This Bolder Life
Big Bang 2008.   Stargate program: Someone finds out.
After a pair of newspaper reporters uncover the existence of the Stargate Program, the team, along with Rodney and Teyla's baby daughter Elizabeth, travel to Earth in order for John and Rodney to testify before the US Congress. However, not everyone in the world approves of the program, and as Team AR-1 fights bureaucrats and politicians to keep the program alive, a group of extremists take matters into their own hands.
Word Count
40500 words
This story follows canon through the end of Season Four with two major deviations: the team started sleeping together after "Tao of Rodney", which in turn meant that Kanaan and Teyla were never involved. After "The Last Man", the story veers completely off into AU territory. (Technically, we're also using the "post-S4" prompt as well--we hope you won't mind too much. :-) )

We'd like to thank helens78 and padawanhilary for their fabulous beta help; any mistakes you find are not their fault, but are the result of our last-minute tweaking. Also, without the Spatula All Star Cheering Squad--almostnever, anatsuno, kyuuketsukirui, msilverstar and zillah--the whole process would have been a lot harder and a lot more lonely; you guys rock! Finally, thank you to the mods and artists who have done so much work on making Big Bang the experience it is.
Companion Artwork
  • This Bolder Life by fractalreality


As John piloted the jumper away toward the system's space gate, Ronon crouched beside Teyla's chair and touched her arm lightly, just to reassure himself that she was really—finally—back with them. "How're you doing?" he asked her; Rodney swiveled his chair around to catch her answer.

Teyla grimaced and Ronon leaned forward, taking her hand. "Are you all right? Teyla?"

"I am...I believe that I am...." She trailed off and gripped his hand hard.

"Oh no...oh no no no," Rodney said. He was even paler than usual, and he had his panicked face on, which didn't bode well.

"I believe that the baby will be here sooner, rather than later," Teyla said. Ronon was amazed that she still sounded perfectly calm.

"I thought Keller said you had another couple of weeks!" John shouted. Ronon rolled his eyes.

"Just fly, John." He squeezed Teyla's hand. "How soon is sooner?"

"I do not know." She took a deep breath and then got to her feet.

"What are you doing?" Rodney yelled. John turned around to look, and Rodney glared at him. "You heard Ronon. Pay attention and fly. Fast!"

"I need to be on my feet," Teyla said as Rodney came over to her. She leaned heavily on his arm and started moving toward the back of the jumper. "I do not believe that John or the maintenance crew would appreciate it if...."

"Oh, right," Rodney said. "Do we have any towels in this thing? Or...hey, we still have that blanket. Ronon, can you dig it out?"

"On it." Ronon was already on his way to the back compartment. He couldn't remember exactly why they had a stack of towels in a bin—might have had something to do with that time John really wanted to see if they could all have sex in the jumper—but right now, it was damned useful.

"Here you go." He spread a few towels out on the floor. "This is...it's not going to be a problem that it's early, right?"

Rodney helped Teyla down. "It's not early," he said. "Well, it is, but by only what, a week or two?"

"Yes," Teyla said, settling down on the floor of the jumper. "And my labor has just begun...oh!" Her eyes got wide and then she was suddenly soaking wet from her lap down. Silently, Ronon and Rodney helped her mop up.

"You okay back there?" John called out.

"I am fine," Teyla said firmly. "As I was about to say, I believe the baby will wait until we have returned home."

"I hope so," John said. "Dave was born in the back of Dad's car."

"We know," Rodney snapped. "You've only told us all like three or four times."

Ronon found the blanket in another one of the storage bins. "Come on—let's get you out of these clothes," he told Teyla, helping her pull her shirt off. Everyone was reacting as expected, which meant that he was going to have to be the practical one again. Sometimes he wondered how, exactly, people on Earth gave birth; in his experience it wasn't nearly as complicated as John and Rodney made it out to be.

"Thank you, Ronon." Teyla smiled at him, and he knew that she was thinking the same thing. "This is my first child, but I have been present at the birth of many others—and you are all here with me, so I am sure everything will be fine."

"It's just a baby," Ronon said, shrugging. "My mom had six."

"We know that, too," Rodney said, helping Teyla out of her pants. "Just like you all know that my mom was in labor forever with both me and Jeannie. God, I'm so ready for this to be over."

"Hit him, one of you," John called out. Ronon snorted, but didn't actually move. Rodney winced.

"Um, yeah...sorry about that. What am I thinking...it's been so awful for you, and we were so fucking worried, and...."

"I know you were," Teyla said, leaning forward and giving him a kiss. "But I am here now and all will be well."

"And thank God, there's the gate," John said. He punched in the address. "Atlantis, this is Puddlejumper One. We were successful; AR-1 is all present and accounted for."

"Glad to hear it, Colonel," Carter said over the radio. "Is everyone okay?"

"No major injuries, but have a medical team standing by. Our fifth team member is ready to make her appearance."

"Will do, John. You guys bring her on home."

Ronon knew it was unnecessary, but he still grabbed Teyla's hand—the one that Rodney wasn't clutching—as the jumper went through the gate. The minute they landed in the jumper bay, he and Rodney and John clustered around Teyla, who rolled her eyes.

"I am capable of getting out of the jumper. But...." She stopped and gave them each a kiss, a light brush of her lips against their foreheads. "Thank you. All of you."

Carter was waiting for them, accompanied by Keller and two medics with a gurney. "Welcome home, Teyla," Carter said, looking more relieved and happy than Ronon had ever seen her. It was a good look on her, he decided.

"And just in time, too," Keller added. When Teyla started to protest the gurney, she shook her head. "I know you can walk, but as your doctor, I'm going to overrule you." They got Teyla settled and headed for the infirmary.

"How did the rest of your mission go?" Carter asked as they all followed the gurney. "Obviously the full briefing can wait...." Her voice trailed off and Ronon saw her exchange a glance with John.

"Better than expected," John said, looking over at Rodney. "The hologram Rodney's intel was right. We flew in, infiltrated the compound, found that Teyla had managed to free herself and stun Michael. We shot the hell out of him and Ronon cut his head off, so he won't be coming back this time. Rodney got all the information he could from the computers, and then we set the bombs, left, and the place blew up behind us."

"Just like that?" Carter looked impressed.

"Well, considerably more nerve-wracking," Rodney said, "but yeah. He's dead and I have a ton of new intel here." He held up his tablet.

They'd reached the infirmary and Carter touched Rodney's arm. "I'd just be in the way in there, but keep me updated, okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, fine," Rodney said over his shoulder as Ronon steered him inside.

By the time they reached the large room Keller and Dr. Anders had set aside for the delivery, Rodney had pretty much forgotten his promise to Carter. Someone would see to it; at the moment, he had other things on his mind.

Teyla had insisted on a traditional Athosian birthing stool, and once she'd described it to Rodney, he'd rolled his sleeves up and set about designing it and getting it made—with some help from his staff. Now, it sat in all its glory in the middle of the room and Rodney expected her to settle into it and get the whole process underway. Instead, she asked for a chance to wash up and, that accomplished, began to pace.

"Should you be on your feet?" Rodney asked. "I mean, I know you're supposed to get restless but you've had kind of a seriously busy day. Well, week, really. Weeks?"

"I do not feel like sitting just yet," Teyla said, her voice a little tight. Rodney took the hint and backed off a little, looking around. Keller and Anders had retreated to one corner of the room and were busy looking over a table laid out with instruments. Remembering the horrible room they'd found Teyla and Michael in, the one John had called a "twisted maternity lab," he shivered.

"McKay," Ronon said. "C'mere." He was sitting in a chair with John leaning against the wall next to him, and Rodney headed over to them, settling into the chair next to Ronon's.

"I just," Rodney began and then paused as Teyla's pacing brought her over to them. "When John came back from the future and told us...." He took a deep breath and said something he could only say to these three people. "I was afraid I'd never...we'd never see you again. And I know that none of this is about me right now and I...."

"Rodney," Teyla said, resting a hand on his shoulder. "I always knew I would see you again. I knew the three of you would come for me."

"Not that you needed that much help," John said.

"Pretty impressive," Ronon added.

"Men frequently underestimate pregnant women," Teyla said. Rodney felt a moment of fierce pride in her, something that he knew echoed what John and Ronon were feeling. Then her grip went tight on his shoulder and his breathing began to pick up again.

"Is it...are you?"

"Just a contraction," she said. Rodney tried to remember what he'd read, but for once, all his research was a blur. He glanced over at Ronon and saw a tension around Ronon's eyes that most people would have missed. All the comforts of strength and brain power went out the window when you were suddenly faced with the blunt fact there was nothing you could do while a woman you loved worked to bring your child into the world.

Feeling a little guilty, Rodney looked up at John. "It can't be mine," John had said back when Teyla had told them that something had gone wrong, that her birth control had failed and she was pregnant. He'd looked more disappointed than anything else as he'd continued. "We had a scare...Nancy and me, I mean. We really didn't want kids and so I had a vasectomy."

Teyla gripped Rodney's shoulder again, bringing him back to the now. John was just as much a part of this as he was, as Ronon was, but still, there was a fifty per cent chance that this was Rodney's baby and, yet again, he felt himself fret about that. As much as he'd always thought, in some vague way, that he owed it to the world to leave his genes behind, when you stripped the notion of its egotism, all that was left was the fact that yes, Rodney was brilliant, but he was also a bit of a mess both physically and emotionally, although he was working on the latter. Not for the first time, he wondered if things wouldn't be easier for the kid if it turned out to be Ronon's. After all, Rodney would love the baby, would still be one of its dads, as scary as that thought was, but maybe....

Teyla's grip tightened again. "I am finding this room claustrophobic," she said. "I would like to walk to the nearest balcony."

"Are you....?" he began and then stopped; she had that look in her eye that meant shutting up would be a good idea now.

"I'll go with you," Ronon said.

A few moments later, covered up in a caftan-like thing and Keller in tow, Teyla left the infirmary on Ronon's arm.

"I have," Rodney said, taking a deep breath, "a brand new sympathy for my brother-in-law." As John chuckled, Rodney frowned up at him. "And if you ever tell that tofu-eating bastard that, I will kill you."

"Your secret is safe with me." John grinned at him. "Speaking of food...."

"Which tofu isn't," Rodney said quickly.

"Speaking of food," John said. "You must be starving."

Strangely enough, given how worried he was, Rodney hadn't even thought about food until John mentioned it. Now he groaned as he realized that he was ravenous. "You suck."

John raised an eyebrow in a way he probably thought was suggestive and Rodney rolled his eyes. "I've been known to," John said. "A time or two."

"Oh my God," Rodney said, glaring at John. "We're in the middle of this," he gestured around the room, "and you're joking about blow jobs!"

"What's wrong with blow jobs? Or jokes, for that matter?"

"Oh, yes, I can just see us trying to explain all this to the kid. 'What was it like when you were born? Well, your mom was calm, and Ronon was pretty stoic, and I, well, okay, I was freaking out just a little, and John? John was making jokes about oral sex.'"

"Feel free to tell her that," John said. "If you want to be the one to have The Talk."

"Oh, Jesus." Rodney stared up at John. "No no no. I refuse. I'll explain why the sky is blue and where snowflakes come from and why the Ancients made such dismally uncomfortable furniture, but someone else has to give the kid The Talk." He took a deep breath, fighting off an all too familiar panicky feeling in his gut. "I'm going to suck at this. I'm utterly and totally gonna suck. Oh, God...."

"Rodney." John was in front of him now, crouching down and reaching for Rodney's hands. "You're not going to suck; Teyla won't let you." Rodney gave a shaky little laugh at that; John was right. "Seriously, kids love you." He paused and his eyebrows twisted. Rodney waited, but in the end, John just reached out and pulled him in for a quick kiss. The lack of words didn't matter; Rodney got it and he smiled a little as John pulled away again.

And then his stomach broke the mood by growling, loudly. "Do you think it would be okay if I ate something?"

"Don't see why not," John said. "This could take a while."

Teyla's contractions were much closer together when she finally left the balcony and made her way back to the infirmary, leaning on Ronon more than she had on the way out. Rodney looked a little guilty as he quickly disposed of two MRE packages, but she patted his hand when he came to join her. "I would not want you to get light headed during this," she said.

"Oh, I think we can count on that happening regardless of how much I eat." He glanced over at Jennifer. "Is she...um...?"

"I'm not sure where we are here," Jennifer said. "Teyla, I want you to lie down so we can take another look." Dr. Anders joined her and the two of them started murmuring to one another, pausing to ask Teyla questions while they checked her over with gentle hands.

After that, Teyla began to lose track of time. She was aware of the doctors and her men hovering around her, and at one point she thought she heard Rodney convincing both John and Ronon to eat, but once she settled into position on the birthing stool, her attention began to narrow down to the rhythm of her body.

Finally, as she clung to John and Rodney's hands and Ronon stood behind the birthing stool reminding her to breathe, she let out a yell and dimly heard Dr. Anders saying "That's it...I can see the head. Once, maybe twice more, Teyla, c'mon, you're almost there."

With one more yell, she pushed and felt it happen, unmistakable and unlike anything she'd ever felt in her life.

"Oh my God," John said. "A baby."

The baby had been cleaned and wrapped loosely in a soft blanket by the time Teyla finished delivering the afterbirth. She sank back, letting the nurse clean her up, and then reached out eagerly. It was Jennifer and not Dr. Anders who put the baby into her arms. "She's healthy," Jennifer said, "and lovely," but Teyla barely heard her as she looked down at her daughter. In spite of the wrinkled face that made her look like a very small old man, she was one of the most beautiful people Teyla had ever seen.

Ronon, Rodney and John leaned over her as well and she had to smile at how awe and tenderness made them all look similar for just a moment, giving them a strange family resemblance. Then she looked back down at the baby, who had flung one arm out of the blanket. "God," Rodney said. "She's so tiny."

She was, Teyla thought. Tiny and perfect, with her whorls of light brown hair—a surprising amount of it for a newborn—and when she opened her big blue eyes, Teyla smiled at her. "Hello, beautiful girl," she murmured.

John stared down at the baby, and Teyla caught a glimpse of something almost wistful on his face. "Looks like we've answered that question," he said. "She's got your eyes, Rodney."

"Uh," Rodney said, staring at the baby. He opened his mouth and tried again. "Um...I guess...yes...yes, she does." Reaching out, he brushed the baby's cheek with one careful finger.

"Hello there," he said softly, and then looked at Teyla. "I...wow."

"Would you like to hold her?" Teyla asked, and Rodney's eyes went even bigger. He nodded and then took the baby, cradling her stiffly but carefully against his chest, and Teyla, remembering all the people who had said or implied that Rodney would be a terrible father, felt just a little smug. All of three of them would be good fathers, although she'd have to be careful and see that their daughter didn't end up too spoiled.

After a long moment spent staring down at the baby, Rodney lifted her and kissed her forehead. Then he turned to Ronon. "Your turn," he said, and Teyla caught the very faint note of worry and apology in his voice. It was so like Rodney that she almost laughed.

Ronon chuckled. "Hey, this just means Sheppard and I can make you do most of the diaper changing." Rodney glared at him, and Ronon relaxed a little—until Rodney put the baby in his arms.

"She's...um...is she supposed to be so little?" he asked.

"Of course she looks tiny with you holding her," John said.

Ronon and the baby were quite cute, actually, although Teyla suspected that Ronon wouldn't appreciate being told that. She caught the smirk on John's face that was a pretty good indication that he agreed with her.

"She'd fit in one of your palms," Rodney said, and it wasn't much of an exaggeration. He turned to Jennifer. "She's not too small, is she?"

"Rodney," Teyla replied before Jennifer could answer. "Jennifer said she was healthy." She'd have to watch this too, she told herself; she didn't want Rodney worrying too much about the baby's health.

"Hey," John said, poking Ronon. "My turn." He held out his arms while Ronon gently placed the baby into them. "Hey there, little lady," he told her as she looked up. "Welcome to Atlantis."

Teyla had a moment to think that it was fitting that John be the one to say that, and then the baby's face scrunched up and she made a little squawking noise. "Umm...help?" John asked, looking confused.

"She's McKay's kid—she's probably hungry."

"Oh, fu...." Rodney's eyes went huge as he bit his lip. "You know, not swearing around the baby isn't going to be easy."

"I am sure you can make the sacrifice, Rodney," Teyla said, holding out her arms. John quickly handed the baby back to her and she brought it up to her breast, wincing a little when the baby finally accepted the nipple and started sucking.

"Does it hurt?" Rodney put his hand over hers on the baby's back.

"Not exactly," she said. "It is a strange sensation." A connection, she thought, stroking the baby's hair.

Bending down, Rodney kissed her the same way he'd kissed the baby, his lips gentle against her forehead. "Thank you," he murmured, and Teyla knew that he felt a connection to the baby as well. As he settled in next to her, John and Ronon found chairs and joined them, and Teyla was barely aware of Jennifer, Dr. Anders and the nurse quietly leaving the room.

"I wish I had a camera," John heard Keller say. He sat up, which made Ronon shift in his chair and mutter irritably. Looking around, John saw that Rodney'd fallen asleep still holding a sleeping Teyla's hand. Baby Girl, on the other hand, was wide awake, and judging by the noises she was making, was hungry.

He watched, amused as Teyla blinked twice, gently detached herself from Rodney, sat up, and settled the baby on her chest. That's...okay. That's a little weird, he thought; the last person he'd seen mouthing Teyla's breasts had been Ronon. From the look Teyla was giving him, he suspected she knew what he was thinking.

Rodney rubbed his eyes and looked around the room as though he'd forgotten why they were there. "Ow, my back. Also, I'm...." he grumbled. Before he could complain any further, John tossed him a Power Bar.

"Breakfast for us later," he said, "but this should hold you for another few minutes, right?"

"Thanks," Rodney said through a mouthful. "How are you doing?" he asked Teyla, his eyes fixed on the baby.

"I am still somewhat tired," she replied. "But very happy."

"You'll be tired for quite a while," Keller said. "If you promise not to push yourself too hard, though, I don't see any reason you can't go home after we've had a chance to look over you and the baby one more time."

"We won't let her push herself," Ronon said, grinning down at Teyla.

"I will eventually return to duty, Ronon," Teyla reminded him.

"At which point she'll be kicking your ass in no time," Rodney added with a snicker. "Can I say 'ass' around the baby?"

"Since I'm pretty sure she can't understand you at this point, Rodney, I think you're okay," John told him. "Look, why don't we let Doctor Keller do her job, so we can take Teyla and...." He frowned. "Did you guys ever decide on a name?"

"I can always put 'Baby Girl Emmagan' on the birth certificate for now and change it later," Keller said.

Teyla looked over at Rodney. "Rodney, how would you feel about calling her Elizabeth?"

"I...that would be perfect," he said, after a moment, his voice unsteady. "She should have an Athosian middle name, though, don't you think? You said you liked the name Jana and it goes well with the rest of her names."

"Elizabeth Jana McKay Emmagan," Teyla said, thoughtfully. "What do you think?"

"It's longer than she is," Ronon said, "but I like it."

John bit his lip. He was not going to get all emotional about this. "I think it sounds beautiful," he said, and if his voice was a little rough around the edges, well, it was his team, and they got it. "It's perfect."

For the past 12 years, the governments of the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia have been in contact with—and sometimes in conflict with—alien beings from other planets, and even other galaxies.

It sounds like science fiction, but in an exhaustive special investigative series, Daily News reporters Melissa Bradley and Eric Masters expose the secrets of the so-called "Stargate Program". From its origins with the discovery of a mysterious artifact in the Egyptian desert in 1928, to the breakthrough that allowed the U.S. Air Force to use the artifact, to two separate attempts by powerful alien races to destroy Earth, to the establishment of a permanent base in the Pegasus Galaxy in what is believed to be the Lost City of Atlantis, this series will chart the growth of the program from a crackpot theory to the high-level international conspiracy of silence that has concealed evidence of the most explosive discovery in human history.

excerpt from The Portland Daily News "Daily News Exclusive Special Report" May 21, 2009

The moment Rodney stepped through the gate and saw Carter's face, he knew something was wrong. They'd just finished up a general intel gathering meeting on New Athos-Sateda, and although Rodney had spent more time working on some balky solar panels than he had in the meeting, he'd gathered that the news was good. Six months after Michael's death, they were actually making real progress in the war against what was left of the Wraith.

It was a little strange to realize that they might not have been as successful if it hadn't been for John's trip through time and Rodney's own work—well, all right, the work of an alternate McKay—but really, they'd all contributed in their own ways to the current effort. Even the IOA, he thought, wondering if Carter's expression meant that she'd gotten yet another huge stack of memos from Woolsey. Sometimes he thought working with the bureaucracy back on Earth was even more complicated than trying to get what was left of the Athosians and the Satedans, the Genii, the Travelers and the rest of the complex alliance to pull together.

"What's wrong?" he asked, automatically adjusting the baby sling as Elizabeth cooed against his chest.

"It's...complicated," Carter said. "But now that you're all back, unless something urgent came up in your meeting, I need to talk to you right away."

"Nothing urgent," John said, after glancing at Teyla. "The Genii have a lead on the location of a possible group of Wraith worshipers who've been giving them some minor trouble, but that's the only new thing on the table."

Elizabeth fussed a little more and Rodney sighed. "I think she's hungry; let me get her settled with whoever has baby duty right now and then I'll join you."

"So," he said, entering the conference room several minutes later after dropping Elizabeth off with Dr. Stavos from the Geology department and grabbing a Power Bar from their quarters. "What's up?"

"There's a situation," Carter told them, her expression grim. "Two weeks ago, the Portland Daily News and one of the major political blogs began posting a series of in-depth articles detailing the entire history of the Stargate program. Since then, it's been picked up by every major news outlet in the world and God knows how many thousands of blogs."

There was silence for a long moment and then John spoke. "We've been outed."

Carter raised an eyebrow. "Officially, it's 'involuntarily declassified', but yes. The Stargate program is out of the closet. Everyone knows that the major governments of Earth have had contact with aliens for the past 12 years and have hidden that information from the people of the world."

"Frankly," Rodney said with a snort, "I'm amazed that we lasted as long as we did. All it would have taken was one janitor from under the Mountain with a grudge...." He trailed off, turning the ramifications over in his head. "Holy crap! I can publish!"

"Assuming we all live long enough," Carter said, giving him a slightly annoyed look. "People are really angry about this, Rodney, and they're looking for someone to blame."

Ronon frowned. "I don't get it—I mean, why didn't you just tell everyone when you first found the gate? Why all the secrecy around it in the first place?"

"It's complicated," John said, rubbing his forehead. "You've gotta remember, Earth isn't a single culture, plus we're talking about over six billion people—who, for the most part, have thought we were alone in the universe for centuries. I know it doesn't make sense to you, but trust me...I was pretty floored when I found out, and I was used to the idea that there was stuff I couldn't know about."

He looked over at Carter. "How bad are we talking? Riots? Martial law?"

"Not in the U.S., although they've called the National Guard out in most of the major cities, just in case things get ugly. The Chinese government has declared martial law; the British Prime Minister lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament, and we think the current Russian government has been overthrown—we're having a hard time getting any solid intel on that."

"Jesus." John shook his head. "How could this happen? I thought the whole thing was classified six ways from Sunday."

Carter shrugged. "Someone followed the money trail and noticed appropriations that weren't going where the records said they were being directed. It doesn't matter now—this genie isn't going back into the bottle."

"What does this mean for our efforts against the Wraith?" Teyla asked. "Will the IOA be pulling back its support?" Ronon leaned in to hear the answer and Rodney ducked his head, feeling guilty about having thought of publishing first.

"Right now, we don't even know where at least two of the committee members are," Carter said. "I honestly don't know much more than what I've told you, but I promise that I'll do everything I can to see that that doesn't happen."

"So what's the plan for us?" John asked. "We just keep going for now?"

Carter nodded. "Until we hear otherwise, yes. I'll probably have to go back to the SGC at some point so we can figure out the best response."

"Can we get copies of the articles? It might be useful," Rodney said.

"Checking to make sure they said good stuff about you?" John said. Rodney glared back.

"Look, if they mentioned us, then reporters are going to be harassing Jeannie, and Dave—"

"—and Nancy." John winced. "Well, she wanted to know what I was up to, but I'm not sure this is how I wanted her to find out."

"I'll talk to General Landry," Carter promised. "Copies of the articles are something we should have available before I break the news to everyone, and I'd like to do that sooner rather than later. In the meantime...I think it's a good bet that at least John and Rodney will be called to testify if there are official hearings—which there almost certainly will be—so you might want to review your mission reports. Just in case."

"Oh joy," Rodney muttered, glancing at John. While he'd made his share of mistakes since being with the SGC, John had to be feeling the burden of every command decision he'd made in four-and-a-half years weighing on his shoulders.

"Just...ask Landry to make sure that no one bothers Jeannie or the family," Rodney continued. "They've been through enough."

"I will, I promise," Carter said. "Rodney, I'd like some power estimates as well; we'll be needing to dial Earth a lot more often for a while."

"Okay, I'll talk to Zelenka about it."

"Unless anyone has any questions, I think that's it. Please don't say anything to anyone else yet; I don't want rumors spreading any more than they have to."

Ronon stopped to pick Elizabeth up from the labs; by the time he made it back to their quarters, everyone else was settled: Rodney in his custom ergonomic desk chair, Teyla in the big rocking chair that the Millers had sent from Earth, and John stretched out on the floor. Ronon handed the baby to Teyla and sprawled across the surprisingly comfortable armchair they'd discovered while exploring some remote part of the city.

"So," he said, "what's the plan?"

"I think I'd like to just sit here and panic," Rodney said, not looking up from his computer. "You know, maybe just five minutes of flailing about how much this sucks."

"I honestly don't think we need to panic yet," John said, staring up at the ceiling. "We can do that later, after we've got a better sense of how this is all playing out back on Earth."

"This isn't gonna be a problem with your military, is it?" Ronon asked him. "Us, I mean. You said they got rid of that stupid rule."

"Yeah...I don't know. The part where I'm sleeping with an alien woman, an alien guy, and a Canadian guy, and we have a baby...that'll be news for sure."

"Oh ha ha," Rodney said, rolling his eyes. "God, I can't believe we—the SGC, I mean—got so damn complacent. Do you have any idea how much money the U.S. alone has dumped into this program? I know they covered their tracks, but still...this should have been anticipated." He shook his head. "This could so easily be an utter disaster to the program. To us."

"Colonel Carter said that you might have to return to Earth," Teyla said. "Do you think they will try to recall you once you are there?"

"They can try," Rodney muttered.

"It's a real possibility," John said with a sigh. He went up on his elbows and looked at her and then Ronon. "We have to go back to face the hearings if we're issued subpoenas, but...well, there's nothing to say you two can't come back with us, if you're willing. Even if they recall us, they'll still have to let you come home and we can probably dash through the gate with you."

Ronon raised an eyebrow. "Or they'll try to keep us there."

John's lips tightened. "That's not going to happen," he said firmly. "We've discussed this, and home is Atlantis now—for all of us."

"If SG-1 could hijack a spaceship, then we certainly can," Rodney said, raising his chin. "We won't let them keep us there."

"I would like to actually get a chance to see Earth," Teyla said. "The real Earth."

"I'd like to see it some time when nobody's died," Ronon said. "And maybe with fewer Replicators this time."

"Okay," John said. "And who knows, maybe we won't have to testify."

Ronon shook his head. "Not if it's anything like Sateda," he told them. "When I was a kid, there was this huge scandal about misdirected military appropriations. The Senate had hearings for a couple of months; bunch of people got fired...." He frowned. "You know, I'd totally forgotten about that until now, but I think Kell's brother was mixed up in that somehow. Figures."

"What, like Watergate?" Rodney said. "My parents had the damn TV on that whole summer. I learned more about US politics than I really wanted to know."

"Jeez, Rodney," John said. "You were what, five?"

"And?" Rodney said.

"All I remember is my au pair telling me Nixon was a crook." John rolled his eyes. "I repeated it to Dad and she got fired."

"Imagine my surprise."

"Bringing this back to us," Teyla said, exchanging a long-suffering glance with Ronon. "On the subject of babies and babysitters, if we go to Earth, I think we should take Elizabeth with us."

"Oh, absolutely!" Rodney said. "I mean, aside from everything else, Jeannie said Madison can't wait to meet her new cousin."

"Also, having her along will probably make us look...maybe a little less alien?" Ronon suggested. "Not exactly ordinary, but everyone has babies, you know?"

"Yeah, but that doesn't change the part where we're three guys and Teyla having this...thing." Rodney waved his hands around. "We're not just not 'ordinary;' as far as Middle America—and Middle Canada, to be fair—are concerned, we're freaks."

"Rodney," Teyla began.

"My God," Rodney continued, his eyes going big. "Can you just imagine the gossip? The tabloids? They're going to call our daughter an alien love child! This is gonna be a three-ring circus."

Teyla glanced over at John and Ronon and raised an eyebrow. John shrugged.

"I think it's your turn," he said to Ronon. Ronon nodded, slid out of his chair and knelt in front of Rodney.

"Calm down, McKay. It'll be fine." He nuzzled Rodney's crotch, licking at the fabric over his dick until Rodney started making his usual strangled moaning noises; Ronon loved those.

"I know when I'm being managed," Rodney said breathlessly. He glanced over at Teyla. "We're not doing this in front of the baby."

"Rodney, she's only six months old," John said, but Rodney got that stubborn look on his face even as Ronon continued to lick and nip at the front of his BDUs.

"She is asleep," Teyla said. As she got up, she smiled over her shoulder. "I will put her to bed and be right back. Be sure to save some of Rodney for me."

Ronon waved in acknowledgment and kept nibbling as he reached under Rodney's shirt to play with his nipples. Rodney had a really nice ass, no denying it, but his nipples were an endless source of fascination for Ronon—especially the way that touching them made Rodney squirm.

"Well?" Rodney said, looking over at John. "If it's gang up on Rodney night—and...oh fuck...I really don't mind at all if it is—get over here so I can blow you."

"Not that I'm one to turn down a blow job, but I think this would be a lot easier if we were, you know, in bed," John said. "Shall we?" Ronon grumbled a little, but he got up and pulled Rodney out of the chair and nudged him toward the bedroom, where John was already getting undressed.

Rodney let Ronon tumble him onto the bed, offering only vague protests about the state of his back. By the time Ronon had stripped him naked, John had joined them on the bed. "You gonna stay down there?" Rodney asked, going up on his elbows to look down at Ronon.

"You want me to go somewhere else?" Ronon licked a line from Rodney's navel to the tip of his cock.

"Is that a trick question? Of course I don't. John, you get up here...yeah that's right...." Rodney's voice cut off as John straddled him, but he hummed happily and reached up to grab John's hips.

"Oh, that is nice," Teyla said from the doorway to the bedroom. She put the baby monitor on the nightstand and started taking off her clothes.

Ronon grinned and shifted to give Teyla a better view as he sucked Rodney down. From the sound of it, Operation Distract Rodney was working as well as it usually did. He sometimes wished it hadn't taken him so long to figure out the most effective way to shut McKay up.

Ronon couldn't see much of John from where he was, but he watched as John braced himself against the headboard and moaned. Although John really liked giving blowjobs, Ronon knew he was hardly going to turn one down from Rodney. Or from any of us, really, he thought and would have smiled if his mouth weren't full.

Rodney was moaning loudly around John's cock by the time Teyla reached up and rested her hand on John's shoulder. "My turn," she said and John moved easily away, bending down to give Rodney a kiss before he joined Ronon.

"Hi there," he said, nuzzling Ronon's ear while Rodney pulled Teyla down over his mouth.

"Have some physicist," Ronon said, doing some squirming of his own; John knew damn well how sensitive his ears were. It made it a little hard to concentrate, but fortunately, Ronon could be really focused when he needed to be.

Between the two of them, they manhandled Rodney into a position that would have had him yelling about his back if he didn't have Teyla's cunt over his mouth and Ronon's mouth on his dick. Once they had him situated properly, John managed to get under him enough so that he could work his tongue into Rodney's ass. Rodney started and flailed a little, but with Ronon and Teyla holding him down, he couldn't move very far. They'd all discovered pretty early on that rimming was one of the fastest ways to make Rodney come completely undone.

"Do not...ohhhh...make him come," Teyla said, bracing herself on the wall as Rodney worked her over. "I want to...." Her voice trailed off into a low cry as she came and when she moved off his mouth and slumped to the bed, Rodney's groans got a lot louder.

"Fuck...come on guys...I can't...Jesus, John if you...keep that up, I'm gonna...."

When Teyla tapped him on the shoulder, Ronon rolled over and watched as she climbed on top of Rodney, who was already gasping for breath and clawing at the sheets. He groaned as she began riding him and Ronon grinned; they looked good together.

John had extricated himself as well, and after a moment spent watching Rodney and Teyla, Ronon pulled him over and reached for the lube before curling up behind him so they could both watch. Taking his time, he slid his fingers into John, stretching him out slowly until John turned and nipped his shoulder.

"What, you bored?" For an answer, John reached back, grabbed Ronon's dick and pressed it against his own ass. Ronon laughed and shoved in hard.

Rodney grabbed John's hand and then brought his knees up a little, planting his feet on the bed. He pushed up as Teyla moved down, and the room was soon filled with the sounds of skin against skin and heavy breathing.

Teyla came first, gasping sharply as Rodney's fingers moved over her clit. After taking a moment to get her breath back, she began moving again, resting her hands on Rodney's chest as he fucked her hard. "Oh God," he yelped as she pinched one of his nipples. She did it again, and with another sharp cry, he came, still clinging tightly to John's hand.

Taking hold of John's dick, Ronon stroked him roughly, using his other arm to hold John down as he slammed into him. John was cursing under his breath; the only words Ronon could make out were "please" and "fuck." Ronon was happy to oblige.

"Now," he hissed in John's ear. "Give it to me." John's entire body tensed for a second before he came, not quite able to hold back a shout. In contrast, Ronon was silent as he came, any noise muffled as he buried his face in John's hair.

"Well," Rodney said after a long moment. "Um...thank you." He grinned suddenly. "Not that I don't reserve the right to freak out again, mind you. Not if this is what it gets me."

"Rodney," Teyla said, shaking her head a little. "We are perfectly capable of tying you to a chair and making you watch next time."

"That would be pretty hot," John said with a laugh as Rodney pretended to glower at him. The effect was ruined when he yawned.

"Sorry, but I think I'm about to pass out."

"Sounds like a plan," John said.

Ronon managed to get the covers up over them before he fell asleep—though, since John was going to steal them all, he didn't know why he bothered.

The Atlantis grapevine was as efficient as ever, so within a day, long before Carter's announcement, everyone knew. Like Rodney, most of the scientists were ecstatic about finally being able to publish, but expedition members from Russia and China were worried about their families and desperate for any news from home. Carter had had to impose a gag order; while she shared what she could of the news they were receiving, until the US government actually admitted that the news was true, all letters to home were on hold.

Most of the Marines were looking forward to being able to talk about what they'd really been doing—and to claiming bragging rights for having the most exotic tour of duty in history. John spoke privately with a few of the non-American soldiers who were concerned that their countries would recall them, or that the U.S. would force them to leave. Unfortunately, he had to admit that while he'd do whatever he could, that wasn't going to be much, although he did tell the ones who'd been there since the beginning that no matter what, he'd see to it that there was a place for them in Atlantis if they wanted one.

The worst part, though, was re-writing the letters. From the moment he'd assumed command, John had written to the family of every single man he'd lost, even back when he didn't know that he'd ever be able to send them. Now, he felt like he had a responsibility to correct the record, even if it meant having to relive each loss all over again. He set aside a block of time every day to work on the letters; this wasn't something he could delegate to Lorne, and he definitely didn't want to take it home with him.

He saved the ones for Sumner's kids and Ford's grandparents for last.

Rodney had his own letters to write; while Dr. Weir had always been the one to write to the families of the civilian casualties, the scientists were his people and he wanted their families to know that their loved ones had died contributing to one of the greatest scientific endeavors of all time. That didn't make it any easier, and he woke up more than once shaking from nightmares that had nothing to do with being eaten by whales.

He was also working with Carter to set up a timetable for the release of scientific information. "We can't just publish everything at once," he said one night over a late dinner in their quarters. "That's been one of the SGC's biggest concerns from Day One: what do you tell people about first? It's a logistical nightmare."

On top of it all, they had to continue dealing with their allies as if nothing had changed. "The last thing we want to have happen is members of the alliance worrying about whether or not we're going to be recalled," Carter told John in one of their all too-frequent meetings. "You and your team have a personal relationship with them, and believe me, that's one thing I've been stressing over and over again in my reports to the SGC and the IOA."

"How likely is that—us being recalled, I mean?" John asked. "Have you had news?"

"Nothing certain yet," she said. "But there are a lot of people who are questioning the cost-benefit ratio and asking if the money couldn't be used closer to home."

"So what, we'd grab the gate crystal and say, 'Screw you guys; we're going home' to the Pegasus Galaxy?" John snapped. "Do they have any idea what we're doing out here?"

"If you compare a threat so distant from Earth that the numbers don't even make sense to the average politician to the fight against terrorism, or poverty, or hunger...." Carter spread her hands. "We both know that even if we pulled back and went home, the Wraith still know where we are, and that all it would take for them to follow us is a leap in their hyperdrive technology. But the people back home...they've never seen the Wraith, and if we are going to spend billions of dollars on spaceships, they're going to want those ships in orbit around Earth and not several galaxies away."

"I hope you and General O'Neill can convince Congress otherwise," John said.

"It's going to take more than that." Carter paused and looked at him. "Both you and Rodney, and probably some of the other expedition members who have been here since the beginning, will undoubtedly be called before whatever investigatory committee is formed."

"Yeah, Ronon guessed as much." When she looked curious, he explained, "Seems there was some kind of huge Watergate-level scandal back on Sateda when he was a kid, with months of hearings. He figured we'd end up back home facing questions. I guess the question I have is, how soon?"

"Well...." She paused and looked around and even though they were alone in the corridor, she waited until they reached a door to a small balcony. "The president has called a press conference for...actually, it's probably going on right now. He'll be confirming the news and announcing the formation of a joint congressional committee whose job will be to investigate the SGC. Obviously the member nations of the IOA will handle this in their own way, but since so much of our funding comes from the US...."

"This is the investigation that matters." John said. "We—Rodney and I—want Teyla and Ronon to go with us when it's our turn."

Carter gave him a long, speculative look. "I think I understand," she finally said. "I'll see what I can do to get them some kind of legal protection."

"They are the official points of contact between us and the Athosian-Satedan alliance. And yeah, I know that's mostly just an acknowledgment of the facts on the ground, but still: I'm assuming Teal'c is going to get diplomatic status, so Teyla and Ronon should as well."

"Yes, well..." Carter was staring out at the ocean; John braced himself for something he knew neither of them really wanted to discuss. "That's a little different. Teal'c isn't involved with Cam, or Daniel...or me, and he doesn't have any half-Tau'ri children that I'm aware of." When John didn't respond, she glanced over at him and shook her head. "Don't tell me you didn't think it was going to be an issue."

"Of course not—though I admit I was more worried about the whole Article 125 thing. But then President Reyes got DADT repealed, and it's not like anyone can prove I was involved with Rodney or Ronon before February." John sighed. "The truth is that while our little arrangement may be great on the talk shows and in the tabloids, that's way down on the list of things a congressional committee can nail me for."

"But it does make a difference when it comes to diplomatic status for Ronon and Teyla. It won't look good and you know it."

"So, what—we pretend it's not happening and hope no one says anything? Or gee, I don't know, maybe we could point out that one of the big reasons we've been able to hold this alliance together is because we've proved that we're not going to cut and run, that we're willing to stay and fight for this place, and they're a part of that?"

He took a deep breath and tried to unclench his jaw. "Colonel, both Ronon and Teyla are considered the representatives of their people when it comes to the alliance against the Wraith. For that reason alone, they should be afforded the same courtesy as any other ambassador who represents a country on Earth. All I'm asking for is an assurance that you'll do whatever you can. Leaving me and Rodney out of it for a minute, Ronon and Teyla have put their lives on the line more than once to keep Earth safe, and they should have the respect they deserve for that."

Carter looked at him for a long moment. "Colonel," she finally said. "You don't need to convince me; we wouldn't be part of this alliance if I hadn't agreed to it. And of course I feel that both Ronon and Teyla deserve recognition as leaders of their people. But this isn't up to me. In fact, we don't really know who it's up to; you have to understand, there is no precedent here. All our alliances, all our agreements with other races have all been verbal.

"John," she added with a sigh. "I promise that I will do everything I can to see that Ronon and Teyla are accorded the same status Teal'c is. That's the very best I can do."

Man, do I miss Elizabeth right now, John thought. He knew he was being unfair—Elizabeth had been hand-picked by President Haynes and had enough political leverage to override the SGC when she wanted to—but the whole thing was driving him crazy. He hated feeling helpless, and even though he knew that the four—five—of them could disappear into the Pegasus galaxy if worst came to worst, that wasn't his preferred option.

"Thanks, Colonel," he told Carter. "I do appreciate it."

"Of course," she began and then paused, reaching up to activate her headset. "Oh, sorry, McKay. We'll be right there." Turning to John, she smiled ruefully. "You should probably come to this meeting; we've found out who Bradley and Masters got some of their information about Atlantis from."

Rodney was waiting in Carter's office, looking impatient. "Well? We've only made it through the first year of research data, so I hope this can be quick."

Sighing, Carter settled behind her desk. "Rodney, what can you tell me about Dr. Steffen Bader?"

"Who?" Rodney looked at her blankly. "The name sounds vaguely familiar, but do we really have time for guessing games right now?" As Carter continued to look at him, he sighed and tapped at his tablet. "Oh, him. Recruited in 2004 by the SGC and we got him in late 2006. He lasted here...oh, a grand total of three months before we sent him packing after he blew up one of the labs. He was a moron and a crappy chemist as well."

Looking up, he frowned. "Oh, don't tell me...he quit the SGC and sold his story to Portland's answer to Woodward and Bernstein, didn't he?"

"I'm afraid so," Carter said.

"Goddamnit." He glanced over at John. "Go ahead and laugh because it was one of my guys. I know that this is gonna cost me."

"It's not like I need your money," John told him. "How about if you take my diaper duty for the next week?"

"A week?! That's ridiculous! Three days, max!"

"Gentlemen...focus, please?" Carter rubbed her temples. "Rodney, do you remember anything more? Like, how much he saw while he was here, or if he ever went offworld—anything like that?"

"I don't think he would have gone offworld, but...." With a final glare at John, Rodney turned back to his tablet. "No, never went offworld, never met any of our allies other than Ronon and Teyla...that's about all I've got. I can hardly remember the people who actually do halfway decent work around here. Let me talk to Dr. McKenzie; she would have been his direct supervisor." He paused and sighed.

"Um...he was here after we all...." His voice trailed off and he made a sweeping gesture. "Anyway, he's going to have some gossip to share and since he didn't like it here or like any of us, he'll probably be pretty vicious."

"Great," John sighed. "When can we look forward to his story hitting the papers—any idea?"

"Tomorrow, which is why I asked," Carter said. "They're hyping 'an exclusive interview with a former Atlantis Expedition team member'. We only know which one it is because of a call we got from someone in the Department of Homeland Security—a Nancy Morgenstern."

John stared at her for a moment. "Nancy...as in my ex-wife, Nancy?"

"That's what she said in her email to the SGC."

Why would she bother to dig into that—and why try to give me a heads up? John thought, followed quickly by, Fuck, she's going to find out about this...thing we have. So's Dave. Jesus. Rodney was giving him the look that John recognized as his concerned face.

"Thank God Jeannie already knows," Rodney said. "Of course, anyone who wasn't sure at the SGC now knows." He glanced over at Carter.

"I don't think we really need to discuss your family life any further," Carter said, frowning at Rodney. "The only other thing I wanted to tell you both is that I'm leaving the day after tomorrow; I've got meetings with Jack and General Landry and the President, and then, probably by the beginning of next week, I'll be called before the committee.

"I'll meet with you and your team tomorrow," she continued. "Once I'm back home, I'll do my best to work up a time table and give you as much advance warning as I can."

As they walked back to their quarters, Rodney looked over at John. "You ever notice how she says 'back home' and we don't?"

"Yeah." Suddenly, John stopped, grabbed Rodney's wrist and pulled him into a supply closet.

"Is this really necessary at this point?" Rodney demanded. John shook his head.

"Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't bring you in here for a blowjob. Yes, I noticed that about her, and that's what I'm worried about. It's not that I don't trust her...it's just that she wasn't here from the beginning. If Congress decides to pressure the IOA to pull out of Pegasus, Carter's still going to be fine. That's why we need to make sure we have a solid contingency plan in place for when we go back to Earth."

"What, you thought I was joking when I said we could hijack a space ship?"

"Um...yeah, actually. Sorry?"

"Oh ye of little faith." Rodney folded his arms over his chest and glared at John. "Unless they lock us up, in which case it'll take a little longer because we'll have to break out of jail, where else are they going to put us? I'll either end up in Area 51 or under the Mountain and you'll either be in command of a squadron of F-302s, in charge of a gate team, or actually serving on one of our spaceships. Tell me we can't get back here under those circumstances." He paused and his tone softened. "I know I sound flip, but I'm dead serious; I'd be willing to do whatever it takes to get back here."

John wanted to say that stealing the Apollo or the Daedalus might not be as easy as Rodney thought, given that they'd already done something similar and would be watched pretty closely, but then he thought about it, about what Rodney had said. And yes, he'd risk his life and his career to get back here; he'd do, as Rodney put it, whatever it took.

"I hope it doesn't come to that," he said, "but yeah...you're right."

"Well, of course I am," Rodney said. "Although, obviously, I don't want things to get that desperate either. Carter and I will be playing up the scientific benefits, but I'm counting on you...well, to play up the military benefits and dangers."

"You want me to try to terrify the American government?"

"Why not? It'll serve them right; they've been using fear as a tactic for years."

"Rodney...." John really didn't want to have this discussion again.

Rodney waved a hand. "Okay, yeah, sorry, that was a low blow. And anyway, people should be afraid; there's a whole race of things out there that want to eat us. They should have nightmares." He looked down. "I know I do."

"We all do," John said. He should probably say something more; Teyla would if she were here. But Rodney knew John, knew what to expect from him, and so John moved in close, leaned down a little and whispered in his ear. "Now, about that blowjob...."

"Hey there."

Rodney looked surprisingly smug, and Teyla gave him a smile as she looked up at him. "Your meeting with Colonel Carter went well?"

"Not really," he said. "But the blowjob John gave me afterward did wonders for my mood."

"You and John do not have to resort to supply closets any more," she said, shaking her head. Elizabeth whimpered, and Teyla leaned back in her chair and shifted her into a more comfortable position.

"I know, but...." He sighed. "Teyla, now that I can, I'd like to make sure that Elizabeth has Canadian citizenship. Technically, she's had it since she was born, but I want to fill out all the paperwork and get her a proper passport. If that's okay with you."

"Of course it is. What brought this on?"

"John's talking about contingency plans and I think it's a good idea to have something that will enable me to claim custody if...well, if I have to."

"That sounds very practical. Do you think it will be necessary?" While she'd learned over the years not to let Rodney's worries trouble her unduly, when it came to Earth and its laws she was in unfamiliar territory.

"I hope not." He pulled a chair up next to hers and reached out, resting his hand over hers on Elizabeth's back. "Just being paranoid. Is there anything more that needs to be done to make her an official Athosian?"

"She is my daughter and has been recognized as such by my people and her father. That is sufficient." He smiled a little at that and leaned in to kiss her.

"If it were just us, I'd ask you to marry me. But sadly, Canada, for all its many fine liberal policies, doesn't recognize polygamy." He was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry, I'm being...you know, all stupid and male. It's just that John and Ronon, and you for that matter, can protect her in ways I can't."

"And you can protect all of us in ways I barely understand." She reached out and put her hand on the back of his neck, pulling him in until their foreheads touched. "It will be well, Rodney."

Next week, a special joint Congressional committee will begin what are expected to be lengthy hearings on the Stargate Program. We have been as surprised as nearly everyone else to learn that the governments of the US, UK, China, Russia and France have been aware of and in contact with alien races in both this and other galaxies. Given the explosive nature of these revelations, we are pleased that the Reyes administration understands how damaging continued secrecy would be, and we applaud the decision to make the hearings open and broadcast over radio, television, and internet.

It is important to examine the impact that 13 years of space exploration has had on a world deliberately kept in the dark about the Stargate program. But equally as important is the decision about the Stargate program's future. The open question is whether the benefits of the program outweigh its costs. An enormous amount of resources—financial, intellectual, and military—have been devoted to the program throughout the 13 years of its existence, resources that may perhaps be better used elsewhere, here on Earth.

If the committee does recommend scaling back or even ending American participation in the Stargate program, this should not in any way be used to diminish the contributions of the extraordinarily brave men and women who have participated in the program over the years, risking everything, including their lives in many cases, for the sake of advancing scientific knowledge and protecting their planet. Taking a step into the unknown with no guarantee of what will be found on the other side is an act of true heroism, and we honor their service.

excerpt from The New York Times "The Whole World—and Beyond—is Watching" June 1, 2009

The hearings were all anyone paid much attention to on Atlantis; more than once, both Rodney and John had been forced to reprimand their people for being, as Rodney put it: "too damn hung on up on a political soap opera." Even worse, Atlantis had finally gotten a copy of the interview with Doctor Bader, and now the open secret of Team AR-1 was all over the tabloids and gossip websites. John kept telling himself that if this had broken six months ago he'd already be headed back to Earth, but that didn't make him any less annoyed at the sidelong looks from both scientists and soldiers.

"They're probably all wondering who's on top," he growled over breakfast one morning.

"Tell 'em Teyla is," Ronon said without looking up from his plate.


"It'd be true enough," Rodney said, grinning over at Teyla as she tried to look disapproving. "Or you could tell people we have a schedule that I worked up."

"It isn't funny," John said, aware that he sounded a little petulant.

"Fine, if it matters that much," Rodney said, rolling his eyes, "just tell everyone that I'm your bitch." He'd been getting louder and louder while the mess had been getting quieter and now, John realized with a slightly sick feeling in his gut, Rodney's last words were echoing in the silence. Everyone at the mess hall seemed to be trying very hard not to stare at their table.

Oh fuck....

"Oh hey, everyone," Rodney said, standing up. "As you all know by now, our team is living together and having sex when we're not, you know, too tired from being manly and womanly warriors, or genius scientists. If any of you really want to know the details of what we get up to behind closed doors, tough. Learn to live with the suspense because it's none of your goddamn business."

He sat down again and looked at John's plate. "You gonna eat your fruit?"

Carter's time before the Senate committee stretched on and on until John wasn't sure they'd ever get around to calling on either himself or Rodney. "Honestly," Rodney said one night, "They're going to have to pause to hold the 2010 mid-term elections before they get to the end of this."

"Jesus," he added as Carter explained the theoretical work that had been done during the year between the time Jackson and O'Neill had gone through the gate the first time and the appearance of Apophis. "Sam, if you don't mention my name in the next five minutes...."

"Because of course, you don't care about the 'political soap opera', right?" John said, earning a glare from Rodney.

"Do I look like I'm at work?" he snapped.

"Shh—I'm trying to pay attention here," Ronon said, frowning at John and Rodney. Teyla sighed a little, trying not to look as bored as she felt; while she knew that the hearings themselves were important, she found the actual proceedings terribly dull.

"If I recall correctly, the events that Colonel Carter is referencing happened well before the Atlantis expedition, correct?" she asked. "Does this not indicate that it will be some time before either of you are called to testify?"

"From what General O'Neill said in one of his briefings, it looks like they're going to cover the military threats once they get through the whole 'who knew what and when,' part," Rodney said, shifting Elizabeth to his other shoulder. "They'll still probably go in chronological order...." He paused and listened.

"No, sir," Carter was saying on the screen. "We had civilian scientists working on the project as well."

"Including," one of the senators said, "non-US citizens, if I recall correctly."

"'If I recall correctly,'" Rodney imitated with a sneer. "God forbid anyone other than red-blooded Americans should get a peek at something found by Germans in Egypt in 1928."

"Dr. McKay is Canadian, yes, sir," Carter said. "However, he has been working for the US government for his entire adult life. At the time he was brought on to the project, he had a higher security clearance than I did."

"Ha!" Rodney said. "That's because you didn't build a bomb in grade six."

Elizabeth made a fussy noise, and when Rodney patted her back absently, she threw up all over his shoulder.

"I'm on it." John got up and went for towels. He made it as far as the hamper before he started cracking up. "What?" he said when he noticed everyone staring at him. "I just thought her editorial comment was funny." He handed Rodney the towels and picked Elizabeth up, holding her carefully.

Teyla peered at the screen and tried to keep from laughing along with John. "Colonel Carter seems to be fielding their questions quite well," she said diplomatically. Rodney rolled his eyes.

"Because I won't be able to resist the temptation to tell all of these idiots how stupid they are, in excruciating detail, right?"

"Maybe throw in some graphs, or—I know, you could make a Power Point presentation out of it!" John ducked when Rodney went for a pillow; over the past five years, his aim had improved a lot. "Hey, no throwing things! I've got the baby!"

"Look, if you guys aren't really going to watch this, could you take it somewhere else?" Ronon growled.

"Fine, fine," Rodney said, dropping the pillow and settling back on the bed. "But tomorrow night, I want popcorn."

Teyla turned her attention back to her tablet, wishing that girls' poker night had not been suspended for the duration.

"It's been grueling," Carter said in a meeting she called the morning after she finally returned. Even with everything they'd been through, Ronon couldn't remember her looking this tired and drawn.

"I don't know that I've ever experienced such a weird mix of complete boredom and utter nerves like that in my life. Thank God no one can see the gray hair."

"I thought you did pretty well," Keller said with a faint smile. "You didn't sound as grumpy as General O'Neill or as scattered as Dr. Jackson."

"Daniel hasn't been that scattered in years, I think he was just playing with them." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "So, they're going to take a four day weekend and then, John, you and Rodney will be called. There's been a lot of debate about this, but the State Department, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to grant both Teyla and Ronon diplomatic immunity." She glanced at Teyla and then Ronon. "Unfortunately, since your...relationship isn't actually recognized legally, John and Rodney will be traveling under their own passports with no diplomatic immunity."

Rodney had explained diplomatic immunity and Ronon was glad to see that he'd been wrong in his assumption that the US government wouldn't give it to them. "This mean I can carry my knives?"

John snickered and Carter sighed. "Try not to make waves," she said. "It will only make things more complicated and might cause problems for John and Rodney."

Ronon managed not to roll his eyes. Almost two years and Carter still acted like she thought he'd been raised in a barn. "I'm just kidding," he told her. "I know this is important."

"Where are they going to stash us?" John asked. "And everyone knows we're bringing Elizabeth, right?"

"You'll be staying at the Manchester House. It's a fairly small, very discreet hotel in Georgetown that the SGC has used before. It's a pretty nice place, and the staff is used to visitors who need security." She paused. "Are you sure it's a good idea to bring Elizabeth?"

"You're not suggesting we leave her here, are you?" Rodney glared at Carter and Ronon hid a smile; Rodney's crush on Carter was very much a thing of the past. "Without any of her parents? No, we're taking her with us."

"Is the SGC going to be providing security?" Ronon asked.

"Yes," Carter replied. "The NID will be working with the DC police; you'll have round the clock protection."

Ronon glanced at John, who looked as underwhelmed as Ronon felt. Good thing Rodney was finally able to reverse-engineer my gun, he thought. He'd feel naked without it under any circumstances, but the last thing he wanted to do was take his only energy weapon to Earth.

"I'd feel better with some of our guys," John said, "but I guess we'll have to go with what we can get."

"As I understand it," Teyla said, leaning forward, "this diplomatic immunity we have been granted means that your government recognizes us as ambassadors for our people?"

"I'm not actually sure," Carter said, looking a little puzzled. "You'll certainly be considered diplomats, but I think ambassadors have to be credentialed by both their own country and by the country they serve in."

"That's a resident ambassador," Rodney began.

Teyla interrupted him. "As diplomats or ambassadors, it would not be unusual for us to have staff, correct? Perhaps I could bring Visra with me to look after Elizabeth and possibly Neth as a secretary?"

"That's not a bad idea; they're a couple of your best students, aren't they?" Carter grinned. "I like it; it gives you some close, not particularly obvious, protection." She looked around the table. "Did you have any other questions?"

"None I can think of," John said, and everyone else shook their heads.

The next couple of days passed in a blur of packing, paperwork, last minute instructions to Lorne and Zelenka, and very little sleep. The SGC had somewhat grudgingly given permission for both Visra and Neth to travel with them, and Rodney found it odd to think that they—or rather Teyla— had personal staff.

Both Athosians seemed to be trying to take their cues from Teyla, but where she seemed serene and confident, they seemed quiet and a little stiff. Rodney knew both of them a little; Visra had often looked after Elizabeth during meetings on New Athos-Sateda, and Neth was one of the Athosians who had been trained to used a computer. Having seen them train with Teyla, Ronon and John, he decided that they were good enough to look after both Elizabeth and himself.

Finally, bags packed, last minute threats and warnings delivered, they were all ready to go.

"Now make sure you keep an eye on the...."

"Enough, Rodney," Zelenka said. "I will make sure the department does not blow up the city if you promise to make us all look good in front of committee."

"Only the ones who deserve it," Rodney muttered. He fell silent as Carter came down the stairs to see them off.

"Any further instructions, Colonel?" John asked, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Aside from the lack of his tac vest, he looked like they were just setting off on a normal mission instead of heading back to Earth to justify and account for the last four-and-a-half years of their lives.

"You're good to go, Colonel." Carter replied.

"Leave the light on," John said. "We'll be back before you know it." He took a deep breath and then turned and walked through the gate. As Rodney followed him, he was struck by the memory of following John through the Earth gate all those years ago, the same backpack over his shoulder.

Good thing I had no idea what I was getting into, he thought. I'd have stayed behind on Earth and missed...well, everything. Taking a deep breath, he stepped through the gate.

Arriving on the other side was somewhat anticlimactic, although Rodney was a little surprised to see Agent Barrett waiting for them along with the usual complement of heavily-armed Marines.

"Unless you have an objection, Colonel Sheppard, I'll be heading up your security detail," Barrett said as they headed toward the elevators. "We've put you up in a local hotel tonight." He glanced at their party. "You'll have the day free tomorrow, if you want to do some shopping, and then we'll be flying you to Washington in the evening."

"I would not object to purchasing clothing that will be more typical for women on your world," Teyla said. "And of course Visra and Neth will need Earth clothing as well."

Barrett smiled a little ruefully. "While that's a good idea, I should warn you that you're not going to be able to blend in—none of you are," he told them. "Your pictures have been all over the papers and on every TV news show...even more than SG-1, you guys are celebrities."

Rodney scowled and John punched his shoulder lightly. "Cheer up, Rodney. You always wanted to be famous, didn't you?"

"For my work!" Rodney snapped. "Which reminds me—do we have a definitive answer yet on whether my sister will have to testify as well?"

Barrett shook his head. "No. It really depends on how much scientific detail will be necessary. At the moment, the one they're really anxious to hear from is you, Colonel Sheppard."

"Yeah, that's just because I'm the good-looking one," John said. Rodney wasn't fooled by his casual demeanor and he kind of doubted anyone else was either.

Early the next morning, Teyla, Ronon, and Neth headed out to the mall. Rodney accompanied them, since John had successfully argued that he'd already been clothes shopping with Teyla, and even if it had been a dream courtesy of the mist aliens, it still counted, and he was not ready to go through that again, thank you.

Now that he thought about it, though, the shopping trip might have been easier than the phone calls he had to make. Taking a deep breath, he flipped the cell Barrett had given him open and dialed Dave's number. He got Dave's secretary, but the speed at which he was put through surprised him.

"John. I was expecting to hear from you."

"Yeah...sorry I didn't call sooner, but we just got in last night," John told him. It was almost surreal how normal it sounded; John could have been living abroad with his wife and kids, not coming from light years away with his three lovers and their daughter. "I...fuck, Dave—I don't know what to say. This isn't how I wanted you to find out."

"I kind of get the impression that no one wanted anything found out," Dave said.

"Well, yeah. God, the markets must be going crazy, huh?" John hadn't actually thought about it before.

"You could say that, what with trading being suspended for 48 hours after the President's official announcement. And then there's the fact that your...other civilian contractor might well be able to turn the entire utilities industry on its ear, so it's not just the markets here, but the family business as well."

"If I were you, I'd start making contingency plans for that now," John said, keeping his voice level. "The thing about Rodney is that he really is as smart as he thinks he is, and eventually, he will figure out how to make a ZPM.

"And for the record, I was telling the truth. About Ronon. Officially, he's on the books and getting paid as a civilian contractor to the SGC, on assignment in the Pegasus Galaxy." He just managed to bite back a "so there", wishing that Dave wasn't so good at bringing out his inner eight-year-old.

"Yes, I know; I do read the papers, you know. Of course, I've been following this whole thing since it broke." Dave paused and when he spoke again, his voice was clipped. "Jesus, John...what the hell are you doing out there, with your harem and your whole cult of personality thing?" John could just imagine Dave making finger quotes.

"Oh, for—you've been running the business for how long and you can't recognize a disgruntled employee when you hear one?" John took a deep breath. "Look, Dave—I never meant for any of this to happen, okay? It's not like I planned it all."

"You never meant...? You know, Dad always said you could fall into shit and come up smelling like roses; I guess he was right." Before John could say anything, Dave took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry. It's been crazy since the news broke and knowing you were in the middle of it...I haven't been sure what to think."

"Yeah." John sighed. "Even if I were better at this kind of thing, I couldn't explain it, you know. Being on a gate team isn't like anything else in the world—this world, anyway. You can't...I can't go through the gate without having someone at my back that I'd trust with my life. I guess I just got lucky, because I found three. Someones, I mean."

Dave didn't say anything for a long moment. "I guess. It sounds...complicated."

"It's hard to explain," John admitted. "But the thing is...it works for us."

"Plus it has the added benefit of shocking the family," Dave said dryly. "But...if it works for you, then...well, that's good."

"I..." John bit his lower lip. Dave was trying, and he had to give him credit for that. "Thanks. I mean it."

There was another awkward pause broken by John asking, "So, listen—we're heading out to DC later today, and I expect we'll be there for a while. If you have some time, maybe we can get together or something?"

"Of course," Dave said. "The very least we can do is get together for dinner. Also, before you go; have you—you and McKay, I mean—got a lawyer?"

"Um...yeah, the SGC's providing legal counsel if we need it."

"Oh, for God's sake, John, even you know better than that. I know you won't let me have someone from the company represent you, but I'll have Erica draw up a list of names for you. Please, hire one of them; you haven't got any political savvy at all and you hardly know anyone inside the Beltway. You're going to need someone."

"I guess. It's not like this is a trial, or even a court-martial, but still, it might be a good idea to have a lawyer," John said. I just want to get this over with so we can stop dicking around here and go back to doing our jobs. "Thanks."

"Sure." Dave paused and then sighed. "All right then, I'll be in touch. And John? Take care of yourself, okay?"

"I will—and you, too. Talk to you soon." John turned off the phone and flopped down on the bed, taking several long, deep breaths before making his next call.

"Hi...Nancy? It's John."

"It's good to hear from you," she said. "I figured you'd call. How are you holding up?"

"A little overwhelmed, but okay, I guess...listen, I wanted to thank you for emailing with the heads-up about that article—I appreciate it."

"I wish I could have done more. It's pretty ironic, really; when we realized those reporters were digging into military appropriations and we didn't know where the money was going, I was asked to look into it." Nancy sighed. "It's a little embarrassing how far ahead of me they were."

"Yeah," John admitted, "I was kind of surprised; I'd have thought the SGC would have been better at covering their tracks. But hey—now you know what was going on last year."

"Yes, and I'm still surprised you had to come to me for information." She took a deep breath. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure." John winced and braced himself.

"How on Earth are you managing a relationship with three other people?"

John exhaled slowly. "I suppose I deserved that. Honestly? I don't know how or why it's working, except that when you spend almost every waking moment with the same group of people, it's not too surprising when it becomes...something."

"If you say so." She sounded a little skeptical, but John figured he had that coming too. "I figured as much when I met Mr. Dex, at least. He seemed a little more your type."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" John narrowed his eyes and wished he could just hit the off button and end this conversation.

"Just that I'd always wondered if you liked guys more." Before John could figure out what to say, she continued. "And I'm sorry, that was low, and you don't need me being a bitch on top of everything else."

"Yeah, well...you weren't the only one who thought that," John said, sighing as he remembered more than one argument with his father. "Look...I'm sorry. I mean, that wasn't all of it, but maybe it was a little."

"Well...it's all in the past, and like I said, we don't need to do this now." She paused and then laughed a little. "Really, I guess, in a weird way, I should be thanking you or something. This whole thing has led to a new job. I never thought I'd be working for an something called Homeworld Security. There's talk that it might become an international agency."

"Really? That's great!" John carefully didn't ask how Grant felt about that. "I'd say I'd take you out to dinner if you ever come to Atlantis, but at the moment, the fine dining options are somewhat limited."

"No reason to wait," she said. "We should get together while you're here. In spite of my...well, I'd like to meet your family."

"Oh! Um, yeah, definitely." Oddly enough, he was pretty sure that she and Teyla would get along like gangbusters, which was kind of terrifying. What the hell did I just let myself in for?

"God knows we're probably going to be in Washington for a while," he added.

"Oh, I would count on that," she said with a chuckle. "And be prepared; you're a media sensation these days."

"Yeah, so I hear." He paused, then added, "Listen, you may not have heard this, but I should probably tell you...we have a baby. I mean, Teyla actually had her, and Rodney's the biological father, but we all think of her as ours."

"You...a baby? Did you change your mind about children, too?"

"Actually, she was kind of an accident. But—well, I have to admit that she's pretty cool. She's really not that fussy, and watching Rodney with her is hilarious."

"Wow, you really are into the whole parent thing; you sound like a doting dad."

"Yeah, well," John replied with a slight grin. "I guess I am. Like I said...she's pretty special.

"The media's going to love that, too; you guys with a kid. The next few months are going to be interesting for you."

John chuckled. "Where 'interesting' equals 'completely nuts', right? Listen, I should let you get back to work, but I'll be in touch, okay?"

"Okay. Talk to you later."

John hung up, dropped the phone on the nightstand and grabbed the TV remote. There has to be something on—baseball, basketball, hockey—I'll even watch bowling. I deserve it.

The TV was still on two hours later when he was awakened by a combination of the door opening, Elizabeth crying, and Rodney and Ronon talking over each other with the occasional interjection from Teyla.

"Rodney, you are exaggerating. It was...somewhat overwhelming, I admit—"

"It was a disaster! Three security guards at Nordstrom's had to escort us out! We got mobbed!"

John sat up and ran a hand through his hair. "What—you got attacked by hordes of crazed physics groupies?"

"Oh, very funny." Rodney set down the four bags he was carrying just so he could fold his arms and glare at John. "You got to stay here, nice and safe from the media circus—"

"It was quite different from my experience with the mist creatures," Teyla said. She actually looked a little rumpled as she took Elizabeth from Visra.

"Would have been better if you would have let me take point," Ronon said, winking at John. "We'd have gotten out of there faster."

"Faster?" Rodney glared at him. "We'd have been fucking locked up! Next time we need to shop, we're going to...oh, I don't know...where the hell do famous rich people shop?"

"Why are you all looking at me?" John asked. "We were just rich, not famous."

"My mother had a seamstress she patronized," Ronon said. "She came to the house and then delivered the clothing after she'd sewn it all up in her shop."

"Not hel-ping," Rodney said in a sing-songy voice. "I wasn't even able to buy a decent suit! I only have the one blue one because you know the stuff I've got in storage isn't going to fit me." He paused and actually looked a little smug.

"We were only able to buy a few things before Ronon was recognized," Teyla said, settling down on the bed next to John. "It was a very strange morning."

"Okay, okay, I'll tell you what," John said. "I'll call my sister-in-law and see if she can suggest some places in DC. There have to be stores where the staff are used to dealing with people who are in the news."

"John," Rodney said, and he was serious this time. "We're not just 'in the news.' This is movie star, rock star stuff. We're not going to be able to run out in the middle of the night to grab a burger or go down to the drug store because we ran out of toothpaste."

"Nancy warned me but I didn't think it would be...you got mobbed in a Nordstrom's?" John shook his head. "Why us?"

"Are you serious?" When John nodded, Rodney continued. "Well, let's see: first of all, we're out there in space fighting a 'good war' against aliens who want to eat everyone on Earth; we have this whole ménage à quatre thing going on which makes us kinky and exotic; three of us are ridiculously, insanely attractive; and, oh yeah, Ronon and Teyla aren't from Earth!" He sighed. "Can we go home now?"

"Not to mention that one of us is the smartest man in two galaxies," Ronon said. "Says so in here." He held up a copy of People.

"Where did you get that rag?" Rodney paused. John waited and, as he'd expected, Rodney grabbed for the magazine. "Can I see it?

"Oh, of course," Rodney said scathingly as he flipped through the magazine. "Nice to see that they're concentrating on the important things. Did you know that there're rumors that Brad and Angelina might be getting a divorce?"

"You know," John said, ignoring Rodney. "The SGC must have someone doing some PR here."

"Of course they do," Rodney said. "We make them look good. In fact...." He tossed the magazine aside. "I wonder how we're polling?"

"Polling?" Teyla looked curious.

"Surveys," Rodney explained. "A group of people are asked how they feel on a subject and then, based on those numbers, you can extrapolate what the rest of the population feels about the subject. It's hardly an exact science, of course, but the point is, if people like us, if we're popular, we can use that to get the program continued."

"I still find it hard to believe we will have to do anything to get the program continued," Teyla said. "The threat of the Wraith alone should be enough."

"You would think, but no." Rodney shook his head. "Since no one on Earth has seen a Wraith or the aftereffects of a culling, they're never going to think about the Wraith the way you do, the way we've learned to. And so we need to do what we can, and we can't just go in and try to scare people; we have to be more subtle than that."

John blinked. "I wouldn't have thought you knew that much about politics."

"Are you kidding? I've been working for the US government my whole life. What I don't know about funding battles isn't worth knowing." He looked around. "Is anyone else hungry?"

Food, as it so often did, seemed to help everyone's mood. Rodney had to smile as he pushed his plate aside; for all that they teased him about his eating habits, he tended to be the one who reminded his family to eat on a regular basis. And I was right this time, too.

Both Teyla and Ronon had relaxed once they'd finished, but John still looked a little tight around the eyes, and Rodney realized it was going to take more than food to get him in a better mood. Luckily, Rodney had planned for that contingency as well.

As Ronon stacked all their dishes back on the cart, Rodney settled next to John on the bed. "Hey," he said, reaching up to rest a hand on John's shoulder.

John smiled a little. "What, is it my turn now?"

"Are you complaining?" Ronon asked. He moved behind John, reached down and grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and kissed him hard.

Rodney grinned and slid his hand up inside John's shirt, flicking his fingers across one of John's nipples. "Keep kissing him like that and he won't have the breath to complain."

Ronon chuckled against John's lips and kissed him deeper as Rodney kept busy under John's shirt.

John closed his eyes and moaned into Ronon's mouth, squirming a little as Rodney pinched and tweaked his nipples and tugged on his chest hair. He almost jumped when Teyla whispered in his ear, "Keep your eyes open, John," before settling in a chair to watch her men.

"C'mon," Rodney said when Ronon finally pulled back. "Let's give the lady a nice show." For all that John was somewhat body shy in public, they'd learned that, in private, he was a bit of an exhibitionist.

Rodney pulled John's shirt off and then moved to kneel behind John on the bed, bending to nip and kiss John's shoulder. "How about I fuck him and he sucks you off?" he asked Ronon. "You okay with that?"

"What, is that a trick question?" Ronon said, laughing.

"Um...do I get a say in this?" John asked.

"Like you want one," Rodney said, his hands busy with John's fly. "Once we get you naked, you'll need to back up some. Ronon, all you have to do is stand there."

Ronon took off his shirt and stretched. "No problem." He glanced over at Teyla. "You okay over there?"

"I am quite fine," she assured him.

Rodney paused, his shirt still around one arm. "Oh, hey, while we're here, we need to order some sex toys." He grinned at Teyla. "Get you a decent vibrator or two."

"I have to admit that I am curious after talking with...."

"Don't finish that sentence," John said. "I really, really don't want to know who you've been talking to about vibrators."

"I was going to say, 'Rodney', John," Teyla said reprovingly.

"Would you like me to make him stop talking now?" Ronon asked, leering at John.

"Yeah, keep him busy while I get the lube," Rodney said, moving to the other side of the bed.

Ronon nodded, put a hand on his cock and pressed the head against John's mouth. "Open up."

John didn't hesitate, immediately taking Ronon in as deep as he could. Rodney shook his head. Sometimes it still surprised him how good John was at this. Jokes about practice aside, there was also the fact that John just loved sucking cock, particularly when someone was watching him.

"Pervert," he muttered affectionately as he opened the lube. Giving John a light smack on the hip, he added, "spread your legs a little more." Once he had John situated the way he wanted him, Rodney slicked up a couple of fingers and started teasing John with them.

"Fuck..." Ronon grabbed John's hair again, and held his head still while he fucked his mouth. "You know, if we really want to influence the right people into funding the program, this'd be the way to do it."

John moaned around Ronon's cock and tried to push back on Rodney's fingers. "Never mind that," Rodney said. "We could skip the middle man and just sell him out. We'd make a fucking mint and you'd love it, wouldn't you, John?" He pressed two fingers into John hard.

With his mouth very much occupied, all John could do was nod and whimper a little. An echoing moan from across the room made Rodney look up and spend a moment admiring the view of Teyla with one leg over the arm of her chair and a hand between her thighs. She smiled at him and he had a split second to wonder how the hell he'd gotten this lucky before John was moaning again and shoving back against his hand and generally being incredibly pushy for a bottom.

Pausing, Rodney slicked up his cock before grabbing John's hips and pushing in hard. "Go on," he said, reaching around to pinch one of John's nipples. "Go on and take it."

"And pay attention up here, too," Ronon reminded him, though it was hardly necessary, given the enthusiastic way John was still sucking on Ronon's cock. Rodney was treated to the sight of Ronon's eyes rolling halfway back in his head as John left off sucking just long enough to give Ronon's balls a lick.

The moment John had his mouth back on Ronon's cock, Rodney started up, fucking him with steady, hard strokes, just the way they both liked it. "So fucking hot...you love this, don't you? Love a dick up your ass and one down your throat. Love me talking to you like this while Teyla watches you take it, take us."

John moaned again, and there was a pleading note to it now; Rodney knew what he wanted and wasn't about to give it to him just yet. He glanced over at Teyla in time to catch her panting her way through an orgasm, and then turned his attention back to John. "Make him come and then I'll touch you."

Ronon pulled John's head up again, looking directly into his eyes. "Such a slut," he said, his voice just a little hoarse. In response, John swallowed Ronon's cock down to the base without gagging. Ronon came so hard he actually stumbled slightly, though he held on to John's hair.

"God," Rodney groaned as he watched Ronon come. "You so are...."

"Rodney...please," John panted when he'd finished swallowing. "C'mon...you promised...."

"Sit back," Rodney said, wrapping an arm around John's chest and pulling him back, until they were both sitting up, John straddling Rodney's lap. "I'm gonna make you come...make you come while they watch."

Ronon had settled down on the floor, leaning against Teyla's chair while she lazily touched herself.

"Keep your eyes open," Rodney said as he reached around and began stroking John's cock slowly. He thrust up into John, biting at his shoulder as he tried to keep from coming before John did.

"Fuck! Please, Rodney...oh God, don't stop, please, fuck me Rodney..." John clenched his hands in the sheets, moaning as Rodney bit his other shoulder a little harder than he normally would, since the only threats they'd be facing tomorrow would be rude hotel clerks and obnoxious paparazzi.

"Yeah, that's it...fucking come for me, John."

John went tense all over and then came with a hoarse groan. Gritting his teeth, mouth against John's skin, Rodney shoved up into him two more times and then came, arms tight around John.

"Jesus," he muttered when he could speak again. "Goddamn, you're fucking good."

"I think that may be something of an understatement," Teyla said. She kissed the top of Ronon's head before climbing into bed and kissing John and Rodney both. "I do so enjoy watching the three of you."

Ronon stood up and stretched again, grinning as he caught all of them giving him appreciative looks. He joined them on the bed, although there was barely enough room. Rodney didn't protest; Ronon gave great post-sex cuddle.

"You know," John murmured as he relaxed against Rodney. "Never mind shopping me out. If we need more money, we could just get Rodney a gig directing pornos."

"Nah," Rodney said. "Porn stars couldn't possibly hold my interest. Not like you guys."

"You big softy," John said and Teyla laughed a little.

"Shut up." Rodney nipped at the bruise he'd left on John's shoulder. "Pervert."

"Pot. Kettle," Ronon muttered.

"We love you, too, Rodney," Teyla said.

And really, there was nothing more Rodney could say to that, so he tightened his arms around John, leaned back against Ronon, and let himself drift.

Dean Kinney was shocked to see his old friend John Sheppard on the front page of his morning paper last month, and even more surprised to read the caption below Sheppard's photo: "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, USAF - Military Commander, Atlantis Expedition".

"I couldn't believe it at first, but then I thought about the last time I saw John, at his father's wake," Kinney says. "He looked the same as he had the last time I saw him, when he was 20, but there was something about him that seemed different, like even there, he was on the outside looking in. After all this stuff came out...well, it made a whole lot more sense then."

Kinney didn't get a chance to talk to him, because shortly after he arrived, accompanied by teammate Ronon Dex, Colonel Sheppard left, presumably to tend to an emergency 3.5 million light years away.

"That wasn't unusual," says Angela Byers, who sometimes socialized with Sheppard and his former wife, Nancy Morgenstern. "We'd always make plans to get together with John and Nancy, and end up with Nancy calling to cancel, or coming over alone and explaining that John had been called away for work. He was military, so we knew that happened sometimes, but since John never, ever talked about what he did, we figured it was something really classified and dangerous.

"He was a nice guy, and everyone liked him," she adds, "but you never felt like you really knew him—and that he preferred it that way."

excerpt from the Washington Post Magazine cover article, "Mystery Man," June 09, 2009

"Oh. My. God," Rodney said, staring at John. "How the hell am I supposed to keep from groping you on network television if you're going to be dressed like that the whole time?"

"You look very handsome, both of you," Teyla said.

"Yeah, you clean up pretty good, McKay," Ronon said, staring in the mirror and yanking at his tie again. "This is stupid." He took the tie off and tossed it on the bed.

And of course, he could get away with that—not just because he wasn't from Earth, but John suspected that if Ronon did eventually have to go up in front of the committee, hardly anyone would care what he was wearing. On the other hand, thanks to regulations, John couldn't so much as unbutton his jacket.

Sighing, he put his hat on. At least I don't have to worry about it messing up my hair. "Okay, gang—let's do this thing."

"You two remember how to use the cell phone, right?"

"Rodney," Teyla said patiently. "Both you and I have shown Visra and Neth how to operate a cell phone; I am sure they will remember."

"Sorry..." Rodney began.

"It is all right, Dr. McKay," Neth said. John had to wonder if he was genuinely sincere or just trying to make Rodney feel better; Neth had a fairly impressive poker face. "We will take good care of Elizabeth."

"Thank you." Rodney bent down to kiss Elizabeth's forehead. "Try not to barf on them too much, okay, Sweetheart?"


"Jesus," John said as he stepped out into the hall. "I can't take you people anywhere."

"Morning," Agent Barrett said, joining them at the elevator. "We'll want to take this one."

The elevator took them right down to the service levels, and John was surprised when none of the kitchen staff so much as looked up as the five of them wandered through. "Are there actually people out front?" he asked as they climbed into a large black SUV with darkened windows.

"Just press today," Barrett said. "You probably won't get the groupies and protesters until tomorrow or Wednesday."

"Protesters?" Ronon asked, frowning. "Are they protesting us specifically, or just the program as a whole?"

"Little of both," Barrett said. "The latest polls show that over sixty percent of people in the U.S. favor ending or suspending the program. You guys are one of the more visible symbols of that program, so...." He shrugged.

"That would be because over ninety percent of people in the U.S. are mostly or entirely morons," Rodney muttered.

"Just try not to say that when the microphones are on, okay, Rodney?" John said.

Rodney shot John a look. "Only eighty-nine percent of Canadians are morons," he said, "and I'm not one of them. I'm going to be brilliant in front of the microphone and you...just flirt with the cameras and we'll be okay."

Ronon snickered and John, remembering the night before, fought to hide a blush. From the front seat of the car, Barrett glanced back at them, his expression just a little pained.

Barrett was right; there didn't seem to be any crowds outside the hotel, and as they turned onto Constitution Avenue, John realized why: they were all in front of the Capitol Building. He caught a glimpse of someone waving a sign that said, "Earth Money for Earth People" before they drove down the ramp to the underground parking garage.

They were met by a contingent of Secret Service agents, who joined their NID security detail; John was starting to feel like the Grand Marshal at a particularly bizarre parade. He was surprised when all four of them made it through the security checkpoint, thought John would have bet money that Ronon had at least one non-metal knife tucked in his hair.

Once they'd been issued visitors' passes, they paused as one of the agents explained that she was there to escort Ronon and Teyla to the gallery. Although John had been the one to warn everyone against public displays of affection, he found himself leaning in and touching foreheads with Teyla while cameras flashed around them. Rodney followed suit and Ronon shook hands with both of them.

As the door to the waiting room closed behind them, Rodney leaned in and murmured: "The next polls should be forty-two percent in our favor."

Before John could answer, a tall, neatly dressed man joined them. "Colonel Sheppard? Doctor McKay? I'm Josh Levinson; I've been assigned as your counsel by the SGC—unless you prefer someone else, of course."

"We came through the gate yesterday morning," John said, after shaking the lawyer's hand. "At this point, we're lucky someone else made our hotel reservations or we'd be at the local Motel 6." He paused, remembering Dave's offer.

Who's to say this guy isn't connected? I can't imagine the SGC would give us some guy fresh out of law school. And it's not like we're actually on trial.

"I'm sure we'll be in good hands with you," he said.

Rodney shot him a glance, and John knew that shortly after they got back to the hotel, Rodney would know everything there was to know about Levinson.

"I'll be wanting to take the secular oath in there," Rodney said.

"I've already requested that the clerk be prepared to deliver it," Levinson said, and Rodney smiled.

"Okay, you'll do."

"You sure that won't cost us some points?" John asked and Rodney rolled his eyes.

Before he got a chance to reply, Levinson looked at his watch. "We have about five minutes before you're due to go in, and I'd like to go over a few things."

"Go ahead," John said.

"The most important thing to remember is that neither of you are on trial, although it will feel like it once you're in there. As I'm sure Colonel Carter informed you, the SGC is attempting to be cooperative; if you truly feel that you need to refuse a question on grounds of national or planetary security, we'll ask to defer the question so that you can consult Homeworld Security."

"Right," Rodney said. "Sam mentioned that."

"Dr. McKay," Levinson began and then paused. "Please remember that, while not rocket scientists, the committee is made up of elected...."

"We went over this earlier," John said. "Rodney promised not to call anyone a moron while the microphone was on."

"Actually, I never promised...."


"Okay, fine, Just kick me under the table the way you usually do in meetings with the Genii and we'll be good."

"Obviously this is some new definition of 'good' I was previously unaware of," John deadpanned. It was probably unprofessional of them to do this here, but they hadn't gotten where they were by being all that professional, and besides, the familiar banter was far more settling than anything else he'd tried this morning.

A clerk stuck her head in the in the door; and Levinson nodded to her and then looked at them. "If you gentlemen are ready?"

"Okay," John said, taking a deep breath. "Let's go."

Growing up a Sheppard in Virginia meant that John had visited the Capitol more than once. He'd even been on the House floor before, back when everyone thought that he would be the next CEO of Sheppard Utilities and Dave would be the first Sheppard to go into politics.

Now, the room that had seemed huge and overwhelming to an eight-year-old and a ten-year-old seemed...well, huge and overwhelming. It had been a long time since John had been in a room with this many people packed into it, and for just a moment, it was a little too much. But they were just humans, and he'd faced down Wraith and Replicators and Genii and Rodney McKay before his first cup of coffee. He could do this.

As they settled down in their chairs, Rodney looked at the nine men and women that made up the Joint House/Senate Select Committee to Investigate the Stargate Program, put his hand over the microphone and leaned over. "My second dissertation committee was a lot scarier and they all hated me passionately. This is gonna be a cakewalk."

John knew that Rodney was trying to make him feel better, and he appreciated the effort. It was even working a bit. Sure, Rodney didn't look as confident as he sounded, but even that was familiar, and John couldn't help smiling at him.

Then Senator Billings was banging the gavel and before John knew it, he was standing with his right hand raised, promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God. A moment later, Rodney was saying the same thing, only without the God part, and then, once everyone was settled back into their chairs, Billings adjusted his microphone, leaned forward, and spoke.

"Colonel Sheppard, if you would, please tell the committee when and how you first became aware of the Stargate Program."

All four of them were mostly silent during the ride back to the hotel. As they went up to their rooms, Teyla exchanged worried glances with Ronon. She had expected John and Rodney to be tired, but they seemed so subdued that she couldn't help being somewhat concerned.

"Can we order a couple of pizzas?" Rodney asked. "I'd really rather not have to go out again tonight."

John was already mostly out of his uniform. "Sounds like a plan," he said. "I'm not really all that hungry, so you guys—and Neth and Visra—should get whatever you want."

Rodney paused, his tie half-undone, put his hands on his hips and glared at John. "Oh, no, you are not going to start with the martyr act. We're only a day in; at least wait until we have to talk about Michael before you go into emo mode, please?"

"Rodney," Teyla began before abruptly changing her mind. The questioning had been pointed but not hostile today, but that would almost certainly change when the committee asked about Colonel Sumner's death and how John inadvertently woke the Wraith. They could not allow John to sink into depression, and Rodney's badgering was a good way to ensure that didn't happen.

"What? Look, I get that this sucks; do any of you think it's going to be fun talking about blowing up most of a solar system out of sheer arrogance? But if we get stupid about it; if we let it, say, interfere with our eating until one of us collapses out of sheer hunger and one of us puts on twenty pounds, we're fucked."

Teyla smiled to herself as Rodney moved over to John. "Stop acting like you're all alone, okay? You have us, all of us, and we're not going to let you distance yourself." He slid his arms around John's waist, and Teyla wondered if Rodney knew how much he'd changed over the last couple of years.

"Here's what we're going to do," Rodney continued. "We'll order a couple of pizzas, get some beer and find a nice baseball game. You can explain the game to everyone and the infield fly rule to me and then, if you're lucky, one of us will blow you while you watch ESPN's sports wrap-up."

"That sounds like an excellent idea," Teyla said.

"Pizza, beer and blowjobs," Ronon said, nodding. "No wonder people say you're a genius."

"I do have my moments," Rodney began. Whatever else he was going to say was cut off as John kissed him.

"Thanks," John murmured so quietly Teyla could barely hear him.

She was somewhat surprised to discover, a little later on, that she actually enjoyed baseball— even if it was somewhat more confusing than football.

"...And you did not attempt to contact Atlantis or Doctor Weir prior to bringing over eighty aliens to Atlantis?" Even from his seat in the gallery, Ronon could tell that the senator—MacArthur, Ronon thought his name was—was smirking at John like he'd just caught him out.

"With all due respect, Senator," John said, in a tone that Ronon and probably everyone else recognized as anything but respectful, "how was I going to do that? At the time, we had no way to contact Atlantis from the other side of the gate, and vice versa. I had no idea that the city's shields were on the verge of imminent collapse. What I did know was that the military commander of the expedition had just been captured by hostile forces who were unknown to us—but not to the people of Athos."

Good job,Ronon thought. Focus on the strategic aspects.

As far as he'd been able to tell, the committee was split three ways: four against the program, two in favor, and three neutral. Of the members opposed, two of them appeared to be actively hostile toward John and Rodney. John seemed to be getting the worst of it, which might have surprised Ronon if he hadn't suspected that John was being positioned to be a public scapegoat if one became necessary.

Rodney's more of a pain in the ass—and not one of these people—but he's also more important to Atlantis than John is. If they need someone to take the fall, the SGC won't have a problem giving them John.

"Now, Colonel Sheppard...if you would, I'd like to ask you to recount exactly what happened when you found Colonel Sumner in the hands of the Wraith?"

John still sometimes woke from nightmares where he'd missed the shot, or had hesitated for a second too long. He still had Sumner's dog tags, hanging in their shared quarters now instead of his room. Ronon and Teyla looked at each other, worried, and leaned forward to watch as John answered.

When he finally spoke, his voice was flat and completely affectless, as though he were describing something that had happened to someone else: "I heard someone scream, and I followed the sound to a large room where I observed Colonel Sumner on his knees in front of an individual whose back was to me. The individual—whom I later learned was the Wraith Keeper—had her hand planted in the center of Colonel Sumner's chest." John hesitated for a moment, before adding, "I was able to recognize Colonel Sumner primarily by his uniform. At that point, he appeared to be roughly eighty years old."

Ronon was gratified to see that the senator looked disturbed. He damn well should be. "Please continue, Colonel."

"I fired at the Wraith. She looked around but was unable to spot me, and turned her attention back to Colonel Sumner. As I watched, I could see the bullet wounds in her body beginning to heal themselves.

"By this time, Colonel Sumner had seen me. He looked at me—and I should note here that he appeared to have aged another ten to fifteen years since I'd first arrived—and he nodded." John took a deep breath. "I then shifted my aim from the Wraith's head to her hand, where it was still on Colonel Sumner's chest, and fired. The shot penetrated the Wraith's hand and entered Colonel Sumner's heart, killing him."

The chamber was completely silent for a long moment, all eyes focused on John. And then, breaking the moment, Rodney leaned forward, passing a piece of paper to Levinson, who was sitting on the other side of John. Ronon was sure that whatever was on the paper was somehow relevant, but he also noticed Rodney's arm pressing against John's.

Levinson read the paper and then covered the microphone while the three of them consulted. John nodded shortly before Levinson spoke.

"At this point in time, we would like to submit medical testimony from the late Doctor Carson Beckett and Doctor Carolyn Lam, as well as personal testimony from Colonel Dylan Everett, regarding the effects of the Wraith feeding process."

"Nicely done," Ronon murmured to Teyla. "They'll have to take a break to look at the summaries of the testimony and decide if they need to review it in more detail. You can bet the summaries have at least one or two pictures, too. That'll make them think a little."

"You are probably right," she replied. "You have been very helpful; this kind of governing is beyond me."

Ronon ducked his head. "Eh. For a while, I thought that after my military service was done, I'd go back to school and study law. My mom loved the idea—she wanted me to go into politics."

As the committee chair called for a short break, Teyla smiled at Ronon. "I believe you would have been very good at it."

By the time the committee broke for the weekend, Rodney was exhausted. "I think I'd rather face another Wraith siege," he said Friday afternoon as he yanked off his tie.

"Would you like to curl up with the biggest sandwich you can find?" Teyla asked, giving him a private little smile.

"Speaking of food," John said as Rodney pulled Teyla down onto the bed with him. "Got a message from Dave; he and Natalie want to get together for dinner tomorrow. Their place or a restaurant."

"I suppose we should." Rodney sighed, nosing at Teyla's neck as she laughed. "Which would be less agonizing for you?"

"Not going," John said, glaring at him. "Why should we? I can sure as hell make excuses."

"John, I love you dearly," Rodney said, "but really, there are times when it's a good thing you're an excellent pilot and soldier. Ronon, you want to explain to John why we need the good will of one of the richest men in the United States who just happens to, oh, be interested in my ZPM research, and did I mention he's a relative?"

"We need him," Ronon said, settling down on the bed next to Teyla.

John sighed. "Fine. Can we say a restaurant, then? If we're agreed, I'll give him a call."

"Make sure he warns the chef about my allergies," Rodney said, sliding his hand over Teyla's hip. As she nestled in close, he took a deep breath. "You smell like home," he murmured.

"I miss Atlantis," she said. "I will be glad when this is over."

"You and me both," John said, as he pulled out his cell phone. "Teyla, do you have something to wear if we go some place dressy?"

"I brought my blue dress. Will that be appropriate?"

"I think you ought to wear the one you wore when you were pregnant," Rodney said. "You were totally hot in that."

"My God," John said. "We'd cause a riot. Now shut up and let me make this call."

Which was how the next evening found them at Citronelle, comfortably seated in a secluded booth.

"If I'd had a little more notice," Dave said as they sat down, "I'd have gotten us reservations for the chef's table. Totally fascinating experience."

Show off, Rodney thought. Dave's suit probably cost more than Rodney's entire wardrobe, including that ridiculous cloth of gold tunic the Linrovians had given him after he'd helped them redesign their mills, and Rodney didn't even want to guess how much Natalie Sheppard's discreet but lovely jewelry was worth.

On the other hand, my family is gorgeous even without designer wear.

That wasn't quite fair; Natalie was an attractive blonde who looked like she played a lot of tennis. Rodney, who'd looked her up, wondered if her BA in Communications from Vanderbilt had prepared her for meeting her brother-in-law, his boyfriend, his other boyfriend the alien and his girlfriend the alien. She did all right, though, complimenting Teyla's dress and assuring Rodney that they'd talked to the restaurant's staff about his allergies.

It was amusing watching the well-heeled patrons trying to pretend they weren't staring. By now, they were all easily recognized, to the point where there were very few places they could go without attracting attention, even in a place as discreet and upscale as this. Even Rodney, who was used to being stared at—usually by people who were clearly wondering how he'd ended up with the three hotties—was finding it a little weird.

He wasn't the only one who noticed. "Dave told me about the problems you had shopping in Colorado Springs," Natalie said to Teyla.

"It was quite...unnerving," Teyla said. "I feel like I have done nothing that would warrant that kind of attention."

"From what I understand, you've done a good deal more than most celebrities," Natalie said with a smile. "And if you do need to do some shopping, I'd be happy to take you to a couple of places where you won't be mobbed."

"I would like that." Teyla smiled warmly.

Score one for the warrior princess, Rodney thought.

"There's another thing we could use some help with," John said. He looked a little embarrassed, but he continued anyway. "Do you have a box at Nationals Park? I've kind of missed live sports over the past few years and...."

"Of course we do," Dave replied. "Let me check their schedule and find a weekend game. We could make a family thing out of it." John looked alarmed and Dave shook his head. "I meant just us and the kids."

"Both Megan and Erin have been dying to meet all of you," Natalie said to Ronon, "and you in particular."

Rodney got to enjoy the rare treat of seeing Ronon caught completely off-guard. "Me? Why?"

"Because you're cool." Natalie laughed. "Alien ambassadors are kind of thin on the ground and handsome ones who look like rock stars are even thinner. I think the girls get a lot of credit at school because you're part of the family, although I'm not sure that Erin really understands how that works. She's only seven."

"Oh." Ronon looked rather pleased, as though he wasn't well aware that in any given room, he was likely to be the sexiest thing on feet.

The rest of the evening passed more easily than Rodney had expected. He was somewhat bored, but then that was par for the course in social situations. The food was excellent, and the conversation was mostly about places they might want to visit if they had time. He knew Dave wanted to talk business with him, but even Rodney knew better than to bring that up here; it could wait.

It was late when they left the restaurant, with Dave promising to call soon and Natalie arranging to take Teyla shopping in a couple of days. Rodney was amused that they'd all reached the point where they barely noticed the NID escorts who shadowed them everywhere they went.

Visra was thrilled to see them, since Elizabeth was awake and crying and wouldn't stop until Teyla took her. Rodney changed into into a t-shirt and boxers, grabbed his laptop, and stretched out on his stomach near Teyla's chair.

"You okay?" he asked Teyla after watching her for a few minutes. "You've been awfully quiet."

She paused and looked down at Elizabeth. "I feel...somewhat out of my element here."

Teyla rarely admitted anything of the sort, and Rodney sat up and looked at her in surprise. "You did fine," he said.

"Not just tonight, but here on Earth. Unlike Ronon, I am not accustomed to this type of politics and I find it confusing. And to be honest, somewhat tedious."

Rodney snorted. "That's normal—it is boring, and a waste of time, really. There are dozens of more important things we could be doing rather than sitting here, justifying every damn decision we've made over the past five years." He reached out and stroked her ankle lightly.

"Hopefully we'll have some time before they start up again," John chimed in. "It sucks that we've been on Earth for a week and a half and you've barely seen more than the SGC, Congress, and two hotels."

"That does make it more difficult, but I still feel useless."

"Oh hey," Rodney said, and then he paused. Teyla wasn't the sort of woman who could be reassured with platitudes but it left him a little unsure of what he should say.

"You should do an interview or two," John said. "You're a really interesting person, and I think it would help for people to see what your life has been like."

"You mean what it is like to live under the shadow of the Wraith?"

"Not just that," Rodney said. "Although, yeah, of course that would help justify the expedition. But the thing is, the only thing anyone knows about the Pegasus Galaxy is that it's full of aliens who want to eat us. So...show them something different." He snapped his fingers. "You know what we need? Not a lawyer—we need a PR person."

"Really?" John frowned. "What for?"

"You heard Natalie: we're celebrities. A good PR flack will know which talk shows we should try to get on, and who we want interviewing us—well, mostly Teyla and Ronon. You guys—well, and Teal'c—are the first aliens most people have ever seen. Teal'c's not exactly what I'd call approachable—"

"You must be confusing me with someone else, McKay," Ronon muttered. Rodney waved aside his objections.

"Doesn't matter—you're hot. You can just sit there and be smoldering, and let Teyla charm the locals as she does so well."

Teyla tilted her head slightly. "I should have been thinking this way from the start."

"What way?" John asked.

"As if this were just another mission." She smiled at Rodney. "Thank you, Rodney."

"You'd have figured it out eventually," he said, leaning against her. "And really, I get that this is overwhelming...all these people in one place are freaking me out more than I expected. I'm ready to go home."

"I think we all are," Ronon said.

Although John hated to owe Dave yet another favor, he had no idea where to find a decent PR person who could be trusted. The SGC certainly wasn't doing much in the way of PR on their behalf, which annoyed John a little.

"Oh, please, for all that Sam's in charge in Atlantis, we've always been the red-headed stepchild of the SGC." Rodney had pointed out. "Even those clowns at Area 51 rate higher than we do."

It was Natalie, not Dave, who found the perfect person, and John was surprised at how much he liked her. "You don't want someone from Sheppard Utilities," Michelle Nelson said when they first met with her. "You're already linked to them in the minds of a lot of people in the government, and that's a double-edged sword."

"Always has been," John tightly.

"Don't worry about it," she said. "By the time I'm done, you'll be known for yourself and not for your last name."

"Thank you." He paused and thought about it. "I think."

The first thing she did, after a rather exhausting discussion with the four of them, was schedule an interview for Teyla. "Dr. McKay is right, we need people to stop seeing you—and Mr. Dex as well—as mysterious. I know Kelly Stevens over at Time; she'll be fair but not too harsh on you."

Teyla smiled a little. "I have never been interviewed like this, but I have been harshly questioned before." She paused. "I have been reading some of the speculation about us in other magazines; will she ask personal questions?"

"She might ask a few personal questions, but nothing along the lines of the crap that's been printed in the gossip rags. You don't need to worry about that kind of thing. And I'll be there...hmm." Michelle made a note in her PDA. "I'll want to talk to someone at the SGC, too, so I can get an idea of what topics they're keeping off-limits.

"One other thing I'd like you to consider is getting out a bit more if at all possible. I know security's an issue, but if we can time appearances so that the photographers can get shots, they'll be less inclined to stalk the bushes. Natalie mentioned that you were planning on going to a baseball game." She grinned. "A family outing for one of the quintessential American experiences is absolutely perfect, especially since your family is a little unusual."

"Are we?" John said with an absolutely straight face. "I hadn't noticed."

"It's a harder spin," she said, matter-of-factly, "but if we keep hammering home the fact that you're not all that different from a regular family when it comes to caring about your partners and your kid...." She glanced over at Rodney. "Can I ask you a personal question?"


"Have you always been bisexual?"

"Um...yeah, why?"

"I'd like to arrange an interview for you with The Advocate."

"The Advocate?" Rodney stared at her. "Is that a good idea? We're already...."

"Exactly. The die-hard conservatives and the religious right aren't going to like any of you simply because of your non-traditional relationship. If the program—and you—are going to get any support from them, it will happen because of the threat to Earth and the possibility of technological advances.

"On the other hand, thanks to the ballot initiative against gay marriage failing in California last fall, plus a new liberal administration in the White House and the polling numbers among younger people, you'll get a fair amount of sympathy."

"Take one for the team, McKay," Ronon said with a snicker.

"Very funny," Rodney said, glaring at Ronon. "But yeah, I can't very well throw you and Teyla to the wolves and then not do my share."

"That's the spirit," John said and then looked at Michelle nervously. "You're going to get me too, aren't you?"

"I'm going to wait and see who offers, but yes, you should do some interviews too."


I've just introduced myself to Teyla Emmagan when I hear a familiar-sounding shriek from the next room of the suite. Teyla excuses herself and in a few moments is back, carrying her eight-and-a-half month old daughter, who is flailing her arms and legs and fussing.

"She gets cranky if she wakes up and I am not here to hold her," Teyla says apologetically.

"They all go through that stage, don't they?" I reply, thinking of my two daughters. Just an ordinary conversation between two mothers—except that one of them is from a galaxy far, far away. It's easy to forget that, though, when talking to the 35-year-old (in Earth years; she's slightly older by the Athosian calendar) Emmagan.

You could say that she looks like everyone else—if everyone else looked like a petite supermodel. She speaks English without a hint of an accent; only her slightly formal phrasing gives any clue that it's not her first language (it's her fourth). In jeans and a t-shirt, holding her daughter on her lap, you'd never guess that you were talking to a woman who's led her people through constant moves and uprooting, twice to different planets, in the face of a rapacious and relentless enemy. Leader of her people, consummate diplomat, and skilled warrior—she even sings beautifully!—is there anything Teyla Emmagan can't do?

"I cannot cook," she tells me, laughing. "We are fortunate that we all eat the food prepared in the Atlantis mess hall, because if we had to rely on my skill in the kitchen, I am afraid we would starve."

excerpt from Time Magazine (cover story), June 27, 2009
"Just Your Everyday Warrior Princess"

Normally, Rodney found baseball kind of boring, but after almost a month of hearings, pretty much anything that involved not sitting in the hotel or in Congress sounded pretty good. Fortunately, the Sheppard Utilities box was big enough to comfortably accommodate AR-1 and Elizabeth, Neth and Visra, Dave, Natalie and their two daughters, Josh, Michelle, and their NID escort.

My God, we have an entourage, he thought, watching as Ronon charmed the hell out of Megan and Erin Sheppard. Agent Barrett was chatting with Teyla, Michelle and Natalie were catching up, and John, Josh and a couple of the agents were talking baseball.

"This," he said very softly to Elizabeth, who was snugged up against him in her sling, "is pretty strange, isn't it? Nothing like home." She flailed a little and patted his chest and he grinned down at her. "Okay, Sweetheart," he continued, leaning in and speaking very quietly, "we have to stand up and pay attention. That lady down there is going to murder John's national anthem. It's not her fault, though. It's a real bitch to sing."

As the electronic flag waved on the jumbotron and the singer strained to hit the high notes, Rodney glanced over at John. He was standing straight and tall, and for just a moment Rodney caught the expression on his face; this—the stadium full of people, his family, the "Star Spangled Banner"—meant something to John. It was easy enough to miss under his casual attitude, but Rodney knew that John hadn't just joined up so that he could fly fast planes; he believed in his country.

Rodney tightened his grip around Elizabeth just a little as he promised himself that he'd do everything he could to see that John's country didn't just abandon him because the military or the administration needed a scapegoat. And then John glanced over at him and smirked and the moment was gone. Some endearingly cute child came out to tell the team to play ball and the game was under way.

"John got to do that once," Dave said, with a faint smile. "At an Orioles game. I could probably find the pictures...."

"And I could probably kill you," John said, frowning. "And don't you even think of asking," he added, looking at Rodney.

"Who, me? Would I do that?"

"The only reason you wouldn't is because you know I'd ask Jeannie for compromising pictures of you."

Teyla smiled. "Based on previous experience, I do not think that Jeannie would require much convincing. Be careful, Rodney."

"Ah, Elizabeth—this would be what we call 'gang up on Daddy Rodney time'," Rodney told the baby, pointedly ignoring the others. "Sadly, you'll find that it's a common exper—hey! Get your own garlic fries, Conan!" He smacked Ronon's hand; as usual, he was about a second too late to protect his food. Megan giggled, and Rodney could tell that even Dave was fighting a smile.

We're so married.

Once the game got started, Rodney actually found himself relaxing a little as he listened to John's running commentary to Teyla, who sounded genuinely interested, and Ronon, who Rodney suspected would like hockey better. Elizabeth even seemed to be enjoying herself, if the way she was gurgling and flailing her little arms was any hint.

"Hey," Dave said quietly. "If you don't mind, I've been wanting to have a word with you."

"Sure," Rodney said. "Ronon? Want to take her?"

Having handed off the baby, Rodney headed to the back of the box, accepting a beer from one of the box attendants.

"I've read pretty much everything I can get my hands on about the various energy sources you and your people are working on."

"I suspect you can get your hands on a lot more information than the public can," Rodney said.

"Yeah, I've got my sources. Look, I don't want you to break any confidentiality agreements you've signed, but I'm wondering how close you are to a major breakthrough."

The careful wording was interesting. Rodney reminded himself that John's brother probably wasn't stupid either.

"It all depends," he replied. "I'll make a lot more progress if I have an actual Ancient lab to work in."

Dave laughed. "You're pretty blunt, but yeah, I can take a hint." He glanced over at John. "I'm already pushing pretty hard in favor of the program, and it's not just because I want to get in on the ground floor of a new energy source."

"But that doesn't hurt," Rodney said with a faint smile. "Look, I'm not an ivory tower intellectual type who doesn't really know or care what happens to the research when he's done with it. I know that when we crack this there's still going to be a lot of work to be done regarding production and distribution and I'm willing to work with you to the extent that the government will allow." He crossed his arms across his chest. "I don't trust easily; none of us who have spent very much time out there do. But John trusts you, and that's enough for me."

Dave looked startled for a moment. "A gentleman's agreement, then? You'll consult with us on a contract basis? A well-paid contract basis, of course. And if, for some reason, the program is canceled, I'm still interested in your research; the offer will still stand."

"That works for me," Rodney said, knowing that it wouldn't matter if the program was canceled. He was hardly going to mention that to Dave, however, so instead he shook hands when Dave offered and then leaned against the back wall of the box and stared vaguely at the ball field as Dave moved back to his seat.

"How'd that go?" John asked as he joined Rodney a moment later.

"Not bad," Rodney said. "I offered him an incentive for pushing even harder for the program and he offered me a consulting gig, so yeah, we're good."

"He can be a real asshole, but he's a lot better at this than I would have been."

"That's not really saying much; you'd be bored out of your skull if you had to run a business."

"Oh, hell, yeah." John leaned in a little closer and slid his hand over Rodney's for a minute. "Come watch the game. Maybe we can make the kiss cam."

"God, you're such an exhibitionist. Go on, I'll be there in a minute; I've got something I want to do."

An NID agent followed Rodney out of the box and onto the concourse. Stopping at the first merchandise booth, Rodney checked the selection, but when he asked about infant clothes, the guy directed him to the big store down on the main concourse.

He got more than one odd look as he walked along, people staring at him as they thought they should know who he was. That's what I get for being the average looking one, he thought with amusement.

After picking out a shirt for Teyla and finding a onesie for the baby, he decided to get shirts for all of them, even though he knew that baseball wasn't really John's game and anyway, he apparently liked the A's. But it was the first time they'd done something like this as a family and Rodney knew that for John in particular, this was important.

"Excuse me," a young woman said as he headed up toward the register. "But aren't you Rodney McKay?"

The NID guy—Something...Scott, Rodney thought his last name was—came up to flank Rodney's side as Rodney blinked. "Um, yeah, I am."

"Oh, wow," she said, her eyes wide. "It must be so cool...I mean, well, I know it isn't cool, really...God, I'm sorry. It's just...I'm a physics major at MIT and meeting you is just this big thrill."

"Is Ericson still teaching there?" When she nodded, Rodney continued. "If you get a chance to TA for him, buy yourself a gun and shoot yourself; trust me on this one. He never gives you lab time and he's a real...."

"Dr. McKay," Scott said. Rodney looked around and realized that they'd gathered a bit of a crowd. "We should probably get back...."

"Here," Rodney said, handing over the shirts and his wallet. "There should be enough cash in there."

"Sir, I don't think...."

"Obviously not," Rodney said and gave him the look that tended to quell even the bravest marines. "Go."

He turned back to the girl. "Anyway, when you graduate, you want to try to get...whatshisname...short German guy with really thick glasses...."

"Doctor Seidel? I have him for Solid State."

"Yeah, get him as your adviser. He's not entirely...." Someone tugged at his arm and he turned around. "What? I'm trying to have a conversation...."

The man—one of the men; there were two of them—flashed him a badge that he didn't have time to see. "You need to come with us." He pulled hard on Rodney's arm and Rodney stumbled a little. "Something's happened to Colonel Sheppard."

"John?" Something felt a little off to Rodney and he dug in, resisting the man's efforts to pull him out of the store.

"Please, Sir, the ambulance is on its way and...."

Rodney went with them, although he was still trying to remember if he'd seen them before while the word "ambulance" echoed in his head. "What happened?" he asked, even as his mind helpfully provided all sorts of scenarios, most of them involving hard hit foul balls and each one worse than the next.

As they headed toward an exit and his escort—three big guys who were quickly joined by a fourth—flashed their badges and pushed people out of the way, the nagging sense of wrongness increased. Shouldn't I recognize at least one of these guys?

Just before they reached the exit, he pulled up short. "I want to see your badges again; I have no idea who you are and I'm not going anywhere with you until you tell me what exactly is going on here."

"I'll tell you what's going on here," the guy whose grip was undoubtedly bruising Rodney's arm said. Something nudged Rodney's side. "I've got a gun on you and you're coming with us, either with a hole in your gut or not."

"You can't just...." The gun nudged him again and although Rodney wanted to yell, to try to get some help, he knew better. There were still too many people in the crowd, and if shooting started, someone else could get hurt. Besides, he knew the drill by now: go with them quietly and count on the team to find him.

He was hustled into a big black SUV that wasn't all that different from the one they'd been using to get around DC. "Who are you and what do you want with me?" he asked as one of the men looped a zip tie around his wrists and pulled it tight.

"You don't need to know that right now."

Rodney felt the jab of a needle in his upper arm, and a few seconds later spots were dancing before his eyes and he felt himself falling down into unconsciousness.

"Where'd McKay say he was going again?" Ronon asked John. "He's been gone for a while."

John frowned. "He said he had something he wanted to do. You're right, though, it's been an awfully long time. Maybe—" John broke off as Barrett came up and whispered in his ear. Ronon didn't need to hear what he was saying to know it wasn't good news.

He leaned over to Teyla and said quietly, "Something's up. We should start getting stuff together." She nodded and began packing up the baby bag while Ronon got Elizabeth settled in her carrier.

John's expression was carefully blank when he finished talking to Barrett. "Dave, I'm really, really sorry about this, but something's come up, and we need to take off. I'll call you later, okay?"

"Does Ronon have to go too?" Megan said. Ronon managed to smile and ruffle her hair.

"Yeah, but I'll see you guys again before too long, okay?"

After making their apologies and farewells, they left the box and met up with Agent Scott, now sporting a nasty-looking black eye. "I'm so sorry," he said, looking miserable. "Doctor McKay sent me off to pay for his things—he was standing right there, talking to this girl—and when I turned around, he was surrounded and I couldn't get to him—"

"What girl?" Ronon demanded. I knew it was a bad idea to trust security to these idiots, especially after what happened with Wallace.

"Take her into custody and get some regular cops down here to start questioning witnesses and taking statements," Barrett said to Scott. "Colonel, we need to get the rest of you secure."

Ronon wanted to protest, but he knew Barrett was right. He settled for glaring at Scott as the man moved off to follow Barrett's orders.

"I think our best bet is to head to the agency," Barrett said. "The Apollo is currently in orbit, and we can contact them to see if they can just pull him out. We've managed to keep the fact that you have transmitters secret."

"From most people," John said with a scowl as they made their way toward an exit. "Has there been an increased number of threats, anything new?"

"Not so far, just the usual crazies. We'll look into all of them again, of course."

The short trip to the Agency's offices was made even more uncomfortable when Elizabeth picked up on everyone else's mood and started fussing. Teyla held her close and tried to calm her down while Barrett made a phone call.

"They can't track him," he said, closing the phone as the car pulled into the parking garage. "Whoever grabbed him must be jamming the transmitter."

"Well," John said, "that could narrow things down a bit, at least."

"It's a start," Barrett said. They followed him into a big elevator. "We've cleared a lounge out," he told Teyla. "For your people and the baby."

Ronon saw her frown, but then she nodded and kissed Elizabeth on the forehead. "We will find your father," she murmured before handing Elizabeth over to Visra.

As an agent led Visra and Neth away, Barrett turned to John. "I've contacted Homeworld Security, and the DC police are already questioning witnesses back at the park."

"What about that girl?" Ronon asked. "The one Scott said McKay was talking to?"

"He's bringing her in right now; I'm more interested in how Scott and McKay got separated." Barrett did not look happy and Ronon couldn't blame him for that, at least; this was the second time Rodney had gotten grabbed on the guy's watch.

They had reached a room that was set up with computers and phones, and several agents looked up as they came in. "Keep working, everyone," Barrett said curtly. He led the into a smaller room that looked like it was normally used for conferences. "Is there anything I can get for anyone?"

"Gear," Ronon said and John nodded. "If you get the call and we need to move out...."

"Normally I wouldn't allow it; you're all too close to him. But...." He sighed and headed toward the door. "You'd just do it anyway."

After he left and they were alone, John turned and slammed a fist down on the table. "Damnit, why in the hell didn't Scott stop this?"

"He is just one man, John," Teyla said. "And there was a crowd."

"I know."

"Look, we'll get him back," Ronon said, reaching out to rest a hand on John's arm. "He knows what to do."

"Yeah," John began. He was about to say more, but the door opened and Barrett wasn't alone.

"I believe you know Ms. Morgenstern?"

"Nancy," John said. Ronon nodded at her and stepped back. "Um," John continued. "This is Teyla Emmagen. Teyla, this is Nancy."

"Ms. Emmagen," Nancy said, shaking Teyla's hand. "I wish we'd met under better circumstances."

"As do I," Teyla said.

"As soon as we got the call, I offered to come and liaise with the NID."

"Thank you," John said.

"So," Nancy said, sitting down. "What have we got so far?"

"Either a witness or an accomplice," Barrett said. "She's probably ready for us."

"Bring her in," John said coolly, leaning back in his chair. Ronon, who'd seen him interrogate people before, moved to stand behind him.

"Oh, Christ, this is irregular," Barrett said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"We're still making the rules up as we go," Nancy said. "You haven't charged this woman with anything, have you?"

"Not yet."

"Well, then, until you do, we're just questioning a witness."

The girl Barrett escorted in was small, with black hair and pale skin; she reminded Ronon a little of Doctor Kusanagi without her glasses. She'd been crying and now looked terrified. Ronon glanced at John, wondering how he was going to handle this.

But it was Nancy who spoke first. "It's all right," she said gently. "Would you like a glass of water?"

"No...I...I didn't do anything. I was just talking to...." She took a deep breath and looked around the room, her eyes widening as she recognized them. "Do I...do I need a lawyer?"

"You're not being charged with anything," John said, his voice calm and a little cold. "We just have some questions for you."

"I don't know anything." The girl twisted her hands together and Ronon thought that if she were involved with whoever had grabbed McKay, she was a very good actress.

"You might have seen something that could be very important, that could give us a lead," Nancy said. "First off, tell us your name, okay?"

"Cynthia. Cynthia Matsui."

"Agent Scott said you came up and talked to McKay in the store," John said, leaning forward. "Why?"

"I'm a physics major at MIT. I...just wanted to talk to him. He's a huge hero on campus."

McKay would love to hear that, Ronon thought. I'll have to tease him about it when we get him back.

"What did you talk about?" Nancy said, her voice soothing after John's flat, tight delivery.

"I mostly babbled," Cynthia said, ducking her head. "He mentioned a couple of the professors...suggested one as an advisor...that's all, really."

Slowly, with John playing hard and Nancy playing nice, they got the rest of the story out of Cynthia. By the end of it, Ronon was convinced that she'd just been unlucky and wasn't involved with the kidnapping, and he could tell John and Nancy both agreed. He was also amused at how well John and Nancy worked together, like they'd done it before.

"So," he said after they'd finished talking to Cynthia and a couple of the other witnesses, "it sounds like someone's been watching us and waiting, and they got a lucky break. There's no way anyone could have planned on the fact that Rodney'd go out shopping and send Scott away right then."

"And it was clearly someone who was informed enough to block Rodney's transponder," Teyla added. "Which suggests that whoever is responsible has access to both information and resources."

Barrett nodded, his expression grim. "The Trust. They certainly have the resources. The question is why? Why McKay and why now?"

Ronon took a deep breath. "Has anyone been contacted about a ransom? McKay's been grabbed a couple times before, back home. Once was kind of like that Wallace thing, they wanted him to work for them, but once they wanted us to buy him back."

"Trust me," John said, smilingly tightly when Barrett looked surprised. "The Wallace thing wasn't a new experience for any of us, except for the fact that McKay's sister was involved." He sighed. "Of course, unlike the that incident, when this happens back in Pegasus, we don't have to worry about them removing or blocking the transponder—unless it's the Wraith, and I think we can safely rule that out here."

"I don't think it's a simple matter of a ransom deal, but it could be. All your mail is already going through us, but I'd like to redirect your email as well." Barrett made a couple of notes. "We're also going to want to talk to your lawyer and Ms. Nelson."

"Sure." John sighed. "Try not to mess with McKay's email too much; he's been getting a lot of resumes and research proposals."

"I wonder if we're missing an angle here," Nancy said. "This could be political; there are a lot of people who would be happy to see the project canceled, and the polling numbers are starting to shift in your favor."

"How would grabbing McKay help that?" Ronon asked.

"They may not have wanted McKay. Given the way the grab went, they might have been happy to get any one of you as a way of putting pressure on the other three."

Ronon hadn't thought of that and he looked at her with new appreciation. "If that's the intent, they're in for a big surprise. Atlantis and the fight against the Wraith are bigger than any of us, and we don't negotiate with terrorists. Not seriously, at least," he added, remembering Elizabeth and Ladon arguing as Kolya's pet Wraith drained John's life away.

"Not everyone can stick to their principles when the life of a loved one is at stake," Nancy said, her eyes flicking over to John.

"Rodney talks a good game about being the single most important person in Atlantis," John said, "but if we traded his safety against the future of the project, he'd go ballistic."

"I believe he would never forgive us," Teyla added.

"I read your interview in Time," Nancy said. "It's a hard life you're living, all of you, out there."

Lady, you have no idea—and you should be glad you don't, Ronon thought.

"Yes," Teyla said, "It is."

"You're pretty upset about this," Nancy said to John. They were taking a break, waiting for security at the ball park to get the surveillance footage from the store to them. Ronon and Teyla were with Elizabeth and Barrett was tracking down his files on the Trust. Someone had brought in a tray of sandwiches and some coffee, but John wasn't particularly hungry.

"You're hiding it pretty well," she added, "but I know you."

"My...." John waved a hand. Lover? Partner? Best friend? "My teammate just got kidnapped. Again. Of course I'm upset."

Nancy smiled a little sadly. "Like I said, John, I know you. It's not your fault, okay?"

John raised an eyebrow. "No? Fuck Barrett and his guys—I didn't really expect much from them—it's my job to protect my team. I should have known better, and not let Rodney go wandering off on his own like that."

"Because as usual, it's all about you, isn't it?" Nancy rolled her eyes. "While you're busy wallowing in guilt, has it occurred to you that Ronon might be feeling the same way? Or Teyla—Rodney's your daughter's father, isn't he? She's got to be going crazy."

"I know!" John yelled. "Look, I know all of that. But there's nothing I can do right now, and it's driving me nuts."

Nancy leaned forward and put a hand on John's knee. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that." She sighed. "Our conversations always seem to end up with me having to apologize, don't they?"

"Well, you're right," John admitted. "You know...I realized that I fucked up things with you, and that I did pretty much everything wrong. I can't go back and change that, but I can try not to make the same mistake and let down the people I...the people who are important to me."

"From what I've seen, that won't be a problem, John," Nancy said, looking thoughtful. "It wasn't all your fault that things didn't work out between us, you know. I...well, you probably know I spent some time in therapy after the divorce, and one of the things I realized is that I wanted you to be someone else. I think Ronon and Teyla and Rodney love you for who you are."

John felt his ears turning red. "Um...thanks?"

She shook her head. "You're still really uncomfortable with this kind of thing, aren't you?"

John just scowled at her. "Yeah." He looked at the tray of sandwiches and sighed. If Rodney were here, he'd be pestering me to eat, he thought, picking up one that looked like it was turkey. Hang in there, buddy, we'll get you out of this.

When Rodney finally clawed his way back to consciousness, he found himself in bed in a very plain-looking bedroom. Someone had removed his shoes, but otherwise, he was still dressed in the clothes he'd worn to the ball game. He had a pounding headache and he was incredibly thirsty, both symptoms he recognized from his many experiences with anesthetic drugs. Further attention to his condition revealed a bandage wrapped around his forearm; someone had removed his transmitter.

Okay, that makes this a little trickier, but it narrows the field quite a bit.

He sat up carefully and looked around; he was alone, but there were bars on the window and he was willing to bet there the door was either bolted or there was a guard on it. Or both, he thought. He didn't see much else; if the room was being monitored, the cameras or mics were small enough to escape a casual search.

He checked his pockets, but found nothing. He remembered giving the agent his wallet, but his cell phone, hotel key card and iPod were all gone. Unlike Ronon, he wasn't in the habit of going armed everywhere, but he'd had his Swiss Army knife on him and it was gone too. They'd even taken his watch.

The bars at the window were every bit as solid as they looked, and the view told him nothing, except the fact that he wasn't in an urban or suburban setting; it was pitch black outside with only a little light pollution.

"Why," he asked the empty room, "does this always happen to me?"

No one came; if he was being watched, they didn't care that he was awake. Sighing, he made his way to the door, which was, as he'd guessed, bolted. He banged on it a few times, yelled "Hey! I'm awake!" and then sat back down on the bed.

A moment or two later, Rodney heard someone unbolting the door. While Sheppard or Ronon would have made a move here, Rodney knew better than to try. His job was to look as harmless as possible while he checked out the lay of the land. After all, it had worked that time with the Alphrasians; he'd actually met the rescue squad a good half a mile from the building he'd been kept in.

And here, people outside know who I am, and if the news that I've been captured has gotten out, I can find help pretty easily.

Anyway, the guy who stuck his head in was kind of big, and even if he hadn't been toting a gun, Rodney didn't think he could take him. "Can I get some water and maybe a couple Tylenol?" Rodney asked. "Also, some answers would be nice right about now."

"Come with me."

The guy led him to a big old-fashioned kitchen, where four other men were sitting around the table. None of them were the guys who'd grabbed him at the park; these men, with their dusty-looking denim shirts and jeans, could have passed for farmers. One of them even had a mullet.

Of course, they were all armed with pistols and looked pretty tough; Rodney stuffed his hands in his pockets and gave them his best "irritated but totally innocent" look. "Can someone please explain what's going on? Also, I need some water, a couple of Tylenol or Advil and something to eat. Unless you're about to tell me this was a huge mistake and drive me back to DC."

"Get him something to eat and something for his head," one of the guys said, and the one with the mullet got up. "Have a seat, Doctor."

"Okay," Rodney said, settling down. "Do you guys have names? Or am I just supposed to think of you as Guy With Gun Number One and so on?"

"I'm Mark, and you don't need to know anyone else's names."

Mullet Guy gave Rodney a glass of water and a couple of Advil and then turned to dig in the fridge. The water was cold and went a long way toward relieving Rodney's headache. "So, what's the deal here? I'm thinking that since this isn't a lab, you don't want me to build you nukes or anything. Not that I would, mind you, but that's really neither here nor there."

"You don't really need to know why you're here," Mark said. "You just need to behave so we don't have to hurt you."

Why do these guys always talk in clichés? "Maybe I don't need to know, but I think after what you guys did, I deserve to know. After all, you did steal me away from my family at a ballgame; isn't that un-American or something?"

"Some family," one of the other guys muttered, scowling.

"Excuse me?" Rodney said, forgetting that he was supposed to be pretending to be meek and easily cowed. He crossed his arms and glared at the guy. "Given that everyone in my family is much better looking and infinitely smarter than any of you cousin-marrying loofah brains, I have to assume that your problem with said family is related to either the bisexuality or the fact that two of us aren't white—which only reinforces my initial impression that you're a bunch of complete and utter morons." He sighed. "Why do I always have to be captured by idiots?"

The guy slammed his hands down on the table as he got to his feet, but Mark grabbed his arm before he could launch himself at Rodney. "Sit back down, Jake. And you," he added, looking at Rodney, "need to watch your mouth."

"Oh please, do you think I'm actually afraid of you? I've been captured by people who could eat you for breakfast—and that's not counting the ones who really would eat you for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. And you know what? I'm still alive, because my team—my family—doesn't leave anyone behind."

"I think you need to learn to keep your mouth shut," Jake said. He hadn't come after Rodney, but he was still on his feet.

"Better men than you have tried," Rodney said with a sneer. "If you have anything like brains in your heads, you'll give this up now and let me go. You'll do time, but you won't end up dead."

Mark got up and backhanded Rodney. It hurt, but Rodney'd had worse from Ronon in training sessions. Of course, Ronon always apologizes and I can usually get a "Sorry about your face" blowjob out of it, but I really don't want to go there right now.

"We're willing to give you back in one piece when we get what we want, but we don't have to," Mark said before sitting down.

"Right—would this be the part where you're going to tell me why, exactly, you kidnapped me? And I think it's only fair to remind you that since we're clearly not in the District of Columbia here, you've committed a federal crime."

Mark smirked. "Despite what you may think, Doctor, we're not stupid and we're not Bond villains. I'm not telling you anything."

"That alone won't convince me of your intelligence," Rodney said, although he was a little disappointed. "The very fact that you captured me, one of the few people holding back the aliens who want to eat you by sucking out your life force year by year, on the other hand, is more than enough to convince me of your stupidity. And before you decide to hit me again, bear in mind that the worse shape I'm in when my family comes for me, the less likely you are to survive the experience."

"I'll keep that in mind." Mark stood up and pulled Rodney to his feet. "For now, I think I've had just about enough of your mouth, so it's time to go back to the other room."

"Fine," Rodney said, pulling his arm out of Mark's tight grip. "If you're as smart as you think you are, you'll have done your research on me. I'm hypoglycemic and allergic to citrus and right now, I'm hungry. If you don't feed me, I'll end up in a coma."

"You'll be fed," Mark said tightly.

"Fucking faggot," Rodney heard Jake mutter as Mark led him back to his room. "Should just let him starve."

"Nice crew you've got here," Rodney said, once they were out of earshot.

"They're all good Christian men." Mark pushed Rodney back into his room. "Someone will bring you something to eat."

"I must have missed the part in the Bible where Christ said violence and threats were the way to get His message across."

Mark just glared at him before closing the door. Rodney made a gesture, one of the really rude Satedan ones Ronon had taught him, and then sat down on the bed. "Great. Kidnapped by fundies. That's a new one. Any time, guys. Any time now."

Aside from the footage from the store at the ballpark, they didn't have much more by midnight. "Look," Barrett said, "we've got people working on this day and night, but you guys need to get some rest."

"I don't think we should go back to the hotel," John said. "And hey, you guys need to put some security on Dave and Natalie—and Jeannie Miller, too."

"We've had extra security on the Millers since the story broke, but yes, we've increased the number of agents and the level of surveillance." Barrett paused to drink some coffee. "As for your brother, he's got pretty good security already, but we're working with his people."

"Right." John was going to say more, but a yawn stopped him. Teyla turned to Barrett.

"Is there somewhere here where we can try to get some rest?" She knew neither John nor Ronon wouldn't want to leave, but at this point they all needed to sleep.

"We've got a safe house nearby," Barrett said. "it's big enough for all of you and several agents."

"Thank you," Teyla said. "I think we need some rest." John looked like he wanted to protest, but she gave him a stern look. "You will think more clearly after you've had some sleep."

The short ride to the safe house, this time in a van marked with some company logo, was quiet and tense. Teyla was more concerned with her companions than her location and paid little attention to the house.

While she expected both John and Ronon to be unsettled, she was a little surprised at how difficult it was to get them to rest. Normally, when things went wrong, they'd both do their best to take the chance to sleep when it came along. But now, after showering, they seemed unable to settle down.

She sat on the bed and watched as John held Elizabeth in his lap, letting her tug on his fingers. "You should sleep," she said. "We all should."

"I hate this," John murmured, quietly enough that he might have been talking to Elizabeth alone. "When we get Rodney back, I want him to design another set of transmitters. One that we manage to keep people from knowing about."

"Good idea," Ronon said. "Carter'll go for it."

"It's just...."

Suddenly Teyla realized what the problem was, what she was seeing. This was how they'd been while she was gone, out of balance in this same way, although with Rodney around there had probably been a lot more panicking. In a way, it's a pity I can't panic and give them someone to comfort.

"We will find him," she said firmly. "John, let Elizabeth go to sleep, and both of you come to bed."

If she couldn't panic, she thought as John settled in on one side of her and Ronon on the other, she could demand; for now, that was enough.

We will find him, she thought.

Advocate: When you were kidnapped, were you surprised that you'd been taken by Christian extremists?

McKay: Actually, yes. It's hardly the first time I've been grabbed by religious nuts, but it really never occurred to me that it would happen here on Earth. Which, in hindsight, was a little shortsighted of me.

Advocate: How so?

McKay: (laughs) Well, I don't know; it's not like I'm a queer scientist who's busy doing things that some people think prove the Bible, or other sacred texts, wrong.

Advocate: Some people?

McKay: During my time with the Stargate Program, I've known plenty of people of all different religions, both scientists and soldiers, who have had no problem reconciling their faith with the scientific discoveries we've made. And none of them have seen fit to lecture me about my sexuality. So yes, I actually do differentiate between close-minded morons and thinking people who happen to also be religious.

excerpt from The Advocate cover story, "Triple Threat: The Brainy, Bisexual, and Bi-galactic Rodney McKay", August 2009

For once, Ronon had been quick about his shower, so they were all dressed when Barrett pounded on the door the next morning. "We've got a statement," he said, tossing a single sheet of paper on the table. "The press will be announcing it, but I was able to get this in advance."

Teyla moved the paper closer as John and Ronon crowded around her. "The Earth Defense League?" She looked at John. "Have you heard of these people?" She turned to Barrett. "Who are they; what do they want; how difficult will it be to force them to return Rodney to us?"

Barrett shook his head. "Never heard of them." He scanned the page for a moment. "'We believe that God gave Man dominion over Earth and that we must protect His Creation from all threats. We also believe that the Stargate is the False Tree of Knowledge that leads to things Man was not meant to know.'"

John glared. "What the fuck?"

Teyla blinked and read the paper again, trying to get the words to conform to some kind of logic. "They believe the Stargate is evil? Do they not understand that humans on nearly all other worlds use them just as they would use an airplane?"

"What they don't understand—well, there's obviously a lot, but they apparently don't think you and Ronon—and Teal'c too, I imagine—are really human." John said in the calm, even tone that usually hid his anger. "They say that since the Goa'uld and the Ori can look like humans, and even the Wraith kind of do, they have no proof that you two aren't...something else."

"They kind of have a point there," Ronon said thoughtfully. When everyone stared at him, he shrugged. "Your planet has never seen humans from other worlds before—that they knew of, anyway. And most of what they've been told is bad. Makes sense when you think about it."

"Plus, the recent press you've been getting—and I'm not saying that's a bad idea, you understand—is mostly about how you're pretty ordinary people," Barrett added. "If the general public looks at you and sees a normal mom with her cute kid, that's not really very threatening."

"But why would they want us to be a threat?" Teyla asked. "I know that while you do not have the Wraith here, there are surely other dangers—why invent more where there are none?"

"See, this is where we all stand around and let Rodney say what I won't." John rubbed the back of his neck. "People are used to being told to be afraid. And yes, the U.S. does it, although we're hardly alone."

Rodney would have been much more sarcastic and biting, but Teyla found John's look of regret almost more convincing than one of Rodney's diatribes. "None of this explains why they took Rodney," she said.

"Rodney's everything guys like this hate," John said. "He's a scientist, an atheist, bisexual, and, since he's a civilian, they don't even feel like they have to respect his military service they way they would if it were me."

"They should," Ronon said. "McKay's braver than a lot of soldiers I've met."

"I will tell him you said so." Teyla smiled at Ronon.

"When he gets back, I'll tell him myself."

"Bringing this back to the statement," Barrett said, "I'm not too sure we've got anything more than we did before."

"A lot of these fundie groups are connected, aren't they?" John asked. "Do you have any contacts in those circles?"

"Yeah, but the thing is, none of them should know anything about the Stargate program except what they've read in the papers and what they've seen on TV. Since the fact that you're all fitted with transmitters isn't something that's come up, we still have to assume they had inside information."

"Which leads us right back to the Trust," John said.

"There's something else about this statement," Teyla said, looking it over again. "They call for an end to the program, and say they took Rodney to prove that they're determined to 'do whatever is necessary', but they aren't actually threatening to harm him."

"That comes next," Ronon said. "After we tell them that this isn't going to get them anything."

Before anyone could say anything else, Barrett's cell phone rang.

"Barrett here. They did? Oh, that's not good. Keep looking for the rest of them. Right."

He closed his phone. "Two of the guys who actually performed the grab showed up dead in an alley outside a club last night. Looks like a mugging gone too far, but of course it's not."

"No leads on the other two?" John asked.

"Nothing on one of them, but we think we might have something on," he paused and consulted his notes, "Carl Johnson. We've got an address that might be his girlfriend; we're looking into it right now."

"If his partners are being killed, he might give us information in return for safety," Teyla pointed out.

Barrett looked at Teyla and smiled. "Exactly what I was thinking, Ms. Emmagan."

Teyla stood up. "Then while you search for him, perhaps we should return to your offices? There may be something we can do, or some information that will connect these...people to the Trust."

And between the three of us, whoever is behind this will pay dearly.

Rodney had been awake since dawn. He'd only managed a few hours of restless sleep, in spite of the fact that the bed was surprisingly comfortable. However, it was also empty aside from himself, and he'd had gotten used to sleeping with at least one other person in the bed. When he woke up, his first foggy thought had been to wonder if it was his turn to change Elizabeth; realizing that she wasn't there had been hard to take.

When Mark unbolted the door, Rodney was sitting on the bed, looking out the window. There still wasn't much to see—a long grassy backyard that vanished into a clump of trees—and nothing that gave Rodney any clue as to where they were.

"I need coffee and food," he said to Mark. "And something for this butcher's job you clowns did on my arm; it itches and I don't want it to get infected."

"Anything else, Doctor?"

Rodney ignored the sarcasm. "An explanation as to what I'm doing here would be nice, as would a computer. Since you're not going to give me the latter, I'll take a pad of paper and a couple of pens or pencils. I'm bored out of my mind."

"You're not going to get the former either," Mark said, leaning in the doorway.

"I can guess, though. You should know that my family loves me very much, God only knows why, but they won't sabotage the program to get me back."

"I thought you were an atheist."

"Huh?" Rodney stared at him for a moment. "Oh, the 'God knows' thing. Figure of speech; I've seen too many people worshiping any number of beings that most certainly aren't gods to be any more religious than I was before I got involved in the program."

"There's a difference between false gods and the True God."

Rodney could hear the capital letters. Not as far as I can see, and anyway, which 'True God' do you mean? The God of Israel, who hated fags, shrimp, and cheeseburgers, but was fine with slavery and polygamy? Or the God of the New Testament, whose only son talked about the meek inheriting the Earth and who never once mentioned homosexuality?" He smiled tightly when Mark looked a little surprised. "My father was Episcopalian and insisted on his kids being raised that way. I've read the Bible, cover to cover, on three separate occasions."

He didn't say that the second and third times had been to provide ammunition in arguments with Sunday School teachers and, later, his father, but it didn't really matter. It wasn't as if he was going to get anywhere in this argument, but it was something to do and anyway, if he annoyed Mark enough, the guy might let some information slip.

"Besides," he added, "It's a little hard to buy into Genesis when you've actually met the people who put humans on Earth, and they're kind of assholes for the most part."

Mark turned almost purple. Ooh, that touched a nerve. "Do you believe everything people tell you, Doctor?" he snarled. "Just because someone claimed they created man—and I'm surprised that you don't think we all evolved from monkeys or something—doesn't make it true."

"There's very little I take on faith, but I've seen the scientific evidence." Rodney shrugged. " The Ancients were incredibly advanced, to the point where even I haven't been able to figure out everything they did. And we know that they were close enough biologically to interbreed with us. The difference between you and me? I don't need to know that whoever put me on Earth was perfect in order to validate my own existence."

"God put you on Earth, Doctor. And it is His judgment you will have to face for your crimes."

"Really?" Rodney said, crossing his arms across his chest. "Two questions. One: if I have to answer to God, why the hell are you getting involved? And two: what exactly are my crimes? Other than being bisexual, and let's not get into that, because I don't happen to think it's a crime. I know it sounds a little over the top, but I do what I do for the love of science and, more recently, to protect my home. Where's the crime there?"

Mark smirked. "From everything I've been—I've heard about you, Doctor, it sounds to me more like you do what you do because you're arrogant enough to think you can play God. But even if we don't talk about you taking it up the ass from other men, there's that woman you're with...even she admits that she's part Wraith, practically a demon...."

For a half-second, Rodney actually moved toward Mark, but then he stopped short. "Good one; I was really about to try to hit you before I realized that you're trying to piss me off so that I'll give you an excuse to beat the crap out of me." And don't think I didn't notice you almost saying 'what I've been told about you.' Someone's pulling your strings—who?

"What? No, I really don't think this is the time for that," John snapped into his phone. Ronon raised an eyebrow and John rolled his eyes. "Michelle," he explained, "thinks we need to issue a statement."

"Colonel," she said, carefully. "I understand that you're upset, and you know how sorry I am that this happened, but to be blunt, this is something I can spin."

"Did you just say you could 'spin' this? Jesus Christ, Rodney being fucking kidnapped is not a media event!"

"Have you seen a television?" she asked. "This isn't a media event, it's the media event. If you went by the news outlets, you'd think nothing else was happening in the world right now."

"Hasn't the NID issued a statement?"

"Oh, yes, and it's very quotable; they're 'currently following all leads and are confident that they'll track down the kidnappers.'" She sounded so much like Rodney that John could imagine her making finger quotes. "Here's the thing: when it comes down to rescuing Doctor McKay, I trust the NID to do their jobs. When it comes to saving the planet from the Wraith, I trust you to do your job. I'd appreciate it if you trusted me to do my job."

The thing was, John knew that Rodney would agree with her and that, if Dr. Weir were still alive, so would she; in fact, she'd be both upset and using the event to gather as much political influence as possible. "I'm sorry. This, one of my people being taken, it gets fucking old after a while."

"If I tone down your language, may I include that?"

"I guess, if it'll help." John rubbed the back of his neck. "Um...let's see...what kind of things do you want us to say?"

"You really don't need to worry about the wording; I'll write something up and have it to you shortly," she said with a slight laugh. "You can look it over, see if there's anything you need to add, and then I'll release it."

"Okay, yeah."

"And Colonel? I know you'll get him back."

She sounded sincere, and John smiled a little. "Thanks, Michelle. We will."

"Rodney would agree with her," Ronon said, and John nodded.

"I know, it just seems so fucking callous."

"I suspect that by the time Michelle is done writing the statement up, it will not look callous," Teyla pointed out.

"No, she's pretty good at what she does," John admitted.

Before he could say anything else, there was a knock on the door. When John called out "come in," Barrett stuck his head in.

"Apparently the IOA thought we might need some help," he began.

"Bates!" John said, catching sight of him behind Barrett. "C'mon in."

As Bates came into the room and glanced around, John suddenly remembered that he and Teyla had hardly parted on good terms. It seemed Bates remembered too; he turned to Teyla right away.

"Ms. Emmagan, the last time we spoke, I said some extremely insulting things. I was rude and wrong, and I'd like to apologize. The committee wanted me on this job because I've worked with Colonel Sheppard before, but if you'd rather, I can see that someone else is assigned to this case."

John hid a smile; Bates sounded like he'd spent all morning rehearsing that little speech.

"Yes, you were rude and wrong," Teyla said evenly, "but I should not have hit you, which I think makes us even—and we were both acting in what we believed were the best interests of Atlantis." She held her hand out and they shook hands.

"Thanks," he said. He sat down, glancing around at the three Lanteans. "I wish I had some better news, but unfortunately, we don't have a lot of leads. Everything points to the Trust, but there's nothing we've found so far to connect them to these other crazies."

"What about that guy, then one that managed to not get killed?" John asked.

"We haven't caught up with him yet, but we did talk to his girlfriend and, ah...convinced her that it would be in his best interest for him to turn himself in. She was pretty adamant that he wasn't especially religious, though."

Ronon folded his arms over his chest. "Hired muscle, then."

"Most likely. And we're going with the working theory that they were after McKay or...um, you, ma'am."

"Me?" Teyla sounded surprised. "I am not certain how abducting me could be of any benefit to this group."

Bates ducked his head, not quite looking at Teyla. "Groups like this tend to be prone to underestimating women," he said. "It would make sense that not knowing you, they'd assume that you and Doctor McKay would be less likely to struggle if they grabbed you."

"People on your planet aren't real bright, are they?" Ronon said. John couldn't really argue with that.

"Just ask Rodney," he muttered.

The first break came in the evening. When one more of the thugs who had performed the actual kidnapping had turned up dead, Carl—the one they'd had a lead on already—apparently decided that surrender and a deal with the authorities was better than death. Ronon wasn't surprised; in addition to having a girlfriend, the man had a child as well.

This time, John and Bates did the interrogation, John doing a pretty good imitation of an angry man barely holding onto his temper. It wasn't like him at all, but the fact that Rodney was John's partner made it a lot more convincing than if he were simply another agent playing the universal game of "good cop/bad cop." Bates was good too, smoothing over John's hard words while pretending to resent that someone involved with the victim was helping with the investigation.

Their routine wasn't actually necessary; it was pretty obvious that Carl realized that he'd gotten involved in something that was a lot bigger than he could handle. He all but tripped over his own tongue; he was that eager to help.

"We got hired a couple days before the game," he explained. "Dunno who the guy was, but he had a lot of money and he knew...some people I knew. He set us up...money, the car, our clothes and badges, and that machine to block the transmitter."

"And your target?" Bates began.

"Which one of us?" John interrupted, leaning on the table to glare at Carl. "Was it just McKay? Or were you going to go after Teyla if you got the chance? Or maybe her and the baby?"

"Just McKay, honestly!"

Safely behind the one way mirror in the room next door, Ronon sighed. "If Rodney were here, there'd be eye rolling over that 'honestly,'" he said to Teyla.

"Why? Why him?" Bates went on.

"Guy didn't say and we didn't ask."

"Jesus Christ, it didn't occur to you to ask why you were kidnapping one of the most important people on the planet? How stupid are you?!"

"Colonel!" Bates glared at John. "Why don't you take a break?"

"What?! No, I don't think so." John took a deep breath and then turned back to Carl. "Fine. Just walk us through the grab."

Three hours later, Carl was off in another room with the agency's lawyers working on his deal and John had come back to the conference room. Someone had brought in pizza, but he hadn't eaten any of it.

"Okay," he said. "We know a little more, but god...this is why I'm not a cop. It's such slow going."

"We can't be sure he's still in Virginia," Barrett said, "but there aren't any airfields anywhere near where Carl and his pals handed McKay over. We've started the hunt there and, hopefully, Carl will recognize someone out of Ms. Morgenstern's database of religious fanatics."

"Hopefully," Teyla. "Eat your pizza," she added, giving John a stern look. "Starving yourself will not bring him back any faster."

"Rodney'd say the same thing," Ronon added. He had, all too often, back when Teyla was missing, and when John sighed, Ronon knew he was remembering the same thing.

"You know," John said, scrubbing his face with his hand, "how about we have a year, a whole year, where no one gets captured? At all."

"We'd get out of practice." Ronon knew that displays of affection between them made Barrett feel a little weird, but he really didn't care. Reaching out, he rested his hand on the back of John's neck. "Every time one of us has been taken, the rest of the team gets them back. This time won't be any different."

Rodney rolled over and pushed at his pillow in a futile attempt to get comfortable. Another night without his lovers just made him miss them more, and he wondered if anyone would remind John to eat and Ronon to sleep. Teyla was usually pretty good at that sort of thing, but she shouldn't have to do it alone. No one would be doing it if you hadn't wandered off on your own. He'd been stupid to assume that now that people knew about the program, he could relax and let his guard down just because he was on Earth.

Sighing, he sat up, knowing he wasn't going to sleep for a while. It was still mostly dark outside, but there was the faintest hint of gray along one horizon and he wondered if he was going to spend another day here. It hadn't been that long, really, but yesterday had dragged.

He rubbed his jaw and grimaced; getting slugged by Mullet Guy—whose name Rodney had completely forgotten a second after he'd learned it—had been the most exciting thing that had happened to him. Mullet Guy had called him a fag and Rodney suggested he really needed to get more comfortable with the idea of taking it up the ass since, if he was lucky and the team didn't kill him, he was headed for jail. "And you're actually kind of pretty," Rodney had been saying when the guy's temper finally snapped. The punch to the jaw had hurt, but the whole thing was worth it; Mark pulled Mullet Guy back and reminded him not to "damage the goods."

Rodney had guessed that the Trust was behind this, but now he was almost certain. He was useful, and unlike these clowns with their guns and their religious platitudes, the Trust had more effective means at hand to encourage his cooperation. If this scheme failed—which it would— he'd be handed over to the Trust. At least it meant that his current captors wouldn't kill him when they realized that holding him wouldn't change anyone's mind about the project. Although, now that he thought about it, him being kidnapped was PR gold, and he hoped John didn't get in Michelle's way.

He turned over again and thought about doing some more work—he'd been given a pad and handful of pencils. And there's that idea I had for a child's bed for Elizabeth, maybe I could fool around with that...

Just then, something outside his window caught his eye. Catching his breath, he strained to see if the movement—and he was sure it was movement—was a rescue or just someone's dog wandering around the countryside.

There, another flash of movement, and he was pretty sure he saw someone crawling through the woods. It stood to reason that his captors wouldn't be that stealthy if they were out there on guard duty, and as far as he'd been able to tell, they didn't patrol. So, hopefully, the movement out there was his rescue.

After tearing off several sheets of paper covered with equations and furniture drawings and stuffing them in his pocket, Rodney paused for a moment. Opening the window and yelling was obviously not a good idea, but....

The lamp near his bed wasn't very bright, but the cord was long enough to reach the window. Taking a deep breath, Rodney turned the lamp on and off in sets of three, first quickly, then leaving it on a beat longer, and then quickly again. He'd kept his eyes closed to try to retain some night vision and once he was done, he strained to see any sign that his message had been received.

Something blinked back—dot dot dot dash dot—and it took him a second to recognize the Morse code shortcut for "understood." "Okay," he said. "Okay...now what?" Should he make a fuss? Distract people? Eventually he decided to sit tight, so the team would know where to find him.

The sound of heavy but muffled whumps followed immediately by the crash of broken glass warned him and he grabbed the bottle of water by his bed and wet down the front of his tee shirt before pulling it up over his nose and mouth.

A moment later, he heard the sound of feet in the hall. It was a little too soon for any of his rescuers to have made it into the house, and he took a deep breath and did his best to look scared as the door was thrown open and Mullet Guy burst in the room, gun in hand.

He grabbed Rodney by the arm and Rodney responded automatically, pulling back hard enough to yank him off balance a little. A knee to the groin and then one to the nose when Mullet Guy doubled over in pain, and Rodney was in possession of the pistol. Just to make sure that Mullet Guy was out of the picture, Rodney brought the butt of the gun down on the back of the his head, smiling grimly. "Call me a fag again, you asshole."

He could hear shots downstairs and debated going down and joining the fray, but the stink of tear gas was already drifting on the air and his improvised mask wouldn't really do all that much. Standing, gun at the ready, he kept his eye on the door and waited, hoping desperately that none of his family were getting injured.

The first person to show in the doorway was Ronon. In Earth clothes, his dreads pulled back and a mask over his face, he looked almost unfamiliar. "Hey," Rodney said, his voice annoyingly shaky.

"Hey," Ronon said. He tossed something to Rodney, a transmitter, and once Rodney had it, touched a hand to his radio. "Got him."

Just before the sparkle of the Asgard beam flashed across Rodney's vision, Ronon added, "Wet tee shirt's a good look on you, McKay."

"I deserve the 'you've been captured but now you're home and we're really glad to see you' sex now," Rodney said, once he was out of the shower. He looked tired—the initial debriefing on the Apollo had been exhausting—but Teyla could tell that he was still a little wired and wound up. There's a reason we have this tradition, she thought, as he put his hands on his hips and glared at them all.

"I do not recall having 'welcome home' sex," Teyla pointed out, raising an eyebrow and trying hard not to laugh.

"Possibly because you were, oh, I don't know, having a baby at the time? Besides, it's not like you missed out on the 'you've been cleared for sex again now that the baby's born' sex," Rodney said.

Ronon snorted, his shirt halfway over his head. "Yeah, like we ever need an excuse to have sex."

"Yeah, well, before we get to that part...." John frowned a little. "I know we told Barrett and Bates that the full debriefing would have to wait, but I'd like to know what the hell happened. Just give us the Cliffs Notes—sorry, the Coles Notes for our Canadian viewers—version."

"Oh, very funny." Rodney threw his towel at John, who ducked easily. Teyla stretched out on the bed and patted the spot in front of her; Rodney immediately curled up, fitting perfectly into the space.

"There's not really much more to say," he said. "They wanted me to believe it was all about religion...the Stargate is evil and no one should believe anything we say and science is bad and, oh by the way, 'you're a faggot whose relationship with other men and alien women is going to destroy the fabric of America.'" Rodney snickered. "I'm Canadian; if having sex with the three of you will accomplish what we failed to do in 1812, then I'm all for it."

"You're Canadian? Really? I hadn't noticed!" John said.

"He's pretty quiet about it," Ronon added and Rodney turned to Teyla.

"They're picking on me, aren't they?"

"It's all right," Teyla said, sliding her hand up the smooth warm skin of his back. "Ronon thinks you're very brave."

"He does?" Rodney looked pleased.

"Yeah," Ronon said. He reached out to cup Rodney's chin, running his thumb over the bright, recent bruise. "Who did this?"

"The guy I kicked in the balls. The one with the mullet," Rodney said smugly. "Pistol whipped him too."

"You're so fierce," John said, coming over to kneel in front of Rodney. He leaned in, resting his head on Rodney's hip, and Teyla could barely hear him speak. "Proud of you." Rodney heard it, though; she watched as he ducked his head. For all his egotistical attitude, certain kinds of praise still surprised him. It was rather sweet, and was one of those secret little facts about Rodney that made her smile and say nothing when she heard others complaining about him.

"Tell us what you want," she said, leaning in to nip at his ear.

"You," he said. "Tell me I can fuck you," he added, and it was so typical, a request disguised as a demand, that she laughed and bit at his earlobe.

"You can fuck me and Ronon can fuck you."

"What about me?" John asked.

"You can...can John fuck you too?" Rodney's voice was a little husky now, and she shivered and then nodded. "Yeah?" he asked, his fingers tugging at the belt of the bathrobe she was wearing. He ran his hands over her skin, brushing her nipples lightly but pulling away when she leaned into his touch.

"Tease," she said, and he grinned at her.

"You're both evil," John said, and she felt his breath on her calf just before he bent down and began kissing his way up her leg.

"You complaining?" Ronon asked, stripping out of his loose pants.

"Oh, hell, no."

Teyla twisted on the bed and let her legs fall open as John reached the insides of her thighs. Next to her, she heard Rodney moaning, but it was muffled as Ronon kissed him. She reached down and caught hold of John's hand, curling her fingers around his. He nuzzled her briefly; then she leaned against the comforting warmth of Rodney's back as John began to lick.

John had apologized once, red-faced and quiet as he explained that, in spite of having been married, he had a lot more experience with men than women. She hadn't been all that surprised, but it had been easy enough to be honest and tell him that he did just fine. Now, as his tongue moved firmly across her clit with just the right amount of pressure, she gasped and pressed against his mouth, thinking that he had become an expert in pleasing at least one woman.

Next to her, Rodney was groaning and squirming, and she glanced over; Ronon's hand was busy teasing Rodney's cock, and Rodney was clearly enjoying the experience. She leaned closer and bit at his shoulder, smiling as he moaned louder.

John had brought her off once by the time Rodney pushed Ronon away, saying, "if someone doesn't fuck me soon, this will be over before we really get started."

"Impatient," Ronon said with a laugh. He settled at the head of the bed and pulled Rodney in close, kissing him hard.

"Yes," Rodney said, twisting around until his back was against Ronon's chest. "Yes, I am. So if you'd kindly get your dick up my impatient ass, I'd really appreciate it." He yelped as Ronon set his teeth to the mark Teyla had made earlier, but didn't pull away.

As Teyla turned around to face Rodney, John slid onto the bed behind her. He pressed her up close against Rodney's chest as he leaned over her to set his own mark on Rodney's shoulder. "Yes, yes, I'm home and I belong to all of you," Rodney said, his hands sliding around Teyla's waist as he pulled her close.

She kissed him and then they were clinging to each other and moaning into one another's mouths as John and Ronon carefully opened them up. "Yeah," Rodney finally murmured, his lips slick against hers. "I'm ready...seriously Ronon, now...please?"

Pulling back a little, Teyla watched Rodney's face, watched his eyes go round and his mouth go slack; at times like this, times when he let go and stopped thinking, he looked astonishingly vulnerable. It scared him a little and she understood that, understood why he usually insisted on being on top; she often felt the same way.

"Rodney," she said softly, her hands moving over his face. "That's it...let Ronon help you feel it."

"Oh, fuck, you...all of you are so fucking hot," John said. He reached out and rested a hand on hers, his fingers tracing Rodney's jaw carefully. For all that he so often demanded roughness, particularly from Rodney and Ronon, he could be surprisingly gentle.

And I can over-think things just as much as Rodney can.

Even as she reminded herself that it was perfectly all right to let go, Rodney's hands went tight around her waist and he tugged her closer. "Now?" he asked.

"Now," she said, letting him guide her until she was straddling his lap. Before she could reach down, she felt John's hand, sliding between her and Rodney, and she shivered as he gave her clit a quick caress before guiding Rodney's cock into her. "Ohhhh...."

She paused and held her breath for a moment, and then began to move, moaning at the feel of him inside her. She could feel the moment that Ronon began to move as well; Rodney's hands tightened on her and he thrust into her harder. John's fingers, cool and slippery with lube, moved between her asscheeks and stroked into her hole.

"You want me too?" he murmured in her ear. "Sure you want both of us?"

"Yes!" she gasped, squirming as he teased her. "Now, John."

In spite of her sharp tone, he took his time, and now it was her turn to go slack and mindless. Both Ronon and Rodney moved their hands over her; Ronon reaching around Rodney to toy with her breasts and Rodney cupping her ass, holding her open for John.

For a long moment, once John's cock was buried deep in her ass, they all went still and Teyla knew that she wasn't the only one needing the feeling of connection that went beyond what their bodies were doing. And then Rodney groaned and his fingers dug into her ass. "Can I...seriously, I need to move here...okay?"

Teyla felt John snort behind her and she smiled at Rodney as she clenched her inner muscles. Both John and Rodney moaned and Ronon chuckled. "Was that a yes?" he asked. Without waiting for an answer, he thrust up into Rodney and after a moment or two, they all found their rhythm, setting a slow, almost languorous pace that soon had Teyla crying out.

She wasn't the only one; Rodney was muttering under his breath—their names and curses and nonsense words—and both John and Ronon were moaning and gasping. Somehow, John managed to move his hand back between her legs.

"God," he groaned in her ear, "I can feel us moving in you." She shivered hard and then yelped in shock when he pinched her clit.

"John! More...like that!" He did it again and then again, and then she was coming, feeling like she'd shake apart if not for their support.

That was more than enough for Rodney; she felt John's hand move lower and Rodney pushed hard into her and came, his hands going tight enough to bruise her ass. "You okay if we keep going here?" Ronon growled and, when Rodney nodded, both Ronon and John moved harder. Rodney's hand replaced John's between her legs and she managed another orgasm a few seconds before both John and Ronon came, John crying out sharply and Ronon muffling his sounds against Rodney's shoulder.

Later, after some halfhearted cleaning up, they all sprawled against one another in the bed. "God, I missed you guys," Rodney said, idly stroking Ronon's thigh. "It wasn't the being captured or being smacked around so much, or even the knowledge that those morons were going to eventually hand me over to the Trust. It wasn't even missing the sex, although, well, yeah, of course I love it." He paused and John made a soft, questioning noise.

"I'm just not used to sleeping alone any more."

"Yeah, well," John said. "Trust me, you leave a pretty big hole in the bed when you're not here."

Teyla tightened her arms around Rodney, wishing, just for a moment, that she could keep him, keep all of them, safe.

So what's next for Sateda's most famous son? If Ronon has his way, it'll be going back to Atlantis as soon as possible. "There are still a lot of Wraith that need killing," he says; even after spending a couple of hours with him, I can't tell whether or not he's joking. I don't think he is.

I ask if he's feeling a little homesick for the Pegasus Galaxy, and Ronon smiles. "This is the longest I've been away from Atlantis since I got there....yeah, I miss it." And what about New Athos-Sateda? Ronon is silent for a long moment.

"I'm glad that the survivors are all in one place," he finally says, "and I think that the Satedans and the Athosians together can build something stronger than either people alone, something that will last. But before, when the Ancients came and kicked us out of the city....that's when I realized how much it meant to me. Atlantis is where I belong now, where my family is. It's home."

excerpt from Rolling Stone, cover story "Brother From Another Planet," September 2009

"So what we have at the moment," Nancy told John, "is a pretty solid, documented chain from the actual kidnappers to a fundamentalist group that coalesced around opposition to the Stargate Program to...."

"The Trust," John finished. "From their point of view, grabbing Rodney was a win no matter what: they get the program shut down and they're suddenly the ones with the most access to alien tech, and even if they can't stop the program, they still have Rodney."

Nancy shook her head. "You know, I've worked for the government for my entire career, through four different administrations, and it's hard to imagine any one person being that vital to a project."

"The files don't do him justice," John said. "It's not just the theory; Rodney's actually capable of putting it into practice. Remember, we're talking about a guy who knows how to make a device that will destroy most of a solar system. This is like the Soviets or the Germans kidnapping Einstein in 1942."

"Good thing we—you—got him back, then." She glanced at her laptop and tapped a few keys. "It looks like we have enough, especially with the statements from the guys who were holding McKay, to start making some arrests. Hopefully we can disrupt their operation for at least a little while."

"Be careful, and make sure your guys go in with plenty of backup," John warned. "Not all of these guys are human."

"I know; I've read the reports. I have to admit, though, that I never dreamed I'd be organizing a bust of what amounts to an alien terrorist cell."

John couldn't help laughing. "Yeah, well, I expected to take a general on a quick helicopter trip to a research lab and then fly him back, end of story."

"What's the phrase? 'Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans?'"

"I hate that saying."

"You would." She laughed and shook her head. "But seriously, I've been watching you on TV and reading about the project—what I can get my hands on, that is; there's still a lot of very buried, very classified information. You've...I'm impressed. I always thought that someday, if you found something you really believed in, you'd do amazing things."

There really wasn't an answer for that, and John looked down at his hands. He knew what she wasn't saying, that she'd looked for him to find that thing while he was with her, that she'd believed that of him even when he hadn't.

"Nancy," he finally said when the silence stretched on. "Don't...I...."

"You're still not comfortable with praise," she said and smiled, letting him off the hook. Taking a deep breath, she continued in a much brisker tone. "I'm assuming that you'll be back in front of Congress soon?"

"Yeah, but not until next Monday. We didn't ask for a break, but they gave us one."

"The committee is probably looking at your polling numbers; I suspect some of them are revising their stances on the project."

Sighing, John looked around her office, noticing the pictures of her with people he assumed were important. "Is anyone in this city normal? The project needs to be continued because the Wraith are still out there and they know Earth is here and how to find us. Because there's so much we can learn about...well, life, the universe and everything. But no, instead it's all about polling numbers and how hot Teyla looks on the cover of Time."

She watched him for a moment before speaking. "Do you feel better?"

"No, not really. Sorry." He ran a hand over the back of his neck.

"That's just how things are and you know it. You've just been away from it for a while and you did everything you could not to care when you were here, but you can't pretend to be surprised."

"Oh, I'm not. Just...fed up."

"Well, it will be over soon." She smiled. "Hopefully before you end up on the cover of another magazine."

"Time got Teyla, someone's interviewing Ronon for Rolling Stone, and Rodney's giving an interview to The Advocate tomorrow. I hope to God that's enough, because I'd really rather not take one for the team. That Washington Post thing was more than enough."

"You wear clothes well," she said with a slight smirk. "Maybe GQ or Vanity Fair."

"Or maybe someone could shoot me."

"Not likely, thank God. You guys have as much security these days as the President does."

"Poor Barrett," John said. "He feels pretty bad right now, and he's not that bad at his job, really."


There was another pause and then John stood up. "Look, I don't know if I'll be available to help question these guys, but if not, you should get Bates in."

"I will." She rose from her desk. "I know it's weird, but I'd like to get together with you and your family before you go. Dinner or something? I'd enjoy a chance to get to know them when things aren't so tense."

"Um...sure." John shook his head a little. "It's very California of us, isn't it?"

Nancy grinned. "Very. But really, I like them—especially Teyla. I can understand what you see in her."

And honestly, that was just a little too strange. John was careful to stick with casual conversation as she walked to the lobby with him.

Thanks to his own observations, Rodney's comments, and reading the newspapers and political blogs, Ronon had a pretty good idea where they'd stood at various points throughout the hearings. He'd watched as all of the testimony—especially John and Rodney's—had started to sway the committee in their favor. Two of the neutral members had warmed toward John and Rodney even before the kidnapping, and now...Ronon smiled as the chairman inquired after Rodney's health before turning the mike over to the senator from California.

Leaning back to listen to the testimony, he wondered if the kidnappers—either the Earth Defense League or the Trust—had realized how much their actions would contribute to the continuation of the project.

As the next couple of weeks went by and public support of the program grew, any change they had of going anywhere on the planet without being mobbed vanished. Unlike their first weeks in Washington, however, they did make a point of going out. Michelle said it was important that they didn't look afraid, and as much as John obviously hated the attention and the cameras that flashed in their direction whenever they were in public, he had reluctantly agreed with her, especially after Rodney pointed out that it wasn't fair to Ronon and Teyla to miss out on seeing more of Earth.

And so, with agents in tow, they went to the symphony and an opera—which Teyla and Rodney loved, and Ronon and John found terribly boring—and even another ballgame. This time, they sat with the Nationals' owner in his box and John got to throw out the first pitch. He did his best to be cool about it, but Ronon could tell how thrilled he was to have the chance.

Ronon didn't mind the security, even though Barrett hovered a lot more than he had before the kidnapping. Ronon made a point of finding time a couple times a week to drag John out for a run, security detail trailing behind them. Teyla had arranged something with the hotel manager and was a lot happier now that she, Visra and Neth had a chance to work out in the hotel's small gym. Ronon had gone down there early one morning to find her with Visra, giving two of the female NID agents some basic bantos training.

Before anyone realized it, John and Rodney had gone through four years and then some of the Atlantis expedition, and the public phase of the hearings was ending. On the last day, Senator Billings invited Teyla and Ronon to view the proceedings from the House floor. Levinson had warned them, so Teyla was wearing a tailored Earth-style dress and Ronon had on a jacket—though he still refused to wear that stupid tie.

After John had finished describing the events that led to Michael's defeat, Billings announced, "This concludes this stage of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Stargate Program. In the next few days, the Committee members will draft a report containing our recommendations for further action. Copies of this report will be delivered to the House and Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Appropriations Committees, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Reyes." None of this was news, of course, but Ronon knew the formalities had to be observed, and in a way, it was comforting: no matter what galaxy you were in, politicians were the same.

"On behalf of all of us on the Committee, I would like to thank those who testified and those who traveled almost incomprehensible distances in order to be here, especially General Landry of Stargate Command, General O'Neill, Colonels Carter and Mitchell, Doctor Jackson, and—" Ronon noticed that he hesitated for a second "—Teal'c of the Jaffa of Team SG-1, and Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay, Specialist Dex and Ms. Emmagan from Team AR-1. Your willingness to come forward is appreciated, and I say to all of you that your candor is matched only by your courage."

Ronon couldn't see it from where he was sitting, but he could guess that John's ears and the back of Rodney's neck were turning red. Teyla was looking perfectly serene as always; Ronon sat up just a bit straighter, knowing that the cameras were on them.

"So now what?" he asked as they headed back to the hotel.

"Now we wait," Levinson said. "We're expecting a very important call within the next few days, and I think after that, we hope that you'll all be free to go back to Atlantis."

Home, Ronon thought. No one said it, but from the rest of the team's faces, he knew that they were thinking the same thing.

Despite the fact that Michelle had walked them through every step of the whole evening in advance, Rodney still found himself oddly nervous as their limo approached the White House. "Is my tie crooked?" he asked, trying not to reach up and fidget with the white bow tie Michelle had tied for him. It wasn't tight, but he still felt like he was on the verge of being strangled.

"You look fine," John said. "In fact, you look really really good. I wish I could wear a tux to this."

"You're kidding, right?" Rodney stared at John. "I think they invented the word 'dashing' for you in that uniform." John's mess dress had obviously been tailored for him, and he looked long, lean and...well, dashing. "Although, really, I don't see why we need to worry; people will ignore us, even Ronon, to stare at Teyla."

"They invented the word 'glamorous' for her," Ronon said, resting a hand on Teyla's bare shoulder. He'd actually given in and worn full formal dress, white tie and all; looking at him sitting with Teyla, Rodney wasn't sure why anyone in the world would want to be anything but bisexual.

Teyla laughed and looked down at her dark red and black beaded gown. "I have never worn anything this beautiful; I feel like the girl in the old story who went to sleep and woke up to find she had become a princess."

"What happened to her?" Rodney asked and then regretted it. All too often, Pegasus fairy tales ended with "and then the Wraith came."

"After many adventures, she married a hunter and they ruled wisely over her people for the rest of their lives," Teyla said.

"Really? Cool, you'll have to tell it to Elizabeth when she's old enough."

Teyla's murmured "Yes, I will," was cut off as the limo came to a stop.

One of the agents got the door, and as Ronon helped Teyla out of the car, Rodney looked around and took a deep breath and resisted the urge to straighten his tie again. It was annoying; he'd face so many for more nerve-wracking experiences than a White House reception and dinner.

But at some point in the middle of all this, one guy is going to decide all our fates.

President Tomas Reyes was a short, stocky man whose physique and attitude had earned him the nickname "the Bulldog" during his time as the junior senator from California. He also had charisma to spare, something Rodney'd read about plenty of times but only now really appreciated.

As the cameras from the press corp flashed during the AR-1 photo op, Reyes chatted easily with the team, and if he was phased by the fact that two of them were aliens, it didn't show at all.

"I understand travel by stargate is quite common in your galaxy," he said to Teyla.

"Oh, yes, I first went through the stargate when I was seven. My father took me to meet some of our allies."

Rodney swallowed a snort when she didn't mention that those allies had been the Genii.

"And I didn't even know the gates existed until after I was elected." Reyes chuckled. "I'd love to go through one some day."

"I am sure Colonel Carter would be honored to have you visit Atlantis," Teyla replied smoothly. She smiled while, outside the range of the cameras, both the Press Secretary and the Chief of Staff winced. "The city is beautiful; we would enjoy showing it to both you and Mrs. Reyes."

Doing his best not to look smug, Rodney smiled for the cameras and assured the First Lady that he was quite recovered from his ordeal, thank you for asking.

After the photo op, they returned to the reception. Rodney was sure he'd never shaken as many hands in a row like this and at one point when he glanced over at John talking to O'Neill and Mitchell, he noticed that John's careful diplomatic smile was looking a little strained around the edges.

"You look nice," he said as he caught up with Carter. "But please tell me you didn't leave Radek and Lorne in charge of the city."

"It's all right; I told Chuck to keep an eye on them." They both laughed for a moment and then she gave him a concerned look. "We were worried about you."

"Yeah, I was too when I realized the Trust was involved. I'm damn glad they found me before someone stuffed a snake in me."

"Now there's a terrifying thought," she said, with just a little hint of a smirk. Rodney shook his head and tried to remember a time when he'd been fascinated with her to the point of behaving like an asshole whenever he saw her.

"Excuse me, Colonel Carter? Doctor McKay? If you'll come with me?" Around the room, agents were going up to other people, deftly separating the members of the program from the rest of the reception.

"This looked nicer on TV," Rodney said as they walked through the halls of the West Wing.

"They had a better budget than we do," the Press Secretary said with a smile that indicated he'd heard the line many, many times before.

The Oval Office, on the other hand, was even more imposing than Rodney had expected. Somehow all the movies and TV shows hadn't managed to convey the feeling of standing in the middle of history and even Ronon, whose government had ruled out of the same building for over a thousand years, looked impressed.

"Thank you for joining us," Reyes said once people were settled. Rodney, standing with John behind the sofa Teyla was sitting on, resisted the urge to rest his hand on her shoulder or grab John's hand.

"During our photo op, I was telling Ms. Emmagan that I was only told about the program after I'd been elected, and I have to admit that I was pretty pissed off at first. I wasn't pleased that this whole program had been kept from both Congress and the American people, that men and women had been fighting and dying in a war the public knew nothing about, never mind the huge financial burden to the country.

"I even thought about telling the public back then, or about closing the program down." Reyes glanced at Landry and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who were seated on the couch across from Teyla and Carter. "I was convinced to do neither."

There was a dramatic pause, and Rodney wondered what Reyes was like when he spoke to an actual crowd because he was certainly working this room; everyone's attention was riveted on the man leaning casually against the Resolute Desk.

"That was a mistake, and one I take full blame for; we should have...I should have told the public right away. On the other hand," and here Rodney caught his breath and knew he wasn't alone in doing so, "all the reading I've done, all the things I've been told, and all the testimony I've watched as well the initial report from the Congressional Committee have convinced me that I was right to allow the program to continue."

Ronon, standing on Rodney's other side, gripped Teyla's shoulder; she reached up and took his hand. Rodney moved a little closer to Ronon and finally allowed his own hand to brush against John's.

"To turn away now would not only lose us valuable allies and possibly endanger this planet, but would also be a step backward for this country—and I have every intention of telling the American people that." He finally smiled, a broad grin. "I'm only sorry it's taken this long to get to this point."

Everyone in the room looked at General Landry, but he shook his head and gave O'Neill a glance. O'Neill took a deep breath, stood up, and said, "Thanks, Mr. President."

As Rodney let out a snort of laughter, he was damn glad he wasn't the only person in the room amused by O'Neill's so-typical reaction; Jackson was snickering and Carter's shoulders were shaking. At first Reyes seemed a little taken aback, but then he smiled again.

"I'll make the formal announcement tomorrow in a television address, and I'm sure there will be plenty of press conferences after that, but for now...I did invite you all to dinner, and since the chef assured me it's all one hundred-percent citrus-free, I think we should get down there and eat."

Rodney's face was hot, but he managed to laugh anyway. It wasn't all that difficult; he felt almost giddy, which was something he was most certainly not going to tell anyone—although really, from the almost fond expression on John's face as they left the room, he figured the people who knew him could tell.

Their last two weeks in Washington passed in a blur of meetings with a few more receptions and parties thrown in for good measure. Now that the program was being continued, they were suddenly wildly popular with the social arbiters of the city. Teyla found the parties to be much like diplomatic receptions everywhere, and she gathered both a collection of elegant dresses as well as personal connections with ambassadors from a number of countries. The IOA planned to expand, and most of the industrialized nations of the Earth wanted to be involved.

It was a bit overwhelming to realize that there were this many important people on one planet; Teyla finally understood a great deal more about the conflicts and wars Earth had suffered even before they had faced an outside threat. She found herself missing Elizabeth Weir yet again; navigating the complicated alliances would have been easier with her friend at her side.

She did well enough, however, and on the drive back to the hotel after a reception at the Canadian Embassy, Ronon shook his head. "And you thought there was no reason for you to even be on this trip."

"I don't know how you keep track of everyone," Rodney said, impatiently undoing his tie. "And God only knows how you manage to look so interested. I was the guest of honor and I still found the whole thing to be a total snooze fest."

"How many more times can you remind us that you were the guest of honor?" John asked. Rodney made a rude gesture at him and then leaned back.

"This was the last reception," Teyla said, petting him on the thigh.

"Yeah, about that," John said. He looked a little sheepish and Rodney glared at him.

"Don't tell me there's another one...."

"No, not at all. Just...I thought maybe we really needed a vacation before we went back home. I checked with Colonel Carter and she said we all had plenty of leave coming, so I wanted to see if maybe a week or two with nothing to do but sleep in late, grill steaks, drink beer and maybe do some really high quality loafing sounded good."

"It sounds great," Ronon said.

"I've got work to do," Rodney said. "You wouldn't believe the number of resumés I need to go over now that it looks like we'll be getting more people."

"I have to go over files too," John said. "But Carter really doesn't expect us to do any of that right away. C'mon, Rodney, would it kill you to just relax?"

"Possibly." But Rodney was smiling. "Although that whole grilling steaks has me a little nervous. Please promise me no camping is involved."

"None," John said. "There's this place up at Tahoe that I...that we can use. It's nice and secluded and big enough for all of us. And the security guys are okay with it; they say they can make sure we're not disturbed."

"Oh, all right, you've twisted my arm."

"Anybody home?" John called as the gate closed behind them. Atlantis was still and quiet, and for a heart-stopping minute, Teyla was afraid the city had suffered an attack, or a viral outbreak, or a catastrophic systems malfunction, or that they'd somehow returned to a distant past or far-future time. Then she looked up at one of the skylights and saw both moons high in the sky. Up in the control room one of the night shift gate techs waved at them and Teyla noticed that the usual complement of Marines was posted around the gate room.

"It is night, John." She shook her head. "I suspect it will be some time before our bodies adjust back to Lantean cycles."

"Yeah," John said, turning down the corridor that led to the crew quarters.

"Most of us, anyway." Rodney glanced down at Elizabeth, fast asleep in the sling. "Someone seems to be adjusting just fine, which I guess is easy when all you have to do is sleep and eat."

"Sounds like you last week, McKay," Ronon said.

"Oh, you—you know, I'm not going to even dignify that with an answer. Like you did anything else."

"That's not really fair, Ronon," John said as they turned the corner into the atrium nearest their rooms. "Rodney didn't just eat and sleep, and neither did anyone else. We had a lot of really good sex—"

"Oh man, I did not need to know that!" muttered a familiar voice out of the darkness.

"Shh! You're going to give it away!" someone else hissed.

John stopped short, almost tripping Teyla, and a second later the lights brightened and revealed what had to be over half the population of the city, scientists and soldiers, gathered around a table full of food. Someone—Teyla suspected Major Lorne—had painted a banner that read, "Welcome Home, AR-1". It reminded her of their first night in Atlantis, and without really thinking about it, she reached out and took John's hand.

"Um. Surprise?" Chuck said, looking rather sheepish.

Teyla smiled and Ronon grinned and John...John let out a laugh, the genuine one that sounded absurd.

"Oh my God," Rodney said. "If this is what you people do when you should be working, I am never leaving again...oh, hey, is that cake actually chocolate?"

The cake turned out to be not only chocolate, but chocolate and rincea fruit, which everyone knew both Rodney and Ronon loved. After the initial round of greetings and catching up, Teyla found herself on a balcony with John, watching as Ronon and Rodney had their second pieces of cake.

"Has it really been only four and a half years? Feels like forever," he said quietly. He was looking out over the East Pier and the ocean, and it was easy enough to guess that he was remembering their first night on Atlantis as well.

"John," she murmured, resting her hand over his on the balcony railing.

"It's okay," he said. "Something about having to talk through it all again...maybe they're...Ford and even Elizabeth...maybe they're still out there and maybe they're not. But, well...we did everything we could." She wasn't sure he believed it, but surely the fact that he could say it meant he might eventually be able to let go of the ghosts of the past.

"Never forget one thing," she said, pushing him gently until they were facing each other. "You do have friends out here, now and always. Friends and a family." Without any prompting, he leaned forward and down a little as she moved toward him until their foreheads touched.

"And a home," he said, so softly she could barely hear him.

After months of astonishing revelations and lengthy hearings, President Reyes has fully endorsed the recommendation of the Joint Congressional Committee to continue U.S. participation in the Stargate Program. While there were initially serious questions raised about the secrecy that had surrounded the program and the misappropriation of funds earmarked for other purposes, we agree with the President's statement that "Previous American exploration of space was based on competition; the current environment calls for cooperation with allies both on Earth and beyond it, which is truly in keeping with the American spirit."

American participation—and funding—is crucial to the program's continued existence, but it is important to remember that the Stargate Program is not solely an American endeavor. The Atlantis expedition alone includes the participation of scientists and soldiers from over two dozen countries. The global community should share in the benefits of intergalactic research—and in the responsibilities as well.

Also critical to the program's success is acknowledging the profound impact these revelations have had on humanity and our understanding of our place in the cosmos. We now have incontrovertible proof that we are far from alone in the universe. As the unfortunate abduction of Dr. Rodney McKay showed, this new perspective may be difficult for many to accept, especially where it shakes the foundations of everything they believe. Those involved with the program must recognize and be sensitive to the difficulties of re-arranging one's world view, and be patient with those of us who do not deal with the profoundly alien on a day-to-day basis.

And yet, for all that is profoundly alien "out there", we have all learned that there just as much that is profoundly human. Most of us will never know how it feels to step through the stargate, but we do understand the desire to create a better world for our children, free from fear and oppression. We applaud the decision to continue working toward that goal, for all of the people of the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxies, and of people and places yet to be discovered.

The Los Angeles Timeseditorial "Boldly Going Forward", August 29, 2009


"I am stressed," Rodney announced as he paced the hotel room dressed in nothing but a towel. "I require sex to keep my mind off things."

For all that he sounded like he was joking, John was inclined to cut Rodney some slack; he had good reason to be stressed, and, anyway, he looked pretty fuckable—what with water from his shower still beading on his chest and nothing between his ass and John's mouth and hands but a thick hotel towel.

Still, the day John didn't yank Rodney's chain would be the day they buried them both, so he leaned back in his chair. "I dunno, you don't seem stressed to me. What do you think?" he asked, turning to Ronon.

"Looks pretty calm."

Instead of protesting or appealing to Teyla, Rodney shrugged. "Fine, then," he said, settling down on the bed and unwrapping his towel. "I can just take care of it myself." Making a big show of licking his palm, he leaned back against the pillows and began to slowly jerk himself off.

"Oh, that's not fair," John groaned.

"I wanna get laid," Rodney replied, "so I really don't care about what's fair."

"If you are so interested in what is fair," Teyla said, putting her magazine down and getting to her feet. "Perhaps you and Ronon should both wait your turn."

"Now wait a minute," Ronon said, "I didn't say anything."

Teyla ignored him, and John just shrugged and gave Ronon a look. "Guess we're waiting our turns, buddy."

And really, it wasn't that much of a hardship, he thought as Teyla slid out of her bathrobe and joined Rodney on the bed; while John wasn't the voyeur that Teyla was, he certainly had no problem watching something like this, where "this" was Rodney and Teyla making out while they both jerked Rodney off. Especially when Ronon came up behind John and started nuzzling the back of his neck.

Teyla nipped Rodney's ear and said just loud enough for John to hear, "Not yet." Rodney's put-upon sigh wasn't at all convincing as he slid to his knees and buried his face between her legs.

"Never get tired of watching that," Ronon murmured. John had to agree.

"So glad we could provide the floor show," Rodney said. Teyla shoved his head back down, but she was smiling.

Ronon had moved on to biting John's shoulders, somewhat harder than he usually did, but they weren't exactly going to be going on missions for the next couple of days, so John figured it was okay. He tilted his head forward to give Ronon better access while still keeping his eyes on Teyla and Rodney. Rodney and his amazing mouth were clearly doing their thing; Teyla was making the little breathy noises that always meant she was about to come.

Over the years, Rodney had learned what those noises meant, too, and now he brought his hand down; John couldn't see what he was doing, although by the way Teyla was arching her back and crying out, it was something pretty good.

He brought her off two more times, and while John was getting pretty impatient—Ronon had moved from his shoulders and was now licking his way down John's spine—he could also appreciate the sight of one of Teyla's heels digging into Rodney's upper back as she came for the third time.

"Enough," she finally said, sliding her hands through Rodney's hair. "That was wonderful," she added as he sat up.

"I was inspired," he said with a grin as he wiped his face off. "Oh, good; I was worried that I was going to mess up your hair or something."

"This style is quite indestructible." Teyla flipped several of her long, thin braids over her shoulder and glanced at John and Ronon. "Ronon next?"

"Oh, hell, yeah," Rodney said. "C'mere, Ronon."

"Hey!" John's protest didn't last long; Teyla came over and settled into his lap, leaning back against his chest as she watched Rodney and Ronon.

"Hang in there," Rodney said as he helped Ronon out of his pants. "Ronon's gonna fuck me and then I'm gonna fuck you."

"You've got it all planned out," Ronon said, digging in the nightstand for the lube.

"What? Like you're going to pass up a chance to fuck me?"

"Well, since you put it that way...." Ronon wrestled Rodney onto the bed, pinning him down on his stomach and biting at his shoulders the way he'd been biting at John's.

"Hey, what's with you and the teeth? No marks!"

"Nothing's gonna be visible under that penguin suit of yours," John said, hooking his chin over Teyla's shoulder so he could watch.

"We don't need comments from the peanut gallery, thank you." Rodney's snark trailed off in a yelp as Ronon bent down and bit his ass.

"It's not gonna show," Ronon said as he slicked up his fingers.

"Yeah, but I have to...ohhhh...oh yeah, just like that...c'mon, more...." Rodney squirmed and tried to get his knees underneath him, but Ronon held him in place.

"Not so worried about sitting still now, are you?"

"You're a...goddamn tease."

"Yeah, but you like it like that," Ronon said, nipping at Rodney's skin again as his fingers moved in and out of Rodney's ass.

"Okay...we established years ago...oh, fuck...that I'm a big manslut...."

"Manslut? Is that a word?" John said, and he could feel Teyla laughing on his lap. "Do they have a prize for that, too?"

"Fuck you...okay, c'mon already...Ronon...."

Finally, Ronon pulled Rodney into position on his knees and elbows and pressed inside of him. "Oh God," Rodney moaned. "Oh yeah...oh yeah...." Ronon settled into a steady pace, one John knew he could keep up all day if he felt like it.

"Don't you dare make him come," John said.

"I won't," Ronon promised, grabbing Rodney's hips as Rodney gasped and started pushing back.

John grinned against Teyla's neck; for all that Rodney complained about his back constantly, he never seemed to have any problems when it came to sex. As they fell into a rhythm that would eventually get Ronon off but not Rodney, Teyla squirmed and John knew when to take a hint.

Keeping his eyes on Ronon and Rodney, John kissed her shoulder and moved his hand between her legs, pressing the heel of his palm hard up against her clit. "Good," she said breathlessly, "oh yes, that is very good, John."

By the time Ronon came with a muffled groan, Teyla had come twice and Rodney was all but incoherent, muttering curses under his breath and gasping for air. John really wasn't much better off, Teyla's wriggling had him frustrated to the point of desperation.

"If you don't get over here," Rodney said. "I swear to God, I'm gonna hump the mattress and make you sleep in the wet spot." As threats went, it was hardly up to his usual standards, but under the circumstances, John was willing to forgive a lot.

Sliding his hands under Teyla's ass, John stood up and carried her over to the bed, pleased that, this close to fifty, he could still manage it. Once he set her down and Ronon pulled her into his arms, Rodney all but pounced on John, pressing him face down on the bed.

John moaned as he spread his legs, and Rodney pushed two lube-slicked fingers into him. Neither of them was in the mood to wait, so as soon as John figured he was ready, he reached back and batted at Rodney's wrist. "Come on, Rodney...I've been ready for the last hour or so."

"Well, excuse me for not wanting to hurt you," Rodney snapped, but he rolled John over onto his back anyway.

"Fuck me, c'mon."

"Oh, you sweet-talker," Rodney said.

Any snappy come-back John might have had was lost as Rodney slid into him. John caught his breath at the slow burn of it, but he reached up and grabbed Rodney's hips, pulling him in closer.


"Oh yeah," John moaned, trying to arch so he could get more of Rodney's dick in his ass. Rodney took the invitation for what it was and began fucking John hard. Unable to move, John just wrapped his legs around Rodney's waist, grabbed his biceps and held on.

They were both already close and in a matter of minutes, Rodney slid a hand between them, wrapping his fingers around John's cock. "C'mon," he muttered. "Wanna feel...you come...." His thumb rubbed up against that one spot on the underside of John's dick and that was all it took; John came with a shout, his fingers digging hard into Rodney's arms.

"Oh, fuck," Rodney growled. "Oh...fuck...John...." He thrust into John one more time and then came.

He collapsed almost immediately after, but John was used to it and really, for all they teased him, Rodney wasn't so heavy that John couldn't bear his weight for a while. When Rodney finally lifted his head, he leaned in for a kiss.

"Okay," Rodney said against John's mouth. "Considerably less stressed here."

John kissed him again and then Rodney was turning and looking at the clock on the nightstand. "Holy fuck! Look at the time...and now we all need showers!"

"This is a nice hotel," John said. "I'm sure they have plenty of water for all of us to take showers before we have to leave in two hours."

"Okay, okay, fine. Maybe I'm still a little stressed."

Much later, as Rodney finally came down from his buzz and they all settled in for the night, John replayed the high points of the evening in his head: the mercifully short speeches, the incredible and totally citrus-free dinner, the big happy smiles that never quite left either Rodney or Radek's faces, Rodney letting Elizabeth stand on his feet so he could dance with her....

"If I could have," Rodney said, his voice already soft and sleepy, "I'd have thanked you all, like at the Oscars. But it's just not done."

"We know," Teyla said, very kindly not pointing out that Rodney had told them the same about fifty times since October.

"But really, thank you. Teyla, John, Ronon...I wouldn't even be alive without you guys, let alone here. So yeah...I guess I'm trying to say...that I love you. All of you." Even after all these years, hearing it made John feel warm all over.

"Yeah—we know that, too." Ronon kissed the general vicinity of Rodney's ear. "Now go to sleep."

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2016 jointly to Doctors M. Rodney McKay and Radek Zelenka, both of the Stargate Program Atlantis Expedition for their discovery of the method for containing zero point energy for use as a power source.

Press Release from The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, October 10, 2016

The End