Notes: Response to Lenaís Sentinel/SGA challenge: Ď[...] Rodney was a Sentinel who didnít find his guide [...] somehow John misses being tested. Of course much later they would meet [...] Rodney going all these years without a guide doesnít realize what heís smelling and of course John is just clueless.í

Beware: Sam Carter bashing. The Col. Carter in this universe is very different from canon.

Right in Front of Me

Orithain and Rina

November-December 2007

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

Chapter 2 ~ Chapter 3 ~ Chapter 4 ~ Chapter 5 ~ Chapter 6 ~ Chapter 7 ~ Chapter 8 ~ Chapter 9 ~ Chapter 10 ~ Chapter 11 ~ Chapter 12 ~ Chapter 13 ~ Chapter 14 ~ Chapter 15 ~ Chapter 16 ~ Chapter 17 ~ Chapter 18 ~ Chapter 19

~ Chapter 1 ~

"Rodney, have ye taken yer Aclompazine?"

"Iím fine, Carson. Now get out of my way; I need to get to the gate room." Blue eyes narrowed when the burly Scot refused to move. "Damnit, Carson, Iím fine; everythingís normal; Iím not going to zone out while weíre opening the gate!"

"Thatís right, ye arenít because yeíre going to take yer damn pill. Heaven knows who or what weíre going to find on the other side, and I dinna need ye ta be frozen if something sets ye off."

"Last I checked, you werenít my keeper."

"Perhaps not, but Iím the closest ye have ta one, so youíll do as I say."

Rodney grumbled under his breath as he dug in his pants pocket, pulled out a full bottle of small white pills, opened it to dig one out and dry swallowed it. "Happy now?"

"Iíd be happy if we werenít going on this insane jaunt."

Rodney paused at that and looked at the other man closely. "Do you mean that?"

"Och, no, itís just nerves. Now go bother Elizabeth so that I can check on my staff."

"Bother..." Rodney sputtered as Carson turned and walked away. "Thinks because he has a degree in voodoo he can run my life," he muttered, spinning and starting down the hall, pushing past the messy-haired Air Force major whose gene had made him a last minute addition to the expedition. For a moment, he was surrounded by the scent of mint, and the lines of tension around his eyes lessened; then it was gone, and he was pushing into the gate room, the high level of noise there etching the lines even deeper than they had been.

Everyone was rechecking and resettling their gear, making sure they were ready to go through the gate the moment they got the all-clear. Dr. Weir made a brief speech, offering the expedition members a last chance to change their minds, but no one did, and John Sheppard smiled faintly as he watched her.

Elizabeth Weir might be a civilian, but she was a leader and one John thought he would pleased to follow. His eyes went from her to Dr. McKay, whose sharp tongue alienated most people but intrigued John, though the major wasnít about to let the astrophysicist know that.

"Dr. Weir, you have a go," Gen. OíNeill said crisply, ignoring Rodneyís muttered Ďfinallyí as he began dialing the eight symbols to connect to Atlantis.

Col. Sumner started for the gate, only to be brought up short by Elizabeth as she reminded him who was in charge, and they agreed to go through together, with the entire expedition on their heels.

"How can a city thatís mostly empty be so crowded?" Rodney grumbled, side-stepping a group of Athosian children as he made his way to an empty table to sit.

Behind him, John chuckled. "You just think that because the kids seem to like you."

"Thatís because theyíre all vitamin deficient," Rodney sniffed, his eyes momentarily dilating before returning to normal.

John stared at him. "Vitamin deficient? Are you on something?" he laughed.

"Other than massive amounts of caffeine, not at the moment; are you saying that you actually like them, Major?"

"Sure. Kids are just like older people, some good, some bad, although they have cuteness on their side keeping them alive."

Rodney eyed him as if he was insane and Rodney was afraid it was catching.

John chuckled again. "Have a brownie," he offered, having already noticed that food was the way to appease Rodney.

"Brownie?" Rodney asked, perking up at that, grabbing at the chocolate square before John had done more than lift it off his plate.

John watched him with amusement. "Would you two like to be alone?"

"Oh ha ha, very funny," Rodney grumbled, setting the brownie aside and cutting into a piece of processed chicken. "Any more schoolyard taunts you care to share?"

"Taunts?" John repeated slowly, seeming to taste the word. "No, I wouldnít say that. Would you prefer that I dip your pigtails in the inkwell?"

Rodney glowered at him, his nostrils flaring as he huffed out a breath, then his eyes went unfocused, and he stared into the distance.

"Is that supposed to be a no?" John chuckled, frowning a moment later when Rodney didnít respond. "Rodney?" He saw the unfocused stare, and his eyes widened. "Oh crap! Rodney, come on, come back and talk to me." He placed a hand on Rodneyís, trying to engage his other senses.

"What? Who? Oh, Major-" Rodney blinked rapidly and flushed. "Youíll have toóthere was this smell..."

"Smell? The brownies?" John kept hold of Rodneyís hand, not sure that he wasnít going to zone out again.

"Possibly, if they have mint in them. Perhaps I should be medicated after all." Moving slowly, Rodney pulled his hand back and dug in his pocket for a bottle of pills, swallowing one down.

"Mint?" John frowned slightly and pulled a package out of his pocket. "In this the problem?"

Rodney took the roll and sniffed at it, but frowned and shook his head. "No, not quite."

"Well, thatís all the mint I have on me, aside from the one Iím eating."

"Well, Iím certainly not going to sniff your breath!"

"For which Iím eternally grateful! That would just be too weird."

Rodney pulled back and viciously stabbed his fork into his chicken again.

"What did that poor chicken ever do to you?"

"It existed," Rodney grumbled.

John eyed him warily. "You plan to stab everything that exists with a fork?"

"Do you think it would work on one of those wraith?"

Johnís smile dropped away. "I really doubt it."

"Ohóoh! Major, IímóI didnít meanó" Rodney trailed off, looking unhappy. "Here," he said, offering the brownie back. "I believe you need it more than I do."

"Naw, thatís okay." John smiled again. "I think you enjoy them more than I ever could."

"Well, take half at least." Rodney broke the brownie into two pieces and offered one to John.

"Thanks." John toasted Rodney with it before taking a bite. "So, uh, youíre a sentinel, right? How come your guideís not with you to deal with this stuff?"

Rodney shrugged and started to look down before stopping and jutting his chin out defiantly. "I donít have one."

"Huh? I thought that was impossible?" John said in surprise. "Did something happen to yours?"

"I donít have one," Rodney repeated.

"You mean you never had one? I guess that makes us a pair of misfits."

"Well, hooray for us; shall we make banners and t-shirts?"

"I donít think so. But Dr. Weir wants me to put together a gate team. Iíd like you to be on it."

"Excuse me?"

"A gate team. I need one. I want you on it. There, words of one syllable even."

"Because yes, a person who could zone out without the slightest notice is such a great addition to a team."

John shrugged. "You have the pills; youíre still the best scientist we have; and it wasnít that hard to bring you out of it."

"This time. Itís taken Carson half an hour at times," Rodney said morosely though he was secretly pleased at the comments about his abilities.

"Really?" John looked surprised. "I donít think it was a minute just now."

Rodney shrugged and finally took a bite of his brownie. "It must have been a minor one."

"So why assume it would be any worse in the field? I think youíd be an asset to the team."

"Just who else is on this team?" Rodney finally asked.

"Lt. Ford, and Iím going to ask Teyla too."

"Ford? The puppy dog-looking one?"

"It would probably be best if you didnít say that where he can hear you. But yes. Heís the next most senior officer, but heís inexperienced. He needs seasoning before I put him in charge of his own team."

"So you have an unseasoned puppy, an Amazon woman and the king of the zone outs; should be interesting at least."

"So youíll do it then?" John zeroed in on the important part of what Rodney was saying.

"Iím saying I want to talk to Carson firstóand you should too so you know what youíre getting into," Rodney hedged.

"But if he says itís okay, which he will, youíll join my team?" John persisted.

"The question is, after you talk to Carson, will you want me on it," Rodney shot back.

"Of course I will. Why would you think otherwise?"

"I have no idea; Iím still trying to understand why youíd want me out in the field to begin with."

"Gee, why would I want somebody who understands the technology weíre looking for and will be able to tell if somethingís worth bringing back or trading for? No idea."

"Does it look like Iím arguing that fact?" Rodney asked. "Fine, after we both talk to Carson, if you still want me on your team, Iíll go."

"Eureka!" John grabbed Rodneyís arm. "Come on then, letís go find him."

"ButóIómy brownie!" Rodney protested, making a grab for it.

John paused just long enough for Rodney to get hold of his dessert before continuing toward the door back into the room where it seemed everyone in Atlantis had gathered.

"Is there a reason this had to be done right now?" Rodney asked, his tone holding as much amusement as exasperation.

John slowed down, grinning sheepishly over his shoulder. "I didnít want to give you time to change your mind."

"Who says Iíve made up my mind to begin with!"

"Hey! You said, and I quote, ĎAfter we both talk to Carson, if you still want me on your team, Iíll go.í That sounds like a decision to me!"

Rodney glared at him out of the corner of his eye, but John just beamed at him and continued towing him toward Carson.

"Maj. Sheppard, is there something ye need?" the doctor asked, looking at him and Rodney askance.

"Rodney," John announced cheerfully.

"Rodney?" Carson asked, glancing over at the other man, who was looking quite embarrassed.

"On my gate team," John clarified, though the look at Rodney seemed to indicate that he wouldnít mind having Rodney in other ways.

"Rodney?"

"Donít ask me, Carson," Rodney sighed, "heís delusional."

"He seems to think we need your permission first, Dr. Beckett," John said. "So please may Rodney come out to play?"

Carson looked from one to the other, his brow furrowed. "Ye want Rodney on yer gate team?"

"Didnít I just say that?"

"Rodney, have ye told the major about yer... situation?"

"Of course I have!"

"Complete with demonstration," John added. "Which only proved that itís no big deal. I had no trouble bringing him out of it."

"Rodney, ye had a zone out?" Carson asked, concern heavy in his voice.

"Yes, and obviously it wasnít a major one as the major brought me around quickly."

"It was less than a minute," John assured the doctor.

"Less than aóMajor, are ye sure of that?"

"Of course Iím sure; I was there."

"Thatís verra odd."

"Yes, Carson, I know; is anything here less than odd?" Rodney sighed. "Why donít I leave the two of you alone so you can either give the major your speech on the care and feeding of guideless sentinels or tell him Iím a menace to society and that will be that."

"Stop trying to get out of it," John advised him. "You said youíd join if Carson said it was all right. Itís all right, isnít it?"

"I canna see any reason that Rodney shouldnít accompany you, though Iíd like to have a talk with you beforehand, Major."

"There, see, Rodney? Itís perfectly safe."

"Safe?"

"For your sentinel self to be on my team."

Carson chuckled, and Rodney scowled at him. "I hope you arenít expecting me to be able to use my so-called abilities out there."

"Nope. Oh, donít get me wrong; it would give us a tactical advantage if you did, but I want you for your brain. Well, that and the fact that I like you," John shrugged.

"You like me." The statement was as much question as fact, and Carson hid a smile behind his hand.

"No, I always invite people I canít stand to spend most of their time with me. Geez, McKay!"

"I believe what Rodneyís trying to say is that heíd like to be on yer team, Major," Carson interjected quickly.

"Good, we should have a drink to celebrate." John looked around. "Is there any of that champagne left?"

"I believe so; let me find it..." Carson hurried off to do just that, and Rodney glowered at John.

"You bullied him."

John snorted. "I very much doubt that man can be bullied when it comes to anything medical."

Rodney sniffed in disdain, and his eyes grew unfocused again before he shook his head to clear it.

"Itís going to be fun," John said encouragingly.

"Can you guarantee that?"

"You can bitch at me all you want if it isnít."

"You do realize thatís extreme amounts of bitching, donít you?"

John shrugged, not about to admit that he found Rodney in full snark mode entertaining.

"All right, Iíve rescued the last of the champagne; anyone have glasses?" Carson asked, bustling back to them.

"Hang on..." John vanished into the crowd, reappearing moments later with three clean glasses. "Here we go."

Carson poured the remaining champagne into the glasses, and Rodney sighed as he took his, though he couldnít help the feeling of excitement buried deep within him. "Hereís to all of us getting out of this in one piece."

"Iíll drink to that. And to new friends," John added, raising his glass in a toast.

~ Chapter 2 ~

"Major, I need you to do something for me."

John looked up from the paperwork heíd been morosely contemplating and grinned happily. "You just saved me from hellówithout purpose at thatóso name it."

"I want you to shoot me."

Johnís jaw dropped, and he gawked at Rodney for several seconds before he managed to demand, "Donít you think thatís a little drastic?"

"Shoot me," Rodney repeated, grinning wildly. "I have the gene and a shield, and it wonít hurt me one bit. Shoot me, Major; I dare you."

"Shield?" John repeated questioningly, starting to smile in response to Rodneyís infectious grin. That at least made sense since he was absolutely certain of Rodneyís healthy sense of self-preservation.

"Yes!" Rodney exclaimed, pointing to his chest and the ornament that hung on it. "Itís an Ancient shield, and I assure you that whatever you do to me wonít hurt a bit, so, will you shoot me, Major?"

John stood up, placing a hand on his firearm in his thigh holster. "Youíre sure?" he asked, wanting reassurance.

"Of course Iím sure!" Rodney glanced around. "Though we might want to do it somewhere more private..."

"Yeah, the Marines are a little antsy about me shooting at people," John said, faint bitterness underscoring his wry tone.

Rodney stopped and reached out to catch his arm. "If that was happening to me, Iíd want you to do exactly what you did for Sumner," he said seriously.

After a moment, John nodded slightly. "So letís go find someplace to do this."

"I know just the place." Rodney offered a lopsided grin as he led John toward the stairs.

"Why am I not surprised?" John followed trustingly.

"Because some of us have been trying to learn about the city?"

"Hey, itís not like I wanted all of this paperwork. Hell, we canít even submit it anyway, so itís a complete waste of time," John grumbled.

Rodney nodded at that. "Tell me about it; people have even given me papers to review!"

John burst into laughter. "Everything here is classified, not to mention another galaxy! I donít think thereís mail pick up."

"Theyíre used to Ďpublish or perishí," Rodney sighed as they walked out to one of the far balconies in the central tower.

John shook his head. "I suppose eventually itíll sink in that thereís nowhere to publish here, not unless we start up our own journal."

"Always a possibility if it keeps them from bothering me," Rodney nodded before leaning against the railing. "Okay, shoot me."

"That sounds so wrong," John said wryly before raising his gun and firing at Rodneyís leg... and then ducking the ricochet. "Youch!"

"Yes! It works!" Rodney crowed, before looking at John in concern. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I just wasnít expecting that. I thought maybe the shield would absorb the velocity or something, not spit it back at me. Pretty cool!"

"Isnít it? Letís try something else!"

"I wonder if it would absorb impact," John mused, his own grin widening.

"Only one way to find out," Rodney added.

"Well, not here. I donít want to have to fish you out of the water. One of the interior balconies in the main section?"

"That makes sense, easier to pick me up if this thing fails."

"Which it wonít," John retorted, getting into the spirit of it. "Where would I find another scientist for my team?"

"That ZelanaóZewhobaówhatever his name is might want to join."

"Missing the point, Rodney."

"Which is?" Rodney grinned back.

"That youíre the one I want on my team."

"Flatterer," Rodney grinned.

John laughed and tossed Rodney over the railing, to the accompaniment of shouts from everyone nearby, including Elizabeth, who came running out of her office.

"Iím okay, Iím okay!" Rodney exclaimed, popping to his feet and grinning broadly.

Elizabeth stared from one to the other. "Are you both out of your minds?" she demanded.

"Iím invulnerable!" Rodney protested, grinning wildly. "In-vul-ner-able!"

"Thatís not that the first thing we tried," John added. "I shot him. In the leg," he added at Elizabethís incredulous expression.

"See?" Rodney added brightly. "Invulnerable!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth began repressively, "thereís no way you can be sure of that."

"Oh please!" Rodney laughed. "Grodin! Hit me!"

Grodin hesitated for a brief instant, then hauled off and punched Rodney, only to yell in pain and hunch over his throbbing hand when his blow bounced off the shield.

"I told you!" Rodney crowed. "Invulnerable!"

Elizabeth frowned and reached to touch the glowing device on Rodneyís chest, but her hand was repulsed by the field as well. "Rodney, please take it off. We should study it further before attempting to use it."

"Take it off?" At her stern look, Rodney sighed. "Fine, fine." He reached for the device, frowning when his hand skidded off the energy field. Johnís eyes widened, and he grabbed at it suddenly, with the same results.

"Oh shit," Rodney whispered.

The senior staff trouped down to the infirmary where Carson attempted to run tests on Rodney, to no avail. A thought struck John. "Can you eat or drink with that thing on?"

"Oh my god, Iím going to starve to death!" Rodney gasped.

"Ye can go several days without food, Rodney," Carson pointed out, although he knew that it wasnít quite that simple in Rodneyís case, thanks to his hypoglycemia. And there was still the issue of water. But he didnít think this was quite as bad as it might be.

"Oh wonderful, a long, lingering, painful death!"

"I donít think it will reach that point," Carson assured him. Seeing the quizzical expressions surrounding him, he explained, "Thereís a mental component to Ancient technology. And thereís been a great deal of danger in our short time here."

"Oh so youíre saying this wonít come off because Iím scared?!"

Carson simply offered him a silent shrug.

"Of what?!"

"Thatís the point," Elizabeth interjected gently, clearly agreeing with Carsonís analysis. "We have no idea what to expect here, and anything could be dangerous. Having a shield could be very comforting."

Rodney frowned, glancing at Carson, and then at John.

John shrugged. "On the plus side, I can hide behind you if anyone starts shooting at us."

"Behind my decayed, desiccated body, you mean!"

John gave him a slow once over. "You donít look desiccated to me."

"Well, I will after not drinking and eating!"

"As Carson said, Iím sure it wonít come to that."

"Easy for you to say," Rodney grumbled.

"Weíll work it out. Hey, does the shield affect your senses at all?"

Rodney paused at that, frowning as he concentrated. "Not that I can tell, but I took a pill not long before you gave me that shot, Carson."

"So we donít know if it muffles them." John shrugged. "Not that it matters, I was just curious."

"Well, if I ever manage to get this off, you can have Sgt. Markham try it, and Iím sure heíll let you know."

"You mean when you get it off," John corrected.

"Right, of course, when," Rodney sighed.

"Thatís better." John beamed at him, and Carson smiled behind them.

"Iím oh so thrilled to hear that," Rodney sighed.

"Keep me posted," Elizabeth said before leaving, there being nothing she could do.

"Can we go now?" John asked Carson.

"Aye, I suppose so; just keep me apprised of anything," Carson finally said.

"Come on, Rodney; I think itís time you got in some target practice."

"Target practice? Excuse me?" Rodney sputtered.

"If youíre going off world, you need to be able to protect yourself and the rest of your team."

"I happen to know how to shoot a gun, Major," Rodney said coolly.

"I assumed you did since youíre a sentinel, but as your team leader, I need to know how good you are."

"Youíre trying to distract me, arenít you?í Rodney asked suspiciously.

John shrugged. "Is it working?"

"Possibly."

"Then I think itís time to head down to the firing range."

Rodney sighed, but surprisingly he didnít look all that put out by the request. "Fine, fine, firing range it is."

"Then follow me and weíll see just how good you are." John led Rodney out of the infirmary.

"I passed all my tests, Major."

"Ah, but are you a plodder or a sharp shooter?"

"A plodder?" Rodney asked him as they walked out of the infirmary, not even noticing Carson or Elizabeth.

"Really?" John purposely misunderstood. "Well, maybe we can improve your skills."

"I didnít say thatís what I was; I asked what it meant!"

"Of course you did," John replied soothingly, knowing it would infuriate Rodney.

"Sheppard..." Rodney growled.

"Are you ever going to call me John?"

"Maybe if I ever get this thing off of me." Rodney gestured at his chest.

"The shield prevents you from using my name?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Youíre insane, arenít you?"

"Iím a sentinel with no guide living in another galaxy while stuck behind a full body shield; what do you think?"

"I think you have an interesting life. And can I ask how it is you donít have a guide?" John asked carefully, remembering how Rodney had deflected the question the last time he had asked. "I thought the system was designed to prevent that."

"I never found a partner," Rodney shrugged. "It happens from time to time, or so I was told."

"You seem pretty well balanced in spite of it."

"Iíve had twenty years to get used to it; it was adapt or go crazyóplus the drugs help."

John nodded. "And of course, you werenít going to fail," he said, knowing that would motivate Rodney more than anything else.

"Damn right I wasnít! It actually worked out fine for me; if Iíd been bonded, Iíd never had had the chance to do the work I am now."

"That would be a great loss," John agreed solemnly. He really did agree, but he wasnít going to tell Rodney that.

"Youíre damn right it would!"

John grinned. "Do you always react so explosively?"

"Why does it matter?"

"I like it."

"Then I think youíre the one whoís insane."

"Because I like you?"

Rodney was silent for a moment. "Oh," he finally said, and John smiled, moving a hand to rest in the small of Rodneyís back as they walked.

They reached the armory, and Rodney glanced over at John. "So, handguns or rifles first?" he asked.

"Letís start small and work our way up to something bigger," John suggested.

"Fine with me," Rodney nodded as they walked over to a storage cabinet, and John handed him a pistol.

"So show me what youíve got," John invited.

Grimacing because with the shield on, he couldnít really feel the grip, just as he hadnít really been able to feel Johnís hand on his back earlier, Rodney automatically checked the clip, then brought the pistol up to eye level and fired at the paper target hanging at the other end of the room.

When he was done, John looked at the target with raised eyebrows. "Okay, Iím impressed. You can be my bodyguard."

"And what do I get paid in?"

"What would you like?" John asked in a throaty near purr.

Rodney turned to stare at him so quickly he almost wrenched his neck. "What I like and what youíre offering might be two different things."

"Thereís only one way to find out."

"And how is that? Not that I could take anything youíre offering at the current time anyway," Rodney added quickly, breathing quickly, drawing in the scents of gun oil, the ocean and those damnable mints Sheppard was always sucking on.

"Ask. Iím not going to push you, Rodney; Iím your team leader, and it wouldnít be appropriate, smacking of coercion. But I think Iíve made it clear whatís on offer."

"You may be the team leader, but Iím the head science officer on the expedition, so Iíd say that makes us more than even," Rodney shot back, his gaze darting up to meet Johnís golden-green eyes, then skipping away.

"Good. I prefer equals anyway," John replied with a sour glance at the glowing device on Rodneyís chest.

Rodney glanced down at it as well, looking guilty before sighing. "Well, should we get on to the rifle?"

"Might as well. Itís not like we have anything better to do at the moment."

"Yes," Rodney said mournfully, handing the pistol back to John and reaching for the P90, going through the same checks as he had with the pistol.

John moved up behind him, Ďcorrectingí his firing stance, and Rodney tensed before relaxing back against the major as much as possible given that they actually couldnít touch. He tilted his head to glance at John, then squeezed off a few rounds.

"Pretty impressive considering you didnít actually aim," John murmured, his eyes on Rodneyís mouth.

"Iím somewhat distracted," Rodney muttered, turning his attention to the target and sending several rounds straight through the heart circle then one more through the head for good measure.

"Very dead target," John observed, his chin now resting on Rodneyís shoulderóor at least on the shield over it.

"Itís a good way to work off my aggression," Rodney whispered, "or so my therapist used to say."

"Better than making the science team cry."

"Though thatís more entertaining."

"I doubt theyíd agree."

"Ask me if I care what they think."

"I donít think Iíll waste my breath," John chuckled.

"Good answer. So, anything else youíd care for me to shoot?"

"Yeah, but it wouldnít work too well with that shield on."

"Excuse meóoh." Rodney turned to stare at John, licking his lower lip as he took in the majorís slightly dilated eyes and increased heart rate. "Yes, that would be bad."

"Without the shield, I think it might be very, very good." Johnís eyes followed Rodneyís tongue avidly.

"If I donít zone out," Rodney muttered.

"If you do, I guarantee Iíll bring you back. I like full participation."

"Youíd better talk to Carson more then."

"I plan to," John assured him. "I wonder if thereís a Sentinels for Dummies," he mused.

"Talk to Carson," Rodney repeated. "He can give you the basicsóor talk to Stackhouse and Markham, though theyíre normal."

"Youíre not exactly a freak of nature yourself, you know."

Rodney shrugged at that. "I am the smartest person in two galaxies."

"Good, then you can figure out that youíll be a lot better off without that shield."

"I am not keeping it on because Iím scared!" Rodney protested.

"Then I guess Iíll have to assume that you just donít want me to kiss you."

"What?! No! No, not at all!"

"Uh huh." John sighed. "Look, I should let you get back to work. If you change your mind, you know where to find me. Well, actually, Iíll be with Dr. Beckett."

"But Ióweó" Rodney swallowed and nodded. "Yes, of course. Iíll clean up here."

John smiled faintly. "You can do some of the chasing too. See you around, Rodney."

"Ióum yes, later."

John shook his head as he left the firing range and headed directly for the infirmary.

"Hey, Dr. Beckett. Got a few minutes?"

"Itís Carson, lad," he answered with a smile. "And just a moment, it seems that Halling had a fall and injured his leg; Iíve just ta give him a few instructions. Why donít ye wait in my office?"

"Sure thing," John replied easily. "Iíll be right here when youíre done."

"Have some coffee if ye like," Carson called over his shoulder, "itís relatively fresh."

"And itís a finite supply," John murmured to himself as he poured a cup and sat down, propping his feet up on the corner of the desk.

"All right," Carson said as he walked into the room a bit later. "Halling is settled back in his room with some crutches and instructions not ta be wandering around. So, what can I do for ye, Major?" he asked, sitting down in the chair across from John.

"You can tell me about sentinels in general and Rodney in particular. And if sex is likely to lead to a zone out the way he seems to think."

Carson simply stared at him for a moment, blinking. "Is there any particular order ye care to have the information in?" he finally asked.

"Whateverís easiest for you," John replied, moving his feet to the floor and sitting up a little straighter.

Carson sighed and poured himself a mug of coffee, topping off Johnís cup before setting the carafe down on the desk again. "All right, sentinels and Rodney. I assume ye know the basics about them?"

John nodded. "Enhanced senses, usuallyóI thought alwaysópaired with a guide, prone to zone outs if they concentrate too much on a single sense and get overwhelmed by sensory input."

"Aye, thatís the basics. Rodneyówell, as he may have told you, he never paired with a guide; Iíve been doing the best I can with him, but it isnít the same as a true bonding. The Aclompazine and keeping him calm as much as possible are the best I can do."

"So you and he arenít..." John trailed off, gesturing vaguely.

"Arenít what, lad?"

"A couple."

Carson started to chuckle at that and shook his head. "Oh, no lad, weíre friends, have been for many years, but thatís all it involves." His expression darkened slightly. "Rodney hasnae had the best luck with relationships, which Iím sure leads into yer next question."

John nodded. "Whyís he so gun shy?"

"He was involved with someone, a guide actually, for some time. I believe she thought that a physical relationship would tip the scales in her favor when it came to bonding, and then when it never happened, she blamed Rodney."

"Bitch." John already detested the unknown woman.

"Aye." Carson nodded. "There are more of us guides than sentinels, so we know that thereís a chance we wonít be paired off, but Samantha... She wanted Rodney; thought that because they were both geniuses, it was the perfect pairing."

"Obviously it wasnít. And from what youíve said, Iím going to guess it was Rodney who left her." John frowned as a thought struck him. "How long ago was this?"

"Three years," Carson admitted, "and yes, Rodney finally broke it off. Sadly, she bad-mouthed him to many of her friends, and well, Rodney isnae the friendliest person, so he acquired a bad reputation."

"But the SGC is separate... sheís in the SGC?" Johnís eyes widened as he put the pieces together. "Sam Carter?"

"I hate to name names, but aye. So ye see, it hasnae been easy for him."

"And heís not going to make it easy for me," John muttered, looking determined.

"Well, perhaps ye should start with proving to him that he wonít zone out during every attempt at sex," Carson offered. "Once he decides to remove the shield, that is."

John bit his lower lip. "So it happened a lot with Carter?"

"His version and hers differ; Iím sure ye know who Iím inclined to believe."

John laughed shortly. "I donít think Rodney knows how to lie."

"A verra good point, even when it hurts, you know heís telling you the truth. I will say that I dinna agree with Samanthaís version of guiding either; she is and was very much of the type to force her opinion and way down folksí throats."

"Oh, I can just imagine how well that went over with Rodney," John snorted.

"Like the proverbial lead balloon." Carson sipped at his coffee and studied John seriously. "I hope my instinct that ye arenít just going ta play with him and toss him aside is a good one, Major."

"Iím well aware of the difference between people and toys, Doctor." John returned his look calmly. "Rodneyís one of those people you either love or hate, I think, and I like the guy."

A smile greeted that remark, and Carson wagged a finger at him. "Itís Carson, Major, and good. I was hoping that would be yer answer. Now, if yeíd care to read up some on the subject of sentinels, I have a few books on disc that might be helpful."

"Thank you, yes. And itís John. I hope you wonít mind if I come to you with any questions."

"Iíll do my best to answer," Carson smiled, before continuing, "John." He reached into a drawer and pulled out several CDs. "Start with Sandbergís text, then read Andersonís if you want a more technical explanation."

"I donít suppose you have one on Rodney?" John said wryly, accepting the disks.

"Sorry," Carson chuckled, "I dinna believe anyoneís been brave enough to try to write that one. All I can say is look past the bluster and snide remarks, and yeíll find a good manóthough I believe ye already know that."

"If I didnít, we wouldnít be having this conversation," John agreed. "I guess itís just as well that I figure that out on my own. No one seems to have had much success at it."

"Iíll not argue with you there. The man has made keeping people at armís length an art form."

Remembering Rodney leaning against him at the firing range earlier, John only smiled, and Carsonís eyebrows rose at the expression.

"I might be making some progress in that regard," John admitted.

"Iíll not ask ye for details especially as with the shield active thereís not much ye could be doing."

"And if we could be, Iíd be even less likely to give you details!"

Carson chuckled. "And thank you for that, lad."

"Iím not an exhibitionist, and could you imagine Rodneyís reaction if I did tell someone and he found out?" John pretended to shudder.

"I dinna believe there would be much of you left fer me to patch up in that case." Carson paused at that and looked away, his expression pensive. "There is one thing I should bring up if yeíre looking for a relationship with him."

"What?" John asked when it didnít seem as if Carson was going to continue.

"I dinna think itís likely, especially here, but if Rodney happens to find his guide..."

"I lose," John said flatly. "I know. But if he hasnít found his guide by now, I have to assume itís not likely that he will out of the few dozen people here, most of whom he already knows."

"Aye, I just wanted ta make sure ye understood that."

John nodded, frowning. "Iím not going to give up on him because thereís a chance he might find someone else later." He didnít look happy about the prospect.

"Thatís good ta hear, lad; might I suggest you mention that to him as well?"

"I imagine Iíll have to remind him of it on a regular basis. The man gives new meaning to defense mechanisms."

Carson had to smile at that. "Aye, he does at that, and yeíll have to work to get through them; Samantha left him with some rather large issues regarding relationships."

"Fortunately, weíre cut off in another galaxy so he canít get away from me, and I can be very persistent."

"Iím glad to hear it; despite what many think, he is a good manóif loud and obnoxious at times."

"I know. And Iím looking forward to learning more about him. If heíd ever get that shield off," John added in a grumble.

"I suppose yeíll just have to make him feel more secure here then, John," Carson offered, adding a wink.

"Or make him really want to be able to touch something," John said with a smirk.

"Now thatís something ye can do in private!"

"I was planning on it," John laughed.

"Good, there are some things even your physician shouldnít know. Now, get on with ye; do some reading, and let me know if ye have any other questions."

"I will. Thanks, Carson." John waved the disks at Carson as he left, intent on learning everything he could about sentinels.

~ Chapter 3 ~

Teyla Emmagan tried to hide her amusement as Maj. Sheppard told the Athosian children what he clearly thought was a scary story, but as Dr. Weir had said when Teyla asked her about something earlier, it lost something in the translation.

They talked briefly, which led to John getting their newly fledged gate team together to watch what he called the greatest football game in history. Dr. Weir joined them briefly, and shortly thereafter, they all retired for the night, with Rodney still wearing the shield and John looking very unhappy about the fact.

John settled down to read more of War and Peace in his room since he couldnít convince Rodney to join him, but heíd barely cracked the book open when Halling arrived at his door, announcing that Jinto was missing.

Soon all of Atlantis, expedition members and Athosians alike, was involved in the search for the missing boy.

"I told you children were menaces," Rodney muttered under his breath as he worked to bring more sensors on line.

Elizabeth and Peter Grodin exchanged an amused glance behind him.

"Wait, wait, there!" Rodney exclaimed, smirking as he managed to get more sensors operating. "Thereís a strange energy reading in one of the unexplored areas..."

Suddenly all the consoles went dead, although the lights stayed on, and people were still exclaiming when the power came back. Grodin held up his hands, saying, "It wasnít me!" Just then, the Stargate suddenly began dialing, prompting Elizabeth to order them to shut it down.

"This stuff is pretty old. Itís that or there really are ghosts," Rodney muttered, looking uncomfortable as he glanced around the gateroom, trying to spot something that wasnít there, even to his enhanced senses.

Elizabeth cast a wary glance at the gate which had started and stopped itself independently, but it seemed to be under control again. Her attention was drawn as Teyla arrived with an Athosian child, who it turned out had seen a shadow, which as everyone knew was a trick often used by the Wraith.

"But I do not sense any Wraith," Teyla assured Elizabeth, although she looked worried.

Elizabeth radioed John about the situation, and despite Hallingís protests that they needed to continue the search for his son, John ordered the search teams to fall back to the central area so they could establish a proper perimeter.

Rodney watched as Elizabeth opened a city-wide channel, allowing Halling to speak to his son, after which he began praying. The thought of him viewing the Ancients as gods made Rodney squirm uncomfortably, but when the lights suddenly shut off as Halling continued to implore the Ancestors for his sonís return, his senses all went into overload, and he dropped like a rock.

John lunged for him, calling for assistance, and it didnít take long before they had Rodney in the infirmary, with Carson and John standing over him.

John looked at Carson with amusement. "So he fainted."

"It is the correct medical term," Carson agreed when Rodney made a sound of protest.

"I did not faint! Iím hypoglycemic! It was... was... manly hunger as well as sensory overload!" he sputtered, giving all present a general glare.

John nodded, grinning as he started for the door to return to the control room. "Elizabeth, Rodneyís fine. He just... fainted." He exchanged a grin with Carson.

"Whereís a gun when you need it?" Rodney muttered.

They returned to the control room, on their way seeing the Athosians in their rooms with candles lit to hold back the darkness, and John looked a question at Elizabeth.

"Teyla told them that lighting candles would help protect them," she explained before beginning a city-wide announcement.

"This is Weir. For your own safety, everyone should remain in their quarters until..."

"Can anyone hear me?" Jintoís scared voice cut in. "Please, can you hear me?"

"Jinto?"

"Maj. Sheppard? Is that you?"

"Yes, where are you, Jinto?"

"I donít know!" he said, sounding scared again.

"Itís okay, Jinto; just tell us what you remember."

"I was in the hallway outside my room..."

"Okay, just a minute." John, Rodney and Elizabeth ran to the hallway, Teyla and Halling joining them.

"Where did you go next?" John asked.

"I donít know," Jinto replied hesitantly.

"Heís used to the forest," Teyla explained. "Being able to see the night stars."

"I saw a closet filled with boxes from Earth," Jinto offered, and everyoneís eyes went to the doors in front them. John moved close enough to trigger the doors to open.

"No boxes here," he observed.

"Theyíre here with me," Jinto said.

John and Rodney stepped into the closet, and a panel opened, displaying a map of the city.

"Not a closet," John said.

"The energy spike was in that section," Rodney said, pointing to an area of the map without touching it.

"Here?" John asked, his finger resting on that part of the map.

The door slid shut behind them, Rodney turned to look at it, his mouth open to berate the major when it opened again, this time on a different room.

"Oops," John said, not sounding particularly apologetic.

"Maj. Sheppard!" Jinto raced around a corner and flung himself at John, hugging him fiercely.

John activated his radio. "Elizabeth, we found Jinto. Heís fine."

She smiled at Teyla and Halling, who were beaming as they heard the message.

John looked at Rodney. "Where are we?"

"It looks like some kind of research lab," Rodney started, peering around, then back into the Ďclosetí theyíd just exited. "And that appears to be some kind of transporter."

John nodded, a hand still on Jintoís shoulder to comfort him as Rodney demanded to know everything that the boy had touched.

Jinto nodded toward a metal container of some kind, which was open, and John left Rodney to inspect the lab while he returned Jinto to his worried father.

"All right, so it seems that the Ancients used that container as some kind of trapólike a mousetrap," Rodney explained, once they all had checked on Lt. Ford and Jinto had apologized to him for loosing the energy creature that had injured him. "I think they used some kind of energy source for the bait, and once the entity came to get itówham!"

"So if we can lure the creature back to it, we can trap it again?" John asked, trying not to think about a sentient being trapped in this container for ten thousand years. He waited for Rodneyís nod before saying, "Iíll do it."

Elizabeth frowned. "We know the entity is dangerous. Your shield would protect you from its effects, Rodney," she started, only to shake her head when the shield suddenly deactivated and dropped off Rodneyís chest.

"Oh," he said, looking down at the device in his hand, then up at the others before lunging for the mug of coffee sitting on the desk.

John shrugged. It wasnít as if heíd wanted Rodney to do this anyway, so he didnít say a word when Rodney slapped the device to his chest while insisting that its persistently inert state proved it had run out of power, even though heíd been there earlier when Rodney and Grodin discussed how it imprinted on its wearer.

A short time later he was in a corridor with the container emitting a power signature to draw the creature in, everyone else watching the energy displays from the control room.

"Thereís a really big shadow coming toward me," John announced over his radio.

"Size doesnít matter," Rodney commented, forcing himself to keep centered and popping another pill to keep his senses in line.

"Thatís a myth," John retorted, his eyes on the approaching shadow, but it hesitated just beyond the containment unit and then headed away again. "Son of a bitch! It didnít go for it!"

Frustrated, John shut down the unit and rejoined the others in the command center to discuss their options.

"Perhaps it wants to leave," Teyla suggested as they floundered, no one able to come up with any idea. "If we open the stargate, it might leave on its own."

Elizabeth nodded at that. "But weíd have to be careful where we sent itóand how would we get it to go through the gate?"

"I may have an idea," Rodney offered. "Itís going to cost us one of our generators though."

A little while later, John watched as Rodney set a naquadah generator into the recessed portion of a MALP and then came back up the stairs to join them in the command center. "I hope this works," he muttered, watching the displays along with everyone else as the creature was drawn into the gate room by the surge of energy from the activated stargate. The inky shadow filled the lower level. "Can anyone tell if the MALP made it through? And the entity isnít moving!"

Elizabeth frowned. "Shut down the gate."

"Canít, no power," Rodney stated as he worked frantically over the console.

"Perhaps the creature will go through the gate once the generator is depleted," Teyla offered, sparking a discussion between her, Elizabeth, John, and Peter.

Watching the blackness swirling around the gate, Rodney swallowed hard and pulled the shield from his pocket. He glanced over at the others, then pressed it to his shirt, walking behind them and down the stairs, into the midst of the cloud.

John was the first to notice that Rodney wasnít contributing to the discussion, and he looked around, his eyes widening when he spotted the missing scientist going down the stairs to the lower level. "Rodney!" he yelled, bolting through the doorway to the top of the stairs in time to see Rodney step down into the black cloud, everyoneís horrified gaze fixed upon him.

Once he realized the shield was going to hold, Rodney breathed a little easier, though he didnít let himself stare at the strange floating particles around him, not wanting to zone out and kill all of them by his inaction. Making his way over to the MALP, he grabbed the naquadah generator from off it, lugged it to the gate and heaved it through.

From the control level, everyone could see the generator go through the gate, followed a moment later by the entity. Once it was gone, the power returned, allowing Peter to shut down the gate, and they were all left staring down at Rodney, lying motionless on the floor of the gate room.

"Rodney!" John bolted down the stairs, skidding to a stop on his knees next to Rodney and grabbing his hand.

"Is it gone?" Rodney groaned, closing his hand around Johnís and frowning when he realized he could actually feel the other manís skin, just as he could feel the light pressure when Peter plucked the shield device from his chest.

"You did it, Rodney," John said, hanging on tightly. "And then you... passed out." He smiled faintly.

"Ióah, yes," Rodney nodded, ignoring Elizabethís small smile and Peterís snicker.

Johnís smile widened. "We should still get you to Carson to get you checked out though."

Rodney nodded, accepting John and Peterís help to get to his feet while Elizabeth radioed Carson.

"Thank you, Rodney," Elizabeth said, placing a hand on his shoulder, which made John shift uncomfortably next to him.

"Yes, well the shield is drained, so donít go expecting me to do it again," he grumbled, leaning closer to John.

"Hopefully thatís the only energy-sucking, ten-thousand-year-old alien entity the Ancients left lying around the city," John said, sliding an arm around his waist.

"If not, can we at least keep children from running around and letting them loose?"

"Iíll see what I can do," Elizabeth promised. "Now go see Carson."

"Yes, come see Carson!" Carson himself ordered over their radios, prompting John to chuckle and steer Rodney toward the door.

"Heís so damn bossy," Rodney grumbled.

"Itís for your own good, so walk," John instructed unsympathetically.

"Oh, just wait until you have to be poked and prodded by him."

"Iíll try to avoid it."

Rodney glanced over at him. "Iíd rather you did."

John beamed at him. "Glad to hear it."

A crooked grin was all the answer Rodney could give to that before they were in the infirmary and Carson was bustling over to them, guiding Rodney to an examination table.

"He passed out again, Carson, after being in that energy creature," John informed him.

"As any normal person would have!" Rodney blustered.

"Aye, lad, thatís very true," Carson nodded as he checked Rodneyís heart rate and blood pressure.

"He was wearing the shield, but it was drained, we donít know how long before the entity left. Is he okay?" John demanded, his concern obvious.

"Iíll run a few blood tests to make certain, but it seems as if everything is normal."

"I am hungry, though," Rodney put in.

John chuckled and handed him a chocolate Powerbar. "Now I know youíre all right."

Carson chuckled while Rodney glowered even as he ripped open the package and bit into the bar. John just smirked at him while hopping up onto the bed facing Rodney, clearly intending to stay until Rodney was released.

"All right, Rodney," Carson said several hours later. "All yer tests are fine, so Iím going to release you. I would like you to take it easy the rest of the day and let me know if you feel any adverse effects.

"I will, I will," Rodney promised as he stood and looked over toward John.

"Iíll help make sure of it," John said, crowding into Rodneyís personal space without the slightest apology.

"Go then, both of ye get out of here," Carson laughed, making shooing motions with his hands.

"Dinner?" John suggested to Rodney as they left, Johnís hand firmly resting on the small of Rodneyís back again.

"That sounds wonderful, Major," Rodney answered, giving an unconscious sigh and relaxing into Johnís touch.

"Glad to hear it. And then maybe we could watch a movie or something?" John suggested, wanting to find a way for them to be alone.

"As in your football game?"

"No, once was enough for this week. I have the Back to the Future movies..."

"Are you going to complain if I pick apart the time travel science?"

John chuckled. "Iíll argue with you."

"That I can live with; I hate people who just roll over," Rodney grinned.

"Only under the right circumstances and itís never just rolling over."

Rodney blinked at him and gave a weak chuckle. "I would imagine so."

"Hopefully youíll be finding out for yourself before too long." John suddenly veered to one side where a door opened obediently for him, pulling Rodney into the room with him. As the door shut, John pushed Rodney up against the wall and kissed him.

"Major, you, Ió" Rodney gasped, before his eyes dilated and he lunged in for another kiss, his hands scrabbling over Johnís back, pulling him closer. John groaned happily and went, the kiss deepening as they pressed together.

Rodney moaned, rubbing against him, his fingers digging into the lean muscles of Johnís back. John pulled his head back for a moment, dragging in a deep breath while nipping at Rodneyís jaw line. "You taste so fucking good."

"Less talking, more kissing," Rodney growled, yanking him back in for another hungry kiss.

John chuckled throatily, following orders as he reached down to fumble at Rodneyís pants, finally freeing the button so he could slip a hand inside. Rodney froze before sucking in a gasping breath as his hips jerked forward and he came.

"God, thatís so hot," John groaned, dropping to his knees and pulling Rodneyís pants out of the way so he could lick him.

"Oh fuck, oh god, MajoróJohn," Rodney gasped squirming as he leaned against the wall, his fingers clenching helplessly against Johnís shoulders.

"Iíd love to," John rasped before drawing Rodneyís softening cock into his mouth and sucking him hungrily for a second before Rodney pushed at him.

"Too much, sorry," Rodney panted.

John slowly pulled back with a final lick. "Sorry for what?" he asked incredulously.

"Too fast, too sensitive. Need to take a pill." Rodney drew back to fumble in his pocket for his bottle.

John stood up, his hand on Rodneyís preventing him from pulling the bottle out of his pocket. "Rodney, look at me." He waited until Rodney did. "Youíre not zoning out; you donít need those right now. Yeah, you came fast, but Iíd guess that has more to do with how long itís been since you let yourself go. I thought it was incredibly hot of you to come that fast for me. Stay with me," he urged before kissing Rodney again.

Rodney protested for a moment before sinking back into the kiss, grasping Johnís hand with one of his and his jacket with the other. John pulled him even closer, rubbing his erection against Rodney, moaning hungrily.

"Let me take care of you," Rodney murmured, easing back and working at Johnís belt and pants, pushing them open and down so he could drop to his knees and lick a stripe along Johnís erection, shuddering at the musky taste of his flesh.

"Oh God, Rodney," John groaned, his head falling back against the wall as his hips jerked uncontrollably.

Reaching up, Rodney grabbed hold of one of Johnís hands in an attempt to anchor himself as he took the head of Johnís cock into his mouth, licking and sucking at it as he jacked the rest of his length with his free hand.

John groaned, babbling an incoherent stream of pleas and praise as Rodney worked him. His free hand fell to Rodneyís head, shakily combing through the fine hair as he squirmed in Rodneyís grasp. The words gave Rodney something else to hang on to, and he sucked harder, taking more of Johnís length into his mouth.

Already aroused by pleasuring Rodney, John was quickly on the brink. "Gonna come," he groaned, giving him the chance to pull off, but Rodney only growled and dove in again, sucking hungrily on him. John gasped, his back arching, and he wailed Rodneyís name as the first spasm of his climax burst through him, Rodney swallowing hungrily, his whole body shivering at the salty, earthy flavor, the world narrowing down to the warm length in his mouth and the intoxicating flavor running down his throat.

John stroked Rodneyís head, even in the extremity of his climax remembering to ground the sentinel. "God, Rodney, so good," he moaned.

Rodney pulled back, licking his lips, and tightening his fingers around Johnís as he smiled up at him.

"Mmm, if we get better with practice, we need to make sure to do this around a bed to collapse in, in future," John chuckled breathlessly.

That was greeted with another crooked smile as Rodney carefully got back to his feet and settled his clothes back into place. "And possibly some food as well."

"Thatís a good idea. Food would be really good just as soon as my legs work again."

"Take your time, Major," Rodney chuckled, taking a deep breath, his eyes going unfocused for a second as he drew in the musky scent of sex and both of them.

John noticed and pulled Rodney in for a quick kiss, nipping at his lower lip. "I hope that means youíre going to give me an opportunity at that bed."

"That does sound more comfortable than this..." Rodney looked around and shook his head, "supply closet."

"At least itís not another transporter."

Rodney shuddered at that. "If it was, it would probably have dumped us in the most crowded place in the city with our luck."

"Letís try to avoid that," John suggested. "Iím not into giving shows." He tucked himself back into his pants and resettled his clothes. "Okay, ready for that dinner?"

"Before I pass out from manly hunger again," Rodney said wryly, making sure John was ready before opening the door and walking out into the hall.

John chuckled. "Well, we canít have that. Like I said, I like full participation."

~ Chapter 4 ~

They continued toward the mess hall without further detours, Rodney actually nodding at several members of his staff as they entered and made their way to the serving line.

"Oh, cool, they have lemon chicken. I love that," John said. "How Ďbout you?"

"Only if I want to end up back in Carsonís care or in a body bag."

"Huh?" John looked baffled.

"Iím allergic to citrusómassively allergic to citrus," Rodney shrugged, reaching around John to grab a prepackaged MRE and pour himself a cup of coffee.

"Oh. Well, so much for lemon chicken," John said, reaching for the meatloaf instead.

"I didnít meanóyou can have it!" Rodney protested.

"Rodney, I have every intention of kissing you again later. Iíd prefer that not leave you lying at my feet, gasping for air like a fish out of water."

"Oh, um yes, good point," Rodney quirked a half-smile.

"Excuse me, sirs, mind if I get to the food?" Sgt. Markham asked from behind them.

"Wait your turn, Sergeant," John replied cheerfully, grabbing a slice of pie before moving along.

"Itís not for me, sir," the sergeant laughed. "I have a hungry guide."

John grinned. "Understood. But the hungry sentinel got here first." He indicated Rodney, who was still debating over the jello. "Rodney, just take both."

That earned him a wide grin as Rodney piled both cups on his tray. "Good idea, Major."

Markham chuckled, glancing over his shoulder to where Stackhouse was talking with several of the other Marines. "Dr. McKay," he said as he turned back, "that was a brave thing you did today."

"What? Ohóumóthank you," Rodney managed.

Johnís smile widened. "Enjoy your evening, Sergeant." He followed Rodney to a table over by one of the windows, enjoying the sunlight pouring into the room.

"Well," Rodney commented as he sat and arranged his food on his tray in a pattern more to his liking, "that was interesting."

"Getting food? I usually do it a couple times a day."

"I meant Sgt. Markham and his comment."

"That he was getting food for Stackhouse? They are a bonded pair," John pointed out.

"The other comment," Rodney sighed.

Thinking back, John frowned. "That you did a brave thing? You did. I think everyone in the city is aware of it and that we all probably owe our lives to you."

Rodney shrugged one shoulder as he started in on his meal. "If I hadnít done it, you would have, and you didnít have a shield."

"Iím military; thatís in my job description," John replied with a shrug.

"To die when thereís no reason to?"

"To be willing to die to protect the civilians in the expedition."

"Thatís supposed to be a sentinelís job as well, to keep the village safe."

John opened his mouth to argue, then paused, thinking about it. "Huh. You have a point there. Well, tough, youíre still a civilian member of the expedition, and if I can keep you safe, I will."

"Well, to be honest, I havenít had much opportunity to do that, if you must know, and Iíd honestly rather not do it again, but that doesnít mean Iím going to stand there and watch you throw your life away."

John smiled slowly. "Gee, Rodney, you do care."

"What part of me on my knees sucking you off did you miss?" Rodney hissed.

"Not a damn second of it," John assured him, his smile turning sensual. "And Iím looking forward to a bed later."

"As am I," Rodney said quickly. "I just hope..."

"What? I take requests."

"I hope you arenít disappointed," Rodney muttered before shoveling a forkful of food into his mouth.

"Did you miss the part where I dragged you into a closet?"

"Bedís different."

"Yeah, itís more comfortable. And we can fall asleep afterward without crippling ourselves."

"Fine, fine, weíll go have sex andóand then weíll see." Done with his food, Rodney moved on to the red jello.

John frowned at Rodneyís lack of enthusiasm, but he was confident he could change that when the time came. Then heíd worry about finding out the reasons for it. And if they started with Sam Carter, he was finding a way back to Earth just so he could kick her in the ass. "Then weíll fall asleep in an exhausted, sated heap," he corrected.

Rodney gave a wistful smile at that and nodded. "Yes, and then weíll do that."

John gave him a smug smile. "Damn right we will. Just leave it to the Amazing John."

Rodney paused with the spoon halfway to his mouth and simply stared at John before starting to laugh, the peals rocking him back in his chair.

John quirked an eyebrow inquiringly, somehow managing to keep a straight face.

"You, youíre insane," Rodney managed to gasp out.

"So they keep telling me."

"Who is this Ďtheyí? The voices in your head?" Rodney snickered.

"Naw, theyíre too busy calculating pi," John retorted.

"To how many decimal places?"

"In how short a time?"

Rodneyís eyebrows shot up. "Fifteen seconds."

"A hundred and fifty," John shot back. "But itíd take longer to say it."

"Now youíre just teasing me," Rodney scoffed.

"Wanna bet?"

Rodney swallowed hard and shifted in his seat, and Johnís smile turned sensual again. "Done with dinner?"

"Yes, it would seem that I am," Rodney murmured, glancing down at his tray. "It would seem that extra jello is going to waste; perhaps we should give it to Sgt. Stackhouse."

"Bring it along. You can have it later when we need to recharge." John stood up, his eyes intent on Rodney.

Rodneyís tray almost hit the floor as he scrambled to his feet as well, ignoring the questioning and in a few cases knowing looks shot in their direction as they dropped their trays off and hurried out of the makeshift mess.

Johnís arm went around Rodney as they walked, his hand coming to rest on Rodneyís ass since there was no one else in the hall just then, and Rodney sighed shallowly, the tension leaving his shoulders as he hesitated a second, then placed his arm around Johnís waist as well. John smiled. "Have I mentioned that Iím really glad I decided to come?"

"Youíre saying there was a decision in it?" Rodney asked, deliberately misunderstanding him.

John laughed. "I suppose it was more along the lines of a force of nature at that."

"Do you mind if I ask why you decided to comeónot that any sane person wouldnít have wanted to, of course."

About to reply with his standard, "I flipped a coin," John hesitated and decided on honesty. "Because I was just marking time there and I knew it, and here, I might be able to make a difference." And if a tiny part of him had been intrigued by the bluest eyes heíd ever seen, he wasnít about to admit that, not even to himself.

"That you have, Major," Rodney assured him with a smile, the hand on Johnís hip tightening for a split-second.

"You too, you know. The courage it took to walk into the entity today? Thatís why I wanted you on my team."

"But I was scared to death!" Rodney protested. "I thought I was going to die!"

"But you still did it. Only an idiot wouldnít be scared in doing something like that, Rodney. The courageous part is doing it anyways."

Rodney only shrugged, but he looked pleased again. "Are we going to your room or mine?"

"Either oneís good for me," John replied easily. "Where would you be more comfortable?"

"Mine might be safer," Rodney admitted. "Less new things to distract me."

"Then yours it is. I want to be the only new thing distracting you."

"I like that idea."

"Me too." They turned the final corner on the way to Rodneyís room, not paying attention to anyone else, even when someone came out of one of the other rooms and inhaled sharply upon catching sight of them.

"Well, here we are," Rodney commented, grinning when the door opened to his thought. "Iím still getting used to that," he said by way of explanation.

"It is pretty cool," John agreed, stepping inside as well so the door could shut behind them. Then he pulled Rodney to him and kissed him, taking Rodneyís mouth as if it belonged to him, Rodney giving in willingly, clutching at John with both hands, pulling his shirt free from his pants to stroke his back.

"God, yes, touch me," John rasped, heavy lidded eyes watching Rodneyís face when they drew apart slightly, both of them breathing heavily.

"This might be easier in bed," Rodney panted, working his hands around Johnís waist to pull the rest of his shirt out of his pants, and John nodded jerkily.

"Yeah, Iíd like us to be able to explore without worrying about falling over and breaking bones." Despite his words, John remained pressed close to Rodney, his hands stroking every inch he could reach, causing Rodney to sigh blissfully.

"Bed, Major!" Rodney demanded, pulling his hands back enough to shove at Johnís jacket, pushing it down over his shoulders.

"Okay, this is going to work better if we undress ourselves because I get distracted every time I touch you. So strip, McKay!" John ordered, grinning as he fought his own boots after stripping off his shirt. A moment later, barefoot and bare-chested, he reached for his pants, hazel eyes intent on Rodney.

"Ordering me around, Major?" Rodney asked, his annoyed tone at definite odds with the speed at which he was yanking off his clothes and tossing them aside.

"Just making a suggestion. This works better naked," John pointed out as he shed his pants and stretched out on Rodneyís bed. "Much better," he repeated in tones of deep satisfaction.

Rodney stared at him there, knowing heíd never be able to forget the image of Johnís long-limbed body sprawled on his bed, looking relaxed despite the full, thick erection jutting upward from his groin.

Watching Rodney watch him, John slowly stroked his own cock. "Iím much more fun when Iím interactive."

"What? Oh! Yes!" Rodney hurried toward the bed, climbing in beside John and lying on his side, groaning as the move rubbed his body against Johnís. His sense of touch flared, and he was aware of the brush of each strand of hair on Johnís leg as they slid against his.

"Mm, perfect," John rasped, leaning in close to inhale the scent of aroused Rodney and to let him smell John as well. "Perfect."

Rodney moaned in response, catching Johnís mouth with his and kissing him, all the while rubbing against him, one leg hooking over Johnís hip.

John fumbled blindly at the nightstand until he found the lotion that heíd known had to be there. One handed, he managed to get some into his hand, rubbing it over his fingers until it was warm. Then, one slippery finger slid down from the small of Rodneyís back and between his cheeks to lightly circle his entrance while John continued to kiss him.

"John..." Rodney gasped, twisting his hips and trying to relax though tension was coursing through him.

"Shh," John murmured, kissing him again while slowly pushing his finger inside Rodney.

"Shh? But I talk, thatís what I do, ask anyone!" Rodney protested before his words dissolved into a low moan.

"So feel free to talk," John replied agreeably, pressing deeper into Rodney.

"But you said shh!"

"I changed my mind. I like hearing you, seeing you, tasting you, smelling you, feeling you; I love it all."

"Thatís because you donít have to worry about getting fixated on one of them andóoh god, thereómissing all the good stuff."

"Youíre not going to miss anything," John promised him. "As long as youíre babbling at me, I know youíre still with me."

"I do not babble!"

"Whatever you say." John slid down a little until he could flick his tongue over an already hard nipple.

Rodney tried to give a smart answer to that, but his brain turned to mush as he buried his face his arm, breathing through his mouth and trying not to fixate on any one particular thing.

John squeezed the fingers of the hand he still held. "Talk to me, Rodney; stay with me."

"Trying," Rodney whispered. "So easy to get lost. Feel so good. Smell so good."

"So do you." John slid back up to kiss him again, tugging on Rodneyís lower lip with his teeth as he drew back. "What can I do to help you?" He slid another finger into Rodney, slowly loosening him.

Rodney pulled back and bit at his lower lip, tasting John there and groaning. "I donít know if there is any help. Ióitís been an issue before."

"Itís not an issue, Rodney. I just have to make sure to keep all your senses engaged. Oh damn."

"Oh damn?" Rodney asked, frowning now.

"Itís called sarcasm, Rodney. I like concentrating on you." John kept talking as he moved his fingers in and out of Rodneyís ass.

"Oh." Rodney ducked his head and took a deep breath, shuddering as a new wave of lust broke over him, and he clenched down on Johnís fingers. "Concentrating is a good thing."

"God yeah. You can touch me too, you know," John suggested, kneeling up between Rodneyís legs and just looking at him for a moment.

Rodney swallowed again and reached out, running a hand down Johnís chest, letting his fingers trail over a nipple before threading through the dark hair there, and John gasped, his back arching as he pressed into the touch.

"Feel so good," Rodney whispered, exploring more of Johnís chest, all the while squirming at the feeling of Johnís fingers inside him.

"You feel perfect," John rasped, still watching Rodney avidly.

With a groan, Rodney pulled John into another hungry kiss before yanking back to stare up at John though passion-darkened eyes. "I want to feel you in me," he rasped.

"Thank God," John groaned, reaching for the lotion again to slick up his cock.

"And ifóif something happens, itís me, not you. I justówish it could be otherwise," Rodney whispered, dragging his gaze from Johnís erection to his face.

"If you do zone out, Iíll bring you right back, and Iíll still be right here with you," John replied. He watched Rodneyís face while pulling his fingers free, and then he was pushing into Rodney, drawing a prolonged groan from Rodneyís throat.

"Oh god, John, so full, so good, all I can feel."

"Jesus, Rodney, never wanna stop," John panted before taking Rodneyís mouth again.

Rodney moaned and arched up beneath him, his hands clutching at Johnís back before he reached for his own knees, opening himself up to Johnís thrusts.

"Christ, youíre so fucking hot," John rasped, going a little deeper on his next stroke into Rodneyís ass.

"You smell... so damn good," Rodney whispered.

"We smell good."

Rodney choked out a laugh that turned into a strangled moan when John pushed back into him. "Donít know, all I can smell is you and those mints."

"I havenít had a mint in hours," John muttered before deciding he didnít care and latching on to the side of Rodneyís neck, causing him to cry out and buck upwards, his body clenching around Johnís cock as he tried to hump his own erection against Johnís stomach.

John braced himself on one elbow, reaching for Rodneyís erection with his free hand.

Rodney wailed and spasmed, spurting over Johnís hand and their bellies, his fingers scrabbling against his knees as his whole body jerked. John rode out his climax, still thrusting into him, and when Rodney relaxed under him, he groaned, "Now watch me."

Blue eyes snapped forward, and Rodney whimpered as he lay back on the bad, staring up at John, who stared back, biting his lip as his hips moved more rapidly, driving into Rodney as he sought his own climax.

"Gorgeous," Rodney whispered, staring up at him as they rocked together.

"Right back at ya," John panted, grabbing Rodneyís hands and lacing their fingers together on either side of Rodneyís head. He tensed, biting down on his lower lip, and then jerked as he came.

Rodneyís vision narrowed down to focus on the golden flecks in Johnís eyes, and everything else faded away as he stared up at him.

John started to slump over Rodney, but he suddenly stiffened again, looking at Rodney more closely. "Come on, Rodney, come back here with me," he panted, lowering his head to bite Rodneyís shoulder.

"Ow!" Rodney exclaimed, jerking back to awareness. "What was thatóoh shit, it happened, didnít it?"

"Just for a few seconds," John said, finally letting himself slump over Rodney and nuzzle his throat.

"Sorry," Rodney muttered, raising a hand to rub Johnís back. "It was... after, right?"

"Of course it was. Itís not like Iíd go on without you!" John snorted.

"Well, at a certain point thereís not much you can do!"

John chuckled. "Okay, point. But no, you very politely waited till I was done to be overcome by my manly charms."

Rodney stared at him at that, then started sputtering. "Manly charms?!"

"Hot bod?"

"Itís getting really deep in here now, not that you donít have a hot bod, but..."

John snickered. "Iím taking it as a compliment; deal with it."

Rodney rolled his eyes and sniffed disdainfully, an effect that was ruined because the combined scents of both of them and sex made him groan.

"You okay or do we need to get up and shower?"

"Iím good," Rodney whispered, giving a tentative smile. "Though we could shift a little so my hip joints donít dislocate."

"Oh sorry, right. Youíre just so comfortable." John shifted to the side, letting Rodney settle himself.

"I didnít mean for you to move," Rodney grumbled. "Simply for you to help me get comfortable."

"This is as far as Iím planning to go. And actually, if youíre comfortable, Iím coming back." John shifted back on top of Rodney, making him sigh and smile.

"Good, I like you there."

"Me too." John lazily petted Rodney. "So I guess you wonít mind doing this again? Often."

"Mind? Not at all!" Rodney gave a tentative smile. "Though we do have work to do."

John laughed. "Yes, I know we canít be in bed twenty-four/seven. I was just thinking that weíre good together."

Rodneyís smile grew slightly strained at that, and John bit back a sigh. "Whatís wrong?"

"Iím just... not very good at this kind of thing if youíre implying what you might be implyingóand if youíre not, tell me now, please."

"I think I should be really worried that I understood that," John laughed. "Iím saying that I want us to see each other. And preferably not see other people."

Rodney gave a harsh laugh. "Not a problem here."

"My gain," John said easily. "Weíd still have been friends even if youíd been involved with someone else, but this is a lot more fun than just friends."

Now Rodney stared at him as if he was insane. "Me involved with someone else?"

"Thatís what I said, but youíre not, so itís not an issue." John refused to think about the possibility of Rodney finding his guide.

"I meant you..." Rodney cut himself off by shaking his head, and he ran his hands over Johnís back. "Right, not an issue. So, weíre going to try this? Together?"

"Unless youíre planning to kick me out, yup."

"Excuse me?" Rodney gaped at him. "Kick you out? Do you think Iím insane?!"

John grinned at him. "Iíll take that as a compliment too."

"Just donít get a swelled head about it."

"Well, not the big one anyways."

Rodney snickered at that. "Good answer."

"I have my moments."

"Iím beginning to see that."

"I will wow and amaze you."

"Just donít be too amazing, or Iíll zone out on you," Rodney chuckled.

John grinned. "Weíll work on getting you used to me so that doesnít happen."

"Somehow, Major, I think youíll manage to keep surprising me."

"I plan to try."

"Heíll be fine, lad," Carson murmured, resting a hand on Rodneyís shoulder as he sat in a chair alongside the majorís bed. "Ye all did the right thing and got him back; he just needs rest now."

"But that bug..." Rodney whispered, looking stricken. "It was killing him, and I couldnít do anything."

Johnís hand moved across the covers until it grasped Rodneyís, and weary hazel eyes half opened to peer at him. "You saved us all," he whispered.

"That was more Zelenka and Ford," Rodney muttered, closing his fingers around Johnís. "How do you feel? Do you need something to eat? Something to drink?"

"Stay?" John rasped, already half asleep again.

"Sure." Rodney stroked his thumb over the back of Johnís hand, watching and listening intently until he was sure the other man was asleep before looking back at Carson. "How is he really?"

"He really is fine, Rodney. Heís tired from all that happened to him, and I want to keep him under observation tonight after his heart having been stopped today, but the only lasting damage will be a scar on his neck from that beastie."

"But it was sucking his life away, Carson!"

"But it didnít succeed, and itís not like the Wraith in that it doesnít take years away. A few vitamins and a good meal and heíll be right as rain."

Rodney nodded at that and managed a small smile. "At least I didnít zone out during the whole mess."

"No, you didnít, did you," Carson said contemplatively.

"Which is a good thing, I suppose, as my pill supply isnít infinite."

"Do you still need to take them as often?"

"Ió" Rodney frowned at that and reached into his pocket for his pills, holding up the bottle to Carson. "I donít know; itís habit, so I donít remember if I have or not."

"Ye havenít asked me for a refill in some time."

"Huh. I guess Iím so busy I havenít thought about them."

Carson fought the urge to roll his eyes. "Yeíve been spending a great deal of time wií Maj. Sheppard."

"Are you trying to give me dating advice, Carson?" Rodney hissed.

"Ye seem to have managed quite well on yer own in that respect."

"He wonít take no for an answer," Rodney shrugged. "And even when I zone out at... at inopportune moments, he doesnít seem to mind."

"I told you Col. Carterís reactions were not normal," Carson reminded him.

Rodney looked down at his and Johnís hands at that and sighed. "Yes, you did, but he also hasnít experienced a really bad one yet, either."

"Which is interesting in itself."

"And why is that?"

"Because with everything youíve been dealing with, he should have."

Rodney shrugged at that though he kept hold of Johnís hand. "Maybe thatís why I havenítóbecause weíve been so busy here."

Carson shook his head slightly. "And you donít think there might be another reason... such as perhaps being with John prevents your zone outs?"

"What? Are you saying regular sex keeps me from zoning out? Been there, done that, didnít happen," Rodney reminded him.

Carson wondered if beating his headóor perhaps Rodneyísóagainst the desk would help. "I meant perhaps he helps ground you... like a guide."

"Are you really a doctor?" Rodney asked, narrowing his eyes as he stared at Carson. "Everyoneís tested when theyíre young; I think they might have mentioned that fact to him."

"And suddenly you believe in the absolute infallibility of something medical?" Carson retorted.

"Considering the fact that itís a simple blood test, I doubt even a doctor could mess it up."

"Errors happen, things change. Nothing is one hundred percent foolproof, and John seems able to help you when you do zone out with surprising ease."

"Donít, Carson," Rodney said sharply.

"Whatever you say, Rodney," Carson replied, deciding to let it be for the moment.

"I say donít make me wish for things that arenít going to happen. Iíll take what I can have with him and appreciate it."

"Aye, Iím sure he enjoys you appreciating him."

"Is that supposed to be bedside humor?"

"More a statement of the obvious," Carson chuckled.

"Yes, yes, laugh away," Rodney grumbled though he didnít let go of Johnís hand, and a moment later John tugged on it.

"Címere," he mumbled without opening his eyes.

"Címere? Come where?" Rodney asked, leaning in closer. "Youíre in bed, Major; thereís nowhere to go."

"Here," John grumbled again, pulling on Rodney. "Sleep better with you." He shifted a little to the other side of the bed, making room next to him.

"In that little bed?" Rodney complained, even as he was climbing in beside John, ignoring Carsonís indulgent expression. John immediately rolled so he was half on top of Rodney, his head pillowed on the other manís shoulder, and he made a soft sound of contentment. His hand fisted in Rodneyís shirt, and he rubbed his cheek against Rodney as he sank back into a deeper sleep.

Rodney sighed and relaxed, stroking a hand over Johnís back and nuzzling his nose against the dark, messy hair before glaring up at Carson. "What?"

"I dinna say a word," Carson said, chuckling as he drew a curtain around the bed before going back to his office.

"Good," Rodney huffed, before tugging at the blanket and making sure it was up over Johnís shoulders, then finally relaxing.

~ CHAPTER 5 ~

John stormed into the lab, and the other scientists took one look and suddenly realized it was lunch time. When the one who usually calmed Rodney looked like a storm cloud, none of them wanted to stick around.

"Can you believe Elizabeth kicked me out of a meeting because Iím not suspicious of Teyla and the Athosians!"

"What?" Rodney asked, blinking when he looked up from a device heíd been examining.

"Elizabeth, Bates, rampant paranoia! Is any of this ringing any bells?" John growled, practically vibrating with tension where he leaned about the wall.

"Easy, easy!" Rodney said, holding up a hand and catching Johnís arm. "Iím not the enemy here."

"Neither are the Athosians," John growled, but he did relax slightly under Rodneyís touch.

"Come on, sit down; youíre vibrating likeólike I am normally," Rodney murmured, leading John over to his chair and pushing him down into it, moving behind him to rub his shoulders. "Whatís going on?"

A little of the tension ebbed from Johnís shoulders. "Bates and Elizabeth think someoneís leaking our movements to the Wraith, and theyíve elected the Athosians as prime suspect."

"But thatís insane! Why would the Athosians be telling the Wraith about us?"

"Thatís what I said!"

"And what did Elizabeth say?"

"That was pretty much when she ordered me to leave," John grumbled.

"All right, so what do we have to do to prove itís not them?"

John shrugged. "I donít know that thereís much we can do. Negative proofs are tricky. And now I need to get back to work." He got to his feet and turned around to hug Rodney. "Thanks. Iíll see you at lunch?"

"Sure." Rodney caught him by the shoulders and kissed him until he felt John relax a little more. "And try not to kill Bates."

"Why?" John smiled wryly at Rodneyís expression. "Fine, Iíll be good. And Iíll see you later."

It was only a short time after he left, barely long enough for Rodney to immerse himself in his work again, that Sgt. Bates arrived.

Ignoring the other man until he cleared his throat, Rodney turned around, attempting an innocent expression. "Sgt. Bates, is there something you need?"

"Ms. Emmagan is with a team checking out a section of the city. We need you to examine her things." Bates dropped a pile of Teylaís belongings on the table.

"Pardon me? You didnít just say that you wanted me to go through her personal items, did you?"

"No, as chief of security, I just ordered you to check an alienís belongings for a transmitter that puts the expedition at risk."

"You really think Teyla is telling the Wraith where we are?" Rodney sputtered.

"Dr. McKay, someone is telling the Wraith where we go, unless you really believe itís coincidence that your team keeps getting hit every time you go through the gate. Check these things for a transmitter!"

Rodneyís scowl could have melted steel, and he shook his head. "As chief science officer Iím refusing your request, Sergeant. If you have a problem with that, take it up with Elizabeth."

"Be assured that I will! And Dr. Weir will support me."

Bates stalked out, presumably to go find Elizabeth to have her order Rodney to do it, and Rodney glared after him, then slumped when the doors slid closed, glancing at Teylaís things. He sat there for some time before finally reaching for a scanner and, after a momentís indecision, running it over the items, wincing when a definite energy spike showed.

"What the..." he muttered, staring first at the scanner, then at the small pile, and finally keying his headset. "Maj. Sheppard, I need to speak to you."

"On my way." John pushed his paperwork aside and headed back to the lab, glad of the break. "Whatís up?" he asked as he came through the door.

"Bates brought me those," Rodney said, nodding toward the bench. "And asked me to scan them."

"Arenít those Teylaís?" John demanded, starting to frown.

"Yes, they are. And I told him I wouldnít do it!" Rodney said quickly. "But..."

"What do you mean, Ďbutí?"

Rodney winced at the tone. "After he was gone, I, I did it, and something registered.

Johnís mouth was already open to blast Rodney when that sank in, and he was left gaping at the scientist. "There was a transmitter?" he demanded incredulously.

"Yes," Rodney admitted miserably. "I canít believe itís hers; someone had to plant it in there, right?"

"Where is it?"

Now avoiding looking at John, Rodney picked something up from the table and handed it over.

There was a moment of incredulous silence. "This? I gave this to Teyla. We found it in the abandoned city on Athos the day we met. Sheíd lost it when she was a child, and I saw it reflect light, found it, and gave it back to her."

"Really? But then that means... Wait, you gave it to her, and then the Wraith attacked, right?"

John nodded. "Before we even left the city. It was only a few minutes later."

"Okay, now we know this. What do we doóother than shield it, obviously? I mean itís not telling the Wraith weíre here now, right?"

"Apparently not. It only seems to work outside of Atlantis. Weíre going to have to tell Elizabeth about it," John said unhappily.

"Before or after we tell Teyla?"

John winced. "Sheís not going to be pleased. And we were already on thin ice with her after Elizabethís conversations with the Athosians."

"So blame me," Rodney shrugged.

"Like hell! Bates started this by taking her things and bringing them to you; he can take any heat. But I think sheíll be glad to find out about the transmitter once she gets over the initial anger. It explains a lot, and now we can deal with it."

"So, umm, you mind telling her then?"

"I think we all will. Elizabethís going to want to ask you questions about the transmitter.

"All right, so then, shall we?"

"As soon as you put Teylaís belongings somewhere safe so she can get them back once weíre done."

"Right, yes, absolutely. Iíll just put them in my office..." Rodney said quickly, gathering up Teylaís belongings and turning to do just that.

"And Iíll admire the view while you do."

"Pervert," Rodney muttered, though he was smiling slightly.

"Feel free to retaliate any time you like."

"Like this?" Rodney asked, crossing over to John, catching him by his jacket, and pulling him in for a kiss.

"Love it," John murmured when they were done, his lips curving into a happy smile.

"Well, thatís all youíre going to get for now."

"Well, damn." John chuckled. "Weíll have to get back to it tonight."

"Once weíve got this mess straightened out."

"Good point." John straightened up from his perch on the corner of a table and slid an arm around Rodneyís waist as they started out of the lab. "Fortunately, I think Teyla trusts our team enough to get past this."

"I hope so," Rodney sighed.

"Me too," John admitted.

"Weíre stalling, arenít we?"

"Damn right. She could break either of us in half without raising a sweat. Plus Iíd really hate to lose her."

"Just so you know, I plan on hiding behind you."

"Big, brave sentinel," John snorted, but his grin said he didnít mind.

"Youíre the one who likes to have her hit you with sticks!"

"You donít have to make it sound so kinky!"

"Hey, who am I to know what you two get up to!" Rodney snickered.

"Youíre in a very good position to know damn well that I couldnít possibly get it up for anyone else!"

"Which is why I can joke about it."

John laughed. "I like the way you think."

"Well, of course you do; Iím a genius!"

"I think weíre all aware of that, Rodney," Elizabeth replied, looking up as they came into her office.

"We have some news for you," John said.

"Yes?"

"Itís about Teyla."

"Whoís not a Wraith spy," John added.

"But thereís obviously something going on concerning her, or you two wouldnít be here."

"Were you aware that Bates took Teylaís belongings and brought them to Rodney to check?" John demanded.

Elizabethís eyebrows arched. "No, I would never have authorized such an invasion of her privacy."

"I knew it!" Rodney exclaimed.

"Iím glad to hear it. But he did, and Rodney, being unable to resist any knowledge, scanned the things since they were there."

"And?" Elizabeth knew that there had to be more.

John glanced at Rodney. "He found a transmitter. But." He explained how it came to be in Teylaís possession.

"So obviously she isnít spying on us for the Wraith," Rodney commented.

"And maybe we can use this," John said.

"How?"

"If we know where the Wraith are going to be..." John trailed off significantly, and Elizabethís eyes widened.

"Could we actually capture one?"

"Anything can be caught."

"We have those containment cells; if we can get it back here, they should hold it," Rodney admitted.

Elizabeth nodded. "Iíll have to speak to Teyla first."

"Yes," John replied shortly. "Iíll get the rest of the team together."

"I just want you to know that that thing smells horrible!"

"Yeah, Doc, we know," Ford chuckled.

"And even if we couldnít smell it for ourselves, weíd know from you telling us," John added wryly.

"Forgive me for my heightened senses," Rodney sniffed, making a face as that filled his nostrils with the dry, insectile smell of the Wraith theyíd captured.

"Sorry," John said, giving him a quick hug before turning back to eye the Wraith. "He looks like a Bob to me. What do you think?"

"Bob?" Rodney asked incredulously. "Youíre thinking of naming him?"

"Well, we need to call him something. ĎHey youí isnít very precise."

"What about Elsa?" Ford suggested, frowning at their confused expressions. "Evil life-sucking alien."

Rodney groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose while John stared at the lieutenant in disbelief.

"You are never allowed to name anything," he finally said, shaking his head.

"So what are we going to do with him?" Rodney asked, once they had the Wraith back to Atlantis and in the holding cell.

"Study him, learn more about the Wraith and hopefully their weaknesses." John shrugged. "Carson will be able to learn a lot from him, hopefully."

"How are we supposed to feed him?"

John frowned. "Either he can eat solid foot, survive without, or starve. Weíre not throwing people in there."

"I wasnít suggesting that!" Rodney protested, wrinkling his nose as he caught a whiff of the Wraith.

"I didnít really think so. And thereís no need for us to hang around here," John said, noticing Rodneyís expression. "I donít know about you, but I need a shower."

"If we grab something to eat on the way; Iím starving."

"Take it back to your room?" John bargained.

"Thatís what I was suggesting, Major."

"Sounds good to me then," John agreed. "Food, shower, some amazing sex..."

"Actually, we need the shower first; Iím not sure I can eat with this smell in my nose."

"That sounds really good to me," John agreed fervently.

"Then why are we still standing here?" Rodney asked, sliding an arm around Johnís waist and pulling him toward the door.

"Weíre walking." John grinned at him, ignoring the Wraith snarling in the cell behind them.

"I hope Carson has lots of guards with him when he comes to take samples," Rodney murmured.

John paused and looked over his shoulder. "Sergeant! Make sure the prisoner is never left alone. I want a team of two in here at all times, three when Dr. Beckett or anyone else is here."

"Yessir!" the man said, snapping to attention.

"Mmm, I like the commanding part," Rodney murmured as they headed into the corridor.

"Iíll have to remember that."

Rodney chuckled, and the hand on Johnís hip tightened. "You do that."

"I plan to," John assured him. "I have a feeling it could be fun."

"Youíre such a pervert, Major," Rodney murmured. "Not that I mind that."

"Yes, Iíve noticed you not minding." They stepped into the transporter and out at the mess hall. "Thatís never going to get old."

Rodney grinned and nodded as he grabbed a tray, making a face as he looked at the offerings and noticed the sign announcing one of the entrees had citrus. "Well, I suppose Iím having the stew."

"It smells good," John said, taking some as well. He really preferred to avoid the possibility of his kiss sending Rodney into anaphylactic shock.

"And the rolls look good," Rodney admitted, adding two to his tray.

"Carbohydrates are good," John said. "Youíre going to need to keep your energy up."

"Youíd better take two too then."

"I plan to." John added them to his tray, and Rodney grinned, waiting for him to finish getting his food before they both started for the transporter again.

"Iím assuming you have some way of keeping this warm during our shower or reheating it afterward."

"Havenít you found the warmer in your room?"

"Rodney, when do I spend time in my room unless youíre deep in a project and I go there to sleep?"

"Hrmm, good point. Well, Iíll show you where the one in mine is then."

"Sounds good. I wasnít looking forward to cold stew."

"That sounds disgusting enough to make even me lose my appetite." They reached Rodneyís room, and he thought the door open.

"Now that is bad." John laughed as he followed Rodney inside.

"Exactly," Rodney laughed, carrying his tray over to an alcove that opened in the wall and setting it inside before moving out of the way to let John slide his inside as well, starting to strip out of his clothes as he did so.

"Convenient," John said, turning to watch Rodney undress.

"It keeps the food fresh too," Rodney offered, wadding his clothes up and shoving them into a laundry bag, trying not to gag at the smell.

"Cool," John decided. "I like this city."

"Do you mind putting your things in here too?" Rodney asked, before blinking. "Oh, that wouldnít leave you with anything."

"And here I thought you liked me naked," John said, stripping and handing his clothes over as he removed them.

"I canít imagine why." Rodney shoved the clothes in the bag, then glanced up at John, his lower lip caught between his teeth. "In order to keep this from happening again, you could always bring some things over here."

John smiled slowly. "I like that idea. A lot." He reached and caught hold of Rodneyís arm, pulling him closer for a kiss.

"Me too," Rodney whispered, once theyíd pulled back somewhat. "Iíll clean out some drawers for you."

Johnís smile widened. "I guess this means weíre going steady."

"Oh my god, you arenít going to go high school on me, are you?"

"I dunno, do you have a thing for younger men?"

"You know how I feel about children," Rodney sniffed, pushing John toward the shower.

"Then I guess not. How Ďbout Air Force majors with a thing for sentinel scientists?"

"That sounds perfect to me, because apparently Iím a sentinel scientist with a thing for Air Force majors."

"Funny how that works, isnít it?" John turned to face Rodney once he was in the shower and raised his hands to rest them on Rodneyís hips.

"With all the shit weíre dealing with, we need one good thing, right?" Rodney asked, running his hands up Johnís chest, his eyes going half lidded with pleasure.

"This is a very good thing," John agreed. "It makes up for a lot."

"Mmmhmm," Rodney murmured, leaning in and nuzzling at Johnís throat, rubbing against him.

"You feel so damn good," John breathed, his hands running over Rodneyís back and ass.

"Feel good, smell good, taste good," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands over Johnís sides before reaching for the unscented body wash.

"Youíre good for my ego," John half chuckled, tension washing out of both of them as the hot water sheeted over their bodies.

Rodney only mumbled in response, rubbing the lather over Johnís body, and John just sighed and let Rodney do what he wanted, perfectly happy to stand there. Giving a pleased sigh, Rodney turned him this way and that, rubbing the lather into his skin and letting the water sluice it away, leaning in to sniff at each area as it was cleaned.

Watching him, John chuckled softly. "I never would have thought Iíd get turned on by someone smelling me."

"But you are?" Rodney asked, licking a path up Johnís spine.

"You need to ask?" John caught hold of one of Rodneyís hands and drew it to his erection, causing Rodney to chuckle against his shoulder and tighten his hand around Johnís cock.

"Oh yeah," he gasped, "thatís good. Thatís really good."

"Yes, well, you just remember that for after we eat." Rodney gave Johnís shaft a final stroke before going back to washing him.

"Tease," John murmured, raising his arms over his head and reaching back to curl his arms around Rodneyís neck.

"You canít call me a tease; I fully intend to put out once weíve eaten," Rodney promised before licking at his neck.

"Good point," John replied breathlessly. "Lucky me."

"Lucky us," Rodney murmured, stroking the soap over Johnís chest.

"Even better point. Iím with genius."

"Damn right." Rodney finished washing Johnís chest and pushed him back under the water to rinse off.

"My turn," John said, reaching for the soap.

"Help yourself, Major," Rodney smiled.

"Itís like an all-you-can-eat buffet just for me," John gloated, running his hands over Rodneyís chest and teasing his nipples.

"Jo-ohn," Rodney groaned, squirming against the shower wall, "we need to eat."

"Youíre not clean yet," John pointed out, but he moved his hands along, washing more of Rodney.

Rodney shuddered and arched into the teasing fingertips, biting his lower lip and panting shallowly as John teased him.

Soapy hands slid over Rodneyís cock and balls, then his ass, and then John stepped back with a grin. "Since youíre hungry, I guess thatís good enough."

"Bastard," Rodney panted.

"And Iím all yours," John said with smirk as he turned the water off with a thought.

"Oh dry off and put something on," Rodney grumbled as they exited the shower and grabbed for towels.

"Like what?" John asked dryly. "You took all my clothes for fumigation."

"So put on a pair of my sweat pants," Rodney shot back, his eyes dilating at the thought.

John nodded, noticing and enjoying the reaction. "Sounds good. Should I just rummage, or would you like to give them to me?"

Rodney swallowed hard and moved toward his dresser. "Let me get them. If all my things smell like you, I wonít ever be able to concentrate."

"You really shouldnít say things like that to me if you donít want to be jumped."

"Food first!" Rodney ordered.

"If I wasnít so hungry, Iíd convince you otherwise."

"Zoning out is bad enough; you donít need me passing out from hunger as well."

"No, youíre only allowed to do that from sex."

Rodney chuckled at that as he passed John a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt before pulling on a pair of boxers and shirt himself.

"Damn, I was enjoying the view."

"Eat and then you can have it again, though I have no idea why you want it." Rodney crossed to the warming alcove and pulled out their trays, handing Johnís to him before carrying his own over to the small table at the side of the room.

"You really have no idea how hot you are, do you?" John said, sounding bemused and making Rodney shake his head.

"Yes, having your partner go catatonic during sex is very sexy."

"You are sexy," John corrected. "Donít argue; just smile and nod."

Rodney sighed but did as John asked.

"Good man. Good stew too," John added after taking a bite.

"Is this that lizard thing Markhamís team brought back?"

"I donít want to know," John said firmly. "It tastes good, and thatís all I care about."

Rodney took a tentative taste and nodded. "Yeah, it is pretty good, plus thereís always jello."

"Is it possible to be addicted to jello?"

"Actually, I was thinking of licking it off of you later."

John choked on his stew when he inhaled sharply and went into a coughing fit that had Rodney sprinting behind him to whack him on the back.

"Are you all right? Do you want me to call Carson?"

John waved a hand in the air as he tried to catch his breath. "No," he wheezed, "ím fine."

"Are you sure?" Rodney persisted, crouching down beside John and looking up at him, focusing on his breathing.

"It just went down the wrong way," John assured him. "Just need some water."

"Well, drink some then!"

John cast him a baleful look before doing just that. After a couple of swallows helped calm the coughing, he pointed out, "I needed to catch my breath before I could drink."

"Oh, um, do you want some more water?" Rodney asked, offering his glass.

"Thanks." John accepted and drained Rodneyís water as well.

"Iíll get some more." Rodney grabbed the glasses and vanished into the bathroom.

"Thanks," John called after him, leaning back in his seat as he relaxed again.

"Are you sure youíre all right?" Rodney asked, carrying the glasses back and setting them in front of John, still staying by his side.

"Positive." John smiled up at him, touched by his concern. "So eat your dinner before it gets cold."

"Just promise youíll be careful."

"I promise. I have plans for tonight that donít include a trip to the infirmary."

Rodney grinned at that and leaned in to kiss Johnís temple before taking his seat again. "Iím very glad to hear it."

"I thought you might prefer that plan."

"Sex in front of Carson and his henchmen is not on my plans for the evening!"

"Um, no. Private is better," John agreed.

"Itís bad enough when I can hear people walking outside in the hallway."

"You still notice that when weíre fucking? Damn, I need to try harder."

"I donít notice it! Things tend to fade in and out; youíre hell on my concentration, Major."

John beamed. "Iím going to take that as a compliment."

"Well, you should, because it is. Now eat!"

"Yes, sir, Gen. McKay, sir!" John snapped off a salute.

"General? Iíd say I was several ranks above that."

"Rodney, the only thing above general is the President," John laughed.

"Nah, still too low, Iíll take emperor of the world."

"You really are nuts." John grinned at him.

"And you like it."

"Damn right."

Rodney chuckled again and sopped up his remaining stew with his last roll before devouring it, and John finished up his meal as well, finally leaning back with a sigh of contentment.

"We need to get a room with a balcony," he said. "Itíd be nice to sit outside for a while."

Rodney glanced at him sharply before nodding. "Yeah, that would be nice, really nice."

"Iíll keep an eye out for something we might like when weíre exploring the city."

"Make sure it has a big bathroom when you look."

"I wonder if the Ancients had Jacuzzis..."

"If they did, I bet the city offers one up to you and your magic gene."

"We can hope."

"And I do," Rodney smirked.

"You only want me for my gene."

"Maybe before, but I have it too now, remember?"

"How could I forget?" John chuckled.

"You canít, thatís the point," Rodney laughed, pushing his plate aside and looking at John closely.

"What?" John eyed him. "I know you know what I look like."

"Did we just agree to move in together once we find this mythical room with both a balcony and Jacuzzi?"

"Noticed that, did you?" John grinned. "And weíre not holding out for a Jacuzzi if we find something we like." He glanced down than back up at Rodney. "Besides, we pretty much live together already, especially now that Iím going to keep stuff here."

Rodney grabbed the glass of water and took a convulsive gulp of it. "Yes, yes, youíre absolutely correct in that regard."

"This is supposed to be a good thing."

"It is! A very good thing! Iím just, just overcome with emotion!"

"If youíre overcome, you should lie down."

"Alone?"

"Of course not! Iíll be right there to sooth your fevered... brow."

Both of Rodneyís brows rose, and he chuckled. "My brow, is it? Well, Iíd best get myself to bed before my brow gets too fevered."

"And Iíd better go with you to make sure youíre okay." John got to his feet and offered Rodney a hand up.

"Damn right youíd better, considering Iím sharing dresser space and a room when we find one with you."

"Right now Iím more interested in sharing personal space."

Rodney crooked a half-grin and rested his head on Johnís shoulder, inhaling deeply and sighing in pleasure as they walked over to the bed.

"Getting dressed was a waste of time," John observed, pulling Rodneyís shirt over his head and then reaching for his own.

"Hot stew on tender body parts is not quite a prelude to hot and sweaty sex," Rodney shot back.

"You have a point," John admitted, now working on Rodneyís boxers. "But the stewís gone, and I like the idea of hot mouths on tender body parts."

Rodney groaned at the thought and dragged at Johnís sweats, sliding his hand down to cup his cock, making John gasp and thrust into his hand. "Hands are good too," he got out.

"Everything is good," Rodney murmured, tumbling them both onto the bed.

John nodded, fastening his mouth onto Rodneyís throat, drawing a low moan from the scientist as he bucked up against Johnís body. "God, I donít know whether I want to suck you, fuck you, or be fucked by you most," John rasped, pulling back to admire the mark heíd left on Rodney.

"Mmmm," Rodney breathed, a blissed-out expression on his face as he gave a full-body shimmy.

"A statement of preference would be helpful," John chuckled, curling a hand around Rodneyís cock.

"Hard to think when you do that, just want to feel..."

John nodded before sliding down a little to catch a nipple between his teeth, causing Rodney to gasp and shudder, a hand clutching at Johnís shoulder.

"You taste so good," John murmured, flicking his tongue over the rigid nubbin.

"I can feel each taste bud on your tongue," Rodney whispered.

John raised his head, checking Rodney and smiling with pleasure when he saw that Rodney wasnít zoning out. Just to make sure, he raised his hand to Rodneyís lips, pressing a finger inside so taste would distract him from sensation.

Rodney groaned, sucking on Johnís finger, the edge of his teeth pressing into the pad before taking it deeper.

"So good," John whispered, sliding lower, his tongue teasing Rodneyís navel, and Rodney whimpered around his finger, squirming to spread his legs around Johnís body. John smiled against Rodneyís skin, his tongue leaving a wet trail from Rodneyís belly button down to the base of his cock. Rodneyís hand clenched on Johnís shoulder, then skittered up to rest in his hair, twisting the dark strands around his fingers.

John looked up again, watching Rodney through his eyelashes as he gently nibbled along his erection, Rodney gasping out a half-moan, half-laugh as his whole body jerked.

"Mmm mmm good." John retraced his path and wedged himself further between Rodneyís legs so he could reach Rodneyís balls and the smooth, sensitive skin behind them.

"God, John!" Rodney gasped, his back bowing into an arch and rising off the bed, the hand in Johnís hair tightening convulsively.

"I love how you respond to me, how good you taste." John whispered the words against Rodneyís skin, his lips brushing over the velvety soft perineum with each word and his breath ghosting over the sensitized flesh, Rodney gasping at the light pressure, a drop of precome oozing from his cock. John moved up to lap at the head of Rodneyís cock, humming his pleasure at the flavor.

"John! God, so good!" Rodney whispered, twisting against the sheets even as he tried to keep still so as not to lose the touch of Johnís mouth on his erection.

John teasingly delved into the tiny slit before he licked his way back down Rodneyís cock. This time, however, he didnít stop until his tongue was lightly flicking Rodneyís opening with a barely there pressure.

Rodney gave a tortured moan, his legs spreading wider as he clawed at the sheets, his eyes sliding shut as he gasped for breath.

After pausing for a moment to make sure Rodney wasnít about to zone out on him, John licked him again, applying a little more pressure with each swipe of his tongue, a move Rodney greeted by emitting a high-pitched whine which dissolved into a series of barely verbal pleas for more.

John raised his head to smirk at Rodney. "Told you youíd like it." The next time he licked ended with him pushing the tip of his tongue against the tight muscle.

Rodney only managed a nod as he bit down on his lower lip, trying to distract himself from concentrating too much on the feeling of Johnís warm, wet tongue pushing inside of him. Recognizing the problem, John started humming, hoping the sound would help ground the sentinel while adding to the sensations as he slowly probed Rodneyís hole until he finally managed to press his tongue inside.

"John..." The word was whimpered out as Rodney reached for his hand, clinging for dear life as his hips bucked upward.

Johnís free hand curled around Rodneyís cock, giving him something to thrust into while John continued rimming him. Rodney froze for a split-second, then screamed, arching off the bed, his come gouting out and running over his stomach. John gave him a last lick before shifting between Rodneyís legs so he could lap Rodney clean, savoring the taste of him.

"Want you in me," Rodney whispered, trailing his fingertips over Johnís shoulder, his other fingers still twined tightly with Johnís.

"Fuck yeah," John rasped, starting to kiss Rodney and then rethinking it, instead latching on to Rodneyís throat while grabbing for the lube, Rodneyís hand tightening on his shoulder as he rubbed his face against Johnís hair, breathing deeply.

John made short work of slicking them both, and then he was letting out a long groan of satisfaction as he slid into Rodneyís ass as Rodney sighed blissfully. John kept hold of Rodneyís hand, tightening his grip as he started to move, not surprised when Rodney simply lay in a limp, satiated heap under him.

"So pretty," Rodney murmured, watching him through half-lidded eyes. "Feel so good..."

"Yeah, you do," John agreed, his thrusts speeding up.

"Jusí lying here, canít be that good." Now Rodney frowned slightly.

"Youíre just lying there because I wore you out. Thatís pretty incredible," John insisted, fighting for coherency as he felt his body tightening.

Rodney blinked at that and gave a tentative smile as he tightened down on Johnís cock, which was all it took to shred the last remnants of Johnís control.

"Rodney!" he groaned, biting down on Rodneyís shoulder as he came, the sensation causing Rodneyís eyes to widen, then glaze over.

It took a few moments for John to catch his breath and notice Rodneyís problem. He hesitated for a moment and then kissed Rodney, who didnít respond for a moment but finally sighed and returned the kiss before his eyes widened and he pushed John away.

"I know, I need to go brush my teeth," John sighed.

"Iím sorry, itís justó" Rodney flushed and looked away.

"Not complaining. I knew it would be too much for you, which is why I used it to pull you out of the zone out. Just gimme a minute. I donít want to move yet."

"I donít want you to either," Rodney protested, wrapping his arms around Johnís waist, holding him in place.

"Gonna start keeping mouthwash on the nightstand," John mumbled against Rodneyís throat.

"Or just chew one of your mints."

"You really are a genius." John reached over again, knocking his book to the floor but not really caring just then, and grabbed the roll, glad that heíd managed to hide a crate of them among the expeditionís supplies.

"I think I could find you half-way across the city because of the smell of those things," Rodney chuckled.

"Good!"

"Hrmm, that would be good training; we should try that some time."

John raised his head to stare at Rodney. "You want to train?"

"Well, it would be good to work on in case we got separated on a mission," Rodney said defensively.

"Good for you." John crunched the mint in his mouth, swallowed it, and then kissed Rodney tentatively.

"Mmm, better," Rodney sighed, his tongue delving into Johnís mouth, searching out the new flavor and the texture of tongue and teeth. John only moaned, opening to Rodney while stroking his chest.

"Sleep now?" Rodney asked, squirming slightly beneath him.

John made a sound of protest when he slipped out of Rodney, but he took advantage of his increased mobility to settle more comfortably on top of Rodney.

"Love you," Rodney murmured as his eyes closed and he relaxed into sleep while Johnís eyes flew open and he stared at Rodney. After long moments, his lips curved in a slow smile.

"I love you too," he whispered before closing his eyes and falling asleep as well.

~ CHAPTER 6 ~

"Good afternoon, Major, do ye mind some company?" Carson asked, stopping beside the table John shared with his laptop.

"Of course not." John saved his work and shut down the laptop, putting it aside as he made room for Carson. "How are you today?"

"Well, thank you, and you? Recovered from the latest mission?" Carson asked as he sat and set his tray on the table.

"Yeah, a good nightís sleep with Rodney does wonders for my recovery," John chuckled.

"Aye, it seems itís the same for him as well. Did you finally both get moved into yer new quarters?"

"Yes, although Rodneyís still fussing about different things. You know, too much light from one window, not enough air with the window shut, pollen with the window open... although where he thinks pollen would be coming from in the middle of the ocean I really donít know."

"Iím sure heíd come up with some valid reason for it," Carson laughed, picking up his sandwich and biting into it, chewing thoughtfully as he looked at John.

"What?" John asked after a moment. "Iím starting to feel like the contents of one of your Petri dishes."

"Itís nothing, lad; I was simply wondering if Rodney has been having many zone outs since ye moved."

"Despite all his warnings about the probability, no, not really. He seems to worry about them a lot more than they actually happen."

"And when they do happen?"

"I just distract him by engaging one of his other senses." John grinned as he remembered some of his efforts.

Carson nodded, still looking thoughtful. "Ye have excellent instincts, lad; yeíd have made a good guide."

John laughed bitterly. "My father would have a fit if he heard you say that. He thinks sentinels and guides are freaks."

"But I thought he was in the military?"

"My father can justify anything."

"He must have been relieved when ye tested negative then."

"Obviously I donít remember, but Iím sure he expected it. No son of his would dare to be a freak."

Carsonís eyebrows rose slightly at that. "Iím thinking itís a shame that yer father couldnít meet Rodney."

John shuddered. "Iíd rather face the Genii again!"

"And offer them explosives?" Carson chuckled.

"Iíd really rather not incite Elizabeth to throw me in the brig," John replied with a laugh.

"No, that would leave me to take care of Rodney, and Iíve got used to having a bit of free time between emergencies."

"And Iíve gotten used to having to having time with him," John admitted. "Even if he clearly still thinks Iím going to wake up one morning and not want anything to do with him. Col. Carter has a lot to answer for!"

"Iím not arguing with ye on that count," Carson sighed. "Though you have done wonders with Rodney, itís a shame..."

"What is?" John asked curiously when it didnít seem as if Carson was going to continue.

"That the tests didnít mark you as a guide; as I said, yeíve definitely the right instincts for it."

John shrugged, looking unhappy. "Yeah, well, someday heís going to find his guide, and Iíll lose him, so I guess Iím not quite right for him."

"Do ye really believe that, lad? Thereís never been a case like this, and sadly, I believe that since Rodney hasnít found his guide in over twenty years of looking, it may never come to pass, especially considering where we are."

"Iím trying not to be selfish here, Carson. Do you think I want to lose him?" John poked moodily at the cold remnants of his meal. "But I know a sentinel needs a guide. I wish I could be that for him, but I canít change reality." A thought struck him, and he turned a deliberately calm gaze on Carson.

"You work with genetics. You were able to develop an artificial ATA gene. Can you do the same with whatever makes a guide a guide?"

Carsonís brows drew together as he frowned thoughtfully. "Itís been tried before, but weíve so many advances here that it might be possibleóthough I emphasize might. Itís been attempted before, but nothingís come of it."

John nodded. "Iíd appreciate anything you could do," he said hopefully.

"I understand, lad," Carson said, reaching out to pat Johnís arm. "Iíd be quite happy if I was able to do that for the two of you as well."

John smiled wryly. "As much as Rodney wanted the ATA gene, I want to be able to be his guide. He has a way of sneaking under your defenses, doesnít he?"

"Aye, he does at that; when I first met the man, I wanted to strangle him!"

John laughed. "He seems to have that effect on most people. Although I have to admit I was distracted by his eyes the first time we met."

"Not by the fact that there was an insane man ordering you to imagine the solar system?"

"That too," John agreed with a laugh. "But it faded when I looked into his eyes, and oh my God, I sound like a teenage girl! Shoot me now!"

"And give myself more work? Not likely! "

John laughed. "Thanks for the sympathy, Carson."

"Ye get enough of it from me; it doesnít include your hormonal issues."

"I donít have hormonal issues!" John said, sounding insulted.

"Then why are ye sounding like a teenaged girl?" Carson stood and picked up his tray, grinning the whole while. "Iíll put some work in to your problem as time allows, Major; in the mean time, dinna fret over losing Rodney."

"Easy for you to say," John replied. "Youíre not the one whoís iósharing a bed with him."

Carson eyed him steadily as if he knew exactly what John had been about to say. "Aye, yeíre correct there."

"Let me know if you make any progress," John said, clearly trying to change the subject.

"Of course." Carson smiled gently. "So, what mission do ye have planned next?"

"Rodney convinced Elizabeth that we need to check out M5S-224," John answered. "He got energy readings that got him all excited. Iím not sure if he convinced Elizabeth or if she just wanted to send him out to play to use up some of his energy," he finished with a chuckle.

"Hrmm, and here I thought when she wanted to do that, she sent the two of ye to your room..."

John laughed. "My charms fade in the face of a possible ZPM."

"Not for too long I would imagine."

"I have ways of regaining his attention," John agreed with a throaty chuckle.

"As everyone here knows," Carson laughed.

"Itís my not-so-secret weapon."

"Though I shudder to think of what might happen if anyone on any of the worlds your team visits professes an interest in either of ye."

Johnís head jerked up, and he snarled. "Theyíd better keep their damn hands to themselves!"

"Considering that reaction, theyíd be wise to." Shifting his tray to one hand, Carson patted John on the shoulder. "Now, stop scowling or youíll scare the Marines, lad. Have a good afternoon."

Reminding himself that Carson had just mentioned a possibility and no one was trying to take Rodney away from him, John nodded, dredging up a sheepish smile. "You too, Carson."

"What do you mean we canít go back?!" Rodney blustered, staring at Gen. Hammond. "We have to go back!"

"Iím afraid thatís not possible, Dr. McKay," the general replied calmly. "There are, of course, places for all of you here at the SGC."

Behind him, John frowned slightly. "Hey, for the moment, we can go spring your cat from captivity, Rodney," he said, his breezy tone at odds with the watchful expression in his eyes.

"Butó" Rodney began before swallowing and nodding. "If he wants to leave with us."

"Iím sure he will. If youíll excuse us, General?"

"Of course; take the weekend to reacclimatize, though Miss Emmagenó"

"Is coming with me if you have no problem with that, sir," Ford spoke up.

"Have fun, kids, and donít forget your curfew," John said, making Hammond shake his head slightly.

"Very well. Weíll meet at 08:00 on Monday to discuss your postings. Enjoy your weekend."

"So," Rodney asked once they were sitting in the car that had been provided for them, "does being back here feel as strange to you as it does to me?"

"More, probably. Earth in general feels off to me, but Colorado? I spent the last few years in Antarctica and Afghanistan, donít forget. And what did we do to rate a limo anyways?" John asked, looking around in bewilderment.

"Survived?" Rodney offered.

"I guess," John replied dubiously before he was distracted by the possibilities. "Hey, Rodney, ever made out in a limo?"

Rodney stared at him as if he was insane. "Have you?"

"Sure, at prom, but Iíll bet youíre a lot more fun than Judy Steen was."

Rodney snickered at that and pulled John over for a kiss. "I bet Iíll give it up easier than she did as well."

"Iím enjoying this trip more already." John took advantage of their new proximity to grope Rodney, making him groan and slap his hand on the control panel to close the privacy screen before he pulled John down on top of him.

"I think I saw this in a porno once," John chuckled. "But youíre a lot hotter than a busty blond."

"Oh my god, you are such a pervert," Rodney sighed though he didnít try to move away from Johnís busy hands.

"Oh, like you never watched any porn!" John snorted even as he deftly freed Rodneyís cock.

"Gave it up after zoning; itís quite embarrassing to be found with your pants open while youíre staring at a screen full of snow," Rodney shrugged before groaning as John stroked him.

"Well, thatís just wrong. Itís every guyís right to get off. Iíll just have to make it up to you."

"I think youíve managed to do that quite a bit already."

"You can never have too much of a good thing," John assured him, biting at Rodneyís throat while slowly jerking him, Rodneyís head falling back against the seat as he gasped for breath, one hand tangling in Johnís shirt and the other clenching into a fist.

"You are so fucking gorgeous," John rasped, his eyes intent on Rodneyís face as he drank in the other manís reaction to his touch.

"Crazy," Rodney whispered, giving in and dragging John in for a kiss as he arched upward into his touch.

"About you," John retorted against Rodneyís lips before his tongue delved into Rodneyís mouth, relearning the taste of him. Rodney whimpered, clutching at Johnís hair, his balls drawing up closer to his body as Johnís hand tightened on him. Feeling the reaction, John stroked him more rapidly, loving every shiver and tiny sound of pleasure.

The sound that tore from Rodneyís throat was as much a gasp as a moan, and his whole body tensed as he came, sensation tearing though him as waves of pleasure. John continued stroking him until the last spasm passed, and then he raised his hand to his mouth, slowly licking it clean.

"I think you have a fetish for making me brainless," Rodney panted, his gaze riveted to the long slow swipes of Johnís tongue over his own hand.

John grinned. "Itís a hell of an ego boost," he admitted. Still looking at Rodney, John sucked a finger into his mouth, lovingly fellating it.

"Proving that I have no self-control is an ego boost?"

"Knowing that you want me that much is an ego boost," John corrected before kissing him.

"Yes, well, I suppose thatís obvious."

"Hey, Iím the same way about you. Weíre in this together."

"Especially now."

John frowned curiously. "Why especially now?"

"Well, because weíre back here and the only other people who can relate to what weíve been through are Ford, Teyla and Elizabeth."

John nodded. "True. Weíll have to be there for Teyla. She certainly never would have come if sheíd expected this to be a one-way trip. Her home, her people, everything she knows and loves is back in Pegasus."

"True, weíre lucky that way; we haveó" Rodney stuttered for a second before continuing. "This is familiar to us."

"And we still have each other," John said, his smile turning to a frown as he realized that Rodney had a much better chance of finding his guide now that they were back on Earth.

"What? Whatís wrong?" Rodney asked, his expression growing serious.

The tips of Johnís ears turned red, and he squirmed a little in his seat. "Itís nothing, just a dumb thought I had."

Rodneyís frown remained, then he shrugged, moving back to set his clothes to rights. "Well then, thereís no need to pass on whatever it was."

"Rodney." John caught one of Rodneyís hands in his. "Iím not trying to keep secrets from you. It was a selfish, jealous thought, and I just donít want to upset you with it or make you think Iíd do something stupid."

"Stupid?" Rodney asked, still staring at him.

A brief sigh escaped John, and his fingers tightened on Rodneyís. "Yeah, stupid, like trying to stop you finding your guide. I wouldnít," he said emphatically. "But for a second I wished you wouldnít," he admitted, "and Iím sorry for that. I just donít want to lose you."

"Oh." Rodney bit his lower lip before leaning over to brush a kiss over Johnís lips. "I donít want to lose you either; even if I everówell, I really doubt thatís ever going to happen since it hasnít so far, so should we be worrying about it when the odds are infinitesimal?" There was the tiniest trace of wistfulness in his tone as he spoke, but his gaze was warm and steady as he watched John.

John raised his free hand to cup Rodneyís cheek. "No, that would be kind of dumb, wouldnít it? And if thereís one thing youíre not, itís dumb." He smiled faintly. "Sorry I ruined the afterglow."

"Youíre entitled; itís usually me who does it," Rodney shrugged, tilting his head against Johnís hand before turning to kiss his palm.

"Iíll make it up to you later," John promised, his fingertips lightly caressing Rodney.

"Thereís nothing to make up, John."

"So weíll just have fun then." John leaned back in the seat, drawing Rodney close against his side, ignoring his own arousal for the moment.

"Iím afraid of what my place is going to look like; we may have to dig our way in," Rodney murmured, leaning against him and stroking his chest to calm them both.

"At least then we wonít have to worry about interruptions. No oneíll be able to get to us."

"Starving to death isnít a good thing!"

John laughed. "If we can get inside, Iím sure we can get back to the door when the deliveryman comes with our food."

"Unless we trip on our clothes and fall and break our necks," Rodney said morosely, waiting until John stared at him to start laughing.

"Bastard," John chuckled. "Just for that, youíre buying dinner."

"Then weíd better have the driver stop at a bank because I donít have any money on me."

"Hm, this could be a problem. I donít know about you, but I donít carry my wallet anymore, so I have no cash, credit cards or ID," John realized, frowning.

"Same here," Rodney sighed, "this could be a problem unless we want to get arrested our first day back for knocking over a liquor store."

"Not really, no," John laughed, pulling out the cell phone Gen. Hammond had given them before they left the SGC. "General? Yes, sir, weíre enjoying the car and driver. But, sir, our wallets... ah. Thank you, sir." John hung up and turned to the side, opening a compartment and withdrawing a sealed envelope which, when opened, revealed two wallets. "I guess leaving them in storage at the SGC worked out for us." He handed one to Rodney and opened his own, finding exactly what heíd left in it.

Rodney glanced through his as well before stuffing it in his pocket. "So it seems; I suppose I have no excuse to avoid paying for dinner now."

"Nope," John replied cheerfully. "This is my opportunity to find out what itís like to be a kept man."

Rodney snorted at that and shook his head. "Kept man, hmm? So youíre going to put out after we eat?"

"Possibly even while you eat," John assured him, grinning.

"That sounds intriguing..."

"I just have to decide whether I want you as my appetizer or dessert. Or both."

"And what did you call what you just had?"

"A mid-afternoon snack."

"Ahh," Rodney chuckled. "Itís a good thing you have a big appetite then; I wouldnít want you to ruin your meal."

"Never gonna happen," John assured him. "Iím working on lust and gluttony today."

"And then we can work on sloth," Rodney murmured, leaning over to kiss him.

"Mm, that sounds like fun. I already made an idiot of myself with jealousy, so we can cross that one off too."

"Good point and we can save wrath for the idiots weíre going to have to work with now." Rodney sighed at the thought of being stuck on Earth again.

"I hope theyíll let the four of us continue to work as a gate team," John mused. "Itíll be weird reporting to Gen. Hammond instead of Elizabeth though and worrying about Goaíuld instead of Wraith."

"That would be good." Rodney paused and looked out the window. "I donít know if Iíd like staying in the lab all the time any longer."

"I know I wouldnít like you staying in the lab while Iím away. I like us together."

"Iíll probably have to go to the Center for testing again," Rodney sighed. "They have to clear me for field work."

"But youíve been doing field work," John said, sounding confused.

"In another galaxy and I wasnít cleared for it there until Carson agreed to it."

"Well, hopefully the fact that you have been doing it will prove that you can do it.

"You going to be my reference?" Rodney asked, smiling slightly.

"Of course." John grinned and pulled him a little closer, somehow managing to sink even deeper into the luxurious leather seat.

"Youíre not going to mention that incident with the huge mud bath ceremony, is it?" Rodney asked, settling beside him again.

"No, I think weíll keep that just between ourselves," John chuckled. "Just where is your apartment, by the way? This drive is pretty long."

"I wonder if heís driving in circles because he knows what was going on back here," Rodney mused.

"If so, we should give him a tip."

"Possibly, but getting to our destination some time today might be nice." Rodney commented, pressing the intercom button. "How much longer?"

"Just arriving now, sir," the driver replied, pulling over and getting out to open the door for them.

"Great timing," John murmured, frowning slightly.

"Itís the military," Rodney shrugged before he climbed out of the car, glancing around the parking lot and noticing the changes while heíd been gone.

"True, weíre very good at everything we do."

Rodney smirked as he looked over his shoulder and winked. "I noticed."

"Itís nice to be appreciated." Johnís smile widened.

"Just wait until we get inside and get our food."

"I can look forward to more appreciation?"

"Well, I have to make sure you give a good report to the Center, donít I?"

"Iím completely open to bribery and corruption," John assured him as they went inside.

Rodney tossed his keys in the air, caught them, and pulled John in for a quick kiss as they headed for the small elevator. "You have no idea how happy I am to hear that."

"You can show me after we get something to eat."

"Mind if we get my cat first?"

"Of course not. Iíll even knock out your neighbor for you if she refuses to give himóher?--back.

"Himówell, it if you take in the fact that heís missing a pair of very important parts." Rodney smiled fondly as he spoke.

"Fortunately, theyíre not as important to him as they are to us," John chuckled.

"I meant an eye and a tail," Rodney snorted, "but heís missing the others as well."

"Poor thing. You didnít tell me that hanging around you was so hard on body parts," John teased.

"Oh, very amusing, he was that way when I found him." As he spoke, Rodney knocked on the door of one of the apartments.

The woman inside looked out at him blankly, the chain still on the door. "Can I help you?"

"You have my cat."

"Oh. Itís you. Ron McKinney, right?" She frowned, still not opening the door.

"Rodney McKay. My expedition was cut short, so Iíd like him back. Please."

The woman was still frowning when the door was suddenly pushed open to the limit of the chain and a mostly black cat squeezed out and immediately leaped into Rodneyís arms.

"I think he missed you," John observed while Rodney just hugged the cat, burying his face against the soft fur, losing himself in the texture. John smiled and slid an arm around Rodneyís waist, steering him toward his apartment while totally ignoring the now sputtering woman.

"Need the keys," Rodney murmured in a distracted tone.

"You had them in your hands as we came in," John pointed out.

"Mind taking them? Hands full now."

"So I see," John said, eying the loudly purring cat with amusement. "Are they still in your hand, or do I need go fishing in your pockets?"

"Right hand," Rodney murmured, rubbing his face against the catís fur, his expression far away.

John eyed Rodney worriedly but let him be for the moment, deciding that Rodney wasnít lost in his senses enough for it to be a danger to him, so there was no harm in allowing him to concentrate on his pet. John unlocked the door and steered Rodney inside, watching him carefully.

"Isnít it good to be home, Mole?" Rodney crooned, sinking down onto a worn sofa. "I wish you could have come with us though; you would have liked the city."

"Well, this is one good thing about being back," John pointed out. "Youíre back together now. I just hope heís not overly jealous."

"He doesnít like women," Rodney commented, finally straightening up though he was still stroking the catís side, the pleasured expressions on their faces almost identical.

"Then I should be fine, since as I think you may have noticed, Iím not a woman." Unable to resist, John reached over and stroked Rodneyís arm.

"Really? And here I thought you just had really small tits," Rodney laughed, focusing on John once again though he continued stroking Mole.

"Keep it up and youíll have to go looking for pussy," John retorted. "And I donít mean him."

"Now why would I look for pussy when I have two tomcats here with me?"

John burst into laughter. "You have an excellent grasp of priorities."

"And you didnít know this already? Now grab me the phone, and Iíll order us pizza."

"Mmm, I see youíre in a bossy mood tonight. This mean youíre going to top me?" John asked as he looked around for the phone. Spotting it on an end table, he picked it up and handed it to Rodney, pausing to pet the cat after heíd done so.

Rodney chewed on his lip as he hit the speed dial, then looked over at John. "What do you like on your pizza, anyway?"

"Anything except anchovies," John replied. "Pepperoni and mushroom, meat, veggies, ham and pineapple, you name it, I like it."

"Ground beef and green pepper work?"

"Sounds great. Youíd better get some sodas with it too. Even if you have anything here, itís getting kind of old."

"Good point and any kind?"

"Nothing diet," John said, making a face.

Rodney shuddered and ordered, then hung up. "About half an hour."

"That gives you and Mole time to get reacquainted."

"Actually, I think the two of you need to meet." Rodney picked up the still purring cat from his lap and dropped him on Johnís.

"Hi, Mole," John said, running a hand over the soft fur while waiting for the cat to decide how to react.

Mole stared up at him with his one yellow eye then promptly rolled over onto his back, baring his stomach.

"I think he likes you," Rodney chuckled.

"Heís clearly a very discerning cat," John replied, rubbing Moleís belly.

"Damn right he is," Rodney grinned, trailing his fingers over Moleís chest and Johnís hand.

"The two of you seem to share the same taste."

"At least he wonít zone out because of it."

John shrugged. "I take it as a compliment. And youíre not doing it as much lately, plus you come out of it easily."

Rodney only smiled and shook his head, continuing to play with both of them.

Not wanting to argue on their first night back, John let it slide and leaned forward, careful not to squish Mole, to kiss Rodney.

"Mmm, I could get used to this," Rodney sighed. "Itís not Atlantis, but itís nice."

"Yeah. It sucks losing Atlantis, but it would be worse if we werenít together," John said quietly, reaching for Rodney with his free hand, and Rodney nodded, tightening his fingers around Johnís.

"Without you here, I might come to think that it was all a dream."

"Iím always good for getting physical," John promised, grinning.

"After we eat, Major," Rodney laughed, kissing him again.

"Of course. Iíd hate to be interrupted."

"Hrmm, we should change the sheets while weíre waitingóthough weíll just have to do it again later..."

"I hope you have enough sheets that weíll have some to sleep on tonight without having to do laundry."

"I guess weíd better look and see."

"You donít know if you own three sets of sheets?" John shook his head, laughing. "I guess weíd better check at that."

"Well itís not as if I was here much before we left!" Rodney protested as they stood, Mole dropping to the floor, twisting so he landed on his feet.

"You do know where your sheets are, I hope?" John teased gently, automatically sliding an arm around Rodneyís waist.

"Under the bed of course, where else."

"Under the..." Johnís military soul cringed. "Never mind. Letís just go see what you have."

Rodney smirked as they walked down the hallway, and he stopped at a built in closet. "Oh look, they must have gotten put in here by mistake," he mused, reaching out to open the door to reveal several sets of sheets.

"Asshole," John grumbled, shaking his head and pretending to glare.

"But you like me anyway," Rodney said smugly.

"Iím so whipped."

"Poor little major, bullied around by the big, mean sentinel," Rodney snickered, grabbing a set of sheets from the closet and carrying them into the bedroom, frowning slightly at its pristine nature.

"Somehow, that sounded less than sincere." John went around to the far side of the bed so they could make it. "Good thing I donít care, huh?"

"Oh, as if you donít give it back just as good," Rodney snorted as they got the bottom sheet on only to have Mole jump up and settle himself in the middle of the bed.

John laughed. "Why did I know he was going to do that? Okay, cat, move or weíll make the bed over you," he warned, trying to sound stern.

Mole yawned at him.

"Well, considering what weíre going to be doing, do we really need a top sheet?"

"Good point." John grinned down at the cat. "Enjoy it while you can. Once weíre done with dinner, itís going to get active around here."

Mole just stared at him before starting to wash between his legs.

"I see you told him," Rodney snickered.

"Tough crowd." John grinned, shook his head at the cat, and grabbed Rodneyís hand to pull him back into the living room. "Letís make out till the pizza gets here."

"Should I put on some appropriate Ďmaking outí music?" Rodney asked as they stumbled into the living room.

"We can make our own." John bit at Rodneyís throat, making him moan and lean against him. "Told you," he whispered, doing it again.

"Better be a private concert," Rodney gasped, pulling John around to kiss him.

"Damn right. Iím not sharing you with anyone."

"The same goes for you," Rodney growled, catching John and giving him a possessive kiss.

"Donít want anyone else," John assured him.

"Good." Rodney sounded supremely satisfied at this comment.

"Iím happy to prove it to you again anytime you like."

Rodney smiled at that and hugged John close. "That would be after the pizza gets here." He cocked his head to the side and nodded toward the door. "Which would be as soon as the delivery person gets down the hall."

"I like that hearing of yours. It prevents interruptions at really inopportune times." John grinned and held out a hand. "Gimme money."

"Gimme money? Geeze," Rodney laughed, leaning back to grab his wallet and hand over several bills just as there was a knock on the door.

"Your place, you pay for dinner," John retorted, grinning. "Deal with it," he said over his shoulder as he headed for the door to get their food.

"Yeah, well, you better put out after we eat!" Rodney called, smirking as he timed the comment to coincide with John opening the door to a suddenly red-faced teenage girl.

"Well, if youíre going to make me wait that long..." John shot back, handing a twenty to the girl while trying not to laugh.

"Hungry remember? And real pizzaóhow long has it been since weíve had that?"

"Too long," John agreed, getting his change and shutting the door on the flustered delivery person. He carried the pizza and drinks into the living room and set them down on the table. "Come and get it," he said, already helping himself to a slice.

Rodney did just that, groaning in pleasure at the first bite, somehow managing to pop open a can of Coke at the same time so he could slurp down a sip after heíd swallowed his first bite.

John nodded at the sound. "Yeah, this is just as good as I remembered." He opened a cola too and took a long swallow. "Damn, thatís good. It almost makes up for being stuck here again."

"Almost," Rodney said around another bite of pizza. "If we had pizza and Atlantis, it would be perfect."

"Hell yeah," John agreed. "But if we could only have one, Iíd rather have Atlantis."

Rodney sighed at that and nodded as he slumped back on the couch, his appetite gone as he was reminded of how much they had lost. "Me too."

John reached over and squeezed his fingers, silently apologizing for ruining the mood. "Youíll just have to figure out how to create ZPMs so we can have enough power to go back home."

"Well, despite what the SGC thinks, if thereís anyone who can do that, itís me." Rodney smiled slightly as he said that and squeezed Johnís fingers back.

"Exactly. So eat up so I can eat you up." John gave him a comical leer.

Rodneyís smile firmed a tad more at that. "Who says Iím not going to eat you?"

"Thatís good too and all the more reason for you to keep your energy up by eating."

In answer, Rodney took a huge bite of his pizza then gave John a tomato-y grin, making the major burst into laughter. "Oh, thatís just disgusting. If I didnít love you..."

"But you do," Rodney shot back before looking at John sharply, assessing his reactions.

"Yeah, I do. So I guess the bad table manners is something I can live with." John sank into a deeper slouch in the corner of the sofa and smiled softly at Rodney, his expression completely open.

"Oh. Good, because I do tooóthe love thing, I mean."

"Works out pretty well, huh?" John leaned over and kissed him. "Which means youíre stuck with me now."

"Oh damn, I really hate that," Rodney murmured, kissing him again, delving past the spicy flavor of the pizza to taste John.

"I can tell," John replied, pulling Rodney over him so they lay sprawled on the sofa, the pizza forgotten for the moment.

"Are we done eating now?" Rodney asked as he nibbled his way up Johnís jaw, "because Iím hungry for other things now."

"Mmmm," John agreed, sliding his hands under the waistband of Rodneyís pants to cup his ass. "We can have more later."

"Once we recover," Rodney chuckled, deliberately misunderstanding the comment.

"Have I mentioned that I like the way you think, Dr. McKay?"

"Many times which shows that youíre a genius as well, Maj. Sheppard. Now, since we went to all that effort of changing the sheets, care to try them out?"

"That sounds like an excellent plan. And much as Iíd love to do the macho thing and carry you off to bed, I think weíll do better with both of us on our feet."

"Donít worry, Iím not the sweep off my feet type of man," Rodney laughed, rolling to his feet, nudging the pizza box aside to start toward the bedroom.

"Good, that means I can save my energy for more fun activities." John followed him as if they were bound together, and that was an idea worth exploring in more detail at a later date.

"Exactly, so strip down and get on the bed, Major!" Rodney called, side-stepping Mole, who darted out of the bedroom as they entered.

"With pleasure." John tossed his shirt aside, his eyes following Mole. "Is there going to be any pizza left when we surface?" he asked laughingly as he started on his jeans while toeing off his sneakers.

"Do we care? We can order more if we need it," Rodney shrugged, pulling off his shirt without undoing the buttons and starting in on his pants.

"Good point." John shoved his jeans down and stepped out of them and his boxer briefs, then pulled off his socks before stretching out on his back, one arm behind his head and his other hand lazily stroking himself.

"No touching, John, Iím the one who gets to do that," Rodney growled, kicking off his shoes and pushing down his pants and boxers, stepping out of them as he walked toward the bed.

"I was just starting the engine for you," John said, grinning as he let go and folded his other arm behind his head as well.

"I would have thought the limo ride did that."

"I was idling," John replied.

"Care for me to try and rev you up?" Rodney snickered, crawling onto the bed and licking a stripe up Johnís leg, purring at the flavor.

"Please, feel free," John urged him, his legs spreading. Rodney took him up on the invitation, swallowing his cock down and bobbing his head up and down. "Oh Christ, Rodney!" John combed his fingers through Rodneyís hair, his back arching as he thrust into that wet heat.

Groaning as he tried to keep himself from focusing on one sense and zoning out, Rodney sucked at him, stroking his inner thigh, urging John on, and John eagerly complied, rocking up desperately as he fucked Rodneyís mouth.

"So good," he groaned, earning a wordless moan from Rodney as he pulled back to lash the head of Johnís cock with his tongue before diving in again. "You better be planning to fuck me after you suck me off," John rasped, his eyes falling half closed as he watched Rodney work him.

Rodney shuddered at that, tilting his head to stare up at John, his blue eyes wide and bright against his flushed face.

"Wanna feel you in me," John whispered, staring into Rodneyís eyes, and he nodded as much as possible without losing his position. "Love you. And I love what your mouth does to me," John added with a shaky chuckle, defusing the moment.

Rodney smiled around his cock, then deliberately winked and swallowed, and John nearly screamed his name as he came, Rodney pulling back enough to be able to taste him as John gouted in his mouth, his eyes going slightly unfocused at the strong flavor. John grabbed hold of Rodneyís shoulders in a tight grip, keeping him from being overwhelmed. "Donít you dare zone out on me now! Fuck me, Rodney," he gritted out.

Rodney blinked at him and snapped back to himself with a sheepish grin. "You taste goodólike you, but more," he tried to explain.

"And I love it that you like that, but right now I want you in me," John insisted.

"Itís been... I havenít done this in a long time," Rodney admitted, leaning over to scrabble in the bedside table, frowning slightly when he found a full tube of lube.

"Itís like riding a bike, only a hell of a lot more fun." John watched him avidly, legs spread invitingly.

"And if I fall off, I wonít end up in the hospital." As he spoke, Rodney squirted some of the lube out into his palm, warming it before dragging his fingers through it and pressing one into Johnís ass before he could have second thoughts.

"I can guarantee you wonít fall off," John got out before gasping and pulling his knees back toward his chest to open himself to Rodney, who gave an unintelligible sound and drew his finger back, sighing as he felt Johnís muscles cling to him.

"More," John demanded, watching him.

"And you call me pushy," Rodney panted, biting his lower lip as he added a second finger.

"My turn now."

In answer, Rodney crooked his fingers, and John cried out sharply. "God, yes, more," he begged.

"Everything," Rodney whispered, pulling back to stroke the remaining lube on his aching cock, concentrating on calculating pi as far out as possible to keep from coming. That done, he rested a hand on Johnís thigh, set himself, and pushed inward.

"Oh fuck yeah," John moaned, arching up to meet him.

"So damn good," Rodney whispered, his tone one of wonder as he bottomed out then began to draw back, staring down at John the whole while.

"Perfect together," John said, his hands running over Rodneyís back, petting him shakily as they rocked together, Rodney slowly growing more sure of himself as he stayed in control. John smiled up at him before raising his head to claim Rodneyís mouth in a hungry kiss.

As his strokes sped up, Rodney swept his tongue into Johnís mouth, claiming him this way as well as he stroked and petted every part of John he could reach, and John groaned his pleasure, clenching down on Rodneyís cock.

"Gonna come," Rodney gasped into Johnís mouth, his whole body tensing as he felt the changes in Johnís body beneath him.

"Yes," John said eagerly, watching him, and Rodney gave in, slamming forward, his hands tightening on Johnís arm and hip as he came, his whole body shaking.

John wrapped his arms and legs around Rodney, holding him close, and he nuzzled the top of Rodneyís head after the sentinel slumped over him. "Love you," he whispered again.

"Me too, feel good, didnít zone," Rodney murmured, nuzzling his nose deeper into the hollow of Johnís throat, totally relaxed.

"You didnít want to miss even a moment of me," John informed him, grinning.

"Funnyónot."

"Itís as good an explanation as any," John insisted.

"Shh, relaxing," Rodney grumbled, shifting to let Johnís legs slip down to the bed.

"Good idea." John let his eyes fall closed as he held Rodney. "Sleep now. More food and sex later."

Rodney nodded and snuggled closer, falling asleep to the sound of Johnís breathing.

~ CHAPTER 7 ~

"I heard you were back here. Couldnít make it on your own without a guide, I see." Sam Carter announced her arrival in Rodneyís lab in her typically charming manner, at least typical when no one else was around to see.

Rodney stiffened and looked up from the ZPM Gen. Hammond had surprised him with that morning when he and John had returned to the base. "Actually, it was an incident involving a mission; my return here wasnít the idea of anyone on the expedition."

"Of course not," Sam replied with patent insincerity. "Thatís why youíre all alone here; everyoneís so eager to be around you."

"I usually am," John said in a suspiciously bland tone, coming back into the lab with a thermos of coffee in his hand.

"And you are?"

"Maj. John Sheppard, the military commander of the Atlantis expedition," Rodney said before John could answer.

"And you must be Col. Carter." Johnís polite tone was at odds with the cold fury in his eyes.

She nodded smugly at that and looked at Rodney again. "The Center wanted me to check on you and see if your episodes were under control."

Rodney seemed to draw into himself at that. "Theyíve been much better lately."

"Which I can swear to," John added, drawing close to Rodneyís side, clearly aligning himself with Rodney against Col. Carter.

"And youíre a trained guide?" she asked archly.

"Heís dealt with me in the field," Rodney said quickly.

"Iím Rodneyís team leader... and lover. Iíve seen him in every circumstance," John replied, the ice in his eyes slowly seeping into his voice.

"Oh really? Having been the latter, I must say you must have low expectations, Major." Rodney blanched at the last, and his eyes dilated as he centered on Johnís racing pulse.

"Quite the contrary, Colonel," John said, furious. He reached back and caught Rodneyís hand, squeezing it supportively. "I have very high expectations... and abilities," he added sneeringly.

Sam only smiled at that, and Rodney sucked in a deep breath, grounding himself in the sound of Johnís voice and the smell of the mint he was eating. "So face it that it was you who was lacking in our relationship, and, by the way, get out of my lab, Samantha."

"In case youíve forgotten, Iím the head of the scientific staff here at the SGC," Sam reminded him, not moving. "And youíre the one who canít manage to match with any guide, Rodney."

"Okay, thatís it, sir," John snapped. "Heís asked you nicely; now Iím telling you. Get out. Thereís nothing for you here."

"Insubordination, Major? How fitting that one misfit finds a friend in another; Iíll make sure Gen. Hammond learns about this."

"Get out!" Rodney bellowed, stalking toward her, his hands fisted at his sides.

"Go ahead, Colonel," John snarled. "Iím sure the general would be interested to learn how youíre trying to browbeat a sentinel into taking you even though youíre obviously not his guide. And it would be fascinating to show him all of Rodneyís old notes, proving he wrote most of the papers you stole and published!"

The scent of fear was in the air, and Rodney homed in on it, herding Sam toward the door and pinning her there with the force of his glare. "You are not my guide, and you are not my intellectual superior, Samantha, and even if I suddenly discovered that you were my guide, I wouldnít take youóin any way!"

"Good thing because Iím sure as hell not sharing with her!" John glared at the blonde.

"Are you threatening me?" Sam gasped, reaching for the door handle without looking away from Rodneyís face.

John shrugged. "I donít need to. Rodney seems to be dealing with you quite well on his own."

"Thank you, John," Rodney said, keeping his attention on Sam. "And go ahead and run to Hammond; I do have friends here too now, ones who will back me up against whatever crap youíre spouting about me, whether itís to the SGC or the Center."

"And you think theyíd believe you, a known unstable sentinel, over me?" Sam sneered, but even John could see that she was trying to cover her uncertainty.

Now it was Rodneyís turn to smile silently, and he took a step away from Sam.

"Go ahead, try us," John invited, his confidence equally obvious, and after a momentís hesitation, Col. Carter turned and left without another word.

"What a bitch!" John said after she was gone.

"And I slept with her," Rodney muttered.

John made a face. "Well, all I can say is your taste has really improved."

"Iíd say thatís because what Iím tasting is better," Rodney murmured, drawing in a deep breath and relaxing as Johnís scent overwhelmed Samís.

"Go me." John grinned, drawing Rodney into a hug.

"Iíll do you a cheer once Iíve calmed down," Rodney mumbled against his shoulder.

"Okay, I love you, Rodney, but I really didnít need to picture you in a short skirt and waving pompoms."

"Pervert." Rodney sighed and straightened up, stealing a kiss before he moved away to look at the table with the ZPM on it. "So, time to get back to work on this thing..."

"I brought coffee," John said, raising the almost forgotten thermos heíd been carrying when Sam arrived.

"My hero," Rodney grinned. "Any snacks?"

John shook his head laughingly as he pulled a snack pack of cheese crackers and peanut butter from his pocket and tossed it to Rodney.

"And this is why I love you," Rodney laughed as he caught the packet.

"For my skills as a waiter?"

"Those help too, but I meant for the way you plan ahead."

"Shh!" John held a finger to his lips. "Youíre going to let my secret out. Most people think I just stumble from one crisis to the next with no idea of whatís going to happen beforehand."

"Obviously they donít know you as well as I do." Rodney sounded pleased by that fact.

"No, they donít." John came around the table to kiss Rodney. "And that works both ways."

"I think I got the better part of the bargain."

"Weíll have to agree to disagree on that."

"I think I can live with that."

"It adds a little spice to life. Agreeing on everything would be boring."

"Iíll remind you of that fact the next time we get in an argument." Rodney refilled his coffee mug and studied the reading scrolling across his screen.

"Make up sex," John replied succinctly.

"Working now," Rodney said, though there was a hint of laughter in his voice.

"So Iíll just sit here and watch you and plan what weíre going to do tonight," John said cheerfully.

"That should take all of two minutes," Rodney snickered, "food and sex."

"I meant specifics," John retorted before he was interrupted by the arrival of two Air Force officers.

"Hey, Shep, we heard you were here. Howís it hanging?"

John stared. "Uh, hi, Mitch, Dex. I didnít expect to see you here."

"We heard you were back and thought weíd come see how you were." Both men walked forward to give John a hearty slap on the back and a hug. Rodney watched, noting the way Johnís heartbeat sped up at their approach and fought to keep from moving to his side to push them away.

"Itís... been a long time," John got out after a moment.

"Damn right it has! What do you say we head out of here and get a beeróor a pitcher?"

"I... I need to help McKay with some stuff here. Why donít you go ahead and weíll catch up?" John suggested, his eyes drinking them in.

"Youíd better!" They laughed, hugging John again before heading out of the room. "If you donít show, weíre tracking you down!"

Once they were gone, John slumped onto a stool and looked over at Rodney. "I think we have a problem."

"Why? Are they your secret lovers or something?" Rodney asked, bristling slightly at the idea.

"Theyíre dead."

"Dead?!"

"That was Mitch and Dex, the two guys I tried to rescue in Afghanistan."

"How the hell are they here?" Rodney squawked.

"Thatís a damn good question. And itís not the only one. A lot of things have been off since we got here. Like why is Gen. Hammond here instead of Gen. OíNeill?"

"Maybe we should go talk to the othersóElizabeth and Teyla and Fordósee if they noticed anything." As he spoke, Rodney glanced over at the ZPM.

"Thatís probably a very good idea," John agreed, getting to his feet. "Because I know things are weird in our lives, but seeing walking dead men is pushing it."

"Plus thereís the fact that none of you knew about the SGC back then." Rodney reached out and rested his hand on Johnís arm.

John raised his other hand to cover Rodneyís, taking comfort from the touch. "Weíre not really here, are we?"

Rodneyís gaze moved toward the ZPM again, and he sighed. "It would explain why that thing is reacting in ways that defy any type of physics."

"So letís find the others and compare notes to try to figure out what the hell is going on and how we get back home."

Rodney nodded at that, giving the lab a last contemptuous look before sliding his arm around Johnís waist as they walked out the door.

"Elizabeth first?" John suggested before they suddenly found themselves standing in the gateroom, the rest of their team there as well, and John grabbed for a weapon he wasnít wearing as ĎGen. Hammondí approached them.

"Who are you?" Rodney demanded as the others looked around in confusion.

"We are the mist," ĎHammondí replied, briefly morphing into a gaseous cloud before setting back into the familiar form. "But it is easier to communicate with you in this form."

"Why have you brought us here?" Elizabeth asked, regaining her composure.

"You were killing us."

John frowned. "We didnít do anything."

"Each time the stargate is activated, it kills more of us."

"So you put in a fantasy world?" Ford asked.

"We are not cruel. You will enjoy your time here." Hammond started to fade back into mist.

"Hey, hold on!" John exclaimed. "We canít stay here; we have to go home."

"Iím afraid we canít allow that. We must protect ourselves."

"So send us home!" Rodney protested. "Weíll lock the address out so we canít come back."

Hammond seemed to hesitate, solidifying again. "We cannot risk it."

Elizabeth stepped forward. "You have been inside our minds. You know we donít mean harm to you. We give you our word that we will leave and never come back."

Teyla nodded at that. "If you can truly know our thoughts, you know this to be true."

Finally, Hammond nodded. "I believe you." The image of the gateroom faded, and they all woke up on the mist planet and slowly got to their feet.

"Just when you think this place canít get any weirder," John grumbled.

The others nodded and stepped aside for Rodney to dial the DHD and get them back to Atlantis.

"Thereís no place like home," John muttered.

The gate whooshed into life, and they all breathed a sigh of relief.

"Weíd better go before they decide they want to keep us," Ford muttered.

John nearly shoved them all through the gate. "Home. Now."

They stumbled into the gateroom, and Rodney looked around sharply, all his senses on edge as he tried to determine if they were really home.

"Dr. Weir?" the gate technician asked. "Did something happen?"

John barked a wild laugh. "I think we all need to go see Carson. And then weíre locking ourselves in our rooms where we know where we are."

Elizabeth gave him a sympathetic smile. "I think thatís a good idea for all of us."

Several hours later, after being declared sound of mind and body by Carson, the five of them were released on the condition that they took it easy for the next twenty-four hours.

"Rodney and I will see you later," John announced, catching the scientistís hand and starting toward the transporter. "We have a date with our room."

"Dinna strain anything," Carson called after them, causing the others to chuckle.

John flipped him off, laughter trailing behind him as he and Rodney disappeared into the transporter.

Once they were in their room, Rodney leaned against the door and took a deep breath. "Are we really home?"

"We really are," John assured him, sliding his arms around him and leaning in.

"So that was just... what we wanted to have happen?" As he spoke, Rodney looped his arms around Johnís waist, holding him close.

"Mostly, yeah, though they seemed to pull things out of our heads. I certainly never hoped for dead men walking."

"That must have been a shock," Rodney nodded.

"You could say that." John shut his eyes and lowered his head against Rodneyís shoulder. "Iím just glad to be home together."

Rodney lifted one hand to stroke the back of Johnís head, holding him close. "That was definitely stranger than anything weíve encountered."

"I wish I could say I was sure it would be the strangest thing weíd run into," John said ruefully.

"If I thought about it, Iíd probably just want to stay under the bed for a year."

"Only if Iím down there with you!"

Rodney chuckled quietly at that. "If you were, I donít think weíd be thinking about anything else."

"Exactly!"

"It was sort of nice thereóaside from the not being here part."

"Weíll have to reenact some of it if we ever do get back to Earth," John agreed, pressing a kiss to Rodneyís throat.

"I hope we can avoid the whole scene with Sam," Rodney sighed. "That actually felt goodóthe telling her off part."

"Well, we can do that again too if we ever go back for a visit. You were very impressive."

"I was pissed is what I was."

"It was hot."

"Youíre telling me that turned you on?"

"You always turn me on," John admitted with a laugh. "Itís the first time I saw the dommy side of you. I liked it."

"In other words, I generally donít act like a sentinel."

"Hey, donít put words in my mouth. You are a sentinel, so anything you do is acting like a sentinel. It doesnít mean you have to be a hard ass all the time."

Rodney nodded and gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile, which made John eye him oddly. "Whatís going on in that brain of yours?"

"I was just wondering how much of that was wishful thinking," Rodney answered after a long pause.

John shrugged. "It all came from us, so I guess other people were the way we perceive them, but we were still us."

"So we were us, and everyone else was the way we wanted them to be?"

"Near as I can figure. I guess we should just think of it as a vacation."

Rodney gave a quicksilver smile at that. "So it seems; it may be the closest we get to being back on Earth for who knows how long."

John shrugged. "I donít really have anything to go back to, and here I have you, Atlantis, puddle jumpers. Iím good."

"Actually, youíre better than good."

John smiled happily. "Soíre you."

"And itís good to be back."

"Damn right." John stepped back, drawing Rodney with him. "Shower?"

"Yeah, that would be good, then bed, because I feel like I could sleep for a week after that."

John nodded. "You and me both. I guess Ďsleepingí in the dream wasnít actually restful."

"Exactly." They reached the bathroom, and Rodney started pulling off his jacket and shirt. John just leaned against the wall, watching him while the shower turned on and steam began to fill the air, and Rodney paused in the act of unzipping his pants. "What?"

"Just enjoying the view," John said, finally pulling his own shirt off over his head.

"Crazy man," Rodney snorted, shaking his head.

"Crazy about you," John retorted, grinning. "And you know you love it."

"You know I do; Iím not going to deny it," Rodney shrugged as he stepped out of his pants, though he was steadfastly looking at the floor as he spoke.

"So tell me whatís wrong," John asked quietly, watching Rodney closely.

"Wrong? What could be wrong? Weíre back home again."

"Yup, and Iím delighted to be here. But why wonít you look at me?"

"Huh?" Rodney did look up at him at that.

"Unless that floor suddenly got real fascinating, youíve been avoiding looking at me," John said gently. "And I have no idea why."

"Oh." Rodney flushed again. "Ióit wasóI was just thinking about things that happened back... there. Silly, I know, especially since I have the real thing here."

"What do... Oh. You mean you fucking me? Iím hoping youíre planning to do it again in our own bed."

"Oh, umm, yes, I suppose I can do that again." Rodney gave a tentative smile at that. "Though I suppose you have to finish getting undressed for us to do that."

Johnís clothes vanished as if by magic, and a very naked major pressed up against Rodney and kissed him thoroughly, Rodneyís arms sliding around him and pulling him close.

John slowly inched them into the shower without ever parting their lips and turned them so that the hot water was pounding down on Rodneyís shoulders.

"Mmm, itís good to be home," Rodney sighed, tilting his head to nuzzle his way along Johnís throat.

"And we didnít even need ruby slippers."

Rodney chuckled at that, his movements growing slower and more languorous.

"Just relax," John murmured, lathering up his hands and then running them over Rodney.

"Mmmhmm," Rodneyís voice was barely audible, and he pressed closer, tightening his grip on Johnís waist.

"Lean on me. Let me take care of you."

"I wish..." Rodneyís voice trailed off, and he leaned more heavily against John, who looked down at him uncertainly before deciding to let Rodney rest a while longer, even if it meant having to snap him out of another zone out.

"You wish?" he encouraged but got no response.

"Uh oh. Rodney!" he tried to snap the sentinel out of it with the sound of his voice though it didnít seem effective as Rodney didnít respond. John thought the water off and gripped Rodneyís shoulders tightly while raising his voice. "Rodney! Stay with me."

Rodney swayed on his feet, staring off into space, his expression slack.

"Crap." John got him out of the shower and dried off, still without any response, and then led the unresisting sentinel to the bed. After calling his name several more times and snapping his fingers in front of Rodneyís eyes still didnít draw him out of it, John gave in. "Carson? Could you come to my quarters please?" he asked over a private channel. "I need your help with Rodney."

"Whatís wrong?" Carson asked before adding, "Iím on my way."

"Heís in a major zone out, and I canít bring him out of it," John admitted, sounding worried.

"Iíll be there in two minutes."

"Thanks, Carson." John signed off and sighed, looking down at Rodney as he sat on the edge of the bed next to him. "Come on, Rodney. You donít want to ruin my perfect record of being able to help you just because Iíve been smug about it, do you?"

In short order, there was a knock at the door, and Carson burst inside, panting slightly. "All right, what happened?" he asked, moving to the side of the bed and quickly taking Rodneyís vitals.

"We were in the shower," John said, only then realizing they were both still stark naked and not really caring. "He finally started to relax, and then he was gone."

"It could be a result of yer mission," Carson mused. "Do ye know where his Aclompazine is?"

"In the nightstand." John got it himself and handed it over to Carson, frowning worriedly. "Was it something I did?"

"I dinna know." Carson looked over at him. "Did ye do anything different?"

"Well, not since we got back." A faint flush colored Johnís cheekbones.

"And before that?"

"Well, we thought we were on Earth; thatís a pretty big change. And his cat was there." John stumbled to a halt.

"And ye tried the things that normally work?"

John nodded. "Up till now, calling his name sharply has usually been enough, but I tried that, snapping my fingers, practically shaking him, nothing worked. Hell, I got him out of the shower and into bed, and he never registered a thing that I could tell."

"Hrmm..." Carson opened the pill bottle and shook one of the tiny pills into his palm. "Would ye mind getting me a glass of water, John?"

"Of course." John went into the bathroom, pausing to wrap a towel around his waist before returning with the water. "Here you go."

"Thank you." Carson frowned as he studied Rodneyís position. "Now, can ye help me get him sitting up?"

"Sure." John moved behind Rodney, easily maneuvering him to a sitting position with his back supported against Johnís chest.

"Thank ye, lad." Waiting until John had them situated, Carson then gently opened Rodneyís mouth, placed a pill on his tongue, and washed it back with a small amount of water, stroking Rodneyís throat until he swallowed reflexively.

"Will it take long?" John asked plaintively, his arms protectively wrapped around Rodney.

"I dinna know; itís been quite some time since heís had an episode this bad. It might help if ye continued to try to bring him back."

John nodded. "Hey, Rodney? Wake up or Iím going to wallop your ass for scaring the hell out of me!" he barked.

This earned him a slight twitch, and Carson nodded as he settled in a chair he pulled over near the bed.

"Thatís it, McKay," John encouraged. "Wake up and bat those pretty blue eyes at me. I miss you, snookums."

Carson muffled a laugh, and he nodded as Rodneyís nose wrinkled.

"Thatís it, my little stud muffin," John crooned, trying not to laugh and knowing he was going to be in for it when Rodney did focus on him again.

Rodney suddenly stiffened, and his eyes flew open so that he could stare up at John. "What the hell are you going on about?" he asked.

"Ah, there are the dulcet tones I love," John said jocularly, but the light tone was belied by the relief in his eyes.

"What are you-" Rodneyís gaze slipped to the side, and he yelped. "Why is Carson here while weíre naked?!"

"Because you had a serious zone out that I couldnít bring you out of, and Iím not naked. Iím wearing a towel."

"And itís nothing I havenae seen before," Carson commented as Rodney sputtered at that comment. "Now then, seeing as Rodney seems ta be his normal charming self, Iíll leave ye two alone." He stood and directed a level glare at them. "And call me if there are any problems."

"Thank you, Carson," John said, looking up from where he was holding Rodneyís hand tightly. "I will."

Rodney waited until the other man had left, then sighed. "So, that bad, huh?"

John nodded, his fingers tightening on Rodneyís. "You didnít even seem to know I was here. I couldnít get through to you, and that scared me. Stay with me, Rodney."

"Sorry," Rodney whispered, squeezing Johnís hand back and half-turning to look at him. "I suppose it was the stress of the mission."

John looked back at him. "It wasnít your fault, Rodney. Itís not like itís something you do on purpose. I guess I just need to stop assuming I can always bring you out of it and learn more about what I need to do to help you."

"And I need to remember that Iím not normal," Rodney sighed, rubbing at his face and trying to remember what had sent him into the zone out.

"Youíre better," John replied, hugging him. "Iím sorry I had to call Carson, and Iím sorry about Mole. If we ever really do get back to Earth, weíll get him back."

"Itís not your fault," Rodney frowned. "You didnít wander off to la-la land, and you certainly didnít make my mind see things I wanted to."

"No, I just saw dead people," John replied. "How pathetic is that, that thereís not a single living person back on Earth that I want to see again?" he said, trying to remind Rodney that none of them was perfect.

"How pathetic that there wasnít a single person at all that I wanted to see?"

"You have me; who else do you need?" John said, trying to cheer him up.

"Nothing, I suppose," Rodney murmured, leaning back against him.

"See, Iím better than all the rest of the universe put together." John nuzzled Rodneyís ear.

"Yes, you are," Rodney whispered, a hitch in his voice.

John drew Rodney closer. "Iím always going to be right here for you."

"That means no doing crazy things, got it?"

"For you, got it." John nodded. "Iíll stick around if you will."

"I think I can manage that."

"Sounds like we have a plan then. And we still have a whole galaxy to explore and ZPMs to find."

~ CHAPTER 8 ~

"A storm? What kind of storm?" Rodney demanded.

"A fucking big one," John said. "Weíre talking Hugo and his big brother."

"How long do we have?" Elizabeth asked. "And what are our options?"

Since no one could answer yet, they gave the scientists some time to check the data and research the planetís weather patterns in the database and reconvened an hour later in the conference room. All eyes turned to Rodney.

"What we have here is a hurricane of massive proportions." Rodney glanced over at Radek before he continued. "The database has records of storms like this appearing every twenty to thirty years."

"There is more," Radek interjected before the others could speak. "This storm is going to get worse; it is the combination of two large systems merging together."

"So if Teyla and I hadnít seen it..." John hesitated, and Elizabeth continued, "Weíd be in even worse trouble."

"Rodneyíll come up with a plan to save us."

"You do realize that the city canít withstand that kind of storm," Rodney said, looking around at the others.

John frowned. "You said these storms came every twenty to thirty years. Surely the Ancients had some kind of protection."

"They had shields, the ability to submerge the city and, oh yes, they could fly it away if all else failed. Now why donít we do any of these thingsóoh yes, we donít have the power."

"Sarcasm isnít helping," John pointed out. "But like I said, you always come up with a plan."

Rodney relaxed somewhat and nodded at that. "Yes, yes, I do, donít I."

"As a precaution, we should come up with an evacuation plan," Elizabeth commented. "Teyla, can you talk to your people about leaving the mainland?"

Teyla nodded. "Yes, I will go immediately. The storm is far too severe for my people to survive."

"Weíll send the jumpers with you to evacuate the settlement," Elizabeth said.

"And Radek and I will go find a way to save the city," Rodney announced, gathering up his laptop as he stood.

"Our own personal hero," John said with a smile for Rodney.

"Yes, just call me Superman," Rodney said dryly as he walked out of the conference room, Radek at his side, the two of them already beginning to bring up and discard possible solutions to their problem.

"Only in private," John replied for Rodneyís ears only, causing the sentinelís step to stutter slightly as he headed for the transporter.

"All right, so all we have to do is try to figure out how to power the shield and save the city, easy as pie, right?"

Radek stared at him. "You truly are mad."

"Would you prefer me saying that the city is going to break apart and sink, and weíll be stuck on some backwards planet here for the rest of our lives?" Rodney snapped.

Radek glared. "A plan would be helpful."

Rodney glanced at the ceiling, heaving a world-weary sigh. "Power, Radek, we need power and more than the naquadah generators can give us. There has to be something here we can use."

Radek opened his mouth to argue when he suddenly stopped, his eyes widening as they met Rodneyís. "Lightning," they exclaimed in unison before nearly bolting out of the lab to find Elizabeth.

"All right, there are four power couplings we need to disconnect," Rodney said, pointing to spots on the map on his datapad. "Iíll take this one; Elizabeth, you go to this one; and the major will take the other two." He grinned slightly at John as he indicated the last two points.

John eyed them and then regarded Rodney. "And just how far are mine from the nearest transporter?"

"A walk..."

"How far of a walk?"

"A brisk one," Rodney allowed, looking slightly chagrined.

Johnís eyes narrowed. "And by brisk you mean...?"

"Running."

"Of course," John sighed, ignoring the amused expressions on Rodney and Elizabethís faces.

"Get back quickly, and Iíll give you a nice reward," Rodney grinned, catching John by the hand and pulling him in for a kiss before letting him go with a pat on the ass.

John laughed. "With that for an incentive, Iíll set a new land speed record."

"Just donít use all your energy," Rodney called as John started out before turning to look at Elizabeth, who was laughing quietly.

"I have to admit I wondered about you two, but you really go well together," Elizabeth said.

"Wondered about us? In what way?"

"You seemed an odd pairing, especially with John being military, but Iíve never seen you happier. Heís good for you, Rodney."

Rodney flushed at that but grinned. "Yes, yes, he is, but this isnít getting our work done, is it?"

"No, but itís amusing to watch you get flustered," Elizabeth admitted teasingly.

"You know, I should have given you the farthest couplings!" Rodney laughed, nudging Elizabeth toward the transporter while he started toward his own assignment.

"Never annoy your boss," Elizabeth chuckled before she vanished.

"Major, are you done yet?" Rodney radioed as he walked back toward the control room.

"I just got to the station," John said.

"The second one? Good."

"The first one," John said in exasperation. "Some of us had to actually walk more than a couple steps to get to theirs."

"Oh. Well then, you need to enter this code in the panel." Rodney recited the numbers, then waited.

"Okay, done. Iím heading for the second station now."

"Let me know when you get there." Rodney looked toward the transporter when the doors opened and Elizabeth stepped out. "Ah, there you are."

Before Elizabeth could reply, the Marine guards in the gate room radioed that theyíd received a message from the Athosians that they were under attack and they were coming in hot.

Hearing the message, John hesitated, but he continued toward the power coupling station, knowing that they had limited time to enact Rodneyís plan or they would lose the entire city.

"But why would they come back hereó" Rodney began as they hurried toward the control room, only to draw up short as people in unfamiliar uniforms appeared around them, holding guns at the ready, the smell of gunfire and blood heavy in the air around them.

Elizabeth stepped forward, trying to find out who the strangers were, but the leader, a tall, dark man with cold eyes, ignored her words. "You must be Dr. Weir." The dark eyes went to Rodney.

"And Dr. McKay," a young redheaded woman said, pushing forward to stand next to the stranger.

"And who are you?" Elizabeth asked.

"Theyíre Genii," Rodney spat.

"Weíve come for whatís rightfully ours," Sora snapped, "what you stole from us."

"What would that be?"

"We want your C4, your medical supplies and, of course, the Wraith device that you took from us."

"And just who are you?"

"Commander Acostas Kolya." He looked around. "Where is Maj. Sheppard?"

"He isnít here," Rodney said quickly.

Noticing Rodney lean forward and trigger the radio, to distract the Genii, Elizabeth added, "Heís on the mainland."

As soon as the radio came on, John stopped, listening.

"And even if he was here, he certainly wouldnít agree to giving you all our C4, medical supplies and the Wraith device," Rodney added.

John abruptly changed directions upon hearing that.

Kolya frowned as he noticed Rodneyís position. "Stand away from the controls," he ordered sharply.

"What? IóI wasnít doing anything," Rodney said quickly, straightening up and taking a step back.

Kolya ignored him for the moment, sending men to gather the items they wanted, and then returning his attention to McKay after having Elizabeth taken to another room. "What are you doing here?"

Rodney gulped nervously and tried to keep focused. "Oh, you know, last minute cleanups, making sure everyone got out of the city."

"Shouldnít that be left to someone less important?"

"You would think so."

"Well, weíll soon find out the truth," Kolya said, nodding to one of his men, who drew a knife.

"Oh god," Rodney whimpered.

"Commander, the C4 is gone," one of the Genii soldiers reported. "This was left in its place." He held up a radio.

Kolya took it and activated it. "This is Kolya. Whoís there?"

"Maj. John Sheppard," John replied. "Kolya, huh? Is that a first name or a last name?"

"Where is the C4, Major?"

"Where youíll never find it. So why donít you take your soldiers and go, and Iíll agree to forget about this little episode."

"Oh, I donít think so; you see, Dr. McKay told me about your plan to save the cityóbefore he went catatonic that isóso I see no reason for us to leave."

"Cat... Youíre a dead man, Kolya!" John snarled.

"Thatís highly unlikely, though your Dr. Weir may be a dead woman if you donít go and uncouple the last grounding station."

After negotiating the terms, John finally agreed and headed for the final grounding station, watching carefully since he was sure Kolya couldnít be trusted to keep his word. He was proven correct when two Genii tried to shoot him as he was working on the station. After killing them both, John picked up the radio again.

"Iím going to tell you where you went wrong, Kolya. First you just lost two men, second you just lost what little credibility you had with me, and third, your men shot up the station before I could finish, which Iím sure youíre going to get an earful from McKay about." John just hoped Rodney was in a state to give anyone an earful about anything.

"And let me tell you where you went wrong, Major," Kolya snarled, "you killed my men, and it made me realize that while I may need McKay, Dr. Weir is expendable and of no use to me." He clicked the radio off and raised his gun toward her just as Rodney woke from his fugue, roused by the sound of Johnís voice.

"Kolya!" John yelled into the radio.

Elizabethís eyes widened, and she stared fixedly at Kolya, wincing slightly in anticipation of the shot that would end her life.

"No!" Rodney stepped forward in front of her. "You canít; Elizabeth has... codes that we need to raise the shieldóif we can do that since your men shot up the conduit!"

Kolya hesitated before finally lowering his weapon. "Then you can fix the grounding station," he snapped, herding the two Atlanteans out of the control room.

Believing Elizabeth dead, and guiltily grateful that it was her rather than Rodney, John headed back inside the city to begin eliminating the invaders with the help of the life signs detector.

"This is a mess," Rodney groused as he and Elizabeth hunched down by the control console for the power coupling as the rain lashed down on them. "Look at this; theyíve completely severed the filaments!"

"Are you saying that you canít fix it?" Kolya asked, raising his gun again.

"Of course I can fix it," Rodney snapped, "but it will take time!"

"How long?" Kolya nodded sharply when Rodney told him fifteen to twenty minutes, and Elizabeth glared at him after Kolya moved away.

"Why did you tell him that? John needs more time."

"It was the truth!"

Elizabeth rolled her eyes. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe telling the enemy whoís trying to kill us the truth might not be the best plan?"

Rodney looked at her a moment, then ducked out from under the console. "This is worse than it looks; itísóitís going to take longer than I thought to fix it."

Kolya regarded him narrowly before being distracted by the radio. Sora informed him that Ladon had sent three of their strike force after Sheppard... and the three Genii were now dead.

As Kolya moved out of earshot, Elizabeth murmured to Rodney, "It sounds as if John can take care of the Genii if we give him enough time."

Kolya came back over and, seeing their smiles, said, "If youíre counting on Maj. Sheppard, donít. We have reinforcements arriving shortly."

"Why? If I canít fix this, youíre just going to have to abandon the city anyway," Rodney spat, raising a hand to wipe the water from his face and wincing at the pain in his injured arm.

Kolya smiled coldly. "Either the Genii have the city or no one does."

"And what about us?"

"Do as youíre told and youíll live."

"Commander Kolya!" Soraís frantic voice came over the radio.

"What is it?" Kolya frowned, moving away from the two Atlanteans.

"Itís Sheppard; he raised the shield, and our troops are coming through."

"Lower the shield," Kolya exclaimed.

"I canít and Landon is unconscious!"

Kolya whirled on Elizabeth. "Your command code!" he demanded.

"It wouldnít help; you need Sheppardís."

Soraís voice cut in. "Itís too late. The gate has shut down; no one else is coming."

"How many made it through?"

"Five. Out of sixty."

"And Athorís son? Did he make it through?"

There was a momentary silence. "No."

Kolya cursed and grabbed Rodney by the arm, yanking him to his feet. "Your Maj. Sheppard is a dead man!"

Elizabeth lunged forward, grabbing Kolyaís arm and shoulder, preventing him from pushing Rodney over the railing. "You need him alive. Without him, thereís no way to save Atlantis."

Eyes narrowed, Kolya kept his fingers dug into Rodneyís wound as he began to drag him inside. "And once thatís done, the two of you will serve the Genii."

"What, do you have a cookbook?" Rodney muttered once they were inside out of the weather, anger keeping his senses from spiking.

Infuriated by the loss of his men, Kolya radioed Sheppard again. "Maj. Sheppard, unless you fix the generator and return power to the grounding station Drs. Weir and McKay will die."

John froze. "Weirís alive?"

"Dr. McKay provided a very persuasive argument in her behalf, one that will prove redundant if you donít fix that generator, Major."

"Iíll do what I can," John said, planning to take his time.

"You have ten minutes, and remember, we donít have to shoot to kill."

"Anything you do to h-them, Iíll do to you," John snarled.

Kolya smiled at that. "Weíll see, Major; now fix the generator before you start finding pieces of your friends around the city."

John cut the connection and speeded up his pace as he headed for the generating station, keeping an eye out for Genii soldiers.

Rodney sat at the console, his gaze going from the monitor in front of him to Kolya and his remaining men. "You do realize that cutting off our fingers will make it rather hard for me to reroute the power to the shield," he finally commented.

"Use your other hand," Kolya replied. "Two minutes. It seems the major isnít as fond of you as heíd like me to believe."

John was working frantically on the generator as the minutes ticked down when a voice behind him said, "Put your hands up and turn around."

"Your boss is going to kill my friends unless I get this working again in the next two minutes," John said, slowly raising his hands.

"Turn around," the Genii soldier barked.

John slowly turned and just as slowly began to smile. "You turn around."

"Youíre not going to get us with that one," the soldier scoffed just before Ford shot him with the Wraith stunner.

"What took you so long?" John asked as he turned back to the generator, managing to get it running again with only seconds to spare on the time limit Kolya had given him.

"Long story," Ford answered with a glare at Carson, who glared back, muttering about "uppity people."

John decided he didnít want to know and ignored the byplay as he quickly outlined a plan to retake the control room.

"The powerís back!" Rodney exclaimed as the monitor lit up.

"Perhaps Sheppard does value your lives after all." Kolya watched as McKay finished uncoupling the grounding station, and then they all went inside, heading back for the control room.

"You need to get all your people back there as well," Elizabeth said.

"Youíre hardly in a position to be giving me orders."

Rodney glared at him and threw his arms into the air. "Well then, by all means, let them stay where they are so that they can get electrocuted!"

"Electrocuted?"

"You do realize what those grounding stations are, donít you?í Rodney asked snidely. "They disperse the energy of lightning strikes; and with them all disconnected, the lightning is going through the hallways here. The only safe place is the control room."

Kolya stared at him for a moment and then picked up his radio to order all the Genii to fall back to the control room.

Sora immediately radioed back. "Not yet, sir. Iíve found Teyla Emmagan. Iím close behind her."

"Return to the control room now, Sora," Kolya hissed while Rodney glanced at Elizabeth, trying to concentrate on his hearing to try to tell if John was near.

"She killed my father."

Kolya cursed as she cut off communications and turned his glare at Rodney and Elizabeth. "How long until you finish?"

"Iím working as fast as I can," Rodney muttered as he tried to reroute the power to the shield generator.

John and Ford settled into the shadows at the far end of the room, their eyes on the group at the control center. John tried to raise Teyla and Carson on the radio and frowned when they didnít respond.

The noise made Rodney jerk upright in the seat, and he fought to keep from glancing in the direction heíd heard Johnís voice from. "All right, the powerís rerouted. Elizabeth, I need your command codes."

As Elizabeth began reciting a string of numbers that grew longer each time Rodney glanced at her and asked for the rest, John and Ford adapted their plan to work without the jumper Carson and Teyla had been supposed to bring.

Having delayed as long as possible, Rodney finally couldnít hold off any longer. "All right, coming on line now," he said, pressing a combination of buttons. "Right now..."

John grinned when nothing happened. "Thatís my guy," he said, knowing Rodney could hear him.

Kolya snarled. "You said your plan would work."

"Might work! I said it might work!" Rodney corrected, glaring at him. "It was a long shot at best, and thatís why we always had a back-up plan to leave if it failed!"

Furious, Kolya grabbed his arm and wrenched him to his feet, unable to hear Johnís growl as he watched. "Then the two of you are coming with us to serve the Genii."

"What?!"

"Thereís no reason to do this," Elizabeth said, trying to negotiate their way out of the situation even as Ladon began to dial the gate.

"Weíll get something out of you," Kolya was saying when John and Ford fired, taking out the other Genii while Kolya grabbed Elizabeth, using her as a human shield while he backed toward the active gate.

"Let her go, Kolya, or I will shoot," John warned.

"And risk hitting Dr. Weir? I donít think so," Kolya smirked, making sure to stay behind Elizabeth.

As he took another step, John took the shot, hitting Kolyaís shoulder and sending him reeling away from Elizabeth. Freed of Kolyaís grasp, she scrambled toward John, who steadied her before looking over her shoulder at Rodney.

"Are you all right?"

"Where are Carson and Teyla?" Rodney asked as he typed furiously at the keyboard.

"They should be on their way. What are you doing?" Ford demanded.

"Setting the power grid, what do you think Iím doing?" Rodney snapped, glancing up when Teyla and Sora appeared, supporting Carson, who looked dazed. "And... yes!"

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief at their arrival, which avoided the issue of killing them to save the city though John ordered Ford to keep an eye on the Genii woman.

"The shieldís up; weíre good." Rodney breathed a sigh of relief as he sat back in his chair.

Now that the danger was averted, John moved over and pulled Rodney into his arms, holding him tight. "What did that bastard do to you?"

"I told him. Iím sorry; I know I should have blocked it out, and I tried, but I just couldnít," Rodney whispered, leaning against him and hugging him with one arm.

"Nobody could have expected more of you." John caught hold of Rodneyís arm to inspect the wound through the jacket.

"I didóow!"

"Carson!" John yelled, looking frantic.

"Stay where you are," Rodney called when Carson struggled upright. "Iíll be all right, itóit just needs a bandage; do we have anything here?"

"Thereís a first aid kit," Elizabeth said, going over to where it was kept and removing a roll of gauze which she brought over to John and Rodney.

"Weíre going to have to get the jacket and shirt off to clean it," John said.

"This is going to hurt, isnít it?" Rodney groaned, leaning his head against Johnís shoulder and taking a deep breath, relaxing despite himself when his nose was filled with the scent of mint.

"íFraid so, but Iíll try to make it as quick as possible. Letís get the jacket first; that wonít be bad." John slid the jacket off Rodneyís uninjured arm and then carefully worked it off the other.

"Couldnít smell you or hear you, it was making me crazy," Rodney muttered, keeping his face buried against Johnís neck as much as possible, concentrating on him rather than the tug of dried blood on his arm.

"Hearing him hurt you and threaten you made me want to kill him slowly," John admitted, pulling Rodneyís blue shirt up and off his left arm and over his head before trying to get it off his injured arm, wincing every time Rodney did.

"Do you have a fetish for getting me naked in front of people?" Rodney muttered without heat.

"Hell no, Iím not letting people get a second chance at you." John began cleaning the wound, trying not to hurt Rodney.

"Like they wanted a first," Rodney snorted, concentrating on Johnís scent to try to ignore the sting when John cleaned the wound.

"Theyíre idiots." John wrapped Rodneyís arm, moving as carefully as if he were breakable.

"And you arenít, obviously."

"Nope, I knew a good thing when I saw it."

"Sentinel-junkie," Rodney murmured with a slight smile.

"Rodney-junkie," John corrected.

"I guess thatís okay since I seem to have become a John-junkie as well."

"Convenient, isnít it?" John drew him close again, unable to resist running a hand over Rodneyís chest and teasing a nipple and making him shudder.

"John..." he gasped, his free hand tightening to a fist on his thigh.

"Just a down payment for when we get back to our room tonight."

"Tease."

"Best painkiller in the world," John replied smugly.

"And who made you a doctor?" Rodney sniffed before looking at his arm, which was now expertly bandaged.

"MIT actually."

Rodneyís eyes flashed upward to lock with Johnís. "Excuse me?"

"My doctorate. Itís from MIT."

"You have a doctorate from MIT? In what?" Rodney demanded.

"Math. And I was close to getting my second in aeronautical engineering when we left."

Rodneyís eyes dilated slightly, and he sucked in a quick breath. "I repeat: Tease."

John smiled quickly. "Iíll put out once weíre alone."

"Which is hours from now!"

"Anticipation."

Rodney pouted at this. "Havenít I been tortured enough?"

"No sex in the control room," Elizabeth said emphatically, causing Rodney to groan.

"Obviously not."

"Unfortunately," John muttered, casting a wistful glance at a console.

Rodney glanced at him sharply, standing and beginning to pat him over. "Are you all right?"

John stared at him. "Iím fine; what brought this on?"

"I didnít ask, I didnít check, should haveóneed to make sure youíre not hurt." Rodney continued what he was doing, turning John this way and that, pulling him closer and sniffing at him as his hands ran over his torso.

"Iím fine," John assured him again, "not a scratch on me."

"Need to check, need to make sure; should have been out there," Rodney muttered, continuing what he was doing.

John stroked his back soothingly. "Whatever you need. Iím right here."

Finally Rodney slowed in his frantic exploration and paused, leaning heavily against John, his face buried against his neck.

"Itís okay," John murmured softly, continuing to pet Rodney while watching Carson get to his feet and approach.

"Rodney, the Majorís fine," Carson said gently, watching the couple closely. "Why donít the two of you sit down and rest now."

Rodney muttered something unintelligible and began to steer John toward a corner where they could sit while John cast a grateful glance at Carson.

"Weíll just relax till the rest of the city wonít turn us into crispy critters." John frowned suddenly as he looked back at Carson. "Didnít Teyla say you had three Athosians on the jumper with you?"

"Oh bloody hell," Carson gasped.

"Are they in the jumper bay?" Rodney mumbled without moving.

"We left them in the jumper, in the jumper bay," Ford said, joining them.

"Should be fine then, the jumper bayís shielded as part of the gate room." As he spoke, Rodney curled closer, enfolding John in his embrace while Carson watched, a musing expression on his face.

"Itís okay, weíre all okay, and itís all over now," John murmured, drawing Rodney even closer.

"Didnít know where you were, hated it," Rodney mumbled, pressing John further into the corner.

"I did know where you were, and I hated it more," John replied emphatically.

"Did not."

John chuckled wryly. "Fine, we both hated it equally. Letís not do that again."

Rodney nodded against his shoulder. "Good idea."

"So, since you had the worse day, you can choose whether you want to top or bottom tonight."

"Cuddle." Rodneyís voice was muffled by the skin of Johnís throat.

"That we can do right now."

"Not letting go."

"Donít want you to."

Rodney sighed happily at that. "Good."

"Love you," John whispered, causing Rodney to smile against the curve of his neck.

"Love you too."

"And weíre still here. Thatís all that matters."

~ CHAPTER 9 ~

"Thatís it, everyoneís back," Carson said with relief as the last of the Atlantis expedition members came through the gate.

"Good, weíre going to our room for some well earned rest," John announced, drawing Rodney toward the transporter.

"Is that what they call it now?" Chuck, the Canadian gate technician, asked innocently.

John turned to eye him. "Yes."

"Go, lads, before ye cause a riot in here," Carson said gently, aiming a stern look at Chuck.

"Jealousy will get you nowhere."

Carson smiled wistfully at that but nodded, and Rodney raised his head from Johnís shoulder to frown slightly. "Donít tease him, John," he murmured.

Startled, John looked from Rodney to Carson. "I didnít mean to," he protested. "I think itís time to say good night. We obviously need some sleep."

"Aye, we all do," Carson murmured. "Try to get some."

"You too," John said as he drew Rodney into the transporter.

"I hope our window didnít break," Rodney sighed, easing his hand under the back of Johnís shirt to stroke his back.

"If it did, weíll just enjoy fresh air till morning. Weíre done for today."

"But the bed will be squishy!"

"The bed will not be squishy!"

"If the window blew in, it will!"

John took a deep breath. "The window did not blow in. We got the shield up before the tsunami hit."

"But the windó" Rodney began before sighing. "I know, Iím being paranoid..."

"After the day weíve had, I think youíre entitled. But Iím sure our room is fine." John hugged him close as they walked down the corridor toward their door.

Rodney nodded, thinking open the door to the room and smiling when he saw it intact. "No squishy bed."

"Told you so."

"Yes, yes, youíre the optimist, and Iím the pessimist; weíve covered this already."

John smiled, drawing him toward the bed. "And now we can cuddle."

"Need to be naked for that."

"So I have to undress you? Oh damn." John reached for the hem of the shirt Rodney was wearing again after having had the bloody sleeve cut off. "Iím sure youíre tired of that shirt."

"I want to burn it," Rodney muttered, moving carefully to allow John to pull the shirt up and over his head.

"We can do that. Tomorrow." John finished undressing Rodney and began on his own clothes, the motion bringing Rodney instantly alert.

"Let me help," he growled, pushing Johnís jacket off his shoulders.

"You think Iím going to argue?" John let Rodney do as he wished.

"Good. Good. Very good." Rodney tossed Johnís jacket aside and started to work on his shirt, pulling the zipper down, then pushing at the hem to bring it over his head.

"Yeah, it is. For a while there, I thought I might lose you." John shuddered at the memory and slid his arms around Rodneyís waist.

Rodney nodded and buried his face against Johnís neck again as he stroked his hands down his chest, finally ending at his waist to begin working on his belt.

"God, I love you," John whispered, inhaling Rodneyís scent as well.

"Need you; was so worried about you," Rodney rasped, undoing Johnís belt and pants then shoving them down over his hips, desperate to get him naked.

"Iím right here," John assured him, helping as much as Rodney would let him until finally they tumbled onto the bed where Rodney turned him this way and that, touching, tasting and smelling every inch of him.

"Love you," John whispered, stroking his hands over Rodneyís back.

"Love you too," Rodney answered, kissing his way down Johnís chest, his hands mapping every inch of his skin.

"Show me."

"Yes..." Rodney nosed his way lower, mouthing Johnís lower abdomen, then his growing erection, moaning at the primal taste of Johnís essence.

"Feels good," John groaned, squirming slightly.

"Tastes better," Rodney whispered before diving in, sucking on him, at the same time fondling his balls.

"Glad you like it."

In answer, Rodney sucked harder, his fingers brushing against the entrance to Johnís body, making John shiver and spread his legs. "Please," he whispered, and Rodney sucked his finger into his mouth before pressing it into him, groaning as the tight passage took him in.

"So good," John gasped, watching Rodney play with him.

Rodney moaned and sucked harder, pressing his finger inward, then finally crooking it so that it brushed against Johnís prostate.

"Fuck me?" John moaned, wrapping his legs around Rodneyís hips.

"Yes," Rodney whispered, pulling back enough to look at him.

"Good," John whispered, rocking up.

After pulling his finger back, Rodney crawled up Johnís body, kissing him hungrily even as he reached for the lube on the bedside table.

John suckled on Rodneyís tongue, holding on to him, needing to reassure himself that he hadnít lost the sentinel that day.

"Need to be in you," Rodney whispered, rocking against him.

"Now would be good."

Rodney managed a crooked grin at that and pushed back onto his knees, at the same time squeezing the lube out onto his fingers, his eyes dilating as he stared down at Johnís flushed face.

"Yes, now," John urged, his nails digging into Rodneyís shoulders, and Rodney pressed two fingers into his ass, his face tightening with concentration as they slipped inside.

"Please, more," John panted, writhing on Rodneyís fingers.

"Yes..." Rodney whispered, pulling his hand back to slick his own cock, his every sense attuned to Johnís reactions.

"Love you," John said breathlessly, watching Rodney as he prepared himself, the words earning him a slow, sweet smile before Rodney placed himself against the slick hole, pressing in as he kissed John again.

"Oh yes," John breathed, spreading his legs wider to allow Rodney to sink into him.

"So good, so very, very good," Rodney whispered, kissing him again, his teeth grazing over Johnís lower lip.

"We always are together."

Rodney smiled at that, pulling back enough to look down at John as they rocked together, his eyes half-lidded with pleasure.

"Never going to let you go," John rasped, looking up into Rodneyís blue eyes.

"Donít recall asking you to." Rodney drove forward at that.

"Fuck yeah," John gasped, grabbing Rodneyís ass to pull him even deeper, the muscles flexing under his fingers as Rodney continued to move. "So fucking good," he continued, one hand letting go of Rodneyís ass to grab for his own cock.

"Yes, want to feel you come for me," Rodney whispered, covering Johnís hand with his, twining their fingers together.

"Yes," John groaned, his hips speeding their rhythm as he rocked between Rodneyís cock and their hands.

Caught up in the rhythm of Johnís breathing, Rodney continued to thrust, Johnís precome slicking their hands until he cried out and came, shuddering through the spasms of his climax. The spasms shook Rodney as well, and he cried out as he came, the words muffled against Johnís throat.

John held Rodney after he collapsed, slowly petting him as they caught their breath. "This day improved."

"You mean you thought it could get worse?" Rodney murmured.

"God no," John groaned. "But that doesnít mean I donít enjoy the improvement."

"Good point." Rodney sighed and nuzzled the angle of Johnís jaw line, shifting enough so that he slid out of him. John murmured a soft protest, but they both moved around to get more comfortable as they nestled together in the bed.

"Any day that ends like this canít be all bad," John murmured sleepily, pressing a kiss to Rodneyís shoulder.

"At least the Wraith didnít show up," Rodney yawned.

"Donít even joke about that!"

"Sorry! Being quiet and going to sleep now," Rodney promised.

John chuckled and pressed a kiss to Rodneyís temple as his eyes closed, his hand settling on Rodneyís arm just below the bandage. "Love you," he whispered muzzily on the brink of sleep.

"Love you too," Rodney sighed happily, inhaling deeply, the distinctive minty smell of Johnís skin following him into sleep.

"Oh thank God, a nice planet," John said as he scanned the readings after the jumper exited the gate in orbit around Proculus. "No killer Wraith or nanites today."

"Finally!" Rodney sighed before yipping as the jumper jolted with the force of an energy beam from a Wraith dart. "You spoke too soon!"

John had already thrown the jumper into a sharp turn and activated the cloak before heíd even finished swearing, and he dove into the planetís atmosphere, hoping to evade the enemy ship that was still firing blindly in an attempt to hit them. He was shocked when the dart was suddenly destroyed.

"Some kind of planetary defense system?" he asked Rodney.

"Look at the power spike! If we can negotiate with these people, get a hold of their power source..."

"They might not like being left defenseless, Doc," Ford commented.

"Could something like that be naturally occurring?" Teyla asked, but none of them believed it.

"Letís check it out before we head back to Atlantis," John said, sending the jumper into a dive toward the planetís surface.

A short time later, they were walking up a path toward a pristine white stone open-air building, Rodney intent on the readings on his scanner as the others looked around intently for danger while the villageís inhabitants offered friendly smiles and curious gazes. A door opened and a man in an orange monkís robes stepped out and came toward them, smiling.

"Welcome," he called, and John nodded. Introductions were exchanged, and Zarah led them inside, offering them refreshments while they talked. John led the conversation around to the weapon that had saved them earlier, but the monk seemed not to understand, and when they explained that it had destroyed Wraith darts, they were shocked to discover that he didnít know what Wraith were.

"We here are safe thanks to blessed Athar," the abbot said, smiling blissfully. "Let us give thanks to her." He lifted his hands in prayer, and Rodney stirred uncomfortably before wincing when Ford nudged him in the ribs.

"Um, hi, Athar," Rodney offered, looking up.

John rolled his eyes. "How exactly does blessed Athar keep you safe?" he asked, trying for something useful.

"That is for the High Priestess to tell."

"Well, can you get her?" Rodney asked somewhat impatiently.

"We would be very grateful if we could speak to her," John corrected, glaring at Rodney.

"You must come with me." The abbot rose and left the patio, obviously wanting him to follow.

"This is quite a long way," Rodney puffed some time later.

"Itíll be worth if we can find a weapon that can destroy the Wraith," John pointed out. "And I think weíre at the end of the line," he added a moment later when their guide turned into a gated garden.

Rodney was about to comment that theyíd be better served with the planetís ZPM, but before he could, the woman who had been tending the plants turned and walked toward them, smiling as she caught sight of John, an expression that drew a feral growl from Rodneyís throat.

The sound caught Johnís attention, and he glanced curiously at Rodney, his eyebrows shooting up when he saw the expression on the sentinelís face. It took a moment to recognize it as possessive jealousy, but when he did, a smile curved his lips and he took a step closer to Rodney, placing a hand on his arm.

"Good day," the woman said, smiling warmly at him. "I am Chaya Sar."

"Pleased to meet you," John said, ignoring Rodneyís obvious disagreement as he performed the introductions. "We were hoping you could tell us something about your planetís defenses."

"Athar protects us," she said serenely, still focusing on John.

"How?" Rodney asked bluntly.

"The details are kind of important to us," John said, eyeing her warily.

"Our defenses would be of no use anywhere except Proculus."

"If youíd let us see them," John started before changing tacks when he saw her expression. "Or perhaps we could bring our people to Proculus when we need a safe place."

"Iím afraid that is impossible."

"Well, thatís really helpful," Rodney sniffed, still watching her through narrowed eyes.

"Perhaps you would be willing to come back to our home and discuss it with our leader?" John suggested, wondering if heíd be able to prevent Rodney from pushing her out of the jumper in space.

Chayaís smile bloomed brightly, and she looked at John closely. "Your home?

"Our current home, that is. Atlantis."

"I would be pleased to visit."

"Of course you would," Rodney grumbled under his breath before hissing when Ford stomped on his foot.

"Are you sure...?" the abbot asked, looking uneasy.

"I will be fine. I have the utmost faith in Maj. Sheppard."

John winced slightly, not daring to look at Rodney. "You are welcome to spend the night if you like, and we could bring you home tomorrow," he suggested.

"That would be most kind; I am looking forward to seeing your home."

"Rodney," Teyla whispered, resting a hand on his arm, "please remain calm."

"I am calm," he grated.

John glanced over uneasily. "Iím sure Teyla will be happy to tell you about us on our trip back. Not that it will take long." He placed an unobtrusive hand on Rodneyís back, trying to sooth him.

Chaya looked over at Rodney, studying him for a moment before dismissing him. "I thank you for the kind offer."

John simply nodded and led the way back to the jumper, walking beside Rodney. He bit back a groan when Chaya moved to his other side.

"I have heard stories of the city; how is it you came to live there?" she asked.

"We came from Earth, the planet where the Ancients went when they left Atlantis," John explained, hoping Rodney would join in.

"Earth?" Chaya looked momentarily distracted, then rested her hand on Johnís arm. "You must have seen many wondrous things."

"Yes, and none of them have been here," Rodney muttered under his breath.

"We havenít had a particularly good time of it since we got here," John explained, shifting a little closer to Rodney.

"I am sorry to hear that; hopefully our meeting will make things more pleasant for you."

"It would if youíd agree to allow us to use Proculus as a safe haven."

"I am truly sorry, but that is not possible." She reached out and touched Johnís arm at that, and Rodney yanked him away, glaring at her with unconcealed venom.

John slid an arm around Rodneyís waist, trying to make it clear that he wasnít going anywhere. "I hope youíll listen to Dr. Weir with an open mind."

"But of course."

The jumper door opened as they drew near, and John led the group inside, making sure Rodney ended up in the copilotís seat next to him. "We should be there in a few minutes," he said, launching the jumper and heading directly for the gate in orbit above the planet.

"Might I sit in the front?" Chaya asked as she gazed around in wonder at the interior. "I would dearly love to see Proculus from the sky."

"Of course you would," Rodney muttered, his fingers flexing.

John gritted his teeth. "Why donít you come over here beside me, Rodney, and let Chaya sit down. Itís probably her only chance to see this."

Without a word, Rodney moved to stand behind Johnís seat, a possessive hand on his shoulder, his other one hovering near his pistol as if looking for a reason to shoot her. John raised his hand to cover Rodneyís on his shoulder and leaned his head back against Rodney, making it as clear as possible that they were together.

"This is amazing!" she enthused, her attention on the forward viewscreen.

"Planets are pretty from space," John agreed.

"How is it you travel to Atlantis from here?"

"We make a wish," Rodney muttered.

"Through the stargate," John answered, squeezing Rodneyís hand warningly. "Thatís it up ahead."

"A gate in space?"

"Yes, if youíll excuse me." Rodney leaned in and dialed Atlantis.

"There are many gates," John explained, "on different planets and in space near others. Itís how the Ancients, the ones you call the Ancestors, traveled and how we travel."

"Some planets have these gates on the surface," Teyla added, "while others can only be reached by a craft such as this."

"Which really makes me wonder about the Ancients," John muttered. "The people on the planets have no way of knowing if theyíre going to step out into the vacuum of space when they walk through."

"Just one more thing they fucked up," Rodney muttered.

"There seem to be a lot of those."

Chaya eyed them askance. "You are angry with the Ancestors?"

"Not them so much as the fact that they couldnít seem to label things well, and that little slip tends to leave people dead."

"Dead?" Chaya sounded startled.

"They left a lot of deadly stuff lying around Atlantis," John said. "And I think they were sadists. Leaving a living being trapped in a box for ten thousand years..." He shook his head.

"And donít forget the fun theyíre having back on Earth because they just sit on their asses and watch the Goaíuld," Rodney added.

"And everything else," Ford agreed. "I like the Nox and the Asgard better. They wonít share technology, but at least they do help out."

"I am sure the Ancestors have their reasons for what they have done," Teyla tried to mediate.

John looked up at Rodney. "Iím going to have to go with Rodney on this one; they were nuts. And didnít give a damn about anyone else."

"It is a shame you think that," Chaya whispered. "The Ancestors have done many good things."

"Like creating the Wraith!"

"We have a somewhat unique perspective on them," John said. He sent their IDC to Atlantis and steered the jumper through the gate, hoping Elizabeth had better luck with Chaya than they had.

~ CHAPTER 10 ~

The jumper arrived in the gateroom, and Chaya leaned forward, staring at the brightly lit space, an expression of wonder on her face.

"Welcome to Atlantis," John said, opening the hatch so they could step out to where Elizabeth was waiting, Chaya staying close by his side the whole side despite Rodneyís proximity and glower.

After the standard greetings, Elizabeth explained the need for a medical examination after Rodney prodded her, and Chaya agreed graciously, asking if John would guide her.

"I really should brief Elizabeth on our mission," John said, trying to get out of it.

"Teyla and I can escort you," Ford offered before Rodney could snarl at her.

"It would be best to allow the major to complete his duties," Teyla agreed, stepping between their visitor and her teammates.

Rodney smirked at her from Johnís other side and slid an arm around his waist.

"Quit gloating," John muttered, but he sounded amused.

"No."

John laughed. "Come on, Rodney, Elizabethís waiting. I hope you enjoy your stay," he added to Chaya over Rodneyís shoulder.

"I hope to see you soon, John," she called, watching him as Rodney steered him out of the gateroom.

John just waved over his shoulder, sincerely hoping he would not see her or he might never calm Rodney down again. "We really do need to debrief Elizabeth," he said, "before we make our escape."

"Elizabeth can wait," Rodney growled, steering John into an unoccupied room once they were away from the gate staff, pushing him up against the inside of the door and devouring his mouth.

John gave a muffled squawk of surprise before deciding that he really didnít care how mad Elizabeth got at them, not when Rodney was kissing him, and he wrapped his arms around Rodney and returned the kiss.

"Bitch was sniffing at you," Rodney growled, dragging his teeth along Johnís jaw before burying his face against Johnís throat and inhaling deeply.

"It was not mutual," John assured him, pressing closer. "You know I want you."

"I know, just made me crazy to see her watching you, and when she touched you..." Rodney shuddered and pushed at Johnís belt and pants, dragging them open so that he could thrust a hand inside, palming Johnís cock.

"She canít have me." John shuddered and thrust into Rodneyís hand, his fingers biting into Rodneyís hips.

"Damn right. Mine, all mine." Rodney inhaled deeply as he stroked Johnís cock, his thumb gliding over the fleshy head, drawing a droplet of precome from him.

"Yes," John moaned, his head falling back against the wall as he gave himself up to Rodney, who grew even more aggressive at the relaxation, biting and sucking at Johnís neck as he worked his cock until John gasped his name and came. Rodney growled and shuddered himself at the sudden rush of sensation as John shot over his hand, the musky scent filling his nostrils and the salty taste of Johnís skin thick on his tongue.

"Fuck me," John rasped, not caring that they were only meters from the control room, only aware of Rodney.

"Wish I could, but when you came, I did too," Rodney panted, for once not sounding ashamed of the fact.

"Thatís so fucking hot," John groaned, grabbing Rodneyís hand and drawing it to his mouth to lick it clean.

"Mmhmm," Rodney sighed, finally pulling back to look up at John through sex-darkened eyes. "And so you know, after we talk to Elizabeth, I am going to fuck you."

John leaned in for a kiss and then triggered his radio. "Elizabeth? Do you really need a briefing now?"

"Yes, I do; I was expecting you and Rodney five minutes ago."

"Weíll be there soon," Rodney promised, not sounding apologetic at all regarding their delay.

"Now, Dr. McKay," Elizabeth ordered.

"Okay," John said, smirking. After shutting down the channel, he grinned at Rodney. "She did say now, so weíd better head right there. Hopefully it wonít be too long before you can get the wet shorts off."

"So we can get them off," Rodney corrected, pulling his hand back and licking the remaining come from his fingers.

"Mmm, yes. Once Elizabeth gets a whiff of us, sheíll want us out as soon as possible," John chuckled, tucking himself back into his pants.

"Iíll promise to write her a detailed report, though considering all we learned is that the mysterious Athar protects their planet, which is a load of horse shit as we all know..."

John shrugged. "Yeah, not a particularly useful mission." He got hold of Rodneyís hand, and they started toward Elizabethís office.

"I thought any mission we came back alive from was a successful one?"

"True, but Iíd like to come back with something helpful once in a while."

"Does it sound like Iím arguing that?" Rodney sighed.

John let go of Rodneyís hand to put his arm around his shoulders and hold him close, and Rodney slipped his arm around Johnís waist as they walked into Elizabethís office.

"Where have you... Never mind," Elizabeth sighed as she got a good look at them. "Tell me about Proculus."

"They have some kind of weapon that destroys Wraith darts, but we didnít get anywhere near it," Rodney reported.

"Chaya, whoís the High Priestess of their goddess Athar, told us it wouldnít work anywhere else. She also refused to allow us to use Proculus as a refuge but did agree to come to Atlantis to discuss that with you," John added.

"In return for?" Elizabeth asked, glancing from one to the other.

"She didnít ask for anything," Rodney shrugged.

"She just seems to want to spend time with some other people... non-monks," John explained.

"With John," Rodney growled.

"But Iím otherwise occupied," John said hastily, leaning into Rodney, who kept a close hold on him, something Elizabeth watched with a slight frown.

"Is the situation going to cause an issue with our guest?" she asked.

"If it does, itís entirely her own doing," John replied bluntly. "I didnít give her any encouragement, and I did everything but jump Rodney in front of her to make it clear we were together."

"Sheís not going to give us anything, anyway," Rodney shrugged, his attention still mostly on John. "And sheís not getting anywhere near the major."

John grinned crookedly. "Isnít he cute when heís possessive?"

Elizabeth smiled slightly though she was still looking at Rodney closely. "I think it best that the two of you avoid the High Priestess while sheís here."

"Damn right," Rodney muttered.

"And the best way to do that will be to confine ourselves to our quarters," John said cheerfully.

Elizabeth sighed again but nodded. "That might be for the best."

"Between you, you, Carson and Ford can entertain our guest," John suggested, starting toward the door.

"Keep her very busy," Rodney ordered as they left the office, heading for the transporter and their room.

"You know, this jealousy thingís kinda hot."

"Iíd suggest you not go around encouraging people for a demonstration," Rodney grumbled.

"I didnít encourage her!" John protested.

"I know you didnít; I meant if you want to see it again..." They entered the transporter, and Rodney nuzzled the side of Johnís neck.

"Iíd rather expend my energy on more fun pursuits," John assured him somewhat breathlessly.

"Good," Rodneyís voice was low and dreamy, and he reached back to punch the screen for the destination nearest their room.

"Keep focused," John ordered. "Iím expecting to see more of that possessive lover once we get to our room."

Rodney lifted his head and smiled at that, the expression at once sensual and dangerous. "Youíre mine tonight, John. Tonight and always."

"Yes," John said, his voice gone throaty with arousal, and he nearly yanked Rodney out of the transporter when the doors opened, the pair racing down the hall to their room and falling inside, Rodney already pulling at Johnís clothes. John made haste to do the same to Rodneyís, equally eager to get his hands on bare skin, and their radios were tossed onto the nightstand, both of them interested only in each other.

"Out on the balcony," Rodney purred, running his hands over Johnís chest.

John shivered. He paused to unlace his boots and toe them off before padding out to the balcony wearing only his unfastened pants and his dog tags. He stopped at the railing, bracing his hands against it while leaning forward, and gave Rodney a Ďcome hitherí look over his shoulder.

Rodney growled low in his throat and stalked out after John, bare of all clothes, carrying a small tube of lubricant in his hand, a feral expression on his face.

The look on Rodneyís face sent a bolt of pure lust through John, and he groaned, his back arching to thrust his ass out invitingly.

"Get your pants off, John," Rodney rasped, his free hand opening and closing spasmodically as if he was contemplating tearing the cloth away.

John straightened up just long enough to push his uniform pants and boxers over his hips and then kicked them away as he braced himself again, tremors of arousal visibly shaking him.

"Mine," Rodney whispered, stepping in behind John, pressing his whole length against the other manís back and inhaling deeply at his neck. He shivered and opened his mouth, biting down on the warm, salty flesh as his hands settled on Johnís hips, holding him in place.

"Fuck yeah," John panted, trying to push back and whining with frustration when Rodney wouldnít let him move.

"Want you now." The words were panted out as Rodney fumbled with the lube, slicking himself up and beginning to push forward into Johnís body.

John was already so aroused that the burn of stretching to accommodate Rodneyís bulk only turned him on more. Unable to push back since Rodney was once again holding his hips, he spread his legs, opening himself to a deeper penetration as shivers of pleasure ran through him.

"Just needójust wantótake..." Rodney mumbled, once again mouthing Johnís shoulder as he thrust into him, soft grunts of effort punctuating his words.

"Yes," John groaned, clenching the railing in a white-knuckled grip while arching his back even more, feeling Rodney go a little deeper on his next thrust. "Fuck, Rodney..."

Rodney groaned in response, a deep shudder running through him as he slammed into Johnís ass, his fingers biting into the lean hips as he bit down on his shoulder, tasting a faint hint of copper as he broke the skin there.

"Jesus! Yes, mark me," John rasped.

In answer, Rodney bit harder, thrusting forward as deeply as he could. John froze for a moment, then yelled something incoherent, spasmed, and came, his seed bursting from his untouched cock. Rodney growled and pressed up against Johnís back, the pulses surrounding his cock demanding all his attention.

As the spasms ebbed, John started clenching and relaxing his ass rhythmically, wanting to feel Rodney come in him. The massage drew a gasp from Rodney, and he shuddered, his fingers clenching into Johnís hips as he came as well.

Feeling Rodney slump against him, John smiled, his eyes closed as he panted, trying to catch his breath. "I hope youíre not expecting me to move any time soon."

"Stay. Good," Rodney murmured.

"Very good," John agreed even though his knees wanted to give way and tumble them both to the floor of the balcony.

"Mine, only mine," Rodney sighed, the dreamy tone coming back into his voice and his hands unclenching to stroke over Johnís stomach.

"That goes both ways," John replied, not arguing.

"All yours," Rodney said agreeably, making John twist his upper body so he could kiss Rodney, the other manís mouth falling open under his with a happy sigh.

"This day is turning out pretty well after all," John said when the twinges in his back finally forced him to straighten out.

"Hmm?" Rodney straightened up also and blinked, frowning slightly.

"Any day that involves getting fucked on a balcony is a good day."

"Umhmmóoh my god!" Rodney straightened up, and he pulled back to stare at John in horror.

"Okay, not quite the reaction I was hoping for," John said. "Whatís wrong?"

"Whatís wrong? Jesus, John, I could have hurt you! Ióyour shoulderís bleeding; I did hurt you!"

"Rodney, you did not hurt me," John said patiently. "We had slightly rough sex, and I loved it so much I came without you even touching my cock! I hope weíll do it again."

"But Ió" Rodney blinked, "You didóyou do?"

"Hell yes! That was incredible. Iím not breakable, you know. Iím a guy; I like it rough sometimes."

"But I bit you," Rodney said plaintively.

"Yeah, you did. And I begged you to bite me harder, and when you did, I came. I think thatís pretty self-explanatory."

Rodney flushed but nodded, and when he smiled, it was slightly smug.

Unable to resist, John kissed him, and Rodney chuckled against his mouth. "That was pretty damn hot," he admitted.

"If that was only Ďpretty hotí, I donít think I could survive anything better!"

"You know what I meant!" Rodney protested before gathering John into a tight hug and nuzzling the uninjured side of his throat. "Are you okay?"

"Iím grrrreat!" John said, doing a terrible impression of Tony the Tiger, and causing Rodney to pull back and stare at him.

"Excuse me?"

"That sounded better in my head," John admitted.

"I meant your ass, you idiot!"

"You donít think my ass is great?" John pouted.

"I think you need to go lie down; youíre obviously delirious."

"I think your ass is great," John informed him, catching hold of one of Rodneyís hands to draw him back inside and into the bed as he followed Rodneyís suggestion. "Iím pretty fond of your dick too."

"Yes, Major, youíre right, Major," Rodney said soothingly as they crawled into bed and he pillowed Johnís head on his shoulder.

"Youíre humoring me, arenít you?"

"Considering you seem to want to write odes to my ass and dick, youíre damn right Iím humoring you."

"Iím well-fucked and I feel great. Get with the program and smile, Rodney," John mumbled into his shoulder.

Rodney chuckled at that and kissed the top of Johnís head. "I love you, you idiot," he murmured.

John grinned. "I know."

"Thatís it? You know?"

John chuckled. "Yup, I know. And yeah, I love you too. A lot."

Rodney sighed in pleasure at that and kissed John again. "Sorry I got freaky about that whole thingóand no, Iím not saying Iím sorry I fucked you through the railing," he added quickly.

"Good. And now youíll understand my reaction if we ever get back to Earth and run into Sam Carter," John said, tilting his head back to meet Rodneyís blue eyes, earning a crooked grin in response.

"So youíre saying youíre going to fuck me through a wall if you ever do meet her?"

"Youíd better believe it! Possibly in front of her!"

"Mmm, kinky. I can deal with that."

John was surprised into a laugh. "Glad to hear it."

"Honestly, right now I feel so good that Iíd agree to most anything."

"So if we have sex before every mission, youíd actually obey my orders?"

The snort Rodney gave in answer told John what he thought of that. "This is... I donít know; I just feel really calm now," he admitted.

"Hey, Iím happy to help with that any time you like."

"Why is that not a surprise?"

"Because Iím a helpful guy."

"Mmhmm." Rodney yawned and hugged John tight.

"Get some sleep," John murmured. "If weíre lucky, Chaya will be gone by the time we surface for another meal."

A low growl greeted the mention of the womanís name, and Rodney tensed again, lifting his head to look around the room.

"Sorry, sorry," John said hastily, petting Rodneyís chest soothingly. "No one here but us."

"Just us," Rodney nodded, taking a deep breath, his eyes closing into slits as he relaxed again.

"Elizabeth, Iím telling you, sheís too perfect. No human being has no scars, no imperfections, absolutely perfect health. Itís not natural."

"There must be some explanation for it."

"Either sheís genetically engineered, which seems beyond the civilization she comes from as described by Maj. Sheppardís team, or..." Carson hesitated. "Or she created that body. That absolutely perfect ideal of a human body."

"So you believe she isnít human?"

"Did you happen to notice how that system Grodinís trying to figure out just came on when she was near the console? I think sheís an Ancient, Elizabeth."

"An Ancient?" Elizabethís eyes widened slightly. "But why would she hide herself away and pretend she knows nothing about Atlantis?"

"I have no idea. Perhaps we should ask her that question."

"Iíd say Rodney and John should be with us, but Iím not sure that would be helpful."

Carson winced. "No, I think it would be much better for all concerned if we kept them far away from the lass. Rodneyís rather... belligerent."

She nodded at that. "Heís acerbic at the best of times, but in dealing with her..."

"Itís because of the major, of course."

"Of course." She paused, seeming to measure her words. "Carson, have you noticed anything strange about how Rodney relates to the major?"

Carson sighed, slumping in his chair. "Of course I have. But itís impossible. Heís not a guide. The tests donít lie. But everything seems to indicate that he is a guide, Rodneyís guide." He shook his head. "I dinna understand it."

"Neither do I, it really makes no sense, but then many things here donít make sense." Elizabeth sighed and rubbed her forehead. "So, shall we go speak to our guest?"

"Yes, I think we need to." Carson got his feet and followed Elizabeth out of the office and into the briefing room, where Lt. Ford and their guest were waiting for them, along with Teyla.

"Chaya," Elizabeth said, once they were all seated, "Dr. Beckett found some... intriguing results in your scans."

She frowned slightly before nodding. "Yes, I had a suspicion you might."

"So itís true then," Elizabeth breathed. "Youíre an Ancient. Why the subterfuge? You have to know we would give anything to talk to a living, breathing Ancient. We came to this galaxy to find Atlantis but also hoping to find your people."

"As I am sure you know, they are no longer here," Chaya answered quietly.

"Yet here you are. And itís now obvious why Proculus is safe. Surely youíll allow us to share in that safety?"

"I cannot."

"Youíre an ascended being," Carson replied bluntly. "There isna much ye canna do."

"Youíre wrong there, Dr. Beckett," she said quietly. "I am tied to Proculus and its people as a punishment.

"A punishment?" Elizabeth asked. "For what?"

"For interfering. Long ago, I lived on Proculus, and when I saw the Wraith about to cull the planet to extinction, I reacted to protect my former people, destroying the Wraith fleet. Our greatest law is not to interfere."

"Theyíre bloody Starfleet," Carson muttered, and Chaya glanced at him oddly.

"My people decided that since I chose to disregard our laws and protect Proculus, I should continue to do for all eternity. But only Proculus and only its native people. If your people came to Proculus and the Wraith attacked, I would not be permitted to protect you."

"I see," Elizabeth stated slowly. "And the people there know nothing of you?"

"The abbot and senior monks know. It would be impossible for them not to notice that I remain the same, year after year," Chaya pointed out. "But no one outside the priesthood knows the truth of their goddess Athar."

"Doesnít it bother ye to know the rest of the galaxy is being culled while yer own people donít even know of the Wraith?" Carson asked.

"At least I am able toó" Chaya broke off abruptly, frowning. "No! I should never have left them!" She suddenly shimmered, and her human form faded into a glowing mass, trailing tendrils of light, that moved toward the gate.

"Let her go!" Elizabeth ordered as the gate activated, dialing itself to allow the light to pass through.

The Marines on duty cast her incredulous looks. "You think we have a choice, maíam?" one asked.

She simply gave him a measuring look.

John, having been advised by the senior Marine on duty when things went wonky, arrived in time to observe this exchange. "Elizabeth, the Marines are good, but stopping ascended beings who want to leave is definitely not in their job description. Letís stick to asking them to do things that are at least remotely humanly possible, okay?"

Whatever answer Elizabeth was going to give was cut off by Rodneyís crow of triumph. "I knew there was something strange about her!"

Carson and John both rolled their eyes. "Yes, Rodney," John said before turning to Elizabeth. "Is she going to help us?"

"She canít."

"Doesnít it figure!" Rodney said loudly.

"Yes, Rodney, I think weíre all aware of your opinion of Chaya, even leaving aside the fact that sheís an Ancient," Elizabeth said wearily. "Sheís gone now, and I doubt weíll be hearing from her again."

"I canít say I think much of these Ancients if thatís what theyíre all like," John muttered.

"Thatís what the majority of them are like," Rodney said curtly.

"And we wanted to meet them, why?"

"Because every so often, they do help us," Elizabeth reminded them.

"Uh huh." John was patently unconvinced. "Well, if thatís the excitement over, can we get back to normal life around here?"

"Whatís normal?" Rodney asked.

"Good point. What we were doing before we were interrupted?"

"I was contemplating molesting you again," Rodney said conversationally.

"Works for me," John said, and Elizabeth sighed.

"Take the rest of the day off, and keep your clothes on till youíre back in your quarters!"

"You heard the lady, Major," Rodney laughed, pushing John toward the transporter. "Move!"

~ CHAPTER 11 ~

John stared at Rodney across the stasis pod containing an ancientóand possibly Ancientówoman. "This place just keeps getting weirder!"

"Not arguing this at all," Rodney muttered as he studied the readouts and tried to stabilize the power flow to the pod.

John was still peering down at the woman when Carson raced in, followed by several members of his medical team and some of Rodneyís science staff. John edged back out of the way, observing as they tried to keep the woman alive.

"Whatís the situation?" Elizabeth asked as she hurried into the room, looking from the elderly woman in the field to her senior staff.

"The situation is weíve found what is probably an Ancient, and Carson is arguing against reviving her!" Rodney complained.

"Because reviving her could possibly kill her!" Carson exclaimed, keeping himself between Rodney and the control panel.

Elizabeth frowned, looking down at the ancient woman in the stasis pod. "Revive her," she decided.

"Sheís verra weak," Carson said quietly as he checked the elderly woman to make sure she was resting comfortably.

"Whenís she going to wake up?" Rodney asked, leaning in to peer at her.

"Do you know where you are?" Elizabeth asked gently, noticing that the womanís eyes were open and she was looking at them, even though she wasnít speaking.

"Itís possible that the prolonged stasis has damaged her mind."

"Great," Rodney muttered even as Carson patted the womanís hand, then frowned, drawing a piece of paper from her grasp.

"Hello," Elizabeth said, ignoring the byplay. "How are you feeling?"

There was a prolonged moment of silence before the elderly woman finally spoke. "It worked," she said in a feeble voice before seeming to fall asleep again, making Elizabeth turn to Carson worriedly.

"We need to get her to the infirmary; her vitals are steady but weak," he ordered as Rodney frowned over the note.

"Theyíre gate addresses; when is she going to wake up? We need to ask her what theyíre for."

"I dinna know, Rodney," Carson snapped, glowering at him. "Right now Iím more worried about keeping her alive."

"Make sure that everything is recorded once you get her to the infirmary," Elizabeth ordered. "I donít want to miss anything."

"So," John drawled, looking over at Rodney as they both sat with their feet propped up on a console, "do you think there are other Ancients lying around waiting to be discovered?"

Rodney was silent for a moment as he studied the schematic on the monitor in front of them. "The cityís huge so itís possible; I just hope if there are that they donít develop unnatural attractions to you."

John rolled his eyes. "That weird jealousy thing you have going would be annoying if it wasnít so hot."

Elizabeth shook her head at them as she arrived in time to hear that exchange.

"Is this supposed to be a problem for me?" Rodney asked dryly before looking up at Elizabeth. "So, is Grandma awake yet?"

"Not yet," she answered, smothering a smile, "and it would be best if that name didnít go any farther than here."

"The idea of actually meeting Rodneyís grandmother and what sheíd be like is seriously disturbing," John mused.

"The truth is oh so much more terrifying than your imagination could supply," Rodney nodded. Elizabeth started to comment, but Carsonís voice over their radios cut her off.

"Elizabeth, our patient is awake."

"Weíll be right there," Elizabeth said, all three of them already on their way to the infirmary.

"Elizabeth," Carsonís tone had them all pausing, "she knows my name."

"Well, she must have heard one of us use it," Elizabeth replied reasonably.

"I dinna think soóshe knows me."

Rodney groaned. "Why canít anything be simple around here?"

When they arrived in the infirmary moments later, Elizabeth moved directly to the bed, smiling down at Carsonís frail patient, only to frown in surprise when the woman smiled in return and spoke.

"Itís good to see you again. Iíve missed you all." Her eyes moved to where Rodney and John stood nearby. "Even you, Rodney."

"Who are you?" he sputtered, staring at her.

The old womanís eyes went back to Elizabeth. "Iím you."

The response was met with stunned silence, and in the moments before they could stammer out questions, the older Elizabeth fell asleep.

"This is crazy," Rodney said matter-of-factly. "Not to mention nuts."

"She knows things," Elizabeth said, "things about all of us, things about me." She shook her head. "Time travel?" she said almost helplessly.

"Bring out the DeLorian," John laughed, and Rodney glowered at him.

"Donít even make me start listing the multitude of ways those movies were wrong."

"I liked them," John replied cheerfully, wondering if anyone had brought them along.

"Look," Rodney appeared as if he was ready to start pulling at his hair. "Time travel is... complicated; I doubt even the Ancients could find a way to do it."

"I dunno," Lt. Ford cut in, "look at everything else they did."

"And the DNA test confirms that she is Elizabeth Weir," Carson said firmly.

"This makes no sense," Elizabeth frowned. "How could this happen?"

Rodney glanced up from where he was entering commands into his datapad, a thoughtful expression on his face. "If we accept that the Ancients had developed time travel, she isnít youówell, she is you up until the point where your histories diverged. There are multitudes of universes out there, all nearly the same as ours, only branching off after a different choice was made; Iíve read the reports from the SGC. Hah!"

He turned his datapad around at that. "Look here, when we arrived, there was a power spike as the system tried to revive her; now considering we were trying to keep the power drain at a minimum so we could stay alive, I shut it downóand almost killed her." He frowned at that.

"You couldnít have known, Rodney," Elizabeth said, "and you did what you needed to, to save us all. Donít second guess yourself."

John simply placed a comforting hand on Rodneyís shoulder and squeezed.

"Perhaps we should see if she might be able to tell us more?" Teyla asked.

"An excellent idea," Elizabeth agreed, and they made their way back to the infirmary, where they waited until old Elizabeth woke again, and Elizabeth began to question her.

"When we arrived through the stargate, the city began to wake, lights coming on wherever we went, but there was no power to the consoles. Rodney tried his best, but he wasnít able to get anything."

"But thatís not what happened!" Rodney stammered, and the older version sighed as she closed her eyes.

"It happened the first time."

Elizabeth sighed in frustration as she realized old Elizabeth was asleep again, and she turned to Carson. "Can you give her something to keep her awake? We need to talk to her for longer than a few seconds at a time."

"Sheís verra frail," he said, shaking his head, "I dinna want ta give her anything that might tax her strength."

"We need to know what she knows. And I can assure you that I know she would want to do this," Elizabeth said.

Carson sighed at that, then nodded. "All right."

"Thank you, Carson."

"Everythingís so alive," old Elizabeth murmured, looking around eagerly as Elizabeth pushed her around the city in a wheelchair. "Itís good to see you making a success of the expedition."

"It hasnít been without its costs, but we are making a place for ourselves," Elizabeth answered.

Old Elizabeth nodded but didnít have a chance to say anything more right away as theyíd reached the control room and Elizabeth was introducing her to the command staff. "Itís so good to see everyone alive and the city on the surface," old Elizabeth murmured, looking out the windows.

"What happened?" Rodney demanded. "There was the failsafe; how could the city not rise?"

"There was no failsafe the first time," old Elizabeth informed them. "Janus added it after I went back and told the Ancients what had happened. The city didnít rise; the shields collapsed; the city flooded." She shut her eyes for a moment. "You tried till the last moment to save people, Rodney, even as the gateroom was flooding around you."

"IóI drowned?" Rodney asked, his voice breaking before he recovered. "Yes, well I suppose thatís the true test of a man, what he does under extreme pressure."

Radek rolled his eyes, but John kissed him lightly, making old Elizabethís eyes widen before she smiled. "Iím glad you finally found someone, Rodney."

Rodney flushed at that. "Weíreóheísó"

"I believe ye should say Ďthank youí," Carson murmured.

"Um, yes, thank you, but how did you survive?"

"Weíd found the gateships shortly after we arrived, and when the city started flooding, Rodney and John sent most of us to their bay. John, Radek and I made it to a ship, but the bulkheads sealed, trapping Rodney in the control room, and Carson and Lt. Ford drowned trying to help others to ships." Elizabeth looked far away for a moment before continuing. "John got the ship into the air somehow, but someone fired on us. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the infirmary in the city full of Ancients, and John and Radek were dead."

Rodney growled at that and reached out to touch Johnís arm as if to assure himself that the other man was there and well. John caught hold of his hand, linking them together as he too sought reassurance that they were both alive.

"No sacrificing yourself for the city," John murmured. "Or for anything else."

"I wonít if you wonít," Rodney answered, turning his head enough to look at John closely.

John sighed before nodding slightly. "Fair enough." Both of them knew it wasnít true, that they would both continue to do whatever was necessary to protect the city and their friends, but they felt better for saying it.

While they were speaking, older Elizabeth had dropped off to sleep again, and Carson frowned as he studied her readouts. "Sheís failing. I dinna think she has much more time."

Elizabeth regarded her with concern, but old Elizabethís eyes opened again, and she seemed to get a second wind as she told them about the Ancient whoíd helped her, Janus, and how theyíd come up with a plan to save the city and the expedition. "I had a list," she continued. "Did you find it?" When Elizabeth nodded, she explained, "Itís addresses of planets with ZPMs."

"What?" Rodney scrambled for the list and stared at the addresses. "Of course! This is wonderful! We can go and collect them and poweró" A flat beeping sounded over his words, and Carson rushed back to his patientís side as all three turned to look at the now still figure on the bed.

"Sheís gone," Elizabeth said softly, staring down at the older version of herself.

"She gave up her whole life for this," John said, admiration for her strength of purpose clear in his voice.

"No," Elizabeth said. "I thought that too, but she set me straight. I am her, and our life is still ahead of me."

"Planet number one, here we go," Rodney said cheerfully as he, John, Teyla and Ford exited the gate on Dagan.

"Letís hope the ZPM is still here after ten thousand years," John said, looking around warily.

"Why wouldnít it be? Itís not like anyone else here has any idea what to do with them!" Rodney protested.

"Because nothingís ever easy in this galaxy," John replied dryly.

"Think positive, Major!" Rodney said cheerily as they walked toward the town that was visible in the distance.

"I hate this galaxy," John muttered, not quite under his breath and pretending not to see his teammatesí amusement.

"Youíll see," Rodney smiled, patting Johnís ass as he sped his steps, "piece of cake."

"It would be a pleasant change."

Watching Allina chat with Rodney with increasingly narrowed eyes, John suddenly got to his feet and stalked across the room, pushing between Rodney and the brunette. "Arenít you tired, Rodney?" he asked, interrupting Allinaís question about growing up. "I am. And you know I donít sleep well without you," he added with great emphasis, glaring at Allina.

"Hmm?" Rodney turned, his lips curving into a smile when John slid an arm around his waist. "Oh, well of course, we can finish this in the morning."

"Oh." Allina looked up at Rodney, her dark eyes half-lidded. "I had hoped we could continue our discussion over a drink. Iíd love to hear about your childhood in the city of the Ancients."

John frowned slightly and tightened his arm around Rodneyís waist, distracting him from the question. "Sorry, maybe weíll have more time to chat after we find the ZPM. Right now, we all need our rest to be fresh for tomorrowís work."

"So then, weíll see you in the morning?" Rodney asked, stroking a hand over Johnís back as he felt the tension coursing through him.

"Of course," Allina replied graciously, recognizing the possessive gleam in the majorís eyes. "Sleep well."

"You too," John replied in a distinctly unfriendly tone as he drew Rodney to his feet and toward the hallway leading to the rooms theyíd been assigned earlier, not that the two of them were going to need more than one room.

"Whatís wrong?" Rodney asked, moving as quickly as he could so he could avoid being bruised from the grip John had on his waist.

"She was flirting with you," John growled.

"Are you crazy? She wasnít flirting with me."

John actually stopped walking and gawked at Rodney. "She so was, Rodney. And she can find her own scientist; youíre mine!"

Rodney stared at him for a moment before nodding, looking slightly dazed. "Yes, I am."

"Good." John pushed Rodney up against the wall and kissed him hard, Rodney relaxing into the claiming, realizing that it was what John needed at the moment. After a moment, John raised his head, licking his lips, and rasped, "Unless you want me to do you right here against this wall, we need to get to our room."

"As much as that might not bother me, we do want to try to get that ZPM, and me having to kill anyone who looks at your naked ass would make that difficult," Rodney gasped, sliding his hands over Johnís chest as he slowly backed away.

John chuckled breathlessly, following Rodney like metal to a magnet. "Then I think we need to get behind closed doors because I need to be in you."

"No problem here," Rodney gasped, finally reaching the door to the room heíd been given and wrenching it open, starting to strip down the moment he was inside.

John followed close on his heels, pausing just long enough to shut and bar the door before yanking his own clothes off as well, hazel eyes dark with lust and intent on Rodney. As soon as he was naked, he stalked toward Rodney, already hard.

Rodney glanced over his shoulder toward the bed, gauging the distance and whether he would make it there before John jumped him, then he caught the scent of Johnís arousal and didnít care whether he did or not.

John suddenly lunged forward, sending Rodney reeling back against the wall, and pressed close, hard cock rubbing against Rodneyís belly while he devoured Rodneyís mouth. Rodney moaned and pulled John closer, grinding against him, his hands sliding down his back to cup and knead his ass.

"Need lube," John groaned, rocking against Rodney.

Rodney groaned again, looking almost desperately toward the pile of clothes near the door. "Need to let go to get it."

"Fuck." John groaned and forced himself to let go of Rodney, moving over to the bed while Rodney fumbled in the clothing, finally finding the tube in his pants pocket, spinning in place and hurrying back to the bed, shuddering at the sight of John lying there, eyeing him hungrily.

"On your hands and knees," John ordered huskily, sitting up to take the tube from Rodneyís hands.

"Bed or floor?" Rodney asked breathlessly, trying not to focus on one aspect of Johnís arousal too much as the last thing he wanted was to zone out now.

"Bed. No bruises." John rose up onto his knees, making room for Rodney, the scent of their arousal filling the air and making him even harder.

Rodney nodded, crawling around and getting into position, fine tremors running through him as he waited for Johnís touch, his senses spiking as he listened for Johnís approach, his skin tuned to the brush of air as he leaned closer.

"God, youíre so fucking hot," John rasped, his hands cupping Rodneyís ass while he leaned forward and mouthed the bumps of Rodneyís spine, drawing a low moan from him and a shudder as he fought to keep from coming at just that touch. "And you taste good too," he murmured as he reached the base of Rodneyís spine and swiped his tongue between the taut cheeks.

"Feel amazing," Rodney gasped, his fingers fisting in the sheets, his sense of touch spiking, distracting him with the combined sensation of Johnís tongue stroking over his hole and the suddenly coarse weave of the fabric against his hands.

"Stay with me, Rodney," John ordered. "No zoning out now."

"Not, well, maybe on you," Rodney shivered and arched his back, his knees skidding wider as he did so.

"Flattering, but I want all of you, all of your senses, so stay with me." John nipped at Rodneyís ass while opening the small tube with one hand.

Rodney yelped at the sudden tiny pain and squirmed when he decided it felt good. "Iím so with you, itís not funny," he murmured.

"Good," John almost purred, sliding his fingers over Rodneyís ass, teasing him with the gentle pressure.

"Jo-ohn," Rodney whined, pressing back, trying for penetration.

"All mine," John rasped against Rodneyís ear, pushing a finger into him and hastily preparing him, Rodney gasping at each twist and stretch until he was begging.

"John, god, please, need you."

"Yes." John twisted his wrist one last time, then pulled free, grabbing hold of Rodneyís hip with one hand while positioning himself with the other. He pushed forward against the still tight muscle, Rodney giving a low groan as he was breached, bracing himself as John slid forward until he couldnít go any deeper.

"You feel incredible... perfect," John gasped out, biting at the back of Rodneyís neck even as his hips drew back so he could drive into Rodney again. This time was going to be hard and fast... and incredibly good.

"Oh fuck," Rodney gasped as John bit him again, his whole body shaking as he braced against Johnís thrusts, opening himself fully.

"No more flirting with pretty brunettes," John growled. "Youíre mine."

"Fló" Rodney got out before Johnís thrust hit his prostate, and he saw stars before screaming as he came, his whole body shaking with the force of his climax.

"Mine," John repeated, driving into Rodney a handful more times before he came as well, shuddering through his climax while buried deep inside Rodney.

"Now... know... felt... Chaya," Rodney gasped.

"You. Just you."

"Yeah. Ditto that."

"Guess Iíll have to apologize to Allina in the morning," John said, catching his breath.

"Donít. Might flirt with you," Rodney muttered, finally collapsing on the bed beneath Johnís weight.

John chuckled. "Like Iíd have the energy to flirt back even if I was interested, which Iím not."

"Mmm, glad to hear it."

"Iíd think you could feel it right now."

Rodney chuckled at that, the sound low and satisfied. "What Iím feeling right now is fine and well-fucked."

"Itís part of my tried and true Rodney McKay standard care."

"I think I can live with that, oh, forever," Rodney sighed.

"Good, Ďcause thatís about how long youíre going to be stuck with me."

"Can live with that too." Rodney grinned, stretching out flat on the mattress and feeling John settle over him.

"Glad to hear it," John said, neither of them realizing that the possibility of Rodney finding his guide never even occurred to them. He pressed a kiss to Rodneyís shoulder blade, and Rodney sighed in contentment.

"And tomorrow weíll have a ZPM too."

"Life is good," John murmured, stroking Rodneyís back lazily.

"And so are we," Rodney murmured, shifting slightly to get comfortable, then falling asleep.

~ CHAPTER 12 ~

"What the hell?" John jerked his P90 into position as the sound of gunfire above sent him racing toward the opening in the roof of the cavern. "Ford! Whatís going on up there?"

"Iím sorry, Maj. Sheppard, but Lt. Ford is taking a nap; will I suffice?"

"Kolya!" Rodney snarled, turning from the carvings on the wall to look upward at the hole.

"Did you really think a single gunshot to my shoulder would kill me?" Kolya laughed.

"What do you want?" John snapped, glaring up at the Genii clearly visible above them.

"The same as you. The lost treasure of the Quindosim."

"Youíre wasting your time: ZPMs only work in Atlantis," John said, trying to convince him.

"That may be, but Iíd prefer to hear it from a Genii scientist."

"And anyway, we donít have it," Rodney shouted.

"Ah, Dr. McKay, itís good to hear your whining voice. Howís your arm?"

"Just fine, thank you." Rodney realized he was rubbing his arm and stopped the motion.

John bit back a snarl of fury, and Rodney reached out to touch him, calming them both. "Look, it seems weíre at something of an impasse here," John began.

"One where I control all the outcomes," Kolya broke in. "Youíre going to find the ZPM for us, Dr. McKay."

Despite Johnís furious protests, in the end Kolya got what he wanted. Rodney, the two Dagan women and all their weapons were raised to the surface, and Ford was sent down, leaving him, John and Teyla to try to find a way out while Rodney and Allina sought the final stone.

After a failed attempt at dialing the gate address the stones had given them, the Genii Ďescortedí Rodney and the Dagan women to the library, to try another idea. Biting his lip to keep from snarling at Kolya, Rodney continued to work at the problem, triangulating the points on the map with a laser, then smirking despite himself when he realized the answer to the question.

"Give me a knife," he demanded, holding out a hand, then glaring at the Genii when they didnít obey. "You all have guns; someone give me a knife."

At Kolyaís curt nod, one of the soldiers handed over a blade, and Rodney began prying at the spot on the map beneath the intersection of the lines.

Horrified, Allina grabbed Rodneyís hand to stop him from defacing the historic mural. "Rodney!"

"Itíll be fine, Allina," Rodney assured her, continuing his work. "The stone is behind here."

After a momentís hesitation, Allina let her hand fall to her side and allowed Rodney to continue without interruption, a decision that was proven correct when Rodney withdrew the final stone from the space he uncovered.

A short time later they were all back in the cavern, with Rodney inspecting the pedestal again, trying to decide where each stone should be set.

"Stop stalling," the Genii scientist barked. "The last stone clearly only fits in the center."

Overriding McKayís attempt to speak, Kolya ordered his man to place the final stone, and moments later, the scientist was lying on the floor, dead.

"You knew that would happen!" Kolya shouted furiously.

"Yes, and I was trying to tell you when you ordered him to activate the pedestal!" Rodney snapped back.

Kolya moved to stand in front of the Atlanteans. "Well, Dr. McKay, you have four chances to get it right."

Rodney glared at him for a moment before turning his attention to the puzzle before them, running through combinations in his head, and John started offering suggestions.

Clearly impatient, Kolya only gave them a few minutes before shoving John into place on the pedestal. "Youíre taking too long; choose and go," he demanded.

"Johnósorry, sorry, didnítócanító" Rodney began to babble, trying to find a way out of their predicament and feeling dangerously on the edge of zoning.

Johnís eyes widened suddenly. "Of course. Fifteen. The Brotherhood of the Fifteen!" Seeing Rodneyís baffled expression, he continued, "The tiles can be placed in such a way that each line adds up to fifteen."

"Of course! How did you know that?" Rodney asked as John slotted the tiles into place.

"It was on the Mensa test."

"And?"

"And I took the test."

Rodney gaped at him, for the moment forgetting their predicament. "Youíre a member of Mensa?!?!"

"Naw, I just took the test; I didnít join." John grinned quickly, amused by Rodneyís reaction despite the current situation.

"Why?" Rodney demanded.

"The ZPM, gentlemen," Kolya growled, and John took a deep breath, exchanging a glance with Rodney before placing his hands in the indentations. Everyone held their breath for a moment, waiting, and then there was a faint pop, and a ZPM slid out of the wall, Rodney breathing a sigh of relief and feeling the sick clenching in his stomach ease.

"Shut your eyes!" John murmured urgently, too low for any but sentinel hearing to pick up, and then he kicked the pin out of the flash bang the team had buried in the floor earlier while left in the cavern.

Even with his eyes shielded, Rodney had spots in front of his eyes when he opened them to see Teyla had two Genii on the ground as Ford took out a third and John got the drop on Kolya.

"You should kill me," Kolya said, watching Sheppard coldly.

"An excellent idea." Rodneyís voice was flat as he raised the gun heíd appropriated from one of the Genii, pointing it at the Genii commander.

John opened his mouth, then shut it again without saying a word, simply watching, letting Rodney decide.

Kolya looked over at Rodney, his lip curled in a sneer. "You donít have the nerve to do it, Dr. McKay. Youíre a coward, hiding behind Majó" His monolog was cut off by a sharp report as Rodney fired, hitting him between the eyes.

John looked down at the body, Ford and Teyla moving to flank him, and he nodded sharply. "Good. Now letís go home."

"You killed him," Allina gasped as Rodney stepped over the body to take the ZPM.

"This is the second time Kolya personally tried to take something from us although at least this time he didnít kill any of my people," John said coldly. "Leaving him alive would have guaranteed a third attempt and more deaths."

"But, you," she took a step back from Rodney.

"Did what was necessary," Teyla said gently.

"Weíre at war, Allina," John said bluntly. "War against the Wraith, war to save every human being in this galaxy. We canít afford to leave enemies behind us. So weíre going to take this ZPM back to Atlantis, and weíre going to do everything in our power to win."

"Iówish you luck," she said, after a momentís pause.

"Thanks," Rodney said, looking up at her as he packed the ZPM away, sighing when she wouldnít meet his gaze. John moved to his side and placed a hand on Rodneyís shoulder, simply being there for him.

"What about them, sir?" Ford asked, indicating the bound Genii.

"Leave them. Theyíll work themselves free and go back to their homeworld when they do."

"To tell them what happened here."

"Then the Genii will know that we have power now and they shouldnít try anything else," John replied.

"Can we go now?" Rodney asked, sounding bone-tired.

"Two of my men died, and Wraith buzzed the city, and Iím only hearing about it now?" John exclaimed.

"You were out radio contact for twelve hours," Elizabeth reminded him.

"But the real problem is what we found on our deep space sensors when we followed the Wraithís transmission," Radek said.

"Which was?" Rodney asked acerbically before doing a double take. "What deep space sensors?"

Radek waved a hand dismissively. "Long story. What we found is three hive ships, and if they follow their current heading, theyíll be here in two weeks."

John spoke for all of them when he said, "Shit!"

"Breathe, John," Rodney said, reminding himself to do the same. "At least we have a ZPM to power our defenses now."

"Which means we can contact Earth," Elizabeth said.

"Even if they canít do anything to help," John added.

Elizabeth nodded. "But being able to send messages to our families will do a lot for morale."

"Iíd rather be working on something more proactive for our defenses than packeting love letters home for people," Rodney protested.

"Not all of us are fortunate enough to have our loved ones here with us, Rodney," Elizabeth said quellingly, and the rest of them could almost hear Rodneyís teeth wearing away as he ground them together.

"Fine; they can send their messages on their time off, but Iím not going to get my ass fried because theyíre too busy composing sonnets to do their work!"

"Itís been a long day," John said, sliding an arm around Rodneyís waist and starting to draw him away. "We need to get some food and rest. Why donít we meet first thing in the morning to discuss our options?"

Elizabeth nodded, her expression still cool. "That would be for the best; Iíd like Dr. Zelenka to join us as well."

Radek nodded. "Yes, of course. We will all think better for some rest."

"Is it all right if I install the ZPM before taking a nap?" Rodney asked tightly.

John winced slightly, knowing that Rodney was wound up from killing Kolya. "Go ahead. Iíll get dinner and bring it back to our room," he offered.

Rodney was silent for a moment before nodding. "Thank you, John."

"If you would care for company, I would be glad to go with you, Rodney," Teyla offered.

"Iíll be waiting in our quarters," John said, leaning in to give Rodneyís cheek a quick buss.

"You did good there, Doc," Ford said as he got up. "Really good."

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Rodney said, reaching out, his fingers brushing against Johnís as he stood as well.

"John." Elizabeth prevented him from leaving and turned a frowning glance on John once the scientist had left, and the major in turn silenced her with an upraised hand.

"He shot Kolya, Elizabeth, killed him. Give him time to unwind."

She was silent for a moment, processing that information, then nodded. "I understand. I would like him to see Kate and talk to her if this doesnít resolve itself."

"It will." John shrugged at her hard glance. "Sure, if it doesnít, Iíll try to convince him to talk to Kate, but itís not going to be an issue. And now, I really am tired and hungry, so Iím going to get our dinner. Iíll see you at the meeting in the morning."

"Get some rest, both of you; I have the feeling weíre going to need it."

"They had that pudding you like tonight," John said without looking up when he heard the door to their quarters open. "I managed to snag extra."

"Oh." Rodney dropped his gear on the floor by the door. "Thatís good; maybe Iíll eat it later."

John bit back a sigh. "You havenít eaten anything in hours."

"In other words, I should eat."

"Yes." John turned to face him, the hazel eyes full of concern. "I know itís hard, Rodney, but you did the right thing." He smiled bitterly. "And youíre nowhere near my Genii count."

Rodneyís gaze focused on him at that, the dullness leaving his eyes. "Donít you say that about yourself. You were doing what you had to; the city would have been lost without you."

John raised an eyebrow, and Rodney frowned at him. "What?!"

"Apply that to yourself, Rodney. You did what you had to... and if you hadnít, I would have."

"I know." Rodney sighed and slumped against the wall. "That was the first time..."

"I know." John got to his feet and moved to Rodneyís side, drawing him into his arms and holding him close.

"You must think Iím a pathetic sentinel," Rodney muttered against Johnís shoulder. "Itís supposed to be what we do."

"Youíre a protector, not a killer, Rodney. And you do a damn good job of protecting this city."

"It feels like Iím just trying to hold it together with spit and tape," Rodney muttered, wrapping his arms around Johnís waist.

"Itíll feel that way for a while, but eventually youíll be able to sleep without dreaming about it," John said quietly.

Rodney was quiet for a moment then nodded. "Thank you."

"Iím always here for you," John murmured.

Rodney leaned against him, relaxing somewhat as he nuzzled Johnís neck and took a deep breath. "Thatís whatís keeping me sane right now."

"Some people might take issue with the idea of you being sane," John teased gently.

"Are you one of them?" Rodney muttered, though he half-smiled against Johnís neck.

"Not today."

"At least we got the ZPM."

"Which is a very good thing considering we have three Wraith hive ships heading for us."

Rodney groaned. "Iíd managed to forget that for five seconds."

"You work best under pressure. And youíre not alone. Weíre all going to work together to figure this out."

"And at least we have some warning. Iíll think about it in the morning; right now I canít think."

"Thatís fine. Iím kind of looking forward to curling up and sleeping in our own bed."

"Mind if we take a bath first? I donít want to smell anything but us."

"Good idea," John said, starting them moving toward the bathroom. "This has been one hell of a day. And once weíre clean and relaxed, we can have dinner. I got stuff that doesnít need to be hot to be good."

"And that pudding," Rodney reminded him with a half-laugh.

"I wouldnít dream of getting between you and your pudding."

"Hey." Rodney mumbled the word around a bite of an energy bar as he typed furiously at a computer station, not even looking up as John entered the lab. "How did the trip go?"

"Teyla nearly walked out because I was being military instead of caring, Wraith, a dozen refugees, people dying... a typical day in the Pegasus Galaxy," John sighed, slumping onto a stool, Rodney looking up from his work, a frown creasing his forehead as he looked at John then rose, walked over to him and pulled him into a hug.

"With all these shitty ones, weíve got to have a few good ones to balance them out, right?"

"Well, finding you has been a pretty good thing."

"Guess that explains why weíve had so many crap things happen, eh?"

John chuckled wearily. "At least we did save some people, including Teylaís friend."

"Thatís good at least, and youíre back in one piece; thatís even better." Rodney decided not to mention that heíd been in such a snappy mood that Radek had practically banned him from the lab.

"Yeah, but Elizabeth left one of the messages for me to do... to Sumnerís family." Johnís words explained his mood.

"Why you?" Rodney demanded. "That is patently unfair and cruel!"

John smiled crookedly. "Because Iím the senior officer. And because Iím the one who pulled the trigger, and I owe it to him," he admitted slowly.

Rodney nodded at that, though he hugged John tightly. "I have some notesófrom the message I sent backóon leadershipóif you think they might help..."

Johnís eyes widened slightly. "Uh, thanks, but this should probably come from me, not sound rehearsed."

"Yes, I suppose youíre right," Rodney nodded. "I really didnít end up using much of it anyway."

"So, did you send a message to anyone?" John asked cautiously.

"Just my sister."

"I didnít even know you had a sister," John exclaimed.

"Thatís because Iíve never mentioned her. We havenít spoken in several years."

John frowned. "Did something happen?" he asked, arms loosely linked around Rodneyís waist as the scientist stood next to him.

"We had an argument," Rodney shrugged.

John decided not to press for details, instead drawing Rodney closer and leaning his head against Rodneyís chest. "So you can get a second chance now that we can communicate with Earth again."

Rodney shrugged again and pressed his face against the top of Johnís head. "Maybe once we defeat those three hive ships."

John nodded. "Then we can think about other things. But youíre right; right now we need to concentrate on Atlantis and those three ships."

"Speaking of that..." Rodney began.

"Please tell me you have an idea?"

"Remember that satellite we found out near the planet with the super Wraith?"

John nodded slowly, his mind racing as he tried to imagine what Rodney had in mind. "I thought you didnít detect any power signature from it?"

"Thatís because we didnít, but now we have a ZPM so we can spare a generator to power it."

"Okay, so we need to head out to the satellite then, I guess. Do we have the schematics in the database to know what it can do once powered?"

"Itís a ship-killer," Rodney said, smirking slightly.

John stared. "I love you."

"You just want me for my weapons."

"But your weapon is so impressive," John said, batting his eyelashes and camping it up.

Despite himself, Rodney snickered.

John smiled and finally dared to ask, "So is there some reason why youíre here instead of in the main lab?"

"Why am I..." Rodney trailed off, actually looking embarrassed as he muttered something that sounded like ĎRadishickmoutí.

John blinked as he deciphered that and suddenly had a coughing fit while Rodney watched him balefully. "Yes?"

"Nothing," John said, his lips quirking suspiciously. "So, do you need to do anything else first, or should we go tell Elizabeth that we need to take a trip?"

"I think we should tell her we need to take a trip."

"Good plan." John got to his feet, arching his back to stretch his spine. "Ready?"

Rodney caught him and pulled him in for a kiss. "Now I am."

John chuckled somewhat wearily. "Glad to be of help."

~ CHAPTER 13 ~

"No, Major, Iím sorry, but I need you to concentrate on finding a new alpha site," Elizabeth stated. "Sgt. Markham can accompany Dr. McKay to the satellite."

John frowned, not liking the idea of trusting Rodneyís safety to anyone else, but Elizabeth was right; they did need to select a new alpha site in case they has to evacuate but werenít so desperate as to require retreating to Earth. He mentally cursed the Wraith again for having found their previously selected alpha site, necessitating the current scramble to establish a new one.

"What? I need another sentinel to look after me?" Rodney sniffed. "Leave him and Stackhouse here; this is a repair run. Give me Grodin and Miller, and Iíll be fine."

"It makes more sense to have Markham and Stackhouse checking for viable alpha sites too," John agreed, and Elizabeth nodded after a moment.

"Very well."

John suddenly groaned when he saw Sgt. Bates bearing down on them. The chief of security was very good at his job, but Beckettís recent discovery that Teyla had some Wraith DNA and her attempt to telepathically eavesdrop on them which had caused her to be briefly controlled by a Wraith had made the sergeantís suspicions of the alien member of Johnís team flare up again.

"Are you here to whine again, Bates?" Rodney sighed, glaring at him balefully. "Teyla did not tell the Wraith where our alpha site was!"

"You have no way of knowing that. The Wraith did take her over briefly."

"Stand down, Sergeant," John ordered. "Teyla is not a threat to us."

"Not consciously, sir," Bates stated, staring straight ahead, "but who knows what the Wraith can access without her knowing."

"Thatís enough, Bates," John said sharply. "Rodney, donít terrorize Grodin and Miller too much. Ford, Teyla and I will go find an alpha site while you make it unnecessary."

Rodney opened his mouth as if he was about to protest, then nodded. "Yes, yes, once again the scientists will make the military redundant."

"Youíre just trying to reduce my options to boy toy," John laughed, making Bates choke and Ford clap his hands over his ears.

"And this is bad why?" Rodney smirked while Elizabeth covered her mouth so she could hide her smile.

"Actually, it has possibilities."

"And I think that means itís time for you to leave before I lose my military commander," Elizabeth said, trying not to laugh.

"Are you talking to myself or the major?" Rodney asked, the fine tension lines returning to bracket his eyes. "Never mind, we both have things to do, so weíd better do them."

John gave him a quick, hard kiss. "Be careful. I want you back in one piece."

"Same here, Major; Iím going to be checking for bruises when I get back, and I donít want any on you I didnít put there."

"Sir, yes sir!" John snapped off a salute to Rodney, ignoring Bates and Fordís groans and Elizabeth gentle laughter.

"Good answer," Rodney murmured, kissing John again, ignoring the others, breathing in the scent of mint and underlying aromas that said ĎJohní to him.

"Hold that thought," John whispered, drawing back reluctantly. "Okay, letís gear up. Weíre heading out in thirty."

"Yessir," Ford echoed though Bates looked less than enthusiastic about his COís decision regarding the matter.

John, Teyla and Ford dove through the gate, yelling for the shield to be raised, and Bates stormed toward John, his anger obvious.

"I told you she was a problem, sir!" he spat, glaring at Teyla. "She obviously compromised the alpha site on M1M-316.

John glared at him. "Teyla had nothing to do with this. We werenít attacked by Wraith; it was... what would you say that was, Ford?"

"A T-Rex, it was a T-Rex, sir."

"Right, a T-Rex. So back off, Sergeant," John ordered, wincing as he put weight on the ankle he twisted on his way to the gate.

"And you should go see Carson, John," Elizabeth ordered, frowning at the tension evident in the gateroom.

"And wait for Rodney to get back," John sighed.

"And while you do that, weíll continue looking for another alpha site."

John nodded. "Iím sure one of the other teams will find something." But his tone was more hopeful than assured.

"Elizabeth." Rodneyís voice cut through the chatter in the control room.

"Weíre here, Rodney. Whatís your status?"

"One ship was destroyed..." Rodney paused while cheers sounded over the radio. "But, Elizabeth..."

She heard something in his voice, as did the others, and the cheers died away. "What is it?"

"The satellite was destroyed, and Peter Grodin was on it."

There was a moment of dead silence, followed by a soft sound of pain.

"Iím sorry, I should haveóthe circuits were fused and we couldnító"

"I know you did everything you could," Elizabeth said firmly. "Come home, Rodney."

His sigh could be heard over the open line. "Weíre on our way."

John was waiting in the jumper bay when Rodney and Miller returned, and the hazel eyes searched weary blue ones as he opened his arms.

"I should have done something," Rodney whispered as he stumbled to a stop.

"I know you, Rodney; you did everything you could and more than anyone else could."

"But it wasnít enough!"

"Sometimes it isnít. Not even you can win every time," John said, drawing Rodney into his arms and holding him tightly, the shorter man tensing before relaxing into Johnís embrace.

"It wasnít supposed to be like this," he muttered.

"It never is," John agreed sadly, nodding briefly to Miller over Rodneyís shoulder before steering Rodney toward the transporter.

"I need to get to work," Rodney muttered. "Theyíre coming, and we only took one out."

John sighed, but he knew Rodney was right. "Better debrief Elizabeth on the mission first."

"Yeah." Rodney pressed his face against Johnís shoulder and inhaled deeply, a level of tension leaving his body as he did so. "So, did you find an alternate alpha site?"

"Well, that depends on whether you consider a T-Rex a good neighbor."

"That would be a no then."

"Unfortunately. At this rate, weíre going to have to destroy the city and retreat to Earth when the Wraith get here," John said unhappily. "Not exactly the brilliant future we were hoping for when we came here."

"The problem is, if we all go to Earth, even with a self-destruct set, thereís no surety that the Wraith wonít be able to stop it and then get to Earth themselves," Rodney sighed. "Someone will have to stay here and make sure the city and the database are destroyed."

John stopped in the middle of the hall and turned a hard gaze on Rodney. "Donít get any ideas, Mr. Walk into a Life-sucking Energy Creature! If you stay, I stay."

Rodney pulled back to stare at John, his eyes narrowed, then he nodded. "Then weíd better find some way to save the city, hadnít we?"

"Sounds like a plan. Just try not to make too many of your staff cry."

"I donít think Iíll need to do more than show up right now for that to happen."

John chuckled. "Just remember you do need all of them."

"I meant because of Grodin," Rodney muttered.

"No oneís going to blame you for that, Rodney."

Rodney only looked at him.

"They wonít," John insisted. "People know you here, Rodney."

"No, they donít," Rodney murmured. "You do and possibly Carson and Elizabeth, but to the rest of them Iím the guy who yells at them and pulls miracles out of his ass when weíre about to die."

John started to make a joke of it before stopping himself. "I guess weíll have to socialize more once this is over then."

"What? Are you planning to be a social director?" Rodney asked tiredly as he pulled back from John and looked toward the transporter. "Right. So I should get back to work, see what progress, if any, Zelenkaís made on the defensesóafter I talk to Elizabeth."

"And I need to go figure out options." John kissed him, squeezed Rodneyís hand, and headed for the gateroom.

Rodney watched him go, the lines of tension deepening around his eyes before he rubbed his temple and headed for Elizabethís office to explain to her what had happened.

A very loud, very fervent Czech curse had everyone in the control room turning to look at Dr. Zelenka, who was frantically pushing controls while cursing in a non-stop stream. Finally he switched to English. "Shields are gone. ZPM is offline."

"What?!" Rodney exclaimed, hurrying to his side to shove him out of the way and work the controls. "What the hell did you do?!"

"What did I do? I sat here and suddenlyóphhht!" Radek glared at him.

"Which means you touched something you shouldnít have!" Rodney frowned as he worked the controls. "Okay, we need to go check the ZPM; maybe an idiot Marine knocked into it and loosened it."

John suddenly held up a hand in a classic "wait" gesture as he listened to something over his headset. "Iíll be right there," he said abruptly. Turning to Rodney and Radek, he barked, "No one goes anywhere without a Marine guard. Sgt. Bates has been found, beaten unconscious, barely alive. Itís very unlikely that the two are unrelated."

"Major," Col. Everett started, gaining unfriendly looks from everyone in the room. After his arrival in Atlantis the previous day and announcement that he was there to take charge, followed by the spectacular failure of his minefield defense when Atlantisí own senior personnel had advised against it, he was lucky dark looks were all he got. He frowned as John continued out the room at a dead run and several Marines, those who had not come with him, entered and fell in around the two scientists.

"No one goesófine, you two come with me," Rodney ordered the Marines as he bolted out of the control room as well, heading for the ZPM room.

"I havenít authorized this!" Everett barked, and Elizabeth eyed him coolly.

"The scientists here are not under military jurisdiction, Colonel."

"And we are the ones who keep the city alive," Radek muttered, glaring at the colonel out of the corner of his eye.

"Something you might want to keep in mind, Colonel. This isnít a military base, and if you try to give orders to the scientists, once this crisis is over, you may see them all leave."

"Iíll worry about that once we know we have a city to save, Dr. Weir," Everett snapped. "Right now Iíd like to know the whereabouts of Ms. Emmagen; I believe she had an altercation with Sgt. Bates earlier today?"

Teyla herself answered that question by coming into the control room and trying to get past the Marines whom Everett had ordered to keep all non-Earth personnel out. "Elizabeth!" she called, catching sight of Weir. "I am sensing Wraith."

"Theyíre close enough already?" Elizabeth exclaimed.

"No, here, in the city."

"We must let the Major know," Radek exclaimed, keying the communications system.

"Just fucking wonderful," John snarled. "I want Marine guards in all the key areas now!"

"Major," Col. Everett started when Lt. Ford stepped forward.

"Sir, do you really think this is the best time? If Wraith are in the city, every second counts, and every person here is accustomed to following Maj. Sheppardís orders because they trust him. And if you know scientists at all, you know thatís pretty hard to accomplish."

"Elizabeth," Rodneyís voice cut in over the radio. "The ZPM is gone."

There was a moment of stunned silence. "How is that possible?" Elizabeth finally breathed.

"The Wraith I sensed," Teyla murmured.

Everett snapped off orders, sending teams of Marines to search for the Wraith and the missing ZPM.

"Rodney, stay put," John ordered over the radio. "Iím on my way."

"Where do you think I would be going?!" Rodney asked, even as Zelenka broke in.

"I will see if I am able to do a scan for it, though we are severely limited in our capabilities at the moment; most of the systems were being powered byó"

"The ZPM, I know that!" Rodney growled.

"And apparently so does someone else," John said, arriving just then and looking around. "Canít the hand scanner track the ZPMís signature? You find every other power signature on every planet we visit."

"The problem is there are so many damn power signatures here that itís confusing," Rodney admitted, holding up a scanner that showed power signatures all over the area. "And if it isnít in use, itís not broadcasting a significant amount."

"Just freaking great. So where do we start looking? And has anyone scanned the damn ocean for power sources? Whatís to stop the Wraith from dropping it off a balcony?" John looked like he really wanted to shoot something. Anything.

"Making me have a panic attack over the situation is not going to help it any!" Rodney exclaimed, taking a deep breath and relaxing slightly when he smelled the mint on Johnís breath. "Iíd say the first thing we need to do is find that Wraith and get him to tell us where it is."

"Yes, because Wraith are always so chatty and cooperative," Zelenka muttered even as he started a scan of the surrounding ocean in case the major was right.

"You say this is under control?" Everett asked Elizabeth, his expression as hard and unyielding as his posture as he looked around the gateroom.

Still half listening to John, Rodney and Radek over the com system, Elizabeth frowned impatiently. "If youíre not going to help, Colonel, could you please be quiet so the rest of us can concentrate on solving this problem?" Her famed diplomacy was stretched to the breaking point just then, and she knew they couldnít afford the divisiveness of Everettís presence, not if they wanted to survive.

"All right," Rodney sighed, running a hand through his hair and looking around, trying to focus so that he could search out the Wraithís distinctive scent.

John moved closer before remembering some of Rodneyís comments about smelling his mints, and he reluctantly stepped back, not wanting to interfere with Rodneyís search. A thought struck him, and he keyed his radio.

"Teyla. Rodneyís trying to track the Wraith using his senses. Can you do the same?"

"I will attempt to do so, John," she answered before Everettís voice cut in.

"Thank you for the offer, Miss Emmagan, but we can handle the situation."

John rolled his eyes and switched to a private channel. "Teyla, link up with one of the Marine teams and see what you can find."

"I am on my way," John," she assured him.

"Thanks, and I know you know this, but let me know if you find anything."

"I will," she promised before signing off.

John looked back at Rodney. "Anything?"

"Itís... confusing," Rodney admitted, frowning slightly.

John frowned, surprised by that answer. "How so?" Unconsciously, he shifted closer to Rodney.

"Give me a minuteóand if I zone, poke me or something, okay?" Rodney glanced over at John, then closed his eyes, concentrating on the Wraithís insectile scent, trying to block out the smell of Johnís mints.

John watched him carefully, splitting his attention between Rodney and their surroundings despite the Marines with them.

"This way," Rodney said suddenly, moving off at a quick walk, taking seemingly random turns, leading them deep unto the lower levels of the city.

"I hope weíre going to be able to find out way back out of here," John muttered.

"I can find our way back," Rodney said absently as he followed the wraithís elusive scent.

Before John could respond, a Wraith stun beam narrowly missed them, only thanks to Rodneyís enhanced senses giving him enough warning to knock John out of the way. "I think we found him," John gritted out, trying to figure out where the shot had come from so he could return fire.

"You donít say," Rodney grouched, peering around, his hand tightening on Johnís arm when he spotted a flash of movement. "Over there."

John immediately fired, spraying the area in hopes of weakening the Wraith enough to capture him without killing him.

"I really hate those things," Rodney gasped as they ducked behind a console, grabbing Johnís arm when he went to pop up again. "Heís moving around to the left," he whispered, pointing in the direction he heard the stealthy movements.

"Every Wraith hunter should be or have a sentinel," John murmured, firing in the direction Rodney indicated.

"Sorry, not loaning myself out to themóhe doesnít sound like heís moving now." Rodney risked a glance over the console and nodded sharply. "Heís down."

"Okay, letís see if heís conveniently carrying the ZPM around under his arm," John said, ignoring the comment about loaning Rodney out since that would happen sometime between never and after hell froze over.

"No ZPM," Rodney sighed after a quick search yielded nothing but the unconscious Wraith. "I suppose this means we have to go all ĎMarathon Maní on him?" He grimaced at the thought.

John pulled a face of his own. "The Marinesíll take him to the brig. Before we resort to that, do you think you could back track him so we can check where heís been for the ZPM?"

Rodneyís nose stayed wrinkled, but he nodded. "Probably; Iíll give it a try anywayóonce the Marines get here."

"Yeah, letting the Wraith get away again would be bad," John agreed, glancing down at the unconscious form nearby.

Rodney nodded at that before looking down the corridor. "Theyíre coming."

"Have I mentioned lately that youíre useful to have around?"

"You mean other than because of my immense intellect?"

John grinned quickly. "I like the body itís housed in more."

"That must be because youíre insane," Rodney muttered.

"Just mad about you," John replied cheerfully even as he kept a wary eye on their captive.

"Only those two would be flirting in the middle of an attack," Stackhouse muttered to Markham as they neared the colonel, Dr. McKay and the Wraith.

"Be glad you donít hear the other things they say to each other," the sentinel murmured to his guide.

"I heard that!" Rodney yelled, glaring daggers at the pair, and Stackhouse grinned at him, making it clear heíd been meant to hear the conversation.

The sergeant quickly sobered and turned his attention to the Wraith. "Ugly sonuvabitch, isnít he?"

"Smells worse than he looks."

"So block it," Stackhouse advised, causing Rodneyís glare to return.

"I was trying to find him."

"And now that you have, the nice sergeants can take him to the brig before he wakes up again," John said hastily, moving between Rodney and the guide.

"Yessir, taking him now," Markham said quickly, grabbing one of the Wraithís arms while Stackhouse took the other, the pair dragging the captive away.

"Okay, Dr. Bloodhound, after you."

"Are you sure you wouldnít rather have the real sentinel following the trail?" Rodney asked, muttering the last under his breath.

"You are a real sentinel," John replied instantly, not about to let anyone, not even Rodney himself, insult him.

Rodney opened his mouth to snap back an answer, then closed it and shrugged. "Fine, letís find this thing so we can make the city safe."

"Itís what we do." John gestured for Rodney to take the lead, although he was somewhat more relaxed now that they had the Wraith in custody.

"Elizabeth, you do not want to go there and do this," Rodney stated, frowning at her.

"I do have some skill at negotiating, Rodney," she replied dryly, arching her eyebrows slightly. "And the Genii are the only source of nuclear weapons in this galaxy that we know of."

"They tried to take the city!"

"And as Dr. Weir said, they are our only possible source of supplies in this situation," Col. Everett ground out.

"We canít trust them," John said bluntly, and Elizabeth gave a very slight smile.

"I wasnít planning to. And we know what to expect from them, but they still have no idea what weíre capable of. I brought Chechen rebels and Russians to the same table; I think I can handle the Genii."

"You shouldnít go alone," Rodney said bluntly.

"They wonít accept anything else. This is part of my job, gentlemen. Itís time for me to do it."

Rodneyís jaw clenched, his teeth grinding together before he gave a grudging nod. "Then I had better make sure the jumper is ready to go when you get back." He turned at that and walked out of the conference room, his back stiff.

"Heís just worried about you," John said to Elizabeth, his frown saying that Rodney wasnít the only one.

"I know and thank you," she said gently, "but I have to do thisóI canít ask you all to do something I wouldnít do myself."

Johnís frown deepened, but he finally nodded, both of them all but ignoring Col. Everett. "Weíll be ready when you get back."

"I wouldnít expect anything less."

It took somewhat longer than theyíd hoped, but eventually Elizabeth returned, alive and with two nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, Genii nuclear science wasnít as far advanced as theyíd hoped, and Radek, who was in the gateroom when she arrived, took one look at the readings and started swearing in Czech.

"Whatís wrong?" Elizabeth asked, sounding weary.

"Idiots," Radek grumbled before keying his radio. "Rodney. Dr. Weir is back. I am bringing leaky, fission-fueled rust buckets to the lab now!"

"Youíre kidding, right? This is a horrible joke because Iím still somewhat busy trying to find the damn ZPM!"

"Other people can find the ZPM!" Radek snapped back. "I need you in the lab. This..." He trailed off into more Czech.

"How the hell can they find it?" Rodney demanded to his now dead radio before sighing and looking over at John. "Can you assign Markham and Stackhouse to this?"

"It seems Iíd better. For Radek to say he needs you, it must be bad."

"Itís probably something so simple I could do it with my eyes closed," Rodney sniffed. "Hopefully he can wait long enough for me to tell Markham what to look for."

After radioing for the sentinel and guide to join them, John leaned against the wall, waiting. "If itís as bad as Radek says, can you get it working in time? We barely have two days till the hive ships reach Atlantis."

The look Rodney gave him could have frozen the ocean around the city.

"Iíll take that as a yes."

"You can take that as a thereís no way in hell Iím going to let the incompetence of the Genii people kill us."

John barked a laugh. "Youíd better not or Iíll bitch at you for all eternity."

"And Iíll bitch right back." Rodney looked down the hall as Stackhouse and Markham jogged toward them. "You. You know what that Wraith smelled like; follow the trail and find the damn ZPM; we have two days."

Both menís eyes widened slightly, but when John didnít reinterpret Rodneyís words, they realized he meant exactly what he said and set to work, Markham slowly following the odd, almost musty smell as they tried to retrace the Wraithís path to find where heíd left the ZPM.

"All right, off to figure out what Radek canít." Rodney caught Johnís hand and pulled him in for a hard, fast kiss. "And you go keep Col. Idiot in line; I donít need him blowing up my city."

"Donít work yourself to death," John said. "Iíve gotten kind of used to having you around."

"Dittoóand let me know if Markham finds the ZPM." Rodneyís lips quirked in a crooked smile then he took off at a jog for the nearest transporter, heading for the lab.

~ CHAPTER 14 ~

Two days later, John sat in the control chair while Rodney, who hadnít slept in the interim, frantically tried to program the chairís systems to remote fly the jumper. One of the nuclear weapons Rodney and Radek had spent most of the last forty-eight hours finalizing was loaded aboard the jumper, ready to ram the hive ship, but the systems were refusing to cooperate.

Glancing at the display, John winced. "Weíre running out of time, Rodney."

"Weíll be fine," Rodney grunted from the floor where he was working on the chairís connecting filaments. "Just give me a little more time; I can do this."

John looked at the display again and saw that the Wraith ship was within minutes of reaching firing range on the city. He jumped to his feet and moved toward the door, stopping only when he was out of armsí reach, not trusting himself, to turn and look at the scientist. "I love you, Rodney."

And then he was gone.

"One moreóJohn?" Rodney straightened up to look first at the empty chair, then toward the doorway. "John?!" His breathing quickened, and he scrambled to his feet, fumbling for his radio. "ElizabethóJohnóstop him. Donít let him. Donít you dare do this, Major!" The last was screamed with enough force to make him hoarse.

Already in the jumper after a brief encounter with Elizabeth, whoíd looked devastated when she finally nodded slightly, giving him permission to do what they both knew had to be done, John flinched at Rodneyís cry, blinking rapidly as the jumper rose toward the bay door. He knew if he allowed himself to think about Rodney, he wouldnít be able to do this, so he forced himself to feel nothing, think nothing, only concentrate on the mission as he headed straight for the hive ship in the cloaked jumper.

"Rodney," Carson whispered as the other man lurched into the control room in time to see the blip that was Jumper One leaving the city, "Iím so sorry."

"No," Rodney whispered, watching the blip heading toward the Wraith fleet. "No."

Elizabeth stood nearby, also watching the display but not speaking. She knew she was the last person Rodney wanted to hear from at that moment. There was a collective inhalation when the jumper reached the hive ship and vanished, followed by the explosion of the Wraith vessel.

"The target has been destroyed," Chuck said, his voice somber as he announced the Pyrrhic victory.

"Dr. Weir?" Sgt. Markhamís voice came over the radio. "We found the ZPM."

She laughed almost hysterically, stopping herself after a single burst before she completely lost control.

"Thank ye, Sergeant," Carson broke in when no one else spoke. "Bring it to the control room." He looked over at Rodney at that and rested a hand on his arm. "Can ye replace it and initialize the shields, or do ye want me to get Radek?"

"I can do it," Rodney said mechanically, his voice as dead as his expression.

"Thereís another ship," Chuck suddenly announced just as a voice came over the radio.

"Daedalus to Atlantis. Come in, Atlantis."

"This is Atlantis," Elizabethís voice was somewhat breathy. "Who is this?"

"Col. Stephen Caldwell, Dr. Weir. And I have Maj. Sheppard with me."

"Youóhow?" Elizabeth gasped while Rodneyís head snapped up, and he stared at the display even as Stackhouse and Markham raced into the control room, carrying the ZPM.

"Asgard beaming technology," Caldwell informed them. Before they could say anything else, the remaining hive ship bore down on them, and the Daedalus engaged it.

"Rodney! Get the ZPM back online and the shields up," Elizabeth yelled.

"On my way!" he shouted back, grabbing the ZPM from Stackhouse and racing toward the transporter.

A garbled transmission came over the radio from one of the Marine security teams. "...under attack... Wraith in the city!"

"They must have beamed in when the darts attacked," Elizabeth breathed. "Col. Everett..."

"My men will join the patrols," he replied instantly.

"As will I and my people," Teyla said firmly, and this time the colonel nodded.

"Weíll be grateful for your assistance, Ms. Emmagan."

"Idiot. Canít believe he did that. Canít believe Iím doing this," Rodney muttered to himself as he headed toward the central power room carrying the ZPM. A soft noise off to the left had him spinning and grabbing for his gun.

A Wraith advanced on him, hand outstretched like something out of a bad horror movie, and Rodney froze, his hand shaking as he held the gun in front of him. "You think you scare me?" he screamed at the advancing alien. "You have no idea what scares me, but it sure as hell isnít you!" As he spoke, he aimed and pulled the trigger, each shot hitting the Wraith in the face.

Teyla ran around the corner a moment later and came to a stop next to Rodney, regarding him with new respect. "I came to offer my assistance in reaching the ZPM room, but it seems you have no need."

"Ióyes, I think IóJohnís alive," Rodney gasped before brandishing the ZPM. "I need to get this installed."

"Rodney!" Elizabethís voice sharply over the radio. "Two minutes!"

"Right! Two minutesówe needó" Rodney continued babbling as he ran for the console and slammed the ZPM into place. "Engaging power now." He radioed before cursing when the ZPM failed to engage.

"Still no shields," Chuck said sharply.

"What?!" Rodney grabbed for the controls, raising the ZPM so he could adjust its position and lower it again. "Try it now!"

"Shields coming up," Chuck yelled just as the Wraith hive ship fired at the city.

At the same time, the Daedalus fired on the hive ship, finally piercing its shields and setting off a chain reaction that caused it to explode. Sensors and eyes alike dazzled, John desperately tried to see if Atlantis had raised the shields in time.

"Sheppard to Atlantis. Come in, Atlantis. Rodney? Elizabeth?" Johnís voice grew increasingly frantic.

"This is Atlantis." Elizabethís voice finally cut through the static. "Weíre here."

"Oh thank God! For a minute there, I thought you were dead."

"I know the feeling, but weíre still here. Come home, John."

John looked over his shoulder at Col. Caldwell, and a moment later he was standing in the control room, looking surprised as Elizabeth Weir hugged him hard.

"Welcome home." Elizabeth stepped back and keyed her radio. "Good work, Rodney."

"Of course it was," came the tired reply.

"We need you in the control room now," she added, smiling.

"I have to move?" he asked plaintively.

"We must still ascertain that no Wraith remain in the city," Teyla reminded him, and Rodney groaned before levering himself up from the floor where heíd collapsed once the shield was up.

"Wraith. Right. Letís get Ďem."

The two of them made their way to the control room, not seeing any live Wraith along the way, but it seemed that everyone in Atlantis was armed and sweeping the corridors for intruders. They reached the gateroom without incident and were greeted with a tentative smile from John, who focused on Rodney. "Hi, honey, Iím home."

A muscle spasmed at the outside of Rodneyís right eye, and his jaw clenched. "Welcome back, Major; we have Wraith in the city."

John winced, and he half reached for Rodney. "Iím sorry, but you know I had to do it. It was the only way."

The muscle twitched again before Rodney nodded tightly. "I know; we have to do what we have to do."

"Rodney." The single word was a plea, and Rodneyís nostrils flared as he sucked in a deep breath. A shudder ran through his body, and he took a half-step forward before halting himself.

"I know, you had to do it. Justówe need to deal with the Wraith right now and find out whoís missing."

John nodded, but after the day theyíd had, he couldnít resist the impulse to reach out and catch hold of Rodney, drawing his stiff body into a fierce embrace. "Iím sorry," he whispered again. "I couldnít let you die too."

"You think I wouldnít have if you had?" Rodney muttered, finally unbending enough to hug John back.

John nodded slightly, acknowledging that. "But it wasnít just us; it was everyone else in Atlantis too."

"It didnít matter to me at the time."

"Iím sorry," John said yet again, holding Rodney close.

"Dr. Weir, everyone is accounted for one way or another except for Lt. Ford," Chuck announced.

John frowned, turning to face him without letting go of Rodney. "Have you used the life sign sensors to search for him?"

"Yes, heís nowhere in the city," Radek announced from the next console, his tone causing Rodney to lift his head from Johnís shoulder where heíd finally let it rest.

"Have you checked the water around the city?" John asked, his tone absolutely flat.

"Around the city? No..."

"Well, check it then!"

"Do it," Rodney nodded, moving over to the console to watch while Radek recalibrated the sensors.

"There is a signal outside the shield."

"Col. Caldwell," Elizabeth said, radioing the Daedalus, "we need you to lock in on a life sign outside our shield and beam it to our infirmary."

"Weíll have to beam them aboard the Daedalus and then to your infirmary," the colonel informed her, "but thatís not a problem." His sharp inhalation a moment later belied that statement. "Youíd better have security standing by in the infirmary."

"Theyíre already there," Elizabeth informed him. "Carson, you have a patient incoming."

"Aye, weíre readyóoh my Godó" Carsonís voice cut off as he went to work.

Elizabeth, John and Rodney exchanged glances and immediately made for the infirmary at a near run. When they arrived, they stopped abruptly, staring at the sight that met them. Lt. Ford lay on a gurney, a Wraith on one next him, joined to him by his hand against the lieutenantís chest.

"How the hell is he alive?" Rodney gasped, covering his nose at the Wraithís pungent smell.

Carson barely glanced up from his work. "I believe the Wraith was feeding on him when they were thrown into the ocean. The fall killed the Wraith and should have killed Lt. Ford."

"Why didnít it? And why didnít he drown?" John asked, unable to pull his horrified gaze from the hand attached to Fordís chest.

"When the Wraith feed, they inject an enzyme into their victimís body to keep them alive longer. I think that when the Wraith died, it injected a massive dose into the lieutenant, keeping him alive."

"Christ," John breathed. "Can you save him?"

"Iíll do my best," Carson promised.

"John," Elizabeth said, placing a hand on his arm, "thereís someone else you should see." She nodded toward a curtained off corner of the infirmary. "Col. Everett was attacked by a Wraith. Teyla saved his life, but..."

John winced, and Rodney muttered something under his breath about no one deserving it more.

"No one deserves that," John said fervently, letting go of Rodneyís hand to move toward the curtain. He hesitated just before reaching it, squared his shoulders and stepped through to see the suddenly aged colonel in the bed.

"Col. Everett." He saluted crisply, trying not to stare.

"Major." The formerly strong voice was a rough wheeze. "I was wrong."

"No one could have predicted this, sir," John said. "You had your orders."

"Not that." Everett reached out and grabbed Johnís hand. "I wish you had been there... like you were for Col. Sumner." Everettís grip failed at that, and his hand fell back to the bed beside his wasted body.

John flinched almost imperceptibly. "You still have years left to you, sir," he said, trying to sound bracing.

Everett looked away at that. "Youíre dismissed, Major," he murmured.

John hesitated for a moment before saluting and then turning and leaving silently, looking somewhat shell-shocked.

"Carson got the Wraith off Ford," Rodney announced before frowning as he caught Johnís arm and stared at him. "What happened?"

"He... understands about Sumner now."

Rodneyís expression tightened, and he pulled John into a hug.

"The Wraith suck," John said into Rodneyís neck.

"And not in a good way," Rodney sighed, stroking Johnís back, doing what he could to help calm him.

"Not at all."

"Thereís nothing you can do here," Elizabeth said. "And I know neither of you has slept in days. Go. I donít want to see either one of you out of your quarters before tomorrow."

"But the Wraithóand the damage to the city?" Rodney sputtered.

"Will still be there after you get some rest. Youíre no use to me half dead from exhaustion, no matter how many stimulants Carson gave you. I gave the same orders to Dr. Zelenka."

"Dr. Weir." Col. Caldwellís voice cut through Rodneyís relieved sigh. "We have a situation."

All three of them slumped. "Of course we do," Elizabeth murmured before straightening up and keying her radio. "Weir here. What is it, Colonel?"

"Weíve picked up twelve hive ships and their escorts on an inbound trajectory. We estimate their arrival at Atlantis to be one dayís time."

"You have got to be kidding," Rodney groaned.

"So much for sleep," John sighed. "Looks like we all need more of Carsonís magic pills."

"What can I do to help?" The three of them spun to find Ford standing behind them.

"Ye can go back to bed where ye belong!" Carson ordered, coming up behind him.

"Iím fine, Doc, better than fine," Ford said, practically jittering in place. "Iím fit for duty."

"You should listen to the doctor," John said, trying not to stare at the drooping eyelid and completely black eye on Fordís left side.

"But Iím fine!" Ford snarled, spinning and picking Carson up by his lapels and shoving him against the wall.

"Lieutenant!" John barked as the Marines on guard raised their weapons. "Let him go!" He waited until Ford complied before remarking, "Until you can refrain from attacking your doctor, there will be no further discussion of returning to duty."

"Ió" Ford began, glancing around at the others, his shoulders slumping. "Yessir. Iím sorry Doc." He looked at Carson at the last.

"Thatís all right, lad; weíll get you fixed up soon."

The Marines slowly lowered their weapons, but their attention remained focused on the lieutenant as John, Rodney and Elizabeth left the infirmary.

"What the hell are we going to do against twelve hive ships?" John said, sounding frustrated. "We barely survived three."

"Even with the ZPM, we wonít be able to hold out against that kind of bombardment," Rodney muttered, dragging a hand through his hair in frustration.

Caldwell joined them in the conference room. "Can you sink the city again like the Ancients did?"

Rodney sighed and gave him a withering look. "Itís a city, not a yoyo. Look, I donít even know how they did it the first time."

"So I guess flying away is out of the question too?" John looked a little disappointed, and Rodney rolled his eyes in answer.

"We need to have a plan," Elizabeth said, her tone weary.

"Wait a minute, the Daedalusí transport beam," John said, straightening up in his seat.

"Planning on beaming the city out?" Rodney asked.

Ignoring the comment, John continued, "And the Daedalus has nukes, doesnít she?"

Caldwell nodded, and they all looked at John expectantly.

"So whatís to stop us beaming the nukes aboard the hive ships?"

Rodney blinked, then grinned. "Brilliant!"

"Would you be able to do that?" Elizabeth asked.

"The Asgard donít interfere in our wars," Caldwell mused. "Hermiod wonít like it."

"Heís in as much danger of dying of dying as the rest of us," John pointed out.

"Iíll see what I can do." Caldwell radioed the Daedalus and conversed with Dr. Novak before signing off. "Hermiod says itís doable."

"Looks like weíre going to survive this one too."

"Then maybe we can get a nap," Rodney muttered.

"Donít tease me," John muttered back.

"The only question is how do we stop them before they get here," Elizabeth said, and Rodney sighed.

"Iíll figure that out."

"The Wraith have blocked our transporter beam," Col. Caldwell announced after the first two ships had been destroyed.

"Shields are down to sixty percent."

"We canít do any more here. Set course for Atlantis," he ordered.

"Hyperdrive engaging," was the prompt response.

"Well, that worked well," Rodney muttered, rubbing his eyes, popping two pills into his mouth and dry-swallowing them.

A short time later they were all gathered back in the conference room, once again debating options while the Wraith bombarded the city.

"We need to make the city vanish," John sighed in frustration after a while.

"Do you mean destroy it?" Caldwell asked incredulously.

"Of course not!" John snapped. "Thatís what weíre trying to avoid. Sir."

"Vanish..." Rodney murmured. "Of course!"

Everyone turned to stare at him expectantly.

"We cloak the city."

"Yes. Yes!" Radek nodded. "The puddlejumpers are equipped with cloaking technology which renders them invisible to the naked eye and to Wraith scans. If we just simply remove one of the cloak generators from the puddlejumper..."

"I wouldnít say simply, but yesóby interfacing a jumperís stealth cloak generator with the cityís shield, we should be able to render the city invisible," Rodney finished.

"How long?" Elizabeth asked.

"And arenít the Wraith smart enough to notice the city simply disappearing?" Caldwell put in.

"So we fake a self-destruct," Rodney said with a wave of his hand as he stood. "Thatís the easy part."

"And what of the hard part?" Radek asked.

"How exactly do we fake a self-destruct?" John asked warily.

"Have the Daedalus beam a nuke over the shield and detonate it," Rodney said blithely. "While their sensors are blinded, we cloak the city.

"What about radiation?" Elizabeth frowned.

"I should be able to calculate how long we have to remain shielded before switching over to the cloak."

"And the hard part?" Radek repeated, making Rodney sigh.

John eyed them. "Iím rather interested in hearing the answer to that myself," he said, and Elizabeth nodded.

Rodney glanced away. "Um, the cloak for all intents and purposes will replace the shield, which means that weíll be completely unprotected once the cloakís activated."

There was a moment of silence as they all took that in. "Thereís no other way?" Elizabeth asked, slightly paler than sheíd been a moment earlier.

"We could ask them to leave nicely."

"A simple no would have sufficed."

"When do I ever give simple answers?" Rodney asked before motioning to Radek to follow him and almost getting run over by Carson when he opened the conference room door.

"The lieutenant has escaped."

John leaped to his feet. "Is security tracking him?"

"I have no idea," Carson panted, "but, Major, heís even more unstable; the enzyme is effecting his thinking."

"I have to find him."

Rodney looked torn but finally nodded even as Elizabeth gave John the go-ahead, leaving the room with Radek as Elizabeth and Caldwell began to make evacuation plans in case the plan didnít work.

Hours later John sat on the bed in the quarters he shared with Rodney, head hanging down as he tried to absorb the fact that they were still alive and in Atlantis, something heíd seriously doubted for a while there. The door slid open, and Rodney stomped in, looking both angry and exhausted.

"Do you believe them?" he snapped before dropping to the bed beside John.

"Which them?" John asked, raising his head to regard Rodney wearily.

"The SGC!"

"Why do you think I kept getting in trouble for disobeying orders?"

"They want us to go to Earth."

"I refuse to think about it till morning," John said emphatically, falling back to sprawl on his back on the bed.

"They want us to leave then," Rodney groaned, flopping back beside him. "You, me, Carson and Elizabethónothing like stripping the entire command staff away."

"That makes no sense," John admitted. "And still not thinking about it!"

"When does most of what the SGC does make sense?" Rodney reached out and pulled John over against him.

"Well, they sent us both here," John mumbled into Rodneyís neck.

"Even morons can do one thing right," Rodney sniffed, pulling him closer.

"Wouldnít that make them idiot savants?" John asked, half asleep as the stress of the last two weeks finally caught up to them now that they could sit still.

"That would mean they did one thing well all the time; I havenít seen enough to classify them in that category." Rodney stroked Johnís back as he spoke, feeling the other man relax against him.

"Who needs Ďem? Got you."

Rodney smiled at that and kissed Johnís hair, pressing his face against the dark strands and breathing deeply, letting himself get lost in the scent, touch and taste of John Sheppard.

John smiled, squirming even closer as he felt Rodney begin to relax at long last. His hands petted the sentinel soothingly, both of them enjoying the touch, and John let out a tiny sigh of relief. Against all odds, theyíd made it.

"Is it wrong for me to wish that we hadnít sent those messages now?" Rodney whispered after a long silence. "I mean, psychotic life-sucking aliens, ancient tech disasters and all, we havenít done so bad here."

"No, we havenít... aside from the whole me waking the Wraith thing." John cracked one eye open and peered at Rodney. "I donít want to go back either."

"That wasnít your fault!" Rodney protested vehemently before forcing himself to relax again. "But we have to, donít we? We canít let Elizabeth and Carson go alone, though god knows what weíll come back to with Zelenka in charge of repairs."

"And if Zelenka wasnít in charge, dynamite wouldnít move you out of this city; admit it."

"Are you trying to get me to say I like him?"

"I already know you like him, and you trust him," John replied. "Hell, the two of you finish each otherís sentences. Should I be jealous?"

"Just so you know, Iím too tired to move, so if I throw up because of that comment, it will be on you."

"Which would make me throw up on you and that would just get way too gross, so donít."

Rodney shuddered at the thought. "At least then we could say we were too sick to go to Earth, right?"

"Itís a stargate, Rodney. Theyíd drag us up on stretchers and heave us through."

"Lovely." Rodney groaned and closed his eyes though he was still rubbing Johnís back.

"Weíll work it out. And weíll be able to come back in a couple of weeks, sooner if weíre needed.

"If our fingers arenít worn to stubs from writing reports there."

"And selecting new personnel." John wondered who they would bring to take over as senior military officer, but he knew better than to mention that to Rodney.

Rodney shuddered at the thought and shook his head. "Iím sorry about Ford," he said suddenly.

John tensed momentarily before relaxing again. "Me too, but heís alive. Weíll find him."

"Sorry. I just... wanted to say it. I donít think I did before."

John nodded slightly, burrowing closer. "Thanks."

"Now get some rest, okay?"í Rodney kissed the top of his head again.

"Yír tíkiní," John grumbled, causing Rodney to give a crooked smile even as he mimed zipping his lips before tilting his head enough to look at his now sleeping lover. "But donít think Iím going to forget what you did."

~ CHAPTER 15 ~

One week later, having been debriefed until he was ready to strangle the next person who asked him about the past yearís events, Rodney was heartily sick of the SGC, Colorado, and Earth as a whole; then he received a call that had him longing for one more session with the IOA.

"I have to go to Santa Barbara," he announced petulantly, dropping down across from John and Carson at a table in the mess hall.

"They wonít let ye simply go to the Center here?" Carson asked sympathetically.

"Iím going with you," John said in a tone that left no room for discussion.

"But, Johnó" Rodney began, appearing vaguely embarrassed before finally sighing and nodding. "Fine, it should be quick at least, a few hours."

"If we have to fly all the way out there, maybe we should put in for a couple days leave and enjoy ourselves a bit," John suggested.

"I hate that place," Rodney said flatly.

"Or not," John said easily. "We can always lock ourselves in our room once we get back here." He reached across the table to take hold of Rodneyís hand.

"Itís going to be very boring for you," Rodney tried to protest, and Carson shook his head.

"The man loves you, Rodney; let him go with you."

"Listen to your doctor," John cajoled.

"Why? I never have before," Rodney grumbled, but it was clear he was folding. "Youíd better bring your book because the waiting room is exceedingly dull," he warned, ignoring Carsonís slight smile.

"I think Iíll bring The Joy of Gay Sex instead."

"You are not going to be a walking advertisement!"

"I thought I already was?"

"Major, ye really donít want Rodney trying ta attack everyone at the Center, do ye?" Carson chuckled.

John laughed. "The only one who gets to sample my wares is Rodney."

"Iíd say that was more like overindulge, lad," Carson grinned, causing Rodney to turn red.

"Itís never too much," John assured them both, grinning as well, making Rodney shake his head.

"Sometimes I wonder how we can walk!"

Carson and John both burst into laughter.

John regarded the Center warily, knowing Rodney needed to go but suddenly, unreasonably afraid that going in would change everything. "Theyíre going to have more guides to test you with, arenít they?" he asked unhappily.

"Possibly. Probably. Yeah," Rodney admitted, fighting a battle with himself to turn and flee from the building, taking John with him and not stopping until they were both back in Atlantis. "I donít want any of them; you know that, right? I mean, Iíve been getting along well without one for almost forty years; why do I need one now? Carson can tell them Iíve hardly had a zone out these last few months."

John was still regarding the Center with the look normally reserved for Wraith hive ships bearing down on Atlantis. "I donít think theyíre going to care. Youíre a sentinel, and sentinels always have guides." Unspoken was the knowledge that John was going to want to kill anyone who thought heóor sheóhad a right to Rodney.

"So letís leave; what are they going to do if I donít go in there? Take away my senses? Not let me go back to Atlantis?"

A young man and woman walked past them, heading into the imposing granite building, the fact that they were a bonded pair obvious to anyone with eyes, and John sighed, watching them.

"You have to go in, Rodney. You owe it to yourself. But Iíll be right there with you."

"I donít want to lose you," Rodney said miserably. "I donít want to be ruled by my damned hormones and be stuck with someone because they have to be there, not because they want to be with me!"

"Iím not going anywhere," John promised recklessly. "As long as you still want me, guide or no guide, Iím right here."

At that Rodney pulled him into a crushing hug, breathing so quickly he almost hyperventilated. "Same here," he whispered roughly before letting go and swallowing to clear the constriction in his throat. "I guess I should go get it over with."

After a momentís hesitation, John nodded, taking Rodneyís hand in his. "So I get to see the mysterious inner workings of the Center, huh?" Hand in hand, they walked up the sidewalk along the wide, sweeping driveway to the front door, unaware that those who saw them thought them a bonded pair.

"Ah yes, the glamorous working of this place should thrill you for, oh, about two minutes," Rodney snorted, pulling the door open and holding it so that John could walk in ahead of him.

"Itís all new to me, unlike you," John pointed out with a faint shrug, looking around curiously.

Rodney nodded at that, though he kept hold of Johnís hand. "So let me give you the fifty-cent tour; weíve got time before my appointment.

"This obviously is the entranceóopen to the public and about as far as most of them get. Information desk, waiting area, plain old stuff mostly." Rodney led John over to the desk, digging in his pocket with his free hand for his wallet. "Rodney McKay, I have an appointment with Dr. Michaels."

"And he is?" the attendant asked.

"Maj. John Sheppard, heís with me."

The attendant looked as if he was going to disagree, but Rodneyís narrowed eyes convinced him that wouldnít be good for his health.

As they continued their tour until the doctor was ready for Rodney, John chuckled. "I see the terrorizing isnít only limited to minions."

"I learned early not to let them push me around here," Rodney shrugged. "If they had had their way, I would have been living here for most of the second decade of my life."

"Iím glad you didnít stay." John smiled quickly at him, and Rodney grinned back though his eyes didnít echo the humor.

"Me too because honestly? Thereís nothing for me here." They paused outside a door, and Rodney looked at it in distaste. "Sensory deprivation rooms," he explained.

John shuddered, and his fingers tightened on Rodneyís. Although sensory deprivation could be very relaxing when used judiciously, it could also be horrifying, locking a person inside their own mind with no outside stimulus, and he could only imagine how much worse it would be for a sentinel, accustomed to so much input from their senses.

"Not my favorite place," Rodney admitted, starting them walking again. "But then Iím not sure anywhere here qualifies as that."

"So what is your favorite place?" John asked curiously. "Aside from Atlantis."

Rodney opened his mouth to answer, then frowned and closed it again. "IóI donít know if I have one," he admitted.

John frowned and pulled Rodney into a hug.

"Though if you include Atlantis, it would be our room," Rodney murmured.

"Weíll be back there soon," John reminded him before admitting, "and it canít be soon enough for me."

"Same here," Rodney nodded, starting them walking again. "So I suppose I should get this over with so we can get the rest of the crap the SGC and IOA want us to do done and go home."

"We have a lot of re-staffing to do," John said, sobering as he remembered all the people theyíd lost.

Seeing his expression, Rodney squeezed his hand. "It wonít be the same anymore."

"No, weíll have support now... and paperwork," John groaned.

"Oh lovely, but at least youíll have a staff to help you with it."

"True, but theyíll actually expect all the rules to be enforced now," John grumbled. "Even the idiotic ones. Well, like you said, weíll have staff."

"And honestly, weíre still a galaxy away; itís not as if they can do spot checks." They made a few more turns and reached an office section. "And here we are..."

"Do you want me to wait outside?"

"What I want and what we have to do are two entirely different thingsóhow about I take you back to the waiting room so you donít get lost? This shouldnít take long." Unsaid was ĎI hopeí.

"Okay, but only if I get a kiss first."

"Do you even have to ask?"

"Not kissing yet." John smirked at him.

"We arenít in the waiting room yet, are we?" Rodney asked with a hint of his familiar smirk, making John chuckle.

"So lead on, McKay."

"Yes sir, Major," Rodney retorted, letting go of Johnís hand to slide his arm around his waist as he led John back through the Center to where they had begun the tour.

"Well, here we are."

"So reward me for being good and go do what you have to so we can enjoy the rest of the day. We donít have to be back at the base till tomorrow morning."

Rodney shook his head but pulled John in for a long deep kiss. "Better?"

"Itíll do for now." John sat down and picked up a magazine that was months out of date but still new to him.

"See you soon," Rodney murmured before turning and walking back into the warren of rooms.

"Rodney. Itís good to see you again." Dr. Michaels smiled at him, but the brown eyes remained watchful. "For a time, I didnít think we would."

"Actually, if I had my way, I wouldnít be here now, but I am, so sign away on whatever release you need to get me out of here and back to where I belong."

"You know perfectly well we need to run some tests, Rodney. And we have a new batch of guides here whom you should meet."

"Why?" Rodney asked flatly. "I donít need a guide; I think Iíve proven I can function without one."

Michaels stared at him, his sharp features conveying his shock. "Certainly youíve managed to function remarkably well, Rodney, but youíre a sentinel. You need a guide."

"Be that as it may, I may need one, but I donít want one, not any longer," Rodney snapped. "Talk to Carson; I havenít had a serious problem in months, and even then it was just once."

Dr. Michaels frowned, leaning forward in his chair. "Thatís very unusual, Rodney. And why exactly do you suddenly not want a guide?"

"Becauseóbecause one would be too much work," Rodney finally sputtered.

The doctor regarded him narrowly. "Weíll get back to that after the tests."

"Blood or sensory first?" Rodney sighed.

"Blood," Michaels replied, hoping to get some answers out of Rodney as he conducted the tests. "Have there been any major changes?" he asked as he came around the desk, kit in hand.

"To my blood? How would I know?!"

Michaels regarded him balefully. "Thatís not what I meant and you know it! To your senses or to you in general, Rodney."

"As I said," Rodney replied stiffly, "I donít seem to be having nearly as much trouble with zoning out as I had been."

"And I would like to know why." The doctor quickly filled three test tubes in succession and withdrew the needle from Rodneyís arm, placing cotton over the puncture and telling Rodney to apply pressure.

After doing as he was instructed, Rodney shrugged. "I have no idea. You should talk to Carson; he might have more insight into it than I."

Michaels eyed him curiously before checking the tiny puncture wound and placing a Band-Aid on it. "And you havenít met any new guides who might be helping you?"

"I was in another... place that didnít have any; how could I meet any new guides!" Rodney protested. "Look, Iím in a relationship with someone I like and who likes me; thatís why I donít really care if I find one, all right?"

The doctor looked shocked before he schooled his features back into professional neutrality. "Youíre in a relationship?" he repeated, disbelief coloring his tone. "With Col. Carter?" he guessed.

"Not in a million years," Rodney said flatly. "Withósomeone I work with."

"Thatís good; thatís very good," Michaels said, still sounding surprised.

"Iím thrilled you think so; can we get on with this because heís waiting for me, and Iíd really rather not have him subjected to the horror you people call a waiting room for any longer than necessary. I believe sensory level testing is next?" Rodney asked, prodding the doctor on.

"Of course, of course." The doctor got back to business, putting Rodney through the familiar tests, and it wasnít long before they were once again sitting on either side of Dr. Michaelsí desk while he perused the results, making occasional sounds of interest while Rodney drummed his fingertips on the desk, finally growling before speaking.

"Are you done yet, because I really do have better things to be doing than sitting here listening to you getting off on my test results and how bad they are."

"Actually, Rodney, theyíre extraordinarily good, the best youíve ever had." Michaels looked up at Rodney, his brown eyes intent on the sentinel. "I think your friend should join us."

"Why?" Rodney asked, drawing out the word as he studied Dr. Michaels, keying in on his heart rate and the minute flickers in his eyes.

"Iíd rather not say yet," the doctor replied firmly. "What did you say his name was?"

"I didnít," Rodney said slowly. "Itís John Sheppard, but heís not a guide if thatís what youíre thinking; he was tested and turned up normal."

"Mm hmm." Dr. Michaels entered the name into the Centerís global database, wondering if the man might have been a borderline case. Seconds passed and he started to frown as the search went on longer than usual. Finally, a negative result popped up, and the doctorís frown deepened. "Spell his name for me."

"You know what, this is ridiculous," Rodney snarled, getting to his feet and slamming the chair back against the wall. "Iím fine, John is fine, and Iím leaving."

"Rodney, there is no record of a John Sheppard over the age of eight or under the age of sixty-five having been tested anywhere," Dr. Michaels stated. "And since I doubt youíre in a relationship with either of those two, I think we need to get Mr. Sheppard back here."

"Itís Maj. Sheppard," Rodney mumbled, his eyes widening as he realized what Michaels was inferring. "No. Nonononono." He spun in place and threw the door open, preparing to race into the hall only to come face to face with Samantha Carter, her sudden appearance sending his already stressed senses into overload.

"Rodney..." Sam frowned when he didnít respond. "Rodney? Oh my God, not another zone out," she exclaimed in annoyance, gaining an angry look from the doctor for her reaction.

After drawing Rodney back into the office and getting him seated, Michaels called the receptionist and asked to speak to Maj. Sheppard, a conversation that had John escorted to his office.

The moment John saw the office door, he broke into a run, pushing past his escort and then shouldering a blonde woman out of his way without a second thought. "Rodney! Címon, buddy, focus for me," he urged worriedly.

"Itís not going to work; nothing does when heís like this," Sam began before Michaels placed a hand on her arm, quieting her as he watched the majorís actions with intense concentration.

"Címon, Rodney, snap out of it, or I wonít buy you dinner," John said, staring intently into the unfocused blue eyes.

"How can you pay for dinner; you donít have your wallet?" Rodney asked before realizing where they were and blanching.

John smirked, holding tightly to one of Rodneyís hands. "I knew the illogic of that would get you."

"Oh haha." Rodney grumbled. "And youíre supposed to be in the waiting room!"

"You zoned out," Sam commented, her tone implying Ďagainí.

John looked over his shoulder, the skin around his eyes tightening when he finally realized who she was. "Col. Carter," he greeted coldly, not letting go of Rodneyís hand.

"You seem to have the advantage," she said just as coolly.

"Maj. Sheppard, we need to talk," Dr. Michaels interjected before John could reply.

"No, we need to leave!" Rodney said quickly.

John looked from one to the other, frowning. "Rodney, it sounds like this is important," he said slowly, searching the blue eyes.

"It is," Michaels jumped in. "Thereís no record of you ever being tested, Major."

"Tested for what?" John asked, baffled.

"Being a guide," Dr. Michaels explained though Rodney tried to drown him out with his assertions that they really needed to leave now.

"You, a guide? Oh please," Sam laughed.

John gave her a very unfriendly look. "What difference does it make at this point? Rodneyís right, we need to go." He carefully kept his face expressionless, not yet letting himself think about Rodneyís very obvious dismay.

"Iím sorry, Maj. Sheppard, but itís crucial you remain here and get tested."

Johnís gaze hardened as he looked at the doctor, and his smile was very cold. "Are you planning to keep me here if I want to leave?"

"No, you wonít." Rodneyís voice was a feral snarl, and he pushed John behind himself, positioning them so that John could get to the door.

"Rodney," Dr. Michaels said carefully, watching both men, "no one wants to hurt you. We just want to find out the truth," he said, appealing to Rodneyís scientific curiosity.

John stood silently behind Rodney, one hand on the doorknob, and waited for his decision. He wanted to find out but not if it affected Rodney this badly.

Fine tremors ran through Rodneyís body, but he finally nodded, though he still kept himself between John and Sam.

"Patrick, you canít be suggesting that he might be Rodneyís guide!" Sam exclaimed.

Dr. Michaels regarded her evenly. "You did notice that he was able to pull Rodney out of a zone out almost immediately? However, whether he is or not is something Iíll find out now that theyíve agreed to the tests... in private." He stared at Sam, clearly waiting for her to leave.

"And no matter what, youíre not getting anywhere near him," John told her, sliding an arm around Rodneyís waist and pressing up against his back.

"Iíve been there, and I have to tell you it wasnít that interesting," she said snidely.

"Col. Carter, Iíd suggest you leave now," Dr. Michaels said quickly.

"In that case, I feel sorry for whoever you end up with, because you clearly suck in bed," John snapped right back.

"Careful, Major," Carter said furiously, but John just continued to glare until she left the room.

"I hate that fucking bitch," Rodney snarled.

Johnís arms tightened around him. "I can see why."

"Perhaps youíd like to sit down?" Dr. Michaels suggested.

"What Iíd like to do is leave, but... fine." Rodney sighed, closing his hand over Johnís as he led him over to the seats across from Dr. Michaelís desk.

"So what do you need from me?" John asked, still trying to wrap his mind around the idea that he hadnít been tested, despite what his father had told him.

"Itís actually very simple; a blood test will give us the answers we need."

John shrugged. "Okay."

Once the doctor had gone to have the blood tested, leaving the two men alone in his office, John turned to Rodney, looking at him searchingly. "Why donít you want me to be a guide, Rodney?"

"I didnít say that!" Rodney protested.

"Not in so many words, but you were ready to jump out a window to get me out of here before the doctor could tell us what he thought." John hesitated. "Is it too much for you, being stuck with me for life?" he asked slowly. Rodney had seemed happy with him, but after the sentinelís reaction earlier, he had to ask.

"What? No! Itís not that at all!" Rodney protested.

"Well, then what is it?"

Rodney bit his lip and looked away. "If you are, that means..."

John waited, knowing that if he interrupted now, he might never find out what was really bothering Rodney.

Rodney sighed and looked down at their hands. "It was nice, thinking someone wanted me for me and vice versa, better than finding a guide even."

John stared at him, dumbfounded, and then smacked the back of Rodneyís head.

"OW! What was that for?!" Rodney demanded, glaring at him.

"Even I know that that not all sentinel-guide pairs are lovers," John growled. "And that was for thinking I donít actually love you, you idiot!"

"I donít think that!" Rodney protested before wincing. "All right, maybe part of me does. Itísóitís too perfect, and perfect things never happen to me."

"Rodney, Iím about as far from perfect as itís possible to get," John replied wryly. "What it means, if itís true, is that I donít have to worry about some damn guide stealing you away from me."

"And I donít want any old damn guide; I want you."

"Youíve got me," John reminded him. "This would just mean that they wouldnít keep shoving new guides at you, and we could relax."

"And tell Sam to fuck off," Rodney added with a small smile.

"I think I pretty much already did."

Rodney pulled him closer at that and kissed him. "It was damn hot too."

"Want me to flex my muscles for you too?"

"Do you want me to jump you here?"

John licked his lips. "I wouldnít mind, but the doctor might."

Rodney was silent for a moment before nodding. "It can wait."

"Till we get to our room tonight. Then... jump away." John grinned at Rodney, his hazel eyes heavy-lidded and dark with promise.

"I plan on it." Rodney was so tightly focused on John that he didnít hear the door open.

"Congratulations, Major, youíre a guide," Dr. Michaels announced as he came back into the office and shut the door behind him.

John immediately looked at Rodney for his reaction.

"Heís a guide?" Rodney asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Heís a guide. And judging by what Iíve seen today, your guide."

"My guide," Rodney repeated.

"My sentinel," John said gleefully, making Dr. Michaels smother a smile and Rodney turn to stare at him.

"My guide. John, youíre my guide."

"And nobody can ever separate us now, which means they canít ever send either of us back," John said, sagging in his chair with relief at the realization that the SGC had to let him go back to Atlantis now.

"My guide," Rodney said again before sliding out of his chair, landing on his knees on the floor, and lunging for John, burying his face in the crook of the other manís neck and breathing deeply, finally accepting the truth of the fact that the strange mintiness of Johnís scent meant home to him, safety and security and the need to protect.

John wrapped his arms around Rodney, willing to hold him as long as Rodney wanted. "Love you," he whispered, earning a mumbled response and nod in answer.

"Once heís paying attention again, weíll have to talk about scheduling training for you both," Dr. Michaels said quietly.

John looked up, frowning. "Weíre stationed pretty far away, Doc. Canít Dr. Beckett take care of that?"

"He can handle some of it, but having never been paired himself, there is only so much he can do for you." Michaels smiled slightly as Rodney finally straightened up and turned around though he kept a death-hold on his guide. "Three days of full time training or a week of part-time and I can let you go but not before then."

"We donít have a week," John groaned. "Rodney, three days?" He knew Elizabeth and the SGC werenít going to be happy about this.

"Weíll stay," Rodney said firmly. "Iíll call Elizabeth and explain."

"No one can complain about training for a newly bonded pair," Dr. Michaels said. "Theyíll just have to wait a few days for you."

"So much for our plans for tonight," John grumbled under his breath.

"Three days starting tomorrow," Rodney stated, daring anyone to contradict him.

Michaels started to argue, took another look at the two stubborn expressions facing him, and gave in gracefully. "First thing in the morning."

"Weíll be here, Doc," John said, getting to his feet, Rodney moving with him, staying in constant contact with him.

"Iíll schedule your first session for nine a.m."

John nodded, moving himself and Rodney toward the exit. "See you then, Doc."

~ CHAPTER 16 ~

Once they were outside, Rodney took a deep breath and pulled John into a tight hug.

"You want to call Elizabeth or find us a room?"

"Both, but letís get the room first so we can be comfortable while talking to Elizabeth, not to mention having some privacy."

"We need a cab then."

John nodded. "Guess weíd better call one unless youíd like to walk for a bit."

"Actually, thatís a good idea; I need to get the smell of that place out of my nose."

"So we walk for a while," John replied easily, keeping an arm around Rodneyís waist. "This has been a day of surprises."

"Thatís an understatement," Rodney snorted. "I canít believe I had no idea..."

"I canít believe my father lied," John said in a hard tone.

"Thatís not your fault," Rodney assured him, stroking his side as they walked. "How would you know?"

"I know itís not my fault. I still want to kick his ass though!"

"Not arguing thatócan I join you?"

John laughed. "Sure. But I think Iíll do it verbally and by phone; Iím not wasting our time to go visit him."

"Good point," Rodney nodded. "Between training and all we have to do at the SGC, thereís barely going to be any time for anything else."

"And what time we do have should be saved for us, not him."

"Carsonís going to laugh at us."

John groaned. "Theyíre all going to laugh at us."

"Lovelyóbut you know what? I donít care."

"Me neither, Iím just glad itís true."

"Me too." They reached the end of the long driveway, and Rodney looked up and down the street. "Any particular way you want to go?"

John shrugged. "The oceanís that-a-way, isnít it?"

Rodney paused, his eyes going unfocused as he filtered through the noises and smells of the city to find those of the ocean. "The other way," he murmured.

"Of course it is," John sighed, veering in the direction Rodney indicated. "How Ďbout we get a room with an ocean view?"

"As long as we find one that has good room service as well."

"Mmm, dinner and breakfast in bed. I like it."

"Unless we pass out from exhaustion on the walk there," Rodney chuckled.

"Weíll call a cab soon if we donít see one passing by," John assured him. "We have much better uses for our energy."

"Do you want to go to the ocean first or find a hotel?"

"Letís find a hotel on the ocean. Iím used to balconies looking out over the water."

"Good point," Rodney nodded. "So, should we call that cab now?"

John grinned and pulled the cell phone out of his pocket, dialing information and ordering a cab to come pick them up, and in short order they were walking into the lobby of a five-star hotel.

"Weíd like a room for the night," Rodney announced to the woman at the desk.

"Do you have a reservation?" she asked, and John leaned against the marble counter.

"No, but weíd really like a room overlooking the ocean," he said, flirting shamelessly.

"Iím not sure if we have one available with such short notice..." she said hesitantly, visibly wilting under Rodneyís scowl.

"Maybe the penthouse or a suite?" John suggested with a charming smile as he elbowed Rodney, knowing that a yearís back pay would cover it, not to mention that he knew Rodney was more than well off.

She looked away quickly, a thick lock of dark hair falling over her face as she entered commands into the computer. "We do have one of the beach houses open..."

"Weíll take it," Rodney ordered.

"Thatís perfect, thanks. Weíll need it for four nights." John moved slightly to the side so that Rodney could get up to the desk and hand over his credit card.

"Do you have any luggage?" the clerk asked almost timidly.

"íFraid not," John replied cheerfully. "We werenít planning to stay in town." He accepted the envelope with the two card keys that she handed over and gave her another smile before he and Rodney followed the directions that took them out of the back of hotel and down a path bordered by palm trees to the beach house.

"You were flirting with her," Rodney said mildly.

"Just to get us a room," John replied. "Honey and vinegar, Rodney. Besides, you know youíre the one I want and the one whoís going to be sharing that nice big bed with me."

"I know." Rodney paused and tilted his head to the side as he considered what heíd just said. "I do know it. Itís funny; I would have thought I would be rabid if you even talked to anyone, but... Iím not."

"Itís called trust," John replied easily. "This is it for us, and we both know it."

Rodney looked over at him at that and grinned crookedly. "I knew that before; I suppose I just couldnít believe it."

"Weíre making progress." John drew him closer then stopped as the path curved and they got a look at where they would be staying. "Thatís what they call a beach house? Damn! Can we take it back with us?"

"I donít think it will fit through the gate," Rodney murmured as he took in the serene vista of a small, airy looking bungalow surrounded by a wide porch. A netted hammock hung in one corner, and several comfortable looking chairs clustered opposite around a fire bowl.

"Weíre going to have to come back here when we get leave on Earth," John said, continuing down the path to the door and opening it so they could go inside.

"Weíll book in advanceóand bring luggage," Rodney promised him, nodding in pleasure as he looked around the interior, taking in the soothing colors and comfortable furniture.

"Sounds like a plan," John agreed. "Every year at this time? Wraith permitting, of course."

"Celebrate our anniversary?"

"Exactly." John suddenly pulled Rodney into his arms for a hard hug. "I never have to worry about someone taking you away, and I donít have to feel guilty for hoping it doesnít happen."

Rodney nodded against his shoulder before pulling back enough to stare into Johnís eyes. "I didnít want it to happen either, and it wonít. My guide, my John." The last was whispered as he pulled John in for a lingering kiss. Johnís lips curved into a smile even as he returned the kiss, his hands lightly petting Rodneyís back as they both reveled in the knowledge that they were bonded.

"I think we need to find the bed before we drop and go for it right here," Rodney mumbled into Johnís mouth.

"You really are a genius," John said, pulling back enough to look around and then steer Rodney down the hallway toward the big bedroom at the back of the house.

"Damn rightóoh fuck!"

"What?" John asked, stopping dead and tensing as he looked around for the threat.

"We donít have any luggage, and I donít know about you, but I didnít bring anything with me, considering I thought I was going to be spending the day being poked and prodded at the Center!"

John grinned and reached into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small tube of lube. "Iíve learned to be prepared."

Rodney eyed the tube, one corner of his mouth quirking up in a grin. "That is not going to last us three days."

"No, but itíll last us till morning when we have to go out anyways," John retorted with an answering grin.

Rodney eyed the tube again. "If weíre creative."

"I know how you like a challenge."

In answer, Rodney plucked the tube from Johnís hand and nudged him toward the bed. Grinning, John started stripping, leaving a trail of clothes across the room, finally pulling the covers down to sprawl naked against the white cotton sheets.

Rodneyís eyes dilated until the blue was only a thin ring around his pupils, and he yanked at his own clothes, tossing them haphazardly around the room as he stalked toward the bed, his every move predatory. John only urged him on, sprawling back against the pillows, his dog tags glinting against his chest, and lazily stroking himself while staring up at Rodney.

Rodney knocked his hand away and dropped down to nuzzle Johnís groin, his hot breath ghosting over his erection, making John shudder and his hips rise in search of more contact while his fingers combed through Rodneyís fine hair.

"Mine," Rodney whispered before mouthing the head of Johnís cock, groaning as a droplet of precome hit his tongue.

"Yes," John rasped. "And youíre mine." The wet heat of Rodneyís mouth on his cock made him gasp, his eyes falling half shut though he fought the urge to close them in order to watch Rodney.

"Mmmhmm." Rodneyís voice sounded dreamy as he slowly worked his way over and around Johnís groin, mapping the veins along his length.

"God, Rodney," John panted, squirming on the bed. "So fucking good, love your mouth."

Rodney sighed in response and took Johnís length into his mouth, groaning at the flavor then sucking him in.

John started to tug him around so that he could taste Rodney as well but then decided heíd rather get fucked and instead grabbed handfuls of the bedding as he rocked deeper into Rodneyís mouth, Rodneyís throat relaxing as his hands gripped Johnís hips, urging him to thrust.

"Fuck," John gasped, slowly pushing forward, fucking Rodneyís mouth while looking down into the blue eyes. Rodney shifted his weight enough to slide a hand between Johnís thighs and stroked his balls, all the while swallowing, wanting to taste Johnís essence, something that he didnít have to wait long for as he hit every button John had. Soon, John was gasping out his name while his body arched in a rictus of pleasure, and he came down Rodneyís throat.

Once John was limp and whimpering, Rodney pulled off, licking his lips as he crawled up Johnís body to kiss him. John tasted himself in Rodneyís mouth, making him twitch even though his cock was down for a while. When Rodney drew back slightly, John demanded, "Fuck me."

"Oh yes, I plan on it," Rodney breathed, nipping at Johnís lower lip before pushing up to his knees and stroking his hands down his guideís chest.

"Mmm, now would be good," John urged, looking up at Rodney and licking his lips as he tried to catch his breath.

"Now?" Rodney purred, taking the lube and slicking up his fingers before pressing one into Johnís ass.

"Yesóoh fuckónow!" John squirmed on Rodneyís finger, and he crooked it before pulling it back to add another. "Jesus, Rodney," John groaned, suddenly rearing up to pull Rodney into another hot, dirty kiss.

"Now," Rodney whispered into his mouth, managing to stroke some lube on his cock, then push forward, hissing out a breath as he was surrounded by tight heat.

"Yess," John hissed, his back arching as he was slowly filled, the sensation making him clench down and wrenching groans from both of them. "So fucking good," he panted, gradually relaxing again to let Rodney go deeper.

Rodney moaned, the sound reverberating through his whole body as he held himself still, connected to John as deeply as possible, staring down at him, beyond words, lost in sensation but with no fear of being overwhelmed.

"Perfect," John murmured, meeting the bright blue gaze and smiling crookedly, the expression on his face drawing another shudder from Rodney as he slowly rocked back, sliding out of Johnís ass a millimeter at a time. John moaned softly, clenching his ass to try to keep Rodney in him, and Rodney smiled as he held still once again, his chest brushing against Johnís as he drew in deep breaths.

"God, are you trying to kill me?" John groaned, raising one hand to cup Rodneyís cheek, his thumb lightly rubbing Rodneyís lower lip.

"Thought... wanted me to stay still," Rodney panted before flicking out his tongue to lick Johnís finger, making John shudder again.

"Maybe if you were in me..."

Rodneyís eyebrows rose as he stared down at John incredulously. "In case you havenít noticed," he grated out, "I am."

"Want all of you," John said, nearly pouting, making Rodney huff out a laugh and kiss him before pushing inward again, his jaw clenching as he held still once again.

"Better?"

"Mmm." John smiled and squirmed lazily, the movement drawing a groan from Rodneyís throat.

"Keep that up and I wonít be able to hold still."

"Moving is good too. Wanna feel you come in me."

"You sure you arenít going to change your mind again?" Rodney panted, the muscles in his arms quivering as he held himself over John.

"I never said I wanted to you stay still, you miserable tease!" John gasped out.

In answer, Rodney pulled back before slamming into Johnís ass, his movements tight and controlled, but powerful. John wrapped his arms and legs around Rodney, meeting each thrust with equal enthusiasm, moaning each time Rodney hit his prostate.

"Mine. Love. Need," Rodney gasped, his thrusts speeding up as he tangled his hands in Johnís hair, pulling his head back and biting at his throat before he shuddered and tensed, then came fully sheathed in Johnís ass.

"Love you," John whispered in response, holding Rodney to him and shivering with sympathetic pleasure as Rodney slowly relaxed and collapsed against him.

"Do you think we could get away with just staying here?" John asked idly, stroking Rodneyís back.

"No. Iím not going back there half-trained."

John stared at him and started to laugh.

"What?" Rodney asked, pulling back to frown down at him.

"You didnít have any trouble with it before today," John pointed out, still snickering.

"Thatís because I didnít have a guide before today!"

John pulled him down into a quick kiss. "So weíll be a good little pair and go to the Center in the morning," he said. "Please tell me itís individual training though? I donít think my ego could stand being in a class with a bunch of kids."

"Weíre in a unique situation, John; I somehow think weíll be in one on one classes," Rodney murmured.

"Good, so we can finish quickly and get back here to do this again."

Rodney sighed and shook his head. "It isnít going to be quick, and it isnít going to be easy."

"Well, weíre a step up since I guess Iíve been doing it for the last year," John pointed out.

"Without knowing what you were doing."

"Donít worry, Iím not going to blow it off; I know itís important," John assured him.

"I didnít think you were!" Rodney said quickly. "Iíve got a lot to learn too."

"Just wanted to make sure you knew I knew that."

In response, Rodney kissed him. "I know it."

"Weíre starting to sound like teenage girls," John chuckled.

"That is not amusing."

"And now you sound like Queen Victoria," John snickered, and Rodney scowled.

"Very funny!"

John kissed him, trying not to chuckle.

"Some first night together," Rodney huffed.

"I think itís perfect," John said, raising his head to kiss Rodney gently. "Itís us."

"Brilliant but slightly warped? Yes, that would be us."

John laughed. "It works for us." He sighed softly when Rodney finally slipped out of him, and the sensation of Rodneyís semen dribbling from his ass made him squirm again, a happy smile curving his lips.

"So, should we order something to eat?" Rodney asked, the sentence split with a yawn as he shifted his weight to get them both comfortable.

"Yeah, Iím hungry, and you need to eat soon," John said. "Iíll bet the room service in this place is great."

"Hmm, I guess that means we need to move and look at the menu."

"Soon. Iím comfortable." John clearly didnít want to move yet. "And I know what I want, a rare steak and a smothered baked potato."

"What?" Rodney chuckled before kissing his shoulder. "No turkey sandwich?"

"Thatís lunch tomorrow."

"Iíll put in your order when we get to the Center." Rodney sighed at that and slowly rolled to his back, stretching out on the bed beside John without losing contact with him.

"What?" John asked, shifting onto his side and making himself comfortable by bending a knee and sliding it between Rodneyís legs and draping an arm over the sentinelís waist.

"What, what?" Rodney asked, tilting his head to the side to look at John, somewhat confused by the question.

"You sighed. Thereís usually a reason for that, and I wondered what that oneís was."

"That was a happy sigh!"

"Oh good." John smiled and leaned in to kiss him lightly. "Just checking."

"Good, because if thereís one thing I am, it isnít upset over anything right now."

"Me too." John traced patterns on Rodneyís ribs, making him squirm slightly but not enough to dislodge John.

"Weíre going to get so much shit when we get back home..."

"And weíre not going to care," John replied. "Jealousy will get them nowhere."

"A very good point," Rodney chuckled.

"I guess itís a good time you accepted my offer to be on my gate team way back when, huh?" John said, sounding smug.

"Yes, you were rightóbut donít expect me to repeat that in public!"

"Iím amazed you managed to get it out in private," John laughed.

Rodney made a face at him before sighing theatrically. "Itís true; a sentinel will do anything for his guide."

"Ha! More like the sentinel has his guide wrapped around his little finger."

"Iíll remember that when youíre forcing me to go jogging!"

"Thatís for your own good. I need you healthy so I donít lose you."

Rodney groaned at that. "Now youíre going to be even more of a mother-hen, arenít you?"

John just beamed at him, but whatever retort Rodney had been about to give was cut off by the ringing of his cell phone. "You get it," he groaned.

John gave him a dirty look before rolling over and fumbling for Rodneyís pants, finally snagging them and retrieving the cell phone. "Rodney McKayís phone," he chirped into it.

"Yeíre a bloody guide!"

"Say hello to Carson for me," Rodney groaned.

"Hi, Carson. Rodney says hi too. And actually, right now Iím a sticky guide."

"I really dinna need ta know that!"

"Then you shouldnít have called to interrupt our honeymoon."

"If I was a cruel man, I would remind you of the fact that I wanted ta test you earlier this year."

"My father told me I had been tested!"

"Which was obviously a falsehood!" Carson exclaimed before chuckling. "I simply called ta congratulate ye both."

"Thanks, Carson." Johnís smile was audible in his voice. He raised an eyebrow at Rodney, silently asking if he wanted to speak to Carson, and Rodney took the phone with a nod.

"Yes?"

"I believe this is where I say I told you so," Carson said.

"All right, so youíve said it; anything else?" Rodney asked, though he was smiling and knew Carson could tell.

"Relax and concentrate on your training; no one expects you back till youíre done."

"So Elizabeth knows?"

"Aye, I let her know as soon as I got the call from the Center."

"Carson..." Rodney was silent for a moment before continuing. "Thank you."

"Iím verra glad for you both."

"So, weíll be back in a few days; donít let Elizabeth make any staff decisions without us."

"Not for your departments," Carson reassured him. "I think I can make my own decisions for the medical staff."

"Weíll see about that," Rodney commented wryly.

"Oh verra funny!"

"It is, isnít it."

"Remember that he gives you your physicals," John suggested, grinning.

"Not even that is going to upset me today," Rodney shrugged before handing the phone back again. "Say goodbye to the doctor, Major."

"Goodbye, doctor," John parroted obediently, hearing Carsonís chuckles as he disconnected. "And since weíve moved now, letís find that room service menu."

"Hrmm, and if we get cleaned up, we can eat it on the porch."

"That sounds good. You call the order in, since you know what I want, and Iíll get the shower started. Weíll have time to clean up before the food gets here." John gave him a quick kiss before getting up and heading into the bathroom.

"Pushy!" Rodney called even as he grabbed the room service menu and picked up the house phone to order.

~ CHAPTER 17 ~

"So do you have any idea whatís involved in this training?" John asked as they stepped through the Center doors the next morning.

"All my training so far has involved how not to get people killed when I zoned out," Rodney shrugged. "No idea how the bonded stuff works."

"So weíll both be learning. Cool."

"You say that now..."

"Canít be worse than OCS," John replied easily. "And I get you out of it."

"Who could ask for more?" Rodney asked as they stopped at the reception desk. "Sentinel McKay and Guide Sheppard to see Dr. Michaels." When the young man turned to call the doctor, Rodney huffed out a low laugh. "Thatís the first time Iíve ever called myself that."

"I like the sound of it," John admitted. "Makes it sound official."

"Yeah," Rodney glanced at him and nodded, "thatís about as official as we can get."

"Well... not quite."

"Not quite? What are you talking about?"

"Thereís one thing that would be... well, maybe not more official, but equally official."

Rodney opened his mouth to ask what that was but was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Michaels, who beamed at them. "Ready to get started, gentlemen?"

"Well, I was," John grumbled, not quite under his breath.

"Ready to get done so we can get back home," Rodney announced.

"And we have a longer trip than you can imagine," John added. "And lots of incentive to get this right, so letís get to it."

"Then if the two of you will follow me, weíll get started."

"I take it back; this was way more exhausting than OCS. That was only physical."

"Too loud," Rodney groaned from where he lay with a pillow over his head.

"Hey, at least he said we were already doing most of what we need to," John said, not moving from where he was slumped in a comfortable chair.

"I still hate limits testing," Rodney grumbled. "And I know I did better than ever before; he told me often enough."

"And now we know that even when you do zone out, I can pull you out of it every time."

"Which we knew anyway." Rodney pulled the pillow off his face and smiled tiredly at John.

"True, but itís comforting to hear it officially."

"Please donít tell me you wonít be happy until we have certificates..."

"Well, maybe a marriage certificate..."

The pillow fell to the floor, and Rodney stared at him. "Yes."

John beamed. "Yes?"

"If that was a proposal which it had better have been otherwise Iíll be lying here feeling like a complete idiot and probably zone out for the rest of my life..."

John dragged himself out of the chair, went over to the bed, sat down on the edge and kissed Rodney. When the babbling had stopped and Rodney was kissing him back, John drew back, smiling. "Yes, that was a marriage proposal."

"And yes that was a yes," Rodney said dreamily.

"We should do it in Atlantis."

"Mmm, I like that idea."

"Thatís our home and where our friends are... Oh, your sister." John frowned. "She should be there."

"Itís not going to happen, so donít worry about it."

John frowned. "We need to go see her."

"When? Besides, she wonít talk to me."

"As soon as weíre done here, and have you tried?"

"Well, no..." Rodney said mutinously.

"Then youíre going to. Though maybe we should bring flak jackets," John mused, considering the possibilities of a clash of McKays.

"And after that, why donít we go see your father?"

John outright froze. "Did your sister disown you, tell you that you were worth nothing and deserved to spend your life in prison?"

Rodney blanched at that and sat up to stare at John. "IímóI didnító"

John sighed. "I know, Iím sorry. You didnít deserve that. Itís possible I might overreact a little when it comes to my father."

"Whereís he stationed?" Rodney asked roughly.

John started to answer, then paused and shook his head. "No, youíre not going to do whatever it is youíre plotting. Heís not worth the effort. But thank you."

"Why?" Rodney demanded. "He hurt you; he should pay."

John chuckled faintly. "Because Iíd rather have you in Atlantis with me, not in prison. And heís not worth wasting what little free time we have on."

Rodney frowned but finally nodded.

"And if you donít want to go see your sister, I wonít push it... but sheís going to be mad as well when you finally do and she finds out you didnít even tell her about your wedding."

"Iíll think about it, all right?"

John nodded and kissed him before stretching out beside Rodney on the bed, one arm around Rodneyís waist, the other man lying still before breathing deeply and relaxing against him.

"Sorry," he finally murmured.

John shook his head. "No need. You had no way to know because I never told you."

"I should have known because you didnít talk about him."

John raised his head, looking at Rodney. "I donít talk about Shamu either, but I donít have a problem with him."

"Well, yes, but..."

"Donít worry about it," John said, his fingers lightly petting Rodney. "Heís not a part of our lives."

"Why are you comforting me about this? I think it should be the other way around."

"Um... itís a guide thing?"

"So thatís what they taught you today when we werenít together?" Rodney asked, sounding somewhat amused now.

"Care and Feeding of Sentinels 101," John agreed, starting to smile, and Rodney indelicately smothered a snort of laughter.

"Was it you and twenty teenagers?"

"Pretty much, but that was just for today. The next two days will be one-on-one for me since weíre unique." John looked amused. "I donít think theyíre quite sure what to do with us."

Rodney nodded at that and caught Johnís hand, rubbing his thumb over the back of his knuckles. "Thatís always been the case with me, but I canít say it isnít fun, turning them on their heads."

"Iím shocked," John said dryly before chuckling. "But I know what you mean. They were so sure they knew everything, and then along we came, breaking all the rules."

"We are good at that, arenít we?"

"Itís our special skill." John grinned.

"One of them." Rodney countered.

"We donít share the other one."

Rodney sighed in a world-weary way. "I meant my brains and your flyingóand brains."

"Oh, those. But theyíre not nearly as much fun."

"But theyíre all the public gets to see," Rodney growled.

"Isnít that what I said?" John chuckled, kissing him.

"Possibly."

"Arenít you too tired to be difficult?" John demanded.

Rodneyís eyebrows rose as he snorted. "Youíve known me for a year and been sleeping with me for most of that time, Major; what do you think?"

"Youíll be difficult about going into your coffin."

"If itís not with you, of course I will be," Rodney sniffed.

"Good thing weíre likely to go together then."

"Death from an over-abundance of sex at an advanced age."

"I like the way you think, Dr. McKay. Even if weíre both too exhausted to do anything about that right now."

Rodney nodded even as he pulled John closer, sighing blissfully as they settled together. "This is good too though, right?"

"Better than good," John murmured, his head on Rodneyís shoulder. "Itís the best part of the day."

Rodney nodded again and kissed Johnís temple. "Definitely."

John smiled, rubbing his cheek against Rodneyís shoulder. "Weíre being sappy again, arenít we?"

"Ask me if I care."

"I care." John paused before continuing, "I like it."

"Yeah," Rodney murmured, kissing him again, "I do too, but we wonít tell anyone."

"No, it wouldnít do much to instill fear and awe in our minions, especially not mine," John chuckled.

"So weíll keep it between the two of us."

John nodded. "Nap before dinner?" he suggested, already sounding half asleep.

Rodney nodded a final time and closed his eyes, relaxed and at peace.

"Iíd say that I hoped this would be less tiring than yesterday," John said as he and Rodney walked up to the Centerís doors on the morning of their second day of training, "but since today is stress tests, I really doubt it will be."

"Weíre going to be half-dead when we go back to Colorado," Rodney groaned.

"Who needs Wraith?" John muttered wryly, and Rodney hugged him with the arm he had around Johnís waist.

"True, good thing Carson isnít as sadistic as they are here."

"Itís a good thing heís basically a gentle soul." John thought about that as they made their way toward the testing room theyíd been assigned, Rodney tugging him back on course when he started to make a wrong turn. "I wonder if thatís why he never bonded?"

"Because heís too gentle?" Rodney asked incredulously.

"Because most guides tend to be military or police types, inherently violent situations, and heís the opposite. Then again, it could be that he hasnít met a sentinel in need of as much healing as he can offer."

Rodneyís expression turned thoughtful before he nodded. "True. I almost feel guilty; I mean, before we both were alone, and now heís going to see us together..."

"Rodney, Carsonís our friend; heís not going to begrudge us this. Besides, weíve really been together for nearly a year, and heís been encouraging us every step of the way, including trying to make us consider the possibility that I could be your guide when neither of us would listen to him."

"I know that!" Rodney sighed and pushed a hand through his hair in frustration. "I just feel bad because heíd make someone a really good guide, and heís never going to find anyone. Stop, weíre here," he added, pulling John to a halt at a pair of double doors.

"Never say never. Look at us." John regarded the doors for a long moment, squared his shoulders and knocked sharply.

One of the doors was pulled open by a tall, muscular man with piercing blue eyes and close-cropped hair. "McKay and Sheppard?" he asked sharply.

"We already know who we are; whoíre you?" John said, not moving an inch.

"Jim Ellison," Rodney supplied, sighing but drawing himself up to glare at the taller man. "Is Sandberg here too?"

Johnís eyes widened as he looked at the man who was practically a legend. "Weíre that bad off that they think we need your help?"

"Not that bad." The other door was pulled open by a short man with dark, curly hair and glasses. "Apparently you two are in need of a crash course, so they called us in."

"Wonderful," Rodney sighed.

"Ah, because we can only stay for two more days," John realized.

"What could be more important than this training?" Jim asked with a frown, and John shrugged.

"Sorry, Detective, youíre not cleared for that information."

Ellison started to comment, but Blair elbowed him in the side. "Chill, Jim, they need training; weíre here to give them that, not an interrogation." He stepped aside and waved a hand toward the gym behind them. "Come on in, gentlemen; do well, and Jimíll buy you each a beer afterward."

"Be still my heart," Rodney snorted as he and John walked inside, his attention split between the new space and the pair behind them.

"Be good, Rodney," John half chuckled. "We need this training, or they wonít let us out of here, and I donít want to see what would happen then."

"No bloodshed, man," Blair called.

"Can we just get started?" Rodney sighed.

"That would probably be best," Jim agreed. "And we might as well be comfortable," he said, sitting down in one of comfortable chairs clustered at one end of the large room. After a moment, John shrugged again and followed suit.

"I thought we were going to train, not have some counseling session," Rodney protested, standing behind John, his hand on the other manís shoulder.

"He sounds like you," Blair laughed.

"We are going to train, but being comfortable will let you concentrate on your senses without distraction," Jim said. "So sit!"

Johnís eyes narrowed. "I donít give a fuck if youíre the greatest sentinel in history," he growled. "Rodneyís not a dog!"

Rodney glowered at the other sentinel, and Blair quickly moved to the middle of the space, holding out his hands. "Okay, chill, everyone. Jim, apologize to John and Rodney." When the sentinel looked mutinous, he glared back. "Jim...."

"Sorry," Jim bit out, and John had to laugh.

"God, youíre as bad as Rodney."

"Excuse me?"

John grinned over his shoulder at his sentinel. "For grouchiness. And youíre not going to try to deny youíre the king of it, I hope."

Even Jim had to laugh at that, having heard the stories about McKay, and Rodney tried to maintain his glower as he flopped down in the chair next to John. "Of course I am," he muttered as Blair snickered and sat down next to Jim.

"All right, weíre here to see how the two of you are going to do in stressful situations."

John burst into laughter. "Oh, you have no idea," he snorted when he could speak again.

"Iím sure you think youíve faced stress," Jim started.

Rodney glanced at John and smiled wryly. "I really wish he was cleared to hear what we have faced."

"Tell me about it," John replied. "Hmm, he was black ops. Maybe he is."

"He is right here," Jim pointed out, frowning.

"Easy, Jimbo," Blair murmured. "So tell us what you can."

"Suffice to say that in the past year both the major and I have been in quite a few deadly situations."

"Iím sure it seemedó"

"Okay, Iím sure you were a real tough guy in the Rangers," John interrupted, "but there are lots of things out there you know nothing about, Det. Ellison. When Rodney says deadly, he means deadly. Iíve had to write a lot of letters to next of kin, and frankly itís a miracle weíre both still alive."

Meeting the hazel eyes, Jim frowned. "What the hell are you two into?"

"And if it helps, a Gen. OíNeill spoke to us and said we were cleared to hear about things involving the SGC," Blair interrupted.

Rodney glanced at John at that, weighing what he could say about the past year. "We were in a place where I was doing advanced research under very hostile conditions. A lot of people who went with us didnít come backómilitary and civilian alike."

"A few days ago I flew a ship loaded with a nuclear weapon at an enemy. The enemy was destroyed; I survived through a series of circumstances no one would ever believe," John added, gaining shocked looks from both Ellison and Sandberg, who both noted his use of the word ship rather than plane.

"Nuclear war?" Jim said, stunned.

"Nowhere that most people will ever hear about."

"But how?" Blair asked.

"It wasnít anywhere youíve ever heard of," Rodney repeated flatly, flinching at the reminder of how close John had come to death.

"SGC stands for Stargate Command," John said.

"You canít be implying what I think you are," Jim said, staring at him.

"He can and he is, and OíNeill or not, thatís all weíre saying on the subject."

"Other than the fact that stress, on a biblical scale, is a normal day for us," John added. "So letís not worry about that and just get on with this."

Jim frowned but finally nodded. "Weíll start with one sense at a time. McKay, youíre going to have to dial it up, when we tell you, until thatís all the input you get. We need to increase how much you can handle and work on Sheppard being able to pull you out of it."

Rodney started to protest but pressed his lips together and nodded while Blair looked at John. "And you need to let him go, Major. I know itís hard, but this is to test his limits, and if you jump in too soon, we wonít find them." He smiled wryly at that. "Trust me, I know how hard it is to let them go."

Johnís frown was darker than Jimís had been, but he finally nodded. "Just keep in mind that if something happens to him, Iím going to hold you responsible," he growled at Jim.

"You sure youíre the guide?" Jim asked, amused despite himself.

"Yes, he is," Rodney snapped, "my guide!"

John smirked. "You seem to forget about the part where Iím a major. And youíre missing a piece of information too. That base we mentioned? Iím the senior officer, and we were cut off and on our own for nearly a year."

Jimís eyes widened slightly, and then he nodded. "Gotcha."

"Done playing whose is bigger now?" Blair asked, looking over at his sentinel, his eyebrows raised. "Because I donít think this is getting anything productive done."

Jim and John both nodded. "Okay, weíll be good now," John said, reaching over to take Rodneyís hand.

"Iím sorry, John, but no touching for now," Blair commented, and Rodney sighed as he squeezed Johnís hand, then let it go.

"All right, letís get this over with; whatís first or is it a surprise?"

"Weíll start with one of the easy ones. Sight or sound, whichever you prefer," Jim replied.

"Sound," Rodney decided after a momentís consideration.

"All right. John, Iím going to trust you to hold back."

John nodded, his expression unhappy.

Jim pulled out an iPod and handed the headset to Rodney. "Concentrate on the music. I have it at normal volume now."

Rodney glanced down at the device, then over at the other sentinel. "Fine, fine." He set the earbuds in his ears and leaned back in the chair then sat upright again. "Youíre making me listen to country music?!" he squawked.

"Thatís not country; itís Johnny Cash," Jim informed him, making John beam at him.

"Wonderful, two of you," Rodney sighed, and Blair snickered.

"I agree; now concentrate on it." Rodney opened his eyes long enough to glower at him before concentrating again, closing everything out except the music.

Jim slowly decreased the volume, watching Rodney carefully to see when he lost himself in his sense of hearing, Blair leaning forward as well, his attention more on John, watching his reactions to Rodneyísóor Rodneyís lack of reaction as more and more of his attention was focused on the faint sounds in his ears.

John gritted his teeth, fighting his instinct to draw Rodneyís attention from the sense that was close to overwhelming him while Rodney drew more and more into himself as he listened to the ever quieter music.

Jim exchanged glances with Blair, surprised that Rodney had remained aware so long, and Blair shrugged a shoulder before nodding at John to tell him to bring Rodney back. John immediately reached over and caught hold of Rodneyís hand.

"Rodney, I need you to pay attention to me now."

It took a moment, but Rodney opened his eyes and looked over at him. "No more walking the line, okay?"

"Hey, no promises when it comes to the Man in Black," John laughed, and Rodney resisted the temptation to stick his tongue out at him.

"Nice work, guys," Blair commented with a grin.

John grinned back. "Like I keep telling everyone, weíve been doing this stuff for a while; we just didnít know it."

"And I still want to call your father and tell him what I think of him," Rodney muttered.

"Send an email," John advised. "íCause I donít want to see him."

"What part of vision is involved in calling?" Rodney protested before Blair interrupted.

"Uh, guys? Back on task here?"

"Slave driver," John muttered, and Jim hid a grin.

"Sight next, I think."

"See that sign at the far end of the room?" Blair asked, and at Rodneyís nod, he continued. "Read it."

"It isnít bad poetry, is it?"

"Roses are red, violets are blue, youíre my sentinel, and I love you."

Jim groaned at Johnís impromptu recitation, and Blair snickered. "What? You want me to do the same?"

"I know I donít!" Rodney exclaimed before beginning to read the lines on the chart, lines that gradually got smaller and smaller, drawing his focus inward.

John watched, still not happy about this but more relaxed after the ease with which heíd pulled Rodney back in the first test.

Rodneyís smooth recitation stuttered to a stop, and he sat there, staring at the far wall.

John tensed and leaned forward, his eyes darting to Blair, who nodded. "Thereís a picture near the end; thatís probably what got him."

John caught hold of Rodneyís hand again. "Wakey, wakey."

"Violin, itís a violin," he murmured before frowning. "Why is there a violin in the middle of a sentence about economics?"

"To test you, of course," Jim replied.

"It doesnít make any sense," Rodney muttered.

"Neither do a lot of things youíll encounter."

"You should be used to that by now," John observed.

"Good point."

"I think theyíre going to be all right," Blair murmured to Jim.

"I think youíre right."

Rodney turned his gaze to them at that. "Do the rest of the tests."

"Oh, we will," Jim assured him, "but itís pretty much a formality now. Youíre doing great."

"Good, then you can buy us those beers when weíre done."

"I think we can manage that." Jim leaned back. "Touch next if youíre ready."

"Depends what I get to touch."

"Not John," Blair laughed.

"Weíll save that for tonight," John promised Rodney, making him laugh.

"Damn right we will; now show me what Iím allowed to touch."

Jim pulled out a board that had fabric stuck on it, starting with a heavily textured one and gradually growing smoother until the texture was almost imperceptible.

"You know, this is making me really nervous as to the taste part of this experiment..."

"Personally, Iím more worried about smell," John muttered. "Pepe Le Pew has never been a friend of mine."

Rodney shuddered in answer and reached for the board.

~ CHAPTER 18 ~

"Iím nervous. Why am I so nervous?" Rodney demanded.

"Because you love your cat," John said soothingly, a little freaked when the door opened and a dark-haired woman peered out, exactly as she had in the mist dream all those months ago.

"IóIím Rodney McKay if you donít remember. You have my cat," Rodney stated, lifting his chin in challenge.

"Oh, yes, the guy next door," she said slowly. "Itís been quite some timeó" She was interrupted when there was a sudden meow and the door was pushed open to the length of the chain. Mole shot through, leaping into Rodneyís arms, again exactly as he had in Rodney and Johnís shared dream.

John smiled. "Thank you for looking after him for Rodney, but heíll be coming home with us now."

"O-of course.í She closed the door for a moment and unlatched the chain. "Why donít you two come in while I get his things." She sighed even as she smiled. "Iíll miss him."

"Iím sure heíll miss you too," Rodney murmured, though he was busy petting and nuzzling his loudly purring cat.

"Heís obviously glad to see you," she said before leaving the room to gather the catís things.

"I thought you said he didnít like women?" John asked quietly. "Or was it more that he just doesnít like Col. Carter?"

"I think the feeling was mutual, though how anyone could not like him, I donít know." Rodney unwound himself from around his cat enough to hold Mole out to John. "Want to pet him?"

John crouched down next to them. "Hi, Mole." He raised a hand slowly, making sure to do it from the side Mole could see, and lightly petted him, smiling at the sensation of the soft fur under his hand. "Nice to meet you again."

The bedraggled black cat purred in response, rubbing his head against Johnís hand, his claws coming out as he kneaded Rodneyís thigh. "Iíd say he likes you," Rodney grinned.

"Ouch." John eyed the claws puncturing Rodneyís leg wryly. "Iíd hate to imagine the results if he didnít," he said, but he was grinning. "Welcome to the family, Mole. Hmm, weíre going to have to tag him."

"Ouch?" Rodney asked before glancing down and shrugging wryly. "You really are good for my control, Major; I must have dialed it down because I knew he was going to do thatóand yes, some kind of tag so we know where he is would be good."

"Yeah, itís a big... base." John grinned when Mole rolled to his back, exposing his belly. "No wonder you two get along so well; heís just as demanding as you are."

"We know what we want," Rodney grinned, glancing toward the doorway to the kitchen seconds before his neighbor walked through it, carrying bags full of cat toys and food. "You know, the shelter usually has a lot of cats..." he offered, seeing her melancholy expression.

"Yes, youíre right, of course." She smiled faintly. "And Iím sure one of them could use a good home." Her smile grew as she took in Mole sprawled on his back, happily purring as they both petted him. "I can see heís going back where he belongs."

Rodney quirked a crooked grin as he looked down at the cat, then up again. "Thank you. For looking after him, I mean. It was very nice of you."

"I enjoyed it." She glanced at John. "Iíd be happy to help out any way I can if you need anything else."

Rodneyís eyes narrowed at that, and he stiffened. "Oh, I havenít introduced you to my guide, Maj. John Sheppard."

"Pleased to meet you," John said, looking up briefly from the purring cat.

"Joanne Rollins, nice to meet you too," she said wryly, realizing she had no chance with the handsome man.

"Ready to go?" John asked Rodney without even noticing the byplay.

"Yes, we need to check my apartment, then get back to the base," Rodney nodded, unable to keep from smirking slightly as he stood, his arms full of purring cat and his guide at his side.

"It was good to see you again," Joanne said politely, handing the bags over to John, who thanked her briefly before they left.

"She wanted you," Rodney commented idly as they walked up the stairs to his old apartment. "But thatís fine because she canít have youóor Mole."

"Huh? She what?" John looked back over his shoulder. "Youíre nuts."

"Iím a sentinel; I know these things," Rodney sniffed. "She wanted you."

"If you say so." John shrugged. "Doesnít matter, since I want you."

"Exactly, but not in front of the cat."

John stared at him and then burst into laughter. "I donít think heís going to care."

"Tonight he might; I think he wants us to himself."

"Good point. I guess we can be good for one night." John shifted all the bags to one hand and reached over to pet Mole, who purred more loudly at the touch.

"Plus, who says I canít pet both you and him at the same time?" Rodney glanced over at him and grinned. "Now, you want to get my keys out so we can go inside?"

"Greedy, I like it," John said before reaching into the front pocket of Rodneyís jeans, purposely fumbling around before retrieving the keys.

"Thereís a shock," Rodney chuckled, squirming slightly.

"Come on, letís get you two inside and fed," John said, unlocking the door and pushing it open for Rodney.

"You planning on stealing my wallet again this time?"

"I did like being a kept man..."

"Ahh, you only want me for my money, and my senses," Rodney laughed. "Fine, pizza it is."

"John?" Elizabeth stepped out into the hall from Gen. Landryís office. "Could you join us in here please?"

John looked at Rodney questioningly. "Did we do anything?"

"In the whatótwo hours weíve been back? I donít think so." Rodney tensed as he looked at Elizabeth, at the same time stepping slightly in front of John, who looked half exasperated, half amused.

"I think youíll like this," Elizabeth said, stepping back into the office where Gen. Landry and Gen. OíNeill were waiting.

John shrugged and stepped around Rodney to follow her, looking surprised when he saw the two generals while Rodney studied them closely, all his senses heightened as he tried to discern what was going on.

"Welcome back, Maj. Sheppard, Dr. McKay," Gen. Landry said genially.

"Thank you, sir," John said, frowning as he tried to figure out why they were getting a personal greeting.

Jack OíNeill stepped forward. "Maj. Sheppard."

His tone made John snap to attention.

"Is there a problem?" Rodney demanded.

"Only if the major declines his promotion," Gen. Landry commented.

Johnís jaw dropped. "Promotion?"

"Yup," OíNeill said, standing in front of him and handing over his new insignia. "Congratulations, Col. Sheppard."

"Colonel? Heís promoted?" Rodney asked, looking at Elizabeth for confirmation and slowly smiling when she nodded.

"And confirmed as the senior military officer for Atlantis," Jack added. "You inspire a lot of loyalty, Sheppard."

Johnís eyes shot to Elizabeth, who smiled. "Thereís no one else Iíd rather have working with me, John."

"I guess thatís a good thing since now that Rodney and I are bonded, youíre stuck with me in some capacity or other."

"We will have to discuss how your duties will be affected by your position as Dr. McKayís guide," Landry cautioned.

"Weíve been surviving for the past year without a problem," Rodney interjected.

"And keeping everyone else alive as well," Elizabeth said. "Atlantis wouldnít have survived without both of them."

"Then itís a good thing youíre all going back together, isnít it?" Jack said dryly.

"Did I miss it?" Carson huffed, bursting into the office.

"íFraid so, "John replied, "but you can be the first one we invite to our wedding."

"Wedding?" Carson and Elizabeth chorused, causing Rodney to sigh and shake his head.

"Yes, wedding, is that so hard to believe?"

"He said yes," John said, beaming.

"As if I wouldnít have!"

John took a step toward Rodney, and Jack barked, "Ah! Freeze, Sheppard! I am not watching you two play tonsil hockey!"

"Sentinel-guide bond outranks military protocol, General," Carson chuckled when Rodney grabbed John and pulled him in for a kiss. "Especially for the newly bonded."

Jack groaned. "Does everything around here have to be nuts? Good luck, General," he said to Landry, who chuckled.

"Iíd say it was a good thing theyíre going to be in another galaxy."

"Trying to get rid of us?" John chuckled, surfacing from the kiss with swollen lips and heavy-lidded eyes.

"Before the two of you make use of the conference table," Jack snorted.

"Not going to happen," Rodney snapped, glaring at him.

"Too hard and not enough privacy," John added, making everyone burst into laughter.

"If thatís all thatís stopping you, Iím going to put a ceremonial guard in the conference room," Elizabeth said dryly.

"And Iíll be putting them on the examination rooms!" Carson exclaimed.

"We have our own room!" John exclaimed indignantly.

"And we use it!" Rodney added.

"In fact, weíre going to go use our room here," John added brightly. "Youíre all invited to the wedding. Itíll be in Atlantis. See ya!"

"That was a quick promotion," Rodney commented.

John grinned and stopped tugging him toward the door. "I guess Rodney wants the ceremony," he said, handing his new insignia back to Jack.

"Damn right I do!" Rodney announced. "Itís not every day a manís, err, man gets promoted to colonel! Carson, did you bring a camera?"

"Of course!" Carson exclaimed, taking the opportunity to snap a picture.

"More proof that everyone around here is nuts," Jack muttered.

"Youíre one to talk, General," Rodney sniffed.

Jack grinned. "Why do you think I stuck around so long?"

"Shall we continue?" Landry asked almost desperately.

"Iím standing here, waiting," John pointed out, smiling almost beatifically.

"Yes, you military people are exceedingly slow!"

"Ye hae no sense of the moment, Rodney," Carson sighed.

All of them turned to stare when Sam Carter came through the still open door and stopped in her tracks, looking around in confusion. "Sir?"

"Is there something you need, Colonel?" Landry asked as Rodney moved closer to John, his eyes narrowed.

"I wanted to update you on my progress," Sam said, her eyes on McKay and Sheppard. "Whatís going on here?"

"Itís private," John said, glaring at her.

"I warned you, Major," she started, only to be interrupted by Jack.

"Actually, itís lieutenant colonel now."

"And itís private as it deals with the Atlantis expedition, something that you are not a part of, Col. Carter," Elizabeth said calmly though she took a step forward to block Rodney, who was audibly snarling as he glared at the blonde.

"We can discuss your project tomorrow, Col. Carter," Landry added, stepping forward and subtly backing her toward the door.

John had a hand on Rodneyís arm, trying to calm both of them.

"Of course, General," she nodded, shooting the new pair a smirk before leaving the room.

"And she wonders why she hasnít found someone to bond with," Rodney growled.

"What the hell does she think she has to be superior about?" John wondered, staring after the departing colonel until Gen. Landry shut the door, making sure no one else would interrupt.

"Nothing, nothing at all."

"Donít let it ruin your moment, John," Elizabeth counseled.

"I have Rodney, Atlantis and a promotion; nothing could do that," John said with a slight shrug.

"Good grasp of priorities," Jack said. "Now then..."

"At least now I know why we were told to dress up this morning," John muttered to Rodney. "I thought it was a bit much for interviewing new expedition members."

Jack smirked as he reached for Johnís collar, removing the majorís gold oak leaves and replacing them with the silver oak leaves of a lieutenant colonel. Once done, he took a step back and saluted the new colonel, who couldnít hold back a huge smile as he returned his superiorís salute.

"Congratulations, Col. Sheppard," Jack said.

"Thank you, sir."

Rodney waited impatiently until Gen. Landry had added his congratulations then grabbed John and pulled him in for a thorough kiss. "You deserved this," he murmured before stepping back and cracking a sardonic grin. "Just donít let it go to your head."

"Iím sure none of you will let that happen," John replied wryly, glancing from Rodney to Carson and Elizabeth, who stepped forward to hug him.

"Itís fer yer own good, lad," Carson chuckled. "Though ye certainly deserve it, if nothing else than for keeping Rodney under control."

"Hey!" Rodney protested, leveling a glare at the doctor.

"Ainít that the truth," Jack agreed fervently while John tried not to laugh at Rodneyís outrage.

"You two make an excellent team," Elizabeth said quickly to forestall any outburst the annoyed sentinel might have made.

"I know," John replied simply, smiling at Rodney, who finally grinned back before giving him a one-armed hug.

"So?" he asked, looking around, "isnít there supposed to be cake at these things?"

Landry winced. "As the next most senior officer, I asked Col. Carter to take care of that. We have lemon cake."

John growled, instantly furious, and Rodney sighed. "Of course she did."

"That bitch," John bit out, and the generals glanced at each other and ignored the comment.

"Why donít we all go out for dinner?" Elizabeth suggested. "Thereís a really good steak house in Colorado Springs."

"Thatís a lovely idea," Carson agreed quickly.

"After I have a discussion with Col. Carter," Rodney said flatly.

"But Iím hungry," John said, trying to distract him.

"And Iím pissed."

"You canít shoot her!" John exclaimed.

"I donít want to." Rodney now appeared calm and collected, but a bright spark was burning at the back of his eyes. Watching him, John winced slightly.

"If you go see her, Iím going with you," he said emphatically.

"Iím not going to shoot her!" Rodney protested.

"Then thereís no reason why I canít go with you," John replied stubbornly.

"I donít want her near you!"

"And I donít want her near you," John retorted, both of them ignoring their audience.

"Iím not sure I want either of the two of you near her," Jack commented wryly, making John flush and dart a glance at him.

"Couldnít you send her to Siberia?"

"Col. Carter is our lead scientist," Gen. Landry began, only to be cut off by Rodney.

"And a member of SG-1. Yes, yes, Iíve heard that song and dance before."

"And Rodney is our lead scientist and a member of Atlantisí first contact team," John snapped.

"We know how good Rodney is," Elizabeth said soothingly, trying to calm the others.

"We need to go home," John growled, moving closer to Rodney.

"Once we finish selecting new expedition members," Elizabeth said. "Another week or two."

"A week. One week," Rodney said firmly.

"Then donít terrorize the applicants you interview so much that they all run away," Elizabeth told him. "We will fill our vacancies before we go back. ZPM on both sides or not, weíre not having weekly trips back and forth."

"You hear her, Carson? Donít terrorize your applicants."

Everyone stared at Rodney before bursting into laughter.

Feeling tired but strangely happy after his and Johnís training session with Lts. Cadman and Lindstrom, another sentinel-guide pair working at the SGC who were slated for Atlantis, Rodney was walking back toward the office heíd been given for their stay at the SGC, intent on checking his email to see which of the applicants heíd selected had arrived when his steps stuttered to a halt in the hallway as he smelled a familiar scent.

"She had better not be there," he growled to himself, stalking forward and pulling his door open to find Sam Carter seated at his desk.

"Well, hello, Rodney," Sam said, leaning back in the chair and smiling at him.

"Goodbye, Col. Carter," he said flatly.

"Now is that any way to greet a friend?" she asked archly.

"We were never friends, Samantha."

"Do you always fuck people you donít consider friends, Rodney? Not that you were very good at it," she added reflectively, her blue eyes sharp as they focused on Rodneyís face.

"Perhaps thatís because you always wanted to wear a strap-on," he shot back coolly. "And no, we were never friends; I was mistakenly infatuated with you for a time, but there was never any friendship involved."

Sam stiffened and stood up. "You donít really think itís going to work out with a military officer, even one like Sheppard, do you?"

"He loves meóhe loved me even before we knew he was my guide, two things you could never manage."

"Youíre a fool," Sam snapped, moving around the desk. "Donít come crawling back to me when you realize it."

"Youíd just love it if that happened, wouldnít you?" he growled. "Just so you know, Dr. Carter, I had my fill of that when we were together, and I am never doing that again; the thought of it makes me ill. Now if youíll excuse me, I have work to doóand if you wonít excuse me, get your ass out of here anyway."

Shocked by Rodney standing up to her, something heíd never done before when they were alone, Sam was left speechless, and after a moment she shrugged, trying to seem superior, and left.

"And stay out!" Rodney yelled after her, watching the door for a moment before settling himself at his desk, a small, smug smile quirking his lips.

~ CHAPTER 19 ~

"I feel a strange sense of deja vu," Rodney murmured, looking around the gateroom, which was crowded with people and supplies. "At least this time we wonít walk into a city on the verge of collapseówe hope..." He frowned at the last.

"Iím sure itís survived without us for two weeks," John said, trying not to laugh. "Iím still trying to absorb the fact that Iím officially the senior officer, with the SGCís full support."

"Yes, well, donít get too full of yourself," Rodney sniffed, though he was smiling as he spoke. "And donít forget youíre my guide as well; Iíd say that was even more important."

"Iím shocked by your priorities."

"Are you saying they arenít yours?"

"Hmm, letís see, are you my top priority?" John pretended to think about it for a moment. "Do you even need to ask?"

Rodney grinned in answer and pulled John in for a quick kiss that had Carson chuckling as he walked past them.

"So, ready to go home?" John asked, looking around again, seeing all the unfamiliar faces who were about to become part of their formerly closed group.

"Definitely, though I still think it was a plot that they sent SG-1 off-world for this last week."

John only smiled, equally sure of that and very grateful to Gen. Landry for making it happen. "Iíll make it up to you."

"How?"

"Iíll let you think about that." John smirked. "It should inspire you to get back to our room tonight."

"Why do you think I wouldnít be going back there?" Rodney asked.

"Huh? Of course you will be. I meant it should inspire you to pry yourself out of the lab and get back before midnight."

"Are you implying that Iíd rather be in the lab than with you?" Rodney asked incredulously though there was a gleam of laughter in his eyes.

"No, Iím saying that some days it practically takes dynamite to get you out of the lab."

"And Iím sure that will happen again, just not tonight," Rodney promised, looking up to the control room impatiently. "Besides, Mole would bite me if I didnít come home tonight."

Seeing the expression, Gen. Landry, who was there to see them off, turned away to hide his smile as he ordered Walter to dial Atlantis.

"Good," John murmured. "I have plans for tonight. And the only one biting you is going to be me."

"Oh really? I think I like that idea," Rodney chuckled, beaming when the gate opened and Elizabeth walked to the head of the ramp.

"Ladies and gentlemen, itís time to travel to Atlantis."

John grinned at Rodney. "Weíre going home." He looked around. "With a lot of people who arenít going to Atlantis without a way out. Letís hope they can handle what they find."

Elizabeth caught their eyes, and John and Rodney moved to join her, the three of them walking up the ramp and through the gate side by side, emerging in Atlantis to a round of applause from the staff that had remained.

"Radek!" Rodney called. "Tell me you havenít destroyed my city!"

"You are standing in the city, arenít you?" Radek snapped back, but the blue eyes were smiling behind the Czechís glasses.

"Welcome home," Teyla said, coming down the steps to greet her friends.

"Itís good to be back," Elizabeth agreed. "Additional supplies and equipment will be arriving on the Daedalus, which is being assigned to the Pegasus Galaxy for the duration of our stay here," she announced. The ability to fly to locations without gates in a ship that had Asgard beaming technology was going to be very useful.

"And so ye all know, it seems that Rodney has found a guide at long last," Carson said loudly, causing the man in question to glower at him even as he flushed.

Everyone whoíd remained behind in Atlantis froze, then turned as one to stare to John, only to be surprised again by his beaming expression.

"It turns out I wasnít tested when I was younger," John said, "and I am a guide."

Teylaís beam matched his, and she hugged first him, then Rodney, touching foreheads with each of them. "I am so happy for you both."

"Good, now you can control him," Radek announced, surprising all of them by giving both John and Rodney a hard, fast hug.

John laughed. "Have you met him?"

"You are guide; you have ways."

"Excuse me?!" Rodney shrieked, and John immediately quieted him with a kiss.

"See, I knew it," Radek said triumphantly.

"Full report regarding the systems on my desk by the morning," Rodney growled, though he didnít move away from John.

Radek just smirked, having anticipated that request. The report was ready to send when he got back to his computer.

John looked over his shoulder. "Maj. Lorne, get yourself settled in, and weíll meet in the morning to set up the new duty rosters. In the meantime, you should meet Dr. Radek Zelenka, Dr. McKayís second. Radek, this is my new XO, Maj. Evan Lorne."

"Is good to meet you, Major," Radek said with a smile. "I hope you like paperwork."

"Itís an XOís burden," Lorne chuckled.

"And one you should appreciate because Col. Sheppard has more important things to be doing," Rodney said loftily.

"Like planning my wedding to Dr. McKay, which I think should be tomorrow," John interjected.

"Wedding?" Radekís eyes widened behind his glasses, and Rodney smirked.

"Wedding. Youíre invited. Bring a gift."

John rolled his eyes. "We just want all our friends to be there with us."

"With gifts!"

"Thereís not exactly a mall here, Rodney," John pointed out.

"Theyíre here because theyíre creative," Rodney countered.

"Yes, Rodney," John sighed while several people smothered snickers even as they began frantically thinking about gifts, not wanting to incur Rodneyís peculiar form of getting even.

"Good, now Iím going to see what a mess that labs are in. See you in our room?"

"Of course," John replied, turning his attention back to the still incoming personnel. "This looks even more chaotic than when we arrived the first time," he muttered to Elizabeth.

"That would be because it is, though at least all we have to do is get them assigned to quarters and oriented to the city."

"Yeah, no worries about drowning in a flooding city and at least weíve explored enough of the city to know what areas to keep them out of." John watched the new arrivals with a jaundiced eye as several of the Marines took them in hand and started directing traffic.

She nodded and rested a hand on his arm. "Even so, to them itís going to feel almost as stressful as it did to us when we arrived. Go get your staff settled, John, then enjoy the quietóor plan your wedding." She smiled at that.

John grinned. "Rodney and I will show up, and Teyla will say the words.... though I do have to actually ask her yet." He glanced to the side at the smiling Athosian.

"I would be honored."

"And Iíll speak to the kitchen staff ta see about a decent dinner for ye," Carson promised. "Though dinna think that a wedding will get ye out of yer training with me."

"Hardly. I want to make sure I know everything I need to for Rodney."

Carson smiled at that and patted Johnís shoulder. "Ye know most of it, but weíll get the rest into ye."

"I never doubted it, and I hope you know we both appreciate it." John gave Carson the warm smile reserved for his few friends.

"Iím happy for the both of ye," Carson replied with an equally genuine smile. "Itís good ta see ye both happy and settled."

"That sounds so very weird," John mused, "but yeah, we are. And weíre enjoying it. This is home now, and you all are our family."

"We feel the same," Elizabeth nodded before looking over to the far side of the gateroom when a loud bang sounded. "And it seems itís back to work."

"Good." John looked around with deep satisfaction, taking in the chaotic crowds below them, the calm competency of the technicians above, and his friends at his sides, all of them bathed in the sunlight of a star under which none of them had been born but which said home to all of them now.

"Tomorrow at three on the east pier," he said over his shoulder as he headed down to help settle people in.

"See? You didnít have to drag me out of the lab," Rodney announced as he entered their room, sighing in contentment at the sight and smell of everything that said Ďhomeí to him.

"Iím very impressed," John said, looking up from where he was sprawled on the bed, petting Mole, who had taken over his lap. "Try to remember to do the same tomorrow; weíre getting married at three."

"Tomorrow? And Mole had better be invited."

"Yup. Weíre here, everyoneís here; why wait? And of course Moleíll be there. Heís part of the family."

"Tomorrow?" Rodneyís voice rose an octave as he repeated the word.

"Yes, tomorrow. Whatís wrong with tomorrow?"

"Itísóplans, we need to have plans!"

"Rodney, neither of us is a girl. We donít need flowers and frilly dresses. I got your ring before we left Earth. Teyla will perform the ceremony, and Elizabeth, Iím sure, is already printing out a marriage license for us. What could we possibly need to plan?"

"Ióyou got me a ring?" Rodney stayed by the door where heíd stopped, staring at John with wide eyes.

By this time, John was eyeing him somewhat warily. "That usually goes with being married, so yeah, I got you a ring."

"Oh." Rodneyís lips curved into a small smile, and he set down the laptop heíd been carrying to step forward and catch John in a tight hug. "I love you."

"Iím glad to hear it," John said, returning the embrace. "You were starting to worry me for a while there."

"You thought I didnít want to marry you? MajóColonel, have you been breathing toxic fumes?"

"Well, you seemed kind of freaked out about it a minute ago."

"The fact that we have less than twenty-four hours!"

"I donít want to wait," John admitted.

"Okay, tomorrow it is."

John beamed right before kissing Rodney hard only to be caught and held into a longer kiss. "Weíre home," Rodney sighed, nuzzling Johnís neck and breathing in his scent.

"Yup, and I stocked up on mints, including a case coming on the Daedalus since you seem to like me eating them almost as much as I do," John said with a hint of a chuckle.

"Smell like them even without eating them," Rodney muttered, his lips brushing against Johnís neck.

"Just playiní it safe. I wouldnít want you to lose interest."

Rodney pulled back at that to stare at John incredulously. "Did going through the gate scramble your brain?"

"I was kidding," John laughed. "Neither of us is going anywhere."

"Damn right," Rodney grumbled. "And since Iím here now, I think you mentioned plans for tonight?"

"We can practice for our wedding night." John moved them toward the bed and then tumbled Rodney onto it, kneeling over him while starting to undress the scientist.

"You do realize that me leaving Radek in charge again is going to go to his head, donít you?" Rodney asked, even as he twisted to help John strip him.

"Iím sure youíll cut him back down to size in no time." John leaned over to nuzzle Rodneyís belly, momentarily distracted from his goal of undressing him, especially when Rodney squirmed beneath him.

"Ofóof course I will," Rodney gasped, reaching out to stroke his hands over Johnís thighs.

"Itís one of your talents," John murmured, pulling Rodneyís shirt over his head, then turning his attention to the boots, tossing them aside so he could work the sentinelís pants down.

"Want you naked too," Rodney gasped, grabbing at Johnís shirt and trying to get it over his head.

John bent at the waist and raised his arms, allowing Rodney to tug the garment off. He moved a little higher on the bed so he was straddling Rodneyís waist, his belt in easy reach of Rodneyís hands, allowing the sentinel to open first it, then his pants, sliding his fingers inside to tease the head of his cock. John shivered with pleasure and reached for Rodneyís nipples, twisting and tugging the sensitive buds.

Rodney gasped and let out a whimper, his fingers closing convulsively around Johnís cock, his eyes dilating as he inhaled their combined scents.

"I love how you react to me," John whispered, bending again to drag his tongue over one rigid nipple before blowing on the dampened flesh.

Rodney moaned out something unintelligible and rocked upward, his cock sliding between Johnís cheeks as he dragged his thumb over the now damp head of Johnís erection, making John shudder and moan in turn. He squirmed free of his pants, tossing them and his boxers to the floor and resettled himself astride Rodney, completely naked now.

"Watch me," John said in a low, throaty murmur as he coated his fingers with gel and reached behind himself, his eyes falling almost closed and his features tightening with pleasure as his arm flexed.

"Oh, god," Rodney whispered, his hand clenching on Johnís thigh as he reached up with his other hand to stroke Johnís arm, feeling the muscles flex beneath his palm. The touch made John gasp, and he stared down at Rodney while licking his lips, his hips rocking slightly as he prepared himself.

Finally, it was too much for Rodney, and he tugged on Johnís arm until his fingers slipped free. He took a deep breath, his sense of taste spiking so that he could savor the flavor of them even as he flipped them over, rising up on his knees between Johnís legs and slicking himself before slowly pushing inside his guideís body.

"Rodney," John groaned, practically arching off the bed as Rodney filled him, the stretch only making him want more. "Mine."

"Home," Rodney whispered in response, holding himself still, connected with John as intimately as possible, then leaning in to kiss him. John met the kiss eagerly, opening to Rodney and moaning softly as he felt Rodneyís tongue glide over his. His hands moved over Rodneyís back and ass, caressing every inch as John fought the urge to move.

Rodney sighed into the open mouth beneath him, drawing Johnís breath into his body then giving it back in an even more intimate exchange than their current position. Smiling dreamily, he pulled back to look down at John and began to move, taking up an unhurried, even pace.

"You feel perfect," John said softly, his breath catching at the deepest part of Rodneyís stroke.

"You are perfect," Rodney answered, his words barely over a whisper. "For me, youíre perfect."

"Thatís because youíre perfect for me," John replied, raising his head to lick at Rodneyís mouth, the sentinel greedily sucking on his tongue, groaning as Johnís unique flavor exploded over his tastebuds. On a sensory high but feeling in no danger of zoning, he continued to move, angling his thrusts to hit Johnís prostate, feeling his guideís reaction in the shudders that wracked his body.

John whimpered into Rodneyís mouth, trembling on the brink of coming but somehow holding on, wanting this moment to last forever, a sentiment seemingly echoed by Rodney, who kept up his slow, steady rhythm, the only change coming when he released Johnís tongue and followed it back into his mouth with his own.

Johnís hands had settled on Rodneyís ass, and he slowly kneading the firm muscles as Rodney rocked above him, occasionally drifting over to finger Rodneyís hole but never staying long.

"I feel like I could do this all night," Rodney sighed once he pulled back so they could both breathe.

"I think it would kill us, but what a way to go." John smiled a little shakily, his chest heaving as he fought to get a breath even as it hitched with each pulse of pleasure flowing through him.

"No dying," Rodney growled, punctuating the words with a sharp thrust of his hips that made John yell and arch up under him, his fingers digging into Rodney.

"Long, long life. Together."

"Perfect," John repeated, a finger pushing inside Rodney, making him gasp, his rhythm stuttering before he gave up on control and blindly rocked into Johnís body. John met the increased rhythm eagerly, winding his legs around Rodneyís hips to pull him closer.

"Mine, mine, mine," Rodney chanted mindlessly, one hand gripping Johnís ass and the other stroking his face as he stared down at him.

"Yours," John agreed, faint tremors wracking him as the pleasure mounted. "So close," he panted.

"Then come." Rodney rasped.

John stared up at him, his whole body tensing, and on Rodneyís next stroke into him, he yelled wordlessly and came hard, his vision graying at the edges as the pleasure seemed to radiate outward from his center, expanding along his limbs and through his extremities, each one seeming to fill with starbursts of ecstasy.

Rodney dialed up his sense of touch to feel each band of muscle contract around him, then he was coming as well, spending himself deep inside his guideís body. As Rodney slumped over him, John wrapped arms and legs around the sentinel, holding him close, and he practically purred with pleasure as Rodneyís weight pressed him into the mattress.

"Love you," Rodney sighed, nuzzling Johnís throat, nearly purring in pleasure.

"Love you too," John replied. "And Iím marrying you tomorrow."

"Only question is who carries who over the threshold."

"Youíre the sentinel. You carry me."

"You canít shoot the Marines if they laugh at you then."

"Naw, Iíll make Ďem babysit your scientists."

Rodney growled in response, and John chuckled. "Oh, like you donít get your own scary revenge."

"Yes, but I have to do it myself, not by proxy!"

"In the Air Force weíre taught to make the best use of all available resources."

"And at the Center, weíre taught to make the best use of what we have."

"You realize weíre both saying the same thing, right?"

"I meant personally, not in general," Rodney sniffed.

John snorted. "You use the Marines as human shields at every opportunity."

"That was before I had a guide," Rodney said tightly.

"Um, actually, Iím kind of okay with you using anyone as a human shield," John admitted somewhat sheepishly. "I want to celebrate our seventy-fifth wedding anniversary someday."

Rodney relaxed and chuckled at that. "You do realize that weíd have to live to almost a hundred and fifteen for that to happen?"

"And your point would be?"

Rodney opened his mouth, then shut it again. "Nothing."

"Good answer." John kissed him, and Rodney sighed, relaxing on top of him.

"We should have opened the windows."

"In a while. I didnít want to worry about anyone listening to us... and I like smelling us."

Rodney drew in a deep breath and smiled dreamily. "We smell amazing."

"See, everything about us is amazing."

"Not arguing that at all."

"Oh, and for the record, I do realize youíre a fully functioning sentinel now," John said, proving heíd noticed Rodneyís reaction earlier. "And I will be making use of that in the field. Just keep in mind that sentinel or no sentinel youíre still a civilian and mine, so I will protect you."

Rodney scowled at that before sighing. "A long as you remember military or not, youíre mine and Iím going to do whatever it takes to protect youóso weíll just have to find a happy medium."

"Teylaís so going to laugh at us."

"So will Radek, Carson, and Elizabeth. I have you; I can live with it."

John beamed at him. "Me too."

"So, a hundred and fifteen, huh?"

"At least."

"We can do that."

"Iím going to hold you to that."

"While Iíll just hold you," Rodney sighed, settling beside John, stroking a hand over his stomach.

"Maybe a hundred years," John mumbled, smiling as his eyes closed, Rodney stroking his chest until he fell asleep. Once he was sure that John wouldnít wake, he slid from the bed to open the windows, letting in the sound and smell of the waves. That done, he settled back beside John, pulling him close, at peace, body and soul, finally home.

END

 

 

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