Warnings: Please see this entry for series warnings.
As it turns out, she's talking more than the mainland.
"They could send hyperdrive ships," John says, while Bates and Teyla stare each other down across the length of the conference room table and are no help at all. Opening his laptop, Rodney hacks into the administrative database.
"If the Ori don't occupy them," Elizabeth says a little dreamily, then shakes her head. "The Daedalus is scheduled to arrive in less than a month--"
"Twenty two days," Rodney says, pulling up the manifests that Grodin has finally managed to decrypt. "The mainland's going to figure out something's wrong in a few hours. Grodin's playing at communication officer, but they're going to notice when second shift arrives, if they don't get around to wondering what the hell happened to third shift."
"Mainland facilities don't have a lot of tech," John says unexpectedly, and Rodney turns to see the hazel eyes are almost green with excitement. "Hey, I read up, okay? Not like there's that much to do waiting for sentencing." Stretching, John relaxes back into his chair. "Conventional weapons, nothing we can't handle."
"Except numbers," Elizabeth says sourly.
"And ten thousand prisoners." John grins, and the lights seem to glow with him. Christ, when he gets John alone…. "Give or take a few I really don't see us needing out here."
Elizabeth folds both hands on the table, erect and focused. "You have something in mind."
"I think," John says, waving expansively, "that if Earth is having issues, we don't need to go back there. Tell her about Pegasus, Rodney, the original survey."
Rodney flicks up a screen. "Mostly pre-industrial, a few pushing into early fifties technology, a couple of others doing something vaguely at our level of development, but let's put it this way--nothing we can't handle. Surprisingly low population density, considering the abundance of livable worlds." Looking up, Rodney catches a fond look on John's face. "Easy."
Elizabeth nods, leaning back in her chair with a satisfied expression. "Teyla and I were considering something very similar." Crossing her arms, Elizabeth smiles. "It's a whole new galaxy, gentlemen. Teyla's informed me that Earth forced her people from their rightful planet, and she's very interested in seeing if what we can do to--rectify that. They have many contacts throughout the galaxy that they'd be happy to share with us."
"A whole new galaxy," John echoes, elbow braced on the table. "And I take it Teyla wants to be on the winning side?"
Teyla's eyes narrow, but Elizabeth's hand on her arm stops her in place. "You suddenly object to allies?"
"Not at all." But John smiles then, leaning forward to look at Teyla in a way Rodney does not find amusing at all. "I heard about your work all the way across the galaxy, Teyla. You and Halling have quite a reputation here, don't you?"
Teyla's head tilts. At least she's bright enough to hear the implied compliment. "We do not tolerate weakness." Unlike humans, she seems to imply, with a glance at Rodney that speaks volumes.
"And the Athosians are willing to make an alliance with us?"
Teyla hesitates, then nods slowly. "For now, it would seem the wisest course." Her eyes flicker to Elizabeth. "If you indeed plan to stay."
Elizabeth looks between them with the look of a woman whose negotiations have gone extremely well, head tilting before she stands up. Dressed in the blood and dirt stained prison uniform, dark hair ragged around her thin face, she still manages to capture the attention of the entire room. "Ten thousand years ago, Atlantis ruled the Pegasus galaxy from this city." The dark eyes brighten, like John with weapons, like Rodney feels every time he creates a new bomb. "They left it and lost it. We won't make that mistake."
And Rodney knows exactly why Elizabeth Weir was locked up here; he can trace it in the glaze of John's eyes, Teyla's fierce agreement, even Bates' startled, absorbed attention. She created her own cult and built her own country, negotiated with the Goa'uld and the Ori, stood before more international courts than he can count and they let her off scot-free, every time. A woman that scared the Milky Way so badly the tried her in space and sent her across the galaxy to silence her. Even Rodney's caught in her certainty, but he reaches over, sliding a hand over John's thigh, jerking him back into the room, reminder and warning both.
John's eyes flicker, giving him a quick glance of understanding before his eyes slip back to Elizabeth.
"What do you say, gentleman? Let's see what Pegasus has to offer."
John follows Rodney willingly as they scout for clothes, leaving Grodin and Kusanagi to take care of keeping the mainland oblivious to problems. The latest excuse is repowering the jumpers, which is completely plausible only if you know nothing about Ancient technology.
Apparently, the mainland is filled with idiots.
The private quarters are easy to open with John wandering down the halls, and Rodney's greeted with comfortable looking beds, sofas, huge windows spilling early morning light in squares all over the floor. For a second, Rodney thinks bitterly of his tiny, cold room, the hard surface of his cot, then turns around, pulling John inside, the door sliding shut behind him.
"Rodney--" John says, but Rodney pulls at the vest until John moves, letting Rodney push him down on the bed. Instantly, John's eyes dilate, spreading his knees slightly before Rodney steps between them, pulling the vest sharply over his head.
John has weapons everywhere, Rodney discovers, working open the thigh holster with fingers that aren't as steady as he wants, running his palm up John's inner thigh after, feeling the tip of a small knife beneath the thin material. Another one at the small of his back beneath his shirt, slicing his finger open on the razor-sharp blade, and an ankle holster holds another one. "Christ, John--"
John licks the blood away, sucking Rodney's finger, eyes going even darker, and his mouth makes Rodney think of how it will feel around his cock. They hadn't gotten too creative in the cell, but now, now….
John raises his arms as Rodney jerks off the filthy top, taking in the collection of scars on his chest before straddling his lap. Tangling his fingers in John's hair, he jerks John's head back. "What's with you and Elizabeth?"
John smirks up at him. "I like her."
Rodney snorts softly, but the odd coiling in his gut begins to ease at the smile in John's eyes. "Really?"
"She's good at this sort of thing," John says reasonably, which is true. "Why? You want Atlantis?" Rodney tightens his hold, trying ignore the flare of heat from John's easy words, the press of John's cock against his belly.
"You do, don't you?" And does he? "You can have it," John whispers, and Rodney rides the buck of hips beneath him, trying to ignore the rush. Atlantis. "I'll take care of it for you. Go out, put a bullet in Liz's head. Teyla's too. Anyone you want. Everyone you want. Everyone here, if you want me to." And Christ, that's hot, the image of sending John to the control room and watching him take them out one by one. That John would *do that* if he told him to, then come back here and stretch out on this comfortable bed, just for Rodney. It's as good as a ZPM, a nuclear explosion in unprotected atmosphere, better even than the anticipation of watching Zelenka die.
And such a bad idea. "I want it," Rodney admits reluctantly as John's hands close over his hips. "But we need her."
John's head cocks slightly and Rodney softens his hold, leaning down to brush a slow kiss over John's parted lips, tasting copper and salt and the warmth of John's perfect mouth. Pulling back, he slides one hand to rest on the back of John's neck. "She's good at this," Rodney agrees, closing his eyes when John's mouth presses against his throat, soft and wet. "And if we're going to pull this off, we need her." The woman who could get the Goa'uld to cut a deal wasn't someone that Rodney ever wanted to be on the wrong side of this side of the grave.
Rodney thinks dizzily of the labs he only glimpsed, the massive databases, years of research ahead of him, freedom suddenly hitting him like a speedball. "God. We can do anything." He grinds down into John's lap and feels teeth graze his throat. "Harder."
John obliges, and Rodney tilts his head back as teeth sink into the side of his throat. "Anything," Rodney says dizzily, fingers digging into the back of John's neck. "Where's Sumner?"
"Locked up," John says against his skin, then he pulls his head back, grinning up at him. "I thought we might need some information. Just in case."
"How's his knee?" Rodney asks, pressing his forehead against John's.
"Christ." Kissing John, Rodney pushes him back on the bed. They don't have time for much, but he doesn't need all that much. Pull John's pants off, swallow him down quick and dirty, feel him shiver beneath Rodney's hands, unstringing his words into meaningless pleas and promises, drive him out of his mind, wiping out Elizabeth's speech and Sumner's touch, remind him--
Rodney loves his work, loves the bombs he's built, the power contained in a single red and gold cylinder that he's created, the potential to end a galaxy that can be held in the palm of his hand, and John's all of those things rolled into one. Destruction and power condensed and refined, wrapped in addictive skin, beautiful and dangerous and perfect and his. Rodney holds John down when he comes, salty and bitter, climbs up to rub his cock against John's bare skin, John's fingers leaving bruises on his thighs, and God, everyone that sees them will know what they've been doing, what Rodney does to the man who terrorized a planet before he was brought down.
Mine, Rodney says against John's lips when he comes, the world exploding in silver white heat around him, looking into eyes as green as new leaves that know him better than anyone he's ever met.
"We won't always need Elizabeth," John says softly, and Rodney lifts his head, meeting John's smile.
"No, we won't."
Rodney leaves John to shower alone, suspecting that if he stays, very little showering will get done. Finding a spare science uniform, he pulls it on and wanders back to the gateroom, checking Grodin's work and smirking at the way Grodin fumbles the laptop when Rodney comes up behind him.
"They suspect anything?" he asks, setting up his laptop.
"They're not suspicious, but they seem--distracted." Grodin frowns down at some readings, making an adjustment in power flow to the east pier before continuing. "I think--" He pauses, frown deepening. "They ask a lot about a transmission from Earth. I think they suspect that Sumner received one and has not informed them."
"Hmm." Rodney watches the screen of his laptop blankly. "Find the transmissions log and hack Sumner's files. I'd like to know what's making them so nervous." Stretching his fingers, Rodney opens up the weapons system diagnostics to see what they have to work with.
"So do you have a plan, Sheppard?" Elizabeth's voice cuts through the quiet room, and Rodney turns to see John slumped against the stair rails, arms crossed, smirking up at her. Clean and still damp from the shower, he'd changed into a black t-shirt and the standard pants of the guards, issue boots though John made them look a little indecent and a little messy. Rodney tries not to stare at the gun at his thigh or slung across his back, and fails.
"Always." Picking up the bag and the vest at his feet, he comes to abrupt attention with a mocking look. "Atlantis' third shift is reporting to the mainland."
Elizabeth raises an eyebrow. "Who's going with you?"
"Bates, a couple of the others. We only need enough time to land inside." John pauses, giving Elizabeth an expectant look. "And Rodney to shut down their computers enough for the forcefields to be deactivated."
At Elizabeth's look, Rodney shrugs. "I could do it in my sleep. They're not going to worry about activity from Atlantis until it's too late."
Elizabeth's mouth twists, but she doesn't seem displeased. "What's my guarantee you don't use them and turn on me?"
John shrugs expansively, still watching her with the same mocking smile. "The same as mine that you won't raise the shields the second I leave. I'm taking it on faith." And the fact that Rodney's encrypted the shields to his personal code. John's head tilts. "Rodney'll keep in constant touch and you can listen in on communications. I'll need up to date sensor information and Rodney can hack into their mainframe."
"It's not a hack if they don't even bother to protect it," Rodney says disparagingly. ''And since when am I staying here anyway?"
"Since this is grunt work and not for someone of your elevated intellect," John says with a warmer smile, eyebrow raised. "I need floor plans, guard deployment, armory locations--"
"You mean everything."
Elizabeth nods thoughtfully. "You're taking one of the gateships?"
"Puddlejumpers," John answers, pulling on the vest. "Yeah."
"What makes you think you can fly Ancient tech? You haven't been in the air for a while, Sheppard."
Sheppard's head tilts slightly, eyebrows raised in amusement. "Elizabeth. If it flies, I can fly it." Draping the bag over his shoulder, he gives her a jaunty salute that somehow manages to include Teyla. "With your permission, Doctor Weir?"
Elizabeth grins back, and Rodney's struck again how she turns that on. No fucking wonder people would die for her. "Have fun. Bring me back a surprise."
"I'll bring you back a planet."
The 'jumper--God, only John could think up something like that--flies like John's been in them all his life, and Rodney fights off an inconvenient erection as he pulls up everything Atlantis has on the mainland facilities.
Beside him, Elizabeth's pulled up a chair, comm in her ear as John has small, terribly public orgasms over a mind controlled ship and does nothing for Rodney's self-control. "This thing--" John says, voice husky, "--it's like--"
"It's reading your mind," Rodney says dryly. "Duh."
"Better," John says, voice dropping, and Rodney gives Elizabeth a sideways glance, watching her cheeks slowly flush. Uh huh. "You have got to try this. There's nothing like it."
Rodney thinks of Laura leading Carson off to the infirmary to help him relax. He needs familiar surroundings, she had said with glittering eyes, which might mean Carson just wants time to feel up the instruments, but also might mean she's going to go pull a prisoner or two from the locked cellblocks and let him indulge in a little nostalgia.
Gene therapy, he told her sharply, and she'd smiled, head cocked, and wandered away, Carson in tow. "Have you thought about what to do with the rest of the prisoners?" Rodney asks sharply, and Elizabeth's gaze clears, eyes snapping to him. He wants to say, keep your hands off John (it's not like he doesn't know what she does with her followers), but it might be a little premature to worry. After all, she has Teyla to occupy her.
Tapping her fingers on the edge of the console, Elizabeth looks thoughtful. "Keeping two hundred people under control--much less the addition of whoever we want from the mainland--won't be easy." Hell, keeping control of themselves is hard enough. Rodney's holding out on the labs by the skin of his teeth. That's a few too many brilliant, dangerous people trapped in one area, and Rodney thinks uneasily of the blocks filled with ex-military.
"John scares them," he offers, pulling up blueprints as John makes a pornographic sound when the jumper does something new. "Christ, John, we're trying to think here."
"Yeah," John drawls thickly. "And that's not enough, if we're still talking control."
"You have any suggestions?"
"Several, but I think you can figure out the easiest way to control Pavlov's dog."
Rodney stops short. "Huh." Looking away from the laptop screen, Rodney sees Elizabeth's curious gaze. "Pavlov was--"
"I know who Pavlov is," she says sharply, arms crossed, but she looks intrigued. "You mean conditioning."
"I mean if our resident genius can engineer us up a small neural interface, we'll have a lot less problems with population control," John says, amused.
"An implant," Rodney says, intrigued despite himself. At Elizabeth's raised eyebrows, Rodney feels himself begin to grin. "It's pretty easy, actually. Small bit of Ancient tech, set to react to certain--unhealthy neural impulses. With a manual switch, of course, for more direct action, but--hmm. The Ancient tech all uses a neural interface--that's why John's getting himself off just sitting in the pilot's seat right now."
"Hey!" But it's not like it's not true.
"A little refining, we can use it as a more--direct form of control." Now that he thinks about it, Rodney's pretty sure he saw this episode of Star Trek.
"Can you make it?"
"Making it isn't the problem. That's a lot of data even for Ancient computers to calculate. But if the majority was manual control--it'd be a good way to silence dissent." And keep the science staff's collective mouths *shut*. "Hey, by the way, John? Block C, section eight--Gaul, Kavanagh, Simpson. I want them back in one piece, if possible."
John snorts softly. "They'll be wrapped up all neat in a package just for you. I have visual contact--anything in their communications?"
Rodney glances at Grodin, who shakes his head. "Nope. You're clear. I assume you have a plan and not just running out screaming and shooting your gun?"
"There are some explosions, and a few concussion grenades, but that's the gist." John's good mood is contagious--Rodney catches himself smiling and forces it down when he feels Elizabeth's gaze. "They seem to want me at the west landing. Good or bad?"
"Um, give me a sec--good. One armory, all general administrative and private quarters, nothing interesting. Go ahead and blow that, you won't lose anything we'll need. I should have their computers wiped before they blow anyway. First goal will be block A, lower priority prisoners." Glancing at a manifest, Rodney sighs. "And no one terribly interesting there, either. Blocks C, F, G, H--"
"M," Elizabeth says quietly.
"M, K, and looks like--your Lorne is in Y. Let's keep those intact. You have the lifesign detector?"
"Got it." John's glee is contagious.
Rodney watches until Grodin gives him a quick nod. "Okay, you're in communications range."
"Cool." John pauses. "All right, communication blackout until we're inside. Three minutes. See you on the other side." The radio goes dead, and Rodney sits back, startled with the sudden sense of loss.
John's fine, John's the best at what he does, but--
He's startled by Elizabeth's hand on his shoulder, and turning, he looks into serious brown eyes.
"He'll be fine," she says softly, and Rodney thinks of John's warm hazel eyes and quick, capable hands, and nods.
It'll be the longest three minutes of his life.