Title:Rules Were Made to be Broken


Genre:Gen with some H/C and angst.

Summary:John's dirt biking attempt at burying his guilt backfires . . . or at least goes sideways.

Author's note:This was originally written for and posted in the Livejournal community SGA Saturday. It's set a few weeks after "Lifeline" in season 4.

Rules Were Made to be Broken

John gunned the motor of the dirt bike and reveled in the feeling of rushing forward. Speed. He needed speed right now. Dirt sprayed the air as he cut a curve sharply, barely maintaining control of the motorcycle. It mixed with the sweat running down the side of his face as he made a run on the hill ahead. Dirt biking in the hills was just what he'd needed to take his mind away from things for a while.

His only thoughts were keeping the machine under him in control as he flew down the dirt track that wound through the foothills. The day was a hot one, the sun bearing down on him like a furnace. He laughed to himself when he thought of McKay scolding him for not using sunscreen, but a sunburn was the least of his worries. He gunned the motor again, trying to forget. Unfortunately the next curve was a little sharper than he'd anticipated. As the bike went down on its side into a slide that was shredding fabric and skin alike, he realized he wasn't going to be able to keep it from going over the side of the embankment.


Rodney gasped at the sudden onslaught of heat. "Holy crap, I think Caldwell beamed us into hell by mistake." Actually it might not be a mistake since he was pretty sure the colonel didn't like him.

"Quit whining, McKay. It's not that hot," said Ronon, already beginning to move through the camp site.

Rodney opened his mouth to respond, but his radio buzzed in his ear before he got the chance. "Is Sheppard there?"

Rodney sighed and rolled his eyes, almost sorry Caldwell couldn't see the gesture since he was the cause. "You might want to give me more than five seconds so we can at least have time to look in the tent." Ronon gave a nod from across the camp and ducked down to step into the green tent on the other side of an old campfire. He came out a few seconds later shaking his head. "No, he's not here."

"Can you tell anything else besides he's not there?"

Rodney didn't miss the sign of annoyance in the officer's voice. He looked around the campsite, peeking into the tent for a moment. As he turned back around, he noticed Ronon kneeling beside the campfire sifting through it. "His truck is still here and it doesn't look like there's been any kind of trouble. I know why he wasn't answering his phone. It's inside the tent."

"Fire hasn't been used since yesterday."

Rodney nodded and hit his radio button again. "Daniel Boone says there hasn't been a fire since yesterday." Ronon glared at him and Rodney shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't understand, then turned around to hide his grin.

"We're still not picking up his subcutaneous transmitter."

"It figures. We're going to look around here, see if we can find anything that helps us figure out where he went. I'll let you know if we find something."

"Please do. Do you want any help?"

Rodney looked over at Ronon and mouthed the word helpwhile pointing up to the sky. At Ronon's head shake, he went back to his radio. "No, Daniel Boone says no help. I figure they'll just get in his way. He's used to tracking missing colonels on lame-brained missions, so we'll be fine. You might want to have the infirmary stand by."

He was pretty sure he heard Caldwell chuckle. "Understood. Daedalus out."

"Who's Daniel Boone?" Rodney looked up to see a huge annoyed Satedan with his hands on his hips.

Rodney waved his hand at him as if it wasn't important. "Pioneer from the old days who hunted and tracked and did all sorts of nature stuff like you do. It was a compliment. Any sign of Sheppard?"

"I don't know. You need to look at these tracks over here. They lead up into those hills, but I am not familiar with them. It looks like a vehicle with two wheels."

Rodney walked over to look at the dirt. The entire area was bleak and barren, basically a desert. Nothing but lots of dirt, a few scattered dried out bushes, and the handful of scraggly trees Sheppard had pitched his tent under. And it was hot as blue blazes, in spite of the fact that it was only nine in the morning. Leave it to the colonel to get lost in the desert.

"Looks like some kind of motorcycle," Rodney commented. "Oh, God. Mr. I-love-speed has gone dirt biking up in the hills," he said, studying the tracks that led straight toward a series of big hills or small mountains, Rodney wasn't sure which. "He's probably wrecked and killed himself and is being eaten by coyotes and buzzards as we speak."

Ronon growled and began following the tracks. Sighing, Rodney followed, glad he'd put on copious amounts of sunscreen before they beamed down. They both had a light pack with water and some first aid supplies. You always carried first aid supplies when you were looking for a missing Sheppard.

John and Rodney were on Earth for meetings with IOA and the Air Force. John had made a plea to invest more time searching for Elizabeth, but the big bosses thought she was dead and that was a waste of resources. The pilot had not taken their decision well. They had been given a few days free time before the final briefing. Rodney had made a quick trip to Canada to see his sister and John had mentioned he might go camping. Looking around, Rodney couldn't imagine why anyone would camp out here. It was hot and dirty and really, really hot.

The scientist looked up to watch Ronon follow the bike trail. Rodney had returned to the SGC yesterday, but Sheppard had not. When the deadline for returning had passed, they tried reaching him on his cell phone, but got no answer. Eventually Caldwell had been contacted to look for Sheppard's transmitter, but to no avail. Fortunately the Daedalushad run scans the night before to test some equipment and they were able to go back and pinpoint where the pilot had been. That allowed them to find his campsite, which at least gave them a starting point. Rodney had insisted they bring Ronon in, somehow knowing the big man's tracking skills would be needed.

Rodney wiped sweat from his face. Gah, it was so hot.

"McKay, keep up."

Glancing up, Rodney saw Ronon was now quite a bit ahead of him, motioning for him to speed up. "Oh, for the love of . . . " But he picked up the pace and closed the distance between him and his teammate. He just hoped Sheppard was okay so he could yell at him for dragging him out to hike through a desert when he should be sitting in an air conditioned lab.

Two hours later they reached Sheppard, just as they were getting to the steep part of the hill. Rodney wasn't entirely sure if he was happier about finding his friend alive or not having to climb the part of the trail that went almost straight up. He stood by Ronon, the two of them too stunned to speak for a moment.

Sheppard didn't see them at first. He was barely moving, head bowed, eyes squinting at the road. There wasn't a square inch not covered in dirt, sweat, blood, or some mixture. His face, hands, and arms were scraped raw and bruised, with blood matting the hair on the left side of his face. His shirt was in bloody tatters and the left side of his jeans didn't look any better. He was limping, using a twisted piece of metal as a makeshift walking stick as he concentrated on putting as little weight on his left leg as possible.

"I told you he wrecked," said Rodney finally.

Ronon broke out into a broad grin. "But he didn't kill himself."

"Barely," Rodney said. "And not from a lack of trying from the looks of it."

Ronon walked up to stand in front of his friend. His shadow fell across John's feet, getting the man's attention so that he slowly lifted his head and blinked a few times. His face was red, his lips cracked and dry. "Ronon?" Barely audible, John's voice sounded like a scratchy record. "You real?"

Ronon clapped the pilot on the shoulder, almost sending him to the ground. "We're real."

"Knock him over, why don't you?" said Rodney. "What happened to you? We were supposed to take a couple of days to get some rest, not see if we could kill ourselves doing stupid stunts. I'd think you'd get enough of those in the Pegasus Galaxy."

"Accident," John said, eyeing the packs on their backs. "Water?"

"Yeah," Rodney said, pulling the pack off his back and digging out his water. "I think you need more than a drink of water. What happened to your transmitter?" As he handed the water to Sheppard, he saw the answer to his question. The man's arm looked like it had been through a meat grinder, no doubt damaging the device. "Never mind, I think I can figure that one out."

"Not too fast, "Ronon said, grabbing the hand with the water bottle and forcing Sheppard to drink more slowly.

Rodney tapped his radio. "This is McKay to the Daedalus. We have Sheppard. Repeat, we have located Colonel Sheppard."

"Dr. McKay, this is Colonel Caldwell. Good work. Is he injured?"

Rodney looked at the tattered man before him. "More like shredded if you ask me. I hope you took my advice and warmed up the infirmary, cause he's going to need it."

"If it's not serious, I think they want him back at the SGC as soon as possible."

"No, he's still on his feet, more or less." Right now he was leaning against Ronon and looking like he might pass out any moment.

"All right. We have transmitter signals from you and Ronon. Keep together in a group and we'll deliver all three of you to the SGC."

Rodney moved over to stand beside Sheppard. "Okay, ready for transport." Sheppard looked like he might object, but it was lost in the flash of the transport beam.


"Finally," Rodney muttered when Dr. Lam came out to bring them up to speed on Sheppard's condition. Ronon just grunted in response. "Well, is he still alive?"

The doctor smiled. "Very much so, although he's a little sore right now."

Rodney snorted. "Not surprising since he doesn't have any skin left on about half of his body."

"Wasn't that bad," Ronon said.

"Hmm, not that bad. Right." Rolling his eyes, Rodney looked back at the doctor. "What's the damage?"

"Concussion for starters, but fortunately there's no sign of bleeding or swelling in the brain. We've cleaned the abrasions and put a few stitches in him. Infection is almost a given between his injuries and delay in treatment. His left forearm was particularly torn up."

Rodney snorted and then shrugged when Dr. Lam glared at him for interrupting.

"I removed what was left of his transmitter before we stitched him up. I was told it wasn't working and it was pretty easy to see why once we dug it out of him." She smiled when Rodney winced at her comment. "His left knee is severely sprained. He managed to stretch a couple of ligaments and one is partially torn. I think if we can keep him off of it for a while it will heal without surgery. He's also pretty dehydrated and sunburned. He apparently crashed yesterday."

"He didn't have any water when we found him," said Ronon.

"No, he said he lost his water in the crash. Apparently when he laid his bike down he went over the edge of a rocky embankment. Somewhere in the tumble down the hill he lost his canteen and couldn't find it. He's not sure how long he lay out there before he regained consciousness. He walked off and on all night trying to get back to his camp site, so he's pretty exhausted too."

"Can we see him now?" asked Rodney.

"Of course. Don't stay too long though. He needs to rest." They followed her back to the section with the beds.

Sheppard was the only person occupying one at the moment. His face was red, his lips cracked and dry. Two IV bags hung on the rack beside his bed, and it looked like they had had a hard time finding a place to hook them up, judging by the bandages covering most of his forearms. His left knee was propped up on a pillow and a couple of ice packs were draped across the joint. His eyes were closed, but he opened them as they approached his bed.

"Hey," John croaked, the rough sound barely audible.

"Hey yourself," said Ronon, tapping John's right foot.

"How long have you been here?" John asked Ronon.

Rodney crossed his arms and huffed. "I begged and cajoled until they brought him in late yesterday to help find you. You didn't tell anyone where you were going, so when you went missing and we couldn't find your transmitter signal, I figured we needed to call in the big guns. Caldwell was able to pinpoint where you had been the day before you dropped out of sight, so me and Daniel Boone here took it from there."

John frowned. "Daniel Boone?" His voice was still rough and low.

"He keeps calling me that," growled Ronon as he scowled at the scientist.

"I'm telling you, it's a compliment," insisted Rodney.

Ronon looked to Sheppard for confirmation and he shrugged. "Well, he is kind of an American folk hero, so I guess it is a compliment." Both men looked at Rodney with an expression that said they weren't sure that was the way he had meant it.

John rubbed face and then winced, obviously having forgotten what a bad idea contact with sunburned skin was. "Look, guys, I appreciate you coming for me. I guess I misjudged a curve out there and tore my bike up."

Rodney sighed. "You tore more than your bike up and you're welcome."

John suddenly looked up. "Hey, what about my gear and my truck?"

"Mitchell said they were sending someone to get everything for you," said Ronon.

John nodded. "The truck is a rental so I'll need to get someone to return it."

"What about the motorcycle you destroyed?" asked Rodney.

"That was mine," John said with a grimace. "I've had it for a while. Been keeping it in storage along with the camping gear. Guess I won't be riding it any more. There's not enough left to try to recover it."

"I think Caldwell still has that piece you were using as a crutch," offered Rodney with a smirk.

John winced. "Yeah, thanks but no thanks." He coughed, prompting Rodney to pour a cup of water and hand it to him. After taking a few sips, he leaned his head back against the pillows and sighed. "Look, I appreciate you guys hauling me back and all, but I'm beat. I walked . . . or rather hobbled most of the night and I think I'm about to check out for a while."

"I'm supposed to meet Teal'c in a few minutes," said Ronon with a big, toothy smile. "We're sparring."

"Oh, man, I'd like to see that," said John. "Show him how we do it in the Pegasus Galaxy, big guy."

Ronon nodded and tapped John's foot again. "Take it easy, Sheppard. Watch those curves."

"Smart ass," John muttered to Ronon's retreating back.

Rodney crossed his arms and stared at John until the man scowled at him. "What?" asked John sharply.

"You want to tell me what this is really about?"

John quickly averted his eyes, squirming around in the bed until the ice pack fell off his knee. Rodney picked it up and draped it back across the injured joint. He stared at it for a moment before shifting his eyes up to John's face. "Colonel . . . John. What's going on?"

The pilot picked at a loose thread in the blanket for a moment. With a sigh, he schooled his features and dropped his hand, looking up at Rodney. "I told you. I lost control on a curve. I haven't ridden in almost ten years, guess I was a little rusty. It's not like there's a place to practice dirt biking in Atlantis."

Rodney snorted and threw his hands up. "I don't mean that. I mean why were you using your very limited days off to go out in the middle of nowhere by yourself? Isn't it dangerous to ride as fast as you can around dirt trails in the mountains alone? If something happens, there's no one to help you, as I guess you are painfully aware."

John's eyebrows furrowed and his lips thinned into a narrow line like they did when he was getting really angry. "I just needed some time by myself, McKay. A lot's happened the last few months and I needed to clear my head. Is there something wrong with that?"

"Only if you're trying to get yourself killed."

Now John snorted while shaking his head. "I wasn't trying to get myself killed, Rodney," John said quietly. "I just . . . I needed some time . . . I needed to push . . . " With a low growl he looked away.

Rodney plopped down in the chair next to the bed and sighed heavily, rubbing his hand across his face. They sat in silence for a few moments before Rodney looked back up at his friend. "It wasn't your fault."

"I was standing rightthere and I didn't try to save her. After all my talk about leaving no man behind, after giving her grief on that very subject when we first arrived in Atlantis, I left her behind. I turned around and ran, leaving her there with Oberoth. You explain to me how that wasn't my fault."

"Because it wasn't," said Rodney firmly as he leaned forward in his seat. "Look, Ronon was there too. He was very clear that she ordered you to go and if you hadn't, we'd all be dead. You know as well as I do if the two of you had gotten killed, I never would have made it out on my own. Elizabeth knew what she was doing. And this is as much my fault as yours."

"No, Rodney you don't -"

"Yes, I do!" Rodney jumped to his feet, his heart thudding in his chest. "I'm the one responsible for filling her with nanites, remember?"

"But it worked," John said. He looked like he was in pain, but Rodney knew it had nothing to do with his physical injuries. He knew because he was hurting as well. Losing Elizabeth so soon after Carson was almost too much to bear. He got through the days by concentrating on the work that had to be done and trying not to think about his missing friends. Sheppard was putting a definite crimp in his style.

"Yes, it did. But you know the IOA like I know them and Elizabeth knew them better than both of us. Suspicious lot that they are, they would never have left her in Atlantis. She'd of been lucky not to end up a lab experiment in Area 51." Rodney sighed. Loudly. "Sometimes you aren't very smart for couldabeenMensa." He used air quotes around the last part. "She knew her life on Atlantis was over and we both know how that was going to go after that little take-over by the Ancients a while back. She had a chance to save us . . . to possibly save Atlantis. She didn't want to die knowing you'd died trying to save her."

John stared at the wall across the room for a few moments. Rodney was beginning to wonder if he'd heard a word he'd said when the colonel spoke. "You're the genius here, the answer man. How long before I quit seeing her in my dreams . . . standing ten feet away . . . and I can't save her? How long before I quit imaging all the horrible things they probably did to her because I couldn't get her out of there?" He finally turned to look at the physicist. "How long before I don't feel like the world's biggest hypocrite because I left her behind?"

Rodney shrugged his shoulders. "Probably about as long as it will take me to stop doubting every geniusidea I have, waiting on it to backfire in all our faces. Maybe as long as it will take me to regret not stopping her when she left the jumper."

They locked eyes, Rodney reading the pain in John's eyes and knowing he was doing the same to him. John finally gave him a small nod before leaning his head back against the pillow.

"I, uh, guess I'd better get out of here before Lam throws me out. Get some rest and . . . try not to beat yourself up too much about Elizabeth. She knew what she was doing and she'd be mad at you for feeling so guilty. You know I'm right."

John looked up at him, one corner of his mouth turning up slightly. "I know. I . . . thanks Rodney. And you should follow your own advice. You don't look like you had much more sleep than I did."

Rodney let out a long, slow breath, the knot in his stomach finally easing. "Sleep? What sleep? I was trying to find our resident missing troublemaker. I hope you know how much of a pain in the ass you are. But . . . I'm glad you managed to keep yourself in one piece. Well, mostly." With an awkward nod, he left the infirmary, hoping the two of them would someday be able to remember Elizabeth without feeling the horrible guilt that weighed them both down.


John felt as if someone was watching him. He kept his breathing slow, his eyes closed as he reached out with his senses and prodded his memory. Soft, cool sheets. A slight poke in his arm. Bandages covering a good portion of him. Antiseptic smell. The infirmary. He began to relax, but then tensed suddenly. He could feel eyes on him, so he opened his. John was totally unprepared for the person standing next to his bed.


She smiled, one curl of her hair flopping down in her face as she looked down at him. "I see you attempted to turn yourself into a human hamburger. You really need to be more careful."

He was speechless, staring at his close friend. His missing, presumed dead friend. After a moment, he got his gaping mouth going again. "How . . . how did you get here? Have you seen Rodney? Are you all right?"

Her smile faltered and she took his hand, giving it a tiny squeeze. "John . . . No, I haven't seen Rodney. I . . . "

The elation that nearly lifted him off the bed suddenly dropped. "You aren't really here . . . are you?"

Her smile came back and she gently touched the undamaged side of his face. "Oh, John, of course I'm here. Just not like you want. I needed to talk to you. I need to tell you not to dwell on what happened, to let go of the guilt. I told you to leave for a reason. I knew it was the only way. You need to let it go . . . you need to let mego."

John frowned and shook his head. "Elizabeth, I'm so sorry. You were rightthereand I didn't save you. I broke the most important rule of all, not to leave people behind."

Elizabeth's expression had sobered and she shook her head once. "No, you did not leave me behind. You followed my order to go and save yourselves and Rodney. It was imperative that you got the ZPM back to Atlantis and I needed to make sure that happened. Without it, you would have lost Atlantis and all the people on board. You did the right thing."

"Then why does it feel so wrong? Every time I close my eyes, I see you standing there, just outside my reach. If I had just –"

"No! John, I was holding them back, but just barely. If you had tried to take me away, I would have lost the tenuous hold I had and we all would have died. Along with Atlantis. It was the only way. You've broken rules before, when you thought the reason was good enough. This was the ultimate reason. I'm not just saying this to make you feel better. You know I don't do that. Think back to the nanite quarantine incident our first year in Atlantis."

John cringed. "Really? You're still waving that in my face after all this time? I still say I was right."

She crossed her arms and gave him that patient warning smile he remembered so well. "And I still say you were wrong. But regardless, I didn't agree with you and I let you know it. You did what had to be done."

"Did you ever," he mumbled.

"You know I'm right. We have rules for a reason. They help us keep order, they protect us most of the time. But some situations require a different approach. Rules are made to be broken, under the right circumstances and for the right reasons. You understand that better than anyone." She arched one eyebrow and smirked. "I refer you to the discussion we just had about the quarantine incident."

Frowning, John looked up at her. "I agree you have to assess each situation and yes, sometimes rules have to be broken. Just not thatrule."

She was firm now, in both expression and voice. "Yes, John, even that rule has to be broken sometimes. I was in a unique position to see the situation very clearly. Either I held them off so the rest of you could escape and get the ZPM to Atlantis, or we all died. I made the right choice. And youmade the right choice when you obeyed my orders." Her expression softened. "John, if our positions had been reversed, what would you have done?"

He let out a soft snort. She had him. What had he expected arguing with a master negotiator? He gave her a tiny nod because for a moment, he couldn't seem to find his voice.

"John?" Her voice was so soft, so full of compassion. Her hand covered his hand, stopping him from unraveling the bandage any further. He looked up into her eyes and pain of missing her felt like a dagger in his heart.

"I've missed you. I think . . . " He pulled in a deep breath. "She . . . Atlantis isn't the same without you. There really isn't anyone who can replace you. I think Atlantis misses you too. I can almost feel her grief." Turning his head, he shivered a little. This could not be happening. Maybe he'd been transferred to an alternate universe while he slept. Okay, that was weird even for him.

"I've missed you too John. And Atlantis. She was always . . . well, you understand. You're probably the one person who truly does understand. I would do anything for her . . . and for you. You belong there. You need her and she needs you. I had to make sure that you stayed together because that's what was meant to be."

John turned back to her, frowning slightly. "I don't know about that."

"I do," she said, smiling. She had that impish look she got when she knew something he didn't. "Trust me on this. This is the way things were meant to be." She cocked her head with a little sigh. "I've got to go. I just wanted to check in on you and make you promise to let the guilt go. You need to be strong, for Atlantis and for her people. Big things are yet to come and you need to be ready."

John clutched at her wrist. "Stay. We need you. Atlantis is so much better when you are there. You're her heart."

Elizabeth smiled and placed her free hand on his chest. "No, John. You are her heart and soul. I did my part, but it's up to you to keep her alive, to make her soar."

She leaned over to touch her forehead to his and he closed his eyes, wishing there was some way he could keep her with him. They had been through so much together that losing her was like losing a huge part of himself. He wanted it back. He wanted her back.

"Hey, they had turkey sandwiches, real turkey not that almost-turkey we always get from P3X-724, so of course I got you one, along with some jello and pudding because I wasn't sure which one you wanted and I figured I could always eat the other one."

John jerked awake, shooting up a few inches before falling back against the pillows. Rodney continued to ramble about food as he dumped a tray of food onto the rolling table and pushed it towards John's bed. He stopped mid-sentence and stared at John a moment. "What's wrong?"

John blinked and looked around the room. "You didn't see anyone else in here did you?"

"Like who?"

John stared at the physicist, trying to figure out how to answer that without getting thrown into the local psych ward. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he began fiddling with the bed controls in an attempt to raise the head of the bed. "Nothing. No one. I think these controls are broken."

Rodney jerked it out of his hand and then suddenly the head of his bed began to rise. "Idiot pilot," Rodney mumbled, setting the controls down and pushing the table over John's lap. "You can fly alien spaceships with no instruction manual but you can't raise the head of a hospital bed even though you spend half your time in one."

Ignoring the barb, John looked around the room, frowning at the empty space. He could still feel her touch. He could smell her. He could feel her presence. How could something that real have been a dream?

"What are you looking for?" asked Rodney, now glancing around the room himself.

"You're sure you didn't see anyone else? Maybe leaving as you came in?" He was desperate for her visit to be real and he was embarrassed at the raw need in his voice.

Rodney frowned at him. "I'm sure." He continued to study John for a few moments before rolling his eyes. "It's that nurse, isn't it? The redhead? I did think I smelled something when I first came in, like maybe a woman's shampoo or lotion or something. Kind of subtle, like Elizabeth used to wear." He stopped and tilted his head, tapping his chin. "Actually, it kind of smelled like what Elizabeth used to. Probably just me imagining it since we just talked about her earlier."

John smiled, a weight lifting from his heart. He had no idea if Elizabeth was real or a dream, but Rodney's little confirmation made it seem real. He wanted it to be real, so he was going with that. He was torn between the joy of seeing her and the pain of losing her yet again.

"Hey, are you okay? You're acting really weird." Rodney was beginning to look genuinely worried.

"I'm okay . . . or at least I'm getting there. I guess . . . I did some thinking . . . about our earlier discussion. You're right. I need to let this thing with Elizabeth go. I need to get back to keeping Atlantis safe in the here and now. Weneed to concentrate on Atlantis."

Rodney nodded. "Yes, well, I'm glad you listened." He looked doubtful, but he shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the sandwich. "You need to eat."

Picking up the container of jello, John held it out to Rodney. With a snort, Rodney reached around to pick up the pudding. "Please, we saved your scrawny hide from death by scorching. I get the pudding. You get the jello." Then he grabbed John's spoon.

With a chuckle, John set the jello down and picked up his sandwich. His stomach growled as he took a bite. Suddenly he was famished.

"It's a good thing you're feeding that monster. It sounds like it's ready to attack."

John nodded as he chewed. Once he'd swallowed, he glanced up at Rodney. "Uh, thanks . . . for the sandwich. And for . . . " He waved his hand around in a loose gesture that didn't really point to anything. "You know."

"Saving your life?" asked Rodney with a smirk. "Part of my job description apparently. So level with me. It's the redhead, isn't it?" The scientist waggled his eyebrows up and down as he spooned pudding into this mouth.

John just shrugged his shoulders noncommittally. But it was a brunette he was picturing in his head, and the towering spires of a sprawling city he called home.