Spoilers: The Tao of Rodney

Notes: Rodney found the machine that triggered all of this much earlier in this universe than in canon, as they explored at the city instead of visiting the planet where they met Lucius in episode 2-3 Irresistible.

Ashtaroth V
The Sum of the Parts

Orithain and Rina

August 2008

Disclaimers: We only wish they were ours. Sadly, this is as close as weíre going to get.

"See you later," Rodney murmured as he bent to brush a kiss over Johnís temple. "Not sure if Iíll make lunch, it depends on what we find in that lab. And before you say it, yes, Iíll keep Radek from calling you to ask if youíre sure you donít know what it was for."

"Thank you!" Johnís reply was heartfelt. "Try to keep from getting yourself killed. You always find the weird stuff."

"Is it my fault your ancestors liked to play with dangerous toys and not label them correctly?" Rodney asked wryly as he picked up his data pad and hooked his headpiece over his ear.

"Let someone else poke at them first for a change," John grumbled, rolling over to try to get back to sleep.

"Now whatís the fun in that?" Rodney laughed, leaving their room and heading for the mess to meet Radek before their expedition.

"Heís going to get into something," John groaned, pulling a pillow over his head.

"Iím fine, John; you can stop hovering now!" Reaching up, Rodney began to peel the electrodes from his forehead, ignoring Carsonís half-hearted protests.

"Stay!" John growled, pushing him back with one hand on his chest. "You have no idea what that machine was supposed to do. Let Carson do his job and find out if youíve been affected by being hit by that beam of energy!"

"But Iím fine!" Rodney groaned, giving in to the pressure and collapsing back on the bed.

"We donít know that yet, so stop arguing with your doctor."

"You arenít my doctor."

"But I am," Carson interjected, pressing the electrodes back against Rodneyís skin.

"Listen to the nice doctor, and weíll let you have a lollipop," John said.

"You wish."

"I can promise you a sucker."

"Behave, John," Elizabeth said, coming up beside him. "How is he, Carson?"

"None of the scans Iíve run show anything," Carson admitted. "As far as I can tell, the beam didnít affect him at all."

"Which means I can go." Rodney started to sit up again, and John frowned.

"It must have done something. Hit by an energy beam!"

"Would you care to examine the scans yourself, Colonel?" Carson asked.

"Thereís no need to be sarcastic, Carson. Youíve been spending too much time with Rodney."

"Hey! Sitting right here!"

"And apparently unscathed, no thanks to yourself," John said.

"Oh yes, I chose to make the console decide to fry meóagain, thank your ancestors for their no-doubt shoddy work."

"Dr. Zelenka is working on the equipment, trying to find out exactly what it does," Elizabeth put in, trying to prevent another of John and Rodneyís peculiar conversations.

Carson nodded at that. "And I can honestly see no reason to keep you here, Rodney."

"Thank god!"

"Iíll keep an eye on him," John said, moving closer to Rodney.

"Fine, fine," Rodney waved a hand at him as he peeled off the electrodes once again and started to swing his legs off the bed.

"I donít think I need to remind you to let me know if you have any reactions," Carson cautioned.

"Youíll be the first to know," John replied emphatically.

"Have I ever told you youíre annoyingly over-protective?" Rodney sighed.

"Frequently. Deal with it."

Elizabeth coughed to cover her laughter, and Rodney growled as he stood up.

"See? No wobbling. Iím fine."

"Uh huh." John was patently unconvinced. "Iím still sticking with you for a while."

"Am I going to be able to get any work done?" Rodney asked as they headed out of the infirmary.

"As long as you donít cough."

Rodney paused and looked over at John, his eyebrows raised. "You have got to be kidding."

John simply stared back, and Rodney sighed.

"Fine, fine, weíll do it your way, Colonel Bossy Pants."

"Watch it, Meredith."

"Or what? Youíll blast me with your flaming powers? Ooo, Iím terrified."

"Iíll tie you to a bed!"

"But what if I went into convulsions?" Rodney smirked.

"You usually seem to enjoy those."

"Ignoring you now." Rodney tapped his headset. "Radek, Iím coming back down, so stop playing Pong and have something to show me."

John chuckled at the raspberry he could hear. "Be nice to the man trying to figure out what hit you."

"Why?"

"Because heís your friend, almost as smart as you, and making me feel better."

"The things I do for you," Rodney grumbled as they headed for the transporter to the section nearest where Radek was working.

"I love you too." John patted his ass.

"Yes, yes, you can show me how much later."

John stopped, folded his arms across his chest, and glared at Rodney.

"What? You donít want to show me how much?"

"I said I love you."

"Oh." Rodney had the good grace to look abashed. "I love you too."

"Better." John leaned in and kissed him hard. "Now letís go talk to Radek."

"And fix whatever wrong assumptions he has."

"Thatís my Rodney, making friends and spreading joy wherever you go."

"You donít seem to mind when itís spread in your direction."

"You noticed." John grinned at him.

Rodney rolled his eyes and walked into the lab.

Radek looked up at their entrance, his eyes running over Rodney. "You donít seem to be changing into a bug."

"Very amusing. Have you figured anything out about this console yet, or were you waiting for me?"

"I thought perhaps you might want to show off for Dr. Esposito again."

"And whoís Dr. Esposito?" John asked, eyebrows rising.

"Radekís unrequited lust," Rodney said loud enough for the dark-haired woman across the room to hear, making John laugh.

"My favorite evil genius."

"Yes, yes, and youíre my favorite alien; can we work now?"

"Iím not stopping you."

"Update, Radek." Rodney repeated, ignoring Johnís grin.

"Iím still working on establishing what exactly this machine does. I think Iíve found the right files in the database now, though, so it shouldnít be much longer."

"My not much longer or your not much longer?" Rodney asked, walking up to the console and examining it.

Radek muttered something in Czech. "Go have lunch and stop interrupting me, or it will be never!"

"You just mean you want to be alone with Dr. Esposito," Rodney chortled.

"Out!"

John laughed and caught hold of Rodneyís arm, drawing him out of the room. "Come on, Iíd hate to lose you to a homicidal Czech."

"Are you saying you wouldnít protect me?"

"Of course I would, but Elizabeth doesnít like it if I kill people."

"I donít want you to kill him either! You could just turn him into a... bunny for a while."

John blinked at him. "You have a very disturbing mind."

"This from the demon seed," Rodney grinned before pushing John against the wall and kissing him.

"You are such a nut. Good thing I like nuts."

"Good thing you like my nuts."

"That too," John agreed with a laugh. "Now letís go get you fed before your blood sugar gets too low."

"That I could live with," Rodney nodded, stepping back so that John could push away from the wall.

"I kind of thought you might." John slid an arm around Rodneyís waist as they continued on to the mess hall.

"You know," Rodney observed once they reached their destination, "since you were traumatized, Iíll even get you your tray. There are Ronon and Teyla; go grab us seats."

"Youíre too good to me." John rolled his eyes before going over to join their teammates, the three of them discussing Rodneyís accident and the amount of food he was piling on the tray.

"Excuse me," Rodney stalked over from the other side of the room, slamming Johnís tray down in front of him. "Thatís for Colonel Know-it-all, and for one thing, I am exactly the same weight Iíve been since we got here, and I need to eat regularly otherwise I become hypoglycemic, and for another Iím generally a very happy person..." Elizabethís voice crackled in all their earpieces, cutting him off.

Shortly afterward, the four of them headed through the gate to rescue Maj. Lorneís team, who had encountered unexpected enemy fire. When both teams returned, everyone was eyeing Rodney oddly as they climbed out of the jumper to face Elizabeth.

"What happened?"

"Well, I didnít do it on purpose!" Rodney protested.

"Weíre not certain he did anything at all," John put in.

"Would someone tell me what happened?" Elizabeth demanded.

Rodney glanced at the others, who didnít seem to be in a hurry to explain, and sighed. "Major Lorneís team was surrounded by bad guys, and well, I thought how good it would be if all their guns jammed."

Elizabethís eyebrows rose.

"And they did."

"They all ran away," Lorne put in. "And here we are, home without a scratch," he added in response to Dr. Beckettís arrival and question about injuries.

"I find that rather hard to believe," Elizabeth said, eyeing John askance.

"Hey, it wasnít me!"

"It was me; it really was." Now Rodney was grinning brightly. "Watch this!" He looked over to where Carson was standing with his medical team, and suddenly the doctor was floating in the air.

"What theóColonel! Put me down!"

"Still not me," John said.

"Thatís very disturbing," Elizabeth said, staring up at Carson.

"I donít care whoís doing it, put me down!" Carson demanded.

"Hm? Oh, sure," Rodney nodded, and Carson floated to the floor.

"Iím going to go out on a limb and say that damned machine did do something to him," John growled.

"The Ancients did do research on increasing the rate of evolution," Elizabeth mused.

"Rodney, I want you to come to the infirmary," Carson ordered. "We should run another series of scans."

"But I feel fine!" Rodney protested. "Better than fine!"

"Humor us," John said, clearly prepared to carry Rodney to the infirmary over his shoulder if need be.

"Dr. Weir, I have something you should see." Zelenka called her over the radio.

"Is it regarding the console?" At the affirmative answer, Elizabethí mouth thinned. "Iím on my way; Rodney, go with Carson."

"But I want to go seeó" he protested though his voice died away under both her and Johnís stern glares. "Fine, fine, scan away, Carson."

When Elizabeth arrived in the lab, Radek led her to the console. "I think I have found out what they were doing here, but I could use a second opinion."

"All right, let me take a look at it."

Radek stepped back, watching anxiously as she began to read the relevant sections.

"All right," she murmured, after translating the parts Radek pointed out, "this certainly explains what happened earlier. It seems much of this refers to human physiology. It mutates base genetic coding. According to this, the beam accelerates mental evolution at an astounding rate."

Radek groaned. "Rodney is getting smarter? He will be impossible to live with!"

Elizabeth had to cover her mouth to hide her smile. "Iíd call that incentive to search for a way to reverse the effects."

Radek nodded vigorously. "It would be helpful if you would also continue to work on the file, to see what more you can find out about the device."

"Of course I will, meanwhile, even this information should help Carson track exactly whatís going on in Rodneyís brain."

"Iím surprised the colonel didnít come back with you," Radek admitted. "Or is he still hovering and driving Rodney mad?"

"The second," she admitted. "Once heís sure Rodneyís fine, Iím sure heíll stop in and see exactly what he can find out about the device."

"And drive me mad. Though once itís all over, I will play on his guilt and get him to help with other research."

"Just remember that," she laughed, "it will help you survive."

"See? Fine. Are we happy now?" Rodney grumbled as he and John left the infirmary, Rodney munching on the donut heíd stolen from Carsonís desk.

"Itís a good thing you have me to help you work off all those calories," John chuckled.

"I think youíre the reason I need all the extra calories."

"Damn, Iím good." John grinned at Rodney as one of the new scientists walked past, trying not to stare and failing miserably at it.

"Yes, yes, we all know, but as for right now, Iím the one with a few ideas Iíd like to try out."

"On me?" John asked hopefully.

"No, on Ronon," Rodney sighed. "Yes, on you, now why donít we stop wasting time and you get us to our room."

They were in their room before Rodney had finished speaking. "I was just making sure you were talking about something do with sex and not some new physics experiment," John protested. "With you, either is equally possible."

"Are you saying I couldnít come up with a way to combine them both?" Rodney asked, sliding his hands under Johnís jacket and pushing it off his shoulders.

"Far from it, which should probably be a lot scarier than it is," John laughed, shrugging out of the jacket before reaching for Rodneyís belt.

"I thought nothing scared the high and mighty Ori," Rodney purred, pushing Johnís shirt up and leaning in to lick his nipple.

"Which is why Iím enjoying it instead." Johnís back arched, and his hand cupped Rodneyís head, the long fingers combing through his hair.

"Very smart man." Rodney paused and grinned slightly before concentrating, creating the feeling of a ghost mouth on Johnís other nipple.

John gasped and jerked, his eyes widening at the sensation. "Okay, I like this development."

"Iím glad," Rodney laughed, sliding the phantom mouth down Johnís chest and pulling back enough to watch Johnís reaction.

"Impressive talent," John panted, his eyes falling half closed.

"Just trying to make the most of my new skills." The mouth slid lower and closed over Johnís cock through his pants.

"I love how fast you learn," John said, his hips thrusting into the ghostly touch.

"Thatís me, new and improved super-genius."

"The old version was already pretty damn good." Johnís fingers lightly massaged Rodneyís scalp.

"Well, of course," Rodney chuckled, undoing Johnís belt and pants and sliding his hand inside to draw Johnís erection out and drag his tongue over it.

"Oh fuck, thatís so much better," John groaned, and Rodney smiled in response before taking Johnís length into his mouth, sighing at the familiar musky flavor.

"You feel so damn good," John rasped, watching Rodneyís head bob at his groin before he pulled back to smile up at him.

"And Iíll feel better when Iím in you."

"Fuck yeah!" John shuddered. "Why are we still standing here?"

Rodney pulled back and smirked at him as John floated into the air and glided toward the bed, losing his clothes along the way.

"Mmm, equalityís fun," John chuckled, crossing his arms behind his head and waiting to see what Rodney had in mind next.

"You think anything that gets you laid is fun," Rodney snorted, letting John slowly sink to the bed as he removed his own clothes.

"Of course." Watching Rodney undress, John began lazily stroking himself, flames flickering faintly in the depths of his eyes, and Rodney groaned, tossing his clothes away without caring where they landed.

"Slut," he murmured as he crawled up on the bed between Johnís legs, a quick glance at the bedside table sending the lube flying into his hand so that he could slick up his fingers and press one into Johnís ass.

"Like you mind," John retorted before inhaling sharply and clenching down on Rodneyís finger.

"I donít recall ever hearing myself say that; do you?" Rodney leaned in to kiss the hollow of Johnís thigh, then suck on the tender skin there.

"Only that first night," John said, his pupils now fully engulfed by flames.

Rodney chuckled at that and sucked harder on the spot, finally pulling back and shivering when he caught sight of Johnís eyes. "Iím going to fuck you now," he rasped, stroking lube over his erection before pushing inside, groaning at the clenching heat.

"Good," John groaned, catching hold of his own knees and pulling them back to open himself to Rodneyís possession while Rodney powered into him, his strokes hard and short, causing the bed frame to slam against the wall as he loomed over John, his weight braced on his hands.

"Gorgeous," John breathed, staring up into the blue eyes. He arched up to meet every thrust, his ass clenching around Rodney every time he drew back, as if to keep him inside.

"I marked you," Rodney gasped as they moved together. "Like you did me."

John cried out at the surge of pleasure caused by Rodneyís words, and he let his legs wrap around Rodneyís torso so he could lunge upwards, catching the mobile lips in a hungry kiss.

Rodney groaned around the invading tongue and shifted his weight onto one hand so that he could stroke Johnís cock, tightening his grip to just this side of pain as his whole body spasmed, then jerked.

"Rodney!" John clung to him as his orgasm exploded through him.

Rodney whimpered, lost in his own climax, and collapsed against John, warm liquid spreading between them. "Oh my god, I think I broke me," he gasped.

John chuckled warmly. "I know you broke me."

"That mark... itís like the one you gave me," Rodney admitted after a moment. "I think anyway."

John reached down and ran a fingertip over the mark on his thigh, then the one on Rodney. "I like that. A lot."

"I tried to get it to read ĎProperty of Dr. Rodney McKayí, but I suppose I need more practice for that," Rodney chuckled.

John laughed. "I think everyoneís already aware of that."

"Good point." Rodney smiled and leaned in to kiss John, who opened to him eagerly, arms wrapping around Rodney as they lay amid the tangled bedding.

"You know," Rodney murmured, "Iím going to have fun seeing just how far these abilities go."

"Atlantis, beware!" John chuckled. "And if I canít do anything to Caldwell, neither can you!" He was very glad the Daedalus wasnít there at the moment.

"Oh, youíre no fun at all," Rodney pouted.

"Behave or Elizabethís going to give us a time out. In separate rooms!"

"Like that would stop us." Rodney paused, clearly concentrating on something, then shrugged. "Well, just you; apparently teleportation hasnít developedóyet."

"That pretty much requires being ascended, so I wouldnít hold my breath waiting if I were you. But youíre right, it wouldnít stop me."

"Me, ascended, thereís a joke," Rodney snorted, stretching hugely, his body rubbing against Johnís. "Iíll stick to being even more of a genius than IóOh my god, I need to write this down!" He scrambled out of bed and grabbed for his datapad, furiously scribbling notes to himself.

"And the honeymoonís obviously over," John sighed, watching him. "Hey, remember me?"

"Hold on, hold on," Rodney muttered, waving a hand in Johnís general direction. "I just figured out a way to replenish the depleted ZPM."

"Okay, thatís fairly important," John admitted. "But if you ever do that in the middle of sex, I wonít be so agreeable!"

"Iíll try to remember that," Rodney nodded as he continued to add lines to the equation he was writing.

"Yeah, I can tell." John watched a little longer before getting up and heading into the bathroom for a shower.

By the time he returned, Rodney was scanning what heíd written and grinning broadly. "Come here and see."

John moved over to read over Rodneyís shoulder, and his eyebrows rose. "Youíve just jumped a couple of generations in development," he said. "This is incredible, even for you."

"Why thank you, you can reward me later," Rodney grinned. "Iím going to go take a shower, then find the depleted ZPMs and see what I can do about changing their status."

"Youíre pretty good at recharging depleted things," John said with a smirk.

"This from Mr. Viagra himself," Rodney snorted.

"Who needs Viagra when I have you?"

"Thatís sweet, but youíre not getting laid again right now; I want a chance to try this out." With that, Rodney ducked into the bathroom and the shower.

"Youíre no fun!" John called after him, keeping his laughter out of his voice.

"Look at your hip and say that again," Rodney called over the sound of running water.

"Well, if youíre going to be logical about it..."

"Iím always logical about it!"

"Yes, Rodney. Whatever you say, Rodney."

"Mmm, I love it when you say that."

"What a shock," John said dryly.

Rodney emerged, grinning and drying himself off with a towel, brushing a kiss over Johnís mouth before grabbing a fresh set of clothes and pulling them on. "Ready to go?"

"Always," John replied, instantly tidy and dressed, before sliding an arm around Rodneyís waist as they started down the hall outside their room. They were still enjoying the freedom to touch now that everyone knew they were together.

"You know, I had an interesting idea about improving the power consumption rate in the city while I was in the shower."

"Youíll have to get Elizabethís approval first," John said warningly.

"Yes, yes, I know," Rodney grumbled. "Iíll do that while you go do whatever work Iím sure is waiting for you."

"Trying to get rid of me?" John laughed. "You know Carson said you could only roam free if someone was with you. Lemme call Ronon to take over Rodney watch."

"Wonderful," Rodney muttered.

"Itís for your own protection, so donít argue."

"I suppose Iím lucky you havenít wrapped me in cotton batting."

"Yes!" John glanced at him. "I really donít like you nearly getting yourself killed."

"As if I doóand you would have brought me back."

John looked at him again. "Iím not absolutely certain I could if it was caused by one of my peopleís devices. The principles on which some of them work could cancel my powers. So try to be a little more careful, would you?"

Rodney stared at him, bug-eyed. "And you didnít think to tell me this before?!"

"Itís not something I like to think about."

"I donít either!"

"So try to avoid poking at machinery when you donít know what it does."

"Knowing that, Iíll be more careful," Rodney promised, sighing when Ronon joined them. "This is so unnecessary."

"Carson wants you watched, so youíre going to be watched." John gave him a quick kiss. "Stay out of trouble."

"Yes, dear," Rodney sighed before glancing at Ronon. "We need to see Elizabeth."

Ronon shrugged. "Iím just following you."

"Good answer." They passed one of the new female scientists, and Rodney spun, staring at her. "You do?" he asked, grinning.

"What? I didnító" she said, looking and sounding flustered while Ronon watched in bemusement.

"She thinks Iím hot," Rodney enthused before pausing as if he was listening. "No, wait; itís you she thinks is hot." He looked over at Ronon at that.

Looking incredibly embarrassed, the scientist all but ran away, and Ronon looked at Rodney oddly. "She didnít say a word."

"She didnít?" Rodney asked, sounding bewildered, then grinning. "I can read minds!"

Ronon just looked at him.

"I am not insane!" Rodney sputtered before stomping toward Elizabethís office.

She looked up when Rodney came in, trailed by Ronon, and opened her mouth to speak but was forestalled by Rodney.

"Elizabeth, I need permission to reconfigure the cityís power grid; I have a plan that can greatly improve the efficiency. Wait, I know what youíre going to say." At Elizabethís confused look, Rodney grinned. "I can read minds now, and yes, Iíll be careful. Yes, Rononís coming with me, and yes, I know exactly what Iím doing." He rubbed his hands together, his grin growing even broader as he turned and started from the room before pausing to glare at Ronon. "I am not going to blow the city up!"

"I... all right." Rodney was already gone before sheíd finished speaking, and Elizabeth sighed. "I will send a science team down to supervise," she told Ronon before the Satedan followed Rodney.

Ignoring the frequently flickering lights and brownouts as much as was possible while she continued to read over the research notes from the Ancient lab, Elizabeth glanced up when she heard a noise at the door as John came into the office. "Itís Rodney," she explained. "Heís improving the cityís power consumption."

"Isnít improvement supposed to make things better? I love the guy, but I find the flickering lights incredibly unnerving."

"I agree, but he promised that it would only be temporaryóand he can also read minds now," she added with a sigh.

"He... Okay, thatís a little weird," John said, frowning slightly.

"And a little unsettling."

"Yes," John said before coming around the desk to read over her shoulder. "So, find out anything interesting?"

"Actually, I was just getting to the good part when you came in," she said. "You know that the machine was designed to help those Ancients who were having difficulty ascending achieve that state." At Johnís nod, she glanced back at the screen, continuing to read and beginning to frown.

Reading over her shoulder, John inhaled sharply. "Shit!"

"We need toó" She was speaking to empty space as John had already raced from the room.

"Rodney! We need to talk," John exclaimed as he burst into the chair room.

"I know, I know, give me two minutes, and itíll all be... Die? Iím going to die?!" Rodney sat up, and the chair powered down as he stared at John and Elizabeth, whoíd followed John. "Ascend or die? I knew it was too good to be true; I knew it!"

"I think youíre underestimating yourself, Rodney," Elizabeth said while John just grabbed his hand and clung to it.

"Dr. McKay, the power..." one of the other scientists began, and Rodney waved a hand, cutting her off.

"Yes, yes, itís only because I stopped in the middle of things; Iíll fix it in a minute."

"You are not going to die," John stated in a tone that brooked no denial. In fact, it could have been considered an order, one which Rodney ignored to focus on the protesting scientists.

"I know there are power surges! Iíll stop them once I get this finished!"

"We have massive power surges throughout the grid! Shutdown protocols are not responding," the other scientist said insistently, glancing back at them before returning her attention to the console she was monitoring.

"I know there are power surges!" Rodney flung himself back in the chair, trying to correct the problems, but was rewarded by a series of power spikes that sent much of the city into darkness.

"Iím surprised Dr. Zelenka isnít already here to yell at you again," Elizabeth observed.

John frowned. "Me too. Sheppard to Zelenka. Dr. Zelenka, respond!" At the continued silence, his frown grew. "Oh fuck! Carson! That last power spike electrocuted Zelenka! Get someone down to the hallway outside the lab where he was working on the ascension device now!"

"What? Radek?" Rodney asked, his eyes widening as he sat up in the chair, his expression horrified.

"The infirmary," John barked, and he, Rodney and Elizabeth ran there, arriving at almost the same moment as Carsonís team brought Radek in, his chest horrifically burnt, not breathing.

"No pulse," the medic reported as Carson grabbed the defibrillator pads.

"Clear!" he called, everyone backing off except for Rodney.

"Wait," he said quietly, leaning in and holding his hands over the scorched hole in Radekís chest, a golden glow emanating from him, healing the injuries and restarting Radekís heart.

Everyone stared at Rodney in silence until Radek propped himself up on his elbows, resettled his glasses on his nose and peered at them curiously before gasping when he looked down at the burnt remnants of his uniform.

"Radek, IóI need to go," Rodney said quickly, all but bolting from the room.

"Glad youíre back with us, Radek," John said hastily before chasing after Rodney, and Radek stared after them in befuddlement.

"What happened?"

"Rodney happened," Carson explained with a sigh.

"Rodney!" John put on a burst of speed to catch up with the scientist and caught his arm, drawing him to a halt. "Whatís wrong?"

"Whatís wrong? Radek almost died because of me, thatís whatís wrong!" Rodney exclaimed, trying to pull away from Johnís grip, making John shift his hold so as not to hurt him but at the same time drawing Rodney closer.

"It was an accident. Those happen every day in Atlantis. And in case you missed it, you also healed him, Rodney."

"It happened because I was playing god again, like I did with Doranda, and something just as bad happened!" Rodney shouted. "I almost killed Radek, and Iím going to die andóoh god, Iím going to die if I canít ascend." He looked up at John, his eyes wide and frightened.

"You are not going to die!" John wrapped his arms around Rodney. "I can help you the way Oma helped Daniel Jackson if need be. Youíre going to be fine; Radek is fine, and once this is all settled, weíre going to lock ourselves in our room for a week."

"John," Rodney sighed, in what he thought was a patient tone, pulling back to look at the other man, the faint flames in Johnís eyes making him change what he was going to say. "Fine, teach me to do whatever it is I need to do to try this."

"There is no try; there is only do." John managed a faint smile before hugging Rodney tightly.

"If you change to look like Yoda, all bets are off," Rodney mumbled against his shoulder.

"You mean wrinkly little green guys with big ears donít do it for you?"

"Youíre trying to cheer me up," Rodney muttered.

"Is it working?"

Rodney straightened up and gave what he hoped was a steady smile. "Sure."

"Good. Because you donít have anything to worry about. Donít you know by now that Iíll do anything to keep you with me?"

"I know." Rodney nodded. "So I suppose you had better teach me how to do this."

"Now thatís the right attitude." John pulled him back into a brief hug.

"Thatís me, Mr. Glass-half-full."

"Not quite, but I like you the way you are."

"Thatís good to hear. So, should we go try to teach me how to ascend?"

John nodded even as he sighed. "I hate meditating."

"That makes me feel oh so much better about this. You know what? I donít think Iím in the right state of mind for this anyway right now; let me go do some work, and weíll try again later."

"I hate the idea of losing you a lot more than meditating, so no. Weíre going to our room, and you will figure out how to ascend."

"Considering the fact that youíll just send me to our room even if I disagree, fine, letís get it over with."

John frowned. "You know I wouldnít do that to you."

"You want to keep me alive; I wouldnít put anything past you."

"True, but things arenít anywhere near that dire yet, so Iíd prefer to keep you talking to me too."

Rodney managed a crooked smile at that. "Good point."

"So letís go meditate together, and after weíre done, weíll do something very physical," John said with a comical leer.

"You wanting to get physical, thereís a shock."

"Well, if it is, we clearly need to do more of it."

"Sarcasm, John," Rodney sighed.

"Sarcasm, Rodney," John replied, smirking.

"Oh, just get us to our room so we can try this."

John pulled Rodney into a kiss, and when he let go again, they were on the balcony of their room. "Your wish is my command, master."

"So youíre a genie now?" Rodney snorted, glancing around the room, noting the sudden appearance of piles of comfortable pillows and multitudes of unscented candles.

"Rub my belly and make a wish," John suggested, grinning even as he dropped to sit cross-legged on one of the pillows.

"If I rub your belly, youíll have me on my back."

"Normally youíd be right," John admitted, "but today we have more important things to do. I like you alive."

"As do I," Rodney sighed, wrinkling his nose as he crossed his legs in front of him and squirmed, trying to get comfortable.

John watched him, lips curving in a reluctant smile. "Youíre never going to make any progress if you canít sit still."

Rodney scowled at him and tried to get comfortable, finally shoving the pillows aside and stretching out on the floor, taking a deep breath and letting it out before he was finally still.

John reached over, resting his hand on Rodneyís shoulder as he shut his own eyes, slowly relaxing. "Just relax, concentrate on something you enjoy and thatís soothing."

Rodney shut his eyes and tried to relax, then frowned. "Iím not sure anything falls into both those categories."

"Um... Ferris wheels?" John suggested.

"That works for you, not me."

"So what works for you? Workís not relaxing." John unconsciously started petting Rodneyís arm.

Rodney was silent for a while, obviously mulling the question over. "Music," he finally said.

"I should have known," John said, nodding. "Okay, so think about music and relax."

Rodney sighed again and settled himself, crossing his arms over his chest as he closed his eyes and tried to think of music he enjoyed.

John started humming a piece by Beethoven while continuing to stroke Rodney, and the piece slowly morphed into something completely different.

"Where did you hear that?" Rodney asked, opening his eyes and staring up at John.

"Huh?" John stopped and had to think about it to figure out what song heíd been humming. "Oh, sorry. I didnít realize I was... Anyway, you know exactly where I heard it, but it was before I told you who I am and agreed to keep out of your mind."

"Oh." Rodney was frowning slightly, and all signs of relaxation were gone.

"Iím sorry. But itís just so beautiful."

"Itís justóthatísóitísóthis isnít going to work, not now," Rodney sputtered, scrambling to his feet. "Iím going to do some work; weíll try again later." With that he was out of the door and their rooms.

"Well, that went well," John sighed, slumping back against the bed.

"Rodney?" Elizabeth was surprised to see him. "I thought you and John were meditating?"

"We were; it didnít work," Rodney shrugged as he moved from one laptop to another, typing furiously at each.

Elizabeth sighed softly as she watched him. "I think you underestimate yourself, Rodney. And perhaps it might help to remember that John will do anything to keep you alive, including help you ascend himself. Not that I disagree with that," she added hastily, "but it will draw the Ancientsí attention to him."

"Then maybe you should talk to him about not doing that," Rodney said shortly. "Iím going to try, but I donít think itís going to work, and he has to be prepared for that."

Elizabeth shook her head. "Oh, Rodney, stop fooling yourself. John will never let that happen. I think he would let galaxies be destroyed first. An Ori was saved by love, but now you have to deal with the consequences. He does love you, and that makes you matter more to him than anything or anyone. Than everything and everyone. I want you to live because youíre my friend, but I need you to live to keep him restrained."

Rodney stopped at that and looked over at her, his expression despondent. "And if I canít?"

"Then John will do whatever it takes to make sure you do."

"Iíll try."

"Thatís all we can ask of you." Elizabeth hesitated, then hugged him briefly. "Weíre all here for you, Rodney, if thereís anything we can do."

Rodney stared after her as she left, chewing on his lower lip for a moment before going back to work.

A while later John came into the lab, eyeing Rodney warily. "Is it safe to come in, or are you still mad at me?"

"Iím not mad at you; Iím mad at myself," Rodney answered defensively without looking away from the whiteboard where he was scribbling equations. "Look at this; I discovered a new kind of math."

"Huh, interesting." John came to read over Rodneyís shoulder, as always easily distracted by math.

"It is, isnít it," Rodney said absently, continuing to write.

John slid his arms around Rodneyís waist and rested his chin on the scientistís shoulder. "When youíre done here, we should try again," he said quietly.

"I did make something that might help," Rodney answered. "It can measure my mental state and tell us if Iím getting closer to the right level of inactivity."

"Only you would come up with that idea," John chuckled. "But considering you, it might just work at that."

"Well, it certainly canít hurt." Rodney spun from the computer to scrawl lines of equations on a white board while John watched with interest.

"Can I help?"

Rodney sighed and stopped writing so that he could look back over his shoulder at John. "Right now, I just need to do this, to get it out of my head."

"Can I stay?" John asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, justójust let me do this, okay?" As he spoke, Rodney was already turning back to the whiteboard and his work.

John bit back a sigh and sat down to watch Rodney work through his fear and frustration with science.

"All right," Rodney finally announced some time later, "itís not done, but I suppose it can waitóI feel a bit calmer now."

John instantly came up to Rodney and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close. "It will be okay," he promised.

Rodney rested his head on Johnís shoulder and sighed, trying to relax though not doing a good job of it. "Keep telling me that, okay?"

"Until youíre yelling at me to shut up because youíre sick of it," John promised.

"I may not say it then, but donít stop."

"I wonít," John assured him, his arms tightening around Rodney. "Youíre not going anywhere without me."

"Yes, youíve made that abundantly clear," Rodney murmured.

"I think heís finally getting it!" John smiled at him.

"Well, come on then, we can try this thing out."

"Then I guess we should get back to our room so weíre not interrupted."

Rodney snorted at that and gathered up the equipment before glancing at John. "So?"

A moment later they were in their quarters, and John had Rodney back in his arms, his face pressed against Rodneyís neck as he inhaled his loverís scent.

"I thought we were supposed to be decreasing my brain activity, not increasing it," Rodney commented wryly.

John chuckled sadly. "Did you ever think that maybe I needed the comfort?"

"Oh." Rodney paused, looking shame-faced. "Iím sorry."

John shrugged. "Itís okay. I know you have enough to worry about for yourself right now."

"Yes, but... I worry about you too."

"Good, itíll give you more incentive to ascend to keep me from doing something crazy if I lose you."

"Preventing genocide is quite the motivator," Rodney said dryly as he untangled leads and hooked them to his laptop, setting it on the bed before placing a contraption on his head.

John sat down on the other side of the bed, back resting against his pillows while Rodney stretched out beside him. "So, relax and let the music play in your head."

"Youíll tell me if the readings get below 0.3, right?" Rodney asked anxiously.

"Of course. Now stop worrying about it and relax." John made a conscious effort to keep his hands to himself.

"Is it working?" he asked after a moment.

John rolled his eyes. "Stop thinking."

"Itís not easy!" Rodney grumbled, though he took another deep breath and tried to listen to the music in his head.

John sat silently watching the display, seeing the readings gradually decrease but nowhere near low enough. At least not yet, he reminded himself, and they still had time.

Hearing a low beep, Rodney opened his eyes, looking over at John. "How low? Am I there yet?"

"Rodney! Iíll tell you when you get there, now relax!"

"Your yelling at me isnít making this any easier!"

The grinding of Johnís teeth was clearly audible in the silence of the room. "Rodney, I love you, but Iím seriously considering knocking you out!"

Rodney glared at him mutinously before closing his eyes and trying to relax though his lower lip still pouted out stubbornly, which led to John sighing and leaning over to kiss him after a quick nip at that prominent lip.

One blue eye opened to look up at him. "Kissing me is relaxing me, how?"

John grinned unapologetically. "Sometimes you just gotta go for it."

"That should be your motto," Rodney commented dryly though he kept his eyes closed.

"Itís our motto," John corrected, looking intrigued as he noticed that Rodneyís readings were decreasing ever so slowly despite the conversation.

"Mmm, good point."

Smiling faintly, John petted Rodneyís hair, not speaking so as not to distract him and enjoying this rare opportunity to drink in the sight of Rodney in repose, a state that didnít last long as Rodney suddenly sat up, his eyes wide. "I just realized why light behaves as both a particle and a wave!"

John growled. "Stop. Thinking!"

"I canít." Rodney sat up and pulled the leads from his head. "Right now I just canít; Iíll try later, I promise."

John nodded. "I know it canít be forced. Maybe I should relax you first," he mused, smiling slightly.

"I donít think itís going to work now."

"I guess Iím losing my touch," John said, wishing there was some way he could help Rodney and feeling frustrated by his helplessness.

"No, Iíve just got a lot on my mind," Rodney sighed. "Iíll try again in a few hours; just let me work some and try and get some of this out of my head."

"In other words, go away and stop hovering," John sighed.

"Not to be blunt, but... yes."

"Oh fine, but donít blame me when Lorne starts glaring at you."

"I think I can manage to avoid the wrath of Lorne for the time being; now be good, IíllóIíll let you know when Iím ready to try again."

John nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and he got to his feet, knowing he had to find something to distract himself or heíd be right back to hovering over Rodney until he drove the other man to attack him.

Rodney chewed on his lower lip for a second, clearly torn, then nodded and hurried out the door, practically running for the lab where he could immerse himself in work and not think about what might happen.

Watching him disappear, John sighed, and once Rodney was clear of the transporter, he headed for Lorneís office, dropping into the seat across the desk from his startled XO.

"Personnel evaluations," he said. "Inventory, something."

"Youíre actually asking me for paperwork?" Lorne asked, staring at him.

"If I hover over Rodney any more, heís going to reinvent Merlinís weapon just so he can kill me."

Lorne started to reply to that, then really looked at John, noting the lines of tension that fanned away from his eyes and the flames in their center and remained silent, simply pushing over a pile of files.

Some time later, John signed a form and closed a file, pushing it away from him. "If I look at another of these, my eyes are going to start bleeding."

"Youíre going to find a way to save him," Lorne said after a momentís pause in which he was plainly weighing what he wanted to say.

"I have to. I donít know how to be without him anymore," John replied quietly, raising terrified eyes to meet Lorneís, all masks dropped for the moment.

"Youíll find a way to save him; it may not be the same, but none of us want to lose him," Lorne said seriously, meeting Johnís gaze, his own holding a world of sympathy.

John sighed a little shakily. "Heís just so him, you know?" he said, knowing Lorneóand anyone whoíd ever spend more than thirty seconds in Rodneyís presenceówould understand. "I donít want to lose that."

"You mean if he ascends?"

John nodded and shrugged at the same time. "It changes you. I mean, it has to; you see the entire universe in an entirely different way, and he already sees more of it than most people. But I can wait out the time till he settles into it." He laughed bitterly. "I have all the time in the world, after all. But he doesnít think he can do it, and I canít lose him. Not now."

"Dr. Jackson stayed mostly the same, and heís done it a few times," Lorne offered.

John nodded slowly. "And really, what could possibly change Rodney?" he asked with a hint of wryness.

"Thatís a good point, sir," Lorne chuckled. "I really canít see him as the quiet, contemplative typeóor you either."

That made John smile. "No, thatís one thing Iíve never been accused of, and a person would choke before managing to say it of Rodney. Which is a large part of the problem heís having right now."

"Have you reminded him that you arenít that type either and you managed it?"

"So much for fear of the powerful Ori," John half laughed. "No, I havenít, but maybe I should try that next."

"Somehow you got a lot less threatening when I saw you covered in orange goo that time."

John snickered. "Maybe we should stock up on some to use against the Ori."

"So youíre saying you want to go back to that planet and get it?"

"Actually, I was planning to send you."

Lorne groaned. "Why did I know that was coming?"

"Because youíre a very good XO."

"And youíre damned lucky to have me."

"I know," John replied, looking over the desk at him. "Not too many would have dealt well with finding out that their CO was an Ori. Iíd guess thatís even worse than Air Force," he added laughingly.

Lorne snickered at that. "Only by a slim margin, but then, you arenít your typical Orióor Air Force officer."

John eyed him. "Iím not sure if Iíve just been complimented or insulted," he said with a faint smile.

"If you think Iím going to answer that, youíre mistaken."

"See, a very smart man, which is required to survive in Atlantis," John chuckled. "Wanna go check out the firing range?"

"To shoot or to count bullets?"

"To shoot. I refuse to do one more administrative task today! Itís mind-numbing."

"Mindless mayhem it is."

"Rodney would say thatís all the military is good for," John said wryly, getting to his feet.

"And sometimes he would be right, but at least itís distracting." Lorne stood as well, and the two officers headed out of the office, leaving the paperwork behind.

"Is it safe to come in, or should I find something else to do?" John asked from the doorway of the lab, making Zelenka snort a laugh.

Rodney waved a hand distractedly as he moved from a whiteboard to one of several laptops scattered on the benches.

John glanced at the equations on the board, and his eyebrows rose sharply before he turned an intent stare on Rodney. "Whatcha doiní?"

"Going crazy," Rodney muttered under his breath. "Iíve figured out a way to increase the processing speed and storage capacity of our computers, but I canít take the time to sit down and do it."

"You already are crazy," Radek pointed out, making John stifle a laugh.

"Brilliance does not equal insanity," Rodney grumbled as he continued to work.

"No," Radek agreed. "I am quite sane. You, however, are not."

Rodney looked up and glowered at Radek before turning to the white board and scribbling another line of equations.

"I think youíre sane," John offered. "As much as anyone here."

"Thatís not saying much."

"True, but a sane person couldnít survive here."

Rodney gave a ghost of a smile at that. "Good point."

"Come on, you need to eat."

"Yes, go," Radek commanded when Rodney looked about to argue.

"Fine, fine, Iíll eat," Rodney grumbled, grabbing one of the laptops so that he could continue his work on it, making John roll his eyes.

"And maybe while youíre doing that, you can act like civilized folk and actually converse with, oh, I donít know, maybe the guy who lives with you?"

"Oh." Rodney looked abashed then rubbed his forehead. "Itís just thereís so much I want to get down; itís like itís all trying to burst out."

"Youíll have time, Rodney," John said gently.

"So says the all-knowing Ori."

"So says the man whoís in love with you and not going to lose you."

Rodney smiled at that and took a deep breath. "Then, who am I to argue with the god-like being?"

"Good answer. So put the laptop down, and letís go get some dinner."

"Here in the hall?"

John sighed and held out a hand for the laptop, which Rodney gave to him with a slight smirk.

"I heard a rumor that you were actually doing paperwork today," he commented off-handedly as they continued toward the mess.

"Itís true, unfortunately. See what happens when you kick me out?"

"You actually do paperwork?"

"Itís a horrible fate."

"You poor thing."

"Iím sensing a real lack of sympathy here," John grumbled, making the laptop vanish and reappear in their room.

"And this is different than normal in what way?" Rodney asked as they entered the transporter.

"Not in the least, unfortunately! I had no idea how good I had it, back when I had worshippers."

Rodneyís eyes narrowed, and John felt an invisible goose in the ass, making him jump and chuckle.

"I thought you liked getting on your knees before me," John asked with mock innocence, knowing he was pushing his luck, and the lines around Rodneyís eyes deepened as he scowled.

"Very funny."

"Very hot actually."

Rodneyís gaze shifted so that he was looking at John out of the corner of his eye, and his scowl lessened slightly.

"Iím equally happy to get on my knees for you," John offered.

Rodneyís glower lessened even more, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile he tried to squelch.

"Maybe we should discuss the possibility after we finish dinner," John suggested.

"Possibly," Rodney allowed, though he twitched slightly, making Johnís smile fade.

"If you want to," he said, looking away as they continued down the hall.

"I do," Rodney tried to explain, "itís just thereís so much going on in my head, I just canít stay on one thing."

Johnís smile returned. "Iíll take it as a challenge to make you stop thinking."

"And how is that different than normal?"

"Um... itís going to be more of a challenge than usual?"

"I know youíre trying to help," Rodney said, his voice suddenly dropping in volume. "Iím just... scared."

John nodded, sliding an arm around Rodneyís shoulders. "Weíll get past this. Itís what we do."

"Yeah," Rodney sighed, wrapping an arm around Johnís waist and leaning against him as they walked into the mess. "We just need to get through it."

"We will. After all, you wouldnít want to inflict me on the universe without you around to rein me in," John tried to tease.

"And vice versa." They entered the mess, and Rodney sighed as people fell quiet as he passed.

"It really is going to be okay," John said quietly as they went up to the front to get their food, Rodney nodding, though he didnít look totally convinced of that fact. "And even if youíre only agreeing to humor me, itís a start. Iíll take it."

"You taking what you can getóshocking."

"I donít get to do that very often anymore; thereís this guy who makes me work for what I want."

"Itís good for you," Rodney answered automatically.

"Youíre good for me."

"I believe thatís the first time anyoneís ever said that to me."

"Then everyone else is an idiot." John hugged him before they finally got their dinners and made their way toward a table, Rodney managing to keep his attention on his food and John throughout most of the meal, though from time to time his expression went unfocused.

Once they were done, John pushed his tray to one side and leaned back in his chair in his trademark slouch, and watched Rodney pensively. "Do you want to come back to our room with me, or do you need to go back to the lab?"

"I..." Rodney paused, looking apologetic. "I need to go back to the lab; I donít think Iíll be able to rest any."

John sighed and nodded. "If you get tired, Iíll be in our room."

"Rodney?" Elizabeth came into the lab, frowning as she watched Rodney move from computer to computer.

"Canít talk; busy," Rodney muttered.

Elizabeth looked at the many simulations and tests Rodney had running and bit back a sigh. "I thought you were going to work on ascending?"

"Is there really a point?" Rodney paused to look over at her. "Look, Elizabeth, I know you believe it, and Iím not going to say this in front of John, but I just donít think Iím capable of it. Iím a rational person; all that mumbo jumbo is just so much hogwash for me."

"I think youíre underestimating yourself, Rodney," she replied gently. "I know you immediately think of religion when someone mentions anything spiritual, but it can simply be a matter of accepting the things that make you uncomfortable."

He gave a mirthless laugh at that. "That list is so long and varied I canít even begin to think of it."

"Maybe you should. Even leaving aside the issue of ascension." She reached over and squeezed his arm. "Believe in yourself, Rodney. The rest of us do."

Rodney gave her a long, steady look, then turned back to the computers. "Maybe when Iím done here."

She sighed and left, knowing that nothing could make Rodney do anything he didnít want to.

It was late the next morning when Rodney returned to the room he shared with John, an anxious, strained expression on his face. "Hi," he said hesitantly as he entered to see John sitting on the bed, looking at the ascension-meter heíd developed.

John looked up, his face expressionless as he fought to keep his emotions under control. "Hi. Been busy in the lab?"

"Actually, no," Rodney admitted, walking over to sit beside him on the bed. "I had to do a few things that were more important."

"More important than work?" John asked curiously. "Like what?"

Rodney chewed on his lower lip, then looked away. "I wrote a book for Elizabethóabout Elizabeth and what sheís done here, actuallyóand I had tea with Teyla to commemorate her father, and I healed the scars on Rononís back, told Radek he was the smartest man I knew, and told Carson he was the brother I never had." He paused and shrugged. "Just little things."

John froze. "Donít you dare give up!" He got hold of himself. "I mean those are all very nice things, but donít start saying goodbye. Donít give up."

"Iím not!" Rodney protested. "I just thoughtóI donít know. But you and me, weíre okay, right? I wanted to do something for you, to show you, well, you know, but thereís really nothing I can do that you canít do yourselfóother than give this another try at least."

John stood up and pulled Rodney into his arms, holding him tightly. "Thatís all I want," he murmured in a choked tone.

"Then I guess weíd better do it," Rodney muttered against Johnís shoulder as he held onto him tightly.

"I love you."

Rodney stepped back at that and cleared his throat. "Yes, yes, I love you too; you can show me how much once Iíve managed this." He reached for the sensor pads, then groaned and raised his hand to his forehead, rubbing at it.

John laughed shakily. "Now thereís the focus Iíve been waiting for."

"Not focus, head hurts," Rodney got out, turning to look at John before moaning and collapsing to the bed, curled in as small a ball as he could as he moaned.

"Rodney!" John lunged for him, catching Rodney in his arms and transporting them to the infirmary, yelling for Carson as they appeared.

"What theóget him on a bed," Carson ordered, calmly directing his staff to get the equipment he needed, his expression going tight as he studied the readouts.

"Thereís nae much I can do," he admitted. "His brain activity is still too high to ascend, and his body is shutting down."

Elizabeth, whoíd come running as soon as she was called, nodded. "In the natural course of ascension, the body is no longer required at the end."

John ignored them both, clinging to Rodneyís hand. "I love you," he whispered again.

"We all do, in our own ways," Elizabeth added.

The numbers on the monitor dropped lower and lower as Rodneyís vital signs failed, hitting 0.1 before he sat up, wide-eyed, and grabbed Carson by his lab coat, staring into his eyes then collapsing back onto the bed, flat-lining.

"No!" John clutched at him desperately until Carson literally shoved him out of the way.

"I know how to save him!"

Under Carsonís order, they loaded Rodney onto a stretcher, Carson doing emergency breathing while John transported them to the room with the ascension machine.

"We couldnae change him back because the machine had no reference for what he should be like, but with a blood sample..." Carson loaded the sample, then stepped back while John watched anxiously, Elizabeth and Radek hovering on either side of him as they all waited.

Lights swirled down and around the prone body, then retreated, and Rodney groaned, trying to sit up.

"Rodney!" John lunged for him, yanking him into a fierce embrace.

"What happened?" Rodney asked, causing all the others to start babbling their answers.

"Youíre alive," John replied simply, still holding him tightly.

"Well, of course Iím alive!"

"Of course he says!" John buried his face against Rodneyís neck.

"All right, letís get him back to the infirmaryóColonel, if ye wouldnít mind?" Carson asked gently.

John nodded, transporting everyone without looking up or letting go of Rodney.

"What happened?" Rodney demanded once he was settled on a bed again.

"Ye almost died, lad."

"You flat-lined," John said in a choked tone, clinging to Rodneyís hand.

"I what?! I couldnít have; I rememberÖ" Rodney frowned and looked at Carson. "I told you to do something."

Carson nodded. "You figured out how to use the machine to reset yer DNA, using a blood sample from before you were changed, and you told me."

"So I really saved myself..."

Carson sighed. "Yes, Rodney."

"Wouldnít have made it down there if not for Sheppard," Ronon commented and Rodney ducked his head.

"Yes, well there is that." He glanced at John and gave a crooked grin.

"I think Carson did a lot too," John replied firmly, and Rodney glanced at him.

"Um, yes, thank you, Carson."

"Yes, thank you, Carson," John repeated fervently.

"So... if Iím all right, can we leave now?" Rodney asked.

"Iíll stay with him," John assured Carson.

Carson studied the readouts for a moment before looking back at them. "I dinna see a reason to make ye stay; he seems back to normalóor as normal as Rodney is at any rate."

John chuckled faintly. "Ready to get out of here?"

Rodney nodded, sitting up in the bed and twisting to the side so he could stand, John instantly moving to his side to offer support.

"How do you feel?" he asked anxiously.

Rodney shrugged as he considered the question. "Not bad, somewhat tired, but not as if Iím going to fall over."

John sighed with relief. "It looks as if youíre fine then." He slid an arm around Rodneyís waist while grabbing the printout from the "ascension-o-meter" with the other hand.

"So then, back to our room?" Rodney asked plaintively.

Johnís response was to transport them there and immediately pull Rodney into a tight embrace, his eyes closed as he inhaled Rodneyís scent, the shorter man leaning against him, his eyes closed.

"Letís not do that again," John finally murmured.

"I could have lived with the extra brain-power; it was the almost dying that sucked."

"Yes!" John shuddered, and his arms tightened around Rodney.

"You okay?"

"Not really," John admitted, finally opening his eyes and raising his head to meet Rodneyís eyes. "You really need to stop doing that."

"If I had any say in it, I would," Rodney sighed, stroking his hand over Johnís back. "Címon, letís sit down."

John nodded and let Rodney move them over to the bed, where they sat down on the edge, each of them still keeping one arm around the other.

"I feel like I could sleep for a week," Rodney sighed.

"Just as long as Iím here with you." John remembered the readings and pulled them out of his pocket, his eyes widening as he looked at the results.

"Not a problem." Rodney flopped back onto the bed, opening one eye when John didnít join him. "What?"

Wordlessly, John handed the printout to him, and Rodney took it, scanning the numbers before frowning and sitting up. "Are these accurate?"

"I really doubt Carson doctored them. You did it, Rodney. You reached the state where you could ascendóall on your own." Johnís eyes suddenly kindled, flames filling them. "You can ascend. We really can have forever."

"Ió" Rodney stopped, still staring at the paper. "I did it," he whispered.

"You did it," John agreed delightedly. "You are going to ascend."

"Now?!"

"Well, not necessarily, but sometime fairly soon." John slowly smiled. "Youíre not going to die on me."

Rodney simply stared at him for a long moment before his eyes went wide, "But if I did, then the Alterans would come investigate, and theyíd find you... No, not going to do it."

John shook his head. "Youíre not getting away from me that easily. I can shield your energy so they wonít sense you. And you so are doing it."

"Excuse me? Are you going to make me?"

John snorted a laugh. "Not even Iím that crazy. But you have no idea how persistentóand annoyingóI can be. You can ascend, and once you ascend, even with physical form, I donít have to worry about you dying. Youíre going to ascend, and weíre going to be together forever."

"Youíre really serious about this, arenít you?" Rodney asked, frowning at him.

"Arenít you supposed to the genius around here? Of course Iím serious about this. What could possibly make you imagine I wouldnít be?"

"I donít know." Rodney scrambled up off the bed and started to pace around the room. "I just donít know anything any more."

"What?!" John shot to his feet. "What the hell does that mean? You donít want us to be together?" The flames now filled his entire eyes.

"What?!" Rodney spun to stare at him. "I never said that! And excuse me for not being Daniel Jackson and being blase over the whole ascension thing!"

"You just said you donít know anything, and I think weíre a fairly big something!"

"I meant about this!" Rodney shouted, turning to glare at John, not flinching from the flames in his eyes.

"Thatís not what you said!" John shouted back, his arms crossed defensively while Atlantis lowered the temperature in their quarters to counteract the heat John was putting out.

"Well, pardon me, almost dying make me a little less than coherent!"

"And you almost dying makes me a little unsettled!"

"Which would explain why youíre melting the furnishings," Rodney snapped.

"Donít exaggerate, and quit trying to change the subject. Do you or do you not want to live forever, with me?"

Rodneyís anger deflated, and he sighed. "The with you isnít the problem; itís the whole live forever part..."

John froze into absolute stillness, his expression completely blank. "I see." His voice was flat.

"No, you donít, or you wouldnít sound like that."

"So why donít you explain it to me?" John suggested, fighting his desire to simply bolt.

"I justóforever... What if..." Rodney trailed off and looked out the window at the ocean, watching the setting sun glinting off the waves.

"What if?" John prompted when it didnít seem as if Rodney was going to continue.

"You get tired," Rodney whispered.

"Of you?!"

"Yes."

John gaped at him. "Are you out of your mind? No, never mind. Look, I donít know what love means to you, but to me, itís forever. Iím not going to get tired of you; Iím not going to walk away; and if you die, Iím never going to forgive you." The words carried more impact for being delivered in that same expressionless tone.

"You really mean that." It was a statement and not a question as Rodney looked back at him.

"Of course I mean it!" Now Johnís tone was exasperated and frustrated in equal parts.

"Forever."

"Yes, forever!" John snapped. "And in my case, foreverís a very long time. Iíd rather not spend it mourning you!"

Rodney took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay."

"Okay? Okay what?"

"Iíll try."

John eyed him. "Try to believe me? Try to ascend? What?"

Rodneyís jaw tightened, and he took a deep breath. "To ascend," he gritted out.

John sighed and sank back down onto the edge of the bed. "You donít want to, do you?"

"Did I say that?í Rodney demanded. "You can read my mind, so do it!"

Johnís eyes widened; he knew how much Rodney disliked it when he Ďtrespassed,í but he didnít hesitate to take advantage of the invitation. "Oh."

"Oh?" The word was dripping with sarcasm.

"Sorry," John said sheepishly. "I never said I didnít have a few issues of my own."

"Yeah." Rodney rubbed at the back of his neck as he took a breath. "Same here."

"Weíre a real pair, arenít we?" John held a hand out to Rodney, inviting him to rejoin him, Rodney stepping forward to clasp his hand and sit down again.

"As in fucked up? Yes."

"We need to work on that. But weíll have a very long time to do it in, and no, I donít mean you need to try right this minute."

"Oh good." Rodney breathed a sigh of relief.

"My goal in life isnít actually to make you miserable," John said wryly.

"Iím not miserable!"

"I didnít mean... Oh never mind!" John turned and kissed him hard, and for once Rodney didnít argue; he simply melted into the kiss, his arms tightly circling Johnís waist. John held him close, turning them to push Rodney down on his back and stretching out on top of him, their clothes vanishing.

"This is good," Rodney said, grinning lazily as he slowly relaxed.

"Us naked is always good."

"I think youíd have me work naked if you could get away with it," Rodney murmured, his eyes closing as he rubbed his face against Johnís shoulder.

"Hell, no! Then other people would see you, and Iíd have to kill them. Youíre all mine."

"Fírever."

John smiled, knowing that it was literally going to be forever. He kissed Rodney again, a slow, deep kiss that claimed every inch of Rodneyís mouth and left him sighing when it finally ended, staring up at John through half-lidded, slumberous eyes.

"I love you," John whispered, raising one hand to cup Rodneyís cheek, Rodney leaning his face against it and closing his eyes.

"Me too."

"So show me," John murmured, settling more comfortably between Rodneyís legs, one hand gliding down Rodneyís side to cup his ass.

"Sorry, canít do any of the fancy stuff any longer," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands over Johnís back.

"Donít need fancy stuff; just need you." John looked down at him, and suddenly the mark on the inside of Rodneyís thigh throbbed as if John was mouthing it, and Rodney groaned, arching up as much as was possible under Johnís weight.

"So take me."

John shuddered and suddenly Rodney was slick and ready for him as he pushed into the scientist, too desperate to feel him again after the day theyíd had to take the time to do it manually, Rodney closing his eyes and breathing out a sigh of pleasure as he pulled his legs back, opening himself to John.

"All mine," John whispered, slowly pushing into Rodney, feeling every inch.

"Mmmhmm." Rodneyís expression was one of pure bliss as he opened his eyes the tiniest bit to watch John leaning in over him, staring down at him as if to carve him in his memory.

"Gorgeous," John rasped, stealing a quick kiss before raising his head again to continue watching Rodney, flames filling his eyes as he shuddered with pleasure.

"You are," Rodney whispered, staring up at him and shivering as the yellow and red flames filled his gaze.

"Good thing we have forever," John rasped. "Itís going to take me that long to make you see yourself the way I do." He slid a little deeper, forcing himself to the limit inside Rodney.

"Crazy man," Rodney whispered, shuddering beneath him and clenching his ass down around Johnís cock.

"And Iím all yours, just like youíre all mine." John held still, a hand flicking at Rodneyís nipples.

"Glad to hear it," Rodney whispered before laying a line of kisses down Johnís shoulder, ending each one with a tiny bite that made John shudder and twitch inside him.

"Fuck me," Rodney gasped before biting John harder.

"Rodney!" John groaned and pulled back only to drive into Rodney again, taking him hard and fast now, the other man writhing under him, bucking up to meet each thrust, his fingers digging into Johnís back as he tried to pull him deeper. John continued to stare down at him, needing to see as well as feel Rodney. The flames spilled over the rims of his eyes, growing more intense as John continued slamming into Rodney. "Come for me," he demanded.

Rodney whimpered, then gasped as the mark on his thigh throbbed, then he was coming, wet heat spreading between them as his ass milked Johnís shaft. The spasms of Rodneyís climax tore a yell from John, and he buried himself deep inside Rodney and bit down on his shoulder as he came as well.

"I think you broke me," Rodney mumbled some time later.

"I think I broke me."

"So, you mean you can go for more than five minutes without sex?" Rodney chuckled rustily.

"I think right now I just want to hold you," John admitted, his face tucked into the curve of Rodneyís shoulder.

"I like that. I like it a lot," Rodney murmured, holding John close and stroking his back.

"Good thing Ďcause youíre kind of stuck with it," John mumbled into his neck.

"Oh damn. Boo hoo."

John laughed. "Why do I think you can bear up under the burden?"

"Because Iím a genius, now be quiet, Iím tired."

Johnís chuckle was quiet as he pressed a kiss to Rodneyís throat and slowly relaxed for the first time since Rodney had stumbled across that damned machine.

END

 

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