Spoilers: nothing specifc
Summary: "Have a little faith, Colonel."
A Little Faith
"A day. Well, about thirty-six hours, give or take depending on several variables, so a day and half. Approximately."
John wants to assume that Rodney's doing his usual over-exaggeration thing, but the grave, quiet way he says it doesn't give John any room for denial.
"When's the Daedalus due?"
"They just left Earth, sir," Sergeant MacCabe answers. "Even pushing the engines to the limits of safety parameters, it'll be at least eight days."
John spends an irrational moment wishing that the Air Force had just kicked him out after Afghanistan, or sent him anywhere but Antarctica, because then he wouldn't be here now, sitting at the head of the table, facing the fact that they may have finally reached Shit-Out-of-Luck. Three years in the Pegasus Galaxy and they've finally run out of Hail Mary's.
And yet seventeen people and Rodney sit staring back at him, waiting for some kind of brilliant but insane idea, waiting for some kind of hope.
"All right," he says, standing up. "Well. That's thirty-six hours to come up with an idea. We've basically got two options, right? Either we destroy the remaining hive ships or we find a way to extend the ZPM's power so we can hold out until the Daedalus gets here. Let's get back to work."
With that, he turns and walks out of the mess and down the hall to his office, hoping like hell he managed to sound more optimistic than he is. He feels like he probably should have made some kind of speech to rally what are left of the troops, but Elizabeth's the speech maker and she's unconscious on a gurney somewhere on her way to a safe planet.
The mess hall has become their de facto briefing room since the gate room exploded two days ago and left behind a charred hole in the city, eleven dead Marines, one dead Air Force officer, three dead scientists, and six people injured, including Elizabeth. And that isn't counting the team of four that had obviously been captured, and likely tortured, for their IDC codes. The gate itself was rendered useless, and they lost at least three puddlejumpers in the explosion. Atlantis' failsafe programs had created a shield to contain the explosion, and that's the only reason the city didn't sustain more damage. Unfortunately, it also left them with a nearly depleted ZPM.
And then the two hive ships had shown up out of nowhere and it became clear that the Wraith had a plan, a plan that was working. They'd lost another four puddlejumpers and ten soldiers trying to fight back. Five hours ago, with Elizabeth stable but still unconscious, John had given the order to evacuate the city and put everyone into the remaining puddlejumpers except the thirteen Marines and four scientists who'd volunteered to stay. And now he and Rodney had thirty-six hours to come up with a miracle.
John drops his P-90 on a chair and leans against his desk, hands flat on it's messy surface. There are performance reviews and requisition forms and three recommendations for promotion that he hasn't gotten around to finishing, two of which will now have to be done posthumously. On the one clean corner of his desk is the chess game he and Rodney had been playing two days ago. They'd been eating the last of Rodney's Doritos and arguing over what constituted "real pizza" and paying very little attention to the actual chess game when the city exploded.
The merits of Chicago vs. New York pizza seems pretty stupid now that they are so very screwed.
"Fuck," John says, suddenly furious at the whole goddamned universe, and he sweeps the chess board off his desk, sending the pieces flying across the room.
John spins around to find Rodney standing in the doorway, holding his injured arm- injured helping John pull Elizabeth to safety after the explosion. "Watch it." He steps into the room, kicking chess pieces out of his way. "Death by bishop would be really embarrassing and unheroic right now."
"Not funny, McKay." John moves around to the other side of his desk and sinks down into his chair, pulling his laptop to him. "I need to figure out if the auto-destruct is working. I'm not leaving a single piece of this city to the Wraith."
Rodney stands and stares at John for a few seconds, so long that John begins to wonder if he's suddenly started speaking Ancient or some form of gibberish. Finally, he shuts the door and turns back to look at John, his mouth set in a harsh, straight line.
"You've given up." The tone of Rodney's voice is an accusation and it feels like a physical slap.
"What? No, I have not!" He starts to stand, but Rodney leans forward and points at him, stabbing at the air in front of John's face.
"Yes, you have! I can see it all over your face. You've decided that you're going to die in some stupidly heroic way, only you're all out of pinheaded ideas like," Rodney makes little quotation marks in the air next to his head, "fly myself and a nuke into the mouth of a hive ship."
Rodney pushes off John's desk and stalks across the room, kicking more chess pieces out of his way with the kind of vehemence he usually saves for haranguing his scientists.
"Well, you can just stop it! You may have a death wish, but I don't."
And that's John's limit. He gets up, pushes his chair away and walks into Rodney's space, backing him up against a wall.
"I don't have a death wish."
"Whatever," Rodney says, refusing to back off with John in his face. "I'm the doom and gloom guy and you're supposed to be Mr. Optimism. This is no time for switching roles. There are seventeen other people in this city right now, waiting for us to come up with some great idea, and they're not ready to give up. I'm not ready to die. I'm not ready for you to die."
Rodney pokes a finger hard into John's chest on "you" and John grabs his hand, surprised to feel it shaking. Rodney doesn't pull away, just looks down at their hands. "Have a little faith, Colonel."
John can see in the set of his jaw, in the tense line of his shoulder that Rodney is scared. He's terrified. And John knows, he knows very well, that when Rodney gets scared he gets angry. Right now, Rodney is furious.
Something in John relaxes, and he has to stop himself from laughing because all things considered, death by McKay would probably be just as embarrassing as death by bishop. But he's suddenly calmer because Rodney has the healthiest sense of self-preservation that John has ever seen, and if he's this pissed, if he's this scared, then there is no way they won't come out of this alive.
"Asshole," Rodney pushes against John, trying to pull his hand away. "What are you smiling at?"
"You," John answers and leans in further, pinning Rodney to the wall and kissing him.
For three years he's wondered what would happen if he ever did it, but he's kept an ever-growing mental list of reasons why he shouldn't. He still knows he shouldn't, but he does it anyway. Because he's never wanted to do it more than right now, right here in his office with the Wraith sitting out there in space waiting for their shields to fail.
Rodney squeaks and freezes against John, and then, just as abruptly, he relaxes. He relaxes and pulls his hand out of John's, wrapping it around the back of John's neck and pulling him closer, deepening the kiss. He tastes like stale coffee and Powerbars and his hand on John's neck feels strong and steady now, and it feels a little like hope.
An unknown amount of time later, Rodney pushes against him, breaking the kiss and glaring at John. "Now! Now, you decide to do this? You really are an asshole, aren't you?"
And John does give in and laugh, because somehow he's always known that kissing Rodney would result in name-calling. He almost wishes he had actual pigtails for Rodney to pull. "It takes one to know one."
Rodney just rolls his eyes and pulls John back to him, whispering "ass", before covering his mouth with another kiss. When they come up for air again, John calls him "jerk" and pulls him away from the wall and maneuvers them both to the small couch, pushing him down and crawling on top of him, careful to avoid his injured arm. And it's just like John thought it would be, with Rodney hard and soft and wiggly, and nothing like he thought it would be, with both of them desperate and greedy.
When it's over and John's laying limp on top of Rodney, because there's nowhere else to go on this couch, and trying to catch his breath, Rodney rubs his fingers absently over an old scar on John's shoulder. He's quiet and still, and that's something else John wouldn't have expected from him, so he keeps his own silence and listens to Rodney breathe for a few minutes.
But then Rodney is moving, pushing at John and sliding out from under him. "I have to go," he says, fastening his pants and straightening out his shirt. "I think. No, I'm pretty sure I know how to get some more time out of the ZPM." And before John can even get to his feet, Rodney's gone, already yelling at Zelenka over the radio.
John takes a moment to be damn happy he fell in love with a genius, and then he goes to track down Cadman to see if they can't figure out a way to get a bomb into orbit and into the hive ships. He might not have faith in the universe, but he has faith in Rodney.
In all, Rodney manages to coax eight days out of the shield, but by then it hardly matters because on day six John uses the control chair to send two cloaked naquadah missiles into the heart of both the hive ships. He spends a large portion of day seven locked in his quarters with Rodney, making up for three years of lost time.