Spoilers: The Pegasus Project
Feedback: Will be hugged like a puppy. Even if it bites.
They’re waiting to board Odyssey when she notices.
There’s nothing more to be done from here, not by either of them, and they’re doing their best to stay out of the way until takeoff. A pile of supply crates offloaded for Atlantis provides a handy island of motionlessness. Around them, the crew of the ship readies her, all of them steady, sure. Atlantis expedition members mingle with them here and there, equally full of purpose. She hasn’t felt like an intruder until just now. As usual, her CO makes a good distraction.
“What have you got there?”
Cameron looks at her from under his brows and holds up a distinctly yellow bit of fruit. He waves it and wags his eyebrows.
“Where did that come from?” She knows that he knows about McKay’s allergy. She knows that he knows more than enough about the man, really. Forewarned is forearmed.
“Sheppard thought it might come in handy.”
She winces. “Ouch. I didn’t think it was that bad. He’s annoying, yeah, don’t get me wrong, but he grows on you. I thought maybe he’d have…” She trails off at the grin she’s getting. “I’m missing something.”
He nods. “Anna Jefferson.”
“Okay.” She keeps the level stare on him and waits for the rest of it. She’s always been good at Jeopardy.
“Anna Jefferson was the toughest girl in third grade. She could skip rocks like nobody’s business, and there wasn’t a tree in town she hadn’t climbed first and best.” He smiles wider. “And she had the cutest freckles I had ever seen in my life.”
Neither Rodney nor Sheppard has freckles. She would have noticed. She’s spent enough time with Rodney since they met, and Sheppard has been helpful to the point of flirtation since she reached Atlantis.
“Now, my best friend was Bobby Hardwick, and Bobby knew all about those freckles, too. He also knew all the best ways to put the moves on a girl. I never stood a chance.” He tosses the lemon absently into the air. “Anna had one weakness, though. Hated sunflowers. Never did find out why.”
For a long moment, he smiles into his memories. She shakes her head fondly. “And?”
He watches the fruit turn slowly through his fingers. “And I told Bobby Hardwick that she loved ‘em.”
He flicks a glance at her and then across the landing dock. Sheppard and McKay are talking, facing the ship. Sheppard cocks his head and says something that gets a smirking nod from Rodney.
And Sheppard’s attention to her takes on a whole new dimension.
Sheppard looks over Rodney’s shoulder and meets her eyes, then breaks away to walk in their direction. The quick pat of Rodney’s arm that he gives in passing suddenly strikes her differently.
Sheppard shakes her hand first, faint smile and sharp eyes. “Good luck.”
“Thanks.” There’s nothing else to say.
He moves to Cameron, and that smile is easy and wide. “Have a nice trip, Colonel.”
Cameron shifts the lemon into his left hand to take Sheppard’s right. “We’ll do our best.”
The grip and eye contact lasts longer than it should. Finally, Sheppard nods and pulls away. When he’s gone, she turns her attention to Cam. He’s back to slouching, arms crossed, against the crates.
It clicks. “He said something to you.”
“Yep. Said McKay was brilliant, and difficult. That he works best in a tizzy.”
None of that explains the glint in Cam’s eyes. “So… pretty much what I said.”
“Yep.” He pushes off the crates and walks toward the ship. “But you never threatened to hunt me down if I didn’t bring him back in one piece.”
She almost misses the lemon as Cameron tosses it back, not looking.
She’s used to protective leaders. She’s even been one. It’s not that she’s having trouble seeing Sheppard as the type to protect; it’s that she’s having trouble seeing Rodney as the type to need it.
Another look shows Rodney in the middle of the controlled chaos, directing the small band of Atlantis scientists who are helping with the preparations and having some discussion with Doctor Zelenka that sets the passing crewmembers to laughter. His hands are busy with illustrating whatever point he’s making. As far as she can tell, there’s no reason for Zelenka to be there. Come to think of it, there was no reason for Sheppard to be there, either.
For all his habitual Rodneyness, he seems… happy.
Good for him.
She absently pockets the lemon and follows Cameron onto the ship.
Sheppard hits the mat. Hard.
Ronon doesn’t offer him a hand up. He wouldn’t take it. They aren’t being gentle today.
They shouldn’t be here. There’s nothing any of them can do from here. They should be on their way to a collision with a hive ship, or on their way to stopping one. They should be with him.
Ronon is very rarely a fan of dividing their forces.
It’s worse with no radio contact, and it’s better. McKay feels exactly as far away as he is. Space can be cruel like that, making the distance between sight and help a yawning gap. There’s a reason Ronon joined the ground forces and not the navy.
Teyla watches from the doorway, waiting her turn. Which one of them she’ll face depends on who burns out fastest. Ronon has endurance on his side, but it’s Sheppard with the fire right now. Sheppard is fighting like he doesn’t have an audience, sacrificing caution and manners for speed and anger. Against most it would be deadly. Against Ronon, it puts Sheppard on the ground more often than not, and that seems fine with him.
Sheppard charges just that little bit more recklessly, and Ronon decides. Sheppard is dancing on the edge of injury. It’s time to shut him down. That Ronon is looking forward to letting go, to having Teyla do the same, is only a bonus.
Ronon meets Teyla’s eyes and nods.
Odyssey lands to a small crowd. John isn’t part of it.
He stays in his own quarters, reviewing mission reports while he waits. An hour after the docking there’s a chime and he thinks the door open without looking up. He’s calm and collected. The picture of unconcerned normality.
Until the lemon pegs him in the chest.
It’s double bagged in sealed sample bags. John lowers his head to stare at it, and raises an eyebrow. When he looks up, Rodney is already stripping.
He’s toeing his shoes off and shrugging out of his jacket. Multitasking at its best. From the depths of his shirt, his voice comes out slightly muffled. “Cute.”
John smirks and doesn’t answer. He lays the laptop aside, then the lemon, and shifts to his side as Rodney steps out of his pants and sits on the edge of the bed. He bends to pull his socks off, and John doesn’t stop himself from resting a palm on that broad back.
Socks gone, Rodney leans into the touch for a minute before stretching out next to John.
“Jackson will argue for a week at least. Command will want them back immediately – it’s always about the now with them, look at that mess with Elizabeth – and Mitchell will get it down to a couple days.” He burrows closer. “So I figure we’ve got a few hours now, and that’s it until they leave. Not so long, though.”
Rodney frowns. “That’s a little harsh. Sure, they’re not particularly accustomed to our way of doing things, and maybe they’re a little cocky, but…” He trails off and squints at John. John rolls onto his back and watches from the corner of his eye.
Then Rodney laughs. “Oh, come on. You can’t be… You can’t… You are. You really are.” Another laugh. “You really are… a moron. Completely and utterly.”
John sighs and turns his head to glare.
Rodney grins at him, wide and open, and that’s worth it. John feels his lips twitching and rolls the rest of the way to put his back to Rodney. After a moment, an arm settles over his side and Rodney’s warm chest rests against his back. Rodney’s hand strokes lightly over John’s stomach, fingers cycling through some pattern John doesn’t recognize.
“You’re still the prettiest colonel of them all.”
John’s just working up to a good comeback when Rodney’s hand slides lower.
He can get the last word later.
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