Sentinels 101 III
Right Beside Me

By Orithain and Rina

February 2008

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 20 ~ Chapter 21

~ CHAPTER 1 ~

"Wait, wait, wait," Rodney raised a hand to call a halt to the preparations in the jumper. "What do you mean ĎMcKay go with Lorneí?" He, John, Teyla, Lorne and several Marines were on planet P3M-736, chasing down what they hoped was Lt. Ford in an attempt to bring him back to Atlantis and cure him of his Wraith enzyme addiction. Maj. Lorne and Dr. Parrish had found a dead Wraith while searching the planet, and Carson had found that the Wraithís enzyme sack had been removedóa good indication that Ford was there.

Finding Ford was all well and good, but between the ultra-high UV radiation levels the planet boasted and the fact that his guide was suggesting they split up, Rodney was liking the place less and less.

"Sorry, Rodney," John said, drawing him to the side so they could speak quietly. " Lorne may come from the SGC, but heís not used to how integral the scientists are on our teams. I need to get him used to it, and youíre pretty much a trial by fire," he admitted with a wry half smile.

Rodneyís scowl lessened slightly though he still didnít look happy. "Fine, fine, but if anything happens to you because Iím not there, Iím going to strangle you."

"Right back atcha," John told him, pulling Rodney into a quick, hard embrace. "Donít think I like the idea of leaving you with someone I donít know yet, but we both have to get used to it. Itís going to happen sometimes."

"I know," Rodney sighed, catching John again and pulling him in to bury his face against his neck, inhaling deeply. "And I promise not to break him."

"Thatís good. Having an XO will let me have more free time to spend with you."

"Hrmm, good point, now letís go find Ford so we can go home and celebrate. Iíll see if I can play bloodhound near the site."

John couldnít prevent a snicker. "Should I have brought a collar and leash for you?"

"Save your kinky games for the bedroom, Colonel," Rodney sniffed.

"Iíll remind you that you said that." John smirked and then let go and moved over to join Teyla before they split up into two teams.

"All right, Major," Rodney announced, walking over to Lorne, who looked at him warily. "Letís get going."

Lorne bit back a sigh as he wondered again why heíd thought it would be a good idea to come to the Pegasus galaxy. From what heíd seen so far, the SG teams here were even weirder than the ones back home. "No training really prepares you for this, does it?" he mused.

"For chasing an explosives expert hopped up on wraith enzyme around a planet bombarded with excessive amounts of ultraviolet radiation?" Rodney asked dryly. "I canít imagine why."

Lorne chuckled. "Well, when you put it that way..." He looked around. "Can you pick up any kind of trail?"

"Give me a minute." Rodney closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, they were sharp and focused, and he turned in a slow circle, inhaling as he did so. "This way..." he said, pointing into the trees, "itís not fresh, but itís all I can sense."

"Okay, letís follow the trail. Let me know if you pick up anything else." Lorne followed on the sentinelís heels, deciding that so far McKay wasnít anywhere near as bad as Col. Carter had described.

Rodney nodded somewhat distractedly, continuing through the darkness deeper into the jungle-like foliage, freezing when he heard something up ahead.

"Whatís wrong?" Lorne demanded. "Do you hear him? Talk to him, McKay. Ford was your teammate; try to talk him in."

Rodney shot him a glare before turning in a slow circle, trying to spot whatever it was he had seen. "Hey, Ford, itís me, your friend Rodney McKay... Weíre just here to help you, Ford; we want you to come back to Atlantis with us."

"There!" Lorne suddenly took off running, crashing through the foliage in pursuit of the form heíd seen, Rodney chasing after him, only to pull up when Lorne skidded to a halt ahead of him.

"What?" he gasped, trying to tune out his gasping breaths to listen for anyone around them.

Before Lorne could respond, the radio clicked on in time to hear John yelling that Teyla had been shot, followed by the sound of another shot and then resounding silence.

"John? John?!" Rodney shouted frantically, immediately focusing on the faint scent of his guide and starting to run in that direction, only to snarl as he was brought up short by Lorneís hold on his flak jacket.

"We need to be smart about this. Whatever got the colonel and Teyla is going to be waiting for us."

"Ask me if I care," Rodney growled.

"We canít help them if we get captured or killed ourselves."

"He has John!" Rodney fought Lorneís grip for a moment before giving in and glaring at him. "Fine, what do you want to do?"

Before Lorne could reply, he was hit by a Wraith stunner and fell to the ground jut before Ford stepped out of the trees. "Drop the gun, McKay."

"Ford?! What the hell are you doing; heís on our side!"

"Heís fine. Iím fine; weíre all fine. I just need to prove it to the major."

"Because oh yes, shooting people on your side is a great way to prove that!"

"I donít know him." Ford glared at the unconscious man on the ground.

"So you go around shooting everyone you donít know?!" Rodney took a deep breath, trying to calm himself and ignore the way Fordís scent had become infused with the dry, insectile smell of a Wraith. "Aiden, we came here to find you, to bring you back and help you."

"I donít need help; I told you, Iím fine." Ford grinned at Rodney, the expression more of a grimace. "We have to rescue the major and Teyla."

"Actually, heís a lieutenant colonel now," Rodney muttered, searching for a way out of the situation, "and heís my guide."

"Wow, really? Thatís cool. Now letís go." Ford waved his gun toward the jungle, urging Rodney forward.

"You know," Rodney commented, stumbling slightly with the force of the push, "you might let me try to find him."

Ford hesitated. "No, I need to do it, prove to everyone how useful this is." He pushed Rodney forward again.

Teyla groaned as she regained consciousness to find herself tied back to back against John. "Colonel?" she murmured.

"This day really sucks," John said, groaning as he stretched his neck. He stilled when his eyes lit on a very large man with a great deal of hair who was crouching in one corner of the cave where he and Teyla found themselves and who was presumably responsible for them being tied up. "Hi there. Iím John Sheppard. I like football, Ferris wheels and anything that goes faster than two hundred miles per hour."

"And I am Teyla Emmagen," Teyla added. "Col. Sheppard and I are here looking for a friend."

"Colonel?" The manís dark gaze stayed on him for more than a second this time.

"Itís my rank." John watched the stranger, trying to get a sense of what he wanted. "Why did you knock us out and drag us here?"

"Military." The man nodded at that, ignoring the last question. "Specialist Ronon Dex."

"Whatís a specialist?" Johnís eyes narrowed as he asked the question.

"Why do you want to know?" The big man shrugged negligently then cocked his head as if listening to sounds the others couldnít hear.

The movement struck a chord with John, and his eyes widened when he realized why. It was exactly the way Rodney reacted when he was concentrating on his hearing. "Are you listening to something? Something the rest of us canít hear? Are you a sentinel?"

The larger man frowned slightly at the unfamiliar term. "Iím a specialist; thatís what I do."

"Specialist? Is that someone whose senses are far more acute than most peopleís, someone whoís a protector?" John asked while Teyla observed silently.

Rononís eyes narrowed as he turned all of his attention to John. "Yes."

"Such persons are called sentinels where we are from," Teyla said quickly. "Col. Sheppard is a guide; his partner is one of the men we are looking for."

"Guide?" Ronon repeated the word as if tasting it. "A guardian? A specialistís partner?"

"Yes, if I understand you right, you have specialists and guardians; we have sentinels and guides. And Iíd really like to find mine!"

"Thereís someone else out there. Who is he?"

"Thatís Lt. Ford, a friend of ours whoís not quite himself."

"Lt. Ford was being fed upon by a Wraith when it was killed. It overloaded his system with a... drug they produce to keep their victims alive, and it altered him," Teyla explained.

"Huh. I thought heíd just been out in the sun for too long."

John snorted. "Not quite. Look, you need to let us go; I need to find Rodney. And Ford."

"And whatís in it for me?"

Teyla turned to look at him. "You are a runner, are you not?"

Dex nodded at that. "Which is why I need to get off this planet."

Teyla had managed to work her hands free during the conversation, and she freed Johnís hands well. They both moved suddenly and ended up holding guns on the stranger. "Well, Iíd thank you very nicely," John finally said in response to the last comment.

"Not good enough," Dex growled, his gaze moving back and forth between them.

"We do not wish to harm you," Teyla said. "We only wish to find our friends."

"And youíre standing between me and my sentinel," John growled.

Dex looked down at the pack in his hands, then tossed it toward John, firing a shot at Teyla when they both reacted, sending her unconscious to the ground, the flurry of activity ending with him holding his gun on John. "I just want to get to the circle of the Ancestors and get out of here."

"Wait. We have a doctor, one who can get the tracker out of you," John said, remembering the details from the stories about runners that Teyla had told them on long missions. Heíd never believed them to be real, but it was hard to deny the evidence of his own eyes.

"And why should I trust you?"

John shrugged. "What do you have to lose?"

Dex was silent for a moment before finally nodding. "Go get him, but he comes in alone and no weapons. You get it out of me, and Iíll find your man for you."

John nodded and headed for the gate to radio Atlantis, already knowing Carson wasnít going to be happy about this.

"Sir!" Lorne snapped to attention when John appeared at the edge of the clearing around the jumper.

John held up a hand for silence as he radioed Atlantis and informed them of the situation. Once heíd signed off after being informed that Dr. Beckett would arrive as soon as possible, he looked around the clearing. After a moment his eyes narrowed on Lorne. "Major. I seem to recall leaving Dr. McKay in your care," he said carefully, clearly waiting for an explanation.

Lorneís complexion blanched beneath his tan, and he swallowed hard. "We were ambushed by a person I believe was Lt. Ford, sir; he stunned me and took Dr. McKay with him."

"Took him." Johnís hands clenched into fists at his sides. "Are you telling me that you lost my sentinel?!?" The last words were just short of a yell.

"Yes sir." Lorne braced himself for the explosion to come.

"You lost my husband!" Rage fairly crackled around John despite the iron control that was keeping him from attacking his subordinate.

"Yes sir, and I will do everything possible to help get him back."

John continued to glare. "Major, you are not off to a good start," he finally growled before turning back to the gate where Carson should be coming through any moment.

"Tell me about it," Lorne muttered as the gate flared to life and both Carson and several more teams of Marines came through, the doctor visibly jumpy at being off-world.

"Are ye sure Iím going to be able ta help this man?" Carson asked. "If he becomes violent..."

"Teyla will be right there, and Iíll be right there, covering you, while Maj. Lorne finds Rodney!" The last was directed at the hapless major.

"Bloody hell," Carson sighed before squaring his shoulders. "All right, lead on, Colonel."

"No offense, Carson, but make it fast. Rodneyís out there somewhere with Ford. I need to find him."

"Heís all right, lad; youíd know otherwise," Carson promised, patting his shoulder reassuringly as they trekked through the jungle.

"You know what? Iím stopping," Rodney said, doing just that. "You have no idea where youíre going; you wonít listen to me when I tell you that; and weíve been walking in circles for an hour!"

Fordís eyes narrowed. "Youíre trying to trick me!" He raised the gun to target Rodney.

"Why would I be trying to trick you?" Rodneyís voice cracked on the last word. "Thatís my husband out there; why wouldnít I want to find him? Keep it up, Lieutenant, and people will believe you really have cracked up."

"Iím not crazy!" Ford nearly shrieked, advancing on Rodney with the gun raised.

"Youíre right! Not crazy, not at all, now can we go find the colonel and Teyla so we can all go home?"

Ford glared at him for a moment longer before suddenly smiling. "Sure thing, Dr. McKay. Right that way."

"Yes, good idea," Rodney said somewhat shakily as he edged past, trying to concentrate his senses on finding John and ignoring the clearly insane man beside him.

"Just think of Androcles and the lion," John advised Carson as he led the man into the clearing where Teyla and Ronon waited.

"What Iím thinking is Iím going to be squashed like a bug," Carson muttered, taking a firm grip on his equipment cases as he picked his way through the rocks and into the opening in front of the cave where the others waited.

"You do realize that this is hardly the place to be performing surgery," he babbled nervously, focusing on Teyla before looking at the man who was holding her hostage.

"Better than most Iíve seen," Ronon growled before his nostrils flared and his gazed zeroed in on the newcomer, completely ignoring Sheppard and the woman heíd been talking to seconds before. He pushed to his feet and moved toward the doctor, never looking away as he inhaled deeply.

"Ronon Dex, this is Dr. Carson Beckett," Teyla said quickly, frowning as she watched Dex close in on Carson.

"A pleasure," Carson got out before he realized just what Dex was, and he mentally cursed John for leaving out that bit of information.

"Guardian," Ronon said, still maintaining his focus on the blue-eyed man. The word made John, who had been tensing in preparation for whatever Dex might do, relax beside him.

"Ah, yes, did I mention that we now have indisputable proof that there are sentinels in this galaxy, Carson?"

"No, you bloody well didnít!" Carson hissed before turning his full attention on the man before him, feeling something clench deep inside him as he met the feral gaze. "Now then, lad," he said soothingly, "we need ta get that beastie out of ye."

Ignoring that for the moment, Ronon regarded him searchingly. "You have no specialist?"

"Thatís what he calls a sentinel," John said, in case it wasnít clear to Carson.

"No, and why are ye running around without yer guide?

"He is a runner," Teyla explained, relaying what she had learned during her conversation with him before falling silent, realizing neither Carson nor Dex was listening to her.

"My... guide was killed when the Wraith overran my world," Ronon explained, hesitating over the unfamiliar word. "Seven years ago."

"And yeíve been all alone ever since?" Carsonís brow furrowed as he took a step closer to the other man. "Iím sorry for that and that you lost them."

Ronon continued to stare, one large, dark hand rising to come to rest on the guideís arm, Carsonís gaze darting downward to take in the sight of the dirty, scarred hand on his jacket sleeve.

"Are ye going ta let me take care of you, lad?" he asked, pitching his voice low to try and engage more of the sentinelís senses.

Ronon nodded, pulling off his shirt before sitting down on a nearby rock and resting his gun across his lap.

Carson set his case on a large rock and opened it, pulling out a scanner and moving around to Rononís back, sucking in a breath when he saw the scars engraved on his shoulder blade. "What the hell did ye do, try to cut it out yerself?" he asked, reaching out to run his hand over the jagged marks.

"Yes." Ronon shivered very faintly when Carson touched him, and he turned his head slightly to be able to see the other man from the corner of his eye.

Carson Ďtskedí under his breath, his fingers still stroking over Rononís back before he finally realized what he was doing and scanned the broad expanse before him. "Itís right next to yer spinal cord," he said, frowning at the readout. "Iím going ta need ta sedate you ta get it out."

"No. No drugs. Just get it out."

"I donít bloody care how good you think your control is; Iím not going ta be operating near your spine with you conscious!"

"I wonít flinch." Ronon unbent enough to explain somewhat. "Wraith visit this planet, and you have a madman on the loose. I canít afford to be unconscious. Cut it out."

"Oh yes, because youíre going to be so helpful with a great bloody hole in your back," Carson muttered under his breath as he turned to pull the things he would need out of his pack and case. "And we may be doing this your way, but youíre going to listen to me while weíre doing it; I want ye to take yer touch as low as you can go and focus yer hearing on me. Taste and sight can stay normal, but let me know if anything becomes a problem."

Ronon peered over his shoulder at the smaller man. "Youíre bossy." But he did as ordered, finding it easy to concentrate on the unfamiliar but attractive burr of the healerís voice.

"That would be because Iím used to telling guide-less sentinels what ta do," Carson muttered before taking a deep breath, hating the amount of pain he was going to be causing the other man. "All right now, stay still and Iíll get it over as soon as possible." He continued to talk, commenting on anything that came into his head as he began cutting, working quickly and precisely to get the tracker out while doing as little damage as possible to Dex.

Ronon sat absolutely still, only the occasional tightening around his eyes betraying his pain, and John regarded him with admiration even as he flinched as if he was the one being carved open.

"Thereís the beastie," Carson said, his voice having grown raspy from his continual talking. He carefully drew the tracker out of Rononís back and set it aside to begin cleaning and suturing the wound. "Yeíll be needing some bed-rest after this."

Ronon snorted, but the pain must have been too much for him because he passed out before he could reply, and Carson lunged forward to catch him before he could hit the ground. "A little help here would be appreciated," he gasped, glancing over at John and Teyla.

"Arenít guides supposed to be able to handle sentinels?" John said although he did step forward to help Carson. Fortunately, Ronon regained consciousness before they all ended up in a heap on the ground, and he shrugged upright, barely wincing.

"You answer me that question when itís Rodney ye have to drag around if heís unconscious!" Carson glowered, at the same time making sure that Ronon stayed down on the ground with a stern glare.

"Ah, so youíre admitting it." John managed a quick grin despite his worry about Rodney, which was growing every minute his sentinel was missing.

"That youíll have ta drag Rodney around while unconscious at one time or another?" Carson asked, frowning.

"That youíve found your sentinel," John replied bluntly, noticing that Ronon didnít seem surprised by the statement.

"Lovely," Carson huffed, "then heíd bloody well better be listening to me regarding his convalescence."

Ronon was still rolling his eyes when they were all distracted by the sound of yelling, gunfire, the gate activating, and the familiar whirr of darts in the sky. By the time the three Atlanteans turned around again, Ronon was gone.

"Shit!" John yelled, taking off in the direction of the first noises, hoping to find Rodney.

Rodney stared at the two Marines who were lying on the ground, unconscious. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, glaring at Ford. "Thatís it; Iím taking you back to Atlantis now." He pulled the gun Ford had given him and leveled it at the other man.

"Youíre going to shoot me now, McKay?" Ford growled, glaring at him. "Youíre against me too!"

"Iím trying to help you! Youíre sick, Ford!"

"Thereís nothing wrong with me! Iím better now than I ever was!" Ignoring the gun, Ford began to advance on Rodney.

"Stop right there, Lieutenant!" Rodney ordered, firming his stance, then firing off a shot when Ford refused to stop.

"You shot me!" Ford took a step toward Rodney, only to stop when John and Ronon both burst into the clearing from different directions. Ford took one look at the massive stranger and the expression on his former COís face, and he bolted into the jungle with Ronon on his heels. John hesitated, torn between chasing after Ford so they could help him and the nearly overpowering urge to grab hold of Rodney and never let go.

"Who the hell was that?" Rodney demanded, grabbing John and pulling him close only to pull back with a feral snarl. "He touched you!"

"Iím pretty sure heís Carsonís sentinel," John said, giving in to the urge to wrap his arms around Rodney and hug him so tightly he couldnít breathe.

"He touched yóheís Carsonís sentinel?" Rodney pulled back enough to stare at John. "Well, why are we standing here; weíd better save him!"

John was laughing helplessly as they ran after the other two men. "Did you actually see him? I donít think heís ever needed rescuing in his lifeóaside from ĎCarson-clesí removing the thorn earlier."

"Did you hit your head?" Rodney demanded as he tracked the other pair toward a path in the trees.

"Long story. Iíll tell you when we get home. Preferably with Ford."

"Yeah." They broke into a clearing to see Ford fighting the other sentinel, both men slashing at each other with knives. "But that might not be possible."

"Well shit. Ford! At ease, soldier!" John barked, completely ignored by both combatants. "Well, it was worth a shot."

"Ronon!" Carson gasped, finally having caught up to them.

The sound of the guideís voice distracted Ronon for a moment, but that was all Ford needed. He twisted, sending Ronon to the ground, and took off into the trees again, with John and Rodney on his heels.

"Ford! Stop! We just want to help you."

"You donít want to help me; you want to change me, make me the way I was!" Ford screamed, watching as a dartís beam scoured the ground nearby. "Well, Iím not going back; Iíll show you!"

"Ford, donít make me do this." John raised his P-90, the conflict clear in his face.

"You donít care about me; you wish I had died, but Iíll show you!" With that, Ford turned to run, and Rodney raised his gun, shooting him the leg.

"Ford!" John took a single step forward, inhaling sharply when Ford looked back at them and then intentionally dove into the Wraith culling beam.

"John..." Rodney reached out to him, then let his hand drop. "Iím sorry."

"Heís not dead," John said emphatically. "We could still find him again."

"I meant that I shot him," Rodney snapped before turning contrite. "And we will find him."

John nodded before squaring his shoulders. "We need to get Carson and Ronon and get out of here. The Wraith could come back any moment."

"Ronon?" Rodney frowned before he realized who John meant and glanced over to where Carson was haranguing the large, hairy man. "Oh, yeah, and ourselves as well."

John nodded. "Teyla and the others should already be back at the jumpers." A quick radio call confirmed it. "Okay, time to leave." John raised his voice so the other two men could hear him easily, and they both looked over at him. "Iím assuming youíll be coming with us, Ronon?"

Ronon glanced at Carson and simply nodded even as Carson turned his around so that he could examine his back, shaking his head at the bloodstain on his vest.

"And Iíll be taking ye to the infirmary first thing."

Rodney glanced at John at that and gave a crooked smile. "Iím glad youíre not that bossy."

"You donít insist on surgery without anesthesia."

Ronon was eyeing the doctor. "Iím fine."

"No, ye arenít, and donít argue with me about it."

Rodney shook his head as he listened to the other two. "Thatís because Iím not insane."

"And Iím very grateful for that fact," John assured him before interrupting the rather one-sided argument. "Carson, argue about it in the jumper. Now move!"

Ronon growled, moving protectively between Carson and John, who rolled his eyes, while Rodney tried to push in front of him as well, managing a creditable version of a growl himself.

"Och, this is insane!" Carson sighed, resting his hand on Rononís arm to try to calm him. "Letís get back to the city."

"Thatís what I said," John muttered, taking hold of Rodneyís hand as he started back to the jumper, assuming Carson and Ronon would follow them.

~ CHAPTER 2 ~

"All right, lad, sit up here so I can get a look at you," Carson said briskly, motioning to one of the examination tables in the infirmary.

Ronon eyed him askance but chose to follow orders for the moment, sitting down on the edge of the bed and regarding the doctor with raised eyebrows.

"I understand yer not used ta having anyone care for ye, but thatís changing today," Carson said forcefully as he gave the sentinel a critical once-over.

Ronon frowned, stirring uneasily as he was reminded of the last healer he had seen. "How is it youíre not already paired with a specialist?"

"We guidesówhat I believe ye call guardiansóoutnumber sentinels where Iím from; many of us go unpaired." Carson shrugged slightly at that.

Ronon looked shocked. "There are so many of you?"

"Not that many, simply more than can be paired. Now then letís get yer vest off so I can see what damage ye did to yer back." Carson stepped forward at that, waiting to help.

"Itís nothing," Ronon said with a slight shrug, but he allowed the physician to remove the garment, twisting to peer over his own shoulder curiously. "Iím able to fight." Then he realized that for the first time in seven years, he didnít need to run, didnít need to flee the Wraith because they no longer had a way of tracking him. He relaxed almost imperceptibly.

"It is something because I say it is," the doctor corrected, gently removing the blood-soaked bandages and shaking his head at the torn stitches beneath them. "This time yeíre having anesthetic, understand?"

"If you want to get me into bed, there are easier ways," Ronon said, looking amused.

"I mean to fix yer back," Carson said dryly.

"Just like a healer, too busy to take time to relax." But Ronon was relaxing more with each minute that passed, regardless of the wary looks he was garnering from some of the staff.

"So, known many of us, have ye?" Carson asked as he gently began to clean the damaged flesh.

"Melena, my wife, was a healer." Had Carson but known it, that was the first time Melenaís name had passed Rononís lips since the day she died.

"Was she yer guardian also?" Carsonís lips pressed together as he worked.

"No. He was a member of my unit. He died a few hours later in the culling." Ronon was staring straight ahead, but what he was seeing clearly wasnít the walls of Atlantis.

"Iím so sorry," Carson whispered, shaking his head sadly as he continued to work. "To lose them both like that... I know it canít mean much coming from someone ye just met, but I am sorry."

Ronon nodded. "It was a long time ago," he said dismissively, but the expression in the dark eyes gave lie to his indifference.

"That doesnae means it hurts any less. Now then, Iím going ta give you an injection to numb the area around your injuries that should prevent any pain."

Ronon shrugged again. "Donít need it."

"Ye may not need it, but yeíre getting it." With that, Carson injected the drug into Rononís back.

"Stubborn," Ronon muttered. "Not sure if thatís a guardian thing or a healer thing."

"Both, Iíd imagine."

A deep, rumbling laugh briefly filled the room. "Maybe I should just give up now then."

"Aye, that might prove easier," Carson nodded as he began to pick out the torn stitches.

"Except that Iím no good at giving up." Ronon gave an almost feral smile, which Carson missed, being behind him.

"Aye, and Iím just as used ta dealing with stubborn men, so get used to it."

Ronon chuckled again. "This is going to be interesting."

"Why do I have the feeling yeíre going ta have me pulling my hair out?" Carson sighed.

"Not much to there to get hold of," Ronon said with a smirk.

"Fine then, Iíll just yank on yers ta keep ya in line!"

"Good luck with that," Ronon rumbled, still looking amused.

"Ye dinna know Rodney, lad, or you wouldnít say that."

Ronon regarded him curiously. "Rodney. Thatís the noisy specialist who was on the planet today?"

Carson snickered at that. "Yes, that was Rodney, though I suggest ye not say that in front of him or Col. Sheppard."

"Itís the truth." After a momentís hesitation, Ronon asked, "This is the city of the Ancestors, isnít it?"

Carson nodded at that, though Ronon couldnít see him. "Yes, it is, but itís our home now." As he spoke, he began to close the wound in Rononís back.

There was silence for a short time as Ronon considered that fact. "I heard it was destroyed a few months ago."

"Weíd rather most people keep thinking that."

Ronon nodded slowly. "I see. So I stay here or...?"

"Weíll no hold ye prisoner!" Carson exclaimed. "If ye want ta leave, then Iím sure ye canóonce yeíre healed, that is."

Turning to look at Carson over his shoulder, Ronon frowned. "You let people know that the cityís still here, and then you let them leave? You need help with security."

"I dinna think youíll be telling the Wraith that weíre here." Carsonís voice sounded amazingly calm, though his eyes were dark and troubled as he spoke and stitched.

"Youíre very trusting people then."

"Iím sure Dr. Weir will want to speak to you before you leave."

"I donít know about your people, but on Sateda, when a specialist and a guardian bond, they stay together."

"Itís the same way on Earth," Carson commented as he finished closing Rononís injury, set his instruments aside and bandaged the wound. "It didnít seem as if ye wanted to stay."

Now that the healer was done, Ronon turned, caught hold of his arms and pulled him close enough to claim Carsonís mouth in an exploratory kiss that Carson returned with a deep-throated groan before pulling back with a frown. "Butó"

Ronon raised an interrogatory eyebrow, clearly not one to waste words.

"Ye had both a wife and a guide; I suppose I thought that you only preferred women."

"The three of us were very happy together... except when Tyre or I got hurt. Then Melena yelled at both of us." Ronon allowed himself to remember his life before it turned into hell.

"Why do I imagine that happened quite frequently?"

Ronon grinned quickly. "Itís part of being what we are."

"If ye mean contrary, Iím inclined to believe you."

The smile faded into a frown. "Youíre not mission personnel."

Carsonís chin went up at that, and his eyes narrowed. "No, I generally stay here and patch the teams back together when they return."

Ronon nodded slowly. "I managed the last seven years without my guardian with me in battle."

"Oh, so Iím supposed ta like the fact that ye want ta go out and try to kill yerself without me?"

"I would never kill myself," Ronon bit out.

"And what is going into dangerous situations without yer guide?"

"I havenít had a guaróa guide for the last seven years," Ronon pointed out, "and Iím still alive."

"Oh, so Iím next ta useless then, am I?"

Ronon groaned, and Carson frowned. "I think ye need ta lay down; if ye arenít comfortable here, we can find ye quarters."

Ronon stared at him, surprise and the briefest flash of hurt momentarily visible on his face.

"Unless ye prefer ta stay with me."

By now completely confused, as well as being exhausted, Ronon eyed the other man warily. "What do you want? You donít go on missions, but you donít want me to go without you; you want to get rid of me, but then you offer your quarters." He shook his head. "You people are weird."

"Iím sorry I canít read yer mind!" Carson snapped before taking a deep breath. "And I think we need some rest before we continue this conversation."

Ronon nodded slowly. "Yes, sleep would be good."

"All right then, stay here while I get a few things then we can go."

"Do I need to talk to anyone first?" Ronon asked hesitantly. "You mentioned a Dr. Weir?"

Carson shook his head and patted Ronon on the arm. "Rodney and the colonel will take care of that; tonight yeíre under a physicianís care."

"Thank you," Ronon said after a momentís hesitation.

"Now stay here and Iíll be back in a minute."

"My people keep pets that they talk to like that," Ronon said dryly.

"I somehow doubt ye would make a verra good pet," Carson commented with a slight smile. "And Iíll see what I can find as far as a meal for ye."

Rononís whole face lit up, and Carson felt a flash of guilt for not thinking of it earlier. He ducked into the other room to gather pain pills and to speak to one of the nurses about getting a tray for their guest to be delivered to his quarters.

"All right then," he said as he returned. "Our meal is coming, so letís get ye somewhere comfortable."

Ronon got to his feet, shrugging back into his blood-stained vest. "Sounds good."

"Leave that thing off!" Carson said sharply. "I can find ye a shirt here if ye need one, but can ye try ta keep that bloody great hole in yer back clean?"

Ronon took the shirt back off, but he kept it in his hand. "Itíll be fine once itís cleaned and sewn."

"Which can happen tomorrow; at least let me take care of ye fer tonight."

"Iím not sure I remember how to do that," Ronon admitted.

"Then perhaps itís time ta learn how again." Carson held out his hand, tilting his head to the side to look up at him as Ronon slowly reached out and took the offered hand, letting out a long, deep breath as they touched again. He nodded.

"All right then, Iíll get ye ta somewhere a little less sterile, get ye cleaned up and fed, and ye can rest."

"That sounds good." Rononís fingers tightened on Carsonís as they walked down the hall, and he looked around with interest, taking in the sweeping architecture and jewel tones in the many windows. It was beautiful, but... "It must be hard to secure this place; itís so open."

Carson looked at him strangely. "We have ways of keeping out intruders."

"Yeah, I guess the Ancestors planned for that." Ronon scanned his surroundings as they walked, trying to spot the security measures, Carson walking quietly at his side until they reached a transporter.

"This will take us closer to my room," he explained as he led Ronon inside. The Satedan looked surprised when the doors reopened almost immediately onto a different corridor. Ronon followed Carson, glancing at the windows, trying to place where they were in relation to where they had been.

"Weíre in another tower," Carson explained. "The transporters move ye from one section of the city to another."

After a moment, Ronon nodded. "Convenient."

"Aye," Carson nodded, glancing up at the other man. "Ye donít talk much, do ye?"

"I talk when I have something to say."

Carson nodded at that. "Thatís understandable, lad."

"And there hasnít been anyone to talk to for a long time," Ronon admitted, knowing that he used to talk more.

"Itís all right," Carson said, reaching over to pat his arm. "Iíll no badger ye for conversation." They reached a door that slid open at Carsonís approach, and he led Ronon inside.

"Pretty," Ronon said, looking at the pictures of a green, craggy land that were hanging on the walls. "Your home?"

"Aye," Carson nodded. "Thatís Scotland; itís a long way from here."

Ronon thought for a moment. "Never heard of that world."

"Itís nae in this galaxyóitís a verra long story..."

"Not in... All right, that sounds like itís too long for tonight." Ronon eyed the bed hopefully.

"Would ye care ta clean up or just eat and get some rest" There was a knock on the door, and Carson let go of Ronon to go open the door.

"Itís been a long time since I could really relax and get clean."

"Then do that first; the food will keep." Carson turned and pointed toward a door on the other side of the room. "The bath is through there."

"Thanks." Ronon instantly went in the direction Carson indicated, smiling when he saw the bathroom. Barely a moment later he was naked and standing under the hot, pounding water with his hands braced against one wall as he let his head hang down between them.

"Iíll rebandage yer incision once yeíre done if it needs it," Carson called through the door, firmly not thinking about what Ronon must look like in there.

"Itís fine," Ronon called back, just luxuriating in the sensation of clean water sluicing over him and the knowledge that he didnít have to run.

"Itís nae fine until I say it is!"

Ronon laughed, the deep sound echoing off the walls, and Carson had to smile at the sound of it as he set the tray that had been delivered on his desk and looked around the room, trying to see it with foreign eyes.

Eventually, the years of running and grime had been cleansed away as much as one shower could accomplish, and Ronon stepped out, drying off and wrapping a towel around his waist before returning to the main room where Carson was waiting, the doctor gaping at him for a moment before gesturing at the desk. "Thereís food here."

"Looks good." Ronon sat down and began shoveling the food in, clearly hungry.

"The cooks do a good job here," Carson nodded, sitting on the edge of the other chair, clearly planning to let Ronon eat as much as needed before taking any himself.

Ronon nodded, pausing just long enough to push a plate toward Carson before continuing his own meal.

"Eat what ye want, lad," Carson urged. "As ye can see, Iím in no danger of wasting away."

"You need to eat," Ronon replied stubbornly.

"After yeíre done," Carson shot back. "And donít worry, I willnae be like this all the time."

Ronon hesitated a moment longer before nodding slowly and digging back into his meal, Carson nodding and smiling as he watched. Ronon ate quickly, nearly everything disappearing before he sat back, the dark eyes rising to Carson.

"Would ye like something more?"

"Iíd like to see you eat something."

Carson chuckled at that and took the untouched plate, setting it on his lap and beginning to eat.

Ronon nodded with satisfaction before getting up and moving over to the bed. He dropped the towel on the floor and tossed the covers to the end of the bed before stretching out on top of the bottom sheet on the far side of the bed, on his belly with one leg raised slightly, his back to Carson.

"Bloody hell," Carson whispered, wrenching his gaze back to his plate and hurriedly stuffing some food in his mouth.

Ronon rolled to his back and opened his eyes, looking over at Carson. "Something wrong?"

"Nothing at all," Carson got out before coughing as he choked on his mouthful of food.

Ronon half sat up. "Do you need help?"

"Fine, thank you," Carson gasped, clearing his throat. "Dinna trouble yerself."

After watching him closely for a moment longer, Ronon finally nodded and lay back down, rolling to his belly again in what was clearly his preferred position to sleep.

Carson watched him silently until he was sure, then went back to his meal, a slight frown creasing his brow. Finally, he finished and went into the bathroom to change, coming out in flannel pants and a t-shirt. He sat on the edge of the bed and, when Ronon didnít move, slowly settled beside him, thinking the lights off as he pulled the sheet and blanket up and over himself, lying awake for quite some time before he finally fell asleep.

~ CHAPTER 3 ~

Elizabeth Weir eyed her chief scientist and senior military officer askance. "Who was that stranger, and why did you bring him back to Atlantis? We are trying to keep the cityís continued existence secret, gentlemen."

"Thatís Ronon," John replied, slouching further into his chair in Elizabethís office.

"Heís a sentinel," Rodney explained. "Carsonís sentinel."

Elizabethís jaw dropped. "Heís from Earth?"

John shook his head slowly, realizing he hadnít told anyone about the latest development during his quick call to Atlantis earlier, distracted as heíd been by Rodneyís disappearance. "No, heís from a world called Sateda. It seems sentinels arenít unique to Earth after all."

"And heís bonded to Carson," Rodney added again.

"I send you for food, and you trade nuclear weapons. I allow a botanist to go look at plants, and you bring back a feral sentinel and tell me heís bonded to my chief of medecine." Elizabeth pinched the bridge of her nose.

"The Genii were nearly a year ago," John muttered.

"And what were we supposed to do? Leave him there?"

Elizabeth sighed. "Of course not." She looked up as Teyla came in. "What did you think of this newcomer?"

"I believe he would be a good ally in our battle against the Wraith."

Elizabeth frowned, and John jumped in. "Heís apparently a runner, someone whoís immune to Wraith feeding. Theyíve been hunting him from world to world like a cat with a mouse for the last seven years."

"And, hello, bonded to Carson," Rodney repeated.

"Yes, Rodney, Iíve got that, thank you!"

"Aside from all other considerations, Carsonís not going to let him leave," John added. "But heís a warrior, which we need, and... And I need a fourth for my team."

Elizabeth inhaled sharply before nodding slightly. "Thatís true, but this man? You donít know him, and I canít allow Carson to go out on missions with your team."

"Perhaps if he stayed in Atlantis for a time, to allow you to get to know him..." Teyla suggested.

"Heís apparently been functioning without a guide for seven years," John pointed out. "And, well, I could help him out if he needed it. I am a guide." Just saying the words still made him smile.

"My guide!"

"I wasnít offering to get in bed with him!"

"Carson is a fully trained guide; he can handle it!"

"Of course he canówhen theyíre together. But Carson wonít be on missions with us, and while I donít think itíll be an issue or Ronon wouldnít have survived the last few years, if it does become necessary, I can help him."

Rodney grumbled slightly at the thought but nodded.

"It seems that this is a fait accompli then," Elizabeth said, sounding resigned. "I hope this will be good for Carson," she added, finally voicing her real worry.

"If itís not, Rononís going to find himself kicked on his ass," Rodney said dourly.

All three of the others stared at him, obviously picturing Ronon and comparing him to Rodney, but no one commented, though Rodney glowered at them, clearly knowing what they were thinking.

"Now that thatís settled," John said, heaving himself to his feet, "this has been a long and stressful day, and we need to clean up, eat and get some sleep."

"I can imagine," Elizabeth nodded, "But Iíd like to speak to our guest in the morning."

"Good luck getting past Carson," John said with a wry chuckle. "I plan to have a little chat with Maj. Lorne myself," he added darkly.

Elizabethís eyes widened as she remembered the events of the day and the majorís involvement.

"Why?" Rodney asked, frowning at John, who stared at him incredulously.

"What??"

"I believe it is because the major lost you," Teyla said gently, and Rodney frowned.

"He didnít lose me!"

"He was assigned to protect you. He came back alone, and you were captured by a man who tried to shoot you! What would you call it?"

"It was called Ford ambushed us and shot him! You should be glad he isnít dead; then youíd have to do all your paperwork yourself!"

John gave Elizabeth and Teyla a smile that was more a baring of his teeth and caught hold of Rodneyís arm to haul him to the transporter, not wanting an audience for this conversation. "He lost you!" he gritted out. "Heís lucky I didnít feed him to Ronon!"

"Oh, so you think I canít take care of myself?" Rodney snapped. "I shot Ford. Twice!"

"Rodney..." John stopped himself and took a deep breath. "Do you think I can take care of myself?" he asked instead.

Rodney stared at him for a long moment, his eyes and lips both narrowed to tight slits. "Yes," he finally grated out.

"Does that mean youíre not going to be pissed if something happens to me and someone else was around?"

"Fine. Yes, Iíd be pissed. More than pissed, all right?"

"Well, thatís how I feel right now. I love you, you idiot, and he came back without you."

Rodney looked at John, then slowly nodded. "Fine, just donít break him; you need him."

"But I can make his life miserable," John said with a toothy grin.

Rodney eyed him for a moment before grinning crookedly. "Youíre learning."

That made John laugh. "Are you saying Iím turning into you?"

"Are you saying thatís a bad thing?!"

"Naw, I like you, but Iím willing to bet it might lead the Marines and the rest of the military to mutiny," John chuckled.

"Hrmm, my scientists can take it, but your military canít; what does that say about them?" Rodney asked, his eyebrows rising.

"That theyíre sane," John shot back, grinning, causing Rodney to glower at him. "Itís going to be interesting seeing you and our new sentinel go head to head. I wonder if I can sell tickets," John mused.

"Your concern for my possible bodily harm is so touchingóand donít think that Iím not going to let him have it about the fact that he touched you!"

"Just keep in mind that Carson seems to think Ronon needs protection, all evidence to the contrary, and he does your physicals."

Rodney shuddered at the thought. "Great, just great."

"So be nice to Ronon, and all will be well." John pulled Rodney closer as they entered their room, finally relaxing completely in the familiar, comforting space as Mole came over to twine around their legs, purring.

"Iíll be nice to him after we have a discussion about kidnapping and manhandling another personís guide," Rodney grumbled, pulling John into a tight hug and burying his face in the crook of the other manís neck, inhaling deeply to take in his unique scent.

"Sounds like we ought to lock Ronon and Lorne together in a room and let them deal with each other for us."

"Paperwork," Rodney mumbled, not moving.

John grumbled wordlessly while moving them toward the bed, Rodney going willingly, happily snuffling at the base of his neck and stroking his back. John stopped suddenly and started laughing. "I donít think Mole wants to share the bed with us," he got out around chuckles, looking at the cat now sprawled in the middle of the middle of the bed, taking up far more room than something his size should be able to.

"Shoo, Mole," Rodney muttered, lifting his head and waving a hand at the cat who stared at him balefully with his single yellow eye.

"Very effective," John snickered.

"Wall works."

"Good point," John agreed, pushing Rodney against the nearest one, Rodney sighing and relaxing against it, at the same time lifting his head for a kiss, one which John happily gave him while unfastening Rodneyís pants, eager to feel skin against skin.

"Mmm, want you to smell like me, not him," Rodney sighed, arching into the touch of Johnís hand. "Carson should smell like him, not you."

"Then we need to get naked so you can come on me," John said, hiding his smile at Rodneyís slightly loopy state.

"Naked is good, jusí donít throw the clothes on Mole."

"No, I learned that lesson," John said, remembering the yowl the one time he had and the entirely "coincidental" claw marks on his thigh later that night.

"Doní wanna have to choose between the two of you, heíd lose."

"Shh, he doesnít need to know that," John murmured, dropping down to his knees to untie and remove Rodneyís boots and socks, the sentinel moving as if in a daze, a sappy smile on his face as he let John strip him. In a matter of moments, John had Rodney naked and was shedding his own clothes after pressing the lube from his pocket into Rodneyís hand.

"Keep track of that; weíre going to need it."

"Making me think?" Rodney pouted, though he held on to the tube, presenting it proudly to John once he was naked.

"Youíre a genius; you can do it." John grinned, squeezing some into his hand and then pressing a slick finger into Rodneyís ass.

"Brainís off now, no thinking allowed." Rodney spread his legs wider and sighed in pleasure as John stretched him.

"Then feel instead, and see, hear, taste, smell," John whispered throatily, biting at Rodneyís Adamís apple as he added another finger.

Rodney mumbled something unintelligible at that and twisted around so that he was facing the wall, the synthetic material smooth even to his enhanced senses.

"God!" John rasped. Unable to resist the invitation, he gave his cock a quick stroke to coat it with lube, and then he was pressing into Rodney, slowly sliding into the hot, clinging passage.

"Can feel all of you," Rodney whispered, resting his face against his arm and breathing deeply, inhaling their commingled smells.

"Yeah, you too, so good," John replied, pushing farther, wanting to crawl inside the sentinel, Rodney somehow opening wider to take him deeper, their breathing synchronizing even as their movements did.

"Perfect," John rasped. "My sentinel, my husband, mine."

"And mine," Rodney managed to say, pushing back against each of Johnís thrusts.

"Yes." Their rhythm grew faster, each of them panting harshly as they moved together.

"GodóJohnó" Rodney gasped before he shuddered and came, hot liquid splattering the wall in front of him, the spasms of his climax wrenching Johnís from him only moments later.

The two of them collapsed against the wall, their breathing slowly returning to normal. "We need to move Mole," Rodney rasped.

"You move Mole. I got clawed last time."

"Only if you call me your protector," Rodney snorted, pushing back off the wall and turning to kiss John again.

John rolled his eyes. "Youíre nuts."

"You wonít call me your protector?" Rodney pouted.

"Fine, fine, youíre my protector, my crazy jealous, hot, sentinel protector," John said with a faint chuckle.

"Thatís better," Rodney grinned, kissing him again before ducking out of his embrace and walking over to the bed. "Okay, Mole, you need to move," he announced, picking up the cat and setting him down on the floor.

"Favoritism," John grumbled, stretching out on the bed before Mole could reclaim it. "If I try that, he yowls at me."

"Something has to like you more than me," Rodney shrugged, climbing into bed as well.

"As long as you do, weíre good." John rolled over against Rodney, who wrapped his arms around Johnís waist, holding him close.

"Always.".

Sometime during the night, Carson and Ronon gravitated together, rolling to their sides so that Carson was spooned up against Ronon, pressed to his back while Ronon had Carsonís hand tucked under his chin so he inhaled the guideís scent with every breath. When Carson woke, they were in that position, and he smiled slightly before pressing his face against Rononís shoulder and inhaling deeply. The movement woke Ronon, and he smiled as well as he pressed back against the other man.

"Good morning."

"Good morning," Carson murmured. "Did ye sleep well?"

"I think that was my first sound sleep in seven years."

"Good, Iím glad of it.

"It was a pleasant change," Ronon said, completely relaxed for the first time in a very long time.

"Well, ye can hopefully get used ta it here." Carson pushed up onto an elbow to look at Rononís shoulder.

Ronon nodded slowly. "But first I need to find out what happened to my world in the attack."

"Of course," Carson nodded, rolling out of bed and reaching for his radio. "Iíll see what we can do. What are the symbols for yer world?"

Ronon told him, sitting up and looking around for his clothes before remembering heíd left them in the bathroom after washing what he could.

Carson nodded, watching him go into the bathroom before radioing Elizabeth and asking if she would authorize sending a MALP to that address.

"Of course," Elizabeth agreed graciously. "But Carson, then you and I need to talk, and I think I need to meet Mr. Dex."

"Aye, I know. Could ye have breakfast sent to yer office? I dinna think heís had regular meals for years."

Elizabethís frown was audible in her voice. "Of course. Iíll expect you shortly. And Carson? Congratulations."

"Thank ye," he said thoughtfully, turning to look toward the bathroom door when Ronon appeared, fully dressed.

"Let me pull on something, then we can go talk to Dr. Weir. Sheíll see that we try ta contact yer home."

"This Dr. Weir, sheís in charge here?" Ronon asked, remembering the name from the previous day.

"Aye, she is," Carson nodded as he gathered up a clean set of clothes.

"She going to be okay with me being here?" Ronon asked while watching Carson.

"She offered me her congratulations, so I dinna think sheíll be trying ta boot ye out of here." At that Carson ducked into the bathroom to clean up and dress.

Ronon frowned when his guardianóhis guide disappeared into the other room, and he began to wonder if Carson was one of those who didnít care for his own gender. If that was the case, this was going to be very uncomfortable for both of them.

Inside the bathroom, Carson leaned his hands on the sink and took a handful of deep breaths before splashing water on his face, shaving, and dressing, finally emerging with a smile on his face. "All right, shall we see what Elizabeth has found?"

"Yes, itís been so long since Iíve seen my home," Ronon said, remembering the tall buildings and bustling life on Sateda. He was anxious to see how much damage the Wraith attack had done.

"Of course; I imagine yer looking forward ta being able ta go home," Carson said faintly as they left his rooms.

"Kind of hard when you live here," Ronon pointed out. "Weíll work it out."

"Aye, Iím sure weíll figure out something."

Ronon noticed the silence as they exited the transporter and made their way over to the office where a pretty, dark-haired woman was waiting for them, her eyes watchful and cataloging every detail of his appearance.

"Elizabeth, meet Specialist Ronon Dex," Carson said calmly. "Of the planet Sateda. Ronon, this is Dr. Elizabeth Weir, the leader of our expedition."

Ronon nodded respectfully. "Thank you for opening your city to me," he said formally.

Elizabeth looked startled for a brief moment before inclining her head. "And thank you for your assistance in dealing with Lt. Ford."

"Heís dangerous," Ronon said bluntly.

"Were ye able ta find anything of Sateda?" Carson asked, at the same time guiding Ronon over to the table that held a number of platters.

"I thought we would wait until you could join us. You should be here for this," Elizabeth said to Ronon, who nodded his thanks for her thoughtfulness even as he reached for the food.

"As soon as we eat then," he said.

"Have you checkedóOh good, you havenít," Rodney said as he and John joined them. "And you got breakfast! Excellent."

John grabbed a piece of bacon and munched happily. "This is the best part of being back in contact with Earth."

"And you," Rodney announced, pointing at Ronon, "weíre going to have a talk."

"Rodney..." Carson warned.

John smirked. "Heís a little possessive," he warned Ronon, who rolled his eyes and pointed at Carson without pausing in his eating.

"Whatever," Rodney huffed. "Just donít think youíre getting away with it." That said, he pulled up a chair and grabbed a plateful of food.

"Getting away with what?" Ronon wanted to know.

"Kidnapping my guide."

"Rodney, he didnít kidnap John," Carson sighed.

"Iím right here," John added, waving.

"Youíre all nuts," Ronon grunted.

"Well, how would you like it if someone kidnapped Carson!"

Ronon growled, his expression hardening.

"Exactly," Rodney sniffed as Carson sighed.

"Iím nae getting kidnapped."

"Perhaps we should have breakfast so we can contact Sateda," Elizabeth suggested diplomatically, wondering how she was going to survive another sentinel-guide pair in Atlantis. With the new pair whoíd arrived with the Marines reinforcements, a Lt. Cadman and her guide Lt. Lindstrom, this brought them up to four pairs, a fairly high number for their population.

The group finished their meals up in short accord, Rodney managing to keep from glaring at Ronon only because of the elbow John kept planting in his ribs. Once done, they all went down to the control level, watching as Chuck dialed the coordinates for Sateda and the gate connected. Once the wormhole stabilized, Elizabeth ordered the MALP through, and they all watched the screen eagerly.

As the first images appeared, Ronon grunted, sounding as if heíd been gut-punched. Carson moved closer to him, resting a hand on the small of his back, rubbing it in small circles, feeling the tension coursing through the other man. "Oh, lad, Iím so verra sorry," he murmured.

"How can it all be gone?" Ronon whispered. "No one. Thereís no one left."

"The Wraith donít like it when people fight back," Rodney murmured.

"I am so very sorry," Elizabeth said sincerely, her horror clear in her eyes as she gazed at the devastation that was visible on Sateda.

"There is the chance that some got away," Carson said gently.

Ronon just stared silently at the rubble that had been his home, the others watching him with solemn expressions. Eventually he turned away, his face expressionless.

"I wish there was something we could do, lad," Carson said gently, keeping a grounding hand on the sentinelís back.

Ronon nodded in acknowledgement of the comment, but they all knew there was nothing to be done. "Iíll make them pay," he vowed, the words barely audible.

"And weíll help," John offered, the sight reminding him that even before heíd brought the majority of Wraith out of hibernation prematurely, the remainder had still been a scourge on the galaxy.

"Ye have a home here if yeíd like," Carson added, looking at Elizabeth, his chin raised in challenge.

Elizabeth bit back a sigh. "Of course youíre welcome here, Mr. Dex. Weíre not in the habit of forcibly separating bonded sentinel-guide pairs."

"Just Ronon. Or Specialist Dex," Ronon added, already having noted the Atlanteansí liking for titles.

"Specialist is your term for sentinel, right?" Rodney asked, looking at Dex sharply.

"If I understand your usage, yes," Ronon replied. "Like you."

"Yes, like me, and so you know, if you manhandle my guide again, I will kick your ass."

Ronon stared down at Rodney, eyebrows rising, and a deep chuckle rumbled through the room, making John swallow a sigh of relief. "Iíll keep that in mind," he said.

"I dinna think it will be happening again," Carson said quickly as Rodney frowned at the larger man.

"No, one sentinel, one guide, all very neat," John agreed, moving between Ronon and Rodney.

"Aye, so thereís no need ta get flustered, Rodney," Carson said, sliding his hand up to Rononís shoulder as he spoke.

"Just so it doesnít happen again," Rodney said grudgingly.

Ronon looked at him then looked John up and down. "Heís too skinny anyways."

"Hey!" John exclaimed, looking insulted, and Rodney bristled beside him.

"He is not!"

"Ronon, why donít we let you and Elizabeth have a chat," Carson said quickly.

"Yes, thatís an excellent idea," Elizabeth agreed. "If youíll follow me, Ronon." She went back toward her office, and Ronon looked questioningly at Carson, who nodded and joined them while Rodney watched them go with narrowed eyes.

~ CHAPTER 4 ~

"Heíd better not think Iíve forgotten what he did to you."

John sighed. "Nobody got hurt, and heíll be a good addition to the team, so play nice."

"The team? Our team?" Rodney squawked.

"What did you think I meant when I suggested that Iíd be able to help him on missions if he needed it?"

"IóI must have missed that," Rodney muttered, frowning as they headed out of the gateroom.

"You yelled about it... which, by the way, is nuts since I was offering to help him with zone outs, nothing more. Youíre the one I married."

"I yell about a lot of things!"

"True, it makes calming you down again fun."

Rodney glowered at that, then looked away. "I may be somewhat jealous," he muttered.

"You have no reason to be... but itís kinda hot, so thatís okay."

"I know that," Rodney sighed, shrugging slightly and reaching for Johnís hand to comfort himself, "itís just that heís what asentinelshouldbe."

"Thereís no should be," John replied instantly, tightening his fingers around Rodneyís. "Youíre both sentinels, each with your own abilities, and youíre my sentinel."

"And youíre my guide and my husband, and I know it... Old insecurities I suppose, but I believe in you and in us, so forgive me for acting like an idiot, okay?"

"How Ďbout we go back to our room later and you fuck me through the mattress to make it up to me?"

Rodney chuckled rustily at that. "Only if you promise to do the same to me later."

"I think that can be arranged." John looked around. "Are we going anywhere in particular or just wandering the corridors to avoid errant sentinels?"

"Are you saying youíre lost?"

"I am not lost!" John grumbled, and Rodney stifled a grin.

"Of course you arenít, dear."

Johnís eyes narrowed. "I was asking where, if anywhere, you intended to end up!"

Rodney leaned in to kiss him at that, eating at his mouth until the tense line of Johnís relaxed. "Where I intend to end up is in your ass, Colonel."

"Oh. Then this corridor probably isnít the best place to stop." John said, his voice noticeably huskier.

Rodney paused, his head cocked and his expression distant as he listened to the sounds around them. "Come on," he announced, dragging John down the hallway.

"Am I being kidnapped?" John asked, sounding amused.

"That depends," Rodney said archly, glancing over at him, his steps sure as he led John around a corner without looking, "are you a virgin for me to despoil?"

"Oh yes, and Iím terrified to imagine what you have in mind for me," John assured him.

"More than you ever imagined, my dear," Rodney snickered, twirling an imaginary mustache. "I intend to use each and every one of my heightened senses on you until youíre begging for mercyóand for me to take you."

"But will you still respect me in the morning?" John batted his eyelashes and simpered.

"That depends if you wake me by giving me a blowjob."

"You want me to put my mouth there?" John pretended to be shocked, widening his eyes comically.

"Try it, youíll like it."

"Well, if you really think so..." Johnís reluctant tone was belied by the eager way he licked his lips.

"More than think so, I know so," Rodney snickered, finally looking away from John to wave open one of the doors in the corridor and pull John inside. He pushed the colonel up against the door when it closed and kissed him, using every bit of finesse to draw out his reaction.

John moaned softly, opening to the possessive kiss as he wrapped his arms around Rodney, his hands sliding down to cup his ass and pull him even closer.

"The way you taste," Rodney murmured, his lips brushing against Johnís as he spoke, "like mint and sex and everything I could ever want."

"Good, Ďcause Iím everything youíre ever going to get," John said, showing his own possessiveness.

"All I want," Rodney growled, biting at Johnís mouth as he tugged his shirt from his pants.

"Likewise," John said against Rodneyís mouth, his back arching as he tried to help Rodney undress him without letting go of his ass.

"Good." Rodney swatted Johnís hands away and continued to strip him, tossing his jacket and shirt aside before leaning in to nuzzle Johnís chest.

"Hey!" John pouted. "I wanna touch too."

"Later."

"Bossy!"

"Sentinel. Deal with it."

"Horny guide. Do something with it."

Rodney lifted his head, smirked slightly, then pinched Johnís nipple, making him shiver and moan, his back arching.

"Is that enough?" Rodney purred, rubbing his thumb over the peaked nub.

"God, donít stop now!"

"So you like it?" Rodney murmured, dipping his head down to suck on the distended nipple, listening to Johnís heart rate increase and his breathing quicken and smelling his desire fill the air.

"Yes," John panted, trying not to whimper hungrily.

"All mine." Rodney dropped to his knees and pressed his face against Johnís crotch, breathing deeply as he nuzzled the growing flesh beneath it.

"Yes," John said again, fighting his instinct to move, instead trying to follow Rodneyís lead.

"All mine," Rodney repeated, stroking his hands up Johnís thighs and sighing with pleasure.

"Feel free to take possession," John said a little wildly, and Rodney shook his head slightly.

"Right now want to touch you and look at you and smell youóthe rest will come in a while."

John wondered what it said about him that the idea of Rodney smelling him made his cock jump. "All yours," he rasped.

"Yes, you are," Rodney sighed, moving behind John and nuzzling the back of his neck, his breathing growing ragged as Johnís scent filled his nostrils, a sharp contrast to the warm metal of his dog tag chain as it rubbed against his cheek.

"Love feeling you," John whispered, leaning back against him, Rodneyís arms curving around his waist and holding him close. The sentinel nuzzled his way around and over Johnís neck, licking behind his ears and groaning at the flavor.

"I feel like an all-you-can-eat buffet." Johnís words were a throaty chuckle as he rubbed his ass against Rodneyís erection.

"Eat, smell, watch, touch," Rodney nodded, nipping at Johnís earlobe as he rubbed a hand over the soft line of hair that bisected Johnís lower abdomen.

"Iím a one-stop shop," John said, sounding amused even as he shivered at Rodneyís touch.

"Full of all my favorite things," Rodney sighed, letting his hand roam higher.

"Not yet full of my favorite thing."

"Eventually," Rodney murmured, rubbing a thumb over an already peaked nipple.

"Looking forward to it." Johnís back arched, pressing harder against Rodneyís hand, and he turned his head, seeking his sentinelís mouth.

"I can tell," Rodney breathed against his lips before kissing him, his hands still roaming over Johnís body, laying claim to every inch of it.

John chuckled softly even as the kiss deepened, and he leaned more heavily against the sentinel, one arm raised to curl back around Rodneyís head while Rodney plundered his mouth, taking it with his tongue before drawing it back, coaxing Johnís into his.

Murmuring softly in pleasure, John squirmed against Rodney, loving the deliciously dirty sensation of his half-naked body against Rodneyís fully clothed one, something Rodney apparently enjoyed as well as he pulled John against him, his free hand sliding down to stroke over the bulge of Johnís erection. John groaned, his back arching to press into Rodneyís palm before he settled back against the sentinel, flexing his ass against Rodneyís own erection.

"Iím going to strip you naked and take you like this, John," Rodney whispered, reveling in the minute shudders that wracked Johnís body as he kneaded the other manís groin.

"Fuck yes," John groaned, "do it."

Rodneyís smile was feral as he turned John and undid his belt and pants, then roughly pushed him to the floor so that he could strip off Johnís boots and socks, then the rest of his clothing, watching him hungrily all the while.

The look had John shuddering with lust, and he arched his back, offering himself to the sentinel.

"Mine," Rodney rasped, leaning in over him and stroking his hands up Johnís thighs, his eyes going unfocused as he concentrated on the rasp of the dark hairs there against his palms.

"Yes," John replied simply, the shudders growing more pronounced as his arousal grew with every touch of Rodneyís hands, every word he uttered.

Unable to resist, Rodney leaned in and licked a stripe up Johnís erection, moaning at the salty flavor of his flesh and the musk of his precome, and John gasped, arching up, wanting more of Rodneyís mouth.

"Not yet," Rodney purred, his eyes gleaming brightly as he thought the lights to a low level, one where he could see John but his guide could only make him out as a dim form in the shadows.

"Tease," John groaned, squirming under Rodney, clearly not minding in the least.

"And you love it," Rodney countered, framing Johnís erection with his hands and licking him again.

"I loveóoh Jesus fuck!-- you."

Rodney kissed the hollow of his right hip, his thumbs brushing between his legs. "Love you too," he whispered.

"Good, now do something about it."

"I am." Rodney continued to stroke Johnís inner thighs, his breath ghosting over his erection as he spoke.

"Ah, right." John squirmed again, his fingers combing restlessly through Rodneyís hair.

"Good answer," Rodney smiled, kissing him again.

"Good hands." John smiled down towards Rodney, trying to see more than shadows in the dim light.

"Just hands?"

"Thatís all I can comment on directly at the moment," John panted, his legs shifting against the floor as he waited for Rodneyís next touch.

"Glad you like them, because youíre going to come from them," Rodney promised, rubbing the soft skin of Johnís inner thighs, his nostrils flaring as he smelled the droplet of precome that oozed from his cock.

"Th-thought you were going to fuck me?" John protested breathlessly, shudders of helpless lust traveling down his spine.

"I am, and youíre going to come, after you come from this."

"Oh fuck," John whimpered, his hips jerking convulsively.

"Problem with that, Colonel?" Rodney purred, nuzzling his lower stomach.

"Youíre trying to kill me... but what a way to go." John raised his arms over his head, bracing his hands against the wall as he gave himself up to Rodneyís ministrations.

"Not," Rodney growled, his hands tightening on Johnís body.

"Joking," John said hastily, realizing it wasnít a good thing to suggest. "Sorry." He raised one leg, rubbing it over Rodneyís uniform-covered hip suggestively.

"Síallright." Rodney licked at Johnís navel, plunging his tongue in and out of the small depression.

"Mmm, good mouth too."

Rodney nodded and plucked at the thin line of hair running up Johnís belly, making John shudder and arch under him.

"So fucking good."

"Mmmhmmm," Rodney murmured, shifting up to trace the lines of Johnís ribs, his body brushing against his erection as he moved.

"All mine," John whispered, peering through the shadows but unable to see more than shapes, the lack of sight seeming only to increase his sensitivity to Rodneyís touch.

"Always." Rodney looked up, watching Johnís expression, then bit his stomach, making John cry out and jerk under him, his cock twitching against his belly and leaking precome. The needy cry had Rodney moving upward and gently closing his teeth around an already peaked nipple.

"Oh God, Rodney," John panted, the muscles in his arms quivering with tension as he fought to keep them over his head.

Rodney lifted his head again and sniffed loudly so that John could hear him. "Youíre close," he murmured. "Let go."

The knowledge that Rodney was smelling him sent a wave of pure lust coursing through John, and he was helpless to do anything but ride it, crying out incoherently as it burst. He came, shuddering through spasm after spasm of incredible pleasure, knowing that Rodney was watching him and aroused even more by the thought.

"Gorgeous," Rodney whispered, his gaze intent on Johnís expression as he distantly felt wet warmth seeping through his shirt and smelled the sharp tang of his semen, the scent making his own cock throb in anticipation.

John just smiled dopily, for the moment sated and content with his universe, and Rodney grinned before leaning in to give him a tender kiss.

"Youíre laughing at me," John grumbled without heat.

"No, Iím enjoying you."

"Thatís okay then."

Rodney chuckled at that and kissed John again. "I love it when youíre like this."

John stuck his tongue out. "Thatís what happens when you shut me down."

"You like to do it to me enough."

John grinned. "Like it both ways."

"Me too," Rodney laughed, kissing him again before lowering his body to rub against Johnís.

"Mm, feel good," John murmured, winding his long legs around Rodneyís hips. "And I think you said something about fucking me?"

"Did I?" Rodney asked, his grin turning devilish as he ground down against John, who groaned as he felt himself stir again.

"God, Rodney, Iím not a teenager anymore," he gasped.

"Youíre also going to be walking funny next time anyone sees you," Rodney said mildly though his blue eyes were intense.

"Promises, promises."

Rodney smirked and pushed up on his knees, undoing his pants and belt, pushing them down enough to free his own erection then pulling a small tube of lube from his pocket to slick himself up.

Listening to the sounds, John shivered, and his cock impossibly began to harden.

Hearing the rate of Johnís heartbeat pick up, Rodney licked his lips as he squirted the clear, unscented gel into his palm, warming it before he pressed a finger into Johnís ass. John groaned and squirmed, suddenly as needy as if he hadnít just come hard enough to break something.

"Gotta get in you," Rodney groaned, adding a second finger, then wrenching his hand back to shove into Johnís ass, his whole body tightening as he fought to keep from coming at the first hot, tight grasp around him.

"Fuck yeah," John rasped, his head flung back as his body froze in a deep arch under Rodney, the sudden fullness sending pulses of pleasure to every nerve ending.

Rodney nodded, staring down at John as he bit his lower lip, finally beginning to move once he was sure he had control. John shivered faintly and clenched down on him, loving the sensation of Rodney inside him.

"So. Damn. Good." Rodney punctuated each word with a thrust, and John could only nod, clinging to Rodney with arms and legs as he rode the pleasure that was again rising in him, Rodney taking that as an invitation to move harder and faster, each thrust rubbing Johnís erection against his shirt.

"God, Rodney," John panted before raising his head to blindly search for Rodneyís mouth, Rodney giving it eagerly, taking Johnís as thoroughly as he was his ass. John could only moan hungrily into the kiss and meet every thrust eagerly, taking everything Rodney had to give.

Finally Rodney pulled back, his breath harsh and grating to his own ears. "Youíre close, arenít you?" he gasped. "I can see it, hear it, smell it..."

John nodded jerkily, his eyes dilated in the dim light, and he tightened around Rodneyís cock, whimpering at how good it felt.

"Iím going to come when you do."

"Love you," John whispered.

"You too," Rodney nodded, his movements smoothing out, his strokes becoming long and deep, driving them both on. It didnít take long before John was moaning harshly, his movements growing erratic as he tensed, Rodneyís expression turning triumphant as he pressed inward a final time, rubbing against Johnís prostate, the minute tremors he felt sending him over the edge into pure pleasure.

Long minutes passed before John mumbled, his eyes firmly shut, "Yí broí mí."

"Translation please?" Rodney asked in between kissing Johnís throat.

"Yí broke me," John managed more intelligibly that time.

Rodney chuckled and kissed him again. "Oh damn, then Iíll have to put you back together againóafter we take a nap." He shifted enough to strip out of his pants, and shirt, then curled up next to John again, neither of them caring that theyíd be sore when they woke up after sleeping on the floor.

"Sleep good," John said as he rolled to face Rodney, plastering himself against the sentinelís body, earning a smile from the other man before he closed his eyes, his arms clasped tightly around Johnís waist.

~ CHAPTER 5 ~

John watched in awe as Ronon shoveled food into his mouth, taking in far more than even Rodney had ever managed in a single sitting. "So, since youíre going to be staying here, I thought you might like to continue fighting the Wraith. I have an opening on my team."

Dark eyes flicked up to pin him with a steady gaze, and Ronon swallowed before answering. "Your teamóyou mean you and your spe- sentinel?"

"My gate team includes Rodney, yes, but Teylaís a member of it too. The SGC traditionally has four person teams," John explained.

"And Beckett will stay here." Ronon nodded to himself and shoveled another forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.

"Yes, I hope thatís not a problem, but heís not really off world personnel. Itís safer for him to stay in the city. If it ever becomes necessary, I could try to help you till we get you back to him, but, uh, Rodneyís a little possessive," John admitted.

Full lips quirked upward at that. "Yeah, I noticed that."

"Itís kind of hard to miss," John grinned, sounding absurdly pleased.

"You take care of each other; thatís a good pairing."

John nodded. "We work. So, anyway, Iíd like you to be the forth member of my team."

"It lets you keep an eye on me as well."

"That too," John admitted easily. "Youíre still something of an unknown quantity."

"Understandable," Ronon shrugged before eating some more.

"Still waiting for an answer," John pointed out.

Ronon was silent for a moment as he chewed.

"Just, uh, donít take it personally if Rodneyís a little... grouchy."

"I wonít go near you," Ronon promised.

John laughed. "I wasnít worried. But Rodney can be a little irrational. We havenít been together very long."

Dark brows arched upward at that comment. "Heís loud."

"You donít know the half of it."

Ronon grinned at that. "Not sure I want to." He paused for a moment, sobering. "What can you tell me about Beckett?"

"Heís a doctor first and foremost," John said after a moment. "He genuinely cares about people, all people, and I donít think he expected to form a bond at this point in his life."

"I donít know if heís glad of it or not."

"Iím sure he is; he just needs some time to adjust." John grinned. "Youíre a rather large adjustment."

"Yeah, I thought as much."

John eyed Ronon speculatively. "I think youíre going to be good for him. Of course, if youíre not, Iíll just shoot you dead."

Now it was Rononís turn to grin. "Youíre loyal to each other. Good."

"Weíre friends," John shrugged.

"Even better." Ronon fell silent for a long moment where he studied John with a level gaze. "Yes," he finally said.

"Good." John smiled quickly. "I always have the best team."

"Didnít know it was a contest."

"Everythingís a contest, didnít you know that?"

"You have a firing range here?"

"Of course." John waited curiously.

Dark eyes gleamed. "Good."

"Try not to scare anyone here," John chuckled.

"Too late for most of Ďem." Ronon nodded at several of the scientists who were trying not to stare at him.

"Ah well, theyíll forget about you after Rodney starts yelling at them."

Rononís expression turned incredulous at that.

John laughed. "You havenít seen him in his element. Heís the chief scientist here and really is the smartest man in two galaxies. But that also means heís pretty impatient with people who canít keep up with him, and heís rather direct in expressing his opinions."

"Fine with me, Iíd rather have that than someone pretending to be nice."

"No worries of that with Rodney," John chuckled. "As far as I can tell, he doesnít know how to lie."

Now Ronon actually looked impressed. "Glad to hear it."

"Youíre probably the only person in the city," John said wryly.

"Including you?"

"No, I like him just the way he is. I just wish every thought he had didnít pop out of his mouth; it tends to make people shoot arrows at us."

"You could gag him," Ronon suggested.

A reminiscent smile curved Johnís lips, and Rononís eyebrows rose. "We keep that for in private," John said.

Rononís expression turned inward, and he nodded. "Understandable."

"If Carsonís into that, I donít wanna know!" John said hastily.

Ronon shrugged again. "No idea."

"Ah, yeah, I guess taking things slow would be a good idea."

"Donít worry; Iím not going to do anything to him."

John smiled wryly. "If you donít, Iím sure eventually heíll do something to you."

"Hopefully."

"Youíre his sentinel, and Carsonís a demonstrative man. Somethingíll give."

"I donít think heís interested in men," Ronon said bluntly.

John considered that before shaking his head. "You. You make him nervous. You had a guide already, and no one wants to be second best."

"He told you that?" Ronon frowned.

"Huh? No, it was just kind of obvious, considering your age. Granted, Rodney was a lot older before we found each other, but thatís sort of a unique case. And youíre clearly a fully functioning sentinel, so you had to have had a guide at some point."

Ronon looked down at his plate again before pushing it away. "True. He died. They all died."

"Iím sorry," John replied simply, knowing there was nothing he could say that would help. Heíd seen that look in Rononís eyes before, when heíd been in Afghanistan. It was one of devastating loss, the look of a survivor who wasnít sure he wanted to be the "lucky" one.

"Canít change it. Iím alive, need to go on."

John nodded. "And make them pay."

Rononís smile looked dangerous. "Damn right."

John returned the smile with perfect understanding.

"Am I still going to have a guard following me?"

"For a while. It makes Elizabeth happy. We wonít tell her that you could probably tie him in a knot. Actually, we wonít tell him either. Marinesí egos are fragile."

Ronon chuckled at that. "I can live with it. I donít blame you for doing it; Iíd do the same."

John shrugged. "Itís only for a while. If I didnít believe that, I wouldnít have asked you to join my team."

"What if I had said no?"

"Youíd probably have got very bored sitting around the city since I doubt youíre leaving as long as Carsonís here."

"No, Iím not, not unless he wants me to."

"And just think, if you get hurt on a mission, heíll take care of you and start raving about it. Nothing better for bringing two guys together," John chuckled.

Ronon chuckled quietly at that. "Are you saying I should let one of those arrows McKay gets shot at him hit me?"

"I would never suggest that," John replied virtuously before laughing. "But if it did happen to happen..." he trailed off significantly.

"Iíll make sure not to get hit anywhere life-threatening."

John laughed again. "I can see life is going to be interesting with you around."

Ronon looked around the mess hall at that. "Not much of a change for you, Iíd guess."

"No, itís true that life is always pretty interesting around here."

"Good." Ronon looked around again, noticing the multitude of people who quickly looked away, though two women, one a blonde and one a redhead, returned his gaze levelly. "So, are we going to sit here all day?"

"Firing range?" John offered, getting to his feet.

"Perfect."

Hearing a noise at the door of his office, Carson looked up, smiling before he could stop himself when he saw Ronon there. "Sergeant, thereís no need for ye now," he said firmly, looking at the marine standing behind the large Satedan.

Ronon grinned quickly. "Youíre used to people doing what you tell them, arenít you?"

"When theyíre my infirmary, I am." Carson shot a baleful look at the hapless Marine, who looked as if heíd rather be anywhere else.

"He canít go anywhere; he has his orders," Ronon pointed out, the statement doing nothing to alleviate Carsonís frown.

"Well, he can just wait outside, canít he?"

Deciding that would save him from either the doctor or the colonelís wrath, the Marine hastily stationed himself outside the infirmary, out of Dr. Beckettís sight.

"Youíre an interesting man," Ronon observed.

"Iím not sure I follow you thereóand sit down, will ye, lad? Iím getting a crick in my neck."

Ronon sat down obediently even as he pointed out, "Iím only about four inches taller than you, if I understand your measurements right."

Carson blinked at that, then chuckled. "Yeíre right, though I meant because you were standing and I was sitting. So, did ye and the colonel have a good day?"

"It was interesting. Most people seem nervous around me."

"Sadly, most natives of this galaxy weíve met havnae been friendly."

"Teyla and her people are native to here," Ronon pointed out. "Weíre not all like the Genii. Most of us didnít know the Genii were like the Genii."

"Oh, I know that, lad." Carsonís expression sobered as he remembered the Hoffans.

Ronon frowned slightly as he saw Carsonís face. "What?"

"Just a memory. We all have ones that make us sad."

Ronon managed a bitter smile. "Yes."

"Compared to what yeíve lost, weíve no right to be sad," Carson murmured, wanting to squeeze Rononís hand but unable to as he wasnít near the desk.

Ronon sighed. "Every life is different, and loss is loss. And your people are trying to do something about it, to change things."

"At times I wonder if weíre causing more problems by our presence here."

"Maybe, but you are making a difference, and that makes up for a lot."

Carson smiled at that, though it was somewhat melancholy. "I hope so; I really do." He gave himself a small shake at that and focused on Ronon. "So, what did the two of ye end up doing today?"

"Shooting at targets. Practicing with Teyla. Getting to know a bit more of the city." Ronon shrugged.

"And what did ye think of all of it?"

"Not bad," Ronon said. "A little soft, but youíre doing pretty well."

"Soft?"

"Your world clearly doesnít have the problems of our galaxy."

"No," Carson sighed, "many of our problems are of our own making, though weíve drawn others in as we started using the stargates."

"But you donít have to worry about extermination."

"Youíd be surprised at how wrong you are regarding that, lad. We simply like to kill each other; we donít need another race to do it."

Ronon shook his head. "Your world must be a strange place."

"That it is, though Iíve come to view Atlantis as home, as have many of us." Carson looked as if he wanted to say something else but didnít.

"Good. That means you wonít just pick up and leave."

Carson looked surprised at that. "Of course not! I for one am not going to leave, though I do want to visit Scotland again; I dinna get to see my mother the last time we were back."

"You still have family there, and you came here?" It was Rononís turn to look surprised.

"Yes. Ióshe has my brothers and sister, and I was needed here, so I came."

"It seems thereís more to your people than I gave you credit for."

"We dinna back down from challenges or problems, if that is what ye mean."

"Iím beginning to realize that." Ronon regarded him curiously. "Is it the custom among your people for sp-sentinels and guides to have other positions as well?"

"For those guides who are unbonded, it isnít uncommon; most sentinels and their partners either go into the armed forces, the police department, or some government agencyósome kind of service and protection situation." Carson leaned his forearms on his desk as he spoke, his gaze fixed on Rononís.

Before Ronon could reply, the infirmary door slid open and a pretty blonde and redhead, both in Marine fatigues, came in, the blonde limping slightly and leaning on the redhead.

"Sorry to interrupt, Doc, but we were sparring, and Lisa twisted her ankle. Can you check to see if itís okay?"

"Of course, lass," Carson said immediately, half-standing before looking at Ronon. "Ladies, have ye met Specialist Dex? Ronon, this is Lt. Laura Cadman and Lt. Analisa Lindstrom; theyíre one of our other sentinel/guide pairs."

"I hear you two bring it up to four for Atlantis," Laura said. "Congratulations, guys." She helped the taller woman to hop up on a bed and leaned against it.

"News travels fast here," Ronon observed, drawing both womenís eyes to him.

"Itís like any small community and thank ye," Carson chuckled, patting Ronon on the arm as he walked past him to help Lisa swing her feet up to the table. "All right, lass, Iím going to have ta get that boot off first, and it may hurt a bit."

"Hang on to me," Laura advised, offering her hand.

"I always do," Lisa replied with a quick smile before her fingers tightened on her sentinelís hand as Dr. Beckett removed her boot. "Okay, ow."

"Iím sorry, lass," Carson murmured as he kept working, trying not to prolong the pain.

"Too bad it wasnít me," Laura teased gently, "you could tell me to dial it down." She winked at Lisa, then grinned at Carson at that.

"That does make it easier," Ronon observed, watching curiously.

"Great, smug sentinels," Lisa sighed, but her blue eyes were sparkling with amusement.

"Itís a good thing Rodney isnae here or weíd drown in it," Carson commented idly as he continued to work while at the same time, Laura tugged on her guideís ear in retaliation.

Lisa grinned. "Weíre looking forward to getting to know him better. Rodney McKayís something of a legend in sentinel circles... and we never believed all the things Col. Carter said about him."

Laura nodded at that. "Heís grumpy and all, but nobody could be that bad."

"Iíd wait until ye see Rodney in a rant until you were sure of that, but no, he isnae nearly what Col. Carter painted him to be." By now Carson had Lisaís boot and sock off, and he was gently examining her ankle.

"Everyone says that about McKay," Ronon observed. "How bad can he be?"

"He has his opinions, and he believes that they are the only ones that matter," Carson explained after a moment. "But he would do anything for a friend or ta save the city."

"Heís a sentinel," Laura murmured in understanding.

"That does say it all," Lisa agreed, smiling over at Carson, who glanced at Ronon before nodding.

"Aye, it does, and itís an X-ray for you, Lieutenant. I dinna believe itís anything other than a slight sprain, but Iíd rather be certain."

"Me too!" Laura agreed, making Lisa roll her eyes.

"Yes, Mom."

Ronon chuckled. "I see your bonded pairs are no different than on Sateda."

"If you mean each trying to outdo the other in taking care of them, youíre right," Laura grinned.

"Now, stay here and Iíll get the scanner," Carson ordered before ducking out of the examination room.

Ronon and the two women regarded each other curiously. "Youíre new here too?" he finally asked.

"Yes," Laura finally answered. "Weíve been with the SGC since OCS, and when they offered us the chance to come here, we jumped at it."

Seeing Rononís blank expression, Lisa translated. "Stargate Command, the SGC, is the military organization in our country thatís the main force behind our gate travel and us being in Atlantis, and OCS is Officer Candidate School, the training any officer in the Americanóthatís our countryómilitary has to go through before receiving their commission."

"I see. It sounds complicated," Ronon said after a moment.

"Maybe this will help you understand. Our world has literally dozens of nations, each with its own government, and nearly as many languages, religions and cultures. Your world, Sateda, was one of the more technologically advanced and higher in population in this galaxy, right?" Lisa waited for Rononís nod before continuing, "Your population was a few hundred thousand, if I heard correctly." Ronon nodded again. "Well, the population of Earth is over six billion."

Ronon could only stare at her, unable even to imagine that many people.

"We donít have the Wraith or anything other than ourselves to keep our populations down," Laura tried to explain. "Though we seem to try to do that all too often. The majority of the population on Earth doesnít know about the stargate program or life on other planets let alone in other galaxies."

Ronon shook his head. "Your world is so different from anything Iíve ever heard of."

Lisa grinned. "We have cities whose population is several million."

"But you still care about individual life," Ronon mused, thinking back on Sheppard and Carson.

"Personal freedom is very important in most countries on Earth," Laura commented as she stroked Lisaís arm, then looking up when Carson came back in wheeling a portable x-ray.

"All right then, I hope the three of you have been behaving yourselves," he smiled as he set it up next to the bed.

"Only because youíre newly bonded," Lisa retorted, grinning at him. "Otherwise, itíd be a toss up which of you weíd jump first."

Carson sputtered at that, torn between embarrassment and anger, and quickly busied himself setting up the scan, and Lisa frowned, watching him. "That wasnít meant to be an insult, Dr. Beckett," she said softly. "You both seem like nice guys and well, yeah, hot."

"I didnae think that it was meant to be," he protested just as quietly.

"Donít you get any ideas, big boy," Laura cautioned Ronon.

"So why did you look upset then?" she pressed, and Ronon wondered the same thing.

"It was just..." Carson reddened as he continued to work. "A misunderstanding," he finished lamely. "Now then, hold still. Lt. Cadman, Ronon, I need ye ta leave the room fer this."

Laura frowned slightly, but after exchanging a glance with her guide, she left the room, followed by Ronon.

"Iím sorry," Lisa said softly, watching the doctor carefully. "I didnít mean to upset you."

"Ye dinna, lass," he assured her with a smile. "Itís of my own doing; I suppose Iím just a bit out of sorts with the whole bonding process."

"Tell me to mind my own business if Iím getting too personal, but donít you like men? ĎCause heís seriously hot."

Carson chuckled softly at that. "I do and he is. Now hold still so I can do yer X-ray." Carson bustled around the bed, positioning Lisaís ankle, then pressed the button to run the scan.

"You know, if you need someone to talk to, Laura and I are pretty good listeners."

"Oh no," he laughed, "I dinna need tea and cookies and gossip ta make me feel better."

"Tea and cookies?" Lisa laughed. "More like beer and pizza, Doc."

"Hrmm, now that I might enjoy." He glanced at the monitor and nodded, then nodded to himself before calling Laura and Ronon back in.

"So, is she going to live, Doc?" Laura asked, grinning at him as she walked back in.

"Will I ever dance again?" Lisa batted her eyelashes at him, making Ronon snort a laugh.

"You people are all insane."

"I have ta agree with you on that," Carson laughed before fixing the blonde with a stern eye. "Ye may have ta lead for a while, no backwards walking, in fact, no missions for three weeks."

"Three weeks! But we just got here; this is not going to give the colonel a good impression," Lisa groaned.

"I donít think Sheppard is that kind of leader," Ronon put in.

"The colonel answers to me as far as fitness reports go," Carson said sternly, though he winked at her, and Laura laughed out loud.

"See, Lisa, I told you getting to him would be good."

"Having the healer on your side is always a good idea," Ronon agreed, amused by the two women who were unlike any specialist and guardian heíd ever met before, even more so than McKay and Sheppard.

Carson shook his head, but the smile stayed on his face. "As I was saying, yeíve a slight sprain, so I want you off your foot for the next two days, then light duty for the next two weeks, and then Iíll reassess your status."

"Is that bed rest, Doc?" Laura asked.

"Donít look so hopeful," Lisa laughed, making Laura stick her tongue out at her.

"No exertion," Carson said sternly as he wrapped her ankle.

"See, bed rest wouldnít be any fun anyways."

"Well, you donít have to be the one exerting yourself..."

Laughing, Lisa stood up, keeping her weight off the injured ankle as she waited for Carson to get her crutches. "Weíll discuss it back in our room. Thanks, Doc."

"If yeíre uncomfortable, take some ibuprofen and take an ice pack for the swelling," he called after them.

"Will do. Thanks again," Lisa called back.

~ CHAPTER 6 ~

"Is it always like that around here?" Ronon asked.

"Like what?"

"Cheerful," Ronon said after a momentís consideration.

Carson paused at that, considering the question. "Not always; weíve had our share of troubles here, but we try to keep a positive outlook. Those two though... they are unique. I pity John trying to keep them under control."

"Iíd say that was impossible," Ronon said with a quick grin. "But theyíre interesting."

"Thatís quite the diplomatic way to put it." Carson busied himself turning off the scanner and cleaning up the examination table.

"So why did what the blonde one said bother you?" Ronon asked.

Carson sighed at that. "Iím nae used ta beautiful young women suggesting liaisons."

Ronon stared at him. "Then people must be blind where you come from."

"No, simply truthful."

Ronon shook his head. "If you say so."

Carson chuckled at that. "Aye, remember that when Iím taking care of you."

"I donít think so," Ronon laughed.

"And just who is the trained doctor here?"

Ronon just raised his eyebrows and grinned, causing Carson to give him a wry look. "Exactly, and I can sedate ye if needed."

"You would do that?"

Now it was Carsonís turn to grin, and Ronon laughed. "Weíll see how it goes when the time comes."

"And speaking of that, I want ta check yer back."

"Itís fine, but if you want." Ronon shrugged, pulling his shirt off.

"I want," Carson said sternly, pointing toward the table, lowering the height after Ronon sat so that he could examine the incision and the stitches that closed it.

"Itís fine," Ronon repeated.

"When I say it is," Carson shot back, pressing his fingers against the skin on either side of the incision, feeling for heat but rewarded with a sudden rush of arousal instead.

Rononís nostrils flared, and he slowly turned to look over his shoulder at Carson, who was striving to concentrate on his task.

"Everything seems to be healing nicely. Ye must have developed quite the resistance to local microbes in yer travels."

Still staring at Carson, Ronon shrugged. "I rarely get sick."

"I wonder if thatís related to yer being a sentinel or to yer unique physiology, in that the Wraith couldnít feed on ye," Carson added quickly, not noticing his hands were lingering on Rononís back.

"No idea. Maybe you should try to find out."

"So yer saying yeíd actually sit fer me to take blood and other samples?" Carson asked incredulously.

"Why not?" Ronon was enjoying Carsonís hands on him.

"BecauseóIím not sure; most people with military training Iíve met want ta stay as far away from me as possible."

"I like being around you," Ronon replied simply.

"That doesnae mean ye have ta be so complacent about getting yer blood taken," Carson said, trying to make a joke of it.

"Itís not as if it hurts," Ronon snorted.

Carson opened his mouth to answer, then closed it again and chuckled wryly, finally straightening up and letting his hands fall from Rononís back. "True, but most people dinna want to be guineaólab experiments."

"If it makes you more comfortable with me being here, I can live with it."

"So yer doing it ta make me comfortable? I dinna recall part of being a guide involving stabbing yer sentinel with needles!"

Ronon looked at him. "In here, youíre willing to touch me."

"We sleep in the same bed," Carson pointed out, his brow furrowing as he frowned.

"And thatís all."

Carsonís frown deepened at that. "Yeíve only just arrived here a few days ago! Am I to believe yeíd like people pawing you before youíre even settled?"

"Itís not pawing when itís invited." Ronon met his eyes directly. "Iíve been alone for seven years."

"And Iím sorry for that." Carson pressed his lips together before reaching out and resting his hand on Rononís arm.

Ronon looked from the hand to Carsonís face, and it was his turn to frown. "Iíve seen Sheppard and McKay, so I know your culture doesnít expect male s-sentinels and guides to remain apart, so what is it?"

"Ye dinna even know me," Carson protested feebly.

Ronon scowled at him. "Weíre bonded."

"How old were ye when you bonded with yer first guideóguardian?" Carson snapped.

Ronon frowned. "Fifteen. What does that have to do with anything?"

"And did the two of you just drop and have sex that same day?"

"Actually, yes!"

"Bloody hell," Carson groaned.

"If we werenít compatible, we wouldnít have bonded," Ronon growled.

"Fine then, shall we just drop and have at it here on the examination table?"

"I wish I thought you meant that."

"Ye really want to do that?"

Ronon gripped his hair before letting go. "What do I have to do to make you believe I want you?"

Carson studied his expression for a moment, then nodded to himself and took a deep breath before pulling Ronon in for a kiss. Ronon groaned in relief and slid his arms around Carson, holding him close as he kissed his guide, learning his taste.

Carson relaxed into the kiss, sliding his hand up Rononís arm to the back of his neck, keeping him close, coaxing his tongue back into his own mouth, making Ronon moan and arch toward him, letting Carson feel that he was proportional all over.

Carson groaned and fit himself between Rononís legs, his free hand gliding over the larger manís chest, brushing against the edge of his nipple, making Ronon shudder and cup his ass to pull him even closer, rocking against Carson hungrily.

"Perhaps we should take this back ta our room," Carson gasped once he could speak again.

"Are you going to change your mind?" Ronon asked warily, still holding Carson pressed against him.

"Yeíre right; weíre a bonded pair," Carson answered, looking up at him, his blue eyes solemn. "Iím not going ta change my mind."

"Then a bed would be good," Ronon agreed before kissing him again.

"Aye." Carson pulled back and held out a hand for Ronon to take.

Ronon looked at it and then into the blue eyes for long moments before he finally smiled and curled his fingers around Carsonís as he stood up, the other man smiling as they started out of the infirmary, many of the staff staring wide-eyed at them.

Ronon smiled smugly, his fingers tightening on his guideís, and Carson squeezed his fingers back, their steps falling into sync as they headed out of the infirmary and into the corridors. Unable to resist, Ronon murmured, "I told you we fit together."

"Yeíre going to be unbearably smug, arenít you?"

"Of course." Ronon smirked at him.

"You do realize Iím used ta dealing with Rodney," Carson pointed out.

"Doesnít really mean much to me," Ronon reminded him, "but people keep saying things like that."

"Yeíll learn in time, especially if ye go on missions with him."

"Iím looking forward to it. But Iím looking forward to tonight more."

"Did ye eat lunch?" Carson asked suddenly.

"Yes, with Sheppard."

"Good." Carson nodded as he rubbed his thumb over Rononís palm.

"You donít have to worry about me running out of energy."

"Yeíve been on the run for seven years; Iím more worried about ye simply collapsing eventually!"

"Iím Satedan."

"And Iím a healer."

"Good. Take me to bed and heal me."

Carson looked up at him at that. "And how would ye care for me to do that? I want ta know what ye like, Ronon."

Ronon shrugged. "Bondage and pain arenít fun to me, especially not after the last few years, but other than that, pretty much anything goes."

"I dinna ask what went; I asked what you liked," Carson said gently.

Ronon bit back a sigh. "I like anything too. Licking, sucking, fucking, hands, top, bottom, all are good."

"Well then, that leaves us quite the choice." Carson steered Ronon toward the transporter, kissing him again as the door slid shut behind them.

"Choice? Ah, which to do first."

"I should have brought vitamins," Carson murmured.

Ronon laughed. "I think I can inspire you."

"And IVs for rehydration!"

Rononís laughter grew deeper and louder. "Iím flattered by your opinion of my prowess."

"As ye said, seven years is a long time." At that, Carson pressed the map, sending them to hisótheir room.

Rononís eyes raked over Carson. "I have a lot of time to make up for."

Carson smiled at that and kissed him again, "Just remember, Iíll not have ye pulling yer stitches out."

"Well, if I do, I have a healer right there to fix them."

"So, yer telling me ye want ta stop in the middle of everything for that?"

"Not really, no. I guess youíll have to do most of the work this time."

"You just tell me what yeíd like most, and weíll go from there," Carson murmured, thinking open the door and leading Ronon inside.

"You, I want you," Ronon rumbled.

Carson drew in a deep breath and turned to face him as the door slid shut behind them. "And I want you."

"So do something," Ronon suggested.

With a nod, Carson raised his hands and began to unbutton Rononís vest, letting his fingertips brush against the bare skin beneath it. Ronon shivered at the touch, his eyes falling half shut as he watched Carson touch him.

"Letís get ye to the bed," Carson murmured, "I want ye comfortable."

"Iím hoping for rather more than comfortable," Ronon laughed.

"I promise you, youíll have that." Carson smiled and leaned in to kiss Rononís shoulder as he eased the leather vest off him.

"Good." Ronon pushed Carsonís jacket off his shoulders while Carson continued to explore the newly bared flesh. "You feel good."

"As do you." Carson pulled back enough to look up at Ronon before kissing him again, making Ronon smile and reach for the fastening of Carsonís pants, the guide drawing in a quick breath at the touch.

"Let me take care of you," he whispered.

Ronon could only nod, his eyes intent on Carsonís face, his guide smiling as he led Ronon to the bed and laid him back on it, kneeling beside him and stroking his hands over Rononís chest and stomach.

"And you wanted not to do this," Ronon chuckled, arching up against Carsonís touch.

"I wanted ta know you better," Carson countered, working at the buttons that held his pants together.

"And you will. This will help with that. Unless you make a habit of not talking to the people who share your bed," Ronon teased, causing Carson to glower at him before giving in and laughing.

"Hardly."

"Iím glad to hear it." Ronon ran his hands over Carsonís chest, pushing his shirt up and then pulling it over his head, Carson automatically thinking the lights lower as he did so before realizing it wouldnít change how Ronon could see.

"My gua-guide," Ronon said with deep satisfaction.

"My specialist," Carson echoed, kissing him again.

"Too many clothes."

"Donít ye know the word patience?" As Carson spoke, he undid the rest of the buttons that held Rononís pants closed.

"When itís necessary. Here, itís not."

"Iíd like ta take my time and find out what ye like," Carson chided gently as he spread the supple leather and began to lower it over Rononís hips. "Not all of us can tell what arouses their partner by listening to their heart rate."

Ronon caught hold of Carsonís hand and drew it to his erection. "Thatís a pretty good clue."

"Ye know what I mean."

"Then Iím all yours."

"Do ye want ta be?"

"Yes! What have I been trying to tell you?"

Carson only shook his head and kissed Ronon again, swaying slightly on his knees as he pushed the other manís pants lower, freeing his erection. Ronon inhaled sharply, his eyes intent on Carsonís face, still not entirely certain that the guide wouldnít change his mind again but slowly relaxing under his attentions.

"Whatís bothering ye?" Carson asked, the frown returning even as he stroked his hands over Rononís chest, feeling the ridges of muscles and old scars beneath his palms

"Nothing," Ronon replied, leaning down to kiss Carson. "Iím glad to be here, with you."

"Iím glad as well," Carson whispered, hesitating for a split second before pulling back to strip off the rest of his own clothes. Watching him, Ronon made a soft sound of pleasure, and he ran his hands over Carsonís chest, enjoying the contrast of his dark flesh against his guideís paler skin.

A soft sigh escaped the guideís lips, and he leaned into the touch before bending in to kiss Rononís shoulder.

"Do you have anything?" Ronon asked, still stroking Carsonís chest and belly.

Carson frowned before realizing what Ronon meant. "I have some hand lotion; itís unscented, so it shouldnít bother you."

"Iím more concerned with not hurting you," Ronon replied before twisting around so he could lick the tip of Carsonís cock.

"If ye keep that up, yeíll have more than lotion ta use," Carson gasped, his whole body shivering as cool air flowed over the wet area where Rononís tongue had trailed over his flesh.

"And that would be bad?"

Carson opened his mouth to reply but shook his head and laughed quietly. "It wouldnít be bad at all, lad."

"So why donít we just relax and do whatever we feel like," Ronon suggested, rubbing his cheek against Carson and groaning softly at the scent of him.

"What Iíd like is to be able to touch you as well," Carson murmured, twisting around so they were facing the opposite direction, one hand stroking over Rononís hip before he kissed the thickly muscled thigh.

"Thatís good too," Ronon agreed, his voice growing deeper as they began to explore each other.

Carson nodded as he pulled back enough to gaze at Rononís erection, offering a soft exclamation of lust at the sight of the darkly flushed length before he leaned in and breathed a puff of breath over it, making Ronon shudder and gasp before copying the action. Then Ronon took it a step further by flicking the head with the tip of his tongue.

"Oh lad, thatís lovely," Carson gasped, his muscles tensing as he tried to hold still, at the same time beginning to explore Rononís lower body, the hand on his hip sliding inward to cup and roll his balls while he mimicked the sentinelís actions though his tongue traced the rim of the head of his cock.

"Yes," Ronon rasped, his hips rocking once before he stilled himself. He closed his lips over Carson, taking only the very tip into his mouth, and suckled so lightly that that suction was almost imperceptible.

Carson moaned and mouthed his way down Rononís erection, finally tracing his tongue over the heavy balls before him, sucking each into his mouth, concentrating on that rather than the feeling of Rononís mouth working on him.

Ronon grabbed the lotion from the nightstand while continuing to suck on Carson with gradually increasing strength, and then a large, slick finger was pushing inside the guide.

"Oh God, Ronon," Carson gasped, his fingers tightening on the other manís thigh.

"Yes," Ronon whispered, a shiver of pleasure running down his spine as he felt Carson tighten on his finger.

"Is this enough? Do ye want... me?" The last was added in a low whisper as Carson licked the thick length before him.

"Only if you want that too. I can wait until weíre both ready," Ronon replied around the mouthful he wasnít willing to give up.

"Ió" Carson gave into temptation and closed his lips around Rononís shaft, slowly taking it deeper into his mouth.

"Oh, thatís good," Ronon groaned, pressing a second finger into Carsonís ass, and in answer, Carson sucked harder, relaxing his throat and urging him on even as he writhed at the fullness in his ass. Rononís hips rocked, pushing deeper into Carsonís mouth, and he crooked his fingers, rubbing.

Carson tensed, trying to spread his legs, his foot skidding on the sheets, and he swallowed around Rononís cock, making Ronon cry out as he came suddenly, the sudden gout catching Carson by surprise though he recovered quickly, swallowing down the salty streams.

"Sorry," Ronon said sheepishly before sucking harder, trying to give Carson as much pleasure as heíd received.

Carson made an interrogative sound around the softening flesh in his mouth, his hips jerking as Ronon teased him, the skillful attentions making him cry out as he came as well, his ass tightening around Rononís fingers as he pulsed into the sentinelís mouth.

"Mmm, you taste good," Ronon said after heíd swallowed every last drop.

"Mmm," Carson sighed, rubbing his thumb over the hollow of Rononís hip.

"And weíre good together," Ronon said smugly, making Carson chuckle.

"Aye, we are."

"Now arenít you glad you listened to me?"

"Yes, Ronon," Carson murmured, sounding amused.

"I know that tone. Youíre humoring me." Ronon didnít sound overly upset by it.

"Iíve learned itís best to deal with sentinels that way when theyíre being smug," Carson admitted as he rolled to his back and pushed up on his elbows so that he could look at the other man.

"I thought you had never been bonded?" Ronon questioned, a hint of a possessive growl coloring his tone.

"No, but Iíve had ta deal with Rodneyóand several othersóover the years."

"Then I suppose I benefit from that experience." Ronon pulled Carson up to lie face to face and slung an arm over his waist.

Carson was silent a moment, studying the larger manís dark eyes before nodding. "I want to be able to help you when I can."

"Itís been a long time since Iíve had anyone beside myself to rely on," Ronon said after reflecting. "Bear with me as I get used to it again."

"Of course." Carson reached out and stroked a hand over his face. "Itís not as if thereís a timetable fer adjusting ta these things."

"I just donít want you to give up on me," Ronon replied, raising a hand to cover Carsonís, pressing it to his cheek.

"Dinna worry, lad, I have lots of practice dealing with stubborn men, and I dinna give up lightly."

"Iím really going to need to get to know this McKay."

"Just dinna kill him, please," Carson said, grinning slightly. "Heís a friend, and I would hate ta have that happen."

"I think Sheppard would have something to say about that too."

"Oh, aye, but I was hoping what I want has more weight than what he does at this point."

"Of course it does, but heíd still shoot me if I threatened his sentinel," Ronon said with a grin.

"Yes, there is that," Carson murmured, "and as the two of them have been through quite enough, Iíd rather not agitate them.

"If Iím going to be exciting someone, Iíd rather it was you."

"Didnít we just prove that?" Carson asked, his fingertips flexing against Rononís cheek.

Ronon smiled smugly.

"Och, yeíre going ta be the death of me, I can tell," Carson laughed.

"No, Iím going to take very good care of you," Ronon corrected. "Youíre going to live to be a very old man."

"We both are," Carson murmured before kissing him.

"I like the sound of that," Ronon said, holding Carson close, the other man sighing and sliding his arms around Ronon as well, stroking his back but keeping clear of the bandage there.

~ CHAPTER 7 ~

"This mission will be a little outside the norm," Elizabeth said once the participants were all seated in the conference room. "Weíve previously explored the world, and there is no one left alive there. It seems to have been culled to extinction centuries ago. It will be a good opportunity for our sentinel-guide pairs to try working separated."

"You want us to work us with someone other than our own pair, maíam?" Laura Cadman asked thoughtfully.

"Oh yes, because the last time we did this it worked out so well," Rodney muttered.

"All the more reason to work on it," John replied. "We need to know that we can still function apart, or all weíll be doing is worrying about each other instead of concentrating on the mission."

Lisa Lindstrom nodded. "The colonelís right. If Iím always worrying about Laura zoning out if we get separated on a mission, Iím not being effective."

"And as Iím not going to be out there often, I imagine Ronon will have ta get used to itónot that he isnít after what heís been through," Carson added.

Ronon simply nodded, as did Stackhouse and Markham.

"So the missionís a go for oh-eight-hundred tomorrow," John said, and Elizabeth smiled.

"Wait, wait, wait, just who is going with whom?" Rodney asked.

"Itís you, Lt. Cadman, Dr. Beckett and me, Doc," Stackhouse grinned. "Col. Sheppard is with Lt. Lindstrom, Eric and Ronon."

"Two sentinels and two guides to a team, with all pairs separated," John added. "Try not to traumatize the others too much, Rodney," he said with a grin.

"Very funny, Colonel," Rodney sniffed, glaring at him. "Try not to get lost."

"I donít get lost!"

Stackhouse and Markham hid grins, and even Elizabeth struggled to keep her expression neutral while Laura and Lisa glanced at each other and Carson shook his head.

"Of course ye donít, John; just remember ta take the othersí advice."

John sulked, crossing his arms over his chest, and Rodney finally gave in, leaned in and kissed him. "You find your way home; thatís what matters."

John smiled at him, and across the table, Lisa grinned at Laura. "Theyíre cute."

"Considering what theyíve been through, Iíd say it was allowed," the redhead chuckled, and Stackhouse nodded.

"Damn right, maíam."

"We are not cute!" John stated emphatically.

"Definitely not!" Rodney stated.

"Yeah, you are," Lisa said. "Itís sweet."

"Can you demote them or something?"

"No, but after this mission, I can assign them to guard Kavanagh."

Stackhouse and Markham snickered while Carson looked appalled. "Now then, lad, thatís just cruelty!"

"You wouldnít want me to let a scientist work in distant sectors of the city without a guard, would you?" John asked with spurious innocence.

Laura glanced at Lisa again and straightened in her seat. "You arenít cute, sir, not cute at all."

"Now she thinks Iím ugly," John mourned, and Lisa snickered.

"Youíre on your own here, sentinel mine."

"Gee, thanks, Iím feeling the love."

"He outranks you," Lisa retorted, and John started laughing.

"You two are going to fit in fine here."

"As long as you donít touch!" Rodney cut in, and Laura looked hurt.

"We donít do that where we arenít invited, Dr. McKay."

"Och, Rodney, donít scare the lass," Carson frowned.

"Like Laura said, we donít poach," Lisa said, "and we certainly donít try to break up bonded pairs."

"Donít take it personally, Lieutenant," John advised her. "Rodneyís just insanely possessive. I like it, but it can take a bit of getting used to for other people."

"Oh, like you arenít!" Rodney snapped, and Carson smiled as he looked at Ronon.

"Do ye understand what I was speaking of yet?"

"And I think that ends this meeting," Elizabeth said, getting to her feet and leaving as they continued to talk behind her.

"Lunch?" John suggested.

"Food would be good," Rodney nodded. "Or did you mean all of us?"

"No offense to anyone, but twoís company."

Ronon nodded, looking at Carson questioningly.

"Something ye want ta do, lad?" the doctor asked as the paired sergeants and lieutenants slipped out of the room.

"Spend some time together," Ronon replied simply. "Iíd like to get to know you better."

"All right, shall we take a walk?" Carson asked, and Rodney hid a grin.

"Now thatís cute," he murmured to John, who nodded with a smile of his own.

"But I donít think we need to tell Ronon that," John said, knowing perfectly well the sentinel could hear them.

"Urmm, no, Iíd rather keep my arms attached to my body, thanks."

"Yeah, I like what you do with them."

"Thatís my hands, you idiot," Rodney muttered as Carson and Ronon left the room. "So, lunch?"

"Which wouldnít work well without your arms," John retorted. "Take it back to our room?"

"You just want to take advantage of me, donít you?"

"Unless youíd rather take advantage of me."

"No, I think itís your turn, and we have to be fair about these things."

John laughed. "So letís get the food, and then we can see how many turns we can squeeze in."

"Just how is walking around a deserted planet preparing us for anything?" Rodney grumbled, glaring at the pastoral scenery and his companions in turn.

"Youíd rather have Wraith shooting at us?" Sgt. Stackhouse asked.

"No, but all this quiet is unnerving in itself!"

Shaking his head at Rodneyís complaint, Carson smiled at Laura. "Ye seem ta be doing well, lass."

"So far, so good," she grinned back.

"I think itís quieter keeping the colonel and Dr. McKay apart," Stackhouse said. "Itís when theyíre together that crazy things happen."

"I heard that!" Rodney grumbled.

"I think ye were meant to."

"Quiet!" Laura suddenly said, holding up a hand.

Rodney instantly went still before cursing under his breath. "Everyone get to the trees."

"What is it?" Carson asked as they all began to run.

Laura answered him and informed the other team at the same time as she activated her radio. "Wraith darts!"

Stackhouse held his P90 at the ready as they ran for cover.

"Oh, bloody hell," Carson gasped as they all headed for the trees, the whine of the approaching dart loud enough now that he could hear it.

"I take it back," Stackhouse groaned. "Itís never quiet with either of them around."

The pitch of the dartís engines increased, and Laura moved up behind Rodney, shoving him out of the way just as a beam shot down from it, taking them both.

Stackhouse exchanged horrified glances with Carson as he quickly reported to the colonel what had happened.

Every drop of color drained from Johnís face, but his voice was steady as he ordered the non-sentinel teams also present on the world to shoot down the dart without destroying it.

"Itís heading back toward the gate," Carson radioed in, his voice firm but shaken.

"Stop it, Lorne," John ordered, desperation creeping into his voice.

"On it, sir," the major radioed back, lifting the RPG to his shoulder and taking aim, only to have it lose the dart in the trees. "Damnit!"

John was still swearing when he saw the dart appear through the trees, and he raised an RPG to his shoulder and fired, praying like heíd never prayed before.

Carson stumbled to a stop at the edge of the clearing, watching wide-eyed as the rocket shot toward the dart and hit it, sending it tumbling from the sky, a dark plume of smoke trailing from the end.

"Rodney," John whispered, shoving the RPG into Markhamís hands before bolting toward the dart with Lindstrom right on his heels and the others following close behind.

Being closest to the wreckage, Carson and Stackhouse arrived first, Carson ignoring the other guideís commands as he picked his way to the cockpit, trying to see if he could help.

"We need to get them out," John said, hovering over Carson. "Lorne, get back to the gate and dial Atlantis. We need Zelenka."

"Yessir!" Lorne snapped out before running to do that.

"Rodney, if youíre not okay, Iím going to kill you," John muttered, staring at the smoldering dart in dismay, while Carson tugged at the canopy, stumbling back when it hissed open, revealing an injured Wraith within.

"All right, lad, I can help ye," Carson murmured, marshalling his fear to attend to the injured being.

"Carson, keep back," Ronon barked, yanking him away from the Wraith even as John shot it in the head.

"The only help it wanted from you, Carson, was to drain your life to heal itself," John said bluntly.

"Or to take us all out," Ronon stated bluntly, pointing at the button the Wraith had been reaching for.

"Bloody hell," Carson gasped, unconsciously leaning against Ronon as he caught his breath.

"Dr. Zelenka will be here in fifteen," Lorne reported from a safe distance.

"Hang on, Rodney, helpís on the way," John murmured.

Muttering to himself in Czech, Radek emerged from the stargate accompanied by a pair of soldiers, all of them looking nervous and jumpy. "Where is dart?" he snapped, nerves eroding his English.

"This way, Dr. Z," Sgt. Stackhouse said from where heíd been waiting at the gate. "Itís not too far." He set off at a trot, Zelenka following close behind, darting glances all around him and frowning when he saw the expressions on John and Lisa Lindstromís faces.

"What can I do?"

"Get them out of there." John fixed hazel eyes filled with desperation on Radek.

"I donít knowó" Radek began before Carson rested a hand on his shoulder.

"We know yeíll do yer best, lad."

"And then you can lord it over Rodney," John added, trying for a joking tone.

"Will not work, his ego is too big," Radek answered, his expression full of sympathy before he set up his equipment and got to work, trying to interface with the dartís systems and save Rodney and the lieutenant.

Watching him, John reached over and caught hold of Lisa Lindstromís hand, squeezing it, and she glanced at her CO and nodded slightly before squeezing back. Right then, rank didnít matter to either of them; they were two guides desperately afraid for their sentinels, and there wasnít room for anything else.

"Ah!" Radek exclaimed, typing furiously, before frowning and adjusting the scanner. "Is problem.  There are two of them in the dart, and I can only retrieve one at a time."

"Well, go ahead and pull Rodney out, and then with both of you working on it, you wonít have any trouble retrieving Cadman," John said.

"Yes, yes of course," Radek murmured, concentrating on his work while Carson moved closer to Ronon and took his hand at the same time Stackhouse squeezed Markhamís arm. "The issue is that I cannot tell which one is Rodney."

"Well, either way, you can get them out. It doesnít matter which order they come back in."

"Please let this work," Lisa whispered, unconsciously tightening her grip on Johnís hand.

Radek flicked a glance her way and pressed his lips together as he entered the last command, watching as a beam of light shot out from the containment unit of the dart, leaving Rodney standing there looking dazed before collapsing to the ground.

"Rodney!" John dropped to his knees beside his husband, gathering him into his arms. "Címon, Rodney, wake up, please."

"Huh?" Rodney groaned. "Whatówhere?"

Radek cursed behind them as the containment unit sparked and smoked.

"What happened?" Lisa exclaimed, taking a half step forward.

"We need to take it back to the city with us," Radek ordered, trying not to look at the stricken young woman.

"Whatís wrong? Why arenít you getting Laura out of that thing?!"

"Easy, lass, Iím sure heís doing everything he can," Carson said soothingly.

"Is shorted out; we can fix in Atlantis. We will fix in Atlantis," Radek promised.

Lisa let out a guttural moan of pain, drawing Johnís attention to her. "We have the two most brilliant men in two galaxies here, Lindstrom. Youíll have her back."

"He seems stable," Carson announced once heíd had a chance to examine Rodney back in the city.

"What about me?" Laura asked, annoyed when the doctor ignored her.

"What? Who said that?" Rodney demanded, looking around as he tried to sit up.

"I did, Lt. Cadman."

"Who said what, Rodney?" Carson asked, frowning slightly as he wondered if the sentinelís senses were malfunctioning.

"Lt. Cadman! Where is she? Sheís talking to me, and someone should really see if sheís all right."

John frowned. "Rodney, Cadmanís still stuck in the buffer of the Wraith dart. The power failed before Radek could get her out."

"What?! Iím right here!" Laura exclaimed.

"But sheís talking to me! Where are you, Cadman?" Rodney demanded.

"Iím lying down in bed, looking at Dr. Beckett."

"Rodney..." Carson said slowly as Rodneyís eyes widened and he slowly covered them with a hand.

"Can you see him now?"

"No... Whatís going on here?"

"Rodney, are you all right?" John clung to his hand, desperately afraid that being in the dart had hurt Rodney in some way.

Rodney brought his free hand down and stared at John, his blue eyes wide. "I think sheís in my head. I can hear heróLt. Cadman, that is."

"Carson!" John turned frightened eyes on the doctor.

"I suppose there could have been an issue with the extraction," Carson began before Rodney sat bolt upright.

"I knew Zelenka would mess things up!"

"What is going on?!" Laura demanded in his head, and he glowered.

"Not now, I have to fix this." At that, Rodney tried to get out of bed.

"Rodney, what you do think youíre doing?" John exclaimed, pushing him back.

"To see what the hell Zelenka did!"

"Stay there!" John growled. "Youíre not going anywhere till Carson checks you. If you really do have Cadman in your head, heíll be able to tell."

"And how is he going to be able to do that?" Rodney exclaimed at the same time Laura repeated the words in his head.

"I donít know; heís the doctor! MRI? Brain scan?"

"That isnae going to tell us if there is another consciousness in his brain," Carson protested.

"Iím here!" Laura protested, causing Rodney to slam his hand on the bed and shout.

"Stop yelling!"

"Carson, do something!" John demanded.

"Iím nae sure what I can do," Carson admitted.

"You are not filling me with confidence," John informed him.

"Look, Iím fine as far as we know; can I get out of here?"

"And Iíd really like to see Lisa," Laura added, making him sigh.

"And can you have Lt. Lindstrom come in here?"

"Okay, now I believe Cadmanís in there too," John said, staring at Rodney, who frowned back at him.

"What? Did you think I was lying?"

"No, but it could have been an effect of the Wraith beam. But nothing would have you asking for Lindstrom except Cadman."

"Iógood point," Rodney admitted, wincing at the internal exclamation when Lisa hurried into the infirmary. "Sheís glad to see you."

"What?" Looking confused, Lisa looked from the sentinel in the bed to her CO. "I thought... Whereís Laura?"

"I believeó" Carson began before Rodney interrupted.

"Sheís in my head."

Lisa sat down abruptly on a nearby bed, her eyes wide. "In your head?" she repeated, sounding stunned.

"Tell her that if she argues, youíll tell everyone where she has a tattoo," Laura demanded, and Rodney repeated it, stumbling slightly over the words.

"Laura!" Lisa exclaimed before realizing what that meant and moving to the bed. "Laura?"

"Yeah," Rodney said, sounding tired as he pointed to his head. "Sheís in here, and if certain people would let me out of here, I could work on getting her out!"

John frowned but looked over at Carson, leaving the decision to him, and the doctor sighed. "Well, I dinna see anything physically wrong with ye, but I want you to let me know immediately if you notice anything."

"Donít worry, Iím going to solve this problem now as Radek is obviously napping on the job," Rodney stated as he slid out of bed.

"Nice ass, Doc," Lisa said, trying for a grin despite the fear shadowing the blue of her eyes.

"What? Stop looking at my ass!" Rodney demanded, grabbing for the back of his gown and holding it closed. "And you stop making comments!" he demanded.

Despite the situation, John had to laugh. "Oh, Rodney, only you could get a Marine stuck in your head."

"And knowing you, you probably think itís sexy!"

"Uh, no, maybe if she was Air Force..." John managed a quick grin.

"Can I leave now?" Rodney sighed, and Carson brought his uniform and set it on the bed.

"Dinna over-stress yerself, Rodney."

John snorted. "Have you met him?"

"Almost as well as you, so I expect Iíll see him soon."

John laughed. "Get dressed, Rodney, so I donít have to shoot the lieutenant for ogling you."

"To do that, Iíd have to get dressed with my eyes closed," Rodney muttered, grabbing his clothes and stomping off a room to change.

"All right, what have you all done, and how much work do I have to do to fix it?" Rodney demanded as he walked into the lab where the dart wreckage was being stored.

Radek looked up. "Yes, yes, I made a mistake trying to save your life. We are working to find ways to power it. Now, do you want to try to fix it, or do you want to continue to berate me somewhat?"

"Iím perfectly capable of doing both at the same time. NowóI assume youíve tried to run one of our own generators on it?" Rodney snapped, ignoring Cadman in his head telling him to be nice.

"Itís not as simple as that. The trick is having it interface with the Wraith machine in real time. The power fluctuations areóare huge. If we overshoot just a little, weíre screwed up."

Standing near the colonel, Lisa bit back a moan at the Czech scientistís words.

"If we take a naquadah generator..." Cadman called Rodneyís name. "And uhó" Another interruption and Rodney snapped. "What?!" Everyone stared at him, and he glared back.

"Laura, shut up and let the man concentrate unless you want to stay where you are!" Lisa ordered.

"Thank you!" Rodney gasped as he rubbed his forehead. "And you, be a good little girl and be quiet."

"Donít you dare condescend to me! This is as much my problem as it is yours," Laura ranted in his head.

"And do you have a degree in physics, hmm?" Rodney snapped. "Well, what about mechanical engineering, huh?"

"Laura, please," Lisa begged. "I really prefer you as a sexy redhead to a middle-aged scientist, and Iím sure the colonel and Dr. McKay prefer a twosome to a threesome."

Rodney glowered at the blonde at that and opened his mouth to berate her when Cadman started yelling in his head again and he shouted at her to shut up.

"Rodney?" Elizabeth waited for Rodney to realize she was the one speaking and acknowledge her. "Why donít we let Radek handle this?"

"Iím fine."

"No, youíre not," John said emphatically, reaching for his hand.

"And Iíd like you to talk to Dr. Heightmeyer," Elizabeth added.

"I think Iíd be more useful if I wasó" Rodney protested before Elizabeth interrupted him again.

"Rodney, Iím not asking you."

Rodney stared at her at that, then looked around at all the others who were looking at him as if he was insane. "Fine." He said flatly, pulling his hand from Johnís and walking away.

John started to follow but realized that Rodney needed some time on his own... or at least as much on his own as he could manage with someone else in his head. Instead he looked over at Lindstrom. "Care to join me for a drink? I think we could both use one."

Lisa nodded, and the two of them left the scientists to their work.

~ CHAPTER 8 ~

"Cadman says Iím sulking," Rodney muttered, beginning to speak before the door had even started opening to let John in their room. "And Heightmeyer says I should let her take control so we can get along better."

"No offense to Heightmeyer but youíre the sentinel I want in here with me." John walked across the room and pulled Rodney into his arms, Mole hopping down from the bed to twine around their ankles.

"Sheís here, sheóitís like there are three of us here. Sheís even trying to tell me how to keep my senses in line." The last was growled as Rodney pulled back to pace around the room, being careful not to step on the cat.

That made John growl as well. "Lt. Cadman! I am Dr. McKayís guide, and I am also your CO. Interfere with him as a sentinel again and youíd better pray not to get back in your own body where I can make your life a living hell!"

Rodneyís expression changed at that, and he stood up straighter. "May I remind you, sir, that as part of a sentinel/guide pair I answer to my guide first and foremost. I have no problem following orders from you or anyone, but Iím also not going to remain silent when someone is working themselves into a zone!"

"Then let me make this very clear to you, Sentinel Cadman. Rodney neither needs nor wants your help. After being unbonded most of his life, he works differently than most sentinels, and itís none of your damn business to interfere. In fact, you would probably make matters worse. And speaking as his guide and husband, I will make you very sorry if you do it again. And that has nothing to do with military rank!" John bit out, clearly furious.

Rodneyís expression cleared, and he reached out to catch Johnís hand. "John, sheís scared. She isnít going to say it, but I can tell, and... I suppose I do overreact. Occasionally."

John sighed. "Sorry, Cadman. Youíre not the only one whoís scared," he admitted. "That just hit a sore spot." He squeezed Rodneyís fingers. "Did you stop to talk to Lindstrom? Iím sure sheíd like to be able to talk to her partner."

"No." Rodney was silent for a moment. "Iósheíd like that."

"Damnit, that means I have to let you go again," John said. "But you should go. Iíll be here when you get back."

"Yes, this will be... easier with just meóus," Rodney sighed.

John nodded, then pulled Rodney to him and kissed him hard, Rodney clutching him tightly before sighing. "Okay, going now, and donít shoot Cadman when we get her out, okay?"

"Oh fine, but youíre going to have to make it up to me."

"Once Iím alone in my head, Iíll be glad toóand no comments from the peanut gallery," Rodney muttered.

John grinned quickly, although it did nothing to dissipate the tension around his eyes. "Now I want this fixed even more."

"Iíll figure something out," Rodney promised, giving him another quick kiss before turning and heading out, muttering to himself as he conversed with Cadman.

"Dr. McKay?" Lisa looked surprised when she opened her door to find the scientist on the other side.

"Hey, Lili." Rodney leaned against the doorway and smiled easily. "Rodney let me take over for a while so we could talk. Okay if we come in?"

"Laura?" Lisa searched the unfamiliar blue eyes even as she stepped back to let himóher?--through the door.

"Itís weird, I know," Laura sighed, glancing down at Rodneyís body, then back up at Lisa. "But yeah, itís me; heís not even listeningóor trying not to."

Lisa pulled her into a tight hug, trying to ignore the difference in the body in her arms, and Laura sighed, burying her face against Lisaís shoulder and hugging her back, trying to ignore how Lisaís familiar scent seemed different in this body.

"God, Lo, you have to get back. I canít lose you," Lisa whispered.

"You wonít, Iím here now and Iíll be really here soon, you arenít getting rid of me so you can go jump that cute Maj. Lorne," Laura teased brokenly.

"Naw, I need you for that. One to trip him and one to jump him."

"But then weíd have to fight over who got to ride him," Laura chuckled, pulling back enough to kiss Lisa on the forehead.

"Strap on," Lisa retorted with a shaky smile.

"Kinky, thatís why I love you, Lili; that and youíre my best friend." Laura lifted a hand and pushed a lock of pale blonde hair back off Lisaís forehead. "So, I guess weíll have to order one, eh?"

"What, you didnít bring one?" Lisa pretended to be shocked.

"I dunno, check the bottom of my trunk." Laura snickered at that. "Rodney is commenting about throwing up once heís control again."

"Iíd say he doesnít know what heís missing, but Iím pretty sure he likes the real thing better."

"Oh, now thatís enough!" Rodney demanded, pulling back and glaring at Lisa. "Any sex talk can be done at a time that doesnít include me hearing it!"

"Wuss," Lisa laughed, much more relaxed after being able to speak to Laura even for a few minutes.

"Would you like it if I discussed John and my sex life in front of you?!"

"Damn right I would! Two hot guys? Tell me!"

"No!" Rodney wailed before glowering. "And no, we arenít going to be doing anything for you to watch, Cadman!"

"Well, damn," Lisa pouted.

"Perverts, the both of you! And donít think Iím not going to tell John you plan to molest his XO!"

"And we should care about that why? Itís not against regs since weíre a sentinel-guide pair, and heís not involved with anyone."

"Because he needs more than two brain cells to rub together to do Johnísóhis paperwork!"

Lisa snickered. "I think you were right the first time."

Rodney scowled and took a deep breath. "As charming as this conversation is, would you like to say goodnight to Cadman because I need to get some rest."

Lisaís smile faded, but she nodded. "Good night to both of you. I look forward to seeing you separately tomorrow."

"What, no kiss?" Once again, the posture and mannerisms were Lauraís.

"I didnít think Dr. McKay would appreciate it, but since itís you..." Lisa drew Laura into her arms and kissed her, Laura winding her arms around her and teasing her mouth open to taste her.

"Hurry home, honey," Lisa said after she reluctantly drew back. "I miss you."

"Same here, and relax, Iíve got the two smartestóow, okay, donít yell, the smartest guy in two galaxies and his cohortóworking on the problem; Iíll be back for dinneróand dessert." Laura kissed her again and stepped back, her fingers lingering on Lisaís. "Love you, Lili."

"Love you too, Lo."

Laura turned at that, listening to the soft swish of the door as it closed, her posture changing to a more slumped but aggressive one when Rodney took control again, taking them back toward his and Johnís room.

"You look beat," John said, watching Rodney carefully as the sentinel stepped into their room.

"I canít imagine why; having someone in your body making out with their significant other is just so relaxing," Rodney snapped before sighing. "Sorry, Iíve just got this headache..." He rubbed at his forehead and studied John, knowing he was more worried than he was trying to show. "And Iím taking it out on you."

"After everything that happened today, Iím just glad youíre here to bitch at me," John admitted, pulling Rodney into a tight embrace.

"Yeah," Rodney sighed, nodding against his shoulder, "Iíll take having a bossy Marine in my head over not being here."

"Of course, we need to get that Marine back into her own head so we can celebrate your continued existence," John murmured, turning his head to rest his cheek against Rodneyís temple.

"Yes, because she and her cohort seemed much too interested in what we do when weíre alone." Rodney paused for a second before grumbling, "You were too."

Johnís shoulders shook as he tried not to laugh, and Rodney pulled back to glare at him. "Fine, go ahead and strip and play with yourself; letís give her a show!" he snapped.

"Rodney! I never suggested anything of the kind," John growled, shaking him slightly. "I know I said I was okay with you taking it out on me, but there are limits."

Rodney drew in on himself and sighed. "Maybe I should just go... somewhere else for now."

John stiffened. About to snap angrily, he suddenly realized that they were both taking their fear out on each other, and instead he sighed. "Iíd rather you stayed here with me."

"Iíd rather do the same thing," Rodney admitted, some of the tension leaving his shoulders as he met Johnís gaze, his blue eyes bloodshot and tired.

John drew him close again. "Maybe we should lie down?" he suggested.

Rodney nodded at that and leaned against Johnís shoulder. "Yeah, that would be goodóas long as no one plays voyeur."

"I think sheíll behave. Otherwise she knows KP will look like heaven before Iím done." John hugged him tightly.

A loud snoring filled Rodneyís thoughts, and he gave a tired chuckle. "Sheís not listeningóor pretending not to anyway, though I donít want to push it."

"So we wear boxers to bed tonight," John replied easily.

"And t-shirts, Iím not having her fantasizing about your chest!"

John gawked at him for a moment before wisely deciding not to argue and nodding. "Sure, whatever you want."

"I know itís stupid, but it makes me feel better," Rodney muttered.

"Then thatís what weíll do. Nothingís stupid."

Rodney sighed at that and rested his head on Johnís shoulder. "I love you," he said quietly before hugging him tightly.

"I sure as hell hope so since you married me!"

Rodney snorted at that and finally let him go. "Damn right and you know it."

"Just wanted to make you say it." John smirked at him, making Rodney scowl.

"You are such a jerk!"

"But Iím your jerk," John laughed, and Rodney sighed.

"Go change, Colonel, and we can get some rest."

"You could just shut your eyes," John pointed out.

"Iíd peek."

"Damn, Iím good."

"And full of yourself, now go change."

John opened his mouth, thought better of whatever heíd been about to say, and vanished into the bathroom after grabbing a clean pair of boxers and t-shirt.

Rodney watched the door before sighing and grabbing a change of clothes, closing his eyes as he changed, not wanting Cadman to get more of an eyeful than necessary.

"Is it safe to come out?" John called after a few moments.

"Iím not looking if thatís what youíre asking."

"Damn, and here I thought I was irresistible."

"In your dreams," Rodney snorted, even as he caught Johnís hand and pulled him toward their bed.

"What, Iím not the man of yours?" John asked with a pout, hamming it up to help Rodney relax but only making him chuckle.

"Yes, dear, of course you are."

"Great, now youíre pacifying me like a fifties housewife," John snorted, sliding into bed and holding the covers up invitingly.

"You compare me to Lucille Ball and then want me to get in bed with you?" Rodney asked incredulously before crawling into bed beside John, pulling him close and feeling some of the tension that gripped him easing.

"Actually I was thinking more of June Cleaver... or Laura Petrie."

"I really hate youóand you can stop laughing any time now," Rodney muttered to Cadman.

John laid his head on Rodneyís shoulder and draped an arm and leg over him as they settled into their favorite position. "You love me even when you hate me," John informed him.

"I hate it when youíre logical." Even as he grumbled this out, Rodney wrapped his arms around John, holding him close, ignoring Cadmanís comment that they were too cute. He felt the slight dip in the bed as Mole joined them, curling up at the foot of the bed, and relaxed as much as possible.

"Ha!" John snorted. "We both know you think brains are hot."

"Be that as it may," Rodney sniffed, cursing silently when that filled his nostrils with Johnís unique scent and made his cock twitch, "Iím not finding them hot tonight."

"Yeah, you are, but weíre not doing anything about it, not tonight. Iíll make it up to you when weíre alone."

"Exactly, now get some sleep, because I know I need it."

"Dr. Beckett, do you have a moment?" Lisa Lindstrom asked tentatively when she arrived in the infirmary the next morning.

"Aye, lass," Carson said gently as he took her arm. "Why donít we just go into my office and have a cup of coffee?"

"Thatíd be good, thanks." Lisa agreed, clearly upset despite her attempt to seem at ease.

Carson rested his hand on her back, guiding her inside and shutting the door behind them, getting her settled in a seat before pouring them both mugs of coffee and sitting down in the chair next to her. "I imagine that has ta be quite difficult for ye, lass," he said gently.

"I need to know, is Laura going to be okay? Will she still be her if they get her back to her own body? And if they donít, whatís going to happen to her?"

"The science staff is working day and night on the problem," Carson assured her. "When they get her out, sheíll be just fine."

"I wish I could believe that," Lisa whispered. "I donít know how to be without her," she admitted. "Weíve been bonded since we were twelve."

"Oh, lass..." Carson reached out and took her hand. "Weíve the best minds in two galaxies working on the problem, so dinna give up hope."

She nodded, trying to smile. "I know. It was just so weird talking to her in Rodneyís body last night."

Carson shook his head slightly at that. "I can imagine it had to be odd for all three of ye."

"Yes, it was," Lisa agreed, her smile brightening for a moment. "I think he was kind of freaked to realize that technically heíd kissed me."

"Hrmm, I wonder if he told the colonel about that," Carson chuckled quietly.

"I doubt it, but Iím sure heíll babble it sometime."

"The two of ye will know that happened when ye find yerselves running laps around the city."

The comment surprised Lisa into laughter. "Theyíre good together, arenít they."

"Oh, aye, verra good, just as you and Lt. Cadman are together."

"You and Dex are getting there," Lisa replied, and Carson nodded as he took a sip of his coffee.

"Mmm, good coffee," Lisa said appreciatively after tasting it. "Who do I have to kill to get some of this?"

"Itís some I brought back with me, but I could be persuaded ta part with some."

"Iím perfectly willing to offer bribes."

"Actually, Iíll take it in trade." Carson was silent for a moment before continuing. "In the form of asking yer advice on dealing with being an active guide."

"Dr. BeóCarson, you donít need to pay us for that. Weíre happy to help."

"Thank ye for that, lass." Carson smiled at that and patted her arm. "To be honest, Iím feeling somewhat out of my depth."

"Itís not that all much different from what Iíve heard you were doing for Rodney for years," Lisa offered.

"Rodney wasnae the type ta be going out inta dangerous situations. Iím feeling very torn," Carson admitted.

Lisa gawked at him. "Even I know better than that, just from reading the mission reports."

"I meant before we came here."

"Oh, right. Well, you know going into it that DexóRonon has survived the worst that this galaxy could throw at him for seven years all on his own, and now he has support, from you and from his team."

Carson nodded as he took another drink. "Aye, yeíre verra right about that."

"Youíll work it out. You just need to get to know each other."

"Time, itís something we all need, it seems."

"I guess so," Lisa agreed, finishing her coffee and setting the cup aside. "Thanks for the coffee and the time."

"I dinna feel that I did much, but yeíre welcome anytime, lass."

"You need to do something, Rodney," Laura informed him. "I canít just sit all day."

"What do you suggest I do?" Rodney snapped. "Because you wonít shut up, I canít even work on getting us out of this mess."

"I said do, Rodney. Go for a run. You could use the exercise."

"A run?! Are you insane?"

Annoyed, Laura tried to stand up and was shocked when it worked. "Aha."

"Just what do you think youíre doing?" Rodney demanded, feeling a spurt of fear when the words werenít said aloud.

"Iím going to get us some exercise," Laura informed him.

"I donít need any exercise!" Rodney shrieked even as Laura started them running down the corridor. "Youíre going to give me a heart attack!"

"Iím going to prevent you having one," Laura retorted.

"You are such a bitch!"

"No pain, no gain," she replied cheerfully, and Rodney tried to take control of his body once more but failed.

"Oh, relax. This is good for you."

"Give me back my body!"

"Soon, Rodney. I was going crazy sitting around all day. Donít you ever do anything physical?"

"I refuse to answer that!"

"Dr. McKay, report to the hanger. Dr. McKay, report to the hanger," Radekís voice sounded over the speaker.

"So much for getting some exercise," Laura sighed, mentally pulling back and returning control of his body to Rodney.

"Thank you!" Rodney snapped, looking around sheepishly when he realized heíd said that aloud, then hurried to the hanger, frowning slightly when he saw John and Elizabeth there as well. "Whatís going on?"

"Weíve been running simulations all day. I think I may finally have something. I was able to get the generator to run on a buffer loop which tricks the dart into taking only the power that it needs without overloading," Radek informed him while a technician put a pair of white mice in an open-topped glass container.

"Youíre testing it on the mice?" John asked, moving closer to Rodney.

"Would you rather we test on soldiers?" Radek asked.

"No bickering, can we just see it?"

"I was just asking," John said defensively, frowning when he noticed that Rodney was sweating. "Something wrong?" he asked quietly.

"Cadman decided to take us for a run," Rodney muttered, watching intently as Radek entered the commands to fire the dematerializer and the mice vanished.

"All right. Life signs holding steady. Now, rematerialization initiated." He pressed several more buttons, and the beam swept out again, leaving a pair of dead, smoking mice in the container.

"Now Iím no scientist, but those mice used to be a different color," John said, trying to cover his dismay with wry humor.

"This is never gonna end! Iím gonna be stuck like thisóforever!" Rodney wailed.

"Like hell," John growled. "I just got you, and Iím not giving you up."

"And I donít want to be in here forever either!" Laura added, taking control.

"We will do more work," Radek announced.

"Because what youíve done so far is working out oh so well," Rodney snapped.

"Stop being so grouchy, Rodney; theyíre doing everything they can," Laura told him.

"Oh, so you like being like this?!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth said, getting his attention by placing her hand on his arm. "Iíd like you to go see Dr. Heightmeyer again; you canít go on like this."

"And I wouldnít have to if she wouldnít keep making me do things!"

"Go!" Elizabeth ordered, and John placed a hand on Rodneyís arm.

"It might help."

Rodney opened his mouth to say something, then sighed and nodded. "Fine, Iíll go."

Kate Heightmeyer sat in her chair behind her desk, clearly prepared to wait all day for Rodney to speak. He finally lifted his head from his hands and glared at her. "I want an apology."

"Laura?" Kate made a question of the name.

"Forget about it!" Laura snapped, grabbing control again to answer for herself.

"You did take over his body without permission," Kate pointed out.

"He doesnít ask permission when he takes over."

"You... because itís my body!"

"Yeahóand Iím a guest. Try and be a little more courteous."

"You see?! You see what I have to put up with!"

"Put up with"?

"Thereís a lot of stuff that Iím not doing right now that I would be doing!"

"I donít wanna hear about it..."

"And you wonít!"

"All right, you two, settle down," Kate said soothingly, trying to prevent the argument from escalating.

"Youíre the one who said Ďset up rulesí. Well, I did. I-I-I-I followed them; I stuck to them. She basically hijacked me," Rodney sputtered.

"Hey, you had a real opportunity to get inside the mind of a woman and actually expand your horizons, but nooooo."

"Did you ever for a second consider that I might not want to get inside a womanís..." Rodney gasped, convulsed, and fell forward as he collapsed.

"Rodney! Rodney?" Kate jumped to her feet and caught hold of his head as he tumbled off the chair, limp and unconscious. She lowered him the rest of the way to the ground, then ran to grab her comm, which was lying on the desk. "This is Heightmeyer. Get Beckett in here stat."

~ CHAPTER 9 ~

"What happened?" Rodney groaned, trying to sit up only to have Carson hold him down on the bed while John and Lisa hovered anxiously nearby.

"Ye had a seizure."

"Why?" Rodney demanded.

"From what we can tell, the constant fighting over the dominance of your brain is having a deleterious effect on its lower functions: heart rate, respiration, organ function..."

"Thatís not good," Laura said, sounding a bit guilty.

"Of course itís not good!" Rodney snapped.

Carson shook his head as he looked at them. "Iím not sure how long you can go on like this."

"What do you mean?" Rodney asked.

"These misfires will only increase in frequency and severity over time."

"Well, fine, sheíll stop trying to take over control of my body."

"Itís not as simple as that, Rodney," Carson sighed.

Kate Heightmeyer stepped forward, placing a hand on Rodneyís arm. "One of you has to release control. One of you has to let go completely."

"Ah, well, maybe if someoneósay, youóhadnít told her to try and take control in the first place, none of this would have happened," Rodney snapped, and John edged closer to place a soothing hand on his arm, Lisa right beside him.

"I was just trying to help both of you."

"What happens to the one who Ďlets goí?" Rodney asked, frowning slightly.

Carson tried to be positive. "Well, weíre not certain, of courseóweíve not often run into these situations before..."

"They would disappear. I know they would, Ďcause I can already feel it happening to me. Itís getting harder to be in here," Laura said. "Itís taking more of an effort."

Rodney frowned at that. "Has it always been like that?"

"Past few hours. You havenít felt it too?" Laura sounded surprised.

"Well, of course I haveóI just thought I was fighting with you. Lookówhereíre we at?" Rodney sat up enough to look at Radek, who had come into the infirmary.

Radek pointed at himself, his eyebrows raised questioningly, before responding. "Well, weíve successfully rematerialized a pair of mice." He hesitated before continuing, "They were whole and correctly reconstructed..."

"But?"

"They didnít survive," Radek finished reluctantly.

"Iím afraid if one of you doesnít let go, both of you will die," Carson said.

Rodney was silent for a moment, then slowly raised his hand. "Iíll do it."

"Which one of you said that?" Carson asked before he and Kate started discussing the situation even as Laura and Rodney did the same while John and Lisa watched helplessly.

"You donít have to do this."

"Yes, I do, Rodney. Itís your bodyóand youíre not gonna do it."

"Oh? What makes you so sure?"

"They need you here, andóas much as I hate to admit itóIím not as important as-"

"Stop it" Rodney snapped. "Thatís not true!"

Ignoring him, Laura said, "Carson! I need something to write with."

"What are you doing?" Rodney asked as Carson brought over a pad and pen.

"I wanna write a letter to my folks. Iíd appreciate it if youíd go with Lisa to deliver it the next time you gate back to Earth, Rodneyóexplain what happened."

Lisa bit back an almost animal moan of pain.

"Well, Iím not sure when Iíll..." Rodney began before sitting straight up. "The Gate! We can use the gate!"

"What are ye talking about?" Carson asked.

"Well, the gate dematerializes you as you step into it, sending your information to the next gate so it can be rematerialized on the other side."

"Well, we know that," Laura said, tightening her hold on Lisaís hand.

"So if we can take one of the crystal control modules from the gate and interface it with the dart, we should be able to build a safer system." As he spoke, Rodney started getting out of bed, shaking off Lisa and Johnís hands.

Carson reached out to stop him. "Rodney, wait. I donít think youíre in any condition to do this."

"I donít have time to talk; I need to get this done before the next seizure."

"Now you see what I deal with on every mission," John observed over his shoulder to Carson as he hurried out of the infirmary after Rodney.

"All right, Radek," Rodney announced after studying the readouts on the laptop, "letís do this."

Zelenka frowned. "Just because it works in simulation doesnít mean-"

"I would prefer not to suffer a fatal seizure while we wait for you to round up more mice. So, shall we?"

"Rodney?" Laura tried to get his attention.

"Donít try to talk me out of this," Rodney muttered, "I might well listen."

"I was just gonna say thanks."

"Well, youíre welcome. I can honestly say that the entire experience has been very, um..." Rodney looked up when Carson and Lisa arrived with Elizabeth close behind them.

Ignoring the new arrivals, John moved closer to Rodney and Radek, frowning. "Hold on, Rodney; I thought all the mice died?"

"That was when Radek was doing the programming; this will work."

Radek glared at him, and John snickered. Smiling faintly at the byplay, Elizabeth asked, "Are you sure about this?"

"Absolutely."

Elizabeth looked at Radek for confirmation, but he could only shrug, clearly not sure at all. She turned back to Rodney, weighing his certainty, and finally nodded slightly. "Okay."

"Just... Give me a second." Rodney glanced at John and took a deep breath before stepping into the square taped on the floor for the target area. "Well, Laura, itís been, urmmm... unique."

"To say the least!" Laura agreed.

"Good luck to us both, right?"

"All right," Radek said, typing on his laptop, and then looked up at the gathered scientists, command staff and guides. "Itís ready. I suggest you take a step back." Once they had, John and Lisaís eyes fixed on Rodney, he started to press a key to start the process, but Laura suddenly said, "Stop."

She walked over to Lisa, raised a hand to cup her cheek while smiling sadly, and kissed her tenderly. "Love you, Lili."

"I love you too, and youíre going to be fine," Lisa said, fighting tears.

Laura nodded before suddenly spinning, grabbing the sides of Maj. Lorneís jacket and kissing him thoroughly while John watched with raised eyebrows.

"Just in case," Laura said before giving control back to Rodney, who covered his face with his hand as he walked back to the target and waved a hand in Radekís direction.

"Just do it."

After a momentís hesitation as he looked at the irascible man who, against all odds, had become his friend, Radek hit enter to start the process, and Rodney dematerialized. "Okay, itís reading as two life signs. Power levels are steady... "

"Get Ďem out of there!" John barked, Lisa at his side.

Radek hit the button again, and the two life signs vanished from the display. The beam shot out again, and when it dimmed, Rodney was standing there still in the same position as when heíd vanished moments before. And standing next to him was Laura Cadman, her hand outstretched as it had been when she tried to push Rodney out of the dartís beam. They stood there for a moment before collapsing to the floor, unconscious, causing Carson and the others to rush forward to them.

"Letís get them to the infirmary," Carson ordered.

"Oh my head," Rodney groaned, opening his eyes, then closing them again until he could control his vision.

Now that he was awake, Radek and Elizabeth moved over beside John, who was sitting right next to the bed, holding Rodneyís hand. Mole was curled up against Rodneyís ribs, a warm, purring ball of comfort.

"Welcome back," John said, his voice breaking slightly.

"Feeling better?" Laura asked.

"Itís good to be..." Rodney looked past John to the empty bed there and blanched. "Oh no!"

"Over here!" Laura said, laughter coloring her tone, and Rodney nearly wrenched his neck turning in the other direction, feeling a rush of relief when he saw Laura sitting up in bed, Lisa perched next to her.

"Oh, um, a little less crowded," he finally answered, tightening his fingers around Johnís while his other hand stroked Mole.

"Same. Itís nice to have my own body back."

Lisa nodded. "Tell me about it; I have plans for this body."

"Oh, yes, urmm, good to hear it." Rodney quickly looked away before frowning and glaring at Cadman. "You had me kiss Lorne!"

Lauraís smile turned sensual. "I kissed Lorne, and I intend to follow up on it."

"I knew there was a reason why I love her," Lisa said with a sunny smile, and John laughed.

"Donít break my XO."

Rodney groaned and looked over at Radek. "That was nice work."

"Well, it was your idea," Radek replied.

"Well, of course it was, but youóyou were... there."

"Iím overwhelmed by your praise," Radek replied dryly, and John was still grinning as he turned to look at Laura.

"Congratulations on your survival, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, sir," she answered before grinning. "I have to say itís given me quite the insight into Rodneyóthough itís not one I want to repeat."

"Not one any of us want you to repeat," John assured her while Lisa nodded emphatically.

"Especially me!" Rodney shuddered. "So, Carson, can I get out of here now?"

"Iíd rather the two of ye stay overnight so we can be sure there arenít any repercussions."

John, Rodney, Laura, and Lisa all turned identical mutinous expressions on him, ones Carson returned with calm determination. "I can arrange fer private rooms for ye, but you will be staying."

"Then weíd better have those private rooms," John said, knowing this was one battle he couldnít win.

"Iíll just go arrange them then." Carson smiled as he walked away from the beds, intending to speak to several of the orderlies, looking surprised when he saw Ronon.

"McKayís okay?"

"Aye, he and Lt. Cadman are both well."

"Thatís good. You coming back to the room soon?"

"Once I get them all settled and make sure theyíre all right." Carson reached out and patted Rononís arm. "Iím sorry Iíve nae been around."

Ronon shook his head. "You were needed here. You forget, Iíve been married to a healer before; I know what itís like."

Carson smiled slightly at that. "That may be, but I dinna like neglecting ye. What did ye do today?"

Rononís smile showed his teeth. "I did some training with the Marines."

"Iím surprised there arenít more of them here," Carson chuckled.

Ronon smirked. "I was careful not to break them."

"Fer which Iím thankful or I might never leave here."

"Theyíve asked me to teach a class."

"Thatís wonderful!" Carson beamed at him. "Iím glad yeíre finding yer place here."

"Itís a good place," Ronon said after a moment.

"Iím verra glad ye think so; now let me get those four settled. Have ye eaten supper yet?"

"No, when I heard McKay and Cadman were separated, I thought you might be free soon, so I waited."

"Iím glad ye did. Why donít ye have a seat, and Iíll be back when Iím done with them."

Ronon nodded and made himself comfortable while Carson checked on the rooms, then went back to the two couples. "All right, we have beds set up for ye, but please remember the rooms are nae soundproof." He tried to sound scolding but couldnít keep from smiling.

"Then you might want to tell people to keep away," John replied.

"Or to get earplugs," Rodney sniffed as he slowly got out of bed, John reaching for his arm to support him while scooping Mole up with his free hand and draping him over his shoulder.

"So lead us to this room, Carson."

Carson shook his head fondly and made sure they were settled before going to collect Ronon and get them both dinner.

Rodney collapsed on the bed and groaned. "Oh thank god, blessed quiet in my head."

"And only two of us in this bed," John added as he sat down beside Rodney, nudging the sentinelís hip with his own. Seeing that they were settled again, Mole sprang down to curl up at the foot of the bed.

"Are you trying to be a poet?" Rodney asked wryly.

"Naw, Iím more of a hands-on kinda guy."

"So why arenít your hands on me?"

"Because you looked tired." John bent over to pull off his boots and socks, then knelt straddling Rodneyís hips, his eyes intent on Rodneyís face while his hands slowly explored the sentinelís torso.

"So Iíll just lie here and enjoy you enjoying me." Rodney sighed as Johnís hands roamed over his chest and stomach with just enough pressure not to tickle.

John snorted a laugh. "Yeah, youíre such a lie back and think of England type."

"How about if I lie back and think of you?" Rodney asked, reaching out to stroke a hand over Johnís chest.

"Iím willing to bet that wonít make you lie still," John chuckled, leaning down to kiss Rodney.

"True," Rodney admitted with a crooked grin, "it would probably make me lie here and play with myself."

Johnís face lit up. "Okay."

"You want to watch me play with myself?" Rodney asked incredulously.

"Well, not just watch. I was thinking I could be in you while you did."

"Youíre trying to kill me, arenít you?"

"Hell no, as far as Iím concerned, you come with a lifetime warranty."

"Hundred and fifteen years, right?"

"Yup, and I have an option to extend clause too."

"Planning on us both ascending?" Rodney snickered at the concept even as he stroked his hands down his own chest.

"Works for me," John decided. "Iím not planning to let anything separate us."

"So you intend on us being glowing squid-like beings for eternity?"

"Naw, I figure we can be glowy squid things for about a dayóbeing able to blend together completely sounds like it would be kinda coolóand then make ourselves corporeal and fuck for eternity."

"Mmm, works for me."

"I thought it might."

Rodney grinned and pulled John closer, one hand stroking over his back and the other tracing the curve of his ear.

"Thought you were supposed to be playing with yourself, not me," John said, although he pressed closer in the narrow infirmary bed, both of them subconsciously taking care not to kick Mole.

"Are you saying Iím not smart enough to do both?" Rodney asked archly.

"I think Iíd need a hands-on demonstration of your ability to multi-task."

Rodney smirked as he pushed down their pants, shifted them enough so that his and Johnís cocks were aligned as they each lay on their side, then closed his hand around them both, slowly stroking the firming flesh.

"Nice start," John gasped out, his back arching.

"Mmmhmm," Rodney murmured, rubbing his thumb over the top of Johnís cock and catching his mouth in a deep kiss.

"So good," John mumbled into the kiss, his hand cupping Rodneyís ass and kneading the firm muscles, Rodney nodding, his free hand cupping Johnís face as he continued to stroke them both, his own hips rocking in a lazy counterpoint.

"Love you, like you just being you," John said somewhat incoherently while squirming in Rodneyís grasp.

"Me too, should be kissing you, not Lorne and Lindstrom." Rodney shuddered slightly at the reminder.

"Yes!" John growled, his fingers tightening on Rodneyís ass and Rodney quickly kissed him again to calm him.

"Mine," John muttered, pulling back from the kiss to bite at Rodneyís throat, sucking on the tender flesh until heíd marked his sentinel.

"God, John," Rodney gasped, tilting his head back, his sense of touch spiking, sending a wave of pleasure through him as he tightened his hand around them.

"Yeah, thatís good, so fucking good." John groaned. "Wanna come together."

"Better hurry then," Rodney gasped. "On the edge."

John nodded jerkily. "Yeah, close, so close." He covered Rodneyís hand with his own, increasing the pressure on their cocks, and he groaned, his balls drawing up close to his body.

The scent of Johnís arousal drew a deep-throated moan from Rodney, and he leaned inward to bite at his throat even as the first pulses of his orgasm rushed over him.

"Rodney." It was only a whisper, but the single word held every ounce of Johnís love and lust in the instant before his eyes fell shut and his body tensed with the first ecstatic spasm of his own climax.

Gentling both of his hands and the hold his teeth had on Johnís throat, Rodney sighed and pulled back, his expression holding nothing but satisfaction. "Just us."

"Just the way it should be," John agreed, smiling slightly.

Rodney opened his mouth to answer, then made a face and shook his head. "Okay, I just heard much too much about what Cadman and Lindstrom are doing right now."

John snickered as he cleaned them up and righted their clothing. "There are times Iím really glad I donít have sentinel senses. And this would be one of them."

"Very funny," Rodney muttered.

"Hey, youíre getting a lot of guysí fantasyólistening in on a hot blonde and redhead getting it on."

"Shall I give you details?" Rodney asked dryly.

"Naw, then Iíd feel compelled to outdo them, and we need some recovery time."

"And by then they might be done and choose to listen in on us."

"Weíll just wait till we get back to our own room. Let Lorne deal with them." John settled against Rodney, his head on the sentinelís shoulder, and he let out a slow breath of contentment.

"You do realize when they wear him to a state of permanent exhaustion, youíll be back to doing your own paperwork," Rodney murmured as he stroked a hand over Johnís back.

"If they wear him out, they can do the damn paperwork!"

Rodney chuckled at that and kissed the top of Johnís head before relaxing back against the pillow. "Sounds good."

"What the IOA doesnít know canít hurt us," John murmured into Rodneyís shoulder.

"Exactly. Now go to sleep; I know you havenít been."

"You too," John mumbled, already halfway there after the release of the last dayís tension.

Rodney nodded and squirmed slightly before closing his eyes as well, following his guide into sleep, Moleís rumbling purr from the foot of the bed soothing them both.

~ CHAPTER 10 ~

John tried not to snicker when he saw the clearly not happy doctor waiting for his team in the gateroom, and he raised an eyebrow at his newest team member. "Maybe you should have brought some of those leather bonds back with you; they might have distracted Carson."

Ronon just grumbled at him while keeping a wary gaze on his guide, who was advancing purposefully on them.

"Can ye all make it to tha infirmary?" Carson asked, looking at each of them in turn, forcing himself to keep from grabbing Ronon and checking him over right there.

"Weíre good," John replied easily, trying to hide his amusement at Carsonís obvious focus.

"Excuse me!" Rodney asked, staring at him. "We were captured by violent prisoners and threatened with bodily harm!"

"But we escaped and nobodyís hurt," Ronon replied, shaking his head at the other sentinel whose attitude baffled him.

"I believe Iíll be the judge of that," Carson said briskly. "Off to the infirmary, all of ye."

After a glance at Sheppard, Ronon shrugged and started toward the transporter, willing to appease his guide.

"Carson, we are all uninjured," Teyla began gently, only to have the doctor round on her.

"Ye were shot down and crashed and were held hostage; at least allow me to see if yeíve survived unscathed."

"Weíre fine," Ronon assured him, only to have John chime in.

"But weíre happy to let you make sure of that for yourself."

"I for one will be glad to let you see if my concussion is minor or major," Rodney announced.

"And then Iíll take him home and kiss it better," John promised Carson.

"Oh ha ha, very funny," Rodney muttered as they all headed for the infirmary.

"Thatís me, the comic colonel."

Rodney muttered something under his breath, glowering at John as he hopped up on the examination table Carson indicated.

John started to lean in for a kiss, caught Carsonís eye, and meekly sat on the next bed while Ronon snickered, not quite under his breath.

"All right," Carson said some time later after he had personally checked each of them over. "Ye all seem ta be fineóor will be with some rest." He glanced at Rodney at the last.

"Iíll make sure he gets plenty of bed rest," John volunteered, getting to his feet and moving to Rodneyís side.

"Thatís rest, lad," Carson cautioned.

"Got it?" Rodney asked, smirking at John.

"I will soon," John replied with an answering smirk.

"Och, the two of ye," Carson sighed, shooing them out the door Teyla had gone through shortly before.

"It sounded like they had a good idea to me," Ronon said, moving closer to Carson and inhaling his warm scent that made Ronon think of sunshine.

"Then why donít I just get this off of ye," Carson suggested, reaching up to work at the leather chord knotted around Rononís neck, and the big Satedan shivered at his guideís touch and raised his chin.

"Iím glad ye werenít injured," Carson murmured as he worked on the stiff knot.

"I donít like to lose," Ronon replied, dark eyes fixed on Carsonís face.

"Lose?" Carson looked up at him at that, frowning slightly.

"Win or lose, live or die. I like to win. And Iím still here."

"Aye, ye are, and Iím glad of it." Carsonís fingers faltered slightly as he allowed himself to remember his fear when they lost contact with Johnís team.

Rononís hand rose to cover Carsonís, and he met the bright blue gaze directly. "I survived for seven years when I had nothing to live for. Iím not going to die now that I do."

Speechless, Carson nodded and pulled Ronon into a tight hug.

"Maybe we should go back to our room," Ronon suggested softly.

"Once I get that thing off you," Carson answered roughly, straightening up and going back to work on the leather knotted around Rononís throat.

"You donít like it? Sheppard said it looked hotóalthough I think he was trying to get McKay going."

"And did it?" Carsonís voice was deceptively mild as he finally undid the knot and pulled back, holding the leather strap in his hands.

"Yeah. Itís nuts though; anyone can see Sheppard doesnít even see anyone but McKay."

"Aye," Carson nodded, "and I donít doubt that Rodney knows it."

"Weird," Ronon opined. "Iím glad youíre not like that."

"You mean always trying ta make ye jealous? Nae, Iíd rather not play those kind of games though those two seem ta enjoy them." As he spoke, Carson absently tucked the leather in his pocket and took Rononís hand. "Now then, letís get ye something ta eat, then I can give ye a massage."

"Sounds good," Ronon agreed, his thumb caressing the back of Carsonís hand.

"Iím beginning ta believe that Sgt. Stackhouse is right; John and Rodney draw trouble to them."

Ronon nodded slowly. "But theyíre not boring."

Carson nodded at that. "Varra true, lad, verra true."

"And now you know that I come back to you after a mission," Ronon said, stopping to pull Carson into an embrace, Carson hugging him tightly in return.

"Iíll try not ta worry so much, though I dinna know how much good itís going ta do," he murmured.

"I kind of like having someone worrying about me," Ronon admitted.

"I suppose thatís a good thing as I doubt that Iíll be able ta stop no matter how hard I try."

"Just not too much. Iíve proven Iím a survivor."

"Thereís more to life than just surviving, luv," Carson said gently, starting them walking again.

Ronon nodded. "I know. For the first time in a long time, I know." His fingers tightened briefly on Carsonís in an affectionate squeeze.

"Iím verra glad you think so." Carson led Ronon into a transporter and pulled him in for a tender kiss the moment the doors slid shut behind them. Ronon wrapped his arms around his guide, holding him close and breathing in the warm scent of him, tension seeping from his muscles.

Carson tightened his embrace, stroking his hands over Rononís back, content to stand there as long as his sentinel wanted, pleased he could do something for him. Long moments passed before Ronon finally took a deep breath and raised his head, cupping Carsonís cheek in one long-fingered hand.

"How did you remain unbonded long enough for me to find you?"

"I believe I was lucky," Carson murmured, turning his head to kiss Rononís palm.

"I think Iím the lucky one," Ronon replied, his expression softening and warming as he looked at the doctor.

"Perhaps we should just agree that we both are."

"Sounds good." Ronon leaned in and kissed him again, then reached over to touch the controls to take them to their room, deciding that food could wait. Carson kept his arm around his waist as they walked into the hall, his hand stroking small circles on Rononís back under his vest.

Ronon practically purred with pleasure, pressing back against Carsonís hand, and he rubbed Carsonís hip as they walked, the motion drawing a sigh of pleasure from Carson as well. The moment they were inside their room, the doctor pushed Ronon up against the door, kissing him at the same time he pulled him even closer, knowing his sentinel could feel and smell his arousal.

Ronon growled deep in his throat and tugged at Carsonís uniform, suddenly desperate to get his hands on his guideís bare flesh, hungry to reaffirm their connection.

Carson helped by shrugging out of his jacket, hearing a rasp as his shirt tore, then Rononís hands were stroking over his back even as he slid his own up his sentinelís chest, the bare skin smooth beneath his palms.

"Gorgeous," Ronon breathed, lowering his head to lap at Carsonís hardening nipples, a small part of him wondering why everyone made such a big deal of Sheppard when Carson was clearly the most beautiful man in the city.

"Bloody hell," Carson gasped, one hand tightening in Rononís hair until he finally pulled him up for another kiss, his tongue teasing Rononís before coaxing it back into his mouth. Ronon groaned, pressing closer while taking all that Carson offered, tasting him eagerly as they rocked together against the door.

It was Carson who broke first, managing to get his hands between them to tug at the laces that held Rononís pants together, normally agile fingers rough and clumsy with the need welling inside him, the pressing desire to care for Ronon, to prove to him that he was loved and wanted and that he had a home here.

"Bed," Ronon rasped, his hand covering Carsonís, stilling it even while he arched forward to press against his guideís hand. "Want to enjoy you then lie with you," he said.

"Weíll both enjoy each other," Carson corrected gently, turning his hand to lace his fingers through Rononís as they moved as one toward the bed, separating only to pull off their remaining clothes, Carsonís gaze never leaving Rononís face, the intensity of the emotions expressed in the Satedanís dark eyes making his breath catch in his chest.

"I know you donít believe me yet, but Iím going to keep telling you till you do: I love you, Carson," Ronon said quietly, willing the other man to believe him. "You make me happy, make me feel like I belong somewhere again."

"Ahh, lad," Carson sighed, stroking a hand over Rononís face, tracing a finger over his full lips. "Thatís all I want fer ye, to be happy here."

"Iím happy with you," Ronon corrected before catching the wandering digit in his mouth, laving and suckling hungrily, never looking away from Carsonís bright blue eyes.

"When they said ye were shot down, I felt as if the ground was gone beneath me," Carson whispered, his voice rough with desire.

"They never had a chance," Ronon reassured him. "And now I see what Sheppard means about McKay. Heís... good."

"Aye," Carson nodded, trailing his now wet finger around Rononís mouth. "Heís the best at what he does."

Ronon nodded as well, already dismissing the topic from his mind as he concentrated on Carson. "And what are you the best at?" he purred, his voice pure dark temptation.

Carsonís laugh was slightly rough. "Caring for you, I would hope."

"A true healer in every respect," Ronon agreed, his hands slowly gliding down Carsonís spine to cup his ass, his fingers gently kneading. "But right now Iím more interested in some of your other skills."

"And which of those would you care to see?" Carson asked breathlessly as he arched into Rononís touch then leaning in to nibble at his jaw, the path leading upwards toward his ear.

"Hmm, fuck me or be fucked by me... which sounds better?" Ronon rasped, shivering as Carsonís teeth moved over him.

Carsonís nose wrinkled at the word as he answered, his breath ghosting over Rononís ear. "Tonight Iíd love to be in ye, to prove that yeíre home and fine."

Seeing the reaction, Ronon chuckled, shaking his head. "You Earth people, all hung up on words." He spread his legs, allowing Carson to settle between them, and wrapped them around his guideís waist, holding him close.

"I canna change who I am, Ronon," Carson said quietly.

"Donít want you to, but that goes both ways. Sateda isnít... wasnít Earth," Ronon warned gently, his fingers squeezing Carsonís ass to try to get them back on track.

Carson sucked in a quick breath at that reminder that he was being thoughtless and nodded. "Aye, and I apologize for forgetting that. So, should I be getting down to fucking ye then?" he stumbled slightly on the word, but his gaze was steady as he met Rononís gaze.

Rononís smile warmed his face. "Youíre cute. And yes, that would be good." He wriggled under Carson, rubbing their erections together.

"Cute?" Carsonís eyebrows rose before he shook his head even as he reached for the container of lube on the nightstand and, kissing Ronon again, squeezed some into his hand.

"Yeah. Also hot," Ronon assured him, dark eyes heated as they focused on Carsonís hands.

"Insane specialist," Carson muttered as he pushed up to his knees and dragged his fingers through the now body warm gel, licking his lips before pressing a finger into Rononís ass at the same time he bent and licked at the head of his cock.

"*Carson*!" Rononís body jerked as he tried to push into Carsonís mouth and take his finger deeper at the same time. Carson smiled slightly in satisfaction at the reaction and continued what he was doing, wanting to feel Ronon relax and go pliant beneath his hands, to know that the only thing on the other manís mind was him.

"Please," Ronon panted, rocking between Carsonís hand and mouth, his arousal climbing with every touch.

Lifting his head, Carson licked his lips again. "Anything ye need, love," he whispered, adding a second finger to stretch the larger man even as he nuzzled his balls, loving the musky scent of him.

"You, need you," Ronon moaned, forcing his eyes, which he didnít consciously remember closing, open again to stare down at Carsonís head at his groin.

"Ye have me, love," Carson whispered, slowly pulling his fingers back and straightening so that he could slick his erection, then, moving with infinite care, he pressed into Rononís ass, drawing in a deep breath as the tight heat surrounded him and drew him in.

"So good," Ronon rasped, awed at the caring in Carsonís touch, so different from the struggle for dominance that sex with his previous guide had often been, unaware that he was voicing his thoughts aloud.

Carsonís eyes widened at that, and he opened his mouth to say something, but then Ronon moved under him, and all he could do was go with the motion, swept away by the need to bring the other man pleasure, to know it was he who was causing it.

"Carson," Ronon rasped again, curling his hand around the nape of his guideís neck to pull him down into a loving kiss, Carson murmuring his name against Rononís lips before opening his mouth and drawing Rononís tongue in, sucking on it with the same rhythm he was thrusting with. The dual sensations had Ronon groaning and writhing under Carson, his ass clenching down on the thick shaft impaling him so pleasurably.

Every muscle tightening with the effort to hold back, Carson managed to get a hand between them and began teasing Rononís cock with feather-light touches, knowing the sentinelís heightened senses would magnify them.

The additional stimulus too much for him, Ronon bellowed Carsonís name as his body locked down, holding the guideís cock deep inside him as he came, spasm after spasm of incredible pleasure ripping through him, Carson gasping as well and coming the moment Ronon spasmed around him, kissing him hungrily until their orgasms ebbed, allowing them to relax, panting as they lay there, still connected.

"Always come back to you," Ronon promised recklessly, knowing he couldnít control that but meaning it nevertheless.

"I know yeíll try," Carson whispered before kissing Rononís shoulder.

Ronon nodded, letting his legs fall back to the bed and stretch out but tightening his arms around Carson to continue holding him close. Carson remained quiet for a time, his fingers tracing patterns on the part of Rononís chest he wasnít covering.

"What ye said earlier," he finally began. "About yeróabout Tyre".

"What did I say?" Ronon asked in confusion, unaware that heíd vocalized his thoughts.

"About yer..." Carson paused and cleared his throat before continuing. "Yer sexual relationship."

"Our... Oh!" Realization dawned. "I said that out loud?"

"Ayeóand obviously ye didnít mean to, so I dinna need an answer."

Ronon shook his head and tilted Carsonís face up so he could kiss him. "I didnít mean to, but that doesnít make it any less true. It was almost always a competition between us, which might be why we needed Melena too. I donít feel that with you. We give and take as we want, neither losing anything."

"Ah." Carson was silent for a long moment, pondering Rononís words even as he gained a greater understanding of the other man. "Iím glad I can be that for ye," he finally answered.

"Me too," Ronon replied simply, hugging him tightly, grateful for finding this after losing everything.

"Now as yer doctor and yer guide, Iím telling ye ta get some rest; I can get us something ta eat in a bit."

"Stay," Ronon requested, sighing faintly as Carson slipped out of him. He squirmed pleasurably at the sensation of Carsonís seed slowly seeping out of him, and then he drew Carson closer, enjoying the feel of his guideís weight pressing him into the mattress.

"Forever," Carson promised, kissing the tattoo on Rononís throat as he relaxed over him.

~ CHAPTER 11 ~

"Carson?" Ronon stuck his head into the doctorís office in the infirmary. "Teyla and I are going on a trading mission. Want to come with?"

"A mission?" The rest of what Ronon had said then registered, and Carson nodded. "Aye, things are quiet here at the moment; Iíd enjoy a chance ta go with ye."

"Itíll be good to get some time together outside of Atlantis," Ronon said, reaching for his guideís hand. "With no pressure, just to be together."

"And without Rodney or John around ta draw trouble," Carson chuckled, using his free hand to close down the file he had been working on and standing, then walking around the table to draw Ronon in for a kiss.

"That too," Ronon agreed laughingly after the kiss. "Weíre leaving in two hours, so grab a change of clothes, and then weíll get you armed. Just in case," he added soothingly. "No one goes offworld unarmed."

"I know that!" Carson snapped before sighing. "Sorry, love, I know how ta use a gun; I just dinna like them."

"I know," Ronon replied. "But thatís one rule that actually makes sense. Not that youíd have to use one with me around. And Teyla," he added, clearly as an afterthought.

"Hopefully," Carson mused. "But I will if I have to."

That got him kissed again, and then Ronon was drawing him toward the door. "Come on, we have time to have lunch if we hurry."

"Oh my god, look at this!" Rodney crowed from where he was studying a console.

Radek moved to read over his shoulder, growing excitement visible on his face, and John looked from one scientist to the other questioningly. "Planning to share?" he asked.

"I believe we-" Radek began.

"I!"

"We," Radek continued, "have found out the purpose of this outpost."

"And that would be?" John asked, feeling as if he was pulling teeth.

"Itís a power source and a weapon." Rodney grinned.

John started to grin as well. "Really?"

"Yes, really," Rodney smirked. "The problem is that thereís no direct link between it and the main power control systems, whichóamong other thingsóhas led us to theorize that that," he motioned at the shielded room before them, "is an ancillary power supply for the weapons system."

"Cool!" John exclaimed, his grin widening, and Rodney groaned.

"You do realize that youíre making it difficult to choose between jumping you and working on this, donít you?"

"Jump later, work now," Radek ordered.

"See, you can have it all," John chuckled. "Which leads me back to cool."

"Though it only makes sense if weíre right," Radek cautioned.

"About what?" John wanted to know.

"Tell him," Radek told Rodney, knowing better than to do it himself.

"Not yet."

Radek sighed at that. "Come on, McKay, you read the equations. What else could it be? An Ancient typo?"

"Well, we know theyíre not perfect, because theyíre all dead," Rodney sniffed before looking at John and sighing. "Look, I just, I just donít want you to get all excited over nothing."

"Well, maybe youíre right," John replied agreeably. "I have so many real things to get excited over." He gave Rodney a heated look, making Radek groan.

"All right, Iíll give you a hint," Rodney smirked, forcing himself to keep from grabbing John, especially when he got a whiff of his arousal. "It seems that the Ancients were experimenting with high-energy physics on a level that weíve never seen before."

He and Radek grinned excitedly at John at that.

"Cool," John said again, not as excited as the two scientists but understanding the possibilities.

"Exactly," Radek and Rodney said in concert, before Rodney continued. "Now let us see if itís really feasible."

"I must thank you for distracting Ronon, Dr. Beckett," Teyla said as the three of them left the house where theyíd been negotiating, she and Carson each carrying a small sack of grain while Ronon carried two large ones as if they weighed nothing.

"It wasnae a hardship, lass," Carson chuckled.

Teyla chuckled warmly. "Nonetheless, it was good of you. I had the situation under control, but Ronon did not appear to think so before you intervened."

"Maybe I just wanted Carson to think that," Ronon said, smiling faintly.

"That Teyla dinna have the situation under control or that ye were going ta intervene?"

"I believe Ronon means the second," Teyla laughed quietly.

One of their trading partners, a man named Mattas, came to join them. "Your negotiating skills are impressive." He glanced at the two men. "Your companions are not Athosians?"

"Ronon is the only survivor of a planet known as Sateda," Teyla said quietly, "and Carson is of the planet Terra."

Mattas frowned. "If Sateda is his homeworld, then he is not the only survivor. There is a man in this village who also claims to be from that world."

"A survivor? Here?" Carson exclaimed, turning to look at Ronon.

"Thatís not possible," Ronon gritted out, glaring at Mattas. "I saw what was left of Sateda. No one could have survived that."

"But there were ships; you told me that ye had an evacuation planned," Carson exclaimed. "There could be others."

After a moment, Ronon nodded. "Tell me," he growled at Mattas.

"Elizabethís right, Rodney," John said, trying to convince the scientist. "This is dangerous. Sure, it would be an incredible tactical advantage if it worked, but even the Ancients couldnít get it completed. Do you really want to lose someone else like Dr. Collins?" He knew that last was a low blow, but he had to get Rodney off the defensive and make him face reality.

Rodney winced slightly at the reminder, then his stance firmed. "I can fix it, John; trust me on this."

If Rodney had said anything but that... John nodded slowly. "Always," he said quietly, sounding almost defeated.

A little later, John faced down Elizabeth on Rodneyís behalf, half wishing Caldwell would stop helping him.

"Iíve already made this decision, John," Elizabeth reminded him almost angrily.

"If Dr. McKay says heís solved the problem, I donít see why we donít give him another shot," Caldwell countered, causing Elizabeth to turn her attention to him.

"Isnít the Daedalus about ready to head back to Earth?"

"Yes, we are. But I think you should know the Pentagon has taken a very keen interest in this vacuum energy."

"Iím sure they have," Elizabeth said calmly, "but the Pentagon doesnít make the decisions here."

"Yeah, I may not have the power to overrule you on this, but when I get back to Earth Iím going to be making the recommendation that Dr. McKay be allowed to continue his work to the highest authorities. Ultimately, Dr. Weir, this wonít be up to you," Caldwell bit out, making John wince and wish he was anywhere but here.

Elizabeth stared Caldwell down before turning to John. "Can Rodney guarantee that the same thing wonít happen?" she asked bluntly.

"Nobody can do that," John admitted.

"Then whatís changed?"

"According to Rodney, itís the Ancientsí calculations that were wrong, not his," John explained.

"If McKay is that confident, I donít see why we donít..." Caldwell began before Elizabeth interrupted.

"Confidence is not something Dr. McKay is in any short supply of."

"For good reason! If anyone can do this..." Caldwell said, changing his usual tune when it came to McKay.

"The Ancients could not do this. And thatís what it keeps coming back to for me," Elizabeth snapped, growing more annoyed by the colonel.

"Isnít it possible that you have placed the Ancients on such a high pedestal that you canít even consider the possibility that they may be wrong?" Caldwell shot back.

"Why are we mincing words, Colonel? You want the weapon."

"Yes! I do! A weapon that could effectively eliminate the Wraith threat is very attractive to me and to the people that I work for. Iím not hiding that fact. But thereís more to it, isnít there? No more hunting for ZPMs; the shield at full strength; faster, more powerful ships. How Ďbout a power source that could provide the energy needs for an entire planet? No more fossil fuels."

"I get it! And if it worked as advertised, it would be wonderful. Iím trying to tell you I know Rodney McKay, and there are times when I have to protect him from himself. "

John finally interrupted. "Itís not your job to protect Rodney, Elizabeth; itís mine. Let me go back with himójust him and me. No one else will be in any danger, and you can activate the Stargate any time you want to contact us by radio."

"He really sold you," Elizabeth said, staring at him.

"He asked me to trust him," John replied simply.

Elizabeth sighed at that but finally nodded. "All right, but Iím trusting you to keep him under control."

"Itís what I do best."

Carson glanced over at Ronon as they and Teyla walked into the tavern where they had been told the Satedan should be. "Weíll find him, lad," he said quietly, squeezing Rononís hand before letting go.

Ronon nodded and tried to speak as they reached the bartender, but his throat locked up, and Teyla quickly spoke up. "We are looking for a man named Solen. Do you know him?"

"Upstairs," the bartender replied indifferently.

"Thank you," Teyla replied politely before following Carson and Ronon up the stairs, where they found Solen is sitting at a table talking to some locals with his back to them. Ronon listened for a moment to the story before saying loudly, "Liar!"

The other man jumped to his feet, turning to face his accuser. "What did you say?" he demanded aggressively before catching sight of the other man. "Ronon?!"

"There were two Wraith guarding that cruiser, not three, and you werenít alone." Ronon grinned, and they came together in the middle of the room, hugging fiercely. When they separated, Ronon introduced his companions, ending with a proud, "And Carson is my guide, which what they call a guardian."

"Tyre?" Solon asked before nodding in understanding and smirking. "So, found two more pretty ones, have you?"

"We are friends, noting more," Teyla said quickly.

"Carson is all I need," Ronon said, drawing his guide closer.

"So you donít want to hear about the others?" Solen asked wryly.

"What others?" Ronon asked, almost stunned by what heíd discovered that day. For so long heíd believed himself the only survivor.

"Before the city fell, a few of us managed to make it to the shelters west of the capital. Over three hundred civilians found their way there too. When we emerged, we realized there was nothing to salvage, so we leftóall of us."

"To where?" Teyla asked as Carson tightened the arm he had around Rononís waist.

"They survived, love."

"Some came here; some went to Manaria..." Solen replied.

"Three hundred," Ronon breathed, smiling at Carson.

"Drink, Ronon, and rejoiceóyouíre not alone!" Solen smiled at his friend.

"Itís good ta see him like that," Carson murmured to Teyla from where they sat, watching Ronon and Solen drinking and laughing, but suddenly Rononís expression sobered.

"Kellís alive?" he said, staring at Solen.

"Yeah, and his family," Solen nodded. "Theyíre settled on Belsaórun this big trading operation over there."

"When were you going to tell me this?" Ronon asked with a smile.

"Honestly, I was going to wait until you drank a little more," Solen giggled while Carson frowned.

"Whoís this Kell?" he asked at the same time Teyla nodded, wanting to know the answer as well.

"He was Rononís Task Master during his military training. There is no closer bond other than that of specialist-guardian," Solen explained.

Ronon nodded, and he and Solen clinked their tankards together. "To reunions."

Carson and Teyla raised their mugs as well for the toast though Carsonís expression remained thoughtful.

Back at the outpost, Rodney looked around the control room, his nose twitching slightly as he tried to ignore the scent of burnt flesh that he was sure John couldnít smell. "I appreciate you backing me up on this."

"Iím your guide," John replied. "And I love you."

"And I love you too." Rodney reached out and pulled John in for a quick kiss, his guideís minty scent settling him. "Now let me get to work, and you keep the hot coffee coming, okay?" He grinned crookedly at that.

John just stared at him, one eyebrow raised, before laughing and kissing him again. "Get to work, genius."

"Hey, it was worth a try," Rodney laughed before doing just that.

Some time later, the space gate activated, and Elizabeth called John. Once heíd acknowledged the comm, she continued, "Is Dr. McKay with you?" which made John wonder where she thought his guide would be.

"Of course I am," Rodney said from where he was working, "but weíre a little busy getting ready to run a test here."

"Actually," Elizabeth said, "I would like you to delay the test firing."

John frowned. "Why?"

"We have reason to believe that the weaponís power source may not be controllable at any power level," Elizabeth explained.

"What are you on about?" Rodney exclaimed.

"As power output increases, new and exotic particles are continuously created and destroyed inside the containment chamber, interacting with each other and with the field itself," Radek explained. "Eventually particles are created that cannot be prevented in this space-time, and they breach the containment field as hard radiation."

Rodney sighed. "As long as Iím monitoring the energy output manually, I can stop that before it happens."

"You cannot predict something that is inherently unpredictable."

"Rodney?" John turned to face him, his expression asking if Rodney was sure about this.

"I know what Iím doing, John."

"Rodney, I am trying to tell you as a friend, I have serious doubts," Radek protested.

"Well, youíre wrong," Rodney shot back. "Iím sorry, but there it is. And to bring this up now when I am just about to do this smacks of nothing but professional jealousy."

Radekís face turned red, and his jaw clenched. "Fine! Kill yourself, just like the Ancients did!"

"Whoa," John exclaimed. "Whatís that supposed to mean?"

"I believe if the overload is allowed to continue, the weapon acts as a sort of release valve to prevent catastrophic containment failure. The Ancients barely managed to shut it down, and they lost their lives in the process," Radek explained.

"What weíre suggesting," Elizabeth interpreted, "is that the Wraith didnít kill everyone on that planet; it was the weapon itself."

"That would explain why this place is the only thing left standing," John said slowly, his eyes intent on Rodney.

"Congratulationsóyouíve solved the mystery of how the Ancients screwed up ten thousand years ago. It doesnít mean that I will do the same. Look, I donít know how else to say this, but none of you are capable of understanding this on the same level that I do. And, Zelenka, that includes you," Rodney argued, causing Radek to throw his hands up in frustration.

A long moment of silence passed before Elizabeth said, "Rodney, I cannot afford to lose either one of you. Now tell me: can you do this?"

"I said yes!"

John continued staring at Rodney silently for long seconds before he finally nodded sharply. "Elizabeth, Iíll call you after the test."

"Youíd better," she said before breaking the connection, and Rodney released the breath he hadnít realized he was holding.

"I wonít let you down, John; Iím not going to do anything to put you in jeopardy."

John stared at him. "I trust you."

"I know," Rodney said quietly, watching John for a moment longer before turning and going back to work.

"Come on, lad, letís get ye to bed," Carson murmured as he and Teyla tried to get Ronon through the door to the room theyíd rented and into bed.

"Come to bed with me," Ronon said in what he thought was a seductive tone but was really almost unintelligibly slurred.

"Are ye inviting Teyla as well?"

"I do not believe he can handle you in his current state, let alone me," the Athosian woman laughed quietly.

Ronon looked up at them. "There are three hundred of my people left alive," he said in a choked tone.

"I know, lad, and thatís a glorious thing," Carson said gently as they settled Ronon onto the bed, and he sat down beside him as Teyla slipped out to her own room. "Perhaps others that ye know are alive as well."

Ronon twisted so that he lay with his head in Carsonís lap, his hands clutching Carsonís leg. "I thought they were all gone when I saw what was left of the planet."

Carson closed his eyes for a moment as he stroked Rononís hair and back, waiting until his voice was steady until he answered. "We know where they are now, and we can find them."

"I donít want to leave you," Ronon said in case Carson wasnít clear on that. "I wonít leave you."

"Butó" Carson began, before stopping himself. "I know, and I dinna want ye to, but that doesnae mean ye canít see themóoften."

Ronon nodded. "I will, but I have a new life now."

Carson nodded and stroked Rononís back until he felt him relax. "One Iím verra glad of. Now ye should rest, ye daft man; yeíre going ta have a horrendous headache come morning."

"Lie down with me."

"Of course, love, though ye need ta shift some." Carson said as he tried to lift Rononís dead weight enough to slide down on the bed, leaving Rononís head pillowed on his shoulder.

Despite Carsonís prediction, Ronon felt fine the next morning, and he, Carson and Teyla sat down to enjoy their breakfast as they waited for Kell to arrive.

"I canna believe ye dinna have a hangover," Carson murmured, shaking his head as he watched Ronon downing his meal with gusto. "I believe I have a headache out of sympathy for what yours should feel like!"

Ronon laughed. "I donít get hangovers," he said before shoveling in another mouthful of food.

"Then you are very fortunate," Teyla smiled.

Just then two men in military uniforms came in, and Teyla went over to greet them. As they introduced themselves, Ronon got to his feet and slowly approached, hidden from their view by a structural beam while Carson watched, a worried look on his face.

"If we are to trade, I would know all the members of your party," Kell said flatly.

"Of course, that is why we are here," Teyla said graciously as Ronon came into view.

"Ronon!" Kell exclaimed.

"Hello, Kell," Ronon greeted as he drew a gun from under his leather coat and shot his former Task Master full on in the chest, killing him instantly. Kellís companion, as well as two others already in the tavern, raised their weapons, aiming at Ronon while Carson stared at him in shock, belatedly pulling his own gunósomething that Teyla had already done though she also looked shocked.

"Ronon, what have you done?" she asked.

Ronon holstered his blaster and raised his hands, showing that he meant no harm to anyone else as he spoke to the soldiers. "We all know who this man was, what he was. If anyone here believes he should be avenged, here I am."

The soldiers looked at each other for a moment, then lowered their guns and left the building. As soon as they did, Ronon left as well without a single word to his companions.

Carson glanced at Teyla and hurried after him, the Athosian woman hot on his heels, pushing past him to catch Ronon and spin him around, her knife at his throat.

"You used me to murder an innocent man."

"Teyla, lass, hear him out," Carson said as he rested a hand on her arm, trying to move between them.

Ronon shoved the hand holding the knife away from his throatóand away from Carson. "He deserved far worse," he bit out.

"You said he was like a father to you," Teyla said angrily.

"He was," Ronon replied. "Once. But Kell commanded several infantry divisions on Sateda. When the Wraith came, he ordered thousands to their death just to save himself. He was... he was a traitor and a coward. My only regret is that his death was quick."

"Och, lad," Carson sighed, resting his hand on Rononís arm.

Teyla studied him for a long moment. "I understand. In your place I might have done the same. But believe me when I tell you that many of the others would not. We must not speak of this when we return to Atlantis. And if you ever use my friendship in such a way again, I will not be so understanding."

Ronon nodded even as he placed a hand over Carsonís and searched the blue eyes, seeking understanding. "I had to," he whispered, praying his gentle guide could accept his actions.

Carsonís lips were pressed together, and he took a deep breath before he nodded. "He was the cause of the deaths of many of your people. He lived and prospered while they died. It may nae be anything that I could or would have done, but Iíll nae judge ye for it, love."

Ronon nearly sagged with relief, his fingers tightening over Carsonís, Teyla watching them both, her dark eyes troubled.

"Okay, this is good, my equations are working like a charm," Rodney gloated. "Iím smarter than all those Ancients put together."

John rolled his eyes, but all he said was, "Where do you want the weapon targeted?"

"The debris orbiting the planet, and once we have a successful test, Iíll aim my weapon at you," Rodney smirked, looking over to wink at John, who chuckled.

"Sounds good."

Rodney grinned and went back to work. "Bringing the weapon online... now." He pressed a button, and there was a loud whooshing sound, and an energy field formed around the device in the chamber.

The sound of another whoosh had John demanding, "Whatís that?"

"Itís an energy surge," Rodney said, though his tone was distracted as he worked on the console. "I can contain it."

John watched him nervously as Rodneyís fingers continued to fly. "Iím thinking we need to abort."

"I can compensate," Rodney said firmly as he continued to work at keeping the power levels somewhat stable, barely sparing a glance at the ĎOverloadí light that began to flash.

"Rodney, itís overloading, just like last time!"

"Thereís no logical reason this shouldnít be working!"

"Rodney!" John half rose from his seat.

"None of this should be happening!" The tone of Rodneyís voice was rising as he frantically tried to stabilize the system. "Look, the energy levels are spiking at a rate far greater than anything I predicted."

"Shut it down!" John ordered, now on his feet.

Rodney turned and glared at him for a moment, then turned back to his computer. "Fine." He pressed a key, which beeped. The energy levels continued to rise, and he pressed the key again, getting another beep.

"That doesnít make any sense."

Knowing he wasnít going to like the answer, John asked, "Whatís wrong?"

"I canít shut it down."

"What the hell was that?" John demanded as the room shook.

"The weaponís discharging to prevent a catastrophic overload."

"All right, thatís it," John said decisively. "Weíre outta here."

"We canít!" Rodney exclaimed. "The weaponís firing at random targets above the planet. This is the safest place to be right now."

"The place isnít gonna be safe for very much longer!" John pointed out nervously, moving closer to Rodney.

"I can bring it back under control! Just give me a second!"

John grabbed Rodneyís jacket and swung him around. "No, you canít!"

"Just one second!" Rodney demanded, tearing away and turning back to the console.

"Iíve seen this before, Rodney, pilots who wouldnít eject when something went wrong, trying to fix their planes right until it hit the ground. Damnit," John slammed a hand down on the desk in frustration, "I want us to live to have a lot of anniversaries."

The last more than anything brought Rodney to his senses, and he turned to stare at John, his eyes haunted. "Okay, we need to leave. Iíve waited too long; the weapon canít discharge enough power to avoid a catastrophic overload."

The two of them ran for the puddlejumper and nearly threw themselves into their seats, John glancing over briefly to be sure Rodney was settled before he powered up the craft.

"You need to be sure not to fly predictably; that way the weapon canít lock in on us," Rodney babbled.

"I know what Iím doing," John bit out, all his attention on getting them out of there alive.

"I know, I know! Iím... sorry," Rodney whispered, wincing as debris blew up around them.

Knowing it might be his last chance, John said, "I love you," as he concentrated on dodging debris and not being hit by the weaponís fire.

"You need to head for the gate," Rodney answered before glancing over at John again. "I love you too."

"Shouldnít I get farther from the planet, out of the weaponís range, and return after the overload shuts it down?"

"You donít understand. This explosion is going to take out three quarters of the solar system. Thereís no way we can fly far enough or fast enough. We have to head for the gate."

"Fuck. Okay, dial the gate."

"Dialing," Rodney said as he hit the symbols for Atlantis and tried not to think of what a target they would be while heading for the gate.

John made for the gate, trying to make good enough time to get to it before the solar system exploded and took them with it while not flying in a predictable enough pattern that the weapon locked on and destroyed them. "I hate this damn system," he muttered under his breath, inhaling sharply at a close call. He dodged behind a piece of debris, hoping it would protect them long enough to make it through the gate, then froze, staring in disbelief as the Daedalus suddenly moved between the jumper and the planet, taking the weapons fire on its shields.

"Itís a good thing we stopped by to check on your progress, Colonel. Make a break for the stargateóweíll run interference." Col. Caldwellís voice came over the radio.

John heaved a sigh of relief. "Copy that, Daedalus," he acknowledged. "Recommend you go into hyperspace as soon as we go through. Thereís gonna be a big bang."

"Understood."

Rodney laughed nervously and gripped his hands together to keep from fiddling with things. "Well, I suppose this is one time I can say I was glad to see him."

John shot him a glance. "He saved our asses," he said bluntly as he sent the jumper through the gate. Unseen, the Daedalus jumped into hyperspace, and the gate shut down. Shortly thereafter, the weapon overloaded with a massive explosion that destroyed Doranda, the stargate, and a large portion of the solar system.

The moment the jumper reached Atlantis, Elizabethís voice sounded over the radio. "Dr, McKay, I want you in my office immediately."

"On my way," Rodney answered before shooting a nervous glance at John. "So, umm, weíll talk later?"

John nodded shortly. "In our room. I donít think we need an audience for this conversation." He exited the jumper without a backward glance, the rigid set of his shoulders betraying his emotional upheaval.

"Right," Rodney said to the empty air, slowly gathering up his laptop and exiting the jumper, heading for Elizabethís office and the verbal flogging he knew was coming but not dreading it nearly as much as what was waiting for him when he got back to their room.

John looked up from stroking Mole when the door to their room opened, and he watched silently as Rodney practically slunk inside. Watching his husband, he waited, and Rodney finally straightened up and looked at him. "I had a lot of time to think while Elizabeth was raking me over the coals in hearing range of the whole control room staff and anyone else who cared to come through, and I fucked upóbadly. I could have gotten you killed and all because I asked you to trust me and you did. SoóIím sorry." He looked at John hopefully at that.

John sighed. "I made a mistake too. I let my love for you overrule my common sense, which was screaming at me that this was a mistake, and it almost got you killed." He raked a hand through already messy dark hair, and Mole jumped down off his lap, stalking away. "Weíve all gotten used to you always being right, well, most of us anyway," he amended, remembering Elizabethís comments during their last meeting. "Elizabeth wanted to protect you from yourself, and she was right, but neither of us listened to her, and sheís used to listening when we present a united front. But I wasnít doing what I thought was right; I was doing what you wanted. That canít happen again, Rodney."

"I know," Rodney said miserably, his hopeful expression fading away. "I apologized to Elizabeth and Radekówho I think heard every word of what she said to me. Iím used to being right all the time as well."

John sighed again and held out a hand to Rodney, opening his arms. Rodney immediately went to him, hugging him tightly. "Iím sorry. Iím really, really sorry," he whispered. "Donít hate me, please."

"I donít hate you, Rodney. Iím angry at both of us, and Iím scared shitless by the thought of losing you, but I could never hate you." Johnís arms tightened around his sentinel, holding him as if heíd never let go.

"Me too," Rodney whispered. "The scared shitless part, I mean. At the thought of losing you, not me."

John chuckled reluctantly. "About the only good thing about that whole fucking mess was that we were together."

Rodney nodded at that. "Yeah." He straightened slightly and tried to grin. "I really need a shower. Want to join me?"

John hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. "You go ahead. I need to clear my head." He nodded toward the balcony. "Iíll come to bed soon."

Rodneyís smile faded, and he nodded. "Sure, whenever youíre ready," he said quietly as he stepped back out of Johnís arms and turned to get a t-shirt and boxers then headed for the bathroom, his steps heavy.

Watching him, John winced, but he knew he was still too angry, no matter what it looked like on the surface, and he wasnít going to touch Rodney with all that rage inside him. "I love you," he called just before Rodney stepped inside the bathroom.

The sentinelís steps stuttered for a fraction of a second, then he was gone, though he waited until the water was running to let loose the whimpers that had been clawing at his throat, glad that John wouldnít be able to hear him over the sound of the water.

It was a long time before he came out of the bathroom, and when he did, John was still on the balcony, so he climbed into bed, curling up on his side and closed his eyes, not wanting to intrude on the other manís privacy, Mole hopping up and curling up at his feet, oblivious to the tension in the room.

Hearing the sounds inside the room, John turned, his eyes going unerringly to the palpably miserable lump so far to one side of the bed that Rodney was in danger of falling off. A reluctant smile teased at his lips, and John went inside, stripping as he went. He slid into the bed and reached for the sentinel, tugging him back until John could comfortably spoon around him.

Rodney started to ask if Johnís head was clear yet, but he caught himself and stayed quiet, though just the touch of his guide had him relaxing somewhat.

John nuzzled the back of Rodneyís neck, not in a sexual fashion but simply seeking the comfort of touch. "I love you," he whispered again. "But donít ever do that to me again," he said, knowing Rodney would understand that he was referring to the emotional blackmail of playing on his trust.

"I didnít mean to," Rodney said quietly. "I thought... I wonít do it again."

"I know you believed what you said," John said. "I never doubted that. But I had doubts, and you made me ignore them. Which isnít entirely on you, I knew what was happening and still did it. But thatís a reality we both have to deal with; I will put you first, so you have to try not to put me in that position."

"I willówonít, I promise."

John nodded, reaching for Rodneyís hand and lacing their fingers together. "Then everything else will work itself out. Weíre okay."

"Promise?" Rodney asked, sounding lost and childlike even as he clung to Johnís hand. "I canít lose you, John."

"You wonít," John promised. "Iím not going anywhere."

Rodney relaxed more at that, his body slumping back against Johnís. "I love you."

John pressed a kiss to the back of Rodneyís neck and held him close as they both drifted off to sleep.

~ CHAPTER 12 ~

Carson was quiet as the team returned from the planet where theyíd met Zaddik and his "daughter" Ellia, and the case he carried seemed to drag at his arm as he walked through the gate.

"Do we need to debrief now?" Rodney asked, rubbing one hand over his chest through his torn shirt and the other over Johnís arm, feeling the slight roughness where Ellia had almost fed on him.

"Is there anything we need to deal with immediately?" Elizabeth countered, and John shook his head wearily.

"It was pretty much a shitstorm," he replied bluntly, "but nothing thatís going to come back to bite us in the ass." He glanced at Carson at that, seeing how Ronon was hovering over him, and could only hope that was true for the doctor as well.

"Seeing as how everyone involved is dead," Rodney grumbled before realizing heíd said that aloud.

"Which is my fault," Carson said soberly.

"No, itís not," Ronon said emphatically. "She was a Wraith; you canít change the nature of a Wraith. And what none of you seem to have considered is that she was female. That means she was an immature queen. There was never any chance of making her human."

"Which dinna make it any less of my fault that she almost killed both Rodney and John."

Elizabeth looked around the small group and nodded when Teyla met her gaze. "We can discuss this tomorrow; I want all of you to get some rest now, all right?"

They all nodded, and the two sentinel-guide pairs left the gateroom, too weary to question Teyla staying behind. They parted in the hallway outside their rooms, each going to their own.

"It was not your fault," Ronon repeated emphatically once they were alone, and Carson turned to glare at him.

"Then whose fault would it be?"

Ronon shrugged. "The Ancestorsí for creating the Wraith through pure negligence?" And that had been a hard pill to swallow when he discovered the truth of the matter.

"Of course," Carson said, exhaustion coloring his tone. "I need tae go to the lab."

"You need to rest," Ronon said firmly, planting himself in front of the door.

"I need tae destroy this." Carson thought the door open behind Ronon and stood in front of him. "Iíd like ye ta move, please."

Ronon shook his head. "You can do that in the morning. Even Weir said we all needed rest now. That includes you. Especially you."

"Ronon, please." The hand Carson held the case with trembled as his grip tightened.

Ronon frowned. He didnít want to cause Carson distress, but he didnít think this was a good idea. "Why do you need to do it right this instant?"

"Because, I want ta get rid of it. All of it. This research... nothing good is going ta come of it; I see that now."

"Thatís true," Ronon shrugged, "but you can get rid of it just as easily in the morning, and you should rest now," he ended stubbornly.

"I canít." Carsonís voice cracked slightly as he spoke. "I know what Iíll see if I close my eyes."

Ronon wrapped his arms around the doctor and drew him close. "Iíll be right here with you."

The tremors broke over Carsonís body, and the case he held fell to the floor as he leaned against Rononís chest, his arms slowly rising so that he could cling to Rononís vest. "You, Rodney, JohnóI could have gotten all of ye killed," he managed to get out in between gasps for breath.

"The Wraith could have killed us, but we could die in a lot of different ways on any mission or even right here in Atlantis," Ronon corrected him. "You were trying to help her; itís what you do. Itís just that you couldnít this time."

"I was trying ta further my research," Carson whispered bitterly. "I should never have brought the retrovirus to the planet; there was no need."

Ronon couldnít deny that, so he didnít try, simply tightening his arms around his guide. "It could have worked," he offered.

"In time, if I hadnít rushed myself, thought that I knew best when I didnít." Carson took a deep breath. "Iím telling Elizabeth that Iím closing the project and destroying the work Iíve done. The Ancients made a mistake in creating the Wraith, and I made a larger one thinking I could change them."

After a momentís consideration, Ronon nodded. "Thatís probably for the best."

Carson relaxed slightly at that and slid his arms around Rononís waist. "Thank ye, love," he whispered.

"For what?" Ronon asked, honestly confused. He supported Carson easily, grateful to be able to hold him close.

"For agreeing that I was wrong."

"Oh, uh, youíre welcome?"

Despite himself, Carson laughed quietly. "Ye dinna know what to do with me, do ye?" he murmured.

Ronon smiled wryly. "Youíre very different from anyone else Iíve ever known."

"Iím sorry for that."

"Iím not."

"And for the life of me, I canna understand why, but Iím glad of it." As heíd been speaking, Carson slowly was relaxing, and the door slid shut behind Ronon, who began slowly walking them toward the bed.

"And Iím glad of you," Ronon whispered.

The next few months reminded Rodney uncomfortably of his time at Cheyenne Mountain; the majority of the newcomers to Atlantis now looked at him with unease or outright disdain. Surprisingly, it was the other sentinels and guides who provided him with the most support, joining him at his empty table when John was busy with work.

Missions were routine, and if they didnít provide much in the way of results, they also didnít have people trying to kill them, so that was a positive. For the most part, Rodney busied himself in the lab as much as possible, searching for some discovery that would help blunt the general populationís memories of his horrific blunder and, more importantly, close the distance that had grown between him and John.

John dropped into a chair next to Rodney in the messhall and stole a bite from his plate. "Remember a couple months ago when we were on that forest planet and we pulled back because you and Ronon heard people trying to surround us? Lorneís team went back yesterday to check it out, and they found this." He set a familiar cap on the table and looked up to meet Rodneyís eyes, both of them remembering the last time theyíd seen Ford wearing it.

"You think he was trying toówhat? Kidnap us?" Rodney frowned, starting to pick up the cap, then stopping himself when he caught a waft of the scent coming of it. "It smells like heís worse," he commented.

"Great. And I have no idea what he was planning, but he sure as hell backed off when you and Ronon realized someone was nearby." John slumped in his seat. "Weíre not going to be able to save him, are we?"

"Not unless we can catch him and Carson can find something to cure him," Rodney sighed, pushing his plate away, what appetite he had now gone.

"Which is going to be hard with him not cooperating. For the record, the last few weeks sucked. I still canít believe we had to blow up a real, honest to god Ancient warship. It would have been so cool to fly it," John finished, trying to cheer them both up.

"A lot cooler than almost getting eaten by a mutant Wraith girl," Rodney snorted, still smarting slightly that no one seemed to hold Carson at all responsible for what had happened with Ellia and the fact that she had almost fed on Johnówould have, in fact, if Ronon hadnít killed her.

Showing his usual faculty for reading Rodneyís mind, John squeezed Rodneyís thigh under the table. "No one expects Carson to be infallible."

"They like him," Rodney shrugged.

"The people who really know you like you too," John replied.

Rodney shrugged again and glanced at the hat, frowning slightly. "The other men with Ford smell like himólike him on the Wraith enzyme, I mean."

"More people addicted to it? Great, just what this galaxy needs," John groaned.

"One of these times Iíd like the strangeness to lead to something good."

"I think finding each other may have been our quota."

Rodneyís lips quirked in a half-smile at that. "Well, that was a particularly good thing."

"I think so too." John glanced at Rodneyís barely touched tray. "Wanna finish lunch in our room?"

"Iíll come if youíre hungry; I was just about finished."

"Iím not really hungry either. Maybe we should institute siestas in Atlantis?"

"Youíre suggesting we take a nap?" Rodney asked incredulously.

John stared at him.

"He was suggesting sex," Ronon interjected helpfully as he sat down, having heard the conversation while getting his food.

"Will you keep your ears on your own relationship!" Rodney hissed, glaring at him.

"Okay, weíre outta here." John got to his feet and grabbed Rodneyís arm, dragging him behind while disposing of Rodneyís tray and then heading for the transporter. "No privacy in this place," he grumbled.

"You know I can do without the bruises on my arm," Rodney said mildly.

"Oh, like Iím hurting you." But Johnís grip eased.

"Fine, you werenít hurting me."

"Didnít think so. But I still want some time alone."

"I hope you mean together alone," Rodney commented as they started walking again.

"That is kind of the point of me dragging you along behind. Since Iím not Mary and youíre not a little lamb."

"Thank god, even the fact that you thought of that terrifies me."

John grinned at him, letting go of Rodneyís wrist only to curl an arm around his shoulders and draw him close so that their hips bumped as they made their way down the hall toward their room. "And yet you still love me."

"Yes, well, youíre still speaking to me, so I had better."

John stopped walking and turned Rodney to face him. "I will always talk to you, Rodney. I love you, you idiot."

"I know that." Rodney tried to smile and slipped his arm around Johnís waist as well.

"Why doesnít that sound too sure?" John pulled him into a tight hug. "Iím sorry I made you doubt it."

"Itís not you," Rodney sighed, leaning into the embrace. "Itís justóI should ignore it, and I doóitís not like it matters."

"Oh." Johnís arms tightened. "Give them a little time. It was a pretty spectacular mistake. Carsonís were worseóthough donít tell him or Ronon that I said thatóbut yours was pretty visible."

"As was the fallout," Rodney sighed. "I know itís been over a month, butóI suppose I got used to people not looking at me waiting for me to make a mistake here."

"There just hasnít been a crisis since to distract them. Once the next one comes along, theyíll get back to normal with you," John promised.

"Wonderful."

"Yeah, not exactly something we want to hope for." John got them moving again, locking the door behind them once they were inside their room, looking around to see Mole on a chair, napping in the sun. "I guess youíll just have to make do with me and Mole for now."

"Thereís never any Ďmake doí in that," Rodney corrected him.

"Glad to hear it. I was starting to wonder if I was losing my appeal," John pouted, camping it up.

"You are such a girl," Rodney muttered before kissing him.

John snorted, drawing Rodneyís hand down to his groin. "Does that feel like a girl to you?"

"Not unless she borrowed Cadmanís strap on."

"I think Lorne would cry if that happened."

"My god, those three are pervertedóand she was in my mind." Rodney shuddered at the thought.

"Be thankful thatís all she was in," John snickered, making Rodney scowl at him.

"It would have been your ass she was after if that was the case."

"Okay, thatís just disturbing!"

"Not arguing that at all!"

"Okay, letís forget about kinky Marines. I just want to concentrate on us." John sat down on the bed and pulled Rodney down between his legs, the sentinelís back against his chest, Rodney finally relaxing back against him.

"I think I can live with that."

"Glad to hear it. Iíd hate to think you were going to throw me over for the terrifying trio."

"Oh, thank you so much for that lovely thought," Rodney groaned, making John laugh.

"Thatís what Iím here for."

"To torture me?"

"Itís a husbandís duty."

"I donít remember that in our vows!"

"I do," John replied cheerfully.

"Youíre obviously delusional."

"Nope, Iím perfectly clear," John said, starting to laugh.

Rodney groaned.

"Arenít you lucky I love you?"

"Yes, I shudder to think what would happen if you didnít," Rodney said dryly, though he squeezed Johnís hand tightly as he spoke.

"See, I knew you were a genius." John kissed the side of Rodneyís neck, making him sigh.

"At least someone thinks I am."

"I know you are." Johnís arms tightened around his sentinel, Rodney turning his head to kiss his jaw. John smiled. "Got any meetings this afternoon?"

"Hardly. Radekís been handling all that."

"Neither do I."

Rodney nodded at that. "Thatís good."

"So, I was thinking we could lock ourselves away in here for the rest of the day and play hooky."

"Hide out from the world?"

"Yup. We can watch a movie, play chess, or just make out."

"Or do all three," Rodney offered.

"Now youíre getting into the spirit," John praised. "Any preference as to order."

"Making out sounds good," Rodney offered.

"I was hoping youíd say that," John murmured against his ear while sliding a hand over Rodneyís belly to his groin, simply resting it over the bulge there, the sentinelís sense of touch flaring so that he could feel the tiny pulse beats in Johnís fingers, even through his clothing.

John smiled as Rodney began to grow under his cupping palm, and his other hand spread over Rodneyís chest, lightly rubbing his hardening nipples.

"John," Rodney whispered, reaching back to cup a hand behind Johnís neck as he turned his head to nuzzle his guideís throat, inhaling deeply, then licking the salty skin.

"Right here," John murmured. "Where I belong."

"With me," Rodney murmured.

"Yes." Johnís hand abandoned Rodneyís nipples but only long enough to tug his shirt free of his pants and slide beneath it, returning to its previous position, this time without anything between them.

Rodney whimpered at that, his fingers digging into Johnís neck as he squirmed, his other hand falling to Johnís thigh and kneading it.

"You feel so good," John whispered, warm puffs of air ghosting over Rodneyís flesh with every syllable.

"Want to feel you everywhere, missed you, missed this," Rodney whispered.

"Iím right here, love you, want you," John murmured in reply, and Rodney groaned, twisting against Johnís hands, his erection throbbing beneath Johnís palm. "Iíll never leave you," John promised, slowly petting Rodneyís cock through his pants.

"Promise?" Rodney whispered, knowing he sounded pathetic but unable to stop asking for the reassurance.

"Promise. Youíre stuck with me till weíre at least a hundred and fifteen, remember?"

"Right," Rodney breathed, turning his head again to kiss Johnís jaw. "Keep reminding me of that."

"Every year." John grinned at him, slowly stroking his arm.

"Is that how Iíll know itís our anniversary?"

"What, youíre not going to remember and send me flowers?" John pouted, his fingers kneading Rodneyís erection.

"How about a bouquet of lube instead?" Rodney murmured, smiling slightly.

"No wonder I love you." John kissed him while unfastening Rodneyís pants to stroke his cock without anything between them, making the sentinel moan.

"Because Iím a genius?" he gasped, his fingers tightening on Johnís thigh as he rocked up against him.

"Damn right," John agreed, curling his fist around Rodneyís shaft, pumping lazily.

"God, John!" Rodney whimpered, twisting up into his grip. "Need you, love me, please," he begged.

"I do, I will." John grabbed for the lube, dropping it on the bed so it would be handy once he got them undressed.

"Now!" Rodney demanded.

"We need to get naked first!"

"Then I need to get off of you so we can do it." Rodney lurched to his feet and began yanking off his clothes, not caring where he threw them in his haste. Fortunately, none of them landed on Mole.

"God, youíre gorgeous," John rasped, squirming around on the bed to pull his clothes off without getting up, Rodney shaking his head even as he sat down beside John again, stroking a hand up the other manís now bare leg.

"You areólook, feel, smell, taste, smell, all beautiful."

"And I think that describes you; convenient, isnít it?" John pulled Rodney back on top of him while grabbing the lube and squeezing some into his hand.

"Mmm, very," Rodney murmured, grinding down against him.

John coated his fingers in the slick gel and pressed two inside Rodney, watching his face as Rodney shifted on his knees, opening himself more to the stretching. "So fucking perfect," John whispered, pushing his fingers deeper and twisting them.

"So fuck me perfectly, Colonel," Rodney whispered, staring down at him, his face flushed with arousal.

John chuckled. "Itís the only way I ever do." He flipped them over so he was on top of Rodney and settled between his legs, the head of his cock nudging Rodneyís hole.

"So do it!" Rodney demanded, sliding his hands down to Johnís ass and pulling on him.

"Have I mentioned how much I love it when you get demanding... uh, more demanding?"

"Several hundred times," Rodney whispered, pulling on John again even as he arched up under him. "Now get in me!"

John laughed and pushed into him, groaning at the tight grip, and Rodney gasped, his senses narrowing down to the feeling of his muscles stretching as John slid inside him.

"Mine," John rasped. "Forever."

"At the very least," Rodney nodded before pulling John in for a hungry kiss that John returned with equal intensity.

"So what should a hundredth anniversary be if seventy-five is diamonds? ZPMs?"

"By then they will be mundane," Rodney snorted before gasping as John rubbed against his prostate.

John laughed breathlessly. "And mundane would never do for you."

"Or you; I plan to give you a star."

Johnís smile widened. "Sounds like itís a good thing I have ninety-nine years to come up with one for you." He drew back slowly and rocked back into Rodney.

"Just give me you; thatís all I want."

"Youíve got that," John vowed, lowering his head to press a tender kiss upon Rodneyís lips. "Now and always."

The last tiny bit of tension that had had a home in Rodney since the debacle on Doranda left him, and he tightened down around Johnís cock as he smiled. "Good, then take me."

"If you canít tell that I am, Iím doing something wrong," John chuckled, pulling back and pushing forward again.

"Idiot," Rodney murmured fondly.

"And Iím all yours."

"Always."

"I like the sound of that," John murmured, catching Rodneyís hands in his and lacing their fingers together as they moved, Rodney gasping and groaning with each thrust, all of his senses filled with John.

"Could never want anyone else," John whispered, staring down into the bright blue eyes. "We were meant for each other."

"Iím sorry," Rodney whispered, staring up into Johnís hazel eyes, on the verge of becoming lost in the changing colors there. "BeforeóI never meant to force you to do anything..."

"I know," John admitted. "Iím just always going to want to take your side. We both have to be careful of that. I want both of us to survive for a very long time to keep doing this." He drove forward hard, making Rodney gasp.

"Yes. Donít agree with me because of us; agree with me because Iím right."

John smiled faintly. "Youíre the brains of this operation, Rodney. My instinct is always going to be to take your word for things."

Rodney sucked in a breath and bit down on his lower lip. "Argue with me, John, I need it."

John nodded. "I know. But youíre my husband, my friend, and my sentinel. I have to keep reminding myself that you donít need me to fight your battles for you."

"And I have to keep telling myself that if I canít convince people on my own, then I should giveóoh godóupónot that I will."

John chuckled breathlessly before kissing Rodney, giving up on conversation just then. He continued driving in and out of the sentinel, groaning deeply at every thrust as Rodney tightened around him.

"Johnóyes," Rodney gasped, grabbing at Johnís back as they moved together, his cock pressed between them.

"Love you," John panted out. "So close."

Rodney whimpered as he tightened down around John, silently urging him on, wanting to be filled. John continued rocking in and out of him, lowering himself so his belly rubbed over Rodneyís erection, loving the feeling. Rodney groaned even as he arched upward again, his sense of touch centering in his cock as it rubbed against Johnís abdomen, his body tightening even as he gave himself over to the pleasure of their joining.

"Come for me," John whispered, staring down at him.

"John..." Rodney whispered, losing himself in John as he came, his senses on the verge of overloading on Johnís scent and taste.

"Rodney," John replied, groaning deeply as he felt the spasms of Rodneyís climax. Only a few strokes later he was coming as well, spurting deep inside his sentinel.

"Love you," Rodney whispered. "Die for you."

"Live for me," John ordered.

"As long as you do the same."

"Try to pry me away from you."

"Or out of me?" Rodney chuckled tiredly.

"Not gonna happen."

"Good, not going let you go."

John grinned down at him. "Looks like we both have what we want then."

"Damn right," Rodney sighed, pulling John closer and kissing him. "One hundred and fifteen years at least."

"And then we ascend together and come back to do it all over again."

"Yes, John, whatever you say, John," Rodney murmured, smiling as he shifted to hold his guide close.

"Good answer." John kept his arms around Rodney in a tight embrace.

"Of course, itís mine."

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

"And here I thought it was because I was a slut for you and only you."

"That too," John laughed, and Rodney hugged him tightly.

"I love you, John."

John smiled. "I kinda got that when you married me."

"Very amusing, Colonel."

"I love you too."

Rodney chuckled even as he smacked John lightly on the back of the head and relaxed back into the pillows.

"Hey, no spousal abuse."

"You love it and you know it," Rodney murmured.

"I love you and you know it."

"Reverse it and ditto."

John smiled and kissed him lightly. "Good. Now get some sleep. We have that mission to MR6-P94 in the morning."

"More tromping around, I canít wait," Rodney groaned though he held John closer as he shifted enough to make them both comfortable.

"Iíll make it up to you afterward." John tucked his head under Rodneyís chin and relaxed completely, barely noticing as Mole stretched and leaped down from his chair to come curl up at their feet.

"Massage?" Rodney murmured, already half asleep.

"Whatever you want," John promised, his eyes closed.

~ CHAPTER 13 ~

"Okay, next time, can you park a little closer?" Rodney groaned as the team approached the base of a cliff and he scanned the area for energy readouts. "It should be around here somewhere..."

Behind them, Ronon rolled his eyes as John replied, "This ridge was a little further away than it looked. You canít just land a jumper anywhere, Rodney. None of us would enjoy sliding down a mountain in one."

"Do you even know what it is we are looking for?" Teyla asked, peering at the vine-draped cliff-face while Ronon studied the area they had come through, checking to see if anyone had followed them.

"Whatever it was that caused that power spike we detected from the jumper," Rodney explained impatiently as he adjusted the scanner then studied the cliff, looking for any minute differences in the stone and greenery.

"Díyou have any idea what that looks like?" John asked, already knowing what the answer would be but unable to resist winding Rodney up.

"Iíll know it when I see it," Rodney said, half-turning to glower at John, then smirking. "And I see it." He pointed to the left, and Ronon grunted, noticing the same thing he had.

After John and Rodney cleared the hanging vines away, Ronon regarded what theyíd uncovered. "Looks like a door," he announced.

"Yes, itís remarkably door-like," Rodney said dryly as he studied the opening.

Accustomed to Rodney, everyone ignored the response, and they all walked into the cave, John and Teyla aiming their guns cautiously as they checked for any threat. At the far end of the rather small cave, there was another doorway, with another cave on the other side.

Peering through the opening, John commented, "Well, looks like the only way through the ridge anyway. It runs for miles. All right, letís check it out." He started toward the doorway only to have Rodney grab him by the arm and bodily yank him backwards.

"Wait! Thereís something there," he ordered, glaring at John.

"What is it?" Teyla asked, and Rodney frowned as he scanned the opening, still keeping hold of John.

"It looks like an energy barrier of some sort."

John stared at the doorway for a moment, but it still just looked like another cave mouth to him. He looked around at the ground, obviously looking for something, and then he picked up a pebble and tossed it through the doorway. When the rock reached the doorway, a blue nimbus surrounded it, obviously an energy field of some kind, and then the pebble disappeared.

"It disappeared," Teyla said, taking her turn at stating the obvious.

"Or it went right through a cloak," John suggested, eyeing the opening with increased interest.

"It has many of the same properties as a cloaking field," Rodney nodded as he frowned at the doorway.

"Yeah, and the Ancients did tend to hide all the really cool stuff," John nodded.

"YeahóI would just like to be able to explain these readings better before we step through." Rodney snapped his fingers and looked over at Ronon and Teyla. "Get me a branch." At Rononís impassive glare, he sighed. "Please?" They walked off, and he turned to John. "You got tape?"  As John squatted down and started to rummage in his backpack, Rodney reached into his jacket with a smirk. "Because... Iíve got a camera!"

He pulled the camera out, then stared as Ronon presented him with a thick branch. "I didnít ask for a log!"

Ronon looked from his "stick" to Rodney, shrugged, and tossed it aside when Teyla proffered a much thinner branch. Rodney positioned the camera against the branch, and John began wrapping it with the duct tape, attaching the recording device securely.

"Okay," Rodney said, "we extend the camera through, record for a few minutes, pull it back, play the recorder."

"Cool," John said. "MALP on a stick."

"Yes, MALP on a stick," Rodney snorted. "Very clever." He glanced at John, who was still fiddling with the camera. "Are you done yet?"

At his guideís nod, Rodney took the stick from Teyla and carefully fed it through the field, frowning as the part surrounding the branch glowed blue and the camera vanished from view.

While John and Rodney were concentrating on their reconnaissance, Teyla turned her attention to the Ancient symbols carved on the cave wall near the doorway.

After a momentís study, she said, "I am not fluent in Ancient but I do recognize a few words: welcome and ascension."

"Ascension?" Ronon asked, unfamiliar with the term.

"To a higher plane of existence," Rodney commented without looking away from the doorway. "The race of people who built the stargatesóthey eventually evolved to a point where they ascended to a state of pure energy."

"Thatíd be great!" Ronon decided, and Rodney looked at him strangely.

"Youíre the last person Iíd have expected to think that."

Ronon stared back until John interjected, "Pure energy means no body means no food or sex."

"Oh. Then no."

"Iím sure Carson would appreciate that," Rodney snorted as he pulled the stick back from the field. "All right, letís see whatís inside there." He waited until everyone gathered around then played the recording, which showed the other side of the doorway, a view that looked exactly like what they could see through the field.

"Okay then, the next step is obvious," John said, moving toward the opening only to have Rodney catch his arm again.

"Wait; there might be other things in there; I mean, MALP on a stick canít show you if the atmosphere is poisonous or if thereís no atmosphere or..."

John winced slightly at the possibilities, but as he pointed out, "Standing here debating it isnít going to get us any more information. Besides, youíll pull me out if anything happens." He took a deep breath. "Okay, here goes."

The colonel slowly pushed his P90 into the field, all of them watching as it glowed blue around the weapon. He continued pushing forward until his hands disappeared into the field. "Weird!" John decided, still inching forward, his arms slowly disappearing through the shield. "Yeah, itís kinda hurting my hands a little."

"Then get out of there!" Rodney demanded, grabbing onto John again and trying to pull him back.

"Iím trying! But itís pulling me in," John gritted out, throwing his weight back while Rodney yanked at him, but he continued to be drawn forward. He looked around at his team. "Okay, come on, guys; get me outta here."

Teyla and Ronon both grabbed hold of John, adding their strength to try to pull him free.

"Weíre trying," Ronon gritted out, tendons standing out on his arms.

"Well, try harder!" John exclaimed, sounding understandably worried.

"No, no, we proved this; it shouldnít be happening," Rodney babbled even as he pulled frantically at John. "Get him out of there!"

"Itís pulling me in!" John exclaimed, everyone clearly having the need to state the obvious that day. He turned his head to the side, trying to force his head back before it could be drawn through as well, but all he managed was to catch Rodneyís eye before his face disappeared.

"Let go!" Rodney yelled, Ronon and Teyla releasing their hold on Johnís back before their hands could touch the barrier, though Rodney didnít let go of him. "Get back to Atlantis," he continued, the pitch of his voice rising as he was drawn forward as well. "Get Zelenka here; tell himó" The last was cut off as Rodney vanished as well.

On the other side, John staggered, disoriented for a moment, then whipped his head around to stare at Rodney, freaked to see his hands and arms still hanging on but most of the rest of him not visible. It was a few minutes before Rodney appeared completely, and John heaved a sigh of relief.

"How come it took so long for you come through? Did you find a way to slow it down?"

"Took so long, what are you talking about?" Rodney demanded, patting John over to make sure he was all right before spinning and studying the blank wall behind them. "I came right after you, seconds at most!"

John shook his head. "It was about five minutes from the time I got completely through until you did. And let me tell you, being held by disembodied arms is seriously weird!"

"Thatís impossible!" Rodney argued, turning to face him again. "I went through right after you, only had time to tell Ronon and Teyla to get Zelenka hereóare you sure you didnít hit your head when you came through?"

John glared. "I may not be a sentinel, but I do know the difference between a few seconds and a few minutes!"

"Fine, fine, it was minutes; now shouldnít we be seeing if we can reach them on a radio?" Rodney snapped before groaning as he reached up to key his radio. "Oh, ow, that hurtsóas a matter of fact, everything hurts."

"It fades after a minute or two. I feel fine now," John replied with a certain amount of smugness. "And the radio doesnít work. It was the first thing I tried."

"Wonderful," Rodney groaned, dropping to the ground and leaning back against the cave wall. "So did you do anything else while I was lost in transit?"

John shook his head. "I was pretty much stuck in one place till you came through since you were holding on... which I think is the only thing that kept me on my feet," he admitted. "Once youíre feeling better, we should go see where the cave comes out. Oh yeah, I did try to push my gun back through the forcefield; it bounced right off."

"Wonderful," Rodney groaned before forcing himself back to his feet. "Letís see what we can find then try the radios again; just because they canít respond doesnít mean they canít hear us."

John nodded. "And it shouldnít be long before they get us out of here. Theyíre not going to just abandon us in here."

"Do you really think either of them is going to be able to figure out the science behind this?" Rodney snapped. "Theyíre going to have to go back to the city and get Radekóand who knows if heíll even be able to!"

John shrugged. "He has a better chance than anyone else," he pointed out. "And itís not like youíre not going to be working on the problem from this side. Weíll be home for dinner." John knew heíd have been a lot less calm about the situation if Rodney hadnít been with him.

"Right, right," Rodney nodded. "We just need to find something that I can work on. So, letís go see what else is here." He sniffed experimentally. "I canít smell anything except you and me..."

"Donít start sniffing me or our departure from this cave is going to be delayed!"

"Are you telling me youíre thinking about sex at a time like this?" Rodney demanded, though he carefully didnít sniff John too closely.

John just looked at him, one eyebrow rising, and Rodney groaned. "Walk, Colonel."

John chuckled. "Iím sure youíd be able to do more on the other side, but Iím glad youíre in here with me."

Rodney turned and stared at him at that. "You donít really think I was going to let you go through that thing alone, do you?"

"Logically, you should have, but... no."

"Logic somehow doesnít seem to apply to me when it comes to you," Rodney admitted ruefully, and he reached out to squeeze Johnís hand as they started to explore the cave.

"Goes both ways," John assured him, edging in front of Rodney as they neared the other end of the cave.

"Nothing here," the sentinel murmured, looking around at what appeared to be the other side of the ridge.

"No, which makes you wonder why the forcefield and the Ancient writing outside," John said, inspecting their surroundings. "Itís just more nature."

"Since when were the Ancients ever clear on anything they did?" Rodney sighed. "Okay, letís go try to radio them again."

John nodded, and they hiked back to the barrier, sitting down on the ground near it while they tried to contact Teyla and Ronon again. "Okay, can you hear me now?" John said, clearly without great expectations. "Right. Well, in case you can, the cave opens up to the other side of the ridge, but thereís nothing in the immediate area I can survive on."

"We," Rodney reminded him. "Iíve got some Powerbars in my pockets, but they wonít last beyond today, plus, do you have any water?"

"Just whatís in my canteen. About a dayís worth if weíre careful of rationing it. You?"

"Less than that." Rodney glowered at Johnís expression. "I was thirsty!"

"Right. We should stay here for the night; itís defensible, and the others still might get us out of here soon. But if they havenít by mid morning, weíre going to have to move out and find some water before the situation is critical."

Rodney nodded at that, not looking as if he was enjoying the prospect, but understanding the situation. "All right. We can leave them a note or something so ifówhenóthey get through, they can find us."

"At least we donít have to talk to a volleyball."

"What? Oh, you mean that movie with the emaciated Tom Hanksómy god, I hope we donít end up looking like that!"

"Iím sure weíll find plenty of food. Itís not like weíre stuck on an island," John pointed out. "And we still have a couple of MREs to tide us over till we find a source of fresh food."

"Yes, yes, youíre right," Rodney nodded, trying to convince himself of that fact. "Plus it shouldnít be that long before they come back with Radek and figure out how to shut off the field."

"Of course not. If they leave us in here, theyíll end up with Caldwell."

"He can stick to his delivery runs," Rodney murmured, taking out the scanner and examining the area around them.

"Yup, which means weíll be back in Atlantis where we belong." John hugged Rodney, careful not to knock the scanner from his hands.

Rodney nodded absently, leaning back against John as he studied the readings. "Okay, Iím getting nothing from this side; the power supply must be back where we came from."

"Of course it is," John sighed. "It couldnít be where we could get at it. Maybe Rononíll shoot it," he mused hopefully.

"If he can find it," Rodney said morosely.

"Rodney?" John waited till he had his sentinelís attention. "Stop being so pessimistic!"

"Iím notó" Rodney began before sighing and slumping. "Sorry, Iíll try to do better."

John hugged him. "Hey, I know youíre you. Just... not right now, Ďkay? This has me kind of freaked too."

That more than anything calmed Rodney, and he nodded. "Right, so we should set up some kind of camp, at least for now; if weíre going to be here overnight, we might as well be comfortable. Oh my god, who is going to feed Mole?"

"Iím sure Carson or Cadman and Lindstrom will think of him," John said soothingly before looking around, eyebrows raised. "Not a whole lot to work with here," he pointed out. "We can use our jackets for a pillow for you, but thatís about it."

"Well, since you use me for one, thatís all we need, right?" Rodney tried to joke. "We could make a fire; itís going to be night soon."

"We should have brought Rononís stick," John said with a half-hearted chuckle. "I guess we need to make another trip out to the other side of the cave. Gather some firewood, maybe some grass or evergreen branches, if there are any, to make a pallet..."

"It was a tree trunk," Rodney grumbled half-heartedly as he put his scanner away. "And we should get to work on that, then."

John got to his feet and offered Rodney a hand up. "It wonít take long."

On the other side, Teyla let out a soft sound of dismay when Rodney vanished after John, and she immediately tried to contact them by radio. When that didnít work, she grabbed a branch, sticking it through, hoping that her teammates would tug on it to let her know they were all right. After more than a minute, she drew it back, only to gasp in surprise at the sight of it.

"Ronon! The buds have wilted," she exclaimed.

"So they got older inside the cave," Ronon frowned.

Teylaís eyes widened as she remembered some of the theoretical conversations sheíd overheard scientists having on Atlantis, and she grabbed the camera, looking at counter, and her features tightened. "The device has recorded several hours."

"So whatís been minutes for us, has been hours for McKay and Sheppard?" Ronon asked before looking at the forcefield again. "If the cave doesnít open on the other side, they could starve to death in there." He immediately grabbed the backpack Rodney had taken off earlier and began to paw through it. "Do you have any food we can send them?"

Teyla nodded, immediately going through her own pack and pulling out spare power bars and MREs, along with her canteen and an epi-pen, and the two of them quickly bundled everything together and tossed it through the field.

"Ronon, if time is passing as quickly on the other side as this would seem to indicate," Teyla gestured toward the branch, "if we do not retrieve them quickly, it will be too late. I will go to the jumper and radio Atlantis, informing them of the situation and requesting assistance." She looked at her teammate. "Do not follow them through or Carson will be very angry."

"I wasnít planning on it," he growled back. "We can do more from this side than the other. Good thing McKay went through or heíd be going insane hereónot that Iíd blame him." Watching Teyla run away, he settled down to wait.

Teyla ran faster than sheíd ever gone before, hurling herself into the jumper and taking a deep breath to steady her hand before dialing Atlantis. A moment later she tried the radio. "Atlantis, this is Teyla. Can you hear me?"

"This is Atlantis, Teyla; we read you," Chuck answered.

"Col. Sheppard and Dr. McKay have been drawn through a forceshield, and we cannot contact them, nor have they returned. We also believe that time is passing at a much faster rate on the other side. We require Dr. Zelenka and anyone else he believes useful immediately."

"Teyla, Iíll need you to repeat that for Dr. Weir," Chuck said, even as he keyed the comm system to call Elizabeth, Radek and Carson.

Teyla repeated the situation, impatience clear in her voice, and Radek replied, "How much faster, Teyla?"

"We held the camera inside the field for less than a minute, and it recorded several hours of footage."

A low exclamation in Czech was Radekís response. "Dr. Weir, I will require a pilot and a doctor. I will be ready in five minutes."

"Five minutes! Radek, we have to discuss our options..." Elizabeth began.

"Elizabeth, we do not have time," Radek interrupted, something no one had ever heard him do to Elizabeth before. "Based on their estimate of the time differential, if it takes us a week to ten days to fix this, then it wonít matter, because Rodney and the colonel will probably have died of old age!"

"We should leave now," Carson agreed, his features tight with worry. "They may not even know that time is running differently where they are."

"There were also many symbols in Ancient writing around the cave mouth," Teyla added. "Perhaps if we were able to translate them?"

"Iím coming as well, and Iíll bring my books on the Ancient language," Elizabeth assured her.

Zelenka looked over at her, wanting to argue that she should remain safely in Atlantis, but he knew she was their best chance of translating the writings.

The additional supplies that had come through the barrier had convinced John and Rodney to wait longer in the cave for rescue, but eventually their supplies began to reach a critical state. Finally, for the first time in a couple of days, after a glance at Rodney John keyed his radio. "This is Sheppard. Iím pretty sure you canít hear me, but what the hell. Weíve rationed what little we have for as long as we could, but we have enough left for maybe one more day." He sighed. "Weíve gotta get something to live on while we find our own source of food and water. Not that we didnít appreciate the two canteens of water and the whole handful of Powerbars and MREs. What, youíre on rations too?

"Anyway, thereís nothing in the immediate area, so weíre gonna have to go further out. Um, weíre giving you an indication of where we go, as we go. Sheppard out." He tucked the now almost powerless radio into his pack and then looked over at Rodney. "Ready?"

"As Iím going to be," Rodney sighed, shouldering the other pack and reaching for Johnís hand, giving it a squeeze to bolster his confidence. "Letís go see what we can find."

"Hey, maybe youíll find a ZPM factory."

"If we do, Iíll do you over the console."

"Damn, if we donít find one, Iíll build you one!"

"See, something good is going to come out of this," Rodney answered, giving a small laugh. They emerged from the cave, and he took a careful look at trees in front of them.

"It looks like thereís a really old path to the right."

"So letís follow it and hope it leads us to the castle and not the witchís cottage."

"Not helping!"

John chuckled and pulled him in for a quick, hard kiss before starting down the path. They walked for a while without seeing anyone or anything else, other than trees, until they stopped in their tracks, guns coming up at the sound of a roar.

"What the hell was that?" Rodney asked, looking unerringly in the direction the sound had come from, straining his eyes for a glimpse of the creature that had caused it, then jumped as the roar came again, this time from another direction.

"I donít know, but I really donít like the sound of it," John muttered. The roaring continued, each time from a different direction, and they continued tracking it, back to back. When it stopped, John looked at Rodney. "Either weíll kill it or itíll kill us," he said, indicating the direction of the last roar.

"The former I hope," Rodney muttered as they started walking, finally leaving the forest without catching sight of the animal.

"I canít even smell anything; itís like itís not even there," Rodney commented.

"Okay, thatís weird." They both shrugged and continued walking for lack of anything better to do. Eventually they reached a clearing and started across the wide meadow. They were startled when a man suddenly ran out of the forest.

"Help! Help! Help me, please!" he cried, making a beeline for John while the roaring began again.

"Where is it?í Rodney asked, still unable to locate anything.

"There, in the trees!" The man pointed back the way he came, and another roar filled the air.

"What is it?" John demanded, still not seeing anything.

"The Beast," the stranger replied, which didnít tell them much.

"All right, is there a safe place for us to go?" John asked, trying to keep between Rodney and the forest.

"No, no, the Cloister is too far." The man stared into the woods, Rodney trying in vain to see what he was looking at.

"Itís upon us!" He cried, ducking down into the grass, Rodney and John sharing a confused look before joining him.

"Stay down, and stay behind me," John ordered.

"You canít fight it!" the stranger exclaimed.

"Maybe we can scare it away," John replied, trying not to roll his eyes. He fired a short burst into the trees and then stood up cautiously. All was silent for several seconds, but then he heard a roar from his left. He spun to face the sound, frowning in confusion at the field that stretched for some distance in that direction even though the sound seemed to come from much closer.

Suddenly a distortion appeared just above the ground, flickering into view for a moment, then fading. John lowered his weapon, watching it, and then the distortion appeared again, this time forming the shape of a slightly larger than human biped. John fired another short blast from his P90, but the creature vanished again only to reappear much closer to John and knock him flying.

The stranger he was trying to protect cowered in the tall grass as the creature, still phasing in and out of existence, turned and headed towards John.

"John!" Rodney shouted, darting to the side to fire at the creature, his bullets not seeming to affect it at all.

John rolled out of the way and up onto his knees to fire off several shots at the Beast as well. The Beast growled, turned back toward him, again knocking him across the field. John landed on his belly several yards away from Rodney, and the Beast charged toward him and slashed his back, ripping his vest and shirt to shreds along with the skin of his back.

Rodney screamed out Johnís name and sprinted to stand over his husband, firing madly at the creature as it moved closer, phasing in and out of sight. It finally stopped, then vanished, leaving Rodney panting and looking widely around him, cursing when he realized that the stranger was gone as well, then dropping to his knees to begin working frantically on John, trying to stop the blood flowing from his injuries.

A few minutes later the stranger theyíd tried to help ran back into the clearing, followed by several other people. "We must get him back to the Cloister."

"And are they going to help him just like you helped us?" Rodney snapped, not looking away from his work.

"We have a healer there, but she cannot leave the Cloister to help him. You must let us bring him to her." The man was nearly wringing his hands as he tried to reason with Rodney.

"You arenít touching him," Rodney snarled. "Heís hurt because of you." He finished binding Johnís wounds as well as possible, then nodded at the packs. "Take those, Iíll take him, and that Cloister of yours better not be far."

After a moment, seeing that Rodney wasnít going to budge, the stranger nodded and shouldered the packs. "This way." He started off at a quick pace, his companions falling in behind Rodney and John, keeping their distance after a single look at the sentinelís expression.

A short while later they arrived in the Cloister, a small village, and the stranger, whoíd introduced himself as Avrid, led them to a hut where an approximately twelve-year-old girl waited.

"And what is she supposed to do, braid his hair into pigtails?" Rodney panted as he staggered under Johnís weight.

"Iím Hedda," the girl said, ignoring his sarcasm. "You should put him on the bed."

A pretty brunette came into the small hut. "I am Teer. My sister Hedda is one of the few among us who has the healing power. She will be able to help your friend."

"How?" Rodney gasped, staring at the woman, monitoring her reactions and frowning when he realized she was telling the truthóor thought she was.

"She will heal his injuries," the woman said, and Hedda stepped forward, laying her hand on Rodneyís wrist.

"You donít believe. Let me show you." Before Rodney could say anything, she closed her eyes, and he felt the pain of his over-taxed muscles ease.

"If you hurt him, Iíll kill you," he stated, staring down at her, disconcerted by the fact that there was no fear in her eyes, then he carefully set John down on the bed, turning him so that his injured back was facing up, snarling when any of the others tried to help him.

Hedda carefully placed her hands on Johnís forehead and an unlacerated portion of his back and closed her eyes again. At first nothing happened, but then the wounds began to close, and after a moment, Johnís head rose and turned, and his eyes opened, focusing briefly on Rodney before closing again.

"You, you healed him," Rodney gasped, staring at the girl even as he hovered over John protectively.

"She has the healing power," Teer repeated, moving closer again. "I would be happy to care for your friend..."

"No," Rodney said flatly, his eyes narrowing as he focused on her. "I can take care of him."

"But surely you will wish to bathe, eat," she began only to have Rodney cut her off with a snarl.

"Once I know heís all right."

Hedda reached up at that and tugged at Teerís arm. "They are bonded; he will not leave the other."

"Oh." An expression of disappointment briefly crossed Teerís face. "I will have food and water for washing brought to you," she said before leaving the hut abruptly.

Rodney calmed somewhat at that, and he nodded at the young girl. "Thanks." He looked back at John then and stroked a hand over his brow. "Is there anything I can do for him?"

"Just let him rest. The healing used much of his strength." She smiled, a flash of the beautiful woman she would become. "And be with him. He rests more easily when he feels you near."

"Can youócan you give him some of my strength? Is it possible? Would it help?" Rodney stammered.

"It is not necessary," Hedda assured him. "All he requires is sleep and food when he wakes."

"Okay." Rodney nodded and turned his attention back to John again. "Okay."

John twisted in Rodneyís grasp, rolling onto his side and curling one arm around Rodneyís waist as he snuggled close, smiling slightly in his sleep, Rodney sighing in relief as he scooted up onto the bed, pulling John closer, letting his eyes fall half closed when Hedda left them alone.

Morning sunlight inched across the floor of the hut, illuminating the tidy room as it rose, eventually reaching the closed eyes of the lean man curled in the protective embrace of his husband. John grumbled, his eyes scrunching more tightly closed, and he turned his head to bury his face in Rodneyís chest.

"John? John!" Rodney gasped, coming instantly alert, trying to sit up without disturbing John.

"Too early," John grumbled. "Gíback tísleep!"

"How do you feel?" Rodney insisted, gently running his hand over Johnís back, realizing that any trace of the previous dayís injuries was gone.

Remembering the previous day, John sat up suddenly, his eyes wide as he twisted, trying to peer over his shoulder. "I feel fine."

"You were healed." It sounded as if Rodney was reluctant to admit it.

"What, like a faith healer with the laying on of hands?"

"Yes. Or in this case, the healing hands belong to a pre-teen."

"A pre-" John shook his head. "Never mind." His stomach rumbled. "I donít suppose thereís anything to eat around here?" he asked hopefully.

"Heís awake again!" A voice called from the doorway, and Hedda ran in, grinning brightly.

"And heís not deaf," Rodney grumbled at her.

"Or at least I wasnít," John muttered under his breath before smiling at the girl. "I hear I have you to thank for being alive and in one piece."

"Iím Hedda, and this is Teer," she said brightly as Rodney scowled at the woman who had followed her inside.

"Hi," John greeted, frowning slightly when he felt Rodney stiffen beside him since he hadnít noticed Teer staring at his bare chest.

"Heís hungry," Rodney said flatly.

John twisted around to stare at Rodney, trying to figure out what was wrong. He never even noticed Teer leave again to get them something to eat.

"How do you feel otherwise?" Rodney asked, continuing to stroke his hand over Johnís back.

"Good... for someone stuck on the wrong side of a one-way force field. At least youíre here too, or Iíd be going nuts."

"Do you really think that I would let you go anywhere without me?" Rodney asked, before tilting his head enough to stare at Hedda. "What?"

"Youíre different from everyone here."

"Well duh!" Rodney muttered.

Hedda giggled. "Very different."

"Is that good or bad?" John wanted to know.

She paused for a moment, seeming to consider the question, then nodding. "Itís good."

"We think so too," John said with a wide grin, leaning back against Rodneyís chest.

"As long as no one touches," Rodney muttered into Johnís hair, causing Hedda to giggle.

"Iíll tell everyone that you are bonded," she promised.

"When we get out of here, would you like to go everywhere with us?" John asked wryly, making her laugh again.

"Youíre funny. But thereís no way to leave, other than to ascend."

Rodney stared at her at that. "Ascend?"

"That is why we are here," Teer said as she came back into the room. She set a tray on the table by the bedside. "Hedda said you would be hungry, so we had food ready."

"Of course he is!" Rodney exclaimed, grabbing the tray and balancing it on his lap, offering the best smelling dish to John.

"And you are too," John said, taking a bite and then nudging it toward Rodney.

"Eat, youíre the one who was hurt," Rodney said, shaking his head, even though his stomach rumbled.

"I will if you will. We have a deal, remember. Only one acceptable reason for passing out."

"One that we wonít mention in front of children!" Rodney exclaimed before eating the bite John offered him, all the while trying to ignore Heddaís giggles.

Teer watched them wistfully for a moment before slipping out of the hut again, deciding it would be best to leave Avrid to speak to them once they had eaten their fill.

"Okay, this isnít bad," Rodney allowed.

"Pretty good actually," John agreed, helping himself to more now that he was sure Rodney was eating too.

"We just need to find a way back," Rodney murmured, kissing the side of Johnís head and accepting another bite from his fingers.

"We will. Because I have no interest in ascending!"

Avrid came in just them. "But that is the sole purpose of this placeóto meditate upon ascension and one day join those who created the Sanctuary," he protested.

"Well, we have other plans!" John snapped.

"So why donít you tell us how to get out of here, and weíll leave you to your ascension," Rodney added.

"But there is no other way than ascension," Avrid repeated what Hedda had already told him. "Why did you enter the portal then?"

"Well, call it a mistake. We tried to stop it, but the damned thing sucked us in," John grumbled.

"Those that came before us made certain that there could be no indecision. Once you set foot within the Sanctuary, your path was chosen."

"Not by us!" Rodney protested.

"Once you cross the threshold, you are committed to be here for the remainder of your days," Avrid explained smilingly, an expression that faded once he got a good look at the two Atlanteansí expressions. After a moment, he turned and left.

"Weíre going to find a way out of here," John insisted, and Rodney nodded.

"Damn right, I donít intend on spending the rest of my life sitting here studying my toenails!"

"Well, they are cute toenails."

"No being kinky in front of the children," Rodney muttered, glancing at Hedda, who was still watching them avidly.

"I was just sayiní." John snickered.

"Which leads to doing when youíre involved."

"Not in front of the children," John said. "Iím not an idiot."

"I need to go meditate," Hedda announced, waving as she left.

"Iím going to hate this place," Rodney groaned.

"I donít meditate!"

"Do you think I do?!"

"We really need to get out here."

"Well, letís finish eating, and we can see what we can find."

~ CHAPTER 14 ~

"Everyoneís so damn calm," John growled. "I hate this place."

"Not arguing with you! I canít believe we canít find a damn power source here!"

"I canít believe weíve been here over a month and no one from Atlantis has come after us!"

"Thatís because without me there to tell them what to do, none of them could find the door!"

John had to chuckle at that. "I know Radekís not you, but Iíd have thought he could figure something out in less time than this."

Rodney sniffed at that, then wrinkled his nose. "Yes, you would think that, wouldnít you? Theyíre probably all celebrating because Iím gone."

"Well, theyíd miss me," John teased. "Iím charming, remember."

"Like everyone here has noticed," Rodney grumbled. "What with you going native and all." He sniffed as he looked at Johnís rustic outfit.

John shrugged. "I donít feel like doing laundry every day. They look like crap, but theyíre comfortable."

"And the beard?" Rodney snorted.

"Iíll shave it when we get home."

"Great, weíre going to be strangled in our sleep."

"Itís a beard, Rodney, not tentacles!"

Rodney arched his eyebrows at that.

"Iím not Davy Jones!"

"Ancient technology, Colonel."

Johnís eyes widened slightly, and he went cross-eyed trying to peer at his own chin. "Maybe I should shave..."

"That was a joke..."

"Oh." John regarded him sheepishly. "Have I mentioned that Iím a little tense?"

"I understand; I feel the same way," Rodney sighed, looking around the pastoral setting and making a face. "These people are insane."

"Thatís being kind. Who the hell wants to waste their whole life trying to Ďmove oní without ever experiencing what this life has to offer?" John looked disgusted by the whole thing. "I donít want to ascend, but I sure as hell donít want to stay here forever!"

"And they keep making us meditate," Rodney whined. "I hated it at the Center, and I hate it here!"

"The only meditating I like to do is on your ass," John replied mournfully.

"Iíd like that idea, if Teer didnít keep interrupting!" Rodney snarled the womanís name.

John nodded, equally frustrated. Even he couldnít miss that the woman was hitting on him. "How Ďbout today when theyíre all meditating, we go find a nice grassy hollow and do our own kind of meditating?" he suggested.

Rodney glanced at him, and a smile slowly blossomed on his face. "That sounds perfect."

"Good. And tomorrow weíll lay down some ground rules to the natives. If weíre going to be stuck here, Iím damn well not going to have us die of frustration. We get time alone from now on."

"And they might be some help in dealing with whatever the hell that thing is!"

"Thatíd be nice," John agreed, remembering some of the incredibly frustrating conversations theyíd had with Teer and the other villagersóthose few would deign to pay enough attention to worldly matters to speak to them, that was.

"I hate it here," Rodney muttered, tightening the arm he had around Johnís waist and resting his head on his shoulder. "Itís not normal."

"No, itís not," John agreed, hugging Rodney close. "Itís the freaking Land of the Lotus Eaters!"

Rodney nodded, nuzzling Johnís throat, grounding himself in his guideís scent and shuddering at the thought of what his life would have been like if he hadnít followed John through the shield. Feeling the shiver, John held Rodney more tightly, taking as much comfort as he was giving.

"If you werenít here with me..." he trailed off, unable to voice the thought.

"But I am," Rodney whispered. "Never leaving you."

John nodded. "And thatís why we will get out of here. Together, weíre unbeatable."

Rodney pulled back and gave a lopsided smile at that. "Right."

"Besides, you still have a Nobel to win," John said with a chuckle.

"Plus you need to be a general," Rodney nodded as they began walking again. "Preferably before Caldwell."

John laughed. "Why do I think youíd take great pleasure in pushing him off the highest balcony in Atlantis?"

"Because heís an asshole to you."

"Getting to outrank him would be a much greater punishment," John assured him, and Rodney sighed.

"You will, I know it."

"Which will mean weíre out of this flower child paradise, which will be good in itself," John muttered. "Theyíre all nuts."

Rodney nodded. "It really should have been Ronon stuck here."

John cast him a look of horror. "I think advocating mass murder is a bit much, Rodney!"

"I didnít mean that!" Rodney protested.

"Well, what do you think would happen if you trapped him in here with the granola and tofu crowd?"

"I just meant that he was used to being on his own, and alone, and... that type of thing!"

"If you ever let Carson hear you say that, heíll try to kill you," John pointed out.

"Well, he isnít here, is he!"

"For future reference."

"Well, if we ever see Carson again, Iíll be sure not to mention it."

"Good plan." John looked around. "Do you think weíre far enough from the village to be safe from interruptions?"

"From the village idiots or from that thing?" Rodney muttered.

"Since we still canít figure out where or when the so-called Beast will hit, Iíll settle for from the villagers. I really wish we had cloaking technology. Or better yet, a whole jumper," John said wistfully, looking up into the sky.

"Iíd even welcome Caldwell if he would beam us out of here," Rodney nodded as they reached the end of the fields and entered the forest beyond them.

"Thatíd be nice," John sighed. "I guess it didnít work though since the Daedalus should have been back by now. Damn shield."

"Damn shield," Rodney echoed, pulling John into a tight embrace once they were in the shadows of the trees.

"But at least we still have this," John whispered, catching a tender earlobe between his teeth and nibbling, drawing a gasp from the other man.

"This is good," Rodney gasped, sliding a hand lower to grope Johnís ass.

"Itís way better than good," John corrected, sliding one leg between Rodneyís.

"With you?" Rodney murmured. "Always."

"Youíre good for my ego," John replied, nuzzling Rodneyís throat while backing him against a sturdy tree trunk.

"Good for everything for me," Rodney whispered, relaxing back against the tree and rubbing against John.

"Just goes to prove that the sentinel-guide bond knows what itís doing," John said. "You were waiting for me, and I didnít even know it." For a moment, he felt anger flare at his father for the years theyíd lost, but they would have been different people, and he liked who they were. "Love you." His fingers reached for Rodneyís waistband, causing the other man to groan.

"John. Mine. Love you."

"Show me."

Rodney caught him in a hungry kiss, hooking a leg around Johnís thigh and pulling him closer, moaning in the back of his throat as he arched against John.

"Want you in me," John rasped, his hands sliding inside Rodneyís loosened pants to cup his ass. "Wanna feel you so deep inside me I canít tell where you end and I begin."

Rodney sucked in a deep breath, then finally nodded, shifting his weight to spin them around, pressing John up against the tree. John braced his hands against it, his back arching as he thrust his ass back at his sentinel demandingly.

"Gorgeous," Rodney murmured, stepping back to tear at the rough trousers John was wearing, grumbling at the rough texture but appreciating the lack of underwear.

"So do something with me," John urged, spreading his legs after kicking the pants off of one leg.

"Pushy," Rodney murmured even as he dropped to his knees and licked the hollow at the top of Johnís ass, wrenching a deep, heartfelt groan from the guide.

"God, Rodney, please!"

"All mine," Rodney whispered lowering his sense of taste as he caught Johní ass and spread his cheeks then licked at the tight entrance hidden between them.

Johnís hands scrabbled at the tree, catching and crushing some of the leaves. Their fresh, pungent scent filled the air, mixing with the aroma of aroused human male, and John thought heíd never smelled anything better. And he knew heíd never felt anything better than Rodneyís tongue.

His fingers tightening on Johnís hips, Rodneyís groan vibrated against his skin, then his tongue was pressing inward, slowly stretching the tight muscle as he panted against the now moist flesh, the rest of his senses inundated with their combined stimuli.

"Rodney," John rasped, his eyes falling half shut as he concentrated on what the other man was doing to him, Rodney shuddering at the blatant arousal in his tone and scent and pressing deeper, one hand easing around to stroke Johnís cock.

"So good," John whispered, rocking between Rodneyís mouth and hand. "Love you."

"Love you too," Rodney whispered, pulling back, then leaning in again to bite at the lean ass in front of him, his hand tightening around the thick erection filling it at the same time. John shuddered at the pleasure-pain of the bite and arched his back, pushing his ass out, wanting more.

"Want you to come from this, from me," Rodney whispered before biting the other cheek, then diving in again and pressing his tongue into Johnís ass.

John whimpered, squirming at the sheer pleasure of Rodneyís touch, and he moaned his agreement, his nails digging into the tree as he clung to it, all the while Rodney continued to fuck him with his tongue, urging him onward. A harsh whine tore itself from deep inside John, and he suddenly began to move faster, fucking himself on Rodneyís tongue and in his fist, guttural sounds escaping with every breath. He was close, so close...

Feeling the first tremors of Johnís muscles around his tongue, Rodney pressed in as deeply as possible, at the same time rubbing his thumb over the head of Johnís cock, and John nearly screamed as he came, his whole body shuddering with the intense orgasm that had him nearly blacking out, Rodney continuing to play with him until he squirmed, then surging up his back, yanking his own pants open and rubbing up against Johnís ass, his breath coming in short pants.

"Now, in me," John gasped, pushing back eagerly.

"Not going to hurt you," Rodney gasped as his hips jerked spastically.

John shook his head frantically. "ím ready," he insisted.

Rodney hesitated a moment more, his breath harsh and hot against Johnís throat before he pulled back just enough to steady himself, then pushed inward, groaning at the tightness surrounding his shaft.

"Oh fuck yes," John rasped, reveling in the slight burn as he stretched around Rodney, the relaxed state of his body after his climax making it easy.

"John. Yes. So good," Rodney whispered, thrusting spastically, his voice growing more and more guttural at each jerk of his hips until he was coming as well, his body shuddering against Johnís.

"God, you feel good in me," John whispered, clenching his ass down on Rodney.

"I miss our bed," Rodney muttered.

John chuckled breathlessly. "Me too, but this was pretty damn spectacular."

"Glad you think so," Rodney breathed before chuckling quietly. "That was my first time."

"Your first time?" John repeated questioningly, not following.

"Rimming."

Johnís eyes widened, and he nearly gave himself whiplash twisting around to peer over his shoulder at Rodney as he remembered sentinel senses. "Oh my God! You did. You rimmed me." He shivered with remembered pleasure.

Rodney flushed and pouted as he slipped out of John. "Youíre good for my control."

John sighed at his sudden emptiness but took advantage of it to turn to face Rodney. "I definitely reaped the benefits." He eyed Rodney searchingly. "Youíre okay with it?"

"Do you see me throwing up?"

"That would certainly put a damper on things," John snorted before pulling Rodney into a kiss, Rodney taking advantage of the moment to slowly dial his sense of taste back up as Johnís tongue rubbed against his.

"Mmmm."

"You taste good too," John chuckled.

"And youíre half naked."

"And youíre hanging out of your pants."

Rodney snorted at that. "Iím not the one that has people drooling after them."

"Itís not like I encourage her!"

"I know." Rodney pulled John in for a kiss, then began setting his pants to rights.

"At least she didnít interrupt us this time," John said, beginning to dress again.

"Miracles do happen."

John chuckled. "Though if sheíd come upon us while you were making me howl like a bitch in heat, it might have discouraged her once and for all."

"Or turned her on, though that wouldnít lead to enlightenment, would it?" Rodney grinned.

John shuddered. "Donít even joke about that. We donít do threesomes."

The skin around Rodneyís eyelids tightened as he narrowed his eyes at the thought of it. "Not in a million years."

"Have I mentioned how hot it is when you get possessive?"

Rodney snorted at that. "Doesnít matter how hot you think it is; Iím not going to be able to get it up for a while."

"Since Iím supposed to do you next, I think we should be more concerned about when I can get it up again," John retorted laughingly.

"Oh, you make it sound like such a chore!" Rodney sniffed theatrically.

"Actually, itís all of my favorite things," John assured him, grinning, and Rodney finally grinned as well.

"Of course mine would include a hot shower and our bed, but youíre the top, no matter where we are."

"Gee, Iím ahead of whiskers on kittens?" John pulled him in for a hard kiss. "And okay, so there are a few other things on my list too... like flying! But youíre right at the top."

"Idiot," Rodney muttered, smacking John on the ass before kissing him again. "So, back to the commune?"

"Sure, by the time we get there, I should be ready to hold up my end of the bargain, so weíll just barricade the door into our hut."

"So long as we donít have to come out again today!"

"Works for me. Weíll grab some food on our way in, and weíll be all set."

"Then I guess weíd better get back then."

"Oh, keep an eye out for some more of that aloe-like plant. We wouldnít want to run out." John caught Rodneyís hand in his as they began to walk again, aimlessly for the moment despite their stated intention of returning to the village.

"Speaking of that, are you feeling okay?" Rodney frowned, realizing heíd forgotten heíd taken John dry and feeling slightly sick at the fact.

Easily able to follow Rodneyís thought processes, John chuckled. "Rodney, youíd been rimming me for I donít know how long so that I was dripping with saliva, and Iíd come so hard every muscle in my body was limp as a noodle. You could have rammed a tree trunk up my ass, and it wouldnít have hurt me." Heíd long since learned that bluntness was the only thing that worked with Rodney.

Rodney stared at him for a second, his mouth working, then snickered. "Fine, fine, overprotective, remember?"

"Youíre hot when youíre overprotective too."

"Idiot," Rodney sighed again, tightening his fingers around Johnís as they wandered.

"Crazy in love with you," John corrected, and Rodney squeezed his fingers again.

"Better be."

"Youíre supposed to say that you love me too," John said with a comically exaggerated pout.

"What? You think I donít?!"

John camped it up. "A guy likes to hear the words," he sniffed.

"You are such a girl," Rodney sighed though he was grinning. "I love you, okay?"

"Better than okay," John informed him before pouncing like a playful puppy, sending them both tumbling to the ground, John careful to make sure their landing was gentle.

"Was there something in those leaves you were hanging on to?" Rodney demanded, staring up at John, wide-eyed. "Are you high? What if they were toxic?!"

John burst into laughter before kissing the tip of Rodneyís nose. "Relax, Rodney. Itís called a good mood. We may be stuck here, but weíre still together, plus, you know, sex... endorphins."

"Endorphins?" Rodney asked wryly.

"I know you consider biology voodoo, but they do exist, and theyíre fun."

"I think you just get off on outside sex."

"That too," John agreed, promising himself that if they ever got back to Atlantis, they were going to have sex on the highest balcony in the city.

"I really doólove you, I mean. Even when Iím grumpy and I know Iíve been that way a lot lately." Rodney babbled as he stroked a hand over Johnís back.

"Rodney, youíre an astrophysicist stuck in a village where a big scientific advancement is the invention of the wheel. Of course youíre cranky. Weíre both cranky. We want to go home, and we donít understand why no oneís pulled a miracle out of their ass to get us there."

"What if-" Rodney began before stopping himself. "No, theyíre fine; theyíre just hampered because Iím not there to solve the problem."

"They havenít forgotten about us, given up on us," John said, but even he wasnít sure which of them he was trying to convince.

"Right, of course they havenít. Iím sure something came up."

"Right." They stared at each other. "Walking some more would be good."

Rodney nodded, feeling guilty that heíd spoiled Johnís mood. "Yeah, stretch the legs, get in touch with nature."

"Maybe find another tree..."

Rodney grinned slightly at that as they both stood. "You just want some more of those leaves."

"Youíre obsessed with the leaves. Are you turning into a botanist?"

"Bite your tongue!!!"

John burst into laughter. And Rodney scowled at him.

"So, not dumping me for Katie Brown or Parrish, huh?" John snickered. "And here I thought all the meditating was turning you into a back to nature guy."

Now it was Rodneyís turn to growl and trip John to the ground, poking him in the sides as he squirmed.

"Not, huh?" John laughed, trying to turn the tables, but Rodney had the weight and leverage advantage.

"Not on your life!" Rodney somehow managed to sit up on Johnís chest and smirked down at him.

"Brute," John accused laughingly.

"Poor baby, Iíd ask if you wanted me to kiss it and make it better, but I did that already."

"I donít mind repeats," John assured him, and Rodney snickered, leaning in to kiss him.

"Iím shocked."

"I knew you would be." John let his head fall back, crossing his arms behind it. "You know, itís kind of nice out here, away from that damn village. Maybe we should try to get rid of their Beast so we could build ourselves a nice Swiss Family Robinson place out here and let them get on with their chanting without us."

"Iím tempted to take you up on thatóif we could ever find the damn thingóand could guarantee we could do it without you being hurt." Rodney moved to sit by John at that.

"Six months," John said. "If weíre still here after six months, weíre going to have to assume weíre stuck here for the duration, and weíll do something about making it bearable. Hell, itís a big valley. If we head away from everyone, we might avoid random invisible Beasts too."

"Six months total or from now?"

"Total." John turned his head to meet Rodneyís blue stare. "If they havenít found a way to get us out of here by then, I donít think they ever will."

Rodney swallowed hard at that but nodded. "Right, six months it is."

Rodney looked down at the marks on the wooden bed frame and sighed before scrubbing a hand over his face, swallowing down the wave of sickness that threatened to overcome him. "Six months," he murmured, looking over at where John was pulling on his boots.

John stilled and then his shoulders slumped. "This really sucks," he muttered. "And if you werenít with me, I think Iíd have eaten my gun."

"Donít even say that!" Rodney cried, staring at him.

"I said if. But you are here; we are together, so itís a moot point. But this place still sucks."

"Sorry, Iím a little on-edge today." Rodney stood and rubbed at the side of his neck. "I think you sand-papered the skin off here," he said, trying to joke.

"And you still donít like the beard," John said mournfully. "Well, donít tell anyone, but neither do I. But this wasnít supposed to be an extended mission, so I didnít bring a razor, and Iím not going to cut my throat trying to shave with a knife." He ignored the fact that Rodney and every man in the village managed to do so without death ensuing.

"You could let me shave you," Rodney reminded him for the hundredth time.

John hesitated. "Once we have a real place of our own," he finally said.

"And then Iíll start dressing like a native as well," Rodney promised, glancing down at his worn and patched uniform.

"I guess itís time to acceptó" John was interrupted by Teer bursting into their hut, something she hadnít done in some time.

"John," she said, ignoring Rodney as always, "your friends have come; theyíve come for you. And..." she hesitated, seeming to look at something far distant, "I sense something more. The Beast is nearly upon them."

John leaped to his feet, exchanging wild looks with Rodney before they both raced out of the village, coming to the open field in time to see the Beast phasing in and out of view as their friends fought with it. John launched himself at it, Rodney snarling as he ran at his side, ducking a swing before getting knocked to his back, opening his eyes to find Carson staring down at him.

"Are ye all right, lad?"

"Of course Iím not all right! Weíve been trapped here for six months!"

"Youíve been trapped in a time dilation field," Radek explained quickly. "Youíve only been gone a couple of hours."

"What?!" John exclaimed, looking shocked.

"What was that bloody thing?" Carson wanted to know, peering around nervously while Ronon hovered protectively close to his guide.

"I donít know. Whatís a time dilation field?" John asked, looking from Radek to Rodney.

"Can we talk about this somewhere else?" Elizabeth suggested nervously.

"It is still close," Teyla said softly, and if waiting for that comment, the Beast appeared again, only now it was over seventy feet tall.

"Great, just great," Rodney groaned.

"I really fucking hate this place," John groused, stepping forward with his knife in hand. Ronon drew a long knife, more like a sword in appearance, and moved to his side.

"Youíve fought this thing before?" Ronon asked, keeping a wary eye on the huge form.

"Yup," John agreed, not sounding too happy about it.

"How did you beat it?"

"Still havenít figured that out," John answered, glancing at Rodney, who shrugged.

"Nowíd be a good time," Ronon pointed out.

"Yeah, well, if we didnít figure it out in the last six months, I donít think weíre going to in the next six seconds, so whatíd you say we just fight it and see what happens?" John nearly growled.

"John?" Elizabeth interrupted. "Friends of yours?" she asked, indicating several villagers who moved out of the trees into the clearing, including Avrid and Teer.

Avrid looked at John and raised his chin.  "Weíve come to stand with you, whatever happens."

Teer looked at him and shook her head. "Noóweíve come to fight." She looked up at the Beast at that.  "And we are not afraid of you." The Beast roared at that.

"The Beast is of our own creation, and it is long past time we sent it away."

She glanced across at Avrid again, then all the villagers walked forward and encircled the Beast. It continued to growl and roar. As they completed the circle and stared up at it, the Beast raised its hands above its head, then screamed and disappeared.

"You have got to be kidding me," Rodney groaned, staring at them.

"Thatís it?" John said, sounding utterly disgusted. "Just a little anticlimactic there."

"You were right, John," Teer explained. "We were afraid. The Beast was the final burden we had to shed, manifest from our own fears. You gave us the courage to face it. Come with us," she invited, holding out a hand that was already beginning to glow.

Wide-eyed, John edged behind Rodney. "Iím not ready for that, Teer. I donít think Iíll ever be ready for that," he added in a mutter.

Teer sighed, allowing her hand to fall back to her side. "We will keep the portal open for you until you have left the Sanctuary."

"Yeah, yeah, donít let the door hit us in the ass on the way out," Rodney snapped, glaring at the woman and looking as if he wanted to slice her hand off at the wrist.

John caught Rodneyís hand in his. "Can we go home now?" he asked plaintively.

"Of course," Elizabeth said gently at the same time Rodney rounded on Radek. "What took you so long?! We could have died here! John was nearly molested by thatóthat bitch!"

Radek looked from the spot where the petite brunette woman had vanished to the tall colonel, and his eyebrows rose sharply. "Being away makes you hallucinate."

Several of the others had sudden coughing fits, and Carson patted Rodney on the shoulder. "Radek worked as quickly as he could, lad. Now, why donít we all get back to the jumper and get ye home."

"Thatíd be good," John agreed. "I need a shower, a shave, and a good nightís sleep in my own bed."

"Our bed!"

"Well, of course." John eyed Rodney warily. "My bed, your bed, our bed, itís all the same damn bed, so can we go already?"

Radek looked around and nodded, and they all started walking back to the jumper.

John stopped just inside their quarters and looked around. "It seems like it should be dusty or something, doesnít it?"

Rodney nodded and took a deep breath. "It smells like home thoughólike us."

John sank down onto the edge of the bed, Mole grumbling at being disturbed before getting up and going to lie on the table in the sun. "Thank God. Iíd given up hope of ever seeing it again," he admitted. "Two hours, Rodney. Two fucking hours, and we were stuck there for six months. What if it had taken a day, or a week? Weíd have died of old age before they even got hungry! And Mole didnít even miss us."

Rodney dropped down by him and pulled him into a tight hug. "Far be it for me to be positive about things, but it didnít happen; they got through and found us, and weíre here. Together."

John twisted where he sat, burying his face against Rodneyís throat and clinging with desperate strength, able to let go now that they were finally home safe. "Weíre going flying tomorrow," he mumbled.

"Anything you want," Rodney murmured, stroking his back. "Just so long as we donít land on the mainland and go hiking."

"No, Iíve seen enough nature for a while," John agreed.

"Exactly. Now letís get you in the shower so we can get rid of that beard, hmm?"

John chuckled. "Elizabeth looked about as impressed as you by the Grizzly Adams look."

Rodney stood again, pulling John up as well. "Do I care?"

"Apparently not." John divested himself of his homespun garments and kicked them into a corner. "If not for wanting not to be the first litterbug on the planet, Iíd toss these things off the balcony."

"Weíll figure something out," Rodney promised as he stripped his clothes off, giving in and ripping the threadbare fabric of his shirt as he did so.

"Maybe a nice bonfire on one of the piers," John suggested, helping Rodney by ripping off more of his clothes. "Hm, this is kind of fun."

"I swear, Colonel, youíre the kinkiest person I know," Rodney sighed though his lips were curved with a smile.

"I have a reputation to live up to."

"Well, so you know, once weíre showered, Iím going to shave you."

John shivered. "And you call me kinky?"

"I just mean your face!" Rodney protested, flushing. "Besides, you promised."

"And I always keep my promises," John assured him, actually looking forward to it.

"Yes, you do." Rodney grinned again at that and caught Johnís hand, pulling him toward the bathroom, at the same time thinking on the shower.

"Hot water," John moaned blissfully. "Exactly the right temperature and pressure. I love Atlantis."

"I love you," Rodney sighed, reaching for the unscented soap and working up a lather before beginning to wash Johnís back.

"And I love you too," John answered, his back arching with pleasure at Rodneyís touch.

"Feel so good." As Rodney spoke, he cleaned each inch of Johnís back, then turned him and went to work on his chest.

"Yeah, you do," John murmured, watching Rodney from heavy-lidded eyes.

"We both do," Rodney nodded, kissing Johnís shoulder.

"Just the way it should be," John agreed, lathering up his hands to run them over Rodneyís back and arms.

"Always."

"That sounds just about right to me." John leaned in for a kiss while his soapy hands continued running over Rodney, cleaning and caressing all at once.

"Can we stay in here for a year or so?"

"I wish we could. But this being Atlantis, weíd probably grow gills and webbed feet."

Rodney groaned at that. "Thank you for that lovely thought!"

"Any time," John snickered, and Rodney smacked him on the ass. "More kinkiness?"

"More showering!"

John laughed. "Itís good to be home."

~ CHAPTER 15 ~

The jumper hatch closed behind them, and John shuddered and wrenched Rodney into his arms, heedless of the blood dripping on them both from Rodneyís head wound. "Donít ever do that again!" he rasped, remembered terror audible in his voice.

"Itís you, itís really you," Rodney whispered. "Smells like you. Couldnít tell before, she kept saying youíd never find me, but I knew you would."

"She? Who?" John asked, bewildered.

"She! Sam!" Rodney exclaimed, pulling back to look behind him. "She didnít come, did she?"

"Sam Carter? Everyone in the city has shoot-on-sight orders for her," John said, only exaggerating a little. "She wouldnít dare come here."

"But she was there..." Rodney protested as the walls of the jumper groaned.

"Colonel," Radek broke in gently, "perhaps this should be discussed back in the city?"

John settled Rodney in one of the seats, reluctantly letting go of him. "I have to fly the jumper back to the city. It wonít be long."

Rodney glanced around, then nodded, jumping slightly when Radek draped a blanket around him.

"Soon, Rodney," John promised, sending the jumper soaring upward through the water and then streaking through the skies toward the city, intent on getting there as quickly as possible.

In short order, Rodney was in the infirmary, his head wound numbed and stitched. He drifted in and out of consciousness, but each time he woke, John was there, and he managed to squeeze the hand that held his.

John sat next to the bed, no one even attempting to move him, knowing from experience that it would be futile. He clung to Rodneyís hand, needing the reassurance of the touch to let him know that Rodney was really back, really safe. "Never letting you go anywhere without me again," he muttered.

"Doní wanna go Ďnywhere. Wanna stay here wíyou," Rodney muttered.

John smiled crookedly. "Works for me." He squeezed Rodneyís fingers, and Rodney tugged weakly at him, trying to pull him into the bed. As soon as John realized what Rodney wanted, he stretched out on top of the covers, nestling close to his husband. It was a tight fit for two tall men, but they had had plenty of practice, and Rodney sighed as he rested his head on Johnís shoulder, letting go of his hand to hug his waist, his grip loosening as he fell asleep again.

"Okay, letís not come here again," John grumbled as the team made their way back to Atlantis. "Between wanting us to father children and crazy poisoners, this place is definitely not making my A list."

"You. They wanted you to father children," Rodney pointed out with a world-weary sigh.

"Well, they would have wanted you to too once they noticed you had the gene," John replied, still baffled by the way the blonde had come after him. Thank God Rodney had been in the room with him and got rid of her quickly. "I really never see that stuff coming," he muttered.

"Then itís a good thing I do. You probably wouldnít have noticed that Caldwell was a Goaíuld."

"Yeah, but you think everyone is after me," John retorted, ignoring the comment about Caldwell since he was still pretty freaked by the whole thing.

Behind them, Teyla and Ronon rolled their eyes, and Rodney glowered at John. "I do not! And itís a good thing they sniffed him out back on Earth, or Iíd have probably have been sick on him when he got here."

"Yes, you do, but sometimes youíre proven right, so Iím glad to have you there to hide behind." John leaned over and gave him a quick kiss. "And Iíll do my best to keep any smelly Goaíuld away from you," he added with a faint chuckle.

"And that smelly Wraith that Stackhouse and Markham managed to bring back," Rodney mused before changing the topic back to the mission theyíd just finished. "At least we got drones out of the deal."

"And jumpers," John reminded him gleefully. "Lots of jumpers." He snickered suddenly. "Elizabethís not going to see much of Radek for a while."

"Which might mean sheíll have to be the one chasing after him for a while," Rodney mused. "Though why do I think I wonít be seeing much of you, either?"

"Jumpers, Rodney," John repeated.

"Yes, yes, jumpers," Rodney sighed though he was grinning as well. "Iím sure I can find something to do."

"Iíll find my way home at night," John assured him, ignoring the snort from Ronon behind them.

"Fine, Iíll just go talk to Carson while youíre busy," Rodney said loudly, making Ronon growl.

"No hurting the scientist," John ordered, glancing over his shoulder at the big Satedan.

"If you injure Rodney, Carson will be busy in the infirmary," Teyla chimed in.

Ronon grunted, but if anyone had looked closely, they would have seen amusement in his dark eyes.

"Ah, a happy team," John said, "itís a wonderful thing."

Carson looked up tiredly when John and Rodney entered the infirmary, and the other two pairs of sentinels shifted over to make room for them, Laura squeezing the physicianís hand while she moved.

"Howís he doing?" Rodney asked, giving Carson a quick embrace, smelling blood, disinfectant and fear on him.

"Resting." Carsonís voice was hoarse as he reached out and stroked the still form on the bed beside him.

"Heís one of the strongest men Iíve ever met, Carson," John said. "After surviving seven years as a runner, heís not going to let this stop him. You know that."

Markham managed an almost natural chuckle. "No sentinel would leave hisóor her," with a nod at Laura, "guide behind with everything that happens on a daily basis around here."

"Plus you know how guilty Elizabeth is going to feel about this," Rodney added, trying to smile, "youíll be able to get whatever you want from her."

John chuckled faintly. "No one else is going to see a dessert for months."

"What happened isnae Elizabeth or Radekís fault," Carson said quietly.

"Theyíre not going to see it that way, any more than one of us would if it had been us," Lisa Lindstrom said gently, placing a hand on his arm.

"Yes, yeíre right," Carson murmured, and Rodney snorted.

"Of course we are, so once Ronon recovers, get whatever you can out of the deal.

"You could always let Rodney negotiate for you," John offered wryly, breaking the tension and making them all laugh except for Rodney, who pretended to punch him in the arm.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Just that you can be very determined," John assured him, grinning. "Itís a trait I enjoy." Seeing Rodney open his mouth again, John hastily deflected him with a kiss.

"I do believe we all know that, John," Carson murmured before looking up as a tall, blond man walked over toward them. "Dr. Field performed Rononís surgery."

"And heís doing very well," the other man nodded, glancing around the small group. "Drs. Weir and Zelenka are coming around as well; I wasnít sure if you wanted to talk to them first."

Everyone shifted uncomfortably before John straightened away from the wall. "Iíd like to see Elizabeth."

"Iím going with you," Rodney said immediately, and John nodded.

"Good idea, we can both tell her that no one blames her for what happened. That way it might actually sink in."

"Aye," Carson nodded. "Iíll tell her the same once Rononís come around." He glanced at his unconscious sentinel at that and stroked his arm.

"No one expects you to leave him, Carson," John replied, squeezing the doctorís shoulder briefly. "I know I wouldnít."

"Of course not!" Rodney exclaimed. "You stay here; have the kiddies get you what you need. Weíll talk to Elizabeth."

With a final squeeze of Carsonís shoulder, John moved away, Rodney at his side, and they made their way to where Elizabeth and Radek were lying in adjacent beds. John eyed them for a moment, pretty sure that they were awake despite their closed eyes.

"Youíll be happy to know that we didnít let Caldwell try to take over the city. Iím not quite sure how he planned to get around me and Rodney still being here and perfectly capable of fulfilling our duties, but he was making noises," John announced cheerfully.

"Heís getting too big for his britches," Rodney nodded before poking Radek. "And donít think this little escapade gets you out of work."

The shorter man opened his eyes enough to glare at Rodney at that, making him smirk.

"I always said you had a healing touch, Rodney," John observed, smirking when both Elizabeth and Radek turned looks on him that clearly questioned his sanity.

"You both deserve each other," Radek muttered.

"I heartily agree," John said, looking over at Rodney before focusing on Elizabeth. "Dr. Field says youíre both fine, no lasting effects from your possession. You didnít even have to spin your heads around and spit pea soup."

An unwilling smile curved Elizabethís lips briefly. "Youíre a very strange man, John."

"Excuse me?" Rodney sputtered. "He is not! And all you two did besides try to kill each other was make out, and I have to say, finally!"

Both Elizabeth and Radek turned scarlet, and John was hard pressed not to laugh. "Iím almost afraid to imagine what youíll come up with for your next date."

"That was not us!" Radek protested, and Rodney shook his head.

"Well, it could have been!"

Elizabeth darted a glance over Radek, brown eyes meeting blue, and she flushed again as she remembered the kiss. She might not have been in control of her body at the time, but she remembered what had happened, and it had been a very good kiss.

Radek cleared his throat and glowered at Rodney and John. "That is something for Elizabeth and me to discussóand not in front of you!"

"I seem to recall everyone being interested in our relationship," John mused, garnering a glare from Elizabeth as well.

"Go away!"

"I think sheís okay," Rodney mused.

"I think youíre right." John gave Elizabeth the relaxed smile that was reserved for his friends and slung an arm around Rodneyís shoulders. "And Rononís going to be fine too," he added, suddenly realizing they hadnít told Elizabeth that and feeling guilty when he saw the tension leave her shoulders.

"Trust us, Carsonís going to baby him so much he goes nuts," Rodney added.

"I give it a day at the outside before Rononís out of bed so he can hide from his very concerned and overprotective guide," John agreed laughingly.

"I somehow think Carson will find him," Radek mused.

"Iím certain of it," Elizabeth put in. "The manís tireless in pursuit of his patientsí well-being and when that patient also happens to be his sentinel... Well, Ronon should just resign himself to bed rest."

"Heíd be much safer," Rodney nodded, glancing at John, remembering how over-protective his own guide was.

John returned a narrow-eyed look. "Arenít you lucky Iím nothing like that?"

"Yes, I was just thinking that," Rodney said quickly, causing both Elizabeth and Radek to swallow laughter.

"Uh huh." John continued to eye him for a moment longer before shaking his head slightly. "Weíll let you two get some rest so we can watch you kick Caldwell out of Atlantis tomorrow."

Elizabeth smiled faintly. "Be nice, John."

"I am! Ask Rodney."

The sentinel nodded, though he was watching John closely. "He is, if youíre talking about Caldwell anyway."

"Who am I not nice to?" John protested. "Youíre usually complaining that Iím too nice."

"Thatís what I said!"

"Good night, gentlemen," Elizabeth said firmly, and John caught hold of Rodneyís hand to draw him out of the infirmary.

"Should we check on Carson againóto see if he needs anything?" Rodney asked.

John hesitated, knowing he preferred to be alone with Rodney whenever anything happened to him, which it seemed to with dismaying frequency. "We can stick our heads in to see if he wants us to get him something."

"He might be hungry, and you know the nurses wonít bring him anything good."

"They might; heís not a patient, after all," John pointed out. "But we can find out."

Rodney nodded as they walked back over to the alcove where Ronon lay, noting that Stackhouse and Markham had left.

"They had to go on duty," Carson explained, seeing Rodney look around.

"Well, they do have to work. Do you need anything?"

"No," Carson shook his head, "Lisa and Laura are taking good care of me, and my staff keeps bringing me food."

"In that case, weíll let you have some time to unwind together," John replied. "I know thatís all you want right now. Just call us if you need anything."

"Weíll take good care of him, sir," Laura promised.

"And get out of here soon to let them have some time alone," Lisa added. "Even if I have to get Evan to throw her over his shoulder, sir."

John laughed. "Please donít tell me any more about my XO, Lieutenant. I donít think I could take it."

"But theyíre good stories, sir," Laura said innocently, making both Lisa and Carson tap her on the shoulders.

"No traumatizing my guide," Rodney said firmly.

"Weíre leaving now," John said hastily, seeing the mischievous glint in Cadmanís hazel eyes.

"Call us if you need anythingóCarson, not you girls!" Rodney added quickly.

Lisa snickered. "Youíll never know what youíre missing, Rodney."

"Stick to Lorne, or Iíll assign you to cleaning the sewers for the next year," John warned, backing toward the door with Rodney in tow.

"And he will!" Rodney called as they left. "Well, at least everyone seems to be okay."

"Yeah, just another crazy day in Atlantis. Just when you think things canít get any weirder." John shook his head in bemusement.

"Can I just say Iím glad you didnít let her talk you into doing it!"

"Like there was ever any chance of that," John scoffed, absently nodding to various people they passed in the halls. "The only way that would have happened was if you took the other one, and that wasnít about to happen."

"Oh, making me the woman, are we?" Rodney asked incredulously.

John started to laugh. "Fine, I could have been the woman, but it still wasnít happening."

"No, not in this lifetime or any other."

"Yeah, Cadman in your head was more than bad enough. We donít need any repeats."

Rodney shuddered at the thought and gripped Johnís hand a more tightly.

"And you wonder why I stick to you like glue," John muttered.

"Not going to remind you about the women who wanted your babies..."

"It was just one," John said a little sulkily, still baffled by the whole experience.

"Did I mention it??"

"Saying youíre not going to mention something is mentioning it," John retorted, and Rodney pouted. After a moment John relented, pulled Rodney to a halt, and drew him in for a quick kiss.

"So, dinner?" Rodney murmured, allowing himself a moment of just smelling Johnís throat.

John nodded and they continued on to the mess hall.

~ CHAPTER 16 ~

With a determined, but resigned, air Rodney walked through the door of the shooting range, grabbing safety glasses and headphones and putting them both on. He was turning to pick out his weapons when he noticed someone else was using the range, and he groaned to himself when he saw who it was.

Dex, wonderful. Now he can show me how a real sentinel does this, he grumbled to himself, knowing the other man had never done anything of the sort but feeling the small ball of resentment inside him that had never quite gone away since meeting the Satedan.

Resolutely he loaded the P90 he was using, sticking several more clips in his pocket, and walked to the firing line, taking a position several places down from Ronon. Ignoring the other man, he lifted the automatic weapon, aimed, and began to fire, using single shots first to see if the gun pulled in any direction.

"Not bad," Ronon observed, watching the other sentinel. He wondered about a world where specialistsósentinels, he mentally corrected himselfócould be so soft, and he hoped someday to visit it. "Itís the first time Iíve seen you here."

Rodneyís jaw tightened even as he squeezed off a few more shots. "I practice," he said shortly.

"Obviously. Youíre a sentinel. But you keep apart," Ronon observed, leaning back against the wall as he watched Rodney curiously.

"What do you mean by that?" Rodney asked, his voice rising somewhat as he flicked a glance over at Ronon, causing his next shot to miss the target.

Ronon shook his head. "The other two, Cadman and Markham, usually practice together, competing against each other and learning from each other too, and they try to time it to come when Iím here too. But you donít spend time with other sentinels. Why?"

"Because Iím a scientist, not a soldier, and donít think I donít notice that you donít do a lot with them either," Rodney pointed out.

Ronon shrugged. "Iím an outsider. And Iím still trying to work my way through with my guide; that has to come first."

"You go running with John a lot," Rodney pointed out as he took aim again and squeezed off several more rounds.

"Heís not afraid of me," Ronon replied simply, letting the other sentinel know that heíd noticed most Atlanteansí attitude.

"Yes. Well, he isnít afraid of much of anythingóand why do you care if I train with anyone or not?"

"You shouldnít be alone. You donít have to be."

"Iím not alone," Rodney protested, "I have John."

Ronon frowned. "You have other friends, and so does he. And youíre denying yourself the chance to hone your skills by keeping apart from other sentinels."

Rodney stopped firing again and gave a cynical laugh. "You donít know my history, do you?"

"You mean not being bonded until recently?" Ronon asked, proving that he did in fact know. "Youíre bonded now."

"Thank you so much for letting me know that important bit of information!"

"So stop acting like youíre less than the rest of us!"

"Pardon me?" Rodney let the gun point at the floor and turned to stare at Ronon. "Why would I think that?"

"Thatís what I want to know!" Ronon frowned at him. "Youíre a sentinel, and youíre a scientist. Iíve never heard of any other specialist managing that."

Rodney looked down at that, tapping one finger on his rifle stock. "I donít get you," he finally said.

"Likewise." Ronon shrugged. "Keeps life interesting."

"I would think youíve had enough interesting things in your life."

"When things arenít interesting any more, youíre already dead," Ronon replied, and Rodney stared at him.

"Youíre serious about that?"

"Of course. What else makes life worth living?"

"Being safe, being secure, making sure the people you care about are the same," Rodney stuttered.

"Thatís just being alive; itís not living." Ronon took a shot at the target, nailing it dead center. "Protecting the people we care about is part of what we are, but learning, meeting new people, getting better, thatís living. Just surviving... thatís what I did the last few years."

"So now I should tell you how thatís pretty much how I spent most of my life?" Rodney asked. "Surviving?"

"You donít need to tell me. But youíre not just surviving anymore. And neither am I." Ronon eyed him. "And I think you know that."

"Yeah," Rodney sighed. "Iím glad for you and Carson, that you found each other, however strange it is."

"No stranger than the two of you. Anyone looking at you would say that you would be the guide and Sheppard the sentinel."

"Tell me something I havenít heard a hundred times already; never mind Iíve managed to save this place a dozen times already, I donít look macho enough, so how can I be a sentinel?"

Ronon snickered. "You think Cadman looks macho?"

"Macho can be an attitude, not a look," Rodney snapped.

"Who cares what other people think? Youíre a sentinel; heís your guide. Thatís what works, and you both like it that way."

"I know that! I like John and me; no, I love John and me! Of course we work; we worked even before we knew what we were!"

"So go with that, and stop worrying about what people think. You are a sentinel. So am I. We can help each other improve our skills."

"We?" Rodneyís eyes widened. "Youíll turn me into a pretzel!"

"Sheppard might like that."

"Excuse me?!"

Ronon snickered. "Youíre married; itís allowed."

"If you turned me into a pretzel, he wouldnít be enjoying anything! And if you and Carson enjoy that kind of thing, I donít want to know it!"

Ronon burst into laughter, his shoulders shaking with his mirth. "Youíre okay, McKay," he decided, clapping the other sentinel on the back.

"Why thank you," he snapped before giving a half-smile. "And you may look like a Cro-Magnon, but youíre okay too. You make Carson happy; thatís what counts."

Evan Lorne let himself into his quarters, briefly surprised by the sight of the two Marines curled up on his bed, asleep. Laura Cadmanís auburn hair had worked itself free of the braid she pinned it up in while on duty and spread to mingle with her guideís pale blonde hair across his pillows. Each woman was beautiful in her own right, but together they were stunning, and for some reason, they were his. Or he was theirs. Evan had long since decided it was much safer not to inquire too closely into that.

The sound of the door opening and his footsteps had them stirring; no one in Atlantis slept too soundly. Too many strange things had a habit of happening when least expected.

"The colonel must have had a hell of a lot of paperwork," Laura murmured, smiling sleepily at him.

"With all the weird shit that goes on around here, does that surprise you? I swear, they invent new forms just for us. I thought SG-1 was bad." Lorne shook his head as he sat down on the edge of the bed to pull his boots off, then continued undressing.

Lisa sat up to slide her arms around him from behind and press close. "Itís not all bad though," she breathed into his ear.

"Not at all," he smiled, twisting back to kiss her.

"Now donít go getting any ideas," Laura chuckled as she moved to his other side. "You have a mission tomorrow, so weíre just here to keep you company; weíll jump you when you get back."

"The fact that youíre still dressed kinda gave it away... And may I say again, Lisa, that you look great in Daisy Dukes," Evan praised. "All leggy blondes should wear Ďem." He got up, wearing only his boxer briefs, to pad over to the dresser for a pair of jeans and a well-worn, comfortable cotton T-Shirt with a Grateful Dead logo.

"And what about compact redheads?" Lisa wanted to know.

"Mmmm, bikinis would be my preference, but the workout clothes are a good look too," Evan replied with a leer at Laura.

"You always say the nicest things," Laura said before kissing his cheek. "How about we both wear bikinis the next day we all have offóclothing is optional for you, of course."

"Just so long as you arenít planning on us sun-bathing," Evan grinned.

Lisa snickered. "Parts you donít want sunburned, Ev?"

"Considering I couldnít even enjoy you two putting lotion on me, no!"

"Poor thing." Laura shook her head and stretched. "I suppose you can wear Speedos."

Evan gawked at her. "Speedos are a fashion faux pas that should be wiped from the minds of everyone whoís ever seen them."

"Iím gonna have to vote with Evan on that one, Lo," Lisa chuckled. "But Iím sure we can find a nice black bathing suit for him." She licked her lips.

"No bright Hawaiian print?"

"No!" Evan shuddered.

"Maybe for you, Laura," Lisa smirked. "Instead of a bikini top, a couple of pasties, a nice Hawaiian flower stuck over each nipple..."

"Kinky," Laura laughed, "I can do that."

"Mmm, Iím looking forward to it." Evan dropped onto the end of the bed, leaning his back against the wall as he grinned at the two of them. "Makes me glad weíre so lucky in our CO." In response to Lisaís questioning look, he explained, "With all three of us being officers, which we donít have a whole hell of a lot of here, normally I wouldnít have a lot of time off that coincided with yours, and since Iím not part of the bonded pair, thereís no reason why Iíd get special treatment. But Iíve seen Sheppard rearranging the duty roster to make sure that a lot of my days off are the same as yours."

Lisa nodded. "Heís a good CO. Not by the book, but who is in the SGC? And he cares about his people." She crawled over Evanís legs to sit beside him, nestling against his side with one of his arms over her shoulders.

"Heís a good guide too," Laura nodded, "that helps with being a good CO I think. He pushes you, but heís not going to make you do anything he doesnít. I saw a little bit of how he and Rodney interact when," she waved her hand, "You know."

Lisa shuddered at the reminder of how close sheíd come to losing Laura. "Yeah, thatís when the colonel became as much a friend as a CO," she agreed. "Heís in charge, but I know if I needed something, I could go to him. Thatís an advantage of having a member of a bonded pair in charge. And I think Dr. Weir knows it."

Evan nodded at that. "And appreciates it. Hell, I thought I was going to end up on the Daedalus on the next run out of here after the first mission I did with him."

"Well, you did lose Rodney," Laura laughed before kissing him again.

Evan shuddered. "Donít remind me! I never want to see Kavanagh, the sewage system, or the desalinization plant again as long as I live!"

"Poor baby," Lisa crooned. "Just make sure not to lose Rodney again, and you should be fine."

"Donít lose Ronon either, or Carson will make your physicals hell," Laura grinned. "And especially donít lose yourself."

"Iím like a boomerang; I always come back," Evan assured her with a lazy grin.

Laura smiled wickedly. "Yeah, weíve noticed that about you."

"What can I say, you two inspire me."

"Well, of course we do," Lisa chuckled. "Weíre amazing, and youíre lucky to get us."

"I know," Evan assured her before tilting her head to kiss her.

"Mmm, we do appreciate a man who appreciates us." Laura teased.

"Yeah, Iíve noticed that about you," Evan chuckled, Lisaís head now resting on his shoulder as she idly played with his dog tags.

"Thatís a good thing," Laura murmured before poking Lisa in the side. "Donít get too comfortable over there; we all need to eat dinner."

"What? We canít live on love?" Evan asked innocently.

"You live on love," Lisa retorted. "I want a nice, big, juicy cheeseburger. Made from real beef, God bless the Daedalus, and thatís what theyíre serving tonight."

"Mmm," Laura sighed. "I miss being able to grill our own stuff though."

"You ladies are making me hungry," Evan warned. "But Iíve been thinking about that," he continued almost hesitantly. "There are some bigger rooms available, with balconies big enough for a barbecue, and if you wanted, I thought, well, we could move into one?"

Lisa raised her head to look at him, then Laura, her eyebrows raised questioningly.

Laura smiled slightly and raised a hand to scratch her head by her ear.

"Sounds like a plan to me, Lo," Lisa subvocalized, knowing her sentinel would hear. "This started out as fun, but somewhere along the line, I fell in love with him too. What about you?"

Laura nodded shallowly, giving a wry smile at that. This wasnít what theyíd expected with Evan, but it was goodóbetter than good. "If we have some time tomorrow, we could check around and see whatís openóand put in a request for that barbeque." She sat up slightly at that and looked at Evan, who realized heíd been holding his breath waiting for their response and let it out in a sigh of relief.

"Thatís good, thatís really good," he said, nearly babbling before he got hold of himself. "We can talk to the colonel when I get back from my mission."

"Sounds good," Lisa agreed. "And itíll give you incentive to get back early."

"With no new holes!" Laura laughed, managing to pull both Evan and Lisa into a tight hug, breathing deeply and losing herself in their combined scent.

Leaving Teyla and Ronon to begin the report to Elizabeth, John made his way to the quarters shared by Laura Cadman and Annalisa Lindstrom, grateful for Rodneyís presence at his side. When the door opened in response to the chime, the two men walked inside, and Johnís eyes went to the two women, who had been laughing at something but now stilled, staring at him.

"Sir?" Laura asked reaching for Lisaís hand, her eyes widening as she saw Rodney rest his hand on Johnís back.

John swallowed hard and straightened up. "Iím sorry, lieutenants, there was a fire on 177. Maj. Lorne and his entire team are dead." He flinched at the soft sound that escaped Lindstrom, and a fine tremor was visible in his hand as he carefully placed it on her shoulder, offering comfort.

Rodney swallowed harshly. "Carsonís going to do an autopsy ofóof the bodies."

Lisa nodded jerkily, drawing back from the colonelís hand and pressing closer to Laura. Theyíd been expecting Evan home soon, planning to go looking for a room they would all share. How could he be dead?

"We were supposed to come see you when he got back," Laura whispered.

John winced at the expressions on the two lieutenantsí faces. "Iím so sorry," he repeated.

"Weíll find out who did this," Rodney promised, his hand clutching Johnís shirt as he watched the two women visibly crumple.

Lisa looked at him at that. "But it wonít bring him back," she said, tears beginning to roll silently down her cheeks.

"No, but we can make them pay." Laura pulled Lisa into a tight hug.

John hesitated before simply nodding. "If thereís anything we can do..."

"You canít bring him back," Laura whispered, and Rodney winced.

John backed toward the door, realizing that there was nothing that they could do for the women and leaving them privacy to mourn.

"Shit," Rodney whispered when the door closed behind them and he could still hear the couple crying. "Shit, shit, shit! What did she mean they were coming to see you?" he asked.

"I donít know, but I can guess. If anyone wants to move quarters, they have to clear it with me first. I think they were making it permanent, moving in together. Fuck!" John raked a hand through his hair. "We will find out what the hell happened on that planet," he gritted out, clutching Rodneyís hand tightly, only to have his sentinel pull him into a tight hug.

"Itís all we can do for them," he whispered.

"Itís little enough." John glanced back at the closed door. "This shouldnít have happened."

"To any of them." Rodney raised his head and sighed. "Maybe Carson will find something out."

"Weíd better get back to Elizabeth. Sheís going to want a full report. But sheíll understand that I had to tell Cadman and Lindstrom first." John sighed. "Theyíve all only been here a few months, but theyíre part of the family. Iím going to miss the laughter and wondering what they had in store for us next."

"Yeah," Rodney murmured, slowly straightening up, but keeping an arm around Johnís waist as they started toward Elizabethís office.

Lisa clutched Lauraís hand so tightly that it was a wonder she didnít break any bones, staring at Dr. Beckett with desperate hope in her eyes.

"Itís really not Evan?" she finally breathed, afraid to hear the answer, afraid that this was a dream and she would wake up.

"Itís nae Maj. Lorne," Carson assured them. "Honestly, weíre nae sure who any of them are, but they arenít our team."

"Then whereís Evan?" Lisa demanded.

"Thatís what weíre going to find out," John promised them.

"Dr. Lindsay heard Wraith stunners before the fire broke out," Teyla remembered, thinking over the shocked womanís report when theyíd arrived on the planet.

"But this wasnít a Wraith attack," Elizabeth said, "so..."

"So whoever it was wanted us to think they were dead," John finished angrily.

"Then who? What could they possibly want with Evan?" Lisa demanded.

"Thatís what we need to find out," Rodney put in. "That and get them back."

Laura nodded firmly. "What can we do?"

"We need to go back to the planet, question the villagers," John said. "They donít know you two. You could check around, see if you can find out anything theyíre not telling us."

"Anything," Laura promised and Carson lifted a hand.

"Just be careful; we dinna need ta be looking fer the two of ye as well."

"I want regular radio contact from all teams," Elizabeth added, and everyone nodded. "Good. Then letís get our people home."

The others had returned to their duties, and Elizabeth and John were discussing some details when a call came over the radio. "Dr. Weir, we have an unscheduled off-world activation."

"What have you got?" Elizabeth asked as she and John moved from her office to the control level.

"No IDC," Chuck replied, "but we are receiving a pretty weak transmission on the VHF band. Audio and video."

"Letís see it," John ordered, and the technician put the image up on the screen behind him. Seeing it, John inhaled sharply.

"Atlantis base, this is Ladon Radim. Are you receiving transmission?"

"I know him," John bit out. "He was one of the Genii who invaded us."

"I know who he is," Elizabeth frowned. "We canít answer this, though. I need the Genii of all people to believe that Atlantis has been destroyed."

"I know we got the word out," John assured her.

"My men have witnessed your teams dialing and returning through the Stargate to Atlantis more than once. From that I can deduce that the rumors of your cityís demise are greatly exaggerated," Ladon continued.

"SneakyóIíll give Ďem that," John said, clearly unhappy with this development.

The Genii was still talking. "Your secret is safe as long as you respond to this transmission."

"Open a channel," Elizabeth ordered Chuck.

After a short, less than friendly conversation in which Ladon claimed to have defected from the Genii and showed them a ZPM that he offered in exchange for them allowing him into Atlantis, he concluded, "This is far, far better than the last trade you made with the Genii, Doctoróand you know it. Iím transmitting the gate address to the planet Iím on. You can send a team to search me if you wish, but I am unarmed and alone. Iíll be here for two hours. If I donít hear from you within that time, this Zero Point Module will be lost to you forever. The choice is yours." With that he ended the transmission without giving them a chance to respond.

"I donít trust him," John growled.

"John," Elizabeth began only to have him interrupt.

"I know, we still have to tell the rest of the command staff, especially Rodney, or weíll have the first recorded case of a sentinel murdering his own guide. He had to have a damn ZPM!"

"Cadman and Lindstrom are ready to wage war on the entire galaxy," Rodney commented when John walked into his lab. "Not that I blame them." He looked up at John and frowned. "What?"

"Ladon Radim radioed, and he wants to trade a ZPM for safe passage here," John replied, his tone making it clear what he thought of the idea.

"Well, tell him to goóa ZPM?"

John sighed. Heíd known it was too much to hope that Rodney would let that slip past, even if they did already have one. He know the scientist wouldnít be happy until they had three powering the city and three more in reserve, and even then heíd grab at any others that had the misfortune to cross his path. "Yes, he was holding one when he sent the transmission."

"What does he want for it?"

"For us to let him come here." John was audibly grinding his teeth.

"And heíll bring the ZPM?"

"Thatís what he said." John was fervently wishing heíd shot the damned Genii when heíd had the chance so they wouldnít be having this conversation. "But you know, heís got that whole Genii thing against him telling the truth."

"I know, but, ZPM..." Rodney sighed.

"How did I know you were going to say that?"

Rodney glowered at him.

"If he so much as twitches wrong, ZPM or no ZPM, Iím going to shoot him."

"Fine with me, though try not to shoot him so that he drops the ZPM!" Rodney paused and looked uncertain. "You arenít doing this because I want it, are you? Because I donít want to end up like we were before, you know, after that mess..."

John shrugged. "Yeah, Iíd rather not have him here, but we do need more ZPMs. You and Elizabeth are both in favor of letting him in, so he can come... and have a Marine escort."

"Makes sense," Rodney nodded. "So when do you want to do this?"

"We might as well get it over with. Iíll let Elizabeth know that weíll be ready for him tomorrow." John sounded less than pleased by the prospect.

"How about we have Ronon sit on him?" Rodney suggested, hoping to cheer John up with the suggestion but doubting it would work.

"Nice thought but Iíd rather have Ronon with Carson while thereís a Genii in the city." John eyed him. "And I hope you realize weíre going to be joined at the hip."

"Where do you expect me to be?" Rodney asked, looking at John incredulously. "As far as Iím concerned, this is a mission."

"Whereas I consider it an enemy incursion."

"At least itís just one of them," Rodney murmured, rubbing the scar on his arm, his eyes growing unfocused as his sense of touch spiked, throwing the ridged flesh into relief for him.

"Rodney!" Johnís tone drew the sentinelís attention back to him, and the colonel relaxed when the blue gaze focused on him again. "At least you already took care of the worst of them, so we donít have to worry about him."

"Kolya." Rodneyís single word was as cold as his eyes. "Iíd like to kill him again."

"Yes, well, while I sympathize with the thought, heís long gone and not going to bother us again. Right now the Genii we need to concern ourselves with is Ladon. Weíll see how it goes once he gets here; I donít trust him as far as I could throw Ronon."

"Which is all of half an inch," Rodney murmured, relaxing again as he let Johnís scent fill his nostrils. "So, any news on who the guys they said were Lorne and his team are?"

"Not that Iíve heard. We should probably check in with Carson." John slid an arm around Rodneyís shoulders. "Shall we?"

"Works for me, just let me close this down." Rodney hit a few keys on the computer, then wrapped his arm around Johnís waist as they headed for the door.

"Do you think weíll ever get several days running where the shit doesnít hit the fan?" John mused wryly as they strolled down the corridor toward the transporter.

Rodney snorted at that. "Youíve been here exactly as long as I have, Colonel; what do you think?"

"That I have a better chance of sprouting wings and flying under my own power."

"Exactly." They entered the transporter and walked out near the infirmary, looking around for Carson, instead running into Dr. Field, who suddenly popped out of what John had thought was a storage closet, startling all of them.

"Careful, Doc," John said laughingly, "someone might think that you were trying to hide something if you jump out like that all the time.

The blonde doctor chuckled at that and wiped his hands on his lab coat. "Just checking supplies, Colonel. Are you looking for Dr. Beckett?"

Rodney opened his mouth to answer, then got a scent of the manís odor and frowned slightly, sniffing again and trying to tell why it seemed odd. Fieldís eyes widened slightly, and he took a step back, obviously disturbed by Rodneyís actions.

"Heís in back with Ronon," Fields observed, backing away and then turning and bolting, and Rodney watched him go, blinking in surprise.

"Whatís wrong with him? I didnít even say a word to him!"

"Your reputation precedes you," John chuckled.

Rodney poked him in the side before snickering. "Good, Iím glad of that; I wouldnít want anyone to think I was getting soft."

"No danger of that. In any respect," John added for his sentinelís ears only, grinning as he steered a sputtering Rodney toward Carsonís office, where they walked in to find Carson leaning against Ronon while the larger man rubbed his back.

"Play timeís over, back to work," Rodney announced, gaining himself a dirty look from Ronon but no other reaction.

"Youíre one of a kind," John observed, chuckling. "Try not to pull his tail, Rodney."

"Fine, fine, you get to say what you want, and I donít," Rodney grumbled, though there was no heat in his words.

"What can I do fer ye, lads?" Carson sighed, turning in Rononís arms without moving away from him.

"Just wondering if youíd been able to identify our crispy critters yet," John replied, his fingers absently stroking Rodneyís hip as he talked to Carson.

"They were human beings, and Iíd like ye ta remember that," Carson frowned, and Rononís arms tightened comfortingly as he glared at John.

"Yes, they were, but theyíre not our human beings," John replied, ignoring the glare from the big Satedan. "Worrying about our own people is enough to turn my hair gray, thanks. So, who were they?"

"I dinna know," Carson admitted. "I canna say right now what killed them except that I dinna believe it was the fire."

John frowned. "Let me know as soon as you have anything else. Someone wants us to believe our team is dead, and I want to know why."

"Of course," Carson nodded, and Rodney smirked wryly.

"That does mean working and not snuggling in here.

"Like you concentrate on work when Sheppard visits your lab," Ronon snorted.

"Heís got you there, Rodney," John said, amused despite their current problem.

"But at least Iím still in the lab," Rodney sputtered.

"And Iím in my office which is in the infirmary and, unlike others, Ronon and I dinna clear the area on a regular basis."

While Rodney sputtered wordlessly, John hastily drew him toward the door. "Thanks, Carson. Call if you find anything else."

"We donít clear the area," Rodney finally got out as they started down the hall. He cocked his head to the side and glared back at the infirmary door. "Wonderful, now heís laughing at me."

"Now?" John repeated incredulously. "Rodney, Carsonís been laughing at you, when you needed it, as long as Iíve known you both."

"I meant Ronon."

John shrugged. "Get used to it; heís a friend too."

"I know, I know," Rodney grumbled. "I trust him; it just catches me by surprise."

"That you trust him?" Once again, John wished he could do injury to everyone whoíd hurt Rodney over the years and left him believing himself unworthy of friends and love.

"Not just himóany of them, and that they trust me. I mean the other pairs, not everyone." Rodney shrugged slightly at that and unconsciously leaned against Johnís side.

John stopped walking and pulled Rodney into a tight hug, inhaling the scent of his sentinel. "Well, get used to it," he said in a slightly thick tone. "This is home now, and weíre all family. And youíre a big part of that." Never mind injure, he wanted to kill everyone whoíd done this to Rodney.

"I know," Rodney relaxed into Johnís hug, "it is, and we are, and whatís wrong?"

John shrugged slightly. "I want to kill everyone who ever made you believe you didnít deserve this."

"If you did that, youíd end up in jail, and so would I for trying to kill everyone who came after you," Rodney reminded him gently. "So probably not a good idea."

"Fine, be logical," John grumbled, but the tension bled back out of his shoulders. "But I can think about it."

"If you come with any new ways to torture Sam, let me know, okay?" Rodney straightened up, gave a lopsided smile, and kissed John.

John chuckled as they started walking again. "Youíve got it. At least more people are beginning to question her stories now. It helps that OíNeillís on our side."

"If he was really on our side, heíd kick her off SG-1."

John sighed, knowing it was a sore spot. "Sheís still an above-average scientist, Rodney, and Mitchell wants her on his team."

"Then heís an idiot," Rodney said flatly.

"Not arguing that, but he canít have you or Radek, so heís stuck with what he can get," John replied smugly.

Rodney nodded at that, then started walking again. "Just as long as he keeps her there."

"Well, sheís sure as hell not coming here!"

"Damn right!" Rodney shuddered at the thought. "She has all of Earth and can keep it; Atlantis is ours."

John nodded. "I think we got the better deal."

"I know I did."

John beamed at him. "Itís entirely mutual."

Rodney nodded and hugged John against his side. "I thought as much; now, letís go figure out what weíre doing tomorrow."

~ CHAPTER 17 ~

Once the security detail cleared Ladon, he walked over to John, who greeted him with a raised eyebrow. "What, no ZPM?" he greeted, making it clear that was the only reason the Genii had been allowed into Atlantis.

Ladon sneered. "I sent it to another planet for safekeeping. How stupid do you think I am?"

"From what I remember," John replied with a sneer of his own, "I gave you a pretty good crack on the head last time we met, so I was kinda hoping it made you simple."

"No, it didnít... but ever since then Iíve been plagued with headaches."

"Youíre just sayiní that to be nice," John said with a cold, toothy smile that vanished as quickly as it appeared. "What do you want for it?" he demanded, all business now.

"Iíll only talk with Weir; Iím not interested in talking to the errand boy."

"Thatís Lt. Col. Errand Boy to you," John said before gesturing to the Marine guards to watch the Ladon while the colonel radioed Elizabeth, who had been observing from her office.

After a brief conversation, John led the Genii and his security detail to the office where Elizabeth and Rodney waited.

"Dr. Weir. Thank you for your warm..." Landon started to stand, but the Marine nearest him put his hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down.

"What do you want for the ZPM?" Rodney demanded tightly.

"You people arenít much for small talk, are you?" Ladon asked, his eyebrows rising.

"Not with criminals, no," Elizabeth said flatly.

"As a member of Kolyaís strike team, I was following orders. I harbor no ill will towards you or your people."

"Thatís nice. What do you want for it?" John repeated Rodneyís question, clearly not interested in chitchat either.

Ladon shrugged. "I need about a hundred machine guns, a couple of dozen grenades and any C4 that you have to spare."

Johnís eyebrows shot up. "Sounds like youíre having a party."

Elizabeth frowned at him. "Explain: how is turning you into a threat in our best interest?"

"The real threat is the Genii," Ladon explained. "Their nuclear weapons are fully operational, and it is my considered belief that they will soon begin using them as a first-strike offensive weaponónot just against the Wraith but human populations as well. Now, you give me and my men the arms we needóyouíll never have to worry about the Genii again."

"Youíre planning a coup," Rodney gasped.

"Yes. And youíre going to help me. Cowen has led our people for too long. Yes, itís true, he has made the Genii a force to be reckoned with, but the Cowen of the past bears little resemblance to the Cowen whoís in power now."

"How so?" Elizabeth asked.

"Heís become obsessed with uniting the galaxy under a single ruler."

"And that would presumably be him. I think heíd find that a bit harder to accomplish than he expects," John replied indifferently.

"That may be so," Ladon said, "but Commander Kolya was the only Genii who could stand up to him, keep him under control. He went missing several months ago. We suspect Cowen had him murdered."

John smiled slightly and glanced at Rodney questioningly, the sentinel shrugging in response, not caring if Ladon thought Cowan was responsible for his deed.

"But you canít prove it?" Elizabeth asked.

"Not yet," Ladon admitted.

"And in Kolyaís absence?" Elizabeth asked steadily.

"Our people were looking for leadership. They looked to me."

"Tell us the part where you found the ZPM," John ordered impatiently.

Ladon shrugged. "Itís a power source of the Ancestors, and you live in the city of the Ancestors. And itís very hard to find trading partners who donít fear the Genii. Cowen has spies all over the galaxy. I figured youíd be more than willing to help if we could give you something of value."

"How do we know youíre gonna be any better than Cowen?" John demanded suspiciously.

"Look, I know you donít trust me, but if Cowen uses his new atomic weapons to enslave other worlds, then the Genii are no better than the Wraith. Now, you can have your ZPM, but you must help me stop that from happening," Ladon stated, looking at the three of them.

"Be careful there, both of ye," Carson ordered, looking at Ronon, then at Teyla. "I dinna trust the people there."

"We will be most careful," Teyla assured him.

"And weíll find out whatís going on," Ronon added in a deep growl. Heíd gotten to know Lorne during his months in Atlantis thanks to the soldier being Sheppardís second but even more as a result of his relationship with the brash and cheerful female sentinel-guide pair. He didnít like seeing the two women as sad and angry as theyíd been in recent days, and he intended to find out who was responsible.

"Just donít you be lost, understand?" Carson demanded before pulling Ronon into a tight hug.

"I plan to be home for dinner and you," Ronon vowed, returning the embrace.

"And hopefully Iíll have more news on the bodies." Carson stepped back and nodded. "Iíll see ye both soon."

With a final glance back at his guide, Ronon disappeared through the gate just as John and Rodney arrived in the gateroom.

"Donít worry, Carson," Rodney said bracingly, clapping the other man on the shoulder. "Heíll be fine."

"Aye, thatís what I keep reminding myself," Carson murmured.

"Heís an army all by himself," John added, "and he has Teyla with him. Iíd want a tank to take those two on. They breed Ďem hardy in this galaxy."

"Worry about us, not them," Rodney offered. "Weíre going to see the nuke-crazy Genii leader."

Carson smiled slightly at that. "True, he isnít with the two of you, so heís probably safer."

"Thanks for that comforting thought, Carson," John said wryly. He drew Rodney away from the doctor. "And weíre due to leave now."

"Good luck, lads," Carson murmured, stepping out of the way as the two men headed for the gate, Rodney glancing back at him as the gate whooshed to life.

"I hate the Genii," he muttered.

"So does everyone with any sense," John muttered back. "And not sure whoís worse, Cowen or Ladon."

"Kolya," Rodney answered instantly, "but at least heís dead."

"Yes, that significantly improved him," John agreed.

Rodney smiled slightly at that and nodded toward the gate. "Thatís one Iíll never regret," he murmured as they started toward the gate.

John nodded. "He deserved to die." They stepped through the gate and found Cowen waiting for them on the other side.

"Dr. McKay! Oh, and itís Lt. Col. Sheppard now, I hear," the Genii leader greeted, holding out his hand to John, who took it gingerly in a brief handshake.

"Somebodyís been paying attention," John observed as Cowen offered his hand to Rodney, who stared at it a moment before shaking it, his expression focused on something far away.

"Uh, Iím afraid I donít have much time, but please tell me, what can I do for you?" Cowen asked.

There was some brief, polite conversation, the Atlanteans and Genii feeling each other out, before John said, "Weíve been contacted by a Genii named Ladon Radim."

"Ah!" Cowen laughed. "At last the real reason why youíre here. What has he been saying?"

"Oh, something about, uh, uh..." Rodney stammered.

"...Conquests of other worlds using your atomic weapons," John finished.

Cowen snorted. "Heís been telling the Manarians that Iíve been slaughtering our own people for food. Ladon blames me for Kolyaís disappearanceóand while, yes, itís true I neither respected nor liked the man, I had nothing to do with his presumed demise. Anything he tells you is a lie."

"Heís trying to mount a rebellion," John said, ignoring Cowenís comment about Kolyaís death.

"Let him try. He commands a couple of dozen men and has no weapons to speak of. Believe me, the cityís plumbing is of more concern to me right now. But still, you didnít have to tell me," Cowen mused. "Apprising me of Ladonís plans was the act of a friend."

"Well, if you want to contact us, we have a new number," Rodney offered.

"Iíve known for some time that Atlantis survived the Wraith attack, Dr. McKay. I hope youíll accept it as an act of good faith that your secret is safe with the Genii." Cowen smiled benignly at the last before offering John and then Rodney his hand again.

"My men will see you to the gate," he said, turning and walking away, leaving John and Rodney in the company of two guards who escorted them to the gate.

"Well, that was refreshing!" Rodney said wryly. "He didnít try to kill us even once!"

"Things are looking up," John replied with equal wryness.

After briefing Elizabeth on their meeting with Cowen, the conversation turned to Ladon. Thanks to information supplied by Cowen, an Atlantean strike force had been able to observe what seemed to be the Genii rebelsí base. Scans revealed only twenty people on the planet, and the likelihood was that the ZPM was there as well, though clearly shielded.

"Okay," Elizabeth finally said. "Itís worth the risk. Go get us a ZPM!"

"Dr. Weir, we have something I believe you need to see," Teyla announced after she and Ronon had returned to Atlantis.

Only Elizabethís years of experience as a diplomat enabled her to bite back a groan. Conversations that started that way never went well. "What is it?" she asked, gesturing both of them to take a seat, frowning slightly when she realized that theyíd come straight to her, not even stopping long enough for Ronon to speak to Carson and let him know he was back.

"The people on 177 were not very helpful," Teyla began, and Ronon snorted out a laugh. "But we were able to find a person who gave us these." She reached into the bag the girl theyíd spoken to had given her and handed Elizabeth the posters.

Elizabeth stared at the black and white pictures of several gate team members, including Lorne, most of his team, John and Rodney.

"The writing on the side here is in a bunch of different languages, offering a great reward for their capture. I bet theyíve been circulated to dozens of planets," Ronon offered.

"Theyíre our staff," Elizabeth said slowly as she leafed through the pages, pausing on the one of Maj. Lorne. "Ones with the gene."

"The gene of the Ancestors?" Teyla asked, seeking clarification.

"Yes. Naturally or not, all these men and women possess the ATA gene," Elizabeth explained.

"I suggest you call these men back if they are offworld," Teyla said urgently.

"Yes. And most of these guys are on an operation with Sheppard right now. We are raiding Ladonís warehouse and stealing back the ZPM. We detained most of his team when they came here to pick up the weapons we offered them. Once Sheppard and the team get back, I will suspend all their offworld activity until we can get to the bottom of this."

Carsonís voice came over the radio at that. "Dr. Weir, I need you in the infirmary."

"On my way, Carson," she acknowledged before looking at Teyla and Ronon. "This is probably about the bodies. You two should come along."

On M6R-867, John, Rodney, Lisa, Laura, and another Marine were making slow progress toward Ladonís base, guided by Rodney and his life signs detector.

Rodney tapped Johnís shoulder to get his attention, then pointed the way they needed to go. They left the warehouse and took up positions outside another building. Rodney looked at John and extended the index finger on his left hand, pointing it skywards, then drew a circle around it with the index finger of his other hand.

"One target in the middle of the room," he whispered, knowing Laura would hear him and pass on the information.

Everyone entered the building according to plan to find Ladon sitting easily, eating an apple. Seeing John and Rodney, he ignored the guns pointed at him and greeted them calmly, his foot braced on a wooden box on the floor.

"Drop it," John barked, and Ladon looked quizzically at the small paring knife heíd been using to cut his fruit.

"This?" He shrugged and let it fall to the floor. "Feel safer?"

"Yes. Is that it?" John gestured toward the box and, when the Genii nodded, ordered, "Slide it over."

John looked at Rodney. "Any sign of explosives?"

"Relax, Sheppard," Ladon said easily, "I have no interest in killing you."

Rodney glared at him even as he scanned the box, then leaned in and sniffed it, earning a strange look from Ladon. "It seems clean," he admitted.

John crouched down and flipped open the lid, then reached inside and drew out a ZPM, letting Rodney see it.

"Itís all yours," Ladon said. "One ZPM."

John put it back into the box and shut it before sliding it across the floor toward Rodney without ever taking his eyes off Ladon.

Rodney looked down at the box, wanting to get the ZPM out and look at it himself, but he resolutely looked away and continued to aim his weapon at Ladon, who only smiled at them before speaking. "One thatís probably been out of power for a thousand years."

Before anyone could react to that statement, there was a hissing sound, and both of the doors slid shut. Lisa and Laura, who were on the other side of the room, gasped and collapsed, followed quickly by the third Marine. Rodney crumpled to his knees and fell flat on his face on the floor, John joining him on the ground, while Ladon sat watching them, unaffected. "Oh, thatís gas," he said conversationally. "And donít worry, it wonít kill you."

Elizabeth regarded Carson quizzically as she, Teyla and Ronon entered the infirmary, the Satedan immediately going to his guideís side and placing a hand on his shoulder. "You have news, Carson?"

"I think I know whoís behind this," he said seriously even as he studied Ronon closely to assure himself that the other man was unhurt.

"Okay," Elizabeth said slowly.

"Whoever these bodies belonged to, they didnít die in that fire."

"They died before they burned?" Teyla asked.

"Aye," Carson nodded, "mostly from internal bleeding and a breakdown of the bone marrow."

"Which means?" Ronon asked, even though he was pretty sure he knew. Though most people tended to forget it, Sateda had been one of the more advanced planets in the Pegasus Galaxy.

"It means they probably died of severe radiation poisoning," Carson explained. "Now, from what I know, thereís only one race of people that could possibly be exposed to the amount of radiation that would cause this kind of damage."

"The Genii," Elizabeth said quietly.

"Aye, exactly."

"If the Genii are behind this..." Teyla started, and Ronon finished, "We need to call back Sheppardís team.

After being injected with something that counteracted the gas, John had woken tied to the chair Ladon had been sitting on earlier, but there was no sign of the rest of his team. Not allowing himself to think about Rodney, at least for the moment, he got as much information as he could from the Genii, only to be surprised by Cowenís arrival.

Using one of the strike teamís radios, Cowen contacted Atlantis once heíd had a Genii stationed at the gate dial through, and he explained the situation to Elizabeth. There was no rebellion; the Genii "captured" on Atlantis were volunteers who were already dying of radiation sickness; and unless Elizabeth turned over ten jumpers in one hour, Cowen would start killing one of the captives every fifteen minutes, starting with John.

Carson looked up from the scanner and smiled tiredly when he saw Ronon standing there. "How long have ye been waiting?" he asked.

Ronon shrugged. "Until you were done."

Carson shook his head slowly at that. "Ronon, ye dinna need ta do that."

"I wanted to," Ronon replied simply. Sheppard and McKayís capture, without him and Teyla there to back them up, even with Cadman and Lindstrom along, had left him unsettled. Heíd come to care about these people, almost in spite of himself, and now he needed to be with Carson.

Carson moved away from the bench and crossed to Ronon, hugging him and stroking his back. "Ye dinna like not being able to do anything, I know."

"Theyíre my team; I should have been there with them, Carson." He inhaled the warm scent that said "Carson" to him and allowed himself to lean on his guideís strength.

"You had another mission. There was nothing ye can do about that, and we will get them back," Carson murmured.

"We have to. I donít think this place could survive without them, no matter how annoying McKay can be."

"He isnae so bad, and ye know it," Carson answered, continuing to stroke Rononís back. "The people the Genii sent here... they all believe theyíre going to die."

Ronon nodded. "They look pretty bad," he admitted.

"Itís the same radiation poisoning that killed the poor buggers we found. The only thing they donít realize is we can cure them."

Ronon frowned. "So tell them. Or did you already try, and they donít believe you?"

"The second. Their doctors couldnít cure them, so no one can." Carson sighed in frustration. "I canna tie them down and force IVs into them."

"Why not?"

Carson laughed helplessly at that. "Iím sorry, love," he finally gasped, "if only it were that simple. At least a third of them are too far gone for any treatment I give them to do any good." He sobered at that. "Theyíre poisoning their entire population."

Ronon considered that for a moment. "Stupid. The point of doing things is to save your people from the Wraith, not kill them yourselves."

"Iím beginning to wonder how many people here realize that."

Rononís arms tightened around him. "Desperate people do desperate things."

"Your people fought, but ye dinna throw yer lives away," Carson murmured.

"For all the good it did us," Ronon replied almost bitterly, and Carson cursed himself for bringing Sateda up.

"But ye tried. Would it have been better to do nothing and let the Wraith take who they wanted with no resistance?"

Ronon let the tension out with a long sigh. "No, of course not. But then, thatís what the Genii and the Hoffans and others would say, that theyíre just doing what they can to fight back."

"Aye, I know that, but I still dinna agree that killing yer own people, even if thatís nae yer intent, is the way to do it."

"No, I donít either, but I guess they get to choose for themselves. And if theyíre dumb enough to do that, well, better they donít reproduce more stupid people," Ronon judged, and Carson shook his head, smiling slightly.

"Love, you and Rodney are more alike than yeíll ever know."

"You donít have to be insulting," Ronon said, but he was smiling.

"Iíll make it up to ye once we have everyone back," Carson promised. "And I should go talk to my patients again, ta see if I can get some sense through their heads."

Ronon nodded. "And I want to talk to Weir, see what she plans to do about getting Sheppard back."

"Then itís back ta work fer us, love." Carson said, pulling Ronon down for a kiss. "If ye have time, can ye check on Rodneyís cat and make sure he has food and water? I dinna want the man yelling at me when he gets back."

Ronon chuckled. "Sure. Mole and I understand each other." And discovering the pet had gone a long way toward helping Ronon understand McKay.

"Why am I nae surprised at that?" Carsonís smile tightened as he pushed down the flare of guilt he felt at being glad Ronon was here and not out with John and Rodney.

Ronon saw the change of expression and had a fairly good idea of what caused it; he should; he spent a lot of time being grateful that his guide was safely back in Atlantis. "Iíll let you know if I have to head out again."

"Ye do that." Carson released his hold on Ronon, letting his hand slide down the other manís arm, his fingers catching on the leather wristband he wore.

As Ladon led John toward a cell, the colonel wondered, "What the hell do you expect to do with a jumper anyway? Even if we give them to you, none of the Geniiíll be able to fly Ďem."

"If youíre referring to the Ancient gene, Iím working on a treatment that can artificially produce it. In fact, weíve been collecting samples for some time," Ladon informed him smugly.

"From where?" John asked just before they reached the cell where Rodney and the Marines from the strike force lay unconscious on the floor while Maj. Lorne and the other two members of his team got to their feet as Ladon unlocked the door and pushed John inside.

"Starting to put it all together?" the Genii taunted.

"Iím gettingí there," John drawled, his lazy tone masking his fury as Ladon smiled, kicked the door shot, and locked it.

"Colonel," Maj. Lorne said shortly, forcing himself to keep from looking back at Lisa and Laura where they lay on the floor behind him. "Weíve checked on your team; theyíre all stable."

"Kinda figured that from your lack of homicidal fury," John replied, his own eyes darting to Rodney now that heíd been assured that everyone was alive.

"Just trying to stop yours, sir. So, have you come to rescue us?"

"Well, until fairly recently I thought you were dead, and then we had no idea where you were, but now that I see you speaking and breathing and here, yeah, Iím thinking about it."

"Good," Lorne nodded though his expression darkened as he realized that Lisa and Laura had thought the same thing. "Let me know if we can do anything to help."

Having heard the news that the Genii position was now heavily defended, Elizabeth was forced to wait until they initiated radio contact. Her fears were compounded when Cowen refused to negotiate, instead demanding the jumpers and ignoring her statement that they could cure the majority of the Genii on Atlantis.

"I will contact you again in fifteen minutes, so you can decide whether you would like Dr. McKay to live. In the meantime, you have forfeited the life of Col. Sheppard," Cowen said flatly before turning to Ladon. "Kill him."

Ladon smiled as he stood. "Yes, sir," he said before walking out of the room.

As the remainder of Johnís team began to stir, the colonel hovered anxiously over Rodney while Lorne planted himself firmly between Lisa and Laura, both of them leaving Cpl. Jenson to Lorneís two teammates as they concentrated on their lovers.

"What the hell happened?" Rodney groaned, half-sitting up and rubbing his head as first Laura, then Lisa began to stir.

"Anyone have the number of that bus?" Laura groaned.

"Sorry, no bus, just Genii gas," John said, answering both of them. "And you might want to look behind you, Lieutenants."

Both women frowned at him before looking over their shoulders, freezing when they found Lorne grinning at them. "Evan?" Lisa whispered, then whirled around and threw herself at him, her arms closing around him in a fierce embrace as she burst into tears, Laura hot on her heels, squishing Lorne between them.

"Why donít you look like you were gassed?" Rodney grumbled, even as he took in their cell and grabbed John to check him over.

"The Genii gave me the antidote. Right before Cowen strolled in to chat with his buddy Ladon. Oh, and theyíve been talking to Atlantis. They want ten jumpers, or theyíll kill us all," John explained.

Rodney cursed under his breath at that. "Of course they will." He looked up, and moments later the sound of footsteps could be heard approaching the cell. Ladon appeared, and the Genii guard unlocked the cell so that he could enter, his pistol pointed at John.

"Timeís up."

Rodney pushed in front of the colonel at that, every muscle in his body tense. "What the hell do you mean, Ďtimeís upí!?"

John placed a hand on Rodneyís shoulder, but he kept his eyes trained on Ladon. The man hadnít needed to enter the cell to do this. Something else was going on.

"Weir says your Dr. Beckett can cure the people I sent through the Gate. Is that true?" Ladon asked.

John nodded, his eyes watchful. "Beckettís the best doctor in two galaxies. If thereís a cure, heís got it."

After a moment, Ladon looked back at the guards standing behind him and announced, "Weíre letting them go." With that, he lowered his gun and stepped back out of the cell.

John hesitated briefly, and then stepped cautiously out of the cell, followed by the other Atlanteans, all of them tense and alert. Once they were all out, Ladon led them away from the cell.

"How the hell are you going to get us out of here?" Rodney hissed and Ladon looked back at him.

"Hidden away at the bottom of this building is a nuclear device."

Looking startled, John asked, "Howíd you get your hands on that?"

"You forget Iím the chief scientist. I made it."

John stared at him, then looked from him to Rodney, shook his head and chuckled briefly.

"Youíre gonna start your coup!" Rodney said in an accusing tone.

Ladon nodded. "I needed Cowen and his elite guard together in one place. I knew the chance at some puddle jumpers would get him here."

"Well, youíre definitely twisty enough to be a politician," John said.

"Most of my men are waiting for me on our homeworld. Tonight, the leadership of our people changes hands."

"You were just gonna leave us here to be vaporized with the others?" John demanded.

Yes, I was," Ladon admitted calmly. "Things have changed. Letís go."

~ CHAPTER 18 ~

"Receiving Dr. McKayís ID," Chuck announced.

"Defense teams, stand by. Lower the shield." Elizabeth hurried down the stairs to see her people come through the gate with a group of Genii, who immediately lowering their guns to the floor.

"Rodney!" she exclaimed, seeing him wave at her.

"Itís Ladon. Heís letting us go in exchange for his people."

"Ladonís in charge?!" she asked in confusion.

"Yeah," Rodney nodded, "heís about to be."

Ladon and John walked through the gate and stopped there, John observing silently as Ladon spoke into the radio on his wrist. "Iím sorry it had to come to this, Cowen. You have served our people well."

Cowenís voice came back through the radio. "What have you done?"

"Shield up," John ordered, turning to meet Elizabethís shocked but somehow accepting gaze.

"Now, please, I would like to see my sister," Ladon said.

"Of course," Elizabeth answered, recovering quickly and leading the man from the control room, a pair of Marines going with them.

"I really donít like him," Rodney announced.

"Neither do I," John admitted, "but he did save our lives."

"Does that mean I canít shoot him, sir?" Lisa asked darkly, and John gave her a sympathetic smile.

"Sorry, Lieutenant, not today."

Laura muttered something under her breath, and Rodney winced. At Johnís questioning look, he shook his head. "Women really are more vindictive."

"No kidding," John replied, eyeing the two women warily. "You can debrief me tomorrow, Major," he told Lorne. "Iím sure right now you just want a shower and your own bed. And Iíd prefer not to be shot by a pair of my own Marines," he finished wryly.

"Thank you, sir," Lorne said, "I think weíve all had enough of cells for a while."

"Itís not them shooting you have to worry about," Rodney murmured as the trio walked away, "and then Iíd have to shoot them."

"Itís much better if no one shoots anyone," John replied, his arm around Rodneyís waist. "And since Elizabethís busy with Ladon, letís get out of here and go hide in our room so we can celebrate not dying again."

"Yes, sir," Rodney said, giving a crooked grin, though he kept a tight hold on Johnís hand as they left the control room.

"Hmm, I like the sound of that," John mused.

"You would. Come on and you can order me around all you want," Rodney laughed as they headed down the corridor.

"Why donít you two go to our room, and Iíll get us dinner," Lisa suggested. "If we all go to the messhall, itíll be hours before we get out of there again."

"Works for me," Evan replied, his arm tight around Lauraís shoulders. "I donít really need all the welcome homes right now."

"Just donít you get caught there either," Laura warned her guide sternly.

"Iíll play the sympathy card, sniffle pitifully, mention needing to get back to reassure myself that Evanís alive..." Lisa grinned quickly. "It helps being blonde."

"Only to those of us who donít know you," Evan chuckled, kissing her.

"Bah, sheís a ditz," Laura teased, though her smile was unsteady.

"Whenever itís useful," Lisa agreed cheerfully, though she was still clinging tightly to Evanís hand. "And first thing in the morning, weíre going to see the colonel about a suite for all of us."

"We found a couple of rooms," Laura added. "We can all go look at them tomorrow."

"Sounds good," Evan said. "I kept looking forward to that while I was stuck in that cell."

Laura looked over at Lisa at that, and they managed to share a shaky laugh. "Better than losing your pay at poker, I suppose."

"Gee, lemme think, fantasizing about two gorgeous women who want me too or paying attention to two hairy brutes, hard choice."

Lisa chuckled again, finally letting go of Evanís hand. "Good choice, flyboy. Now go get comfortable, and Iíll be right there with the food."

They watched Lisa go, then headed for the transporter. "Do you want to stop by your place and grab some clean clothes?" Laura asked.

"Yeah, I should. This uniformís pretty rank, and I donít want you to kick me out or the colonel to slam the door in my face in the morning."

"No chance of the former, though Rodney might do the latter if heís in the colonelís office."

Evan chuckled. "So Iíd better get some clean clothes for morning. Much safer that way."

Laura nodded. "Then you can eat, and then we can go clean up."

"I think this may turn into the longest shower in the history of Atlantis."

"Good thing Atlantis has a good hot water supply." They entered the transporter and exited near Evanís room.

"An advantage of being in the middle of an ocean and having a ZPM." Lorne headed straight to the closet for his pack and a clean uniform, then added jeans, a shirt, and other necessities while Laura watched, her expression light although she continually tracked where Evan was.

"Weíve got it a lot easier than the people who were here the first year."

Evan nodded. "Yeah, that had to be something else. They didnít even know if theyíd ever be able to contact Earth again. No wonder the original expedition members are so tight." He shouldered his pack, clearly done, and Laura wrapped her arm around his waist as they walked out.

"I canít imagine how that must have been," Laura mused.

"No, itís a pretty unique set of circumstances," Evan agreed. "I donít think any of them will ever go back to Earth for more than a leaveówell, except for Kavanagh."

"I donít think anyone would miss him if he left," Laura commented. "Does he even have any friends?"

"Not that I know of. Well, there are a couple of other scientists that he spends some time withóIíve seen them playing chessóbut they donít seem particularly close, you know."

"Thatís sad, to be that alone." Laura hugged him at that. "It makes me even gladder for Lisa and you."

"And me for the two of you. I never could have imagined this, but itís right for me, for us." Evan returned the hug, holding her close.

"Yeah, Iíd say Iím double lucky; I found Lisa, then we both found you." They reached Laura and Lisaís room and went inside, Laura taking Evanís pack and setting it on the bed as they did.

"Can you stand me till after we eat, or should I take a quick shower now?"

"You forget, Ev, I can dial it down," Laura assured him. "Eat first, then shower, then collapse."

"Only if you two are with me. Iíve missed you."

Lauraís laugh was slightly hysterical. "You think weíre letting you anywhere out of our sight? We thought you were dead!"

At first startled since he hadnít really had time to absorb the fact that everyone had thought his team dead rather than simply captured, Evan took one look at Lauraís face and pulled her into his arms. "Iím right here, Lo," he whispered.

"You were dead and we hadnít had a chance to tell you," she whispered, holding him close, tears slipping out from her closed eyes. The door slid open, and she held out a hand to Lisa, who put the tray of food down and moved to join them in a three-way embrace.

"Tell me what?" Evan asked, slowly relaxing as it sank in that he really was at home.

Laura met Lisaís gaze, then swallowed and looked up at Evan. "That we love you."

Evanís eyes widened slightly. Heíd thought so when they agreed to move in with him, just as he was sure theyíre realized the corollary when heíd asked them, but this was the first time anyone had said the words.

"Oh," he said in a near whisper. "Thatís good because I love you too, both of you," he said, looking from one to the other.

"And we both love you," Lisa replied, making sure he knew that Laura had been speaking for both of them.

"And just so you know, that doesnít mean weíll stop bossing you around," Laura added.

"If you did, Iíd start wondering about clones."

"Never happen," Lisa assured him, chuckling a little shakily, and Evan kissed her, then Laura, hugging them both against him.

"Okay, you need to eat," Laura finally said, regaining her composure.

"Yeah, the cuisine at that last establishment left a lot to be desired," Evan said, seating himself at the small table in one corner of the room and checking out the food Lisa had brought.

"Thereís a beer in there for you too," Lisa told him. "And everyone said welcome home."

"Breaking out the beer, thatís serious," Evan mused.

"At least Iíll get a secondary taste," Laura commented, letting Lisa take the other seat at the table and pulling up the desk chair herself.

Lisa suddenly grinned. "You realize this means you have to meet our families next time we get back to Earth, donít you?"

At Evanís startled expression, Laura snickered. "And really, itís just like one big family now."

"And now youíre part of it," Lisa said, trying not to laugh at the look on Evanís face.

"Donít worry; you survived us; you can survive them," Laura promised.

"Theyíll love you," Lisa assured him. "My two brothers will be glad of another male."

"You realize this means you have to meet my family too," Evan commented in between bites.

"Thatís fine," Lisa replied easily. "Are they going to be freaked that there are two of us?"

"Are you kidding? A sentinel and guide pair? They may show you off to the whole town!"

"Youíre kidding, right?" Laura asked.

"I hope so," Lisa said, looking rather wide-eyed, but Evan shook his head.

"íFraid not. Theyíre going to be incredibly impressed by you."

"How many of them are there?" Laura asked warily.

"In my family or the town?" Evan asked, deciding not to mention quite yet that he was related to most of the town. The Lornes had founded it.

"The family."

"Well, thereís my mom and dad, and my kid brother and sister, and a few aunts and uncles and cousins."

"How many aunts and uncles and cousins?" Lisa demanded suspiciously.

"All together? Forty or so."

Lauraís jaw dropped. "Forty?"

"Itís a pretty big family," Evan admitted. "And I should warn you that theyíre all going to ask you when youíre going to have more little Lornes."

Lisa grabbed his beer and took a long swallow, Laura taking it from her the moment she was done and taking a huge gulp herself.

"Gotcha," Evan chuckled after a moment, getting twin glares in response. "Hey," he held up a hand, "donít get me wrong; theyíd love more kids to spoil, but they wonít start knitting booties the minute they see you."

"Well, maybe someday," Lisa said dubiously. "I canít see having babies the way things are now."

"That active duty thing," Laura nodded.

"Donít worry, Iím not going to be doing clandestine surgery to remove your implants," he said, grinning slightly before finishing the last of his chicken.

Lisa chuckled. "Carson would kill you if you tried. Letís leave it at saying that when and if Iím ready, youíre the father Iíll want."

"And Iíll be happy to spoil any baby you two produce," Laura promised.

"What, no little redheaded babies in our future?" Evan teased.

Laura stuck her tongue out at him. "I wonít say no, but Iím not sure," she finally allowed.

"Thatís okay, neither am I right now," he admitted. "It seems too dangerous around here to even think about having kids. We can worry about that someday, but for today, Iím just happy for it to be the three of us."

"I love having a sensible man," Lisa murmured.

Evan reached for the beer and finished it off, then rubbed his stomach. "Iím very glad to hear that. So, shower time so Laura can dial her sense of smell back up to something approaching normal?"

Lisa wrinkled her nose at him. "Yeah, thatíd be a very good idea."

"So letís get in there," Laura urged, standing and pulling off her shirt, dropping it to the floor and moving to help Evan strip after he stood. Lisa stood up as well, and soon they were all naked and moving into the shower.

"Itís good to be home," Evan murmured as he stepped under the water, tilting his head back to let it sheet over him.

Laura poured some liquid soap into her hand then handed it over to Lisa, moving around Evanís back and beginning to stroke the lather onto his skin while Lisa did the same for his front. Evan just sighed and let them do what they wanted, his eyes heavy lidded as he relaxed.

Lisa looked up through her eyelashes, drinking in the features sheíd been afraid sheíd never see again, and she knew that Evan was as much a part of her as Laura now.

Laura closed her eyes and stroked her hands over Evanís back, her heightened sense of touch tracing the lines of his muscles and the faint line of a scar on one shoulder blade.

"Going to spoil me," he murmured, resting one hand on Lisaís hip and reaching back with the other, trailing his fingers over Lauraís side.

"Good, then we wonít ever have to worry about someone stealing you away from us," Lisa replied, tilting her face up to kiss him, Evanís hand moving to her face as he explored her mouth. At the same Laura pressed up against his back, her arms going around him, pulling Lisa against him.

"Iím never going anywhere," Evan promised once he raised his head again, his fingers gently stroking her cheek while his other hand covered Lauraís, holding her close, the three of them standing together under the water until the scent of arousal teased Lauraís senses, and she sighed, the hand on Evanís side sliding inward to stroke his stomach.

Lisa dropped down to her knees, mouthing the sensitive skin of Evanís inner thighs, her tongue chasing droplets of water as she tasted him while her hands stroked him and Laura both.

"The way two of you feel," Evan gasped, spreading his legs slightly to keep his balance as Laura kissed her way over his back.

"The way you taste," Lisa returned, looking up at him as her tongue flicked over his rousing cock, drawing a groan from him, one that Laura echoed.

"The way you both sound," she whispered.

"Weíre perfect together," Lisa breathed, gently nuzzling Evanís balls while a hand petted Lauraís hip, her hand shifting to twine their fingers together while Laura began to work her way lower until she too was on her knees, Evan between them.

"Youíre going to drive me crazy, arenít you?" Evan whispered, staring down at them, and Lisa hummed her agreement.

"Just with pleasure," Laura assured him before nipping at his ass, causing Evan to moan and rock forward against Lisaís mouth.

"And weíll bring you back," Lisa said, mouthing his cock

"Always," Laura promised, easing a hand between his legs and fondling his balls at the same time as Lisa parted her lips to take him into her mouth briefly, then drawing back to blow gently on him.

"Lisa," Even gasped, one palm curving around the back of her head, his fingers tangling in the pale strands.

"Right here," Lisa whispered, then slowly eased him back into her mouth, her tongue sliding over the length of him as she suckled gently, wanting to take her time.

Laura dropped a sucking kiss on Evanís right ass cheek while she continued to stroke and tug at his balls.

"You two should come with a warning label," Evan panted, bracing a hand against the wall above Lisa and locking his knees to keep himself on his feet. Lisa chuckled, making him moan and bite his lower lip at the sensation around his cock, and Laura pulled back, grinned, and eased between his legs, twisting so that she could suck on his balls and play with Lisa at the same time.

Lisa gasped at her sentinelís touch, making Evan jerk again, and she reached between Evanís legs to tug at one of Lauraís nipples, the redhead groaning as she rubbed her thumb over Lisaís clit while they continued to lick and suck at Evan.

"Not going to last," Evan panted, trying not to pull Lisaís hair as his fingers clenched on her head.

"You think we are?" Laura gasped before nibbling at his sac, making Evan gasp and thrust into Lisaís mouth. Lisa simply took it, angling her head so that the head of Evanís cock slid into her throat, and she swallowed, making him yell and thrust forward again with the first spasm of his climax.

The sound and scent overwhelmed Laura, and she came, her body slipping slightly on the wet floor, pressing her fingers deeper into Lisa, making the blonde spasm and cry out, Evanís softening cock slipping from her mouth as she came as well.

"Watch out, ladies," Evan groaned, "Iím coming down." He waited until the women moved, then collapsed to the shower floor, pulling them close as they leaned up against the wall.

Lisa let her head rest on his shoulder. "Welcome home."

~ CHAPTER 19 ~

"Col. Sheppard, Dr. Weir, Dr. McKay, report to the brig immediately."

"Carson sounds like heís in a tizzy about something," Rodney remarked, grateful for a chance to call an end to his session with Teyla. "Think Ronon has him tied up down there or something?"

"I am sure he would rather that you not speculate on what they do," Teyla replied, standing gracefully and picking up her towel to pat her face dry. "As it seems our session will have to be postponed, I believe I will take this opportunity to meditate in my quarters."

Rodney nodded at that, grabbing his own towel and wiping his face, trying to get his breathing better under control. "Youíre probably right; have a good, umm, meditation." He nodded at Teyla then hurried out of the room, heading for the confinement room, wondering what was going on.

John caught up with him in the corridor, and they continued toward the brig together. "Any idea whatís up?" he asked, one hand hovering near his holster. "Carson sounded pretty freaked.

"No ideaóand today was supposed to be a quiet day." Rodney focused his gaze further down the hall. "Thereís Ronon; heís moving pretty fast too."

"Iím surprised heís not there yet," John admitted, slowing slightly to keep pace with Rodney. Ronon would deal with anything till they got there.

"Must have been training or something," Rodney shrugged before frowning. "You donít think that Wraith got out, do you?" He sniffed the air as he spoke and peered around, trying to spot it.

"No, thereíd have been alarms if that had happened. The Marines take a dim view of Wraith running loose in the city," John assured him as they reached the brig and stepped inside.

"Unless theyíre dead," Rodney said morosely, automatically looking toward the cell, seeing Carson standing over a prone figure and Ronon trying to pull him back. His gaze flicked to the side, where one of the guards held the blonde doctoróField, he thought his name was.

John frowned. "Whoís that, and whereís the Wraith?" he demanded, his hand on the grip of his gun as he looked around warily.

"Thatís what I would like to know," Elizabeth stated as she entered the area.

"I believe," Carson said, his voice sounding strained, "that this is the Wraith." He allowed Ronon to push him away so that the man on the floor was revealed.

"What the hell?" Rodney exclaimed, staring at the man who clearly wasnít human, but didnít lookóor smellólike a Wraith either.

"The Wraith turned into Legolas?" John demanded, wondering if theyíd all been drugged.

"What are ye on about, Colonel?" Carson asked in exasperation. "Weíve a serious situation here!"

One of the Marine guards nearly choked trying not to snicker at the colonelís comment since the half-human/half-Wraith captive did resemble one of Tolkienís elves, at least as envisioned by Peter Jackson.

"Never mind," John said dismissively. "More importantly, what the hell happened?"

Ronon tried to edge Carson away from the Wraith, changed or not, and the doctor frowned in irritation and anger.

"My research is what happened."

"But, you destroyed it," Elizabeth exclaimed.

"Not before he," Ronon glared at the blonde doctor currently flanked by two Marines, "copied it and decided to try his own experiment."

All eyes turned to the hapless Dr. Field, who tried to brazen it out but who was growing increasingly nervous. "It works," he protested.

"You stole Carsonís research?" Rodney asked tightly.

"I had permission to continue it!"

"Not from me ye didnít!"

"Considering that you didnít have permission from the senior medical officer, chief scientist, or expedition leader," John nodded at Carson, Rodney, and Elizabeth in turn, "Iíd say you did not, in fact, have permission. And Iím very tempted right now to let Ronon deal with you!"

The big Satedan gave Dr. Field a cold, toothy grin, and the shorter man swallowed harshly before lifting his chin. "I had permission from the SGC."

"Who at the SGC gave you this permission?" Elizabeth asked coldly.

"Col. Carter," he announced with the air of someone saying "so there," an attitude which rapidly deflated when John actually growled.

"Col. Carter?" Rodney asked, his tone icy. "Col. Carter is not involved in the decisions of this expedition."

Carson knelt back down to monitor the prisonerís breathing. "There was a good reason I discontinued my work," he said, not looking at Dr. Field.

"Weíre at war," Field protested. "Theyíre the enemy. If we can destroy the Wraith, itís our duty to do so in any way."

John looked at him the same way he would something that crawled out from under a rock. "Itís people like you who face war crimes tribunals."

"I had permission!" Field said, his voice cracking.

"Which I will be taking up with Col. Carter," Elizabeth countered.

"We need ta get him to the infirmary," Carson said suddenly.

"I havenít done anything to him yet," Ronon pointed out.

"And ye will not be. We did this to him; now we need to solve the problem."

"We didnít do anything to Field," Ronon said with a frown.

"I think heís talking about the Wraith, Ronon," John interjected.

"Shouldnít we just..." Rodney waved his hand vaguely.

"Heís human now... sort of." Elizabeth frowned at the unconscious prisoner. "We canít just kill him. But what are going to do with him?"

"We canít just let him roam free," John replied instantly. "Appearance aside, heís still a Wraith."

"What he is, is deteriorating," Carson stated before keying his radio. "I need a stretcher and emergency team in the brig stat."

"You should let him die," Ronon stated bluntly, giving the changed Wraith an unfriendly stare.

"You canít!" Field gasped before falling silent as the others glared at him.

"We did this to him; weíll not let him die," Carson snapped.

"We didnít do anything to him," Ronon retorted, a small part of him pleased that his guide was reacting normally rather than trying to sooth him. "I would have killed him already."

"My research is the basis for whatís been done to him," Carson said, resting his fingers on the Wraithís throat to check his pulse.

Rodneyís hand lifted, and he opened his mouth. "Carson, is that safe?"

Everyone else was eyeing Ronon warily, hearing his almost subvocal growl as Carson touched the Wraith. "Maybe we should get him into restraints," John suggested.

"Heís unconscious; thereís no need foróbloody hell!" Carson yelped as Ronon yanked him back at the same time the Wraith jerked and flailed an arm toward him.

"Restraints. Now," John bit out. "If you insist on treating him, thatís your bailiwick, Carson, but your safety while doing so is mine. You will observe safety protocols, and that includes restraints, guards, and a little sense of self preservation would be nice!" he finished in an aggrieved tone that Ronon clearly agreed with.

"Aye," Carson replied shakily, "yeíre right." The med team raced in, and they worked with the remaining guards to get the Wraith on the stretcher and restrained, then Carson left with them, Ronon at his side.

"Okay, that was strange even for us," Rodney breathed, and John nodded fervently, along with Elizabeth.

"Humanized Wraith," John said, shaking his head. "Only in Atlantis." He turned his attention to Dr. Field, regarding him with disfavor. "And what the hell do we do with him?"

"Right now Iíd like him confined to his quarters," Elizabeth said. "Once thatís done, you and I are going to contact the SGC, John." She glanced at Rodney at that. "I would normally have you with us as well, Rodney, but considering your history with Col. Carter, it might be easier this way."

"I suppose shooting her is out?" John said wistfully.

"Not if Iím not there!" Rodney protested.

Elizabeth smiled reluctantly while a Marine escorted Dr. Field away to his quarters. "No one is going to shoot anyone. Yet." She was furious at Carterís interference in Atlantis, but she would give the other woman a chance to explain. And then, then they would see just how much political clout Dr. Elizabeth Weir could bring to bear when need be.

Rodney sighed but nodded. "Iíll go see whatís going on with Carson."

"And weíll dial Earth. Please keep me posted," Elizabeth instructed, and John glanced back at Rodney as he followed her out of the brig.

"You donít actually think Carter will have any good explanation for this, do you?" he asked.

"Iím sure sheíll think itís a good explanation, but going behind our backs and having Dr. Field steal Carsonís research? I donít believe anything can explain that."

"Nor do I, and Iím not just saying that because I hate the bitch." John knew that wasnít news to Elizabeth. "I wish someone could explain why so many people think sheís such a wunderkind. The woman may be a genius, but she seems more interested in undercutting Rodney than in accomplishing anything."

"Iíd like to be able to prove that," Elizabeth sighed.

"Itís a shame, really," John mused. "I asked Radek about her work, and she really is brilliant. But sheís wasted years badmouthing Rodney and stealing his work instead of doing her own. If she hadnít..." He shook his head.

"This may give you that proof, if she admits to it," he finished.

Elizabeth nodded as they continued toward the control room and her office. "That is a rather large Ďifí."

John nodded. "Makes you wonder how sheís going to try to weasel out of it, doesnít it?"

"Iím sure weíll find out in the near future."

Sitting in her office with John at her side, Elizabeth regarded the monitor on her desk with a serene expression despite her fury. "Col. Carter," she greeted.

"Dr. Weir." Samís blue eyes hardened almost imperceptibly when she looked at John. "Col. Sheppard. What can I do for you?"

John glanced at Elizabeth, ceding the conversation to her, and she leaned forward slightly, her fingers interlaced where they rested on her desk in front of her. "Iíve had some rather disturbing news, Colonel," Elizabeth said.

"Really?" Samís brow furrowed shallowly. "What would that be?"

Elizabethís eyes narrowed very slightly. "Dr. Field informed me that he had your authorization to proceed with an experiment."

"Iíve authorized several experiments; Iím not sure which youíre speaking of."

Elizabethís smile turned icy. "It may have escaped your notice, Col. Carter, but Atlantis is a civilian-run expedition under my command, and no one else has the authority to authorize anything here."

"I have jurisdiction over all scientific activities on Earth or Atlantis," Sam said coolly. "Dr. Beckett was ignoring a weapon against the Wraith, and you allowed it."

"I have absolute jurisdiction over all activities of any nature on Atlantis, Colonel. Try an end run around me again, and Iíll have your commission," Elizabeth replied coldly, gaining a startled but respectful glance from John. "In fact, Iím fairly certain I could make charges stick," she added contemplatively, showing the iron fist usually hidden in her velvet glove.

"You could try," Sam said dismissively. "I have the full backing of the SGC, and they are well aware ofóshall we sayóthe standards you hold your staff to."

"Do you?" Elizabeth smiled coldly again. "I wouldnít suggest putting that to the test, Col. Carter. People are starting to wonder about some of your stories and put two and two together. And I have the confidence of the President and the IOA, not to mention a large number of the worldís leaders, with whom Iíve had dealings. You really donít want to challenge me on this one."

Sam was silent for a moment, and one didnít have to be a sentinel to see her swallow nervously. "When this experiment proves fruitful, youíll all see who was right." She leaned forward and cut the connection.

When Elizabeth turned to face him again, John got to his feet and saluted her, holding it at rigid attention for a five count before relaxing again. "I begin to see how you managed to broker so many impossible treaties, Elizabeth," he said as he sat back in his chair. "Youíre still managing to surprise me after nearly two years."

"I could say the same for you," she countered after nodding graciously to thank him for the gesture. "And when I combine you and Rodney..."

"Weíre an unbeatable team," John agreed, choosing not to hear her muttered, "Agents of chaos."

The door to the observation room opened, and neither Rodney nor Ronon looked away from the window. "What did the SGC say?"

John winced, knowing how Rodney was going to react to his news. "Col. Carter admitted to authorizing the experiment, though not in so many words, and Elizabeth handed her her ass."

Rodney glanced back at John at that and nodded. "Good, because Carson was right to stop with this; itís just wrong. They arenít human no matter what part of their DNA says."

"No argument here," John agreed while Ronon simply grunted. "We need to kill them, not try to make them human. Theyíre not, and they never will be."

"But now he feels like he has to save the damn thing," Rodney sighed, looking back to the window where Carson was working on the transformed Wraith.

"Itís what he does," Ronon said, sounding both proud and aggravated at the same time.

"Are you sure you canít beat some sense into him?" Rodney asked, raising his hands. "Just kidding!"

"I almost wish I could," Ronon admitted with a heavy sigh. "But he wouldnít be Carson if he did different."

John chuckled wryly. "I know exactly what you mean."

Rodney turned to look at him. "And what do you mean by that?"

John returned an innocent look. "Why, that Carsonís a very determined man, of course."

"Of course," Rodney said dryly.

John grinned at him before they all returned their attention to the scene below them. "Is he really going to continue, try to make that thing fully human?" John asked, frowning.

"So it seems," Rodney sighed before glancing at Ronon. "And donít say that we should just kill him again; itís getting really repetitive."

"Well, itís true!"

"But Carson would kill us, so forget it," John counseled.

"Letís look on the bright side," Rodney suggested. "Maybe this will work, and we can make all the Wraith nice productive citizens."

Ronon and John both turned and stared at him, and Rodney looked back. "What? Itís possible!"

"And maybe weíll find Mu out here too," John muttered.

"Would it be full of ZPMs?" Rodney asked, while Ronon only looked confused.

"Well, to be Atlantisí adversary, theyíd have to have comparable power," John mused, pondering the question. "I wonder if there really was some basis to the legend. We should have the anthropologists search the database."

"On the other hand, the city could be filled with evil Ancients who were trying to kill us, so maybe we should let them be."

"Okay, yeah, bad idea," John said hastily. The last thing they needed was a new enemy. "Thereís nothing we can do here," he decided. "Iíll set a Marine guard for Carsonís protection though."

"It looks like heís done for now," Rodney commented, and Ronon was out of the door before he was done speaking.

John sighed. "I hope this doesnít come between them."

"Me too," Rodney nodded, "but he knows Carsonís a healer; hopefully that will help." He paused a second. "So Elizabeth really cut Sam off at the knees?"

"It was a thing of beauty," John assured him. "Sam gulped before cutting off. I saluted Elizabeth for it."

"We owe her a bottle of wine," Rodney commented before moving to lean against John, nuzzling his neck as he inhaled deeply.

"Two. She prefers red, and Radek likes white," John replied absently, his hand moving over Rodneyís back.

"How do you know that?"

"Watch what they drink when they have a choice and what they have delivered in the supplies. I get to see the manifests," John added.

"Then I guess theyíre going to have to learn to like rose," Rodney muttered.

John chuckled. "I think they can each have what they prefer. Although they both like sparkling. I think we could afford a nice bottle of Dom."

"I suppose," Rodney nodded. "So, want to go find out whatís going on with our guest?"

"I wasnít sure you were going to leave the infirmary tonight," Ronon observed when Carson finally let himself into their room in the dead of night.

"I wasnae sure I would be able to either," Carson admitted. "He seems ta be stable now; the staff will let me know if anything changes." He sat down on the bed and slowly began to unlace his boots.

Ronon bit back a sigh. "Heís a Wraith, Carson. He canít be changed any more than Ellia could."

"But he has been," Carson sighed. "And by our hand."

"By Fieldís hand," Ronon corrected. "And you yourself said itís not permanent. Donít give him a shot for one day, and heís a Wraith again, and we can kill him."

"Ronon..." Carson held out his hand for the other man, "it isnae as easy as that."

Taking the hand and drawing Carson into an embrace, Ronon asked, "Why not?"

"Because I feel responsible for him," Carson murmured, and Ronon bit back a groan.

"Itís not your fault. This is a mistake, Carson."

"That may be, but I need to try."

"If you let him hurt you, Iím not going to be happy."

Carson chuckled quietly at that. "Iíll try ta keep that from happening then."

"Good." Ronon tightened his arms around his guide, inhaling the warm, sun-like scent of him.

"I know ye donít think itís the right thing ta do, but I need ta try."

"I know," Ronon admitted unhappily, "but I donít have to like it."

Carson hugged him at that and leaned against his side. "And thatís why I love ye, lad."

Rononís eyes widened slightly. "You..."

Carson frowned and straightened up. "Why I love ye. Surely ye knew that."

Ronon stared at him before shaking his head very slightly. "I thought you were just making the best of it. You never said."

"I never..." Carson frowned before reaching a hand up and stroking Rononís face, his short beard scratching his palm. "Och, lad, Iím sorry, but I do love ye. Yeíre a part of me now, and I dinna know what Iíd do without ye."

Ronon smiled slowly, for a change looking as young as he was as pure joy transformed his face. "I love you too," he admitted almost shyly, and Carson hugged him tightly then pulled him down for a kiss.

"I know, lad."

"It doesnít mean Iím going to agree with you about everything though," Ronon said.

"Somehow I thought that might be the case," Carson nodded, pulling back to brush his hand over Rononís hair. "And itís the same for me, ye know."

"I know. And itís probably better that way... most of the time."

"Most of the time?"

"Right now, Iíd be happier if youíd agree with me. This isnít going to end well." Ronon shook his head slightly, careful not to dislodge Carsonís hand, and Carson sighed quietly.

"I have the horrible feeling that yeíre right, but I canna just kill the man, Ronon."

"I can," Ronon offered instantly.

"I know ye can, but I dinna want ye to."

Ronon grumbled. "Then maybe you should distract me."

"I could do that," Carson grinned, though the expression was broken by a yawn, and Ronon smiled faintly.

"Right now you need to sleep. You can make it up to me tomorrow."

"Iíll do that, I promise." Carson straightened up to pull off the rest of his clothes, then collapsed back onto the bed in his boxers. Watching him, Ronon quickly stripped off his own garments and then crawled into bed next to Carson, pulling the doctor against his chest and curling around him protectively, Carson sighing and snuggling closer as he closed his eyes.

~ CHAPTER 20 ~

"Iíd like ta try and wake him," Carson announced, looking around at the other senior staff and his obviously annoyed sentinel.

"Now?" Rodney asked.

"Shouldnít you let him wake on his own?" John asked. "Let the drugs wear off?"

"That is what I meant," Carson clarified. "Wake him by not drugging him any longer."

"Are you sure heís ready?" Elizabeth asked.

"I know Iím never going to be ready," John muttered, and Ronon growled his agreement.

"Weíve discussed how his mental state is to be dealt with," Kate Heightmeyer added, and Carson nodded.

"Hopefully he can be integrated well."

"Weíll do everything we can to help with that," Elizabeth said, and Teyla nodded.

"I will do my part as well. And I will be able to tell if something goes wrong and he begins to revert."

"And we can keep an eye on how he smells," Rodney added, though he didnít sound thrilled by the prospect.

"From a distance," John responded emphatically, not wanting Rodney anywhere near their new Ďguestí.

"Fine with me," Rodney nodded, "he gives me the creeps."

"For good reason," John replied. "Heís unnatural."

Kate sighed. "That kind of attitude will not help his assimilation."

"Itís kind of hard not to feel that way, Kate," John pointed out. "Heís a Wraith who weíre trying to make believe is human. Whatís not weird about that?"

"Can ye at least try?" Carson asked.

John shrugged. "Iíll try," he said, not willing to promise more than that, while Ronon just growled half under his breath, wanting nothing to do with any of this.

Carson stroked his hand over Rononís arm to calm him as he looked around the room. "All right, Iím going ta begin bringing him around then."

"Iíd suggest having Stackhouse and Markham or Cadman and Lindstrom there as well," Rodney spoke up, and John nodded.

"Good idea. A sentinel would spot any problems before anyone else could," he agreed. "They can alternate with a standard Marine guard since Iím not putting them on twelve-hour shifts."

"There are four of us," Rodney pointed out.

"And youíre just a little bit busy with your usual job," John replied. "Are you really willing to give up six hours a day? And do you really think Ronon could spend a quarter of the day around him without killing him?"

"It was a suggestion," Rodney grumbled.

"All right, weíll go with rotating the others with Marine teams," Carson said soothingly.

"Damn right we will," John replied emphatically. "Heís not wandering around Atlantis unguarded!"

"No one suggested that, John," Elizabeth assured him.

"We have to be careful not to make him think heís under suspicion," Kate cautioned.

"Already covered," John said. "Weíll tell him that he was captured by Wraith, and itís just a precaution till weíre sure they didnít do anything to him before his rescue."

"So if weíre clear?" Elizabeth asked, looking around the group.

"Yes, yes, donít antagonize the Wraith," Rodney sighed.

Ronon looked up when Carson finally returned to their quarters that evening, his expression forebodingóbut then that seemed to be Rononís default expression. "So the Wraith is awake," he said by way of greeting.

"Aye," Carson nodded, "weíve told him his name is Lt. Michael Kenmore and that he and his team were captured and tortured by the Wraith but that he was rescued."

"And you really think thatís going to work?" Ronon shook his head.

"All we can do is try," Carson sighed as he stripped off his jacket and dropped down into a chair to remove his boots, his every move speaking of bone-deep weariness.

Rononís snort was eloquent comment on his opinion of that. "I still think itís a waste of time."

"Ye may be right," Carson said quietly as he straightened up, "but I feel responsible, so I have to try."

Ronon only shook his head, not wanting to argue with his guide. "Come to bed," he said instead. "You look exhausted."

Carson started to tell Ronon of Michaelís reactions to them all but held his tongue as he stripped down to boxers and a t-shirt and stood again. "Aye, I need some sleep," he nodded.

Ronon glanced at the clothes, somewhat disappointed, and nodded. "Then come sleep," he said, flipping the covers aside for Carson.

Carson caught the glance and smiled slightly before taking off the rest of his clothes and climbing into bed. "I know ye dinna like this, but thank ye for not fighting me on it," he murmured as he settled in by Ronon.

Shrugging slightly, Ronon slid an arm around Carsonís shoulders and drew him closer. "You wouldnít be you if you didnít want to help everyone."

"Aye," Carson murmured, resting his head on Rononís shoulder, and the sentinel ran his hand comfortingly over Carsonís back.

"But now all you need to do is relax," he said quietly.

"Iím honestly not sure I can," Carson admitted with a sigh even as he trailed a finger over Rononís chest.

"Then maybe I could do something to help with that," Ronon suggested, his voice deepening into a throaty purr that had Carson sucking in a quick breath.

"And what would that be?" he asked, allowing Ronon to distract him and glad of it.

"Oh, I thought I could start with licking every inch of you..."

"Ye will?" Carson asked, his voice going rough and husky.

Ronon nodded, the heavy locks of his hair falling over Carsonís chest as the sentinel slid down in the bed, his tongue trailing over his guideís throat.

"Ronon!" Carson gasped, tangling one hand in his sentinelís hair as he arched up off the bed.

"You taste good," Ronon murmured, nibbling along Carsonís collarbone as if he had all the time in the world. Carson opened his eyes to peer at him and finally shook his head.

"Iím surprised ye dinna think I taste of Wraith; I should have showered."

"You taste like you," Ronon murmured, moving slightly to catch a nipple between his teeth.

"Oh good," Carson breathed. "I dinna want ta discomfort ye."

"You wouldnít," Ronon assured him, shifting his attention to the other nipple while his hands skated over Carsonís body, causing him to gasp and writhe beneath him, the hand in his hair tightening as his breathing grew more unsteady. Ronon chuckled, slowly continuing lower, kisses intersperses with nips at Carsonís belly.

"Oh lord," Carson breathed as he slowly squirmed. "Yer going ta drive me mad, love."

"And then Iíll satisfy you and bring you back," Ronon rumbled against his navel.

"Which may drive me even more insane!"

Ronon chuckled. "Maybe I like you insane." A hand slid over Carsonís hip, cupping a firm buttock and kneading gently.

"Ye want a blithering idiot for a guide?" Carson gasped, his legs moving restlessly on the sheets and his free hand caressing whatever bits of warm flesh he could reach.

"I want a guide I can make crazy with wanting me," Ronon replied, sliding down a little more so his lips were hovering over the head of Carsonís cock, almost but not quite brushing him with every word, his breath teasing the sensitive flesh.

Carsonís gasping laugh was interspersed with a low moan as he tried to arch his hips up toward Rononís mouth. "Ye do that," he managed. "Every time I see you, I feel that way."

"Good." Ronon pressed Carsonís hips down before his tongue dragged over the tip of his erection, tasting the precome before he turned his head, placing a sucking kiss on the thin skin where his thigh joined his torso, and Carson groaned at the pleasure-pain, his back arching off of the bed as he lost his hold on Rononís hair, leaving his hand scrabbling for purchase.

"Please," he whispered.

"I will," Ronon promised, nuzzling between Carsonís legs to mouth his sac, his fingers sliding teasingly between his guideís cheeks, making Carson yelp and buck upward, opening himself to Rononís explorations even as he tried to twist to touch him. Ronon pulled Carsonís legs over his shoulders, sucking on first one ball and then the other before flicking his tongue over the exquisitely sensitive, smooth skin of his perineum.

A shudder ran though Carsonís body, and he whimpered, his cock leaking droplets of precome over his belly as Ronon explored his body.

"I want to be in you," Ronon whispered, raising his head to look up at Carson, causing the other man to blink in surprise, then smile.

"Of course, love. I want ye there too," he whispered, making Ronon smile and surge up to kiss him while grabbing for the lube.

Carson laughed breathlessly and hugged him close, biting at his lower lip for a brief moment before relaxing back against the pillows and looking up at him. "Lord, how I want ye."

"Iím yours," Ronon rasped, staring down into the bluest eyes heíd ever seen while he pressed a slick finger into Carsonís ass, Carson whimpering in response and clenching down around his finger.

"Now. Need ye," Carson gasped.

"Almost there," Ronon gritted out, adding another finger and stroking Carsonís prostate.

"Now," Carson demanded, working a hand between them and stroking Rononís erection, putting pressure on the spot just beneath the head that he knew drove the sentinel mad, making Ronon shudder and groan.

He pulled his hand free, quickly slicking his cock and then positioning himself, staring into Carsonís eyes as he pushed into him, a guttural moan ripped from him as the tight heat enveloped him. Carson groaned at the slight pain but held Ronon close, refusing to let him move away.

"Ye feel amazing," he rasped, hooking his legs around Rononís hips and rocking his own hips beneath the other man.

"You too," Ronon panted, his whole body shuddering at the sensation. "So tight," he murmured, pressing deeper. Heíd so rarely felt this, Tyre preferring to take him while Ronon took Melena, and it was so good.

Carson nodded, his hands clenching on Rononís back as they moved together, finding a rhythm that worked for both of them, each thrust brushing over his prostate and grinding his cock against Rononís stomach, sending pleasure through him.

"So good, so hot and tight," Ronon whispered, his deep voice somehow even darker than usual. "Wanna feel you come for me."

"Och, lad, love ye so much," Carson gasped, his voice barely audible though he knew Ronon would hear the words as if heíd spoken at a louder volume. His hips flexed as he arched up against Ronon, the other manís weight over him and the feel of Rononís hands on him taking him to the edge, then over it as he came.

The rippling spasms tore a cry from Ronon, the sensation magnified by his senses until he lost himself in it, everything else fading away. Carson recovered, realizing first that Ronon hadnít come and that he wasnít movingóor doing anything.

"Ronon?" he shifted to stroke a hand over Rononís cheek. "Címon, lad, come back."

It took a few moments, but then Ronon blinked, looking sheepish when he realized what had happened. "You felt really good," he offered in a throaty tone as he started moving again.

"Iím glad ye think so," Carson whispered, rubbing his hands over Rononís back as they moved together, continuing to speak and touch the other man to engage as many of his senses as possible.

"Sorry," Ronon whispered, his body tightening as he drew closer to coming.

"Fer what?" Carson asked in confusion before deciding that Rononís pleasure was more important than the answer, so he tightened down around the other man and kissed him, sweeping his tongue over Rononís.

Ronon shuddered and gasped, driving deep again as he came, surrounded by the taste, scent, and feel of his guide. Carson sighed in pleasure at the sensation and closed his eyes, feeling Ronon slowly relax on top of him.

"I hope you wonít mind doing that again sometime. Iíll be more careful," Ronon murmured, nuzzling Carsonís throat.

"Careful?"

"About my senses."

"Lad, ye were alone for years, then ye were thrown into all this. Iím bloody well amazed that ye havenít had one before." Carson paused though he continued to stroke Rononís back. "And Iíd love ta do that again whenever ye wantóand if ye happen ta lose yerself, Iíll bring ye back."

Ronon raised his head, regarding Carson searchingly for long moments before smiling. "I love you."

Carson smiled and sighed even as he blinked to keep his eyes open. "I love ye too, lad. And thank ye."

Ronon smiled crookedly. "I enjoyed it myself." He rolled to his back, drawing Carson with him, his arm securely around the physicianís waist.

"Ye did?" Carson teased gently. "And I meant thank ye fer letting me not think of whatís going on fer a while. I think I can sleep now." He rubbed his face over Rononís shoulder, then kissed the tattoo on his throat.

Everything seemed odd to Michael, unfamiliar, but hopefully the amnesia was temporary as Dr. Heightmeyer suggested. He sat alone at a table in the messhall, feeling uncomfortable but hoping something would strike a chord.

"Lt. Kenmore," Rodney said, coming to a stop by the table, trying not to clutch his data tablet too tightly or breath too deeply because, to him, the man still smelled like a Wraith.

"Michael, please." He smiled up at the dark-haired man, his eyebrows raised inquisitively.

"Yes, Michael. Oh, right, Iím Rodney McKay, Dr. Rodney McKay; Iím the chief scientist here. Howóhow are you feeling?"

"I feel fine... but I donít remember anything," Michael admitted. "Itís as if Iíd never been here before."

Rodney nodded at that, tipping the datapad he was carrying slightly. "Thatís understandable, and hopefully the memories will start coming back."

"Thatíd be good," Michael agreed. "Did you want to sit down?" he invited.

"Oh, I, uh, of course." Rodney sat down, setting his computer on the table beside him. "How was your lunch?"

Michael frowned slightly. "I must still be recovering. It was good, but I still feel hungry."

"Thatís how I always feel after I get out of the infirmary, and trust me, Iíve been in there enough."

Michael chuckled, sounding unpracticed. "I guess Iíll just have to take your word for that, Dr. McKay."

Rodney smiled at that, then made an abortive swipe at his nose. "Yes, you do that; everyone here knows Iím always right."

"Is something wrong? Something seems to be bothering you."

"No, no, not at all," Rodney said quickly. "Just busy is all; this place would fall apart without me."

"I guess I shouldnít keep you then." Michael got to his feet, finished with his meal.

"I didnít mean for you-" Rodney began before getting up as well. "Yes, well, have a good day, Michael. Donít overdo it."

Michael smiled quickly. "Iíll do my best. Iím supposed to meet with Teyla to spar."

"Really?" Rodney thought he hid his surprise well. "Donít let her hurt you."

"Funny, Dr. Beckett said something similar," Michael chuckled, making his way toward the transporter with his Marine guard close by.

"Heís having trouble sleeping," Carson reported. "Teyla mentioned heís been having dreams about the Wraith."

Kate nodded at that. "Heís mentioned that to me as well."

"Is his memory coming back?" Elizabeth asked worriedly, speaking for all of them.

"Not in any way he can understand," Kate said slowly.

"Canít you give him something to help him sleep?" Rodney asked.

Carson sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Iím reluctant ta change things."

"Heís reverting. Kill him," Ronon said bluntly, and John looked like he wanted to agree.

"But we can try a higher dose," Carson continued, giving his sentinel a firm look, which Ronon returned mutinously, clearly in disagreement.

"Will a higher dose bury his memories?" Elizabeth asked wearily, wishing Col. Carter and Dr. Field to perdition.

"It should," Carson said slowly. "Iím going ta have to talk ta Dr. Field again ta see what isnae in his notes."

"If it doesnít," John interjected, "then Iím afraid Iím going to have to deem him a danger to the city and lock him in the brig."

Carson sighed but nodded. "If thatís the case, then that will be what ye have ta do. Now if yeíll excuse me?" He stood and walked out of the conference room, and after a moment Ronon followed him.

"I hope it doesnít come to that," John said quietly, turning back to Elizabeth after watching them leave.

"As do I, mostly because of what it will do to Carson," she murmured.

"If that happens, can we invite Sam here and have him snack on her?" Rodney muttered.

"Please donít tempt me," Elizabeth said, allowing her annoyance to show since Kate and Teyla had left as well, leaving her alone with John and Rodney.

"Give me one reason why I shouldnít," Rodney asked.

"Because the SGC frowns upon feeding its members to alien life forms," Elizabeth replied, permitting herself to slump in her chair. "And with our luck, sheíd somehow be transformed instead and end up as a Wraith queen!"

"Okay, horrible idea!" John said with a shudder, and Rodney nodded.

"So we feed Field to him; does that work?"

"I think transferring him back to Earth with a black mark on his record will be sufficient," Elizabeth said quellingly.

"Iím sure Sam will give him a cushy job."

"Not if my recommendation has any influence," Elizabeth informed him, and Rodney gave a small smile.

"Good."

"How the hell did this happen?" John demanded furiously, glaring at everyone in the room impartially. "We knew that his memories were coming back, so how did he end up alone in Carsonís office long enough to get his hands on his records? I was under the impression that Iíd ordered him to be guarded!"

"It was my fault," Carson began.

"No, it wasnít!" Ronon snapped. "Field was the idiot who changed him, and the Marines were supposed to be guarding him."

"Well, heís dead now. And we have to ship Dr. Fieldís remains home," Rodney commented.

They all winced. "He was an ass, but he didnít deserve that," John said.

"Nay, he didnít," Carson said quietly.

"Carson, his death is not your fault," Elizabeth said, reaching out and placing her hand on his wrist. "We wouldnít have been in that position to begin with if he hadnít started this experiment."

"He created his own punishment," Ronon said prosaically, causing the others to glance at him, looking surprised.

"Too bad Sam couldnít have been there too," Rodney muttered under his breath, and John reached over and squeezed his hand.

"I think Col. Carter will think twice before interfering in Atlantis again," Elizabeth said.

"We can only hope," Carson sighed. "Are we done then?"

Elizabeth nodded, getting to her feet. "Itís been a long few days for all of us. Get some rest."

As the group stood and started walking out, Rodney wrapped his arm around Johnís waist. "I knew he never smelled right," he mused.

"He was a Wraith," John said, shrugging very slightly before putting his own arm around Rodney.

"And he was always going to be one no matter what we called him."

"Exactly," John agreed. "Ronon had the right of it. No matter what he looked like, he was a Wraith, and that made him our enemy. This was fucked up."

"Well, I hope Ronon doesnít remind Carson of that fact; heís feeling bad enough."

"I think right now Rononís only interest is in making Carson feel better," John assured him.

"Good." Rodney nodded. "I wouldnít want to have to kick his ass, even if he was right."

"And I wouldnít want to get killed trying to get you away from him!"

"Your faith in my abilities is so touching," Rodney sniffed, poking John in the side.

"Heís bigger than both of us put together," John pointed out, catching Rodneyís hand in his to prevent further pokes.

"Fine, fine. And why are you grabbing my hand?"

"Because Iíd rather not be black and blue!"

"Hrmm, and here youíre supposed to be the big, buff military man..."

"The image plays better if I donít look like a battered husband."

Rodney snorted. "You are such a baby. Should I kiss it and make it all better?"

"You have to ask?"

"Here in the hall?"

"I think we can go back to our room. With Michael dead, we donít have to worry about any threats inside the city, so I think we should celebrate."

Rodney nodded at that, then shuddered. "Or outside the cityóhim on the loose, that would have been worse."

John looked sick at the thought. "Iíd hate to imagine what could have happened."

"Nothing good, Iím sure."

"Me too. So letís go celebrate narrowly escaping disaster yet again."

"You know, I like the celebrating just as well without the disaster scenarios."

Chuckling wryly, John agreed. "But the universe doesnít seem to care about our preferences."

"Which goes to show you how fundamentally misguided it is."

"You can design the next one," John said soothingly.

"Good," Rodney grinned as they reached their room. "Now thatís something to celebrate."

~ CHAPTER 21 ~

"What does Norina not get about married?" John grumbled to Rodney when they had a moment in private.

"How do I know?" Rodney asked. "Maybe they donít have it here, but you canít tell me that ship didnít get you hard." The last was barely audible but was accompanied by a smirk.

John grinned. "Itís a close second after you. Sheís not even on the list, and if she leans toward you one more time, Iím going to shove her into a closet and lock the door!"

"She might try to drag you in there with her!" Rodney exclaimed. "She needs to go drag after Ronon and Carson."

"Ronon growled at her. Iíd try it if I thought it would do any good, but sheís a science groupie."

"Carson doesónever mind." Rodneyís head jerked up as if he was listening to something inaudible, and he shoved John toward a doorway. "Move!"

John allowed himself to be hustled along, simply commenting, "She was coming back already?"

"No." There was a low rumbling, and the whole room shook. "Earthquake!"

"Shit! Iím really starting to dislike this planet."

"You arenít the only one," Rodney gasped. "Itís time to leave, right?"

"Well, letís just make sure theyíre not all going to die from falling pieces of masonry when we do," John suggested. "Elizabeth did agree that you would try to figure out whatís causing the fluctuations in their shield power and fix it, if possible."

Rodney sighed but nodded. "Well, Iím going to charge them that ship to fix it."

"You think Iím going to argue with you? I want to fly an Ancient warship!"

"Why does that not surprise me?"

"Because youíre a genius."

"Exactly. And weíd better get back to the others; I can hear them, and I think Elizabethís worried about us."

"Worried weíre in a closet doing something we shouldnít be, you mean."

"There was a minor earthquake," Rodney pointed out. "We might have been hurt."

"Then I guess weíd better go reassure her that weíre in one piece. Maybe Norina might like her..."

"Which Radek wouldnít like!"

"But since when are we afraid of Radek?"

"I was trying to be considerate! Remember? You told me to practice it?"

"And youíre doing it very well," John assured him. "Iím just a little grouchy after a few hours of alternating between fending Norina off and watching her hit on you."

Rodney sighed and hugged him close before they started walking. "Well, hopefully I can solve their problems and we can go home so I can make you feel better."

"Iím going to hold you to that," John told him. "This has not been my idea of a fun day."

"And you think me playing Mr. Fix-it is? Just think of the ship, Colonel," Rodney soothed as they entered the main room to see Carson assisting one of the staff while Ronon stood nearby, watching the room.

"I really want that ship," John said, for Rodneyís ears only, causing the other man to smile thinly.

"How often have those tremors been occurring?" Rodney asked as he went over to the console, frowning as he looked at the readouts.

"They started shortly after I noticed the fluctuations in our shieldís power," Norina explained. "They have been fairly frequent in recent days."

Rodney frowned as he entered several commands, then cursed under his breath.

"What is it?" Elizabeth asked.

"Is this log correct in that youíve been running the shield continuously for a year now?"

"When the long range scanners activated," Norina smiled her thanks to John for the terminology provided during an earlier conversation, "they indicated a sudden rise in Wraith activity last year, and Chancellor Lycus ordered me to increase the strength of the shield."

"Thatís very unfortunate because the Ancients didnít design these things to run continuously on maximum power.

"Look, shields are for emergencies only, Norina. When you shut down the alarms, you overrode the failsafes, and that means that weíre..." He looked at his laptop and stared at it in horror. "Oh no."

"What is it?" John and Norina asked in near perfect stereo, both moving to read over Rodneyís shoulders, John sliding an arm around him to keep her back.

"The reason the Ancients chose to power this facility on geothermal energy is because weíre sitting right smack in the caldera of a dormant supervolcano... or should I say formerly dormant, because drawing all of this energy from the magma chamber has made it extremely active."

Johnís hand tightened on Rodneyís shoulder. "Soóthings are gonna get worse."

Rodney looked back at him at that, his face ashen. "Yeah, I can safely say that things are going to get worse."

Chancellor Lycus and Elizabeth joined them a few minutes later in response to Johnís radio call to Weir, and she looked out the window before turning back with a quizzical expression. "I donít see any volcano."

"Because youíre standing inside it right now. Look, when you think of regular volcanoes, you think Mount St. Helens or, uh, Kilauea." Rodney looked around as he steepled his fingers to show them what a volcano normally looked like.

"And supervolcanos?" Elizabeth asked.

"Yellowstone National Park, with a caldera over fifty miles wide and a massive sea of molten rock just beneath the surface."

The specific references meant nothing to the Taranians, but they understood the meaning and the way the Atlanteans blanched. John had to swallow hard before asking, "So the Ancients thought, what the hell, plenty of energy down there to run the shield?"

"Yes, but not continuously," Rodney sighed before scowling when the others offered several theories and possible ways to decrease the volcanoís pressure.

"Look, youíre still not getting it. Listen to me, all of you. When this thing erupts, the force of the explosion will be over ten thousand times greater than the blast that destroyed Mount St. Helens. It will obliterate half of this continent.

"The dust cloud will envelop the planet within weeks, blocking out enough sunlight to kill every living thing. We are talking about an Extinction Level Event." He turned to Lycus. "Look, the only option youíve got is to evacuate your people to another planetóand I would advise doing it sooner rather than later."

Lycus turned and left, and after a moment Elizabeth followed him, arriving back at his office shortly after he did.

"Chancellor Lycus, Dr. McKay is the finest scientist we have. I trust his advice without reservation."

"And I donít know you."

Elizabeth frowned, pointing out, "You asked for our help, and we came."

"To fix our field generator, not incite evacuation of our planet."

"Your shield generator is whatís causing this problem. Now, we would not advise such drastic measures unless there was no other alternative."

"Iím just finding it curious that you advise us to leave this planet shortly after you discover that we possess an Ancient warship."

"You think weíre trying to get you to leave so we can take your ship?" Elizabeth asked incredulously.

"As I said, I donít know you."

Another tremor put an end to the discussion, especially once the chancellor realized that this time fissures were opening in the ground. Together they rushed back to the control room to rejoin the two scientists and John.

"Is everyone all right?" Elizabeth asked immediately.

John nodded, looking up from the technician whose head he was bandaging. "Just a few bumps and bruises."

"Though we need to leave sooner rather than later," Rodney put in.

"That means your people too," John said to the chancellor. "You need to get them off this planet now."

"They can come to Atlantis," Elizabeth offered. "Theyíll be safe there. If we didnít answer your call for help, this would still be happening," she added when Lycus hesitated, and after a moment he nodded reluctantly and ordered the evacuation of Taranis.

"I cannot believe these people," Rodney grumbled under his breath to John as they watched and helped with the evacuation. "Donít they realize something has to be powering their magical mystical shield?"

The colonel shrugged. "Sure, but if itís always worked before, people tend to believe that it always will."

"Idiots," Rodney sighed.

John chuckled. "Is there anyone you donít consider an idiot?"

"You," Rodney stated without hesitation. "Radek at times. Carson for the voodoo. Teyla and Ronon for saving our asses..." He paused, mulling the question over. "Elizabeth. Thatís it."

"An elite group. But youíd better not ever let Lindstrom and Cadman find out that they arenít members," John said, trying not to laugh as he imagined the results.

"Iím not telling them; are you? And they arenít idiots."

"See, the group is bigger than you thought. And funny enough, theyíre all people who call you a friend."

Rodney thought that over and nodded shallowly, but whatever he said was lost in the rumble of another tremor, then forgotten as they began evacuating the planet.

"Iím amazed you have time to come to this thing; youíre almost living in that ship," Rodney commented as he and John walked toward the conference room that had been commandeered for the evening. "Hell, Iím amazed I have time; I hate this kind of crap."

John snorted. "As if Iíd be living anywhere you werenít sleeping too. And you know you like these people, so quit pretending otherwise. Itís good for all the guides and sentinels to get together sometimes. Iím glad Markham and Stackhouse thought of it. By the time itís our turn to host, weíll be old hands at this."

"Weíre going to be last in hosting," Rodney shuddered.

"Weíll survive," John assured him, trying not to laugh.

"You can get the food and drinks when we do it!"

"And you can keep Mole out of them."

Rodney grinned and nodded. "I can do that. I can even get more chairs for us."

"My hero." John batted his eyelashes at him.

"So you wonít mind if I get us out of here early?" Rodney asked hopefully.

"Weíre not leaving as soon as we get there," John said repressively. "But if you really hate it, after a hour and a half or so, we can go."

Rodney sighed and hugged John close. "Fine, fine. The things I do for youÖ"

"You know you like them too," John retorted before giving him a quick kiss. "And you canít say itís because Laura doesnít know you."

Rodney glowered at him, then they were at the conference room and the door was opening. Leo Stackhouse grinned at them and waved them in. "Doc, Colonel, come on in. Weíve got beer, the hard stuff and sodas; can I get you anything? All of itís guaranteed citrus free."

Rodney gave a grudging smile at that. "Iíll take some scotch if you have any."

Carson nodded at that and held up his glass. "Aye, and itís quite good."

"You people do have good liquor," Ronon agreed, taking a swallow of his own scotch.

"Glad you like something about us," John chuckled. "Although you seem to be partial to Scottish exports."

"Aye, well thatís because weíre the best," Carson laughed before pulling Ronon in for a kiss.

"You tell Ďem, Carson," Laura laughed.

Lorne shook his head as he came up to them, handing a glass to Laura. "Lisaís helping Eric with the beer. Theyíll be back in a minute... assuming they donít stop to drink it all on the way."

"I hope no one wants beer," John said wryly.

Rodney cocked his head to the side and chuckled. "Theyíre comingóand not in any puerile way!"

"Why would we think that?" Carson grinned while Leo burst out laughing

"Yeah, right, care to bet on that, Colonel?"

"I never make bets where sentinels are involved," John replied, grinning.

"Smart man!" Carson laughed, toasting John with his glass.

"I think Carsonís a little tipsy," Rodney snickered.

"I like it," Ronon announced, pulling Carson closer and kissing him again.

"Iím shocked," John muttered.

"Itís sweet," Laura murmured, smiling as she watched the other pair.

"Yeah, it kind of is," John agreed, sliding an arm around Rodney to draw him close.

"It wonít be if Carson pukes one him," Rodney snickered.

"I can handle my liquor," Carson sniffed before nuzzling Rononís throat.

"But maybe we should get something to eat," Ronon suggested. "I like those cocktail weenies."

Rodney slammed his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing, and Laura nodded. "Food might be good; Leo said they had something they wanted to do tonight.

"No group sex!" Carson said forcefully.

Everyone turned as one and stared at him.

"Uh, no, that wasnít on the planned activities for the evening," John said eventually.

"Food now," Ronon said, pulling Carson toward the table.

"Maybe you should have had some sodas," Laura laughed, looking at Leo, who nodded.

"Who would have thought Dr. Beckett..."

"Carson, lad!"

Leo glanced over at the doctor, who was grinning as Ronon fed him the little hot dogs. "You got it, Carson."

"Can we go now?" Rodney begged.

"No," Lisa said from behind him. "Socialize, Rodney. No one here bites except the colonel, and I doubt you mind that."

John laughed. "Sheís got your number."

Rodney scowled at that. "Itís not the biting Iím worrying about!"

Leo grabbed the case of beer Lisa was carrying and stole a kiss from Eric before carrying it over to a tub full of ice and beginning to set the cans in it. "Think, Doc, would anyone here even think of coming on to you?"

"And donít you dare think itís because of what youíre thinking," Laura said sharply.

"More like we already have someone... and the colonel would shoot us dead," Lisa snickered.

"Damn right!" John said. "And I might do it if you keep calling me colonel during our off hours."

"So we should call you John?" Leo asked. "We should have started this a long time ago!í

John grinned. "What can I say, Iím just a naturally intimidating guy."

Lisa snorted, and Laura and Lorne bracketed her and kissed her while Carson snickered.

"You all are insane," Rodney sighed before taking a sip of his scotch, "though you do have good taste in scotch."

"And friends," John added, stealing Rodneyís drink and taking a swallow. "That is good."

"Only the best for us," Eric said.

"Like the weenies," Carson chuckled, feeding one to Ronon, causing the others to laugh.

"I like the weenies," Ronon agreed, moving a little closer to them.

"Take the whole container," Rodney suggested as they all got snacks and drinks and moved back to their seats. "So, whatís the agenda this evening?"

Eric sat down at Leoís feet, leaning back against his guideís knees. "We thought it would be interesting to learn more about each other, tell each other what our spirit animals are."

"Well, that could be interesting," Lisa said after a momentís thought.

"Kind of personal," John said, although he didnít seem to object.

"Who better to share with?" Eric pointed out. "Weíre all in the same situation, even you, Major," he added to Lorne.

"I donít think I have a spirit animal," he commented wryly, and Carson laughed aloud.

"I havenít thought of mine in a long time," he admitted.

"Mineís an arctic fox," Lisa said from where she was curled up on one side of Evan, Laura leaning on his other side.

"While Iím a red fox," Laura grinned.

"Yes, you are," Lorne laughed, causing Laura to smack him on the side of his head.

"Spanish lynx here," Leo offered.

"Snow leopard," Eric said.

"And Iím a timber wolf," John said.

"Felinid here," Ronon said, making them all look at him blankly. He searched his memory for Earth references and finally smiled. "Very like what you call a black-maned lion."

"What about you, Rodney?" Laura asked, and the physicist shook his head, making John tighten his arm around Rodneyís shoulders before he mumbled something unintelligible.

"Iíll tell if ye will, Rodney," Carson offered before stealing one of Rononís weenies, making the sentinel pretend to growl before offering him the plate.

"Only if you want to," John said quietly, setting his drink down so he could stroke Rodneyís thigh.

"Otter," Rodney repeated somewhat louder, waiting for the othersí laughter, then surprised when none came.

"That makes sense," Leo nodded, "theyíre smart."

"And cute," John added.

Rodney stared at him, and John returned a blandly innocent stare. "Well, they are, and so are you."

"Theyíre so cute," Lisa said to Laura.

"We are not cute!" Rodney sputtered, causing Carson to dissolve into laughter.

Ronon considered them for a moment before saying, "Sheís right; you are."

John cast him an accusing look. "We guys are supposed to stick together, Ronon."

"Why?"

John sputtered, and Laura covered her mouth to muffle her laughter.

"Because you need safety in numbers?"

"I think I should have stuck to rank," John sighed, making Evan laugh.

"Too late, sir. John," he immediately corrected himself.

"So what are you, Carson?" Leo asked, saving Evan from more laughter.

"A bear," Carson said, before glancing at Ronon, "a black bear."

John considered him, head cocked slightly. "That seems fitting."

"Everyone has a fierce carnivore but me," Rodney muttered.

"And thatís fitting too," Ronon said. "You rely on your brains first; thatís your greatest strength, and we all rely on that as well."

John gave Ronon a grateful look while Rodney stared at him, open-mouthed.

"Do you even know what an otter is?"

"He may not, but heís right," Laura nodded.

"I have been reading your database," Ronon replied. "How do you think I knew what a lion was?"

Rodney scowled at him before chomping down on a cracker.

"So, why do ye want ta know that?" Carson asked curiously.

Eric shrugged easily. "Our spirit animals show more of our inner selves. Letís face it, Lisa and Laura as playful foxes, Rodney as a clever otter, Carson as a protective mother bear, Ronon with the sheer strength and raw determination of a lion, John as the lone wolf who mates for life... Tell me that doesnít help us understand each other."

"Hey, Leo," Laura commented, "did you know Eric was that deep?"

"Damn right I did," the guide grinned, leaning down to kiss his sentinel.

"He appreciates me properly," Eric assured them all when he could speak again.

"So we see," John said, sounding amused.

"Insane people," Rodney sighed.

"Thatís why we all fit in here," Lisa retorted. "Itís the only way not just to survive Atlantis but make it home."

"The lass has a definite point," Carson nodded, stealing another of Rononís weenies. "This place is home."

"Of course it is. We all know none of us is going back to Earth," Eric said, shrugging.

Rodney nodded almost violently at that. "Damn right."

"This is where we belong. Now we just need to get rid of the Wraith so we can enjoy it," John said.

"A few more years and weíll have it done," Laura promised, "then we can relax."

Ronon looked around, seeing that they truly believed what they were saying. "The Ancestors had to flee the galaxy, and no one had been able to do that in all the generations since, but you believe you will?"

John turned to meet the Satedanís eyes. "Yes, we will. We have most of the Ancientsí technology, the space flight ability to take the war to the Wraith that most of your Pegasus cultures lack, the resolve, and we give a damn about the people here. Weíll win."

"And we have one main thing they didnít," Rodney added.

Carson frowned in confusion. "What is that?"

"Me."

John hid a grin while the others either gaped at Rodney or grinned.

"Much as I hate to feed his ego," Lisa said, "heís right."

Rodney smirked at that and picked up a cookie from John's plate.

"Did you see Carson? He was drunk!"

"I think heís allowed. Heís still getting over being separated from Ronon on Taranis and thinking he was dead. That whole mission was a mess."

"Not arguing with that." Rodney shuddered as he remembered how, for a brief time, he hadnít known where John was. "But it got you a ship."

"A very cool ship," John agreed with the grin that appeared every time anyone mentioned the Aurora.

"You sure you donít want to go see her?"

"Iíve given her her TLC for the day; now itís your turn."

"And just what kind of TLC do you have planned?" Rodney asked curiously.

"The kind leaves you limp, sweaty, and smiling when Iím done."

"My favorite type of plans."

John locked the door behind them with a thought as they entered their quarters and nudged Rodney toward the bed, his hands reaching for the fastenings on Rodneyís clothes.

"I do hope that this isnít the type of TLC that you give the Aurora," Rodney murmured, closing his eyes and listening to John move about him, concentrating more on that than the feel of his hands.

"No, this is reserved entirely for you," John replied, kneeling down to remove Rodneyís shoes, then standing up and drawing his naked body against Johnís fully clothed one.

Touch spiked, and Rodney sucked in a gasp, reaching out to stroke a hand through Johnís hair.

"Mmm, like that, do you?" John whispered, sliding his hands down Rodneyís back, his leather wristband coming to rest just above the curve of Rodneyís ass.

"John!" Rodney gasped, squirming beneath his touch, the slight abrasion of the leather against his skin causing his breathing to quicken.

"Right here," John replied, lightly scraping the nails of his other hand along Rodneyís spine, making Rodney whimper and writhe against him. "Youíre all mine," he murmured, placing a line of nibbling kisses along Rodneyís jaw.

"Then take me," Rodney whispered before twisting his head to catch Johnís mouth with his own.

"I will," John promised, reaching down to unfasten his pants and pull himself free while Rodney dragged his shirt over his head, each hair on his chest catching on his fingertips, making John shudder with pleasure. "Love you," John breathed against Rodneyís ear, pushing him onto the bed and stretching out on top of him after pausing just long enough to remove his shoes and the last of his clothes.

Rodney nodded in answer, his hands skimming down Johnís back even as he hooked his legs around his waist. "Love you, want you."

"Youíve got me," John rasped, grabbing the lube from the nightstand to prepare Rodney, neither of them wanting to wait.

"Damn right I doóor will," Rodney sighed, clutching Johnís ass and letting his fingers trail along the crack.

Shivering with pleasure, John pushed two fingers inside Rodney, stretching and slicking him.

Rodney groaned, his eyes dilating as he kissed John again, twisting his hips to get him deeper. John obliged him by pushing harder and then crooking his fingers, groaning at Rodneyís reaction.

"Now," Rodney gasped into Johnís mouth, tightening down on the fingers and twisting his head to suck on Johnís earlobe.

"Yes," John panted, pulling his fingers free even as Rodney clenched down on him and slicking himself up. A moment later he was pushing into Rodney, groaning at the tight grip on his cock.

Rodney gasped into Johnís ear and arched up under him as he was filled and claimed, reveling in the sensation and wanting to do everything he could to share it with John.

"God, perfect," John rasped, turning his head to take Rodneyís mouth while sliding in and out of him, the sentinel moving with each thrust, sometimes anticipating it and grinding up against him. Their rhythm gradually sped up and then slowed again as they sought to prolong their pleasure.

"Amazing," Rodney breathed, his panting rubbing his chest against Johnís, the coarse hair there brushing against his hardened nipples and sending bolts of pleasure through him.

"We always are." John managed a crooked grin.

"And always will be."

John could only nod, his thrusts speeding up again, Rodney matching his pace and managing to get a hand between them to stroke his own cock.

"Almost there," John panted, moving a hand to flick a thumb over one of Rodneyís nipples.

"Together?" Rodney asked, his free hand clenching on Johnís shoulder.

"God, yes," John groaned, shuddering as his balls tightened.

Rodney heard the change in Johnís heartbeat, and he focused wholly on his guide, his body reacting and exploding with pleasure at the first spasm of Johnís climax. Feeling Rodneyís convulsions only increased Johnís pleasure, each of them feeding off the other in what seemed a never-ending spiral of sensation until it finally began to ebb, leaving them tangled together in sweaty satiation.

"If we could bottle this, we wouldnít need more ZPMs to power the city," Rodney murmured dopily.

John grinned against Rodneyís throat. "Not putting on shows."

"Who said something about putting on a show?"

"Ah, weíre just going to keep locking ourselves in random rooms to power the city?"

"What makes you think I couldnít set up a collector here?"

"What makes you think weíd ever leave this room again if you did?"

Rodney opened his mouth, then shut it again and blinked. "Good question."

John laughed. "Guess weíd better stick to powering the city by ZPM and keeping this for our off hours."

"Ah well," Rodney sighed, shifting enough to get comfortable, "I have enough projects as it is; explaining to Elizabeth that I wanted to spend time working on a sex-powered generator would be a bit much."

John raised his head and stared incredulously at Rodney before bursting into laughter, and Rodney scowled at him for a moment before joining in.

"Can you imagine her face?"

That set John off again, but he managed to nod as he doubled over.

"Of course maybe she and Radek would try it out then..."

"Stop, stop," John begged, tears of laughter leaking from the corners of his eyes.

"Or what?" Rodney grinned, noticing how close John was to the edge of the bed.

"Youíre trying to kill me," John panted, twisting to look up at Rodney and then letting out a startled yelp when he fell off the bed.

"No, IímóJohn?" Rodney scrambled to the side of the bed to look down at him. "Are you all right? Did you crack your head open? Do I need to call Carson?"

"For falling out of bed?" John stared up at him. "If he didnít kill you, Ronon would." Chuckling, he sat up.

"Good point, and Carson was pretty looped, so I wouldnít want him doing brain surgery on you anyway," Rodney mused.

"I thought you were convinced my head was invulnerable thanks to my hair?" John commented wryly as he got back into bed and was pulled back into Rodneyís arms and half on top of him.

"You never know, you might have hit a thin spot."

"I donít have thin spots!" John exclaimed, a hand shooting to the top of his head, a move that had Rodney snickering.

"True, you donít. Now are you over your fright so we can go to sleep?"

"Jerk," John grumbled although he didnít really expect Rodney to take him seriously, considering that he was tucking his head against the curve of Rodneyís shoulder in his favorite position to go to sleep as he said it.

"But Iím your jerk," Rodney murmured, kissing the top of his head and thinking the lights off even as he dragged the blanket over them both.

END

 

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