Teyla felt Major Sheppard's fingers twitch under her hand just before he took a deep breath and the chair he sat in powered down.
"Doctor Beckett!" she called as Sheppard started to fall.
"Grab him!" Ford yelled and caught Sheppard's upper body.
"I have my hands full with Rodney, lass," Beckett said behind her. "Check his breathing and pulse rate."
Ford already had two fingers pressed against Sheppard's neck. "Coming down, Doc," Ford said a few minutes later. "Seems to be levelling off."
Teyla saw Sheppard's eyes open slightly and bent down next to him.
"Major? Can you hear me?" she asked, and smiled when she saw John focus on her.
"Rodney?" he whispered.
Teyla looked behind her to see Beckett and Chuck bent over Rodney's body. "He is here as well, Major," she told him, unsure what to really say since she had no idea if Doctor McKay was even alive.
He nodded and she watched as he closed his eyes.
"I need to get them back to the infirmary, Sergeant," Beckett said to Chuck. "What does the power situation look like?"
Chuck went back to the console, but before he could reply, they had their answer in the form of a radio call from Doctor Weir over an open channel.
"Doctor Beckett? Carson? Please come in."
Teyla saw Beckett close his eyes and duck his head for a moment before tapping his earpiece. "Elizabeth, good to hear from you. I need medical teams here, now."
Carson made his way over to Teyla and knelt on Sheppard's other side. She watched as he checked John's pulse and nodded to himself.
"Already on the way," Weir replied. "How are they?"
Beckett glanced down at Major Sheppard then over at Doctor McKay. "They're alive," he said succinctly. "I'm not sure yet what that bloody machine did to them."
"Understood. Medical teams should be there momentarily. Weir out."
"Doctor Beckett?" Teyla asked softly. "Will they be all right?"
"I hope so, lass." Beckett stood as Teyla heard running feet in the hallway and a few seconds later two medical teams arrived in the small room.
Teyla stood back as Beckett directed the teams to Sheppard and McKay and watched as they were carefully loaded on gurneys and the teams headed back through the corridors to the transporter and the main part of the city.
The transporter was too small for more than one gurney and a medical technician at a time, and by the time Teyla and Ford arrived at the infirmary, the doors were firmly closed. Teyla sat in one of the nearby chairs and watched Ford pace the short distance between the infirmary and the main hallway.
"So, what do you think?" Ford asked after a few minutes of silence.
Ford waved a hand at the closed doors. "About this whole mental link thing?" Ford said with a grimace. "It still sounds … nutty to me."
Teyla studied him for a moment before answering. "You accept I can sense the Wraith when they are near, do you not?"
Ford stopped pacing and leant against the wall next to Teyla's chair. "Sure, I guess."
She frowned at his less than absolute reply but continued, "And you know some of your people, like Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay, can use technology left here by the Ancestors?"
Ford shrugged then nodded.
"Do you understand how it works?" she asked.
Ford shook his head. "There's the ATA gene for activating the Ancient stuff, I guess. Doctor Beckett called it a sort of genetic key."
"For my people, the ability to sense the Wraith has been carried by many over the centuries. We do not understand it, but we accept it, both as a fact that some of my people have this gift as well as the knowledge it gives us of the Wraith."
"Okay," Ford said with a shrug. "What's that got to do with Major Sheppard and Doctor McKay being 'linked'?" He mimed the quote marks.
She let out a frustrated breath. "I believe, for the Ancestors, for two individuals to share such a link was no different than the few individuals of my people who can sense the Wraith. Many may be able to, but only a few manage to achieve control of the ability."
Ford crossed his arms over his chest. "Except the Major and McKay aren't Ancients."
"They both carry the Ancestor's gene," she explained patiently. "The waypost in the clearing recognised this and, I suspect, something happened to them in the time they were missing that reinforced the connection that already existed between them."
Ford kicked his toe at a seam in the flooring. "So what do we do about it?" he finally asked.
"We accept it," she told him firmly as she met his gaze, "just as my people accept those who can sense the Wraith. It is a gift. We do whatever is required of us as their teammates, as their friends, to assist them when needed."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
John wasn't surprised to wake up in the infirmary, however, he was surprised to note he didn't feel any pain, wasn't hooked up to any monitors, and in general, felt pretty good.
"Good morning, Major," Beckett said softly and John looked up at him. "Or should I say afternoon?"
"Aye, you and Rodney have been here since last evening." Beckett glanced at his watch. "It's just gone noon, now."
John tried to make his search of the infirmary casual, but Beckett smiled and took a step back letting John see the other bed. "Rodney is here, as well. Whatever it was that machine did, it wiped you both out."
John glanced over and found Rodney, his eyes once again covered in bandages, asleep in the next bed. "He's going to be okay? When I found him he was …" John paused. "He wasn't doing too well."
Carson nodded and sat on a stool between the two beds. "All of your scans last night were clear. Other than his eyes and a new cut on his palm that required a few stitches, Rodney will be fine. You both will."
John sighed. "That was about the only good thing about being in that … place," John said with another glance at the other bed. "He could see."
"Doctor Pak checked his eyes last night. There's no sign of infection, and she is more confident now about his chances of regaining full sight. The bandages need to stay for a few more days, to give his corneas a chance to fully heal, but with a little luck, he shouldn't have any long-term problems."
John snorted. "A little luck?" he asked with a smile. "Have you met us?"
"Aye, and for all the trouble you two manage to find, you're both still alive," Carson told him, his tone serious.
John picked at the edge of the blanket. "Yeah," he mumbled. "But how long can we keep pushing our chances? One of these days I may not find him in time."
Rodney shifted in his bed and Carson turned to readjust the blanket over him.
"I've been meaning to ask," Beckett said a few minutes later, "how did you find him? That room was out in one of the remote buildings on the southwest pier. I'm not sure I want to know how Rodney got out there by himself."
"Followed the ringing," Rodney mumbled.
"I'm sorry?" Beckett asked, turning to the other bed. "How long have you been awake anyway?"
Rodney sighed and rolled onto his back. "Not long," he replied. "You wanted to know how I found the room. I followed the ringing."
Carson looked thoroughly confused, but John thought he knew what McKay was talking about. "Like a bunch of telephones?"
Rodney turned his head in John's general direction. "Exactly! I was in the lab and heard this annoying ringing noise in my head. It was giving me a headache, so I wanted to shut it off."
"And you didn't bother to wait for me why?" John asked sternly.
Rodney ducked his head. "I … I needed to know if I could still be useful," he mumbled. "You shouldn't need to lead me around all the time."
"Rodney, I thought we settled this," John said. "It's not a problem to call me if you need help."
Rodney's head shot up and John could see the tension on his face. "That's just it, I shouldn't need help. I'm an adult, I can take care of myself, damn it!"
"And look how well that turned out for you!" John retorted, his own temper starting to rise. "You managed to almost get yourself killed for no reason. You did all of that just to prove, what? How stubborn you are?"
"All right, that's enough both of you," Carson ordered. "Do you hear the ringing now?" he asked Rodney.
John watched intently as Rodney tilted his head slightly.
Rodney sighed and shook his head. "No, I don't hear it any more."
"Good," John said. "Let's keep it that way."
"I'm not a complete idiot," Rodney said soberly. "It didn't take me very long to realise following some mysterious sound, alone, wasn't too smart and that I really should have waited for you." He turned his head in John's direction again. "But by then I wasn't sure where I was, I didn't have a radio, and I didn't know how to get back to my lab. I decided to keep going, hoping to find a transceiver and call you."
John scrubbed a hand over his face. He'd come too close to losing his best friend, his brother, over stupid pride. John tried to convince himself he wouldn't have been as pig-headed if their positions were reversed, but he knew it wasn't true.
"Elizabeth has scheduled a meeting for later this afternoon," Beckett said into the silence a few minutes later. "I expect she'll want to know what happened. I think a few other people will have questions as well." He stood from the stool. "I'll see about getting some lunch brought up to you." He paused at the end of John's bed. "I'll ask Teyla and Ford to bring you some clothes when they bring the trays," he finished with a knowing smile.
John entered the conference room two hours later, Rodney following him with a hand on his shoulder.
"So, who all is here for the inquisition?" he asked as John led him to a chair.
John saw Elizabeth frown slightly at Rodney's comment, but he really couldn't disagree with the sentiment.
"Teyla, Ford, Elizabeth, and Carson," John answered as they sat.
Rodney nodded and turned his head one way then the other.
"All right," Elizabeth said, "John, Rodney, why don't you tell us exactly what happened yesterday."
John and Rodney took turns explaining about following ringing noises, the environ they found themselves in, and The Controller.
"It might be worth going back to the Entry Room and trying to access those systems again," Rodney said once John had finished explaining how they got out.
"You heard The Controller," John argued. "It's not safe."
"But we didn't know what we were doing before. Now we know what to expect --"
"I'm afraid John is right," Elizabeth said. "You aren't Ancients. I won't authorise another attempt for the two of you to enter this 'environ'. Besides, there's no guarantee the power grid would be able to handle yet another massive transfer. Peter is still trying to figure out how the rerouting of that much energy didn't blow out the entire system. We've done all right surviving in the Pegasus galaxy so far, we'll just have to keep doing what we've been doing."
John could see Rodney was gearing up for an argument and was ready to step in when Teyla asked, "The Controller stated you both retain the mental link, is that correct?"
John gave her a nod as he replied, "That's what he said. We haven't exactly had a chance to test it though."
"And you're not going to any time soon," Beckett said pointedly.
"That could pose a risk for off-world missions," Elizabeth said hesitantly with a frown. "Assuming of course --"
"Oh, you have got to be kidding," Rodney snapped as he interrupted and turned his head in her direction. "You can't keep us here, Elizabeth. You need us out there." Rodney waved a hand in the general direction of the 'gate room.
"Gotta say, I'm with McKay on this," John added. "I've been dealing with this … link for a couple of months now, including on off-world missions. It hasn't been a problem."
"Only because you've been lucky so far," Elizabeth pointed out. "What if there's another incident like what happened in my office? It's a serious risk to your team, John, and I think you know that."
"We are prepared to deal with any consequences of the link," Teyla said, and John could see the determined look on her face.
"Teyla and I don't have a problem with this, ma'am," Ford added, his expression serious. "Don't ground the team on our account."
John couldn't hide his surprise, but before he could say anything, Ford looked at him and continued, "Teyla and I talked it over last night, sir. We're both okay with this, really."
Elizabeth toyed with the stylus for her computer as she studied each of them in turn. Finally, she sighed and nodded. "All right. Assuming everything with Rodney checks out in a few days, I'll sign off on putting you back in the mission rotation."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
The next three days were a kind of torture for Rodney. John had suggested they share one of the larger rooms near the control room for the next few days just to make things easier for both of them, but Rodney had nixed the idea. He could find his way around his quarters easily enough was the excuse he'd given, but in reality, he didn't want to give up what autonomy he still had.
John had left him in the lab the morning after the conference with Elizabeth and the others with strict instructions Rodney was not to go anywhere with anyone until he returned. He'd spent two hours trapped in his lab listening to Zelenka complain about the mission to P2J-338 and how not only had they found nothing of value, but Radek had nearly broken his neck trying to disassemble a dome of what looked like sensors mounted on the top of a tall column.
Rodney wondered at the time if John and Radek were colluding so he would be forced to listen to the endless melodrama about a sandstorm, some sort of nasty bug that bit all of them and left itchy welts that would make horseflies envious, as well as the near-death experience of climbing a column to get to useless technology.
He held a meeting with Elizabeth and Gall, regarding the Ancient satellite. Gall had wanted to leave immediately, ignoring Rodney's statement that as the foremost expert on Ancient technology he should be the one go. He'd told Elizabeth Gall could tag along if he wanted, for "field experience," Rodney had said to her, his tone laced with sarcasm.
Elizabeth was cautiously optimistic about their chances of finding something useful but held off making a decision about a trip out to the Lagrange point. "Let's see how things go tomorrow first," she'd told both of them and Rodney had reluctantly nodded.
Even though Carson had told him his chances of regaining his full sight were better than eighty percent, the nagging little voice in his head would not let go of the fact there was still a twenty percent chance something would be wrong. John, Teyla, and Ford did their best to keep his mind off things, but as the week progressed, Rodney closed himself off more and more. While he hadn't liked being blind, the thought of finally knowing one way or the other scared him even more.
Rodney sat with the rest of the team at their usual table in the mess hall, picking at his dinner, and listening to the various conversations around them. After a week of practice, he could actually eat without spilling anything on anyone, but his appointment with Beckett was a little over twelve hours away and his stomach wasn't in any condition to deal with the mystery meat from the kitchen.
"Come on," John said with a nudge at Rodney's arm when there was another extended silence at the table.
Rodney could imagine the silent, worried faces they were exchanging and forced himself to keep his temper under control. John and the others had been doing that a lot the last few days he was sure.
"Where are we going?" Rodney asked as John led the way out of the mess hall and down the corridor.
John didn't answer, instead, Rodney heard a door slide open and smelt the ocean as a breeze caressed his face.
"Chair," John murmured as he placed Rodney's hand on the back.
He heard John settle in the chair next to him as the setting sun warmed his face.
"Everything is going to be fine. You know that, right?" John said after a few minutes of companionable silence.
"You don't know that," Rodney replied, his tone a mix of fear and anger. "Twenty percent chance I'm like this forever, remember?"
"Yeah, and an eighty percent chance you're fine," John argued. "For once, let's take the glass is half full approach."
"Eighty percent full," Rodney muttered with a slight smile.
John chuckled. "That's better."
Rodney sighed and tried to relax. "Thank you," he whispered. "For … everything you've done the last week. I've never had anyone who would make the effort --" He stopped speaking when he felt John's hand grasp his arm.
"You're welcome," John replied. "I hope you've learned you don't have to take on the universe alone. You can ask for help. From me. From the others, too."
"Beckett is meeting you in your room tomorrow morning, isn't he? "John asked a few minutes later.
"Yes, something about better able to control the lights or something."
"Do you want me there with you?"
Rodney took a deep breath. "Yes," he whispered. "Just in case …"
John squeezed his arm then let go.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
Rodney fingered the edge of the blanket as he sat at the edge of the bed waiting for Beckett to arrive the next morning.
"Relax," John told him as he pulled the blanket out of Rodney's hand. "Beckett'll be here soon and everything will be fine."
"Don't tell me to relax," Rodney huffed. "The last thing I can do at the moment is relax. If you can't say anything helpful, you can wait outside."
He felt John's hand on his shoulder and tried to shrug away but Sheppard was having none of it.
"I'm not going anywhere." He patted Rodney's shoulder once and let go.
"Sorry," Rodney muttered.
There was a tap at the door and Rodney couldn't help it, he flinched.
"I'll let him in," John said, and Rodney felt the bed bounce as John stood. A few seconds later, he heard the door whisper open.
"John," Carson said softly. "Rodney?" he added a little louder as Rodney heard footsteps cross the room. "I'm sorry I'm late, lad. A bit of an emergency with one of the Marines in the infirmary."
Rodney felt a hand on his knee.
"All right, let's see about these bandages now, shall we?" Carson said and Rodney felt him tug at the gauze wrapped around his head.
"Where's John?" Rodney asked and felt a flutter of panic as he twisted his head back and forth.
"I'm right here. Hold still so Carson can get the bandages off." Rodney felt a hand on his shoulder again.
Rodney felt Carson remove the last of the gauze and heard him take a deep breath.
"Major, turn down the lights a bit, please," Carson said.
The hand never left his arm, but Carson said, "Much better," a few seconds later.
"Show off," Rodney muttered and John squeezed his arm.
"Rodney, when I take the bandages off, I want you to open your eyes slowly. The light is dim, but your eyes will still need a moment to adjust." Carson paused. "Are you ready?"
Rodney nodded and Carson started pulling off the tape holding the bandages in place.
"All right, son, open your eyes, slowly."
Rodney peeled his eyes open and blinked several times. It took a few moments for his eyes to stop watering, even the dim light in the room was bright after a week of darkness. He looked up at Carson then over at John, still blinking his eyes clear.
"Rodney?" John asked, shifting off the bed and standing beside Carson.
Rodney tracked his every move and John's face broke out in a huge grin.
Rodney nodded and smiled back. "Yeah."
John sank down beside him draped an arm over his shoulders. "Told you everything would be fine."
Beckett pulled the desk chair over to the bed and sat down. "I just want to check a few things," he said, and ran Rodney through a series of quick tests.
"Your eyes are a bit red and irritated, which is to be expected. I'll give you some eye drops which should help. Your eyes may also be sensitive to light for a few days, so you need to keep the lights in your quarters and lab on the low side." Carson held up a pair of sunglasses. "If you go into areas of the city with lots of windows, like the mess hall, you should wear them, just for a day or two."
Rodney took the sunglasses with a nod.
"Now," Carson said with a wide smile of his own as he stood, "I imagine there are a fair few people wanting to know the verdict, and I think they are all waiting for you in the mess hall."
Rodney gave John a blank look. "There might be a bit of a party waiting for you," John said with a smile as he pulled Rodney to his feet. "Let's go give them the good news."
Rodney was stunned by the number of people waiting for him. Along with Teyla, Ford, and Elizabeth, many of the scientists were there, led by Grodin and Zelenka. Rodney even spotted several Marines, including Thompson and Stackhouse in the group.
Rodney stuck around in the mess hall for the first hour, but then found he needed to get away from the crowd and the noise. There was something he needed to do, something he wanted to see, and he wasn't sure Elizabeth, or more importantly, John, would be too happy with where he wanted to go.
He left the mess hall and headed for the transporter. He stood outside the doors for a moment, savoring he could once again do something that up until a week ago he'd taken for granted, then stepped inside and tapped the southwest pier on the map.
When he stepped out a moment later, he took the time to look out the windows at the ocean below and the city in the near distance. Even with the sunglasses on, he'd been right, the view was amazing. He watched the sunlight play over the water and dance on the windows of the control tower and sighed. He wasn't the most sentimental of men and told himself the tear running down his cheek was from the bright light. It had nothing to do with him realising how much he'd nearly lost.
He scrubbed at his face and turned around in the atrium looking for an indication of which way to go next. He found a smear of blood along one wall and rubbed the cut on his hand as he headed down the hallway, turning when he came to a junction. He was standing just outside the room with the console and control chairs when he heard footsteps coming down the hall behind him.
"Are you determined to give me a heart attack?" John asked as he stopped beside Rodney. "One minute you're arguing with Zelenka about something and the next, I turn around and you're gone."
"I wanted to see it," Rodney explained as he stared around the room, careful not to cross the threshold and activate anything, taking in the console and the two chairs. "I wasn't sure you'd come with me if I asked."
John stood next to him, saying nothing for several seconds. "Grodin and that tech, Chuck, still haven't figured out how the city managed to reroute all of the power over here," John said conversationally. "Or how it was routed back without frying every system in Atlantis."
"I still say there shouldn't have been enough power at all," Rodney replied. "Did anyone check the logs or run diagnostics?"
John shrugged. "No idea. You'll have to ask Grodin."
Rodney studied the room for a minute or two longer, then turned and headed back for the transporter. He stopped in the atrium and stared out the window at the city again. "Hang on a minute," he said suddenly and turned to Sheppard. "If you didn't know where I was, how did you find me?"
John smiled. "The same way I found you the last time," he said, and pulled something out of his trouser pocket and showed it to Rodney. There was a soft yellow glow coming from the stone nestled in the palm of John's hand.
Rodney gave him a puzzled look. "That's the stone Kalani gave me. So what?"
John's smile grew into a grin. "It seems it's some sort of tracker, or maybe just a lost scientist finder," John said with a laugh as Rodney scowled.
"You're kidding?" Rodney said and picked up the stone. "How does it work?"
John took the stone back. "Go stand over there," he said as he pointed back up the hallway.
Rodney gave him an odd look but did what John wanted.
"Show me Rodney McKay," John said once Rodney was at the mouth of the hallway.
Rodney saw the yellow glow change to an image projected just above John's hand and felt his mouth pop open. He walked back toward John and saw the image of himself become larger in the projection.
"How did you figure it out?" Rodney asked as John dropped the stone into his hand.
"Luck," John replied. "I went to find you in your lab after meeting with Stackhouse and instead found broken glass, bloody handprints, and the stone under a cabinet. I was holding it when I started to wonder where you'd disappeared to and it showed me you, walking down a hallway I didn't recognise. I had Grodin search for any lone life signs and that led me out here."
"I guess I owe Kalani another thank you and an apology the next time we see him," Rodney said. "If he hadn't forced Thompson to bring me his 'restitution' …" Rodney glanced back down the hall to the room.
"Hey," John said as he draped an arm over Rodney's shoulders. "It worked, that's what counts." He tugged Rodney toward the transporter. "I was talking to Elizabeth before you disappeared from the mess hall, sounds like she's going to approve your request to go looking for Ancient satellites."
"Good, there could be a wealth of information just waiting for us out there." Rodney made a face. "I told her we should take Gall. He's the one that found it after all." He looked over at John. "Maybe Teyla and Ford will want to come along, too."
John shook his head as he triggered the door for the transporter. "Teyla wants to check in with Halling and the other Athosians. Ford offered to go with her and see if there was anything they needed help with. Didn't think we'd need them for a quick mission out to a satellite, so I told her it was fine to go. Figured we'd drop them off on our way off-planet. Markham or Stackhouse can bring them back when they're ready."
Rodney glanced over at John, his eyes full of mischief. "Does this mean you'll give me another flying lesson?"
"I do seem to recall that was the deal when you dragged me back to the 'gate a few weeks ago," John agreed.
Rodney glanced over at John, a hopeful look on his face. "You mean it? You'll let me fly the jumper?"
"Sure," John said with a smile as he tapped the screen to send them back to the control room. "Once we're clear of the city, the planet, and anything else you might run us into. You still haven't figured out how to fly in a straight line."