Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Moving On

By Leesa Perrie and Jayne Perry

After Irresponsible

********************

"Long ago it must be, I have a photograph

Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."

- 'Bookends' by Simon and Garfunkel

********************

Chapter One – Goodbye and Hello

Two months had passed since they had been kidnapped by rogue government agents and found out about the SGC and Atlantis. Two months of thinking and wondering by both of them; not that they had spoken much about it to each other. They had talked through some of the fears they'd felt, and about how to avoid being kidnapped again, but not about the SGC, Atlantis or whether they should have accepted the offer and joined the Stargate project.

During that time there had been changes back in Cascade. Simon had finally given in to the temptation of promotion, and the pressure was on for Jim to take his place. Something he most definitely didn't want.

Jim and Blair had returned to the loft after a day spent chasing a lead that had led nowhere. It was frustrating, but not unexpected. The case they were working on was one of those cases; one that would be difficult, if not impossible, to solve.

They had grabbed a couple of beers and headed out onto the balcony, watching the dusk as it moved into darkness.

"I've been thinking," Jim started.

"Dangerous," Blair immediately replied and grinned. Jim just rolled his eyes.

"Are you happy here, Chief?"

"What?"

"Here, in Cascade."

"I…" Blair looked at Jim, deciding on truth, not obfuscation, "I thought I was. But now… a part of me can't help but wonder if what we are doing here is… I don't know, I mean, I know it's worthwhile, but… compared to what we could be doing…"

"Yeah," Jim sighed. "Somehow Cascade doesn't seem like the place I belong anymore. The SGC however…" he turned and looked at Blair. "I don't want to become the Captain of Major Crimes, I don't want to start moving up the ranks. I like being on the streets and not trapped behind a desk. And I like having a partner, which I wouldn't have as Captain. But what else is there for me here? I could stay as I am, doing what I'm doing now, but how long before the pressure to become Captain becomes too much? Next time, or the time after?"

"I knew you weren't happy," Blair said. "This time you can turn the position down, but how long can you keep doing it for?"

"Forever, in theory, but I don't want to have to deal with all of this, and the more I turn down promotion, the more I'll lose respect. Not to mention that I won't be able to stay on the streets forever."

"And you need an excuse to leave Cascade," Blair said quietly.

Jim looked at him in surprise.

"What?"

"I mean," Blair said, looking out over the city, "You feel you should stay in Cascade, that you are this city's protector. But, maybe, it's time to move on. You were the protector of the Chopec before becoming the protector of Cascade. You've moved on once, due to circumstances. Maybe it's time to move onto something new, only you feel like you need an excuse. Circumstances to push you out of here."

Jim thought about this for a few moments.

"What do you think, Chief? Is it time to move onto something new?"

"Yeah, I think it is. I've been feeling unsettled since we returned from Cheyenne Mountain. Torn, even. My place is with you, not just because of the sentinel thing, but because that's the choice I've made. You're family and I'm sticking by you. But at the same time, there's Rodney. And he's like family to me as well. I know we haven't kept in contact as well as friends, or family, should but… now that I know what he's involved in, the danger for a start, I want to be near to him as well."

"Well, there's a simple solution to all of this," Jim said. "We join the SGC and ask to go to Atlantis."

"Just like that?" Blair said, smiling at the thought.

"Why not?" Jim looked over the city once more. "I don't want to deal with the pressure I'm coming under at the PD, and I agree; I think it's time to move on."

"So…?"

"We contact General Landry and see if the offer is still open, and take it on the proviso that we are sent to Atlantis."

"Cool."

"I don't think Naomi will think so somehow," Jim grinned.

"Oh, well, she's surprised that I've stayed in one place as long as I have. Anyway, I'll just have to make up some cover story about helping the indigenous tribes or something, make it out that we're actually doing something to make the fascist military less fascist in foreign countries."

"Well, rather you than me when you tell her."

"Coward," Blair said teasingly.

"Where Naomi is concerned? Too right. Sage is dangerous weapon when she waves it around," Jim said with a smile.

"Hmm, well, she is a force to be reckoned with, but I can handle her… I think. So, let's make contact with the good General then," Blair said, adding with a smirk, "Just so long as I don't have to cut my hair, of course."

"We also need to make sure he knows I can't just up and leave straight away. I have commitments here, as Acting Captain," Jim looked pained at the title. "I need to wait until the new Captain starts before resigning, and then I have a month's notice to work."

"Yeah. Just upping and leaving everyone in the lurch wouldn't be right. I'll make sure Landry knows that, but we can at least get things started… and contact Rodney to let him know we're coming," Blair laughed. "Oh, I wish I could see his face when he finds that out! I don't know whether he'll be pleased or horrified!"

"Why would he be horrified?" Jim asked.

"Because Atlantis can be a dangerous place to be, and also because I have lots and lots of embarrassing stories I can blackmail him with!"

"Poor McKay, you'll have him quaking in his boots." Jim grinned. "Maybe I could provide him with some blackmail material on you… for a price."

Blair glared at him before bursting into laughter.

"Atlantis, here we come," he said, raising a toast with his beer bottle. Jim raised his to clink against Blair's, smiling in relief. It felt like a load had been removed from his shoulders; that they were finally heading for a place that, although they had never been to, somehow already felt like home.

********************

Blair looked around the empty loft and quietly said goodbye to it. He had wondered if this day would ever come. The Board had finally settled on a replacement for Simon after much discussion. They had seemed to take their time as if hoping that Jim would change his mind and accept the Captaincy for Major Crimes. However, Jim hadn't and they had finally appointed someone else to the position.

With the appointment, Jim had felt free to hand his notice in, and Blair had followed suit. A month's notice had been required, during which time Jim handed the reins over to the new captain, and Blair had suggested possible candidates to replace him as a consultant to the PD.

Jim had been transferred from the Army to the Air Force, by order of the President, as this made things easier for the SGC, and he had also been given a promotion to Major on the recommendation of General Landry; it had been a sweetener on the original deal to try and tempt Jim to consider returning to the military life.

Blair had been taken on as a civilian Anthropologist, with a view to becoming Head of the Department when the current Head eventually moved on. The only downside to this was that he would be answerable to Rodney, as his friend was in charge of the Science Division, but he didn't really think that would be a problem; or at least their friendship would smooth things over if it did. Blair was fully aware of his friend's attitude to the 'soft' sciences, but it had never really been a problem to them in the past; they argued good naturedly about it from time to time, and he knew exactly which buttons to push when he wanted to really wind Rodney up and Rodney knew how to retaliate in kind.

In fact, Blair believed that it was due to his and Rodney's bantering in the past that the Canadian had developed and honed his ability to make lightning fast come backs that were smart and witty, even if they could cut to the bone sometimes.

Rodney had suggested during one of his brief visits to Earth that Jim and Blair buy an apartment in Colorado Springs, as he had done, so that they had a place to go to when back on Earth. So they had located a suitable place, that was in fact an old house divided into two apartments, and most of their belongings were already en route.

They would have a week to settle in before reporting to the SGC for three weeks of induction and alien weapons training, before then heading out to Atlantis via the Intergalactic Gate Bridge.

There had been a bad time several weeks ago when the Ancients had kicked the Expedition out; Rodney had been depressed, and Blair had been unhappy to find out that they would not be working together in the same place after all, with Rodney being at Area 51 and him being at the SGC with Jim.

A run in with the Asurans and a crazy unsanctioned rescue attempt had worked, and Atlantis was now back in the hands of the Expedition members, and Jim and Blair were back on course for another galaxy, much to their relief.

Now it was time to say goodbye to the loft. If it was hard for him to leave this place, with all the good, and bad, memories; it must be even harder for Jim who had lived here for much longer. Not to mention that Jim's family was based in Cascade.

But it was time to go, to move on to the next stage of their lives.

********************

They stood on the porch of the place they would call home in Colorado. Blair had tried to make his apartment feel like home, but due to the short time he was there, it still didn't feel quite his, and he doubted it ever truly would. His new home would be Atlantis, not here.

He picked up his duffle bag and followed Jim to the car that had been hired for them by the SGC. He felt nervous, but excited too, like a kid finally going on a promised treat. The induction was over and today was the day they were going to Atlantis, and he couldn't help bouncing on his toes in anticipation. He suspected Jim was just as excited, but of course, he was keeping it under wraps - which was just typical of the man.

The journey seemed longer than normal, but he knew that was down to his impatience and not to Jim's driving, but eventually they arrived at the SGC and made their way to the bay above the gateroom where the puddle jumpers were stored. New recruits to Atlantis tended to be transported by the Daedalus, but Rodney had arranged for them to use the quicker route via the Gate Bridge, as eager for them to arrive as they were to get there.

When the jumper arrived, to his surprise, Rodney was flying it. Of course, he'd known that Rodney had the ATA gene and could fly the jumpers, he just hadn't expected him to come and collect them himself, being the Head of Science and all that.

"Hey, Rodney. They let you fly one of these on your own, then?" he teased.

"Of course they do! It has nothing to do with bribing Sheppard with the latest college football magazines," he smirked.

As they talked, a couple of airmen started moving three heavy-looking crates into the back of the jumper. Rodney glanced at them, knowing that one of the crates held items that had been requisitioned and were urgently required back on Atlantis. Hopefully one of those items was coffee, as they appeared to be running dangerously low on that particular necessity.

"Two of these are yours. What have you got in them?"

"Oh, clothes, personal items, resource notes, books…" Blair started.

"More books," Jim added dryly.

"And let me guess," Rodney said, catching on. "Even more books?"

Blair nodded, grinning unrepentantly.

"Well, I didn't know which ones I might need, so I brought them all. We've also brought some items for bartering, as per your suggestion."

"Oh, what have you got? Chocolate, coffee…" Rodney looked dreamy-eyed.

"The latest physics journals," Blair added, watching Rodney's eyes light up. "But I could always take them out and leave them…"

"No, no, you don't want to do that!" said Rodney hastily. "Bring as many books and journals as you like."

By this time the crates had been safely stored away and they were ready to go. Rodney moved into the pilot's seat and Blair jumped into the co-pilot's chair, grinning at Jim, who he'd pushed past to get to it. Jim just shook his head, taking the chair behind Blair's.

Permission to descend into the gateroom was given, and as the ship lowered to face the open wormhole, Blair turned to Jim.

"Better dial back your senses for now to be safe. We've no idea how wormhole travel might affect you, or even if it will affect you at all."

"Already done," Jim answered.

"We'll do some tests once we're settled into Atlantis."

Jim groaned, knowing how much Blair loved his tests.

"Ready?" Rodney asked, and on receiving nods, took the jumper through the gate.

The jumper appeared at the mid-way point, and after a quick check by Blair to make sure Jim was handling gate travel with no ill effects, they continued on the last half of the journey.

********************

Jim and Blair's first view of Atlantis was the gateroom, quickly followed by the less glamorous jumper bay. Well, technically less glamorous, but judging by their reactions, not that unimpressive. Rodney thought that Blair was going to strain his neck as he stretched forward to see as much as he possibly could through the view screen.

Blair was in fact so busy looking forward that he was unaware of the tailgate opening and was therefore startled when he heard a feminine voice behind him say, "Welcome to Atlantis. I'm Dr. Elizabeth Weir."

"You'll have to forgive Blair, a cat has nothing on him when it comes to curiosity," said Jim smoothly, who had noticed the tailgate being opened when he was assailed by a myriad of strange odours, sounds, tastes even, as well as feeling a change in the gravity and air pressure.

Standing behind her, Jim recognised Colonel Sheppard.

"I'm afraid all new arrivals have to check in with our Chief Medical Officer. McKay will show you the way. In the meantime I'll arrange for your belongings to be sent to the rooms you've been allocated," drawled Sheppard with a smile.

Rodney pushed past them, calling over his shoulder, "Well, come on then. Let's go see the quack and get it over with." They followed him, but he had to keep pausing, waiting for them, well, for Blair mainly, to catch up.

Blair wondered if he'd ever find his way around, but then reminded himself it was no different from when he started at Rainier; before long he would know the corridors like the back of his hand.

As they reached the infirmary, Jim pulled Blair back for a second.

"Keep it cool, Romeo," he whispered, noticing Blair noticing the pretty nurses passing by. Blair merely grinned at him mischievously.

"Here we are," Rodney said loudly.

"Ach, keep it down, man," Carson complained, turning away from his patient to scowl at him. "You must be Jim and Blair," he said, turning his attention to them. "Rodney's been like a cat on a hot tin roof since he heard you were coming."

"I have not," Rodney protested.

"Come this way," Carson said, ignoring him and leading the group to an examination room, picking up their medical files as they passed by his office.

"As you've come straight from the SGC, I only need to do a cursory check-up, however I will have to do a more thorough exam in the near future," he said while glancing through there records. "I notice Jim has a lot of sensitivities that I'll need to take into account should he require treatment at any time, but that shouldn't be a problem. And I'm more than willing to help test for any adverse effects that may be caused by the native remedies we use to supplement our supplies, as well as the local food. Oh, and I notice that Blair has the ATA gene naturally, though the strength of said gene has yet to be fully determined."

"He has the gene, where does it say that?" asked Rodney, grabbing the notes.

"Get your mitts off," Carson said, pulling the notes away with a glare. "Do the words 'doctor/patient confidentiality' mean anything to you? Or would you like me to tell everybody about your…" Carson left the words hanging in the air, raising an eyebrow at him.

"Okay, okay, no need to get nasty," Rodney said, backing off.

"Go and annoy Zelenka for a while, your friends will be here for a half an hour or so yet," Carson suggested.

"Fine. I'll be back later," Rodney said grumpily, leaving them to Carson's tender mercies.

********************

Rodney had intended to catch up with Jim and Blair as soon as they were released from Carson's clutches, but was sidetracked by a minor crisis in the labs and asked Sheppard if he would go in his place, passing on a message that he would see them later.

Sheppard led them down various corridors before stopping at their allocated rooms.

"You've been given quarters opposite each other. Just take your pick and then let me know who has which room."

Entering one of the quarters, Blair headed to one of the windows and whistled at the view that lay before him. He could see across part of the city and out to the sea, the vista breathtaking. Atlantis was big, he'd been told that, but seeing was believing. Majestic towers rose, and in between were glimpses of the bluest of oceans.

Oh man, he hoped Jim would be okay with this. He hadn't thought about his fear of deep water and what living in a city on the ocean might mean for him, but Jim seemed alright, perhaps because Atlantis was such a big city; it wasn't really like being on a boat or, even worse, an oil rig, it was more like living on an island. A beautifully sculptured island, with cool technology which, even better, he could control with his mind, and wasn't that going to take some getting used to? Not to mention being totally… cool.

As for the alien civilisations he would encounter, with all their different customs and cultures to explore… Yes, he knew danger lurked in this galaxy, but right now, he was just so excited to be here, in this alien place, with two of his best friends.

Amused, Jim watched his friend, then turned his attention back to Colonel Sheppard.

"Here is the standard 'Welcome Pack'; one for each of you. It includes a list of dos and don'ts, how the plumbing and transporters work and a map of the place. In your pack, Major, I have included a list of your duties for the next week while you settle in, though these are, of course, subject to change," Sheppard had obviously been through this many times, and was speaking from rote. "You can have a couple of days to find your way around and then I want to check you both out on the firing range."

"We were checked out at the SGC," Jim informed him.

"That was at the SGC, this is here. I need to know for myself what I can expect from both of you. I also need to know how to make best use of your enhanced senses," John smiled ruefully. "But I'll make sure you're treated as a person, not a weapon like certain military people might be tempted to." He frowned, knowing that Caldwell had been one of those people. "And I'm sure McKay will keep the science geeks away from you. I've heard some of them would love to do tests, but McKay won't allow it. Nor would Beckett, though he will need to get some baselines, being your newly designated doctor."

"I'll show him my notes. He's already got the ones about allergies and drug sensitivities. If that's okay with you, Jim?" Blair said.

Jim grimaced slightly but nodded.

"Yeah, pass them on. I'm assuming he'll keep them confidential?"

"Of course. Doctor/patient confidentially and all that. You can work out with him what he needs to share with his staff, and what you'd prefer he didn't share. He'll understand your need for privacy, as do I."

"When do we get to go off world?" Blair asked, excitement in his eyes.

"Hold on, tiger, you are off world," Jim said with a grin. "Let's get settled in first and then you can go planet hopping."

"I'm assigning you to join Major Lorne's team for your first few trips off world, with the first one scheduled for later next week. Eventually I want you," he said, nodding to Jim, "To lead a team of your own. In the meantime, I've set up a meet and greet for tomorrow afternoon. I know that Dr. Corrigan has some projects he'd like you to look at, Sandburg."

"Oh man, I can't wait to start learning about the cultures in this galaxy," Blair said. "It must be fascinating to see how they have developed, especially with the threat of the Wraith to cope with."

"Yeah, I'm sure it's fascinating to anthropologists," John drawled, shaking his head at Blair's enthusiasm. "You both have headsets?"

"Yes," Jim replied. "And Dr. Beckett kindly showed us how to work them."

"Good. Then I'll leave you to get settled in."

********************

A few hours later, Rodney came by and took Jim and Blair to the mess hall to get lunch. Grabbing food and drink, they were hailed by Sheppard, who was sitting at a table with Teyla and Ronon, and they went over to join them.

"Settling into your quarters okay?" Sheppard asked.

"Yeah, no problems. Thanks for sending our stuff down with some of the marines," Blair answered. "Still got some unpacking to do."

"Books, mainly," Jim said with an amused look on his face, which Blair ignored.

"That's good," Sheppard said. "Hey, Rodney, going to do the introductions?"

"What am I, an introduction agency? Very well," he sighed, pointing to each person in turn.

"Teyla, Ronon, meet Dr. Blair Sandburg and Major Jim Ellison."

"Welcome to Atlantis," Teyla said with a warm smile.

"What she said. You that guy with enhanced senses?" Ronon asked Jim.

"Yes."

"Ronon's got really good hearing," John added.

"He has?" Blair said, eyes lighting up. "Hey, maybe there are sentinels in this galaxy as well? Certainly people with one or two enhanced senses. I mean, why not?" He turned to look at Ronon, clearly not the least bit intimidated by the man before him as excitement at the possibility of finding sentinels took over. "Maybe I could do a few tests, see how good your hearing is? Were there many on your world that had good senses as well as you? What about in your family?"

Ronon scowled, not that it put the anthropologist off any.

"I wonder if your people have any sentinel myths…"

"Chief, I don't think he's too keen on the idea of tests or answering questions," Jim pointed out to an oblivious Sandburg.

"Huh? Oh, right, well…maybe you'll change your mind?" Noticing at last the glower being sent his way, as well as the size and muscle on the man in front of him, Blair backed off, albeit reluctantly.

"I wouldn't bet on it," Rodney muttered to him.

"I believe there was a story amongst my people about one with very good eyesight, though she was not Athosian. I will ask about it next time I visit with them."

"That would be good of you. And, um, maybe we could get together and talk about your people and their customs? I've read a little before coming here, but it's not the same as talking to the people themselves."

"I am sure I could arrange some time to talk to you."

"Great. We could do it over dinner one night."

"Flirt," Rodney groused.

"Hey, no, purely on a professional basis," Blair defended himself.

"Huh, right. You do know she could kick your ass with both hands tied behind her back, don't you?" Rodney warned.

"Rodney…" Teyla said, trying to look stern despite her amusement.

"What? Are you saying that you couldn't?" he responded defensively.

"I have no wish to harm Dr. Sandburg, but if he would like a demonstration of bantos fighting, then I would be happy to show him and also tell him some of my people's history."

"Call me Blair."

Teyla nodded her head in response.

As he watched Blair, Jim could see his friend's head filling up with questions to ask her, and knowing that once Sandburg started he wouldn't want to stop, he thought it would be a good idea to divert the conversation in another direction.

"Nice to meet you both. So, Ronon, I hear you always go round with several knives, is that true?"

"Never know when you may need them." Ronon smiled back at him, taking one out from his belt for Jim to examine.

"Nice craftsmanship," Jim said admiringly, returning it hilt first to its owner. Conversation about native weapons and what they could expect to find off world ensued, with Sheppard and Ronon trying to outdo each.

During their meal, a pretty brunette walked past the table and Blair's eyes followed her out of the room. Shortly after, he was caught watching another woman, this time with blonde hair, walking by.

"Dog," Rodney muttered, elbowing Blair in the ribs.

"Am not."

"Huh, right, you're worse than Kirk over there," he said, looking pointedly at Sheppard.

"Hey," Sheppard said in mock outrage, "I am not Kirk!"

"Yeah, keep thinking that," Rodney said with a snort. "Most Ancient females, and I am talking about the Ancient race here, not ones ready to draw a pension, find him irresistible. I don't see what they see in him myself; must go for brawn rather than brains."

"Hey, could have been MENSA here!" John retorted, and then continued with a sly grin. "Beside, I can't help it if they're attracted to me. Perhaps it's because of my superior gene."

"Your gene is not superior," Rodney disagreed loudly, before muttering truculently, "It's just more natural, that's all."

"I hear there's a gene therapy you can have. Might be worth trying it out myself," Jim said.

"Er... Jim, it might not be a good idea for you to have the gene therapy. I have no idea what effect it will have on you and your senses. After all, they are a genetic trait. I need to talk to Dr Beckett and see if there are any tests we can do that will help to predict how your senses will react. Also, I need to look into how someone with enhanced senses will react to interfacing with the Ancient technology."

"I take it that means I won't be getting the gene anytime soon," Jim groused.

"Sorry, Jim," Blair replied. "But we don't want you to have a bad reaction to the therapy."

"Well, nice meeting you two again," Sheppard said getting up. "But the Daedalus has just got in with a whole batch of paperwork from Earth that I need to look over."

Leaving them to finish their meal, he made his way to his office.

********************

Chapter Two – A New Threat

The blonde haired woman descended from the Daedalus to Atlantis' pier. Taking a deep breath, she enjoyed the freshness of the air after having to endure a recycled version for the last eighteen days. Taking a moment, she watched the bustling that was going on around her, as supplies were taken off the ship and other new personnel, like herself, carried their luggage to what was to be their new home.

She wondered briefly if she would see any of the faces she had encountered during her assignment to the security detail in Antarctica, at the Ancient outpost. At least it would be warmer here, but there was one face from that time she knew she wouldn't see.

While posted in that barren wasteland, she had found the one person she felt she could have settled down with, who could have been the father of her children. But he had come to this place and died protecting it. He shouldn't have died. His boss, she refused to call him his superior, should have died instead. He should never have left Atlantis, he was a scientist, not a soldier, and should never have gone anywhere near the line of fire.

It had taken a lot of manipulating and manoeuvring, which had taken time and effort to achieve, to get here. But that gave her time; time to work out what she would do, how she would make him pay for her beloved's death. Time to gain knowledge and equipment, so that she could bring about the demise of the person who had made her suffer, left her feeling so desolate. It was only that thought, of avenging his death, that had kept her going.

No one looking at her would realise that the thought of murder was going through her head. She had even fooled the psych evaluation with her calm smile and even voice. To the outside world, she looked like just another marine, here for a tour of duty.

Moving forward once more, she joined the others queuing to speak to the quartermaster to get her room assignment.

And then she went into a city that she found both beautiful and full of pain; pain that her beloved wasn't here.

********************

A few days later, Jim and Sergeant Stackhouse were patrolling the main living area in the city, with Stackhouse pointing out the various rooms and areas to him. As they moved down a new corridor, Jim saw McKay heading towards them from the opposite end, though he stopped outside a set of doors before reaching them.

"Hi. Those your quarters?" Jim asked, as he and the sergeant got closer.

"Hmm, yes, of course they are," Rodney snapped back as the doors opened, before noticing who had spoken to him and stopping before entering his room. "Oh, I see Sheppard's got you doing patrol. Hurray for you," Rodney said dryly.

"He thought it would be a good way to memorise the city layout."

"Yes, I can see that would work. Still, a waste of your skills if you ask me." Rodney looked awkward for a moment, clearly unsure of what to say next. Jim had noticed that McKay seemed easier around him when Blair was there. "Um, so, how are you settling in? Blair seems to be doing alright." Rodney grinned suddenly, shaking his head. "He's in anthropologist heaven here."

"Making my life hell," Jim agreed with a smile. "All I'm hearing is 'did you know that this culture does this, or that that culture does that, and this other culture does this other thing', it's almost enough to drive a person to homicide." He rolled his eyes expressively. "He'll settle down in a bit. It's actually nice to see him excited about the academic side of things again."

"Well, I'm glad it's not just me he's boring with this stuff. I mean, what do I need to know about such and such races' narrative history? Unless it mentions the Ancients, and then it's usually in a useless way. Never there's this Ancient outpost or machine or ZPM left behind."

"Didn't I hear that you nearly got yourself married by accident a few weeks ago?" Stackhouse mentioned casually, causing Rodney to glare at him. Something that had no effect on the young sergeant after all this time.

"Yes, well, maybe some knowledge of local customs can come in handy now and then," Rodney muttered sourly. "And just how do you know about that, Sergeant?"

"That would be telling, sir."

"Yes, of course it would. Why did I even bother asking?"

"So how did it happen?" Jim asked lightly, causing himself to receive a glare from McKay as well. He was stalling as he'd detected a smell that seemed out of place and was trying to work out what it was.

"That hardly matters right now. Besides, shouldn't you be patrolling the corridors not getting in my way?"

"True." Jim frowned. "Do you normally keep C4 in your quarters, McKay?"

"What? What are you talking about? Of course I don't keep C4 in my quarters. What do you think I am? An idiot?"

"No, but I can definitely smell C4 in your quarters." Jim moved to look into McKay's room but stopped when something caught his eye. Looking closely he could just make out a faint light beam across the lower half of the doorway against he dimness of McKay's room. "Damn."

"What?" McKay's voice rose an octave.

"There's a beam here," he said, indicating its location without breaking the beam. "I wouldn't have seen if it the lights had been on in your room. Good job today is overcast as well."

"Why would there be C4 and an invisible beam in my… Oh shit, you mean someone's trying to kill me!" McKay's voice rose another octave or two, as he backed away from his quarters a few feet.

Stackhouse reported to Sheppard about Jim's discovery, being one of the few who had been entrusted at this time with the sentinel's secret, while Jim carefully scrutinised McKay's quarters from the doorway.

"Colonel Sheppard is on his way down and a bomb disposal team should be here soon as well," the sergeant reported.

"McKay?" They heard over their headsets. "You okay?"

"What the hell do you think, Sheppard?" McKay snapped back. "Someone's trying to kill me, of course I'm not okay! Whatever could possess you to think I'd be okay with that?"

"McKay…"

"I mean, I'm sure you military types can just shake off the fact that someone is trying to kill you like it was nothing…"

"MCKAY!"

"What? There's no need to shout, Sheppard."

"I'll be there in a minute. Try not to have a breakdown before I get there," Sheppard said with a hint of exasperation.

"Fine, fine, I'll wait until you get here then, shall I?" McKay replied sarcastically.

"Yes, you do that."

While Rodney had been talking to Sheppard, Jim couldn't help but hear his rapid heartbeats and see the light perspiration forming on his forehead.

"You okay?" When Rodney glared at him in response Jim smiled. "Okay, stupid question. Stackhouse, can you clear the corridor and rooms around here? If possible cordon it off. We don't want any unwary civilians wandering in this direction."

"Yes, sir."

"Oh crap, this is…" Rodney took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. "I just wanted to get my PDA from my quarters. I was working on something earlier but was called away to deal with yet another, fortunately minor, crisis in the labs, and thought I'd pick it up and work on it over lunch…I wasn't expecting to come close to being blown up!"

"Take it easy, McKay…"

"You come close to being blown up and then you can tell me to take it easy!" Rodney retorted.

"Actually, I've come close to it more than once," Jim said with a wry smile. "And you need to try and calm down. Panicking won't help any."

"You try not panicking! Oh crap…if you hadn't been here to distract me, hadn't smelt the C4 or seen the light beam…" Rodney suddenly quieted as the implications hit him. "Ah, I suppose I should say thanks… So, thanks, you know…"

"No problem."

"Hey, Rodney," John called as he approached. "How you're doing?"

"Oh just dandy, it's not like someone just tried to kill me or anything! What the hell, it's not bad enough the Wraith, Replicators and other assorted other bad guys in this galaxy are trying to kill me without someone on base trying to as well? Why would someone here want to kill me?"

"Couldn't possibly imagine," John said dryly.

"Oh, right, fine! Just mock the guy who almost died here, why don't you? What, have I got a damned bulls eye hanging over me or something?"

"McKay, settle down."

"No, no, I won't settle down…"

"Sir, the bomb disposal team is here," Stackhouse said, interrupting McKay's rant.

"Okay. Sergeant, take McKay to the guest quarters while we deal with the problem, and keep alert," John ordered.

"What? Oh no, no, no, no, you're not squirreling me away somewhere…"

"Rodney, it's for your own protection. I'll keep you informed of what we find."

"But…"

"No buts. I don't want whoever did this to get another chance at you, okay?"

"Fine," Rodney said, sighing resignedly. "Just…be careful, and you'd better keep me informed."

********************

Sheppard had sent the bomb disposal crew into McKay's room, but had been called away by Dr. Weir, leaving Jim in charge.

He watched the crew carefully step over the beam as they entered the room. Even though he was standing down the corridor, he could hear every sound, every careful move they were making.

"Hi, Jim. Just heard. Is Rodney alright?" Blair's worried voice interrupted him.

"He's fine, but I'm trying to listen here."

"Oh, right, shutting up in that case," Blair replied, reaching out to ground Jim, who pushed his hearing again and listened in as the wires were cut and the timer deactivated.

"Phew! Done it. Could have been dodgy. Look's to be done by someone who knows what they're doing, but not a pro. Too much C4 and no trips. Thank goodness for small mercies," said the British-sounding voice of a very relieved Bomb Squad Captain.

Turning his hearing down, he looked at Sandburg.

"Want to see a bomb close up?" He didn't wait for Blair's reply, knowing that he would follow him anyway, and he wanted to get in before the bomb was moved.

Entering the room, he noticed the organised chaos inside. It reminded him of Blair and how one of his 'projects' had once engulfed the loft, and he, Jim, had only be away for a weekend seminar at that. It had taken Blair over a week to fully tidy up a weekend's mess. This room looked as though it would take months to put into any kind of order, so it was hard to work out if the bomber had moved or touched anything.

Bending down, he looked at the bomb, being careful not to touch it.

"Is it safe to move it?" he asked the Captain. "I'd like it taken to a lab, or somewhere where the light is better."

"Yeah, it should be safe enough now that the detonator has been removed. C4 is actually very difficult to make explode. I'll have the lads take it to a lab on the floor below for you to check over."

"Thanks."

Jim watched as the bomb was placed in a thick metal container and picked up by two soldiers.

He wondered briefly if he should send Blair back to play with the other anthropologists, even though the C4 was deemed safe, but admitted to himself that his friend's presence would make the examination of the bomb go that much easier. Also, he thought with a small grin, it was a well established fact that Blair was nosier than a cat outside a fish factory.

Looking around the room once more, and wishing he had a crime squad with him to catalogue everything and dust for fingerprints, he reluctantly followed the soldiers and the box out of the room.

One lift ride and a corridor later, the soldiers entered a small lab with a table in the middle of it. It was unusually bright for the normal city lighting, due to the addition of several Earth lamps, and the glare from the lights made everything appear stark. The soldiers placed the deactivated bomb onto the table and moved back.

"Okay, I'm going to need a few things," Jim said.

"How about a camera and some tools?" Sheppard's voice came from the doorway, and Jim smiled at him in reply.

"How's Rodney?" Blair immediately asked the colonel.

"You know Rodney. Freaking out. And asking why he can't be confined in a lab, where he can at least get some work done. The usual." Sheppard shrugged, trying, and succeeding to a some extent, to appear unruffled by the attempt on his team-mate's life. "So, this is the bomb that tried to blow him up?"

The next half hour was spent photographing and writing down what they found. The detonator appeared to come from China, though the laser beam used to trigger it was made from mainly American parts.

Jim checked out the C4, hoping to be able to pick out some fingerprints, but whoever had made the bomb hadn't left any such marks. However, something else caught his eye.

"Pass me the tweezers, Sandburg."

"What have you found?"

Jim didn't reply, concentrating on the C4 instead.

Hidden under a wire that had run from the detonator to the laser beam sensor, and stuck to the C4, was a short blond hair. Carefully extracting it and being careful not to touch it, he dropped it into a Ziploc bag, which Blair was holding open.

Knowing that blond hair is not the easiest to see, Jim returned his attention to the bomb. After a short while he was rewarded with another hair that was trapped in the C4 where the detonator had been. This was added to the other one in the bag.

"Okay, I think we've got everything we can. And for everything else there's the photographs. I'll type up a report for you."

"Good," John answered. "Elizabeth's arranged a meeting at 1300."

"We'll see you there then," Jim assured him.

********************

At the arranged time, Elizabeth was waiting in the conference room to discuss the attempt on Rodney's life, as well as an upcoming mission. Jim and Blair arrived first, both looking worried, and were soon joined by Ronon and Teyla. They murmured a few words to each other as they waited.

A few minutes later, John followed a clearly very rattled, but also more worriedly, a quiet Rodney into the room. She cast a concerned look to John, who merely shook his head. Obviously he thought it best to leave well alone for now, and that he would handle it later if need be. They all knew that a quiet Rodney, when not immersed in technology, of course, was usually a bad sign.

"Okay, so what do we have so far?" she asked.

"Well, the bomb was made up of C4 and there was a light beam across the door to trigger the detonator. I've got Lorne checking all our C4 supplies to see if any is missing, but so far it's looking like whoever did this got it on Earth before coming here," John reported. "If that proves to be the case, then he could have gotten it anywhere, though it's still worth letting the SGC know. They might be able to trace the source." He shrugged, not expecting much from that angle of investigation.

"How easy would it be for someone to smuggle the C4 here?"

"Not that hard if you know what you're doing it would seem," Rodney stated bitterly.

"McKay…" John drawled.

"No, obviously we need better security procedures somewhere along the line if that's the case…"

"And we will be looking into that," Elizabeth interrupted. "Have the security cameras picked anything up?"

"No, there was a glitch in the system and the feed was lost for half an hour. At least we know when the bomb was planted, if nothing else," John answered.

"I've got Radek checking that out," Rodney said. "See if we can stop another 'glitch' from happening in the future. I'd be looking into myself if I hadn't been corralled into the guest quarters for the last hour or so…"

"And you can look over his shoulder and criticise to your heart's content later," John said with a small smirk. "So long as someone is there to watch your back." He turned his attention back to the matter in hand. "Ellison found a couple of hairs trapped in the C4. Blonde and short."

"Right, and that narrows it down such a lot."

"Yes, Rodney, it does. Whoever it was has short, blonde hair and that cuts out quite a few suspects."

"So long as whoever it was is working alone," Rodney pointed out.

"He has a point," Jim said. "We can't assume it was one person, or even that McKay is the only target. This could be a personal vendetta, or something more."

"Yeah, didn't we hear something about an alien infested group on Earth who tried to destroy Atlantis not long back?" Blair asked. "Could they be trying to remove key personnel prior to another attack?"

"Oh crap. You mean it might not just be me? And when I say 'just', I mean it in an apocalyptic for Atlantis sort of way. It's not bad enough that someone's after me without them going after my fr… my colleagues as well!"

Elizabeth hid her smile at Rodney's stumble, as if they didn't already know he thought of them as friends, before turning back to the matter at hand.

"We need to recheck the personnel file of everyone here with blonde hair, see if there is anything that might have been missed in the security checks that might give us a clue as to who is behind this."

"And until we have further information about who and why, I'm assigning guards to each of the senior staff," John stated.

"Yourself included," Elizabeth added with a pointed look.

"Myself included," he added with a sigh.

"Good. Now there is another matter that we need to discuss. The Yan-Dallins have contacted us to inform us that their harvest is ready and we need to negotiate for a share of it. As you know, they've been good allies over the last couple of years, but due to their customs we need you, John, to be part of the negotiating team."

John pulled a face.

"I need to be here, running the investigation," he protested.

"The Yan-Dallins consider the inclusion of our military commander in the negotiating team as a sign of our high regard for them. To send someone of a lower rank would offend them and make it much more difficult and costly to secure a deal," Teyla explained patiently. "If Elizabeth was to go, they would consider us to have increased our regard for them, but they would then expect her to attend all trade deals in the future."

"And that is a precedent we don't want to set," John agreed reluctantly. "Looks like I'll be going to Dallen then."

"I will go with you," Teyla said.

"Of course you will," he replied, rolling his eyes.

"Well, your negotiating skills can…be less than helpful," Elizabeth teased.

"Right. Well, if Teyla and myself are going, then we may as well make it a team mission."

"What? No, no, no, I've got far more important things to do…" Rodney started to protest.

"Actually," Elizabeth said, cutting across any further remarks from Rodney, "They are having problems with the power relay from their hydro-electric dam to the town. Perhaps you could take a look at it for them?"

"It's a simple enough job that anyone on my staff could do. Well, some of them, anyway. The point being, that I don't need to go. It would be a waste of my talents…"

"Rodney," John interrupted. "You're going."

"But…" Sheppard gave him a pointed look. "Right, fine, it seems that I'll be going," Rodney muttered in annoyance.

"I'd like Jim and Blair to run the investigation while you are off world. After all, catching criminals was what they did before coming here, and I'm sure their experience will be very helpful."

"Sounds good to me," John agreed. Jim and Blair nodded their agreement as well. "So, when do we leave for Dallen?"

"It will be morning there in just under three hours time. So, 16:00 hours?"

"We'll be there."

********************

"I need to eat something before getting my stuff ready for the mission," Rodney said as he left the meeting with Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla close by.

"Sure, Ronon will keep an eye on you, won't you, big guy?" John said, looking to Ronon.

"Yeah," Ronon replied, looking resigned.

"Right, fine. And who will be 'keeping an eye' on you?" Rodney demanded.

"I will," Teyla stated, her look challenging John to disagree with her.

"If you insist," John answered dryly.

"I do."

"Good, now that's sorted, I'm hungry, so if you'll excuse me…" Rodney waved a hand in the vague direction of the mess hall and left with Ronon in tow.

********************

She watched him come in with the barbarian from his team, but quickly averted her eyes before they looked in her direction.

"Why aren't you dead?" she wondered. "I planned it all oh so carefully. Your brains should be splattered all over the wall, not walking into here still contained in your miserable head. I want him to be proud of me, proud for putting his murderer to death. It's what he would have wanted."

The sound of a chair dragging on the floor nearby caused her to look up and she saw that they were sitting down at the table next to her.

Her first instinct was to grab her knife and stab him there and then, followed by running out of the commissary, but she suppressed the feeling of hate that filled her, knowing that now wasn't the time. A time would come and she would make sure that next time he would die.

"You really going to eat all that?" Ronon asked, amused.

"Who knows when I'll get to eat again. I have to watch the native food, remember. Who knows what they might have put on that innocuous bit of fish or meat. It only has to have the smallest splash of citrus. Not all of us have constitutions made out of iron."

"Thought all your pockets contained PowerBars."

"Only for emergencies."

"Ever thought about laying off the excessive food and getting more exercise. You could come running with me in the mornings." Ronon smirked.

"And die of a coronary. No thank you." Rodney glared at him. "Now if you want me ready in time to go gallivanting round the universe, I suggest you let me eat."

Ronon grinned and helped himself to a few fries from McKay's plate, which earned him several hard glares and rude comments, to his continued amusement. Sometimes it was just too easy.

"So, can we go now?" Ronon asked, picking up the plate and tray as soon as Rodney had finished his meal and ensuring that the word pudding wouldn't come into play.

"Hey!" Rodney protested, but seeing the look on Ronon's face he sighed and followed him out of the mess hall, managing to snag a couple of mango pudding cups on his way out though. Neither of them noticed the blonde haired woman watching them, with a thoughtful look on her face.

********************

Chapter Three – Off World Adventure

Arriving on Dallen, they were met by the Yah-Dallin leader, Governor Ayomide of Ife-Monifa, a man in his late fifties and wearing the blue clothing symbolic of his place in society, and with a teenager standing beside him, dressed in the yellow clothing of a leadership apprentice.

"Greetings! Welcome once more to Dallen, trusted friends. We are highly honoured to greet with the Lieutenant Colonel of Atlantis and the Leader of the Athosians to begin negotiations. And you have brought the esteemed Doctor of Astrophysics and the Specialist of Sateda as well I see. Good, good, this is all most excellent!"

Sheppard had never been a fan of the overly effusive and officious manner of the Yah-Dallins, but he smiled tightly and pleasantly at the Governor nonetheless, noticing with some pleasure the slightly strained if diplomatic expression on Teyla's face; he wasn't the only one who found these people… tiresome.

"We are pleased to return, Governor of the Yah-Dallins, and hope to trade fairly as before," Teyla said smoothly. "You have asked for help with your power relay?"

"Please tell me that the Doctor of Astrophysics will be willing to look into the problem, and of course, we will make it part of the trade agreement, if he is willing?"

"McKay will be happy to look at it for you," Sheppard said, ignoring the slight huff from behind him. Fortunately, McKay knew better than to alienate such long standing allies with his less than enthusiastic comments and complaints. Well, this time, anyway.

"Oh, that is such good news! Please, if it is not too much, Kayin of Adisa-Dayo will show the Doctor of Astrophysics to the power relay station on the hillside now, to assess if he can repair it or not?"

"Of course I'll be able to repair it," Rodney protested grumpily.

"Excellent! Then we can trade with that in mind, while you are repairing it?"

"Fine, the sooner I get it finished…"

"McKay," Sheppard said in warning, giving him a pointed look. "Play nicely."

"Humph. Whatever."

"Ronon will go with you…"

"Oh really, I don't need a babysitter, I'll only be up that hill, what, a mile away at most," Rodney protested, shielding his eyes from the sun as he looked towards the hillside Governor Ayomide had pointed to.

"It takes twenty clicks to reach the relay from here," the Governor said.

"If I remember rightly, isn't one of their clicks about two of our minutes?" John asked lightly.

"Yeah," Rodney said morosely, realising he was looking at a forty minute uphill hike, instead of the ten or so minutes he'd estimated. "Just great."

"Well, the sooner you go, and all that," Sheppard said with a grin.

"Fine. Erm, you there," Rodney gestured to the teen. "Lead the way, then."

Kayin set off towards the hill with McKay following behind and muttering about the poor decision not to bring a jumper, and why was it that everything had to be uphill and farther away than it looked in the first place, anyway? Sheppard indicated to Ronon to go with them, who did so with a grimace, not looking forward to the whining he was about to endure.

Sheppard felt like grimacing himself, much preferring to deal with an unhappy McKay than the over-happy Yah-Dallins, but instead he steeled himself to follow Teyla and Governor Ayomide back to the Town Hall to begin negotiations.

The joys of being a team leader knew no end, he thought somewhat sourly.

********************

Blair stood just inside the doorway as he watched Jim, who was holding the Ziploc bag with the two blond hairs inside it between his fingers, turning it over and over again.

"Hair doesn't come with a name written on it, you know, Jim."

Jim looked up at the voice, before nodding with a frown on his face.

"I know. I wish it was possible to get a DNA result from it, but…

"Yeah, it doesn't work like that in real life," Blair said with a sigh.

"No."

"Have you tried smelling it? With it being sealed in a bag, it should keep the smell in and possibly amplify it."

Carefully holding the bag up to his nose, Jim breathed in deeply. And started coughing.

Worriedly, Blair crossed the room quickly, but halted when Jim held up a hand to stop his advance.

"I'm fine, Sandburg. Just didn't expect the smell to be so strong."

"Well, did you recognise it? Is it floral or more of a man's shampoo?"

"It's hairspray, and definitely a female one by the smell of it." Jim coughed again. "Let's go get a drink. I can still taste it at the back of my throat."

"Sure. And we'd better let Elizabeth know we're looking for a woman while we're at it."

********************

The teenager left Ronon and Rodney alone once they reached the power relay station, which McKay immediately started dismantling, with much muttering about the incompetence of the locals and just who had thought that doing it that way was a good idea in the first place…

Ronon tuned out the complaining and stood guard at the entrance, alert for any danger. Over forty minutes passed and he was just contemplating whether he was better off here, bored and babysitting an unhappy McKay, or whether he would have been better off in the town, trying not to strangle these extremely irritating people, when the physicist gave a sigh and activated his radio.

"Sheppard, do you have a camera on you? Mine's not working."

Ronon activated his own radio so he could hear both sides of the conversation.

"McKay, we're busy here…"

"And I need to take some photos of this poor excuse for technology, so that we can replicate a part back on Atlantis that has partially melted due to the ignorant locals overloading the system…."

"McKay!" The tone was sharp and shut the physicist up. "No, I don't have a camera." There was a moment's silence before Sheppard came back on. "Neither does Teyla."

"Great, just great!" McKay moaned. "Well, I'm not walking all the way to the gate just to get one… and this worthless junk isn't going to come out in one piece, so I need to photograph it… Ronon can go instead while I take some measurements… eat a PowerBar…"

"He's not your personal servant, you know."

"I'll go," Ronon interrupted, glad to be doing something, to be moving; he really hated being inactive for too long.

"See, he doesn't mind."

"I don't like the idea of you two splitting up…"

"Oh come on, what could possibly happen? The Yah-Dallins have been allies for years; nothing bad ever happens. I'll be fine."

There was silence for another few moments.

"Okay, fine, Ronon will go and get you a camera. Make sure you stay put and stay in contact."

"Yes, yes, I know the drill. McKay out."

Ronon smiled at the muttered curse he heard over the airwaves before Sheppard switched his radio off.

"So, what are you doing still here?" McKay snapped.

Ronon glared at him, but turned and left, jogging down the hill to the gate and cutting the journey time down to less than thirty minutes, enjoying the freedom of movement.

********************

Rodney finished taking the necessary measurements for the replacement part, as well as some notes on how to improve the relay station's efficiency and so hopefully avoid the problem recurring, and now absentmindedly grabbed a PowerBar from his pack and turned his attention to his PC screen, pulling up a project he'd been working on back in Atlantis.

He took a bite, chewing and swallowing it quickly and was about to take another when the sour taste registered with him and he paused in shock and horror.

Throwing the PowerBar down, he dug out the epi-pens from his tac vest, but he could already feel his breathing worsening. Damn, it hadn't been this bad the last time he'd suffered a reaction, which meant there must have been an unusually high amount of it in the bar.

"Sheppard," he gasped over the radio, fumbling with the first of the epi-pens.

"McKay, everything okay?"

"No," he wheezed. "Allergy…"

Finally, he managed to inject the epinephrine into his thigh, before collapsing to the floor, still gasping like a fish out of water.

"Use your epi-pen," came Sheppard's order. "I'm coming up there."

"Have… used… one. Not having… much effect… yet."

"Ronon, are you at the gate yet?" He heard Sheppard ask.

"Nearly there," came the reply

"Get a med team out here. McKay's having an allergic reaction and it sounds bad."

"Okay. There was a flat area on the hillside, should be able to land a jumper there."

"Good, that'll speed things up. I'm on my way to McKay now."

He laid there panting, noting that the drug was having some effect now, but not as much as he'd hoped for. This was a really bad reaction, but he couldn't use the other pen just yet, too much adrenaline was dangerous. He had to give it more time…

Sliding onto his side, he passed out.

********************

Sheppard made good time, even though he was running uphill. It helped that the town was close to another road up the hillside, one that was a short cut to the power relay station, and he made it within twenty minutes. When he found McKay, he was collapsed on the ground, still having difficulty breathing, with two epi-pens lying close by him.

"Damn it, McKay," he knelt next to the semi-conscious man, quickly checking the epi-pens, confirming that one had been used, as McKay had said, but it didn't look like it was having much effect, or else the effect had already started to wear off. Presumably McKay had collapsed before being able to inject the second pen. He was lucky he'd been able to call for help if the reaction was that bad.

Sheppard grabbed the unused pen, injecting it into McKay's thigh and following the instructions Beckett had given him when he'd first chosen McKay for his team. He pulled Rodney up to rest against his chest as he did so, knowing that sitting up would help McKay to breathe better.

"Come on, McKay, don't you dare die on me," John muttered loudly, "In fact, you can consider that an order."

He was acutely aware of McKay's trembling as well as his struggles to breathe.

"After all the danger you've faced and survived, you're not going to let a little allergic reaction take you out, are you?"

The breathing seemed to be easing, thankfully, but McKay was still only semi-aware.

"Anyway," John said, a slight tease entering his voice in relief that the epi-pen seemed to be working, "If you die, I'll make sure everyone at your funeral refers to you by your first name. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Meredith?"

There was a grunt, probably all that McKay could manage right now, but at least Sheppard knew he was listening.

"And I'll tell Colonel Carter that you admitted on your deathbed that she's smarter than you."

Another grunt, and McKay tried to move his hand.

"Yeah, and I'll tell Zelenka you said he was smarter than you as well while I'm at it."

This time McKay managed to move his hand, making an obscene gesture.

"That's it, McKay," John said, smiling. "You had me worried there for a moment, buddy. Thought I was going to have to break in a new science guy, and really, I wasn't looking forward to that. Breaking you in was hard enough."

"Nnggh."

"Yeah, I know, this sucks. But you're going to be okay, Rodney," John said, going for reassuring now he was sure McKay wasn't about to pass out on him, or worse.

"Shepp…"

"That's me," John said. "Who else would bother to save your sorry butt?"

"Ha, funny," McKay managed to huff out, though the sarcasm was muted.

"I thought so," John smiled. "Think you can sit up by yourself now?"

"Maybe," Rodney wheezed.

Sheppard carefully moved from behind McKay, only for Rodney to start sliding back to the ground. "Okay, that's not working," he said, slipping back behind McKay to hold him up again. "Let's give it a bit longer before we try that again."

"Sorry…"

"Well, unless you purposely touched or ate something you're allergic to, which I highly doubt, then you're hardly to blame, are you?" Sheppard sighed. "A medical team will be here soon, probably headed by Beckett. Then we'll soon have you back home. Lots of nice meds, probably an overnight stay in the infirmary…"

"Lovely…" McKay's sarcasm was stronger now.

"Yeah. Any idea what caused this?" John asked, watching as McKay's brow creased in thought.

"I… I took a bite… PowerBar… It tasted sour…" McKay's voice suddenly rose slightly. "Like citrus. But there shouldn't… be any… in it."

Sheppard looked around the room, a bad feeling settling in his stomach as Rodney's words and spotted the open PowerBar in the corner. It looked from a distance like one of the toffee flavoured ones, but he needed to see it up close to be certain.

"You think you might be able to sit up if I lean you against the wall? Or will you be able to breathe better if I lie you down?"

"Lie… down…" McKay said.

Sheppard carefully laid McKay down on his side in the recovery position, checking that his breathing didn't get worse, before taking a closer look at the PowerBar. Definitely toffee and he knew for a fact that there shouldn't be any citrus in one of those. He took a careful sniff. There was a strong smell of lemons. Shit.

"Someone… did this… to me… The bomb… failed… so tried this… Want me dead…"

Sheppard returned to Rodney, pulling him back up, and letting him lean against his chest. Not that McKay couldn't breathe lying down, but it would still be easier for him sitting up and the discovery that someone had apparently laced one of McKay's PowerBars with lemon juice so soon after the bomb attempt was making him uneasy, and maybe just a tad bit overprotective.

"Yeah, looks like that," John said, knowing there was little point in trying to keep it from McKay.

"Oh crap…" There was a hitch in Rodney's voice, a hint of panic.

"Easy, McKay. We'll figure this out. We'll just have to be even more careful until we do. Okay?"

"O… okay…"

They fell silent, McKay struggling for breath, though John was pleased to see his team-mate's breathing continued to improve. All he could do was keep an eye on Rodney, and try to keep him calm.

"Hey, did you ever watch the Raiders play against the Redskins last year?" he asked, and ignoring the groan his question elicited from McKay, he proceeded to give a play by play account of the game. He could tell that Rodney was less than impressed with his distraction technique, as well as being frustrated by his inability to do more than huff out a few insults. Luckily for McKay's sanity, Ronon entered the room with Beckett and a medical team before he could get beyond the first quarter.

Within a few minutes, the PowerBar had been placed into a Ziploc bag and McKay had been placed onto a stretcher, despite his complaints and assertions that he could walk just fine, and they were on their way back to Atlantis.

********************

Once they reached Atlantis, Carson started to direct the stretcher to the infirmary, but Sheppard's hand on his arm stopped him.

"If someone is trying to kill him, I don't think the infirmary is a good idea. Too open, with too many people wandering through it. Is he well enough for us to take to the guest quarters?"

"Well, he is starting to recover, but I want someone to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't have a relapse."

"Ronon will make sure he behaves himself."

"I'm here, you know, and not deaf," came a voice from the stretcher. "And I could walk to my quarters if this tyrant here would let me get up!"

"You are going where we send you and you are going there in a horizontal position, or do I need to strap you down?" Carson threatened.

"But all the adrenaline..." Rodney started to protest, only to be whisked away by the med team before he could continue further.

Carson and Sheppard exchanged a knowing look, before Ronon, Teyla and themselves followed in the wake of their bitterly complaining friend.

********************

As soon as McKay was settled into the guest quarters, John organised a rota to guard him. He would only be happy with Rodney's safety if one of the team or someone he trusted, such as Ellison or Lorne, was with McKay at all times, but he did place two guards on the door as an added precaution as well. Once everything had been arranged, he went to advise Ellison on what had happened off world.

Ronon had volunteered for first watch, and Carson ensured that he was knew what to look out for in case of a secondary reaction setting in, before leaving his patient in capable hands.

********************

"NO! NO! NO!" screamed the woman, pacing up and down the room. "What have I got to do to kill this MAN? The lemon should have worked. All the trouble I took getting the lemon out of the mess hall and spiking all those PowerBars in the hope one of them would be yours, and it was, and yet you survived; AGAIN! You live a lucky life, Doctor McKay, but your luck is going to run out, and when it does, I am going to be there. I'm going to watch you burn and die. Watch you suffer, like my beloved suffered in that fireball prison you left him in. My plans for you aren't over. I am going to keep trying and not you nor anybody else is going to stop me."

She forced herself to calm down; she had to get ready to start her patrol shift and needed to keep her head. No one must suspect that tomorrow she would get her revenge.

********************

It was late evening and Teyla was on Rodney 'care duty' when Blair entered the room like a mini-whirlwind.

"Rodney, are you okay? Carson wouldn't let me come before," Blair asked, relieved to see his friend was seated and reading a book, one he didn't even try to understand the title of.

Teyla moved over to stand by the balcony to give them some privacy, though she remained alert to any dangers and was still able to hear their conversation.

"I'm fine. Being poisoned is an everyday occurrence for me. That, and being blown up!"

"You weren't actually blown up, you know?" Blair pointed out.

"That's not the point; I could have been! And I was poisoned, and I'm not allowed go to my own quarters... Not to mention that Carson still won't let me work, says I need to take it easy, as if working isn't taking it easy..."

"He's just concerned about you."

"I'm fine enough to work," Rodney protested. "You could at least have smuggled in a laptop for me!"

"Right, and get Carson all riled up at me? No chance. He's downright scary when he wants to be."

"Wimp."

"Where he's concerned? Too right."

As Teyla listened to their banter, she was pleased to hear the tension start to fade from Rodney's voice. By the time Blair left, Rodney was more relaxed, and soon turned in for the night; though his sleep was still fitful and disturbed.

********************

She'd finished her patrol shift in the early hours of the morning, and now, after catching a couple of hours of sleep, she was up and dressed again. She pulled out the picture of her beloved and herself, one that a friend had secretly taken for her in Antarctica, and held it close for a second, her hand drifting lovingly over his face.

If only she'd found the courage to tell him how she felt. If only she'd been chosen from the marines that had volunteered, so that she'd been with him from the start. She would have made sure that he still lived. She would have protected him from the likes of the accursed McKay. Life was cruel, and she had been unable to do any of these things, but she would, at least, get her revenge.

"Today is the day you die, Doctor McKay. And I am going to watch your demise, in a ball of flame. Today you pay for my beloved's death. Your time is ticking away, enjoy your last seconds because I'm going to enjoy your death," she said, as she returned the picture to her pocket. Smiling, she left her quarters. She could hardly wait, the anticipation thrummed through her veins, excitement making her heart race.

Today was going to be a good day.

********************

Chapter Four – Fire and Water

Sheppard swung by the guest quarters with Sandburg in tow. He was supposed to be taking his turn at babysitting McKay, but a meeting had been arranged for the heads of departments to discuss the situation and look at the evidence they had gathered so far, which wasn't much. To be honest, he felt it would be a waste of time, but he needed to attend, as did Ellison, Lorne, Ronon and Teyla, which left Sandburg to stay with Rodney.

Normally he would balk at the idea of leaving a civilian to watch McKay's back, but Sandburg was no ordinary civilian and had had plenty of experience protecting witnesses and such like. Also, there were the two guards on the door to act as back up.

Entering the room he smiled at Lorne, who had taken over from Teyla in the early hours of the morning.

"Everything quiet last night?"

"No problems, sir."

"Good. I'll catch you at the meeting."

"Yes sir," Lorne replied, heading out.

"What meeting?" asked a peeved sounding astrophysicist, emerging from the bathroom in his uniform, his hair still wet from a shower.

"Ah, Elizabeth called a meeting for the heads of departments, to discuss… certain matters. That's why I'm leaving Sandburg with you until I can take over in an hour or two."

"I should be at that meeting."

"No, you should stay here where I can ensure your safety," John disagreed.

"Yeah, man, and you still need to take it easy after your allergic reaction yesterday," Blair added, hoping to stop the argument he could see brewing in his friend's eyes.

"No, I don't. I need to be in that meeting as I'm guessing that the attempts on my life are the 'certain matters' being discussed. Beside, I'm head of science."

"Rodney," Sheppard said, but was cut off before he could go any further.

"No," Rodney said. "I'm going and you can't stop me."

"I can if I have to," John warned.

"True, but you're not going to. You're going to watch my back, and I'll be fine."

Sheppard wasn't sure whether to be annoyed at Rodney's stubbornness or to be secretly pleased at his friend's faith in his ability to keep him safe. He sighed, and decided to go with the latter, and against his better judgment, to let McKay win the argument… for once.

"Fine. But you do what I say, when I say, no questions asked."

"What am I? Your pet dog? Okay, fine," he agreed grudgingly.

"Sooo," Blair said slowly, "Where do you want me?"

"You may as well come to the meeting as well," Sheppard said. "It'll save Ellison filling you in on the details later."

Sheppard left the room first, closely followed by McKay, with Sandburg being the last to leave. Just as the doors began to close, there was a loud noise from inside the guest quarters and the tower shook as an explosion resounded through the corridor. Debris rained out of the room through the partially closed doors as everyone in the vicinity was thrown to the ground, with Blair being hit on the back of his head by a piece of flying metal.

He didn't get up when everyone else did.

"Oh crap, Blair," Rodney moved as if to go to him, but Sheppard pulled him back.

"No, let my men see to him. I need to get you out of here, now."

"But…"

"I said now, McKay." John's expression was deadly serious. "I need to get you somewhere safe while my men get things under control. Or do I have to remind you that you agreed to do whatever I say without questions?"

"But…" Rodney looked at the resolute and slightly apologetic look in John's eyes. "Fine," he muttered angrily, allowing himself to be pulled away from Blair and down a side corridor, but he couldn't help one last worried look before he was dragged away.

********************

She stood at the end of the corridor, watching the seconds tick away on her watch. Mere seconds to go, but to her horror she saw him leave with Sheppard and their anthropologist friend as the bomb she had planted, in case the citrus hadn't done its job, exploded. She noted dispassionately that the long-haired guy was hit by debris in the blast, as the anger and rage at yet another escape by her beloved's murderer filled her thoughts.

"NO!" she screamed in her head. "Not again, you are not going to escape again."

As she watched, she saw Sheppard pull McKay down a side corridor. Quickly, she followed, ensuring that she didn't get too close, but at the same time staying near enough to be able to follow all the twists and turns that they took.

********************

As Sheppard rushed McKay down the corridors of Atlantis, he checked in with his men to ensure that Sandburg was on his way to the infirmary and for a brief damage assessment.

Part way through their flight through the city he felt eyes on the back of his neck; a sure sign that they were being followed.

"Control, can you check the life signs sensors?"

"Yes sir."

A few moments passed, and then Zelenka's voice came over the radio.

"Colonel Sheppard, are you and Rodney out towards the West Pier?"

"Yes, heading that way. What have you got?"

"We have your life signs and there is another person following you, at present they are about fifty metres behind."

"Okay." Sheppard stopped to check out the corridor they were in, but didn't see anywhere to hide. "I'm going to see if I can stash McKay in a room and set up an ambush. Hopefully I'll be able to take whoever it is by surprise, but send Ellison down here with a team. Tell me when they are in position behind the target and then I'll go for it."

"John, is this a good idea?" Elizabeth's worried voice asked him.

"No, it's a terrible idea," Rodney put in before Sheppard could answer.

"It'll be fine," John assured both of them. "Just let me know when Ellison is in position before I find a suitable ambush site. Sheppard out."

"This really is a terrible idea," Rodney stated morosely. "Did I tell you this was a terrible idea? And couldn't you have found out how Blair is doing? All I know is that he's been moved to the infirmary."

"First things first, Rodney. Let's get whoever is after you out of the way."

"But…"

"And try to keep it quiet. He isn't far behind us."

"Fifty metres behind, you heard Radek. No one will hear us…"

"Not at that distance, no, but he could get closer. Seeing as neither of us have a life signs detector on us, we won't know if he does."

"Fine." Rodney sounded both pissed off and scared; a combination he'd become far too familiar with since coming to Atlantis.

Twenty minutes passed with only the occasional complaint from McKay, before Sheppard was informed that Ellison and a team of marines were ready. The next corridor they entered was perfect; with a room that Sheppard pushed a sullen McKay into, and an alcove that he was able to slip into himself, and so be able to see anyone passing while still being hidden from view.

A few tense moments passed, before a woman; Sergeant Joy Breen, he recalled, one of the newer personnel on Atlantis, moved past him with a Wraith stunner drawn and ready to use.

"Stop right there, Sergeant," he ordered, moving out of the alcove and keeping his gun trained on her. Only she didn't stop, instead rapidly turning and taking a shot at him. Surprised, he managed to get a shot off himself, noting that she dived out of the way of his bullet as the stun bolt hit him and he collapsed onto the floor, unconscious before he even hit the ground.

********************

Rodney paled as he heard the gunshot and stunner blast from outside the room.

"Sheppard," he called over the radio, repeating it even more anxiously when he got no reply. "Oh crap," he said when there was no reply a second time, moving to a doorway on the other side of the room. Part of him was hoping that it might lead to a corridor that he could use to swing round and check on Sheppard, even though he knew that was probably a bad idea.

It was a moot point anyway, as the door led to a balcony that was in dire need of attention from the engineering section before it could be deemed even remotely safe. He was about to back away when he heard the outer doors to the room opening, forcing him to take refuge on the balcony. The wind pulled at him and, much to his horror, the balcony vibrated, but there was no other place to hide. As soon as the balcony doors had closed he pulled off the cover to the door control unit. Unfortunately, before he could secure them, the doors opened again and he came face to face with a gun.

"Oh shit."

"Hello, Doctor McKay," the woman said with a twisted smile. "Nice day to die, don't you think?"

"Actually no, do you mind if we do this another day? My diary's free in, oh, about ninety years from now," he babbled nervously. As he talked, she pushed the gun into his chest, forcing him to retreat further back onto the balcony. He noted slightly hysterically that his tinkering with the door mechanism had resulted in the door staying open this time, which would at least make it easy for the cavalry to come and save him. Hopefully soon… like now, even.

"Do you know how much trouble you've caused me? You're not an easy man to kill."

"I've caused you trouble? Oh, that's nice," he said sarcastically. "What about the trouble you've caused me? Not to mention Blair... and Sheppard. What have you done to him?"

"You don't need to worry about them anymore," she said with a laugh. "You're going to die and this time there will be no mistakes."

"Why? Why are you doing this?"

"You killed my beloved, the man I loved more than any other, the man I wanted to marry and have children with. You left him to die. You watched him die, consumed by fire, and you did nothing, nothing to help him. You should have died in his place and if I'd been here I would have found a way to keep him safe from you. But I wasn't here and you killed him, as surely as if you put a gun to his head, like this..." Smiling, she aimed the gun at his head, causing him to retreat into the railing, which creaked ominously before giving way beneath his weight. Oh crap, he really was going to die, he thought, as he fell, screaming.

He felt the wind rushing past him, which stopped abruptly as he impacted with an 'omfph' on a piece of bent metal sticking out at right angles to the structure. But before he could find anything to hold on to, he felt himself starting to slide.

"No, no, no," he shouted, panicked, as once more he fell. Too frightened to look, he closed his eyes to the city flashing by at an alarming rate as he descended.

His eyes flew open, though, as his fall was briefly broken again, this time by the edge of a balcony; the railings of which had rusted away long ago. His momentum was too fast for him to find a safe landing there, but the impact slowed him slightly.

The sound of the sea was growing louder and louder in his ears. Daring to look down he saw the waves not far below him and could feel their cold spray; just seconds in which to take a deep breath and feel the sea close above his head. He panicked, trying to swim towards the surface, but he wasn't entirely sure which way was up. He struck out, ignoring the pains in his side and back from the contacts he'd made on the way down, struggling to swim and hoping he was headed upwards.

After what seemed like an eternity to him, but was in fact a matter of seconds, his head surfaced and he gasped for breath, just as a wave pushed him into the side of Atlantis forcefully. Instinctively he reached out his hands, scrabbling for purchase on the slick walls, but found none. A second wave washed over him, pulling him away from the city, and this time he was certain he was going to drown.

There was a swell of water pulling him down and down and then another surge lifted him back up against the city's side once more, this time further along from where he had fallen. He reached out again, hands desperately trying to find something to hold onto, and there it was. A metal bar sticking out from the side of the city that he managed to grab with one hand.

Slowly, laboriously and fighting the waves and currents, he managed to keep hold and pull himself up so that his arms were wrapped around the bar. And there he clung, waves rushing over his head every few seconds, trying to pull him away and under, to his death, gasping for breath and coughing from the water he'd inadvertently inhaled. Feeling the strain burning through his arms, but knowing that was all that stopped him from being dragged away from Atlantis, away from help. He held on. Even when his arms became cold and all feeling left them, somehow he still managed to hold on.

"Have to hold on, have to hold on, oh crap, I just have to hold on." The mantra ran through his head and out of his mouth, in between the waves, and then a new mantra started, "Cold, cold, cold, so cold, so tired, must hold on, must hold on, but, oh crap, so cold, cold, tired… must hold on, must hold on…" The mutterings were sporadic and grew quieter as his energy started to run out…

********************

Ellison heard McKay's frantic calls over the radio for Sheppard, and the worrisome silence they were answered with. Immediately, he headed towards their last known positions with the marines, running as fast as he could.

Finding Sheppard in the corridor, one of the marines confirmed that he was alive. Not that Jim needed to be told as he was able to hear the colonel's heartbeat, beating strongly in his chest.

"Stay with him and get a med team down here," he ordered, before motioning the three other marines to follow him as he cautiously opened the nearest door, hoping that this was where McKay was hiding.

He entered, the marines fanning out behind him just as a woman stepped through the balcony doors and back into the room. She looked at them with manic eyes, and Jim noticed the Wraith stunner in her belt and the 9mm in her hand, which was pointed straight at him.

"Put the guns down," Ellison ordered her.

"Why would I want to do that?" she purred. "McKay is finally dead, admittedly not in the fireball I envisioned, but cold and wet will do. So if you will excuse me, or not… it's now time to join him, my beloved." So saying, she raised the gun towards her head.

Jim reacted quickly, having seen her intentions before she acted, stunning her before she could fully raise the gun to her head.

"Not on my watch you don't," he muttered, before ordering the marines to secure her and arrange transport to the brig.

Carefully, not liking the trembling of the balcony beneath him, he stepped out, lying down and easing himself to the edge so that he could see into the waters below. Using his sentinel vision he scanned the structure, looking for any clues as to what the woman had done with McKay. Searching, he saw a small piece of uniform sticking to the remains of a rusted railing far, far below him.

"Dr Zelenka?" he said holding his hand over his radio, so that his words wouldn't be taken away by the wind.

"Yes, I am here."

"I need you to check for a life sign in the water near my position. McKay has fallen off one of the balconies here."

Ellison heard the sound of Czech cursing, worry mixed into the tone, as Zelenka did as he was asked.

"I have life sign, below you about forty metres to the south of you."

He could hear in the background Dr. Weir ordering Major Lorne and a med team to the jumper bay.

"We have jumper with a winch and rescue gear onboard. It will be there as soon as possible."

"Okay," he acknowledged, removing his earpiece and extending his hearing out. There, barely audible, he could hear McKay muttering about the cold and being tired and needing to hold on. Piggybacking his sight onto his hearing, he could just make out the form of someone hanging onto a twisted metal bar just above the waterline, being buffeted by the waves. Replacing his radio, he advised Zelenka of McKay's precarious situation.

Just hold on, McKay, he thought. Just hold on.

********************

The cold had numbed his body and it was merely his grim determination that kept him holding onto the metal strut, repeating in his head that he had to hold on. Nothing else mattered but holding on, and breathing. He had to hold on and keep breathing. And hope someone found him before he froze to death or fell into the sea to drown. But right now, the holding on and breathing was paramount.

Crap, what had he done to have the universe against him so? And what was it with the drowning… well, okay, in this timeline he hadn't drowned yet, just come close to it once, but even so…

A particularly strong wave crashed over him, causing him to shudder and gasp and almost lose his grip.

He didn't want to die. Really, he didn't, and that meant holding on.

He was so trapped into the single-minded mantra that he failed to notice the jumper that hovered as close to him as was viable. Nor did he notice the marine who was lowered on a line next to him.

When said marine started to slip a harness around him, a part of him wanted to respond, but most of him was still running the mantra through his mind, not fully aware of what was happening.

Then the marine told him to let go.

"No, no, no, can't do that. Have to hold on…" he muttered between coughs.

"Sir, you need to let go now so that we can get you to safety."

"No, have to hold on." This time it was louder and more panicked. Who was this person? Could he trust him? If he let go he'd die…

"McKay, let go."

Ronon. That was Ronon and he could trust Ronon.

"Okay," he murmured, before furrowing his eyes in confusion as he found he couldn't move. "Can't move," he moaned.

The marine carefully helped prise his arms from around the bar. He was vaguely aware of being lifted through the air and then pulled on board a jumper.

And then there was warmth and Ronon and Teyla and Carson and he was safe and not alone but there was something he needed to ask but couldn't remember what it was but he was safe and he could allow himself to sleep and to worry about whatever it was he needed to ask another day and he could just let go now and go to sleep...

And so he did.

********************

Warmth was the first thing that registered, followed by the fact that he was dry.

He moved, groaning at the stiffness and pain of bruises and who knew what else. His eyes flew open as the events of the last few hours registered.

"Sheppard? Blair?"

"Hey, buddy, about time you woke up."

And there, looking no worse for wear, was Sheppard.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Sure, she just stunned me."

"Just?"

"And Sandburg's okay too, well, he will be. He has a few cuts and bruises as well as a mild concussion but Beckett says he should recover just fine."

"Oh, good," he said, relief in his voice. "What about me? And when am I going to get another dose of painkiller? And I'm talking the good stuff here, not just Tylenol."

"Probably a few minutes from now," John said. "As for how you are, well, you were lucky enough to only sustain some cuts and bruises in the fall, though Beckett says the bruises are pretty deep ones. There was worry about internal bleeding, but it looks like you managed to avoid that. Still, doc says you'll be here for a few days. Especially as you were hypothermic when they got to you."

"Wonderful," he muttered with a grimace.

"Considering how far you fell you should consider yourself lucky it wasn't worse."

"I know," he replied wearily. "I just don't feel very lucky right now."

"Yeah."

"So what about the psycho-bitch? You did get her, didn't you? She's not out there scheming up another way to kill me, is she?" he asked, his voice rising in anxiety.

"We got her, well, Ellison and his team did. She's in the brig waiting to go back to Earth. She's going to be spending a long time in a secure psychiatric institute at the very least, followed by a long stint in a secure prison should she be deemed fit enough to try. Either way, you won't have to worry about her anymore."

He sighed in relief.

"She really is whacked, you know," he added as a matter of fact.

"Yeah, I get that, especially after trying to find out why she did this. Totally psycho," John agreed.

"Why did she? She said something about me leaving her 'beloved' to die."

"Well, when we checked her room and found her blueprints for the bombs, we also found a, well, I wouldn't call it a diary, more of a hate-filled rant, about her 'beloved' who was part of the original expedition, and apparently unaware of her feelings for him. She volunteered to join the Expedition when she found out he was going, but wasn't chosen. She's been trying to get here ever since."

"And whoever he was died here and for some reason I am to blame, or at least she thinks I am."

"She's nuts, that's why she blames you. What happened was no one's fault."

"Who was it?"

Sheppard pulled a photo out of his pocket.

"I shouldn't really have this as it's evidence, but…" He handed it over to McKay. It showed the psycho-bitch standing to one side of a man who was hard at work on a computer and seemingly unaware of her presence, or that a photograph was being taken.

Rodney's heart plummeted when he saw it, his eyes showing a deep pain and guilt.

"Grodin," he whispered. "Peter… She's right then…"

"No, McKay, she's nutso, crazy and wrong, very, very wrong. We've had this conversation already. There was no way that anyone could have known what would happen…"

"I should have checked the schematics more carefully, seen what rerouting the power would do and taken precautions not to leave him stranded there…"

"There wasn't time, Rodney."

"I should have known that the circuits wouldn't be able to handle the power…"

"Rodney," Sheppard said forcefully. "There. Wasn't. Time. If you had taken the time to do all of that you wouldn't have been ready for the hive ships when they dropped out of hyperspace…"

"But…"

"No, McKay, no buts. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances, nothing more. If you want to blame someone, blame the Wraith, hell, blame me for waking them, but not yourself."

"I…" he hesitated. "But… sometimes I wonder…"

"We all do that," John said seriously. "You have to let it go or it'll destroy you."

He looked back at the photograph of an above average scientist, one who had become a friend despite their differences, and sighed.

"I…will try. To let it go."

"Good," Sheppard said, looking up as Ellison approached, pushing a wheelchair containing Sandburg. "Hey, look who's here."

"Hi, how ya doing?" Blair asked.

"I'll be fine once Carson gets over here with the pain meds."

Jim winced as Rodney raised his voice on that comment, to make sure that Beckett heard him.

"Quit making your racket, I'm here," a peeved Carson said, administering the pain meds to Rodney and then turning a steely glare to Blair.

"And who told you that you can get out of bed?"

"Well, no one objected…" Blair said glibly.

"Aye, in other words you slipped out when no one was looking."

Jim glared at Blair.

"You told me Beckett said you could get out of bed," he commented sourly.

"At least I agreed to a wheelchair!"

"Right, well, back to bed you go, then," Carson stated in a no nonsense tone of voice. "And this time you will stay there."

"Okay," Blair said, wilting a little under the physician's irritated glare. "How about if I get into that bed?" he added, pointing to the one next to Rodney with a cheeky grin.

Carson sighed and shook his head at that.

"Fine, if you feel you must, though why you should want to be near this numptie I can't begin to imagine."

"Hey," Rodney protested, somewhat laconically due to the pain meds kicking in.

"And you two," Carson looked pointedly at Sheppard and Ellison, "Need to leave so that these two bampots can get some rest."

John and Jim exchanged a wry glance, that clearly said that pushing the Scottish doctor's buttons further might not be a good idea, that is, if they didn't want to suffer any extra physicals and, even worse, physicals undertaken by Dr. Biro at that.

"Yeah, we'll see you two later," John said as he turned to leave, looking to Ellison. "Have I shown you the new gym area we set up the other day?"

"No, but I'd like to see it," Jim said, adding with a grin and a wave to Blair and Rodney as he followed Sheppard out, "Behave yourselves."

"Sleep," Carson admonished them. "And no more sneaking off," he added, looking at Blair, before going to his office to catch up on the ever-increasing paperwork.

"So," Blair started, "That nurse, Helen, is pretty cute, I wonder if she's seeing anyone…"

"Dog," Rodney slurred.

"Am not."

"So are."

"Right. Hmm, well, there's also that brunette in Linguistics..."

"Woof."

"Humph." Sandburg leaned back against the raised bed, arms folded, before smiling as a wicked gleam entered his eyes.

"Oh, and hey, I met a really cute redhead in Botany the other day as well and I was wondering…"

Rodney rallied himself to reply.

"If her name's Katie, you can stop wondering right now. Unless you want to live without hot water for the rest of your stay, that is!"

"Well, if you put it that way," Blair said with a laugh, grinning at his friend and watching as sleep finally overtook the stubborn physicist, before muttering to himself. "I wonder if Elizabeth is seeing anyone..."

********************

"Just as a house needs a foundation in order to stand firm, so does a person."

- Jacquie McTaggart

********************

The End

A/N: The Yah-Dallins names are all from the African language Yoruba (the name of the planet and race isn't, I made that up). If you want to look up their meanings, go here: http://www.behindthename.com/nmc/afr.php