Chapter 21- Significant Others

"You have someone seeing you off." John commented as strolled up the Jumper's hatch door.

"Hmm?" Rodney looked over at the Bay's doors and gave Cora a lopsided grin and a wave before following John.

He started to hum as he sat down in his seat behind Teyla and next to Ronon, punching in commands on the data pad. Being sent off on missions was something he could definitely get used to.

The other three members of the team exchanged amused glances.

-

"Keep your eyes out. These things are well camouflaged." John held his P90 at the ready and walked down the Jumper's hatch, meeting the rest of the team outside.

Ronon kept his hand on his blaster, "If it's there, I'll see it."

"They are very difficult to detect, we didn't see her until she woke up." Teyla explained as she scanned the area visually. They had parked along the side of a mountain that dramatically appeared, shooting straight up in the air in the middle of a forest. They had been lucky enough to find a small clearing to land.

Rodney snarked, "Because Sheppard stepped on her tail."

"For the last time, how was I supposed to know a dragon was right in front of the cliff face!"

"If you would have paid attention to my warnings about a life sign right next to you…"

"It's been a year, can we just let it go?" John asked.

"We are on the planet, any past experience should be discussed." Teyla observed, secretly enjoying the banter.

Ronon added, "M3R - 436, the Dragon Planet."

"Thank you for pointing out the obvious." Rodney snipped and walked off along the rock wall.

"Worried?" John called out as he followed. Ronon and Teyla brought up the rear.

"I am not! But do I have to remind you last time we were here we were chased by a fire breathing dragon all the way back to the Gate?"

"That's why we flew this time."

Ronon huffed, "A few well placed shots and that dragon won't be a problem."

"Military types, you all think everything can be solved by firepower." Rodney responded.

Teyla smiled, "Aren't we here in search of a platinum mine to use in ignition devices for weapons and other such devices?"

"That's not the point."

"It would be a risk if this was dragon territory to set up a permanent camp." Though it might only take a few shots to down a dragon, Ronon knew that not everyone was as great a shot, and if civilians were the predominant staff… there'd be a problem. Top carnivores didn't like others encroaching on their territory.

John explained, his eyes darting from Rodney's back to the surrounding area, "Another reason we're scoping out this side of the mountain range. We're miles from the Gate and the she-dragon's nest."

Teyla brought up, "She did have eggs in the nest."

"They would have hatched by now." Ronon continued.

John saw where they were going with it, "This is a large planet, the yearlings are probably miles away."

Ronon countered, "If they leave their mother's care so early."

Rodney snipped back to the group, "Sorry if we don't have extensive knowledge of alien wildlife!"

"Perhaps we should have discussed dragons with Dr. Bhati before we left." Teyla commented, remembering the… Indian man.

"The xenobiologist? Always in hindsight…" Rodney's paces slowed down and stopped as the LSD beeped.

Ronon and Teyla looked up to the sky, a moment later John heard the flapping of wings.

Xxx

"Ow! What the hell, Carson!"

"Keep still then."

Rodney whined as Carson put a few more stitches into his right shoulder, "This local anesthetic is so not working."

"It's all in your imagination. There, you're all done now."

"Everyone else is okay, right?"

"They're all sent out to clean up. Just as you should be doing. Then you need to rest."

"How did I end up the only one with injuries?" He picked up his shirt and jacket, both having tears in the right shoulder.

"The dragon did almost land on you."

"Because Ronon shot the thing."

"At least it wasn't the mother, only a yearling."

Rodney made to put his shirt on, but it was clearly a struggle with his right arm out of action. He huffed a bit, and was trying again, when Carson stepped in to help.

"Rodney?" Carson began, gently.

"Yeah?" mumbled Rodney, his eyes narrowed in actual pain and imagined humiliation at letting the doctor dress him.

"You're going to need a wee hand for a day or two. You know, clothes, food, that kind of thing."

"Hmph," Rodney just grunted.

"Do you want me to…? Maybe you'd like to ask…?" Carson grimaced, hoping Rodney would step in and prevent further embarrassment.

"Yeah, okay, maybe Cora would gimme a hand for a while. I'll see."

"Promise you'll ask her?"

"Sure. I'm fine, I'm going, okay?"

Carson watched Rodney leave, thinking he would be sure to ask Laura to check with Cora later.

Heading for his quarters, Rodney keyed his radio, "Cora?"

"Hi dear. Why are you back so early?"

"We ran into trouble."

"What kind? Is everything okay?"

"Just uh got out of the infirmary. Needed some repair work since the dragon seemed to like me so damn much."

"You're hurt! How bad?"

"Not too bad."

"I said, how bad?"

"Uh well you could say I have one arm out of action for a while."

"Rodney! I'm coming to see you, where are you?"

"Going to my quarters. Radek won't let you come if you're working."

"Piffle. I'll tell him I won't let Stroh win at poker ever again."

"Heh. okay, well, it would be nice if you came. I might need some help, you know, eating and… dressing and… showering… and stuff."

"Oh, Rodney, you are hurt. Well, I see your mind still works. Don't worry, I'll be there in a jiffy."

"Thanks hun. That would be… good."

Rodney hummed a tune to himself the rest of the way to his rooms, reflecting on the past two weeks since their second first date. Hearing her voice made him realize how much he missed her way of talking to him, and all her other little habits. They had continued to take baby steps, each day getting closer to each other, but always stopping short of any real intimacy. This shoulder injury wouldn't help, but he certainly felt ready for more of Cora, in every way.

By now, the population of Atlantis and the Daedalus, now on a trip to Earth, had heard through the grapevine the couple was back together. It wasn't as if they tried to hide it anyway. Well, Cora didn't try to hide it. Remarkably after all that she'd been through, she wasn't a secretive person about her present life. However, there was a line where public affection became too much and she wouldn't cross it. Rodney was grateful for that.

Now in his quarters, he threw the jacket in the laundry hamper, and collapsed wearily on one of the couches. The door chimed and Rodney thought it open, having been expecting her to make an appearance.

"Hey," Cora rushed in and hurried to his side, sitting to his left. "Rodney, you look terrible."

"Thanks. Flatter the dragon-mauled husband here."

"Oh dear. You need to get these filthy clothes off and get in the shower. Let me help…"

Cora began unbuttoning the shirt carefully, aware of every hiss of pain that Rodney was making. He tried not to be embarrassed as she managed to peel off his shirt, and as soon as she saw the claw marks on his shoulder, she grabbed him in such a big hug Rodney thought she would squeeze the air out of him. "I can't believe a dragon did this!"

She moved her arm across his wound, "Ow! Shoulder!"

"Sorry, I just- You really need to stop getting hurt."

"Tell me about it."

"Because I don't like seeing you wounded."

-

The phone rang and Cora picked it up, having no clue as to who would be phoning.

"Hello?"

"Cora? It's Dr. Phillips."

"Oh, good afternoon." She could sense something off in his voice.

"I'm… there was an accident at the lab. Rodney and George… I've calculated that they've been exposed to three, maybe four grays of neutron radiation."

She dropped the phone, it quickly passing through her mind that it could be lethal.

"Cora?... Cora?"

She bent down quickly, her hand shaking as she raised the phone to her ear, "I'm… here."

"I'll swing by and take you to the hospital. It'll be ok."

"'K Dr. Jim." She hung up the phone in a daze and sunk to the floor.

---

"Ms. Neville?"

She nodded, her gaze aimed down the ICU hallway.

"I'm Dr. Obudzinski. Rodney is resting as comfortable as we can make him. We had to give him a mild sedative to settle him down."

"But he's awake?"

"Yes. We've given him anti-nausea drugs and painkillers, along with antibiotics to stave off infections."

"That's all you can do?"

"It's a waiting game."

"How long before we know if… if he'll…"

"A full thirty days is the usual. But the first few days are a large indicator."

Dr. Jim added, "There's greater than a fifty percent chance he'll recover, him and George."

"That doesn't sound very convincing." She weaved her way pass the two men and down the hall, trying not to break down as she took every step. Finally she reached the doorway and stepped in.

Rodney was lying on the bed, staring out the window. An IV stand was loaded with bags was next to him, the tubes leading down to his arm.

She stood by the door for a couple of moments before striding over and taking his hand, "Rodney?"

He snatched his hand back from her grasp, "Don' touch me."

Once he saw her hurt expression he added, "Still coul' be radioactive."

"Are you still feeling alright?"

"Give it another hour."

Another hour was all it took for radiation sickness to fully set in, Cora only leaving his side when they needed to operate on hemorrhaging. They couldn't get her to leave the hospital for longer than an hour's stretch at a time.

-

"But it gets me some."

She jabbed him lightly in his side, "You don't need to get hurt for that."

"It works so well."

"So does being alive. And you need to be at full strength at all times." She smiled and folded the shirt.

Rodney gaped, "Yea… what? Did you just- do you mean-"

She kissed him, shutting him up, "After that shoulder heals."

"But that's days away!" He protested.

"Your point being?"

"You are an evil, evil tease, you know that?"

"But it's one of my most enduring qualities, dear." She kissed him again and he used his good left arm to bring her closer to him.

He breathed huskily as their foreheads rested against each other, "You are the devil."

"I don't know about that, how about an angel with horns?"

"Cute."

"You really need to get in the shower."

"I'm good right here." He kissed her neck, not feeling like leaving the couch.

"Do you need help getting your… pants off?" When Rodney snapped his head back and looked at her surprised, she quickly added, "For the shower."

"Have I ever needed help?"

"Yes."

He defended, "I didn't actually need your help. Just as you never really needed mine."

Cora fought back blushing, "Seriously, can you handle it?"

"Yeah, I think."

She drew back from him, "Off with you then. I'll wait out here in case you need help dressing." She mused that she never had helped him get his clothes on before…

Rodney reluctantly left her on the couch and padded to the bathroom, passing through his bedroom on the way.

Xxx xxx

Cora looked across the mess hall table, feeling rather lonely. Radek Zelenka and Alexa Stroh were sitting across from her, and by the looks they gave each other and subtle touches, stronger than ever in their relationship. It made her miss having a full relationship with Rodney.

The mess hall had all but cleared out as the crew cleaned up from the dinner hours and she kept glancing at the door.

"Perhaps I should look for him, with being injured off world today, maybe he's…"

Radek reassured her, "I'm sure he's alright. He wouldn't let a shoulder wound hinder him."

"Why's that?" Alexa questioned.

"Sheer stubbornness. Both a vice and a virtue."

Cora sipped at her glass of juice, "That is very true. He wouldn't be here, alive, if he wasn't so stubborn."

"You seem to be quite a match for him, I never would have believed it if you weren't here." Alexa thought about the first time she had met Rodney at the SGC, and it ended up with her slapping him.

"You've met your match too."

Alexa blushed and gripped Radek's hand, "Atlantis is the best thing that happened to me."

"I'd say that goes for all of us, minus the Wraith."

Radek pushed up his glasses, "You'll be staying then, permanently?"

"Not completely… I'll be returning to the University after my year here is over to teach the fall semester, wrap everything up. Then I'll return here permanently."

"Does Rodney know this?"

"Oh yes. We've discussed it. He's not completely happy with it, but I can't just abandon my responsibilities there. When I left, I said I'd be back and I will." Her eyes flashed to the door, "Speaking of Rodney."

Rodney passed by the buffet line and scoffed seeing it empty and headed over to them, "I missed all the food." He pouted as he sat down to Cora's right and directly across from Radek.

"Just who do you think you're married to?" She whipped a towel off a tray and slid it over to him.

"You're great." He squeezed her hand before digging into his dinner.

In a few minutes, Radek and Alexa excused themselves from the table just as Rodney neared finishing all of his food at a rather rapid pace.

"Hungry much?" Cora questioned as she propped her elbow on the table.

"Getting mauled tends to do that to a person."

"Is it still bad?"

"Not as much, but that could just be because I stalked Carson for some pain meds and I'm refusing to move my shoulder. It's so difficult all of a sudden not being able to really use a limb."

"Did I ever tell you about my cat in high school?"

"Um… maybe."

"Oh well, he bit my hand pretty well. Couldn't use it for two weeks. It really made me appreciate being in good shape."

"This is the last time I'm making a non-personal visit to the infirmary if I can help it."

"Good. Or I'll have to ground you to your quarters." She could figure out a way to rig his door… well Irene could.

"I'll ground you with me." He was technically her boss after all.

She got another idea, "It's a plan then. No one will ever see us."

Rodney pushed his tray away, speechless for a nanosecond, "I don't know how much longer I can stand this whole tease thing."

"Same here, and who says I was teasing?"

"Really?"

She smiled devilishly and waggled her eyebrows.

He stood quickly and pulled her out of the chair with his good hand, "But uh… shoulder…"

"We'll be careful, just don't let Carson find out."

He pulled her close and caught her mouth with his. After they broke apart he whispered, "Where… mine or yours?"

"Mine." She grinned, "I have a larger bed."

Xxx xxx xxx

Rodney held onto her arm, "I don't like this."

Cora glanced from the Gateroom door back to him, "It'll be all right. You needn't worry." Cora replied, her voice soothing as she swung a field vest on.

"It's my job to be worried. I should come too, I'll go get my stuff, tell Lorne not to go anywhere until I get back." He started to leave her standing outside the Gateroom, but she gripped his arm and pulled him back.

"That's not necessary. Besides, Elizabeth wouldn't let you anyway."

Rodney huffed, "That wouldn't stop me."

"You go off world, now I'm going off world."

"What if something happens? Hmm? What if you…" He trailed off, not wanting to say it.

"That thought goes through my head every time you go through the Gate. The difference here is I can shoot a gun better than you can," she winked, "I know how to use a clip properly."

"What? How did you know that?"

"A little birdie told me."

"You've never shot a gun a day in your life."

"Part of my rehabilitation was military training. Firearms were a part of it, there was a chance of an Organisation Agent on the loose after all."

"It's a whole different game out here, hun. Life-sucking aliens, weird bugs, and not all locals are as nice as the Athosians."

"M7X-471 is perfectly tame, the Mendalins have an agricultural community. After we verify their silos are ventilated properly, we'll be back."

"You don't need to go for that."

"I volunteered to get experience."

"Matthews!"

She called over through the Gateroom doors, "In a moment!" She turned back to Rodney, wrapping her arms around his middle, "Getting me in trouble already."

He sighed, "What am I going to do with you?"

"You know perfectly well." She tilted her face up towards his and leaned in, he responded and kissed her back. "I really have to go."

Rodney made a whining noise, "Fine." They separated and he walked close to her as they entered the Gateroom, locking warning eyes with Major Lorne.

Once by Lorne and his team, Rodney pulled the Major aside, "If she comes back with one scratch..."

"McKay, don't worry. I'll make sure she doesn't get strung up in a tree." Lorne turned back and resumed his conversation with his men, also bringing Cora into it.

Xxx xxx xxx

Irene bit her lip as she passed through the infirmary and into Cora's nanotechnology lab, anxious to find out what she was paged down there for. She could only hope it was what she thought it was.

"Cora?"

She turned around, her white lab coat waving with the sudden movement, "We've done it!"

Irene mused that Cora couldn't be smiling any wider, "Don't play games with me…" Her face betrayed her shock and joy.

"With this," she held up a small glass medicine bottle, "we can be rid of Mutatio permanently."

"Really? You got the retrovirus idea to work?"

"With some help from Carson, retroviruses aren't my area. The team out here is so much further than anyone I encountered on Earth, I couldn't have done it without him."

"How does this work?"

"The immune system will recognize the retrovirus, and since it attaches to the nanites, the nanites will be destroyed along with the virus." Cora set the bottle down carefully and embraced her friend.

"Brilliant… absolutely brilliant."

Xxx xxx xxx

"Hey, you guys all done?"

"Yeah, if you don't count all the boxes lying around." Rodney checked his watch.

The past few weeks had passed fairly uneventfully in the grand scheme of things, though life was never dull in Atlantis. Projects were started and a couple completed, including Radek and Cora fixing the damaged console. It turned out to be a rather complicated meteorological computer.

Rodney had also seemed to become a calmer person, like a rough edge had been softened. The people closest to him had attributed it to Cora. She was more of an easy going person, not letting little things irritate her.

Except for the past few days, the Chief Scientist seemed right back on that edge.

"Got anywhere you need to be?" John prodded, "You've been checking that watch every five minutes."

"No, there's nothing. Absolutely nothing." Rodney hit the punching bag half-heartedly.

"Right." John didn't believe him, but ignored it since he'd probably find out soon enough, and instead focused on the workout that he dragged Rodney down to the gym for. He remembered he requested some new equipment, "The Daedalus is back. I wonder why they haven't started unpacking yet."

"What? Why didn't you tell me before?" Rodney pulled the gloves off and ran out of the gym.

--

Rodney opened the door to their new quarters, walking directly into their living room. His two bright orange couches he got from John months before sat opposite each other with Cora's white chaises filling in the sides to make a large, oblong arrangement. There was still space to spare in the large room and they hadn't decided what to do with it yet.

When they picked a larger apartment-style quarters to move in together, they weren't pressed to find people to help them move their stuff. It had only taken a couple hours to transport everything.

He dodged boxes as he moved through the space, to the left was an open area where they placed a Ancient silver table and white chairs, beyond was the kitchen.

"Hun?"

"In the office."

"What are you doing in there?"

She appeared out of the doorway, if nothing the Ancients preferred an open-floor plan, "Putting some things away." Noticing he was holding something behind his back she asked, "Dear…what are you hiding?"

Hiding a bit of nerves with a smile he brought the bundle out, "I saw these and thought you'd like them." He held out a quite large bunch of delicate flowers. Some were cobalt blue, in clusters, speckled with bright yellow spots, the petals laid out in layering pattern. There were similar yellow ones, but with blue vertical stripes.

"They're beautiful!" Cora gently took the vivid bouquet of flowers from his arms, thinking they were obviously from the Pegasus galaxy. She'd never seen anything like them before, "Where did you get them?"

"Created them in the lab. The greenhouse, where else?"

She sniffed them, "I should put them in water." She started off to the kitchen, but Rodney grabbed her hand.

"Wait. Just wait."

She stepped back, standing in front of him still holding his hand, the flowers cradled in her arm, "What is it, dear?"

Rodney rolled his shoulders and knelt on his right knee, while digging in his jacket with his free hand, "It was thirteen years ago when I first gave you this." He pulled out a little black box, opening it one-handedly, "and I still feel the same way. We lost so much time and… out here anything can happen. We shouldn't waste it. I love you, will you marry me… again?"

In the middle of the proposal she had covered her gape with her hand, her eyes wide and focused on the ring. It was impossible… "How did you get my ring?"

"I had it shipped on the Daedalus. Along with the wedding rings."

"Rodney… this is… you're incredible." The shock started to wear off and her gape turned into a joyful smile and she started to pull him up, but he resisted.

"You haven't answered my question."

"Oh, yes dear!"

He pushed off the floor and stood, looking into her eyes, "This is the happiest I've been for a long time."

She cupped his face, "Me too."

He covered her hand in his, "I just want to make sure everything's legal in case of anything, I don't want you to be cheated out of anything as my wife."

"Nothing is going to happen because if it did, I'd find a way to bring you back." She wrapped her arms around his neck still holding the bundle of flowers, "and I promise I'll use my real name this time."

"We're off to a great start already."

Xxx xxx

Curled up on the corner of the orange couch, Cora held her hand to her chin as her eyes darted across the pages of the paperback book she held.

From his seat next to her, reading a journal, Rodney could hear her make little gasping and whining noises, reacting to whatever was happening in that horror novel. Once she closed it with her gold ribbon bookmark and walk off to the kitchen with empty wide eyes, he decided to follow.

She was standing over the sink, filling up a glass when he silently came up behind her and grabbed her waist.

He wasn't prepared for her to scream and jump halfway to the ceiling, her elbows hitting him in his stomach. "Jeeze, woman!" He hissed.

She turned around, setting the glass down, "You should know better!" Gently checking his midriff with her fingers, "Are you alright?"

"Give me a couple years." He wrapped his arms around her.
"I'm sorry, it's only that book I'm reading. You would never believe what just happened."

"I work and live in a different galaxy than Earth, try me."

"One of the characters melted into a glob of black ooze… I can't believe they did that!"

"It's only a novel. There are more frightening things in real life."

"Good point." They moved back to the couch and resumed their readings of very different forms of literature.

A good while later and after she inched closer to him, she gasped.

"Is that good or bad?"

"Bad! Very bad! If they hurt him, I'm going to track down these guys."

She didn't say anything else, but he noticed her leg bouncing up and down.

In the few minutes time that it took her to finish, she had curled up by Rodney's side, using his shoulder as a pillow. He didn't mind and he put his arm around her shoulder.

She threw the book on the coffee table, "I can't believe they did that to me!"

"Did what?" It always amused him how deep she got into these stories of fictional characters.

"That's it, it's official, King and Straub are evil, evil writers! I've been scared out of my mind for the past three days and now they just toyed with my emotions as if they were playthings!"

"Umm, hun, it's their job." He squeezed her shoulder.

"But, now they have to write a sequel, because they can't say those things and just end it without another one for me to pick up." She crossed her arms.

"I thought you said that was the sequel?"

"It was. There was a long time in between the two though."

"How long?"

Cora reached forward for the book and checked the copyright date, quickly calculating times mentally, "Seventeen years, so if they keep at that pace I still have… twelve years… I can't wait that long." She leaned against his side.

Rodney grinned, "You waited eleven for me."

She smiled and tilted her head towards him, "True."

Their lips met as if they'd never been apart.

FIN


A/Ns: A huge hug to fififolle without whom this would not have turned out as well as it did.

It's been great couple of months writing this, but I'm going to stop the trend in my fics getting longer and longer and go back to a few shorter ones that have been simmering on the back burner.

Final chance to comment, so please tell me what you think of the whole thing. Thank you to everyone for reading, it makes my day!