Warnings: Character death (This is about Sunday, after all.)

The World According to Rover XXXIII
Sunday

Orithain and Rina

September 2008

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

"Ow."

"Ow! Stop it!" Rodney opened his eyes and stared blearily around, trying to discover what was poking his arm. He discovered the culprit floating next to the bed, sensor array flashing merrily. One meter in height and almost that in width, Rover had extended his pincer and was putting it to useóon Rodneyís bare skin.

"It is much too early to be up," he hissed at the cart, only to have Rover poke him again, at the same time waving the brightly colored beach towel he had in his other pincer.

"I know itís our down day, but Johnís still asleep." Rodney sighed when he felt the warm body next to his move. "Was asleep."

"Why are we up so early?" John grumbled into his pillow. "Itís Sunday."

"Rover wants to remind us itís the down day and we promised weíd go to the island." Rover poked him again, and Rodney batted at his pincer. "And take Carson and Radek and the girls, I know!"

John groaned. "Itís early! We didnít say weíd go in the middle of the night!" A tousled head rose over Rodneyís shoulder, one bleary hazel eye opening to glare balefully at the cart, and Rover rose higher to drop the beach towel on him.

"I think he wants to go now," Rodney sighed.

"Ya think?" John sat up, scrubbing his hands through hair that was already standing on end. "Coffee," he demanded, knowing Rover wouldnít wake Rodney up if there wasnít some available.

Rover whipped around, zipped over to the desk, and poured them both mugs of coffee, bringing them back while Rodney sat up, shoving the pillow behind his back, yawning widely.

"Thanks," John said a little wryly as he accepted his cup; he would have been perfectly happy to sleep longer and have the coffee later. Leaning back against his own pillow, he glanced over at Rodney. "Did you really tell Carson you might go fishing with him? I thought we were going to do some surfing."

"We have time to do both," Rodney pointed out, "and to do other things as well."

John grinned and started to roll on top of Rodney, both of them experienced at doing it without spilling their coffee, only to be stopped by a poke from Rover. He sighed. "Slave driver."

"You could go make sure that Carson and Radek are awake..." Rodney suggested only to have Rover hand him his headpiece. "Or I can."

"You might want to call Carson," John suggested. "Radek would probably get creative in his revenge."

"Oh, so itís my fault Rover is dying to go shell-hunting?" Rodney asked even as he slipped his earpiece on, taking a sip of coffee before he turned it on, keying Radek and Carsonís room.

"So, do your carts have you lovebirds up yet?"

"I think they are eager for a day off," Radek replied wryly, clearly already awake.

"Aye," Carson commented, "weíve already eaten, so whenever you all are ready to go, we can."

"Well, we havenít!" Rodney exclaimed.

"Give us an hour," John interjected, "and weíll meet you at the jumper bay."

"If you take longer, we will send carts," Radek warned.

"Including the babies," Carson laughed, and Rodney groaned.

"Tell me why I made them again?"

"Because theyíre cute," John replied, trying not to laugh, though Radek had no such qualms.

"You thought to make me crazy, but like all young things, they love you," Rodneyís second chortled gleefully.

"Hah! They live with you!" Rodney retorted. "And donít think I donít know that Five loves you and Reza best."

"Clearly, she is the one with the best taste," Radek sniffed.

"Keep dreaming; weíll meet you in the jumper bay in an hour." Rodney turned off his radio, then looked at John. "That means weíd better get up."

"At least it gives us enough time to shower and eat."

"Yes, but thatís just shower," Rodney grumbled, slugging back his coffee and setting the mug on the nightstand before climbing out of bed, yawning and scratching his stomach as he headed for the bathroom, sure John would follow.

"Like hell it is!" John exclaimed, following on Rodneyís heels. "We have enough time."

"But I want breakfast!" Rodney complained, keeping his back to John so the other man couldnít see his grin.

"As if Rover wouldnít make sure that you got fed," John scoffed. "The only question about sex in the shower is rubbing, you in me, or me in you?"

"Fine, fine," Rodney got out before dissolving into laughter.

John eyed him narrowly. "Oh ha ha."

"Yes?" Rodney managed to get out around his laughter.

"Smart ass," John grumbled, thinking the water on so Rodney got doused, making him squawk.

"You donít have to drown me in here!"

"Itís a shower, Rodney. Those usually involved water," John pointed out as he joined Rodney, sighing blissfully at the hot water.

"When youíre ready for it!" Grumbling to himself, though he was smiling slightly, Rodney squirted some soap into his hand and started to wash himself.

Watching him, John pouted slightly, and Rodney gave him an arch look. "Yes?"

John eyed his hand and then pointed to himself, clearly waiting.

"You want me to wash you?" Rodney asked innocently.

"Youíre in a mood today, arenít you," John grumbled. "Yes, I want you to wash me. Then Iíd like you to fuck me, if thatís not too much trouble for you."

"I was kidding!" Rodney protested, now looking sulky. "Iím sorry if my sense of humor was lost on you!"

Now it was Johnís turn to laugh. "And I was teasing. You clearly need more coffee."

Rodney glowered at him for a long moment, then gave in and began washing Johnís chest. "And food."

Just then Rover appeared with a travel mug of coffee, which he extended toward Rodney, careful to keep any water from entering the small opening.

"Apparently Rover agrees that you need more coffee," John laughed.

Rodney stared at the cup, then started laughing, though he did take it, ducking out from under the water to drink, downing half of the cup in one gulp.

"Hopefully thatíll help," John said, looking amused. "Showeringís supposed to be fun."

"I thought the fun was supposed to be the surfing?" Rodney asked, grinning slightly before he finished his coffee and set the mug down.

"Thatís the fun when our friends are around. This is the private fun," John explained patiently while his hazel eyes sparkled with laughter.

"So we arenít planning on any private fun on the island?" Rodney chuckled, lathering his hands again and stroking them over Johnís chest.

"Of course we will, but that wonít be till after weíve gone shell hunting and fishing and surfing and eaten... Skip the fishing; as it is, itíll be hours."

"Hours, eh?" Rodney chuckled, rubbing a thumb over Johnís nipple and feeling it peak beneath his touch. "Well, we canít have that, can we?"

"We might go into withdrawal," John replied in a slightly breathy tone.

"Canít have that," Rodney purred the repetition, leaning in to nuzzle Johnís throat.

"No, itíd be bad," John moaned, his hands clutching at Rodneyís shoulders as he gave himself up to the scientistís touch, Rodney sliding a hand lower to grasp and stroke Johnís growing erection, at the same time sucking his earlobe.

"Much better than just washing," John panted, his head falling to the side to give Rodney better access.

"Now, why did I know you would say that..."

"Because like you keep telling me, youíre a genius." Johnís hands slid down Rodneyís side and over his hips to curve over his ass, pulling them closer together.

"Mmm, thatís right, I am," Rodney chuckled as he rocked forward, his erection rubbing against Johnís.

"Lucky me," John said, kneading Rodneyís ass.

"Mind if we do the fucking thing later?" Rodney asked, his mouth sliding along Johnís throat. "Iím liking this rubbing thing right now.

"Me too," John admitted with a moan, raising one leg to hook it over Rodneyís hip, aligning them perfectly. Rodney took advantage of that move by sliding his fingers over Johnís hole, teasing him by pressing the tip of one finger into him.

"Oh fuck yeah," John gasped, his ass clenching on that single digit, Rodney grunting into his neck as he pressed the finger deeper, at the same time grinding against John, the move made slick by the water falling around them. "God, thatís good," John groaned, thrusting against Rodney, rocking between the delicious friction and the talented finger.

"Yeah," Rodney panted, kissing John again as they rocked together, his muscles tightening as his climax drew nearer.

John nodded, his tongue sliding over Rodneyís as they both sought to get even closer, and then he was crying out into the kiss, his body shuddering as he came, the gush of wet heat over his stomach making Rodney cry out and come as well, his hands tightening on John as he spasmed.

They stood tangled together for some moments, allowing themselves to catch their breath while leaning on each other. "See, wasnít that a much better way to start the day than rushing out of here and having to wait for hours?" John murmured against Rodneyís ear while nuzzling him lazily.

"Mmmhmm," Rodney murmured. "Much betteróbut I still want breakfast before we go."

"I wouldnít dream of taking you anywhere without feeding you first," John assured him laughingly.

"Smart man," Rodney grumbled before kissing him and smacking him on the ass. "Now finish cleaning up so we can eat!"

"Geez, demanding much?" John shook his head in mock sadness as he quickly cleaned up, pointing out, "Youíre not exactly fresh as a daisy yourself."

"Yes, but I donít take twenty minutes to do my hair after the shower," Rodney pointed out, quickly washing his hair, then sluicing the lather from himself.

"Neither do I!" John protested. "I donít even dry it! Cowlicks." He pointed at his head. "Thereís nothing I can do with it."

"Uh huh..." Rodney drawled, then laughed when Rover stuck a pincer in the shower again, this time brandishing a brush.

John grumbled. "I live with a pair of comedians." He finished showering quickly and stepped out, combing his wet hair and then heading into the main room to dress in cut-off fatigues and a t-shirt, Rodney doing the same, then packing a duffle bag with a swimsuit, and extra shorts and a t-shirt after he dressed, his clothing choices mimicking Johnís.

"All done being grumpy?" he asked.

John stuck his tongue out at him. "All done making fun of me?"

"For now," Rodney grinned, winking at him as he tucked a few more things in his bag.

"Oh joy." But Johnís fake grumpiness melted under his laughter. "Itís going to be a great day."

Rover spun in a circle to show his agreement and started nudging them toward the door.

"You remembered the food, right?" Rodney asked as they walked toward the jumper bay, Carson, Radek and the girls following behind.

"Have I ever forgotten the food?" John shook his head. "I keep telling you, thereís only reason youíre allowed to pass out, and low blood sugar isnít it."

"And ye can wait until we get away before ye begin that!" Carson called.

"You catch fish, and Iíll catch what I like," John replied with a grin.

"I do not think Rodney fights too hard to get away," Radek snorted.

"Iím not a fish!"

"No, youíre not scaly or slimy," John assured him, glancing into the storage compartment to make sure that the picnic basket heíd had Rover bring from the mess earlier was still there.

"Damn right Iím not," Rodney huffed even as he tried to look over Johnís shoulder. "What do we have?"

"Can ye not wait until we get there?" Carson asked as he and Ciora settled themselves in the jumper.

"Yes, we can." John shut the compartment door firmly and pulled Rodney toward his seat. "Sit. Stay."

"Woof," Rodney muttered as he took the co-pilotís seat, getting comfortable as John piloted the jumper up and out of the bay.

"Iíll give you a nice bone later," John murmured to him, and Rodney grinned slightly.

"Oh good."

"I expect reciprocity though."

"I suppose I could manage that," Rodney murmured.

Rover poked each of them with a pincer, and John amended, "After we find a shell for Rover."

"And after ye drop us off," Carson reminded them, making Rodney laugh.

"Yes, yes!"

"Weíre not interested in giving any shows," John told them, adding, "not any more," in a mutter as the tips of his ears turned red at the memory of his little contretemps with the PA system in the city.

"Nor do we want to see or hear them!" Radek replied fervently.

"Donít remind me of that!" Rodney exclaimed, turning to flail at Radekís leg then yelping when Reza clacked her pincer at him. Rover quickly inserted himself between Rodney and Reza, nudging her away while Radek laughed at them all.

"It wasnít one of my finer moments," John mumbled.

"Well, aside from the whole radio thing..." Rodney mused, and John turned to stare at him, then started to laugh.

"Thanks for the compliment."

"Oh, here they go again," Radek groaned.

"Shall I distract you? Carson asked, leaning over and turning Radekís face to kiss him.

"That would be a much more pleasant way to pass the time," Radek agreed, licking at Carsonís lips.

"If we have to behave, so do you!" Rodney exclaimed.

"That presupposes balance in everything, which we all know is not true," Radek retorted. "And we are not flying the jumper."

John muffled a chuckle.

"You can fly on the way home," Rodney sniffed, and Carson chuckled.

"Fine, lad, we can do that."

John cast Rodney a look of horror, and Rodney shook his head.

"Fine, weíll fly back, but you can urmm..."

"Enjoy the ride?"

"If Iím not getting any in the jumper, no one is," John stated bluntly.

"Donít worry, they wonít," Rodney chuckled, and Rover flashed his sensor array in agreement.

"Itís a good thing weíre mostly going our separate ways on the island, or there might be murder done," Radek chuckled.

"And you both might be left there!"

"Play nice, doctors," John ordered, and Rover clacked a pincer for emphasis.

"Ye told us we couldnít," Carson murmured, and Rodney groaned, followed by John, who muttered something about herding cats.

Finally they arrived at the island and, after dropping Carson, Radek, Reza and Ciora off, Rodney and John made it to their cove.

"Finally!" John exclaimed. "Letís go, Rodney." Rover was already at the exit, spinning excitedly before darting outside.

"Hang on," Rodney laughed, taking off his shoes and socks and leaving them by the jumper, "Iím coming."

"Not for a while," John retorted with a chuckle. "I think Rover might zap us if we got distracted before finding him his souvenir."

The cart spun his wheels, lightly spraying sand in their direction, and Rodney shook his head. "I didnít mean it that way!"

"Well, damn!" John pulled Rodney in for a quick kiss, then interlaced their fingers. "Ready?"

"Shells beware," Rodney grinned, laughing as Rover gripped his pant leg with a pincer and pulled them along.

"I wonder if there are any blue-ish ones on this planet; that would be pretty," John mused.

Rover spun his wheels at that idea, and Rodney grinned. "Seems like heís happy with that idea too; weíd better be able to find one, or weíre going to be in trouble."

"Letís hope we find it before we inspect every inch of beach on the entire planet," John agreed laughingly.

"If we have to do that, weíre going to need a month off, at least!"

"Which we all know we canít have," John said before Rover could get excited. "But weíll find what weíre looking for. We always do."

"With this team, how can we fail?" Rodney asked, squeezing Johnís hand as they followed after Rover, all three of them searching for shells.

"I declare Operation Shell Hunt a complete success," John announced about an hour later, watching fondly as Rover held his new shell up, tilting it at different angles to see the different colors, including several shades of blue, as the sun struck it.

"Weíre going to have to build you a new shelfóor have John just think of it," Rodney laughed before taking a drink from his water bottle.

"You just want me for my gene."

"Oh yes, exactly," Rodney snorted.

"Okay, so maybe youíre more interested in getting into my jeans." John grinned at him, and Rover flashed his sensor lights as if he were rolling his eyes.

"Lunch first, sex urmm, second," Rodney sniffed.

"Losing out to food, the honeymoon must really be over," John said mournfully, already dodging aside so Roverís attempt to pinch him missed.

"Boo hoo, cry me a river," Rodney sniffed.

"Iíd rather fuck you into a puddle."

"Now?"

"Always."

"Dessert."

"Oh fine, make me wait."

"Poor thing, how will you ever survive?"

"Iíll need lots of TLC to make up for the deprivation."

"Iím sure Rover and I can manage to make it up to you."

"I have every confidence in you both," John assured them, grinning when Rover patted his leg.

Rodney chuckled and squeezed Johnís waist. "Thatís because youíre a genius."

"I thought I was with genius?" John teased.

"Youíre saying youíre just eye-candy?"

"Well, you know, lazing around while you support me could be fun," John pretended to muse. "Think Iíd make a good boy-toy?"

"Hrmm, I donít know; that would mean youíd have to wait on me hand and foot when I got home from workóand Rover too," Rodney mused.

Roverís sensor lights blinked merrily, clearly laughing at them, and John laughed as well. "I do sex slave, not body slave, Rodney."

"Wimp!" Rodney laughed.

"Tell you what, you try the slave thing first, and weíll see how it goes."

"Oh no, you wanted to be the boy-toy; that means I have to work."

"I think weíd better stick to the status quo," John chuckled, and Rover patted his leg again in clear approval.

"Fine, fine," Rodney sighed before grinning over at John. "Good idea." They reached the blanket and supplies theyíd set out earlier, and Rodney flopped down with a groan of relief.

"Ah, now we can be lazy and bask for a while," John said happily, sprawling full length next to Rodney. "I wish we could do this more often."

Rodney glanced over to where Rover was polishing his shell and nodded. "More than once every three years would be nice."

"Yeah. This was a good idea of Elizabethís. We canít shut down the city every week, but a day once a month isnít too much to ask. We should talk to her when we get back."

"Sounds good to me." Rodney rolled over so that he was leaning on Johnís chest. "But why do I think that those scheduled days off is when the real craziness will blow up?"

John smiled wryly, an arm curving around Rodney. "Because thatís the way this galaxy works. Weíll probably never get a ĎSundayí when itís actually scheduled, but once the crisis is over, weíll have a day off to rest and recharge."

"Mmm, good pointóor we hope anyway."

"We always win, and we always will." John drew Rodney a little closer, making him sigh and lift his head to kiss Johnís jaw.

"Just no more suicidal things, got it?"

"I have too much to come home to," John replied, smiling into the blue eyes. "Youíre not getting rid of me that easily."

"Good thing or Iíd find a way to bring you back to scream at you," Rodney murmured, making John laugh.

"Why donít I have any difficulty believing that?"

"Because you know Iíd find a way to do it," Rodney laughed, kissing him again.

"My evil genius," John said fondly.

"My brilliant grunt," Rodney grinned back.

"Flyboy, if you please," John retorted. "Iím no Marine!"

Rodney snickered at that. "Fine, fine, my brilliant, hot flyboy. Better?"

"Much!" John grinned and kissed him hard. "Do you think anyone would notice if we just stayed here and never went back?"

"More importantly, do we care?"

"In the interest of relaxation, letís not answer that and just pretend that we donít for a few hours." John wormed a hand under Rodneyís shirt to lightly trace his lower spine with a fingertip.

Rodney sighed at that and arched up into the touch, his eyes going half-lidded with pleasure.

"No wonder you like cats," John murmured fondly, his gaze heating at Rodneyís reaction.

"What do you mean by that?"

"You arch and purr when I pet you."

"Oh." Rodney thought about it for a moment, then chuckled. "Only for you."

"Which is just the way I like it and only fair since that goes both ways."

"Damn good thing or you might feel my clawsóor Roverís!"

John burst into laughter, his whole body shaking with his mirth. "Good thing thatís never going to happen then. Iíd hate to be savaged."

Rodney grinned at that and nipped his chin, then gave a crooked grin. "Same here."

"Itís pretty convenient, huh?" John smiled at Rodney, maneuvering them both to sit up so he could remove their shirts.

"Yeah, as is the fact that I think youíre getting your dessert before our meal."

"Did you ever doubt I would?"

"Youíre too smug, Colonel..."

"And youíre too hot to ignore."

Rodney chuckled at that and kissed John, exploring his mouth at a leisurely pace, making John sigh contentedly and press them flat again so he could pull Rodney over him.

"Well, since youíre so smug, you can do all the work," Rodney chuckled, flicking his nose.

John swatted Rodneyís hand away, pretending to glare, not that it had any effect. "Oh, just lie there and let me enjoy feeling you for a while."

"I hope you donít mean hours," Rodney laughed.

"Like either of us has that much self-control," John snorted.

"Some of us are also hungry!"

John started laughing. "So much for romance!"

"You want romance?" Rodney laughed before batting his eyelashes at John.

"Oh Lord, youíre getting delirious. Iíd better get you some food," John snickered.

"A big old sausage?" Rodney snickered.

John stared at him and started laughing harder, and Rodney smirked in response. "Yes?"

"And you say Iím bad?" John shook his head, grinning widely.

"You know you are," Rodney sniffed before kissing him again.

"And so are you," John pointed out, sounding rather pleased about it, and Rodney gave a much beleaguered sigh before kissing him again.

"It could be worse," John chuckled a while later. "I could be making you fish."

"Then you wouldnít get laid for a month!"

John laughed and kissed him. "I guess itís a good thing for Carson that Radek actually likes to fish since you probably wonít get over there. And I really doubt heís actually expecting you."

Rodney snickered at that. "I bet Reza and Ciora end up holding the poles."

"Why, Dr. McKay, are you implying that our dear friends might get distracted?"

"Col. Sheppard, if you think they arenít, youíre insane!"

John laughed. "I guess I am sane after all then."

Rodney grinned and kissed him again, deepening it as John squirmed under him. John pulled Rodney closer, and his hands were starting to slide into the scientistís pants when his radio squawked.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!"

"Iím going to kill them!" Rodney groaned.

"Get in line," John growled before activating his radio. "Sheppard here!" he barked, sitting up abruptly as he listened.

"What? What is it? Did someone actually find a way to sink the city?" Rodney asked breathlessly, absently patting Rover as the cart rolled over to brush him off.

John looked at him, clearly stunned. "Thereís been an explosion. Several injured and dead..."

Rodney stared at him, his eyes widening. "What the fuck happened?" he demanded even as he grabbed for his shoes and Rover began packing up their belongings. "Do Carson and Radek know?"

"They donít know, and yes, Elizabeth called them too. Theyíre going to meet us back where we dropped them off." John was on his feet a moment later, and all three hastened back to the clearing where theyíd left the jumper, anxious to get back to Atlantis, Rodney and Rover close at Johnís heels. They made the short trip to where Carson and Radek waited for them a few moments later, Reza, Ciora, and the babies hovering around them in their hurry to get inside and back to the city.

"I knew it, I knew it," Rodney growled as they strapped themselves in.

"Iím sure this didnít happen just because you were out of the city," John said, sending the jumper up and back toward Atlantis at its best speed.

Radek nodded, but most of his attention was on Carson, who was deep in conversation with his staff who were operating on Teyla.

"I bet it did," Rodney muttered.

Despite the gravity of the situation, John rolled his eyes. "Yes, Rodney, whatever you say, Rodney."

"Good, right, because I say itís going to be okay."

"When did you turn into the optimist of the group?" John asked, reaching over to grip Rodneyís hand quickly.

"When I want to get back to our day off!"

"Good reason," John replied approvingly, and Rover bobbed up and down quickly in agreement.

"How much longer?" Carson asked, looking up, concern etching lines across his brow.

"Still about ten minutes," John replied. "I canít go any faster."

Carson nodded tightly, and Ciora patted his arm with her pincer.

"Howís Teyla?" John asked. "Was Ronon hurt?"

"Teylaís in surgery," Carson said tightly. "Ronon wasnae hurt, but Dr. Hewston was killed."

"What the hell happened?" Rodney demanded.

"They dinna know yet."

"With explosions in the city, itís got to be a saboteur," John said. "A Wraith who got in somehow?" He keyed his radio. "Maj. Lorne. Sit rep!"

"Weíve got teams combing the city, and science teams are watching the life signs monitor, sir," Lorne reported back swiftly. "No sign of hostiles at the moment."

"Other than the explosions, you mean," John replied dryly. "Drs. Beckett, McKay and Zelenka and I will be back in approximately seven minutes. Meet me in the jumper bay or let me know where you are."

The moment the jumper touched down in the bay, Carson and Ciora were racing toward the infirmary. Rodney glanced over at Radek, noting the other manís worried expression, and poked him. "All right, letís go see what we can do to figure out what the hell happened."

John was already moving toward Lorne, and he gave Rodney a quick wave before the two officers headed toward Elizabethís office.

"She blew up from inside?!" Rodney paused in the midst of running his scans for foreign energy readings and simply stared until Rover poked him in the leg. "What next?" The last was added as a mutter as he shook his head.

Radek frowned and shook his head as well. "Then we can do nothing... although people do not normally explode, so why did Hewston?"

"No idea. All right, letís check what sheíd been working on." As he spoke, Rodney entered the parameters in his tablet, angling the screen so that Radek could see the results as well.

"She was working with..." Radekís voice trailed off as the blood drained from his face. "Watson. The man Carson is operating on right now."

"Damnit," Rodney hissed. "That lab they went into yesterday... What the fuck were the Ancients doing..."

"Itís never anything good!" Radek growled, followed by a long and heartfelt string of Czech that was far from complimentary toward the Ancients.

"Of course it isnít," Rodney snapped even as he scanned through the contents of the database, his eyes widening at an entry. "ExplodingóRadek, we need to get everyone out of that operating room now."

Radek was already yelling into his radio for Carson to get out of the operating room, leaving it to Rodney to let John and Elizabeth know what was happening.

In the operating room, Carson looked around at his staff, his expression calm though Ciora was pulling at the leg of his scrubs, trying to get him away from the patient lying on the operating table. "All right, listen up. I need everyone to clear the floor right now. Iím enacting a Protocol Seven for this entire level."

The surgical team stared at him in surprise, and Carson frowned. "Move it, people!"

His staff began to file out, and Carson looked down at Ciora. "You too, lass, it isnae safe here."

The cart blatted air out from under herself and pressed against his leg, making Carson sigh though he was smiling slightly. "All right, you can stay, and I will appreciate the help with him."

Carson looked at her for a brief moment then patted her sensor array, wishing he could persuade her to go but knowing that he didnít have the time to argue with her. Hurrying over to a computer, he entered several commands, and the screen flashed "ACTIVE LOCKDOWN. PROTOCOL SEVEN." He typed in his password, and the computer showed a demarcation line about two thirds of the way up the central tower of the city. Nodding, he turned and went back to the operating table, Ciora levitating to be at his side, pincers extended to provide assistance.

"Thank you, lass," he murmured as the lockdown alarms started to sound. "All right, letís get the scanner in place. We have a tumor to remove."

"Heís doing WHAT?!" Radek shrieked, only Rezaís grab keeping him from bolting out of the room. "Carson!" he bellowed into his radio when it became clear he couldnít break free of the determined cart.

"Carson, that thing is going to blow at any minute," Rodney added.

"Iíll be fine, Radek," Carson answered as he worked. "I canna leave him like this, and ye know it."

"I know no such thing!" Radek fumed. "You need a bomb disposal expert, not a doctor!"

"And how are they supposed ta dispose of it if itís in his body?" Carson pointed out as he made an incision, smiling tightly at Ciora as she handed him instruments.

"I donít care," Radek gritted out, knowing that if he had to choose between Carsonís life and Watsonís, there was no contest.

"Rodney, can you break the seal?" Elizabeth asked, cutting in on the frequency.

"Itíll take a half hour at least, and this will be over by then, but Iíll see what I can do."

John had joined them, and he took a turn at talking Carson out of this course of action. "Carson, if that tumor explodes, it could cause structural damage, bring the whole tower down. I know I canít order you to stand down, but..."

"Thatís right, you canít. Have your men standing by. Iíll open access to the floor once Iíve extracted the tumor. Beckett out." Carson contemplated turning off his radio but left it on when it seemed there were no more arguments from the others. Taking a deep breath, he looked over at Ciora and the small carts huddled at her side, then began to work again, knowing each second counted.

John regarded Rodney in frustration. "All we can do is wait." And he clearly didnít like it.

"Yes, well, we donít have to like it," Rodney muttered as he tried to work around the cityís defense programming, Rover shifting restlessly at his side.

After a seemingly interminable amount of time, Carsonís voice sounded over the radio again. "Colonel Sheppard. Iíve extracted the tumor..."

"Okay, just stay where you are. My men will be right there to pick it up."

Having closed up the incision, Carson stripped off his surgical gown and dropped onto a stool, nervously tapping the floor with his foot as he waited for the bomb disposal technician to arrive. The organ transplant container resting on Cioraís tray seemed to mock him, and finally he could stand it no longer. The five smaller carts that were her constant companions huddled nearby as if picking up on his tension, and Carson managed a wan smile at them before making a decision.

"Iím going to meet him halfway," he said, ignoring the arguments of the others though he winced at Radekís increasingly vocal protests. Ciora by his side and the babies zooming around her, he started out of the operating suite, heading through the now open blast doors and down the corridor he knew the technician would be coming along.

His footsteps echoed eerily through the empty area, and Carson sped up, knowing that seconds could count. He spied the soldier in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief that turned into a cry when Ciora darted ahead, carrying the container ahead to the other man, the five small carts trailing in her wake. Once he had it, she turned and started back, and Carson smiled, ready to praise her when she got to himóand then the world exploded into a ball of fire, and everything went black.

At the sound of the explosion, Radek froze, not even breathing for an endless moment. Then he screamed, a wordless cry of pain and denial and bolted from the room, John hot on his heels.

"Fuck, fuckffuckfuckfuck," Rodney breathed as he followed him, determinedly not thinking about the worst that could have happened. "Not Carson, not him." Rover darted ahead, flanking Radekís empty side as the cityís sirens blared, summoning emergency teams to the tower.

Radek ran past what was left of the dead Marine without even pausing, not stopping till he dropped to his knees next to Carsonís unmoving form, a stream of Czech pleas falling from his lips. Reza was the only one still with him as Rover had stopped next to Cioraís blackened and ruptured form, poking her without response.

Rodney drew in a sharp breath at the sight of the destruction, catching his balance as the medical team shouldered him aside, half moving to the fallen Marine, the rest to Carson. After a quick examination, they left the Marine, concentrating on their other patient, all working feverishly.

"Radekó" Rodneyís voice broke as he rested a hand on the other manís shoulder. "Let them do their job."

Radek finally looked up with a broken expression. "I canít lose him." Reza pressed against him, but her sensor array was directed back toward Ciora and Rover.

Rodney looked over at the carts and winced at the sight of Cioraís battered remains, the image bringing to mind the time he had almost lost Rover. "Theyíll fix Carson, and weíll fix Ciora, and it will all be fine," he promised.

John glanced over at Ciora and looked away quickly. It didnít look like she could be fixed, but Rodney had surprised him before. The babies, however, were gone entirely, mostly vaporized by the blast.

The med team shifted Carson to the stretcher and started for the transporter, moving as quickly as possible to get him to the infirmary. "Weíll get Ciora," Rodney said quietly though he wasnít even sure if Radek heard him.

Reza twisted back and forth between Radek and Ciora before darting into the transporter with her companion.

John moved to place a hand on Rover. "You need to let Rodney get to her, Rover."

The cart rocked in place, grinding against the shattered flooring and slowly backed out of the way, allowing Rodney to kneel down beside him. Rodney winced as he studied Cioraís battered form but was almost glad of the opportunity to have something to concentrate on other than Carsonís health.

"This is bad, John," he murmured as he examined her almost totally destroyed sensor array. "Really bad."

"But you can fix it... right?" John asked dubiously, looking down at the battered cart and stroking Rover unconsciously.

"IóI donít know, but Iím damn well going to try."

John nodded. "We all know youíll do everything humanly possible and a bit beyond." He squeezed Rodneyís shoulder. "Iím going to go check on Carson. Radek could use the support."

Rodney nodded at that. "Tell himótell him Iíll be there soon."

"I will. And heíll be grateful youíre doing what you can for Ciora. She needs help too."

"Some day off this turned out to be," Rodney muttered to himself, scrubbing a hand over his face before resting it on Rover to steady himself.

John looked at him and barked a laugh that held nothing of amusement. "Letís not do it again soon."

"Works for me, now go on; Radek shouldnít be there alone."

"Iíll call you if we get any news," John promised, bending down to kiss Rodneyís temple before heading off to the infirmary as well.

Radek sat surrounded by his friends yet somehow apart from all of them, despite Elizabethís hand on his shoulder and Reza pressed against his leg.

"Any news yet?" John asked Cadman, not wanting to disturb Radek yet. Looking around, he saw that virtually everyone who had a cart was there, and he knew theyíd be waiting for news from Rodney as well.

"Heís in surgery," she answered, looking up, her eyes red-rimmed, not caring that she was dressed in a bikini top and cut off shorts. Jack sat beside her, Jaffa pressed between them, giving and receiving comfort from the closeness. "They donít know how long it will be." She glanced over to where Elizabeth was sitting with the Czech scientist and swallowed. "Itís not supposed to be them, but it always seems to happen."

John nodded. "Being a noncombatant isnít a guarantee of safety in the Pegasus Galaxy." He looked over at Radek as well, but Elizabeth and Paul seemed to have matters in hand there, so he left them be for the moment.

"I know, but Carson..." She shook her head and reached for Jackís hand, tightening her fingers around his.

"Yeah, Carson." John sighed and sank down into a seat next to her, nodding at Lorne who sat with Chuck and Titan not far away. "Thank God we have some really good doctors here."

"They can save him."

"Yeah, they will. This damn galaxy isnít getting him."

Laura nodded at that though she had to look away, blinking rapidly, the skin around her lips whitening as she pressed them together. Jack drew her closer with an arm around her shoulders, and the gaze that turned toward John showed every minute of his more than half century of existence. The two soldiersí eyes met in a moment of perfect understanding, every death theyíd seen shadowing them.

"Not this time," Jack said softly, and John nodded.

Several hours passed before Dr. Cole came into the makeshift waiting area, tiredly rubbing the bridge of her nose, her migraine from earlier that day clearly still with her.

Every person in the room jerked to their feet, but they all held back, allowing Radek to be the one to step forward. "Carson?" he asked in a voice that cracked from emotion.

"Is in recovery," she replied before clearing her throat. "Heís not out of the woods, but Iím cautiously optimistic.

Radekís knees went weak, and he almost toppled to ground, but Reza and Paul both hurriedly propped him up. "Can I see him?"

"Of course, but I canít say when heíll regain consciousness," she warned. "Heís had head trauma and has several broken bones as well as multiple bruises and contusions." She raised her eyes to look around the crowded room. "It may be days."

"I donít care; I want to see him," Radek said stubbornly, to no oneís surprise.

"Of course, I was just warningó" Dr. Cole broke off at that and led Radek farther into the infirmary, finally reaching the room where Carson lay on a hospital bed, his injuries shrouded with bandages, IV and monitor lines trailing from his arms, head and chest.

"Carson," Radek whispered, sinking into the chair positioned next to the bed and carefully taking Carsonís hand in his. He slowly took in the bruised and battered form and a slow tear trailed down his cheek. "I came so close to losing you, my love." He leaned forward and gently kissed Carsonís cheek.

Dr. Cole wiped at her own eyes before quickly ducking out of the room to give them some privacy, doubting if Radek even noticed.

"Iíll come back in a couple of hours and try to convince Radek to let me sit with Carson while he gets some sleep," Laura said.

"Itís a good idea, but I doubt itíll work," John replied, and nearly everyone nodded. "But you should try. We all will. For now though, Iím going to go check on Rodney, let him know whatís going on."

"The both of you need to get some rest as well," Elizabeth put in.

"Iíll try to get him out of the lab, but you know how Rodney is." John shrugged.

"I know that if anyone can make him rest, itís you."

"Iíll do my best, but itís going to depend how things are going with Ciora." John made his way through the crowd and down to the lab, stopping in the mess hall for coffee on his way.

"Rodney?"

"John?" Rodneyís head shot up, his eyes wide as he looked toward the door. "Is heó"

"Heís still unconscious, but heís out of surgery, and theyíre cautiously optimistic. Radekís sitting with him now," John explained quickly, coming over to hug Rodney.

"Oh good." Rodney let out a sigh and clung to him. "I wanted to go seeóI just couldnít..."

"I know. And he wouldnít know yet anyways; youíll go see him when heís awake." John looked at the pieces strewn on the bench and the clearly miserable cart off to one side. "Ciora?"

"Ió" Rodney cleared his throat and tried again. "Sheís bad, John; her control crystals are totally shattered"

John flinched. "Can she be fixed?"

"I donít know," Rodney admitted, his voice barely audible.

Rover backed farther into a corner, shivering, and John looked from him to Rodney, unable to tell which of them needed comfort most just then.

"If she canít," he finally said, "it wonít be because you didnít do everything possible."

Rover slowly came closer and pressed against Rodneyís leg, clearly agreeing with John, and Rodney slid off his seat, leaning against the cartís side, dragging John down with him. "I should be able to fix this. I need to fix this," he rasped.

John slid his arms around Rodney, holding him tightly. "Not even you can fix everything," he said softly, "no matter how hard you try."

"Why? Iím supposed to be able to do thatóto be the one who fixes things."

"And you do, more often than we have a right to expect. But youíre not Godóor Superman. Sometimes things just can be fixed."

Rover shivered and pressed closer to both of them.

"It sucks," Rodney whispered. "Howís Radek doing? Stupid question, I know, but..."

"As long as Carsonís okay, he will be. Elizabeth and Paul made sure he was okay until he could get in to see Carson. And everyoneís going to take turns trying to get him to rest tonight."

"I should go see him. Heís my friend, and Carsonís my best friend other than you, and I havenít gone to see them."

John nodded. "If youíre ready, yeah, thatíd be good."

Rodney got to his feet, his movements as slow and painful as those of a man decades older. Rover pressed against his leg, then edged toward the table that held Cioraís pieces, and he chewed his lower lip. "Do you want to stay here with her, boy?"

The cart shuddered, scanning the wreckage a final time before edging back next to Rodney, grasping his pant leg in a pincer.

"And that answers that," John observed, keeping an arm around Rodneyís shoulders as they left the lab, all three of remaining in a tight group as they moved. They reached the infirmary, and the staff still sitting in the open area looked up.

"No change, sir," Leo Stackhouse reported from his place beside Miko, with Lunchmeat and Maemi huddled close to them.

"Radek still with him?" John asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yessir; Lisa tried to take him in some food, but he wonít eat."

"He sounds like another scientist I know," John said wryly.

Rodney scowled at that but didnít argue the point. "Well, Iím his boss, and heíll damn well listen to me when it comes to his health."

John snorted. "Letís hope his hearing is less selective than yours. And after you talk to him, you are going to get some rest too."

Rodney opened his mouth to argue, but the shadows in Johnís eyes stopped him. "All right, if you do too."

"You play dirty," John said, but the protest was half-hearted at best. The idea of curling up in bed, in Rodneyís arms, actually sounded pretty good to John. "You want me to go in with you, or would you rather talk to him alone?"

"I want to stay with you, but Iíd better go in alone. If you see things start flying, come rescue me, okay?" Rodney slid an arm around Johnís waist and gave him a hug.

"You had to ask?" John gave Rodney a quick kiss before letting go and then sat down to wait for him.

Rodney took a deep breath, looking back at John and silently telling Rover to wait with him before walking into the small room where Radek sat and Carson lay, machines beeping softly in time with his heartbeat.

"They told me you havenít eaten anything; that changes now, or Carson is really going to be pissed when he wakes up."

"I will eat when Carson does," Radek replied without looking away from Carson.

"No, youíll eat now," Rodney said flatly, digging a Powerbar out of his pocket and pouring a mug of coffee from the carafe someone had left in the room along with a tray of food. He sniffed at the liquid, then, satisfied that it was warm, held them out. "If you donít eat, youíre going to end up on the floor, and Iím not throwing my back out picking you up."

Radek turned to glare at him, but it was nowhere near his best effort. "I did not ask you to!" After a moment, however, he accepted the items Rodney offered and took a long swallow of the coffee.

"I always felt sorry for you being paired with the colonel," Radek suddenly murmured, once again watching Carson. "I thought if anyone would be injured or..." His voice broke.

"Yeah, I know," Rodney murmured, snagging a chair and pulling it up alongside Radekís. He glanced at Carsonís still form, the doctorís face almost unrecognizable beneath the bandages and swelling, and rested a hand on Radekís shoulder. "He should have been safe, but heís here and under the best care possible; you havenít lost him."

Radek finally met Rodneyís eyes, the blue eyes behind the glasses full of pain and fear. "But it was so close," he whispered.

"I know, and I know it feels like someone just yanked your guts out, so I wonít tell you itíll be all better because that will take time," Rodney said, his tone amazingly gentle. "Heís here and youíre here; thatís what counts, and you have to keep yourself strong so you can help him when he can come home."

A broken sound escaped Radek, and he buried his face in his hands, finally letting himself go, Reza pressing closer while Rodney awkwardly patted his shoulder, feeling utterly inadequate in dealing with the situation but hoping his presence helped.

Radek regained control after only a few moments and wiped his eyes before resettling his glasses on his nose. "Thank you," he said simply, and Rodney nodded as he sat back.

"Just donít spread it around, and now I intend to use your gratitude to browbeating you into eating more."

"Bully," Radek muttered, but he managed the tiniest of smiles as he reached for the food, Rodney nodding in approval and pulling out another Powerbar to chew on while he watched.

"How do you learn to deal with it?" Radek asked curiously.

Rodney looked down and was silent before tilting his gaze upwards to meet Radekís. "I remind myself how much worse my life would have been without knowing him at all."

Radek nodded slowly. "Yes, of course. No matter what happens, it was worth it." He squeezed Carsonís fingers.

 

 

Rodney walked into the rooms he shared with John and crossed over to the windows, sinking down to the floor and leaning against Roverís side, staring out at the water. He knew John would be back soon, and being alone probably wasnít the best thing but he couldnít stay in the lab any longer.

Rover pressed against him, radiating unhappiness, and when John arrived a little while later, he paused in the doorway, taking in their postures. He breathed out a soft sigh and moved over to drop down on Rodneyís other side.

"Thereís too much damage, isnít there?" he asked almost soundlessly.

"Thereís just nothing left of her control crystals," Rodney admitted, hating to say the words aloud. "With Rover the problem was transferring his programmingó" His hand clenched on the cartís side at that. "But thereís nothing of Ciora left to transfer."

John and Rover both winced, the cart shifting and scraping against the floor to make a soft whining sound. "Iím so sorry, Rover," John said, reaching around Rodney to rest a hand on the miserable cart.

"I need to tell Radekóbut how do I tell him? Heís worried about Carson enough as it is; itís been a week, and he still isnít consciousówhat if..." Rodney fell silent, swallowing back the words he didnít want to let loose for fear they would become a prophesy of what was to come.

John half turned and wrapped his arms tightly around Rodney, pulling him into an embrace. "All we can do is wait and be there for them," he said quietly.

"It doesnít seem like enough," Rodney whispered, hugging John with his free arm and burying his face against his neck for a moment.

"I know," John replied, his eyes distant as the roll call of the dead passed before him. "And some days nothing we can do is enough." He fell silent, simply holding Rodney and watching the slow progress of the sun across the sky.

"Dr. McKay. Col. Sheppard. Report to the infirmary." Rodney jumped at the sudden sharp sound, and he stared at John, his eyes wide.

"Noóit canít beóthey said they thought heíd be fine, fucking voodoo practitioners..."

Even though the same fear had goosebumps covering Johnís body, he squeezed Rodneyís shoulders. "Donít assume the worst; it could be good news."

"Itís easier to assume the worst," Rodney countered, "then Iím never disappointed."

"Not very happy either," John pointed out, getting to his feet and offering Rodney a hand up. "Come on, letís go find out."

"Okay." Rodney swallowed convulsively as they headed for the door, Rover pressed against his leg and his hand clutched tightly around Johnís.

The three of them entered the infirmary together, but the sound of laughter instantly told them that their fears had been groundless. They sped up, moving toward Carsonís bed where Radek sat on the edge, holding Carsonís hand tightly.

Rodney let out the breath that he hadnít realized heíd been holding and tightened his hand on Johnís as they reached the bedside. "You know, there are easier ways to get some time off than blowing yourself up," he said gruffly.

Radek laughed shakily. "I said much the same."

"Itís good to see you awake again, Carson," John put in, grinning broadly in his relief. "Youíre supposed to stay out of danger so you can patch the rest of us up."

"Iíll try ta remember that, Colonel," Carson whispered tiredly, managing a small smile before his eyes closed and he fell asleep again.

Radek reached over and stroked Carsonís hair with the hand not clutching one of Carsonís, and watching him, John drew Rodney closer to his side. After a moment, Radek looked up again, smiling at them with pure relief in his blue eyes. "Dr. Cole says heís going to be fine."

Rodney breathed a sigh of relief at the pronouncement. "Do you know how long heíll be in here?"

"Several days," Cole answered herself, rejoining them. "Carson took some nasty hits, and doctors never take care of themselves properly."

"Oh yes, he will," Radek assured her.

"Weíll all make sure of that," Rodney added, and Rover bumped against Rezaís side in agreement.

Watching the carts, John chewed his lip nervously, knowing it was only a matter of time before Carson asked for Ciora. He looked up to find Radek watching him, a look of sadness in his eyes. Clearly, the scientist was well aware of what it meant that she wasnít with them after this long.

"I tried, but..." Rodney whispered, watching the doctorís sleeping form and finally shaking his head.

Radek winced but nodded. "I was afraid of that as soon as I saw her, but I hoped..." he trailed off.

"There just wasó" Rodney took a deep breath and looked away, his gaze settling on Rover. "There wasnít enough."

Radek flinched. "That could have been Carson. Two minutes earlier and it would have been Carson."

"But it wasnít," John reminded him. "He did his job, just the way the two of you do, and he saved that manís life, and Ciora saved his."

"Johnís right," Elizabeth said as she and Paul joined them. "Theyíre both heroes."

"I donít think thatís going to be much comfort to Carson," Radek said sadly, unconsciously stroking Reza.

"Of course not." They all looked toward the bed when Carson stirred, shifting slightly, his head turning in their direction though his eyes remained closed.

"Kate is available to speak to him whenever heís ready," Elizabeth said softly, glancing down at Pandora. "And to anyone else who needs to. This is going to affect a lot of people."

Rodney nodded tightly, looking somewhat queasy at the thought of what was to come.

"Iíll tell him when he wakes up," Radek said softly, watching Carson. "He should hear it from me."

"Iím the one who couldnít fix her; I should tell him," Rodney countered firmly. "Besides, youíll just pussyfoot around it all and never get to the point."

Radek smiled bitterly. "Youíll blame yourself for failing to do the impossible. Neither of you needs that."

"What do you mean by that?!" Rodneyís voice rose as he spoke, and Paul spoke up.

"I think this discussion would be better held outside of this roomóif it needs to be held at all.

John put a hand on Rodneyís shoulder. "Heís saying that you burden yourself with far more than your share. You really arenít Superman." He gently urged Rodney toward the door, agreeing with Paul that this wasnít the place for this conversation.

"I justó" Rodney protested before giving in to Johnís urging and walking out of the room, Rover darting out after them, hurrying to catch up with Rodneyís lengthening steps.

"We know itís because you care, Rodney," Elizabeth called after him. "More than youíd like most people to believe," she added softly.

Carson opened his eyes to see Radek seated in a chair beside the bed, half-slumped against the wall. Tsking to himself, Carson tried to sit up, only to catch his breath as pain shot through him, centered mostly in his arm and head. Radek stirred at the sound, and Carson sighed. "I dinna mean ta wake you, love." His voice was raspy to his own ears, and he frowned, looking around. "Iím surprised the lasses havenít dragged ye out of hereó"

Radek flinched involuntarily and straightened in his chair, reaching over to take Carsonís hand. "Carson, I... Ciora..." He met Carsonís blue eyes helplessly, the other man frowning slightly before awareness sparked in his eyes, and he looked around the room again, seeing only Reza beside Radekís chair.

He closed his eyes and pressed his lips together as emotional pain outweighed physical. "Oh my poor lass," he whispered.

"Iím so sorry," Radek whispered, squeezing Carsonís hand. "Rodney did everything humanly possible to try to save her, and then tried harder, but..." He shook his head, and Carson took a ragged breath, and a tear escaped from beneath his closed lids.

"She saved my life."

"Yes, she did, and Iíll be eternally grateful to her for that." Radek watched as Reza reached up with a pincer to pat Carsonís leg, but then she seemed to think better of it and moved away.

"Dr. Watson?" Carson asked quietly. "Did he survive?"

"Yes, you saved his life," Radek assured him.

"Ciora did." Carson opened his eyes and looked over at Radek and Reza. "Without her I wouldnít have been able to do it."

"And without you, he would have died, alone, and possibly taken part of the tower with him. Much as I hate you being in danger, you did the only thing you could," Radek said.

"Was anyone else hurt?"

Radek had hoped Carson wouldnít ask that question yet, but now that he had, he had to tell him the truth. "The Marine bomb disposal expert, he was caught in the blast. He didnít survive."

Carson fell silent at that, but his hand tightened around Radekís as he weighed the life of the scientist against that of the soldieróand of Ciora, knowing he wouldnít have done anything differently if he had the choice and feeling guilty over that choice.

"Almost all of the little ones were with Ciora too," Radek added, deciding it would be best to tell Carson all of it. "The only one that survived was the one with Reza."

A soft sound of pain greeted that statement, and Carson tried to raise his broken arm to his face but found himself constrained by the cast. "IóI should have realized that."

"Iím sorry, love," Radek said again, leaning over to kiss Carsonís cheek. "I... I miss her, them, too."

"Iím sorry to have worried ye," Carson whispered, his voice breaking at the last.

Radek stared at him a moment before laughing shakily. "Only you," he muttered fondly. "Iím just glad youíre here for me to yell at."

Carson tried to smile at that, but his mouth trembled, falling into an unhappy expression again as he leaned back against the hospital bed and closed his eyes again. "I am as well, love."

After a momentís hesitation, Radek moved to perch on the edge of the bed, offering Carson comfort. "I should warn you that I have decided you are not allowed to be hurt; it makes me almost as irritable as Rodney, and Atlantis could not survive two of us."

"Iíll keep that in mind," Carson murmured, opening his eyes again, this time managing a small smile as he looked up at Radek before cutting his gaze to the side where Reza waited, rocking back and forth. "Come here, lass; I know ye miss her too."

She shot forward so quickly that it was clear sheíd only been hanging back for fear of upsetting him more, and Radek patted her as she hovered next to the bed where Carson could see her without strain.

"Thank ye for taking care of him for me," Carson told her seriously, gently pulling his hand away from Radekís to pat her as well though his eyes were shadowed as he watched her. Reza pressed a little closer, patting an uninjured part of him with a closed pincer, and Radek heaved a mental sigh of relief.

"At least now she will be feeding you too, so I wonít have to eat constantly."

"Why do I think ye dinna eat much in spite of her prodding?"

"I havenít been very hungry," Radek admitted.

"So now I need ta tell ye as well?" Carson asked blinking as his eyelids drooped.

"Now you need to sleep, and when you wake up, we can both eat."

"Youíll eat before that," Carson murmured before falling asleep again, his hand still wrapped around Radekís while Reza pushed a Powerbar at him, and Radek took it with a resigned sigh.

"Enough! Iím chief medical officer, and I say Iím fine ta be released!" Frazzled by multitudes of visitors over the days since he regained consciousness, Carsonís legendary patience finally snapped, sending nurses scurrying.

John leaned against the doorway, pausing on his way in to visit Carson. "Have you been taking lessons from Rodney? You sound like him."

The doctor glared at him at that. "If ye try ta jump me, Iíll hit ye with my cast, Colonel."

John snickered. "Youíre assuming Rodney and Rover would leave anything of me if I ever did anything like that." He looked around. "Did someone drug Radek to get him out of here?"

Carsonís expression tightened slightly at the mention of Roverís name, but his voice was steady as he answered. "I did; the man hadnae slept more than a few hours at a time in almost two weeks."

"And that surprises you?" John arched an eyebrow at him. "Youíve seen Rodney or me in here often enough, not to mention Chuck every time Lorne gets injured."

"Aye, Iíve seen all of ye; Iíve just never been on this side of it," Carson admitted, flopping back against the raised back of his hospital bed. "And I can see why ye all complain as much as ye do when ye get tae this point in yer convalescence."

"Whereís a witness when I need one!" John laughed before making his way over to the chair next to Carsonís bed. "So does that mean youíre going to start letting us out of here sooner?"

Carsonís eyebrows rose, and he scoffed at that. "I think yeíll get out when I say and not before."

"I suspected as much. And I canít really help you stage an escape, since I think youíd tell on you to you."

"I believe I should be concerned that I understood what ye meant there."

"Itís the first sign that youíre getting better," John assured him, making Carson smile.

"Now, if only ye were a doctor..."

"Not gonna happen," John said, slouching in his seat. "I leave the blood and guts to you."

"Thatís probably for the best."

"The division of labor works for us," John agreed. He regarded Carson intently. "So how are you feeling, really?"

"Iím recovering as well as can be expected," Carson allowed. "As I was saying when you came in, I believe I could be released at this point; only time will heal the rest of the injuries."

"And I said that was up to the doctor, not the patient," Radek put in sternly as he walked into the room.

"And I thought you were going to take a nap," Carson countered.

"I did. And now Iím back to make sure you donít cause yourself a relapse."

John snickered, finding this conversation far too familiar, and Carson scowled at him. "Aside from the arm and these bloody headaches, Iím fine!"

"Then your doctor will be pleased to let you go," Radek replied sweetly.

"I think Iím glad you two donít carry guns," John observed mirthfully.

"Aye, because right now Iíd be tempted ta use it on the both of ye!"

"Youíd miss us," John assured him while Radek simply snorted.

"All right, Carson, I think we can let you go back to your quarters provided you take it easy," Dr. Cole said as she stepped into the room, pausing and looking around when she saw Carson glaring at the other two men.

"And on that note, I think thereís something that needs my attention far from here," John said, chuckling as he hastily removed himself from Carsonís irate presence.

"I donít believe Iíve ever seen the colonel move so quickly," she chuckled before looking back at Carson. "And before you ask, you arenít cleared to return to work."

"Ha!" Radek crossed his arms and smirked at Carson. "So you have no choice but to rest in our room and let me and Reza take care of you." There was an almost imperceptible pause before he mentioned his cart, but they all knew she existed.

"The both of ye do have work to do," Carson reminded him, giving an attempt at a smile. "Iím not an invalid, and ye both know it."

"And I almost lost you, so youíre just going to have to accept a little hovering for a while," Radek informed him.

"Literally in the case of Reza." Carson sighed as he looked around for the cart. "Ye havenít brought her in here once since that first time when I woke up."

Radek hesitated briefly before admitting, "I wasnít sure it wouldnít hurt you to see her."

"Iíll not say it wonít," Carson admitted, reaching up to rub his broken arm and sighing when all he touched was the cast. "But I wilnae ignore her or have you hide her away from me."

Reza had clearly been just outside the room because Carson had barely finished speaking before she was next to his bed, floating up to eye level and patting his leg almost franticly. Carson closed his eyes for a moment before smiling at the cart and reaching out with his good hand to stroke her sensor array. "Yeíre a good girl, love, and I know ye miss her too." He glanced at Radek at that, and his smile slipped. "We all do."

Radek looked back at him sorrowfully. "Yes, we do." The infirmary seemed wrong without Ciora hovering nearby to assist Carson, and everyone there felt it. He squeezed Carsonís hand. "I am so sorry, love."

"So am I," Carson said quietly. "But I have you and Reza to help me through it all." He began to swing his legs off the bed, wincing as he moved. "And I really would like ta go home now."

"Yes, that would be good," Radek agreed, moving to Carsonís side to help support him, even as a nurse appeared with a wheelchair.

"Dr. Biro said you might try walking out of here," he said cheerfully. "Iím here to make sure you donít."

Carson sighed but accepted the seat, realizing that he wouldnít make the walk back to their room even with Radekís help.

"Ah good, sense wins," Radek murmured. He watched as Reza patted Carsonís thigh again once he was settled comfortably, and the remaining baby cart peeked out of her inner compartment, Carson smiling at it and holding out a hand though his expression was strained with more than the pain of moving.

The little cart inched forward to touch the outstretched hand before darting back inside the shadowy storage area.

Radek watched sadly. "Itís not you. The little one hasnít left Reza since it happened," he told Carson, who nodded tiredly.

"I canna blame it; it would be nice ta hide away for a time."

"Then weíll get you to your room, and you can hide as long as you want... or until Rodney comes pounding on the door," Radek finished wryly.

"Iím nae sure he will; heís made himself scarce since that first visit." Carsonís voice died away, and he was silent.

"Eventually the colonel will convince him that he couldnít have done anything differently to have prevented anything that happened, and he will be back. Right now he is still blaming himself," Radek said quietly.

"There wasnae anything he could do," Carson said flatly as they reached their room, the nurse wheeling him inside and telling them to call the infirmary if they needed anything. "As if I didnít know that," Carson sighed as he left.

"Right now, Carson, you are the patient, not the doctor, so behave," Radek replied sternly. He moved to Carsonís side to help him into bed and then crawled up beside him, pressing close and letting out a shaky breath.

Carson managed to get his good arm around him and let out a sigh. "Och, love, ye need some rest as well."

"I havenít slept well without you beside me," Radek admitted quietly, inhaling the familiar scent of Carson.

"I know the feeling," Carson admitted, trying to stifle a yawn.

"So now weíre together, where we belong. We can both sleep now."

Carson nodded kissed the top of Radekís head, determinedly not looking toward the corner where Reza and Ciora normally stayed.

John looked across the mess hall to where Carson and Radek were having lunch and then back at Rodney, who was staring at his plate. "Go talk to him."

"Iím eating," Rodney protested.

"Fine, but youíre going to have to talk to him eventually. You did everything you could, Rodney, and Carson would be the first to tell you that."

"What do you mean?" Rodney blustered.

"I mean you should quit blaming yourself and avoiding him," John replied bluntly.

"Iím notóyou canít thinkó" Rodney protested, dropping his fork as he stared at John.

"I donít think, but it sure seems that you do, so stop it."

Rodney glared at him mutinously then yelped when Rover pinched his leg. "Iófine, Iíll talk to him, just not here, okay?"

"Good Rover," John said approvingly. "And soon, Rodney."

"I will! I said I will!"

"Good. ĎCause if you donít, very soon heís going to corner you, you know," John pointed out blandly.

"He wouldnít!" Rodney glowered before Rover poked him again. "Fine, fine, I suppose itís possible he would."

"Considering that heís your friend, Iíd say itís pretty much a given."

Rodney looked down at his food, then at John again. "Is it all right if I finish eating first?"

"Iíd prefer it. Having you pass out from manly hunger is bad for my nerves."

"Iím going to throw something at you."

"Will you kiss the bruise better?"

"After that comment?!"

John pouted at him, and Rodney groaned. "You are so strange."

"And Iím all yours. Arenít you lucky?"

Rodney opened his mouth to snark back, then smiled. "Yes, I am."

John returned the smile before leaning over the table to kiss him, and Rodneyís smile changed to a crooked grin. "And youíre a slut."

"I repeat, arenít you lucky?" John smirked at him, causing Rodney to chuckle and shake his head.

Later that day, Rodney tracked Carson down on the west pier. The doctor was sitting on the edge of the structure, his legs dangling over the edge, watching the sun go down over the water in the distance. When Carson showed no sign of realizing he was there, Rodney cleared his throat.

"Rodney," Carson said as he half-turned, smiling tiredly. "How are ye?"

"IímóI should be asking you that," Rodney protested, walking over and sitting down beside Carson, ignoring the long drop to the ocean below. Rover settled off to the side, staying close but not crowding them.

"Iím getting better; I keep telling myself it will take time."

Rodney nodded, looking out at the water before taking a deep breath, his words spilling out in a torrent. "Iím sorry. I should have figured out what that piece of equipment was used for; if I had, none of this would have happened. You shouldnít have been hurt. Ciora wouldnít have been... I should have been able to fix her."

"Rodney," Carson said gently though his voice was rough and tears stood in his eyes. "There wasnae anything more ye could have done, I know that. I want ta thank ye for everything ye did; I know ye hardly left the lab after it happened."

"Iím sorry I didnít visit you either," Rodney blurted. "Youíre one of my best friends, and I didnít visit you."

"Well, itís not as if I knew that for the first week."

Rodney looked at him strangely and laughed, the sound pained. "Why are you being so damned nice to me? You could have died!"

"But I didnít."

"But Ciora did!"

"Aye, she did," Carson said quietly. "And I miss her, but she died saving my life, and Iíll never forget that."

Rodney was quiet, and he plucked at the hem of his jacket. "You couldóif you wanted, we could activate another cart for you."

"No!" Carson said quickly. "Itís not that I donít appreciate the offer, Rodney, but I cannae. It just wouldnít feel right, do you understand?"

"Ióyes," Rodney admitted. "I wouldnít either, and I didnít think you would, I just..."

"I know. Thank ye."

"Donít thank me, itísó" Rodney sighed. "Itís nice out here."

"Aye, that it is."

"So, do you mind if I sit here with you for a while?"

Carson looked over at him and drew in a deep breath. "Iíd like that; we can watch the sun go down together."

END

 

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