Title: Memories of Green
Medium: Photoshop collage
Notes: Beta: gblvr. The colors and themes for this picture were inspired by the covers
of old sci-fi novels. This is probably the single most labor-intensive art
project I've ever worked on, with the most layers (over 100), changes
(basic composition changed at least 5 times), tweaks (eww, how did I not
notice that before?) and mutations (unexpected but happy surprises). But
in the end, it's my favorite project as well.
Title: Weathering the Storm
Rating: PG (language)
Pairing(s): John/Rodney (PreSlash)
Summary: You have to get through the storms to enjoy the sunshine.
Notes: Thanks to my artist for such a wonderful piece of art to work with!! Thank you to my beta chocolatephysicist for her help and encouragement. Any mistakes remaining are completely my own!
Weathering the Storm
The thing about being an intergalactic explorer was that a person had to have a pretty extensive skillset. On any one day you could be called upon to be a diplomat, a soldier, a scientist, even a nurse when the kids of the village you were visiting fell and skinned a knee and looked to you to fix it. You had to be prepared for whatever came your way on a typical day of exploring the wonders of the galaxy.
Rodney was okay with that. He was a genius, he could figure out almost any problem. The problem right now was that there was a storm looming on the horizon and his team was looking at him.
“Do I look like a meteorologist?” He scowled at them.
The planet was hot, hotter than any place they’d ever been, the sweat was trickling down his back and he was supremely uncomfortable. Fortunately his teammates appeared to be as hot and uncomfortable as he: Sheppard’s hair was practically limp in the heat and high humidity, Ronon had a sheen of sweat all over and his hair was curling in little wisps around his face. Teyla was the only one of them who still seemed to be cool and collected, she wasn’t even sweating.
Sheppard scratched his head trying to fluff his hair up around his fingers, with no success, in the process. He fixed Rodney with a narrow-eyed stare like he expected Rodney to pull unknown meteorological skills out of his ass. “Come on, Rodney, you’re always telling us how smart you are. Are you telling me you can’t tell us how long before that storm hits?”
Rodney crossed his arms, leveling his scowl on Sheppard alone. “Do you know how many factors are involved in how fast a storm moves?” His teammates just kept looking at him, obviously expecting him to answer. “Well I’m sure it’s lots of things, but I’m not a meteorologist. So. I. Don’t. Know.”
Ronon laughed. “We’ve probably got a few hours,” he said. “It doesn’t smell like rain yet.”
“Oh, that’s very scientific,” Rodney muttered. But he didn’t have anything better so he let it go. For the moment.
“Okay,” Sheppard rubbed his hands briskly together. “You heard the man. We’ve got a few hours. Let’s go find energy signatures. Everyone remember where we parked the car.” He pushed the button on the jumper’s remote and it disappeared from sight. One minute it was there and the next it was gone. It never got old as far as Rodney was concerned.
Sheppard gestured for Rodney to take the lead. Teyla took point with him, her weapon positioned ready to defend Rodney from any comers. Rodney liked that about Teyla, she definitely had her priorities straight.
“What is a meteorologist?” she asked as they walked, head tilted as she regarded him. Rodney pretended that he was absorbed in the readings on his workpad so he didn’t have to answer her.
The planet they were investigating was mostly a desert. They’d done a fly over of the whole planet and it just figured that the area where the energy signature was the strongest was in the most arid part of the desert. Rodney had actually thought that a little rain might be nice to help cool the temperatures down a bit.
They’d only been walking for less than an hour. They weren’t really paying attention to the weather. Rodney’s focus was glued to his computer, tracking the elusive energy signature. Teyla actually liked visiting other planets, and she was surveying the landscape with a keen eye. They didn’t encounter many deserts. Of course, she wasn’t losing her body weight in sweat either.
Sheppard and Ronon brought up the rear watching their six. Not that they’d seen any life signs, not even indigenous animal life. There was the occasional spindly plant, not cactus exactly – the Pegasus equivalent. Rodney wondered idly if you could use them to find water.
Water wasn’t really a problem suddenly. The clouds that had recently been on the horizon were suddenly overhead and the rain was falling in sheets. It was falling so hard that Rodney almost couldn’t see his teammates.
“Rodney,” Sheppard shouted, appearing out of the rain, grabbing Rodney’s arm.
The temperature didn’t drop with the coming rain; it just got more humid, if that was possible. Rodney was afraid he was going to drown standing upright.
“We need to get back to the jumper,” Rodney shouted.
Teyla and Ronon appeared, huddling around Rodney and Sheppard.
Sheppard snorted. “You think?” he shouted back.
The rain was so heavy that it was obscuring all landmarks. Ronon took the lead this time. He was the only one of them that might be able to find his way back to the jumper.
It wasn’t long before they were slogging through ankle deep puddles. Rodney kept his head down just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other until he ran into a back. That was when he realized that Ronon had stopped. He moved in closer to huddle with Teyla and Sheppard.
“We’re in a river bed,” Ronon shouted.
Rodney didn’t know how he could tell. It was raining so hard, it was running down into his eyes, making it almost impossible to see anything. The water was ankle deep everywhere he looked though, and getting steadily deeper.
“We’ve got to get out of the river bed,” Ronon shouted. He pointed at something; Rodney couldn’t tell what it was.
Sheppard nodded. “You’ve got to lead the way, I can’t see a thing,” he admitted.
That terrified Rodney more than the rain, that John Sheppard would admit to a weakness.
The ground was saturated now; it was turning into a sludgy mess that sucked at their shoes as they walked. To add to his misery Rodney could now hear rumblings of thunder.
Rodney walked directly behind Ronon, keeping a tight grip on his coat. Teyla was behind him holding onto his pack. Rodney supposed that Sheppard was somewhere behind Teyla, slogging on doggedly, determined to watch their six. Although what he was protecting them from, Rodney didn’t have any idea. Water monsters that only appeared when it rained?
As soon as he had the thought, Rodney began to imagine that he could hear things out in the rain – he began to imagine great, horrific Loch Ness type monsters with green scales and teeth that were sharp and pointed. He imagined that he could see the monster rising over them, looming in the wall of rain.
When the monster hit, it was a wall of water instead, that crashed into them. Rodney went to his knees, but Ronon caught him before he went all the way down. He choked and spluttered as the water swamped him. Ronon’s hand kept him upright. If he’d fallen into the water, he probably would have drowned.
When it was all over and Rodney could breathe again, he realized that they were alone. It was just him and Ronon standing in the now-waist deep water. It swirled around them trying to pull them along in its wake.
“Teyla?” He turned and shouted into the rain. He couldn’t see her or Sheppard, just the water rushing around them trying to take his feet out from under him. He would have been swept away if it wasn’t for Ronon’s iron grip on his arm.
“We’ve got to find Teyla and Sheppard,” Rodney tugged at Ronon trying to pull him back into the water.
“It’s too dangerous,” Ronon pulled in the other direction. Rodney was so turned around at that point, he didn’t know which direction the jumper and ultimately the gate was in. He had to trust Ronon if he had any chance of making it home. But he didn’t want to do that without Sheppard and Teyla.
One minute they were struggling through the waist-deep water, Ronon pretty much keeping Rodney on his feet and moving. The rain was coming down so hard that it hurt. The next minute they stepped onto relatively dry ground. It was muddy sure, but at least it wasn’t swirling around them trying to pull them off their feet.
Ronon kept Rodney moving until he got him under the shelter of an outcropping of rocks. When they stepped under the rocks it was like it was a different world. They were completely shielded from the rain, and it was even cooler. The sound of the rain was lessened to the extent that Rodney didn’t have to shout to make himself heard.
Vainly Rodney tried to wipe his face clean of the rain, taking in their shelter. It was barely big enough for him and Ronon to stand in, but it was a welcome respite from the wild weather. Outside the thunder rumbled and Rodney thought he spied a flash of lightening. He collapsed onto the ground surprised to find it was mostly dry.
“We need to go back for Sheppard and Teyla,” Rodney repeated. His volume was still too loud, so he brought it down a little. “I don’t know when we lost them.”
“When we were hit with the flood waters,” Ronon said. Rodney started to struggle into standing, but Ronon pushed him back down. “I’ll go get them, you stay here and rest.”
Rodney thought about protesting. But he knew that he’d be less than helpful in any search attempt. He hadn’t even known when they’d been separated from the rest of the team, and walking through the elements had worn him down to the point that he was shaking.
Ronon paused before he went back out into the punishing weather. He bent down searching through Rodney’s tac vest. Rodney was so tired that he couldn’t even protest. He just sat quietly while Ronon opened his pockets one by one. Finally Ronon found what he was searching for. He picked up Rodney’s hand pressing something into it.
“Eat it before you fall over and we have to carry you to the gate,” Ronon said shortly. Then he turned and vanished into the curtain of rain.
Rodney looked down at his hand to find that he was clutching a power bar. Rodney wasn’t sure he had the energy to actually eat it, but he could just imagine the shit Ronon would give him if he went into a hypoglycemic coma so Rodney mustered the energy to unwrap the bar and took a small bite. He let his head fall back against the rock shelter behind him as he slowly chewed. Outside of his little sanctuary the rain continued to fall just as heavily. The thunder was coming in loud rumbles now and he could see the lightning clearly as it arced across the sky.
Ronon didn’t like leaving McKay alone. Sure the guy was smart, sometimes too smart for his own good. But Ronon had seen the way he looked when he’d been going too long without food, and right now he was wearing that look all over.
He sat listlessly, letting Ronon root through his tac vest. There was no protest, no slapping his hands away. It was unnatural to see him so passive. Ronon did what he could. Once he found the power bars that the scientist inhaled by the handful he pressed one into McKay’s hand.
“Eat it before you fall over and we have to carry you to the gate,” he said, trying to appeal to the man’s pride. McKay had almost as much pride as he had ego and brain, so there was a lot of that. He did seem to perk up at Ronon’s words. At least he peered down at the foil-wrapped bar in his hand, like he wasn’t sure what it was and it might bite him at any moment.
Ronon had done all he could for McKay, he’d found him a place to rest safe from the elements. It was the best he could do for the moment. He had to go back out into the storm and find Sheppard and Teyla now.
He cast one last look back at McKay. The outcropping of rocks formed a kind of natural cave around him. It had an overhang that was far enough out that McKay really was sheltered from the elements.
He still made a pathetic picture sitting with his back to the wall. He was soaked through with a little pool of water forming around him on the ground where he sat. His hair was plastered to his head and there were droplets of water dripping constantly to the rocky ground. But the thing that was the most disturbing of all was the way he just sat – quiet and still. If there was two things Rodney McKay wasn’t it was quiet and still. He sat motionless staring down at the power bar in his hand like he didn’t know how it got there.
There was nothing more he could do; Ronon knew that, he just hated to leave McKay alone like this.
With a quick indrawn breath and a shake of his head he took a determined step back out into the storm’s fury. It battered at him, the pounding rain joined now by a howling wind that tore at him.
Ronon had seen storms this bad, but not often. It was raining nearly sideways and the wind whipped around him, trying to turn him around, make him lose his bearings. He couldn’t do that. Teyla and Sheppard were relying on him. He knew it.
They relied on each other. He liked that about his team. They all had their own strengths and weaknesses. They took care of each other and when one of them needed a hand, one of the others was there to offer it. Sheppard had given Ronon a hand when he offered him a place in Atlantis. Teyla gave him a hand by accepting him as a friend and helping him to find his way now that he wasn’t a runner anymore. Even McKay offered a hand by treating Ronon as he treated everyone else – with contempt and the occasional offer of a muffin at breakfast. It meant a lot to Ronon. He was determined to take care of these people just like he would any of his own people.
The thunder rumbled almost directly overhead now. Lightning had joined in, too. It arced across the sky, sometimes forking off into tongues of flame that reached to the ground. Ronon paused to watch the lightning as it lit up the sky around him. He didn’t think he’d ever been so thoroughly wet in his life, not even in his shower on Atlantis.
There was a lot of lightning, and that was worrying. Lightning was dangerous. It could kill a man just as surely as the Wraith. But there wasn’t anything he could about the lightning, so Ronon continued back to the place where they’d lost half their team.
If the weather hadn’t turned against them it wasn’t even that far, it would have just been a few minutes from McKay’s shelter to the river bed where they had been walking.
In the fury of the storm he was pushed back three feet for every two he took forward. He couldn’t trust his footing. The ground was now thoroughly saturated, it made the going treacherous. The ground beneath his feet was liable to slide out from under him, so Ronon was forced to go slower than he would have liked to avoid falls or slides that could cause injuries he couldn’t afford.
On top of all that, signs he would normally use to track his path back – landmarks, footprints, animal signs – were completely gone. Ronon had to rely on his innate sense of direction to know that the outcropping of rocks where he had left McKay was at his back. He did spot things he remembered – a particularly large spindly bush thing that Sheppard persisted in calling a cactus no matter how many times McKay told him that it wasn’t even a close relative by Pegasus standards, a distinctive formation of rocks, the way the land sloped, it all helped to lead him back to where he and McKay had left the now-flooded river bed.
Ronon had small hope that he would find Teyla and Sheppard safe, if a little wet, it had happened before that the team had been separated and reunited safe and sound later. He wasn’t really surprised however when he didn’t find anything at all. A flash flood like they’d encountered was extremely dangerous. Ronon’s teammates could have been swept along with the flood a long ways.
He turned to trudge along the banks of the swollen river bank just hoping to find the bodies of his teammates. Overhead the lightning lit his way.
John was no stranger to flash floods. As a reckless teenager he’d once attempted to drive through flood waters. He was going to a party of all things. He’d had a fight with his dad that night and he wasn’t going home for anything. He drove into the water not even thinking that it was that deep. He knew the road, he drove it daily. The dip in the road was filled with water that flowed off the side of the road. But John knew the road, it wasn’t a problem.
It all happened so fast. He knew he was in trouble when he hit the water and it lapped at the sides of his car. Still he thought he’d be okay, he could see the other side of the road where it emerged from the water. It wasn’t that far.
Suddenly the car was sliding sideways and he was off the road. All he could think was that his father was going to be so pissed if he scratched the car.
He did manage to get out of the car and back to dryer grounds. A cop had seen him drive into the flood waters. He’d called for backup and then started to wade into the water himself to try and rescue John.
By that time John was out of the car. The cop gave him a hand and pulled him to solid ground. He got John into the back seat of his car and gave him a blanket.
The next thing John knew he was at home. The cop must have called his father, because he met the two of them at the door. John expected another fight, he was resigned to it. Instead his father hugged him, tight, like he was never going to let go. His dad never said a word about the car, but John did have to work all the next summer to pay for the repairs to his beloved Mustang.
John had a bad feeling when the water around them started to rise. He knew they were in trouble when Ronon said they were in a river bed. He remembered that feeling of the car sliding sideways. He lurched forward to catch Teyla’s elbow when he saw her going down. They both went to their knees when the ground slid out from beneath them.
He heard the roar of the flood waters heading their way. He grabbed Teyla as the water crashed over them; it picked them up, sweeping them away in its grasp.
John tried to keep hold of Teyla, but she was torn from his grasp. He swallowed a mouthful of water. He gasped and choked trying to get his head out of the water. He bobbed at the surface. He thought he caught a glimpse of Teyla in the water ahead of him, but he was pulled back under before he could be sure.
He kept getting tangled in his P-90 so he unclipped it and let it drop away. He broke the surface of the water again, gulping down air before he was under again. The water was fast, it was pulling him away from Teyla. He couldn’t even think about Rodney and Ronon, Ronon would keep Rodney safe, he had to depend on that. At that moment, Teyla was all he could think of. And getting his head above water for another breath.
John held his breath as long as he could. His lungs were burning with the need to draw in air. He kicked for what he thought was the surface, only to hit the river’s floor. He would have sobbed in his desperation if he’d been able.
Just when he knew that he was going to have to pull in a breath even if he was underwater, he broke the surface of the water. He exhaled and sucked in air desperately before the water had its way with him again pulling him along. He hit something in the water. With a burst of stars, darkness overtook him.
The ground under their feet was waterlogged, water squishing out at every step. It was extremely treacherous no matter how carefully she moved. Even though Teyla was as careful as she could be, she felt it give beneath her and she went to her knees, twisting her ankle beneath her as she went, she felt a sharp burst of agony as the bone gave way. She cried out, but it went unheard in the tumult of the storm.
John was behind her, he caught her arm before she could pitch face first into the water. She felt his fingers curl around her arm tightly as the wave of flood water hit them. She was torn from John’s grasp almost immediately and flung into the maelstrom.
Teyla was a strong swimmer. Her father had taught her when she was quite young. It had been among her favorite memories of her times with him – floating in the water while he held her steady. Even so she knew she was not strong enough to fight the torrent that bore her along in its path. All she could do was try to stay on the surface and let the water take her where it would.
She turned on her back and let her feet float around until she was traveling feet first down the raging waterway. The rain was still coming down and she was distantly aware of the lightning and the thunder. She was too concerned with keeping her head above water to give it more of her attention.
The water drew her along, she had no idea how far she traveled. Handicapped by her broken ankle, Teyla angled her body for the calmer eddies of water at the edges of the flood. She had almost achieved her goal when she caught sight of something floating by out of the corner of her eye.
There was someone floating down the middle of the flood waters in the worst of the tumult. It was John, he was on his back, but he did not appear to be conscious.
Teyla immediately reversed direction heading for her friend. The rain was still coming down as hard as it ever had, the waters sweeping John along in its path. She stroked through the water as quickly as she could, redoubling her efforts to close the gap between herself and John. She slid through the water drawing closer until at last she could pull him to her.
John was completely limp in her arms. There was a cut on his forehead over one eye. She turned onto her side, pulling John in close, tucking her hand into his vest so the water would not be able to pull them apart again. She headed for the shore, swimming one-handed.
It seemed to take forever although she knew it could have only been a few minutes when she broke into the calmer water nearer the banks of the now-raging river. Teyla gasped for breath exhausted from battling the water and the pain of her ankle.
She managed to pull herself and John onto the relative security of the shore. The rain poured down upon them but she could not bring herself to care. They were out of the water, that was the best she could do. She laid her head down and that was it, she knew no more.
Rodney did feel better after eating the power bar. He was kind of amazed and touched that Ronon had been paying close enough attention that he knew the symptoms of hypoglycemia.
He dug out another one as he watched the rain continue to pound outside his shelter. The thunder sounded like it was almost overhead. He moved as close as he could to the front of the rocks sheltering him to watch the light show provided by the lightning.
It was awe inspiring and more than a little frightening to watch it arc across the sky with bolts reaching to the ground. Rodney worried about his friends out in the rain with the lightning. He knew too much about the electrical charge of lightning to not be afraid for them. And the lightning just kept coming, it was more frequent now with strikes that were hitting the ground. Rodney watched as it hit again and again, seeming to be making its way toward him.
Suddenly the air around Rodney felt different. On a hunch he patted his hair to find it sticking out, charged with static electricity. Rodney looked up at the rocks over his head. The rocky outcropping was the highest point around. He realized that he had to leave now.
He threw himself out of the shelter back into the rain just as the lightning flickered across the sky, hitting the rocks where he had been sheltered. The strike was hard enough that the rocky overhang was shattered, sending splinters of stone showering down on Rodney. Electricity danced across its surface, giving weight to Rodney’s half-formed theory that the rock had some sort of metallic substance in it – perhaps a mineral of some sort. Whatever it was, Rodney had just found the source of his energy signature.
“Just great,” he said to no one. “I can just see us showing up back in Atlantis with a huge ass rock in tow. It would serve Zelenka right for making a bet that we wouldn’t find anything here. He made a mental note to send Zelenka back to investigate further and get samples just in case it was something they could use. Right now he just wanted to find the rest of his team and go home where it was dry and warm.
He tapped the radio in his ear. “Ronon are you there?” All he got in return was static. “Sheppard?” More silence. “Teyla.” He knew he wasn’t going to get an answer, but he had to try.
He had no idea where to go; he couldn’t take refuge in the rocks again. The lightning was still continuing around him. And now he was a target out in the open; besides the rocks he was pretty much the tallest thing in sight making him a prime target for a lightning strike.
He pulled out the life signs detector; he didn’t think it wasn’t going to work, but he needed to check anyway. Holding it in the shelter of his body wasn’t much protection, but he had to make the effort.
He was very surprised when he saw four dots on its screen. Three of the dots were moving steadily – away from him. He tucked the little device back into the dubious protection of his tac vest. At least he had a direction to go now.
He wiped the water from his eyes, which was, yeah, futile, and set out to find his teammates.
Ronon followed the bank of the rain-swollen river sure that this was the best way of finding Teyla and Sheppard. He refused to let himself think about how long they had been in the water and how long he had been searching. He knew that time was subjective – for instance listening to one of McKay’s lectures made time seem like syrup, thick and slow moving. On the other hand beating up marines for training made the time go by swiftly, although he was pretty sure the marines had a different opinion.
But it didn’t matter how long it took, Ronon was determined to continue as long as he had to in order to find his friends. They would do no less for him. It didn’t mean he didn’t worry about McKay, sitting by himself back in his make-shift shelter. The lightning worried Ronon a lot. He’d seen men killed by lightning, it wasn’t pretty.
But McKay was smart, he could take care of himself. Unless he was still stupid from too little food. It was a vicious cycle in Ronon’s head. The one thing that would help most would be to find their missing teammates and to return for McKay.
When Ronon found Teyla and Sheppard he almost tripped over them. The rain was still hard enough to obscure everything. On top of everything else it was starting to get darker, throwing shadows over everything.
Teyla and Sheppard were lying on the banks of the river. The water was lapping at their feet and still rising. A few more minutes they would have been in the water again and Ronon would have missed them.
Ronon pulled Teyla further away from the water. When he returned for Sheppard he was heartened to find that he was stirring.
“Sheppard,” Ronon called.
Sheppard pushed himself up to peer blearily at Ronon. “It’s still raining.”
Ronon chuckled. “Yeah,” he said. He leaned down helping Sheppard to his feet. The other man swayed a little bit.
“Where’s Teyla?” he asked urgently. He took an unsteady step back toward the river.
Ronon caught him. “No,” he said. “I found you guys here. I moved her away from the river so you guys wouldn’t go back in.”
Sheppard shook his head, then nodded. “Good idea.” He had a gash over one eye. It was mostly clean, probably from his time in the water, although there was a thin trickle of blood down one side of his face. He shut his eyes, then opened them and looked around again. “McKay?”
“He’s waiting for us back aways. I found him a shelter cause he didn’t look like he was doing so hot.”
“Good idea,” Sheppard said, nodding again. There was a pause between each question and response that worried Ronon, but he figured he could give Sheppard a little lee-way considering he’d probably just swallowed a gallon of alien water.
“Teyla?” Sheppard asked. For a second Ronon was worried that they’d just had this conversation, but then he realized that Sheppard was looking at Ronon, his eyebrow lifted high. Sheppard wanted them to go to where Teyla was.
“This way.” Ronon caught Sheppard’s arm when he misstepped on the rain slick ground and nearly went back into the water. They were not doing that again. He steered Sheppard around, supporting most of his weight as they made their way back to where Teyla lay.
John’s head hurt. It felt like he’d gone ten rounds with Ronon and drank a bucket of the swill that Zelenka made in the still that he thought no one knew he had. His lungs hurt, probably from all the river water he’d swallowed. Carson was going to have a cow over that. No, not Carson, Keller. But then he had to chuckle anyway at the image of Carson having a cow, then it caught and became a tickle that turned into a cough. He doubled over from the cough, feeling like he was going to lose a lung. That just couldn’t be good.
Ronon paused and came back for him. It pissed John off that he couldn’t get where they were going on his own, but he was grateful for Ronon’s strong shoulder. Especially since the rain hadn’t let up at all and everything was fuzzy and indistinct. Yeah, he was just going to keep blaming it on the rain, too.
Teyla was only a few feet away. She was sitting up waiting for them. She smiled as she saw them approach.
“John!” She started to push herself up, but then sank back with a pained moan.
“Teyla?” Ronon abandoned John to fend for himself to bend down beside Teyla.
“I am fine,” she said, trying to reassure them. John could see that wasn’t true, even if everything was fuzzy.
She saw they were both looking at her askance. “I might have... broken my ankle.” Teyla was always giving them shit when they hurt themselves and made light of it. She was just as bad about it. She just hurt herself less, so it wasn’t as apparent. “I will be fine.” She glared up at them, practically daring them to challenge her. They both knew better. She looked around, her face breaking out in a troubled frown. “Where is Dr. McKay?”
Before Ronon had to explain to her that he had left Rodney behind, a voice called out of the darkness, “I’m here.” Rodney appeared out of the darkness, squinting down at the life signs detector he was sheltering with his body. “I’m glad to see you guys. I thought we were all going to drown out here.”
John was starting to shake from reaction or shock or who knows, but he hoped the others weren’t looking. “Now we just need to get back to the jumper. Anybody remember where it is?”
Rodney rocked back on his heels, grinning a bit maniacally. “I do actually.” They all turned to look at him expectantly. “That way.” He waved the life signs detector, “It told me where the jumper is. Actually it makes sense since we just came down the same river bed we walked up. Did I tell you that I found the energy signature?” Rodney took Sheppard’s elbow to lend him a hand while Ronon picked up Teyla and carried her despite her protests that she could walk.
The walk back to the jumper was a blur for John. McKay’s voice washed over him like a warming blanket, steadying him as much as the hand that Rodney kept on John’s elbow.
Rodney was right. The jumper had been very close. There was a bad moment when John was afraid he’d lost the remote in his trip down the river. Then Rodney fussed that it wasn’t going to work because it was all wet. But it was Ancient made; they built things that lasted 10,000 years. A little rain wasn’t going to affect it.
John was never so glad to see his jumper as when he pushed the remote and it shimmered into existence. The hatch lowered automatically and warm yellow light spilled out.
They all trooped in – weary and wet, but alive. John would take it.
Rodney just wanted to savor the moment. They were all safe and alive and together in the jumper and he’d even kind of saved the day. Well, he wouldn’t have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for Ronon, but it was Rodney that had been able to lead them back to the jumper. He wasn’t going to let Sheppard forget that for awhile.
It was Ronon who broke the moment. “We going back to Atlantis?”
“We can’t fly in this.” Rodney squawked. Even though they were inside, the rain pounded down on the roof of the jumper. Rodney expected a tornado to drop out of the sky at any moment and carry them away.
Sheppard nodded, his whole body telegraphed his weariness, his hair was even lying flat across his forehead he was so tired. “Rodney’s right. It’s a bad idea to fly in this. We can sit tight in here and wait it out.” Leaning his head back against the bulkhead, he shut his eyes. He coughed a little, hunching over like it hurt.
Teyla sat on the bench opposite him with her foot up on the seat. She was unnaturally quiet. It wasn’t like Teyla not to have an opinion.
Ronon drew Rodney forward into the cockpit. “We need to go back now,” he said, his voice low and urgent.
“I don’t think Sheppard can fly in this,” Rodney gestured to indicate the windshield. The rain lashing against it was all they could see.
“Sheppard’s not the only one who can fly,” Ronon said, challenge plain in his tone. “Listen, they both swallowed a lot of water and that’s not good. This storm isn’t going to let up anytime soon and we need to get Teyla and Sheppard back to the doctors now.”
Rodney could see both of them from where he stood. They did look pretty pathetic. But…
“I’ll kill us in this storm,” he insisted.
Ronon clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, you just have to fly straight, there’s nothing to hit, no one to shoot at us. How hard could it be?”
Rodney started to tell him in no uncertain terms just how hard it could be but just at that exact moment Teyla shifted and her face crumpled up in pain.
“Okay, fine,” he mumbled. “But if I kill us, it’s your fault.”
Ronon nodded in complete agreement. He indicated the back compartment with his thumb. “I’m going to go take care of Teyla,” he patted Rodney on the shoulder. “It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Rodney called after him. “Famous last words.”
He stared out the windshield at the rain lashing it. Darkness had fallen so he really couldn’t see anything except the rain, but the wind was making itself felt. It was blowing so hard now that the jumper shook with it. There were also flashes of lightning illuminating the landscape. It struck all around the jumper.
Even if they didn’t go back to Atlantis he needed to move the jumper. It was just a giant lightning rod out in the open. Rodney was pretty sure they were safe inside the jumper, but he didn’t think they should take that chance. Their team was notorious for ‘if it can go wrong, it will for SGA-1.’
Sheppard slid into the seat next to Rodney. He really didn’t look like he should be there. His face was pale except for the thin line of blood that was trickling down his face. He was still soaked to the skin and he was shivering in the cool air of the jumper. That at least Rodney could fix. He adjusted the internal temperature of the jumper up a little. As the warmer air kicked in, Sheppard smiled his thanks.
The fact that Sheppard hadn’t thought of it for himself worried Rodney. A lot actually.
Watching the lightning light up the sky like it was day, Rodney started pushing buttons, “I’m going to put up the shield. It might not protect us from a lot of direct hits from the lightning, but it should deflect a few of them.” The shield had the added advantage of protecting them from the rain. It was odd seeing the wash of the water a few feet out.
“If you really think we need to get back to Atlantis before the storm blows out, I can fly us,” Sheppard said, making every effort to sit upright and to quell the coughs that continued to rack his frame.
Rodney might not have any tact at all, but even he knew better than to snort in derision. Sheppard was in no shape to fight the controls of the jumper in the mother of all storms. But if Rodney told him that, he’d get his nose bent out of shape and insist that he could do it. Then they’d all die. Bad plan. So Rodney had to try subtlety. Also a bad plan, but it was the only one he had.
“Aren’t you the one that’s always going on about how I need to get more experience in flying in adverse conditions? How could it get more adverse than this?” He waved a hand at the windscreen indicating the wildly raging storm.
“And the best thing of all? There is absolutely nothing I can hit. Besides, I also have you to take over if I get in trouble. So really what could go wrong?” As arguments went, it was pretty weak. Rodney could think of lots of things that could go. But Sheppard nodded. Maybe he really was concussed.
“Okay,” Sheppard allowed. “But don’t think this is going to get you out of flying lessons later.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” Rodney said as he brought up the jumper’s systems. There were red lights already on some of the systems warning him that the conditions weren’t safe for flying. No shit.
Rodney glanced back into the passenger compartment to make sure that Ronon had Teyla secured for what was sure to be a bumpy ride. He was surprised to see that Teyla was snugged down into a nest of blankets on the floor of the jumper. Ronon had already put a soft splint on her leg, immobilizing her ankle, and she had an IV running into a bag that Ronon had hung from the overhead racks. Rodney nodded approvingly.
“Hang on,” he called to them just in case.
“You, too.” Rodney said to Sheppard with a scowl. He should also be in the back with nurse Ronon taking care of him instead of hovering over Rodney. Even if Rodney was pathetically grateful to have him there all the same.
“Here goes nothing,” he breathed deep, gripping the controls, his palms sweaty.
“Don’t hold the controls so tight,” Sheppard said predictably. “The jumper wants to fly, you just have to cradle the controls, guide the ship.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Rodney muttered under his breath as the jumper rose slowly. Immediately it was caught by the wind and jerked to the side. Rodney had to fight the jumper to get it back on course. It was a good thing that he had the HUD to show him the course, because if he had to depend on his own instincts to get them to the gate, they’d never get there.
It was a straight shot to the gate, there was nothing to fly into (except the ground), there was nothing to shoot at or threaten them. It had taken them twenty minutes to fly to the point where they had parked the jumper. After an interminable time, it had only been an hour when Rodney checked the ship’s time, of fighting the jumper and the wind and they still hadn’t reached the gate, Rodney was shaking at the controls. The storm continued unabated with the lightning flaring nearly continuously. The shield protected them, but Rodney couldn’t help flinching every time there was a strike near them.
Ronon came forward, using Rodney’s seat back to support himself in the bucking jumper. “Why don’t you take a break for a minute and eat something? We can get Sheppard in the back. I think he could probably use some first aid.”
Ronon really didn’t need to press the issue. Rodney was more than ready to take a break. He was shaking at the controls. It was only the read out on the HUD that told him that they really were making any progress to the gate.
“Okay.” He brought the jumper to a gentle halt which really wasn’t hard considering they were going about 10 miles an hour. Rodney had never known it was possible to go so slowly in a jumper. Sheppard was going to give him shit about it later, Rodney just knew he would.
Sheppard wasn’t really conscious in the co-pilot’s seat. He’d been quiet for a long while. Rodney had worried about it, but he figured he was doing all he could to keep the jumper going forward and getting them all home where Jennifer could then take care of all of them. Rodney thought they were all owed infirmary time with nice soft beds and the good drugs. Not the crappy ones that Jennifer doled out for strained muscles.
Ronon manhandled Sheppard out of the seat and toward the back compartment.
“Are we home?” Sheppard’s voice was slurred with sleep, at least that’s what Rodney hoped it was.
Ronon responded, his voice a reassuring rumble. Rodney let himself relax in his seat, shutting his eyes to the interminable rain. After this was over, he’d be just as happy to never see rain again.
The warmth of the jumper and the release of the tension conspired to lull Rodney into sleep. He couldn’t have been asleep long though when Ronon dropped a power bar into his lap.
Rodney jumped, “I’m awake.” He rubbed at his eyes, peering up at Ronon blearily.
“Eat that,” Ronon instructed, pointing at the power bar in Rodney’s lab.
Rodney opened the bar automatically taking a bite. It was one of the peanut butter ones, not one of his favorite, but it would do. Ronon sat in the co-pilot’s seat to stare out the window at the storm.
“How’s Sheppard?” Rodney asked in between bites.
Ronon’s answer was an eloquent shrug. “He swallowed a lot of water, so I gave him some of the antibiotics and made him lie down. He’s not good either. I think he has a concussion.”
Since his mouth was full of power bar, Rodney just nodded his agreement.
“Need to get them both back to Atlantis.” It wasn’t a judgment on the fact that Rodney didn’t have them back yet, just a statement of fact. One that Rodney was completely on board with. He crumpled up the power bar wrapper and stuffed it into a pocket for disposal later.
“Let’s do it,” he said, he hoped with more confidence than he actually felt.
Ronon nodded. “You’re doing good,” he said off handedly.
It warmed Rodney to hear him say it, but he couldn’t let Ronon think he was getting soft, so he said, “Of course I am. Genius remember?”
“Like you ever let us forget,” Ronon grinned at him.
Rodney brought the jumper’s systems back online, again there were red lights indicating the conditions were bad for flying.
“Yeah, yeah, got it,” Rodney hissed to the jumper.
He brought the little ship up just enough that they skimmed the ground. Rodney couldn’t actually hear the wind anymore because they were muffled inside the shield, but he could certainly feel the wind’s effect on the jumper. Rodney fought to keep the ship level and flying straight. The jumper supplied an oh-so-helpful line showing how he zig zagged on their set course. But since there was nothing for him to fly into he wasn’t too worried about the fact that their course wasn’t exactly straight. It was the lightning the bothered him the most. It continued to hit all around them. The flashes always left him blind for a precious second or two afterwards. Rodney would pause every time, because even if they were only a few feet off the ground, it would still do damage if he crashed into it because he couldn’t see.
After what felt like an eternity they approached the gate. Rodney’s palms were damp and his hands ached from clutching the controls so tightly. He had to flex his fingers to get them to unlock before he could dial the DHD.
The next few seconds would be the most critical. He had to take down the shield so they could go through the gate. One lightning strike could ground them. The only good thing was that they were close enough to the gate now they could go on foot if they had to. Except Rodney really didn’t want to do that. He was just now starting to dry out.
He sent their IDC once the worm hole was formed. “Atlantis, this is SGA-1,” he called. “We’re coming in with a medical emergency. Can you have Dr. Keller meet us in the jumper bay,” he called once he’d initiated contact.
“You guys are early,” Chuck responded from Atlantis.
“Like that’s the important thing,” Rodney snapped. “Did you hear that we have a medical emergency?”
“Yes,” Chuck replied evenly. There wasn’t much that upset the laid-back tech. Even on Rodney’s worst days, Chuck just rolled his eyes. “Medical has been alerted and will meet you in the jumper bay. The shield is down and you guys are cleared to come through.”
“Thank you,” Rodney answered shortly. All of his concentration was now on keeping the jumper straight for their transit through the worm hole.
It felt to Rodney that the lightning was intensifying, almost aiming at the jumper. As they made their final approach to the gate, a bolt arced through the sky. It barely missed the jumper, hitting the gate instead as the jumper escaped into the blue pool of the worm hole.
As they passed through the gate Rodney allowed himself a tiny sigh of relief. They were on their way home now. Everything was going to be okay.
Ronon knew they were in trouble the second they emerged through the gate in Atlantis. For one thing there was absolutely no one in the control room. There was always someone on duty. Even when there was the minimum number of personnel on duty, there were always three or four people in control. Also, McKay had just been talking to the tech who manned the gate. There was no way he could have left in the time it had taken them to get through the gate. It wasn’t just that there were only a few people in sight; there was no one anywhere.
“Something’s wrong,” Ronon said.
McKay was frantically punching buttons, reading the arcane symbols on the HUD. Since Ronon couldn’t fly the jumper, he’d never learned about its inner workings. Now he wished he had.
“What’s happened?” Sheppard’s voice startled both Ronon and McKay, who jumped like he was guilty of something. Sheppard stood in the door between the compartments. He was pale and barely standing, using the door frame to hold himself up.
“Who said something happened?” McKay demanded, his fingers never stopping their dance across the console.
“Something feels off,” Sheppard said. He peered past them through the windscreen to the control room. “Where is everyone?”
Rodney scowled. “Ask me something I know,” he snapped.
“Okay,” Sheppard ran a hand through his hair, making the attempt to make it stand upright and look like he was in charge. It wasn’t terribly effective, but Ronon didn’t call him on it, he was trying. “We’re in Atlantis?”
“Obviously,” Rodney waved a hand to indicate the control room.
“Why aren’t we continuing on to the jumper bay?” Sheppard shuffled forward to look over McKay’s shoulder at the console. Rather than take offence at Sheppard’s interference, McKay seemed to appreciate a second eye.
“I stopped the automatic sequence. There was something wrong with the interface. See, look at this,” McKay stabbed a finger at one of the consoles.
“It says that all of the jumpers are in the bay?” Sheppard seemed to gain strength from the mystery. “That’s weird.”
“That’s one word for it,” McKay snarked.
“So, what word would you use?” Ronon joined the fray. It looked Sheppard could use the help.
Rodney frowned at them both. “Just give me a minute and I’ll tell you.” He bent back to the console. Then he jumped up and, shoving Ronon out of the co-pilot’s seat, pulled up his computer. “Oh, no, no, no this is bad.”
“McKay?” Sheppard sat in the pilot’s seat, more because he was going to fall down if he didn’t, Ronon thought, than because he thought there might be something for him to do there.
“Just give me a minute,” McKay said, not even looking up from the computer’s screen.
They waited silently as the minutes ticked by. Ronon glanced back into the passenger compartment to check on Teyla. He was glad to see that she was still sleeping. He’d given her pain killers when they thought they were on their way back to Atlantis. Now he was thinking they might have to ration the rest if there was going to be a problem.
Finally, Sheppard’s patience ran out. “McKay,” he growled.
“Okay, I’ve got answers, but you’re not going to like them,” Rodney said, a frown pulling at his mouth.
“Rodney, just tell us what’s happened.”
“That lightning hit must have done something to the gate, like a sun spot. You remember the mission report from SG-1 when they went back in time? It was due to sun spots then which actually isn’t the cause in our case, it’s more likely something to do with the lightning. I’d have to do more study to determine the actual cause….”
“Wait, what?” Sheppard interjected. “We’ve gone back in time?”
There was dead silence for a moment before Rodney nodded reluctantly.
“How long in the past?” Ronon asked. He knew that Sheppard went forward 48,000 years, but it was hard to think about something like that happening to him.
“I think about 3,000 years.” He held up a hand to forestall their question, “It’s not an exact science, and Atlantis time and Earth time don’t quite synch up. But I think it’s about 3,000 years. Atlantis is still at the bottom of the ocean.” He fell silent staring at them waiting for their questions.
“Okay,” Sheppard took a deep breath, “so if this happened to SG-1 how did they get home?”
McKay frowned and shook his head. “They had help from the future. General Hammond knew what was going to happened and he sent a note with Colonel Carter… well, she was actually Major Carter then. And he told them when the sun spots they’d need to get home would happen. We don’t have anything like that. Unless… Did Woolsey give one of you a note before we left?” He looked from one to the other of them hopefully. Sheppard shrugged, Ronon just shook his head.
McKay frowned at them both. Then his eyes did that thing where he seemed to light up from the inside. He snapped his fingers. “Okay, give me a minute.”
Ronon hated waiting. When he was a runner, waiting was the hardest thing he had to learn. He had time to think about the fact that all of his people were dead, about the hell his life had become, about what the Wraith had planned for him. Eventually he had learned to use the waiting to his advantage. He learned to use the Wraith tactics against them and he would plan for them, setting up traps and hiding weapons where he would need them. It didn’t mean that he liked waiting any better though.
“McKay,” he finally growled when he could wait no longer.
Rodney grinned at them, “I’m going to send myself a letter,” he announced.
Ronon exchanged a glance with Sheppard who just shrugged.
“What?” Sheppard asked.
“I mean it’s really a very old sci fi convention, but it’s valid in this case.” McKay was typing like his life depended on it.
John chuckled. “And you said everything in that movie was absolute rubbish.”
Rodney frowned and just kept typing. Sheppard settled into the seat, shutting his eyes. Ronon went back to check on Teyla again. She was still sleeping; it didn’t look as if she had moved at all. He checked to make sure she was still breathing, she was that still. He tried to tell himself that she had expended a lot of energy in the flood waters and a broken ankle would take a lot out of a person. It was to be expected that she would be exhausted. Still he was worried. He wasn’t used to seeing weakness in Teyla. It felt wrong, although he did not begrudge her the rest. Maybe McKay would have their problem fixed by the time she woke up and they’d be back in their Atlantis.
He’d learned the value of maybe as a runner, too. Maybes never happened.
John tried not to shudder when Rodney said the words, “We’ve gone back in time.” It was a close thing. He could have passed it off as chills from being doused in the river, but he suppressed it though.
He’d had enough of time travel going 48,000 years into the future. What were the chances that the same person would travel in time forward and backward? Well, if you were in the Pegasus Galaxy the odds were even that it was going to happen to John Sheppard.
He was feeling better after his unwanted trip down a flood-swollen river. He had bruises sure, but he’d been beaten up worse by Teyla in a practice session. So he thought he was doing okay all things considered.
He let Rodney work as long as he could. When he couldn’t deal with it any longer, he cracked his eyes open and sat up. “So?”
“So?” Rodney didn’t really look at him; he just let his attention drift a little into John’s direction with a lift of his brow to indicate he was listening.
“You going to get us home again?”
Rodney got an odd smile on his face at that. “It’s very odd to know that I lived a whole life that I know nothing about. I keep wondering what I was like in the future.”
John must have been more tired than he knew when he said, “Pretty much like you are now – irritating and brilliant. You sacrificed your whole life to make the time line right.”
Rodney brightened even more under John’s praise, as faint as it was.
“Any hints you can give me?” Rodney teased, a small smile lurking on his lips.
“I know,” Rodney interrupted with a wave of his hand. “You can’t tell me, because it could change our future.” He frowned a little and John wished he could tell him. “We’re going to have to be even more careful now not to do anything in the past that will screw up our future.”
Time travel gave John a headache. It could have been the concussion, but he was pretty sure it was time travel.
“So, how are you going to get us home?”
“What would you guys do without me?” Rodney asked. He’d asked that before, but always before it just sounded like a question that he didn’t really expect an answer to. This time it seemed like he genuinely wanted to know.
“We’d probably all be dead now,” John told him. Not enough people told Rodney how important he was. Sure you didn’t want to feed the monster that was Rodney McKay’s ego too often, but sometimes you just had to let him know how important he was.
“You think so?” Rodney frowned. “Don’t tell him I said so, but Zelenka’s pretty good, too.”
John nodded, “Sure, but he’s no you. He’d do his best, but we wouldn’t still be in Pegasus today if it weren’t for you.”
He tried to hide it, but John could see the small pleased smile that lurked on Rodney’s lips. “Okay, okay, enough of this. I know how important I am to Atlantis.”
“Not just Atlantis.” Shit, the concussion really was messing with him.
Rodney’s head shot up, and his eyes found John’s. “What?”
John took a deep breath, not quite believing what he was doing. Maybe it was because it was the past, it didn’t feel quite real. “I wouldn’t want to be in Atlantis without you, Rodney.” He grinned, “It wouldn’t be nearly so much fun.” He held up a hand. “I know you’re dating Jennifer, I just wanted…” What did he want? That didn’t matter. What did matter was that Rodney knew he was important. “You’re important. That’s all.”
“Okay.” Rodney typed a little more, probably as a way of avoiding having to say something when he didn’t know what to say. That was okay with John, he’d already said too much.
“Done,” Rodney announced, hitting the enter key with a little extra flourish.
“Yeah? What did you do?” And sometimes Rodney could be a lot irritating.
“I sent myself a letter,” he said with an ‘it’s so obvious’ air.
“That’s what you said before. Care to explain?”
Rodney pursed his lips, gracing John with his ‘how are you so stupid’ eye roll, “We are in Atlantis. The city has the same systems that we are using today. We run a lot of our systems through the city’s systems.”
John started catching on to where Rodney was going.
“Now we don’t run our email or calendar through the city’s systems, but the city does have access to those things. I just wrote myself a note and tagged the city to deliver it to me at a certain date and time in the future. If this all works correctly…” Rodney trailed off as he did whatever it was he did on his computer. He grinned when he found what he was looking for, “then I should have all the data about sun spots from three thousand years ago.” He turned his screen so John could see the information scrolling across it. It was just so much gobbly dee gook to him, but he was sure that Rodney knew exactly what it meant.
“And? This means we can go home?”
Rodney huffed. “And? This means that I am the first man to have sent a message through time!”
John frowned, “No, I’m pretty sure that was General Hammond.”
“Shut up,” Rodney turned back to his computer, scrolling through the information he found there. “This means we should be able to go home in a few days.”
John let out a relieved sigh. He didn’t know when he’d come to rely on Rodney to always come up with the answers, he was afraid it wasn’t going to happen someday and then they would all be dead. But not today.
John pushed himself to his feet. “I’m going to go do inventory and make sure we have enough food to last us for a ‘a few days.’ You good here?”
Rodney, intent on his message from the future, just waved a distracted hand at John.
Taking inventory gave John something to do for a few minutes. It wasn’t like he didn’t already know what was on the jumper. He’d been at the meeting where they’d discussed what needed to be on the jumper and why. It had taken hours to decide that they needed to have as many supplies as the jumper could safely hold for just situations as this. Cut off from their own supplies, they needed to be able to rely on what they had until they could get back to their own time. Even a simple mission that was supposed to be a cake walk very often wasn’t. So, it was just safer to keep food for a couple of weeks and medical supplies, along with some pretty kick-ass weapons and ammo. They’d be okay for almost anything. He hoped.
Ronon kept busy taking care of Teyla, but she was a low-maintenance patient. There were only so many times he could take her vitals before he went stir crazy. It took an hour. It surprised John, he was sure that Ronon would be climbing the walls in about 20 minutes.
“You’ve gotta let me out of here,” Ronon growled. He stood at the back hatch staring at it fixedly like he could scare it open or something.
“Let me talk to McKay.” John pushed himself to his feet. He went to the front where Rodney was staring out at the control room. He looked like he was a million miles away.
“So, Ronon’s about to tear the hatch down back there if we don’t let him out,” he said dropping into the pilot’s seat.
Rodney blinked, coming back from wherever he had been. “What?” He frowned and turned to stare at John. “We can’t go out there,” he said unequivocally.
“Tell me why again.”
Rodney stared for a moment before he huffed out an aggrieved huff. “Because we’re in Atlantis. In the past. If we do anything, let me repeat that, anything, to change the future we could change everything, from altering the war with the Wraith to us not ever existing.”
John mulled it over a moment before replying. “Okay, but there’s nothing out there for us to change. Everything is turned off. What could we possibly affect by getting out of the jumper to stretch our legs?”
Rodney opened his mouth to tell him all the ramifications, but then shut it again. “Okay, well we might not affect our future, but if we break anything it could affect the expedition when it finally arrives.”
John leaned back, staring out the window to the empty control room. It was dark and shadowed the way it hadn’t been since they arrived in Atlantis. “You mean like putting up warning signs – “Do not touch, flying darkness inside.”
Rodney’s mouth stretched into an unhappy frown, “You know as much as I would like to do that, we can’t. Sure we could leave helpful notes and information - about the Wraith and the Genii, things that we’ve found and things that should be avoided. We could save so many people, but how do we know how it would affect our future?” It almost sounded like Rodney was pleading with John to tell him the reason they shouldn’t do those things.
“Rodney, I’m not sure I’m the person to tell you not to do those things. I’d like nothing more than to leave myself a note to not shoot my commanding officer. I know it was a mercy, that he wanted me to…”
“We just can’t,” Rodney said with finality. “We have no idea what the consequences of our actions would be. It might make things better, but it might make things 100 percent worse. With our track record here in Pegasus, I’m thinking we’ll end up on the worst end of the scale.” His eyes pleaded with John to agree with him.
Unfortunately he did. “Alright,” John nodded, “no helpful signs or notes. Still we need to get out of the jumper. Ronon’s going to go crazy and start killing people soon. When that happens, I’m locking myself in here again.”
Rodney shot him a poisonous glare before bending over his computer. “Just let me check the power levels,” he said, “I’d hate to find out that we used the power the ZedPM needed to power the shield…” his voice trailed off at whatever he found. It wasn’t the amazed kind of trailing off either. That was usually accompanied by a pleased smile. No this brought eyes widened with fear and fingers typing even faster, if that were possible.
“Rodney?” John leaned forward trying to see what was on the screen.
“Oh, this is bad,” Rodney breathed. “This is so bad.”
There was a prickling on the back of John’s neck. This was just getting damned annoying. He was ready for something to go right.
“Get Ronon up here, we need to have everyone involved in this. And see if Teyla is awake. I really think we need Teyla for this, too.”
John wanted to press, to insist that Rodney tell him what the problem was right damn now, but he didn’t. He nodded and went to the back to do as Rodney had requested.
Teyla woke blinking up at the ceiling of the jumper. It was a very odd angle, one that she did not often have.
She found herself on the floor, swathed in emergency blankets. She felt the drowsy warmth brought on by the Earth drugs. She usually refused them when she could, but this time she’d been unconscious and didn’t have a say. Considering that she probably had a broken ankle, she found that she didn’t mind.
John’s face appeared over her, it was creased in lines of worry. Ronon stood behind John’s shoulder, hovering there like Ronon never hovered. There was something wrong - Teyla could feel it in the air.
“Teyla?” he whispered. “You awake?”
She nodded, pushing herself up on her elbows. Ronon moved to help, lifting her gently to a sitting position. “Are we not back in Atlantis? What has happened?”
John and Ronon exchanged a guarded look that told her all she needed to know. Suddenly she realized who was missing. “Rodney? Has something happened to him?”
“No,” John rushed to reassure her. “Everyone is alive and well. McKay is just up in the cockpit. He wants to talk to all of us. Can you?” He gestured at Ronon.
Ronon didn’t even bother to ask her permission. He stood smoothly, lifting Teyla into his arms as easily as if she were a child. Normally she would have protested. But these were not normal circumstances. Even with the cushioning affects of the drugs, she could feel the pain of her ankle, hovering on the edges of her awareness.
They went to the front of the jumper where Ronon deposited her carefully in a seat. Through the glass she could see the control room. Something was off, but Teyla couldn’t quite pinpoint what in the brief glimpse. She was glad to see Rodney sitting in the co-pilot’s seat busy at work on his computer. She smiled gently at him.
He looked up at her in time to catch her smile. He returned her smiled shyly.
“How are you feeling?” he gestured in the general direction of her foot.
“I am fine,” she said firmly, not wishing to deflect the conversation to herself. She wanted to find out what was happening.
“Yes, well, I think fine is overstating the case, but I’m glad to see that you’re awake…” Rodney was obviously avoiding telling them whatever it was he needed to say.
“Rodney,” she interrupted him. “I am fine. Now, I believe you had something to tell us?”
Rodney swallowed and nodded. “Okay, you’re right. Just to recap for Teyla. We’re in the past.”
Teyla looked out the glass again. Of course, that was what was wrong. The control room was completely dark. She had never seen it so in all her years in Atlantis. Even at night, it was well lit with people coming and going.
She nodded that she understood.
“Specifically we’re 3,000 or so years in the past. Now you don’t need to worry if we’ll get back to our time. I’ve sent myself a message in the future and I have all the information we need to get back to our time.” Teyla nodded again, bemused. She had no idea what he was saying, but she had faith in Rodney McKay. She had seen him do things that she did not think possible. If he said that he would get them home safely from 3,000 years in the past then he would.
He took a deep breath. “Now, we’ve arrived just after the original Elizabeth switched the last of the ZedPMs, so the current one should be at full strength. However…” he looked down at his computer screen, clicking a few buttons checking his numbers again, “in looking at the power output readings there is something very wrong.” He squared his shoulders looking each of them in the eye. “I think it was initialized incorrectly, I won’t know until I can get down into the control room and check…” he trailed off, realizing that he’d wandered off his point again. “Be that as it may. There is no way that the current ZedPM has enough power to shield the city until the expedition arrives. Once it’s depleted the fail safes will kick in and raise the city. The city will be discovered long before we get here. There’s no telling what we’ll find when we arrive.”
“The Wraith?” John said.
Rodney nodded. “There’s evidence that they rendezvous here from time to time just to see if anyone has returned. If they find the city on the surface with nothing to protect it…”
“Will they be able to find Earth?” John asked.
Rodney shook his head. “No, the Ancients erased all evidence of their refuge on Earth from the database when they left. But there’s enough here that the Wraith could lay waste to the Pegasus Galaxy.”
“What are we going to do about it?” Ronon asked. It was one of the things that Teyla admired the most about Ronon. No matter the situation, he was ready to do whatever it took to make it right.
“We need to find another ZPM,” John said chewing on his lip thoughtfully. “But where? We’ve been looking all over Pegasus for five years for another ZPM. In case you haven’t noticed there aren’t a lot of spares just laying around.”
Teyla was a little hesitant to say anything. Surely they had already thought of this. But if they had not… “What about Dagan?” she asked.
They all turned to look at her. Ronon had not been with them then, but he had read the reports, as he read everything to do with the Genii.
John’s eyes narrowed as he considered, “Do you think?”
“Of course,” Rodney snapped his fingers. “Teyla, you are a genius. I mean the Ancients gave it to the Brotherhood of the Fifteen for just this kind of situation. We can take one of the depleted ZedPMs and just switch it out. I mean we didn’t even get to check the one they had to see if it had power. I just assumed.... So,” he rubbed his hands together in glee, “anyone want to go with me to retrieve a ZedPM?”
Teyla smiled at his exuberance. “I regret that I may not go with you,” she said. “But perhaps it would be good for one of us to stay here and watch over things?”
“You can’t stay here alone,” Rodney protested. “You can’t even walk.”
“Oh, I assure you that I am well able to take care of myself,” Teyla retorted tartly.
John didn’t like it, but he agreed with Rodney. “No, Rodney’s right. We need to stay in teams. We’re both injured but I think Teyla and I can still manage to take care of things here. Ronon, will you go with Rodney and make sure he gets back alive?”
“Hey!” Rodney protested immediately offended.
Ronon clapped Rodney on the back. “Glad to. It’ll be fun.” He grinned wolfishly. Rodney backed away hastily. But he didn’t insist that John accompany him instead.
Once they made the decision to go to Dagan things happened fast.
McKay insisted that they wear spacesuits to retrieve the depleted ZPM. Ronon didn’t quite see the need, when McKay got something into his head sometimes it was just easier to go with it. Picking his battles was a concept that Ronon well understood.
“So, tell me the plan again,” he said as they walked through Atlantis’ corridors.
It was weird it was so dark and quiet. Ronon had never seen it this way. Atlantis had always been vibrant and full of life. Not that he minded that. After 7 years of being on his own, he liked a place where he could find someone to talk to at any hour of the day or night.
McKay’s flashlight shone in all the corners and shadowed places, like he suspected a Wraith of lurking in one of them, ready to jump out at them.
“It’s very simple,” McKay said. His tone was the one he used when he thought he was educating the natives, “The Brotherhood of the Fifteen were entrusted with a ZedPM. They hid it away in anticipation of the day that the Ancients would have need of it. We’re going to take one of our depleted ZedPMs and do a little switcheroo with the full one that’s on Dagan.”
“Why go to the trouble? Why don’t we just take the one that’s there?”
Even though McKay was wearing a huge orange suit and Ronon couldn’t see his face, Ronon just knew he was rolling his eyes. “Because we’ve been there and we saw a ZedPM. We have to put something back in its place or when we, SGA-1, get there, we won’t find anything. We have to find it in the future in order to know it’s here in the past. Make sense?”
“Not really,” Ronon replied frankly. “But I trust you.”
“You do?” Rodney’s asked, surprised. “Well, of course you do,” he said, his voice regaining its usual superior tone. “I think I’ve proved that I can be trusted.”
Ronon slapped him across the back of the head, very gently so as not to damage the suit he was wearing, “Don’t push it. And why do we have to wear these stupid suits again?”
Rodney turned to grin at him. Ronon suspected he was doing it to torture the rest of his team.
“The power is at very low levels. I don’t want to accidently trigger the city’s fail safes by turning on the systems needed to power the environmental controls to get us down here safely. It’s safest all the way round for us to put on the suits to come down here.”
“Easy for you to say.” Ronon felt like he’d been stuffed into the suit.
“Oh, you’re fine, stop complaining.” Rodney was turned to look at Ronon while he was walking, which wasn’t really very easy in the suits. So, when he bumped into something, he squealed like a little girl.
“Shoot it, shoot it, shoot it.”
Ronon would have gladly complied except he couldn’t get to his gun. He’d been forced to leave it behind. “What do we have to worry about?” McKay had said.
Ronon rolled his eyes. He pulled the dead plant out of its corner. “I think it’s already dead,” he held it up for Rodney’s inspection.
Rodney watched it suspiciously like he thought it was going to come back to life any minute. “Okay, but it could have been a Wraith,” he insisted. “Come on,” he waved, “we’re almost there.”
Ronon followed as Rodney’s light bobbed erratically through the dim corridors.
John fretted and worried from the moment that Rodney and Ronon disappeared into the lifeless city. Not that he really thought there was anything to threaten them in the halls of the city, but he knew what there was in the city for them to trip over.
“Maybe I should just suit up and go after them, make sure they’re okay.” He gestured at the other suits that were just waiting for him and Teyla. After everything that had happened to them lately, it didn’t seem unreasonable to store a set of space suits in each of the jumpers. He was glad they had them today as McKay and Ronon were walking the airless hallways of Atlantis.
“John,” Teyla said, “They are fine. They have their radios; they will call us if they need assistance.”
John scrubbed a hand over his face. “What if they found that flying darkness thing again? It’s out there, remember?”
“And Rodney knows exactly where it is. He will not need to go anywhere near its location to retrieve the ZPM.” It was somewhat like talking to Torren, who was two and did not yet understand the concept of no and you cannot do that. Until just this moment she had not realized how much similarity there was between John Sheppard and her two-year-old son.
John gave her a chagrined grin, recognizing that he was being a little crazy.
“I’m just not used to being the one that has to sit around and wait while other people go out and do stuff, you know.”
“It is a very difficult task,” she agreed readily.
John sat, then he got up again pacing the length of the passenger cabin. “It’s just we’re 3,000 years in the past. We can’t even get help from Earth if we need it.”
Teyla gave a tired sigh. Whatever pain killers she’d been given were wearing off. Her ankle was beginning to throb. She didn’t know how much more patience she was going to have to deal with a worried John Sheppard.
“You have heard Rodney’s plan and we have all agreed that it is the best plan to get us home again.”
“I know, I know,” John agreed. “I just…, I hate to sit around doing nothing.”
It went like that round and round until Rodney and Ronon returned an hour later triumphantly bearing the depleted ZPM. She was glad that Rodney knew what they were, because they always reminded her of some bizarre glass sculpture things she had seen in her time on Earth.
Rodney assured them there was enough power for him to restore the systems in the control room. He did that so that John and Teyla weren’t forced to wait in the jumper for the next few hours. It was also necessary so they could access the controls for the gates’ iris. It was set to refuse access to anyone not coming from Earth. Without someone to deactivate it, Ronon and Rodney wouldn’t be able to return from Dagan. As soon as it was safe, Ronon carried Teyla out of the jumper gently depositing her in a nest they’d made in the control room.
Then there was nothing left to do but to dial the gate and actually go through to Dagan. Shouldering the bag with their equipment, Rodney dialed the address himself. He gave a nod to Sheppard and Teyla before he led the way through the gate. Ronon turned back at the last minute and gave them both a little wave.
After they stepped through the gate, Teyla and John sat staring at one another.
“How long have they been gone?” John asked after a long moment where neither of them said anything.
Teyla groaned. It was going to be a long, long wait.
Everything on Dagan was much the same as it had been when Rodney had been there before… in the future. Time travel was very confusing, he decided.
“Looks like the place is deserted,” Ronon commented as he and Rodney made their way through the city.
“Makes our job easier,” Rodney said shortly.
He kept expecting someone to come out and meet them as had happened last time. But everything was quiet. A pall hung over the city- an indication that there had probably just been a culling.
“I said it looks like the place is deserted,” Ronon repeated with an emphasis on the ‘looks.’
“What?” Rodney stopped, alarm making his heart beat faster. He looked around as if he could catch someone spying on them if he looked fast enough.
“You’re not going to see anyone, McKay,” Ronon said with a laugh. “It’s just a feeling I have. We’re being watched.”
“Okay,” Rodney’s hand hovered near his weapon, but he didn’t actually draw it. “What do we do?”
“Just calm down,” Ronon frowned at the silent windows looking down on them. “If there is anybody here, they’re probably more afraid of you than you are of them.”
“Oh very funny. Har, Har.” Rodney glared at Ronon before turning his attention back to the silent city. “Seriously what do we do?”
“We go get the ZPM and go back to Atlantis. These people have been culled so many times. They’re not going to bother us; we’re well armed and look like we’re able to defend ourselves. Well at least I do,” Ronon added when Rodney started to puff up.
“Fine,” Rodney huffed. “Well you’re carrying the equipment.” He thrust the equipment he’d brought into Ronon’s arms before he strode away.
Rodney still remembered his humiliation at Dagan. He hadn’t meant to betray Atlantis when he told Allina that the expedition had just arrived in Atlantis. He felt vindicated that Atlantis was going to get the ZedPM anyway.
Ronon caught up with Rodney without even breaking a sweat, even as laden as he was with all their equipment.
“What’s all this stuff for?” Ronon fell into step beside Rodney.
Rodney paused to get his bearings before he started off again. “It’s equipment to help us get into the chamber where the ZedPM is hidden. The Ancients entrusted the Brotherhood of the Fifteen with a ZedPM, charging them to keep it until the time they had need of it. They promised the people here a ‘great reward’ for keeping it safe.”
Ronon grunted to indicate that he was listening. He kept his attention on their surroundings constantly.
“Of course we know that the Ancients were long gone from the Pegasus Galaxy. Eventually the Brotherhood of the Fifteen was culled. But before that happened, they hid the Potentia, that’s what they called the ZedPM, along with clues of where they hid it.
Rodney took a deep breath and kept talking. “Now when we were here before we actually found the ZedPM, but there was a misunderstanding and it was taken away from us.”
“Misunderstanding?” Ronon interrupted to ask, arching a brow.
“Shut up. It wasn’t my fault no matter what Sheppard says. Anyway, the ZedPM is hidden in an underground chamber. We’ll need to dig out the entrance to the chamber, then we’ll need the ropes to climb down into the chamber. Last time we had to dig up all of the stones and then find the chamber and the Genii showed up…”
“The Genii?” Ronon asked, his voice taking on more than a casual interest.
“That was three thousand years in the future. They’re not here now.”
“Maybe. Maybe they’re here now. People have been looking for the treasure of the Quindosim for a long time. I heard about it when I was a kid. They said lots of people came searching for it.”
“Well lucky for us they never found it, now isn’t it?” Rodney responded tartly. He stopped, surveying the landscape around them. “I think this is it.”
“You think?” Ronon asked. He unslung the equipment and began laying it out. “You’d better be sure before we spend a couple of hours digging.”
Rodney took a look at Ronon’s I-can-break-you-with-one-hand-tied-
“Good.” He picked up the pieces of a shovel putting it together quickly. Once it was assembled Ronon thrust it into Rodney’s hands.
“What’s this for?”
“It’s a shovel, McKay. You’re always telling me you’re a genius. I thought you would have figured that out.”
“You are such a comedian today. What do you expect me to do with it?”
“Oh… oh, well.” Rodney bent to the task. “But if I throw my back out I’m going to tell Jennifer it’s your fault.”
“I’m okay with that,” Ronon told him. He quickly had his own shovel assembled. He bent to his work.
The sun was beginning its descent into night and the shadows were getting longer before McKay hit the entrance of his chamber.
“Here,” he called, excitement coloring his tone.
Ronon moved over to see what McKay had found. It was a large metal plate with writing that Ronon recognized as Ancient all over it.
“This the chamber?” he asked.
He gave a surreptitious survey of their surroundings. He was anxious to be done with their errand and get off Dagan. He hadn’t said anything to McKay because he didn’t want to alarm the other man, but they were definitely being watched. He’d seen movement in the brush that surrounded them. Ronon had spent enough time tracking to know the differences between animals moving through the brush and humans trying to be stealthy. These humans weren’t even all that stealthy.
“It is,” McKay rocked back on his heels, pleased with himself. “I told Sheppard we could find it,” he crowed.
“Now what?” Ronon didn’t think it would be a good idea for them to still be on Dagan after dark. He needed to get McKay to hurry up without alarming him and tipping off the people watching them that Ronon knew they were there. “We going to be done soon? I’m getting pretty hungry and we left all our supplies back in Atlantis.”
McKay stared at him astonished. “Whose fault is that?”
Ronon shrugged, giving every evidence of casual indifference, “You’re the one that said this wouldn’t take any time. Didn’t think we needed to bring anything with us.”
“Well, that was just wrong wasn’t it?”
Ronon shrugged again. “Guess we should hurry so we can get back in time for dinner.”
“Fine. We need to set up the equipment to move this stone. There’s no way we can move it alone.” McKay moved to get the equipment they needed.
Ronon eyed the stone carefully. He moved around it until finally McKay yelled at him.
“Hey you going to help with this or what?”
“Guess I will.” With that Ronon wriggled his fingers into the crack of the stone and heaved with all of his strength. Ronon didn’t try to pick the stone up; his only goal was to slide it away enough that they could get through.
“You can’t move that,” McKay rushed over. “It took all three of us…” He stared in amazement as the stone slowly slid aside.
Ronon took a step back. “You know how to get to the ZPM?”
McKay nodded. “Yeah, the first time we needed all of the pieces of the puzzle to get it, but I know how the mechanism worked. I can get it out and replace it with ours easily enough.”
“Okay.” Ronon looped a length of rope around McKay’s waist.
“Wait!” McKay took a step back. “You’re not making me go down there alone are you? It’s dark down there!”
Ronon pulled the flashlight out of his tac-vest pocket. Thumbing it on, he handed it to McKay. “You good?” he asked.
Frowning McKay nodded unhappily. He allowed Ronon to finish wrapping the rope around him so he could be lowered into the hole. “I guess this will be the most time efficient way to do this since we have to put everything back the way we found it.”
Ronon lowered McKay into the chamber with McKay talking the entire way. It was a good thing he wasn’t weighed down by all those words or not even Ronon would be able to get him back out of the hole.
Ronon kept a sharp watch on the shadows surrounding them. The sun had almost disappeared. It was a clear night so they’d at least have starlight to see by. Ronon still didn’t like it one little bit.
In a remarkably short time for McKay, the scientist was jerking on the rope, calling up that he was ready to return.
Ronon hauled him up. McKay cradled the ZPM to him. He held it out to Ronon to take care of as he clambered out of the hole.
“Now let’s fill this hole back up so we can get out of here.” He brushed himself off, only succeeding in smearing the dirt more. Ronon shook his head and didn’t tell him. They were just going to get dirtier. He handed the ZPM back to McKay, who ran a hand over it lovingly.
He gestured for McKay to move aside. Once McKay had moved, Ronon got on his knees and, with one mighty heave; he shoved the stone back into place. They shoveled the earth back into the hole they’d created as quickly as they could. Ronon’s own belly was starting to rumble and protest the fact that he hadn’t had his dinner yet. He’d gotten way too used to eating regularly. He sternly told it to shut up.
Once they got the hole filled in, they patted the earth down in an attempt to make it look like any other hillock in the area. It was kind of useless, but McKay thought they should make the attempt.
“Well,” McKay said, satisfied at last, “In three thousand years you won’t even be able to tell that the hole was there.”
“Whatever you say,” Ronon was hungry. He wanted to go back to Atlantis now.
Packing up their equipment, they headed back toward the gate.
Without any warning they were surrounded by a dozen people, men and women. They were dirty and starved looking with pale, gaunt faces. Their clothes hung on them in tatters. They were armed with what looked like primitive guns, but they could still do a lot of damage at close range.
One of them, maybe the leader of the little group, stepped forward confronting them.
“I am the master handler of the Brotherhood of the Fifteen. The Potentia was entrusted to us.” He stood proudly before them, unafraid of their weapons. He held out his hands demanding the ZPM.
McKay huffed, “Oh, will you give me a break! You can’t do this again.”
The group took a step forward their weapons raised in a clear warning. McKay didn’t like it, but he gave the man the ZPM.
“McKay?” Ronon was willing to blast them all, but he didn’t want to if he didn’t have to. He knew what these people had been through – culled nearly to extinction and forced to scrape for scraps to survive. He was impressed that they were still standing by their duty to the ancestors.
McKay took a step forward. “You don’t understand,” he said, his tone self-important, even more so than usual. “I am Lantean.”
The people around them took a step back, not enough for Ronon, but it was a start.
The head man fell immediately to his knees. “I am sorry, my lord. We did not recognize you. It has been long since we have heard of you. We thought…” he swallowed, “we thought perhaps you had died in the war with the Wraith. They have been unusually cruel for many thousands of years now.” He held up the ZPM to McKay. “This is your rightful property. I return it to you now.”
The scientist cleared his throat, “Yes, well, we’ve been busy and whatnot. We just wanted to make sure that you were keeping the Potentia safe.”
“My lord,” the man had the fevered eyes of a true believer. “We have guarded it with our lives.”
McKay surveyed the sad little group haughtily. “It was my understanding that the Brotherhood was culled. Who are you people?”
The man clutched the ZPM to his chest. “One of the brothers had a son. Afraid of the very culling that took him, he broke the trust of our order by telling our secrets to his son. Once the son survived the culling, he began the Brotherhood anew. We are the new Brotherhood; we have sworn our lives to protecting the Potentia.”
“Oh, well, that’s good then. Do you know where it goes?” He waved a hand indicating the ZPM.
“Oh, yes, my lord. We will return it to its place of safety once you have gone.”
McKay nodded slowly. “Good. That’s good. See that you put it back exactly where it was. Nowhere else. Understand.” From the tone of his voice, it was obvious that there were to be dire circumstances to be faced if his instructions were not followed.
The man fell to his face, “Yes, my lord.”
“Very good.” McKay pulled a piece of paper out of one of his pockets along with a pen. He wrote something on it. “You have done us great service, you should be rewarded. Here is the address of a planet which the Wraith do not know. You will find that the weather there is mild and the soil is good for growing crops.” He handed the scrap of paper to the man.
The man smoothed a hand over the paper reverently. “We shall guard this with our lives,” he said. He scrambled to his feet. He and his people disappeared into the darkness.
McKay exhaled sharply in relief. “Let’s go home before they change their mind,” he said. He set out upon their return path home not even looking back to make sure that Ronon was following.
Ronon stared after him with narrowed eyes. McKay was just too calm for having lost the ZPM. That was the thing that was going to save the future.
Ronon gave an irritated growl before following as he was supposed to.
Neither man talked all the way to the gate. They were well aware of their ‘escort.’ Ronon wasn’t sure if the Dagonians were giving them an honor guard or just making sure they actually left, but they had a tail all the way back to the stargate. He noticed that McKay took special care to use his body as a shield to hide the address he was dialing.
They didn’t go straight back to Atlantis. They didn’t want to lead anyone back to Atlantis so they were traveling to one of the expedition’s beta sites first. Once they were there they would radio Atlantis and have them drop the shield for their return.
It was actually pretty good tactical thinking on McKay’s part. He’d come a long way from the guy that Ronon had first met hanging upside down in a tree.
It took everything Rodney had not to talk about what happened until they stepped through the gate to the beta site.
Once they stepped through the gate from Dagan Rodney bent over wheezing. “I can’t believe we pulled that off,” he declared.
Ronon sat on the steps of the gate waiting for Rodney to recover. He watched Rodney with narrowed eyes. “I thought you were up to something. What did you do?”
Instead of answering Rodney pulled off his pack, offering it to Ronon. Ronon took it and opened it, his eyes widened at what he found inside. “I thought you gave this back to the Brotherhood.”
If Rodney grinned any wider, he thought his face might crack in two. “I gave them the depleted ZedPM.”
“You knew they would try to take it away from us?” Rodney could see that Ronon was sceptical.
“Well, yeah, they’d been following us since we came through the gate. I knew that. Didn’t you know that? Aren’t you supposed to know that?” Rodney frowned at Ronon.
“I knew they were there.” Ronon zipped the bag up, tossing it back to Rodney. Rodney gasped, grabbing it before it could hit the ground. “Tell me what you did.”
“Kill joy,” Rodney muttered. “Can’t I just enjoy the moment for a… moment.”
Ronon raised his brows in a very Sheppard-like manner to convey his impatience.
“Fine. I knew we were being tailed. And I suspected it was the Brotherhood of the Fifteen. The first time we went to Dagan… in the future... god, I hate time travel. Anyway they told us that the Brotherhood of the Fifteen worshiped the Lanteans, you call them Ancients, as Gods. If it was them, I figured they would confront us once we came out of the chamber and I’d better have something to give them. I thought if the guys following us were from the Brotherhood they’d listen to me if I told them I was Lantean. I told them to put the ZedPM back so it would be there for us to find it when we come back in three thousand years.”
Ronon nodded thoughtfully, “And if they were just going to rob us?”
“Then I hoped they’d be happy with the Treasure of the Quindosim and wouldn’t take our packs or we’d just have to fight our way out. That’s where you came in.”
“Glad I could be some help.”
“Well, you helped. You dug.”
Ronon laughed at that. He clapped Rodney on the back. “Let’s go home.”
John had almost paced a path in the floor of control by the time the gate activated. Teyla had grown exasperated with him, reassuring him that their teammates were fine. John knew it was going to take them time to get there, dig out the chamber, refill it once they’d retrieved the ZPM and then make their way back to Atlantis.
Still, as the hours passed all John could think about was all of the things that had happened to them since coming to the Pegasus Galaxy -from the Wraith to the Genii, they had seen a lot of bad shit since arriving in Atlantis. Any or all of it could even now be happening to Rodney and Ronon on Dagan.
John was never so relieved as when the gate activated and it was Rodney’s voice on his headset.
“It’s McKay and Ronon ready to return to Atlantis. Is the shield down?”
John activated the control that would lower the shield on Atlantis’ gate.
“What took you guys so long?” John demanded as soon as his friends walked through the gate. He tapped the control reactivating the shield.
Teyla put a hand on his arm to caution him, “John, I am sure they are tired and would like to rest for a moment.”
Rodney grinned up at them. “You should have been there!” He was practically bouncing in his enthusiasm. “They tried to take the ZedPM from us, but we fooled them. It was so slick!”
He was making no sense at all so John turned to Ronon, “You going to tell us what happened, big guy?”
Ronon shrugged. “We got a ZPM. Hey, you guys have dinner yet?”
John and Teyla shared a frustrated glance.
Rodney made motions that he was going to go install the ZPM.
“Hey, McKay,” John called. “Why don’t you take a break, sit down and eat something?” John held up Rodney’s favorite MRE as an incentive.
Briefly Rodney appeared torn between food and the ZPM, but he finally shook his head. “I really want to get this installed and get the systems initialized. I’d hate to have everything go to hell because I had to eat.”
If Rodney was turning down food, then he really was worried. “At least wait and let me go with you. You can’t wander the halls alone.” Ronon was chowing down on the MRE that Teyla had handed him. It was obvious that McKay guard duty had been handed off to John. The hours of doing nothing had left him feeling better. And also restless. He was ready to do something.
Rodney frowned, but snapped his fingers, “Chop, chop, Colonel. If you think you’re well enough to come on this little field trip, let’s go.”
John hurried to comply. Teyla helped as much as she could from her seated position while Rodney pulled his on, snapping his fingers for Ronon’s help. It didn’t take long before he and Rodney were making their way down the halls of Atlantis. John was used to the lights in the halls being dimmed during the night hours. But this was different. The halls were dark; there was the feeling that no one was at home. It felt sad and lonely.
The city asked if he wanted to initialize the systems. John told her no, she needed to stay in downtime. He’d had to answer the query half a dozen times since they’d arrived in the past.
John turned to Rodney. “Dagan?”
“There was a new faction of the Brotherhood. They took the ZedPM from us,” Rodney said.
“Rodney?” John stopped to stare at Rodney.
“Relax,” Rodney’s face lit up in a delighted smile. “I gave them the depleted one. We slipped the good one right past them.” He held out the ZPM he carried in the crook of his arm as proof.
“You sure you didn’t mess up the timeline?” John asked. “I mean it needs to be there for us to find in the future.”
“Give me some credit,” Rodney sniffed. “I’m the only one really concerned with the timeline.”
“I’m concerned with the timeline,” John insisted. “It’s just hard to wrap your brain around the whole concept, you know.”
Rodney sniffed disdainfully. “Just wait until we get back to the future and we find Kavanuagh in charge and you’re married to Carter. Then you’ll understand not messing with the timeline.”
John shuddered. “Kavanaugh in charge? Now that really is scary.”
“You have no idea,” Rodney said emphatically. They trudged on. John had forgotten how long the hallways were when they couldn’t use the transporters.
“So, you were talking before about what would we do without you.” John knew his segue was anything but subtle but he couldn’t think of any other way to bring the subject up. It had been on John’s mind since they’d had the conversation. “You’re not thinking of leaving Atlantis are you?”
Rodney’s silence told him all he needed to know.
“You are, aren’t you?” John couldn’t imagine Atlantis without Rodney. But if he wanted to go…
“It’s just that Jennifer is going back to Earth. She’s asked me to go with her.”
John felt like his whole world had just dropped out from underneath him. “You going?” he asked, even though he was pretty sure he knew the answer. Jennifer was beautiful and brilliant, the perfect woman for one Dr. Rodney McKay.
“Of course I’m not going,” Rodney snapped, indignation in his voice. “This city would sink if not for me. Take this case. If we weren’t here now, in the past, the city would have sunk before we even got here. We would all drown coming through the gate.”
“Would the gate even open if it’s under water?” John asked before he remembered that yes, he knew the answer to that one.
He just knew that Rodney was giving him the ‘you’re-too-stupid-to-live’ glare. “Of course it would,” Rodney confirmed.
John smirked, even though he knew Rodney couldn’t see it. “Okay, well I guess it’s a good thing you’re going to stay then.” He just couldn’t leave well enough alone though. “But what about Jennifer?” he asked. “Don’t you love her?”
“I do, I thought I did. But she keeps trying to change me. I think she wants Rod, not Rodney - you know the nice Rodney McKay?”
John bumped Rodney’s shoulder gently. “Her loss. I like you just fine the way you are.”
“Thank you!” Rodney said fervently. “That’s what I thought too. I thought maybe I could be nicer or more tactful or something, but it never seems like it’s enough.” John knew the exact second when his words percolated through Rodney’s mind. He stopped in his tracks turning to stare at John. “What, you like me just the way I am?”
John shrugged, which was actually pretty difficult in a space suit. “Always have.”
“Like like? Or LIKE like?” Rodney asked.
John chuckled. “What do you think, Rodney?”
“And you’re just telling me now?” Rodney sounded pretty peeved over the whole thing. “I cannot believe your timing. We’re both in space suits and I can’t even kiss you.”
“Rodney,” John actually felt kind of prudish saying it, but he had to, “there will be no kissing or anything else until you tell Jennifer you’re not going to Earth with her. Have you told Jennifer you’re not going back to Earth with her?”
Rodney shuffled his feet. “Well maybe not in so many words.”
“Well, let me know once you’ve told her in so many words.” John leaned forward until their helmets were touching. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.”
“What if… what if I can’t get us back to the future?”
“You’re not getting out of breaking up with Jennifer by staying in the past. If you can’t get us back to the future, then you’ll have to send her a ‘Dear Jennifer’ letter.” He tugged on the sleeve of Rodney’s suit. “Come on we have to get the past fixed, so we can get back to our lives in the future.”
After everything else they’d been through, it was surprisingly easy to get the past fixed. Rodney inserted the new ZPM from Dagan, which was indeed at full strength. For just a second the city brushed John’s mind before Rodney got Janus’ protocol initialized and the city was plunged back into a standby mode waiting for the expedition’s arrival in three thousand years.
Then the hardest part was keeping Ronon occupied for the three days before they could return through the gate back to their own time. John had never realized how hard that was – on Atlantis Ronon kept occupied by beating up John’s marines in the name of training. It was much harder to do with only a disinterested Rodney and an injured Teyla. John was still suffering from the lingering effects of a concussion as well as a tickle in his lungs that he suspected had something to do with his journey down a storm-swollen river without a raft.
He didn’t tell the others because there wasn’t much they could do stuck 3,000 years in the past but worry.
But the day finally came when Rodney told them to clean up the mess they’d made of the control room. They boarded the jumper for their journey home. John piloted while Rodney worked his magic from the co-pilot’s position. Ronon stayed with Teyla in the back where she was most comfortable.
John worried, nothing else this mission had gone right, but when they emerged from the wormhole into Atlantis’ control room this time, it was brightly lit. There were people lining the control room balcony to welcome them home. Mr. Woolsey waved at them as the automatic controls took over and pulled them into the jumper bay.
They were met in the jumper bay by a medical team who took them all to the infirmary. Rodney complained the entire way that there wasn’t anything wrong with him. John leaned back on the gurney he had been forced onto for the journey to the infirmary letting it all wash over him. They were home.
There was a debriefing in the infirmary, as Dr. Keller refused to let them leave.
“You were gone three days, Colonel, we’re just being cautious,” Woolsey explained when John asked why there was an armed guard on the infirmary door. He only found that out because he and his team tried to escape. “You and Teyla have some serious medical issues to be dealt with and we do have to verify that you are who you say you are.”
Yes, John knew that. He helped to write the protocols. He just hated being in the infirmary.
“So, you were in the past,” Woolsey said. It seemed that he was very interested in time travel and had already grilled Rodney about the details and ramifications of their unscheduled side trip to the past. “How was it?”
Behind Mr. Woolsey Rodney was rolling his eyes.
John shrugged. “It was kind of boring. We couldn’t do anything for fear of disturbing the time line. I suppose if we’d been stuck there it would have been different.” He smirked at Rodney who blushed. “But Rodney was, as usual, a genius, and got us home.”
“Again,” Rodney reminded them all.
“Yes, again, and thank you for that,” John said.
Rodney gave a tilt of his head that might have been modest if it weren’t for the smirk that he was wearing, “Well, just in a day’s work when you’re a genius,” he said.
“Explain that to me, again,” Woolsey turned to Rodney. “You sent yourself a message to be delivered in the future…” He took Rodney’s arm, steering him out of the infirmary.
John wasn’t too worried about Rodney; there was nothing he liked better than to talk about how smart he was. For once he had a willing audience in Mr. Woolsey.
He glanced over at Teyla. She was in the bed next to his. Her casted foot was propped up on pillows. Torren slept quietly next to her in the bed.
“Hey, how are you?” John called to her, his voice pitched low so as not to disturb the sleeping toddler.
“I am glad to be home. I find that I do not think I like time traveling.”
John nodded his emphatic agreement of that statement.
Ronon was off-world with Lorne’s team on a mission. He liked Atlantis well enough, he’d told John, but he’d had enough of hanging around the city for a few thousand years.
John had seen Jennifer Keller off and on while he was in the infirmary; she was his doctor after all. On the day that John was scheduled to be released back to light duty Keller appeared at his bedside.
“Well, Colonel, you ready to get out of here today?” she asked him as she did her final check.
He smiled up at her brightly. “What do you think?”
“You’ve been down here so often this year; one would almost think you like it.” She responded to his smile in kind, but John thought he saw a hint of sadness in it.
“Yeah, sure, doc, I just love it here,” he said.
“Yes, well anyway, I wanted to tell you that I’m leaving Atlantis. The IOA has approved Carson to return as the chief of medicine here and I’m going home.” That was what was wrong with Jennifer Keller. Atlantis had never been her home like it had for the rest of them. It was just a place to be until she could go back to her real home – Earth.
“I’m happy for you, doc,” John told her. He worked not to clutch at the blankets. “I guess Rodney will be going with you then?”
Jennifer’s smile became a little sadder. She sighed. “I wish he was. I asked him to, but he said that Atlantis would end up back on the bottom of the ocean without him here to keep it afloat.” She shook her head with a small chuckle. “I really like the guy but his ego is a bit much sometimes, you know?” She looked at John expecting confirmation of the sentiment.
The thing was, Rodney could be unbearably egotistical, but he had a right to be. Rodney had saved the city again and no one but his team knew about it. He didn’t even seem like it mattered to him that he couldn’t tell anyone. The rest of his team knew and that was enough for Rodney McKay.
Well, John wanted people to know. “Rodney’s earned the right to a little ego.”
Jennifer took a step back, startled by John’s outburst. “I know. He’s brilliant really, but he doesn’t need to flaunt it in everyone’s face.” John bit his lip and kept quiet, this wasn’t an argument he wanted to have with a woman who was leaving. “Anyway, like I said, I asked him to go with me, but he said he had to stay here. I got the feeling…” she paused; her eyes searching John’s face for… something. He wasn’t sure what. “I got the feeling that there’s someone else.” She held up her hand to forestall John’s protest that Rodney wouldn’t cheat on her.
“I don’t think he’s with someone else already. I just think that there’s someone else here he loves.” She laughed and rolled her eyes. “Maybe it’s the city, god knows he spends more time with her than he does with me. I don’t know. I just wanted to ask you to look after him for me. Make sure he doesn’t get hurt.”
John had to force himself to breathe slowly. Take care of Rodney? It hadn’t really come to him until Rodney was in the grip of an alien parasite, stripped down to his basic self and still turning to John, how much he loved and cared for Rodney. But Rodney had been with Jennifer ever since then, and all John really wanted was for Rodney to be happy so he’d kept his epiphanies to himself. But now…
He took a deep breath. “Yeah,” he told Jennifer, “I can do that.”
She smiled. “Good. I know that you’re his friend and don’t want to see him hurt any more than I do.” She patted his shoulder. “Thank you, John, and good luck.”
“Yeah, you too, Dr. Keller.” Although he couldn’t honestly say that he was sorry she was leaving, he did wish her well.
She handed him his head set as she turned away. “It looks like you’re good to go, Colonel. Remember just light duty for the next week.”
“Oh, I’ll remember,” he assured her.
As she turned and walked away, he put his radio into his ear. He tapped it for his team’s channel. “Hey, Rodney, you busy?” he asked.
“Busy? Just saving the city as usual. But for you? I’ve got all the time in the world.”
“Jennifer just released me from the infirmary. You want to get some lunch in about half an hour?”
“Sure,” Rodney answered. “It’s a date.” Then he clicked off.
John smiled. He’d been to the future and then the past. Now he was definitely looking forward to his present.