|Looking At You With The World In The Rearview
John named the puddlejumpers, because he'd always named everything he'd ever piloted -- choppers, planes, cars, the motorcycle he had for six months when he was in grad school. (The motorcycle was named Matilda, and he only got rid of her because he was a little afraid of actually dying before he got to fly anything really cool. When he got to Atlantis, he was glad, because if he'd died on Matilda, he'd never have gotten to fly a jumper, and that would have been a goddamned crying shame.)
He flew choppers in Afghanistan and everybody named their birds; he flew with the Texas Tornado and Skipper and a poorly named Pave Hawk called Gilligan. He flew in McMurdo and nobody named the choppers except for him, and he didn't tell anybody that chopper he was flying when he crash-landed General O'Neill into a snowdrift was called Molly, after a girlfriend who he still thought really fondly of. (Molly broke up with him just before he shipped out for his first overseas tour, and after he crashed in Antarctica, he thought that the name would always be linked in his head with things that changed his life in huge, gigantic ways -- and not always ways that were good.)
He named the jumpers after his grandmother's friends -- Miriam, Beatrice, Agnes, Esmeralda -- because they looked like they'd handle about as well as the Chevy Caprice that he learned to drive on, which was his grandma's car. He told everyone that he didn't have a favorite. They were all the same, they were all just joys to fly, but -- his favorite was Esther, because Esther was the jumper that Rodney mounted pulse cannons on, just under the lights on the front. The cannons were totally useless out of atmo, but it was like having one of those fuckin' huge pickup trucks with rifles under the headlights, and John loved it. Loved her.
The first year that they were in Atlantis, they spent putting out fires metaphorical and literal alike. McKay had his hands full, they spent half their time off-world looking for ZPMs, and still, when John trailed down to the jumper bay late at night, unable or unwilling to sleep, most of the time McKay was there, fiddling with control crystals, adjusting the way the jumpers responded to John's mind and his touch and his thoughts.
Not every night -- John didn't wander down there every night, and McKay wasn't there every night John did. But enough nights, and John found that the nights McKay wasn't there, John missed him. Those nights John sat in the pilot's seat in Miriam and thought about all the machines he's flown, and the jumper shivered under his hands, vibrating with energy, like she wanted to take off at the simplest thought of flying. He thought about where he was in the universe. Thought about where he'd been in the universe. Thought that maybe where he was now was better than where he'd been then.
And he missed McKay's company when McKay wasn't there. The nights McKay wasn't there, John didn't let himself sink into his own melancholy, but he missed the sound of someone else's voice. John spent 2 years in Antarctica not missing the sound of anyone's voice at all; it only took six weeks for John to get used to McKay's constant presence at his elbow.
He counted the nights that McKay was in the jumper bay, and it was almost every third day. John fell into McKay's pattern, sliding past the Marines patrolling the hallways with brief nods, and he lounged in the pilot's seat, feet on the dashboard and arm on the back of the chair, while McKay rooted in control panels and pecked at his laptop. At first, McKay just grunted and rolled his eyes when John started talking -- he told McKay about all the cool things he's flown, talked about sports until McKay got fed up with football and went on for half an hour about hockey -- but sooner rather than later, McKay talked back.
John spent six months dropping subtle hints about the features he'd loved in other things he'd flown, and McKay seemed to ignore him, but the things John wanted started showing up in his controls, started appearing underneath the headlights and attached to the back hatch and in the user interface. The Ancients built the most amazing crafts that John's ever flown, but McKay was the one who made them better.
They didn't talk about it.
They spent long, quiet, sleepy nights in the jumper bay for six months -- three months before the Wraith siege, but of course they don't know that then -- before they got to a night where McKay showed up, and John showed up, and nobody did any work. John was sitting in Beatrice, scanning through what he thought were stored mission reports in the jumper's on-board database, not that he could read them if they were, when McKay stomped in and collapsed in the co-pilot's seat.
"Bad day, McKay?" John said, mildly.
"The worst sort, Major, and do you always ask stupid questions?" McKay said. He leaned forward and put his head against the dashboard, the back of his neck pale above his uniform jacket. Atlantis regulated the temperatures on her own -- because the city was as much alive as John was -- and he'd asked her to keep the jumper bay warmer at night, but she hadn't. McKay, even damp from sweat and hard work, was always cold.
John looked down at the pale skin on the back of McKay's neck and had the urge to reach out and touch it, put his hand on McKay's neck and give him some kind of comfort. John didn't know why he thought McKay needed comforting, but something about the back of McKay's neck seemed vulnerable, and John was a commander and a soldier before he was anything else, except a pilot.
McKay didn't need much protecting and John knew it. McKay wasn't great with a gun, and he talked too much when he was freaked out or upset or panicking, but he didn't need protecting.
John wanted to protect him anyway. He kept his hands to himself and said, "No stupid questions, only stupid answers."
McKay snorted, and turned his head so that John could see one bloodshot eye over a face that needed a shave.
"There are hundreds of thousands of stupid questions," McKay said, "and sometimes I think I've been asked them all."
"Any casualties?" John said, easy as he could. If there'd been, he'd have heard.
"Only of precious, precious brain cells," McKay said. "My brain cells, which are wasting away while morons do moronic things in my labs."
"Hmmm," John said.
McKay sat up, rolling his head until his neck cracked, pop pop pop, and then slouched back down in his seat, head propped against one fist. He stared at John for a long time, silent but watchful, and John slouched in his own chair and let McKay stare. McKay's gaze was oddly affectionate, and he looked tired. They'd been in Atlantis six months. The jumpers flew better than anything John had ever touched.
McKay was as inscrutable to John as McKay insisted John was to everyone in the world. John always felt like his face was an open book, but McKay -- whose face really was an open book -- was completely unreadable to John. John could see McKay's emotions skate across his face, but John couldn't read them. He sat in the jumper and let McKay stare at him and thought about where he was in the universe.
"You're the only person I've had an actual non-work related conversation with in weeks," McKay said. "Months."
"Well, that's flattering," John drawled, because if he didn't tease McKay, he was going to say something about the warmth and security that had splashed through his chest at McKay's statement.
"Oh, shut up," McKay said, and then he screwed up his face as though he was going to say something else, but he just shook his head and stared at John some more.
John squirmed, just a little, and said, "I got something on my face, McKay?"
"No, but you've done something stupid to your hair," McKay snapped. He stretched again, popping more vertebrae, and he struggled to his feet and offered John a hand. "I'm not good company tonight," he admitted to John, sounding sheepish and a little sad.
"Who says you're ever good company, McKay?" John said. He got to his own feet and stretched, feeling a yawn shuddering up his body. He let it out, and when he was finished, McKay was yawning himself, scrubbing at his face with one hand. One tuft of hair was sticking up on the side of his head.
"We're both bad company," McKay said.
"Speak for yourself, McKay," John said. He thought the lights in the jumper bay down, and had the door open before they'd crossed half the room. John patted Esmeralda on the nose before they left, and McKay snorted with amusement.
"You could use my name, Major," McKay said.
"I do," John said.
"I meant my first name," McKay said. "I'd like to think that, after the shooting in the leg, pushing off a balcony, life-saving and all that, we were friends."
"Sure," John said. "Rodney."
McKay smiled, not his usual grin of triumph, but something slower and sweeter, and the warm feeling splashed across John's chest again. "I wouldn't have fixed all those jumpers for just anyone," he said, stepping back into a transporter and punching the screen rapidly.
John said, "Thank you," when the transporter doors slid open again, but McKay wasn't there to hear it. He thought something important might have just happened, but he wasn't sure what it was. He walked back to his quarters, took the long route, whistling cheerfully, and as he passed, he heard all the Marines behind him pick up the tune.
He dreamt of flying that night.
Three weeks after Doranda, John was still -- angry. Frustrated. Hurt by the things that McKay had done, the way McKay had used him to get his own way. Elizabeth had been angry about the outcome of Doranda, the destroyed solar system, what Rodney had done. John was angry because he'd been used. Because McKay had taken advantage of their friendship, of the fact that, yeah, by the time they went to Doranda, John thought of McKay as a friend, not just a scientist on his team or the head of all the labs.
John has been trained all his life to value loyalty, steadfastness, commitment to your teammates more important than anything else, and he's learned on his own to value commitment to your teammates over a greater mission, or selfish pursuits. He knows that's part of why he's survived command of Atlantis: because his men, every single one of them, would walk into a firefight for John because they know he'd do the same for every single person in the city.
What McKay did wasn't any of that -- he used John's loyalty to get his own way, and the sickness of that sat in the pit of John's stomach even weeks later. It was a betrayal that felt larger than anything he'd experience before, and he didn't know what to do about it.
John still wandered by the jumper bay late at night when dreams of Wraith and skies on fire kept him from sleeping, but he turned on his heel and went back to his nightmares if the lights were on. He still teased McKay over the tables in the mess, backed him up in staff meetings, but John avoided him, too.
John didn't feel good about avoiding McKay, but he couldn't deny that he was doing it.
Five weeks after Doranda, AR-1 got trapped in the jumper on some horrific planet that dumped what McKay insisted was an Ice Age, and Teyla declared was a two days storm, on their heads three hours after they got to the planet. When they finally got back to the jumper, shuddering with cold, damp all the way to the skin, they'd fallen gratefully into the relative warmth of the jumper. Ronon had grunted, shaken the snow from his hair and said he'd take the first watch, and wrapped himself in his leather coat and two thermal blankets and stepped back out into the snow.
They couldn't fly; John couldn't see beyond the snow stacking on the windscreen of the jumper. They were warm and they had food, but it only took three hours before they were all stir-crazy. Ronon paced like a caged tiger, three long steps down the length of the jumper, three long steps back, over and over, and Teyla claimed that she was meditating, but John thought she was probably just blocking them out. John closed his eyes and tried to sleep, and McKay twitched.
After six hours, Ronon stomped back into the snow and was gone for almost two hours. McKay was still twitched, brushing at the inside of the windscreen as though he could brush the snow away and see out, drumming his fingers, jiggling one leg. After the first hour, he poked John in the thigh, hard. John held his eyes shut even harder, and McKay poked him again, even harder. "What, McKay?" John said, peeling one eye open.
"You think he's okay?" McKay said.
"He lived in the wild seven years," John said. "I'm sure he hasn't frozen to death yet."
"Hmph," McKay said, and John pried his other eye open to see if there was something on Rodney's face that explained the tone in Rodney's voice. He was frowning, hunched over his datapad, his face as closed from emotion as John had ever seen it. Rodney wore his feelings all over his face and by now, John knew exactly how to read him. He didn't always understand Rodney once he'd read Rodney's face, but after 18 months, he could read Rodney like a book.
Rodney always reacted to John exactly the way that John expected him to -- wanted him to. Rodney kept his distance, physically, except when John most needed a comforting hand, and even if Rodney wasn't very good at comforting, Rodney's broad hand on John's shoulder was still a comfort.
Trapped in the puddlejumper (they were flying Caroline that day, because Zelenka was tinkering with Esther's inertial dampeners when they'd left), John thought about all the time he'd spent in the jumper bay with Rodney, and he watched Rodney hunch tiredly over the datapad, closed in on himself, and missed Rodney desperately, in a way that John wasn't entirely expecting.
"Ronon will be back," John said. "He's smart, he's lived on his own in the wild for seven years, and he knows that if he died, I'd track him down and kill him again, so he'll be back."
Rodney's expression hardened, slightly, and then mellowed again, and he looked up at John without worry in his eyes, but with something else -- curiosity, concern, something John couldn't identify -- masking his face. "Would you do that for all of us?"
"If you blow yourself up on a planet, Rodney, I swear, I will find every single piece and put them back together for the sole purpose of kicking your ass," John said, his eyes still closed. He didn't want to see Rodney's expression -- he didn't want to have just suggested that Rodney might, in fact, blow up another planet. He didn't want to have suggested that and have to see Rodney's face.
Rodney didn't respond, but when John cracked one eye open, Rodney's back had uncurled and the tension was visibly seeping out of his shoulders. John closed his eye again and felt, almost, like he'd said the right thing.
He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew, Ronon was shaking snow all over the back of the jumper, waking Teyla (who fell off her bench with a thump and an indignant noise, proving to John that she hadn't been meditating) and startling John, who looked down to discover that another hour had passed. Rodney just flapped a hand at Ronon, but a pleased, secret little smile spread of his face, and John grinned at Rodney -- who wasn't looking at him -- and at Ronon, who was dripping puddles everywhere.
John hadn't seen Rodney smile like that since before Doranda, and he was glad to see it.
The snow kept falling. They ate MREs for dinner and Ronon went back out into the snow for an hour -- when he came back, Rodney grumbled, "You're letting all the hot air out," and Ronon just smiled and stomped and shed melting snow all down the back of Rodney's neck.
John just smiled and went back to sleep.
Ronon shook John roughly awake at the beginning of hour 10; Rodney was asleep in the copilot's seat, feet on the dashboard console and datapad clutched against his chest. He had his mouth open and he was snoring quietly, the only noise in the jumper and as Ronon and Teyla silently padded around the back half, spread out bedrolls. The snow was still falling, silent and steady, outside, but it looked like the wind had died down. Another couple of hours and they could dig the jumper out and take off, he hoped.
He looked over at Rodney, still snoring, his face totally slack and open, and John almost hated to wake him up -- but he wasn't going to be the only one awake through the what-they-thought-was-maybe-possibly-night, and so he shook Rodney by one shoulder. Rodney jerked awake, eyes wide and face creased with sleep, and nearly slid off the chair.
"What?" Rodney said, loud in the silence, and cranky.
John jerked his head to the back of the jumper, where Teyla was curled like a cat with her gun underneath her right hand, and Ronon had fallen asleep almost before he hit his bedroll.
"Oh," Rodney said, suddenly quiet, and it sounded louder to John's ears than Rodney's loudness had. "Sorry. You couldn't keep the Abominable Snowman away by yourself?"
"I was lonely," John said, and he knew it was true as soon as he said it. He'd missed Rodney. He'd missed their dumb computer game, he'd missed the way Rodney shot John sly, knowing looks when anyone did something stupid and Rodney wasn't allowed to yell.
"Oh, well, if you were lonely," Rodney said, and turned away from John, pulling his coat and his thermal blanket even tighter around his ears. Rodney never woke up well -- John knew that from dozens of trips off-world, from early morning emergencies, from staff meetings held before 10 a.m. Atlantis Standard Time.
"I swiped the coffee out of Ronon's MRE," John said. He had, and Ronon had growled at him when he'd done it, but Rodney had been bent over his datapad then, too, and John had twitched his head in Rodney's direction and Ronon had let the powdered coffee go without a fight.
"Are you bribing me into talking to you?" Rodney said.
" ... Yes?" John said.
"Give me the coffee and then stop talking," Rodney said. "It's snowing and I'm cold and there's still a damp spot on my shirt where Ronon dripped on me."
John passed the coffee over and secured his own blanket around his shoulders before running through the diagnostics on Caroline's dashboard; internal temp was dropping, but slow enough that John wasn't worried yet; external temperature was holding steady at too goddamned cold. Ronon was mumbling in his sleep, something rhythmic and relaxing, and when John turned away from the diagnostics, Rodney was staring out the windscreen at the snow, powdered coffee clinging to his bottom lip.
John felt a little sad and a little lonely and he probably watched Rodney for a little too long, because when Rodney's head jerked around, his eyes were startled. "I named the jumpers," John said suddenly. The silence was starting to make him crazy.
Rodney blinked at him, and then said, quiet and curious, "I know."
John spluttered -- that wasn't the answer he was expecting. "But I didn't -- "
"You told them," Rodney said, waving a hand to indicate the jumper -- to indicate Caroline. "They love you, they love everything you do. You named them, and their names started showing up in the diagnostics, oh, I don't know, six months ago. Before the siege."
"You could have said," John said, feeling wounded.
Rodney had the good sense to blush. He didn't look at John, but he said, suddenly shy, "I thought if you wanted anyone to know, you'd say. I didn't figure out it was you for -- I should have guessed before I did."
"Hmph," John said, and watched Rodney from the corner of his eye.
Rodney's mouth twitched, once, twice, and then he started laughing. "Esmeralda, Colonel?"
John started to be offended -- and then he realized that it really was funny, and he laughed with Rodney for ten minutes, until Ronon woke up and chucked a boot at them, hitting the windscreen and shaking snow down from where it had gathered.
John told Rodney stories about his grandmother and her crazy friends -- the time that Caroline and Miriam had been arrested in a strip club in Reno, the time that all of them had piled into the backseat of the Caprice to teach John how to drive. Rodney chuckled low at all of the stories, and when the snow let off, Rodney only complained a little when John made him go outside and see if the jumper was clear enough for John to take off.
No one got frostbite. No one was eaten by wild beasts. No one froze to death and they only had three relatively minor arguments. John stopped calling the puddlejumpers by their names, until he slipped into the jumper bay late one night and heard Rodney murmuring quietly to Esther, calling her by her name.
He stood in the shadows, listening, not sure why he didn't go one way or the other, let Rodney know that he was there or turn and walk away, but he didn't -- John stood, listened, and only when Rodney straightened up and ran a fond hand over Esther's lights did John make noise enough to let Rodney know he was there.
Rodney grinned when he saw John step out of the shadows, and beside John's shoulder, he could feel Esther humming like a contented cat.
The moon base was not at all ever the coolest thing that John had ever flown. He could count on one hand the times he'd been actually, genuinely terrified out of his skin, and the time on the moon base, sure they were going to lose Teyla, sure they were going to lose McKay, sure that he and Ronon were going to die helpless and angry and scared in a fight to the death.
He had gone down in choppers and gone down in fighter planes, and he had been certain that he was going to die on the ice in Antarctica when Carson fired that drone at him and General O'Neill, but he'd never been more certain that he was going to die than when the moon base was hurtling to the ground.
He has walked away from a hundred things he shouldn't have walked away from, and he walked away from this, too. John's never thought that flying was so dangerous that he could ever stop -- everything he knows is tied up in flying, everything he knows about who he is relates to how he feels in the air.
John sleepwalked through the standard post-mission stuff: a debrief that was far too long, a worried couple of hours in the infirmary hoping that Teyla will be okay. When he left, Rodney was standing in the hall, face twisted with worry and fingers white where they clutched his laptop.
John said, "Teyla's going to be okay."
"Yes, yes," Rodney said, sounding dismissive and just slightly ... off somehow. "I mean, good. I mean -- I mean."
Rodney didn't stutter -- Rodney said what he meant. John would have stopped and seen what was wrong, except that John felt like he was going to shake apart with fear and worry if he stopped walking, so he nodded at Rodney and turned down the hallway to his quarters.
The steps behind him meant that Rodney was following John, but John didn't turn around. He reached out to Atlantis with the last shred of energy he hadn't burned up with adrenaline and terror and lit the hallways as brightly as he could, a warm sweet glow that slid under John's skin and pulled him back to Earth, the best that an expression like that could convey how weird it was to live in another galaxy.
He was well into his quarters, the door halfway closed, when Rodney slid through the gap and waved a hand in the direction of the locking mechanism. John turned away, stripped his grimy t-shirt over his head and bent over a drawer to find a clean one.
"I cannot believe," Rodney said, and he stopped, paused long enough that John looked up from the drawer to see what he wanted. Rodney's eyes were wide, terrified, a look John hadn't seen on his face since John had taken the bomb up in the jumper two years ago.
"Nobody's dead, Rodney," John said.
"You cannot -- " Rodney said, and stopped again, swallowing hard and staring at John with a wild expression. "Stop trying to die," Rodney said, crossing the room to John and prodding him hard in the chest. "Stop that. You cannot fly everything."
"I can so," John said, and all the adrenaline he thought had left his body was thrumming in his blood again. He felt suddenly argumentative, awake, ready to go a couple of rounds with Rodney and then put on a clean shirt and go watch Rodney fiddle with the jumpers until Rodney was satisfied John couldn't kill himself in one of them.
Instead, Rodney backed John against the wall, clean t-shirt still wadded in one of John's fists, and then Rodney kissed him.
It was the way John would expect Rodney to kiss, if he'd thought about Rodney kissing him, which he hadn't -- he'd thought about Rodney and the jumpers, Rodney peering suspiciously over a game console at him, but not this. And even so -- Rodney kissed John hard, fast, deep, like he was trying to convince himself that John was alive and Rodney was alive and everyone they loved was still alive.
The t-shirt was trapped between them, and John brought his other hand up to push Rodney away, to ask what was going on, except when John moved his hand, he found himself fisting it in Rodney's own t-shirt, pulling Rodney closer.
Rodney made a tiny noise at the back of his throat and licked John's bottom lip, his hands settling on John's hips. John didn't know where Rodney's laptop had gone and he didn't care, because it had been a damn long time since anybody had kissed him, and this was Rodney. Rodney who was the best friend John had in the Pegasus Galaxy, Rodney who was here because John had put his life on the line for all of them.
John had gone down in a lot of choppers but he'd never had anybody who cared this damn much that he walked out of it.
Rodney kept kissing him and John dropped the t-shirt on the floor, sliding his free hand under Rodney's t-shirt, across the warm expanse of Rodney's back. Live skin under John's hands was a novelty, was not something he got every day, and when his fingers skimmed across Rodney's back, Rodney jerked against John. Rodney's dick pressed hard against John's thigh and his fingers slid from John's hips to John's fly, fumbling with the buttons until John's fly was open.
John's blood was humming, all the adrenaline flooding back into his system, and when Rodney tugged at John's pants and his boxers, sliding them down John's thighs and pinning John where he was against the wall, John almost came then and there.
Rodney didn't slow down, and he wrapped a fist around John's dick, broad palm and long fingers stroking slowly. John wanted to shudder apart at the first stroke, drop his head back against the wall and pant helplessly until he came all over Rodney's hand, but Rodney was still kissing him desperately, his other hand clutching convulsively against John's hip. So John let Rodney set the pace, matching Rodney kiss for kiss, shoving his tongue into Rodney's mouth and running his fingers along Rodney's spine.
Rodney stroked John's dick slowly, thoughtfully, a complete counterpoint to the way that Rodney was kissing John, and the difference in the two drove John absolutely nuts. He lasted maybe three minutes, thrusting his hips against Rodney's hand until Rodney twisted his wrist and sped up his strokes, and when John came, he groaned, "Rodney," against Rodney's mouth.
John zoned out completely afterwards, just for a split second, and when he settled back into his own head, Rodney was still looking wild and John's pants were still around his knees and his stomach was splattered with his own come. Rodney was panting hard, his dick outlined heavily against his pants, and he still had come dripping from his hand.
John's blood was still pumping, fear and lust and release all mixed up together in a way that felt better than flying ever had, and he scooped up his discarded t-shirt with one hand while he tugged up his pants with the other. He swiped at his stomach and thrust the t-shirt at Rodney, who took it without a word. Rodney looked the way John felt, like he wasn't sure what had just happened, and John did the only thing he could think of to do at that moment, the only thing other than turn and run.
Because it was Rodney, and he deserved better than John turning and running.
John grabbed Rodney's wrist and pulled him close, kissed Rodney once, and pushed Rodney against the wall. He couldn't drop to his knees the way he could when he was 20, but he could get there gracefully enough, and that's what John did, thumbing the buttons on Rodney's pants open and tugging them down to Rodney's knees. When John wrapped a hand around the base of Rodney's cock, Rodney's hand -- the only that wasn't still clutching John's smeared t-shirt -- slid into John's hair, and when John wrapped his mouth around Rodney's dick, Rodney looked down at John and his face went slack.
John hadn't given a blow job in a couple of years, not since before Antarctica, and he was rusty and his jaw hurt, but Rodney was huffing desperately above him, fingers tight in John's hair, so John swallowed his gag reflex and did the best he could. Rodney didn't last much longer than John had, dropping the sticky t-shirt on the floor and sliding sticky fingers along John's jaw when he came.
"Oh, God," Rodney said, and John swallowed as much as he could before pulling back and smearing come across his chin. He wiped his face on the t-shirt he couldn't wear anymore and stood up. His knees cracked.
Rodney's eyes were closed, his head back against the wall. He peeled one eye open and said, "Stop trying to die."
"I got the memo, Rodney," John said.
"I mean it," Rodney said, and he opened his other eye, looked John right in the eyes, and smiled.
"I got you," John said, and when Rodney kissed him, it felt better than flying.
The city knows what he wants when he sits in the chair. She's all energy and untapped potential under his hands, and she knows that he wants to fly. Atlantis is awkward, all angles and none of the sleek lines he's used to, but John knows she'll fly under his hands, because she wants to. He sits in the chair, the city vibrating with want and need and desire, and he looks at Rodney and he thinks, we've come full circle.
"Good luck," Rodney says, and his eyes are scared and his hands are tight around the datapad. He looks like he's holding on for dear life, and John guesses Rodney is. There's personnel all over the chair room -- if John could reach out and put a hand on Rodney, he would, but he can't, and that thought sends ice water shooting through his veins.
If he looked down, John knows he would see his own knuckles white against the chair, the city struggling up into his bloodstream to keep him grounded. "Good luck," he says.
He leans back, closes his eyes, and takes her up. He hears Rodney in the back of his head: Major, think about where we are in the universe.
John keeps his eyes closed, thinks about Rodney, and flies.