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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 13

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1
 

 

Rodney slapped his alarm off with a muted groan. He was tempted to close his eyes but his brain was already zooming into active mode; lists of the things he needed to deal with clamouring for attention, from city repairs to his on-going research to his relationship with Jennifer to wondering how Teyla and Ronon were finding their Earth based assignments to his worry for John.

It was the latter that occupied Rodney's mind as he stumbled through his morning routine. He was uncertain whether it was a good thing or a bad thing that in the directory of his mind, the folder that was named 'Worry for John' was categorised into numerous subdirectories, some of which had their own subdirectories.

Rodney shivered despite the heat of the shower spray when he considered how close they had come to losing John to another suicide run with a bomb; how close they had come to sacrificing all their lives for that matter.

He shook off the memory and focused on the first of his Worry for John folders that required attention; the one that was named 'Is he happy?' Rodney wasn't certain when he had started to worry about other people's happiness but he had and there was a large part of Rodney that never wanted John or Teyla, Torren or Ronon for that matter to be unhappy in any way. And yet Rodney suspected John wasn't happy and Rodney had the instinctive need to fix it.

Rodney's mouth turned into a downward crooked slant at the thought. He was the first to admit that he wasn't the most perceptive person ever where people were concerned and he was prepared to admit that the idea of John's unhappiness was something that had slowly crept up on him. Maybe it had first occurred to him after the incident with the Sekkari; John had been quiet for days afterwards. It had only been when they'd arrived on Earth though that Rodney had realised John hadn't been back voluntarily since his father had died, (and seriously, he wasn't even sure that John's attendance at the funeral had exactly met the definition of voluntary meaning willing), and oh yes: John's father had died. Rodney had called himself a moron that day for not seeing the obvious – that John was grieving, had been grieving for months.

But as much as he blamed himself for not seeing it, Rodney blamed John because his friend had advanced skills in emotional evasion. When John had returned from the funeral, he had grabbed Rodney and taken him to the end of the pier with some beer. Half-way through the alcohol, Rodney had made an awkward attempt to ask how John was dealing with everything, and John had replied that he didn't think it had sunk in properly. There had been no other conversation about it, not in any of times they'd gotten together to play chess or computer golf or race their cars or watch a movie; nothing. Was it any wonder Rodney had assumed that John was fine? OK, so maybe he could have asked but there had been life to deal with; saving Atlantis, saving each other. At least he finally knew – or at least he thought he finally knew that John was grieving and unhappy.

Which was bad.

And Rodney didn't think John's unhappiness was just grief. He'd been struck by the thought that John might be lonely too. That had happened at lunch the day after they had arrived on Earth. Teyla had already been sat with Kanaan and Torren when Rodney and John had sat down; Ronon had turned up with Amelia a moment later, and then Jennifer had snagged the last chair. It had taken until dessert before Rodney had realised that everyone but John had a significant other sitting at the table, and he'd only noticed then because they'd been talking about movie night and Teyla had suggested John invite someone. John had brushed off the suggestion quickly, had smiled and joked, but…but Rodney had struck by the idea that John might be lonely with everyone else being with someone.

It wasn't a question of time spent with people. Rodney had gone back through in his own mind over the last few months for data and, while he didn't had enough data for Ronon and Amelia (but he couldn't believe the Satedan would blow John off for his girlfriend), he had determined that neither Teyla's relationship with Kanaan nor his own relationship with Jennifer had significantly impacted the time John spent with them. Yes, maybe at the beginning, when Rodney had been building up to actually asking Jennifer out, Rodney had broken a few loose arrangements with John, but nothing since they'd actually gotten together; Rodney was sure of that. And so Rodney was assured that John wasn't lacking companionship per se.

But Rodney had been in John's position himself before; the lone singleton in a clutch of couples. He'd always found it mortifying to be the one without the date; the one who didn't have Valentine's plans; the one who was left behind at the table when the others went off to dance – not that he would want to dance even if he had a date but that wasn't the point. John seemed relatively relaxed about that kind of thing but then Rodney thought it was unlikely that John had ever had to worry about anyone looking at him and assuming that John was alone out of anything other than choice. However, Rodney couldn't help thinking about how it felt to be the odd one out; that sense of being on the outside of a club, watching others enviously.

Of course, Rodney didn't want to presume that the solution was finding John a romantic partner. He hoped to God he never became one of those types of friends who match-made and believed everyone should be in a pair. John was more than capable of finding himself someone if he wanted a romantic partner although Rodney couldn't remember John ever pursuing anyone seriously except for Chaya, and Rodney was somewhat prepared to accept that his memories there may have been clouded by his distrust of the Ascended being; that John hadn't been pursuing Chaya as a woman so much as a potential ally, who additionally John had no objection to kissing, sharing glowy sex with, whatever.

Which was not the point.

The point, Rodney thought getting himself back on track as he stepped out of the shower and reached for the thick towels he liked, was that having observed John's unhappiness and determined a romantic partner was not a solution, the question remained: what was the solution?

Rodney had spent a great deal of time floundering around for one, most of it in the midst of the really, really boring IOA meetings they'd been forced to attend. Unfortunately, people weren't Ancient tech and they weren't logical, and identification of Cause A did not necessarily mean Fix B would solve it. He had only gotten as far as 'Talk to Teyla' in all of his solution planning when John had seemingly come up with the solution himself.

Rodney lined up his shaving equipment and began to shave efficiently; methodically. Rodney was prepared to admit that he would never have come up with the solution of a two week flying trip across the States. But when John had explained how he thought it would help Mitchell, Rodney had instinctively known it would help John too.

John's first love was flying and Rodney had even had half-formed thoughts about puddle jumpers in his own solution thinking, but Rodney admitted he probably wouldn't have chosen Mitchell as John's companion. It wasn't that Mitchell had threatened Rodney with a fake lemon but more that Mitchell was the poster boy for the Air Force; all American good looks, boyish charm and flyboy cockiness. Sure, Rodney had believed the same of John initially, but only for about as long as it had taken Rodney to get to a computer and track down John's personnel record with its glaring black mark and Siberian-esque punishment of banishment to Antarctica. But Mitchell's record was pristine; flawless. Rodney had worried that Mitchell wouldn't get John; wouldn't get that John needed the trip as much as evidently Mitchell appeared to.

That worry had been alleviated, Rodney determined. John had let enough slip in their daily check-ins to reveal John and Mitchell had a good many interests in common and got along great – and Rodney wasn't jealous; he wasn't. Plus John had let enough slip about the story-telling competition to reveal it was Mitchell's idea and Rodney's opinion of Mitchell had risen because it was really an ingenious way of getting John to share without John feeling like he'd been made to share. Rodney hoped he was doing his part by encouraging John to tell the stories he knew John usually never talked about, and if those stories happened to be more likely to win the competition, well, Rodney couldn't help that.

Rodney swiped at a stray smear of shaving cream, smoothed a hand over his jaw and decided that it was good enough. He wandered back into the bedroom to begin dressing.

The daily check-ins had been a surprise. The last time they'd been stuck on Earth Rodney had called John almost every time; John had called him once. Rodney wasn't ashamed to say he liked the turnaround; liked the fact that John was calling him. The obvious benefit was that Rodney could track the progress of the solution through the calls very effectively. And so far, despite the complication of the Lucien Alliance, he could see the trip was working.

On one level, there was the important fact that John sounded more relaxed; happier. On another, John was clearly beginning to deal with some of the messy emotional stuff that his father's death must have stirred up; his outburst that his Dad was an asshole was a big enough clue that even Rodney couldn't miss it. Rodney would keep his promise; as soon as John got back to the city, they would head down to the end of the pier, swap Dad stories and get horrendously drunk.

So, the 'Is John happy?' worry was easing a little. Rodney was reasonably confident that John was, if not OK, on the path to being OK. He could even maybe consign it a lesser priority in his worry list. Rodney adjusted the cuffs on his uniform, picked up his datapad and left for breakfast.

Of course, if there was only one Worry for John category to be handled, it would be a very strange day. Rodney logged on as he walked; his mind assimilating the new data on the city repairs, power usage and a hundred other technical details even as part of him considered the second item on his worry list: the Lucien Alliance's plan to kidnap Mitchell which would no doubt lead to John getting hurt in some way trying to protect Mitchell.

To distract himself, Rodney fired off a quick 'hello, hope you're OK' email to Jennifer; it occurred to him that he should call her. He spotted something in the data feed from the power grid and tapped his earpiece. 'Radek, have you seen…'

'Yes, yes,' Radek replied, 'am already on my way to the ZPM room.'

'You'll need to…'

'Yes, and you will need…'

'Already done.' Rodney completed sending the instruction to shut down some non-essential systems as he entered the mess. 'Call me when you've pinpointed the problem.'

Radek mumbled something back to him in Czech.

Rodney joined the serving line, datapad still in hand and pointed at the pancakes. Sergeant Baley slid a plate onto his tray and she added another pancake with a wink. Rodney absently thanked her, added syrup and coffee – three cups of it – to his tray. He scanned the mess and found no-one he wanted to particularly eat with; depressingly most of his regular table-mates were away from Atlantis. He went to the team's usual table and tried hard not to feel abandoned.

He thought back through the information he'd uncovered about Landry's secret spy deal as he began to eat. He couldn't help thinking that he had missed something. He put it down to lack of sleep. It had been late when he'd finally cracked through the layers of security around General Landry's files. He actually hadn't ever considered that Landry was capable of making secret deals with the Lucien Alliance. Jack O'Neill; yes. Landry; not so much.

Truthfully every time Rodney interacted with Landry, he came away desperately wanting Hammond back, despite the fact that Hammond had sent him to Siberia. Thinking back to his first face to face encounter with SG1, Rodney sometimes wondered that he wasn't shot for his albeit unwitting part in Colonel Simmons' plan which had almost killed Teal'c. Now, he could barely think of it without cringing, knowing how he felt when someone gave him an arbitrary deadline to save Teyla or Ronon or John or anyone for that matter.

He shook off the memory and dove into the pancakes, all the while keeping his gaze affixed to the datapad and trying to project an aura of 'busy, busy' to account for his eating alone. When a tray was placed across the table, Rodney looked up disconcerted.

Daniel smiled at him as he took his seat. 'Rodney.'

'Daniel.' Rodney darted a look around the mess and wondered why Daniel was sitting with him. He returned his gaze to Daniel to find SG1's archaeologist staring back at him quizzically.

'Oh, were you expecting someone?' Daniel pointed at his seat.

Rodney sighed. 'No.' Daniel cast him another bemused look and Rodney decided he needed a diversion. Rodney gestured with his cutlery. 'How's your research coming along?'

'Good.' Daniel drenched his pancakes in maple syrup and took a bite. 'It's nice to have the time to focus on it.'

'Ah, time.' Rodney said dreamily. 'I remember when I had that.' He sighed and tapped on the datapad, picking up his second cup of coffee to take an appreciative sip.

'I'm pretty sure Janus had a time dilation bubble set up in the lab.' Daniel said.

Rodney choked on his coffee. He glared at Daniel before his mind began sparking at the idea. 'Really? Because that would be really handy in emergencies.'

'I know.' Daniel nodded and popped another slice of soggy pancake in his mouth – and seriously, Rodney was a fan of maple syrup, big fan being Canadian and all, but that much syrup wasn't healthy or sane.

'During the first siege with the Wraith, a time dilation device would have been a godsend.' Rodney thought out loud.

'You would have had more time to figure out plans and get solutions into place.' Daniel nodded again.

'No, actually, I was thinking more of using it for sleeping and eating.' Rodney shot back, annoyed. 'Of course I meant for the planning, not to mention the fixing nuclear bombs and trying to get the crappy generators to work and…' his voice trailed away at Daniel's amused expression. 'What?'

'I could send you the file.' Daniel offered instead of answering the question.

Rodney would like to say no but, hello – time dilation! He nodded curtly instead and focused again on his breakfast.

'How long before you guys head back to Pegasus?' Daniel asked, swiping his pancake through a puddle of syrup.

Rodney sighed. 'Another six weeks if we're incredibly lucky and the repairs go as planned. Eight or more if we run into issues.' He had a sudden and horrible thought. 'So, are you coming back with us this time?'

Daniel's obsession about Atlantis was legendary in the Stargate programme. Rodney didn't blame him; Atlantis was incredible. And Rodney grudgingly allowed that Daniel somewhat, might, deserve to be part of the expedition; Daniel had been the one to discover the existence of Atlantis and to work out the address. But Rodney also knew that Daniel had an unerring ability to find new enemies, so all things considered he'd prefer Daniel to stay well away from Atlantis.

Daniel's eyebrows shot up above the rim of his glasses. 'Uh, no. I don't think so actually.'

'No?' Rodney pursed his lips in disbelief.

Daniel lifted a hand and made a sweeping gesture around the room. 'I mean, don't get me wrong, I think Atlantis is great and I love being here now but…'

'But?' Rodney pressed bluntly, genuinely bemused.

Daniel winced; a twist of lips and lowered eyes that gave away that it was an uncomfortable subject. Tough luck, Rodney thought and motioned impatiently with his knife.

'It's…things have moved on.' Daniel set his fork down and picked up his coffee.

'Well, that's nicely vague and unclear.' Rodney said caustically.

Daniel cocked his head and looked over his mug at Rodney. 'Uh, did I miss the memo where we've suddenly became best friends who tell each other everything?'

Rodney rolled his eyes at that. 'Please, it's not like I'm asking for your deepest, darkest secrets.' Although given the squirmy look that passed across Daniel's face, maybe he was.

'I'm happy where I am.' Daniel finally said. He rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward. 'I mean, I know I made a big deal about coming to Atlantis…'

'No, really?' Rodney felt compelled to mock him. 'I hadn't noticed.'

Daniel shot him a look.

Rodney made a circular motion with one hand for Daniel to continue.

'You know I wanted to come with the expedition that first year, right?' Daniel asked.

Rodney nodded with an exasperated frown because it was all Daniel had talked about in Antarctica after he'd uncovered the address. 'Only O'Neill wouldn't let you.' He said, smirking. 'You were too valuable to risk on a one way trip.' He paused. 'Unlike the rest of us.' Not that he was bitter or anything.

'Hey, I was just as expendable when I took the first trip through the Stargate in our own galaxy.' Daniel pointed out with a smile.

Rodney was somewhat mollified by that. If Daniel had become invaluable by the time the Stargate programme had found Atlantis, Rodney liked to think that he too would be considered invaluable after his years of service.

'Anyway,' Daniel continued, 'you know the rest of how I managed not to get here what with Vala and the Ori, and the subsequent…'

'Intergalactic war with alien superbeings.' Rodney completed. His hand made a hurry-up-and-get-to-the-point motion.

'And after we got rid of the Ori, I was generally too pissed off at the Ancients and Ascended beings…'

And Rodney understood that all too well because the Ancients had been arrogant and left far too many mistakes behind them and Ascended beings had far too many crazy rules.

'And by the time I wasn't pissed off, Sam was here, I mean on Atlantis.' Daniel gave a small shrug. 'Some of us had to stay behind and look after…things.'

Things meaning people, Rodney surmised with a surprising bolt of insight; the people Sam had left behind like her significant other who happened to be Daniel Jackson's best friend, and possibly the young woman Sam had mentioned occasionally; Carrie, Callie, someone?

'So, I spend another year on SG1 and then Sam came home,' Daniel said, 'and I think, great; now I can go visit Atlantis.' He leaned back, waggling his eyebrows. 'We both know how that went.'

'Yes. Right.' Rodney subsided guiltily in his own chair even though it wasn't his fault that Daniel had gotten kidnapped and struck with an energy bolt. OK, maybe the energy bolt was a little his fault, but really not all his fault. 'It isn't always like that.' He said defensively before honesty had him shaking his head and flapping his hand. 'Well, OK, yes, there's imminent death and the weird strange aliens and being kidnapped and tortured on a regular basis but you have to be used to that in this galaxy too.'

It occurred to Rodney to ask himself what the hell he was doing reassuring the guy because he really, really didn't want Daniel Jackson on Atlantis. Daniel was a Trouble Magnet and John was already enough for Rodney in that regard.

Even Daniel was staring at him wide-eyed across the table but he smiled suddenly. 'Yeah, I'm used to that here.' His smile widened. 'With my team around as back-up.'

'Oh.' And just like that, Rodney got it.

'As much as I appreciated that we got rescued, and don't get me wrong, I think both of us knew there was the prospect that someone would rescue us because there's your team and I've read pretty much every mission report you guys have filed,' Daniel said dryly, 'but honestly I didn't actually felt rescued until I woke up back in the SGC infirmary.' He waved a hand. 'Mitchell's sat beside me telling me how Teal'c and Vala are going to be pissed that I woke up on his shift and then Sam and Jack showed up and told me that I was never visiting Atlantis again unless SG1 went with me.' He shrugged. 'And I nodded and thought that actually I was OK with that idea.'

'Huh.' Rodney said.

'I know.' Daniel commented. 'Surprised me too but there it is.' He set his coffee mug down. 'So…I'm happy where I am.'

'Huh.' Rodney said again. 'That's…' he tried to think of the right word.

'Huh?' Daniel quipped lightly.

Rodney glared at him. 'Reassuring. I was going to say reassuring.' He frowned at the delight on Daniel's face and rolled his eyes. 'In an 'I'm glad SG1 is around to save the planet because I'm in another galaxy and can't do it myself' kind of way.'

'Right.' Daniel said dryly.

'No, seriously,' Rodney pushed his plate away and reached for his third coffee, wondering absently how he'd managed to drink the second without noticing, 'after all you guys did all go your separate ways at one point.'

Daniel looked perturbed at that.

'Why wouldn't we think you'd want to go off and do your own thing again once, you know, you dealt with the intergalactic alien superbeings?' Rodney warmed to his theme. 'Sam left. She came to Atlantis. So, you know, it wasn't outside of the realms of possibility that you'd pursue your research, and Teal'c would head back to the Jaffa, and Vala would go back to doing whatever it was she was doing before you and she…' he stopped abruptly at Daniel's annoyed face. 'There's probably some kind of book on it.'

'Me and Vala?' Daniel looked horrified.

'No,' Rodney snapped, 'you leaving SG1 to head here – Atlantis, although,' he gestured awkwardly, 'probably about the other, uh, thing too.'

'Oh.' Daniel blinked rapidly. 'Yes.' He said faintly. 'You're probably right.'

There was a pregnant silence.

'I guess Mitchell was pleased with you staying given all the work he put into getting you guys back on SG1.' Rodney burbled out. He inwardly cursed his immediate need to fill the silence and swallowed a huge mouthful of coffee to stop himself from talking. He almost choked. When he finished spluttering he realised Daniel had a pole-axed expression on his face. 'Huh?'

'Nothing.' Daniel said, shaking himself briskly. 'Just a…random thought.'

'About?' Rodney said before he realised from Daniel's appalled face that it was an answer he was supposed to ignore. 'Don't worry, you don't need to tell me!' He rushed out and wafted a hand in the direction of his head. 'Ignore me; lack of sleep.'

'The repairs?' Daniel said sympathetically, grabbing onto the change of subject and running with it like the first contact specialist he was.

'No,' Rodney said on a rush of relief, 'I was talking to John and Mitchell about why the Lucien Alliance was only going to be after them for these two weeks.' And oops, because he hadn't meant to tell anyone about that.

Daniel sat up expectantly. 'And?'

Rodney refused to consider the shift of position he made squirming. It wasn't squirming; it was finding a more comfortable position for his back.

Daniel's lips twitched and he reached for his coffee again. 'If it makes you feel better, I'm probably going to get Jack to crack and tell me everything later today.'

The nagging sense that he was still missing something about the information he'd uncovered, the knowledge that Daniel probably had a mental folder labelled 'Worry for Mitchell,' and a perverse need to share what he'd learned skated around Rodney's brain for a long moment before Rodney gave in. He looked around to check nobody was sitting within earshot – wasn't too surprised to find everyone was giving them a very wide berth, and told Daniel everything.

All of it came out; the initial mission where Mitchell made contact with Allia – which unsurprisingly Daniel remembered, Landry's deal, the way the details leaked out to the Lucien Alliance, the fact that Allia was on Earth for the next couple of weeks, the inevitable conclusion that someone would try and abduct Mitchell and John. Rodney was out of breath by the time he stumbled to a halt.

Daniel blinked at him, but Rodney knew there was more going on Daniel's brain than simple processing of what Rodney had told him. Daniel was already making intuitive leaps forward. 'OK, so I get why Sam, Jack and Landry considered that knowing the two week deal wasn't going to change things.'

'Right, because as long as Mitchell and John choose to stay on leave and in the open, the Lucien Alliance will make a grab for them.' Rodney said. 'They already knew that they might and they can request a beam-out any time.'

'And of course they'll choose to stay on leave now even knowing that it's a certainty that the Alliance will try something because if they come in, Mitchell's family and ex-fiancée are the next likely targets to draw Mitchell back out into the open.' Daniel added.

Rodney wasn't going to admit that he hadn't thought of that.

'Oh God.' Daniel said suddenly.

And Rodney knew that wasn't a good 'Oh God' by the half-panicked look on Daniel's face. 'What?'

Daniel looked torn between telling him and leaving. Eventually, Daniel wet his lips and waved his hand. 'Mitchell's never going to wait for the Lucien Alliance to do something. He gets impatient and…'

'Oh God.' Rodney said. Because Mitchell was going to get John killed.

'Don't worry,' Daniel muttered, as though he'd read Rodney's mind, 'he'll try dumping Sheppard to protect him and go running off on his own and…' his eyes widened again, 'I have to go find him.'

'Wait!' Rodney grabbed at Daniel's arm and tugged him back into the chair with one hand; the other was already reaching for his earpiece. 'McKay to Sheppard.'

There was a heart-stopping moment when there was nothing but static and then –

'Rodney, I'm in the middle of flying.' John whined.

Daniel made hurry-up motions with his hands and Rodney made an abortive attempt to slap them away.

'Is Mitchell with you?' Rodney asked urgently.

'Yes. Why has something gone wrong with the sensors?' John asked, concern radiating through despite the long-distance connection that was being bounced off the Odyssey's communications array.

'No, no,' Rodney signalled to Daniel that everything was fine and watched as Daniel gave a huge sigh of relief and subsided into his chair running a hand through his short dark hair and removing his glasses to rub at his eyes, 'I was talking with Daniel about…things, and he, uh…was concerned about Mitchell going off alone to do something.'

There was another silence.

'Oh my God, you've both totally come up with some idiotic way of getting the two of you killed, haven't you?' Rodney felt the urge to knock his head against the nearest wall.

Daniel looked alarmed again.

'Thanks for the vote of confidence there, buddy.' John drawled out sarcastically. 'Actually, we thought we'd do this the right way.'

'So…' Rodney held up a hand to stop Daniel interrupting him.

'So, we've already talked with Sam about having a team reunion,' John said gleefully, 'you and Jackson should be getting a call from her any minute.'

Team reunion.

Sam.

Translation: they'd been given the go ahead for an official pre-emptive strike.

'You mean…'

'That's right,' John said, 'I'll see you in Kansas, Rodney.' He signed off and Rodney slumped back in his seat.

Daniel gestured at him impatiently. 'What's going on?'

'Apparently, Sam's going to call us,' Rodney sighed, 'we're going to Kansas.'

And Daniel, damn him, smiled. There really weren't enough mental folders in the world, Rodney thought morosely.

Chapter 14

 

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