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26 Hours, Give or Take

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A day on Atlantis was a fraction longer than a day on Earth though that still didn't stop Rodney complaining that there were not enough hours in each day. Except Jack knew of too many days when even 24 hours had seemed like a lifetime, full of fear and pain, and he had the scars to prove it. Some of them were physical, and others came from watching friends--like Daniel--suffering beside him.

Rodney had his own impressive set of scars, most notable was the jagged line on his forearm from a Genii blade. At the time Rodney had seen it as a sign of his weakness, of how he had buckled under the torture and told the enemy of the plan to save the city. In hindsight, and with the help of friends and the now dead Kate Heightmeyer, Rodney learned to treat it as a badge of courage. It was the visible sign of how he had suffered and yet had still been prepared to bluff and stand between a madman holding a gun, and a friend, in order to save that friend's life.

Elizabeth was alive today because of Rodney's courage. In fact, there were a lot of people who were alive today due to Rodney's passion for his work and, as a by-product admittedly, his work to save lives.

Badge of courage aside, Jack hated Acastus Kolya with a passion that rivaled his hatred of his own personal torturer, Ba'al, even though he had never even met let alone been tortured by the Genii commander. Jack had only to witness the momentary fear in Rodney's eyes at Kolya's mention or notice the way Rodney was rubbing at the scar to hate the man who had caused such pain for his lover.

Today, Kolya had fed Rodney to a Wraith, and it was only Jack's gun at the Wraith's head that had forced the creature to give back what it had taken. Jack had let the Wraith go, had given it safe passage off of the world holding Kolya's secret base even though every instinct screamed at him to kill this defiler of his lover, the taker of his lover's life force. However, a promise had been made and, for once, Jack put the whole blame onto Kolya rather than the half-starved Wraith.

Jack stared out across the ocean.

The view of the sunset from the east pier was spectacular, with hues of red and orange shimmering across the surface of the water and reflecting off the towers of alien metal rising high into the air, and yet Jack barely noticed it. His thoughts were turned inwards, dwelling on the past 26 hours, give or take, where his whole world had almost ended on a grainy video and a Wraith feed.

"Jack?"

The familiar voice taunted him for a moment with memories of a frightened and pain-filled man, and then a hand was resting tentatively upon his forearm; he turned slowly, seeing Rodney cast in the blood red of a dying day and he shivered. Jack couldn't resist the rise of his hands or the way his fingers cradled the young-again face, having seen it seamed with age and pain only hours earlier. If anything, the Wraith had given back a little more than it had taken, probably some of the life it had stolen from Kolya's men. Jack leaned in and kissed the soft, sweet lips, savoring the taste and feel as he caught Rodney in his arms and held him in a bone-crushing hug.

"Don't do that again," he demanded softly, and Rodney nodded quickly, just as eager to push away all memory, but the feeding scar would remain as a constant reminder of what Jack had almost lost this day.

Kolya was a dead man.

END