"Have you managed to access the database yet, Rodney?" John Sheppard looked around the seemingly untouched Ancient outpost, his team scattered through what appeared to be the control room as they tried to find out why the Ancients had abandoned it. There was no sign that the Wraith had ever attacked, and the place seemed eerily untouched, as if the people had just walked away in the middle of the day. In one room theyíd found a chair lying on its side, as if someone had fallen over in it, but if there had been a body in it ten thousand years or more ago, it was long since gone to dust which had blown away in the ensuing ages.
Shaking his head to rid himself of his fancies, John lightly touched the central console, hoping to access some kind of log.
"Give me a minute," Rodney muttered, keying in commands as he used his gene to try to force the database to give up its information.
Rover was rolling around the lab, investigating corners and nudging the members of the team when they got in his way. Ronon growled at the cart but subsided when all three of his teammates turned glares on him.
Waiting for Rodney to do his magic, John leaned against a console, suddenly feeling a bit lightheaded. Maybe he should start getting a little more sleep the night before a mission.
Rodney sneezed and rubbed at his nose, glancing over at John. "Got somethingóother than an allergic reaction from all this dust anyway."
John moved to Rodneyís side, Teyla and Ronon converging on the scientist as well, and he discreetly leaned against that console as well for support, surprised to find that he still felt wobbly. "What did you find?"
"That whatever happened here happened quickly. Look at this." Rodney moved out of the way so that the others could see how the logs simply cut off, some in mid-word.
"Probably not the Wraith then," Ronon murmured, frowning at the incomprehensible writing on the readout. "No way they could have taken them out that quickly or without a fight."
After a moment staring at the logs, or at least at the screen since his vision was too blurred to focus on the display, John looked toward Rodney. "I think we might have a problem," he said an instant before he crumpled to the floor.
"John!" Rodney grabbed for him at the same time as Ronon and Teyla, and the sudden move caused his head to swim. Concentrating on the current situation to keep from panicking, he checked Johnís vitals, finding his pulse weak and thready. "Teyla, I need you to go contact Atlantis," he snapped. "Tell them we have a medical emergency and need a containment field set up; whatever this is, itís infectious."
Another wash of dizziness swept over him, and Rodney leaned on Rover to keep his balance. "Tell them both Col. Sheppard and I have been affected." The world went fuzzy, and the last thing Rodney saw before collapsing was Ronon grabbing for him as Teyla sprinted for the gate.
"So this bug only affects those with the Ancient gene?" Elizabethís muffled voice was the first thing John was aware of; the second was that he felt worse than he ever had in his life. He groaned.
"Aye." Carsonís voice was muffled by the isolation suit he was wearing. "Weíre lucky Col. Sheppard has a strong constitution, or we might have lost him."
"Donít say that!" Rodney snapped before starting to cough, sounding as if he was hacking up a lung. Realizing that John was awake, he rolled to his side, heedless of the monitor patches stuck to him. "John? How are you feeling?"
"Terrible," John groaned, prying his eyes open to peer at Rodney in the next bed, then Carson in his isolation suit. "What happened?"
"Ye were exposed to a disease that seems to infect only those with the ATA gene," Carson explained. "It seems that the disease wiped out the Ancient outpost and remained dormant."
"Until we triggered it," Rodney put in.
"Great." John grumbled as he tried to sit up only to discover that he didnít have the strength. "So if it wiped them out, why are we still alive? And are we going to stay that way? And why donít you have double beds in this damn place?"
"Yer alive because, while yeíve the strongest incidence of the gene, yer still human, John," Carson explained patiently.
Elizabeth nodded. "Weíre doing everything possible to isolate the virus and find a cure, but until then, youíre going to have to sit tight."
"Oh, and there are no double beds because I want the two of you resting," Carson added.
"Like I have energy for anything else," Rodney sighed, collapsing back against his pillows. "But really, Elizabeth, we should send a team of non-gene-enhanced people back there to see if we can find any information about this thing. Iíd recommendó" He paused, a coughing fit leaving him gasping for breath. "Jensen and Musawa at least."
John peered over anxiously as Rodney coughed and then turned pleading eyes on Carson. "Couldnít you at least move us closer together? Like Rodney said, we donít have the energy to do more than hold hands, but I really do rest better when weíre together."
"Aye, that we can do for ye both." Carson glanced over at his cart, Ciora, and she rolled forward, pressing against one end of Rodneyís bed while Rover manipulated the other end, and Carson moved the appropriate monitors. "Better now?"
"Much," Rodney sighed, reaching out for Johnís hand and squeezing it tightly. "Always with the drama with you," he muttered.
"Hey, it wasnít my fault!" John protested, clinging to Rodneyís hand as well. "How was I supposed to know there was a killer bug there?"
"I donít know," Rodney scowled. "But you scared me to death, collapsing like that. Donít do it again!"
"It wasnít exactly fun from my perspective either, you know!" John shuddered slightly at the thought of how easily they both could have died.
"Gee, really?" Rodney growled back in between coughs. "You could have had me fooled."
"Gentlemen, if ye canna behave, Iíll move ye apart again," Carson stated, watching as one of the non-gene-enhanced doctors took Johnís vitals.
Johnís hand tightened on Rodneyís, and he gave Carson a mutinous look. At the same time, Rover moved to the foot of their beds, blocking Carson from them.
"Now see here, ya wee beastie," Carson growled as Ciora pushed forward, shoving against the other cart. "This is for their own good, so Iíll not have ye be interfering with their treatment!"
"Carson, weíll behave," Rodney sighed, leaning back against his pillows. "Now go do your voodoo and find a cure."
John still scowled at the threat, but he nodded and called to Rover. "Itís okay, Rover; heís not going to hurt us. Come on up here."
The cart rolled over a piece of tubing, making a rude, flatulent sound before levitating, its scanners studying both men until it was satisfied enough to lower itself down near the foot of the beds.
John grinned at Rodney. "I guess weíre going to be fine."
"I hope so." Rodney tried to smile, but his eyes held a world of worry for John, more so than himself.
"I have every confidence in Carson. Besides, Rover calmed down after he checked us out just now."
"Honestly, John, I have more faith in Carson than Rover in this matter." The cart rocked back and forth, and Rodney reached down to stroke it. "You just arenít a doctor, Rover, thatís what I meant."
"Iím glad of both of them," John said diplomatically, not wanting to piss off his doctor or the cart, especially when he couldnít run from either of them.
"Thatís lovely to hear," Carson interrupted. "And I expect ye both ta behave yourself while Iím gone. Ciora will be here, and sheíll let me know if ya donít."
Rodney groaned. "Carson, all I feel like doing is sleeping, so donít worry about that."
John nodded, eyes already heavy-lidded as he fought to remain awake. Rover scooted backward until he was under their joined hands, supporting them as the two men began to drift off.
Hearing the door whoosh open, Carson looked up from the microscope to see Radek standing on the other of the containment roomís window. Waving a hand, he then held up a finger and saved his data. Getting up and walking tiredly to the decontamination area, he waited until the sensors declared him clean to move into the anteroom and pull off his hazmat suit, then crossed the final barrier to enter the unrestricted part of the infirmary.
"I suppose itís that late, love," he murmured, rubbing a hand over his face as exhaustion swept over him.
Radek wrapped his arms around Carson. "They will survive even without you staying here to watch their every breath. You already made sure of that," he said gently.
"I wish I was sure of that." Carson leaned into Radekís embrace, hugging him tightly. "Right now we dinna have any idea of how to cure this."
"Youíll find a way. You always do. You may not be as pushy about it as Rodney, but youíre just as determined not to fail."
"Failureís not an option." Carson looked up, his bright blue eyes tired.
"Of course not. But you need sleep, or you will start making mistakes."
"Yer too logical for my own good, love, though I seem to recall using the same argument on ye and it not working."
Radek smiled wryly. "At the time an armada of Wraith hive ships was heading for the city. If I had slept then, we all would have died, myself included. Sleep then would have been self-defeating. You, on the other hand, have no excuse aside from wanting to hover."
"I was speaking of the time not so long ago that you and Rodney stayed up all night taking apart the cart!" Carson huffed before sighing and letting Radek guide him out of the infirmary and toward the transporter. "Iím just concerned."
"Ah." Radek had the grace to look sheepish. "And I know you are, and I know they are grateful for it, but there is nothing you can do at the moment."
"Yes, dear," Carson yawned. "Iím going to bed now, with you."
"I like this plan," Radek nodded, moving slightly closer to one side of the hallway when Reza came up on Carsonís other side to offer support. "I think she feels you need extra help without Ciora," he chuckled.
"It may be I do." Carson reached down to pet Radekís cart and yawned again. "I didnít realize quite how tired I was until I stopped working. Poor Ciora, left in the isolation area with Rodney, John, and Rover; she may never be the same."
Radek chuckled. "Poor thing. Itís fortunate John and Rodney are too weak to do anything to traumatize her."
Carson nodded, his expression turning distracted at that as he tried to puzzle out just how to counter the effects of the virus.
"Stop that," Radek scolded. "You are to rest now, not work."
"Iím sorry," Carson murmured as they got to their room, Reza opening the door for them. "Perhaps youíre right; with some sleep it will all be clearer."
"Of course I am right." Radek laughed at Carsonís expression. "I learned from Rodney."
"Och, just what I needed." Carson sat and undid his boots before falling backwards on the bed, half-asleep.
Smiling, Radek shifted Carson to a more comfortable position before shedding his own clothes and crawling in beside him. "Sleep now. You can be amazing tomorrow."
Trying to concentrate on his e-mails, Rodney shifted on the bed, feeling as if someone (probably Ronon) had been working him over with a baseball bat. His soft groan didnít cause a reaction from John, and he glanced over at the other man, his constant concern growing visible as he studied the colonel. If anything, John had gotten sicker over the last day, his skin a pasty white and his breathing fast and shallow. He still smiled and joked when he woke up, but those periods were becoming shorter in duration and farther apart.
Rover was huddled by the beds, refusing to move except when one of the doctors, usually with Cioraís help, forced him to, and Rodney could understand his cartís anxiety because it mirrored his own perfectly.
Elizabeth entered the isolation room, wearing a hazmat suit, and sat down beside Rodney after patting Rover. Though she couldnít become infected, Carson had had some concern that those without the gene might become carriers, so no one came in without the gear. "How are you doing, Rodney?" she asked softly, wanting to give him a chance to vent his frustrations. She kept her eyes on his, the sight of John Sheppard so pale and quiet too disturbing to let her concentrate on Rodney if she allowed herself to think about it.
"How does it look like Iím doing?" he snapped, glaring at her. "I have a virus that doesnít have the decency to make me really sick or just leave me alone; Iím poked and prodded a dozen times an hour; I canít get any work done; and Iím stuck here waiting for Carson and his band of merry idiots to come up with a solution!"
At least Rodney wasnít in any imminent danger if he could complain, but Elizabeth didnít miss the worried glance at John. "Carsonís the very best there is. Heíll find a cure." He had to. And Elizabeth was refusing to think about the fact that the Ancients hadnít.
"Well, he damn well should be doing it faster!"
The voices woke John, and he rolled his head to the side to look over at Rodney. "Donít you put that on Carson," he said in a tone that sounded dismayingly feeble even to him. "You know heís doing everything humanly possible and more."
"Go back to sleep; you need the rest." Rodney tried to growl, but his words were torn by a gasping breath as he clutched at Johnís hand.
John tightened his grip on Rodneyís hand as much as he could, trying not to think about how weak he was. Carson would fix this; he always did.
"Damnit, I..." Rodney closed his eyes and pressed his lips together, looking away. "I hate not being able to do anything."
"At least you can still think. I canít do what Iím best at," John pointed out.
"Nope, not enough energy for that." Rodney tried to smile at the joke, but it didnít feel natural.
"I meant the military thing." John chuckled weakly, which set off a coughing fit that left him doubled over and wheezing as he tried to get air into his lungs.
"Carson!" Elizabeth rushed to prop him up, trying to help him breathe.
Without caring that he was pulling off the sensors attached to him, Rodney rolled off the bed to help, almost falling over Rover and Ciora when the carts streaked into their midst as well.
"Elizabeth!" Carsonís voice came from the intercom to the gowning area as he hurriedly pulled on his isolation suit. "Get him leaning back and get the oxygen mask on his face!"
"John!" Rodney leaned heavily on the other bed, trying to help as much as he was able to.
Flushed from his coughing fit and with tears of weakness streaming from his eyes, John fumbled for Rodneyís hand again. He breathed more easily once Elizabeth got the mask on him, and he slowly relaxed, though he kept a grip on Rodneyís hand.
Carson slammed into the unit, roughly pushing through the carts to check Johnís vitals and study the readouts on the monitors. "Your oxygen saturation levels are falling, Colonel," he said solemnly.
"Oh, god," Rodney whispered before sinking back onto his own bed, panting for breath. "Not good. So, so not good."
John wasnít entirely certain what that meant, but he did know that he needed oxygen to breathe, and oh yeah, live, so he had to agree with Rodney. Not good at all.
"Have you made any progress, Carson?" Elizabeth knew that this wasnít perhaps the best conversation to have in front of the patients, but she also knew both men and knew that it was pointless to try to keep the facts from them. It was better that they knew what was happening than that they be left guessing and possibly thinking it was even worse than it was.
"Weíve isolated the virus," he answered carefully, as he continued to work on John, trying to make him more comfortable. "Other than that, weíre still searching for an answer."
John let out a soft, breathless groan. This just kept getting better.
"I really would have rather heard Ďoh yes, hereís a miracle shot weíve developed that will make everything all better,í" Rodney said, his tone rising.
"Iím sure you wouldówe all wouldóbut I really think weíd rather have the truth than comforting lies," Elizabeth said quellingly.
John started to nod, but his eyes fluttered shut, and he slumped where he lay.
Carson quickly checked the colonelís breathing, his lips pressed tightly together as he secured the mask on Johnís face and rearranged the pillows behind his head, wanting him as vertical as possible.
"Carson." Rodneyís voice was low. "You are going to find a cure for this, arenít you?"
Rover bobbed up and down between the beds, clearly distressed. Elizabeth reached out to pat it, but the cart scooted away from her touch, huddling against Rodneyís leg, emanating misery.
"Weíre doing our damnedest, Rodney."
Carsonís words did little to reassure the scientist, and he stroked Roverís housing, the repetitive motion little comfort in the face of what happen if Carsonís team failed.
"In Atlantis we specialize in dramatic solutions," Elizabeth said comfortingly, one hand on Rodneyís shoulder, though she wondered how effective the human contact was when offered through a protective glove.
Rodney gave a sound that might have been a laugh or a sob. "Right now, Iíd rather deal with the mundane."
Carson patted Rodneyís shoulder before meeting Elizabethís eyes, his own expression concerned. "All right, Iím off to work. Nurse Connor will be here to monitor the situation."
Elizabeth hesitated, not sure what would be best. Finally she simply asked, "Would you like me to stay for a while, or would you rather be alone?"
Rodney looked over at her and gave a smile that could best be described as forlorn. "Go ahead, Elizabeth; I know you have work to do, and I wonít be alone; Rover and John are here with me."
Wishing she could hug him, Elizabeth settled for a smile and another pat on the shoulder before she left, pausing on her way out to let Carson know she was going.
Rodney watched her leave before laboriously shifting himself to sit on the edge of Johnís bed, resting his hand on the other manís chest to feel his quick, shallow breaths. Rover rolled to the edge of his bed and settled there, rocking back and forth slightly.
"Donít you dare die on me," Rodney whispered in between his own labored breaths. "Donít you dare."
It would have been the perfect moment for John to wake up and reassure his lover, but unfortunately, the colonel wasnít in any shape to do so. His eyes remained closed and his breathing weak as he lay motionless in the bed.
Rodney stayed that way as long as he was able, then rolled back over to his bed to collapse, his hand still tightly clasped around Johnís.
"Rodney?" Radek came into the isolation chamber some time later and came to sit on the edge of Rodneyís bed. He didnít offer platitudes or tell Rodney that it would be all right because he knew how he would feel if it was Carson in that other bed, but he simply offered the comfort of his presence, letting Rodney know what someone understood and cared.
"You shouldnít be in here," Rodney muttered without opening his eyes.
"I have suit. And you need company." Radek clearly wasnít going anywhere.
"I need rest; Iím deathly ill if you havenít noticed."
"I noticed. I also noticed that you are ill but John really is deathly ill. If it were Carson lying there, I hope someone would make sure I didnít have to sit alone with him and my fears."
"So what are we going to talk about, Radek? How Johnís lying there dying and thereís nothing I can do about it?" Rodney snapped, opening his eyes to glare at the other man.
"If you wish, Rodney, though I think it would be more helpful to remember how often each of you has cheated death. I donít think he will allow a mere bug to kill him. You know how he hates bugs." Radek smiled faintly.
Rodney gave a choking laugh. "Heís going to be really pissed about this one."
Radek nodded. "Yes, he is. But weíll find a way to beat this one too." The door opened again, and Lisa Lindstrom, wearing the ubiquitous hazmat suit, stepped in.
"Iím sorry to interrupt, doctors, but they need you in the lab, Dr. Zelenka." She saw his hesitation. "Iíll be happy to stay with Dr. McKay and the colonel for a while."
After a moment Radek nodded and, with an apologetic glance at Rodney, left to find out what the latest disaster was.
Rodney growled. "What is it with you people who can catch this damn thing insisting on coming in here?"
The blonde lieutenant shrugged. "You tried to help me after Peter died, and though it may not have seemed like it at that time, I appreciated it, Dr. McKay. So deal with the fact that Iím going to keep you company for a while."
"Fine. Since I obviously canít throw you out, why donít you tell me about your lifeóand if I start snoring, donít mind me."
Lisa smiled wryly. "Good try, sir, but you forget that Iíve had a few chances to see how you really act around the colonel. Youíre not nearly as bad as youíd like people to think. But youíre right that my life is pretty boring, so why donít you tell me about the colonel instead."
"What about him?" Rodney turned his head enough to look at her.
"Whatís he really like? What do the two of you like to do together? What are the little things he does that make you laugh and what makes you want to scream until he gives you that little boy look and all you can do is kiss him?" Lisa smiled sadly, remembering all those things about Peter.
Blue eyes narrowed as Rodney stared at the Marine lieutenant. "This sounds suspiciously like girl talk."
She gave him a toothy smile. "Would you rather that I describe to you in graphic detail all the ways I could kill you?" she asked sweetly.
Rodneyís already pale skin blanched. "Iím not sure what you want to hear from me, Lindstrom. Iím not into all that mushy, feely, get in touch with your emotions crap." He glanced at her as a fit of coughing overtook him but shook off the hand that offered him a glass of water.
"IóI just know when weíre together, I feel happy, even when heís pissing me off. I feel happy and I feel whole."
"Then thatís what you need to concentrate on, sir. Donít waste what time you do have worrying about what might happen. Besides, the colonelís a stubborn man; heís not going to give up so easily."
"Let me guess, or youíll kick my butt and then Cadman will come do it again. How the hell did I end up with a phalanx of female Marines playing Dear Abby for me?"
Lisa laughed. "Just lucky, I guess." She knew it had more to do with him being more relaxed around Col. Sheppard and their relationship throwing him into the company of the military more often, giving them a chance to get to know him.
A weak voice whispered, "A guy tries to get some sleep and wakes up to find a blonde hitting on his man. Enough with the blondes, Rodney!" John managed a smile, all his attention on Rodney as Lindstrom called Beckett to let him know the colonel was awake again.
"Well, once you get better, weíll find the peroxide, and I can add you to my harem," Rodney managed to get out though his attempt at teasing fell flat. "Rover, let the nurse do her job," he added when the cart tried to keep the woman away from John.
"You are not bleaching my hair!" Johnís indignation made everyone smile, despite their concern at his condition.
"Youíre lucky youíre sick, Dr. McKay," Lisa put in, "or Iíd have to hurt you for including me in that harem." John chuckled at the remark, relieved when it didnít trigger a coughing fit.
"And why is that?" Rodney asked, sounding highly insulted.
"I donít do crowds." She gave him a slow, sensual smile. "A man would be lucky to keep up with me; I guarantee you he wouldnít have energy for a harem."
Rodneyís eyes widened, and he scooted back on the bed, moving closer to both John and Rover. "Weíll work on that, once we get out of here, right, John?"
"Yes, dear, Iíll protect you from the big, scary Marine," John said, smiling. "Down, Lindstrom! Heís taken."
"But cute," she laughed. "And itís good to see you awake again, sir."
"You look a little better," Rodney commented, hoping it wasnít just wishful thinking.
"I feel a little better," John agreed. "At least I can breathe more easily."
"Well, leave the oxygen on, for goodness sake!"
"Aye, and let Nurse Connor take a blood sample from both of ye; I want to run yer blood counts again." Carsonís voice came over the intercom as he was watching them from outside the isolation area.
Lindstrom stood back out of the way, relieved to see her CO looking less gray. And Dr. McKay looked a lot better too now that the colonel was awake. Heck, even Rover looked happier. She chuckled when she saw that Col. Sheppard was rolling his eyes at McKay, obviously feeling more like himself. Sheíd never admit it, but it had scared the hell out of her to see him lying there unconscious; he didnít seem to get it, but people in Atlantis counted on him just as much as McKay. Sheppard was the approachable element of Atlantisí trinity of power.
"Yes, well, this is good." Rodney nodded jerkily and leaned back against his pillows, though he kept a close eye on John. "Lindstrom was just about to tell us who she might be interested in, werenít you, Lindstrom?"
"Good try, but Iím not looking right now, sir," Lindstrom replied. "I think you were telling me what you like about the colonel."
Amused by the interplay, John looked over at Rodney. "Iím one of your favorite things?"
"Right next to raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens," Rodney grumped.
"Definitely cute," Lisa said, giggling.
John smiled. "I like you too."
"Pinch them both, Rover."
Rover didnít move from where he was settled between their beds.
John glared at Rodney. "I say I like you, and thatís the reaction I get?"
"He didnít do it, did he?"
"You wanted him to!"
"I think Iíll leave you two alone," Lisa murmured, slipping out of the room after the nurse as they bickered.
A moment later, Rodney looked up and realized they were alone. "You scared Lindstrom away."
"I think she was giving us some privacy." He reached over to catch Rodneyís hand in his. "Iím going to be okay." Only the relief in the hazel eyes gave away how much heíd feared otherwise.
"Damn right you are," Rodney hissed, though there was a catch in his voice, and he clung onto Johnís fingers as if to a lifeline. "You think youíre leaving me, youíve got another one coming."
"Youíll have to pry me away from you," John promised. "You know I donít share."
"Iím the one who needs to worry about thatónot that I do any longer," he said quickly.
John smiled. "I just meant that even dead, Iíd still be jealous of you, so Iíll have to stick around for the rest of your life."
"Do you think Iím complaining about this?"
"Youíd better not be." John shifted restlessly and tried to sit up, but he didnít have the strength to do it yet.
"Stay where you are," Rodney snarled, "or Iíll have Rover sit on you."
John pouted at him. "I wasnít getting up. I just wanted to sit up a little."
"Carson, can he do that?" Rodney called.
"Aye," the doctor answered after studying the monitors. "Do ye need help?"
"No, Rover and I can handle it." Rodney scooted forward, and Rover levitated by the bed to help lift John enough to get several pillows behind his back.
"Thatís better," John said with satisfaction shortly thereafter. He no longer felt quite like a turtle flipped on its back, and he could look around now.
"How do you feel?"
"Like shit," he admitted, "but thatís still a hell of a lot better than it was. Whatíd you do, Carson?" He raised his voice as he looked toward the viewing window and the doctor behind it.
"Nothing, I dinna understand it," Carson admitted. "One moment ye were in a fearful decline, and the next..."
"But it isnít going to come back, right?" Rodney asked.
"I guess the human part of my immune system finally kicked in," John said, not really caring as long as he was getting better. Then Rodneyís question registered, and his eyes widened. "Please tell me this isnít like malaria that keeps coming back in cycles?" he begged.
"Let me finish these tests, and I may have a more definitive answer, Colonel."
"May. More definitive. Damn voodoo," Rodney grumbled.
Johnís fingers tightened on Rodneyís. "We canít all be you," he tried to joke, knowing it was falling flat even as he spoke.
"No, you canít..." Rodney mused, his expression going abstracted as he caught the fragments of an idea. "Carson, get Radek to dump the data we downloaded from the outpost to my laptop."
John chuckled briefly. "I must be better. Heís starting to work again."
Rodney cut a glance to the side even as he impatiently tapped on his laptopís housing, waiting for the information to download. "Of course youíre getting better; I knew you would."
John smiled, not needing to see Carsonís rolled eyes to know that Rodney had been worried about him. "I love you too."
"Hm, yes, time for the mushy stuff later, I need to find... Yes! Carson, do you have any of the virus stored anywhere?"
"Aye, weíve the samples we were using to try to formulate vaccines."
"Take a look at them."
"Whatís he supposed to be looking for?" John asked curiously.
"To see if theyíre still alive. Iíve got an idea."
"Since when are you a voodoo practitioner?" John teased, clearly improving as time passed.
"Just hush," Rodney grumbled.
"Rodney, the samples, theyíre all dead."
Eyebrows rising, John stared at him. "You gonna explain that?"
"A virus designed to attack the Ancients," Carson murmured.
"Exactly, and one designed with a limited lifespan. Want to guess who might have a stake in something like thatósay, so they donít get infected themselves?"
"Fuck," John breathed fervently. "The UAs really were, are Ancients."
Rodney shrugged. "Maybe if we send another team back, we could find out, but right now, thatís not an option."
"No one else is going back to that planet!" Col. Sheppard barked.
"I have to agree with that," Carson added. "Thereís too much chance someone could be exposed when they returned. Iím going to recommend to Elizabeth that we lock that address out to avoid any further incidents."
John nodded, but he added, "We need to keep a record of the address though so that we can unblock it. If ever the UAs do find out weíre here and come after us, it might be the one place in the galaxy where weíd be safe from them."
"Umm, except for those of us with the gene," Rodney pointed out.
"Hazmat suits if we havenít found a vaccine yet by that point. Not a great solution, I know, but if it came to that, weíd already be desperate."
"True, too bad the UAs couldnít have used all this virus knowledge to develop one that worked exclusively on the Wraith."
"That would have seemed to be a far more productive use of their time." John seemed to consider something for a moment. "I think Iím hungry."
"Iíll have some broth brought in for ye after weíve done another complete exam."
"Carson..." Rodney whined. "Come on! You just poked and prodded us."
"Aye, but I want to make sure the virusí death hasnít left any deleterious substances behind."
"Trying to turn us into voodoo dolls is only supporting Rodneyís allegations, you know!"
Carson sighed. "Now I truly know the two of ye are on the mend, a world of complaintsóbut ye still arenít getting out of yer examinations!"
"Sadist," John grumbled. "Withholding food and torturing us. Itís wrong!"
Rover hovered next to the bed and offered John a powerbar, making Rodney chuckle. "See? We have ways around you, Carsonóhey!" The last was said as Ciora rolled over and grabbed the bar, engaging in a tug-of-war with Rover.
Watching them, John started to laugh. Heíd seen some odd things, but that had to rank among the strangest and silliest.
The two carts battled until the wrapper on the powerbar gave way, scattering crumbs all over the lab and sending Rodney into hysterics until he started coughing again.
"Och, I should make the two of you clean this mess up," Carson sighed as he entered the room and Ciora scuttled to his side. "Not you, love, the laughing loons over there."
"You just needed to feed me and all this could have been avoided," John got out between rounds of laughter which just got worse when Rover poked morosely at some of the crumbs.
"Iíve a mind to give ye a sedative, for my own health!"
"Itís okay, Rover," Rodney laughed, petting the cart until he gave off his prodding and shivered with delight. "I know you were trying to keep us from dying of malnutrition."
"And I thank you for the attempt," John added. "But we have to let Carson do what he wants, or heíll never let us get anything to eat."
Roverís arm shot out and grabbed Carsonís armócarefully, so as not to rupture the suitóto pull him to Johnís side.
"Och, ye beastie, Iím coming!" Carson grumbled while Ciora shoved against Rover, trying to get him to let go.
"Heís demanding," Rodney chuckled.
"And I wonder just who he takes after."
"Careful, Rover," John laughed, "Carsonís not a powerbar and would be messier if he popped open." Though he was in more danger of being mashed between the two of them than anything.
"Eww, squished Carson, thatís disgusting!"
"Thank ye both so much for your concern." Carson gently pushed past Ciora to begin checking John over again.
"Any time. Ouch!" John glared indignantly as Carson prodded him. "You did that on purpose!"
"Pardon me?" Carson asked innocently.
"Bah, that act doesnít work on either of us and you know it, you vampire!"
"Iím not a damn pincushion!"
"Oh hush, or Iíll strap ye both to the beds and move them to opposite ends of the room."
Rover was suddenly hovering in the air at the head of their beds, and John snickered. "No, no, he wouldnít do that to us; itís okay." To Carson he added, "Fine, fine, weíll be good. And when can we get out of here?"
"Iíd like for the both of ye to stay in here for at least another twenty-four hours. If ye remain symptom free and your blood cultures are clear, Iíll see about releasing ye."
"Another day?" Rodney groaned. "Carson, come on."
"I donít sleep well alone," John sulked.
"Aye, well thatís too bad, as yeíll have one more night of it."
"I should make Radek come in and take dictation all night!"
"Canít we just push the beds together," John suggested. "Itís not like either of us has the energy to do anything!"
"The beds are close together," Carson pointed out.
"Carson, would you want to hold Radekís hand across a gap while you were sleeping or curl up in his arms and rest your head on his shoulder?"
"Please, Carson," Rodney begged.
"The two of ye are the most bothersome..." Carson grumbled as he jabbed a needle into Johnís arm, drawing the blood sample.
John winced but just kept staring pleadingly at Carson.
"Fine, after weíre done here, Iíll see what we can do about yer sleeping situation."
"Thank you, Carson." Rodneyís tone was totally sincere.
"Yes, thank you." John was equally fervent. "Roveríll help you move whatever you need, wonít you, boy?"
The cart shimmied in reply and nudged Carson to get him moving.
"Yeíll be letting me take my samples first," he growled as Ciora scooted over to nudge Rover away so that Carson could get to Rodney.
Watching, John tried to push himself more upright in bed and was pleased to discover that he could manage it easily, already much stronger than heíd been when he woke up.
"Carson, how did the virus survive on that outpost all those years if it died within forty-eight hoursóow!--here?"
"Iím nae sure, but perhaps thereís something at the site that acts as an incubator, continually repopulating the outpost to keep it effective as a biological weapon." Carson set aside the tube of blood and pressed a band-aid to Rodneyís arm.
"Incubator, inability to deal with a mixture of Ancient and human antibodies, or magic, I honestly donít care. Weíre alive, and weíre going to stay that way." John sat up fully, a little dizzy from hunger and thirst but otherwise almost entirely back to normal. Rover stopped trying to push between Carson and Rodney to move back to John, ready to catch him if he was weaker than he thought and started to fall over.
"If Carson ever gets us any food!" Rodney added, glaring at the physician.
"I pity yer poor mothers," Carson grumbled, gathering his samples and sidestepping Rover to pat Ciora on the sensor array. "Itís all right, love; ye wonít be stuck in here with them for much longer." He stopped and looked back at the two men. "And yer food should be here soon; mind ye donít maul Nurse Connors when she brings it in."
"I only maul Rodney, and thatís going to have to wait till weíre both back to normal."
"See? Heís talking about sex; he must be feeling better; get us food!"
"Food and our beds together," John added hastily. "And I donít always talk about sex unless Iím sick!"
"Oh please!" Rodney nodded toward the depressurized doorway through which Carson had just escaped. "You scared Carson away!"
"He always runs away from us, Rodney. And I wasnít talking about sex!"
"Mauling me isnít sex?"
Rodney snickered. "How about once we get back to our room, you tell me explicitly?"
"That sounds like an excellent plan to me." John grinned over at him, incredibly relieved to be alive and wanting to demonstrate it.
"You scared the shit out of me, you know."
John nodded, the grin falling away. "I scared the shit out of me too. And I thought that you would die too." He reached for Rodneyís hand again, needing the connection.
"Iím too important to die, didnít you know that?" Rodney may have been smiling, but his fingers tightened around Johnís as he spoke.
"Yeah, you are." Unable to wait for Carson to come back and move the beds, John stood up, wobbling for a moment before he took the single step necessary to bring him to Rodneyís bed. "Move over." He stretched out alongside Rodney in the bed barely big enough for them and sighed with contentment now that he could finally feel him and inhale his scent with every breath.
Rodney scooted back so that John could get settled, then curled closer, draping an arm around his waist and resting his head on Johnís chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart. "This feels a lot more normal," he sighed.
John nodded. "Yeah, now I feel like things are all right." Rover settled next to the bed, briefly whirring his wheels happily.
"Well, once we get our food anyway," Rodney amended.
Johnís stomach rumbled its agreement, making them both laugh.
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