A few hours later a very tired Doctor Beckett walked out of the main part of the infirmary and headed over to the chair on the other side of Sheppard from Carter.

They watched him come, no one saying a word.

Beckett leaned back, tipping his head back and resting it on the back of the chair. He closed his eyes, sighing heavily.

Elizabeth moved to sit on the other side of him, and, gently, pressed a hand on his arm.


Beckett's eyes opened again and he tipped his head forward, looking each of them in the eye.

And then he smiled.

Sheppard laughed, and soon they all were, the sound a little hysterical in its joy.


Carter checked her watch—less than six hours left.

She was walking quickly in the direction of the main conference room off the Control Room, Teyla by her side. The Athosian had been showing her some fighting techniques this morning, and they were pleased to learn they were pretty evenly matched. Teyla had kicked her ass with her fighting stick technique, but Carter had managed to bring her down in straight hand to hand. Sheppard had wandered in at one point, obviously looking for entertainment, and had clapped when they were done. He had then made some strange comment about feeling like he had just been watching Hector and Ajax fighting each other for the future of Troy.

"Hector and Ajax?" Teyla had asked, rubbing a towel across the back of her neck. "These were warriors of your people?"

"Two of the greatest, yes," Sheppard had nodded. "They faced each other thousands of years ago, but their story is still told."

Teyla's eyebrows lifted, impressed, while Carter just smiled softly where she was putting her things away. "So who won?" Teyla had asked then.

"Neither," Sheppard had replied, a knowing smile on his face. "They were too evenly matched. Heroes can't defeat heroes."

Teyla had smiled brightly at that, and nodded to Carter, who matched the smile with one of her own.

Now, freshly showered and full of breakfast, they were being summoned to a final briefing on the "metal spider incident." It was 0800 hours Atlantian time, and Carter's time here was quickly running out.

Walking into the room, the two woman nodded at the already gathered group and slipped into a couple of the vacant chairs.

"You look well rested," Elizabeth said, smiling at Carter. The colonel returned the smile easily.

"Well, between a good night's sleep and one hell of a workout this morning," she said, "I have to say, I'm feeling pretty damn good." She turned her head to Carson, "How's Rodney?"

"Still sleeping," Beckett said, nodding at her, sounding unworried. "Probably will for awhile yet." Turning to Elizabeth, he added, "He's healing well, though. Whatever worries I had about possible hemorrhaging or other damage has been pretty much wiped away. The Ancient diagnostic equipment has shown he is doing remarkably well, considering the trauma that thing caused. Within a week, I reckon he'll be back to his usual charming self."

"You mean, bitching and moaning," Sheppard said.

Carson nodded, grinning, "Yup, pretty much."

"And won't we just be so pleased," Elizabeth replied.

"Speak for yourself," Sheppard said, lifting his arms up in a stretch and putting them behind his head. "I was actually beginning to enjoy the quiet."

"Oh, please," Elizabeth mocked. "Like you haven't been sleeping in the infirmary these last eight hours."

"I was tired," Sheppard shrugged noncommittally, lowering his hands again, "and Beckett offered, since he had a spare bed..." Weir's knowing smile had him rolling his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, fine, you got me." He looked up, "It's not like I was the only one." And he glanced at Teyla and Ronon, who gave crooked smiles in return.

"Anyway," Elizabeth said, her tone changing, "we had a few more issues to consider before we can file this one away. First," she looked over at Sheppard, "if this happens again, will we be ready?"

"Absolutely," Sheppard said. "We know how to stop it now. There will be stunners in all the major control centers, which we now know are, combined, effective in slowing it down long enough for it to be destroyed by our more conventional weapons. Plus, now we know the trick with the tracking device thingy."

"I've also made sure that long range sensors will pick up any more similar objects," Zelenka added. "We won't be caught unawares again."

"Speaking of catching us unawares," Elizabeth said, leaning forward on the desk, "any theories on how it knew to come to this planet at all? I mean, I can't imagine that the Wraith just sent something that small out into the galaxy blindly..."

"We've managed to unscramble the rest of the data Rodney downloaded onto his desktop," Zelenka nodded, "and the hive ship that sent it...was our hive ship. They released it right before the ship was destroyed. It took the spider this long to get from there to here." He shrugged, "It was sort of...a curse from the grave, so to speak."

The expressions on the other's faces were grim, and Elizabeth shifted in her chair, shaking her head.

"And, could you tell if there were any more such to speak...coming our way?"

Zelenka grimaced, then shrugged. "No. I'm sorry. But..." he tilted his head from side to side for a moment before adding, "I would think this was it. If anything else was out there, I think it too would be here by now. Still, we are monitoring everything we can. Just in case."

Elizabeth nodded, "Just in case," she repeated. "Good." With a sigh, she leaned back and looked around the room, eyebrows raised. "Okay, that's everything I had. Any other questions?"

The room was a chorus of shaking heads and "no's" so Elizabeth nodded again.

"All right, then. You're dismissed."

The group stood, and Doctor Zelenka quickly approached Carter as she stood up, smiling up at her shyly as he leaned on his crutch. She frowned a little, watching him expectantly.

"I was wondering," Radek said, shrugging a little, "would you like a tour? Since, I think, you haven't really had one yet, yes?"

Carter grinned. "Actually, I'd love one. But that reminds me," her eyebrows lifted, "how did you break your leg?"

"Ankle, and..." Zelenka shrugged, "well, that's a whole different story..."


Five hours later, Carter was checking her watch again, grimacing to see just how little time she had left, and shifted again in the infirmary chair.

According to the deadline, she was supposed to be sent back through the wormhole in a little less than twenty minutes, and McKay had yet to awaken.

Beckett had actually said, quite definitely, that it was unlikely Rodney would awaken before she left, much less be coherent, and yet, here she was…


Doctor Zelenka had shown her around the City, the Czech far more animated than he had been when she first got here, gleefully letting her wander the stores of equipment and artifacts they had so far discovered. Before he was even halfway done, though, Colonel Sheppard arrived to take her for a ride in a puddle jumper around the planet, showing her more of the City, the Mainland and a little of the solar system they inhabited. She was barely down again when Doctor Weir found her to introduce her to some of the non-Athosians inhabiting Atlantis, as well as some of the diplomatic allies who were visiting. The groups were small, but Carter got the sense the numbers of their allies were growing.

It was important to have friends.

Now, with minutes left…she was sitting in the City's infirmary, wasting away her last eighteen minutes in Atlantis in this chair on the off-chance that McKay might wake up.

The scientist was lying on the bed next to where she sat, resting on his side, his head and neck swathed in bandages. She knew he would recover (although, according to Carson, McKay's haircut would be pretty damned amusing for a long time. She wondered if he'd like a baseball cap. Or maybe a hockey cap. Do they make hockey caps?), but she still just wanted to see his eyes open...

Sighing, she looked at her watch again.

Oh for Christ's sake, Sam, stop looking at your

"Colonel, hello," Carson's voice drifted over, the physician walking quietly across the room. "I didn't realize you were still down here. I thought you'd be gone by now."

Carter looked up at him, offering a smile. "Well, I still have a little time left."

"And you're spending it here?"

"I know." He smile grew wry, as she glanced at McKay again before returning her gaze to the physician, "Odd, isn't it."

Beckett just smirked, then shook his head. "No, no…not really. For some odd reason, he seems to…." He looked over at McKay, then smiled. "There you are, lad! You awake?"

Excitement lit Carter and she turned to the bed to find a pair of very sleepy looking blue eyes watching her. McKay blinked slowly once, but the eyes were definitely focused on her.

"Hey, McKay," she said, getting close and taking one of his cold hands gathered up near his chin, "God…it's good to see you."

The blue eyes just blinked again, their fixed gaze never leaving her face.

"Ask if he's feeling all right, will you?" Beckett prompted.

"Well?" she asked McKay. "How are you feeling? Any pain?"

There was no response, just more staring.

Carter frowned, "Can you even hear me? McKay? Squeeze my hand if you can understand me at all."

Still, nothing. The cold hand stayed unmoving. The only reaction came from his eyes, following her as she shifted slightly so that Beckett could lean in closer to take a look at him. The physician hummed a little, shining a light into his eyes, smiling a little as McKay's nose wrinkled up a little in displeasure, then pulled back.

"He sees us," he informed her, "but I'm not really sure he's awake…exactly."

Carter gave McKay a rueful look, "So, you think you're just dreaming, eh?" Suddenly, she smiled wickedly...and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. When she leaned back, there was a puzzled look on his face, and she grinned roguishly. "Only in your dreams, eh McKay?"

For a second, annoyance crossed his face at the tease, but it didn't last long. The eyes were already blinking closed, though they gamely tried to stay open and focused on Carter. Finally, as if it had been a huge effort to keep them open at all, he sighed and shut them fully.

Carter tried not to appear too disappointed that she hadn't been able to really talk to him, but clearly didn't succeed since Carson started to pat her shoulder affectionately.

"Not to worry, Colonel," he said kindly, "I was surprised to even see him open his eyes, to be honest. Getting a response out of him this soon would have been remarkable." He smiled, "But, I'm afraid even McKay's got his limits."

"I just…I would have liked…," she looked down, and smiled again. "Doesn't matter." She stood up then, looking at the physician on her right. "But he'll know I was here, right? Because you'll tell him."

"Aye, we'll tell him. But I'm guessing he'll know anyway."

"Yeah, well…" she paused suddenly, her eyes widening as she felt the fingers twitch under her palm where she was still holding McKay's hand. Looking down, she found he was looking up at her again.

Instantly, she was sitting again, leaning towards the bed. "McKay?"

His lips parted, as if he were trying to say something, but no sound came out. Leaning in, she put her ear closer to his lips.

"What?" she asked.

And suddenly leapt back, as if stung, nearly braining Carson who had leaned closer.

"What?" Beckett asked, pulling down on his ruffled coat, "What did he say?"

"Nothing," Carter spat, glaring fully at McKay, whose eyes were closed again, though now he was smiling softly. "Bastard kissed me!"

Beckett's laughter could be heard all the way to the Control Room.


A couple of weeks later, McKay sat in his usual chair up in the Control Room…wearing a baseball cap to hide the few bandages he still wore (and the "unfortunate" haircut)…and waiting while the last of the reports they were sending to Earth compacted into the databurst. He was leaning back in the chair, staring vaguely towards where some enterprising systems folks were replacing the stained glass window at the top of the stairs. They'd borrowed an identical window from a different room about three floors down, putting a plain plate glass window in that one's place until it could be properly replaced.

Next to him, Sheppard was humming something lightly…and a little off-key.

McKay frowned, then frowned even more deeply, turning to look at him.

"You're kidding. Simon & Garfunkel now?"

Sheppard grinned, and started singing softly.

"...I got up to wash my face, when I come back to bed, someone's taken my place,'re breaking my heart, you're shaking my confidence lately…"

"Oh, very funny." McKay sneered. "She was never in my bed, you moron."

Sheppard just continued to grin, and returned to humming.

McKay rolled his eyes, "You could at least try to stay in key!"

"Oh, Cecilia...I'm down on my knees; I'm begging you please to come home…"

"Oh God," McKay pretended to cover his ears, "just stop it now."

"We ready?" Elizabeth asked, walking across the balcony from her office. Sheppard immediately stopped singing, a big smile on his face. She gave him a puzzled look, then turned to McKay.

"Just about," Rodney replied, clearing his throat and sitting up, eyes focusing on his laptop screen. "In fact…" The screen beeped. "Done."

"Great," she said, looking to the sergeant by the DHD, "Go ahead and dial Earth."

Sheppard stood up as she spoke, moving to stand next to her. McKay stayed sitting, typing a few anticipatory commands on the laptop.

Below them, the wormhole established, and McKay glanced perfunctorily at the ZPM levels before turning around in his chair to look at the vid screen.

"This is Elizabeth Weir of the Atlantis Expedition," Elizabeth called. "Anyone home?"

The static on the vid screen cleared up, to show General Landry, Colonel Carter, and several others in the Gate room on the far side.

"Hey Doctor Weir," Landry greeted, smiling jovially. "How's everything looking?"

"Much better, thank you," Elizabeth replied. "Thanks in no small part to Colonel Carter. Hello, Sam."

Sam smiled brightly and waved.

McKay glanced briefly at the vid screen at the blonde scientist, but mostly kept his eyes down.

"We're sending our reports now," Elizabeth said, nodding to Rodney, who hit enter a few times to send the databursts.

"Anything we need to talk about right now?" Landry asked.

"A few things," Elizabeth admitted, nodding slightly. "I'll let Colonel Sheppard fill you in on the military aspects first."

Sheppard cleared his throat. "We have some further intel on the Wraith movement in this galaxy, sir..."

McKay began to drift a little as Sheppard spoke, only vaguely paying attention to the precise description, and to Landry's questions about the same, stuff that might not be in the reports. Without really thinking, his eyes lifted up and drifted to meet Carter's, and saw she was trying subtly to get his attention. He frowned, and saw her put a radio earpiece over her ear, then type something into the laptop in front of her.

McKay's laptop beeped a half-second later, and he turned to see she'd sent him an email. It contained an odd radio frequency—one rarely used. Still frowning, he took off his earpiece and adjusted it to the frequency she'd written before putting it back on and tapping it.

"Can you hear me?" Carter's whispered voice asked. She was speaking softly enough not to be heard over Sheppard's recitation, Elizabeth's interjections and Landry's questions.

McKay gave a tiny smile, looking up at the vid screen. "Yeah," he whispered back.

"How are you feeling?" she asked quietly, and he could see her tapping her head. "You look a hell of a lot better than when I last saw you."

"I'm fine," he replied quickly, in the tone of someone who probably wasn't but wasn't going to say otherwise. He gave her a nod, "I…was sorry you had to leave before I woke up. I didn't get a chance to thank you."

She gave a quick, bright smile, then shrugged. "Timing was never something we did well."

"Radek said he gave you a tour."

"He gave me a short tour, just a taste really," she agreed. "But I want a full one from you, next time I come."

His eyebrows lifted, "So you will come again?"

"Hell, yes. Your city is amazing, McKay."

He grinned, he couldn't help it. She'd just called it his city.

"I know," he sat up straighter in his chair. "And we're learning more everyday. There's some things in the report this week I think you're going to find really interesting." He preened a little, "I have to say, I'm probably going to surpass you soon in knowledge of Ancient technology. The things we have found out here…"

"Surpass me? Oh, please," Carter retorted, her eyes narrowing playfully as she whispered. "I don't think so, McKay. Don't forget your Ancient equipment is Lantean only. Between what we're learning from Merlin's workshop and the Ori, not to mention the Al-Terran works the Ancients left behind here—"

"Outdated," McKay snorted. "Hundreds of thousands of years more advanced here, remember?"

"Merlin was only a thousand years ago, McKay," Carter shot back. "Besides, I'm not sure you can really call yourself an expert on what you're finding there anyway."

"What?" McKay's eyes widened. "Please, besides obviously being the smartest man here, I work with this stuff every day!"

"Yes, but," Carter's eyes narrowed as she gave him a mocking smile, "with all due respect, McKay, you spend most of your time in the field."

Rodney was about to give a scathing reply when exactly what she had just said registered…and he realized it sounded very, very familiar. He paused, then, slowly, began to smile crookedly.

"You remember that, huh?" he asked sheepishly. "I was sort of hoping you might have forgotten I said that to you. I was something of an ass, then."

"You're an ass, now."

"Yeah, but I was younger then," he explained. "My assness was of a greater magnitude. After all, I had more hair." And he gently touched the cap on his head. "I do miss that hair."

"It was bushy," Carter shrugged. "Looks better short."

"Really?" McKay asked, eyebrows lifting, "You think so?"


"I like your hair, too," he offered.

Carter snorted, "I know."

"Well, Doctor McKay?" Elizabeth asked suddenly, loudly, staring down at him, "Anything else you want to add?" Her eyebrow was arched. "Other than comments about hairstyles, of course?"

McKay blinked rapidly, not hiding how startled he was, then glared at the highly amused grin Sheppard was throwing him. Glancing at the screen, he saw Landry was looking down at a blushing Carter, who was pretending to read something on her laptop with great seriousness.

"Um, oh…no, no…it's all in the reports," he stammered.

"Well, then," Elizabeth said, "so, if the two of you have finished discussing your…"

"Very important scientific matters," McKay stated firmly. He saw Carter roll her eyes a little on the other side of the screen, though she had a small smile on her face.

Elizabeth just looked at him, "fine…very important scientific matters, then I think we'll sign off." She looked back at the screen. "General, we'll see you again in a couple of weeks." She smiled warmly, "It was good to speak with you, as always."

"Same here, Doctor," Landry replied, and his eyes shifted to Sheppard. "Keep them safe, Colonel," he said.

"Yes, sir," Sheppard gave a quick salute.

"And, of course, Doctor McKay," Landry finished, staring at the doctor. McKay stood up with only a slight wobble, and Landry gave him a light smile. "It's good to see you…still alive, doctor."

McKay gave him a wry look, "Thanks, General."

Landry grinned, then nodded to Harriman, who cut the connection.

"And stay that way," Carter's voice whispered in McKay's ear just before the screen went dead.

McKay smiled. "You too, Sam," he whispered back to the cosmos.

"Jubilation!" Sheppard sang softly as he patted his friend's shoulder lightly on his way out.


The End

Hi! Okay, I know I took a few liberties with canon here. I'm only guessing that our former Hive "allied" ship will be blown up in the premiere, and that the Wraith did not manage to broadcast Atlantis' location to the rest of their brethren. I don't know how at the moment, but that's what I'm hoping. Eeep! Also, on the check-ins with Earth, Derry's totally right. It's more likely that they just send information bursts, not have actual face to face meetings, but...well, I'd already written this and didn't want to change it. (sheepish look). Hope it didn't detract too much!

Oh, and McKay did, in fact, say to Carter within minutes of meeting her for the first time in "48 Hours," after Hammond described Carter to McKay as being the foremost expert on the Gate that, "with all due respect, Major, you spend most of your time in the field," meaning McKay was more of an expert. Figured a little tit-for-tat was deserved for that! LOL!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you all so, so much for your reviews and comments! Really helped a lot with my fears about writing Carter, and generally...just thank you! Means more than I can ever tell you!

Oh, and before you, I have no idea how Zelenka broke his ankle. Seriously, I don't. For some totally strange reason, I typed that Zelenka "limped" to the big screen in the very first scene, and I had to have a reason why, so, instead of just changing "limped" to "walked"...I put a cast on him.Poor guy!