Title: Punchline

Author: Christi (christim@comcast.net)

Rating: PG-13

Timeline: Errr…let’s say Season Two, at some point. Because Ronon is more fun to play with than Ford.

Disclaimer: I don’t own anything. Except, just maybe, the goat.

Author’s Note: It is control_freak80’s birthday! Or rather, it was her birthday. In honor of this occasion, I sat down to write her fic. Happy, squeeful gen Atlantis fic, because that’s the way she likes it. This is…what came out. Don’t think about it too hard, or it’ll make no sense at all. And sorry it’s late!


The event horizon had barely dissolved when the natives approached them, three men in some seriously heavy-duty robes. To top things off, they were accompanied by a goat—or at least, an animal that looked a lot like a goat.

“Is one of you John Sheppard?” Priest #1 inquired.

John did a double-take. He never liked it when the locals seemed to know more than they should. “It depends. Who’s asking? And…what’s with the goat?”

“We are three of the Council of Twelve, Priests of the Ancient Ways,” Priest #2 explained.

“Three priests and a goat? That sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Ever walk into a bar together?”

“Uh…no. If you are in fact Sheppard, we are here to discuss a matter of grave importance with you,” intoned Priest #3.

Next to him, McKay snorted. “And you’re sure it’s him you’re looking for?”

“Yes. You see, we are the Council that studies the stars and determines the line of kings, extrapolating from the natural signs as well as the signs given to us by the Ring of the Ancestors, who the cosmos has chosen as the next ruler of the Engerra, our planet. Initially, we believed that our current Prince Eriken had the strongest signs. But in light of some recently discovered texts on the alignment of stars required to indicate the heir to the throne and some more exact mathematical calculation, we have come to believe that we may have been mistaken in our preliminary assessment of the situation.” Obviously, Priest #1 tended to ramble.

McKay, taking in Sheppard’s slightly glazed over look, laughed. “…You lost him after ‘we are the Council’, goat-man. Could you try getting to the point in ten words or less? Sheppard’s brain has a short fuse.”

“…We now believe that Sheppard is the next designated ruler of the Engerra.”

For John, the world spun on its axis and he couldn’t help but glare at Priest #2. “…That was more than ten words.”


“Seriously, this is a bad idea.”

“It is not an idea, Your Majesty. It is destiny.”

“Well, destiny is wrong, damnit! I’d make a horrible ruler, don’t you get that? I mean, I don’t know anything about politics, I’m not at all polite, and I can’t seem to stop myself from saying the first thing that pops into my head, no matter how inappropriate it is! Enrique or whoever has been trained for this since he was born, just…stick with him.”

“We can not determine such things. We are not the deciders of destiny; we merely see that the will of the cosmos is carried out.”

“…Oh God, you’re serious. I’m telling you, there’s no way that this can end well.”

“The Ancestors would not choose unwisely. You will accompany us to the Royal Castle and begin to learn of your duties immediately. We are certain that all will fall into its proper place.”

“…What, you want me to take some kind of prince lessons?! No. Nononono. That’s not going to happen. Find someone else, because I. Won’t. Do. It.”

“I’m afraid you have no choice, Your Majesty.”

Eyeing the three dozen men with weapons now aimed at him and his team, John sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that.”



Ronon! It’s about time! So, what’s the plan?”

Ronon blinked. “Plan?”

“To get me out of this! Do we have jumpers coming? Reinforcements?”

“Actually, Weir said to just go with it. She’s going to work on diplomatic options.”

“WHAT?! She can’t be serious. These people are insane!”

“I thought so too, but Teyla seems convinced that their argument for you being their next ruler is pretty solid.”

“Seriously? Come on, this has to be some kind of mistake. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I don’t think anything that has ‘the cosmos’ deciding the fate of an entire planet does.”

“…Good point. But it doesn’t help me at all.”


“Great. Any words of wisdom?”

Ronon thought for a moment. “I bet royals eat really well. Enjoy the food.”


“Pink. You’re putting me in bright pink robes.”

“This is the traditional ceremonial robe of a crown prince, Your Majesty.”

“…Okay, see, tradition really is off its rocker. I’m no fashion expert or anything, but even I know that bright pink doesn’t go well with a garishly bright green trim and purple sandals.”

“…This is the traditional—“

“Yeah, yeah, I got it. I just think it’s ugly.” It even made his hair look bad—and John had fantastic hair.

“Nevertheless, it is the traditional—“

Argh! Forget I said anything, okay?”

“…Yes, Majesty.”


“There are rules about eating?!”

“Of course, Majesty. Food is often shared at formal court events, and as such many guidelines about meals and appropriate actions in regard to food have arisen over the years. Here’s a list for you to learn the basics.”

“…These are the basics?”


“This list is seven pages long.”

“Yes. I was impressed we managed to condense it that far. When you have learned these, we’ll go into more detailed etiquette.”

“Oh, goody. Hmm. Hey. Dessert must always be served on a golden plate?”

“Yes, Majesty.”

“But weren’t you people just whining about the economy in yesterday’s lesson? Why not use the gold from these ridiculous plates to give yourselves a financial boost?”

“Gold is worthless here, Majesty. All of our currency is based in carved wooden trinkets.”

“Wood is pretty common, you know. That could be part of your problem. Now, why does each course of a meal have to be served seventeen minutes and forty-two seconds apart?”

“It is tra--”

If he heard the word ‘tradition’ one more time, John might scream. “You know what? Never mind.”


Finally, something I know how to do. Fighting is one thing I’m perfectly capable of. Just let me get my gun and we’re good to go.”

“The Crown Prince is not permitted to engage in battle with mechanical weapons, Your Majesty.”

“Why the hell not? It’s simple and practical and it gets the job done.”

“It’s simply not allowed, Majesty.”

“…But…I’m really best with a gun. I mean, my hand-to-hand is okay, but nothing to brag about. Teyla still gets me with those sticks every time. I’m a great shot.”

“A Crown Prince is not allowed to engage in hand-to-hand combat either, Your Majesty.”

“Well, what the hell is a Crown Prince allowed to do?”

“Wield a javelin.”

“…You mean one of those long spear type things that you throw and that inevitably hit nothing of any great significance?”


“…I hate this job.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”


“You could at least try not to look so miserable, John. Is it really so bad, being the destined ruler of a whole planet?”

“YES, Elizabeth! This is ridiculous. It’s been over a month now and I’m still horrible at every Prince task they’ve put in front of me. I can’t remember all 144 court dances—hell, I can’t even remember the basic 12. I can’t seem to stop offending people—how in the world was I supposed to know that telling someone that they’re tall can be considered one of the three ways to start a blood feud? I hate being called ‘Your Majesty’, I’m klutzy as all get out in those stupid robes they make me wear, and if I turn my head too fast, the crown comes flying off and inevitably scratches someone.”

“…Yes, it was rather unfortunate that your training crown caught that Priest in the eye. How is he, by the way?”

“The witch doctor or whatever he was said there wasn’t any permanent damage.”

“Well, that’s good at least.”

“…If you say so.”



“Really Majesty, if you wanted a woman, you simply needed to ask.”

Excuse me?”

“Well, it was very unwise for you to dally with Lady Adele. Her family is extremely irate.”

“For the last time, I had never met the woman before last night, when you made me do that ridiculous dance with her! Why is everyone insisting that I had some kind of torrid affair with her?”

“Majesty announced it to be so during the dance.”

“I did NOT!”

“You did. The Carengo must be performed with a minimum of twenty-three centimeters between the partner’s torsos at all times.”

John was getting that all-too-familiar sinking feeling in his chest. “And how many centimeters were between my torso and Lady Adele’s?”

“Fifteen. Generally, that distance is considered to be an announcement of pregnancy.”

“And I’m the only one who thinks that’s absurd, right?”

“Yes, Majesty.”

“Okay. So, what now?”

“Well, if Majesty does not want to be challenged to a duel by Lady Adele’s father, Majesty must proceed with the engagement.”

“Engagement! There’s no other option?”

“Well, engagements can be dissolved in a myriad of ways, the most common of which is of course, monetary compensation, but…Majesty! Where are you going?”

“Out to chop down some trees.”


“Oh, look. It’s the Three Harbingers of Doom. What can I do for you today?”

“Sheppard, we have an urgent matter that has just come to our attention.”

“Like I haven’t heard that one before. Spill it.”

“Recently, our monks have discovered a ruined tablet underneath a temple in the Ancient Badlands. On the tablet were a new set of calculations to determine the next heir to the throne. After following these instructions, we were expecting them to point once again to you as the rightful successor, but such was not the case. Instead, another came up as being the clear-cut heir.”

“…If I’m understanding you correctly, this means…I’m off the hook?”

“…Yes, Sheppard. You are released from your obligations here in the capital city. We do apologize for the inconvenience.”

“…You apologize for the inconvenience?! Well, how NICE for you!! Meanwhile, I’ve just wasted six weeks of my life being ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE!!!”

“…Yes, we’re very sorry. We would escort you home, but we must contact the rightful recipient of the throne right away, you understand.”

“…Of course. Just go. NOW.”

“Yes, we’re off to find one…Rodney McKay.”


“John! You’re back!”

“Oh, hey Lorne. Yeah, I’m back.”

“I didn’t know we had a dartboard in Atlantis!”

“We didn’t. I made it myself.”

“Funny it looks like…hey, are there people drawn on that target?”


“Who are they?”

“Three Dead Priests and a Goat.”

“…Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.”