Homecoming

A Crossover Fanfiction For the Televsion Shows Stargate: Atlantis and Corner Gas
Mel Walker

Chapter 1 A Reluctant Journey
"You need me to go to Canada?" Rodney stared at Colonel Samantha "Sam" Carter, leader of the Atlantis expedition. She stared back. "That's what the message said. Apparently, the SGC asked for you specifically." "Did my sister make some kind of genius breakthrough again?" Sam shook her head. "Well, then, what is it?" "We have people going through the Asgard database that was left to us. There was a mention of a trinium deposit in Canada that was never mined. Canada has offered to lease it to us, but the neighboring community is making legal objections. Your government asked you to talk to them." "I'm not a diplomat or a negotiator. Why me?" Sam shook her head. "I've been ordered to make you available. You have one hour to pack. Sorry, Rodney." "Yeah," he said, and went to pack. He was almost done, when his door chime sounded. "Come in," he said. His teammate Ronon Dex walked in. "I heard you're heading home," he said. Rodney crammed another shirt into his bag. "Just temporarily. I'll be back." "Col. Carter said I could tag along," he said. Rodney stopped packing. "Why?" Ronon shrugged. "I liked Canada. Your sister's nice." "She's married," said Rodney. "Ease off, buddy," said Ronon. "I'm not Sheppard." "Good point." Rodney zipped up his bag. "How long do you need to get ready?" Ronon picked up a dufflebag from the hallway. "Okay," said Rodney. "Let's go."

Major General "Hank" Landry, commanding general of Stargate Command, greeted them as they walked down the ramp in front of the gate. "Dr. McKay, thank you for coming. Mr. Dex, I don't recall sending for you." Rodney coughed. "He insisted. You said it was a diplomatic problem? I'm not a diplomat." With one last look at Ronon, General Landry said, "It has a personal connection to you. Come to the briefing room, and I'll bring you up to speed." Rodney walked away, grumbling under his breath. The general raised an eyebrow at Ronon. Ronon shrugged. "He said it was in Canada. I liked Canada okay last time I was here." "Fine," said the general. "Let's go break the news to Rodney." "Dog River?" yelled Rodney. "Not a chance! Not even a fraction of a chance!" "I'm told you grew up there," said General Landry, giving Rodney a bit of slack, since he was a civilian. "And I swore I would never go back!" Rodney waved arms. "That town is full of nutcases! There's not a sane, normal, person living there!" "It's hard to imagine you grew up there," dead-panned Ronon. Rodney glared at him. "I moved out when I entered college. Early." General Landry flipped through the folder of papers on the conference table. "That would be when you were investigated for building a nuclear bomb?" "I only designed it!" said Rodney. "And that's exactly the kind of thing that happens in that town!" He sunk back in his chair. "Oh, God, you're going to make me go there, aren't you?" "The Prime Minister asked for you personally." The general closed the folder, and sat back. Ronon leaned over to Rodney. "Sounds like we're going." "I'd rather face a hive ship." Rodney looked up. "If I asked, would you hit someone for me?" Ronon shrugged. "Who?"

Rodney said, "I don't know yet. But, sooner or later I'll want to hit somebody, and you're better at it than I am." The general said, "It's a diplomatic mission. Try not to hit anyone." He stood up, and collected his papers. "There's a plane waiting for you at the airfield. Enjoy your trip." "This is a long ways from the landing field," said Ronon. "It's called an airport, and yes, it is. It's faster to go to another galaxy than drive here." Rodney had to drive, since Ronon had never learned. He couldn't decide whether to drive fast, and get it over with, or drive slow, and put it off for as long as possible. He ended up driving the speed limit, more or less. He was a little out of practice driving something that didn't respond to his thoughts. "I wish the Daedalus was in orbit. They could've saved us a lot time by just beaming us there." He sighed. "We should be there soon. Dog River is only forty klicks from the last town." Just then, the grain elevator came into view. Rodney sighed again. "It looks like we're here. And there's the town hall. Nothing changes in this town." Rodney parked the car in front of the building, and they went inside. It was empty. The mayor's office was locked, and the police had the "For Emergencies, call..." sign on the door. "Nobody's here?" said Ronon. Rodney shook his head. "Do you think this might count as an emergency?" It was Ronon's turn to shake his head. "Looks like we have some time. Come on, I'll let you buy me lunch." He went out the door. Rodney followed, muttering. "This is what I get for making friends with aliens. I need to get him a credit card." "How can you eat that stuff?" Ronon shrugged. "When you're a runner, you learn to eat whatever you can find. Besides, I like these sandwiches." "Hamburgers, Ronon, hamburgers. Burgers and fries. Didn't Sheppard get you some food last time?"

"We didn't get the chance. Too busy rescuing you." Ronon took another big bite. "What's this white sauce?" "Mayonnaise. They don't use it where he's from." "They're missing out." Ronon swirled a fry in ketchup and swallowed it. Rodney went back to his soup. It was better than he remembered Ruby ever making it. This new owner, the woman behind the counter, must have hired a better cook. His lunch was interrupted by a loud voice. "Oh my god. Will you look at who's back in town." Rodney dropped his spoon. "Oh, no, no, no." Ronon looked at the newcomer. "She seems harmless enough." "Nobody in this town is harmless. They just probably won't try to kill you." Rodney stood up. "Hello, Wanda." "Hello, Meredith." Ronon snorted. Rodney glared at him, then back at Wanda. "I prefer Rodney." He sat back down. "So, what brings you back, 'Rodney?'" Wanda asked. "As I recall, when you left for college, you not only swore to never come back, you also swore at some of us." Rodney looked at Ronon. "I just swore at her, actually." "Why?" asked Ronon, between bites. "Because she's an insufferable know-in-all! And yes, I'm aware of the irony." Rodney's expression provoked a laugh from Ronon. Wanda slid in next to Rodney, who pulled away from her. "It's not fair, really," she told Ronon. She paused. "Who are you, anyway?" "Wanda Dollard, Ronon Dex, Ronon, Wanda," said Rodney. "You work with him?" asked Wanda. "You don't look like a physicist." "I'm a military consultant," said Ronon. "Rodney is on my team." Wanda gaped at Rodney. "You work for the military?" Rodney said, "No! I work for a multi-national oversight advisory panel that…." Wanda looked back at Ronon. "Like I said, it's not fair! Rodney builds one little nuclear bomb, and he gets the scholarship!" "Designed!" said Rodney.

"Nuclear Bomb?" exclaimed Lacey, who was eavesdropping. "Excuse me, private and very unwanted conversation!" said Rodney. "Nuclear Bomb? What, is that Meredith guy around or something?" said Brent, walking in from the gas station. He sat down at the counter, and said to Lacey, "He is, isn't he? Is that why Wanda isn't at work?" Rodney said to Wanda, "You work at Corner Gas?" The smile on his face got wider than Ronon would have believed possible. "You work for Oscar Leroy?" "No, she works for me," said Brent. "You are Meredith McKay, aren't you?" "He goes by 'Rodney' now," added Lacey. "That's me," said Rodney. "You must be Emma's son, what's-his-name." "Brent," said Brent. "Dad left me the station a few years back." "Well... good for you," said Rodney, suddenly realizing he didn't have a grudge against Brent. "I guess," said Brent. "So, what do you do?" "It's classified," said Rodney. "Classified physics?" asked Wanda. "Oo! It's bombs, isn't it? Nuclear bombs?" "No, it's not nuclear bombs," said Rodney. "He blows up bigger things now," said Ronon, and took another bite. "That was one time!" said Rodney. Wanda looked at him expectantly. "And I can't talk about it, anyway." Wanda's face fell as the prospect of interesting conversation dried up. "Didn't you go to college? Linguistics, right?" Wanda nodded. "Yeah. It's too bad my best professor was a nut case." Lacey said, "What was wrong with him?" Wanda snorted. "He was visiting for one semester. Spoke, like, eleven languages. Turns out he thought the pyramids were built by aliens or something. Last I heard, he dropped off the map." Rodney looked meaningfully at Ronon. Quietly, he said, "Yeah, that's crazy." Ronon nodded, and kept eating. "So, if your work is classified, why are you here?" asked Brent. Rodney sighed. "The oversight committee that I work for wants to set up a mine outside of Dog River. There's some kind of hitch, and someone found out I used to live here."

Wanda said, "And they sent you to negotiate? Have they even met you?" Rodney was indignant. "I told them it was a bad idea!" Ronon spoke up. "He said this place was full of crazy people; that there isn't a sane or normal person around here." He smiled at Lacey. "This stuff on the french fries really good." She smiled. "Thank you! I make the gravy myself! Would you like more?" Wanda said, "Crazy people?" Ronon shook his head. "Do you have any pie?" Lacey nodded. "Yeah, and some more gravy sounds good. Thanks." "Coming right up!" said Lacey. Wanda said, "What crazy people?" Brent answered her. "Well, there's my dad, and Hank, and you, and…." "Never mind." Wanda frowned. "Hey, why does this multi-national supervisory…." "Oversight," said Rodney. "…committee want with that old iron mine outside of town? The ore is contaminated! It's got impurities running all through it. The mining wasn't cost-effective or something." "Well, they want it now," said Rodney. "Apparently, your mayor put an environmental review hold on the project or something." "Why would Fitzy do that?" Brent mused. "He's always in favor of bringing business to the town." "Not to mention more people who buy gas," said Wanda. Brent nodded. "That, too." "I don't know. We were supposed to meet with him today, but his office was closed." Rodney shrugged. "Which is why we're enjoying your company." "The food's good," said Ronon. "You should try the chili dogs," said Brent. What Brent called the "dinger hose" took that moment to announce a car pulling up to Corner Gas. Brent looked at Wanda. "You wanna get that?" Suddenly, two men burst into the Ruby. They both had shotguns. "Hands up!" they yelled. Everyone froze.

Chapter 2 Ronon Finds a Friend
Everybody looked at the two robbers. Ronon slid closer to the end of his seat, and nodded at Rodney. "Nobody move! No fast moves, or someone is gonna get shot!" The first man spoke up. "Bart, the cops know we're here! They probably called ahead! They'll catch us for sure if we stay here!" Bart answered, "Idiot! We need gas. It takes time to pump it. We'll keep the hostages long enough to get out of town." Sergeant Davis Quinton opened the door to the Ruby. "May I have your attention!" he called out. "This is a police emergency! Everyone needs to keep an eye out for two…" His voice trailed off as Bart pointed a shotgun at him. Davis nervously smiled. "I see you found them. I'll be on my way then." Bart cocks his gun. Davis gulped. "Or, I could stay here. I like it here." "Take off your gun," said Bart. Davis began to unbutton his holster. The rookie police officer, Karen Pelly, picked that moment to burst in the other door from Corner Gas. "Hands up!" Bart whirled around. He was about to shoot Karen when Ronon made his move. The ex-runner leapt up, grabbed Bart's gun, and pointed it straight up. The gun went off, blasting shot into the ceiling tiles. Ronon punched Bart in the face. The robber fell to the floor, unconscious. Dust drifted down, covering him. The other robber ran towards Karen. "Out of my way!" he yelled. Karen stepped to the side. As he ran past her, she tripped him, and pulled his arm around behind him. He dropped the shotgun, and cried out in pain. Davis pulled out his gun, and pointed it Bart. "You're under arrest." "Good job, Davis," said Wanda. She rolled her eyes. Davis just smiled, oblivious. "The police force of Dog River thanks you for your help, sir," he said to Ronon. "Don't mention it," said Ronon, sitting back down. Lacey stepped over the unconscious robber and set a piece of pie down in front of Ronon. "On the house," she said. "Sorry about your roof," said Ronon. "Oh, don't worry about it," she said. "I've got insurance."

"Good work," said Rodney, brushing the dust from the ceiling tiles off the table. Ronon shrugged. "At least I got to hit somebody," he said. "Lucky you," said Rodney. "Hey, chief of police person," he said to Davis, "we came to town to see the mayor. Do you know where he is?" "You're the guys he's supposed to meet with?" asked Davis. "He had to run and discuss the problem with the mayor of... that other town." "Wullerton?" asked Rodney. At the mention of their hated rival community, everyone in the Ruby spit on the ground. "Hey! This is a diner! There's health inspectors!" said Lacey. Ronon looked quizzically at Rodney. Rodney put his face in his hands, and shook his head. Davis stood back up after cuffing the would-be robbers, and continued, "Fitzy said he'd meet with you tomorrow. In honor of your friend's bravery and assistance to the police force, we will be happy to pick up the tab for the hotel. I'll let Paul know you're coming. Come on, officer Pelly, let's get these malfeasances to the jail." With the criminals in custody, both officers left the Ruby. Later that evening, Ronon sat at a table in the hotel bar, eating a sandwich. "Hey." Ronon looked up to see Officer Pelly standing by the bar. "Hey," he said back. "Officer..." "Pelly. Karen Pelly." She smiled. "Karen." "Ronon Dex." "Nice to meet you," said Karen. "Buy you a beer?" "Never had one," he said. She stared at him. "Are you serious? How do you never drink beer?" She waved over the bartender. "I thought all the American military drank beer." She held up two fingers to the bartender. "I'm not exactly in the United States Military," said Ronon. "But I'll try a beer."

Karen took both bottles, sat down at Ronon's table. She saluted him with her bottle, and he returned the gesture. He took a drink, and set the bottle down. "Not bad," he said. "I could get used to it." "Canadian beer," said Karen, "not the weak stuff they serve down South." Ronon nodded. "I'll take your word for it," he said. He lifted his bottle. "Thanks." "You're welcome," she said. "So, if you're not military, what are you?" He thought a minute. "I was military. My unit was... destroyed by an enemy attack. The attack killed off my family and the woman I was going to marry. I had to run for my life. I had nothing to go back to, you understand?" "Wow," said Karen. "That's... awful." Ronon shrugged. "My team, the one that Rodney and I are on, found me. The colonel in charge, John Sheppard, liked my skills. I've been working with them ever since." "But your friend isn't military. He's a scientist." Karen took another sip of beer to hide her confusion. Ronon smirked. "He'd tell you he's a brilliant scientist." Ronon smiled at his joke, and Karen laughed. "Is he that hard to work with?" she asked. "I've heard some stories today..." Ronon shrugged again. "He's been there when we've needed him. He's saved my life before, and I've saved his. That makes up for a lot. How about you, and that Davis guy? You ever get into bad situations?" "Around here, a bad situation is running out of donuts," she said. "You know, when I went to the academy, I wanted to be..." She waved her hands around, looking for the right word. "Important? Not better than everyone, but someone people would look up to, and trust. But this is a small town, and we spend more time catching speeders than catching criminals." She smiled. "Today was a good day." Ronon took another drink. "You did a great job," he said. "I'd be happy to spar with you sometime." "Did you train in martial arts?" she asked. "Probably nothing you've ever heard of," answered Ronon, "but Teyla, one of the people on my team, she and I spar sometimes. I've seen her take a Wrai... an opponent in unarmed combat."

"A what?" "It's classified." He took another bite of his sandwich. "Of course," she said. "Everything with you guys is. You're classified, so you get respected even when nobody knows what the hell you do. You could sit around all day eating classified donuts, and everybody would respect you. You train in martial arts that I've probably never heard of. I never trained in martial arts. All I ever trained in is static apnea!" Ronon frowned. "What's static apnea?" Karen said, "It's a sport where you hold your breath." "This is a sport here?" asked Ronon, bemused. Karen stood up, outraged. "I'll have you know I was ranked fifth in all of Canada!" she said. "I can hold my breath for well over six minutes!" Ronon waved at the bartender. "Another couple of these beers," he said. "Sit down," he said to Karen. "Six minutes? That's a lot. I can only hold my breath for just short of five." "Really?" Karen sat down. "That's still pretty good. Not world class, but good." Phil brought over two more beers as she was talking. They both took another drink. "You can hold your breath for six minutes every time?" he asked. "I'm a little out of shape, but yeah, I can do it every time," she said. "That is impressive. I'm not sure why it's a sport, but every place is different, right? So," he said, after another sip, "any other secrets?" She smiled at him. "I can't ride a bike." He raised his glass, and toasted her. "I can't either." She stared. "Mr. Classified Military Man can't ride a bike?" "Never even been on one," he said. "Mr. Classified Military Man, I think I like you just fine," said Karen. She held up her glass. Ronon said, "Call me Ronon." Their glasses clinked. Rodney walked downstairs into the hotel lobby, then into the bar. He saw Ronon and the woman police officer, Pel-something, talking and laughing.

"Great," he said. "No one to have dinner with." He sat at a table. Phil came over. "Dinner?" He sat a water glass down in front of Rodney. "Assuming you are asking me if I want to eat dinner, I accept. What's good?" asked Rodney. "Tonight's special is a trout in lemon butter," said Phil. "I knew this town was trying to kill me," muttered Rodney. "No citrus, I'm allergic. What else?" "Steak, with steak fries," said Phil. "It's popular. You want it?" "Medium well done," said Rodney. Phil nodded. "We'll see," he said, and went off to place the order. Rodney sighed. "Some of the people are different, but the town never changes." The Mayor of Dog River, Fitzy Fitzgerald, came into the bar. He spotted Rodney, and came over to the table. "Dr. McKay?" he asked. He extended his hand in his best meet-the-people manner. "I'm Mayor Fitzgerald, Mayor of Dog River. Call me Fitzy." Rodney shook his hand. "I'm sorry for you for several reasons," he said. "We missed you today." "Yes," said Fitzy, "I'm sorry. I had to go to..." "DON'T say it," said Rodney, holding up a hand. "I don't want any more spitting." "Oh, yes. Anyway, I'm trying to get your problem resolved. It turns out somebody decided to file an investigative hold on the proposal, and I need to get it signed off or withdrawn before we can conclude the leasing agreement. I figured that the easiest way to get it taken care of would be to have it withdrawn. So I went to... I left today to try to find it out who it was." Rodney groaned. "Of course you don't know who filed it. I hate this town." Fitzy stared. "Dog River is a great town, anxious for business, and a good tourist destination. Why, we have the second-biggest hoe in all of Saskatchewan!" Rodney shook his head, not believing what he'd heard. "The second biggest what?" he asked. Then he thought better of it. "Never mind," he said. "I don't want to know. I really don't want to know. I need to get out of this town. How fast can we get this concluded?" "Getting the proper people to sign this off will take four days," said Fitzy.

"FOUR DAYS!" said Rodney. He dropped his head in his hands. "Oh, god, I'm never leaving here, am I?" "You know," said Fitzy, "Lacey feels the same way. I've never been able to figure out why. None of the rest of us feels that way. Brent even takes his vacations here every year." "Oh, god," groaned Rodney again. "It's just a mining agreement. People negotiate thousands of these every year in Canada. Who in their right mind would interfere in a perfectly safe, ordinary, every-day, mining agreement!" "I would!" Fitzy and Rodney looked over at the irritating voice coming from the doorway. The voice concluded with the word, "Jackass!"

Chapter 3 At Least Hank Isn't Here
"I would, jackass!" Rodney rose to his feet as the profanity hung in the air. He couldn't believe his eyes. "Oscar Leroy?" he stammered. "You're the reason I'm here?" He turned to Ronon, who had come over at the commotion. "I'm here because Oscar Leroy decided to be a..." "Jackass?" Ronon asked. "Shut up!" said Oscar. "So it's you, you irritating little know-it-all! You're the one who wants to ruin my beautiful view! Holy Hell!" "What view?" asked Rodney. "Your house looks out at the flattest and least-interesting land on any planet in the universe!" "I like it the way it is!" said Oscar. "You aren't going to ruin it with a stupid mine!" "Now," said Rodney to Ronon. Ronon asked, "Now what?" "You promised to hit somebody if I asked. Him." Rodney pointed at Oscar. "I'm not hitting an old man," said Ronon. "You'd better believe it! I don't care how tough you look, I could take you! I passed the Canadian Fitness Course with high marks!" Oscar spotted Karen, who was watching them. "I want both of them arrested! Right now?" Karen sighed. She walked over to the fight. "Oscar, they haven't done anything criminal." "He threatened me!" said Oscar, pointing at Rodney. "But Ronon refused to hit you," said Karen, trying to sound reasonable. Sounding reasonable didn't help. "So what?" was Oscar's rebuttal. Looking up at Ronon, he asked, "What kind of a jackass name is 'Ronon?'" "Huh?" asked Ronon. "What are you, slow or something? I want them both arrested!" repeated Oscar. "I'm not arresting them," said Karen.

Oscar shook a finger at her. "My taxes pay your salary!" Oscar's long-suffering wife, Emma, chose that moment to enter the bar. "What's going on here?" "These two jackasses want to ruin our beautiful view!" said Oscar. "And this lazy excuse for a police officer won't arrest them!" Emma wasn't paying attention. "Meredith, is that you?" "Hello, Mrs. Leroy. I go by 'Rodney' now," said Rodney. "Oh, Meredith!" she exclaimed. "It is you! Do you still play the piano?" "Piano?" asked both Ronon and Karen. Rodney nodded. "She used to teach me piano." To Emma, he answered, "I haven't played in a long time. I went into physics instead." Emma looked very disappointed. Rodney felt bad, against his better judgement. "Oh, Meredith. You were my best student!" She sat down at a table, and took out her knitting. "You should never have quit," she told him, firmly. "It was a horrible thing to do, after all my patient teaching." "Well, I..." Rodney was cut off by Oscar. "Holy Hell! Everyone's gone crazy! Talking about pianos when our livelihood is threatened! The whole town's gone crazy!" With that judgement pronounced, he went to the bar to get a drink. "Thanks for not arresting us," said Ronon to Karen. Karen smiled at him. "Don't mention it," she said. "Actually, we charge Oscar ten dollars every time he complains about something like that. It paid for my last raise." Rodney said, "That's... clever. I can't believe someone figured out a way to make money off of Oscar Leroy." He sat back down. "Sorry to interrupt your conversation. If you'll excuse me, I have to eat my dinner, which seems to have arrived, and figure out a way to solve this problem without Ronon hitting Oscar." Fitzy said, "Where were you twenty years ago, when he was young enough to hit." He stood up. "I'll start on the paperwork, Dr. McKay. I don't think Oscar will change his mind." He left the room. Rodney sighed. "I suppose he's right." "How long will it take?" asked Ronon.

"Four days," Rodney said, with a moan at the unfairness of the universe, no matter which galaxy he was in. "Four days?" exclaimed Karen. "That's ridiculous." "If Oscar would drop the complaint, we could leave anytime," said Rodney. "We could get back to... our work. As it is, we're stuck here until Fitzy can finish the paperwork. There's no way you or I are ever going to change Oscar's mind." Karen looked at Ronon. "Against my better judgment, may I suggest getting someone else to help out?" She tilted her head, and they all looked over at Emma. Emma didn't even look up from her knitting. "Not a chance." Despite all of Rodney's pleading, Emma was adamant about not helping. His dinner got cold while he continued to entreat her for help, but all to no avail. She finally got up and went to sit with Oscar. Rodney didn't follow. He could feel his blood sugar dropping, so he sat down to eat his cold dinner in despair. "Four days," he said to himself. "Four more days of this." He chewed and swallowed another bite. It wasn't as bad as the rations they had the first year in Atlantis, before they'd made contact with Earth again. Ronon and Karen had left the discussion with Emma before he had. Rodney didn't know where they had gone, but wherever it was, they had left together. It was clear to him that Ronon didn't understand his misery. "Well, hello, Rodney," said Wanda, sitting down in the chair across from him. "Oh, god, no," he moaned, but continued to eat. Blood sugar levels were no laughing matter. Lacey sat down in the seat between them. "How's the food?" she asked. "Not as good as yours," he said, honestly. "Thank you!" Lacey beamed at the compliment. Then, her face fell. "Oh, but I'm sorry you're eating here, then. Tomorrow, you should come and eat at the Ruby! I'll make you anything you want to eat. How long are you staying in town?" "Forever," he said. He dropped his fork, and sank back in his chair. "Oscar won't change his mind?" asked Wanda. Rodney stared. "How did you know?" he asked.

"Small town," she said. "I'm sure you remember." "We talked to Fitzy outside," added Lacey. "I'm sorry. I know you must have bad memories of this town. Oscar's not that bad usually." Wanda shook her head. "Yes, he is." Lacey slapped the table. "We need to help you." "We do?" asked Wanda. Lacey nodded. "Yes, we do." Rodney felt more scared than if he'd been facing a citrus-flavored Wraith. "Oh, please don't." "We have to, Rodney," said Lacey. "You know, when I first moved to Dog River, I felt like I didn't fit in. But, thanks to people like Wanda and Brent, I feel more like a part of the town now. You'll adjust." "I don't want to live here forever! I want to leave as soon as humanly possible, and get on with my life!" Lacey frowned. "Well, if you're going to be that way about it!" She stood up, and walked away. "Good job, Meredith," said Wanda. Rodney frowned. "Don't call me that," he said. "I know you. You can't possibly like living here." Wanda said, "Why would you say that?" "You're smart," he said. "I'm mean, you're not in my league, but I'm sure you're smarter than anyone else in this town." "I'm overwhelmed by your compliments," said Wanda. "You went to college, which is more than most of this town ever managed. You could've gone anywhere. Instead, you work for Brent, which probably isn't too terrible, but..." Rodney wasn't sure why he was talking with Wanda, or what he had meant to say before trailing off. "Rodney," asked Wanda, "are you asking me if I'm happy?" Rodney shrugged. "I don't know." "Are you happy?" she asked. "You like your job, except for this week, which is too bad. You manage to work with people, which is amazing." "Ha ha," said Rodney.

"Did you ever get married? Get a girlfriend?" "Why are you asking me all these questions?" Rodney snapped. "Oh," Wanda said, "You did, but it ended bad." "That's enough," said Rodney. He and Wanda sat in silence, listening to the jukebox for a long time. Finally, Wanda broke the silence. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. That's too bad." Rodney nodded. "Yeah. I was sorry, too." He paused. "She was a biologist I worked with. We had a... lockdown, and we were trapped together. My claustrophobia didn't create a very courageous image." "You're different," she said. "You were a lot more irritating before." Rodney said, "More example of the Wanda Dollard wit. I'm sure you're less irritating working at a gas station than being in that band." Wanda looked offended. "Hey, Thunderface rocked!" She spotted Brent walking into the bar, followed by Ronon and Karen. "Hey, Brent, tell Mr. Nuclear Bomb here that Thunderface rocked!" "Yeah, Thunderface rocked!" said Brent. "Although, I will admit that most of the town seemed to disagree, last time we played." "We got shut down by the cops," said Karen. Ronon looked puzzled. "Aren't you one of the police?" he said. "She was our drummer," said Wanda. "Davis shut us down because we were loud." "Plus, people were comparing us to small animals trapped inside some kind of machinery," said Brent. "It was a depressing evening for rock-androll." He sat down. "Which is the subject that brings me here." "Rock-and-roll?" said Rodney. "Music," said Brent. "Specifically, piano playing." Rodney looked distressed at the thought. "Oh, no." "Ronon and Karen told me about your troubles," he said. "As much as we'd all like to see you slowly go insane, we already have Lacey for that." "And Hank," said Wanda. "He said 'slowly'," Karen said. "Good point," said Wanda.

Rodney raised his hand. "Back to the point..." "Only Mom could convince Dad to drop the complaint," said Brent. "So, we need to convince Mom to help. You were her best student ever." "I don't play anymore," said Rodney. "Not at all?" asked Karen. "I don't even know if the base has one," said Rodney. "Does it?" he asked Ronon, who just shrugged in response. "I could borrow some music while Mom and Dad are here," said Brent. "The bingo hall has a piano. You could practice tonight. I'll convince Mom to help if you play for her. You come over in the morning, and play. She'll make Dad agree, and you can leave." "Practice all night?" asked Rodney. "Yeah, Brent, I'm sure he'd rather stay here a few more days. Hey, maybe it will take Fitzy even longer to get the forms signed!" Rodney quickly interrupted Wanda's sarcastic rant. "I'll do it. I'll do it." Brent stood. "Let me go and get the music. Wanda, could you show him where the bingo hall is? I'll see you over there." With that, he went off to speak with Emma.

Chapter 4 Quid Pro Quo
"This is never going to work," said Rodney, as they entered the bingo hall. "The piano probably isn't even in tune." "Do I need to threaten you with a lemon?" asked Ronon. Karen laughed. "A lemon?" "No," said Rodney. "A lemon?" Karen asked again. Ronon smirked. "Col. Sheppard, our team leader, keeps a lemon with him, so he can threaten Rodney with it. He does his best work when his life is in danger." "But, a lemon?" Rodney said, "I happen to be very allergic to citrus fruits of all kinds." Karen laughed so hard she had to sit down. Rodney chose to ignore the joke at his expense. He walked over to the piano. When Karen became sober again, another thought occurred to her. "Wait. Why would his life be in danger? What does a physicist do that..." She trailed off as Rodney and Ronon both looked at her. Ronon shook his head. "Oh, right," she said, "'classified.'" Under her breath, she muttered, "I hate not knowing what's going on." "I wish we could tell you," said Ronon. "But we absolutely can't," said Rodney. "Although I'm tempted to tell her, just to make Wanda jealous." "I'm totally okay with that," said Karen, excitedly. "No," said Rodney. Karen sulked. "What if I got a lemon?" Both of them ignored her. Rodney sat down at the piano, and lifted the keyboard cover. He was surprised to see the keyboard looked more-or-less okay. He hesitated for just a moment, then plunked one key. When nothing bad happened, he played an arpeggio. "Well?" asked Ronon.

"It's actually mostly in tune," said Rodney. With a sudden shake of his head, he stood back up. "This is ridiculous. I haven't touched a piano since before we got to Lantea. Even before they sent me to Siberia! Besides, Emma still might not help us, even if I manage to play something." "Where's Lantea?" asked Karen. Ronon shot her a look, then walked over to Rodney. Quietly, so Karen couldn't overhear, he said, "Listen, buddy. This is hard for you. Dealing with your past usually is. But, I've watched you do amazing things. You can do this. Your old teacher would love to hear you play anything. You could play 'Over Dunbin Hill' and she'd probably like it." "Play what?" said Rodney. Ronon blinked at the question. "Oh, uh, it's a lullaby from Sateda. Dee dee do dee dah... you probably never heard it." "Do you sing it when Teyla lets you babysit?" Without waiting for answer that wouldn't have come anyway, Rodney continued, "I don't think I've ever heard you so much as start to sing before. I don't think I actually believed you used to be a poet until just now." "You can do this, buddy," said Ronon repeated. Rodney nodded. "Okay," he said. "I've done harder things, right?" Ronon nodded his agreement. Karen asked, "Is Sateda near Lantea?" Ronon and Rodney looked at each other, realizing they'd both let something slip. Rodney decided to answer her the only way he could. "No." "It was a long ways away," added Ronon. Before she could protest, he sat down at the piano, and began warming up with some scales. Ronon sat down next to Karen, and they both listened to him. Before too long, Brent arrived with Wanda in tow. "Here you go," he said, handing the music to Rodney. "Debussy? Clair de lune? This isn't the easiest peace to play, must less sight-read." Rodney opened it on to the music holder, and looked it over. "I had trouble finding the music. I think Mom got rid of a lot of it since she gave the piano to Lacey for the Ruby," said Brent. "The Ruby? I didn't see a piano there," said Rodney.

"Lacey gave it to me," said Wanda, "but Hank ran it over with a truck." Rodney looked back at Brent. "Do I want to know who Hank is?" "You can't have forgotten Hank Yarbo," said Brent. Rodney hung his head. "Oh, god, no," he muttered. "Not without massive amounts of therapy." "He remembers him," said Wanda, with a nod. "Anyway," continued Brent, "it was either this or 'The Entertainer.' And Mom really hates that one, since she gave lessons to Davis." Rodney looked at him again. Before he could say anything, Brent said, "And no, you don't want to know about that, either." "Thank you," said Rodney, and began picking through the notes. After a minute, he realized everyone was still there. "Maybe someone could bring me some coffee," he said pointedly. Wanda held up a large thermos. "I got it from Lacey," she said. "She makes the best coffee around." Wanda set the thermos on top of the piano. "Good," said Rodney. "Thank you. Now, if you'll all please leave, I'll get to practicing. This insane plan can't start to fail until I start to practice." "Come on," said Ronon, "that was as gracious a request as we're gonna get. I'll see you in the morning, Rodney." They closed the door behind them, muting the opening notes of Debussy's classic. The next morning Ronon checked to see if Rodney was in his room. His teammate didn't answer the door, so Ronon went to the Ruby. Rodney was nowhere to be found at the diner, either. Officer Pelly was there, with her fellow police officer. She waved him over. "Ronon!" She scooted over to give him room, so he could sit next to her. "Morning," he said, and took the seat. "Did you sleep well, Mr. Dex?" asked Davis. Ronon and Karen looked at each other. "Sure," said Ronon. Lacey come over to take his order, forestalling further questioning. "Good morning! What can I get the hero of the Ruby?" she asked.

"We were there, too," muttered Davis. "Davis!" scolded Karen. "I just thought we deserved mentioning," said Davis. Ronon ignored the byplay. "What's good?" Lacey said, "I do a breakfast plate with pancakes, eggs, and bacon." "Sure," said Ronon. "And some kind of juice." "Coming right up!" said Lacey. With an altogether-too-cheerful-for-morning smile, she left to place the order. "You seen Rodney?" asked Ronon. "Not yet," said Karen. "You don't suppose he practiced all night?" "Only if he had enough coffee," said Ronon. "I'd better go check on him. It's not going to be a good day if Rodney hasn't had sleep or breakfast." He was saved the trouble by Rodney's appearance. Uttering only the word "coffee," Rodney staggered into the Ruby, and collapsed in the first available seat, next to Davis. "Coffee," he said again. Karen waved Lacey over. Lacey quickly placed a cup in front of Rodney, and poured it full. Rodney drank it down as fast as the temperature would allow, and set the cup back down. Lacey filled it again. Lacey whispered to Ronon, "Can I get him anything?" "Carbs, no citrus," he answered. She nodded. "Got it." She left. Ronon asked, "Are you okay?" Rodney groaned. "I ran out of coffee around 4am. I think." He groaned again. "I no longer remember the exact time." He let his head fall on the table. "It was hell." Ronon said, "I can imagine." "Whatever, Mr. I'm-awake-too-early," said Rodney. "Were you practicing all night?" asked Karen. Rodney just groaned again. Lacey came over with two plates, and set them in front of them. "Is he okay?" she asked. "He will be," said Ronon, and dove into his food. "Thanks," he said. "No problem," said Lacey.

"Eat something," said Ronon, and pushed the plate closer to the sleepy scientist. Rodney sat up, and began eating. By the time he'd finished his plate, along with another cup of coffee, he was in a better mood. "You sure like your coffee, Dr. McKay," said Davis. "When we first started working at our base," said Rodney, "we had... supply problems. Coffee was in extremely short supply. It was awful." "How can you run out of coffee? It's not like you were in another galaxy or something," said Davis. "Now that would be bad, to be out in space, far away from coffee. Or donuts. Or sandwiches. To be light-years away from everything important." "Like living here?" muttered Rodney. "I thought you were a scientist," said Davis. "We have oxygen here. And coffee and donuts. It's nothing like living in outer space." Karen smiled. "You'll have to excuse Davis. He thinks that Battlestar Galactica could actually happen." "It could!" said Davis. "It's a lot more realistic than that Wormhole: Xtreme show." "Never seen it," said Ronon. Brent chose that time to enter the Ruby. "Ah, there you are," he said, walking toward their table. "I've persuaded Mom to come and listen to you play." "And she'll make Oscar withdraw the complaint?" asked Karen. Brent looked a bit hesitant. "She hasn't actually promised, but if you play well, she'll be in a good mood. It will work!" "With all due respect, Brent, this sounds like one of Hank's plans," said Karen. "What sounds like one of my plans?" said Hank, as he walked into the Ruby. "We need to have Rodney play the piano for Mom, so she'll convince Oscar to withdraw his complaint, and they can leave town," said Brent. "Why would anyone want to leave Dog River?" asked Hank. "We have the second-biggest hoe in all of Saskatchewan, and we almost had prairie dog statues. We really dodged a bullet there. Plus, the Ruby makes good food. I know, I used to advertise for it!" He looked glum. "But I had to stop. I couldn't afford to drive around town at those prices."

He learned over to look closer at Rodney. "Hey, I remember you. Didn't you build a nuclear bomb?" "I only designed it!" said Rodney. "No reason to get upset. 'Cause you know, I could'a built it for you," said Hank. "I'm pretty good with building stuff. Having an atomic bomb around probably would'a brought tourists, ya think?" "That's okay," said Rodney. To Brent, he asked, "Can we do this now?" "As soon as Mom gets here," said Brent. Rodney nodded, and asked for more coffee. He was finishing that cup when Emma and Oscar entered. "Holy Hell! Are you two still here? You're wasting your time! I'm going to fight you until the end of the earth!" "Quiet down, Oscar," said Emma. She smiled. "I want to hear my favorite student play something." Davis said, "I thought I was your favorite student!" "Not a good time, Davis," said Brent. "Are you ready, Rodney?" "Sure," said Rodney. "Let's do it." They all walked over to the bingo hall, where they found Wanda plunking out a song, with lots of wrong notes. They all winced. Rodney grabbed his ears. "Wanda!" called Brent. "Busy!" said Wanda, and kept trying to hit the right keys. Rodney nodded to Ronon, and indicated Wanda with his head. Ronon nodded back. He walked over to Wanda and picked her up from the bench. "Hey! Let me down, you gigantic moose!" Wanda struggled to no avail. Ronon carried her over to a chair, and set her on it. Rodney took the chance to slip on to the bench. He spread his music out, and took one last look over it. "I must be insane," he said, under his breath. "This is a clear case of insanity caused by sleep deprivation. I can't believe I agreed to this." "We're waiting, Meredith," said Emma. After one last muttered complaint, Rodney touched the keys, and began playing. The audience was hushed as the notes floated out into the old bingo hall and over the folding chairs and tables. Rodney had been right; the piano

wasn't quite in tune, but that didn't affect the listeners' amazement at the performance. It wasn't perfect; it wasn't up to the standards of a professional recording studio, and Rodney needed more practice that he'd had. Nevertheless, it was the best piano recital in the entire century Dog River had been in existence. Rodney played the final notes, and sat back. Nobody made a sound. He waited a few seconds, but finally couldn't take it anymore. "Well?" he asked, as he turned around. Emma had tears flowing down her face. "Oh, Rodney, that was wonderful," she said. "I never thought I would ever hear music like that in this town again. I'm so proud of you!" Wanda said, "Piano was out of tune." "I tried to tune it," said Rodney, "but I didn't have the right tools." "Of course you can tune a piano," said Wanda. "Why not?" "That was incredible!" exclaimed Lacey, and began clapping. The others, except for Oscar, all joined in the applause. That gave Rodney the opportunity to reclaim his usual ego-centric demeanor. He rose and bowed. Emma gave him a hug. "That was wonderful," she said again. "It's what every teacher hopes at least one of her students will manage to do." She released him, stepped back, and looked him in the eye. "It needs work, especially in the dynamics. But, it was wonderful!" She rounded on Oscar, who hadn't clapped, and was scowling. "Drop the complaint, Oscar," she said. "No way," he said. "This jackass comes back to Dog River, plays a few notes, and suddenly you want me to let them ruin our beautiful view? Holy Hell!" "Ah, come on, Dad," said Brent. "Give 'em a break." The rest of them agreed with Brent, but Oscar was unmoved. "Oscar," said Emma, sweetly, "you're going to withdraw the complaint." "Why would I do that?" said Oscar. "Because," said Emma, "your wife of all these years asked you to do it. Because you want to help the town. And because I'm going to offer to put Rodney and his friend up at our house while they're waiting for this whole problem to be resolved." She smiled. Oscar frowned. "You wouldn't!"

Emma's smile hardened. "Try me." Oscar shouted, "Holy Hell!" After sputtering a few syllables, he said, "Fine! Fine! I withdraw my complaint!" "Davis and I are your witnesses," said Karen. "I'll speak with the mayor right away," said Davis. He got up and left. "Fine!" bellowed Oscar. He scowled at Rodney. "But you, you jackass know-in-all, I want you to leave and never come back! I don't care where you have to go, you stay away from here!" With a last "Holy Hell," Oscar left the bingo hall. Everyone else surrounded Rodney to congratulate him. "Thank you, Emma," said Rodney, from the bottom of his heart. "I meant it," she said. "You'd better practice! I don't care if you have to have a piano shipped wherever it is you work, I want you to practice!" "Pie for everyone!" said Lacey. "Isn't it a little early for pie?" asked Wanda. Brent said, "Too early? How is that even possible?" Lacey said to Rodney, "I have some wonderful apple pie. No citrus at all!" Rodney smiled. "That sounds good. And coffee!" Everyone left. Rodney and Ronon were the last to leave. "I'm not expert, but you sounded good," said Ronon. "Not really my kind of music, though." "Thanks," said Rodney. "Just don't tell Sam, okay?" He sighed. "I never thought I'd be so happy to get back to work." Fitzy showed up at the Ruby to tell them the problem was entirely resolved. Rodney was so happy to be leaving, he was actually polite. They said goodbye to everyone. Karen hugged Ronon, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Emma ordered Rodney to continue practicing the piano. Rodney lied, and told her he would. Brent topped off their gas tank, and Lacey gave them each a piece of pie for the road. Wanda shook Rodney's hand, and didn't even call him "Meredith." With another successful mission behind them, they pulled out of town. "So that was your hometown," said Ronon, as Dog River shrank in the rear-view mirror. "Interesting place."

"If you say so," said Rodney. "I, for one, am glad to be gone. If they want me to go back, I'm going to surrender to the Wraith and get it over with." Ronon laughed. "It certainly explained a few things about you." Rodney frowned. "Like what?" "I think I finally understand why you left your galaxy," said Ronon. Rodney nodded his Saskatchewan prairie. agreement as they sped away through the

THE END.

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