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To Forgive ... Divine

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Rodney stood in front of the closed doors to the transporter for several seconds, trying to digest what Sheppard had told him. He'd been so sure of everything. So sure he was smarter than Zelenka who told him the Arcturus weapon was fatally flawed. So sure he could solve a problem even the Ancients hadn't been able to crack. So sure he was the smartest man in two galaxies. That he couldn't be wrong.

A successful test of the vacuum energy power source should have been a triumph. He would have found a powerful weapon they could use against the Wraith. Not to mention an unlimited power source for not only Atlantis but possibly Earth and every other inhabited world. Needless to say, the achievement would have also put him in the ranks of such scientific greats as Einstein, Heisenberg, and Newton. He'd had that Nobel speech practically written in his head.

Instead, his attempt to finish the Ancient weapon and power source had cost him a member of his science team, his confidence, and nearly his life. All of that, however, was little in comparison to the fact it had almost cost him John's life as well. His failure had undoubtedly cost him a piece of his friendship with Sheppard.

All of it? he wondered as he ducked his head and crossed his arms over his chest.

"I would ... I would hate to think that recent events might have permanently dimmed your faith in my abilities, or your trust. At the very least, I hope I can earn that back."

"That may take a while."

Sheppard's statement had cut him to the core, and he knew John was dead serious. More to the point, he knew he deserved it. He'd tried to make light of everything with his joke about not being right again, but the truth was he wasn't sure how much he trusted himself at the moment.

Could he earn Sheppard's trust back? he wondered.

His flesh and blood sister refused to have anything to do with him after their last fight. She'd even refused to accept the video he'd sent back to Earth before the siege. He'd learnt how wonderful it was to have a family thanks to Teyla, Carson, and Elizabeth. Thanks to John.

Rodney knew he was as much at fault for the falling out he'd had with Jeannie as she was.

Probably more, he admitted to himself and stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets.

He had wanted Jeannie to know he'd forgiven her and had hoped she was ready to forgive him as well. Her refusal to even accept the disc, much less watch it, made it clear to him that after almost five years she wasn't ready to forgive him yet.

Their fight over how Jeannie had chosen family over a lucrative career was nothing compared to what had happened with Sheppard on Doranda. Rodney didn't want to make the same mistake with John. He liked having a surrogate brother; he didn't want to lose the family he'd finally found for himself. There was no one to blame this time except himself, he knew that, but John didn't seem any more willing to forgive him than Jeannie.

Rodney sighed and tapped the sensor for the transporter. When the door opened, he pushed the section of the map for the science labs. Work had always been his solace in the past. He knew how to deal with data and formulae even if he didn't know how to deal with the emotional fallout of a family fight.

It was mid-afternoon, and Rodney was a bit surprised to find the hallway near his lab blissfully empty of the usual milling scientists. He wasn't looking forward to facing anyone else at the moment and accepted the bit of good luck as he made his way down the hall and around the corner to his lab. He entered his lab, closed and locked the door, and slumped into his desk chair.

He'd been so sure of himself. So sure he could solve the Arcturus problem, just as he had solved so many other seemingly impossible problems since they had arrived in Atlantis. He stared around the room, at the computers he'd used for the modelling of the Arcturus power source. He stared at the humming machines, some still running statistical models, as the memory of Sheppard yelling at him about waiting too long to leave the installation replayed in his head.

He shook himself and stood. There was no need for the models now, and he was too tired, physically and mentally, to deal with anything else to do with Doranda at the moment. He shut down all of the machines and stored them on a shelf at the back of the lab.

Maybe trying to work wasn't going to help this time, he realised as he looked around the room. All he could see was how close he'd come to killing not only himself but Sheppard, too.

He wandered past the work table, picked up one of the pieces for the prototype shield emitter, and turned it over in his hand. He had spent the last several weeks working on a better design. Better than anything the Ancients had come up with, he thought a bitter smile.

The problem was one of power consumption and distribution. The math bloomed in his head as he twisted the prototype one way and then the other in his fingers. To him, the problem seemed simple to solve.

What if all he ended up doing was destroying both the shield and the cloak?

That would leave Atlantis defenceless the next time the Wraith attacked. Had the Ancients tried a similar design that had failed? He hadn't found anything in his search of the database, but that didn't mean much. Was he about to make the same mistake again? he wondered, thinking that he was smarter than the Ancients who had built the city?

Rodney stared at the piece in his hand for several minutes before he found a box and packed up all of his notes and the prototype. Maybe the new emitter design was a bad idea, he told himself. The shield worked. Why mess with it?

He shoved the box into a nearby cabinet and closed the door. He wasn't in the habit of making the same mistake twice after all.

Instead, he pulled the Ancient mystery box off the shelf and tried to lose himself in discovering what it did, but it was little use. For once, tinkering was of little comfort to him. All he could see was Sheppard's disappointed face telling Rodney he didn't trust him any longer. He dropped the crystal in his hand on the work table with a frustrated sigh and left the lab.

Rodney aimlessly wandered the halls, avoiding any areas of the city where he was likely to run into someone until he found an out-of-the-way balcony in one of the more remote sections of the tower. He stepped outside and let the door whisper shut behind him.

As with most of the outside spaces in the city, the view was stunning. The spires of the various towers rose around him, lit with a soft pinkish glow as the sun set behind him. There were no chairs, so he sat with his feet dangling over the edge and his arms resting on the lowest bar of the railing, watching the ebb and flow of the water below.

Logically, he knew sooner or later there would be a problem he wouldn't be able to solve, there would be no last-minute save. In a way, Doranda had been a blessing. Yes, he'd been wrong, catastrophically so. But if there were any sort of silver lining, the Dorandan system had been uninhabited. If he had to be wrong, at least he'd been wrong in the right place. His error hadn't destroyed Atlantis, or Earth, or any populated worlds.

Rodney wrapped his arms around his middle and sighed. He'd spent most of the day either being called on the carpet for his actions or apologising to everyone for what he had done. However, there were still two people left he had yet to face. Ronon and Teyla had returned from a trade mission that morning. Rodney had caught a glimpse of them as Elizabeth had yelled at him for his actions on Doranda. He assumed Sheppard had told them something of what had happened with the weapon.

What would they say? he wondered. Would they tell him they could no longer trust his intelligence either? What would that mean for the team?

The sun set as he sat, lost in thought. He watched the lights for the city come on, reflecting in the water far below. It wasn't until the larger of the planet's two moons rose in front of him that he shook himself out of his brooding thoughts, rubbed his forehead, and glanced at his watch.

"No wonder you have a headache," he muttered to himself when he realised how late it was. He slowly stood up and walked back inside.

"Food," he told himself as he walked back to the transporter. "Deal with the rest tomorrow."

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John sat on the edge of his bed the next morning and flipped his silver challenge coin over in his hand, thinking about the men he'd fought with in Afghanistan. The ones he'd saved, the ones he'd lost. He thought about a supposedly routine flight to ferry a general out to a remote base in Antarctica and everything that happened when he accidentally sat in the wrong sort of chair.

He thought about sitting on a hill in California, debating the pros and cons of joining a mission that sounded like something from a science fiction novel. John stared at the eagle on one side of the coin and swallowed when he remembered how close he'd come to saying 'no' and walking away from Elizabeth and her crazy idea of walking through a portal to another galaxy. He clenched his hand closed over the coin when he thought about how much he'd come so close to losing.

He'd meant to talk to McKay for months about how he had made the decision to come on the expedition and the family he had found as a result, but something kept coming up to delay the conversation. He rolled the coin across his knuckles. It had surprised him at first how well he and McKay got on with each other. Then came Teyla's declaration they were chaguo ndugu, brothers by choice, and John had accepted the idea with ease.

He had fallen back into the role of an older brother so easily with McKay, a role he had sorely missed when his relationship with David had soured all those years ago. Everything with the gauntlet and the mental link had seemed nothing more than a natural progression of the relationship they already had. A relationship built on mutual trust in each other and a genuine liking for one another.

"I would ... I would hate to think that recent events might have permanently dimmed your faith in my abilities, or your trust. At the very least, I hope I can earn that back."

John scrubbed a hand over his stubbled cheek as he remembered McKay's apology. In the space of an afternoon, McKay had laid waste to that trust, not unlike the destroyed Dorandan system itself. And while John was happy to hear McKay admit he'd been wrong and was willing to do whatever it took to fix things, he wasn't ready to forgive and forget quite yet.

McKay's single-minded focus on the weapon, to the point he didn't even consider John's well-being, much less his own, had scared him. Did he understand that? John wondered. Or was he still only thinking about the Ancient technology and his lost place in the annals of scientific history?

John flipped the coin a few times.

He had spent more of the previous day writing up the reports on what had happened on Doranda and standing in a meeting with Elizabeth where she told him in no uncertain terms what she'd thought of his actions during the whole fiasco.

John stood in front of Elizabeth's desk, his hands behind his back and his eyes focused on the wall behind Elizabeth's head. He had purposely made himself scarce when she had talked to McKay after their return. John had told himself this was one time he was willing to quash that instinct to protect McKay and let him deal with the fallout of his actions alone.

He was angry, yes, but more than that, he was hurt. McKay had asked him to trust him, and he had. John had trusted him enough to put his own reputation and life on the line to back McKay's play. In return, McKay's ego had nearly killed both of them and destroyed most of a solar system.

It hadn't taken very long for him to hear how the meeting between McKay and Weir had gone. Even with the door closed, everyone in the control room and the gateroom had heard the dressing down Elizabeth had given McKay for what had happened on Doranda.

John glanced at Elizabeth who stood behind her desk with her arms crossed over her chest, glaring at him. John focused on the wall again.

"Needless to say, I'm more than a little disappointed, Colonel," she said. "You told me you could keep Doctor McKay from going too far. That didn't happen."

"Elizabeth, I --" John started to say, but Elizabeth spoke over him.

"I warned you something like this could happen," she told him and sat down at her desk.

John ducked his head. "I didn't think he would go that far," he admitted. "How many times in the past has McKay done something none of us thought possible and saved the city?"

Elizabeth sighed and motioned John to sit in the chair opposite the desk. "That's exactly why I was so concerned," she said once John sat down across from her. "Rodney is a genius, not only because of what he knows but for how his mind works. He can make intuitive leaps that no one else would ever dream of. And I'm the first to admit that genius has saved all of our lives several times over in the last year.

"But like any genius, he doesn't always think about the ramifications of his actions. That's what I meant when I said he needs protecting from himself. While I am grateful for every one of those last-minute saves, all of that success meant Rodney thought he was infallible. That not only was he smarter than all of us, but he was also smarter than the Ancients as well."

John nodded. "I get that now. I'll keep a better eye on him next time."

"Good." Elizabeth sat back in her chair. "Though I hope there's isn't a next time any time soon."

John studied her for a moment, and when he saw her relax, he settled back in his chair.

"Rodney did surprise me in one way," Elizabeth said after a moment of silence.

"Oh?"

She nodded. "He apologised. He told me he knew he'd gone too far and actually said he was sorry for what had happened." She looked over at him and added, "It wouldn't surprise me if he came looking for you to tell you something similar."

"Thanks for the warning," John replied shortly and stood. He wasn't ready to hear any apologies yet. "Was there anything else?"

Elizabeth studied him for a moment then shook her head. John was almost to the door when Elizabeth said, "John, believe me, I understand how angry you are at the moment. I'm still mad at Rodney, too. Just be careful you don't say something you'll regret later."

John clenched his hands at his sides and nodded before he left the office.

He'd spent the rest of the day doing his best to avoid McKay. He knew Elizabeth was right. In his current mood, he could easily do something that could damage his relationship with McKay permanently.

When he'd finally been cornered at the transporter, John had done his best to keep his temper in check, but he had wanted McKay to understand precisely what his actions had cost him. John had seen the lost and hurt expression on McKay's face as the transporter doors closed, and for a split second, he had regretted what he'd said about McKay losing his trust. Then he remembered their frantic flight back to the 'gate as the Ancient weapon discharged wildly behind them and he'd hardened his resolve.

"Burnt fingers are the best teacher," John had muttered as he left the transporter near the gym. He'd spent the rest of the evening pounding out his anger and frustration against the punching bag and going for a long run.

John looked down at the coin in his hand. Maybe it was just as well he hadn't said anything, he decided. He set the coin on the bedside table next to the coin Ford had given him. Until that sense of trust was repaired, the coin and the talk could wait.

John entered the mess hall twenty minutes later and found Teyla and Ronon already seated at their usual table. McKay was nowhere in sight, and for once, John was okay with the fact that he had missed the team breakfast.

John headed for the mess line, dished himself a portion of eggs, bacon, and fruit, poured himself a cup of coffee, and headed over to the rest of his team.

"Good morning, Colonel," Teyla greeted him with a smile as she set down her teacup.

"Sheppard," Ronon added with a nod as he continued to eat.

John nodded a greeting in return, sat down across from Teyla and Ronon, and started on his own breakfast.

"I heard about what happened on Belkan," John said a few minutes later and frowned when Ronon gave Teyla a startled look. "That you found out there were other survivors from Sateda," he finished. What's with the guilty looks? he wondered.

"Yes," Teyla said with a smile John thought looked a bit forced. "There was much celebrating once Ronon heard the news."

"I'll bet." John glanced over at Ronon as he drank some coffee. "Any of the survivors anyone you knew?"

"A few," Ronon replied. "I knew Solen, the man we met in the village. He mentioned a few others that we served with were still out there on one planet or another."

John nodded and weighed his next question carefully. "You planning to go looking for them?"

Ronon shrugged and looked away.

John pursed his lips and went back to his breakfast.

"I have not yet seen Rodney this morning," Teyla said a few minutes later, and John sighed.

He had hoped to put off this discussion a little longer. With everything he'd been tied up with the day before, he hadn't had a chance to talk to either of them about what had happened on Doranda.

"Not surprised," John muttered and stabbed the fruit on his plate with his fork.

"Colonel?"

John looked over at Teyla and forced his temper back under control. "Things got a little out of control on Doranda," he said.

"We heard," Ronon replied. He picked up the water pitcher next to his plate and drank.

John gave him a puzzled glance.

"Doctor Weir was expressing her displeasure with Rodney in her office when we returned yesterday," Teyla explained. "Something about the destruction of a solar system?" She quirked an eyebrow at John.

John set down the fork and picked up his coffee cup as he tried to think of how to explain not only what had happened with the weapon, but what McKay had done to cause it.

"The weapon went critical and blew up," John said, his voice and expression flat. "Took out the planet and most of the Dorandan system. If the Daedalus hadn't been there, McKay and I would likely be dead as well."

Teyla stared at him for a moment. "I see. And you believe this was Rodney's fault?"

John slammed his cup back on the table.

Several heads turned in their direction, and John glared back at the men and women staring at them. The scientists and Marines at the nearest tables quickly turned away, finished eating, and left.

"He was completely out of control," John told her in a low hiss. "You should have seen him. He was convinced he was smarter than the Ancients and could get the power source and the weapon to work." John shook his head and picked up his fork. "His out-of-control ego nearly got us both killed."

"This is McKay we're talking about," Ronon said and took a bite from the muffin in his hand.

Teyla pursed her lips. "I think what Ronon is trying to say is something like this was likely to happen sooner or later. It should not be that much of a shock there was finally a device Rodney could not fix or a problem he could not solve."

John shook his head. "This was more than just a problem he couldn't solve," John growled. "He was convinced he was right and we were all idiots for doubting him. Zelenka told him the power source was unstable, and the weapon was dangerous. Elizabeth asked him to postpone the test until we knew more. But McKay wouldn't listen. He was only interested in proving how much smarter he was than everyone else. In winning a damn Nobel Prize."

"Nobel Prize?" Teyla asked.

"Fancy science award," John told her and finished his coffee.

"Still, there must be more to what happened than Rodney wanting to prove himself correct," Teyla said after a few seconds.

John pushed his plate away and crossed his arms over his chest. "That was a side of him I'd never seen before. Not like that anyway," he admitted. "Now I understand why so many of the scientists had hated him when we first came here."

John stared out the window behind Teyla's head. "McKay asked me to trust him, so I did, and it nearly got both of us killed. Won't be making that mistake again any time soon."

"John, you do not mean that," Teyla said and touched his arm.

"Yeah, I think I do," John told her shortly.

They were silent for a moment, though John caught the sideways look Teyla gave Dex.

Had something happened to them on Belkan? he wondered. He had been so wrapped up in what had happened on Doranda with McKay, he hadn't had a chance to ask about Teyla's trip to trade for seed.

He glanced from Ronon to Teyla and said, "Did something happen on Belkan I need to know about?"

Teyla picked up her teacup and sipped from it, avoiding John's gaze.

Ronon looked first at Teyla then at John and shrugged.

John had been only mildly interested before, but the way Teyla and Ronon were acting piqued his curiosity. "All right, what's going on with you two?" he asked, his tone, while mostly curious, held the undertones of an order.

Teyla set her cup down, and with what was clearly a warning glance at Ronon said, "There was a misunderstanding while we were negotiating for the flax seed. Nothing more."

John shook his head. For such a well-trained diplomat and negotiator, Teyla could be a terrible liar at times. Of course, the furtive look Dex had given her as she spoke hadn't helped. Something else was going on, he was sure of it. He was about to call them on the deception when Teyla stood up from the table.

"I must go," she said as she gathered up her tray and dishes. "I have a class to teach this morning."

John watched her leave, then looked over at Ronon. "You wanna tell me what really happened on Belkan?"

"Not really," Ronon said. He stood as well, cleared his dishes, and left the room.

John stared after them, considering his options. He could try to force the issue, but it was clear that while something had happened other than a simple trade for seed, neither Ronon nor Teyla was going to tell him what it was. Which left dropping the subject for now.

John poured himself another cup of coffee and wandered down to his office. Along with fresh supplies and saving their backsides on Doranda, the Daedalus had dropped off a new batch of Marines. While Lorne could handle the majority of the paperwork associated with the new personnel, John still needed to meet with each of them and sign off on the duty assignments.

Whatever problems that were brewing between Teyla and Ronon, never mind the issue of McKay, would have to wait.

*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney woke feeling more tired than when he'd gone to bed the night before. Nightmares of not escaping Doranda in time, or Sheppard being horribly killed by another radiation surge meant he hadn't slept well. He glanced at the clock on the desk on his way to the bathroom and noted absently he wouldn't need to find an excuse to miss the team meal; it was already almost nine-thirty. He showered, found a clean uniform, and headed to the mess hall for a solitary breakfast.

There were still a few people in the mess hall when he entered, and Rodney caught more than a few stares and whispered conversations as he gathered his breakfast and headed for a far corner of the room. He sat with his back to the windows and tried to ignore the furtive looks in his direction as he ate.

Sheppard had said he could earn back the trust and friendship he'd lost if he really wanted to. There was nothing Rodney wanted more. The problem was he had no idea how he was supposed to do that.

He poked at his eggs and considered the problem logically. He had a feeling his usual method when dealing with emotional issues, namely, ignore them and hope they go away on their own, wasn't going to work this time. He had already apologised to Sheppard, Radek, and Elizabeth for his actions. What was he supposed to do next?

He'd never been one to grovel, and he didn't think Sheppard really wanted him to anyway. So how was he supposed to regain what he'd lost?

Rodney pushed his plate away, most of his breakfast uneaten, and picked up the coffee cup. The problem, he realised as he drained the cup, was emotions weren't logical. As a result, a logical solution wasn't going to work. Which left him stymied. Sheppard had seemed to accept he meant his apology for destroying the power source, but that clearly hadn't been enough.

Then there was Teyla and Ronon. He had to assume they knew what had happened on Doranda by now; if the rumor mill hadn't given them the details, he was sure Sheppard had. Were they now mad at him for destroying the weapon as well? He wasn't sure how much Ronon had ever trusted him, but he assumed Teyla would be disappointed in him. Needless to say, he wasn't looking forward to his defence lesson that morning.

Maybe part of regaining their trust would be facing them and letting them have their say, Rodney decided. Hopefully, that would allow them to at least move past the initial anger, for the good of the team, if nothing else.

He cleared his dishes, ignored the stares as he left the mess hall, and made his way over to the training room Teyla used for her various defence classes. Rodney heard the clack of the wooden fighting sticks before he reached the door. He stepped into the room and stood to one side, watching as the ten Marines, paired off in teams of two, moved through the various stick forms.

"Excellent, Sergeant Harper," Teyla praised as she walked past one of the pairs.

"Corporal Webber, your weight is not centered," Teyla said and stopped at another pair. "This is why Corporal Nakai was able to overwhelm you so easily." She repositioned Webber's feet and stood back. "Please try again."

Rodney watched as this time the shorter Webber managed to defend himself against the larger Corporal Nakai attacking him.

"Much better," Teyla said to Webber with a smile.

She saw Rodney standing near the door and nodded to him. Rodney nodded back and made his way around the room until he found an empty bench, sat down, and watched the rest of the class with interest. Teyla had been teaching him basic hand-to-hand for the last year or more, but their classes had yet to graduate to any sort of weapon.

He knew both Sheppard and Ronon were proficient in the use of any number of weapons, including the short sticks Teyla used. Maybe he should be as well, he thought as he watched the various pairs of men and women move through the forms. Rodney winced as Webber missed a block and Nakai landed a solid hit to Webber's ribs.

Then again, maybe it was just as well Teyla kept his training to just hand-to-hand, Rodney decided as Webber rubbed his side. After a moment, Webber reset, and he and Nakai moved through the form again.

Ten minutes later, Teyla dismissed the class and walked over to the bench where Rodney waited.

"Rodney," Teyla greeted once her students were gone. She sat on the bench next to him. "You were missed at breakfast this morning."

Rodney grunted, not sure if he believed her, and looked down at his feet. "I take it you heard what happened on Doranda?" He glanced over at her in time to see her nod.

"Yes," she replied. "Ronon and I heard Doctor Weir … discussing the matter with you yesterday when we returned from Belkan."

Rodney hunched his shoulders at the reminder of the dressing down he'd received after he and Sheppard returned.

"Colonel Sheppard told us what happened at breakfast," Teyla said and laid a hand on his leg.

Rodney snorted. "I'm sure he had a few choice things to say on the matter."

Teyla gave him a sad smile, and Rodney noticed she didn't disagree.

"Are you all right?" she asked a moment later.

Rodney stared at her. Of all the reactions he expected, concern for his well-being hadn't been one of them. He'd expected her to be angry with him, everyone else was. He wasn't sure how to react and fell back on his standby of scorn and sarcasm.

"Am I all right?" Rodney snapped and stood. "I'm perfectly fine. Unlike Collins." He paced a few steps away from Teyla and crossed his arms over his chest. What anger and frustration he felt dropped away when he noticed Teyla watching him, her expression sympathetic. "I-I don't know how to fix this," he admitted softly. "I asked Sheppard to trust me, and everything blew up in my face." He quirked a self-mocking smile. "Literally."

Teyla leaned her back against the wall. "I told you once before you and Colonel Sheppard have a strong bond. I'm sure you will be able to move past this."

Rodney shook his head. "This is more than just a fight over bad dating choices." He looked over at Teyla. "He told me he doesn't trust me any more. I-I can't really blame him for that, I guess. I told him I could get the weapon to work, and I was wrong. I'm just not sure something like that can be fixed."

Teyla walked over to him and grasped his hand. "You will find a way," she told him.

Rodney looked down at her hand holding his and shrugged. "Maybe."

Teyla squeezed his fingers. "However, you must first understand the real reason Colonel Sheppard told you he no longer trusted you."

Rodney gave her a puzzled look.

"It may not be for the reason you think," she added cryptically and let go of his hand.

What was that supposed to mean? he wondered as Teyla walked back to the bench and found a bottle of water in her workout bag.

"I have asked Doctor Weir for permission to take a jumper out to the mainland and deliver the flax seed to Halling and the others," Teyla said and took a drink from the bottle. "Doctor Beckett offered to pilot the jumper. He wants to check on Charin and a few of the others. Would you like to join us? If I remember correctly, you sometimes desire a change of scene when you need to … consider a problem."

Rodney gave her a crooked smile. He knew she was referring to the last time he and Sheppard had had a fight. His attempt at finding a quiet planet to consider everything that had happened with Chaya had ended with him and Teyla kidnapped by marauders.

Rodney shook his head. "Sheppard made me promise after everything that happened with Rasha not to disappear the next time I was mad at him. I guess the same rule applies if he's the one angry at me. If I want to earn back his trust, I can't go haring off even if it is just to the mainland."

Teyla smiled. "I believe that is a wise decision," she told him. She tucked her fighting sticks away and turned back to Rodney. "It will not be quick," she said, "but in time, I believe you and Colonel Sheppard will find a way to resolve this, and your bond will only be stronger as a result."

"I hope you're right," Rodney muttered to himself.

"Come," Teyla said and waved Rodney into the center of the room. "Show me how much you have been practising."

An hour later, Rodney headed back to his quarters for a quick shower and a change of clothes. His encounter with Teyla had gone better than he'd hoped, and with a little more confidence in his step, he decided to try and get some work done.

Rodney walked into his lab and let the door close behind him. He was checking his desk for any notes from Zelenka when he heard a tap on the door. Before he could decide whether or not to ignore whoever wanted to talk to him, the door opened, and Radek walked into the room carrying a tablet computer.

"Rodney," Zelenka greeted. He stopped just inside the door with the computer clutched against his chest.

"Radek," Rodney replied and stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets.

They stared at each other for a few seconds until Zelenka took a few steps forward, pushed up his glasses, and held out the computer. "I thought you would want to know, the botanists finished their analysis of the plants Sergeant Thompson's team brought back from P2R-483."

Rodney took the computer and glanced through the report. "Anything interesting?"

"Depends on what you think is interesting," Radek replied. His body movement became more animated as he looked at the computer screen upside down and point to a line of data near the bottom.

"They're all toxic?" Rodney asked, looking up from the screen.

Radek nodded. "To humans, yes. The animal life on the planet does not seem to be affected in any adverse way. Sergeant Garcia's allergic reaction was actually mild compared to what would have happened if his team had tried to eat any of the fruits they found."

Rodney remembered seeing Garcia soon after Carson had released him from the infirmary. Even with Beckett's ointment, he'd been covered in itchy welts for several days.

"Wonderful," Rodney said and handed back the computer. "One more planet off the list of potential alpha sites."

Zelenka glanced around the room. "Where is the prototype of the new shield emitter?" he asked and walked over to the work table, bare of everything except the Ancient mystery box Rodney had been working on the day before. "I thought you were close to having a working model for testing."

Rodney shook his head and turned back to the desk. "Turns out, it's going to need more work than I thought," he muttered, not looking at Zelenka.

"I see," Radek replied, and Rodney felt the muscles in his back tighten at Zelenka's knowing tone. "In that case, shall I start work on modifications to the desalination plant?"

Rodney wanted to tell him 'no', that the plant was doing an adequate job, they didn't need to try and improve it, but at the last minute, he changed his mind. He was surrounded by Ancient technology. They still needed to understand everything they could about the city's systems and how they worked.

"Yes, fine," Rodney told him impatiently. "If we can increase the efficiency, it will be less of a drain on the Zed-PM."

Zelenka studied him for a moment longer, then with a nod and a half-smile, he left.

Rodney stared at the closed door for a moment, then wandered over to the rack of Ancient devices and pulled one off a shelf. He moved the box out of the way, set the device down on the work table, retrieved his laptop from the desk, and sat down. He turned the small rectangular object over in his hand a few times before he remembered it was the small remote control device he'd found in the ruins on P2J-883 just before he and Teyla had been kidnapped by Rasha.

He started a search of the Ancient database to find out any information on what the device would have controlled, then settled down to figure out how it worked.

Several hours later, he had the remote control in several pieces as he studied the various components. The power cell was ingenious for both its small size and how much energy it could store. If he could figure out a way to reproduce it, cell phones and computers could potentially function for months without needing to recharge.

"Weir to Doctor McKay," he heard over the radio as he set the power cell to one side for further study.

Rodney hesitated a moment before he tapped his earpiece. "McKay here."

"Rodney, I need to see you in my office," Elizabeth told him, and Rodney could tell something was off in her tone.

"What's happened?" he asked.

"I'll explain when you get here. Weir out."

What now? he wondered as he stood up from the work table and left the lab.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Elizabeth stood on the balcony outside her office, a cup of coffee warming her hands as she watched the morning light play across the towers of the city. It was times like these when she felt the most alive. She was standing in an alien city, on a planet in another galaxy. There were days when she almost pinched herself wanting to make sure it was all real.

Then there were days where she had to deal with the harsh realities of life in another galaxy. Realities like one of the members of her expedition destroying a solar system. She shook her head as she sipped her coffee.

"Doctor Weir," Chuck said over the radio. "We have an incoming wormhole from M3X-649. Looks like it's Major Lorne reporting in on schedule."

Elizabeth swallowed the last of her coffee, stepped back into the office, and tapped her radio. "Thank you, Sergeant. I'll be right there." She set the empty cup on the end of her desk and walked across the bridge to the control room.

Chuck glanced up at her when she stopped next to him. "Channel open," he told her.

Elizabeth nodded her thanks and spoke, "Major Lorne, this is Weir. How is the negotiation going?"

"We've nearly wrapped up all of the initial ceremonies, ma'am. If all goes to plan, we should be ready to present our trade offer in the next day or two."

Elizabeth frowned. "Are you sure I can't be of assistance, Major. This trade deal seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time."

"I don't disagree, ma'am," Lorne replied, and Elizbeth heard the underlying frustration in his tone, "but the people here on Traegon take their ceremonies seriously. If we changed negotiators now, they would insist on the need to start over with the necessary rituals."

Elizabeth clasped her hands in front of her. "Understood, Major. Do the best you can to move things along. We need those supplies."

"Yes, ma'am. Lorne out."

"What's the status of the other off-world teams?" Elizabeth asked Chuck.

Chuck checked his computer. "Sergeant Stackhouse's team is due back later tonight. Sergeant Thompson should be checking in later this afternoon."

Elizabeth nodded and turned toward her office. "Let me know when Thompson dials in."

"Yes, ma'am," Chuck said, and Elizabeth went back into her office.

Their weekly check-in with Stargate Command was in a few days, and she still needed to figure out the best way to explain what had happened on Doranda. She knew there were any number of people who would be disappointed when they read the report on the loss of the weapon and power source.

The rest of her morning and early afternoon was taken up with meetings. Doctor Heller broke the news the plant life on P2R-483 was poisonous to humans. She thanked him for the information and made a note the planet was not a viable candidate for an alpha site.

She then had a meeting with the astrobiology team wanting to propose a mission to study the ocean on M8R-159. She listened and agreed the mission had potential and asked for a specific proposal on what they needed and how they would conduct their research since the ocean was covered in ice.

After meeting with Carson, who updated her on his current patients, thankfully few, and the progress he'd made on his Wraith retrovirus, slow but steady, Elizabeth sat in front of her computer, a blank document open in front of her as she pondered her report on the Arcturus power source and weapon.

She had typed and deleted the beginning of the report twice when she saw Chuck heading toward her office. "Umm, Doctor Weir?" he said from the doorway.

"Chuck?" she asked and pushed the computer to one side. "Is something the matter?" She glanced at her watch. "I thought Sergeant Thompson wasn't due to check-in for another two hours."

"It's not Sergeant Thompson, ma'am." Chuck glanced behind him, then stepped into her office. "We're receiving a subspace transmission from Colonel Caldwell."

"Caldwell?" She frowned. "He should be halfway back to the Milky Way by now."

Chuck nodded. "He says he has an urgent message from Stargate Command," he told her, and Elizabeth saw the worry in his eyes.

She sighed and closed her computer. "Understood. Put him through."

"Yes, ma'am," Chuck said and returned to his station. He glanced at the office, gave her a nod, and Elizabeth tapped her earpiece.

"Colonel Caldwell? This is Weir." She picked up the stylus for her computer and twisted it through her fingers.

"Doctor Weir, I think you can guess why I'm calling," Caldwell said.

"I assume you managed to get a data burst through to Stargate Command," Elizabeth replied and didn't bother to hide her frustration. "Jut how far did you have to backtrack in order for a subspace signal to reach Atlantis, Colonel?"

Caldwell ignored the barb and said, "General Landry ordered me to pass along a message, Doctor. He wants you to dial in to the SGC as soon as we're done here. Needless to say, some people have some questions about the Arcturus project and what went wrong."

"I'll just bet they do," Elizabeth muttered to herself. "Understood, Colonel," she added loud enough for the radio to pick up. "Thank you for passing along their concerns." She tapped her earpiece and sat back in her chair.

It seemed she wasn't going to need to worry about that report, after all, she realised. What did Caldwell think he would accomplish sending his report first? She tossed the stylus back on the desk and walked out to the control room.

"Doctor Weir?" Chuck asked, his tone grim.

"Dial Earth please, Sergeant," Elizabeth replied as she stopped next to his console. "It seems I have an unscheduled meeting with General Landry."

Chuck pursed his lips. "Yes, ma'am," he replied and started to dial the 'gate.

The wormhole formed with its usual whoosh. Elizabeth watched the watery event horizon shimmer in front of her, hoping to find a sense of calm before the confrontation she knew was coming. Chuck tapped one of the tiles on the console in front of him and nodded to Elizabeth.

"This is Atlantis base calling the SGC," Elizabeth said, unconsciously raising her voice.

"Elizabeth, you got my message," General Landry replied a few seconds later.

"I did, General. Though I'm surprised this couldn't wait until our normal day to call home."

There was a long pause over the radio, and Elizabeth knew Landry wasn't buying her bluff.

"Doctor McKay loses control of what could potentially be one of the best weapons we have against the Wraith, not to mention any number of hostile alien populations in the Milky Way galaxy, and you're surprised the brass want to know what happened?"

Elizabeth glared at the shimmering event horizon. "And you and I both know that's not what this is about, General. The brass," she drawled, "is looking for someone to blame."

"Probably, yes," Landry admitted. Elizabeth was grateful he didn't try to deny what was happening.

"I won't deny that mistakes were made, General, but this isn't right. I think you know that."

"Be that as it may," Landry replied, "you need to send Doctor McKay back here. Now. There have been a few changes since you were here last. A member of your expedition was killed, too many people want answers for a weekly data burst to suffice."

Elizabeth pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. If she let Rodney go, there was no guarantee he'd be allowed to come back.

"I need Doctor McKay on this base, General," Elizabeth said. "Even after everything that happened on Doranda, he's our best chance of surviving the Wraith and anything else the Pegasus galaxy has to throw at us."

"I understand that, Doctor Weir," Landry replied, and Elizabeth heard his tone shift from discussion to order as he added, "but this isn't up for debate. I expect to see Doctor McKay on this base within the hour."

Elizabeth shook her head and clenched her hands behind her back. "I think --"

"And before you even suggest it, I was given specific instructions that Doctor McKay was to come alone. This is an enquiry into Doctor McKay's actions and how those actions led to the destruction of a powerful weapon and energy source, and the Dorandan system, not to mention the death of Doctor Collins."

"General --" Elizabeth tried again.

"No, Doctor."

"This isn't right."

"It's not a question of right, Elizabeth. It's a question of politics. One hour. Landry out." A few seconds later, the 'gate shut down.

Elizabeth stared down at the now silent 'gate for a moment. She felt Chuck and every other person in the control room staring at her as she unclenched her hands and slowly walked back to her office. She closed the door behind her and tapped her earpiece.

"Weir to Doctor McKay," she said.

There was a long pause before Rodney answered, and Elizabeth wondered what he'd been doing that she was interrupting him. "McKay here."

"Rodney, I need to see you in my office," Elizabeth said, trying to keep her voice and tone as normal as possible.

"What's happened?" he asked, and Elizabeth heard the mix of suspicion and fear in his voice.

Elizabeth closed her eyes. She didn't like what was about to happen, but she didn't have any way to stop it, either. "I'll explain when you get here. Weir out."