Codes: Sheppard/McKay, AU, genderswitch
Spoilers: Rising, The Storm, The Eye, Siege II, Conversion, Common Ground, McKay and Mrs. Miller (and general for seasons one, two, three)
Summary: I have no idea how to summarize this.
ETA: I posted this right before I left for class--Jesus, I'm in college again, this is so insane--before I lost my nerve, so I forgot to say--eleveninches and amireal did the readthrough and the commentary for me and I thank them. I'm sorry for the lack of acknowledgement there. Thank you both very much.
Author Notes: genderswitch. I think the only thing I can promise is that I spellchecked three times.
When Joanna Sheppard was six years old, she stepped into the cockpit of her very first plane and told her parents that she wanted to fly.
"Women don't go into combat," Major Sheppard said with a frown, eyes flickering to his wife, leaning casually against the seat.
Captain Sheppard just grinned and reached down, guiding her daughter's hands. "Joan will fly planes that haven't been invented yet." Leaning down, her mother's voice hummed low and gentle against her ear. "All you have to do is want it."
Joan's never really hated anyone like she hates the nurse right now.
"Breathe, sweetie" the woman says from somewhere near Joan's ankles, staring intently at places that honestly, Joan would prefer never be studied so intently for purposes other than recreational. When she looks up with an encouraging smile plastered across her face, Joan's hit her limit.
It probably says a lot about them both that Rodney goes for his gun, groping at the non-existent thigh holster for a minute before he stops and frowns, apparently remembering he's still in pajama bottoms and also, that Joan's been forbidden to carry weapons until they're all sure she won't start using them. He looks as exhausted as she feels, but honestly, all he's done is sit there and yell at people. She's the one in this mess. "Sheppard--"
"Don't. Sheppard. Me. Just find me a gun." Staring up at the ceiling, Joan counts to one thousand in Ancient; when she opens her eyes, the nurse is gone and Carson's giving Joan that look of incipient disappointment that usually heralds--
"Colonel, you cannot keep terrorizing my nurses."
Joan grits her teeth as the next contraction ripples through her, grabbing for Rodney's hand by instinct. It's been six hours and this is already getting very old, very fast. "I don't want strangers," she grits out, wondering why she has to explain this again. "So shut *up*."
"Don't stress her," Rodney hisses, face suddenly whitening. Joan eases her grip quickly. "And if you had competent medical staff--"
"My staff *is* competent!" Carson looks between them with a frown, then sighs, rubbing his face tiredly. "I'm sorry, Colonel. Teyla will be here soon."
Joan nods, closing her eyes as Rodney's lips brush against her forehead. Tilting her head up, she looks into red-rimmed blue eyes on the verge of outright panic. "Tell me I can shoot the nurse when this is over."
Rodney nods fervently. "I'll load the gun myself."
The first time they met, it was not what anyone sane would call--oh. Auspicious. But the second time was so much worse.
"If you touch me *one more time*--" is all Joan gets out before McKay is snatching his hand away from hers and looking injured, like she just ran over his puppy and spit on it afterward. A month of this shit should have inoculated her to it; McKay's oblivious, persistent, and terrifyingly focused. Carter pulled her aside before she left with a guilty look and an explanation that did a lot to curb the desire for homicide at first sight ("He's really not--that bad. He has *no idea* how he sounds. He thinks he's being charming.")
("Really?" Joan answered, appalled.)
(Carter sighed. "Yeah.")
So not kill. But it doesn't really affect her desire to seriously injure.
It's not enough her superior officer is dead and that the next ranking officer is--oh, *her*, and her new second in command and Jesus God, *Marines*, are sitting *one table over* and they're smirking their asses off--
The *Chief Science Officer* is trying to feel her up in public *again*.
This time, however, she's not in a post-Ancient-chair afterglow. "McKay, shut up," she says slowly, tapping her fork against the side of her tray and feeling the beginnings of a headache starting to form just behind her eyes. From the corner of her eye, she can see all the Marines watching eagerly--they don't like McKay, but on the scale, they dislike her a lot more, and saying it's because she's Air Force doesn't mean it's not because she's a woman, too.
Taking a breath, she leans back in her chair, staring at him for a second in thought, automatically evaluating the thick body, sharp blue eyes, and the fact that despite having the personality flaws of someone with an uncomfortable taste for harassment--incredibly intelligent. "Report to my office at 0800 tomorrow," she says finally, getting her tray and standing up, feeling the eyes watching her every move. "Bring a list of personnel for possible inclusion in gate missions."
Rodney blinks, shifting tracks. "How many teams?"
"Four, so I'll need three names," she says, turning away, feeling the sweep of her ponytail against the back of her neck, still wet from her evening shower. "And don't be late," she calls over her shoulder as she drops off her tray and goes to the door.
"But--you said four teams."
Joan turns briefly, taking two steps backwards. "You'll be the fourth. See you in the morning."
Teyla drops by after checking in with her people, currently in any room that will house them; letting her in, Joan watches her curl up neatly on the small, pristine bed that Joan has yet to sleep a single night in. "You seem tired," Teyla observes, giving her a penetrating look.
So far, as allies, Teyla's people aren't too bad. Considering their luck so far, Joanna's hourly waiting for a report that the Athosians have risen against them or turned into zombies or something. After space vampires--*seriously, what the hell*?--nothing can surprise Joan anymore.
"I am tired," Joan admits, pulling the chair from the desk and straddling it. Pushing the still-damp hair from the back of her neck and tries not to think about how that's going to have to go as soon as she can make herself cut it. She motions toward her desk, currently covered in discs and more paper than she'd have thought they could get through the gate. "Paperwork. And more paperwork. And more after that." Ah, the joys of command. "How are your people settling in?"
"The children enjoyed your stories," Teyla says with a quirk of her mouth, resting her chin on one knee. Then the smile fades. "You seemed tense during dinner tonight."
Joan shrugs. "I forgot what it's like being--" Around people, she wants to say, but hey, new alien alliance. "Around Marines." Crazy isn't what they should be going for. Joan misses Antarctica like an ache in her chest. "Interesting galaxy you have here." Smooth, Joan, very very smooth.
"Your people are also interesting," Teyla says finally. Something in her voice makes Joan straighten, studying Teyla as intently as Teyla had studied her. "So you are now the--commander?"
"Just of the military." Even thinking about it makes Joan want to do something hideously reckless, like try to attack another Wraith cruiser and this time, just take her handgun and her temper. "Dr. Weir has command of the expedition." Joan tries to remember how much she and Sumner had explained to Teyla about their structure, but everything's a blur from the second that Sumner was taken and apparently, Joan started a galactic war. "It's a split of powers to keep--um. A civilian operation civilian."
A civilian operation *at war*.
These things, she thinks morosely, never happen to officers in Star Trek.
"I see," Teyla says, looking anything but certain, then frowning slightly, presses on. "I overheard you speaking to Dr. McKay during our evening meal."
Huh. "About the touching me thing? Okay, the thing is, McKay can be--"
"Should he touch me without my permission, his hand will not return to him intact," Teyla says firmly. Joan blinks. "No. I was referring to your--gate teams."
Joan crosses her arms across the back of the chair. "Okay."
"I would like to join your team."
Huh. Joan considers the idea from all angles and can't find one she doesn't like. Teyla's leader of her people and from what Joan can tell, excellent in combat, but more than those two things, she's a Pegasus native. "We'd be glad to have you," Joan says, mentally shifting her morning; after McKay, talk to Dr. Weir before the staff meeting. "As soon as the teams are formed--"
"No, you misunderstand." Teyla drops her knee, leaning forward. "I wish to join *your* team."
Teyla frowns. "You do not plan to form your own team?"
Actually, no. The brief meeting with Dr. Weir and Ford had brainstormed four possible team leaders, but for some reason, Joan hadn't really-- "Huh."
Teyla's still watching her. "I had expected--"
Joan stares at the far wall, rewinding the last three days of her life that she'll pretty much never get back. She was brought along as a human light switch, annoyed by scientists, harassed by Marines, condescended to by Dr. Weir, sneered at by Sumner, hit on by Dr. McKay, and that's *before* the world turned upside down. "I--hadn't really thought about it."
When she looks down, she can still see the blood beneath the nails she cuts short, new blisters from the gun calluses she'd lost in Antarctica, and though the uniform is new, her old one is stuffed in the closet, still sprinkled in blood that isn't hers. Blinking slowly, she looks around the room, trying to see something of the person who flew across a world washed in white, but a field officer lives in this room, from the packs to the bed to the desk that faces the door, so her back is never vulnerable.
"You have a knife?" she says finally, one hand sliding down her thigh, finding the gun she put on when she got out of the shower, feeling the knife holsters against her inner thigh, her ankle, at the small of her back. Teyla's an ally, but Joan doesn't think she needs to know how the apparent military leader of Atlantis arms herself in her own quarters.
Instantly, there's a blade between the long fingers. Flipping it, Teyla offers it hilt first, and Joan takes it, studying the simple leather covered hilt, the sharp edge of the blade. "When I was--on Earth, it was a little different," Joan says, standing up. The Ancients had mirrors, and she looks at the woman in the glass that she hasn't seen in years.
"It cannot be easy being a leader of men," Teyla says softly, experience layering her voice with something very old. Joan glances at her sharply.
Teyla shrugs. "Three years in name. Two in fact. It took me--much time to gain their trust."
Joan flips the knife slowly, watching the sharp blade glint. She's got Marines that don't trust her, a second in command who just may try to overrule her, and an expedition leader under the impression that Joan's just a very skilled flying monkey. There are civilians here with the common sense of wombats and an enemy that's showing signs of being kind of terrifying. It's about time to make a choice, and Joan thinks she must have made it already, when she flipped a coin for Carter, took a ship for Sumner, and never even knew it.
"I don't have that much time," she says finally. Reaching up, she slides the knife just below the rubber band and upward at a sharp angle, feeling the knife cut through the thick ponytail. The short ends brush the sides of her face; for dramatic gestures, it would probably have been more effective with an audience that isn't Teyla. Also, this is going to look like shit; Joan might be Air Force, but she also really liked being able to grow her hair out, what with Antarctica and not giving a good shit what regulations said.
She'd actually thought of dying it purple, and God, if she could articulate how *much* her life sucks right now, she would.
Sighing, she turns around, surprised when Teyla takes the knife and pushes on her shoulder. "It is uneven," Teyla says, herding her to a chair. Joan feels the knife cut through another strand. "Among my people," Teyla says quietly, "there was once a tradition of ritual combat. Until my--until my father's death, we had not invoked it in five hundred years."
Joan takes a breath, blowing it out. She's seen Teyla fight. "How many?"
"Sixteen before they began to falter." Teyla makes another sharp cut. "Two days. At the end, they agreed because they could find no one else who wished to face me. Do your people--"
Joan bites back a laugh, because Jesus. "It doesn't work like that." Joan's not an idiot--she's a pilot for a reason. She's good on the ground because a long time ago, she had to be, but she's not a Marine either, and she sure as hell isn't Teyla. Her desk is a mess of personnel issues and assignments, while Dr. Weir explains how she'll manage the expedition and Ford explains how he'll manage the teams and Joan wonders if she'd even thought to *speak*.
"You're a good fighter," Joanna says, watching Teyla's serious face in the mirror.
Teyla's mouth quirks; of course. That goes without saying.
"Hey, Teyla?" Joan asks, pushing the papers onto the side of the desk.
"Wanna join my team?"
Dr. Weir blinks as she reads the short report. "Four teams." Lifting her head, she gives Joan a quizzical look. "I thought you had agreed that you wouldn't--"
Joan slouches into her chair and blinks at Weir guilelessly. "Re-evaluation of the situation," she drawls, a voice to make a thousand commanding officers get very red and very, very angry. Joan knows; she's been using it for years. "Our priorities are as follows; ZPM, allies, and resources. Possibly reversed, should the situation warrant."
Weir's eyes scan the page again. "You don't have Ford's gate experience."
"The only thing that can fix that is getting out there, Dr. Weir," Joan says lazily, watching Weir's frown. "And in this galaxy, Milky Way experience doesn't mean anything." Joan glances at her notes (blank, because she wants to at least look like she has some idea of what she's talking about), then looks at Weir. "Four teams, four people per team, one Athosian to act as guide and mentor. And Ford will be on my team, along with Teyla." Joan gives Weir a beat before adding, "And McKay."
Weir frowns and folds her arms, looking up with an expression that Joan's pretty used to seeing on commanding officer's faces. The difference is, Weir's her leader, but she's not her commander, not yet. Joan thinks if she has to prove herself, then Weir's damn well going to have to do the same. "That's a risk I'm not prepared to take."
Joan licks her lips quickly and hopes she looks like she knows what she's doing. "And we're dead unless we get more power. I've seen McKay's notes," stolen from the database last night, "and read the reports. Keeping sufficient personnel in the city to defend against an attack balanced against exploring a galaxy for a needle. McKay's the expert in identifying and using what we find; Teyla's a native and leader of her people; and as you said, Ford's the gate team expert. He's also a kid whose never been in command before. He's not ready to go out there alone."
Her palms are starting to sweat; Joan makes herself stay still, look bored and certain and completely at ease, because if she can't make Weir believe her, she'll never get anyone else to either. Weir looks uncertain, which is better than stubborn; Joan doesn't want this to turn into a battle, and not just because she's not sure she can win.
"And Dr. Weir--I am the ranking officer," she says, drawing out each word, eyebrow raised. "The disposition of gate teams is a military matter, and I expect your cooperation," careful, Jesus, she's got to be careful, but she's years out of practice, "just as you'll expect mine in civilian ones."
Weir blinks slowly, and Joan watches the point sink in as painlessly as a stiletto. "Major," Elizabeth says, and while she looks calm, there's a warning rippling beneath each word, "I hope you know what you're doing."
Joan's played poker all her life. She's never been afraid of risking everything on a single throw. "I think I do." Standing up, Joan gives her a sloppy salute. "With your permission, I'm going to brief my men before the staff meeting.
Elizabeth hesitates, then nods. "I'll see you there."
Joan stares blankly at the tests. "Birth control," she says finally, though honestly, she can't even be surprised at this point. This is *Pegasus*. There are Wraith, bugs, and fruit that declares sentience and starts its own nation in the pantry, and God, she'll never look at a banana in the same way again. "I'm going out on a limb and guessing that it didn't work?"
"Well." Carson flushes, giving Teyla an appealing look, then sighs as she stares back, eyebrows raised. "We think it has something to do with--" He stops short, looking pained. "Your gene."
Joan blinks. "I've had the gene my entire life. I've been on birth control for half of it. And now you're saying--"
"Well." Twisting uncomfortably, Carson stares down at his clipboard, like it might just have the answers to ending the Wraith and universal peace. "It seems that--maybe--Atlantis--"
"Spit it out."
"It might have done something. To neutralize it."
Joan slow blinks her utter disbelief. "It wants me pregnant?"
"Reproduce," Carson says more firmly. Apparently, saying "The city wants you knocked up" is a little too hard for him. "You're the tenth female member of the expedition, Colonel. And all of the others have the gene as well."
Joan takes a deep breath, realizing suddenly why Teyla's on her right side. It's to stop her from *going for a weapon*. Which Joan really wants to do. In the worst way.
"I--I had Rodney do a system scan and he found out that--that the atmospheric controls had been altered." If possible, Carson reddens even more; Joan would feel a lot more sympathy if she wasn't, oh, *pregnant*. "It seems that there's a chemical being released that is reacting to your gene--to the Ancient gene. It--has--" Carson struggles for a second, then sighs. "After some preliminary study, I've come to the conclusion that it's--that it's the city."
The city. "The city is contaminating the environmental controls?"
"It's not dangerous--I mean, obviously, we only just--" Carson stumbles to a stop and looks helplessly at Teyla. "The compound is very--specific in its purpose. I think that the city is--that its residents are--that the city believes that those with the ATA need to reproduce."
Of course. This is Pegasus. These things-- "So the city wants me pregnant?"
"All the female gene carriers, yes. I'm going to ask all the female expedition members to come in for testing, and Rodney has already filtered out the contaminant, but--" Carson looks at her helplessly. "From what Rodney has unearthed in the logs, it has been circulating for several months."
Jesus. There are seventy female expedition members, either natural or artificial carriers. Joan rubs her head, dismissing the personal. "I'll make it an order for all female personnel, not just the ATA." They'll need biology on this; probably get in touch with the SGC and find out if anything like this has ever happened to them before. Throw up somewhere in there, then call an emergency staff meeting; they need to find out *now*. Get every scientist on searching the database; if the city can do something like this without them knowing, God knows what else it can--
Then her mind does a fast rewind. *Rodney*.
"Wait. Rodney knows about this?" And she hopes to God her voice didn't just climb two octaves, but from the look on Carson's face, it so did. Fuck.
"I didn't tell him why," Carson says quickly. Maybe he just realized that she's wearing her gun now, and that while Teyla's really fast, Joan's extremely motivated. "Biology handled the initial testing and confirmation of my results, but--"
Joan nods, waving a hand to cut him off. "Okay." Sliding off the bed, Joan grabs for her boots, glad Carson waited until she'd returned to uniform before he gave her the news; he probably knew she'd want to leave. "Don't tell him--"
"Of course not." Glancing at Teyla, he takes a deep breath. "I asked Teyla here because--"
"She's trained as a midwife, I kind of guessed." Sitting on the edge of the bed, Joan pulls on a boot. "It's not like we have any obstetricians out here."
"Not precisely." Joan looks up in surprise as Teyla stands up, coming to the bed. "I suspected on our last mission that you were with child, and I thought perhaps--that you would wish to talk." Her mouth quirks slightly and Joan has a vivid memory of throwing up all over the Bertani chief, who had luckily taken Rodney's frantic "She's allergic to sugar! It's very sad!" as fact and only overcharged them during negotiations. "And in my capacity as a midwife, yes."
Joan looks between Carson and Teyla. "You or Kate, huh?"
Teyla's smile widens as she takes Joan's other boot from the floor. "I thought you would prefer a friend."
Joan pauses, staring into the dark eyes; of everyone, Teyla would understand best. "Yeah, I--" Even thinking about food hurts, but apparently, she's going to need to eat anyway. "Dinner okay?"
Teyla's head tilts. "I will bring crackers." Leaning forward, she presses their foreheads together and Joan breathes in her calm. "Everything will be well, Joan," she whispers. "I promise."
Rodney shows up ten minutes after her order; she hadn't bothered to make it a request. He's more likely to come just to tell her she has no right to give him orders, civilian, not part of the evil of military discipline--
"Sit down," Joan says, pointing to the desk chair, attempting not to look like she just puked her guts out in the bathroom and more like her mother at her most commanding (God help them all). She's hideously aware that there's toothpaste on the collar of her shirt and that she had to turn down the lights or run the risk of Rodney noticing she'd achieved a whiter shade of pale.
Rodney blinks, mouth half-open in protest, before he pauses. Joan puts the spirits of every drill sergeant she's ever met into her voice. "Now, McKay."
Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, Joan takes a deep breath. Thing five million and five that she never thought she'd ever be talking about. "I talked to Carson today."
Rodney stares at her, stubbornness gathering behind his eyes like storm clouds, spelling out the longest conversation of her life. "And this monumental announcement is the reason I was ordered--not requested, but *ordered*--to leave my research and--"
"Carson," she continues, raising her voice; she's learned over the years how to deal with McKay, "has informed me there's a contaminant in the air filters."
Rodney stops short. "Actually, I was going to mention that in the staff meeting." Frowning, he leans back in the chair. "We've isolated the compound and biology and medical are analyzing it. Preliminary investigation shows it's linked to the ATA gene, but how--"
"We think it might be." Rubbing her sweating palms against her knees, Joan takes another deep breath at the ripple of nausea that has nothing to do with pregnancy. "Carson told me today when he asked me to come in for a check-up."
Rodney tenses, blue eyes darkening. "It's done something to you." Before she can open her mouth to answer, he's on the bed, reaching for her, and Joan lets him pull her into his arms, because she can see he's shaking. "What did it do? Can he fix it? I'll start a database search--" One arm stays around her, fingers twisting into the back of her t-shirt, like she might make a run for it, while the other's going to his radio. "Son of a *bitch*, I should have--"
"Rodney," she says, then grabs his hand before he can send Zelenka down to do something crazy like pull the city's power and take apart the environmental computers by flashlight. "Look at me."
"--known that something like this could happen--hello, nanoviruses? The Ancients were *nuts*." Rodney stops short, eyes widening in horror. "Nanoviruses. Is it--"
"No! Breathe, Jesus, I'm not going to die."
Rodney stares at her, then at her fingers, wrapped firmly around his wrist. "I need to--"
"You need to listen, okay?" But she can't do this while he's this close; pulling away, she gets to her feet, suddenly aware of her body in a completely different way. Pregnant. Six weeks, if Carson's right, and her hand drops to her stomach in curiosity.
She realizes she's just standing there when Rodney makes a soft sound. Turning, she looks into terrified blue eyes, hands locked into fists on the covers of their bed, and something in her chest tightens. "It only affects ATA genes--maybe both natural and artificial. Carson's running tests. I sent an email to Elizabeth to order all women in the city to report to Carson as soon as possible."
"Yeah." And right now, God, could she use a drink. "It's--look Carson could be wrong, but he thinks that the city--" There's no way to say this; suddenly, Joan feels a lot more sympathy for Carson in the infirmary. "That it's--that it wants reproduction. For us to reproduce."
Rodney's mouth opens, then shuts abruptly; he looks intrigued. "Huh. That would explain some of the markers I saw before I sent it off. It had a very peculiar composition that I hadn't seen before. I wonder why now, though; I need to call--"
And right back for the radio. "Rodney, you try to leave this room and I'll shoot you in the foot."
Rodney's hand stops right before contact. "Joan--"
She can see the second it dawns on him, and thank you God, she doesn't have to say it.
"Joan, I understand the privacy issue involved, but this is a huge discovery," Rodney says, frowning. "If this is a program the Ancients instituted--God, this could be proof of Atlantis having a viable AI in the past. We could have--"
Or maybe she will; belatedly, Joan remembers this is *Rodney* she's talking to. "*McKay*--"
"I need to get Zelenka on this right away--"
"*Reproduction*. As in, pregnancy, it--" She's actually going to have to say it. "McKay. *It affected female gene-carriers.*"
She'd been wrong before; *this* is what revelation looks like. Rodney freezes, eyes wide and blank, mouth half-open, not his most attractive look, and Joan wonders if maybe waiting for Teyla tonight would have been a better idea.
He doesn’t move.
"McKay, I was pretty serious about shooting you." During her last trip to the bathroom, she'd spun out an expansive fantasy that involved Rodney and her gun, and none of them had involved sex. "And I'm getting more serious by the second, husband or not."
"Take a prize for winner of the most fucking *obvious*--"
"I need to lie down."
Rodney suits deed to word, stretching out on the bed with the look of a man who had a Wraith attached to his chest, and Joan feels her stomach roll again, nausea clear and bright. Turning to the bathroom, she makes the five steps before her head is in the Ancient toilet and her body gives up the crackers she'd managed to swallow before Rodney appeared in the apparently vain hope she'd get through this without humiliating herself.
And that had worked out really well. Leaning her forehead against the edge, she takes deep breaths, swallowing hard.
Almost instantly, there's something cool and wet against her face and a body sliding behind hers, bracing her gently. Joan wonders vaguely why she didn't hear Rodney come in. Probably the uncontrollable vomiting.
For a minute, there's just silence. Joan can't make herself relax back against him. "Pregnant," she confirms wearily, taking the cloth from his hand and wiping her face, and for good measure, her tongue as well.
One of Rodney's hands is resting limply on the toilet seat. For some reason, the stillness hurts her. "Rodney--"
"I didn't think--" Rodney's voice is strangely breathless. "After you know. Nukes and radiation and everything--Carson said that I probably--"
She's trying not to take that as some kind of roundabout way of asking her if she sleeps around, but she kind of wants to anyway. "Unless this is a holy Ancient birth to start a new religion? I’m pretty sure it's half yours."
Hot breath blows out against the back of her neck. Joan closes her eyes, forcing herself not to push him away and storm out to make Teyla give her a workout; even thinking of moving makes her stomach hurt. "This wasn't in the plan," she says to the toilet.
Jesus, so much not in the plan. She has a career--*he* has a career, and they can't--neither of them ever wanted--except maybe--
"The chances were slim," Rodney says doggedly, voice way too high and talking way too fast. "He said he was sorry and I thought that--" Arms slide around her so suddenly she almost jerks away by instinct, but it's Rodney and her body knows him too well. "I--and I never thought about it after, because hey, why want something you know you can't have--"
She feels dizzy in a whole new way now.
"--but hey, you--" He chokes off, and she pushes him back then, getting herself turned around and straddling his lap. The blue eyes are still huge and shocked but they're anything but blank. "But I got you and that was pretty fucking impossible, so hey, par for the course, right?"
She has no idea what to say to that. "I thought you hated golf."
Rodney's hands rest uncertainly on her hips, but she can feel the near-vibration of his thoughts, running faster than anyone she's ever seen, ever met, that mind that amazes her every day, and her chest tightens in a whole new way.
"I--" He stops again, looking into her eyes like he's never seen them before, never seen her before, one hand reaching up to gently touch her face, wedding band warm against her cheek. Then he's shaking and she wraps an arm around his shoulders, shifting in his lap to get closer, close as she can, feeling dampness when he buries his head against her shoulder while his other arm goes around her waist, desperately tight. "Dammit."
"Jesus, McKay, you're such a girl." Though she doesn't sound any better. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she takes a breath, trying not to feel quite so-- "I really want it. The baby. I really want the baby and I think you need to--let me go." Joan sucks in a breath when Rodney lifts his head, staring at her in outrage from red-rimmed eyes.
"Let you *go*? What the *hell*--"
"I mean--" Twisting around, she breaks his hold and gets her head into the toilet before she starts throwing up again. "To *throw up*." Leaning both elbows onto the edge, she gasps in a breath and feels her stomach start to roll again and hates the world. "This is all your fault. . I'm going to kill you. When I find my gun."
McKay looks like shit, and pretty much like he wishes he were dead. Joan wishes he were dead too, if only because that would mean she was dead and she wouldn't hurt *so fucking much*. "McKay," she says from her perch on one of the infirmary beds while a nurse does something arcane to her bruised back and shoulder. She's way too old to throw herself over balcony rails and chase terrorist soldiers.
McKay, sitting glumly across from her, lets one of the nurses take off his makeshift bandage without a sound, revealing a blood-soaked jacket, sleeve, and a glimpse of pale, bruised skin, the angry red wound created by a blade on vulnerable flesh.
Something in her blacks out all over again, like the second that Kolya had told her Weir was dead. Suddenly, she doesn't hurt as much.
"I wish I'd killed him," she hears herself say; she's never meant it so much before now, never wanted it quite like this.
McKay looks at her tiredly. "Sheppard," he says, voice slurring from exhaustion and shock; Joan doesn't like the way he's looking at her.
Joan slides off the bed, absently pushing the nurse away as they lower Rodney down onto the gurney. She knows that look on his face like she knows it on her own. "Not your fault," she says when he looks away. Reaching out, she jerks his chin around, leaving smears of blood and dirt on his unshaven jaw. "*Not* your fault, McKay. Say it."
McKay's mouth goes crooked and unhappy in a way that has nothing to do with the bandages being pulled away. "He--I didn't--"
"Fucking *say* it."
The nurse moves out of the way as Joan braces her hand on the gurney by McKay's head and bends down close enough that her lips are pressed against his ear. "Your only job," she whispers, "is to stay alive until I can get you. That's our only rule. That, and calling me baby. You. Stay. Alive. If they want you to talk, do it. If they want you to build them nukes, do it. If they want you to beg and cry and crawl, you fucking *do it*. If they want to fuck you, lie back, spread your legs, and think of fucking Atlantis and how I'll kill every damn one of them when I get there." She takes a deep breath. "Whatever it takes, whatever they want, you'll nod and say yes, because you know that I'm on my way. Not your fault. Say it, McKay."
McKay shivers slightly and she realizes she's leaning against his bad arm, fresh blood staining her uniform. Licking her lips, she pulls back, looks into his eyes. "Say it."
"Not--not my fault," he breathes painfully, and Joan steps back, letting Carson and the nurses swarm over McKay like locusts. Her head aches so badly she can barely see, but she goes just as far as the door, waving away a nurse while she pulls her jacket back on and drops into a chair, eyes on McKay's bed. Carson shoot her a hard look but she ignores him, keeping her focus on the man in the bed, because otherwise she'll have to remember that there's sixty-three less men in the world than there were ten hours ago, and looking at McKay's injured arm, and she just wishes it were sixty-four.
McKay's released to quarters after a stern lecture on care of wounds that Joan's pretty sure he'll ignore, followed by pain pills that he'll take the second he gets to his lab. He's bruised in ways that she knows he'll never admit. Joan calls for Ford, who's disturbingly perky and the only one of them she's willing to give watch of McKay; Ford's a good kid and knows when to call.
Joan gets halfway to her quarters before she stumbles, and somehow, Teyla is there. "I'm fine," Joan says irritably and she'd prove it, but her legs aren't responding and the entire hall's blurring out. She should have swiped some uppers from the infirmary. "Teyla--"
"You are off-duty," Teyla says, steering her in a direction that isn't the gate room and reports and-- "Your orders are being followed as we speak; you do not need to oversee it personally."
Joan tries to think of a response to that; of *course* she needs to oversee it personally. She's there for everything, from shift rotations to return missions to debriefings, discipline and calisthenics; she schedules trainings and works with them herself...
She doesn't have Teyla's year. Hell, Atlantis doesn't have a year. "Teyla," she says, jerking away, and ramming herself into the wall. Smart, very smart. That's something people need to see. "They need to--I have to--" Forcing herself upright, she stares at Teyla, trying to will her to understand. "I have to be there."
Teyla frowns, then finally nods, reluctantly, extending an arm of support that Joan can barely admit she needs.
It feels like miles to the gateroom, and the halls are frighteningly quiet; at least she knows that her lockdown of civilian personnel is being respected.
When they're at the door, Joan pulls abruptly away, forcing down the nausea rising slow and sweet in the back of her throat. Emerging only feet from Weir's office, she surveys the busy gateroom (and takes a slow breath so her vision doesn't go black again) before walking to the edge of the balcony that oversees the floor. It also has a useful side benefit of being something she can lean against before her knees go out.
Joan turns her head enough to see Bates. "Sergeant," she says, hoping to God her voice sounds more in the way of strong and tired and less in the way of please shoot me now. "How many are back?"
Bates blinks, then checks his notes. "Forty-five percent, sir." He pauses, eyeing her warily. "Sir, I think--"
"Have we--" she stops, swallowing hard. "Have we discovered how they got the gate code yet?"
Bates hesitates; she's been tired of that response for a while. "Doran," he says finally. "The Manarians--"
"Has he been returned to us?"
Below her, she can hear the gate floor has gone silent. "Yes."
"Open a channel to Smeadon," she says steadily, hands closed tightly over the rails. She half wishes her nails were longer; she needs to stay clear-headed for this.
"Joan?" Dr. Weir says softly; Joan closes her eyes for a second, then turns her head. "Major. The Manarians--"
"Have lost their credit." Abruptly, the channel goes static, then clears; Joan lowers her head like she's listening, but mostly its to hide the dizziness. "This is Major Sheppard of Atlantis. Smeadon, are you running yet?"
Silence. Then, "Major Sheppard!" and the enthusiasm makes her teeth ache. She hates politicians, and she hates politics, but those pale before her hate for what she had to do today, what they would have done to her people. "I'm so glad to hear that your city has survived--"
"Consider all agreements null and void," she say steadily, not looking at Weir. "And a suggestion, Smeadon--don't ever leave your planet again."
Silence, then, "Major Sheppard--"
"The next time you put your pampered foot through a gate, there's a price on your head. And I don't think you can outbid the City of the Ancients." She looks at Grodin. "Close the channel and block their address. No one comes to this city through their gate again."
"Major!" Smeadon manages before Grodin cuts the channel. Beside her, Weir is watching her thoughtfully.
"There's no price on his head, Major."
Joan sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose before she does something stupid like pass out. "Trust me, he'll never leave the planet to figure that out." Turning away, she sees Stackhouse, hovering on the steps. "Get five men and retrieve the Genii casualties."
"Are we returning them to the Genii?" Stackhouse asks warily. Joan hesitates, then glances down, where the bodies of her Marines await cremation, for the hopeful day she'll be able to send them home.
There's a lot she can't think about right now; about stalking the Genii, setting traps with skills she'd almost forgotten, the feel of her finger on the trigger with a man in view that was nothing but a number. Pegasus may be changing her, may be changing them all, but this part isn't Pegasus. It's just her.
That's the part that sets a balance--eight men for my Marines; fifty-five for touching my people; McKay's scar and Weir's face and the hour I spent thinking they were dead. If we can't go home, the Genii won't either.