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"You know, Phoebus was good," John observed to Rodney as they made their way to the infirmary where they’d been informed Dr. Weir and Ronon were now awake. "Even I thought she was Elizabeth at first. And if I hadn’t been what I am," he continued, knowing Rodney would understand that he was referring to his status as an Ori, not as military commander of Atlantis, "I probably would have said yes when she wanted me to host Thalan. And can you imagine what would have happened with Col. Caldwell and his rigid military protocols in charge during all that? We’d probably have ended up with people shot."

"If he had been one of them, I might not have complained," Rodney murmured before frowning at John. "And just why did you think letting the man-mountain host Thalan was a good idea? Someone smaller would have been better."

"Because he knows the least about the city’s systems and doesn’t have any security codes," John explained simply. "Not to mention that at that point, I still thought it was a romantic gesture, and Ronon would look good kissing Elizabeth."

"Hrmm, good point—until they started trying to kill each other and us."

"Yes, I did have a few issues with that," John agreed. "And Caldwell wanting to kill them on sight really didn’t help. I was about ready to do something I would not have regretted. But Teyla managed to keep them from killing each other until Thalan died, so it all worked out."

"And that’s what matters in the end," Rodney nodded, not doing a very good job of hiding his relief that John hadn’t had to show who and what he was.

"And just imagine the blackmail potential of that kiss," John snickered.

Rodney rolled his eyes but couldn’t keep from snickering. "I hope you have security pictures?"

"Of course!" John grinned at him. "I was thinking of a poster for the briefing room."

Rodney snickered. "You do realize Elizabeth will get you for that?"

"It’ll be worth it. Can you picture her face when she walks in and sees it?"

"I’m so going to enjoy visiting you in the brig."

"Ohh, I get conjugal visits?" John pretended to gasp. "This could be fun!"

"Please!" Rodney snorted. "Who knows what diseases you’ll pick up in there!"

John snorted. "First of all, there’s no one else in the fairly sterile place; secondly, even if there was, I’m not planning to get up close and personal with anyone else, and thirdly, Ori!"

Rodney snickered at that, grinning when John glared at him.

"Oh, very funny. Keep it up and I’ll revert to type and insist on being worshipped."

"Do that and you’re never getting near me again," Rodney snorted.

"Worship is overrated," John replied instantly as they stepped out of the transporter and walked toward the infirmary door.

"And an attitude like that might get you a personal worship session from me."

"I can feel my attitude improving by the second with that as inspiration."

"Glad to hear it; seeing shrines built to you all over the galaxy would just be too odd."

"Been there, done that, got the ruined temples. I like you better."

Rodney’s eyebrows rose before he nodded. "Very glad to hear it," he murmured as they entered the infirmary and walked over to the area where both Ronon and Elizabeth were resting. "Well, it’s good to see the two of you back to yourselves," he said over-brightly.

Elizabeth blushed, and Ronon growled at him.

"Should we be planning a shower for the two of you?" John asked, grinning.

"You know, the technology behind the mind-transference was quite fascinating," Rodney said quickly. "Not that we’d ever have a cause to use it, of course."

"Definitely not," Elizabeth said emphatically.

"Data crystal recordings are definitely less troublesome," John agreed.

"The dead should stay dead," Ronon muttered.

John snorted a laugh. "Oh great, now I’m going to have nightmares about zombies stalking Atlantis. Thanks a lot, Ronon."

"And if he’s up all night, that means I’m up all night," Rodney groaned.

"I thought you were anyway," Ronon replied dryly, making John laugh while Elizabeth tried to hide a grin.

"He has a point, Rodney."

Rodney glowered.

"Not sleeping is the best part of night," John chuckled.

"Except when you have to get up early the next morning!"

"Are you saying I’m not worth it?"

"I am not having this argument here."

"What argument is that, Dr. McKay?" Col. Caldwell asked as he joined the group.

"No argument," John replied easily, "just joking around. You may have heard of it?" He raised an eyebrow at the other colonel.

"Not in regards to situations where the whole city could have been compromised," Caldwell snapped.

"But it wasn’t, and it wasn’t as if Col. Sheppard let Thalan get in his head," Rodney commented.

"Just imagine how much worse things could have been if they’d both had command codes," John suggested. "And the gene." Not to mention Ori powers. He shuddered faintly at the possibilities.

"And now that we’re assured everyone’s fine, I’m going to get back to fixing the mess that was made of our systems." Rodney glowered at Elizabeth as he spoke.

Elizabeth returned his gaze, smiling wryly. "Next time my body’s hijacked by a homicidal ancient consciousness, I’ll try to avoid making additional work for you."

"Good, that will make things much easier." Rodney smiled slightly before turning and heading out of the infirmary.

Elizabeth shook her head, smiling faintly. "Try to keep him from staging a coup while I’m incapacitated, Colonel. Col. Sheppard," she amended hastily to prevent any misunderstandings.

John chuckled. "I’ll keep him out of trouble for the rest of the day, then the city’s yours again." He headed after Rodney, ignoring Caldwell completely.

Elizabeth only wished she had that option. "Col. Caldwell," she started, "I hope you know that Phoebus was lying about my opinions; she was going after any potential soft spots."

"Oh really?" he asked, eyeing her.

"Of course. You’re very good at what you do."

"You just aren’t right for Atlantis," Ronon said bluntly. "Sheppard’s in charge here, and trying to undermine him just makes you the enemy."

Elizabeth winced but didn’t deny it.

Caldwell’s eyes narrowed as he stared at both of them. "You may want to rethink that way of thinking."

"Col. Caldwell, Col. Sheppard is Atlantis’ military commander, and that is not going to change. He understands our situation and the people of this galaxy in ways no one who wasn’t here that first year ever will. And our people trust him. As I told you once before, you don’t want to fight me on this one."

"Dr. Weir, if I was fighting you on this, you’d know it," Caldwell said calmly before turning and marching out of the infirmary to the relief of everyone there.

"He’s going to be a problem," Ronon observed.


"You know, there are times when I wish you could wiggle your nose and make him go poof," Rodney grumbled.

"Oh, I could make him go poof all right," John said, tiny flames visible in the depths of his eyes. "We could just vacuum up the little pile of ash."

"And as satisfactory as that might be, it’s not going to happen."

"You’re no fun," John pretended to pout. "So how are you going to make it up to me?"

"You’ll just have to wonder because right now I have work to do," Rodney smirked.

"I guess I’ll just have to figure something out myself then." John turned his head so Rodney could get a good look at his eyes.

"John..." Rodney said warningly, though his respiration had quickened at the sight of those faint flames in his lover’s eyes. "Behave."

"I always behave," John replied, schooling his features into an innocent expression while allowing the flames to grow slightly.

"I’m not even bothering to answer that comment," Rodney snorted. "I have to work, Colonel!"

"Everybody’s allowed breaks," John nearly purred.

"Which I will take once I’ve assured myself the city isn’t going to sink because of our alien visitors’ meddling!"

John sighed. "Sometimes, Rodney, you’re just no fun. Fine, fine, I’ll go deal with the paperwork. Although how I’m going to report this, I have no idea!"

"Cry me a river, Colonel," Rodney smirked. "It does you good not to get everything you want the second you want it, and tell the truth in the report; that’s the easiest way to handle it."

"I was planning to. I just hope it doesn’t get us all ordered to psych evaluations!"

"And why would it? Considering some of the things that have happened here and with the SGC, I doubt this will even raise an eyebrow."

"The really weird part is that you’re probably right." John shook his head and stole a quick kiss.

"You really should be more careful, sir," Laura Cadman said as she passed. "Col. Caldwell would love to have a reason to get rid of you."

John’s eyes narrowed on the lieutenant. "And are you planning to give him that reason?"

"No, sir!" she exclaimed. "I like things the way they are here."

John relaxed again, smiling. "Despite Dr. McKay’s grumbling, I think you’re going to fit in very well here, Lieutenant."

"As long as she’s not in my head again!" Rodney stated fervently.

"I prefer myself out of your head as well, Rodney," she laughed.

"I’ll make that unanimous," John chuckled, making Cadman laugh again.

"Two’s definitely company, sir."

"Fine, you two keep each other company so I can finish my work!" Rodney exclaimed, escaping while he could.


"So, can I interrupt you yet?" John asked several hours later, walking into the lab.

"You just did," Radek muttered half under his breath, making the colonel grin and wink at him.

"That depends, are your reports done?" Rodney asked without looking up from the readout of the scan he was running.

"You sound frighteningly like my mother," John observed. "But yes, Mom, I finished my homework. Can I go out and play now?"

"You thinking of me as your mother is disturbing on so many levels it isn’t even funny." Rodney shuddered as he turned around to look at John. "But yes, I’m done for now; I’m sure someone will call me if there’s an issue." He glanced at Radek as he spoke.

"Yes, yes, we can do nothing without you," Radek said absently, intent on a circuit he was tracing. "Go away."

Rodney huffed out a breath at that but headed for John. "That’s what they say until something is in the process of melting down, then they all love me."

"We never love you," Radek snorted.

"But I always do," John murmured. "Come on, I’ll even buy you dinner."

"Only one that matters," Rodney smiled, "and food is a very good idea."

"Let’s grab something and go hide in our room. It’s easier when the Daedalus is here."


"Exactly!" John eyed him wryly as they made their way to the transporter. "It’s hard to use food as foreplay when you have to pretend to be straight."

Rodney chuckled at that. "Good point, and you use it so well."

"I use everything well," John retorted, stealing a quick kiss once they were inside the transporter.

"Which is why I’m so worn out all the time," Rodney muttered when they reappeared near the mess hall.

"Hey, I deal with your tiredness. And I let you sleep sometimes."

"I suppose I should be grateful that you draw the line at doing me while I’m asleep." Rodney grinned slightly at that.

John snorted a laugh. "Some things need to be interactive."

"And over-active when they involve you—not that this is a bad thing."

"So the truth comes out, you don’t mind it after all."

"Sometimes!" Rodney interjected quickly.

"Too late." John shook his head, grinning.

Rodney growled and glared at him. "Wonderful, now your libido is going to go into overdrive, and I still have work to do later to fix the mess the warring idiots made of the city!"

"That’s later. Right now you’re mine. As soon as we get something to eat."

"Hopefully Caldwell isn’t in the mess; he’ll make me lose my appetite."

"I’ll bet I could help with that."

Rodney glanced at John out of the corner of his eye. "With me losing my appetite?"

"With recovering it!"

"And building up another one too, I’m sure." They reached the mess hall and walked inside, grabbing trays and getting in line.

"Of course, it’s my main talent."

"What might that be, Colonel?" Caldwell asked coolly from nearby. "Reckless endangerment?"

"I didn’t hear you complaining when it saved your hide, Col. Caldwell," Rodney snapped.

"I do what I have to, to protect this city and its personnel," John replied coldly, a hand on Rodney’s arm. "Whether you like it or not, I am the senior officer here."

"That fact has been made quite clear to me," Caldwell answered.

"So smile, Colonel. We each have our place in the universe, and we know what it is." John gave him a toothy smile and had to glance away to prevent Caldwell from seeing the flames in the depths of his eyes. Rodney did though, and he stamped on John’s foot before starting to grab his food, not even noticing what he was getting, and John’s hand shot out to grab the lime Jell-O off Rodney’s tray and put it back.

"Blue, Rodney, not green!"

"What?" Rodney glanced down at the dessert and frowned. "Oh, thank you."

"I prefer you alive." John glared at Caldwell when the other colonel snorted derisively. "Have you ever seen anyone have a severe allergic reaction, Colonel? Their airways swell shut; their heart may stop; and if nothing is done to halt the reaction, they die."

"And I really prefer being alive," Rodney cut in.

Caldwell still looked disbelieving, unfortunately for him as Carson had overheard the conversation and took hold of the colonel’s arm to draw him aside and lecture him on the possible severity of some allergies.

"I wish he had an allergy—to breathing!" Rodney muttered, glaring back at Caldwell as they got the rest of their food.

"I’m developing an allergy to him!"

"No frying him, as much as I’d like it; now let’s go eat and attempt to relax."

"Can I hurt the person who developed the method of Goa’uld extraction without harming the host? Oh wait, wasn’t that you?" John grumbled.

"Then obviously the answer is no!"

"I hope you realize that was a really bad idea!"

Rodney only looked at him.

"Well, it was," John grumbled. "We could have been rid of him."

"I’m not going to kill anyone, even by lack of action, just to make things easier for us."

"It’s not to make it easier for us; it’s because I don’t like him! Usually when I don’t like someone, they don’t last long."

"Well, as annoying as he is, I’m glad you’re restraining yourself."

"You going to reward me?" John asked with another rapid change of mood as he dismissed Caldwell from his mind.

"You make me dizzy," Rodney sighed before nodding. "Yes, I’ll reward you."

"Cool." John beamed. "And be grateful for the mood swings," he suggested softly, proving that it was completely volitional. "I don’t think you’d like me very much without them."

"Well, we don’t have to worry about that, do we?"

"No, you reformed me." Out of the mess hall and alone in the transporter, John slung an arm around Rodney’s shoulders, and Rodney slid his around John’s waist.

"I say it was a mutual piece of work."

John chuckled, even as he drew Rodney closer. "We are so incredibly sappy that we would have to kill anyone who ever heard us."

"God, yes!" Rodney shuddered even as he nuzzled John’s throat. "Or maybe just fudge with their memory."

"Harder to do but yeah, probably better. I think someone might notice if the population started disappearing."

"And we do need some of these people."

John nodded. "Besides, I actually like most of the people in Atlantis."

Rodney chuckled and steered John out of the elevator. "You’re just getting soft is all, and I like you that way."

"And here I thought you liked me hard." John grinned as he steered them out onto their balcony and set his tray down on the table.

After making sure his food was safe as well, Rodney shook his head. "One-track mind."

"You know you love it. And I’m making sure you’re fed first."

"You’re too good to me." Rodney sat and picked up his fork, looking at John inquiringly. "What? You wanted me fed first!"

"I didn’t say a word," John laughed, sinking down into the other seat and starting his own meal.

"You don’t have to; I know what you’re thinking."

"Damn, now you’re developing my powers? Impressive!"

Rodney threw a piece of bread at him.

Laughing, John caught it and then took a bite. "Hm, I think they’re getting the hang of it. This batch is actually better for eating than playing hockey with."

"Hey, give me that back then!" Rodney exclaimed, reaching for the bread, trying to snatch it from John’s hand.

"Whatcha gonna give me for it?"

"A kiss."

John tossed the bread back onto Rodney’s plate and flung his arms wide.

"Once we’re done," Rodney added around the bread he’d crammed into his mouth.

"You cheated!"

Rodney flashed him a cherubic grin. "I learned from the best."

Bursting into laughter, John leaned back in his chair. "I guess I can’t complain then."

"Nope, just eat."

"You’re getting awfully bossy," John pretended to grumble before digging into his meal.

"Getting? I must be losing my touch!" Rodney pretended to look horrified as he finished up his meal and leaned back in his seat, watching John.

John snorted. "You still terrorize everyone around you," he said soothingly, taking another few bites before pushing his plate aside. "Feel like going for a swim? There’s a pool in one of the unexplored areas of the city."

"That depends; is it stagnant and filled with man-eating algae?"

"Yes, I thought that would be the perfect way to get you in the mood." John rolled his eyes. "Of course not! It’s clean and warm and fun."

Rodney smiled slightly. "All right then, show me this wonderful pool."

John wrapped his arms around Rodney, and a moment later they were in a huge chamber at the very top of one of the city’s towers. John looked around, and the lights came on, the dust vanished, and the myriad ten-thousand-year-old dead plants were suddenly lush and vibrant, filling the air with the aroma of life and the scent of exotic blossoms.

"Don’t worry," he said quickly, before Rodney could complain, "there won’t be a power spike on the usage grid. I’m powering all this."

"Is that healthy?" Rodney asked, frowning at John before walking around the room, staying away from the pool.

"I barely even notice. It’s no strain at all." John watched Rodney. "You’re perfectly safe, Rodney. I would never let anything happen to you."

Rodney sighed and looked back at John. "That transparent, am I?

John moved to his side and hugged him. "After what you went through, it’s understandable that water’s not your favorite thing. But you must know that if we hadn’t been able to find a human way, I would have done something," he admitted. "I did make that sea monster of yours stay there to draw attention to you and sort of help some ideas along. The only reason I didn’t do more was because I knew you don’t want me to expose myself, but it was damn close."

"So you made Carter appear for me?" Rodney asked, leaning into the embrace though one eyebrow was lifted sardonically. "And yeah, I know you would have done what was necessary—but I’m glad it wasn’t."

"No," John growled, "Carter was all your own idea."

"I was concussed! I was scared, and I knew you were coming for me somehow," Rodney protested.

"So you fantasized about a bikini-clad blond?" The flames in John’s eyes grew.

"If I had fantasized about you, you would have distracted me and bent me over the console even if it was all in my head, and why are we arguing about this?"

"Because I don’t like you dreaming about Carter," John grumbled, looking a little sheepish.

Rodney snickered slightly at that. "You’re cute when you pout."

"I don’t pout!" John kissed him to stop his laughter.

"You do, but that’s all right; I think it’s hot," Rodney murmured once he could speak, at the same time kneading his hands against John’s back.

"Well, as long as it’s hot..." John grinned and started working on Rodney’s clothes.

"You can live with it? I’m glad." With a much put-upon sigh, Rodney began pulling at John’s clothes as well.

"You are such a fake," John laughed. "You know you enjoy this just as much as I do."

"Excuse me? I never fake it!"

"Not that!" John snickered. "The grumpiness was what I meant. You’re not exactly suffering."

"No, just limp and exhausted," Rodney sniffed before relenting, "with a disgustingly sappy smile on my face."

"I think it’s a cute, sappy smile on your face."

"And if anyone else ever sees it or hears of it, I will find a way to make you pay!"

"Nope, that’s all mine," John replied easily. "Now, are we actually going to get into this pool?"

Rodney eyed him askance for a moment before nodding. "Just so long as your friend Shamu doesn’t decide to join us."

John blinked at him. "I’m fairly certain that I never spent any time with an orca! Oh, you mean that sea monster? No," he laughed, "he did what I needed him to, and he’s back to looking for a mate of his own now."

"Now? Just what did you have him thinking I was?!"

"Now as in he went off after we got you back, and I haven’t really felt the need to keep track of him since!" John rolled his eyes.

"Just checking; now are we going in the water or not?"

John grinned and dove at Rodney, tumbling them into the water with a huge splash, Rodney surfacing, sputtering and coughing, glowering at John before splashing as much water at him as he could. Laughing, John ducked under and yanked Rodney down again before swimming away.

"No cheating and you know what I mean!" Rodney yelled when he surfaced, knowing John could hear him even under the water.

"Would I do that?" John grinned. "I’m being good, breathing and everything."

Rodney lifted his hands out of the water and slowly applauded.

"Sarcasm will get you dunked."

"You have to catch me first." Knowing it was futile, Rodney dove under the water and started swimming for the far side of the pool while John lunged after him, cutting cleanly through the water. He caught hold of Rodney still meters from the edge and pulled the other man into his arms, laughing easily.

"Cheater," Rodney muttered though his hands were sliding down to clasp John’s ass, pulling them closer together.

"Just because you swim like a spastic dog doesn’t make me a cheater."

"A spastic dog?!"

"A drowning duck?"

Rodney’s lips drew together in a thin line, and his eyes narrowed to burning blue slits.

"Have I mentioned how incredibly hot you are when you’re pissed?" John said with a grin.

Rodney just glared at him.

"Oh yeah, just like that." John moved closer, tangling their legs together so Rodney could feel his erection.

"You are such a freak," Rodney muttered.

"Good thing you like freaks then," John replied, laughing. "You can study me to your heart’s content."

"And who told you I liked freaks?"

"You mean other than the fact that you get hard as nails every time I let some of my real nature show?"

"I really, really hate you," Rodney groaned as his body twitched at the reminder.

"If this is how you hate me, loving me might kill us both," John snickered.

"Oh, just shut up," Rodney growled before pulling him in for a kiss. John went easily, slightly solidifying the water under and around them to make sure they stayed above water where Rodney could breathe.

Once they broke apart, Rodney felt around with a foot and shook his head. "Is there anything you can’t do?"

John shrugged. "Not so much. Most of the stuff the Ori and Alterans don’t do is more because if they break the rules, the other will retaliate. No one notices me if I keep it small, so I can get away with it."

"What if they notice it?"

"That would not be good. But really, no one’s looking this way, so we’re pretty safe."

"And let’s keep it that way," Rodney ordered before kissing John again, his arms tightening around the other man.

"I’m not going anywhere. If you remember your bible, my friends and I did fairly well when we were just bored. I’m a hell of a lot more motivated now."

Rodney shook his head at that. "We’ve got enough going on without fire and brimstone, so let’s just stick to Wraith and Caldwell, okay?"

"Of the two, I think I prefer the Wraith."

"Mmm, at least we can just shoot them."

"If I wasn’t hiding, we could do more. I’ll bet they’re not fireproof."


John sighed. "Sooner or later, someone’s going to find out, you know. I’ve never tried being an ordinary human for decades."

"That may be, but let’s keep it going this way as long as possible, okay? I kind of like things without the added complications over and above the whole ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ thing."

"I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone till we both agree," John replied.

"I know," Rodney murmured before kissing him again, winding a lag around John’s thighs to pull them against each other. John rocked against him, opening his mouth to draw Rodney’s tongue in.

Rodney groaned, squirming as much as he was able, making their erections rub together as the kiss continued.

"Fuck me," John whispered, the flames in his eyes leaping when he drew back to look at Rodney hungrily.

"Need to move somewhere."

John nodded, and a moment later they were on the soft ground in a leafy alcove off to one side of the pool.

"Lube," Rodney gasped, pressing down into the cradle of John’s hips.

John caught hold of Rodney’s hand, cupping it, and a moment later, his palm was filled with a thick, slippery gel, making Rodney smile. "Nice trick, Colonel."

Even as he spoke, he was pulling back, dragging his fingers through the warm liquid and pressed two into John’s ass, making John gasp and clench down on the invading digits.

"Ready?" Rodney rasped, twisting his fingers as he slathered the rest of the gel on his erection, hissing out a gasp at the heat of it.

"Fuck yes," John groaned, pushing back to ride Rodney’s fingers.

"Oh yeah." Rodney pulled back just long enough to position himself, then arched forward, sheathing himself fully in John’s ass, his whole body spasming at the tight grasp.

"You feel perfect," John panted, clenching and releasing around the thick cock filling him.

Rodney gave a trace of his normal cocky grin. "Well, of course I do." The grin vanished, and he stared down into John’s eyes. "I’m with you." John’s hand curved around the nape of Rodney’s neck, drawing him down into a kiss that was surprising in its gentleness, and Rodney responded in kind, slowing his movements until his hips were undulating in time with the slow motions of their tongues.

John stared up at him, the flames taking over the pupils of his eyes until there was only the narrowest ring of color around them, and Rodney whimpered, shuddering as his hands stroked over John’s chest and hips. "Mine," John rasped, rocking up to meet each leisurely thrust.

"Yes," Rodney whispered before kissing him again.

"Forever." John caught hold of one of Rodney’s hands, lacing their fingers together. Rodney stared down into the orange-yellow flames, tightening his fingers around John’s as they rocked together. "And I’m yours," John promised.


Rodney’s repetition of the vow made John shudder and clench down on Rodney, tilting his hips up to let the other man slide even deeper into him.

"Not going to last," Rodney gasped before biting his lower lip as he tried to hold on. John nodded and kissed Rodney again, reaching between them with his free hand to jerk himself off.

"Oh yeah, want to feel you come."

John nodded again, staring up into Rodney’s eyes as his body tightened, knowing that the next thrust would push him over.

A wash of heat that had nothing to do with the flames in John’s eyes rolled over Rodney, and he groaned as he rocked forward, the almost immediate contractions around his cock bringing him over as well. John wrapped his free arm and legs around Rodney, holding him close.

"And that’s another reason why I wouldn’t take Thalan. Nothing’s worth giving this up even for a minute," John murmured.

"No way you would have gotten near me with him in your head," Rodney sighed, stretching out over John and purring with happiness.

"No way I’d have let him near you," John replied.

"Didn’t happen, don’t have to worry about it."

"Good point." John sighed happily, looking up at the green fronds over their heads. "We’ll have to get the botanists to get some plants in here to recreate this without making use of me."

"That would mean they would find out about this place and we’d have to share it," Rodney murmured before nuzzling John’s throat.

"An even better point. We’ll keep this for ourselves."

"As long as it’s not a problem for you."

"How would it be a problem?" John asked blankly.

"Well, I don’t want your battery to run dry!"

John burst into laughter. "Rodney, I could keep this up for about a million years or so."

"I’m sure whoever’s here at the time will appreciate it," Rodney sniffed.

"That’d be you."

Rodney only smiled and shook his head before kissing John again.

"Forever," John repeated mutinously, making Rodney chuckle though his smile didn’t shrink.

"Fine, forever."

"And don’t forget it." John slowly relaxed again, sighing as they nestled together. "This is nice."

"So we’re back to being sappy again; I can deal with this."

"I like sappy. It’s... relaxing."

Rodney nodded, shifting to the side and sighing as he felt himself slip out of John’s body. "Relaxing is good. Relaxing is very, very good," he murmured, feeling his eyes slip closed.

John murmured softly, stroking Rodney’s back as the scientist fell asleep. John amused himself by replacing some of the plants with flowers that hadn’t been seen in thousands of years, filling the air with exotic scents.


"Simpson, what are the readings on that transductor?" Rodney called from where he was arm-deep in a mass of crystals and connectors.

"Still showing normal," the blond scientist replied, sounding frustrated. "But we’re obviously not getting any power."

"Obviously," Rodney snorted, reaching for his tools and starting to check the delicate wiring inside the Ancient device again.

Simpson raised fair eyebrows. "So if you’re so superior, you tell me what’s causing it," she snapped.

"I will," Rodney growled, continuing his work before grinning. "And I’m going to; the secondary grounding to the power coupler is discharging."

About to reply, Simpson stopped in mid word. "Look out, it’s—"

A bright white light emanated from the box-like device at the same time a high-pitched whine filled the air. "Shit, get ba-" Rodney yelled before the device exploded, sending him flying through the air to smash against a nearby stone wall, pierced by chunks of shrapnel.


On Atlantis, John was in a meeting with Elizabeth and Caldwell, discussing the priorities for the next supply run, when he suddenly stopped in mid word, his eyes widening. "Rodney!"

He lunged to his feet, starting for the door, only to be brought up short by Elizabeth’s shocked exclamation. He paused and looked over his shoulder.

"Col. Sheppard, what is the meaning of—" Caldwell’s voice stuttered to a halt at the sight of the flames glowing in Sheppard’s eyes. "Get behind me, Dr. Weir."

"Colonel, this is John Sheppard; I cannot and will not believe he means us any harm," Elizabeth stated, though she too was staring at John.

John looked from one to the other, but most of his attention was far away. He shook his head and walked down the stairs to the lower level, moving toward the gate, which suddenly activated.

The two Marines on duty moved to block his way but were flung aside by an unseen hand. "John!" Elizabeth shouted as she ran after him. "What’s going on?"

"Rodney," he repeated, the flames in his eyes growing. "Don’t try to stop me," he warned before walking through the gate.

"Where did he go?" she snapped to the gate technician on duty.

"R73-QF4, ma’am," he replied quickly.

"Get me Maj. Lorne and Dr. Beckett," Elizabeth snapped, turning away from the deactivated gate to almost run into Col. Caldwell.

"I think you’ll have to agree that Col. Sheppard will have to be relieved of his duties," Caldwell announced.

"That decision is mine alone, Colonel, and one I will make after I have heard all the evidence."

"Ma’am?" Maj. Lorne arrived, moving subtly closer to Dr. Weir and making it clear where his loyalties lay as he ignored Caldwell for the moment.

"We have a situation on R73-QF4," she began, nodding at Carson when he arrived. "Col. Sheppard has gone ahead, but he may need backup, and I think Rodney’s hurt as well."

"Dr. Weir, Col. Sheppard is not human!" Caldwell bellowed, making everyone stare at him as if he’d gone mad.

"There is a certain amount of evidence to support Col. Caldwell’s contention," Elizabeth said carefully. "However, for the moment, our first concern is the team on R73-QF4. Once we have them safely home, we can consider Col. Sheppard’s situation."

"Yes, ma’am," Lorne answered, nodding sharply as he keyed his headpiece to assemble two teams while Carson did the same with a medical team even as he checked out the two stunned guards.

In the end it was only a few minutes after Col. Sheppard had gone through the stargate that the team from Atlantis followed him, but it was already all over. John sat on the ground, surrounded by the charred and smoking remnants of some kind of device, Rodney cradled in his arms.

"Colonel," Carson said gently, reaching forward to touch John’s shoulder but drawing back as he felt waves of heat radiating off of him. "John, ye need ta let me look at him." The amount of blood on Rodney’s clothes told him this was very bad; every second was precious.

John raised his head to look at Carson, tears seeping from the flames that filled his eyes. "No," he said brokenly, then repeated it more strongly. "No! He promised me..." He stared down at Rodney again, the air around them solidifying into an impenetrable shield that kept the other Atlanteans back as he concentrated on the man in his arms.

"John, there’s nothing ye can do; we need ta get him back ta Atlantis," Carson repeated, his voice remarkably calm considering what he’d just witnessed.

"Nothing I can do?" John looked up, laughing bitterly. "Oh, Carson, you have no idea.

"I’m sorry, Rodney," he whispered, "I know I promised, but I can’t let you go." Indifferent to what anyone might see, he concentrated on healing the broken form.

"Holy Mary," Carson breathed, taking an involuntary step backwards as the invisible shield between himself and the two men turned to one of fire.

"I was about to say holy shit, but that works too," Maj. Lorne commented, his easy tone at odds with his tight grip on his P90.

John paid no attention to his friends, all his attention on Rodney as he carefully healed the mortal wounds, keeping Rodney alive until the injuries vanished, and Rodney stirred in his lap, blinking a few times before looking up at John.

"You’re not supposed to be here," he murmured, confused, before realizing that all pretense of humanity had been stripped from John’s form. "And I—there was an explosion."

John shuddered. "Yes. You almost died. You’re not supposed to do that," he said, trying for a teasing tone that failed utterly when his voice broke.

"Not much I could do about it," Rodney tried for the same tone of voice and failed just as miserably. He sat up slightly, caught sight of the blood on his uniform, and paled, then saw Carson and Lorne and grew even whiter. "John, they can see you."

"Yeah, I think they kind of figured it out around the time I lost control in a meeting with Elizabeth and Caldwell when I felt you almost die." John’s arms tightened around Rodney, and he let the shield around them dissipate, aware that Carson would have a seizure if he didn’t get to Rodney soon.

"Caldwell?" Rodney choked before Carson’s arrival had him turning a glare on the physician. "I’m fine, Carson; can’t you see that?"

"You should be bloody well dead, so let me check you!" Carson barked back.

"And see what? That I’m alive?"

"Dr. McKay, why don’t you just do what Dr. Beckett says," Lorne suggested, keeping most of his attention on John.

"He’s fine now, Carson," John assured the doctor, finally looking up as all of Rodney’s wounds were completely healed and he’d finished flushing the fatigue from the no longer injured man’s system. John took a moment to regain his semblance of humanity, only the flames still visible in his eyes remaining to show what he was.

"He’s fine when I say he is, Colonel," Carson shot back as he began taking Rodney’s vitals over his increasingly loud protests.

Since everyone had gotten a very good look at what he was, John saw no point in pretending anymore. "I’ve been familiar with human anatomy since before civilization existed on Earth, Doctor," he pointed out wryly. "And I’m fairly motivated in this case to be sure not to miss anything."

Getting back on track again, Rodney stopped snarling at Carson and turned to John again. "And Caldwell saw you."

"I honestly didn’t give a flying fuck what Caldwell saw just then," John said bluntly. "And I wasn’t really paying attention, but I think Elizabeth took my side."

"Jesus Christ, John," Rodney gasped, beginning to hyperventilate. "Do you know what he could do to you?"

"Not much if Col. Sheppard is what I think he is," Lorne commented wryly.

"See, Lorne gets it," John said triumphantly. "It’s going to be fine, Rodney. Though we should probably get back and rescue Elizabeth from him."

"Ye really mean to say yer..." Carson paused before saying the words, "an Ori? Here? And Rodney knew?"

"Yes and no. I am an Ori but not part of the group trying to attack the Milky Way. My friends and I found Earth millennia ago, and we stuck around, um, amusing ourselves, instead of going home and telling the others. After a while, I got to like Earth humans," John said, giving a greatly abbreviated version of his story. "And Rodney’s only known for a little while."

"Since right before we got together in fact." Rodney slowly got to his feet, grimacing at his torn and blood-stained uniform. John frowned and a moment later the uniform was clean and whole again, and his arm was around Rodney’s shoulders, supporting him.

"And it didn’t help me with him at all," John grumbled, rolling his eyes. "So much for being worshipped," he added wryly, clearly not bothered by the lack.

"Rodney? Worship anyone?" Carson gave a strangled laugh.

"Very funny," Rodney muttered, leaning against John’s side, one hand stroking over his back to calm them both. "Shouldn’t we be going back to Atlantis before more people come looking?"

The flames grew more visible in John’s eyes for a moment. "That would be good."

"I’m more than ready to go home," Dr. Simpson agreed, leaning heavily on one of Carson’s doctors. Rodney had taken the brunt of the explosion, but she’d still been sent flying, gaining several bruises and one badly sprained ankle from the adventure. She glanced warily at the colonel and made sure to keep some distance between them.

"Don’t be stupid, Simpson," Rodney snapped. "If he wanted to be evil, there have certainly been enough opportunities for it!"

"Pinky the Ori?" Lorne murmured, not quite under his breath, making John snicker.

"I suppose that makes you the Brain, Rodney," Carson added, trying not to laugh as well.

"Oh for the love of—" Rodney groaned as they walked to the gate, Lorne’s team and Beckett’s personnel following at a safe distance.

"See, it’s fine," John said smugly. He was well aware that even Carson and Lorne were wary of him, but they weren’t running away, and they were doing their best to treat him as they’d always done. In time, it wouldn’t even take effort.

"I hope so," Rodney sighed as he dialed the gate and sent his code through.

"I told you, forever. I’m not going to let anything interfere with that." Behind them, Beckett and Lorne exchanged concerned looks, hoping Col. Caldwell wouldn’t drive John to do anything drastic.

"Even yourself?" Rodney asked, half-turning to look up at John, not liking the way his eyes were still bright with flames.

"Myself?" John frowned questioningly, making an effort to get himself under control for Rodney’s sake.

"I know how you feel about Caldwell, and I feel the same, but don’t push it right now, please?" Rodney leaned a little more heavily against John’s side, feigning weakness.

"Fine, I won’t turn him into a weasel." Lorne choked behind them, trying not to laugh.

"Rodney? Are you all right?" Elizabeth’s voice came through the active gate.

"Yes, I’m fine; now could you please drop the shield so we can come home because despite what Col. Former-Goa’uld has to say, John is not going to rain fire and destruction down on us!"

"Rodney never lets me have any fun," John sighed.

Barely restrained mirth was audible in Elizabeth’s voice when she said, "You’re clear to come through."

"I never let you have any fun?" Rodney was sputtering as they entered the event horizon, walking out to face a roomful of armed Marines. "Oh please," he scoffed. "If he meant to do anything, do you think this would stop him?"

"He’s an Ori!" Caldwell snarled, his sidearm pointed at John, who yawned.

"And still the senior officer on Atlantis, not you," he pointed out with a toothy smile.

"Col. Caldwell, I don’t believe that is necessary," Elizabeth said firmly. "Col. Sheppard, I believe we have a lot to discuss."

"We should notify the SGC," Caldwell growled.

"And tell them what?" Rodney sighed.

Before anyone could answer, Dr. Zelenka arrived, talking a mile a minute in Czech and practically rubbing his hands together gleefully as he eyed John, who began to look wary.

"I’m not an experiment," he said quellingly to the scientist, to no effect.

"Dr. Zelenka, there’s been a development with Col. Sheppard," Elizabeth said carefully, causing the wiry scientist to roll his eyes.

"Yes, yes, is Ori. He can tell us about systems!"

"Actually, he can’t—not that much anyway," Rodney put in, taking a step in front of John to save him from the crazed Czech.

"He’s an Ori!" Caldwell nearly bellowed. "Don’t you people get it? He’s our enemy!"

Radek snorted. "He is Col. Sheppard. He has saved all of our lives, and if he wanted to hurt us, he could have done it any time in the last two years."

"Don’t you get that?" Rodney asked, glaring at Caldwell.

"Do you people not get that we are at war with the Ori?"

"I haven’t been back to that galaxy or talked to another Ori in millennia," John pointed out. If Rodney wasn’t going to let him get rid of Caldwell, they needed to calm the man down.

"And you have to admit that the colonel will be an excellent source of information about them," Elizabeth added, trying to defuse the situation.

Caldwell looked ill. "You’re all insane."

Carson nodded at that. "Perhaps that’s why we’re here."

John started to laugh. "So I take it I don’t have to worry about a howling mob with pitchforks and torches?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Here it would be stunners and zats."

"Is that supposed to be an improvement?" John asked even as Radek said, "Would those have any effect?"

"Not from the reports I’ve read," Lorne cut in.

"And you aren’t using him for target practice!"

Caldwell’s eyes narrowed. "Dr. McKay, you seem awfully protective of him."

"If they’re not going to throw me out for being an Ori, I doubt they’d manage it for being bi," John observed to Rodney.

Soft laughter from the core group smoothed over Caldwell’s irate sputters.

"I think international conventions would apply to you," Elizabeth said wryly. "And you and I are going to talk, but..." She hesitated for a moment, squaring her shoulders. "I don’t see that this will change your position here in any way." She looked at Maj. Lorne for his reaction.

He shrugged and smiled wryly. "I’m not going to complain about being on the side of a godlike being in a fight for a change."

Rodney looked up sharply at that. "We are not going to rely on those ‘powers’ all the time."

"If I start doing things all the time, the Ori and Alterans will notice, and we’d end up with Clash of the Titans right here. I don’t think any of us want that."

Variations of ‘no’ followed from all the senior staff, and Elizabeth shook her head. "No, we have more than enough on our plates as it is."

"But, uh, some things are beyond my control." John’s gaze cut to Rodney, who sighed.

"Like his libido."

"Like needing to keep you alive," John grumbled. "Though I’m beginning to wonder why!"

"You love me," Rodney said smugly.

John sighed. "Yes. And stop looking so superior!"

Lorne shook his head. "Okay, that’s just disturbing. Permission to be dismissed, ma’am?"

"You really intend on letting him walk around Atlantis without any escort?"

"Yes, Colonel, I do," Elizabeth said firmly. "And permission granted, Major."

"I’ve been doing it for a while. And my grandparents lived here," John pointed out.

"Even if he doesn’t know the systems," here Rodney glowered at John, "he can still show us important places in the city we haven’t found yet."

John shrugged. "Sorry, not an engineer. But yeah, I do know the functions of various locations in Atlantis. Including a lot of recreational areas that we haven’t used yet."

"You will make map," Radek stated firmly, still eyeing John greedily.

"Do you mind if I recover from nearly dying first before you drag him away?" Rodney asked snidely, glaring at the shorter man.

"I need to recover from Rodney nearly dying first," John said, grabbing hold of Rodney’s hand.

"I don’t believe you’re just going to let him wander around Atlantis like he’s not an enemy," Caldwell growled. "As senior officer—"

"Stop right there, Colonel," Elizabeth said coldly, shutting him down. "I am in charge of Atlantis, and Col. Sheppard is my senior officer. Nothing today has changed that."

"And unless ye want to explain to the SGC why the entire senior staff of Atlantis has shut down communication with Earth, I would suggest ye live with that fact," Carson said mutinously.

John smiled, touched by his friends’ support, although he realized that part of it was simply a reaction to Caldwell’s attack. He only hoped that they would remain supportive once the reality of the situation set in.

Rodney caught him by the hand and with a mutinous glare at Caldwell started to pull him away, both of them ignoring Caldwell’s sputtered objections. John paused to glance over his shoulder at Elizabeth. "I’ll be in my quarters if you need me," he said, hoping to reassure everyone as to his intentions.

"Our quarters," Rodney corrected, daring Caldwell to make an issue of it.

"I’m sending a report to the SGC," Caldwell snapped.

"Don’t forget to mention the tactical advantage of having an Ori on our side," Elizabeth suggested, sighing mentally at the realization that she was going to have to spend the next few hours drafting her own report and arguing with people back on Earth.

"I take it we’re through now?" Carson asked.

"I don’t know about anyone else, but I am," John replied, an arm around Rodney’s waist. "I can’t deal with anything else right now."

"I second that!" Rodney said quickly.

"Go ahead, gentlemen," Elizabeth offered. "We’ll discuss this when we all aren’t so on edge."

John nodded as he began to draw Rodney toward the exit, ignoring Caldwell again, as did everyone else.

"Too bad it hadn’t been him hurt," Rodney muttered once they were in the corridor.

"If it had been, no one would know about me," John said, stopping and pulling Rodney into a tight hug.

Resting his head on John’s shoulder, Rodney tightened his arms as well and sighed. "I’m sorry."

"You should be; you nearly scared me to death."

"I’ll try not to do it again."

"I’d appreciate that." Still holding Rodney close, John moved them to their quarters, not willing to let go long enough to get there by more conventional means.

"Me too," Rodney murmured before giving a shaky laugh. "I guess there’s no need to worry about anyone seeing you do that any longer, is there?"

"Nope, and no more debating whether or not to tell anyone. Mmm, just think of all the extra minutes we have to fill now."

Rodney nodded against John’s shoulder and held him tighter, a tremor running through his body.

"It’s okay," John murmured, resting his cheek atop Rodney’s head. "We’re both fine."

"Thanks to you." Rodney’s shaking increased as he finally accepted what had happened, and John’s arms tightened even more.

"That’s all that matters. I’m not going to let anything permanent happen to you."

"Or yourself."

"I’m pretty hard to hurt."

"Maybe, but it can still happen," Rodney hugged John tighter and nuzzled his neck.

"I’m a little more concerned about you." John shuffled them over to the bed and stretched out, drawing Rodney on top of him so he could feel the familiar warm weight pressing him into the mattress.

Rodney nodded and was silent for a moment before speaking. "How bad was it?"

John wrapped his arms and legs tightly around Rodney, shuddering. "Bad," he replied finally. "Nothing human could have saved you, and they wouldn’t have had time to get you back here to a stasis chamber or the Ancient equipment in the infirmary."

"That’s bad," Rodney whispered, once again burying his face against John’s throat, one hand stroking John’s hair.

"Yeah. Don’t do that again."

Rodney nodded and kissed the pulse beating in John’s throat. "I promise, now fuck me and prove to both of us I’m alive."

"I can do that." John rolled them over, kissing Rodney as they shifted until he was settled between Rodney’s legs. Finally raising his head to let Rodney breathe, he gazed down into the bright blue eyes. "If anything had happened to you..." He trailed off, the growing flames in his eyes saying more than words ever could.

"It didn’t," Rodney reminded him, though his voice was hoarse. "It didn’t and it won’t, because you’re here."

"And I’m never letting you out of my sight again," John said emphatically, rocking his hips against Rodney and making them both start to harden.

"That may make it hard for us to do our jobs."

"Ask me if I care."

"Do you care?" Rodney murmured, stroking his hands over John’s back.

"Not in the slightest. All I care about is keeping you safe. And right now, that means staying right here."

"Not complaining one bit, except for the fact that we’re wearing clothes."

"No, we’re not." As John spoke, the clothing vanished, leaving them pressed skin to skin.

Rodney groaned at the heat of John’s body against his and pulled him closer, his breath catching in his chest.

"I hate you for making me love you," John grumbled against Rodney’s throat, making the other man still under him.

"Do you really mean that?"

"No, of course not. But I’m not used to being scared."

"Trust me, you learn to get used to it."

"I’d prefer that you not do things that make me feel it so I don’t have to." John’s hand moved over Rodney’s chest, stroking him and feeling the reassuring solidity of his body.

"Considering the reason I’m usually terrified is because you’re trying some suicide mission, I feel the same way," Rodney murmured before kissing John again.

"Well, you don’t need to worry about those anymore."

"Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever stop."

"I’ll try to keep them to a minimum." The hand that had been petting Rodney slid down over his cock and between his cheeks to trace his opening.

"Good, now how about you keep yourself in me," Rodney gasped.

"You really are a genius." John reached for the lube on the nightstand, choosing to prepare them the normal human way because he wanted to touch Rodney, to feel the living heat of him.

Rodney only smiled at that, stroking his hands over John’s chest and shoulders, lost in the faint flames burning in his lover’s eyes. Those flames grew as John pushed a single, slick finger into Rodney, and John absorbed the sight and sounds hungrily.

"I love you," Rodney whispered before moaning with pleasure as John crooked his finger, stroking his prostate.

"I love you, too," John murmured, lowering his head to capture the moan when he added a second finger.

Rodney shuddered, never looking away from John’s eyes. "Forever."

"That’ll do for a start." John kissed him while teasingly rubbing a fingertip over Rodney’s prostate.

"As long as you’re there too." Rodney squirmed, his full erection tight against his belly and smearing precome over the soft skin there with every movement.

"You couldn’t get rid of me with a nuclear weapon," John vowed, sliding downward to take Rodney in his mouth while continuing to finger him.

"And—and we know how—oh, god, John, yes!" Rodney moaned, bucking upwards, the warm suction and slight pressure almost too much for him to bear.

In response, John took Rodney deeper into his mouth, his free hand rising to pluck at an already tight nipple, and Rodney moaned, his hands grasping at the sheets as John hit his every hot spot, driving him to the brink and beyond as he came with a guttural cry.

John drank him down, fingers never ceasing that slow massage or Rodney’s prostate, forcing the sensations to continue. Rodney moaned as his body continued to spasm, and he reached for John, dragging him up for a kiss. "Fuck me," he gasped.

John groaned harshly into Rodney’s mouth, and suddenly his fingers were gone and he was sliding into Rodney, who gasped at the sudden penetration and tightened down around him while grabbing onto his shoulders and holding him close.

"Mine," John rasped against Rodney’s lips, both of them remaining motionless for long moments before John slowly drew back, gasping at the exquisite friction, and again stilled just barely inside Rodney.

"John," Rodney gasped, fighting to stay still when all he wanted to do was drive upwards so that John filled him again.

"Right here," John whispered as he sank back into Rodney, the tight heat making him groan deep in his throat. Rodney moaned, writhing under him and tightening down around him, pleading wordlessly for whatever John would give him. Staring into the blue eyes as his own bled to pure flame, John thrust a little harder with each stroke, the languid glide giving way to a demanding rhythm, and Rodney met his every thrust, driving upwards, his fingers digging into John’s back to pull him closer, deeper.

John reached down, sliding a hand between them to cup Rodney’s balls, rolling them gently in his palm as his hips moved back and forth, claiming Rodney, and Rodney reveled in it, moaning and whimpering, his cock hardening again as John played with him.

"Yes," John gasped. He floated them off the bed, keeping Rodney supported along his back but allowing gravity force him even deeper inside the groaning scientist, and used his free hand to tease Rodney’s nipples.

"Trying to kill me," Rodney groaned, squirming under John’s sensual assault.

"Loving you," John corrected, lowering his head to catch one rigid nipple between his teeth.

Rodney whimpered at that and nodded, squirming on the cushion of air beneath him. After a final lick, John raised his head to watch Rodney, his eyes pure flame, and he pressed closer so that every thrust dragged him over Rodney’s erection.

"Too good, can’t last," Rodney gasped, shuddering beneath John.

"Come for me," John whispered, watching him avidly, and as if that was all the permission he needed, Rodney cried out and came, shuddering around and under John’s body.

"Perfect," John murmured, slowing the movement of his hips and lowering his head to lap lazily at one peaked nipple, making Rodney whimper and moan beneath him.

"I love hearing you," John whispered, biting him gently before turning his attention to the other nipple, raising Rodney’s whines to a new level of neediness. "Hearing you, tasting you, smelling you, feeling you, seeing you, I love it all. I love you," John rasped, pulling out of him and sliding down until he could catch the flesh of Rodney’s inner thigh between his teeth, sucking and biting until a vivid mark of his possession appeared on the pale skin.

Rodney whimpered and writhed on his cushion of air, low-voiced moans and gasps escaping from him as John claimed him, marking his flesh with teeth and tongue.

"Mine," John rasped, surging up to kiss Rodney as he pushed back into him.

"Always," Rodney gasped, his hands clutching at John’s shoulders as he was stretched and filled, the sensation making his whole body shiver.

John smiled finally. "And forever," he warned, his thrusts speeding up as they moved toward their climaxes.

Rodney could only nod, caught between the warm air beneath him and John’s fiery hot body above, driving him onward until all he could do was feel. One climax followed the other, and they were still spasming when John lowered them back to the bed, draping himself over Rodney.

"I’m not moving for a year."

"That sounds just about right to me," John agreed. "And uh, about marking you..."

"What?" Rodney lifted his head as much as possible and chuckled. "You think I mind a hickey?" As he spoke, he ran a hand over the warm, reddened patch on his inner thigh.

"Well, it’s a little more than that," John admitted cautiously.

Now Rodney pulled back to try and look at John. "Oh really?"

"Yeah. I’ve been kinda freaked today, and, well, unless I do something about it, it’s not ever going to fade," John finished in a rush.

"Let me get this straight; you gave me some kind of Ori claiming tattoo?"

"No, that had nothing to do with being Ori. My family would probably be appalled by the idea of that much emotion. No, that was all me and you."

"Does it say ‘Property of John Sheppard’ or ‘This puny human is Ashtaroth’s’ or some such thing?"

John snorted. "No, idiot, it’s just a hickey. Just a permanent one."

Rodney smiled slightly. "Well then, that’s fine."

"Really?" John looked ridiculously pleased.

"Yes, really. Did you think I’d mind?"

"Rodney, I don’t pretend to know how you’re going to react to most things. I just roll with the punches."

Rodney smirked at that. "Yes, well, it keeps you from getting bored, and move over so I can see this me and you claiming mark of yours."

Chuckling, John rolled off Rodney, stretching out on his back next to the scientist. "Demanding as ever."

"And why did you think that was going to change?" Making a face as cool air hit the wetness on his chest, Rodney sat up and twisted his leg to examine the inner part of his thigh. "Human beings aren’t meant to twist this way," he grumbled, poking at the deep red mark.

"I dunno. I think flexibility’s hot."

"Colonel, not even for you am I going to start doing yoga."

"Naw, sex is enough of a workout."

"At least you didn’t call it a chore."

"No, it’s definitely fun."

Rodney smiled at that and relaxed back at John’s side, wiggling them both around until he was comfortable. "Good."

"You know, I think that was the first time you’ve actually used my name," John mused, lazily stroking Rodney’s back.

"What do you mean? I call you John all the time," Rodney muttered against John’s shoulder.

"Ashtaroth. It was your typical snarky comment, but you did acknowledge that’s my name." John spared a thought to clean them up, feeling the stickiness vanish from between them.

"Oh." Rodney fell silent and chewed on his lower lip.


"I never thought about it; to me, Ori or not, you’re John Sheppard. Does that bother you?"

After thinking about it for a moment, John shook his head. "No, not really. Whatever you call me, you see me. That’s what counts."

Rodney gave a strangled laugh. "I think after today, everyone will see you."

"Some will; some do. But others..." John sighed. "Caldwell sees an Ori, nothing more, nothing less."

"He can cause trouble for us. For you." Rodney’s arms tightened around John as he spoke.

"I’m not going to let that happen. And I don’t think Elizabeth will either. I’m glad I had a couple of years here before this happened."

"Do you really think that I’d let that happen?" Rodney snapped. "Never. Never. If I’m yours, then you’re just as much mine. Understand?"

John beamed. "Got it. Planning to mark me too?"

Rodney’s eyes narrowed. "I’ll find a way."

"I’m looking forward to it."

"You say that now."

"Rodney, there is nothing you could do to me that I wouldn’t like."

Rodney stared at him for long moments after that remark, then kissed him. "I love you."

"I love you too. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole city is aware of that."

"So, how are we going to handle this?"

"Ignore it and hope everyone else does too?"

"Yes, like that’s going to work so well," Rodney snorted.

"Well, what would you suggest? I know you won’t let me do anything to Caldwell."

"Have a meeting? Talk to people? How would I know; you’re the people person, not me! I’d just yell at them and have done with it."

"Maybe we should discuss it with Elizabeth."

"And Carson."

"They’ll probably have some ideas on how to handle it. And we should probably include Teyla, Lorne, Radek and Ronon. They’re our friends."

"Shall we provide drinks and refreshments as well?"

"Sarcasm isn’t going to help, Rodney."

"Maybe not, but it makes me feel better," he sniffed.

"I thought that was my job?"

"So not funny, Colonel."

John blinked. "I was serious."

"I meant mentally, not physically."

"So did I! I don’t only think about sex, you know." John looked almost pouty.

Seeing the expression, Rodney snickered before sobering. "You make me feel safe," he said quietly. "I’ve never felt that way with anyone before."

John’s expression cleared as if by magic. "You make me feel," he replied simply.

Rodney smiled at that and gently kissed John. "I’m glad."

"So, we can wait till tomorrow to talk to everyone, right? ‘Cause I really don’t want to move."

"Yeah, I don’t feel up for much more myself—unless it’s a meal, of course."

"What would you like? Tonight dinner’s on me."

Rodney thought a minute and smiled. "Hot turkey sandwiches."

John burst into laughter. "I do love you."


"You want my favorite food." John beamed at him.

Rodney flushed slightly. "Well, you haven’t had the easiest day either."

"Not even close." John pulled him closer, and Rodney stroked a hand over his back, murmuring words of comfort. John raised his head, the flames in his eyes banked to the merest embers. "Only you would be comforting me for you almost dying. It’s why we work."

"When you almost die next, you can comfort me," Rodney promised him.

"You are such a nut."

"So says the near omnipotent being."

John smiled smugly. "On the plus side, I don’t have to pretend to be in danger any more. Which means less wasted time and more time back here in bed."

"Yes, but you still have to be careful; you don’t want to draw any attention from—you know—" Rodney waved a hand in the air as he spoke.

"Oh, don’t worry, I intend to be careful. I still have to be mostly human on missions and all, but at least I don’t have to pretend that I’m in any danger. It’ll save time. And I think we all know that I’m going to keep you safe. And Teyla and Ronon as much as possible."

Rodney nodded at that, then chuckled. "Of course, if we meet Kolya again, feel free to do everything you can."

The flames blazed in John’s eyes. "If I ever see him again, people will still be talking about what I do to him ten thousand years from now," he snarled.

"Hey, easy," Rodney soothed, stroking John’s back again and kissing him until some of the tension left him. "Just leave me something to kick around, okay?"

"No!" John snapped. "He hurt you."

"All the more reason to leave me something! I’m not going to play damsel in distress to your knight in flaming armor, Colonel!"

John suddenly burst into laughter. "Sorry," he gasped out at Rodney’s indignant expression, "but I suddenly pictured you in that floaty dress and peaked hat the girl of the week ended up wearing in that amusement park ep of Star Trek."

"Never watched the show," Rodney sniffed, shoving John away. "The science was horrible."

"Yeah, right. That’s why you keep calling me Kirk and Carson Bones."

"Well, everyone knows about them and their characteristics!"

"Yes, Rodney. Whatever you say, Rodney."

"Perfect answer."

John snorted. "Who has the god complex?"

"I think I liked you better when you were clinging to me, worried about my life."

"You like me every way," John replied smugly.

"And you take advantage of it," Rodney grumbled, though he snuggled closer.

"Damn right. It was hard enough to get you to admit it."

"Excuse me?!"

"You were a difficult man to catch. But worth it," John added with a quick kiss.

Rodney sniffed at that. "I knew how I felt; you were the one who took convincing."

"Yes, dear," John grinned.

Rodney growled and bit John’s shoulder, making John shiver and roll on top of him.


"Oh my god, you have a one-track mind!"

John burst into laughter again. "You’re so easy to get going."

"I really hate you at times," Rodney grumbled, pushing the pillows behind him and leaning back against them.

"Didn’t we just cover that?" John chuckled.

"Dinner would do wonders to help my attitude."

John sat up and suddenly held a tray which he set over Rodney’s lap. "Your wish is my command."

"Ow! Hot!" Rodney protested, squirming while trying not to spill the food.

Rolling his eyes, John added thermal shielding to the bottom of the tray and cooled the food some so Rodney wouldn’t burn his tongue.

"Excuse me, not all of us are flaming," Rodney commented, sounding as if he wanted to stick his tongue out at John.

"Are you accusing me of being a queen?" John laughed.

"If the tiara fits!"

"Would that make you my loyal subject?"

Rodney picked up a spoonful of the mashed potatoes that accompanied the sandwiches and quite deliberately flicked it with deadly aim at John’s nose.

After staring at Rodney, John raised a finger and scooped the potatoes off his face, then tasted them. "Good, if I do say so myself."

"Yes, dear, you’re a wonderful mental chef," Rodney sighed.

"It’s nice to be appreciated."

Rodney snorted and continued to eat, going at the food with gusto.


John had spent most of the night watching Rodney sleep, needing the reminder that the scientist was alive and well and where he belonged, and he was still watching when dawn began to brighten the sky over Atlantis and Rodney stirred.

"Urgh, bright," Rodney muttered, burying his face against John’s shoulder, squirming closer to his warmth.

"The sun usually is," John murmured, sounding amused.

"Make some clouds or something, trying to sleep here."

"’Make some clouds?’" John laughed. A moment later, the windows darkened, polarized against the sun.

"That works too, and did you sleep at all?" Rodney asked, giving up on sleep.

"A few minutes here and there," John shrugged.

Rodney sat up at that and looked down at John, frowning in concern. "You need to sleep, John."

"Last night I needed to know you were here more. I’ll sleep tonight."

"And I’ll end up staying up to make sure you do."

"I’ll sleep, promise." John lazily traced patterns on Rodney’s chest with a fingertip.

Rodney sighed and arched into the touch then leaned in to kiss John good morning, making John press closer, his body relaxed.

"We going to brave the masses in the mess hall for breakfast, or do you want to eat here this morning?" he asked a little later.

"I want to just stay here, but we should probably make an appearance, if only to deflect the gossip that no doubt has been breeding overnight," Rodney sighed.

"I was afraid you were going to say that. Well, at least we can enjoy a shower first."

Rodney chuckled and yawned as he stretched. "If you were afraid I was going to say that, why’d you ask?"

"I was hoping you’d decide to stay in, and then I wouldn’t have to do the right thing," John admitted. "I should have known better. You don’t let me get away with stuff."

"Which is why you appreciate me." Rodney moved to get up, then caught sight of the red mark on his inner thigh and paused, smiling slightly, as he looked at it.

Seeing Rodney’s reaction, John smiled, and suddenly the mark throbbed as if John’s mouth was there again, making it.

Rodney quivered and raised wide eyes to John’s face. "If you do that while I’m in the middle of a staff meeting, I am going to kill you," he gasped.

John smirked. "You know you like it."

"Having an erection and trying not to whimper in front of my staff while Radek snickers and makes comments?"

"Have I mentioned that I love how responsive you are?"

"Many times but I’d prefer the rest of Atlantis didn’t know it!" Rodney squirmed as the invisible mouth moved higher.

"Good point. I’d hate to have someone try to steal you away from me."

"As if that would happen." Moving carefully now, Rodney slid out of the bed and walked toward the bathroom. "Coming?" he called back over his shoulder.

"Right after you do." John followed practically on Rodney’s heels, pressing up against him as they got into the shower. Rodney groaned and rubbed against him, feeling John’s erection sliding against his ass. John grasped Rodney’s hips as he thought the water on and maneuvered them under the warm stream. "And it’s going to be soon," he murmured, nibbling on an earlobe.

"You wanting sex, shocking," Rodney gasped, wavering until he braced himself against the wall, enjoying the feeling of the water beating down on him and John pressed up behind him.

"You wanting me, also shocking." One of John’s hands slid down to cup Rodney’s growing erection, not stroking, just touching him.

Rodney whimpered in response, twisting his hips to get more contact.

"Oh yeah," John whispered, slowly moving his fingers. "I love how you react to me. You have no idea how it turns me on to know that I just have to touch you and you’ll want me as much as I want you."

"Embarrassing," Rodney whispered, arching into John’s touch. "No control."

"And you think I have control when I touch you? It’s entirely mutual, Rodney."

"Good, don’t want to be alone in this." Rodney shifted his weight to one arm and reached back, running his hand over John’s hip and thigh.

"You’re not. Never alone," John promised, slowly stroking Rodney.

"Neither are you," Rodney breathed, relaxing enough to enjoy the moment.

"Good." John carefully slotted himself between Rodney’s cheeks and pressed forward.

"Great, actually."

"Yeah, it is." John rocked into him, arms holding Rodney to him.

Rodney smiled as he circled his hips in counterpoint to John’s, reveling in the slow, easy loving; even his orgasm was smooth when it hit him, like a long curling wave instead of an explosion, and he moaned at the sensation.

"So perfect," John whispered, continuing to rock lazily into Rodney until he reached his own climax.

"I like your idea of showers," Rodney murmured, turning and wrapping his arms around John’s waist when he felt him soften and slide out of him.

"Me too. I think I’ve undervalued them for centuries. Of course, they probably wouldn’t have been as good without you to share them."

"Of course not."

"So I guess it’s time to go face the music."

Rodney nodded. "Well, once we use soap and get dressed, it is."

"Well yes, after that. I never planned to go naked and smelling of semen."

"Exactly, so you have to straighten up so that we can get part of that taken care of."

"Slave driver." John stepped back and stretched before reaching for the soap, deciding that washing Rodney was a good excuse to get his hands back on him.

"Boo hoo, your life is just one trial after another," Rodney snorted, grabbing the soap after John had lathered up his hands so he could wash John as well.

"Life with Rodney," John chuckled. "The pros outweigh the cons."

"Of course they do," Rodney sniffed before smiling. "They happen to be excellent pros."

"I’ve noticed," John agreed, pulling Rodney into a quick hug before releasing him to find his balance again.

Rodney chuckled as he continued to wash John’s chest. "That’s because you’re brilliant." As he said this, he turned John around to wash his back, making John groan happily and arch his back to press into Rodney’s touch.

"You have forever to stop doing that," he mumbled.

"I wouldn’t mind, but Elizabeth might get annoyed when we miss our meeting with her."

"Have I mentioned lately how much I hate it when you’re logical?"

"Many times, but one of us has to be—most of the time."

John grumbled but he turned around to face Rodney. "Says who?"


John’s eyebrows rose. "Me mighty immortal being, you mere mortal, remember?"

"If I die laughing, I’m sure you can bring me back again," Rodney snorted.

"I miss being worshipped."

"My heart bleeds for you."

"Fortunately, your body also comes for me." John grinned. "It makes up for a lot."

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that I’d rather have you than worshippers."

Rodney grinned at that and stepped back into the spray to rinse off. "An excellent answer; now, come on, let’s get this over with."

"At least we know she’s on our side. Unlike Caldwell." After rinsing off as well, John thought the water off and stepped out of the shower, reaching for a towel to dry Rodney.

"No killing him," Rodney said sternly though he sighed with pleasure as John ran the thick towel over him.

"Yeah, yeah, I got it the first hundred times you told me that," John grumbled, pulling Rodney into a quick hug before starting to dry himself.

"Well, I mean it!"

"Fine, fine, I won’t kill Caldwell. I won’t even turn him into a toad. Happy now?" Impatient now, John dressed them both with a thought.

"With you in this mood? Not quite."

John stopped and sighed heavily. "Okay, you got me. I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, and it has me nervous. I know you want to stay here, and I know I won’t leave you, so it matters."

Rodney pressed his lips together even as he pulled John in for a hug. "You said yourself Elizabeth is on our side, and I really don’t think Carson or Lorne will be screaming for your expulsion and—" He paused and took a deep breath. "If you left, I’d go with you."

John leaned on Rodney, closing his eyes for a moment. "Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t want to leave here either."

"I suppose the only way we’ll know if to go find out." Rodney hugged John tightly and kissed him, then stepped back, taking a deep breath before nodding. "Ready?"

"As I’ll ever be." John caught Rodney’s hand in his and plastered a cocky expression on his face as they walked out of their quarters toward the transporter.


"All right, Elizabeth, you wanted a meeting, here it is," Rodney announced as he and John walked into her office, making her roll her eyes.

"I am on your side, you know," she pointed out, gesturing them toward the carafe of coffee on her desk. "Trying to antagonize me probably isn’t your best bet."

"He hasn’t had coffee yet," John said confidentially, waiting till Rodney had a cup before reaching for one himself. "So, how many people had strokes at the SGC when you talked to them yesterday?"

"The list is long and varied," she admitted. "Thankfully they read my report before Col. Caldwell’s, but to say they aren’t pleased with this is an understatement." The glint in Elizabeth’s eyes told the men that the SGC wasn’t the only one unpleased.

"Well, there’s a shock," Rodney snorted. "And what were we supposed to do, Elizabeth? Stand up in the dining hall and just shout out the fact?"

"Of course not," she sighed, "but surely you could have trusted your friends?"

"We were working our way up to it," John said, not mentioning that he’d been willing but Rodney had nearly had a heart attack every time he suggested it. "Our couple-hood was enough of a revelation to start with."

"I didn’t want him to tell anyone," Rodney admitted. "I was... worried."

"And no offense, Elizabeth, but I’m a lot more concerned with what Rodney wants than with whether anyone else gets their feelings hurt," John added bluntly.

She nodded at that though her lips were pressed together. "I understand and I can sympathize, but let’s concentrate on how best to deal with the fallout from this."

"And no frying anyone," Rodney warned.

"Yes, Rodney," John sighed, making Elizabeth smile despite her annoyance. John gave her a wry smile in response. "As you can see, I come with a control switch."

"So I see."

"Though obviously not an off switch," Rodney sniffed even as he smiled.

"Oh, you love it, and you know it."

Rodney tried to glower at him but ended up shaking his head and smiling, which made John smile back at him, and even Elizabeth’s lips twitched as she watched them.

"I managed to convince the IOC that there was no need to recall you to Earth. I think they realized that there’s no way we could force you to go if you don’t want to," Elizabeth added wryly. "But they do want to talk to you. We finally agreed on Gen. O’Neill, Dr. Jackson, and Mr. Wolsey."

John groaned at the last name.

"The general will keep him under control as long as you don’t hit on Daniel," Rodney mused.

"If I hit on Daniel, Wolsey and the general will be the least of my problems," John snorted.

Elizabeth had to chuckle at that. "We’ll let them know that Rodney has you well in hand."

"Don’t even say it," Rodney warned when John opened his mouth, making John chuckle.

"You know me too well."

"That I knew after the first time we—after I found out about you," Rodney amended hastily.

"I think everyone’s who’s ever seen you together is aware of that," Elizabeth put in dryly, and John laughed again.

"I know what I like," he said with a shrug.

"Are we done dissecting our love life and the fact that John is not going to take over the Pegasus galaxy or blow us up?"

"Until the general, Dr. Jackson, and Mr. Wolsey arrive. I’m sure they’ll ask many of the same questions," Elizabeth pointed out. "And I’d appreciate it if it didn’t get them turned into pumpkins."

John grinned at her. "I can assure you that I’ve never changed anyone into a pumpkin, and I don’t have any intention of starting now."

"Which we’re all very relieved for."

"Rodney doesn’t let me," John said in a confiding tone.

"Yes, yes, I’m a horrible task-master who never lets you have any fun," Rodney sighed.

"Well, actually..." John started.

"I don’t want to know!" Elizabeth exclaimed, interrupting him.

"And you really don’t want to tell her!"

"Yes, yes, I know, don’t tell or I don’t do," John said, pretending to pout.

Elizabeth smothered another smile behind her coffee mug. "If I had any worries about what might happen, I believe that just assuaged them."

"He’s not going to do anything!" Rodney grumbled.

"Obviously not," John sighed. "I’m so whipped. It’s embarrassing!"

"Actually, it’s rather sweet."

John groaned. "Not if you’re male, it’s not!"

"Exactly," Rodney shuddered. "It’s enough that we get—never mind."

"Oh, I don’t think so. It’s enough that you get what?"

"Nothing, nothing!" Rodney said desperately, giving John a wild-eyed stare.

Having a pretty good idea of what Rodney had nearly said, John glared at him. "It’s really nothing, Elizabeth."

"Hrmm, it seems a bit more of something than that," she mused.

"Pit bull," John grumbled.

"Not saying another word," Rodney squeaked.

"Maybe we should go to breakfast?" John suggested, deciding that it would be safest to pretend the last few moments hadn’t happened.

"Coffee would be good," Rodney nodded, giving Elizabeth his best attempt at a pathetic look, and she snorted inelegantly.

"Rodney, you are the person least like a kicked puppy in two galaxies."

"Oh, I don’t know," John mused, "it would work on me."

"See?" Rodney asked, giving a sickly smile. "Perfectly harmless."

Elizabeth shook her head. "I know this wasn’t in my job description."

"Breakfast!" Rodney said desperately.

"Yes, I think I could use some more coffee," Elizabeth agreed, getting to her feet.

"Me too," John said fervently, and Rodney nodded as he scrambled up as well.

"You realize that everyone in the city knows now, right?" Elizabeth reminded them. "You’re probably going to be the center of attention for a while."

John shrugged. "I think we can live with it."

"If they have a problem, John isn’t going to be the one they have to deal with," Rodney said ominously as they left Elizabeth’s office and walked toward the transporter.

"And I’m sure they realize it," Elizabeth said soothingly.

"And that they’d be better off with me," John muttered.

"What do you mean by that?"

"That you can be downright nasty when you’re pissed, and I don’t think anyone wants Atlantis’ resident evil genius out to get them. All I could do is kill them... or at least that’s all they’d think I’d be likely to do. Not that I would do that either," he added with a reassuring glance at Elizabeth.

Rodney nodded at that. "Good, I’ll make them more afraid of me than you, and all will be right in the world."

Elizabeth and John both burst into laughter, and they were still chuckling as they walked into the mess hall moments later, something that went a long way to relieving any worries any of the expedition members might have had.

"See," Laura Cadman hissed at her table mates, "I told you this didn’t make any difference. The colonel’s still the colonel."

"Yeah, well, I’m not going to get him mad any time soon," one of them commented.

Laura snickered. "I’d worry more about Rodney if I were you. He’s in love with the colonel, and he knows every system in the city. Do you really want cold showers, sauna-like rooms, and windows flying open at all hours if you piss him off?"

"God, no," the other Marine shuddered. "I think I’ll just stay out of both their ways!"

"Gee, and here I thought you had lunch with the senior staff every day," his table mate snorted. "Give it a rest, Henderson. The only time you see the colonel is when he’s giving you orders or supervising training."

"And I want to keep it that way!"

"I don’t think you have anything to worry about," Laura said, rolling her eyes, a habit she was sure she’d picked up from Rodney. "He’s pretty busy overseeing the city’s security, going on missions, saving all our asses, and spending time with Rodney."

"Hey, I’m not complaining," Henderson protested. "With as many times as the colonel’s saved our asses, I know he’s on our side."

"Just keep remembering that," Sgt. Rossi said. "Some of the idiots from the Daedalus are talking like the colonel’s suddenly the enemy."

"Yeah, well just like normal, the sooner they get back up there, the better," Cadman shrugged.

"I almost wish we were cut off again," Rossi muttered. "It really looked like Col. Caldwell planned to make trouble for the colonel yesterday."

"Caldwell wants the colonel’s job," Cadman sighed.

"Yeah well, he can’t have it," Henderson growled. "We already have a colonel, one who knows what’s what out here and who’s saved us all too many times to count." He suddenly laughed harshly. "Could you imagine Caldwell trying to deal with McKay?"

"McKay would kill him," Rossi said grimly.

"Do you really think Rodney would stay if the SGC pulled the colonel and replaced him with Caldwell?" Laura asked. "If we lose one, we lose both. But I’ll bet Rodney’d make sure that the city made Caldwell miserable, and Dr. Z would make sure he couldn’t fix it."

Henderson nodded. "And I doubt any of the rest of the science staff would help either—except maybe Kavanagh..."

"As if he could undo anything Rodney did and Dr. Z backed up," Cadman scoffed.

"And I doubt Dr. Beckett would do any more to help him than necessary when he hurt himself trying to ‘fix’ things," Rossi snickered.

The other two laughed as well. "Oh, I’m sure of it," Laura agreed.

"And Dr. Kusanagi—she’d be a terror if McKay left!" Henderson laughed.

"I wonder if the SGC realizes just how much the people in Atlantis are a family," Rossi mused. "I don’t think they have any idea how far we’d go to keep the colonel."

"If they don’t already, we’ll let them know," Laura promised before getting a thoughtful look, making the other two straighten in their seats.

"What?" they asked in almost perfect chorus.

"We need a pre-emptive strike—something to let the SGC know exactly how we feel about having and keeping Col. Sheppard as our commander."

Henderson and Rossi both smiled toothily. "What did you have in mind?"

"Nothing as blood-thirsty as you’re thinking; a petition, and if that doesn’t work, a strike."

"And you call yourself an explosives expert," Henderson snorted, but he looked intrigued.

"It sounds good," Rossi said. "I’ll be every person in Atlantis, except maybe Dr. Kavanagh, would sign it."

She smirked in response to that. "We’re going to have to have it on paper, that’ll make more of an impression than electronic copy."

"Good idea. And I think we should start with the military and the scientists. Leave the senior staff for last. That’ll show it’s not just them who want to keep the colonel," Rossi suggested.

"Perfect, and I know I can count on you two to help get signatures, right? I wonder if we should talk to Teyla about including the Athosians..."

"Great idea! That’ll show them just how serious we all are about this. We’ll start right after breakfast," Henderson said.

"That’ll give us time to recruit a few more people tonight," Rossi nodded. "We should get a few of the scientists, cover ground faster that way."

"I’ll bet Dr. Z would help." Laura suddenly laughed. "Ronon would too, but I don’t think we want to scare people into signing."

"No, nobody signing under duress," Henderson chuckled.

"Besides, we don’t need that. They’ll sign because they want to."

"Exactly," Laura smiled. "Gentlemen, we have a mission."

Across the room, John watched the trio warily. "You know," he remarked to Rodney and Elizabeth, "I can’t decide if I’m better off finding out what those three are up to or being able to plead ignorance."

Rodney glanced over as well and groaned. "If Cadman’s involved, you don’t want to know."

"I’m not going to think about it," Elizabeth decided. "It’s safer that way."

"Are ye saying that Laura might be plotting something?" Carson asked, an affectionate grin quirking his lips.

"I think she always plots something," John admitted, grinning as he greeted Carson.

"That would be why I love her," he shrugged as he sat down with them. "And John, we’re going ta be having a talk as soon as it’s convenient."

"You’re not going to dissect him!" Rodney yelped, making John chuckle.

"I really doubt Carson was planning to try it, and I’m more than capable of defending myself," he pointed out. "But I would like to know why," he added, looking inquisitively at Carson.

Carson’s smile turned into a frown at the comment. "Because I want ta make sure I can care for ye in the best manner if it’s necessary."

John smiled crookedly. "I appreciate the thought, Carson, but now that I don’t have to hide what I am, anything I can’t take care of myself can’t be fixed."

"Well, it would make me feel better if you talked to him," Rodney prodded.

"Which means you will," Elizabeth murmured, smiling into her coffee.

"Which means I will," John agreed wryly.

"Good answer," Rodney smiled, leaning over to pat his arm.

"Do I get a reward?"

"My undying gratitude?"

John’s eyebrow rose. "We’ll discuss it tonight."

"You’ll find my undying gratitude can be very creative," Rodney smirked, causing the others to chuckle.

"I’m a big fan of creativity."

"As we all know," Carson put in.

John grinned wickedly. "Oh, you have no idea."

Rodney nodded at that. "You really don’t," he laughed.

"For which I for one am very grateful," Elizabeth put in.

"I’m not arguing that!" Carson said quickly.

"And we’re not planning to share," John said easily, still grinning.

"I don’t think any of us doubted that," Elizabeth murmured.

"I meant details. There was never any question of any other sharing."

"Ahh," she nodded, "well, it never pays to assume."

"Especially not in Atlantis," Carson agreed. He looked around the room as he sipped his coffee, frowning slightly when he saw that their table was the center of attention, but he noted that it seemed more curious than unfriendly.

"What?" Rodney demanded, noticing the frown.

"I was just getting a feel for the mood in the city. It seems favorable," Carson decided.

"I’m more concerned about the personnel from the Daedalus than our people," Elizabeth murmured.

"Oh aye, that might be a problem," Carson agreed with another frown. "I’d better make sure we have a good supply of bandages and antiseptic."

"For them, make sure it’s the kind that really stings," Rodney warned.

"Ye know I can’t do that," Carson scolded. "Much as I might like to," he admitted.

"You and that oath," Rodney grumbled.

"The Daedalus crew will probably want to go back to the ship to be treated by their own medic," John pointed out. "I don’t think the ones likely to make trouble are going to want to have anything to do with anyone here in Atlantis."

"Good, then they all can stay away."

Elizabeth chuckled. "You’re such a people person, Rodney."

"I am if they’re my people," he shrugged.

"I’m glad I’m one of them."

He flushed slightly and shrugged again. "You all are family."

"To both of us," John added. "And this is home."

"I believe that all of us who’ve been here from the beginning feel that way," Carson added.

"That’s why I’m not going anywhere. I won’t go back to Earth," John said, directing his words to Elizabeth.

"I understand, John," she answered gravely.

John smiled faintly as he laced his fingers through Rodney’s. "I’m glad to hear it."

"As am I because I’d really rather not leave here," Rodney murmured, tightening his grip on John’s hand.

"We won’t," John promised. "Technically, I’m a descendent of the last inhabitants of the city, so I could always claim it’s mine. And it’s not as if they could force me back."

"I’d like to see them try."

The flames grew visible in the depths of John’s eyes. "No, you really wouldn’t."

Elizabeth’s expression didn’t change as she watched John calmly. "I have to agree with you."

He stared at her for a moment before laughing, the flames slowly banking. "No wonder you brokered so many impossible treaties."

"Actually, considering how well I believe I know you, this is less complicated than some of them."

He considered her for a long moment, unconsciously playing with Rodney’s fingers. "You have a point. And you have the advantage of knowing I’m not about to flare up into a shooting war and kill you."

"Flare up, no," Rodney murmured, "flame up, on the other hand..." He quirked a crooked grin at that.

"I’m fairly certain that doesn’t involve killing anyone," Elizabeth stated dryly, making John laugh.

"Nope, but I’m great at roasting marshmallows."

Rodney picked up a bit of toast and threw it at John, who caught it and tossed it back onto Rodney’s plate. "Don’t waste food, or I won’t get you any more," he chuckled.

"Uh huh, like I believe that one," Rodney snorted.

"He knows me too well," John said mournfully.

"Boo hoo, poor baby."

"You gonna make me feel better?"

"No!" Elizabeth and Carson exclaimed.

"Witness the fear of the great Ori," Rodney snickered.

"And my people think they can defeat you," John chuckled. "Not gonna happen."

"Not if we have anything to say about it," Carson nodded.

"If it comes to it, in the end, I will help," John promised.

"None of us doubted that for a second, John," Elizabeth added as Rodney reached out and squeezed his hand.

"We’ll just hope it doesn’t get to that point," he said, leaning toward Rodney slightly. "I don’t think any of us would enjoy it."

"How about we worry about the Wraith and Genii for now," Rodney murmured.

"If we get really lucky, the SGC and their allies will defeat the Ori without ever involving Atlantis," Elizabeth said.

Carson nodded. "Aye, that would make things much easier." He glanced up and chuckled quietly. "Be careful, Colonel, Radek’s on his way over, and he has an intent look in his eyes."

John groaned. "Save me?" he begged pitifully.

"What’ll it get me?" Rodney asked, grinning crookedly as he spoke.


"But I get that anyway," Rodney mused while Elizabeth and Carson tried to contain their laughter and Radek drew ever closer.

"You won’t if I’m locked in a lab with Zelenka!" John growled. "Still not an on-off switch!" he snapped at the Czech as soon as he reached the table, without giving Radek a chance to say a word.

"And if he decides to be, he’s mine," Rodney added.

"Didn’t your mother teach you to share your toys?"

"This particular toy doesn’t like being shared."

"Dr. Zelenka, perhaps this had better wait," Elizabeth said diplomatically.

"Always it is ‘Zelenka, wait.’ No. You want more puddle jumpers? I need him." He stabbed an emphatic finger into John’s chest, and John stared at it before looking up at him.

"More jumpers?"

"Well, that did it," Rodney grumbled. "Radek’s stolen my toy, and he isn’t even guilty about it."

"But I always come back to you," John reminded him, leaning closer after assuring Radek that he would join him in the jumper bay after lunch. Still muttering, the Czech scientist left again, after threatening dire consequences if John didn’t show up.

"You’d damn well better!"

Elizabeth shook her head, smiling faintly. "He was probably about to destroy a planet for you, Rodney. I don’t think you have anything to worry about."

"What planet was that?" Rodney frowned.

John looked at him oddly. "What exactly do you think I would have done if you’d died yesterday?"

Rodney’s jaw dropped. "You would have destroyed the planet?"

"If they got you killed? Damn right!"

"They who? The natives weren’t anywhere near me—not that I don’t appreciate your homicidal tendencies on my behalf, but they were entirely innocent."

"It was their damn world," John replied stubbornly. "And no, I’m not going to be logical about this, so just stay alive, okay?"

"I’ll make it my top priority."

"And this is what you want to leave in charge of Atlantis’ defenses?" Caldwell growled from behind them. "I have to ask, are you insane, Dr. Weir?"

Unseen by the other colonel, John rolled his eyes, and Rodney shot to his feet, glaring at Caldwell. "Colonel, get the hell away from this table, or you really will be wishing you had—and that threat has nothing to do with anyone else sitting here, just me. Got it?"

John reached up, placing a restraining hand on Rodney’s arm, and Caldwell glared at them both.

"Embracing Origin, Dr. McKay?"

"I’m embracing my inner army grunt because right now what I really want to do is find a gun and shoot you, Colonel!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth said, "I really don’t think that will be necessary." She gave Caldwell a hard look. "The IOC and the SGC both see the advantages of having someone with John’s abilities on our side if it comes to the last resort. Col. Sheppard will remain in his position as senior officer here on Atlantis."

"We’ll see what Mr. Wolsey and Gen. O’Neill have to say about this when they get here."

"Good, fine, now go away," Rodney spat.

Seeing that he wasn’t going to get support from any of the Atlantis personnel, Caldwell turned on his heel and stalked away.

"I swear I can see a thundercloud trailing him," John snickered.

"If only it would spit out a lightning bolt and hit him in the ass."

"I thought I was supposed to be the volatile one in this relationship?" John chuckled.

"It’s been a stressful day," Rodney grumbled, dropping down into his seat again.

"I’d hate to imagine what you’re going to be like by lunch time then," Carson exclaimed.

"That depends on how much Caldwell irritates me."

"I’ll do my best to improve your mood," John offered, getting laughter from the others.

"What a shock," Elizabeth said dryly.

"Not here in the mess hall, I hope," Carson grinned while Rodney glowered.


"I don’t know; it could be fun," John mused.

"No!" Rodney yelped, making John burst into laughter and sling an arm around his shoulders, hugging him.

"Don’t worry, I’m not about to share."

"Something I believe we all knew," Elizabeth commented wryly at the repeat of their conversation of minutes earlier, making John chuckle.

"Only child syndrome."

"He’s having a hard time understanding that sometimes it’s good not to get everything you want."

Carson stared at Rodney for a moment, then chuckled. "And yer one to talk about that trait?"

John snorted. "Are you trying to say that you want me to learn to share?" he challenged.

"You might want to let this one go, Rodney," Elizabeth murmured, looking amused.

"I think I have to," he sighed before giving a half-grin.

"He really is a genius," John observed to no one in particular.

"Thank you, Colonel Obvious."

"Would you prefer that I didn’t think you were a genius?"

Elizabeth sighed, looking at Carson. "Why did I think anything would change just because he’s an ascended being?"

"I think this a case of nature beating out nurture," he mused, watching Rodney and John argue about the topic.

She chuckled softly. "I think it’s more like a cuckoo in the nest."

"At least he’s not eating us out of house and home."

"No, that’s Rodney’s job," John said, rejoining the conversation.

"You know, this abuse I could live without," Rodney pointed out.

"Deal with it; you’re stuck with me."

"Horrors, how will I ever survive?"

"I dinna think you need to worry about that," Carson said, sounding amused. "John seems to have your survival well in hand."

"I’d really rather avoid life-threatening situations—for both our sakes!"

"I can think of much better ways to spend our time," John agreed.

"We know!" Elizabeth and Carson groaned in chorus before bursting into laughter.

"As if we’re going to do anything in front of any of you!" Rodney sputtered.

"We are all very grateful that you won’t," Elizabeth assured him.

"Lovely, now am I going to be able to go to the lab today, or is Caldwell going to be waving Origin detectors around the place?"

"All of the above?" Elizabeth suggested. "I’m working on having the Daedalus called back to Earth so we can all get some peace."

"And when are Gen. O’Neill and Mr. Wolsey due here?" Carson asked.

"They’ll come on the Daedalus’ next trip," Elizabeth explained.

"At least the general will be here to ride herd on Caldwell."

"Of course that’s going to take two months."

"I can live without Caldwell’s smiling presence for two months," John said.

"Just remember he’s still here," Elizabeth cautioned.

"Not for long, I’m sure. They’re probably fighting over who else comes to talk to me, and Caldwell’s the ferryboat captain."

"Something that steams him to no end, I’m sure," Rodney muttered.

"I’m devastated by his emotional upset."

"Be nice, John," Elizabeth murmured.

"You be nice and I’ll be nasty for you," Rodney promised.

"I’ll be so nice you won’t recognize me!"

Rodney chuckled, and Carson shook his head. "I think ye both are insane."

"That makes us perfect for each other."

"Lovely. I’m going to the lab now," Rodney sighed.

"Need a light switch?"

"I thought you were scared of Radek."

"I’ll hide behind you."

"Fine, fine, come along, Colonel."

John grinned at getting his own way, and Elizabeth hid a grin behind her coffee.

Watching them walk away, Carson shook his head. "It seems some things are universal constants."

"John and Rodney? It seems so."

"Now all we have to do is convince the SGC of that fact."

"Lock them in a room with those two for a day," Carson suggested.

"If it comes to that, I’ll let you know."

Carson chuckled. "We have our own secret weapon. And I don’t mean John’s Ori powers."

"I somehow have the feeling that there will be more cropping up over the next few weeks." Elizabeth nodded to the small groups of soldiers and scientists around the mess hall, and Carson nodded.

"Yes, the colonel’s popular with everyone here. I have a feeling the SGC will be hearing about it."

"They have and will continue to from me." Elizabeth finished her coffee and set the cup on her tray.

"They’re in for a surprise if they try to take him away," Carson muttered.

"I shudder to think of what Rodney would do if they tried."

"Oh aye, but I was thinking of the Marines and the other scientists. Everyone likes John, and I don’t think they’d take kindly to any attempts to remove him from Atlantis."

"Not in the least, so we’ll all have to do our best to make sure that isn’t an issue."

"Agreed. I hate to imagine what Rodney might do otherwise." Carson shuddered as he contemplated the possibilities.

"Exactly," Elizabeth nodded.


Laura Cadman stopped at the entrance to Elizabeth’s office. "Excuse me, ma’am, do you have a moment?"

It took Elizabeth a moment to focus, then she nodded. "Of course, Lieutenant. Come in."

"Several of us took it upon ourselves to try and show how we all feel about the colonel, ma’am," Laura said quickly, holding out a thick sheaf of papers covered in signatures. "It’s most everyone on the expedition. We all trust Col. Sheppard, ma’am; it doesn’t matter who or what he is."

A slow smile curved Elizabeth’s lips as she took the papers and glanced at the top of the first one. It was simple and to the point. ‘We the undersigned are aware of who and what Lt. Col. John Sheppard is, and we want him to stay on Atlantis, in his current position as military commanding officer.’

"Lt. Cadman, I like your style."

"Thank you, Dr. Weir," Laura beamed, "now hopefully the SGA and IOC will as well so we don’t have to mutiny."

Elizabeth chuckled. "Hopefully it won’t come to that. This isn’t Babylon 5, and I don’t want to declare us an independent colony."

"A very good idea, ma’am," Laura grinned. "Besides, could you imagine Rodney if he suddenly didn’t have to answer to anyone on Earth?"

Elizabeth shuddered theatrically. "At least Col. Sheppard restrains his worst excesses."

"Exactly!" Laura said fervently before nodding. "So, ma’am, if you wouldn’t mind showing Col. Caldwell the petition and passing it on to Gen. O’Neill when he arrives, we’d all appreciate it."

"It will be my very great pleasure," Elizabeth assured her, smiling slowly as she imagined Col. Caldwell’s reaction.

"Thank you, ma’am, and please, tell the colonel we mean it; it doesn’t matter if he’s flaming." Laura managed to say the last with a remarkably straight face.

Elizabeth burst into laughter. "I’ll be sure to tell him exactly as you said it."

"Just please warn me before you do that so I can hide behind Rodney, ma’am!"

Elizabeth grinned. "A very smart woman. You’re going to go far, Lt. Cadman."

"Just hopefully not into Rodney’s head again; I think the colonel might yank me out on his own this time."

Elizabeth chuckled, but she had to admit it was a distinct possibility. "I really doubt you’d want to be there anyway. I think it falls into the category of too much information."

"Most definitely, ma’am, and if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work."

"Of course." Elizabeth nodded graciously and then waited until the lieutenant left before radioing Caldwell. "Col. Caldwell, please join me in my office." As she waited, she thoughtfully tapped a finger on the petition lying on the desk in front of her.


"I have something for you," Rodney announced as he walked into John’s office carrying a thick sheaf of papers.

"In the office?" John chuckled. "I thought you worried about someone walking in on us?"

"Oh, that’s so amusing," Rodney sniffed, thumping the pile of paper on the desk in front of him. "Elizabeth gave me this to give you—and told me she’d shown it to Caldwell as well."

John picked it up, his eyes widening as he read it. He flipped through the pages, taking in all the names. "Everyone here signed this," he said thickly.

"Except me." Rodney frowned. "They didn’t ask me to; apparently Cadman thought I couldn’t keep a secret from you."

"It’s probably more that they know I have a hard time keeping separate from you. I do tend to know what you do because of it."

"You’re reading my mind all the time?"

"No!" John looked sheepish. "But if I don’t consciously stop myself, I, um, subconsciously reach for you."

"Are you saying that I’m your security blanket?" Rodney asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.

"No, oh hell, you’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?" John grumbled.

Rodney simply stood there, his arms crossed over his chest and his eyebrows raised.

"Look, I love you, okay? And that means that I feel incomplete if I can’t feel you, and sometimes thoughts leech over with that," John muttered.

"Oh." Rodney’s expression turned less mulish at that, and he walked around John’s desk to pull him out of his seat and into a hug. "Me too—I mean the first part because I obviously can’t read your thoughts."

John eyed him curiously, his arms automatically going around Rodney’s waist to hold him close. "Would you want to?"

"I—I’m not sure," Rodney admitted. "Part of me likes the idea of being that close, but what if there came a time we couldn’t tell which of us was thinking something?

John couldn’t prevent a chuckle. "Rodney, our thought processes are nothing alike; there’s never going to be any danger of that. I’ll try harder to keep out though if it really bothers you."

"It makes you feel better to do it? I mean, I don’t really like the idea of you in there all the time, but—well—if it’s comforting..."

"I always feel you, but I mostly don’t get what you’re thinking unless I try, and I try not to," John assured him. "It’s like having you next to me in bed. I can feel you even when we’re not actually touching."

"Oh." Rodney’s lips curved into a small, tender smile, and he pulled John in closer for a tight hug. "That’s okay then; I like that idea too."

John’s lips curved into the purely happy smile that was reserved solely for Rodney. "Have I mentioned that I’m really glad that you’re a stubborn, contrary pain in the ass?" he asked fondly.

"I’ll remember that the next time you complain about those tendencies," Rodney murmured though he tightened his arms around John.

"And I’ll remind you that I do next time you’re cursing me," John chuckled.

"Very amusing," Rodney snorted though he didn’t let go.

"I knew you’d appreciate my stellar sense of humor." John transported them to their room and slowly edged them toward the bed.

"Yes, that’s it exactly." Rodney twisted as they fell back onto the bed, managing to get John under him as he did so.

"You mean you like something else about me?"

"Perhaps the fact that you’re insane."

"About you." John’s hands moved over Rodney’s back, tugging his shirt free of his pants.

"Well, I meant in general, but I like that as well," Rodney chuckled before nipping at John’s lower lip.

"I certainly hope so, considering how long it took me to get you to admit to it!" John caught Rodney’s mouth in a hard kiss.

"Oh yes, all of one day; it must have been horrible," Rodney snorted once he could speak again, though he was pushing at John’s shirt as he spoke.

"Devastating," John agreed, grinning up at him.

"How did you ever survive?" Rodney sat up and scooted back to lick at John’s nipples.

"I had a ri—" John gasped before continuing, "rich fantasy life."

"Tell me."

Flames flared in the depths of John’s eyes, and his voice was a throaty rasp when he spoke. "I imagined you with me, naked, hard, wanting me as much as I wanted you..."

Rodney groaned at that, his breathing quickening as he raised his gaze to stare at John’s eyes. "Right now we’ve got two of the three; lose the clothes and you get them all," he whispered. He’d barely finished speaking when their clothes were gone and John was arching up under him to rock their cocks together.

"Why did I know that would happen?" Rodney chuckled, grinding down against John and kissing him again.

"You know me well," John murmured, moving his hands to cup Rodney’s ass, his fingers lightly pressing into the firm muscles.

Rodney hummed in answer and rubbed against him, feeling their precome slick their movements.

"Fuck me," John whispered, his eyes never leaving Rodney’s.

"Get yourself ready and I will."

John’s smile was pure sex as he rolled them over and reached to the nightstand for the lube. He knelt up and turned so that he was at an angle to Rodney, still able to watch Rodney’s face but positioned so that Rodney could watch John push two slick fingers into his own ass.

"I meant—oh hell, who cares what I meant," Rodney moaned, stroking a hand up John’s thigh.

"I know," John said, a smile curving his lips below the bright flames in his eyes. "But I like seeing you, so I thought you’d like to watch me for a change."

"Yes, well I think you can tell how much I do like it."

"Yes, I noticed." Pulling his fingers free, John leaned over to lick the drop of precome from Rodney’s cock and then stretched out on his back to be instantly covered as Rodney rolled over him and settled between his legs, stroking John’s cock as he set himself and pressed inside.

"You feel so good," John groaned, raising his legs to wrap them around Rodney’s waist, opening himself to the possession.

"I love you," Rodney whispered, sinking further into John’s ass and holding himself there as he stared down into John’s flame-filled eyes.

"Love you too," John replied. "Forever," he added with great emphasis, and Rodney nodded.

"Forever," he whispered, beginning to move, long slow strokes that rubbed against John’s prostate. John moaned and grabbed hold of his own knees, pulling them back as he clenched down on Rodney’s cock, allowing him to thrust harder and deeper even as he worked a hand between them to stroke his cock.

The flames grew brighter and hotter in John’s eyes, and he arched up, trying to force Rodney even deeper. "Worth waiting for."

Rodney shivered at that and moved faster, staring down at John. "Can you feel what I feel?"

John shook his head. "I’m not invading your privacy," he gasped out between moans of pleasure.

"But I want you to."

That ripped a deep groan from John, and suddenly they each could feel everything the other was feeling in addition to their own sensations and emotions. Rodney inhaled sharply at the onslaught and gasped for breath, freezing before rearing back to slam into John again and again, his vision going hazy with their shared pleasure.

John moaned, feeling Rodney’s love as much as his own, and he pulled Rodney down into a kiss as his body locked in a rictus of pleasure with the first pulse of his climax, the dual sensations bringing Rodney over as well, their thoughts and feelings so tightly entwined that for a time all boundaries between them were lost.

Long moments passed before John stirred, and then it was only to turn his head and press a kiss to the top of Rodney’s head. "Love you," he said again.

Rodney gave an unintelligible grunt in answer, too drained to form speech, and John chuckled fondly, though he was no more eager to move.

"It looks like everything turned out pretty well after all," he mused quietly.

Mmm," Rodney murmured, squirming to allow John’s legs to shift down from around his waist, wanting him to be comfortable.

"Stay," John said, his arms tight around Rodney’s middle to keep him from moving away.

"Not goin’ anywhere," Rodney mumbled, snuggling closer.

"Good. You feel good," John murmured.

Rodney sighed in response and kissed his throat. "Feel tired now. Sleep?"

John smiled and tightened his arm around Rodney’s waist for a moment before relaxing again. "Good night, Rodney."

His only answer was a soft sigh and the total relaxation of the body over his.