They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
- For The Fallen, Laurence Binyon
Aftermath (And In The Morning)
John's eyes were scratchy as he looked at Sam, his head pounding, muscles aching. He felt as if he hadn't slept at all; as if the twelve hours he'd spent out cold on his bed had somehow never happened, as if no time at all had passed since yesterday.
He felt, already, as if time were slipping away from him. As if it were already too late; as if it had been too late the moment they entered the city.
He blinked. Sam was staring at him, and he realised she had probably been addressing him.
"Sorry," he said, and she nodded, her eyes full of pity and understanding he wanted no part of.
He took a breath; tried to clear his head. "Rodney's dead, isn't he?"
Sam paused, and then nodded, and now it wasn't his pain that he saw reflected in her expression. "They found his body in the control centre."
She glanced at Keller. "He's being taken care of."
John nodded. That could mean anything, at this stage. "How's Ronon?"
He looked at Keller, and she hesitated, but didn't look away. "He's infected."
He closed his eyes. Too late, all of it. "What about a cure?"
She shook her head. "With the data we have ... we still know next to nothing. I'd say a cure is nearly impossible at this point."
"Nearly impossible," he said, and his voice was cold, sharp with barely-restrained anger. He swallowed, bit back the words he knew wouldn't help. "Make it possible."
Keller nodded, but he could see the answer in her eyes. He didn't care.
"And Teyla?" Sam asked. He looked at her, held her gaze for a moment, then turned and walked away.
Origins (They Shall Grow Not Old, As We That Are Left Grow Old)
"How does it feel?"
Teyla stood up slowly, wincing as John touched the cut on her forehead. He helped her to her feet, and she tossed him a grateful look.
"Painful," she admitted. "But I will live."
He grinned. "I never thought one little marine could take you."
She glanced at him, and returned the smile. "Neither did I. He fought ... well, if unconventionally."
"I'll say. I don't think whacking you over the head was part of the training."
"He seemed agitated."
John nodded. "Lorne says he's been acting up the last few days. Carter wants to send him home for a couple of weeks."
"That seems like a good idea."
"Yeah. Keller's checking him out first."
"I take it her infirmary is getting rather crowded."
"Yeah." He smirked. "I think McKay's starting to get on her nerves."
Teyla frowned. "I did not believe he was ill."
"He's not. But Zelenka's got the flu, so naturally McKay think he's coming down with something."
She inclined her head, trying to hide a smile. "I see."
He reached up for her again, and ran a hand across her hairline. "You sure you're okay?"
"Yes. It is just a small scratch."
"Good." He traced his fingers down her cheek, and she looked at him curiously. He held her gaze as he stepped forward, moving his hands to her waist. "You've got to stop getting injured."
She took a breath. "You are worried about me."
"Maybe a little." He leaned down to capture her in a kiss, and she parted her lips as she returned it, pressing closer against him. "With McKay out of action, I'd say we have the rest of the afternoon off."
She nodded, and smiled up at him. "Then perhaps we should take advantage of the situation."
Fallout (We Will Remember Them)
"We're ready?" John asked Lorne, who nodded.
"Good. I want -"
"John." He turned to face Sam, her face drawn. "Can I speak to you?"
"Gimme a minute," he told Lorne, and stepped forward.
Sam looked at him, and he held her gaze. "Are you really going through with this?" she asked quietly, and he turned away.
"You know the answer to that."
She nodded. "There's no way I can talk you out of it?"
He didn't answer.
"I know what it's like to lose a teammate."
"Teyla wasn't -" He stopped, lowered his voice. "She's important to me."
Sam's expression told him she knew more than he had said, and he shook his head. "I know what that's like, too."
"Than you know I have to do this." He met her eyes. "The men are prepared. We're doing this now."
He closed his eyes, willed himself not to walk away. "I know."
"Then you know Teyla's probably dead, too. Even if the Replicators didn't kill her -"
"No." His voice was cold, hard. "We know they took her. We don't know they infected her."
Sam sighed, and he ignored the words she didn't say. He wasn't prepared to give up.
"Keller says she's working on a cure."
"For the physical symptoms, yes. Once the nanites take control -" She paused. "You know how quickly the infection works. Once the nanites take over, there's nothing we can do. When Rodney was infected -"
"Stop." It was an effort to keep his voice down, and he took a breath to steady himself. "We don't know she's infected. If we get to her in time ... there's still a chance."
"A very small chance."
A very small chance. But it was all he had.
When she spoke again, her voice was barely above a whisper. "You realise you're probably sending all these men to their deaths?"
"I know." He closed his eyes. "It's Teyla. She's strong." He glanced at Sam, and turned away. "We're going to rescue her."
Precursor (Age Shall Not Weary Them, Nor The Years Condemn)
"I just think we should go over the plan again."
John rolled his eyes at Teyla, and was rewarded with a smile he knew was just for him. He had got used to those, lately, and though Ronon occasionally gave them a curious look, he thought he was pretty good at hiding it.
Ronon was less guarded in his response, and groaned loudly. Rodney looked at him.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Do you want to fail?"
"What he means is, I think we've got it," John said. "We've been up against the Replicators before."
"And lost," Rodney said, and if he was trying to inspire confidence, he wasn't doing a very good job.
John sighed. "Okay. Teyla, Ronon and I will go in first, while you and Zelenka try to hack the Replicator base code."
"Right," Rodney interrupted. "Using the algorithm I invented -" Zelenka coughed, and Rodney rolled his eyes. "Fine, that we invented. We should be able to shut the Replicators down long enough for you to get the hardware."
"And you're sure you need it?" John asked. "Last time we were dealing with nanites -"
"Last time, we were dealing with a whole different problem. This is the only way, trust me."
After a moment, John nodded. This was the most pleasant Rodney had been acting in a week, and he wasn't in the mood to pick a fight. He looked up as Sam approached, smiling grimly.
"Are you all set?" she asked, and he stepped forward.
"Just about to head out. How's Keller doing?"
Sam's smile twisted. "Not great. She's working on treating the people we've been able to identify as infected, but honestly, we're not having much luck. The treatments she's found have been mildly effective, at best."
"And a cure?" Rodney asked.
"She's working on it."
John nodded. He knew that tone; the one that said there's nothing we can do, but we haven't given up. They needed this mission.
"All right, he said, and ran his hand surreptitiously over Teyla's hip as she drew in beside him. In corner of his eye, he could see her smile. "Let's do this thing."
Zenith (At The Going Down Of The Sun)
He nodded absently, his attention still focused on the screen. "Give me two minutes before you go in. I should be able to distract the Replicators long enough for you to get into the city."
"And out again?" Ronon prompted, and Rodney waved him off.
"Yes, yes. As long as you don't screw up too badly, you should be fine."
Ronon glanced over at John, who smiled. "I'll take that as a guarantee." He quirked an eyebrow at Teyla, and she smiled back at him.
Rodney looked up expectantly. "Well?"
John frowned. "Well, what?"
"Well, are you going to go?"
"Right." He straightened, and felt Teyla do the same beside him. "Okay. Let's go."
Outside the jumper, Ronon nodded once, and went in ahead. As Teyla moved to follow, John took her hand, and pulled her back towards him. He grinned at her a moment before leaning down to kiss her, and after a beat she pressed closer into him as she kissed him back.
"You ready for this?" he asked, and she smiled.
"As always," she said, and he nodded, kissing her again.
"I know," she said, and stepped back.
He caught her by the waist, and pulled her back towards him. "If anything goes wrong in there -"
"I know," she said again. "And it will not."
He nodded, and waited for the count of ten to follow her into the base.
Ronon was about to blast the Replicator when it stopped short, pausing for an instant before turning back the way it had come. He let out a breath, and silently thanked Rodney for whatever he was doing back in the jumper. All he needed to do was keep it up, and they might actually stand a chance at getting through this.
He returned his gun to his holster, and continued on.
John didn't see the Replicators until it was too late. He could have sworn he was following the path Rodney had laid out, and so far, it had worked, keeping him out of the range of enemy patrols.
Only so far, it seemed.
As they spotted him, he let out a few shots, and ducked back into the nearest corridor. Starting to run, he looked over his shoulder every few seconds to fire back at his pursuers, hoping he wasn't getting too far away from where he had been headed.
When he rounded the corner to find half a dozen Replicators blocking his way, getting lost was the farthest thing from his mind.
Teyla didn't know where John and Ronon had got to. She had not been in favour of splitting up, but John had overruled her; he trusted Rodney, he had said (though not to Rodney's face), to do his job. If he did what he claimed he could, it should have been as easy as walking into the base and taking what they needed.
As she continued towards the Replicator patrol, Teyla doubted it would be so simple.
"Just a few more minutes."
Radek sighed. "That's what you said half an hour ago."
"Yes, well, if I didn't keep getting interrupted, maybe it would have taken a few minutes."
Radek held his tongue as Rodney turned his attention back to the laptop. He waited in near-patient silence for what must have been at least a few minutes before opening his mouth to speak again.
"Let me guess. Still another few minutes?"
Rodney didn't seem to have heard him, and Radek was about to repeat himself when Rodney suddenly sat up straight, his eyes unfocussing for a minute before he snapped back to attention.
"I have to go in," he said, and Radek frowned.
"What do you mean, you have to go in?"
Rodney turned to look at him. "I can't input the code from here. They've put up some kind of firewall. I have to get inside the main control room if we want to have any chance to upload this."
"Rodney ... " Radek frowned. "You don't have to go in. I can -"
"You can finish the code from here," Rodney interrupted, and stood up. "I can do this. Just make sure you're done before I get there."
Radek nodded as he took the laptop, and waited until Rodney was gone before glancing down. When he did, he stared at the screen in confusion. He could see the lines of code Rodney had been working on, but unless he had suddenly gone crazy, none of it made any sense.
He froze for a minute, caught in hesitation, then started after Rodney.
John could have sworn the Replicators had seen him; or that they should have, at any rate. But just as he was about to open fire, they turned, and he allowed himself to relax slightly as the footsteps in front of and behind him faded away.
Waiting a few more seconds for good measure, he turned, and continued on.
Everything had been going perfectly until he was hit. He should have known, he supposed; nothing ever went that smoothly unless there was a trap waiting at the end.
Still, as he fell, the last thing Ronon had expected to see when he rolled over was Teyla, standing over him with a gun in her hand.
"Teyla?" he managed weakly, and she smiled, her face twisted almost beyond recognition. He braced himself as she raised the gun, and when nothing happened, opened his eyes.
The last thing he saw was Teyla approaching the Replicator ship, and he felt a sharp prick on his neck a moment before he blacked out.