John walked swiftly into his quarters and paused briefly at the sight of the sprawled form of McKay across the bed they’d been sharing for weeks. The scientist was unconscious, again. He wondered how he’d lasted through getting the new geeks settled considering the lack of sleep he’d gotten over the last four days. Sheppard sat down on the edge of the bed and ran his hand over Rodney’s t-shirt covered back. The scientist shifted under his hand and rolled over with a sigh.
“Hey.” John leaned down and kissed his unresisting mouth with a smile. “Pretty interesting day we’ve had so far.”
“Days that begin at the ass crack of dawn are always interesting—most of the time not in a good way.” Rodney wiggled under the covers and sighed. “The new people kept staring at me like I was a freak. I think I forgot about the appearance thing until they all just kept staring.”
“Yeah, dropping ten years got old fast,” John admitted. “One of the new officers asked point blank about it. I was surprised that none of the Marines did when I met with them—I think the people from the SGC are generally very jaded.” He rolled onto his side and propped his head up. “I’m kind of surprised to see you here.”
Rodney flushed. “My bed isn’t as comfortable as yours.”
John quirked an eyebrow. “We have the same exact mattress, McKay.”
“Not true,” Rodney insisted. “Besides, your quarters were closer to the lab I was in when I was finished babysitting the new geeks. I made sure no one saw me come in here.”
“You know I don’t care,” John murmured. “The people from the first expedition probably already know and the new military people are all AWOL so they can’t exactly throw stones.”
“They could throw punches,” Rodney said with a small frown. He held up a hand when John started to respond. “I don’t doubt your badassness. I just don’t think I would react well to violence against you, John, at least not from our own fucking people.”
“They sacrificed everything they had on Earth to come here, Rodney. I think that says something about who they are.”
“Or how little they had to lose,” Rodney murmured. “Just like us, I guess. I mean, those of us who stepped through the first time. We never really expected to go home.”
“No,” John agreed. “I never expected it—you’re right. At that point, I didn’t have much left on Earth to live for so this mission was sort of what saved me from myself. My father and I hadn’t spoken since things went to shit in Afghanistan and my brother, David…” He blew out an impatient breath. “He was pretty pissed at me because I’d come so close to getting court-martialed for being gay. He said I was going to fuck up his career by association. He was just frustrated I guess. We didn’t part on good terms either.”
“I haven’t spoken to my sister since she married the biggest asshole on Earth,” Rodney admitted. He leaned in and pressed his forehead against John’s with a sigh. “We’ll be each other’s family, John. That’s enough, right?”
“Yeah, more than.” John brushed their mouths together and groaned a little when Rodney moved closer. “I can’t. I have a team off world who isn’t responding to calls and two teams searching for them. I need to be back in the control room within the next thirty minutes.”
“Anything I can help with?”
“Just be ready to roll, if this is bad I’ll want to go through the gate at some point in the next couple of hours. How are you on sleep?”
“I’m good. Miko sent me off to bed a couple of hours ago and handled the new geeks herself. She’s a steely eyed ninja, you know. I think it helped that Teyla was standing beside her looking all alien-warrior-princess and beautiful and badass. They make a truly intimidating pair even though both are so tiny. Even six months pregnant, Miko is fierce.”
“Teyla envies Miko,” John murmured. “She aches for children—so much so that I’d considered volunteering to help her have a child. Her people barely even tolerate her now because of her Wraith blood. I could kick all of their asses.”
“Do you still want to give her a baby?” Rodney questioned. “You know I’d be okay with that, right? I think the two of you could make a pretty awesome kid.” He flushed. “But, you couldn’t sleep with her.”
John laughed. “She’s beautiful, you know, and I’ve always been drawn to her but it’s never been particularly sexual. She just pulls at me like a beautiful, brave woman should—like Elizabeth. I respect them both entirely too much to get them messy with my bullshit.”
“Oh, I see, but you can get me messy?” Rodney asked, amused.
“You were a hot mess when I met you,” John responded and then kissed him. “I could hardly resist you—all snarky and mean in that orange fleece.” With a sigh, he rolled out of the bed. “Get dressed. I’d like you to be in the gateroom with me for this. I don’t have a good feeling at all.”
* * * *
Nearly five hours later, they carried four body bags back through the gate. John watched the entire process from his place up on one of the balconies, his expression stony and furious. Sold out by one of their allies. It was frankly more than he could tolerate. His gaze met Elizabeth’s from across the gate room and she nodded grimly. Maybe a year ago she would have disagreed with him—but they’d all changed and this sort of behavior could not be tolerated.
He glanced towards Teyla. The last few months had been very difficult for all of them. Teyla had been shocked by the choices the people from Earth had made. While she no longer believed the Ancestors were gods—the thought of them allowing such a fundamental change to their bodies and minds was insane to her. She’d had many long, drawn out conversations with Ally but had so far refused the gene therapy.
“If this is the kind of allies we are going to cultivate, Teyla, we don’t even need enemies.”
“I agree.” Her hands tightened around the railing. “What will you do?”
“I’m going to go demand justice and reparations from the people on PX4-3R4. If I don’t get it—we’re going to sever all of our trade agreements with them and take back the generators we installed three months ago.”
“They have broken faith you and I agree they should be punished for it—but please remember that the vast majority of their people are blameless in this.”
John looked at her, his face slack with the insult of her words. “Do you think I’m capable of harming the innocent?”
“You’ve changed over the last few months, John; you’re harder to reach now. Harder on people without giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
John closed his eyes. “Do you know what it’s like to meet someone for the first time—and see their intentions just pouring off of them? Because I do. I see good people, Teyla, but I see a lot of really cruel and vicious people as well.”
“It sounds like a curse.”
“It’s a gift,” John corrected. “It’s a gift that is has saved us all a great deal of pain and loss over the past few months. Or did you think we managed to get ahead of that ambush on PR3-097 last week just on my good looks and your pretty smile?”
Teyla laughed and then closed her eyes. “It wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has come to pass. You knew they were… you saw something?”
“Yes. They would have killed us to keep McKay. Well, Ford and me immediately. Their leader thought he might want to keep you for a while for fun.”
Her mouth dropped open in shock and she cleared her throat. “Probably not the first to think that.”
“No, probably not. But it was the last time he got to think anything so disgusting.” John sighed. “Suit up, please. We’ll be going to visit our so called friends within the hour.” He clicked his radio and requested that Major Lorne meet him in the gate room.
The Major was standing close to gate security when John arrived buckling his TAC vest. “Lorne.”
“Colonel.” Evan walked to stand with him. “Orders, sir?”
“I realize we haven’t gotten things hammered out between us. Currently, however, you aren’t in any position to back me up. You’re in command once I step through the gate but I seriously hope you’ll listen to Captain Bates if an emergency arises while I’m gone. He knows our situation and the city far better than anyone else in my command.”
“I understand, sir.” Evan’s gaze darkened. “Are you sure you should be leaving the city?”
“I’ll be fine.”
“It should be me.”
“And it will be you in the future, but right now, you’re more of a liability to me in the field than anything else. I realize the insult of that,” John admitted and then paused. “I didn’t pick you but you have to know that I would have if I’d been given files to review. You’re the best I could have hoped for from the SGC and the last thing I thought I’d get.”
“Yes, sir.” Evan’s jaw tightened. “I’ll endeavor to stop being a liability as quickly as possible.”
“I know you will,” John gripped the younger man’s shoulder and felt only frustration from him. “Bates will have your six and he won’t let anyone under our command forget you’re in charge while I’m gone. Ally will report all military matters to you directly, but try to keep Bates at your side at all times. He’ll give you any information you need in order to make good choices for the city. We have four teams currently off world, getting them home on time and in one piece is your job.” He moved away from Evan after the younger man nodded. “McKay!”
Rodney, who had been speaking earnestly with the city avatar, left the control area, his face grim. “Ally thinks the bullets were Genii. Carson is still working on extracting them but the internal scans… Genii.”
John’s jaw clenched and he looked toward Elizabeth. She’d moved to stand between Evan Lorne and Dean Bates. “Kolya.”
Elizabeth visibly flinched but answered mentally. “Find him and kill him.” She crossed her arms over her chest and cleared her throat. “Good hunting, Colonel. I hear it’s spring on the Genii home world.”
* * * *
“So, this gene therapy…” Evan trailed off. “I already have the ATA gene.”
“You have a watered down version of the ATA gene. Even Colonel Sheppard’s natural gene was quite weak compared to what Atlantis offered us.” Bates checked his watch and pursed his lips. “I don’t like him being out of the city like this.”
“He does it often?”
“He leads Team 1. Ford, McKay, Teyla, and the Colonel make up our first contact team. But things are a bit different now and it would be great if he would keep his ass on this side of the gate,” Dean said with a growl but took a deep breath. “Ford is up for his own team but I don’t think he’s ready to leave the fold. He’s young and the work out here hasn’t hardened him the way I thought it would.”
“But we prefer that all first contact teams be led by an officer. However, with you and the officers you brought here with you—we’re in a good position to have five officer led gate teams, and that would be in line with keeping Sheppard at home.”
Evan snorted and Gideon Moore looked up from his own computer. “You don’t honestly think you’ll keep Sheppard out of the field, do you, Bates?”
“It would be best if we could,” Dean protested. “Ally.”
The city avatar popped into the room, she was wearing a pair of overalls, pig tails, and was noisily chewing gum. “Yes, Captain Bates?”
Bates looked over and made a mental note to make whoever had chewed gum around the avatar run laps around the entire city. Smacking gum was a disgusting habit for a three million year old AI to emulate. It must have been one of the newcomers, he couldn’t imagine anyone from the original expedition would have any gum left. “Jumper maintenance?”
“No, I’ve been with Miko and Radek in Nanite Lab 6. We are developing a list of supplies we’ll need to outfit the entire military contingent with personal shields.” She crossed her arms. “We lost men today and I find that very unacceptable.”
“Everyone, Ally.” Bates raised an eyebrow. “Make your list of supplies so we’ll have enough materials to build shields for everyone. You know damn well that Sheppard won’t put on a shield if we can’t give them to every single person on the city.” He pulled out his dog tags. “Can you make them close to this size?”
“Yes.” She leaned in and a flash of light enveloped the metal of his tags briefly. Ally straightened. “They’ll be keyed to individual DNA so an enemy won’t be able to use them against you either.”
“Good. Get me your list and I’ll get what you need.”
Ally nodded and focused on Lorne. “Major, Team 7 is due to return through the gate within the next half hour. Colonel Sheppard likes to be there to greet them if he is on the city. I believe it would be good for morale if you adopted this policy as well.”
Evan nodded. “Of course.”
“Very well, I’ll have a datapad assigned to you by the science personnel. It will notify you of all team movements in case I get distracted and cannot remind you personally.”
Evan frowned. “Do you remind Sheppard?”
She raised an eyebrow. “I make sure the Colonel is where he needs to be at all times, that is part of my function.” Her image flickered as if she was startled and that had Bates on his feet. “Colonel Sheppard is returning, Dr. McKay is requesting a medical team and the Jumper they left in is… gone from my network.”
* * * *
Teyla curled her hand around John’s belt and hauled him closer as she dragged him up the set of steps leading to the Genii gate. McKay was laying down cover fire but it was not going to hold the Wraith back much longer. “Rodney! Hurry!”
“Sora, enough! Get your people through the gate!” Rodney shouted and pushed at the girl who had been firing steadily since they’d made their break for the gate. There were less than a hundred Genii left—most of them were doing their best to hold the gate with what weapons they had left.
“Not without you, McKay!” Sora yelled back.
Teyla stumbled through the gate because she had no choice. John Sheppard was bleeding to death in her arms, Ford was dead, and McKay was leading the Genii in their final act of rebellion against the Wraith. She cried out in relief when Carson reached out for them both. “It’s all his blood, Carson.”
They collapsed onto the gate room floor together as people started to pour through the gate. The Marines on duty were doing their best to clear the people out as they came through, routing them to medical or into the large hall leading up the infirmary as they quickly divested them of their weapons.
Carson ripped open Sheppard’s shirt and hissed out a breath. “What the hell happened?”
“Kolya,” Teyla snapped. “He shot John three times in the chest. Rodney didn’t have a lot of time but he healed him just enough so that we could move him but he started bleeding again half way to the gate.”
“Elizabeth!” Carson shouted and then activated his radio. “Zelenka, Pearson, Dallas, Stackhouse, Bates, Markham—to the gate room immediately.”
“I’m here, Doc.” Bates pushed his way through and fell to his knees. “Slow the bleeding?”
“Aye, lad, as much as possible.” Carson glanced up as McKay barreled through the wormhole. “Rodney, I need you.”
Rodney tossed aside his empty gun and came out of his TAC vest as he moved towards them. “Tell me he’s still breathing.”
“Shallow but yes,” Carson admitted as he pulled Elizabeth down onto the floor near John’s head. “Elizabeth, I need you to concentrate on keeping his oxygen levels up. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Elizabeth cupped John’s head and then slid into a position so she could lay his head in her lap.
All the people that Beckett called started to enter the gateroom from different directions, shoving people aside until they could reach the center. The doctor directed them briskly, telling them to do things Evan thought were insane and impossible. Not a single piece of medical equipment had been brought to the gateroom. As far as he could tell, they were letting his CO bleed to death on the floor. He would have moved forward if one of the Marines on duty hadn’t grabbed him by the arm.
“He’s getting the best of care, Major. The best we can offer.”
“Okay, Rodney, concentrate and find the first bullet,” Carson instructed.
Evan watched, his mouth only hanging slightly open, as McKay closed his eyes and with his hands just hovering a few inches from one of the open wounds, drew the bullet out of Sheppard’s body.
It hovered a few seconds and then one of the nurses that had appeared with the doctor reached out and snatched it right out of the air. He did the same thing with the other two and then they all laid their hands on him, each person pulling aside clothes or in some cases ripping cloth away until they could touch skin.
The wounds swelled briefly and then closed. Evan relaxed and the Marine let him go with a sigh of relief. The tension bled out of the room as Sheppard shifted under their hands and started to cough.
Medical personnel quickly put him on a gurney and they bustled out of the room. Bates was still on his knees along with the two other Marines who had been called. Lorne walked over to the man and offered his hand—and didn’t flinch when the Marine took his with a blood soaked hand. The blood slid between their fingers as he pulled the man to his feet. “Captain?”
“I’m good, sir. Just close. Too fucking close.” Bates looked at Teyla then. She hadn’t moved from the place where she’d fallen to her knees. Frowning, he walked to her and squatted down. “Teyla?”
“Dead.” She blinked. “Ford is dead. Culled.” Her breath caught and tears started to fall. “I couldn’t help John.”
“You brought him home,” Dean murmured.
“I could have… Ally tells me that I’ll be the most gifted of us in healing if I take the gene therapy.” Her voice broke. “I cling to primitive religion instead of embracing her gifts and John nearly died because of it.”
He brushed tears from her face with his clean hand. “No, stop. It’s a personal choice and even if we’d lost Sheppard it wouldn’t be your fault.”
“Yes, it would have!” Her shout startled him.
Carefully, he helped her off the floor and winced when her knees buckled. He swept her up in his arms and looked at Weir. “I’ll take her to the infirmary.”
Elizabeth nodded her mouth tight. “We need to know what happened on that planet, Captain.”
“She’s in no condition to debrief,” Dean snapped and sighed when Teyla shuddered and buried her face against his neck. “I’ll be back as soon as I can, ma’am.”
Evan watched Bates leave with the native woman he hadn’t gotten to meet yet and looked at the smear of blood on the gate room floor. He took a deep breath. “Someone clean up the goddamned blood.” The order was harsh but it was met quickly, and when he saw cleaning supplies come out he turned on his heel and stalked towards the medlab. Six hours, and he’d nearly lost his CO the first day. He was about to have the shortest learning curve in the history of Pegasus.
* * * *
“Calm down, lass, please. You need to rest.”
Teyla turned her head, her dark eyes wet with tears. “I don’t know how you can look at me and not see how selfish I am. He could have died.”
Carson touched her face and then glanced towards the nurse who was putting a sedative in the IV they’d put in Teyla upon her arrival. “Not your fault, love, and nothing you’ll say will convince any of us otherwise. Gene therapy is a personal choice and it was your right to refuse it—no matter what skills it would have given you.”
“You’ve drugged me,” Teyla protested as she started to close her eyes. “I will tell her tomorrow… I will do it.”
Carson stayed with her as she lost the fight and slipped into unconsciousness. He turned then and found Rodney hovering at the end of her bed. “How are you, lad?”
“Pulled a muscle, had Nurse Too Evil to Be Human use a healing wand on me.” He walked around the bed and carefully started arranging Teyla’s blankets. “I didn’t… I didn’t realize she was carrying this around with her.”
“I don’t think she realized it either until today,” Dean Bates murmured from his place by the wall. “She said she was clinging to primitive religion. I don’t think anyone has once ever said that to her.”
“She is not a stupid woman. She knows the Ancients aren’t gods and shouldn’t be worshipped as if they are,” Rodney muttered. “I think her real fear of the gene therapy comes from something else—something she doesn’t want to admit.”
“The Wraith experiments.”
“Yes.” Rodney nodded and looked toward Carson. “She already has quite a bit of alien DNA running around in her body and I think it’s made her distrust what Atlantis has to offer her.”
“Can you debrief, doctor?” Bates asked softly, his gaze flicking to where John lay in the med-pod. They would keep Sheppard in a healing stasis for no less than six hours to make sure nothing was missed. None of them were experienced in treating fatal injuries.
“Yes.” Rodney touched Teyla’s face. “I need to clean up and then I’ll meet you in the conference room.”
“Thank you.” Bates lifted away from the wall and after a lingering glance at Teyla, he left the room.
He wasn’t surprised to find Major Lorne outside the medlab being firmly rebuffed by a nurse. Carson’s staff was notoriously badass about procedures. “Stacy, I don’t believe you’ve met the new second in command, Major Evan Lorne.”
The young woman blushed and crossed her arms. “No, it seems I haven’t. I apologize, Major.”
Evan frowned at her as the nurse turned abruptly and left. “Sheppard?”
“Beckett put him in a med-pod,” Bates motioned him to follow and Evan did without a word. “He’ll spend at least six hours in it. This will insure that we didn’t miss anything during the healing. None of us, not even Carson, have a lot of experience with healing, which is why, if it’s possible, we do it as a team. Theoretically, Carson could have healed Sheppard entirely on his own but as I said we’re all still learning and it isn’t like we can practice that kind of thing regularly.”
Evan stopped in front of the med-pod and stared at his CO’s all too young face. “The gene therapy, can you all heal like that?”
“Yes, although some are stronger than others. We were taught to do it in simulation but today… today was different. We’ve just healed broken bones and minor cuts over the last month.” Bates touched the med-pod briefly and then lifted his hand with a blush. “This med-pod will repair anything we might have missed and accelerate the re-growth of any damaged or lost muscle. Anyone with a major injury will go into this after they are healed, just to be safe.”
Evan frowned, his jaw tightened. “He told me that right now I’m a liability.”
Bates grimaced. “Ouch.”
“I know.” Evan laughed weakly. “But he’s right—I am a liability. I nearly tried to interfere in the gate room. If one of the Marines hadn’t grabbed me I would have.”
“It must have looked crazy,” Dean allowed.
“I need to know everything, Bates. I need to know…” Evan trailed off and waved his hand in defeat. “Everything. I can’t even begin to serve this mission until then.”
The avatar appeared on the other side of Sheppard’s med-pod, her gaze intent on his face. After a few seconds, she turned to stare at Evan. “I agree. He needs to know everything. Take him to the CIC after the debrief with Dr. McKay and we’ll see if he can handle knowing everything.”
* * * *
The best thing about the people who had come from Earth was that every single one of them had packed coffee. Rodney curled his hands around the cup Elizabeth had pressed into his hand and considered his words carefully. He didn’t know how he could possibly explain what had happened with Kolya without revealing the depth of his feelings for John. His response, no matter how visceral, would tell everyone who heard it just how much he loved the soldier in his life.
“We met with Cowan first, who denied any knowledge of the attack on our people. He said that Kolya was AWOL and had been since they failed to capture the city.” Rodney focused on the soothing dark liquid in the cup. “I could tell John knew he was lying. I just… we thought it was just them playing stupid games again. That is until the Jumper alerted us to the approaching Hive.”
“The Genii haven’t been culled in a generation,” Bates said.
“That’s actually a big fat lie,” Rodney admitted. “They were early and Cowan lost his cool. Kolya came out of nowhere and informed us that he’d contacted the Wraith and he was going to trade us for safety.” He grimaced. “Well, he was going to trade me for the safety of his people. We managed to escape their stupid bunker but all hell broke loose when we realized that the Wraith were starting to cull. Apparently, the Genii have a lottery where they willingly give up their citizens to the Wraith in exchange for not being culled completely and not fighting back. Well, Ford was in the Jumper and he started engaging the Darts as they entered the atmosphere.”
“Who shot Colonel Sheppard?” Elizabeth questioned.
Rodney shivered at her blunt question. “Kolya.”
“Did he get away again?” Bates demanded.
“No, he’s very dead.” Rodney took a deep breath and averted his eyes briefly. Should he admit what he’d done? He didn’t figure he had a choice and he didn’t want to put Teyla in the position of having to choose between loyalty to him and to the rest of the city. “I killed him.”
Elizabeth’s hand was suddenly on his arm, her bloodless fingers curling around his wrist. “Rodney?”
“I’m okay.” McKay cleared his throat. “He had it coming.”
Lorne shared a glance with Bates and got up for the coffee. He refilled McKay’s cup and took a deep breath. “Dr. McKay?”
Rodney looked up and glanced over Lorne’s face. “I remember you from the SGC. Sam said you were someone she trusted. Can we trust you, Major?”
“Yeah, you can trust me,” Evan promised. “She told me to tell you that if she could she would send you a piano because from reading your reports over the last two years—she figured you’d found what you thought you didn’t have.”
Rodney laughed, startled and pleased. He dropped his gaze to his coffee again. “I broke his neck. I’ve done it in simulation—and in the combat VR but I’d never…” He laughed sadly, obviously horrified. “I always warned people in college that I could kill with my brain.”
“Did you experience any physical ramifications from using your telekinesis in a field situation?” Dean questioned carefully.
Rodney’s gaze snapped to Bates and he frowned. “It wasn’t prolonged activity and I was so emotionally compromised at that point that I can’t readily recall anything beyond trying to get John healed enough to transport him back to the city.”
Bates nodded. “Alright. What happened next?”
“The Jumper took a serious hit from the Hive but Ford managed to bring it down without much of a problem. We met up and we were trying to escape through the gate with what was left of the Genii population, being lead by Sora, when more Darts dropped from the Hive ship. Ford and the fifty or so people he was leading out—scattered but they managed to cull more than half of them.” Rodney rubbed at his chest then. “Ten minutes later we were still trying to get to the gate and there was a massive explosion above the planet.”
“So you believe Ford activated his DMS and blew up the Hive?”
“His PID disappeared from my scanner in the same second the Hive blew,” Rodney murmured. “So, yes, I believe he activated his personal self-destruct and took out a Hive with him.” He lowered his gaze to the table and took several deep breaths. “We managed to take down about three Darts. I’d like to go back and salvage them later. Maybe we can pull some people out if… the culling system is still intact.” He set aside his cup. “When we agreed that we needed the personal self-destruct devices—it didn’t seem real. Even when Ally injected the nanites that created mine, I didn’t think it was real. For the record, it delivered the explosive power she estimated.”
“How many Genii refugees do we have?” Elizabeth asked, her voice hoarse with shock.
“About sixty made it through,” Bates consulted his tablet and then frowned. “They’ve elected Sora to be their spokesperson and she has already requested to meet with you and Teyla several times. Right now, we are moving them into temporary housing in Tower 6 and medical personnel are seeing to their wounds. The mess has prepared meals to be sent to them and Heightmeyer is on hand with several Athosian counselors to see them settled. They were notified that Teyla is in the medlab. Sora has confirmed she will wait until Teyla is awake before seeking a formal meeting.”
“They are going to request sanctuary on the mainland,” Rodney murmured. “Cowan and the rest of their elected government died on the planet. Sora is probably the last of their upper caste to live. They’ll look to her for support and leadership.”
“She wants what is best for her people and fought like hell to get them to safety,” Rodney admitted. “And she was one of the last to go through—if she knew what her government was doing with the Wraith I doubt seriously that she approved. Women didn’t have a lot of power in their society so I don’t know that she had any ability to effect change.”
“Teyla represents the mainland.” Elizabeth looked down into her tea. “I won’t make decisions for her so we’ll have to wait until she is well before having that conversation with the Genii.” She turned and looked at Evan Lorne. “Hell of a first day, Major.”
“Yes, ma’am.” His jaw tightened.
“Ally wants him taken to the CIC,” Bates announced.
Elizabeth’s widened in surprised. “Ally?”
The avatar appeared. “Yes, Dr. Weir.”
“Are you sure?”
“I will be.” Ally looked at Evan. “His testing will be invasive and extensive, but he is impatient and considering our circumstances perhaps that is not a bad thing.”
* * * *
Carson cleared his throat. “So, the two of you…”
Rodney blushed. “We’re on the same page, Carson. How is this going?” He settled one hand on the surface of the medical pod. “Is this working as it should?”
“Yes, Ally is keeping me updated on the progress of the med-pod. It’s been shoring up his immune system and replacing the blood he lost before we sealed up his wounds. She estimates he’ll be ready to come out of it in the next ten minutes.”
McKay nodded. “That’s why I’m here. I want to be here when he wakes up. He was unconscious by the time Teyla dragged him through the gate—I don’t want him to be worried.”
Beckett checked the readings on the med-pod’s control panel silently and then focused on Rodney. “How do you feel, lad?”
“I’m still freaked out but mostly okay. I couldn’t sleep… I even tried sleeping in John’s quarters but it’s not the same without him.”
Carson snorted. “Same page, indeed.”
“Shut up,” Rodney muttered and blushed scarlet. “The healing was done right? I mean we didn’t make things worse before we put him in this thing, did we?”
“No, we did well under the circumstances. He would have spent a week or more in this med-pod if we hadn’t done the work we did first—and he might have bled out if I’d tried to operate to get the bullets out first.” Carson pulled a chair over for Rodney. “Sit, you look exhausted and I want to do a scan on you before you leave here. I didn’t get to look at your shoulder after Stacy used the healing wand.”
“Sure thing.” Rodney sat down in the chair and then turned to Beckett. “Has it occurred to you that on Earth with all of these Lantean abilities people would call you a faith healer? I think that’s pretty close to witchdoctor, right?”
Carson’s mouth dropped open briefly and then he huffed. “You’re an arse, Rodney. A pure arse.”
Rodney laughed softly as his friend walked away with snotty glare in his direction. “I was just asking!” Carson responded with an obscene hand gesture.
The med-pod’s lid snicked open suddenly and glided away silently. Rodney took a deep breath as John’s eyes flickered open and he turned his head. “John.”
“Hey you.” John lifted his hand hesitantly and frowned. “I’m naked in public, McKay. You know how I feel about that.”
Rodney grinned and picked up a pair of scrub pants off the nearby tray table. “The glass on the med-pod was practically opaque from mid-chest down so no one but medical staff saw your ass.”
John sat up and rubbed his chest with a frown. “I was shot—a couple of times.”
“He’s so dead,” Rodney promised.
John’s eyes darkened and he reached out for McKay. He hooked one hand around the back of the scientist’s neck and pulled him in close. “I remember that part. I’m sorry you had to do that.”
“I’m not. He had it coming.” Rodney buried his face against the side of John’s neck briefly and then cleared his throat. “Let’s get you dressed, Colonel. There is a situation you need to be briefed on concerning Major Lorne.”
* * * *
“How long?” John asked grimly.
“A little over ten hours.” Bates leaned against the window and looked down into the CIC. “She started accessing mission reports about three hours in and I think she’s making him go on missions. Teldy and Moore have also requested this. They are in the medlab getting the full work up but Lorne insisted going in immediately. Ally assured Carson that he’s in superior physical health.”
“What about Vega and Ben?”
“Ben has a heart murmur. Ally assures me that she can fix it but she doesn’t want to risk the full genome therapy on him at first. If he handles the advanced ATA therapy—we can revisit his gene status in the future. Vega has a few genetic anomalies that aren’t dangerous but it will prevent the full genome being implanted. Both qualified for the advanced ATA therapy and will receive it once the CIC is free to train them.” Bates cleared his throat. “Teyla… have you spoken with Teyla?”
“Briefly. She went to the mainland to talk to her people about the Genii.” John grimaced. “And to tell them she’s decided to take the gene therapy. She’s convinced they’ll seek to replace her. Many of the Athosians are adamantly opposed to even us getting the gene therapy.”
“The original population of Athosians barely makes up a tenth of the people on the mainland. They don’t have the power to remove Teyla from her position and the majority of the people on the mainland see her as their savior.” Bates looked down into the CIC. “Ally seems very pleased with his results so far.”
“I shouldn’t have told him he was a liability,” John sighed.
“It was the truth and he needed to hear it.” Dean shrugged when John looked his way. “He won’t be worth the space and cost of feeding him if he can’t handle the truth out here.”
“Send two cloaked Jumpers and check for additional survivors on Genii,” John murmured. “Also, McKay mentioned wanting to salvage the Darts?”
“Yes, Sir.” Dean nodded.
“Only if the situation is secure. We can’t be sure that Hive didn’t have a sister ship.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “Launch an orbital sensor while you’re there and take along a geek to wipe their DHD’s memory. When you leave do no less than twenty hops to get back to the Alpha site and then come through to Atlantis.”
* * * * –
Evan let himself be lead from the CIC; Carson Beckett was using an Ancient scanner on him and tutting under his breath, berating Ally for having kept the man in the chair for twenty-two hours. He could hear McKay and Zelenka discussing his results in the background, Sheppard questioning the AI with a clipped hard tone Evan had never heard the man use, and then everything was blessedly silent.
The next time he woke, it was to the snick of the tempered glass cover of a med-pod opening. John Sheppard was sitting in a chair just a foot away from the med-pod, his gaze intent on one of the slim, foldable computer pads everyone in the city carried around with them.
John lifted his head and stared at Evan for a few seconds. “Good of you to join us, Major.” He put aside his datapad and helped Evan from the bed with an easy strength that Lorne envied. He felt—so weak.
“I thought this thing was supposed to heal you.”
John laughed. “Yes, well, it does. But, you spent over twenty hours in the chair and then another ten in this thing. Been a while since you used your legs.” He helped steady him and then carefully led him to a regular infirmary bed. “How do you feel?”
“Weird. New.” Evan frowned at his own words. “I had a few gray hairs before I went in… how do I look?”
John chuckled. “A little older than jail bait but not by much. You had a visitor earlier—Captain Harris. I have a feeling he would have sat here and stared at you for hours if I hadn’t been here.”
Evan flushed. “Sir.”
“Well, it’s true.”
Lorne settled back against the pillows and then glanced down at his wrist. The ATA suppressor was missing. “I finished training then?”
“Yes, Ally tells us that your scores for control are stellar. Telekinesis seems to be your strength. Empathy is low, telepathy is at my level, and intuition has increased. All of which you used very well in simulations.” John sat down. “Which I should apologize for. She used my personal mission reports to train you. No one should have to go through a Wraith feeding, not even a simulated one.”
“I beg to differ,” Evan murmured. “I think, at the least, all of the military personnel should know exactly what that feels like.” He rubbed his chest and took a deep breath. “She implanted two things in me that she said you would explain.”
John nodded. “The PID is a personal identification chip. It also works as a locator off world. With the right kind of scanner we can determine basic health information, location to within a meter even from orbit, and then there is the Dead Man’s Switch.”
“Dead Man’s Switch.” Evan repeated and then his eyes widened. “A personal self-destruct?”
“Yeah, that’s what the science personnel call it. The military call it the DMS.” John looked away. “Ford was the first to use his.”
“Why?” Evan’s voice cracked. “Why have that?”
“Because the Wraith can pull information out of our heads—information like the location of this city or worse, Earth. I personally would rather die than get fed on again and giving away the location of Earth is just not an option – not ever.”
“Does everyone have them?”
“Everyone with the full ATA genome has them—I haven’t made them mandatory for anyone but the vast majority of personnel who go off planet have them. They won’t work within the confines of the city.” John took a deep breath. “I would have debriefed you fully before allowing you in the CIC but I understand you were quite insistent.”
Evan’s jaw tightened. “I won’t be a liability.”
John winced and then flushed. “I’m an asshole for telling you that.”
“I hope, sir, you’ll always be that honest with me. I need you to trust me.”
John arranged the pillows behind Lorne and then his blankets. “If I didn’t trust you, Evan… if I didn’t know everything I needed to know about you there is no way Atlantis would have invited you into the CIC.” He met the younger man’s gaze unflinchingly. “I know every inch of you, Major. I know all there is to know about you and probably some stuff you don’t even know about yourself. I know that the moment you set foot in this city you felt like you’d come home. She gave you back a part of yourself that was missing. Very few people are given the full genome, Major. Only those that Atlantis trusts and she does not trust lightly.”
* * * *
“How do you feel?”
“Cool,” Evan said softly and took a deep breath as Chase moved closer to him. “Will you accept it when she offers it to you?” He was relieved to be in his quarters and out of the public scrutiny.
“Yes.” Chase took a deep breath. “I already told you—I’ll do whatever it takes to be here with you.”
Evan nodded and relaxed on the bed. “This isn’t the same at all though—this isn’t about making a new home on a different planet or volunteering to fight a losing battle. I’m not even human anymore and I didn’t even discuss it with you before I did it.”
“You did what I would’ve done in your place. You can’t function on this city as Sheppard’s 2IC without the advanced gene therapy. It’s pretty hard to overlook what has already happened to the original members of the expedition. We already made the decision to join them and that means—we have to join them in their decisions, in their fight, and in the life they are going to build out here.” Chase waved a hand in the air above of them. “Whatever the hell that might be.”
“Now that I…” Evan huffed. “Sheppard definitely knows about us.”
“Yeah?” Chase questioned.
“No way he can’t,” Evan murmured. “Beyond the fact that you came to see me when I was in that medical pod thing—the man can read people’s minds. The city explained my abilities and said that I was comparable to Sheppard so I should ask him questions about how he’s adapted to his abilities.”
“Does it bother him?”
“I can’t tell. The man is a closed book mentally. The other expedition members kind of just bleed all over the place with their emotions and sometimes broadcast their thoughts so loudly that it’s difficult to ignore, but not him. The Colonel’s control is ruthless.” Evan sat up and stripped out of his t-shirt. He slid astride Chase with ease. “I want you to fuck me.”
Chase trailed his fingers down the center of Evan’s chest and wet his bottom lip in anticipation. “Yeah, I can do that.”
* * * *
Rodney was almost giddy with relief and good cheer when the ZPM slid out of the NCL. It was the stuff of wet dreams. He bounced around outside the sealed nanite lab and waited with bated breath as Atlantis maneuvered it into a container and then through a pressurized tube that would lead to the room where he was. The nanite construction labs were completely sealed off from the rest of the city and humans were not allowed to enter. It kept the rooms clean of contaminants and it lowered the danger of using nanites in the first place.
He opened the container with a grin. “How long on the next one?”
Atlantis smiled then. “Production on the third ZPM will move faster once we install this one. We should regain full power within seventy-four days.” Ally followed him as he left the lab and walked down the hall towards the city’s central power core. “Once we’re at full power, I’ll want to activate Theseus’ healing nanites. There are areas that are damaged due to water that are more cosmetic than anything else but we deserve to be beautiful again.”
Rodney nodded as he slotted the ZPM into place. “You’re already beautiful, but I agree that those repairs should start happening as soon as we’re at full power. Will it require evacuation?
“Not of the entire infrastructure, we’ll work in sections—moving the population around as needed to prevent organic interaction with the active nanites.” Ally flickered briefly as the ZPM initialized and hummed softly. “Thank you, Rodney. That is lovely. Theseus reports full integration of the additional energy—but we have blown a few power relays on the East Pier that will need to be replaced. I’ve put the repair task in the engineering work log. It is not an emergency repair.”
“Good.” Rodney took a deep breath. “Very good.”
Ally paused. “Once we reach full power, Dr. McKay, Theseus would like to go home.”