Dragon SpinStargate: Atlantis
by Night Spring
Length: ~5300 words
Warning: interspecies sex
Spoiler: (highlight box to read)
Cover Illustration: theladyofshadow
Additional Illustrations: cryptocat and kyanoswolf
Notes: This is totally lavvyan's fault for putting the idea into my head.
Thanks to Sheila and T.W. Lewis for the beta, and to lavvyan for being
Carson's lab micethe guinea pig for the last parts of the story.
Thank you also to everyone who followed along and commented as this story was being posted. Reading your comments was the highlight of my days, and I immensely enjoyed the sometimes whacky conversations we got into. Let's dragon it out! *g*
When Rodney woke up, he was a dragon.
He was twisting his neck, peeking at the underside of his wing trying to figure out how it was constructed, when his radio beeped. Carefully extending a claw, he managed to tap it on, but when he tried to speak, all that came out was a loud belch, and a puff of smoke.
When John burst into the room five minutes later, P-90 ready and aimed, Rodney had his laptop up and ready.
I'M RODNEY. DON'T SHOOT!
John blinked, stared at the words, then at Rodney.
"Rodney?" John squeaked.
"Good Lord!" Carson exclaimed. "It really is a dragon!"
Rodney bristled. His claws clicked over the keyboard.
I'M NOT *IT*
"Oh." Carson deflated. "Sorry, lad. Didn't mean to offend ye. But, my god! How did this happen? How is this even possible?" He craned his neck, taking in the details of Rodney's dragon body. "What about conservation of mass? Rodney, do you still weigh the same as before?"
OH YES, I HAVE A SCALE HANDY IN MY ROOM SO I CAN WEIGH MYSELF WHEN I TURN INTO A DRAGON DURING THE NIGHT
"Ouch," Carson winced. "It's Rodney, all right."
Negative, negative, nothing but negative. No unusual sensor readings or power surges. Nothing in the surveillance records. Nothing unusual Rodney had done or touched that anyone could recall. No hits on the Ancient database. Carson and the zoologist found nothing noticeably wrong with Rodney's health, but what was normal for a dragon, anyhow?
John eyed Rodney as the foot-long whiskers tickled John's cheek yet again. Perched on a stool with wings folded loosely over his back, Rodney clattered away at his keyboard, snorting puffs of smoke whenever exasperated, which was pretty much every other second.
It felt so surrealistically normal.
Elizabeth skidded to a halt at the lab door and stared. Bent metal and broken glass scattered everywhere, furniture overturned or lying at lopsided angles. Rodney cowered in a corner, wings raised and hissing like a cat with the hackles up. A white-faced John crouched in a protective stance in front of Rodney, glaring at Lorne -- no, at the marine corporal standing pale and still behind Lorne. In another corner Carson was trying to calm a fuming, ranting Kavanagh, begging him to stay still so he could look at his burns.
Carson eventually pronounced Kavanagh unharmed, the effect of his brush with dragon flame "more like a nasty sunburn." Zelenka and Simpson both testified to the "undiplomatic" nature of Kavanagh's remarks, which Kavanagh protested had been friendly jokes, only to be met with various degrees of disbelief and disdain. John was dead set on sending the corporal who had shot Rodney back to earth in disgrace, his fury only increasing when Carson found the bullet embedded in the thick hide of Rodney's shoulder. Only Rodney's distressed whimper and Carson's sharp demand for help kept John from killing the man on the spot.
Once John managed to calm Rodney, the bullet came out easily with barely any bleeding, but Carson humored Rodney's skeptical glare with a taped bandage over the spot. John stared with awed fascination at the half-crushed bullet, while Carson mused on the gradations in skin thickness over Rodney's body, so neither noticed Rodney waddling over to where Kavanagh was being iced down until they heard a startled squawk.
With a disdainful scoff at the alarmed reaction, Rodney typed into a nearby computer:
I'M SORRY, I DIDN'T MEAN TO
Gawking, Kavanagh could only spit out, "Well, I didn't mean to, either!"
While Kavanagh was effectively disarmed by Rodney's unexpected apology, concerns over Rodney's fire-breathing ability were not so easily assuaged.
John hauled the training dummy into the transporter, then waited patiently as Rodney settled in, carefully flicking his tail into a tight curl around his body.
"It's not going to activate unless the doors are completely closed, you know," John pointed out as he tapped their destination.
Rodney hmphed and strolled out the opening doors onto the corridor off the North Pier, tail twitching as he eyed it suspiciously to make sure it was all there.
It was a nice tail.
John breathed deep, savoring the sea breeze on the open pier. Beside him, Rodney rose to his haunches, extended wings blazing gold and bronze and tortoise in the sun.
John stared, caught in the startling familiarity of the alien sight. Strange, unique, beautiful, restrained power combined with astonishing grace -- this was the way Rodney should be. What Rodney always was, always had been.
John blinked. Beside him, Rodney settled back down, puzzled eyes searching John's face.
You are beautiful, John wanted to tell him. You always are.
And what would Rodney say, then?
Shrugging, John busied himself setting up the dummy.
THIS IS STUPID
John sighed. He was tempted to heartily agree. One hour of trying everything they could think of, and they'd made absolutely no progress. Unless you counted Rodney's increasingly amazing dexterity in controlling shade, quantity and shape of the smoke he puffed out. (John's suggestion that Rodney paint Mona Lisa in smoke met with an icy glare.) But no flame. Not a lick, not a wisp. Nothing.
THERE'S SOMETHING PERVERSE ABOUT PRACTICING DOING SOMETHING SO I CAN *NOT* DO IT
I KNOW. DOESN'T MAKE ME FEEL ANY LESS STUPID DOING IT
John sighed. It'd been a long day.
Rodney stretched out on the pier, not paying attention to John's conversation with Elizabeth. If they needed his input, John would...
"Rodney, you hungry?"
Oh, my god. Did he even have to ask?
"Yes, of course he's hungry," John dutifully reported.
"Yeah... okay." John looked at Rodney. "You wouldn't, by any chance, be craving raw meat..."
"O-kay, that's a no," John relayed. "Mm-hmmm. Understood. Sheppard out."
John shut off his radio and dropped down next to Rodney.
"What? Oh, fifteen minutes, tops. You know, for a guy who can't speak, you sure talk a lot."
It was closer to twenty minutes before the jumper rounded the city spires, and Rodney met the landing jumper with a spectacular bellow of fire-red exclamation marks sketched in smoke.
"Wow." Lorne ducked the trail of curling smoke. "Someone's impatient."
"Better hand over the food before he decides to eat us, Major," John suggested, only half-joking.
"Yes, sir." Lorne turned back toward the jumper, where Teyla and Ronon had stopped at the open hatch, staring at Rodney in irrepressible fascination.
John reached out a quiet hand to Rodney's trembling skin.
"Teyla. Ronon," he greeted, his voice carefully even.
Oh, god. Why hadn't he paid more attention? Surely Elizabeth had mentioned Teyla and Ronon were back. And he'd been gawked at by everyone all day -- why should one more time matter? But it was only John's hand, warm and firm on his shoulder, that kept him from jumping out of his own skin.
These were his teammates -- his friends, right? And even as he watched, Teyla drew herself together and stepped forward, offering him the same open smile she gave him always, reaching out to him with both hands, and he instinctively lowered his head until their foreheads touched.
"Rodney, you sure you should be eating all that?" John frowned.
"Dr. Beckett did suggest that you try one type of food at a time," Teyla reminded.
Rodney ignored them both as he slurped down yet another sandwich.
"Good thing you brought along so much food," John observed. "There might be a light snack left for us when he's done."
"Shouldn't exercise on a full stomach," Ronon commented.
Rodney paused with the whole baked chicken halfway to his mouth. "Exercise?" his eyes asked.
"They tell me you can breathe flames." Ronon grinned, hefting a long metal stick in his hand.
"Well, this was a cool idea," John said.
Ronon, dressed in a fire-resistant spacesuit, traded "hits" with Rodney, bursts of flame against swinging stick, while Teyla watched and kept score, which at the moment appeared near even.
"Thank you, sir," Lorne responded dryly.
Eventually Teyla abandoned the scorecard for a spacesuit herself, and the exercise turned to fine-tuning Rodney's flame-control -- flaming only one while they both attacked.
"Sir," Lorne began. "About Corporal Glenn..."
John grimaced. "If you are asking if I'd change my mind..."
"He could have killed him."
Before them, Rodney raised his head, flaming triumphantly into the air.
YOU ARE BEING SILLY, YOU KNOW
John frowned. "What are you talking about?" he asked as he stuffed the garbage he'd been picking up into the bag.
John blinked. "You heard us?"
DRAGON HEARING APPEARS TO BE BETTER THAN HUMAN
"I'll say," John muttered. He looked around one last time to check he hadn't missed anything, then tied the bag.
I APPRECIATE YOU RECOGNIZE MY IMPORTANCE, BUT GLENN HASN'T BEEN BROKEN IN. HE DESERVES ANOTHER CHANCE
HE'S ONE OF THE GREEN ONES. NEVER WORKED WITH SCIENTISTS BEFORE
"And you know that how?"
OH, PLEASE. WE KNOW EVERYTHING
Rodney followed everyone suspiciously as they loaded the jumper, nagging them if a piece of cargo wasn't secured to his satisfaction.
"We're just going around the city, Rodney," John finally said. "I promise I'll fly straight."
"Hey, he's got wings," said Ronon. "Can't he fly?"
Everyone, including Rodney, turned to contemplate Rodney's wings.
"They certainly look like they could sustain flight," Lorne opined.
Rodney nodded agreement, then looked expectantly at John.
John groaned. "Aren't you tired? And, there's no space here to practice landing. We'll need to go to the mainland."
"Well. I know what we're doing tomorrow," said Lorne.
It felt like a horde of people had turned up to meet the returning jumper, and John felt positively crowded. Elizabeth had to be assured of Rodney's mastery of flaming, Zelenka had sciency things needing Rodney's attention, Carson was itching to take Rodney down to the infirmary to ascertain he had done himself no damage by eating indiscriminately, and Kavanagh turned up with a contraption resembling an enormous harmonica holder for Rodney's laptop. Zelenka winked at John as Kavanagh finished adjusting the holder around Rodney's neck, and Rodney started typing with a delighted huff.
And suddenly, John needed air now.
How he ended up back on the North Pier, John had no idea. He was lucky he hadn't transported himself to some unexplored or dangerous area of the city from pushing blindly at the destination panel.
John slid to the ground and buried his face in his hands. Images of Rodney's wings blazing in the sun crisscrossed with all his memories of Rodney -- crowing in delight at the invulnerability shield, fingers flying over equipment as he worked, scared but determined as he faced down an enemy, steady and matter-of-fact as he instructed John to imagine where they were in the universe.
"Is this seat taken?" Elizabeth asked.
Elizabeth took that as permission to sit.
"Want to talk?"
"I..." John swallowed hard. "I don't think I can forgive Glenn. Rodney wants me to, and logically, my head tells me the man deserves another chance, but I..." He shook his head. "This is why they tell you not to get involved."
Elizabeth went still. "You and Rodney...?"
"What?" John looked up, turning to fully face Elizabeth. "Oh. No. Not like that."
John's face twisted under Elizabeth's steady gaze.
"I didn't know, okay? I didn't."
Silently, Elizabeth hugged him hard.
Rodney fidgeted. It'd been nearly an hour since Elizabeth had gone after John.
I SHOULD HAVE GONE
Teyla and Ronon looked at each other.
"I'm sure the Colonel and Dr. Weir have much to discuss," said Teyla.
Rodney puffed out a stream of ugly green-grey smoke.
"She's not involved," Ronon offered. "That helps sometimes."
Teyla and Ronon looked at each other again.
"He means," Teyla explained, "you and the Colonel are close."
"He cares for you, and you for him," Teyla elaborated.
WELL. I SUPPOSE THAT'S ONE WAY TO PUT IT
Rodney eyed his bed with disgust. He could maybe straighten out the tangled sheets, but there was no way he could tuck them in tight around the mattress, not with these claws. He could strip the bed completely and sleep on the naked mattress, but he really wanted his nice, soft sheets. Any number of people would do it for him, if he asked. But...
The door chimed.
John! Thank god.
Five minutes later, Rodney settled happily on his bed, now made to military exactness.
"Anything else, your highness?"
Rodney pointed his chin at his laptop.
Not just for the bed, or fetching the laptop, Rodney's eyes said.
John shrugged. "It's... what friends do."
Rodney snorted, and thumped the bed imperatively with his tail. John found himself reflexively sitting in the indicated spot.
"Uh... shouldn't that be my line?"
I'M NOT THE ONE WHO NEEDED A TIME OUT
"Yeah, sorry about that."
NO SORRY. TALK TO ME
"You know, that's what Elizabeth said, too."
"I don't know. It's just, so... confusing."
John looked at Rodney. Concerned brown eyes peered into his. Brown. Rodney's eyes should be blue. Yet these were Rodney's eyes.
John was silent, but Rodney could wait. Sitting here with John, he could wait.
"I..." John finally began. "What I feel... I've felt, for a while, I think. But this..." He paused. "It's like... You're you. But not you. But you. More you. You know?"
Rodney sighed. YOU'RE LUCKY YOU'RE TALKING TO A GENIUS
WHAT IF I TURN BACK TOMORROW
John blinked. "You think you will?"
Rodney scoffed. I WOKE UP THIS MORNING, I WAS LIKE THIS. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE
"Well then... then we go from there, I guess."
AND IF I'M STILL A DRAGON?
"Then... we go flying."
Alex Glenn paused at the threshold of the lab. He felt naked without any weapon, but Major Lorne had been very clear on that point. He wouldn't be allowed to carry any weapon, not even a knife, until Dr. McKay was satisfied he wouldn't shoot him again.
And how was he supposed to prove that?
"Oh, it's the Doc," Lorne had shrugged. "He'll think of something."
There was, however, no sign of a dragon in the lab. Alex eyed the orderly bustle of people inside, wishing scientists had rank insignias, so he'd have a clue who to approach.
YOU WANT ME TO WHAT?
"Oh, come on, it's simple."
John grabbed the edge of the jumper roof, found some invisible foothold on its side, and hoisted himself lightly onto the roof.
Grumbling, Rodney folded up his laptop, grabbed onto the jumper, and looked down to study the side -- but the foothold John had used was as invisible up close as from a few feet back.
"Oh, for..." John rolled his eyes. "Lorne, give him a hand up, would you?"
Between the three of them, they managed to pull and shove Rodney onto the roof.
Alex stood at attention before the man he knew only as Dr. Z and tried not to fidget under the mild but assessing gaze.
"So, Corporal... Glenn, is it? I'm Dr. Zelenka."
Zelenka, Alex repeated to himself, trying desperately to carve it into memory.
"But, you may refer to me as Dr. Z, if you wish. All marines call me that, no? However, don't let Rodney hear you, or he would start calling me Dr. Zed." Zelenka shuddered.
"I... I'll be sure not to, Dr. Zel... Zelim, Zelumka," Alex stammered.
Zelenka shook his head amusedly, and turned to his computer screen.
Rodney hesitated, eyes measuring the distance from the top of the jumper to the sandy beach below.
"Come on, Doc!" Lorne shouted up. "It's not that far."
Not far? Easy for Lorne to say, he was down there!
"Maybe..." John hunched down next to him. "If you think how a cat pounces on a mouse?"
Cat? Mouse? He could do that.
Rodney crouched, then pounced, his spread wings carrying him all the way to Lorne, who, having been standing at what he believed to be a safe distance from the jumper, went down with a satisfying squeal.
"Oops," said John.
Alex found himself standing idly yet again as Drs. Kavanagh and Simpson bickered at each other in another round of their continual shouting match. He really wished someone was in charge -- while he had no clue about anything, he did get that this contraption could cause an explosion as big as a nuclear bomb if not put together right. Did scientists always work like this? How had they not blown themselves up before now? Whenever Dr. Z paused his own project to try to mediate, things only devolved into a three-way shouting match.
Oh, for someone to take command.
Gliding to the sand was like riding down an invisible slide. Standing on top of the jumper while Lorne took it up was scary at first, and he thought John was nuts for riding along -- after all, he didn't have any wings to break a fall. But after the first few times, he couldn't wait for the jumper to go higher so he could slide longer, and John sensibly stayed on the ground. Then the thought struck that he could go farther if he jumped up.
The air caught him, and with an instinctive flap of his wings, he soared.
"Is it always like this?" Alex asked.
Dr. Z swallowed his mouthful of sandwich. "Pretty much, yes," he admitted, taking a sip of coffee.
"It's just so..."
"Different from the way you do things in the military, yes?" Zelenka's eyes twinkled. "We all have big egos -- all believe I am right!"
"But then, how do you resolve...?" Alex waved a hand at the device.
"Ah," Zelenka held up a finger. "Empirical evidence. Hard to argue that."
"But if it blows up?"
"Ach," Zelenka nodded. "Which is why Rodney left strict instructions not to turn it on until he gets back."
Up, up and up. The receding ground was an insubstantial backdrop to the glorious expanse of open air before him, each shift and turn of his wings a tender caress upon the wind that bore him aloft.
He knew the approach of the jumper by the shift of air, felt it match path and speed behind him, and knew it was John, following his every twist and turn as one. Together, they swept into a wide arc, the jumper sliding smoothly into the lead, and he fell into its wake, letting himself be swept along its pull, flying with John as one.
The lab fell suddenly silent, then the bustle and hubbub started up with renewed vigor. Alex looked up to see the dragon -- Dr. McKay -- sweep into the lab with Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne on either side, bearing straight down on Dr. Z. A brief exchange of words and clattering keys, and Dr. McKay swept off toward the other end of the lab with Dr. Z and the Colonel in tow, leaving behind a bemused Major Lorne.
"Better watch it," Lorne grinned at Alex as he strolled out of the lab. "He's cranky he didn't get to practice take-off."
Until now, Alex had thought Lorne's joking remarks about McKay's pay grade equaling a general's to be precisely that -- jokes. But the inspection sweeping through the lab was exactly that of a general reviewing his troops, complete with an entourage of trusted lieutenant and faithful aide. As the doctor moved through the lab, leaving people scrambling madly in his wake, the colonel was always a step away, with alert eyes and quick hand, blunting McKay's bluffness with a disarming smile here and a deft word there. How had he never seen this before as he stood guard in the lab?
Finally finishing his circuit of the lab, Dr. McKay glared down the contraption responsible for cutting short his flying practice, obviously having left the biggest problem to the last. Alex's gut clenched as the doctor leaned in and sniffed at the connections Alex had been welding. A soft snort, and the doctor whirled around, leaving Alex staring helplessly at Colonel Sheppard, who shrugged and translated, "Good job." A loud snort issued from the direction of the whiteboard, where Dr. McKay had dragged Drs. Kavanagh, Simpson and Zelenka, and the Colonel raised an eyebrow and amended, "Sorry. It's adequate."
John launched another target into the air and listened to the crowd aww as Rodney swooped down and neatly flamed it into cinders. When Rodney seemed close to blowing off steam by, well, blowing steam, he'd decided it was time for an intervention. It had started with coaxing Rodney to a balcony and tossing wadded paper for him to flame. Then a competition had started to build targets that flew farthest, and Rodney launched off the balcony after a particularly aerodynamic paper plane. Then Lorne showed up with the target launcher from the armory. Aaaand, they had a show.
Alex held his breath as Dr. Z flipped the switch. A collective sigh of relief spread around the room as the device hummed to life, glowing briefly before settling into a soft stable purr. As various measurements were read and pronounced within expected and acceptable levels, the room erupted into cheers and applause, which soon escalated into jovial exchanges of high-fives and congratulatory shoulder slaps. Dr. McKay stood in the middle of it all, smug and self-satisfied, the colonel close beside him, radiating quiet pride and adoration.
Alex shivered. He'd come so close to destroying them both.
GOD, I NEED A SHOWER
Rodney irritatedly rumbled as he unhooked the laptop and set it on his desk.
IDIOTS, CAN'T THEY GET ANYTHING DONE WITHOUT ME? MY SHOULDERS ITCH
"So you had to heroically forego personal hygiene to save the day." John smirked as he obligingly scratched Rodney's shoulder blades. Rodney groaned, leaning into the scratch.
"Yes, your highness." John gave the shoulder one last firm scratch before heading to the bathroom. "You like it hot?"
Rodney poked his head in over John's shoulder and emitted white hot smoke.
"Okay." John adjusted the temperature to match.
There was only one way to reach all of Rodney, and in any case he felt pretty grimy himself, so he stripped off and stepped after Rodney into the shower, allowing himself a moment to relax into the hot water sluicing down his skin, pressed between the encircling folds of Rodney's wings. Rodney arched back into John, humming softly in lazy satisfaction as John began rubbing soap over him in wide, smooth circles. Slowly, John worked his way down Rodney's body, the subtle roughness of scaled edges an amazing counterpoint to the overall smooth leatherlike softness of Rodney's skin.
At first, John didn't register what he was seeing. Pink and slenderly delicate, it twitched in time to John's strokes, its two forked shafts pulsing apart then pressing back together...
"What the fuck? You have two?" John blurted out.
Startled, Rodney jumped up and looked wildly about, but the tender shafts had rapidly collapsed and shrunk back into his body.
Rodney glared at John, body quivering from tip of nose to end of tail as he waited for an explanation. John stood frozen, mouth agape as he cast about for a way to explain that wouldn't get himself toasted.
SNAKE PENIS! I HAVE SNAKE PENIS?
"Uh... I just said you have two."
YES, SNAKE PENIS! THEY HAVE TWO!
"Uh, if you say so."
John ducked as Rodney shook himself, shedding water droplets all over the room. He himself had barely managed to wrap a towel around his waist. And he wished he had thought this through beforehand -- he wasn't looking forward to stepping back into his soiled clothes, but he didn't have anything else he could wear. Unless Rodney calmed down enough to...
DO IT AGAIN
DO IT AGAIN. I WANT TO SEE
snake penis: See here for a brief explanation and picture. In case anyone's wondering, this too is lavvyan's fault. She was researching snake sex for this story, and found this report about everything you NEVER wanted to know about snake sex.
"Uh... I mean... Rodney... Look, it... it doesn't work that way, you know."
Rodney's eyes widened, his face filling with horror as he realized what he'd asked for, which rapidly disintegrated into total dejection as he slumped down, curling away from John into a miserable ball.
John blinked, trying to fathom what had triggered this rapid shift in mood. "Rodney?" he called cautiously.
Rodney curled up even tighter at John's approach, but did not refuse when John pressed the laptop onto him.
I CAN'T JERK OFF
Rodney's claws flexed sharply over the keyboard.
I'M NEVER GOING TO GET OFF AGAIN
"Well, ah..." John cleared his throat. "Cats lick themselves."
Rodney glanced down at himself, then threw John a look of pure disgust.
I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M TALKING ABOUT THIS WITH YOU
"Ah... hey," John raised his hands in surrender. "I'm just saying."
Rodney looked down at himself again, the curve of his neck, the slump of his shoulders, so defenseless and vulnerable -- and John knew he couldn't leave Rodney to do this alone.
Slowly, he reached out to touch a careful hand to Rodney's face, coaxing him up to meet his eyes.
"Come on, let's get you dry first."
It took forever to get Rodney relaxed again, and John wasn't in much better shape himself. The slightly oversized boxers and t-shirt he'd pulled on didn't really help. He wasn't sure why he felt they were needed, just that being naked with Rodney in bed, doing this -- just, not quite ready for that, not yet. But the faint smell of Rodney clung to the clothes, surrounding him, making him feel oddly exposed and vulnerable in a way he'd never felt before.
Burying his face in Rodney's neck, John let his hand slide down Rodney's soft underbelly, seeking the quivering twin shafts.
When Rodney woke up, he was still a dragon, and John was asleep beside him.
Third day, he thought, and wondered when he would stop counting.
Then he looked at John's sleeping face, and wondered if he could start counting.
He twisted his neck to check the clock. Kavanagh would be waiting for him in the lab, eager to put the now functional device through its paces.
John stirred, mumbling unintelligibly as he snuggled into Rodney's shoulder, looking small and young in Rodney's oversize t-shirt, face at peace against the blue.
Yawning, Rodney settled back into bed.
Kavanagh could wait.
"Where the heck is he?"
"It's Rodney," Zelenka responded mildly. "He'll come when he comes."
"Yeah? And if anyone else is even a minute late..."
"It's Rodney," Zelenka repeated more forcefully. "He certainly deserves to come and go when he pleases."
Kavanagh opened his mouth to argue, thought better of it, and forcefully pushed past Alex. Sighing, Zelenka turned a weak smile to Alex.
"Corporal. Are you with us again today?"
"I... hadn't heard otherwise," Alex uncertainly replied.
"Ah. Well, I'm sure Rodney would..." Zelenka broke off as the device suddenly shifted from a low purr to a strident, grating pulse.
"What have you done?"
"Nothing!" Kavanagh yelled back. "It just started..." He stared at the readings, then cursed. "You!" he shouted at Alex. "Get the cutters!"
Alex automatically ran to obey, even as Kavanagh and Zelenka started arguing over what should be done. As he ran back with the cutters, he heard Simpson screaming into the radio for McKay.
He paused, hesitating. Shouldn't they wait for Dr. McKay? He had said no one should touch the device unless he was present.
Kavanagh screamed at him for the cutters, and Alex froze.
Then with a rush of wings and claws, McKay arrived.
Alex ducked as the dragon milled past him, screeching to a halt in front of the device. With a blood-curling scream, he pounced, red hot flames severing the connections Alex and Simpson had so carefully put in place yesterday. Grabbing the disconnected power source, he launched off the nearest balcony just as Colonel Sheppard ran in, untied flak vest flapping against the blue t-shirt underneath.
Zelenka screamed into the radio to get the shields up and everyone under cover. Alex realized the colonel was still out on the balcony, and tackled him just as everything went white.
The white gradually faded to grey, and objects solidified from the grey, one tiny bit at a time. Her ears rang madly, and she stumbled badly as she tried to step out from her office. Clutching at the doorframe for support, she squinted out at the control room, where, with some concentration, she made out people swaying at their stations, all looking exactly like she felt. Gritting her teeth, she dragged herself across the connecting walkway.
"Report," she managed to force out.
The communication console cackled to life.
"...tis, please respond. This is the Daedalus. Repeat..."
The colonel lay unmoving where Alex had tackled him, huddled into a tight fetal ball, the blue of his shirt piercing Alex's eyes in silent, damning accusation. He should have... should have... Surely there was something he should have done. Something, anything...
Behind him, people rushed about, restoring order, but Alex had eyes only for the shattered man in front of him. He had failed his commander, he had failed his command, he had failed...
Suddenly, Doctor Zelenka yelped, then fell to his knees in front of the colonel, shaking him madly.
"The Daedalus! They have him! They have him!"
Rodney blinked. Ow. Headache. He pressed a hand against his temple. Wait. Hand? Temple?
Rodney squinted up at John. John looked tight, worried, pale, like death warmed over, and...
"You're still wearing my shirt."
"What? Oh." John looked down at himself. "Um, yeah?"
"People will talk, you know?"
"Uh... will that bother you?"
Could John sound any more wistful?
"I'm not the one in the military with archaic, prejudicial regulations," Rodney grimaced.
"Head hurts." Rodney cautiously raised his head. "Atlantis still here, I see."
"Yup, you saved the day. Again."
Could John look any more goofy?
Rodney frowned as he heard the door chime. John no longer rang, and anyone needing him on official business called on the radio. So a personal visit, at this hour? Sighing, he blanked his monitor and walked to the door.
Corporal Glenn stood at attention, a manila envelope in hand.
"Sir," he began. "I apologize for disturbing you, but..."
Rodney raised a hand to stop the speech and waved him in. The corporal entered hesitantly, coming to attention again just inside the door. Rodney barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes as he waved at him to continue.
Rodney flipped the burnt-out connection in his hand. One that Glenn had welded. And it'd been a perfectly adequate connection. Like the man himself.
The weight of responsibility, of holding others' lives in one's hands. Not for everyone, he supposed. And it was best for everyone all around, including Glenn himself, that he'd realized that. Still...
Lives. Everyone held a piece of others' lives in their hands, whether they realized or not. Some tiny, some larger, but...
With one last look, he tossed the connection into the pile of recyclable junk, picked up the envelope Glenn had left, and opened it.
John stood on the pier, eyes following the Daedalus as it disappeared into the sky.
"Hey," Rodney called.
"Miss it?" Rodney asked.
"Here." Rodney flipped a piece of paper -- no, a picture. Rodney, flying. John's breath caught in his throat.
"Neat, huh? Glenn dropped it off before leaving on the Daedalus," Rodney explained. "I tried to tell him -- oh fuck it, it's no use. Anyway," he rambled right on, "I've been thinking, what with all the technology we have, Ancient, Goa'uld, Asgard and what not, we could build a ultra-compact flight device, hm? Just think..."