have it any other way. Years of working and playing together, sharing the good and the bad times, had seen their friendship blossom into so much more than Rodney could have ever dared hope. All those imperfect relationships of the past now seemed a poor dress rehearsal for the real thing he had with John, for the love and trust and acceptance he had found in John's arms.
Slowly they made their way around the remaining stalls in the bustling market place and Rodney was thankful not to see anything else so gruesome before they headed back towards the Stargate.
Later he knew he would find the words to vent his horror at the sight of those piled up Wraith hands... and John would be there to listen, to reassure, and to kiss and hold him through the night, keeping any residual nightmares at bay.