Pairing: John/Rodney, sort of
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine and I made no money in the production of this story. It is for the amusement of its intended recipient only and no copyright infringement was intended.
Author's Notes: My recipient requested John/Rodney in any form, with a side of SG-1. They’re all here in one form or another. I hope it is enough to bring you Christmas cheer, dear Recipient, and the beginnings of a Happy New Year.
Summary: This is an AU set in the fictitious town of Blaine, Wyoming.
The silence in the gate room was telling. The smell of fear even more so. This was it. The invasion that everyone had known was coming and prayed wouldn’t. Earth couldn’t fall. It was time to put the plan in action.
“Walter, recall all off-world teams. Contact the scientists in outlying areas. Tell them to pull back to the Mountain. Tell them to initiate the protocols they were given.” General O’Neill rubbed his eyes to settle himself.
“Tell them to be careful. Tell them to hurry.”
Rodney slowed to a stop at the outskirts of the small town ahead. “Welcome to Blaine,” he read to the empty car. Where the hell was Blaine? This part of the country could be anywhere. It was all mountains…who knew where. One would think the ‘Welcome’ sign could be more forthcoming! He was too tired to try to make sense of the map he had and the GPS had given up the ghost once he’d started climbing into the mountains.
Turning off the engine brought a welcome silence. He was hungry, thirsty and weary beyond measure of the road. Surely stopping in this Podunk town would be safe. Just for the night. One night. Even just for a few hours. Time to get something to eat, to wash up, to close his burning eyes for just a little while.
With a sigh Rodney started the car and eased back out onto the road. He’d stop for something to eat and some coffee to go. No more. He didn’t dare.
He cautiously edged the car back out onto the narrow road. It was surprisingly dark…eerie when he was used to the ambient light of the city.
“Oh, shit!” Someone or something was suddenly spotlighted in front of him with no time to turn away. The solid thump as the car struck the object made Rodney’s already clenching gut contract.
“Oh my God.” Rodney scrambled to release his seatbelt. “Suicidal deer? What next?” Finally free from his belt he staggered to the front of his damaged car. It wouldn’t be moving anywhere under it’s own power. Damn.
Where was the deer? Had it crawled away to die? The thought of something dying because he’d hit it finally triggered the vomiting that he’d managed to hold off this far. Damn and double damn.
“[Dr. McKay, we presume.]” Rodney’s head jerked up in shock. He knew that voice inflection. Guo’uld! Here! “[You’ve made rather a mess of our Jaffa. Tsk, tsk.]” The outrageously dressed thing crossed the narrow road to stand near a large body partially hidden in the roadside culvert. “[Of course he would not have lived much longer anyway…but humans are so hasty. So…messy. One misses the more refined ways of life.]” With cool detach the Guo’uld bent down and without seeming effort tore open the pouch holding the Symbiote within. He held the horrible, writhing thing aloft as if inspecting it for damage before thrusting it into a small fluid-filled container. “[No matter. You will soon be one of us and your manners will no doubt improve significantly.]”
Rodney wasn’t aware that during the entire performance he hadn’t taken a breath. He wasn’t aware that he was on the verge of loosing consciousness. He was very much aware that the Guo’uld intended to implant that Symbiote in him. It was more than he was able to process so when the lack of oxygen did finally take him down it was a welcome thing.
“Got a call from old man Peterson. Says he saw a UFO.” Ronon Dex stood in front of his boss’s desk, amazed as always by the precarious piles of paperwork the Sheriff had. Seemed easier to Ronon to just do the filing but Sheppard had a thing about it. Ronon had learned to not mention it. He shrugged himself into his jacket.
“Gonna drive over and look around, see if it’s some kids causing trouble again. Nip it in the bud.”
Sheppard didn’t look up from his futile search for whatever it was he wanted. “Call in,” was his only instruction.
“[Dr. McKay. How nice of you to rejoin us.]” Rodney’s first conscious thought was positive. He wasn’t yet a host. Good. The next thoughts were far less positive. He’d been captured by the enemy and none of the good guys could track him.
He couldn’t believe that he’d been tracked so quickly. Not when he’d removed the tracking chip as soon as Chuck had passed on the instructions to do so. Not when he hadn’t stopped moving for more than a few minutes since then.
“How did you find me?” For once in his life Rodney didn’t care that his fear leaked out in his voice. He had a great deal to fear and the thing standing in front of him was very well aware of all of them.
“[Oh, We think you will be quite impressed.]” The thing waved a small device so Rodney could see it. It was like a bulky version of his broken LSD. “[This charming device allows us to read the power signature of the crystal you stole from the Museum of Toronto. It reads the signatures of many more but this one comes complete with it’s own scientist! Convenient, don’t you think?]” The Guo’uld seemed to enjoy the shock and excitement that Rodney couldn’t keep hidden. “[Yes, we thought you’d be interested. Perhaps once you are one of us you will have the opportunity to study it further.]”
He took a step towards Rodney, “[Now you will tell us where you’ve secreted the crystal, Doctor. We know it is near, and time is too short for an exhaustive search.]” Another menacing step nearer. “[It will be far less painful for you if you tell us what we need to know.]”
Rodney struggled to come up with a plan. The thing had tied his hands while he’d been unconscious. He needed to find away to get free. He needed information about why he’d been important enough to send a scout ahead to get him, for surely that was what this Guo’uld was. He needed a distraction.
“Who are you? What do you want with the crystal?” Time. He needed to buy time. If this thing was on a schedule he needed to disrupt it as much as possible. The people in the Mountain needed time and it was in Rodney’s inadequate hands to deliver it.
“What are you planning to do with that?” Rodney thrust his chin towards the larval Guo’uld swimming in its watery containment. “And where are we?”
The Guo’uld held his hand up to silence Rodney. “[Someone approaches.]” He pulled Rodney along to a outcropping of rock. “[Stay quiet, Doctor, if you wish to see the sun rise this day.]”
Rodney wanted that so settled down to wait.
Ronon Dex had been a deputy for the Police Department of Blaine (read that just Sheppard and himself) for two years. Truth be told he never thought he’d stay this long. Too small town. Too mountainous. None of the beaches of his youth. He planned on telling Sheppard he was moving on every day and yet the days had past and he was still here, patrolling the big empty space surrounding him. Still, he’d made a home here. Teyla and Kanaan were here, and Sheppard. He’d hate to leave them behind but the mountains were beginning to close in on him and winter was coming on fast. He wasn’t eager for another Wyoming winter stuck here on the rim of the Rockies.
Ronon was jerked away from his musings when he sighted a wrecked car on the side of the highway into town. He keyed his radio on, “Sheppard, you copy?” Reception was something of an issue here on the mountain. He hoped he wouldn’t have to drive back down to get through to the Sheriff. “Sheppard, do you copy?”
Knowing he was going to catch it from the crime lab down South didn’t help Ronon’s unease at leaving the scene to get through to Sheppard. He couldn’t exactly process what was here on his own and he wasn’t supposed to leave. These were the sorts of problems they’d never been able to work out about just with the two of them. Another reason he couldn’t just leave. Sheppard couldn’t run the department alone. With a sigh of exasperation Ronon pulled out his camera to start mapping out the scene. He’d try to do as much as he could before roping everything off and heading out of mountain to report in.
“[The outsider has left. Now you will retrieve the crystal and we will then decide if it is time to implant our young one.]”
“I get it now.” Rodney snapped his fingers as his sluggish brain started making connections. “He’s important to your superiors. As long as he’s still larval you’re in charge but once he’s found his ‘host’ you loose some power.” The answering flair of the Guo’uld’s eyes was confirmation of Rodney’s hypothesis.
“[There is not much time before we must implant the larva or lose it. We will need to decide soon. It would be best for you not to rush that choice unnecessarily, don’t you think?]”
“[The crystal, Doctor McKay,]” the Guo’uld’s eyes flashed again in eerie phosphorescence. “[We urge you to remember in who’s mercies you find yourself and tell us where you have hidden the crystal.]”
Rodney decided the better part of valor at that moment was giving in. For now. Surely the SGC had mobilized by this point and would be along to save him. He hoped that the Tokra would be available for extraction if they didn’t show up in time. He hoped the Guo’uld couldn’t see how frightened he was.
“There’s a shielded compartment in my car. It’s keyed to my DNA.” It wasn’t, but Rodney didn’t want to find himself superfluous this early in negotiations. “Providing the crystal wasn’t damaged in the crash. And providing we can still access the compartment.”
“[We hope for your sake that we can and that the crystal is undamaged. We would hate to find reason to punish you for failing in your first duties to your new lord.]”
“Just get out here as soon as you can, Sheppard. I’m telling you, this isn’t a hit and run.” He listened while Sheppard told him he’d send the mortuary guys up from Bishop with some impatience. “Yeah, cool. Gotta get back to the body.” He shifted back into his seat belt. “Later.”
Rodney shifted uncomfortably in his bonds. The Guo’uld had been careful to bind his wrists together tightly and the squirming had made them even tighter. “My fingers are numb, you know. I may not be able to operate the lock to free the crystal if you don’t untie me.”
“[We think you will find a way to serve us well, Doctor. We believe you would not enjoy the alternative.]” Rodney actually believed that, too. Still it didn’t actually hurt to keep asking.
“What’s your name? I can’t keep calling you ‘thing’ or ‘it’ now can I?” It probably wasn’t good hostage behavior to taunt ones captor but Rodney had started the night tired; now he was past the point of reasoned response. “And not that I’m not relieved to be, you know, me, but why am I still me? And not him? Whoever him is. Aren’t you worried that your masters will come down hard on you if he dies?”
“[I am your Lord, that is all you need know.]” So. Thing was somewhat touchy. Join the club, thought Rodney sourly. “[My glorious name is Beelshala. Speak it and tremble.]”
“You know, that would totally be a more bad-ass response if you weren’t standing on the side of the road looking like an extra from ‘Big Trouble in Little China’. The way things stand? It’s really sort of funny.” He’d probably hit Rodney again once he had the crystal in hand but for the moment Rodney could indulge his bad mood a little. “So what’s the name of my other Lord, assuming he grows up to be a lord?”
“[He will know his name once he takes his first host.]” Beelshala’s evil smile made Rodney’s flesh crawl. “[It is a special honor for you.]” Rodney was not really feeling honored but wisely refrained from mentioning that. “[He isn’t really ready to Join yet, but with our Jaffa injured during our arrival there are no others to give him time to mature.]”
“You only traveled with one Jaffa? Not much of a Lord, then.”
Beelshala’s eyes flared with his anger. “[You will restrain your untrained tongue or I will remove it! Our guardians were also lost on arrival. No matter. The others are coming. We will join them soon.]”
Ronon breathed a sigh of relief; he could see the roadblock he’d set up and the tarping over the body was intact. Maybe the fall out from the lab geeks wouldn’t be too terrible.
With a curse, Ronon pulled his cruiser snug against the mountains shoulder, getting as much under cover as possible. His crime scene wasn’t as pristine as he’d first thought. He eased the door open to get closer on foot. Times like this he was glad of the weight of his sidearm but figured he should take the shotgun from the car as well. Comforted by the firepower he started forward to see what was going on.
Two people, one searching the car, the other standing over the body. He cursed again when the guy in the car caught sight of him and turned to run back into the jagged rocks along the roadside. No way Ronon was catching both of them and returning to get his cruiser ensured losing the guy already disappearing into the wild.
Damn the bureaucrats in Cheyenne for deciding nothing ever happened in Blaine so no extra manpower was needed!
By now the guy standing over the body had seen him, too. He made no move to run, though. Just stood quietly with hands raised for Ronon to approach. Ronon figured it might be a trick of the shadows but the guy seemed to be tied up. And kind of relieved that his buddy had left him here to fend for himself.
His suspect was already babbling out what seemed to be a confession before Ronon had even made it all the way over to the wreck. Ronon shook his head. He’d never understand criminals. He’d have to cuff the guy in the back of the cruiser and resecure the scene while he waited for Sheppard. Then maybe they could find the other guy. Maybe.
John walked around the brutalized body lying in the ditch. Ronon was right. It was a mess. Clearly hit by McKay’s car, like he’d admitted to. He bent to get a closer look at the damage to the stomach. Something didn’t look right about the dead guys guts. What were left of them. He’d have to send the remains down to the Coroner in Lander, which meant he’d have to send Ronon with them. Not cool.
“Get the boys to bag this up, Ronon. Then call Dr. Montoya to let her know you’ll be down with a weird one tomorrow.” John held up a hand to forestall Ronon’s automatic argument. “Chain of evidence, buddy. You know that. We can’t send the mortuary guys with the body; one of us has to go. I’m still making more money than you so you get the long drive with the nasty body.” John smiled at Ronon’s murderous look. Pissing off the other member of the Police Force in Blaine was the only perk of John’s job and he intended to enjoy it as much as possible.
“I’m going to try talking to McKay again when we get back to base.” He rubbed a hand across the back of his neck. Gesturing at the ruined car and the equally ruined corpse he sighed. “None of this is adding up.”
“SG-13 just gated through, General. They were the last ones.” Major Lorne shifted on his aching feet. He’d been running since the first sighting of the Guo’uld mother ship late the night before. He didn’t think he’d be able to stand much longer.
“Anybody heard from Zelenka or McKay?” Two wayward scientists out of four hundred shouldn’t be giving him ulcers but they happened to be two of the best. They needed them if they were going to have a chance.
“No word on McKay, Sir, but Colonel Carter reports she and Dr. Zelenka should reach the Mountain by fifteen hundred hours Zulu.”
“Any luck finding gene carriers?”
“She says she has four confirmed mid-range and what she called a bakers dozen of mid to low range. No joy on anything higher.” The Major winced at the expression his report brought. “Maybe Colonel Mitchell will have better luck.”
That was one of thousands of things that ate at Jack. There were so few carriers. No others strong enough to operate the control chairs but Jack himself. He couldn’t be in two places at once and that meant Earth’s best chances at survival were cut in half. It was too late to do anything but regret not being more proactive in recruiting more possible carriers. Far too late with the Guo’uld only days away
“He’s still claiming he’s innocent. Says we’ve got it all wrong.” Ronon ran a hand over his face. “He may be telling the truth, Sheppard.”
“How so?” The Sheriff shifted around to look at his deputy. “You said you found him over the body. He’s clearly hiding something. What’s eating at you?”
“You saw the body, how it was torn up. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” Ronon paced the perimeter of the room, a move John recognized as a signal of deep internal conflict. “The wounds were deliberate, Sheppard. You said yourself they were vicious. The dead guy is big, too. The crash didn’t kill him. Too much blood where he was laying. Had to come from what was done to his body after. No one that big is going to go down with out a struggle and this guy we’ve got locked up? He’s no body builder. He’s soft. A scientist, he says.” Ronon faced John now, mind made up. “Plus, there the fact that he was bound. Had been for a while, too.”
“If he’d had a hand in what was done to that body? He’d have some marks on him. Bruises, cuts…something. All this guy has is a small surgical incision on his left thigh. Not another mark anywhere other than the bruising on his wrists. No blood spatter, either. It’s just isn’t adding up.”
“What did he have to say about the incision?” John sighed. He didn’t like how this one stacked up. “What about his friend?”
“Nothing.” Ronon’s confusion was palpable. “He’s said nothing at all except he didn’t do it and that we should call this number.” Ronon handed John a slip of paper with an out of state phone number scrawled across it. “He seems to think he’s in some sort of danger.”
“I’m not sure he’s wrong there, big guy.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “If you’re right and he didn’t kill that guy out there then he certainly disturbed the person that did. They’re not likely to be pleased about that.”
He figured it was time to try that number the good Doctor had given them. Maybe someone there would have some answers.
“Thanks for calling, Sheriff. I appreciate it. I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that Doctor McKay isn’t your killer. That being said I’d be grateful if you release him to me and my men when we get there. I personally guarantee he’ll be available for court times and any formal inquiries.”
Jack winced. He hated lying to the Sheriff. The guy sounded good…and he was only trying to do an impossible job without all the information he needed but the fact was no one was going to be too interested in court proceedings in a few days time. Hopefully this guy would still be around when the dust cleared so Jack could explain it to him. He’d owe him that much.
“Yeah, I guess we can do that.” Jack could hear Sheppard shifting papers around on his desk. “The body’s on it’s way to the County seat with my deputy in about an hour. I don’t have the facilities to examine him here, not to mention the lack of cold storage. In a few weeks it wouldn’t be so time sensitive but for now we have to boogie.” More paper rustling.
“I can give you the Coroner’s number, if you think it’s necessary to see the body. Best I can do.”
“Thanks, yeah. I’ll take that number.” Jack scratched his chin. “When do you expect your deputy back?” Maybe this one would be safer if he stayed where he was. The Guo’uld weren’t going to pick up the Jaffe they’d so casually abandoned on the road. The body was safer than the town at this point.
At least it looked like they’d get McKay back. If they moved fast enough. He dialed Lorne’s number to let him know where to pick up his charge.
Colonel Carter paced back and forth in front of General O’Neill’s desk. “Shouldn’t we have heard something by now?” She’d run out of patience hours ago. It was only slightly satisfying that Jack had as well.
“We know he’s in Blaine, Wyoming. We’ve got Lorne and his team enroute to pick him up. It’s rugged territory according to Lorne. It may take a few hours to get McKay and get out.” That troubled Jack, Carter could tell.
“Still nothing from the locals?”
“Lorne just got feet on the ground there. Let’s give him a chance to make contact and see what the lay of the land is.” He looked at his watch for the hundredth time that morning. “Say an hour or so then we’ll start calling demanding answers.”
It wasn’t enough but it would have to do for now.
“You know?” Rodney scrubbed a hand over his burning eyes. How many days had he been awake? It was all a blur. “I still don’t know where I am!”
“Didn’t you see the ‘Welcome to Blaine’ sign standing just over your dead guy?” Sheppard leaned back in chair. He didn’t look much more rested than Rodney felt. Rodney would feel bad about that if he wasn’t worried he was going to be locked up during a Guo’uld invasion.
Sheppard sighed dramatically and rummaged through the piles of paperwork on his desk to unearth a large, folded map. More rustling resulted in the map reforming itself to the Sheriff’s satisfaction. He leaned forward, turning the resultant page so Rodney could see it clearly.
“This is us, way up here on the edge of the Divide.” He pointed to the features of interest with the map upside down for him. Rodney was unwillingly impressed.
“County seats over in Lander.” Sheppard ran his finger down and around a large chunk of land. “There’s the reservation and the not-insignificant impediment of the Rockys.” More tracing with those long, tapered fingers. Rodney tried to convince himself that he didn’t find that hot.
The friendly, slacker vibe fell away, leaving a serious, dangerous man behind. Rodney tried not to find that hot, either. He was pretty much failing.
“So you can see my confusion here, Doctor. Strangers just don’t wander into Blaine on a day-to-day basis but so far today we’ve had three. You…” that slender finger now pointed at Rodney’s chest, “the guy in the Halloween costume, and the messy dead guy.”
Rodney was a little worried how much this new, stern Sheppard turned him on. In jail on murder charges? No problem. O’Neill would fix that for him. Pummeled for making a pass at the hot Sheriff? O’Neill would laugh himself sick. He forced his concentration back on what Sheppard was saying.
“Now would be a really good time for you to tell me what the hell you’re doing here and how you crossed paths with our messy dead guy. And if you know where our other colorful friend is you’d best tell me that, too.”
Rodney was perfectly willing to tell Sheppard the whole, unvarnished truth. He didn’t care about confidentiality agreements or trials for treason. If the world survived the next few weeks any thoughts of keeping such secrets would have past. The problem was there was nothing he had to back up his story. The crystal was intact but without it’s interface it was just a pretty artifact. The only other thing he had was the LSD he carried with him. Unfortunately it had been damaged in the crash and hadn’t so much as beeped since then. Sighing in defeat, Rodney pointed to it in the pile of his personal belongings anyway. He might as well try to get Sheppard to understand.
“Let me see if I understand you here, McKay.” Sheppard had a perfect face for poker, Rodney thought. He gave absolutely nothing away. He more than likely thought Rodney was crazy but by looking at him you’d think they were discussing the weather.
It was another layer of hotness that Rodney didn’t need. He’d become uncomfortably aware that he’d be leaving these people in the epicenter of a Guo’uld search when he was gone. The invaders wouldn’t know that the SGC had collected him…and they would collect him. Soon. Rodney clung to that fact…and would tear the area apart to find him and the crystal they seemed to want as much as the SGC did. Leaving Sheppard and his monosyllabic but not unfriendly deputy to deal with that sort of horror was making Rodney’s earlier nausea come back with a vengeance.
“You’re an Astrophysicist with something called Star Gate Command. They’re based in Cheyenne Mountain. This General O’Neill is in charge. So far I’m clear?”
Rodney nodded. Sheppard had spoken to O’Neill on the phone so he had to believe at least that much.
“And there are aliens coming to take over the world. Our friend in the Halloween costume and our messy dead guy are both part of the invasion force. Still got it right?”
Rodney nodded again. Sheppard was good at playing the dumb jock cop but it was clear there was a fine mind in that shaggy head. Hothothot. Rodney was so screwed.
“And this is alien technology.” He gestured at the crystal, now sitting on the messy desk in front of him along with the broken LSD. Sheppard reached over and picked up the small detector and turned it over in his hand.
“Ow!” He dropped the tech back onto his desktop and rubbed his fingers, glaring at Rodney. “Warn a guy next time!” he snapped. “That things got a short. Gives off a hell of a jolt.” He showed the red welts on three of his fingers.
“You’ve got the gene!” That was so cool! And grossly unfair. Pretty, smart, and blessed with the gene. So hot that Rodney felt scorched just sitting across from him. And getting taller every second. Wait. How was he getting taller? Rodney hoped he wasn’t saying any of this out loud.
“Doctor McKay?” Sheppard reached over to gently lift Rodney’s head off the desktop. “Maybe we should find you someplace to lay down while we wait for your Knight in Shining Armour to show up.” He stood up and walked around the desk to help Rodney stand.
“You’re really very pretty, did you know that?” Rodney wasn’t sure why Sheppard was smiling at him like that. It was a fact. Facts are facts. “And not nearly as stupid as I thought you might be.” Now Sheppard’s pet giant was laughing too. Rodney was too tired to figure out why.
“Come on Doctor. I’ll let you bed down upstairs. It seems sort of petty to put you in a cell now that I know you’re an intergalactic crime fighter and all.”
Rodney smiled his most sparkling smile. It was nice to be appreciated finally. “Yes. Yes I am.”
He really needed to find out what was so funny.
“If you leave now you’ll be out of the mountain before full dark. Even with the shit Dr. Montoya’s gonna dish you should be back here within 48 hours.” Sheppard knew Ronon was worried about leaving John alone. They hadn’t found the missing suspect from the crash scene and neither one of them believed he’d given up on claiming the crystal thingy that McKay clung to or on grabbing McKay himself.
“I know you’re worried, buddy. I’m not thrilled about having you gone two days either but if we don’t get that body into cold storage soon we’re gonna need biohazard suits to come in the office.” That argument at least carried some weight. Taking an even smellier corpse down the mountain in a closed van wasn’t something that Ronon would be in a hurry to do. No, better to get it over with.
Maybe this O’Neill would show up and have some answers and maybe even some assistance in finding the missing man. In the meantime John planned to sit upstairs with Rodney and the weird crystal thing that seemed to be at the center of all this mess and make sure nothing happened to either of them.
John eased into the dim bedroom, listening to the quiet for a moment to establish that the Doctor was actually sleeping. Out cold. Good. He’d needed it. John stifled a yawn. He needed it too but he was going to have to stay awake if he was going to keep watch. He put his handgun and the thermos of coffee he’d brought with him on his desk, pulled out the chair and settled in the wait out the night.
John jerked awake at a sound drifting up from the floor below. There, again. A quiet tread. Someone was climbing the stairs to the apartment. John eased back into deeper shadow, releasing the safety on his gun as he moved. “Show time,” he thought, and wished that he hadn’t been in such a hurry to get Ronon on the road.
The bedroom door silently slid open, revealing whom John had to assume was their missing suspect. He started across the room, straight to where Rodney slept.
“I wouldn’t if I were you.” John stepped forward. He raised his gun, sighting the intruder carefully. He wouldn’t miss at this close range. “I won’t hesitate to blow you away so put your hands on top of your head and sit down on the floor.”
“[We think not, Tauri.]” John started at the odd inflection and the glowing yellow eyes. Any doubt he’d had that this guy wasn’t human was now gone. “[We will have the crystal and we will have Doctor McKay. He has been chosen as host for our brother Guo’uld and you may not interfere.]’’
“[It is of no consequence to us if you live or die, Tauri.]” He raised his hand towards John. “[Choose life.]”
John didn’t hesitate. He fired once, hitting the Guo’uld squarely between his eyes. The guns report had Rodney scrambling out of bed before the body hit the floor.
“You okay, Rodney?” John reached over to grasp the shaking man’s shoulder. “He’s dead. You’re safe…at least from him.”
“Hothothot and a really good shot.” John squeezed the shoulder under his hand once again and then headed over to examine the body only to be jerked back by Rodney.
“No. Wait. The Guo’uld inside that guy could still be alive.” The words were no sooner spoken when a strange, horrible, snake-like being crawled free of the corpse and rose up, hissing in annoyance at the two men. “Be careful. He’ll try to jump at you. Try to take you as a host.”
The thing writhed, bunching down, readying itself to strike when John raised his gun and fired again and again until all that remained was a ruined wood floor and an ugly bloody stain.
“Yeah,” Rodney agreed. “Exactly.” So very hot.
Sheppard snorted. He was going to miss Rodney. He wished they’d met in different circumstances. Now what could have been would never be.
“Let’s head down to the cell block, Rodney.” Sheppard gathered up the blankets, pillows and the crystal. “Grab that tube thing the creepy dead guy was carrying. I don’t want it left up here unattended.”
Rodney thought it might be best to keep on eye on it, too. It had been that kind of night. Bending down to retrieve the sealed container was one thing but rifling through the dead hosts clothes to find the interface he knew was secreted there was enough to send him swooning into Sheppard.
“Easy there, buddy.” Sheppard supported him while he took a few deep breaths. “Let me.” With calm dispatch Sheppard retrieved the device and the contained Guo’uld. “Let’s go.”
It took a while to settle Rodney back down. They talked about their childhoods. They talked about John’s time in the Air Force and how he’d ended up in Wyoming. They talked about Ronon and Teyla. They talked about everything and anything except the coming invasion and the fact that in the morning when General O’Neill showed up they’d never see each other again.
Of that they didn’t talk at all.
Finally as dawn spread light over the floors of the cell Rodney dozed off. He was tired enough that he didn’t start when a knock on the outer office door brought John to his feet.
John looked down at the sleeping man. “This is it, Rodney. This is good-bye.” He turned to let the General in.
If Lorne was surprised to be greeted with a nine-millimeter handgun in the face he hid it well. John was impressed. Just not impressed enough to hand Rodney over to him.
“It’s been a bad night for me, Major, and I’m in a really shitty mood. I do not know what you’re talking about and I want very much for you to go away. Unless you have your boss tucked into your back pocket I think our conversation is over.”
“Sheriff…” Lorne caught Sheppard’s expression and stopped trying to reason with him.
“I was expecting a General O’Neill. You? Are not him.” Sheppard holstered his sidearm and crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t know you, Major. I’m sure you’re a real likeable guy, but I don’t know you. Get the General here and I’ll work with him. You? I’m done talking too.”
Lorne knew there was no time to argue with the locals. He nodded at Sheppard and withdrew. He had a phone call to make. This was not the sort of decision he was making without input from the higher-ups.
John hung up the phone. The General was on his way. It was imperative, the General’s word, to release Rodney to Lorne so things could get ‘rolling’. What ever that meant. He sighed. He wished he’d gotten a little sleep and a lot more coffee. “He’s on his way,” was all he said.
“Sheriff Sheppard, I know that you have Doctor McKay somewhere.” Lorne made a peacekeeping gesture when Sheppard started to speak. “I know you’ve got a good reason. I respect that. I do.” Here came the hard sell. “We both know that he didn’t have anything to do with the death of the man on the road into town. We both know that he’s in danger from the ones that are responsible.” Good. He had Sheppard’s attention. “We should also be able to agree that since Rodney gave you the number to reach us that he figures he’ll be safer with me than staying here with you.”
Sheppard flinched at that. The look was quickly suppressed but Lorne was used to looking for just such expressions. Something personal, then, between the two. Interesting.
“If, and I’m not saying it’s so, but if I happened to know where Rodney was and he was willing to put himself in your hands I’d probably…hypothetically…need an hour or so to work that out.”
Lorne carefully held himself in check. He figured if he just waited Sheppard would come to the conclusion he wanted.
“So how ‘bout you go over to Teyla’s and get yourself some breakfast. Kanaan makes some mean pancakes. Good coffee, too.” He stood. Lorne took that to mean he was being dismissed and rose as well.
John was still awake when Rodney finally woke. “Didn’t you sleep at all?”
John shook his head. “We had a visitor after you feel asleep.” Seeing Rodney’s panic he hastened to explain. “A Major Evan Lorne, USAF.” Sheppard could see that Rodney knew the name if not the man. “Said he had orders to take you back to Cheyenne Mountain but he didn’t actually have written orders on him. No real proof of what he was saying. So I gotta ask you. Do you know him?”
Rodney looked if anything more guilty than worried. Sheppard stored that away. It was probably better if he didn’t know.
“Do you trust this Lorne guy, Rodney?” It was possible to hold off until the General arrived. In fact it was probably a forgone conclusion that he’d be here before the Major finished breakfast. He’d sounded like he wasn’t going to wasting any time.
“I trust Lorne, but more importantly I trust the man that sent him.” Rodney tentatively reached out to touch John’s bristly cheek. “It’s for the best of all of us if I go with him as soon as possible.” Yeah. That’s what John had been afraid of. It was going to be lonely around here without the snark he’d come to enjoy.
“I sent him over to Teyla’s.”
Rodney sat up abruptly. “He’s still here? He’s been here all along?” He pushed at John to get him out of the way. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m sorry, Rodney.” He was, for more reasons than he could say. “It seemed like the best course of action at the time. He’s only been waiting an hour or so. I’ll go get him, you get dressed.”
John wouldn’t let himself look back at Rodney when he left the room. It was time to gain some distance.
When John strolled into Teyla’s he could see that the General had indeed made it into town. He sat at the rear booth…John’s booth, he thought with some bitterness…and was busy working his way through a stack of Kanaan’s awesome pancakes. The Major saw John crossing the room and whispered something to his boss. The General looked up as John stopped in front of the two.
“Major Sheppard. You’ve been kind of a pain in my ass, son.” He moped up the last of his syrup. “Let’s not keep that up, shall we?”
“Not Major Sheppard anymore, sir. Just Sheriff Sheppard now.” John didn’t comment on how quickly the General had found out about his time in the Air Force.
He also chose not to comment on the pain in the ass part. He figured he’d keep on being one until Rodney was on his way out of town. Speak of the devil, he thought, as Rodney burst into the restaurant and beelined for the Air Force personnel. He put a bundle wrapped in one of John’s tee shirts on the table in front of the General.
“That’s it?” General O’Neill asked.
“We need to get this to the Mountain.” Rodney practically vibrated excitement. “It’s fully charged and this,” he showed a strange, flat device to the men “will tell us where there are more!”
He turned to John. “Do you have to call anyone before you leave? Because we absolutely have to leave now!”
“The Sheriff won’t be coming with us, Doctor. That’s not possible.”
It was clear to O’Neill that Rodney wasn’t going to accept that without argument. He was right to want to save the man who had saved him but they couldn’t pull in civilians and Sheppard had stated clearly where he stood.
“We’ve contacted the Daedalus,” he turned to John. “That’s classified but we’ve already broken down those doors.” He sent a glare at Rodney that the scientist ignored. “The Daedalus is a space-worthy aircraft and will be here in less than 48 hours. Colonel Caldwell’s assignment will be to get the civilians out of here before the Guo’uld come through like a Panzer division.”
“That evac will include you, Sheriff. And your deputy if he gets back by then. So call him and tell him to stay or hurry. Your choice.” He shook John’s hand. “Thank you for all you’ve done. It isn’t an exaggeration to say you may have saved the planet today. I hope we meet again.”
“Time to get in the chopper and head home.” Rodney looked stricken. O’Neill felt bad but it had to be this way. “You’ve got five minutes before we take off.”
“Major Lorne, get the bird ready to fly.”
“Yes, sir.” Lorne shook hands with Sheppard. “Good luck, Sheriff.”
Then it was just Rodney and John. “You’ve got to get out of here, John. They’ll come here first because this is where the crystal was last tracked. They’ll tear the place apart looking for it!”
“I’m responsible for these people, Rodney.” Well. Most of them where down the mountain for the winter but there were a few. “I can’t just leave.” He reached over and brushed his fingers gently over Rodney’s cheek and chin.
“So long, Rodney.” He turned and walked to where the General was waiting to say his goodbyes.
He stood there while they finished the flight prep. He stood there while everyone buckled in and the big bay doors slid closed. He stood as the dust swirled and resettled around him while the big machine lifted up into the bright morning sky. He figured he’d just stand a little longer while it disappeared from view.
Rodney forced down the panic bubbling up through his bowels. Think! Think! What was it that he said? He’d been so tired for so long his brain was failing him. Rodney suddenly snapped his fingers.
“You have to go back!” Rodney started to get up out of the jump seat only to be shoved back down by Major Lorne.
“Doctor, we’ve been over this.” McKay knew he had tested General O’Neill’s patience in the past and how quickly he’d have to make his point now. “We can’t take civilians with us. I know it hurts leaving your boyfriend behind…”
“Don’t be a fool!” McKay struggled out from under Lorne’s hand to stand in front of the General. “He’s not my boyfriend. He’s so very much more.” He poked a finger into O’Neill’s chest. “He’s got the gene, General.” He had their attention now. “That’s right, he’s ATA positive!” Rodney was sure now, surer than he’d ever been about anything. “And it has to be a strong expression because I didn’t even get a tingle out of the tech he was holding.”
Rodney knew that if Jack believed that John had the ATA gene he had suddenly become too important to leave behind even for those few hours until the Daedalus arrived. He hadto believe him.
“You’d better not be selling this to me just to get him off the ground before Daedalus arrives, McKay.” Jack signaled the pilot to loop around to land.
“I’m not lying.” Rodney was relieved. He could see John standing at the landing site, probably wondering what went wrong. “I have this.” He shoved the malfunctioning LSD into O’Neill’s hands.
“Ow! This things got a short!”
“Exactly!” Rodney laughed. “That’s what John said! The thing is? I couldn’t feel it. I knew something was wrong with the crystal pathways but I couldn’t feel any feedback. John could. We can’t leave him behind!”
Jack nodded his understanding. That meant Sheppard’s expression of the gene was at least as strong as his own. He’d be able to operate the technology in the Antarctic base, freeing Jack to run the needed tech at the SGC. It looked like the Sheriff wouldn’t be staying a civilian after all.
And if they couldn’t get him on board for that they’d have to make sure that the Guo’uld didn’t get their hands on him. They couldn’t afford the Sheriff to be used as a weapon against them. He figured that part McKay didn’t have to know.
“Good call, McKay. Would have been a better one if you’d remembered it a little earlier.”
McKay wisely remained silent as he allowed Lorne to manhandle him back into his restraints. John would be onboard in moments. They’d take the crystal, the ZPM, back to the mountain. With it, and the stolen tech taken from the dead Guo’uld, they had a chance to fight off the invasion coming.
Earth had its chance to remain free. After that battle? Rodney would take his chance, too.