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Everything that is between * * is supposed to be in italics. ** ** Means bold and italics because they are flashbacks. Working on getting the regular stuff to work with the site.
Atlantis Late July 2005
It had been two weeks since Arcturus. Two weeks of frosty silences and conversations falling silent as soon as he came into the room. The only people he still got along with were Telya, Ronon, and Cadman surprisingly enough. The Daedelus was coming in three weeks with more new recruits, who would be told the story and who would mock and not understand. Just like no one else understood. Not even Sheppard understood. Rodney drew in a shaky breath and released it. It was a mistake. He’d been trying to do what they’d been asking, demanding he do ever since he got here; the impossible.
He’d been trying to help, trying to drown out his own guilt. This was the chance, the opportunity he’d been waiting for, the chance to make sure that the deaths caused by this forsaken galaxy weren’t in vain. He had needed to make sure Collins death hadn’t been in vain. Rodney knew doing something, suffering for something, only for it to count for nothing was a horrible feeling. He distantly remembered his childhood friend, the only other kid he knew who could also see the dead. He’d seen what happened to those whose deaths were counted as nothing. He wondered what had happened to Cole. Cole Sears had been the only person he’d confessed his love of ancient Latin to.
“I wish I was somewhere with people who’d appreciate trying to pull off the impossible and major screw ups,” he muttered.
“Done!” An exultant voice crowed behind him, startling him into jumping and pressing a button on the device in front of him. Violent swearing in ancient Latin fell out of his mouth as his hands flashed out, trying to disarm the device that had suddenly become a bomb. He felt time slow to a crawl around him as his hands flashed and he didn’t realize that he was still speaking in ancient Latin, describing what he was doing and instinctively not directly mentioning any corrections he was getting from the ghost of the Ancient standing over his shoulder. He didn’t notice Miko, the only other scientist in the lab, stop what she was doing to watch as his hands blurred, his fingers flew, and his voice utter profanity along with the facts of what he was doing.
He spun around and glared angrily at the woman behind him, not even noticing the Ancient smiling and fading away now that his project was complete, not noticing the awestruck Miko, only glaring at the woman who he now realized was a spirit. She didn’t look like she should be a spirit. Her dark brown hair was curly, and her skin was the color of caramel, and her lips were colored with a bright red lipstick.
“It has been over ten years since the last time I saw one of your kind,” he spit out in careful, hateful ancient Latin. “I was far from heartbroken when I stopped seeing ghosts and spirits. I have enough problems getting along with people without accidentally speaking to the dead on top of everything.”
The woman smiled. “I am no mere spirit, Rodney McKay. I was supposed to be destroyed, but you are the only one of my clients I never granted a wish to before now and thus could not be destroyed completely.”
“Wish?” Rodney spat out. “I’ve made wishes before, Spirito dei desideri, but never have they been granted.”
“Yes you have, and some of them have been heartfelt vengeance wishes. But my claim to you came first, and it is the strongest. My name is Halfrek, and I am sorry, but this is going to hurt,” and the woman made a gesture in the air.
“What the hell!” was all he got out before he was sucked into a portal.
“And good luck to you, kid,” Halfrek stated. “You’re going to need it.” And she faded away.
Miko’s mouth dropped open as she stared at the spot where her boss had been, and where the woman who had taken him had vanished.
_____-------With Rodney, in the portal
Rodney opened his mouth and tried to scream. He felt the air leave his lungs, but he didn’t hear anything. He couldn’t see and cold seeped into his limbs, froze his blood in his veins, and leeched into his lungs. There was nothing around him; he couldn’t even feel the clothes he was wearing. He tried to flail his limbs, tried to feel something, but he didn’t know if he even moved them. He tried to draw breath, but there was nothing to breathe in. His mind screamed in impotent fury before he passed out.
Giles had just finished warning the three teenagers about the dangers of fighting the occult, which they had accepted with far too much nonchalance for his comfort when a portal opened in front of him and spat out a man. He was unconscious and looked far too thin than could be strictly healthy.
Buffy, having sensed something happening behind her, spun around in time to see her Watcher staring at a man on the ground. Surprised, she blurted out the first thing that came to her mind.
“He’s kinda cute. Can we keep him?”
Xander dropped his head a little and tilted it to the right. “That’s new. He looks a little beat up, and like he hasn’t slept for forever. And judging from the bruises on his head, he’s gonna wake up with one hell of a headache. Hey, Wills, help me.”
Xander had gone over to the man on the ground, gently easing his limbs out, and wincing when he got a look at the scratches covering his arms. Willow had moved to stand by Giles and babbling away about something, possibly portals, Giles really couldn’t understand her fast paced speech and Buffy was on his other side demanding that she be allowed to keep him if slayage wasn’t needed. A low whistle from Xander drew the attention of the other three back to him.
“Those scratches were self –inflicted while he couldn’t feel it. I’d guess he has power bars on hand though, that’s what his breath smells like.”
Giles was faintly disturbed to realize that Xander was correct. How had he known that? Buffy voiced his question out loud. Xander’s blasé response and Willow’s nodding along with it made him slightly ill as he heard the experience talking.
“Well, the first clue is where the scratches are. All up and down his arms, see,” here he pointed to the scratches. “And the second clue is how they’re angled. See, you scratch yourself and the scratches are going to pull towards the side the hand that’s doing the scratching from. And the third clue is the blood under his fingernails.”
Giles pulled his glasses off and wiped them. “Well, I guess we can’t really leave him there. I’ll take him home with me and see what’s going on when he wakes up.”
_________------------Atlantis Late July 2005
Laura Cadman collapsed to the floor, clutching her head. Her team crowed around her, while someone called for Carson. She didn’t care, as she stretched her mind out, looking for the mind that had touched hers; had been in constant low-level contact with hers, for almost three weeks. It was hard to be alone in her head now. She looked up as Carson laid a hand on her shoulder in concern.
“Rodney’s gone,” was all she managed to get out before the world went black.
Rodney groaned and raised his hand to his head. Something was wrong with where he was. He couldn’t tell what it was, but something was out of place. It wasn’t until he stretched his mind to ask Cadman what was going on that he realized what it was. He sat up and his eyes snapped open as he tried to find Cadman and Atlantis.
He looked around the room he was in, trying to find clues as to where he was. What he saw confused him. He was in what looked like a spare room on Earth. But that was impossible. Earth was light years away in another galaxy. But a glance out the window didn’t help. It was dark, but he could just make out what would be a normal suburban street. But that fact was shoved to the back of his mind when he saw his reflection.
His face was younger, and the lines that fear and stress and fighting had placed on his face were gone. His cheeks were thinner, he looked twenty nine again. He could feel the difference in his body now that he was aware there was difference. He felt so young, and how sad was that that he felt that the body he was in was too young, too slow? A thought struck him. If he was back in his twenty nine year old body, and in a place he didn’t recognize, was he still in the year 2005?
*Rodney! Rodney, are you okay? Where are you? Rodney!* He winced. He’d found Cadman. Rodney tried to get a word in edge wise as Cadman babbled about how he disappeared, where he was, and how worried she’d been in his mind. And then he paused, something was just at the edge of Cadman. Reaching out slowly, tentatively, he touched the other presence.
And Atlantis flooded through his mind, and stunned Cadman to silence as she felt Atlantis for the first time in her own body. The alien joy that Atlantis felt was overwhelming. He felt the city try and make further contact, try and find him, and he felt her frustration when she couldn’t. He tried to calm her down but the effort of straining so far and connecting with Atlantis through the body of someone without the gene combined with the latest mental strain dragged him under the edge of consciousness.
Cadman blinked as she found herself once more in control of Rodney’s body. “Damn it to hell, Rodney, do not do this to me,” she whispered.
“Excuse me?” a startled voice asked from the doorway. She turned her (her? His? Their?) head to the door. A middle-aged man stood there, in reasonable shape and very uneasy her military mind noted. His uneasiness, coming so soon upon the heels of Rodney’s vanishing and her relief at finding him stirred some suspicion that he was the reason Rodney wasn’t on Atlantis anymore. Irrational, but she wasn’t in a rational mood. She wasn’t thinking correctly, the strain caused by reaching across light years and the stress brought on by fear obscuring her thinking, and making her excessively paranoid. She wanted to be angry and blame someone, but she couldn’t blame Rodney or anyone else, so the man before was as good a target as she was getting.
“I didn’t think you’d be up yet,” he stated nervously. Laura narrowed her (her? His? Their?) eyes at him. British accent, nervous, and with knowledge of how long Rodney should have been out, what did that tell her?
Atlantis screamed in rage in the back of her head as she concluded that the man before her, before Rodney, either had something to do with Rodney’s disappearance or had knowledge that it was coming. The possibility that he’d seen similar situations, or that he’d simply found Rodney and that the condition he’d been in was similar enough to something he’d seen before never crossed her mind. Her own desperation at the disappearance of the surprisingly warm, soft, and fuzzy (of all things she’d ever thought McKay to be, fuzzy never even made joking mention to the list) presence that was Rodney combined with Atlantis’s fury over the loss of one her favorite people in the expedition.
Rodney had been stolen from them. And when they found out where he was, they’d strike and take back their scientist.
Giles felt very nervous as he stood under the scrutinizing stare of the man before him. Irrationally, he felt as if he’d been judged and condemned. There was something very dangerous about the way his eyes were narrowed, and the set of his body language screamed anger and violence about to be unleashed. He had no way of knowing that he was facing an angry woman and city combined instead of a man. In an effort to calm him down, he asked precisely the wrong question.
“Do you remember how you got here?”
“Do you remember how you got here?” Something within Laura Cadman’s psyche snapped. Later, when asked about it, she would blush bright red and the lights in the room would follow. Cadman, used to Rodney’s thirty nine year old body and its reactions, lunged for the man in the doorway. Only, at twenty nine, Rodney had not let the conditioning from being the star player on his high school hockey team go. In fact, he’d only started to let it go when he’d turned thirty two and a disgruntled scientist he’d been working with had bitingly informed him that he should stop trying to maintain the glory days when people liked him. The man probably hadn’t intended for that to happen, but the fact that things had not gone well at his high school reunion that he’d been dragooned into attending had only exasperated the damage done by an angry comment.
Laura’s rage combined with the strength of the body she was in had her pinning the man to the far wall with her (Rodney’s?) forearm across his throat.
“Where are we?” she ground out. She didn’t bother to ask why he stole Rodney. He was, as he constantly stated, the smartest man in two galaxies. With the recent problems he was having with the rest of the exhibition, now must have seemed like the perfect time to strike. He most likely had no way of knowing the affection that Atlantis felt for Rodney. And she didn’t doubt that Sheppard would be furious over what happened.
“You’re… in my… home,” British managed to get out.
“And where is that?” Her patience was gone. “Tell me!”
“Liar! Who do you serve? The Wraith? The Ori, the Goa’uld, who?” She demanded.
“Don’t know… who those demons are. Not lying,” he choked out.
She briefly noted the use of the word demons before moving on to more pressing concerns. Namely, how Rodney had gone from Atlantis to Earth in a manner of seconds. And she still wasn’t letting go of her pet theory that he’d stolen Rodney. But maybe he’d needed him. He still should have asked to borrow him. She loosened her hold on him. Just a little. And then she noticed how different the body felt. This wasn’t Rodney’s usual body. But she could feel the trembling start, and knew that Rodney hasn’t eaten for at least eight hours. Rodney didn’t skip breakfast if he could help it, because he knew he was probably going to skip lunch and, if no one came and got him, dinner as well. And that was dangerous. If he didn’t eat, he collapsed. And he hadn’t gotten breakfast at the commissary this morning, she’d checked.
She felt the stirrings of her own body, light years away, and knew that she wouldn’t be around much longer. She could have fought the pull of her own body, fought to stay with Rodney, but she was exhausted, mentally and physically. If she didn’t return to her own body soon, both bodies would probably go into shock. Laura well remembered the feeling of Rodney’s body shutting down as it tried to support two minds.
“Shit.” She stated calmly. “Okay, British, listen and listen well. My name is Laura Cadman. The man who should be in control of this body is named Rodney McKay. He is something of a large hypochondriac, but he really is a hypoglycemic. And deathly allergic to citrus. And if I come back, and his body is in anyway not in good condition, or drugged, or tied down, I will hunt you down to the edges of the universe and do my damn best to pull your entrails out your ear after castrating you with a dull, hot knife. And then I will give you to his team.”
British swallowed. He obviously had no difficulty believing her. Probably didn’t believe her about not being the proper owner of the body though. Oh well, he’d learn.
“Ah, if you’re not the proper owner of that body, than how do you possess him, and where is he?” There was an edge under that question that she didn’t care for at all.
“It’s not possession. It’s me being in control while he’s out of it. And it’s a left over from something that happened a while ago.”
No way in hell was she letting him know how recent this development was. He’d stolen Rodney, but now he knew they were not going to let him get away with it. She managed to get back into the room Rodney had woken up in and eat a power bar. She was grateful that Rodney had seen no reason to curb his eating style just because he had a roommate, she could now eat just as fast he could. Or at least she could with something like a power bar.
She fixed British with one last harsh glare. “If he is damaged in anyway, I will find a way to kill you.” And then, thousands of light years away, she woke up.
Laura lay on a bed in the infirmary, listening to the hum of Atlantis. She could feel the city now, just at the edge of her mind. It wasn’t like when she’d used the Ancient gene in Rodney’s body; no she still didn’t have it. But she could tell she was missing something.
Her thoughts chased themselves around her head, yammering for attention. How had Rodney gotten to Earth, and why had his captor given him a stronger, fitter body? Oh, Rodney was no slouch, not with being on the flagship team, but the body had felt younger, and as if the reflexes drilled into it weren’t there anymore.
“Why?” slipped out past her lips, more breathed then said. Things weren’t adding up. Sunnydale sounded familiar, but why? Atlantis was trying to tell her something, but she couldn’t get into Laura’s mind. She wasn’t in contact with Rodney anymore. But she could feel her body trying to support Rodney and prevent a hypoglycemic reaction.
It was the strangest thing, but whenever Rodney was injured, or skipping too many meals, her body seemed to try and support his. Rodney had been so frustrated by it, and even more so because he could feel her body giving him what he needed when he was in desperate straits. He’d even felt some effect from her trying to pass the benefit of sleep onto to. He hypothesized that it was because she’d been living in his body.
He’d finally walked up to her while she was walking patrol around the city one night. He’d said one word, a deeply smug look on his face as he did so.
“What?” She stared at the physicist in bemusement.
“That’s why your body is trying to support mine. Pack. Somehow, your body, and probably my body, has decided that we are pack. And if the pack dies, something of you dies. And humans do not want to die. It’s fascinating really; I’ve been finding myself thinking more in terms of pack and not pack for awhile now. Ever since…”
His voice had trailed off at the end. He had to be referring to Project Arcturus.
“Why now? And why are you thinking in terms of packs do you think?”
He’d shrugged and looked slightly ashamed of himself.
“Lack of sleep. I; haven’t been sleeping well since, well, you know. And I know that Sheppard has an almost psychic knowledge of when someone is in the gym or the firing range. I…Don’t want to run into him. Or the Marines. I’ve been spending most of my nights in the lab. And then I felt you in the corridor and you were confused and I found myself thinking that I needed to go comfort my litter sister.”
“Litter sister?” She’d quirked an eyebrow at him. She wanted to ask about the sleep he hadn’t been getting, but now didn’t seem the time.
“In pack terms, well, wolf terms really, I think it’s something distinctly wolfish don’t you?” And he’d babbled at her and she’d listened. He’d gone with her for the rest of her patrol, just jabbering away at her about the scientists and the discoveries they’d been making in the lab.
And a part of her was sad. He’d normally find a way to snark the whole lot of it at Sheppard, but Sheppard wasn’t listening. And Rodney needed to talk about his discoveries, and to covertly boast about his scientists. And so when her patrol was over, she’d let him into her room, and had snuggled down next to him and listened to him slowly babble until he fell asleep.
And it was the best sleep she’d had since she’d left Rodney’s head.**
That hadn’t been the end of things, not by a long shot. After that patrol, Rodney would somehow find his way to her when she was patrolling at night and he spent nearly every night curled beside her. Some of his clothes were taking up semi-permanent residence in her room, and if her mouth tightened when his more personal items did as well, some with signs of repair, well there was no one to see but Rodney and he never said anything.
Of course, she’d sat down and explained to Carson what was going on. She didn’t want him to think she was going to hurt him like that. And Carson hadn’t been pleased, not until he’d seen how they interacted, more like siblings than anything else, and had understood. And he hadn’t been made any happier when he’d noticed the broken items than she. Certain people around the base had been in for very thorough physicals when they came in next. Carson may not have been happy with Rodney, but he was still his friend. Laura secretly believed that
Carson was gradually starting to think more in terms of packs.
And speaking of Carson, he was standing by her bed, a worried look on his face. He’d come soon after she’d woken up, and she was startled to realize that she could feel him. He was the comforting warmth of a slept in bed on a cold winter day when you realized that you didn’t have to go out today, that you could just sink back into the covers and go to sleep. And by the way he’s looking at her he’s starting to feel her too.
“Laura, you’re light,” was all he whispered, slightly awed. And she understood.
“Wait until you get around McKay,” she whispered. “He’s fuzzy. He’s alive, Carson, he’s alive. Atlantis helped me find him. He’s just really far away right now.”
“But I don’t think I’ll feel okay until I can see him, Laura. I want to trust you, but part of me is telling me that he should be here.”
She smiled. He was having problems adapting to the pack thoughts. That was okay, she’d had problems too, right up until she’d realized that those thoughts meant that she wasn’t alone and that she had family. Carson would get through this. He was already half way there, after all, didn’t he sometimes think in terms of clan, not clan? She snagged his arm and pulled him down and kissed him.
“You’ll get used to it. And you can help me take it out of the hide of the one who took Rodney away,” she said and kissed him again before scooting over and letting him crawl up beside her.
It wasn’t as good as having all of her pack together and safe on Atlantis, but having her prospective mate did make it a little easier to bear.
Similar thoughts carried her off to sleep.
John Sheppard pounded across the ground. He knew Elizabeth would land on him like a brick shithouse when he got back, for leaving his radio behind, for running out this far. But he needed to get away damn it, and if Teyla wasn’t hinting that she thought that he should forgive Rodney, Ronon was bluntly stating that he needed to either assign Rodney to another team, ground him for good, or get it out of his system.
What Ronon didn’t, couldn’t, know was that he had tried to reassign Rodney; tried to give him over to Lorne, who would’ve taken care of him because it was his job. But just after he’d drawn up the papers to make the transfer, he’d gotten fed up with paperwork and had snuck over to the gym to try and work out on the punching bag. And he’d seen Lorne, and known that Lorne would be the one watching Rodney’s six, known that if he sent the papers to Elizabeth Lorne would be the one acting like Rodney’s watch dog. It had been all he could do to stop himself going for Lorne’s throat. The only people who would be Rodney’s guard or watch dogs were his team.
He’d gone back to his office and ripped the papers to shreds. He’d then drawn up the papers to ground Rodney. And then he’d paused and thought about Rodney’s reaction. His first thought was that Rodney would protest, would rant and rave, and provide John with ample force to fight against. And then he saw Rodney’s face as he was handed proof that John would never trust him again. He could picture his face falling, his whole body slumping and a light going out. And he couldn’t do it. Because his mind drew himself in further, and he could see Rodney dying just a little every time a Gate team went out. He could see Rodney withdrawing into himself every time John called another scientist out for a mission.
And what frightened him was the thought that came to mind as the thought that either another team would take him through the Gate and get him killed, was the thought that if a team didn’t, Rodney would resign. Would leave Atlantis behind forever and that John would never see his friend again. And he couldn’t do it. When he’d mentioned it to Heightmeyer during a session he’d voluntarily set up, she’d looked at him with grave eyes. What had come out of her mouth had frozen him to the core.
**“I can see Rodney,” and John had really wanted to go after her for calling him by his first name alone. “Dying like you’ve described. And if another team doesn’t take him out, and they probably wouldn’t because Rodney was your scientist and he failed you, don’t argue, Colonel, that’s how the rest of the base will see it. So because he’d already failed you, and the rest of the base constantly reminding him of it, what makes you think he’d try his luck on Earth?”
He’d stared uncomprehending at her. So he’d stick around? That didn’t sound like Rodney at all. She’d seen the look of confusion on his face and sighed angrily.
“Imagine walking in to his room one day, needing his help, and finding him with a slit wrist and no pulse and lying in a puddle of blood. Imagine walking into his room finally ready to reconcile and seeing him hanging from the ceiling. Imagine storming into his room, angry that he hasn’t been responding to his radio and people are worried and finding him asleep on his bed. Only he’s frightfully still, and his skin is icy to the touch and you can’t wake him up.”
John had stared at her with mounting horror as each scenario flashed through his mind with perfect clarity. But Rodney wouldn’t do that! He’d said as much, only to have her look at him steadily.
“Colonel, I have been in every single scenario I have just described. My uncle used to be a chemist. An explosion in his lab hurt one of his subordinates. No one hired him after that. He was the prickliest person you’d ever meet. He was much like McKay in fact. I was the one who found him in a puddle of his blood.”
She’d stopped herself, and pointed to the door.
“I think we’re done here. If I say anymore, it will be something that I’ll regret.”**
That was why he was running. Trying to escape the images of Rodney’s dead body, dead by his own hand, and driven there by John. He didn’t trust himself to not go after the Marines he’d find in the gym, considering what he’d almost done to Lorne. He’d carefully considered all the teams before picking Lorne’s. If he’d almost went after Lorne for thinking he’d be a good guard dog for McKay, what would he do to people he’d thought would be bad guard dogs? And the firing range was out; he didn’t trust himself with a gun at the moment. And he didn’t think that that would be enough physical work to get it out of his head.
He came to a halt in the corridor, panting and sweat soaked. Was Rodney’s mistake about Arcturus any different from him waking up the Wraith? Rodney’s mistake had only cost one life, while his was costing the lives of millions. And when it came down to it, what was making him mad was the thought that Rodney had told him to trust him and stand with him against Elizabeth. It felt like he’d been betrayed. But what about all the times he’d told Rodney to trust him? Had gotten into messes because Rodney had come with him even though he objected? What about Chaya?
John felt like his world stopped as he thought about Chaya. What was different from that situation? Rodney had clearly told him he didn’t trust Chaya and that she was bad news. And John had blown him off. Had ignored everything Rodney told him that directly contradicted his view of Chaya. He’d been so confident that he was right, and that Rodney had only been jealous because John was getting the attention that he hadn’t stopped to think that maybe there was a reason Rodney was uneasy. Hell, Rodney wouldn’t have admitted to having a problem if he’d been jealous, he’d just ineptly try to flirt with someone.
He felt sick as he realized that Rodney never said anything when a woman started flirting with him anymore. Sure he made his usual Kirk comments, but he never did more than that. Not even when Ronon later told him that McKay had said to be ready to run or perform rescue. And was always right. Ronon had told him that every time he went off with a woman off world, he and Teyla always glanced at McKay.
“I am such a hypocrite,” he whispered before turning around and running back to Atlantis. It was time he patched things up with his best friend. If things could be patched up.
“There you are, Colonel! We were beginning to think you had disappeared too.” A new recruit spotted him as he headed for his room to shower.
“What do you mean, ‘too?’?” He had a bad feeling.
“That arrogant guy, the one who blew up the solar system, McKay, he disappeared out of his lab. Dr. Miko says she was there. She’s claiming he muttered something under his breath, and someone shouted ‘done’ and a portal sucked him in. I personally don’t see why everyone’s in such a frenzy, it’s not like he did anything major right?”
Sheppard had the man against the wall by his collar, feet dangling, before he’d even realized he was moving.
“Doctor Rodney McKay worked on his own projects and corrects the work of the entire science department. He’s done more for this expedition then most people realize needs to be done. He’s the only reason there was an Atlantis for you to be recruited to.”
He dropped the stunned recruit to the floor.
“He spent over eighty hours awake when the Wraith attacked us, and he built a nuclear bomb for us. You’re lucky you said that to me and not Ronon.”
He stormed away to find Elizabeth to figure out what was being done to get Rodney back. He couldn’t let the last thing Rodney had to remember him by was him being an ass. He couldn’t let the last thing he’d really said to his friend was that he didn’t trust him.
Cadman woke up feeling much better about the real sleep she’d gotten. And it felt nice to wake up with Carson curled around her, almost clinging to her. She let a pleased sigh and started to snuggle closer to her prospective mate, sending her feelings of contentment towards Carson and to Rodney. Only Rodney wasn’t there. She could still sense him, barely, but he was so distant. So very far away. No wonder Carson couldn’t sense him, she only could because she’d been in his head before and Atlantis had boosted her to him. She frowned contemplatively. Someone or thing else had also helped her get into contact with Rodney. She didn’t have the necessary range. She could only feel him because she’d somehow been catapulted into his mind.
The name Sunnydale finally rang a bell and it caused her to sit bolt upright.
“Holy shit!” she shouted.
“What?” Carson, Weir, Teyla, and Sheppard demanded.
Laura looked at them. Sheppard was sweaty, dirty, and didn’t have his radio. Weir and Teyla looked distressed and Ronon looked like he wanted to hit something. And Carson looked like he wanted to go back to sleep.
“2002, Sunnydale sank. That’s three years ago. And if he’s there…” her voice trailed off before she swallowed. “Rodney’s not in our time anymore. He’s not even in the Pegasus Galaxy. He’s stuck in Sunnydale, California sometime before 2002.”
Giles rubbed his throat. Surprisingly vicious, so at least the possessor of the man’s body cared, and enough to inform him of possible health problems both real and imagined the man might suffer from. And the spirit was surprisingly hostile to a perceived threat. What would the female spirit want the man for though? He didn’t feel like a magic user, he was a man, and Giles was fairly certain he wasn’t a demon.
So why had he been the target of a possession? Maybe it had been an accident. Maybe the spirit had been trapped in a hell dimension. That would account for her fierce protectiveness and ah, inventive threat. A groan from his guest pulled him from his thoughts and sent him hurrying into the room. The man, Rodney she’d said his name was, was sitting in bed with his head resting in his hand.
“It feels like my head was in a vice,” he muttered sullenly. “Why do I always wake up with a headache?”
Giles cleared his throat and watched as the man jerked himself around and into a corner. The move was vaguely familiar but he couldn’t figure out why. He mentally filed it away to think about later. He tried to make himself look as unthreatening as possible, not really wanting to be reacquainted with his wall.
“She’ll come you do know that right?” The man, Rodney, stated, in confident tones. “She’ll do whatever it takes.”
“If you’re talking about your additional, um,” Giles paused, unsure of how to put it without sounding accusatory.
“Just call her my roommate,” the other man said sardonically. “If you have to talk about her. Why am I here, anyway? I’m not worth much to anyone but her these days.”
“What? Never mind,” Giles stated. “How long have you two been, uh, roommates, as it were?”
The man tensed and glared. “That is none of your damn business. She’s been my roommate for long enough that she’ll rip you apart when she gets here.”
“She already tried,” Giles stated dryly. “Then something happened and she needed to leave. Do you know why you were spit out of a portal in front of my charges and I?” It was technically true. Buffy was his charge without question and he supposed that extended to any person taking part in the fight on the Hellmouth.
A glare was his only answer, though he did relax from his position before wincing and cradling his head in his hands. Giles moved slowly forward, ibuprofen in his hand. Xander hadn’t been wrong, the man looked like he was fit to claw open his skull.
“Ow, ow, sleepless headache, pain, my head feels like it’s in a vice,” Rodney muttered. “Sleep is supposed to get rid of the headache, not make it worse.” Giles couldn’t decide what he felt, amusement at the fact that a grown man was whining, or upset that he was surprised when Giles just wordlessly handed him the bottle of ibuprofen and a glass of water. No one should be surprised when simple kindness was offered or pain relief was given without a word.
“What is a sleepless headache then? Maybe I can help,” he offered.
“A sleepless headache happens when one goes for a prolonged amount of time without sleep. I’m not sure if anyone else suffers them, but I do. And while pushing it away works, a little, it always comes back with reinforcements. It’s a cruel thing, sleeping usually relieves it…” Rodney trailed off as the pain killers kicked in and his body started to relax. “Sleeping is the realm where nightmares come to life. Where our mistakes haunt us and our failures stay and taunt us. Within every dream lies a million dark shadows waiting to swallow you and your screams are unheard.”
Giles stared at the other man. That had been rather dark.
“I get depressing and slightly poetic when I’m sleep deprived,” he snapped. “And people wonder why I snap at their stupidity, when I haven’t slept for four days because I’m busy correcting their mistakes!”
Giles winced in sympathy. He’d hated pulling all-nighters himself, and unlike one of his college roommates, he didn’t get headaches. But that roommate had been hell to live with during exam season. He spared a thought to wonder about Mac’s fate, before dismissing it. While Mac O’Neill had been a good friend, the two of them had ended up not keeping in contact. Ethan hadn’t liked it, and Giles was ashamed to admit that Ethan’s word had held a lot of sway at the time, which might have been why Mac and Ethan had got along as well as a pair of Alpha wolves, which was to say, with much bloody fighting.
“Do you remember how you got here?” Giles asked carefully, prepared to move if he had the same reaction as his roommate.
“A spirito dei desideri responded to something stupid that I’d said. What year is this and where are we anyway?” Giles could understand the need for the question, hell dimensions were notorious for having a different chronological movement, and he winced when he mentally translated spirito dei desideri to Spirit of Desire. Judging by how beaten up he was it was probably a vengeance demon that heard him.
“It’s 1997. And you’re in Sunnydale, California.” Rodney’s head snapped up before he grimaced and cradled his head again.
“Eight years. I’m eight fucking years out of place. Why did she place me here?” a thought seemed to occur to the man because he looked up at Giles, his eyes slightly pleading. “Please tell me my luck isn’t holding true and there are lots of spirits in this town. Please tell me there aren’t that many unusual deaths in this town.”
“Ah, I’m afraid I can’t do that. I’m sorry, but you are on top of an active Hellmouth.”
“Shit! Damnit! Why can’t I catch a break just once? Is it too much to ask for that I don’t go around seeing the dead everywhere?”
Giles winced. An untrained shaman on the Hellmouth. And as the only Watcher in the area it fell to him to help him get a handle on his gifts before he went insane. Perhaps that was why he was being watched over so carefully by a spirit; there were beings and demons who had declared shamans to be under their protection and were absolutely rabid in the defense of them. And possessing him would keep him safe. All he had to do was keep him away from anything like Primal Spirits during the training; one of those would jump into him without a second thought.
“How long have you been seeing the dead?” Rodney glared at Giles.
“Why do you want to know? For all I know, you could want to dissect me or stick me in an asylum. I assure you, I am not insane. I just see dead people.”
Giles winced. Rodney had obviously run afoul of the government at one point or another.
“I believe you, I really do,” he said at the incredulous look he was getting. “I knew someone else, she heard the dead, and she was very open to possession, but it was mostly hearing them. And I know about others, they’ve been recorded in the Watcher’s Dairies.”
“Who’s Dairies?” Rodney asked suspiciously.
“The Watchers’ Dairies. You see, the world is older then you know and contrary to popular believe it did not start out as a paradise…”
She twitched, her circuits barely kept awake by the meager energy flowing through her. Something similar to her was screaming in rage far away. She felt the rage of another reaching across time, a child who saw the past. It had been many years since she had one of Urd’s children within her. She could hardly wait.
Atlantis seethed with rage at the disappearance of her scientist. Call her selfish, but she loved Rodney McKay. Even before he’d had a piece of her in him, he’d talked to her, had cajoled her, and loved her. He listened to her, and had vehemently protected her. It had been his intellect that had attracted her attention at first, that and the fact that the first night he had entered her walls, he had come to the Gate room and spoke to her, had explained to her what the humans were doing within her walls. He had approached her, spoken to her in a language similar to her first people as if he had known she could hear and understand him.
Atlantis reached out and touched Laura Cadman’s mind gently. At least she still had Cadman, who was slowly becoming more and more aware of Atlantis and that charming Carson was beginning to realize what Rodney had known. Perhaps her Rodney would bring more family back with him when he came back to her. And he would. He had told her that he would always try to come back to her; he had promised that he would never voluntarily leave her to the dark again.
Laura Cadman wandered around Atlantis, feeling slightly lost. Rodney was gone, and there was nothing she could do to get him back. The labs felt wrong, the more seasoned scientists were nervous and kept double checking their results. She had even watched some of the newer scientists get reamed out for stupid reasons; things that she knew had been done by the other scientists. By unspoken agreement nobody touched Rodney’s things or projects. The scientists seemed to relax slightly when she was around, a small piece of their head scientist. She had coolly watched from the shadows as Radek was flung into Rodney’s job, as he learned just how much the others depended on his boss.
It had only been two days since Rodney disappeared, and she was falling apart. Part of her kept expecting to see Rodney every time she turned a corner, every time she passed the labs, and part of her mourned when he didn’t show up on her nights of patrol. He was gone and she felt like something was missing. Carson seemed to feel it too, and he was getting more and more irritable, but Laura put that down to the rage she could feel from Atlantis.
She stopped outside the open gym door and watched as Sheppard threw himself into the fight with Teyla, sticks flashing and listened as to his grunts when Teyla managed to get through his defenses. He had taken Rodney’s disappearance hard and never gave up searching. Every new world he looked for anything that might be a clue to bringing him home. Only Laura realized the truth, she didn’t know how she knew, but Rodney was on Earth and he would be coming home to them soon. Elizabeth had dialed Earth, had used the horrendous expenditure of power that would have driven Rodney insane, and told them that somehow Rodney had vanished. General O’Neill had been visiting, had heard that Rodney had disappeared. He had pried the story of Arcturus out of them, and then in a quiet and condemning voice asked them why they shunned Rodney for doing something that others had done, and in a populated system no less. In that quiet, disappointed voice he had promised they would find Rodney and see if he still wanted to come back.
The veterans of Pegasus were getting edgy, more paranoid. She watched as ‘gate teams with scientists slowly closed ranks around their geeks, had watched teams like Evan Lorne’s who didn’t have an official geek but seemed to be synonymous with certain scientists close ranks around them as well. Laura watched as Lorne shoved off the wall and walked past her and knew he was going to go relieve his team member who was standing guard over David Parrish. The veterans knew how important their geeks were, and when someone just vanished one away they got nervous. And certain teams that had decided to follow the original SG-1’s example of being protective to the point of feral over their geeks were even arguing over who spent the night where. She suppressed a smile that wanted to break out as she passed the rest of Lorne’s team having a whispered argument about just that issue and AG-12 was having the same argument in one of the side labs, only at the top of their lungs.
“I don’t care if you don’t feel comfortable leaving me alone! I will not share my room with the four of you! There’s barely enough room for me!” She heard the scientist shout at the top of her lungs.
One of the Marines looked confused. “You have a problem with space? Not the fact that we’re guys?”
She watched the scientist throw her hands in the air and huff. “Please! I’ve slept in those tents the government deludes itself into believing are big enough for two grown men with all of you at one point or another and I have six brothers who have no concept of body modesty. If I can grow up going on camping trips and having to share streams to bathe in with my siblings, I think I can manage it here!”
Laura shook her head in amusement and moved on. She knew what she was doing; she was looking for her own scientist, lost though he was. And while she was looking, she’d make sure that she took care of her doctor. Her mate to be.
Rodney lay in the bed quietly, thinking about what he’d heard. What he’d learned about the world was simply mind blowing. He knew it was true, something bone deep in him knew it was true. Some part of him that always knew when there was trouble, always knew when something was going to happen was whispering to him that it was true. But it was hard to wrap his mind around it. He’d let no sign of his inner struggle show, he’d had lots of practice so he knew he was good, his host had left him believing that he’d already known that the supernatural existed. And he felt a shudder go through him as he was told about the Gald hell-snakes and how they were driven through the Chappa’ai. Demons were real, and the Goa’uld had been mistaken for them.
He closed his eyes with a sigh. Rodney couldn’t figure out how he’d slept before Cadman had entered his mind. There was nothing there, no matter how he stretched. He’d been like this before, back when he’d gotten a piece of Atlantis in him and he’d been trying to figure out how to sleep away from Atlantis. He’d figure out how to do this. He tried to ignore the cries of the damned that are just out of hearing range. He pictured Atlantis in his mind, Atlantis as he had first seen her. He had seen her spirit, bright and illuminating and just tired of being used and abandoned. He didn’t need the lights to see clearly on Atlantis, she lit the way for him. And he needed to get back to her, because he had promised her he wouldn’t leave her on her own, not voluntarily. He’d added that, not knowing why, but letting her know that he could die, and he was grateful that Laura had been in his head and knew Atlantis was a person and that she wouldn’t be alone.
He finally drifted off to sleep, the image of Atlantis held tight, like a life line. If he let go, he knew everything would come crashing down, being stuck eight years in the past with no way home and being unable to contact anything to do with his old life. He couldn’t even talk to the SGC, they wouldn’t believe him yet. He was on his own, just like he’d always been. Just like he always would be.
Xander tossed around in his bed, whimpering. Sweat dripped from his body as he seemed to be trying to find something, or trying to fend off something and block out sounds. His nightmares were accompanied by the screaming of damned souls, tied to the earth as monsters stole their lives and killed those they loved. He twisted and turned; his spine and limbs stretching out in ways that shouldn’t have been possible, sometimes a harsh parody of lovemaking, sometimes his limbs and joints cracked and snapped before a dull blackness surrounded them and healed them. He was shifting and changing and there was no one there to note that he wasn’t just normal. It was strange, but he had spent every moment of his existence on the Hellmouth. He was conceived in the library at the high school; Jessica Harris had gone into premature labor and ended up having him in the library. His survival was a miracle; he shouldn’t have been able to; born to a boozing mother a month and a half early. But the Hellmouth took care of the children conceived and born and raised within its influence. But it had a soft spot for young Alexander, it thought of itself as his true parent. Xander had spent many hours hiding in the library as a child, called there by the Hellmouth and soothed by it. And the Hellmouth insured he was safe, that he healed quickly, and that he had a haven.
So the Hellmouth would guard its son, would shield him from disaster and harm. But if protecting him meant that he had to hurt just a little, just so he’d learn to be a little more wary, make him be just a little faster the next time, make him be able to get away by twisting just right, it would do so. Because demons are worse than bears when it came to protecting their young but they toughen them up so that they can survive. It briefly mourned the loss of Jesse, and slowly weakened the tie between sire and fledge enough that Angelus would be able to stake Darla, but it knew that something in Xander had hardened. He had already given the world his litter brother, had ripped out his heart and set it on fire for the world. And he will always guard the Hellmouth because that means protecting the world and he will not let his sacrifice have been made in vain. And so it nudged the brightness that would mark him as The One Who Sees, that would make him so attractive to demons, letting him twist and experience the pains of victims and healing the wounds so that he was stronger. Hellmouths, openings for dimensions, converging barriers weakening there, exist and see through the fog of ages. Time had opened for Rodney McKay to hurtle through and let the Hellmouth see clearly what would happen to its son.
And so its energy swirled around Xander, nuzzled him, and sang him lullabies the like of which it hadn’t done since he was a babe laying in a box shoved into a corner where his parents didn’t have to see his too old eyes, eyes that saw and knew, watching them with a solemn acceptance. He always watched with his eyes that saw everything.
Xander’s body suddenly arched off the bed, his spine almost snapping from how sharply he had moved before collapsing onto the bed, sweat mingled with blood soaking the sheets. He wasn’t quite the One Who Sees yet, but he was getting there a little faster than the Powers had planned. And the Hellmouth subsides, its task for the night done. But it stills guards the sleep of the one it calls its son.