Chapter 14

Eight of Atlantis' personnel stood at the North pier, the light wind blowing off the ocean caressing their faces. The sun shone brightly overhead, and it was promising to be a beautiful day.

Dr. Weir stepped forward, offering her hand to Corynn. The alien woman was returning to her people today, taking off in a small shuttle and flying to the Gladiator. The gigantic ship was too big to land on Atlantis, and had remained in orbit just over the planet.

"Corynn, I look forward to seeing you soon," Elizabeth said warmly. Corynn accepted her handshake, then tugged the expedition leader forward into a quick hug. She released her after a long moment, then returned Elizabeth's smile.

"As do I, Dr. Weir. Until then, may you all stay safe." Corynn gave a smile to each new friend – John, Teyla, Ronon, Carson, Radek, even Colonel Caldwell.

She saved her last smile for Rodney, unconsciously twining her fingers around the gold chain of her necklace.

"You will remember, Dr. McKay?" she asked softly. The others stared uncomprehendingly as Rodney gave a quick, short nod, his own hands traveling to the silver chain around his neck.

"Corynn, we should go now," Janus called. He stood at the entry hatch to the small shuttle, impatience in his eyes. Corynn glanced over her shoulder, giving her brother a harsh look.

"One minute, Janus. Keep your pantyhose on, will ya?" John snorted at the Earth-phrase, one of many that the little alien woman had picked up during her stay on Atlantis. He was sure this one was courtesy of Rodney McKay.

Speaking of which…Rodney looked distinctly unhappy. Corynn held the scientist's blue gaze for a long moment, then, with a small wave of her hand, slowly turned and headed towards the hatch.

"Corynn! Wait!" Rodney rushed forward, unsure of what he was going to say, but needing to tell her…something.

Corynn turned, curiosity and surprise on her features. Rodney halted a step away, gazing down at those strange aqua eyes, his hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. Finally, he took another step, closing the gap between them, then lifted his hands. He cupped her face, then leaned in, his purpose now clear to Corynn and the flabbergasted people surrounding them.

For the two years Rodney McKay had been a resident of Atlantis, he had kissed precisely three people. But, in his opinion, he really hadn't. Two of the kisses were given while he was carting around Laura Cadman in his head, and so, therefore they didn't really count. Oh, sure, it looked like he was kissing Katie Brown, but, really, it was Cadman who instigated the embrace, Cadman who bent Katie back, and Cadman who dazzled the botanist, using Rodney's body as a conduit. In truth, Rodney barely even remembered the incident.

And as for the other kiss, with Dr. Carson Beckett, well…he didn't want to get into that. Suffice it to say that he wished he didn't remember that incident…as did Carson, he supposed.

His most recent romantic encounter had been with Samantha Carter, when he had been trapped in the puddle jumper under tons of ocean water. Only, see, that also didn't qualify because, well, she was a figment of his imagination, a product of his panicked sub-conscious. It had seemed real – God yes! – but it had been pure illusion.

So, now, as his mouth covered Corynn's, and his eyes shut, he relished the fact that he, and not some cranky explosives expert, was in control, that he was kissing a woman, and that she was real.

Corynn's eyes fluttered shut as Rodney's mouth descended on hers, his touch slightly hesitant, as if he was unsure about her response. His hands still cupped her face, his thumbs circling her temples, and she moaned silently at his caress. Leaning closer, she returned the kiss, letting her emotions flow through her, into him, through the intimate contact of their mouths.

Rodney felt the now-familiar tingle race through him, only this time it had come from her lips on his. He gasped at the sensation, then deepened the kiss, tasting her mouth, nearly groaning as she swept her tongue across his. He could feel her hands run up and down his back, tracing his spine, and warmth flowed from her wherever she touched. He pulled her to him, his hands dropping to her hips, wanting her closer, needing to feel her…

"Ahem!"

Rodney froze. His eyes shot open, and he yanked away from Corynn. He could feel the surprised eyes of his friends on his back, and he stifled a groan. He would never live this down.

Corynn stared up at the physicist, sensing his turmoil. Gathering her wits about her, she took a small step back. Immediately, his eyes were on her, uncertainty in their brilliant blue depths. She smiled up at him, her heart still pounding from his embrace, but knowing that she had to leave.

"Promise me you'll come back," he whispered angrily. He was standing rigid, his hands now at his sides, but Corynn knew that his turbulent emotions weren't directed at her.

She nodded once. "I promise, Rodney," she replied.

He held her gaze for a moment longer. "You'd better," he snapped, then he turned and strode towards the exit, ignoring the stunned looks on his friends faces. Corynn merely watched him go, her expression sad.

She turned her focus on the small group, and almost laughed aloud. Teyla and Ronon were exchanging knowing smiles, while Colonel Caldwell's face was both amused and mortified. Dr. Beckett was handing Radek something – money? – and shaking his head at the smug little scientist. Elizabeth looked worried, while John was staring at her, his expression unreadable.

Corynn gave them a short bow and a smile, then turned and walked towards the shuttle. A few minutes later, the small craft lifted off from the pier, and was soon out of sight.

oOo

"How's he doing?"

It was two days since Corynn had left, and Elizabeth's voice was concerned. Rodney hadn't been seen since, although rumors of his presence in both the mess-hall and the secondary control room had abounded. On the pier, the physicist's look had been intensely troubled as he strode by Elizabeth, and she wondered if he needed to talk.

John came to her side, leaning out over the balcony as if to admire the view. In truth, he was as worried as the expedition leader. He had always known if Rodney fell for someone, he would fall hard. And leave it to McKay to fall for an alien woman who lived on the far side of the Pegasus galaxy. He shook his head as he caught Elizabeth's eye.

"Don't know. If we don't hear from him today, I'll corner him in his room and make sure he's okay." John's words had barely left his mouth when the scientist came barreling on to the balcony.

"Hey! Good, you're both here! Come with me - I've got a surprise!" he barked, and John peered at his friend's face. Rodney appeared tired, but no more than usual, and his manner was normal – quick, abrupt, impatient. If his heart had been broken with Corynn's departure, then he was hiding it well.

"What's up, McKay?" John asked as he and Elizabeth followed the excited scientist to the transporter.

"You'll see," Rodney replied cryptically, rubbing his hands together. He bounced on the balls of his feet, rocking back and forth, and John stifled a smile. Rodney was rarely happy, but now he was showing all the signs of a kid at Christmas.

Minutes later, they were in the secondary control room. It really was the main control area, but since they only used a small portion of the city, the Earthlings primarily used the stargate control room as their base of operations. This control room ran the entire city, including the useless interstellar engines.

Rodney hurried over to the main control panel, flipping switches and pressing buttons. Three laptop computers, with wires piled like spaghetti, were interfaced with the control crystals. John and Elizabeth exchanged a shrug. What had McKay been doing?

Rodney spun around. "Okay, I think we're ready to test now," he said. From across the room, Radek Zelenka poked his head up from under a console, nodding excitedly. He scurried to one of the laptops, looking at McKay expectantly.

"Okay, Rodney, what's going on?" John asked, his voice tinged with impatience.

Rodney paused, his mind going back to Corynn as she revealed her second gift to him. He could feel the crystal, unexpectedly warm, as it lay against his skin, and stifled the urge to touch it. Her first gift to him, and the most personal. But the second – the second was for everyone…

"Before Corynn left, she gave me something. She was pretty strict with her instructions, but I agreed to her terms." Rodney paused, anticipating Elizabeth's ire. He didn't have to wait long.

"Wait a minute! Rodney, you have no authority to negotiate terms with anyone, let alone a potential ally!"

Rodney only shook his head. He had initially argued with Corynn, but she had been adamant. And, in the end, he had given her his word. He was hoping this demonstration would change Elizabeth's – and, judging from the expression of doubt on John's face – Sheppard's mind.

Rodney nodded to Radek, who suddenly keyed his radio. "Attention everyone. A test of the interstellar engines is about to commence. Repeat – a test of the interstellar engines is about to commence. Please stand by." He leaned in and typed a few commands into one of the laptops, and was rewarded by the a slight trembling below their feet.

"Rodney! Are you serious? We can use the…?" John's voice trailed off, and he ran to one of the windows. His gasp brought the others to his side.

They were in the air. Not very high – maybe fifteen feet from the surface of the ocean, but the entire city was airborne. Water flowed from the supports, streaming into sheets that cascaded back into the ocean. John could see the startled faces of personnel as they raced to the balconies, peering over the side and pointing.

Rodney strode back to his laptop, and, with a few short keystrokes, enabled the shield. "Sorry. Don't want to lose anyone," he said. He glanced at Radek once more, and a moment later, Atlantis returned to it's position on the ocean's surface.

"That was extraordinary," breathed Elizabeth. The low hum of engines faded, as did the slight vibration. She stared hard at Rodney, who was smiling. She wasn't sure if she should be jubilant at their new-found power, or furious that he had kept it from her. She settled for somewhere in between, striding over to the physicist. He returned her gaze steadily, then answered the question in her eyes.

"Corynn gave us a power supply – an unbelievable power supply - to be used for one purpose only: should the future of Atlantis be threatened - either by the Wraith or some other catastrophe - we are to use this power to leave the planet." He paused, letting his words sink in. He had argued for hours with Corynn, trying to convince her to let them use the power for weapons, for their defense, but she had refused. And had explained why. Using many of her same words, Rodney began his own explanation.

"Think of this power source as a huge naquada generator, only a lot smaller. This generator draws its power from the dark matter of space. So, while we are down here, every time we use this generator, it will be drained without being replaced. And it will drain fast." He paused, and Radek chimed in.

"Even if we could use it to power the city, or for the shield or cloak – which we can't - eventually there won't be enough power to break free of gravity. And we would be stuck."

Rodney nodded, his voice quickening as he explained further. "This generator has the capability of renewing it's own energy, but only when we are within the vacuum of space. And before you suggest it, no we can't remove it and put it on the Daedelus; it's configured for Atlantis – and only Atlantis." Another argument had ensued at this announcement, but, once again, Corynn had won. The power supply was for the interstellar engines of the city – nothing else.

Rodney crossed the room, hitting a button, and a long, somewhat bulky apparatus rose from the central console. Like a ZPM, it glowed, but in a light shade of pink, rather than the orangey Ancient device. Both John and Elizabeth crossed the room, staring at the strange device, until Rodney lowered it back into the console.

"Well?" Rodney's voice was slightly perturbed, and John hid a grin. The scientist was miffed at their total lack of enthusiasm. Wanting to maintain the peace, he gave Rodney a wide smile.

"Good work, both of you," he said.

Elizabeth had sagged into a chair, running a hand across her face. Finally, she glanced up at Rodney. And smiled.

"Yes, Rodney. Good work. I wish Corynn was here, so I could thank her as well. Both of you – and you too, Dr. Zelenka – have given this city a better chance of survival. And that is a very welcome gift." She rose to her feet, her gaze wandering the room in wonder. "But, next time, I expect to be let in on the surprise a bit earlier, agreed?"

Both scientists nodded their heads, but Rodney's mind was on Elizabeth's words. He wished Corynn was here, too. A moment like this would have been so much more thrilling with the alien woman by his side.

He puttered a moment longer, switching the controls to stand-by position, and powering down the generator. Chatting softly, their heads together, John and Elizabeth left the room, tailed by Radek.

Rodney paused, his fingers searching for the crystal around his neck. He rubbed lightly at the warm pendant, his eyes growing distant. He had promised her that he would adhere to her terms, to use the engines as a last-ditch effort to save the city. And he would keep that promise, even though one day he might regret his vow to her.

Because she had also promised him. She would return. He had seen it in her eyes, had tasted it on her lips, had felt it in her hands. She would come back. All he had to do was be patient.

Rodney snorted at his own thoughts. Yeah, right. Patience. Like that was one of his better qualities. He mentally shut down the lights and followed his friends from the room, leaving their newest hope of survival humming lightly in the dark.

The End

A/N – Okay – I know that this isn't one of my better stories. It's got holes a truck could drive through, Teyla, Ronon and Carson have hardly anything to do, and my technology is shaky, at best. I apologize if anyone is disappointed, and I promise to do much better in the future. I blame the fact that I've been traveling extensively the last few weeks – first to Venezuela, and then to Virginia – and I tend to lose focus if I'm not on a story constantly. So, sorry. KKG