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Title: Mingling of Errand and Epiphany
Author: altyronsmaker
Recipient: ca_pierson
Pairing: John/Rodney
Rating: G, some flirting and a kiss, but no explicit sex
Disclaimer: Not for profit. I don't own the characters or anything associated with Stargate: Atlantis.
Author's Notes:
Summary: So, what if Rodney had not let go of John when he was sucked into the portal of the Sanctuary during Epiphany?

*****

"I won't let go, Sheppard!" Rodney grunted, holding on tightly to Sheppard's arm.

"McKay, this thing is sucking me in. I can't get free. Don't get dragged in here with me, I'll need you on the outside to get me out! You've got to let go."

"No. Ronon can contact Atlantis, and they can send Zelenka down here. I'm not letting you go into this thing alone."

"Damn it, McKay!"

Sheppard's body broke through the threshold, pulling Rodney's hands into the blackness of the portal. "Oh! That's cold. And painful! Ouch. Crap! Ronon! Go to the gate and radio Atlantis. Tell them to send Zelenka - oh, by all that's holy that hurts!!! - he'll figure it out." Suddenly there was nothing in his hands. "Oh, crap."

Teyla hurried up to him. "What is it, Rodney?" she asked, concerned.

He looked at her, terrified. "I'm not holding onto him anymore. "

Her lips pursed into a determined line. "We'll find a way to get you both back home, Rodney. Just follow him in and stay with him. We'll get you out."

Rodney nodded. Just months ago, he wouldn't have trusted her. Now, he knew his team, knew the lengths the people of Atlantis would go to. "I know," he said, and disappeared into the portal.

*****

Rodney fell through the entry, landing hard. When he rolled over onto his back, he groaned.

"Careful of that first step, it's a doozy," Sheppard said from his perch on one of the many boulders settled at the base of the cave's walls.

"Ugh." Rodney took a deep breath and struggled to sit up. "My god, that was probably the most awful experience in Pegasus yet. I feel like I was being ripped apart on a cellular level." He looked over at John. "You look comfortable - or, well, as comfortable as one can be sitting on a rock in a dark cave in the middle of nowhere on a planet on the far side of the galaxy."

"I had a little time to wait, I guess," Sheppard said.

Rodney frowned up at him. "Really? How much time?" he asked, brow furrowed in concentration.

Sheppard shrugged. "I dunno. Five minutes, give or take."

"But you just slipped out of my grip," Rodney said, thinking.

"Don't know what to tell ya, McKay. I've been waiting on you to come through the portal for about five minutes."

"Well, that's just terrific," Rodney muttered, standing up. "You know what this means, don't you?"

John rolled his eyes. "No, but I'm pretty positive you're going to tell me."

"Time dilation field. Damn it. That explains the excruciating feeling of being ripped apart. Crossing the tidal force of the portal warped our cells for a moment. Terrific. As if I don't have enough to worry about with the levels and amount of radiation I deal with on a daily basis. Now this. If I'm deformed cellularly, I'm blaming it on you."

John chuckled. "Yeah? What else is new?"

"Do you understand the predicament we're in, here? "

Shrugging, John answered. "Sort of. I mean, time's going by a lost faster in here, so based on the fact that what was seconds for you was over five minutes for me, I'm going to guess that hours out there could mean days in here."

Rodney blinked at him. "I hate it when you do that."

"Do what?"

"I forget there's a half way decent brain under that mop of bed head hair, then you go and remind me. I makes me crazy that a brain like that is satisfied with the low level stimulus of the military." Rodney said, brushing the dirt off his backside, and pulling his tablet off its strap.

"Whatever you say, McKay," John replied. "What do we do? Because I was thinking, if it is a time dilation field, then it's going to be a while before Ronon and Teyla are able to send through supplies. Teyla would have to go all the way back to the jumper... "

"Yes, I know. Ronon's on his way to the jumper now. I told him to radio Atlantis and tell them to send Zelenka. But you're right. we should try to, I don't know, forage something. I have some power bars and my canteen in my pack, and you have whatever you have. You do have supplies, right? I mean,..."

"Yes, McKay, I have stuff if you run out." John said with an exasperated smile.

"Okay, good. " He tapped away on the tablet for a moment in silence.

"What are you doing?"

"Probably nothing, but," he pecked at the keyboard for a few more seconds, "I might be able to come up with an algorithm to keep track of our real time while we're here."

"What good would that do us?" John asked. "Not like we can do anything about it."

"True, but knowing how much less time is going by out there, will help us to, I don't know, keep hope alive, or something?"

"Well, that's downright optimistic of you, McKay."

Rodney tapped a few more buttons, then, "Ah hah. Yes, that's got it," he crowed, then. "Well, I do have my moments. And God knows, I don't want to lose my sanity in here, because I don't know why people are taking so long to get us out. We could be in here for weeks. I mean, it's Zelenka who's coming to rescue us. It'll take him hours just to figure out what's wrong."

John stood up, checked the magazine on his P-90, and slid his shades over his eyes. "Weeks, huh?" He gave a little head roll, then said, "Well. We're not going out that way," pointing at the portal through which they'd come, "So we might as well venture that way." he pointed over his shoulder, where a small gradient of light shone through the cave. "Let's go see what we can find."

"You know, Sheppard, these sorts of situations almost never turn out good for us," Rodney said packing his tablet away.

"Aw. And here I thought you were turning a new leaf, McKay. What happened to that optimism from earlier?"

"Like always, it fled in the face of imminent danger."

*****

Rodney poked his head out from behind the trees John had shoved him into at the first rumbling growl of whatever it was that attacked them. "Sheppard?"

John groaned from his supine position in the meadow. "Yeah, McKay?"

"Is it gone? Or, I mean, are you all right?" Rodney called back to him, worried. "I don't see anything on the life signs detector, but I didn't before we were attacked either."

"I think it's gone. "

Rodney stepped out of the tree line and headed over to John who was struggling to sit up. He had a gash on his forehead, and several rips in his uniform sleeves. "You look a mess," he said, kneeling down to study John's wounds.

"Don't feel too hot either." John took a deep breath and winced. "Think he got my ribs," he said, then reached across his body to feel the damage. When his fingertips came way bloody, Rodney gasped. "Yep, it definitely got me."

"Oh, damn. You know," Rodney said, pulling out bandages from his tack vest, "what little optimism I might have been secretly carrying is now gone. Fighting life sucking aliens is one thing. Horrifying and not something you want to do every day, but at least you know when they're coming at you. Fighting huge, invisible monsters with claws that rip open flesh? Who signed on for that? I know I didn't!" He tugged at John's uniform, until John got the hint and removed his vest and shirt. "God, that looks terrible. We need to clean it and get you somewhere I can bandage it."

John looked down at the wound and shrugged. "It's not that big a deal, McKay. I've had worse."

"Yes, this is true. But not while we were stranded and had no way of contacting.... okay, yes, maybe while we were stranded, but that's nothing to brag about. "

"Not bragging," John muttered.

Rusting footsteps from the edge of the tree line put them both on alert. Rodney turned sharply, and lifted his weapon, pointing at the man coming from the forest. The man's hands were held up and away from his body, and he was dressed simply in homespun, drab garments. John eyed him warily.

"You can lower your weapons. I mean you no harm."

Rodney's eyes narrowed. "Like we haven't heard that before. Who are you?"

"My name is Avrid. I'm from the village just past the ridge. I saw you come out of the caves earlier and followed you. When I heard the Beast, I worried for your safety." He turned to John. "I've never seen anyone fight so bravely."

"I wouldn't call it a fight so much as getting my ass kicked thoroughly," John said, pushing himself to his feet. "You said there's a village?"

"Sheppard, I don't think that's a good idea," Rodney said.

"What else are we going to do McKay? Wait here like sitting ducks?"

"Fair point, I suppose."

"You said your name was Avrid?" John asked.

"Yes. My sister Teer and I live in the village with our youngest sister, Hedda. She may be able to help you. She has healing capabilities."

"Sounds like a plan, Avrid. Why don't you lead the way?"

*****

The door closed softly behind John, and Rodney rounded on him. "An ascension village? Really? They couldn't just leave well enough alone, could they? Damn Ancients. I swear, if I ever get my hands on those high and mighty... Ascension village."

John shook his head, sly smile playing about his mouth.

"This is not funny, Colonel. Not at all. Why couldn't they just let thing happen along a natural path? Instead of creating this... this... anachronistic meditation retreat and speeding up time?! " He started snapping his fingers, and John looked up at him.

"What? I know that look, McKay. What have you figured out?"

"They created this time dilation field, right?"

Shrugging, john replied, "I guess, sure."

Rodney's lips curled in a smug smile. "How are they powering it? I bet if I could find the power source, I could turn it off and we could get the hell out of dodge, you know, as you like to say."

"And what about the people here? Or the others that may come for the promise of ascension, Rodney? would you deny anyone their right to that opportunity? Honestly?" John asked, pulling off his boots.

"You can't be suggesting that we stay here, Sheppard." Rodney said.

John looked up at him, hands braced on his knees. "Why not? They've got food, water-"

"Teer," Rodney said snidely.

John just shook his head. "All I'm saying is maybe we should put some trust in our team, and stick it out here for a while. You have the computer set up to monitor how long we're really in here, right?"

Rodney nodded. "Yeah, but-"

"Okay, then. I'm pretty sure they're working as fast as they can to get us out of here, why don't we trust them to be successful? I know that's hard for you."

"I'd trust me to get us out of here, Sheppard. Trusting someone else to do it in the smallest amount of time possible is asking a lot." Rodney responded, his arms folded over his chest.

"Let's give the team 12 hours to figure this out-"

"Twelve hours?!?"

"Twelve hours. That's what? A year or so? We can hack it in here a year, McKay. If we know they're working on getting us out."

Rodney glared at him from across the room. "Don't think I don't know why you want to stay here a year, Colonel. You know, I couldn't help but notice all the very beautiful women roaming about the village as we came through. I swear, you and your space babes." Rodney shook his head. "What is it with you and ascendant women?"

John stared at him a moment, eyes hard. "I'm sure I don't have any idea what you're talking about, McKay."

Rodney watched him for a minute, quiet and curious. Finally, he heaved a sigh and acquiesced. "Fine. I won't go looking for the power source - but I'm betting it's powered by a ZPM, which you know would be awesome to take back to Atlantis. We'll wait. For Zelenka and the team. For probably 6 months."

"I can tell it's going to be a hardship for you," John said, humor taking the edge off the words.

"Well. I hate waiting."

John smiled at him, fondness in his eyes. "I know you do, buddy."

*****

Rodney sharpened the charcoal he was using for a pencil. He'd been working on some of the problems of the city on his tablet, when the battery finally gave out a few days before. Since then, he'd been using parchment and charcoal to get his ideas out of his head, s he didn't go stir crazy.

John came in, closing the door softly behind him, and Rodney looked up from his task.

John was not as lean as he had been on Atlantis, the stress of military command non-existent in the village. He still ran every morning and evening, but the diet here was more caloric, and what with the lack of running for his life, the tension that kept him so sharp and lean on Atlantis was gone. Rodney frowned.

"You look different," he said, contemplative.

John paused in the act of taking off his boots and swallowed. He looked askance over at Rodney. "How so?"

"I don't know, just...different. Relaxed. Calmer. Fuller."

"Hm." John finished taking off his boots, then removed the belt that held his side arm and knife. "I guess I'm just... I don't know, Rodney. I'm comfortable." he turned to face Rodney and sat on the bed. "Aren't you?"

Rodney went back to sharpening his charcoal. "Comfortable?" He shrugged. "I suppose. Mostly, I'm bored out of my mind."

John watched him a while. Then, "You could come running with me."

"No. That's..." he trailed off and looked into the air as though searching for the words. "That's your thing. We live here together and do pretty much everything in the village together. I figure you should have that one thing to yourself. I know I wouldn't want you hanging over my shoulder when I'm working on a project at Atlantis..." He stopped again and sighed. "You know what I mean."

John smiled at him. "Yeah, buddy, I do."

Rodney set down his charcoal and turned to face John completely. "Why is it that we live together here? I mean, yeah, we're not ancestors of the Ancients or whatever, so maybe that has something to do with it, but earlier on, when we first got here, I know Teer asked if you'd like to stay with her and Avrid."

John nodded. "Yeah."

"So. Why didn't you? Why wouldn't you want to stay with someone like her? She's not my type, really, not enough science in her head or," he held his hands out in front of his chest in a juvenile gesture meant to convey breasts, "but I can see how you'd like her. So why didn't you?"

"Jesus, Rodney! Sexist much?"

"You know I'd never do that in front of her!"

"No, I know." John chuckled. "It might be hard for you to grasp, Rodney, which is unbelievable given your IQ, but I am right where I want to be. And," he took a deep breath and looked at Rodney pointedly, "I'm with who I want to be with."

Rodney blinked. "Well, I suppose it is better than living with someone who would make you stop and meditate at any given point during the day. "

John hung his head, defeated. "Yeah, Rodney. I guess." Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself back up onto the bed and laid down, hands folded behind his head.

"So I guess you haven't had any more run ins with the Beast since that last time." Rodney winced at the memory. John had been out for his usual morning run, and the thing had attacked him on the trail, far outside the village. By the time Teer's vision alerted them to John's location and condition, he'd already lost a lot of blood and Rodney had worried that he might not make it back to the village. But Hedda had been along, and had healed the worst of the damage done by the thing, before John pushed her away. Healing someone else always took a toll on Hedda, and John wasn't willing to have her get ill over healing him. So she healed the worst of the injuries, then Rodney, Avrid, and a couple of other men from the village had brought John back to their cabin.

After John had passed out, in his own bed, Rodney and Avrid had it out about how John was the only one willing to go up against the creature. "You people are too afraid of your own shadow to ever do anything that might put you in danger! Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, that's why you're still here, trying to ascend? No amount of meditation and quiet time is going to rid you of all the garbage of humanity. Being human is being angry and afraid, and jealous. And while thinking about your problems might allow you to rationalize them away, no amount of ohming into a bowl, or chanting to the sun gods or what the hell ever you do, will rid you of fear. Fear is only surmounted by action. And you lot...I swear, you're the most inactive bunch of neo-hippies I've ever had the misfortune to run across. Now. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make sure my friend and team mate is okay."

He'd slammed the door to their cabin rather hard, and turned to find John sitting up in bed, a wry smile on his face. "Neo-hippies, Rodney?"

"Shut up. And you'd better be okay, or so help me god, if you die, I will find a way to bring you back just so I can kill you for being so stupid. And I'm a genius. If anyone can defy death in this godforsaken galaxy, it will be me. Um, and the Wraith, but we won't speak of them."

"I'm fine, Rodney. I swear." he chuckled. "I didn't know you cared so much, Rodney."

"Yeah, well, don't let it go to your head."

"Rodney? Hey, buddy, you with me?"

Rodney shook himself out of his memory and looked over at John, stretched out on the bed staring back at him. "Yeah?"

"I was just saying that I hadn't seen or heard the beast in a while. I think it might be getting close to time for another encounter."

"Hm. Well, hopefully, this time, the brotherhood of the pacifists will assist you."

"Yeah, maybe." John turned onto his side, plumped up the meager pillow, and folding his hand beneath his cheek. "God. I'm beat."

Rodney looked up at him, eyes wide. "You want me to go, let you get some rest?"

"Nah. It's better when you're here. Reminds me of home. Makes it easier to sleep."

"Do you miss Atlantis?" Rodney asks quietly, knowing he's treading on uneasy ground; John's been pretty open so far, but Rodney knows it only takes one step too far - one question too many - to send the man back behind his masks. "I only ask because you seem so much easier here."

John shifts a little on the bed. "I miss Teyla," John answered, surprising Rodney. "Ronon. Elizabeth. The people. I don't miss the job, no. But the ocean. The nights. The salt air when I'm running." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I'd live on Atlantis forever if I could do it without the job." He winced. "That came out wrong. I like the job, too, just don't miss it as much, you know?"

"I can imagine," Rodney replied. "Sheppard." John opened his eyes at Rodney's serious tone. "Would you ascend if you could? I mean, if these throwbacks to Haight Ashbury actually do manage to find a way to ascend, would you join them?"

"Are you asking if I want to escape the stress of life on Atlantis?" John asked, tension in his words.

Rodney thought maybe he'd asked that one question too many. "No. I'm asking if you would ascend given the chance."

The tension in John's body dissipated, and he closed his eyes. "That's a loaded question, Rodney. I have an answer for it, but I'm wiped. Can we talk about it later?"

Rodney swallowed and nodded. "Sure," he said, and turned back to his figures.

"Rodney," John whispered from the bed.

Rodney turned to him. "Yeah?"

"I meant what I said earlier. I'm where I want to be, with the person I want to be with," he said, and this time, there was something heated in his gaze that crossed the room to Rodney and snatched his breath right out of his chest.

Rodney swallowed against the liquid heat in his chest. "Okay," he said and nodded once before turning back to his work.

*****

Three weeks later, the beast attacked the village.

Everyone heard Hedda and several other young girls screaming on the edge of the village and ran to help them. Avrid picked up Hedda and another girl and headed for the safety of the center of the village. He called for John and Rodney to come out and help them. John grabbed Hedda's friend from Avrid's arms and ran her to her parents. The village was in chaos for a few minutes while the villagers all ran around gathering up the youngest to get them to safety.

When the tumult of screaming and crying was over, Rodney and John stood in the square by the well, guns at the ready, while the rest of the villagers had fled into their homes. Seeing the emptiness of the square, Rodney lowered his weapon and looked around.

"You know," he said, "I'm beginning to have serious abandonment issues about these people."

John started laughing, and clapped Rodney on the shoulder. "Oh god, Rodney. Don't ever change," he said. Suddenly, the beast's roar erupted from the other side of the well, and John turned to fire, Rodney a second behind him.

The bullets flew through the air, through the monster, and the cacophony of the beast's roar grew louder as it advanced on their position. John emptied the clip in his side arm to no avail. "I'm out!" he shouted, dropping the gun, and pulled the knife from his utility belt. Rodney kept firing until he was out of ammunition as well, then suddenly he was hit with a great deal of force in his chest, and went flying through the air.

"Rodney!" he heard John shout, before he hit the ground and blacked out, having had the wind knocked out of him. He struggled to breathe and sit up, knowing John was fighting the beast alone now. After a few seconds, he felt gentle hands lifting his shoulders. It was too quiet. He fought against the hands that helped him.

"Easy, Dr. McKay," Teer's voice was soft in his ear. "Avrid and I will help John. Hedda," she called, "Come sit with Dr. McKay. See what you can do about his wounds."

Hedda came over to him and laid her hand upon his forehead. He pushed her off. "No, I'm fine. What's happening with John?" he asked and struggled to stand up. "Where's the beast?"

Hedda laid her hand on his shoulder. "The beast is gone," she said, "for now. John fought bravely, but was knocked unconscious, like you, and injured. When Teer and Avrid get him to your cabin, I'll heal his injuries."

Rodney settled down and stopped trying to stand up. His head was throbbing.

"How do you feel, Dr. McKay?"

He looked sharply at her. "Woozy. Headache. And my chest is killing me. But-"
"I know. You and John are most particular about using my healing abilities," she said with a smile.

"Well."

"You are that way out of concern for me. Like you are concerned for others in the village." She looked over to Teer and Avrid who were helping John to his feet. "I have tried to tell them that you and John have much to teach us about ascension, but they do not believe me."

At that, Rodney looked askance at her. "What do we know about ascension that you people don't?"

"Perhaps not so much about the process, but about achieving the state in which ascension could occur. You and John, you both fear things but face them anyway. You embrace your flaws and treat them as a part of your identity, instead of trying to meditate them away. " She shrugged. "It seems to me, achieving a perfected state is not about ridding oneself of one's burden, but accepting that burden and learning to carry it without being crushed under its weight."

Rodney blinked at her, then narrowed his eyes. "You're entirely too smart to be wasting your life on achieving ascension, you know."

Hedda laughed. "That is a great compliment from you, Dr. McKay."

He shrugged. "It's the truth."

"And I thank you." She looked over at Avrid and Teer again who were heading back over to them. "Hedda, John is settled. You should go see him now," Teer said.

Hedda gathered her skirts around her and stood.

"Hedda," Rodney began.

"I know, Dr. McKay. Only the most necessary healing on the most severe of his injuries." She waved him off and ran toward the cabin where John was.

Rodney turned on the two people standing before him. "You know that thing is going to kill him one of these times."

"We do not think it will come to that," Avrid said, smiling that vacuous, meditative smile that Rodney had recently grown to hate.

"It nearly killed me just now. What makes you think it won't kill John?"

"Because he is much too strong for the beast, Dr. McKay," Teer said. "I have seen his strength since I was a child. I have seen his face in my dreams." She tilted her head at him. "I wonder why you do not let him choose his own path."

"Why I don't..." Rodney wiped a hand over his face. "You've got to be kidding me."

"I had seen John's arrival in the village all my life, Dr. McKay, but in all those visions, you were never there. You are not supposed to be here."

Rodney stood, wincing with the effort, and took a deep painful breath. "You listen to me. John came through that portal against his and my wishes. I absolutely refused to let him go through it alone. I'm so totally not sorry if that throws a wrench in your plans for him, but you should know by now. John Sheppard is his own man. Any decisions he makes, he makes for himself. No fate can dictate what that man may choose to do. He's defied it too many times already. Now. I don't know what you think you saw of him, or what you expected to happen when he got here, but hang it up, lady. It's not going to happen. And believe it or not, it has nothing to do with you or me or anyone else, but John Sheppard being an ornery son of a bitch."

He started walking toward the cabin where John was, then turned to them both. "Has it ever occurred to you, that if John was to lead you to ascension, that it might have something to do with who he is and the way he runs his life? Maybe, just maybe, you should try emulating the man, instead of leaving him - and myself! - alone and defenseless against this monster that has been stalking your kind for however long."

At their blank stares, he shook his head. "Whatever. Do what you want, but the next time that beast shows up, we won't be standing out here alone. We won't be standing out here at all."

*****

Rodney was sitting quietly, waiting for John to wake up. When he heard the familiar groaning of his team leader waking up in pain, he turned toward the bed where John was slowly sitting up. "Well. That happened."

John scrubbed his hand over his face. "They left us out there alone again?"

"You're surprised?" Rodney asked, eyebrows high.

"No, not really." John pushed himself up to lean against the head board. "How long have I been out?"

"About a day. Nothing too bad. It's been four hours outside the field. Zelenka should be on the planet now," Rodney said.

John chuckled. "I thought the tablet was out of juice."

"And that affects my brain how, exactly? The tablet is a convenience, Colonel, not a crutch."

"Colonel?" John asked, disappointment clouding his eyes.

Rodney shot him a quick smile. "Sorry," he said, contrite, but John waved him off.

"So, McKay, how much longer do you think we have in here?" John asked him.

"Are you in a rush to leave?" Rodney returned, smiling again.

John looked around their cabin, at the various objects they've gathered into their possession over the course of the months. Then he looked over at Rodney, his eyes seeming to drink him in. Rodney raised a questioning brow in response. "Not especially," John whispered. "I kinda like it here." There was that look again, the one that burned, and Rodney was caught in it again. He cleared his throat.

"So, I, uh, I told them, Teer and Avrid, I mean, that we weren't going to be standing out there again, when the beast attacks the village."

John sighed and frowned at him.

"I know! I know we will be, but damn it, they need to be out there, too. It's their beast! We're just visiting. And can you tell me why it's always the visitors, namely us who have to destroy beasts and enemies and dangers of peoples' planets in this galaxy? Can't people learn to take care of themselves?"

"We're the good guys, Rodney."

"Yeah? Well. I'm sick of being the good guys."

John outright laughed at him. "No, you're not. You love it."

Rodney chuckled. "Maybe. But..." he sighed. "You know what I'm trying to say."

John nodded. "Yeah, I get ya, Rodney. A little gratitude and assistance would be nice every once in a while."

The silence stretched between them, the only sound their breathing and the crickets beneath the window and the occasional his of the candle wick. Rodney turned to look out the window, and heard John mutter under his breath before he climbed out of bed and strode over to turn Rodney's face back into the light.

John's fingers were rough on his chin, his callused thumb scraping the curve of Rodney's jaw.

"What the hell happened to your face?" He asked, angry.

"I got hit," Rodney said. "When that thing knocked me almost into next week, he left a pretty nasty bruise."

"Are you okay?" John turned his face again, the tips of his fingers lightly tracing the edges of the bruise.

"You're being weird. I'm fine, or, I will be. It's really nothing worse that I've gotten from fighting with a Wraith or, you know, Ronon," Rodney tried to reassure John, but John didn't let go of him. Rodney drew his attention. "John?"

John's eyes, glittering hazel with banked anger and what looked like regret, met Rodney's and the heat flared up in Rodney's gut again. He closed his eyes and swallowed. Then, taking a risk, he leaned into John's hand.

John's thumb, rough but gentle, brushed over his bottom lip. Rodney opened his eyes and John brushed his thumb once more over Rodney's mouth before nodding once then letting him go.

Rodney, realization dawning within him, watched him move back to the bed. The moment was fragile, and Rodney, unwilling or perhaps not quite ready to put words to the thing that was blossoming between them cleared his throat. "So, what are we going to do when that thing comes back again?"

John turned back to Rodney, one eyebrow high, as though mocking Rodney's cowardice. When Rodney refused to take the bait, John shrugged and sat down. "What we always do. Go get the bad guy."

"Of course," Rodney sighed. "I just knew you'd say that."

*****

Another month flew by, and no beast. The biggest danger either of them had to face was the longing glances Teer shot John's way and the reproachful ones she leveled on Rodney. On the night after the harvest feast, Rodney had had enough.

"She looks at you like you belong to her, you know."

John tucked his knife into his belt, nodding. "I know."

"And I'm the interloper. You know they'd still be using their primitive farming and irrigation methods if I hadn't come through that portal with you. That feast we all just enjoyed wouldn't have been possible if not for me."

John grinned at him. "I think they fed themselves well enough before we came along, Rodney."

"I'm just saying! I mean, it's as though she thinks I don't have a right to be here."

"Well, to be honest, neither of us do. Not really." John replied, loading the clip into his side arm and checking the chamber before slipping it into his holster. "Just ignore it, Rodney. I do."

"You know she had visions of you coming here to help them ascend. Among other things."

John shot him a look out of the corner of his eye. "I do," he said, "and you should know by now I don't have anything to do with what she thought she saw or what she thought would happen. It's not going to, Rodney." He faced Rodney. "Okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, it bugs me."

"I know, buddy. "

"Are you going running?" Rodney asked him.

"Just a perimeter check. I've got a feeling..."

"Ah. Spidey senses tingling?"

"Yeah. Just checking on things. You know, better safe than sorry."

"We're just full of cliches tonight, huh? " Rodney said, smiling. "Go appease your weird senses."

John pulled the door open, the fading daylight slanting into the cabin. "It's probably nothing, but if I'm not back in two hours-"

"I'm coming after you. With half the village in tow, you can be guaranteed. Go on. I'll see you later."

John shot him a quick smile and a nod, then left. Rodney rose and stood in the doorway, watching him jog through the center of the village. When he turned a corner and ran out of sight, Rodney sighed and shut the door.

When John had only been gone an hour, Rodney was surprised to see the inhabitants of the village heading in the direction John had taken. Curious, because they all seemed resolute and determined, Rodney got up to follow them.

They walked out toward the edge of the forest, to the meadow where John and Rodney had first encountered the beast and Avrid. Just before the break in the tree line, Rodney heard it - the metallic roar of the creature that had been plaguing the village for years. He ran to the front of the group, looking for John.

A hand on his arm stopped him.

"What are you doing? I have to go help him!" Rodney yelled, but Teer just shook her head.

"No," she said, "It is we who must defeat this creature." She looked behind her to the crowd who waited for a command. At her nod, they began moving through the tree line to the meadow. "You were right. This creature was of our own making. We understand now, what we must do. This is our final test."

"Final test?"

"The last obstacle we must face in order to ascend. We thought our task was to rid ourselves of fear, but that is not true, as you have implied. Our task was to face it. This invisible creature is the manifestation of all of our fears. We avoided this battle for too long, then, when you arrived we let John fight our battles for us. It is time for us to fight."

"Rodney?" John called him through the trees. "What's going on?" John asked.

The villagers had formed a circle around the beast, and as they did, the loud metallic sound of its growls and roars dwindled to silence, until it, too, finally dissipated into nothing.

"Are you all right, John?" Rodney asked, hurrying over to him. Teer followed behind him. "We heard the roaring. I thought... oh, god. I thought it was killing you."

"No. I heard it earlier and managed to avoid it." John turned to Teer. "What's up with the villagers being here? And really, all it took to kill this thing was to stand and stare at it?"

Teer smiled at him. "This is our final test. We were wrong to let you fight this battle for so long, John. For that I am sorry."

"So it's dead?" Rodney asked.

"It was never alive," Teer responded.

John narrowed his eyes at her. "This is the last thing you have to do before you ascend, isn't it?"

She nodded. Then she laid her hand on his arm, and Rodney felt white hot jealousy flare through the pit of his stomach. "You could join us, John."

John looked down at her hand then took it gently in one of his own. "No." he turned and looked at Rodney before turning back to her. "I'm not...I'm not ready for that. Probably never will be."

"I understand. Another time, perhaps."

"Maybe," he answered.

Rodney glared at him. John ascending was not on any agenda of his, ever.

They were quiet a few moments, then she said, "You're not ready to leave yet, are you?"

Rodney's eyes went wide at the thought of being able to leave, but he watched the slow smile slide over John's features, and realized that some time alone, away from Atlantis, wouldn't be such a bad thing. He waited for what John would say.

"Not quite," John said. "I don't know, it's quiet here. Nice. Peaceful."

"We did try our best," she said wryly. "When your friends from Atlantis arrive, in a few weeks, we will open the portal so you all may leave. And when you have left, the Sanctuary will remain intact for others who to find who may wish to seek ascension." She turned back to Rodney. "There will be no need for you to destroy it, Dr. McKay. You will be allowed to leave when the time comes."

"What? I wasn't..."

"Rodney," John said, in that tone that indicated he knew exactly what Rodney had planned.

"All right, fine," Rodney conceded. "Waste of a perfectly good ZPM, if you ask me, though."

Teer moved to join the rest of the villagers in the meadow. "Enjoy your time together, John, Dr. McKay. I do hope you both get what you want out of it." She turned to John. "I wish we had met under different circumstances, John. I have a feeling you would have been worth the wait." Then she turned away and with the rest of the people from the village, she transformed. There was a moment of golden brightness, then silence.

Rodney considered the meadow for a moment, then, "So. That's what ascending looks like? Hm. I hope that's not on your agenda anytime soon."

John chuckled and cocked an eyebrow. He must have been feeling a bit ornery, because his next words were designed to prick Rodney's jealousies. "What if it were?" He asked, clapping a hand on Rodney's shoulder.

Rodney glared up at him. "Then I'd see to it that the first place you went to when we got back on Atlantis was the infirmary, and I'd have Carson run every single diagnostic we have so you could have your head thoroughly examined. Because, that there would be crazy talk."

"Hm." John murmured, then turned to head back to the village. "All alone for a couple of weeks, Rodney," he said. "What sort of trouble to you think we can get up to by ourselves?"

"Knowing you, Colonel," Rodney said, grinning, "all kinds."

"Colonel?"

Rodney hurried up to walk beside him, then pulled him to a halt. He stared into John's open face, eyes shining, lips curled into a teasing smile.

"John," he said, and pulled John's smiling face down to a kiss.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
tarlanx
Dec. 19th, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
Lovely story :)
ca_pierson
Dec. 20th, 2012 12:16 am (UTC)
Oh this was so lovely! Thank you so very much, Santa. I adored the interaction between John and Rodney and I very much liked that Rodney was jealous :). This is exactly what I wanted! *hugs*
(Anonymous)
Dec. 20th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
SGA Santa
Oh good!

I have to admit, one of my all time favorite stories was gifted to you a few years ago - Fly Wishes To the Sky - and I was intimidated. :( I'm not that good! So to hear you enjoyed it is sweet! I'm glad I could deliver what you wanted. :D
hoktauri
Dec. 20th, 2012 04:45 am (UTC)
Oh, this left a big smile on my face. :) I love John convincing Rodney to stay for a while, and the moment they share after the beast attack when John runs a thumb over Rodney's mouth-- *whimper*

Beautiful work!
skinscript
Dec. 20th, 2012 05:31 am (UTC)
I've read a couple of takes on this episode, but this was a well done interpretation of what could have been. I liked how you kept enough of the episode to make it all entirely recognizable, and how close you have the characterizations as well. Good job!
scarlettandblue
Dec. 20th, 2012 10:23 am (UTC)
beautiful story, Santa, and very satisfying too
popkin16
Dec. 20th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)

"Aw. And here I thought you were turning a new leaf, McKay. What happened to that optimism from earlier?"

"Like always, it fled in the face of imminent danger."


This just seemed so them. I loved the idea for this - Rodney getting sucked into the time dilation field with John. Poor Rodney really would have been bored out of his mind, but now he has John for...distraction ;) I loved reading about the changes Rodney's presence had on events, and how it all circled back to canon events anyway.

I can't see John Ascending unless Rodney can come with him, so I don't think Rodney has to worry :P
sexycazzy
Dec. 20th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
What a great tag to that episode! I didn't like the thought of John being alone in the time delation field without his team so having Rodney with him was a great prefect thing for him! *g*

And of course it helped them to get together! Yay! :D
ozsaur
Dec. 23rd, 2012 12:24 pm (UTC)
That was a cool re-imagining of the episode. I like how things were slightly different, yet mirrored the episode at the end. I really like that they get the Sanctuary to themselves for a while! :-) Enjoyed it!
starbuckssue
Dec. 23rd, 2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
I loved this, if only Rodney had been with him in the episode!
squidgiepdx
Dec. 28th, 2012 05:51 am (UTC)
You captured the boys here very well! I liked this 'what if' version of events. Well done!
that_which
Dec. 28th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
I always thought the ancients pulled a sort of galaxy-wide dick move when they focused on ascension and left everyone else to deal with the mess.

It's nice to see Rodney (reluctantly) owning his inner hero, and even nicer that he and John got some private time out of it.
aqualegia
Jan. 1st, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
Nice story.
runpunkrun
Jan. 1st, 2013 04:39 am (UTC)
I like Rodney observing John in the sanctuary and noticing he's softer and more relaxed; I think a vacation in a time dilation field were just what these two needed!
danceswithgary
Jan. 2nd, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
Lovely story - a sweet and slow romance. :-D
hickman1937
Jan. 21st, 2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
I really love stories where Rodney goes through the portal with John and this is a good one. Love McKay giving Teer and Arvid what fer about the beast. Thanks for writing.
livejournal
Jul. 17th, 2013 11:19 am (UTC)
Rec: Mingling of Errand and Epiphany by Altyronsmaker
User nuetronorange referenced to your post from Rec: Mingling of Errand and Epiphany by Altyronsmaker saying: [...] Ronon, Teyla, Avrid, Hedda, Teer, Pairing: Rodney/John http://sga-santa.livejournal.com/410044.html [...]
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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