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You Can't Take It With You (Except When You Can)

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-Somewhere over the Atlantic, 1982-

Rodney worked on solving the math in his physics journals while they crossed the Atlantic in first class.

"That's wrong," a slightly nasally voice said from beside him. Rodney turned and stared at the other boy. His hair was black and messy and he had long fingers, one of which was pointed at Rodney's work.

"What?" Rodney, annoyed and amused, looked from the papers back up to the boy.

"I said that's wrong," the boy repeated. "I'm John."

Rodney glared at him, his eyes going to small slits. He looked at the other boy... John, he looked like a slacker and yet he had the nerve to tell Rodney he was wrong. "I happen to be a genius, for your information."

John smiled, "I don't care, genius, that's still wrong."

Rodney huffed and glared at him, but John didn't back down. He simply smiled back, serene in a way that set Rodney's teeth on edge. Finally Rodney rolled his eyes and went back to his work. "What would you know about high level physics anyway," he grumbled, finding his place again. "You're probably just a freshman in high school, and a jock, so how would you... know... Oh." Rodney stared down at the paper in disbelief. "This is wrong!"

John smirked. "Told you," John said with a chuckle. "And just because I'm a freshman in high school doesn't mean I'm not smart. You're a self proclaimed genius and didn't even see that the problem was wrong until this high school freshman pointed it out to you." He shrugged, a surprisingly fluid motion. "I just have a mind for numbers. By the way, usually, when people tell you their name, it's common practice to tell them yours. That's called an introduction... I'm John," he said again and held his hands out indicating that it was Rodney's turn.

Rodney was busy erasing equations and hurriedly redoing them. He caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up to see John staring at him expectantly. "Hmm? Oh," he waved his hand impatiently. "Rodney, Rodney McKay." Rodney thought for a minute, then pulled out a new piece of paper and quickly wrote out a new problem. He handed the paper and an extra pencil to John. "Here, maybe that'll keep you busy for a while."

"Seriously?" John asked and took the pencil. He looked at the pencil, smirked and took a pen off Rodney's tray table. He scratched pen marks on the paper for a minute and then handed the paper back to Rodney, cockily. "Done," he announced, "and it's right."

Rodney stared at the paper, then up at John, then back down at the paper. "Huh," he grunted and took the paper grudgingly. "Well, that was an easy one," he dismissed as he looked over the paper. John's writing was thin and spiky, much like John himself. Rodney hesitated a moment, then wrote down another problem and shoved the paper back at John.

John smiled as he watched Rodney write the problem. "Come on man, you said you're a genius, give me something that any second grader couldn't do." he took the paper when Rodney was finished and worked the problem quickly, although it did take a bit longer than the first one. He handed the paper back, "either give me something I can sink my teeth into, or stop all together. We can talk, where do you live? Where are you going? I'm headed to London for a few months. Backpacking around Europe, it's something I've wanted to do for awhile."

Rodney snatched the paper back. "Fine," he snapped, "I'll give you a good one." John was still talking as Rodney wrote a problem down from memory. He pushed the paper back, and then turned back to his own work. "Going to stay with my mother for six months," he replied, even as he added a new line to his current equation. "You're backpacking around Europe? Your parents let you do that at your age?"

"Yup," John replied as he worked the problem. "I already took all the tests and quizzes and passed the school year. My parents won't let me move ahead so… I have half a year plus the three months of summer vacation. Dear old dad's paying for it," John explained, then handed the paper back.

Rodney looked up from his own work when John handed the paper back. "'Dear old dad?' What, are you rich or something?" Rodney wrote down a new problem, this one from one of the latest physics journals. It was a bit of theory, unmanageable because there was no real answer yet. There were plenty of ways to solve the problem but none of the answers explained all the known facts. He smirked and gave the paper back.

"Yeah, or something." He furrowed his brow as he worked the problem. "This is a good one," he said. "So, you don't sound English. I take it your parents are divorced and mom moved to England, right?"

"I'm Canadian," Rodney smirked. "Dad lives in Toronto." Rodney sat back and crossed his arms. "I'm done with high school already. I'm giving it a year for all the universities to slobber over me and compete to offer me their best scholarships. Then I'll choose the best one."

"Done with high school? Damn, maybe you are a genius. Of course, I'd be done too if my parents didn't think I needed to experience school with my peers."

He shook his head and sighed at the problem on the paper. "This is a damn good problem. I've solved it, but there are a few different answers and... none of them are completely right."

Rodney nodded eagerly, "no one's figured out the right answer yet. That's the beauty of it. And you're not 'experiencing school with your peers,'" Rodney made little air quotes around the words, "if you're gallivanting off to England."

John shrugged and smirked, "that's what I said, but they still won't let me move up. But hey, at least I'm living life instead of being stuck in a class room when they aren't teaching me anything new. And, of course I get to meet new peers- like you Rodney. It's nice to meet you."

Rodney shot him a look then grudgingly nodded. "Since you're not an idiot, it's nice to meet you too."

John laughed and gently shook his head. "I bet people love meeting you."

The plane landed and John and Rodney deplaned and headed for baggage claim. "Do you have a ride waiting?" John asked after they'd collected their luggage. John slung his single pack over his shoulders while Rodney had a back pack, a small bag under each arm and a larger case in each hand. John carried another bag for Rodney as they headed for the exit. "I only ask because, since I don't have to be anywhere specific I thought I'd grab a ride with you."

Rodney rolled his eyes, "why am I not surprised?" Someone caught Rodney's eye and he stiffened for a moment, then kept walking. They passed by a girl a little younger than Rodney and he nodded stiffly at her. "Jeanie," he greeted as they passed. Up ahead, a woman was waving at them. "There's my mother."

"Mer," Jeannie replied as she passed without stopping or even looking at him.

"Cool," John said as he followed Rodney. "Who was that?" he looked back at the girl as she walked away. "Kinda cute... In a snobbish way. And why'd she say Mer?"

Rodney grumbled, "that's my little sister, and I never want to hear the word 'cute' come out of your mouth again. That girl is evil." He shook his head, "She calls me that to piss me off. Ignore it. Hi, mom." Rodney gave her a couple bags and continued toward the exit.

"So I shouldn't say you're cute either?" he asked and sighed disappointedly. "Okay then. Hello ma'am, my name's John Sheppard, your gracious son has said you wouldn't mind giving me a ride," he flashed his most charming smile. "It would be greatly appreciated."

Rodney rolled his eyes and his mother raised an eyebrow. "Gracious? Well, we have room. Is that all you have for bags?"

Rodney glared at John as they left the airport, "well aren't you a charming one."

"Yes ma'am, I'm backpacking, I heard you have to travel light because you never know where you'll be sleeping at any given time," he explained. John and Rodney fell behind a bit and John looked at Rodney and smiled and shrugged. "My parents are rich or something, remember? There are constantly people at some party or function I have to be dragged to. You learn pretty quickly how to get what you want."

Rodney huffed an annoyed breath and loaded his luggage in the car. "Fine, so you know how to schmooze people and be manipulative. Could come in handy I guess." They all got in the car, and Rodney turned to look at John, who was sitting in the back seat. "So where are we taking you?"

John smiled, "it doesn't matter, I don't have anywhere to be or anywhere specific to go. There's no need make any special stops, just take me where ever you're going and I'll start there."

Rodney raised an eyebrow, "you want to come to our house? Then you'll end up wanting to stay there!"

"Rodney," his mother chided, "John can stay with us for a few days while he gets his bearings. It's no trouble."

John smirked and raised his brows at Rodney. "Thank you ma'am, but I don't want to cause any problems between you and Rodney. He's here to see you, I'll find a place pretty quickly."

Rodney muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, 'suck up,' and turned back around in his seat.
"Well," Rodney's mother said, "we can at least get you pointed in the right direction and help you plan where you're going and how you're getting there."

John accepted her offer for help, and took a map when they got out of the car. The McKay... Or ex-McKay as the case was, house was nice, if a bit small. "Love your house," John told Rodney. "Thanks for the ride," he handed Rodney a piece of paper. "Maybe we can do something while I'm here, the answer to that problem is my cell number." He sighed, "yes, my parents made me get and carry one of those ridiculous phones."

Rodney looked down at the paper, mentally solving it already. His mother nudged him, and he looked back up. "Hmm? Oh, yeah, sure." He gave John a funny look, "Don't you want to come in? We could at least feed you something that's not airplane food. Though I quite like airplane food, as long as they're not trying to kill me with citrus. I'm deathly allergic to citrus."

John smiled. "Thanks Rodney, I'd love a good meal." he looked at Rodney's mother. "Will you be cooking ma'am?" He looked back at Rodney, "my mom never cooks. She can bake the shit out of some cookies, but cooking is another matter all together."

Rodney's mother smiled, "I was actually planning to order out tonight." They went inside the townhouse and Rodney immediately started dragging bags up to his room. John grabbed a couple more and followed him.

"Mom doesn't cook. I don't think she even knows the meaning of the word," Rodney told John once they were out of earshot.

"That's fine too; the only food I eat at home is prepared by Ms. Bertha, the cook." he followed Rodney up to his room. "It's not a problem, you think maybe she'd order Thai food? I'm in the mood for Pad Thai." He threw the bags on Rodney's floor and then sat on the edge of the bed. "I think I'd like to live in a house like this. Something small and just big enough for a small family."

"You have a cook? Wow, your family is loaded." Rodney rolled his eyes and looked around the room. "It's okay, I guess, it's easy to get into the city from here, so that's fine with me. I'm hardly ever at home. And here, you want Chinese food."

"Oh, Chinese food is good too. I'll have the mandarin triple crown." he chuckled and then shook his head. "Yeah, I guess we're loaded, not that it means much to me. I mean, I'm all for using dad's money to get what I want, but having money doesn't make me any different than people who don't. The only thing that's different is that people treat me differently when they find out, and I'll admit to using that to my advantage on occasion."

"There's no citrus in that, right?" Rodney asked automatically, already playing with the equation John had made and put his phone number in. "You can go tell mom what you want, she's the one ordering. And of course people treat you differently. Everyone wants to be your friend for a chance at some money," Rodney rolled his eyes and kept working, unraveling the problem in his head even as he talked. "What's your family in? Military? Big industry? Government? I'm going to work for the government, I'm sure. You know I built an atomic bomb in the sixth grade? Well, it wasn't a working model, but the CIA came and questioned me."

John chuckled. "You built a bomb? That's the best. No, no citrus, mandarin is for the people, not the orange. Let's go do something, what should we do?"

Rodney raised an eyebrow but didn't look up. He grabbed a pencil and scribbled down the phone number answer, then shrugged. "Dunno. I usually stay in the first night, give mom some 'quality time,' then tomorrow I'll start doing the rounds of the science institutes and whatnot." He looked up in time to see John's face fall just a bit. Rodney shrugged again. "There's always Dr. Who... And I have comics around here somewhere..."

John grinned, "I like Dr. Who," he said and got up off the bed. "That's alright though, you go ahead and spend time with your mom, do your sciencey things tomorrow and, now that you have my number, give me a call, we'll grab lunch."

"No, no," Rodney said quickly, "you can stay. Spending time with my mom just means I'm stuck in the house, bored. You can stay around."

"You sure?" John asked, holding his pack but not putting it on just yet. "It's cool with me either way, although, I have to say that an episode of Dr. Who is better than trekking around looking for a hostel. I don't mind putting that off for another couple of hours." He chuckled and let his pack drop to the floor.

"You're staying at a hostel when the whole trip is paid for by your dad?" Rodney gave him a funny look. Then his eyes widened, "wait, did you call me cute?"

John laughed and sat down on the bed again. "Yeah, I called you cute... About an hour ago, you just realize that?"

"I was busy with other things on my mind at the time," Rodney huffed.

John turned around and leaned back, lying his head on the pillow and folding his arms behind his head. "I don't want to stay in some posh hotel up in the penthouse suite. I want to experience this trip the right way. I want to trudge through the trenches and get dirty with everyone else. Besides, my house is practically a hotel, I don't want to have someone to make my bed and cook me breakfast."

Rodney stared at John for a minute, then sat back against the wall at the head of the bed. "I think it'd be pretty nice to have people doing that kind of stuff for me. It would give me more time for physics."

"Yeah, it does give me more time for other stuff, but sometimes, I just want to come home to a rumpled bed," he chuckled. "Tell you what, one of these days, I'll make your bed and cook you breakfast so you can work a complex math problem."

Rodney quirked his lips in a little smile, "good, you can be the house boy and then I'll never have to stop working. That'd be great."

John smiled and chuckled. "House boys are a lot of good I hear, and for much more than cooking and cleaning," he said and waggled his brows. "So, we gonna go tell mom what we want, or just let her choose? And what about the video? Up here, down stairs? What?"

Rodney boggled at John for a moment, then shook his head, as if clearing it. "Uh, downstairs. And yeah, we should tell mom what we want."

John smiled a little awkwardly and shrugged, then he got off the bed, got his pack and followed Rodney downstairs. They found ex Mrs. McKay in the kitchen. "Mum," Rodney said, "John and I would like you to order Chinese if you don't mind."

She smiled. "Of course not," she said and got the pen and paper off the counter and took down their orders.

"Mum, make sure you remember to stress no citrus in any of the meals." Rodney reminded her.

"Of course, Rodney, I wouldn't want to kill my first born now would I?"

Rodney rolled his eyes and led John into the living room. "I have the entire series, the tapes are right there," he indicated a shelf on the far wall, "pick an episode."

The next day, Rodney was busy grilling a physicist at a symposium when a boy with wild hair and glasses butted into the conversation. He had an accent that Rodney couldn't quite place, but he knew what he was talking about and the two boys unconsciously started dismantling and changing the physicist's theory. By the time the man threw up his arms and walked away, the boys were nearly finishing each other's sentences. Rodney turned and looked at the other boy. "Wow, I meet two people in two days who aren't morons!" he laughed, then turned to another display.

"Ano, is rare." the other boy agreed. He looked over the work displayed with a critical eye. "This one seems not half bad."

Rodney nodded absently, still redoing the guy's math, just in case. "Yeah, looks interesting."

"Radek Zelenka," Radek introduced himself, turning and holding out his hand to Rodney.

Rodney stared for half a second, then shook his hand, "Rodney McKay." Pleasantries out of the way, they turned back to the displays, verbally abusing most of them and slowly working themselves into frothing tithers over some of the more idiotic ideas.

"How some people get doctorates, I will never know," Radek shook his head as they left the symposium behind. He looked at Rodney again. "It was good to meet you."

"Wait," Rodney stopped him. "I'm supposed to be meeting the other guy I met who's not an idiot for lunch." He shrugged, "hungry?"

Radek seemed to consider it for a moment then he nodded. "Ano, I am hungry, but I am supposed to meet my friend. Perhaps we can get him and the four of us can have lunch together?"

Rodney nodded, "sure, John's probably not quite there yet," he said and looked at his watch. "We've got time to get your friend."

Radek's friend turned out to be a young Scot, even younger than Rodney. Rodney looked at Radek and smirked. "You babysitting him?"

Radek shook his head. "He may be young, but he is very smart. We go to the same school, he has hopes of being a doctor someday, and I believe he will make it."

Rodney shrugged, "Alright, let's go have lunch."

John was sitting at one of the outdoor tables and looking unbelievably bored when they walked up. "Hey, John," Rodney called and John looked up at him, smiled and waved.

"Hey Rodney," John said. He nodded at the other two boys. "Hey," he greeted.

Radek looked at Rodney, "this boy is not an idiot? He looks a bit like a bum."

Rodney laughed, "that's what I thought too, but he's got a brain, a pretty good one."

"He sounds American," Carson said.

"Through no fault of his own. Americans can be smart too," Rodney defended as they walked over to John's table. Rodney did the introductions, "John Sheppard, Radek Zelenka and Carson Beckett, Radek, Carson, John Sheppard."

"Good to meet you," John said and shook both boys hands. Rodney couldn't help but notice that all the young girls that passed them by were staring at John, but John himself didn't seem to notice at all.

Carson gave John a quick once over as they sat down. He leaned into Radek and said quietly, "he's cute." Radek chuckled and had to nod. They placed their order and while they waited, Rodney told John all about the symposium.

John laughed, "so you and Radek tore the guy apart, and it was his project? That's priceless, I should have been there to see that."

Rodney nodded, "I think you would have liked it... At least some of it, there were plenty of math problems to solve. There was even a workshop on making your own math problems to fit the project you're working on. I didn't even waste my time with that. What about you? What'd you do all day?"

John shrugged, "nothing much. I saw some sights, walked around town and took in a museum. There was a community flea market thing, I bought some tee shirts and a book for my mother. Check this out," he bent over and dug in his backpack for a second and then stood up and pulled his shirt over his head. That shirt was replaced with a black concert tee. He turned around and showed them the list of dates on the back then turned back around. "It's Freddie Mercury," he said happily.

Radek laughed, "at least he has good taste."

Rodney watched the girls watching John. "Did you have to do that HERE? In front of everyone?" he glared at a few of the girls, who didn't even notice him.

"Why not?" John asked and sat back down. "It's not like I'm a girl." He looked at Radek, "you like Queen too? They're awesome. I almost went to their concert once, but my dad was convinced that I'd end up drunk and stoned, so he didn't let me go. I went to a friend's house instead and still ended up drunk and stoned, so all I missed was the rockin' music."

The food arrived then, and Rodney made John check his for citrus. "I'm deathly allergic to citrus," he informed the other two. He turned back to John. "I can't say I dislike Queen. At least they have more variety than most groups. And they can harmonize and really sing, which is great."

Rodney looked back at Radek and Carson and changed the subject again. "When do your parents want you home?"

"Curfew is 7:30 tonight," Radek replied. "We are both at boarding school here."

John took Rodney's fork and took a taste of everything on his plate. "It's clean," he announced then looked at the other two boys. "Boarding school huh? That's rough. Radek, you sound Czech, how the hell'd you get out?"

Rodney shot John a surprised look, and Radek looked a little pleased that John recognized the meaning. "Money and high standing. I have been out for year now. I do not know when I will be able to return."

"Boarding school isn't all that bad," Carson shrugged. "There's more opportunities here than in Scotland, and this school doesn't mind letting us take advanced classes."

"How did you know where he was from?" Rodney asked.

John chuckled, "you hear a lot of accents and a lot of stories when your parents have the heads of all their companies worldwide over for dinner."

"What do your parents do?" Radek asked.

"I'd rather not say," John replied.

Rodney raised his brows, John had said that yesterday. "So, you're either embarrassed of what they do, or you don't want anyone to know just how much money you have," Rodney said.

John shrugged, "I'd just rather not say."

Radek and Rodney shared an eyebrow raise and silent communication. They'd be trying to look the Sheppards up later.

-Area 51, Winter 2003-

Carson wandered through the halls of Area 51 with a stack of files in his arms. He stopped short when he heard a familiar voice from his past. He turned on his heels and followed the echoing voice to a large lab. His face lit up at the recognition of the wild hair and the accent. He grinned and sat the files on a desk. "Radek!" he called happily as he hurried over. "It's been ages, how've you been?" He grabbed Radek and pulled him into a tight hug.

Radek turned when he heard his name, stopping his conversation midsentence. His face split into a huge grin and he hugged Carson back tightly. "What are you doing here, Carson? What am I saying, all genius scientists seem to end up here!" He pulled back and gripped Carson's shoulders, holding him at arm's length. "Let me get a good look at you, my friend."

Carson smiled and looked at his friend. "It's so good to see you, Radek. I've been thinking about you lately. You know, even top secret people can hardly find top secret people," he chuckled. "You look good, Radek."

"You look good as well." Radek smiled broadly and finally let Carson go. He looked at Miko and gestured to the laptop they'd been working with. "You may continue, I will be back soon." He smiled at Carson, "let's go get some lunch and catch up, yes?"

Carson nodded. "Absolutely, I just need to drop these files off in my office. Come on," he said and went back to get the files. "I'm supposed to choose my medical team in case the expedition gets a go," Carson said as they walked toward his office. "So far it's difficult; everyone in these files are excellently qualified." He sighed and walked into his office and dropped the files on the desk beside another, shorter stack.

"So, you have been chosen to be the physician for the Atlantis expedition?" Radek asked.

Carson gaped at his friend, "Of course you've been chosen too. Like you said, all the geniuses worth their fiber have been chosen," he chuckled as they walked back out of the office.

Radek grinned, glad they would be going together. "When I signed on for this, I knew it would maybe be one way. I kept thinking of you and John. And Rodney." Radek's face turned sad. "I will tell you, I miss Rodney."

Carson nodded and put a hand on Radek's shoulder. "So do I. Have you seen John lately?"

Radek shook his head, "no, sadly I have not. As you have said, it is difficult to find those of us that have top secret jobs."

Carson nodded. "I got a letter from him the other day. I called him. He sounds good, although a little depressed."

"Depressed? Did he say why?" Radek asked as they entered the break room on their level. The last time Radek had seen John, he'd been excited to get back up into the sky. Leave always made him itchy because he couldn't fly.

Carson nodded. "He's recently gone through some sort of trial. It seems one of his fellow soldiers was left behind and he was punished for going back for him. He's getting bad assignments now," Carson explained.

Radek nodded. "He will be fine. If we do find Atlantis, and can get there, it would be nice if all of us could go. John does not have the proper clearance level to know about it though. We should try to see him before we go... if we go."

Carson nodded, "that would be nice. I'm sure we'll get the chance. SG-1 has been looking for Atlantis for a couple years now, who knows if we'll even get there. We'll see him again. He's been on my mind lately, like you have." He chuckled, "I've been thinking of you, and now here we are having lunch."

Radek chuckled and raised his eyebrow. "And just what have you been thinking of me?" he smiled as they went through the lunch line. They found a table on the outskirts of the room and sat down.

"Have you gone off world?" Carson asked as they ate.

Radek shook his head. "Ne, have been here mostly. With Samantha Carter at the SGC, there has been little need for me there," he smiled ruefully. "You?"

Carson shook his head, "no, if we go to Atlantis, it will be my first time through the gate. The whole idea of it gives me the creeps. I've been working on the genetics of the Ancients and how they relate to humans for quite a while. There is a specific gene that allows humans to operate Ancient technology. It's fairly rare, and lately I've been doing a lot of testing of SGC personnel to find those that have it." Carson shrugged, "I have it, and apparently it's strong. Makes me nervous."

Radek reached over and patted his hand. "Think of it this way, Carson. You have this gene; it will allow you to better operate Ancient medical technology, which will save lives." Radek remembered getting tested for the gene. He'd gotten a brief letter stating that he did not carry it, much to his disappointment. He suddenly wondered if Carson had performed the test.

Carson nodded, "aye, that's true, I suppose. I'm also working on a gene therapy that may give those who don't have it naturally the ATA gene."

Radek raised his eyebrows and smiled. Even after all these years, it was still like Carson could read his mind. "Best of luck, Carson. I'm sure you'll figure it out."

-Florida, spring break, 1985-

"I still can't believe you abducted me from my lab to drag me down HERE!" Rodney snipped at John as they pulled their bags through the Miami airport. "It's far too sunny and hot. Look at my complexion. I'll burn immediately."

John rolled his eyes, a small smile on his face. "Come on, Rodney, it's spring break. Carson and Radek are meeting us."

Rodney sighed, giving in, it wasn't like he could turn around and go back home after all. "Fine, but since you, in all your high school wisdom, failed to tell me where we were going, we have to stop and buy sunscreen. I need a large SPF. You'll be lucky if I don't burn on the way to the taxi."

John rolled his eyes. "Are you ever going to stop taking pleasure in teasing me about still being in high school while you, Radek and Carson are already in college? Don't you worry," he said as they climbed into the back of the taxi and John told the driver where to go. "This is the last year that I'm under dad's thumb, then I'll get caught up quickly, you'll see."

The ride to their hotel wasn't terribly long, but Rodney kept making John switch places with him every time the car turned and the sun came through the window closest to Rodney. John paid the driver, then he and Rodney walked into the hotel.

"What happened to not wanting to stay in some posh hotel?" Rodney asked.

"That was back when I was backpacking, I wanted to experience it. This, "he held his arms out and spun around, "this is spring break Rodney. We need privacy. A posh hotel is perfect in this situation." Rodney rolled his eyes as John checked them in and got the key.

Rodney huffed and grumbled all the way up the elevator and down the hall to their room. As soon as they were inside with the door shut, Rodney sniffed and moaned. "Great, just perfect. You had to get a room next to a stoner!"

John laughed and knocked on the door that joined their room to the next one. "Relax, Rodney. Carson and Radek got the adjoining room."

Rodney's jaw dropped when the door opened and Radek was standing there in Bermuda shorts, no shirt and a joint pinched between a feather clip.

"Hey, Rodney," Radek greeted and called into his room and told Carson that John and Rodney had arrived.

Rodney's jaw dropped again when John went over to Radek and took the joint, taking a deep drag and grinning at Rodney and held the joint out toward him with raised brows. Rodney shook his head, "no thank you," he said sternly.

Carson came out of the steaming bathroom in a pair of shorts and an unbuttoned shirt. He grinned when he saw John and Rodney and came over to hug them both. "The flight went okay then," Carson laughed as he took the joint from John. "We were wondering if one of you would come out maimed."

As Carson took a drag from the joint, Rodney's jaw about hit the floor. "Carson!" he squawked, "you want to be a doctor! That stuff will kill all your brain cells! No wonder medicine is such voodoo if that's what all you med students do in your off hours."

Carson laughed, coughing out his lungful of smoke. John and Radek both made sounds of complaint. "Dude!" John chided, "that's sacred stuff, do you think Radek had a pot plant growing in the basement of the hotel?"

Radek laughed. "No, John, I left that in the dorm, under the watchful eye of my botany major roommate. No worries, I threatened him with much bodily harm if the plants are not in perfect health when I return."

Rodney huffed again and dropped his bag on the bed. "I can't believe you guys, John... You're excusable since you're still in high school, but Radek, Carson, you're both intelligent, young, ambitious college students."

John rolled his eyes at the second mention of his grade in less than an hour. "You're killing me, Rodney."

"No, THAT'S killing you!" Rodney pointed at the joint like it was a spider. "I don't believe this, I'm kidnapped from my lab, forced to pack a bag and go to Florida, America's phallic state, and now I have to put up with this for a week." He kept muttering to himself as he turned back to his bag.

Carson and Radek exchanged a look, and Radek gave the joint to John before Radek and Carson tackled Rodney on the bed. Rodney squawked indignantly, and Radek laughed. "We never get to see you, Rodney! Soon we will all be too busy for things such as this. We should enjoy it while we have it."

John took the joint gladly and inhaled deeply, watching his two friends tackle the complaints right out of Rodney. "Come on, Rodney. You know it wasn't that hard for me to get you out of that lab. You were ready for this and you know it." He snuffed the roach and flopped on the bed with the other three boys.

"I was ready for something, "Rodney agreed under the pile of boys, "but not this."

John scrubbed a hand over his face, which was already starting to feel a little pleasantly funny, and the world was a little more detached. "This is some great stuff, Radek," he turned and wormed his way under Carson so he could see Rodney. "What were you ready for then?"

Rodney stared at him from inches away and blushed. He pushed and shoved Radek and Carson off of him, then looked at John again. "Something else," he muttered.

It was John's turn to raise an eyebrow when he saw the way Rodney was looking at him.

"Of course it's great," Radek said proudly. "I take great care to cultivate my plants in the manner most fitting to their... inhibition properties. I start with the purest of seeds and..."

"Radek," Carson interrupted him. "They aren't listening, they've moved on." He nodded toward their friends from the mini pile he and Radek had become.

Radek looked over and smiled, shaking his head lightly. "This promises to be a fantastic week," he said softly.

John smiled and furrowed his brow. "What kind of something else?" he asked.

Rodney sighed and looked away for a moment. "The kind of something else that has the two of us naked and sweaty," he admitted when he looked back.

John pulled back just a bit, a huge grin splitting his face in two. "Really?" he asked with raised brows. "Radek, Carson, Rodney and I are going to need some privacy," he stated.

"Why?" Carson asked.

"Yes, Carson and I plan on being naked also," Radek told them with a smirk.

"Yep," Carson agreed. "So maybe we should all get naked and sweaty together," he suggested.

"I'm not sure I've heard a better plan in all my life," John said and dove in to kiss Rodney deeply, running a hand over his chest as he did.

"Wait," Rodney said and gently pushed John away. "That is a great plan, the best in fact. But being hypoglycemic and having not eaten since breakfast, I have to eat first."

"Room service it is then," Carson said as he wiggled out from under Radek. He grabbed the menu and tossed it to Radek who dropped it on Rodney's chest.

"Now all we need is alcohol," Radek sighed. "Too bad none of us are old enough to purchase it."

"OH!" John said and jumped off the bed, "that reminds me." he grabbed his bag and riffled through the front pocket. A moment later, he dropped four rectangular shaped cards on the bed. "They're legit," he said. "Well, except for the fact that they're fake."

Radek picked up the cards and looked at them. "You made us false ID cards?" he asked with a smile.

"Yep," John said proudly. "I know a guy who works for the bureau of motor vehicles, he made them for me. Sorry, Rodney, but since you refuse to let me take a good picture of you, yours kind of sucks, but it's still you. I say we go clubbin' tonight."

Carson took his ID from Radek and smiled. "I second that motion."

"Excellent," John said and picked up the phone. "Now let's get this eating thing out of the way." he dialed room service, took everyone's order and told the guy on the phone what to bring. "Remember, if you want a good tip, no citrus. I will personally inspect and taste everything on the tray, if I taste even a hint of citrus, you've kissed the tip and your good review good bye." He smiled at his friends. "Twenty minutes," he said.

The food came twenty minutes later, as promised, and John was true to his word and tasted everything on the tray. "Good man," John said and handed the guy a tip.

Lunch went by fairly quietly; Rodney's food noises that would annoy the hell out of anyone who didn't know him were the only things that broke the silence. "Radek, why don't you roll up another one, we'll smoke it, go get some booze and come back and start the naked and sweaty evening," John suggested after they ate. To Rodney's sounds of protest, Radek got his cigar box and rolled up a thick joint.

The joint went around, skipping over Rodney each time, but he still sat in their tight circle on the bed. "Alright," John said once the roach had been snuffed. "Let's find the nearest liquor store."

A few hours later, thee of the four boys were stoned and on their way to being drunk, and Rodney was drunk. "Okay," Rodney said and got off the bed. "Let's do this." He pulled his tee shirt over his head and pushed his pants and underwear down and stepped out of them. Radek grabbed his cigar box when he realized Rodney was going to flop, and he barely had it off the bed and cradled in his arms before Rodney was sprawled out between the three of them. He put the box on the nightstand and followed Rodney's lead. All for boys were naked soon after, and John and Rodney were locked together, joined apparently at the mouth.

Carson watched them for a minute, then grinned at Radek. They turned and focused on John and Rodney. Radek slid his hand up John's thigh and kissed Carson deeply.

John moaned at the feel of a warm hand on his leg. Rodney pushed John onto his back, reached over him as he continued the kiss, and wrapped his hand around Carson's erection. Carson was in the process of stroking Radek's cock and his hips bucked when Rodney took hold of him.

Radek groaned against Carson's mouth and continued to work his hand over John's thigh. He slid his hand up until his fingers could play with John's balls and cock. John grunted, finally breaking his lip lock with Rodney so he could see who was fisting his dick. He groaned when he got a good look at the others, all tangled and touching everywhere. "God, that's hot," he moaned and humped up into Radek's hand. He grabbed for Rodney and pulled him up, even as he wriggled further down the bed. When Rodney's dick was in front of him, he sucked him into his mouth.

Rodney groaned as his dick was surrounded by the wet heat of John's mouth. "Damn, John," Rodney said. One hand went to John's head and his fingers laced through his hair. The other hand moved off of Carson's dick and slid up and around to Radek's ass. He slid his finger along the length of the crack in Radek's ass. The fingers his other hand began massaging John's scalp.

John moaned over Rodney's dick, running his hand up Rodney's chest, tweaking a nipple. Rodney nearly bucked off the bed. He shoved his chest up against John's fingers, wanting more.

Radek groaned and pressed his ass back, wanting Rodney's fingers inside him. Radek kissed Carson again, their tongues sliding together.

John lost suction for a moment as he grinned over Rodney's cock. Rodney felt John's mouth widen. "Yes, my nipples are very sensitive," Rodney groaned and jerked again as John both pinched his nipple and began sucking his cock again. "Oh, John, that's good," he moaned.

Radek broke the kiss with Carson and moved around to the back of Rodney. He got back on the bed, spread Rodney's cheeks and began licking at the tight hole. Rodney grunted and thrust forward into John's mouth, but John didn't seem to mind. A moment later, he felt John jerk and he looked down to see Carson with his mouth around John's dick. He moaned and nearly came at the sight. "Damn," he panted. "Yeah, Carson, suck him, fuck that's hot."

John groaned around Rodney's cock as Carson went down on him. He felt Rodney's dick swell and knew he was close. He sucked harder, swirling his tongue around the head. Reaching down, he squeezed Carson's head and tried to tell him to stop and focus on Rodney's nipples. John wanted to fuck Rodney and come in his ass. There would be plenty of time for blowjobs later.

Carson pulled off of John and moved up the bed. He looked at Rodney's red swollen nipple and decided to make the other one match. He leaned in and sucked the nub into his mouth and sucked, flicking the sensitive flesh with his tongue.

John moaned at the loss of the warmth around his cock, but knew it'd be worth it when he sank his cock deep into Rodney's ass. Rodney was writhing and moaning constantly when Radek stopped licking his ass. He moved around the bed again and pulled open the nightstand drawer and pulled out the tub of Vaseline he'd put there earlier. He scooped some out and slathered it on John's fingers, then put some on his own. He heard John's moan of thanks and watched John's hand moved around Rodney's hip.

Radek moved his own fingers to Carson's ass. "I want to fuck you, Carson," he said and pressed one finger inside. Carson moaned and sucked harder on Rodney's nipple, grazing it with his teeth.

John's finger slid into Rodney's ass, and that combined with the teeth on his nipple made Rodney come undone. He grunted and thrust forward into John's mouth as he came hard. John moaned and swallowed everything Rodney gave him, greedily lapping at the spent cock once it was finished.

Rodney sighed and relaxed, though he pressed his ass back onto John's fingers. He wanted John to fuck him. He felt floaty and happy from his orgasm and he was very relaxed.

Carson released Rodney's nipple with a groan and let his head hang down between his arms as he felt Radek's fingers inside him. "Yes, Radek, please," he moaned. Radek added and second and third finger fairly quickly, stretching Carson even as he searched for his prostate.

Rodney watched them with eyes still dark with arousal. "That is so hot!"

John moved around behind Rodney for a better angle, and a better view of the other two. He pressed in a second finger and found Rodney's prostate. He pressed and moved his finger across it.

Rodney jumped and grunted when pleasure sparked inside him. It traveled from his ass up his spine and exploded behind his eyes. "Fuck, John."

Radek twisted his fingers, loosening the muscle. He found Carson's prostate at the same time John found Rodney's and Carson moaned Radek's name. Carson leaned forward and captured Rodney's mouth in a wet kiss. He could hear John's surprised moan at the scene. "I'm ready, Radek," Carson groaned when he pulled away from Rodney and got his knees up under him. He turned so that his head was facing the head board, ass still in the air. "Fuck me, Radek, I'm Ready."

Radek scrambled to slather some Vaseline on his cock, then he lined up and pressed in steadily until his balls were pressed to Carson's ass. "So tight," Radek hissed, pausing until Carson started rocking under him, impatient for Radek to move.

John moaned and felt his dick get even harder as he watched Radek fuck Carson. He pushed a third finger into Rodney and twisted, bumping over his prostate again. Rodney jerked and moaned, his cock starting to fill again.

Carson moaned as Radek slowly fucked him. "Feels so good," he panted. Rodney was nervous, but he wanted it, wanted it so bad. He bucked as John's finger attacked his prostate again and again.

John watched as Radek's dick disappeared into Carson and then reappeared only to slide back inside again. It was hard to draw his eyes away, but he managed. "Wanna fuck you, Rodney. Want to come inside you."

"Yes, John, please..." Rodney begged.

Radek slowly increased his pace and began fucking Carson faster. He slid one hand around Carson's body and took hold of his cock. He stroked it firmly to match the pace of his hips. Carson moaned and came, spilling all over the bed spread and Radek's fist.

John slicked up his cock and got behind Rodney. "I'll go slow," he promised as he pressed inside. The tight heat made him want to shove in fast, but he resisted, taking a deep breath and pausing after the head of his cock slipped inside. "God, Rodney," he grunted.

Radek groaned and continued thrusting as Carson's ass clenched tight around his dick. Rodney moaned as he watched Carson come, then John's dick was entering him, accepting the gift of his freely given virginity. He hissed and bit his lip as pain bloomed at the penetration site.

"Loosen up, Rodney," Carson said softly, running a soothing hand over Rodney's chest, lightly playing with a nipple.

Rodney took the advice and slowly loosened his muscles and released his lip. "I get the impression you two have done this before," he said grunting as John slid in a bit further.

Radek chuckled. "Well, we did practically grow up together in London boarding school."

John moaned, "why is the image of you two young and fucking in the dark so hot?" he asked as he sank a little deeper into Rodney.

Radek grunted and thrust into Carson again. "Because it is," he answered. He gripped Carson's hips a little tighter and mouthed at the back of his neck as he came hard inside Carson.

Rodney focused on relaxing, and soon he felt John slide all the way inside. Rodney let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and groaned. "John... Feel full."

John ran a hand down Rodney's back softly. "Because you are, Rodney, but it's good." He groaned, "fuck, Rodney, so tight." He slowly began moving his hips, forward and back.

Radek relaxed and collapsed onto Carson's back. "So good," he said as he ran his fingers down Carson's sides. Carson hummed contentedly and turned them so Radek was in front of him. Carson curled around Radek and stroked his chest as they watched John and Rodney.

Rodney fisted the sheets as John moved. He was moaning as John's cock slid in and out of him, and his hands fisted and relaxed convulsively. He opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed as a hand touched his. Radek had reached over and taken his hand, lacing their fingers together. John changed his angle a bit and Rodney let out a startled moan as John brushed past his prostate again.

Rodney sighed and stared at Radek, happy that he and John weren't alone. If they had been, as much as Rodney wanted this, he may have told John to stop before he could get to the enjoyment part.

Carson smiled and whispered something into Radek's ear before moving closer to Rodney. He slid down the bed to Rodney's half hard cock. He stroked it until it was fully hard and then licked a line up the shaft from base to head.

Radek smiled at Rodney and moved his mouth to Rodney's nipple, licking tight circles around the flesh. "Oh fuck," Rodney gasped. He didn't know which way to move. John was in his ass, John's lips planting soft kisses to Rodney's shoulder, and Carson was sucking his dick while Radek sucked his nipples. His vision blurred with how quickly his orgasm was being pulled to the surface. He panted and grunted, trying to keep himself from hyperventilating. He pushed forward into Carson's mouth and then back onto John's cock, all the while trying to thrust his chest toward Radek's mouth. He had a feeling he looked a bit like a flopping fish, but he didn't care... couldn't care. All he could focus on were the sensations wracking his body; he was in complete sensation overload. He howled loudly and came hard into Carson's mouth and squeezed John's dick tightly.

John grunted and thrust forward a few more times, fighting his way through the ring of muscle that was holding him so tightly. A moment later, he groaned long and low as he came, filling Rodney completely. He sighed and relaxed against Rodney's back, not pulling out. "You're so fucking hot, Rodney," he panted as he peppered kisses over Rodney's shoulders and the back of his neck.

Radek moved up and kissed Rodney deeply. "Ano, and so very responsive," he whispered, kissing Rodney's neck. Carson finished licking Rodney clean and kissed his hip, content to stay where he was with his head pillowed on Rodney's thigh.

Slowly, Rodney got his breath back and snuggled back against John. He was still full of John's cock, though the pressure had dissipated once John softened. He didn't want John to ever pull out. He had a feeling he'd feel empty and vulnerable as soon as he did.

Eventually, John had to move, but as he pulled away, Carson, Radek and John all snuggled closer to Rodney, putting him at the center of their tangle of arms and legs. "So good," John whispered, gently turning Rodney's head so he could kiss him. John kissed Rodney deeply, cupping the side of his face and gently rubbing Rodney's cheek with his thumb.

Rodney adored the attention. In his life, he'd been shipped from pillar to post, from mom to dad and occasionally uncles and aunts. Whoever was available to take him when either parent was too busy. He'd never felt this safe, this wanted. Radek and Carson and John were all balled up around him, as if he, Rodney McKay, was the center of their universe. Rodney sighed happily and relaxed, letting himself drift in the euphoria of their foursome and the remnants of the alcohol. "So happy," he whispered. "Happy I came, happy you're all here, happy we're together. Someday we'll be together all the time."

-Antarctica, spring 2004-

"Don't touch anything," General O'Neill said as he left John standing outside the elevator. John nodded, still getting over the fact that an alien missile had tried to take him out. He looked around curiously, watching everyone bustle about. As he moved a little deeper into the research station, he heard a voice that sounded wonderfully familiar. It couldn't be, he thought, but he followed the voice anyway, and turned a corner into a room with an ornate chair in the center. Something tugged him toward the chair, but standing next to the chair was a face John hadn't seen in years.

John walked up behind his friend, who was talking to a couple women. Something Carson said caught his attention. "So you're the one! You shot that thing at me." he kept his voice stern and deep and the women scurried off.

Carson's eyes went wide when he heard the deep voice behind him. His shoulders slouched and he turned around. His face split into a huge grin when he saw John. "John!" he shouted happily and hugged him tightly. Carson cleared his throat and pulled away, straightening his shirt. "You look good," he said.

John smiled and nodded. "Usually do, right?"

Carson rolled his eyes. "I don't know how these people will react to us knowing one another. I think it's probably best to play it safe."

"So, what is this thing?" John asked and blocked out a lot of what Carson was saying. He turned the chair, ignoring Carson's plea that he not sit. Carson had always been a bit paranoid anyway.

"Come on, what are the odds of me having this gene?" John asked as he sat down. The chair lit up and reclined, giving John a wide eyed view of the ceiling.

"Quite slim actually. Stay there!" Without another word, Carson rushed away.

"Carson, what the hell?" John called after him, but Carson had vanished.

John sat, and a few moments later, Carson came back in, followed by General O'Neill, a woman John didn't know, the man... Daniel?... that had met General O'Neill at the elevator, and... "Radek?" John blurted.

The General came up to stand over him. "I said don't touch anything."

"I... I just sat down," John tried to explain, but Radek butted in.

"John, try to envision an image of our solar system."

John gave Radek a funny look, but then sat back and thought. Above him, an image of the solar system appeared, spinning in blue light. John looked up at it in confusion. "Did I do that?"

"Aye," Carson said excitedly. He gestured John out of the chair.

"Who is this?" the woman asked.

General O'Neill turned to look at her. "The pilot that flew me here. Major John Sheppard, Dr. Elizabeth Weir."

John nodded at her. Radek touched her arm and pulled her aside. The two spoke quietly for a moment, then Dr. Weir nodded and turned to leave. O'Neill and the other man followed, leaving Carson, Radek, and John alone. "Come," Radek said with a smile. He put his hand on John's shoulder and squeezed. "There is much to show you."

Over dinner, Carson and Radek filled John in on the Stargate program and the Atlantis expedition. "We got conformation," Radek said quietly. "As long as the city is still habitable, we can go there. We know the address."

John looked at his two best friends in the world and his heart sank as he understood. "You said it was very probably a one way trip."

"Aye," Carson sighed. "That is the catch. But imagine everything we could learn! And John, you have a very strong manifestation of the gene. I won't know how strong until I get a sample analyzed, but..."

"Come with us," Radek finished for him.

"Come... through a big circle that's going to rip me apart and shoot me through the stars?" John asked skeptically. "That can't be good, maybe it causes some weird disease. What if when I'm put back together, a tiny molecule of someone else gets in there? My body would fight it and the next thing you know, it's a tumor."

Radek chuckled almost sadly. "You sound like Rodney," he told John.

"Well he'd say the same thing if he were here," John insisted.

"No, Rodney would have found this interesting, what would have given him a tumor is those art museums you like so well."

"Yeah, yeah. Art museums are cool, you get to look inside other people's minds."

"Radek's mind keeps him busy enough," Carson said. "Everyone else's mind will have to wait until he's done."

John laughed and there was no further mention of the Stargate during lunch.

O'Neill had given John a choice: the Stargate, or nothing. He weighed his choices with a coin, although the decision was an easy one. The Stargate and his two best friends in the world? Or no Stargate and be left behind. "Heads I go, tails I stay," he said to himself as he sat on the hill. He tossed the coin and looked at it. Tails. "I'm going," he said.

-London, 1983-

"Most universities have sent me offers, and I've gotten offers for MIT and Caltech, but I knew they'd both be drooling over me. I'm still making everyone wait for my final answer." Rodney said around a mouthful of fish and chips- no lemon. "What about you guys?"

Radek shrugged, "I've gotten quite a few as well."

"Possibly Harvard or Yale," Carson said. "Whichever university I go to has to have a prestigious medical program. I fully intend to be the best in my field."

"What about you, John?" Rodney asked mockingly. "Oh, right, you'll still be at Slackers High." It was a running joke between them now, and as much as John griped, he really didn't mind it.

"Yeah, well, just so you know... Mer, I'd be getting ready for college too if my damn parents weren't holding me back."

"Mer?" Radek and Carson asked in unison.

"Nothing," Rodney told them quickly. "Just a word he's picked up that he uses to bug me."

"It's his name, actually," John grinned. Rodney shot him a look that very obviously said, 'I will kill you as soon as I get a chance.'

"Your name is Mer?" Carson asked through a grin.

"Meredith," John replied.

"John, you said you wouldn't tell anybody," Rodney whined.

"I didn't tell anybody," John defended. "I told Carson and Radek, our two best friends. Besides, did you think you could tease me forever with no repercussions? Yeah, I'm still in high school, but I'm smart too. Between freshman and sophomore years, I've gone to school maybe three months, and I'm going to be a junior next year."

Rodney sighed and nodded. "You're right, you are smart, and I should stop teasing you."

Radek grinned. "But will you?"

"Probably not," Rodney said truthfully. The four of them laughed, and it was a great sound. No one would ever have known that they'd only met the year before.

"So," John asked. "You're all coming to the concert with me tonight, right? I can't be expected to go by myself. I know Rodney's up for it," he said and ruffled the top of Rodney's mullet.

"Hey!" Rodney protested and pushed John's hand away. "Watch the hair, I have a family history of early hair loss." He reached behind John and pulled the three inch tail he'd grown.

"Ow!" John shouted and punched Rodney in the arm.

Radek and Carson laughed. "Yeah, we'll be there," Carson told them.

"Yes well, I would have been happier to wait and see David Bowie later this week, but John insisted on Duran Duran." Rodney shrugged.

"You were too young and in wrong part of the world for glam rock," Radek accused.

Rodney shrugged, "Doesn't mean I didn't discover it and like it."

"We could always take in another concert, Rodney," John said. "It's not like we're leaving tomorrow. We have four months left."

Carson nodded and took a drink of his soda, he bit the straw and spoke around it. "I've never been the biggest fan of glam rock anyway. This punk rock stuff suits my tastes better."

John's face lit up, "oh yeah, Billy Idol is fuckin awesome. Too bad he's not coming to concert."

---

Rodney came out of his bedroom in tight blue jeans and a green tee shirt that said 'hungry like a wolf.' "See, I knew you liked Duran Duran," John said triumphantly.

"I never said I didn't like them, just that I'd rather see David Bowie. And you have no room to talk about my clothes. You aren't even fully dressed."

John looked down at his cut off tee shirt then back at Rodney. "This happens to be the latest fashion, Rodney. I don't see anything wrong with it."

Rodney sputtered and gestured wildly at him, "but... everyone will be... looking at you!"

John gave him a strange look, "no, they won't, Rodney."

Rodney was thinking about all the female attention John attracted and just sighed. "Never mind, Mr. Oblivious. Let's just go meet the others already."

"Oblivious? About what?" John asked as they left Rodney's mom's house.

Rodney shook his head as he climbed into the cab.

---

Radek and Carson were standing outside the concert hall when John and Rodney showed up. "Am I the only one who dressed like a normal human being?" He asked when he saw what the other two were wearing. Radek was wearing shorts that practically showed his ass cheeks and a shirt only slightly longer than John's, while Carson had on jeans with the knees ripped out, a white tee shirt, un tucked, and a leopard print vest. Rodney sighed, "this is an embarrassment."

"Look around, Rodney," Carson said as they made their way through the crowed. "You're the one that stands out."

Rodney grumped and yanked at Radek's shirt as they went inside. "Just because I'm the only sane one left in London, apparently..." he muttered to himself.

John chuckled and took off into the crowd with Radek, and Rodney and Carson stared around and tried to find a good place to be. It was standing room only, and loud, even though the concert hadn't started. Not long after they'd laid claim to a spot, John and Radek were back, goofy smiles on their faces. "Here, got us something," John grinned and held out a bottle.

"Ooh, good idea," Carson said and grabbed the bottle. He twisted off the cap and took a swig, hissing as the alcohol went down. He handed the bottle to Radek who took a drink and handed it to John. John took a long drink and handed it to Rodney.

"Good thing I'm not afraid of your germs," he said and drank. "Why are you two so happy all of a sudden?" he asked John and Radek. They just laughed as Carson shook his head.

Rodney stared at them for a moment; it felt like he was missing something, then shrugged it off as them being stupid. He took another drink and handed the bottle back to John. "Never mind, I probably don't want to know."

John laughed and turned as the band was announced. The concert went well; no one died, although three people tried to rush the stage and were dragged out by burley guards. The four of them got a taxi together for the ride home. Radek and Carson still had a day pass out of school and Rodney'd talked his mom into letting them sleep over with him and John.

"The guards carrying out those people was the highlight of the night." John stated drunkenly.

"Yeah, they're much better on record than in person. Next time, let's go see Madonna," Carson suggested.

"There's more action at a Madonna concert anyway," Radek added.

"Or maybe Queen will be touring again," Rodney replied. The cab pulled up in front of Rodney's house and John paid him. They piled out of the car and tried not to act too drunk as they walked up the steps and Rodney unlocked the door. His mother was probably asleep by then, but Rodney didn't want to take any chances.

They got up to Rodney's room without incident, and Radek collapsed on the bed and pulled Carson down with him. He curled around the younger boy and sighed contentedly. "Are you joining us? It's a big bed." Radek asked John and Rodney.

"Yup," John said and got on the bed.

Rodney thought about it for a minute, then joined John. He thought that Radek and Carson looked pretty comfortable all snuggled together. He tossed the thought away and rested his head on the pillow. Radek and Carson were perfectly content, but John and Rodney tossed and turned and readjusted themselves until they found a comfortable position, which happened to be a spoon position with Rodney's head laying on John's bicep. Rodney sighed, he was a little shocked at how comfortable he was in this position.

John managed to get a blanket over everyone and they talked for a long time. No subject had ever been sacred for them. During a lull in the conversation, Rodney found himself leaning back into John a little more, his back plastered to John's front. John smelled good.

John lightly nuzzled his nose in the long hair covering Rodney's neck. In their fidgeting, the back of Rodney's shirt had rucked up a bit, and the skin of John's stomach was pressed against the skin of Rodney's back. In the silence, Rodney heard his friends' breathing even out one at a time until he was the only one awake. He didn't know if it was on purpose or unintentional, but John's hand rested on his hip, his thumb lightly rubbing. Rodney sighed and leaned back against John again and felt himself begin to drift.

-Atlantis, July 2004-

Radek looked up when John came into the labs. "Escaping the party?" Radek asked with a smile.

John nodded. "Don't tell anyone," he replied, chuckling. "How are things going down here?"

"Oh," Radek let out a huff of air, "fairly well, all things considered. There is so much here to go through. Years and years worth." Radek sighed, "Rodney would have loved this place."

John nodded sadly. "Yeah," he said. "This is the first major event in our lives where we weren't all together. With everything that's happened, going to a new galaxy, meeting aliens... Almost dying, he's been on my mind."

"How are you finding being the new head of the military?" Radek asked.

John sighed and shook his head. "This isn't what I expected, and certainly not how I wanted to get the job. But it's only been a few hours and so far it's not too bad. Ask me again next week."

Radek chuckled and squeezed John's shoulder. "You will do fine, I am sure. As long as you keep yourself safe. I would never forgive you if you left us."

John chuckled and leaned into Radek. He sighed and leaned his head over to rest his cheek against Radek's hand. "I'll do my best," he said.

"I thought I'd find you two here," Carson said from the doorway. "You should be careful, John, I hear there's a big mouthed son of a bitch wandering around just looking for stuff to report people on."

"You are speaking of Kavanaugh, yes?" Radek asked. "I have already had the displeasure of meeting him. He is miserable man."

"What's he going to do?" John asked, not pulling away from Radek's hand. "Send General O'Neill an email and tell him he saw me leaning into another man's hand? I'll worry about that in the off chance we ever find a way back home."

"There is that," Carson chuckled. "Still, probably best to take this elsewhere. I still need to unpack my quarters, if you two care to join me."

John slumped and took a few steps away. "Radek, tell me you brought some of that good stuff... and seeds to grow more," he said. "Because I could really use a pick me up."

Carson patted John's shoulder as they left the lab. "Things will pick up my friend. We just have to hold out. It's rough right now because it's the beginning. The beginning is always hard."

"The beginning of our friendship wasn't," John said.

Carson chuckled, "Our friendship was special from the very beginning. Not to mention, we had Rodney bringing us together."

"I do have some. They were not very thorough checking everything," Radek grinned as they entered Carson's quarters.

Carson looked at him in surprise. "You smuggled some in?"

"Ano," Radek nodded. "It was surprisingly easy to place it inside some of the equipment. I will be back in a few minutes."

John smiled, "We can always depend on Radek," he said.

Carson laughed. "Remember the look on Rodney's face the first time we smoked in front of him?"

John laughed. "His lips almost fell off. But even though he didn't smoke it, he got one hell of a contact high."

Carson smiled. "That was a great week," Carson agreed.

Radek reappeared a few minutes later and took a small box out of his pocket. It didn't take him long to roll, and he handed it to John. "We should probably go out on the balcony."

John nodded and went over to the balcony door. He didn't see any handles. "How do you open the door?" John asked, and before the sentence was finished, the door slid open. John looked back at his friends. "Cool," he said with a half smile. "Not sure I'll ever get used to a building reading my thoughts."

"The Ancients were amazing creatures," Radek said.

"Hey, you guys have had time to get used to this, working with top secret stuff and aliens for years now. Me on the other hand, I was handed what was supposed to be a punishment assignment and sat in a magic chair and got spat across space into a city that floats on the ocean. I'm still orgasming over the puddle jumpers, gotta give me time to settle."

Radek laughed, "Hopefully you will have time, though this new enemy we've discovered makes me very nervous." Radek took the proffered joint from John and took a drag, then looked at Carson, "You are off now yes? Time to sleep?"

Carson chuckled and nodded, taking the joint. "Aye, but I'll not have much, I'm afraid." He still took a drag before handing it to John. "Just a bit to take the edge off for me. There is too much going on."

Radek nodded, "ano, same for me, unfortunately. We could be called at any moment."

John smiled- just a quick slant of his mouth- "more for me then."

It felt strange for them to be smoking without Rodney's running commentary about what it was doing to them, and the group was quiet for a while, lost in their thoughts. "Rodney would have loved this place," John said finally, a faraway look on his face.

"Loved it and hated it at the same time, you mean," Radek replied. "He would hate to see how close you came to being lost."

John grimaced. "Yeah, I guess that's true. I just... I miss him." He turned to the others. "You know, the last time I saw him, I didn't know it'd be the last time, you know? There's so many things I would have said."
Carson moved behind John and wrapped his arms around him in a soft embrace. "Aye, we know. There are many things we would have done differently."

Radek nodded and moved to stand between John and the railing. He wrapped him in a hug and rested his head on John's shoulder. "Yes, I think it is the same for all of us."

John took another drag from the joint and look out at the sea. He loved being sandwiched between his friends, but he didn't feel complete, and hadn't for awhile. "I miss him," he repeated.

-Scotland, 1987-

It was just a short flight from London to Glasgow, but with Carson jittering excitedly in the seat between them, it felt long. "Seriously," Rodney complained as they got off the plane, "it's not like you didn't see her last summer."

"I know that, Rodney, but she's never met any of you, and she's been nagging me for ages to let her meet my friends." Carson told him as they got their bags and walked out into the cool air. From a little ways away, a man leaning against a parked car whistled and waved at them.

"There's Dale," Carson grinned and waved back, then turned to his friends. "Best behavior, please," he reminded them.

John snorted, "I know how to act, Carson, don't worry. We're not going to get you into trouble or embarrass you in front of your big brother." He patted Carson's shoulder and the four of them walked to where Dale was waiting.

Dale looked a lot like Carson, though he was in his mid twenties by Rodney's estimation. He shook everyone's hand as Carson introduced them, then spoke to Carson in rapid fire Gaelic as the brothers loaded the bags into the boot. Radek and John shared a glance. They'd been warned that Carson's family habitually spoke Gaelic to one another, and Carson had assured them he'd translate anything they needed or wanted to know. Carson said something in reply to Dale, and the older Beckett nodded and looked at Carson's friends.

"Sorry, force of habit. Go on and get in, mum's been talking about your visit constantly. She's quite keen to meet you all."

"No problem," John replied to Dale and climbed into the car, sandwiching Rodney between Radek and himself. The drive to the Beckett home took about an hour and a half, the boys started out talking and poking at one another, but it soon fell quiet as they started watching the scenery pass.

"Is beautiful country, Carson," Radek said finally.

"Yeah, I live in California where everything's brown. I don't know what to do with this much green," John added.

Rodney chuckled, "It's kind of like being inside an ill-managed aquarium."

Carson turned around to face them. "I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not," Carson laughed.

They pulled onto a gravel road that turned out to be a really long driveway. There were sheep and goats on either side of the fenced road. John leaned in to Rodney and whispered, "no fear of a dry spell here."
Rodney turned toward him with an utterly horrified look on his face.

"There's mum," Carson said excitedly. When the car stopped, Carson jumped out of the car and flew into his mother's arms while the others got their bags out of the trunk. They walked over and Carson introduced them.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am. Carson talks about you all the time. It almost feels like you're my mom," John said politely and shook the woman's hand.

Rodney rolled his eyes as John pulled out the same old charm he'd used on his mother all those years ago.

Mrs. Beckett looked at Carson with an odd look and spoke something in Gaelic. Carson's eyes went wide for a second and he laughed and replied in kind then added in English, "mum, my friends don't speak our language."

She smiled, "That was the point lad," she said sweetly. "I must say, this wasn't exactly what I meant when I told you to keep your options open, but at least you have good taste and variety. American, Czech, and what sounds like Canadian."

The boys laughed and John patted Carson on the shoulder. "I love your mom, man."

"Sorry laddie, you're a bit young for my blood."

Everyone was finally bustled inside, and the first thing Mrs. Beckett did was make tea and sandwiches for them. "Carson barely eats enough so I imagine you three are the same way," she smiled.

Rodney turned to look at her, "Ah, just so you know I'm deathly-"

"Allergic to citrus, aye, Carson's informed me of that," she smiled.

Carson looked at Rodney, "I wouldn't have dreamed of bringing you here without letting mum know of all your allergies," he told him.

Rodney blushed, hoping Carson didn't tell her just how they found out about his allergy to latex.
"So, are you all planning to be doctors?" Mrs. Beckett asked as she sipped her tea.

"No ma'am," John said politely. "I'm undecided as of yet, but sick people make me nervous, and the only puking I can handle is when it's one of these guys."

"Nice," Rodney said, "ruin her appetite why don't you?" He knew John was remembering the time he'd been horribly hung over and John had held his hair while he vomited all over the parking lot of the bar they had just left.

"No worries boy," Mrs. Beckett said. "I've birthed a breech lamb and had a sandwich the next moment. Nothing turns my stomach; I've got five boys and a girl who may as well be. I've seen it all."

Radek chuckled, "ano, I do not doubt this for a moment." He thanked her for the tea and sat back a little. "Rodney and I are both interested in physics."

Rodney was busy trying to get the image of birthing a breeched lamb out of his head. It wasn't working.

"You alright, Rodney?" John asked.

"Fine," Rodney replied. "Just trying to stop thinking."

Radek chuckled. "Good luck with that."

Mrs. Beckett laughed. "It's good to finally meet Carson's friends. I assume the four of you would like to share a room, so I think the guest room will do better than Carson's room. It has a king bed, very nice." She grunted lightly as she got off the couch.

Carson blushed, and Rodney wondered what all he'd told her about them.

"Thank you, ma'am, that's very thoughtful," John said.

Mrs. Beckett walked past them, putting a hand on John's cheek. "Such manners, if I was thirty years younger..." She left the sentence hanging as she walked away.

Rodney rolled his eyes. "I can't even believe it," he said softly.

"What?" John asked confused.

The other three laughed. "Typical," Radek said.

Dinner in the Beckett house was an interesting affair for John and Rodney, who each didn't have much in the way of siblings. Radek seemed to fare a little easier with the controlled chaos as they sat around the large table with Mrs. Beckett, Carson, Dale, the eldest sons who were twins, and Carson's younger sister, who was sixteen. John, Radek and Rodney shared some details about their lives when asked, but mostly they just got washed in the mix of English and Gaelic that was flying around the table. Carson's younger sister kept staring at John, and whenever he'd look at her she'd blush and turn away quickly. Rodney caught that and rolled his eyes and huffed. John didn't get it.

Mrs. Beckett snapped something in Gaelic at the sister as she scooted her chair a little closer to John, then she looked at Carson. "Things go over his head, don't they?" she asked.

"Huh, that's the understatement of the century," Rodney huffed in annoyance.

John looked back and forth between them, wondering what the hell they were talking about.

Carson shook his head and leaned toward his sister. He spoke quietly to her, the Gaelic just a quiet rumble. Leona's eyes went wide and she blushed. She shot Rodney an apologetic look, but was too shy to say anything. She didn't look at John again for the rest of the meal.

"What did you say to her?" Rodney asked as he and Carson moved their bags up to the guest room.

Carson shrugged and smiled, "I told her that you and John were together, and that you really wouldn't appreciate her hitting on your gay boyfriend."

Rodney grinned, "nice," he said. "And not a total lie."

Carson nodded and dropped the bags at the foot of the bed. "Leona's a little... she has kind of a... she's strange."

Rodney laughed. "The look on her face when you said that was absolutely priceless."

John and Radek came into the room a moment later in the middle of a conversation. "I'm not saying anything, but it was weird," John was saying.

"What was weird?" Rodney asked.

John shrugged, "the way Carson's sister kept looking at me like I had a squished bug on my face."

Rodney rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Well you don't have to worry about that anymore, Carson told her you have a contagious skin disease."

"What!?"

Carson and Rodney laughed.

Radek chuckled and patted John's shoulder. "It's alright, John. We won't hold it against you."

They unpacked their clothes and got the room set up, then Carson settled on the bed and pulled Radek down. He buried his face in Radek's shoulder and groaned. "Mum thinks we're all together."

"Good," John replied. "Since it'll be impossible to get any ass with a skin disease." He laughed and moved over to Rodney, pulling him into his arms, he laid a wet sloppy kiss on him. "Looks like you guys are stuck with me," he said and flopped back on the bed, pulling Rodney with him. He kissed Rodney again then looked over at Carson and Radek. "Well, we kind of are... unofficially, anyway."

"Yeah, I know, but... it's different when it's your mum who says something about it." Carson grumbled, even as his hand slid over Radek's stomach and down to rest on his hip.

Radek chuckled and nuzzled Carson's hair. "We're willing to be as hands on or hands off as you wish us to be around your family."

Carson shrugged. "She's always known I'd lean more toward men than women. She said when I was a toddler I'd watch the older boys at the park and whine when the girls would want to play house with me. It's just weird."

John nodded. "At least she knows something. My parents think I'm still a virgin," he chuckled.

Rodney snorted, "your parents must be as oblivious as you are." He kissed John while he said it, taking any sting away. "My mum knows, but my dad would be pretty peeved."

Radek shrugged. "I have not spoken with my family about it. Is expensive to call them, so we do not waste time on such things."

"I'm not oblivious," John protested, his lips still pressed to Rodney's.

"Yes, and I am not genius from Czechoslovakia," Radek said lightly.

Rodney laughed and kissed John again. "It's okay, it's just one of your charms."

A moment later, there was a quick knock on the door just before it opened, admitting Mrs. Beckett. She smiled sweetly and sat a bundle on the dresser. "Some clean towels and bedding," she said. "There are also two extra robes, there's one in here already and, Carson, your old one is still in your room. Feel free to move about the house boys, when you're here you're family. John, I've spoken to Leona, she won't be pestering you anymore."

"Oh, it wasn't a bother, really. But so you know, I don't have a skin disease."

Mrs. Beckett looked utterly confused, "Oh... Alright," she said, obviously humoring John. "Is that an inside joke I'm not privy to?"

Carson and Rodney burst out laughing. "Whaaat??" John asked, utterly confused.

Carson laughingly said something in Gaelic, and Mrs. Beckett smiled.

"Don't you worry, dear," she said to John, "she won't be bothering you." She chuckled to herself as she left the room.

John shook his head, "Okay," he said, giving in to the fact that he'd missed something. He looked over at the pile of towels and sheets. "Apparently your mom expects us to get up to something in here if she's bringing us towels and clean sheets."

Radek chuckled, "he misses the obvious stuff and reads things into the innocent things. John, you amaze me." He leaned over and kissed John softly.

John huffed, but kissed him back, smiling. "Good to be amazing, I guess," he chuckled.

Rodney rolled his eyes, "yes, that's it, feed his ego." He reached over and tugged Radek and Carson, and they obligingly scooted closer until the four of them were in one large tangle with John and Radek in the middle.

Nothing much happened that first night; they kissed and fondled one another, but it was obvious that Carson's mom didn't think it was necessary to wait for an answer after she knocked. Rodney was the first to wake up the next morning, the smell of frying bacon rousing him from his dream. He looked over at John and smiled as he watched him sleep.

John woke up to see Rodney leaning up on one elbow, watching him. He grinned and rolled on top of him. "Morning, Rodney," he said and kissed him hard and deep.

Rodney smiled. "I could swear you didn't have that erection last night when Leona was ogling you," Rodney said quietly.

"If I had, it wouldn't have been because of her," John replied.

"What? You only have eyes for men?"

John leaned down and rested his forehead against Rodney's. "Something like that," he said and kissed Rodney again.

Rodney kissed him back and slid his thigh between John's legs, giving him pressure and something to rub against. Rodney slid his hands under John's shirt and gently ran his nails down John's back as they kept kissing.

John slowly moved his hips forward and back, rubbing his erection against Rodney's leg as they kissed. It didn't take long before he had to break the kiss, needing oxygen. He rested his head on the pillow beside Rodney's head and squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip, trying to keep quiet so he wouldn't wake Carson and Radek. He whimpered and shuddered as he came in his boxers.

"Now that's a beautiful sight to wake up to," Radek said softly.

John lifted his head and smiled at his friends. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

"Och I wouldn't say that," Carson whispered, smiling as he nuzzled Radek's neck.

Radek hummed happily in agreement and reached over to slide his hand over Rodney's hip and down a little. He felt the outline of Rodney's erection through the thin cloth and gently squeezed and stroked. "Should always wake us up," Radek smiled. "We are all in this unofficial relationship together," he chuckled softly.

Rodney gasped and sighed when Radek squeezed him. He glanced at the door. "There a lock on that thing?" he asked.

Carson shook his head, "no. But mum is terrible with estimation, she always cooks more than enough for the whole family even if we're not here, just in case we pop in. There are three more mouths to feed on top of it. It's quite possible that she'll still be cooking breakfast at dinner time."

Rodney grinned, "Good," he said and moved out from under John, but pulled him into a bigger pile.
"Wait," John said and got off the bed. "I have a load in my boxers and it's starting to get a bit uncomfortable." he pushed his boxers down and let them fall to the floor, he stepped out of them and got back on the bed naked. "Much better," he said as he retangled himself with the other three.

Radek chuckled and reached under the waistband of Rodney's boxers. He shoved them down a little, then leaned over close enough to wrap his mouth around Rodney's dick. Carson watched with dark eyes as Rodney grunted, trying to stay quiet. Carson smiled and moved so he could kiss Rodney deeply, swallowing any noises he might make.

Rodney groaned into Carson's mouth and fisted the hair on Radek's head. Carson wrapped his arm around Radek's hip and pushed his hand down into his boxers, taking his dick into his hand. John watched for a moment, his cock thinking about getting hard again. He carefully made his way over Radek and laid down in front of Carson. He pulled Carson's dick out through his fly hole and sucked him into his mouth. There was a chorus of muffled groans and grunts as the tangle of boys sucked and stroked each other off.

"That looks confusing."

Everyone's heads popped up quickly at the voice in the doorway and saw Carson's younger sister. Radek grabbed the blanket and it was a group effort to get them all, especially John, covered.

"Leona!" Carson scolded.

"Hey, mom wanted me to tell you that breakfast is almost ready. I thought John was with Rodney," she said.

Carson said something in heated Gaelic, and Leona said something back before turning and flouncing out of the room. Carson flopped back and covered his face with his hands. "That was... I knew this was a bad idea."

"What, bringing us here?" Rodney asked huffily.

"No," Carson groaned, "doing anything together in the week while we're here!"

"Okay, no more then, we understand," John said and got up. "Hopefully no one's in the shower, I should clean up before breakfast."

Rodney watched John as he picked up his dirty boxers and dropped them in the waste basket. "Easier than having them washed," John said, he grabbed the robe off the back of the door and left the room.

Carson sighed and scrubbed at his face. "Bugger," he whispered.

Rodney rubbed a hand over Carson's hair. "We do understand, Carson," he said and got up. He pulled on his clothes. "I call dibs on first shower after breakfast," he said.

They were all sitting around the table scooping food onto plates when John emerged with wet hair, his ridiculous tail slightly wavy while the rest stood up in spikes all over his head. Leona was sitting at the table sniffling with red puffy eyes. "Sorry to keep you all waiting," John said as he took his place between Rodney and Radek.

"No worries, Johnny," Mrs. Beckett replied and handed him a plate.

Rodney noticed John's miniscule cringe and chuckled. "He really doesn't like that name, Mrs. Beckett," he said.

"Oh, my apologies, John."

"It isn't a problem ma'am," John replied.

Rodney leaned over, "Seems Mrs. Beckett whipped Leona a good one," he whispered almost silently.

John shot a quick look at Leona out of the corner of his eye, but didn't give any other indication that he'd heard Rodney. He served food onto his own plate and soon everyone was eating.

Radek kept his leg pressed up against Carson's during breakfast. They all knew that Carson was still mortified that his sister had walked in on them.

After breakfast, Mrs. Beckett asked Carson and Radek to help her in the kitchen, and Rodney headed into the shower. John shared a quick look with Leona, then decided that he should help with the clean up as well and escaped into the kitchen as well.

When Rodney rejoined everyone else, they were sitting around the kitchen table having tea with Carson's mom. He took the cup John was handing him and sat down. He thought about the look on John's face when he'd left the bedroom earlier. He knew John blamed himself, thought he'd started it, and maybe he had, but that certainly wasn't a bad thing. He was drawn out of his thoughts by Mrs. Beckett's voice.

"I'd like to apologize for Leona's behavior. I specifically told her to knock on the door and tell you about breakfast," she said.

"No need for apologies ma'am," John said. "We're the ones who should apologize. It was very disrespectful to do that in your house."

"It will not happen again," Radek added.

"How long have the four of you been together?" Mrs. Beckett asked.

"Six years," Rodney answered without having to think about it.

"As friends," Carson added quickly. "We've known each other for six years. Well, Radek and I were in school together, so we knew each other a little longer, but... two years," he finally answered his mother's question, face heating up again.

As Mrs. Beckett raised her eyebrows at her son, Rodney realized what he'd said. There was a significant age difference between John and Carson. Six years ago, Carson was twelve. "Ah, I-I'm sorry, Mrs. Beckett, Carson's right. We've been together as friends and have known each other for six years."

Mrs. Beckett chuckled. "Don't worry, Rodney, it's perfectly fine. I understand what was meant. Though I do think it's a little... progressive... of Carson to have three lovers, there are many worse things in life."

The boys escaped the kitchen as fast as possible. John looked at Carson and sighed. "I'm sorry about all this, Carson."

Carson shook his head and wrapped an arm around John's shoulders. "It wasn't anyone's fault, John. Now, let's get out of here for a while." He led them out the back and into the fields. After walking a ways, they came upon a narrow lane and Carson finally seemed to relax a little. "This is where I'd go when I needed some time to myself," he explained as they walked.

Rodney looked around, sneezed, and wondered what was so special about this place.

"Your mother is very understanding, Carson," Radek mentioned.

"Yeah, understanding or not, we pretty much blew it," John said with a sigh. He bent over and picked up a stick, fidgeting with it. "Not only did I start a mini orgy in her guest bedroom, but we basically put on a porn show for her sixteen year old daughter." He sighed and threw the stick into the field, watching it spin end over end.

"John," Carson said and stopped walking. "It wasn't your fault, so stop saying things like that. I was sixteen the first time we had a foursome."

"It is going to be kind of weird around your mum for awhile though," Rodney said. "And for the record, John, you can rub off on me every morning for the rest of eternity and I'll never complain."

John chuckled. "Yeah, sorry you guys didn't get off."

"I took care of that problem in the shower," Rodney admitted. "Couldn't help it, had to be done."

"Do not worry, Carson, we'll restrain ourselves for the rest of the week," Radek told him.

"Yep, hands off," John added.

"That's just it though," Carson said with a sigh. "I don't want us to be hands off. We see each other more now than we used to when we were in three different countries, but still not nearly enough. We'll just have to restrain ourselves until about three in the morning when everyone is sleeping."

"Are you sure, Carson?" Rodney asked him. "Because I still think it's a risk."

Carson shrugged, "I'm sure, Rodney. I don't want to give what we have up just because we're here for a bit."

"Besides," Carson added. "Everything's a risk. We risk getting caught every time we use our fake IDs to get into bars. But we reduce the risk of getting caught by going to the smaller less popular bars. We'll reduce the risk of getting caught again by only doing anything in the early hours of the morning."

"Alright," John said, "but I'm not initiating anything."

"I don't know," Rodney said. "Did your great grand uncle have a cabin in the woods somewhere? I'd just feel better if we were away where there's no risk of getting caught."

Carson thought for a moment. "Well... Not really. Dale has a place he's not using this week because he's here, but there's a reason for that. It's quite a drive away."

"Not to mention," Radek spoke up, "we are here to visit Carson's mother. We should stay in her home. I am perfectly willing to accept nothing more than we did last night. We don't need penetrative sex or oral sex. We are all together. Whether we have sex or not doesn't change that fact. Let us simply enjoy Mrs. Beckett's hospitality..."

"And her cooking..." John added.

"Yes, that too. We don't need to have sex to enjoy each other."

"If you're sure..." Carson sighed.

Radek stopped him and wrapped his arms around him. "We are sure, Carson. It's perfectly alright. And next week when we are back in London, and the week after that when we're back in America, we will screw your brains out. I promise."

John grinned, "I like that plan."

"Yes, you would like it," Rodney chuckled.

"We don't want you to be worried or uncomfortable, Carson. It'll be fine," John said.

Later, when they were back at the house, Dale was out back grilling dinner and John and Rodney were sitting on the couch watching Radek and Carson play space invaders on the Atari. They were sitting very close, their hands clasped between their hips, neither one wanting to go an entire week without even touching. Mrs. Beckett came into the room and sat in the chair to the side of the coffee table.

"You don't have to hide that," she said and nodded toward John and Rodney. "Most of us in this house are very open minded, and Leona is spending the night with Sasha. Come on, bring them out," she encouraged.

Carson paused the game and he and Radek turned to see John and Rodney pull their hands out. He sighed. "Mum is nothing if not persistent," he said.

"There," she said softly. "Show your affection proudly. I don't want any of you to think that there's a problem," Mrs. Beckett said sternly. "There is nothing wrong with showing your affection for each other.

"Mum," Carson said softly.

"Carson," she answered back. "I mean it."

"We're not ashamed, Mrs. Beckett," Rodney said. "We do show our affection with pride, but out of respect for you and your family we..."

"Nonsense," She interrupted. "It isn't respectful to change who you are to please someone else. Although, the fact that you are willing to try, makes me happy that Carson has chosen such loyal lovers." She looked at Carson. "I wouldn't have been able to choose either," she said.

Carson blushed and sighed, letting it go. It would be too complicated to try to explain.

Rodney nodded and laced his fingers through John's. Mrs. Beckett smiled. "Much better, dear." John smiled and looked at Rodney and Rodney smiled back.

"Dale says dinner will be ready soon, although he didn't say how soon soon was. Knowing him, it means an hour," Mrs. Beckett said.

Radek chuckled lightly and turned toward Carson. "Are we going to continue the game, or are we finished?" he asked.

Carson shrugged and leaned against Radek a little. "Your choice," he said, smiling. "You're winning anyway."

Rodney sat forward a little. "I'll play for a while. Who thinks they can beat me?" he grinned.

John playfully bumped Rodney's shoulder with his. "I'll take you on... And whip your ass too," he said.

"Oh, you are on, my friend."

They got up and switched places with Radek and Carson. "Make way boys, let me show you how a real man does this," Rodney said jokingly.

"A real man?" John asked, "let's see who the real man is here." he took one of the controllers and restarted the game.

Mrs. Beckett smiled and chuckled. "It's lovely to have you all here," she said sweetly.

Carson snuggled with Radek on the couch and they watched as John and Rodney played. It was actually a pretty close game, but John was winning. Rodney kept complaining about John cheating, but no one really took him seriously. By the time Dale came out and announced dinner, Rodney and John were happily bickering away and John had won the game.

"I told you I'd whip your ass, Rodney," John said. "You had fair warning, it wasn't a surprise."

"Yeah, you only won because you cheated," Rodney replied.

"Cheated? How the hell do you cheat at space invaders?"

"I don't know, but you're good with numbers so you found a way."

"Rodney, as you so often remind me, you're smarter than me," John reminded him.

"Yeah, but not by much," Rodney retorted.

"Ha!" John shouted and bounced around the room triumphantly. "You heard it here first folks!"

Dale laughed. "Come on boys, dinner's ready."

Carson grabbed John as he walked by and pounced on him, almost making John fall, and rode his back to the kitchen before jumping off. "Congrats, I was hoping he'd be taken down a notch," he said.

"Hey!" Rodney protested from behind them. Radek laughed and followed them out.

"I am pleased to see the shackles lifted from you four," Mrs. Beckett said.

Carson blushed again, but it was obvious he felt a lot better about the whole situation. They all sat in their usual seats and the bickering continued, interspaced with conversation with the rest of the family. After dinner, Dale sat outside with them and talked for a while, but then everyone headed for bed.

Rodney watched as John shared a look with Radek, who nodded and shared a similar look with Carson who also nodded. "Good night mum. We're going to take a short walk before bed. I've got my key," Carson said.

"Alright boys, be careful and don't stay out too late," Mrs. Beckett replied as she walked up the stairs.

Radek disappeared upstairs for a moment and when he came back, he nodded and patted his pocket. They walked out to the edge of the Beckett property where there was a grove of trees. Rodney had a sneezing fit, so they skirted the trees and went back out toward the way they'd walked earlier. The house a few miles down the way was empty, so they opted to sit behind the shed. Radek pulled a baggie out of his pocket and rolled up a joint.

Rodney huffed, as usual, but didn't really say much this time as the joint was lit and passed around. They all lay back in the grass and relaxed, Rodney half pillowed on John to get away from any bugs.

"That all went better than I thought it would," Carson admitted.

"Yeah," John agreed and rested his hand on Rodney's chest. "Your mom is awesome." He sighed, "makes me kind of miss my mom."

Rodney reached up and put a gentle hand over John's. It'd been a long time since John had mentioned her.

-Atlantis, August 2004-

John groaned and squinted up at the lights as he came back to consciousness. He couldn't really remember what happened. He turned his head, looking for Carson, and there was a sharp pain in his neck. Suddenly, he remembered the bug, and the jumper getting stuck in the gate. He remembered how worried and frustrated Radek and Carson had sounded on the radio. John looked around again. "Carson?" he croaked.

Carson hurried over to John. "It's alright, John," he said soothingly as he checked John's vitals. "Are you in any pain?" he asked. He had to be professional, he knew that, but John had just been dead. He'd barely been able to get him back, so what he wanted to do, was take John and Radek to his quarters and sandwich John between them and keep him safe and alive.

"Thirsty," John replied, his voice cracking. Carson fed him a couple ice chips, and John closed his eyes, feeling the cool liquid slide down his throat. He shook his head slowly. "My neck hurts a little, but not bad." He opened his eyes suddenly, "did I die?"

Carson sighed and nodded. "Yes, Lt. Ford shocked you and the bug detached. He tried to revive you, but couldn't so he sent you into the event horizon. Radek was able to talk Ford through the retraction steps and after blowing the rear hatch, the jumper came through. I revived you. Radek was here until a moment ago when he was called away to the debriefing. He'll be back after," Carson explained.

"How's Ford?" John asked.

"Being treated for minimal exposure to the vacuum of space, but he's fine."

"Markham and Stackhouse?"

"They're fine. They were in the event horizon the entire time. Aside from a little disorientation, nothing is wrong. As usual, John, you're worried about everyone else. You died, John, let's worry about you."

"Yeah, but I'm here now. I'm fine. I'm just glad the rest of the team is fine too. I really need to look into putting a scientist on the team." John shifted and grimaced, his muscles protesting the movement. Defeated, he lay back in the bed. "Ow,"

Carson nodded, knowing exactly what was going through John's mind. "Yeah, that'd probably be a good idea. And you need to lie still," he said and injected something into John's IV. "That'll take the edge off." Carson ran a hand through his hair and sighed, then he put his hand on John's. "Glad you're back," he said, his voice cracking a bit.

John smiled weakly. "I always come back, you should know that by now."

"You're going to make me go grey," Carson accused. He clutched John's hand tighter, letting him see just how worried he'd been. John's eyes widened.

"Ah, good, he is awake," Radek said as he made his way to John's bed. He squeezed Carson's shoulder as he stood next to him. "How are you feeling, John?"

John smiled at Radek. "I'm okay." He looked between his friends. "Sorry," he said.

"It is not unusual," Radek said lightly.

John knew that his friends were feeling vulnerable though. He knew he came close to death far too often for their blood pressure. He sighed, "I'm trying to stay safe, I promise."

Carson patted John's hand softly. "We know, John, we really do. We just worry about you."

"We have worried about you since the day you told us you joined the Air Force," Radek said and put a hand on John's shoulder. "We will always worry about you."

John nodded. He knew that. He just hated that they worried so much. "When can I get out of here, Carson?" he asked, knowing that some time with the three of them in Carson's quarters was definitely in order.

Carson shook his head. "I need you to be here for at least twenty four hours."

"Damn," John replied softly.

"I agree," Radek said.

"How about, when I get released, the three of us take some time?"

Carson nodded. "I had been thinking that very thing since you woke up."

Radek squeezed John's hand and didn't let go for a long moment. "I suppose we have to tell your team that you're awake," he sighed.

"Yeah," John nodded. "They're probably all pretty worried, I'm sure."

"They are," Carson said. "Teyla has been asking about your condition since you came back. I told her I'd let her know when you were awake. Are you feeling up to visitors?"

John sighed, "yeah, just tell them not to stay too long."

"Alright, I will," Carson replied.

Radek and Carson moved away and Carson let Teyla, Ford, Markham and Stackhouse in. Radek followed Carson back to his office and wrapped his arms around the other man as soon as the door was closed. He didn't know what to say. He was relieved that John had woken up. "He is okay," Radek said eventually and gently rubbed his hand over Carson's hair. Perhaps it was his healer mentality, but Carson had always taken it hard whenever any of their group would get hurt, either physically or emotionally. He'd been a complete wreck at Rodney's mum's funeral.

---LONDON, 1986---

Rodney was quiet all through the ceremony. He hated churches, but this was a traditional funeral. Rodney couldn't really make the effort to care. Of his parents, his mother had always been his favorite. She encouraged him to learn. She had introduced him to the piano, and to math. Now she was dead and Rodney was sitting in a church next to Jeanie. Carson, John, and Radek were on his other side at least, and Rodney took support in that.

John reached over and gently squeezed Rodney's leg. He was quiet, they all were. There was really nothing to say. It was made worse by the fact that it was a car accident and not natural causes. If she'd been sick, Rodney would have been able to prepare for this day.

Carson sighed and held Radek's hand. He hated seeing his friends in pain, and this was the worst kind. He couldn't even imagine what he'd do if it was his mum lying in a coffin. The thought gave him chills and he shivered.

Radek squeezed Carson's hand and rested his head on Carson's shoulder. The service was nearly over, but they were far from done. Radek was already planning how to keep Jeanie and Rodney separate after the service. They'd already had one big row before the service had started.

Rodney glanced at John and scooted a little closer to him. He felt a little bad that he wasn't supporting his sister a little more, but he couldn't make himself do it. John moved his arm and wrapped it around Rodney's shoulders. He had a fleeting thought that the church people probably wouldn't like it, but fuck them. Rodney needed him right now, and there was no way John was going to worry about what the more religious people thought was appropriate behavior. Rodney sighed and leaned into John, grateful that his friends were there with him.

After the service, everyone went to Rodney's mom's house where Mr. McKay had set up a wake of sorts. Rodney had family there, and family friends, and people who he didn't even know. He was sitting on the couch with John on one side and Carson and Radek on the other. "I didn't think I'd miss her this much," Rodney said.

John nodded and pulled Rodney a little closer. Rodney's father had no idea about them, so they had to keep everything toned down, but who could blame them for giving each other some comfort?
Carson smiled sadly at Rodney. "Sometimes you really don't know how much someone means to you until they're gone."

Rodney nodded. He hadn't cried yet, but he could feel the tears lurking just below the surface, and he knew that once everyone was gone and he was alone with the people he trusted most, he'd lose it.

John and Radek let a few people come up and tell Rodney how sorry they were, which Rodney had always thought was a ridiculous thing to say. Like it was their fault, or like he didn't know that they were affected too. He glanced at John, who caught his look and nodded.

"Come on," John said quietly. "Let's get out of here." He pointed up toward Rodney's room, and Carson and Radek nodded.

Quickly making their excuses, they got Rodney up and escorted him up the stairs and away from the crowd.

Rodney sighed and sat on the end of the bed, memories of his mother going through his mind. The last thing he'd said to her hadn't been the nicest thing he'd ever said. In fact, he'd been pretty rotten to her since she'd moved to London. He'd have one meal with her, a virtually silent meal, then he'd run off and spend most of his time at science conventions and before he knew it, it'd be time to go back to Canada. "I..." he whimpered, "I'm not sure what to do without her. She's always been here, always knew when I needed her."

John pulled Rodney up the bed until he could rest his back against the headboard. He pulled Rodney back against him and wrapped his arms around Rodney's stomach. He rested his chin on Rodney's shoulder. He didn't know what to say, but he hoped that what he was doing was helpful.

"It means a lot that you guys are here," Rodney said. "Even though this isn't the usual time we're together. I know you're all taking time away to be here."

"You are more important than anything else we may have going on," Radek told him softly and joined John and Rodney on the bed. He wrapped his arms around Rodney as well.

"Besides," Carson said as he joined the group in supporting their friend. "What are friends worth if they're not available when you need them most?"

Rodney shrugged. "The three of you are worth more than anything in the world," he said and that's when the tears started. "I love you guys."

John kissed Rodney's cheek and held him tighter. "We love you too, Rodney." They sat and held Rodney for a long time as he cried.

A while later, the door opened. Mr. McKay stood there and stared at them, eyes hard. "You should be downstairs, Meredith. There are people who want to see you." He arched an eyebrow and frowned as he looked at the way the boys were sitting.

"I don't want to see them," Rodney replied sternly. "They keep telling me how sorry they are or how good a woman Mom was... like I don't know. These are my friends, the only people I care to see right now. I don't need to be reminded that she's dead! I know that! I'm her fucking son! I know she's dead!" His voice raised higher and higher as he spoke, getting angrier and angrier.

"Fine, you're an adult now and smart enough to make your own decisions," Mr. McKay snapped back, eyes flicking at John for a brief moment. "Pack your things and go if that's what you want to do. I'm done with you. This house will be going on the market in just a few days, so anything you want to keep, you better take it before the cleaners come though." He glared at the four of them for another moment, then left. Radek stared after him, flabbergasted. He turned to look at Rodney with wide eyes.

Rodney shrugged. He didn't really expect anything more from his father, but he'd held out hope for him being civil to his friends. He sighed. "I'll be fine," he said. "I've got plenty of money saved, and there's mom's will reading in a few days. We'll spend that time here and when we get back to America I'll get a hotel until I find a place."

"No you won't," John said firmly. "You'll stay with me until you find a place. My dad doesn't give a fuck what I do."

"You are in your father's guest house, correct?" Radek asked.

"Yeah," John replied.

"Then Carson and I will stay with you as well, if that's alright."

"Perfectly," John replied. He hugged Rodney a bit tighter. "Don't worry about your dad, Rodney. You still have us... and you always will."

Rodney smiled softly and nodded. He turned and kissed John softly. "I know I'll always have you." Rodney reached for Radek and smiled. "And you and Carson too. Thank you."

Carson kissed Rodney's cheek. "It's the least we can do, mate."

They stayed curled together on Rodney's bed until the noise from down stairs stopped making its way up to them, then they went down stairs.

"Nice of Mr. McKay to leave us a mess," Radek said sarcastically.

"At least he left all the food too, we won't have to buy anything."

Carson looked at Rodney, "Are there things you want to keep? If so, I'll go out tomorrow and get boxes. We'll help you pack."

"Yeah," John added. "We could also have a yard sale, keep your dad from getting money from the stuff the cleaners are going to take him."

"Yeah, anything to keep Dad from getting it all." Rodney rolled his eyes. He watched his friends move around the dining room, cleaning up, and slipped out of the room. He sat on the couch in the living room and just looked around. This was his mother's house, but it really wasn't any more.

John came into the living room and sat beside Rodney. "I really am sorry, Rodney. I know you don't want to hear that, but it hurts me when you're hurting."

Rodney smiled and pulled John into his arms, "I know, John. Thank you, it means a lot that you care." He looked up and saw Radek and Carson standing in the doorway. "That you all care."

"Of course we care, Rodney. You are most important to all of us," Radek replied as he and Carson joined Rodney and John on the couch.

Rodney looked around at the room again. "I don't even know where to start with all of this," he whispered. "What do I keep?"

John nodded, having been through it already. "You could keep everything, but this is a lot of stuff. If you like the furniture or the bed, keep them. I'll pay to ship them home. Other than that, keep the things that hold the best memories. Things you think your mom would want you to have."

"There's just so much," Rodney replied. "I can't think."

"You do not have to, Rodney," Radek said.

"We knew your mom pretty well," Carson added. "Especially John, who stayed with you every summer for five years in a row. We can choose for you."

"We could also talk to my uncle," John said. "He's a lawyer. We could see if your dad has the right to take the house from under you when he and your mom were divorced. You're nineteen, Rodney. You probably have more rights than you think."

Rodney shrugged. "Yeah, I guess," he murmured. He closed his eyes and leaned into John's chest.

Carson watched him with a worried expression. Rodney's hand was shaking a little. "Hey, when was the last time you ate?" he asked.

Rodney didn't open his eyes. "Not hungry," he mumbled. He had a headache. Rodney's eyes snapped open. "Shit," he groaned.

"What?" Radek asked.

Carson nodded, "aye. Come on, Rodney, you need to eat something." He looked at Radek, who was just as unused to Rodney not wanting to eat as any of them were. "He's hypoglycemic."

Rodney got up and went into the dining room with his friends. He sat at the table as Carson put food onto a plate, testing everything for citrus, not trusting Mr. McKay to care about his son's allergy, or even know about it. Rodney took the plate and began nibbling, not because he wanted to eat, but because he didn't want to end up in the same hospital his mother had just died in. The thought triggered more tears and they silently rolled down his cheeks as he slowly ate the chicken.

John went over and sat beside him. "It's going to be okay, Rodney. It's hard, possibly the hardest thing you'll ever go through in your life, but you can get through this... we'll help you," he said as he hugged Rodney close.

Rodney nodded, but he didn't say anything. He ate automatically, and the food did make him feel a little better. Radek put a piece of chocolate cake on his plate when Rodney was finished, and Rodney ate that too, the sugar instantly helping. "Thanks," he sighed.

"Rodney," John said softly. "Regardless of what you go through in your lifetime, you need to always remember your health. You may not feel like eating sometimes, but you need to."

"Yes," Radek added. "If not for yourself, then for us."

Carson agreed with a nod. "We wouldn't really know what to do without you... you were what brought us all together, you're the tie that binds us."

"We need you," John finished.

-Atlantis, September 2004-

Carson kicked the nurse who was trying to make her report to him out of his office and locked the door. The vote numbers the Hoffans had given him just before they left kept running through his head. He'd done that. He'd just doomed an entire race of people to their deaths. Carson felt sick. Those who didn't die because of the complications would be totally destroyed by the Wraith. Carson had no doubt of that. He let out a heavy breath and braced himself against his desk with his head hung down. Perna had died because of him. It was like opening Pandora's box, and Carson had let all the evil out.

He shook his head and tried to focus on his computer screen, but it was difficult. Those people kept flashing in his mind. The Hoffans that he'd murdered, and yes, he had murdered them. If he hadn't helped them, they may have eventually given up. If not, at least he wouldn't have had a hand in half of a population dying. It was his fault, there was no doubt about that. He'd brought his technology to a barely advanced planet and used it to finish their research. If he'd done more tests, or run more simulations maybe things would have turned out differently, maybe he'd have seen that it was a disaster waiting for a place to happen. And just maybe, if he'd have been less interested in impressing that backwater doctor, maybe he'd have thought with the right head a little more. He owed a lot of people an apology, he knew that. John wasn't the least, but Radek would have to be first. He hadn't been there, he hadn't seen. John had tried to make Carson see what the fuck he was doing with Perna, but it hadn't worked. Carson had trudged forward, his dick pointing the way, and because of that, people had died. He needed to talk to Radek, needed him and John, needed to be away from the infirmary because he wasn't fit to run it anymore. But instead of leaving, he stared at the blinking cursor.

He wondered if things would have been different if Rodney had been there. If Rodney was in Atlantis, of course he'd be on John's gate team, so he would have been there. With a sigh, Carson paced around the room again. He was glad Rodney wasn't here to see what Carson had become. He'd gotten too caught up in the research, and had stopped thinking about the patient. It was something he'd been warned about again and again over the years, and he'd always thought he'd never do that. Now he had, and if he'd done it once, he would probably do it again, and that scared him. He remembered Rodney always saying that Carson was he only doctor he'd ever go to. Carson had to wonder now if that would still be the case if Rodney knew what had happened.

-America, 1990-

Rodney sat on the couch in John's living room holding a blood soaked bandage around his forearm. "Come on, Carson, you have to do this for me," He whined.

"Why?"Carson asked. "There's a hospital not even fifteen minutes away from here. There are plenty of doctors you could get to stitch your wound."

"Yeah," Rodney said, "But you're the one I want to do it. You I know... you I trust, you have access to medical equipment. You could have this done in no time if you get your ass moving. Come on, Carson, please?"

"You should go and get it done at the hospital, Rodney," Carson said firmly. He pulled another bandage out of the first aid box and moved to squat in front of Rodney. Carson took the old bandage away and grimaced. The cut was deep and probably about five inches long. It curved slightly around Rodney's arm and was still bleeding heavily. Carson gave up trying to clean it and just pressed the new bandage in place. "This needs stitches," he told Rodney gently.

"I know it needs stitches!" Rodney snapped, eyes a little wide at the blood. He looked up at Carson and took a deep breath. "Please, Carson. I... I can't go to the hospital."

Radek and John shared a glance. Rodney was afraid of doctors. They knew that. He thought the medical profession was all voodoo. They just hadn't realized that his fear went as far as not wanting to go to the ER when he was injured. "Rodney," Radek sighed, "you are the only hypochondriac I know who is afraid of doctors."

"That's because every time I go to a hospital, I get bad news," Rodney glared at Radek, then looked back at Carson. "Please, Carson. I trust you."

John looked at Radek and shrugged. "Carson, come on, either you stitch him up, or he's going to sit there and bleed out on my couch. What do you need? I'll get it for you."

Rodney smiled at John. "Thank you for backing me on this one, John," He said.

"I'm not backing you, Rodney, I just don't want you to die. It'd be a big mess, and I'd have to explain to the cops why there's a body in my living room and they wouldn't believe me, even though Radek and Carson are confirming my story, and while you're having a lovely funeral, the three of us will be sitting in jail and I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say we'd like to actually attend your funeral. So that's why I'm asking Carson to stitch you up, it has nothing to do with backing you. I think you need to drag your ass to the hospital, but since you won't, this in our only other option. Stitch him, Carson."

"Fine," Carson said and got up off the floor. He told John and Radek what to do, and he left. About twenty minutes later, he came back with a small medical kit. "I hope you all realize that I could get kicked out of medical school if I get caught with this stuff. Are any of you willing to support me for the rest of my life?" he asked.

"Yes," John replied, "I will gladly support you as long as you get him quiet... you brought some pain meds... right?"

"Yes, that's why I could get kicked out, do you think they care if someone takes a few stitching needles and some suture? No, they care that people are taking controlled substances and I just stole morphine from the school. I'm a felon. Happy, Rodney? I am a wanted criminal!"

"You're not wanted until you're caught," Rodney said, he'd lost enough blood to be getting a bit loopy now. "And as soon as you give me a shot of morphine I will be happy."

Carson grumbled to himself as he gave Rodney the morphine. While it was kicking in, Carson handed Radek a flash light, then pulled open the sterile pack. He pulled on some gloves and sighed. "Alright. Radek, keep the light pointed. John, I'm ready. Move the bandage." It didn't take too long to inject some lidocaine around the wound and get the bleeding under control. He looked up at Rodney to find him with his face buried in John's shoulder. "Rodney? You ready?"

"Mmmhmm," Rodney responded, not moving.

Carson got the suture out of the packet and placed the needle in the needle holders. Once he focused on stitching, it was easy to keep going. Rodney grunted, but didn't move away as the needle bit into his skin over and over.
The fact that Rodney was making noise told Carson that he felt something, and the fact that he wasn't pulling away told him just how much Rodney did trust him. "Almost done," Carson told him.

John rubbed his hand over Rodney's hair and shushed him soothingly. "It's going to be alright," he said and kissed Rodney's hair.

Radek kept the light trained on Rodney's wound as Carson stitched it. It wasn't long after that Carson was finished and Rodney was happily lying on John's shoulder and running his finger over John's lips. "Thanks Carson, you're a life saver," Rodney said dopily,

Carson sighed and nodded, "I know." He bandaged Rodney's arm and sat back. He focused on cleaning up, not looking at Rodney. Radek bent down next to Carson.

"I know you're uncomfortable with this, Carson. You did the right thing though. Rodney needed you." Radek wrapped his hand around the back of Carson's neck and kissed his cheek.

Carson nodded. "I suppose."

John patted Rodney on the shoulder as he floated on the morphine. "You'll be alright, Rodney," he said softly and kissed Rodney's temple.

"I know, John, Carson's great," Rodney replied. He snuggled closer to John as his mind felt a little ballooney. "He's the only doctor type person that I trust."

"Why do you not trust doctors Rodney?" Radek asked from his place beside Carson.

"The first time I remember going to a doctor was when I'd had an orange slice at school and swelled up like a blimp and almost died from lack of oxygen. That orange was damn good, and the doctor told me I couldn't have any more for the rest of my life. The most recent time I went, which was... what... five years ago? Just before I met John... he told me about the hypoglycemia. How I needed to eat at regular intervals or I could die. I figure if I don't go, they can't tell me what's wrong with me."

"If you don't know what's wrong with you, Rodney," Carson interrupted, "You have a greater chance of dying from something."

"Yeah," Rodney said, "But I won't know what it was that I died from until I was already dead, so I could enjoy it until it killed me."

Carson pushed the used surgery pack away and sat on the couch next to Rodney. He leaned in and kissed Rodney's neck, then rested his forehead against Rodney's temple. "I want you to always come to me, Rodney. I don't want you dying just because you didn't know that something would affect you." He sighed and kissed Rodney's cheek. "You're too important for that."

Radek and John both nodded. Rodney sighed and smiled, "It's good to know that you guys love me."

"Of course we love you, Rodney," John turned a little so he could wrap his arms around Rodney. His fingers brushed Carson's side. "We're all here for you."

"I know," Rodney said and leaned back a little further back into the couch, the drugs Carson gave him making him feel really good.

"Come on, Rodney," John said and sat up, half pulling Rodney with him. "We should all go lie down. You're not going to be able to move after much longer."

"Mmmkay," Rodney said and leaned against John. "Sleep's good."

They went up stairs and after Rodney was curled up at John's side, Carson wrapped Rodney's arm, covering the stitches. "Sleep," he told Rodney, but he was already mostly there, snoring with his head buried in John's neck.

Radek smiled at Carson, "See, he said, "you did good, those two lying like that is proof. They are perfect for each other, they complete one another. One would be lost without the other. You have, essentially, saved two lives today Carson. If you never do any anything with the rest of your life, or if you win awards for your greatness, nothing will surpass this moment." He leaned in and kissed Carson deeply.

Carson listened to Radek as he watched John and Rodney on the bed. He kissed Radek back, turning to wrap his arms around the smaller man. "You always know what to say, love," Carson smiled. He kissed Radek again and pulled him into the room. They curled on the bed close to John and Rodney.

-Atlantis, September 2004-

John obediently sat and let Carson poke and prod at him. It hadn't been the best mission ever, but at least his life hadn't been hanging by a thread. He shook his head when Radek came in. "You need to suggest a new scientist, Radek. Dr. Haystings isn't going to work out. On the Genii planet she was clingy and afraid, not to mention pushy and just... in my space too much. Can't use her, give me someone else."

Carson laughed. "John, she wanted you," he said.

John stared at Carson with wide eyes. "She did?" he asked, surprised.

Radek laughed. "You never see it coming, do you?"

John mock glared at Radek. "Hey, I saw it coming with Rodney!"

Chuckling, Radek reached over and patted John's shoulder. "Ano, but only because Rodney was only person in the world less subtle than you."

John sighed and shook his head. "Whatever," he said, "either way, it won't work. I don't want a scientist that is going to be trying to crawl into my pants at every turn. Give me someone else."

Carson smiled, "Why can't you be his scientist, Radek?" he asked.

"ME?! No thank you, I do not like going to strange worlds."

John looked at Radek, interested in the idea. "Yeah, that'd work."

Radek shook his head, "No, we have been over this. It would not work because I am jumpy and gate travel does not agree with me." He glared at Carson for even suggesting it.

Carson grinned, knowing Radek wouldn't like the idea. "Well, you're the only one John wouldn't mind trying to crawl into his pants."

"That is true, Radek," John agreed.

"That may be, but I am still not going on a gate team, yours or any other. I only leave Atlantis in extreme emergencies."

John sighed and nodded, "Yeah, I know. It was just a suggestion. I'll probably be suggesting it from time to time. So find me another scientist."

"Alright, you're free to go," Carson told John. He smiled. "It's nice to not have to keep you here for once."

John chuckled. "It's nice to not have to be kept for once." He got up and picked up his tac vest. "Thanks, Carson. You wanna do something when you get off? The three of us could play poker or something."

Carson nodded, "aye, that sounds good. Bring dinner and come by my quarters around 1930?"

John nodded. "We'll be there." He patted Carson on the shoulder and turned away. Looking back with a smile, he left the infirmary.

------

-Toronto, Canada, 1984-

Rodney waved as he saw John come out of the tunnel. Until today, they'd only ever gotten together in London so this was new ground. This would be the first time in two years that they'd be together without Radek and Carson.

"Hey," John said as he walked over.

"Hey," Rodney replied, "Dad has no idea."

"Just as well. I rented a hotel room. The honeymoon suite to be exact. Sappy, I know, but it has a hot tub, a private one."

Rodney smiled as they walked toward the baggage claim. "Excellent," he said.

"So finally there's a time you rent a swanky room," Rodney smiled as they followed the bell boy into the hotel suite. It was like a mini house, as far as Rodney was concerned. There was a big front room where the bell boy left their bags. John gave him a tip and once the door was closed behind him, Rodney turned to John. "This is pretty cool."

John pulled Rodney close and kissed him deeply. "Yeah, well I remember you saying something about nice hotel rooms and not having to clean up after yourself." He smiled and kissed Rodney again.

Rodney wrapped his arms around John and kissed him back happily. When they pulled apart, he looked around again. "Let's check out the bedroom. And the hot tub. Oh, and call for food. I remember them saying something about the restaurant catering for this suite."

John laughed and kissed him again. He took his hand and led him toward the bedroom. "One thing at a time, Rodney. We have time. No rush."

The bedroom was huge, with a heart shaped bed and mirrors on the ceiling. "Nice," John said and sat on the bed. "This bed shouldn't make your back hurt," he told Rodney. "Come try it."

Rodney sighed as he laid on the big bed. "This bed would easily fit the two of us and Radek and Carson," Rodney said. "The heart shape would make it awkward though."

John nodded and sat up. "Gotta use the bathroom and get the hot tub started."

Rodney curled on his side, enjoying the perfect bed for a bit longer and watched John go. "Rodney," John called a moment later, "come here."

Rodney sighed and went into the bathroom. It was big too; the size of the tub alone practically made Rodney have an explosive orgasm. "Oh yeah, we're going to have a great time," he said with a nod and a smile.

They decided the hot tub should be tried first, and John got it started. Once it was ready, they quickly stripped and got in. Rodney hissed happily as he sank into the water, and he grinned at John as his friend did the same. "This? This is wonderful," Rodney said as he moved over to sit close to John.

John smiled and pulled Rodney into his arms. He slowly ran his hands up Rodney's side and nodded. "Yeah, I'd say it's pretty perfect."

John pulled Rodney in for a deep kiss, and as they kissed and the bubbles churned the water all around them, Rodney moved to straddle John's lap. "So," Rodney said when the kiss broke. "How long are you here?"

"Two weeks," John replied.

It was a lot shorter than the time they usually spent together, but it was just the two of them.

"Any sights you want to see?" Rodney asked.

"Yup," John said with a smirk. "I want to see the bed, the hot tub a few more times, the bathtub and various positions."

Rodney grinned and kissed John again. "Sounds good to me."

Rodney pressed a little closer to John and ran his hands over John's shoulders. "I'm glad you could come up," Rodney said, smiling.

John smiled back at Rodney. "So am I," he said.

They spent a lazy hour in the hot tub, kissing and touching each other. Finally they got out and moved on to the bed, where Rodney wasted no time pinning John down and kissing him deeply.

John groaned into the kiss and bucked up against Rodney, their erections grinding together. Their fingers and toes were pruned, but it didn't matter. John looked up at Rodney and smiled. "I want you to fuck me," he whispered.

Rodney groaned and nodded. He kissed John again, then moved down his body, pausing to nip and suck on his nipples.

John moaned and arched up into Rodney's mouth. "Yeah," he sighed and ran his fingers through Rodney's hair.

Rodney sighed happily and kissed John's nipple before moving further down his body. He went slow, kissing and lightly sucking down John's stomach, then pausing at his belly button. "We need lube," he whispered before he slid his tongue into John's belly button.

John gasped, his stomach jerking a little. "My pack," he sighed, disappointed that either he or Rodney were going to have to get up.

Rodney kissed John's belly button and got off the bed. He dug through John's pack and finally found the tube. "Damn, why would I ever look in the front pocket?" he complained as he came back to the bed.

John watched Rodney in the mirror as he crawled across the bed. "This is going to be interesting," he said.

Rodney glanced up and laughed, "yeah, not that classy really, but hot. Oh hey!" Rodney grinned evilly looked down at John again. "I have an idea." He didn't elaborate though. He slid down between John's legs and lubed his fingers.

John was curious to know what Rodney was planning, but he opened his legs wider and groaned as Rodney pushed two slick fingers inside him. Rodney didn't spend a long time preparing him before he pulled away and laid down. "If you ride me, we can both watch," he grinned and indicated the mirror on the ceiling.

John grinned, "no wonder they call you a genius." He turned over and crawled up Rodney's body, straddling his hips. He sat up and Rodney lined up the head of his cock to John's hole. John took a deep breath and slowly sank down onto Rodney's dick. He sighed as his ass cheeks touched Rodney's hips. "Fuck, Rodney," he moaned.

Rodney groaned as John sank down onto him. John was tight and hot around Rodney's cock and Rodney's head fell back onto the pillow. He groaned again when he opened his eyes and saw their reflection above them. "God, John, you look amazing."

"Feels amazing," he said and looked up at the mirrors. Rodney was laid out beneath him, biting his lip to keep from thrusting up. John was split open on Rodney's cock, his own dick hard as a rock. As he watched their reflections, he slowly began lifting and lowering himself, watching their faces distorted with pleasure.

"Oh, god, John..." Rodney moaned as John started moving. He reached up and gripped John's hips and started thrusting up each time John sank down onto him.

John grunted as Rodney thrust up. "Fuck," he said as he watched their reflections. They moved together, fluidly, each anticipating the other's moves. It looked like they were dancing. "Fuck Rodney," John moaned, "We're hot."

Rodney grunted as he thrust upwards and he nodded. "Yeah, we really are. You are," he gasped. "God, John, feels so good."

John watched Rodney's hands slide up his stomach and chest, then felt his nipples being pinched. He jerked into the touch. "Oh, Rodney," he moaned and began moving a little faster.

Rodney kept playing with John's nipples, then dropped one hand down to wrap around John's leaking dick. "Want to watch you come all over me, John," Rodney moaned, his hips working faster. He was getting close.

"Oh yeah," John agreed as he moved his hips forward each time he lowered himself, he hit his prostate with Rodney's dick and gasped. He thrust faster, his breathing picking up as he watched him and Rodney in the mirror. It was a new perspective and it was turning them both on. "Close," he said and grunted when Rodney tightened his fist. "Shit," John cursed as his hips stuttered.

John came as he was at the top of his movement, and Rodney shouted and followed him over the edge as John's tightened muscles slid down the length of Rodney's cock. Rodney felt John's hot come splatter over his stomach and chest and Rodney moaned loudly as he emptied himself into John. "Oh, god," he gasped as he caught his breath.

John's balls tightened when he watched an aerial view of himself coming on Rodney's chest. He came hard and long, then felt Rodney fill him. He sighed and carefully lifted himself, keeping his ass tight, and laid down on his stomach beside Rodney. "Damn, Rodney," he sighed, out of breath. "That was... Fucking fantastic."

Rodney mumbled something he hoped sounded like agreement and turned toward John. He pulled the other boy close, forgetting and then not caring about the come that was all over his front. Rodney hummed and kissed John deeply, sliding his tongue into John's mouth and exploring.

John moaned into the kiss and pulled Rodney close, feeling the come smoosh between them. He smirked crookedly. "I'm thinking a shower is in order, then room service," he said.

"Yeah," Rodney replied. "Hey, we could order before we shower, then it'll be here when we get out." He pulled back just far enough to run his fingers up John's chest and slowly trace around his nipple. "Maybe you could even fuck me in the shower," he suggested.

John shivered at Rodney's suggestion. "That sounds like a plan," he said and grabbed the phone. "Room service order for the honeymoon suite," he said.

John placed their order, threatened the cook's life or at least job if there was a drop of citrus in anything, and told them their tip hinged on the food being hot and on time. Then he told him not to bring it for twenty minutes. He hung up the phone and grinned at Rodney. "Ready?" he asked and giggled.

"What?" Rodney asked.

"I just wondered what face the food delivery guy will make when he brings the food and two young boys are in the suite." He laughed.

Rodney grinned and kissed John again. "They probably won't care too much as long as we can pay the bill. We're enlightened up here in Canada."

John snorted and Rodney got up and pulled him off the bed. John grabbed the lube on the way, and they went back into the bathroom. Rodney turned the shower on and got in, sighing happily as he rubbed himself down.

John watched him for a moment, smiling, then joined Rodney. He pinned Rodney to the wall and kissed the back of his neck as he ground his erection against Rodney's ass. "Still want me to fuck you, Rodney?" he growled.

Rodney shivered and moaned. "Yeah," he said. He pushed his ass back against John.

John grinned and gently bit the back of Rodney's neck. He uncapped the lube and slicked his fingers, using his body to block the shower stream. He reached down and gently played with Rodney's hole for a moment before sliding one finger inside the other boy. "We'll have to be quick," he whispered in Rodney's ear.

Rodney closed his eyes and moaned, pressing back onto John's finger. John pulled out and then pressed back inside with two fingers. He scissored and thrust them in and out, going for Rodney's prostate. He felt the small bump as Rodney groaned. "Please, John," Rodney hissed as John pressed over that spot again.

John pulled out his fingers and lubed them again. He pushed three inside and kissed and sucked at Rodney's shoulder. "Want you," John groaned.

"Mmm," Rodney moaned his agreement. "Enough, John. Fuck me," he commanded huskily.

"Yeah, okay," John pulled his fingers out and lubed up his cock. He groaned loudly as he placed the head of his dick against Rodney's hole and pushed inside.

Rodney hissed and grunted, tightening his ass for a second before arching forward and forcing himself to loosen up. "John," he sighed and pressed back a little.

John leaned in and kissed the top of Rodney's shoulder as he slid in a little further. He pressed in completely with one fluid motion, sighing when he was completely sheathed. "So tight," he moaned as he and Rodney were pressed together.

A moment later, Rodney pressed back against John, and John started slowly pulling out. When nothing was in but the head, John sighed and slid back in.

"Uunngh," Rodney groaned. He pressed his hands against the wall, his fingers twitching as he pushed back into John's thrust.

John reached up with his hands and put his palms over the backs of Rodney's hands, lacing their fingers together. "You're so hot, Rodney," he whispered. "So tight..." John thrust again and kissed the back of Rodney's neck.

The water beat against John's back, cascading over his shoulders and slicking their bodied as they slid together. John's dick was sliding in and out slowly, perfectly, their chest and back pressed together, their hands linked. Rodney felt like they were one being, John seemed to be reading his mind, doing exactly what Rodney wanted.

"You're beautiful, Rodney," John whispered.

-Atlantis, October 2004-

Radek was quiet as he let Carson and John in to his quarters. He poured them each a drink and they all sat down on the couch. They sat close together and by silent agreement, Carson and Radek put John in the middle.

John stared at his drink for a while, then looked up at Radek. John leaned a little heavier against Carson and he spoke. "I saw Rodney," he said quietly. "He was going to come back to Atlantis with me. It... what made me wonder about it almost immediately was that it didn't seem weird to see him again."

Carson wrapped an arm loosely around John's shoulders. "Aye, I saw him too," he said softly.

"I did as well," Radek added. "Tell us about it, John."

John sighed, "After I was released from the SGC, I went back to the old house. Rodney was there, he said he didn't have anywhere else to go and that he thought I wouldn't mind him staying there. Of course I didn't mind, it was Rodney, right there, just like he always had been. Everything was normal... perfect... the way I like to remember it." He chuckled lightly, "he didn't even look any older."

John took a drink, grimacing as he swallowed. Radek's moonshine had a kick to it. "The first day we didn't leave the house," John chuckled.

Carson huffed a small laugh. "That's true to reality," he said.

John nodded and looked down at the green liquid in his glass. "He told me that he'd been away, in Siberia, doing top secret research and had been out of contact for a long time, but there was a voice mail when he got back. It was from O'Neill, telling him about Atlantis base. He apologized for missing the boat, but that he'd be on the next one. He told me he'd been experimenting with... his words were 'zero point modules, I don't expect you to know what that is, but it's important.' I told him that ZPM's were what power the city and that we're almost out of power. He said he knew how to build them." He inhaled sharply, fighting back the tears of fresh grief. "Damn... I miss him."

"We all do," Carson added. "In my reality, I was called in to work the ER of the old hospital, just until we were going to go back. I didn't think anything was wrong until Rodney came in with a laceration to his forearm, in the same place as before. But even then, I was too happy to see him to make any connections. I stitched his wound and he told me he was in a hotel nearby and decided to come in on the off chance I still worked there."

"Rodney does nothing in the off chance," John said softly.

"Especially if it involves doctors," Radek added.

"I know, but like I said, I was just so happy to see him." He sighed and took a drink from his glass and chuckled. "Rodney would hate this stuff, Radek," he said.

Radek smiled, "That thought had crossed my mind a few times." He sighed. "In my reality, I was just getting coffee for the three of us, Rodney was at the coffee shop, berating an attendant for getting his order wrong."

The three of them smiled fondly. "That's Rodney," Carson said.

They were quiet again for a bit. Finally John looked at them. "So was it just me that had sex with him?" John chuckled.

Carson laughed and shook his head. "No, it's not just you."

Radek smiled, "As I said, the three of us were together in my reality, so it was much like old times. Only we were all a bit older."

John nodded, and you? Carson? Were we all there in your reality?"
"No, just me and Rodney."

John nodded again. "It feels weird, you know?" John sighed and leaned a little more into Carson. "I keep having to remind myself that these memories aren't real. They feel real."

"I know," Carson agreed, "That's what's so hard."

Radek nodded. "The pain of not having him anymore is fresh again."

John sighed and drained his glass. "It would have been easy to stay there. If I didn't have the responsibility I do, and if people weren't counting on me... if I didn't have you two here, it would have been easy."

"John..." Carson said cautiously.

"No, Carson, I'm not saying I want to die, just that... if I didn't have those things on my mind, I would have missed the clues that something was wrong. You don't need to worry that I'm going to get depressed..."

"Again...," Radek added.

John glared at him for a moment then held out his glass. "Do you have more?"

Radek nodded and poured John another glass. "Go easy on that, John. You'll feel the kick of a mule in the morning."

John took a large drink from his refreshed glass, then settled into nursing the rest of it. "I put off questioning it for a long time, because I didn't want it to be fake."

Carson kissed John's head and rested his cheek on John's hair. "I know. I did much the same thing."

John shook his head. "It was more than that though. When I was told that I wouldn't be going back to Atlantis, that the mission was scrubbed, I... it killed me that you two hadn't been with me, but at the same time, Rodney was there. And... I would have let it all go. I would have let Atlantis go," he whispered. "Just to stay with him."

Carson nodded. He knew that John had always been closest to Rodney, the same way he and Radek were close. As hard as loosing Rodney had always been on the two of them, it was worse for John. "I know you would have, John, and if it had been real, neither of us would have blamed you."

"The mist people no doubt thought they were being merciful, but it was and continues to be torture."

"We weren't meant to figure it out," John reminded him.

"Yes, but they had never dealt with Rodney," Radek said fondly.

John chuckled humourlessly. "Even people who had dealt with him wouldn't have known him like we did."
Radek nodded. He gently took John's glass from him and held his hand. "The two of you can stay here tonight, if you want."

John nodded, "Yeah, I don't... I don't want to be alone... Not tonight." He shook his head and squeezed Radek's hand a bit.

Carson nodded and he and Radek got John up and into the bedroom. The three stripped down to boxers and teeshirts and crawled into bed. Radek had a larger bed, but it was still a bit of a squeeze for the three of them. Once again, they put John in the middle and they curled tightly together. It was hard on all of them, but hardest on John, and Carson hated to see him like that. Most of the time, they were fine. It was just some times, after some missions, that they needed to talk about Rodney. Carson stroked John's hair and kissed him softly. "It's okay, John."

John sighed and nuzzled closer. "I know," he whispered.

Radek laid there with his arm draped over John and his hand resting on Carson's arm. This may be the hardest time they'd have to deal with in Atlantis. "It is not quite the same without Rodney, it never will be, but at least we still have each other."

Carson moved his arm under Radek's hand until they could hold hands over John. "Aye," he agreed.

Part of John wanted to tell them to stop babying him, but most of him was grateful that they were there. He'd only drunk one and three quarters glasses of Radek's hooch, but he could feel it making him tired. "Thanks guys," he said softly as he gave in and allowed himself to drift.

As John fell asleep, Radek looked over him at Carson. "Think he will be alright? I have not seen him like this since... well, since a very long time ago."

Carson nodded and gently petted John's head. "I know," he sighed. "But yes, I think he'll be alright. He always is, and he has us... like before. We were what kept him going then, we'll be what keeps him going now."

"It is worse for him," Radek said. "Yes, we were all friends, we all slept together, but he and Rodney were more. It would be worse for me if it'd been you."

Carson nodded and squeezed Radek's hand. "I know, love. We'll do everything we can for John though, and he'll be okay."

Radek smiled and nodded. He and Carson hadn't even needed to say anything, they just both automatically surrounded John when they came through the gate, and on Radek's couch and now, in bed. They didn't need to speak now either, as they both began to drift, hands clasped over John's chest, both touching him, supporting him, loving him.

-1986, Pasadena, CA-

"Come on, Rodney, time to leave the labs," Radek said tiredly. "I know John and Carson are both busy, but we can still go have fun." When Rodney kept ignoring him, he finally went over and pulled Rodney away from his computer. "Come on, Rodney, let's go."

"What? Wait, where? What are you doing Radek?" Rodney asked as his chair was wheeled away.

"You and I are getting out, my friend. I am rescuing your eyes from that screen. I should invent multicolor computer screens, that green text on black simply cannot be good for your health," Radek said and pulled Rodney out of his chair.

"Alright, alright. Stop pulling," Rodney protested as he yanked his hand from Radek's. He followed Radek out of the labs and out of the school. "Where are we going?" he asked eventually.

"I got a hotel room for the night," Radek replied. They got a cab and were driven down town. Radek paid the cab driver and they went into the hotel. Radek checked them in, and as soon as they were in their room, he grinned at Rodney and pulled out a familiar box. "We are going to relax. Carson and John will join us tomorrow."

Rodney was busy looking around the room, and when Radek spoke, he turned. His brow furrowed and he shook his head. "No, nononononono, I do not do that shit, and you know it," Rodney said as he waved his finger in Radek's direction.

"It's not going to kill you, Rodney."

"No, of course not, not the first time. But then you want to eat all the sugar in the country, and fly off high rise buildings."

Radek laughed, "Marijuana doesn't make you think you can fly."

"Whatever, I don't want to get addicted and die."

"You said yourself that the first time won't get you hooked. So, let this be your first time and then don't do it anymore. It's not addicting either," Radek added. "It's safe, my friend. You have been around us in smoky rooms before and have suffered no ill effects."

Rodney couldn't really argue that point. He looked around the room again, then sighed. "John and Carson put you up to this?"

Radek shook his head, "Ne, it has nothing to do with them. I just do not wish you to miss out."

"Miss out, huh?" Rodney sighed. Radek grinned at him and sat down on the bed to roll the joint. Rodney watched him nervously, unsure of what to do and hating it. It seemed pretty straightforward. Put to lips. Inhale. Would it burn? What if he coughed? What if he was allergic to it? He threw this last question aside. As Radek had said, he'd been around the smoke before, he'd certainly inhaled it second hand.

Radek lit the joint and took a drag, then held it out to Rodney. "It is okay, Rodney. You will feel great and it will help you relax."

Rodney could see the smoke coming out of Radek's mouth as he spoke. He had another moment of indecision, then decided, screw it. It hadn't hurt Radek's brain yet. He sat next to Radek on the bed and took the joint. Hesitantly, he slipped the end between his lips and inhaled slowly.

His eyes went wide as he was thrown into a huge coughing fit.

Radek laughed and patted Rodney's back. "Is better to inhale quickly," he told Rodney.

Rodney nodded, it had burned and he had coughed, but so far no reaction. He raised the joint again and this time he inhaled quickly. It didn't burn as much and he was able to fight off the coughing.

"Very good," Radek praised as the smoke rolled out of Rodney's mouth.

"Oh God," Rodney squeaked. "I just toked pot, I'm a drug addict," he said as he bounced of the bed and started pacing. "My skin is crawling, I think my hair is falling out. I think I'm getting the munchies."

Radek took another drag on the joint and watched Rodney pace. He laughed and finally said, "Rodney, is only your first time. It takes a while, and you only just got your first taste." Radek got up and stood in front of Rodney. "You are not addicted to anything."

"I have a very addictive personality, Radek, it's extremely easy for me to get addicted." He broke free of Radek's hold and continued pacing. "What if there was citrus in the pesticides used on the ancestor plants? That stuff can be carried on in the offspring..." he looked up quickly, cutting himself off. "Paranoia, that's a sign that you're wasted!"

Radek chuckled and grabbed Rodney's shoulders again. "You are not wasted, Rodney. It is not even in your system yet. When it is in your system, you will calm down," Radek added. He smiled and gently kissed Rodney's lips. "Come sit down, we will order room service shortly. Here," he handed the joint to Rodney again.

Rodney took the joint without hesitation and the third drag was a lot smoother. "See how easy it was that time?" he asked.

Radek smiled and wrapped an arm around Rodney. "Do not worry my friend. I am here with you and I will let nothing happen, so relax. Let the pot do its job," he soothed.

Rodney took another drag from the joint and handed it back to Radek, he was beginning to feel a little looser, and it felt pretty good. "Okay," he said and leaned against Radek.

Radek grinned and took another deep drag from the joint. He rested his head against Rodney's and closed his eyes, holding the smoke in until his lungs burned a little. He slowly exhaled, then kissed Rodney again. "Better?" he asked.

"Yeah," Rodney replied, sounding a little surprised, but pleased. "John and Carson are going to be surprised."

Radek laughed. "Ano, I do not think either of them ever thought you would partake." Radek gave Rodney one more drag, then took one himself before he stubbed the joint out.

They lay back on the bed and curled together as the pot seeped into them. Rodney smiled up at the ceiling. "I feel pretty good."

Radek smiled and kissed the side of Rodney's head. "Good," he replied softly.

"I don't want to do it all the time, mind you..."

"Of course not."

"But occasionally, I don't think it'd hurt too much."

Radek smiled and snuggled Rodney closer. "That is good to hear," he said. "You need to get away sometimes, Rodney, even if it is only in your mind. Between your late nights studying and in the lab, and John, you may go prematurely gray if you do not find something."

Rodney chuckled. "More likely to go grey because of John than anything else."

Radek thought that was pretty funny, and Rodney laughed too. Finally, Rodney looked at his friend. "So are you and Carson together together?" he asked.

Radek laughed."Yes, we have been for some time now. Just as you and John are together together. Carson and I noticed a change in the two of you in 1983, after John visited you in Canada."

"He visited me in 1982," Rodney corrected.

"Yes, but we did not see the two of you again until '83."

"Oh yeah," Rodney said and laughed.

Rodney shrugged, "I'm not sure what John and I are," he confided. "But that's okay. It's not like anything's weird between us."

Radek nodded. "I'm not sure things can be weird between the four of us. We became fast friends and have been together since."

Rodney nodded sagely. "I'm hungry," he announced a short time later.

Radek laughed. "Now, my friend, now you have the munchies." He laughed again and got off the bed. "and that is something I have prepared for." He went over to the closet and pulled out a duffle bag and put it on the end of the bed. "We have... chips, twinkies, ding dongs, strawberry shortcakes. We also have peanut butter and little squeezie packets of jam that I... liberate, from various fast food places. Take your pick." He finished tossing stuff onto the bed and rejoined Rodney. "And of course, we have room service as well."

"If we eat all of this, we'll be sick," Rodney commented as he snatched up a bag of chips. "Let's call room service too."

Radek laughed, "We do not have to eat it all," he said as he took the room service menu off the nightstand. He flipped it open and started reading. "Ooh, they have chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and butterscotch drizzle."

"Yes," Rodney said through a mouthful of chips. "That sounds really, really good." His face suddenly screwed up and he looked Radek up and down. "How is it that you and John, and hell, even Carson, stay so skinny if you turn into hoovers when you're smoking? You and John are like sticks!"

Radek almost choked on the bite of twinkie he'd taken when he started laughing. "High metabolism I suppose. In John's case, he is very active. And 'Hoovers,' what is that? You cannot mean the vacuum cleaner, because they get choked on single strands of hair." He laughed again.

Rodney laughed hard. "Well, whatever you three eat like, I can't believe you're that thin." He lapsed into silence for a moment, staring off into space. He was thinking about how thin John was, and that led to thoughts of John's chest.

Radek chuckled. "I can practically see the naked John thoughts bouncing in your head." he laughed.
"Well, what did you expect?" Rodney asked. "I started thinking about him and how skinny he is and..."

Radek held up a finger. "You started thinking about him, full stop," he chuckled.

"Yeah," Rodney agreed, smiling guiltily. "Well, don't tell me you don't think about Carson," he accused, chuckling.

"I do. I think about you and John as well. I think about all four of us and in various pairings, not to mention positions. I think of you and John, and me and Carson. I think of you and Carson and me and John. And you and me and John and Carson. I have a very active imagination." He laughed and took the last bite of his twinkie. "So what are we ordering?" he asked and handed the menu to Rodney.

"Huh?" Rodney asked, brain now full of thoughts of all three of his friends.

Radek laughed at him and held up the menu. "From room service," he reminded Rodney.

"Oh. That cake and ice cream and caramel thing sounded good. And maybe sandwiches?" He glanced at Radek's pot box, suddenly wanting more.

Radek followed Rodney's gaze and smiled, but didn't offer more just yet. "Alright," he said and dialed the phone. He ordered two of the cakes and a few club sandwiches and sodas, no lemon. He pulled a card out of his John bank of memories and threatened the guy with harm if he messed up their order. "Fifteen minutes," he said.

Rodney nodded and his eyes kept falling on the pot box. "Do you think... Maybe we could..." he tipped his head toward the box.

Radek grinned and pulled the box close. "Sure... Addict," he added jokingly and he prepared to roll another joint.

Rodney huffed indignantly, but watched Radek roll the joint. "You said yourself that it wasn't addictive."

"I know," Radek chuckled. He lit the joint, took a drag, and handed it to Rodney. While his friend smoked, Radek went and opened the window, not because he was trying to mask the smell, but just because he didn't want to hot box the room. He went back over to the bed and took the joint back from Rodney. Radek took a deep drag and flopped down onto the bed.

Rodney leaned over him. "Thank you, I guess. Maybe I did need some time out of the lab."

Radek smiled, reached up, and pulled Rodney down into a kiss. "I was left with orders to take care of you, you know. Though I do not know why. I work as much as you do."

The two snuggled and shared the rest of the joint before room service arrived. The woman who brought them their food didn't even blink at the scent of marijuana. Radek tested the food for lemon, then gave the woman a tip and shut the door. When he turned around, Rodney was already taking a sandwich off the tray.

"John gave you your orders?" Rodney asked around a mouthful of club sandwich.

"Ano, he did."

Rodney sighed, wishing John was there with them. Once he was finished eating, he laid back and snuggled against Radek, some of the snacks falling off the bed as he stretched out. "I really am glad you pulled me out of the lab, it's nice to be away for awhile."

Radek nodded. "I often forget to set time aside for my personal life as well, but I have recently made an effort to do so. Our careers are important, but it is also important to keep our friendships alive."

"You said John and Carson will be here tomorrow?" Rodney asked as he felt himself begin to drift.

"Ano, neither could get away today, regretfully. But we will have tomorrow and the weekend."

"That'll be nice," Rodney said sleepily.

Radek kissed Rodney's head and nodded. "It will be very nice," he agreed.

-Atlantis, November 2004-

Carson could barely concentrate on writing up his report. Everything had turned out fine, thanks to John, but that didn't negate the fact that half the population had nearly died today... That he'd almost lost Radek. Today had been the most stressful, heart wrenching day he'd had in... Well, probably ever. They'd almost lost John enough times that Carson should be used to this, but it wasn't John this time. Radek had come mere moments away from suffering a fatal brain aneurism, and Carson wouldn't have been able to survive losing him.

He sighed and shut the computer down and got up. He'd make his report tomorrow, it wasn't like Elizabeth didn't know what had happened. Right now, he needed to see Radek, needed to hold him and remind himself that he was still alive. John would be tied up with Weir for awhile, so he didn't bother calling him, he hadn't been exposed anyway. He stopped in front of Radek's door and took a deep breath, then went in. There was no need to ring the chime, there never had been. He found Radek sitting on the couch, staring blankly out his balcony doors. "Radek," he said softly as he went over to him.

Radek slowly looked up, saw Carson, and made a small noise. He reached up and pulled Carson down onto the couch next to him and burrowed into his chest. "Carson," he breathed, snuffing at his neck. He whimpered and tried to get closer. "I never thought I'd feel this again," he whispered.

Carson wrapped his arms tightly around Radek, pulling him as close as possible. "Shh," he said and gently rubbed his hair. "I'm here, you're safe." It was all he could do to keep the tears of stress and unimaginable relief at bay. Radek was his best friend, his lover, and everything between. He had no doubt his body would have stopped functioning if Radek had died. He kissed the top of Radek's head and kept his mouth pressed there, feeling him and smelling him. "You're okay," he repeated as much for himself as for Radek.

Radek nodded and looked up at Carson. He reached up and stroked his hand over Carson's cheek. "We are both okay," he whispered, leaning in and placing a soft kiss on Carson's lips. Radek's thoughts were all over his face, easy for Carson to read. This was the first time they'd come close to losing each other, and Carson could see that Radek still felt as disconnected as he did.

Carson kissed him and pulled him close. He hated that there had been absolutely nothing he could do. Carson had never felt that helpless in his life. In the end, Radek had saved himself with the idea, and John had been the one to pull it off. All Carson had been able to do was stand by and watch.

Radek sighed and sat up. "Come," he said softly, "Let's go lie down." He got off the couch and took Carson's hand.

When they got into the bedroom, Radek began taking his clothes off. He stripped naked as Carson did the same. Then they lay down on the bed and pressed their bodies close, each needing as much contact with the other as possible.

Carson pressed himself against Radek from chest to hips and tangled their legs together. He knew he was clinging, but he didn't think Radek minded at all. He was holding Carson just as tightly. Carson slid his hand up Radek's back and nuzzled his neck. "I love you," he said quietly.

Radek smiled and nodded. "I love you too," he whispered and kissed Carson deeply. When it broke, he pulled away just enough to look at Carson. "Make love to me," he whispered. "So close... We came so close. I need you Carson... Please."

Carson's breath caught in his throat as he looked at Radek. "Aye, love," he whispered, kissing him again. He pressed close to Radek as they tried to devour each other, and Carson's hands were roaming over the warm skin of Radek's back, sides, and ass.

The kiss broke and Carson pushed Radek over onto his back. He kissed down Radek's jaw, down his neck, and mouthed along his shoulder. He wanted to explore every inch of Radek, needed to convince himself that Radek was really okay.

Radek moaned as Carson's hands and mouth roamed over his body. It felt great, like it had the first time, like they were new again. Every place Carson touched was set on fire, and Radek was burning with want and need. He sighed out Carson's name and reached down to run his own hands over Carson's head and shoulders.

Carson shivered and moved down to Radek's chest. He slowly worked his way across Radek's nipples, pausing to lick and suck and nip them gently as he moved. He moved on down Radek's stomach, nibbling on his hip as he passed. He ran his hands down Radek's legs and kissed his knee.

Radek moaned softly with each kiss. He closed his eyes and rolled his head back on the pillow, trying not to think about how he could be lying under a sheet in the infirmary right now. "Touch me, Carson... I need to feel you."

Carson made a small choked noise and moved up to cover Radek's body with his own. He ground their erections together as he took Radek's mouth in a forceful kiss. "You're thinking about other things," he growled against Radek's lips. "I don't want you thinking about anything but this." He punctuated his last word with another grind of his hips, and Radek groaned. "I'm going to help you forget all that, Radek. It's just you and me."

Radek grunted and lifted his hips. "Alright," he whispered and opened his eyes. "You and me... Only you and me," he chanted as he stared into Carson's eyes. He felt his mind clear a little with each time he repeated Carson's words. Finally, he stopped, "Make me forget," he whispered.

"I will, love," Carson kissed him again and then moved back down his lover's body. He settled between Radek's legs and slowly kissed and nuzzled and licked Radek's balls and cock. He worked slowly over each inch of skin, then took the head of Radek's dick into his mouth and sucked, the fingers of one hand playing gently with Radek's balls.

Radek moaned. "Yes, Carson, so sweet," Radek sighed as he tried to push up into Carson's mouth. He wanted to feel Carson all over him and inside him. He wanted to hurry him along, but he was enjoying the slowness of it. He whispered Carson's name and raked his fingers through his hair. "Perfect," he whispered.

Carson moaned softly around Radek's cock, then pulled off with a soft pop. "Get me the lube please, love." Radek did as he was told and Carson went back to sucking him even as he lubed up two fingers and slowly pressed them into Radek's ass.

Radek gasped and sighed as Carson slid two fingers into him. It felt exquisite, like it hadn't in years. Radek felt different inside, refreshed, "good," he sighed, "getting close." he felt his orgasm slowly creeping toward the surface and it was an amazing slow torture that made him feel every nerve ending in his body.

Carson didn't stop playing. Going nearly agonizingly slow, he scissored and thrust his fingers into Radek over and over, touching and rubbing his prostate each time. He sucked lightly on the head of Radek's cock, his tongue swirling around the foreskin and dipping into the slit.

"Ah, Carson," Radek moaned and jerked his hips every time his prostate was touched. His breathing became shallow and fast, his hips were moving from side to side as he tried to simultaneously thrust into Carson's mouth and onto his fingers. "God, Carson, so close now."

Carson pushed inside again and pressed his fingers solidly against Radek's prostate, rubbing it over and over. He waited until Radek's breathing was almost frantic, until he was right on the edge, and then he slid his mouth down Radek's leaking cock until he'd swallowed the whole thing.

Radek grunted and thrust his hips up, then cursed in Czech as he came hard in Carson's mouth. His hips jerked slightly with the last few spurts, then his body relaxed into the bed, his mind blissfully blank, except for Carson and his wonderful fingers.

Carson let Radek's cock slip from his mouth and he took his time cleaning him up. He added more lube to his fingers and then pressed three into Radek. "You're beautiful like this, love," Carson said hoarsely. He wanted to pull Radek's legs up and fuck him right then, but he had a plan. He wanted to go slow, to focus every bit of his energy on his lover. He wanted to go slow enough that Radek would get hard again.

Radek hissed as a third finger was pressed inside. It was good, Carson had fairly thick fingers, but he wanted to feel completely full, wanted to feel Carson's dick inside him. He wanted the slow push and pull as Carson moved in him. He wanted to feel Carson explode, filling him with come. "Now Carson... Please," he begged. "Want to feel you, need you in me."

Carson leaned forward and kissed him softly. "Patience, love," he whispered. "I'm not done with you yet." Radek made another whimpering plea, but Carson only kissed him again, his fingers still working, slowly stretching Radek out. Carson leaned back again and added more lube. Four fingers wouldn't get nearly the depth of three at first, but Radek wanted to feel full. Carson took his time, working all four fingers in, but it was worth it to see the way Radek writhed and moaned.

"Carson, please!" Radek groaned before lapsing into Czech. Carson couldn't understand what he was saying, but he recognized the tone. Radek's cock was taking a renewed interest in the proceedings, and Carson didn't think he could wait much longer.

"Alright, love, I've got you," Carson pulled his fingers out, fisted the remaining lube onto his cock, then reached down for Radek's legs. Caressing them, Carson slowly picked them up and settled them on his shoulders. Radek looked up at him and his expression made Carson catch his breath. There was so much need and want, trust and love in Radek's eyes that Carson couldn't look away from him. He leaned over Radek, effectively bending his lover in half, but Radek never protested.

Reaching down, Carson guided his cock to rest against Radek's ass. "Love you," he told Radek again, then slowly pushed his way inside.

Radek's eyes rolled up in his head as Carson seated himself fully, and both men groaned. Carson was shaking as he held himself still, just looking at Radek laid out beneath him.

Even after speaking English for most of his life, Radek's brain couldn't form a sentence in the language. He stared up at Carson, never taking his eyes away as he ran his hands up and down Carson's arms. Carson was moving slowly, and Radek wanted to thrust down onto him, but he was effectively immobilized. He whimpered and moaned with each slow thrust. He felt split open, revealed, torn apart in all the best ways. Carson was there, he had him, Radek was safe with him, everything was alright.

Carson kept his eyes on Radek as he slowly thrust in and out. Radek was beautiful, and Carson didn't think he'd ever felt this connected with him. Eventually, he couldn't handle it anymore and he sped up his movements, his hips chasing his own relief. He leaned back on his knees a bit, which changed the angle and also let him wrap a hand around Radek's cock. "Come for me again, love," he whispered as he stroked in time with his hips.

Radek moaned when Carson changed angles and hit his prostate. He thrust up into Carson's hand when he was able to move. He tightened his ass around Carson's dick as Carson moved in and out quickly. His brain finally clicked back over to English. "Love you, Carson. Perfect... So good," he breathed.

Carson moaned and thrust faster, finally doing what Radek had wanted him to do since they started and really slamming into him. Carson was taking him, possessing him. Carson stripped Radek's cock mercilessly.

Radek grunted and arched into Carson's hand, pressing himself down further onto Carson's cock. His own dick was throbbing with the need to come and as Carson quickened his pace even more, he did. The first spurt arched high and landed between his nipples, he moaned as Carson's come slicked hand continued stroking him, drawing out his orgasm.

Radek's ass clamped down tight around Carson. Carson grunted and managed to stop himself from coming just yet. He fucked Radek through his orgasm, battling the tightness and drawing out his lover's pleasure. Finally, he couldn't hold back any longer and he slammed hard into Radek. He moaned as he emptied himself deep in his lover, claiming them both and placing them squarely in the land of the living.

Radek moaned and relaxed into the bed when he felt Carson come. That was what he'd needed, what he'd wanted to feel. Carson carefully and slowly pulled out of Radek and lay beside him with his arms wrapped around his lover. "I love you so much, Radek," he said softly.

Radek smiled and kissed Carson's mouth, just a gentle touching of lips. "I love you too," he whispered. "More than words can say."

John hesitated outside Radek's quarters. Carson was undoubtedly in there already. They'd come so close to losing Radek, but it had to be worse for Carson in many ways. At least John had been able to do something about it. If Carson was in there, maybe they wanted to be left alone. John leaned against the door for a moment. He had to see them, had to see Radek. He'd been told that Radek was fine, but he hadn't gotten to see him at all yet and it was driving him crazy. He came to a decision finally and stood up straight. Passing a hand over the chime, he waited.

Carson lifted his head when he heard the chime. "That'll be John," he said as he untangled himself from Radek. "I'll just go and let him in, I'll be right back." he got off the bed and put on Radek's robe, then went out to the front room. He greeted John with a warm smile. "In the bedroom," he said and led the way. Once he was back in the bedroom, he shed the robe and crawled back into bed, retaking his former position.

Radek looked at John, he still looked broken, the way he and Carson had only a short while ago. He opened his arms to John. "Join us," he offered.

John looked at them for a moment, hesitant. "You sure?"

"John," Carson chided softly. "Join is."

John nodded jerkily and kicked off his boots. He stripped fast and crawled into the bed, immediately reaching for Radek. He pressed himself against Radek and buried his face in the scientist's neck. He smelled of sex and sweat, and John could feel his pulse against his lips. John let out a shuddering sigh and curled tighter. "Can't lose you too," he whispered, barely loud enough to be heard.

Radek reached up and rubbed John's hair, feeling a bit more grounded. "You will never lose us, John. You have not lost Rodney, he is always with us," he spoke softly.

Carson reached around Radek and put a hand on John's hip. He hadn't thought how hard it would be for John, how many memories Radek's near death would bring back. He rubbed his thumb lightly over John's hip bone.

John didn't say anything about Rodney. He was starting to believe that less and less, and that left him cold. He clung to Radek and Carson, because they were all he had left. John reached down and grabbed Carson's hand, holding on tightly.

Radek squeezed John's hand, he was pretty sure he knew what John was thinking about. The problem was, there was nothing neither he nor Carson could say that would help him. All they could do was be there for him, with him. He wasn't sure how John would have been if he had died today. He sighed and pulled John closer as he leaned back against Carson.

John's shudders soon quieted, though he still felt cold inside. Radek and Carson were slowly warming him up, but their group was incomplete. There was nothing like the threat of losing another friend to make you think about those you'd already lost, John reflected. He remembered when he'd started losing Rodney, even though he hadn't realized it at the time. It had started slow, and John wasn't sure if that was better or worse.

-America, 1988-

John woke up snuggled in the middle of a warm pile of naked flesh. The sun was barely peeking through the window and was shining in his eyes. Grumbling, John shifted, turning away from the light, and came face to face with Rodney, who had been watching him. John smiled at him. "Hey," he greeted softly.

"Hi," Rodney whispered. He leaned in and kissed John, then pulled back and kept looking at him. Behind Rodney, Radek murmured something and twitched, but didn't wake up.

John reached over Rodney and ran a soothing hand over Radek's hair. "Shh," he soothed. He smiled back at Rodney again, "I have something to tell you guys, but I need you all to be awake."

"We are awake," Carson said softly from behind him.

John turned a bit, startled.

"What did you want to say?" Radek asked.

John took a deep breath. "I've joined the Air Force," he said.

The other three were silent. They stared at him, and John shifted nervously.

"You what?" Rodney asked.

John sighed, "I joined the Air Force," he repeated.

"Why would you do that, John?" Rodney asked, his voice hard.

"Don't attack him, Rodney," Carson said softly.

"I'm not," Rodney denied. "But he's basically signed a suicide note."

"Rodney..." John began but Rodney interrupted him.

"No, John, why would you do that? To piss off your dad?"

"No," John replied, "Well, partially, but I've pretty much cut dad off. I've gotten my bachelors in applied mathematics and I want my masters. The Air Force will pay for that."

"So will a job," Rodney replied.

"Yeah, but not as well, and I'll experience life a little before I go back to school."

"You'll experience homophobic bastards and killing and death, you mean," Rodney snapped.

Radek put his hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Easy, Rodney," he whispered, though the concern was evident in his voice too.

"I'm sorry you're taking this so hard, Rodney," John said sadly. "It wasn't my intention to hurt you. I know what the military will be like. This is something I've been thinking about for a while now. I don't want you to be mad, but I'm doing this."

"It's your decision, John," Carson said, "and we're not mad, just worried. A lot of people die in the military."

"We don't want to be without you John," Radek added.

Rodney stared at John silently, his chest tight. "Why didn't you ever talk to us about it?" he finally asked quietly. This would change everything. Never again would John be able to be with them like this without looking over his shoulder constantly. If he didn't end up dead he could end up terribly wounded and maimed for the rest of his life. He could get found out and kicked out or beaten up by the homophobic government or his fellow soldiers.

"I didn't talk to you about it because I knew this is how you'd react. I didn't want you to talk me out of it. I knew you'd try, and if I hadn't already committed to it, it would have worked. I need you guys to support me, please?"

Carson patted John's shoulder. "We do, John, we're just worried about you."

"I'll be fine. I'll have you guys here waiting for me."

Radek nodded, "ano, we will always be there for you, John."

Rodney looked away and didn't reply. His eyes stung a little and he finally got up and slid out of bed. He didn't look back as he grabbed a robe and left the room. He couldn't believe John was doing this. Rodney had had a plan. He'd had it figured how their lives would go. John would get his masters in mathematics and probably teach or do theory. Rodney would have all these research and development contracts to bring in the main money. In Rodney's head, they'd live together forever. John's announcement changed everything. John hadn't even talked to him, and that cut Rodney even deeper.

John sighed as he followed Rodney out of the room a moment later. Rodney was pacing the length of the living room, something he did when he was angry, but he didn't look as angry as he looked sad. John leaned against the door frame, still naked, and lowered his head, "I'm sorry, Rodney," John said softly.

"No you're not," Rodney whispered. "If you were sorry then you're regretting it and you'd take it back and not join. Don't lie to me." Rodney sighed and stopped pacing, but he still wouldn't look at John. "You... You'll never be able to do things like this with us again. You'll have to be closeted for the rest of your life, John."

"No," John replied. "I'm not regretting it. I'm sorry because this hurt you more than I thought it would. And is that why you're angry? Because I'll have to be more careful? Because I won't be able to suck your cock at your will? Do you know how fucking selfish that is? I'm trying to further myself and you can't even support me. I don't even think you realize how much that hurts me. Of the three of you, you're the one whose opinion means the most, you're the one who matters the most. You're the one I need the most." He sighed and turned away.

Rodney flinched at John's words and shook his head. "It has nothing to do with sex, John! You won't be able to be YOU anymore! You're going to have to change everything about yourself and fit into a system and follow the rules. I just don't think you'd be happy! There are so many other ways to get through university."

"I'll be fine, Rodney. It'll be an adjustment, but I won't change, because there is no one I want to be with besides you three."

"But you won't be able to be with us. We're all men, John. What happens if they find out you like men? What happens if you get... killed," Rodney finished with a whisper.

John sighed and went over to Rodney. "I will be fine, Rodney. No one's going to find out, trust me. And when I come home, we can still be together. I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about it, but I knew you wouldn't want me to do it. I need you to believe that I will do everything I can to come home to you, I need your support, Rodney. No matter what, I will always be yours, Rodney. Always... nothing is going to change that."

Except death, Rodney thought, but he didn't say anything. He let John hold him for a while and Rodney buried his face in John's neck. Finally he sighed. "I... I can't talk you out of this, can I?"

John shook his head. "No, Rodney," he replied quietly.

"Then I have to accept it." Rodney pulled away and locked eyes with John. "I'll support you, John. I always will, but... that doesn't change that I think this is the wrong thing to do."

John sighed and leaned his head over onto Rodney's. "Thank you," he whispered.

A few minutes later Radek and Carson came out of the bedroom. Rodney was glad they had given him and John some time.

"All sorted?" Carson asked.

"As sorted as it's going to get," Rodney replied.

"He accepts that he can't change it," John told them, "I accept that he thinks it's a bad idea. I think that's good enough."

They finally got dressed and Rodney volunteered to go pick up breakfast. He walked alone down to a coffee shop on the corner and ordered muffins and scones and good coffee. While he waited for his order, he got on to one of the free Internet computers opened up his email. It only took him a quick moment to pull open the 'No Way In Hell' file of his email and pull a job offer out. He quickly sent off a quick acceptance letter, closed his email and sat back. His order was called a moment later, and he paid and headed back to the house.

Everyone went to the table when Rodney got back and Rodney passed around the bag and the coffees. He noticed the three of them watching him closely. "What?" he asked sharply.

"Something has changed," Radek said.

"What's happened, Rodney?" Carson asked.

John shook his head. "You took one, didn't you? Because of what I did? Rodney, those aren't the jobs you want, why are you settling?"

"I'm not settling," Rodney replied, a slight edge in his voice. "This job will open a lot of doors for me in government work. I'll be leaving in a few days for Washington, and then I don't know where I'll be. Well," he amended, "I have an idea of where I'll be, but it's all classified and top secret."

John sighed and shook his head. "Is this what you want, Rodney? I mean, what you really want? If I hadn't joined the Air Force would you have taken this job?"

Rodney didn't answer John's question. He wouldn't even look up from his food.

"A few days," Radek said.

"How long do you have, John?" Carson asked.

"I leave for basic on Wednesday," he replied.

Radek nodded his head, "a few days," he repeated. "A few days until we are separated. A few days until life changes forever." He tightened his lips, looked at Carson then shook his head. "Will you be leaving me as well?" he asked softly.

Carson turned and wrapped his arms around Radek tightly. "I'm not going anywhere, love."

"I'm not leaving you either, Radek," John said. "I'm not separating myself from you forever. I'm just starting a new chapter. I'll be back, I swear to you. I swear on my life that I will. I don't want you thinking that I'm leaving to get away from you. I want letters from you all, I need to know you'll all still be waiting for me." He looked at Rodney, "At least you two," he looked back at Radek and Carson.

Rodney flinched, but didn't say anything. He hadn't taken the job offer because he'd thought he knew what he and John would be doing with their lives. If not the specifics, then at least that they'd be together. Rodney's chest hurt.

John looked at Rodney, both of them had glossy eyes. "Rodney, I... I need you. Please."

"John," Carson said. "Rodney isn't leaving you any more than you're leaving him. The two of you love each other, that's obvious to anyone. We've got a few days left together, let's spend them together. Let's not be angry with one another."

Rodney nodded and started cleaning up. "What do we want to do?" he asked, grateful for Carson changing the subject. Rodney thought about something else though and he couldn't let it go. "I'm not leaving any of you either, you know. You're still going to get letters. All three of you."

-Atlantis, December 2004-

Carson sighed as he sat at his desk. He couldn't get his mind off the older Elizabeth and all the stuff she'd said about the mission... the first time. He didn't want to think about that, didn't want to think about Radek drowning in the gate room, trying until the last possible second to try to save the city... trying to save him and John. He shook himself and got up. He went to the shelf that held the box of medical files. He supposed work was as good as anything else to keep his mind occupied, especially since he couldn't leave the infirmary at the moment. Heaving another deep sigh, he pulled the box off the shelf and carried it over to his desk. They'd lost members of the expedition, so going through and filing the hard copies of the files wasn't something he'd been looking forward to, but it had to be done. He took the lid off and pulled out a stack from the back of the box and started looking through them.

The job wasn't taking quiet as long as he'd feared when he stopped for a short break half an hour later. He was just about to start the 'M' section. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat back down, idly thumbing ahead through the files as he sipped his drink. Suddenly he sucked in a sharp breath, coughed, and nearly dropped his mug. The name 'Dr. M. R. McKay' stared up at him from a file folder.

Very carefully, Carson put his coffee mug down and picked up the file. What was Rodney's file doing here? He'd never been a part of the Stargate program, as far as Carson knew. Of course, he hadn't known that Radek was a part of the program until he'd run into him.

Rodney had never come to Atlantis though. So what was his file doing galaxies away from him?

He furrowed his brow and flipped a few pages into the file. The wrinkle in his brow got deeper when he learned that Rodney had not only worked for the SGC, but that he'd spent quite a bit of time on the Alpha Site. The file had signatures from Dr. Frasier and Dr. McKenzie and more recently, Dr. Lam. The most recent page explained that Rodney had collapsed at Area 51 not long before the expedition was set to leave. He read the file more closely, his heart filling with dread with each word as it became apparent that Rodney had some sort of cancer. Rodney was sick and they'd all left him. They'd been in the city for months, who knew how far along Rodney was now. He closed the file and got up, tapping his radio. "Dr. Biro," he said. "I need you to cover my shift, something's come up." As soon as she was there, Carson took the file and left. John and Radek had to know about this.

John was sparring with Teyla when a breathless Carson rushed into the gym. "John, I need to see you. Now."

John raised his eyebrows at Carson's tone, his heart rate immediately picking up. Was something wrong with Radek? He gave his sticks to Teyla and rushed after Carson. "What's going on?"

Carson didn't answer, but he did pause and tap his radio. "Radek, meet me in my quarters immediately," he said tightly. Carson turned to John, and John noticed how pale he was. "Come on, this needs to be said in private."

Radek left the lab right away, telling his scientists nothing more than he was leaving for a bit. His heart was pounding in his chest as he hurried through the halls, trying to rationalize why it wasn't something wrong with John. After what felt like an hour, he reached Carson's quarters and rushed inside, relieved to see John sitting on the couch with Carson. "John, Carson, what is going on? You sounded so urgent."

Carson looked up at Radek and pulled him down next to him on the couch. Carson looked down at the file in his hands. It was upside down so they couldn't see the name. "I found something..." he wasn't
sure how to say it. It had already hit him that they couldn't go back to Earth, that they couldn't even send a message. "Rodney was supposed to be on this expedition," he finally said.

"What?" Both John and Radek said in unison.

"What do you mean? If he was supposed to be, why isn't he here?" John asked.

"Rodney would not turn away from this opportunity without good cause, why is he not here?" he repeated John's question. "And how did you learn this information?"

Carson sighed and turned the folder over. "I found his medical file in the box with all the other's on the base."

"His medical file?" John asked, worry in his voice. "What's wrong with him?"

Carson didn't know how to tell him, he knew John would take it badly. He supposed it'd be best to just go for it. He sighed again. "He has cancer," he said as gently as possible.

All the colour drained from John's face as he stared at Carson in shock. "No, you're wrong, Carson. You have to be."

Carson shook his head. "The last entries say he collapsed at Area 51 and all I have is the initial tests done by the doctor there. But it's pretty clear. I'm sorry, John."

John shook his head again and stood up. He hadn't seen Rodney in years, but that didn't mean that he didn't care... that he didn't still love him. He began pacing the room, a habit he'd picked up from Rodney. "No, Carson," he said softly. "Rodney doesn't have cancer, people die from cancer, Rodney can't die!" his voice rose as his emotions overcame him. He stopped pacing and looked at his friends, tears stinging his eyes and threatening to fall. "He can't die, not... not until I see him again. I need to see him, he needs me and I'm a fucking billion light years away!" he turned and punched the wall, then turned away and leaned on the spot he'd punched and slid down. "He's all alone," he whispered brokenly. "He's probably tried to contact us and... we're not there. We deserted him." He whispered, the tears were falling now. He wanted to be back on Earth, needed to see Rodney, but there was no way.

Radek was still silent, but he moved to sit next to John. He wrapped his arms around him and held him tightly. "I'll ramp up the effort to find a way to contact Earth," he promised. It was the only thing he could do.

Carson felt miserable, bringing this down on them. Rodney hadn't spoken with any of them in years. Emails had gone unanswered; there had been no current phone number, no current mailing address. It all made sense now, if Rodney had spent so much time off world. Carson hated feeling helpless, but once again there was nothing he could do. They were stuck here, in a completely different galaxy with no way to get home.

John looked at Radek and nodded, he knew there was nothing else they could do. They couldn't magically come up with a way to get back home, Radek had been working on that since they got here and hadn't found anything yet. He sighed and looked away, the thought that Rodney would probably die alone was breaking his heart.

Carson got up and went over to his friends and sat on the floor with them, he thought the balcony door open so they could at least get some fresh air. "I'm so sorry to have told you such bad news, but I couldn't keep this from you. Especially you John, down the road, if you found out that I knew Rodney was sick and hadn't told you, saying you'd be pissed doesn't even begin to cover it. You have always been closest with Rodney, just like he was with you, and that's okay, because Radek and I were the same. You and Rodney never had the chance to be all you could be together, and that's unfortunate. I know this hurts you and I'm sorry, but we'll find a way to get there, we'll see him again. I have no proof that his cancer is the terminal kind, he may be back on the Alpha Site right now, driving all the scientists mad."

John smiled sadly and forced a chuckle, it sounded more like a choked cough, but at least it was something. "Yeah," he said, it was all he could commit to.

"I hope that is the case, Carson," Radek said quietly. He'd never thought that something like this would happen. He hadn't ever considered that any of the three of them would have any pressing need to get back to Earth, but now they did. If they'd known, they never would have gone. If John had known... Radek and Carson had convinced him to come to Atlantis. They'd taken him away from any chance of seeing Rodney again. "I wonder," Radek said. "Would he have told us?"

"I should bloody well think so," Carson sighed. "We're his closest friends."

"Yeah, but he wouldn't want pity," John said quietly, "which is what he'd think he'd get." He shook his head. "He would have told us, but only after we figured it out on our own, and even then he wouldn't want us to know," he sighed. "He never did want to seem weak to us, he didn't seem to know that he never would. All of us have weaknesses and strengths, but we make each other stronger. All the shit we've been through since 1982, we've been there for each other. When Rodney's mom died, and mine, all the joy and sorrow, we were together, and we could get through anything. This is the hardest thing we're going to have been through and we're separated."

Radek put his arm a little tighter around John and held him a little closer. "We mustn't dwell on that, it is a fact, and we cannot change it, as disappointing as that is. We must strive to reach Earth either physically or by message, if we give into our heart breaking thoughts, it will be as if we have given up."

"Yes Radek," John said, "but what the hell can I do on that front? I kill bad guys, that's all I'm good for these days."

"Do not say that, John," Radek told him sternly. "I'm sure I could use your help down in the labs. You're smarter than you let on."

Carson nodded, "Aye, you're as good with numbers as Radek, even if you haven't had as much theory work. You'll be of much more use than me, anyway." He chuckled hollowly while he said it. He was a doctor. He wanted to help people, to heal them. There was absolutely nothing he could do for Rodney right now, but he could maybe help Radek and John stay sane.

John nodded. He hadn't done anything with his degree, hadn't even done anything with numbers in years besides count dead bodies, too many of which were on their team.

Carson leaned in closer, "You're both going to stay here tonight. I don't think any of us want to be alone tonight. I'll go down and get us some food, we'll eat and then lie in bed and comfort each other until we fall asleep and first thing tomorrow morning, you both can go down to the labs and get started."

"Ano," Radek nodded. He leaned over and kissed Carson softly. "Thank you for telling us this, Carson."

John sighed and sagged against Radek. They'd start trying to get back to Rodney tomorrow. He had no idea how long it would take, or if it would ever happen, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had to try. Never leave a man behind had been the rule John lived by for so long, and he'd done it to the one person who meant the most to him in the world. John felt cold. "I think I'll go back to my own quarters tonight."

"Alright," Radek said. "Carson and I will go with you."

"No thanks, I think I want to be alone tonight," John said.

"Alone is the last thing you need to be John," Carson said. "We need each other, so we are going where you go."

"I failed him," John admitted. "I left him. All this time, I thought I lost him... but really, it was him who lost me." His chest ached, and all he wanted to do was ball up on the bed and sleep.

"You're staying here tonight," Carson said firmly. "Come on." He and Radek got John to his feet and into the bedroom. They got him undressed down to his boxers and then did the same themselves. Carson still knew they should eat, but he didn't think any of them were in the mood for it.

"You did not fail him, John," Radek said gently, stroking his hand through John's hair after they were all settled in the bed. John was in the middle. "There was simply a breakdown in communication on all sides. We were all very busy, and Rodney obviously was just as busy. I barely remember the last email I received from him."

"If I hadn't joined the air force," John began, his voice hollow and sad. "He'd never have taken that job. I'd be teaching right now, he'd have several projects going on, a few awards under his belt and life would be perfect. We'd be together, and Rodney wouldn't be sick. That was his plan, that's what he wanted."

"But not what you wanted," Carson added.

"I wanted him, Carson, that's all, I still just want him. I'd give up everything for him, just like in that virtual reality thing awhile back. I'd walk away from all this."

Radek didn't have the heart to point out that Rodney would still be sick, but he knew what John meant. They'd all be together and by Rodney's side, instead of in another galaxy if they'd made a few simple different decisions. "We can only look ahead, John," he said quietly. "Only work for a way to fix our mistakes. We cannot take them back."

"If I'd just... talked to him a little more," John continued, lost in his own thoughts, "if he and I had just talked about things, none of this would have happened."

Radek sighed and kissed John's head, looking at Carson while he did so. John wasn't listening to him. Maybe Carson would have more luck. Either way, all they could do was be there for John and not let him out of their sight for a while.

"John," Carson said and ran his hand up and down John's arm. "Radek's right, the best thing we can do for Rodney and ourselves right now is find a way to get back to him. We can't change the past, he just have to work toward making the future the best we can make it."

John didn't speak, he was barely even listening to his friends. He heard their voices, but he wasn't interested in hearing what they had to say. They were trying to tell him that everything would be okay, that they'd get back to Rodney and things would work out. Trying to tell him to keep his shit together, but he didn't want to keep it together. He had left the only person he'd ever loved, and now Rodney was dying, alone, probably wondering where John was, maybe even calling for him when it gets very bad. Trying to think of what he could have done that was so wrong that John would forsake him in his time of need. These thoughts were ripping John to shreds inside, and he thought maybe he deserved that pain, deserved to be hurt. The tears were coming in silent streams now, he didn't have the energy to make any more noises.

"John," Radek spoke and tugged on John a bit. John was a perpetual runner, he ran and hid from the things that hurt him most, and he was doing that now. They wouldn't let John leave, so he went to the only place left, a place where they couldn't follow him, inside his own mind, and there, he was more than likely torturing himself. Radek suddenly thought he may know why John had been so careless for the past few years. "We are here with you, John, please speak to us," he pleaded.

"I have to get back to Earth," John eventually said, his voice cracking.

Carson nodded. "Aye, we all do. And we'll find a way."

John thought about it some more, trying to get past the images of a frail Rodney lying all alone in a cold, sterile hospital room. Rodney hated hospitals. "We have to find a ZPM," he said quietly, already thinking of the note the old Elizabeth had written them. There were worlds with ZPMs out there. If all else failed, maybe they could used the one that the planet with all the kids had. He couldn't believe he was even considering that, but it was for Rodney.

"We can talk Elizabeth into sending out a few teams tomorrow," Carson said as he continued rubbing John's arm. He thought about going to the infirmary and getting John some sleeping pills to let him have a dreamless sleep tonight, but that wouldn't help them. They needed him clear headed since he'd more than likely insist that his team be one of the ones to go.

Between Radek rubbing his hair and Carson rubbing his arm, John felt himself begin to float. He didn't think he was drifting toward sleep, but he was going toward something. "We will get back to him, John," Radek soothed. "On that you have my solemn oath, we will see Rodney again.

-----1984, Virginia----

John sat in the guest house with Rodney, Radek, and Carson after the funeral was over. He still wasn't quite sure how he felt about everything. It hadn't really hit him yet that his mother was dead. Rodney held him tight, worried about him. John hadn't said a word since the funeral started. He looked up at Carson and Radek, unsure what to do.

Once again, Carson was feeling his friend's pain, John's hurt was nearly bringing tears to his eyes. He sat down beside him and wrapped both him and Rodney in his arms, then a moment later he felt Radek sit down on the other side of Rodney and add himself to the group hug. John wasn't speaking, hadn't spoken for a couple of hours now, and that bothered Carson. So often, John retreated inside himself when something hurt too bad to deal with. The three of them had to try to draw him out, but Carson wasn't sure how to go about that. John's mother had just died, and Carson couldn't even imagine that pain, nor did he want to.

Rodney held John, not saying anything and knowing there was nothing to say. He could have easily said that it was going to be okay, that he understood, but the fact of the matter was that Rodney didn't know what he was feeling. He didn't understand, couldn't understand. He was sure it hurt, hurt like hell, knowing that John was closer to his mom than his dad. All he could do... all any of them could do, was just be there for John, listen when he wanted to talk and not let him disappear completely inside himself. He needed them, even if he wouldn't fully admit it. So Rodney just kept hugging.

John finally seemed to become aware of his friends surrounding him, supporting him. He started a little and sucked in a deep breath before reaching up to touch Rodney's arm where it was wrapped around his chest. He leaned his head back against Rodney's shoulder and closed his eyes. "We knew this was coming," he said quietly. "She was diagnosed two years ago."

Carson nodded. "Aye, we remember. Knowing it's going to happen is different than it actually happening, though."

John snorted softly. "Ain't that the truth." He tried to relax back into his friends a little, but it was hard. "You know, I never told her I... I never told her that I like guys. She never knew exactly what the three of you mean to me."

Rodney huffed softly. "Yes, John, she did," he said and kissed the side of John's head. "Last summer when I came to visit when your dad had that business trip and wouldn't let you leave. Remember when your mom told you to go into the kitchen and make her some tea?" John nodded. "While you were gone, she told me how much you'd changed for the better, and that she knew what had caused it. Then she told me that if I ever hurt you, even if she had to haunt me to do it, she'd make me pay."

John sighed. "Yeah, that sounds like her." Hearing what Rodney said hurt, made him realize just how little he'd talked to his parents over the last few years. He thought that he should try to make a conscious effort to change that while his dad was still alive.

"Mothers know more than we think," Carson added. "Mum knew I was going to like guys before I even knew myself."

Rodney held John close for a long time, wishing he could do more than just be there. But if that was all that he could do, he would do it gladly. Even though John would probably never admit it, he needed his friends right now. He needed Rodney to be there with him. Rodney could tell that in the way John clutched his arm, the way he sagged back against him, his body conforming to Rodney's in a way that had Rodney's own back aching in sympathy. He didn't say a lot more, but Rodney was a little more comfortable with this silence. This wasn't John retreating into his head. This was him reflecting, thinking about his mother and the past. Rodney nuzzled his neck and kissed his ear. "I'll always be there for you, John," he said quietly. "Whenever you need me, I'll be right here, next to you."

John sighed and nodded. "I know, Rodney. Thank you," he whispered.

There was a knock on the door and John called for whoever it was to come in.

"John," Dave Sheppard said softly when he came in.

"Go away, Dave," John replied.

Rodney knew that John and Dave didn't have a great relationship, so he prepared himself to give Dave a piece of his mind if he started anything.

"You need anything?" Dave asked.

"No, Dave, I'm fine. Just leave me alone."

Dave nodded and left the room.

Carson watched Dave leave, then turned to look at John, the brothers didn't have a good relationship, he knew, but he couldn't help wondering if Dave hadn't been looking for a little comfort himself. He didn't say anything about it though. They weren't here for Dave, they were here for John. Dave had his own friends he could go see.

John looked at the door after it had closed, he sighed and shook his head. He squeezed Carson's hand and put his other hand on Radek's arm as he pressed back further into Rodney. "I don't know what I'd do if you guys weren't here," he said.

"Well, we are here," Rodney replied, "so you don't have to think about that." He kissed John's temple.

John leaned his head back and closed his eyes, he looked exhausted. Rodney rested his head on John's head while Carson leaned over and put his head on John's shoulder, and Radek leaned against Rodney. They stayed there like that, all touching each other and eventually, John's breathing evened out and the others began to drift as well.

-Atlantis, January 2005-

John hadn't been sleeping well for many reasons. At least an imminent Wraith attack gave him a good excuse and an outlet for his frustrated energy. Their mission to find a ZPM had been a bust. They'd been close though. John had held a fully charged ZPM in his hands. The Brotherhood had taken it away from him though, and he really wouldn't mind some mindless violence against them for that.

As it was, he'd been sent to his quarters on orders from Weir to rest for a couple hours. His team was due to continue its search for potential evacuation points in a few hours, and John knew he should try to sleep, but his brain was working too fast.

Ford was going around recording goodbye videos. It was the only thing they could do. The gate could be opened for a second, just long enough to send messages back to earth. As soon as it had been suggested, John had started thinking about what he would say to Rodney. He still had no idea. John grumbled, got up and paced around his quarters, too wired to sleep, but too exhausted to be of any use.

Radek was busy working in the lab. He'd been up for three days straight trying to perfect the Genii's bomb. He hated having that much uncontained radiation in the city, but if he didn't get them ready, radiation poisoning would be the least of their problems. He wished Rodney was there. Together they'd get done in half the time. He looked up when he heard the door open.

"Dr. Zelenka..."

"Not now, Lt. I am much too busy, I will record my message privately."

Ford nodded. "The Major and Dr. Beckett said the same thing," he said and left.

Radek knew that he and his friends were all thinking the same thing. They were all going to record a message for Rodney. They would most likely do it together, show Rodney that they were still together and that they missed him terribly. He looked at the primitive bomb and sighed, now his mind was busy thinking about what to say to Rodney.

John finally gave up pacing and left his quarters. He was slowly going crazy in there. He took an indirect way to the infirmary and saw Carson working with a patient. Before Carson could see him, John went into Carson's office and sat in Carson's chair. He didn't have anything to say really. He just didn't want to be alone in his quarters any more.

Carson finished with his patients and went to the sink. Rodney was heavy on his mind for the last few days. He washed up and headed toward his office. "John," he said when he went inside. "Is everything..." he almost asked if everything was alright, but the answer to that was a resounding no. So he just moved over and sat in the chair beside him. He patted John's leg, "I know..." he said.

"I'm going nuts, Carson," John said quietly. "I have to focus on the crisis at hand, but I can't get Rodney out of my head. When the Brotherhood took that ZPM from me..." he trailed off, ashamed of his thoughts. He'd wanted to kill every one of them, and the Genii too.

Carson nodded. To his shame, he'd had similar thoughts. It was like they had Rodney in their hands and he was taken away. He'd wanted to walk away from his oath for a day and stand beside John as they laid waste to the people who were keeping them from Rodney. He sighed, "Stay here as long as you need. I don't want to be alone either."

John nodded. "I have to take my team out to look for potential alpha sites again in about an hour. Ford's doing the rounds right now, recording messages to send home." He paused for a minute. "What am I going to say to him? 'Sorry we up and left you behind?'" John rubbed his eyes, and Carson could see the dark bruising beneath them. John hadn't been sleeping.

Carson sighed, he'd been wondering the same thing, and could only come up with one thing. "All we can tell him is how much knowing him has meant to us. That having him in our lives has made all the difference. And that we miss him terribly and wish that we could be there with him, and if we could, we'd be there in a heartbeat."

John grunted, acknowledging the truth of Carson's words. It would never be enough though. There weren't words to say just what Rodney meant to John, and nothing he could say would make it right that they'd left him.

Carson sighed, he knew exactly what John was thinking. "There are no words that are good enough."

Radek came in and flopped down on the third chair. "Carson, I need more stimulants. I cannot concentrate and we are running out of time."

Carson shifted uncomfortably. He hated that Radek was on stims, hated that it was necessary for him to be on them. They had a limited amount of time and too much work to be done. "Thinking about Rodney?"

Radek nodded, "ano, I cannot get him out of my head. There is too much to do and all I can think of is how we will never see him again."

Carson watched Radek carefully. He was shaking and he also had large bruises under his eyes from lack of sleep. He appeared to be thinner and the worry lines on his face were deepening. "Radek, love, it isn't safe for me to up your stimulant dose any higher than it already is."

"Elizabeth won't authorize us taking the ZPM from the kids, so we won't have the shield or a way to get home. We need those bombs that Radek's building, Carson. We need Radek alert. I hate the stims too, but there's not much else we can do," John said, a little harsher than he'd intended.

Carson sighed and went over to the cabinet. "I know, but if he takes too much, it could cause any number of problems. Heart failure is just one."

John bit his lips and fought to keep his temper. It felt like Carson was saying they'd already lost Rodney, there was no reason to risk losing Radek to. The logical part of John's brain said that was true, but it still hurt to hear. He bent over and leaned his head against the desk and closed his eyes. "Fuck! I feel so god damned useless!"

"We're doing all we can, John, there isn't anything more any of us can do," Carson said as he walked back over to them. "All we can hope to do now is let Rodney know that he is loved."

"Loved doesn't mean shit when you're dying alone!" John shouted and stormed out of the office.

"John..." Radek called and started to go after him.

"No, Radek, let him be for now. He's not angry at us," he sighed and handed the pills to Radek. "Isn't there anyone you could get to work for you for a few hours? You need to sleep Radek."

Radek shook his head. "No, no one else can do it. I cannot afford to sleep, I will be alright. I will not come for more pills until I must have them."

"Alright," Carson said, defeated. "But I'm going to send a nurse down with you to watch you. I want to know the second you begin showing signs of anything."

Radek got up and kissed Carson softly. "I will be fine, but if it will make you feel better, I do not mind. As long as whoever you send stays out of the way."

A few hours later, after John's team came back from another failed alpha site proposal, the three of them got together in Carson's quarters. They had to make their recording for Rodney; Elizabeth wanted to dial out in a few hours. Carson still had no idea what to say as he watched Radek set up the camera. John wasn't looking at any of them. He sat on Carson's couch, elbows on his knees, and studied his fingers intently.

"Alright," Radek said. "I think given the circumstances, it is normal for us to be upset, but we should try to compose ourselves."

John looked up and took three deep breaths. "This'll be the last thing Rodney sees of us, we need to make it a good memory." He sighed, "I suppose this is best, I mean, whatever Rodney believes in, where ever he thinks he may end up after death, at least he won't be alone there. That's why I'm not afraid. I was at first, but then I realized, I'm going where ever Rodney goes, I'll be with him again. That's my comforting thought."

Carson smiled weakly. "I suppose it's a good one, mind if I share it?"

John pulled Carson close. "Not at all, because we'll all be there together." He took a deep breath and sighed it out. "Come on, let's do this."

Radek pointed the remote at the camera. "And, five, four, three, two, one..."

-USA, 1997-

Rodney was the first to arrive in the hotel they'd chosen for their get together. He was excited; he hadn't seen any of his three friends in over a year. He couldn't wait to see John again. Every time he got a letter or a phone call, he felt a little better. He always worried something was going to happen, and it had been horrible with John over in the Middle East all last year.

John walked into the hotel room and immediately got an armful of Rodney before he could even drop his duffle. "Hey, Rodney," he said with a chuckle that was cut off with Rodney's mouth landing a crushing kiss. John moaned and kissed back, dropping the bag and wrapping his arms around Rodney's waist.

"Most people close the door first," a familiar Scottish accent said from behind John and both men smiled, their mouths still touching.

When Rodney finally pulled away from John, he smiled at the sight of Carson and Radek standing in the doorway. The two came in, got the door shut, and Carson hugged John tightly. "It's wonderful to see you, John," he grinned.

Everyone got settled and Rodney called for room service. After the food arrived, they all sat on the bed and started eating. "How are things going over in the desert?" Radek asked John.

John took a bite of his food and hummed around it. "A lot of killing, some of which was done to men in my squad. It's a little scary sometimes, little lonely." He smiled his half smile and looked around at them. "A lot of the pilots have pictures in their cockpit, pictures of their wives and kids, parents... I have the picture of us that we took the day I left for basic. It keeps me focused, safe... Knowing I have you three back here waiting for me."

"And worrying about you," Rodney added. "I watch the news every night and it's on in the background while I'm working. I keep listening for your name and am so relieved every night when I go to bed without hearing it."

"I do that too, Rodney," Carson said.

John scooted closer to Rodney and wrapped an arm around him. "It's thoughts of you that keep me from doing anything stupid," he said quietly. "I'm being very careful, Rodney."

Rodney smiled softly and leaned against John. "No matter how careful you are, you being over there does absolutely nothing good for my blood pressure or stress levels," he said. He felt warm inside from John's words, and he dared to let himself hope a little that John really would come out of his time over there alive and in one piece.

While John and Rodney were wrapped up in each other, Radek took the moment to pull Carson into a kiss. "Working on opposite sides of the country is terrible," he smiled.

"It is awful," Carson replied and snuggled into Radek. "We've spent most of our lives together, the first while, I couldn't sleep being so far away from you."

Rodney stared into John's eyes, feeling a bit floaty. It'd been entirely too long since they'd seen one another, he'd missed John more than he thought he could.

John reached up and cupped the back of Rodney's head in his hand. Everything was displayed on his face and Rodney couldn't keep from kissing him.

John groaned and kissed him back just as hard and deeply. He turned a little more towards Rodney and wrapped his arms tightly around the other man. Radek and Carson glanced over at their friends and Radek chuckled. "Those two will be together forever."

Rodney ignored his sandwich plate as it slid off his lap, and he pulled himself closer to John. Carson smiled. "Yes, they certainly will. Those two were made for each other." He kissed Radek and smiled. "But I think we were too."

Radek hummed and nuzzled Carson's neck. "Ano, I believe you are right." Radek kissed him again and sighed. "I wish you could get in on this project I am working on. I am sure they need doctors of your caliber."

In their efforts to get closer, John lost his balance and fell back against the mattress, Rodney on top of him.

Carson nodded. "My work is very important, I wouldn't be able to walk away from it." He sighed. "I wish I could tell you about my work, you'd be amazed."

"Yes, the same for my work, you would not believe the things I am working on."

John chuckled and groaned as Rodney pressed him into the bed.

Rodney kissed John again, then paused to look up at Radek and Carson. "Are you two just going to sit there and talk this whole time? John's been gone for a year and may die at any minute while he's over there getting shot at. I see you two at least every three months. Now either get over here and join us or go into the other room. You're conversation's distracting me."

Carson laughed and scooted a little closer. "So sorry to be a distraction," he said and kissed the back of Rodney's neck. "I don't think I ever told you that you look much better without the mullet."

"Hey," Rodney protested. "Those were special times, leave them alone."

"Yeah," John chuckled. "I never cared what his hair looked like, it wasn't what I was most interested in anyway."

Radek chuckled and ran his hand through Rodney's hair. "We've all made unfortunate decisions in the past, I believe." He leaned down and kissed John.

Rodney huffed a little, but he arched into Carson's mouth, still pressed to the back of Rodney's neck.

"Look who's talking Mr. Short shorts and middie shirt," John laughed.

"Um, John," Rodney said. "If my memory serves me correctly, you were in a middie shirt too."

Carson finally pulled away from Rodney's neck. "Yeah, and super tight pants. It's a good thing neither you nor Radek are going to want kids, John. You've probably squeezed your balls to sterility."

"If it was not our pants that did it, Carson, it was your hand," Radek added.

"Come on guys," Rodney protested. "Are we going to talk or fuck, because seriously, my ass is begging for one of your dicks and my dick is begging for one of your asses."

"So subtle, Rodney, very nice," Carson said.

John laughed and slid his hands under Rodney's shirt. "I like the direct approach." He kissed Rodney again as he slid his hands into Rodney's jeans and squeezed his ass. Rodney moaned and ground against John.
Carson and Radek exchanged a look, then Carson began helping Rodney get his shirt off. John moaned and pressed his hips up against Rodney's, and assisted Radek and Carson with Rodney's shirt.

It didn't take them long to get naked and piled on the bed, all tangled together. Sweat dripping off all of them and the smell of fresh sex and lube filling the air. John and Rodney had their chests pressed together as usual and Rodney could already feel John's cock beginning to stir again. "God, I've missed this," he said. "I've missed you guys," he added and cupped John's cheek. "I've missed you." He kissed John deeply.

John smiled and leaned up to kiss Rodney deeply. "I've missed you too," he whispered against Rodney's lips.

"We have all missed you very much John," Radek said softly from behind him. "Not in the least because Rodney is nearly insufferable some days without you around."

Rodney sputtered indignantly and Carson laughed.

"Insufferable without me huh?" John chuckled. "Nice to know you like me that much Rodney."

"Of course I like you that much you dope," Rodney shot back but eased his words with a soft smile. "I do more than like you."

John smiled and kissed Rodney again. "I do more than like you too."

Carson rolled his eyes, but he smiled as he watched his friends. "How long are you in town, John?"

John sighed and stretched, relaxing into the bed. Rodney's eyes traveled John's body, finding and cataloging every new scar he found. "Three weeks, then I have to go report in. I'm not sure if I'll get more leave then that right now, though I probably won't be deployed again for a while," John answered Carson.

"Good," Rodney said as he ran his finger across a small scar on John's chest just under his nipple. It was almost invisible, but Rodney saw it because he was looking. John sucked in a breath.

"Does it hurt?" Rodney asked.

"No," John replied as he took Rodney's hand and brought his fingers up to kiss them. "Just sensitive."

"Three weeks," Radek said and snuggled closer to his friends. "What shall we do for that time?"

John laughed. "Not what you're thinking. There are drug tests after every leave."

Radek gave John the most innocent look he could muster, but John just raised an eyebrow at him. Radek laughed. "Ah, you know me well."

John grinned. "Yeah, I really do."

"I'm sure we'll find plenty to do that doesn't involve brain killing drugs," Rodney replied, shooting Radek a look.

"Your brains are so much more important than they used to be after all," John said and chuckled.

Rodney hummed and rested against John. "I'm getting hungry again." The others chuckled and pressed their bodies closer together, effectively squishing Rodney between them.

"We may have squished the food. Or at least some of it," John laughed.

"Oh, that us just... Gross!" Rodney tried to get up to look, but John held him down, laughing.

"You know this is all your fault, right?" Rodney asked John.

"My fault? Why's that?" John asked.

"Because, you live dangerously and when you get back here I have to make sure everything is still there. Of course it doesn't help that you have the temptress eyes and the voice of a siren."

John furrowed his brow and looked at the others. "Was that a compliment?"

Radek laughed. "Rodney's been reading something that his scientific brain just can't understand: literature."

"Soppy prose is more like it," Carson added, then let out an 'oof' as Rodney elbowed him.

"Yes, well, more an accusation, but... yes, a compliment." Rodney blushed a little.

John grinned and kissed him. "Well, I can't help that then, can I?" he pulled Rodney closer and kissed him again. "Relax, I think we missed squishing the food."

The four of them stayed curled together for a while longer, then got up. They decided it was probably safest to take turns in the shower, so Rodney grabbed a couple bites of food, then claimed the shower first. Under the spray with his ears full of water, he didn't realize anyone had joined him. He jumped when hands slid around his waist.

"Just me," John kissed the back of Rodney's neck and pressed up behind him.

Rodney smiled even as he replied, "Do you not know the meaning of taking turns?"

"Sure I do," John replied, kissing Rodney's neck again. "You and I will have a turn, then Carson and Radek will have a turn. There, see? Taking turns."

Rodney grinned and turned in John's arms and kissed him deeply. "I suppose two turns are better than four. Conserve water and all."

"Yeah," John breathed as he reached down and squeezed Rodney's ass, pulling his hips closer as he did. "Water conservation." He kissed him again and ground their hips together. "You know," John said when the kiss broke. "Our first time was in a shower." He smiled nostalgically.

Rodney gasped when John ground against him, and when the kiss broke he was having trouble following the conversation. "What? Oh, yes, I suppose it was." He slid his hands around John, letting them roam all over John's water slick back and ass. His fingers found another scar and he paused. "I really wish you'd..." Rodney trailed off. He knew John wouldn't leave the air force, especially this early in service. Still, Rodney hated the idea of John having to go back into the war zone.

"I'll be fine, Rodney," John said reassuringly. "No one means more to me than you do. I'll come back to you, I swear." He kissed Rodney again and pulled him even closer.

"Hey," Carson called, "are you two gonna be long? Radek and I would like to shower too you know."

John smiled and chuckled. "No, not long," he said and leaned against Rodney.

Rodney dried off feeling fantastically sated. He loved sex in the shower with John, and this time it'd been him fucking John. He loved the way John's ass felt around his cock, the way he squeezed him throughout, and clenched down hard when he came. He dropped the towel, and turned toward John. "You'd better be safe," he said. He couldn't get the idea of John getting killed out of his mind. He was scared to death every time he looked at the news, terrified that he'd hear John's name. He plastered his still damp body against John's.

"I'll be alright, Rodney," John said and held him tightly.

Rodney nodded and didn't say anything else. Finally he let John go and went out into the main room. Carson and Radek replaced them in the bathroom and Rodney sat on the bed, suddenly not hungry as he thought about what John would have to go back to. "So," Rodney finally spoke up. "What's Don't Ask, Don't Tell like?"

John shrugged. "I've never given it much thought. It's just that no one can ask if you're gay and you don't tell anyone. I guess if they find out then you're history. I think they thought they were doing us a favor, but discrimination is still discrimination even if you do it quietly. I pretty much keep to myself though. I talk to a few of the guys in my squad, but I never go out with them when we get leave. I usually just go on my own. I think that's where a lot of guys make their mistakes, they try too hard to fit in, to get people to think they're not gay. I just do my own thing, fuck them and what they think, I don't try to make anyone think anything, I'm just me." He sighed. " How's um... Where ever you are. I don't like not knowing where you are, I worry too you know. I don't like sending letters to a P.O. box. But I do appreciate the lack first of names when you guys send me letters." he chuckled.

Rodney shrugged, hating the last name only thing. It was a good idea, he knew, but there was a reason Rodney was never that closeted. He wasn't good at it. "The work is great," he replied, happy to get to talk at least a little about it. He told John all out his coworkers (all morons) mostly.

John laughed and laid back on the bed. "Everyone is a moron compared to you," he said and kissed Rodney's temple.

"True," Rodney agreed and snuggled into John. He wished they could stay like this forever. The work he was doing now was more rewarding than his previous plan would have had him doing, but he'd much rather come home to something warmer than a cat. But he was done talking about it, he couldn't get John to leave the military, so he'd stop trying. "What's it like to fly?" he asked finally.

John smiled, his eyes going distant. "It's one of the greatest feelings in the world," he answered. "I never feel as free as when I'm in the sky. When I'm up there, everything makes sense. I feel focused, alive."

Rodney watched as John talked about it, and he couldn't help but feel a little jealous. Not of the sky obviously, because that was stupid, but... Rodney was starting to realize that this was the only path John would have taken. Rodney's plans of a house and their jobs that let them see each other every night wouldn't have ever been enough for John. He wasn't enough for John. He'd never say anything like that to John, of course, so he nodded and smiled. "Sounds... Well, not my idea of perfect, but it sounds like it makes you happy. That's good. Even if you are getting shot at all the time."

"I'm not getting shot at all the time, Rodney," John laughed.

"And it does make me happy," John added. "The only thing that would make me happier is having you up there with me. I mean, I think you'd like it, well, not the combat part, but, sometimes, when it's calm and the sun is setting and the sky is that purplish shade, it's gorgeous and I think of you."

Rodney smiled and shook his head. "Yeah, maybe I would." He snuggled into John's arms and rested his head on John's chest. He didn't say anything for a while, just trying to savor the moment.

John draped his arm over Rodney's shoulder and rubbed with his thumb. "These are my favorite times," he whispered softly.

-Colorado, January 2005-

Rodney woke up nauseous and exhausted. He blinked up at the White ceiling and listened to the monitors beep, telling him and everyone else that he was still alive. He was seriously getting tired of the dreams. His memories haunted his waking and sleeping hours. He'd long ago been denied his laptop and forbidden from working from his hospital bed. He was bored, and the only thing he had to do was remember things. He turned his head slowly as the door opened. The room spun a bit, but he recognized the oncology doctor. If he was visiting, it probably meant more bad news.

"Good morning, Dr. McKay," the doctor said flatly. "How are you feeling?"

Rodney rolled his eyes and huffed out a frustrated breath. "The same way I always feel, like shit. Stop with the false pleasantries, just tell me." Rodney took in the look and the silence and sighed. He'd thought he had come to terms with his coming demise, but that was before it was staring him in the face. Now, he was terrified and it hit him again, just how alone he was. "It didn't work did it? I'm going to die, aren't I?"

The doctor sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry, but no, the treatment didn't work. It was the last possibility. There's nothing else." He sighed. "I really am sorry, Dr. McKay."

Rodney sank into the bed a little more and stared at the wall, eyes distant. He'd been an idiot, never going to the doctor no matter how often he was sick or nauseous, no matter how he felt. If he'd gone in earlier, maybe they could have cured him. But he still hated doctors, and the one doctor he trusted was... Rodney had no idea where Carson was, but he'd stopped getting emails and letters almost a year ago. His chest hurt as he thought of his friends again. There were so many things he regretted, though in a way he was happy John and the others wouldn't see him like this, too thin and pale, waiting to die. Imagining the looks of pity and horror on their faces made bile rise in his throat and he swallowed convulsively. The doctor was beside him in an instant and handed him a blue emesis basin. Rodney took it, but the nausea passed, thankfully. It wasn't like he had anything to throw up anyway. "So what now?" he asked tiredly.

"There's nothing else we can do, there is no reason to keep you here. We're going to send you home, with a home doctor. You'll get the same care there that you'd get here, but you'll be more comfortable. You have a few months, maybe as many as six, go home, call your loved ones, set up that trust fund for your niece you were talking about. Say your goodbyes Rodney, it's all there is left to do."

Absently, Rodney nodded. "Fine," he said quietly, and he felt something, some final glimmer of hope that had somehow held out all this time, finally flicker and die. It hurt, but he managed to wait until the doctor left the room before he picked up the emesis basin again and dry heaved into it. Stomach acid burned his throat and he spat and swallowed convulsively afterward. He leaned back and stared at the ceiling again. His chest hurt and he could feel tears in his eyes. He hadn't even bothered to tell Jeanie about it. He'd die quietly and alone, and he supposed he'd brought that on himself. He hadn't replied to a letter or an email from Carson or Radek in almost three years, and he hadn't spoken to John since he found out he'd gotten married. It was no wonder none of them were talking to him anymore. John probably had three kids by now and was happily settled with Nancy, who Rodney had only met once but had seemed like a nice enough person at the time. Radek and Carson were probably living together by now, maybe living Rodney's old dream of working their day jobs and coming home to each other every night.

Rodney didn't know how much time had passed, and he supposed it didn't matter. He'd had time to think of all the times John said how much Rodney meant to him, how he'd always come back to Rodney. That had been true for awhile, but the last time he'd physically seen John, had been in '97, they exchanged letter correspondence for awhile, he got an occasional email and phone call. Then nothing, and he assumed they'd sent John back. A few months after that was when he'd found out about Nancy.

Rodney was jerked out of his thoughts by a knock then the door opening. A thirteen year old girl came in and smiled so sweetly it made Rodney want to puke again. "What? Your mom's not in here go away."
She smiled. "They warned me about your... sense of humor. I'm Dr. Jennifer Keller, I'll be going home with you."

Rodney raised an incredulous eyebrow and looked her over again. "I don't think so, but if you insist you're some sort of doctor then here, get rid of this for me." He waved at the emesis basin and tried to roll over to face the windows. It was slow going. Everything ached and he was exhausted.

Keller cleared her throat and pulled on a pair of gloves. She took care of the basin and went back. "I'd expect you to have a certain kinship to fellow over achievers. I graduated top of my class, made the Dean's list every semester and am recorded as one of the youngest in a hundred years to graduate with an MD. I may be young, Dr. McKay, but so were you once. The fact is, that it's either me at your home, or here with a bunch of impersonal doctors and nurses whenever they get a second from all their other patients."

"What am I, 90?" Rodney snapped, offended. He was sure he probably looked like a withered old man now, but he wasn't that old yet. "If my choices are you or here, then I'd like to actually ascertain if you in fact have two brain cells to rub together under the pretty hair and valley girl lip gloss. Universities will give degrees to anyone with money these days after all. If you can't even figure out how fucking old I am then maybe I will just stay here and take my chances. Better the voodoo practitioners I kind of know than the one I don't." Rodney's chest hurt again and he could feel his heart speeding up at the thought of this bimbo giving him the wrong pills or making his cat sick or lighting his house on fire.

"You're 38, Dr, and I graduated due to hard work and dedication. If my lip gloss offends you, I'll certainly remove it, and if you'd like me to pull my hair back, I have ties at the nurse's station. Let's see what I can tell you about you," she said and hung his chart on the end of the bed. "You're single, hypoglycemic, and have a severe allergy to citrus and dogs. You have no next of kin listed or any contacts to notify. You're a stickler for your medication schedule, which reminds me, your meds are due and you need to eat."

Rodney couldn't help swallowing and drawing into himself as this girl listed off facts about his pathetic life. He turned back toward the window. "I'm not hungry," he said quietly. "Just give me my pills." He'd just vomit again if he ate anything right now.

Jennifer sighed. "Alright, but you'll need to eat soon. We'll be leaving for your house in the morning. I'd like to have a medical bed delivered tonight, is there anyone who could receive it? Or I could take your key. Otherwise, we'll have to wait and have it delivered on Monday."

"No you can't have my key," Rodney snapped. "You'll let Bartok out or something. Just have it delivered when we get there."

"Alright," she sighed. "I'll have your medication brought in right away. I'll see you in the morning, Dr. McKay."

-Atlantis, February 2005-

The briefings and mop up after the battle with the Wraith was all a blur to John. His mind was on a constant loop of 'I almost committed suicide and the Daedalus has brought us a ZPM and we can go home.' Finally he was able to escape to his quarters. He flopped down on the bed and felt the exhaustion overwhelm him. They couldn't go home until Radek was off the stims and things were settled down again. Then there would be more endless briefings at the SGC and he'd probably have to fight to keep his job there. But if Rodney was still alive, John didn't even want to come back.

Carson mopped Radek's brow and sighed as he checked his vitals. The comedown was going to be hard for Radek, even though there at the end he hadn't taken any stims. It had been pure adrenaline keeping him going.

Radek opened his eyes and looked up at Carson. "Carson," he breathed. His head ached and his stomach was churning and he felt cold. "John...?"

"He's in his quarters. You remember the Daedalus beaming him in, right? John's alive, and resting."

"Thought... That was dream."

"No, Radek, it was real. We have a ZPM now, in a few days, or a week, we can go home."

"Rodney," Radek breathed.

Carson smiled, nodded and squeezed Radek's hand. "Yes... Rodney."

"How is John?"

Carson sighed. "I'm not sure, physically he's okay, but I've been very busy."

"I want to see him."

"Not now, you need to rest."

"Carson," Radek grabbed Carson's arm weakly. "Please, I must see him. I must know for sure he's here."

Carson sighed and nodded. "Alright, relax, I'll call him." He tapped his radio.

John startled as his radio beeped and he jumped off the bed. "On my way," He said before remembering that it was over. He looked around dazed and confused and eventually heard Carson's voice repeating his name over and over through his ear piece. "Carson?"

"Thank god, I thought I was going to have to go track you down again."

"Again?" John asked.

"On earth when you were on leave in '90... Never mind that. Radek's awake, he wants to see you."

"I'll be right there," John replied and left his quarters.

Radek drifted in and out, but he looked up when the bedroom door opened and the relief was obvious in every bone of his body. "John," he reached out to him.

"Hey," John forced a smile and took his hand. "Doing any better?"

Radek shook his head mournfully. "Not yet."

John squeezed Radek's hand, "yeah, me neither," he said. "But I think I may know how to help." He stood up and stripped to his boxers and crawled into bed with Radek. He wrapped his arms around the other man and held him tight.

"Good," Carson said. "With the way you reacted to the radio call John, I'd rather have you here where I can keep an eye on you too." he sighed and shook his head when he saw that John and Radek were both sleeping. He rubbed both their heads and kissed them, then settled into the chair for the long haul.

Radek's eyes snapped open a few hours later and he groaned. Someone was holding him, but he thrashed his way out of the bed and made it into the bathroom on unsteady legs. The tiny meal Carson had fed him earlier made a reappearance in the toilet. When it was over, Radek rested his head against the bath tub, too tired to try to get up.

John woke up as soon as Radek pulled out of his arms, and he fought past the haze of exhaustion and followed Radek to the bathroom. He got a cloth, got it wet with cool water and washed Radek's face, then he got him a glass of cold water. "Here," he said and sat beside Radek. "Drink this." He put the cup to Radek's lips and tipped it.

As soon as the liquid was in his stomach, Radek was vomiting again. John supported Radek through the last of the dry heaves, then helped him sit back down again. "Damn, Radek," he sighed. "Come on, let's get back to bed." He helped him to his feet and supported most of his weight as they walked back to the bedroom.

Carson was sitting forward. "He threw up, I think he's okay now," John told him.

Carson sighed and helped Radek back into bed. "I'm sorry I didn't wake up, love," he said as he gently stroked Radek's hair.

Radek nodded and reached for Carson's hand. "It's okay," he whispered. "Lay down with us, Carson. You need rest too."

Carson looked between the two of them and thought about protesting, but if he was going to sleep hard enough even in the chair to not wake up then there was no reason to hurt his back and neck. "Okay," he agreed. He got up, stripped down to his boxers, and got into the bed. "Let me be in the middle. I don't want to be in the way if Radek has to get up again," he said to John.

"Sure," John scooted over and Carson settled in, wrapping his arms around Radek as John snuggled up against his back.

Carson felt Radek relax again in his arms, only the occasional tremor going through him. Carson kissed his neck and closed his eyes.

John closed his eyes and relaxed, still getting over the fact that they'd all survived. He smiled softly. "We're going back," he whispered, partially to himself.

Carson smiled and patted john's hand where it lay on his stomach. He'd known that was what would be on John's mind. "Aye," he agreed softly. "We're going back."

Radek had tossed and turned throughout the night, but he didn't get up again. He had a bit more color this morning too, although Carson wasn't foolish enough to this he was out of the woods yet. He startled when he heard the beep of a radio, but it was followed with John's voice.

"Sheppard... Alright, be right there," John said and groaned as he sat up.

"John, you're in no condition..." Carson began.

"Neither is anyone else, but we have work to do."

Carson watched as John got dressed, he may have been imagining it, But John looked thinner, his naturally tan skin looked pale, and the bags under his eyes hadn't shrank in the least. "Be careful, John."

John nodded and kissed Carson's head. "I will, you take care of Radek," he said and left.

Radek woke up a while later and turned to curl into Carson's arms, one hand wrapped around Carson as Radek felt for John. His eyes opened blurrily when he found no one there. "John?" he asked.

Carson kissed Radek's forehead. "He was called away, love." Carson explained.

Radek groaned and sat up. "Trouble?" he asked, looking vaguely around for his pants.

Carson shook his head and gently pulled Radek back down. "Even if there was one, there's not much for someone like you or I to do about it. Just rest. They'll call us if they need to."

Radek sighed and relaxed back into the bed, he didn't have enough strength to move let alone work. His eyes were getting heavy again and he didn't fight against them. "Wake me if anything happens," Radek commanded.

"I will," Carson told him.

John sighed as he collected the names off the dog tags from the withered husks that were strewn about the city. There was a crew of men following him and picking up the bodies. He felt bad for having slept last night when these soldiers were just lying around the city like heaps of dirty laundry put off for another day. Some of these men and women had served with him to protect Atlantis for the past year and some had come in at the last moment and saved their asses. Either way, whether he'd known them personally or not, they were soldiers who put their lives on the line for others. They deserved better than this. He looked down at the clip board in his hand, there were far too many names on it for his liking. "Alright," he said to the people behind him. "Next section." they moved on, the dolly of bodies being taken to the infirmary and an empty one replacing it.

By the time John's team had finished their designated areas, John could barely keep his eyes open again. He hated being this physically weak, but he knew it was only temporary. He barely bothered to strip before he collapsed onto the bed. Radek and Carson both murmured something at him.

Radek leaned up and looked over at John, he seemed to be already sleeping. "He is exhausted," he said to Carson. "Could you not put him on mandatory medical down time? Then Elizabeth could not make him work."

Carson sighed. "Aye, I could do that, but everyone in the city is in his position. If I do that, then his load will fall to another equally exhausted person. John wouldn't want me to do that. But I will tell Elizabeth that everyone needs shorter work periods until they are more rested."

"I wonder what was so important that he was called away so early," Radek said.

"Body count," John mumbled.

Radek sighed, understanding. "I see," he leaned back down and pulled John a little closer to him. "Rest now, John,"

----1994, Prague----

Everything seemed surreal to Radek as they stepped off the plane. He hadn't been home since he was a boy, but now his country was the newly named Czech Republic. He could finally see his parents again.

Carson stayed close to Radek, as did John and Rodney. "Do you see anyone?" he asked.

Radek searched the sea of faces, but it had been so long, the faces he knew in his memory had undoubtedly changed in the years since he'd last seen them. Then one face stood out, "dad?" he wondered out loud.

"Radek!"

The four of them turned at Radek's shouted name, and even Rodney recognized the face. It was an older version of Radek. They followed Radek as he rushed over to the man, none of them understood the words Radek was saying, but they all knew the tone. Radek was overjoyed.

Radek's father grabbed him in a huge hug, talking the whole time. When he finally put Radek down, they were both grinning hugely. Finally Radek turned to his friends. "Dad, this is Carson, Rodney, and John," he switched back to Czech as he kept taking. His father nodded and held out his hand for the boys to shake. "Is good to meet my son's friends," he said in a heavily accented English. He shook each of their hands but pulled Carson into a hug. "Is especially good to meet you finally. Radek speaks of you much."

Carson blushed a little, but he had a pleased smile on his face. "Thank you."

Rodney shared a look with John, and then with Carson. Carson made a face and the other two boys chuckled.

"Come on, let's go home. I want to see my family," Radek said and led his friends after his father. "My dad speaks English but not as well as I do, and my mom doesn't speak it as well as him, unless she's learned. So if she does not speak to you, is not because she does not like you. I will happily translate for you."

"Good to know," John smiled. They got their bags in the small car and twenty minutes later they were just out of the city and pulling into the drive of a small house. Radek and his father had spoken a lot- and quickly- as they drove, and Rodney was reminded that Radek had not even spoken very much to his family over the years. Most of their correspondence had been via letters and short phone calls.
The car parked and as they climbed out, the front door of the house opened and suddenly they were crowded. A woman, obviously Radek's mom, rushed toward them speaking rapid fire Czech and she yanked Radek into a crushing hug. Three boys, one older and two younger than Radek, waited until their mother finally put Radek back down before coming up to give their own greetings. Rodney saw tears on Radek's face, and Radek's mother was crying too.

Rodney moved a little closer to John, unsure how to act with this much emotion around him. He looked over and saw the Carson was crying too, Rodney put his hand in John's, feeling a little tightness in his own throat.

John squeezed Rodney's hand as the group of boys and Radek's mom were brought over to them. "I'd like you to meet Carson, Rodney and John. My very best friends in the world."

"Hi," John said and held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you all finally. Radek's talked about you all a lot."

Radek's mom ignored John's hand and hugged him, then snatched up Carson and Rodney and hugged them as well. "Thank you," she said. She said something to Radek, who laughed.

"She is thanking you for taking good care of me," he grinned. Rodney noticed that his accent was already thickening a little.

Rodney squeaked a bit when he was pulled into the elderly woman's arms, she had a surprisingly strong grip for her age. John laughed. "Well taking care of him has been our pleasure ma'am, although, I'd have to say Carson here deserves most of the credit. He was there 24/7, Rodney and I were only there every other six months."

Radek translated and his mother said something in return. Radek blushed and his mother laughed, reached out and pulled Carson into another hug. "Let's go inside," Radek suggested quickly.

John, Rodney and Carson picked up their bags but they were quickly taken from them by Radek's brothers. Rodney leaned in to John and whispered, "They treat Radek like royalty."

"We love all our children, Rodney," Mr. Zelenka said and draped an arm over Rodney's shoulder. "But Radek was the one we knew would excel, and we chose correctly. The other boys are better suited for manual labor."

"Um," Carson interrupted. "Radek's talked about a sister, he said she was just a baby when he left. Will we meet her too?"

Mr. Zelenka nodded, "ano, later tonight." He added something in Czech and Radek nodded.

"She's working right now, and she will not be off until late," he explained. They got inside the small house and Radek showed them the upstairs. There were three tiny bedrooms and all their bags had been deposited in one room.

John looked around with wide eyes. "Are we kicking your brothers out of their room? Because we can get a hotel or something."

Radek shook his head. "It is best if we all stay here."

Carson nodded, understanding. Radek hadn't seen his family in years, they may take it as an insult if they didn't stay there.

"Where will they sleep then?" Rodney asked.

"I do not know," Radek admitted, "but they will be fine." He moved over a little closer to his friends. "I am very happy that you are here with me."

Carson smiled and kissed him softly. "There's no place I'd rather be."

Rodney and John nodded. "Yeah," John agreed.

-Colorado, February 2005-

Rodney opened his eyes and blinked at the light. It was like his life was flashing before his eyes slowly. As his eyes cleared, a figure slowly became visible. Brown hair and glasses. "Radek?" he asked.

"No, Dr. McKay, it's Daniel," the figure said and touched his arm.

"Jackson," Rodney corrected. "What are you doing here?"

"Excuse me, Dr. Jackson, but you're going to need to leave. Rodney needs to rest."

Rodney glared at the woman. "Have you been in a coma, or running up my cable bill and eating my bonbon's? I just woke up, it's kind of nice to see a face besides yours." he looked back at Daniel. "What do you want?"

Jackson chuckled. "I should go anyway. But before I do," he took Rodney's hand and put something in it. "They're alright. They survived." Jackson nodded and left the room, Keller followed.

Rodney looked at the flash drive in his hand and sighed. His laptop was on the bedside table, and he turned onto his side toward it. With shaking hands, he booted the computer up and plugged in the flash drive. He heard Keller coming down the hall again. "Go away!" he shouted before the door could be opened.

"But, Rodney, it's time for your pill." Keller said through the closed door.

"I'll take it in a while, go away, I'm busy."

He heard her exasperated sigh and her litany of complaints as she walked away. He shook his head and squinted at the door, but she didn't matter. Whatever was on this flash drive was important enough for Daniel to bring over personally. He clicked the file.

"Hello, Rodney,"

Rodney paused the video, his stomach rolling and his heart pounding. He reached toward the screen and touched his finger to John's face, then Carson and Radek's. He swiped at the tickle on his face and found it was a tear and not a bug. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths. 'They survived,' Daniel said in his mind and Rodney suddenly needed to watch the video, no matter how much it hurt to see them... together... and without him. He sighed and pushed play.

The three were silent for a minute, then John sighed. "Fuck, this is hard," he muttered, looking at Radek. He turned back to the camera. "All that stuff I told you, Rodney, it's always been true. It still is," he paused again. "I know some censor person is probably going to listen to this, but I don't care. I'm probably going to die anyway. I've been trying to find a way back to Earth for a while now, Rodney. I... we never should have left."

Carson put a hand on John's shoulder. "We're on Atlantis, Rodney. There's a race of beings here that are," he sighed, "dare I say worse than the Goa'uld. They're bearing down on the city. We have no shields or ways to defend the city. There is no other possible outcome, we are going to die."

"But we wanted to let you know that we all still care about you Rodney. We have never stopped," Radek added.

"Rodney," John said and leaned a little closer to the camera, "I'm sorry, I am so sorry that we... I... didn't try harder to find you. I still sent letters to the P.O. Box for years, but I assumed you moved and didn't check it anymore." he sighed and sat back, a tear rolling down his cheek, he brushed it away. "I still do so much more than like you, Rodney."

"If," John continued, "by some miracle we make it out of this mess alive, I'll be coming back as soon as I possibly can. I promise."

Radek nodded. "Ano, we would do anything to be able to see you again, my friend."

Carson looked down and his face was soft and sad when he looked up again. "Rodney, we know you were selected to come on the mission too, and until now, we've all wanted you here, but now..." he sighed, "I found your medical file, they forgot to remove it. I know you're sick, and all the signs pointed to some kind of cancer. I really hope it was the curable kind, and that this video finds you well."

"Rodney," John spoke again. "Part of me still wishes you were here, I don't think I've ever been this... afraid. But the other part is happy you're not. I can go out with the image of you, rich and famous and drinking a non-citrus beverage on a tropical beach somewhere." His lip quivered just a bit and he clenched it between his teeth. "Fuck, Rodney, I want to be there with you. If we get through this, and I find a way back home, I'll give it all up. I'll teach and you can do what you do, and we'll be together every night. I won't leave you again, I swear."

Carson put his arm around John's shoulders and looked at the camera. "We love you, Rodney. That's never stopped and it never will."

"I have compressed some data for you," Radek jumped in. "It's all the research we have so far on the ZPM. Hopefully it will prove interesting for you."

John smiled weakly. "This isn't goodbye, Rodney. I'll never say that to you. I'll see you again, somehow."

Rodney paused the video before it could go off, he wanted to see his friends faces. "Oh, John," he whispered and touched his face again. Rodney was all out crying now, but he didn't care, they were okay, they survived. He sighed and moved his finger to Carson's face. "It was curable, but you know me, fear of doctors and all," he shook his head and sighed, he was talking to a video, but it was all he had. "I miss you guys,"

"Rodney, are you talking to me?" Keller asked from the hallway.

Rodney grabbed the glass of water off the night stand and threw it at the door, which then flung open showing the angry face of his babysitter.

"Rodney!" she scolded.

"If I'm talking to you, I'll say your name."

"Rodney, are you alright? Your face is red and..."

"Go away!" Rodney shouted and reached for something else to throw but the door closed quickly.

Rodney turned back to the screen and looked at the time stamp. This was recorded a week ago, right about the time Rodney came home from the hospital. In a way, he was glad they weren't here to see him like this, all but bedridden, pale and sick every day, barely able to eat enough to stave off his hypoglycemia. Exhausted from his outburst, he lay back down, still staring at the computer screen. His friends looked back at him, their faces drawn and tired, worried, but determined.

"I miss you guys," he said again. He sighed and shut the computer down, he had the flash drive and he wasn't going to let it out of his sight.

"Keller!" he shouted. "I'm ready for my pill, and for you to clean up the glass."

A moment later she came in with a glass, the pill and the broom. "I'm your doctor, Rodney, not your maid."

Rodney shrugged. "Don't clean it then, but I've got a tube stuck in my dick, I don't even need to get up to piss. You're the one coming in and out."

She sighed and handed him the pill. "So crude," she said and started cleaning the mess.

"Yeah well, count your blessings, at least you didn't get stuck with a guy who is constantly trying to get you to bend over in front of him."

Keller couldn't help but laugh a little at that. "There is that little ray of sunshine," she replied. The glass was easy to clean up on the hardwood floor, and soon, she was leaving the room again. "Do you need anything else, Rodney?"

Rodney shook his head, "No, go back to watching TV or whatever it is you do. Hang on, if you were such a smart young doctor, how did you end up with the shitty job of end of life care like this? Isn't this the lower grunt and live in nurse type work?"

Keller nodded. "Usually, yes, but I asked for this job. People, especially people like you, who have lived a full life, but who find themselves alone at the end, need someone more personal than a live in nurse. Not that they're bad, but I just like to see people off so they aren't completely alone."

Rodney nodded. "Do me a favor, don't put coins on my eyes when I die. And don't say a prayer, not for me anyway. Just let me be."

She nodded. "No coins, no prayers, got it."

---
"Come on, let Elizabeth handle all the rest. We've been cleared to go, let's go," John said and pushed Carson and Radek toward the exit.

"Sheppard."

John turned with a sigh. "Yes, Dr. Jackson?"

"Just so you know, I'm the one who watched your video, you don't have anything to worry about."

"I wouldn't have anyway, but thanks for telling me," he nodded and turned away and headed toward the exit again.

Carson smiled warmly at Dr. Jackson. "Thank you, that does mean a lot to us." Daniel smiled and waved at them as they left.

John behaved himself as they waited at the motor pool for a car. He only threw his weight around a little bit, but the airman there didn't seem to mind too much. As soon as the car came around, they piled in.
John paused for a minute, then blew out a breath and looked at Radek and Carson. "Ready?"

Carson and Radek both sighed. "Ready," Carson said.

John's palms were sweating and he was wringing his hands. "Why am I nervous?" he asked quietly, "It's Rodney, I haven't seen him in years, but it's still him."

"I think we are all nervous John," Radek added. "I am."

They pulled up in front of Rodney's house, got out and rang the bell. A young woman answered and John quickly did the math. Had Rodney gotten married and had a daughter? "We're here to see Rodney McKay," he said.

"Rodney's not taking visitors," she said and tried to close the door.

John put his hand out and stopped the door. "He'll see us," he said.

"He's not well enough," she replied.

"I'll be the judge of that," Carson said and pushed past the others and into the house.

"Who are you?" the girl asked.

"Carson Beckett. Rodney's doctor."

"I'm Rodney's doctor," she said.

"Not anymore," John said and started pushing her toward the door.

"Wait, John," Carson stopped him. "I need to get the rundown of his health."

Rodney could hear commotion downstairs as he drifted awake again. The voices all sounded familiar. Keller sounded highly annoyed, and then a male voice was raised. "I don't care how sick he is, I'm going up there!"

Rodney's heart leapt, he knew that voice. "John?" he tried to call, but he doubted anyone heard him. There were footsteps on the stairs, and then coming closer down the hallway. Rodney sunk down a little deeper in the bed, suddenly thinking about what he looked like. He was a mess, he was way too thin and pale and the radiation treatments had left him bald. He still had a freaking catheter up his dick, he didn't want them seeing him like this. He resisted the urge to hide under the covers, but just barely.

The footsteps paused outside his door, then the knob turned and John hesitantly pushed open the door and peered inside. "Rodney?" he asked softly.

Rodney held the blanket tight in his fists as he looked at John. The lump in his throat made it hard to breathe, he looked good, great. But then, John always did look good, although he looked tired. He finally managed to swallow. "John," he said.

John smiled and walked into the room. "Yeah, I'm here." He moved over to the bed and smiled down at Rodney. "Guess you weren't lying about that early hair loss thing huh?"

Rodney had to chuckle, he should have known John would make a joke, it was his coping mechanism. He felt the tears stinging his eyes, all the old emotion flooding back to the surface. "Hey," John whispered and leaned down and kissed Rodney's wet cheeks. "It's okay, I'm so sorry I left you."

Rodney's cheeks felt hot where John's lips had touched him and he closed his eyes, savoring the contact. He wanted to yank John into the bed with him, curl in his arms and simply exist, the way he used to, but he had to remember that John was a married man now. It didn't really matter what they felt for each other, because John was military and had gotten married. "I didn't want you to see me like this," he whispered. "I wanted you guys to remember me as... as I was."

He heard John move around the bed and Rodney's eyes snapped open, thinking John was going to leave. The bed dipped, and then John's arms were gently gathering him up. Rodney made a soft sound and clutched at John's arm.

"I'll always remember you for who you are, Rodney," John's voice was a little gravelly. "You're still the same man."

"I'm peeing through a hose, John, I think I'm a bit less than I was," Rodney replied dryly.

John's arms tightened around him. "Not to me," he said firmly.

They lay in silence for a while, and it felt so good to be held again, to have John there with him. Rodney started to drift again, but he didn't want to sleep yet. What if he woke up and this was a dream? "I didn't think I'd see you again," he mumbled. "After you got married I thought..." He couldn't finish the sentence. He'd thought John had moved on, thought John was tired of a PO box and wanted a partner that was safe with him being military. Someone who he'd see more than maybe once a year and who could move to different postings with him.

Before John could answer, the door opened again and Rodney looked to see Radek and Carson come in, followed by Keller. She had some tears in her eyes as she looked at John and Rodney.

"You could have told me, Rodney, about your friends, I mean. You could have put Major Sheppard down as a contact and it wouldn't have looked suspicious to the military."

Carson smiled and came over. He kissed Rodney's forehead before quickly taking his vitals. "Dr. Keller took very good care of you, Rodney."

Rodney closed his eyes when Keller spoke. Suspicion wasn't what was on his mind when he didn't put John down. He looked up at Carson and nodded. "A lot of people did... except me."

John never took his arms from around Rodney, he stayed there, holding him and rubbing his face. Keller had a soft sad smile on her face as she watched them, John had a practiced way of keeping out of Carson's way, as if checking Rodney over while they cuddled was something they did often. John rested his forehead against the side of Rodney's head and gently cupped the other side.

Carson nodded at Keller. "Thank you, you can go now if you'd like."

She nodded and began to turn. "Jennifer," Rodney said and she turned back. "Thanks for putting up with me."

She smiled that soft smile again and nodded, "My pleasure, Rodney."

Once she was gone, John made Rodney look at him. "I'm not married anymore. Never was, really. I mean, except on paper."

"Then why... Your father took great pleasure in announcing it all over those stupid update letters he mass mailed."

John shook his head, "Stupid letters." He sighed. "The military was getting anxious because I didn't have anyone to contact in case of death. I couldn't add you because they'd get suspicious. Nancy was someone I knew a long time ago, before I met you guys. Her father dragged her to my father's parties and we were bored together. I didn't want to get married, but I needed someone they could contact who would contact you guys. She knew about you, I didn't make any secret of it. I told her that if she found someone she loved, we'd get divorced and I'd keep her as my contact. She found someone, we got divorced and she promised to still contact you if anything happened to me." He sighed. "I'm sorry I never told you, any of you, but I was hoping I'd never have to." he looked into Rodney's eyes. "I love you, Rodney, always have. I'm sorry I hurt you, I never meant to."

Rodney swallowed hard. "I over reacted then. When I stopped replying to your letters. I should have known you were too gay... You love me?" His brain had finally caught up to what John had said.

Radek made a fondly exasperated noise. "Of course he does. This has been obvious for as long as we have known you."

Radek's words barely registered in Rodney's head. He was still staring at John with wide eyes. He felt like an idiot. He'd wasted his whole life. He could feel the tears again and decided to blame it on the cancer and the stupid drugs he was on, but he wrapped himself closer to John anyway. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

John shook his head. "Don't apologize, Rodney. I should have told you." His throat was working convulsively now as he thought about the years he'd lost. Before, the plan Rodney had for their lives didn't seem like something John would like, but now, laying with Rodney as he neared the end of his life, John realized there was nothing he'd have liked more. He sighed. "I'm not leaving you any more, Rodney. I gave Jack a resignation letter."

"John," Rodney said softly. "You can't give up your life for me, I don't have much time left. A few weeks, a few months, I don't know but it feels less."

"I'm not giving up anything, I want to be with you, Rodney, no matter how long you have... I'll take it."

Carson felt tears in his eyes as he watched John and Rodney, they were beautiful together. "John," he sighed. "Rodney needs to rest."

John inhaled sharply. "Okay."

Rodney clutched onto John's arm. "Stay, when I'm asleep, you can get up, but stay for now." He was begging, he heard it in his own voice, but he didn't care, John was here.

"I'll stay," John whispered and kissed Rodney. "I'll be here when you wake up."

Rodney held onto John's arm as if John would fade away if he let go, but it didn't take long before his grip loosened. John stared at Rodney, his heart breaking a little more with each passing second. "I'm not getting up, Carson. I want to be right here when his eyes open."

"Okay," Carson said softly and moved over to get a chair.

Radek did the same and the two of them sat beside the bed. "He's not good, John," Carson whispered. "Looks like a few weeks at best, probably not even that long."

John's breath caught and he whimpered. "Okay," he whispered brokenly.

Radek sighed and wiped the tears off his face. "We should take Rodney to Atlantis," he said softly. "He was chosen to go, and he would want to see it."

"He probably wouldn't survive the trip," Carson said sadly. "It'll take almost a month to get back by the Daedalus."

"Then we won't go by ship," John said. "They have a ZPM in Antarctica, we can use that. I'll talk to Jack, Rodney wants Atlantis, I'll give him Atlantis. Even if Jack wants me to come back and do latrine duty for the rest of my life, he's worth it." John rested his head on the pillow beside Rodney's head and put his hand on Rodney's chest. "I hurt him so badly," he whispered. "I should have looked for him."

"He was top secret scientist, John," Radek said. "You wouldn't have found him."

"I should have tried."

"Stop it, John," Carson scolded. "You won't do anything but hurt yourself by thinking like that. Rodney wouldn't want to see you like that."

"He didn't even know I loved him," John said, ignoring Carson.

"He can sometimes be as oblivious as you," Radek said.

"If we can get him through the gate, I agree, Rodney would want to see Atlantis," Carson steered them to a different subject.

"When we first got back," Radek said, "I looked up the research he was doing for the SGC. We would never have been able to go to Atlantis if it were not for him. He deserves to see it."

John was only half paying attention to Radek and Carson now. He was watching Rodney sleep, feeling his chest rise and fall and with each exhale, he was afraid that there wouldn't be another inhale.

"He was working for SGC longer than either of us, Carson. We were only brought in after Rodney made it possible," Radek continued.

"Carson," John said softly but didn't look away from Rodney. "What kind of cancer does he have?"

Carson sighed. "It started as stomach cancer, and then it spread. According to his medical file, he has tumors in his stomach, lungs and brain. Non-operational, they tried several different treatments, none took. They sent him home about the same time we were recording our message to him," he replied.

"I wonder if Daniel brought it over," John said.

"Probably," Radek replied. He got up and kicked off his shoes. He gave Carson a look, and he nodded. They went around to the other side of the bed and slipped in behind John.

---

Rodney drifted back toward wakefulness, his chest felt heavy, and then he remembered that John was there and he opened his eyes.

"Hey," John whispered.

"Hey," Rodney replied and looked over. "It wasn't a dream."

"No, Rodney, we're here," John replied softly. "How are you feeling?"

Rodney smiled slightly. "Better than I have in years, actually. I missed you so much."

John kissed him and pressed their foreheads together. "I missed you too, Rodney," he whispered.

"We all did," Carson's sleepy voice came from behind John. He reached over John and rested his hand on Rodney's side. "It's time for your meds, love." Carson got up and padded out of the room and headed for the bathroom.

Rodney watched him go then turned to John. "I love you too," he said quietly. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything before."

John nodded and smiled. "I know." He cupped the side of Rodney's head again and kissed him lightly. "Tell you what," he said softly. "Let's stop apologizing for the past. Mistakes were made, but we don't have enough time to worry about that. Let's be right now, the past will sort itself out."

Rodney wrapped his arms around John and buried his face in John's neck. "Okay," he said thickly. "I'm... I'm glad you guys are here. As much as I hate you to see me like this."

"We would hate it if we did not get to see you again, my friend," Radek said quietly from behind John.

Rodney nodded. "I just... I'm thinner than I was when we were young, and paler, and bald. I don't look good bald," Rodney said.

"I beg to differ," John said. "I think you're beautiful, no matter what."

Carson sighed as he looked in the medicine cabinet. There were so many medicine bottles, some were for pain management and it hurt Carson to think of Rodney in pain at night. He wouldn't have called for Dr. Keller, knowing she was asleep, he'd worry she'd give him the wrong pill, or slip lemon in his morning coffee. He grabbed the afternoon pills and filled the glass with cold water then went back into the bedroom. "Rodney, why don't you have a medical bed? It would be more comfortable as far as sitting up and leaning back."

"Bartok hated the medical bed. His tail got stuck in the hinge and he doesn't like how it moves," Rodney answered with a slight smile. "And I like my bed. It's better on my back and... well, mine."

"Fair enough," Carson said and took the pills over to Rodney. "There are more of your pain pills left than there should be, Rodney. I want you to wake one of us when you're in pain, no matter how late it is. Understand?"

John looked at Rodney. "You haven't been taking your pain pills?"

Rodney sighed. "I didn't know that lady, how was I going to know how she felt about being woken up? I'm dying, but I'd rather not be murdered."

John's breath caught again, it was so hard to hear Rodney say he was dying. "We're here now, Rodney. You don't need to be in pain anymore."

Rodney nodded, "In that case..."

"I've got it right here," Carson said and handed Rodney the pills, one of which was for pain.

John wanted to make Rodney smile, so he asked, "Where is ol' Bart, anyway?"

Rodney sputtered a little and laughed. "He deserves some respect in his old age, John. Bartok's been to more places than most people travel to in their lifetimes. He was even in Siberia with me!" He smiled and kissed John. "He's probably downstairs in the sun. I never really thanked you for him." With Carson's help, Rodney sat up a little and took his meds, washing down the small handful of pills with some water.

John smiled, "You never needed to thank me for him. You did all the work anyway, you took him from a tiny weak abandoned little kitten, barely old enough to walk, and turned him into an eating, yowling, not to mention scratching monster. I'm glad you had him with you all these years."

Rodney smiled and closed his eyes for a second, partially due to pain, but mostly because he was tired of crying. "I couldn't have left him behind, no matter what."

Carson touched Rodney's shoulder. "Do you want to try some lunch?"

Rodney thought about that for a minute. For once, he was actually hungry. Maybe he'd even be able to keep it down. "Sure, we can try lunch." he tried to smile a bit when he said it. Carson nodded and squeezed his shoulder before he left the room.

Radek watched him go, then looked at John and Rodney. "I will go help him with lunch. Call us if you need anything."

When they were alone, Rodney sighed and relaxed into John and closed his eyes, once again he was tired. John held Rodney close and petted his shoulder. "You can sleep if you need to, Rodney, I'm not going anywhere."

"I don't want to," Rodney replied. "You haven't been here long, and I've been asleep for most of it."

"That doesn't matter, we've been together," John replied. Rodney sighed and snuggled into John, being mindful of the catheter and hating that he had to have it. "John," he whispered. "I... I'm a little afraid."
John kissed Rodney's head and held him as tight as he was comfortable with. "Me too," he admitted.

"I've accepted it, but I don't want to die," he whispered. "There's still so much I wanted to do. I wanted to have an actual life with you. I wanted to see Atlantis, and win a Nobel Prize. I wanted to understand physics and quantum mechanics the way the Ancients did."

John wasn't quite sure what to say, he couldn't tell Rodney he could still do those things, and he didn't want to mention Atlantis until they knew they could take him. He just held him, "I know," he whispered.

"I'm glad you're here, John," Rodney sighed, his arms tightening around John.

Carson and Radek came in with lunch a moment later. There were sandwiches for the three of them, and a light soup for Rodney. John helped Rodney sit back up and he grimaced at the bowl. "I hate that stuff," he grumbled.

Carson handed it to him anyway. "Well, it's the easiest thing for your stomach to deal with Rodney."

Rodney sighed and took the bowl. "I guess it doesn't matter, it'll probably come back up before it has time to do any good anyway."

"Do not say that, Rodney," Radek said. "Perhaps your mental state will help."

John took the bowl from Rodney and took a bite. "Damn, Carson, this is like horse piss. Make me a list of stuff Rodney can eat, I'm going to the store."

Carson nodded, "Okay," he got a piece of paper and a pen and started writing.

"Not right now, right?" Rodney asked John, his eyes a little wide. He didn't want him to leave.

John looked at Rodney and smiled. "No, not right now." He kissed him again. He couldn't make himself stop. After all this time, he finally had Rodney in his arms again.

"Perhaps there is a grocery store near here that will deliver the items on the list," Radek mentioned.

Carson nodded but kept writing. Rodney couldn't have much in the way of flavor, nothing spicy, but at least with Carson making the list, he'd have a variety.

"Rodney," John said softly.

"Yeah?"

"I need to use the bathroom."

"It's just down the hall," Rodney said, slowly letting John go. He sighed and took his soup back, grimacing as he took a spoonful.

When John was out of the bed, Radek scooted a little closer and took the bowl from Rodney's shaking hand, holding it for him. "Let me help, Rodney."

"Thanks," Rodney grumbled, hating how weak he was. He couldn't even hold his own damn bowl of soup.

John used the bathroom, then sat on the edge of the tub. He put his head in his hands and sighed deeply, tears running freely down his face. He hated seeing Rodney like this. Hated seeing how close he was to death, how thin he was. He hated the image of Rodney alone and hurting in the middle of the night, hated that he hadn't been there to make Rodney go to the doctor. He sat there on the edge of the tub and cried until there were no more tears to shed. Then he breathed deeply, washed his face and went back into the bedroom. "Damn quesadilla's," he lied and got back in bed.

Rodney raised an eyebrow at him. "You always were a pretty horrible liar," he replied, abandoning his soup so he could take John's hand. He wanted to apologize again. He hated seeing how torn up John, and Radek and Carson as well, were over this. Suddenly, he realized he was going to have to change a few things in his will. He didn't have much anymore, but he wanted to leave them something.

John shrugged. "I don't know, I lied my way out of a few things in the middle east. I lied my way out of a POW camp by telling the guard that I owned an untapped oil well and that was the real reason we were fighting. I told him I'd get him the papers and sign it over nice and neat. Shmuck believed me too."

Rodney stared at John with an open mouth, and noticed Radek and Carson doing the same. "You were a POW?"

"Oh," John said, " yeah, well... almost. That was when I went back for Holland. My chopper was shot down. I found Holland, but he was pretty bad off and... he ended up dying before I could get him out."

"When was this?" Rodney asked, a bit angry that John hadn't told him about it.

"Two years ago," John replied.

"Oh," Rodney said, maybe John would have told him about it if he hadn't stopped accepting his letters five years ago.

"You could have easily died," Rodney said quietly. He gripped John's hand tighter. "I'm sorry I stopped receiving your letters."

"It's okay, I think I understand why. Knowing my dad, he made it look like Nancy and I had a wedding fit for royalty and that we were so very much in love. Actually, we went to the JP and I got married in a tee shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. She wore cut off shorts and flip flops, and we 'celebrated' by going to a bar. I won't lie to you, it hurt when the letters stared getting sent back, but no more, I suppose, than it hurt you to get the news that I was married."

Rodney nodded. It had hurt, a lot, when he'd found out. He wanted to say more, but he wasn't sure what to say. He was starting to feel floaty and tired as the pain medication kicked in. He let out a sigh and relaxed against John as the pain subsided. His eyes were getting heavy. "You're all still going to be here when I wake up, right?"

John kissed Rodney's temple. "Promise. We'll be here, buddy. Get some sleep."

"Mmkay," Rodney mumbled and let his eyes close.

John rubbed his hand over Rodney's smooth head and sighed. He'd missed so much of Rodney's life.
After a few minutes, Rodney was snoring lightly and John sat up. "He'll be asleep for a few hours with that medication," Carson said.

"Then let's go down stairs so we can talk properly," John suggested. He kissed Rodney's lips softly and got off the bed. "I want to be back up here before he wakes up," he said.

Carson and John tucked the blankets around Rodney and headed down to the kitchen. Radek sat heavily in a chair and muttered under his breath in Czech. "This is very difficult," he observed, running his hands through his hair. "We must get him to Atlantis."

John nodded as he poured three cups of coffee. He searched the cabinets for any sign of alcohol and didn't find any, which he supposed was good. He took the mugs to the table and distributed them."Yeah, it's very fucking hard to see him like that." He took a drink of his coffee and chuckled. "Rodney did always have the best coffee."

---

John had left the house an hour ago, swearing on his life that he'd be back. He made Carson and Radek stay, and he drove to the SGC for a meeting with Jack. He could have met with Landry, but he didn't know him as well as he knew Jack, not that he knew him all that well, but he understood Jack, and Jack understood John. He stood up and saluted when Jack came in.

"At ease, Sheppard," Jack said and walked around the desk. "I always did hate being saluted."

John sat down, "Sorry, Sir."

"Is this a joke?" Jack asked and tossed the envelope addressed to General Jack O'Neill in John's handwriting onto the desk in front of John.

John looked at it and then at Jack. 'No, Sir," he said seriously.

"You'd leave Atlantis for Rodney McKay?" Jack asked.

"Yes, Sir," John replied. "But Rodney is actually what I came to talk about."

Jack eyed him suspiciously. "What?" he asked cautiously.

"We want to take him to Atlantis," John said matter of fact.

"What? Have you seen him? He can't even leave the house, let alone fly across two galaxies for three weeks. The answer's no, John."

"We could use the ZPM, he deserves to see the city, Sir, he helped make it possible for us to go there in the first place."

"I'm sorry, John. I understand that he means a lot to you, but the ZPM is strictly for defensive purposes. And, Atlantis is a top secret project, Rodney doesn't have that clearance anymore."

"Why not? If it weren't for him, we wouldn't even be out there. He deserves to see it. Give him back his clearance and let us take him back. And even if you don't give him clearance, who's he going to tell? You said it yourself, Sir, he's almost dead, let him see what he worked for. Please, Sir, whatever you want me to do once Rodney is gone, I'll do it, but please, let me take him to Atlantis. Let him die happy. After that, I'll rip up the resignation letter and you can drop me where ever you want me, I won't complain."

"He means that much to you?" Jack asked softly.

"Yes, sir, he does. I'll take a dishonorable discharge if that's what it takes."

Jack sighed. "Let me talk to some people, John. I can't promise anything, but I'll do what I can. I'll get back to you later this week."

"Sir, I don't know how much longer Rodney has. We can't wait that long."

"He'll do it," Daniel said from the doorway.

"Daniel!" Jack scolded.

"What if that was me, Jack? Would you let me die without seeing Atlantis? I mean, die for good."

Jack sighed. "Alright, John. I'll call you tomorrow morning."

John sighed. "Thank you, Sir. This means so much to me, and to Rodney. Thank you."

Daniel gripped John's shoulder before he could leave. "I'll help you get him there, John. You're right, he deserves it."

"Even after he was such a shit to Carter," Jack agreed, sighing.

John shrugged, smiling a little. "I don't know anything about that, sir, but if he was being a shit then he was just being himself. It's when he tries to be polite that you have to worry." He looked at Daniel. "Thank you."

Daniel nodded and let him go.

---

Rodney opened his eyes, "John?" he asked.

"John isn't back yet, Rodney, just a bit lon..." he was cut off by John coming into the room. "Well, I guess he is back."

"I heard him," Rodney said. Carson looked at Radek who shook his head and shrugged, neither of them had heard anything.

John kicked off his shoes and crawled into bed with Rodney, being mindful of all his tubes. It was a bad day today, Rodney was on oxygen today and the room was filled with a soft sound of the machine. "How you doing buddy?" he asked.

Rodney smiled and nodded gently. "Okay," he replied.

Rodney rested his head on John's chest and closed his eyes. He loved the way John felt, warm and strong and alive beneath his cheek. Rodney relaxed a little and let himself doze. Radek looked at John expectantly, and John nodded. They were most likely a go, as long as Jack could pull some strings for them.

Radek grinned and reached over to take Carson's hand. He nodded, this was excellent news.
John put his arm around Rodney and rubbed his shoulder. It hurt him to see Rodney this bad. It was hard yesterday, but yesterday Rodney just looked bald and tired. Today, he actually looked sick, it had been hard to leave him that morning, and he'd hoped he'd be doing better by the time he got back. He sighed and looked at his other two friends. "He'll call tomorrow morning," he said softly.

Radek nodded. "Very good. Now, I will go to grocery store with Carson's list," he kissed Carson, then bent over and kissed Rodney's forehead. "I will be back soon."

Carson watched him leave the room then checked Rodney over again. "He's stable now at least. I want to give it a few more hours, but then we can see how he does without the oxygen tube."

John sighed and held Rodney close. Carson wrote Rodney's vitals down in his note book then looked at John. "You want something to eat?" he asked

"No," John replied. "I'm not hungry."

"John, you have to eat something."

"I will, Carson, but I'm not hungry."

Carson sighed and shook his head. "Alright, but when Rodney wakes up, I will insist you eat."

"Yes sir," John smiled at Carson. "Thanks, Carson. I feel better knowing you're his doctor. I'm sure Rodney does too."

Carson smiled sadly. "I just wish there was more I could do."

John nodded, "Me too, but at least we're here now. He's not alone anymore."

Carson nodded and slid into bed beside John. He reached over John and put his hand on Rodney's arm. He sighed, there was a time when Rodney's arm had been meaty, muscular, now it just felt like skin over bone. They were going to have to be careful when they took Rodney out of the house, any slight breeze could give him a cold, and that could easily turn into pneumonia. He didn't want Rodney's last days to be spent miserable and hacking up what little of his lungs he had left.

"He's so thin," John sighed.

Carson scooted closer to John. "Aye, we'll have to be careful with him," he replied.

John knew what he meant. He nodded. "I'll find some good sweaters and things for him."

Carson smiled and nuzzled into John's neck. "He's going to love it."

John nodded, "Yeah, he is. I just wish he could enjoy it, the way we have."

"Yeah, but at least he'll see it."

"Hey," John said gladly changing the subject that was making his chest tighten. "Did you know Jack and Daniel are together?"

"General O'Neill and Dr. Jackson? Aye. Well, I'd suspected that was the case." At John's confused look, Carson smiled and explained. "I did a little time with the SGC infirmary and spent a lot of time as the base doctor in Antarctica. Dr. Jackson worked at the Antarctic base a lot and the only time he ever had... Well, obvious penetrative sex was when the General was visiting. Add that to the way they act around each other..."

John laughed softly and nodded, "Makes sense."

---

Things moved fast after that. Dr. Lam called to let Carson know that she'd requested and received Rodney's updated medical file from the hospital. Daniel called to report that Jack and General Landry had argued for twenty minutes before Landry agreed to the use of the ZPM. Jack was currently on the phone with the IOA and Landry with the President.

John was relieved to hear that, but he was even more relieved when Rodney woke up while Carson was downstairs on the phone with Radek. John smiled as Rodney opened his eyes. "Hey, how are you feeling?"

Rodney shivered lightly. "Cold," he whispered.

John got off the bed quickly and got an extra blanket from the closet. He threw it over Rodney then got back in bed and gathered him in his arms. "Better?" He asked.

Rodney nodded and snuggled into John. He was still shivering and that scared John, especially since it was pretty warm in the house.

"John," Rodney whispered.

"Yeah, Rodney?"

"Thanks for coming back."

John kissed Rodney's head. "You're welcome buddy," he replied.

"I think... I think it's getting close."

Hot tears flooded John's eyes and he fought a losing battle against them. But they had a green light for Atlantis, they were leaving soon. "Carson," John called, needing someone else there for support, and needing Rodney to be checked over.

Carson came into the room a moment later. He took in the look on John's face and quickly checked Rodney over. He even went so far as to connect the ECG and look at his heart. The beats were steady, but there were some VPCs. A quick check of Rodney's O2 sats showed them to be in the high 80s. He grimaced and turned on the oxygen and helped Rodney put the nose canella back on. Carson looked up at John as Rodney closed his eyes again. "We're getting close," he said sadly. He took a blood glucose reading next. Rodney's sugar was low, but not too low yet. "Rodney, do you think you can eat?"

Rodney slowly opened his eyes. "Maybe," he said quietly, then, "no."

Carson nodded and turned to fetch the bottle of dextrose. He'd placed a fresh IV catheter in Rodney earlier that day, so it was only a few moments work to get a dextrose CRI started.

John watched Carson work, happy that it was Carson. Carson knew Rodney, knew what he needed and Rodney was more comfortable with him than any other doctor. John's chest was tight and it was getting hard to breathe, tears were blurring his vision although they hadn't fallen yet. "Yeah, Rodney just said the same thing, said it's getting close." His phone began ringing even before he had finished speaking. "Sheppard," he said. A moment later, he snapped the phone closed and looked at Carson. "Get Radek back here. We have a go." He gently shook Rodney's shoulder. "Hey, you feel up for a drive? We want to take you somewhere."

"Hmm?" Rodney opened his eyes and looked up at John, still managing to look incredulous. "Are you serious? I don't want to go anywhere. I'll probably die before I get there."

Carson took his hand. "There's a wheelchair and a portable oxygen tank. I'll be with you the whole time, Rodney. It's okay. Let's go for a drive."

"I'll be with you too, right beside you. I want you to come with us. You'll be alright, I promise."

Rodney sighed, "Okay, but if I kick it, don't blame me."

John chuckled. "I never would," he said and kissed Rodney's head.

Radek hurried into the house after having gotten Carson's text. Rodney looked worse than he had yesterday. "We have a go," Carson said as he helped John get Rodney dressed. "Pull the car as close to the door as you can get it, and keep it warm."

Radek nodded and leapt to his task.

Carson and John got Rodney bundled up in sweaters and thick socks. Carson hurried downstairs and got the wheelchair and oxygen ready as John gently picked Rodney up. Rodney huffed in annoyance and held on to John's shoulders. "I feel like an idiot," he grumbled.

John tried for a smile and kissed him. "This is as close as I'll ever get to sweeping you off your feet," he joked mildly as he carried Rodney down the stairs and out to the car.

Radek and Carson got the chair stowed and the oxygen set up. Rodney rode in back between John and Carson and Radek drove. Rodney felt a little better once he was back on the oxygen, and he leaned against John and watched the world go by. It was nice to get out again, he had to admit.

He started recognizing landmarks though, and his brow furrowed. "We're headed toward the mountain," he observed. He sat up straight and gave John an accusing glare. "I don't want to go to the mountain!"

"You'll be fine, Rodney," John said and patted his leg. "We won't be there long."

Rodney shook his head but slumped against John. "I don't want them to see me like this. I didn't want you to see me like this, but at least it won't color your memory of me. No one there ever liked me anyway, so I want them to remember me the way I was."

"I think they liked you more than they let you know, Rodney," John replied. "Trust me, you'll be okay."
Rodney sighed, "I trust you," he said quietly.

Radek was on his cell as they pulled the car up to the entrance, John and Rodney stayed in the car until they had the chair ready and the doors opened. "They are dialing now," Radek told Carson.

Rodney sighed as he was wheeled through the entrance and into the halls of Cheyenne Mountain. "I don't want to be here," he whined softly. The elevator reached level 28 and Jack, Sam, Daniel and Teal'c were waiting.

"It's okay, Rodney," John murmured.

Rodney tensed anyway when he saw them. If he had more energy, he'd have punched John for this, in love with him or not. "Oh, great, thanks, John."

"Relax, Rodney. We're taking you to Atlantis."

Rodney sat up a little straighter. "Really?" he asked, sounding a bit more like his old self. "Atlantis? I get to go?"

Jack smiled and nodded. "Yeah, thanks to the Lt. Colonel, here. He fought hard for you."

"Um- excuse me?" John asked. "Lt. Colonel?"

Jack laughed. "Oh yeah, congratulations on your promotion."

John grinned. "Didn't see that coming," he said.

"Typical," Rodney said with a small chuckle.

"Daniel took care of that letter already," Jack told him.

"Yeah," Daniel agreed. "Resignation letters make fires burn brighter."

"Come on, we're sitting on a thirty eight minute window here," Jack said and lead them away from the elevator.

Rodney looked around as he was wheeled through the halls. He was in his prime when he was here, of course, after that they sent him away again for being mean to Jack's pet scientist. But he was good here, and now he was a withered shell of his former self. But he supposed it didn't matter how these people remembered him, as long as John, Radek and Carson remembered him well. He smiled weakly when they walked into the gate room, the shimmering blue puddle just standing there, waiting to receive him and send him to another galaxy. He knew the trip may very well kill him, but it was completely worth it to see Atlantis, even if only for a second. He smiled up at John, "Thank you," he said.

John shook his head and knelt beside Rodney. "No, Rodney, thank *you*. My life has been better because of you. This is the least I could do, I want you to see Atlantis."

Rodney smiled again. "I want to walk through the gate. I don't want to be pushed through."

"No problem," John replied and helped Rodney up.

Carson grabbed the oxygen tank and the bag that had Rodney's medication in it, just in case.

Radek put Rodney's free arm around his shoulders and he and John both supported Rodney. "Thanks again, General," John said.

"You're welcome, Colonel, now get a move on, Atlantis is expecting you," he said and handed John a radio.

John took it and turned it on. "Atlantis, this is Sheppard, we're coming through."

"Major, this is Teyla, we are ready for you, the shield has been lowered and Dr. Beckett's medical team is on hand."

"Excellent," John said, deactivated the radio and handed it back to O'Neill. He looked at Rodney. "Ready buddy?"

Rodney nodded. "I'm ready."

John nodded at Radek and they began helping Rodney up the ramp with Carson close behind them. They stopped just before the event horizon and Carson removed the oxygen mask. "If they followed my instructions, there should be a tank waiting on the other side," he said.

"Alright, Rodney," John said. "Let's go." They stepped forward and entered the Stargate.

Rodney emerged into a brightly lit room, Radek, Carson, and John around him. Something felt weird, but he tried to take a deep breath anyway as he stared around. He saw the stairs with their Ancient greeting, saw some of the stained glass and the sweeping of the high ceiling before his vision suddenly narrowed and blackened. He reflexively tightened his grip on john, feeling like he was being torn away, but it was too late.

John caught Rodney as he fell. "Carson!"

Carson rushed over and took Rodney's pulse as John eased his body to the ground, still holding Rodney to him. John tightened his grip around Rodney as some of Carson's medical team rushed over. Tears were stinging his eyes but he wasn't letting them fall, not yet.

"Oxygen!" Carson barked and hurriedly put a mask over Rodney's face.

"Carson?" John asked.

"He's not dead, John. He should be after a shock like that, and his pulse is very weak, but he's still here. We need to get him to the infirmary."

John was on his feet at once, with Rodney in his arms. With Carson's help, he got Rodney on the gurney and the medical team set off. John and Radek rushed close behind through Atlantis' hallways.

"Scanner," Carson said and they put Rodney on the table.

Carson got the oxygen set up and took a scan. He stood over the readouts for a long time, then asked for an EEG. One of the nurses brought it over and set it up. Carson looked from it back down to the scan.
It was driving John nuts. He was finally about to barge over there and demand to know what was happening when Teyla put her hand on his shoulder. She squeezed and John nodded, taking a deep breath.

Finally, Carson waved them over. "There's no sign of the cancer anywhere, John," Carson explained, baffled.

"What?" John asked. "How... Did it... He did have cancer before, right?"

"Yes, I saw the x-rays, he had the tumors, but now... now there's... nothing," Carson answered.

"Then why isn't he awake?" Radek asked.

Carson sighed and shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know anything, I mean, how the hell did the cancer just disappear? We all saw him this morning, hell, even fifteen minutes ago. Today was quite possibly his last day alive and now... I just don't know."

"I will go see if there is anything in the database," Radek said. "Call me if he... Call me if anything changes," Radek added.

John nodded and stared at the scans. He didn't see anything that looked weird, and Carson had said that according to the scan, Rodney was completely fine. No tumors, no cancer.

"If this is correct," Carson said, "all that's wrong with him now is that he's severely underweight and slightly hypoglycemic. I'll start him on the proper IVs. It may take him a few days to recover. I'm flying blind here, but I would imagine this would be a huge shock to the system."

"Okay," John said and moved a little closer to Rodney. He put one hand on Rodney's chest and ran the other over his head. His chest was rising and falling normally and John didn't feel any of the rattling he felt before, Rodney's breathing didn't seem to be labored at all. "Damn," John whispered. "This is weird. A fucking miracle if I ever saw one, but weird." He looked at Carson, "If... when he gets better, if they make him go back, I'll be going too. I'm not leaving him again, Carson. I came too close to losing him for good, I can't ever come that close again. I've missed too much as it is, I don't want to miss anymore."

Carson nodded. "Aye, well that's not much of a change of plans then. But if he recovers... he was picked for this mission anyway. I doubt they'll send him back. Besides, how would they explain that the cancer is miraculously gone?" Carson smiled and squeezed John's shoulder. "He's not out of the woods yet, but there's a very good chance."

John nodded. "A very good chance is more than we had yesterday." He looked down at Rodney. "Put him in a private room, will you? I want to be with him."

"Aye, I'll get him moved right now." He motioned for some nurses but John stopped him.

"No, I'll help you move him."

"John," Carson sighed. "You can't keep everyone from touching him forever."

"It doesn't need to be forever," John replied. "Just until he meets them, he doesn't like being touched by people he doesn't know."

Carson sighed but nodded, "Alright, John, you help me move him."

Between the two of them, they got Rodney moved. Carson had the nurses bring in a second bed and he and John got the two beds locked in place side by side.

"So," Carson smiled as they sat close to Rodney. "Not only is Rodney in Atlantis, but instead of getting kicked out, you got promoted."

"Yeah, what was that? I hadn't heard anything about it."

Carson shrugged. "I don't know, maybe it touched General O'Neill that you cared so much for Rodney."

"Yeah, a promotion for personal reasons is a bit of an insult. It was weird though, whatever the reason."

"Dr. Weir is still on Earth. I bet it was her, as well as your record over the past year. And this probably means you're staying as the military commander of Atlantis too," Carson pointed out.

"I guess. Elizabeth will fill me in when she gets back. I hope Rodney's awake by then."

"It takes three weeks to travel by ship, he should be awake by then, but like I said, I know nothing about this situation. Something we did between this morning and now is the miracle cure for cancer and... It's not something we can share with the general public on earth. There are people on earth that are in the very same situation Rodney was in this morning. Surrounded by their loved ones... hopefully, and saying their goodbyes. Those people are going to die, without a doubt. Obviously I'm unbelievably happy that there is no more cancer in Rodney, I just wish I could do something for the others."

John nodded, but he was watching Rodney sleep. He'd never take time with Rodney for granted ever again. He'd come so close to losing him, and he still might, he had to remind himself, but they had hope now.

They sat for a while longer, then Radek came in. "I think I know what happened," he said excitedly, laptop in hand.

John finally looked up when Radek spoke. "Yeah? What?" he asked frantically.

Radek opened the laptop and pulled up some information that was written in Ancient. "You both know that the ancients were haunted by a plague, it devastated many worlds in Pegasus. That is when they installed the failsafe that will lock the city down, as it did when I... when the nanos nearly... anyway, it seemed that that was not only precaution they took. Plague still made it into the city, when people came in by jumper."

"What is it, Radek?" John asked. "Please!"

"They added failsafe to Stargate, set human physiology back to factory settings. Any illness in a body is removed before the body is reassembled."

Carson looked at Radek in surprise. "Is it just the Atlantis gate that does this? I suppose it must be, there are various illnesses and plagues all over the rest of Pegasus." He turned to look at Rodney and touched his hand. "This place is truly amazing."

Radek nodded. "As far as I have read, it is just Atlantis gate that has this ability."

John rubbed his hand over Rodney's head again, "It's really gone, no more cancer." He smiled at Carson and Radek. "He's going to be okay," he said.

"As long as he survives the shock and we can get his electrolytes back in order," Carson replied. At John's look, he sighed, "I'm sorry, John, but we have to keep a good perspective on this. He could still..."

"I know he could, Carson," John cut him off. "But we have to think about him surviving."

"Of course," Carson replied. "But we can't start thinking it couldn't happen, John. Regardless of the fact that the cancer is gone, he's still very weak."

"I know that, Carson, but... don't take my hope away."

Carson frowned, "I'm not trying to, but I know how you can get. If your hopes get to high and he doesn't make it..."

"That would destroy you," Radek added.

John sighed, "I know, but I think I'll be pretty destroyed even if my hopes don't get too high. I love him, plain and simple, and if he dies, whether I'm expecting it or not... I..." His eyes filled with tears again and he looked away from his friends. "He can't die, Carson."

Carson sighed and patted john's leg. "I know, John. I know. I'm going to do everything I can, I swear to you."

That night, all three of them stayed in the infirmary. John got the bed, and no matter how much he asked Carson to, he wouldn't join him. "This is my infirmary, John. I'm technically already too close to Rodney, but I won't let anyone else treat him," he explained. Carson pulled a chair in, and Radek did the same.

"You could come up here at least, Radek," John half complained.

"There's plenty of room."

"Ano," Radek smiled, "I will stay with Carson." He watched John nod and settle in, snuggling close to Rodney. He desperately hoped Rodney survived, not just because he didn't want to lose his friend, but because it would indeed utterly destroy John if they lost Rodney.

John sighed and nuzzled Rodney's neck, he inhaled deeply and put a hand on Rodney's chest again. Rodney still had a not quite healthy smell, and John knew what a cancer patient smelled like. The scent was embedded into his memory from his mother, he hated that smell. But it wasn't the same now, Rodney didn't smell sick anymore. John couldn't place the smell, but it wasn't the normal Rodney smell that he remembered from the past.

Radek watched as John rested his hand on Rodney's chest and closed his eyes. He'd noticed John doing that when they were at Rodney's house too, like he was feeling for his chest to stop moving. It broke his heart to see John so upset. Rodney's cancer was gone, but as Carson had said, they weren't over the risk yet, Rodney could still pass during the night, or tomorrow or... he pushed the thought away and leaned closer to Carson.

They watched John and Rodney for a long time, Radek eventually fell asleep and when he woke up, Carson was out of the room and John was on one elbow, watching Rodney. "Have you slept, John?" He asked.

"No, I'm watching Rodney. He's still here, he's got a little color."

Radek looked, and John was right, Rodney did seem to have just a bit more color than he had yesterday. "This is a good sign, surely," Radek smiled and took Rodney's hand in his. "He does not feel as cool as he did," he observed. He smiled and John nodded.

Carson came back in a moment later. He had a cart with breakfasts on it in front of him, and he smiled when he saw Radek was awake. "I thought we could all use a little breakfast. Afterwards, I want to get Rodney back under the scanner for a recheck. If it all looks good, I'm thinking about placing a feeding tube. It'll be less risky for him than the caloric IV boluses."

John nodded, and realized that he hadn't eaten at all yesterday, and now that Rodney looked a little better, he was all but starving. "Yeah," he said. "That's probably a good idea." He grabbed a plate of food off the cart and began eating. His stomach was so empty that it hurt, and he knew better than to scarf the food.

"A recheck would be a good idea too," Radek said. "The gate was meant to remove plague, it may not know what to do with cancer. The tumors could..."

"Shut up!" John scolded harshly. "Jesus Christ, why can't either of you stop talking like he's going to die? Going to die and could die are two different things. If you absolutely must talk about it, then do it out there." He indicated the rest of the infirmary with a nod of his head then took another bite of food, but his appetite had fled. "Fuck," He grumbled and put the plate back on the cart.

"I'm sorry, John," Radek sighed. "Please, eat." He pushed the plate back toward John a little. "I did not mean it that way. Just that..." he sighed. "Ano, not speaking of it."

Carson took John's hand tightly. "He's doing much better, John. I promise you that. We're on the right track."

John looked down at Rodney again and gently touched his temple. "I know we are. I just... I want him to be better."

Carson nodded. "I know, we're getting there," he replied. "Now eat, John. You have to or you'll get sick. What good will you be to Rodney when he wakes up if you're sick?"

John sighed and took the plate back. "Fine," he mumbled and picked at the food. He didn't want to eat, he wasn't hungry anymore, although his stomach still hurt and was rumbling.

Radek picked up one of the other plates and began eating as well. Carson did the same. "We'll get Rodney back on the scanner after we eat. We'll have a better idea of any improvements after that," Carson said.

John nodded and ate automatically, checking Rodney every few seconds between bites. Rodney never stirred.

"John," Stackhouse poked his head into Rodney's room. "Thought you'd want to know, but we found possible evidence of Lt. Ford on our last mission. Dr. Parrish found a wraith with its enzyme sacs cut out."

"Ford?" John asked and looked down at Rodney, then back to Stackhouse. He wanted to be there with Rodney, but he knew that there was a shrinking window where any Ford intel was concerned. He looked at Carson and back to Rodney, then to Stackhouse again, he had no idea what he should do.

"John, go," Carson said. "Rodney will be out for a while yet. I promise to tell him what you're doing if he wakes up while you're away."

"He will understand, John," Radek said. "Go find Ford."

John sighed and looked back to Stackhouse. "Get my team together, I'll meet you in the gate room in fifteen." When Stackhouse was gone John leaned down and kissed Rodney's temple and rubbed his head again. "I'll be back in a little while, Rodney," He whispered into Rodney's ear. "I promise you, I'm not leaving you, I will be back." He kissed him again, on the lips this time, and got up. "I'll be back tonight, Carson," he said and hurried out of the room.

Carson and Radek got Rodney onto the scanner soon after John left. "Everything looks completely normal," Carson said, still amazed at the change. "As long as we can get him through the shock and keep his blood glucose levels up, I don't see any reason why he wouldn't survive this."

"This is wonderful news, Carson," Radek couldn't resist the urge to kiss him. "Though I hope John is back when Rodney finally wakes up."

Radek and Carson were just sitting down for lunch when Carson's radio beeped. "Beckett," he answered. He listened for a minute, his eyes moving to look at Rodney. "Aye, understood. I'll be there shortly."

Radek looked at him. "What is it, Carson?"

"John needs me to come and remove a Wraith tracking device from someone who has Teyla hostage," Carson replied. "Dr. Biro is coming down to take over for me, so if anything changes with Rodney, let her know immediately."

Radek sighed, "Alright, be careful." As much as Radek wanted Rodney to wake up, he hoped it wasn't until Carson and John were back. He watched as Carson left the room, and then he got onto John's bed and snuggled close to Rodney. "They will be back shortly, Rodney," He whispered and allowed himself to drift beside his friend.

John was waiting at the gate when Carson came through. "How's Rodney?" he asked anxiously.

"Rodney's fine. Holding steady, and his scans looked normal," Carson smiled and gripped John's shoulder. "He's getting better, John." At John's relieved expression, he changed the subject. "Now, what is this house call you want me to make? It sounds like you want me to go into the cave of a hostage taker. I can't say that I'm really up for that."

"I know, Carson, but there's not much of a choice here. I didn't want to bring you away from Rodney, but there was nothing else I could do. He's got Teyla at gun point, and it's a pretty big gun." He explained to situation to Carson as they walked, but he stopped before they reached the area outside the cave and John looked around. "I'll be up there, Carson. I'll have a bead on the guy at all times. I swear to you that nothing will happen to you. Trust me."

"I trust you, John, but this is entirely out of my comfort zone."

"I know," John replied. "But you'll be fine, I swear. Now go on, the sooner we get this done, the sooner we can get back to Rodney. I want to be there when he wakes up."

Carson sighed and stepped away from John. "Here we go," he said mostly to himself and took a deep breath.

Riding back in the jumper with Ronon was a different experience. The man was very quiet, but Carson could see how much he was watching them. "I'll want to give you a full check up in the infirmary," he told him quietly as they landed. "You should go on antibiotics for the wound, and I also want to make sure that everything else is okay. You've been on that planet for a few days, and there's not a lot of shelter from UV exposure on that planet."

Ronon didn't say anything, but he grunted and nodded.

John did his post flight check before leaving the jumper and hurrying back to the infirmary. He was both disappointed and glad to see that Rodney was still sleeping.

Radek looked up when the door opened and he got off the bed when he saw John. "Nothing has changed," he reported. "He is still sleeping."

John nodded and stepped back out of the room. "Stay with him, I have to get the post mission check. I don't want to bring anything in there that could make him sick." He watched Rodney for a moment longer before turning back to the rest of the infirmary. "Hurry up, Carson."

Ronon looked at Carson and tipped his head toward John. "Is he always this impatient?" He finally spoke.

"Yes and no," Carson smiled. He gestured for Ronon to wait a moment, then quickly took a blood sample from John and checked him over. "Alright, go," he smiled as he waved John off, then turned back to Ronon. "A very dear friend of his is quite ill," he explained as he carefully took a sample of Ronon's blood. "He wanted to get back to him as soon as possible, before he woke up."

Ronon nodded, "His lover," he said matter of factly.

Carson didn't confirm or deny, he just continued his work.

"I know the feeling," Ronon said. "Not that my fiancé was sick just..." he shook his head, "I'd be impatient too." He looked around the infirmary as Carson did his work. "So," he said when Carson came back. "Am I alright?"

"Aye, you seem to be in remarkably good health, considering how long you've been on the run." Carson handed Ronon a small bottle of pills. "Take these twice a day with meals for two weeks. I don't want that wound getting infected. I'll have your blood work done in a couple hours." He smiled at Ronon. He seemed like a good guy, large and imposing as he was. "I hope you're comfortable here."

Ronon took the bottle and shook out two and dry swallowed them. "I hope Sheppard's mate is alright, he seems like a pretty good guy." He hopped off the bed and looked around again, that was a habit that would take some work to break, constantly looking for wraith. "Will I be staying here?" he asked. "Or will I be sent away after my wound heals?"

"I suppose that's between you, Colonel Sheppard, and Dr. Weir, when she gets back," Carson replied. "I don't think you'll be sent away, but if you choose to leave, I don't see any reason right now why we'd stop you." He smiled up at the taller man. "As far as I'm concerned, you're welcome here as long as you like."

"Thanks," Ronon said and turned to walk away. "Oh uh-" He said and turned back. "Where can I get food?"

"Ah, the mess hall is..." Carson chuckled and turned. "Sergeant Stackhouse, would you be so kind as to show Ronon to the mess hall?"

"Sure, doc," Stackhouse replied with a smile. He led Ronon out of the infirmary, and Carson headed back to Rodney's room.

John looked up when Carson came in. "He has more colour than he did," he reported, smiling.

Carson took Rodney's vitals and smiled back at John. "Aye, he's improving. We'll get that feeding tube placed as soon as the offworld team's exams are done."

John nodded, "Okay, the sooner the better I guess," he said. He'd stripped himself of all his gear, down to his tee shirt and pants and had crawled into the bed again. He was pushed as close to Rodney as possible. "You're getting better, Rodney," he said and kissed his temple.

"What happened off world?" Radek asked.

John explained and told Radek that there was a new person in the city who looked like a shaved wookie, and warned him never to tell Ronon that he said that.

Radek laughed, "I will hold it in reserve for when I actually need it, though I doubt a Pegasus native would get the wookie reference."

As he spoke, Rodney stirred, moaning a little and pressing closer to John. John nearly jumped out of his skin, but he recovered quickly, leaning over Rodney and looking down at him. "Rodney, buddy?"

Rodney didn't answer. Carson checked him out again, then sighed. "He's not awake yet, John, but I think we're getting there."

John sighed and laid his head beside Rodney's, his hand went back to Rodney's chest. "Come on, buddy, come back to me, I know you can," he whispered and snuggled into Rodney, holding him close. He took comfort in the fact that, even in his sleep... coma... whatever he was in, Rodney knew John was there. He'd moved himself closer, as much as he could. So John pulled Rodney closer to his body and held him close. "I'm right here, Rodney, I'm not going anywhere," he promised.

---

Rodney was warm in the dark. It was peaceful, not claustrophobic, and he wondered if this was what death was. He felt a little numb, though what he was more aware of was the absence of pain for the first time in months. He smelled the comforting scent of John all around him, like he was wrapped in it. He sighed and focused on it, hoping to keep that part of John with him forever. Gradually, he became aware of arms wrapped around him, of a warm blanket covering him. It was strange to have those sensations in death, but maybe it was just whatever someone was used to. He thought about Atlantis as he drifted. He'd barely gotten to see it, but even the brief glimpse had been amazing, and totally worth dying for. John, Radek, and Carson were there. They'd experience it and study it for him. A sound invaded his comfortable darkness, and while it wasn't loud and didn't disturb him too much, it didn't fit. The steady beep sounded familiar though. Something else he remembered from life. It was a steady beep that told other people that you were still alive. But he was dead. Wasn't he?

Rodney frowned, and the beeping slowly became louder. The darkness was fading, light slowly chasing it away. The scent and feel of John all around him never faded. Slowly, Rodney's eyes cracked open, squinting into the dim lights. A figure with wild hair was slumped over in a chair, and a little ways further away, two more figures were standing, one slightly taller than average and another with wild hair that towered over him. The beeping seemed louder to Rodney now, and things slowly swam into focus. Radek was in the chair, and Carson was talking to a very huge, dark skinned, feral looking man Rodney'd never seen before.

"Hmm?" he mumbled, trying to make sense of it all. Wasn't he dead? The heart monitor said otherwise. Why wasn't he in pain? He shifted experimentally, and the arms around him tightened a little.

"Ro'ney?" a tired voice huffed from behind him.

Rodney swallowed, his throat and mouth too parched for speech. Something felt funny in his throat when he swallowed. He reached blindly to try to feel what it was. "Rodney?" the voice, John's voice, sounded much clearer.

Before he could even get his hand all the way up to his throat, Rodney felt like he was falling again, the world fading back into the blackness. "No," he tried to speak, tried to hold on to consciousness, to the image of Carson turning to look at him, of Radek sitting up in the chair, his eyes bright. He blinked again, and John was leaning over him, eyes full of hope. Rodney tried to speak again, but then everything went dark.

Rodney slept again.

"Carson," John said without taking his eyes of Rodney. "He woke up, he was awake!"

Ronon turned and saw a different side of Sheppard as Carson hurried over. Carson and Radek both came to a stop in front of Rodney and Carson checked his vitals, then hooked him up to the EEG. A grin spread across his face and he looked up at John. "He's sleeping now. This isn't a coma, though I doubt we'll be able to wake him yet." he quickly checked Rodney's blood sugar and smiled again. He looked back up and took John's hand, gripping it tightly. "I think we're out of the woods, John. I'll have to take a full blood sample to confirm it, but... I think he's going to be okay."

John's face split open in a wide grin and he squeezed Carson's hand back. "He's going to be okay," he repeated. "See, I told you! The power of positive thinking."

Ronon came up behind Carson and Radek. "I'm glad your mate's going to be okay," he said gruffly.

Radek hid his smile and John looked up in surprise. "My mate?" he looked at Carson.

Carson shrugged, "I didn't tell him, John. I doubt you have anything to worry about."

"Why would he?" Ronon asked.

Carson turned and looked up at him. "The military John belongs to frowns on gay relationships." At Ronon's blank look, Carson explained. "They can kick Colonel Sheppard out for being in a relationship with another man. They only allow their soldiers to be in relationships with the opposite sex."

"That's dumb," Ronon said shortly.

"Amen to that," John replied. It'd been easy before, he didn't have Rodney right there with him. Now, though, he was there, and he was alive. He was going to be okay. John didn't think he'd ever be able to stop touching and kissing him now, it'd been so long since he'd been able to do it.

Radek smiled and wrapped his arms around John. "He's going to be okay, John."

Too wired to sleep after that, John talked with Ronon for a while. He learned a little more about him, and about his home world. He promised to send a probe there soon, to see if there was anything left.

Rodney didn't wake up again until the next evening. He could hear Carson badgering John to eat something, and Radek's voice, probably talking into a radio. He let himself drift for a while, just listening, but eventually he opened his eyes. "John?" he whispered, throat dry. He swallowed, and that thing was still in his throat.

John turned quickly. "Rodney," he said and focused all his attention on him. "It's okay, you're on Atlantis, do you remember coming through the gate?"

Rodney nodded and moved his hand to his mouth.

"Carson," John called. "He's awake."

Carson hurried over and checked Rodney. He pulled Rodney's hand away from his throat. "It's a feeding tube," he told him. "You were severely under weight and close to hypoglycemia. I can remove it when you think you're able to eat."

Rodney furrowed his brow, not understanding why that stuff mattered when he was dying anyway. He wondered again about his lack of pain.

"Not... Dead?" he asked, voice raspy

John smiled and kissed him, then stroked his fingers down his cheek. "Nope, not dead. You're gonna be fine, Rodney. The cancer's gone. Carson can't find any trace of it."

"Gone?" Rodney asked. "How? It was... everywhere. Doctors said there was nothing else they could do."

Radek happily explained about the Stargate and the plague.

Rodney listened, amazed that the Stargate could be made to do that. He looked at John, his eyes stinging with unshed tears, he'd been as good as dead, and now he was just skinny and weak. "You saved my life, John." He looked at his other two friends. "You all did, there is no way to ever repay you."

"You don't have to do anything, Rodney," John said and snuggled close to Rodney. He carefully cupped the side of Rodney's face. "You're alive, that's payment enough."

"John," Rodney said and leaned into John as much as he could. He was feeling tired again. "Were you really going to leave the military for me?"

John nodded. "I'd do anything for you, Rodney. Nothing is more important to me than you are. Nothing." he leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. "I love you, remember?"

Rodney smiled and kissed him back. "I remember," he whispered. His eyes started to drift closed again, and he grumbled. "Don't want to sleep," he said.

Carson took his hand. "You'll be stronger soon, Rodney. Give yourself some time to heal."

John kissed his temple. "I'm not going anywhere, Rodney."

John hadn't left Rodney's side more than a few times, and they had only been for showers or missions that he absolutely had to be a part of. Rodney was doing much better now. It'd been almost a week since Rodney first woke up. He'd slept most of the first few days, and for the last couple days, he'd slept more than usual, but was still awake for at least half the day. The feeding tube had been removed, although Rodney still wasn't able to eat solid food. Most of his IVs had been removed and Carson had him sitting in a chair a few times a day. A lot of movement still drained his energy, but he was moving on his feet rather than in a wheel chair.

"So, Rodney," John said as he walked into the room with a set of clothes. "Ready to be roomies again? Carson says you're well enough to be released, but you can't stay alone so, you're staying with me."

Rodney looked up from the laptop Radek had given him. His eyes lit up when he saw John. "Are you sure that's wise? I don't want you getting in trouble and losing this job. I just got here and I'd be very sad if we had to leave."

John laughed, and nodded. "You're my best friend, Rodney. You can't keep taking up space here in the infirmary, Carson's the doctor so he'd be in and out all the time so it'd be pointless to stay with him, and no one else here knows you, besides Radek, who's been staying with Carson more times than not. There's really no better place for you, Rodney." He grinned and half shrugged. "It's plausible, and I don't care. Stackhouse has been with Markham since before I knew him, and they're living together. Things are a little different out here."

Slowly, Rodney got up and took the clothes from John. "In that case, yes, I'm so ready to get out of here. Radek's been getting me up to speed on the research going around here. I'm curious to check out the laps and the puddle jumpers and..."

"Hold on, buddy," John laughed, helping him with his pants and shoes. "Let's not overdo it right away.

"Okay, maybe some work from home for awhile. Some research on the laptop. I have the most Ancient knowledge of anyone here, I'm sure."

John chuckled and kissed Rodney. "Now there's the Rodney I fell in love with." He helped Rodney off the bed and out of the room.

Carson met them at the front of the infirmary with a wheel chair. Rodney glared at the contraption, but after the walk, he didn't complain about sitting in it. "I'm available to you at any time, Rodney," Carson told him. "But in the event that I can't come, the person I send will be completely competent."

"They better be," Rodney huffed. He squeezed Carson's hand. "You and Radek coming by tonight?"

Carson smiled. "I think we can do that."

John pushed Rodney out of the infirmary and to the transporter. "I wanna show you something," he said once they were inside. He pushed the spot on the map indicating the east pier. A moment later, he wheeled Rodney out and along the pier, the ocean all around them.

"This place is cool," Rodney sighed happily.

John grinned and turned them around, giving Rodney one of the best views of the city. "You made it possible for us, Rodney."

Rodney took in the sight, utterly speechless and barely able to breathe. "It's beautiful," he said softly. "I can't believe I almost missed this."

John knelt down in front of him. "I know, but you didn't miss it, you're here, we're together, and there's not a thing in existence that's going to change that."

Rodney smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. "It's a second chance," he murmured against John's lips. "We get to have a life together after all, and I still get the chance to crack Atlantis wide open and figure out what makes the universe run." He pulled back and grinned.

John smiled back. "Oh yeah, the Pegasus galaxy doesn't know what hit it. And when you get all the way better, you'll be on my team. I keep rotating through the scientists, but I can't find one that fits... until now." he grinned. "Rodney, would you do me the honor of being my scientist?" he mock proposed.

Rodney beamed at him and kissed him again. "It's probably the only way to keep you out of trouble offworld," he agreed. He turned to look at the city again, and John could already see calculations and theories and ideas running through his head. John smiled. This was where they belonged, here, together.

---

Three weeks after Rodney got out of the infirmary, they joined Carson and Radek in the mess for dinner. Afterwards, while Radek and Rodney discussed Radek's latest research, John scooted closer to Carson. He'd been bothering Carson for a while about how strong Rodney was getting, and when he could deal with a little more exertion. Carson caught the look on his face and smiled. "Aye, I think he's ready, John. Just be careful."

"You know I will," John answered. "Thanks, Carson." He got up and put his hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Come on, let's go home."

Rodney looked up and John and nodded. "Okay," he said and got up. "Good night, guys."

"Good night, Rodney," Carson said. "Call me if you need me for anything."

Rodney cocked his head but nodded. "Alright," he said.

"Come on Rodney," John whined and gently pulled Rodney along.

They walked slowly, but Rodney was definitely getting stronger by the day now. He wasn't even breathing too hard when they got back to their quarters, John was happy to see. Once the door shut, John pulled Rodney into his arms and kissed him deeply. He let his fingers slide down Rodney's shoulders, kneading the flesh gently. "I need you, Rodney," he whispered.

Rodney leaned in and kissed John, wrapping his arms around him. He moaned into John's mouth before pulling away. "Yes, John... need you too."

John smiled and slowly unbuttoned Rodney's shirt. He slid his fingers under the fabric, stroking the skin revealed as each button was undone. Reverently, he pushed the shirt from Rodney's shoulders, drinking in the sight of his bare chest. Rodney was still too thin, but he was gaining ground there as well.

Once the shirt was gone, John rested his hands on Rodney's hips and slowly directed him toward the bed. John's fingers felt great, leaving small trails of fire across Rodney's bare skin. He closed his eyes and leaned into John as he was lead toward the bed. He sat down slowly and looked up at John. "Please, John..." he reached out and put his hands on John's hips.

John bent over and kissed Rodney, then stood up and pulled off his own shirt. He knelt down in front of Rodney and unlaced his lover's boots. He pulled off Rodney's boots and socks, then did the same with his own. John was standing in front of Rodney again as he unbuckled his belt.

Rodney kept his breathing carefully even for fear that fast breaths would worry John and make him stop. He didn't want him to stop. He watched John's hands move over his buckle and button and zipper. John hooked his thumbs into the waist of his pants and pushed them down, revealing the light blue pin stripe boxers Rodney had given him. Rodney reached out again and put his hands over the material on either side of John's erection. "You kept those," he said softly.

"Of course I did," John replied. He leaned over Rodney and gently pushed him back onto the bed as he kissed him. "I've kept everything you gave me," He said softly.

Rodney smiled softly and nuzzled John's belly. John moaned softly and urged Rodney to lie back on the bed. John took his time unfastening Rodney's pants and pulling them and his boxers off, and he kissed Rodney's jutting hip bone when he was finished.

Rodney sighed and relaxed into the bed. It had been so long since he'd been naked for pleasure. John had been the last person he'd had sex with. He hadn't even gotten semi hard when he'd been getting sponge baths. "Yes, John... Please."

John smiled against Rodney's skin and slid his lips along the hip bone. He buried his nose in the base of Rodney's cock and drew in a deep breath. Rodney smelled like Rodney again, not like sickness or hospitals. Slowly he slid his lips up the side of Rodney's cock, just touching.

Rodney whimpered when John's touched him, he was so hard it hurt, but he didn't want to come. He wanted John to touch him, just touch and kiss and lick his naked body. Rodney's skin had screaming for John's touch for years, and now that he had it, he was drinking the contact in like a man in an endless desert. He arched his back, pressing up against John as he reached down and raked his fingers through John's hair. His muscles were quivering; he could feel the slight tremble throughout his entire body. It felt like the first time again.

John took his time, relearning every curve of Rodney's body with his lips. Finally he took Rodney's cock into his mouth and sucked, wanting to taste him. His hands curled up around Rodney's hips, fingers stroking the skin as he licked and sucked and swallowed around Rodney.

Rodney gasped and arched up into John's mouth as his cock was enveloped by the warmth. His breathing was fast and shallow now, it felt like he was being ripped apart at the seams and he loved it. "Oh... John..." he moaned.

John wanted to smile, but he was too busy with his task. He didn't want Rodney to come yet. He had a feeling that in Rodney's current state, the orgasm would be the end of the evening for him. He sucked a little more, then pulled off and kissed the tip before crawling up over Rodney and kissing him deeply again. "I love the noises you make," John grinned.

Rodney smiled and nuzzled John. "I love how you make me make those noises." He pulled away a bit and looked at John, everything showing on his face, the need, the want, his gratitude for this second chance, his love for John and even his fear that the cancer would return and take him away. "I want you, John. I need you. Touch me the way you used to, make me fall apart with nothing more than the touch of your lips. Remind me what it's like to be alive. Make love to me, John, I need to feel you all over my body, inside and out."

John kissed him again and nodded. "Yeah, Rodney," he breathed. "That's the plan." John kissed down Rodney's neck and over his shoulder, then he moved on to Rodney's chest. He sealed his mouth over Rodney's nipple and sucked, flicking his tongue across it over and over.

Rodney sighed softly as John kissed along his neck and shoulder. He closed his eyes again and took in the sensations of John's lips on him. His eyes flew open and he gasped John's name when the heat of John's mouth closed around his nipple. He grunted and fisted one hand in the back of John's hair. "Ahhhh, John," Rodney whispered as he writhed gently under John. His head was back, eyes closed again and his mouth was hanging open. He was making soft grunting whimpers.

John pulled back and smiled, pleased. He moved to the other nipple and let his hands explore the rest of Rodney's chest, stomach, and sides. Finally he pulled back again and took a moment to pull off his boxers. He pulled a tube of lube out of the bedside table and moved back to Rodney. He hooked Rodney's legs over his shoulders and kissed his knee as he lubed up a finger. "Ready, Rodney?" he asked quietly.

"Oh god, yes, John. I've been ready since the last time we did this." He sucked in a slow breath and bit his lip as John pressed the lubed finger inside. "Mmmm," he hummed as the finger slid in deeper.

Rodney was amazingly tight with just one of John's fingers inside him. John groaned and turned his head, placing a sucking kiss on Rodney's thigh. John and Rodney had had sex plenty of times in the past, but this was something else entirely. This felt like their first time again, and maybe it was in a way. This wasn't just about getting off. This was about just how much John treasured Rodney. This was about love and second chances and really living. This was John loving Rodney and showing him pleasure again after being in so much pain and sickness.

Slowly, John worked his finger in and out of Rodney, reveling in the way Rodney moaned and sighed and, god, moved. He watched in awe as Rodney pressed down, taking more of John's finger. Finally he pulled out, added more lube, and pressed back in with two. "You're perfect, Rodney," John whispered.

Rodney moaned and writhed on John's fingers, it felt amazing, like it always had. He opened his eyes and they locked with John's and they stared at each other for long time while John's two fingers moved inside Rodney's body. "John," Rodney whispered, "ah, John..."

"Yeah," John agreed breathlessly as he added a third finger. He stretched Rodney patiently, even though what he really wanted to do was be inside him now. John smiled and let his fingers brush Rodney's prostate a few times.

Rodney gasped and pushed down on John, gripping John's arm to help push away the thought that not long ago, he'd had cancer that had spread to the area John had just touched. "I'm alive," he whispered and breathed deeply.

"You really are," John agreed. He slid his free hand up Rodney's thigh, petting him for a moment before he reached for the lube again and rubbed some onto his cock. "Rodney, I need to be in you."

"Yes, John. Please," Rodney pleaded. It'd been so long, and he'd dreamed of this, dreamed of being with John again, of having John inside him. He moaned at the thought and sighed John's name again.

John shifted them a little then lined up with Rodney's entrance. He watched Rodney's face as he slowly pushed inside. "Oh, god, Rodney," he moaned as he was surrounded by tight heat. He'd missed Rodney so much, and finally it felt like they were truly connected again. When he was fully seated in Rodney, he paused for a moment. He bent down and kissed Rodney deeply. "I love you."

Rodney moaned as John pushed into him, and sighed when he was all the way in. "Oh god," he whispered and arched his back. He kissed John just as deeply and passionately. "I love you too, John. So much." He sighed and relaxed back into the bed. "God, John you fill me so perfectly, make me feel so good... so alive. Thank you, thank you, John, for saving my life."

John paused and looked down at Rodney. "Rodney..." his hips moved again, though his expression was a little pained, "I'd do anything for you, but I didn't save your life. I just brought you through the Stargate." He wasn't sure what exactly to say. He had no words for the feelings Rodney's words sparked in him. He hadn't really thought about it as saving Rodney's life.

"When you came back, you gave me something to fight for. I'd fight for even an extra hour with you," Rodney told him, their eyes locked.

John hips moved faster and he bent forward to the take his mouth in a kiss that was harsher than ever. It was deep, and desperate, and John couldn't get enough of Rodney.

Rodney moaned again and wrapped his arms around John, pulling him closer and holding John tight. He focused on the feel of John's dick sliding in and out of him. He felt like he was floating, disconnecting from a world that could cause pain and heartbreak. It was just John now, John and Rodney, alone and together, nothing else mattered to him. His orgasm was building, and John's body rubbing against the head of Rodney's dick was only drawing it closer. Rodney moaned and writhed, wanting to stay here forever.

John moaned against Rodney's mouth, his hips speeding up a little. He didn't want it to end. He wanted to stay buried in Rodney forever, but it had been a long time since they'd done this. His orgasm was getting closer, and Rodney's responsiveness was only driving him closer.

Rodney tore his mouth away from the kiss and moaned loudly. His breathing was fast and shallow now and a small whimpering moan escaped with each exhale. He was close, sheer will power was the only thing keeping his orgasm at bay, but he was losing that battle with each thrust of John's hips. "Oh..." was all he could get out before he came so hard it made every muscle in his body spasm. He came and came as if he'd never stop, but with a final grunt and jerk, he did stop. He relaxed into the bed, completely exhausted and sated and happier than he'd been in years. "John," he whispered.

When John felt Rodney tighten around him and the warm wetness between them as Rodney came, John moaned. He thrust harder two more times before he followed Rodney over the edge, emptying himself into his lover. He stayed frozen above Rodney for a minute, catching his breath. Leaning down, he kissed him gently before pulling out and lying down. He pulled Rodney into his arms and kissed him again and again.

Rodney melted into John's arms and fought against the exhaustion that was tugging at his edges. He peppered soft kisses onto John's neck and shoulder. "I love you," he whispered.

"Love you too, Rodney, so much." John sighed happily and stroked the side of Rodney's face. He smiled and kissed him again, then turned enough to snag an abandoned shirt. He was gentle as he cleaned Rodney up and got them under the blankets. "I'm not going anywhere, Rodney. Never again," John promised, kissing him again. He settled a little deeper into the bed and held Rodney tightly. "Rest now, I'll be right here when you wake up."

Rodney laid his head on John's chest and wrapped an arm around his stomach, tucking his fingers under his side. Once he had John securely pinned, he closed his eyes. "I'm not leaving either," he whispered and kissed John's chest.

John smiled and closed his eyes. His fingers traced idle patterns on Rodney's skin. "Good," he answered.

-----------Epilogue----------
"No, Radek, you're wrong. Trust me, I know, I'm brilliant, remember?"

"How could I not? You will not let any of us forget."

"That's right. Now redo it until you get it right."

John and Carson heard the argument from down the hall. The two of them stood in the doorway and watched for awhile, then John turned to Carson and chuckled. "Some things never change," he said.

"Yeah, you'd never know that just three months ago..."

"Hey!" Rodney said, breaking a sentence in half. "We're not talking about those days... remember?"

Radek looked up from the laptop they'd been arguing over. "Here, if we try to-"

"No that'll just upset the whole system and then we're-"

"Unless we do this," Radek pointed at something on the screen. "Then it would-"

You're not listening to me! We won't get to that because as soon as we try your proposal we'll be too busy running around trying to fix everything that breaks!"

Carson and John exchanged another look, and John sighed. "Come on, Rodney. Let's go have dinner."