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The Descent

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“I might be a genius… but you’re the one who’s meant to be an expert in Asguard tech!”

Sam signed as she tried not to smack Rodney. “I know that McKay.” She bit out in her most patient voice as she tried to make sense of the circuitry she was fiddling with. “But it might look and be like Asguard technology, but it’s also totally different.” She sighed and sat back. “And I’m damn sure it’s all broken.”

It had all started out as an exiting day. She had been drafted in to look over a planet in the Pegasus galaxy that was reported to have Asguard architecture and technology guarding the gate like back on Cimmeria. And they hadn’t been wrong.

The locals seemed to have been culled by the Wraith in the last few years, leaving nothing but a decaying village. And in the centre was an obelisk much like Thor’s Hammer.

Unfortunately, Teyla had gotten too close to the obelisk and everyone but Teyla has been beamed into the chamber they now found themselves in.

They had come to the conclusion that it was a protection against the Wraith, as the one on Cimmeria where the Goa’uld who came through the gate were beamed off to an underground maze, only here it worked in reverse. Beaming humans to safety from the Wraith.

Sam jumped when her radio clicked into life, and Colonel Sheppard’s voice came over. “I think we found out what happened to the villagers.” He said in a strained voice.

“Which is?” Rodney asked impatiently.

“They are all dead.” Sheppard replied, “Looks like they lasted some time down here, some are laid out in another chamber, the rest looked like they died where they fell.”

“Does there seem to be any other way out?” Sam asked hopefully.

Major Lorne answered. “We found a cave in, other than that, I think we are stuck down here.”

“Yeah.” Sheppard confirmed, “We haven’t found anything either, all dead ends… Literally”

“You hear that Zelenka!” Rodney barked.

“Yeah, Rodney, I heard…” Came the Czech’s peeved voice, Sam could hear him roll his eyes. “I’m doing everything I can.”

“And how long before the Daedalus gets here?” Rodney’s voice was becoming high pitched with panic.

“I’ve already told you, it will get here in three days max.” Zelenka replied.

“At which point we will all be DEAD!”

“Rodney…” Sheppard said softly with a hint of steal to it. “Just calm down… Everyone head back to the control room, pick up anything that might be useful on the way.”

Sam sighed again, reassured that Sheppard could at least calm Rodney down a little.

They had been stuck here for over twelve hours already, Teyla had gone for help the moment they had convinced her they would be fine in her absence. At least they still had radio contact with those on the outside, so they couldn’t be that far from the village.

Once Sam and Rodney got to work on the device they found in the large open cave they had been beamed into. There was an adjoining large cave to one side, then a tunnel that Colonel Sheppard, Ronon, Major Lorne and his men had gone to inspect.

“How’s fixing the device coming along?” Sheppard asked.

“It’s not.” Sam confessed, “I’m thinking someone destroyed it on purpose and I’m not sure we have the equipment to fix it… here, on Atlantis or on Earth.” She tossed a broken and burned circuit to one side. “I think our best bet now is just to wait for the Daedalus to get here, we have radio contact with the outside, so they should be able to beam us up.”

“What?!” Rodney demanded behind her. “But… But we don’t have enough food to keep us going that long, never mind water!”

She closed her eyes; she had forgotten Rodney and his obsession with food.

“We found a water source.” Major Lorne came over the radio.

“Good, so at least we won’t die of thirst.” Sheppard said cheerily.

“Are you sure it’s not been contaminated?” Rodney snapped.

“Yes Doctor McKay, its fresh spring water.” Lorne sounded amused. “I tasted it myself, and its fine.”

“Fantastic!” Sam turned to watch Rodney out of the corner of his eye as he gestured about wildly. “So when you start mutating fangs and three heads, with the irresistible urge to eat us all, we can be assured that it ‘Tasted Fine’?”

“I used the water purification test Dr McKay, its all fine.” Lorne answered calmly.

Sam had to smile as Rodney quelled instantly. It still amazed her how he could go from full blown anger to looking like a kicked puppy in a matter of seconds, even when she had commanded Atlantis she always found his mood swings unnecessary.

She sat back tuning out his muttering as she watched him pacing back and forth.

When she had been offered the place in Atlantis, despite the fact Daniel had been green with envy, she hadn’t looked forward to having to deal 24/7 with Doctor Rodney McKay, not after their first meeting, when he had come very close to having a sexual harassment charge bought against him, if she didn’t just kill him herself for giving up on Teal’c. On their second meeting he had at least show he had the brains and the balls to be some help, more so when she was commander of Atlantic.

It took fifteen more minutes before Sheppard turned up alone and he went straight for Rodney. “We have water, so why don’t you collect all the food together: see what we have?”

McKay just blinked at him, instantly falling quiet as he went straight for their packs in the corner.

Sam just grinned when Sheppard turned to her, “So there is no way you can fix this?” he said gesturing at the device.

She shrugged as she stood, “Not unless you found any tech down here that would help.”

Sheppard gnawed on his bottom lip, “We didn’t find anything, and Lorne would have radioed in if he had.” He waved his hand at the ceiling of the cave. “Well we have… light.”

Everywhere Sam had seen, the ceilings glowed with something like luminosity, she was going to take a look at how it worked later.

“Why don’t you help McKay with the pack’s… See what we have and if there’s anything that can help, or make our lives a little easier for the next few days.”

“Will do.” She smiled.

Sheppard nodded at her, then went back to Rodney and hunkered down by his side as he tipped out one of the packs.

She could just hear what he was saying.

“Did you have breakfast this morning?” Sheppard whispered.

Rodney grumbled something.

“Then eat one of your power bars now. And don’t argue with me…” Sheppard stood patting Rodney on the shoulder. “And don’t break anything; I know Lorne’s got his mp3 player in his pack.” Then he was gone the way he came.

*~*

It took another three hours to get everything sorted; they now had something better than the dirt floor to sleep on, even if everything did smell a little musty.

They also had enough MRE’s, power bars and other candy to keep them going for three days if they rationed carefully.

And to everyone’s chagrin, nothing that could help them fix the console.

Though Rodney was currently immersed in trying to make an energy source they could use to power or charge all their gadgets and entertainment gismos. He was currently taking apart the console after double checking it was useless to them to make his improvised devise, all the while muttering about idiots and morons. He had already balled Zelenka out again, to the point where Sheppard had intervened, he had complained that his DSi wouldn’t last for three days which had distracted Rodney enough to think about something else.

Sam had also tried to help Zelenka, but it was all proving pointless as the tech might have looked Asguard, but it sounded far from it. So the poor guy was stuck having to figure it out himself, and so far he wasn’t getting very far.

The strange light that also seemed to light up the whole cave was beginning to dim, at first Sam thought it was Rodney’s fiddling, until she had confirmed with the guys on the surface that it was growing dark outside, so they theorized that the lights might be connected with the natural rotation of the planet.

She spent some time trying to chip away at a bit of wall she could reach that was illuminated, her curiosity getting the better of her, but the more she chipped away, the deeper she had to go, and the chips she had made, just looked like all the other stone around them. Eventually she gave up and went to join the card game Lorne and his men were heatedly embroiled in.

She couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow as Sheppard instantly offered his place, then wandered into the other cave where Rodney was still fiddling away. As she sat she watched Sheppard disappear out of sight.

When she looked back Lorne was giving her a knowing smile.

She shook her head slightly, confused. At which point Lorne’s smile turned into a frown, he coughed awkwardly. “Umm… you do know?” he waved his free hand in the direction Sheppard had just gone.

“Know what?” she picked up the cards she had been dealt, giving them a quick glance.

Lorne winced as another marine answered, Sgt Dawson she thought his name was. “DADT Ma’am” he uttered under his breath, concentrating on his cards.

She gasped, then looked at the others who also weren’t looking at her. “Seriously?” the shock was almost enough to take her breath away, “How long?” it must have been a resent thing.

Lorne shrugged, “I would say just after Ford ran away. But some say before that… It’s not something I really wanted to ask about.”

“Even when I was commanding Atlantis?” she asked again, she just couldn’t help herself.

Lorne nodded, then looked a little shocked himself, “You didn’t know?”

“It’s the worsted kept secret on base.” Sgt Phillips said as he threw a card down and took another. “I’ve even had to smack some of the new guys myself to keep their opinions to themselves.”

“Wha…?” she looked at Lorne again who nodded, “Even busted a few lips myself, Ma’am. I mean it’s the Colonel.”

The men all chuckled at that, then Lorne filled her in, still looking a little hedgy. “Well.” He coughed again, “He’s not that shabby in the looks department and the chi… Women all seem to fall over themselves for him…”

“More for us.” Phillips grinned with a ‘not so’ apologetic shrug.

“But Rodney?” she gasped.

Lorne frowned at that, obviously not happy with her tone of disbelief.

“Sheppard finds Rodney funny.” Ronon finally joined in the conversation in a low grumble. “They have a lot in common… Kinda.”

“Like what?” Holy Hanna, she was sure she just squeaked.

Ronon shrugged one shoulder as he rearranged his cards. “Lots of stuff.”

“To be honest.” Dawson said as he took another card. “They compliment each other.” He futzed with his card till discarding one. “My youngest brother’s a bit of a nerd, and one day he came home with a total Jock, next thing we are attending the wedding, last I heard I have two adopted nieces.” He looked up at her then grinning, “They are happy, that’s all that counts sometimes, even if it’s totally unexpected, unbelievable and sometimes shocking… I mean I’ve seen those two arguing.” He nodded his head toward the other cave. “Then ten seconds later they are laughing themselves sick in the mess.”

“You’re just saying that because you have your eye on that tall plump Sergeant in security.” Lorne teased.

“Hell ya!” Dawson crowed. “Have you seen her thighs? Wouldn’t mind them wrapped around…” he broke off giving Sam a grin. “Sorry Ma’am.”

She smiled back. “It’s ok Sergeant… Crap! I needed that card!”

Everyone laughed as the topic of conversation skipped along to other things. Sam joined in, but part of her mind was still in shock, running over all her memories.

She had thought Rodney had a thing for Jennifer Keller after his blunder with Katie Brown, But then Rodney had made enough off key comments to her as well when they had first met, but now she looked back on it, once she went to Atlantis, apart from a few passing comments and he had told her he was seeing ‘someone’. She would’ve never thought in a month of Sunday’s it was anything but another woman mad enough to put up with him. Rodney had just treated her… normally, she guessed. As she thought, she remembered the comment in Elizabeth’s personal notes about the staff, it was just a little reminder side note, that she should be watchful of the relationship between McKay and Sheppard, and to step in should anything occur. Sam had just thought it was on a professional level, Rodney could be volatile, and Sheppard being military, things might come to blows. Now it all made sense; Weir would have moved mountains for her two 2IC’s to stay together. However unprofessional it was.

If she had figured it out at the time, she would have been duty bound to talk to them and discourage their relationship for the good of the expedition. But then if they had both got together before they had a connection to Earth, she could understand. They were alone in a hostile universe where death loomed around the corner ever second, so every moment they could find a little happiness was worth looking the other way for.

And if Lorne had been right, then their relationship had lasted long enough for it not to be a problem, for the foreseeable future anyway.

It still baffled her how they had got together though.

Rodney was not the most amenable person to like, he had a veneer of condescending arrogance that he wore like a shield, his self-confidence was astoundingly annoying.

John Sheppard on the other hand showed the world a laid back, good-natured, easy going guy who slouched through life, letting most things slip by him like water off a ducks back.

Those were the personas they both cultivated to screen off the world in general. As she had realized, it was all a front to keep others away.

Rodney would say one thing, then turn round and prove he had more courage than he let on. Hell she had watched him run himself into the ground just to keep everyone safe.

John was the same, obviously, but he kept people at arms length even more than Rodney now she actually analysed it, everyone liked him, respected him, would put their lives on the line for him. And she knew he would do the same for anyone else… But only Rodney really made him loose his cool, letting a little hysteria creep in if McKay was in danger. It was actually quite endearing.

She smiled to herself, they always reminded her of Jack and Daniel…

She couldn’t help the small gasp as realization struck. “Holy Hanna!” she muttered under her breath, getting strange looks from the others. “Just realized something.” She smiled back, her mind reeling as she played her hand.

She was so going to grill Daniel when she got out of this mess. And it would explain a lot.

A few more hands later, and Sheppard came back in to wander over to his sleeping mat. “Zelenka’s given up for the night, I told him to get some rest and try again in the morning.” He informed them as he flopped down making himself comfortable. “Everyone, get some sleep.”

“What about McKay?” Lorne asked getting to his feet and stretching.

Sheppard huffed, then grinned. “You go tell him its bedtime.”

“Ah… I’d rather not sir.” Lorne grinned.

“Thought not.” Sheppard said as he closed his eyes.

Sam couldn’t help taking a peek into the other room before going to her own pallet, Rodney still looked well and truly awake as he sat hunched and tinkering with the recharge he was building.

With a shake of her head she settled down for the night.

*~*

“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN!!!”

Sam winced at Rodney’s shriek.

“We have to go back to Atlantis.” Zelenka truly sounded regretful as he repeated himself for the third time.

“You CAN’T just LEAVE us here!”

Even Sheppard winced as Rodney tried to rupture eardrums.

“Something has happened on west pier’s power conduits, I have to go.” Zelenka’s insisted. “There is nothing I can do here… This is beyond me, and Daedalus will be here in another two days, you just have to sit and wait.”

“But we don’t have enough food!” Rodney whined.

“Zelenka, go back to Atlantis, we’ll be fine.” Sheppard said in an enduring tone, giving Rodney a look as he did so. Sam expected some form of a fight.

Instantly Rodney quelled looking like a little lost and wide eyed.

“I could send someone back with Teyla; bring you more food and supplies?” Zelenka offered.

Sam was about to answer, but before she could Rodney was clicking his radio sullenly. “No… Last thing we need is more people trapped down here.” He sighed. “Go back, and make the Morons think I’m going to fire them if they don’t get it sorted by the time I get back.” He snarked.

Zelenka chuckled over the radio. “And I imagine you would like the sewerage system overhauled before your heroic return?”

They all grinned as Rodney replied. “Inside out!”

“Okay… See you in a few days.” Zelenka clicked off.

Sam sighed, then caught the look on Sheppard’s face. He was looking at Rodney, his brows drawn down in a deep frown, his mouth a thin line. Rodney on the other hand just gave Sheppard a self deprecating shrug.

“It’ll be okay.” Rodney whispered, to which Sheppard just nodded, but he still didn’t look happy.

*~*

Forty eight hours later and Sam watched Rodney passing back and forth.

They were all worried now, they had heard nothing since Zelenka went, the Daedalus was overdue and everyone was getting a little angsty. They had rationed what little food they had, but their last power bar had been eaten for supper with a lot of water almost fifteen hours ago. And Sam noted that Sheppard had given most of his share to Rodney.

It was actually quite cute watching them.

To the casual observer, Sheppard was just taking care of a team member and friend, the Colonel looking after the Civilian as he was trained to do. There were no overt signs of affection. They were friends, but to those who weren’t looking, it all seemed innocent enough.

But to those who were looking it was charged with subtext.

She had spent a lot of time watching Sheppard watching McKay in her boredom.

Rodney was very open about his feelings; they shone in his dark grey eyes with nothing but honesty and truth. If that’s one thing she knew, she knew Doctor M Rodney McKay was a terrible liar and was honest to a fault. If he believed in something, then he believed it with all his heart, any doubt and it would show in his eyes and expressive face.

Sheppard though, showed nothing, every emotion hid behind his ‘couldn’t care less’ vainer, every word that left his mouth had been thought over and analysed. He was also a lot like Jack O’Neill, Sheppard had a burning intelligence that he also didn’t like to show, but where O’Neill played it off with stupidity and cluelessness, Sheppard hid his behind his lazy exterior. But unlike O’Neill, Sheppard seemed to actually like hanging out with the Scientists on Atlantis, she had even witnessed him talking ‘Geek’… Or maybe he just wanted to hang out with one scientist in particular.

It still baffled her how they had actually got together.

She had read their personal files and knew they had both been hurt in the past before Atlantis, but that wasn’t enough to bring two so opposite personalities together.

Then she saw Sheppard trying not to grin about some doom and gloom Rodney was spouting and it clicked.

They shared a very strange scene of humour.

She remembered being in the mess hall when Rodney had come charging in like a hive of Wraith were on his heals. Her stomach had churned with dread, knowing the Daedalus was arriving soon and who know what else had gone wrong.

Rodney had skidded to a stop by Sheppard, a grin spread across his face. “Look what I found!” he said excitedly as he jiggled around a bottle filled with green fluid in front of Sheppard’s face.

“About time!” Sheppard huffed.

She watched confused as they dashed from the mess hall, shoulder to shoulder.

An hour later, she went to watch the Daedalus land at the south pier from one of the balconies. She watched as the crew began to disembark, about ten feet away from the ship and the first person fell on their back, soon to be followed by their colleagues.

Sam gasped then heard the hysteric laughter coming from the other end of the balcony. She glanced over to see Rodney and Sheppard, both men almost doubled over in their mirth. She looked back to the pier, watching as the crew of a Daedalus tried to pick each other up, only to fall back down.

Sam couldn’t help but grin herself at the mess that was unfolding below. She looked back over to her 2IC’s to find them now clinging to the railing and each other as they both began wheezing, trying to wipe the tears from their eyes. Rodney pointed then fell to the floor clutching his stomach crying with laughter. Sheppard was on his knees, peering through the railing still guffawing as Rodney ended up hiccupping as he giggled.

Suddenly Zelenka’s voice came over the communicators. “Did it work?”

Sam was about to reply when Rodney’s giggles became stereo, “Oh my god!” he hiccupped. “Get your ass out here!”

At which point everyone in the control room came running out till the balcony was filled with people laughing.

Slowly she edged her way over to where Rodney and Sheppard were gasping for breath with matching grins from ear to ear.

“I hope you both are going to clean up the mess?” she said softly.

Sheppard jumped to his feet, struggling to look ashamed but failing miserable. Rodney just grinned up at her, “What mess?” he asked looking innocent, “It’s not our fault if someone spilt some washing up liquid on the pier by mistake!” his eyes were wide, trying to look innocent before they flicked to look at Sheppard and he broke out in giggles again.

Sheppard tried to be stoics, but he was now watching Rodney roll about on the floor and she could see he was cracking.

“Oh my god?” someone yelled. “Is that Caldwell?”

Sam looked where Chuck was pointing just in time to see Colonel Caldwell fall straight onto his back, arms and legs in the air. And the balcony became deafening with laughter and cheers.

Even she couldn’t keep the chuckle down as the Daedalus’s crew tried to help their leader, every one of them slipping and sliding into one another.

Sam clicked her communicator, “Doctor Keller, you might have some people coming to you for scraps and bruises soon.” There was a pause when Keller’s amused voice confirmed that they were on their way to the pier with some salt and gurneys.

Then there were all the times in meetings when she had been annoyed by the suppressed grin on Sheppard’s face when Rodney was yelling at someone.

Sheppard was also the one person who could motivate Rodney enough to try harder than he thought he could when faced with impossible obstacles, she had thought she would have to reprimand Sheppard when she had first heard Sheppard shouting at Rodney, telling him he had an impossible deadline or they were all going to die and it would be Rodney’s fault, then once Rodney had saved them all, Sheppard would just stand by and watch with a smug grin on his face, letting Rodney rant about how brilliantly intelligent he was.

And that was another thing she didn’t like to admit.

Rodney really was brilliant and brave.

Not like she would EVER tell him that, mostly because she knew she wouldn’t hear the end of it.

She had read all the reports before she had gone to Atlantis and even after her time there.

She had saved her team a time or two, saved countless people, even saved Earth. At the end of the day she always knew that the SGC was there, and beyond that home.

When Daniel discovered Atlantis, and then figured out it would possible be a one way trip, she was honest with herself, and knew there was no way she wanted to put herself in that situation, without the security she had taken for granted for so long.

Sam could not even comprehend all the pressure Rodney had been put under, to have his most brilliant ideas when everything around him was going to hell. And she knew if Rodney said he could do it, then he could, even if it did take Sheppard relentlessly badgering him.

*~*

“Where are they?” Rodney asked in a hissed as he kept clicking his radio.

Sam watched as Sheppard took the radio gently out of Rodney’s hands.

“Something must have come up.”

“Then why didn’t they send someone else?” Rodney snapped, his eye not leaving the radio Sheppard now held. “Miko… Miko could be up there… She’s good at stuff like that.”

“Miko’s also needed on Atlantis… They will send someone as soon as they can.” Sheppard reached out and laid a hand on Rodney’s shoulder.

Sam saw the worry on Sheppard’s face deepened as he frowned.

“It’s gonna be ok, you trust me right?” Sheppard whispered and Rodney nodded, at least he had stopped pacing. “Good… because the Daedalus will be here soon to beam us up, and I’ll get you the biggest sandwich I can find, then when we get home we can finish off watching that box set of Babylon 5 with as much popcorn as I can find, how’s that sound?”

Rodney’s body language changed suddenly as he seemed to hunch up on himself, then reach out to Sheppard looking a little unsteady on his feet. “Rodney?” Sheppard sounded alarmed.

Sam stood and went to Sheppard’s side. Rodney’s eyes looked unfocused and glazed.

“Damn light.” Rodney muttered as he rubbed his eyes.

“Do you need to eat something?” Sheppard asked.

Rodney shook his head. “Migraine… Can’t see… lights.” He said brokenly. “I’m hungry… but it’s not that bad yet.”

“Crap.” Sheppard muttered as he looked at Sam. “Can you get the medi kit… it’s in my pack.”

“Sure.” She dashed off to Sheppard pallet where his backpack sat. she could hear Sheppard leading Rodney to his own makeshift bed, just beyond Sheppard’s in the corner. She found the box she needed then went to kneel down besides Sheppard.

He had gotten Rodney to sit down, “Tell me when you can see again.” He was saying as he reached for Rodney’s tack vest. Then keeping one hand on the other man’s forearm he rummaged around in the pockets. “Tell me you remembered your pills.”

Rodney huffed. “Almost out of antihistamines.” He rubbed his eyes, “Bottom right pocket.”

Sam saw Sheppard pull out a few blister packs, one almost empty. “When did you last take your antihistamines?”

“Not long ago.”

“Rodney…” the warning was hard but filled with concern.

“About sixteen hours ago… Trying to ration them…”

Sheppard nodded then bit his bottom lip thinking, a second later he was popping the last pill out of the blister pack and shoving it into Rodney’s hands, “Take it now…”

Sam reached for Rodney’s water bottle and put in into his other hand.

Sheppard had taken the med kit and was looking through it. “I thought we had something stronger than Tylenol in here…” he leaned back and called across the cave. “You guys got anything stronger than Tylenol?”

“No sir.” Lorne said looking a little concerned at all the action.

“I’ve only got Paracetamol or Asprin…” Sgt Dawson shrugged.

“Tylenol is paracetamol.” Phillips sighed, “I haven’t got anything stronger either Sir…”

“Is Doctor McKay all right?” Lorne asked in concern, his brows furrowed.

“Migraine.” Sheppard said as he popped out three Tylenol from their pack, putting them again into Rodney’s hand.

Sam nudged Sheppard to get his attention then held up three fingers with a questioning frown.

Sheppard nodded once in conformation, before he started digging into one of his own pockets. “Can you see yet?” he asked distractedly.

“Still only fuzzy peripheral.” Rodney grimaced, his hand clumsily reaching for Sheppard.

Sam almost gasped when she saw Sheppard pull out a power bar, double chocolate chip, her mouth watered.

Then he opened it, took his knife and cut it in half.

“Eat this.” He said, once again taking Rodney’s hand and placing half the bar into it.

“But…?”

Sheppard sighed as he put his hand back on Rodney’s shoulder. “You’re already showing symptoms… So eat while you can still digest it.”

Rodney just nodded and started eating.

Sam found it strange to see Rodney so docile and vulnerable; it was alarming, especially when he wasn’t focusing on anything. As he took his last mouthful he blinked and his eyes instantly looked at Sheppard. “It’s starting to fade out.” He whispered softly.

“Ok, lets get you settled then before it kicks in proper.” Sheppard started helping Rodney to lie down. Then Sheppard turned grabbing his jacket from his own bed and balling it up, placing it under Rodney’s head.

Sam felt awkward when Sheppard reached out and placed his hand on the side of Rodney’s head, stroking his thumb a little over Rodney’s hair. “You want to listen to some music? I have that piano stuff you like.” Rodney just nodded, still looking wide eyed and pale.

Sam edged back a little out of their personal space and Sheppard got out his mp3 player, found whatever tracks he was looking for, then placed the earphone buds into Rodney’s ears.

“Here.”

Sam jumped then looked up at Ronon who stood behind her, holding a bowl he had found, out to Sheppard.

“Thanks Chewi.” Sheppard grinned taking the bowl; it was filled with water, a cloth already floating in it.

She watched as Ronon nodded, then went to sit just past Rodney’s feet, resting his head against the wall as he looked as if he was taking a nap, ignoring them. Though she could tell he was far from relaxed.

When she turned back to Sheppard, he was placing the cool damp cloth over Rodney’s eyes, then pressing it down softly, a moment later, he was sitting down with his back against the wall by Rodney’s head, one hand keeping the cloth where it was over Rodney’s eyes.

Without thinking she went and sat besides Sheppard, which meant she was now sitting on Sheppard’s bed, their pallets were that close together.

After about twenty minutes Rodney began snoring softly.

“This happen often?” she finally asked Sheppard quietly.

He shrugged one shoulder. “Not really… Not enough for it to be a problem.”

“But often enough for you to know what to do?” she knew she was pushing it, but she couldn’t help herself.

He turned and gave her an assessing look, then sighed and relaxed again. “Beckett told me about it. Rodney’s one of the lucky…” he snorted derisively. “Who get the warning lights in his vision, Beckett said he has to take pain meds while the lights are happening.” He waved his free hand at his own eyes, “That’s why he couldn’t see anything, it’s his first warning sign, flashy lights right in the middle of his eyes, so he can only see peripheral.” He shrugged. “After that his body just stops digesting… or something… Lots of big words I didn’t know.” He gave her a half apologetic smile. “It’s not really a problem, but because of his hypoglycaemia and the not digesting thing, it can get ugly.”

Sam smiled disbelievingly, “He really does have hypoglycaemia?”

Sheppard chuckled too. “Yeah… I didn’t believe it either at first till he collapsed on me on the way to the mess one day when he was bitching about being starving.” He leaned over and gently changed the cloth over Rodney’s eyes, the other man didn’t even move when Sheppard reapplied it. “He first did it when he found this personal shield thing when we first got to Atlantis.”

“I read that report.” She said quietly.

“He has dramatic timing.” He chuckled at the memory. “We teased him about fainting until Beckett figured out he could have gone into a coma because of it… Trust Rodney to have his life in the balance over his next meal or power bar.” He grinned and Sam heard the affection it in, before Sheppard’s face turned sombre and his thumb once again started gently stroking Rodney’s cheek ever so faintly. “It’s why I always keep some spare food on me… just in case.” He trailed off.

Now she understood why Sheppard had looked so concerned when Zelenka had gone back to Atlantis, and Rodney had refused anyone else bringing them supplies.

Once again, in a subtle way, Rodney had shown how brave he was. Not wanting anyone else to risk their live for him.

It also concerned her that they all could last about three weeks without food, but that Rodney had less than three days, especially if he lapsed into a coma. Which also explained Rodney’s hysteria about being rescued.

“Sir?” Lorne’s voice interrupted her musings softly.

“Evan?” Sheppard asked.

Lorne cleared his throat. “Can we borrow Doctor McKay’s laptop?”

Sheppard nodded, “Under videos.” He said as he handed the tablet over. “He’s only got horror movies on it at the moment thought.”

Lorne grimaced. “Any recommendations?”

Sam watched as Sheppard thought about it, “Try, The Decent.” He nodded to himself, “But watch it in the other room… So you don’t disturb.” He waved his free hand at Rodney.

“Ok, thanks.” Lorne said as he turned, “Ronon? You want to join us?”

Sam watched as Ronon opened his eyes, then glared at Sheppard. “No, I’m good.”

Lorne shrugged then turn to her. “Ma’am?”

“She’s ok too.” Sheppard replied for her.

Lorne just nodded and went into the other room with his men.

“You sure you should let them watch that movie?” Ronon asked in a quiet rumble.

Sheppard suddenly grinned. “I thought it rather fitting to our current situation.”

Ronon just grunted, then went back to his guarding.

Sam razed and eyebrow, “So what’s the movie about that I couldn’t watch it?”

If it was possible, Sheppard’s grin got bigger. “it’s about a bunch of women who go potholing, then get stuck underground with a lot of dead people and naked white people who want to eat them.”

“I’d rather not think about it.” Ronon grumbled, and Sam could have sworn he shivered.

Sam got a feeling she didn’t want to watch it after all if it was enough to make Ronon uneasy.

*~*

One hour and forty minutes later Sgt Dawson came back into the room looking pale, wide eyed and a lot spooked.

“Enjoy the movie?” Sheppard asked casually, but his eyes were full of mirth.

Dawson just glared at him. “No sir.” He answered a little shakily.

“What are they watching now?” Sheppard asked, his lips jerking a little into smile.

Dawson shrugged, “Dog Soldiers or Nightwatch… I thought I would just come in here and get some sleep…”

“I’d recommend Nightwatch.” Sheppard said knowingly.

“You would.” Ronon growled as he got to his feet, “I’ll make them watch Dog Soldiers.” Then he left for the other room.

“Can I go watch that one?” Sam asked, taking another look at Dawson who was lying down, but hadn’t closed his eyes.

“Sure.” Sheppard said, once again grinning. “That ones not so bad.”

When she got into the other room, Ronon had taken the tablet and was no doubt getting the movie he wanted to start playing. She couldn’t help but notice Lorne and Phillips looking as pale as Dawson had, Phillips kept glancing over to the other corridor leading from the room.

“Enjoy the movie?” she asked. Once they got out of this, she was going to have to watch it, just to see if it was actually that bad.

Phillips turned a little green.

“I forgot about Sheppard scene of humour.” Lorne answered ruthfuly. “I think I’ll need therapy after that.”

“Me too…” Phillips replied, looking over his shoulder again. “I used to enjoy pot holing.”

“This one’s better.” Ronon said, putting the Tablet on the open part of the broken control device so they all could all see it clearly.

“Least I’m not thinking about how hungry I am anymore.” Lorne said as he moved to make room for Ronon to sit down.

Sam rubbed her empty stomach and couldn’t help thinking about the other half of the power bar Sheppard still had.

*~*

Sam wasn’t sure what had woken her at first, till she heard hushed voices coming from the other side of Ronon. The unnatural light was still quite dim, so it was still rather early, a look at her watch confirmed it was about four in the morning.

Quietly she lifted herself onto her elbow to look over the tall mans sleeping form.

Sheppard was helping Rodney to sit up, then moved in to sit besides the scientist, putting his arm around Rodney’s shoulder, pulling him against his side.

“Feeling any better?” Sheppard asked softly.

Rodney shrugged as he moulded himself to Sheppard’s side. “Nauseous, everything hurts.” He whined a little.

“Think you can take some more painkillers?” Sheppard was already reaching for the blister pack, then awkwardly popped three out.

Sam watched as Sheppard helped Rodney take the pills, then feed him the last of the power bar. The smell made her tummy growl angrily and her mouth water uncomfortably. She admired Sheppard’s self control not the have eaten it himself.

When they were finished Sheppard rested his chin on top of Rodney’s head, holding him close as he rubbed Rodney’s back.

“We have two Glucose tablets in the med kit… I’m sorry, I forgot to restock.” Sheppard muttered.

“Is okay…” Rodney answered, “We ran out… Carson had some more ordered.”

“Which should be on the Daedalus.” Sheppard ground out, hugging Rodney a little closer.

“It’ll get here…” Rodney’s voice sounded so fragile and small as he tried to reassure himself and no doubt Sheppard.

They stayed holding each other for a long time, Sam was just about to try and get some more sleep when Sheppard continued talking.

“They borrowed your laptop.”

“Really?... why?”

“I made them watch The Decent.”

There was a pause, then Rodney pulled away from Sheppard a little so he could look up at him. “Really?”

“Yup.” Sheppard was grinning again.

Both men suddenly broke into giggles before Rodney gave a little plaintive “Ouch.” And rubbed a hand over his forehead. “Did any of them throw up?”

Sheppard sighed, sounding truly regretful. “I’m sure if they could have they would, Dawson looked like he wanted too.”

“I wish I could have seen that!” Rodney chuckled as he cuddled up a little, one hand fisting into the front of Sheppard black t-shirt.

“I wanted them to watch Nightwatch next, but Ronon vetoed that with Dog Soldiers.”

“Ronon watched The Decent again?”

“No, I think it’s just us who have ever watched it more than once.”

“You’ve watched it twice.” Rodney grumbled.

Sheppard gave a snort of amusement, “Oh yeah, you just ate my popcorn, drank my beer and cuddled.”

“Don’t think I don’t know that’s why you do it.” Rodney said indignantly. “You know I don’t like horror movie.”

“Oh… Really?” Sheppard sounded like he was going for naive.

Rodney giggled a little. “I’ll stick some Disney movie on it for next time, then we can see who’s the real badass.”

“That’s just evil!” Sheppard grinned.

“I’m surprised though they went with your horror collection…” Rodney said confused. “I forced Zelenka to DL his anime collection onto that tablet before we came out to this hell hole.”

“Really?” Sheppard tried to sound innocent.

“You were demanding he put Akira on as well…Oh!” Rodney bumped his head up against Sheppard’s chin. “Remind me not to piss YOU off.”

“You piss me off all the time McKay.”

“Just the way you like it!”

Sheppard growled rubbing his chin into Rodney’s hair. “Just because you like the fall out sex.”

Sam felt the blush rise in her cheeks as she ducked down a little more.

“Ugg…” Rodney muttered in pain.

“Oops, sorry.” Sheppard kissed the spot he had just abused.

“And I’ll stop doing it when you stop liking the fall out sex too.”

“No you won’t.”

“True.” Rodney confirmed. “But I would like it if you stopped winding me up then setting me loose on my staff before dragging me off someplace quiet and lockable.”

“You love it.” Sheppard said dismissively, a smug smile on his face.

“I like the conclusion… But why do you think Miko disappears every time you enter the Lab and Radek runs off for coffee?”

“I thought Miko was just being shy…”

“She is, but she also has a strong scene of self preservation. That and she’s run off to watch the security footage whenever we have new meat to chew on.”

“Always knew I liked her.” Sheppard chuckled, “So… you said we have Akira?” he reached for the tablet.

Sam watched as Rodney found the right file, then they both settled back against the wall to watch the anime, their arms still around each other, the light from the tablet lighting up their faces. Rodney’s head resting in the crook of Sheppard’s shoulder while Sheppard once again put his chin on Rodney’s head.

“I also have Star Wars… We could wake Ronon up.” Rodney said softly.

“Delete it.” Sheppard bit out with a grimace.

Rodney chuckled. “Just because you don’t want him to find out why you call him Chewy.”

“If you want me to live, you will delete it.” Sheppard placed another kiss to Rodney’s hair. “We can watch it when we get home.”

“After Bab 5?” Rodney asked hopefully.

“Whatever you want.” The fond indulgence in Sheppard’s voice was heart warming.

Then they started watching their movie.

Sam settled down quietly as she listened to the quiet sound of whatever they were watching, she was sure if they knew anyone was awake the whole scene would have played out differently, she was also in no doubt she had seen something very private.

She still couldn’t fathom how she could have been so clueless about their relationship.

*~*

The next day, and Sam was wondering if the night before hadn’t been some kind of strange dream.

After waking up in the morning, and seeing Sheppard and Rodney were back sleeping on their own beds, she had gone exploring again with Phillips, when they had come back they found Rodney in full rant mode.

Rodney was once again pacing back and forth in the control room, hand flailing wildly.

“They forgot about us, I said they would!” he turned to pace back. “I knew it! Any reason to get rid of me! Woolsey’s just been waiting for an opportunity like this! Him and the damn IOA.” He suddenly stopped waving a finger in the air like he had just had the best idea ever. “Zelenka! That little bastard! He’s told them we are all dead! They are having our memorial service right now! He’s ALWAYS wanted my job!”

“I’m sure that not the case.” Lorne said softly as he continued using the electric shaver Dawson had brought with him. “He bitches more when you’re not there.”

“No because he’s only slightly LESS moronic than the morons I call staff!” Rodney shrieked.

Sam saw Rodney’s hands shaking as they reached up to wipe away sweat from his brow.

Which was strange because the cave as well as having strange lighting and an air supply, it was also climate controlled to be comfortable.

Sam slipped over to Sheppard as he stood leaning against the wall.

“Is he all right?” she whispered.

Sheppard didn’t take his eyes off Rodney as he carried on pacing. “No…” he said tersely as he folded his arms over his chest a little tighter. “If the Daedalus doesn’t get here tonight…” the tightness in his posture and voice were enough to make Sam uneasy.

“We are going to die down here like those stupid villages!” Rodney came to another stop, his grey eyes wide as he stared at the wall. “They are waiting till we run out of food… Waiting till I die… Then… Then…” His eyes were full of fear as they looked at Sheppard, then down at his own hands that he held out in front of himself. They were shaking badly. He then held them up to show Sheppard. “John… It’s already to late.” He whispered, the fear in his voice painful to hear.

She felt Sheppard move past her, reaching out for Rodney’s hands, taking them in his own. “It’s never too late, you hear me?” Sheppard growled out menacingly, shaking Rodney slightly, “The Daedalus WILL get here. And you are NOT going to die.”

“But…” Rodney squeaked out, looking so young it was shocking.

“No buts!” Sheppard demanded in full Colonel mode. “You’re going to sit down in the other room and conserve your energy, and then the Daedalus will get here and take us home.”

Rodney broad shoulders hunched. “Bu..”

“No… No buts McKay, you’re going to follow orders!”

Finally Rodney nodded, then slumped forwards onto Sheppard’s chest, burying his face in Sheppard’s neck. “My head feels all muzzy… it’s already started.” Sam heard him whimper.

She knew how awkward Sheppard was when anyone tried to hug him, but there was none of it now as he wrapped his arms around the shorter man and held on tight.

“I know… Come on.” Sheppard then began leading Rodney into the other room.

Sam took a step forwards when Lorne put a hand on her arm. “Best give them some privacy.” He said softly, then turned to Ronon. “Can you go get the doctors laptop, we can stay here and see what else he had to watch.”

Ronon grunted but wandered into the other room.

Sam sighed, she couldn’t help the seed of doubt Rodney had put there… Would they really starve McKay to death, then come and rescue them all? She wouldn’t put it past the IOA to try, or the NID for that matter.

*~*

They had watched a few anime, and Lorne had found Star Wars, so they were now half way though ‘Empire strikes back’. She had tried to stop them, remembering the conversation from the night before, but even she couldn’t take anymore mecha or cute girl anime… Ronon had mumbled that he was going to kill Sheppard when he finally figured out what his nickname referred too.

She stood stretching her legs, then curiosity moved over to the door to the room where they slept.

Sheppard was once again sat on Rodney’s bed, the other mans head on his lap as Sheppard absently stroked Rodney’s hair, his other hand holding Rodney in place.

She was just about to go back when she realized Rodney looked too still and her chest tightened with dread.

Slowly she made her way closer, Sheppard didn’t even look up as she bobbed down near him. She reached out and placed a hand on Rodney’s arm that was thrown over Sheppard’s legs. Rodney was breathing, but his face was slack, drool pooling on Sheppard’s thigh, she would have found it funny if Rodney’s eyes hadn’t been slightly open and glassy.

“He’s unconscious.” Sheppard whispered. “If he hasn’t already slipped into a coma.”

The desolation in his voice was enough to make her eyes prick with unshed tears.

She moved aside and Sheppard reached for something at his side, she gasped as he shoved his hand gun into her hands, then reaching for Rodney’s and doing the same.

“What?” she asked shocked, looking up into his face, but he didn’t look at her.

“The Daedalus won’t get here in time… If it does get here, I…” He swallowed loudly, ducking his head down more. “I promised I would send… I’d tell his sister personally.”

“Jenannie Miller?” She remembered the woman clearly, she was as brilliant and as stubborn as Rodney, but without the hard edges.

Sheppard nodded, then he gave a hollow bark of a laugh. “She threatened to castrate me.”

“Umm… why?” she asked softly, but she already knew the answer.

“Madison loves him.” He smiled to himself. “He thinks he’s terrible with kids… But they love him… We tell them so many lies, then he trundles in and tells them the truth and they just can’t help themselves.” He shrugged one shoulder, “That or its like cats going straight to people who are allergic to them.”

“Maybe.” She offered at a loss for what to say.

Sam rearranged herself as they lapsed into silence.

Sheppard’s grief was rolling off him like a physical force.

She wanted to reassure him, tell him it would all be okay, that help was coming… But it had been too long already; whatever was happening in Atlantis must be severe enough to keep everyone busy. Maybe the city had fallen and there would never be a rescue.

She shivered and tried not to think about it.

After an hour she decided to break the silence instead of watching Sheppard fall apart in front of her.

“So how did you two end up getting together?” she asked softly. “I thought he liked short haired blonds?”

Sheppard blinked at her before he huffed and smiled. “He likes his women blond… But as to how we got together?...” he paused looking back down at Rodney. “I got drunk, he was ranting, so I shut him up in the time honoured old fashioned way and kissed his brains out. Worked too.” He grinned whimsically, “For a month he tried to run away and deny it, then a shipment of alcohol came in and the next thing I know we are waking up naked in my bed with matching hangovers and he’s telling me it better be a permanent thing because he doesn’t do one night stands and he’s not going to be a fuck buddy and I better make an honest man of him or his sister was going to castrate me… Oh, and I better like cats.”

“Not much then?” she grinned.

“Who was I to argue?” He gave her a half smile even if it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

She nodded as they slipped into silence again for a few minutes before her curiosity thought up another question. “I have to ask… Why Rodney?”

Sheppard gave her a wide eyes look of disbelief.

“You don’t have to answer… I know I really shouldn’t be asking any of this…” she shrugged apologetically.

“You ever meet anyone who just felt… right?” he asked, staring at her intently.

She blinked at him, not sure how to answer. Lantash was the first person to enter her mind, but she still wasn’t sure how much that was her own feeling… there had been others, including O’Neill. “No…” She said honestly. “I’ve though there were… but… no.”

He nodded, his lips forming into a small pout. “Well…” He chewed on his lip for a moment. “I been running my whole life, ran from my Dad into the air force, ran from my…” he coughed a little giving her a frown. “True nature.” He gave lamely. “Straight into my wife, then I ran from her and got shoved out to Antarctica, though I actually liked that… Then ran as far as I could and came to Atlantis, a almost guaranteed one way trip.” He smiled a little looking back down at Rodney. “Where I found him.” The smiled formed into a true look of affection. “Someone who stands his ground; shoving his stubborn chin out at the world and refuses to run. Because it just doesn’t enter his mind to do anything else, no matter how scared he is.”

Sam blew out a breath quietly as she looked at Rodney. She had respected his work, but she had never seen him in the light Sheppard now painted him, and as she thought about it, he was right… McKay came off as a cowardly arrogant bastard but he always came through for everyone if he could.

“People have been demanding things of me my whole life.” Sheppard was saying softly. “Wanting me to change and fit into their moulds… Then I meet this guys who’s a contradiction to himself, asking nothing of me but to trust him and accept him as he was.” He huffed out a chuckle. “Not like anyone has much of a choice but to accept Doctor M Rodney McKay as anything else.”

“That’s Rodney, a force of nature.” She gave him a smile.

“He is that.” Sheppard’s smile finally reached his eyes. “I never met anyone who was as incapable of lying as Rodney; if he does try it he’s really bad. I’ve also never met anyone who’s so innocent or clueless and isn’t six years old.” He shrugged. “But really, in the end of it… He gets me like no one else ever has and most important, he makes me laugh.” He looked up at her then, his eyes damp with tears she was sure would never fall. “It sounds lame… but he’s literally everything that was missing… yeah know?"

Sam nodded, not sure of her own voice would be that steady. “Yeah… I get it.” She managed. And she did, they were soulmates. She couldn’t imagine Rodney putting up with anyone who he didn’t like for long.

Eventually they lapsed into silence again and her heart couldn’t take sitting and watching two men die, one literally, the other emotionally. She just wasn’t that brave.

She patter Sheppard leg as she stood, taking both hand guns, then stopped to retrieve Sheppard’s P90 from the other side of his bed.

Ronon just nodded at her as she went to join the other men, Lorne gave her a concerned look, but thankfully they all remains silent as she sat down.

*~*

“This is Colonel Caldwell of the Daedalus, are you receiving?”

Sam jumped as her radio burst into life. “This is Carter!” she called into the radio, her heart pounding, a quick look around provided her with nothing but smiles of relief.

“Can you beam us all to the infirmary?”

She was on her feet and into the other room. They had all stopped watching movies a few hours ago and lapsed into stressed silence.

Sheppard was still sat as she left him, only now he was looking intently at her. She heard the rest of the men scrabbling to collect together their few belongings as she bent to do the same, noting Ronon was doing the same with Sheppard and McKay’s belongings.

Finally Caldwell answered, “We have a lock, give us a few minutes to get enough space in the infirmary...”

“Is everyone all right?!” a thick Scottish brogue came over the radio.

“Doctor Beckett?” Sam frowned.

“Carson!” Sheppard was suddenly speaking into his radio as he pulled Rodney closer to himself. “Rodney’s unconscious, has been for the past seven hours!”

“Ok, calm down son. Is he injured?”

“No.” Sheppard growled, “It’s his hypoglycaemia, he had the last two glucose tablets we had this morning, but we ran out of food a few day’s ago!”

“We are ready.” Beckett said.

“Are you ready Colonel?” Caldwell asked.

Sam took a quick look at the relived and expectant faces. “Yeah, beam away Colonel!”

There was a blinding light, then the disorientation of being in another place. Then she was blinking at the stake sterile light.

She watched as nurses and Doctor Beckett swarmed all over Sheppard and McKay, pulling Sheppard to his feet then focusing all their attention on the unconscious man.

Sam found herself being gently led to a gurney by another nurse, as the rest of the disastrous expedition were being led to their own beds.

Only Sheppard refused to be moved from where he stood over the hive of activity on the floor.

She watched as they finally lifted Rodney onto a gurney, cutting off his jacket and shirt, attaching a million and one things to monitor his vital signs, they checked his blood pressure, took what looked like a gallon of blood, before the activity finally calmed down. All the while, Sheppard didn’t leave the foot of the bed.

“So what happened?” Colonel Caldwell’s voice close to her side made her jump; she looked at him as he looked over at Rodney.

“I could ask the same thing.” She said back as the days of worry finally rose to the surface making her feel irritable, relieved and bone tired all at the same time.

Caldwell gave her an assessing look before he sighed deeply and she realized he looked tired, as did all the nurses and Beckett. “The Wraith decided to attack M7G-677, the planet with all the villages full of children protected by an EM-field. The Wraith went in on foot; they must be getting pretty desperate. We went and evacuated all we could, Zelenka took the ZPM and we destroyed the generator before taking them all back to Atlantis, only to find more Wraith on our doorstep… Then we turned round and came straight for you. No one’s gotten much sleep in the last few days.” He finished as he rubbed his eyes. “We came as soon as we could.”

“I understand.” She offered felling a little deflated. “Anyone hurt?”

Caldwell shook his head. “Surprisingly no casualties, but enough scrapes and wounds to keep the infirmaries back on Atlantis full.”

“Thank you.” She found a smile for him before looking back over to Rodney.

Beckett was reaching for Sheppard, taking hold of his arm as he led him over to both her and Caldwell. Sheppard resisted a little. “I’m not repeating myself.” Beckett said shortly.

“What’s the verdict Doctor Beckett?” Caldwell asked.

Beckett sighed deeply. “Doctor McKay is unconscious. Right now I have him on an intravenous IV of Glucagon, if we had been any longer he would have slipped into a coma. We’ll be checking his blood regularly, if there are no complications he should wake up soon, at which point I’ll be shoving food down his neck.” He gave them all a tired smile.

“So he’s going to be all right?” Sheppard asked in a gruff whisper.

Beckett turned to him, looking him over assessing. “Ay, son, you did a good job and he should be back to terrorizing us all soon.”

Sam watched as Sheppard closed his eyes letting out a deep sigh before he looked like he was going to fall down.

Instantly Beckett was holding him up and leading him toward the bed besides McKay’s, muttering about stubborn Colonels.

Sam smiled with relief as she rested back against the raised bed, closing her eyes. Even though they had done nothing strenuous the past few days, she felt exhausted. All she wanted to do was eat and sleep, and not necessarily in that order.

“Doctor, are they cleared to leave so I can get them all to the mess?” Caldwell was asking Beckett.

“I’ll eat MRE’s willingly!” Lorne said with calls of agreement from the other three men.

“Yeah.” Beckett said as he finished taking Sheppard’s blood. “You’re all a little dehydrated too, so go get something to eat and then get some rest the lot of you.” He poked Sheppard’s knee. “You too Colonel, I don’t want you passing out on me too.”

“I’m good.” Sheppard snapped out. His eyes not leaving the bed in front of him.

“Come on now Colonel.” Beckett tried to get Sheppard off the bed.

“I’ll get him some food.” Ronon was suddenly besides Beckett, his arm between the Doctor and the Colonel. “You want me to get you anything?”

Beckett backed up a step, looking a little confused before he smiled knowingly and nodded at Ronon, “I would love some real coffee, but until then just get me some mud from the mess… But eat something yourself first.”

Ronon grinned, slapped Beckett on the back as he then turned to herd everyone out of the small infirmary on the Daedalus.

Sam gave Sheppard one last look over Ronon’s shoulder. He was already off his bed and standing besides Rodney.

*~*

Sam couldn’t help but yawn loudly as she sat back in her chair, she couldn’t remember the last time she had felt so full and now all she wanted to do was curl up in a nice warm bed and get some sleep.

Lorne, Dawson and Phillips had already gone to find their beds, which left her sitting across from Ronon who was still shovelling food into his mouth.

“Maybe I should take Sheppard his meal?” she offered half-heartedly.

“Na…” Ronon said, before swallowing, another fork full already by his mouth. “I’ll do it soon as I’ve finished.”

She watched him as she sipped the truly abysmal coffee. “You really like him don’t you?” she whispered before she realized she had spoken out loud.

Ronon razed an eye brow at her. “Hu?”

She leaned forwards, not wanting to be overheard. “Colonel Sheppard.” She affirmed.

He shrugged one shoulder. “He saved my life.”

“Yeah.” She tried not to grin “But that was years ago.”

Ronon grunted, “So?”

“Fair point.” Another sip of mud. “And you’re very protective of McKay too.” She really shouldn’t be enjoying this, but making the big man squirm, even a little, was just to much like fun.

Ronon cleared his throat as he sat back and looked at her with his gorgeous brown eyes. “Like you said, I owe Sheppard, and even if McKay is annoying. Sheppard doesn’t forgive anyone who hurts him.” He shrugged, “And there’s still too many Wraith to kill for me to become a Runner again, specially from Sheppard.”

She looked at him in shock. “Really?” She knew Sheppard could be a hard bastard, sometimes it was hard to fathom when the guy just seemed so laid back.

He gave her a feral smile. “He finally killed Kolya because the guy threatened to kill McKay exclusively, even though he could have done it sooner.” He started eating what remained of his cottage pie and veggies. “No idea what Sheppard sees in him, other than he fixes stuff and saves our lives. But McKay makes him happy, who am I to argue?”

“And you don’t want him to shoot you?” she chuckled.

“He cheats, so no.” Ronon growled.

“And you don’t mind…?” she waved her hand trying to think of some way of putting their relationship without actually saying it.

“Mind what?”

“That they are together? You were military on Sateda and I don’t know if they have the same rules? and you know about our...” She whispered conspiratorially. “DADT?”

He snorted in annoyance. “We had more stuff to worry about than who was sleeping with who, and there were enough orphans needing homes… So long as someone was having kids, no one cared.”

She blinked in surprise, If only everyone saw it that way she thought. “Look, I’ll take some sandwiches for Sheppard and McKay, you’re as tired as the rest of us, finish up here than get some rest.” She didn’t listen to him as she stood up. “I’ll make it an order.” She grinned at him, getting a smile in return.

“Thanks” he uttered as she went to the counter.

*~*

John finally conceded to sitting in a chair before he throttled Carson for fussing.

All he wanted was to get on the bed, to feel Rodney breathing, to reassure himself Rodney was okay, but he couldn’t do that until he KNEW Rodney was okay, awake and snarking at him for food. Once he did that he was gonna sleep for a week, and he was gonna make damn sure Rodney was there right along side him.

He was vaguely aware of the small infirmary become quieter and quieter around him as the nurses slowly drifted away.

Only Beckett was hovering about somewhere in the background, every now and then checking on Rodney’s vitals, but in most part left him alone.

John was grateful that on Carson’s last visit, the Doctor had sighed in frustration, then pulled the curtains around the bed, giving them a modicum of privacy. After a few minutes he gave in to the urge, reached out and took Rodney’s hand in his own. Rodney was still scarily pale, but he was no longer sweating and the slight tremors had finally stopped.

John squeezed the fingers he held. It always amazed him how innocent Rodney could look when he slept, despite the slight stubble or the drool trickling from the side of his mouth onto the pillow.

He smiled a little as he watched the ever widening damp patch under Rodney’s right ear, remembering the first time Rodney had drooled on him after an all night ‘Wormhole X-Treame’ marathon. Teyla had found it all very funny, but she had been the first one to seek her bed, Ronon stuck it out a little longer, but ended up snoring loudly with his hand still in the popcorn. Rodney had fallen asleep cuddled up against John’s shoulder; John had been about to turn off the last episode when he realized his shoulder was soggy. He knew what was happening, and as he looked down he was prepared to be disgusted, instead he just smiled as his chest felt all warm inside. John had known he was lost at that moment, nothing said love more than having someone else’s bodily fluids soaking into your clothes and not giving a crap.

It had all ended when Ronon had woken with a start, falling off his chair propelling sticky popcorn all over the place, which in turn woke Rodney who jumped away from him like he was molten lava.

John had teased him mercilessly about it until he finally drank enough Dutch courage to kiss the physicist. But not like he would ever tell Rodney he didn’t mind it, he loved the way Rodney would apologies and wipe him down, all wide eyes and endearingly cute.

When he had gone to Atlantis, he never thought he would find a home, filled with people he slowly became to call family, and never in a million years did he think he would find someone there he would want to share his life with. Especially not someone like Rodney McKay.

John would be the first one to admit he liked an easy life, so to have stumbled upon someone who was so high maintenance was a shock even to himself.

He had always liked the notion of protecting people, the idea of being a hero always appealed to him since he was a kid, and Rodney brought out his most possessive protective instincts. He would do anything to protect that wide eyed innocence Rodney sometimes showed, or the way his dark grey eyes would light up at some new discovery as he bounced around all excited like a puppy on speed.

He also got a kick out of the way Rodney would submit to his authority, well, most of the time. But Rodney always seemed to know when he needed to be in control. He also knew that Rodney could take control if he needed too. Like when they had lost Elizabeth and Rodney had just assumed command when everyone was running around like headless chickens. At first John had though he was in for a power struggle when he had approached the scientist about leadership, but Rodney had just given it over with nothing more than a pause. Rodney had fucked up that day when he revived Elisabeth’s nanites, but John blamed Dr Keller for that.

With a shake of his head he pushed those memories away, the grief still to sharp.

The most important thing was, like he had told Carter, Rodney made him laugh and there was something for being friends with a genius, he could think up the most cunning and amusing pranks. It sometimes took some prodding and maybe a little inspiration that John provided, then the most elaborate plots would be cooked up and executed with McKay’s usually precision.

He twined their fingers together a little more.

Rodney wasn’t his usual type, if he really had a type, but how could you not fall for someone who let you be yourself, accepted you for all your faults?

“Here?”

John jumped, pulling his hand from Rodney’s before he realized Carter was holding out a tray, she was grinning at him in a knowing way he didn’t quiet like.

“Sorry it took so long. I brought enough for McKay too.”

“Uh… Thanks.” He said taking the tray, she had bought two bottles of orange juice and one ham sandwich and an egg mayonnaise. He placed the try on the small bedside table, then without thinking picked up both bottles, he stood, moved the curtain aside, placing them both on the bed he had used earlier before sitting back down to start eating the egg mayo.

As he munched on his first bite he realized Carter was looking at him funny. He razed an eyebrow at her in question. “Last thing I need is for him to have an allergic reaction.”

Her blue eyes widened. “Ah, I’m sorry I forgot, I take it the citrus thing is true too.”

“Yeah.” He took another bite of his sandwich. “I love oranges, but I can’t have them much.” He felt himself blush at her knowing smile. He wasn’t about to tell her he only ate them if he wanted to piss Rodney off.

“I can get you something else to drink if you like?” she offered.

He shook his head. “It’s fine.” He gestured towards the cup of coffee Beckett had given him when Ronon didn’t get back soon enough.

He finished off the rest of his sandwich, then as his stomach gave a warning rumble he opened the other sandwich and began eating it too. Meanwhile Carter had got another chair and sat besides him.

Half of him wished she would leave so he could hold Rodney’s hand again, but the other half welcomed her companionable silence.

He was just about to start eating the other half of the ham sandwich when Rodney groaned and moved his head to the side.

Instantly John was on his feet and calling for Carson, he couldn’t help a moment of giddy relief.

The Doctor instantly appeared as Rodney began to blearily open his eyes.

“Hello there sleepy head.” Carson was also grinning as he flashed a penlight into Rodney’s eyes, much to the annoyance of the scientist. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m gonna kill you…” Rodney muttered, trying to lift his hand to push Beckett’s hand away, but not quite managing it. “…if you don’t get that light out of my eyes… John?”

“Right here.” John grinned as he put his hand on Rodney’s arm, squeezing to let him know he was right there.

John’s chest warmed as Rodney looked up at him and smiled. “Hey.”

“Hey.” John replied, returning the soppy smile. He wished it were just the two of them. It had been way too close this time… usually there was something he could shoot, or to rush to a daring rescue. But having to sit and watch Rodney slowly dieing of something he had no control over had terrified him, more than he cared to even comprehend. He just wanted to hold the physicist until he felt more secure Rodney was actually all right, to get him home and wrap him up in cotton wool till he could tolerate letting him out of his sight.

“O-Kay…” Beckett said in his usual tolerant voice. “So Rodney, how do you feel?”

Rodney broke eye contact as he looked at the Doctor. “Umm.” He uttered as he seemed to think about it. “Headache… Everything feels heavy and I’m starving.” He groused, “If I wasn’t feeling sick.” He pulled a displeased face.

“Here.” John said, grabbing the other half of his ham sandwich. He looked at Carson for permission and the Doctor just nodded.

“Is it fresh?” Rodney asked eyeing it suspiciously.

“Yes it’s fresh McKay.” John rolled his eyes as he placed the sandwich in Rodney’s hand, and then took his arm to help lift it to his own mouth. It was enough to let them all know how weak Rodney was feeling that he didn’t even protest at the help.

It took a while for Rodney to finish eating, then without thinking John grabbed the last of his coffee and held it up for Rodney to drink.

Carson gave a snort of disapproval as Rodney moaned with pleasure.

“That’s the last coffee you’ll be drinking for the next few day’s laddie.” Carson groused, “Tea or I believe there is some nice apple juice in the mess, I’ll go see if I can get someone to make you both a proper meal from the mess. It’s after hours, so…” he trailed off. He gave Rodney one last pat and an enduring smile before turning away and leaving. “I’ll be back to check on you in two hours and get some rest!” Carson called from beyond the curtains.

“Pfft, like I ever listen.” Rodney muttered though his voice didn’t have its usual passion.

“You will for a few days Rodney.” John let his protective side speak, and he meant ever word, even if it meant he couldn’t drink any coffee either.

Rodney just slumped a little in annoyance, but let it pass without a word. John just grinned, knowing he was going to have his way.

“Well, now you’re awake.” Sam’s voice made John jump a little, he had forgotten about her completely as she made her way around the other side of the bed. “I need to get some sleep.” She smiled as Rodney blinked at her, looking confused at her being there. She chuckled. “I was keeping John company.” She explained as the reached out, putting her hand on Rodney’s shoulder. “I’m glad your feeling better.” She squeezed Rodney’s shoulder before patting it, then bending in to whisper. “John’s been fretting about you for day’s, give him a break, okay? And those THINGS you gave me, they are in the armoury.” She said as she looked pointedly at John with a wink. “Oh… and I want an invitation to the wedding!”

Then she was gone before John could even stutter out something witty.

He heard her laughing softly to herself as she left the infirmary.

“What the HELL did you tell her!?” Rodney grated out in an angry whisper; he watched as John just shrugged and did the usual, butter wouldn’t melt, his hazel eyes drifting about the room in an effort not to look at him. “John!” he gasped in horror.

“Look.” Finally John made eye contact with him, then leered “I didn’t tell her how great the sex was.” He muttered huskily under his breath, leaning in slightly. “Cos lets face it, it’s pretty damn amazing.” John’s eyes were almost twinkling.

Rodney couldn’t help but feel smug, and he was sure if he didn’t feel so retched he would be slapping Sheppard for making him hard. “Well I AM a genius.” He grinned at the old joke between them.

Then he sobered, he was enough of a genius to know when John was trying to change the subject. “So what exactly did you tell her?” he tried to scowl but it was too much like effort.

Once again he watched his lover pull faces, desperately trying not to show his emotions. “Look.” John did the bite’ty lip thing, so Rodney knew it wasn’t easy for John to confess whatever he had to say. “I thought you were dieing…” he waved his hands about before shoving them back under his armpits. “I told her BRIEFLY…” He emphasized. “How we got together.”

“How brief?” He grated out; no way was he going to make this easy for the flyboy.

“VERY briefly… anyhow… she asked.” John winced.

Rodney snorted at that. “What the hell happened to DADT?” he squeaked.

“Dieing, Rodney.” John snapped. As if it was the most obvious thing on the planet, ship… wherever the hell they were.

“Christ… You gave her your weapons?!” he said in alarm.

“And yours…” John confessed dourly. “Again… dieing….”

He really couldn’t be pissed at John when he looked so sullen. “Jeannie would dig you up and kill you again, you know that right?” he said reaching out and touching John’s hip that leaned against his bed with the back of his hand.

“Yeah…” John muttered as his hand came down to twine their fingers together, but acting like it wasn’t happening. “I just told her some stuff… emotional stuff.” He said quietly, “I’ll tell you when we get home, Okay?” with a quick glance around to make sure they were alone, John reached out his other hand placing it on top of Rodney’s head, then stroked it down to cup his cheek, his thumb brushing over his eye gently. “You need to get more rest, you’re still too pale.”

Rodney was never one to like being touched, but when John showed physical signs of affection, even innocent ones, it felt right, natural. Shoving away all Rodney’s burning insecurities.

Rodney could at least admit to himself, that he had enough self-confidence about his work and ideas, others called it arrogance, but he didn’t have a clue when it came to other people and emotions.

Apart from his sister, John was the only one who could read him like a book and soothing him instantly with nothing but a look. Or like now, a touch. He smiled up at John as he rested back against his pillows. He was way too exhausted to care if he was looking like a mushy idiot.

“Yeah…” he answered softly staring into those light hazel eyes he liked so much, not really sure anymore what he was affirming or agreeing too.

Suddenly John leaned forwards, resting his forehead against Rodney’s, his eyes tight closed and a look on his face Rodney didn’t like at all and made his guts tighten.

With sharp insight he realized John had been scared and that made him gasp. The sound making John try and pull away, but Rodney was having none of that.

He grabbed the back of John’s head pulling it down besides his own then holding him there. John was tense and tried to pull away before Rodney found himself being pulled up and against John’s hard chest, John’s arms around him in a death grip. Rodney couldn’t have escaped even if he had the inkling to do so, even if it was a little hard to breath.

Instead he rubbed John’s back, holding back as tightly as he could as the other man’s body shook with slight tremors now and then.

Rodney knew he wasn’t crying, Sheppard didn’t cry.

Rodney had learned from experience that John would just be very clingy for a while, not wanting to let him out of his sight for long until it drove Rodney insane. But it had its perks. All his meals would be brought to him or him dragged off to the mess, John would pander to his every wish and want, the teasing would be scaled down and for a while Rodney would revel in the indulgence shamelessly.

It was how John coped with his guilt in whatever form he deemed fit to torture himself with, it never usually lasted long, they would eventually drive each other to a row, not speak to each other for a day, then have great make up sex, where everything would just go back to normal.

He was sure shrinks would say it was unhealthy, but it worked for them.

“Ok, visiting time’s ove… Oh…”

Rodney jumped a little at Carson’s voice as he stepped though the curtains surrounding his bed. Normally they would jump apart like naughty school boys and Rodney was a bit surprised when John’s grip just got tighter.

Rodney peeked over John’s shoulder at the Doctor, Carson was grinning like an idiot as he gave Rodney a nod. “Just make sure you get him his supper, and then let him rest Colonel.”

“Sure…” John replied into Rodney neck, his voice gruff.

“Good, good…” then Carson winked at Rodney. “And the bed’s free at the other side, get some rest too.” Then he was gone, pulling the curtain closed. Rodney just groaned, great another thing the quack could tease him about.

“Sorry.” John said, but didn’t slacken his grip.

Rodney just huffed as he relaxed, making himself more comfortable in John’s hold, he was too tired to sit up anymore, so he just let his partner take his weight, which John did willingly.

Rodney wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, but he was drifting on the edge of sleep when John finally moved, lowering Rodney back into the pillows, the head of the bed was razed so they didn’t have far to go. Rodney was grateful that John was holding his head as he lay him down, he didn’t think he had the strength not to let it just flop back. All his body was feeling heavy.

“Sorry…” John said softly, the guilt in his voice enough to wake Rodney up a little.

John was pulling away, so Rodney reached out grabbing John’s right wrist, then pushed his fingers under his black wrist band to tug on the bracelet beneath. John had always warn the stupid black thing, but now it concealed and kept safe the bracelet Rodney had given him before they even got together. He couldn’t even remember on what planet he traded on for it. It was a spur of the moment thing, and he thought John would like it, Teyla helped him buy it, he didn’t understand the knowing smile on her face back then. It had just been an awkward sign of friendship, but it had come to mean so much more.

“Get me something to eat.” he said as he let go.

John nodded as he turned to leave.

“And you are SO going to let me get a kitten now!”

He watched with glee as John paused with his back to him, his shoulders tense, and Rodney waited for the inevitable lecture on how it wouldn’t be practical and who would look after it and what would they feed it.

“I get to name it.” John growled out before he stomped out of the small infirmary.

Rodney could do nothing but gasp as he stared after his lover, then with a grin he settled back, maybe they could get two, then he could name the other… that would mean bigger quarters, maybe indulge in a new queen sized bed.

He let his smug smile widen, he would make John feed him when he got back while he shamelessly plotted on all the things he could milk John for.

The Fin