"Oh fine, go off to your dinner and leave me here alone." Dr. Carson Beckett was in a foul mood and all too happy to take it out on the two men in front of him. He missed Radek terribly, was exhausted because he wasnít sleeping well due to that, and was feeling horribly incompetent compared to all the bright and shining stars he had to consider for his staff. Add to this the fact that Elizabeth was away visiting Simon and John and Rodney were off to have dinner with Gen. OíNeill and Dr. Jackson, and it all led to one very cranky doctor.
"I think someone gets a little grumpy when they arenít having their necessary dose of Czech," Rodney murmured to John, at the same time maneuvering to keep Rover between himself and the irate Scot. "Iím sorry you werenít invited, Carson, but thereís nothing we can do. Look, Rover canít come with us anyway, so can you look out for him while Iím gone?"
Rover rubbed back and forth against a metal table leg with a horrendous grating noise before darting forward to huddle against Rodneyís leg. Sighing, John reached down to pat him.
"Iím sorry, Rover, but this isnít like Atlantis. You have to stay on the base. But you and Carson can keep each other company. I know youíll miss Rodney, but Carson misses Radek too." John looked up in time to see the expression on the face of a passing Marine and nearly choked as he bit back his laughter.
"And weíll bring you back something from Earth," Rodney promised, squatting down to stroke the cartís sensor array. "Besides," he cut his gaze toward Carson and strove to keep a straight face, "you can be in charge of Carson, keep him out of trouble."
"Rodney..." Carson growled, glaring at the scientist. "Keep it up and ye wonít be going back because youíll be in traction!"
"Not the kind of bondage I like," John said, shaking his head, "so no."
"Bondage?" Rodney squawked, his eyes widening as he looked up at John.
Carson groaned and squatted down to hold out his hand to Rover as if to a wary dog. "So, ya wee beastie, will ye spend the evening with me?"
John just grinned before turning his attention to Rover, who hesitated and then inched toward Carson.
"Thatís it, boy," Rodney crooned, giving the cart a gentle push. "Carson will take good care of you, and you protect him from the big, bad SGC people." Rover resisted for a moment, then shrank itself down to its smallest size and rolled over to Carson, huddling against his leg.
"Och, itís all right, Rover," Carson promised, stroking the cart down the side of its housing. "Weíll have a lovely evening together, I promise."
"You people are really hard up for companionship in Atlantis, arenít you?" Jack OíNeill asked, eyebrows rising as he and his own favorite geek entered the office.
Carson flushed but continued to pet Rover, not wanting to lose the ground theyíd gained. Rodney, however, lifted his head and snorted. "No, itís just that the companionship from there is preferable to most here."
Daniel chuckled. "Easy, Rodney, Jack wasnít deriding your cartówere you, Jack?"
"Heaven forbid," Jack intoned piously, making John snort.
"It would serve you right if we brought him to dinner. He pinches people who insult Rodney." John smirked at the senior officer.
"Which explains why half the base is limping," Carson murmured.
"Oh, ha ha, go cart-sit, Carson."
"And I thought this place was weird," Jack observed to no one in particular.
"And you wouldnít let me go," Daniel grumbled.
"On that happy note, I believe Iíll take my charge and go," Carson said mournfully, keeping a hand on Rover as he straightened up.
"Weíll take you to dinner tomorrow, Carson, promise," Rodney said quickly.
Watching the Scot leave, John frowned. "We should have brought Zelenka. The city could have survived without both of you for a while. Better than Carsonís doing, at any rate."
Rodney nodded, though he wasnít quite as sure about the cityís survival without either himself or Radek there.
"We should have invited Dr. Beckett along as well," Daniel sighed to Jack. "I didnít realize he was feeling lonely here."
John hesitated briefly before shrugging and explaining, "Itís not so much that heís lonely as that heís missing one particular person. Heís in a relationship with one of the scientists, Dr. Zelenka."
Jackís eyebrows rose. "Isnít that the Czech?"
"Yes, he is," John replied. "Neither of them is military or even American for that matter."
"Lucky them," Jack murmured.
Rodney pinned John with a gimlet stare. "If you had been Canadian, this would all have been moot. Or Norwegian, or even Dutch."
John darted a nervous glance at Gen. OíNeill. "But Iím not," he said somewhat desperately, not quite ready to have his career torpedoed so soon after his promotion.
"Relax, Colonel," Jack finally chuckled. "I have my own geek; I know what itís like."
"I told you about them," Rodney hissed, poking John in the side at the same time.
Daniel smiled easily at that. "You save the world a few times, and the government tends to be a little more forgiving about those things."
"Too bad theyíre not so interested in how many times we save Atlantis," John sighed.
"If we hadnít and the Wraith had come knocking, they would have cared."
"Sheppardís right though," Jack put in. "The higher ups only pay attention when they actually saw a gun pointed at their head and a finger already starting to pull the trigger. I, on the other hand, am well aware of my glass walls."
John chuckled. "You should come visit Atlantis. Both of you."
Daniel gave Jack a weary look. "Iíve been trying to, but someone wonít let me, even though heís in Washington half of the time."
"That hardly seems fair," Rodney put in. "With the Daedalus making trips back and forth, you could be back in six months or so."
"Six months is a long time," Jack grumbled. "I can commute to Colorado Springs. Atlantis is a little harder."
"Chance of a lifetime, Jack," Daniel sighed.
"Just out of curiosity, is there a reason weíre standing here when you promised us barbecue?"
"Teasing Rodney with food and then not delivering is bad," John confided to Jack as they started moving.
"We were standing here because I had to come retrieve a certain archeologist," Jack said, "and then you all wouldnít stop jabbering."
"I do not jabber!" Rodney said, affronted.
Daniel patted his shoulder. "Actually, Rodney, you do."
"I like your jabbering," John soothed.
"I need a beer," Jack sighed.
For a moment left alone on the deck off the generalís house, Rodney looked over at John and arched his eyebrows. "If they can make it work here, I think we should be fine in Atlantis." The little bit theyíd seen of OíNeillís home had confirmed the fact that it wasnít just Jackís home; it was Danielís as well, and the place had the comfortable feeling that said it had been shared for quite some time.
"I never said we couldnít." John leaned back against the railing, beer in hand as he enjoyed the smell of steaks cooking. "We just need to be careful, especially when the Daedalus is there. Caldwell doesnít like me much." He grinned. "I seem to have that effect on superior officers."
"OíNeill seems to like you." Rodney took a drink from his bottle and chuckled. "Probably because the two of you are alike."
"I grew on him. I think he wanted to bury me under the ice that first day," John laughed. "But apparently weíre members of the same club now."
"And which one is that? The military officers who have their own geek club? Do you have rings and a secret handshake and all that crap?"
"Nope, just a long-suffering and totally sated look." John saluted him with the beer bottle.
From over by the barbecue, Daniel chuckled as he watched John and Rodney. "I swear, itís deja vu all over again."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, looks like team leaders and scientists are meant to pair off, doesnít it?" He took a swallow of his beer as he watched them as well. "Keep an ear out at the SGC for me? I need to know if anyone starts talking about them. We had Hammond on our side; I doubt Landry will feel the same about them."
"Gotcha." Daniel slid an arm around Jackís waist and hugged him. "Theyíve been keeping it pretty low-key there. I probably wouldnít have noticed if it wasnít for our situation."
"Sheppardís a lot smarter than heíd like people to think." Jack slid his own arm around Daniel as well and leaned into him with a contented smile.
"Nope, Iím a brainless jock," John argued, as he came over to check on dinnerís progress. "We gonna eat any time soon?"
"You know itís bad when itís John whoís asking about food," Rodney laughed, moving up close to Johnís side but not willing to do more than he wanted in front of a superior officer.
John glanced at him, hesitated, and then slid an arm around Rodneyís waist, giving OíNeill a defiant look.
Jack laughed. "Oh, youíve got it bad. Give it up, Colonel. Heís got you right where he wants you."
John chuckled in response. "We live together at home."
"Well, I still have a room, which thankfully the city lets me into now." The last was grumbled under Rodneyís breath as he leaned against John.
"Thatís why I still have my apartment," Daniel nodded. "It makes it easier officially."
Jack laughed. "I donít think Iíd call anything easy. Except actually being together." He met Johnís eyes understandingly, and the two officers clinked their beer bottles together.
"Though getting together certainly wasnít easy."
"For us either," Daniel nodded. "But the wait made it worth while."
"Iím more of an instant gratification guy," John replied, pulling Rodney closer. "I didnít waste time."
"Being in another galaxy from superior officers helped, Iím sure," Jack snorted.
"Oh yes, it made the Wraith and almost dying multiple times worthwhile," Rodney snorted.
"You donít think Iím worth it?" John pouted at Rodney.
Rodney groaned. "Yes, John, youíre worth all of it." He sighed and looked at Daniel. "Do you get this too?"
The archeologist grinned. "All the time, but considering I ascended on Jack twice, Iím not in a position to complain."
"On the plus side, he comes back naked."
Rodney held up a hand before John could speak. "Donít even suggest it."
"Uh no, I can get you naked without you dying first."
"Yeah, that is better," Jack agreed.
"And leads to less mystical discussions afterwards. Plus the whole not remembering anyone is a problem."
Rodney looked at Daniel closely. "So do you remember anything about the time you were ascended?"
John glared. "Forget it. You are not ascending just so you can figure out some tech!"
Jack snickered. "Oh yeah, this sounds familiar."
"Are you complaining?" Daniel asked, taking the meat fork from Jackís hand and turning the steaks over.
Rodney patted John on the back and finished his beer. "Donít worry, Iíve had enough of us thinking the other one was dead, thanks."
"God yeah." John shuddered and pulled Rodney into his arms.
"Yeah, that part sucks," Jack agreed, watching them understandingly.
"That it does," Daniel sighed, leaning in to kiss Jackís neck.
"Okay, this is getting depressing; can we eat now?"
"Thatís my Rodney. Anything can be solved with food."
Jack laughed. "Yeah, that sounds about right to me."
Daniel chuckled and hugged Jack before moving from his side. "So why donít you get the steaks up, and Iíll get the rest of the food from inside."
Rodney glanced over at John. "Why donít you help Daniel." It was obvious it was an order, not a question.
"Who put you in charge?" John grumbled, but he didnít really mind helping. It was only polite. He paused in the doorway to glance back at Jack and Rodney. "Donít shoot him."
"You forget I know him."
"Donít worry," Daniel called from the kitchen, "I took his bullets."
Once they were inside, Rodney raised his chin and narrowed his eyes as he looked at Jack. "I want your word that this isnít going to cause problems for him."
Jack paused, his beer halfway to his mouth, and eyed Rodney with interest. "I gotta give you credit, McKay, Iím impressed. I didnít think youíd give a damn about his career."
"If I was less selfish, Iíd say I care enough to walk away if it would, but I wonít. All I want to know is how low-key we need to play it."
"Good for you. And speaking as one who knows, if you did try to walk away, heíd just go after you." Jack took a mouthful of his beer. "Donít flaunt it around the military or on base. Heíll know who you can trust in his own command, but donít let it get back to the higher ups. The stargate program has enemies whoíd use it and him."
Rodney nodded shortly. "Most everyone in the original expedition knows, but they also know when to keep their mouths shut."
"Sounds like the old SGC," Jack nodded. "Itís a good thing about this program. People tend to stay put for years, so we get to be close. We watch each otherís backs. And I know from experience that soldiers and scientists make good partners."
"And we even have our own version of Tealíc," Rodney chuckled. "Of course, Teyla is quite a bit easier on the eyes though."
"From the descriptions Iíve heard, Iíd have to agree." Jack grinned. "Though some seem to think Tealíc looks good enough."
"Not enough hair for me," Rodney dead-panned, nodding at John as he and Daniel came back out of the house carrying the other courses.
"Yeah, I can see that you prefer an abundance," Jack chuckled.
"Again with the hair," John sighed.
"Good hand-hold?" Daniel asked, just as Rodney started in on a new bottle of beer, making him sputter suds out his nose.
Watching the flush on Johnís cheeks, Jack started to laugh. "I think you may have nailed it, Daniel."
Still unable to do anything but cough, Rodney could only glare at the archaeologist, who was grinning. "That didnít take a high IQ to figure out."
"At least I donít have the ponytail anymore like ĎThat Timeí," John muttered, rubbing the back of his head as he remembered how much Rodney had liked grabbing it.
"That Time?" Jack asked curiously.
Now it was Rodneyís turn to flush, and he glowered at John. "I thought we were never going to mention that incident again!"
"Do you have any idea what theyíre talking about?" Daniel asked Jack.
Thinking rapidly, Jack suddenly snapped his fingers. "I remember a rather vague report that seemed to indicate a significant number of the expedition... were gender switched?"
John suddenly found the salad fascinating as he edged away from his irate scientist.
"It was related to the ATA gene, right?" Daniel asked, recalling the details now that his memory had been jogged.
"If we were sharing a room here, youíd be on the floor," Rodney snarled.
"I was an innocent victim!"
"Foodís on," Daniel said quickly.
"He enjoyed it," Rodney told the other two even as he dropped into a seat at the picnic table, his annoyance obviously not having impaired his appetite.
"So did you," John grumbled into his beer.
Rodney couldnít deny that so he just glowered.
"So, Jack, how was Washington?" Daniel asked, deciding ignoring the other two for the moment was the best bet.
"Full of politicians," Jack growled. "Iím starting to think I should just retire completely. I hate politicians."
"You think Iíd complain about having you here again full-time?" Even as he spoke, Daniel knew Jack wouldnít walk away from his career that easily.
"But youíre the one the politicians listen when it comes to SGC matters," Rodney cut in. "Leaving would be disastrous!" John kicked Rodney under the table. He agreed, but it wasnít fair to ask the man to sacrifice his personal life for virtual strangers.
"Thatís why Iím still here," Jack sighed.
"Ow," Rodney muttered, bending down to rub his leg. "Okay, that was out of line, I admit it."
Daniel goggled at that admission, his eyes cutting over to meet Jackís. Jack stared back in disbelief before turning wide eyes on their guests. "Okay, who are you, and what did you do with the real Dr. McKay?"
John glared, insulted on Rodneyís behalf.
"You know, maybe that incident switched personalities as well as gender," Daniel mused. "That might explain it."
"I came back to Earth for this?"
"No, you came back to Earth to make sure we donít get another Kavanagh and because you said something about not trusting me alone on a beach."
"No, I said something about not trusting you with the women on the beach," Rodney sighed.
"Yeah, I was trying to avoid repeating that," John grumbled. "I am not a slut!"
Jack got himself another beer and leaned back to enjoy the show.
"You know," Daniel mused, as Rodney and John continued to bicker, "there is something to be said for waitingóyou get past all this Ďletís fight so we can go have sexí stuff."
"True. And itís kind of pointless right now since they are not having sex in our house!" Jack raised his voice on the last few words.
"What?" Rodney turned to look at the other couple as if they were insane. "Of course we arenít going to have sex in your house; what would give you an idea like that?"
"The mating ritual you two have going on," Jack replied bluntly, making John laugh.
"Thatís not a mating ritual; thatís just fun."
Jack looked over at Daniel, who nodded. "Iíve got enough expertise in the field to tell you itís a mating ritual."
"Neither of us is flaring plumage," Rodney countered.
"Please donít stand up and prove that a lie," Jack said immediately.
John gaped at him. "Everyone associated with the SGC really is crazy!"
"Youíre just realizing this?" Daniel asked while Rodney leaned over and patted Johnís hand.
"Itís why you fit in so well."
"Someone please give me another beer," John groaned.
"Welcome to the family," Jack laughed, handing over a bottle.
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