So this is my Atlantis Urban Legend Challenge
story. I started this thing FOUR TIMES goddammit. I keep saying, "no more challenges" and then there's the wingswing
and the Bordy's 5th Birthday...
Yeah. So anyway...Title:
Artistry in ChaosFandom: Stargate AtlantisCategory
: Sheppard/ McKayRating:
"Many random events come together to make a single event possible."Author's Notes:
Written for the Atlantis Urban Legend Challenge
. Prompt No. 70: Young man discovers pharmacist who sold him condoms is his date's father.
This story is only in existence because the lovely krazykitkat
, the talented trinityofone
and the goddamn dirty gatefiction
came to the rescue. Thanks, guys.
By a strange coincidence, the morning John is targeted by an errant alien missile with decidedly un-military-like properties he’s transporting an Air Force General whose rare genetic make up matches his. This meeting has all the hallmarks of an auspicious occasion, an event only destiny could have designed. If Rodney hadn’t persuaded Carson to sit in the chair, if Carson had activated some other part of the Ancient outpost, if the General had been ten minutes earlier, if it had been Elliot’s shift and not John’s, if John had taken that week in New Zealand he’d been thinking about, if the mythical butterfly had flapped its wing to the North instead of the South, everything could have been different.
Many random events come together to make a single event possible. By that reasoning, John thinks, every moment is a coincidence and nothing is meaningful. A meeting is just a meeting and being unfortunate enough to buy condoms from your date’s father is just bad luck and not an omen for John’s doomed sex life.
And then John survives a suicide run on a Wraith ship and gets to wondering how it is he’s so lucky when Grodin and Markham and Gaul and Sumner and so many others aren’t. He reacts like any good soldier questioning his place in the universe would; he invites a friend over to get drunk. On Atlantis a friend is Rodney and they share a bottle of Smirnoff, sitting on John’s couch and matching each other shot for shot.
When they’re sufficiently inebriated, John tells Rodney about his friend the pharmacist’s son.
“I was nineteen,” he says. “Airforce Academy. I had a date with a guy called Shannon.”
Rodney licks the inside of his shot glass. “Shannon is a girl’s name.”
“It’s a guys name too.” John refills their glasses. “So I go to this gay bar in the next town where Shannon is one of the locals. He buys me a drink, tells me he likes my shirt and asks if he can take the seat next to me. I stammer a lot but eventually say yes. We talk, drink and make a date to meet next same time next week. That simple.” John chinks his shot glass against Rodney’s and they drink in unison. “So I drive into town the next week thinking I’m going to get lucky. I stop at one of the local drug stores to buy some Trojans because I figure it’s better to be prepared than disappointed, right? The pharmacist takes one look at my hair and my shirt and gives me this look like he’s figured me out. I think, what the hell, there’s an asshole in everyone’s day and I’m just glad mine wasn’t carrying a baseball bat.”
”Or a comb,” Rodney says.
John ignores him. “So I meet my date,” he says. “And eventually we go back to this two-story, two garage place in a good suburb. I’m thinking there’s no way this guy owns the house when he tells me he lives with his parents. He says they’re probably asleep and he’s not expecting them to visit but if they ask about his late night company he just tells them he’s keeping his drunken friends off the streets. Which would have been fine by me, only the next morning we’re having coffee in the kitchen and Shannon’s father walks in. He looks at me and I look at him and turns out we know each other. I met him the night before when he sold me condoms.”
”Perfect,” Rodney says. “What did you do?”
John shrugs. “I said, ‘nice seeing you’ and got out of there. I figure Shannon and his father were about to have a nice long chat and they didn’t need me around.”
“And you think this was a sign?” Rodney says. “A warning of sorts.”
“I’m just saying,” John says, he reaches for the vodka, focuses intently on his glass as he pours. “Hell of a coincidence.”
Rodney is skeptical. “A coincidence usually isn’t. Two seemingly related random events have more differences than commonalities. Of course, it’s the commonalities that stand out.” Rodney slurs his words so that “coincidence” sounds like “coinshidence” and “commonalities” becomes “commonaliteesh.” He doesn’t seem to notice.
John gets the giggles. Rodney looks confused. John stops laughing long enough to pour Rodney a refill and toast Shannon the pharmacist’s son. They sink their shots simultaneously.
“It’s… ironic,” John says.
“No, Alanis, it’s not,” Rodney says. “It’s poetic.”
“I never knew you liked poetry,” John says.
“I never knew you liked boys,” Rodney says.
John remembers there was a reason he never told anyone that story.
Hangovers are poetic. John’s had more than one hangover in his adult life and every new one is a revelation, a reminder of the inevitable yang to any fun-filled yin.
There’s a meeting on base security in the morning and John has trouble concentrating. He watches with eyes half closed, leaning back in his chair. He catches Rodney sneaking glances in his direction, like gayness is something you only see out of the corner of your eyes.
John’s head is heavy. He thinks that if he’s lucky and the day passes without incident he’ll take an afternoon nap. He also thinks he’ll talk to Rodney and that will be weird and uncomfortable and compounded by their combined hangovers. Neither of them is the up close and personal type which is maybe why they hang out. Like minds attract. That’s not a coincidence. That’s safety in numbers.
After the meeting, Rodney is in the lab taking a coffee break. John drags him coffee and all out onto the balcony outside, away from prying eyes and overly sensitive ears.
“Your secret’s safe with me, Colonel,” Rodney says. His grip on his mug is tight, like he’s worried about dropping it.
“I know,” John says. The sun is setting over the ocean. It would be romantic if the situation were that way inclined. “I just don’t want you to be weird about this.”
”I’m not weird.” Rodney clutches his mug in both hands.
“We’re a team,” John says. “I want us to stay that way.”
“Sure.” Rodney smiles crookedly. “Go team.”
John thinks they’re both good liars.
John counts the number of times the city’s been in peril since they’ve arrived compared to the number of times he’s almost died saving it. In a universe of causality he should be dead by now. They all should be.
The Daedulus showed up out of nowhere, beamed him aboard just before the bomb went off. That was fortuitous on a grand scale, more than coincidence, more than luck. John’s survival was divine. No other word for it.
It’s like the Pegasus Galaxy is testing them, seeing how much alien and otherworldly they can take before they concede defeat, pack up their naquadah generators, their MALPS and their US military issue laptops and beat a wormhole path back to the Milky Way.
John and his team are exploring an uninhabited planet when the sky turns suddenly dark. From out of nowhere a tornado appears, bearing down on their position. John refuses to be surprised because he’s seen a storm obscure the horizon from an altitude of 35000 feet and freak weather is one of the less disturbing things Pegasus has thrown them.
John and Rodney sprint for the puddle jumper. Teyla radios from the ship and John responds, shouting orders for her and Ronon to stay put into his mouthpiece. He checks behind him and notices the tornado has changed direction. He’s about to call Teyla when it changes direction again, this time picking up speed and volume as it whirls toward them. In an instant John knows they won’t make it to the puddle jumper. He catches hold of Rodney’s sleeve, drags him toward the shelter of a large boulder and throws him to ground, landing on top of him.
When the tornado has gone, they get to their feet and peek out from behind the boulder. It’s all clear, nothing but debris between them and the puddle jumper.
Rodney dusts himself off. “I swear that tornado was chasing us,” he says.
John concedes that in the Pegasus Galaxy even the weather might be out to get them.
By a freak occurrence of nature, John and Rodney meet in the corridor between their quarters, Rodney saying, “Hey, I was just on my way to see you,” just as John says, “You want to come over to…”
“Serendipitous,” Rodney says, and John agrees although he thinks it’s also likely they have the same thought on their minds.
They end up in John’s quarters because John has Johnny Walker Black. John tells Rodney he’s been saving the scotch for an occasion but he can’t remember what sort of occasion he had in mind. Rodney reminds John that he’s survived an alien siege, a retrovirus and time dilation and that’s surely enough occasion for one lifetime.
John never feels like celebrating but tonight is different. He reasons that it’s the scotch but it’s also Rodney sitting close enough for John to touch, his proximity suggesting complicity. It makes John bold enough to reach for Rodney’s neck, fingers finding skin before John can rethink his actions.
Fortunately, he doesn’t have to. Rodney responds by leaning forward and kissing him, all hot breath and teeth and Rodney’s hand at the back of John’s head.
There’s no room on the couch so the end up on the floor. Rodney’s on his stomach, naked from the waist down. John reaches for a cushion, shoves it under Rodney’s hips.
“Come on,” Rodney lifts up, parts his legs, inviting John in. He says, “Do it already – what are you waiting for?” Rodney isn’t patient about anything.
John hasn’t done it in years, so it’s barely familiar as he undoes his pants, drops them around his thighs and grabs Rodney’s hips, pulling his ass against John’s erection. John slides his cock along the crevice between Rodney’s cheeks and entertains a moment of doubt: He doesn’t do this. He shouldn’t be doing this.
He pauses a moment, runs fingers over the curve of Rodney’s round ass. Rodney’s skin is white and smooth and distracting. John can’t find his bearings, can’t remember what he was thinking. He edges inside and it’s good and slow and unbelievably right. Rodney responds by pushing back, pushing John all the way in. Rodney doesn’t speak but he makes a, “ha - haa,” sound, lets his breath out in gasps.
When John comes he presses his nails into Rodney’s thighs so tight he leaves identical marks on both sides. He sees them later when he kneels between Rodney’s legs, his mouth wrapped around Rodney’s cock as Rodney leans his head back against the couch, winds his fingers in John’s hair.
Rodney comes and John sucks him clean. He wipes the back of his hand against his mouth and leans his forehead against Rodney’s knee.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he says.
“It’s done,” Rodney says.
“We probably shouldn’t do it again.”
“Yeah.” Rodney nods. “Whatever.”
Rodney gets dressed, puts his boots on and says, “Thank you,” like John has just given him a shave and a haircut. He doesn’t turn around before he leaves and he doesn’t say goodbye.
Rodney thinks of John when John is thinking of Rodney. It’s either coincidence or telepathy and on Atlantis John makes ships fly with his mind so he’s not ruling out the latter.
It’s simple: they get ambushed, held captive, an over-zealous local puts a gun to Rodney’s head and demands answers and it’s only Rodney’s super-fast talking that saves his life. They’ve talked their way out of more than one life or death situation since they arrived in the Pegasus Galaxy but it doesn’t stop John thinking that each time could be their last, that this time their luck will finally run out, like it has to.
He meets Rodney in the hallway outside the lab. John says, “I was just going to…” and Rodney pulls him into the supply room, tugging at the waistband of John’s pants before John can protest. John pushes Rodney back against a stack of crates, while Rodney buries his face in John’s neck, mouthing a line from John’s collarbone to his ear. They grope each other blindly, hands in each other’s pants, pushing underwear aside until they find the warm skin underneath. John works Rodney’s cock in his fist, building a rhythm. Rodney matches him stroke for stroke.
Afterwards there’s come on their hands and on their clothing and they search the supply room for something to clean themselves with.
“Sorry,” John says. “I’m sorry I…”
”I don’t want to hear it,” Rodney says.
The first time John sees Rodney drop and roll on cue, John knows Rodney is no ordinary scientist. Rodney has combat instincts. He knows when to fall back and when to press ahead and, more importantly, he knows when John’s in trouble. A good military team is synchronized, in step. Years of experience taught Teyla and Ronon to function like machine-like but Rodney plays it by ear and manages to hold his own.
To John, it’s uncanny. But a lot of what Rodney does is uncanny. He not only thinks differently, he thinks fast. He may never come up with a theory of anti-matter or find the remnants of the Big Bang in sub-atomic particles, but he’ll save John’s ass again and again.
He’s perfect for Atlantis. He’s perfect for John. John calls it spooky action at close proximity, but never to Rodney’s face.
John never starts something he can’t finish and he’s military so he’s used to exercising restraint when necessary. However, necessity is an arbitrary concept in John’s experience. It’s difficult to pinpoint the relative necessity of preventing a perceived harm over an actual harm and John tells himself an occasional sexual encounter with Rodney McKay after a particularly stressful mission isn’t harming anyone.
Not yet anyway. The perceived harm is real – at least to John. Rodney remains unconcerned and even a little annoyed at John’s negative outlook.
“You’re more worried about getting caught than getting killed on the next mission,” Rodney says. He’s in John’s quarters, lacing up his boots. “Ironic, really, because the latter is more likely.”
“Well, thank you, Rodney,” John says. “I feel so much better.”
Rodney shrugs. “I’m just saying, seize the day.”
“Sure,” John says. “From now on I’ll try to be carefree and happy-go-lucky like yourself.”
Rodney throws up his hands. “When did you get so serious?” He stands, straightens his shirt and runs his hands through his hair. “Call me next time you have a lapse in judgment - but leave the self-recrimination behind. It’s getting boring.”
He leaves. Rodney never stays the night.
The next time it happens the harm becomes more immediate. They do it in Rodney’s quarters this time. It’s much the same: a difficult mission, two minds thinking alike, sex and sweat, the usual argument about John’s post-coital guilt and a hasty exit.
Only this time John runs into Major Lorne in the corridor outside.
Lorne looks puzzled. Everyone on Atlantis knows Sheppard’s team is tight-knit but in Lorne’s world, guys like Rodney and John don’t hang out after hours. “Rough mission today, Sir,” Lorne says.
John has the bad sense to look guilty. He eyes drop to the floor momentarily. “Yeah – uh – nothing we couldn’t handle.”
”Must be different. “Lorne nods at Rodney’s closed door. “Having a guy like McKay on the team.”
“What do you mean?”
“A scientist. Non-military.”
“Rodney holds his own.”
“Yeah, I heard,” Lorne says. “Still, I’m surprised you chose him. None of the other scientists go on missions.”
John walks slowly. Part of him wants to get away but a more perverted part wants to hear what Lorne has to say. “What’s your point, Lorne?”
”No point, Sir,” Lorne says. “I was just thinking – we should start a training programme for the science team. Even if they don’t go on missions, they’ll end up offworld eventually and you and I know anything can happen out there…”
John blinks. “You want to train the scientists? In military exercises?”
“Well – yes, Sir.”
“Sure,” he says eventually. “Knock yourself out. It’ll have to be voluntary, of course.”
“Yes, Sir.” Lorne nods. “Thank you, Sir.”
He leaves John outside his quarters. John has a vague sense of narrowly dodging a bullet.
Encountering military personnel outside Rodney’s quarters is no coincidence. There’s no segmentation on Atlantis. Scientific and military, men and women, new and old staff inhabit quarters alongside each other. It was bound to happen.
It’s this belated realisation that persuades John to make a late night visit to the astrophysics lab. It’s quiet at this time. Rodney is one of a few inhabitants.
“I need to talk to you,” John says.
Rodney looks up from his monitor. “Go ahead,” he says warily.
“Here?” Toward the rear of the lab John can see Zelenka and Simpson deep in conversation. Zelenka catches John’s look and nods in acknowledgment.
Rodney rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he says. “Outside.”
The go out onto the balcony again. It feels like an age since they were here last. No sunset this time but the reflection of the city lights on the water is equally appealing. John remembers reading somewhere that water charges the air with ions, known to have a calming effect on those that live nearby.
“We have to stop,” John says.
”Okay,” Rodney says.
“Is that all you have to say?”
“Was that not what you wanted to hear? I can do better: oh please, Colonel don’t leave me. I don’t know what I’ll do without you to make me feel guilty every time I have the coveted pleasure of your dick in my hand.” Rodney crosses his arms defiantly.
John realises he did Rodney very few favours. All the more reason to call it off. “It won’t happen again,” John says.
Rodney huffs, leans both hands on the railing and looks out to sea. “I heard you,” he says. “You and Lorne. You sounded like you’d been caught with your hand in the cookie jar.”
“Lorne thinks we’re friends.” John pauses reflectively. “Actually, I don’t know what Lorne thinks.”
“You’re worried about getting caught - I get it,” Rodney says. “You think it could happen like that.” He snaps his fingers. “You’re not nineteen, Colonel, and I don’t live at home with my parents. I’ll admit to thinking the universe is a cruel, cosmic joke at my expense but I know there are parts of it I can control – that we can control.”
”That’s what I’m doing,” John says. “Taking control.”
“This is your idea of…?” Rodney throws up his hands. “Sure, fine. No more gay sex in supply rooms. John – Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard – is straight. Always has been. Say it often enough and it comes true, you know.”
“I’ll understand if you want off the team,” John says. He won’t understand at all but it seems like the right thing to say.
“Oh please,” Rodney says. He turns his attention back to the sea.
John cuts his losses and leaves.
The next time the mission goes awry John returns to his quarters alone. He barely has his vest off before he drops his pants, takes his cock in his fist and fucks himself, flat on his back on the bed with his knees bent and three fingers in his ass.
His first thought is of Rodney bent over the bench in the astrophysics lab. He dispels the image quickly and tries several other fantasies involving women and men but finds they all come back to Rodney. He looks at the come streaking his black t-shirt and hates himself.
Denial is insisting on control when it’s clearly lacking, the desperate belief that the will has a power beyond reason to effect change.
Chaos theory presupposes chaos. Chaos theory makes no claim to order but finds the origin of a pattern and predicts behaviour from that point on. It was first used to predict tornadoes. As an Air Force pilot versed in wind currents, John is more than familiar with the theory.
So when Lorne randomly says, “I need to speak to you, Sir – in private,” John predicts the conversation that will follow.
John doesn’t have an office so they take the next best thing, the armoury. John closes the door. “I know what you’re going to say, Major,” John says. “To tell you the truth, I’m surprised you didn’t say anything sooner.”
“You are?” Lorne’s eyes drop to the floor. He scratches the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable. “I guess I should have known you’d be different. You’re not typical military – in anything.”
John doesn’t know whether to be complimented or alarmed. He clears his throat. “Ah – you haven’t told anyone else?”
“Are you kidding?” Lorne looks horrified. “I mean, no, Sir.”
“Are you – do you plan to tell anyone else?”
Lorne looks sheepish. “That’s why I’ve come to you, Sir.”
John’s stomach lurches. His first thought is to beg, to plead with Lorne to keep his secret. It’s over now, after all. He can insist it was ‘curiosity’ or something equally nonsensical and promise never to let it happen again.
Lorne says, “I’ve met someone.”
“What?” John experiences a moment of disorientation, a sense of losing his place on the page and reading the same paragraph over and over without comprehension.
Lorne looks similarly confused. “Dr Adler,” he says. “He arrived on the Daedulus last week. We’ve been getting along really well and…”
Somewhere, John can hear a penny dropping and rolling on a hard wooden floor. “Wait a minute – you’re gay?”
“Ah - yes, Sir?”
John rubs his hand across his chin. In spite of the initial shock John finds himself adjusting to the idea quickly. Lorne is nice to the locals, respectful to the civilians, can colour coordinate his clothes and doesn’t mind getting beat up by Teyla. John wonders why he didn’t pick it sooner. “Jesus, Major, what happened to not telling and not asking?”
“This is what I’m saying,” Lorne says. “Aside from the fact that word of mouth travels the base faster than email, there’s surveillance everywhere – admittedly we’ve yet to figure out how a lot of it works but those Ancients had the means to know stuff. Nothing here stays hidden long.”
That part is true. And is exactly what John feared. But it’s also true that Atlantis is different. Not because of the difficulties of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy in a confined space, but because guys like Lorne are irreplaceable. It occurs to John that Elizabeth may have already considered this issue. If John hadn’t been so deeply concerned with his own sexual hang-ups he might have considered it too.
“What we need,” John says thoughtfully. “Is surety.”
“What we need is television,” Lorne says. “Keeps idle minds occupied – but I’ll settle for surety.”
John sends Lorne on his way and is left contemplating the armoury. He thinks, hell of a coincidence.
Two weeks later they’re suiting up for a mission when Rodney takes John aside and says, “You’re never going to believe who I caught kissing in the lab.”
“Dr Adler and Lorne?” John looks at the gun in Rodney’s thigh holster. “Is that loaded?”
“You knew.” Rodney ignores the question. “You knew and didn’t tell me.”
John shrugs. “Didn’t seem important.”
“They weren’t being very discreet.”
“Hmm,” John says, he takes the gun from Rodney’s holster, checks it and replaces it. “Speaking of Lorne, he’s planning combat and weapons training for the civilians. I hope you’ll be encouraging your team to attend.”
“Of course, he spoke to me two days ago.” John checks the weight of his backpack by rolling his shoulders forward. Rodney waves a hand in front of John’s face. “Are you listening to me? I said, Adler and Lorne were making out. For all to see.”
”I heard.” John pats Rodney on the shoulder. “Come on, we’re due in the gate room.”
Sometimes, they’re not on the same page at all. Sometimes, John thinks, that’s a good thing.
On the mission, Rodney shoots a tree. In his defence the animal near the tree had been large and looming and it had startled John too, although John’s instinct was to look before shooting.
The animal runs away at the sound of the gun. Rodney holds up his hands apologetically. “I thought it was a Wraith.”
John tells Rodney that at least they know they can count on his reflexes. His aim, however, needs work.
When they return there’s a debriefing and Elizabeth does her best not to laugh at Rodney’s shooting mishap. Rodney scowls at John.
Elizabeth ends the debriefing by informing them she’s received a communication from Stargate Command. “The Daedulus is due in eight days,” she says. “Earlier than we expected.” There’s a murmur of pleasant surprise. The Daedulus brings news and personnel from home. It’s always a welcome arrival. As the room is clearing out, Elizabeth tells John she’s resolved the issue he asked her about.
Rodney doesn’t miss the cryptic nature of the exchange. “What issue?” he says. “Something I should know?”
“Not unless you’re interested in military justice,” John says.
“I could be,” Rodney says.
“Given our unorthodox situation, the Colonel was concerned about the practicality of a military investigation leading to arrest on Atlantis,” Elizabeth says.
“And the result?” John asks, looking innocent.
“Except in the case of an immediate threat a warrant will need my signature as well as yours.” She pauses. “Or the ranking military officer if you’re the subject of the warrant.”
”So it’s official?” John says.
“It is now.” Elizabeth smiles enigmatically.
”Yes, it is,” John says, mirroring Elizabeth’s smile.
When Elizabeth is gone, Rodney turns to John. “Was that code? Because I have no idea what you were talking about.”
“You’re a smart guy, Rodney.” John says. “You’ll figure it out.”
It takes Rodney six hours and thirty-five minutes to work it out. It’s the middle of the night when he pounds on John’s door, insisting that John wake up because Rodney “feels like an idiot,” standing in the corridor outside John’s quarters in his pyjamas.
“You could have dressed,” John says, when he opens the door.
Rodney barges past John. He’s wearing striped drawstring pyjama pants and a white t-shirt. “You probably think you’re being clever.”
“The thought crossed my mind.”
“Elizabeth would never sign a warrant to investigate your private life.”
”Or anyone else’s for that matter,” John says. “But neither would I.”
“Elizabeth’s jurisdiction is limited. You could be held on suspicion the second you stepped into Stargate Command.”
John shrugs. “Guess I’m stuck here then.”
“Or what about the Daedulus? You think Caldwell is as understanding as you? He could just beam you out of here and straight into the brig.”
“I’m seriously hoping it won’t come to that. But if it did, Hermiod’s definitely on our side – he’d jam the signal. Or you would because you wouldn’t want Hermiod to prove his obvious superior intellect - again.”
“Oh for the love of… He’s not…”Rodney takes a breath. “Okay, so you’ve solved your conduct unbecoming problem. I’m happy for you. Seriously, I’m dancing on the inside. But don’t think it changes anything. Knowing you only want me when the possibility of being arrested is small, isn’t exactly a turn-on.”
Rodney is characteristically obtuse. He knows how to miss the point when it suits him and it suits him all too often. A less tolerant man would order Rodney back out into the corridor, only Rodney looks kind of appealing in his pyjamas and his bed hair and John is reluctant to let him go. John suspects Rodney knows this. Their relationship is synchronised: I know that you know that I know that you know and so on.
“Do you want me to spell it out for you?” John says. “I listened to you, Rodney. You’ve got too much of an ego to not notice so I figure you just want to hear me say it. You think this is about you.” John shrugs. “For once, you might be right.”
Rodney folds his arms protectively across his chest. “I don’t know what to make of you,” he says. “One moment you’re too good to be true and the next you’re every guy I’ve ever dated. And now you’re back to the ‘too good’ part. I can’t keep up.”
“I thought you science geeks liked puzzles,” John says. It sounds flip, not the reassurance Rodney is looking for. “The Daedulus is due in a week – if you want I could out myself to Caldwell. Would that satisfy you?”
Rodney’s eyes go wide. “Are you nuts? You think I’m willing to test your theory so you can prove a point? Even I’m not that selfish.”
“I’d do it, you know.” It’s not until he says it that he realises it’s true. He doesn’t know what to make of himself.
”Oh for god’s sake.” Rodney puts a hand to John’s chin, holds him in place while he kisses him. “You may be destined to martyr yourself,” he says, when he breaks away. “But it won’t be for me.”
“You believe in destiny?” John says, only half-joking.
Rodney still has his hand on John’s chin. He lets it fall to John’s neck, puts another hand on John’s waist, pulling him close. “Of course not,” he says. “There’s not a universe conceived of where you and I are meant to be together.”
The Daedulus comes and goes without incident. Soon after Dr Adler and Lorne break up. John doesn’t know why but there are rumours that Adler wasn’t as ready to out himself as Lorne was.
“Again with the irony,” Rodney says, when John tells him.
John agrees because the situation distinctly lacks poetry.
Out in the field they rescue a village from a Wraith culling. They’re almost at the gate when a headcount reveals a missing family. John doesn’t think about it. He turns around heads back to the village, finds the family of four hiding under a bed.
“Come with me,” John says, and maybe it’s something in his voice because they follow without question, like he makes the task of getting from the village to the gate sound easier than it is.
They make a run for it, keeping to the cover of the trees. When the gate is in sight, John sees Rodney crouched beneath the DHD, firing blindly at a dart overhead. The P90 has fifty rounds in a magazine but Rodney’s fire misses repeatedly. Not for the first time John regrets not forcing Rodney to practice more.
And yet just when the Wraith beam is upon them, Rodney’s aim finds its target and the dart goes into a spin, landing in a blaze beyond the stargate.
They make it through the gate and once more John finds himself in the Atlantis gate room, blinking the room into focus like he can’t believe his eyes. He looks up to see relieved faces all around him and knows it’s real. They did it again. Beside him, Rodney is recovering his breath, P90 hanging loosely at his side.
John says, “Do you ever think we’re just plain lucky?”
“Clearly,” Rodney says.
But it’s more than that. Their fortune borders on miraculous. John can’t help looking for a reason, something to explain their survival against all odds.
Later, when they’re showered and changed and exchanging two-week old newspapers on John’s couch, John tells Rodney about his theory. “I’m not talking about divine intervention,” John says. “But maybe this is more than a game of craps to someone.”
Rodney shrugs. “Then again maybe it’s an EPR paradox – random related events occurring simultaneously for no apparent reason. Even Einstein couldn’t prove that God didn’t play dice.” Rodney takes the sporting section out of the New York Times and passes it to John. Rodney folds the technology section over. “It’s like reading ancient history,” he says, shaking his head.
“Do you believe that?”
Rodney looks up from the newspaper. “Would it change anything if I did? I’m a scientist, not an existentialist. I don’t theorise on anything that can’t be proved.”
“And you like to think you’re in control.”
”I am in control.” Rodney looks doubtful. “Most of the time. Is this because I shot that Wraith dart? I’ve been in weapons training for two years now. Did you think I might just be improving?”
“This isn’t about the Wraith dart.” John lifts the edge of Rodney’s newspaper, looking for the cartoons. “Although good shooting – couldn’t have come at a better time.”
”Thanks,” Rodney says, genuinely pleased. He slides the cartoons out from under the financial section and passes them to John.
In relativity, information is only as old as its reception. Future and past is always relative to an elsewhere, a realm of possibilities that remain nonexistent until they can affect the present. The football results could be two weeks old, they could be two years for all it matters to the residents of Atlantis.
Events on Earth blithely carry on without them. It doesn’t bother John the way it bothers Rodney. John is mindful of the line of events that brought him to this moment, connects the dots of his life until they resemble a picture that is John and Rodney reading on the couch, John’s foot tucked against Rodney’s thigh. From that moment in the kitchen with the pharmacist’s son, John’s rebellious streak in the field to the black mark against his name, his posting at McMurdo to his auspicious encounter with General O’Neill, all these things brought him here and now.
Moments that took place a galaxy away. Pegasus is a whole new galaxy full of life-sucking aliens, strange weather phenomena and gaseous life forms. It is this galaxy that will affect John’s future. John admits he can do without the life-sucking aliens and he’s not wild about sentient gas, but he likes thinking that anything is possible. Maybe luck has a whole new meaning in the Pegasus Galaxy?
John stretches his arm out to rest on Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney gives him a sideways smile but doesn’t turn away from his reading.
It means something. He knows it means something.