"Colonel, I think you should see this."
He couldn't repress the sigh as he turned around. It had been nearly 18 months, you'd think by now he'd be used to hearing 'Colonel' addressed to him. "Yes, Chuck, what is it?"
"The Daedalus has just appeared in orbit, sir."
"What?" He leaned over Chuck, studying the display. "She's not scheduled to arrive for another two weeks! What's she doing here?"
"She just appeared."
The Colonel hit a switch. "Daedalus, this is Atlantis. Come in." Silence. "Daedalus, this is Atlantis. Answer, please."
He hit another switch. "John, it's Rodney. I need you at the Control Room right now."
On my way.
He nodded, then hit the switch again. "Daedalus, this is Atlantis. Colonel Caldwell, this is Colonel McKay. Please respond. .... Steven, this is Rodney. Come in." He squeezed Chuck's shoulder. "Keep trying."
By now, John had arrived and settled into a seat. "Belay that, Chuck, you won't get an answer."
"And why not?" Rodney crossed to the console.
Large, haunted hazel eyes met worried blue ones. "Because I'm not reading any life signs aboard her."
Those blue eyes narrowed. "Shit."
It hadn't always been this way.
The damn Replicators had driven Atlantis into space. They had hurt Elizabeth badly and that same blast had caught Rodney in the head – lifted him up off the ground and thrown him through John. To this day, they weren't sure how that had happened – if Rodney's body had been molecularly destabilised briefly, just enough to manage that, or what had happened – but they had landed in a heap on the floor with John sprawled on top of Rodney.
And then, the strangeness had started. It was an emergency situation, and as they'd straightened, John had frozen. A wild look had come into his eyes, like he couldn't do what he'd been trained to do.
Like he couldn't think straight.
Like there were too many thoughts in his head.
Seeing the look – and instantly recognising it as his own eyes in a mirror – Rodney had drawn a sharp breath. He'd looked around at the frightened men and women looking back at them.
And then he'd climbed to his feet and started bellowing orders. John couldn't do it – he didn't know how anymore.
And all of a sudden, Rodney did.
To their credit, the Lanteans had only spared one second of "...what the hell...." before snapping and obeying.
John had gazed at Rodney and breathed, "If you were a woman, I'd kiss the hell out of you right now."
"Go help Radek," was all Rodney had said.
And John had. And that was when they'd realised that John could now read the mechanics of Atlantis like a book. John now knew what Rodney had known.
And when they were in the massive throes of trying to land the repaired city, John had radioed up, "She's not feeling right! She's sluggish!"
Rodney's eyes had widened. He had bolted for the Chair room and just stared for a moment. "John – do you hear that slight hum in your head?"
John had looked up at him with stunned eyes. "...No."
"Shit!" Rodney had pulled him out of the Chair and had sat down in it. To his shock and horror, the Chair reacted like it always had reacted.
Landing was super-rough because it was Rodney's first time really feeling what flying felt like. But it had happened and they were safe.
But they'd lost Elizabeth.
And two of them weren't quite themselves any more.
It turned out that the Daedalus was a dimension-hopper. They spent the better part of a day jumping from one danger to another. Rodney eventually found his hands shaking after a pitched gun battle with a monster from one of the universes, and John took time out from his work on the device to shove Rodney into the command seat and press a MRE from his own pack into the trembling hands. "Eat."
"John, no, there's too much to--"
"There's too much to do to have our CO passing out from hypoglycemia! Shut up and eat!"
Rodney knew when to make a strategic retreat. He shut up and ate.
And when he was done, he found John had been able to throw the machine into reverse. "Here goes nothing!" John bellowed as they began to shift.
Calling him "Colonel" had started out as a snark by Radek. But once they realised yes, hey, this is permanent - Rodney and John had reversed knowledge and somehow Rodney now had the supergene – then the others had started calling him "Colonel". And then Sam had stepped in and before Rodney could even blink, she'd managed to get him an honest-to-God field commission and he was a Colonel for real.
She'd even managed to install him into John's old position. And John slotted seamlessly into Rodney's. They weathered the double-takes and the inevitable recall to Earth – John still was completely in the dark about how Rodney's meeting with the IOA went, but Rodney had come out of it with his bird and his position both intact.
Rodney wasn't entirely sure how he'd managed it, himself.
But there they were – completely reversed, but completely at home. And the city ran as smoothly as ever, if a little more upped on the "strange" quotient.
Once more, the strange ship with the bird design rose to fight the crippled Daedalus. But this time a squadron of 302s came up and joined the fight.
When it was over and the 302s surrounded the ship, a voice piped into the Bridge. This is Colonel John Sheppard to Daedalus. Is everything all right?
Rodney replied. "This is Colonel Rodney McKay of the Daedalus. Thanks for your assist."
Silence. Then a stunned, ....Did you say....Colonel Rodney McKay?
"It's a very long story and one I don't have time to go into. This ship is shifting dimensions and we expect to be in our own soon."
The... your world's John Sheppard....
John chuckled. "Is right here, hale and hearty. Don't worry about us – thanks to you, we'll be just fine."
And with that, the world went white as they shifted.
But that was their final shift – part of the Daedalus's hull gave up the ghost and a bit of the ship decompressed. Unfortunately, it was the bit with the Jumper in it.
"How are we going to get out of here now?" Ronon growled.
John's eyes lit at the same time Rodney's did. "I have an idea," they said together, then looked at each other and laughed.
When the Daedalus winked out again, it left behind four EVA suited people who waited for rescue.
Jumper Two to Colonel McKay....come in....
Rodney laughed. "Now I know we're really home! Hello, Lorne, we're out here. Follow our signal and you'll find us!"
And they all heard Radek start either swearing or praising Deity in Czech.
John switched to a private channel. "All those duplicates – and we were the only ones like this."
"What can I say?" Rodney smiled at him. "We're unique."
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