Spoilers: For Season 2, but only up to Intruder I believe.
Summary: Their deaths have to mean *something*; they have to be something more than just another name on file. McKay angst over the losses of his science team.
A/N: Betaread by Fanwoman, Ellex and LittleKnux. I'd also like to thank the first two for encouraging me on, and helping me turn what was an just an odd paragraph into something more meaningful.
Every story has an ending. Life doesn't, not so far, not for him. But he watches as Peter has his ending, the satellite exploding. The colours flash before his eyes as he wonders what kind of story this is, whether this is some grim fairytale where he's meant to be the hero. If so, he's failed, because what do they have left now? In his mind, it wasn't just Peter who died there, wasn't just the station that's gone – he sees Atlantis falling with every second that passes, his whole world tumbling down, crumbling away so easily and stripping away each and every friend he's made in the process. Peter was the first casualty of the real battle, but they've lost plenty of others on the way to this point. The day he stepped through the gate was when everything started going wrong, and now all he can think is, “Where does it stop?” But he knows it won't, because if they die then everyone dies; every planet in their home galaxy will fall under threat. They're all that stands before the Wraith's enslavement of two galaxies. Every story has an ending, but this is real, and so he goes on, praying, despite his lack of belief, for at least a brief peaceful pause rather than a happy ending that he knows doesn't exist.
But peaceful no longer applies to Atlantis. He's finally back there after the trip 'home', and even now, when not under siege, it seems like it's a place of war. They've got new troops, or, as he mentally classifies them, new cannon fodder. It's an indecent term to use, even in his head, and a horrible way to think of them - as something less than normal people - but it beats calling them friends when you know you're bound to end up watching their brains get splattered out one day. He just hopes, for their sakes, it's not someday soon and that it's not his fault, like everything else seems to be. Everyone's quite ready to praise his efforts, but they act like he can do no wrong. He knows that's not true. He knows there's more grimness to come, because just like Sam Carter, he's accumulating experience – which means you learn from your mistakes, and that often means other people will suffer or die from them. He's not expecting good luck to pull them through anymore, or even intelligence or knowledge. It almost seems random, the ways in which they survive, how they manage to acquire the solution just in time, but the scientist in him shakes off such doubts or superstitions. He's just gotten lucky one too many times, and probability says that won't last. There's only so long before you toss and get tails, and he knows, so far, for all their damage and loss, they have been lucky. Atlantis is still standing, and it's nothing short of a miracle that they've been able to pull the rabbit out of the hat once more and fool the Wraith where the Ancients could not.
He's back on Atlantis, but already the list has grown. He writes Dr. George T. Lindstrom at the top of the new list. Someone thought it appropriate they start anew, but all it feels like to him is a fresh to-do list, where the task is to inform the family. He's lucky that it was Caldwell's watch and, therefore, not his responsibility, because he can't take anymore consoling of ex-colleagues’ families. He's had his fill, and he's rather hoping his next vacation on Earth might be full of pleasanter occupations than delivering the same bad news to different people.
He’d hated himself as he sat in front of them, trying to be polite and trying to praise their deceased relative. Why? Because in truth, he’d wanted to tell Jensen's parents how much her pen clicking in tune to her MP3s got on his nerves, or to ask Harris' sister why it was her brother had a compulsive need to check every experiment setup in the whole lab – not just his own - a rather non-standard 8 times. He’d wanted to rage at them for all their faults, because he’d known that after he'd gotten out all those insignificant details, he could get down to what really mattered - that Jensen's odd habit seemed to pay off because she was pretty good on the Athosian drums and had made many a droll wine and cheese evening into something a bit more deserving to be called a party, and that Harris' OCD tendencies had, on a couple of occasions, averted major disasters caused by others' incompetence. He’d wanted to tell all that and more, but instead, he'd had to sit down on stupid plush couches, trying not to fidget at having to be still for so long, and lie to them, – missing out all the most important details. He hadn’t been allowed to explain the things that made their deaths that little bit more bearable in his mind, or share the comments he had stored up in his head, the ones that made those people seem human, details that made them a people and made their houses homes. It was these unspoken details that transformed them beyond just another name and next of kin address in some impersonal file.
A month after his return, he realizes what has been bugging him, what little detail is off about the labs. Scrambling to find the old list, he scans down the names until he finds it. Dr. Anna Day, specialist in material sciences, the same Anna Day that he used to know as Annie. He remembers her long blonde hair; he'd had to ask her to tie it up, real safety hazard. She never said much, but when she did, you couldn't shut her up – hence the laying on of insults. That's what he mainly remembers her as, Annie who needed 10 insults in a row to shut up – you had to hit a real nerve with her before she'd get the point. It was annoying. If only she hadn't been so oblivious, she’d have escaped his tirades sooner, and he'd not have been forced to regularly hurt her precious ego. And now, Annie is dead.
He stares at the list for a few moments longer before filing it away and getting on with work as usual. Mystery solved, now he pretends like the answer makes it all better, that he doesn’t miss her. After all, he barely knew her, and it makes no sense to mourn what is of no significance to him. He wasn't her friend, and somehow it doesn't seem right to grieve over someone who only brings up bad memories. It's probably disrespectful. So he gets back to work, making a mental note to check up who replaced her and make sure he remembers their name this time.
The personnel file lists the newest material scientist as Graham Parkes, another Brit, only twenty four and already has a PhD. Too young, really, but material scientists don't exactly grow on trees in the UK, and the second best of the best in science seem to end up in this galaxy. No one here is exactly the foremost expert in their field, because you don't send away your best – exactly why Carter and Jackson aren't here.
He has nothing in common with Graham Parkes whatsoever, but he's going to have a chat with the guy, at least once, a chance to know him with all potential scathing comments held back. He wants to remember Graham as someone other than a report, an annoying habit or a vision in a body bag.