That Which Survives
"I know I'm irreplaceable, but I'm sure you can survive a week without me."
The words held only a small amount of Rodney's normal ego, a sop to normality. His bloodshot eyes underscored the exhaustion dragging at him.
Elizabeth smiled briefly, a shadow of her own edged amusement. “I have no doubt we can, Rodney. The team members from the Daedalus are fresh and seem to be filling in wherever they can.”
Her words, innocently spoken, reminded everyone of all the missing members of Atlantis' contingent, wounds only barely bound and not yet fully realized.
Rodney's mouth tilted sharply. “Their learning curve is atrocious. However, at the moment, they can't do too much harm. There's too many damaged parts that need replacing, thus the need for my little scavenging trip through the city. Dr. Zelenka can rein in our new members while I'm away.”
“Very well.” Elizabeth sighed and pushed her hair back from her face, wanting nothing more than to immerse herself in her huge spa-like bathtub for days and not come out. Guilt passed through her briefly, and then she dismissed it. She was only human, after all. And she *would* have that tub, if only for an evening.
“John? What's your status?”
Atlantis' once-again military leader looked exhausted, dark circles describing his eyes in a pale face. Even his hair, normally bristling with energy, seemed limp and lifeless. “With the replacements from the Daedalus, we have enough personnel for normal rotation, although I'm requiring mandatory orientation attendance and buddy-watch with experienced personnel until they're up to speed. Our ordnance is also fully restocked. But....” His mouth quirked up. “I miss my jumper.”
Thank God we're not missing you.
Everyone had fallen silent, and Elizabeth knew that sentiment was shared by everyone at the table. Determinedly, she smiled. “Yes, well, there are other jumpers, and I know Rodney's team has been working on building more.”
John shrugged slightly, a crooked grin finally breaking out. “Yeah, so I've been told...but, you know, there's just nothing like your first time. I was a jumper virgin until she came along.”
It was lame, but the joke punched a hole in the oppressive atmosphere hanging over the room. Everyone smiled; Rodney rolled his eyes and snorted. Elizabeth wanted to hug John.
Inspiration struck. “So you've got everything under control for the moment?”
John shrugged, expression cautious. “As much as possible for now.”
“Good.” Elizabeth nodded. “Then I hereby order you to one week away. You can accompany Dr. McKay in his journey through the city and keep him out of harm's way for me.”
John grinned crookedly at Rodney. “Cool. Safari time, stalking the wild scientist in his natural habitat.”
Rodney grimaced. “Just as long as you remember the goal is not for me to hang stuffed on your wall, Major.”
“But that takes all the fun out of it,” John replied, still grinning slightly.
“Is that all, everyone?” Elizabeth gazed around at the weary and drained faces nodding. “Very well. We've got our work cut out for us, let's go implement our plans. And people, I want to see everybody signed up for rotating leave.” She nodded, and everyone rose slowly, small discussions starting up as they filed out of the conference room.
The two men turned back as the last of the others filtered through the doors.
“Stay safe, but have fun out there, all right?”
John sent her a nearly convincing look of confusion. “Fun? Chasing after the head geek for a week? I'll settle for no crises.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Are you planning on going into the northern sector, Rodney?”
She didn't miss the cautious look Rodney and John exchanged.
“--possibly. There's a good possibility of finding the necessary pieces in the engineering labs we've discovered there.”
She nodded. “Good. Then I'd suggest that while you're there, don't forget to visit the spa area, either. I wouldn't, if I were you.”
John studiously ignored the looks Rodney was sending him. “That's a good idea, Elizabeth. Glad you thought of it. We'll be sure to do that.” He nodded earnestly, giving her his best innocent look.
“Good. Go have fun, gentlemen. Find us what we need.”
Find what *you* need. She watched them walk out of the room, envying briefly the silence lying between them. As they casually bumped shoulders, arms swinging at their sides, Rodney's hand grasped the Major's tightly for just a second, saying it all.