As the new inhabitants woke the city, she searched for the people she had been created for. She found only one. Keeping her senses on him at all times, she lit the stairs for him, opened doors for him, turned her equipment on for him, and brought the ships to life for him.
There were some others who were similar to her people, but her awareness of them was muted. She allowed her secondary systems to keep track of them while she focused on the one.
Rodney frowned as John turned on yet another piece of equipment that had been barely glimmering for him. Granted, they wouldn't have been able to come here at all without Sheppard's gene, and yes, Rodney's control over his injected ATA gene was growing stronger, but it still grated. Rodney was the one who--.
"How about this one?" John said, interrupting Rodney's silent gripefest. He held up a small device about the size of a deck of cards. When Rodney had tried to turn it on a few hours ago, it had vibrated for a moment and then stopped.
"Oh, sure, why not?" Rodney said caustically. He was already miserable enough that Sheppard had the power, like some follicle-steroid-enhanced He-Man with his magical sword; might as well make his day complete.
Under John's touch, the gadget emitted a hologram. "Cool," John said with a grin as he stared at it. "What's it say?"
Rodney moved closer, eyes squinted as he tried to read the Ancient script. Then he grinned, amused, despite himself. "Looks like the Ancient equivalent of Dr. Seuss."
John's eyebrows rose. "Green Eggs and Ham?"
"More like One Fish, Two Fish," Rodney said.
"I gotta learn to read Ancient," John said wistfully as he put the gadget down.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "While I'm sure you're grieving over having to leave your 'See Spot Run' books back on Earth, perhaps you could find--"
He was interrupted again, but this time by Radek over his headset. "Rodney, reluctant as I am to feed your monstrous ego, we need you in the eastern grounding station. The dielectric between conducting plates is emitting unscheduled fireworks show."
"And you need me, why? This is elementary stuff, even for you." Rodney snapped out, not that it stopped him from reaching for his portable tool kit.
"Thank you for vote of confidence," Radek responded dryly. "Perhaps I am lonely for your restful company."
"Very funny." Rodney checked to make sure he had everything. Eying John, he said, "Don't touch anything."
"Oh," John said airily, as he stood, "I'm coming with you. I love fireworks."
Rodney sighed dramatically. Of course John was coming with him, if for no other reason than to rub it in as the doors cheerily, and automatically, opened for him. Only the fact that Rodney sort of, for absolutely no reason that he could determine, liked being with John, kept him from saying no. Instead, he shot the Major a narrow-eyed glare and swept out of the lab, John directly behind him.
John loved to watch Rodney in action. It was better than a good football game. Defense, offense, penalties, blitzes, blocking, punting, personal fouls--Rodney working on a problem had all of that and more.
"Don't touch that," Rodney griped at one of the scientists. John thought his name was Jenkins. He really needed to learn all their names, John chastised himself again. He ignored the fatalistic voice that told him not to bother. They'd probably die, and it would all have been a wasted effort.
He knew Rodney's name, and he knew Radek Zelenka's name. Unfortunately, he also knew Kavanaugh's name. The last one would never, ever die--being akin to a cockroach--and the first two had better not die, especially the first one, or they'd be up shitcreek without a paddle.
The scientist, who had been warned not to touch, touched and an arc of blue fire shot out at Rodney. John had him on his back in an instant, feeling the heat of the flame as it barely missed singeing his hair.
Rodney stared up at him.
John stared down at Rodney. He kind of liked this view.
Rodney blew out a breath. "Radek?"
"Yes, Rodney," Radek said, as if he always had conversations with Rodney while John was lying on top of him.
"Tell Jorgenson to go away or I'll have to kill him."
"Right." Radek proceeded to inform Jorgenson that perhaps this was not his day to learn about the grounding station. Very sad, yes, but Atlantis would be safer this way.
Rodney blew out another breath. "Major?"
"Yeah?" John was not only liking the view, he was liking the whole body against body thing, too.
"Not that I'm not grateful for your saving me from being flambéed, but is there a reason you're trying to squeeze all the breath out of my body?"
John squinched his face up. "No." Obviously there was, with the liking and all, but John thought it wiser to keep that to himself.
"Ah." Rodney slapped a hand over his face. "Radek?" he asked through his fingers.
"Can you reach the Major's gun?"
John rolled off of Rodney. Not that he thought for a moment that Radek would shoot him, but Rodney might, and this close he probably wouldn't miss. He sat up, his legs crossed Indian-style, eyes on Rodney.
Rodney slowly sat up, one hand on his lower back, one on the back of his head. "Ow. Ow." He glowered at John. "Again, not to discount the rescue, but was the football tackle absolutely necessary? I bruise easily, you know."
John knew this. Everyone on Atlantis knew this. He suspected everyone in Colorado and Nevada knew this, not to mention every other state Rodney had spent more than two hours in. "I thought you'd rather be bruised than burnt to a crisp."
Rodney looked like he was thinking about it. Then he glanced at Radek. "Are we in any further danger from tongues of fire?"
Radek shook his head, holding up several wires showing signs of having been yanked out.
Rodney groaned again. "Could we please," Rodney said with an emphasis on please that meant anything but, "try to find a way to remedy a situation that doesn't include full-body bruising and the destruction of possibly vital parts of Atlantis?" He grabbed the wires from Radek's hand, glowering at him, too.
John met Radek's eyes and they shared a silent what-can-you-do? moment. To hate Rodney was to love him.
"What did he touch?" John asked.
"Does it matter?" Rodney griped. "I was relatively certain I told him not to touch anything. I was even fairly certain I said it in English." As Rodney inched back to the grounding station, his eyes flitted to Radek. "Did I say it in English?" He gingerly touched the metal there to determine its heat.
"Oh, yes," Radek assured him. "You always say in English."
Rodney let out a derogatory snort. "Idiots."
"So when you tell people not to touch things, you're not just saying it because you think they're stupid?" John asked. Being someone who was told that by Rodney all the time, he wanted some clarification.
"Is that a trick question?" Rodney asked as he started wiring, his fingers moving like magic over the multitude of connections that looked like an electrician's nightmare. "Sort of like: have you stopped beating your wife?"
John gave him a lopsided grin.
"The problem, Major," Radek said as he slapped a tool into Rodney's hand like an assistant to a trauma surgeon, "is that we have the wrong people here."
"What do you mean?"
Radek gestured toward the equipment that Rodney was working on. "We have chemists, geneticists, microbiologists, astrophysicists," here Rodney waved his hand as if Radek had been taking attendance then went back to his wiring, "meteorologists, even botanists."
"And?" John prompted him.
"What we need," Rodney took up, "are plumbers, electricians, mechanics, mechanical engineers, and heavy and civil construction engineers."
"Is true," Radek said sadly. "Jorgenson is brilliant--" At Rodney's interrupting glare, Radek amended, "above average--" that got another glare.
Radek glared back.
Rodney conceded with a sigh. "Fine, above average. That's one step above kindergarten for a place like this."
"Above average electrophysicist," Radek finished.
"Which," Rodney grumbled, "made me foolishly think he might know something about electricity." He barked out a derisive "ha" and went back to work.
"What does an electrophysicist do?" John inquired. He kept a cautious eye on the grounding station, not wanting a repeat of what had happened before. Not that it probably would with Rodney at the helm. Shit around Atlantis usually happened because someone else touched something. Usually.
"Ironically enough," Rodney said snidely, "they generally work with electronics. Which, incidentally," he added with a sneer, "goes hand in hand with electricity." He snorted indignantly. "Above average. He's an imbecile."
"Why is he an imbecile?" John asked, digging.
"For all he knows about electronics, the man might as well be an exobiologist studying about bolides," Rodney snapped.
That wasn't the least bit helpful. He turned to Radek, hoping he might have a better answer.
Before Radek could speak, Rodney stopped what he was doing and turned to John. "The problem is that Jorgenson, and most of the other scientists on Atlantis understand the theory behind their sciences. Jorgenson can probably tell you how this grounding station works and why. He, maybe, on a good day when hell freezes over, could design a better one. But he doesn't have the practical experience of working with impedances in CR, LR, or LCR circuits, or capacitance, or semiconductor or zenor diodes. Sure he can probably interpret an RMS value of an AC waveform, but he won't know how to fix it when it's wrong."
"Jorgenson would have secretary call for electrician," Radek offered. He pointed at the one loose wire. "Don't forget that one."
"Oh, thank you so much. I never could have finished this job without you," Rodney said with a sarcastic smile. "Wrench."
Radek smacked the tool sharply into his palm.
"Ow," Rodney said.
"Sorry," Radek said, not the least bit penitent.
"So why do you know how to do this stuff?" John asked Rodney. "You're an astrophysicist, not an electrician."
"Because," Rodney said as he connected the last wire, "I know everything." He closed the console, gave the grounding station a little pat, and switched it on. It whirred a little, and then began beeping reassuringly.
Radek sighed. "Is true. Is very annoying."
John pursed his lips. "So in other words, we have all these well-paid, highly educated scientists wandering around Atlantis, when what we need are a bunch of beer-guzzling plant operations guys?"
"Yes," Rodney said, "and no. We need smart plant operations guys who understand physics and yet are willing to be flexible, because the equipment here doesn't exactly follow all the rules we learned back on Earth."
"Or an astrophysicist who's also a part time handyman," John amended. The repaired grounding station case in point. He'd never really thought about it before, but half the stuff Rodney did was fixing things. Even though John knew that, he hadn't put two and two together. Rodney did it all. Plumbing, lights, heating and air conditioning, stuck doors, broken transporters, weapons. The ultimate handy-man. John's respect for Rodney and his capabilities increased exponentially. He turned to Radek. "You don't seem too shabby at this stuff."
"I had many opportunities for fixing things when growing up." Radek leaned in toward John as if to add a deep dark secret. "And I hate to say this where Rodney can hear, but is also because I listen to him."
"You are a wise man, my friend," Rodney said grandly.
"Yes, yes," Radek said with a roll of his eyes. He started to help Rodney pack up the tools they'd used. "Please to keep your ego on tight leash so it does not take over city."
John glanced at his watch. "We done here? I'm hungry. Let's go eat."
Rodney jumped to his feet. "I could eat."
"Surprise, surprise," Radek said dryly in response, but he followed John and Rodney as they headed to the closest transporter.
Rodney was having a good day. Every Ancient gadget he'd tried to turn on had activated, revealing its secrets to him. Well, all right, there had been the one thing, roughly oval shaped, that had buzzed a little and then gone silent, but Rodney had shoved it under a pile of paper and was ignoring it.
It helped that it was the middle of the night, which allowed him to work undisturbed in the lab. He'd made his way here after he hadn't been able to sleep and decided that staring at the ceiling was a poor use of his valuable time.
He liked being alone in his lab. It was easier for him to run overall city diagnostics. There was less power being drawn and systems were quiescent enough to get a sense of how they were working. Rodney had also discovered that if he found something wrong, fixing it in the dark of night kept the very-not-helpful kibitzing down to a minimum.
He tapped his computer, his index finger flicking at a red light. Like this. He'd be able to go to the hydroponics lab and get that fixed before all the supposed experts showed up to make it worse.
Smiling in self-satisfaction, Rodney grabbed his laptop and his tool bag, and headed for hydroponics.
The city knew parts of her had weakened while she had slept. She could sense her systems being worked on. Some were returned to full functioning, some were at partial strength, while other parts of her were sacrificed to keep other parts stronger. That was permissible. Her function, after all, was to sustain life.
The bright one, the one she was most aware of, walked her corridors in his attempt to know her more fully. Her sensors were effortlessly attuned to him now so she was able to focus more fully on the others who inhabited her.
She could hear and feel them. If they were near one of her vision sensors, she could see them. However, it was difficult to differentiate them by vision. The data elements required taxed her system.
It was simpler to sense the heat of their bodies, identify the whorls on their fingertips. It was more difficult to do with the ones who could not mentally interact with her, less challenging to do with the ones with whom she could partially interact, and instinctive with the bright one.
Over time, she came to know them as individuals.
She learned that the bright one's name was John Sheppard. She came to learn other names: Elizabeth Weir, Peter Grodin, Radek Zelenka, Carson Beckett. She learned their functions and aided them when she could. She also came to know Rodney McKay as the one who often repaired her.
She began to pay attention to him.
John was bored. He'd done his patrols, worked out with Teyla, done the checking in with Elizabeth, even read his allotted pages of War and Peace. There were no missions slated for two more days, and John was really, really bored.
So he went in search of his favorite entertainment. It took him a while but he finally tracked down Rodney in one of the hallways outside the medlab. John could hear him blasting his poor hapless victim from around the corner.
"Where did you get your Ph.D.? Target?" Rodney asked scornfully.
"I was doing it right," his victim protested. John was pretty sure it was Nancy Forner. In Rodney's estimation, no doubt, yet another above-average scientist of some sort.
"If you're a blacksmith," Rodney said with withering disdain. "You're not trying to make horseshoes; you're working on a finely tuned terminal linear voltage regulator. Keep working on it the way you are with those fumble-fingers of yours and constant voltage will go the way of the dinosaur."
John turned the corner to find Rodney and Forner sitting on the floor, tools scattered between them. Rodney was watching Forner make another attempt, doing something to one of the hundreds of consoles that lined the hallway.
"Gently," Rodney yelled at her.
As Forner yanked her hands back, John bit back a grin. Ah, the dulcet tones of Dr. Rodney McKay.
"Don't you get that this is Atlantis?" Rodney pleaded loudly with her. "It's…it's Atlantis. You need to treat it with some…" Rodney ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "It's just…it's Atlantis. Okay?"
Forner stared at him with a furrowed brow. As she stared, John fought back the urge to go kiss Rodney senseless. These brief glimpses of Rodney truly and deeply caring were a total turn on.
Rodney sighed. "Try it again."
Deciding to announce his presence, John said, "Glad to see you're letting someone else get to play."
Rodney looked over his shoulder. "What are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you, too, McKay." John slouched against a wall.
Ignoring John, Rodney went back to observing Forner. "Yeah, yeah, that's it."
John could see Rodney's fingers twitching, as if he was only a hairsbreadth away from taking over. Patience was not Rodney's strong suit, especially when John knew he could no doubt do it in a fraction of the time.
His eyes still focused on Forner, Rodney said to John, "Did you need something?"
"No," John said with a grin, knowing those kinds of answers drove McKay crazy.
"Careful," Rodney bit out. "See that crystal? Do you see it? See how it looks smudged?"
Forner nodded, reaching for it, cautiously working it out. When she held it in her hand, even John could see how discolored one side was. "What's that for?" John asked.
"It's to light up the Atlantis Christmas tree," came McKay's sarcastic rejoinder.
"I want to know," John said. And he did. It was clear they all needed a better idea about how the city worked. He used to work on engines, first in cars, then in planes, he got how things worked; despite being in another galaxy, not all of this had to be rocket science. "Explain it to me."
Rodney rolled his eyes heavenwards as if looking for strength. "Fine." He gestured up and down the corridor. "These hallways are lined with superconducting material that allows for a safe level of low-voltage power to be transferred through the city. This," Rodney held the crystal up for display, "was creating a partial blockage that was only allowing the voltage to pass through when it built up to a much higher level."
"So if it kept doing that," John finished, taking an educated guess, "sooner or later the elevated voltage that got released would make its way to the grounding station and cause it to short out like it did last week, or it would start a chain reaction and knock out the rest of the crystals."
Rodney gave him an assessing look. He humphed and turned back to Forner.
John preened under Rodney's lack of criticism. That was almost a standing ovation.
"Replace it now," Rodney ordered Forner.
The woman nodded, reaching for a crystal.
Rodney shoved her hand away. "Not that one, you imbecile. Those are for environmental control." Rodney shot a see-what-I-have-to-put-up-with look at John.
Forner reached again and, apparently, chose the right one this time, carefully replacing it. She picked up the scanner, took some readings, smiled in vast relief when it was clear whatever had been broken was now fixed.
"Fine, fine, you can go," Rodney grumbled.
Forner didn't need a second invitation. She practically ran for freedom.
"Aww," John said. "You two almost had a moment. You let her go without ripping her beating heart out of her chest."
Rodney glared up at him from where he was still sitting on the floor.
Unaffected by Rodney's glare of death, repeated exposure having conferred a certain amount of immunity, John said, "I've been thinking."
Rodney groaned. "Please, tell me you haven't. Every time someone tries to think around this place, I end up paying the price for it."
"No, you'll like this idea." John hunkered down next to Rodney.
"I can feel my blood pressure climbing," Rodney groused, but he stayed put.
John took that for tacit permission to share his idea. "I was just thinking that maybe you should start some classes."
Rodney's eyebrows went up. "Classes?"
"Yeah, classes on the stuff you were talking about yesterday. And I don't mean just for the scientists. Some of the marines have a lot of experience working on building projects. They might be a good resource for you."
"Right, because that's just what I need, a bunch of grunts running around fixing Atlantis," Rodney said cuttingly.
"Hey," John protested. "We know stuff. I know stuff."
"That's a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one." Rodney gathered up his tools. "And did you actually want something or did you just come down here to harass me?"
"I just came to harass you."
Rodney frowned. "Are you done?"
John shook his head, smirking.
Rodney sighed. "Can you harass me as we walk or does it have to take place in the hallway?"
"I can walk and harass. Harassing while walking is one of my many talents."
Rodney blinked at him, letting out a beleaguered what-did-I-do-to-deserve-this sigh.
"Actually," John continued. "Harassing is thirsty work. Let's go get something to drink."
Narrowing his eyes, studying John as if he was some experiment gone dreadfully wrong, Rodney said, "If I say no, will you leave me alone?"
John shook his head no.
"I didn't think so," Rodney said with a voice of doom. He started walking away, then noticed John was standing still. "Well, come on, come on, I'm a busy man."
Grinning, John fell into place at his side.
The city found John Sheppard's presence restful. She found Rodney McKay's presence…stimulating. He was loud. His body was in constant motion. While there were parts of the city that had yet to be explored by her new inhabitants, every place they had discovered, he had been there and touched. And everywhere he touched, changed.
He directed the repairs. She understood that now. He chose what was repaired and in what order. He chose what was to be sacrificed and what was to be rebuilt. He rerouted and remapped and recalibrated her programs until, in many ways, she functioned at a higher level than originally intended.
Rodney McKay was not the only one who repaired her. But he was the most capable. When a part of her malfunctioned it would occupy her awareness as she attempted to self-diagnose and self-repair. When she sensed his presence at the trouble spot, she was able to turn her attention to other systems, knowing he would repair her in a way that would best allow her to fulfill her responsibilities.
He was important. She began to leave an array of senses on him at all times to ease his way.
Before John could think the door open, it opened. Eyebrows high, he glanced at Rodney. "Did you do that?"
Rodney blinked at the door. "You mean you didn't?"
John shook his head.
"Hmm," Rodney said, stepping through, his face anxious as if he suspected a practical joke of some sort. The door slid easily shut behind them.
"Try the next one," John suggested.
Usually, Rodney had to think for a few seconds to get an unfamiliar door open, but this one easily opened, just like the other one had. "Maybe Atlantis is finally recognizing my genius."
"Yeah, I'm sure that's what it is," John drawled. "Or maybe Atlantis is opening up a series of doors that lead right to the ocean in hopes you jump off."
Rodney shot John an I'm-not-amused look, but then the next door opened easily, too, and Rodney graced John with one of his few authentic smiles, clearly delighted.
John couldn't resist flinging his arm around Rodney's shoulder. "Oh, my little Rodney, all grown up," he teased.
"Shut up," Rodney said, still grinning. He also didn't push John's arm off.
Elizabeth turned her laptop toward John. "Rodney tells me this was your idea."
Puzzled, John leaned in so he could see the screen. His grin grew wider with each passing second as he read what was there:
CLASSES FOR THE GALACTICALLY UNINFORMED
1. ELECTRICITY FOR DUMMIES
2. PLUMBING FOR IDIOTS
3. HOW TO TELL A DARK CRYSTAL FROM A LIGHT CRYSTAL 101
4. MACHINE REPAIR FOR THE MENTALLY CHALLENGED
5. FUN WITH SCREWED UP PHYSICS
COST FOR CLASSES IS NON-PERISHABLE FOOD. IN CASE YOU'RE TOO STUPID TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS: A) PLEASE DON'T SIGN UP FOR ANY OF MY CLASSES AND B) IT MEANS COFFEE, CHOCOLATE, POWER BARS OR MRES. DIFFERENT ARRANGEMENTS CAN BE MADE FOR ANY ATHOSIANS DIMWITTED ENOUGH TO SIGN UP.
ATTENDANCE FOR EACH CLASS IS LIMITED TO FIVE PEOPLE. I CAN'T BEAR TO HAVE ANY MORE THAN FIVE STUPID PEOPLE STARING AT ME AT ONE TIME. ENROLL ONLINE. I'D JUST AS SOON NOT TALK TO ANY OF YOU UNTIL I HAVE TO.
RODNEY MCKAY, PH.D., PH.D., PH.D.
John was snickering by the time he was done. "Has anyone been brave enough to sign up?" he asked Elizabeth.
"Despite the fact that the class list only went up earlier this morning, they're all full, with a waiting list."
"You're kidding me," John said, stunned. Not that Rodney couldn't teach those classes with his eyes closed and hands tied behind his back, but John was surprised that people were signing up on purpose to subject themselves to Rodney's abusive derision. John thought he was the only one who hung out with Rodney on purpose. It sort of annoyed him that other people maybe wanted to do it, too.
Elizabeth tapped a couple of keys and brought up a new page to show him. Just like she'd said, every class was full with waiting lists, enough to teach the class two or three times over. He took a closer look, pleased to see it was an equal mix of scientists and soldiers. No Athosians, but that wasn't really a surprise.
"He may rub people the wrong way," Elizabeth said, staring at the lists, "but I don't think anyone would dispute that he knows what he's talking about."
John wondered how well Rodney could teach. He knew Rodney used to teach before the government had recruited him, but John knew nothing more than that. Noting the schedule, he saw the first class was tonight and decided to drop in to check it out. "I don't see your name on any of those lists," John teased Elizabeth.
"You and I, along with Radek, apparently, have the right to audit any class we want," she said with a wry grin. "We are, however, still expected to bring him food."
John barked out a laugh. Only Rodney.
As John sat in the back of the class, most of his attention was spent on loving Rodney. Yes, he was cutting and mocking, but he could take the most complex subject and, somehow, cut through all the bullshit and describe it in a way that made sense. It gave John an insight into how the universe must appear to Rodney. Laid out like some enormous civil engineering drawing revealing all the connections and how it fit together. Like the sky and wind pressure and speed all came together for John when he was flying.
When the class was over and everyone was leaving, John approached Rodney. "That seemed to go well."
Rodney shuddered. "Are you nuts? It was horrible. I need a drink."
Snickering, John said, "I have some of Zelenka's rot gut in my quarters. Want some?"
Rodney shot him a lopsided grin. "I knew there was a reason you were my best friend." He powered down his laptop and shut off the LCD projector.
John couldn't help grinning at the thought that Rodney called him his best friend. It wasn't everything John wanted, not by a long shot, but it still felt great.
Rodney shoved his equipment in a carrying case and zipped it shut. Then he glanced up at John. "You really think that went okay?"
"It was great, Rodney," John assured him. "Standing room only." Many more than the five who had signed up had shown up for the class. Rodney had scowled at them all but hadn't kicked anyone out. "Besides, look." John gestured at the pile of coffee, candy, powerbars, and MREs that were sitting on Rodney's desk. It was threatening to cascade to the floor.
Rodney's eyes lit up with an avaricious gleam. He began shoving his booty into every pocket he had.
John grabbed a Three Musketeers.
Rodney glared at him.
John grinned back.
Letting out a sigh, Rodney said, "Fine, but you're carrying the rest of it, then."
John could do that, and he'd find a way to help himself to another couple of candy bars while he was at it.
"And don't even think about stealing any more," Rodney warned him with a suspicious glare. "In fact," Rodney shoved the carrying case at him. "You carry this. I'll get the food."
John rolled his eyes but still managed to pocket a second candy bar.
Between the two of them they got everything back to John's. It all got dumped on his bed, while John poured them some of what passed for hard liquor on Atlantis. The Athosians also brewed a mild beer, but it didn't have much of a kick.
Rodney and John sat down on the bed as well, drinks in hand, the food a mountain between them. Rodney picked up a handful of the stuff and let it rain on the bed. "I should have done this a long time ago," he said with a grin.
"And only because it's the right thing to do for Atlantis," John mocked him. "I'm sure it has nothing to do with your ill-gotten gains."
"Ill-gotten?" Rodney said incredulously. "There's not enough chocolate in the world to ease the pain of teaching stupid people."
"So does that mean I owe you more chocolate?" John asked.
Rodney took a sip of the clear liquid, grimaced and then took another. "Nah. You're not quite as stupid as everyone else."
"You must be in a good mood tonight to be throwing such compliments around," John teased.
"Yeah, don't let it go to your head," Rodney grumbled. Then he spoiled his grouchy mien by grinning at John like a kid. "So it went okay?"
"It was good. You did good," John said, charmed at the insecurity. It hardly ever came out to play.
Rodney smiled quickly, then started poking around at the food on the bed, like he was rooting through Halloween candy for the best stuff.
"I like those," John said, pointing at a honey-oatmeal flavored powerbar.
Rodney clutched everything to him like a three-year-old, but then he relaxed. "Okay, fine," he snapped, searching and handing John three of them. "Just remember this the next time I'm dying from low blood sugar."
"I'm sure you'll remind me if I do happen to forget," John drawled, even as he stashed his powerbars away, feeling like Rodney had practically proposed. He wondered what Rodney would do if he leaned over and kissed him. John bit back a grin. He'd probably bitch at John for crushing his food.
She began to notice that John Sheppard and Rodney McKay were frequently together. And they left Atlantis together as well. She did not like it when they were gone. Even if she was aware of their presence while on one of her ships, when they left it she lost track of them, the scanners alone not sufficient for her to sense them.
And while they were gone, others were responsible for repairing her.
Because Rodney was often absent, she began to categorize those that remained based on the level of autonomy granted them by Rodney McKay when he was present. First were the three that McKay allowed complete access to her systems in his absence. Next, were those allowed repair access when accompanied by McKay or one of the other three. Last were the ten that were only allowed access to specific systems. And, of those, there were two that Rodney consistently interfered with or followed up on if they attempted to repair her.
When Rodney was gone, she kept close watch on those two.
After lying in bed for two hours, Rodney got up, deciding sleep was overrated. Getting dressed, he left his room and began to walk the city. He trailed his hand along the walls, feeling the hum of the city's systems, allowing it to seep into him.
He'd never considered himself an intuitive man, being someone who thrived on facts and figures, but he liked to imagine he would sense it through his fingertips if something was wrong. That somehow Atlantis would communicate with him if there was need.
He found himself wandering by John's room, tempted to share his sleeplessness with his friend. John would be grumpy at first, but he'd rally and get behind the fun of being awake when everyone else was asleep. There was no better time to plan practical jokes, after all.
But Rodney passed by his door, although he did run his fingers over it.
"Mine," he whispered, not sure if he was talking about the city or about John. Both, he decided.
Inside his room, John woke up for a second, felt a sense of warmth and well-being, smiled, and drifted back to sleep.
John really began noticing the next time Rodney flew a jumper. "You're doing a lot better," he told Rodney.
Rodney smiled smugly. "I am, aren't I?"
He really was. John frowned, puzzled, watching as Rodney actually flew in a straight line. He thought of the doors and now the jumper. "I think the city is actually starting to like you, Rodney," John said in a taunting drawl.
"Atlantis loves me," Rodney stated emphatically. He frowned. "Or it should."
"Of course it does," John assured him patronizingly. As much as John liked Rodney, he agreed with Zelenka that feeding the ego too much could be dangerous. "The city clearly has indiscriminate taste."
Rodney shot him a disgruntled look. "Listen, just because you have some genetic anomaly doesn't give you favored nation status."
John just raised a superior eyebrow at Rodney.
"Okay, fine, maybe it does," Rodney allowed in a disgruntled tone, "but only because you and your hair are a freak of nature. And if Atlantis likes me, it simply means that the city has very discriminating taste." Rodney didn't say it, but the 'so, there' was clearly implied.
Not put off by the freak of nature comment, John grinned as he watched Rodney, who, in his pique, did his usual not paying any attention to what he was doing. Only one hand was on the controls, and the other was moving back and forth in counterpoint to his talking. But Rodney was still flying in a straight line. The jumper was compensating for his lack of skill, which indicated that the jumper was interfacing with Rodney's brain, the way it got in John's, so it could anticipate where Rodney wanted to fly. "I think the city likes you fine, Rodney," John said, this time without the teasing note.
Slightly mollified, Rodney put his second hand back on the controls. "Hey, look," he said in an excited tone, the hand coming back off to point at the overhead communication panel. "I'm flying in a straight line! I really am doing better." He smiled brightly at John.
John didn't have the heart to tell him that the jumper was doing it for him. Besides, it really didn't matter, did it? If the jumper did what Rodney needed, that was all that mattered.
"Wanna watch a movie tonight?" John asked Rodney as they ate dinner.
"I've got a class to teach," Rodney said with a heavy sigh.
The classes continued to be very popular. Rodney had even added a couple new ones: Bomb Basics for Bozos and Computer Crises for Cretins. Rodney was getting off on alliteration. Maybe the next class would be Databases for Dummies, or Jumpers for Jackasses.
Rodney wasn't the only one offering classes now. He'd started a trend. Or John had, as he'd been the one to suggest it to Rodney. Elizabeth had started a class on reading Ancient. One of the botanists was teaching a class on identifying dangerous plants and Carson was doing one on basic first aid.
And Zelenka, although it wasn't advertised through the regular channels, was teaching a class on distilling alcohol. That class was by personal invitation only. Rodney had hand-delivered John's to him yesterday. John was definitely planning on attending.
John was thinking of offering a few classes himself, like teaching self-defense to the scientists on Atlantis. Ultimately, everyone needed to have a certain amount of self-sufficiency. There wasn't always going to be an expert to call on when the chips were down. They were all learning that the hard way.
"How about after?" John asked, getting back to the conversation.
"I could do that," Rodney agreed after hastily swallowing a mouthful of something that was maybe a potato. "What do you have?"
"Cool," Rodney said enthusiastically, rubbing his hands together with maniacal glee.
John anticipated much movie mocking. "I'll bring the chips." That had been a pleasant surprise. The things that were almost potatoes made excellent almost potato chips. The kitchen staff could barely keep up with the demand.
Rodney's eyes lit up with pleasure and, for a startling moment, John imagined Rodney fucking him with that look in his eyes. John surreptitiously adjusted himself, his cock clearly behind that image one hundred percent. He so needed to get laid. Preferably by Rodney.
"Have you noticed anything different about Rodney lately?" Elizabeth asked John the next day.
John shot her a look. "What do you mean?" Guessing about anything having to do with Rodney was always a crap shoot.
"The city seems to be responding to him as quickly as it responds to you," she said.
"Yeah," John replied. "I noticed that."
"Do we know why?" she asked.
John shook his head. "I have no idea. It's not just the city. The jumpers are responding to him better, too." He grinned at Elizabeth. "They're helping him fly in a straight line."
Her eyebrows went up.
He continued, his grin growing more lopsided, "Even when he doesn't have his hands on the control."
The eyebrows went up higher. "Is this something we need to be concerned about?" she asked, her eyebrows now furrowing.
"Is it happening to anybody else who received the ATA gene therapy?"
John shrugged again. "That's a good question. I'll check around and get back to you."
She nodded. "I'd appreciate that."
Feeling dismissed, John nodded, leaving Elizabeth's office to go chat with the others who'd gotten the ATA gene therapy.
Jorgenson pursed his lips as he stared at the data on his laptop. The northwest grounding station was starting to short out. McKay's rebuke about his participation in the repair to the eastern grounding station still stung and was, he felt, undeserved. McKay, to put it simply, was an asshole with delusions of grandeur. Just ask anyone.
Jorgenson was as capable as McKay. He'd had a large staff working for him at MIT, and he had supervised several labs. Sure McKay was smart, but they all were smart. They wouldn't be here if they weren't the most brilliant minds on Earth. McKay had no right to treat him with anything less than respect.
The one small piece of Jorgenson, not consumed by his immense dislike of McKay, strove to remind him that McKay was frighteningly brilliant, that his range of knowledge was immense, that he'd saved them all a dozen times already with his skills, that Jorgenson had almost roasted him alive last week, and that maybe he should swallow his pride and ask McKay to accompany him and teach him what he'd done wrong before.
With a vicious mental swipe, Jorgenson swept those thoughts aside, and headed out to the northwest grounding station.
Rodney sat through the morning's team meeting with a small lopsided smile on his face. He was almost being, John thought, pleasant. His new standing with the city agreed with him. Or maybe it was because Elizabeth had mentioned it in front of everyone so Rodney could bask in it being common knowledge.
John could understand. He knew what it felt like to have Atlantis love you, respond to you. It was a very heady feeling. And rather than feel petulant that he was no longer the only one upon whom Atlantis smiled, John was fiercely glad that Rodney now shared it with him. That made them different together, and John liked the idea of that.
The city had known her northwest grounding station was malfunctioning but knew Rodney would, in time, find his way there, long before it presented any kind of danger. Because of it she realized too late that one of the two people Rodney did not trust had begun repairs. Unsure how to proceed, she sent her attention to Rodney.
"Ah," Rodney said, startled.
Elizabeth stopped talking mid-stream and glanced at him. "Something wrong?"
He reached for his pocket and pulled out the scanner he was never without. "It just started vibrating," he answered, perplexed. He exchanged a puzzled look with Radek.
"Gave you a cheap thrill, Rodney?" John teased.
"Ha ha," Rodney said distractedly, studying the scanner now, trying to determine why it had vibrated when it had never done that before. He hoped it wasn't going to explode.
The door to the conference room opened. Everyone in the room looked to see who was entering, but there was no one there. Rodney frowned. "Who opened the door?"
"Not me," John answered. "You didn't?"
Rodney shook his head. The door closed and opened again. "Weird." Rodney got up and approached the door. The lights seemed to brighten as he moved nearer. It was as if he was being encouraged to go through the doors. He frowned again, then, after hesitating for a moment, he exited the room. The door slid shut behind him.
He tried to get the door to open but it wouldn't. He rolled his eyes and then slowly turned, reading the scanner as he did so, taking a moment to glance around him. A door to his left opened up; no one came through.
The door behind him opened and John, Elizabeth, Carson, and Radek stood there. "What's going on?" John asked.
Rodney gestured at the other open door. "I think I'm supposed to go that way," he said, feeling partly alarmed, partly excited. He was glad John had managed to join him. If Rodney's presence was being requested somewhere, he'd rather have John accompany him. Even better would be John in a thigh holster, but John didn't generally come to science team meetings armed.
Which was a pity because Rodney liked looking at John when he was wearing his thigh holster. Maybe it was a kink, but Rodney was okay with that.
Rodney started heading for the still open door, but he was held back by John, who ran quickly up the stairs to the main control area, opened up a cabinet and retrieved a P90.
Not as sexy as the thigh holster, but it would do. And it had more bullets which could never be a bad thing. When John returned, Rodney headed for the door.
His path continued to be made obvious, doors opening, lights brightening. As they made their way in a northwesterly direction, Rodney kept glancing at his scanner. It showed life signs all over the city, nothing indicating what it was he was being drawn to.
He could hear Radek, Elizabeth and Carson muttering behind him, John a silent presence at his side. A few minutes later, Rodney said, "The northwest grounding station. I think that's where we're going." He glanced again at the scanner. "One person is there." He frowned, looked at John.
"Human?" John asked.
Holding his weapon in front of him, John gestured at Rodney to keep going. "Let's go, then."
In another five minutes they were there. Rodney thought the door open and when he saw who was there, he groaned. "Jorgenson, what the hell are you doing?"
"Shut up, McKay," the man snapped back. "I know what I'm doing. And why are you here?" he added, outraged. "Are you spying on me?"
"No," McKay said, "but apparently Atlantis is."
"What does that mean?" Jorgenson said, clearly peeved.
"It means," John answered with a drawl, "that apparently Atlantis would feel more comfortable having Rodney oversee your repairs."
"And as long as I'm here," Rodney said, walking toward Jorgenson, "let me take a look at whatever it is you've no doubt completely screwed up." With one quick glance, Rodney saw that the fool was about to do what he'd done the last time. "Stop!" Rodney hollered.
And once again, Jorgenson didn't.
And once again, the blue flames shot out, except this time Rodney didn't think he'd get out of the way in time. Then someone slammed into his back, and he was down on the floor on his stomach, the crackle of flame shooting over him instead of through him. He heard John say, "We have to stop meeting like this."
Rodney felt an insane urge to giggle. Then he felt a second insane urge to push his ass up against John's groin. Rodney let out a groan, knocked his forehead to the ground a couple of times. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to knock some sense into him. "Radek?"
"Already on it," Radek assured him.
Rodney listened as Radek moved across the area and proceeded to light into Jorgenson for his incompetence. While the haranguing couldn't possibly measure up to the blistering Rodney wanted to inflict on Jorgenson, it was nonetheless impressive. Meanwhile, John was still lying on top of him. Again. And if he didn't get off soon, Rodney was going to have to beat his head on the ground even harder to make his erection go away and that would hurt.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it, John rolled off. Rodney lay there another few seconds before sitting up. He opened his mouth to second Radek's comments toward Jorgenson when John beat him to it.
"You come near one of the grounding stations again, Dr. Jorgenson, and I'll shoot you myself," John told the man very seriously.
Rodney found vast enjoyment from the ensuing pallor of the man's face and the flash of fear in his eyes.
"John," Elizabeth reproved.
John turned to her. "That's twice he's almost killed Rodney. Twice in one week, both times doing something Rodney told him not to do."
"These grounding stations fall under my area of responsibility," Jorgenson insisted.
"Which makes it all the more ironic," Rodney said with a vicious smile, "that you've almost destroyed two of them. Go away so I can fix what you've broken. If I could send you back to Earth you'd already be gone."
Jorgenson glared at Rodney through angry eyes until he happened to glance at John who had his acute dislike of the man written all over his face. Jorgenson swallowed and backed up a few steps.
Elizabeth pursed her lips, studying them all. "Thank you, Dr. Jorgenson, I think you're done here for the time being. I'll schedule some time for us to speak later."
Jorgenson's gaze swept the room as if looking for allies, but he was with the wrong group for that. With one last frustrated glare, he left the room.
Rodney moved next to Radek and the two of them began initiating repairs.
As the door slid shut behind Jorgenson, John said to Elizabeth. "What do we do with him?"
"I don't know," she answered.
"We need to do something," Rodney said, as he began to take readings. "The man's a menace to this city." He glanced up at Elizabeth. "I'm serious. He's incapable of functioning here."
John got how that happened. Not all the soldiers had been able to function here either. Not everyone could handle a new environment, let alone one filled with danger around every corner. Sad as it was, the soldiers who couldn't fit in usually ended up dying. If John was lucky they didn't take anyone with them.
Brutal but expedient.
"When and if we're able to communicate with Earth," Elizabeth said, "we'll send him back. But in the meantime, you need to find a way to use his strengths and defend against his weaknesses." A small smile graced her face. "It would appear that Atlantis is on your side in this."
That got a confused grin out of Rodney. "I know. Quite remarkable. I suppose I can rest a little easier knowing that she can take care of herself." Absentmindedly, Rodney reached out and patted the sea wall. John wasn't even sure he realized he was doing it.
"I hadn't realized she could tell us apart quite so efficiently," Elizabeth commented.
"And even if she can," John warned, "Rodney's not always here."
"She'll have to get Radek then," Rodney said, touching the wall again. "One of us is usually here."
John hoped the city was listening. "Is Jorgenson the kind of guy I need to watch out for, Rodney? Will he do something stupid if he's angry?"
Rodney lifted annoyed eyes to John. "You mean stupider than this?" He gestured impatiently at the mass of wires Radek was separating.
"No, I mean against you."
Rodney's eyebrows went up and he glanced at Radek. Radek shook his head. Rodney thought about it for a second and shook his head as well. "Nah. He'll just go sulk." He sighed unhappily at all the wires again. "The man is a fool."
As Rodney continued to repair what Jorgenson had damaged, Elizabeth and Carson eventually left. John chose to stay. Not just to make sure Jorgenson didn't come back, but also because Rodney-watching was one of his favorite things.
Later that day John sat in Elizabeth's office. "So did what I think happened, happen?" she asked.
"You mean did the city actually come and get Rodney to stop Jorgenson from destroying the northwest grounding station?" John guessed. Not that it was too difficult to guess. Nothing much else had happened since then. Other than Rodney snark. Hours of it. John couldn't stop grinning.
"Don't you find that extraordinary?"
John shrugged. "I'd say the city knows what side her bread is buttered on."
Elizabeth shot him a look.
John shrugged again. "I'm just saying that Rodney was the only one who could have known Jorgenson was doing something wrong, stop him, and then fix the problem. The city knew that."
"And I appreciate that, and certainly in this situation, it was a good thing. What I'm more concerned about is what else the city is willing to do on Rodney's behalf?"
"You mean like lock Jorgenson in his quarters?" John offered.
"Or maybe cause an accident where Jorgenson is eliminated on a more permanent basis?" she counter offered.
If Rodney's snark today was any indication, Rodney would like nothing more than for Jorgenson to meet his maker, as painfully as possible. "Rodney doesn't like it when people mess around with his city."
"His city?" Elizabeth asked, eyebrows rising.
"He thinks it's his. And from where I'm standing, it sort of seems like she thinks it is, too. She never came and got me for anything." John pursed his lips, thinking. "What I want to know is what do we do with Jorgenson? He obviously can't be trusted, and it's seriously not all right with me if he kills Rodney while he's doing something stupid."
Elizabeth shook her head slightly and glanced at John. "I have no idea. There's not much we can do with him. It's not like we can lock him up in one of the cells."
"John," Elizabeth protested, "he's simply incompetent, not a criminal."
"It's a pretty fine line around here," John argued. "He's almost killed Rodney twice in one week." He held up two fingers. "Twice."
"Those were accidents."
"Are you willing to let Rodney die because of an accident? Do you want us to function in this city without Rodney? Because I sure as hell don't."
"We'll need to give it some thought. In the meantime we'll have to hope that the city can take care of itself," Elizabeth said with a resounding lack of enthusiasm. "I'll also meet with Dr. Jorgenson this afternoon, get his side of things." She folded her hands on the desk in front of her. "As Rodney's employee, if Dr. Jorgenson does not have the skills or mindset to do his job, it's Rodney's responsibility to nurture Dr. Jorgenson along."
John snorted. "Are we talking about the same person? Dr. Rodney McKay? It's kind of spooky just hearing you use a sentence with his name and the word nurture in it."
Elizabeth smiled. "I'm serious."
"I know you are. And that's even spookier. Look, I'll talk to Rodney and we'll come up with a plan."
"Preferably one that doesn't include Dr. Jorgenson's untimely demise," she said with a small smile.
"No promises there, Elizabeth," John said with a grin.
"So," John said, sitting on a stool near Rodney's work station. "What are you going to do about Jorgenson?"
"Drop him off the nearest pier?" Rodney suggested, his fingers flying over the keyboard.
"Which one?" John inquired.
"The northwest one," Rodney answered. "There's a certain symmetry to it that I like."
Rodney stopped typing and turned to look at John. "I can do it?"
John shook his head. "No."
"Damn." Rodney went back to typing.
"So, really, what are you going to do with him?"
Rodney stopped typing again. "I have no idea." An unhappy expression crossed his face. "Any ideas?"
"Is he really unteachable?"
"I don't think he's unteachable," Rodney said slowly. "After all the man has two Ph.D.'s so he's obviously capable of learning something, unless he paid off all his instructors and thesis advisors which I wouldn't put past him. What he doesn't understand is that things are real here. As real as it gets. That if he messes up, lives are at stake. He doesn't get that. I don't know how to make him learn that."
Radek wandered by. "The man shouldn't be allowed near anything more dangerous than a blackboard."
Rodney agreed with an emphatic head nod. "Chalk maybe."
"Yes, yes, chalk. And an eraser," Radek allowed.
One of Rodney's quick laughs escaped him, followed by a lopsided smile.
"Radek," John said, "how about you? Any ideas on how we handle Jorgenson?"
Radek pulled up a stool and joined them. "I do not know. Rodney and I have spoken about this at great length and, short of homicide, have come up with distressingly few solutions of merit."
Blowing out a long breath, Rodney shook his head in disgust. "Him and Kavanaugh. Bringing them here was a huge mistake."
"Elizabeth thinks you should nurture him," John volunteered with an evil smile.
Rodney shot him a horrified look. "What? Nurture him? Are you out of your mind? The man needs to be taken up in a jumper and pushed out the back door."
"Yeah," John said with a grin, "I told Elizabeth I didn't see it happening."
"Nurture," Rodney scoffed. He reached out to pat the nearest wall. "At least Atlantis is smart enough to know he's bad news. I actually feel better about it now. Hopefully, next time she won't even let him near a grounding station."
"Hey," John said with a snap of his fingers, "maybe you could work with the city's computer systems and create some zones that certain people won't be allowed into without the right password."
Rodney frowned, but John could see his mind whirring. Then, Rodney turned to Radek and John watched as both of their minds whirred, like they were having some sort of mental telepathy moment. Rodney did a double snap fist hitting thing, and pointed at Radek. "We could zone areas based on equipment vulnerability, or--"
"Or danger to the city," Radek offered.
"Yes, yes," Rodney said, pulling up the city schematics. "It might be inconvenient at first because people will need to learn to go new ways to places if we shut off access to parts of the city."
"They'd get used to it," John said.
"And Radek and I could determine who gets to go where," Rodney said with a gleam in his eye.
"You, Radek, me and Elizabeth can determine who gets to go where," John suggested, wanting to make sure no one could complain that Rodney was locking people out for his own selfish reasons--revenge and pettiness--which Rodney could be relied upon to do. If John and Elizabeth were involved, people might bitch, but they wouldn't have a leg to stand on.
Rodney shot him a narrow-eyed glare, but he nodded. "Fine, fine."
He started calling out areas to Radek who quickly started a spreadsheet, typing them in, occasionally saying, "Good, good," occasionally shaking his head and disagreeing. While they were busy creating their lists, John decided to brew a pot of coffee. With all the classes he was teaching, Rodney had the best stash in town.
The city's weather sensors knew a storm was coming. Her automatic diagnostics began to assess the city for storm worthiness. All was ready with the exception of one area. It was something Rodney would no doubt have caught over the next week, and ordinarily it could wait. But with the storm coming, it needed to be fixed now. She reached out and contacted Rodney.
John stood next to Rodney on the balcony by the control room as they looked down at the roiling sea. "There's a storm coming," John observed.
"You think?" Rodney said sarcastically.
"Maybe I could toss you over so you could get a closer look and see for yourself," John said with his teeth bared. "You could make sure I'm right."
Rodney didn't bother to respond beyond a derogatory sniff. "I don't think it's going to be as big a storm as when the Genii came to call." Against his volition, his fingers covered the area on his arm where Kolya had cut him.
He saw John move out of the corner of his eye and then felt John's fingers over his. "I'll kill him before I let him hurt you again," John said intensely.
Rodney was a little taken aback by the look in John's eyes; it was easy to forget most of the time how dangerous the man was. But, at the same time, he found John's statement and tone eminently reassuring. Rodney might not have much faith in many people, but John was one of the few he did.
Tempted to lace his fingers with John's and stand there like a pair of besotted teenagers, or more likely, one besotted teenager, and one pissed off teenager, Rodney slid his hand out from under John's. He felt John's fingers search for the scar underneath the fabric, then drop away.
"Actually," Rodney said, after clearing his throat and gesturing at the ocean, "it's kind of pretty." He leaned further over the railing. "Funny how we all have ocean front property now." Rodney had always loved the beach, but his career had never taken him near one.
John nodded. He looked up at the sky. "Think it'll rain? Other than that one other storm, I've never seen it rain here."
"Huh," Rodney said, looking at the sky as well. "You're right." He scanned the water. "I never really thought about it, but why doesn't it rain? What keeps the land masses irrigated?"
"I'm sure you'll find out," John said fondly.
A wave crashed unexpectedly against the walls, spraying them both with droplets of sea water. "Wow," Rodney said with wonder. "That was a big wave." He frowned. "Do you think the city could flood?" Maybe he should double check the grounding stations. If there was lightning involved, he'd hate for the city not to be able to handle the resulting charge.
Just then there was a snap crackle above as the clouds lit up with a lightning flash. At the same time, Rodney's scanner went off.
"Oops," Rodney said, startled, as he reached for the scanner as it vibrated against him. He used it to do a quick superficial scan on the city and smiled tightly. "Apparently the city and I are on the same wavelength. The southeast grounding station has a short. If it floods, anyone nearby could be electrocuted." There was a pause. "Not to mention that part of the city being accidentally blown up."
John shot him a look of apprehension. "Then I think you better go fix it." He pointed toward the scanner. "That's pretty handy how the city contacts you, sort of like a portable Bat-Light."
Rodney snickered. He really liked knowing the city knew him and needed him, and had found a way to call him; it was handy and very cool. It was fitting that the two times she'd called him it had been to a grounding station, as his new status with the city grounded him in a way he had been unfamiliar with his entire life.
"Do I need to order any evacuations?" John asked Rodney. "Any particular areas you think are more likely to flood?"
"Get everyone off the piers," Rodney suggested. "Have them stay away from the grounding stations." Another wave crashed, splashing them with more vigorous intent. Rodney frowned, backing up, "And I'd advise people to stay off balconies. As long as people keep their windows closed in their quarters, I think we'll be okay."
"You want me to go with you to the grounding station?"
Rodney rolled his eyes. "I think I can manage."
John sent Rodney a withering look. "Excuse me for caring." He tapped his headset and spoke to Elizabeth, passing on Rodney's suggestions and a few of his own.
Rodney winced at John's words. On rare occasions, he regretted the fact that his default mode was one of biting sarcasm, and this was one of those times. He waited for John to finish up with Elizabeth and sign off. Then, his eyes on the roiling waves, not quite brave enough to say this when he was looking at John, Rodney said, "I appreciate that you care. I do. It, uh, means a lot to me."
"Good," John said succinctly. "And now that the mushy part of our afternoon is done, while you go see to the city, I'm going to check in with Teyla, see if she wants me to take her to the mainland to check on her people."
Rodney approved of that idea. "When I'm done, if she needs help with anything, let me know."
Rodney finally turned to John, only to find John looking at him. They stared at each other for a few seconds, just long enough for Rodney to feel a little short of breath. Then, as another wave crashed against the sea wall, Rodney decided he better go fix the grounding station before the storm got any worse. He pulled his eyes away, and reholstered his scanner. "Right, then." He gestured toward the southeast end of the city. "I better go."
"Yeah, me, too," John said.
As one, they turned to the door which slid open, and they walked through it back into the city.
Rodney was smiling when he sat down by the grounding station. He couldn't help it. Up until now, it had been his brain and insatiable thirst for knowledge that had been his motivating force. It was odd to feel this new part in him, his almost symbiotic relationship with Atlantis, and his ever-deepening friendship with John. Rodney almost didn't recognize the man he had become.
A few stray drops from a wave hit him in the face and Rodney's smile turned into a frown. He needed to hurry or he'd be the one who ended up electrocuted. He wasn't sure why it was the electrical components that kept breaking down lately, versus the crystal components. Maybe the air was damaging them. When this storm was over, he'd need to do a complete diagnostic on the stations, see if they were all breaking down.
Focusing sharply, his eyes and fingers searched for the fault so he could fix it and be on his way. The skies looked ominous, and Teyla might want to bring her people here. With his improved skills, Rodney could fly one of the puddle jumpers.
More lightning brightened up the cloud coverage above his head. It really was sort of pretty. Dangerous but pretty.
Refocusing, Rodney went back to his work.
Finding the problem, Rodney cursed Jorgenson, as he realized the man had been getting creative with the grounding stations. As a spark spat at him, he pulled his hand away. He might have been all right, but just at that moment a wave came crashing over the balcony, drenching him. In response to the water, sparks began to fly, creating its own lightning display, and the next thing Rodney knew his body was spasming, and then he knew nothing.
"Are you sure?" John asked.
Teyla smiled at him. "My people have weathered many storms, Major. They will be in no danger." She smiled again. "However, if it will rest your mind, I would be willing to accompany you to the mainland."
"Yeah, it would rest my mind," John said, not that he doubted her. Teyla would never take chances with her people. But John needed to see it for himself.
He began walking with Teyla to the jumper bay, tapping his headset. "Elizabeth, I'm going to take Teyla to the mainland, make sure her people are all battened down for the storm."
"Good idea," Elizabeth said, a smile in her voice. "Please let Teyla know if she needs anything, she need only ask."
Teyla bowed her head at Elizabeth's words.
John smiled. "She says thank you." He tapped his headset off. "Let's get going so we can get back before the worst of it hits."
They finished their walk to the jumper bay and John headed for his favorite jumper. Thinking open at it, he was a bit stymied when nothing happened. He moved closer and touched it, thinking on again.
Nothing happened. He frowned. "That's odd."
The door they'd just walked through, that had closed behind them, now opened. John turned his frown at the door. It slid shut and opened again, the lights in the jumper bay flashing at the same time.
He and Teyla glanced around the room. "Okay," John drawled slowly. "That's different." But then he remembered how the city had come for Rodney. Maybe…. For some reason, John was suddenly besieged by a sense of dread. "Come on." He sprinted for the door which had just reopened.
John looked for the next open door, and when one slid open, John ran for it, Teyla behind him. He tapped his headset. "Elizabeth, I think there's a problem."
"What do you mean?"
"Doors are opening for me." He was herded into a transporter, Teyla following. It took him where it wanted and opened its door. When John stepped out, he guessed his destination. He tapped his headset again. "Rodney? Are you at the grounding station?"
There was no answer.
Shit. "Rodney, answer me." There was still no answer. "There's our problem," John snapped to Elizabeth. "Can you see if someone's at the southeast grounding station?"
There was a pause while John ran down another hallway, not needing the city's directional signals from here. He knew exactly where he was going. If Jorgenson was there, John really was going to kill him.
"There's only one lifesign there," Elizabeth said.
"And he's not answering," John said tightly, even as a part of him was immensely relieved that at least Rodney was alive. "Send a medical team."
He heard Elizabeth's response, calling for a medical team to the grounding station immediately. John put on some extra speed, Teyla keeping up effortlessly. He rounded the corner to the grounding station.
Rodney was lying on the ground in a large puddle of water. John could see the sparks emitting from the station. "Shit." Easy enough to figure out what had gone wrong. It also figured that the one time he really needed an electrician to tell him what he should do that the best one Atlantis had was currently unconscious.
He gave Teyla his gun, checked the bottom of his boots, hoping like hell they were rubber. Then, he hunkered down and touched the water, preparing for a shock.
There was a slight static tingle, but nothing he couldn't handle. Standing quickly, he moved to Rodney, grabbed him by his armpits and, ignoring the electrical stings, he yanked Rodney away from the station and out into the hallway.
Just as he got his fingers on Rodney's pulse, the medical team, headed by Carson, sprinted around the corner. John gratefully allowed them access.
"What happened?" Carson asked, kneeling by Rodney, his fingers replacing John's.
"I think he got electrocuted," John said, pointing toward the scene of the crime.
Carson's eyes scanned the balcony quickly, taking in the still spitting sparks, and turned back to Rodney, frowning unhappily as he continued to search for a pulse. "His heart's not beating," Carson snapped out. "Give me the defibrillator."
Shit. John sagged against the wall. Shit, shit, shit. He glanced at Rodney's face. How long had it taken him to get here? John glanced at his watch, but it didn't tell him anything.
Carson got the paddles on Rodney's now bare chest and hit a button. Rodney's body arched up in response. Carson left the paddles where they were, using them to monitor Rodney's heart. The line on the screen wasn't completely flat, but it didn't look normal either. Carson shocked him again.
This time John saw the blips he wanted to see. The ups and downs that told him, with an amateur's eyes, that Rodney's heart was doing at least a close approximation of what it was supposed to do. One of the nurses put an airway in Rodney's mouth and attached an ambu bag, squeezing it to push air into Rodney's chest.
"Come on, come on," John muttered under his breath.
"I think he'll be fine," Carson assured him. "I think he must have been getting small electrical shocks while he was lying in the water that kept his heart beating adequately enough until we could get here. I don't think his heart stopped beating until you pulled him free."
Rodney started to cough, and the ambu bag was removed along with the airway, and Carson helped Rodney roll to the side.
Great, John thought to himself, I almost killed him.
As if Carson had read his mind, he smiled up at John. "Sooner or later his heart would have stopped, Major. It was just luck that the timing all worked out. I would have pulled him out of the water, too."
John nodded. "So you think he's all right?"
"The only thing I don't know is how long he went without breathing. But I'm guessing it wasn't that long because he wasn't blue."
The city must have known immediately that something bad had happened to Rodney and had come for John. A few minutes' difference and John would have been in the jumper on his way to the mainland. Lucky timing indeed. Shit.
Or maybe the city would have turned the jumper around. Or maybe the city would have gone for someone else. Someone else who would have taken longer to figure it out. Someone else who might have taken too long, and Rodney might be dead. John might have come back from the mainland to be told that Rodney was dead. John felt sick to his stomach.
Pulling in a deep breath, John tapped his headset. "I need to talk to Zelenka."
"Yes, Major," Radek answered, after John was put through.
"The southeast grounding station is on the fritz; it just electrocuted Rodney."
There was a gasp, and John hastened to reassure the man. "The doc thinks he'll be fine. But meanwhile we have a grounding station that's sparking, a big puddle of water, and a big storm on the way. Can you fix it?"
"I'm on my way," Radek said by way of an answer.
John next called for a few of his people. As he waited for them to arrive, he watched as Rodney coughed again and started to come around. John waited with baited breath for Rodney to say something intelligible.
Rodney coughed again, and said, "I'm going to kill him."
That worked for John. He crouched down by Rodney. "Who?"
"Jorgenson," Rodney snapped. He put his hand on his chest and winced. "Jesus, what happened?"
"You almost died, is what happened," John bit out. "Why are you going to kill Jorgenson? Did he do this to you?" Maybe John's assumption that the equipment had been faulty was wrong.
"Not directly, "Rodney said, pressing on the skin over his bare chest gingerly. "Ow."
"Focus, Rodney," John said. "Tell me about Jorgenson."
"He worked on this one, too. I saw his handiwork just as everything went to shit. I need to check them all. God only knows what he's done."
"You're in no condition to check anything," John said sternly. "I've got Radek on the way. He can check them, can't he?"
Rodney nodded, sagging a little.
John sat down behind him, encouraging him to lean back. He was pleased when Rodney took him up on him, sagging back against him, letting John take his weight. "I feel like shit." He sent an accusative look toward Carson.
"That's the thanks I get for saving your life?" Carson asked, looking wounded, but his eyes were sparkling with pleasure that Rodney seemed no worse for wear. John was pretty sure his eyes were sparkling, too.
"That explains why I feel like crap," Rodney said, stretching out limbs, moaning each time.
"Very funny," Carson said.
Radek was next on the scene, followed by several marines. After Radek was reassured of Rodney's health by his biting comments about Jorgenson, the two of them spoke briefly about what Rodney had found. Radek called for staff he trusted to adequately assess and, if needed, repair what damage had been done, and sent them on their way to the different grounding stations. John assigned a marine to each station; he didn't want anyone working by themselves.
Three times. Three times Jorgenson had almost killed Rodney. Three fucking times. He couldn't wait until Rodney had his new password system up and running. Until then, he wasn't letting Rodney out of his sight.
Radek slipped on some heavy rubber boots over his shoes and waded into the puddle. It was the work of only a few minutes to put things to right. Rodney refused to leave until Radek was done, completely ignoring Carson's pleas to go to the infirmary. It wasn't until Radek was back in the hallway, slipping off his boots, confirming that Rodney was right and that Radek, himself, would check all the stations, that Rodney allowed himself to get strapped on a gurney and taken to the infirmary.
John watched them go, planning to be right behind them. But, first, he reached out and touched the wall. "Thanks," he said. Weird how comforting it was to know that there was someone, or something, out there that loved Rodney as much as he did. He wasn't positive, but he was pretty sure that the lights brightened for a second in a 'you're welcome'.
When Rodney was out of the infirmary, he wasted no time in completing his password system. As expected, there was some bitching, especially from Kavanaugh and Jorgenson, but John was pleased to see that repair crises seemed to decline.
It left Rodney more time for classes which he made Jorgenson and Kavanaugh attend. John helped by siccing a marine on each one of them to make sure they stayed. Granted, neither he nor Rodney could make them listen, but if they wanted to be that stupid and never get out of their labs again, that was their choice. They wouldn't be going anywhere else until Rodney checked them off.
John expected it to be a cold day in hell before that happened.
But, at least, for the time being, the damage they could do was contained. Now, rather than constantly repairing everything, Rodney was focusing on their energy problem. They needed ZPMs and, in their absence, they needed to find alternate methods of keeping all the city's functions up and running.
From the door, John watched Rodney search through the endless databanks, trying to find something he'd missed, some solution the Atlanteans had come up with as a just-in-case back up. Not that they had needed it, as they'd had three fully charged ZPMs at the time.
John noticed something flashing at the bottom of Rodney's computer screen and squinted his eyes to try to see what it was. Too far away to make them out, he moved behind Rodney. "What are those?"
Rodney frowned. "I don't know. I can't make them go away." Rodney tapped them impatiently with the nail of his index finger. "They showed up about three hours ago."
They looked like…John squinted again. "It looks like a gate address."
Rodney's eyes opened wide. "What? What?"
This time John tapped the screen. "Well, don't they? Seven symbols, looking sort of like star constellations?"
"Oh, my God, I am so stupid," Rodney exclaimed.
"No, seriously. Why didn't I see that?" Without waiting for an answer from John, Rodney opened up another database which brought up gate addresses. The computer found a match immediately, as if the city had just been waiting for Rodney to catch a clue.
Rodney glanced up at John, a growing wonder in his eyes. "It's in the database."
"Have we been there?"
Rodney shook his head. "No." He considered the screen, his mouth screwing up from one side to the side. "Hey, look, the symbols are gone."
And they were. "I guess you finally got the message."
"You figured it out," Rodney said grumpily.
John grinned. "It was still sent to you."
"That's true," Rodney said, slightly mollified. "Do you think the city wants us to go there?"
"Oh, yeah," John said, his eyebrows waggling. "I'll talk to Elizabeth and get Teyla and Ford. Go get ready."
Rodney took another look at the address, no doubt committing it to memory, and then shut down his laptop. He grabbed it and followed John out the door.
Rodney's scanner was going nuts. "There is a huge energy reading coming from that building," he said, excited beyond belief. It was like a treasure hunt. The city had sent him on a treasure hunt. Rodney knew there was going to be something amazing waiting for him. He knew it.
"Give us a minute to make sure the planet is secure," John said, spreading Ford and Teyla out to do a little reconnaissance.
Rodney had to force himself not to bolt. He wanted to go now. "Hurry up," he demanded.
A few minutes later, Ford and Teyla came back, giving John the high sign. "Okay, Rodney," John said, "let's go."
Like a horse in a starting gate, Rodney took off.
"Rodney," he heard John yell from behind him. "Wait up." There was no way John couldn't run faster than him, so Rodney didn't slow down at all. In a few seconds John was jogging next to him. "Don't do that."
"I think it's a ZPM," Rodney said with what he knew had to be a manic grin. "Nothing else puts out a signature like this."
"Man, I love that city," John said.
"And that city loves me," Rodney said smugly. That city loved him a lot. If there was a ZPM in this building, Rodney was going to kiss the city when he got back.
John called to Teyla and Ford to keep an eye out, and then Rodney and John were through the door.
The room was empty. For a second Rodney felt a moment's crushing disappointment. But then he looked at his scanner which was still blinking madly. He held it up and turned. When the far wall resulted in the most frantic blinking, Rodney walked toward it, trying to figure out what he was supposed to be looking at.
It looked like a wall. "Something behind it, maybe?" he mused out loud.
John patted the wall looking for a hidden entrance. "I don't see anything."
Rodney got his face right up to the wall. The city wouldn't have sent him here if there wasn't something to find. He was sure of it. When he pressed his cheek against the wall he saw it. The slightest indentation. He reached out and touched it.
There was a whir of something mechanical and where the indentation had been, an opening appeared and a drawer slid out. Sitting in the drawer was a ZPM. Rodney stared at it then, cautiously, half afraid the drawer would shut and snap off his fingers, he reached for it, plucked it out of the drawer and held it to his chest like it was an infant.
He noticed another indentation. His heart stuttering in his chest, he pressed it. It opened as well and it held another ZPM. "Oh, my God," Rodney said, stunned. "Here, hold this." He gave the first ZPM to John and reached for the second. Then he rested his cheek against the wall and looked for more indentations.
He almost passed out. There were three more of them. He pressed them all and three more ZPMs slid out. Rodney stared at them in disbelief.
"Holy shit," John said reverently.
Rodney completely agreed. Five ZPMs. If the three the Atlantean's had had lasted the city 10,000 years, at minimal power, then five would last them at full power for just about as long. Full shields, full weapons, trips home to Earth and back.
"Holy shit," John said again. "We can send Jorgenson and Kavanaugh back to Earth."
That got Rodney to turn to John and grin. "Tell me I'm not dreaming."
"If you're dreaming, then I'm dreaming," John said.
"Because I've had fantasies like this," Rodney volunteered, gesturing at the wall. "Finding ZPMs, having all the power we need. So maybe I'm dreaming."
"I don't think so."
"Of course if I am, I'm going to be really, really pissed off when I wake up."
"You have fantasies about finding ZPMs?" John asked. He sounded a little disappointed.
Rodney managed to tear himself away from the ZPMs to look at John. "What's wrong with that?"
"I can just think of a few other things you could be having fantasies about," John said, disgruntled.
Rodney stared at John. "Excuse me, but it almost sort of sounded like you might be actually suggesting…" Rodney shook his head, telling himself to not get carried away.
"I am," John said.
Feeling short-circuited, Rodney stared at John. Finally, he said sharply, "Right. At least now I know I'm dreaming, because no way would someone as hot as you ever come on to me."
John's eyes opened wide. "You think I'm hot?"
Rodney snorted. "Please." He considered John for another long moment. "Okay. Okay. I'm game. As long as this is my dream, I figure I can do whatever I want, right?"
"Absolutely," John said encouragingly.
"Right. Okay." Rodney put his ZPM on the floor, then took John's from him, and put it there as well. He took the other three out of their drawers and rested them against the first two. Rodney took a respectful moment to stare at them. Five ZPMs. What an awesome dream, he thought, allowing a moment of sadness about the fact that when he woke up back in Atlantis, his cheek resting on his laptop, he was going to throw himself off a pier.
And not only five ZPMs. John, too. That brought Rodney back to the second matter at hand. John. Rodney pushed John against the wall, then leaned in, zeroed in on those lips that had been featuring in several non-ZPM oriented fantasies and, with one last quick breath, he kissed John.
It started slow, Rodney wanting this kiss to equal the wonder of five ZPMs. He touched his lips gently to John's, his tongue tasting his lower lip, swallowing John's groan as his tongue flicked at Rodney's.
Oh, yeah, Rodney thought, as licks of electricity raced through his body. What five ZPMs? This was better than anything. He deepened the kiss, his tongue invading John's mouth, dueling with John's tongue, his body pressed against John's. Best dream ever.
He heard footsteps and opened his eyes, turning his head, only to find Ford there, his jaw dropped. "Go away," Rodney said with a scowl. "This is my fantasy and you're not welcome here."
"Uh," Ford said.
"I mean it. Go away. This is my best dream ever and if you wake me up, I'll make you pay forever." Rodney was gratified by Ford's blanch. He turned back to John.
"What do you need, Ford?" John said, a little breathlessly.
"Uh," Ford said again.
"Can it wait?"
"Uh, yes, sir."
"Are you and Teyla in any danger?"
"Uh, no, sir."
"Go away, then," John suggested, his eyes never leaving Rodney.
After a hesitation, the footsteps moved away. Rodney leaned in to kiss him again, but found himself stopped by John's hand. Rodney frowned. "Hey, you're not allowed to screw this dream up, either."
"Rodney, you're not dreaming."
Rodney snorted out a laugh. "Right. Like I find five ZPMs and get to have you all at the same time. I don't think so."
John pinched Rodney.
"Ow," Rodney griped, smacking John's hand. "Don't do that."
"I just wanted to convince you that this isn't a dream," John said.
"That's a common fallacy. People feel pain in dreams all the time."
"Oh," John said. "So what do I have to do to convince you?"
Rodney frowned at John. "It doesn't matter. Why aren't you kissing me?"
"I can do that," John said, yanking Rodney in. This time John took control of the kiss, his tongue sweeping into Rodney's mouth. And a hand on Rodney's ass pulled him closer.
Rodney groaned, pushing his aching cock against John's. "We need to get naked," Rodney said, his fingers trying to unclasp John's vest. His dream John's clothes were usually much easier to get rid of.
"We can't do this here," John said, catching Rodney's fingers in his. "Rodney, we can't get naked."
"Why not?" Rodney said, affronted.
"This isn't a dream. We're on a mission. Remember? Five ZPMs, courtesy of Atlantis?"
Rodney blinked. He turned his head to find the five ZPMs lying all in a row. "This isn't a dream?"
Rodney turned back to John. "But you kissed me."
"I know. I'll do it again, too, as soon as we can be alone."
"Hmm," Rodney said. "So, one more time. We really did find five ZPMs, and you really did kiss me back?"
"Wow," Rodney said in wonderment. "I'd like to say, officially, that this is the best day that ever happened to me."
John grinned. "Officially?"
"I mean, how could it get better?" Rodney asked, his imagination simply not equal to the task.
"I could tell you I love you," John said.
Rodney's mouth fell open. "Are you planning on it?" he managed to squeak out.
"If you want me, to," John said cautiously.
"Yeah, yeah, okay. That's, um, that's really, that's really all right with me. You can tell me that," Rodney said, his mind spinning. There was no way this was actually happening. Rodney had never been this lucky.
"Then," John said obligingly, "I love you."
Rodney's legs gave out on him and he sat down quickly.
John let out a laugh and knelt down by Rodney. "Are you going to pass out now?"
Rodney thought he might.
"You have something you want to say to me?" John hinted.
"You love me?" Rodney said, needing to make sure.
John grinned. "Not exactly what I had in mind, but it'll do."
Rodney could only surmise by John's grin that he had some lovesick expression on his face. Rodney leaned forward for another kiss, but instead, John pulled him up and started stacking ZPMs in his arms. "Come on, Romeo, let's go back to Atlantis."
Rodney nodded, looking down at the three ZPMs he held. Best day ever. John took Rodney by the elbow and walked him outside. Ford and Teyla were standing there. Ford looked very nervous.
"Ford," John began.
"Hey, sir," Ford interrupted him, putting out a hand. "Don't ask, don't tell." Then he grinned, although he bit if off right away. Then he totally spoiled it all by saying, "Man. I never knew Dr. McKay had it in him."
"Hey," Rodney said, disgruntled.
Ford stared at what they were holding. "Is that what I think it is?"
John nodded. "Five, count them, five ZPMs."
"Holy shit," Ford exclaimed. "I'd kiss McKay for that, too."
"Please, don't," Rodney said sourly. Not when his day was going so well.
"Everything quiet out here?"
"Yes," Teyla said. "Very quiet. I do not believe anyone has been here in a long time." She glanced at the ZPMs. "Why were they hidden here?"
"I don't know," John said, steering Rodney toward the puddle jumper. Rodney could feel the silly grin on his face and knew John was laughing at him, but he couldn't find it within himself to care. Maybe he was going into shock.
His dream-like fugue lasted until they got into the puddle jumper, at which point Rodney handed the ZPMs to Teyla and Ford, told them not to move, and began tearing the cargo compartments apart looking for a safe storage container. He finally found something he could use and took each ZPM, caressed it lovingly, and then laid it to rest in some heavy foam padding. Then he strapped the box down securely on one of the long benches, and strapped himself right next to it.
"All comfy back there?" John asked, looking over his shoulder at Rodney.
Rodney suddenly found himself thinking of kissing John and his eyes dropped to John's lips. As if completely aware of Rodney's thoughts, John licked his lips, grinned, and turned back around.
"Bastard," Rodney muttered.
"Did you say something, Dr. McKay?" Teyla asked from her seat behind John.
"No, no," Rodney said. "Just get us home." He decided it would be better if he didn't think about what might happen when they got back to Atlantis. Sure John had kissed him, but they had just found five ZPMs. And sure John had told him he loved him, but…. Rodney frowned. Actually there was no reason for John to say that unless he meant it.
But still, it was better to be prepared for the worst. Maybe, despite the energy readings, the ZPMs were mostly drained. After all, he hadn't taken energy readings on any of the individual ZPMs. He'd gotten distracted by kissing John. He shouldn't have done that. Not the kissing thing, the getting distracted thing. He should have measured all the ZPMs. Then kissed John.
Although, if all five of the ZPMs had been drained, Rodney wouldn't have kissed John. He'd have cursed a blue streak and then cried like a little girl.
So maybe they were drained. Maybe whatever had been emitting that energy signature on his scanner was still on the planet. Maybe he'd carefully wrapped up five useless pieces of ornamental glass. Maybe this was some cruel, cruel hoax the universe was playing on him. Give him everything he ever wanted and then snatch it all away again with some maniacal laugh as accompaniment.
Maybe John would get amnesia, and he'd forget he kissed Rodney and told him he loved him.
Maybe John had just been toying with him. Maybe this was all a nightmare of catastrophic proportions.
"Rodney," John snapped. "You okay back there?"
Rodney blinked then focused in on John. "What if they're empty?"
"They're not," John assured him.
"How do you know? Maybe they're all drained," Rodney said, his hands tucked tightly in his armpits. Life totally sucked sometimes.
"I know they're not drained because Atlantis sent you to find them and because the city loves you."
Rodney let John's words slowly seep through him. Hmm. All right. That was a possibility. After all she'd saved his life. Usually you didn't save the lives of people you hated. Well, okay, maybe you did, but then you didn't hand them five ZPMs. Rodney had saved Kavanaugh's life a couple of times, and Rodney sure as hell wasn't giving him the time of day let alone a ZPM.
"Everyone loves you, Rodney," John said.
Ford snorted. "Yeah, McKay, you're a real teddy bear."
"What is a teddy bear?" Teyla asked, a small furrow between her brows. "I am unfamiliar with that term."
"Something cuddly you take to bed with you," John said.
Teyla looked at Ford with some surprise.
"No, no," Ford said emphatically, wiping a hand through the air as if to erase Teyla's thought. "It's like a pillow in the shape of an animal. Kids sleep with them. Little girls, mostly."
Teyla glanced at Rodney, a small smile gracing her lips.
Rodney winced a smile at her, but then his eyes slid to John. He wanted to ask John if he'd meant what he said. He blew out a sigh, got out his scanner, and was very relieved to see that it was now identifying the high energy source as coming from the box sitting next to him on the bench. He wished he had a scanner to point at John. Rodney let his head sag back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"I'm feeling a little weak in the knees," Elizabeth confided in John. The report had just come up from Rodney's lab. They were all full. "Five fully charged ZPMs."
"We can send Jorgenson back to Earth before he kills Rodney," John said. He knew he was fixated on that, but short of having his tongue down Rodney's throat and five fully charged ZPMs, the thought of losing Jorgenson was his third favorite thing.
Elizabeth sat down. "We can contact Earth," she said in disbelief, as if John's question had made her realize that.
"Anytime we want," John said, "at least according to Rodney. He says a fully charged ZPM should open the gate every day for a year."
"So if we open it once a month," Elizabeth started.
"It will last us a little over thirty years," John finished.
"And we have five of them. And three of them kept Atlantis going for 10,000 years." Elizabeth shook her head and grinned at John. "I still can't believe it. And what I especially can't believe is that the city just sent Rodney to go get them. They've been there all this time and no one knew. Not even the old me."
"Well someone had to know about them, because these computers did," John said. "So either the people you met here 10,000 years ago had already forgotten about them, or they chose not to tell you." Then, going back to her first statement, he said, "And Rodney was the perfect person to tell. She gets that he's the one who keeps her going."
"We all do," Elizabeth reminded him, a tad sharply. "Rodney may be the one who does most of the repairs, but we all contribute."
"Okay, I see your point, but most of us are replaceable. I don't think Rodney is."
Elizabeth didn't look like she wanted to agree, but she didn't argue the point. John knew it rankled some people that Rodney kept on saving everyone's butt. She leaned back in her chair. "Of course, the ZPMs only solve one of our problems."
"You mean we still need a good weapon against the Wraith?" John asked.
Nodding, Elizabeth said, "Yes. While with the ZPMs we could technically shield the city for thousands of years, I don't imagine any of us want to live that way. And we certainly don't have an adequate food supply for an extended siege."
"I wouldn't worry about that," John said with a smug grin.
"Because sooner or later, after all his geekgasms about endless amounts of energy are through, Rodney will start focusing on weapons. Once he starts pouring through the computer data bases, I'll put my money on the city helping out." He grinned. "The city really likes him." John got such a kick out of that for some reason. Like his boyfriend was the star quarterback or Top Gun or something. And hey, now that the city was telling them cool stuff, maybe she would tell John about weapons if he asked really nicely.
"I hope you're right," Elizabeth said.
"So, when are you going to dial Earth?"
She smiled. "I think I'll let everyone celebrate tonight. I imagine there will be parties from one end of Atlantis to the other as word gets out. We'll dial through tomorrow."
"Weird," John said. Weird to think they had access to Earth again and, once they gave a ZPM to Stargate Command, that Earth would have access to them.
Someone could walk through the gate and walk back a day later with more supplies than they'd know what to do with. Coffee, chocolate and movies. More personnel, more soldiers. He winced at that. "They might decide to send a new ranking military leader, you know."
"Not if I can help it," Elizabeth said firmly. "You might think you're replaceable, but I don't believe we'd have survived this long without you."
"Thank you," John said with a small bow. "We make a good team." They didn't always see eye to eye, but Elizabeth listened, and she knew how to argue a point without cramming it down his throat.
She smiled back. "It still doesn't feel real."
John stood. "I'm gonna go force Rodney out of his lab. If I don't, we won't see him for months."
"Good luck with that," Elizabeth said doubtfully.
Ordinarily, John might agree with her doubts, but John was pretty sure he knew what would get Rodney out of his lab. "If you don't see me tomorrow, you'll know he pushed me off one of the balconies."
She shook her head. "He'd have to leave his lab to do that. I'm guessing he'd just knock you out and stuff you under his desk."
John bit back a grin at that thought. The under-the-desk thought. He'd figure out a way to make that happen sometime. Meanwhile, it was time to go find Rodney. "Good night."
"Good night," she said, grinning like a kid.
Understanding completely, knowing that the five ZPMs had put to rest a large part of the worry that probably kept Elizabeth up at night, John waved a second goodbye and left her office.
"Hey," he said to Rodney.
Rodney looked up at him, his eyes a little wild. "Hey."
"Let's get out of here," John suggested.
"What? What?" Rodney said with an outraged scoff. "I have too much to do."
"No, you don't," John countered. "You already did the important stuff. Everything else can wait until tomorrow."
"But," Rodney said frantically, gesturing at his laptop, his desk, his lab, the city, the planet, probably the whole freaking galaxy.
"Rodney," John said kindly, leaning in so no one would overhear. "We've got some kissing to do." John guessed that Rodney's recalcitrance had more to do with not knowing what John was thinking, than him really wanting to stay in his lab all night.
"Really?" Rodney said, this painfully hopeful look on his face.
"Really," John answered with a grin. "So can we go?"
Rodney stared at John for a moment, as if committing him to memory. Then he nodded and began shutting down his laptop. "Best day ever," he said, almost sing-songing the words.
"You keep saying that," John said, "but it's still early."
"What does that mean?" Rodney asked nervously. "Are you trying to tell me that everything could still turn to crap on me? That would be so typical." Rodney was starting to get really worked up. "Everything goes to shit while the universe has a laugh at my expense."
"No, Rodney," John said patiently, talking Rodney down. "This is where it keeps getting better, because you and I go back to either your place or my place and do that kissing thing again and then a whole lot more."
"Oh, right," Rodney said with a lopsided grin. "See? I'm just not used to this."
"Getting everything I want."
John grinned. "I'm thinking you better start. Loving you is starting to become a habit to some of us here."
Rodney looked confused, glanced nervously at Radek, who was doing his best to pretend to ignore them while patently attempting to hear every word.
"Atlantis," John explained. "And me."
"Right. Good. Okay." Rodney shut his laptop and stood. "I'm, uh, leaving," he announced.
He got a few half-hearted waves from the other lab personnel.
Rodney sneered at them. "Well don't all grieve at once," he grumbled. "Try to keep the weeping to a minimum."
"Would you just go already?" Radek said. "We plan to start party as soon as you leave."
"Oh, fine. Sure. Figures you'd wait until I leave to have a party."
"You have your own party to go to," Radek said.
"I do?" Rodney asked.
Radek nodded pointedly toward John.
Rodney glanced at John as if he'd never seen him before, but then he blushed. "Right." He waved to the remaining scientists. "Have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Radek shooed them away.
Rodney kept shooting John looks as they walked the corridors back to Rodney's quarters.
John let him look. There was no point talking about it. Rodney wasn't going to believe it was happening until they were kissing again. Besides, it was a hoot to be considered such an unattainable prize.
Then they were at the door. After they stood there for what felt like a long time, John gestured at it. "Planning on letting us in?"
Rodney started. "Oh, we're here." The door slid open. John pushed him in and followed him. When the door slid shut, John leaned in toward the wall, tapping it lightly. "Hey, Atlantis," he said, "don't let anyone bother us, okay?" Then he grabbed Rodney and reeled him in, reintroducing him to his tongue.
The city locked the doors to Rodney's quarters ensuring that no one would be able to open them except John and Rodney. She also dampened all communication coming into the room, knowing she could contact them if there was an urgent need.
Then, right before she began her next set of self-diagnostics, she dimmed the lights.