The New Year's Resolution of Colonel John Sheppard
"Sheppard!" Rodney's face was twisted with panic. "Hurry up! The… uh… baby has fallen into the… lemon tree and… and if you don't save him, then… countless deaths, disaster, etcetera, and… and then your whole team is going to die hideously," he finished in a rush, then let out a breath, looking smug and relieved, as if duty had been done.
Sheppard didn't look up from his comic.
Rodney's expression faltered. "Danger?" he said. "Disaster? Threats to innocents and to your team?"
Sheppard's eyes remained glued to the page. "It won't work, Rodney. Don't waste your breath. I've made a New Year's Resolution?"
Rodney frowned. "To turn to the Dark Side?"
"No." Sheppard looked up at last. "Not to let those Shep whumping authors get away with their tricks. I'm through with being whumped. After today, it's over."
And somewhere, not too far away, a group of women, scattered by distance but united in purpose, smiled. If that's how he wants to play it… they thought.
Over the next few weeks, Sheppard was as good as his word. When rustic villagers, their names full of apostrophes, came wringing their hands, talking about terrible beasts that lurked in the fog, Sheppard sent a well-armed team and a tank. When the weather was icy cold, Sheppard wore thermal underwear and a extra pair of socks. Inexplicable energy readings from the unexplored parts of Atlantis were investigated by MALPs and robots.
After the first week, dead nemeses started crawling out of the woodwork, but when Sheppard firmly pointed out that they were, in fact, quite dead already, they pouted, shuffling away sulkily.
At the start of the second week, Sheppard asked Teyla if he could take Torren with him whenever he went anywhere in a jumper. "They'll never kill a baby," he told her. "If Torren's there, we'll stop having those unprecedented and inexplicable freak jumper failures that happen virtually every day, and which result in tangled wreckage, bodies (usually mine) being thrown around like a rag doll, blood trickling down from large lumps on the head and bits of console penetrating my flesh."
Teyla shook her head. "I fear you would still get all that," she said, "but Torren, although unharmed, would be dangerously close to a fuel spill and you would have to sacrifice your own safety to save him, walking on broken legs and with consoles embedded in your chest, suffering excruciating pain to save the life of the innocent whose mother has entrusted him to your care. No, John, I believe it is wiser to avoid the jumpers for now."
The twenty-nine ninja assassins that appeared invisibly in Atlantis in the third week were sufficiently baffled by the Replicator doubles of Sheppard that Rodney constructed that they ended up killing each other.
Several children that Atlantis hadn't realised they possessed got stuck down mineshafts that they hadn't realised existed, but Sheppard sent down the combat engineers who were actually trained for the job, rather than going down alone.
He refused to eat unidentified purple fruit, or even the puce varieties. When the doctors told him to take things easy because of a sniffle, he did so.
"I'm just going to walk along that hallway over to the left," he said loudly, at the start of the fourth week, paused briefly for the freak structural collapse to happen, began to set off in the opposite direction, then, with a grin, darted off in a third direction. "Works every time," he muttered.
Whenever he went off-world, a Marine trotted along behind him with a placard reading, "It's all just a horrible misunderstanding." As a result, run-ins with irate natives, incarcerations in dank prison cells and hideous torture all dwindled to nothing.
In the fifth week, he updated his "things to do in an emergency" list so that "suicide run" was point one hundred, not point one.
And, not too far away, a group of women cracked their knuckles, sat a little more upright in their computer chairs, and said, "This means war."
In the sixth week, nothing happened. The assassins went away and never came back. The dead nemeses stopped crawling out of holes in the wall. Atlantis stopped crumbling into pieces whenever Sheppard walked past, and no-one showed even the slightest sign of wanting to torture him hideously.
Natives with apostrophes in their name still asked for help, but it was Lorne that they requested by name. A jumper crashed, after an unprecedented and inexplicable freak failure, but a pilot who didn't even have a name managed to save his team-mates, despite terrible injury, and even though his shirt was red (result of a curious laundry accident, but that's another story) managed to limp home, unconscious team-mates dangling from each arm, and then proceeded to linger in a coma for three days, hovering between life and death, while people wept at his side and pretty nurses gave him kisses.
When one of McKay's experiments went horribly wrong, it was Zelenka who escaped the infirmary against doctors' orders, went on a suicide run to save the city, and was plucked to safety at the last minute, with much rejoicing.
The third sergeant from the left had a horrible misunderstanding while on a planet, was captured by the angry natives with harsh consonants in their name, refused to betray Atlantis under torture, and had managed to escape all by himself, despite gallons of drippy blood, when rescue came.
During the eighth week, Sheppard undressed in his room, lingered awhile with hardly anything on at all, and said an experimental little "ow!" as a past wound twinged.
He did not hear even the slightest hint of a "squee" echoing from places unknown.
Lorne was critically injured ten times in a single week. New recruits whispered in awed tones about the great hero that was Radek Zelenka. Chuck turned into a spider. When the entire central tower blew up, it was Woolsey who shielded the helpless technicians with his own vulnerable but muscle-ridden torso. (Don't worry – the tower got fixed again between episodes; it always does.)
In the ninth week, Sheppard had a little more to drink than he ought to have had, and wailed aloud to the unheeding sky, "Why don't you love me any more?"
Unheeding? No, not unheeding. "You know what you need to do," said the women who, from their own different rooms, pull the strings of a universe.
On the first day of the tenth week, Sheppard quite deliberately stubbed his toe. His leg got caught in the leg of his pants, and he crashed down sideways, bumping his poor head. Some hair gel got in his eyes, and smarted quite horribly. There was a small pebble in his sock, so he limped a little bit when he walked.
It wasn't much, but "count it as a peace offering?" he muttered.
That afternoon, he was shot. The day after that, he broke several ribs while saving Atlantis from a terrible yet unspecified threat. Two days later, he was horribly tortured by a bad guy who didn't appear to have any motive or even a consistently-spelled name, but who had sharp things and knew how to cackle, so that was okay.
A few days after that, he was in his very first unprecedented and inexplicable freak jumper accident of the year.
It felt like coming home. And as he opened his eyes in the infirmary, and saw his team all around him, smiling and anxious, he knew that all was well with the world.
And, from a place not too far away, the watching women looked down at him, too, and smiled and loved him, and knew that they had won.
They would always win.