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Julianna: The Beginning

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If it had only been himself, John would have toughed it out, but seeing Rodney throwing up in the bathroom brought home the fact that they were both sick. Sicker than they could manage without calling attention to themselves – sick enough that they shouldn't go to work.

"Come on," he put his hand on Rodney's shoulder. "Gotta see the doc."

"Not that bad," Rodney tried to protest. It wasn't terribly convincing considering that Rodney was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, hugging the toilet like it was his best friend.

Which, at the moment, it certainly was. The circles under his eyes from not sleeping completed the effect of making Rodney look as least as bad as he probably felt.

"Yes, it is," John said firmly, swallowing while trying not to throw up himself. "Both of us have some kind of bug and it's gotten worse over the last couple of days." He swallowed carefully. The nausea was pretty bad, and he was tired all the time. He had initially thought that the exhaustion left him open to the bug but with Rodney having the same symptoms and now the nausea, he was worried that it was something serious. Rodney sat on the floor of the bathroom looking green and exhausted.

"Okay," Rodney sighed, giving in with that single word. At which point John realized how bad Rodney had to feel.

John keyed his radio. "Dr. Keller?"

"Yes?" came the brisk response.

"Umm... sorry to be a bother, but can you swing by Dr. McKay's room?" John tried for casual but failed.

"What's wrong?" Keller's quick reply came.

"No one's dying," John tried for reassuring and suspected he failed.

"Speak for yourself," Rodney moaned from the floor. John knew Keller heard it from her "hrmpf" on the radio.

"I think it's a flu-type bug and if it is, we don't want to spread it around," John told her, striving for something approaching reasonableness. Even though they were senior staff, he didn't want to abuse that authority by asking for a house call when others would be requested to go to the infirmary.

"On my way," Keller replied briskly.

John sank down on the bed, grateful to finally give in to his own exhaustion. It wasn't long before Keller let herself into the room. "Both of you?" she asked, incredulous.

John nodded wearily.

"At this point, no one else has reported anything similar, and the city hasn't set up any alerts, so it can't be too contagious," she decided. "I'd like to get you both in the infirmary. I need to figure out what's wrong."

"Whatever," John agreed, too tired to try to fight it and knowing if he went that Rodney would go without too much protest.

Keller called her staff to help move them to the infirmary. John was glad she didn't call any of the Marines – that would have been too embarrassing – and pretty soon John and Rodney found themselves in an isolation room. Assuming they had the same thing for simplicity purposes, she put them in a double room which made it easier for testing and treatment purposes. She took blood efficiently and quickly while asking the usual set of ‘When did you start to feel this way' questions. Laying down and keeping still seemed to help with the nausea – Keller started IV fluids to keep them hydrated. The fact that Rodney didn't whine his way through the entire process was another confirmation for John how bad he really felt. That made John wish he had called Keller sooner.

John started to worry when Keller came back later in the day to do more tests. She took John and Rodney separately through one of the Ancient body scan machines. "What are you looking for?" John asked curiously as she prepped him for the scan.

"If I knew that, I could tell you," Keller replied calmly. "Now lie still so I can get some good images." She took John back to the room and after checking that they were both comfortable she left them alone.

"Hey," John said. "You okay?"

"Better," Rodney admitted. "What's wrong with us?"

"No idea," John replied. "But I'm starting to suspect it's not the flu."

Rodney snorted. "Nothing is ever simple, is it?" he asked, mostly rhetorically, then yawned.

"Sleep," John said. "Should feel better in the morning. Maybe Keller'll figure out what's wrong by then."

Rodney wriggled to get more comfortable then said softly, "Miss my pillow." John could hear the grin in his voice.

"Yeah," John agreed. He missed being Rodney's pillow. Even the last few nights that they hadn't felt well, the contact of sleeping together had been comforting. "Sleep," he repeated.

"Night," Rodney murmured. The three days of illness quickly made itself known as they fell fast asleep.

Morning brought another round of vomiting for both of them. At least this time the medical staff was soothing as they threw up but it was more than faintly embarrassing for both John and Rodney. Since they hadn't eaten much in the last couple of days there wasn't much to bring up anymore and it was mostly dry heaves, but that didn't lessen the upset. They were both exhausted by the time they were done. John lay back panting as he fought another wave of nausea. He could hear that Rodney wasn't in any better shape. Once the worst of the vomiting passed, the staff cleaned them up, hung another IV bag for more fluids and left them to doze.

Keller came in a couple hours later to check on them. "Doc?" John asked desperate for information. "What did you find?"

"Tell me anything that happened to you about... let's see... six weeks ago," Keller directed.

"What?" Rodney protested weakly. He raised his head to try to glare at Keller but the paleness of his face and the exhaustion in his eyes robbed the look of its usual effectiveness.

"Humor me," Keller told them. She looked at the scanner she held in one hand. "Six weeks ago you were..."

John lay back and thought. Six weeks.... "We did that mission to P3D-478. They didn't shoot at us and we got those strawberry-like things from them," John recollected. "We got back from that and Teyla went to the mainland and...." John's voice trailed off.

"And...." Keller prompted.

John looked up at the ceiling of the infirmary and sighed. He could tell from Rodney's stillness that he remembered, too. "Rodney and I went exploring here in the city. Found a room that wouldn't let us in at first. Once it did, seemed benign. There was a moment where something, well, scanned us." It was more than that, but John didn't quite want to go there just as yet. "Nothing else happened and we came back. Went on a mission to M3F-247 about five days later and then, well, really nothing special since then."

"Okay, we need to check that room out," Keller decided. "Where was it?"

Rodney rattled off the location of the room and Keller wrote it down. "Take Zelenka with you, I think," Rodney recommended. "And no gene carriers in the room."

John could feel Keller giving them a hard look. "I have to tell Weir," she warned them.

"Figured as much," John said wearily. He was too tired to really care what Weir thought. He suspected he would care later but not at the moment. It took a while as Keller then her staff fussed over them but they were finally left alone. "Rodney?" John floated.

"What happened to you?" Rodney asked. "I remember something about the city being in my head. It was so fast and then there was a, god this is such a cliché, a white light. Then it was just an empty room."

John had been reluctant to talk about it. Nothing seemed to happen at the time, but now it had come back to bite them in the ass. "It was like the city, but not quite the same feel. Something less, well, robust. Or maybe just a subset – it wasn't as rich as the city usually is. There was a sense of confusion from whatever it was, at first. Then, well the best I can describe it was as if someone had shrugged their shoulders and decided it could work with what was there. It was kinda fast so it wasn't until later that I had a chance to think about what happened. Since it was – or looked like – an empty room didn't give it any thought until now."

"Well, it meant something," Rodney decided. He gave John a look that John knew he'd pay for not telling Rodney more once they got out of the infirmary.

"Why no gene carriers?" John asked curiously, trying to distract Rodney.

"Well, if whatever It was responded to you, then maybe it was the ATA gene," Rodney explained. "Being cautious."

Too late, John thought. The vomiting and nausea caught up with him and he fell asleep between one thought and the next. He vaguely wondered if Keller had slipped them something in the IV, but she didn't seem the type. Carson would have, he knew.... he didn't have time to miss Carson before he fell asleep.

It was late afternoon before Keller came back with both Zelenka and Weir in tow. "I guess we're not contagious," John commented as they came in and settled around the small room.

"Pretty sure not," Keller said agreeably. John could tell she wasn't happy but he couldn't read her mood.

"What did you find?" Rodney asked impatiently.

"The translation took a bit, which is why we weren't here before this," Zelenka reported. "We, Dr. Weir and I, well, we think.."

"Spit it out," Rodney huffed.

"It's a fertility chamber," Zelenka said, obviously reluctant to be the spokesperson.

Keller stepped in, "Turns out you're both pregnant. You're what would be about 6 weeks along."

The silence was deafening.

"Umm. How is that possible?" Rodney asked frantically. "Wrong parts here." John let Rodney rant while he tried to fall into a black hole.

Keller rolled her eyes. "Number one, this is Atlantis. Number two, it's the ATA gene. And number three, it's the two of you. Anything is possible." She sighed.

Weir put in. "We're looking to see what we can figure out. We have more to translate at this point but wanted to talk to you to see if you could tell us anything that might help." She looked hopeful but John resisted telling her anything else at the moment, not that there was much to tell.

"No idea," John told them. He looked at Keller. "Since this isn't contagious, do we have to stay here?"

"For the moment, I think yes. The isolation room gives you some privacy and you're both dehydrated enough that I need to keep an eye on you," Keller said firmly. "I handled most of the last of the tests myself, initially to get used to the equipment, so no one else knows at the moment. If you were female, I'd tell you that another two weeks of this and the worst of it would be over. I have no idea how this will play out."

"We'll deal with that when we get there," Weir told them. "For now, we'll stick with the flu story so you don't have visitors until we get something figured out. We still have work to do on the translation but wanted to let Dr. Keller have an idea of what she's probably dealing with."

Like Keller's dealt with pregnant men before, John thought. He knew it was an unfair thought but the entire thing was unfair as far as he was concerned.

John didn't have to feign exhaustion to chase the visitors out of the room. Zelenka had a few quiet words with Rodney about what was going on in the labs before he left. Then it was just John and Rodney.

"Wow," Rodney breathed.

"Yeah," John replied softly.

"Think I'm going to freak out about this for a while," Rodney decided.

"You go first," John told him. "I'll wait and freak out when you're done." John hated lying there by himself, he wanted desperately to put his arms around Rodney and hold him and.... He started to think.

"Rodney?" John asked carefully a little while later.

There must have been something in his voice that got Rodney's attention. Rodney looked over quickly but said, "Not sure I'm done freaking out yet."

John couldn't look at Rodney, he looked down at the blanket on the bed and idly picked at the lint, said, "Yes." He held his breath.

He knew Rodney got it when he went still. "John?"

John could feel his ears turn red, and he couldn't look up, but he nodded his head at Rodney. At the sounds from the other bed, John had to look up to see Rodney untangling himself from the IV and climbing out of the bed. Rodney took the few steps between the beds and leaned against John's bed. Rodney reached a hand in to take John's and held on.

"I wasn't done freaking out and now you want to say ‘yes' to me?" Rodney demanded. "You have like the world's worst timing you know?"

John took Rodney's hand in both of his and whispered, "Or, well, maybe the best."

"You idiot," Rodney huffed. But John could tell he was pleased. "Why now?" Rodney persisted.

John took a deep breath, he needed to get this right. "It's not like I haven't wanted to... I did. I just didn't know if I was really brave enough to do it. But now," he put a hand on his stomach, "Well, now if we really are...you're right, this is too weird, pregnant, well, I want to make sure no matter what happens that we're a, you know, a family."

When he was done, he looked up to look at Rodney. Oh... That must have been the right thing.... Rodney's eyes were shining and he was grinning. Rodney leaned in and kissed him. John reached his other hand around the back of Rodney's neck to draw him in closer.

At a sound from outside the room, they broke apart. They didn't want to risk each other's position by letting anyone know about their relationship. Keller wasn't military and they had gotten to know her well enough to know she wouldn't really care that he and Rodney were lovers. On the other hand, they had to work with her and they didn't want to put her in a decidedly awkward position. They might have let Carson know about their relationship but they weren't ready to confide in Keller until they had to.

~*~

Keller let them go back to their rooms, well back to Rodney's room, two days later. The vomiting had responded to anti-nausea medication and they were able to keep down soft foods. Luckily for Rodney that included jello. Staying in one room meant they could officially keep an eye on each other. "You're both grounded for the immediate future until I see how your bodies react to this," she told them. When John was going to protest she pointed out, "Yes, I know pregnancy isn't an illness, but give me a break. None of us know what we're dealing with and I'm not going to let you hurt yourselves unknowingly." John had to give in to that reasonable request.

To Rodney, she said, "You're going to work anyways, but in your room for the next couple of days. And, yes, Dr. Zelenka can share what he's found about your mystery room with you." Since he could do almost anything from his room, Rodney was satisfied with that.

"Unless you're ready to announce yourselves to everyone?" Keller asked. Seeing John shake his head negatively, she continued, "We'll stick with the flu story for the moment. You're better enough to get out of here, but still sick."

~*~

Just before dinner on their second day out of the infirmary, Zelenka came to visit them. He stood in the doorway of their room and shifted uncomfortably.

"Stop dancing around there and sit," Rodney directed, pointing to a chair. Zelenka sat in the chair Rodney pointed to.

"What?" Rodney demanded.

John put a hand on Rodney's shoulder to calm him and asked more reasonably, "What is it?"

Zelenka blushed. "I've been sent... well, we've, Elizabeth and I, we've done some of the translating from the room. I've been sent so that Elizabeth, well, what she does not really know...." His voice trailed off.

"What she doesn't know, she doesn't have to answer questions about," John finished for him.

Zelenka threw him a grateful look and steadied. "Well, it turns out that, the chamber, is a fertility chamber, that we are now sure. You could not easily open the chamber because it is keyed to female DNA. But your ATA gene," he nodded to John at that, "over-rode that setting. Once you were in the room, it did what it was programmed to do."

John explained, "It scanned us and I felt the confusion. It wasn't like the city... like I've felt in the chair. It wasn't as fully developed as the city but it tried to do its job."

Zelenka turned even redder, if that were possible. "The text... the text in the room indicates that to function that those in the room must have a.. DNA donation from a second person," he explained delicately.

Oh. Oh. No wonder Weir didn't want to be here for this. This outed them completely to anyone that knew how the room worked. John had had time to remember the night before. With the downtime and not needing to be on duty, they had indulged in a long night together. He tried to control himself as he remembered how Rodney had fucked him through the mattress the night before. He had returned the favor to Rodney with a slow morning fuck in the shower. They had debated briefly about just going back to bed and sleeping but John had wheedled Rodney into going exploring. John struggled not to turn completely red but wasn't sure he succeeded.

"Now what?" Rodney asked, a lot more blasé than John would have given him credit for.

Zelenka shrugged. "There is still more to translate, but I think we learn nothing really new." He grinned at John and Rodney, "And you have babies."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Thanks a lot," he said, but he returned the grin. He sobered, "Who needs to know the details? John can't get in trouble over this."

"Not many need to know, some will figure out. Most who know Ancient are busy on own projects," Zelenka replied philosophically. "Most will be happy for you and not care. The few that do care, they are not important."

"Thank you," John told him. For being a friend...

After Zelenka left, John held his arms out to Rodney, "Come here." Rodney sat on the bed next to John and let himself be folded into the warm embrace. "You have your own position to worry about, too," John told him.

"Nah," Rodney disagreed. "Well only to the extent that some bigot would give us a hard time. But most of the science staff are relatively liberal. It's you I'm worried about-- and your damned Marines."

John laughed softly. "Then don't tell them that I already know that a couple of the first wave Marines have as good as moved in with some of your scientists. I pretend to not notice and they don't talk about it. Living in Atlantis tends to change your view of what's important."

"Well, your military isn't going to be too happy to learn of this," Rodney protested. He sat up, "What if they make us go back to Earth?"

"I don't think Weir or Keller will let that happen. Since it was Ancient technology that caused this, our argument is that we need to be here in case there is a way to deal with it," John pointed out reasonably. He had to believe that because if they went back to Earth, they would be even more of a freak show than they would be here. John drew Rodney back down so they were both lying together. "Keller'll be by after dinner. We can nap until then." Lying there, holding Rodney, that's what John needed at the moment.

Rodney gave in when he realized John wasn't going to let him go. He wrapped an arm around John's waist and put his head on John's shoulder. "You're giving me bad habits, you know," Rodney complained but ruined it by yawning.

They woke when the door chime rang. John called, "Come in." John helped Rodney sit up to make it not quite so obvious they had been... well... cuddling.

Keller came into the room as Rodney was yawning himself awake and said, "Sleeping is good. You both need to sleep more than I know you usually do." She sat in the chair Zelenka had used earlier. "How are you feeling?"

"Pretty good now that the nausea has cleared up," John answered. "Tired still, but haven't been doing anything and might feel better once I get back into some routine."

Rodney shrugged. "Mostly okay, I guess," he reported. "I'd like to get back to the lab soon, though. Zelenka's good but there are some things only I can do."

John had to give Keller credit when she attacked the larger issue, "I made Zelenka explain to me about the requirements of the machine. He didn't want to do that, he was trying to protect both of you. Your relationship falls into medical confidentiality at the moment and it's up to you who you feel you need to share that with. The official story will continue to be an Ancient lab that you both happen to be in at the same time."

"Thank you," Rodney told her. That was more than they had any right to expect and he was grateful for her understanding.

"I'm letting you both back on limited duty," Keller decided. "No off world missions except in an emergency for another week and I'll evaluate that again at the end of the week. If it weren't you two," she held up her hand to forestall the protest that Rodney was forming, "no offense, but you two are trouble magnets. If it weren't you two, I'd let you go on routine missions but there never seem to be routine missions. Think about what you'd like to do and we can talk about it."

John sighed. He had been afraid Keller would ground them completely and, while there was enough to do on Atlantis, he knew it would be hard on Teyla and harder on Ronon. Teyla would be happy to have some extended time with the Athosians but he'd have to see what Ronon might be willing to do.