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There were fifty perfect steps to achieving their goal, less than, but he'd added more in his head to round it out so he had a nice even fifty, and some of them were just one step broken into two, but. But there were fifty of them and everything had a mostly clear outcome, so he'd been satisfied with how it was going to go and how it was going. Everyone had evacuated safely, Radek and Carson and Teyla and why had he volunteered to stay?

Because he was stupid. Because he never knew what to do except volunteer because it was his plan in the end, even if Radek had sparked it in a fit of weather-inspired bitching. Radek had said there were no hurricanes in the Czech Republic, but Rodney knew he'd worked on the Gulf coast for the government, he'd seen his dossier cum personnel file, picked at the edges with his fingernails back in the SGC's niche in Cheyenne mountain, carved out beneath NORAD, which Rodney had always liked because NORAD would go before they did if someone ever pressed the red button.

"I, I'm sorry, what did you ask?"

"I said, I want to know what your plan is to save the city." The man's mouth was twisty, twisty, full of pleasure, and there was a sound, oh, a bad sound, the kind of bad sound that Rodney really didn't want to hear, never, never, no, nay, never. That made him think of a song, a song, and oh. Oh, no, that was very, very bad.

There was a hand on his shoulder that went with the noise, pulled him away from it, and Rodney jerked a little. "I, I don't have a plan to save the city, I never said anything about a plan to save the city."

"Not yet." The murmur of that voice was low, hypnotic, terrifying. "Not yet." Breath against his ear. "But you will. You'll tell me everything that I could possibly want to know."

He knew he wasn't supposed to. He knew, he knew that he was always watched twice as hard as the rest of the expedition for stumbles and fucking up and sometimes, sometimes he did. Sometimes he slipped into Teyla's room and curled up on her bed and listened to her breathe, just breathe. The furs and old woven blankets were nicer than military issued sheets and the crispness of them, and she never told him to go away when he did that, when he had to find some comfort or fall apart.

As long as they were all still alive after a mission, that was the important part. He knew he didn't always hold it together well enough, knew that he could try harder and do better because they were watching him and they had those expectations of him and he wasn't supposed to say anything about the city. Doctor Weir was going to give them the drugs and the C4 and a puddle jumper and everyone would forget it had ever happened because Carson could make new antibiotics, but not new Risperdal Consta.

Rodney shook his head, and closed his eyes tightly. "No, no, no~o, no I'm not. No I'm not. No, nope, no. I, I have, I can't."

"Of course you can. You can make this difficult, or you can make this simple, Doctor McKay." There was a knife, a knife, a knife in his hand, and then they were pulling him, pulling off his jacket. It was gentle, almost easy, and one of the man's big hands stroked along his side as if gentling him, as if that would make him feel better about everything.

It didn't. It didn't, because they were tugging him, holding down his other arm, and offering his left one to the, the, the Kolya. Commander.

Not one of his commanders. Not one of their people, because they'd never do that to him. They knew his limits, his edges, and no one even teased him with things like that. Rodney closed his eyes again, and he wished he hadn't looked in the first place. "N, nothing to tell you, I can't, I'm just, just a scientist..."

"Head scientist." It was wrong, wrong, wrong, no. No, he should never, never, he should have let Radek have it, but they wouldn't give it to him because, because Radek made bombs. Radek liked bombs, Radek liked bombs too much, and oh. It hurt, it hurt, slicing, slicing, and Rodney couldn't help crying, he couldn't help it.

Hands kept him pressed down, and he started to cry, trying to pull his arm back. "Stop! Stop, stop, stopstopstop...." That was a knife in his arm, hard sharp reality, not his bones trying to crawl out, but they'd done that once and he remembered that but this was just a knife, just. Just.

"All I want to know is what you plan to do. That's all, Dr. McKay." And then, oh. Oh no, no, no, tongues were, mouths had germs. So many germs, and his mouth was lapping at Rodney's arm, blood smeared and warm when it came up again, smiling. "You can tell me this way, or I can provide further persuasion."

"Uhn, uh, I'm not supposed to, that hurts." He wasn't supposed to tell. Major Sheppard had taken him aside before their first off planet mission together and he'd stressed to Rodney the importance of not saying anything important to people who weren't 'Lanteans, which had been stupid, because Rodney had worked for Area 51 and he was ill, not retarded.

"There are other things that hurt, as well, Doctor. There are... much worse things that could happen to you." Blood-wet lips pressed almost sweetly against his ear, and the knife dug in again, and Rodney wept, cried, because it hurt. It hurt, it hurt, and he, he wasn't, he couldn't, he wasn't good at hurting. He was so very very bad at things that hurt.

"Stop, stop, I can't..." Think, couldn't breathe for the shaking, and his words caught up in his throat, in the sobs. All he could feel was that knife and the lips and the floor beneath his back, and he wasn't supposed to tell. He wasn't, and if the Major found out that he'd told, then he, Rodney didn't know what he'd do, but they just had to get them out of the city. Then they could un-link the power coupling. One step, two steps. One step, two steps.

"Remember later, then, Doctor. You made your choice."

He'd made his choice and, and oh. The knife was gone, and that was a relief, gone from his arm, but then it was other places, cloth ripping open at the seams, small, painful cuts following along, and the commander man was lapping at his arm again. He was licking, and that was just so very unsanitary, and his men were smirking, and really, that was such a bad sign. Bad, bad, bad sign, bad sign.

"What're you -- no, what're you doing, I, I'm not supposed to tell, you should, should take the, take the medicine and the C4 and leave, please leave." Please please. He tried to pull his arm away because licking there made it ache and that was disgusting, saliva and his blood mingling, just sickening, distracting from the other cuts that were sharp and short.

"I believe that other types of persuasion might work as well without damaging you too severely, Doctor McKay." The words were almost gentle, fingers swiping through the blood, and he yelped, tried to sit up. There were hands, though, hands holding him down, holding him tight. "Perhaps, if I find you as pleasing as I suspect you will be, you will be taken home with me."

"No, no, you can't, I'm, I'd miss my medications and I need those and you need to just leave and, and, because there isn't a plan to save the city!" Fingers were on his shoulders and on his arms, and they'd done it before, whatever they were doing, the bored soldier who'd had the knife first and the commander and the other man. Rodney saw the world upside down. And he squirmed desperately as the commander reached up, tugged at the belt buckle beneath his uniform.

"I can, and I will, doctor. Now. Will you give me the information, or will I have to force it from you?" Force it in ways the knife hadn't, and oh, oh, oh, Rodney had never, he'd never, never, never, never, oh, no.

Not like that.

Sometimes things went bad, but if he went along with it, it was less than bad, but this was bad, this was -- and he couldn't even go along with it and make it okay in the end because he couldn't move his arms and his right arm throbbed and there were cuts on his stomach that hurt when he tried to hunch up and pull away somehow. "You, you wanted the, the plan to, to what?"

"To save the city," the commander said softly, and when he knelt down, Rodney tried to kick him, he really, truly did try. It just didn't work, didn't work, oh, and he was, there were those bloody fingers, and there was no way to stop the sounds when they shoved in him there, there, and, and blood was a terrible lubricant, it was sticky and bad, and it hurt.

He bit his tongue and he fought, and yes, the Major would be proud of him for fighting, except he couldn't, he couldn't, because there were fingers in him and the commander was leaning over him, smiling. "To, to, to save the city? We evacuated from the, for the storm, because we need to to raise the shields and they need to be powered, please stop."

He didn't. He didn't stop, and Rodney couldn't stop mewling and shifting, and trying to get away, because, because it hurt, it hurt, and there was a hand reaching for his cock and, no, no, no, no, no, not there, not there. Please not there. "Powered how, doctor?"

It was the control room, and he had to work there and that couldn't happen there, because his seat, his workstation, was just over there... "L-lightning, we still have to, have to disconnect the last grounding station but I think the Major was headed that way. Then it fills the halls, and we weren't done, so you, you need to st-stop, because there's, I need to do things..."

Do things, and then, then, oh, God, it was, he was, and there was no way to stop the sound that crawled up out of his throat, screaming, screaming, screaming, because the knife, the knife was nothing, nothing, nothing, and this was bad, so bad, so bad. So bad.

"Hush, doctor. Hush. I am not hurting you so very badly. I think you should consider yourself lucky I chose not to fuck you with the knife."

That was not a comforting thought, not a thought that made him want to calm down or do anything but struggle, because he knew what was going on, and it hurt, and he needed, he needed to get away, pulling at his arms to try to twist away, legs moving to try and kick at the commander because he didn't want it. He didn't want to be fucked, he didn't want a cock in his ass and he knew there wasn't a condom on it. If they were too stupid to make basic explosives, they hadn't mastered latex.

"Stop, stop, stop, stop...." Stop, but it didn't, it didn't stop, and all he could do was scream.

Watching wasn't exactly easy. On the other hand, it wasn't so difficult that John Sheppard was going to turn away from the screen, either. He had to know when Rodney gave in, because Rodney would. He wasn't up to that kind of mental stress, much less to torture and rape. It was inevitable.

Rodney was the most fucked up chief scientist John thought any expedition could have.

Every morning in the city, Rodney started his day by checking in with Doctor Beckett. Then he ate breakfast with John and Teyla and Ford, before any staff meetings or missions. Every two weeks or so, his moods shifted from quirky, with twitchy hands and fast eyes, to flat, sharp mouthed and frowning, and it had taken John until the shift from the Antarctic to Atlantis to realize that the man he'd been allowing to test things with his gene was a hands down, no qualms about it schizo-something with a basket full of other issues.

He'd coped with the Pegasus galaxy a lot better than some of the marines had so it was only right that John was curious as to what would happen next. It was too late to undo it, too late to stop the Genii leader, and rushing headlong into death while outnumbered was insane.

Sniping them off one by one, on the other hand, that was kind of a thrill.

John had wanted to do the Marine thing a thousand years and more dead people ago than he could count. They'd considered him a little too unstable, so his dad had pulled strings, and he'd gotten into the USAFA, and he'd learned to lie his way around all of the psychiatrists who tried to pin him down and get him to say dirty, dirty things like the truth. They'd given him cool planes to fly, which was great, and even cooler bombs to drop, which meant killing more people at once.

Even better.

Still, there was nothing like the squeeze of a trigger beneath his fingers, or the feeling of a neck snapping between his hands. Nothing like it at all, and the guy fucking their head scientist bloody down there was definitely going to be something special to kill.

He was the kind of guy who deserved a slow death, the kind of guy who needed to see his life flash in front of his eyes.

John would get to it when it was a strategically sound idea. He had the C4 and the medications tucked away, and he needed to uncouple the last grounding device, except it was just outside of the room he was holed up in, and McKay was thrashing on the screen, until the commander knelt up over him, bending Rodney's lower body when he moved, and he did something that stopped it.

John cued in the focus, closer, could practically see the words. He'd always been dodgy about lip-reading, but there were words, something about Weir, and Rodney was shaking his head, but he was still. He was so still, and then the guy went back to fucking him, and it was obvious that he was enjoying it, thought it was great, and John's molars ached from the way they ground tight.

Right. Time to uncouple the grounding, and he could come back, see what changed, and then...

Then he could kill as many of them as he wanted, and make it good. He'd damn sure make it good.

Maybe, if Rodney wanted, he could help.

And if he didn't, that was okay, too. John watched the screen for another few moments, and turned away. Three against probably twenty.

The odds weren't really against him.

The first thing she noticed was that Rodney was missing, and there was blood on the floor.

A lot of blood. Enough that it made her stomach squeeze up into her throat, in fact. She hadn't seen that much blood since she'd been in on some very delicate negotiations in South American that had fallen apart badly when a group of guerillas had come into the supposedly secure building and slaughtered half of the people there.

"Where is Dr. McKay?" Elizabeth asked sharply, looking around for him. She saw his uniform, and the nausea welled even more sharply.

There were pieces of his shirt on the floor, near the blood that led in a smeared trail towards one of the consoles that she couldn't quite see. There was another console in the way, and the back of the Genii Commander was facing her, blocking her view.

"Dr. McKay is... regrettably indisposed. Perhaps, Dr. Weir, you will have more luck in getting him to come out of his hidey-hole. Shooting him is quickly becoming our top option."

Another step, two steps closer to the console, and she could see the tips of Rodney's boots. He was probably tucked up under the console, and it made Elizabeth want to groan. She'd only heard stories from O'Neill and Major Carter about McKay, about how when he was brilliant he was very very brilliant and when he was scared, he could give a small child a run for its money.

"Pleasedon'thurtmepleasedon'thurtmeplea--" Kolya kicked one of his boots, and Rodney shrieked.

"Stop!" she ordered firmly, for all the good it was likely to do. "You won't get anything out of him that way. Dr. McKay isn't well." That was quite possibly the understatement of the century. Sometimes, Elizabeth wondered what she had done to deserve this, who she had managed to piss off so desperately. Most of the time, she felt guilty for thinking it. "And you'll need both of us if you have any hope of saving the city."

"Why?" Why, and she wished that Rodney would speak up because his dark, sarcastic tones would sum up everything she was thinking. If he wasn't hiding under the Ancient equivalent of a desk.

"Because you need the pass codes of two senior staff members to make the changes in the system necessary to save the city, and we're the only two you have." Easy. Simple. The truth, and after that, they'd be useless to the Genii, useless for anything but whatever they'd done to Rodney already. She didn't have to make too many guesses at that, not from the blood smeared all over the commander, or the way Rodney was crying.

Rodney wasn't too incomprehensible. His foremost goals in life were his job and the service of his basic needs. He complained when he was hungry, complained when he was tired and wanted to sleep, and he cried when he was physically hurt. Past that, he was occasionally amusing in staff meetings, and he came up with brilliant fix-it ideas at the last minute when it was required.

"I see. Get him out from under the console and we will do that."

"You'll have to step away from him for me to do that. Dr. McKay has several medical conditions that have likely been exacerbated by your treatment of him." There was no way Rodney would come out from under there for her. For Teyla, maybe, for Sheppard, who was crazy in and of himself, perhaps. Not for her, she feared.

She had to get him standing before the Genii commander got irritated and gave up on the city and put a bullet between both their eyes. Ladon, the Genii who'd taken her downstairs, was whispering something to the commander. He lifted his chin, peering at them for a moment before he stepped backwards. "Then you can have your words with him. Get him out."

Great. One step at a time was the only way to take this, so she leaned down, knelt gently beside the console. "Rodney?" She was careful to modulate her voice. "Rodney, I need you to calm down and come out now."

He looked up at her with wide eyes, shaking his head sharply. "No, no, I'm not -- I told him, and he still, he still, I want to go to my room, can I go to my room now? I want to go to my room."

"Soon," Elizabeth promised him. God. She hated lying to that look, that sad, scared expression. Rodney was difficult, brilliant, and completely expendable to the SGC if he couldn't pull this off. She'd known it before they ever left, known because of the way they had said yes and no to her requests for personnel, and even if the expedition had brilliance, it didn't have stability. They'd made no bones about it. "Soon, Rodney. For now, you have to come out, and pull together your clothes."

She didn't have to ask what had happened.

"I didn't want to tell him. And he said he'd stop if I told him, but he didn't." Rodney pulled his knees in closer to his chest, and rubbed at his face, leaving little streaks of blood. It was seeping into his pants at the knee and below, so something cut on his arm?

"I know. I know, Rodney. I know. But don't worry. It will all be over soon, and..." She leaned close, whispered. "John will take care of it. Do you understand? Tell me you understand."

He hesitated, watching her with those wide hurt eyes, and then he gave a jerky nod. "I just want to go to my room, everything, everything hurts, I hurt, I... I'm hurt." His voice fell quiet, broke, and he wasn't moving, but he was talking.

"I know," she said again. "And as soon as John takes care of everything, Carson will come back, and it will get better. For now, we have to cooperate. Can you do that for me, Rodney? Can you wait for John and Carson?"

It wasn't that he trusted her that much, but that he was willing to listen long enough to focus on the possibility there were other people that he trusted a lot more who would be there soon. He still tucked his forehead down against his knees for a moment before he nodded. "Okay. Okay. I can, yes, okay."

"Okay." She reached out gently and offered her arm. "I'll help you get up, okay? And then we'll do what we have to do, and it'll be...."

A shot rang out. One solid, solitary shot that echoed wildly in the 'gate room, and the Genii started making noises, so many, yelling, afraid. Six feet away, a man's forehead blossomed with bloody petals, a gushing dark hole in the center.

Rodney shrunk back into himself. "No, no, no, we'll get shot, I don't want to be shot, someone's shooting..."

"WEIR!" That was Kolya, yelling, coming in their direction despite whatever John was doing, so she ducked in beside Rodney and pulled him tight against her, halfway behind her.

"No, we're not going out there. It's, it's just, it's John. I'm..."

And Kolya was practically on them.

There was nowhere to go because they were tucked up under the console with no room to wiggle except closer to Rodney, who of course picked then to uncurl and latch onto her like a squirrel jumping out of a tree. "John'll win. John can beat them all, John, John knows what he's--"

Kolya’s arm swept under the console, jerked her out, and the shooting just kept on. "LADON!" The man who had taken her out of the room, then, creeping towards Kolya on hands and knees for Rodney. "Get them! He won't--"

Except he would. He really would.

He'd shoot through them, blow their heads off if he was getting on a roll and they were between him and the target. It hadn't been a problem, except for the once, with Sumner, and if anyone else had done it, Elizabeth would have called it a mercy killing. Sumner had been suffering.

But it was John.

Rodney went limp, but her attention shifted to struggling against the big man who had her, because she needed to get down, now, before John decided to shoot through her.

Genii were dropping around them in a circular pattern; God only knew where he was, where he might be. He could be anywhere, but he was probably somewhere up above, sliding into the dark, open spaces that the Genii couldn't pierce with their weak lights, somewhere Atlantis itself had probably shown him.

"I will kill them both, Sheppard! Do you hear me! I will kill them both and the city of the Ancients will be crushed in the storm!" Kolya howled it to the ceiling. She knew John could hear him while she fought to get away. Ladon stood up, but it was a crouched stance, nervous.

He was right to be. John wasn't going to flinch when he finally chose to shoot in their direction.

They all went down in a spiral -- Sora and her red-gold curls fell down the steps to the 'gate, one of the others tumbling down ten feet from her, blood spilling from his throat.

That was never, ever going to come out.

But Ladon had a hold on Rodney, and Rodney was bigger than Ladon, a little taller and wider and he'd turned to dead weight, so maybe that was why Ladon was curled and hunched like that, trying to drag Rodney upright.

"Dial the Ring! Ladon, dial the Ring." Kolya pivoted, kept moving, kept her tight against his chest and he didn't know what she knew. He didn't know that John was just waiting for the perfect shot, not the perfect shot he could get without hitting the hostage.

"KOLYA!" His name thundered out of the darkened ceiling, loud, terrifying. "You're not going to make it through the 'gate with them! I'll give you the opportunity for a fast death right now if you let them go!"

"JOHN!" That was Rodney, screaming, struggling, getting himself loose from Ladon despite everything.

She hadn't thought that Rodney had the sense left in his head just then to be wily, to pretend to be unconscious until his captor hesitated. Because Rodney was back under a console, and there was a new bloom of red in the air, spattering delicate controls, while Ladon tried to dive down to hide.

Kolya twisted, clutching Elizabeth tighter, and started to dial the 'gate himself. "You have played this game before, Sheppard! I underestimated you, but I will not release Doctor Weir!"

"Well, then, it won't matter," John yelled, and her entire shoulder jerked, fire spreading down her left arm fast and hard before she ever heard the shot ring out.

Kolya's fingers slipped on her body, and she was falling more than she was escaping, crumpling to her knees when the second shot sounded in the room. There was the noise of a body's weight falling backwards onto a console, but the room was silent except for Rodney's soft mutterings.

Elizabeth closed her eyes. Just for a minute.


He hadn't wanted to shoot him.

He'd wanted to take the knife and drive it in an inch or two, twist it, pull it back out. He'd wanted to do it repeatedly.

It was a shame Elizabeth was too stupid to get away, unlike Rodney.

It was hell getting out of the ductwork that ran over the control room. He kept thinking that a handy partition door would slide up suddenly within the ductwork and slice him right in half, but it hadn't. Or, it hadn't yet, so it was a damn good time for him to shimmy out. Backwards wasn't going to work, and forwards was just going to suck.

At least Rodney had been functional enough to run. John knew that all of the time he'd taken training Rodney for stupid shit like that would be useful. Rodney wasn't all there, but he was damn smart, and he looked at John like he was the best thing since chocolate. Considering how much chocolate Rodney tried to eat and how often he was denied by Carson, how much he liked the chocolate flavored lollipops Carson gave him in limited doses instead, that was damn sure something.

"John...? John, John, John?" His name came clearly up the ducts, Rodney calling him. "John. John, John, it hurts, and Elizabeth..."

Yeah. Elizabeth. That was probably bad, especially if he didn't get out of here pretty soon.

"I'm coming out now, Rodney. Watch it, gun coming down first." He got his arms and part of his upper body through the hole, and lowered his gun as far as he could before letting it hit the floor, safety in place.

"Elizabeth's all over the floor, John. I can't, I can't get her to wake up..."

Oh yeah, he was just going to have to take a dive onto the floor, because there wasn't room to do an awesome Mission Impossible sort of drop. Or time.

"It's okay, Rodney. I'm gonna take care of it. Just back up a little further." He slithered himself halfway out and grabbed hold of one of the supports before folding his legs hard and tight and managing to get the rest of himself out. That was really a hell of a drop, but there wasn't anything to do about it except dangle as far down as he could and then let go.

He hit the floor hard, rolled with it to make it a little easier on his knees. That landed him right at Rodney's feet, and he'd told him to get further back, but Rodney wasn't in any kind of state to listen so well.

Usually, he was. Usually, but John had seen a lot of what Kolya had done to him, and Rodney didn't take that kind of stress well. He was about a day or two from his next dosage from what John could figure, and that always had him loose at the edges. "We, Elizabeth needs a com, compression bandage? And Carson, and did you, did you do, with the grounding station?"

"Everything's taken care of," John promised him. "We'll try calling Carson as soon as we get to Elizabeth. C'mon. You can take me to her without looking at all of the other people, can't you?" Rodney curled around him a little, and John stroked the loose hair back from his face. It was just a little long, but sometimes Rodney forgot to get it cut. That was just the way things were, and John might (only might) be a little on the wrong side of crazy, if the pre-mendacious psychiatrists were to be believed, but he knew which side his bread was buttered on. "Yeah. You can do that for me."

"Y, yeah." Rodney didn't always look at him like he hung the moon, the stars, and shot every bad guy dead just for him -- sometimes, he was a real asshole, but he was also a funny asshole -- but it was nice when he did that, that he held onto John and started to try to stand up, eyes focused on equipment instead of the floor.

"Yeah. You're a good guy, buddy. C'mon. We're just gonna come right over here to Elizabeth, get a field dressing on her, okay? I need to get one on you, too." On his arm, anyway. There wasn't a lot he could do about the other without Carson. "But we've gotta take care of the storm before I can do anything else."

"Everything should, should work now. It, we just had to release those, and I have to, no, I have to finish the routing, but we did most of that, it's just checking, on my laptop, I can do that. Thought we'd sit, and wait, and m, maybe, I don't know, I don't know, it--" Kolya was dead, sprawled over the console, and Rodney's voice choked up in his throat, but there was Elizabeth, sprawled out on the floor at Kolya's feet.

"Hey, hey, c'mon, buddy. I need you to hold it together for me, okay? Okay? You can do that for me, right? I took care of the bad guy for you. I'm sorry it was so fast." Really, really sorry, because he'd wanted to spend a long time with that guy. Still. John really liked his sniper rifle. "See how long we've got, see if we can get hold of Carson, Teyla and Ford." Teyla would be good for Rodney, and Carson was damn near a necessity.

John gently led Rodney to the station where his laptop rested and watched him go to work before he went to Elizabeth. She probably wasn't bleeding out, and if she was, well. He was too late anyway.

He hadn't ever wanted to be in charge of the expedition, but if she was dead, she was just dead. They'd work something out. They always did. They managed, and he knew that no one had ever expected them to manage as well as they had. They were on their own, in the middle of fucking hell, and they managed.

By the time he'd gotten a field dressing out and was kneeling down beside her, he could tell that she wasn't going to die yet or bleed out. She was going to lie unconscious for a while, and he couldn't do anything about that except drag her back towards where Rodney was. At least that way he could be sure it was her own blood puddle she was stewing in, and not somebody else's.

"How's it going, Rodney?" he asked as he settled Elizabeth carefully nearby. Apparently, having a task worked out for him. John knew it did, knew that would make things better for him. It made it easier for him to ignore all of the things that were wrong. The fact that his arm hurt and that he was still bleeding, and the fact that he'd just been raped, and the fact that the control room was occupied by just the three of them and a bunch of dead Genii. If he got finished before Carson flew the jumper back with the last Athosians, John could task him to get a new high minesweeper score or something.

"Okay. I, I think it's going to work?"

"Okay. That's good, Rodney. Now, I need you to try and get hold of Carson." Rodney was cold, shaking, but he was sweating, so that was a damn bad sign. John wasn't the kind of guy who was good at medical emergencies. He was just good at being the one causing them.

"We're here, Major!" The fact that Carson's voice came from across the 'gate room was good, really good.

"I got Carson?" Rodney twisted, blearily looking at John, past John, to the sounds of feet. Athosians, and Teyla, and that was fantastic.

"Major, what--" Ford didn't finish his sentence before he saw whose uniforms they were. Good kid.

"Lieutenant, I'd like for you to go find a big enough cart for all of these people. We'll be sending them back to the Genii shortly." On that cart. Maybe with a big, big bomb. That would really just make John's day. "Carson, I need you to take a look at Elizabeth first. We'll get to Rodney after that. Teyla, you wanna come give Rodney a hand?"

"Dear God." Carson didn't sound particularly upset, but then again, Carson had all the morals of a Nevada whorehouse madam. "Didja hafta shoot Elizabeth t'kill these other buggers?"

"Yes. He was going to try to get her through the 'gate." Simple, to the point, and with Teyla and Carson and Ford and some confused looking Athosians there with them, he felt a little weird, a little stretched out, a little like the comedown was being cut short, which it was. He preferred a little time to eye his kills, to take them in, to remember them, but everything had to move fast now, faster than he had ever liked. Obviously, he wasn't going to have the kind of great memories he wanted of these. Just good ones.

"C-carson? I don't, I don't feel so good," Rodney warbled.

"There, there, lad. Have ye got the protocols properly in place, now? We don't want to be frying ourselves when the lightnin' goes." Good old Carson. His morals might be shit, but he had the good sense required for self-preservation.

Even when he was kneeling beside Elizabeth, he only barely gave Rodney a glance. Rodney's fingertips were still over the keyboard, hovering. "I. Yes. Yes, they are. It's done. Everyone out of the hallways, it's ready. Can I go to my room now?" That last was another warble tacked on, and Rodney pulled a leg up, curling up in the un-ergonomic Ancient chair. Teyla hovered on the other side of his chair, petting Rodney's hair with one hand.

"Major, if you wish I can enter my command code once we are all up here, since I believe Doctor McKay and Doctor Weir are indisposed."

"Yeah. I think that's a good idea." Ford was dragging out the trolley they kept tucked away in the command room, so it was all good. "Hey, Rodney? You can't go to your room, but you know there are blankets over there, right? I want you to go get a couple and lay down while we finish this up, buddy."

Rodney closed his eyes, and hugged his knee again, and dammit, it looked like they'd gotten all of the mileage out of him that they were going to get for the moment. He was starting to breathe hard, and his face was blotchy and damp. "I, I'm hurt, he hurt me, and, and I'm tired. I did what, what I was supposed to, I should--"

Teyla slid a hand over his shoulders, and started to rub over the fabric of his uniform jacket, and it quieted Rodney. It also let her lean past him just enough to start entering her code one-handed into the console. "Shh, you will make yourself ill. I will get you the thermal blankets in a moment."

"I don't, I don't, I didn't...."


John straightened his shoulders and walked to the other side of him, reaching across and putting in his own code once Teyla was done. He hoped to hell they were getting it right, because if they weren't, they were all pretty much fried. "Hey, have we got it right, Rodney?"

"I, I, but I...."

Yeah. That was as much as they were getting out of him for now. John nodded to Teyla and turned away, letting her take care of him. Carson had Elizabeth, so he stepped down to Ford, who was loading up bodies. "Need any help, Lieutenant?"

"No, sir," Ford answered, and that was good enough for John. Ford was a good kid, he'd just done a few bad things. Most of them had. It was the reason they'd been shuffled out to Pegasus, the reason nobody had fought too hard against a guy like him going with them. Elizabeth could give that whole best-of-the-best speech, but he had Sumner's records. They were the expendable of the best -- even the command staff. The good lieutenant had been caught one time too many with white powder on his nose.

"Call me if you need me."

"Will do, sir." There wasn't white powder out in the ass end of nowhere, after all, and Ford would finish his job, load them all up and dial the Genii gate to roll a cart full of bodies out onto that scenic faux Amish rolling landscape.

By the time John mounted the steps again, Teyla was trying to get Rodney to move enough to slide the thermal blanket around him, and Carson was kneeling beside Elizabeth, checking her pulse.

"Carson." That was all he had to say, and the Scottish doctor looked up.

"Aye. We'll have to do a fair bit of patching up, but it's a straight through-and-through, Major. Good shot. You missed the bone, mostly. There might be a tad bit of splinterin'. If you'll hold the compression here, I'll take a wee look at Rodney, as well, and Teyla, love, if you'll fetch my bag." He'd had it with him, John thought, or maybe he hadn't. They'd work something out. There were extra med supplies in the 'gate room for a damn good reason.

John knelt down, took over the holding of the compression bandage. Once he'd looked at Rodney, there was a fairly good chance that Carson would start to stitch Weir back together, or whatever it was doctors did with through-and-throughs. Teyla finally got the blanket between Rodney and the chair, and she folded it over his shoulders, around his pulled up knee. His other leg was still stretched out, and it mashed the crotch of his pants against his ass, his crotch, emphasized that he'd just been stuffed back into his pants, because Rodney dressed left. Always.

"I, I don't, I don't feel good, Carson." The way the name drew out was almost but not quite a whimper, a wail. It just seemed to catch, and Rodney obviously didn't know what to do.

"Aye, and there's a good lad. I'm going t'have to look you over, so I'll need you t'strip off your clothes for me. Can y'do that?" Carson asked him. He was always terrifyingly gentle with Rodney, as if he might break. John thought that was a pretty good idea, most of the time.

"Here?" Rodney's voice broke a little, and he pressed his cheek against his knee. He was staring out past the console, towards the 'gate. Once, he'd confided to John that he hadn't had too many visual and auditory ‘disturbances’ since the switch in medications, but that still didn't mean that what Rodney was seeing just then was what John was seeing. "Here, here? Right, right now?"

"Right now. I need to see what what's been done to you, make sure that you aren't hurt beyond what I can fix with what I've got here." Carson made it sound very reasonable. "We'll have Teyla fix the blankets so no one can see but me. Is that all right?"

And John, but he'd already seen and none of them needed to know that. He could be an outside observer, just keep an ear to what was going on while he watched Elizabeth breathe. She was a decent leader, and she'd pull through. But they needed to keep Rodney and Radek alive, or they wouldn't be able to survive moments like that where they had to run electricity through the halls of the city.

It was a good thing they'd gotten rid of the dead houseplants.

"O, okay. Okay." Rodney closed his eyes; let his other leg slip down, out straight, sitting like a normal person before he started at the collar of his shirt.


"Teyla, give him some help?" She was back with the bag, and Rodney was never going to get his shirt off like that. He fumbled, hands fluttering wildly. He didn't object to Teyla helping him, but he didn't like it much, either.

Carson looked through his bag, pulling out syringes and a variety of instruments that scared the shit out of the average human. Those things really shouldn't be in a bag the guy carried around all the time. It was like he was just looking for a reason to peek up somebody's ass. Then again, it was Carson. Maybe he was. "How's she doing, Major?"

"Good. Heart rate's even, the blood flow looks like it's slowing. I think she's going to be okay, but she's going to have a nasty badge of survival." John glanced up, watched Teyla pull the zipper neck shirt up over Rodney's head. It was bloody, and it left his hair going every which way.


"We will get you warm soon, Dr. McKay." She said it as if to remind him of whom he was, and maybe it did, a little. Rodney was always very adamant that he was Doctor McKay, pushy about it, even. "We must get you clean, and allow Dr. Beckett his examination. Then..."

John heard the whoosh as the shield went up, and let out an explosive sigh of relief. They were going to make it. They'd have to wait it out in the control room for another few hours, but they were going to make it, and the city was going to make it.

"Then?" Rodney asked it, and hey, he was paying attention. That was good, that meant his brain was still at least a little in touch with reality. His shaking hands started to fidget with his belt buckle, and it drew John's eyes back to Rodney, to the soft edge of his belly. He was fit, but he'd never be toned. Some guys just weren't made for a six-pack, and Rodney was one of them. "Then, then what?"

"Then, Carson's gonna come fix up Elizabeth, and I'll come help you keep warm. You sound pretty cold there, buddy." It wasn't exactly a hardship for John. That was probably another of the many reasons tossing his ass in with this expedition had been a good deal for the Air Force in general. The Marines had gotten rid of a handful of queers with this expedition, including Sumner and Bates. They were good Marines; the kind who never did anything overt, probably only caught quick blow jobs in a nameless faceless place of exactly the wrong kind and got sent to the ass-end of the universe for it. It was easier to kill them off than prove it and kick their asses out.

"O, okay." Shock cold more than cold-cold, but body heat was good for either. Teyla started to help Rodney out of his pants, unbuckling his belt and unzipping his pants. She'd told John once that he reminded her of a child in many ways -- petulant, curious, open to new things but scared of them at the same time -- and since she only flinched when she saw the blood, John knew that when she'd said that to him, she'd really meant it. Sometimes Rodney snuck through the halls, and he'd disappear into Teyla's room.

It was probably for tea parties or something.

Then Teyla held up a blanket, effectively closing Rodney's body off from view. That seemed to make him more comfortable, at least until Carson came at him with the bizarre speculum. "Now, Rodney..."

"No, no, no, no, no!"

"Rodney, you're going to have to let me. I've got to see what's going on, d'you understand?"

Hell. "No, no, he hurt me, he, he used his fingers and his -- and he didn't use the knife, he said he, he said he should have but he didn't, so you don't, you don't need that, please..."

"I've got to look," Carson asserted firmly. "I've got to be sure you've not been torn internally. You'd not like to be bleeding when I could stop it, would you?"

John rolled his eyes. Like that was going to work. It didn't. Rodney's mouth was pulled down, and he was shaking, shivering and shaking his head. "I, I want the hurt to, to stop. My arm, it..."

"Hush, hush. I'll give you something for it." Carson promised a lot, but he was sure as hell delaying. "Just let me take a quick look, lad. It'll be all right."

All right except for the part where he was gonna poke that thing up McKay's ass. Sometimes, Carson was a bitch of a sadist. "At least give him some morphine first," John ground out, fingers twitching on his nine mil.

"He's on the edge of a mental break, Major. I'd prefer not to shove him over the edge. Now, Rodney. Rodney? Look at Teyla, this won't take a minute." Carson disappeared from sight, kneeling down. John didn't know what Carson thought he was going to see down there anyway. It wasn't like surgery was an option, and he'd probably throw antibiotics at him later.

"Major?" Ford's question was a little tentative, so John turned, looking at him. "I've got a live one here. Well. Dying, but not exactly dead yet, if you wanted a word."

It was the one who'd had Rodney, the one Kolya had called Ladon. The smart one; well, smart as the Genii were as far as John was concerned. He gestured to Ford with his chin. "Here, take my place. Pressure on the wound, keep an eye on her pulse. This won't take too long."

Not long at all, really.

Just long enough to kill him and make it hurt.

"Ow. Ow, no, Carson!" He couldn't help whining, couldn't, because it hurt, it hurt a lot, and Rodney wanted to cry, he really did, because it wasn't, he didn't like it, and just because Carson wanted all of the morphine for himself was no reason not to let Rodney have it.

He didn't want to hurt anymore. He didn't want to be leaning up against the wall with a cold thing up his ass and Carson telling him he'd fix it, he'd fix it, without fixing it, without stopping it, because nothing was getting better. His arm ached, and the bandage felt like it was full, and he wanted to hide. Rodney wanted to close his eyes and tuck himself away and pretend that there was nothing else in the room, nothing else at all.

There was, though. There were sounds, and noises, and begging, begging like he had made, and John's voice was there, hard and angry, and mean. Very mean. He wanted to yell for it to stop because mean-John scared him, made him want to cry. Rodney didn't like being scared, and he was just, it just, it all hurt so bad, and....

"There we go, Rodney. There we go. Just a little... there you go. You're worn at the edges, a tear here and there, but nothing that'll require stitching. I've got some antibiotic ointment on, and I'll give you something for the pain. Lieutenant, how's Elizabeth?"

"Uh, maybe you could hurry it up, Doc? Her breathing is so so."

Rodney closed his eyes, and leaned into the wall. Carson was pulling what, whatever it was out of him, and he should stay standing, Maybe he could have that blanket if he did, or he could pull his clothes back on? So he pressed his cheek against the wall, and squeezed his eyes tight closed.

"Right, then. Rodney? There we go, there's a good lad. Come and lie down here, let me change your bandage and... ah, there we go. I've got some strips that'll close that up, right and tight, and then we'll make time for stitching you up later. The bleeding's mostly stopped. It'll be all right if I take care of Elizabeth, won't it?"

Oh, but there was a scream, and screaming was bad, so bad, oh so bad, and Rodney just didn't know.

"I, I want John? He said, he said he..." He said he'd keep Rodney warm, he said he'd help, and Rodney wanted that, had felt his stomach flip-flop the good way. Rodney couldn't have the other things he wanted. He couldn't go to his room, he wasn't allowed, the hallways were too dangerous, bright and alive and that was why they were still bright and alive, because the hallways were, but he wanted to shower. He wanted to shower and he wanted to crawl in bed and sleep and sleep until he wasn't thinking about it anymore, until he didn't think about the man's face, the man's smile, the sound of the knife, the way it was sex-but-not.


"Aye, aye. I know, Rodney." Carson was cleaning his arm, doing something with strips of cloth or tape or something that should have made things better, but hurt almost as much as the knife. Rodney couldn't stop the sounds coming out of his mouth, but the screaming was tapering off, and then John was there, and he held up an arm, and it was okay. Okay. It was okay, and going to be better because, because, because John.

John was there under his fingertips, grinning a little. He liked that smile, focused on it because John was beautiful. John was movie-star pretty, but he was real and he had flaws and a sense of humor, and it had been amazing to watch him from the start, and he'd saved Rodney again. "Can we go, can I rest? I want to rest."

"Sure thing, buddy. Carson's just gonna put on a new bandage and go take care of Elizabeth now 'cause she's kind of important." Not as important as Rodney, though, no, no. "Teyla's gonna help him, and you and me? We're gonna come curl up in these blankets, okay?" Okay. Okay, okay, because John was pretty and it wouldn't ever ever be sex-but-not or sex-but-bad and hurt, not if it was John. He hadn't, didn't, they hadn't, but Rodney wasn't stupid.

Rodney knew it was there and he knew, wanted, but he was shaking and cold and he hurt. Kolya had hurt him, and he'd tried not to tell, but he had, he'd had to and Kolya still hadn't stopped, he'd fucked Rodney, and Rodney hadn't wanted it, and he'd, and he'd...

"There you go. It might be best if you got him off to the side there, Major."

"Got it." Got what, Rodney didn't know, but John had him bundled up, and there were blankets, and something kind of like a pillow. John laid him down, and curled up behind him, an arm over his waist, and if he smelled like blood, Rodney could ignore it. He really could.

He could lie like that and close his eyes, and just breathe. In and out and in again and out again. John's fingers laid over where his stomach was, if it weren't for the blankets, pressed the plasticy-warm fabric against the bare skin that was under the blankets. Everything felt sore, but Rodney tried not to whine. That time. He could feel his knees press against themselves, too, and when he curled his feet back, he found John's calves.

"There we go." John's mouth was close, near his ear, a hot wash of breath that smelled like old coffee and cinnamon disks. "Close your eyes, Rodney. I'll wake you up if you need to fix anything." And that was, that was good. That meant he didn't have to think about the dead people or, or anything. Or anything at all.

He closed his eyes, but he didn't sleep. Couldn't sleep, but he drifted, floated, aware that John was still there and he was tucked up against him, protected and safe enough to just lie there. There was a safety to be found in equations, old thoughts that he hadn't worn through, about power distribution, because he knew that his sleep would be sick, restless and not rest. But power distribution, and mourning the shame it was that they hadn't had a way to store the electricity, that was safe.

That felt good.

Rodney would take that over sad and shame and sex-but-not any day.

"Is blood on console. Is blood on console, and I? I did not get to participate. Not," Radek said thoughtfully, "that I am so fond of bleeding. However, most interesting to consider. Yes?"

"Not really. You missed a lot of dead Genii," John drawled, eyeing the blood that had dried into the recessed symbols of the console's controls. "Can you fix it?"

"Yes, yes, most likely. Most likely, so long as the blood has not gotten into components or filaments. Is difficult, especially with only one crystal which dials to Earth."

Not that they were going back, ever, even if they found a ZPM, John figured. Earth was a distant dream, and since they were all throw-aways, it was a better idea to stay where they were. Declare themselves independent, maybe, if they could talk Elizabeth into it. Something. Eventually. Once they had enough time without contact to Earth, most of them would be chomping at the bit to go native except Rodney, probably. Rodney had mentioned once that he had a twin brother, and even if his twin was probably as crazy as Rodney was, family was family.

Except, when it wasn't. "Rodney can repair any broken filaments, when he's had some time to himself. The plan worked great, Doctor Zelenka. It went off without a hitch." Barring the part where it was Rodney's blood all in there, and the look Radek gave him said as much.

"Yes, yes. Is without a hitch when there is blood in DHD. I believe you, Major," he lied, sarcasm welling thick between them.

John shifted, shrugged. "The saving the city part you planned did, anyway. The rest is all a matter of technicalities." Like the fact that Rodney was resting now, allowed back to his room. It probably hadn't been smart to leave him, but Carson had stitched him up after he'd put Elizabeth together, and he was sedated. John had to do other things, first. He had to talk with Radek, and then he'd stick his head in and make sure Rodney had a pulse. He'd slept, or something, through the storm, curled up on himself, ass pressed back against John's crotch, spine against his chest, legs pulled up.

It had been damn hard not to do things that would send Rodney screaming at the moment. McKay had a great ass.

"Well. If blood is technicalities, as you will, Major." Radek shrugged, going back to work. The other scientists were still coming in through the Stargate periodically, and John was planning to severely kick the asses of their so-called host planet.

Naqahdah bombs sounded just about right. Radek would like those. Elizabeth would say no, so John would have to sit on his idea until they pulled something again, and then he wouldn't take no for an answer. They'd tried being nice and they'd tried to offer things to them to take the step towards being allies, but the Manarians just had to get greedy and pull that trick, and they'd pay for it.

They just didn't know it yet.

"Hey, I know you like things that go boom, yeah, Doc?" Might as well be prepared as not. Besides. It'd make Zelenka happy. “We might need a couple.”

"What? No, no, of course I do not enjoy bombs. That is a silly assumption. I much more prefer picking blood out of ten thousand year old equipment, would any man not?" He shot John a dirty look, and waved his pocketknife. "Is delight of my day to do this."

"Right." Yeah, John was going home to ice-cold water in the shower tonight. If he went home, anyway. He'd probably just go to Rodney's, use his shower. Curl up around him, because when he came out from under that sedation, it wasn't gonna be pretty. "So you'll maybe think about it for me."

"If you had mailbox, Major, it would have disappeared in a puff of smoke, I think. Yes, I will think about it for you." And then Radek leaned back down over the console. He'd probably spent the whole time there sequestered with the rest of their people, drinking and muttering about how the shield would come up, or if it would.

Then again, he might have jerked off thinking about A-bombs. John had no idea.

"You're a good guy, Doc. I'll let you get back to work." He'd go ahead and take himself off-duty, too, let Bates know he was heading up to quarters. The guy was bitter, but he was a vicious watchdog on security.

It was probably all he had left since Sumner had died. Well, there was the Chuck guy. John tried to not think too hard about his co-workers and who they were or weren't having sex with, because those were thoughts a guy didn't need in his head. He didn't need to know, didn't want to know.

"Yes, yes. Go, sleep. You..." Zelenka didn't look at him, but he gave a shrug of his shoulders. "You did good work. We have a city to come home to, despite Genii."

He'd killed so many of them. If he thought about it, he'd spring a boner about it in the middle of the control room, and it was bad enough that they'd seen Ford pushing the cart back through the Stargate, Kolya's cock stuffed in his mouth, eyes gouged out, fingers sliced off.

Nobody touched what belonged to John and got off as easy as being shot, dead or no.

He just wished he'd had more opportunity to hurt Kolya than that. Hurting Ladon hadn't been nearly as good.

He didn't say anything else to Radek, because that was probably the most small talk he'd had with the man in a month, and he started to look around the now-bustling control room for Bates. There were half a dozen scientists scattered on the 'gate room floor, a guy hurking up in a crazy pot they'd been using as a wastebasket, Beckett tending a scrape. Where the hell was...? Oh. Chuck. Of course.

Off in a corner talking to each other, at least until John sidled up behind them and cleared his throat. Bates's eyes snapped to John, and he stood up fractionally straighter, which shouldn't have been possible with that rod up his ass. Chuck spun around and declared in a breaking voice, "I was just leaving!" before he did.

Half the fun of the Canadians was scaring them shitless.

"I'm going off duty," John murmured to Bates. "It's been a hell of a day. Make sure Ford goes off after me. You've got Atlantis, Sergeant."

"Yes, sir." He even brought his heels together a little sharply, and that just never stopped being funny. It still amazed him that he was the leader, that they all listened to him and he hadn't fucked it up yet. They were all still alive. Bates didn't wait for a 'dismissed', but he probably just assumed John was going to waltz off, which was right.

John wondered if he would have given Sumner that same sharp answer and heel click every time the Major nailed his ass over the nearest flat surface.

It didn't matter. Not really, not when John was tired and still bloody, in need of a shower and he still had to check on Rodney. That would take forever, so he might as well shower and stay there, unless McKay had managed to drag himself out of sedation and stumble to Teyla's rooms.

That didn't seem likely, given the size of the injection Carson had given him. Rodney had what Carson called 'interesting' metabolism, though. Sometimes little things knocked him right out, and sometimes he shook things off.

John would work it out when he got there, possibly after he showered.

Probably after he showered, because he was seriously stinking in ways that should never, ever be imagined. He had an aunt once who used to say that by the time a person could smell himself, he'd probably been stinking for three days. It was that kind of stench, settled into his skin with cold, congealed blood and cordite, maybe the scent of Rodney's screams worked into the mix for good measure. He hadn't used to think that screams had a smell, but the noise still clung to his ears, even if Rodney had been loose and pliable by the time he'd been sent off to his room. John kept an eye open while he walked through the hallways, while he got on and then back off the transporter, just in case Rodney was slumped somewhere.

The halls were pretty much empty -- most of Atlantis was up and about, frantically shifting from lab to lab to see what the damage was, how much work they were going to have to do to get things up and running full speed again. The reattachment of the grounding stations had been a bitch, but they'd managed even in the rough seas. It was the kind of work John expected from the New Lanteans, even if Elizabeth was still clinging a little too much to Earth.

She'd get over it. She just would, because there was nothing else to do.

When John reached Rodney's door, he stopped outside of it, and then pressed on the crystals that would open it for him. If it was locked, there was nothing that resisted him, which John had gotten used to. The city warmed to him -- it had probably been too long since it had had a guy like him protecting it from people who didn't know what they were doing.

Rodney had a nice, tidy room. He had pictures hung on his walls and not too much space, but he'd said he liked the compactness of it, and the windows. Plus, there was a private bathroom, and he'd witnessed Rodney's sometimes fascination with water when they were off planet.

But he wasn't in the bathroom or staring out a window. He was wrapped up like a bug in his bedding, a roly-poly of sheets and soft woven Athosian blankets. Rodney's had been the first blankets replaced because he was Rodney, and his brain was going to save their asses day by day, and the military issue made him itchy and paranoid. Hell. It made half of Atlantis itchy and paranoid, but most of them could suck it up.

John started stripping once they were locked in, boots pulled off by the door, a steady line of filthy, bloody clothing dropped on the floor. He'd pick it up on his way back through, kick it out into the hallway so the stench wouldn't filter in too much.

He didn't think much of Rodney's situation, how he was settled into his bed, until he glanced over his shoulder at Rodney on his way to the bathroom. It was an afterthought, but he could see that Rodney's eyes were open, and that was just. Just creepy.

Clearing his throat, he paused, silhouetted in the doorway. He knew it, could see the way his shadow fell over the bed. "Hey, buddy."

Nothing. Rodney wasn't blinking, wasn't moving, and didn't look up at him. That was... not so hot. Either he was dead, and John was going to have to bash Carson's drug-addled head in, or he was way out in left field.

Giving up on showering for the moment, he turned and headed towards the bed, bare feet padding softly on the floor. "Rodney...?" Still no blinking, but when he leaned down, put his fingers gently on McKay's upper lip, he could feel the heat of his breath. "Huh."

He twisted his fingers, touching Rodney's lips, feeling that they were warm but dry to the touch. "Rodney isn't home right now." It was a soft, broken mumble, but it was Rodney's voice, and his lips moving under John's fingertips.

"Hm." John let his hand shift, curled his fingers against Rodney's neck, thumb rubbing over his jaw line. "You think if maybe there was a shower involved, Rodney might come back home again? 'Cause, you know. I kind of need one, and leaving you here by yourself, it doesn't sound so hot." If McKay offed himself, John wouldn't feel guilty. They couldn't afford that, though.

On the other hand, he'd get to fuck him without any guilt.

His eyes tracked finally, dragged themselves up to glance at John's face, but he still hadn't blinked. "What does it matter? Nothing, it doesn't, he hurt me. No one ever, said, said things that shouldn't be said, secrets."

"Hey, hey." John's knee was killing him. He'd banged the shit out of it getting into that duct over the 'gate room. "None of the secrets you told got out of Atlantis. They're all dead, and I sent them back."

"Didn't, didn't want to, to say anything, but he cut, and--never like that, before. No, no, just -- never, thought no...." Rodney's voice seized up, and his eyes cut to John again, and he blinked. There, that made it all immensely much less like talking to a corpse. "Wanted you to be proud."

"Hey. I'm proud of you, buddy." He'd have been prouder if Rodney had kept his trap shut, but torture was something that everybody gave in to eventually. "You did good. You kept 'em distracted so I could get in position. Take care of 'em."

"Why did he, why, he hurt me." Eyes on him again, and if he moved, he could probably get Rodney sitting upright and unwrap him from the Athosian blankets. Get him to shower, because he stunk pretty badly, too.

"Because he was a sick fucker. I took care of him for you, though. Huh? Didn't I take care of him for you, Rodney?" John tugged at him just a little. "C'mon. I'm gonna take care of you, now, get you clean, okay? I stink, and you smell pretty bad, too." Really bad, and if he got him up, got him to bathe, maybe he'd feel better when he lay back down.

It was all a matter of priorities, really. John liked living, and Rodney's brain was often between them and death. The fact that he had a bubble ass was secondary, really.

The thought that he was a twin only starred in every third jerk-off fantasy.

"Yeah. Wanted a shower, but Carson said." Carson said something, apparently, but Rodney just wasn't going to share. He let John pull at him, and started to move just enough to latch onto John with one arm once it was free, hugging him tightly. Naked skin to naked skin.

"Yeah, well, I'm gonna nix what Carson had to say." There was probably a trash bag or something they could wrap around his arm, and Rodney would feel better when the stench of the Genii was off of him. Hell, so would John. "C'mon." He wasn't going to get hard and scare Rodney. He wasn't going to get hard and scare Rodney. He wasn't going to get....

Well, shit.

Rodney tucked his face in against John's neck, all warm breath and trembling, moving mouth, and he needed to start thinking about Rodney the way Teyla did. A fucked up, too smart kid, which was what made it okay for him to crawl into her bed sometimes.

"It's okay," John promised him, even though it was a lie. Jesus. There was no way he could think of Rodney like that, not when what he really wanted was to be the one fucking him. "It's okay, buddy. Let's go get bathed, huh? Then we'll come back and change your sheets for you."

"Uh-huh." Rodney stayed tucked up against him even when John started to move, started to get him to stand.

The shower, John decided, wasn't going to be a long hot rest that he could jack off in. No, it was going to be hell.

John was still there.

He knew, hoped that John was still there because he could feel him. Sometimes he could see things but he didn't feel them, and touch was one of the most reliable senses. Sometimes he'd hear voices over the radio that weren't there, that weren't voices he recognized, and he'd sit there in the lab ignoring them, pretending that they weren't yelling at him, cussing at him. And sometimes he'd see his friends' faces morph, or things come out of the display screens, and he knew to ignore them.

Knew to take his cues from the people around him, because sometimes in Atlantis, that was real. Things really did happen in strange ways, energy monsters and Wraith and life-aligning insects, so he had to watch the others and he had to rely on touch, and John was still there. Still in bed with him.

It was a good thing that John was still in bed with him, because he had an arm over Rodney's body, and that was the only thing that had kept him from getting up and showering again. And probably again. And probably again.

He knew that if he asked, Carson would say it wasn't his fault. John already had, even though Rodney wasn't really sure John meant it. John said things because John thought his brain was between them and certain death, not necessarily because they were true. Both of them were better than Heightmeyer, though. She was supposed to be the resident psychologist, but Rodney didn't like her. She touched him, and she made him touch her, go down on her until his tongue was sore, the taste of her almost sour, and he didn't like it.

He skipped a lot of his appointments with her because he was busy elsewhere. Busy with anything at all, busy being off-world, just. Just busy.

He missed working in Colorado, sometimes. A lot. He missed Sam Carter and the General who'd been a Major and in stasis and dead and not dead and they did that. A lot. It had been pretty stressful, watching them come and go and come back again and go again and come back before they finally sent him off. He missed that life, and he missed sitting in the park after work, throwing handfuls of popcorn out for pigeons. Sometimes, his brother visited or he visited his brother, and that was always easy, enjoyable.

Nothing like that had ever happened at home. Rodney shifted, squirmed deeper into the blankets, deeper back against John. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see Grant, and he wanted to see his cat, and he wanted to be anywhere, anywhere at all, except the Pegasus galaxy. His arm hurt, and his down-there hurt worse, and he could feel his mouth start to tremble.

"'sokay." John's voice was a mumble, but his arm tightened and pulled Rodney closer, even though Rodney hadn't been sure that was possible.

It wasn't okay. It wasn't. He could feel John breathing, he could feel his lungs fill up and then expel air, could feel cords of muscle pressing against spots of skin that hurt, against the holes Kolya had put in him, cuts that opened him up and let everything escape, and that was the problem. Everything in him had gotten out, and it was running free and--

And no, no, no. No. No, that wasn't it. That, that wasn't it, and he wasn't going to let things spin out of control like it had his first break, when he'd thought he'd been safe and Grant had been the one to end up crazy, poor crazy Grant, but six years later it had hit Rodney like a bullet through the skull and he'd tried to dial a null point with the 'gate when it was in Area 51 so he could go through it and become one with the universe, and if that sounded like a good idea again, which it did, then it wasn't okay.

Nothing was okay.

"Rodney?" John wasn't awake yet, but Rodney didn't know what to do. Hide? He wasn't sure he could, couldn't put things back together without help, but he didn't think John could either, and then John was leaning up over him, sleepy-eyed and beautiful and that was really wrong because John was scary, not beautiful, John was all gunpowder and blood, even if he smelled more like Rodney's soap and sleep sweat. "You need something?"

He needed a lot. He needed to go home and play checkers with Grant and sleep with his cat and hide, he needed to hide, because before, he had an intricate schedule of things that kept him from relapsing, a beautiful, perfectly structured world that buffered him and kept him safe even when work went to hell, which was often. Rodney blinked, peering up at John, breathing him in. "Need my head fixed. I, I want to shower. I know I shouldn't, don't need to again. I know, I did research, lots of research after my brother, and I know the symptoms and I know what falling apart is, I know. I know."

"Hey. Hey." There was a hand, a hand, slowly petting him, gentle and easy. "Tell me what I can do to help you?" Help him. Like anything could help him, except lots of drugs, lots and lots of them, and sleep, and more sleep, and baths. Tons of baths, and Grant, and his cat.

John would have to do.

Except he didn't know what to do with John. Not sex. He didn't want, not sex. It still hurt, and he wanted to shower, and it wouldn't work, wouldn't help anything. John was beautiful and he was as close as Rodney had to a friend. He knew that if something happened, John would be there.

"Don't know."

"Okay." Okay, because what else was John going to say? Demand answers? Demand that Rodney be okay? Because John wasn't like that, John wasn't like that at all. "Okay, buddy." His hand roamed up and down Rodney's side, just stroking, nice and easy. It was perfect, and it made Rodney want to forget, even if he couldn't.

He couldn't, and sometimes he wished he could fall into bliss like Grant did, even if his life was as full of up and down and instability as Rodney's was. Rodney's saving grace was that when people died on him, they came back. Mostly. Science at a certain level became like magic.

Like living in the lost city of the Ancients and being raped by aliens.

The thought made Rodney's throat let a laugh slide up, because that was such a true thought and such a wrong one at the same moment. If it bubbled over -- no, when -- he didn't know if he could stop. Didn't think he'd be able to at all, and then they'd send him home, and they'd send him back to Canada, and they'd probably keep him in a mental health facility for the rest of his natural life, which would be short and very drugged.

John's arms turned him, tucked him close, Rodney's face pressed against his throat. "It's okay to be upset," he murmured, and that was laughable. Military people saying things like that always made Rodney giggle despite himself, at least the American ones.

'It's okay to be upset' when they didn't subscribe to it at all, and 'It's okay to be bisexual' when he could hear the wary 'could you not hit on the guys? Or anyone?' in their voice, and it was funniest when they went on about Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights, and the importance of guns in that triangle of perfection. Lots of guns, yes, and all the Americans knew how to fire, but so did Rodney. Rodney could shoot, bang, right in the middle but only because John had made sure he knew.

If anyone other than John had said those things, he'd have known they didn't mean them. Known they meant other, hidden words, things like 'why did they let you come?' and 'how could they let somebody that crazy head the science department?'. John didn't say those things, or he didn't mean them. When they'd first come and Sumner had died (Rodney didn't think about that. Ever.), John had asked them. He'd asked them outright, firm and out loud, and Rodney hadn't minded that.

He was brilliant. He was still brilliant and he knew it, and Radek was something else. Rodney liked him well enough, but he was something else, something that hadn't shaken off the dust of the Cold War and clutched it bitterly like he was still an ex-pat freedom fighter. Rodney had worked for them forever, and he could be trusted and he knew more than anyone else in the SGC.

John was still talking, but Rodney didn't mind, or didn't care, or both, what he was saying. It was better to press his face in against John's chest. He could hear the rumble of John's voice in his chest without hearing the words, and that was all right, that felt good, made him relax a little. He still needed a bath, a, a something, anything. Anything, something to make him feel better, anyway, and his hands were warm and firm on Rodney's back, stroking soothingly.

He wished he could go back to sleep, make it all go away.

He couldn't, though. He couldn't sleep it off, shake it off like that, couldn't get rid of it like a bad shirt because it was on him, in him, and he couldn't peel his flesh off or scrub it all away because then he'd just get a skin infection and Carson would try new things.

Rodney really hated the new things. They made him nauseated, or angry, or on edge, made him sick with the medication interactions. He hated it when Carson made him take new things, and he could feel it coming, knew that Carson would do it. At least they'd come to an agreement so that Rodney was allowed to leave until Carson came down off of his high if he was spectacularly jacked up when Rodney went in. It made him afraid when Carson tried to give him something while he was doped up.

One day Carson was going to slide a needle in and it wasn't going to be Rodney's drugs; it was going to be something else, something that didn't belong in veins, and god. God dammit, that was his doctor. He was supposed to trust, and Grant trusted, and Grant could trust, so why couldn't he? Why did he end up with Mengele with a burr?

Rodney sucked in a shudder of air, and snuffled against John's chest.

"Shhh." John was petting him, and John was the only succor he had. John was just as crazy as the rest of them, in his own way, but at least John's crazy stood between Rodney and the rest of the crazies, so when it came, shuddering, teary breaths, it was easier. Easier than it could have been, not quite so difficult, not so, so, so something. So something. "Shhhh, I'll make it all right."

He didn't know how that was going to happen, because he was still falling apart. Rodney knew falling apart, knew that he was dusting at the edges, leaving residue of his brain here and there, and it might hold out for a few more weeks. He couldn't remember pulling back together from that, but John said it would be all right. He'd make it all right and Rodney had to trust John.

Did trust.

At least, in the end, Rodney could be sure that when the time came, when he wasn't useful anymore, when he lost all of the mind he had left, John wouldn't let Carson have him. Wouldn't let Kolya have him.

No. John would take him out to the south pier, and John would kiss him goodbye, and John would point his nine mil at the space just above Rodney's eyes.

There was some measure of comfort in that.