When he lifts his head, there's dirt and twigs and a splintered tree, and his hands are all scratched up and oh, hey, a gun, so he quick-rolls into a sitting position and does a fast-sweep of the area, except these aren't the right kind of trees, so this isn't Nicaragua anymore. Still, he's wearing some sort of fatigues, so he's somewhere all right, probably doing the same old, same old, and he's sure it will all come back to him any second now.
He checks out the perimeter of the clearing until he finds a set of broken branches all pointing in the same direction. So that's the way he came, and he looks for the way his attackers have gone but doesn't see any other path. Probably for the best anyway, since he doesn't know what he's dealing with (being as he has no idea where he is) and so he retraces his steps through the trees, moving with stealthy caution and his gun in his hand.
He hears them before he sees them, and the woman says, "Perhaps you should try the radio again," before the man snaps, "He's fine; give him a minute," and so he ducks and parts the low, leafy branches of one of these strange, non-Nicaraguan trees and sees an aircraft that looks like nothing he's ever imagined. It's tube-shaped, streamlined, bias-cut with no visible form of propulsion: it looks like stealth technology taken to its ultimate conclusion, and he loves it immediately. Three people are waiting outside: a woman and a man who look like tribal warriors, and a pale, plain-looking guy in a uniform just like—except no, because the man's got a Canadian flag on his jacket. He looks at his own bicep and sees only an empty square of black Velcro, but finds two patches in his pocket: one that's reassuringly red, white and blue, and another that says ATLANTIS.
So okay, he's got it: experimental aircraft, international crew.
Taking a breath, he breaks cover and steps into the clearing, gun cocked just in case he's got it wrong. But he's not wrong; he sees that instantly, because they're all so obviously relieved to see him. "Colonel," the woman says, and okay, that's a mistake or a joke or something, "are you all right?"
"Oh yeah," he says. "Fine," and the warrior man frowns and says, "Is your radio working?" He looks down at his belt—radio?—and then lifts a hand to his ear and, yeah, feels an earpiece there.
"Huh. No," he says. "I guess not," and then the pale Canadian steps forward and says, impatiently, "Let me see that."
"I think perhaps we ought to leave before conducting any repairs," the woman says, "as our reception here has hardly been a warm one."
It takes him a moment to realize that they're all waiting for him to give the okay; is it possible he's the captain of the Atlantis? "Uh, yeah; good idea," he says, and the warrior man nods and moves to check the aircraft's exterior, and the woman swiftly disappears up the ramp, and he's just about to follow her when the Canadian grabs his arm and says, in a low confidential voice, "So—did you plant it?"
"What?" he asks, and the Canadian rolls his eyes and says, "The sensor. Did you manage to—" and then he raises his hand to his ear and says, "Yes, we're coming," and he says, "You idiot, you left your radio off. Do you want them to get suspicious?"
"No," he says, and then he follows the Canadian up the ramp. A moment later, the warrior man comes up behind them and shuts the hatch.
"All clear," he says, in a low, rumbling voice.
"Um, good," he replies, and then the Canadian and the woman and the warrior man are strapping themselves into their seats.
"Are we going or what?" the Canadian asks, jerking his head up, and so he sits down and examines the controls, and Jesus, he would have said he could fly anything, but this doesn't even have a basic console—except wow, there it is, suddenly projected in front of his face, and this is more than experimental; this is the absolute cutting edge . Holographic readouts, incredibly intuitive, like they've been personally designed for him—and geez, this isn't a plane, this is some sort of shuttle, this fuckin' thing can achieve orbit, and it's clearly supposed to interface with that wicked-looking circular dock up there.
And okay, now he can't wait to remember everything, because damn, this is good; this is cool as shit.
He sits there, shocked, as his crew unbuckles and starts moving around him; he couldn't have been more surprised if he'd put his hand through the television screen and picked up Bill Cosby. Not a dock, then—some kind of door, and now he's in a multi-level space station and gaping out through the glass.
"C'mon," the Canadian says, nudging his shoulder. "Elizabeth's waiting," and he looks up and says, "I don't know what to tell her." The Canadian glances over his shoulder and lowers his voice. "Just tell her there was a problem with the puddlejumper and you stayed behind; Teyla and I will take it from there."
Teyla. Puddlejumper. Right—that sounds familiar. Maybe. "Teyla knows I didn't stay behind," he points out.
But the Canadian just stares. "It's not like she'll contradict you. Teyla and Ronon will back you up, whatever you say," and of course, Teyla and Ronon, Ronon and Teyla.
He follows the Canadian up to a beautifully modern conference room where they're greeted by an attractive woman whom the Canadian calls "Elizabeth," and Teyla calls, "Dr. Weir." He's apparently on a first name-basis with her himself, because she smiles at him and says, "Hello, John. How did it go?"
He shrugs, and then perches on the edge of the table to explain that there was something wrong with the puddlejumper and so he stayed behind. Then the Canadian's there to save him.
"We offered them the usual," he interjects, "batteries, antibiotics, the whole assortment of colored beads, but they refuse to open trade negotiations."
"They think we will bring the Wraith down upon them," Teyla says quietly.
"Which is ridiculous," the Canadian says with a wave of his hand.
Teyla smiles, but her tone is sharp. "Not that ridiculous," she says.
"It doesn't matter," Ronon says flatly. "Strategically, there are only two positions: with the Wraith or against them."
"Perhaps, but that does not mean we represent the only valid opposition," Teyla objects. "Others will wish to resist in their own fashion."
The Canadian rolls his eyes. "Yes, fine—hooray for cultural diversity, but we're the ones with the technology, the firepower, and all the military know-how," and okay, yeah, this is his buddy, right here. "Multiple fronts are all very well in theory, but the smart money's on a galaxy-wide coalition centered around Atlantis and driven by fully-powered Ancient technology."
"That strategy has already failed once," Teyla notes quietly, and Ronon narrows his eyes and adds, meaningfully: "And technology is nothing without balls."
"I've seen you stroking your P-90," the Canadian snaps, and Elizabeth quickly interjects, "People, please; we can't even debate the pros and cons of an alliance if we can't get the Nasrana to trade with us, and they're the key to any number of other systems."
"It's not an either/or," he hears himself say. Everyone turns to look at him, but he focuses on Ronon. "We should be smart and have balls and be armed to the teeth, if we can manage it, and it sounds to me like we're going to have to sweeten the deal a little to bring our allies to the table."
Ronon jerks an acquiescent nod, and Elizabeth clasps her hands together approvingly. "All right, fine," she says. "What do you have in mind?"
He has nothing in mind; not a damn thing, but at least he remembers how to delegate. He turns to Teyla, who frowns and considers the matter with a thoughtful expression. "We should begin by offering to bolster their defensive systems rather than trying immediately to integrate them into ours."
"Even if they're stupid?" the Canadian asks brightly, and then he leans over and stage-whispers in his ear, "We're talking garlic and chanting-level stupid," and on his other side, Teyla raises her voice and says, "Yes, especially if you find them so. Honoring local customs of protection may bring us a reciprocal offer of support."
"Gar-lic," the Canadian sing-songs to him while rolling his eyes in visible frustration. "Chant-ing," but Elizabeth likes the idea and asks Teyla to come up with a new opening salvo, and the meeting is over.
He lingers, not exactly knowing where to go, and the Canadian lingers, too, apparently to grab him by the arm and drag him down the corridor for a private talk. "Okay, yes, that was brilliant and all that," the Canadian says, "but we're really screwed if they find out what we're doing. Not that they will," he adds and suddenly crooks a smile. "Did you get that sensor planted or what?" but he's not waiting for an answer; he's moved to a computer terminal and he's brought up a password-protected login. His fingers fly over the keyboard and then there are a bunch of pulses flashing on the screen. The Canadian points and says, "Right, good; there it is," and it takes him a minute to understand what he's seeing: those are planets; he's apparently just planted a sensor on some other planet and all this intergalactic bullshit is true. Still typing, the Canadian says, "Let me run a noise-filtration program and we should have a pretty good idea what they're saying," and then he frowns suddenly and looks up and says, "You're not having second thoughts, are you?"
"No," he replies slowly. "Why would I?" and the Canadian stares at him and says something about this violating at least fifteen standard SGC protocols, and so he just shrugs and says, "Sometimes it's better if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing," and the Canadian snorts and bends down to the keyboard and says, "Well. You don't have to convince me of that."
The screen is full of readings he can't identify, and then the Canadian reports, "Everything's working fine," and types in a sequence. And there's the clearing with the strange trees and the broken branches and the dirt he fell in, and the Canadian's fingers move over the keys and the view changes, changes until suddenly it's a series of low, clay houses around a central square, like somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico if they'd built the wild west on Mars.
"Great," he says, leaning forward to look. "Geez, that's great," and as the Canadian refines the program, layers of garbled sound begin to drop away. "—trust him," a voice says suddenly. The Canadian gleefully hands over a set of headphones and says, "You can praise my genius later." He grins and slides them on, and the sound gets clearer still. "—but I am willing to put the matter before the council. Still, I cannot imagine that any good will come of it; do you think they would hesitate to sacrifice us to preserve the City of the Ancients?"
"They do not ask for much," a woman's voice replies evenly, and the Canadian tweaks the program until an older woman with bright red hair is visible. "It seems to me they wish only for the exchange of goods and information—"
"Yes, and do you think that information will be used for our benefit?" and he frowns and tugs the earphones down around his neck. "I'd say we have a credibility problem," he tells the Canadian, who rolls his eyes and says, "Yeah, tell me something I don't know."
"Yeah. Exactly," he says. "We need to tell them something they don't know. Something that's to their advantage. Sally's our gal, here; give her something to use, and she'll convince the old man."
"Are you suggesting..." the Canadian begins slowly, and when their eyes meet, he can see that the Canadian's already on his page, and he's relieved to have found his partner in crime. "You're thinking we could maybe manufacture..."
"We need a crisis. Real or imagined," he says, and flicks his eyebrows for emphasis.
The Canadian bites his lip. "Real would be better," he says, and then he laughs and tilts his head and says, "Well, no, actually; not really. Not in the actual scheme of things. I don't know, let me think about it," and he grins and claps the Canadian's shoulder.
When the Canadian finally logs out, he feels a moment of panic, because he doesn't know where he's supposed to be. He follows the Canadian out, down the hall, and into what has to be a transporter, until suddenly the Canadian turns and says, "Uh, what are you doing?"
"I don't know," he says. "What are you doing?"
"I thought I'd go shower, change, get some dinner," the Canadian replies.
"Sounds great; can I come?" he asks.
"For a shower?" the Canadian asks with all the sarcasm he can muster, which turns out to be a lot, so he cuts the legs out from under him by just saying, "Yeah."
"What's wrong with your shower?" the Canadian inquires.
"Nothing," he replies, and that's true; the only problem is that he doesn't know where it is.
The Canadian stares for a long moment, then shrugs and gestures to a door two doors down, which opens as they near it. "Go ahead," the Canadian says; he strips off his jacket and heads straight for a bullet-shaped coffee machine that's started burbling, apparently triggered by their entry into the room. "It's all yours."
He stands there and watches the Canadian pour a cup, add milk, add sugar, and then he closes his eyes and wills himself to remember who he is and what he's doing.
But he can't, and when he hears the Canadian say, "Are you okay? What's wrong with you?" he opens his eyes and takes the cup of coffee out of the Canadian's hand before he kisses him. So far he's been right about everything, and he's right about this, too, because the Canadian snakes a warm arm around his neck, and pulls him in, and opens his mouth. The kiss is long and sweet and hot enough that he's hard by the end of it, and he's just about to suggest a before-dinner quickie when the Canadian pulls away and squints up at him, and says, a little breathlessly, "You hit your head, didn't you?"
"Yeah," he admits, and the Canadian sighs and says, "Oh, great; that's just—" but then they're kissing again, and this time he can feel the Canadian's cock nudging hard against his hip. He groans and starts trying to undo the fly of his pants, but then the Canadian says, "And you didn't think to, oh, go to the hospital or anything?"
"Nah," he replies. "I don't need some quack to give me an ice pack and keep me under observation," and the Canadian arches an eyebrow and says, "Well, at least you remember Carson."
"No, seriously," the Canadian says, and pushes hard against his chest to force him away, "do you even know who you are?"
"I'm John," he says.
"And what about me?"
"You're—Canadian," he says, and when the Canadian says, "Oh, that's great, that's—" and tries to pull away, he holds on tight and says, "Wait, wait, hey, I remember the important stuff," and kisses him again. He slides his hand up under the Canadian's shirt, and the Canadian grabs his head with hot, slightly sticky hands and opens his mouth.
"You idiot," the Canadian says finally, though he's red-faced and panting and (he's checked this out personally) hard, "We're not together," and somehow, even counting the shuttle and the docking ring to the space station and the fact that he's been made captain of the Atlantis by people who normally wouldn't trust him to make a beer run, this is the strangest thing he's heard all day.
"Huh," he says, after thinking about that for a moment, and then, "Why not?"
"Why not?" the Canadian repeats incredulously, and then, after visibly searching his brain for an answer: "I don't know. I don't think you like me that much."
"Well." This is an unexpected and disappointing development. "Am I with somebody else, then?"
"No," the Canadian says, a little too pointedly.
"You're sure?" he presses, stifling a smile. "Because that Ronon guy was pretty hot."
"You live an exemplary and celibate life," the Canadian says, and crosses his arms.
"How would you know? Maybe I wouldn't tell you," and the Canadian says, "Oh, I'd know. You'd tell me," and maybe this is recoverable after all, because if they aren't fucking, well, clearly, they should be.
"So what the hell is my problem?" he asks softly, and waits for the Canadian to notice that he's hard.
"I don't know," the Canadian says, and okay, now he's noticed.
"I mean, we're close, right? You and me," and the Canadian acknowledges this with a sharp tilt of the head. "We pal around, plus we've got this whole secret sensor project going," and now the Canadian's in his space and coming closer, and so he slowly lifts a hand and lets it rest on the Canadian's hip. "You know what I think?" he asks. "I think I probably like you just fine, but for some reason, I haven't let on about it."
"You're a psychotic robo-alien freak," the Canadian says, and the guy sounds serious, but at the same time there's a hand cupping his dick through his pants.
"Nobody's perfect," he replies, and the Canadian barks out a laugh.
"C'mon," he says in a low voice, and he's almost whining. "Come to bed with me."
"You don't know who I am. You don't know who you are. Or where you are. Or anything that's happened since 1968, probably—"
"Oh sure; like you want me for my mind," he says with a smile, and the Canadian looks at him for a long moment and then says, "Strangely, yes; yes, I do, actually."
He feels a kind of gnawing tension as he pushes the Canadian back toward the bed, because he's still missing something, some important piece of the puzzle—but at the same time, this feels right. He can't imagine why they aren't sleeping together, because the Canadian's grabbily pulling his pants off and pushing his tongue into his mouth.
"Yeah," he says. "Jesus. Come on," and he's got the Canadian's cock in his fist, and it's thick and hot and feels great in his palm, so he slides down to take it in his mouth.
"Oh," the Canadian gasps. "Oh. Oh. Jesus," and then there are hands in his hair, and so he closes his eyes and sucks for a while, slow and languorous and gently rolling the Canadian's balls in his hand. "God," the Canadian groans. "Oh my God. John—"
He lets the Canadian's dick slide out over his lips, and lifts his head, and says, "Actually, would you like to fuck me?"
"Okay, look," the Canadian says, shoving his head away and sitting up, "you're going to get your memory back, and this is going to seem like a really terrible idea, and then you're going to hate me. And I don't think I can stand that—not to mention that, if you remember, we're key members of a 200-person expedition to a foreign galaxy. Oh, wait, you don't remember," but he ignores this and leans over to fumble around beside the Canadian's bed, where he finds a tube of lubricant, a well-thumbed scientific journal, and a box of tissues.
"Re-lax," he says, squeezing some lube into his palm. "It's going to be fine." He reaches out and begins to slick up the Canadian's cock, and God, it's a beautiful thing, and he can't imagine why he hasn't gone after this. "I got hit on the head when I was stationed in Seoul, and I woke up three days later in the garden of Madame Kim's Noodle Shop. No idea how I got there, but I was just fine."
"Oh yes; that's very reassuring," the Canadian mutters, and drapes his forearm over his eyes, and so he leans over and whispers, "Look, I really want this," and the Canadian removes his arm and looks up at him with the bluest eyes he's ever seen.
"I hope you're sure," the Canadian whispers. "You better be sure," and so he bends forward and kisses him hotly, suggestively sucking his tongue. Then he rolls over and lies back, one foot braced on the mattress and the other leg curled loosely around the back of the Canadian's legs. He begins slowly stroking his own cock with what's left of the lube on his hand.
"C'mon," he says. "Do it. Put it in me," and the Canadian says, blankly, "The thing is, I love you," and something inside his chest tightens, and he wants to—Jesus, he doesn't even know, grab the Canadian and squeeze him or something. "Yeah," he says, and his voice comes out thick. "Yeah, I know. That's why this is fine." And that's the end of the talking, because the Canadian leans over him and kisses him and pushes into him, and Christ, that's good, but it hurts more than it should, why does it—? Who the hell has he become? He closes his eyes and breathes deep, wills himself to relax, and his body remembers what this is like. The Canadian moans softly and slides deep into him. And ohhh, that's sweet, he's found a rhythm, and yes, it's—God, so perfect. He opens his eyes and gasps, "Yes, and "Yes," and "Oh, yeah," and when the Canadian bends again to kiss him, he blurts, "Evan."
The Canadian halts and stutters a bit before driving in again. "Rodney," he whispers, and he closes his eyes and says, "Yes. Rodney," because Rodney, of course, and then he's shuddering and coming and Rodney is groping his cock and shoving deep inside him and coming, too.
"Rodney," he says again, afterward, and rolls to press his face against Rodney's sweaty-warm neck. He wants to blot out all memories of Evan—his pale blond hair and tanned skin and shades, those dumbass California looks and the explosion and how hard it was to fly steady afterwards when he was spiraling into freefall—and Rodney wraps an arm around his shoulders and says, quietly, "What did you remember?"
He remembers Evan, and Afghanistan, and everything else. "I remember why I don't have sex with my teammates," he says, and Rodney says, "Oh," and then: "Evan?"
"Is he dead?"
"I'm sorry," Rodney says, and then, a moment later, "Are you sorry?" and he knows they're not talking about Evan anymore.
"No," he says. "God, no," he says, and kisses Rodney again.
23."We should go eat something," Rodney says, "and then we ought to check the sensors again. I might be able to triangulate the twelve we've got into a map of the quadrant," and right, yeah, he remembers this too: how he got fed up after an unsuccessful mission and Rodney designed and built him a bunch of high-tech spy sensors.
He rolls on top of Rodney and looks him in the eye, because now's the time to say something, now's the time when Rodney deserves to know how it really is, and so he says, "Don't be weird, okay?" and Rodney looks away and says, "You've got a lot of nerve," and his mouth is fighting a smile. "No, seriously, I mean it," he says, and Rodney glares and says, "You had sex with me while you had amnesia."
"Yeah, yeah," he says, and waves a hand, "and now I've got to hear about it forever."
"You didn't know who I was," Rodney protests, shoving at his shoulder, and he rolls his eyes and says, "I knew who you were; I just couldn't remember your fucking name for five minutes. I was thinking maybe...Franklin? Peter? Phil."
Rodney hits him and says, "You're such a class-A fuckhead."
"Hey, you could totally be a Phillip. Or a James—no, seriously, you look like a James. Kind of regal and pasty."
"I lied about wanting you for your mind," Rodney says, and he laughs and ducks his head and says, "That's okay. It's not always very reliable," and as Rodney's fingers twine around his dogtags, John Sheppard knows exactly who he is.