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A Pirates Life

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Chapter One: Escapes

 

John cracked an eye open, tensing warily as he heard the little guy sharing his cell move from the bunk opposite.  When he had been thrown in the cell earlier that same day, he had considered his cellmate to be harmless, big blue eyes had watched him suspiciously from behind gold rimmed spectacles, coupled with wild hair that looked like it hadn’t been tamed a day in his life.  Standing no taller than John’s shoulder in a long waistcoat buttoned up irregularly and overlaid with a matching brown coat that went down to his thighs, covering most of the short trousers, his long socks nearly hidden in the long boots that sagged with the weight of their own soft suede.  The little guy looked odd, but definitely harmless, or at least John had thought so.

John waited, coiled tight like a spring, ready to react to whatever attack the little guy used.  Captain John Sheppard was a survivor, his lithe wiry frame belying the strength within it, giving him the element of surprise in many a situation.  His eyes soon became accustomed to the darkness, picking out the shadowy silhouette of the little guy slinking through the dark, but not towards John as he had expected but towards the cell door.  He was surprisingly quiet on his feet, not a sound as he paused by the door, looking over his shoulder to check John who quickly closed his eyes, knowing the whites would be clearly visible in the darkness.  When nothing further happened, he risked opening them slowly to find that the little guy now had something in his hands as he did something to the lock.  John saw a sharp spark of light and white smoke flow out of the keyhole.

This time when his strange cellmate looked over his shoulder, John stared back.  John watched as the guy stiffened, obviously frozen in shock to find his cellmate awake. Behind him, the cell door creaked slightly open and light from the corridor entered the cell, casting shadows around the room.  John raised his eyebrows in surprise, “I don’t know what you did to that door, but I need out too.  How about we join forces?” John whispered softly in the dark.  He was due to be branded for Piracy in the morning, before they hanged him the day after, seemed a waste to John but they seem to think it was the principal of the thing that he be branded before he died.  With no other option, he’d been hedging his bets on fighting his way out anyway he could come morning.  But why wait for morning when fate lends you a hand.

“My plan is only for one,” the guy said quietly, his voice thick with an accent John didn’t recognise, and then slipped out of the cell.  John scrambled quickly to his feet and followed with the stealth of a cat.  He watched the man slink down the corridors, creeping along the edges of light that pooled on the dirt floor, cast by the torches mounted in the wall sconces.  He was developing more and more respect for this stranger as they progressed through the prison, beginning to wish he’d struck up a conversation with him now so he knew something of who he was and curiosity burned in him to find out what he was in for.

As this enigma walked past an archway in front of John, a soldier stepped out of the shadows, the little man oblivious as the glint of the soldier's sword sparked in the light of the torches as the soldier laid the blade against the little man’s neck.  John heard the sharp gasp of shock as the man felt the cold steel against his skin, body jerking to stillness.  “I realised that if you could afford to pay me what you did, then you probably have more.  Tell me where it is.”

John crept up behind the soldier with his usual stealth, making use of the shadows and the guard’s preoccupation with his cellmate.  John’s first thought to grab him from behind, but at the last minute the soldier sensed his proximity and turned, bringing the sword round but luckily John was already close enough to be within its radius. He swiftly reached out and gripped the wrist holding the sword, holding it at bay as he used his other hand to hit the soldier in his temple with a short, powerful jab.

The soldiers eyes rolled back in his head as he fell backwards.  John used the grip he still had on the soldiers wrist to control the fall, trying to make it as silent as possible as his free hand quickly took the sword from the guards unresisting hand.  Once the soldiers body had settled on the floor, John let the limp arm fall across the body as he cast his eyes around the shadows for any movement, stretching out his sense of hearing, listening for any noise to see if they had attracted any attention.  He was met with only silence, but still held his newly acquired sword out at the ready.  He turned to the little guy to find him watching him with wide, awe inspired eyes that held just a small amount of fear.

“Your plan got room for one more now?” John whispered with a smile.

The guy nodded, jerkily and quickly, casting a glance to the sword still in John’s hand before looking back up to his face, a quick study of his eyes.  John didn’t have time to figure out what he wanted to see there before the guy was nodding.  “Yes,” his eyes fell to John’s empty gun belt, now sadly bereft of John’s gun, having been disarmed when he was arrested. “You’ll need that.  There is minimal staff in the kitchens at night and most are busy with the guards, this being their main meal for the night shift.  There should only be the cleaning staff, mostly children.  We should be able to slip through,” another glance to the sword before looking up at John again, this time his eyes intense, “without hurting them.”

John smiled, “I do not hurt the innocent.   Lead on.”

The man nodded with a tentative smile and slunk away into the shadows, John following in his wake.  Once they reached the kitchens John paused and opened the door a crack.  On a large table were plates of food and they only had to wait a few moments before the night kitchen staff picked up the plates to carry them to the guards dining room.  John knew they had only a short time before one of the servers or cooks would be back, so he quickly hurried his companion across the kitchen, nothing but two startled boys with big wide eyes to follow their passage through.  As they exited into the courtyard, John turned right towards the guard house and the only exit from the compound.  The little man grabbed his arm and pulled him back, “too many that way.  Follow me.”

John paused, but he wouldn’t have got this far if not for his strange companion so he nodded and followed.  John figured the man must have been planning this escape for awhile and this may very well be the only opportunity John would get to avoid a painful branding and a long drop with a short rope around his neck and so for now continued to trust the plan.  Trepidation and doubt that he had made the right decision grew as he followed the man around the corner and back into the keep, traveling up around a stone spiral staircase.  The knowledge that his exits were becoming fewer made his heart beat in his chest.  The feeling of becoming trapped was making him panic, well accustomed to keeping his feelings tied down John had been able to keep it at bay but it rose with every step until he stepped out onto the roof, looking up into a starlit night.

He quickly scanned the roof and realised there was no other exit apart from the doorway he was standing in.  The only thing he could think was, trapped.  His gaze quickly found the man who had led him here to find him by the parapet, picking up a bow and arrow.

John walked over to him warily, keeping sharp attention on his surroundings, listening out for steps on the stairs behind him.  The little guy was fixing something to the side of the bow, before pulling the arrow in place to notch against it.  Instead of looking down the bow, he was looking at the needle pointing up from the extension he had added, seeming to line it up against some specific point in the distance.  

As he released the arrow, John noticed the light rope attached to the rear of it and as the arrow sailed through the air, the rope snaked through the night in its wake.  The arrow thudded silently into something hidden in the darkness.  John watched silently as the little man pulled something out of his trousers, threading it onto the rope.  He then pulled out an iron bar from his boot and knotted the rope to it with small dexterous hands, before locking it into place between the turrets of the roof.  

He turned to John, “If you fold your belt in half and hang it over the rope, you can hold  each side and it will hopefully hold your weight.  The rope was only intended to hold my weight, I can give you no promises.  I’ll wait at the other end for two minutes, no  more..  There is more at stake than just my freedom.”  With that the man put his hands through the loops of the contraption he had screwed onto the rope and simply leapt off the roof.  

John watched him swing briefly before gravity took him smoothly down the rope and he quickly disappeared into the darkness, gliding silently over the compound.  John realised he was standing alone in enemy territory, trying to distinguish his rescuer in the darkness, instead of following him to freedom.  He quickly sheathed his sword in the frog of his baldric belt, unbuckled the pistol belt from his waist and folded it in two over the rope.He took a deep breath, his respect for the unassuming cellmate going up once again as he pushed off into the darkness.  His heart thudded painfully, yet adrenaline thrummed through his body as he sped through the darkness.  Nothing beneath him, the wind in his face just like when he stood at the prow of his ship.  This was like flying, John loved it, even as it scared the living daylights out of him.

John was enjoying the sensations so much he nearly didn’t notice how fast the exterior wall of the compound was approaching.  He suddenly realised he didn’t have enough information, Am I supposed to let go and drop before I hit the wall?  He looked down, the drop did not look healthy, he looked back at the wall, but neither did hitting that wall at this speed.  John tried to see where the rope ended but couldn’t see anything.  He was just beginning to think that he should let go when the clouds moved, letting through a sliver of moonlight.  Not enough to light up the night, but enough to glint of the rope and show him the way it lead between the turrets of the outside wall, also enough to show him that his legs were about to be cut off.

John quickly lifted up his long legs as high as he could, literally swinging between the stone turrets, passing them by, nothing more than black shadows in the night.  John let his legs fall back down as he swung over the road.  Once over the road he noticed the drop in speed, the belt starting to snag, causing his grip to slip and looked down to find the ground a lot nearer.

Determined to make the decision himself, John let go with one hand, keeping hold with the other, hoping to drag his belt with him as he’d need it soon enough, and lucky not to need it before now.  The image of himself sailing over the soldiers heads with his trousers around his ankles drew a low chuckle as John dropped to the ground, rolling as he landed and making his way into the shadows of the bushes that lined the road behind him.

He looked around, both for any witness’ to his surprise prison break and for the man he owed it all too.  A light touch on his arm had him turning sharply, a hand striking out like a cobra to grip into the cloth, his other hand coming back, ready to punch.  He quickly realised he held his cellmate in his grip, eyes wide as they stared at him in surprise.

“Sorry, didn’t realise it was you,” John whispered as he released his grip on the man’s vest.  Instead holding out his hand in greeting.  “Captain John Sheppard.”

“Radek Zelenka,” the man answered in his thick accent as he shook John’s hand gently.  The bland expression on his face changing to a frown.  “Captain?  As in Captain of a ship?”

“Hopefully,” John answered.  “If I can get to Athos before Ronon takes his inheritance.  You said there was more at stake, than your freedom?  Well, I owe you mine, so, if I can help at all?”

“If you have a ship, then yes.  I need passage but time is of the essence,” Radek looked around nervously, “And we should leave now, they will notice we are missing very soon.  Are you okay to move?” Radek asked, one hand waving vaguely in the direction of the rope, still overhead.

“Yeah, fine.  That was fun!”

Radek had been about to move away, but turned back to John in surprise, “Fun?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking of rigging something like that up from the main mast,”  he walked passed Radek, oblivious to his expression of wary shock.

“The flying through the air with nothing under your feet, through a camp full of men with rifles.  You thought it was fun.”

“Yeah, didn’t you?”

“I was too busy being terrified.”  

John laughed softly, starting to lead them away towards the outskirts of town, stopping as a shadow loomed out of the darkness.  Radek bumped into the back of him, looking around John in confusion, yelping in surprise and fear when he realised why John had stopped.  John thought he would know that silhouette anywhere but this was the wrong place to find it, “Ronon?”

“John,” the silhouette replied, as if it was perfectly expected to find each other in the shadow of the prison.

“What are you doing here?” John hissed.

“Came to get you,” Ronon replied.

“How’d you know I’d escaped?” John asked warily, were they looking for them already?

“Didn’t, was gonna get you out.  Now I don’t need to.  Who's the squeaky guy?”

“Squeaky?  Oh,” John huffed a laugh realising Ronon had given the moniker due to Radek’s squeal of surprise.  “Ronon, meet Radek, he’s the guy that broke me out of prison.  Any chance you got Atlantis with you?”

Ronon turned from frowning in curious surprise at Radek to smiling widely at John, “As if I’d go anywhere without her, she’s round the head.  Boat waiting in the bay.  You ready to go or you wanna talk some more?”

John laughed.  “Damn good to see you Ronon.  Come on Radek, I’ll introduce you to the best ship on the high seas.”

“M’not squeaky,” Radek mumbled grumpily as he followed John and Ronon down to the beach.

Ronon ensured they avoided any patrols, or anyone who preferred moving around at night, such as thieves and poachers.  After a while John could hear the distant ringing of an alarm and knew their escape had been found. Unspoken, they picked up their pace.  

They made their way stealthily to the boat in silence. John saw Ronon casting appraising glances at Radek, no doubt respecting his silent movements.  John was taken again with curiosity over Radek’s history, being able to move silently was generally a lesson that was learnt through necessity, and the story was never good.  John knew Ronon’s story, and he’d never met a man who could move as silently as Ronon, he hoped he never would.  So, seeing the little man move almost as quietly piqued John’s curiosity, and made him wary of hearing Radek’s story.

It was a simple matter to push the rowing boat from where Ronon had hidden it behind some rocks onto the water and John and Ronon began to row, with Zelenka sat in the stern. They didn’t need words or numbers to get their strokes in time as they’d had much practice over the years and some of those times they hadn’t even been sober.

As soon as they rounded the head of the bay though, all thoughts were banished as John took in the silhouette of Atlantis, his ship.  It was nothing more that a vaguely darker shape in the black of the night, but he’d know her anywhere, he didn’t think he loved anything on this earth the way he loved Atlantis.  She’d given him purpose when he’d needed it most, and she gave him freedom.  He’d never stop loving her for that.  Already the smile was breaking out into a grin as they neared the dark boards of her flank.

As they pulled alongside a ladder fell down the side, John took the bow rope and clambered up the rungs, eager to feel the deck underneath his feet, to feel that peace that settled over him when he stood on board Atlantis.  Markham was ready to meet him at the top and gave him a hand up.  “Welcome aboard, Captain,” he said with a wide grin as he took the rope from his hands, putting it into the pulley system, ready to bring the cockboat aboard when they were all up.

“Pleasure to be aboard, Markham,” John replied with a mirrored grin, just as wide, before turning to help Radek over the rail and onto the deck.  Ronon clambered over a second behind him, the other rope in his hand, passing it off to Grodin.  

As the ropes creaked, pulling the boat into safety John turned to Ronon.  “Get her underway, then meet me and Radek in my room.”

“Aye, Captain,” Ronon answered.

John nodded, knowing Ronon would do what is necessary, it was why he’d left the boat to him in his will.  “This way, Radek,” he said as he led Radek below decks.  As they entered his rooms he reached for an apple, holding one out to Radek, “Hungry?”  

Radek took the apple quickly, biting deeply, as John reached for another with his free hand.  He poured them both a glass of ale and led the way over to his maps, “So, Saviour of mine.  Time to return the favour.  What treasure do you seek passage too?”

“My Captain,” Radek began, but when he said no more John realised it wasn’t an honorific to begin his request, but his actual request.

“You could ask me anything and all you want is passage to your Captain,” John verified, knowing his own bafflement could be heard plainly.  Radek just nodded.  “You know, we could have use of you here, you don’t need to return to your Captain to find work.”

Radek looked instantly wary, as if John would lock him in irons to fill out his time like a slave.  “Only if you want to,” John assured quickly, having noticed Radek’s reaction.

“Thank you Captain Sheppard, but my first and only loyalty is to my Captain.  But please not to be telling him this.”

John smiled in bemusement.  “Most captains would reward such loyalty.”

“He would be insufferable,” Radek mumbled as he started sorting through the maps.  He seemed to find the map he needed, he turned to John to get his attention as he ringed a group of islands with his finger, “Here, these are the ones I need to reach.  I thank you for your help.  Get me here and back to a port with my Captain and your debt to me will be paid in full and then some.”

John pulled the maps to him, taking in the destination.  A group of islands in the back of nowhere, no regular shipping lanes and nothing to lure anyone.  No towns and some didn’t even look habitable.  It must be the Captains nest, normally kept a secret at all costs, John was surprised that Radek would direct them to it so openly.  He wondered about a captain that would engineer such loyalty, he must be quite a man, but before he could ask anything more Ronon entered, “Your orders, Captain?”

He was always so formal in front of strangers, John wondered how long he would consider Radek a stranger, how long before he fell back into common place and talked to John as he normally would.  John pulled the maps even closer so he could point out the islands to Ronon.  “This is our destination.  I owe Radek here a favour, this trip is for him.  We won’t be expecting any danger so we will use the trip to get Atlantis back into shape.  Also, I’ll need you to find cabin space for Radek, the trip should take three days with good weather and he’ll need somewhere to sleep.”

 

“Aye, Aye, Captain.” Ronon answered, scooping up the map and left to instruct the crew.  

John caught the way that Radek suddenly became interested in the remaining maps again when he said they would find no danger.  He had figured that with Radek aboard they would have the right signals to approach the nest unchallenged, but now he wasn’t so sure.  “Your Captain’s not going to fire on us when we approach, is he Radek?”

“No, no. I think he will be very happy to see us.”

He still sounded cagy but John had given his word to help Radek, he owed him not only his freedom but most likely his life, knowing his original plan for fighting it out of the prison had not had much chance of success.  His first loyalty however, was always to Atlantis and his crew.  He’d be sure to get Atlantis in top shape before they approached the islands and hopefully they wouldn’t have to test her.

“Okay, good to hear.”

“If you could show me to my cabin, Captain.  I didn’t sleep well in prison and I could do with putting my head down.”

“Sure, Radek.  I think I’ll be doing the same.  Come on,” he led Radek out on deck and beckoned Ronon over, “Can you show Radek to his cabin and then come back and see me.  We need to go over the schedule for the crew before I retire.”

Ronon nodded and left with Radek below decks to the cabins.  Sheppard returned to his cabin and waited for Ronon to return, leaning back in his chair with his feet up on his desk as he thought things through.  When Ronon entered, John asked, “What do you make of him?”

Ronon shrugged, “Unusually quiet on his feet, strange accent.  Seems okay.”

John didn’t bother to ask if Ronon trusted him, Ronon didn’t trust anybody but John.  John pursed his lips, face falling into a frustrated frown.

“He got you out,” Ronon said, obviously believing this gave Radek a point or two in the plus column.

“I know, I know,” John agreed.  “I trust him, I have since I first met him, and as much as he surprised me in the last five hours, becoming far more than the scared unassuming little man I first thought he was, I still trust him.  I just don’t know why I do and that bothers me.  He’s holding something back, I know he’s not telling me everything and yet I still want to trust him.  Crazy, right?”

Ronon shrugged, “Your gut has saved us many times, so maybe not so crazy.  What’s his story?”

John lowered his feet from the desk to the floor and leaned his elbows on the desk.  “I didn’t really get to find out.  He broke out, did something to the lock, it flared like he’d shot it but with no noise apart from a low fizzing and sharp flash and then the door was open.  I tagged along and saved him from a soldier trying to get more money out of him,  Radek must have bribed him to bring the things he used to break out, so he let me go along with him.  He had something set up on the roof, shot this arrow into the darkness, hell of a shot, one I’ve never seen anyone make before.  He had this,” John made some haphazard shape with his hands, “contraption for sight on the side of the bow, must have helped him find his target.  Then we just slid down the rope, right over the top of the compound and through the turrets.  We’d only just landed when you found us.  

“We were out, from cell to freedom in the time it takes to get a pint at The Boar.  He’s clever, really clever, and as you say surprisingly quiet on his feet.  Yet there was a moment when he stared me down, made me promise not to hurt the kitchen help as we passed through before he’d continue.  He broke a pirate Captain out of prison, the day before he is scheduled to be hanged and all he wants in return is to be taken to his own Captain.  There’s something though, we’re not getting the full story.  It’s another reason why I want Atlantis in full fighting shape before we get there.  Whatever he’s not telling us, I want to be ready for it.  In the meantime, keep your eye on him and report anything you think I should know.  Pass the word to the crew, befriend him, maybe he’ll let something slip.  Okay?”

Ronon nodded.  John then moved on to discussing plans for getting the ship into fighting shape, checking the stocks and all the other jobs that came with Captaincy. It was three hours before he saw his bed, he more or less fell into it and slept like a log.  The feel of Atlantis out on the open waters lulling him into a peaceful sleep.  He never slept anywhere as well as he did here.

The next three days passed quickly, the crew hard at work and John was always a hands on Captain so each night sleep came even easier, soothing burning muscles and tired limbs.

Radek also helped out, making little changes here and there that made the ship run smoother, handle better and quicker, all under the watchful gaze of Ronon who was never far from him.  John made sure to pass by himself enough to oversee the changes too.  He noticed Ronon’s behaviour changed over the three days, from looming attention to relaxed assistance.  Ronon was bonded to the crew of Atlantis through battle, but he found too many people too much to deal with over long periods of time, needing to find his own space before long after so many years alone.  

However, he never seemed to tire of Radek’s company, they seemed to bond over humour, Ronon’s loud laughter often heard booming out over the last three days.  If John hadn’t already owed Radek, he would have owed him for that alone, Ronon didn’t laugh enough for John’s tastes and to hear him laugh with someone else apart from John and the oldest of the crew made something ease inside.  Ronon was also the least trusting of strangers and the most protective of John and Atlantis so to hear him so relaxed around Radek also told John that there was nothing untoward to worry about, but still the knowledge that he didn’t know the full story kept nagging at him.

Eventually on the third day, the islands came into view.  John pulled out his eyeglass and scanned the horizon, finding nothing suspicious as his sight glided over a calm sea against an azure sky.  The islands showed no sign of life bar one column of dirty grey smoke that curled up from one of the islands into the crystal blue skies, smudging against the clear white clouds floating lazily over it.  Radek, who had been at the rail since the islands had come into sight, pointed excitedly.  “There, there.”

John nodded, “Head for the smoke,” he confirmed to Lorne, who stood at the ships ornate wheel, hands as loving and guiding as any parent.  John continued to scan the horizon with the eyeglass as they neared the island.  His whole body was strung tight, waiting for something to happen.  Throughout their approach the coast remained clear, as they neared the island John focused his attention to it.  When they rounded the final head, they saw the long stretch of white sands edged by palm trees.  The smoke had come from behind the first line of trees, to the centre of the beach.  

As John gave the order to lift out the cockboats, he realised what had been bothering him.  There was no ship already in the safe haven of the cove, no cockboat on the beach or moored by the trees.  Then he remembered Radek’s words, “and safe passage to the nearest port.”  That’s what had been bothering him, but he’d been too tired at the time to take in the full meaning.  If this was his Captain, then where was his ship?  Why would he need return passage for him and his Captain?  He turned to Radek, “Why is your Captain stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere without a ship, Radek?”

Radek looked sideways at him, his gaze quickly returning to the island dead ahead of them.  “You promised me safe passage to the island and return passage for me and my Captain to the nearest port.”

“I did,” John confirmed, “But my first responsibility is to my crew.  I need to know the risk to them before we approach the island.  If you don’t tell me now, I will lift the boats and turn Atlantis around.”

Radek sagged slightly, but soon straightened and turned to John, blue eyes burning with defiance and anger.  “My Captain was betrayed.  He was stranded here to die,” he looked back at the smoke, it was no longer rising from the island, but he looked instead at the remnants that were nearly dissipated in the skies above with a smile, “but he is a hard man to kill, My Captain.  Stubborn that way, he is.”  he turned solemn again as he turned back to John, “I give you my word that neither I nor my Captain intend mortal harm to your crew.”

John studied his face and found nothing to belie his words.  “Okay.  Let’s go get your Captain.”  John smiled in response to the one that broke out on Radek’s face.  He had to admit, he was curious to meet Radek’s Captain.  Betrayed by some or all of his crew implied a bad Captain, yet to instill such loyalty from a man of Radek’s skills implied a good Captain.  The man was already a contradiction and John was curious to meet such a man.  Then there was the fact Radek asked him not to relay his own loyalty to his Captain, when most Captains would reward loyalty of this magnitude with great rewards.  Yes, John was curious indeed.

They clambered down into the boat, Radek, John, Ronon and six of the crew armed with rifles.  John nodded to Lorne as they pushed off, “Keep her safe for me, Lorne.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”

John left the rowing to the men, and kept an eye out for possible trouble, still scanning both in front and behind with his eyeglass.  But to his relief they soon reached the beach, pulling the boat up out of the sea and leaving one of the crew with it.  Ronon led them into the trees, John happy to let him lead knowing he would have the spot where the smoke rose clear in his head and his path to it laid out as if torches led the way.  His sense of direction and tracking skills were unmatched by anyone on the Atlantis, in fact unmatched by anyone John had ever met, to the point where sometimes it felt like magic.

They only trekked a short distance before the trees broke out into a wide open space.  Yet already Ronon had disabled five traps, making them all step carefully along the path.  Radek’s Captain had obviously been expecting trouble.  As they broke the line of the trees they found the fire still smoking slightly in front of a shack, a platform raised slightly off the ground made of palm trees and topped with palm leaves.  “How long has he been here?” John asked, thinking only a short time had passed, but to make all this he must have been here months.

“Three weeks,” Radek answered, scanning the campsite.

John turned to him in confusion, “But all this..”

“He is very resourceful,” Radek interrupted with a proud smile.

John thought back to the five traps, and took in the surroundings.  Fresh water running along pipelines, a shack that looked better built than some town houses.  John spun at Ronon’s roar, drawing his sword as he did, to find him hanging upside down from a rope trap.  The fact Ronon had missed it more shocking than finding Ronon hanging upside down.  “Yes, I’m beginning to get that.”

As they moved in to cut him down Radek stepped forward, “Wait!”

They all froze.  “There will be more.  Everyone stay where they are, please.”  Instead of moving towards Ronon, Radek turned toward the trees surrounding them.  “Rodney.  It is me, Radek.  I come with friends.  Cambridge.”

John frowned at the last word, such a non-sequitur it had to be code, he just hoped it was in their favour.  “I trust that ‘Cambridge’ is good.”

Radek turned to him with a smile, “It’s Sweden that banned coffee.  The University of Cambridge appointed Isaac Newton a Lucasion Professor of Mathematics, thus recognising genius when they see it.  Normally I would disguise the word, but I am amongst friends and do not see the need.”

John raised his eyebrows in surprise at such candor, but before he could say anything something broke the tree line.  A dishevelled man, hair and beard long and scraggly, a once beautiful coat of dark green velvet stitched and etched in gold, now torn and bedraggled in dirt.  Open to reveal a once white silk vest, now of the same state as the coat.  Blue eyes burned from a face shiny and red from sun and sea winds.  

Eyes that focused only on Radek and stumbled straight to him, pulling him into a tight hug, “Radek,” the word almost a sigh of disbelief.

Radek hugged him back, “It is good to see you My Captain.”

John was just starting to wonder about the source of Radek’s loyalty when Rodney suddenly shoved Radek at arms length.  “Where have you been?! I’ve been here for three weeks!  Do you know there are lemon trees on the other side of this island, I could have died.”

Radek frowned at him, “I was a little busy, for starters I had to wait till we reached port.  I could hardly demand they go faster so I could get free to come get you.  I had to get myself arrested so they wouldn’t get suspicious and question anyone else who had stayed.  Then I had to break myself out and get back here.  I can’t believe you.  I rescue you and all I get is not fast enough.  You... you infuriate me you ungrateful man.”

“Yes, yes, thank you very much.  Are you done whining?  Can we leave now or do we have to listen to you go on about yourself some more.  Honestly, Radek, you really need to calm down that ego of yours, not everything is about you you know.”

“Arrrrrgggghhhh,  I don’t know why I came back.”

His Captain waved a hand in the air and walked over to his cabin as he spoke, “Because I’m your Captain who is the wind beneath your sails, and a genius.”  Instead of walking to the door, his Captain walked to the square cutout in semblance of a window, he reached in and released something inside and then pushed, the whole panel swung in like a door and his Captain disappeared inside.

John looked back to the obvious doorway and realised a trap lay in wait there.  He stayed very still.  “Radek?”

“What?!” Radek snapped as he spun towards him, then took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry Captain Sheppard, he drives me insane.”

“Traps?”

“Oh, right.”  Radek turned back to the hut, just as his Captain appeared back in the window doorway with a sack full of lumps and bumps.  “Rodney, where are the traps?”

“Hmmm, oh, yes.”  Rodney picked up a large stick and walked round the back of the shack, little sounds of snicks and bangs following in his path as he released trap after trap, coming around the back of the hut and behind the tree Ronon was still hanging from.  Five snaps and the leaves moved as the traps sprung free, one or two at the very feet of his crew.  If Radek hadn’t shouted when he did then he would have had more than Ronon hanging upside down.  “Stay very still,” came Rodney’s voice from the darkness of the trees, followed by four more snicks, followed by a rustling sound as something in the ground released and four long spears whistled into the camp, one landing two paces in front of John.

Rodney stumbled out of the tree line behind John.  “Paranoid much?” John asked.

Rodney cast him a glare, “I’m still alive so I’d say my paranoia level is just right, thank you very much.  Right, all traps released, just a few to clear near the beach incase anyone ends up shipwrecked here.  Can we go now?”

“Erm,” John said and motioned towards Ronon, still swinging gently from the rope trap that had first captured him.

Rodney frowned and looked in the direction John had indicated, his blue eyes widened when they took in Ronon and his glare, seemingly only noticing him now.  Still upside down, Ronon’s wide arms folded over his chest that just seemed to emphasise his huge biceps even more so.

“Woah, what did you do?” Rodney exclaimed, “Shave a bear?  If I let him go, he’s not allowed to hurt me, kay?”

“Just let him down already, would ya?”

Rodney stomped over to the tree trunk and drew his sword.  He was about to hack at the rope when he hesitated again, he turned back to John, straightened his shoulders and stuck out his chin, “He has to promise not to hurt me if I let him go.”

John sighed heavily, “Ronon tell him you won’t hurt him if he cuts you down.”

Ronon just glared.

“Ronon,” John demanded, though some might say whined.

“Promise,” Ronon said sulkily.

Rodney nodded and hacked at the rope.  Just as the rope nearly broke Rodney stopped, “Oh, I just realised,” but too late the rope snapped and they all watched Ronon crumple to the floor with a loud ooof.  Rodney quickly trotted over to John and stood behind him, “Erm... sorry?”

John turned his head sideways to take in Rodney, shaking his head with a smile.  This was the Captain that instilled such loyalty?  He held out his hand, “Captain John Sheppard.”

“Oh,” Rodney held out his hand, “Captain Rodney McKay.”  Rodney said Captain the same way his father had said Lord.  A certain smugness in the title.  It used to irritate him when his father said it, but it just made him smile again when Rodney said it.  He was quite a character.

John sheathed his sword, “Okay, lets get out of here.  You want to get your stuff?” John asked Rodney, indicating the sack he’d left by the hut.  Rodney skirted round the camp, John realised he had been avoiding Ronon who had now stood up to his full height, brushing off leaves while glaring at Rodney.  Hardly a brave and bloodthirsty pirate, John thought to himself.  

There was a little “oh” from Rodney, like he just remembered something else as he swung the sack over his shoulder, he then walked over to the actual doorway and, using the stick still in his hand, he pressed the ground in the doorway and quickly withdrew the stick.  A slab of wood with nasty looking wooden spikes leapt up and filled the doorway, it would have been a nasty death.  Okay, so maybe a sneaky and bloodthirsty pirate.  Rodney fell in next to Radek, “Tell me you have coffee.”

“Back on the ship.”

“What, you couldn’t have brought me a tankard?”

“I don’t know what I was thinking, I thought getting you off the island was the priority.”

“Multi tasking, Radek.  Is that too much to ask?”  Rodney was probably about to say more when he realised that Ronon was right behind him and he quickly trotted up to John, casting nervous glances back towards Ronon.  “So, tell me you have a razor, this beard is driving me crazy.”

“All the things you did back there and you couldn’t come up with a razor, what’s wrong with your sword?”

“I was worried that if I cut myself it might get infected.  Do you know there’s lemons on this island.  I’m deathly allergic to citrus. Not to mention bugs.  Do you know how easy open wounds fester, the skin rots and it ain’t pretty.  I nearly did my back in rolling those palm trees into place, do you have any idea what would have happened if I’d.......

John listened to him rant on about horrible and lonely deaths possible on an island as a thought occurred to him and had to be voiced, so he interrupted, “You are actually a pirate Captain, aren’t you??  Because I only just realised Radek never actually said Pirate and I’m starting to wonder if maybe you’re just Captain of McKays Pleasure Cruises or something.”  John tried to keep his face deadpan as he heard Radek snicker behind him, but couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

“Pleasure cruis...!” McKay spluttered.  “Of course I’m a Pirate Captain,” he exclaimed, obviously affronted, “and what's more I’ll have you know I’m a very good Pirate Captain.  Wait, just what are you implying?”

“A pirate Captain without even a boat is not that good of a pirate Captain McKay” John teased.

“Oh I have a boat and it’s a beauty, it just happens to be in that swine Kavanaugh’s hands at the moment and when I get hold of him...”

John’s eyebrows raised at the inventive torture Rodney spewed forth, even to the point he started to feel a little sorry for this Kavanaugh.  He sensed Ronon approaching and turned to see him watching Rodney with a look of approval and a spark in his eye.  Ronon always seemed to appreciate violence if it was deserved, and he seemed to like Rodney’s inventiveness too.  

John would have thought it was just words of anger, but there was something under that anger, something of steel that spoke more of a promise that Pirate Captain Rodney McKay was going to see every one of his threats carried out against this Kavanaugh and it made John wary because this sounded like revenge.  John loved his ship, but anger and revenge of this depth, there was something more to this story than a stolen ship and it was not something he wanted to be dragged into.

They broke the cover of the trees, back onto the white sands once again.  He signaled his crew member all was well and was thankful of a chance to distract McKay from his rant, “How about you clear the rest of your traps and then we can be underway.”

Rodney stuttered to a halt in his litany, “What, oh yes,” he started to move away before he stopped again, “You will be here, right?  You’ll wait for me?”  

McKay’s face looked so fearful of being left behind again that John immediately forgot to be wary of him, “Yes, of course,” he said gently.  “We won’t leave without you,” he promised.

Rodney seemed to realise his unease had been easily read in his face and immediately became sheepish, seeming unsure how to proceed he dithered for a moment before a quiet but heartfelt, “Thank you,” left his lips and then disappeared back into the trees.

John looked after him perplexed.  Most of the time Rodney seemed quite harmless, every expression readily available on his face for all to read, wary of danger, overly informative of every emotion and thought that passed through his mind but then there were the very effective traps, the efficiency of that camp and the violent litany of inventive tortures readily spoken.  

McKay was a contradiction and yet John again found himself liking the stranger instantly, and trusting him, just as he had Radek, without a reason other than his gut said so.  He’d only just met the man and already he felt he’d been hurled around in a hurricane and lost at sea.  He resolved then and there, to get these two to port as soon as his sails could get him there, wave goodbye to them on the jetty and sail for the open seas, and try never to think of them again.   Though even that might be hard, they were two of the strangest, enigmatic, contradictory, likable fellows he’d ever met.

As McKay disappeared into the palm trees there were the sound of traps being released.  One made a big impact, the sound of leaves rustling violently and a loud thrump, muffled by the rest of the trees.  It was easy to see his vulnerable side, Sheppard just had to remember this side too, the one that made clever traps that could kill a whole landing party, hidden well enough to catch Ronon.

McKay came stalking back out of the treeline, he had a forceful walk, or at least it might have been forceful if he wasn’t slip sliding all over the place as his feet sunk unevenly into the loose sand of the treeline, gaining more purpose as he found the more compact sand near the shoreline.  He walked up to and past them as he spoke, “Well, I’m more than ready to leave.  Get me off this sandpile Captain Sheppard and I’ll help you track down the man that sold you that porcupine as a wig.”

The group hurried after him as he made his way to the boat, “Hey!” Sheppard shouted, “It’s not a wig and it does not look like a porcupine and I don’t think you’re in any place to talk.  I’ve seen ladies in port with less hair than you.”

McKay gave him a once over, “Oh I doubt they were ladies, Sheppard, and if they were when you found ‘em, I doubt they were when you left ‘em.”

“You do remember I’m your rescuer, the one with the ship.  Aren’t you supposed to be nice to your rescuer?” Sheppard asked with a wide grin, already forgetting his earlier warning to himself as he bantered with McKay.

McKay didn’t say anything until he’d clambered aboard the cockboat, and obviously thinking himself properly ensconced he continued.  “I’m a Pirate, Sheppard.  I’m not nice to anyone.”

Radek climbing in beside Sheppard agreed heartily, “It is true, he is not nice to anyone, anyone but the ships cat.”

“You like kitty kats, McKay?” Sheppard asked, voice teasing as he climbed aboard as well, the rest of his crew pushing the boat out into the waves before joining them.

Rodney glared at Radek, “Why I continue to let you breath will forever be a mystery to me.”

The glare was a force by itself, enough to make Sheppard blink, but Radek just laughed.  “He likes kitty kats because he just a big kitty kat himself.  Cuddly but with sharp claws.”

Rodney fumed in the bow of the boat, “Radek, would you not tell other Pirate Captains that I’m just a big kitty kat.”  He turned to Sheppard, “He’s lying of course, he’s just upset because Samson ate his winged rats.”

The smile fell off Radeks face, “Not winged rats!  Pigeons are clever birds that have better sense of direction than you!”

“They do not!”

“Do to!”

“Not.”

“Do.”

Sheppard just couldn’t help himself, he started laughing, earning two sets of blue eyes to glare at him.  He shook his head, how had he never heard of Captain Rodney Mckay and his crazy crew before now, he’d paid good money for shows that were nowhere near as entertaining as these two.  As the cockboat came alongside his ship he tried to apologise, “I’m sorry,” he said between laughs, “But are you really sure you’re actually Pirates, I mean you do know what a Pirate is, right?”

He stood up chortling, about to reach for the ladder as McKay stood up next to him, glaring at him.  He didn’t say a word, he just pushed Sheppard overboard.  John hadn’t been expecting it and sailed over the side of the boat.  He surfaced spluttering, just to see McKay turn calmly and start climbing the ladder up the side of Atlantis.

He would have set Ronon on them, except Ronon was stood in the boat looking down on him with a wide grin and it just didn’t seem worth it, besides he had questioned the Pirate Captain twice now on if he was a Pirate.  In most circles once was enough to get you killed, so maybe twice did deserve a ducking.  “Stop smiling and help me up,” John gruffed at Ronon, as he reached a hand up towards him.  Ronon just grabbed his hand and pulled him clean out of the water.  His strength really was something.  He clambered aboard the cockboat and up the side of Atlantis.

John stood on the deck, dripping wet, his black leather clothes clinging uncomfortably and feeling heavier, but better than if he’d been in normal pirate garb.  John probably would have been pulled under by the extra weight of the wool he used to wear, until Ronon hadintroduced him to leather.  More durable by far, more exotic and John loved black, and black in leather compared to wool was like comparing dusk to midnight on a starless night.  Right now though, John just wanted out of the damp clothes.  He swung his head back to flip the water soaked hair out if his eyes and glared at Rodney, who took a step back, before John stomped off to his cabin.  He may have deserved it, that didn’t mean he liked it, or wanted his crew to think it was acceptable to dunk him in the sea.  He’d find a compromise when he got back, after he dried out and sorted out his hair.  John would deny it but he was proud of his hair.  Porcupine indeed.

He stomped into his cabin and peeled off the leather, his skin sticking to it as he pulled it away, grimacing with each reveal.  Eventually he had all the clothes off and picked up the heavy blanket he used to dry himself with, scrubbing at his skin, bending over to dry his hair.  He was just finishing dressing in another outfit when there was a knock at his door.  He swung open the door to find Ronon filling the narrow corridor.

“Captain McKay’s cleaning himself up in Radek’s cabin, Radek’s with Lorne in your rooms.”

John nodded, “Okay, I just want to check out the decks and then we can go see what their plan is.”

Ronon stepped back and John stepped into the space he had created, pulling the door closed behind him, before leading the way back up to deck.  John walked his decks, talking to the crew, checking the rigging as he went.  Radek’s modifications had made a supreme effect to the running of Atlantis. John could feel the difference under his feet and it felt almost as if she could fly, as he made his way up to the wheel.  He was stood, looking down on his deck when McKay came up from the lower decks.

The change was remarkable.  The long straggly locks cut back to curl in at his neck, the clean shaven chin showed a strong profile and, with nothing to distract, his sharp blue eyes shone out as they flicked from place to place over the decks, cataloguing everything.  John could see the sharp intelligence, the purposeful stride that spoke of a man used to wheeling power and biceps that likewise did the same.  McKay followed Markham as he led him across the decks, trailing a finger along the balustrade as he did so, a proprietary caress like one would a lover and it made John swallow, suddenly self conscious of the way his eyes catalogued Rodney.

McKay seemed to sense he was being watched and stood still, his eyes finding John.  He stood watching him for a moment, for once his face unreadable, before nodding in deferment and following Markham into the Captains rooms below them.  Markham walked away and back to his duties, Lorne exited the rooms soon after and made his way up to his place at the wheel.

“He say anything,” John asked Lorne.

“Nothing worth repeating.  Mostly ranting about how ungrateful his Captain is,” Lorne blushed a little, “just don’t make the mistake of joining in.  As much as he rants against the man, he is incredibly resentful of anyone else doing so.”

John smirked.  “Point taken.”  He turned to Ronon, “Shall we?”

Ronon nodded and they made their way down to the mid deck and through the double doors into the Captains Room. McKay and Radek had their heads close together, pouring over the maps in quick whispers that stopped as soon as he entered.  Two pairs of suspicious eyes cast quickly to the door, pinning John in place, before they turned back to each other again.  They seemed to be having a silent conversation as McKay lifted the tankard to his lips, but everything seemed forgotten as took a sip, filling the room with sounds of pleasure.  John’s eyebrows rose in surprise as he quickly found his seat at the table.  He’d only heard sounds like that in one room and it wasn’t the Captains rooms, part of him thought it might be polite to leave.

“You want to be alone with that drink?” John managed.

Rodney stopped the noises, eyes flicked open as he turned and glared at John. His cheeks flamed red in either embarrassment or anger, John wasn’t too sure.  “Three weeks without something makes you appreciate it more,” Rodney replied defensively

There was a snort from Radek, “You’re the same after three hours.”

Rodney turned his glare to Radek, “Okay, so I appreciate coffee, I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”

Radek shrugged noncommittally.  John watched the byplay, Rodney seemed comfortable in Radek’s company, he didn’t seem to look for the things Radek only showed in Rodney’s absence, extreme loyalty and quick to defend him and the obvious care Radek felt for him.  Instead he seemed to respond to the sarcastic insults and responses, even if he did glare, there was an obvious care and respect returned and nothing demanded.  

McKay was unlike any Pirate Captain John had ever met, McKay was more like himself.  But where John had found himself Captain of a crew and struggled between the equality he wanted and the obvious distance being a Captain of men created, Rodney seemed to expect and revel in the title.  However, he didn’t demand the respect that came with it, that most captains only got through fear.  McKay seemed to have it without inciting fear and John wondered how Rodney could instill that in spades in this one man and yet have a whole crew turn against him.  So many contradictions and so much John still didn’t understand, sure he didn’t know the full story behind the mutiny..

His thoughts were interrupted as Rodney lowered his mug and fiddled with it, like he was suddenly nervous.  “I just wanted to thank you,” Rodney said, with a quick glance to John and then back down at his coffee, “Radek told me you’re doing this as a favour, not for money.  I... er,” one hand came away from the tankard to twirl in the air, “I didn’t realise, if I had I might not have pushed you into the sea... so you know... that...thank you.”

John noticed that McKay didn’t actually say he was sorry, neither did he say he wouldn’t have done the same thing, just might not have.  John also noticed a wariness in their countenance when he entered that made him wary in turn.  There was so much he didn’t know.  He smiled wide, body loose, nothing to betray that inside he was coiled like a spring.  “S’okay.”  He shrugged.

McKay nodded, then drained his mug and rose to refill it from the sealed drum on the side.  John’s eyes followed his shoulders down to a rear, trapped in tight burgundy leather trousers that were slightly too tight for him, and John would swear belonged to Ronon.  John swallowed again as he mentally kicked that thought out of his head, glad that Radek had also got up for a refill and was currently blocking that view of him, but not enough to block Rodney’s wide shoulders.  So wide.  John mentally kicked himself again and averted his eyes to the maps strewn over the table.  He thought back to the deck, wondering why he didn’t notice the trousers then, but realised he’d never looked away from Rodney’s face, from those blue eyes, except to see what had sparked that propriety look to find Rodney’s fingers caressing the rail.  John coughed to clear his dry throat and decided he needed something else to focus on.

“So, which port do you want to be dropped in?” John asked.

.McKay and Radek cast quick glances at each other as they made their way back to the table.  “He’s a good man,” Radek said softly but sincerely as he took his seat.

Mckay stared at him a moment more before taking a deep breath.  He nodded glumly as he took his seat opposite and looked down the table to Sheppard.  “Okay, Radek here says I can trust you. That conniving, toad faced, lilly washed pasty, no good...”

“Rodney,” Radek said sharply.

Rodney pursed his lips, “Kavanaugh stole my ship.  I was carrying something precious,” he casted a glance at Radek that clearly stated he’s not about to describe it further, “and we know where he is heading.  We can...”  Rodney stopped and took a deep breath, “If you would help us,” he started like each word was spoken over broken glass, “we can follow him, find him.”

“What's the treasure,” Sheppard asked.  He wasn’t going to help them in some revenge vendetta, he wouldn’t risk his crew in something so foolhardy, but curiosity had got the better of him.

Rodney stared at him, his eyes flicked over John’s face as if cataloguing facts and figures John couldn’t see.  In the end Rodney took a heavy breath and answered.  “Jeannie Miller,” he said, his voice nearly breaking and Sheppard realised that to Rodney she was a treasure.  Rodney wasn’t chasing Kavanaugh to get some trinkets and coin back, he was going after the woman he loved.  The fear for her, the love of her was there in his face for all to see.  It surprised John, he could have sworn Rodney had been appraising him when he looked at him back on the island, and if he was truthful to himself, it disappointed him to find out he was wrong.  Just as well he hadn’t embarrassed himself, it was obvious his advances would not have been greeted well, McKay already belonged to someone else.

“He took her just to get at you?” Sheppard asked in disbelief.

“He... he wants to ransom her.”

“Who to?” John asked curiously.

“I’m hoping her husband,” Rodney’s voice was full of dread, the full realisation of the possibilities that a woman could be ransomed or sold into were obviously as clear to him as they were to John.

Her Husband.  So McKay was in love with a married woman.  Had she left her husband for him?  Or had he taken her and then fallen in love?  But there had been something else in his voice, something telling to John “But you don’t think it is, you think you know who he is selling her to?”

McKay’s jaw tensed before he bit out his answer, “I don’t know.”

Even though John knew Rodney was lying, positive he did know who, he was still torn, loathe to turn away from a lady in distress and knowing the kind of fate he left her to ate at him, but his first duty was always to his crew, such was the burden of a Captain.  He knew that vendetta’s never ended well, and he would be chasing down an unknown enemy, a clear risk to his crew and for no gain.  He couldn’t ask them to do that for a favour he owed.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.  I won’t endanger my crew and I can’t risk throwing their lives away on a quest that is not of their choosing or to their gain.  I promised you safe passage to a port, and I will continue to supply that, but I cannot and will not offer you more.  I’m truly sorry.”

Rodney’s jaw was tense when he nodded.  “Of course, I understand,” he bit out.  He looked over at Radek, seeming to say something with his eyes that John could not understand.  

Rodney stood up straight, ramrod straight and walked down the table, dragging a map with him under his fingertips. He pointed to a place on the map, “If you’ll take us to this port, we’ll make our way from there.  I think we should retire to our cabin, we have lots to plan for now that we have to find a ship and crew.  Thank you for your help, Captain Sheppard.”

Each formal word felt like a slap in the face to John, but he couldn’t alter his stance.  Instead he nodded his agreement and watched Rodney leave his rooms, Radek trailing after.

****

“What do you intend to do, Rodney?” Radek asked softly once they were secluded in their cabin.

“He’s taking her to Koyla.  I can’t let that happen.  Every day wasted is a day she is closer to danger.  She’s my sister, Radek.  I can’t let anything happen to her.”

“What will you do?” Radek asked again, softer this time, almost a whisper, as if he was afraid of the answer.

Rodney looked up at Radek, his face resolved in determination, “You said you managed to disable the ship before you disembarked, he’s running slow and thinking he has all the time in the world.  The port we told Sheppard to take us too already puts us on the same course.  Teyla is still aboard, keeping Jeannie safe with others to watch her back.  I’m going to do the only thing I can, I’m going to take over this ship and chase Kavanaugh down, before he can meet with Koyla.”

Radek gasped in disbelief, “Rodney.”

My Sister,” was all Rodney said.  The words were little more than a broken sob.  A man on the verge of tears, struggling to restrain emotions that were beyond his control, for the one person who not only accepted him just as he was, when even his own parents couldn’t, but loved him regardless.  The heartache at just the possibility of what might happen to her showed that if this came to pass it wouldn’t just break Rodney McKay, it would kill him like a shot to the heart.

Radek just nodded.  What else could he do but follow his Captain.

The sailing was smooth as the ship sailed through the changing seas, from the deep blue Atlantic to the azure Gulf of Mexico.  Blue clear skies and cool starlit nights passed by overhead.  Rodney thought Sheppard was suspicious, not that he showed anything on his face except for that lazy smile of his, but Rodney would have been suspicious if it was his ship.  Still Sheppard let them make the modifications, having been impressed by those already done by Radek on the previous journey.

Rodney knew himself and Radek were being watched, their work inspected, but he was confident the modifications were subtle enough that they wouldn’t guess the real use of them.  The fact that most of the modification did improve the running of the ship only helped their ruse.  Sheppard wouldn’t guess that they wanted a fast ship for their own uses.  They were already three weeks behind Kavanaugh and Rodney just hoped that his own ship having to stop and restock their hold would cause enough of a delay for them to catch up.  He also hoped that those loyal, those amongst his original crew, would also help where they could, confident their Captain wasn’t far behind.  Rodney also knew that Kavanaugh was overconfident, and would most likely consider Rodney stranded on that island for months to come, and so wouldn’t be wary of attack, or feel the need to hurry.

So, knowing how precious time was, they worked eagerly during daylight hours, poured over plans at night by candlelight.  The evenings though, were spent with Sheppard, sharing meals and conversation until retiring to his cabin with Radek at an hour that would not cause Sheppard to wonder what he was up to in his absence.  Trouble was the more time he spent in Sheppard’s company the more he liked him...liked him alot.  John was quick with a smile and laughed as Rodney eviscerated the other pirate Captains, sometimes joining in like a naughty schoolboy.  A quick wit and a subtle intelligence, hidden behind a sprawl that made Rodney's back flinch in sympathy.

He found these evenings both a delight and a curse.  Rodney struggled with the conflict over what he was about to do even as he laughed with Sheppard, marring the joy he felt with guilt that ate at him.  Also as their time drew nearer and the deadline loomed, he was often distracted by the plans he should be making, the modifications he should be working on, but he couldn't drag himself away.  Knowing these intimate, delightful evenings with Sheppard were also drawing to a close made him want to savour each one and when he should have taken his leave earlier, he found himself staying later instead.  During these evenings he found himself telling Sheppard how he had come to his present state.

Rodney considered himself more a privateer than the stereotype bloodthirsty pirate, but as the Golden age of Piracy was drawing to a close the difference these days were marginal.   If he were ever arrested they would condemn him as a Pirate, not a Privateer, so he took the title they would give him.  He had always hated rules; asking from an early age why a man without even a third of his intelligence had the right to rule him, to judge him.  Even with his history of rebellion he was relatively new to Piracy.  

Rodney’s father, Captain Aeneas McKay, had sworn an oath as a British Government Privateer, but when they discovered he had also sworn an oath to the Dutch Government and still commandeered his own prizes at sea, betraying both oaths, they condemned him as a pirate in 1740.  Before they could detain Aeneas, he ran with Rodney and his younger sister.  Their mother had died years before, Rodney often wondered if it was just to get away from their father.  Rodney had almost understood the desperation but as luck would have it, his father died of dysentery 16 years later, leaving Rodney to take over his Father’s captaincy at twenty-five.  

Most crews would not have followed such a young Captain but his crew had known that the riches they enjoyed were down to his planning, not his fathers and so they followed, eager for more riches of the same.  He had started smuggling coffee to the Swedes the same year, abhorred by the idea that someone should be deprived on the whim of a government.  He turned out to be very good at it.  

The Swedes overturned their ruling in 1769, having realised they were unable to stop the smuggling, and realising the money they were missing out on in taxes.  So, some thirteen years later, Rodney found himself with a ship, a loyal and like minded crew and nothing to do.  So he decided to stick with what he knew and changed location in order to do it.  The Swedes had known who he was, but had been unable to find his hoard every time they boarded his ship for a search and therefore unable to prove it.  

However, they had started boarding with axes and it was only a matter of time now, so he moved down to the Gulf of Mexico.  He exchanged sacks of coffee for kegs of rum.  Sacks of coffee had been more versatile to hide than kegs, but Rodney was an inventive man and enjoyed the challenge.  Unfortunately, some of his crew had ties they were unable to leave, forcing him to replace them with unknown sailors.  This unknown entity was to be his undoing.

What he didn’t tell John was that by smuggling coffee to the Swedes he came into direct competition with Koyla.  When Koyla had failed to get his smuggling secrets from Rodney, he had tried to get his sister, Jeannie.  Just as clever as Rodney and aware of his tricks, she would be easy to force the answers from and may even be forced to create some tricks of her own for Koyla to use.  

It was thoughts of how Koyla would force the information from Jeannie that made him wake up in a cold sweat at night, throat dry from screaming her name, to find Radek stood over his bunk with a ready glass of water and worry in his blue eyes.  Originally a cabin boy under Aeneas McKay, he had become Rodney’s friend first, and then his joint second when he became Captain.

“We will catch them, Rodney,” Radek whispered fervently in the darkness of their cabin, “and until we do, Teyla is watching over her.”  His words gave Rodney balm, Teyla was his joint second, in charge of the crew and more adept at leading them into a fight, while Radek helped him with the planning and the running of the ship.  The Trinity they created was a formidable force and he was forever grateful to have them at his back.  Knowing Teyla remained with Jeannie to protect and look after her was the only reason Rodney was able to think at all.

“We reach port tomorrow night, we’ve done all we can, Radek.  If we fail...”

“There is still time, Rodney, he is a good man.”  There was no need for Rodney to ask who Radek spoke off.  He had continually urged Rodney to try again with Sheppard, to appeal to his humanity, to lay all his cards on the table this time and hope that Sheppard would agree to aid them.  He too hated the betrayal they were about to action.

“No.  He is already suspicious, if he learns what is really at stake then he might suspect the lengths I’d go to and if he says no again, in which case we may not be able to succeed.  He is suspicious, but not enough to guess what we have planned.  The sheer audacity would mean it wouldn’t occur to him and because we are only two, he thinks we cannot sail the ship alone.  It is only because he does not realise we have made the impossible possible that we may succeed.  I cannot risk failure, to tell him would be a risk I just can’t take....not with Jeannie.  You know this Radek.  How many times do I have to repeat myself.  It is decided.  Good man or not, tomorrow night we take his ship.”

Rodney fell silent in the darkness of the cabin as he hunkered back down under the covers.  Nothing sounded from Radek.  In twenty-nine years, he had never doubted that Radek would follow at his back, but with so much as stake the doubts started to creep in.  “Are you still with me, Radek?”  He asked quietly.

There was a frustrated sigh and a brief swear word in Czech from the other bunk that drew a smile onto Rodney’s face, knowing the answer before Radek voiced it, “Of course,” he snapped, then quieter, “I just wish we didn’t have to betray John Sheppard in order to do so.”

Rodney sighed, “Aye, me too.”

They were silent after that, both drifting off into a hard worn sleep, both dreading the morning.


To Be Continued

Chapter Text

A Pirates Life - Sequel (Chapter Two)

 

In the morning Rodney and Radek climbed out onto the deck to discover land had already been sighted during the night and was even now visible on the horizon with the naked eye.  

Before they even began work, Rodney  noticed both Lorne and Ronon going to Sheppard’s rooms.  When they came out again they found chores nearer both Rodney and Radek,  something Rodney doubted was a co-incidence. Rodney pretended to ignore how close Lorne was, though Radek seemed to be doing the complete opposite with Ronon, and was the epitome of relaxed and friendly.  

Rodney hoped he’d been that successfully misleading when speaking to Sheppard who seemed to appear next Rodney with repeated effect.  Complaints of being given a heart attack by the sudden appearance did nothing to stop them, not that he wanted them to stop.  If anything they probably increased, always accompanied by a smirk that did things to Rodney’s heart and knees he’d rather not analyse.

It had been two days since they had finished the modifications they would require for that very evening,but felt it would look suspicious if they just stopped.  Rodney repeatedly found himself at the rail throughout the morning, looking across the waves at  the land that loomed ever closer with trepidation and regret.  He’d come to view Sheppard as a friend and what he was about to do felt like a betrayal, but he couldn’t risk Jeannie, he’d betray everything for her.  His one saving grace was that this would be done without causing any harm, though he and Radek had trouble looking anyone in the eye if it could be avoided, even each other.

Sheppard appeared at his side again.  He’d been like a shadow today, every time Rodney turned around he was there.  Rodney liked to pretend that Sheppard was as sad to say goodbye as he was, but knew it was more likely that Sheppard was just keeping a wary eye on him.  “You keep coming back to the rail,” Sheppard commented.  “You that eager to leave?”

Rodney glanced at him, but faced back out to sea knowing that his face often betrayed him, knowing the trick was to twist the truth and flirt with the lie.  “Under different circumstances not so much, but I don’t have a choice in what follows.  I’ve enjoyed my time aboard your ship, Sheppard, the Atlantis is a beauty.  You’ve been very good to us and I’d like to repay you for the rescue before we part company, allow me to buy you and your crew a good night in town before we have to say goodbye.”  Rodney had planned the speech, he and Radek making this as much a part of their plans as any of the modifications they’d made.  If they wanted to take this ship, then they needed Sheppard and Ronon off it.

Sheppard seemed stunned into silence before huffing a laugh, “I don’t think you could afford it Rodney, my crew can put away a lot.  Besides, the modifications you’ve made more than make up for any rescue.”

Sheppard always seemed to call him Rodney lately.  It simultaneously put butterflies in his stomach and a bitter taste in his throat as the words he wanted to say were trapped there, unsaid: Don’t say my name like a friend, I will betray you.  Rodney faked a smile, and backed it  up by not so feigned smugness.  “I told you I was a very good Pirate Captain, Sheppard.  I can afford whatever it takes and still have enough to retire on and I’ll prove it.  The modifications we’ve made just helped keep me busy, kept my mind offJeannie.”

“You don’t have to repay me.  I actually enjoyed it and it wasn’t exactly out of my way, not as if I had to cancel any plans for it.”

“No Maidens waiting to hear your excuses?” Rodney asked, before waving away Sheppard’s response, not sure he really wanted to know.  “Regardless, Myself and Radekhave spent every night planning what comes next and to be frank, I’d like the distraction for one night before it all begins.  Once we start there won’t be another chance until it’s over, and I’d like the chance to say thank you now...in case I can’t later,” he finished softly.

Sheppard was quiet for a moment and Rodney could feel him staring before he cleared his throat, “Yeah, Rodney.  That’d be good.  I’ll get Lorne to sort out who’s staying and who’s going.”

Rodney nodded, something inside unclenching that they’d already reduced the crew they’d have to beat in order to take the ship.  “Well, you’ll only need a skeleton crew, considering we’ll be in a friendly port and as you’ve said, you’ve no plans to rush off anywhere.  They were all part of getting me off that island, I’d like to thank all of them if possible.”

Sheppard was quiet for a second too long, “I’ll go speak to Lorne, see what we can do.”  He walked away, with a nod to Lorne ‘working’ close by, who followed him to his rooms.

Rodney was sure Sheppard was suspicious, the pause was just a second too long.  Rodney had come to know Sheppard, and although a lot of his emotions remained beneath the surface, beyond Rodney’s understanding, he now knew enough to guess at their existence sometimes .  Rodney was confident though that Sheppard was expecting nothing to happen until reinforcements showed up and as none would, Rodney was confident that he would remain unaware until it was too late.

The day dragged and the butterflies in Rodney’s stomach slowly morphed into stampeding herds, and considering Radek didn’t eat a lot and kept taking sips of water, his stomach must have been rolling too.  They were normally fine under pressure, normally confident they had planned things in detail, sourced all the materials they needed, and would succeed, generally being smarter that the person they were lying too.  

Not only did they have to work with the materials they had to hand, they also had so many unknown quantities.  Not only John Sheppard, who Rodney had come to realise was a lot smarter than he looked, but every member of his crew walked past their modifications on numerous occasions.  Hell some were using their modifications and their true reason could be spotted at any time.  Worst of all though, was the fact they were betraying people they liked, not only Sheppard, Lorne and Ronon, but everyone amongst the crew.  Rodney and Radek kept gravitating towards each other, as if confidence could be increased by proximity.  Probably more like misery likes company, Rodney thought bitterly.  

The next time Sheppard gravitated towards him, Rodney invited him for one last game of chess.  Rodney thought it would be best to get Sheppard off the deck, and part of him wanted to spend some time with the Captain before his betrayal.  Rodney hoped he’d get a chance in the future to apologise, to maybe see if they could still be friends afterwards, but he doubted it, so he wanted this last chance for himself.

Sheppard seemed as eager for the game as Rodney and they went down to his rooms.  Rodney had taught him the game, who in turn had learnt if from Radek.  They’d taken a blank of wood and marked rough squares with charcoal, leaving what would be white as plain wood, each square having a dip in the middle of it to hold the pieces against the rolling of the seas underneath them.  Rodney had then taken the spare pegs used for tying off the smaller ropes for pieces.  Again, using fire to blacken one half and passed them all onto Ronon who had engraved them quickly and expertly with his knife to Rodney’s specifications.  The result was a rather crude but stable chess board.  Rodney kept wanting to produce something better but didn’t want to spend time on a new board, when he could be playing with Sheppard on the present one.

Sheppard had picked up the game easily, and had a surprising knack for it.  Rodney guessed that he had a military background that gave him the ease of strategic thinking associated with the game.  It wasn’t long before Rodney had to actually think during their matches and he wanted that now.  Just time to step back from the turmoil in his mind and focus on something else that had no importance in it, exceptthe passing of time with a friend.  

The game passed in comfortable camaraderie, each thoughtful before the moving of their pieces. They spoke little during their games, and only of trivial things.  Rodney won the last game, but  it was a struggle and not with his usual flair, earning him a fleeting speculative look from Sheppard.  Eventually Sheppard had to take his leave when Ronon entered and advised him they were reaching port, needing to be on deck as they pulled into harbour.

Rodney watched him leave, and then reached across the board and picked up the black knight.  He wanted a memento and Sheppard was always dressed in black, and was a good man, like the knights of the old tales.  Rodney slipped it into a pocket, took a deep breath and walked out on deck to betray a friend.

Rodney loitered on the deck, delaying the next step.  His mind was still trying to find alternatives but the only other way was to buy another ship and they didn’t have the time to modify it or to stock it, not if they wanted to reach Kavanagh before he reached Koyla.  This was the most time efficient resolution, he just hated that he had to do this to Sheppard.  He distracted himself for a while looking out over the port as Sheppard’s crew deftly and smoothly moored against the quay around him.

To Rodney, ports looked the same the world over.  It was just the temperature that was different.  The further north of the equator the hotter it got.  As the ship had sailed closer to port he watched the insects running around coalesce into people.  Looking out over the rail now he could clearly see them going about their business, between stone based houses with wooden second stories and ramshackle roofs.  Right now, Rodney envied them and their trouble free existence.

Radek joined him at the rail and he knew it was time.  Rodney took a deep breath and made his way up to the wheel to speak to Sheppard, Radek followed in his wake.  “While you’re restocking your hold,” he said to Sheppard, trying to sound casual,“we’ll go on into town and get some funds for tonight.  Also I want to ask around and see if there is any news of Kavanagh.  We’ll meet you back here at sunset?”

“Okay, Rodney.  We’ll have everything stowed by then.  See you soon.”  Sheppard said with a smile.

Rodney nodded, “Right.  We’ll...er.. be going then,” he said, casting a thumb over his shoulder to the harbour.  He didn’t move, knowing that this was the last time he could stand in front of Sheppard and be thought of as a friend stilled his feet, hesitant to start on a plan of action that would change everything.  

Rodney really didn’t want to take that first step, but Radek stepped in and shook Sheppard by the hand.  “I want to thank you John,” then he turned to Ronon and shook his hand, “it was good to meet you, Ronon,” his face bittersweet.

Ronon swept Radek into a bear hug that raised the eyebrows on Sheppard’s face, causing a surprised laugh out of Radek as he slapped Ronon on the back.  “Yes, I will miss you too.”  Radek turned to Rodney, he had a smile for those around them but Rodney could see the regret in his eyes.  “We’d best be going,” Radek said meaningfully, then moved towards the gang plank without looking back.

“Yes,” Rodney answered.  This was it, no turning back.  On impulse he swept in and hugged Sheppard, much like Ronon just had to Radek.  Sheppard tensed in his arms and then seemed to melt against him, gripping tightly in his shirt before slapping him heartily on the back and pulling away.  Rodney let him slip from his grasp.  “I’ll be seeing you soon,” Sheppard said, almost like he was reminding him this wasn’t quite goodbye, belying the way he’d gripped at Rodney’s shirt.

Rodney could feel the blush starting in his cheeks, “Yes, true.  We’d best be going if we want to get everything done before sunset.  See you then.”  With that he turned and walked down to the rail.  He cast one look back before he stepped onto the gangplank to find Sheppard watching him, face carefully blank.  He looked away and made his way into town with Radek following quietly at his back, both subdued amongst the bustle of the busy port.

They made their way directly to the bank and withdrew a substantial amount, which earned them a worried conversation with the manager.  Rodney assured him the rest would be staying put, but he did have one other request.  This earned them a private audience and Rodney talked through the other issue he wanted put in place.

When they finally got out from the bank they made their way to the apothecary seller.  A small shop with a wooden grid like window that showed bunches of herbs and flowers hanging on display, various crystals, pestles and mortars also displayed below them.  The owner was a gypsy looking woman in her late forties, raven black hair held back by a bright red bandana with coins hanging of the hem, laid on her bronzed forehead.  Sharp black eyes watching them shrewdly above a wide honest smile.  They purchased a large amount of sleeping powders and a small amount of stimulants.  

Once these had been secreted amongst their pockets, they took the lay of the town, settling on an inn called The Boar.  They entered the Inn, walking across the worn floorboards.  Big heavy duty bench tables were spread throughout the main floor with a single step up to booths that lined three of the walls.  The fourth held the bar, stretching from one side to the other.  Above the bar was a large stuffed marlin.  Rodney would have expected a boar.  

The landlord stood at the bar, cleaning glasses, a rare and good sign that they’d chosen a good inn.  They made their way directly to the bar and spoke briefly with the landlord, agreeing on a price for certain barrels to be served with the powders added kegs.  They ensured the kegs were marked so not to confuse them, with strict instructions to keep two kegs stored for easy access.  With the major part of the plan in motion, they then set about looking for news of Kavanagh.  

They returned to the harbour at sunset to find Sheppard and his crew ready.  Rodney was pleased to see most of the crew departing the ship with them.  That only left two onboard.  Rodney figured out they were not only the newest, but also both the oldest and the youngest of his crew and wondered what that meant.

“Any news on Kavanagh?” Sheppard asked as they made their way into town.

“Yes,” Rodney answered eagerly, pleased with the news, “He was here a week ago.  We’ve already made up a lot of time.  With a fast ship and hopefully a fair wind, I should be able to catch him within a day or two before he gets to...”Rodney stopped abruptly, realising he was about to say Koyla’s name, “er...his next port,” he finished lamely

Sheppard made out he hadn’t heard the catch and Rodney couldn’t be sure he had, “Well, thats good, Rodney.  Now you said you wanted distraction so lets talk no more on it.  You were telling me about the Barons work, The system of Nature.”

“Yes,” Rodney agreed, eager to discuss Baron d'Holbach’swork in more detail.  They entered through the doors of  the Inn, only for Sheppard to be drawn into a hearty hug from the landlord.  Radek and Rodney exchanged worried glances.  They had only said the rum was to be drunk by those who accompanied them and no names were exchanged, but now it seemed the landlords loyalty might be tested.  

The landlordlooked over Sheppard’s shoulder at them, his eyes narrowing slightly, but said nothing in recognition of their agreement, except to acknowledge the rum was waiting for them.  “Lorne and Ronon will bring it over,” Sheppard insisted as he led them over to the free tables.  Rodney and Radek had no choice but to follow, casting nervous glances back to Lorne and Ronon following the landlord.

They joined Sheppard, sliding into one of the slightly raised booths on the edge of the room, while the crew took the tables spread out on the floor below.  “So, you know the landlord?” Rodney asked nervously, damn his luck.  He could have picked any Inn in the harbour and he’d picked the one that could scupper all his plans.

“Yeah, known Jack O'Neill for years,” Sheppard said, interrupted by Ronon and Lorne before he could say how and when as they dumped two kegs of rum in cradles on the tables for the crew.  The landlord placing the third on their table, turning it slightly so the ‘X’ mark was visible to Rodney, who heaved a sigh of relief, nodding surreptitiously to Radek.  Now he just had to hope that the stimulants himself and Radek had taken would counterbalance the sleeping draft that laced the rum.  They wouldn’t be drinking that much themselves, hoping that Sheppard and his crew would be too drunk to realise their lack of consumption.

“Well, I think I need to go make room for this first.  Be right back,” Sheppard said as he made his way out back to relieve himself, Lorne stated he’d do likewise and followed his Captain.  

They were talking quietly between themselves, Rodney laughing at something Radek just said when his eyes drifted out across the Inn to find Lorne had returned and was already halfway across the main floor, making his way to his crew.  He threaded his way amongst them, a word for every man and Rodney wondered what he’d said to them.  

It was then he’d spotted Sheppard behind Lorne, still stood in the doorway of the Inn staring at Rodney with a hard look on his face that disappeared just as Rodney noticed him, wondering if he’d seen it all.  Sheppard was now all loose smile’s and loose hips as he made his way back over to their table.  Rodney swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, and took a deep swallow of his drink, earning a surprised raise of an eyebrow from Radek, just as Rodney realised what he’d done.  He scowled at his glass, he’d have to fill it or it would look suspicious.  He couldn’t allow himself to make such stupid mistakes like that, he couldn’t allow Sheppard to distract him so easily.

He refilled his glass, using the opportunity to top up Ronon’s again.  They really needed to keep Ronon drinking, a guy his size would take more to medicate.  He poured Sheppard a glass, just as he joined them, he slid in next to Rodney and took a sip of his drink, his eyebrows raised, “Wow, you got the good stuff, Rodney.”

Rodney shrugged, “I can afford it,” he said defensively.

“If you say so,” Sheppard said, taking a hearty drink from his glass.  “So?”

Rodney looked wary, “What?”

“The Baron,” Sheppard said, “You were going to tell me about his latest works.”

“Oh yes” Rodney said, eager to talk about something that had little danger of pitfalls and where he didn’t have to worry about betraying his true feelings on the matter.  He began to expand on the ideas in the Baron’s latest works.  Sheppard joined in here and there, but his voice nowhere near as warm as normal.  If Rodney didn’t know better, he’d swear Sheppardknew what he had planned but Sheppardkept drinking the rum and a quick glance at the Keg nestled in it’s cradle confirmed the cross Rodney had put there.

It didn’t take long for the crew of the Atlantis to start wavering, one or two already laying down on folded arms, sleeping soundly.  Rodney made his excuses and left the Inn, stealing up the street to sneak a small cup of concentrated coffee.  The stimulants may counterbalance the sleeping draft, but he also needed something else to counterbalance the rum too.  It was why they had chosen this Inn, because of it’s proximity to a coffee house to give them added assistance in fighting off the effects of the laced rum.  They knew they couldn’t overdo the stimulus, it could be just as harmful as overdosing on sleeping draft, but luckily they didn’t seem to need that much to keep a clear head.  

When Rodney stole back into the Inn and made his way to their booth a while later, it was to find Sheppard lent into the far corner, already sleeping.  Only Ronon was still conscious and he didn’t look like he’d be awake much longer.  Radek had been busy plying him with glass after glass, having resorted to drinking competitions.  The unconscious crewman behind Radek slowly getting drenched in rum as Radek continually tossed his drink over his shoulder.  

Rodney sidled in next to Sheppard and watched as Ronon slowly succumbed, fighting sleep like a babe, but eventually giving in.  Radek sat quietly with him for a second or two, “And so it begins, Captain.” he said softly, placing Ronon’s hands under his head to cushion it from the hard table he’d eventually headbutted.

“Yes,” Rodney agreed sadly.  “Just give me a minute would you?  I’ll be right out.”

Radek looked between him and Sheppard, “Yes.  I’ll go get the last of the kegs.”

Rodney turned to Sheppard as Radek left.  He’d been careful to keep ‘John’ as ‘Sheppard’, even in his head, but it didn’t matter anymore. Rodney leaned over as he pushed the bangs out of John’s eyes.  He wanted to lean in and kiss him, but he was about to betray him and Rodney couldn’t take advantage of John in this prone state, especially considering it was Rodney who put him there.  Instead he let his fingertips rest at the spot he wanted to kiss him, just where his cheek bone curved into this temple.  “I’m sorry, John.  I wish there was another way,” Rodney said softly, he took a deep steadying breath, “I wish you a good life, may the wind always be at your back.  Goodbye John.”

Rodney rose and didn’t look back.  He joined Radek at the bar, taking possession of the only keg left.  John had been right, his crew could really put it away.  “You didn’t mention it was John Sheppard,” the landlord accused, leaning forward across the bar.

“And you didn’t mention there were stipulations on who accompanied me and who didn’t when you took my money,” Rodney snapped right back, angry that he’d been forced to do this, angry that he’d actually done it.  He took another deep breath to steady his emotions, “You’ve been well paid and no harm has come to them.  They’ll be awake by morning and none the worse for it.  When Sheppard wakes, tell him to go to the bank and speak to the manager, he has a message for him.”  Rodney had left a substantial sum for Sheppard to compensate him for The Atlantis.  He’d be no worse off for encountering Rodney, except maybe a little less trusting.

Rodney swooped up the final keg, hefting it onto his shoulder, and left the Inn far behind him as he stalked down to the docks, Radek hurrying to keep up.  “Who does he think he is, questioning me on my principles when he took my money.  Hypocrite, that’s what he is.”

“Rodney,” Radek admonished quietly.  “You are drawing attention to yourself, and you need to be calm by the time we reach the ship, which we are already nearly halfway at.  They will suspect something is up if you go in there angry.”

Rodney took a deep breath.  So angry, but more at himself.  He hated that he was doing this to John.  “Right, you’re right.  Okay, deep breaths.  I am calm and happy,” Rodney chanted with absolutely no sincerity.

“You’ll have to better than that.  You couldn’t convince a drunk to drink rum with that attitude.”

“Not helping,” Rodney snapped back.  He hated when Radek was right and he was wrong.

“Can’t you go to your happy place,” Radek asked with a smirk.

Rodney glared at him, “Not helping.”

“Think about when you get your hands on Kavanagh,” Radek supplied.

Rodney turned to look at him with a shark like grin.

“You know, Rodney, sometimes you scare me,” Radek said, a smirk on his own face.

Rodney smiled wider, well timed too as they approached The Atlantis.  “Who goes there?” a young voice called out from the night as they put their feet on the gangplank.

“Captain McKay and Radek,” Rodney called out, making his way up the gangplank to meet Jinto and Halling, the cook.  “We had to come back for our things and figured if you couldn’t come for a drink, we’d bring the drink to you.  Captain Sheppard said it was alright,” Rodney said as he handed off the load to the stronger arms of Halling.  Carrying those big cook pots around had given him a strength hidden in that tall thin frame of his.

They followed them over to the hold hatch where Jinto placed the Keg.  “It is very kind of you, Captain,” Halling intoned, his polite and clipped dictation at contradiction to his rough pirate garb.  

Radek handed over the four wooden cups he carried, “We thought we would join you before we pack our things and return to The Boar.”  They took their seats around the raised hatch while Halling handed round the wooden cups, pouring a full cup for each of the adults and half a cup for young Jinto.  Rodney took a sip, frowning at the taste.  It seemed to have a strange aftertaste that the rum back at the Inn didn’t have, slight, there and gone again before he could place it.  Maybe it had been there but he’d just been too nervous and distracted to notice it.

They made small talk while Halling drank more, Radek and Rodney surreptitiously tipping theirs through the large square holes cut into the hold hatch they sat on.  They persuaded Halling to allow Jinto a bit more and then left them under the pretense to go pack.  Jinto came to get them a little while later, saying he couldn’t raise his father.  Rodney and Radek went back up with him and while Rodney pretended to take a look at Halling, Radek gave another full cup to the already swaying Jinto saying it would help him calm down.  

When Jinto also succumbed Radek turned to Rodney angrily, “Next time you get to drug the kid.”

“Hopefully, there won’t be a next time,” Rodney stated.  He looked up to find Radek glaring at him, “Okay, okay, next time I do the nefarious deed.”

Radek huffed and went to get the things from their cabin they had organised while they waited for Jinto and Halling to fall asleep.  Rodney looked down at the sleeping duo, and then lifted Jinto gently into his arms and took him down the gangplank to the quay side.  When he came up, Radek had positioned the ropes where they’d need them.  Rodney called him over and they each took an end of Halling and carried him down the gangplank too.  “You think they’ll be okay?” Rodney asked, worry clear in his voice.

“They don’t have anything a cut throat would be after, the worst that can happen is someone takes boots,” Radek said.  “We can’t take them with us, Rodney,” he reminded.

Rodney sighed, “I know, I know.  It’s just leaving them there..”

“What other choice do we have?”

“Okay, lets do this.”  They made their way back onto the ship, pulling the gangplank up after them, and went down to their cabin to get the last of the ropes.  Rodney paused, having thought he’d heard a noise that was out of place, “You hear that?”

Radek looked up, “What?”

“I thought I heard something...”  They both stopped moving, heads cocked to one side as they listened.  Nothing but silence, apart from the creaking of the hull in the water.

“I don’t hear anything,” Radek whispered.

“No, I must have... probably just my paranoia,” Rodney joked half heartedly.  

With the thick, heavy rope draped over their shoulders, They made their way back up to the deck and started running the ropes through the eyes and hooks of the modifications they’d made, leading everything back to the wheel.  Within an hour they had everything in place.  From here they could now raise and drop the sails, move the position to catch the wind, pulley’s giving them the strength of ten men, enabling them to move position with just a single pull, the modifications they’d made would also ensure smooth movement throughout.  The storm latch on the wheel would allow them to maintain course without manning the wheel manually, freeing them up for anything they were not able to automate by the ropes and pulleys.

They found themselves either side of the wheel, looking down over the ropes that crisscrossed the ship.  Suddenly awkward,Rodney looked down at this hands on the rail, not feeling comfortable looking Radek in the eye, “You don’t have to do this, Radek.  I’ll understand.”

“You are not just my Captain, Rodney.  You are my oldest friend.  I remember the times you stood between me and your fathers hand.  I grew up with Jeannie as you did, I can no more leave her to her fate as you can.  I would never find peace if I did.  This is my place, this is where I stay.”

Rodney nodded quickly, embarrassed by his words.  Never quite comfortable accepting gracious words.  

“Besides,” Radek added, “I really don’t want to be around port when Sheppard and Ronon wake up.  Especially considering Ronon’s obsession with pointy things, I don’t understand how he doesn’t stab himself in sensitive places.”

Rodney huffed a laugh, easy again in the light atmosphere the soft joke created, “Yeah, good point.”  Rodney rubbed his hands together, “Okay, let’s do this.  You take the bow and we’ll cast off.”

They loosened the ropes, throwing them down on the key side and hurried back to the wheel to ease the ship out of port.  Something was niggling at Rodney’s mind but all concentration had to be on the ropes right now and getting out of port without raising any suspicions.  As they eased away from other ships in the harbour and started out towards the open seas his mind relaxed enough to let the thought appear, fully formed.  He gasped and headed aft, looking out to the retreating dock they’d just left.

Radek appeared at his side, looking out into the darkness, “What is it, Rodney?”

“Jinto and Halling, I don’t remember seeing them on the quaysidewhen we threw down the ropes.  I wasn’t even watching the ropes land, I didn’t notice but now I think about it I don’t remember thinking to avoid them with the ropes.”  He pulled out his spyglass and scanned the key side quayside they had cleared.  Coils of ropes still sat where they had fallen but no bodies.  “They’re not there, Radek,” his voice radiating shock and worry.

“Maybe we should go back and see if they are okay,” Radek suggested.  As they turned to each other to discuss it further, they both caught movement behind them.  They turned slowly as one to find the crew of the Atlantis stood on the deck with them, swords raised and eyes hard as flint.

“Hello, Rodney,” John said sweetly,though the words weren’t matched by the look on his face, his sword never wavered.

His words released Rodney from the shock he was feeling, “How?  You were.... how did you?”

“O'Neill was my commanding officer, and soldiers don’t leave anyone behind,McKay. ”  The sudden change to his last name was like a slap in the face.  John smiled like a shark, “He swapped the kegs for plain old rum, I told you it takes a lot to get my crew drunk, McKay.  He told us what you had planned and we simply faked sleep to see what you would do.  We snuck aboard to wait for your crew,” he cast a look at the ropes meeting at the wheel, “but I see you won’t be needing a crew.  Very impressive.”

“But Halling and Jinto...”

“We allowed you to drug them.  O'Neill said it was just a sleeping draft.  They are safe below decks.”  John paused, “You betrayed me, Rodney.”  His voice was devoid of emotion, his eyes like flint, but Rodney could also see they looked hurt, bruised almost and the fact that he used Rodney’s first name again, like he was reminding Rodney that he’d betrayed a friend.  Rodney dropped his head in shame.

Rodney swallowed hard but looked back up at John, looked him in the eye although it hurt to do so, “I am sorry, John.  You have to believe that.  It’s Jeannie, I had to.”

“Yes, the woman you love.”

Rodney frowned.

“It’s easy to see Rodney.  It’s written all over your face.  It’s obvious you love her.”

“Well, yes, of course I do,” Rodney said, confusion in his voice, he was sure he was missing something here.

“She must be quite the lady,” Sheppard said with a hard edge to his voice that implied the fact angered him immensely, Rodney figured that as this point Sheppard was just angry with anything associated with himself.

“She’s a fiery witch from the nether regions of hell,” Rodney replied blithely, watching Sheppard’s eyebrows rise in shocked surprise at his description, “but what can you do.  Not like I chose her as a sister.”

Sheppards sword wavered and lowered as if suddenly forgotten, his face open in shock, “Sister?”

“Yes, I told you that... didn’t I?” Rodney asked, unsure.

“Er... nooooo, no you didn’t.  I would have remembered that.”

“Well, I don’t see what difference it makes.  She still needs to be rescued.... oh... you thought....ewwwww...,” Rodney said, his face scrunching up in distaste.

John flushed, voice quickly defensive, “Well it was an easy mistake to make.  You love her, want to risk everything to go save her, she had a different name to you and you didn’t once mention she was your sister, what was I supposed to think.”

“Well, thinking would be a start.”

John glared at him and raised the sword again, “Note for the future, Rodney.  Don’t annoy the man with the sword.”

Rodney gulped, “What are you going to do.”

“We’re going to turn around for starters and head back to port.  Which one of these ropes will turn her round.”

“Really?” Rodney asked sardonically, “You think I’m going to tell you.”

“Man with a sword, Rodney,” Johndeadpanned again.

Rodney crossed his arms, and held out his chin defiantly.  

John sighed, “Stubborn bastard,” he muttered.  “Okay, take them below and put them in the cell.”

Rodney looked around, they were surrounded by very sharp and shiny blades, not a friendly face amongst them, so with no choice he allowed them to be taken below decks. Lorne took their swords and hung them on a hook on the far side of the room while Ronon watched over them.  Neither of them was stupid enough to try and fight him so they remained the model prisoners while they were led into the cell, little more than iron gridwork in the corner of the room.

When they were left alone, Radek turned to him, “What’s the plan, Rodney.”

“Escape, capture John and hold him hostage till we catch up with Kavanagh.”

“Do you have one that might actually work,” Radek responded dryly.

Rodney stopped his perusal of the cell in order to glare at Radek.

“Okay.” Radek relented, before grumbling, “You are tetchy man, Rodney, when you are in a cell.”

“Not like you haven’t been in a cell with me before,” Rodney answered on autopilot as he looked around the cell, half aware that Radek was now doing likewise.

Radek huffed a laugh, “No, you remember Vienna?”

Rodney huffed a laugh as well.  “I wish I could forget.”

Radek laughed.

“Here,” Rodney said, all laughter leaving him as he inspected the hinges of the door.  

Radek appeared behind him, seeing instantly what Rodney had seen.  “Aaahh, Rome it is.”

Rodney smiled in memory, “Yes, we need leverage.  Drag that bench over here.”

“You know, considering the small amount of physical work you actually do I still can’t figure out where you get your biceps from,” Radek teased, “Why is it always the little guy doing the dragging.”

“Because the big guy is a Captain and he can hit the little guy if he whinges like a girl,” Rodney said, but he still came over and helped Radek drag the bench over, turning it on it’s back and positioning the legs to catch into the lower grid of the door, the door nearly parallel to it.

“I’ll tell Teyla and Jeannie you said that,” Radek teased.

Rodney froze, “You wouldn’t.”

“Well, it depends how much more dragging the little guy has to do.”

Rodney huffed.  “Fine.”

Rodney grabbed the top end and heaved towards himself, while Radek, being smaller, positioned himself between the door and bench and pushed his body against the seat of it.  Together they leveraged the bench down, causing the sturdy legs in turn to push the door up, the rings holding the door in place on the posts of the cage inching upwards.  Eventually they cleared the pegs and the door clattered to the floor, Rodney catching Radek as he stumbled free of the bench.  

Fearful the noise of the door falling may have altered someone to their escape, they wasted no time and raced over to grab their swords.  But before they turned for the exit,Radek placed an urgent hand on Rodney’s forearm, “Wait, we are turning.”

Rodney froze, feeling the ship turn underneath him.  “Sheppard once told me he could sail anything on the open seas,” he mused, “Guess he wasn’t boasting.  He must have figured out the ropes.”

“Smart man, yes.”

“Yes, smart man,” Rodney growled.   “Come on, we don’t have much time.”  They made their way under the main deck.  

“How are we going to reach him?” Radek whispered before they made their way out into the hold under the main hatch.

“He’ll be at the wheel, we’ll have to run at him and hope, if we can’t reach him then maybe we can settle for Lorne.  I don’t think we could hold Ronon between us, but Lorne we might have a chance and John would do anything to protect his crew.”

“We’re going to die horribly,” Radek groused as they began traversing across the hold, one eye on the deck above them and one on the crowded floor in front of them.  

“That’s my line,” Rodney groused back.  “Wait,” he hissed as he grabbed Radek by the forearm, “I can hear Sheppard above us.”

They both looked up through the grated hatch of the hold.  Radek frowned, “How can you be sure it’s him.”

“Shhh,” Rodney hissed, partly because he was trying to listen to the voices above, and partly because he didn’t want to admit he could recognise John’s voice in a sea of thousands, if not by the candescence, by the way his heart skipped a beat.

The voices fell down to them easily, I will deal with them if you want, that was Lorne’s voice, followed again by John’s, No, I want to hear what he has to say for myself and I want to look him in the eye when he says it, the bitterness was easy to hear in his tones.

“Quick,” Rodney hissed, “They are making their way down to see us, they’ll know we’re gone.  If we hurry we can take them unawares and take both John and Lorne hostage.  This is our best chance.”

They hurried back down the corridor they had just crept along, stopping at the juncture where it opened out into the galley that Halling and Jinto would normally haunt, just in time to hear John and Lorne clatter down the steps from the main deck.  They heard them turn and walk into the room behind the stairs, the one that housed the cells.  Rodney and Radek hurried in behind them.  John and Lorne only had time to realise the door of the cell was lying on the floor before they felt the cold steel against their throats.

“McKay,” John acknowledged.  His voice was hard and distant.

“John,” Rodney acknowledged to his back, trying to instil a fake sense of smugness into his voice.  Mainly to hide the turmoil and nausea that was much closer to the truth.

“What happens now?” John asked, the same monotone voice.  No doubt worried for his crew, but oh so angry.

“We take you hostage, while Lorne here will be released to ensure that we stick to the path we set.”

“And if we don’t?”

“Then The Atlantis sails into port without its Captain,” Rodney threatened, so thankful that John had his back to them, positive he couldn’t have pulled off the cold calculating voice under John’s gaze.  “And maybe without its second too,” he added for good measure, sure John would behave as long as he thought Lorne at risk.

John nodded.  Rodney had no illusions though, John might go along with this for now, but if he saw his chance he’d take it.  They backed out of the cells and Rodney waited with John while Radek went ahead with Lorne, taking their original route under the main deck so as to avoid most of the crew, hopefully all of the crew depending on their luck.  

Rodney followed slowly with John, because he figured that John seeing Lorne with a sword against his neck would keep him from doing anything stupid, and as long as Rodney did not allow him to get too close he would not be able to do anything and reach Radek in time to protect Lorne.  Lorne in turn would not be able to see John and would likewise not risk anything.  Rodney hoped they would both decided to leave any attempt until the crew were closer.

Radek kept his back to them, no doubt so John could not see the fear in his eyes.  Rodney and Radek were not fighters, and in fact tried to avoid fighting at all costs.  They could fight if pushed, but to hurt an unarmed man, that went against all their morals.  Not good for pirates, but it’s who they were and they did the best they could, which was namely to avoid fighting full stop if at all possible.  Even though they had betrayed the crew of this ship, to Rodney and Radek they were still amongst friends and to think they may have to hurt one of them, neither were sure if they could when the time came so they just had to bluff their way and hope it never came to that.

Radek halted at the stairs to the upper deck.  Rodney nodded to Radek, who had managed to school his features when he looked back, and Radek changed position.  Indicating Lorne to raise his arms and hold his hands at shoulder height.  Radek then came in close behind him, threading the sword under Lorne’s arm so the hilt was now against Lorne’s stomach.  The sword raised so the point would still rest against Lorne’s neck.  They had used this position before, it eradicated the option for the captive to pull free clearly.  The sword could be pressed into the neck if they tried to pull forward, even if they did manage it they were still vulnerable to the sword slicing through the ribcage as they pulled away, still a lethal injury even in this day and age.

They were also unable to push away the hilt, without the point being forced into the neck to subdue them once more.  They would have to have one hand on the hilt and one hand on the blade itself, literally being cut to shreds while they fought.  In addition to that, Radek took his free arm and wrapped it around Lorne’s shoulder joint, also giving Radek the ability to fight any struggle to heave forward and any wayward elbows to the head.  The only option would be to try and heave Radek over his shoulder, or to try and fall to the side, but this would bring the sword further into his neck and surviving with his life would be pure luck.  

Rodney trusted that both Lorne and John had the brains to realise this but he wasn’t looking forward to his turn to hold John likewise, or rather the thought that he would under different circumstances was where the trouble lay.  “Now your turn,” he said to John.  There was a pause where Rodney thought John might try to make an attempt to break free, but a hiss from Lorne as Radek twitched his blade brought John into motion, hands quickly raised.

Now it was Rodney’s time to pause, he swallowed and stepped in, wrapping his sword arm around John’s waist, his other hand wrapping around the opposite shoulder joint.  John fitted against him smoothly, and Rodney tried not to think about how smoothly.  Both Rodney and Radek stood slightly to the left of their respective captive, the right leg in between theirs and the left on the outside.

The Atlantis had wide steps, easier for dragging kegs of drink and foodstuffs up and down them, luckily for Rodney or they’d have to go up sideways and that was one way to get out of this hold, to push the captor back against a surface fast and hard and hopefully knock them out.  To simply fall back with them, held the same danger as falling forward.  Thankfully the wide steps meant they were able to climb them if they moved as one, slow and easy, maintaining body contact.  Lorne and Radek three steps above them.

Rodney’s heart thumping in his chest, sure John must be able to feel it against his back.  The hand that wrapped around John’s shoulder joint pulsed with what Rodney realised was John’s heart beat, fast and rapid.  Rodney realised it was because his ship was in danger and not for the same reason as Rodney, because his body was pressed against John’s from chest to thigh and it felt glorious.

When Rodney emerged onto deck next to Radek and Lorne, it was to find that only a few had spotted them, approaching fast with swords drawn, quickly attracting the attention of the crew around them.  “Back,” Rodney commanded and pulled John even closer.  John raised one hand higher, giving the command to halt and they did so.  Radek and Rodney edged along with their captives until they stood in front of the doors to the Captains rooms.

Radek moved his sword arm away, releasing Lorne, pushing him out towards his crew before he stepped behind Rodney to open the rooms, stepping inside to scan them and make sure they were empty before returning to back up Rodney.  While Radek was gone,Rodney spoke.  “You know what we want Lorne.  This ship sails after Kavanagh.  Once I have my ship, you shall have yours and your captain, unharmed.  Any attempt to enter these rooms until my ship is sighted will be stupid and harmful to your Captain.”

“You won’t harm him,” Lorne challenged, taking a step closer..

“You’re right.  I don’t want to hurt Jo...Captain Sheppard.  But you’re forgetting what is at stake.  In the balance against my baby sister and the fate that awaits her, John would lose.  Do not test me.”

Lorne took a step back, something of the desperation in Rodney’s voice filtering through enough to make him think twice.

“The map at the wheel shows the course you must take.  I’ve sailed these seas before and I’ll know if you deviate.  The quickest and easiest way to resolve this situation is to do as I say.  Within three days you’ll have your Captain and your ship and freedom to sail where you will.”

Lorne and the entire crew were glaring hatred at them.  It made Rodney feel ill in his stomach that he had been forced to do this.  He backed into the rooms, Radek shutting the door behind them and barricading them in.  Once secure, Radek turned back to Rodney for instructions.

“Unbuckle his sword and get that chair,” Rodney said, nodding to the chair sitting idle next to the chess game they had left unfinished earlier that day.  Rodney was surprised John had not cleared it away, but as soon as the thought appeared it was gone again, pushed aside by more important matters.

Radek put his sword away and unbuckled John’s sword, dragging it and the straps away and placed it on the desk by the large windows that looked out over the ship’s wake.  Then he quickly dragged the chair over and redrew his sword, putting it to John’s neck.  Rodney than stepped away, feeling cold all down his body when he was suddenly bereft of John.  He pulled his sword away from John and replaced it at his neck.  “Sit.”

John sat down, not a word said and judging by the way Radek quickly moved round the back of him, his eyes were probably like thunder.  “Get some rope, there’s some in that store room over there,” Rodney said as he nodded to one of the side rooms.  Radek sheathed his sword and disappeared into the storeroom and quickly returned with a coil of rope.  “Tie him to the chair.”  

Radek nodded and began tying John in place.  Going between Rodney and John, under Rodney’s arm that held the sword high, never losing contact with John’s neck.  John remained stock still throughout.  Once he was done, Rodney checked the ropes and happy with them he withdrew a short way, Radek quickly joining him.

“They will try something, Rodney.  They won’t wait even one day,” Radek whispered.

“I know,” Rodney sighed softly.  “All we can do is try to hold as long as we can, this is all I have left to try.”

Radek nodded, casting a forlorn look towards John, hating their predicament as much as Rodney.  “We can’t both watch him and them twenty four hours.”

“No,” Rodney agreed.  “We’ll check the rooms, make them as secure as we can and then one of us sleeps, while the other watches.”

Radek nodded in agreement.  They set about checking the other rooms that came off the large Captains room, finding a small cabin with a tiny bunk that made Rodney frown trying to imagine the long legs of John in that tiny bunk.  The other room was the storeroom that Rodney had been in during their journey to port, with random supplies and materials.  They secured windows, but found no other doors from these rooms.  When they returned to the main room Rodney took a coin from his pocket and flipped it.  “Heads I sleep, Tails you sleep.”  It landed heads and Radek nodded quietly.  He seemed unwilling to speak in the presence of John.  Rodney was trying to pretend he wasn’t there at all, that they hadn’t actually taken him hostage on his own ship at sword point.  He wasn’t looking forward to his stint as watcher.

He made his way over to a small cot that sat against the wall.  He hadn’t given it much thought during his visits here before, but now he realised it was probably used more often than the small bunk.  Rodney laid on top of the sheets and put his back to John, who by design or bad luck was facing the cot.  Eventually he drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Jeannie is tied to a chair, the bright yellow silk dress she was wearing is ripped and stained, head hanging in defeat and her breath shook ragged with sobs.  In contrast, beside her stands Madison in a pristine dress of navy blue.  One hand on Jeannie’s forearm, unhindered by the dried blood, as she looks at him, “Why didn’t you save my Mummy?” she asks in a plaintive tone.  Then Jeannie looks up, tears staining her cheeks, eyes red from crying.  A deep cut down one cheek, “Why didn’t you come for me, Mer?  When we were children you said you’d always protect me?  Keep me safe?  Why didn’t you save me?”

Suddenly Madison screams and runs to the corner of the dirty room, shivering with fear as Koyla strides into the room.  Jeannie is now shaking uncontrollably, fear holding her breath so fast that it comes in quick gasps.  Rodney tries to move but he can’t reach her as Koyla moves over to her.  Koyla looks at him, his eyes as dark and dead as Rodney remembers them, a smile of evil on his lips as he says, “It should have been you,” and then he draws his sword and drives it into Jeannie’s heart.  Now there is just one last long gasp of pain and shock from Jeannie as blood blooms over the white lacy front of her yellow silk dress.

Rodney’s screaming, “Nooooooo!”  even as he watches the light die in Jeannie’s eyes.  “I’ll kill you Koyla do you hear me!  I’ll track over the seven seas, I’ll follow you to hell.  I’ll kill you a thousand ways for this.  Kooooyyyyllllaaaa!!

Rodney woke sharply to find himself sitting up, body agitated and the scream still felt in his throat.  He looked around for Jeannie, for Madison, for Koyla with heat in his blood to find the darkened room, lit only by lanterns and Radek already halfway to him.  He could see John behind him, still roped into the chair, his face drawn white and shock clear on his face.  Rodney wondered what he actually shouted out loud to make John look like that but Radek was already there, blocking John from view.

“Rodney, it was just a dream, just a dream.”  The worry clear in Radek’s voice and Rodney was quick to nod that he understood that now.  “Do you want anything?” Radek asked softly, gently.

Rodney shook his head, “No, no.  I’m fine.  It’s okay.”  Radek nodded quietly but still hovered.  “You have to watch him,” Rodney reminded him and Radek turned back to John as if surprised he was there.  “I’ll be fine, wake me when it’s my turn,” Rodney said and turned his back on Radek because even though Radek had seen him in every state known to man, Rodney still had trouble with anybody seeing him this vulnerable, this open.

Rodney woke more slowly the second time, more relaxed and calm.  He huffed at being awake but could feel the light in the room and knew it was his turn to watch.  Knowing Radek it was probably past his time to watch.  With a heavy sigh at the day ahead of him he rolled over, opening his eyes as he did so.

He realised very quickly that John was sitting in a chair alongside the cot with his feet up on the edge, crossed at the ankles.  No ropes to hold him in place and more importantly a sword drawn and pointed at Rodney.  “Morning, Rodney,” John said with a smile, eyes calculating but nowhere near as hard as Rodney expected.  

Rodney quickly scanned the room but found no sign of Radek.  His heart clenched in fear for his oldest friend, “Where’s Radek?”

“He’s safe.  Back in the cells.”

Rodney frowned at John, he couldn’t figure out how so much changed in such little time, “How’d you...”

He stopped dead when John flicked his wrist, the one not holding the sword, and a knife appeared in his hand, a knife so sharp it seemed to cut through the very light that gleamed of it.  “A little trick Ronon taught me.  Didn’t Radek teach you anything?”

Rodney’s watched the knife, half distracted as he figured out the spring mechanism that delivered it to the hand, half fascinated by the danger of that knife edge, as he mumbled, “He taught me how to blow things up, but we kinda needed the ship.”

“Uhuh,” John says noncommittally.

“But Radek was watching you?” Rodney pushed, still trying to figure out how the tables got swapped once again.

“Your little distraction last night,” John says, obviously referring to the nightmare.  “Gave me the opportunity to bring the knife out without him seeing, then I just waited.  Every time he did a circuit to stretch his legs, or check on you, I sawed a little bit more through the ropes.  Near dawn I got lose and knocked him out while his back was turned.”

“Knocked him out?” Rodney asked, voice squeaking a bit with panic as he realised all the ways Radek could be hurt and no one notice.

“Relax,” John said.  “He’s already awake and asking after you.”

Rodney didn’t acknowledge the relief he felt, just looked up into John’s eyes.  “So?  What happens now?” he asked, expecting to be dragged down to the cells very publicly at the very least.

“You tell me about Koyla,” John stated.

Rodney sighed and sat up, crossing his legs and leaning up against the wall behind him.  “If Blackbeard was still alive, he’d be scared of Koyla.  Only an idiot isn’t scared of the devil, and Koyla is the most sadistic, cold blooded pirate you’ll ever meet on the open seas so pray you never do.”

“I already have,” John answered.  His voice hard as nails.

END TO CHAPTER TWO - THIRD TO FOLLOW

 

Note: It took longer than I thought to get here so it looks like there will be a third chapter - to be referred to as the Sequels Sequel.  Sorry to keep you hanging on longer but I estimate it will two weeks before I can post it as i have a visitor for a week next week.  I will attempt to post as soon as I can.  I hope you enjoy this addition in the meantime and thank you for your patience.

Chapter Text

A Pirates Life - The Sequel’s sequel

John watched Rodney as he slept, while he tried to marshal his own thoughts. Yes, Rodney had betrayed him, tried to take his ship from him, but John couldn't forget back at the Inn when Rodney’s fingertips had caressed his temple, gently pushing his hair from his eyes. He remembered how heartfelt and broken he’d sounded when he apologised, when he’d said it was the only way.

Rodney had presumed John was in a drugged sleep, unable to hear, so the words were not said to manipulate. The actions had been so soft and his words so painfully sad that John had almost opened his eyes and asked Rodney to talk to him, but that fury of betrayal had kept him in his pretence of sleep.

Rodney had obviously been desperate, and yet still chose a way that brought no harm to his crew. Halling and Jinto were already up and about and none the worse for it, in fact well rested. John was glad, he had taken a risk letting them be drugged, trusting Rodney would do no harm even as he was attempting to steal Atlantis. He couldn't say why, even now, but he had trusted both Radek and Rodney from the outset. Probably because Rodney’s face was so open, betraying every thought, or so John had mistakenly thought. Maybe that was why it still smarted, because if not for Jack they would be sailing away on Atlantis right now while John slept.

John had to admit he was impressed with their plan. He’d looked down across the decks at the maze of ropes criss crossing like a spiders web in awe. To be able to run a ship the size of Atlantis with just one man at the helm with all the actions of a full crew, it was a feat unheard of. They’d left the ropes in place, learning to use them. John was curious to see if they could work round them. Operate the ship with one man, which would leave the cannons to be manned by all hands, allowing substantially more firefight in a battle and still have maneuverability.

When Lorne had first told him of Rodney’s plan, alerted to them by Jack, he’d burned with a cold fury. Now he allowed himself to acknowledge that some of that fury came from Rodney choosing someone else over him. As irrational as it was to think he would have rated higher than Rodney’s own flesh and blood, it still hurt to know he didn’t rate at all. He’d wondered at the time if all those chess games, those smiles and looks, had just been a distraction and that kept the embers burning. He’d searched Rodney as he disarmed him while he slept, and finding the black knight had been a surprise that, along with Rodney’s heartfelt apology, had put at least some of those fears to rest as he had returned it to Rodney’s pocket. Knowledge of the lengths he himself would go to if a crew member of his was in Koyla’s clutches had also dampened the fire somewhat.

Koyla, the name thudded in his skull, the heat of fury flooded into his blood once again at just the mere thought of the man they’d been searching for on and off for three years now. Elusive and deadly, but John and his crew owed him a debt they were determined to pay, no matter how long it took. When John had first seen Rodney in the throes of a nightmare, his righteous fury had still been hot enough for him to be glad.

That vindictive glee had dissipated instantly though when it was Koyla’s name that Rodney screamed in the night, with so much pain it was like an echo of John’s own curse all those years back. It was then he realised Rodney had known all along who Kavanagh was taking Jeannie too, and what Rodney had been prepared to sail into to save his sister. So Rodney had lied to him on that score also and John couldn’t help but wonder what other surprises Rodney held onto.

The thought of a woman in Koyla’s clutches, your sister, someone you loved sent a shiver through him and in that moment John had understood Rodney’s desperation as he thought about what he would do for someone he cared about, a member of his crew that meant more to him than family. His mind had then taken it a step further and played out the image of Rodney suffering under Koyla’s hand, red blood stark against that pale skin, the light in those blue eyes dimming in an expression of unadulterated pain.

He’d felt the blood drain from his own face as he had looked across the room into Rodney’s blue eyes, almost like he had to see that it was a lie created by his own mind, that Rodney was alive and well, pale skin unmarked. Reassured on that score at least, he had taken the opportunity given to him and, with Radek blocking Rodney and his back turned, John had taken his chance to begin his escape. If the Atlantis was to face Koyla in battle then it would be with its captain at its helm.

Rodney stirred and John broke from his internal thoughts, focusing instead on Rodney as he waited. Even after John prodding him with his foot, Rodney still woke more slowly this time, seeming relaxed. John couldn’t help a quick quirk of his lips as Rodney huffed indignantly at being awake and with a heavy sigh rolled over, opening his eyes as he did so.

He frowned as he took in John, sitting in a chair alongside the cot with his feet up on the edge, crossed at the ankles. His eyes widening as he realised there were no ropes to hold him in place. Rodney pulled away, only stopping as he hit the wall, as his eyes travelled down the sword held steady in John’s hand, pointed at him. “Morning, Rodney,” John said with a saccharine smile.

Rodney quickly scanned the room. His fear for his friend obvious in his face, “Where’s Radek?” John gave him credit, he had a sword pointed at his throat and yet his primary fear seemed to be for his friend.

“He’s safe. Down in the brig,” John assured him.

Rodney frowned at John, “How’d you...”

John figured actions spoke louder than words and flicked his wrist, Rodney’s words died as the knife appeared in John’s free hand. “A little trick Ronon taught me. Didn’t your second teach you anything?” John challenged smugly.

Rodney watched the knife with a mixture of curiosity and fear. He sounded distracted as he answered with a mumble, “He taught me how to blow things up, but we kinda needed the ship.”

“Uhuh,” John answered noncommittally. Watching as Rodney’s eyes flicked from the knife to his face, locking eyes with him.

“But Radek was watching you?” Rodney challenged.

“Your little distraction last night gave me the opportunity to bring the knife out without him seeing, then I just waited. Every time he did a circuit to stretch his legs, or check on you, I sawed a little bit more through the ropes. Near dawn I got loose and knocked him out while his back was turned.”

“Knocked him out?” Rodney asked, voice squealing with a pitch that made John wince. The worry for his friend clearly back with abundance.

“Relax,” John said. “He’s already awake and asking after you.” In fact John had already questioned him with Lorne earlier. He’d told what he knew of Koyla and why he’d taken Jeannie, now John just had to see if it matched Rodney’s story. He’d left Lorne to give Radek breakfast before bringing him up here.

Rodney’s relief flashed across his face, there and gone again, before his face fell into resignation. He looked John dead in the eye, ready to receive his fate and John gave him credit for that too. “So?” Rodney asked, “What happens now?”

“You tell me about Koyla,” John stated as he reset the knife under the cuff of his jacket, just the thought of the man raising his ire all over again.

John watched warily as Rodney sighed, defeated, and pushed himself up, turning as he did so to lean against the wall behind him. When he spoke he sounded tired, “If Blackbeard was still alive, he’d be scared of Koyla. Only an idiot isn’t scared of the devil, and Koyla is the most sadistic, cold blooded pirate you’ll ever meet on the open seas so pray you never do.”

“I already have,” John answered. His voice turning hard, betraying his hatred of the man.

Rodney’s reaction wasn’t what John had been expecting as he watched wide blue eyes flick to meet his, seeming to read his intent in that single moment. “God, no, please,” Rodney all but begged, voice breaking with distraught emotions, “I know I don’t deserve it but please. If Kavanagh reached Koyla then she’s aboard his ship. You can’t fire on it,” tears were now starting to break from his long lashes, blue eyes transformed to a brilliant blue under the liquid glaze of his tears.

“I’ll do anything, pay anything,” he begged as he scrambled to the edge of the bed, uncaring of the sword and unchallenged as John could only watch in shock at Rodney’s heartbreaking reaction. Not even moving to stop him as Rodney moved closer, the sword still unheeded, until he was close enough to reach for John’s nearest forearm to grip it with shaking hands. “I beg you. Give me a chance to save her, please. I’m smart, I can think of something, I can, please.”

John’s free hand immediately came across to rest on the juncture of Rodney’s shoulder and neck, “Rodney, shhh, Rodney,” he attempted to soothe, talking past the lump of empathy in his own throat, unable to distance himself from the emotional wreck in front of him, of Rodney breaking.

“Rodney, we’ll get Jeannie back first,” he promised. “Rodney!” he shouted when his words failed to get through. In the silence he looked into pleading eyes of blue. “We’ll get her back and then we’ll kill Koyla. It won’t be in a firefight. I want to look him in the eyes when I kill him.”

Rodney's eyes widened at the vehemence in his voice but didn’t say anything, visibly swallowing down his emotions as he slowly pushed himself back onto the cot, back up to the wall, slowly slipping from John’s grasp. John let him go gently, heartbreaking for him.

Rodney was quiet, hunched in on himself, when he finally spoke. “Sorry. I...erm... get a bit emotional and irrational where Jeannie’s concerned. Normally irritable and angry,” he joked feebly, his voice still hoarse with emotion, “but you see she loves me. And well, most people don’t even like me,” he finished, bitterness entering his tones. He shrugged as he continued, as if it didn’t matter when it so obviously did.

“My crew seemed to but then I make them loads of money.” He looked up then, looking John directly in the eye with a mixture of challenge and smugness, “Seriously, if they didn’t love the sea so much any of them could retire to a town and own everything in it. They could build their own town. Your crew seem to like me but well, they don’t really know me yet.” Rodney shrugged again as if it was a foregone conclusion that when they did they’d hate him.

“You, I’ve no idea why you seem to like me,” Rodney looked back into his lap, voice forlorn as he added, with a derisive snort, “at least before now. I figured you found me amusing before. Radek’s my friend but Jeannie, she really loves me. She knows me and she still loves me and, God help me, I want to kill her myself most of the time but I can’t... she’s the most priceless thing in my life and if anything were to happen to her... I don’t think I’d survive.”

John just looked on stunned at the heartfelt admission. Rodney could turn on a sixpence with his emotions but normally from laughing into a full on rant and back to normal again. But throughout the admittedly short time John had known him, he’d never seen him this vulnerable, so shockingly open and honest. He could only assume that the stress of his sister’s situation had stretched Rodney’s emotions to breaking point and that failure of his second attempt to take Atlantis had left him feeling defeated.

Before John could even think of what to say, Rodney spoke again, this time sounding thoughtful, “Radek urged me to tell you everything you know, but I figured if you’d heard of Koyla then you’d say no, and afterward, well I thought if I pushed too hard you’d be more suspicious of our actions. I just wanted to say, if there’d been another way I would never have taken Atlantis from you, I know what she means to you, but I was desperate.”

John swallowed, “Yeah, yeah, I get that.” He had to get this conversation back on track or he’d never hear Rodney’s version before Lorne arrived with Radek. “So, how do you know Koyla and why does he want your sister?”

Rodney gave a deep sigh and then started talking, his look alternating between his lap and John, sometimes looking into the distance past as the room faded around him. “I met him back when we were smuggling in Europe. Koyla appeared quite suddenly, and then he’d slowly started getting rid of any and all competition, either by his own hand or by betraying them to the authorities. By the time we realised what was happening, there was only our ship and him. We were already committed and had a full book of sellers and buyers to honour. In the smuggling trade, word gets around quickly if you fail to deliver, no matter the reasons.

“At first Koyla tried to get rid of us with the law, first time we were boarded as the sellers were walking off our gangplank, the authorities obviously thought to find their loot in the hold.“ Rodney rolled his eyes to show how stupid he thought that was. “The goods were stowed as they were brought aboard, and could be concealed within minutes, so well that they’d have to take an axe to the whole ship if they wanted to find it. Then they tried in the middle of the seas, in port and out of port we were boarded more times than the local ferry but they never found anything.”

A quick smirk of pride showed briefly on Rodney’s face, that he had outwitted the authorities and Koyla, though that quickly fell away as he continued his tale. “No doubt Koyla was furious at first, but then it must have occurred to him that if we could stand up to that kind of scrutiny then we could likely smuggle anything. We were only smuggling coffee to the Swedes, I don’t know what he was smuggling, but I know the big money is in opium. Whatever it was, he wanted to know how we managed to outsmart the authorities.

“He tried to catch us on the open seas but we easily out sailed him.” Rodney jutted his chin out as if expecting a challenge to his words, “You’ve seen the improvements we can make to a ship. Ours was the fastest on the seas. When that didn’t work, he came after us on the mainland. He managed to get hold of me on my own, he held me prisoner and started to question me on how we stored our goods, how we managed to hide it from the authorities.

When I didn’t answer he..... he cut me,“ Rodney rolled up the sleeve on his right arm with a shaking hand to show a deep scar on his forearm. John tried not to show his surprise, Radek had not mentioned that Koyla had actually had Rodney in his grasp and he could only imagine the ugly knife that could leave a scar like that.

Rodney pulled the sleeve back down, like he wanted the scar out of sight. His fingers remained fiddling with the cuff, continuously pulling it tight to make sure the sleeve stayed down. Rodney didn’t seem to realise he was doing it as he continued, “Koyla promised to do a lot more if I didn’t talk and then he left me... to think on things he said,” Rodney stalled, obviously dubious about whether or not to say what was on his mind. “I... I didn’t need to think about it,” he admitted softly, “I was ready to tell him anything, he just left before I could. The pain of the knife....” Rodney swallowed, “I think I was in shock. My mind just sort of switched off. By the time I could think again, he was gone. I...I knew I was going to tell him everything when he came back.”

And in his words John could hear the self loathing in his voice, but he didn’t know what to say to make it alright. It felt wrong to say anything, to make any sound during Rodney’s quietly spoken confession, so heartbreakingly honest it held John mesmerised in empathy and shock. Rodney looked up with sincere eyes, shrugging in embarrassment, “I’m not good with pain. I use my brain so I don’t find myself in those sort of situations. My other second is Teyla, she wouldn’t have told him a damn thing.” Rodney said, the obvious pride he held for this mysterious Teyla ringing clear and true in his voice. He was proud of her.

“She’s my second because she knows more about fighting than I do. But she’s also more diplomatic than I am, and she’s intelligent and sneaky,” he grinned as he added the last part. “I still don’t know how she found me, she said she called in some favours, either way she got in there and she got me out. When Koyla came back to that room, it was empty. He’s been trying to get me back ever since, I guess he finally gave up.

Rodney frowned, “I don’t know how he found out Jeannie even existed, let alone that she was as smart as me. She’ll be able to tell him what he wants to know, I just hope she tells him fast. The thought of her....” Rodney stopped abruptly, lips pinched as he bit down on words he couldn’t say, obviously to overcome for his sister to complete the sentence. His eyes slid closed for a moment as he swallowed down the fear for her safety that threatened to undo him before he took a few stabilising breaths.

John didn’t really know what to think. He knew Rodney’d been lucky to have escaped Koyla alive and knowing Koyla, he wasn’t as done with Rodney as he thought. Koyla had obviously taken an avid interest in him and Koyla was not one to just walk away, even if he had his answers from Jeannie. Koyla would not like that he’d managed to escape and would most likely aim to fix that permanently.

John had wondered initially why Radek hadn’t mentioned it, but now seeing Rodney’s own self loathing for not holding out under torture, something John knew every man would fail at eventually, he could understand why Radek didn’t want them to bring this up, knowing it would only strengthen Rodney’s misplaced self loathing to think Radek had told them behind his back. John was also curious about this Teyla, and if he was honest with himself, some of that curiosity was the actual relationship she had with Rodney.

He’d guessed wrong previously and since he’d found out that Rodney’s true love was actually his sister, which had been very embarrassing, he’d started to wonder if those looks and smiles had been what he hoped, and not just his overactive imagination running away with him. Yet, just as he was thinking maybe Rodney was interested in him, he brought up yet another woman that he obviously cared about and respected and once again John was all at sea. He wasn’t going to embarrass himself by voicing his suspicions again so he’d decided to see if Rodney instigated anything. It was at that moment that he realised he’d already forgiven Rodney, when he realised how much he fervently hoped Rodney would instigate something.

Rodney had fallen silent, his eyes full of pain, contemplating his sister's fate John presumed. John wanted to help him, but was at a loss on how. He wasn’t quite sure what to say, but he didn’t have to stumble to find the words as Rodney took the lead again, a hint of desperation to his query, obviously desperate to change the subject and maybe desperate for the distraction. “So, I’ve told you how I know Koyla. I take it as you want to kill the guy, that you didn’t part on good terms?”

John couldn’t stop the disgusted huff of bitter laughter that escaped him at the thought of him and Koyla as friends. “No, when we parted Koyla left me with two dead bodies that were once my friends.” John watched Rodney’s eyes widen and wondered how much to tell him. Then he realised that if he wanted Rodney to be honest with him, maybe he should be honest too.

“Dex and Holland were my first and second. We were working for the Navy at the time,” John saw the shock on Rodney’s face but chose to ignore it, if he didn’t get this out in one go, he doubted he ever would. “Dex and Holland were press ganged by Koyla, by the time we discovered what had happened to them Koyla had already left port. We were supposed to return to the nearest Naval Base for our next orders but I refused to leave my friends in the hands of a pirate. I asked for volunteers, some made their own way back to the Naval base and those that didn’t are still part of my crew, except for Lorne and Ronon who joined later. We chased Koyla down and came close so many times, obviously too close for comfort. One of our leads took us to a deserted beach. When we landed we found Dex and Holland. Koyla was nowhere to be seen.

“You know how press ganged crew are treated, but it seemed life had been even worse for Holland and Dex...I think” John had to push the words out, his own confession that had weighed him down over the years, never to be voiced till now, “...I think they were treated worse because of how doggedly I chased them. But this last...it was clear that this was a message for us.” For me, John finished in his own head, closing his eyes briefly as he pushed away that final image of his friends as they lay damaged on an idyllic beach, dying under a beating sun.

“Dex was already dead from the wounds Koyla had inflicted on him, and Holland wasn’t far behind.” John didn’t go into how they died, not sure he could voice that out loud, he could already feel the anger trying to claw it’s way out. “I took them both back to Atlantis but Holland didn’t even last till we reached port. When I took them home to be buried by their families, I found out from Lorne that we’d all been listed as deserters and marked as Pirates. We had nothing at home and we all still wanted Koyla to pay desperately.

“He must have thought by cutting Dex and Holland loose that we would stop chasing him. He couldn’t have been more wrong. We returned, this time Lorne came with us, but there was no trace of Koyla, I’m guessing now that this must be when he relocated to Europe. We’ve earned a living but we’ve always been looking and waiting for Koyla. Over the next three years we sailed these waters without a sighting. We heard reports but they were from all over the world, nothing solid. Did we sail for Europe or did we sail for China? We decided to stay put and wait, feeling sure he’d return eventually. This is the first time we’ve heard something definite in those three long years.

“Lorne is gathering the crew and I’ll speak to them shortly. If they all agree then we will help you get your sister back. But Kavanagh belongs to us, we need to find out where Koyla is and finish this once and for all, unless he’s already reached Koyla, then he’s all yours.”

“But, my sister...”

“We want Koyla, but not enough to sacrifice an innocent. We aim to get her before they even reach Koyla. You’ll get her back, Rodney.”

“But you said your crew has to decide..”

“There is a chance not everyone will agree, but we have been chasing him for three years. I think the majority will want to pursue him, and if so, we can put to port any that do not wish to join us. It all depends on how they vote.”

Rodney nodded, seeming to turn his thoughts inward. John watched him and wondered what Rodney would do if the majority voted against. John thought it unlikely but he couldn’t be sure, and as their captain he would have to abide by their choice. But then, what if they did vote against. He wanted Koyla desperately and he wasn’t sure he could walk away knowing they were finally so close.

Maybe join forces with Rodney, leave Lorne in charge of Atlantis. He knew Ronon would follow him, you didn’t sail away from the man responsible for wiping out your entire village. If John let him, Ronon would swim all the way. But could I leave Atlantis? It would feel like a betrayal, he trusted Lorne implicitly but the thought that something might happen and he wasn’t there. He just didn’t know if he could live with that, even if it cost him Koyla, he didn’t think he could walk away from the responsibility he bore to protect his crew at all costs. Both would leave a hole inside of him, but he’d lived with that emptiness inside since Holland and Dex, keeping a part of himself separate from his crew, a part that waited to be filled up with vengeance.

Leaving Atlantis behind would create a vacuum inside too, she had been the thin veil that helped hold the void of darkness inside. The need to repay the pain he felt on the one man who created it, Koyla, was nearly all consuming but Atlantis and his crew helped him control that need. He knew he could carry that darkness if he had to, but he didn’t know if he could carry on with the void leaving Atlantis and her crew behind would make, or the guilt should anything happen to them, that would leave him wondering if he could have made a difference if he had been there. That was a feeling he knew all too well, because he should have been with Dex and Holland that night.

John sighed, a little nearer a decision but still hoping as much as Rodney that the vote went their way and he wouldn’t have to make that choice, a choice between heartbreak and a slow poison. He stood up and sheathed his sword, he wouldn’t be needing that again he hoped. “Come on, Rodney. We should get something to eat, the vote will take place soon.”

Rodney looked up at him in confusion for a moment as John’s words slowly penetrated his thoughts, his face clearing to weary agreement as he pulled himself heavily towards the edge of the cot. John offered his hand and Rodney readily clasped it, pushing up from the bed as John pulled him up, overestimating the power required. John suddenly found himself nose to cheek with Rodney, looking straight into blue eyes as they stood impassive, John’s eyes falling to Rodney’s mouth.

For the past three weeks, John had watched that mouth across the chessboard and fantasised what it would feel like to just lean in and taste. He was only just beginning to contemplate that this could be the perfect opportunity, but before he could even fully form the thought, let alone act on it, his door swung open and Radek marched in with Lorne on his heels with a breakfast platter that he put on the table. Rodney released John’s hand like it burned, a flush rising in his cheeks and stepping away as Radek came to a stop, eyes flicking between Rodney and him.

“Hello,” Radek singsonged happily, the urgent worry he had on his face when he entered completely gone as he looked at Rodney with a broad smile

Rodney glared back, “Last time I leave you in charge.”

Radek grinned back unrepentantly, “I think John is sneaky, but I like him anyway. What do you think of him?”

Out of the corner of his eye, John watched Rodney look at him, the flush deepening on his cheeks. His heart fluttered in his chest, because that might mean... but no, it could also mean that Rodney had figured out what I'd been contemplating and felt embarrassed on my behalf, I mean, to be in love with a man who wasn’t interested, who couldn't be interested, how pathetic was that.

John left them to it as he walked over to the table. John’s thoughts were a maelstrom when it came to Rodney, he wanted him and found himself acting on that attraction as if by instinct, and yet the same man had held a sword to his throat not even a full day past. John knew he should be stepping back, create distance and in doing so gain perspective, but instead he found himself stepping forward, like a moth to a flame he seemed unable to stop, unable to pull back.

Lorne made eye contact with John, pulling him from his troublesome thoughts and gave him something to focus on. “He wouldn’t eat till he’d seen his Captain,” Lorne said quietly, then he raised an eyebrow in silent query.

John gave a surreptitious nod to Lorne to let him know their stories matched, but said out loud, “Thank you. Lorne. How long do we have?”

Lorne took a seat and John sat down next to him and tried not to notice when Rodney and Radek joined them in soft silence. Reaching for some meat and bread, Lorne answered, “We have half of the hour, Captain.”

John nodded in acknowledgment and allowed silence to descend as they ate. He noticed Rodney eating slowly, always part of his awareness now. He was picking at his food and barely eating, Radek pushing food towards him insistently, glances and looks passed between them that seemed to say a thousand words in the silence. Shouts and arguments and acquiescence and agreements passed in the silence of a look, a glance, a grimace or a nod. John looked slowly between them, trying to interpret, and if he was honest with himself trying to follow Rodney into this silent world.

Rodney was always so loud, so vocal. This quiet conversation was disturbing, yet intriguing. Radek seemed to be able to speak in these glances and frowns. John knew they were friends, had heard them finish each others sentences, but he had no idea they knew each other to this level. Rodney surprised them all by suddenly shouting loudly, “Oh for Gods sake. Leave me alone you wizened gnome! I’ll eat later, okay!”

Lorne splashed coffee over his hand in shock, not having noticed the byplay. John leant back as if the force of the words carried their own wind, pushing him back in his seat. Radek didn’t even react. He just pushed the plate nearer, “Teyla threatened on pain of death to make sure you eat.”

Rodney sighed heavily, still carrying that burden of defeat in the slope of his shoulders. He nodded, resigned, and started to eat with Radek watching every mouthful. “Witch,” he muttered, but he ate. His head was down, staring at his plate so he didn’t see the twitch of Radek’s mouth or the silent sigh of relief that he took with his whole body as Rodney ate.

Radek seemed to suddenly realise he was being watched and turned to look at John who had seen everything. There was a moments pause while Radek seemed to take John in, right down to his toes, and then he gave a roll of his eyes and smiled the conspirators smile that John remembered so well from their evenings over dinner. Whenever Rodney would go into a rant about something, Radek would give him that same look.

Even now, it seemed to say Rodney was a burden they shared, understood. John wondered if he’d ever have that level of knowledge in Rodney where he could say something with just a look and be heard. He didn’t say anything to Radek, just smiled in return and looked down at his own plate, appetite no better than Rodney’s. He saw Lorne watching Rodney and Radek warily as if expecting one of them to explode again any moment, and that did pull a smile out of him.

They finished quietly, each nursing their own cup of coffee. Not a lot was said, but John noticed that Lorne seemed to have forgiven the pair too. He wondered what Radek had said when Lorne went to wake him up in the brig this morning because he’d still been furious even then. When he glanced back to Lorne, trying to figure it out, he found Lorne looking back at him. “It’s nearly time, Captain,” he said softly.

Lorne was nearly always calm and collected, unless you held a sword to his throat apparently. He’d been snarling when John had first gone out on deck to let them know he was free and to get Radek thrown in the brig, thinking it best to separate them to get the truth out of them. While John had been questioning Rodney this morning, Lorne had been watching Radek and continuing their early interrogation, checking on their future plans.

They would be voting on chasing down Koyla regardless, and hopefully following through, but John had come to learn that Rodney was a damn sneaky pirate and if he was going to keep his ship, he’d best keep one step ahead of Rodney. John nodded in acknowledgment of Lorne’s reminder, “Okay, gentleman. Let’s get up to the wheel and put this to the vote.”

Rodney looked pale and shaky, fists gripped to try and hide it. His nerves were obviously getting the better of him. Radek stayed close, grabbing a roll off the table at the last minute and stuffing it in Rodney’s pocket, earning another glare from Rodney. Lorne gathered behind them as John led them out on deck, to find all the crew there.

They gave Rodney and Radek hard glares, marked only by curiosity at them walking free besides John and Lorne. John didn’t say anything, just gave them a single nod and led his small group up the short steps to the wheel. Markham was at the wheel, and Lorne left him there to come stand at John’s side at the rail as they looked down on their crew. Rodney and Radek hung slightly back, eyes flicking warily to find those nearest to them, no doubt wary of payback.

John held open his arms, palms flat, and the chatter died down. “You all know what Rodney and Radek attempted last night, not once but twice. What you don’t know is why. His sister has been kidnapped, he asked for my help at the beginning and I said no. However, that situation has now changed. The man who kidnapped his sister is taking her to Koyla.” John lowered his hands, gripping the bannister as he leant forward, just as his crew took eager steps forward, the underlying chatter growing deeper with anger and sworn oaths.

“We owe him for taking our brothers of the sea.” he looked down to find Ronon staring back at him with avid intensity, brown eyes almost unblinking. “Every one of us owes Koyla for something. Now is our chance, after three long years he is within our grasp. I say we go after him and teach him the error of taking Dex and Holland from us but I am your Captain and so the choice is yours. Hands up for all who want to take this opportunity, Hands up all who want to sail after Koyla and finish this once and for all.”

“Aye, Aye Captain,” came the roar of voices, hands raised in the air. John looked behind him to let Markham know he’d been heard and his vote added to the mix, then back to the deck. It looked like all of them but he had to be sure. To be fair he had to ask the other question. “And all those who vote to sail with Koyla at our backs, raise your hands?”

John smiled as he looked out over his crew, not a single hand raised. “Thank you,” John said sincerely. He hung his head in absolute relief, no choice needed today. He could sail Atlantis and chase down that dog of the seas, Koyla. Rest in peace friends, your vengeance is nigh.

He raised his head and looked over to Lorne, nodding to him to carry on. “Continue on present course,” Lorne shouted out to the crew. “He has a week’s head start on us, men. Coax everything you can out her, the Atlantis has to reach him before we lose him.” The men cheered and spread out quickly to their chores. John looked down at Ronon, he’d promised him this day and had always felt guilty that he had yet to deliver. No more. Ronon was looking back at him, a feral grin splitting his face in two. John had no idea he could smile that wide. He smiled in return with a nod of his head. He’d always wanted to be the one to end Koyla, but looking at Ronon now, he might not mind so much if Ronon was the one to beat him to it.

John then turned over to Rodney and Radek to find a blinding smile on Rodney’s face, he faltered as he took in the change to his face. He’d seen this smile numerous times by now, yet every time it hit him like the first. Rodney’s eyes literally sparkled when he smiled, his face seemed to light up from within and John always had to take a moment when he saw it, because for that moment it always left him speechless as butterflies tumbled inside.

He took that moment to move closer to Rodney and Radek. “So, looks like we join forces. How about we go back down and start making plans. After all, no one here knows your ship better than the two of you.”

Rodney nodded eagerly, still smiling brightly. Radek seemed just as happy, and just as relieved. They made their way back down and started planning how best to attack the ship when they caught up to it.

Over the next few days, Rodney and Radek told them everything they could about their ship. Their main strength and defense seemed to lie in their speed on the high seas, but with their modifications to the Atlantis, and Rodney’s loyal crew’s modifications to their own ship, this should no longer be the case. They studied the maps, knowing when they were likely to catch Kavanagh, who they also described in great detail so they didn’t kill him by mistake, some of Rodney’s details were superfluous, but very entertaining.

It was during one of the late night battle plans that it happened. Just John and Rodney were left looking over the maps, while Radek and Ronon were doing an itinerary on their weaponry for the attack. They’d detoured into swapping old stories and Rodney was explaining one of their previous smuggling trips. His face alight as his hands moved to mimic his words. John couldn’t look away from his face.

Rodney turned to him, words dying as his eyes flicked over John’s face, and John let him see some of the feelings he’d been hiding from the beginning, hesitant to show him everything in case it scared him off. They sat looking at each other before John slowly leaned in, his lips brushing Rodney’s. He heard a sound from Rodney’s throat, full of passion, and felt the barest response before Rodney pulled away. “No...no...I’m sorry, but I... I’m committed.”

John pulled back slowly, swallowing down disappointment with a small amount of anger. Of course he was, the first man John had been attracted to in years and he was taken.

“I’m sorry,” Rodney was saying again. “If I’d thought for one minute that you...” Rodney stopped again, as if the fact John wanted him was just beyond his ability to comprehend.

“Teyla?” John asked, unable to keep the bitter resignation out of his voice.

“I would have said something sooner,” Rodney said. “I wasn’t even sure you liked me, let alone wanted to...” he made some vague wave with his hand, “you know.”

John couldn’t help but huff a laugh. For a pirate Captain with an ego the size of North America, he was incredibly self depreciating. “Of course I like you, Rodney. What’s not to like.” He shrugged under Rodney’s shocked gaze. “Is it really that hard to believe?”

“Well...yes, actually.”

John smiled. He realised he didn’t want Rodney out of his life. He enjoyed his company on a basic level and he didn’t want to let him go, if he couldn’t have what he wanted then he’d best start diminishing the damage and maybe salvage something. “I just figured we could have some fun. I do like you and I would have liked more, but we can leave things as they are. Are you okay with that?”

Rodney nodded silently, struck dumb it seemed.

“Well, it’s late, I’m off to get some sleep,” John lied. He stood up and stretched, noticing Rodney’s eyes flick to his midsection as his shirt pulled loose to show the bare skin underneath. Interesting. So, Rodney was interested, just not free to act on it. That did make John feel a little better to know it wasn’t just him. But sadly, it didn’t change anything. “Night, Rodney.”

“Yeah, yeah, night,” Rodney answered, clearly distracted and bemused.

In the morning, Rodney was a little flustered around him, John kept catching him looking with wide disbelieving eyes, before looking away and burying his head in whatever he was doing. John chose to ignore it, along with Lorne’s, Radek’s and Ronon’s curious glances as they flicked between the two of them, and eventually Rodney’s behaviour became more and more normal as the morning stretched on.

By the evening, Rodney was able to talk to John without stuttering and able to look him in the eye and they found themselves in companionable silence on the deck watching the sun fall ever closer to the horizon. The silence didn’t last long as a voice yelled down from the crows nest.

“I see it. Straight ahead, lit up like a vaudeville stage.”

“Are you sure?” Rodney called back, but didn’t wait for an answer, instead running forward to the rail, peering into the distance to see for himself.

Before long the ship could be seen by the naked eye on the horizon, her lights blazing across her decks told of Kavanagh’s misplaced confidence that he was alone on the sea, and Rodney’s focus narrowed to the ship on the horizon and only that.

They had a basic plan of attack and the layout of the ship clear in their minds They ran dark, creeping closer and closer throughout the night, any lights on their own deck were shuttered from the view of Kavanagh. The sun began to show it’s head above the horizon and with it a fog began to form on the sea ahead of them and the further the sun rose, the thicker the fog got as the cold sea reacted to the warmth, enveloping first the Sea Lord and then Atlantis.They saw the ship sail into the fog in the early hours of the morning, but by the time they reached the fog, the Sea Lord had disappeared into it’s depths and out of sight.

Rodney had been highly agitated when they lost him in the fog. Kavanagh had been blatant about how long it would take to reach Koyla before Radek left the crew and so, even given the delays caused by Rodney’s loyal crew, they knew they had to be close to Koyla’s lair now and Rodney had been worried they’d missed him for the last two days. It was actually more of a relief to finally find Kavanagh was still sailing than it was to actually find him, but they knew their small window of time to attack Kavanagh before he reached Koyla was slowly slipping away and this could be their one and only chance for success.

Atlantis sailed between the craggy stone columns that seemed to appear out of nowhere and towered above the waves under the watchful gaze of the black cliffs. They ran all along this short coastline, making a maze of natural rock. The depth of the water unknown and invisible to them. It made John nervous to sail so close to the black stacks, but time was their enemy and it robbed him of any choice, so he put his faith in accurate maps and the navigational skills of Lorne. In addition, they had a plum line hanging off each side of the bow. If either weight hit a solid surface, it would pull on the line and cause a red flag to pull up in front of Lorne, giving him the chance to drop a short anchor and the brake sail to ensure a quick stop.

John could see Rodney glancing up at the helm, checking no flags were visible. John himself could not help but check either. They had no clear route for this area, but presuming that Kavanagh did, they were aiming to find him fast and then follow his route till they caught up with him along side. Every member of the crew was tense with worry over their ship, and anticipation of the fight that could come any moment. They all waited in silence, stern faces locked on the fog around them as they searched in vain for Kavanagh, everyone holding their breath when they were forced to pass between the black stacks.

Early morning fog sat heavy above the sea, so thick only the tallest masts would be seen. They were running silent, lookouts in the crows nest, as they hunted through the fog for the sails of Rodney’s ship, Sea Lord. John had raised his eyebrows the first time he heard the ships proud name and Rodney had immediately become self conscious as he told John that his grandfathers name was Meredith, the meaning of which was Sea Lord, quickly changing the subject and making it obvious he didn’t want to elaborate further.

Judging by the smile on Radek’s face and the blush on Rodney’s cheeks, the story would be worth hearing but John had figured he’d worm it out of Rodney later. He’d never managed it, the subject always changed, but John was stubborn and he loved a challenge so he hadn’t given up yet.

The fog made it hard to track down the Sea Lord, but still remained perfect from a tactical point of view. Once found, it would give them the ability to be almost on them before they realised, and that surprise would give them the advantage, hopefully enough for their men to board the Sea Lord which would mean fighting on even terms, rather than against a defensive front.

The fog distorted sound, causing it to echo and travel back muffled and disconcerting in the haunting atmosphere that surrounded them. Even as smoothly as the Atlantis cut through the waves, the small sounds still betrayed them in the thick fog. They all listened to the sea, listening for sounds of the Sea Lord, convinced that Kavanagh would not be running silent. Hoping their own sounds would drown out any that the Atlantis would make.

Suddenly a rope dropped from the crows nest, the last few feet strewn with red bunting to be visible at close quarters in the fog. The excess rope making a gentle thud on the damp deck. The crewman was supposed to drop the rope at the angle he had spotted the ship, and every head turned in that direction. John felt the ship turn slowly towards it, as Lorne reacted to the flags, and he moved up to Rodney’s side to look along the hull into the white bank of fog, squinting into it to try and spot the ship for themselves.

He saw the rope being pulled back up, using the greased cogs Rodney had put in place. It silently disappeared back up to the top of the mast, barely visible to those on the deck. Barely out of sight before it dropped again, just as they’d passed between two more forbidding columns of black craggy rock glistening wetly in the fog. John hated it, he felt closed in, knowing if they had to suddenly run, then they would be in trouble and easy targets until they reached the open sea. This time the flags had fallen on the opposite side of the crows nest but still to the forefront of the ship, pointing to the left of their position. The Atlantis turned again and this time the faint shadow of another ship could be seen in the fog. The crew assembled at the rail, ropes being unwound and pulled taut as the crew waited.

The tension in the air sharpened as everybody’s entire focus narrowed on the shadow as it slowly began to take shape. Her lanterns now discernable on the deck as they burned away the fog, creating little pools of clarity, making everything outside of those circles of light seem dreamlike. Muffled creaks and shouts of the crew echoed across the fog to reach them, but they were unable to pinpoint the direction in the fog, giving the Sea Lord the appearance of being nothing more than an ethereal apparition, floating through the white clouds.

Lorne had the helm, using the ropes to sail, this meant they themselves didn’t need to shout instructions across the deck which would have given them away. Not only could they sail silently, but every hand could be at the rail for the attack. Even the man in the crows nest would be free to swing across once they ran alongside the Sea Lord.

As details became more distinct, the crew of the Atlantis climbed up onto the rail. They gripped the ropes securely with one hand stretched above them, as they drew their swords with the other and waited silently for their captain’s order. John’s heart was beating in his chest, adrenaline pulsing through his veins as he focused on the target ahead of them, listening for the shout of warning that would signify they’d been sighted. The ship loomed ever closer, details crystallising as they glided silently upon their prey.

John knew that some waters were deep enough for ships, even with the cliffs in sight, but he still didn’t like being this close in waters he didn’t know well. If the weather turned against them, it would be doubly hard to fight against the waves and avoid these dangerous stacks. He knew Lorne had memorised the map and would know if they were in danger of sandbanking, and he had other things to concentrate on, so he trusted his ship to his second.

Lorne steered the ship like the expert he was, ensuring he didn’t get close enough to brush against the hull of the Sea Lord. The scraping of their hulls would echo out louder than any warning shout. As they swept in alongside they heard the first of the warning shouts, but they were moving faster than the Sea Lord and were alongside her even as the first shout died.

John saw the brake sail flick taut just as he shouted out, “Now Men!” He kicked off and swung across the narrow gap Lorne had created to land on the rail of the Sea Lord. As he released the rope and jumped down to the deck sure footed, Rodney landed beside him with a loud bellow, “To your true Captain, men!”

After a quick scan of the deck and assessing the defences, Sheppard gave Ronon a nod of his head, indication they were sticking with their original plan. Ronon’s face split into a massive grin and with a roar he tore across the deck and through the door to the lower decks, with two crew men behind him. The sound of clashing swords soon echoed from below. Ronon was to aim straight for the cells to ensure the safety of Jeannie if she was there.

John ran up the stairs to the wheel, the first man running down the stairs stood to the side, sword up parallel to his body like he was at guards attention. John spotted the yellow scarf just as he realised the man must be one of Rodney’s loyal men, John ran past him too, intent on gaining control of the helm, as the crewman carried on down, no doubt to join his Captain. Rodney had described Kavanagh in great detail to John and his men, so much so that John knew he’d spot him on sight. He was disappointed not to find him on the wheel deck.

With Rodney’s men joining them, they out numbered Kavanagh’s crew but not by many, the fight was in their favour but they still had to earn it. John fought from the stairs. It gave the other man the defensive high ground, but John had the skill to balance it out, and it also ensured John would only be fighting one man at a time due to the narrow space of the steps. He took out the first man quickly, with his lower footing he was able to strike under the man's defenses with a lunge to run his sword through the man's gut, leaving two men on the wheel deck. One was at the wheel, trying to pull them away from the Atlantis. John put a hand on the dead man’s chest and pushed him off his sword, letting him fall to the ground as he gained access to the wheel deck.

He fought the other man, keeping his distance from the man at the helm so as not to be skewered from behind. Their swords clashed as John pushed the man back across the wheel deck, finally getting the better of him before turning to find that Markham had joined him and made quick work of the final crewman. They hooked the wheel with loop of rope already in place, to maintain a steady course, making it easier for Lorne to match them. It also meant that if Lorne had to defend himself from someone trying to escape the Sea Lord, then he could tie off the wheel and be free to do so, knowing it would maintain the same course.

The early morning sun had burned away the fog until it was no higher than the ships hull, and as the fog rolled back the sound of sword clanging against sword, the heavy breathing and heavy steps of men dancing in their own fight gained clarity as it dissipated.

John left Markham at the wheel, to ensure the area stayed clear and that one of Kavanagh’s crew wouldn’t try steering them into the rocks. John then returned to the main deck, eyes searching for Rodney because he needed to know he was safe. He’d had knots in his stomach since he left Rodney’s side, but knowing it had to be done, he had gone regardless. Now he just wanted to be back at Rodney’s side again, to help keep him safe, trusting his men to find Kavanagh and keep him alive.

He found him at the bottom of the stairs, only four of Kavanagh’s crew left but they had made a stand against the captain’s rooms, both his and Rodney’s crew crowded round with Rodney at the forefront. “This can only end badly,” Rodney said, his voice low and dangerous, “There are only four of you. You can still live if you put down your swords. I’ll give you my word we won’t kill you.”

The nearest of the four lunged at Rodney. John was there instantly, his bloodied sword swinging up to push the attack up and away from Rodney, still too close for his liking. He pulled back and stabbed his sword into the man's throat, the man dying as he fell to the deck. Rodney hadn’t moved, his eyes wide as he watched the man die at his feet. Some of the crew had moved forward to defend Rodney, or at least avenge him, but they now moved back again, giving themselves room for defense should any of the remaining three try the same thing with them.

Rodney looked back up at the remaining three, “I won’t offer this again,” was all he said, the meaning clear. The crew at his back shuffled forward as if to underline his words. The three dropped their swords, wary eyes watching John’s every move.

John indicated for his men to take them away before turning to Rodney, “Have you found Jeannie or Kavanagh?”

But, Rodney didn’t answer. He just stared at the doors to his rooms like death himself was waiting on the other side. It was Radek that answered, “We have checked brig, nothing. We think...” he trailed off with a nervous look at Rodney before he nodded towards the doors in silence.

John cast an eye over the crowd, not seeing Ronon. He felt fissures of cold run down his spine, he had come to think of his best friend as invincible, but he was still human after all. “Ronon?” he asked, unable to voice his fears.

Radek’s eyes widened as he comprehended John’s fears, before morphing into a smile. “He is clearing the lower decks. Enjoying himself greatly according to Cadman.”

John smiled in relief, before his attention returned to Rodney who had started to walk forward like he was moving through molasses, his jaw set with determination, his hand shaking as he stretched it out towards the door. John couldn’t let him go in first, not like that. Rodney was in no fit state to defend himself, and if it’s too late then maybe John can save him from having that last image of Jeannie in his memory. Sometimes he wished someone had been there to save him that last image of Dex and Holland He put a hand on Rodney’s arm and said softly, “I’ll go first.”

He didn’t give Rodney the chance to argue, he opened the door and advanced into the room. His gaze swept the room in one quick assessment. There were two women, Jeannie behind another woman, obvious in her blond curls. Kavanagh was in a heap on the floor, lying in the debris of a chair. He knew it used to be a chair because the woman with the auburn hair was holding a chair leg in each hand, stood in a fighting stance, ready to defend their corner.

He heard Rodney enter behind him and instantly Jeannie was pushing past the other woman. “Mer!” she shouted, both in relief and joy. Rodney ran past John and they met just in front of him, holding each other tight. It was a beautiful sight and John was so relieved, for Rodney sake, that they had found Jeanne alive, he broke out in a grin.

Jeannie pulled back from Rodney to wipe tears from her eyes, and then she slapped him on the arm, hard enough that Rodney curled away from it to defend against further attacks, “Where have you been!?” She shouted, sounding affronted.

“Burning to death under a blazing sun on a desert island, if you must know, you crazy witch,” Rodney responded snarkily, still curled in against any attack from the deceivingly fragile looking woman in front of him.

Silken skirts in lemon yellow swished as she moved to pull him back into a hug, lace cuff covered hands that grip the back of his coat and pull his head into her shoulder to lie against bouncy ringlets of sunny blonde hair. The same pale skin that closed over the same piercing blue eyes as she closed them and sighed softly, “I knew you’d come for me.”

Rodney’s whole body relaxed into the embrace, his voice muffled as he talked defensively into her shoulder, “Well you told me when I was seven, that that’s what older brothers are supposed to do.”

Jeannie gave a huff of laughter before pulling back again. Rodney watched her warily, like she might attack again. John turned back to Radek, his Rodney barometer, who was watching all this unfold with a beaming smile and tears in his eyes. Standard procedure apparently. As John turned back to the unusual scene before him he found the other woman had reached them and she pulled Rodney into an embrace of her own. Hands laid on his biceps as she leaned in and put her forehead against his. “It is good to see you once again, Rodney,” she said, her voice soft and velvety but clear with restrained joy.

“Teyla,” Rodney sighed into the void between them, his eyes slipping closed as their foreheads met. “Thank you,” he sighed, heartfelt.

John nearly reeled with the power of the punch to the gut like lead shot lying painfully and heavily in his stomach. So this is Teyla. The love was clear and it was obvious some of that attraction was down to her beauty. The exotic copper skin that shined with hues of gold, auburn hair falling down over a full bosom above a small waist.

Teyla smiled, voice patient, like she had repeated this to him before, “You’re family is my family, Rodney.”

John swallowed down the disappointment, not like he wasn’t prepared for it. It hurts, god it hurts, but he liked Rodney on every level and he wasn’t ready to walk away from the friendship they could still have. He just didn’t know if he could watch Rodney with Teyla and not feel this crushing pain every time, but he was willing to try. John started pushing down the feelings he had for Rodney, maybe if he could bury them deep enough he would be able to satisfy himself with friendship alone.

Rodney smiled too, then frowned, “Teyla? You're wearing a dress?” The confusion of such a thing, clear in his voice. He sounded as if he would have been less confused if he had found her wearing nothing at all.

Teyla huffed in frustration. “I needed Kavanagh to underestimate me. This seemed the quickest and easiest way.”

Rodney huffed in derision, “Seriously? He fell for that.”

“He is not a genius like you, Rodney,” Teyla answered with an unrepentant smile, the teasing clear.

“Well, who is?” Rodney asked, beaming at her.

There was a soft cough from Jeannie that Rodney chose to ignore, instead he just frowned at her, “Do you have to wear that colour, you know I’m deathly allergic to citrus.”

Jeannie rolled her eyes, “To the food, Mer. Not the colour.”

And just like that, John got it. “This ship is named after you!”

Rodney turned to him with wide eyes, only to turn away again instantly, clapping his hands together as he spoke, “Well, how about we put Kavanagh with the rest of them? ... yes, I’ll go get someone to drag his sorry ass away, I’ll go do that now,” and with that he was heading towards the doors.

John turned to find Radek still by the doors, his sword sheathed, looking on with an indulgent smile. John followed Rodney to the doors, “Your name is Meredith? he questioned, laughing.

Rodney turned even as he walked through the doors, walking backwards onto the deck. “It’s not my fault my parents had a strong sense of family tradition. Can we just drop it, please. It’s either Rodney or Sea Lord, choice is yours.”

“Oh there is no way I’m calling you Sea Lord,” John chuckled, his eyes on Rodney’s face as he came to a stop in front of him, hearing Radek, Jeannie and Teyla at his back, busy with their own greetings to each other.

All at once they both seemed to realise the heavy foreboding silence around them. They both turned as one to the open deck as a heavily gravelled voice spoke out, smug and taunting “Well, it’s seems I’ve bagged myself a triple prize. Jeannie, Rodney and Sheppard. Yes, Captain, I know who you are. Hello again, Rodney.”

Koyla!

Chapter Text

 

 

A Pirates Life - The Final Sequel

 

John could literally feel his anger spike as realisation sunk in.  Koyla, at last.  He would have turned to finally take in his nemesis, but the fear on Rodney’s face trapped his attention.  It only fueled his anger further as it grew exponentially by the obvious terror on Rodney’s face, pale, clammy skin with wide blue eyes that stared at John and slight tremors that ran through his body.  Rodney was terrified, obviously thinking back to the last time he had heard that voice.

John wanted nothing more than to reach out and comfort him, but it didn’t feel right to do that in front of Koyla.  John didn’t want Koyla to know just how much his mere presence affected Rodney and he clenched his fists tight to stop himself reaching out for Rodney.  He could feel his control slipping, as he watched Rodney's desperate blue eyes slide away from his towards Koyla, terrified to confirm his fears, but unable to stop. John’s hand seemed to move of its own accord, to squeeze Rodney’s bicep.  It’s okay, he wanted to say, I won't let him cut you again, but he was damned if he’d give Koyla the satisfaction of knowing he got to Rodney.

John looked out over the deck, needing to check on his crew.  His eyes found Ronon first, lying way too still, with six men around him to keep him down.  He was unconscious but John could see he was still breathing, so he hoped he’d just been knocked out.  The rest of his crew and Rodney’s were pushed into a corner of the deck, hands on their heads, at least those that could.  Most appeared to have cuts and bruises but nothing dire.  Lorne, it seemed, had been pulled back from the Atlantis, but not without a fight as he was holding his right arm, blood oozing slowly from a wound on his wrist that Cadman was in the midst of tying off.  They all stared daggers at the enemy surrounding them.  

How had Koyla got aboard with so many men and so quietly?  His eyes travelled to the rail, looking for another ship, noticing the fog dissipating further but not seeing anything else, his gaze was sliding down to the deck when he spotted the grappling hooks clawed into the rail.  Long boats.  John grimaced as he realised they must have rowed out in the fog, too low to be sighted until they were almost aboard, and with the fighting and clear up they had been able to sneak aboard quietly and efficiently.  

Koyla’s lair must be near, they’d left it too late and attacked Kavanagh under his watchful gaze.  The dangerous coastline suddenly focused in John’s mind as a formidable fortress.  No casual passerby to find their nest, and with their knowledge of the area they would always have the upper hand in a fight.  They probably did a good trade off the shipwrecks too, in both crew and goods.  He turned cold eyes towards Koyla, spoiling for a fight now, as the anger increased.  He wasn’t going to let Koyla hurt any more of his crew.  The growl in his throat almost drowned out Rodney’s words to his own ears.

"I’ll go with you Koyla, with you willingly, if you let everyone here go."

For a minute John didn’t realise it was Rodney who spoke, until it all came crashing down and his gaze fell back to him.  Rodney was still pale, gentle tremors still ran under John’s gentle hold on Rodney’s bicep, but over that fear was a layer of stubborn determination.  He was willing to go with Koyla, who terrified him, if it kept Jeannie safe.  Ignoring the shocked gasps from behind him, as the rest of them realised what Rodney was offering, John increased his grip and squeezed painfully as he spun Rodney back to him.  “What?!"  John figured he must have misheard, too intent on controlling his own thoughts and emotions, being too careful not to betray anything.

Rodney’s eyes flicked over his face in silence for a beat before he straightened his spine and stuck his chin out in defiance, “I want him to take me, my servitude for Jeannie... for...for all of you."

John pulled Rodney’s arm towards him harshly, he wanted to shake sense into Rodney violently but he managed to squash down the emotion quickly, instead he leaned in close and, with his head cocked to one side and his voice dangerously controlled, he stated "You-Wanna-What!"

"Let him take me!," Rodney shouted back, right into his face, the panic breaking through that layer of determination for just a moment, before he took a deep breath and implored softly, “I can stop this.”

If you think I’m going to stand by and let Koyla take you from me, to do god knows what, well, well, you can just think again. With part of his mind caught up in his thoughts, John was only vaguely aware that he said something out loud about Koyla not letting Rodney go so easily this time.  Mainly just keeping the conversation going while he racked his brain for something, anything that would convince Rodney to stay.  Not even sure of the exact words he used over the drumming of the blood in his veins.

"No,"Rodney agreed heavily, his voice full of emotion.  He knew, god he knew what he was offering for them all, he knew what his life would become and he was still going to do it.  There was blind panic and anger that seared through John’s brain as Rodney gripped his forearm.

John wanted something, anything to make Rodney change his mind but found he couldn't even think straight, transfixed as he was by the fear and anguish that was blatant in Rodney's face.  “She’s my little sister, John, and yo...,”  Rodney stopped abruptly, taking a deep breath before continuing, looking intently into his eyes, “I’m committed, John.  I have been for a while now.”

And Rodney didn’t need to finish that sentence because John heard it, after being deaf and stupid for so damn long, finally he heard it.  And you’re you.  Not just for Jeannie.  Rodney was doing this for him too.  It brought him back with a bang and it made his heart flutter, even amongst the chaos, when Rodney looked at him with that expressive face, full with, not just love, but a plea to understand why Rodney had to do this.

“I’m committed,”  John heard those words again in his head as they were spoken nights ago by Rodney, and at the same time he realised that Rodney never confirmed it was Teyla, because of course it wasn’t.  He wasn’t committed to a woman, he was committed to a plan should all else fail.  Captain bloody Rodney McKay who always had one more plan up his sleeve, a suicidal plan to save them all.  Committed to suicide, and what room could love have in a life that might have to be sacrificed.  So Rodney’’d turned him down that night, turned him down so he was free to give everything he had.  God.

John tried to find the words but all he could find were, "I can't."  He wanted to add, I can't let you go. He wanted to shout at him, You can’t save me by sacrificing yourself, because if I lose you, I still die, Rodney, why can't you see that. But he didn't. He couldn’t manage to say anything except one strangled word, surprisingly soft, with tears brimming in his eyes, “Rodney.”  The single word heavy with loss, with love and damn it, with a little bit of pride.  All the emotion choked up his throat, as his hand gripped like a vice, because he was never ever gonna let go.

Instead of fighting it, Rodney turned his face to John’s, locking eyes in a final attempt and, as his fingers tried to gently prize John’s grip lose, said just one word in a quiet pleading voice that broke Johns heart. "Please"

“Mer, no,” came Jeannie’s broken whisper.

Rodney turned to her, calm now he was set on his course.  His voice quiet and steady, “it’s not  just for you Jeannie, there’s Madison too.”  John didn’t know who Madison was but at the mention of her name, Jeannie put a hand to her mouth to cover the sob and squeezed her eyes tight.  Tears squeezed from her eyelashes.

John pressed trembling lips together.  Unable to say a word he just shook his head roughly, “no,”managed to break free, sounding like an animalistic snarl.  Just the thought of Rodney in Koyla’s hands turned John cold inside.

"My choice to make", Rodney replied, still amazingly calm as he raised his chin in defiance and stared chillingly into John's face.

Koyla broke into their conversation, starkly reminding John he had been watching everything and had seen and heard far more than John intended him to.  He turned towards him as Koyla’s gravelly voice grated across his nerves, “How sweet, but of course it’s not your choice to make, is it Rodney.”  His voice light with sarcasm, but turning to steel as he continued, “so let me remind you as you seem to have forgotten, you’re already mine, Rodney.  All of you are mine, spoils of war, to do with as I want.”

Rodney looked intently at John one last time before he turned slowly to Koyla, “Not willingly and that’s the difference.  I’ll fight, you’ll have to watch me constantly to ensure I don’t escape.  I’m a genius, eventually I’ll figure out a way to destroy you.  But, if I go willingly, I’ll work for you, actually suggest things rather than wait to be asked.  I’ll actually build things that work and don’t blow up in your face.  Not just my life, Koyla, but my mind working for you, but only for a price.  Their freedom, their well being and I’m your man, forever.”  Rodney paled as he stumbled over the last word, as the true extent of his offer seemed to finally hit him.

Koyla looked to be taking the offer seriously, as Rodney looked back to John, his face resigned to his fate.  Some wore their heart on their sleeves, but once you knew him, you knew Rodney wore his in his eyes.  John had wondered before now if that was part of the attraction, maybe that was why Rodney’s eyes always captivated him.  Rodney stood in front of him now, a hand on his forearm, and simply looked him in the eye.

John could see the regret, determination and guilt in his eyes. He knew better than to try and talk sense into Rodney.  As far as Rodney was concerned he was to blame for their predicament and believed this was their best and only course, and nothing John would say would change Rodney's views on the matter.  

John returned Rodney’s gaze with his own, and the agony of potential loss caused him physical pain. He swallowed, steeling himself and his emotions, barely able to contain the maelstrom he felt. He opened his mouth and found the emotion too raw. He closed his mouth and broke eye contact, gulping down the emotion that threatened to free itself and then he opened his mouth as he threw the words out of his mouth before he choked.  "No, you are... are...”  John gave up trying to form the words he wanted to say, instead settling for a short declaration that he hoped would be enough after he was gone, “I’m your man, forever.  Never forget that.”

John steeled himself and lifted his chin forcing himself to look into those emotional blue eyes one last time. Rodney faltered, seeming to see something in John that seemed to make the fear double in his eyes, even as he whispered in a frightened small voice, “No, John.  Please, no.”

John knew what he had to do, but first he had to batten down his emotions with a steel handed will, he needed to be composed for what came next.  He needed to be cold and so he battled the emotions down to a place where he could hold them at bay.  He felt an angry calm settle over him, “If you believe your choice is yours alone, then you have to allow me the same choice.”  He stared intently into Rodney’s blue eyes, showing everything on his face, “I’m committed, I have been for awhile now,” he said softly, to you, he didn’t need to add.

With that he pushed Rodney back towards Teyla as he drew his sword and stood, clearly challenging Koyla.  He saw his crew shuffle to alert out of the corner of his eye, knowing they would be ready if the chance arose, the thing was, John couldn’t risk Rodney on a chance, so no, he couldn’t stall on the off chance something showed itself, this was all or nothing.

“And why would I fight you,” Koyla asked, “I have your crew and I have Rodney.  What do I gain by fighting you?”

“You think I’ll leave him in your hands, Koyla.  You forget, I’ve seen how you treat your men.  I’ll chase you across the seas, I’ll never stop, unless you stop me, here and now.”

Koyla sneered, “Maybe I’ll send him back to you, send you another message, seems you didn’t get the last one.”

John actually rushed forward two steps before he stopped himself, the anger that soared within him making him careless.

Koyla smiled at his error.  “Why not, why not show your crew how pathetic you really are, playing at captain, and then maybe I’ll finally be done with you.”  With that he drew his sword, the remainder of his crew taking a step back to give him room.

“No, Koyla!” Rodney shouted from behind John , kept in place by Teyla and Radek.  “The deals off if he dies!”

Koyla didn’t even look at Rodney, keeping his eyes on John, “Oh, I think I’ll still have enough people left to bargain with,” he said with determination as he began to circle John.

John began mirroring him, they moved in a slow circle, each watching the other, preparing for the first move. John was aware that Koyla’s soldiers were now behind him.  He was listening for any noise, mostly anything to alert him of movement behind him, but instead John heard Rodney muttering haughtily to Radek and Teyla, “I’m your Captain and I demand you let me go.”

He heard Teyla murmur back in her melodious voice, “You are our friend first, Rodney, so no.”

“You should know I may never forgive you for this,” Rodney said grimly, almost a whisper that had been spoken like an oath.  

Hearing it made John’s footing falter, and as stupid as it was, he looked over Koyla’s shoulder at Rodney.  He couldn’t and wouldn’t change his course of action, but he couldn’t help but respond to that voice.  As he looked over he saw Teyla, closing her eyes briefly in sadness as she tightened her hold on Rodney rather than letting him go, and he knew that if anything should happen to him, then Teyla would do all she could to protect Rodney, despite what it may cost her.

That the cost was dear to her was made obvious as she leaned forward so her temple rested against the side of Rodney’s head, eyes bright with tears.  Every muscle in Rodney’s body stood out in stark relief, the tension of his body rigid which John at first mistook for anger, until he looked into his eyes.  His vivid blue gaze never left John but there was no anger in them, just bruised with depth of emotion that shone through and that emotion was fear.  John realised it was fear of losing him, and of what was to come, a fear that was being held in check beneath a thin veneer of control.  His lips also telegraphed that same fear as they pressed together into a tight line, the tremors that ran through them showing how thin that veneer of control was.  

Radek also kept his place, a steady arm hooked under Rodney’s armpit and pinned across his shoulder, his other hand gently squeezed Rodney’s shoulder in an effort to comfort, not that Rodney seemed to feel it.  John only now realised the depth of care Rodney had for him, and knowing his course of action had caused him this hurt twisted something bitter in his stomach, but given the alternative; it was me or Rodney, so no choice at all.

John blocked them out, able to do so now he knew Rodney’s first and second would keep him safe.  He turned his entire focus onto Koyla and the sword in his hand, with not a second to lose as he found Koyla had already made his first move.  John brought his sword up fast and just managed to stop the attack at the apex of the arc, both swords meeting with a metallic clang.  The midday sun shone down on them brightly as it burned away the last of the fog, the rays reflecting brightly of the sharp edges of their swords, the light dulled where it mired in the blood still wet from earlier skirmishes.  

Koyla was a heavyset man and his muscular frame was more than a match for John’s hidden strength, as Koyla pressed his advantage.  John slid his sword down the side, pushing Koyla’s sword aside as he stepped around and back.  John realised he couldn’t risk a close fight, Koyla’s strength clearly outmatched his own and would therefore have the advantage in close combat.  

John decided he would have to play the long game.  He would wear Koyla down under the midday sun, cutting in with parry’s only to withdraw again, hoping that one would find it’s mark.  John trusted his stealth, and his time in the european deserts had given him a certain amount of stamina under heat, knowing the sun above would not affect him to the degree it would Koyla.  John’s only worry with this plan of action, was that Koyla’s crew would grow impatient under that same heat and may intervene to bring it to a close.  Koyla was a proud man, and would not appreciate the assistance.  

John was relying on that and hoped that their fear of Koyla would keep them from interfering until it was too late.  Koyla’s crew were either shanghaied or hired, they followed Koyla for money or just to survive, not for loyalty.  John was confident that if he managed to defeat Koyla, then the crew would disperse without much of a fight, unwilling to risk their lives with no pay at the end of it, and no clear leader to take Koyla’s place.  

Koyla and John had circled each other, John watched him warily, looking for the slightest twitch of his wrist to show.  He saw Koyla’s intended move from the flick of his wrist and John had his own sword raised to meet the challenge, but found it was just a quick one two tap that he had to meet, before Koyla stepped away again, a smug smile on his lips.  

Koyla was obviously checking his skill and strength.  John deliberately kept his wrist loose, easily pushing away the light challenge without giving away his true strength.  Koyla repeated the move, stretching it out a little more this time but stepping away again when John met his challenge easily.  Koyla lifted his sword out to the side, as he bared his chest, tempting John to strike, but he knew better than to fall into an open trap like that and instead kept his place.

Koyla shrugged, like it didn’t matter one way or the other that Sheppard hadn’t taken the bait.  He rotated his wrist so the blade turned in a  wide circle, but instead of attacking when the sword was at it’s apex, Koyla just kept the sword still as he circled round Sheppard.  

John kept his place, his stance wary, but alert, waiting until Koyla reached the edge of his field of vision, and then he jumped around, to keep the old sea dog in his sights.  Koyla paused, but when John didn’t attack, Koyla kept going until he mirrored his original position.  John realised that he didn’t like Koyla that close to Rodney, and he definitely didn’t like Koyla’s cutthroats and brigands at his back.  John doubted they would protect Koyla out of loyalty, but they might attack John to protect their purse, which Koyla no doubt held onto with an iron fist.  John wanted to move Koyla as soon as he could but he had to wait until he could so naturally, he didn’t want Koyla to know that his current position was a distraction to him.

John brought his sword up and held it steady, pointed at Koyla’s sternum, just out of reach.  He wondered about just lunging forward, but if he misjudged it would put him in a vulnerable position so he stayed steady.  Koyla brought his sword up slowly and brought it down to push John’s sword down and away.  However, John just flicked his wrist, his sword flinching out to the right under Koyla’s sword and back in again over the top to maintain the same position once again.  The action so quick that it gave the effect that Koyla’s sword just passed right through his own.

Koyla stilled, a frown marring his face for a second, before replacing it with that smug smile once again, but his eyes turned more calculating as they watched John a little more steadily.  Slowly, Koyla raised his sword again and repeated the movement, faster this time, as did John, his sword once again poised just out of reach of Koyla’s sternum.  John could see it in his eyes, Koyla was unnerved but clearly trying not to show it as he tried it one more time, again John made the same move, his eyes never leaving Koyla’s face in a challenging stare, this time allowing a smirk to edge onto his own face.

Koyla sneered in anger to see it, and brought his sword around, this time successful as he pushed John’s sword away from underneath, and then followed through with a cutting attack.  John found himself under serious attack for the first time and fought back hard, blades sliding against each other as they moved together, almost too fast to see.  He could feel the attention from everyone on deck ramp up around him and for the first time he realised that this fight could be the distraction his crew needed.

They continued meeting swords, neither gained nor gave ground as their swords met again and again, no parry’s, all cutting strokes that were met and swept aside, only to meet once again between them.  One particularly strong stroke pushed Koyla back, enough that it gave him pause.  John stood his ground, rotating his wrist over and over so that his sword circled, so fast it was almost a shield.  Koyla’s body had frozen as his eyes watched, his dawning fear at John’s skill slowly sliding over his face as he realised he was not only easily met, but likely out skilled.

Instead of backing down, Koyla advanced, throwing his entire weight behind his attack, John met the attack and threw it aside, slowly edging them around as they continued to duel, until he stood once more between Koyla and Rodney.  Koyla continued to attack, he parried, he lunged, he cut, all manner of attacks, all met and pushed aside.  They kept on, each trying for blood from the other, and each failing.  Koyla’s attacks slowly became more and more harried, the sweat on his forehead showed how the heat was finally getting to him after the grueling duel.  His attacks became disjointed, some now only meeting air, but also became harder to meet because of the randomness of the strikes, harder to depict where he might strike when he just seemed to be striking out again and again with no control, fueled by anger and frustration instead.

John kept his cool, he wanted nothing more than to cut Koyla open for what he had done to Rodney, for what he had done to Mitch and Holland.  But, he knew that anger would lose him this one fight, this one and only chance to set things right and to avenge them all.  He continued to meet Koyla, and even managed a few feints and attacks of his own.  Slowly gaining the upper hand, but it made him overconfident, he suddenly found himself in close quarters with Koyla.

Koyla raised the tip of his sword and, in a desperate attempt to defend himself, John threw his sword across Koyla’s, one hand on the hilt and one on the blade as he pushed Koyla’s sword between them, held in place with his own.  Koyla was fighting the pressure, but he soon realised he couldn’t now that his strength had diminished, making him more equal to John’s own, he also grabbed the blade and threw his weight into it.

John pulled away cleanly, rather than risk being caught in the sweep of it.  His sudden release of the pressure, causing Koyla to stumble forward, his upper torso bending over with the force of his own weight suddenly released.  John had his back to him, having had to twist to break away cleanly, but came back fighting, he spun back, his sword leading the way.  

John felt the force of the hit as it traveled down his sword and into his arm.  As he completed his turn he pulled his sword back and looked at Koyla to see where the hit had landed.  At first he couldn’t see any wound, and then he watched in puzzlement as he saw blood slowly flow down Koyla’s forehead, thick and dark.  He realised he must have struck him in or on the head as Koyla made to stand again.  Koyla looked back at him in shocked surprise and made a stumbled step forward, the blood flowing freely now, running down his face.

John mirrored the step, taking a step away and keeping out of his range.  Koyla raised his sword, making another stumbling step, before he fell to the deck to lie still.  The silence that prevailed was almost deafening as everyone just watched to see if he would move again.  John approached slowly, hooking Koyla’s sword with his own and sliding it towards Rodney.  He prodded Koyla, but he didn’t move, eventually John risked moving closer as he dug his foot under Koyla’s shoulder and hefted to roll the body.  Koyla’s corpse flopped over like a rag doll.  It was over, John had won.  He’d been waiting for this moment for so long that he couldn’t quite believe it was over as he stared down into Koyla’s lifeless eyes.  

John thought the void would be filled, but it still felt hollow, bereft.  He turned to the cutthroats and brigands, Koyla was dead, but the fight wasn’t over yet.

They had all moved forward toward the end of the battle, eyes now moving from Koyla’s corpse to John.  He stared them down, lifting his sword in readiness for the battle to come, he would take a many as he could with him.  The sound of numerous swords being drawn echoed across the deck, all eyes turned to the sound to find John and Rodney’s crew standing as one behind them.  Swords reclaimed and drawn against the common enemy while they were distracted.

John’s eyes found Ronon, blood marring his face, one eye swollen shut.  It would have been painful to look at him, if it wasn't’ for the feral grin that spread across his face as his eyes found Koyla.  Ronon looked back up to John, and nodded solemnly.  Thank you.  John nodded back with a smile, at last he had managed to fulfil another promise.  He looked back at the motley crew Koyla had brought with him.

They could take them, of that John was sure, but not without sacrifice.  “I will let you leave unharmed, and give you two hours to take all that you can find of value from Koyla’s treasure, if you sheathe your swords and leave now, never to return.  Decide now.”  He took a step forward, stopping at battle ready stance.  The enemy looked between him and the crew and made a scramble for the boats.  With no money to fortify their bravery, they ran scared, fighting their supposed brothers in arms for safe exit from the ship.  They were gone so quickly, his crew were left staring at empty places where they once stood.  John dropped his head in relief.

He still felt hollow though.  Revenge had failed to fill it and John realised he was resigned to carry the void around with him the rest of his life.  Like being manacled to a boulder that would weigh him down constantly, until it was too heavy to carry on.  Maybe I’m just too broken inside, no cure for what ails me.  Maybe I’m too broken for Rodney, it wouldn’t be fair to....

John felt a brief pressure on his bicep before he was spun round, just a blur of pale skin and bright, bright blue eyes, the feel of a fist as it gripped in his shirt and he was pulled forward, a big hand sliding in against his throat and cheek and then the feel of lips against his.  Rodney.

The fist that had pulled him close, suddenly pushed him away violently, blue eyes pulling back until they were in focus, and they were furious.  “You said you were mine, forever.”

“I meant it, Rodney.  I truly meant it.”

“Then you don’t get to do that again.  Forever, means forever, not till the next time you sacrifice yourself, you idiot.  You’re mine....forever.  You don’t get to do that again.”

John smiled, he felt like it was the first time he had truly smiled in years.  The smile soon fell away though, as his earlier anger returned.  “And what of you, Rodney?  How long before you try to sacrifice yourself again.  You don’t get to do that again, do you hear?  You never get to leave me alone again.  How am I supposed to be yours forever, if you’re not here.  How long will I be yours, Rodney?”

Rodney smiled, a beautiful smile that lit him up from within, he leaned forward and sighed against John’s lips, “forever.”

John smiled into the kiss, arms snaking around Rodney as he held him close.  As they finished, he pulled Rodney close against his chest and whispered into his hair, “Seriously, I can’t lose you, Rodney.  If you die, then I surely die too.”

Rodney raised his head to kiss at the underside of John’s jaw, “Then we keep each other alive, so neither is left behind.  When our time is due, we go together or not at all.”

John smiled as he looked down, raising a hand and using a finger to raise Rodney’s face to the light, eyes shining iridescent under the afternoon sun.  “Seal the deal with a kiss?” he asked, and as he leant in to kiss the man he loved, he could feel it as warmth suffused him.  A light joy that filled his spirit, that reached all the corners of his soul.  It pushed aside the void and filled him up, where vengeance had failed, love had prevailed and banished the void till only the smallest part remained.

There was a soft cough, and John remembered their surroundings and pulled back, gaze directed towards the cough to find Jeannie.

“Look, thanks for the rescue and all that,” she said, blue eyes blazing and hands pinwheeling through the air that was so reminiscent of Rodney that John couldn’t help but like her on the spot, “and well, Rodney seems to like you,” she added with a frown as she swept a hand out in Rodney’s direction, seeming confused by her own words, “but just who the hell are you anyway.”

“He’s mine,” Rodney said, the happiness almost drowned out by the smugness, that John couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yes, dear brother.  I think we all that got that message loud and clear.  Does he have another name that we can call him?  Pretty sure you don’t want us all to call him Mine, considering how possessive you can be.”

“John,” Rodney cut in quickly, as if he was actually afraid people would start calling John Mine.  “Captain John Sheppard.  Radek found him when he broke out of jail and they came and rescued me from the island.”  

“Rodney?” and that was Teyla, approaching warily as if unsure of her reception.  A hand reaching out slowly towards Rodney. Rodney caught hold of the hand and reeled her in, taking her face in his hands and meeting foreheads, tears were in Teyla's eyes as a brief sob of laughter escaped her, sounding awfully like relief.

Jeannie coughed away emotion at the scene before she turned back to John, “Well, thank you, Captain John Sheppard.  I think we owe you a great debt.”

“Hey, I helped too,” Rodney whined, releasing Teyla and moving back in next to John.

“Well, yes, but you’re my brother.  You’re supposed to come get me.  He didn’t have to.”

“I sort of did,” John said goofily as he pulled Rodney in against him again.

“What do you mean, Radek found him when he broke out of jail?”  Jeannie demanded

By then Radek had joined them.  “He’s not all I found.  They had Jack Sparrow in the cell, before they replaced him with John here.  He taught me another song, now how did that go....... oh yes.....

YoHo YoHo It’s a pirates life for me.

THE END.