Author: RowenaR

Rating: K+

Category: Drama

Disclaimer: Stargate belongs to Gekko and… all those other people making money with it. Anyway, I don't. Honestly. So – I don't own, you don't sue. Deal?

Summary: Well... what DID compell General Evan Lorne into letting Rodney McKay through the Gate in 'The Last Man'? Tag to aforementioned episode, spoiler-heavy. Kinda Lorne/Cadman.

A/N: This little one here came to my while cleaning up and listening to Runrig's very beautiful and kinda sad ballad "Hearts of Olden Glory". It can be seen as a part of the "Protect and Survive"-universe (my up to now two multichaptered Lorne/Cadman stories), but doesn't necessarily have to. Yes, it does contain character death, but since we all know how 'The Last Man' ends... (well, at least those of us who have seen it, anyway) and that there is a Season Five :coughs:... Anyway, I hope, you enjoy this one.

And as always: Not a native speaker, so please excuse any weird grammatical constructions, tapeworm sentences (tapeworm sentence? is that even a word?) and typos. Feedback will earn you a cookie, flames will roast my marshmellows.

The faith that cleans your wound

"There's a vision
Coming soon
Through the faith
That cleans your wound
Hearts of olden glory
Will be renewed."

Runrig, "Hearts of Olden Glory"

He shakes his head as he goes through everything McKay has sent him another time. Altering the timeline… that's crazy even for McKay. From what he can understand… it could work, stressing the could. Sending Sheppard a message he is supposed to find in about 40.000 years… he's seen a lot during his time in Atlantis and in the SGC, but he can't remember ever having seen something so crazy and hypothetical.

It seems McKay hasn't been doing anything else than developing these calculations over the last 23 years. 23 years ago… he remembers Rodney and Jennifer McKay coming back to the SGC and Jennifer dying there from the aftereffects of being exposed too much to the Hoffan drug. He also remembers how devastated Rodney had been after her death. He wonders… could it have been Jennifer's death that had started all of this?

It still sounds strange to him… Rodney McKay of all people being compelled into dedicating his life to something that could very well be a big heap of disconnected letters and numbers and not worth the scrap of paper it's printed on by the death of his wife? But then his gaze falls onto the pictures on his fireplace's mantelpiece… and all of this doesn't seem so impossible anymore.

With a sigh – and less agility than 25 years ago, mind you… he's really getting old – he stands up and walks over to the mantelpiece. There are pictures of his sister, his nephews, his parents… and his wife. One of her in her Marine Dress Blues shortly after her field-promotion to Captain, then their wedding picture – they even managed to find a white dress for her, even with all the horror and commotion going on in the galaxy around them – one, that shows only her, carefree and laughing on a day off on the mainland and then a sketch of her he'd taken a lot of time to perfect.

He closes his eyes and leans on the mantelpiece. He shouldn't have looked at the pictures again. It just served to open old wounds. They hadn't even been married for four months, when an attack of Michael's forces had hit them. He'd been up in his 302, and she'd been down in Atlantis, fighting off the intruders. When he'd come back down, the only thing Jennifer could do was give him her dog tags and tell him how bravely his wife had helped to defend the infirmary. She'd sacrificed her life, and then and there his own had shattered to pieces.

He'd never married again. There had been women in his life, of course, but none of them had been Laura. In the end he had accepted that she'd always be the only one for him and had dedicated his life to his military career. It has taken him far up – to the top of the SGC, and there are rumors going around he'll soon find himself in the top ranks of the Pentagon. But in the end of the day, when he comes home, he finds himself still wondering if there shouldn't have been more to his life than fighting and commanding and politics sometimes.

As if on autopilot he finds himself walking over to his desk and opening one of its drawers. All by themselves his hands find what he didn't know he was looking for. A pair of dog tags… He still knows the inscription by heart. As he closes his hand around them, he feels emotions surging through him. Anger at Fate and maybe even at God, though he was never a strong believer, that they let all of this happen – Sheppard's disappearance, Teyla's death, Michael's crusade to reduce a whole galaxy to rubble, his personal tragedy… The desperation when they had lost Colonel Carter. The pain when Jennifer had told him about Laura's death, as fresh and raw as all these years back and the terrible feelings from Laura's funeral…

All of this comes back, and suddenly he understands Rodney McKay very, very well. More than that, actually… he feels even kinship. Rodney McKay isn't the only one who found the love of his life in the Pegasus Galaxy and had her taken away from him by the same thing, and he isn't the only one who lost friends to this galaxy. God, he thinks, you aren't only old, you're also starting to get crazy. You meant it when you told Rodney you didn't have the right to make the decision to let him alter the timeline, and you didn't get this far because you constantly overstepped your competences.

No, all his life he'd acted within the bounds of his rank and his authority, with only one exception: Falling in love with first Lieutenant and later Captain Laura Cadman and even throwing the UCMJ to the wind and marrying her amid the war raging through the Pegasus galaxy. Right in this moment… this feels like the best decision he ever made, because she was worth it.

He can still hear her laughter, after all these years, and see her fierce dedication in the fight. She never took crap from anyone – least of all from him – and she always knew how to help him unwind if things got too rough. She... His gaze falls back on the heap of paper McKay sent him.

It could work… he just needs to open the 'Gate and let McKay through… if he did, he could very well end up in front of a court martial and he could surely forget the Pentagon… but what was a bunch of bureaucrats against the chance of never letting all these things happen? What was a court martial against the chance for his younger self to find happiness that doesn't solely depend on a military career?

Maybe his younger self would be absolutely against risking his career for the very flimsy chance of giving the timeline another bend, but then again his younger self hasn't yet seen a galaxy fall to pieces, hasn't yet had to experience losing Colonel Carter, hasn't yet seen Rodney McKay despair at his wife's death bed… and hasn't had to live 25 years without Laura Cadman, just to be offered a chance at giving everything a different outcome.

Yes, maybe his faith has been diminished in the last 25 years, but this stack of paper on his coffee table… it suddenly feels like the epiphany he'd been missing all these last years. Something in McKay's earnestness and urgency has stirred something in him – a kind of hope he hasn't felt for a long time. And so his decision is made.

He takes a deep breath and picks up his phone to call his adjunct at the SGC. When Stevens picks up, he finally seals his own fate. "Yeah, Stevens… could you get me Dr. Rodney McKay to the SGC? I'll be in my office in twenty minutes. Yes, it's urgent. Very well… thank you."