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The Sum of the Parts

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"See you later," Rodney murmured as he bent to brush a kiss over John’s temple. "Not sure if I’ll make lunch, it depends on what we find in that lab. And before you say it, yes, I’ll keep Radek from calling you to ask if you’re sure you don’t know what it was for."

"Thank you!" John’s reply was heartfelt. "Try to keep from getting yourself killed. You always find the weird stuff."

"Is it my fault your ancestors liked to play with dangerous toys and not label them correctly?" Rodney asked wryly as he picked up his data pad and hooked his headpiece over his ear.

"Let someone else poke at them first for a change," John grumbled, rolling over to try to get back to sleep.

"Now what’s the fun in that?" Rodney laughed, leaving their room and heading for the mess to meet Radek before their expedition.

"He’s going to get into something," John groaned, pulling a pillow over his head.

~*~

"I’m fine, John; you can stop hovering now!" Reaching up, Rodney began to peel the electrodes from his forehead, ignoring Carson’s half-hearted protests.

"Stay!" John growled, pushing him back with one hand on his chest. "You have no idea what that machine was supposed to do. Let Carson do his job and find out if you’ve been affected by being hit by that beam of energy!"

"But I’m fine!" Rodney groaned, giving in to the pressure and collapsing back on the bed.

"We don’t know that yet, so stop arguing with your doctor."

"You aren’t my doctor."

"But I am," Carson interjected, pressing the electrodes back against Rodney’s skin.

"Listen to the nice doctor, and we’ll let you have a lollipop," John said.

"You wish."

"I can promise you a sucker."

"Behave, John," Elizabeth said, coming up beside him. "How is he, Carson?"

"None of the scans I’ve run show anything," Carson admitted. "As far as I can tell, the beam didn’t affect him at all."

"Which means I can go." Rodney started to sit up again, and John frowned.

"It must have done something. Hit by an energy beam!"

"Would you care to examine the scans yourself, Colonel?" Carson asked.

"There’s no need to be sarcastic, Carson. You’ve been spending too much time with Rodney."

"Hey! Sitting right here!"

"And apparently unscathed, no thanks to yourself," John said.

"Oh yes, I chose to make the console decide to fry me—again, thank your ancestors for their no-doubt shoddy work."

"Dr. Zelenka is working on the equipment, trying to find out exactly what it does," Elizabeth put in, trying to prevent another of John and Rodney’s peculiar conversations.

Carson nodded at that. "And I can honestly see no reason to keep you here, Rodney."

"Thank god!"

"I’ll keep an eye on him," John said, moving closer to Rodney.

"Fine, fine," Rodney waved a hand at him as he peeled off the electrodes once again and started to swing his legs off the bed.

"I don’t think I need to remind you to let me know if you have any reactions," Carson cautioned.

"You’ll be the first to know," John replied emphatically.

"Have I ever told you you’re annoyingly over-protective?" Rodney sighed.

"Frequently. Deal with it."

Elizabeth coughed to cover her laughter, and Rodney growled as he stood up.

"See? No wobbling. I’m fine."

"Uh huh." John was patently unconvinced. "I’m still sticking with you for a while."

"Am I going to be able to get any work done?" Rodney asked as they headed out of the infirmary.

"As long as you don’t cough."

Rodney paused and looked over at John, his eyebrows raised. "You have got to be kidding."

John simply stared back, and Rodney sighed.

"Fine, fine, we’ll do it your way, Colonel Bossy Pants."

"Watch it, Meredith."

"Or what? You’ll blast me with your flaming powers? Ooo, I’m terrified."

"I’ll tie you to a bed!"

"But what if I went into convulsions?" Rodney smirked.

"You usually seem to enjoy those."

"Ignoring you now." Rodney tapped his headset. "Radek, I’m coming back down, so stop playing Pong and have something to show me."

John chuckled at the raspberry he could hear. "Be nice to the man trying to figure out what hit you."

"Why?"

"Because he’s your friend, almost as smart as you, and making me feel better."

"The things I do for you," Rodney grumbled as they headed for the transporter to the section nearest where Radek was working.

"I love you too." John patted his ass.

"Yes, yes, you can show me how much later."

John stopped, folded his arms across his chest, and glared at Rodney.

"What? You don’t want to show me how much?"

"I said I love you."

"Oh." Rodney had the good grace to look abashed. "I love you too."

"Better." John leaned in and kissed him hard. "Now let’s go talk to Radek."

"And fix whatever wrong assumptions he has."

"That’s my Rodney, making friends and spreading joy wherever you go."

"You don’t seem to mind when it’s spread in your direction."

"You noticed." John grinned at him.

Rodney rolled his eyes and walked into the lab.

Radek looked up at their entrance, his eyes running over Rodney. "You don’t seem to be changing into a bug."

"Very amusing. Have you figured anything out about this console yet, or were you waiting for me?"

"I thought perhaps you might want to show off for Dr. Esposito again."

"And who’s Dr. Esposito?" John asked, eyebrows rising.

"Radek’s unrequited lust," Rodney said loud enough for the dark-haired woman across the room to hear, making John laugh.

"My favorite evil genius."

"Yes, yes, and you’re my favorite alien; can we work now?"

"I’m not stopping you."

"Update, Radek." Rodney repeated, ignoring John’s grin.

"I’m still working on establishing what exactly this machine does. I think I’ve found the right files in the database now, though, so it shouldn’t be much longer."

"My not much longer or your not much longer?" Rodney asked, walking up to the console and examining it.

Radek muttered something in Czech. "Go have lunch and stop interrupting me, or it will be never!"

"You just mean you want to be alone with Dr. Esposito," Rodney chortled.

"Out!"

John laughed and caught hold of Rodney’s arm, drawing him out of the room. "Come on, I’d hate to lose you to a homicidal Czech."

"Are you saying you wouldn’t protect me?"

"Of course I would, but Elizabeth doesn’t like it if I kill people."

"I don’t want you to kill him either! You could just turn him into a... bunny for a while."

John blinked at him. "You have a very disturbing mind."

"This from the demon seed," Rodney grinned before pushing John against the wall and kissing him.

"You are such a nut. Good thing I like nuts."

"Good thing you like my nuts."

"That too," John agreed with a laugh. "Now let’s go get you fed before your blood sugar gets too low."

"That I could live with," Rodney nodded, stepping back so that John could push away from the wall.

"I kind of thought you might." John slid an arm around Rodney’s waist as they continued on to the mess hall.

"You know," Rodney observed once they reached their destination, "since you were traumatized, I’ll even get you your tray. There are Ronon and Teyla; go grab us seats."

"You’re too good to me." John rolled his eyes before going over to join their teammates, the three of them discussing Rodney’s accident and the amount of food he was piling on the tray.

"Excuse me," Rodney stalked over from the other side of the room, slamming John’s tray down in front of him. "That’s for Colonel Know-it-all, and for one thing, I am exactly the same weight I’ve been since we got here, and I need to eat regularly otherwise I become hypoglycemic, and for another I’m generally a very happy person..." Elizabeth’s voice crackled in all their earpieces, cutting him off.

~*~

Shortly afterward, the four of them headed through the gate to rescue Maj. Lorne’s team, who had encountered unexpected enemy fire. When both teams returned, everyone was eyeing Rodney oddly as they climbed out of the jumper to face Elizabeth.

"What happened?"

"Well, I didn’t do it on purpose!" Rodney protested.

"We’re not certain he did anything at all," John put in.

"Would someone tell me what happened?" Elizabeth demanded.

Rodney glanced at the others, who didn’t seem to be in a hurry to explain, and sighed. "Major Lorne’s team was surrounded by bad guys, and well, I thought how good it would be if all their guns jammed."

Elizabeth’s eyebrows rose.

"And they did."

"They all ran away," Lorne put in. "And here we are, home without a scratch," he added in response to Dr. Beckett’s arrival and question about injuries.

"I find that rather hard to believe," Elizabeth said, eyeing John askance.

"Hey, it wasn’t me!"

"It was me; it really was." Now Rodney was grinning brightly. "Watch this!" He looked over to where Carson was standing with his medical team, and suddenly the doctor was floating in the air.

"What the—Colonel! Put me down!"

"Still not me," John said.

"That’s very disturbing," Elizabeth said, staring up at Carson.

"I don’t care who’s doing it, put me down!" Carson demanded.

"Hm? Oh, sure," Rodney nodded, and Carson floated to the floor.

"I’m going to go out on a limb and say that damned machine did do something to him," John growled.

"The Ancients did do research on increasing the rate of evolution," Elizabeth mused.

"Rodney, I want you to come to the infirmary," Carson ordered. "We should run another series of scans."

"But I feel fine!" Rodney protested. "Better than fine!"

"Humor us," John said, clearly prepared to carry Rodney to the infirmary over his shoulder if need be.

"Dr. Weir, I have something you should see." Zelenka called her over the radio.

"Is it regarding the console?" At the affirmative answer, Elizabeth’ mouth thinned. "I’m on my way; Rodney, go with Carson."

"But I want to go see—" he protested though his voice died away under both her and John’s stern glares. "Fine, fine, scan away, Carson."

~*~

When Elizabeth arrived in the lab, Radek led her to the console. "I think I have found out what they were doing here, but I could use a second opinion."

"All right, let me take a look at it."

Radek stepped back, watching anxiously as she began to read the relevant sections.

"All right," she murmured, after translating the parts Radek pointed out, "this certainly explains what happened earlier. It seems much of this refers to human physiology. It mutates base genetic coding. According to this, the beam accelerates mental evolution at an astounding rate."

Radek groaned. "Rodney is getting smarter? He will be impossible to live with!"

Elizabeth had to cover her mouth to hide her smile. "I’d call that incentive to search for a way to reverse the effects."

Radek nodded vigorously. "It would be helpful if you would also continue to work on the file, to see what more you can find out about the device."

"Of course I will, meanwhile, even this information should help Carson track exactly what’s going on in Rodney’s brain."

"I’m surprised the colonel didn’t come back with you," Radek admitted. "Or is he still hovering and driving Rodney mad?"

"The second," she admitted. "Once he’s sure Rodney’s fine, I’m sure he’ll stop in and see exactly what he can find out about the device."

"And drive me mad. Though once it’s all over, I will play on his guilt and get him to help with other research."

"Just remember that," she laughed, "it will help you survive."

~*~

"See? Fine. Are we happy now?" Rodney grumbled as he and John left the infirmary, Rodney munching on the donut he’d stolen from Carson’s desk.

"It’s a good thing you have me to help you work off all those calories," John chuckled.

"I think you’re the reason I need all the extra calories."

"Damn, I’m good." John grinned at Rodney as one of the new scientists walked past, trying not to stare and failing miserably at it.

"Yes, yes, we all know, but as for right now, I’m the one with a few ideas I’d like to try out."

"On me?" John asked hopefully.

"No, on Ronon," Rodney sighed. "Yes, on you, now why don’t we stop wasting time and you get us to our room."

They were in their room before Rodney had finished speaking. "I was just making sure you were talking about something do with sex and not some new physics experiment," John protested. "With you, either is equally possible."

"Are you saying I couldn’t come up with a way to combine them both?" Rodney asked, sliding his hands under John’s jacket and pushing it off his shoulders.

"Far from it, which should probably be a lot scarier than it is," John laughed, shrugging out of the jacket before reaching for Rodney’s belt.

"I thought nothing scared the high and mighty Ori," Rodney purred, pushing John’s shirt up and leaning in to lick his nipple.

"Which is why I’m enjoying it instead." John’s back arched, and his hand cupped Rodney’s head, the long fingers combing through his hair.

"Very smart man." Rodney paused and grinned slightly before concentrating, creating the feeling of a ghost mouth on John’s other nipple.

John gasped and jerked, his eyes widening at the sensation. "Okay, I like this development."

"I’m glad," Rodney laughed, sliding the phantom mouth down John’s chest and pulling back enough to watch John’s reaction.

"Impressive talent," John panted, his eyes falling half closed.

"Just trying to make the most of my new skills." The mouth slid lower and closed over John’s cock through his pants.

"I love how fast you learn," John said, his hips thrusting into the ghostly touch.

"That’s me, new and improved super-genius."

"The old version was already pretty damn good." John’s fingers lightly massaged Rodney’s scalp.

"Well, of course," Rodney chuckled, undoing John’s belt and pants and sliding his hand inside to draw John’s erection out and drag his tongue over it.

"Oh fuck, that’s so much better," John groaned, and Rodney smiled in response before taking John’s length into his mouth, sighing at the familiar musky flavor.

"You feel so damn good," John rasped, watching Rodney’s head bob at his groin before he pulled back to smile up at him.

"And I’ll feel better when I’m in you."

"Fuck yeah!" John shuddered. "Why are we still standing here?"

Rodney pulled back and smirked at him as John floated into the air and glided toward the bed, losing his clothes along the way.

"Mmm, equality’s fun," John chuckled, crossing his arms behind his head and waiting to see what Rodney had in mind next.

"You think anything that gets you laid is fun," Rodney snorted, letting John slowly sink to the bed as he removed his own clothes.

"Of course." Watching Rodney undress, John began lazily stroking himself, flames flickering faintly in the depths of his eyes, and Rodney groaned, tossing his clothes away without caring where they landed.

"Slut," he murmured as he crawled up on the bed between John’s legs, a quick glance at the bedside table sending the lube flying into his hand so that he could slick up his fingers and press one into John’s ass.

"Like you mind," John retorted before inhaling sharply and clenching down on Rodney’s finger.

"I don’t recall ever hearing myself say that; do you?" Rodney leaned in to kiss the hollow of John’s thigh, then suck on the tender skin there.

"Only that first night," John said, his pupils now fully engulfed by flames.

Rodney chuckled at that and sucked harder on the spot, finally pulling back and shivering when he caught sight of John’s eyes. "I’m going to fuck you now," he rasped, stroking lube over his erection before pushing inside, groaning at the clenching heat.

"Good," John groaned, catching hold of his own knees and pulling them back to open himself to Rodney’s possession while Rodney powered into him, his strokes hard and short, causing the bed frame to slam against the wall as he loomed over John, his weight braced on his hands.

"Gorgeous," John breathed, staring up into the blue eyes. He arched up to meet every thrust, his ass clenching around Rodney every time he drew back, as if to keep him inside.

"I marked you," Rodney gasped as they moved together. "Like you did me."

John cried out at the surge of pleasure caused by Rodney’s words, and he let his legs wrap around Rodney’s torso so he could lunge upwards, catching the mobile lips in a hungry kiss.

Rodney groaned around the invading tongue and shifted his weight onto one hand so that he could stroke John’s cock, tightening his grip to just this side of pain as his whole body spasmed, then jerked.

"Rodney!" John clung to him as his orgasm exploded through him.

Rodney whimpered, lost in his own climax, and collapsed against John, warm liquid spreading between them. "Oh my god, I think I broke me," he gasped.

John chuckled warmly. "I know you broke me."

"That mark... it’s like the one you gave me," Rodney admitted after a moment. "I think anyway."

John reached down and ran a fingertip over the mark on his thigh, then the one on Rodney. "I like that. A lot."

"I tried to get it to read ‘Property of Dr. Rodney McKay’, but I suppose I need more practice for that," Rodney chuckled.

John laughed. "I think everyone’s already aware of that."

"Good point." Rodney smiled and leaned in to kiss John, who opened to him eagerly, arms wrapping around Rodney as they lay amid the tangled bedding.

"You know," Rodney murmured, "I’m going to have fun seeing just how far these abilities go."

"Atlantis, beware!" John chuckled. "And if I can’t do anything to Caldwell, neither can you!" He was very glad the Daedalus wasn’t there at the moment.

"Oh, you’re no fun at all," Rodney pouted.

"Behave or Elizabeth’s going to give us a time out. In separate rooms!"

"Like that would stop us." Rodney paused, clearly concentrating on something, then shrugged. "Well, just you; apparently teleportation hasn’t developed—yet."

"That pretty much requires being ascended, so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting if I were you. But you’re right, it wouldn’t stop me."

"Me, ascended, there’s a joke," Rodney snorted, stretching hugely, his body rubbing against John’s. "I’ll stick to being even more of a genius than I—Oh my god, I need to write this down!" He scrambled out of bed and grabbed for his datapad, furiously scribbling notes to himself.

"And the honeymoon’s obviously over," John sighed, watching him. "Hey, remember me?"

"Hold on, hold on," Rodney muttered, waving a hand in John’s general direction. "I just figured out a way to replenish the depleted ZPM."

"Okay, that’s fairly important," John admitted. "But if you ever do that in the middle of sex, I won’t be so agreeable!"

"I’ll try to remember that," Rodney nodded as he continued to add lines to the equation he was writing.

"Yeah, I can tell." John watched a little longer before getting up and heading into the bathroom for a shower.

By the time he returned, Rodney was scanning what he’d written and grinning broadly. "Come here and see."

John moved over to read over Rodney’s shoulder, and his eyebrows rose. "You’ve just jumped a couple of generations in development," he said. "This is incredible, even for you."

"Why thank you, you can reward me later," Rodney grinned. "I’m going to go take a shower, then find the depleted ZPMs and see what I can do about changing their status."

"You’re pretty good at recharging depleted things," John said with a smirk.

"This from Mr. Viagra himself," Rodney snorted.

"Who needs Viagra when I have you?"

"That’s sweet, but you’re not getting laid again right now; I want a chance to try this out." With that, Rodney ducked into the bathroom and the shower.

"You’re no fun!" John called after him, keeping his laughter out of his voice.

"Look at your hip and say that again," Rodney called over the sound of running water.

"Well, if you’re going to be logical about it..."

"I’m always logical about it!"

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

"Mmm, I love it when you say that."

"What a shock," John said dryly.

Rodney emerged, grinning and drying himself off with a towel, brushing a kiss over John’s mouth before grabbing a fresh set of clothes and pulling them on. "Ready to go?"

"Always," John replied, instantly tidy and dressed, before sliding an arm around Rodney’s waist as they started down the hall outside their room. They were still enjoying the freedom to touch now that everyone knew they were together.

"You know, I had an interesting idea about improving the power consumption rate in the city while I was in the shower."

"You’ll have to get Elizabeth’s approval first," John said warningly.

"Yes, yes, I know," Rodney grumbled. "I’ll do that while you go do whatever work I’m sure is waiting for you."

"Trying to get rid of me?" John laughed. "You know Carson said you could only roam free if someone was with you. Lemme call Ronon to take over Rodney watch."

"Wonderful," Rodney muttered.

"It’s for your own protection, so don’t argue."

"I suppose I’m lucky you haven’t wrapped me in cotton batting."

"Yes!" John glanced at him. "I really don’t like you nearly getting yourself killed."

"As if I do—and you would have brought me back."

John looked at him again. "I’m not absolutely certain I could if it was caused by one of my people’s devices. The principles on which some of them work could cancel my powers. So try to be a little more careful, would you?"

Rodney stared at him, bug-eyed. "And you didn’t think to tell me this before?!"

"It’s not something I like to think about."

"I don’t either!"

"So try to avoid poking at machinery when you don’t know what it does."

"Knowing that, I’ll be more careful," Rodney promised, sighing when Ronon joined them. "This is so unnecessary."

"Carson wants you watched, so you’re going to be watched." John gave him a quick kiss. "Stay out of trouble."

"Yes, dear," Rodney sighed before glancing at Ronon. "We need to see Elizabeth."

Ronon shrugged. "I’m just following you."

"Good answer." They passed one of the new female scientists, and Rodney spun, staring at her. "You do?" he asked, grinning.

"What? I didn’t—" she said, looking and sounding flustered while Ronon watched in bemusement.

"She thinks I’m hot," Rodney enthused before pausing as if he was listening. "No, wait; it’s you she thinks is hot." He looked over at Ronon at that.

Looking incredibly embarrassed, the scientist all but ran away, and Ronon looked at Rodney oddly. "She didn’t say a word."

"She didn’t?" Rodney asked, sounding bewildered, then grinning. "I can read minds!"

Ronon just looked at him.

"I am not insane!" Rodney sputtered before stomping toward Elizabeth’s office.

She looked up when Rodney came in, trailed by Ronon, and opened her mouth to speak but was forestalled by Rodney.

"Elizabeth, I need permission to reconfigure the city’s power grid; I have a plan that can greatly improve the efficiency. Wait, I know what you’re going to say." At Elizabeth’s confused look, Rodney grinned. "I can read minds now, and yes, I’ll be careful. Yes, Ronon’s coming with me, and yes, I know exactly what I’m doing." He rubbed his hands together, his grin growing even broader as he turned and started from the room before pausing to glare at Ronon. "I am not going to blow the city up!"

"I... all right." Rodney was already gone before she’d finished speaking, and Elizabeth sighed. "I will send a science team down to supervise," she told Ronon before the Satedan followed Rodney.

~*~

Ignoring the frequently flickering lights and brownouts as much as was possible while she continued to read over the research notes from the Ancient lab, Elizabeth glanced up when she heard a noise at the door as John came into the office. "It’s Rodney," she explained. "He’s improving the city’s power consumption."

"Isn’t improvement supposed to make things better? I love the guy, but I find the flickering lights incredibly unnerving."

"I agree, but he promised that it would only be temporary—and he can also read minds now," she added with a sigh.

"He... Okay, that’s a little weird," John said, frowning slightly.

"And a little unsettling."

"Yes," John said before coming around the desk to read over her shoulder. "So, find out anything interesting?"

"Actually, I was just getting to the good part when you came in," she said. "You know that the machine was designed to help those Ancients who were having difficulty ascending achieve that state." At John’s nod, she glanced back at the screen, continuing to read and beginning to frown.

Reading over her shoulder, John inhaled sharply. "Shit!"

"We need to—" She was speaking to empty space as John had already raced from the room.

"Rodney! We need to talk," John exclaimed as he burst into the chair room.

"I know, I know, give me two minutes, and it’ll all be... Die? I’m going to die?!" Rodney sat up, and the chair powered down as he stared at John and Elizabeth, who’d followed John. "Ascend or die? I knew it was too good to be true; I knew it!"

"I think you’re underestimating yourself, Rodney," Elizabeth said while John just grabbed his hand and clung to it.

"Dr. McKay, the power..." one of the other scientists began, and Rodney waved a hand, cutting her off.

"Yes, yes, it’s only because I stopped in the middle of things; I’ll fix it in a minute."

"You are not going to die," John stated in a tone that brooked no denial. In fact, it could have been considered an order, one which Rodney ignored to focus on the protesting scientists.

"I know there are power surges! I’ll stop them once I get this finished!"

"We have massive power surges throughout the grid! Shutdown protocols are not responding," the other scientist said insistently, glancing back at them before returning her attention to the console she was monitoring.

"I know there are power surges!" Rodney flung himself back in the chair, trying to correct the problems, but was rewarded by a series of power spikes that sent much of the city into darkness.

"I’m surprised Dr. Zelenka isn’t already here to yell at you again," Elizabeth observed.

John frowned. "Me too. Sheppard to Zelenka. Dr. Zelenka, respond!" At the continued silence, his frown grew. "Oh fuck! Carson! That last power spike electrocuted Zelenka! Get someone down to the hallway outside the lab where he was working on the ascension device now!"

"What? Radek?" Rodney asked, his eyes widening as he sat up in the chair, his expression horrified.

"The infirmary," John barked, and he, Rodney and Elizabeth ran there, arriving at almost the same moment as Carson’s team brought Radek in, his chest horrifically burnt, not breathing.

"No pulse," the medic reported as Carson grabbed the defibrillator pads.

"Clear!" he called, everyone backing off except for Rodney.

"Wait," he said quietly, leaning in and holding his hands over the scorched hole in Radek’s chest, a golden glow emanating from him, healing the injuries and restarting Radek’s heart.

Everyone stared at Rodney in silence until Radek propped himself up on his elbows, resettled his glasses on his nose and peered at them curiously before gasping when he looked down at the burnt remnants of his uniform.

"Radek, I—I need to go," Rodney said quickly, all but bolting from the room.

"Glad you’re back with us, Radek," John said hastily before chasing after Rodney, and Radek stared after them in befuddlement.

"What happened?"

"Rodney happened," Carson explained with a sigh.

~*~

"Rodney!" John put on a burst of speed to catch up with the scientist and caught his arm, drawing him to a halt. "What’s wrong?"

"What’s wrong? Radek almost died because of me, that’s what’s wrong!" Rodney exclaimed, trying to pull away from John’s grip, making John shift his hold so as not to hurt him but at the same time drawing Rodney closer.

"It was an accident. Those happen every day in Atlantis. And in case you missed it, you also healed him, Rodney."

"It happened because I was playing god again, like I did with Doranda, and something just as bad happened!" Rodney shouted. "I almost killed Radek, and I’m going to die and—oh god, I’m going to die if I can’t ascend." He looked up at John, his eyes wide and frightened.

"You are not going to die!" John wrapped his arms around Rodney. "I can help you the way Oma helped Daniel Jackson if need be. You’re going to be fine; Radek is fine, and once this is all settled, we’re going to lock ourselves in our room for a week."

"John," Rodney sighed, in what he thought was a patient tone, pulling back to look at the other man, the faint flames in John’s eyes making him change what he was going to say. "Fine, teach me to do whatever it is I need to do to try this."

"There is no try; there is only do." John managed a faint smile before hugging Rodney tightly.

"If you change to look like Yoda, all bets are off," Rodney mumbled against his shoulder.

"You mean wrinkly little green guys with big ears don’t do it for you?"

"You’re trying to cheer me up," Rodney muttered.

"Is it working?"

Rodney straightened up and gave what he hoped was a steady smile. "Sure."

"Good. Because you don’t have anything to worry about. Don’t you know by now that I’ll do anything to keep you with me?"

"I know." Rodney nodded. "So I suppose you had better teach me how to do this."

"Now that’s the right attitude." John pulled him back into a brief hug.

"That’s me, Mr. Glass-half-full."

"Not quite, but I like you the way you are."

"That’s good to hear. So, should we go try to teach me how to ascend?"

John nodded even as he sighed. "I hate meditating."

"That makes me feel oh so much better about this. You know what? I don’t think I’m in the right state of mind for this anyway right now; let me go do some work, and we’ll try again later."

"I hate the idea of losing you a lot more than meditating, so no. We’re going to our room, and you will figure out how to ascend."

"Considering the fact that you’ll just send me to our room even if I disagree, fine, let’s get it over with."

John frowned. "You know I wouldn’t do that to you."

"You want to keep me alive; I wouldn’t put anything past you."

"True, but things aren’t anywhere near that dire yet, so I’d prefer to keep you talking to me too."

Rodney managed a crooked smile at that. "Good point."

"So let’s go meditate together, and after we’re done, we’ll do something very physical," John said with a comical leer.

"You wanting to get physical, there’s a shock."

"Well, if it is, we clearly need to do more of it."

"Sarcasm, John," Rodney sighed.

"Sarcasm, Rodney," John replied, smirking.

"Oh, just get us to our room so we can try this."

John pulled Rodney into a kiss, and when he let go again, they were on the balcony of their room. "Your wish is my command, master."

"So you’re a genie now?" Rodney snorted, glancing around the room, noting the sudden appearance of piles of comfortable pillows and multitudes of unscented candles.

"Rub my belly and make a wish," John suggested, grinning even as he dropped to sit cross-legged on one of the pillows.

"If I rub your belly, you’ll have me on my back."

"Normally you’d be right," John admitted, "but today we have more important things to do. I like you alive."

"As do I," Rodney sighed, wrinkling his nose as he crossed his legs in front of him and squirmed, trying to get comfortable.

John watched him, lips curving in a reluctant smile. "You’re never going to make any progress if you can’t sit still."

Rodney scowled at him and tried to get comfortable, finally shoving the pillows aside and stretching out on the floor, taking a deep breath and letting it out before he was finally still.

John reached over, resting his hand on Rodney’s shoulder as he shut his own eyes, slowly relaxing. "Just relax, concentrate on something you enjoy and that’s soothing."

Rodney shut his eyes and tried to relax, then frowned. "I’m not sure anything falls into both those categories."

"Um... Ferris wheels?" John suggested.

"That works for you, not me."

"So what works for you? Work’s not relaxing." John unconsciously started petting Rodney’s arm.

Rodney was silent for a while, obviously mulling the question over. "Music," he finally said.

"I should have known," John said, nodding. "Okay, so think about music and relax."

Rodney sighed again and settled himself, crossing his arms over his chest as he closed his eyes and tried to think of music he enjoyed.

John started humming a piece by Beethoven while continuing to stroke Rodney, and the piece slowly morphed into something completely different.

"Where did you hear that?" Rodney asked, opening his eyes and staring up at John.

"Huh?" John stopped and had to think about it to figure out what song he’d been humming. "Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize I was... Anyway, you know exactly where I heard it, but it was before I told you who I am and agreed to keep out of your mind."

"Oh." Rodney was frowning slightly, and all signs of relaxation were gone.

"I’m sorry. But it’s just so beautiful."

"It’s just—that’s—it’s—this isn’t going to work, not now," Rodney sputtered, scrambling to his feet. "I’m going to do some work; we’ll try again later." With that he was out of the door and their rooms.

"Well, that went well," John sighed, slumping back against the bed.

~*~

"Rodney?" Elizabeth was surprised to see him. "I thought you and John were meditating?"

"We were; it didn’t work," Rodney shrugged as he moved from one laptop to another, typing furiously at each.

Elizabeth sighed softly as she watched him. "I think you underestimate yourself, Rodney. And perhaps it might help to remember that John will do anything to keep you alive, including help you ascend himself. Not that I disagree with that," she added hastily, "but it will draw the Ancients’ attention to him."

"Then maybe you should talk to him about not doing that," Rodney said shortly. "I’m going to try, but I don’t think it’s going to work, and he has to be prepared for that."

Elizabeth shook her head. "Oh, Rodney, stop fooling yourself. John will never let that happen. I think he would let galaxies be destroyed first. An Ori was saved by love, but now you have to deal with the consequences. He does love you, and that makes you matter more to him than anything or anyone. Than everything and everyone. I want you to live because you’re my friend, but I need you to live to keep him restrained."

Rodney stopped at that and looked over at her, his expression despondent. "And if I can’t?"

"Then John will do whatever it takes to make sure you do."

"I’ll try."

"That’s all we can ask of you." Elizabeth hesitated, then hugged him briefly. "We’re all here for you, Rodney, if there’s anything we can do."

Rodney stared after her as she left, chewing on his lower lip for a moment before going back to work.

A while later John came into the lab, eyeing Rodney warily. "Is it safe to come in, or are you still mad at me?"

"I’m not mad at you; I’m mad at myself," Rodney answered defensively without looking away from the whiteboard where he was scribbling equations. "Look at this; I discovered a new kind of math."

"Huh, interesting." John came to read over Rodney’s shoulder, as always easily distracted by math.

"It is, isn’t it," Rodney said absently, continuing to write.

John slid his arms around Rodney’s waist and rested his chin on the scientist’s shoulder. "When you’re done here, we should try again," he said quietly.

"I did make something that might help," Rodney answered. "It can measure my mental state and tell us if I’m getting closer to the right level of inactivity."

"Only you would come up with that idea," John chuckled. "But considering you, it might just work at that."

"Well, it certainly can’t hurt." Rodney spun from the computer to scrawl lines of equations on a white board while John watched with interest.

"Can I help?"

Rodney sighed and stopped writing so that he could look back over his shoulder at John. "Right now, I just need to do this, to get it out of my head."

"Can I stay?" John asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, just—just let me do this, okay?" As he spoke, Rodney was already turning back to the whiteboard and his work.

John bit back a sigh and sat down to watch Rodney work through his fear and frustration with science.

"All right," Rodney finally announced some time later, "it’s not done, but I suppose it can wait—I feel a bit calmer now."

John instantly came up to Rodney and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close. "It will be okay," he promised.

Rodney rested his head on John’s shoulder and sighed, trying to relax though not doing a good job of it. "Keep telling me that, okay?"

"Until you’re yelling at me to shut up because you’re sick of it," John promised.

"I may not say it then, but don’t stop."

"I won’t," John assured him, his arms tightening around Rodney. "You’re not going anywhere without me."

"Yes, you’ve made that abundantly clear," Rodney murmured.

"I think he’s finally getting it!" John smiled at him.

"Well, come on then, we can try this thing out."

"Then I guess we should get back to our room so we’re not interrupted."

Rodney snorted at that and gathered up the equipment before glancing at John. "So?"

A moment later they were in their quarters, and John had Rodney back in his arms, his face pressed against Rodney’s neck as he inhaled his lover’s scent.

"I thought we were supposed to be decreasing my brain activity, not increasing it," Rodney commented wryly.

John chuckled sadly. "Did you ever think that maybe I needed the comfort?"

"Oh." Rodney paused, looking shame-faced. "I’m sorry."

John shrugged. "It’s okay. I know you have enough to worry about for yourself right now."

"Yes, but... I worry about you too."

"Good, it’ll give you more incentive to ascend to keep me from doing something crazy if I lose you."

"Preventing genocide is quite the motivator," Rodney said dryly as he untangled leads and hooked them to his laptop, setting it on the bed before placing a contraption on his head.

John sat down on the other side of the bed, back resting against his pillows while Rodney stretched out beside him. "So, relax and let the music play in your head."

"You’ll tell me if the readings get below 0.3, right?" Rodney asked anxiously.

"Of course. Now stop worrying about it and relax." John made a conscious effort to keep his hands to himself.

"Is it working?" he asked after a moment.

John rolled his eyes. "Stop thinking."

"It’s not easy!" Rodney grumbled, though he took another deep breath and tried to listen to the music in his head.

John sat silently watching the display, seeing the readings gradually decrease but nowhere near low enough. At least not yet, he reminded himself, and they still had time.

Hearing a low beep, Rodney opened his eyes, looking over at John. "How low? Am I there yet?"

"Rodney! I’ll tell you when you get there, now relax!"

"Your yelling at me isn’t making this any easier!"

The grinding of John’s teeth was clearly audible in the silence of the room. "Rodney, I love you, but I’m seriously considering knocking you out!"

Rodney glared at him mutinously before closing his eyes and trying to relax though his lower lip still pouted out stubbornly, which led to John sighing and leaning over to kiss him after a quick nip at that prominent lip.

One blue eye opened to look up at him. "Kissing me is relaxing me, how?"

John grinned unapologetically. "Sometimes you just gotta go for it."

"That should be your motto," Rodney commented dryly though he kept his eyes closed.

"It’s our motto," John corrected, looking intrigued as he noticed that Rodney’s readings were decreasing ever so slowly despite the conversation.

"Mmm, good point."

Smiling faintly, John petted Rodney’s hair, not speaking so as not to distract him and enjoying this rare opportunity to drink in the sight of Rodney in repose, a state that didn’t last long as Rodney suddenly sat up, his eyes wide. "I just realized why light behaves as both a particle and a wave!"

John growled. "Stop. Thinking!"

"I can’t." Rodney sat up and pulled the leads from his head. "Right now I just can’t; I’ll try later, I promise."

John nodded. "I know it can’t be forced. Maybe I should relax you first," he mused, smiling slightly.

"I don’t think it’s going to work now."

"I guess I’m losing my touch," John said, wishing there was some way he could help Rodney and feeling frustrated by his helplessness.

"No, I’ve just got a lot on my mind," Rodney sighed. "I’ll try again in a few hours; just let me work some and try and get some of this out of my head."

"In other words, go away and stop hovering," John sighed.

"Not to be blunt, but... yes."

"Oh fine, but don’t blame me when Lorne starts glaring at you."

"I think I can manage to avoid the wrath of Lorne for the time being; now be good, I’ll—I’ll let you know when I’m ready to try again."

John nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and he got to his feet, knowing he had to find something to distract himself or he’d be right back to hovering over Rodney until he drove the other man to attack him.

Rodney chewed on his lower lip for a second, clearly torn, then nodded and hurried out the door, practically running for the lab where he could immerse himself in work and not think about what might happen.

Watching him disappear, John sighed, and once Rodney was clear of the transporter, he headed for Lorne’s office, dropping into the seat across the desk from his startled XO.

"Personnel evaluations," he said. "Inventory, something."

"You’re actually asking me for paperwork?" Lorne asked, staring at him.

"If I hover over Rodney any more, he’s going to reinvent Merlin’s weapon just so he can kill me."

Lorne started to reply to that, then really looked at John, noting the lines of tension that fanned away from his eyes and the flames in their center and remained silent, simply pushing over a pile of files.

Some time later, John signed a form and closed a file, pushing it away from him. "If I look at another of these, my eyes are going to start bleeding."

"You’re going to find a way to save him," Lorne said after a moment’s pause in which he was plainly weighing what he wanted to say.

"I have to. I don’t know how to be without him anymore," John replied quietly, raising terrified eyes to meet Lorne’s, all masks dropped for the moment.

"You’ll find a way to save him; it may not be the same, but none of us want to lose him," Lorne said seriously, meeting John’s gaze, his own holding a world of sympathy.

John sighed a little shakily. "He’s just so him, you know?" he said, knowing Lorne—and anyone who’d ever spend more than thirty seconds in Rodney’s presence—would understand. "I don’t want to lose that."

"You mean if he ascends?"

John nodded and shrugged at the same time. "It changes you. I mean, it has to; you see the entire universe in an entirely different way, and he already sees more of it than most people. But I can wait out the time till he settles into it." He laughed bitterly. "I have all the time in the world, after all. But he doesn’t think he can do it, and I can’t lose him. Not now."

"Dr. Jackson stayed mostly the same, and he’s done it a few times," Lorne offered.

John nodded slowly. "And really, what could possibly change Rodney?" he asked with a hint of wryness.

"That’s a good point, sir," Lorne chuckled. "I really can’t see him as the quiet, contemplative type—or you either."

That made John smile. "No, that’s one thing I’ve never been accused of, and a person would choke before managing to say it of Rodney. Which is a large part of the problem he’s having right now."

"Have you reminded him that you aren’t that type either and you managed it?"

"So much for fear of the powerful Ori," John half laughed. "No, I haven’t, but maybe I should try that next."

"Somehow you got a lot less threatening when I saw you covered in orange goo that time."

John snickered. "Maybe we should stock up on some to use against the Ori."

"So you’re saying you want to go back to that planet and get it?"

"Actually, I was planning to send you."

Lorne groaned. "Why did I know that was coming?"

"Because you’re a very good XO."

"And you’re damned lucky to have me."

"I know," John replied, looking over the desk at him. "Not too many would have dealt well with finding out that their CO was an Ori. I’d guess that’s even worse than Air Force," he added laughingly.

Lorne snickered at that. "Only by a slim margin, but then, you aren’t your typical Ori—or Air Force officer."

John eyed him. "I’m not sure if I’ve just been complimented or insulted," he said with a faint smile.

"If you think I’m going to answer that, you’re mistaken."

"See, a very smart man, which is required to survive in Atlantis," John chuckled. "Wanna go check out the firing range?"

"To shoot or to count bullets?"

"To shoot. I refuse to do one more administrative task today! It’s mind-numbing."

"Mindless mayhem it is."

"Rodney would say that’s all the military is good for," John said wryly, getting to his feet.

"And sometimes he would be right, but at least it’s distracting." Lorne stood as well, and the two officers headed out of the office, leaving the paperwork behind.

~*~

"Is it safe to come in, or should I find something else to do?" John asked from the doorway of the lab, making Zelenka snort a laugh.

Rodney waved a hand distractedly as he moved from a whiteboard to one of several laptops scattered on the benches.

John glanced at the equations on the board, and his eyebrows rose sharply before he turned an intent stare on Rodney. "Whatcha doin’?"

"Going crazy," Rodney muttered under his breath. "I’ve figured out a way to increase the processing speed and storage capacity of our computers, but I can’t take the time to sit down and do it."

"You already are crazy," Radek pointed out, making John stifle a laugh.

"Brilliance does not equal insanity," Rodney grumbled as he continued to work.

"No," Radek agreed. "I am quite sane. You, however, are not."

Rodney looked up and glowered at Radek before turning to the white board and scribbling another line of equations.

"I think you’re sane," John offered. "As much as anyone here."

"That’s not saying much."

"True, but a sane person couldn’t survive here."

Rodney gave a ghost of a smile at that. "Good point."

"Come on, you need to eat."

"Yes, go," Radek commanded when Rodney looked about to argue.

"Fine, fine, I’ll eat," Rodney grumbled, grabbing one of the laptops so that he could continue his work on it, making John roll his eyes.

"And maybe while you’re doing that, you can act like civilized folk and actually converse with, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy who lives with you?"

"Oh." Rodney looked abashed then rubbed his forehead. "It’s just there’s so much I want to get down; it’s like it’s all trying to burst out."

"You’ll have time, Rodney," John said gently.

"So says the all-knowing Ori."

"So says the man who’s in love with you and not going to lose you."

Rodney smiled at that and took a deep breath. "Then, who am I to argue with the god-like being?"

"Good answer. So put the laptop down, and let’s go get some dinner."

"Here in the hall?"

John sighed and held out a hand for the laptop, which Rodney gave to him with a slight smirk.

"I heard a rumor that you were actually doing paperwork today," he commented off-handedly as they continued toward the mess.

"It’s true, unfortunately. See what happens when you kick me out?"

"You actually do paperwork?"

"It’s a horrible fate."

"You poor thing."

"I’m sensing a real lack of sympathy here," John grumbled, making the laptop vanish and reappear in their room.

"And this is different than normal in what way?" Rodney asked as they entered the transporter.

"Not in the least, unfortunately! I had no idea how good I had it, back when I had worshippers."

Rodney’s eyes narrowed, and John felt an invisible goose in the ass, making him jump and chuckle.

"I thought you liked getting on your knees before me," John asked with mock innocence, knowing he was pushing his luck, and the lines around Rodney’s eyes deepened as he scowled.

"Very funny."

"Very hot actually."

Rodney’s gaze shifted so that he was looking at John out of the corner of his eye, and his scowl lessened slightly.

"I’m equally happy to get on my knees for you," John offered.

Rodney’s glower lessened even more, and one corner of his mouth lifted in a smile he tried to squelch.

"Maybe we should discuss the possibility after we finish dinner," John suggested.

"Possibly," Rodney allowed, though he twitched slightly, making John’s smile fade.

"If you want to," he said, looking away as they continued down the hall.

"I do," Rodney tried to explain, "it’s just there’s so much going on in my head, I just can’t stay on one thing."

John’s smile returned. "I’ll take it as a challenge to make you stop thinking."

"And how is that different than normal?"

"Um... it’s going to be more of a challenge than usual?"

"I know you’re trying to help," Rodney said, his voice suddenly dropping in volume. "I’m just... scared."

John nodded, sliding an arm around Rodney’s shoulders. "We’ll get past this. It’s what we do."

"Yeah," Rodney sighed, wrapping an arm around John’s waist and leaning against him as they walked into the mess. "We just need to get through it."

"We will. After all, you wouldn’t want to inflict me on the universe without you around to rein me in," John tried to tease.

"And vice versa." They entered the mess, and Rodney sighed as people fell quiet as he passed.

"It really is going to be okay," John said quietly as they went up to the front to get their food, Rodney nodding, though he didn’t look totally convinced of that fact. "And even if you’re only agreeing to humor me, it’s a start. I’ll take it."

"You taking what you can get—shocking."

"I don’t get to do that very often anymore; there’s this guy who makes me work for what I want."

"It’s good for you," Rodney answered automatically.

"You’re good for me."

"I believe that’s the first time anyone’s ever said that to me."

"Then everyone else is an idiot." John hugged him before they finally got their dinners and made their way toward a table, Rodney managing to keep his attention on his food and John throughout most of the meal, though from time to time his expression went unfocused.

Once they were done, John pushed his tray to one side and leaned back in his chair in his trademark slouch, and watched Rodney pensively. "Do you want to come back to our room with me, or do you need to go back to the lab?"

"I..." Rodney paused, looking apologetic. "I need to go back to the lab; I don’t think I’ll be able to rest any."

John sighed and nodded. "If you get tired, I’ll be in our room."

~*~

"Rodney?" Elizabeth came into the lab, frowning as she watched Rodney move from computer to computer.

"Can’t talk; busy," Rodney muttered.

Elizabeth looked at the many simulations and tests Rodney had running and bit back a sigh. "I thought you were going to work on ascending?"

"Is there really a point?" Rodney paused to look over at her. "Look, Elizabeth, I know you believe it, and I’m not going to say this in front of John, but I just don’t think I’m capable of it. I’m a rational person; all that mumbo jumbo is just so much hogwash for me."

"I think you’re underestimating yourself, Rodney," she replied gently. "I know you immediately think of religion when someone mentions anything spiritual, but it can simply be a matter of accepting the things that make you uncomfortable."

He gave a mirthless laugh at that. "That list is so long and varied I can’t even begin to think of it."

"Maybe you should. Even leaving aside the issue of ascension." She reached over and squeezed his arm. "Believe in yourself, Rodney. The rest of us do."

Rodney gave her a long, steady look, then turned back to the computers. "Maybe when I’m done here."

She sighed and left, knowing that nothing could make Rodney do anything he didn’t want to.

~*~

It was late the next morning when Rodney returned to the room he shared with John, an anxious, strained expression on his face. "Hi," he said hesitantly as he entered to see John sitting on the bed, looking at the ascension-meter he’d developed.

John looked up, his face expressionless as he fought to keep his emotions under control. "Hi. Been busy in the lab?"

"Actually, no," Rodney admitted, walking over to sit beside him on the bed. "I had to do a few things that were more important."

"More important than work?" John asked curiously. "Like what?"

Rodney chewed on his lower lip, then looked away. "I wrote a book for Elizabeth—about Elizabeth and what she’s done here, actually—and I had tea with Teyla to commemorate her father, and I healed the scars on Ronon’s back, told Radek he was the smartest man I knew, and told Carson he was the brother I never had." He paused and shrugged. "Just little things."

John froze. "Don’t you dare give up!" He got hold of himself. "I mean those are all very nice things, but don’t start saying goodbye. Don’t give up."

"I’m not!" Rodney protested. "I just thought—I don’t know. But you and me, we’re okay, right? I wanted to do something for you, to show you, well, you know, but there’s really nothing I can do that you can’t do yourself—other than give this another try at least."

John stood up and pulled Rodney into his arms, holding him tightly. "That’s all I want," he murmured in a choked tone.

"Then I guess we’d better do it," Rodney muttered against John’s shoulder as he held onto him tightly.

"I love you."

Rodney stepped back at that and cleared his throat. "Yes, yes, I love you too; you can show me how much once I’ve managed this." He reached for the sensor pads, then groaned and raised his hand to his forehead, rubbing at it.

John laughed shakily. "Now there’s the focus I’ve been waiting for."

"Not focus, head hurts," Rodney got out, turning to look at John before moaning and collapsing to the bed, curled in as small a ball as he could as he moaned.

"Rodney!" John lunged for him, catching Rodney in his arms and transporting them to the infirmary, yelling for Carson as they appeared.

"What the—get him on a bed," Carson ordered, calmly directing his staff to get the equipment he needed, his expression going tight as he studied the readouts.

"There’s nae much I can do," he admitted. "His brain activity is still too high to ascend, and his body is shutting down."

Elizabeth, who’d come running as soon as she was called, nodded. "In the natural course of ascension, the body is no longer required at the end."

John ignored them both, clinging to Rodney’s hand. "I love you," he whispered again.

"We all do, in our own ways," Elizabeth added.

The numbers on the monitor dropped lower and lower as Rodney’s vital signs failed, hitting 0.1 before he sat up, wide-eyed, and grabbed Carson by his lab coat, staring into his eyes then collapsing back onto the bed, flat-lining.

"No!" John clutched at him desperately until Carson literally shoved him out of the way.

"I know how to save him!"

Under Carson’s order, they loaded Rodney onto a stretcher, Carson doing emergency breathing while John transported them to the room with the ascension machine.

"We couldnae change him back because the machine had no reference for what he should be like, but with a blood sample..." Carson loaded the sample, then stepped back while John watched anxiously, Elizabeth and Radek hovering on either side of him as they all waited.

Lights swirled down and around the prone body, then retreated, and Rodney groaned, trying to sit up.

"Rodney!" John lunged for him, yanking him into a fierce embrace.

"What happened?" Rodney asked, causing all the others to start babbling their answers.

"You’re alive," John replied simply, still holding him tightly.

"Well, of course I’m alive!"

"Of course he says!" John buried his face against Rodney’s neck.

"All right, let’s get him back to the infirmary—Colonel, if ye wouldn’t mind?" Carson asked gently.

John nodded, transporting everyone without looking up or letting go of Rodney.

"What happened?" Rodney demanded once he was settled on a bed again.

"Ye almost died, lad."

"You flat-lined," John said in a choked tone, clinging to Rodney’s hand.

"I what?! I couldn’t have; I remember…" Rodney frowned and looked at Carson. "I told you to do something."

Carson nodded. "You figured out how to use the machine to reset yer DNA, using a blood sample from before you were changed, and you told me."

"So I really saved myself..."

Carson sighed. "Yes, Rodney."

"Wouldn’t have made it down there if not for Sheppard," Ronon commented and Rodney ducked his head.

"Yes, well there is that." He glanced at John and gave a crooked grin.

"I think Carson did a lot too," John replied firmly, and Rodney glanced at him.

"Um, yes, thank you, Carson."

"Yes, thank you, Carson," John repeated fervently.

"So... if I’m all right, can we leave now?" Rodney asked.

"I’ll stay with him," John assured Carson.

Carson studied the readouts for a moment before looking back at them. "I dinna see a reason to make ye stay; he seems back to normal—or as normal as Rodney is at any rate."

John chuckled faintly. "Ready to get out of here?"

Rodney nodded, sitting up in the bed and twisting to the side so he could stand, John instantly moving to his side to offer support.

"How do you feel?" he asked anxiously.

Rodney shrugged as he considered the question. "Not bad, somewhat tired, but not as if I’m going to fall over."

John sighed with relief. "It looks as if you’re fine then." He slid an arm around Rodney’s waist while grabbing the printout from the "ascension-o-meter" with the other hand.

"So then, back to our room?" Rodney asked plaintively.

John’s response was to transport them there and immediately pull Rodney into a tight embrace, his eyes closed as he inhaled Rodney’s scent, the shorter man leaning against him, his eyes closed.

"Let’s not do that again," John finally murmured.

"I could have lived with the extra brain-power; it was the almost dying that sucked."

"Yes!" John shuddered, and his arms tightened around Rodney.

"You okay?"

"Not really," John admitted, finally opening his eyes and raising his head to meet Rodney’s eyes. "You really need to stop doing that."

"If I had any say in it, I would," Rodney sighed, stroking his hand over John’s back. "C’mon, let’s sit down."

John nodded and let Rodney move them over to the bed, where they sat down on the edge, each of them still keeping one arm around the other.

"I feel like I could sleep for a week," Rodney sighed.

"Just as long as I’m here with you." John remembered the readings and pulled them out of his pocket, his eyes widening as he looked at the results.

"Not a problem." Rodney flopped back onto the bed, opening one eye when John didn’t join him. "What?"

Wordlessly, John handed the printout to him, and Rodney took it, scanning the numbers before frowning and sitting up. "Are these accurate?"

"I really doubt Carson doctored them. You did it, Rodney. You reached the state where you could ascend—all on your own." John’s eyes suddenly kindled, flames filling them. "You can ascend. We really can have forever."

"I—" Rodney stopped, still staring at the paper. "I did it," he whispered.

"You did it," John agreed delightedly. "You are going to ascend."

"Now?!"

"Well, not necessarily, but sometime fairly soon." John slowly smiled. "You’re not going to die on me."

Rodney simply stared at him for a long moment before his eyes went wide, "But if I did, then the Alterans would come investigate, and they’d find you... No, not going to do it."

John shook his head. "You’re not getting away from me that easily. I can shield your energy so they won’t sense you. And you so are doing it."

"Excuse me? Are you going to make me?"

John snorted a laugh. "Not even I’m that crazy. But you have no idea how persistent—and annoying—I can be. You can ascend, and once you ascend, even with physical form, I don’t have to worry about you dying. You’re going to ascend, and we’re going to be together forever."

"You’re really serious about this, aren’t you?" Rodney asked, frowning at him.

"Aren’t you supposed to the genius around here? Of course I’m serious about this. What could possibly make you imagine I wouldn’t be?"

"I don’t know." Rodney scrambled up off the bed and started to pace around the room. "I just don’t know anything any more."

"What?!" John shot to his feet. "What the hell does that mean? You don’t want us to be together?" The flames now filled his entire eyes.

"What?!" Rodney spun to stare at him. "I never said that! And excuse me for not being Daniel Jackson and being blase over the whole ascension thing!"

"You just said you don’t know anything, and I think we’re a fairly big something!"

"I meant about this!" Rodney shouted, turning to glare at John, not flinching from the flames in his eyes.

"That’s not what you said!" John shouted back, his arms crossed defensively while Atlantis lowered the temperature in their quarters to counteract the heat John was putting out.

"Well, pardon me, almost dying make me a little less than coherent!"

"And you almost dying makes me a little unsettled!"

"Which would explain why you’re melting the furnishings," Rodney snapped.

"Don’t exaggerate, and quit trying to change the subject. Do you or do you not want to live forever, with me?"

Rodney’s anger deflated, and he sighed. "The with you isn’t the problem; it’s the whole live forever part..."

John froze into absolute stillness, his expression completely blank. "I see." His voice was flat.

"No, you don’t, or you wouldn’t sound like that."

"So why don’t you explain it to me?" John suggested, fighting his desire to simply bolt.

"I just—forever... What if..." Rodney trailed off and looked out the window at the ocean, watching the setting sun glinting off the waves.

"What if?" John prompted when it didn’t seem as if Rodney was going to continue.

"You get tired," Rodney whispered.

"Of you?!"

"Yes."

John gaped at him. "Are you out of your mind? No, never mind. Look, I don’t know what love means to you, but to me, it’s forever. I’m not going to get tired of you; I’m not going to walk away; and if you die, I’m never going to forgive you." The words carried more impact for being delivered in that same expressionless tone.

"You really mean that." It was a statement and not a question as Rodney looked back at him.

"Of course I mean it!" Now John’s tone was exasperated and frustrated in equal parts.

"Forever."

"Yes, forever!" John snapped. "And in my case, forever’s a very long time. I’d rather not spend it mourning you!"

Rodney took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay."

"Okay? Okay what?"

"I’ll try."

John eyed him. "Try to believe me? Try to ascend? What?"

Rodney’s jaw tightened, and he took a deep breath. "To ascend," he gritted out.

John sighed and sank back down onto the edge of the bed. "You don’t want to, do you?"

"Did I say that?’ Rodney demanded. "You can read my mind, so do it!"

John’s eyes widened; he knew how much Rodney disliked it when he ‘trespassed,’ but he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the invitation. "Oh."

"Oh?" The word was dripping with sarcasm.

"Sorry," John said sheepishly. "I never said I didn’t have a few issues of my own."

"Yeah." Rodney rubbed at the back of his neck as he took a breath. "Same here."

"We’re a real pair, aren’t we?" John held a hand out to Rodney, inviting him to rejoin him, Rodney stepping forward to clasp his hand and sit down again.

"As in fucked up? Yes."

"We need to work on that. But we’ll have a very long time to do it in, and no, I don’t mean you need to try right this minute."

"Oh good." Rodney breathed a sigh of relief.

"My goal in life isn’t actually to make you miserable," John said wryly.

"I’m not miserable!"

"I didn’t mean... Oh never mind!" John turned and kissed him hard, and for once Rodney didn’t argue; he simply melted into the kiss, his arms tightly circling John’s waist. John held him close, turning them to push Rodney down on his back and stretching out on top of him, their clothes vanishing.

"This is good," Rodney said, grinning lazily as he slowly relaxed.

"Us naked is always good."

"I think you’d have me work naked if you could get away with it," Rodney murmured, his eyes closing as he rubbed his face against John’s shoulder.

"Hell, no! Then other people would see you, and I’d have to kill them. You’re all mine."

"F’rever."

John smiled, knowing that it was literally going to be forever. He kissed Rodney again, a slow, deep kiss that claimed every inch of Rodney’s mouth and left him sighing when it finally ended, staring up at John through half-lidded, slumberous eyes.

"I love you," John whispered, raising one hand to cup Rodney’s cheek, Rodney leaning his face against it and closing his eyes.

"Me too."

"So show me," John murmured, settling more comfortably between Rodney’s legs, one hand gliding down Rodney’s side to cup his ass.

"Sorry, can’t do any of the fancy stuff any longer," Rodney sighed, stroking his hands over John’s back.

"Don’t need fancy stuff; just need you." John looked down at him, and suddenly the mark on the inside of Rodney’s thigh throbbed as if John was mouthing it, and Rodney groaned, arching up as much as was possible under John’s weight.

"So take me."

John shuddered and suddenly Rodney was slick and ready for him as he pushed into the scientist, too desperate to feel him again after the day they’d had to take the time to do it manually, Rodney closing his eyes and breathing out a sigh of pleasure as he pulled his legs back, opening himself to John.

"All mine," John whispered, slowly pushing into Rodney, feeling every inch.

"Mmmhmm." Rodney’s expression was one of pure bliss as he opened his eyes the tiniest bit to watch John leaning in over him, staring down at him as if to carve him in his memory.

"Gorgeous," John rasped, stealing a quick kiss before raising his head again to continue watching Rodney, flames filling his eyes as he shuddered with pleasure.

"You are," Rodney whispered, staring up at him and shivering as the yellow and red flames filled his gaze.

"Good thing we have forever," John rasped. "It’s going to take me that long to make you see yourself the way I do." He slid a little deeper, forcing himself to the limit inside Rodney.

"Crazy man," Rodney whispered, shuddering beneath him and clenching his ass down around John’s cock.

"And I’m all yours, just like you’re all mine." John held still, a hand flicking at Rodney’s nipples.

"Glad to hear it," Rodney whispered before laying a line of kisses down John’s shoulder, ending each one with a tiny bite that made John shudder and twitch inside him.

"Fuck me," Rodney gasped before biting John harder.

"Rodney!" John groaned and pulled back only to drive into Rodney again, taking him hard and fast now, the other man writhing under him, bucking up to meet each thrust, his fingers digging into John’s back as he tried to pull him deeper. John continued to stare down at him, needing to see as well as feel Rodney. The flames spilled over the rims of his eyes, growing more intense as John continued slamming into Rodney. "Come for me," he demanded.

Rodney whimpered, then gasped as the mark on his thigh throbbed, then he was coming, wet heat spreading between them as his ass milked John’s shaft. The spasms of Rodney’s climax tore a yell from John, and he buried himself deep inside Rodney and bit down on his shoulder as he came as well.

"I think you broke me," Rodney mumbled some time later.

"I think I broke me."

"So, you mean you can go for more than five minutes without sex?" Rodney chuckled rustily.

"I think right now I just want to hold you," John admitted, his face tucked into the curve of Rodney’s shoulder.

"I like that. I like it a lot," Rodney murmured, holding John close and stroking his back.

"Good thing ‘cause you’re kind of stuck with it," John mumbled into his neck.

"Oh damn. Boo hoo."

John laughed. "Why do I think you can bear up under the burden?"

"Because I’m a genius, now be quiet, I’m tired."

John’s chuckle was quiet as he pressed a kiss to Rodney’s throat and slowly relaxed for the first time since Rodney had stumbled across that damned machine.

END