Summary: Trapped offworld, you find out who your friends are.
Prompt: “If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.”
“Looks like we're shit out of luck, sir,” Aiden said as he tried one last time to activate the stargate. “This thing is fried.”
“I ordered all of you through the gate,” John spat back. “Why didn't you go?”
“The portal closed before I could get to it,” Aiden lied. “Besides the DHD was going haywire and I had no way of knowing where I'd end up if I went through.”
“You know, I never thought a tree could cause so much damage--not that I've ever seen a DHD hit by a tree before,” John said as surveyed the remains of the pedestal, a good deal of which was buried under the massive trunk of a fallen tree.
“I've never seen lightning strike a tree before. It's a good thing we'd already dialed out before it fell.”
“Do you think McKay and Teyla got through all right?”
“They went through before the DHD blew up. I have to assume they made it to Atlantis.”
“You'd better hope they did or we're going to be here an awful long time.”
“You don't think they'll try to come back, do you?” Aiden replied, half hopeful, half horrified that his friends could end up in the same predicament in which he and John found themselves.
“They know better. We just have to wait for them to open the gate and contact us,” John said calmly as he unhooked his weapon and laid it on the ground. He did the same with his pack and began digging through its contents. “When they do, we'll tell them our situation.”
“And then what? They can't come through the gate--they'd just get stuck here with us. And McKay said earlier that it'd take two months to fly here from Atlantis.”
“Have a seat, lieutenant,” John replied. Aiden stopped pacing and reluctantly sat down on the steps in front of the gate. “Look; when they dial up the gate they can send us enough rations and supplies to survive until they can get to us.”
“They can't spare a puddle jumper or the manpower it would take for them to come here. Not with the Wraith on the way,” Aiden argued. “They're better off--.”
“Lieutenant,” John said firmly, grabbing hold on Aiden's flailing arm. “It won't take two months. All they have to do is figure out the nearest gate and fly from there.”
“That could still take weeks.”
“Maybe; maybe a lot less. We'll have to wait and see.” John pulled an MRE out of his pack. “In the meantime, let's eat. We're going to need our energy and our wits about us.” Aiden gaped at him for a moment. “That's an order, lieutenant.” Aiden sighed and dug out an energy bar.
“I'm not really hungry,” he admitted when John gave him a questioning look. They ate in silence, until John saw Aiden check his watch for the third time. “Maybe they didn't make it back,” Aiden said softly.
“Well, if they made it through the gate okay wouldn't they have tried to contact us by now?”
“You know Elizabeth--cautious to a fault.”
“What would she have to be cautious about?” Aiden asked. “Two members of an away team are trapped on the wrong side of the gate. What else does she need to know?”
“Easy, lieutenant,” John said soothingly. He'd never seen his second in command rattled before and it was frankly unnerving. John was just as worried as Aiden,but he wasn't about to let it show. “Look, maybe they're trying to figure out what happened to the DHD. Knowing McKay, he'll want to try to fix it.”
“Fix it? That thing is in a million pieces! Let's face it, sir. We're stuck here with no--.”
The gate abruptly sprang to life with a loud groaning noise. John and Aiden grabbed their gear and scrambled to one side just before the event horizon opened.
“Elizabeth! McKay!” John shouted into his com link.
“John!” Elizabeth replied. “It's good to hear your voice. Is Lieutenant Ford with you?”
“Yes, ma'am,” Aiden answered, beaming in relief.
“I'm very glad to hear it,” she said.
“Did Dr. McKay and Teyla return safely?” John asked.
“Yes, major,” McKay cut in crisply. “We're both fine and very glad to know you're still alive. That means that my work here over the past hour will not turn out to be a colossal waste of my time. I've already begun to--.”
His next words were lost on Aiden, who turned to John grinning from ear to ear. John found himself mesmerized by the smile and returned a lopsided grin.
“What, McKay?” John snapped, dragged from his reverie.
“By my calculations, you two ought to be home in in three days, give or take a few hours.”
“So soon?” Aiden said, his attention also drawn back to the com link.
“You sound disappointed, lieutenant,” Elizabeth said, amused by his comment.
“No, no! I'm just surprised,” Aiden replied. “Dr. McKay said it would take two months for a jumper to reach here if you traveled directly from Atlantis. I just assumed--.”
“You know what happens when you assume, lieutenant,” Rodney said. “Actually, if we had a spare naquada generator lying around we could simply bring one though the gate to you, manually dial our address and have you home in time for an appallingly bad supper consisting of some foul-smelling root vegetable the Athosians have been cooking for the past hour. However, naquada generators don't grow on trees and even if they did, Atlantis has none to spare, so we'll have to go with plan B, which entails sending a jumper through the gate to a planet--hopefully one lacking hostiles--and flying from there to you in an estimated thirty-six hours. Now, if there's nothing else, I need to get back to my work.”
“Yes, lieutenant?” Rodney said impatiently.
“Thank you; I know you've done everything in your power to assure our safe return.”
“Naturally. I'll see you soon and you can thank me in person,” Rodney said with uncharacteristic gentleness. Aiden smiled again and went to collect the box of supplies that Bates was sending through the event horizon. John helped him haul it over to a spot to the right of the gate, where they quickly established a campsite and settled in to wait for their rescue.
“We should have asked for a deck of cards,” John said absently. Aiden dug into his pack and produced a small box, which he tossed over to his commanding officer. “That's what I like about you, lieutenant. You're resourceful.”
“Thank you, sir,” Aiden said as he sorted through the case of supplies and drew out an MRE.
“I see your appetite has returned.”
“Since we're going to be here on vacation for three days, why don't we skip the formalities?” John suggested. Aiden glanced up.
“Sure,” he said, just barely preventing himself from saying “sir” once again.
“Want to play a game?” John asked, holding up the deck. Aiden shook his head. “Solitaire it is, then.” He started to lay out the cards on the ground as Aiden sat down and got comfortable. He looked up into the canopy of the tree he was sitting against and pondered it for a moment.
“What do you think brought down that tree, anyway?” he mused aloud. “I've seen smaller trees that had been struck by lightning and they didn't fall.”
“It was probably rotted out,” John replied without looking up. “It happened to a tree in my neighbor's yard when I was a kid. It tore a hole right through their roof.”
“Maybe that's why the gates are usually set up in big clearings.”
It was nearly an hour before Aiden spoke again. In the interim, John made an occasional remark, but Aiden stretched out on the ground, his head propped on his pack and silently stared at the sky.
“What if they don't get here?” he said suddenly.
“They'll get here,” John said, looking up from his game.
“Oh, I know they'll come,” Aiden said, shifting to look at him. “But what if they didn't? Suppose they couldn't get here for some reason. What would you do then?” John straightened up and gave the matter a bit of thought before he answered.
“I'd build a house up there,” he said, nodding toward the mountain a few miles off. “A nice little log cabin next to that little stream we found. And I'd build a fishing pole while I'm at it.”
“Cool,” Aiden replied smiling.
“How about you?”
“I don't know,” Aiden answered, his smile fading.
“Don't worry--you'll see him again,” John said easily, turning his attention back to his game. But Aiden froze, his eyes wide and frightened.
“At ease, Aiden,” John said without looking up. He could almost feel the tension radiating off Aiden and set about putting him at ease. “And I thought we were going to drop the 'sir' for the duration.” Aiden licked his lips and swallowed hard. John sighed and looked up again. “I know about your 'thing' with the Doc,” he said with a slight shrug. Aiden gaped at him.
“I don't know what else to call it,” John said shifting to lean against the tree. He didn't face Aiden directly; that last thing he wanted was to appear confrontational, especially since they were going to be stuck on a planet together for most of the next two days. “I know there's something between you. I don't know what it is and I'm not looking to pry.”
Aiden averted his eyes and said nothing. John collected the cards and returned them to their box.
“You should have gone through the gate,” he said after a few moments.
“I couldn't leave you, sir.”
John rolled his eyes.
“I thought so. What the hell were you thinking?”
“Never mind,” John sighed. “You thought you were doing the right thing.” He'd seen it before; Aiden never left anyone behind, regardless of the situation or the potential consequences. He once explained to John that it was part of the SGC creed. John shook his head. “He's probably worried sick.”
Once again, Aiden was silent. John shook his head.
“Look, I respect your privacy. Whatever you two have, I think it's good and I'm all for it. All I'm saying is that you should have thought about what you might be giving up before you let the gate--.”
“He knows I can take care of myself,” Aiden said softly. “And he knows we'll look after each other.”
“He'd be a lot happier if you were back in Atlantis where he could keep an eye on you,” John said wryly.
“Him and me both,” Aiden said, breaking into a grin. John joined him, but a second later they both turned as the gate came to life once again. They sprang to their feet and ran over to make contact with Atlantis. The event horizon stabilized and John hailed Elizabeth. Before he got an answer the gate shimmered and Rodney stepped through, accompanied by Teyla and four Marines lugging a heavy-looking case.
“Good afternoon,” Rodney said lightly.
“McKay!” John shouted. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You're welcome,” Rodney replied. “Dr. Zelenka and I did a little scrounging around and found an old ZPM in one of the storage rooms. It's fairly depleted--not enough power to open the gate for more than a few seconds, but that's plenty of time to get us all back to Atlantis in one piece.”
“What if it isn't?” Aiden said worriedly.
“Lieutenant,” Rodney said disdainfully. He turned away and settled in to work on hooking up the apparatus to the gate. Teyla walked over to the two stunned men and smiled.
“I am very glad to see you both,” she said.
“Same here,” John replied, his eyes on the group assembling the equipment.
“Are you guys sure this is going to work?” Aiden asked, frowning.
“It will work,” Teyla assured them. “They have tested it.”
“Oh, good,” Aiden said, completely unconvinced. John walked over to join him in observing the action.
“So you guys just rigged this thing...” he began.
“Cool, huh?” Rodney replied enthusiastically. “I spent an hour calculating distances and searching for the nearest gate addresses and then about ten minutes before we sent out the jumper, Zelenka announced that he had an alternative solution. We hooked the ZPM up to a small generator that we'd brought with us from the SGC.”
“And that will work?” John said incredulously.
“It'll work,” Rodney said with a shrug. “Believe me, I wouldn't be here otherwise.”
John glanced over at Aiden and then turned back to Rodney.
“How long do you think this is going to take?” he asked.
“I have to make the basic connections, then fiddle with it a bit...”
“Fiddle with it?” Aiden sputtered. “I thought you'd tested it back in Atlantis!”
“Every gate is different, lieutenant,” Rodney said patiently. “I'll have to make minor adjustments to calibrate--.” He aborted the explanation and began to work again. “Why don't you two pack up your gear? This shouldn't take very long.”
“Don't worry, Lieutenant Ford. You'll be home in plenty of time for movie night.” Rodney continued to tinker with the machine, muttering to himself. “I just need to make a few last minute adjustments.”
“And then it will work,” Aiden said doubtfully.
“Yes, lieutenant,” Rodney said impatiently.
“'Last minute adjustments' doesn't sound too good.”
“Last minute adjustments are perfectly normal,” Rodney assured him. “What is it they always say? If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.”
“What does that mean?” Aiden asked.
“Give the good doctor room to work, lieutenant,” John said, trying to distract him.
“But he just said--.”
Rodney turned to glare at Aiden.
“Sorry,” Aiden said, reproachfully. He backed off and moved away. Rodney watched him go.
“Hot date?” he asked John as he turned back to his work.
“Something like that,” John said. “Look, we both just want to get out of here.”
“Understood,” Rodney replied. He flipped a switch and the machine whirred into action. “All righty, then. Major, lieutenant; get your things. You Neanderthals start dialing the gate.”
The four Marines eyed Rodney angrily but John nodded at them and they went to the gate. They manually dialed out while Aiden and Teyla quickly repacked the supplies he and John had unpacked. They were standing at the gate when the event horizon formed. Smiling, John gestured for Aiden to go through first.
“Don't worry, lieutenant,” he said reassuringly. “This time, I'll be right behind you.”
“Yes, sir,” Aiden replied before stepping through the gate with Teyla. Rodney, John and the Marines followed quickly, seconds before the ZPM failed and the gate shut down. Safely on the other side, John unhooked his weapon and handed it off to a waiting Marine. He looked around the gate room and spotted Aiden, who was speaking with Bates.
“Hey, Ford!” he called.
“Go and get yourself checked out by the Doc,” he said with a smile only Aiden understood.
“Sir, yes sir!”
Aiden saluted smartly and practically ran out of the gate room. John watched him go, belatedly realizing that Rodney was also observing the lieutenant's departure.
“Carson will be happy to see him,” he said with a knowing smile.
“I suspect he will,” John said.