The World According to Rover XXIV
Cart Wars

Orithain and Rina

August 2006

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

"Nice village," Rodney commented as they walked down the dusty main street, Rover rolling from side to side, examining the buildings they passed.

"I think itís too quiet," Ronon grumbled.

"That is usually when people start shooting at us," John agreed, peering around suspiciously. "And youíd think someoneíd come out to say hi at least."

"Or go away or something," Rodney muttered.

"It is possible they are frightened of us," Teyla commented. "The village does not look abandoned.

"No, it doesnít," John agreed. "So where is everyone? Are you detecting any life signs, Rodney? Rover?"

The cart swung in a slow circle before spinning his wheels as Rodney checked the life signs scanner. "Nothing here." He stuck that piece of equipment back in a pocket and looked at the energy scanner. "I am getting odd low level readings here though they arenít from one particular place."

"This is not helping me feel better about this place," John muttered, looking around uneasily yet again. "I feel like we boarded the Marie Celeste."

"Should we look in the buildings?" Rodney asked. "See if thereís anything to tell us what happened to them?"

ĎMarie Celeste?í Ronon mouthed at Teyla, who shook her head, looking bewildered.

"I suppose weíll have to," John said, casting a jaundiced eye over the nearest building. "But Iím flashing on every slasher movie ever made," he sighed.

"So nobody go off alone, wear lingerie or have sex, and weíll all be safe," Rodney snapped, on edge.

Ronon eyed Teyla again but decided not to ask. "You and Sheppard are the ones we need to worry about then."

John snickered. "Naw, Roveríd protect us if we needed a quickie. Which we donít." He looked around again. "I really donít like this place."

"So letís go; thereís nothing here," Rodney agreed quickly.

John was already nodding when a man walked around one of the buildings and came toward them, his eyes on Rover. "What does the life signs detector show?" John hissed at Rodney, watching the stranger warily as he drew nearer.

"Nothing," Rodney squeaked, mentally calling Rover back to them while Ronon rested his hand on his gun.

"Nothing?" John repeated in disbelief. "I can see him, Rodney!"

"So can I, but he isnít registering on the scanner!"

"I believe Rover is able to sense him," Teyla commented.

They all turned to look at the cart, who was shimmying in place, his sensors trained on the approaching figure.

"I think youíre right," John agreed, moving closer to Rover. The time heíd been Ďkilledí by the Genii was still fresh in all their minds, and John intended to make sure that nothing like that happened again.

"Maybe you should say something," Rodney hissed, staring that newcomer, unsettled by his appearance though he looked normal enough, if a little vampirish with his long black hair and pale skin. He swallowed hard at the last thought and kept his hand on Rover.

John stared at the native and unconsciously mirrored Rodneyís thoughts when he murmured, "I feel like I should be brandishing a cross and garlic!" His grip tightened on his P90, though he didnít bring it to bear on the stranger... yet.

The pale man stopped just beyond arms reach and ignored the humans in favor of staring at Rover.

Johnís eyebrows rose, and he exchanged a baffled glance with his other team members before introducing himself. "Iím Col. John Sheppó"

"We do not care who you are." The man never looked away from Rover.

"Then why did you come out here?" Rodney asked.

"The Protectors allowed me to show myself to tell you to leave this planet. The consequences if you remain will be most dire."

"For us or them?" Ronon muttered.

"The Protectors?" John moved between the stranger and Rover, not liking the way he was looking at the cart.

Pale grey eyes, so light as to appear almost colorless, rose to meet Johnís, and the colonel had to fight a reflexive step back. "You do not belong here."

"Well then, weíll just be going, wonít we?" Rodney asked, grabbing John by his belt and hauling him backwards into Ronon and Teyla.

"The device of the Ancestors must remain."

John stopped dead. "Oh, I donít think so."

"No. Absolutely not." Rodney said at the same time as Rover revved his wheels aggressively.

"The Protectors must know of this device."

"Then tell them, but heís not staying here!"

"Only the Protectors may have such devices."

"Tough," John replied in a harsh voice. "Roverís with us, and heís staying with us." The P90 was a lot closer to pointing at the stranger.

"It is not wise to anger the Protectors."

"Tell your high and mighty Protectors to suck a lemon," Rodney spat.

"And to stay the hell away from us," John added. "Weíre not looking for enemies, but we will defend ourselves."

"None can challenge the Protectors."

John snorted. "Weíve faced down Wraith, Ori, partially ascended Goaíuld, and our own worst instincts. Tell your Protectors to mind their own business."

"Can I just shoot him now?" Ronon asked.

"Tempting," John muttered. "Weíre leaving now. All of us."

"Rover, stay with us," Rodney ordered, gauging the distance back to the gate and the chance that these Protectors would show up to stop them.

"The Protectors will not be pleased."

"Like we give a damn. So long and letís not do it again." John backed toward the gate, keeping his eyes on the man whoíd never bothered to introduce himself and counting on Teyla and Ronon to watch their flanks.

Expecting to feel something hitting him between the shoulder blades any second, Rodney turned and dialed the DHD, breathing a sigh of relief when the event horizon opened and he could send his IDC through.

John hustled his team through the gate and yelled, "Shield up!" the moment they were back in Atlantis.

"Colonel?" Paul Davis asked, rising from his seat in the office off the gate room.

"Weird people who donít register on life scanners," Rodney babbled. "They wanted Rover."

"He looked like a vampire," John added with a nervous glance over his shoulder at the shimmer of the shield. "You might want to hang some garlic from the gate."

Elizabeth looked at Teyla, hoping for a more coherent explanation.

"We encountered entered a village near the gate," the Athosian woman reported. "Dr. McKay could not find anything either on the life form or energy sensorsó"

"Thatís because there wasnít anything!" Rodney exclaimed.

"But a tall, pale man appeared before us and spoke of beings called the Protectors."

"And he wanted to give Rover to them!"

"He spoke of the Ancestors and seemed to know that the carts came from them."

"I thought we should have shot him," Ronon commented.

"Iím leaning toward Rononís solution," John added.

Elizabeth closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose. "We need to get more ibuprofen," she muttered.

"Iím going to see if I can find anything in the database about these so-called Protectors," Rodney announced, making sure that Rover was beside him.

"Iíll help," John said instantly, needing to keep an eye on Rodney and Rover for a while for his own comfort.

"Iíll begin searching as well," Elizabeth offered, seeing that her first contact team really was spooked.

"Iím going to stay here," Ronon announced, taking up a position where he could see the gate.

They all scattered to do what they could to find more information on the newest race theyíd encountered.

An hour later, John had realized that he wasnít going to be able to hover over Rodney and Rover for the rest of their lives, and he reluctantly stood up. "Iím pretty certain youíre both safe in the middle of the city, and I do have next weekís duty roster to finalize," he said, placing a hand on Rodneyís shoulder. "Iíll be back to pry you out of here for dinner, okay?"

"Mmm," Rodney replied distractedly as he scanned the lines of Ancient text, refining search queries to dig deeper into the database as he searched out whatever information he could find regarding the ĎProtectorsí.

John smiled fondly and pressed a light kiss to the nape of Rodneyís kiss. "Iíll see you later."

Rodney waved a hand in Johnís general direction when Rover bumped against his chair, then went back to work.

"Rodney? Did you find it too?" Elizabeth came into Rodneyís office some time later, pale and drawn, carrying a data disk in her hand.

"Did I find what?" he snapped.

"The information on the Protectors." Elizabeth sat down abruptly, seeming to need the support.

"What?!" Rodney asked sharply before grabbing the disk out of her hand and inserting it into his laptop. "Oh fuck," he mumbled after scanning the first few lines.

Elizabeth could only nod her agreement with the sentiment. "The Protectors are the UAs, the Ancients who didnít or couldnít ascend, and theyíre still here. And by now they know about us. They might even recognize a description of Rover as coming from Atlantis."

"Wonderful." Rodney frowned, then his eyes opened wide. "Has anyone tried to access the gate?"

"From outside? No, and the shield is still up."

"Well, thatís good anyway. How many teams do we have out?"

"Three. One of themís Maj. Lorneís," she added softly, worry clear in her voice.

"Wonderful." Rodney rubbed at his forehead. "Does John know about this yet?"

Elizabeth nodded. "I called him as soon as I read the file. Heís stopping in the gate room to try to contact the majorís team. I told him weíd meet him there."

"Then why are we still here?!"

"Because I thought you could use a moment to take it in without an audience."

"All right, taking it in; we found the UAs, and now theyíre more than likely going to come and try to kill us all. Got it."

Elizabeth groaned softly. "I really didnít need it summarized, Rodney."

"Well, Iím sorry, Iím just a bit paranoid here!" he snapped before running a hand over his brow and continuing in a more normal tone. "Sorry. All right, you arenít planning on having a staff meeting about this, are you, because I want to get Radek and start working on our defenses."

"No, but I would like you to check the programming on the shield and make sure that thereís no way around it. These UAs may have more knowledge of Atlantis than weíd like, so letís make sure there arenít any back doors left open."

"That was the first thing on my list," Rodney glowered. "Second is tweaking the life signs detector to see if I can tag all our people somehow."

Elizabeth nodded. "Good idea. And Iím not trying to tell you how to do your job; Iím just nervous about what this is going to mean for us," she admitted, knowing that she didnít have to keep up a front for Rodney any more than she did for John.

"I know, I am too," Rodney sighed, reaching out and awkwardly patting her hand. "But look at what weíve survived; whatís one band of disgruntled Ancients?" He smiled sickly at the last and blanched. "Iím going to work on the gate shield now. Radek, meet me in the gate room," he added after keying his headset.

"I am already there. Where else would I be right now?"

"And what are you doing there, playing jacks?"

"Bringing up all the information we have on its programming."

"Rodney, stop pretending Radek doesnít know what heís doing and get up here," John cut in.

"What is this; pick on Rodney day?" Rover nudged him from behind, and Rodney glared back at the cart. "Iím moving!"

"Weíre showing how much we miss you when youíre not with us."

Elizabeth rolled her eyes at Johnís comment.

"We should just sic the two of them on the UAs," Rodney muttered to her after clicking off his radio.

She snorted. "As if you and Carson would let them out of your sight long enough for that."

Rodney sighed as they entered the transporter. "You have a point."

"Which is why I know weíll get out of this," she added, trying to cheer them both up. "Youíre not about to let a little thing like UAs keep you and John apart."

"You know, if that wasnít so true, Iíd be utterly embarrassed by that comment." With that, Rodney hit the panel and sent them nearer to the gate room.

Even Rover seemed to be laughing, and Elizabeth grinned at him. "If nothing else, you keep our spirits up."

"I donít think Iím going to ask," John observed.

"Please donít," Rodney groaned as he walked over to Radek, and Rover settled by Reza, both carts facing the gate. "So?"

"So... whatís a day without a godlike, nearly undefeatable enemy?" John sighed. "Time to pull another rabbit out of your hat."

"I was asking Radek if heíd gotten to the root programming yet, but... yes, time for miracles."

"That would be good," John agreed. "And just think, you have more than ten seconds."

"We hope."

"I think itís fairly safe to assume that theyíre not going to appear this very instant."

Rodney nodded. "True, but Iíd like to make sure that they wonít be appearing here at all, and chattingís not going to do that."

John mimed zipping his lips, and he perched on the edge of one of the consoles, out of the way but with a clear view of the gate. And Rodney.

"All right, Radek, where are we?" Rodney asked.

"The systems seem secure, as far as I can tell. I donít believe the UAs can access them without already being physically present in Atlantis."

"This is good at least; we should set up backup systems though," Rodney commented as he studied the lines of code Radek was scrolling through.

Radek nodded without looking up. "Layers of password protection. And perhaps the reverse of the ATA gene. There must be something unique to humans that Ancients and UAs wouldnít have. Perhaps we could create some kind of sensor."

"You do realize that could effectively lock the two of us out of the system."

"We are still human," Radek pointed out. "I donít think a single gene changed all of that. Even the colonel is still human."

"If part satyr," Rodney murmured. "And the issue would be getting a sample of one of them to isolate the differences."

There was a long moment of silence before Elizabeth, who was fairly certain Rodney wouldnít actually shoot her, said, "There is Chaya."

Rodney didnít say anything, but Rover rocked back and forth in agitation.

"Lt. Lindstrom could go. Or perhaps one of the biologists," Elizabeth mused.

"Not Carson!" Radek exclaimed. "Terrible things happen every time he goes off-world!"

"John should go," Rodney sighed, though he was still staring at the monitor. "Sheíll help him."

Everyone gawked at him. "I really donít want to spend the rest of my life sleeping on the sofa. We donít even have a sofa!" John exclaimed.

"What?!" Rodney exclaimed, turning to find everyone staring at him. "Rover will go with you. And Ronon. And Teyla."

"And you." John didnít move, and it didnít look like he was going to unless he got his way.

"Iím going to have too much to do here to go traipsing around everywhere."

"Then they donít need me either. Everyone likes Carson."

Radek glared fiercely enough that Rover moved between him and John.

"Oh, like sheís going to give up bodily fluids for Carson," Rodney scoffed.

"How come everyone gets a bodyguard except me?" John grumbled.

Rover spun and zipped over to John, poking him in the leg.

"Why do you think I said he was going?"

John chuckled. "I guess Iíll be fine at that."

"And heíll give me a full report; remember that." Rodney turned back to the monitor again, the matter settled.

"Heís not going to have anything to report on." John walked over, grabbed Rodneyís chin to tilt his head up, and kissed him hard.

"I know," Rodney rasped once he was able. "I meant on her behavior, not yours. I trust you, John."

"And I know that. So when you open the gate again, Iíll go talk to Chaya and come back with something for Carson to work with."

"And that will be after Radek and I devise the new protocols, which should take at least three days."

Radek stared at him. "Two at the most. Perhaps one and a half. We can finish before we sleep."

Rodney glowered. "When did you turn in your union card?"

"Reza ripped it in half."

"Wonderful, and fine, fine, a day and a half should be more than adequate."

"See, lots more than ten seconds," John said smugly, making a ripple of laughter pass through the room.

"A few more hours in the morning and weíll be done," Rodney yawned as he flopped onto the bed and crossed his arms over his eyes.

John rolled over to face him and moved closer so he could lay his head on Rodneyís shoulder. "I almost wish they would come; sooner or later weíre going to have to face them, and Iíd rather it was on our terms."

Rodney nodded and wrapped an arm around Johnís shoulders, feeling some of the tension leach out of his body at the contact. "True, but right now Iíd rather have them come later rather than sooner so we can finish the new protocols and Carson has time to work on the samples youíre going to get." He paused a moment then. "And so you know, I do trust you."

"Hopefully that doesnít mean youíre not planning to exhaust me so much that I wonít be able to get it up no matter what she might do." John raised his head to grin at Rodney.

"Hrmmm, perhaps I should leave you alone tonight as a test to your fortitude..." Rodney mused.

"Like hell!" John exclaimed, raising his head and rolling fully on top of Rodney. "The only optional part of tonightís activities is whether you want to top or bottom. First."

Rodney quirked a half-smile and trailed his hands over Johnís back. "First, I want you in me, and then later Iím going to fuck you until youíre walking funny tomorrow. Got it?"

"Oh damn, that sounds terrible." John lowered his head so he could nibble on Rodneyís chin.

"I feel your pain," Rodney snorted, winding his legs around Johnís.

"Thatís what I love about you, your empathy."

"Oh, shut up and start doing slutty and perverse things to my body."

"You mean frottage isnít enough for you?" John teased, rocking against him lazily.

"Do you want me to have Rover spank your ass?"

"No, but you could try it if you like."

"Youíd like it too much."

"And whatís wrong with that?"

"Are you saying you do want Rover to spank you?"

Rover and John both yelped, Rover managing it by rubbing against something.

Rodney snorted. "You said it!"

"I said no to Rover and yes to you! There is a difference!"

"Ahh, I missed that; you have me a bit distracted here!"

"Oh darn, what a shame." John slid downward so he could lick an already peaked nipple.

Rodney moaned and tangled a hand in Johnís hair. John made a soft sound of encouragement while lightly dragging his teeth over the hard nubbin, pleased by the noises Rodney was making.

"Please," Rodney gasped, his breath coming in fast hitches as John teased him.

"I intend to." John turned his head and treated the other nipple to the same attention, making Rodney whimper and squirm beneath him. "God, I love how responsive you are."

"Just, just remember it tomorrow," Rodney whispered.

"Iíll be concentrating so hard on it that I may come back before I actually go." John bit at a nipple before sliding lower.

"Which doesnít get Carson the samples he needs." Rodney gasped as John licked at his navel.

"Do you really care right at this moment?"

Rodney gurgled and shook his head wildly.

"Good answer." John slowly fucked Rodneyís belly button with his tongue.

"John, oh fuck, John, yes, so good, more," Rodney whispered, rocking up under Johnís weight.

"All you can handle," John whispered against Rodney while sliding still lower until he was nuzzling the base of Rodneyís erection. He inhaled deeply, groaning at the scent of arousal that filled his nostrils, and he brushed his chin against Rodney, stubble rasping ever so lightly.

Rodney spasmed, his whole body jerking at the sensation, and he planted his feet flat on the bed so that he could rock his hips upward.

"Oh yeah, tell me what you want," John whispered before lightly mouthing the length of the shaft.

"Suck me!" Rodney wailed.

"Mmm, good idea. Then I can use your come to lube you up to take you." John grinned up at him even as he closed his lips over the very tip of Rodneyís cock and sucked lightly, causing Rodney to whimper and thrash around, his hands fisting in the sheets.

John paused to enjoy the sounds, almost wishing he dared record Rodney again but not daring to chance broadcasting to the whole city a second time.

"Please," Rodney begged, his whole body tensing before he closed his eyes and forced himself to relax, trusting John to give him what he needed.

John looked up, the hazel eyes watching Rodneyís face as he slowly slid down, taking Rodney deeper and deeper into his mouth until his chin rested against Rodneyís balls. And then he swallowed.

The sensation shot through Rodney like a stunner, and he gave a low wail but managed to keep from thrusting up, only lifting a trembling hand to run his fingers through Johnís hair.

John pulled back just enough to breathe, and his tongue swirled around the shaft still filling his mouth. At the same time, he let his fingertip lightly stroke Rodneyís balls and the damp skin of the base of his cock, eliciting even more needy sounds from the physicist as Rodney finally gave in and started moving, arching up into the hot suction of Johnís mouth. John slid his hands under Rodneyís ass, cupping it and urging him to move.

Rodney gave a low groan and slammed upward, both hands holding onto Johnís hair as he fucked his mouth.

John hummed his approval, his fingertips lightly stroking the crease of Rodneyís ass, causing Rodney to jerk, then cry out as he came. John swallowed once, unable to resist, then reminded himself to hold the rest in his mouth so he could make good on his promise.

Rodney lay there, panting, his eyes closed, before slowly recovering and lifting his head to look down at John. "You said something about fucking me now?"

His mouth tightly closed, John smirked down at Rodney before curling his arms under the other manís thighs. He yanked Rodneyís ass up and spat the still warm semen onto his ass, then slowly rubbed some of it into him with one finger. "You doubted me?"

"Never," Rodney answered, clenching down around Johnís finger as it pressed inside him.

"Oh good." John watched him as one finger became two and Rodney only arched up against him. "God, I love fucking you," he rasped, grabbing for the lube on the nightstand, not wanting to hurt Rodney.

"Then do it!"

"I intend to." John slicked himself and then pressed forward, pushing against Rodney until the muscle yielded to the pressure and let him sink in.

"Oh yes," Rodney groaned, pulling his knees closer to his chest, opening himself to Johnís thrusts. John rasped out a breathy moan before bending over to kiss Rodney hungrily, tongue pushing into his mouth in time with Johnís thrusts into his ass.

Rodney moaned around the kiss, sucking hungrily on Johnís tongue as he tightened down on him.

"Oh fuck," John groaned against Rodneyís lips, his body tensing and his back arching at the pleasure. He pulled back, almost fighting the tight grip of Rodneyís body, then drove forward again, sinking deeper inside him.

"Exactly," Rodney gasped.

John chuckled. "You really are perfect for me."

"You mean I can keep up with you."

"Yup. And you even wear me out."

"Youíve discovered my nefarious plan." Rodney squeezed down on Johnís cock as he spoke.

"And itís my d-duty to keep you occupied so you donít attack anyone else."

"Sexually?"

"Exactly."

"Youíre insane."

"And Iím all yours." John drove forward again.

Rodney let go of his legs and wrapped his arms around Johnís back, pulling him closer as they moved together. John kissed him almost desperately as his thrusts sped up, and he groaned as he came, buried as far inside Rodney as he could get.

Sighing happily, Rodney stroked his hands over Johnís back, gentling them both as John slowly relaxed on top of him. John nuzzled into Rodneyís throat, murmuring his contentment as he lay there, not moving so as not to slip out of Rodney.

"Mmm, weíre just staying this way, right?"

"Yup. When we wake up, you can make good on your half of the program."

"Mmmhmm," Rodney yawned.

John chuckled sleepily. "Love you," he said again, his eyes closing as his relaxation deepened into sleep.

"Youíre walking a little funny today, Sheppard," Ronon chuckled as the team minus Rodney waited at the foot of the gate. "Busy night?"

John grinned. "Very. Never underestimate a possessive scientist."

"I believe that Dr. McKay has made his feelings regarding this trip very plain," Teyla chuckled.

"Yeah, he told me if I let this woman weíre going to see touch Sheppard, Rover was going to make me pay," Ronon commented.

"Those two together constitute a natural disaster when Rodneyís pissed," John chuckled. "Good thing Iím not planning to get in touching distance."

Rover darted in front of John, his extended pincers making it plain he would do his part to keep things that way.

"Thanks, Rover, Iím going to count on your help. Neither of wants to imagine Rodneyís reaction if he thought otherwise." John pretended to shudder.

Teyla nodded and glanced over at Ronon, who was wincing at the thought. "Perhaps we should get to the jumper and go before Rodney grows more upset."

"Good idea," John agreed, walking up the ramp and going inside to settle in the pilotís seat. He glanced over at the empty seat next to him, frowning slightly, but he looked down with a smile when Rover nudged his leg.

"Jumper 1, the gate is ready for travel," Sgt. Bryan informed them.

John acknowledged the message and took the jumper through the gate, bringing it in to land just outside the village where theyíd met Chaya the last time. He stepped out of the jumper, Rover nearly glued to his side, and looked around.

"Chaya?"

"John, youíve come back!" She came around the corner of the temple, her expression bright with happiness as she crossed to him, only to pause when she saw the cart at his side. "I see you have found and activated one of the assistants."

John glanced down at Rover. "Actually, he pretty much activated himself as far as we can tell. But yeah, we found the others and activated several of them. Theyíre a lot of help. And good friends."

"Iím not surprised it chose you," she murmured, raising her gaze from the cart to John, her gaze warm.

"Me? Oh, no," John laughed, patting Rover again. "Though heís pretty possessive and stopped me from going near another cart when I was considering it. But heís with Rodney, not me. Iím just the tag-along," he added with a grin for Rover.

"It belongs to Dr. McKay?" It was plain that she didnít quite believe that fact.

"Well," John thought about it, "I think it would be more accurate to say that Rodney belongs to Rover, but yeah." He shrugged.

"More like the both of you do, Sheppard," Ronon laughed.

"That too," John agreed easily, one eye on Chayaís growing frown.

"I had thought..." she began.

"We are here to see if you have heard of those known as the Protectors," Teyla cut in smoothly.

"We need a sample of your DNA, Chaya, if what we believe is true." John watched her carefully.

"The Protectors?" Chaya glanced from one to the other, and her eyes widened. "Those who did not ascend. If they have discovered you, you are in extreme danger."

John sighed. "Yeah, thatís what we figured. And I donít think theyíre going to believe that we were just your average traders since we had Rover with us. Which brings us back to your DNA. We need a pure sample to create a bioweapon." He was proud of himself for not cringing when he said that, but it was the truth. "We need something that targets pure Ancient... since Iíd really rather not end up killed by our own safety measures."

"Oh." Chaya turned away and ran her hand over a luxuriant plant. "I had hoped you had returned for other reasons."

Rover zipped in front of John, nudging him back a step, and John smiled wryly. "All my other reasons are already spoken for."

"And if I declined to help?"

"Weíd have to try to create something without your genes," John shrugged. "Itís just more likely that it would kill people like me and Carson as well. But weíll take that chance if we have to."

She was silent for a long moment, still looking down at the plant, before finally turning back to raise her gaze to meet Johnís. "You know I will not allow that to happen."

"Thatís good to hear," Ronon commented.

Teyla moved a little closer to Ronon, though she was uncertain what she could do for him if the Ancient chose to attack him.

"Thank you," John said simply.

"Am I correct in assuming that once you have your samples, youíll be leaving again?"

John nodded. "My home is Atlantis."

She nodded slowly, no longer looking at John, but at the sky behind him. "Yes, it belongs to you now."

"If you could do it over, would you still make the same choice?" John asked suddenly.

"I would. To save them, I would."

John nodded slowly. "Yes, that is what matters, isnít it? I hope you find peace, Chaya."

"Thank you, John." She pressed her lips together and rubbed her arms. "You should take your samples and go back to your city."

"Iím sorry," he said quietly, though they both knew he wasnít really. He sympathized with her loneliness, but he only wanted to go back to Atlantis. And Rodney.

She sighed and sat on one of the benches. "It would be nice to think so."

"Col. Sheppard, perhaps it would be best to take the samples now," Teyla murmured.

John nodded. "Why donít you take care of that, Teyla? Iíll get the jumper ready for takeoff." He gave Chaya a final glance before going back inside the jumper.

Rover stayed in place, his sensors trained on the Ancient woman as Teyla retrieved the med kit from their gear and carried it over to Chaya. "This will not hurt."

Chaya smiled faintly. "Do not be concerned. You may take what you need." She looked over at the cart, clearly defending access to the ship. "I had not thought the devices to have such strong initiative."

"Rover is unique among the carts," Teyla explained as she prepared to draw the other womanís blood.

"Ah, the prototype," Chaya murmured, suddenly understanding. "I should have realized it would be the first to be activated."

"Yes, his appearance was quite a shock to both Dr. McKay and Col. Sheppard." Teyla smiled at the memory.

Chaya smiled as well. "I can imagine. John is... happy with Dr. McKay?"

"They are very happy together, and we are all reminded of that fact quite often."

The Ancient woman nodded slowly. "I am glad for them," she said softly, staring at her own hand.

Teyla nodded serenely as she took Chayaís arm to draw her blood. "I will let them know if you wish."

After a moment, Chaya shook her head. "No, best to let them forget all about me. I have no part in their lives, in the life of anyone on Atlantis."

"If that is what you wish." Teyla set aside the vials of blood and turned her gaze to the other woman. "I wish you peace and happiness here, Chaya."

"Thank you. I do not think there will be much peace to be found in this galaxy, but I wish you happiness... and victory."

"Did ye get the samples?" Carson asked once John had the jumper hatch open.

"Teyla has them," John replied, looking around. He started to frown when he didnít see Rodney.

"I believe he was trying not to appear the nervous spouse," Carson commented, correctly interpreting the look.

Johnís eyes narrowed, and he turned on his heel without another word, heading for the lab where he found Rodney pacing and muttering to himself, his hands waving in the air.

"Youíre not even interested enough to make sure we all got back all right?" he demanded.

"Iówhat?" Rodney looked up, startled, and his expression turned to one of relief. "Youíre back!" He lunged forward and grabbed John into a tight hug. "Are you all right? Did she molest you?"

The tension leached out of Johnís shoulders with the hug, and he had to admit, if only to himself, that it was exactly what heíd wanted. "No, she kept her distance, and Teyla got the sample, which is already on its way to Carson."

"Thank goodness," Rodney sighed. "I felt like an idiot worrying, and I wanted you to believe that I trusted you so thatís why I didnít come to the gate room when you got back andó" Rodney cut off his babbling and kissed John.

John tightened his arms around Rodney, feeling like an idiot for having been upset that Rodney hadnít been waiting. "Sorry," he mumbled when Rodney drew back slightly.

"For what?" Rodney leaned back to look up at him questioningly.

"For being an idiot. For overreacting and bursting in here like that. I should have known better."

Rodney gave a short laugh. "I think itís safe to say that weíre both on edge right now, so itís understandableóand Iím sure Iíll be doing it sometime in the near future, so you can forgive me then."

"You? Never! Youíre always the picture of calm and serenity."

"Have I mentioned that youíre severely lacking in a sense of humor?"

"I guess Iím lucky you love me anyway."

"If I didnít, I canít imagine the trouble youíd get into," Rodney sniffed before looking down when Rover banged into them. "Oh, Iím just kidding, and both of you know it!"

"Of course I do," John replied easily, patting Rover to sooth him. "Weíre perfect for each other."

"All three of us," Rodney added. "And at least we donít have to go back there again."

"No, I already had Sgt. Bryan lock the address out of the dialing system. There wonít be any return trips to that planet."

"Thatís probably not a good idea, but I canít bring myself to be annoyed about it right now."

John shrugged. "We still have the coordinates if we decide to go back, but itíll take an override from Elizabeth, you or me. No oneís going to end up there by accident."

Rodney frowned, his eyebrows drawing together. "Other than you, I really donít think that planet holds any dangers for anyone."

"Huh?" John stared at him, for a moment thinking Rodney was losing his memory before he realized they were talking at cross-purposes. "Oh! I thought you meant the Protectorsí planet. But no, I donít intend to go back there again." John carefully avoided mentioning Chayaís name, not wanting to upset Rodney again.

"Ah, no I was talking about... that other planet, but yes, no one will be going back to the protectorís planet at all."

"I should have known which would worry you more," John teased gently.

"Oh, ha ha, itís simply because that planet is foremost in my mind because you were just there!"

"For the last time," John said again, hugging Rodney. "We got what we needed, and now we can concentrate on the real threat. Or at least the latest one. As if the Wraith werenít enough."

"Too bad that we canít lock the Protectors and the Wraith in a room together and let them take care of each other for us," Rodney sighed, leaning into Johnís embrace.

"I wish we could," John sighed. "They deserve each other."

"But that would be too easy, so weíll just have to do something about them ourselvesóif they show up."

"This is Atlantis. Of course theyíll show up... at the same time, which will be the worst possible time for us."

Rodney tilted his head and studied John closely. "Excuse me, but I thought I was supposed to be the pessimist in this relationship."

"I decided I should try to be more sympathetic to your position."

"That means being sympathetic, not adopting it!"

John chuckled. "Youíre cute when youíre annoyed."

"Then I must be getting cuter by the second!"

"You always do." John leaned back against a lab table, his arms releasing Rodney although his hands still rested on the scientistís hips. "So are you in the middle of something critical or can you take a break?"

Rodney looked at him incredulously. "You really think I was able to work while you were down there?"

"You could have come, you know," John chuckled, already trying to draw Rodney toward the door.

"No, that wouldnít have been good for any of us."

"Yeah, I suppose it was best not to taunt Chaya with our relationship right under her nose when we all know how lonely she is."

"Okay, call me a bastard, but I really donít care. It was her choice to stay, and just because you have the gene naturally, it doesnít make you her soul mate."

"No, it doesnít," John agreed. "Apparently my soul mate is a snarky, sometimes oddly insecure genius who hasnít realized yet that nothing will ever make me let him go."

"I know that," Rodney muttered, though his smile was self-conscious as he looked at John. "So since Iím not working and youíre back, why are we here?"

"Because your feet havenít started moving yet. Iím starting to think you want me to do you right here, over one of the tables."

Rodney drew in a quick breath and shuddered, and Rover zipped over to the door, blocking it.

"I guess that answers that," John breathed against Rodneyís ear as he pulled him closer. His hands busily worked on their pants, unbuckling, unbuttoning, unzipping, and pushing until they were both bare to mid-thigh. He spun them around, pushing Rodney over the table, face down, while he fumbled in his pocket for lube.

"You took lube to see her?" Rodney asked, but his complaining was half-hearted at best as he spread his legs and shifted around to get more comfortable.

"I always have lube. Never know when Iím going to get a chance to jump you. Or have you jump me."

"Were you a Boy Scout?"

"Actually, yes. Are you complaining?"

"Not in the least," Rodney gasped, lowering his head to his hands and thrusting his ass back at John, who quickly prepared him and then pushed into him, groaning his pleasure at Rodneyís tight heat.

Rodney moaned and twisted his hips, pushing back, urging John on.

John quickly fell into a hard, fast rhythm designed to get them both off quickly, before someone tried to come in, and Rodney went with it enthusiastically, bucking back and bracing himself on one arm to reach down and jerk his own erection.

"Fuck, yeah, come for me," John rasped in his ear, speeding his strokes into Rodneyís ass, and Rodney did just that, clenching down on Johnís cock as he spasmed, his come spraying the side of the table as he shuddered. The spasms around his cock made John cry out, and it wasnít long before he was coming as well, his hands biting into Rodneyís hips.

"You know," Rodney panted, as John slumped against his back, "I really should have been fucking you to stake my claim on you again." he felt John take a breath to answer and cut in. "And I will, later on tonight."

"You think Iím going to argue with that?" John chuckled breathlessly. "Not gonna happen."

"Smart man."

"I qualified for Mensa."

"Mmm, I love it when you talk dirty to me."

"And you call me a slut," John snorted.

"Youíre a bad influence on me."

"I happen to think Iím a very good influence if thatís the result."

Rodney chuckled and, once John pulled out of him, turned around to kiss him. "Youíre insane."

"Which is why weíre perfect for each other."

Rover bumped against both of them, making Rodney chuckle. "And youíre perfect for both of us, too."

"We wouldnít have it any other way," John agreed, grinning as he righted his uniform.

Rodney nodded and looked around for a towel to clean himself up and then wipe down the bench, chuckling when Rover handed him one.

"You take good care of us, Rover." John patted him appreciatively while enjoying the sight of a bare-assed Rodney bent over the bench. Rodney finished cleaning up and turned, frowning when he saw John staring at him.

"What?"

"Just enjoying the view," John said with a grin.

"Youíre an idiot," Rodney laughed, though he smiled and twitched his ass before getting dressed again.

"Itís part of my charm," John replied agreeably, and Rover did something that sounded like a snort.

"Exactly, Rover!" Rodney laughed before looking around the lab. "And now that I can concentrate, I really should get some work done..."

"Iím so unappreciated," John bemoaned, getting another snort from Rover and Rodney. "Okay, I didnít think that would fly," he chuckled. "You do your mad scientist thing while I catch up on paperwork, and Iíll meet you for dinner." He glanced over at Rover. "Iím counting on you to make sure he actually leaves the lab to eat with me."

Rover bobbed in his version of a nod and sketched a salute before rolling forward to nudge John out of the lab.

"I think heís afraid if you stay, weíll get distracted again," Rodney chuckled.

"He has a point," John admitted with a grin over his shoulder before disappearing down the hall, leaving them to their work while he went to do battle with his paperwork.

In the medical labs, Carson sat in front of a bank of equipment, his gaze moving from one monitor to another as he fine tuned scans and dug deeper into the samples they had received from Chaya.

Also studying the scans, Dr. Selah frowned. "Seeing them all together like this, you can see the differencesóand similaritiesóbetween Chayaís sample, Col. Sheppardís, and Dr. McKayís. And then of course, there is the purely human sample. The colonelís is actually closer to the Ancient structure than to an Ďordinaryí human, yet Dr. McKayís is closer to pure human, despite the gene therapy."

"Aye, and Lt. OíNeillís is very similar to the colonelís," Carson nodded thoughtfully. "We simply need to find a way to translate these differences to the scanners so that weíre able to tell them apart."

"And to figure out the reason why thereís such a significant difference between the natural and artificial gene carriers. Dr. McKayís is the strongest artificial gene, and the technology works as well for him as for anyone except the colonel and Lt. OíNeill, yet clearly thereís a difference."

Carson nodded as he rubbed his chin. "Aye, you would think there wouldnít be a difference, especially as the gene therapy was derived from Col. Sheppardís sample, but there is."

"Weíre missing something, but what?" She glared at the monitors as if she would force them to give up the answer.

"If I knew that, lass, Iíd be a verra happy man."

"I think it would improve Dr. Zelenkaís humor as well since it would mean you would spend less time here."

Carson chuckled quietly. "I believe it would improve everyoneís attitude because then we could tell if the bloody UAs are here."

"A very good point. And hopefully one that we will make moot by discovering the answer very soon."

"True, all right, letís look even smaller, the proteins that make up the genes." As Carson spoke, he refined the scan, looking deeper into the genes they were studying.

"There," Aliyah exclaimed, pointing at one of the screens. "Thereís an amino acid common to both the Ancient and natural ATA gene samples thatís not present in the other two."

Carson leaned closer, his whole body tensing with excitement. "Good eyes, my dear!" he exclaimed. "Yes, yes, the tertiary set on those samples is definitely different than the others. This may be our sensor key..."

"And Iím afraid youíre going far beyond my rudimentary knowledge of your specialty," Aliyah said, "so Iím going to leave you to it. Is there anyone youíd like me to send to help you?"

"Yer doing fine," Carson smiled. "And yes, if ye could find Dr. Mordigan; he would be helpful in this."

"Then I shall send him to you, and I will handle the infirmary today to allow you to concentrate on this."

"Thank ye, Aliyah, once this is over, remind me to give ye an extra few days off."

Ciora seems to agree with that as she patted the Indian doctor on the leg.

Dr. Selah smiled down at the cart before leaving, smiling as she noticed that Carson was already immersed in the scans again. She was sure he wouldnít even realize how much time passed before Dr. Mordigan arrived.

"As ye can see, when we resolve the scans at an elemental level, there is a difference between even those who naturally have the gene and the Ancients," Carson lectured, pointing to several key scans in the report the command staff had all received. "If we can set the scanners ta detect these differences, weíll have our detector."

"Carson, you may have just saved all our lives," Elizabeth breathed, looking as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

"That may be, but it will still take some time to develop a way to reconfigure the scanners ta recognize the differences."

"At least you know what youíre looking for now," Elizabeth said. "Iím going to start authorizing gate travel again. Carefully. We donít want run into the UAs on other worlds now that they know about us."

"Arenít the chances greater that theyíll come looking for us here rather than on other worlds?" Rodney asked.

"Yes, which is why weíre willing to take the risk of continuing to send out teams," Paul Davis replied. "There is some chance of running into them elsewhere, but since they have to know where we are, it seems more likely that theyíll try to reach us here rather than hoping for a random encounter."

"So itís business as usual?" John asked.

"So it would seem," Carson nodded.

"Hey, Rodney?" John called the scientist over the radio, keeping his eyes fixed in front of him. "Remember that mirror we picked up a while back? Well, Iím standing in front of it right now, and itís... swirling. Looks kinda like the event horizon on an active stargate, actually."

"What?!" Rodney shrieked. "Why the hell are you even near that thing?"

"Because the Marine patrol picked up some weird readings and called me. And now Iím damned if Iím going to leave it unguarded!"

"Wonderful, wonderful. This on top of everything else! Radek, Iíve got to go check this out; keep working on the scanners; make sure the peanut gallery stays on task."

"Try to give us a few minutes warning to run screaming through the stargate if weíre being invaded," Radek sighed.

"Your care for my well-being is touching."

"You are the proverbial bad penny. You always come back." Radek looked down as both Rover and Reza zipped out of the lab, presumably heading for Col. Sheppard.

"I should make you go see what he touched," Rodney grumbled, following the carts toward the transporter and rubbing his forehead to forestall the impending headache.

"I heard that!" John growled over the still active radio. "And I didnít touch anything! It was already doing whatever itís doing when I got here!"

"Yes, Colonel, of course it was..." Rodney sighed, sidestepping the carts as he exited the transporter and walked down the hallway.

"Itís true," Bates put in. "The patrol called us because it was acting weird."

"And Iím sure they didnít touch anything," Rodney muttered to himself as he entered the room and pulled up, staring at the mirror.

"Since it was the readings caused by this thing being active that brought them here, Iíd have to say not," John replied, also staring at it.

Rodney nodded as he pulled out his scanner, aiming it at the mirror and frowning at the readings. "How long has this been going on?"

"About fifteen minutes since we got the first readings," Sgt. Coleman replied, stepping forward.

"And no one touched it?"

"Hell no! Sir. We reported it and established a perimeter in case anything comes out of it."

John nodded approvingly. The mirror might be small, but so were nanoviruses.

"Fuck." Rodney ran a hand over his face. "It seems your observation is correct, Colonel; the energy readings are similar to that of an event horizon, though it seems to be barely above dormant."

"So how do we block this and make sure nothing comes through it?" John eyed the thing as if considering shooting it.

"Iím thinking, Iím thinking!"

"I could shoot it."

"And then it will explode and kill us all. I donít think so."

"You never let me have any fun."

"Boo hoo, I think youíll live. As a matter of fact, Iím sure you will if you donít shoot this."

"Are you sure I shouldnít?" John asked, still watching the mirror warily. Only the fact that it was too small for anything human-sized to come through prevented him from clearing the room and destroying it. Or at least making sure it was covered with something solid.

"Let me put it in simple terms, Colonel," Rodney sniped as he continued to examine the mirror. "Making the unknown device emitting energy explode is a bad thing. Got it?"

"Boom boom bad. Got it." John barely refrained from sticking his tongue out at the scientist and ignored the snickers behind him. "So what exactly do we do about it?"

"Iím going to try to get a shield on it to stop it from doing what itís doing," Rodney snapped as he continued to scan the mirror.

John opened his mouth to ask another question, really looked at Rodneyís expression, and shut it again without saying a word, making Rover pat his leg with a closed pincer in approval. John could get away with a lot with Rodney that would have anyone else verbally eviscerated, but even he had his limits.

He waited, watching warily, in case Rodney needed assistance or needed to be yanked away from impending death.

"This makes no sense," Rodney muttered as he scanned, prodded, then finally poked at the mirror. "As far as I can tell, it isnít doing anything."

"Itís still swirling, whooshing, whatever, like a stargate!"

"Yes, it is, but as for what itís doing, I donít know. Just let me try this..." Rodney nodded sharply as he fiddled with a device heíd pulled out of his pocket, attaching leads to the mirror before willing it on and nodding as he studied the scans again. "Well, itís contained now at least."

"Are you sure? Maybe I should try, just to be safe..." John tentatively raised a hand toward the mirror.

"John, if you touch it, I will shoot you," Rodney said forcefully even as Rover zipped between them, shoving John back.

John frowned. "If it wonít hold up to me touching it, is it actually going to do any good against the UAs?"

"Iím more worried that if you touch it, itís somehow going to supercharge the mirror and accelerate whatever itís trying to do."

John shot a worried look at it and stepped back slightly. "Lt. Bates..."

"Round the clock guards, yes sir."

"Iím going to have a member of my staff here as well. I donít trust this; thereís no way itís coincidence."

"If you put Radek in here all night, you wonít have to worry about what the UAs do; Carson will kill you."

"Carson should be working on his anti-UA mumbo-jumbo, not worrying about what perversions he and Radek could be getting into," Rodney sniffed.

"You do remember youíre in a gay relationship too, right?" John eyed him incredulously.

"I had no idea," Rodney replied blandly as he scanned the now-shielded mirror again. "And who am I kidding? This is Radek and Carson weíre talking about. To them, switching positions is probably perverted."

John had to snicker, but he said, "I really donít want to get into details of Carson and Radekís sex life."

"Thank you, sir!" Marcus Bates said fervently.

"Of course we could always talk about Bates and Lindstromís sex life," Rodney mused.

"Iíll be sure to tell her you said so," Bates promised, making John wince.

Rodneyís eyes widened, and he slowly looked up from his scanner as Rover sped toward the Marine, pincers flashing. "Umm, no, thatís all right. I donít think that comment needs to go any farther than this room, Lieutenant," he said quickly.

Bates laughed, then glared down at Rover. "You pinch me, you little fiend, and Iíll send Loki after you!"

"Now, now, no starting cart wars," John chuckled, moving between the chief of security and the cart. He looked over his shoulder at Rodney. "Getting anywhere with that thing?"

Rodney spared Rover a fond glance when the cart expressed his disdain for Batesí threat by giving him his version of the finger, then turned his attention back to the scanner. "Yes, the energy it was giving off seems to be contained, though I want to keep an eye on it to make sure we donít get a cascade building up behind the shield."

John leaned back against the wall, clearly not planning to go anywhere until Rodney did, which made Rodney growl in frustration and key his headset. "Simpson, I need you to come here now."

John smiled smugly, and Bates suddenly seemed to find something completely fascinating on the other side of the room. "You didnít honestly think I was going to leave you with it, did you?"

"Iím not the one I worry about touching things and making them act abnormally."

Ostentatiously crossing his arms, John stayed where he was, across the room. "No, you save that for me." He ignored the muffled snicker from Batesí direction.

"That was exactly my point!" Rodney exclaimed.

"I wasnít talking about the worrying."

Bates suddenly needed to talk to his men outside the room.

Rodney eyed the closing door and sniffed. "You do realize that your head of security is a weenie, donít you? I donít see how Lindstrom and Loki havenít sent him running into the night."

"I would think youíd be grateful someone in this city doesnít want to hear about our sex life."

"Hrmmm, good point." The door opened and Rodney nodded sharply. "Good. Simpson, I want you to monitor this. If you get tired, get Miko; if she gets tired, sheís to get Radek, understand?"

"I believe so, Dr. McKay," she nodded.

"Bates," John started.

"Constant guard, yes sir," Bates replied instantly, making John nod.

"Inside the room and out. I want someone watching the scientist in here and someone ready to lock that door and sound the alarm if necessary."

"And try not to lock the scientist in the room if that happens," Rodney commented.

Simpson shot a nervous look at Bates, who rolled his eyes. "No, we have the ones here pretty well trained. We donít want to start over with new ones."

Rodney eyed Bates for a long moment, then nodded. "Good. Colonel, we should be going." He and Rover led the way out of the room, and he waited until the door was closed before he snickered. "I think Lindstromís been a good influence on him."

"Yeah, Teyla hasnít tried to hit him in months."

"That may be because of Conan as well, you know."

"You are so lucky he likes those movies."

Rodney smirked. "I knew heíd identify with Arnold."

"Okay, that is way too disturbing for me to think about."

"So think about me instead, and Iíll think about what else can be done to keep the city safe from these damn UAs."

Rover pushed between them, making both men look down. "Yes, Rover," John said soothingly, "youíll help protect the city too."

"Of course, Rover, youíre smarter than any of us, except for me, of course," Rodney commented.

"Radek might object to that description, but I think it fits," John agreed, chuckling.

Rover scooted behind them and poked both with his pincers, and Rodney chuckled. "I think Rover objects to it as well."

"I guess he doesnít like coming in second even to you," John said, sounding amused.

"So it would seem." Rodney glanced behind them and studied the cart. "So, Rover, are you planning on saving us from the UAs by preventing them from finding us?"

Rover poked him again, making John laugh. "I think he expects you to take care of that part of it while he makes sure nothing gets you."

"Just you wait until he starts taking over the military aspect of the mission!" Rodney laughed even as he reached down to pat Rover on the sensor array, making the cart wriggle.

"Naw, Roverís too smart to take on all the paperwork and dealing with Caldwell," John snorted, patting him as well.

"Then I suppose weíll just have to keep to our respective posts and let Rover get all the accolades," Rodney sighed.

"It sounds like a fair division to me." John grinned when Rover spun in a quick circle.

"Sounds like normal life to me," Rodney snorted as they entered the transporter.

"That too," John agreed. "But as someone once said, Ďif it ainít broke, donít fix it.í"

Rodney had to smirk at that. "Only when it makes it better."

John laughed. "If we got any better, it might kill us."

"Can we not use that particular phrase, please?"

"Sorry. But at least in that case, we have a guaranteed recovery."

Rodney rolled his eyes as they headed back their duties.

Carrying her weapon even though she was off duty, Lisa Lindstrom eyed the still rippling mirror warily when she entered the storage room. She rolled her eyes at the argument between the scientists currently studying it and moved to Batesí side. After a quick smile and kiss, she gestured to Loki, who offered Marcus a steaming cup of coffee.

"I thought you could use it after being stuck in here for so long."

"Most definitely," he answered after taking a sip and smiling at them both. "Thanks, and thanks to you too, Loki. Itís been a week, and they arenít any closer to figuring out whatóif anythingóitís doing. I keep telling the colonel we should just send it through the gate to an uninhabited planet, but he doesnít agree."

Lisa shrugged, picking up her own cup of coffee from Loki. "We donít know what might happen if we send it through the gate while itís active."

Bates gave her a wry look. "Youíre beginning to sound like the colonel."

"Must be the gene," she said blandly.

Bates snorted and rolled his eyes. "Better the colonel than McKay, I suppose."

"Do you really want to be sleeping alone in your quarters again?" Lisa sidestepped between Marcus and Loki, whoíd raised his pincers.

He gave her an innocent look. "Did I say anything?"

"Uh huh." She eyed him for a moment before grinning. "You can make it up to me the next time weíre both off duty at the same time for more than an hour or two."

"Iíll do my best." Marcus turned to look at the scientists who were still arguing. "Of course, this should give me plenty of time to plan."

"I look forward to the results." Lisa kissed him lightly. "And now I suppose I should leave you to it. Rodney asked me to stop by the lab with Loki; I think he wants to poke at us some more."

"You know, if I was a jealous man and not certain that the only person McKay ever pokes at is the colonel, I might resent that comment."

She laughed at him. "As if Rodneyís even remotely aware of anyone but the colonel that way. Or Iíd let anyone touch me if I didnít want them to."

"They wouldnít survive you or Loki, and Iíd kick the shit of whatever you left."

"My hero. Iíll be sure to reward you for that tonight."

Bates smiled slowly. "Iíll look forward to it."

She was still chuckling as she walked away, pausing to greet Radek, who was just arriving.

"You are either a very brave man or a very lucky one," Radek observed to Bates while Reza darted forward to make sure nothing had changed about the mirror.

"Both," Bates murmured, smiling slightly before turning his attention back to the situation in the room and hiding the expression behind a professional demeanor once more.

"I know the feeling," Radek murmured, smiling faintly as he remembered the rare occasions where Carson had lost his temper. The normally even-tempered Scot could be fiery when provoked, and Radek enjoyed both sides of his personality.

"Yeah, but at least you have a cart to defend you." Bates gave another fleeting smile.

"So youíre telling us that youíre an abused man, Marcus?" An off-duty Chuck Bryan poked his head in the room, glaring at the alien tech that was keeping Lorne off-world because of the gate lock-down.

"Enough!" Radek suddenly exclaimed from where heíd moved over to the mirror. "This is ridiculous. We are learning nothing. Is time to shield it, lock it up, and move on!"

"And open the gate?" Chuck asked hopefully.

"That is the logical next step," Radek agreed. "McKay! Come to mirror room."

"Is it doing something or are you just checking your hair?" Rodney snapped back.

"Itís doing nothing, same as every day since it activated. Itís time to stop letting it run Atlantis."

"And how do youónever mind, Iíll be there in a minute."

"Col. Sheppard, Dr. Weir, you may want to come to the mirror room," Bates murmured into his radio.

"I havenít felt any alarms," John said, sounding startled.

"There may be some soon; Dr. Zelenka is staging a coup though I doubt Dr. McKay will disagree with him."

"Iím on Dr. Zís side," Chuck stated, causing Bates to glare at him.

"Thatís because you want to get laid."

"Yes, well, I know thatís the national pastime of Atlantis, but letís try not to die for it," John said dryly as he made his way to the nearest transporter and then toward the mirror room, bumping into Rover and Rodney on the way there.

"Think Radekís gone Ďround the bend?"

"I think heís as tired as everyone else of watching it just sit there swirling at us."

"Well, I certainly canít blame him for that."

"Not to mention that I think Sgt. Bryan may stage a coup of his own if we donít open the gate soon."

"Good point, and if he had a cart, he might have had a chance at it." They reached the room, and Rodney pushed ahead of John and Rover. "What wild plan are you concocting now, Radek?"

"Shield the damn thing by sandwiching it between two sheets of titanium and get on with our lives."

"My my, someoneís a bit testy," Rodney commented even as he rubbed his chin, pondering the thought.

"Heís not the only one," Sgt. Bryan muttered.

"Yes, Sergeant, I think weíre all aware of your desire to bring Maj. Lorne home," Elizabeth said, trying not to laugh.

"Itís not the deciding factor, however," John pointed out.

"Radek does have a point," Rodney announced. "Weíve been watching this damn thing for weeks, and it hasnít done anything. I donít fully agree with the mirror sandwich solutionó" He looked at Radek and rolled his eyes. "But Iím sure we can come up with a way of at least containing it beyond the initial shielding."

"And whatís wrong with my idea?" Radek growled, getting in Rodneyís face.

John keyed his radio. "Hey, Carson, Radek and Rodney are arguing again. Bring the popcorn."

"Oh Lord, what is it now, and are Rover and Reza joining in?"

"Naw, theyíre arguing who has the better idea. Iím going to have to give Radek the advantage for the moment since Rodney hasnít actually come up with one yet."

"I heard that, Colonel!" Rodney yelled before going back to his argument with Radek.

"So come up with an idea," John shot back, snickering.

"So tell me where weíre going to find two sheets of titanium!"

"Business as usual?" Paul asked Elizabeth as he came into the room, intrigued by the radio chatter.

"Pretty much. Either Radekís head is going to explode or theyíre going to figure out a way to deal with that mirror."

"Letís hope itís the second or weíre going to have even more problems," he chuckled.

"Carson would probably object," Elizabeth nodded laughingly. "And then it would cascade from there."

"So we put it in an EM field!" Rodney shouted from across the room, and Paul shook his head.

"And hopefully this will avert the cascade."

"And then weó" Radek started, meeting Rodneyís eyes with a suddenly intent expression.

"And that should contain it and more than likely shut it down. Once that happens, we can lock it away, and you can put hazardous waste stickers all over the door."

"And cameras in the room," John said, his tone making it clear that it wasnít up for discussion. "We need to keep track of it to make sure it doesnít do anything new."

"Yes, yes, cameras, and tell people theyíre there so they donít consider the room a place they can go have carnal activities."

John snickered. "You still havenít gotten over walking in on Miko and Stackhouse, have you?"

"That much sweetness is unnatural!"

"Yes, Rodney," nearly everyone in the room chorused.

"So what do you need to create the EM field?" Paul asked once the laughter had died down.

Radek gave him a look worthy of Rodney. "An EM field generator."

"You walked right into that one," John chuckled.

"I should know better by now, shouldnít I?"

"Yes!"

Elizabeth shook her head. "At least youíre still pretty."

Paul sighed. "My lifeís goal."

"Glad to know youíve achieved it, now if youíll excuse Radek and myself, we need to go build an EMF generator."

"Hurry home for dinner, dear," John called after him.

"Stick a sock in it, Colonel," Rodney yelled back as he and Radek hustled out of the room, followed closely by their carts.

"A sock? Sounds itchy," John said over the radio while the others laughed and began to disperse.

"All right, the mirror is safely encased in an EM field, so we can breatheóat least until the next life-threatening event pops up," Rodney announced as he walked into the room he shared with John, followed by Rover, who patted John on the leg before settling in the corner.

John spared a smile for Rover before catching Rodneyís arm and pulling him into a hug. "Which means we might have time for a shower before the next crisis if we run true to form."

"And maybe a nap if weíre lucky," Rodney sighed, leaning into Johnís embrace and nuzzling the side of his neck.

"You mean I can actually get your full attention on me for a while?" John murmured wryly, his hands moving over Rodneyís back in long, soothing strokes.

"Itís normally on youówhen there isnít an emergency," Rodney muttered.

"True, but Iím greedy. I wish I could have all of you all the time. And yes, I know thatís not fair, that Iím called away as often as you are, but that doesnít change wanting it, mirrors, UAs, Wraith, Ori, Goaíuld, bugs and various ascended beings notwithstanding."

"Once we retire to our island, all my attention will be on you all the time." Rodney felt a nudge on his leg and looked downward. "And on Rover, of course."

"Iím being an idiot, arenít I?" John sighed as he sat down on the edge of the bed, one hand holding Rodneyís and the other resting on Roverís sensor array.

"And why do you say that?" Rodney asked, dropping to the bed at Johnís side.

"Iím looking for trouble when everythingís fairly calm and we actually have a little time to ourselves. I just have had a bad feeling since that damn mirror activated."

"Well, considering Iíve learned to trust your bad feelings, I have to agree, but Iím not going to turn down a bit of quiet." Rodney looked at John sidelong. "So do I need to distract you?"

John started to smile. "Think youíre up to the task?"

Rodney scoffed out a laugh. "Are you saying you doubt me?" he asked as he tumbled John back onto the bed.

"Iím saying youíre a scientist; show me proof." John sprawled at his ease, arms loosely linked around Rodneyís waist, as he challenged him.

"Youíre military; youíre supposed to accept orders without question," Rodney snickered before leaning in to nip at Johnís chin.

John snorted. "Did you suddenly forget who youíre in bed with? Iím probably the worst person in the history of the universe at taking orders."

Rodney snorted again and leaned in to bite John, this time on the throat.

Shivering, John let his arms fall to the bed, flung wide as he lay there. "Okay, maybe you remember a few things about me."

"Genius here, remember?"

"So whatcha gonna do with me?"

Rodney pulled back and smiled. "Strip you down and fuck you boneless."

"Now thatís a plan that has my full approval." John raised one knee to rub his leg against Rodneyís side.

"And itíll keep you from worrying." Rodney shifted to the side and worked his hands under Johnís shirt, easing it upward.

"The things youíre willing to do for my peace of mind." John watched Rodney through heavy-lidded eyes.

"Iím an angel," Rodney murmured, pushing the shirt over Johnís head and tossing it aside before leaning in to lick a trail up Johnís chest, leaving a wet trail in the dark hair there.

"Maybe a porno version of one," John chuckled breathlessly, arching up off the bed to press closer. One hand moved to Rodneyís head, the fingers carding through the soft, dark hair.

"But only for you." Rodney looked up and smiled, then closed his lips around Johnís nipple, sucking at the hardening bud.

"Lucky me," John panted. His hands moved to Rodneyís shoulders, kneading the heavy muscles as he squirmed lazily under Rodneyís solid weight, Rodney continuing to suck at his nipple before finally releasing it and moving across Johnís chest to torment the other peak.

"I love your mouth," John whispered, tugging restlessly at Rodneyís shirt, wanting to touch the warm skin beneath it.

"And I love you," Rodney breathed, pulling back to let John get his shirt off, then dropping down on him to rub their bodies together, their pants providing a teasing, frustrating impediment between their skin.

John smiled. "Love you too," he murmured, hitching his legs up around Rodneyís waist and pushing up. "Love you even more naked," he hinted broadly.

Rodney chuckled and rocked down against Johnís hardening erection, his own straining at his pants. "Yes, Colonel, getting you naked now," he laughed, finally pulling back to work at Johnís belt.

"Good man." John just lay there, letting Rodney undress him, his own hands running over Rodneyís bare chest. He smiled wickedly as he flicked his thumbs over Rodneyís already hard nipples.

"The best," Rodney smirked, pressing into Johnís touch even as he moved off John to tug at his pants, pulling them and his boxer briefs off.

"I know." Finally naked, John stretched luxuriously, enjoying the sensation of the soft sheets against his back and Rodney over him.

Leaning in, Rodney kissed him again before sliding off the bed to strip off his own pants, his erection springing free and bobbing slightly as he bent to grab the lube from the bedside table.

"Mmm, Iím not going to want to sit down tomorrow, am I?" John sounded eager.

Rodney smirked, his lips quirking crookedly. "It might be problematic, but itíll give you something to think about."

"The gift that keeps on giving," John chuckled. "So does that mean I can expect you to repeat the process whenever it starts fading?"

"I think I could be persuaded. Now turn over, Colonel." Rodney smacked his hip with his free hand as he crawled onto the bed again.

John rolled over and wriggled, rubbing his cock against the bed and thrusting his ass at Rodney, who was unable to resist and leaned in to bite at the nearest cheek. John gasped and arched up, his cock hardening even more. "Oh fuck yeah!"

"Soon," Rodney murmured, licking a stripe up the valley before him, then catching Johnís ass in his hands, spreading the firm cheeks to expose the tight hole to his probing tongue.

John whined, his fists clenching in the sheets as his body spasmed, pure pleasure shooting fire along his nerve endings, and Rodney delved deeper, stroking a hand up Johnís thigh as his tongue pressed inside Johnís ass, slowly stretching the muscle. Gasping, John rocked back into each thrust, fucking himself on Rodneyís tongue. "Please," he whimpered.

Rodney responded by pulling back to bite the other side of Johnís ass, his normally sure hands squirting lube over his fingers and the sheet before he slicked himself up, then shoved forward, sinking forward until his balls slapped against Johnís ass.

John let out a deep groan of pained pleasure, his body resisting momentarily before yielding and stretching to accommodate Rodney. "Move!" he rasped.

Rodney only nodded, pulling back and driving forward, unable to restrain himself, intent on feeling John come around and under him. John moaned, surging back to meet each thrust and clenching around Rodney as he tensed, the pleasure ratcheting tighter inside him.

"God, yes," Rodney breathed, reaching around John to circle his cock and stroke it in time with their thrusts.

"Rodney!" John jerked in his grasp, rocking desperately back and forth between Rodneyís hand and cock, so close that every breath was a soft sob of arousal, the breathless sounds driving Rodney on so that he pulled John upright to lean against Rodneyís chest, impaled on his cock.

The sudden shift in position made John cry out, his entire body tightening down before he came hard, the spasms of his climax massaging Rodneyís cock until he gave a guttural cry and drove upward before he came as well.

John leaned back against Rodney, a sated smile on his face, and he murmured softly with contentment. "I like your treatment, Dr. McKay," he said a little later after heíd caught his breath.

"Yes, itís much preferable to Carsonís voodoo mumbo jumbo."

"I think Radek would have something to say about me asking Carson for this type of treatment," John chuckled.

"I think I would have something to say about that!"

"Iím glad to hear it. Otherwise Iíd have to go looking for pods in the lower levels. Your possessiveness is one of my universal constants."

Rodney snorted though he stroked a hand over Johnís chest and kissed his neck. "Unlike you who has no problem with me mentioning a certain blond colonel."

John growled. "Weíre talking about you right now."

"I was just making a point," Rodney chuckled, kissing Johnís throat again.

"Kindly make them without blonds."

"Would it help if I said Iíd rather make it with brunettes now?"

"I donít like the plural there," John grumbled.

Rodney groaned. "One. Singular. Brunette. Who also happens to be an Air Force colonel, the military head of an expedition in the Pegasus Galaxy, and the man I love; is that clear enough?"

"Much better," John said with satisfaction, twisting his upper body and neck so he could kiss Rodney without letting him slip out yet.

"Glad to hear it."

"Good. It might make doing our jobs difficult if I handcuffed us together."

"Yes, being dragged along as you review the troops is high on my list of things to do."

"Iíd have a mutiny!"

"Exactly, so no handcuffs out of the bedroom."

"Gee, and here I had fantasies about the briefing room table."

"Didnít you get enough of that during our little time loop fiasco?"

"There can never be enough sex on tables."

"Is this your new credo?"

"You donít like it?"

"Did I say that?" Rodney felt himself slip out of Johnís ass, and he lowered and rolled them both to the side, curling up behind John and holding him close.

"You had me worried for a moment there." John laid an arm over Rodneyís and nestled back against him, sighing contentedly.

"Idiot," Rodney muttered affectionately.

"But Iím your idiot." Rover rolled over to bump the bed, and John chuckled. "And we both belong to Rover."

It was late and the medical labs were quiet except for Carsonís mutterings as he paced back and forth.

Radek came in, looking for his errant lover, and frowned when he saw Carson. "Whatís wrong?"

"Everything!" Carson whirled and ran his hands through his hair, sending it into further disarray.

Baffled, Radek drew closer and reached out to hug Carson. "What do you mean?" He glanced over at Ciora, who was settled in the corner, looking unhappy.

"Do ye know why I became a doctor, Radek?" Carson asked, standing stiffly in the other manís embrace.

Radek hesitated. "To help people?" he said tentatively.

"Aye," Carson said bitterly, pulling away and walking over to a bench to stare down at a computer monitor. "Ta help people, and look what Iíve become, just like bloody Mengele."

"Carson, love, thatís not true. Youíre helping your own people. I know you never wanted to be part of a war, but we donít have a choice. And it will end someday."

"And what will we all have become by then? How far do we go ta save ourselves? How many more planets like Hoff? How many more people like Elia?"

"Carson, weíre not attacking anyone, and weíre not advocating killing half our population. The UAs are attacking us, and weíre defending ourselves. We havenít gone looking for them. And as for Elia, that was a tragic accident."

Carsonís eyes narrowed. "Oh, aye, Iím sure she would feel like that, and Iím simply positive the colonel does as well."

"It was an accident. You said the serum wasnít ready for testing, and she chose to steal it and use it. Everything after that was tragic and horrible, yes, but it was an accident."

Carson shook his head angrily. "If I hadnae been so damn anxious to play God, she never would have known about the serum ta begin with."

"Oh, Carson, you were trying to find a way not to kill the Wraith. Making them human, separating them from the bug, would have allowed us to co-exist."

"And that worked out so well, didnít it?"

"You tried, love. Thatís more than anyone else did. I will admit that I have no qualms about killing them. Thatís what theyíre trying to do to us. I am not cattle."

"And I am not a soldier!" Carson shouted, banging his fist down on the bench. "How much more, Radek? How much more of my humanity do I have to give up before itís enough?"

Radek sighed. "Only you can answer that. Only you can decide when you canít go any further. For myself, I never expected any of this either, and I know itís not the same; Iím not a doctor. But I will fight as long as I can for myself and our friends. That is my choice."

Without raising his head, Carson slumped to the floor to lean back against the bench, his face buried against his arms. Ciora slowly rolled out of the corner, edging toward him then rubbing against his side, trying to comfort him.

Radek sank down beside them and wrapped his arms around Carson, holding him tightly. "I love you," he murmured.

Carson remained stiff for a moment before slumping against Radekís side, pressing his face against the other manís shoulder. "Iím sorry, I had no right ta throw all that on ye, love."

"Of course you did. Weíre partners, Carson. That means Iím here for you when you need me. I would be most annoyed if you did not unburden yourself to me."

Carson remained silent, only raising a hand to pet Ciora and Reza when the other cart joined them as well. "Most annoyed?" he finally asked.

"More annoyed than even Rodney can get," Radek affirmed.

"Thatís verra annoyed."

"Precisely," Radek nodded. "So it would be best not to put it to the test."

Carson raised his head and nodded. "Iíll do my best not to then. I wouldnae want ta see ye that annoyed; it might scare the lasses."

Reza and Ciora both nudged him as if scoffing at the idea while Radek chuckled. "We wouldnít want that."

"Not in the least." Carsonís slight smile died away as he sobered again. "I believe Iím close to developing the bioweapon the colonel was asking for."

"Ah." Radekís soft exhalation was redolent with comprehension. "And will you tell him that?"

Carson nodded. "Aye. It isnae about what I want in this situation; itís about what will help us survive."

Radekís arms tightened around Carson. "Iím always here if you want to talk about it."

"Thank you, love," Carson whispered, relaxing into Radekís embrace again as he shifted to hold onto him as well.

"Thatís what Iím here for." Radek turned his head to press a kiss to Carsonís temple.

"I dinna know what Iíd do without yeówithout all of ye."

"I donít ever intend to let you find out," Radek replied while Reza and Ciora pressed a little closer, clearly in complete agreement.

Carson tilted his head up to give Radek a gentle kiss and took a deep breath. "So, I need ta tell John and Elizabeth."

"Yes. And to rein Rodney in when he starts creating absurd plans."

"We wonít be taking the virus out of Atlantis," Carson warned.

Radek nodded. "I believe the colonel will agree with you. He does not enjoy killing. I believe we would all be happy to see this used purely as a defensive weapon. Other than Col. Caldwell, of course, but it is not up to him."

"Iíll have a bloody word or two for the man if he suggests it."

Radek chuckled. "Iím sure you could send him scurrying back to the Milky Way galaxy."

Carson managed a small smile and sighed. "Is it wrong of me ta wish they never come?"

"Of course not. You would be mad to want a war to start. But we all know that itís very unlikely that they wonít," Radek said, his arms tightening around Carson for a moment. "And I will admit that I am very glad youíre a doctor, love. Itís hard enough knowing that everyone will be in danger, but if you were in the fighting..." He shuddered. "I would not like to be Rodney or Miko."

"Nor I," Carson murmured. "Having my lover on the frontlines would be horrible."

Radek nodded. "I donít care how selfish it is; Iím glad I donít have to worry about that with you."

"Aye, I do feel the same," Carson sighed before straightening up. "And as lovely as this is, itís not getting my talk with the colonel and Elizabeth over with."

Ciora pressed tight against Carsonís leg, clearly offering her support. "Do you wish me to come with you?" Radek offered.

"Thank ye for the offer, love, but I believe I can handle itóand Iím sure ye have duties ta attend ta." Carson smiled slightly as he spoke, then kissed Radekís temple.

"I have a little time." Radek smiled crookedly. "The colonel dragged Rodney out of the lab. I do not think he will be back for a little while."

"Though that means the colonel wonít be available for any conversation for a while either. Perhaps Elizabeth and Paul?"

Radek nodded. "Yes. And itís perhaps best. John has some issues with the whole thing, for understandable reasons. No need to make him uncomfortable thinking about it beforetime."

"Aye." Carson slowly got to his feet, Ciora floating upward to help him stand. "Though I must say it makes me uncomfortable to speak of it as well."

"Ah, you misunderstand me. I do not believe the colonel has an issue with the morality of it; itís the memories of being turned into a bug-thing that bother him."

"Ahh." Looking unhappy once more, Carson keyed his earpiece to let Elizabeth and Paul know he needed to speak to them.

Radek started to say something but, realizing that he wasnít going to be able to convince Carson that no one, especially not John, blamed him for that episode, he simply hugged Carson. Turning to leave, he smiled when he saw both Ciora and Reza staying close to Carson, offering him their comfort and support.

 

 

"SGA-10 is coming in hot!" Chuck Bryan announced. "I have Sgt. Harrisonís IDC confirmed."

Jack OíNeill had been with Elizabeth, helping her with a section of the database that was familiar to him from the times heíd had the whole thing downloaded into his brain, and his head jerked up at the announcement.

"Open the shield, Sergeant," Elizabeth ordered, noting the security teams racing into the gate room and taking a defensive position.

Jack stood next to her, his fists clenched at his sides as he waited for Laura and her team to come through the gate.

As Lt. Bates and more security personnel raced into the room, the shield dropped and the off-world team tumbled through, accompanied by flashes of stunner fire and the staccato bursts of their own shots. "Wraith! Shut it down!" Laura shouted, watching in horror as several of the white-haired aliens followed them through the event horizon.

Jack was already running down the stairs, firing his sidearm at the Wraith as all hell seemed to break lose in the control room and security doors slammed shut in response to the invasion.

Sgt. Harrison knocked Dr. Kavanagh to the ground as a Wraith lunged at him, clearing the path for Laura and Sgt. Matthews to fire at the thing, knocking it back into the security forceís line of fire.

Jack grabbed Kavanagh by his collar and yanked him across the floor to cover behind a console. "Either use that gun youíre carrying, or stay out of the way," he growled, crouching down to fire at a Wraith trying to get farther into the room.

"Thank you for that helpfuló" Kavanaghís eyes widened, and he raised his pistol to shoot over Jackís shoulder at the Wraith coming up behind him, obliterating its face.

Jack nodded sharply in thanks. "Keep your head down," he warned as he moved away, trying to get closer to Laura.

"Dr. Weir, stay down!" Bates shouted as he and his team tried to herd the remaining Wraith into a corner away from the civilians.

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Iím unarmed; what does he think Iím going to do?" she muttered to Sgt. Bryan.

Despite the danger, he chuckled. "This is Bates, maíam; heís always stating the obvious."

About to reply, Elizabethís attention was drawn to the security doors when pounding began. She could hear muffled yells, and although she couldnít make the voices out, she was sure that John and Rodneyís were among them. "Can you get the security doors open to let the cavalry in?"

"Iím trying, but I think Col. Sheppard will have more luck with the city than I am," Chuck responded as he tried every command he knew to get at least one set of doors open, ducking from time to time as shots and screams rang out by the gate.

"Well, helping him canít hurt," Elizabeth said just before yanking him back down as a shot rang out. "On second thought..."

"Stay down!" Bates yelled, as another Wraith was killed.

"Good idea!" John yelled as Atlantis finally yielded to him and opened the security doors, letting him and the many Marines behind him into the room. Groups of them each concentrated fire on the two remaining Wraith, sending a barrage of bullets into their heads until they died.

John looked around. "Report!"

"Sir, we were negotiating with the native population on M78-2B3 when the Wraith attacked," Laura stated as Bates came up beside her.

"The room is secure, sir!"

"Casualties?" John barked, his eyes rapidly taking in the clustered people in the control room. Rover was keeping close to Rodney, and Jaffa was keeping a close eye on both OíNeill and Cadman.

"Garrett and MacIlroy are dead, sir," Harrison reported after checking the bodies near him.

Rodney looked up from the console where he was shutting off the alarms and opening up the rest of the doors to the control room while Rover prowled restlessly near him.

"Are we sure that all the Wraith are accounted for?" John asked.

"Four came in," Matthews offered as he helped Kavanagh to his feet.

"And four are dead," Laura added, cutting a glance toward the two dead Marines.

"There arenít any on the bioscanner," Rodney reported.

"Good job, people." John slowly relaxed as he accepted that the situation was over. "Cadman, debriefing in one hour. I need to know how the Wraith got through so we can try to prevent it from happening again."

"Yes, sir," she nodded, stroking a hand over Jaffaís sensor array when the cart came over to her.

"The shieldís at full power," Rodney reported, carefully not looking at the dead and desiccated Marines.

"Thatís the last of the teams in, right?" John waited for Chuck Bryanís nod before continuing. "Then letís keep that shield up. We donít have any missions scheduled for the rest of the day, so weíll just keep quiet for a while." He looked over at Cadman. "Is there any way they could have seen the gate coordinates?"

She shook her head. "They werenít near when we dialed."

"Then weíre in the clear." John slid an arm around Rodneyís shoulders and patted Roverís sensor array.

"We hope," Rodney muttered, continuing to peer at the life signs scanner for any indication that more Wraith were nearby.

"Math never lies. Four came, four died. Weíre good." John hugged him, and Rover pressed in against both of them.

"All right, letís take care of our own and get rid of the garbage," Bates ordered.

"I think Dr. Beckett and his staff will do the taking care of," John observed, seeing Carson come in, followed by several other doctors and nurses.

"I think youíd better add Calvin to the being taken care of roster," Laura murmured, watching Sgt. Harrison help the dazed-looking scientist to his feet.

"Are you sure youíre okay?" Jack asked, still checking Laura over visually.

"I really, really hate those things," she growled.

Carson and his staff hurried in, most getting to work on the wounded while others took care of the dead Marines and got rid of the Wraith.

"We all do," Jack agreed. "I never thought Iíd miss the snakes."

"At least with them we had allies," Rodney sighed.

"It helps," Jack agreed. "But allies or not, weíll take them down."

"Just like we did here," Rodney murmured.

"Weíre a good team," John agreed, raising an arm to wrap it around Rodneyís shoulders.

"Yeah, we all are," Rodney murmured, leaning against Johnís side and resting his head on his shoulder for a moment.

Rover bumped their legs and John smiled crookedly. "Of course youíre part of that team, Rover. You keep saving us."

Col. Davis walked over to them, smiling slightly at the tight grouping, though his dark eyes were solemn. "Elizabethís holding a debriefing for Lt. Cadmanís team; we thought youíd want to be there."

John raised an eyebrow. "As the senior officer of Atlantis, damn right!" He didnít need to ask Rodney since the scientist was already moving toward the conference room and Rover was nudging at John to follow.

"Long day," Rodney commented when the debriefing and the meeting that followed it finally broke up.

"Hell yeah," John sighed, raking a hand through his already messy hair to no discernable effect. "Wraith in the control room is never good. On the plus side, it was nothing to do with that damn mirror. I know itís shielded now, but I keep thinking we havenít seen the last of it."

"I know," Rodney sighed. "How about we talk a walk and check in on it thoughójust to make sure itís quiet."

"And maybe find a quiet corner to enjoy ourselves for a few minutes?"

"Sounds perfect to me." Rodney murmured before chuckling tiredly when Rover zipped off. "I think heís going to get us something to drink for that formeróeither that or a pillow."

"Or both. He likes to cover all his bases." John smiled slightly. "Weíre going to have to come up with a better defense for the control room. That was much too close. Of course, Bates is probably drafting plans and contingencies and contingencies for contingencies as we speak."

"Thatís his job, so let him do it. Lindstrom will drag him away if he gets psychotic about it."

"And worrying about the safety of everyone in this city is my job," John pointed out. "Yours is to distract me." He grinned.

Rodney snorted at that. "In between saving everyoneís life from the next technological crisis."

"As you keep telling us, youíre a genius. You can multi-task."

"Of course!"

John laughed. "Letís check on the mirror, then take an hour or so for ourselves, and you can show me just how good you are."

Rodney sniffed disdainfully at that as they headed toward a transporter. "For me to do that, it would take much longer than an hour."

"Consider it a teaser."

The only answer he got was a snort.

"Or we could go check on the mirror, then go get something to eat and just relax alone for that hour."

"Relax? Do we know the meaning of that word?"

"Everyone should develop new skills."

"Hrmmm, just so long as you donít tell me humility is one of the skills I need to develop."

John snorted. "Thatíd be too much of a stretch even here where I believe six impossible things before breakfast."

Rodney smirked at that. "Smart man." They took the transporter to the one nearest to the room where the mirror was kept and headed down the hallway. "Well, the guards are still there..."

"Always a plus. Court martials are such a pain." John shook his head. "Where did you think theyíd be?"

"I donít knowódead?"

"Thatís what I love about you, Rodney: youíre such an eternal optimist."

He shrugged. "It saves me from being disappointed."

"And here I thought that was my job."

Rodneyís smirk softened into a smile at that. "And you do admirably at it, Colonel."

John grinned at him before nodding at the guards and opening the door to look inside. "Looks the same to me."

"Yes, yes, but we all know looks can be deceiving," Rodney commented, ignoring the guards as he dragged a scanner out of his jacket pocket and began examining the shield. "It seems to be secure," he announced after a time.

"At least somethingís going right. Now letís go find Rover and get some lunch."

"That sounds good to me, Colonel." Rodney leveled a sharp glare at the guards. "I want to be told immediately if anything goes on with the shield."

"Yes, sir, those are our orders," the Marine corporal agreed, making John duck his head to hide a grin.

"Yes, well, Iím just reminding you," Rodney sniffed before heading out into the hall where Rover was just turning toward them.

John followed him out, pausing to pat Rover. "Back to our quarters? Itís about the only place weíre going to get privacy unless you want to go exploring."

"Maybe find a balcony somewhere? It looks like Rover brought a picnic."

"Sounds good. We can get fresh air while no oneís shooting at us, enjoy a meal, and achieve that elusive relaxation we were talking about."

Rodney groaned happily at the thought. "If I fall asleep, wake me in an hour."

"I think we can count on Rover for that. Iím hoping to catch a nap too."

Rover clacked his pincers together at that, making Rodney chuckle. "Our personal alarm clock."

"I hate to tell you this, Rodney, but I think Rover beat you out for the title of King of Multi-tasking."

"Well, Iím not going to argue with him about it," Rodney laughed, then petted the cart, causing him to wiggle.

"Wise decision," John murmured, watching the pair of them fondly. "So, west tower?"

"You want to check on your Ferris wheel?"

"Oh, good idea!" John beamed.

"Should we just go to the west pier then?"

"Sure. We can enjoy our picnic, then nap on the wheel."

"If I get nauseous, Iím going to throw up on you on purpose."

John rolled his eyes. "Yes, Rodney."

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

"Yes, Rodney." John gave him an exaggerated leer, hazel eyes sparkling with mirth.

"Pervert," Rodney sighed, bumping against Johnís side as they walked along.

"And you love it."

"Well, yes, there is that."

Rover scraped along the wall, making a snickering sound.

John grinned. "Do you ever wonder what theyíll make of us in the histories whenever this finally all goes public?"

"Hrmmm, if things stay the way they are in America, probably that the two saviors of Atlantis were best friends but nothing more."

John snorted. "Iím sure someone will figure it out eventually, but actually I meant the whole thing, Wraith, UAs, ascended Ancients, Rover and the other carts, everything weíve done here."

"Thatís a good question," Rodney murmured as they walked out onto the pier, Rover zipping ahead to set up their picnic. "Iím sure less than a third will actually be released when and if Atlantis is ever declassified."

"You mean you donít think itíll fit in with the propaganda machineís efforts to let people know that the so-called heroes were real people who were just as prone to messing up as anyone else?" John replied cynically. "And this is just another reason why weíve earned this relaxation."

"Hey." Rodney caught John by the arm and turned him so they were facing each other. "Do you really care what someone who hasnít gone through this thinks about any of it? The only people who matter are here."

"No, I donít really. Itís just nuts, you know?" John shook his head and shook off the mood at the same time.

Rodney nodded and kissed John gently. "Yeah, I know."

"Good thing I have you two to keep my head on straight."

"Damn right it is," Rodney chuckled as Rodney scooted over to lightly bang against Johnís legs.

John petted Rover before dropping down to sit on the pier and patting the ground beside him to induce Rodney to join him. "So letís get this picnic started."

Rodney dropped down beside him and groaned as he stretched out his legs. "This is where I rest my head in your lap and you feed me, right?" he asked, grinning hopefully.

"I suppose I could manage that, just this once." John grinned at him. "And Iíll expect adequate compensation later."

"I think I can manage that," Rodney murmured, rearranging himself comfortably and closing his eyes. John smiled down at him and stroked his hair, both of them enjoying this rare moment of peace.

Rover set a tray down next to them within easy reach. Heíd brought sandwiches, a thermos of coffee, water for John, and fruit.

"Mmm, thanks, Rover. God, I could stay like this for a year or so," Rodney sighed, shifting slightly to press his head against Johnís hand.

"Someday," John vowed, continuing to pet him.

"Once we get to that island."

Even Rover seemed to sigh, thinking about it.

"Till then, we grab time like this when we can."

"And enjoy it even more for the rarity." Rodney reached over and grabbed one of the sandwiches Rover had brought before realizing that he couldnít eat it in their current position and, sighing, sat up.

"I was wondering how you were going to manage to swallow," John chuckled, helping himself to a sandwich as well.

"Ha ha," Rodney snorted, stroking Roverís sensor array before pouring himself a mug of coffee while taking a bite of his sandwich.

"Hey, I have years of plans for you. Choking to death on a sandwich isnít anywhere in them."

"Mmm, my hero," Rodney chuckled, leaning against Johnís side and gazing out at the water as they both ate, chatting from time to time but not really saying anything, just enjoying the brief moment of peace.

Once there was nothing left of their lunch but crumbs and precious few of those, John asked, "So, ready for that ride, or would you rather just stretch out here and nap?"

"Considering Roverís heading that way already, letís go for a ride," Rodney answered, setting aside the now empty thermos and getting up, dusting off his palms on his pants before holding out a hand to John to help him up as well.

John caught hold of the offered hand and rose to his feet, then used it to draw Rodney close for a light kiss. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you, Dr. McKay?"

Rodney tilted his head to the side, considering the question. "Not today, but thatís all right; I know you do, just like you know I love you." He grinned slightly at that and, keeping hold of Johnís hand, pulled him toward the Ferris wheel.

"Smug bastard," John chuckled as they settled into their seat while Rover got into his.

"Would you rather I be all clingy and insecure?" Rodney asked, half-turning and leaning back against the side of the seat, wrapping an arm around John and pulling him back to lean against his chest.

"Well, clingy might be fun..." John mused, grinning at Rodneyís expression.

"Not in this lifetime, Colonel."

"You know I canít resist a challenge."

"I am not going to follow you around cooing like some love-struck puppy!"

"That would be nauseating!" John made a face. "I was thinking more in bed once in a while."

Rodney chuckled at that. "Let me get this straight; you want me to be clingy and awestruck at your sexual prowess in bed once in a while?"

"You should always be awestruck by my extraordinary sexual prowess," John retorted. "Clingy can be an infrequent result."

"You know, making me want to retch just after Iíve eaten isnít a good thing."

John pouted, making Rodney groan. "Fine, fine, next time, Iíll cling to you in wonder at your amazing skills."

"Perfect!" John grinned at him.

Rodney just rolled his eyes.

"Good thing you love me, huh?"

"For both of us."

Johnís grin softened into a tender smile. "You and Rover make up for a hell of a lot."

Rodney nodded and stroked a hand over Johnís chest. "Well, of course we do, though I will say I doubt I could have survived here without the two of you."

"If this is co-dependency, I never want to get over it."

"Hrmmm, we should get Rover a bumper sticker that says that," Rodney chuckled, his laughter growing when Rover banged a pincer against the side of his seat in agreement or annoyanceóit was hard to tell.

John glanced back at the cart, grinning. "Maybe we should skip the bumper stickers."

"Or maybe Iíll put it on you next to the one that says ĎProperty of Dr. Rodney McKayí."

"And you know damn well I donít have a problem with that. Aside from Caldwell and idiots like him," John sighed. "That part of the time loop was fun, wasnít it?"

Rodney snickered at that. "That and Kavanaghís hair."

Rover made a sound like a victory cheer behind them, making both men laugh. "Yes, we know you enjoyed it, but you canít do it again," John chuckled.

"And we arenít going to get stuck in another loop just so you can," Rodney added.

"God no!" John exclaimed, shuddering faintly.

Rodneyís watch beeped then, and he sighed. "Looks like the moment of respite is over; back to being our amazing selves."

"It was longer than we usually get." John pressed the control to stop the ride. "At least no crisis interrupted us."

"Shh, donít jinx us!" Rodney exclaimed, opening the safety bar and stepping down, turning to watch Rover float down as well.

"I thought you were too smart to buy into superstitions?" John teased.

"I am," Rodney sniffed. "Iíd just rather not take chances with our quiet time."

"Good point.. But itís back to work for us now anyhow."

"Back to the reports for you while Rover and I head to the lab to see just what people have messed up."

"I hate paperwork," John grumbled.

"You need a secretary."

"We call them aides in the military.." But John was thinking about it. This past year had proved that despite all its advantages, contact with Earth also meant vastly increased paperwork, more than he could keep up with and still keep his team going through the gate.

"Fine, just so long as this Ďaideí is a fifty-year-old man or woman with no interest in you at all."

"How many times do I have to tell you that not every person in two galaxies is after my body?" John laughed.

"Iím just making sure there arenít going to be any problems; call it proactive planning."

"Yes, Rodney." John rolled his eyes.

"Just like you made sure that Sam didnít go near me when she was here."

"Col. Carter is someone youíve been drooling over longer than Iíve known you. That was entirely different," John grumbled.

"John, youíre gorgeous and you know it; Iím not going to argue about it." Rodney caught him and kissed him. "Now go do your paperwork."

"Meet me for dinner?"

"Of course, and Iíll be dessert." Rodney grinned, patted John on the ass, and headed down the corridor, Rover at his side.

John was grinning as he made his way back to his office, and the smile only dimmed slightly when he found Lorne, Cadman, OíNeill, Bates, Lindstrom and Stackhouse waiting for him. He looked at his officers and sighed.

"So whatís the situation?"

Lorne deferred to Cadman as the one with the most recent direct experience with the Wraith.

"We had no intel that the Wraith were on XP4-37Q, sir," she said. "And they were there when we arrived; there was no gate activity during our stay."

"Sounds like there was nothing we could have done," Bates offered. "Now we need to figure out how to keep it from happening again."

"Even with the supplies from the Daedalus runs, we need trade with the local systems," Stackhouse put in.

"We definitely canít cut ourselves off from the entire galaxy," John agreed, running his hands through his hair in frustration. "But Wraith in the control room is bad."

Lorne rolled his eyes. "Noted, sir."

"Were they culling the locals?" Lisa asked.

Laura shook her head. "No, and we didnít see any darts either."

"Ambush," Bates muttered.

"Waiting for us?" Jack mused. "Could be. We know that the Wraith are just as intelligent as we are, so itís not impossible that they might change their tactics to deal with us. The question is, what do we do about it?"

"We need the geek squad to develop life sign scanners that can find Wraith specifically and quickly," John said. "Surprise attacks have to be avoided."

"But theyíve been trying for months," Lisa pointed out.

"So theyíll have to try harder," Bates stated.

"You can be the one to tell McKay that," Lorne murmured.

"But let us know first so we can look for a fallout shelter," John said bluntly. "And so I can figure out what to do with your body."

"Donít look at me," Lisa said when Bates glanced her way. "Lokiís not going with you either."

"Smart cart," Jack said, glancing down at Jaffa, who showed no signs of moving. "None of them are going to take on McKay and Rover."

"But I will suggest to Rodney that itís a higher priority now," John said. "He works well under pressure."

"Especially with the right incentiveósir," Laura offered.

John smirked. "Whatever works."

"Yeah, we all know what a sacrifice that is for you. Sir," Jack added belatedly.

The other officers snickered though most tried to hide the noise behind their hands.

Johnís eyebrows rose. "Is there anyone in this room who really wants to start discussing incentives? Maybe I should get Sgt. Bryan and Dr. Takata to join us?"

"No, sir, really, thereís no need for that," Leo said quickly.

"None at all," Lorne added equally quickly while the other four officers nodded emphatically.

"Didnít think so," John said smugly.

"So while McKay and his team work on that, are we staying here?"

John slowly shook his head. "Iíll have to run it past Dr. Weir, but I donít think we can hole up here. Thatíd just give the Wraith more time to set up ambushes for us. We still need supplies and allies."

"Iíd recommend doubling the team size, sir," Bates suggested.

John nodded slowly. "Good idea. Weíll go over the roster and see which teams can double up without personnel issues." He grinned quickly at Jack and Laura.

Lorne nodded. "We may want to double the guards in the gate room as well."

"Iíd guess thatís already taken care of?" John said, looking a question at Bates.

"First thing after the gate room was cleared."

"Gotta love teamwork," Lisa murmured.

About to reply, John was forestalled by a claxon-like ringing over the comm system. "What the hell?" he yelped as everyone ripped their earpieces off.

The carts in the room whirled in circles, their pincers raised.

The noise cut out to be replaced by Rodneyís irate shout over the comm system. "Sheppard, what did your people do to set that off?!"

Warily replacing his earpiece, John retorted, "Not us! Weíre sitting in my office, so check with your own people!"

"Every military person on Atlantis is in your office?"

"No, Rodney, just the usual culprits. Since OíNeill, Lindstrom, Lorne, and Stackhouse are all here with me and couldnít have activated any Ancient alarm systems, why donít you find out who did!"

Rodneyís grumbling was audible over the loudspeakers. "On it."

"Calvinís in medical," Laura said before anyone could suggest it.

"So not our culprit this time," John interpreted. "Pity, Rodney would have enjoyed making him clean the sewers again."

"Youíre talking about a member of my team, sir," she reminded him.

"Which is why heís still intact," John replied. "The manís a menace and has done nearly as much to me as the damned Wraith. Though I will admit that heís improved some since being on your team."

"Some," Bates murmured.

"He is annoying, Laur," Jack said.

She shrugged in response. "Not arguing that, but he saved our lives on MK2-73V."

"Now, if heíd just stop messing around with systems Rodney tells him to leave alone, weíd all be a lot better off," Lisa said. "But since heís obviously not responsible this time, this isnít helping us."

"I doubt weíll have any luck," John said. "Thatís what we have McKay and Zelenka for."

"Nothing!" Rodney exclaimed, glaring at Radek as if the noise was all his fault. "Nothing in any of the systems?"

"That is what I said. Should I ask Carson to check your hearing?"

"How can there be nothing? We donít even know what tripped the alarm!"

"Yelling will not change facts. There is nothing to find in the system."

Rodney scowled and punched in another diagnostic. "There were Wraith in the city earlier today in case you missed that fact, Radek. The fact that an alarm goes off not long after is not heartening!"

"They never got out of the control room," Radek retorted. "I donít see how they could have anything to do with it."

"Then what caused it?"

"Do I look like God? I donít know!" Radek glared at Rodney. "We need to continue investigating."

"Yes, we do, so why arenít you?"

Radek growled and seriously thought about attacking Rodney until he glanced down and saw Rover raising a pincer menacingly. Radek growled again and buried himself under a console, refusing to say another word.

"Always so touchy about everything," Rodney murmured, getting back to his own investigations.

A stream of Czech was the only reply, making John laugh as he arrived in time to hear it. "Whatíve you done to Radek now?"

Rodney shrugged. "Told him to do his job, I donít see why he takes such offence at it."

John gave him a look of disbelief. "And Iím sure there were no insults involved."

"Of course not!" Rodney looked shocked. "Telling a man to do his job is not an insult!"

Every person in the vicinity stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at Rodney.

"What are you looking at?" he yelled, glaring at them. "Am I the only one here with a work ethicóother than you, Rover." This was added when the cart banged his shin.

John crossed his arms over his chest and stared silently at Rodney, one eyebrow raised.

"What?" Rodney demanded. "And if youíre asking, no, I havenít found what caused that alarm."

"So you and Rover are the only people here with a work ethic, are you?" John was still regarding Rodney narrowly, and even Rover seemed to wince.

Realizing what heíd said, Rodney back-pedaled quickly. "No, no, of course not, you know how I get, Colonel..."

"Uh huh. Let me know when you make progress with figuring out what happened to the system." John turned to leave.

"Colonel... Damnit, John, Iím sorry!" Rodney shouted, causing everyone to stare at him for the second time in as many minutes.

John stopped at the door, sighing, and turned to face Rodney again. "No, I know how you get; I overreacted. Sorry." He raked a hand through his hair. "None of us are at our best at the moment."

"Thereís an understatement if Iíve ever heard one," Rodney sighed, some of the tension leaving his body. "So, was there something you needed?"

"A progress report, which youíve given me. And I needed a short break from my own office before I went nuts," John admitted with a faint smile.

Radekís head popped out from the console. "Go! Take McKay with you. Break will save lives!"

"I donít have time for a..." Rodney winced at Radekís expression, then nodded. "Fine, fifteen minutes." He ignored the muttered "thank God" that greeted his statement.

Once Rodney, John and Rover were gone, Radek stood up. "Everyone, five minutes break now. And not one minute more! We will all be working when Rodney returns."

"Dr. McKay is so tense," Miko murmured as she stroked Maemiís sensor array. "I hope he will be all right."

Radek rolled his eyes. "Heís always tense. Itís his natural state. And as long as he has the colonel, Rover, and coffee, heíll be fine."

She nodded at that. "I do hope so. And I am going to go take my five minutes. Come, Maemi, we should make sure Leo has eaten."

"It is a wonder to me that Lt. Stackhouse isnít the size of an elephant with all she feeds him," Radek murmured, shaking his head as he went to get some coffee.

"Operations to McKay."

"What is it now?" Rodney moaned as he struggled to reset the main crystals for the water filtration system. "I swear itís like the damned warranty ran out on this place!"

"A novel explanation, Rodney," Elizabeth said. "However, I rather doubt thatís the case, so have you made any progress in discovering the cause while treating all the symptoms?"

"If I had five minutes to stop treating the symptoms, Iím sure I would have," he snapped. "As it is, all I can tell you is that my staff is going to keel over dead in the next two days if this doesnít stopómyself included!"

She sighed. "Understood. Let me know if you find anything new. Weir out." After signing off, she turned to John and Paul, who were sitting in her office, both looking as worn out as everyone else in the city.

"John, you know Rodney best. How much is he exaggerating?"

"Unfortunately, not at all. I donít think anyone on the hard science staff has had more than a few snatched minutes of sleep in days, and that also goes for all the gene carriers, not to mention anyone with the slightest hint of mechanical aptitude who can help. Hell, heís even leaving Kavanagh in charge of some things."

"And no sign of a root cause in any of the systems," Paul murmured, looking over the latest cobbled-together reports.

"What it looks like is deliberate sabotage by someone who knows the systems, but frankly the only people who know the systems well enough to do this much damage are Rodney himself and Zelenka. And I really doubt either of them is responsible."

"So what are you saying, John? We have another intruder?" Elizabeth bit back a groan.

Paul frowned as he brought up several recent scans of the city. "We know no Wraith got through, and all our personnel are accounted for..." He paused, hating the thought heíd just had but knowing from John and Elizabethís expressions that they had had it too. "Now may be the time to see if Rodney and Radekís UA scan settings work."

John nodded unhappily. "Itís the only thing that makes sense."

"And will be the hardest thing to deal with. Three weeks, assuming they infiltrated during the Wraith incursion," Elizabeth murmured. "Do we still control anything?"

"I have a feeling Rodney and his team may have been more than they bargained for. Not to mention me and OíNeill."

"Iíd suggest keeping this information as quiet as possible until we know just how far theyíve gotten into the systems," Paul suggested.

"We have to tell Rodney or heíll mount his own coup when he finds out," John warned.

Elizabeth nodded. "He is the one who knows the systems best; for now I think this goes no farther than us, Rodney, and Lt. Bates."

John nodded in turn. "Makes sense. Though you realize Radek will probably figure it out, of course?"

Elizabeth smiled wryly. "He usually does, but he never tells anyone. I think we can trust Dr. Zelenka."

"What about Carson?" Paul asked, glancing from one to the other.

"Heís a physician, and this is a military situation. He has no need to know," John said bluntly.

"But he is one of my senior staff, so when we do release the information, he will be informed beforehand," Elizabeth said quietly. "Johnís right; having the information would have no effect on Carsonís efforts. For now, we restrict it to those who need to know."

Paul nodded at that. "All right, smaller numbers makes the information easier to control."

"Exactly. We donít want to start a panic, not that our people are prone to them," Johnís gaze dared either of them to mention Rodney, "so we wait until we have proof and a plan. And now we need Rodney."

Nodding her agreement, Elizabeth called Rodney again. "Rodney? I need to see you in my office right away."

"Right away? Elizabeth, Iím in the middle of fixing the water filtration system, or do you want the entire city down with dysentery because they drank from a cesspool? If this is about the systems problems, no, I havenít found the cause of them in the last ten minutes!"

John cut in. "Rodney, we really need you here. Canít you get someone to take over for you?"

There was a momentís silence in which all of them knew Rodney was muttering and swearing. "Fine, fine; Iíll be there in fifteen minutes unless you care if I show up sopping wet."

"Weíll have a towel waiting."

"I donít believe this," Rodney muttered to himself after ending that asinine conversation and ordering Simpson to where he was so that she could finish his mostly complete repairs.

Just inside of five minutes later a soggy Rodney McKay followed by an equally damp Rover stomped into Elizabethís office to glare at John. "If I get chafed, itís on your head." Saying that, he flopped into a chair with an indelicate squish.

"We think the UAs managed to infiltrate the city when the Wraith broke through three weeks ago and theyíre responsible for all the problems weíre having," John said bluntly, ignoring Rodneyís complaints.

"And then Iíll have to go see Carson and WHAT?" Rodney exclaimed, all thoughts of discomfort evaporating from his mind. "Here? Now? Why havenít we seen them? Oh my god, it all makes sense now!" He looked around wildly as if expecting a UA to jump out from behind Elizabethís chair.

"We need to find out just how many of the systems theyíve gotten into," Paul said, cutting off another bout of excited babbling.

"And weíre keeping it to those of us in this room until we know more," Elizabeth added warningly.

"But, Radekó" Rodney protested.

Elizabeth hesitated before finally nodding. "As John pointed out, heíd probably just figure it out on his own anyway. Very well, you can tell him, but no one else."

"Not that I need his help, of course."

"Of course," Paul said dryly.

"Itís always helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off," Elizabeth said diplomatically.

Rodney brightened. "Exactly!"

"I always knew you only wanted me for my body."

"Oh hush, youíre going to be there to deal with the UAs who are undoubtedly going to try to kill me once I discover that theyíre here." Rodney shuddered at the last, and Rover moved closer, pressing against his side.

Johnís expression turned cold, and Paul and Elizabeth had no doubt that it would be a very sorry UA who tried to hurt Rodney while the colonel was alive. Rodney reached out and clasped Johnís hand, tightening his fingers around Johnís before letting go.

"Rodney has a good point," John said. "Once the UAs realize weíre on to them, Rodney and Radek will be prime targets. We need guards on them, with the gene."

"Weíre also going to have to increase security around the ZPM at that time," Paul commented.

Rodney nodded. "And the naquadah generators."

"Weíre so vulnerable to attack," Elizabeth breathed. "None of our defenses are geared against attackers who possess the gene."

"Not true," John said bracingly. "Ever since we realized who and what the UAs really are, the scientists have working on ways to guard our systems against them. Weíre not completely helpless."

"Exactly," Rodney said, rubbing his hands together. "Carsonís voodoo came in handy, and I designed a security loop that will keep any non-human from sabotaging or using the systemsóthough Iím not sure whatís going to happen since theyíre already in the systems."

"As long as the city doesnít sink again," Elizabeth said with a wry smile, lightening the mood.

Paul chuckled at that. "Iíll round up the life preservers."

"If anyone starts singing that song from the movie about the boat, Rover is going to kill them for me," Rodney sniffed.

Johnís face split into a wide grin, and he took a deep breath, about to break into song, but stopped when Rover whirled toward him and pinched him on the thigh. "Hey! Iím supposed to be exempt from these threats," he groused while Paul and Elizabeth laughed.

"Sorry, no one is immune from that particular threat."

John pouted.

"All right," Elizabeth said, standing up, "weíre clearly not going to accomplish anything more. Leave!"

After watching John, Rodney and Rover file out, Paul chuckled. "I love it when you use that tone of voice."

"How many systems do we have left?" Rodney mumbled as he sat up and rubbed his back, blinking to try and clear his eyes.

"How many did we start with?" Radek replied with another question, deciding that it was a wasted effort to try to focus on the panel. Both men were long past exhaustion, having been up even longer than their personal bestóor worstóduring the Wraith attack at the end of their first year here.

"All of them; weíre at... something less than that, but I think weíve checked most of the critical ones."

Radek nodded. "Shields, power, control chair, water desalinization, control room, gate controls... did we check the star drive?" he asked with dawning horror.

"Oh fuck," Rodney groaned even as he frantically called up another screen on the console.

"And why would the two of ye have ta be looking at the star drive?" Carson asked from the doorway, his posture and Cioraís agitated rocking giving a clear picture of his mental state.

Both heads whipped around, their expression akin to guilty schoolboys, and Radek cravenly took a step back. Rodney was the chief of the sciences division; let him handle the chief physician. Radek wanted to have a bed to sleep in if he ever again got a chance to do so.

"Well?" Carson asked, stroking his cart as she ignored Rover and Rezaís approach.

"Carson!" Rodney started before clearing his throat. "We were just going over the schematicsómust have lost track of time."

"Fer three days? And itís quite interesting that yeíve been requesting stimulants and that the requests havenae come through me."

Radek swallowed hard. "We know how busy youíve been and didnít want to bother you," he offered feebly.

"Iíve been busy?!" Carsonís voice was just this side of a shout. "Iím nae the one who hasnae been at home the past two nights, now am I? What the bloody hell is going on here?"

Rodney sighed and took a deep breath. "The UAs."

Radek winced, waiting for the explosion.

"The UAs? What about the UAs?"

"We think there are some in the city." Radek hunched his shoulders protectively.

"And just when were ye planning on telling me this fact?"

"Itís not our fault!" Rodney exclaimed. "It was on a need to know basis, and for the moment you didnít need to know!"

"Elizabeth was planning to tell you soon, before anyone else," Radek said placatingly.

"Soon? When is soon? When people start dying?"

"Before then, of course!"

"Once we have safeguards in place and a plan," Radek explained.

"Which will be when?"

"Whenówhen theyíre ready," Rodney stammered.

"Soon," Radek added.

Carsonís narrowed gaze swept over them both. "Well, I hope fer both yer sakes itís sooner rather than later. Go ahead, lass; give them what they want."

With what looked to be an indignant swish, Ciora rolled forward, a small bottle extended in one pincer.

Radek looked at Carson helplessly. "You know we wouldnít do it if it wasnít necessary."

He sighed at that. "Ye really think theyíre here."

Rodney nodded. "Weíve found tampering in some of the systems; we cleaned them and locked them against any more changes, but yes, I think they are here."

"Then why havenít we scanned fer them?"

"We have. They seem to be shielded against our scanners in some way," Radek said, straightening up and rubbing the small of his back.

"Even with the altered parameters I devised based on the genetic anomalies?"

Radek stared at him blankly.

"Do either of you two pay attention to anything other than yer own research?" Carson snapped. "Can ye recall the work I did after we first learned of the UAs?"

"Yes," Rodney said carefully.

"You can improve the scanner?" Radek asked, too tired to be subtle even if it annoyed Carson.

"The life signs detector; perhaps if someone had mentioned the fact that the UAs were here, I might have reminded ye of that fact."

"Well, you should have reminded us!"

Radek groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Rodney, I would suggest ye remember this conversation next time yer in the infirmary."

"No, no," Radek said, "we have all been run ragged last three weeks. Itís a miracle we donít forget more."

"How about you sit down, Carson," Rodney said quickly. "You can show us your scanner while we finish going over the star drive."

"We need more coffee," Radek announced after trying to pour himself a cup from the empty thermos.

"Youíre not leaving me alone with him!" Rodney exclaimed as Rover grabbed the thermos from Radekís hand and started out of the lab.

Almost against his will Carson chuckled when Ciora tapped Rover on the housing as he rolled past her.

Radek suddenly cursed in Czech, his fingers flying over the controls. "Someone is trying to access the star drive controls!"

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Rodney dove for his own console, working to back up Radekís firewall and reroute control back to them.

Carson keyed his earpiece, his eyes wide. "Colonel Sheppard, we need ye in lab B."

John didnít pause to ask why Carson was calling him or any other questions. He was already moving at a dead run when he radioed Lorne for backup, not knowing what he would find. Moments later he burst into the room, eyes immediately going to Rodney.

"UAs/star drive. Help Carson." Rodney said tersely in between cryptic questions and comments to Radek as they battled for control of the massive engines.

Those words in combination nearly stopped Johnís heart, and it took a moment for him to turn to Carson. "Help you with what?"

"Iím trying to upload a version of the life signs detector that should show us where they are, but I canna do that and interface with the city at the same time."

"Once Lorne gets here with a team for security, Iíll be happy to interface for you."

"Right here, sir," the major announced as he and his team swept into the lab and took up defensive positions around the two scientists while also keeping Carson and John covered.

"Good. Work." Rodney ordered, not noticing when Rover, Reza and Ciora joined the perimeter.

John rolled his eyes at Carson. "Did he think we were going to stop to have a party first?"

"Obviously we werenít doing it quickly enough fer him," Carson sighed. "I need ye ta have the city prepare ta recalibrate the life signs detector."

John nodded, easily reaching out to the city then yelping and leaping to his feet a bare moment after heíd sat down. "What the fuck?!"

"What?! What happened?" Rodney asked, glancing over at him without stopping in his typing.

"Thereís someone else in there," John growled, closing his eyes as he sat down again and mentally dove back into the cityís systems.

"That would be the UAs," Rodney commented before looking at John sharply. "You can feel them?"

John nodded without opening his eyes, intent on convincing the city to lock her systems against anyone who didnít have human DNA.

"Have her use these parameters," Carson murmured, feeding in the information heíd gotten from his studies and trying to help John close out the invaders, forgetting his normal fear of using his gene in the urgency of the moment.

"Radek! Theyíre getting around us!" Rodney shouted.

Radekís reply was incomprehensible to anyone who didnít speak Czech, but it was both loud and emphatic.

John and Carson began to make headway in the cityís systems when Jack OíNeill suddenly joined them from where he was sitting in his own room.

"Are you two done yet?" Rodney gritted out in between comments to Radek and curses at the invaders.

"Working on it," John growled back, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

"Thatís it, almost in place," Carson murmured, settling the last parameters while John and Jack kept the city from letting the invaders get deeper into her.

"Yes, yes, there!" Rodney exclaimed as he pounded frantically at his keyboard.

The moment Carson was done, John and Jack seized on the information, feeding it directly into the city to block the UAs. Long moments passed and then Johnís eyes opened. "That was closer than I ever want to come again."

Rodney entered a final command, then slid to the floor, twisting to lean against the bench. "Oh god, and this is just the start, isnít it?"

John nodded wearily, watching as Radek staggered over to Carson to hug him. "Yeah, but weíve proven we can beat them."

"Next time, Iíd suggest ye tell me when thereís a situation like this," Carson sighed, wrapping an arm around Radekís waist as their carts crowded around them.

"We will, and weíd better let Elizabeth know whatís going on," Rodney groaned, letting Rover help him to his feet and steady him when he swayed. John quickly moved to his side, offering more support, and once the head rush had passed, they made their way out of the lab, surrounded by Lorne and his team.

"Carson, is the life signs detector up?" Rodney asked.

He nodded. "Aye, we should be able to spot them now."

"Go ahead and say it," John sighed, smiling slightly.

"Say what, Colonel?"

"Oh, you know exactly what," Rodney grumbled.

"You told us so," Radek said, smiling proudly at Carson.

"Is that what you meant, Colonel?" Carson asked.

"Of course." John regarded him curiously. "What did you think I meant?"

He smiled slightly. "I just wanted to be sure, though I couldnae have done it without you and Lt. OíNeill."

"OíNeill?" Radek looked around blankly. "Heís not here."

"But he was in the cityís systems with us," John explained.

"Amazing," Rodney murmured. "And good to know."

"What is?" Paul asked as they all entered Elizabethís office.

The four men talked over each other as they all attempted to describe what had happened at once. Behind them, Maj. Lorne rolled his eyes.

"Gentlemen!" Elizabeth said loudly. "One at a time would be best."

"We found the UAs," Rodney blurted.

"And they know weíre aware of them. We just fought a pitched battle in the heart of Atlantisí systems," John added.

"I take it we won?"

"Yeah, but it was close." John sank into a chair, looking exhausted. "Theyíre strong, and they know the system. Thank God our modifications to make it interface with the things we brought with us slowed them down enough for us to get ahead of them."

"But theyíre still here," Rodney commented tiredly.

Carson straightened up and looked around. "I believe the time to tell everyone is here."

Elizabeth nodded. "Itís no longer a case of preserving our advantage by keeping the UAs from knowing that we know theyíre here. Now we need to advise everyone of whatís going on... and find them."

"Carsonís adjustments will help us with that," John said. "But itís a big city, and they probably know it just as well as we do."

"But, with the adjustments, the scanner can tell us where they are, right?" Paul asked, looking over at Carson, who nodded.

"Aye, unless they have some way of blocking it."

"Oh, that makes me feel so much better," Rodney groaned. "And instead of talking about it, why donít we see what it shows?"

"Because Iím too tired to move," John groaned before forcing himself upright in his chair. "Okay, turn it on and letís see what it tells us." He leaned forward for a good view, aware that Lorne was doing the same beside him.

After giving a quick glance around at everyone gathered behind him, Sgt. Bryan keyed in the commands to expand the scanning area for the detector.

"Blue is us," Carson murmured, "the UAs should appear as yellowóthere!" He pointed toward several dots in the west tower and another cluster in an unexplored area of the city to the southeast.

"What are they near?" Rodney muttered as he reached around Chuck to type in a query.

"OíNeill," John said. "His quarters are close to their position in the west tower." He glanced at Lorne, who nodded sharply, already sending a team of Marines to join the lieutenant.

"We arenít aware of anything important in either of those locations," Radek mused. "Chosen because they are out of the way or is there something there we need to know about?"

Rodney frowned and rubbed at his forehead as he studied the schematics. "You said OíNeill was with you inside the city when you fought them off, right?" At Johnís nod, he frowned and keyed his earpiece. "McKay to OíNeill."

"Whatís up, Doc?"

John snickered at Rodneyís expression.

"Other than your insanely juvenile sense of humor, itís possible the UAs are near your quarters, so you might want to exercise caution if you know the meaning of the word."

"Aw gee, McKay, I didnít know you cared. Look, Iím going out to meet the Marines andó" His voice cut off, the sound of a P90 firing coming over the comm.

"OíNeill! Report!" John leaped to his feet.

More gunfire sounded as well as the distinctive sound of an energy weapon being fired, then silence reigned until the sound of booted feet broke through.

"This is Bates; we need a medical team to Lt. OíNeillís quarters, stat."

"On my way," Carson answered before radioing the infirmary for a triage team.

"The UAs are leaving the tower, on their wayówhere the hell did they go?" Chuck asked when the yellow lights vanished.

"Shielding maybe?" Rodney muttered as he tried to recalibrate the scanner to find them. "At least we know the others are still in place."

"Sir," Lorne said, "it looks like the UAs specifically targeted Lt. OíNeill. That means you and Dr. Beckett are probably next on their list, followed by the other gene carriers. You need security."

"I am armed," John pointed out.

"Which didnít help Lt. OíNeill," Lorne retorted, standing his ground despite his COís obvious displeasure.

"Iíll go with Carson until a team gets to him," Paul said, following after the doctor and joined by Teyla and Ronon, who had arrived in the midst of the crisis.

"Listen to the major, Colonel," Rodney commented. "Radek, bring up Carsonís protocols, will you; I want to check something."

"I thought I was supposed to be in command," John muttered before smiling faintly at Elizabethís eloquent glance at Rodney and Rover. "Oh yeah."

Lorne snorted. "Another comment like that, sir, and weíll be heading to the infirmary to get you checked out." He glanced over where McKay and Zelenka were babbling away, as usual not bothering to complete their sentences as they discussed something. "Should we be worrying about that?"

"Not unless they start yelling."

"The hallwayís clear," Bates reported. "Dr. Beckett and his team are taking Lt. OíNeill to the infirmary; it looks like the UAs banged him up pretty good."

"And thereís a problem with his cart," Ronon put in.

"The doctor said he has a concussion, broken collarbone and arm and two cracked ribs," Teyla added. "And Jaffa seems to have been deactivated somehow."

"Fuck," John said. "Okay, as of now, no one goes anywhere alone."

Elizabeth nodded, and a moment later her clear tones could be heard throughout the city as she explained the situation and the measures to be taken.

An alarm cut through her last words, and Rodney cursed when the first group of UAs appeared by the cart room. "What the hell are they doingóoh no. Ohnohnoohno."

"Details, Rodney!" John barked.

"Theyíre in the cart room, Colonel. They know we use them, so Iím guessing theyíre starting up their own little cart army."

Rover spun his wheels in place at that and clacked his pincers together menacingly.

John didnít stop to answer before bolting from the room, Lorne and the Marines on his heels.

"Go with him, Roveróoh hell," Rodney growled before sprinting after the soldiers only to stop dead before he was out the door. "Radek! Tell everyone qualified to use sidearms to get them!"

Radek and Elizabeth were both giving the order over the PA and headsets, making sure that everyone was aware of the need. Reza clacked her pincers as she darted between the door and Radek, clearly wanting to go with Rover to help but equally determined to protect Radek.

"Proceeding to the southeast tower," Stackhouse reported as military teams scattered throughout the city to guard key positions and try to track down the invaders.

"Dr. Takata, now itís time to see just how well your cart tracking program works," Rodney panted, winded from running after John. "If we canít see the UAs, we can find them from the carts they stole."

"I wonít let you down, Dr. McKay."

John paused in issuing orders to roll his eyes at Rodney. "Iíd hoped sheíd get over that crush on you now that sheís with Stackhouse."

"Itís not a crush; itís intellectual respect," Rodney gasped before peering into the cart room and beginning to count while Rover wheeled around the inactive carts as if to determine their security.

"Is there any way to lock the carts so that they canít be activated without a password or something?"

Rodney held up a finger while he finished counting. "Not unless you convince the city to do it and there are three missing."

"Shit!" John activated his radio. "Zelenka! Are you still with Elizabeth?" He waited for the confirmation before continuing, "Stay with her and keep Reza with you! Three carts are missing." The stream of Czech confirmed that Radek understood the situation very clearly.

"Dr. McKay," Miko cut in, "do you know where all our carts are?"

"Roverís with me; Rezaís with Radek in operations; Iím guessing Cioraís with Carson in medical..." He swore and changed to an open channel. "All personnel with carts, report your position to Dr. Takata."

"What a fuck up," John growled. "Lindstrom, report to the cart room. Lorne, you and Lindstrom guard this area. No one gets in till this is over unless itís one of our gene carriers who doesnít have a cart yet. And even then, check with me or McKay first. I donít want UAs slipping in while we try to activate more for our side."

"All right, I need to go see what Miko has," Rodney announced.

"Colonel, thereís no sign of the UAs in the southeast tower," Stackhouse announced. "Returning to base."

"Stackhouse, you and Lunchmeat are assigned to the control room. Protect Dr. Weir and the gate. Bates will be joining you there soon."

John looked at Rodney. "Okay, Iíll go with you to the lab. Iím your bodyguard."

"And Iím yours, sir," Cadman said behind him, having just arriving in response to Lorneís order.

"Shit! Cadman!" Rodney exclaimed, staring at her.

"Is there a problem other than the UAs, Rodney?" she asked, looking at him strangely.

"Shouldnít you be in medical?"

"Why?"

John winced at Rodneyís comment. "Because Jack was injured. Several broken bones and a concussion."

"The UAs?" she asked, and at Rodneyís sheepish nod, her spine straightened. "Iíll see him when theyíre goneóand after Iíve paid them back for that."

John nodded. "Iím sure Carson would have let you know if his injuries had been critical. Once we get rid of our unwelcome visitors, weíll all get some downtime." As they talked, they started making their way back to the control room.

"We need to talk to Carson about his virus," Rodney mused as he tried to watch the corridor, John, and Rover all at once. "That would get rid of them for us."

"So we go see him," John said. "Elizabethís protected along with the gate, so we go where we can do the most good." He looked down at the cart. "Stay close, Rover."

The cart showed no signs of disobeying that order though he did scout ahead at each corner until they reached the infirmary. Rodney looked around, spotting Carson standing near a bed where Jack OíNeill lay, and started in that direction. "This way we all can see who we want."

Laura gave him a grateful smile as she moved to the side of the bed and stared down at Jack.

Carson glanced at her and gave a reassuring smile. "Heíll be fine, lass; he woke up not long ago and was lucid, and the head injury was my biggest concern."

"Good thing he has such a hard head, isnít it?" she whispered, stroking a hand over Jackís forehead, keeping away from the dark bruise on his temple.

"Umm, Carson, when you have a minute..." Rodney began.

"Weíre hoping you can be the hero of Atlantis," John said.

Carson looked from Rodney to John. "What are ye talking about?"

"You said you were close to completing your anti-UA virus. Just how far along is it?"

Carson blanched. "Not to where Iíd want to release it throughout the city."

"Could you get it to that point? Weíre in serious trouble, Carson," John said bluntly.

"I dinna know, and I willnae allow ye ta use it without being certain, Colonel; you of all people should understand why."

"I know it wonít matter if we lose. Because if it looks likely that we will, Iíll use the self-destruct, Carson. And you know damn well that Elizabeth would agree. We canít let them get to Earth."

Carson nodded tiredly at that. "Iíll do my best."

"Maybe a dart or something," Rodney suggested, "that way it wouldnít have to go throughout the city."

John nodded. "Iím sure half the people in the city would volunteer as shooters."

"An injection might be easier to derive..." Carson mused, running a hand through his already messy hair. "Iíll get ta work on it."

"Just remember to make sure it doesnít kill those of us with the gene, please!"

"Aye, Rodney, Iíll keep that in mind."

John smiled wryly at Carson behind Rodneyís back. "So where to next, Rodney? Today, your wish is my command."

"The lab, I want to check in on Miko and get something."

"I hope you arenít considering leaving without me, sir," Cadman said, appearing at Johnís side, her P90 in hand.

"I wouldnít dream of it, Lieutenant. The rules apply to me too. Sometimes," he added in response to the many disbelieving looks he got.

"Just so long as itís this time, Iím happy."

"And Iím thrilled; can we go now?" Rodney asked.

"Where you lead, we will follow," John intoned.

"You just want to look at my ass," Rodney muttered as he started out of the infirmary, Rover at his side and the others half a step behind.

"I always do," John agreed, making Laura snicker.

Rodney just groaned, leading them into a transporter and to the main labs. "All right, Miko, letís see where all the carts areóMiko?" A cart rushed forward, and he jumped back before recognizing the lotus flower on Maemiís side. "Miko?"

John and Lauraís P90s rose into ready position, and Rover moved in front of Rodney, nudging him back. "Dr. Takata?" John called, hoping for an answer.

Maemi rocked back and forth before darting toward the back of the lab where a small form was crumpled in the corner.

"Jesus," John whispered. "Cadman, cover us." He cautiously made his way toward the scientist and crouched down beside her, his fingers pressed to her neck. He sighed in relief. "Sheís alive."

"I canít believe this," Rodney moaned, crouching down beside Miko and stroking her hair.

"Medical team to Lab A," Cadman radioed in.

"This is going down as one of my top ten worst days in the Pegasus galaxy, and thatís saying something," John grumbled.

Rodney nodded. "Right up there with hive ships attacking and Kolya. Okay, you stay with her; Iím going to see if her programís still running."

"Stay where I can see you!"

Giving a grunt of reply, Rodney moved to the lab bench and looked at Mikoís datapad, studying it a moment before typing in a few commands.

The radios crackled to life again. "Thereís activity near the central power chamber," Sgt. Bryan reported.

With all that had happened in the last little while, John couldnít remember who heíd assigned to that position. "Whoís guarding it?" he asked.

"Braun, Michaels, Matthews and Roper."

"No carts in that group and I see two in that vicinity," Rodney reported.

"Christ. We need you to stay here and continue what youíre doing; Jaffaís down for the count; Maemiís traumatized; Rezaís in the control room; Lokiís at the cart room; Lunchmeat should be in the control room by now... Stackhouse! You and Lunchmeat get to the central power chamber!"

"On our way, sir!"

"We need more carts," Rodney growled, intently watching the tiny dots.

"Colonel, this is Lindstrom. Loki and I are on our way to the power chamber too."

"What? Lindstrom, youíre supposed to be guarding the inactive carts!"

Her amusement was clear in her voice when she said, "Maj. Lorne and Titan are handling that, sir."

"Titan?" Rodney asked, looking back to where John and Laura were still crouched down by Miko.

Laura managed a small smile. "I think the major acquired a cart."

"At least now theyíll have someone to feed them instead of suborning every cart in the city," John murmured.

"There they are," Rodney commented, nodding at the screen just as a medical team hustled into the lab with a gurney.

"Two against three and one of the twoís Loki? My moneyís on us," John said, trying to make light of the situation.

"Of course," Rodneyís answer was distracted as he watched the medics check Miko over before transferring her to the stretcher.

"It looks like a stun bolt," Dr. Selah reported.

"Which begs the question of whether they got it from the Wraith or the Wraith from them. Unless you believe in massive coincidences." John watched the medical team wheel Miko away, surrounded by an armed guard.

"There are no coincidences." Rover bobbed in the air, seemingly agreeing with Rodney.

"I didnít really think so, and the whole thing is far too disturbing to think about." John moved closer to Rodneyís side, peering down at the display. "Should we head down there?"

Rodney winced, but nodded. "Yes, not that I want to, but we need to."

"Okay. Ready for a field trip, Cadman?"

Rodney sighed and grabbed up Mikoís datapad, handing it over to Rover before checking that his gun was secure in its holster, then followed the other two out the door.

John reached into a pocket and pulled out a clip, which he passed to Rodney. "Iíll feel better if I know you have a spare."

"Is that aó" Rodney saw Johnís expression and stopped in mid-sentence. "Thank you."

"Weíve got incoming," Lindstrom reported, yelling over the sound of gunfire.

"On our way," John answered, P90 at the ready when the transporter door slid open onto a scene of chaos. Bullets and stun beams flew in every direction, and for a moment he felt like he was back in Afghanistan, cut off from his bird in the middle of a war zone. But then he saw Loki battling another cart, pincers gripping its sensor array as he tried to rip it off.

Rover zipped forward, slamming into the strange cart, the momentum helping Loki gain better leverage and yank out the crystals, leaving the other cart blind.

"Oh my god," Rodney whispered, ducking involuntarily as he followed John and Laura out into the madness, forcing himself to hold his pistol steady as he searched for hostile targets. Energy flared nearby, and he cursed, recognizing the signature. "They have shields!"

"Oh, now thatís just not fair!" John exclaimed, yanking Rodney down behind a loose panel. "Okay, figure out how to get around them, Rodney," he said before popping up like some demented, homicidal jack-in-the-box and firing a burst at another cart.

"Sure, of course, no problem," Rodney sputtered, even as he minimized the program on Mikoís datapad and started another, glancing up from time to time when shots came near.

Laura stationed herself nearby, providing cover fire for the other Marines and the colonel.

"Soon would be good, Rodney. Fighting invisible enemies kind of sucks," John growled as he ducked again.

"Iím working on it, Colonel!" Typing furiously, Rodney entered a series of commands, looking out at the room at the last. "Got you, you fuckers," he muttered when a series of fields snapped into life, isolating three areas of the room.

"Ha!" John crowed. "Concentrate your fire," he orderedóneedlessly since the Marines already were.

Wavering forms blinked in and out of existence before finally solidifying inside the fields, screaming as bullets tore into them. One of the Marines shouted as the remaining cart slammed into him, then Rover and Loki drove it away.

The sudden silence was disconcerting, and John blinked in surprise. He stood up and made his way over to one of the fallen UAs. "He doesnít look any different from us."

"Heís an Ancient; they donít look any different than us," Rodney replied as he stood, looking around warily before straightening all the way. "Rover, get away from that thing," he called.

"It feels like they should," John said with a shrug. "Feel better after bagging one?" he asked Cadman when she rejoined them.

"Not as good as Iíll feel once theyíre all gone," she answered, looking down at the bodies on the ground. "How did you stop them, Rodney?"

"Containment fields," he replied smugly, regaining some of his self-confidence. "Iíd seen the programs here before and just modified them to concentrate on the shield energies and nullify them."

"And now we have a better than fighting chance," John interpreted. "Radek?" he said over his headset. "How many are left?"

"Six. And theyíreó" Once again a communication broke off in mid-sentence and was replaced by gunfire.

"Shit! Come on," John snapped to Rodney and Cadman before running for the transporter.

"Keep an eye on themóin case!" Rodney yelled over his shoulder before they vanished as John hit the panel, sending them into another scene out of hell, gunfire and energy blasts searing the air around them as they dove for cover.

"Iím getting really tired of this," John muttered in the instant before he returned fire.

"Feel free to stop it, sir," Bates yelled from the doorway to Elizabethís office where he was guarding her.

"Love to. Any ideas how, Rodney?" Johnís head whipped around at a cry of pain, and he was appalled to see one of the UAs standing over Sgt. Bryan, who was cradling his arm to his chest. "No. No fucking way." John stood up and started firing, determined to prevent the death of one of his people.

Chuck cried out when the UA toppled over onto him, shoving the body away as best he could.

"Colonel, Ciora is bringing you something," Carson said over the radio just as the cart rolled out of the transporter, brandishing a tranquilizer gun.

"Carson, I love you!" John laughed when Radekís head popped up over a console to glare at him.

"Get down, Dr. Z!" Bates yelled before firing at the UA who was trying to get a bead on him. He hit his target, but unfortunately his target also hit him, and the lieutenant crumpled to the floor, leaving the doorway to Elizabethís office momentarily unguarded, aside from Reza.

"Elizabeth!" Rodney shouted, crouching behind Rover as they raced up the stairs to help provide cover for her.

"Hurry up and shoot them, Colonel!" Laura yelled, popping out from behind a column to aim a spray of bullets at one of the intruders who was aiming at Rodney.

"Well duh!" John spared a split second for an incredulous glare at Cadman before taking aim and shooting a UA. He watched the expression of surprise mutate into shock an instant before the hostile dropped to the floor. "Your witchesí brew is a resounding success, Carson!" he yelled gleefully, firing at each UA as he got a shot.

Once the shooting stopped, Rodney peered out from around the doorway, his gun still held at the ready. "Is that all of them?"

After a moment of silence in which Radek checked the scanner, the Czech finally stood up and nodded. "Yes, that was the last of them."

Spontaneous cheers broke out.

Elizabeth rose from her crouch, holding a pistol. "Thank God." She keyed her headpiece to broadcast. "All personnel, this is Weir; weíve beaten them. I need medical teams in operations."

"So it worked?" Carson asked over the radio.

"Perfectly," John confirmed. "A single shot dropped them."

"Nice work, Carson," Rodney allowed as he bent to check on Bates. "Even if it was voodoo."

"Youíre just jealous that it was Carson who saved us all this time," Radek said smugly.

"I am not, and what did you do besides hide behind a desk!" Rodney shot back before yelping when Reza smacked him on the shin. "And call your psycho cart off of me!"

Radek was smirking as he crooned to Reza in Czech and patted her, making her spin happily.

"Give it up, Rodney," John advised, leaning on a console as he surveyed the mess around them.

"It figures I survive UAs to be hurt by a deranged cart," Rodney muttered, limping theatrically down the stairs to stop by John. "And what about you? In one piece?"

"A few bruises and scrapes, but yeah. You?" John checked him over quickly.

"The same, nothing a long hot shower and a weekís worth of sleep canít cure." The medical teams arrived and Rodney watched them begin to work on the wounded. "A lot better than some."

John nodded. "Lorne, Lindstrom, Cadman, Stackhouse, report to the infirmary." He waited for the startled flurry of questions to die down before explaining, "There are or shortly will be some people there whoíd like to see you."

Elizabeth finished the radio conversation sheíd been having with Paul and joined them. "There are casualties, but thankfully not many."

"We came off a lot better than I thought we would when this started," John admitted. "Thanks to Beckett, the carts, and every person in Atlantis."

"So itís time to sleep now?" Rodney asked hopefully, slumping against the console and leaning against Johnís side. John wrapped an arm around him, half supporting him and half propping himself up.

Elizabeth smiled as she looked at them, Rover at their feet. To her, they were the surest sign that theyíd all survived. "Yes, we all need some rest. And once we get the damage repaired in a few days, I think Iím going to declare a day off for everyone. Weíve earned it."

"My people would be happy to host anyone who cares to visit. I believe we are due a celebration," Teyla said as she and Ronon joined the small group, a bloody bandage fastened around her upper arm showing that she hadnít escaped the battle in the control room unscathed.

"Once McKay wakes up," Ronon commented.

"Which will be in a week." Rodney pushed himself up off the console, turned and started a series of diagnostics to determine if any lingering damage from the UAs remained in the systems.

John moved behind him and hugged him briefly before stepping back. "I need to get to the infirmary and check on my people." He looked down at Rover. "Make sure he doesnít fall over."

The cart offered his version of a salute in response before pressing against Rodneyís leg, one pincer gripping the back of his shirt while Rodney offered a distracted wave, already lost in making notes on what needed to be fixed.

Shaking his head, John turned to leave, Teyla falling into step with him. He glanced at her arm. "You okay?"

"I believe so; the wound was from glass shards, but I will have one of the doctors take a look at it when they are less busy." She looked up at him, her eyes narrowing slightly. "And you?"

"Iím fine, just some bumps and bruises. What I really need is sleep, but itís still going to be a while for that." John sighed, his eyes looking bruised.

She nodded at that. "The battle is over, John; do not neglect yourself in trying to take care of everyone else."

"Rodney and Rover wouldnít let me," he admitted with a crooked grin. "But I have to see my men who were injured. And Dr. Takata."

"Iím sure she will be up and around soon, if only to keep Lt. Stackhouse fed."

John laughed. "Good point. I have no idea what his problem was, but I have to admit to being relieved that she took over. Heís looking a lot better lately."

"It was very strange," Teyla mused. "I cannot understand why he always looked hungry, but, as you say, between Lunchmeat, Maemi, and Dr. Takata that does not seem to be a problem any longer."

"Itís a good thing. I was seriously considering ordering him to see Heightmeyer. I was starting to think he had an eating disorder."

"If youíre injured, please take a seat; weíll get to you as soon as possible," one of the nurses said as she hurried by them.

Ignoring her, John made his way to Jack OíNeillís bed, relieved to see that Cadman looked calm even though OíNeill seemed to be unconscious. "Howís he doing? Carson letting him sleep now?"

"As long as someone wakes him up every hour," she answered, glancing up at him though her hand remained around Jackís. "Thereís been no more swelling."

"Thatís good." Jack glanced down automatically, looking for Jaffa, and winced. "Iím sure the science team will make Jaffa a priority once things settle down again."

She nodded before looking back toward Jack. "Somehow I think once Jack wakes up and can concentrate, they wonít have to do anything."

"Youíre probably right," John agreed. "Tell him I stopped by, and Iíll try to make it back when heís awake."

"Yessir, and make sure you get some rest; you know Rodney wonít until you do."

"Once Iím done here, Iím going to go pry him free, and weíll both get some sleep."

"Aye, lad, thatís an excellent idea," Carson murmured distractedly as he passed them, pausing to check on Jackís pulse and respiration before moving on to another patient.

"And I think Iíll send Radek to drag him out of here," John muttered to Laura.

"Thatís a good idea. Just tell him Iím chatting with Carson; thatíll get him here."

John burst into laughter. "Youíre an evil woman, Lieutenant."

She chuckled at that. "Thank you, Colonel; I do try."

"Canít you both be quiet? Iím trying to sleep here," Jack grumbled without opening his eyes.

"Why do you need to sleep? You arenít an old man," Laura teased, though her eyes were bright as she stroked his face.

John quietly slipped away, giving them some privacy, and he smiled when he saw Jaffa zip through the door a few moments later.

Jack slitted his eyes open and peered blearily at Laura. "I guess we won, huh?"

"Yeah, Rodney managed to cage half of them, and Carson made up darts that the colonel used to take out the rest. There are some injuries and some casualties, but most of us made it."

"Sounds like a win to me." Jack turned his head, looking over at where John was talking to Dr. Takata and Lt. Stackhouse. "He tearing himself up about the ones we lost?"

"Would he be Col. Sheppard if he wasnít? But heíll get through it; we all will even when we notice the spaces."

Jack nodded. "Heís a good officer."

She leaned in and kissed his forehead. "So are you."

Jack tightened his fingers on hers. "Love you."

"Same here, now rest so I can do something about it sooner than later. Besides, I think Dr. Takata is getting annoyed with Leoís hovering; this should be good."

"Leo, I am fine! I was only stunned; others are hurt much worse."

"You were unconscious, Miko!"

"That is what happens when you get hit by an energy beam set on stun." She reached out and stroked the still jittery Maemi.

"Yeah, well, I donít like it!"

John rolled his eyes and retreated again, not wanting to get drawn into the argument.

"If this goes on much longer, Iím going to send them both out of here," Carson murmured. "Though Iím concerned about Lt. Lindstrom; sheís nae taking Lt. Batesí injury well."

"Can you blame her?" John replied equally quietly. "Him being injured in an attack had to bring back a lot of bad memories for her."

"Aye," Carson nodded, "at least she hasnae lost Marcus, and this may not be a medical opinion, but I believe the man is too stubborn ta die."

"Speaking as his CO and one he wasnít really happy about at first, I definitely agree!" John grinned at Carson before making his way toward the couple.

At his approach, Bates glanced up though he didnít let go of Lisaís hand. "Sir, I hear you got rid of them."

"We all did, Bates. It was definitely a team effort."

Bates nodded at that, wincing as he did so. "Youíre right there."

"Youíll just have to put some more time into training," Lisa said, trying to make light of it. "You need to learn when to duck."

Loki lightly bumped the bed, and Marcus smiled. "I think heís volunteering to give me things to avoid until I learn how to do it better."

"No flamethrowers!" John exclaimed, making Lisa laugh.

"No, sir, we keep him away from fire."

"And we keep extinguishers handy just in case."

"Heís definitely unique," John chuckled.

"I wouldnít have him any other way," Lisa replied. "The best guys take some effort."

"But theyíre worth it, right, Loki?"

The cart shimmied in place, clearly agreeing with Marcus, and Lisa chuckled. "Of course they are."

Marcus reached out with his free hand to give the cart a pat. "Just like the best women."

"And I think thatís my cue to move on before I get cavities," John said with a chuckle. "Lindstrom, Iím counting on you to make sure Bates here doesnít try to get back to duty before heís ready."

"Count on it, sir!"

"I canít believe you got a cart!" Chuck Bryanís exclamation cut through the other sounds in the infirmary.

Maj. Lorne looked down at Titan almost sheepishly. "We really needed more of them to help out."

"You said youíd neveróow!" Chuck cradled his broken arm against his chest as Titan tried to examine it.

"Leave the doctoring to Dr. Beckett and Ciora," Lorne advised his cart, moving to keep Titan from hurting Chuck. "And itís not like I planned it," he continued to Chuck. "But at least now we wonít have to break for food."

"Hrmm, good point." Chuck studied the cart before nodding. "Welcome to the family, boy."

Titan shimmied and bobbed up and down.

"I think he likes you," Tom chuckled.

"Thatís because he has good taste. Tell you what, Titan, you can sign my cast once I get one."

Titan whirled in a circle excitedly, and John chuckled as he watched. The cart bumped a table, sending instruments clattering to the floor, and Ciora darted over to rap him on the sensor array.

"Hey! No abusing my cart, Ciora," Lorne protested. "Heís new; give him a break."

She gave Titan another, gentler, pat before rolling over to Chuck and scanning him.

"Thanks for checking on me, Ciora," he chuckled. "But I think Iíll wait for one of the doctors to set it."

Tom nodded emphatically. "And hopefully theyíll release you afterward."

"You can get some rest when you get out of here," John said. "Youíre off duty, Major." He cut off Lorneís attempted protest. "The sergeant needs some help, and you have a cart to get accustomed to."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"Enjoy." John waved as he turned away.

Several hours later, Rodney jerked upright when a hand fell on his shoulder. "Iím awake! Iímóoh, John, everything okay? You look like hell."

John scrubbed at his face. "Just tired. Time to call it a day, Rodney. Even you need to sleep eventually."

For once, Rodney didnít argue; he simply saved his work and stood, groaning and rubbing his back. "You need to sleep too, you know. Is everything settled down?"

"Everything and damn near everyone except us. And yes, I was planning to sleep as soon as I can drag you to a bed."

"Come on, Rover, weíre going home," Rodney called, falling in at Johnís side and sliding an arm around his waist, for once not caring about appearances. "I went to see Miko; she was yelling at Stackhouse!"

"Still?" John laughed. "She started doing that when I stopped in right after the attack."

"I think heíd offered to help her to the washroom," Rodney chuckled.

John winced. "I think he was safer with the UAs."

Rodney shuddered at the thought. "No, not with them." They reached the transporter and hit the panel nearest their room, Rover exiting in front of them, checking the hallway.

They walked into their quarters, and the door shut behind them, sealing them away from all the myriad issues and responsibilities. "We did it," John said, slumping with exhaustion as he finally relaxed completely.

"Now we just have to convince the rest of them to leave us alone," Rodney sighed as he started to strip out of his clothes, forgetting he was still wearing his gun until the thigh holster prevented him from removing his pants.

"I swear Iíll shoot anyone who wakes us up for anything less than the city sinking." John thought about that as he undressed, setting his weapons on the dresser and letting his clothes fall to the floor. "No, that can wait too."

Rodney nodded, smiling slightly when Rover hurried to clean up their mess. "The protocols will bring up the shield if that happens; now come to bed." He caught Johnís hand and pulled him toward the bed, stroking his free hand over Roverís sensor array as he thought the lights off.

John fell into bed more than got in, and he pulled Rodney down with him, sighing in utter contentment once they got settled. "Perfect," he murmured, eyes already closed as exhaustion overwhelmed them.

Rodney mumbled something that might have been an agreement, and Rover bumped the bed before settling beside it, not willing to go even as far as his corner for the evening.

Completely drained, John didnít wake until well into the next afternoon, and Rodney was still curled into him, face smashed against Johnís shoulder as he snored softly, dead to the world. John smiled, content to lie there and simply enjoy the fact that they were still alive and still in control of Atlantis.

Sensing that John was awake, Rover reached over with a pincer and patted his arm before returning to his original position. John let the arm not pinned under Rodney reach over the side of the bed to pat the cart, and he left his hand resting on Rover.

"We did it," he murmured.

"Calibrate the linearity, Ayers," Rodney muttered into Johnís shoulder.

John stared down at him. "Even when heís asleep, heís working." He shrugged his shoulder to jostle the sleeping scientist. "Rodney, you donít have to do anything right now."

"Huh? What?" Rodney half sat up, peering around wildly before glaring at John. "Whyíd you wake me up?"

"Because you were working in your sleep, and you shouldnít be talking to Ayers in our bed."

"I was what?" Rodney glanced over at Rover, who bobbed up and down to confirm Johnís statement. "Oh. I guess I was still stuck in work-until-you-drop mode." He rubbed his face and yawned before settling back against Johnís shoulder, the hand on Johnís stomach beginning to move in lazy circles, soothing them both. "We are out of that mode, right?"

"Oh yeah." Johnís voice was growing throaty as Rodney petted him, and he shifted a little, resettling them.

Rodney lifted his head slightly and eyed John, watching as his expression changed from Ďjust waking upí to Ďhungry for more than foodí. "And now weíre moving into celebrate-the-fact-that-weíre-still-alive-and-the-city-didnít-blow-up mode?"

"Can you think of a better reason to celebrate?"

"Nope, none at all." As he said that, Rodney rolled over on top of John and kissed him, cradling Johnís face in his hands as their tongues slid together, making John sigh happily. He spread his legs and slid his hands down over Rodneyís back to cup his ass and draw him closer.

Rover rubbed against the side of the bed and rolled to the door, heading out into the hall when it opened for him.

"He must be going to see the girls," Rodney murmured as he slowly rocked against Johnís body, letting the arousal build slowly between them.

"Everyone wants to celebrate," John agreed somewhat breathlessly. He worked a hand between them to scratch gently at Rodneyís nipples, making the other man twitch even as he nodded before kissing John again, exploring the contours of his lips before delving inward to do the same to teeth and tongue.

John moaned into the kiss, his body hardening as they took the time to enjoy themselves without worrying about interruptions, and Rodney ate at the sound, his hands moving to Johnís neck to tilt his head back, and he slid lower, biting, sucking, and licking at Johnís throat.

"Oh fuck yeah," John whimpered, spreading his arms wide to allow Rodney to help himself.

"Thatíll come soon," Rodney murmured without lifting his mouth from Johnís neck though he did dip lower to lick at the hollow above his collar bone.

"This is a very good day," John panted, shifting restlessly under Rodney.

"And itís going to get better," Rodney promised, stroking a hand down Johnís side before twisting to latch on to one peaked nipple.

"Iím never getting out of bed!"

Rodney chuckled around Johnís nipple before biting it lightly. "We have to eat sometime, Colonel, though if Rover brings us a tray, Iím not going to complain."

"You thought about it, so he will," John pointed out even as his back arched.

Rodney murmured his agreement to the comment before licking a broad swath across Johnís chest to torment his other nipple, making John moan. Needing to touch Rodney, John brought his hands to rest on the scientistís shoulders, his fingers kneading the heavy muscles.

At the touch, Rodney surged back upward, looming over John, his blue eyes wide and dark as he stared down at him. "I need you, John," he rasped.

"So what are you waiting for?" John drew his legs up and grasped the backs of his thighs, holding himself open for Rodney.

"Apparently, nothing." Rodney leaned in and kissed him again before pushing up to his knees and leaning over to grab the lube from the drawer of the bedside table. After squirting some into his palm, he dragged his fingers through it, then rubbed them around the tight entrance to Johnís body, taking in the slight hitch of breath and squirm that provoked.

"God, yes, feels so good," John babbled, his eyes half shut as he fought to hold them open against the pleasure, wanting to watch Rodney.

Rodney nodded as he increased the pressure of one finger until it slid into Johnís ass, pressing deeper until he felt the bump of Johnís prostate. John cried out and lurched upward, forcing Rodneyís finger deeper, and he bit his lip as his eyes fell closed briefly before he dragged them open again.

"Fuck," Rodney gasped, adding a second finger even as he was spreading the remaining lube on his erection, teasing himself until he couldnít stand it any longer and lunged forward, pulling his fingers from Johnís ass the moment before his cock slid home in the familiar tight heat.

John let go of his legs to grab Rodneyís upper arms, his fingers digging in. He yelled with the biting pleasure of the abrupt entry and clenched down on Rodney, making the other man shudder and his hips jerk.

"Fuck me hard," John begged, his ass rising to meet Rodney.

Nodding, his lower lip caught between his teeth and his face the picture of concentration, Rodney complied, rocking back and driving forward, each thrust harder and faster than the last, wrenching a sobbing breath out of John with every forceful stroke. John held on tight, not able to do anything but enjoy the ride, and enjoy it he did.

"Not going to last," Rodney growled, getting a hand between them and beginning to stroke Johnís cock in time with his thrusts, his whole body trembling as he tried to hold on until John came.

John didnít bother to answer since he knew it was only a matter of moments until he came. He stared up into Rodneyís face, moaning at the tight expression, and he clenched down on Rodneyís cock as the first tremors of his climax burst through him.

When their spasms stopped, Rodney collapsed on top of John, his face pressed against the sweat-slick chest. "Okay, I may hate the life-threatening situations, but I love the weíre-alive celebratory sex," he rasped.

"Fuck yeah," John agreed emphatically. "It makes up for a hell of a lot."

"Doesnít make me less glad those UAs are dead though." Rodney shifted enough that John could slide his legs down. "Maybe we should toss them through the gate back onto that world."

"Tempting thought, but itís probably better to leave them wondering. That way we might have longer before their next attempt." John frowned. "And we really need to figure out a way to keep them from sneaking through with our teams even if the scanners will detect them immediately now." He shook his head. "But thatís a problem for another day. Todayís all about us."

"Well, with the life sign detector able to differentiate them now, that will help," Rodney mused before nodding. "So, does this all about us day include staying in bed all day?"

"If we want to. Or we could go out to our island," John suggested.

The idea was tempting, but Rodney shook his head. "How about we do that on the celebration day; if we go today, somethingís bound to happen that weíll have to come back for."

"Good point. And we have a bed, a shower, and a cart whoíll get us food right here in Atlantis."

As if on cue, the door slid open, and Rover arrived with a tray.

Rodney chuckled and patted the cart when he rolled over to them. "What happened, the girls kick you out already?"

Rover brushed against something that produced a sound like a snort and set the tray of food down on the table next to the bed. That done, he spun around and disappeared as quickly as heíd arrived.

"I think your hunger interrupted his date," John laughed.

"Well, I didnít expressly ask him to get it!" Rodney protested. "And I know, I know, it doesnít take that." He eyed the covered tray, then the both of them. "And as hungry as I am, I need a shower first."

"Agreed." John stretched and sat up. "Weíre sticky, and weíll enjoy the food more after we clean up."

"And change the sheets; considering the way we fell onto them, Iím afraid of whatís on them." As he spoke, Rodney got to his feet, stretching and rubbing at his back before heading toward the bathroom.

"How come Iím always the one who ends up making the bed?" John groused laughingly as he made quick work of stripping the sheets.

"Because you make those nice military corners!" Rodney shouted over the sound of the water coming on.

John snorted as he finished putting on the new sheets and then went to join Rodney in the shower. "How would you know? You usually rip the sheets off before you could possibly notice how theyíre put on."

"Rover told me," was the smug answer before Rodney began using the washcloth heíd lathered up on Johnís chest.

Bursting into laughter, John watched Rodney wash him. "Uh huh," he said, grabbing the soap to work up a lather and then starting to wash Rodneyís chest with his sudsy hands.

"You donít believe me?"

"I think I would have noticed if Rover had suddenly become verbal."

Rodney sniffed at that, then sneezed when he got water up his nose. "He pointed them out to me; now turn around."

"Yes, sir," John chuckled, turning obediently.

"Mmm, I love it when you obey my every command," Rodney murmured before running the washcloth and his hands over Johnís back.

"Closet dom," John said, grinning.

"Oh yeah, let me get the whips and chains," Rodney snorted.

"If Rover brings you some, youíre a dead man!"

Rodneyís laughter grew louder, and he leaned against Johnís back to support himself.

"Idiot," John said fondly, peering over his shoulder at Rodney.

"Smartest one you know," was the instant retort as Rodney straightened up again and turned around. "My turn."

John turned too and lathered up his hands again, his eyes running over Rodneyís broad back and perfect ass. "Gorgeous," he murmured as he slid his slick palms over that expanse of flesh, making Rodney sigh in pleasure and lean forward against the wall, his head pillowed on his forearms.

"Now this is why we keep fighting," John murmured.

"My ass?" Rodney asked, sounding amused.

"Iíd fight for it."

"I think the phrase Ďmake love, not warí fits better."

"You wanna try selling that to the Wraith and UAs?" John asked dryly. "Better content yourself with me."

"Well, I really donít want the Wraith or the UAs anywhere near my ass," Rodney shot back just as acerbically.

"Thatís truly revolting," John said, rubbing a little harder on Rodneyís ass as if to wash the possibility away.

"Ow!" Rodney muttered, squirming. "I do need some skin, you know."

John let the water rinse the soap away and leaned down to kiss Rodneyís Ďinjuryí. "All better now?"

"Much, now get your hair so we can eat."

John made short work of washing and rinsing his hair, then got out of the shower and padded back to the main room to investigate what Rover had brought them. Rodney followed and made a show of inspecting the corners on the sheets and applauding.

"So what did he bring us?" he asked, making short work of the neatly made bed by sitting down on it and scooting back to lean against the wall.

"French toast and bacon, coffee, and some of those berries you love so much." John handed the tray to Rodney before settling down beside him.

"Oh, god," Rodney moaned, grabbing for a plate and loading it up with food. "I love Rover."

"Hey, no sexy moans till after Iím done eating. A guyís gotta keep his strength up."

Rodney snorted at that as he finished chewing his first mouthful. "Your libido is one of the universal constants, Colonel."

"Arenít you lucky?"

"Yes, I am."

"Me too." John smiled at him.

"Damn right, you have me and Rover; who could ask for more?" Rodney leaned over to kiss him, at the same time stealing a piece of bacon from his plate.

"I might ask for my bacon!"

"You love me, but you wonít share your food with me?"

"Share, yes; cede, no!"

Rodney rolled his eyes and sighed. "Fine, here, have some of mine," he said, holding out a piece of bacon from his plate.

John took a bite, simply for the pleasure of having Rodney feed him, then shook his head. "No, you have it; Iím good."

"Then why did you ask for it?!"

"íCause youíre really cute when Iím driving you nuts," John admitted with a laugh.

Rodneyís scowl could have melted steel, and he reached over and stole Johnís last piece of bacon in retaliation.

Laughing, John set his now empty plate on the tray that had been moved back to the table and leaned back against the pillows. "Nap now?" he asked hopefully, still exhausted despite the several hours of sleep that day.

Rodney mopped up the last of his food and licked his fingers. "Nap would be good, as long as you promise to do me afterward."

"As if thatís ever a hardship," John laughed.

"Well, the hard part is true..." Rodney chuckled, setting his plate aside and stretching out, resting his head on Johnís lap.

"Right now, even that wants to sleep," John admitted, petting Rodneyís still damp hair.

"Hrmmm, I should have recorded that, I doubt Iíll ever hear it again," Rodney murmured, squirming with pleasure at the petting.

"Probably not," John admitted with a chuckle.

"Actually, Iím glad about that; now come lie down so we can get that nap."

Still chuckling, John slid down in the bed until he was stretched out beside Rodney, his head on the scientistís shoulder and an arm and leg flung possessively over the other man. Rodney squirmed again, getting himself comfortable, and hooked his arms around Johnís waist before thinking the lights off.

"This is much better than a barbecue or whatever the Athosians are planning for the celebration," John murmured, turning his head to press a kiss to Rodneyís shoulder.

"True, we can stay for the food, then take a jumper and run for the island; I know Rover will be glad to get away from the kids, and we can find him a new shell." As he spoke, Rodney stroked his hand over Johnís back.

"Sounds perfect," John murmured drowsily.

"Just like you." Rodney tightened his arm around John and kissed his forehead before relaxing, though he continued to rub Johnís back until he was asleep.

A little later Rover let himself back into the room and settled in his corner contentedly, everything back to normal. Or at least as normal as it got in Atlantis.

END

 

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