No one may enter who does not bring their home with them.
The words were in Ancient, carved into the walls of the outpost on PX-1483, repeated around the edge of the ceiling, where the so-far-impenetrable force-field began. The field was only semi-transparent, but they could see a large room beyond and detect the traces of energy readings that indicated a ZPM – maybe more than one.
Every linguist in Atlantis had come through to look at the inscription, but none could offer any insight, or even a different translation. There was nothing else on the planet – no other Ancient buildings, no current inhabitants, no sign of Wraith – so a rotation of scientists had tried to find their way inside.
Rodney insisted on being present for all of the attempts, which meant his team had to stay to keep an eye on him.
“There has to be a way inside,” he muttered.
They had tried sending someone through wearing only Earth-made clothes, then Teyla had tried with only Athosian-made things. They had tried sending the last person transferred to Atlantis, a young Marine wearing the sweater his grandma had knit him – Rodney’s readings showed the force-field yielded a little for him, but not enough to let him through.
The outpost was built into a mountain, and they had tried digging around the field, over and under it, but it seemed to be a perfect sphere, extending down through the rock.
“Perhaps the answer is not physical,” suggested Teyla. The last batch of scientists had gone back to Atlantis, leaving the team alone. “Ancient devices often have a mental component. Perhaps the answer is more…emotional.”
John expected Rodney to protest – he’d never been a fan of soft sciences – but he must have been desperate, because he just nodded. “Why not?”
“What, really?” said John.
“I’ve tried everything else,” he said. “What were you thinking, Teyla? We just click our heels and think, there’s no place like home?”
“No, we will meditate” she said, seating herself cross-legged on the floor. She paused, waiting for the others to join her, then said, “Clear your mind.”
John shuffled closer to Rodney and closed his eyes. He’d never been a fan of meditation, mostly because he could never manage to get his mind blank the way he was supposed to, but if Rodney was willing to try, he’d never hear the end of it if he didn’t too.
“Close your eyes,” said Teyla. “Control your breathing. Think of home.”
John took a deep breath.
It was where you were from, and where you went back to. The house where he’d grown up hadn’t been ‘home’ since his mother had died. Then there’d been dorm rooms and barracks buildings, tents and apartments, but he hadn’t been sorry to leave any of them behind.
In fact, the planet Earth wasn’t home anymore. He was from there, but it wasn’t where he belonged.
No, home was another galaxy, where John could really be himself, possibly for the first time in his life. Home was a ten-thousand-year-old alien city, welcoming him like a long-lost son and lighting up at his touch. Home was an astrophysicist, who grumped and complained, but was braver than John had ever been.
Rodney gave an annoyed huff under his breath, and John opened his eyes.
“I know how to get through,” John said.
“What?” said Rodney. “How?”
John stood, pulling Rodney up with him. He stopped at the edge of the force field, still holding the scientist’s hand.
“Do you love me?” John asked.
“Of course I do,” snapped Rodney. “Why else would I have married you, all the trouble you cause me?”
John took his other hand, too, running his thumb over the place where Rodney’s wedding band would be, if he hadn’t taken it off for safekeeping. “So, then, you’d say you have a special place in your heart, just for me?”
“I wouldn’t say that,” Rodney snorted, then softened. “But I wouldn’t deny it.”
“And that’s how we’ll get through.”
Rodney frowned. “Has three minutes of meditation finally broken your brain, Sheppard? We tried everything I could think of. And I’m the smartest man in two galaxies.”
“Yes, you are,” John agreed. “But we didn’t try this. Just… go with it, okay?”
“Fine,” Rodney huffed, but he let John arrange them, Rodney’s arms around his waist, as they stood at the edge of the force-field. “Now what?”
“Now, we go through.
“What? Sheppard, we can’t— Hey!”
John had stepped sideways, into the field. It brightened, resisting for a moment, and then they were through, standing clear on the other side.
“How did we…?” said Rodney. “Why – what did you do?”
“Simple,” he said, holding him tighter. “I brought my home with me.”
“Sentimental nonsense,” Rodney grumbled, but kissed him.
“John, Rodney, can you hear me?” called Teyla. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, we’re fine!” John told her. “We’ll check in again in an hour, okay?
“Of course,” she replied. “We will be outside.”
“So,” Rodney said, softly, when they were gone. “I’m your home?”
“Yep,” said John, and kissed him again.