The World According to Rover V

Orithain and Rina

August 2005

Disclaimers: We only wish they were ours. Sadly, this is as close as weíre going to get.

"I cannot believe Elizabeth wouldnít let me bring Rover along." Dr. Rodney McKay was seated in the back of the puddle jumper and, to put it bluntly, was pouting. "He could be helpful in looking for the ZPM thatís supposed to be on this planet!"

Lt. Ford looked back over his shoulder and grinned. "Donít worry, Doc, just bring him a new rock, and heíll forgive you."

John snickered. "You know Elizabethís just worried about cultural contamination. Nobody in this galaxy seems to have the technology for sentient carts, so heíd be a bit of a shock to them."

"Oh, but itís fine to walk around with guns and radios and things," Rodney scowled. "After the Wraith, how can Rover be a shock to them?"

"Weíll talk to her when we get back," John soothed. "Iím sure sheíll let us bring him on other missions."

Ford snickered and even Teyla smiled.

"Oh, all of you just be quiet," Rodney grumbled, determined to sulk until they reached Dagan.

John made a mental note to kiss him once heíd landed the jumper. "Just think about the shiny ZPM we might have soon."

Rodney continued muttering, but it was obvious that the idea did much to mollify him.

John exchanged a grin with Ford, amused at how easily diverted Rodney was. "Okay, here we go." He landed the jumper easily in an empty field about a klick outside of the town they planned to visit and led his team out in search of the power source that could save them all.

"Why didnít you tell me?" Rodney demanded once they were in the jumper, minus the damn ZPM and he wasnít dwelling on how much that was his own fault, thank you.

"Oh, get over it already, Rodney," John laughed. "You knew I was good at math." But his mind was only half on the teasing; he was trying to tamp down the pure killing rage heíd felt at seeing Kolya. The only reason the man was still alive was Johnís fear of giving into that darkness. Heíd wanted to kill Kolya for what heíd done to Rodney, and as heíd told the Genii, the next time they met, he would.

"Thereís good at math and then thereís Mensa-level!" Rodney exclaimed, leaning forward to poke John in the shoulder, causing Ford to snicker and even Teyla to smile. "And Iím concentrating on that to avoid thinking about other, less pleasant topics.

John looked back at him. "Was I wrong not to kill him?"

Ford and Teyla glanced at each other but remained silent, waiting for the answer that was a while in coming.

"No," Rodney said finally, making an effort not to rub his arm. "You werenít wrong, John. In a fight is one thing, in cold blood... No, I donít want you to do that to yourself."

"I wanted to," John said simply. "So bad I could taste it. Thatís why I didnít."

"You did the right thing, John." Rodney reached out and rested a hand on his shoulder. "It was harder to walk away than to shoot him, but you did the right thing."

John raised his hand to cover Rodneyís. "I promised you I would kill him though."

"And if the time had been right, I would have handed you the gun myself. Besides," Rodney gave a wry smile, "you promised that Rover could help."

Surprised into a laugh, John began to relax. "True. So I guess weíll have to make sure heís along in future for the next time I get a chance to deal with Kolya."

"You could write that up as justification for including him, sir," Ford offered.

"I am not sure Dr. Weir would find that appropriate," Teyla frowned.

"She might." John remembered the look on her face after Kolya had stumbled back through the gate after being shot. "Rodney wasnít the only one trapped with him that night."

"And this incident isnít going to do anything to endear the Genii to her," Rodney murmured.

"I donít think thereís any danger of her putting them on our Christmas card list," John agreed.

"More like our shit list," Ford added.

"Already there," John said emphatically. "So, letís go home, kiddies. We still have three more planets on the list, even if this was the most promising."

"Youíre the pilot, so pilot!" Rodney said, waving a hand at the console. "And donít think Iíve forgotten about the whole Mensa thing."

"Of course not," John replied soothingly. "We can talk about it when we get home. Iíll whisper fractal equations in your ear."

Rodney gave an involuntary shiver, and Ford looked ill. "Please, sir, wait until then, Iím begging you!"

"I thought Marines were supposed to be brave, Lieutenant?" John laughed.

"I believe egging yourself and the doctor on in this matter would only be called foolhardy," Teyla murmured.

"What she said!" Ford nodded vigorously.

John chuckled. "Wimps."

"Oh, leave them in peace, John," Rodney laughed, glad to be able to. "We know the truth."

"Oh fine, but I expect you to make it up to me when we get home."

Rodney patted him on the shoulder, the touch actually more of a caress. "Oh, I plan on it."

The jumper sped up.

The event horizon had barely closed and the jumper settled in its bay when there was a banging on the outer hatch, then the sight of Rover hovering in front of the window.

"Open the door, John," Rodney pleaded. "Look at him!"

John had to admit that Rover looked pretty pitiful, and he opened the door so Rover could zip inside and huddle against Rodneyís side.

"Maybe we should leave them alone," Ford snickered as Rodney crouched down to pet the cart.

John glared. "Very funny."

"After today," Elizabeth announced from the doorway, where sheíd been watching Rover, "I think it would be best if you took Rover along on your missions." The poor thing had been beside itself the entire time Rodney was gone, making her feel guilty for not letting it go with them.

"Of course we should have brought him," Rodney exclaimed. "If he had been with us, we might have been able to save the ZPM."

"íSave the...í" Elizabeth looked to John for an explanation.

"They had one; we found it; they found out we only live in Atlantis and arenít Ancients; they took it away again. Oh, and the Genii were there too. I didnít kill Kolya," John announced brightly.

Elizabeth looked at Teyla and Ford, who both nodded in confirmation. "Debriefing in my office in five minutes," she snapped before turning and walking away.

"We donít have to tell her Iím the one who told them we werenít Ancients, do we?" Rodney asked.

"Do you really think she wouldnít find out eventually? And then sheíd be doubly pissed because we lied to her."

Rodney groaned as the team headed for Dr. Weirís office, Rover still staying close to Rodney.

John described the events of the mission, trying to downplay Rodneyís part in the loss of the ZPM. He had a feeling that only the news of the Geniiís presence distracted Elizabeth from that.

"At least we know thereís one out there," Rodney offered with a sickly smile as the debriefing wound to a close. "Which means the other addresses should be valid as well."

"And hopefully not depleted," Elizabeth sighed. She stood up and walked toward the window. "Go, get some rest while you can."

"We shall need it with all the preparations that are to be accomplished," Teyla nodded.

"Two weeks," Rodney sighed.

"Two very busy weeks, so letís get some sleep tonight," John said. "It may be our last chance for a while." He slid an arm around Rodneyís waist and urged him toward the door.

"Iím still going to make you pay for not telling me," Rodney grumbled, only partly kidding. The idea that the Wraith were two weeks away and the death of Markham and Smith, both Marines he knew more than in passing, had shaken him almost more than seeing Kolya again had.

"Iím yours to command," John offered. He was grinning, but his eyes were dead serious.

"I hope you remember your irrational numbers because youíve got some reciting to do." Rodney may have sounded like he was joking, but the kiss he gave John after he spoke held a hint of desperation.

"I think I could manage that. But we should get back to our room first. We donít need to put on another public show for Atlantis."

"No!" Rodney yelped, shuddering before grabbing Johnís hand and dragging him toward the nearest transporter.

John laughed, deciding that it would be pointless to try to convince Rodney that after that fiasco, heíd had a Ďchatí with Atlantis, and the city would never again broadcast anything without his express intention and consent. And at some point he was going to investigate the Ďother recordingí that the city knew existed.

They got to their rooms, and Rodney tossed his jacket aside before dropping back on the bed and giving John a come hither look. "Got your math skills ready?"

John laughed and began describing non-Euclidean geometry as he undressed.

"Hey." Rodney looked up when John came into their room. "Heard it was a rough trip, you okay?" He stood and walked over to John, wrapping his arms around his waist.

"Yeah, but Iíve had better days." John leaned into the embrace, letting himself draw on Rodneyís strength. "I hear youíre the one who figured out how to send messages home."

"It wasnít too hard." For once Rodney wasnít trumpeting his own skills in the face of the impossible. "Did you make some?" He rubbed his hand in circles on Johnís back as he spoke, wanting to relax him.

John stiffened again. "Just one. To Sumnerís family. Iím not even sure if he had one."

"If he did, I know theyíll appreciate hearing from you." Rodney kept his voice gentle as he led John over to the bed to sit him down on it. "I recorded a manifesto on leadership; Iím sure the SGC command staff will find it most enlightening."

Johnís laugh sounded more like a sob as he let himself lean on Rodney, his eyes closing as he rested his head on the shoulder that already carried far too big a burden. "OíNeill may find a way to power up the gate just so he can send a nuke through after that!"

"Well, it would solve our problem with the Wraith," Rodney teased, holding John tighter and kissing the back of his head. "You did the right thing then, John. If-if I was in the same position, Iíd want you to do it for me too."

John shuddered, not wanting to imagine that. "How Ďbout we avoid that ever happening, okay?" He turned his head slightly to kiss the side of Rodneyís neck, and he slowly began to relax in Rodneyís embrace.

"Iím all for that plan," Rodney murmured, giving a small smile when Rover rolled over to Johnís other side and pressed against his legs. "And see? Rover agrees with you too."

John smiled down at the cart and patted it. "Thanks, Rover." Looking back up at Rodney, he hesitated before asking, "Did you send a message to your sister?"

Rodney nodded, his expression turning serious again. "Yes, I did, toward the end of all my babbling. We were never close, and now Iím realizing what I missed." He gave a small laugh. "I told her about us tooóno naming names or anything, but that I had met someone and that that cleared up a lot of things for me."

John smiled crookedly. "I thought about sending a message to my parents, but I havenít spoken to them since the day I entered the academy. My dad was totally against me being in the Air Force, and my mom, well, things had been pretty rocky between us since she caught me making out with Greg Kendall my senior year."

"You could have sent one to me," Rodney offered, sliding his arm down to Johnís waist and squeezing it. "Iím neither annoyed with you being in the Air Force nor upset you like men."

"But I prefer to communicate with you face-to-face so I can do this." John raised his head from Rodneyís shoulder to kiss him.

"Hmm, good point; hard to kiss a video monitor," Rodney murmured against Johnís lips before licking his way into his mouth. John twisted around to straddle Rodneyís lap, his fingers carding through the fine, dark hair as he met Rodneyís tongue eagerly with his own. Rodney groaned, his hands sliding up under Johnís shirt and rubbing against his back, as they rocked together, the movements slow and gentle for now, all their energy going into the kiss.

Long moments passed before John slowly sat back on his heels, licking his lips to taste Rodney. "My day just got a whole lot better."

"Thatís me, Rodney McKay, spreading joy and cheer throughout the Pegasus galaxy."

"Youíd better not be spreading joy to anyone but me!"

"Spreading joy to one resident of the Pegasus Galaxy," Rodney amended.

"Better." John leaned back, nearly overbalancing as he hadnít realized how close to the edge of the bed he was. Only Roverís arm extending behind him saved him. "Thanks again," he said once he regained his balance.

"See? He does like you," Rodney smirked.

John grinned. "Yeah, we argue like you and I used to."

"Are you saying youíre going to try to fuck him next?"

"Ha ha. No, I already have a very possessive lover."

"Thatís the only reasonóow!" For once, it was Rodney on the end of one of Roverís pinches. "Bad cart!"

John snickered. "Go, Rover! I donít think he liked the implication, Rodney."

"The thought of sex with you led him to injure me," Rodney sniffed, bending over to pull up his pant leg and inspect his calf for bruising or bleeding.

"That you suggested it led him to pinch you," John retorted. "Would you stop that? Youíre fine, you big baby."

"How do you know, you havenít even looked," Rodney grumbled before glaring at John. "And Ďbig babyí? You obviously long to live the life of a celibate."

John rolled his eyes. "I know you were feeling fine enough to shove me off your lap so you could peer at it. And you know damn well Rover would never hurt you."

"I didnít shove you off my lap; I leaned over to look at my injured leg." Rodney glared at Rover, who rocked back and forth, its housing making a moaning sound against the bedframe. "Itís not my fault you have bad balance."

"Stop that; youíre upsetting him, and that noise is godawful. Itís okay, Rover; heís not really mad at you."

Rodney sighed and motioned for the cart. "Yes, Rover, I still like you," he sighed, stroking the smooth sensor array. Rover shuddered and pressed close, still bobbing up and down slightly.

"And you were entirely justified with that pinch," John confided, twisting around so he leaned against Rodneyís side as he petted Rover as well. "For the record, Rodney," he murmured, "donít ever tell him heís bad. From you it freaks him out."

"Gee, John, you donít say," Rodney snorted, though he kept petting Rover until the cart finally shivered again and relaxed. "And thereís no way Iím never doing that again."

"Oh great, youíre going to make a habit of traumatizing him?" Finally distracted from the dayís problems, John stretched out on the bed, arms behind his head, and watched Rodney with amusement.

Rodney waved a dismissive hand in Johnís direction though he kept the other one on Rover. "Oh, you know what I meant; you just chose to ignore it."

"Whatever you say, Rodney," John said, deciding that it was easier to just go along with it than try to figure out what Rodney was talking about since he didnít have the faintest idea. "How Ďbout we go back to you distracting me? That was fun."

"So you want me to get my notes on leadership and recite the speech for you?"

There was only one thing John could do. He kissed him.

Checking that the case that held the naquadah generator was securely on Roverís back, Rodney left the lab and Radek behind, wishing for a brief minute that he could take the engineer up on his offer to go to the satellite in his stead. It would have been easy to do, but wrong; he was the best chance of getting the satellite back online, and they both knew it.

He turned down the corridor toward the jumper bay and slowed upon seeing John lounging against the wall up ahead. "Major," he nodded, "I thought youíd be getting ready for your trip. Alternate alpha sites donít just find themselves, you know."

John pushed away from the wall and wrapped his arms tightly around Rodney. "Neither do genius lovers, so donít get yourself killed out there. I expect you here when I get back with pictures of our new beach-front property where Iím going to give you your next surfing lesson."

"Honestly," Rodney sighed, hugging John in return and nuzzling the hollow of his throat. "Iíd rather you did that off the southern pier, so Iíd better move my ass and make sure there is a southern pier."

"Just make damn sure thereís a you. Iíve gotten used to having you around, Rodney." Johnís arms tightened slightly as he wished he didnít have to let Rodney go. "I hate that youíre going to be fifteen hours away from any help I could give you."

"Hey, Iíve got Rover with me." Rodney attempted a smile. "What can go wrong? I mean, he makes Grodin and Miller superfluous."

"Thatís my only comfort. Iím glad you have him."

"And Iíll have you too when we get back." Rodney pulled John in for a hard, fast kiss. "Be careful, okay?"

"You too." John hugged him again before stepping back so they could both do what needed to be done.

"And find us a place with a good view!" Rodney grinned and offered a half wave before turning and heading into the bay. "Peter, get your hands off Lindstromís ass! Youíll have plenty of time to grab it when we get back!"

It wasnít going to work. Not even Rodney and Radek could pull this miracle off, and they were out of options and time. John looked at Rodney, his heart in eyes, trying to say everything that there was no time for, but all he said was, "So long, Rodney," before he turned and ran.

So intent was Rodney on fixing whatever was wrong with the generator by sheer force of will, Johnís departure didnít register at first, but when it did, he was on his feet. "Major? Major! John!" The last was yelled to an empty hall, the echoes fading away along with the last of Rodneyís hope that they would survive this because even if he did, if John didnít, there was no point in it.

John spoke to Elizabeth as he left, then over the radio as he sped toward the hive ship, but the entire time his mind was on Rodney. He was doing this to save Atlantis, yes, but even more he was doing it to save Rodney though he would never tell him that. He wished heíd had a chance to say goodbye properly, to tell Rodney how much he loved him and how glad he was for these last months together, but theyíd run out of time.

In the control room, Rodney watched the monitor with a sick fascination. Carson rested a hand on his shoulder, and he almost jumped out of his skin, then had to look away from the sympathy he saw in the other manís eyes. It was so fucking unfair, but then, when had anything here ever been fair? Rover pressed against his leg, shivering, but even the cartís presence did nothing to assuage the gaping hole inside him, the one that was swallowing his whole world.

As he sped toward the hive ship, John closed his eyes, picturing Rodneyís gaze in his mind, and when the light surrounded him, at first he thought it was his entry into the afterlife.

Then he opened them again, and time started back up.

A short while later he was speaking to Atlantis thanks to Col. Caldwell and the Daedalus.

John was alive. John was alive, and it was a damn good thing because Rodney was going to kill him when he got back to Atlantis. Or kiss him, damn the new Marines and anyone else who was around.

Of course, first there was the matter of getting the ZPM installed and the shield up and running. Not caring that the two guards were eyeing Rover as if he was one of the Wraith in another form, Rodney followed them toward the shield generator. When his guard was taken out by the Wraith, it was the final straw. To be so close and lose it all now, well, fuck them all. Frustration and anger tangled together, exploding in a stream of screamed invectives at the approaching Wraith as Rodney aimed his gun at it, determined to go out fightingóuntil he hit the clip eject instead of the safety release.

Gunfire from behind took out the Wraith just as Rover slammed into the second that was nearby, hitting it midsection, levitating up, then crashing down on it, leaving only a squashed mess where its head had been.

Teyla and Rover gave him the chance he so desperately needed, and once the ZPM was in place, it had been all too easy to collapse on the floor, not wanting to move for a year or so. Unfortunately, the year lasted all of five seconds.

Standing on the Daedalus high above Atlantis, John felt his heart stop momentarily when the Wraith Darts impacted. When he could speak again, he called the city, praying for a response, his fear growing with each passing instant. Just when he was about to despair, Elizabeth answered, and he nearly sank to the floor from the sheer, overwhelming relief that flooded through him. If she was still alive, then Rodney had to be too. John refused to entertain any other thought.

When he returned to the city shortly afterward, he caught Elizabeth in his arms, hugging her fiercely. He was glad she was alive, but she was also a substitute for Rodney until he could get his scientist back to their quarters.

"Itís almost pretty." Rodney looked up at the deadly fireworks display beating on the shield and not at John. The reprieve bought with the Daedalusí arrival had been short lived, and now there were twenty-one hive ships banging on their door, and they were running low on options.

There hadnít been time for more than a quick, hard hug in a hallway before they were both off running in different directions, trying to restore some sense of order to the beleaguered and understaffed city, but theyíd managed to steal these few minutes aloneóand now Rodney couldnít find the words to say what he wanted.

"Aside from the whole trying to kill us thing, yeah, it is." Unlike Rodney, John was watching his companion, barely sparing a glance for the glowing bursts and trails lighting up the sky. They didnít seem to bother Rover, who sat quietly at the doorway to the balcony, guarding their privacy.

"When the attack started... I thought you were dead. That was my first thought, not the city or the expedition or anyone else, you."

Rodney bit back the bitter retort that that certainly hadnít been what John was thinking of when he left, because he knew deep down that it had been exactly why John had done what heíd done. "I think Iím fairly well acquainted with that feeling," he said quietly.

"Iím sorry," John offered. And he was. Sorry that he hadnít had time to say everything to Rodney that heíd wanted to, but not that heíd done what heíd done. Faced with the same situation, heíd make the same choice. "I couldnít let you, everyone, die when there was something I could do to prevent it."

"I know." Rodney finally looked away from the flaring shield to Johnís face as he reached out for his hand, squeezing his fingers almost painfully. "You did what you had to. We do what we have to."

"Yeah, and unfortunately, thatís going to mean hiding our relationship when the Daedalus is here," John sighed. "Weíll have to get Elizabeth to okay a room that can be Ďyoursí for appearances, maybe your old one. Damn it. I didnít miss this at all."

Rodney nodded, and his fingers tightened around Johnís. "We do what we have to," he repeated quietly; for now he simply wanted there to be a future for them to worry about that in.

"And then we go home and see if we can manage to break a bed," John said, lightening the mood. "It makes it all worthwhile."

"Slut," Rodney murmured. "Love you."

"Oh good. Does that mean youíre not going to kill me?"

"Rather keep you and make you pay for years."

John groaned. "Iím so doomed. But since that would mean we have those years, Iíll take it."

Rodneyís smile was tinged with sadness and worry. "If we want them, weíd better get back in there and make sure we have a city to spend them in."

"I hate it when youíre logical," John grumbled. He slid his free arm around Rodneyís waist, drawing him into a hug while he raised their joined hands to his mouth, pressing a kiss to Rodneyís knuckles. "But youíre right." He sighed and squared his shoulders, readying himself to get back to it.

"Arenít I always?" Rodney asked, pulling back after squeezing Johnís fingers again.

"Yes, Rodney." John was chuckling as they went back inside.

"Iím sorry about Ford." Rodney rested his hand on Johnís shoulders and squeezed it as he spoke. "Weíll find him though, and Carson will fix him."

John slumped in his seat, head down as he let the masks fall now that they were alone in their quarters. "I shouldíve been able to help him, to get through to him."

"Itís not your fault, John." Rodney crouched down beside him and pressed their foreheads together. "He wasnít thinking rationally; you heard what he did to Carson. Itís like... dealing with someone hopped up on heroin or something; they arenít themselves, and nothing you say or do can get through to them until theyíre off of it."

"He was an officer under my command, a member of my team, and he was just a kid! God, Rodney, he wasóhe isóonly twenty-five. Or maybe twenty-six, I donít even know when his birthday is. Or was. This wasnít supposed to happen."

"No, it wasnít, just like a lot of things that have happened here." Now Rodney wrapped his arms around Johnís shoulders, hugging him. "But we have to deal with them because otherwise..." He swallowed hard. "The other option isnít a good one."

John sighed as he laid his head on Rodneyís shoulder. "This sucks. And now, instead of heading out to find him, we have to go back to Earth with Elizabeth and select more people to bring out here. And Iíll have to tell Fordís family that heís MIA."

"And I have to tell Peterís heís dead."

Johnís head shot up as he stared at Rodney in surprise. "I never thought... Wonít Elizabeth do that? And, God, I never even thought about Lindstrom."

Rodney shrugged and looked away. "Iím sure she would, but I should. Iím the one who left him there." He closed his eyes and continued. "And I went to tell Lindstrom I was sorry; she gave me that Nordic, ice-princess look, so I didnít push it."

John nodded, his arms tightening around Rodney. "Iíll go see her. Sheíd probably talk to someone military right now before a civilian."

"I hope so." Rodney sighed and leaned into the embrace, both of them supporting the other. "Tell her I wish I could have done something."

John nodded. "I know. I will." He knew how it tore Rodney up when one of his team died, but there was nothing either of them could do about it. "Just... give it some time."

Rodney raised his eyes and caught Johnís gaze. "I will if you will."

John smiled faintly. "I can afford to. I have you."

Rodney was packing some clothes for their trip to Earth, and heíd sent Rover to his lab for some things he wasnít willing to do without for the time theyíd be away. John followed the cart and crouched down so they were at eye level.

"Thank you," he said softly, placing a hand on Roverís sensor array. "You saved his life, Rover." He closed his eyes against the thought of what could have happened, only to open them again when Rover nudged him. He managed a small smile.

"You know, when someone made their first kill in a war, we used to mark it. Would you like that? To show that you helped protect Atlantis too?" John smiled when Rover spun his wheels, making an inquisitive whirring noise.

"Okay then." He drew a small jar of white paint out of his vest. "How about a hand?" Rover pressed closer, so taking that as a yes, John began to dab the paint on, using an old bandana. A few minutes later he sat back and inspected his work. "Perfect. Now youíre officially a blooded protector of Atlantis. And of Rodney."

He stood up and patted Rover. "So letís go show Rodney."

"You know, you didnít have to give me that look," Rodney grumbled from his seat in the back of the F-302.

"What look?"

"The look before we were teleported in here! I saw it."

"Rodney, I love you, but you looked like a total goof."

"I was making myself a smaller target! It decreased the chances of my being reformed in the middle of something."

"Yes, Rodney."

"Oh shut up." Rodney was quiet for a minute at the most. "You are sure thereís enough air in this thing, right?"

After a conversation that ended with John essentially ordering Rodney to shut up, silence reigned in the cockpit, at least for a short time. "You can talk all you want when thereís no chance of anyone suddenly getting an earful over the radio," John offered eventually. The truth was that he couldnít stand hearing Rodney start to freak when he couldnít hold him and calm him down.

Rodney sniffed and looked out the cockpit at the hangar bay.

"I wouldnít want to be stuck in here with anyone else," John offered.

"Even if Iím using all the oxygen?"

"Iíve always loved your lung capacity."

"I thought we werenít talking while there was a chance of people listening in?"

"Turned my radio off," John replied blandly. "Youíd let me know if I needed it on, and Iíd rather talk to you anyhow."

"Youíre going to give the people on the bridge fits if they canít get through to us, you know." Even as he spoke, Rodney turned off his own headset. The past two months had been hard; between the endless debriefings at the SGC, the tedium of picking new team members, and the gut-wrenching trip to talk to Peter Grodinís family, there had been little time for each other. Rodney had to laugh quietly as he thought of the one exception to thatóa dinner with Gen. OíNeill and Dr. Jackson at the formerís house, where it had readily become obvious that that it was a shared residence no matter the fact that Daniel kept an apartment Ďfor looksí.

"Oh fine." John turned the receiver back on but left his end muted to make sure no one would overhear them. "Happy now? I can hear them, but they canít hear me." John twisted in his seat to peer back at Rodney. "Iíve missed time for just us, you know," he said quietly. "And Iím looking forward to getting back home."

"Happy would involve you, me, a bed, and no Wraith virus trying to kill us." Rodney gave a lop-sided smile. "But Iíll take this, at least until we get home. I miss it, all of it, and I miss us."

About to reply, John was interrupted by the message that the reboot hadnít worked and the realization that the virus was in the other F-302. He didnít mind going after itóhis dogfighting skills were better than a damn computer virusí any day of the week!--but he had to force himself to ignore Rodneyís presence or he wouldnít be able to do anything but run away to keep the other man safe. Knowing that a mistake on his part could get Rodney killed made that the hardest flight of his career.

Once the virus-infected fighter was destroyed, Rodney leaned back against the seat, panting for breath and patting himself down, checking to see that everything was in place after the battering heíd taken because of the G-forces. "Well, that was quite exciting," he finally said, his voice shaky. He had complete faith in Johnís piloting skills, but there had been a few moments where he had wondered if they would make it back to Atlantis.

"You did great, Rodney. Want to take the stick?"

Rodney brightened. "Really?"

"No." John waited just long enough for the reaction he knew was coming before saying, "Of course I mean it. You know I love how you handle my stick. Tell me when youíve got it."

"Ass," Rodney grumbled, though he was grinning widely as he took hold of the stick. "Got itóand youíre going to so get it once we get back to Atlantis."

"Promises, promises," John laughed.


  since 02-03-07



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