Carter's jaw was set firmly as she strode towards the brig. Her eyes, though, were a million miles away. Or, to be more precise, three hundred million miles away.

What the hell was she doing here?

The click of two sets of boot heels drew her attention back to the present, and she did her best not to frown at the overly formal stance of the two guards standing at the door to the brig. Neither marine met her gaze as she reached the door, which was as frustrating as it was telling.

"The door," she said to the marine on the right, "if you please."

"Yes, Colonel," he replied, shifting and swiping his hand over the control. The door to the Atlantis brig slid open softly, bathing her in the blue light of the force field around Rodney's cell. She gave the marine a nod in thanks. He didn't acknowledge it. Had she really expected he would?

These were not her people, yet.

She stepped across the threshold into the small room, and peered through the deceptively wide bars. Rodney was pacing, wringing his hands as he did so, a furious scowl on his face. As she walked into his line of sight, he stopped pacing, his eyes finding hers.

"Less than five minutes," he said, a hint of smugness in his still angry voice. "Giving up so soon?"

Carter steeled herself—this was a McKay she recognized. Icy blue eyes met icy blue eyes.

"You know we can't crack your code in time," she said calmly. "You need to tell me your password."

"Nope," Rodney crossed his arms. "Not until you agree to go with my plan."

Carter shook her head. "Rodney, at this point, we have thirteen minutes left until those ships hit. I need access to the computer so I can tell Colonel Sheppard how to blow up them up before they breach the ten minute barrier. Give me your password. Now."

His chin lifted. "No. My program still needs six or seven more minutes to run. I'm not giving you my password until you let me use it to save them."

Carter's right eye twitched briefly. Finally, she drew in a heavy breath and lowered her gaze.

"Rodney," she said, trying to sound reasonable, "I can't do that. You know I can't. Your plan risks the City, could even destroy it." Her eyes lifted to his again. "That is unacceptable."

"The window will be tight, but Chuck hasn't taken into account just how good this City's shield is—especially once Radek boosts it, which I know he can do." He stepped forward, "Give my plan a chance, Sam."

Her eyes narrowed, 'What if your plan doesn't work?"

"It'll work," he stated firmly.

"You've said that before."

Rodney actually growled, knowing she was talking about what had happened between them five years ago. "I'm not that man, anymore, Sam. This isn't about glory. It's not about beating you. It's about saving my team."

"Yes," she nodded, "I know that, and if I thought we could save them, I—"

"But we can save them!" Rodney shouted, stepping close enough to the force field to actually get shocked. Hissing and stepping back, shaking his hands, he shook his head at her. "Sam, listen to me. My plan will work. Just let me try—"

"I can't, Rodney! Can't you see that?" Sam screwed her eyes closed, then opened them again. "If I let you try, and you fail, everyone here could die!"

"But if I don't try, sure, you would save the City, but Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon would all be dead!"

"The window's too tight, Rodney! The risk is too high!"

"You know what?" Rodney shouted. "You go out there," he pointed towards the doors, "and you ask those two marines what they're willing to risk for Colonel Sheppard. I think you'll find that they, and everyone else in this City, is more than willing to reduce Atlantis to ashes if it means they get him, Teyla and Ronon back alive. You just ask!"

"That's not the point, Rodney!"

"Then what is?" he demanded. "Because if you're not willing to let me do everything I can to save them and this City, then you're not fit to step into her shoes!"

Carter hissed in a breath. That was harsh. It took everything Carter had not to take a step back as if she'd been slapped. Instead, she let out a short breath and stepped forward.

"Rodney, don't make this about me versus Doctor Weir. This is about you and me."

Rodney just stared at her, then, strangely, gave a tiny smile. "You're wrong."

"Am I?" Carter asked. "We've been adversaries from the very moment we met. Are you trying to tell me that my coming here isn't a threat?"

"No!" Rodney grimaced. "Yes. Maybe. But not right now. Not about this."

Carter snorted, "Well, you could have fooled me after this stunt you pulled." She crossed her arms, "Rodney, your plan isn't just bad, it's reckless and it's dangerous. Even if it could work, we have no idea what delaying that long could do to the City, no idea what the extent of the damage could be."

"But we know what the damage will be if we don't try!" Rodney nearly hit the shield again, only arresting his hands at the last second. "Damn it, Sam! It's worth it, can't you see that?" His hands curled into fists, and, for a moment, the terrified, hopeful, desperate and vulnerable Rodney shone through the angry and arrogant façade. "Sam, please," he said, his voice impossibly soft all of a sudden. "It is worth it. Atlantis needs those three people. Please."

It was strange, she thought, staring into his pleading eyes, how much louder his words were when he said them quietly. Where she hadn't stepped back from him before, she did so now. Then she stepped even closer, close enough to touch the bars, her brow furrowed in amazement.

He was right. This was not the same man she used to know.

"What has happened to you, Rodney?" she whispered.

He frowned, and his eyes narrowed slightly. "What has happened to you, Sam?"

If it had felt like he had struck her before, those words slammed her like a hammer blow.

For a moment, neither moved, and then Carter screwed her face up in frustration. She glanced at her watch—it was counting down the time, and now read 11 minutes. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then looked up. Rodney hadn't moved.

"Okay," she said, flexing the muscles in her jaw as she spoke, "we'll do it your way, but you need to let me help."

The shock on his face was almost worth it—as if he hadn't expected her to actually give in. Then he smiled, all sneering smugness, and her anger came back ten-fold.

"But as soon as this is over," she warned, "you're going back in there. Ten days locked up in the brig should show you I don't mess around, Doctor McKay."

His smirk vanished, but, instead of arguing, he just nodded. "Fine, fine," he agreed, rolling a hand at her impatiently. "But right now, we've got a City and a jumper with three idiots on it to save. So, how about letting me out?"

Carter snorted, but she hit the release on the cell. As McKay stormed out, not even waiting for her to catch up as he darted out the door, she had a feeling that she had missed something.

She also ignored the smiles on the two marines faces as she ran after her chief scientist. Her watch was beeping. Ten minutes mark. Damn it.


McKay blew into the Control Room with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. "Radek!" he shouted. Carter came in just as the password locked screens disappeared—because Radek had typed in McKay's code. For a second, she just stared at the Czech, but he was too busy, back to working on the shield.

"Miko," Rodney called, moving to stand up next to her in the back row, "Any luck?"

"I can slow them down, but not by much," she said.

Carter bounced up behind Miko, looking over her shoulder. She said nothing as she recognized instantly that Miko had found a way to slow the engines down on the three warships. Carter's jaw tensed, and she looked at Rodney.

"You knew she could do that, and you didn't tell me?"

"I didn't know," he said, hitting buttons on his tablet. "I hoped. I knew she needed more time to implement it, though, and I didn't think you'd give her the time."

Carter looked down at Miko, and saw that the woman was still working away. Had she been working this entire time? That meant, like Radek, she knew McKay's codes. Oh for the love of Pete. She was going to kill him.

But she couldn't deny that McKay was probably right. From the looks of it, Miko was only just finishing her work—and it hadn't been by the ten minute barrier. Carter wouldn't have allowed it.

Speaking of...She glanced at her watch. Eight minutes.

The Japanese scientist tapped her radio, "Colonel Sheppard, I'm sending you commands to input into the controls of your ship."

"We're ready," he said, sounding too calm. And too martyrish.

Rodney snorted. "Oh, please. They're for the engines, Colonel. It'll slow you down. Stop being so melodramatic."

"Oh." Sheppard tried to hide the hope from his voice. "Okay. By the way, nice to hear your voice again, McKay. You were worrying me there with the quiet. Thought maybe you'd decided to go work on something more important."

"Yes, well, I got a bit tied up, what with the City about to be destroyed thing," Rodney answered, not looking up from his tablet. "I'm back on the case now, though, looking to save your sorry ass, as usual."

There was a snort of laughter over the radio. "I was beginning to think you didn't care anymore, Rodney," Sheppard joked. Rodney's fingers stilled briefly, then continued.

"Not at all, Colonel. You'll be happy to know that we've decided the three of you are worth a little wire walking."

"Well, thanks so much," Sheppard called.

Carter watched McKay, amazed that he hadn't said anything about her tossing him in the brig. She hadn't told Colonel Sheppard about it either—he'd find out soon enough.

As Carter watched, a new velocity and trajectory appeared on the screen showing the warships, and it was sent straight to Chuck's computer. The sergeant hit several keys, then nodded.

"We have more time. Impact is now in 14 minutes."

She nodded, then turned to Rodney. He looked up at her. "I need to go to the Chair room now," he said. She inclined her head.

"Miko," Carter turned to look again at the Japanese scientist, "the commands for overloading the ship's engines are at that station." She pointed to where she had been before, "When I tell you, send them to Colonel Sheppard." Miko nodded, getting out of her seat and heading over to the other station.

"Where are you going?" Rodney asked, his eyebrows lifted. She looked back at him, then smiled.

"To help you."


Carter knew she should be upstairs, standing in command, watching with the rest of her staff as the three warships hit the last-chance point.

But she was down in the chair room, standing next to Rodney, watching the screen from across the room while he sat rigid in the chair. He wasn't talking to her, his eyes weren't even open. He probably didn't even sense her there anymore. But this is where she stood.

The large screen across the room showed everything that was happening above, and she watched as a small part of the image depicting the three warships split away. It picked up speed, and soon was given a call sign by the database. PJ-4. Rodney sent it upwards, flying up into the cosmos and away from the dangers of gravity.

With a gasp, he suddenly sat forward, his eyes wide open. They were unfocused, wide and scared. Carter rested a hand briefly on his shoulder, to let him know he had done what he wanted to do.

A heartbeat later, the screen showed a terrific explosion. Carter stepped forward, watching as the three warships shattered into tiny pieces, each fragment picked up and designated with a number by the precise computer system. As she watched, the pieces lost power, any light or energy signature they might have been emitting winking out. Any references to them being part or once part of a warship disappeared, and Atlantis automatically responded to protect itself against what had once been part of its own. Now, it was just shrapnel.

The shield responded. Nothing breached the dome. The bits of ships became nothing more than bugs on a windshield, disintegrated upon impact. Radek's extra work to make the shield even more potent had worked.

It had all worked.


Carter turned around at Rodney's call, to find the scientist was still sitting in the chair, leaning forward and tapping his radio. "Sheppard?" he called again. "Teyla? Ronon?"

"We're here, Rodney," Teyla replied, her tone bright. "You did it."

"We did it," McKay answered quickly, grinning with relief. He looked up then at Carter, and his smile broadened. "We did it," he repeated, this time obviously talking about him and her.

Carter smiled back. She pointed upwards towards the control room. "We all did it," she said. And it was amazing, she added to herself. It was strange—she was used to being the one doing the bulk of the work, the one who comes up with the last minute save, pretty much all by herself. Now she had a whole team of scientists, all, let's face it, just as smart as her, to rely on. And, she realized, she could.

There's irony there, she thought. She'd been thinking earlier how alone she was, but...Damn, to be alone, but not be alone—this was going to take some getting used to. As Rodney continued to smile at her, though, finally standing and stepping forward off the dais and patting her on the shoulder, she had to grin. Whatever else, she knew her future wasn't going to be boring.

He put his hands behind his back, and stood quietly at her side, both of them staring at the clear skies over Atlantis depicted on the screen—empty except for the Jumper, beeping away happily up in the corner. He sighed, and she glanced at him.

"So," he said, his voice low, "do we have to talk about it?"

"By it," she said, her voice also low, but not dark, "I assume you mean, your blatant insubordination, recklessness, and nearly destroying the City because of your blind need to save your team?"

"I wouldn't have destroyed the city," he said, his voice even more quiet. "I would have given in, if I'd had to. Radek, Miko, Chuck...they all knew the code I used to block you out, and they would have let you in, if they knew there was no other way." He looked at her, "You need to trust me, Sam. Me and my team. If I say I can do something, believe that I can. I am the chief scientist, not you, no matter how smart you are. I love that you're here to bounce ideas off of, to help, but you can't be me. You can't interfere. Whatever you think of me personally, I am very, very good at my job, and you have to trust me."

She stared at him a moment, reading his features. He showed a lot on his face. "I think," she said, smiling weakly, "I'm just not used to seeing others in the role I always had."

He gave a nod—he understood.

"And," she said, "you're not used to seeing someone else in the role Elizabeth had."

He was still for a moment, then, slowly, he gave another nod.

"Rodney," she tilted her head, "I'll make you a deal. I won't send you to the brig for ten days, and nothing about what happened between you and me will make it in the records—no arrest, no punishment, nothing—provided," she lifted her head straight again, "you agree never to pull a stunt like that again. And, in turn," she smiled, "I will trust you to do your job, and not interfere unless you ask me to help."

He met her gaze, and she saw the hint of defiance in there that had always been there for as long as she had known him.

Finally, he nodded. "Okay."

"Okay," she repeated back. She was fairly sure he only half meant it, but...she wasn't sure she wholly meant it either. Still, they were getting there. Today had been a huge step. But, oh yes...

This was going to take a lot of getting used to.

"Hey," Sheppard called then, over the radio. "Rodney? Carter? You still there?"

Carter looked up at the ceiling, as if she could see through it to the Jumper far above the planet. "We're here," she answered.

"What's up?" Rodney asked.

"Can we come home now?"

"Oh!" the scientist turned around and plopped back down into the chair. "Right! Let me just make sure the Jumper's purged of all the nanites and…" He closed his eyes, and Carter looked up in wonder as a three dimensional Jumper schematic appeared overhead. Parts of it started to flash red. Not good. She grimaced.

"Oh dear," Rodney mumbled softly, opening his eyes to look up at the same schematics.

"Oh dear?" Sheppard repeated. Carter found herself grinning at that. Clearly, the Colonel knew Rodney all too well. "What does 'oh dear' mean, Rodney?"

"Um," Rodney licked his lips. "You've got some food and stuff up there, right? Sleeping bags? Usual mission gear stuff?"

There was a pause, then, "Rodney."

"It, uh," Rodney twirled his fingers around each other, "might take a little while."

"How long?"

"12, 13 hours, give or take."


"Better than dead, Colonel," Carter noted. And Rodney shot her a grateful look. Sheppard just sighed.

"Could be worse," Ronon then interjected over the line.

"How could it be worse?" Sheppard asked, sounding peeved.

"We could have Rodney up here with us."

That earned a bout of laughter from the Jumper, and Carter smirked. Rodney rolled his eyes.

"Ha, ha. Bite the hand that feeds you, why don't you. In fact..." Blue eyes turned to Carter, "I'm kinda hungry. Hey, Sam, how about lunch?"

"Hey!" Sheppard called, the laughter from the Jumper ending instantly. "Now hang on a minute!"

"I could eat," Carter said sweetly. Rodney grinned.

"Colonel!" Sheppard shouted.

"You wouldn't want Rodney to go into hypoglycemic shock while he's repairing your Jumper, would you, Colonel?" Carter countered, looking at Rodney and tilting her head towards the door. He stood up, stepping over to join her.

"Colonel, Rodney, I am certain that Ronon did not mean his statement." Teyla had an edge of desperation to her voice.

"Sure, I did," Ronon said.

"Ronon!" Sheppard's voice had an almost reedy quality to it.

"Back in half n' hour!" Rodney called gaily, stepping off the dais with Carter. "Try not to eat each other while we're gone!"

The voices in their ears kept them company all the way to the mess.


The End :)