If at First...

Orithain

August 2005-October 2007

Disclaimers: Would I be sitting here writing instead of watching them if they were mine?

Chapter 2 ~ Chapter 3 ~ Chapter 4 ~ Chapter 5 ~ Chapter 6 ~ Chapter 7 ~ Chapter 8

~ Chapter 1 ~

Everything had seemed so promising. The initial MALP had shown a viable atmosphere, so they’d come through the gate, knowing that they might never see Earth again. And then the city had begun to turn itself on, reacting to their presence, raising their hopes that they would be able to remain here, using Atlantis itself as their base in the Pegasus galaxy. How could they have known that that very sign of welcome would be their downfall?

Atlantis’ ZPMs were nearly drained, and the sudden draw on them as the city powered up took the last of their charge. McKay, who was attempting to access the city mainframe, quickly realized what was happening and had Elizabeth stop the exploration, but it was already too late.

Atlantis was sitting on the bottom of the ocean, under several hundred feet of water, and without the ZPMs, the shields holding it back collapsed, allowing the water to begin flooding into the city. And then to make matters worse, in a last ditch attempt to save itself, the city closed its bulkheads, trapping people in flooding compartments scattered throughout the central area.

McKay worked frantically to open the bulkheads, desperately trying to save at least some of the expedition members, while Elizabeth ran down to the ship bay they’d discovered earlier to see if they could escape that way. Sheppard and Zelenka were checking the ship that seemed different from the others when McKay called them over the radio, telling them that the control room was flooding and he and Grodin were trapped.

"Seal the ship and go!" he yelled. "It’s too late."

"Rodney," Elizabeth started, desperate to save someone, anyone, but knowing she had no way of reaching him.

Sheppard flung himself into the pilot’s seat, trying to figure out how to fly the craft while part of him listened to the conversation behind him with a growing sense of desperation. They had Zelenka with them, but McKay was the chief scientist on this expedition, and even on limited acquaintance, Sheppard knew it was for good reason. They needed him.

Suddenly, as if in response to his desire, a hatch opened, and Sheppard flew the ship through it, his control of the craft improving with each passing second as he got the feel of it, and it responded to his every whim as if connected to him. Another hatch opened ahead of them, letting water pour through, and he found himself staring into the nearly flooded control room and McKay’s terrified blue eyes.

Sheppard spun the ship around so that the end was facing McKay and somehow opened the hatch with a thought. Initially startled, Zelenka and Weir still reacted quickly and reached out to grab McKay even as water began to pour in. The moment he was inside, the hatch slammed shut again, and water began to drain out through unseen vents.

"Grodin," McKay coughed, collapsed on all fours on the floor of the ship, Weir and Zelenka hovering around him.

"We didn’t see him, Rodney," Weir said softly, sadly.

"Though it may not matter," Sheppard grated. "How the hell do we get out of here without power to use the gate?"

The words had no sooner left his lips than they suddenly found themselves in space.

"What the hell!" Sheppard exclaimed, startled, only to yelp when someone shot at them. Several moments of confusion ensued, being fired upon and somehow managing to shoot back, and then nothing.

Elizabeth woke an unknown time later, opening her eyes to find a stranger standing over her. She had no idea where she was, but her first thought was for her companions. "My friends? McKay, Sheppard, Zelenka?" Her eyes pleaded for a positive response, and the stranger smiled briefly as he inclined his head to one side. Following the direction he indicated, Elizabeth gasped with relief as she saw the three men in nearby beds.

Rodney was lying flat on his back, mouth slightly open and snoring softly, a sound that filled Elizabeth with relief. In the next bed, Dr. Zelenka was sprawled on his belly, spread-eagled to cover every inch of the surface, drooling slightly onto the pillow his face was mashed into. Even his glasses had survived and were on the table next to him, slightly bent but intact. And finally, there was John Sheppard, shifting restlessly until the hazel eyes snapped open, instantly taking in his surroundings.

"Dr. Weir," he said, his eyes on the man standing over her.

"Major. I’m glad to see you survived. But I’m still not sure how." She turned a questioning gaze on the stranger, eyebrows rising inquisitively.

"Your ship was shot down," he explained. "We don’t know how you got here, though the ship is a clue since it’s the time machine I built."

"Time machine?" John exclaimed. "Who are you, H.G. Wells?" He subsided under Weir’s glare.

"I am unfamiliar with that person. My name is Janus." He smiled and bowed slightly.

"Where are we?" Elizabeth asked, drawing his attention back to her.

"You are in my people’s home, Atlantis."

"At—" Elizabeth stopped and swallowed hard, looking over at John and meeting his startled gaze. She hesitated before saying, "In our time, Atlantis has been abandoned for ten thousand years."

Janus eyes widened. "So long before anyone returns to our city?"

"You don’t," John said bluntly, drawing their eyes to him. "You never returned to Atlantis." He left out the part about ascending, since he didn’t really understand that himself, and there was the whole issue of giving too much knowledge of the future and changing it. "We did."

"And you are?" Janus was intrigued by these people and looked forward to getting to know all four of them if the other two were like these.

"Maj. John Sheppard, US Air Force, senior surviving military officer of the Atlantis expedition under the command of Dr. Elizabeth Weir." He indicated Weir with a glance. "A human being from Earth, which I think means something to you, and one of the few who has the gene from your race."

Janus was left momentarily speechless, the implications of that almost beyond his comprehension. "You are our descendents, from our original home?" he said softly.

"I don’t know how many actually have any Ancient genetic heritage," Elizabeth explained quietly. "There are very few who can activate your technology—Maj. Sheppard is the only one of the four of us who can—but we did evolve on Earth. Whether that’s entirely due to your presence, completely independent, or a result of your tendency to seed other planets with humanoid life is anyone’s guess. Mine would be a combination of all three."

Janus sat down on the empty bed next to her. "So much to take in," he murmured. "But your presence tells me that our plans to save the city succeeded. Ten thousand years from now, Atlantis will still stand."

"Well..." John suddenly found his wrist fascinating.

"That’s why we’re here, Janus," Elizabeth said gently. "The ZPMs—the power sources you use—were almost depleted when we arrived. Powering up the city drained them completely; the shield collapsed. My entire team drowned, aside from the four of us. The city was lost to the ocean."

Janus gasped, his eyes closing briefly. "It is senseless to feel the loss when you’re telling me of events ten thousand years in the future, yet I do."

"If you could help us return, give us another power source, we could prevent that," Elizabeth suggested eagerly, sitting up and leaning forward while Sheppard watched warily.

"Perhaps." Janus considered it and nodded. "We will have to make the request of the Atlantean council, but I feel it is my duty to help since I am in part responsible for you being here."

Elizabeth chuckled wearily. "Though that may be true, and we are grateful for your help, I must say that we prefer being here to being dead."

Sheppard laughed as well. "Yeah, things weren’t looking too good for us back in the future. But then apparently something’s not so great for you, or you wouldn’t have abandoned the city." He watched Janus closely, seeking any information.

"I take it you did not have time to encounter the Wraith?"

"Who?" Sheppard asked, part of his attention on the two scientists who were beginning to stir. He noticed them sit up, Zelenka spotting and putting on his glasses, both of them silent as they listened to the conversation, taking in data.

To the growing horror of his listeners, Janus explained who and what the Wraith were and why they were the reason his people were abandoning the city and fleeing back to Earth.

After a moment of stunned silence, McKay spoke for them all when he demanded, "And you couldn’t leave a ‘beware of evil, life-sucking aliens’ warning with the address at the outpost?"

"Well, that went well," Sheppard observed after the fiasco of their interview with the Atlantean council. Not even Weir’s undoubted diplomatic skills had made a dent in what McKay termed the Ancients’ ‘smug superiority’, and now the four refugees from the future were supposed to live out their lives ten thousand years in their own past.

Even Elizabeth looked annoyed and frustrated by the events of the last hours, and she paced restlessly around Janus’ lab, where they’d all instinctively headed. "We can’t stay here," she said, looking at Janus. "You have to see that."

He nodded. "Yes. You would not be comfortable living with my people, and from what you tell me, your own are at very primitive level of civilization at present. But I have an idea." All eyes focused on him, and he smiled almost nervously.

"First, the city itself. I’m programming a failsafe so that if the shield is about to collapse, the city will rise to the surface. That will prevent your team from drowning. As for the power, I have an idea for that as well."

McKay and Zelenka leaned forward curiously.

"The power sources, ZPMs as you call them, were designed to work in tandem. However, I believe that if they were to work sequentially, it would extend their life."

McKay was already nodding, as was Zelenka. "Yes, I see it. But what would trigger the switch over?"

"That’s where you come in."

"How so?" Sheppard asked warily, prepared to defend the remaining civilians under his care, even if he wasn’t quite sure from what.

"Someone will have to change them over manually."

Rodney stared. "I don’t know about your species, but ours doesn’t live ten thousand years!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth said sharply, but Janus silenced her with a raised hand and a spare shake of his head.

"If you were not here, Dr. McKay, and you, Dr. Zelenka, the only option would be for someone to use the stasis chamber, timed to awaken them at the required intervals. However, from what you have told me, you have already had some success understanding and working with my people’s technology. I believe that with my notes, you could build another time ship."

As Janus stopped speaking, his words caused one of those pregnant silences that seem to last an eternity. Then everyone began to talk at once until McKay’s strident tones cut over them all.

"Since we already know that the ship can be built, with the complete notes of course I can build another one. Assuming that the necessary materials are available in the city?"

Janus nodded. "It will take some time to complete, months perhaps, but yes, everything that I used is still here and will remain here after we evacuate to Earth. My notes also include formulas for figuring duration of travel, but those are, of course, purely theoretical. You may require several jumps to achieve the correct intervals to reset the power sources."

"Yes, yes, I’m sure we’ll manage. Zenlewsky..."

"Zelenka!"

"Whatever. We’ll need..." The two scientists huddled together over the pad with Janus’ notes, already deep into the problem. Sheppard watched them with amusement before turning back to Janus.

"If we’re going to be here for a while, you’d better show us how we get food and water around here. I’d really rather not starve to death in the interim."

"Of course." Janus glanced at McKay and Zelenka. "Should we wait for them?"

Elizabeth laughed. "I think it will be up to Maj. Sheppard and me to make sure they stop to eat occasionally, never mind actually find or prepare the meals, so no. As long as the two of us are aware, we can tell them later, when we actually have their attention."

"No citrus," McKay suddenly announced before returning to his huddle with Zelenka.

In answer to Janus’ raised eyebrows, Elizabeth explained, "He’s allergic. We’d rather not kill him by accident."

"No, I’d rather do it on purpose," John muttered, making her hide a smile.

Sheppard and Weir hid behind a large column on one of the balconies overlooking the control room, and they watched as the people of Atlantis evacuated their once-great city. McKay and Zelenka were still poring over Janus’ notes, not bothering to observe the Ancients’ departure since, as McKay put it, "We don’t know them, and they couldn’t be bothered helping us, so why would I waste time watching them leave?"

The leader of the council approached Janus and asked, "Where are Dr. Weir and her companions?"

"They have already returned to Earth," Janus replied without blinking an eye. "They were among the first to leave."

The other Atlantean regarded him for a moment before nodding. "Good."

As the others were caught up in their departure preparations, Janus took advantage of their distraction to slip away for a final word with the visitors from the future. "Good luck, my friends, and thank you for giving me hope that Atlantis will last for another ten thousand years after you rediscover her."

Weir and Sheppard smiled and watched as Janus and the others stepped through the stargate and it shut down, leaving them alone in the city. They remained motionless for a moment before John shook himself. "Let’s go see what we can do to help our geeks."

~ Chapter 2 ~

Weir and Sheppard made their way back to Janus’ lab, which McKay and Zelenka had taken over as theirs, and McKay looked up briefly when they came in. "Oh, are they gone now?" he asked indifferently, already turning back to his work.

The two in the doorway exchanged looks of disbelief at McKay’s utter lack of concern about the fact that they were now the only living beings in the city, aside from a few plants. "Yes, Rodney, they’re all gone," Elizabeth said, hoping for some reaction.

"Good, we won’t have to worry about them noticing what we’re doing and trying to stop us then."

"You do realize that we’re completely alone now, right?" Sheppard prodded. "It’s just the four of us until you can build one of those ships and get us back to our own time."

"We are not building entire ship," Zelenka corrected absently without looking away from his calculations. "Just time travel system to adapt existing ship."

"Oh right, how could I forget?" Sheppard rolled his eyes. "That’s so much easier."

"It is, actually," McKay said, turning to look at them finally. "Too bad you won’t be of any use aside from carrying things."

Sheppard’s eyes narrowed slightly, and he announced with saccharine sweetness, "There’s an error in your formula. You inverted your last calculation."

"What! I’ll have you know..." McKay was off on another verbal rampage, but curious, Zelenka checked the calculation, then turned to stare at the major curiously. "Rodney, he’s right."

"Of course he... He’s right?" McKay stared at the monitor in disbelief before adding his stare to Zelenka’s. Elizabeth, who’d had access to Maj. Sheppard’s personnel files, smiled.

"I’m always right about math," Sheppard replied blandly.

"You’re... What, now you think you’re some kind of genius?"

"Rodney?" Elizabeth interrupted before he could dig himself deeper. "He is. Maj. Sheppard’s IQ is higher than most members of your science team."

Sheppard shrugged modestly when Rodney’s stare swung back to him.

"And you’re a soldier?" he asked in disbelief.

"The Air Force let me fly. Math didn’t." It was that simple for John. "Oh, and considering that there are only the four of us here, ranks seem pretty pointless. It’s John."

Elizabeth nodded, pleased that he’d been the one to suggest it. "That makes sense," she agreed.

"Fine, fine. Since you’re apparently not quite as dumb as a post, you can check these calculations." Rodney shoved a datapad at the major, at John, and immersed himself in his own work.

John and Elizabeth exchanged wry glances before the major sat down and began reviewing calculations, soon as oblivious to anything around him as the two scientists. Elizabeth shook her head with a faint smile and went to round up some food for all of them. Since she couldn’t help with the theoretical part of all this, at least she could make sure they stayed in good health.

After swallowing a mouthful of his dinner, John said, "This stuff may be better than MREs but not by much. You’d think a race that could fly an entire city to another galaxy would be able to make a decent processed meal, wouldn’t you?"

"I like them," Rodney said.

All three of the others stared at him.

"What?" he asked defensively. "They’re nutritious; they’re quick and easy; they’re efficient."

"So you will be perfectly happy living on them without chocolate or coffee for as long as we’re here?" Radek asked, trying not to smirk.

Rodney shuddered. "Eat faster; we need to get back to work." He looked indignant at first when everyone laughed, but after a moment he smiled as well. "Oh well, it’ll just inspire us to find a workaround when we run into a stumbling block."

"And there are plenty of those." John took a mouthful of water, something that they had plenty of thanks to the desalinization system, before he continued. "The math Janus used, well, it reminds of the n-dimensional geometry Heinlein talked about in some of his books."

Radek cocked his head. "I wonder if he had the gene," he mused.

Rodney snorted in disgust at all of them. "Who cares? He’s not here and we are. And fortunately our brawn turned out to have a brain, so between the three of us, we have a chance of getting back where we belong and making sure this doesn’t happen again."

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows at him. "The three of you? Am I supposed to sit around and do my nails while waiting for you heroes to save me?"

While Rodney sputtered, John spoke over him. "Ignore him, Elizabeth. You know Rodney has the social skills of a Brahma bull. You’re going to be plenty busy searching the database for anything useful, including things we’ll need for day-to-day survival living in an empty and mostly powered down city, and translating it for us. Unlike Rodney, Radek and I don’t read Ancient. Yet."

The Czech scientist nodded. "Yes, I can puzzle out a little here and there, but you are our expert in the language, Elizabeth. And John is correct that we will need assistance in living here. We cannot use more power than absolutely necessary if we want the ZPMs to last until the expedition arrives again, but we do need to maintain environmental controls, the desalinization systems, food preparation... Well, you know better than I. You will need to find the system information in the database and translate it so we can determine how to get what we require for the least expenditure of power."

"You don’t ask very much," Elizabeth sighed. "I think I preferred being the brainless bimbo."

John laughed. "Like hell you did."

She grinned back. "Like hell I did," she agreed.

"This can’t be right." Elizabeth straightened up and pushed away from the console she’d been hunched over for the last several hours. With a groan, she stretched the kinks out of her back while her eyes remained fixed on the monitor.

If the information she’d just translated was accurate, the entire galaxy had been overrun by the Ancients’ enemies, the Wraith. She’d known that the situation had to be bad for the Ancients to retreat back to Earth, leaving behind the city that had been their home for more than ten million years in this galaxy and who knew how long back on Earth, but this... It was awe-inspiring and terrifying in equal measures. Every single planet in the entire galaxy that held human life was controlled by the Wraith. Every single one. She shuddered.

Needing the human contact, she headed for the lab, pausing to grab something for them all to eat along the way. She paused in the entrance, smiling with amusement at the sight that met her eyes. Rodney and Radek were nose to nose, yelling insults at each other while John was scribbling away, completely ignoring them as he worked out a calculation.

"Lunch, gentlemen." Her voice cut through the scientists’ rising tones and brought three pairs of eyes to her.

Once Rodney and Radek had stopped arguing that they couldn’t afford to take a break and they were all settled around one of the tables with their food, Elizabeth told them what she’d discovered. The three men’s reactions were as appalled as her own.

"The whole galaxy?" John repeated, clearly hoping for a denial.

"That’s what it said." Elizabeth frowned into her water. "We have to get back, gentlemen, not just for ourselves, but to warn the expedition about the Wraith. We have to."

"I just love working with no pressure," Rodney grumbled. "And frankly, getting back to our own time is incentive enough for me. I have no desire to be one of three Adams to your Eve. Even leaving aside the whole inbreeding issue in the next generation, no offense, but you’re not my type. With a few notable exceptions I usually prefer men." He noticed the stunned expressions surrounding him. "Oh, like you never guessed."

"Guessing and an announcement are two entirely different things," Radek managed, while the others were still blinking in surprise.

"I haven’t known you long enough to guess or even care," John pointed out.

"Like I care." Rodney rolled his eyes.

"You have no idea what a relief that is."

"Gentlemen." Elizabeth’s tone brought them up short. "I have no intention of being Eve, so kindly focus." She waited until they relaxed before asking, "Have you made any progress?"

Rodney nodded. "Janus’ notes are fairly well-organized and clear. Despite our lack of familiarity with the technology, I’d say we should be able to create a working model in a couple of months."

"Months?" Elizabeth exclaimed.

"This is a completely new technology. Even our math prodigy over there," Rodney nodded at John, "is having some trouble keeping up."

"Hey, it’s not like the science is crystal clear to you either," John retorted. "The Atlanteans, and Janus in particular, apparently, were going in some pretty arcane directions that no one on Earth has even begun to consider outside of science fiction."

"Which makes me wonder about science fiction writers," Radek mused. "Genetic memory, perhaps? How many of the good ones would have the ATA gene if we could test them all?"

Rodney peered at him with interest. "That’s a completely ridiculous idea, Zeppo. But very interesting," he added before Radek could respond to either the denigration of his idea or the mangling of his name.

John snickered. "Oh, give it up, Rodney. It’s just the four of us here. No need to maintain the act without any minions to terrorize."

"I have no idea what you mean," Rodney sniffed.

"Yeah, right. You’ve been relaxing around us the last few days and actually acting like a decent human being when you forget to keep up the front. And guess what, we still respect your intelligence. And I haven’t felt the urge to beat you up for having actual feelings. This isn’t high school."

Elizabeth hid a grin. "Got beyond Psych 101 in college, did you, John?"

He grinned back. "I minored in it. Which is part of the reason I hate seeing shrinks. I know exactly what they’re doing, and it’s annoying. I damn well know when I’m in denial, and I’ll get past it when I’m good and ready."

"And what are you denying, John?" she asked curiously, surprised when his eyes cut to Rodney for a brief second before returning to hers.

"Nothing at the moment," he replied, his gaze daring her to mention what he knew she’d seen.

"Mmm hmm," she murmured.

"Why do I think we’re missing something here?" Rodney said to Radek.

"Because we are getting to know one another," the Czech observed. He’d seen the glance that Rodney had missed while reaching for more food, but he didn’t mention it to the oblivious scientist. It would be interesting to see how things developed without outside interference. He glanced over at Elizabeth, and they both smiled.

~ Chapter 3 ~

Days turned into weeks, and almost before they realized it, the four time travelers had been marooned in Atlantis for a month. They were all making progress, each of them learning from the Ancient database and Janus’ notes, gradually learning Atlantis’ systems and what even the three without the gene could accomplish with them. Of course, that was nothing compared to what Sheppard could do. As Rodney put it, Atlantis rolled over and panted for him.

Elizabeth could now read Ancient as easily as English or any of the other languages she knew, and even John and Radek were fairly fluent after going over some sections of the database that helped with their work. Though Elizabeth translated whatever they needed, sometimes it was easier to read the original, especially when it was technical. She did her best, but the science and math were far beyond Elizabeth’s comprehension, making errors in translation inevitable.

The day that marked one month that they had been alone in the city of the Ancients started like each one before it. The four of them had breakfast together, bemoaned the lack of coffee, and then the three men went to what had been Janus’ lab while Elizabeth busied herself with searching the database.

Even Rodney had been cautiously optimistic when they’d discussed their progress over dinner the night before, and Elizabeth was looking forward to getting home soon. They would be able to prevent the expedition from dying, and they would be able to live out their lives in their own time. A thought suddenly struck her, and her eyes widened as she came to a realization.

When Radek entered the office overlooking the gateroom a little while later, intending to ask Elizabeth to confirm his translation of a section he’d pulled from the database, he found her slumped over a console, crying. Dismayed, he rushed to her side, drawing her into his arms when he’d ascertained that she wasn’t injured in any way.

"What is it, má drahoušek?" he asked, rubbing soothing circles on her back while Elizabeth sniffled against his shoulder.

"I’m sorry, I don’t usually act like this," Elizabeth said, embarrassed.

"Under the circumstances, I think you are permitted some out-of-character reactions," Radek replied dryly. "But you still have not told me what brought this on."

Elizabeth sighed, knuckling her eyes almost childishly while allowing herself to lean on Radek for just a little longer. "I just realized that even if, when we get back, we’ll have lost everything from our old lives. There will be other versions of us already there who will have those lives. It’ll be that Elizabeth who has Simon waiting for her, not me. I know I probably was never going to see anyone on Earth again, but now everything’s truly lost. We’ll just be duplicates, with no lives of our own."

"But you are still you, still Dr. Elizabeth Weir, and all you have accomplished up till now is still yours," Radek said bracingly. "Is true that the personal attachments will be... difficult, and that affects you most of all since none of the rest of us have anyone back on Earth. But you will move on." He smiled. "I am sure someone like you will not be alone for long. And just think, you will be able to share the duties of leading the expedition with someone you know thinks exactly the way you do. You will be able to sleep!"

Elizabeth laughed and straightened up finally. "Thank you, Radek."

"It is my pleasure to be of service." Radek released her after a final hug and stepped back. As if nothing had happened, he said, "I need you to check my translation of this data. It makes no sense."

"Of course." Elizabeth accepted the pad and soon spotted the one word that he’d mistaken, turning the entire thing into gibberish.

When his vision blurred to the point that he was seeing everything in triplicate, Rodney decided it was time to take a break. And if he was taking a break, he needed something to entertain him, which, since Radek was off to see Elizabeth about a translation, left Sheppard.

"Break time," he announced brightly, drawing a wary glance from the major.

"Since when do you take breaks?"

"Since I feel like it."

"But maybe I don’t."

Rodney shrugged. "If I need a break, you certainly must."

"Could your ego be any bigger?" John marveled.

Rodney shrugged again. "It’s just the truth. So take a break and explain to me why you pretend to be a brainless grunt when you’re obviously capable of much more." Rodney glanced meaningfully at the equations on the pad, some of which were a mystery even to him, not being his field. He had to admit, if only to himself, that Sheppard intuitively understood the math in a way that Rodney himself never could. Rodney could learn it, just as Sheppard could learn physics, but it would never come as naturally to him.

John shrugged. "It’s a lot easier to get your men to respect you if they can relate to you in some way. A flyboy’s one thing, but a math genius? It’d just be one more barrier to getting my men’s respect. Besides, what would be the point? It’s not like it’s of any use in my day-to-day life." Catching Rodney’s glance at his calculations, he amended wryly, "Usually."

"So why bother with the military?"

John shook his head in amusement. "I keep telling you, flying. The Air Force has the fastest jets in the world, and I get to fly them. At least I used to. Now I fly choppers, but still, pretty cool. There’s nothing like flying, Rodney."

"If you say so." Rodney sounded dubious. "I can think of one or two other things that would come at the top of my personal best sensations list."

John chuckled. "Considering your announcement a while back, I’m sure I could take a stab at what those might be."

"And what would you know about it?" Rodney jeered.

John hesitated for a moment, but he was fairly sure that worrying about a policy that made no sense in its own time, let alone ten thousand years before the country it applied to even existed, was ridiculous. Finally he shrugged. "More than you might think. I’m bi."

Rodney was left sputtering. "But... but... Military!"

Amused by his reaction, John chuckled. "That just means that I have to be discreet about it. And that the opportunities are a lot fewer," he admitted. "Women are easier while on active duty."

"Funny, I’ve always found men easier."

John burst into laughter. "Not that way! But yeah, you’re right in general."

Rodney had to look away. He’d been a lot happier when he’d thought the major was a brainless, homophobic, uninteresting soldier. Now he had to deal with an attractive, intelligent, bi man who was one of the only two other men in his world for the time being. "The universe hates me," he muttered.

"Naw, if it hated you, you’d be drowned ten thousand years from now, and we’d all be screwed."

Rodney perked up. "There is that. You do need me."

"Do not inflate his ego any more, or his head will never fit though doors!" Radek exclaimed as he returned.

Break time over, the men returned to their work, in the backs of their minds, all of them contemplating others of their little group.

Some time later, Radek was down in the ship bay, buried to his shoulders under a console in one of them as he compared a diagram in Janus’ notes with the actual circuitry, and John was doing battle with a recalcitrant series of calculations that simply refused to make sense, no matter how long he worked at it. He’d even tried assuming it was some other base in his frustration, but nothing helped, and he was determined to make some headway before he quit for the day.

"I’m hungry," Rodney announced.

"So go help Elizabeth find dinner," John snarled. "I’m busy."

Somewhat impressed by the sheer venom John had managed to instill in that statement—he himself usually had to make up the difference with volume—Rodney left the major in peace and went looking for Elizabeth to see if she’d stopped working yet and begun dinner preparations or if he should go start a meal for all of them.

He headed to the control room first, finding that Elizabeth had already shut down for the night, then took the transporter to the small kitchen they’d been using to prepare their meals, finding Elizabeth preparing the last of the fish Radek had caught a few days earlier. "Need a hand?" he offered.

Elizabeth looked at him hesitantly for a moment until it became clear that Radek hadn’t told him about her breakdown earlier, and she relaxed. "I thought I saw some fresh vegetables of some kind in the freezer when I was getting the fish. Would you check? It’d be nice to nice to have a whole meal that’s not processed."

"Nothing wrong with processed, but sure." Rodney ducked into the massive freezer, not even bothering to complain about the pneumonia it would probably give him, and he headed toward the back, rummaging around until he found what he thought Elizabeth meant.

"It’s a good thing we managed to stop the city’s systems from purging the leftover foodstuffs after the Ancients left," he mused as he came back out, setting the purplish leafy things on the counter and rubbing his arms vigorously. "As it is, we should be fine ‘til we can get back home."

Elizabeth turned to face him. "Can we get home again, Rodney? Honestly," she asked, staring at him intently.

Rodney’d started to give his usual glib ‘I can do anything’ speech, but her piercing gaze gave him pause. "Yes," he finally said simply. "It’ll take time, and it’s going to take all four of us, but yes. I’m not sure it could have been done without with my genius, Radek’s engineering skills, John’s ability to absorb and understand this math, and your linguistic abilities, but thankfully we have all of those. We are going home, Elizabeth."

~ Chapter 4 ~

It had been another long day in Atlantis, and Rodney McKay found himself wanting to go outside for a moment and get a breath of fresh air. There was just one small problem with that plan; he was currently in a city at the bottom of the ocean, and while the city’s shield held the water back, none of them had any desire to unseal a door and step outside. The idea of standing on one of the balconies staring at tons of water only meters from his face, with only an invisible shield between them, made him shudder.

"Stop thinking about water and work," Radek growled, barely glancing up from his own efforts. The Czech scientist was surrounded by the Ancient equivalent of circuit boards and wires as he worked to create the hardware that would become the time machine they needed—and didn’t that make Rodney feel like H.G. Wells.

"You know," he observed idly, still ignoring the calculations on his screen, "it’s very freaky and a little disconcerting how you seem to know what I’m thinking."

Radek snorted and finally looked up, amused exasperation in the blue eyes that met Rodney’s own. "You have been staring out the window for past ten minutes. I don’t have to be a mind-reader to know what you’re thinking about."

Lips quirking in a faint smile, Rodney observed him with interest. "It doesn’t bother you at all that we’re at the bottom of the ocean, does it?"

Radek shrugged. "We have shields and three fully charged ZPMs. We are in no danger. At least not from that."

Rodney’s head cock slightly. "Not from that? What do you think we’re in danger from then?"

Seeing that Rodney wanted to talk, Radek moved away from his work, not wanting to jostle anything in his inattention. "When we return to our own time finally, the ZPMs will be nearly depleted, even with using them in sequence. The city will rise to the surface, and we will have no power for the shield. And it is quite possible that the enemy that caused the Ancients to flee, the Wraith, will still be a threat."

The low-voiced conversation had drawn John’s attention, and he took a break from his work as well to join in. "Radek has a point. Ten thousand years is a long time, but if the Ancients couldn’t defeat the Wraith, who else would have? I’ve been thinking about that."

"Going to share your thoughts?" Rodney demanded.

John smiled faintly before activating the comm system. "Elizabeth? Can you join us in the lab? I think you should be here for this discussion." Sounding both startled and intrigued, Elizabeth agreed and signed off. John grinned at Rodney. "I’ll share once we’re all here."

Rodney nodded reluctantly. "Fair enough."

It only took moments for Elizabeth to arrive, and John quickly filled her in on what they’d been discussing. She paled. "Do you really think the Wraith will still be a threat?"

John shrugged. "We have no way of knowing, so it’s best to be prepared. Better to prepare an unnecessary defense than to be caught without one when it is needed. First rule of war: Prepare for the worst."

She bit her lip but nodded, knowing he was right. "So what can we do about it?"

"Janus left us the addresses of five planets with ZPMs. I suggest that during our first stop to switch over the ZPMs here, thirty-three centuries from now, we go get three of them."

"Why three?" Elizabeth asked.

"Three would allow to replace all of them in the city, giving us full power in our time, but still leave two for the expedition to go after if something happens to us and we don’t make it back to our own time. We’d have to leave a note with the two addresses for our other selves to find, of course."

Rodney and Radek nodded. "It makes sense," Rodney said. "But why wait till our first stop?"

"It doesn’t have to be quite that long if we want to make an earlier stop to get them."

"Why not just go get them now?" Rodney wanted to know. "There’s less chance of someone finding them and moving them if we don’t wait."

"But right now the Wraith don’t know the Ancients are gone. They’re at war. And Ancient outposts are the most likely place to run into them. Personally, I’d prefer to avoid that."

Rodney shuddered. "I defer to your military judgment," he said hastily.

"But I think an earlier stop to retrieve them would be better," Radek said. "Three and a half millennia is a long time. A century should be plenty of time for the Wraith to realize that the Ancients are gone and stop paying attention to the outposts." He considered it. "Perhaps two centuries if they are as long-lived as information in the database tells us."

"Are we all agreed then?" John waited for everyone’s nods. "So we just need to decide which three ZPMs to go after. Elizabeth?"

"I’ll check the database for information on the five planets to see which would be the best," she replied. "And since we’ve all stopped for the moment anyway, I think I’ll go see about dinner."

"I will help you," Radek said quickly, following her out of the lab.

John chuckled. "They’ll be good together when they finally realize what they’re doing."

Rodney snorted. "I never would have pegged you for a matchmaker, Major."

John shrugged. "I think they’re taking care of that on their own. I’m just the amused audience."

"And you don’t mind that Radek’s getting the only girl?"

John’s smile was slow and sensual. "Girls aren’t the only option, you know, Rodney."

Rodney gulped, never having expected John to come out with it so blatantly. "I know that," he almost squeaked, clearing his throat before continuing. "I just didn’t think you did."

John leaned his elbows back on the table behind him, his hazel eyes intent on Rodney. "Oh, I know. I know very well. And sometimes I even do something about it. If I think it would be welcome."

"You’re just saying that because I’m all there is," Rodney said, trying to be logical.

"We’ll be back to our own time in a few months at most," John pointed out. "Where the entire expedition will be alive and waiting for us. I think I could keep it in my pants that long if that was my only reason." He smiled wryly. "You’re annoying as hell sometimes, Rodney, but I like you, and I think I’d have realized that even if we hadn’t been locked up alone together. It would have taken a bit longer probably, but it would have happened."

"Oh." For one of the few times in his life, Rodney was left speechless, the blue eyes almost dazed as they stared at Sheppard. Grinning widely, John stood up and gave Rodney a quick, hard kiss, then sauntered out of the lab before the scientist had a chance to respond. "I’m going to help Radek and Elizabeth with dinner," he said over his shoulder, his smirk the last thing Rodney saw before the doors slid shut behind him.

Rodney blinked at the door for a moment before gathering himself together. "I really hate that man," he grumbled, but he was smiling.

John was chatting cheerfully with Elizabeth by the time Rodney joined them, and he gave no indication that anything had changed, leaving Rodney both confused and intrigued. And aroused.

John looked up quickly, the merest flash of hazel before he was again intent on Elizabeth, but she noticed his momentary distraction and Rodney’s fixed gaze, and she hid a smile.

"Tomorrow I’m going to check the five addresses in the database and see what I can find out about the planets to try to decide which would make sense for us to go to."

"It might make more sense for me to go alone," John suggested slowly. "I am, after all, the only one here with military training."

That caused an immediate spate of protests from both Radek and Rodney, which Elizabeth silenced with a raised hand. "No, we stick together. We can’t afford to lose anyone, and the ship is our only way home. No, whatever happens, we all face it together."

John nodded. "I had to make the suggestion, but I agree with you. Though we might want to find some duct tape for Rodney."

"Hey! I do not talk too much! I’ll have you know that everything I say is vitally important and—mmmph!" Rodney’s eyes widened in shock when a laughing John grabbed hold of his shoulders and pulled him up and half over the table to kiss him hard. Then he stopped sputtering and braced his hands on the table so he could enjoy the kiss without worrying about straining his back. Feeling Rodney relax, John gentled his grip on the scientist’s shoulders and changed the angle of his head slightly, now exploring Rodney’s mouth with languid strokes of his tongue.

Radek eyed them for a moment before turning to Elizabeth with a wry smile. "I think they’re out of denial."

Chuckling, she nodded. "I’d have to agree. Do you think they’d notice if we finished off the food while they’re otherwise occupied?"

"Don’t you dare!" Rodney sputtered, pulling back to glare, only to flush when he met their laughing gazes. "Erm..."

"Relax, Rodney," John advised cheerfully. "It’s not like we were going to be able to keep it a secret. And I might as well enjoy the advantages of no longer being the one living my old life. That John Sheppard can have the Air Force. I can have a man in my life without having to hide it."

Rodney blinked at him, left speechless. After a moment he sat back down rather abruptly, still staring at John.

"Eat your dinner, Rodney," John suggested, trying not to burst into laughter at the scientist’s stunned expression. "I’m not planning to jump you. Yet."

Rodney choked on the water he’d just sipped and gave John a dirty look when he could breathe again. "You did that on purpose!"

"Would I do that?"

"Yes!" three voices chorused, making him laugh.

"Well, maybe. But just think of the fun you have to look forward to."

That brought a shy smile to Rodney’s face, and the blue eyes were warm as they met John’s for a moment before the conversation moved on to other things.

~ Chapter 5 ~

A bang, followed by a spate of cursing in colorfully vehement Czech drew Elizabeth into the ship that Radek Zelenka was attempting to configure to accept the time device when it was ready. Elizabeth had been arriving to ask him if he was ready to take a break when the sounds had startled her.

"Radek? Are you all right?"

"All but my pride and knuckles," the wiry Czech sighed as he pushed free of the console he’d been half inside and sat up. He gave her an admiring look as he sucked on the bloody scrape across the back of one hand. "Tired of translating the database already?"

She sighed. "It’s very depressing to read about all the promising civilizations in this galaxy and then find the reports of each one being exterminated or decimated to pre-industrial levels. I find it hard to believe that a single race could do this much damage."

"The Goa’uld did a fairly impressive amount of damage themselves, and they kept most of our galaxy’s humans at a feudal level," Radek pointed out.

"True, but horrific as slavery and being taken as a host is, being drained to a lifeless husk in moments is rather final."

Radek shuddered at the description, remembering old folk tales his grandmother had told him as a child. "I hope we never meet them."

"That would be nice, but we’ve all agreed that the likelihood is that the Wraith will still be an issue when we make it back to our own time." Elizabeth brushed her hair back behind her ears as she contemplated how different things were from how she’d hoped before stepping through the stargate.

"Well, Atlantis will have been gone for ten thousand years by then. They won’t be looking for us, and as long as we keep out of their way, we should have plenty of time to formulate a plan before we need to deal with them." Radek seemed to decide that his hand was in no danger of falling off as he let it fall to his side and pushed to his feet to walk over to Elizabeth. "And don’t forget we’ll have three fully charged ZPMs, so there will be no shortage of power to run Atlantis."

"About that," Elizabeth started, taking Radek’s injured hand in hers and bringing it up so she could see the scrape, "I’ve been thinking that once we do make it to our own time, going after the other two ZPMs should be our first priority. With three in Atlantis, we’ll have power to spare for the shields and to gate back to Earth, but Earth doesn’t have the power to open a wormhole back to Atlantis. We need to send one of the ZPMs back to Earth if we want two-way gate communication."

Radek nodded slowly. "You are correct. In fact, if we cannot retrieve the remaining devices quickly, we should send one of our three back. Two will still power Atlantis for a long time."

"But let’s not mention that to Rodney until we have to, hm?" Both of them laughed at the thought of Rodney’s reaction to hearing he had to give up one of his precious ZPMs. The laughter tapered off when Elizabeth seemed to realize that she was still holding Radek’s hand, and she raised her eyes to meet his.

"Elizabeth..." He slowly leaned toward her, giving her more than enough time to stop him if she wished, and when she didn’t say no, he brushed his lips lightly over hers. The first kiss was tentative and very short, and then he kissed her again, his tongue licking at her lips until she opened for him, letting him in.

They moved closer together, arms sliding around one another as the kiss deepened. Their mouths parted only to come back together at a slightly different angle, their tongues sliding together as they explored each other. Only when she could feel him hardening against her did Elizabeth step back, panting and disheveled from his hands running through her hair, her brown eyes wide as she stared at him.

"Radek," she started, only to stop, not sure what to say.

He shook his hand, pressing a finger to her lips and shuddering when they parted and her teeth closed gently over the tip. "Elizabeth!"

She smiled ruefully. "I don’t want to tease you, Radek, but I’m just not ready for more. Yet. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us when some part of me still hasn’t completely given up on Simon."

Radek gently brushed her hair back, tucking it behind her ears. "And I will not pressure you for more than you wish to give. But I am here, and he is not, and you are a beautiful, sensual woman." His expression warmed as she flushed at the compliment. "I can wait."

"Perhaps it won’t be such a very long wait at that," she admitted, pressing one hand over the steady beating of his heart before stepping back and squaring her shoulders.

"We should go see if John and Rodney are ready for lunch yet." Radek acquiesced easily, and they went to find the other half of Atlantis’ population.

"Who’d have thought that we’d end up pairing off like this," John mused, smiling when Rodney grunted at him without looking up. From the little he’d seen of McKay before they’d gone through the gate to Atlantis, even that much acknowledgement was a sign of extreme favor. Rodney’s focus on his work was legendary at the SGC, and John had heard all about the time there’d been a fire and they’d had to put it out around him. Apparently, Rodney’s idea of thanking the firefighters for saving his life had been to yell at them for getting the foam on his laptop.

Of course, as John had discovered when he’d asked Zelenka about that a few days earlier, Rodney had been figuring out how to make a piece of alien technology work, and his discovery had saved countless lives hours later. It was all a matter of perspective.

"Hey, Rodney, let me know when you’re at a point where you can be interrupted."

"Hrm?" He still wasn’t looking away from the Ancient version of a laptop.

"Well, I’d hate to delay our return to our own time, but I think I’d really like to give you a blowjob."

There was a moment’s delay until his words sank then, then John had to smother a grin as Rodney choked and nearly fell off his stool when he whirled around to gape at John.

"Wha--!?" John had to admit to himself that with his eyes bulging out in shock and his mouth opening and closing like an oversized goldfish, Rodney was not at his best. And yet John still wanted nothing more than to kiss the breath out of him. Oh yeah, he had it bad.

"I said," he repeated very clearly, "that I want to blow you. And fuck you too," he added, seeming to consider it, "but that would be better in a bed, at least for the first time."

"Are we interrupting something?" Elizabeth asked, amusement clear in her tone as she and Radek stepped into the lab.

"Nothing we can’t get back to later," John replied cheerfully, making Rodney squawk.

"I hate you!"

All three of his companions burst into laughter. "No, you don’t," John said with assurance. "And I’ll prove it to you later."

Radek peered at Rodney, then gave John an awed look. "You left him speechless. Nothing has ever done that."

"I’m right here, you know!"

John’s gaze was heated when it focused on Rodney. "I know." And once again Rodney was left speechless, slowly flushing under John’s intent stare.

"Most impressive," Radek murmured. "Also disturbing. You look at Rodney, John, the way he looks at powerbars."

Even Rodney had to chuckle at that. "You haven’t seen me look at him."

"Oh yes, we have!" Radek said emphatically. "And that should not be discussed in public."

"And that is quite enough of that," Elizabeth said firmly, although she was smiling. "Lunch, gentlemen."

It was some hours later before Rodney found himself being backed into his quarters by a clearly aroused John Sheppard, and the scientist once again found himself at a loss for words. It wasn’t as if he’d never done this before, but... "I don’t think I ever saw the version where the captain of the chess club got the quarterback."

"Too bad for the quarterback... which I never was, for the record." John pressed Rodney up against the wall and grinned sharply, his eyes dark as he stared into Rodney’s clear blue. "I lettered in track, and I liked swimming too."

"How lovely for you."

"Mmm hmmm. They did wonders for my lung capacity."

Rodney’s eyes widened again. "John..." Whatever else he might have said was muffled by John’s mouth, and Rodney wasn’t the smartest man in two galaxies for nothing. He stopped trying to talk and hung on for dear life while John’s tongue swept into his mouth and set up camp. They both groaned, pressing closer while their hands began to explore the hard planes of each other’s body.

They seemed to decide simultaneously that they wanted more, and they broke apart just long enough to wrench their tunics over their heads, briefly glad for the ease of Ancient garb, and then they were pressing together again. Rodney cried out as his sensitive nipples were teased by the softness of John’s chest hair, and he clenched a fist in the messy hair atop John’s head to hold him close while he dove in for another kiss.

Just as eager, John kissed him thoroughly, apparently memorizing every bit of Rodney’s mouth so he’d be able to recognize him blindfolded. "God, you taste good," he panted against Rodney’s throat a little later, enjoying the shiver his breath drew from the scientist. "Gotta taste more of you."

That was all the warning Rodney got before John was sliding to his knees in front of him and nuzzling his still covered cock. Rodney whimpered almost desperately, dazed blue eyes fixed on the head at his groin, and then he whimpered again as he watched the clever pilot’s fingers unfasten his clothes and push them over his hips to pool around his ankles.

"John..." That was all he had time to say before his voice deserted him as he watched John’s lips part and close around his cock. Rodney shoved a fist against his mouth to muffle the embarrassingly needy cries as John tasted him, lazily flicking his tongue over the head of Rodney’s cock while Rodney fought to restrain his instinct to fuck John’s mouth.

John teased Rodney—and himself—with the slow strokes of his tongue, his fist around the base of Rodney’s cock keeping him from going any farther into John’s mouth. But John wanted this as much as Rodney did, and each lick went a little farther down the shaft. Finally, John started sucking powerfully, his cheeks hollowing as he played with Rodney.

"Oh fuck, John!" Rodney wailed. He braced his hands on John’s shoulders, sure his knees were going to give out under him at any second. Each gasping breath brought him closer to the edge, and he tried to warn John, but either he was even less coherent than he thought or John didn’t care. The thought that John wanted him to come in his mouth made Rodney shudder with lust, and he opened his eyes, not sure when he’d closed them, to stare at John blowing him. His whole body tightened at that sight, and then he was coming, whimpering as John sucked every drop out of him, leaving him limp and quivering against the wall.

John surged to his feet to kiss Rodney, drinking in the moan when Rodney tasted himself in John’s mouth. Already close, John freed himself from his pants and rubbed frantically against Rodney, his cock gliding easily against the sweaty skin, and he bit down on the hard shoulder as he gasped and came, coating Rodney’s belly as he pressed him into the wall.

Much as Rodney was enjoying it all, the wall was hard and John was surprisingly heavy for such a skinny guy, as he gasped out a few moments later.

"I am not skinny!"

"You’re still squashing me!" Rodney grunted.

They both swayed as they straightened up, and they took it in turns to brace each other as they shed the last of their clothes before staggering to Rodney’s bed and crawling into it. They ended up tangled together, Rodney on his back and John half on his side and half on top of him, an arm and leg flung possessively over Rodney.

"I could get used to this," John murmured. He felt Rodney stiffen, and he petted the man’s belly soothingly. "And I plan to, unless you have some objection." He tilted his head back to meet Rodney’s gaze, and the frown gradually cleared from the blue eyes.

"No objection." Rodney curved one arm around John and smiled. "No objection at all."

~ Chapter 6 ~

Rodney pushed back from the lab table and looked at the other two men. "I think we’re ready to try this."

There was a moment of stunned silence, followed by another where John and Radek clearly considered the possibilities, and finally they both nodded. After sharing a delighted smile, Radek was the one to point out, "We should inform Elizabeth."

John and Rodney both nodded, and Rodney even managed to hold back a smirk when he suggested, "Why don’t you go tell her in person, and then the two of you can meet us at the ship?"

Radek gave him a half-hearted glare and retorted, "Will you still manage to get there if I leave the two of you alone?"

"Hey, we can control ourselves!" John protested laughingly while Rodney sputtered.

"I know you can," Radek said, "but I haven’t seen any indication that you want to."

Laughing, John had to nod. "We’ll be on our best behavior."

Rodney eyed him. "You mean you—mmph!" The last was garbled as John clapped a hand over Rodney’s mouth.

"Go," he told Radek, who fled before he could hear whatever Rodney would have to say.

"That was uncalled for, Major," Rodney grumbled, but his blue eyes were merry as he tried to scowl at John.

"If I’d let you talk, Radek would still be here arguing, Elizabeth wouldn’t find out we were ready to leave, and we wouldn’t have time to do this." John’s mouth covered Rodney’s as he finished speaking, and the scientist immediately forgot about arguing in favor of kissing the very talented Air Force officer.

Rodney suddenly pulled back. "You’re really going to be okay with this once we get back? I mean, you are US military..."

"I think one Maj. Sheppard will be enough for Col. Sumner to deal with, don’t you?" John shrugged. "We’ll find a way to fit in. I can join the science staff, I suppose."

"Or you could marry me and stay military, just Canadian military," Rodney suggested, trying to make it sound like a joke despite the nervous hope clear in his expression.

John blinked. "I... Wow. Yeah, that is an option now, isn’t it?" He smiled slowly. "So does that mean you’re going to make an honest man of me, Dr. McKay?"

Rodney’s breath whooshed out of him in a huge sigh of relief. "I guess that means you’re not going to shoot me for suggesting it, eh?" He chuckled at John’s snort. "Well. I think I just proposed," he said, sounding more than a little shocked. "But I couldn’t quite tell what your answer was." He gave John a half-hearted glare.

"Oh." John smiled crookedly. "That was a yes. I was pretty much in this for the long haul anyway, you know."

"Ah, but this way I can stick a ‘no trespassing’ sign on you," Rodney said smugly.

"You really have a weird opinion of my appeal."

Rodney just snorted.

"Uh, yeah. I think it’s time to go and meet Radek and Elizabeth, don’t you?"

Rodney nodded, quickly gathering the few things they were going to need, both there and in their room, where they made a quick stop.

"It’s not like anyone’s going to take them while we’re gone, you know," John pointed out.

"No, but there’s no sense letting them age."

"Oh, right." John looked abashed. "This time travel thing is going to take a while to wrap my head around."

"Tell that to someone who doesn’t know you can handle the math for it in your head."

John grinned and caught hold of Rodney’s hand as they walked down to the ship hangar.

"I still think we should call them gate ships," Rodney grumbled. "They’re ships that go through the gate."

"They’re just little puddle jumpers," John replied yet again. "A gate ship sounds imposing—"

"Which wouldn’t fit through the gate," Rodney was quick to point out.

"I’m the one flying them!"

"Oh, not again," Radek groaned from where he and Elizabeth were waiting for them, the other couple also holding hands and nearly vibrating with excitement after having shut down the systems they’d been using.

"I thought we agreed to let John name the ships?" Elizabeth said with a soft laugh.

"Rodney was just bitching," John said easily.

"I do not bitch!" Three pairs of raised eyebrows had him grumbling as he stomped into the ship and sat down in the seat next to the pilot’s. "What?"

"Nothing," Radek said, shaking his head as he sat behind John, where he could most easily talk to Rodney, leaving the other seat for Elizabeth.

John slid into his seat, smiling with pleasure as he felt the ship welcome him and the systems come alive. "I’m really glad it came up tails," he murmured, making Rodney eye him oddly. "Okay, what are the coordinates we’re aiming for?"

Rodney pushed a few buttons on his laptop and then showed John the results. "Concentrate on that when I dial the planet’s address in, and we should end up where and when we want to be."

John nodded sharply as the jumper slowly rose into the gate room and Rodney began dialing the symbols. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Elizabeth and Radek reach across the space between them and hold hands, and he smiled slightly. "Here we go," he said even as they flew through the event horizon, and suddenly they were over another planet.

"I’m not detecting any life signs," Rodney announced, scanning various readouts.

"The Wraith," Elizabeth breathed.

"What about power signatures?" John asked urgently, but Rodney shook his head.

"No, but they’d have to be shielded or the Wraith would detect them too. We know the ZPM was hidden beneath the outpost, so let’s go look."

"Your wish is my command."

"Oh really?" Rodney looked intrigued while Radek waved a hand frantically.

"No, no, no! We don’t want to hear!"

John chuckled. "We’ll get back to that once we’re safely back in Atlantis in our own time."

"I’ll hold you to that."

"I wouldn’t have it any other way."

"You two are going to be a shock to everyone in the expedition, especially yourselves," Elizabeth chuckled as John landed the jumper next to the ruined outpost.

Once inside, they all paused, the absolute silence eerie even after their months in Atlantis. "This," Elizabeth started, making them all the jump at the sound, "this was once a thriving civilization, the capital of a space-faring race called the Genii. They were one of the first destroyed by the Wraith, and if there were any survivors, it was on a distant world. Their homeworld was utterly obliterated."

"Is like walking through a mausoleum," Radek murmured, looking around uneasily.

"I’m getting a faint reading now that we’re on the spot," Rodney said excitedly. "It’s coming from below us."

"Of course it is. Let’s hope there’s a staircase," John muttered.

"Try thinking down," Rodney suggested. "If anything in here responds to your gene, it might help."

John glared but tried to think about getting to the lower level, with no results. "Nothing in this galaxy is easy."

"We could try opening that door at the back of the room and seeing if these Genii put their stairs where we would," Radek suggested logically, making Rodney mutter.

The grumbling only increased in volume when they opened the door and found a staircase exactly where Radek had suggested it would be. The other three exchanged grins, amused by the disgruntled scientist.

"Yes!" Rodney exclaimed once they exited the stairwell at the bottom through another heavy door. "The energy signature is increasing. I think it’s here."

The other three followed him as he traced the energy signature, coming to halt in front of a blank wall. He glared at it as if it had done him a personal injury, but John was already thinking ‘open,’ and a panel slid aside, revealing a ZPM.

"It’s really here," Elizabeth breathed, gazing raptly at the Ancient energy source. "This is really going to work."

John glanced over at her but didn’t comment, knowing they’d all had doubts.

"One down, two to go," Rodney said, his hands cradling the ZPM.

"Dagan next?" John asked as they started back up to the jumper, and Elizabeth nodded.

"Yes, with the information Janus provided, the monks who are keeping it safe will give it to us."

And unlike everything else since they’d stepped through the wormhole from Earth, it really was that easy. After two more stops where their biggest danger had been from overeating at the dinner the monks insisted on providing the visitors from Atlantis, they had three ZPMs, and they were ready for the big jump more than three thousand years into the future so that they could change over the ZPM powering the city’s shields.

"I suggest that once we reach the correct time and take care of switching the ZPMs, we call it a day and spend the night in Atlantis before making the next jump," Elizabeth suggested. "I know that it’s not necessary, but I think we need to return to our own time in stages or we run the risk of the world’s worst case of jetlag."

"I was going to suggest something similar," Radek agreed, reaching for her hand.

"Oh fine, whatever," Rodney grumbled. He’d never admit that they had a point when he was eager to get back to their own time with the ZPMs to power the city fully.

"Just think of it as our last night alone together," John suggested, his lips twitching.

"Oh. Oh!" The blue eyes widened, and suddenly Rodney looked much more enthused about the plan, making everyone laugh. "So get us back to Atlantis, Major," he demanded.

"It’s weird, isn’t it?" John mused as he and Rodney stretched out on their bed that night. They’d switched the ZPM over without a problem, though it had taken a few tries to get the timing right so that they didn’t waste energy by changing over too soon, and now the two couples were bedded down for one more night in an Atlantis that belonged to them alone.

"What is? That a fly boy fell for a geek or that we’re in sole possession of a city that flew between galaxies millions of years before our ancestors, most of them anyways," Rodney amended as he remembered John’s gene, "crawled out of the mud?"

"No, that we’re back in the same room that we left this morning, but there’s an air of age and abandonment about it."

"Well, it has been thirty-three centuries since this morning," Rodney pointed out prosaically.

John rolled his eyes. "I’ll bet when you look at a rainbow, you dissect that too."

Looking a little sullen, Rodney muttered, "I told you you’d get tired of me when you got to know me."

"Where did that come from?" John sat up on the bed, staring at Rodney. "Come back here," he snapped when Rodney got up and started to pace, and it was questionable which of them was more surprised when Rodney dropped onto the bed beside him.

"I am not tired of you. Life would be pretty boring if we saw everything the same way. So stop looking for problems that don’t exist. Just because we get back to our own time doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly be embarrassed by you, by us, and dump you. I already told you that I’m in this for the duration."

A little embarrassed that John saw through him so easily, Rodney flushed. He tangled his fingers in the thick, messy hair and pulled John’s head down to kiss him thoroughly. As the kiss deepened, John rolled onto his back, pulling Rodney over him, both of them grinding together as their arousal grew.

"Want you to ride me tonight," John rasped, his hazel eyes a murky moss green as he watched Rodney move on top of him. "I want to watch you fuck yourself on me."

Rodney groaned deeply, his whole body tightening at the thought to the point that he was afraid for a moment that he would come just from thinking about it. "I can do that," he agreed, watching John’s expression as he pulled his shirt off. And then he moaned, his eyes falling shut to concentrate on the sensations as John lightly scratched at his nipples.

"If you keep doing that, I’m going to come before I get you inside me," he admitted throatily, making John chuckle.

"Not this time. I want to feel you come tonight."

Shuddering, Rodney stood up just long enough to finish undressing, and John hurriedly rid himself of his own clothes at the same time. Then Rodney was settling over him again, his firm buttocks sliding back until John’s cock was nestled between them, and both of them groaned at the contact.

John reached over to the nightstand, grabbing the lube he’d made sure to remove from their packs earlier, and he squirted a generous dollop into one hand. After rubbing it between his palms to warm it, he coated a finger and slid it teasingly along Rodney’s crack, lightly rubbing the sensitive flesh.

"Bastard," Rodney rasped, his blue eyes dark with lust as he shoved back, forcing the finger inside himself. He gasped and clenched down, hungry for John’s possession, and the major chuckled darkly.

The finger pulled free, making Rodney whine a protest, but then it was back, accompanied by another, and Rodney rode the digits eagerly, knowing what was coming. "Fuck me," he demanded, and John chuckled again.

"Take what you want," he challenged, withdrawing his fingers to pet Rodney’s cock instead.

With a groan, Rodney rose up onto his knees, reaching back with one hand to steady John’s erection as he slowly impaled himself on it. He sank lower, taking more and more of John’s length inside himself, blue eyes riveted on hazel, and they both sighed raggedly when his cheeks came to rest on John’s thighs.

Still staring into Rodney’s eyes, John continued to stroke his hard cock, making Rodney start to move atop him. Rodney quickly found a rhythm, rocking between John’s hand and erection as the pleasure wound ever tighter inside him. His own hands were busy, petting the soft hair that covered John’s chest, rubbing and tugging John’s nipples, and the sound of their moans and the scent of sex filled the room.

Rodney broke first, crying out wordlessly as he came into John’s fist, his seed splattering John’s chest as the spasms wracked him. John held out for only a little longer as the strong inner muscles rhythmically clenched and released around him, and he pulled Rodney’s head down to kiss him voraciously as he came as well.

Long moments passed as they lay together, panting as the last tremors subsided and they caught their breath, and then Rodney chuckled. "You’ll have bald spots from us pulling apart if we don’t clean up soon."

John smiled smugly and reached under the pillow for a scrap of fabric, one of the last remnants of his black uniform t-shirt. "I thought ahead," he announced as he wiped his chest and passed the cloth to Rodney.

Rodney pressed a kiss to his lips. "Which is why we make such a good team."

~ Chapter 7 ~

"One more stop and then home." Elizabeth stood staring out the doors at the mass of water held back by Atlantis’ shields, and she crossed her arms, hugging herself against a sudden chill.

Coming up behind her, Radek slid his arms around her, drawing her back against him. "It will be odd to meet ourselves," he said softly, knowing that was one of the main things bothering her, "but interesting. If nothing else, having two of Rodney should rock the universe on its foundations."

She chuckled as she turned in his embrace to face him. "I’m not sure our other selves will be able to forgive us for that."

"Hey!" Rodney glared at them from where he and John were sitting together nearby. "The universe will be lucky to have two of me!"

"Yeah, well, I’m not planning to share you, so the universe can just get in line," John said easily, making all of them laugh. Rodney relaxed against him again, turning his attention back to the glass doors Elizabeth had been staring through.

"It is strange, though," he mused, "to know that I won’t be the chief scientist on the expedition when we get there. The other me will. I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about having to answer to myself."

Radek smirked. "Now you will know how the rest of us feel."

"And I think the other you—and me for that matter—will have some weirdness of their own to deal with," John pointed out. "When we got there, I never expected this."

"And I did?" Rodney snorted before turning his head to kiss John lightly. "It just goes to show that even I can be surprised. Occasionally."

"So I rank up there with new physics theories? That’s pretty cool," John decided, grinning at Rodney, who rolled his eyes.

"Yes, yes, I’ll dedicate my next paper to you."

"You just want me to do your math."

Rodney smirked. "Is it working?"

"I’m so easy."

"This, we knew," Radek interjected as Elizabeth laughed helplessly.

"My double is going to hate me," she finally said.

"Mine will probably thank me... eventually," John chuckled. "In fact, I know he will once he actually gets Rodney into bed and—"

"All right, thank you, John, that’s quite enough," Elizabeth said hastily, chuckling at the expression on Rodney’s face.

"One more word from you, John, and you’d better hope that the other me takes pity on your celibate state!"

"Oh good God, two cranky Rodneys?" Radek exclaimed in horror. "Be silent and make up to him, John!"

John was laughing so hard that he nearly toppled over into Rodney’s lap.

"I didn’t mean right this instant," Radek said dryly, eyeing their position.

"It’s all in the details, Radek," John chuckled, straightening up again. He looked around the room and frowned.

"Am I the only one freaked out by the millenia-dead plants that were alive and green yesterday?"

"Far from it," Elizabeth admitted. "But as odd as that is, I think it’s going to be stranger to have other people around again. Though it will be nice to see the other expedition members again."

John snickered. "I really don’t think Col. Sumner is going to be happy to have two of me. He was pissed enough at one."

"That’s because he’s got the subhuman intellect of your average jarhead," Rodney said instantly.

"I think you might be a little biased," John said. "But I like it," he added before Rodney could rant at him.

"Of course you do; it’s proof that you’re smarter than that jarhead. Which I already knew."

"Yes, of course, you only sleep with him because of his intelligence," Radek snorted.

Rodney looked at John, and they both started to chuckle. "I wouldn’t go that far," Rodney admitted. "I mean, look at him."

"Rodney!" John glared at him, a flush high on his cheekbones.

"Oh, like you don’t know what you look like," Rodney snorted.

"I think it’s time to call it a night. Tomorrow’s a big day," Elizabeth said hastily. "One final stop to switch the last ZPM and then back to our own time. And ourselves." She shook her head slightly at the final thought. "We all need tonight to remind ourselves of what we have now."

"Smart lady," John murmured, watching her and Radek leave to head to their quarters. "Radek’s a lucky man."

Rodney was watching him closely. "I’m surprised you and she didn’t get together. It would seem the logical pairing."

"Unlike us, you mean." John smiled crookedly. "I’m not in love with Elizabeth."

"Oh." The tops of Rodney’s ears were bright red. "Well, I love you too. And if our other selves have a problem with that, well, they’ll just have to learn to deal with it."

"And hopefully learn from our good example."

"So let’s follow Elizabeth and Radek’s good example so we’ll be ready to face them." John offered Rodney his hand along with a smile that widened when Rodney laced his fingers through John’s and stood up.

"Well, this is it." John looked over at Rodney beside him in the puddle jumper, then back over his shoulder at Elizabeth and Radek. "Next stop, the twenty-first century. Please make sure your tray tables are in their upright and locked position."

Elizabeth chuckled. "Are you going to provide peanuts too?"

Despite the joking it was clear that everyone was nervous, and John flexed his fingers before placing his hands on the controls. "Here goes nothing."

A moment later, they were in the same place, but sunlight streamed in through the tall, multi-colored windows of the control room, and several Marines snapped to attention, leveling their weapons at the ship despite the clear shock on their faces as they stared through the front window at the occupants.

"Um. I think we were a little off on the time coordinates for that last jump," John observed, keeping his hands visible to the Marines.

"True, but since we’re here and Atlantis is clearly intact with the expedition alive, I think we should stay where we are," Elizabeth decided.

"Are they going to shoot us if we stand up?" Rodney wanted to know. "I’m hungry."

"You’re always hungry," Radek muttered, but the very familiarity of Rodney’s complaint relaxed some of their tension.

"Let’s do this," John said, slowly standing up and moving toward the back of the jumper even as he caused it to open. The foursome stepped out, finding themselves face to face with themselves, minus Radek, and with the addition of an attractive, dark-skinned woman none of them knew and a very large, very intimidating man equally unknown to them who was pointing a very big gun at them.

"We come in peace?" John offered, making his alternate snort.

"Well, you sound like me."

The two men shared a lazy grin that didn’t reach watchful hazel eyes.

"Two of him," both Rodneys groaned, causing several quick smiles around the room.

"We’d hoped to arrive before the expedition," the time-traveling Elizabeth said, "but obviously we misjudged our arrival." She looked a question at her alternate.

"It’s been over a year since we got here. Who exactly are you?"

"Maybe we could sit down for this?" Elizabeth suggested. "It’s a rather long story, and despite knowing this was going to happen, it’s still a shock to see ourselves."

"Of course. The conference room. Right this way." The other Elizabeth turned and led the way to her office, knowing that her John would make sure that the newcomers followed. She radioed Radek and Carson to join them, wanting Radek’s impressions of his supposed alternate and Carson’s medical opinion.

Once inside, they all sat down to wait for the two men to join them. "John..." Elizabeth stopped when both men looked at her and sighed helplessly. "This is going to be very confusing."

"Yeah, we had a chance to think about that," the time-traveling John said. "Since this is your timeline and we’re the interlopers, we thought we should be the ones to adapt to different names, which is obviously going to be a necessity, for our collective sanity if nothing else. You can call me Shep; Elizabeth decided on Liz; Rodney’ll be Rod, and Radek said to use his middle name, Dusan."

Elizabeth nodded. "Thank you. That will make things easier."

They all looked around at a sharp exclamation in Czech. "Carson, Dr. Zelenka, please, take a seat. As you can see, we have a new development."

Carson cast her an incredulous look. "I’d say that’s something of an understatement, Elizabeth!"

Rod snorted. "Just imagine how we felt after the city drowned, along with everyone else on the expedition, and we woke up ten thousand years in the past, just before the Ancients left Atlantis."

Shocked exclamations filled the room, and Shep shook his head. "Nice way to ease them into this, Rodney. Rod."

Rod rolled his eyes. "Why waste time hinting at the facts?" Rodney nodded in agreement.

"Do you mean to say that your puddle jumper travels through time?" Rodney demanded.

"Yup. When the city’s shields collapsed, flooding it—"

"Didn’t the failsafe work, bringing the city to the surface?" Radek questioned.

"There was no failsafe when we got here. Janus added it after we met, to try to change what happened. Obviously, that part of the plan worked, along with alternating the ZPMs instead of having all three online all the time. It gave you just enough additional time," Rod said.

"How could they alternate? There wasn’t any system to switch power," Rodney snapped.

"We’re the system," Shep said, for the moment at least apparently the group’s designated speaker. "The ship we traveled back in was destroyed by the Wraith, but Janus left us his notes when the Ancients left, and between us, we were able to build another one. We stopped along the way back at intervals to switch the ZPMs." He glanced at Rod, raising an eyebrow.

"And we brought three fully charged ZPMs with us," Rod said offhandedly, though the blue eyes were bright as he waited for the reaction.

Rodney and Radek both leaped from their seats, exclaiming and yelling questions at Rod, who smirked. "They’re in the jumper. We also have the coordinates for two more that the Ancients left in outposts in this galaxy, assuming they’re still there after all this time."

The other two scientists gaped at him for only an instant before racing from the room, intent on getting their hands on the ZPMs.

"If this is true, we’ll be able to bring all the city’s systems fully online," Elizabeth murmured. "We already have one ZPM, which was found on Earth. To have four..."

"Even with sending one to Earth to allow gate travel both ways, the city will be fully powered for centuries," Liz said. "More than time enough for two McKays and two Zelenkas to figure out how to make their own."

Elizabeth chuckled. "I look forward to hearing about your trip. But first, we should let Dr. Beckett check you over."

"You mean we should let him do a DNA comparison to prove we’re really who we say we are," Rod said with a faint snort. "Fine, fine, we’ll submit to the voodoo practices."

"Well, he certainly sounds like Rodney," Carson said as he stood up, sighing slightly, and both John and Shep nodded, grinning.

Shep eyed John curiously, but whatever he might have said was lost when the door opened and yet another man Shep didn’t know came in. "Colonel—"

"Colonel?" Shep exclaimed in surprise, making John grin.

"Yup, they made me a lieutenant colonel a few months back when we got back in contact with Earth and I was confirmed as military commander."

Looking surprised, Shep questioned, "Sumner?" He frowned at the fleeting expression that crossed his double’s face.

"Killed by the Wraith. Sort of."

Shep decided not to push for explanations, at least not yet, simply watching as Sheppard waited a moment, nodded acknowledgement, and returned his attention to the new arrival.

"Major?"

"Sorry, sir. Drs. McKay and Zelenka," here his eyes shot to the McKay and Zelenka sitting at the table, "want you in the power room. Apparently no one else’s gene will do. Oh, and you might want to toss in a Powerbar first; Cadman was talking to McKay when I left."

John groaned. "You’d think she’d have had enough of driving him nuts last week. Long story," he added in response to the time travelers’ questioning looks. "Look, why don’t you come along? Two genes have to be better than one, and I’m sure the doctors are dying to see what’s going on with the ZPMs activated."

Elizabeth and Liz shared a speaking glance before Elizabeth said, "That’s an excellent idea, John. After that visit to the infirmary."

Rod grumbled. "Which means we won’t get our hands on the systems till the results are back."

"It’s almost immediate with the Ancient devices," Carson said soothingly, gaining himself a glare.

"Oh fine, let’s just get this over with." Rod was still grumbling as the group disappeared into the transporter down the hall, and Elizabeth sank back in her chair, closing her eyes for a moment as she considered her options.

"I’m sure Carson has told you that the results of his tests prove that we are who we say we are," Liz said a little later as she came into Elizabeth’s office. "And I imagine that you have some questions for me. First of all, I just want to say that I have no intention of trying to steal your life. I know it’s your life, and I’m going to have to make my own. I realize that Simon’s a part of your timeline, your life, and I’ve had time to deal with that and accept it." She smiled slightly. "And then there’s Radek. Or rather Dusan."

Looking somewhat startled, Elizabeth blinked several times. "Radek? Oh my. And actually, Simon’s not a part of my life any longer. He found someone else last year while we were out of contact with Earth."

It was Liz’s turn to look chagrined. "He didn’t wait very long, did he? And here I’d had thoughts of forever. Well, you know," she added wryly.

"Apparently he wasn’t the man we thought he was." Elizabeth leaned forward. "Now tell me about Dr. Zelenka."

Liz smiled. "Well,..."

"So, how long were the four of you alone in Atlantis? And what were the Ancients like?" John wanted to know.

"The Ancients were mostly assholes," Rod snapped, drawing surprised glances from several people nearby, including Col. Sheppard and Maj. Lorne.

"He’s not far off," Shep admitted. "They really didn’t give a damn about anyone else for the most part, though Janus was the exception that proved the rule. He did everything he could to help us and to get us back home, against his own people’s ruling. I don’t think we could have done it without him." He ignored Rod’s derisive snort.

"We were there for a week or two before the Ancients left, and a couple-three months after they left. Hm, I don’t know how far you got with the database, but we’re really familiar with it, so we can probably help find things if need be. Anyway, we pretty much worked straight through, with the occasional day off to relax." Shep glanced back at the major, who read the look and fell back, giving the two Sheppards a little privacy.

"You should know that Rod and I are together. I expect to have to resign my commission, if it’s even still mine, for it, but I’m not going to give him up or pretend otherwise."

John chuckled. "Not an issue, at least not as long as you stay here or with the SGC if you go back to Earth. Atlantis is a multi-national expedition, so different rules apply. And, well, things were pretty intense here for a while, and Rodney’s a member of my team so we spend a lot of time together, and well, we got together a few months ago."

Shep stared at him for a long moment before starting to laugh. "And here I thought I was going to have to convince you that he was worth going for."

"Oh, I know that. I’m just damned glad no one figured it out before me." The two soldiers shared a look of perfect understanding.

"Do I want to know what that was about?" Rod asked, moving up to join them.

"Let’s just say our doubles are even more like us than I expected," Shep replied, somewhat ambiguously.

"Oh? Oh! Really?" Seeing the twin nods, Rod smirked. "I knew you were smarter than you look, Mr. Mensa."

John laughed. "Yeah, that pisses my Rodney off too."

Muttering about idiots with more brawn than brain, Rod fell back to continue his discussion with Zelenka, musing that he was going to be able to entertain himself with the man’s new name.

Shep and John grinned at each other before Shep said, "We don’t plan to go back to Earth. Those are your lives back there, and we decided before we came back that we’d build new ones for ourselves in Atlantis."

John nodded. "Our lives are here now too. Lorne’s my XO, but I could use someone else to bounce ideas off. And hell, being able to be in two places at the same time could be helpful."

"That’s what I thought too."

"The four of you would make a good offworld team. Assuming that your Zelenka is less terrified by that than ours," John added with a faint laugh.

"Naw, he’s good. And we do work well together. I’ll have to talk to the others, but that sounds good to me."

As they walked into the room where Rodney and Radek waited impatiently, John said, "Welcome home."

~ Chapter 8 ~

"An offworld team?" Rod repeated, sounding surprised, but after a moment he nodded slowly. "Yes, that makes sense. We know we work well together, and we’ll give our alternates’ team a run for the title of best."

Shep chuckled. "Trust you to make it a contest."

"It’s a good idea," Liz said. "After everything that’s happened, I don’t think any of us would be content to just sit around, especially since we’re not in charge," she added wryly.

"The latter is not an issue for me," Dusan Zelenka pointed out, "but I agree that I would prefer not to spend all my time in the lab here with my alternate."

Liz reached over and squeezed his hand. "We’ll make our own places here. Elizabeth has asked me to be her second, taking the offworld negotiations where possible, and we’ll all be out there. We should read Col. Sheppard’s team’s mission reports to get a feel for what’s happened in the last year.

"Oh, and John, I mean Shep," she shook her head at the slip, all of them still accustoming themselves to the new names, "Elizabeth and the colonel are going to see about keeping your commission. I think it involves you being twins."

"Thank god they weren’t both around for their teens," Rod said fervently, making everyone laugh.

"I’m glad," Shep admitted, surprising no one.

"They’d be idiots to let you go," Rod said, and Shep smiled crookedly.

"You might be a little biased there."

"Smartest man in two galaxies here," Rod retorted.

"Rodney might argue that," Dusan pointed out dryly.

"Fine, we’re both the smartest man in two galaxies."

"So I take it I can inform Col. Sheppard," Shep made a face at the title, "that we’re going to be a gate team?" He waited for the nods before activating his radio.

"Colonel? Sheppard here. My team’s a go."

"Glad to hear it, Major. We’ll add you to the duty roster and advise you when your first mission’s up."

Shep nodded even though Sheppard couldn’t see it and signed off. "Well, we’re officially working members of this expedition again."

Liz smiled slowly. "It feels good," she admitted, and Dusan and Rod both nodded.

"Surprisingly so," Rod agreed.

"How ‘bout we all go have lunch together to celebrate, and then we go do a little private celebrating in our quarters?" Shep suggested, slinging an arm around Rod’s shoulders.

With everyone in agreement, the two couples headed for the mess hall, all of them in very good moods as they walked through the sunlit corridors of the city.

"We’ll have to schedule some time at the firing range tomorrow. I want all three of you up to speed on P90s," John announced, causing a spate of protests which he silenced with an upraised hand.

"We’re going out into potential danger every time we leave Atlantis. I’d feel a hell of a lot better about it if you can protect yourselves, not to mention my six."

Put that way, the others stopped arguing, Rod in particular as he had no desire to stand around wringing his hands while some life-sucking Pegasus-type vampire killed John.

"We should all read the mission reports for the last year, and you and I, Rod, in particular need to concentrate on our alternates’ reports. We don’t want to walk unknowingly into something they started."

"Gee, you start something?" Rod said sarcastically. "I’d never expect that."

"Just like I’d never expect your mouth to get us into trouble," Shep shot back, and Liz and Dusan held their breath till the two men started laughing. "It’s a good thing we have you along to be our diplomat, Liz."

"I can see that," she replied dryly. "Fortunately for all of us, our alternates came to the same conclusion, and Teyla Emmagan fulfils that role on their team. Otherwise, we’d probably be at war with the entire galaxy."

"Instead of just the Genii, you mean?" Shep replied, shaking his head as he remembered their visit to the Genii home world only days—and millennia—before.

The bantering continued throughout their meal, the four new arrivals consciously ignoring the sidelong looks from the rest of the expedition, who were all trying to come to terms with the arrival of alternate versions of four existing members of the Atlantis command staff.

Afterward, the two couples split up as they each retreated to their newly assigned quarters, unfortunately not the rooms they’d grown accustomed to in the past but rather bigger ones in the area set aside for residences by the expedition. John paced out onto the balcony of the room he and Rodney shared, bracing his hands on the railing as he tilted his head back and stared up at the night sky, reveling in the sight rather than the ponderous weight of ocean that had become so familiar during their tenure in the Atlantis of the past.

"I was going to resign my commission, you know," he said suddenly, making Rodney nearly lose his balance as he whipped around to stare at John.

"What?" he squawked. "Are you insane? You love being in the Air Force!"

John turned, earnest hazel eyes meeting shocked blue. "But I love you more, and there’s that whole ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ crap. If I’m a civilian, it won’t matter."

Rodney blinked. "Oh. Well, that’s... Yes. Ahem." He curled a hand around the nape of John’s neck and kissed him hard. "You don’t have to make that choice, John. I mean Shep. Oh, to hell with it! The other names are for in public, with other people," he grumbled. "What I mean is this is a multinational expedition. The stupid American military rules don’t apply. I keep forgetting you weren’t part of the SGC before. It dumped a lot of stuff like that since people who go through the gate are more open-minded, and once you’re in the SGC, you’re pretty much in for life, thanks to security concerns."

"Well, it’s not like I’m ever planning to go back to Earth anyhow," John admitted. "And Col. Sheppard did tell me that different rules applied to the SGC, but I wasn’t sure, and you matter more." He shrugged slightly before continuing, "Those few months in Atlantis... This is home now, with you," he added a little anxiously.

"Oh, as if I want to go back," Rodney snorted. "Well, if the program is ever declassified, maybe to accept a Nobel, though my previous work will be his," he added somewhat sourly. "Fortunately, I’m a genius. I’m sure I’ll come up with something else. Hrm, I’ll have to talk to Radek about building our own ZPM," he mused.

"Not tonight," John insisted, laughing. "Tonight I have plans for you."

"Oh really?" Rodney raised challenging eyebrows despite his widening smile. "Don’t I have anything to say about that?"

"I certainly hope so!" John grinned, and Rodney gave in and laughed.

"Idiot," he said fondly.

"You sweet-talker," John snorted, turning so that he had Rodney trapped between his body and the railing and then kissing him. He kept the kiss teasingly light until Rodney growled in frustration, then deepened it, his tongue pushing between eagerly parted lips to explore the familiar wet heat of Rodney’s mouth.

"Bed," Rodney panted, but John shook his head, his hazel eyes dark with passion.

"Right here. I want you here, against the railing, seeing the ocean below and the stars above, in our home," John rasped, making Rodney shudder and whimper softly while nodding jerkily before turning to brace his hands on the rail, looking out over the ocean.

John’s fingers worked at Rodney’s belt and pants until he was able to push them over Rodney’s hips. That done, he teased Rodney with fingertips while working on his own pants with his free hand, groaning with satisfaction when he was able to rub his naked cock between Rodney’s cheeks.

"Fuck," Rodney gasped. "You’d better have lube!"

John chuckled breathlessly. "Always. You never know when the opportunity will arise."

"Oh, is that what’s rising?"

John groaned and smacked Rodney’s ass, making him jump and curse at the spike of arousal. "Kinky," John chuckled. "We’ll explore that some other time."

"Bastard."

"And I’m all yours."

"Good. Don’t have to shoot anyone then."

John chuckled again at Rodney’s response and retaliated by squirting the lube directly from the tube onto Rodney’s ass, making him yelp when the cool gel hit his hot flesh.

"Oh, you are going to pay for that!"

"It’ll be worth it," John assured him, sliding a finger through the slick gel and pushing it into Rodney’s ass, twisting and sliding deeper while Rodney moaned and clenched down on the invading digit, not to stop it but to increase the friction.

"More," he demanded, his back arching as he took John’s finger deeper, letting out a guttural moan when it hit his prostate. John immediately concentrated his attention on that spot, rubbing it again and again while Rodney writhed and whimpered, his cock jerking against his belly, precome smearing shiny trails across the pristine blue of his shirt.

"John, please," Rodney begged, "want you in me when I come."

"I will be," John rasped, leaning forward to place a biting kiss on the side of Rodney’s throat, which only made him squirm more. John rocked against him, dragging his cock through the lube still smeared between Rodney’s cheeks, and then he was pushing into Rodney, the stars above the only observers as they moved together. Their cries rose, going from soft gasps to hoarse near sobs, finally culminating in near simultaneous sharp cries of completion.

John slumped against Rodney’s broad back, nuzzling his cheek as they slowly caught their breath. "We need to get a lounge chair or hammock out here."

"I’m not getting rope burns from a hammock!"

John burst into laughter. "Have I done anything yet that you haven’t liked? Trust me, Rodney."

Rodney groaned. "I’m so screwed. I do."

John carefully withdrew from him and turned him around to claim his lips in a tender kiss. "Me too."

"Well, that was... interesting," Rodney said to John several days later after an incredibly stressful mission that started with the possibility of a new, limitless power source and ended with narrowly averting the destruction of most of a solar system.

"Thank God we had two McKays," John said fervently from where he was sprawled on their bed, one arm over his eyes. "Neither of you would have listened to Radek—either of them—I don’t think, but working together, you managed to figure out what would happen, what did happen when the Dorandans and the Ancients tried to use the device themselves."

"The damn Ancients should be shot for leaving all their apocalyptic toys lying around the galaxy," Rodney grumbled. "It’s bad enough all the crap they left here in Atlantis, but the rest of Pegasus is littered with their experiments too."

"Good thing we have a double dose of McKays and Zelenkas to help deal with it then."

Rodney smiled wryly. "I think the pair of Sheppards with their self-sacrificing heroics helps too."

John finally lowered his arm and smiled up at Rodney. "I guess we’re made for each other."

"In every universe and every timeline," Rodney assured him, sitting down on the edge of the bed and leaning down to kiss him. "We’re going to be okay, John. There is a place for us in this reality."

John just smiled and pulled him down so they could curl up together and watch the sunset through the open window of their room.

END

 

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