The thing is, Colonel Sheppard and I have sort of gotten into this habit of saving each other's lives, and it's my turn.
Rodney McKay, Aurora

The time they get caught by the Wraith (at least one of those times):

It was a stupid move, Rodney knew it was a stupid move. They'd seen what the Wraith did to people, it featured regularly in Rodney's nightmares.

The thing is, Rodney has always been pretty self-aware about his own survival instinct. He didn't think it was an exaggeration to say that his own survival might be key to keeping the Wraith from annihilating life in both the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies. He knew that his survival was important to the expedition, to Earth and to two galaxies.

So it made no sense at all when Rodney stepped into the culling beam.

Sheppard had pushed Rodney out of the way and ended up getting caught up in the beam himself. It made no sense to Rodney that someone would do something like that for him. Sure Rodney knew his importance, but most other people didn't tend to see it. Why would Sheppard do something like that?

Rodney pushed himself up off the ground where he'd crashed face first when Sheppard had shoved him out of the way of the Wraith beam. He had time to brush himself off, to look at the chaos around him – he heard the screams of the villagers as they tried to escape from the Wraith, the eerie pulse of the Wraith beam, explosions and the crackle of fire.

Rodney's brain worked at a speed that was faster than anyone else's. It was something he knew, it had been proved over and over again. He ran through all the possible courses of action he had in the time it would take most people to draw in a breath. The only course he saw open to him was the most crazy one possible. He blamed that on Sheppard. Too many years with Sheppard as his friend had made Rodney think that the crazy and insane made sense.

The thing was, Sheppard and McKay were a good team. They had managed to get out of more bad situations than Butch and Sundance. Rodney was not about to let Sheppard face the bad guys alone, their odds were better when they were together.

He watched the dart that took Sheppard as it made a second run, tracking the beam. He took a step forward as it swept by him again, letting it take him.

When he woke up, Rodney found himself in a Wraith cocoon. Again. It was something he'd hoped to never have to experience again.

It was kind of weird, Rodney knew that being in a Wraith cocoon was a bad thing, but it also felt weirdly freeing to be held by whatever material it was the cocoon was made from (Rodney steadfastly refused to think exactly where the material came from). It relieved the pressure on his lower back; it was a little like floating in Zero-G.

"Sheppard," he called out softly despite the fact that there were no Wraith in sight.

"Rodney… What?" Rodney heard from his left, Sheppard sounded a little groggy, like he was just waking up himself. "What are you doing here?"

There was no way Rodney was telling Sheppard that he'd pretty much let himself get captured. "I tripped," Rodney heard himself say. It sounded lame, even to his own ears.

"McKay…" Sheppard started.

"Don't even start with me," Rodney snapped. Somehow his selfless move wasn't turning out as he planned. Not that he had actually planned anything. If he had time to actually come up with a plan it would have started with them not being captured at all.

There was silence for a long moment. Rodney started to panic. He imagined that Sheppard was wounded and Rodney had quelled his last moment, his last words.

"No, listen," Rodney said, "I'm here. Talk to me."

There was some undignified grunting and a muttered "shit" from the direction of Sheppard's voice.

"What?" Rodney couldn't see anything except the creepy mist that filled the section of the ship where cocoons were kept and the equally creepy section of hallway across from him. He squirmed trying to find a weakness, anything that he could use to free himself. "Sheppard, talk to me."

"Make up your mind, McKay." Sheppard's voice was so close it made Rodney jump.

Then Sheppard was cutting Rodney out of his cocoon. He made a slash in the fibers of the webbing and began pulling it away from Rodney's body. There was a cut on his hand, dripping blood everywhere.

Sheppard saw Rodney looking at it.

"I couldn't see what I was doing while I was cutting my way out," he said shortly, frowning at Rodney as he kept pulling at the sticky stuff.

It seemed to take forever, but finally Rodney was able to help pull himself out of the sticky fibers of the Wraith cocoon.

"Okay, now what?" Sheppard asked, tucking his knife back into whatever crevice of his body he'd produced it from.

"Your hand," Rodney commanded.

"What? McKay we don't have time for this. The Wraith could decide it's time for a midnight snack any minute now and you and I are next in line." But he reluctantly held his hand out to Rodney when Rodney snapped his fingers and waved at him impatiently.

Sheppard had sliced his left palm at an angle. It should have had stitches if they had a doctor to do such a thing. With no doctor close at hand Rodney would have to do. Carson had been insistent that all the teams going through the gate have advanced first aid skills. While Rodney had always considered medicine beneath him, he'd reluctantly attended the classes because he did, mostly, like going through the gate. Days like today were an exception.

The wound was bleeding freely and didn't show any signs of stopping soon, which was a problem. It would leave a trail of blood for one thing.

"Come on, McKay, we don't have time for this," Sheppard hissed in pain when Rodney prodded at the cut, trying to jerk his hand back.

"You don't want your hand to become infected with gross Wraith germs. It'll turn black and fall off. Don't you remember that interminable lecture Carson made us attend?" And by made, Carson had threatened them all with the big needles and highly invasive exams every time they returned through the gate.

"Of course I remember," Sheppard grumbled. "There was a test that we had to pass before he'd clear us for gate travel. Just let me tear off the bottom of my shirt and we can use that for a bandage," he said impatiently. He was tense, his gaze constantly sweeping the area around them, listening for any sound that the Wraith were returning. Fortunately the Wraith were pretty noisy, always heralding their arrival with the heavy thump, thump, thump of their feet.

Also, they were pretty complacent about their dominant status in the galaxy. While the Wraith did do a cursory search and took anything that could be considered a weapon (except Sheppard's knife and Rodney did not want to know where he'd kept it, thank you very much), they'd left pretty much all of the rest of the supplies in their tac vests intact.

Keeping a hold of Sheppard's hand, Rodney searched through his pockets until he found the first aid supplies. He didn't have as much as they had in their packs (probably lying somewhere on the planet where they'd been taken), but he had bandages and some cream that would hold the gross Wraith germs at bay.

He quickly bandaged Sheppard's hand, Sheppard hissing at him to hurry the entire time. When Rodney finished, stuffing the packaging back into a pocket of his tac vest, Sheppard muttered a thankless, "Thank you." He looked away, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "You wouldn't happen to have any pain killers would you?" he asked after much hemming and hawing.

Rodney dug out some ibuprofen packets and pressed a couple of tablets into Sheppard's good hand.

"Are you good?" he asked.

Sheppard dry swallowed the tablets. "Yeah, let's get out of here. Any ideas?"

Rodney had lots of ideas, probably only one or two of them were useful in their current situation.

"Well, if we can get to a computer, I can pull up a schematic of the ship. We can find our way to the Dart bay and you can fly us out of here."

Sheppard paused, blinking at him. "That might work."

Rodney rocked back on his heels, sing songing, "Genius."

"Yeah, yeah, so I've heard." Sheppard shot back good naturedly. "Let's blow this popsicle stand."

After 10,000 years at the top of the food chain, the Wraith still hadn't gotten the message that there were new players in town. Security on the Wraith ship was a joke. They just couldn't conceive that any of their human 'herd' would try to rebel or escape.

They did have to avoid the occasional Wraith patrol, and once the alarm began to sound that their meals were up and walking around the ship, things got a little hot. But it was still pretty simple to find the schematics they needed at an auxiliary computer station, get to the Dart bay and escape. Rodney even set up a catastrophic overload in the Wraith engines so they'd blow up once John and Rodney were well and truly away.

The hardest thing of all was standing in the Dart bay and letting John scoop him up in the Wraith scoopy beam. It was harder than standing on the planet and letting himself be captured. While he was pretty sure it was John doing the scooping, Rodney wasn't absolutely sure because there were a lot of the darts flying around.

By the end of the day, John and Rodney were back on Atlantis in the infirmary and John was getting his hand looked over by a qualified medical professional (and by qualified Rodney meant that Carson had attended a good Voodoo school).

"You did a good job here, Rodney," Carson said approvingly.

"Of course I did," Rodney snapped. As if he would do anything badly.

John looked up at him. "Thanks for that," he said.

Rodney heard so much more. Thanks for getting caught with me. Thanks for being there.

Rodney grinned crookedly. "I couldn't let you have all the fun alone."

Sheppard just snorted.

After Carson finished with Sheppard's wound, they went to the mess hall. They were still serving the meat loaf (which meant it had some sort of meat in it) which was Rodney's favorite, especially after it was liberally covered in gravy.

It was just another day in the Pegasus Galaxy.


The time with the freezing lake:

Rodney walked into the gateroom, tucking his scanner into his parka (Sheppard had named the scanner an ESD – energy signature detector, but Rodney refused to call it that, even though everyone else, including Zelenka, did) to keep it warm. He zipped up the front of his parka, making sure that there weren't any open spaces where the wind could find its way in. He pulled his gloves out of his pocket and tugged them on.

Sheppard came down the control room stairs, looking like he was going to take a walk in a park somewhere - his parka was hanging open, sunglasses tucked into the shirt he wore underneath the parka.

"Are you sure this is a good idea, McKay? The high on this planet we're going to is 20 degree Fahrenheit, and that's on a good day. The MALP says it's 15 degrees there right now."

Rodney glared pointedly at Sheppard's unzipped parka until Sheppard reluctantly zipped it up part way.

Rodney snorted at his disgruntled expression, "Fine, but when we walk through that worm hole, you're going to find out just how right I am about not having any unexposed flesh. And yes, we do need to go to this planet. This is its temperate season, so we need to go now. During the winter the database says that the temperatures can be as low as 40 degrees below zero. And yes, that's Fahrenheit for you."

"What is there that is so important?" Teyla asked. She, at least had listened to Rodney and was probably swathed in parka, gloves, warm trousers and boots. She was even wearing the sun glasses against the glare of the sun on the snow. She'd looked skeptical when Rodney had told her that the glare could cause blindness, but she had taken the glasses.

"The database says that there's a research station on the planet. We can't figure out what the Ancients were studying there, maybe it was a tropical paradise 10,000 years ago and now the planet is in an ice age. But the UAV picked up a signal on a fly over last week. A ZedPM-like signal."

"Do we need another one?" Ronon was worse than Sheppard. He wouldn't accept a proper Arctic-rated parka; he was wearing his own coat (open) and no gloves.

"Oh, I don't know. I may only be the smartest man in two galaxies, but it seems to me that if one ZedPM is good, two can only be better, especially with the Wraith still out there."

"Alright, alright," Sheppard interrupted while Rodney was just getting into his rant. "The man's right. Let's get going before winter sets in." He waved a hand up at Chuck.

The gate began to dial. Rodney never got tired of watching the gate dial. It was kind of magic for him, knowing that it allowed him to travel across vast distances just like going from one room to another.

When they stepped through the gate, Rodney did have a moment to question his sanity. He didn't like cold. Just because he was from Canada, people always assumed that he liked snow and cold temperatures. But nothing could be further from the truth. He despised snow and any temperatures south of 70 degrees.

The temperature once they stepped through the gate had to be colder than the 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) that the MALP claimed.

Rodney stamped his feet, trying to keep moving so that he didn't freeze solid on the spot. He maintained that a statue should be erected in his honor, but he didn't want it to be an ice sculpture.

"McKay, are you sure there's something on this planet worth looking for?" Sheppard demanded. Rodney felt vindicated when Sheppard pulled his gloves from his pockets and tugged them on.

Rodney pulled his zipper down far enough to pull out his scanner. He got a read on the energy signature. Unless he had hard evidence to expect something positive, he was mostly skeptical these days when he walked through the gate in search of another mysterious energy device. The fact that this planet was listed in the Ancient database was a good start and the readings he got on the scanner were even more encouraging.

He tucked the scanner away into his parka before it could fog up. He pointed, "We're going thataway." He suited action to motion and set off in the direction the scanner indicated.

"Hold up, McKay," Sheppard called after him. "Let me take point. Ronon, you take our six, this place might look like a desolate frozen hell hole, but if you wanted to hide from the Wraith this would be the perfect place to do it."

Ronon just grunted in acknowledgement.

"Teyla, you stick with Rodney. Don't let him fall in a hole or anything."

"I will do my best." Teyla just sounded amused. But Teyla always sounded amused. Rodney sometimes wondered if she didn't view the three of them as a prelude to motherhood.

"Hey," Rodney shuffled forward in the snow, careful of his footing. "Why do you get to be point? I'm the one that knows where we're going. I should be up front leading the charge as it were."

Sheppard and Teyla exchanged a glance. Sheppard shrugged. "The place seems safe enough. But don't blame me if you get taken by the Yeti because you're up front."

They set off in the direction indicated by the scanner. The snow wasn't very deep, but it was slick and treacherous. It took all of Rodney's concentration to not land on his ass. Sheppard and Teyla stayed close which Rodney had to admit was reassuring (although he'd never tell them that).

"What is this Yeti you speak of?" Teyla asked. "Is it a native of your planet?"

"Nah, it's mostly a legend," Sheppard said. He was ready with a hand to Rodney's elbow when Rodney's feet threatened to slide from underneath him. "It's rumored to be a huge snow creature that lives in a mountainous region of our planet called the Himalayas. The Himalayas look a lot like this place, only with more mountains."

"I see," Teyla said.

Rodney could tell that she really didn't. He expected her to stop by his quarters later after they returned home requesting more information. Teyla enjoyed learning more about Earth. She said it was useful to be able to understand her adopted peoples better if she understood their world. It was gratifying to Rodney that often she would come to him for explanations. They had spent many an evening over a cup of Teyla's tea and some of Rodney's sequestered snacks as Rodney endeavored to explain some of the more strange or esoteric aspects of Earth.

It was really cold, Rodney picked up his pace to try and stay warmer.

"Hey, McKay," Sheppard sounded irritated behind him, "don't get too far ahead. We need to stay together in a place like this."

Rodney just waved a hand at Sheppard. He might not like arctic conditions, but he knew how to navigate in them. Probably better than Sheppard, who was a slacker, surfer type.

"Don't worry about me, surfer boy," he called over his shoulder. "I'm from Canada, remember?"

"Yeah, and you escaped to warmer climates the first chance you got."

"True, but it's like riding a bicycle. You never forget how to do it."

Sheppard snorted. "Did you ever know how to ride a bicycle?"

Rodney turned. He was surprised to find that he really had pulled out ahead of Sheppard and Teyla.

"Chop, chop," he called out to them, stamping his feet. He froze at the crack that echoed around him. Sheppard took a step forward.

Rodney only had enough time to yell, "Don't get any closer," before the ice he was standing on broke and he was plunged into icy cold water.

The cold stole his breath. Rodney gasped; swallowing water that was so cold it burned. He knew in water this cold he only had a few minutes before he would lose consciousness. If he didn't get out of the water and to help, death would follow soon after.

He thrashed around trying to figure out which way was up, but he couldn't seem to get his bearings, the cold was dragging him down. Rodney was pretty sure he remembered that the air trapped in his clothes would help him to float, but it felt like it was dragging him down, it was hard not to try and take off some of the layers of clothes. Except he was so cold now that he couldn't move in the water, he was growing weaker and weaker by the moment. Stupid ice planet.

"Third time's the charm," floated through Rodney's head. Rodney V 1.0 had drowned trying to save the expedition in the original timeline, and Rodney himself had almost drowned in the downed jumper before he was rescued by Sheppard and Zelenka. Idly he hoped that none of the rest of his team had fallen in the ice. He needed them to get him out.

Oddly enough he knew if there was any way possible to rescue him, his team would do it. Rodney had never really been a person to trust other people. He had been the only person he could depend on for so long that it took him awhile to get used to the fact that other people were looking out for him, too. Oh, they might ridicule him about it, and razz him, but Sheppard carried extra epi pins, Teyla always had more than enough power bars to share if Rodney ran out. And Ronon, whose gun was some sort of stun weapon and didn't need any ammunition at all, always had an extra clip if Rodney needed one.

His limbs weren't cooperating at all anymore. He was pretty sure he was heading for the bottom of the lake, but he couldn't really find it in himself to care anymore, he was so cold that he couldn't even shiver.

There was a splash and another body was wrapped around him, tugging him close. Even though he'd *known* his team would rescue him if they could, he really hadn't any faith that they would be able to do it. He'd have to work on that faith thing.

Strong arms were pulling at him, up he hoped. He was surprised when they broke through the surface of the water, Sheppard's sense of direction was so awful, it would be typical of things-that-happened-in-the-Pegasus-Galaxy that Sheppard would go down instead of up in an icy water rescue. But this time, at least, things seemed to have gone right.

"Geeze, Rodney," Sheppard's voice wheezed in his ear, "you shouldn't have had that last power bar, buddy."

Rodney would have answered, but he was too busy shivering, his teeth clicking together repeatedly.

"Come on, buddy," Sheppard guided them both through the icy water, "stay with me here."

"No… not going anywhere," Rodney managed to slur through his chattering teeth.

"Hey, great, glad you're still with me," Sheppard's teeth seemed to be doing some chattering of their own. Rodney could feel minute shivers passing through Sheppard's body they were pressed so close together in the icy water.

"What are you doing?" Rodney managed to get out.

"I would think that was obvious," Sheppard said, "rescuing you."

They'd stopped in the water, which Rodney didn't think was a good idea at all, but he was shivering so hard now, he couldn't get the words out.

"Hold on a sec," Sheppard continued, "Ronon's got one of those portable stretchers that Carson makes us carry all put together. We're going to use that to get you out of the water. Just stay with me, okay?" There was an unexpected note of worry in Sheppard's voice.

"Sure, sure," Rodney forced out to reassure him or maybe it was to reassure himself, he wasn't sure which it was.

It seemed to take forever, but it really couldn't have, time was relative after all, before Rodney felt himself sliding over the ice, Sheppard balanced carefully over him on the stretcher.

"It worked," he slurred.

Sheppard, his face hovering inches above Rodney's, his breath warm against Rodney's frozen cheek, grinned, "Of course it did."

"You were in the water," Rodney frowned trying to work it out.

"Hey, I couldn't let you be the only member of the Atlantis branch of the Polar Bear Club." Their little portable sled came to a halt.

Sheppard fell to the side more than climbed off the stretcher. Teyla knelt beside Rodney, her hand on his face felt burning hot.

"We have set up a tent with a small stove inside. Sheppard will stay here with you and get you warm while Ronon and I return to Atlantis and return with assistance."

"Warm?" was the only part of the plan that Rodney heard. "Never be warm again," Rodney insisted through chattering teeth.

Teyla smiled gently, "You will be warm again, soon enough," she assured him.

Ronon loomed over Rodney, pulling him up and slinging Rodney over his shoulders. Rodney was too cold to even begin a rant about not being a sack of potatoes. He was inside a little tent soon enough, the camp stove in the corner pitifully inadequate. There was a stack of emergency blankets in one corner. Sheppard sat next to Rodney, shivering in his own wet clothes.

"We need to get you dry, buddy," Sheppard began, reaching out to help Rodney shed his wet clothes.

Rodney pushed his hands away, "I can do it," he slurred. His fingers fumbled with the fastenings on his parka. They were so stiff and numb that he couldn't get them to cooperate.

"Don't be an ass," Sheppard said, shoving Rodney's hands away impatiently.

"Why?" Rodney mumbled. He wanted to say more, but that was all that came out.

Sheppard rolled his eyes, "You're part of my team, Rodney. What? You think I'm going to let you drown because the water is a little cold?"

Rodney was just too cold, he couldn't think; it was the only reason why Sheppard's argument made any sense at all.

Just as Teyla had told him, it didn't take long to get his wet, cold clothes off and, wrapped in several emergency blankets. He clutched a cup of the dreadful instant coffee that came out of their MREs. It smelled like ambrosia. Sheppard sat across from him, wrapped in his own emergency blanket clutching his own cup of mediocre coffee.

"So, next time you'll listen to me when I suggest we use a puddle jumper?" Rodney shot at Sheppard sipping at his coffee.

Sheppard smirked at Rodney, "Gee, Rodney, what's the fun in that?"

Rodney really didn't have an answer for that.


The time with the Quantum Mirror:

They were exploring more of Janus' laboratory. The place was like a maze with rooms off the main lab that were filled with tantalizing items that Rodney and his team were just beginning to catalog.

It was just Rodney and Sheppard in the lab, Teyla and Ronon had gone to New Athos helping the recovered Athosians set up their new settlement. Rodney had drug Sheppard down, insisting that there was more in Janus' lab than they'd found. This was Janus they were talking about. The man was incredibly paranoid. He wouldn't leave all of the good stuff out in the open for just anyone to find. And Rodney was determined to find all the good stuff himself so he wouldn't have to share them with anyone else.

He saw the mirror on the wall at the same time Sheppard did. He thought it looked odd. The room they were exploring was brightly lit, but the mirror reflected a dark room, Rodney couldn't see the counters that surrounded them in their room in its surface.

"This is strange," Sheppard said thoughtfully.

Rodney saw it happening like it was in slow motion. Rodney couldn't do anything but watch as Sheppard reached out to skim his fingers across the face of the mirror.

Sheppard's fingers skated over the mirror. Rodney saw the nimbus of energy begin to crawl over Sheppard's body. It was too late to stop it, there wasn't anything Rodney could do but step forward and put his hand on Sheppard's shoulder.

Rodney didn't even feel the cross into a totally new dimension. The lights just went off around them.

Sheppard stepped away, Rodney's hand fell to his side.

"What happened to the lights?" Sheppard turned back to Rodney waving a hand upward to indicate the lights.

Rodney scowled at him, "Why do you always have to touch things?" he demanded. "You're like a 2-year-old with impulse control issues."

Sheppard regarded Rodney for a minute, his body tense with anger at the – to him, unprovoked outburst. Sheppard looked around at the room they were in, his eyes narrowing as he began to notice things that were different than the room they had been standing in – there had been a pile of equipment on the table next to the mirror that was now missing, the surface of the table was dusty with impressions left where the equipment had been sitting.

"Where are we?" Sheppard asked quietly.

"In an alternate dimension," Rodney got no satisfaction from telling him (Okay maybe a little satisfaction. He'd told Sheppard over and over not to touch things without asking first. Rodney was finally vindicated).

Sheppard took a deep breath, his eyes taking in the room around them yet again. "And how do we get home?"

"When this happened to Daniel Jackson there was a remote control that he used to get him home."

"And do we have a remote control?" Sheppard asked, his shoulders tensing up as he anticipated Rodney's answer.

"Why yes, we do have a remote control." Rodney felt a little like an ass when hope bloomed on Sheppard's face, but it was too late to take it back. "However it would be on our side of the mirror." Rodney pointed at the brightly-lit room reflected in the mirror at the pile of equipment plainly visible there. "That is the remote control."

"Well, hell," Sheppard blew out a frustrated breath.

"Exactly," Rodney agreed one hundred percent.

"So, how do we get home, then?" Sheppard turned to look at Rodney.

Sheppard always turned to look at Rodney, it was why Rodney had put his hand on Sheppard's shoulder when he'd have been better able to rescue Sheppard from their side of the mirror. He couldn't leave Sheppard alone to face the unknown. It had happened a few times over the years by accident, but if Rodney could help it, it wouldn't happen again. Like Sundance and Cassidy, they were at their best as a team.

Rodney moved over to examine the counter where the remote had sat on the other side of the mirror. It was dusty, with an imprint where equipment had been at one time. Sheppard moved over to look over his shoulder, he seemed to understand what Rodney hadn't said.

"Okay, so the remote was here," Sheppard said. "Where is it now?"

"Now that is the question, isn't it?" Rodney rocked back on his heels, looking around the lab with narrowed eyes. "If it were me, I would take it back to the lab and hide it in the deepest, darkest place I could find. And then destroy the mirror. But maybe they don't know what the mirror is, on this side."

"And what exactly is the mirror?" Sheppard had moved while Rodney was lost in thought. Rodney looked up just in time to see Sheppard standing in front of the mirror again, his hand hovering over its surface.

"Don't you even think about it." Rodney shouted at him.

"I'm not stupid," Sheppard pulled his hand back, rolling his eyes in Rodney's direction. "I'm not going to touch it."

"This time," Rodney insisted.

Sheppard sighed, "This time," he allowed. He pointed at the mirror, "So this thing lets people travel through alternate realities."

"That's a very simplistic explanation," Rodney began. Sheppard turned to fix him with a stare. "Yes, it allows people to travel through alternate realities."

"That's cool," Sheppard drawled.

"No, no, it's not cool," Rodney went to Sheppard and pulled him away from the mirror. "You can't control what comes through the mirror and you only have a limited amount of control going through. And that's only if you have the remote control."

"So this remote thing is important?"

"Kind of." It was Rodney's turn to roll his eyes.

"So, we'll find it."

"Just like that, we're going to find the remote?" Rodney planted his fists on his hips, glaring at Sheppard.

Sheppard shrugged, "Well yeah."

"That's your plan?"

"Do you have a better one?" Sheppard shot back, one eyebrow lifted as he waited for Rodney's response.

Rodney shifted from one foot to another. "Well, maybe not at this exact moment."

"Okay, well, get back with me when you come up with something. In the meantime, where should we look for this remote?"

Rodney considered, "Well, if were me, it would be in the lab."

"Then that's where we'll go." Sheppard headed toward the door.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

Rodney hurried after Sheppard. "You can't just walk through the halls of this Atlantis. It's a different place than our Atlantis. I mean the labs here could be in a completely different place."

"It's a place to start, Rodney," Sheppard called back over his shoulder. He didn't even pause long enough for Rodney to catch up.

The halls they walked through were quiet and deserted. Atlantis might have still been at the bottom of the ocean the way they found it when they arrived in the Pegasus Galaxy.

Their steps slowed as they approached a transporter, but the door didn't open for them as it would in their Atlantis. Sheppard stopped, frowning at the door.

"Something's wrong."

"Yeah, and now I bet you want me to tell you what that is."

Sheppard didn't even answer; he just threw a baleful glance in Rodney's direction. "I think this Atlantis is dead. I can't feel her."

"How often do I have to tell you that Atlantis isn't a she? It's not sentient."

"Whatever," Sheppard growled. "I always have this low level hum in the back of my head when I'm in the city; it lets me know how the city is doing, if there's trouble in any of the systems, that kind of thing." Sheppard took off again, heading toward the stairs that would lead them up into the city. They had been in Janus' lab which was several levels down. The trip up to the labs by way of the stairs was going to take forever. Not to mention – stairs.

"Hold on," Rodney called after Sheppard. "Let me see if I can get this working." He pried the panel off the wall next to the transporter.

"I told you, there's nothing."

"I heard you," Rodney had his head in the problem now. He studied what he found in the wall. "Even if the ZedPM was at absolute zero power, there's always a little residual power running through the lines. If I can tap into that power, I can find us enough juice to use the transporters to get us to the labs."

"Is that safe? I'd prefer to arrive with all my parts where they belong."

Rodney frowned, even as he kept working. "I guess we'll find out, unless you want to walk up all those flights of stairs. I'm taking the easy route." Rodney was confident of his ability, and he was confident that they would arrive at their destination in one piece. He switched out the last crystal and put the panel back in place. The door to the transporter swished open, the light inside was on, almost as if it was inviting them in. Rodney gestured Sheppard inside.

"I don't know about you, but there's mac and cheese for dinner tonight in our Atlantis. I'd like to get back home before it's gone."

Sheppard grinned, stepping inside the transporter.

"What?" Rodney demanded. "No disparagements about my repair job? No questions as to whether I am sure this is going to work?"

"Naw, McKay, I trust you." Sheppard grinned at Rodney. He tilted his eyebrow. "You coming?"

Rodney hurried inside and the doors closed behind him. Sheppard tapped their destination on the map. There was a flash and the doors opened.

Rodney started to exit, but Sheppard grabbed his arm and pulled him back into the transporter, shoving him against the wall.

"Geeze, you could have just told me to wait," Rodney hissed.

Sheppard leveled a glare in Rodney's direction. He exited, his weapon drawn, but held down low next to his leg. It was just the Glock, Sheppard didn't carry a P90 when they were in the city, but he carried the hand gun whenever he was on duty. Sometimes when he wasn't on duty, too. Rodney was glad for that caution today.

Checking the hall in both directions, Sheppard nodded at Rodney cautiously that he could exit once he was satisfied that they were alone.

They were in the halls next to the main lab. On a normal day in their city this hallway would be well traveled with his minions going about their business. They had enough work to do that the labs were busy day and night. Rodney wasn't a total dictator; he let his people choose their own hours. He did some of his own best work in the middle of the night. If his people chose to do their work at midnight, he didn't argue as long as he saw results. To find the hallway absolutely deserted was unsettling.

"This is just creepy," Rodney said quietly as they moved through the hallway. "What do we do if we meet ourselves? Have you thought about that?"

"So much has happened in the Pegasus Galaxy that I never thought about. This is pretty low on the list of things I've planned for," Sheppard admitted. "Let's just hope for the best. I mean this is us we're going to be talking to if we meet anyone, how bad could it be?"

"I could think of several ways this could go wrong, but let's go with your rosy outlook for now." They reached the lab. The door was standing open.

"Go wrong? Share with the rest of the class, Rodney," Sheppard gave Rodney a skeptical eye before he stepped into the lab to check things out.

Rodney didn't wait for him to finish, following Sheppard into the lab. It was completely empty; there was no one in sight.

"Wow, I've had dreams like this." Rodney turned around, taking in the silent work stations, the absolute silence in the lab. Even at 3 a.m. at home there was the hum of computers where people had left simulations working, and 2 or 3 people could be found working at their stations.

Sheppard cleared his throat, "Wrong, Rodney?"

Rodney paced the lab, trying to think, if it was him, where he would have put the remote. Fortunately he was a genius and he could double task.

"Well, first of all, there's entropic cascade failure." Rodney began opening cabinet doors. Sheppard made an impatient noise when Rodney stopped his explanation to see if there was any coffee in the cabinet he could confiscate. Even with regular supply runs from Earth, there was never enough coffee. Sadly there was no coffee in sight. "That's what happens when you occupy an alternate dimension that contains another version of yourself."

Rodney opened a door and found two boxes marked "Might Not Kill You" and another with "Will probably kill you and take half the city with you." They were both initialed at the bottom MRM, PhD. PhD. Ph.D.

"Well, we know I'm here. And also - Aha," Rodney pulled the second box out, sitting it on an empty counter.

Sheppard came to stand behind Rodney's shoulder, carefully not touching anything.

"This entropic thing didn't happen with Rod," he pointed out.

Rodney huffed. "We theorize that it was because of the way he traveled between the realities. This mirror creates the entropic cascade failure, it's incredibly painful and it's ultimately fatal if we're here too long. Maybe we'll get lucky and our counterparts will be dead or maybe don't even exist in this reality. Well obviously we know that my counterpart exists, so we can't be here too long, but maybe you'll get lucky."

"Oh, yeah, lucky for me, maybe not for him."

Rodney turned a quick glare at Sheppard before he started pulling things out of the box.

"Hey, hey, hey, should you be touching that stuff?" Sheppard reached out as if to stop Rodney's hand.

"Oh, please," Rodney pushed Sheppard's hands away. "I do this in our Atlantis. It keeps the best toys for me to play with… I mean to investigate first. And if I remember correctly," he gave a little snort because of course he remembered correctly, "this," he reached into the box and pulled out a piece carefully, "is the remote for the quantum mirror." He held up the little piece of machinery that would get them home.

"Put it down and get your hands in the air." A voice from behind them caused both men to start.

Rodney turned. He found Lorne standing in the open doorway, a P90 pointed in their direction. He swallowed.

"Major," he took a step forward.

"Stop right there," Lorne barked out. "Put the Ancient tech down. Now." This Lorne had a harder look than their Lorne somehow.

"Rodney, do it," Sheppard said quietly. He raised his hands, his glock held loosely. "I'm just going to put it down." He moved slowly and carefully, telegraphing each move before he made it. "Now let's not do anything hasty." He put the weapon down on the counter and then moved away from it. Rodney rolled his eyes, but he put the remote down and moved to stand next to Sheppard.

Lorne eyed them both like they were something he scraped off his shoe.

"Who are you?" he demanded, his voice harsh.

"Who do we look like?" Rodney snapped.

"I know who you look like. But McKay was injured on a mission a few days ago and he's still unconscious. Sheppard is upstairs in the control room being held hostage, he's been shot in the leg and is in danger of bleeding out, so don't waste my time. I would as soon shoot the two of you as waste my time with twenty questions. Now, who are you?"

Rodney believed him.

"I know this might be hard for your military mind to take in, but I am Dr. Rodney McKay…"

Lorne's finger tightened on the trigger of his P90.

"Now just hold on." Sheppard stepped forward putting his body between Lorne's bullet and Rodney's body.

"You realize that's not going to do any good," Rodney whispered. "I mean as close as he is, and the velocity of the bullet, you're only going to slow the bullet down on its way to me. As much as I appreciate the gesture and all."

"Rodney, shut up," Sheppard hissed.

Lorne regarded them both with narrowed eyes, his finger steady on the trigger of his weapon. "Shut up both of you. Tell me who you are and how you got down here. And make it quick."

Sheppard took a step forward, slowly, carefully, "Listen, Lorne, I know it's hard to believe, but we're from an alternate reality."

"Alternate reality?" His finger didn't relax on the trigger.

"You know I don't really get it either," Sheppard said, sliding forward just a little more, "but it's like there are all these realities existing side by side where things are just a little different in each one."

"That's actually not too far off," Rodney gaped at Sheppard.

Sheppard continued, "I'm Lieutenant Colonel, John Sheppard, this is Dr. Rodney McKay."

"And you're from an alternate reality?" Rodney could hear the disbelief coloring Lorne's tone.

"Exactly." Sheppard nodded in approval. "I know it sounds pretty hard to believe, but we've already experienced alternate realities a couple of times." He took another step forward.

Lorne's eyes flashed with anger. "I don't have time for fairy tales. I have a city to take back and you're wasting my time. So…" his finger began to tighten on the trigger again.

"Hold on," Sheppard held up his hands taking one more step forward. "You're wasting perfectly good resources. Let us help you take your city back."

"What?" Rodney squeaked. "This isn't our Atlantis."

"Yes, Rodney, I realize that," Sheppard said in his best work-with-me voice. "But if we help the major here, he might be more inclined to let us have the remote control so we can go home."

Lorne frowned at them. "What help can you be? Our John Sheppard is a scientist. He might want to kill Rodney McKay most days, but I don't think he could hit the broad side of the barn."

Instead of protesting, Sheppard just said, "Trust me, we can help. Catch us up, Major. Major right?"

Lorne nodded tightly, his finger still on the trigger.

"Where do I start?" he asked.

"Who is trying to take the city?"

"The man in charge calls himself Kolya," Sheppard hissed, but he didn't interrupt. "Says he's part of the Genii."

Sheppard nodded, "We've heard of them in our reality, had a few run-ins with them. It's nice to know some things don't change."

"Anyway, we've been running some missions through the gate looking for more Ancient tech, namely a ZPM to power the place. We've helped a few people out along the way. These Genii have heard about us, heard about us having some skills, so they got through our shield today, demanding that we give them Dr. McKay." Lorne looked back at Rodney, a considering light in his eye. It made Rodney uncomfortable. Sheppard moved a little more in front of Rodney, blocking him from Lorne's view.

"Okay, well let us help you take your city back."

"Just like that?" Lorne said, suspicion in his eyes. "How do I know I can trust you?"

Sheppard made his move then. He lashed out with a leg, kicking the P90 from Lorne's arms. He whirled Lorne around, pulling Lorne's arm behind him, holding Lorne there.

"This good enough?" Sheppard growled.

Lorne struggled for a minute, until Sheppard exerted pressure on the arm behind Lorne's back. Rodney was certain that the arm was going to snap in the struggle of wills between the two men. Rodney grabbed the Glock from where it lay on the counter. He pressed it into Lorne's temple, hating every second.

"Major, stop," Sheppard said quietly.

Feeling the weapon pressed into his flesh, all fight left Lorne.

"So you guys are just going to help us?" Lorne's voice was bitter.

"I take it you haven't had a very good Pegasus experience?" Rodney said.

"You could say that," Lorne responded. "Everywhere we go they want to kill us or kidnap our scientists. The Genii are the worst of all."

"Things are tough all over," Sheppard commented. "So, here's the deal, we'll help you take back your city. In return we get the remote, and we get to leave. No harm, no foul."

"I'm not in charge, I can't make a deal like that." Lorne was stubborn; Rodney had to give him that. He just hoped he wasn't too stubborn.

"Okay, then," Sheppard was trying to be reasonable, but Rodney could see that his patience was running out.

"Sheppard, we could just tie him up and take the remote," Rodney pointed out.

"No, these people need help, and I'm not leaving them to Kolya's mercies. What do you say, Major? Right at this moment it looks to me like you're in charge. Will you accept our help or do we leave? I'm sure you can handle Kolya and his goons on your own."

Rodney could see that Lorne wanted to tell them to go to hell. After a long moment, he sighed bitterly.

"Fine. Yes. Help me take back the city and you can have the gadget and go."

"Now was that so hard?" Sheppard released Lorne who took a step away shaking his arm. Sheppard retrieved Lorne's P90. "Where is everyone? How did Kolya get in the city?" Sheppard leaned against a counter clearly making himself comfortable, not going anywhere until Lorne told them everything they needed to know.

Lorne glared at Sheppard, his lips pressed into a thin line. "He took a family from one of our allies and tortured them until one of them gave up the codes to our gate. When we opened the gate to let what we thought was an ally through, Kolya sent a bomb part way through…"

"So the gate couldn't close." Rodney finished for him. "That sounds just like Kolya."

Lorne nodded, his face pinched with unhappiness, "I don't know if you know this, but the gate can be held open for 38 minutes if whatever's coming through is stopped half way through…"

"Oh, we know that one," Sheppard assured him, his own face blank, giving nothing away about what he felt.

"So we had this bomb in the gate, half in and half out, we couldn't do anything with it to try and disarm it. Kolya sent us a message that he would finish sending the bomb through when there was only a few seconds left – there wasn't going to be any way we could disarm the bomb, there wasn't any way we could escape using the gate"

"Son of a…"

"Yeah," Lorne nodded agreement with John's assessment. "We don't have much power in the city, but the jumpers have their own power source, so we were able to use those to evacuate everyone to the mainland except for Sheppard and a few of us that stayed to defend the city. He stayed to try and disarm the bomb at the last minute."

"That would be a suicide mission," Rodney protested.

Lorne shrugged. "We had to try. This is the only gate that can dial back to Earth. We couldn't take the chance that Kolya might take the city. It was either neutralize the bomb and take Kolya or blow up the city."

"What happened?" Sheppard asked quietly.

"We got everybody out of the city except for Sheppard…"

"Hey, what about me?" Rodney demanded. When Sheppard and Lorne turned to stare at him, he stuttered, "I mean the other me. The alternate universe me. I mean I should have totally been on the team, I could disarm that bomb in minutes."

Lorne smiled a little at that, "You just sounded like our McKay, except he would have made Sheppard or maybe Zelenka take the risk, even if he wasn't unconscious and evacuated to the mainland."

"Oh," Rodney felt a little disappointed in his alternate-reality self.

"Okay, this is a great side-trip but we're not getting anyone rescued at this rate and I seem to remember that my alternate reality self is up there bleeding out."

Lorne squared his shoulders. "You're right… uhm.. Sheppard. So, there were a few of us left mostly military, and Sheppard. At the last minute, Kolya came through the gate with a force of his guys. There was a fire fight, Sheppard was hit, and they took him and the rest of our guys, but I got away. I was just on my way to the armory to get some more fire power when I heard voices in the lab where there shouldn't have been voices." He waved a hand to indicate Sheppard and Mckay.

"Okay," Sheppard jumped off of the counter. He held the P90 out to Lorne. "What's the plan."

Lorne shot a calculated glance in Rodney's direction that made his blood run cold.

"What?" Rodney demanded, ready to refuse whatever it was Lorne wanted.

Lorne shuffled his feet, eyeing Sheppard, it was obvious he was trying to decide if he could take Sheppard.

"Don't even think about it, Lorne. Just tell us."

"The thing is, Kolya had demands. When he sent the bomb through, he had demands." Lorne kept darting little glances in Rodney's direction. Every time he caught Rodney's eye, Lorne would look away again, guilt spread all over his face.

Rodney waited expectantly; dread building, his stomach tying up in knots as Lorne continued. "He wanted McKay. He'd heard how McKay and his team had been fixing things around Pegasus. The Genii have this whole nuclear bomb program, but they're stalled in their development. He thought that McKay could make his bombs work."

Rodney snorted. "Of course I could make Kolya's bombs work. In my sleep. With one hand tied behind my back."

"Rodney that's beside the point." Sheppard put a hand on Rodney's shoulder. Rodney appreciated the support. "We're not going to do it, Lorne."

Rodney wanted to agree with Sheppard, he really did. He should have been safe on the other side of the mirror right now, but he wasn't. He was here.

"Yes, we are." Rodney couldn't believe it even as he heard the words came out of his mouth.

"Rodney, no."

Rodney glared at Sheppard for using the command voice. Rodney was right this time and Sheppard was wrong. "It's the best idea, you know it. Kolya won't be expecting it. I'll be okay as long as you're there to back me up." Sheppard squeezed his shoulder.

"I'll be there, buddy, you can count on it," he said.

Lorne looked from one to the other of them. "Are you two friends?" he asked, his tone incredulous.

-SGA-

They went to the armory first.

Looking around the room, it appeared to Rodney's untrained eye pretty similar to the armory they had at home.

"Do you guys have any of those Wraith blasters?" John asked.

"Wraith?" Lorne glanced up curiously. He handed Sheppard a P90 and extra clips of ammunition. Sheppard didn't seem to be having any trouble finding what he needed – C4, grenades, other things that would go boom.

"You guys haven't run into the Wraith?" Hope filled Rodney. Maybe they'd found a way to get rid of the Wraith.

"We've heard of them," Lorne said, his hands busy stuffing his tac vest pockets with whatever weapons he could get his hands on. "We know they're the reason the Ancients returned to Earth thousands of years ago. But we've been told by our trading partners that they're in hibernation right now. We're hoping they don't wake up until we can figure out a way to deal with them."

"You didn't wake up the Wraith?" Sheppard's whole body went tense, like there wasn't enough air in the room to breathe.

"No, should we have?" Lorne glanced from Sheppard to Rodney trying to figure out if there was something he should know that he wasn't getting.

"No, of course not," Rodney stepped in, giving Sheppard a chance to regain his equilibrium. "So, I guess Sumner is still alive here?"

"Yeah," Lorne nodded. "He coordinated the evac to the mainland or he'd be here now. Is there something I should know." Lorne stared at Sheppard as if he could ferret out Sheppard's secrets that way.

"Listen, let's get this plan underway and then we can have show and tell. What do you say, Major?"

Lorne nodded and led the way.

-SGA-

They crept through the halls of the city, on the lookout for Kolya's men. They found three of them looting the infirmary. They were putting anything they thought looked useful into a box and the rest they threw on the floor.

Sheppard and Lorne took them out easily. They left them handcuffed securely, so the soldiers wouldn't have a chance to warn their commander.

"How many men did Kolya bring with him?" Sheppard whispered as they approached the control room.

"There were only five in the original team, although I heard him say that they were preparing to send another squadron."

"Okay, we have to get to the gate room now," Sheppard's steps quickened. You don't want to let those guys get into the city, or we'll never be able to take it back.

Lorne nodded. Rodney hurried after them, his heart pounding in his chest.

They stopped to confer at the door of the control room.

"What do we do? Let McKay just walk in?"

They were startled when Lorne's radio burst to life.

"Major Lorne," Kolya's voice said. "Your Dr. Sheppard says that you can hear me through this device."

Lorne tapped his radio, "That's true. What else did he tell you?"

"Oh, Dr. Sheppard has been very informative. I may have to take him back with me to Genii if he lives."

"Bite me, Kolya," could be heard from a distance.

Rodney shared a grin with Sheppard. So, this universe's John Sheppard wasn't completely different.

"He tells me that Rodney McKay is injured and not likely to be able to aid me at this time. I have to tell you that that disappoints me greatly."

Before Rodney could over think the matter he slipped past his Sheppard and Lorne. He stepped into the control room. For a moment he was unobserved. He saw that Sheppard was slumped against the DHD console. There was a pool of blood gathering under him.

Kolya was there at the railing overlooking the gate. Sora and another man stood next to him. The other man looked familiar, but Rodney couldn't remember his name.

"Sheppard is wrong. Just like he's wrong so much of the time," Rodney announced pompously. Kolya and his people whirled around. It was almost comical, if it weren't for Sheppard sitting in a pool of his own blood.

A cold smile touched Kolya's lips. "Ah, Dr. McKay, I have heard so much about you."

"Yes, yes, yes, my reputation precedes me where ever I go." Rodney knelt to check on Sheppard. His heartbeat was kind of slow and faint under Rodney's fingertips. He was pretty sure that wasn't a good thing. "You know that blood is really hard to clean up, don't you?" He stood, turning a glare in Kolya's direction.

"Fortunately the cleanup will not be your responsibility. You will be returning with me to Genii." Kolya strode forward to grab Rodney's arm. Rodney tried not to think about the fact that it was the same arm that the other Kolya had cut. He tried to jerk away, but Kolya's fingers held him tight.

"You know all you had to do was ask and we would have helped you," Rodney had to keep them talking. Give Sheppard and Lorne time to set up whatever it was they were going to do. Maybe he should have stayed to hear the plan, but he had been afraid if given too much time to think about it, he would chicken out.

"Asking is not the Genii way, Dr. McKay, we take what we need. And with you in our hands, I think we're going to take this city, too. It belongs to those of us who live in this galaxy, not scavengers who come from a different place completely."

"The only place you're going, Kolya, is back through the gate to Genii. Without Dr. McKay."

Rodney had been hoping for Sheppard to come to his rescue. But he'd take this Lorne in a pinch.

Kolya didn't even flinch. "Put the gun down, Major."

Lorne didn't waver, "I don't think so, Kolya. Let go of Dr. McKay and step away or I will shoot you."

"Oh, I think you're the one who is going to be putting your weapon down and stepping away," Kolya sounded supremely confident.

From his position, Rodney could see why. He saw another man step out of the shadows, his weapon drawn. It was a Genii weapon, but it was just as deadly as anything the Lanteans used, especially when pressed against the fragile human skull.

Lorne didn't move when the weapon pressed against his temple.

"Now everyone just calm down," Sheppard, Rodney's Sheppard said. "We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt here today." He stepped out of the shadows, shoving his gun into the other man's ribs. "Put down your weapon, Cowan."

Rodney chose that moment to make his move. He wrenched his arm free of Kolya, snatching the gun from Kolya's grasp, reversing it to target the leader of the Genii.

"You heard the man, he said to step away," Rodney's hand shook a little, but Kolya moved back.

It was all over except for sending Kolya back to Genii.

Sheppard was pretty sure there was going to be a big argument about that when Sumner got back into the city. But they didn't stick around for it.

They helped Lorne get his Sheppard down to the infirmary.

"Seriously, are you two friends?" Lorne asked.

Sheppard ducked his head, but he nodded.

"Aren't we friends here?" Rodney asked, curiosity about to kill him.

Lorne's eyes were big. "Their war was legendary," he whispered. As if his McKay or Sheppard might hear him. "Sheppard wanted lab space of his own, but McKay wouldn't give it to him, said he could work in the main lab with all the rest of the flying monkeys."

Rodney couldn't help it, he snickered.

"So, Sheppard started this war of attrition. Nothing that could actually be pinned on him, but everyone knew who it was."

"What did he do?" Sheppard asked his, brow rising.

"First he erased all the white boards."

Rodney whistled at the same time Sheppard did.

"Oh, he took pictures of them first. McKay got bits and pieces of jpgs emailed to him for days. Then he switched out McKay's coffee for decaf."

"You'd better not be taking notes," Rodney scowled at Sheppard.

Sheppard took a step back, his hands raised in surrender. "Wouldn't think of it, Buddy."

"Finally, McKay gave him his lab space because he said that Sheppard was a menace to society and he didn't want the man contaminating the minds of the rest of his minions."

Rodney nodded in approval.

Rodney spent some time writing up everything they knew about the Wraith and any suggestions he had where this expedition might find a ZedPM.

It was only a few hours later that he stood with Sheppard at the quantum mirror, the remote in hand, trying to dial their home.

"Well, that was different," Sheppard said.

Rodney paused as he hit what he thought was their home reality, it looked right at least. "I kind of liked it." He said wistfully.

"You liked it?"

"Well, in this reality, I was the cooler Rodney McKay."

Rodney set the remote. He put his hand on Sheppard's shoulder and nodded.

Sheppard touched the mirror. And just like that they were home.

Rodney looked back into the mirror. Lorne stood there, waving good bye.


4) The time with the alien priestess (#6 this year alone)

Another planet, another alien priestess who wanted to have John Sheppard's spiky-haired babies. Rodney sighed when the "Orb of Truth" lit up in Sheppard's hand. He shared a glance with Ronon and Teyla. They gathered in around Sheppard ready to protect his six or his honor, whichever was needed.

In this case, it didn't seem that the villagers were going to be immediately hostile when they were invited to a special feast in honor of Sheppard's status as the 'Chosen One of the Orb.' They couldn't exactly refuse because that would be seen as a breach of etiquette in this particular society which would mean having to fight their way out of the village. Woolsey had asked them to please refrain from a fire fight for at least a mission or two.

So they did what they always did. Teyla and Rodney sat on either side of Sheppard to shield him from the amorous advances of the priestess. Ronon gave a further level of protection from across the table; by keeping an eye on those serving them to make sure they didn't lace their food and drink with anything.

They did their best, eating just enough of the food that it wouldn't be seen as an insult by their host. Rodney cursed Sheppard under his breath because everything smelled good. It had been weeks since they'd been seated at a feast this good and he couldn't eat more than a small bite of anything.

They drank even less. But even so, the villagers managed to sneak something to Sheppard because he grew more and more amiable and loose limbed as dinner progressed. Rodney knew they were in trouble when Sheppard grabbed him around the shoulders and shook him a little.

"This guy is great," Sheppard declared to everyone around them. "Seriously, his brain is the best around. You should see what he can do with spit and a paper clip."

Rodney shrugged him off, "Stop it, Sheppard, you're embarrassing us," he mumbled.

Teyla and Ronon grinned.

That was when the priestess decided that the time was right for her to make her move, or her voodoo practitioner told her that the stars were aligned or something because she snapped her fingers and ordered the guards to have Sheppard bathed and sent to her quarters.

"Alright, that's enough," Rodney declared, standing. "There will be no bathing of anyone here. And we have to go."

In situations like this it was Teyla and Ronon's job to provide cover and get them out. It was Rodney's job to keep Sheppard moving.

Except in this case Sheppard wasn't holding up his end of the bargain. Whatever the villagers were giving him made him uncoordinated. He tripped over his own feet trying to push away from the table, landing on his ass.

Rodney tried to get him up, hissing, "Move it, Sheppard, unless you want to improve the gene pool here."

Sheppard stared up at Rodney wide eyed, "You go, Rodney," he slurred. "I can take care of myself."

Rodney almost laughed out loud at that one. "You can't even stand up. Now move your ass, Sheppard."

He got Sheppard to his feet, mostly by pushing and shoving and they were headed to the door. But it was too late. They were separated from Teyla and Ronon by a sea of guards.

"We will get help and come back for you," Teyla shouted.

The guards pulled Sheppard away from Rodney. Sheppard seemed to finally understand the gravity of the situation and he began to fight and buck. There were too many guards. The last Rodney saw of Sheppard, the guards had removed his weapons and were beginning on his tac vest.

The guards who took Rodney did a cursory search, taking his side arm and the knife he carried at his belt, but left him the rest of the contents of his tac vest.

"Amateurs," Rodney muttered once he was left alone.

Time passed slowly as Rodney imagined the horrors that Sheppard was being subjected to, the total degradation of his honor and his self. He paced the cell, taking in the shoddy construction and the sub-standard materials used. He had some C4 that he carried for emergencies or for occasions such as this when the bad guys took everything Sheppard carried but didn't judge the scientist to be a big enough threat to properly search. Hopefully by the time they figured out their mistake, he would have Sheppard home again and in Carson's care.

It would be easy enough to escape; he just had to wait for Sheppard's return.

It came much quicker than he imagined. About thirty minutes after Rodney was thrown into the cell, Rodney heard the door of the jail open. Feet marched down the hall toward him. The cell was opened and a body was thrown in. Sheppard's body.

"What did you do to him?" Rodney demanded, rushing to his friend's side. Sheppard smelled distinctly of something like sandlewood. He was dressed in a flowing white shirt and skin-tight black leather pants. He lay face down on the floor shaking.

The guards didn't bother to answer; they locked the door behind them and left.

Rodney didn't know if he should move Sheppard, but it didn't seem to right to leave him on the floor.

"Sheppard? John? You in there?"

The shaking increased in intensity. Rodney realized that he was laughing.

"What?" He shoved Sheppard's shoulder and the man rolled so that he was flat on his back staring up at Rodney. He was grinning like a loon. Rodney felt relief flow through him. Sheppard didn't look particularly… ravaged.

Of course Sheppard could also be traumatized beyond words and this was his way of coping.

"You okay?" he asked tentatively.

"Threw up on her," Sheppard got out. He pushed himself up. "She didn't like it much."

Rodney sagged with relief. "So…" he flapped a hand trying to figure out how to delicately ask after the state of Sheppard's honor.

"Nothing happened, Rodney," Sheppard said. "But the bath was nice," he added wistfully.

"Okay," Rodney said, not really knowing what else to say. "How about we get out of here?"

"Sleep," Sheppard suggested. He yawned and his eyes sagged.

"No, escape first," Rodney got a hand under Sheppard's shoulder and tried to lever him up, but Sheppard was more boneless than usual, he just seemed to slip out of Rodney's grasp.

"Come on, Sheppard," Rodney snapped, "I'm pretty sure that this is your time to rescue me. The least you can do is help."

Sheppard just gazed up at him with those eyes that made alien priestesses everywhere swoon and said, "You're a good friend, Rodney."

They didn't work on Rodney McKay. "Dammit, Sheppard, if you don't get your ass in gear I'm going to leave it here."

"Well, geeze, Rodney, if you're going to be that way about it." Sheppard shoved himself up; panting by the time he made it to his feet.

Once he was up and seemed likely to stay that way, Rodney put the C4 on the back wall of their prison. Their way was clear all the way to the tree line and then the gate was only a 30-minute hike from there. Running for their lives would get them there a lot quicker.

Rodney hadn't planned on a stoned Sheppard in his time estimate. Blowing the back wall went as planned and they made it to the cover of the forest that surrounded the village. But that's where the plan fell apart. Sheppard was still pretty stoned.

"Great plan, Rodney," Sheppard cheered. "We're just like the Hole in the Wall gang, busting out of jails."

"It would be better if we didn't get thrown in the jail in the first place," Rodney grunted trying to keep Sheppard on his feet and headed in the right direction.

Sheppard's feet wandered, and he kept stumbling over nothing as far as Rodney could tell.

"I'm Butch Cassidy and you're the Sundance Kid," Sheppard declared, "they'll never catch us."

"Oh, please," Rodney snorted. "If anyone is Butch Cassidy, it would be me. He was the brains of the outfit; he came up with their jobs and planned them out. The Sundance Kid just stood around looking pretty."

Sheppard stumbled going heavily to his knees. He swayed listlessly waving a hand at Rodney, "You go."

Rodney tugged him up. They hadn't heard any pursuit for at least five minutes, but they couldn't take a chance. "Oh, come on, would Butch leave Sundance behind?"

"No?" Sheppard blinked up at Rodney. His pupils were shot wide; there was only a thin sliver of hazel around the black pupil.

"You'd better believe he wouldn't leave him and I'm not going to leave you. So, get your ass off the ground soldier and get moving." Rodney thought he did a pretty commendable impression of a drill sergeant.

Except Sheppard didn't move. He threw up spectacularly. Rodney scrambled back out of the splatter zone.

"Ewwww!"

Sheppard managed to crawl a few feet away from the mess before he collapsed to his side.

Rodney could hear voices calling in the distance. It didn't sound like Teyla and Ronon.

"Oh, no you don't!" he snapped at Sheppard. Who didn't even stir from his drugged sleep. "You are so going to be paying my chiropractic bills," Rodney hissed at his unconscious friend. With a huge effort he managed to get Sheppard to his shoulders in a fireman's carry.

It wasn't much farther to the gate, he could do it.

"I take it back," he snarked to the trees, "you're not Sundance at all. Sundance never made Butch Cassidy carry his stoned ass through the forest. Sundance was too much of a man to let himself be carried."

Sheppard slumbered on, unaware of Rodney's vitriol.

Rodney stumbled into the glade where the star gate was situated just as the worm hole burst to life. A jumper flew through much to Rodney's relief. He fell to his knees, letting Sheppard roll away.

Once they got back to Atlantis, Rodney sat at Sheppard's bedside, unwilling to leave until he knew his friend was going to be alright. Carson reassured him that Sheppard would have no lasting affects from the alien narcotics, but Rodney needed to see for himself.

After way too long, Sheppard stirred. Rodney leaned over him, waiting for his eyes to open.

Sheppard blinked up at Rodney, then his gaze slid around the infirmary. Rodney could tell by the way Sheppard's body relaxed that he knew he was home.

"You okay, Cassidy?" Sheppard whispered.

Rodney allowed a small smile, "Never better, Sundance," he said. "You?"

"Ready for the next job when you are." His eyes slid shut and he fell back to sleep.

Rodney let the smile take over his face. "Maybe tomorrow," he whispered to his sleeping friend before he slipped out of the infirmary to find food and his own bed.


5) They time they go home

Rodney crouched down behind the outcropping of rock, his shoulder pressed to Sheppard's. Sheppard risked a quick glance behind them over the outcropping, up and back down quickly to make the smallest possible target.

"They still there?" Rodney asked. He ejected the spent clip from his Glock, inserting the last one.

"No, Rodney, they've decided this once, to let us escape." Sheppard's reply was more habit than vitriol.

"Whose idea was this anyway?" Rodney demanded as he checked his clip to make sure it was inserted properly. "I could be back on Earth right now, teaching ungrateful grad students the secrets of the universe."

"You'd be bored out of your head inside of a week." Sheppard took another chance look over the rocks; there was a bolt of Wraith stunner fire that chipped the rock. A flying bit of debris caught Rodney in the cheek, stinging. He wiped at it absently, his hand came away bloody.

Sheppard was probably right about Rodney being bored back on Earth, but he would like to be a little less stimulated in Pegasus right now.

"You okay?"

Rodney looked over to see Sheppard eyeing him with concern.

"Sure," he said. "Never better."

"Come on, Rodney, you didn't sign up to be a sitting target for the Wraith. None of us did."

Rodney was aware of how far he had come since all those years ago when he met John Sheppard and found out that there were more important things than what he learned in a book.

He shrugged. "Someone has to do it. We can't let the Wraith have Pegasus."

Sheppard grinned. "I'm glad you came back with us, buddy, it wouldn't be the same without you."

"Well," Rodney could see that Sheppard was preparing to make the final run to get them back to the DHD and home to Atlantis. "I couldn't let you come back and have all the fun by yourself, now could I?"

They both knew that the Wraith had them surrounded, but they'd learned over the years to just keep moving forward, something would come up.

This might be the time that it didn't work, but at least they were together. And that was all that mattered.

"Ready?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney nodded. "Whenever you are."

They stood. The Wraith were arranged around them. Todd stood in the front ranks, his weapon trained on Sheppard.

"So, Sheppard, I see we meet again."

That's when the Daedulus beam took them.

Rodney collapsed to the floor once they rematerialized, his knees refusing to support him anymore. Sheppard held a hand down to pull him to his feet.

"Hey, Butch, looks like we did it again."

Rodney felt a crazy grin split his face. "I would have loved to have seen Todd's face when we disappeared, Sundance."

They made their slow way to the infirmary to be patched up, ready to fight again another day.


Thanks to my stellar beta, chocolatephysicist. My story is better because of her eye, any mistakes remaining are completely my own.