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The Knights of the Pegasus Galaxy vs. the Chicken Pox

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One of the best things about being five years old again was bedtime. John loved bedtime. He typically started getting drowsy a few hours after dinner, and it was a luxury to be able to go to his quarters and not feel guilty that he’d left work unfinished, or worry that someone might need him for something. He could simply go to bed and enjoy it.

And he really did enjoy the rituals of bedtime, something he’d forgotten about childhood, from a time when he never had to dig someone’s blood out from under his fingernails or check the stitches on a knife wound before hitting the sheets. He liked not being nearly dead on his feet when he got ready to turn in, liked taking the time to thoroughly brush his teeth, wash his soft-cheeked face, and slide into his truly glorious Athosian pajamas.

Ah. Sweet, sweet pajamas.

They had once been Jinto’s, and John loved them. They were made from an incredibly soft deep blue fabric that felt fuzzy and warm against clean skin. The only thing they were missing was attached feet, but a pair of socks filled in nicely, and really, it was hard to be anything but in love with the world when you were basically wearing footie pajamas.

One of the benefits of a sentient city was that the lights were always just right, which had spared him the humiliation of asking for a nightlight. Sleep came easy in the gentle light of his room, a gradual sinking into good dreams as the city quieted around him.

While his body was reliving childhood during the day, his mind was reliving it at night, and his sleeping brain was cooperative in dredging up only the good stuff about his early years. He dreamt of pee-wee football games, baseball and hot dogs with his father, his mother hugging him on his first day of kindergarten. Of playing fetch in the yard with his dog, seeing how many times he could ride his bike around the block in one minute, and the first time he tied his shoes by himself.

Bedtime was so enjoyable, it almost made up for the fact that he was absolutely not allowed to have even one beer until he was big again.

The knock on his door was insistent enough to drag him from another nostalgic dream, the phantom taste of Play-Doh (smelled so good, tasted so bad) lingering on his tongue. He was still a little groggy and off-kilter as he wobbled toward the door, the toe of one sock flapping.

It was Rodney, swiping at his tear-streaked face and clutching his pillow. His chin was in the air, a reasonable facsimile of defiance, but his lower lip was trembling.

Whether you were five years old or thirty-five, a guy only showed up at your door holding his pillow for one reason, so John stepped aside to let him in.

Rodney’s bare feet made squeaky noises against the floor as he darted into the room. He’d spurned Athosian pajamas in favor of sleeping in one of his old T-shirts, which came down past his knees. It was probably comforting for him in some way, so John squashed the urge to mention it looked a lot like a dress.

“Bad dream?” John asked as Rodney squeaked his way over to the bed. He nodded as he wiggled his way under the blankets, but didn’t elaborate. John climbed in next to him and pulled the covers up. “Want to talk about it?”

Rodney shook his head, hiccupping wetly as he scooted closer to share John’s pillow. He was still holding his own pillow to his chest like a teddy bear, and didn’t look prepared to let go anytime soon. John wasn’t fooled by his silence, though. There wasn’t anything Rodney didn’t want to talk about at length, especially concerning himself.

After a few minutes, Rodney took a deep, shuddery breath. “If something happened to the city,” he said, “if the Genii or the Wraith--“

“I know.” John tried not to think about how vulnerable they were right now, and how little use they’d be in an emergency. Rodney was apparently obsessing over it to the point of nightmares.

“This sucks,” Rodney said, sniffling some more. John hitched closer and Rodney turned on his side, the pillow squished between them, the wet clumps of his eyelashes casting jagged shadows on his cheeks. He looked very small and very sad.

“It’ll be okay,” John said, mussing Rodney’s hair, which was admittedly already pretty mussed, but he wasn’t passing up a chance to indulge.

His newfound obsession with Rodney’s hair was something he was blaming on the transformation. Part of what fascinated him was probably just the novelty of seeing Rodney with so much hair. John never would have guessed, but apparently young Rodney had possessed a head of curls that were soft and silky (and shiny and glossy and a bunch of other adjectives John normally never used to describe another guy’s hair) and hilariously messy. Combined with his huge blue eyes and his chubby round cheeks, he looked like a little cherub.

A bad-tempered, foul-mouthed cherub, sure, but the resemblance was there, especially when Rodney wasn’t talking.

Whatever the fascination, playing with Rodney’s baby curls was definitely not Air Force colonel behavior. Too bad John couldn’t stop.

“It’ll be okay,” he said again, tugging on one curl and letting it spring free. He expected Rodney to slap his hand away like he usually did, but he only sighed, a soft, pitiful sound, and stayed quiet. His eyelids began to droop and pretty soon he was asleep, one hand fisted in John’s pajama top.

Another great thing about being five years old was waking up. John’s eyes popped open bright and early each morning, without need of an alarm clock, and he could spring right out of bed to face the day. No stiff joints or aching lower back, no chance of looking in the mirror and seeing yet another gray hair.

He also woke up each and every morning ravenously hungry. Pancakes, John thought, and his stomach gurgled in agreement.

Rodney was curled on the edge of the bed, still holding onto his pillow for dear life. John sat up and nudged him with his foot. “Hey. Time to get up.”

Rodney made a disgruntled sound and lashed out with one arm, hitting nothing but blanket. John thought about letting him sleep, but then his stomach rumbled again. He kicked him a second time, a little harder, and Rodney snarled as he sat up, hair wild, eyelids puffy.

“This sucks,” he said again, mood obviously not improved from the night before. Sighing like a man who had the weight of the world on his five-year-old shoulders, he threw the covers back and slid off the bed. His shirt caught on the mattress, coming up as the body in it came down, and John got a quick flash of Rodney’s startlingly white bare bottom.

“I saw your butt!” John shrieked, tipping over in a fit of giggles, and he kept giggling, even after Rodney started hitting him with his pillow.

Rodney started showing up at John’s door semi-regularly, maybe a couple times a week, and John had the impression he wasn’t getting much decent sleep elsewhere. The hollows under his eyes were dark, and he yawned a lot during meetings, which were hell as it was, what with having the attention spans of kindergartners.

John felt slightly guilty about enjoying bedtime so much when Rodney was clearly tormented and unhappy, but he seemed to do better when he stayed with John, and there wasn’t really much else he could do to help him. And after a while, John got used to nearly snorting Rodney’s hair up his nose when he woke up.

Then one morning he woke up and rolled over and frowned at the pink polka dots scattered across Rodney’s cheeks.

Rodney opened his eyes and stared back at John, and they both said, “What happened to your face?” at the same time.

“Chicken pox? How is it possible for us to have chicken pox? I've already had them!” Rodney was irate. Feverish, spotty, and irate. Carson was already rubbing his temples and eyeing his private stash of ibuprofen with longing.

“They aren’t the same strain of chicken pox,” Carson said, feigning patience admirably. “They’re the Pegasus galaxy version, which--“

“So why is no one else infected? And how did we get them? We haven’t gone anywhere in weeks!” Rodney was firing the questions out faster than Carson could answer them.

John licked his Jell-O spoon and gave the nurse a hopeful look. She’d let him sit on her lap while Carson sampled his blood, but she evidently drew the sympathy line at second helpings, because she shook her head, mouth quirking in amusement. Sighing, he put down the empty dish and decided it was time to intervene.

“I guess we just let them run their course then?” he asked, thinking back to his previous bout with chicken pox in the second grade.

“Yes, exactly,” Carson said, looking grateful at least one of them was taking this in stride.

“And why haven’t Ronon and Larry come down with them?” Rodney asked, voice ever more shrill, just as Teyla walked in, accompanying a speckled Ronon.

Carson sighed and rubbed his temples some more. “Perhaps we should find Larry.”

They all ended up in quarantine. Carson ordered them moved to one of the larger apartments, where he assigned a rotation of medical staff to basically babysit them and take their temperatures (orally, thank God) and hand out doses of applesauce spiked with crushed Tylenol.

They only felt sick for the first two days, but it was a long, cranky two days in which they fought over just about everything, and called each other names five-year-olds shouldn’t know. They whined a lot and flopped around in feverish little sprawls, and compared counts to see who had the most blisters.

Larry wanted to be cuddled all the time, and most of the female staff seemed happy to oblige him, which made John jealous, but he was not admitting to it, so he picked on Rodney instead. Ronon got sulky and wouldn’t cooperate because he couldn’t see Teyla. Rodney demanded--and got--more attention than the rest of them combined, ranging from pillow fluffings to hourly changes of the ice in his water, and ate an ungodly number of cheese doodles.

After the worst was over, though, having space chicken pox was kind of awesome. The kitchen staff made them Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes every morning, and hot cocoa whenever they wanted, and even improvised some popsicles with tongue depressor sticks. Ronon had a steady supply of his favorite macaroni and cheese, and it seemed like half the personnel had donated their blue Jell-O to Rodney. All of Atlantis pitched in board games and handheld computer games and DVDs for them, and they played Pegasus Knights until they’d all beaten the game at least once.

There was one more bad spell when the scabs started to itch, and Ronon spent an entire day in gauze mittens, gnawing at the tape securing them to his wrists, which was enough to make the rest of them sit meekly and concentrate on not scratching.

After they were all scabbed over they probably weren’t contagious anymore, but Carson was being cautious, so he kept them separate from the rest of the population for a few more days. Because they were feeling fine and had been cunningly well-behaved, they were left to their own devices for the better part of the afternoon each day.

On the second unsupervised afternoon, they snuck out.

They went straight to the clubhouse, of course, which wasn’t actually any more entertaining than the tricked-out quarantine room, but it was their space, and after looking at the same four walls for so long, it was a relief just to be somewhere else.

John had his watch, which spun loosely around his wrist even on the last hole, and had set the alarm so they would be back in time. Rodney had his laptop with him, and was monitoring for any sign their escape had been noticed. Larry knew every cubbyhole and secret passageway in the city, and would be able to get them back to quarantine without being spotted. Ronon had his rubber knife, which probably wasn’t any good in this situation, but had eased the sting when all his real ones had been confiscated (though John suspected the tantrum had been all for show--he was pretty sure Ronon still had an actual knife or two somewhere).

It was a perfect plan.

So perfect, it was bound to go totally FUBAR almost immediately.

Ronon was staring longingly out the window when the klaxon started. They all jumped, looking at each other in wide-eyed panic. Busted!

Rodney was tapping away at his computer within seconds. “Not us,” he said. “It’s not us.”

John wasn’t sure that made him feel better. It was nice to know they hadn’t set off a city-wide alarm over an afternoon of playing hooky, but that meant it was potentially something far worse.

Then another alarm went off, one John had never heard before, a deep, whooping wail that made his brain feel like it was vibrating.

“What is that?” Larry shouted over the din, face twisted with fear. Rodney was pale, and John thought briefly of his nightmares, and how maybe one of them was about to come true.

Ronon, still at the window, shouted, “Incoming!” just before there was a loud boom that shook the whole building. John reached for his sidearm out of habit, finding only the seam of his pants, and saw Ronon do the same.

They crowded together at the window, staring in shock at the spaceship that had just crashed into Atlantis.

The security teams were fast. The ship was surrounded inside a minute, and they could hear Lorne shouting for a slow, hands-up exit. John looked on with a mixture of envy and worry, wishing he could be part of the excitement, wishing he knew exactly what was happening down there.

Rodney was already back to his laptop, face pinched, fingers flying. “They had some kind of cloaking technology. The sensors didn’t even know they were here until they were right on top of us.”

Outside, a door opened on the side of the ship and a ramp came down. The men who stepped out were unarmed, but even from a distance John could tell something wasn’t right. Their posture, or--

Goddamn it. “Rodney? What are they doing?” Larry’s head swiveled to look at John as he picked up the urgency in his voice. Ronon had gone completely, absolutely still, which meant John wasn’t imagining things--something was off down there. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“I’m getting at least three dozen life signs inside the ship. I’m picking up a signal...looks like they’re talking to another ship somewhere.”

Another ship?” John felt cold all over. This was so bad.

Rodney looked up, eyes wide with shock. “I think we’re being invaded.”

That was exactly what happened, and they made it look embarrassingly easy.

Another ship appeared above the first and began firing on Lorne’s men, and within seconds there were three more ships pouring enemy soldiers into Atlantis.

“They’re all over the city,” Rodney said, huddled on the floor with the laptop. “Zelenka’s sealing off what he can, but they’re already taking prisoners.” He paused, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. “They’ve got Atlantis.”

“Okay,” John said, as if Rodney had just told him they were having meatloaf for dinner, because Larry looked completely freaked, and Ronon looked two minutes from going on a killing spree. He wanted everyone calm and thinking straight. “We need to figure out how we’re going to stop them.”

Rodney lowered his hands, blinking at John in disbelief. He had two red spots around his eyes where he’d pressed the skin. “Stop them? How are we going to stop them?” He spread his arms wide, a gesture to include them all. “We’re kids!”

“I’m still a colonel,” John said, feeling insulted.

“Yes, a colonel who’s afraid of the dark,” Rodney sneered, and John felt the color fan hotly across his cheeks. He should have realized Rodney would figure it out, but he’d never mentioned it, and John had allowed that to lull him into a false sense of security.

“Oh, yeah? At least I wear underwear to bed!” he shot back, which, on the list of lame comebacks, was probably one notch below "I know you are, but what am I?"

Larry was looking back and forth between Rodney and John, mouth hanging open, and John wondered which revelation had been more surprising for him.

“Sheppard’s right,” Ronon said, then fell silent. Even in child form, he was a master at being succinct.

After a tense moment, Rodney sighed and went back to pressing his eyeballs. “I need to get to a terminal,” he said.

Ronon and John looked at Larry, who grinned. “No problem.”

Ronon grunted as he pulled the ceiling tile free, and one by one they all dropped down onto the table below, sweaty and dusty. Larry was visibly pleased he’d gotten them halfway across the city completely undetected, and they’d only had to double back once.

They were in an auxiliary lab, one cleared for use but not yet occupied. Rodney hooked his laptop up to the Ancient terminal interface and began typing away, muttering busily to himself. Ronon prowled back and forth in front of the door while John and Larry stood around uneasily, jumping at every little noise.

When he couldn’t take the waiting anymore, John stood behind Rodney, watching the data scroll down the screen, Ancient on one side, English on the other. He expected to get yelled at for distracting him, or breathing too loud, or standing too close, or existing in his space, but Rodney said nothing, focused grimly on the computer screen.

After a few more agonizing minutes, Rodney said, “Huh. They’re...not quite human.”

Larry and Ronon joined John at Rodney’s shoulder. “What does that mean?” John asked him.

“It means they’re not quite human.”

John often had to tamp down the urge to strangle Rodney. This was one of those times. “I’m asking if it can help us.”

“Maybe.” He went back to scrolling, but his forehead had that little thinking crease in the middle that usually meant good news was on the way. “I think they’re called the Bruni. They were a pretty formidable enemy, looks like. Nothing like the Wraith, of course, but bad news.”

“How do we kill them?” Ronon asked.

“We might not have to kill them to stop them,” John said quickly, seeing Larry blanch. He’d forgotten Larry wasn’t used to this sort of thing. He was new to Atlantis, and so far had spent most of his time peacefully studying animals.

“No, we don’t, actually,” Rodney agreed. “We can maybe...huh. Okay, yes.” He looked up at John, smiling smugly. “We are going to kick their asses.”

John probably would have started jumping around and high-fiving people, but that was when the door opened and the soldiers walked in.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” Rodney muttered as they were marched through the corridors of Atlantis. “I should have taken the time to put an extra level of security on the door. Stupid.”

“It’s not your fault,” John said under his breath. He wanted to keep up the illusion that they were just a bunch of kids, and Rodney was putting that illusion in serious danger. “I should have thought of it, too.”

“Two minutes! It would have taken two minutes.”

“Shut up, Rodney,” Larry whispered. Trembling on the edge of tears, he was doing the best imitation of a five-year-old, though it probably wasn’t strictly an act.

Ronon wasn't so good at pretending. He’d put up the toughest fight, and one of the soldiers was steering him through the halls with a hand on the back of his neck. Ronon stared straight ahead, proud and defiant, and not very childlike at all.

The soldiers were going by appearances, though, and talked casually amongst themselves and over their radios, giving away a lot more information than they probably would have in front of adult prisoners. John had learned his lesson on M7G-677, and knew better than to underestimate children. These guys had obviously never been there.

By the time they got to the main tower, John knew the operation was being run by a General Sprewer, who was here in the city, and they were out of radio contact with their home world. He also knew Zelenka had managed to shut down all the transporters and most of the doors, which was at least slowing the search teams down. All things that were good to know.

When they entered the gateroom, John was surprised to see how crowded it was. Armed soldiers were stationed at each doorway, and there was what appeared to be a Bruni tech crew clustered around the DHD console. Most of the Atlantis personnel were assembled on the floor near the stargate, penned in like cattle.

Ronon broke free as they came down the stairs and ran straight to Teyla, planting himself in front of her and glaring at the room in general. Their escort looked down at the rest of them and gruffly said, “Go on.”

Rodney was the first to figure out they were being told to go to their parents. He trotted over to Elizabeth, who put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him close to her side. Larry made a beeline for one of the more cuddly nurses standing with Carson and the rest of the medical staff, and was enfolded in a hug.

Caught off guard and forced to make a snap decision--and with Elizabeth already claimed by Rodney--John ended up with Lorne, who looked fatally constipated as he awkwardly patted John on the head and mumbled something that was probably meant to appear fatherly and reassuring.

“You okay?” John asked, trying to keep his voice low so no one would hear and get suspicious. Lorne had a bloody bandage around his arm, but didn't look mortally wounded.

“Caught a little shrapnel, nothing serious--" he said, catching himself on the “sir” before he said it. No one seemed to notice but John.

“Everyone make it back?”

Lorne shook his head as he hunkered down in front of John and pulled him between his knees, giving the impression of a father comforting his son. John leaned in close, until their faces were almost touching. “Six unaccounted for,” Lorne said quietly. “Maybe more. They’re still bringing people in. We didn’t--they got the drop on us.”

He looked pissed at himself. John knew the feeling. “You did a good job,” he said. “No one knew what was coming.”

Lorne nodded, but didn’t look any happier. “Got any ideas?”

“Rodney does, but he didn’t get a chance to explain it before they grabbed us.”

Before they could talk more, there was a sudden hum of subtle activity in the gateroom, a palpable straightening and coming to attention that was probably imperceptible to people who hadn’t spent half a lifetime in the military. John felt it at once, as did Lorne, who straightened back up.

John spotted General Sprewer right away, recognizing him both by the way he carried himself and by the pod of subordinates hovering around him. He was a small, hard-looking man, carrying a weapon like the other soldiers. It didn't look like it was just for show.

The way he paused at the top of stairs, surveying his new domain, was infuriating. John felt Lorne's hand on his shoulder, either to commiserate or to keep him from doing something stupid, John wasn't sure which. He was grateful on both counts.

One of the subordinates pointed at Elizabeth, and Sprewer came down the stairs to stand in front of her. “Dr. Weir, it is a pleasure to meet you,” he said, with no pleasure in his voice at all. “I believe--"

“I want to play my computer game,” Rodney announced, cutting off the general, who looked down at him in surprise. Rodney stared up at him, tiny fists clenched at his sides, lower lip sticking out in a stubborn pout. The portrait of a petulant child.

John had to hand it to Carson, he was quick to pick up on the whole thing. “The little ones shouldn’t be out here,” he said. “They’re still contagious, and if you don’t have this disease on your world...” Carson let the Bruni complete that thought on their own. John noticed several soldiers shuffling their feet, inching back as they eyed the scabs.

General Sprewer looked from Rodney to John to Larry to Ronon, taking in their spotted appearance, and then nodded. “Separate them from the others.”

“You can play your game in my office,” Elizabeth told Rodney, looking to the general to make sure that was okay. He nodded again and waved his hand, assigning a guard detail without ever speaking a word. John was grudgingly impressed.

They were efficiently escorted back up the stairs and into Elizabeth's office, where Rodney snatched the laptop off the desk before the door even slid shut, crawling under the desk with it. John saw the guard on the other side of the door smiling indulgently before he turned his back.

Out in the gateroom, squads of Bruni continued to bring in people from all over Atlantis, until the floor was packed with personnel. John stood at one of the windows, trying to figure out what their next move might be, wishing Rodney would hurry up.

The Bruni techs were still huddled over the DHD, and when John saw them trying to unsuccessfully punch in an address, another puzzle piece fell into place. Zelenka had obviously locked down the gate, and whatever their plan was, it involved opening a wormhole.

Following a short conference between the general and one of his subordinates, Chuck was hustled over and shoved into the chair. He shook his head, then turned to his keyboard when Sprewer gestured at him with the barrel of his gun. John couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was a fair bet they wanted him to enable the DHD.

After a minute of typing that John suspected was just for show, Chuck shook his head again. This time, General Sprewer grabbed his arm and turned him back toward the keyboard, pushing him impatiently. Down on the gateroom floor, the soldiers were prodding and herding the Atlantis personnel, getting them into orderly lines, each one facing the stargate.

John's heart twisted as realization set in. They were planning to gate everyone out of the city. To a planet, if they were lucky. To a gate somewhere in orbit if they weren’t.

He turned away from the window. “Rodney, we need to do something now.”

“Thanks for the tip, Colonel,” Rodney hissed from under the desk. “I guess I’ll have to pause my Tetris game.”

“I’m not kidding,” John said, rounding the desk to kneel in front of him. “They're going to open the gate and send everyone through.”

Rodney was frowning with concentration, small fingers whipping over the keys. “Okay. Okay. It’s almost done. I need to get to the console, though.”

Finally, time to take action. It was a relief to be able to do something, instead of just standing by helplessly. “We'll create a diversion,” he said, waving Larry and Ronon over.

Rodney never looked up, just kept tapping keys. “Yes, yes, whatever.”

Ronon and Larry crowded in next to John, looking at him expectantly. “Here’s the plan,” he said.

Larry handled it like a pro. The staged squabble went off without a hitch, and John thought it looked pretty real, the way Larry wouldn’t give Ronon his rubber knife back. When he ran for the door, John opened it for him easily, and Larry was free, screaming with victory and racing along the gateroom balcony. Ronon, Rodney, and John streaked after him, and it was those few seconds of surprise, and the Bruni’s reluctance to shoot children, that gave them an opening.

Ronon took down the first of the two soldiers standing near the console. He leapt high, clinging to his back like a monkey, and the man went down struggling, unable to shake him. As John ran by, he saw Ronon had a knife--a real knife--pressed to the guy’s throat. “I knew it!” he crowed, and saw a quick flash of Ronon’s teeth as he grinned.

John almost blew his own arm off trying to disarm the other one, but a few well-placed kicks to the shins distracted him long enough to grab the gun with both hands and pull with all his weight. He brought the butt of the gun up and hit the guy in the nose, then trained the business end on him.

“I’ll shoot!” he shouted, voice embarrassingly screechy. “I will!” The soldier took his hands off his bleeding nose and reluctantly put them in the air, looking pissed off and a little embarrassed that he’d just had his ass handed to him by a kid.

Everyone else backed away from them, guns pointed toward the ceiling. Rodney was already at work, unnoticed in the confusion, yanking the panel off the console, pulling crystals and re-routing wires. Larry was nowhere to be seen, having hopefully vanished into one of his hidey holes.

Unfortunately, the initial shock of their attack seemed to be wearing off quickly, as everyone realized that, despite being well-armed, John and Ronon were still children. General Sprewer was the first to step forward, breaking away from the group.

“I’ll kill him,” John said again, stepping closer to the bleeding soldier, cursing the shrillness in his voice that took every ounce of intimidation out of it. He was tempted to poke him with the gun barrel, but decided it was too risky--the guy could probably wrest it away from him with his pinky fingers.

The general smiled, nasty and cold. “Will you?” He lifted his weapon and took aim at Rodney, still half inside the console. "Is this one as expendable to you as that one is to me?"

John only had a half second to debate what he should do before Rodney yelled, “Done!” and every Bruni in the room fell to the floor, screaming in agony.

“So it was like a dog whistle,” John said later, when they were standing at the balcony railing, filling Elizabeth in on everything that had happened since they’d slipped quarantine.

Rodney’s eyes rolled. “Yes, if you want to completely belittle it.”

It turned out the one very important piece of information about the Bruni in the Ancient database was that their brains were wired a little differently. The high-frequency sound waves Rodney had transmitted through the city’s PA system had been harmless to everyone but the Bruni, who had been crippled by them.

Rodney had left it going for several minutes, long enough for the Atlantis crew to disarm and subdue the soldiers. Most of them had already been hustled off to holding cells, and security teams were sweeping the city, armed with pocket-sized transmitters.

"We could take over their whole planet," Rodney said suddenly. Being pint-sized hadn't lessened his tendency toward the diabolical. "They could have ZPMs!" He smiled dreamily as he imagined it, oblivious to Elizabeth's horror.

John decided a Napoleon joke was too cheap to even bother.

Down on the floor of the gateroom, Larry handed the rubber knife back to Ronon, who had once again been forced to turn over all his real ones, which John thought was pure crap. Ronon hadn’t gotten into any trouble with the knives, and he’d used them to help save everyone’s bacon.

Surprisingly, Ronon shook his head and handed the rubber knife back to Larry, who blushed as Ronon clapped him on the shoulder. He ducked his head shyly as he slid the knife into his pocket, but even from a distance, John could see his grin was a mile wide.

Once the city was back under control, Carson insisted on two more days of quarantine. They spent the first day giddily reliving their triumph and the second day sacked out in back to back naps. Kicking bad-guy ass was exhausting when you were five.

Once they were sprung, John was glad to be back in his own room, because it was blissfully quiet and there were no popsicle sticks in the sheets. It also meant privacy, so he spent a lot of time digging his fingernails into the skin around his scabs, carving careful lines that took the edge off the itching. He figured he was technically following the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

The week after the invasion was pretty busy. The general, having been defeated by a group of children, was sent back to his planet in disgrace, minus his weapons and his spaceships. Most of his people went with him, though a couple of the techies had been working for him under duress, and gladly went back to their own home worlds.

After that, John wasted a few days playing with the Bruni weapons, and went up in one of the new ships as a passenger. Aside from their kick-ass cloaking, the ships didn't have anything on a puddlejumper, though that didn't mean John wasn't planning to take one up himself as soon as he was back to normal.

Rodney and his people were busy as well, beefing up city security and trying to backwards engineer the Bruni cloaking technology. John barely talked to him at all, but when he did see him, Rodney looked more rested, and the purple smudges under his eyes were gone, along with the nightmares, presumably.

John was happy for him, but he was lonely sometimes when he woke up alone in the bed and the city was quiet. Rodney never came to his door in the middle of the night anymore.

Rodney’s fears had been real, and thus more easily banished.

It was spooky in the corridors at night, and John was grateful for the security patrols, who greeted him smartly, and thankfully didn’t ask what he was doing carrying his pillow around the city in the middle of the night.

Rodney’s door slid open with barely a sound, and John slipped inside, the light in the room rising to a muted glow. Rodney was wrapped up in his blanket like a big blue cigar, poof of curly hair peeking from one end, bare pink toes from the other.

He snuffled and rolled over when John knelt on the bed, blinking up at him. “Bad dream?” he asked, squirming around to open the blanket.

“Yeah,” John lied, scooting in. He left his pillow on the floor and nestled his head next to Rodney’s, comfy and sweet. Rodney was asleep again almost instantly, soft breaths warming John’s collarbone. He smelled like cheese doodles.

John twirled one of Rodney's curls around his finger, careful not to wake him. When the lights clicked off, he closed his eyes and smiled in the dark.

The End