Big Bang 2009.   Anything goes.
Rodney manages to save the team, but at a terrible cost to himself. When John later stumbles across an Ancient facility, he finds that it can give Rodney what the scientist had given up as a lost cause due to his sacrifice. But the facility is rapidly running out of power and John has to make a snap decision. How far is John willing to go to help a man that he loves far too much for his own good?
Word Count
57255 words
Special thanks to my betas moonmip, goddess47 and orandream. Super special thanks goes to orandream's co-worker for the authentic Czech translations!
I give permission for this story to be remixed and podficced as long as I am credited and notified.
This story has warnings; they are listed at the end of the story.
Jump to the warnings.
Companion Artwork
  • Christmas at the Miller's by wihluta
  • Cover by wihluta
  • John Pregnant by wihluta

John ran ahead of Ronon, his chest lancing with pain from the effort to outrun him. Even burdened as he was, Ronon was fast. John had never been more thankful for that than today. He skidded to a halt in front of the DHD, dialing before he'd even come to a complete stop. This was not how he'd thought his day would go.


John walked alongside Rodney, chewing a stalk of grass, enjoying the sun of a different planet and the reassuring cadence of Rodney's complaints. It was good to be back in the Pegasus galaxy. For a while there, he thought that they'd be stuck on Earth forever. But after the seventeenth time they had moved the city to avoid detection and a fishing boat still managed to accidentally plow into the city during a storm, The Powers That Be finally decided that Atlantis was too hard to hide on Earth without compromising the security of the Stargate program. After that, had been a breeze to convince everyone that Atlantis best served its purpose to the program back in Pegasus.

It had been a month ago that they had landed back on New Lantia, and John was glad to be back where he belonged, doing his best to end the Wraith threat to Pegasus. Except for a few annoying little things, all was righter in his world than it had been in months.

"…and those idiots had the nerve to suggest that they knew better than I did about the whole thing!" Rodney finished, waving his hands around. "Seriously, where does the SGC come up with these bozos, and why do they have to send them all to me?"

John noted that Ronon was slowing down in front of them to look at a large vine covered rock formation and moved the grass stalk over to the other side of his mouth. "I dunno, Rodney. Maybe it's because they're masochists and have a kink for being verbally abused?"

"I wish. At least then I'd have a hope that they'd get me off in return," Rodney scoffed. His face then screwed up funny. "Um, don't tell Jennifer I said that? She, uh, she might not take that right."

Aaaaand there it was. The topic that John never wanted to hear about again but was doomed to anyway. He was sick to death of listening to Rodney's babbling about his relationship with Keller. "Wasn't planning on telling her, buddy."

At least he didn't have to put up with the two of them making googly eyes at each other during staff meetings anymore. In a sudden bizarre fit of good sense, the SGC and IOA had realized that while Keller was a good doctor, they really did need someone with more maturity in the position of CMO and had demanded that Beckett 2.0 to take up the reins of the department again. To be honest, Keller had looked relieved when that decision had come down. John had sympathized. That had truly been too much pressure on someone as young as she was. Some days John felt that the pressure of his job was too much for him and he had quite a bit more life experience under his belt.

"Good, good. She'd probably tell me that I need to be more understanding anyways," Rodney replied, relieved.

John slanted a look at him. From the sound of that, it looked like Keller was still on her kick to force Rodney into humble civility, come hell or high water. It was uncomfortably like watching an old style horse trainer trying to break a wild horse. Since John was of the 'horse whisperer' school of thought, he gave in once again to the perverse urge to undermine her efforts. "Why should you? You just said that they're idiots."

"And they are!" Rodney replied vehemently. "But Jennifer says that…"

"I do believe that Ronon has spotted something," Teyla interrupted as she came up behind them. John turned and gave her a thankful look. She raised one eyebrow and the corner of her mouth slightly in return. It seemed like John wasn't the only one on the team that was just a little tired of hearing 'Jennifer says this, Jennifer says that' all the time. "Let us see what he has found."

Diverted from what he was going to say, Rodney fumbled for his equipment as they continued onward to meet up with Ronon. As they came up to him, John pulled off his sunglasses and stuck them in his breast pocket. "Whatcha got, Ronon?"

Ronon pulled aside a tangle of vines from what initially looked like rock. Once cleared of the greenery however, faded Ancient glyphs could clearly be seen covering the surface. "Dunno. Looks Ancient."

Teyla came up beside him and ran her fingers delicately over them. "According to this inscription, this was once a research facility for the Ancestors," she said. "This marks the entrance. The laboratory itself appears to be underground."

Rodney, who had been studying readouts and making minute adjustments to his equipment, hummed in satisfaction. "It's got a big power source to it. I'd say it's worth checking out."

Ronon cleared the rest of the greenery away from the oddly metallic rock and Rodney stepped up to examine it closely for a possible entrance. "Ha! This is it!" he exclaimed and pushed a series of glyphs. A door panel depressed from the surface and slid back into the interior of the construct. Stale, slightly mildewy air sighed outward and Ronon went in, his gun held at the ready.

"Yeah, you go scout ahead. We'll just hang out here!" John called after him, attempting to keep up the illusion that he was in charge of his team. Although really? He'd have had an easier time herding cats some days. But, given his druthers, he'd take his team over a more obedient one any day of the week, so he didn't bother to get too worked up about it.

A few minutes passed and Ronon reappeared in the doorway. "Looks clear," he stated. "There's a small window into a larger space down several levels. What looks like a transporter that probably goes down to it. Can see some rooms off the main space but it's all pretty open."

John nodded his acknowledgment of the report. "Thanks." He clapped his hands together. "Okay, kids, time to go on a treasure hunt."


The wormhole bloomed open and John punched his IDC viciously into the transceiver as he shouted over his radio, "Atlantis, this is Sheppard, we've got wounded!"

The rest of his team came pounding up behind him as John heard Woolsey say over the radio, "Sheppard this is Atlantis, the shield is down and the medical team has been alerted."


Rodney huffed and rolled his eyes and Teyla looked on patiently as John stepped through the doorway, then followed after him. The antechamber was undistinguished, and Ronon moved ahead of them down a short corridor into the transporter. John followed him, as did Rodney and Teyla, and the transporter door closed behind them. The familiar flash of light came, then the door opened onto a spacious lab. John stepped forward and the dim lights brightened considerably. John heard Rodney mutter something uncomplimentary about his gene and grinned. The way Ancient tech responded to him would never get old, if only because the response always tweaked Rodney's ego.

Rodney came up beside him and looked at the consoles around them with a judicious eye. He then pointed to the one directly on John's left and said, "Let's try that one first."

As Ronon and Teyla took up positions to cover them and the transporter door, John beat Rodney over to the console and laid his hand on it. The console obligingly lit up and a barely perceptible hum reached John's ears. He then stepped aside and presented the console with a flourish of the hand to Rodney. "One console, initialized and ready to go, Rodney."

Rodney rolled his eyes at him again and pulled out his laptop and clips to hook the console to it. John found a handy wall to lean against and let himself watch as Rodney began his work. He'd always enjoyed watching Rodney in his element; even though it had become all too clear with Katie and Jennifer that the chemistry between them was one-sided on John's part, he still allowed himself this. It wasn't like his love-life was going to get any better, so he might as well enjoy what he could, John reasoned to himself. After all, Rodney did have a fabulous ass.

Teyla started humming a tune to pass the time and John was amused when Rodney unconsciously began humming in counterpoint to it. Ronon heard it too, and shared a grin with John. One of these days, they'd convince Rodney to sing a duet with Teyla. She had told them both that she was convinced that Rodney's singing voice would be quite lovely. John started idly plotting on how to best annoy Rodney into agreeing to do so. It helped pass the time.

About forty-five minutes after they'd entered the lab, Rodney's posture straightened from his typical hunch over his computer. "Ah ha!"

John perked up from his casual slouch against the wall. "You finally found something, McKay?"

Rodney turned to look at him, his color high and his eyes so bright that John had to steel himself against the stupid impulse to haul him up against a wall and kiss him. "Normally, I'd berate you for your serious inability to realize that science takes time, but in this case I'll be beneficent and let it go." He raised a finger in what John termed his 'watch me while I show you my brilliance' pose. "Because this? Is a facility that was built to recharge self-regulating high energy capacitors. It's not ZPM levels of energy but, if we can reverse engineer this, our power problems will be considerably less of an issue. We could potentially triple the output of our current naquada generators. With luck, we might even be able to squeeze enough power out of them to use a couple of them to power the shield."

"Cool," John replied, Rodney's excitement making him smile despite himself. He really needed to stop responding to Rodney like that. It kept giving his libido all the wrong ideas. Next time John was stuck back on Earth for debriefing, he really needed to go out and get some more porn. If he'd been smart about it, he'd have stocked up while they were stuck on Earth, but he'd been too busy lobbying to get Atlantis back to the Pegasus galaxy back then.


"We're clear, Ronon!" John shouted, but Ronon was already ahead of him, running through the gate like a bat out of hell. John quickly followed him.

John came through to the other side of the gate in time to see the medical team rush into the gateroom and descend upon Ronon, relieving him of his charge. A hand gripped his shoulder and John tore his attention away from the frantic workings of the medical team to see that it was Woolsey. "Colonel, what happened?"


"Initialize that console over there, and I'll show you cool," Rodney replied, bouncing on his toes and pointing at another console that stood directly in front of a blank wall.

John sauntered over just make Rodney glare at him a bit and laid his hand on the console. It obligingly lit up at his touch and the wall abruptly slid away to reveal a heavy duty door and an observation window that looked into a room with a large device in the center of it. Peering into the window, John idly noted that the ceiling of that room looked water stained. There had probably been an earthquake or perhaps a rare flaw in the Ancient construction that had cracked the roof of the facility at some point. Other than that, the facility was in the freakishly excellent shape that they ran into more often than not when investigating Ancient facilities that were reasonably well sealed up.

Rodney bustled over and nudged John out of the way. His eyes scanned over the console and he reached out and tapped several keys. The door to the newly revealed room opened with a hiss and Rodney looked up with a self-satisfied grin. "Now, let's see what we have here."

John signaled Ronon and Teyla to stay in the main room and followed after Rodney. "Don't you think we should bring a team of scientists in before we start playing around with stuff, McKay?"

Rodney impatiently waved him off. "Yes, yes, of course we're going to bring a team in, but I need to take a closer look at it so I can determine who to bring in to work on it. This will only take a minute."

John rolled his eyes. He was altogether too familiar with how long one of Rodney's 'minutes' tended to be. "Right. Just a minute, my ass."

"Oh, just suck it up and deal, Colonel," Rodney shot back over his shoulder as he knelt down by the device and reached out to touch a panel near the floor.

John staggered as a violent shudder ran through the facility and the peculiar honking alarm that the Ancients favored began blaring in his ears. "Rodney! What the fuck?"


John tried to gather together his scattered thoughts enough to answer Woolsey's question. "An accident. It was…it was an accident," he said hoarsely, still breathing hard from the run to the gate. "We found an Ancient device and the damned thing just started falling apart." He stopped and ran a hand over his eyes. His hand came away wet.


The panel cover fell to the floor with an unceremonious thud before Rodney actually got a hand on it. John looked down at it and saw that the connectors that held the cover to the device were corroded through. Rodney looked into the opening and all the color in his face drained away. "This isn't good," he said faintly.

"No shit!" John said, annoyed. "What the hell happened?"

Rodney blinked blankly for a moment, then seemed to collect himself. "I don't have time to explain, Colonel! Just go get my computer from the console!"

John turned and shouted to Teyla, "Teyla! Bring Rodney's computer in here!"

Teyla quickly grabbed the laptop and expertly disconnected the cables from the console that it was hooked up to. She sprinted into the room and dropped it into Rodney's outstretched hands. "Is there any other way I can assist?"

"Go to the second console and tap the third key from the left. Tell me what the readout says," replied Rodney as he hastily began connecting his laptop to the crystals inside the opened panel. The facility shook again and a crystal crumbled to dust beneath his touch. "Oh no," he breathed, freezing momentarily. "That's not good at all."

"Rodney, focus!" John barked at him as Teyla quickly exited the room and went to the console Rodney had directed her to. He watched out of the corner of his eye through the observation window as Teyla did as Rodney had instructed her to while Ronon looked on alertly.

Rodney unlocked from his frozen position and very gingerly connected the rest of the cables to the panel. He then slowly set down the computer onto the floor.

"Rodney, stop dicking around! I thought you said you didn't have time to explain!" John snapped, wondering what on earth had possessed Rodney to start moving at the same speed as a tree sloth. "We've got an alarm going off and the building doing a damned hula dance! We could be in danger here!"

"Yes, yes, how very astute of you, Colonel Obvious! We just so happen to be in danger!" Rodney snarled back, his color coming back to his face and rapidly starting to turn red from anger. "And I'm trying to make sure that I don't make the situation any worse, thank you very much!"

"Well, do it faster!" John sniped, feeling a little relieved now that Rodney was acting more normally. That had been one hell of a freeze up, even for McKay.

Rodney gave him a searing glare, then turned and knelt onto the floor and began tapping furiously on the keyboard in front of him.

Teyla's voice came over the radio and more distantly echo'd through the doorway. "Rodney, it says that the…anentecuo, I am sorry, I do not know what that means, is malfunctioning and that the device is overloading."

Rodney froze again. "Fuck," John heard him whisper.

"You know what this anentecuo is, Rodney?" John demanded, trying to get Rodney back on track. His constant freezing up was beginning to worry him.


Woolsey gave John a measured, compassionate look that made him squirm inside. "I will meet you later to get a full report, Colonel."

John took that as a dismissal and went running after the rest of his team, resolutely not thinking about what he might find once he got to the infirmary.

"Yes, I do, and it is not good," Rodney said jerking back into motion, typing even faster than he had before. The building rattled alarmingly again and one of the crystals that had a cable attached to it shattered with a loud tinkle. "Shit," Rodney swore, releasing the cable from the remnants of the crystal and delicately hooking it to another inside the panel. As he was removing his hand from within the panel another crystal shattered, covering Rodney's hand with a multitude of cuts. "Damn it!" he hissed, drawing back his hand and shaking the crystal shards off of it.

"Rodney, can you fix this?" John asked, a bad feeling sweeping over him. He'd never seen the interior of an Ancient device just disintegrate like that.

"I'm trying to, but your constant annoying questions are not helping!" Rodney growled as he looked back down at the screen of the laptop. Something incredibly technical that John didn't immediately recognize flashed ominously on it. Rodney blinked at it and then turned to look at John. "I need you to go to the second console and hit the top left button, followed by the two buttons in the center under the green light and then wait for my next instruction."

"Teyla," John began, but Rodney interrupted.

"If Teyla could do it, I would have asked her to," he snapped impatiently, turning his gaze to the computer and tapping out something. It had no effect on the flashing symbols on the screen. "This is going to need the ATA gene."

John hesitated, feeling that something wasn't quite right and Rodney looked back up at him as the facility gave another ominous shudder. "John, I need you to do this, or we're all going to die very explosively in a moment."

Rodney's quiet admission ignited a true flame of fear in John. "Okay, top left button, followed by the two buttons in the center under the green light, got it," he repeated and dashed out of the chamber to the console.

Teyla moved to the side to give him room and John located the required buttons and pressed them in the instructed order. "Okay, Rodney, I've…" he started, looking up from the console. The door to the chamber slammed shut.

As John looked on in mute horror through the observation window, Rodney slowly stood up, looked over at them and whispered, "I'm sorry," over the radio before turning back to the device and pulling open panels with a disregard diametrically opposite to the care he'd been treating the device with seconds before. Several more crystals shattered as he did so, John watching as the shards seemed to fall to the floor in slow motion.

Oh god, thought John. Oh god, no. "Rodney! Rodney tell me how to open that door, right now!" he screamed into his radio as Ronon ran to the closed door and tried futilely to open it with bare brute strength.

Rodney shook his head and then buried his arm up to the shoulder into an opening he'd uncovered in the device. He yanked on something with visible force and the device slowly separated into two pieces to reveal a small brightly glowing core. John felt the grinding of the mechanism through the soles of his boots, too frozen in shock to do anything else.

Teyla looked at a readout on the console, her face becoming even more distressed. "Rodney, you must leave! The core is emitting a great deal of radiation and it will kill you if you stay in there!"

He ignored her as he pulled his hand out from within the machine and stepped towards the glowing core. He hesitated and turned to look at them through the window, a profound sorrow written on his face. "It's, it's been an honor to work with you," he said formally, then turned back to the device and reached in to grasp the blazing core with his bare hands. John gripped the edge of the console spasmodically as he heard Rodney gasp and then whimper with pain over the radio. Rodney rotated the core, the muscles in his arms and shoulders bulging and straining with the effort it took to move it, his panting ringing in John's ear. There was a chunking sound and the brightness that Rodney's body shielded them from faded and Rodney staggered back and sagged down a wall. John watched numbly as the now dark core sank down into the interior of the machine and a thick lid closed over it. The honking stopped.

In the stunned silence that followed the cessation of the alarm, Teyla looked down at the readout again and said softly, "Radiation levels are dropping."

John drew in a shaky breath and spoke into his radio with a preternatural calm that he did not feel. "Okay Rodney, it's over now. Tell me how to open the door so we can get you to the infirmary."

Rodney gave a ragged little titter as he gazed at his burned hands. His palms were black and oozing. "It's kind of too late for that, actually."

John slammed his hand down onto the corner of the console. "Tell me how to open the damned door, Rodney!" he shouted, a little of his fear and frustration bleeding out from under his control.

"Fine, fine. Be that way. Once, once the light on the bottom left turns, turns blue…hit the, the top left button," Rodney gasped out as he curled up around his hands.

John listened to Rodney's pained panting while he waited a small eternity for the light to turn blue, his brain shrieking his failures and inadequacies at him. Teyla stood next to him with one hand pressed tightly over her mouth and the other wrapped around her waist, blinking fiercely. Ronon left off trying to open the door and stalked back and forth in front it, his hands clenching over and over again in an obvious signal of his hatred of being helpless, of having to wait.

The eternity finally ended and the light turned blue. "We're," John began, and his voice broke. He stopped and did his best to stuff everything in his head back down in the mental box he kept for occasions like this. "We're going to have get him to the infirmary as fast as we can," John said roughly and pushed the button.


John entered the infirmary and was immediately accosted by Carson, who ran a medical version of the life signs detector over his body, then sighed in relief. "Good, you're clean. I don't think I could fit another person into the decontamination showers. Half my response team is in there with Ronon already."

John blinked as Carson shoved him over to an examination table. "Decontamination?"

Carson face fell for just an instant and then he took a deep breath and pulled himself together. "Yes, decontamination. Rodney received a rather large dose of radiation and Ronon was contaminated by it when he carried him back."

The confirmation of what he'd suspected hit John hard in the gut. He leaned back against the examination table, feeling winded. It took him a minute, but he finally asked, "Where is he? How's he doing?"

Carson looked down and away. "Rodney's in the isolation area. I have a team in hazmat suits working to decontaminate him as much as possible without aggravating his injuries."

John swallowed hard. As much as he wanted to remain blissfully ignorant, he had to know. "Is he going to be okay?"

Carson sighed and brought his head back up to regard John steadily, his face old and sad. "I haven't had any time to do any tests on him yet. But I'm afraid that the dose of radiation he received was incredibly high. Unless a miracle occurred and it's not as bad as I think it is, he's likely to not make it. If that's the case, all I'll be able to do is make him as comfortable as I can, until… I'm sorry."

The news left John feeling dizzy and disconnected and he sagged further against the exam table. "Let me know when you know for sure?"

Carson looked at him sympathetically and nodded. "I'll do that, Colonel." He then gestured toward the table. "Why don't you hop up onto that thing and we'll start your physical? It will be a while before Dr. Biro and her team are finished with Rodney and I can take a look at him anyways."

John numbly climbed up onto the table and mutely submitted to Carson's poking and prodding. Carson was almost finished with him when John heard a muffled sniff come from behind him. John turned to see Teyla coming from behind a privacy curtain, followed closely by Dr. Keller. Both women's eyes were suspiciously liquid-filled and Jennifer clutched a wad of tissues in a clenched fist.

"I am done with my post-mission physical now, Dr. Beckett," Teyla said softly as she came up to them. She twisted her hands together in a gesture of distress. It hurt to watch her do it. "When will we know anything more about Rodney?"

Carson paused in what he was doing and briefly laid a compassionate hand on her shoulder. "As soon as I finish up with the Colonel here, I'm going to check on him, lass."

"I could finish up for you," Jennifer said in an uneven tone, wringing the mass of tissues she had in her hands.

Normally John wasn't thrilled to have Keller doing his physicals because honestly, her comment about playing with his insides before that one surgery had kinda creeped him out, but this time he understood. So he didn't mind so much when Carson patted Keller gently on the shoulder, handed his chart over and excused himself.

Teyla waited for him as Keller silently finished up his exam. When he was done, they both went out to sit in the waiting room while Keller retreated to Carson's office, looking like she was going to cry again. A bit later Ronon came out wearing scrubs to silently sit with them, his hair damp and his skin rosy from the intense scrubbing he'd undergone during the decontamination process.

Mr. Woolsey came into the waiting area, took one look at them then picked another chair to sit in and waited with them, quietly keying his radio and murmuring his location to the control room. Radek came in a little later, worry creasing his face, and also quietly took a chair.

Five and a half hours later, Carson came into the waiting area. His face looked grim. "Rodney is resting comfortably if you want to come in and see him."

John stood up slowly along with the rest of them. "So he…?" he asked, his stomach in knots, not sure if he really wanted the answer.

Carson shook his head jerkily. His eyes had a liquid glint to them. "The level of radiation he was exposed to was too high. He's got a couple of weeks at best."

John closed his eyes and swallowed hard. God, not Rodney too. It still hurt to think about Elizabeth. He'd dodged this particular bullet twice already, but John didn't see any way out of it this time. Once again he stuffed everything back down, opened his eyes and walked into the infirmary. The others followed.

Rodney was set up in an isolation room, with his hands bandaged and his eyes closed. Jennifer sat next to him, her lip trembling as she held onto his forearm with one hand. John went over to his other side and gently laid a hand on Rodney's other arm. "Hey, buddy."

Rodney's eyes slowly slitted open and he turned his head towards John. "Hey," he rasped.

The others arranged themselves around the bed as John said in the lightest tone he could manage, "Heard that you really pulled a number on yourself this time."

Rodney gave a rusty chuckle. "You could say that." His words slurred just a little and John could tell that they had him on the good drugs - for what good they would do in the long run.

"You could have just told us to run, you know," John commented, his voice betraying his emotional state by its roughness. "You didn't have to get all heroic on us." His grip tightened on Rodney's arm as he said that. Heroics was John's job.

Rodney shook his head slowly. "Wouldn't have made it to the gate before it blew up. Would have taken out the gate, too. Couldn't let Torren lose his mom."

Teyla made a small strangled noise and leaned forward to grip Rodney's leg. John cleared his throat awkwardly and replied, "I'm sure the little guy appreciates that, buddy."

A glimmer of Rodney's usual bitchiness surfaced. "He better. That was really fucking painful. He then looked at Teyla. "Hey, Teyla. You'll, you'll tell Torren stories about me, right?"

She blinked rapidly for a second and tremulously replied, "Many, Rodney. I will tell him many, many stories."

"I'll tell 'em stories too," Ronon added gruffly, adding his hand next to Teyla's.

Rodney grimaced slightly. "Please don't. You'll only do the embarrassing ones. You're worse than Jeannie."

Ronon squeezed his leg. "Don't worry. I'll tell the good ones too."

Rodney's attention turned to Radek, who had settled next to Jennifer. "So, Radek."

"Rodney," Radek replied somberly.

Rodney paused, then licked his lips and said, "Looks you're finally going to be stuck with my paperwork."

A corner of Radek's mouth curled up in a melancholy smile. "Bastard."

That drew a faint huff of a laugh from Rodney. "Promise me that you'll take care of my city?"

That mournful expression that had been sitting on Radek's face fell away and he blinked blankly for a second or two. He then stood up abruptly and asked urgently, "Rodney, remember that thing that the marines found in Building 17 right after the Wraith armada came up on our sensors the first year?"

John perked up considerably. Radek only got that look when he was onto something, and John hoped that this was a something that would save Rodney's life. "I remember. It was some kind of prototype of a medical device?"

"It's broken, Radek," Rodney interjected weakly.

"So? I will fix it," Radek replied, puffing his chest up. "And then it will fix you. I will do this and then you will have to do your own paperwork, you arrogant windbag."

Carson looked at Radek, puzzled, but with a flicker of hope darting across his face. "What's this thing you're on about? Will it help Rodney?"

Radek practically bounced in place. "It is a prototype device to heal various types of radiation poisoning according to the database. Now is perfect time to fix and use, ano?"

Woolsey crossed his arms. "Do we know if we even have the parts to fix this item you're speaking of? Or if it will actually be useful in treating Dr. McKay's injuries?"

Radek flipped a hand dismissively. "Feh! I am sure I will be able to find things that have no hope of being repaired to cannibalize for parts. And the database said preliminary testing on the device had very good results in treating injuries much the same as Rodney's."

Woolsey looked around at everyone's hopeful faces and gave a curt nod. "Allocate whatever resources you need and do it."

John watched as Keller squeezed Rodney's arm and said tremulously, "Hang in there, Rodney. We'll beat this," then turned away to follow after a quickly retreating Zelenka to see if he could be of any assistance, his heart squeezing painfully. He wasn't needed here.

They quickly located the device in storage and had it hauled to the labs. Within hours the lab tables and floor were covered in carefully labeled parts and Radek was alternately cajoling and cursing the Ancient device in Czech. And that's the way it stayed for the next several days. John haunted the lab and every day it seemed to him that Radek got more and more pissed off at the thing.

"Ježíši! Another crystal that is burnt out! Ty zasranej kráme! Tebe snad mohl vymyslet jedině debil!" John heard as he came into the lab from his last visit with Rodney for the day. Jennifer had been there the entire time with them and John had left feeling awkward and helpless to do anything about Rodney's rapidly deteriorating condition. It was disheartening to hear so obviously that Radek had still not gotten a breakthrough on how to repair the machine.

"Hey, Doc," John said as he came up alongside the frazzled Czech.

Radek flung the offending crystal across the table. "Hello, Colonel. No, I haven't fixed it yet. No, I don't know when I will have it fixed. No, you cannot help me. Yes, I know Rodney does not have much more time. Go away." He ran both hands through his hair, rumpling it wildly, and then let out a huge sigh and sagged down onto his stool.

"What problems are you having with it?" John asked ignoring Radek's order to leave. He picked up the burnt out crystal and stared at it, flipping it front to back as he did so.

"I do not have replacements for rest of crystals that are non-functional," Radek replied tiredly as he waved at the one in John's hand. "I have cannibalized from all the non-functioning items that I could, but the available crystals are not of the right configuration." He slumped some more. "I have failed. Rodney will…Rodney will…"

"No, Rodney won't!" John gritted through his teeth at him, clutching at the crystal with a white knuckled grip. "You can do this, Radek! Just, just…" he ran out of words to say and looked back down at the crystal in his hand. Something about it pinged in his memory. "Isn't this like the crystals in the control chair?"

Radek's head snapped up and he grabbed the crystal away from John. He blinked at it a moment and then cursed, slapping his forehead. "Debil! Yes, yes, it is! Why did I not see that?" He then ran out of the lab, John following closely behind him, wondering if Radek was actually going to disassemble the command chair.

John reached the room that housed the control chair just in time to see Radek dive behind the back of the chair, pop open a panel and pull about a half dozen of the crystals. "Um, Doc? Will you put those back after Rodney's cured? We kind of need those to run the chair," he reminded him cautiously.

"Of course, of course," Radek reassured absently as he pocketed the crystals and then took off back to the lab. John followed, hoping that Zelenka knew what he was doing. Woolsey would flip out if those crystals got damaged and left the control chair inoperable.

After Zelenka's epiphany, the device was put back together in rapid time and moved into the infirmary. That's when the arguments began. John silently watched the rest of the people in the room with him, wanting to strangle them all.

"No. I don't feel comfortable with us using this on Rodney completely untested," Keller said stubbornly as she stood with her arms crossed, glaring.

Radek made a motion very like tearing his hair out, then tried again. "It is not untested. The Ancients already did a preliminary testing program on the device and had good results."

Keller's lips thinned and her arms unfolded to gesture sharply. "Then why was it broken? I don't want to use that thing on Rodney and have it go kerplooey and kill him!"

Carson rubbed his face with his hands tiredly. "Jennifer, I would like to have the opportunity to test it before shoving Rodney into it as well. But quite frankly, Rodney doesnae have the time to allow us to do that!"

"But it could be dangerous for him!" she replied mulishly. "Can't we at least do some testing first?"

Radek took in a breath to restate his argument yet again, but John cut in impatiently, "Look, if we were back on Earth with a piece of Earth equipment, you could go ahead and do that all you want. But the healing thing currently contains some very important components that belong to the command chair right now and they really need to go back where they belong! And Radek has already told you repeatedly that he's not sure how many times those crystals can do their thing before they blow because of a structural design flaw in the device that he doesn't have the time to re-engineer before Rodney dies! We do a bunch of testing on this thing, we could blow those crystals and not have a way to heal Rodney or a command chair to defend Atlantis with!"

Woolsey folded his arms and looked at the group evenly. "Colonel Sheppard makes an excellent point. We can't afford to lose those command chair crystals. I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist that the device be used without additional testing on our part. You're just going to have to rely on the Ancients' data concerning its performance if you're going to use it at all."

Keller stiffened in anger. "I will not allow Rodney to be used as a guinea pig like this. His condition is too…"

"With all due respect, Dr. Keller," Woolsey cut in sharply, "You are too close to the issue emotionally to give it unbiased consideration. That is precisely why Dr. Beckett is the presiding physician in this case."

"Well, as his girlfriend…" she began to argue back.

Woolsey cut her off again. "As his girlfriend you still have no legal standing in deciding his course of treatment. That rests with his designated patient advocate which is currently Colonel Sheppard according to my records." He made a small pacifying gesture. "I am sorry to be so abrupt with you, but your input has been taken into consideration, Dr. Keller, truly. The truth of the matter is that there are other considerations that potentially affect many more lives in the expedition that tip the balance away from your stance. Again, I am very sorry. But my final decision is that the device be used without testing."

Keller gave Woolsey and John a betrayed look and then turned and walked out of Carson's office. John found himself letting out a sigh as the tension in the room rapidly dropped following her departure.

"The poor lass is under a huge strain right now," Carson said apologetically to the rest of them as he made a vague 'what can you do' gesture with his hands.

John got that, he really did, but he was still a little pissed at her conservative mindset. Sometimes you just had to go for it and hope for the best. It had worked when Rodney had had that parasite in his brain, hadn't it? And what the hell kind of side effects did she expect would happen to Rodney anyway? It wasn't as if he weren't already dying, damn it. He scrubbed a hand over his face and grimaced. It was uncharitable of him to think that. He understood her wish to not hurt Rodney. "So, now that we're done arguing about it, can we hurry up and stick him in the damned thing?"

"The sooner we treat him, the sooner we can get the crystals back to the control chair," Woolsey advised Carson, backing John up. John was just about ready to kiss Richard's perfectly polished shoes.

Carson's face screwed up in reluctance and Radek looked at him, saying softly, "It is the only chance Rodney has. What can it hurt? He is already dying."

Letting out a heavy sigh, Carson slumped back to sit on the edge of his desk. "All right. No sense in waiting. I'll take Radek and get everything set up for the treatment."

Woolsey nodded gravely in acknowledgment and Carson straightened and motioned Radek to go ahead of him through the door. After they left, Woolsey looked at John closely for a moment and then said, "Dr. Beckett will do everything he can, but I must remind you that this may not work. I've directed Dr. Zelenka that the integrity of the crystals comes first and foremost. If the machine shows any indications of starting to burn the crystals out, he's to shut the machine down immediately. We can't afford the loss of the control chair."

"Yeah, I get it. But we've got to at least give it a shot." John replied as he reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly. He'd not been able to sleep for shit for the last few days and he was exhausted. His head was killing him.

"And he's getting that chance. I just want you to realize that…" Woolsey began.

"I get it!" John said more forcefully. No pushing for just a little more out of the machine. He got it. He hated it, but he got it. The crystals really were irreplaceable. Radek proved that by trying to fix the machine in the first place. "I get it. No heroics." John went on more quietly. "We'll have to take whatever we can get."

"If you're a religious man, a few prayers might not go amiss right now," Richard said gently. "I'll be putting in a few of my own." He hesitantly reached out and patted John once on the shoulder and then left him to his thoughts.

Since John had done nothing but pray since the whole fucking disaster had happened, he opted to visit Rodney one more time before they consigned him to the device and crossed their fingers.

John went to the isolation area and suited up. Rodney's immune system had gone belly up while they worked on fixing the device and he was terrifyingly susceptible to every little bug. Once suited up, he walked into where they were keeping Rodney and looked through the window.

Keller stood next to him and he looked…awful. There was no other word for it. He was bandaged up like a mummy. In addition to the damage to his hands, his skin had started to slough off his body in some sick parody of sunburn. It was horrifying to look at and John had to take a moment to swallow down the tears that threatened to break through. Once he'd gotten control over himself, he walked into the room and came up to Rodney's left side, opposite Jennifer. "Hey, buddy," he said softly, wishing he could touch him without hurting him. "Hang on a little longer. Radek and Carson will get you in that device soon and you'll be good as new before you know it."

Rodney's eyes stayed closed, which wasn't a surprise. He'd been pretty much out of it since they'd increased his medication when the pain had gotten too bad for him to stand a while back. "You're so sure that thing is going to fix everything," Keller said bitterly. "What if it doesn't?"

John shrugged. "Then we haven't lost anything we weren't going to lose anyway."

"But what if it leaves him a vegetable? What if it leaves him in intense chronic pain for the rest of his life? There are worse things than dying and you know it," Jennifer replied accusingly. "You know that he wouldn't want that."

John looked up and locked eyes with her. "Then I give him the option to opt out at that point. But not before then. Not while there's a chance to heal him. Are you willing to do the same?"

"I took an oath to do no harm," she said, tears in her eyes. "No, Colonel, I couldn't assist in a suicide."

"Then hope that the machine does as well as Zelenka thinks it will," John replied. Out of the corner of his eyes he caught Carson, Radek and a crew of nurses as they appeared in the window of the doorway. "Woolsey mentioned something about it being a good time to pray about now. How about you take some time off and go to the chapel for a while? Can't hurt, and at this point, it's really in God's hands anyways."

Jennifer looked away for a moment and then nodded slightly as Carson and his team came in. "I'll have to ask you both to leave," Carson said apologetically.

John waved a hand dismissively. "No sweat, Doc." He gazed steadily into Carson's eyes and said, "Good luck."

"Thank you, son," Carson replied quietly and then shooed the both of them out.

Keller apparently took his advice to heart and left the infirmary entirely after taking off her isolation suit. John, on the other hand, went to the waiting room and was unsurprised to see Ronon and Teyla already there. "They just set up to start treatment," John said, filling them in as he sat down.

"Good," Ronon grunted, folding his arms up. He always looked uncomfortable in the waiting room chairs but John had yet to hear him complain about them.

Teyla reached over and squeezed John's arm briefly before sitting back in her seat. "Dr. Beckett and Dr. Zelenka will do their best for Rodney. Radek is very optimistic that this will cure him entirely."

John sighed and scrubbed briefly at his dry and tired eyes. "Yeah, well, let's all just keep thinking positively then. Can't hurt."

Teyla smiled. "No, it cannot."

John wiggled around in his chair a bit to get a little more comfortable and leaned his head back against the wall, preparing himself for what was potentially a long wait. He must have fallen asleep at some point, because a shake of his arm had him jerking his head away from the wall with surprise.

He blinked blearily for a second before he caught that Teyla was speaking to Dr. Zelenka. "…had time to completely cure Rodney before the crystals started to overload?"

John rubbed his eyes briefly to clear the sand out of them and then looked expectantly at Radek, who was still wearing surgical scrubs. The engineer shrugged. "I do not know. I hope so, but only Dr. Beckett will be able to tell you for sure. He has started running tests."

Keller had also come back to the waiting room while John had been asleep because he caught a glimpse of her rising from one of the chairs to grasp Radek's arm. "Dr. Zelenka? Even though I disagreed with having to use the machine without testing, I want to thank you for your efforts. If this works, I'm sure Rodney will appreciate all the hard work you put into it for him."

Radek flushed and waved her off. "It is nothing. I just wish to not have to do his paperwork."

John stood up. "Well, I think you'll be in luck then, Dr. Z. Give Rodney a few days and he'll be bitching about doing performance appraisals and reviewing proposals just like always."

The corner of Radek's mouth curled up and his eyes twinkled as he regarded John. "That is what I hope for as well." He then picked at his scrub shirt with one hand. "If you will excuse me, I wish to go change now."

"Of course, Radek," Teyla replied smoothly. "And thank you for letting us know that you and Dr. Beckett are finished with the treatment."

Radek flushed a little again and then took off to change. John sat back down in his chair. Keller looked indecisive for a moment, then sat back down too.

After he'd showered and changed, Radek had come back to the waiting room as well and sat opposite John. He'd brought a laptop with him and was typing away furiously on it. John supposed that it was probably an irate email to one of the scientists who had done something stupid. He had that kind of look on his face. John dozed on and off for the next few hours as they waited for some more information on Rodney's condition.

Finally, Carson walked into the room, with bruised looking circles under his eyes and faint smile. Everyone stood up and John quickly asked, "Is he going to be okay?"

"Aye, it looks as if the stubborn bastard cheated death again," Carson replied with relief. He then turned to Radek. "There is one small issue though, and I was wondering if you think the device might not overload now that it doesn't have to heal his entire body."

Radek looked concerned and thoughtful. "We could try." He then made a face. "Do I have to scrub up again?"

Carson gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry, but yes. His skin is still very fragile at the moment and I'd like to avoid infection as much as possible. But we can wait until tomorrow. It isn't life threatening."

John could feel all the tension in his body unwinding. Rodney was going to be okay. He took a deep breath, feeling as if a vice had been removed from his heart.

Jennifer crossed her arms and frowned at Carson. "What's wrong that you want to use the device again? If it's not life threatening, why take the risk?"

Carson's put his hands on his hips and replied patiently, "I want to use the device again because, although the issue is not life-threatening, it's also something that I don't have any other treatment for."

"What is so important that you want to do a risky treatment a second time?" Jennifer persisted. John didn't blame her. He was kind of curious about it, too.

Carson pinched the bridge of his nose briefly and sighed. He dropped his hand down and looked back up at her with a compassionate expression. "Jennifer, lass, I know you're worried. If you would like to discuss my decisions on the method of treatment for him doctor to doctor, I will be happy to discuss that with you, but only in my office. I know we're just like a small village here, but I'd like to at least try to adhere to patient confidentiality."

Jennifer blushed slightly and looked at all the other people in the room. "All right," she replied, a little chagrined, and then walked into the infirmary and, presumably, into Carson's office.

Carson looked at her retreating back, sighed and looked at the rest of them. "Truly, I think he's going to be okay. It's just a small issue, but even if we don't manage to fix it, it's not going to impact on his general health at all. It's nothing that you need worry about. I'm not allowing visitors until tomorrow after the second treatment, if we can swing that safely, so you all go on and get yourselves off to bed. I'll give a call when the lot of you can come by and see him, okay?"

John still wondered what that 'small issue' could be, but knew enough to not grill Carson when he brought up patient confidentiality. John knew that if it were truly something that he needed to know about, either Carson or Rodney would mention it to him later on.

As Carson pulled Radek aside for a moment to speak with him about the possibility of a second treatment the next morning, John and his team bid them goodbye and headed out together. In unspoken agreement, they wound up in the mess. "Cake?" John asked them as they stood in front of the mess line. It seemed a like good time for some celebratory cake.

Ronon grinned and went to grab them all a piece as Teyla smiled and called Kanaan to bring Torren and come celebrate with them. John found himself grinning back at both of them. Rodney was going to be okay and all was right with his world again.

John heard from Carson later that the attempt at a second treatment failed to correct the issue that he had hoped it would. Carson refused to clarify what it was that he'd been hoping to fix, but Rodney looked miles better when they were finally let in to see him and John dismissed any lingering worries he might have had. Carson had assured him that the issue would have no negative impact on Rodney's health or his ability to remain on the team and so John dropped it from further thought after Radek dismantled the device and returned the control chair crystals to where they belonged.

Rodney spent a few weeks recovering in the infirmary and when the time for his physical therapy came, John did his usual routine of taunting him through it. Over the years John had found that verbally tormenting Rodney while he sweated through the therapist's exercises kept Rodney's mind off of any discomfort he was experiencing and helped to make it go faster for him. When the exercises were finished, John would manage to slip Rodney a treat for doing well, which always got him a smile. It was a good system that the two of them had developed, and one that Keller was wise enough not to intrude in on. Once his physical therapy was over, Rodney was declared practically good as new by the doctors and one more crisis was averted.

At least that was what John thought.

About a week after Rodney had been released from the infirmary, John watched from across the room as Keller corralled Rodney at breakfast and they began to have tense words with each other in low tones in a far corner of the mess hall. "Is it just me, or do you see trouble in paradise over there, too?" John asked, gesturing with his spoon.

Teyla looked over and frowned as she stirred what passed for blueberry syrup into her oatmeal. "It does seem that they have been having issues since his accident at the power facility."

"You mean they've been arguing a lot," Ronon clarified bluntly. He folded up a pancake into quarters and bit into it.

John raised an eyebrow at him as he put his spoon back into his bowl of cereal. "Have you heard what they've been arguing about?"

"Something about kids," Ronon replied after he'd swallowed. "Can't tell you much more than that. They both stop as soon as they see me. They've gotten a lot better about noticing that I'm in range to hear them." He looked reluctantly impressed by the fact.

John grimaced. Kids were one of those make or break subjects in a relationship. No wonder even Rodney was managing to keep their arguments quiet. John sighed and made a mental note to lay in some beer. If the two lovebirds were arguing about something that important, Rodney was bound to show up on his doorstep soon. John was a little surprised that Rodney hadn't just rolled over and given in to Keller's way of thinking like he had on everything else, though. Maybe they just weren't agreeing on when to have them. After all, for many folks that had grown up on Earth, Atlantis seemed like a pretty dangerous place to raise a family.

As John continued to watch them surreptitiously, Rodney turned and stalked out of the mess hall, the expression on his face thunderous. John's eyes shot back over to Keller as she crossed her arms and huffed angrily. Oh yeah, lots of beer, John thought. He might need to double the amount of his initial estimate.

To John's surprise, Rodney didn't show up at his quarters, that night or the next several after that, even as the arguments between him and Keller became more obvious and numerous. The Atlantis grape vine lit up with speculation about what the arguments were about, but John hadn't heard anything more definitive or believable than what Ronon had already told him.

One day after a practice session with Teyla, she asked after she'd wiped the sweat from her brow, "Has Rodney come to speak with you concerning his troubles with Jennifer?"

John finished scrubbing his hair dry with his towel and tossed it on top of his bag. "No. How about you? You hear anything?"

Teyla wore a troubled frown and rolled up her towel to put it into her bag. "No, and that concerns me. Rodney has never been a person to argue quietly."

"No, you're right about that," John agreed as he leaned against a wall and stuck his hands in his pockets. That just wasn't Rodney's mode of operation in the normal course of events. It didn't matter if he was frightened, pleased or pissed. The whole damned world would know about it and why, thanks to Rodney's mouth. "You think there's a problem? Er, I mean more than just the obvious?"

"I do," Teyla replied as she crossed her arms and looked at him purposefully. "I think that you should go to him and get him to speak with you."

John straightened back up and pulled his hands out of his pockets to hold them out in a warding position in front of his body. "Whoa! Now, wait a minute, Teyla. I'm not the guy you send in for a relationship issue."

"He has been avoiding my attempts to speak with him and you are his friend," Teyla countered firmly.

"Well, then why can't you talk to Jennifer, find out what the deal is from her?" John asked desperately.

"I will attempt to do so," she replied, giving him a look, "but I wish for you to also speak with Rodney. There are two sides to every argument, and what she is angered by may not be quite the same thing that is angering him."

John realized that arguing with her further on this issue would just likely result in her whipping her rods back out and beating the snot out of him until he agreed with her. Motherhood had made her a lot less tolerant of John's excuses, much to his annoyance. "Okay, fine, I'll give it a shot." He lifted a warning finger, "But don't blame me if I can't fix it."

Teyla smiled at him benignly. "All I ask is that you get him to talk to you."

"Well, fine then," John replied, shoving his hands back in his pockets and lifting his chin slightly. "I'll try to do that."

Late that evening, true to his word, John went in search of Rodney with a six-pack in hand. He checked in the lab first and found that the overhead lights had already been turned out. He was turning to leave when he heard Jennifer and Rodney's voices hissing at each other angrily. John debated briefly on the ethics of eavesdropping on their conversation, then decided it would be worth the violation if he could get enough information to give to Teyla and have her deal with all the talking later. He silently eased toward the office where their voices were coming from, then knelt down behind one of the lab tables and peered around the leg into the room.

A desk lamp glowed softly in the otherwise darkened room and John saw Rodney and Jennifer both glaring at each other angrily.

Jennifer put her hands on her hips. "Will you just stop being a stubborn ass about it, Rodney?"

"Stubborn?" Rodney asked incredulously. "I am not being the one who is stubborn here! You're the one who keeps bringing it up even though I've told you my answer several times already! It's like you're not even listening to me!"

"Because your answer is stupid!" she spat back. "Before the accident you told me you wanted kids! We can still have them!"

"No. We. Can't." Rodney replied in a deadly don't-mess-with-me tone. "You know that. You're the one that told me, remember?"

Jennifer flapped her arms at him impatiently. "Well, we could look into one of those genius sperm banks!"

Rodney gave a cold derisive laugh. "You mean like the one that closed down and threw away my samples? Guess again."

Jennifer immediately countered with, "We could go to another one."

Rodney looked like she'd just slapped him in the face and John was suddenly, irrationally furious with her. Rodney folded his arms tightly over his chest and shot back, "No. I am not raising another man's child."

Jennifer rolled her eyes at him and then went, "Okay fine, then, we'll just go with traditional adoption."

"What part of 'I am not raising another person's child' do you not understand?" Rodney grated out between clenched teeth.

"You're not being fair to me!" she protested angrily, "I still want kids! Just because you're sterile does not mean that you get to deprive me of the opportunity to be a mother!"

"Well, then, go right on ahead without me, then!" Rodney shouted back, flinging his arms out, his face turning red. "Since it's abundantly obvious that you don't actually care that it won't be mine, go ahead and find somebody else in Mensa to knock you up! Hey, I hear Kavanagh is pretty desperate for a lay! Hell, screw every male scientist here! One of them is bound to take! But I'm. Not. Raising it! Have I finally made myself clear here?"

Jennifer did slap him then, and ran out of the office. John quickly ducked back and under the table and she ran by him and out the door, crying. He sat there, feeling winded by what he'd found out. The accident had left Rodney sterile. And if that wasn't the break up argument between the two of them, John would eat his boots. Without ketchup.

"What are you doing here?" Rodney snarled, John jumping in surprise as he looked up to see Rodney standing in front of him. His face was foreboding and his arms were once again crossed tightly over his chest.

John kicked himself for getting caught. Trying to make the best of it, he pulled a beer out of the six pack and offered it up. "Here. I'd offer you something stronger, but it's all I have on hand at the moment."

Rodney stared at the beer for a long moment before finally reaching out to take it from John's hand and sitting down on the floor next to John. The anger had drained away from Rodney's face and the pure misery left there tugged at John's heart. "I just broke up with her, didn't I?"

John nodded sympathetically. "Pretty sure, yeah."

Rodney gestured to the remnants of the handprint slowly disappearing on his face. "I thought so. Somehow there always winds up slapping being involved. Although it's been a few years since that last happened."

John opened up a beer for himself because it looked like at least the first bit of this conversation was going to take place here. "Well, you did tell her to go fuck the rest of the expedition, so I kinda think that she felt justified there."

Rodney's shoulders sagged and he toyed with his unopened beer. "Um, that just kind of came out. I ah, maybe I should apologize to her for that. I was just so mad that she wasn't listening to me. Is it…am I wrong for not wanting to raise someone else's kids? I mean, when I first talked to her about having children, I thought that they were going to be mine. But now…" He stared down at the beer in his hands wordlessly for a few moments and then opened it and chugged down several gulps.

John took another swallow from his own beer before answering. "You're not wrong, Rodney. But you're not right either. It's…it's one of those kinds of questions that doesn't have one true answer. It's all relative."

"So you're saying that I'm right from my point of view and wrong from hers?" Rodney asked. At John's careful nod, he sighed and took another swig of beer before sitting quietly for a moment. "I had plans you know. Before the accident," he said rolling the beer between the palms of his hands. "Get married, have a couple of kids, get a Nobel." He huffed a small, sad laugh. "I already had an account set up to pay for college since the price of a decent education keeps skyrocketing. Now…now it'll all go to Madison's schooling, I guess." Rodney blinked for a moment like he had something in his eyes, then took another drink.

"I'm sorry," John replied, not knowing what else to say, but feeling horribly guilty. He should never have let Rodney into the power chamber of that facility.

"What are you sorry for?" Rodney asked, looking at him oddly.

"I should never have let you go into that damned power chamber. I saw the water stains on the ceiling above it. I should have thought…" John replied, bitter at his failure to use his damned brains and protect one of his own from hurt.

Rodney waved impatiently at him. "Oh, shut up. Sure, the water damage didn't help any, but I think there was a design flaw in the system before that." He sighed at the doubting expression on John's face. "Seriously, water seepage alone couldn't do that kind of damage to the crystals. There was something else going wrong there, too."

John didn't want to believe him. But Rodney kept looking at him steadily and John was forced to bow his head and let it go. Rodney was the expert. If he said that there was a problem in addition to the water damage that they couldn't have known about, then there had been and they'd been doomed from the minute they walked into the facility.

Rodney looked back down at his beer. "Actually, when I think about it, I'm surprised something like this didn't happen to me sooner. It's not like I haven't been playing with high energy devices for years. By all accounts, I should have cooked my nuts long before now."

John didn't know what to say to that other than to wince. He took another drink, trying to erase the picture in his mind of Rodney's hands when he'd finished manually deactivating the core. Cooked was entirely too accurate a term.

"I even planned for the eventuality," Rodney continued wistfully, still staring at his beer. "Made several deposits at a sperm bank." He gave a bitter laugh. "What is the saying? Best laid plans oft go astray?" He lifted the beer to his lips and tipped it back, chugged the remaining contents and tossed the container into the garbage can next to him.

John floundered around in his head, trying to find something to say to that. Jesus. Rodney had even planned for this and things had still gone to shit for him. "Damn," he finally replied, and handed Rodney another beer. Words didn't even apply here.

Rodney accepted it, then sighed heavily. "I probably would have made a lousy dad anyways." He opened the beer and gave a deprecating chuckle as he tilted the beer in a sort of salute, "All for the best, right?" and then took a deep swallow.

No, it wasn't, John thought, taking a drink along with him. It wasn't for the best at all. Yet all that John could offer was to get him drunk.

The next day, when Teyla finally managed to chase John down and demanded to know what he'd found out from Rodney, he'd told her, "It's nothing we can do anything about," and fled before she could ask more. Jennifer refused to talk to Teyla, but the quiet arguments between Rodney and Jennifer ceased and they both acted extremely cautious with one another. They might have even managed to patch things up between the two of them briefly; but within a few days it had degenerated into a stiff, careful politeness on both of their parts and John knew then that their relationship was officially over.

John gave a huge sigh of relief when his team was finally put back onto the mission schedule. Getting Rodney out of the city would at least provide him with a break from dealing with Keller and hopefully get his buddy back to his blustery old self. But when they went out on their first mission after the accident, John noticed that things had changed there, too. Kids had always run up to Rodney everywhere they went. It was like the guy was some kind of kid magnet and Rodney had always reacted with confusion and (relatively) mild annoyance at all the attention he got from the local rug rats. This mission, the kids still ran up to him like they always had, but John watched with a sinking heart as Rodney's response was to go quiet and get a far away look on his face as the little ones tried to get his attention. It made such a visceral impact on John that he didn't remember for the life of him what the rest of the day went like. He'd had to crib from Teyla's report when he'd written his own.

It happened again and again and again. John found himself starting to dread meeting the people they visited because they might turn out to be nice to his team. As fucked up as it was, John was really starting to prefer it when people decided that they didn't like the look of him or his team and started shooting at them. It at least saved John's heart from being ripped out once again by the forlorn look that always seemed to settle on Rodney's face now. So when John saw yet another gang of kids catch sight of Rodney on the mission to PX5-127 he finally snapped and barked, "Ronon, go intercept the rug rats, will you? I saw you dump about half the candy bowl that was in the infirmary into your pockets."

Ronon, bless him, slanted a knowing look at John and then plowed his way into the mob of excited children, going, "Who wants some sweet stuff?"

The villagers looked on in amusement as Ronon was assaulting with a volley of "Me, me, me!" and little hands thrusting upwards. John ignored them and kept an eye on Rodney. He swerved away from the pack of kids silently and walked a short distance away to lean against a tree and get a rock out of his shoe. Seeing as how he'd not been complaining about it, John was pretty sure that there was no actual rock. Out of the corner of his eye John saw Teyla gave Rodney a brief concerned look and then greet the elders. Once the preliminary greetings were done and it seemed that the elders were happy to deal with Teyla directly, John made a polite apology and bowed out of the conversation to check on Rodney.

"I had a rock. In my shoe." Rodney lied badly as he straightened up from tying his shoe. The flustered look and the fluttery hands gave him away every time.

John elected to let it pass this time. "Yeah, hate it when that happens." He leaned against the tree next to Rodney and gently nudged his shoulder. "You doing okay?"

Rodney grimaced. "Stop being such a mother hen. It's bad enough that I've still got Carson clucking all over me."

"Well, he worries," John replied, looking out at the rest of his team. Ronon had finished distributing candy and was now kneeling on the ground and engaged in wrestling match with all the children. Three kids hung off of each of his arms as he roared and arched back, dislodging another two children hanging onto his back. Shrieks of glee came from all the kids. Teyla looked over from her conversation with the elders and smiled at Ronon's antics before turning back to listen intently to particularly wizened old man.

Rodney folded his arms together and looked out at Ronon's antics with the kids. "He'd make a great dad," he observed softly. "Not like me. He's good at playing with them and stuff. You think he and Amelia will ever think about it?"

God, John hoped not. "Dunno," he replied, shrugging. "Heard from your sister lately?"

Rodney looked down and away. "She sent me an email through the last wormhole to Earth. She's pretty mad at me for breaking up with Jennifer."

Jesus, thought John, why did he ever bother to open his mouth? He only ever managed to stick his foot in it up to his kneecap. "Sorry to hear that, buddy. She'll get over it soon, though."

Rodney shrugged listlessly and John knew that meant that Rodney didn't think the same but was too depressed to say so. John tried not to grind his teeth in frustration. He was really beginning to hate seeing Rodney looking so beat down all the time.

John stood quietly with Rodney and watched as Ronon entertained the kids and Teyla talked trade. Eventually, Teyla gave a final nod to the elders and came over to them. "They are most pleased to have someone new to trade with this year. Both they and their regular trading partners have had better than expected harvests of setna grain this season and they have been looking for another partner with whom to trade their excess. I believe that Mr. Woolsey and Dr. Beckett will find our trade most agreeable."

John nodded. Setna grain was similar in many ways to the tiny quinoa grains John had seen back on Earth. Setna, like quinoa, was very high in protein and had kind of a nutty, sweet flavor when cooked. And, unlike most things that were supposed to be good for you, the vast majority of the expedition actually liked the taste of setna. The cooks had managed to figure out how to make a vegetarian setna patty that even the marines came back for seconds of. "Great. Is there anything else we need to do here?"

Teyla nodded and gestured back to the village center where the locals were setting up tables and benches. "They wish for us to join them in their evening meal to celebrate and bind the trade agreement officially."

John nudged Rodney. "Free food, buddy. How's that sound to you?"

"You'll have to check for citrus," Rodney grumbled half-heartedly, then shrugged. "Fine. Dinner. I'm game."

John knew he was pathetic to be happy that Rodney had made even that poor attempt at his usual griping. "I've got your six on the citrus," he replied, patting Rodney on the shoulder and then nodding to Teyla to guide them to their seats for the evening.

Dinner went about as well as it possibly could, as did the casual socializing afterward, although John had become wary enough over the years to finally be able to pick up that one of the local girls was coming on to him. He brushed her off as delicately as he could and then looked over to where Rodney was sitting, bracing himself for Rodney's usual eyeroll and snotty remarks in regards to John's ability to draw women like moths to a flame.

A cute young blond woman was hanging hopefully all over McKay and John felt a surge of jealousy that he ruthlessly suppressed. Instead, he thought determinedly that maybe this might be a sign that Rodney was finally coming out of the funk he'd been in for months. Rodney looked up at the woman as she softly stroked the side of his face, murmuring something to him. He caught her hand in one of his own and pulled it gently away from his face, shaking his head and replying back quietly. Her face showed disappointment for a moment and then she gave Rodney a farewell smile and faded into the crowd. Rodney watched her retreating back with a sad wistful expression for a moment before picking up his tablet with a sigh and starting to work on one of his projects.

John sat there feeling gut punched, running what he'd seen through his head for a second time. He then got up and went over to where Rodney was and sat down next to him. Rodney looked up from the tablet. "Yes, Colonel?"

"Why didn't you go with her?" John asked baldly.

Rodney closed his eyes for a moment and seemed to gather himself. Then he looked back at John. "When people in Pegasus proposition a visitor, they're normally looking for additions to the local gene pool to make up for Wraith depredations." He waved an explanatory hand when John raised his eyebrows in surprise, "The sociologists made an incredibly long and boring report on it that I had to read. It makes sense from a genetics standpoint. Sometimes there are so few people left after a culling that future generations would die out from inbreeding problems if they didn't look for fresh contributions from elsewhere." He then sighed and looked away. "I just…it would just be a waste of her time to spend the night with someone who can only shoot blanks."

Christ. "What if she wanted your companionship instead?"

Rodney gave a tired snort. "I've not been feeling very companionable lately, Colonel."

"Jesus, Rodney," John said feelingly.

"Look, I know this is killing you, not being able to do something about it, but there's nothing you can do about it." Rodney replied with some asperity. "So, quit worrying. Go off with that bimbo that was hanging all over you earlier. Ruin their gene pool with that hair of yours."

"Goddamn it, Rodney…" John began.

"Colonel," Rodney interrupted, "John…" He looked at John with sad, tired eyes. "Just go. Please."

Defeated by a look, John did as he requested and left, fuming and feeling helpless.

By the time they hit the mission to M2X-703, John was in a completely foul mood. Not only had Rodney's deep blue funk continued, but on their previous mission the day before, Rodney had also been gored by something that looked very much like a pissed off, half-sized mammoth. John had spent a terrifying half hour kneeling over Rodney and keeping pressure on the wound in order to keep Rodney from bleeding out all over him while Teyla ran back to get help from Atlantis. It was like the guy couldn't catch a break from being the universe's favorite chew toy.

With Rodney still laid up in the infirmary, John hadn't wanted to take the remainder of his team out on this current mission at all. Hell, he hadn't even had time to wash the blood stains out of his tac vest yet. But Woolsey had told him, somewhat apologetically, that the person who had contacted them with intel concerning a faction in the Pegasus galaxy that wasn't too fond of Atlantis would only agree to meet with Teyla to pass it along. Grimly, John agreed that the intel was important and so here he was, walking with Teyla and Ronon on some randomly Vancouverish planet towards a village, wearing his jacket zipped up over his blood-stained tac vest and wondering idly if it were medically feasible to donate his left nut to Rodney. It wasn't as if he were using it for much of anything anyways, and John had reached the point where he was just that desperate to make Rodney happy again.

They reached the village and John left off of his musings to pay better attention to their surroundings. The buildings were of modest stone construction, nothing fancy or decorative, and were clustered around a town square. A number of people were going about their daily business with barely a glance for them, but a nervous looking woman who had been pacing by the well in the center of the square looked up at their arrival and came over to them, her motions tentative and uncertain. "Teyla Emmagen of Atlantis?" she asked cautiously, giving John and Ronon a look full of distrust.

Teyla stepped forward and nodded regally. "I am she. You are Eleta Dorono of Ketmer?"

Eleta nodded, a lock of her hair slipping forward to hang in her eyes for a moment before she pushed it back with one hand. She gave John and Ronon another wary look and said, "Would it be possible for just the two of us to discuss the information I have come to trade? I am unaccustomed to dealing with men such as your companions."

From that, John guessed that Eleta was from one of the stricter matriarchal cultures that they ran across from time to time. They always had the most problems dealing with the men in John's team, and John in particular since he was in charge. He shot a questioning look at Teyla and she gave him a barely perceptible nod. Okay, since she felt safe about it… "Why don't Ronon and I just take a walk then? We'll stay in radio contact, Teyla."

Eleta looked relieved and Teyla smiled at him. "I will let you know when we are finished, Colonel." They then moved a small distance away to talk while John and Ronon retreated in the other direction.

"You'll keep watch on them?" John muttered in an undertone to Ronon when they reached the shade of a tree at the perimeter of the courtyard.

"Sure," Ronon rumbled back and he then leaned against the tree and crossed his arms, making himself comfortable. "You really taking a walk?"

John looked around at the people in the courtyard. Everyone still seemed to be going around their normal daily business and he didn't see anyone acting suspicious anywhere. From past experience, John knew that this particular exchange was going to take a really long time. John had a secret suspicion that it was because matriarchal cultures had some sort of rule that they had to complain about the general failures of the men in their lives first before discussing any business at all. Teyla always seemed to get looks of commiseration every time he and the guys came to collect her afterwards, at any rate. "Yeah, think I am. Seems safe enough and I'm feeling restless. I'll contact you every 15 minutes, okay?"

"Fine. See you later then," Ronon replied. Safety issues obviously taken care of from his point of view, he dismissed John to idly scan the courtyard.

John took off across the courtyard and soon found himself out of the village entirely. His watch beeped and he did a short check in with Ronon. Afterwards, he considered his options. There was a field of bobko vegetables on his right and a small path that ran into some woods on the left. Squinting into the sun for a moment, he decided to take the wooded path. It was warm out and a walk in the shade would be nicer than stomping through a mucky fertilized field by anyone's standards.

Mindful of his general lack of success at ground navigation, John pulled out his knife and made sure to make identifying hash marks on trees every few yards as he went down the path. The last time he'd gotten lost had been particularly humiliating, especially since it was Rodney who'd tracked him down first. John really did not want to wind up getting Ronon's lecture on trail blazing for idiots again. He had his pride after all.

The woods were calming, with unfamiliar, yet reassuring bird noises echoing back and forth between the trees. He stopped to make another check in with Ronon and as he signed off he noticed that crossing the path was an older, massively overgrown road that angled off to the left of the path. The road originated, as far as John could tell, from the general direction of the gate. He debated the wisdom of going off the fairly well traveled path, but the thought that he might luck out and find a forgotten, safe Ancient facility was just too much to pass up. Especially if it contained something that would pique Rodney's interest.

Snorting at his own overly optimistic hopefulness, John nevertheless began to follow the overgrown road, marking trees every few feet with his knife. At least when he managed to get himself totally lost again, Ronon and Teyla would have a clear trail to follow to find him, he thought cynically.

The going was slower than it had been on the trail, and John checked in four more times with Ronon as he picked his way through the overgrowth, guided by the almost buried Ancient mileposts that cropped up every so often. Then John rounded a large rock formation and what was clearly an Ancient building spread out low in front of him. Vines and other greenery largely obscured it, but the general outlines still clearly recalled the clean, vaguely alien lines of Atlantis in John's mind. He couldn't help but grin. Jackpot.

He worked his way to the nearest wall of the building and began searching for a doorway. After working his way halfway down the length of the wall, poking through the vines and undergrowth, he managed to find what he thought might be the doorway. His watch beeped at him reminding him of check in time and he clicked his radio, saying, "Ronon? I might have found something cool here. I'm going to check it out for a bit."

"Okay. Don't get hurt. McKay will bitch for days once he finds out about it if you do," Ronon replied and then clicked off.

Hearing Ronon's caution, John was half-tempted to do just that. It had been forever since he'd heard Rodney get a good bitchfest on. Sighing and shaking his head at his own willingness to martyr himself just to hear Rodney complain, he returned his attention to the doorway he'd found. He cut away the vines obscuring it, put away his knife, and then cautiously pressed the door opener.

The door jerked open a couple inches, hesitated, then slowly ground the rest of the way open. John chucked in a rock, testing for booby traps, and when nothing happened he slowly eased his head in. The filtered woodland sunlight that beamed through the open door showed a nondescript entryway with a hallway leading directly in and a couple of open rooms on either side. One had a desk that John had come to associate with secretarial type duties on Atlantis and the other had a few forlorn chairs sitting in it. It reminded him of a doctor's office, complete with waiting room.

He slowly stepped in and the lights obligingly flipped on for him. Holding his P-90 close to his chest, he did a quick visual check of the rooms to make sure there were no unpleasant surprises lurking in wait and then headed down the hallway. He carefully opened doors along the hallway and looked in. He found equipment that seemed medical in appearance in each room and John tentatively decided that he actually had come across some kind of medical facility. He reached the end of the hallway and opened the last door. Unlike the other rooms with their obvious medical equipment, this one had just a console and a couple of low platforms. Curious as to what this room might be used for, John stepped into the room to take a closer look.

A hologram of an Ancient woman sprang into being, damn near scaring the crap out of him. "Greetings, seeker of the gift of new life."

John lowered his gun which he had raised reflexively and took a calming breath. Did she say 'seeker of the gift of new life'? "What's this facility for, exactly?" he asked.

"This facility has been designed to provide assistance for those in difficulty that wish to bear children," the hologram replied serenely.

John felt light-headed for a moment. He lifted a finger to point at the hologram and asked a question, desperately hoping it would be answered affirmatively, "Does…does this place repair damage to the male reproductive system caused by severe radiation poisoning?"

"No, that is beyond the capability of this facility," the hologram answered and John's heart crashed into his boots with a thud. Damn.

Once he'd swallowed his disappointment, he then wondered if this place might possibly be useful to Rodney in some other capacity. He wet his lips and threw out his next question. "What services does this facility provide for those with fertility problems, then?"

The hologram smiled faintly in response. "This facility is equipped to scan the DNA of the prospective parents and mix them using guidelines that provide for optimum health of the resulting offspring. This facility can then implant the engineered zygote for incubation."

John perked up considerably and smiled and bounced on his toes at that bit of information. Now they were talking business! All Rodney would have to do would be to find someone willing to spend nine months carrying his kid. John bet that he could talk Teyla into brokering a deal with one of the Athosian women if needed. The Athosians cherished their children and they would certainly understand Rodney's plight and want to help him out in that way once informed. Heck, with this place available Rodney might even get back together with Keller and do the whole picket fence thing, he thought with a twinge.

The lights flickered, and John looked up at them, startled. The hologram went blank faced and announced, "Alert. Potentia depletion approaching critical."

Adrenaline abruptly flooded John's system and he shouted, "Shut off everything but the hologram!"

The building plunged into darkness, the only remaining light in the room coming from the hologram, which obediently stayed in place. "Shut down of requested systems accomplished. Total Potentia depletion will occur in slightly less than one and a half hours at current power draw."

John ran a shaky hand over his face. Of course the damned place had to be run off of a ZPM. Which weren't exactly easy to find, impossible for them to reproduce or recharge yet, and not something that Woolsey was likely to let John borrow just so he could make Rodney a daddy. He ran both hands into his hair and gripped it tightly, wondering how to salvage this miracle find which was rapidly turning into a disaster on him. "Okay, John, think. What do you have to work with here?"

Blood! His tac vest still had bloodstains on it from Rodney's injury! Okay, so he had a sample Rodney's DNA. And he could call Teyla. He grimaced. No, he couldn't. The information she was currently getting was crucial and he couldn't interrupt that without compromising the future safety of Atlantis. Plus, even if he shut off the hologram, he had no guarantee if there would still be enough energy left to do anything by the time Teyla finally completed her mission. Even inactive, places that were run by ZPM's drew a small amount of power keeping the environment in a state to preserve the facility. For that matter, he didn't know if there was enough juice left in it now to accomplish anything. He dropped his hands down to his sides and looked intently at the hologram. "Is there enough power left to do a complete zygote implantation at this time?"

The hologram blinked placidly at him and replied, "Affirmative. The procedure will drain the Potentia completely, however."

Okay, that answered that. Now for the million dollar question. He crossed his fingers and asked, "How long will the facility maintain enough power to complete the procedure if the hologram is shut down as well?"

"If the hologram is disengaged immediately, the facility will maintain enough power to complete the procedure for an additional 40 minutes before depletion rate prevents successful implementation of the procedure."

John hissed angrily and whirled away from the hologram in frustration. "Damn it!" He'd been so close to being able to do something to help Rodney. Even if he called Teyla now and she said yes to the idea, there was no possible way she could make it here in time. Jesus, if only he'd been a girl…wait.

John blinked as the idea occurred to him and he slowly turned back around to look at the hologram again. Not sure if he really wanted to know the answer, he licked his lips nervously and asked, "Is it possible for the facility to implant the zygote into a man's body?"

It might have been a trick of the light, but John could swear that he thought he saw the hologram frown ever so slightly. "A pseudo-uterus can be seeded prior to zygote implantation if a man desires to incubate the fetus. Warnings for non-standard implantation apply and the child will require surgical removal when fully developed."

"Duly noted," John replied slowly. He ran a shaky hand over his face, letting it come to rest over his mouth. Okay. He knew what his resources were now. He had Rodney's DNA. He had his own DNA. And he had his own body available for implantation. And a limited time frame to do it in, if he decided to do it at all. He curled the hand that was over his mouth up into a fist and lowered his head until his forehead rested against it. Christ, he needed to think about this for a second.

John's mind immediately called up every interaction he'd seen Rodney have with children since the accident and…Jesus. John would feel like an utter selfish bastard till the day he died if he didn't give this a shot. He owed Rodney this. John should have been the one to shut down the power core that day. If he hadn't been so stupid as to fall for Rodney's ruse, Rodney would still be with the woman who'd clearly been the best shot Rodney had ever had at having a family with.

He straightened up, decision made, set his P-90 on the floor and stripped off his jacket, then his tac vest. "Tell me what to do begin the DNA analysis and implantation procedure," he ordered the hologram brusquely.

"The father or paternal DNA sample must lie down or be placed on the right dais for analysis. The mother or maternal designate must remove clothing from the lower abdomen area and lie down on the left dais for analysis and implantation. The basic process will begin automatically when both platforms have been occupied," the hologram instructed calmly. "Any desired modifications above the basic analysis must be entered via console by a trained medical operator."

John tossed the vest onto the right dais and started unbuttoning his pants. "Thanks for that, but I think I'll just stick with the basics right now," he muttered a little grimly. Once his pants were undone, he shoved them and his underwear down to his just under his ass, lay down on the left dais and hauled up his shirt and t-shirt so that his entire belly was exposed.

A bright green light slotted down on to the tac vest and a holographic representation of Rodney immediately sprang up above the right platform. "Please confirm paternal DNA sample as the correct sample to be used in this procedure."

"Confirmed," John replied, and then shut his eyes, anticipating what came next. Bright light flashed over his eyelids.

"Analysis is complete for both parents," he heard the hologram announce as he opened his eyes back up. "What is the sex desired for implantation?"

Crap, John had not given that any thought at all. He had no idea what Rodney might want. "Um, can I have both?" Hell, he was already making himself pregnant for Rodney anyways. Might as well make it twins.

The hologram paused briefly, then replied, "That is permissible. Standard warning for dangers of multiple incubation apply."

"Noted," John replied, trying not to think about what he might have just put himself in for.

A device descended from the ceiling above John and the hologram spoke, "Zygotes have been completed and the pseudo-uterus template has been loaded. Confirm permission to begin procedure."

"How long will the procedure take?" John asked warily, looking at his watch.

"The entire procedure will last 18 minutes. Do you confirm permission to begin procedure?"

He was going to be late for his check in with Ronon. Well, too late to worry about that now. "Permission confirmed."

A blue beam of light shot out of the device onto John's lower abdomen. After a few minutes, he felt a rush of something like a drug hit his system and then a tugging feeling began on his insides. John blinked rapidly and if he hadn't been completely stoned out of mind he might have rolled off the platform and shot the thing that was seemingly messing with his internal organs. The sensation gradually sharpened almost to the point of pain and then suddenly tapered off into nothing about the same time that the drug-like rush receded, leaving exhaustion in its wake. Then everything went dead - the device, the hologram, the depiction of Rodney – and John was left blinking in the dark.

He lay there a moment, shaken. Had it worked? It must have, he thought. The hologram had said that it had enough power for one last implantation. Or maybe not. John had asked about the power level before he'd asked about implanting the zygote into a man. And then he'd asked it to implant two. Maybe the whole thing had failed because John hadn't had time to think to ask about the how those variables would affect the power usage. Jesus, had he just screwed this up?

"Knock it off, John. Think positive," he said out loud into the darkness, and stuffed his worries into a small mental box. He'd simply have to wait and see and hope for Rodney's sake that it had worked. He then reached down and clumsily pulled his pants and underwear back up. Once he'd managed to button up his pants, he sat up slowly to avoid knocking his head against the device and then felt his way over to the other dais, ignoring how his hands shook. He felt around until he managed to find his tac vest and pulled it to himself. He fumbled open the pocket that contained his mini Mag-light and turned it on. Setting it down on the platform so that the light pointed toward the ceiling, he slipped his vest back on and buckled it back into place. That done, he picked up the light, located his P-90 and jacket on the floor, and wearily retrieved them and put them back on. He then slumped down to sit on the dais, reached up and clicked the transmitter of his radio on.

He immediately heard Ronon say, "You're late."

John looked around at the dark and silent room. "Yeah, sorry about that. I found a building and got a little preoccupied with exploring it."

"I called you. You didn't answer."

Huh. When the place was still active the equipment must have blocked Ronon's radio signals. "Building must have blocked it, buddy. Sorry I didn't respond."

"You find anything?"

John looked over at the console and sighed. Without a ZPM this place was utterly useless. "Nope. Place was dead. No power." Unless and until John got confirmation that the procedure he'd just gone through had actually worked, he'd rather not talk about what he'd found out that the place could do. Or what he'd had it do to him. He'd rather put off the lectures he was sure would come his way when people found out what he'd done as long as possible. Because he had voluntarily, of his own free will, instructed an Ancient device to knock him up. With twins. He shuddered and covered his face with his hands. Jesus. The things he did for people he cared about. It scared him sometimes what he was willing to do.

"You coming back soon?" Ronon asked. "It looks like Teyla and Eleta have finally managed to get down to business."

John dropped his hands away from his face. "Yeah, I'm heading back now. Contact you in a few." He turned off the transmitter and stood up. The majority of the exhaustion he'd been feeling after the procedure had dissipated as he'd sat talking to Ronon and he felt reasonably sure that he was good for the hike back.

He picked his way through the darkness to the door and forced it open halfway. Slipping through the opening sideways back out into the hallway, he paused a moment to let his eyes readjust to the daylight streaming from the open front door at the other end of the hallway. He walked down the hallway and paused at the threshold of the door and looked down at his stomach, placing a hand over it.

"Okay, kids," he said softly, "let's hope you're actually on board here, because it's time to leave."

He then stepped out the door, pushed it shut as best he could and began looking for those trees he'd left hash marks on.

He somehow managed to only lose the trail once, briefly, on the way back, and by the time he got to the edge of the village Teyla and Ronon were there waiting for him. "Hey, guys," he said, waving at them. "Our business done here?"

Teyla stepped forward and nodded. "Yes, we are finished." She turned as he passed her and fell into step beside him as they talked through the village towards the gate. "Do you feel better after your walk?"

John shrugged. "I guess. I just needed to clear my head."

"We were wondering if we were going to have go find you in the woods again," Ronon said from behind them in an amused tone.

"Sorry to disappoint you, pal, but I knew exactly where I was the whole time," John threw over his shoulder.

"Sure you did," Ronon replied in a disbelieving tone.

John threw him the finger without looking back at him and stepped up the pace. Teyla chuckled quietly and Ronon outright guffawed and they made good time back to the gate and dialed Atlantis.

After a quick debriefing where Teyla did all the talking, John went down to the infirmary, wondering nervously if they would find anything.

"All right son, your turn. Up onto the table with you," Carson announced to John after he'd released Ronon. Keller had already finished Teyla's physical and Teyla had left the examination area to visit Rodney. John jumped up onto the table and watched as Ronon left to go join her.

After the usual snatching of various body fluids, general exam and testing for invading aliens, Carson looked down at John's chart and said, "Congratulations, Colonel. I'm proud to say you've gone a whole forty seven days without injury, infection or invasion. Keep it up and you might finally break your previous personal best of two months."

"You're forgetting about the one hundred thirty seven day record," John pointed out, feeling let down that Carson hadn't found anything. Maybe it hadn't worked. The thought left him feeling equal parts relieved and disappointed. Maybe it just took more time to actually show up in tests. The hologram had mentioned something about seeding the pseudo-uterus. That implied that maybe some growing had to occur.

Carson gave him a baleful look. "We were on Earth. That doesn't count."

"Does too," John protested mildly. He'd gotten hurt on Earth plenty of times before joining the expedition, after all. Still did, on occasion.

Carson just rolled his eyes and then shook his head slowly. "Well, you're free to go. You know the drill. If you start to experience any symptoms…"

"Get my ass back to the infirmary," John finished. "I know." He then tilted his head towards the ward where Rodney was currently ensconced. "How's Rodney doing?"

Carson let out a huge sigh and set down his tablet on the table John was still sitting on. "Sleepy mostly. He's not recovered enough to start being grumpy and whiny yet. But he's definitely on the mend, so rest easy."

John nodded. "Thanks, Carson." He then jumped down off the table and went to join the rest of his team.

Teyla was sitting in a chair next to the head of Rodney's bed and Ronon had made himself at home on the foot of it. Teyla's eyes danced with amusement and Ronon was struggling to hide his snickering as Rodney drunkenly waved his hands and babbled happily, "…and then there were kitties! Cute little kitties! With whiskers!" He then proceeded to demonstrate whiskers by bringing his hands up to his mouth and wiggling his fingers. He looked like a demented squid. John grinned. Yep, they had him on the happy drugs again.

John came up alongside him opposite Teyla and patted him gently on the thigh. "Hey there, buddy. Kittens, huh?"

"Itty bitty ones!" Rodney proclaimed, bringing index fingers to within an inch of each other woozily to emphasize just how 'itty bitty'. He blinked and then went, "Hi, John!"

"Hello, Rodney," John replied tolerantly. It was always hysterical to talk to the guy when he reacted to pain meds like this. It made the reason why he was so tanked up to begin with almost bearable.

"You have foofy hair," Rodney said dreamily. "I like foofy hair. I had a kitty that had foofy hair once. He was my faaaavorite kitty baby." The stoned smile then slid off of his face and he looked forlornly at John. "No real babies for me, though. None at all."

Oh, god, John thought, ignoring Teyla's startled and then thoughtful look. He fervently hoped that the procedure had worked, because he really couldn't stand seeing Rodney like this. "Go get some sleep, McKay," he said gently, reaching out and rubbing Rodney's bicep.

Rodney's eyes sagged shut at the touch and he mumbled, "Okay," before going lax. Within a couple of seconds he was breathing evenly.

John heard steps behind him and Carson said, "Now that you've all had a chance to reassure yourselves, how about you quit cluttering up my infirmary and go get yourselves some food or something? Let him get some rest."

John turned around. "Sure thing, doc," he said with forced cheerfulness and took off before Teyla could grab hold of him.

He went back to his room, locked the door behind him, stripped his clothes off and went into his bathroom, locking that door behind him as well. He stared down at his stomach. There was the scar on his right side where a metal rod had gone in when Michael's booby-trapped lab had come down on him and his team when they were looking for Teyla. There was the scar in the center of his stomach where one of those tentacles that had been growing out of Keller had jabbed into him when he'd given her the antidote. There was nothing to indicate that he might be carrying Rodney's progeny. John placed a hand over his navel and pushed in. He didn't feel anything out of the ordinary underneath – no lumps, no bumps. For all the evidence he had, he could have just dreamed what had happened in the building he'd found today. "Please be in there," he found himself whispering. "Please, please be in there."

John spent the next couple of days avoiding talking to Teyla and catching up on his paperwork. If she wanted to know more about Rodney's infertility, she was going to have to talk to someone other than him. He did his best to put the whole thing with the implantation facility out of his mind, figuring avoidance was best if he didn't want to lose his sanity. Then came the meeting with Lorne.

"We're going to have to move Sgt. Malden off gate duty. She just informed me today that she's pregnant. Near as the doctors can figure out, the ritual drink from P7X-922 interfered with her birth control," Lorne said as they both stared at copies of the duty roster.

Huh. So, that little love affair between Sgt. Malden and Dr. Schlessinger really had taken off, thought John. He now understood why the gossip vine was humming today with the news that the doctor had asked to be reassigned back to Earth. "She's got the ATA gene. Stick her on light-switch duty. She was one of those due to transfer back to the SGC soon anyways," John replied absently as he debated internally on whether to split up Jorgensen's team or not.

Lorne's head came up and he looked at John in surprise. "Uh, sir? With all those high energy devices? With all due respect, I don't think that'd be a good idea for the baby. We have no idea how all that stuff would affect its development," Lorne replied with some amount of concern.

John blinked as that hit him. "Uh, sorry, Lorne, I didn't even think of that. How about we move her to security?" He managed to get out, his mind suddenly whirling with all the ways that the kids he might possibly be carrying could get hurt if he kept to his usual routine. The possibilities were mind boggling.

Lorne relaxed and nodded and made a notation in on the roster. "Sounds good, sir."

John stared at the roster, thinking hard. He was going to have to ground himself, at least until he knew for certain one way or the other. "Lorne?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Since McKay's down for the count for a while, I'd like you and Dr. Simpson to go out with Ronon and Teyla as the first contact team temporarily," John said evenly.

"Sir?" Lorne replied, looking really puzzled.

John waved a hand around. "Somebody's got to keep Rodney from driving everyone nuts while he's grounded. Might as well be me." He then looked down at his desk as he added, "He's had kind of a hard time lately, and I think he needs some time to recoup. If I take my entire team out of rotation, we won't be putting Teyla's skills to good use, and Ronon will break all the marines out of sheer boredom. I'll even take over more of the paperwork and meetings to sweeten the deal."

Lorne's eyebrows flew up. "Seriously?"

"Seriously." Unfortunately. There was a reason why he dumped as much of his paperwork as he possibly could onto Lorne.

Lorne still looked a little shocked as he leaned back in his chair. "All right, then."

"Great. I'll let Ronon and Teyla know if you'll go tell Simpson," John said, making the appropriate adjustments in his and Lorne's schedules. Oh, and look, Lorne had a meeting with Woolsey about requisitions a couple of days from now, wasn't that just fabulous? It wasn't that John disliked Richard particularly, but he was a bureaucrat through and through and his meetings tended to reflect that in that they lasted for frickin' ever. John was going to be hard pressed to stay awake, particularly with how poorly he'd been sleeping the last couple of days. You guys had better be there, John thought down at his midsection. I'll be really pissed if I wound up doing this for nothing.

That taken care of, he quickly wrapped up the rest of his meeting with Lorne. After the major had left, John leaned back in his chair and stared out his window. Jesus, he hadn't been thinking. If he was carrying Rodney's kids, what if he'd gone out and something happened that managed to kill them? John covered his face with both hands. God, he'd been stupid to not think of how he was going to have to change his routine. After the shit-fit he'd thrown at Teyla for concealing her pregnancy so she could continue going out into the field, he'd have been a huge damned hypocrite if he'd kept going out himself.

He sighed and dropped his hands away from his face. He needed to go about this whole thing a little bit more intelligently. What would Rodney do if he found out he was pregnant? John thought. Then winced at the visual that came up. Okay, what would Rodney do after he'd fainted and then had a screaming meemee at Carson? John amended. The answer came to him immediately. Research.

John leaned forward and opened his laptop. First, he needed to know what experiments were going on, so he would know which labs to avoid. After he'd found that information and committed it to memory, he then took a steadying breath and ran an inquiry to pull up information on pregnancy. He was woefully ignorant on the particulars because Nancy had never become pregnant during his ill-fated marriage to her and his own potential situation hadn't exactly been covered by his sex ed classes back in school.

A few hours of reading later, he regretted ever starting. All the information about pregnancy, nutritional support and prenatal care was making his head spin. Plus, some of the things he'd found out about that happened to a woman during pregnancy just freaked him the hell out. Constipation? MOOD SWINGS? Morning sickness and cravings he already knew about from TV shows already, but the possibility of suffering from mood swings just weirded him out completely. God, he hoped he didn't get most of that stuff. He looked down at his stomach. "You hear me? You better not give me any of that crap."

Also, the list of problems that could happen was staggering. John was certain that the babies would be healthy as long as he took proper care nutritionally, but he'd be another issue entirely. Men weren't designed to get pregnant, and looking at all the things that could go wrong for a woman, he had to assume that he was in a high risk category simply because he was a guy. If he was pregnant, the longer it went on the more danger he'd likely be in. A wave of pure panic washed over him and he shoved the computer away and dropped his head into his hands.

He still had time to call this off. He could go to Carson, tell him what happened, and get anything that might be inside of him out. Rodney would never be a father, but John wouldn't have any of this shit to worry about anymore either. The thought was tempting enough that John seriously considered it for a minute or two. Then he sighed, realizing that he'd never be able to live with himself if he did that. He'd made his decision back at the facility. It did him no good to start second-guessing himself.

He straightened up and pulled the computer back to him. He opened up the current personal requisition form he had going. He then ruthlessly deleted the climbing equipment he already had listed and began filling it in with new items. He put down candied ginger for the morning sickness he sincerely hoped he didn't get, and shoes and boots in the next size up for potential future swollen feet. He didn't bother with ordering sunscreen for pregnancy mask because he already had a ton of the stuff that Rodney kept forcing on him and the rest of the team stuffed away in his medicine cabinet. He had a bad moment when it came to deciding what size of USAF sweats to order, though. Large, no, extra large, no, double extra large, oh hell, he thought, and ordered them all. They'd fit somebody if he wound up not needing them. He even threw in a couple orders for larger sets of uniforms while he was at it, and then sent it off to the queue of requests that would be transmitted to Earth next time there was a wormhole connection.

Feeling a little better for having done something to prepare for what he might be in for, he shut down his computer and called Teyla and Ronon over the radio to ask them meet him for dinner at the mess so he could tell them about the new team set up. He hoped fervently that the public venue would stave off any inquiries from Teyla about Rodney's fertility issue. If not, he was fully prepared to stonewall her for as long as it took until he could escape.

He met them in the line and then found out that despite his plans, Teyla had done an end-run around him and that he was flat out of luck when it came to avoiding talking to her about it. Teyla leaned in close to him as they stood in line for food and murmured, "You may quit hiding from me, John. I spoke with Jennifer again and she verified that the reason she and Rodney broke up was because of a permanent injury done to him due to the radiation exposure he received in the power chamber incident. I now understand why you did not wish to speak to me of it."

John twitched a shoulder at her uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, you know. It's a guy thing."

The corner of Teyla's mouth quirked up briefly at John's obvious wriggling discomfort. "I know. If I understood Jennifer correctly though, he also refused alternate methods of dealing with the issue."

John rubbed the back of his neck briefly and then grabbed a plate containing a setna burger with cheese, "Well, some folks are – particular - about stuff like that."

"I had perceived that Rodney was one who was likely to be…particular, as you say," Teyla replied, picking up a plate of the Athosian curry that always gave John gas when he ate it. "I think it unfortunate, however."

"Yeah, well, a guy can't help the way he feels sometimes," John said defensively as he grabbed a bowl of salad and some vegetables.

"I was not being critical, John," Teyla remonstrated gently as she added a small salad to her tray as well. "I just think it unfortunate. I know it is a disappointment for him."

John shrugged as he grabbed the last piece of apple pie before Ronon could. "Well, you can't always get what you want," John replied in an artificially light tone. He certainly didn't. If he had, the military wouldn't discriminate against gays, the Wraith would never have awakened, Elizabeth would still be alive and running Atlantis, and Rodney would spend every night lying underneath John while he rode Rodney's dick.

Ronon found them a table and they all sat down and dug into their food. "What's up?" Ronon asked around a mouth full of bread.

John swallowed the bit of salad he had in his mouth. "While Rodney's grounded, I was thinking that you guys should go with Lorne and Dr. Simpson for a while as the first contact team."

Teyla's eyebrows went up in surprise and Ronon put his fork down and gave him an odd look as he said, "And you're staying here?"

John waved his fork around, hoping that they'd buy what he was trying to sell here. "Somebody's got keep Rodney out of trouble. And he's been kind of down lately. I figured it would be good to spend some buddy time with him for a while."

Teyla's face cleared and she got a glint in her eye that made John kind of nervous. "Ah, I understand. I would be happy to go with Major Lorne and Dr. Simpson on missions for a while, then."

Ronon looked back and forth between Teyla and John and then shrugged. "All right."

John very carefully did not sigh in relief and smiled at them. "Great! I'll let Lorne know you guys are good to go." He then went back to eating, wondering vaguely what the heck it was about his cover story for staying out of the field that had gotten Teyla all excited. Finally, he shook his head slightly and dismissed it. If it were important, she'd either eventually tell him or he'd find out on his own.

About two weeks after John had found the implantation facility, John was doing his usual morning run with Ronon. He'd woken up that morning feeling like someone had loaded him down with a large bag of bricks and, if he was honest with himself, he had to admit that the run wasn't improving things any. His speed kept slowing down despite his best efforts as he tried to keep up with his annoyingly fast teammate and very soon he realized that he had to stop running entirely or he was going to throw up. John came to a halt and bent over, feeling shaky and nauseated, sucking in air through his mouth.

Ronon trotted back to him. "You okay?" he asked as opened up his water bottle and then took a drink.

John waved a dismissive hand at him, kind of embarrassed that he was wimping out like this. "Yeah, fine. Just…kinda tired."

Ronon gave him a dubious look, but silently folded his arms and leaned against a wall to wait and as John caught his breath and willed his stomach to settle. The shakiness did not abate nearly as much as John hoped it would though, and he was slow to stand back up. His legs felt like jelly.

Ronon's brow furrowed in concern and he asked again, "You sure you're okay?"

"Maybe I haven't gotten enough sleep lately. I feel tired," John admitted wearily, ruffling his hair with one hand. Although that didn't make sense to him, since he'd hit the sack early the night before because he'd been yawning fit to crack his jaw.

"Maybe you're getting old," Ronon shot back with a smirk.

John did a really fake and sarcastic laugh back at him. "Very funny. Look, I'm going to go back to my quarters and lay back down for a while. If I'm coming down with a cold or something, the rest might head it off."

"All right," Ronon replied, "See you later then." He added insult to injury by sprinting off like he'd just started fresh.

John shook his head in mild disgust and then scratched at his sweaty hair. He walked slowly back toward the transporter that they'd passed a little while ago, got in and pressed the section on the map that would take him to the residential area. A quick flash later, he stepped out into the hallway and sauntered to his quarters.

Once inside, John stripped down to his boxers and collapsed face first onto his bed, his feet hanging off the edge. God, he was exhausted, and not even the lure of a shower to wash away the sweat could compete with becoming one with his bed. He closed his eyes for a quick 15 minute nap…

…And was awoken by the persistent ringing of his door chime. John fuzzily climbed out of bed and answered it, wondering vaguely who it could be because Rodney was still in the infirmary.

The door slid open and Major Lorne looked at him in concern, P-90 in hand. "Um, sir, you're late for the staff meeting. Mr. Woolsey tried calling you several times, but you weren't answering your radio."

"Oh," John said blankly, then scrubbed at his gritty eyes and yawned. "Sorry to alarm everyone. I just lay down for a nap and I guess I overslept. Give me fifteen minutes and I'll be there."

"Sure thing, sir," Lorne said, look relieved that his superior officer had just overslept instead of doing something more alarming like turning into a bug again. "I'll let Mr. Woolsey know you're on your way."

John took a quick shower and changed clothes and within the promised fifteen minutes, he was in the conference room.

"Nice of you to join us, Colonel," Woolsey said dryly, his hands primly folded in front of him.

"Sorry about that," John mumbled as he took his seat. "Wasn't feeling well earlier and I took a nap. Went a little longer than I'd planned."

"Are you feeling okay now, Colonel?" Carson asked, looking at John intently.

John casually threw an arm over the back of his chair and smirked at the doctor. "Yeah, sure. Just needed a bit of extra sleep to throw it off."

"Well then, now that everyone's here, let's get down to business," Woolsey declared, cutting off their conversation. He then opened his laptop and began with the agenda for the day.

John managed to not fall asleep in the meeting, although it had been tough when Woolsey had started in on some of the more tedious administrative trivia. By the time the meeting had let out, it was lunchtime and John was so hungry from sleeping through breakfast that he was actually kind of nauseous.

The turkey sandwich and fruit cup he picked up tasted like manna from heaven, but oddly, the mere smell of his cup of coffee made his stomach roil unhappily. Wondering if it was a bad batch, John ditched the still full cup at the dish pick up area and got himself a cup of Athosian tea instead.

The rest of John's day consisted of dealing with some training issues with the marines, breaking up a disagreement that had come to blows between two scientists he'd happened across, and training one of the new captains to fly the jumpers. There was nothing particularly exhausting about his day, yet he was yawning pretty badly by the time dinnertime came around.

Ronon smirked at him the third time John caught himself nodding off into his fish and vegetables (the smell of the meatloaf having been particularly off-putting that day) and said, "Need a nap, Grandpa?"

John glared at him evilly as he ate some mashed potatoes while Teyla kicked Ronon under the table. It was nice having somebody who was actually able to kick Ronon's ass on his side. He swallowed then replied, "Nah, I'm fine. It's just a little stuffy in here today."

Teyla slanted a look over at the opened windows, then raised an eyebrow at him. "You said at the staff meeting that you were feeling a bit unwell earlier. Are you sure that you are recovered?"

John sighed and poked at his steamed vegetables. Busted by Teyla again. She was good at doing that. "Okay, so maybe I'm a little tired. After I visit Rodney in the infirmary, I'll go right to bed, get some extra sleep. Will that make you happy?"

Teyla put down her fork and gave him a long suffering look. "I am not your keeper, John. But yes, I would feel better knowing that you are taking care of yourself. You too often put yourself last."

John ducked his head uncomfortably at that, feeling his ears flush. He never knew how to react to statements like that. People just didn't seem to get that what was important to John was the people and the city he protected. He was just trying to do his job and not fuck it up. "Yeah, well," he mumbled, then stuffed some fish in his mouth so he wouldn't say anything stupid.

Teyla seemed to take pity on him at that point, because she turned the conversation to what Kanaan and Torren had gotten up to during the day and John was soon chuckling at the story of Torren's bewildered looks after accidentally pulling down a wall hanging in his mother's quarters that he'd grabbed onto to pull himself up.

He finished dinner and went to visit with a very grumpy Rodney who, thankfully, was probably going to be let out of the infirmary in a few days. Afterwards John crashed into his bed, feeling as tired as he'd been during the siege of the city in the first year.

Thing was, the next morning he was just as tired. And the day after that. It wasn't until the afternoon of day four that the pin dropped for John as he sat in his office, trying to stay awake while he did some performance evaluations.

Lorne knocked on the edge of John's open door and came at his beckoning wave with an apologetic look. "Sorry to bother you, sir, but I need to consult with you on a duty roster change."

John wiped his tired eyes with one hand before asking, "Didn't we just fix the roster a little while ago?"

Lorne grimaced and sat down in the spare chair, tablet in hand. "We did, but Sgt. Malden needs to be moved again. Seems that the pregnancy is wearing her out and she's having trouble doing an entire shift in security without exhausting herself. I got a note from Beckett today that says she needs to rest more, so we need to try and find something else to accommodate her."

John blinked as it hit him. Why he was tired. Why certain foods just smelled nasty. Jesus, the procedure had worked. One of his hands drifted down under his desk to settle on his stomach. "Er, right," he said, abruptly aware that Lorne was still waiting for him to reply. "Uh, how about we have her assist the quartermaster with his paperwork? The Daedalus is due in the next few days, so he's going to need help with the new supplies. By the time they've got things organized, the ship will be ready to leave and she'll be on it heading back to Earth to marry Dr. Schlessinger. By the way, have we sent around a congratulations card for people to sign yet?"

Lorne nodded and made a notation on his tablet. "Yeah, card's going around. Sending her over to supply is a good idea. I'll inform her and the quartermaster of the change." He then looked up and said, "You okay with the evals? I could do them once I get back from my mission tomorrow."

Right, Lorne was going out on a trading mission with Teyla, Ronon and Simpson that evening. "Nah," John said, waving his other hand casually, "I'm already on it."

Lorne looked unconvinced, probably because he remembered the glee with which John had dumped the majority of them onto Lorne the last time he'd had to do them. "It wouldn't be a problem, sir. I'll could check with you again when I get back."

Seeing as how it suddenly seemed much more likely that John would be grounded for nine long months he felt that he'd best get used to doing the majority of the paperwork. "I've got it, Lorne," he said dismissively. "Don't worry about it. Try to keep the team from getting into too much trouble, okay?"

Lorne gave him a wry grin as he stood up. "Do you always ask for the impossible?"

John snorted in amusement. "Just do the best you can. See you when you get back."

After Lorne left, John got up and shut and locked the door behind him. He sat back down in his chair, looked down at his stomach and placed both hands gently on it. "You guys are really there," he said softly. Holy crap. This was what he'd wanted, right? A couple of kids for Rodney? That was the whole reason why he'd plunked himself down onto that dais back on that planet.

So, why was he feeling so freaked out of a sudden? Just because he'd started showing signs that he was, well, pregnant was no reason to spazz out, right? John tittered nervously at that thought. He was guy. A guy who was pregnant. His tittering grew into full blown slightly hysterical laughter and continued until John was red-faced and wheezing.


Eventually he regained control of himself and wiped the tears from his eyes, feeling drained and a little blank. Okay, then. He was possibly a little less prepared for this than he'd thought, John admitted to himself. His radio went off and he clicked it on, glad for the distraction from his thoughts. "This is Sheppard."

"Come and get this big baby out of my infirmary," came Carson's voice over the headset. "If I don't get him out of here soon, half of my staff will leave when the Daedalus arrives."

John perked up, happy to hear that Carson was finally satisfied enough with Rodney's recovery to discharge him from the infirmary. "I'll be right down. Tell Grumpy Gus to keep his pants on and that I'll see him in a few."

John radioed the control room to inform them where he'd be, then hustled down to the infirmary, eager to get away from his thoughts for a while. He entered the infirmary just as Rodney finished slipping on a t-shirt as he sat on the bed. "Oh good, you're here," Rodney said to him. He thrust a pair of sneakers at John. "Put these on for me. Bending down is still an incredibly painful prospect."

Snorting good naturedly, John took the shoes from Rodney and bent down to slip them onto Rodney's feet. He had clean socks on already and John knew from experience that a patient was on his own when it came to getting dressed to leave. John tied the laces extra tight in retaliation.

"Ow! Are you trying to cut off the circulation to my feet?" Rodney complained as John stood back up. John grinned at him, glad to see a spark of the old Rodney again.

"Come on, princess. Now that I've put the glass slippers on, let's blow this popsicle stand," John replied, giving Rodney a quick slap on the shoulder.

Rodney sniffed at him and slid stiffly off the bed. "Some prince you are."

John stuck his lip out in a fake pout. "Hey! I came to spring you out of here! That counts."

Carson walked into the main part of the infirmary and handed Rodney some bottles of pills and some papers. "Here you go, Rodney. Take those as directed, follow the directions on the aftercare sheet and come back for a check up in a week."

Rodney took the items from Carson with a frown. "A week? But what if something gets infected?"

"Your wound has closed over cleanly and the antibiotics will get rid of anything that might be hanging around, Rodney," Carson replied with false patience. "I wouldn't let you out of here if I weren't sure that you were going to be okay." He lifted an eyebrow and reached out to fiddle with an IV tube that was hanging close by. "Unless you're not feeling as well as you said you were and I need to keep you here another few days…"

"No, no! I'm fine! I'm fine! I'll just take the medicine and well, you know, leave," Rodney backpedaled, looking a little alarmed. He turned and looked beseechingly at John. "Can we go now?"

John shrugged. "I was just waiting for you." Rodney leveled a glare at him and John smirked and gestured grandly toward the door. "Shall we?"

Rodney huffed and headed out the door with John following closely behind him, hearing Carson chuckling behind them as they left the infirmary.

John noted that Rodney was walking slower than normal as they headed to Rodney's quarters. That was not exactly a surprise for someone recovering from a gut wound though, so John slowed down so Rodney wouldn't wear himself out trying to keep up. They talked about inconsequentials until they got to the door to Rodney's quarters.

"I suppose you're coming in?" Rodney asked, pointing over his shoulder at his door.

John shrugged. "Sure." Maybe they could watch a movie together. It had been a pretty quiet day and the control room knew where he was if anything came up.

Rodney opened his door and they went in and made themselves comfortable. Rodney fluffed his pillow and put it upright against the wall before gingerly sitting down on his bed and easing back against it. John settled at the foot of Rodney's bed next to his feet, sitting cross-legged.

"I heard in the infirmary that you've sent Ronon and Teyla off with Lorne and Simpson," Rodney said, crossing his arms.

John leaned back and braced himself on his hands. "Yep. Gotta keep Ronon from breaking the marines somehow."

Rodney snorted at that. "True. But I expected that you'd go out with them instead of handing Wookie walking duty over to Lorne. You're not pulling that guilt thing on me again are you?"

"No, I'm pretty sure that mini-mammoth was a surprise to everyone," John drawled. "Even Ronon was caught flatfooted on that one."

Rodney's lips thinned and he flapped a dismissive hand. "That's not what I'm talking about. You've been all nursemaid-y since you eavesdropped on that argument I had in my office with Jennifer. And this taking yourself off missions while I'm grounded is looking like you're doing more of the same. I'm not fragile, Colonel. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."

John blink at that, surprised at where the conversation was going. "Never said that you were, McKay," he returned defensively. "And I am not coddling you."

"You've been hovering," Rodney countered. "Jennifer commented on it to Carson when she thought I was asleep in the infirmary. She called you my new girlfriend. He even agreed with her. Said that this was the most clingy he'd ever seen you."

John sat up and crossed his arms in front of his chest, feeling uncomfortably exposed by that observation. He'd always thought that he'd managed to keep it cool concerning his hopeless crush. "I was not clingy. I was just concerned. You're my friend and you've been having a bad time of it recently. Excuse the hell out of me for watching out for a friend!" Annoyed with himself for being so transparent to Keller and Carson, John went to get up and leave for his own quarters before Rodney got the idea that John wanted anything from him that he couldn't give.

And was stopped by Rodney's foot shooting out in front of his chest to block him. "Ow!" Rodney cried out, holding his stomach where he'd gotten stitches. John ceased his forward momentum. "Will you sit the fuck back down? Christ, that hurts." Rodney dropped his foot back onto the bed and he closed his eyes and rubbed at his stomach as John slowly sat back.

"Leg lifts are a bad idea when you're still recovering from abdominal surgery," John commented, then winced. That was a stupid thing to say.

"No shit," Rodney replied sarcastically, opening his eyes again. He looked at John and then sighed. "Look, it's not that I don't appreciate the concern." He made a gesture with one hand, like he was trying to capture and hold a particularly delicate item. "It's just… I've got Carson mother-henning me to death, Teyla being all solicitous of a sudden, Jeannie still in a royal huff over the break-up, Radek's being too nice to me, and Jennifer's still flip-flopping between trying to keep things professional between us and hating me for breaking us up. I just want someone besides Ronon to act normal around me."

John sighed. Problem was, he'd always hovered around Rodney when he was down. He kind of couldn't help himself. "What do you want me to do, Rodney? Ignore you for a while?"

"No, just…" Rodney made a helpless gesture with both hands, "Don't hover, okay?"

That was completely nonspecific and unhelpful of him to say, John thought resentfully. He scrubbed his face with both hands briefly and then dropped them. "Yeah, okay, whatever. Wanna watch a movie?"

"Sure, go throw something on," Rodney said tiredly, waving a hand at the computer sitting on his desk.

John got up went over to the computer. After opening it up and switching it on, he quickly scrolled through the movies on the server looking for something with a lot of explosions in it. Once he found one he liked, he clicked on it and sat back down at the foot of the bed.

"Independence Day?" Rodney asked rhetorically as the movie intro played.

John shrugged. "I'm in the mood for explosions."

Rodney sighed, "At least it's not Back to the Future again," and settled into his pillow to watch the movie.

John, on the other hand, brooded over their conversation. He hadn't realized that he'd been giving off the wrong kind of vibes to everyone about Rodney and he wondered if some unconscious discomfort on Rodney's part had prompted this discussion. Fuck. He'd get up and leave already if he weren't sure that it would cause Rodney to get even more upset with him.

Another unwelcome epiphany rolled over him. What was Rodney going to think when he found out that John had impregnated himself with Rodney's kids? Was he going to think it was some kind of creepy stalker thing? John hand crept down and covered his stomach. No, he thought fiercely. It wasn't like that. He'd just done what he'd had to in order to give Rodney a chance at being a dad. That was all there was to this.

Still, John thought reluctantly, it would probably be for the best if everyone thought that this had happened by accident. God knew they ran across enough strange and bizarre things that it would be plausible. All John would have to do was act surprised and clueless. He was surprised when the thought saddened him. He'd maybe sort of possibly had been harboring a fantasy of telling Rodney that he was going to be a dad. Now he was going to have to keep it secret until one of the doctors noticed something out of the ordinary next time they got around to examining him.

After the movie finished, John left a drowsing Rodney and made one final check-in with the control room for the day before going back to his room. He figured that maybe he could do with a short nap before dinner as well to help combat his exhaustion. But after he lay down onto his bed his mind began obsessing over his conversation with Rodney. John flopped over onto his other side ill-temperedly. It had been a really long time since he'd last given himself away like that so that others suspected. The last time had been a disaster. After his brother had told his father, his father had thrown a conniption fit and shouted that 'no son of his was a faggot!' and to stop his ill-advised rebellion before he came down with something that couldn't be cured. After that particular fight with his father, things between John and his father and brother had been particularly tense until he'd brought home Nancy.

John sighed at the memory. At least his family history had trained him to be able to conceal his preferences in the military. Although honestly, even the ability to fly the good stuff didn't make up for his pathetic love life some days. There were times when John wished that he'd gone for a PhD in mathematics and become some flamingly gay professor at a liberal arts college instead. At least then he'd get more action than just his hands and the occasional mildly stalkery woman, convenient for the cover though they may be.

John scolded himself for not appreciating what he had as he shifted again on the bed. Still, the forlorn wish that Rodney was his partner so they could raise the kids together stubbornly bubbled its way up. When Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney had all paired off, he'd felt left out. It was only natural for his teammates to spend time with their significant others that they had previously spent with him, but that had left him with nobody to hang with other than Carson and Woolsey. And not to knock them, but Carson really was kind of fussy and dull at times and Richard reminded him too much of his father and brother with his stiff formality and suits. John flung his arm over his face to cover his eyes. Bah. Now he was just making himself pointlessly miserable by thinking about this.

Pushing his thoughts off to the side, he focused on his breathing and finally drifted off.

When Teyla and Ronon arrived back from the mission, John discovered that there were other activities he was used to doing that were going to be problematic now that he had a couple of extra lives to worry about.

John stared down at the bantos rods in his hands wondering how he was going to deal with this without raising suspicions.

"Is there anything wrong, John?" Teyla asked, looking puzzled. As well she might be. This was one of their regularly scheduled practices.

With visions of getting slapped in the stomach still running though his head, John looked up at her. "Um, no."

"You look concerned," Teyla countered. "Are you still not feeling well?"

"Nah, I'm peachy," John replied, putting on a fake grin. Until one of the doctors found out that he had passengers, he was just going to have to be careful. He brought up the sticks into a defensive position. "Ready when you are."

Teyla gave him a slight, disbelieving look, but settled into one of the combat stances that John was familiar with from her teachings.

They circled each other for a bit, then Teyla charged him and he found himself slapping away her attack with a fierce intensity. She whirled away, aiming a blow at his head as she went by and he ducked out of the way. John quickly resumed a defensive position and held steady through two feints that Teyla attempted to pull on him, then did a charge of his own. He managed a hit on one of her arms and out of the corner of his eye he caught the other rod heading toward his now unprotected stomach. A jolt of fear ran through him and he twisted quickly, slamming both of his sticks onto her oncoming forearm. She grunted and dropped the baton.

"You are taking this seriously for a change," she commented approvingly as she danced out of reach and spun the baton still remaining in her other hand while shaking out the other arm that had received the blow.

John crouched behind the safety zone of his outstretched rods and wondered what the hell she meant by that. "I always take this seriously!" he protested, his heart still thudding with the remnants of the fear that Rodney's kids would be hurt.

Teyla darted forward, throwing a backhand blow toward his midsection with her remaining baton. John's arms snapped forward, seemingly of their own volition, and brought both rods onto her wrist, hard. She yelped and dropped the baton, and the next thing John knew, he was straddling Teyla on the floor with both of his batons crossed over her neck, growling.

"Peace," she gasped, and John pulled back his sticks from her throat with a surprising amount of reluctance. She slowly sat up, leaning on her elbows. "That," she said with a grin, "is what I meant about you finally taking our sparring seriously for a change."

John clambered off of her, feeling awkward. "What do you mean by that?"

She rose gracefully up off of the floor, holding his gaze. "I mean that you finally acted to defend yourself as if your life was at stake. Up until today, you seemed to merely take it as an intellectual exercise." A thoughtful look crossed her face and she tilted her head. "What changed?" she asked, her eyebrow lifting inquisitively.

John stared down at the floor to avoid looking at his stomach. He really wished that he could tell her. She'd already had a kid and John suddenly really wanted someone that he could ask questions of about the whole carrying a baby deal, but…he stuck one baton under his armpit, wrapped his hand around the back of his neck and shrugged. "Dunno."

Teyla pursed her lips and considered his answer for a bit before sighing. "That is a shame. I would like to have known what finally made the connection for you." She then leaned down as if to pick up her rods, saying, "Shall we continue then?"

John paled at the thought. "Uh, maybe we should do some katas instead." At her look of surprise, he continued, improvising desperately, "You know, since I've made that breakthrough, maybe we should focus on improving my technique."

"You hate doing katas," she replied, slowly rising from her crouch and looking at him oddly.

John grimaced. He did. He was hopelessly sloppy at them and didn't have the patience to do the seemingly endless slow repetitions it took to learn how to do a move correctly. "Yeah, I know." He shuffled his feet. "But maybe now is the time to improve my form?"

"Your defense was a bit…awkward," Teyla allowed, as she thought it over. After another moment's consideration, she nodded to herself. "Yes, now would be the time to refine the basics, before your bad habits become too ingrained." She then looked at him sardonically. "Although if you had practiced your katas to begin with…"

"Yeah, right, I would have learned to do everything right the first time," John finished for her. He gave her a disarming smile and shrugged again. "What can I say? I've finally seen the error of my ways."

Teyla responded with a smile of her own. "Well, it is a late realization, but I prefer that to none at all." She gathered her sticks up from where they'd fallen and then turned to regard him. "First position, defensive form," she ordered.

John fell into obediently into position and let her adjust his stance without protest, relieved that she'd bought into his ploy. With any luck, he'd be able to keep this up until a doctor discovered the cargo he was carrying. After the scare he'd gotten from her aiming at his midsection, he was more than willing to put up with the tedium of katas for a while.

Duly jolted into awareness by his experience with Teyla, John made sure to have a plan ready by the time Ronon came around to bug him into sparring.

"Want to spar?" Ronon asked, leaning against the door frame of John's office. "You look bored."

John stretched his arms above his head and leaned back in his chair. His back popped and he sighed in relief. God, he hated being a desk jockey. "Actually, I'm more in the mood for a swim. Wanna join me, buddy? The marine biologists say that the water around the city is great this time of year. I'm planning on doing a few laps in the protected area between the north and northwest piers." He waggled his eyebrows at Ronon, adding, "I heard that your girlfriend just started teaching water aerobics there, too."

Ronon grunted non-committally at the suggestion, but his eyes lit up and John knew he had him.

"Come on, Ronon. Unless you think you can't compete with how I look wearing swim trunks," John taunted him suggestively.

Ronon's eyes narrowed and his lips twitched in amusement. "You're on, old man,"

John grinned back at him and thanked his lucky stars that Ronon was dating Amelia. She was a big fitness freak and taught a lot of usefully distracting classes.

John was glad he'd come up with viable alternatives to sparring with Teyla and Ronon, because over the next couple of months he had a handful with dealing with his teammates in other ways.

"Exactly how long are you planning on babysitting McKay?" Ronon asked about two months after John's encounter with the implantation facility. It was a Sunday and they were bumming around in John's room. Ronon was drinking a beer and John tried not to feel jealous about that as he drank his ginger ale. The fact that he knew if he gave Rodney's kids fetal alcohol syndrome he'd never hear the end of it helped.

John shrugged. Rodney was currently buried in his lab doing some kind of review of ongoing projects that the IOA had requested a few days ago. Even if John could go out on a mission, they'd have been grounded until that was done, and it looked like it was going to take weeks from the amount of grumbling Rodney and Zelenka had done when they'd been tasked with it.

Ronon set down his mug of beer and looked at him with concern. "It's been a while since you've gone through the gate. You're going to lose your edge sitting on your ass in your office doing paperwork."

John sighed at the mention of paperwork. The damned stuff kept coming while Lorne went out into the field instead of him and John was starting to feel like he was slowly going nuts. Woolsey was incredibly happy with how up to date his paperwork was but, by the end of a work day, John was ready to climb the walls. He hated it. He hated the boredom, hated the sameness, hated the bureaucracy. "Rodney's a friend and I owe it to him to give him a chance to deal with some of his problems before I drag him back out to get shot at again."

Ronon picked his beer back up and stared at it for a moment. "Seeing that new guy that replaced Heightmeyer hasn't been enough for him?"

Rodney's continued slump really worried John. Ever since he'd broken up permanently with Keller, it seemed that he'd given up somehow. Carson had become worried as well and had broached the idea to Rodney that he go see Dr. Beyerl, the new psychologist that had replaced Heightmeyer. Rodney hadn't been exactly enthusiastic about it but, after Carson had started threatening him with a forced vacation from work, Rodney had reluctantly given in and gone to the guy. "It's complicated, Ronon. These things take a while."

Ronon sighed and took another deep drink of his beer before lowering it to rest between his legs. "He really wanted to father a family, didn't he?"

John grimaced. He should have known that Teyla would tell Ronon. "Yeah, 'fraid so."

Ronon leaned his head back to rest against the wall behind him. "It's not the same out there without you two. Not enough bitching."

"Yeah, been missing going out with you too, buddy," John allowed as his took another drink of his ginger ale. "But Rodney and I will get back out there eventually."

About three months after John requested the Ancient facility impregnate him, Teyla sat down with him one evening in the mess hall as he was eating a fruit cup for a snack before going to bed.

"What have you been up to, John?" she asked, apparently deciding to cut right to the chase.

John quickly swallowed the mouthful he'd been eating and set his spoon down. "Um…what do you mean by that?"

Teyla tapped a finger on her lips thoughtfully as she looked at him. "You have changed many of your daily habits and I have become concerned."

John decided to bluff it out. "Well, maybe I just decided to try and take better care of myself. You always complain that I don't do that."

She frowned at him dubiously. "I was thinking more in terms of going out on missions while still injured and not getting enough sleep."

"Well, I haven't gone out on a mission while injured and I'm getting more sleep," John replied triumphantly, picking his spoon back up. He really needed to finish the rest of his fruit cup or he'd wake up nauseous the next morning. He gestured to his snack with the spoon, "And now I'm going to eat a healthy snack before I turn in for the evening."

Teyla gave him an exasperated look and then sighed. "Very well. Do not tell me. I will find out what you are up to on my own."

Oh, no you won't, John thought smugly back at her as he spooned fruit into his mouth. Once he'd removed the spoon from his mouth, he smirked at her before he started chewing.

Teyla rolled her eyes at him and her expression softened. "You have been looking well rested. It appears as if you added some weight as well. It looks good on you."

John swallowed and replied with a perky tilt to his head, "Thank you."

A couple of weeks after his conversation with Teyla, Rodney barged in one evening and slumped into the chair in John's room as John lay on his bed reading a comic book. "God, that's finally done. What a monumental waste of time."

John took in his bleary and rumpled appearance and raised an eyebrow. "The review was that bad?"

Rodney wiped both hands over his face, looking exhausted. "Yes. Would you believe that they wanted us to go over everything we'd done since we'd found the city? Why do I even do reports if they use them to wipe their asses rather than read them? They're on Earth, they can buy toilet paper!"

"That's bureaucrats for you," John replied sympathetically as he set down the comic book. "So, how you been doing? I haven't seen you in a while." He'd done that quite deliberately. Rodney had asked him to quit hovering, after all.

Rodney sagged further into the chair and stared at his hands lying lax in his lap. "I got an email from Jeannie. She told me that she's expecting. The sonogram says that it's a boy." He blinked rapidly for a moment, and then looked up at John, misery written in his face as he did a horrible parody of a smile. "I'm going to be an uncle again. Isn't that great?"

"Rodney," John grated out, hating to see him like this and unable to tell him that it was okay, that he'd be a dad in a few months time. "Jesus, Rodney."

Rodney waved a dismissive hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. "Ignore me. I'm, I'm fine. Just tired." He dropped the hand away from his face and sighed. "She wants me to come visit. No doubt so she can yell at me some more in person about the breakup with Jennifer. I think she's figured out that I'm skimming past those parts in her emails now."

John twisted around and set his feet on the floor and looked at Rodney intently. "You haven't told her what happened to you in the accident, have you?"

Rodney mouth twisted wryly. "I didn't have to. After the accident Jennifer sent her a bunch of emails updating her on my condition and recovery. Family is pretty important to Jennifer and she wanted to keep Jeannie in the loop in case, well, you know. So now Jeannie thinks that I'm a heartless bastard for not wanting to raise somebody else's genes. That's easy for her to say. She's already got a kid that looks just like her, and now she's breeding another."

John winced. This whole thing was just ripping Rodney to shreds and now it seemed to be threatening to tear his relationship with his sister apart, too. "I'm sorry, buddy," John said, reaching out to pat Rodney on the knee. "Look, you want to go out on the pier a while? I've got a couple beers with your name on them."

"That disgusting swill doesn't deserve the name beer," Rodney groused even as he perked up a bit.

"Hey, never disparage a free beer, McKay," John shot back as he got up and pulled the two beers remaining and a couple of ginger ales from his small refrigerator.

Rodney was standing impatiently at the door when John turned back around and John quirked a smile as he followed him out the door.


At about four months after his visit to the Ancient fertility center, John was sitting in his office flatly ignoring his paperwork in favor of playing Tetris when he was startled by an alarm suddenly going off. He leaped up out of his office chair and had to grab hold of his desk as a sudden wave of dizziness overtook him and black spots danced in front of his eyes. "Damn it!" muttered John as he waited for the spots to clear and the dizziness to leave. He'd been lightheaded every time he stood up too fast for the last few days, so of course now was the time the city decided to be invaded or whatever the hell was happening.

Once his vision cleared, he clicked on his radio impatiently as an ominous rumble ran through the city. "This is Sheppard, what the hell is going on?"

There were the sounds of many people shouting in the background as Rodney rapped out, "That damned idiot Bunson ignored my order to leave the stardrive alone and now we have a energy feedback loop building up in the inverters! You are so, so fired after I get this fixed!" John assumed that last sentence was directed at Bunson. "Colonel, I need you to go to the Chair Room! Zelenka, where the hell is that coupler?"

"On it," John replied to the set of directions pertaining to him. He ran out of his office and sped toward the nearest transporter, listening to the controlled chaos over the radio while he ran. Within minutes he halted in front of the command chair, glad that the cargo he was carrying wasn't yet affecting his speed. He dropped down into the chair and it obligingly tilted back and lit up.

John interrupted the rapid-fire update that Rodney was currently giving Woolsey to announce, "I'm here Rodney, what to do you need me to do?"

"Bring up a diagnostic of the drive and tell me what you see," Rodney replied tersely.

John did as Rodney requested and looked carefully at the information. "Looks like…something's been put in backwards? Around about where the cooling arrays meet up with the engine core."

"So fired," Rodney muttered over the radio. John almost felt sorry for Bunson. The reaming out the guy was going to get from Rodney after this was over was going to be epic. John listened as Rodney rattled out a bunch of techno-geekiness at Radek, who replied with more of the same. He wasn't sure, but it sounded like Radek also threw in a few choice words in Czech about Bunson while he was at it.

It took a few hours, two near explosions, a bunch of screaming on Rodney's part, demands for information from Woolsey, swearing from Radek and a few other engineers, and John doing a few altogether too creative things while he was in the chair, but finally the alarm cut off and it looked like Atlantis would survive for yet another day.

John was just powering down the chair when Rodney came charging into the room looking frazzled. "I swear to god, when I find that moron Bunson, I'm going to have Ronon use him as a sparring dummy until I can toss his worthless ass back onto the Daedalus!"

John smirked at him. "So, he's actually hiding from you?" If Bunson thought that hiding until Rodney had cooled down some would save his ass, he had another thing coming. Thwarting Rodney's immediate impulse to berate the hell out of you only made consequences worse in the long run.

"Yes, the little weasel! And when I find him he's going to regret ever mistakenly thinking that he had two brain cells to rub together!" Rodney hissed, his eyes narrowed dangerously.

John grinned at that. Yep, Bunson was totally going to be toast when Rodney finally found him, but in a way John was glad that he'd been so stupid. This was the old Rodney he'd been missing for some time now. "So, are we done here?"

Rodney flapped a hand at him. "Yes, yes, the city will live to try and explode another day." His expression then changed from irritated to something more plaintive. "Look, I'm starving after all this. You want to join me for some dinner?"

"Sure," John replied and Rodney held out a hand. John took it and Rodney yanked him up out of the chair and all John had time to think was 'oh shit' before he blacked out.

He was lying on the floor when he came to and Rodney was shrieking into the radio, "Where the hell are you people? This is no time to be picking flowers, oh thank god, you're finally here!" he finished as a medical team came charging into the room.

John tried to sit up on his elbows, but was blocked by the swarm of people who'd surrounded him.

Keller's face came into view and she aimed the penlight of doom into John's eyes. "How are you feeling, Colonel?"

John started to say that he was fine, but it occurred to him that now would probably be as good time as any for the doctors to finally give him a good looking over and find the kids. "Uh, I've been a little dizzy lately. And I've been feeling kind of tired."

Rodney peeked around one of the med tech's shoulders and the color drained out of his face. "Oh god." He then turned and snapped at Keller, "What are you people still doing here? He needs to be in the infirmary! He's not telling us he's fine! He's going to die while you people lollygag here! For the love of god, get a move on!"

Keller rolled her eyes at Rodney, but did turn a concerned look onto John. "I'm going to take you to the infirmary for some tests, Colonel. Just lie back and don't strain yourself. Let us do all the work."

"Okay," John said meekly and bunch of people surrounded him and lifted him up onto a gurney. He stared at the ceiling as the gurney was lifted up into the locked position and they hustled him off to the infirmary. He listened as Rodney trailing after them, muttering unhappily. Now that the time for the reveal had finally arrived, his heart thudded with anxiety. He had no idea what everyone's reaction was going to be. More importantly, he had no idea what Rodney's reaction was going to be. Would he be excited? Happy? Panicked?

Once they arrived in the infirmary, Keller firmly told Rodney to park himself in the waiting room and John was then stripped down and whisked off for testing. Samples, MRI, handheld Ancient doohickeys, the whole works. Several years of being in the Pegasus galaxy had made the doctors paranoid and anything unexpected made them bring out the big guns. After he'd run the gauntlet, John was tucked into a set of scrubs and a bed to await the results.

After a while, they seemed to have determined that John wasn't contagious and allowed him a visitor while they were still checking the rest of the results. Rodney came in and sat down by the head of his bed. "Hey," he said.

John left off picking at the pilled up fuzz on the blanket covering him and waved a hand at him. "Hey Rodney."

Rodney made a flapping motion with his hands. "I tried to tell Ronon and Teyla that you're in the infirmary, but they're still out on a mission."

"I know," John replied. He'd told them to watch out for themselves and try not to break his XO when they'd left. "You get yourself some food while you were waiting out there?"

Rodney nodded tersely. "I had one of the minions grab me something from the mess. You get a chance to eat yet?"

John shook his head and settled his hands over his stomach. He was too nervous to eat at the moment anyway. "Not hungry right now."

Rodney looked at him worriedly. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay," John replied with a shrug. "Tired, a little."

"Do they have any idea what's wrong with you yet?"

"Not yet," John replied. "I think they're still looking at test results."

He watched as Rodney looked down at his hands and knotted his fingers together in his lap. "You scared the shit out of me when you went down like that," Rodney mumbled into his lap. "I thought the chair had given you a brain aneurysm or something."

John winced at the distressed tone in Rodney's voice. "Sorry about that. Didn't mean to." He then stretched out a hand and waved it slightly to catch Rodney's eye and make him look up. "Hey. I'll be fine. Don't worry."

"Says the man who turned into a bug once," Rodney griped half-heartedly.

"I got better," John countered in his best Monty Python voice.

Rodney groaned and rolled his eyes at him and John grinned.

Someone cleared their throat and John looked over to see Keller standing in the doorway. "Sorry to interrupt."

John sobered up his expression and settled back into his pillows. "No problem, doc. We were just hanging around."

The corner of her mouth twitched briefly into a wry smile and then she came forward to stand by John's bed. "Well, Colonel, we've got some test results that are kind of strange. I'm afraid that we need to do a few more tests to see if we can't pin down what the problem actually is."

John wondered what exactly was confusing them. Well, other than the fact that he was a guy with two fetuses growing inside him. "Hey, I've got nothing else to do while I'm here. Might as well."

Jennifer gave Rodney a stiff smile as she assisted John in getting out of the bed and into a wheelchair. "If you'll excuse us for just a bit, Dr. McKay?"

Rodney popped up out of his chair nervously and grimaced his version of a polite smile. "Oh, yes, sure. You go on ahead and do whatever." He made shooing motions with his hands and then pointed backward over his shoulder with his thumb. "I'll, uh, I'll just be hanging out. Here. Somewhere."

"See you in a bit, Rodney," John called over his shoulder as Jennifer turned the chair and wheeled him back to where the Ancient medical scanning bed was. She held his arm to steady him as he climbed up onto it and then settled the scanner over his abdomen and then turned to look at the viewscreen that showed what the machine was detecting. John noticed her startle and then peer more closely at it.

Jennifer gave him an uncertain smile and said, "Excuse me for a moment, Colonel." She turned away and went over into another room off to the side and tapped her radio. John strained to listen and heard her say quietly, "Carson? I know you're off duty, but I think I need a consult here…Yes, I know you trust me, but I really do need a second set of eyes here and another more experienced opinion. It's Colonel Sheppard. I think it's…well, I'm not sure what I think it is, but it looks for all the world like he's got a, well, I don't know, maybe I better not speculate. You've just got to come see. I'm hoping it will make more sense to you. "

She then came back with a frankly fake smile on her face and said, "I'm seeing something kind of unusual here so I've asked Carson to come down and help me figure this out. You said that you've been dizzy and tired?"

John smirked back up at her as she fiddled nervously with her tablet computer, for once comfortable with the fact that his doctor was looking a little freaked out. "Yeah, been getting dizzy when I sit up or stand up too fast the last few days. Thought it was because I've been tired."

She made a few notes and then asked, "Have you been getting less sleep than usual?"

John shook his head. "No, maybe a bit more than usual. I've been taking naps lately."

Jennifer pursed her lips. "Hm. What about food? Have you been hungrier than normal?"

John shrugged. He hadn't actually been keeping track of the amount of food he was eating. He'd been more concerned with spacing it out evenly to avoid the nausea. "I don't know. Coffee has been smelling pretty awful lately, though. Do you think we got a bad batch?"

Her eyebrows shot up at that and she scribbled down another couple of notes and looked at the viewscreen again. Whatever she saw made her blink a little blankly.

Carson then walked into the room, slipping on one of the white exam coats as he did so. "So Colonel, I take it that you've decided to play 'stump the medical community' again."

John turned his head and lifted an eyebrow at him. "Well, I've got to do something to keep you all on your toes, Doc. Wouldn't want you all getting bored here."

Carson rolled his eyes at him as he took possession of the tablet that Jennifer held out to him. He scanned through what John thought were probably his test results. Carson then frowned and looked up at Jennifer. "He's got elevated levels of chorionic gonadotropin."

John blinked at them. Choriogonadawhatsis?

Jennifer nodded at Carson. "Yes, and given the amount of radiation exposure the Colonel has received over the years, I thought I knew what I'd find, but look," she gestured to the viewscreen of the machine John was still laying under.

Carson peered at the viewscreen and paled. "Bloody hell!" He looked at John in shock and then back at the screen again. "We're going to need to do some more tests," he said faintly.

There was a blur of blood tests, urine tests, eighty-eight thousand questions, sonograms, MRI's, Ancient scans and a really big fucking scary needle stuck into John's abdomen before Carson had a nurse wheel John back to his usual infirmary accommodations. His last view of them before being wheeled out of the testing area had both of them hunched over various results looking completely flummoxed. John felt a little miffed. Honestly, people had freaked out less when he'd been a bug.

Rodney was sitting at the side of John's bed, tapping away on his laptop with an annoyed expression on his face. He looked up as John was wheeled in and jumped up, setting aside the laptop on a nearby table. "Have they found out what's wrong with you yet?"

"Nope," John replied as he carefully got up out of the wheelchair and got on to the bed. "They did a bunch more tests and are still looking them over."

Rodney made a finger waggling motion over at the doorway that the nurse had left through. "I saw Carson come in. Did Keller call him?"

John smoothed the blankets over his thighs and sat back. "Yeah, said she needed a consult. Apparently the initial test results were really confusing." John fought the urge to smirk. He bet they were confusing. This was the most fun he'd had in an infirmary, ever. He hadn't realized when he'd decided to go for it that he'd also be pulling the world's biggest prank on the expedition doctors. The amusement factor even made up for the big fucking scary needle they'd stuck in him.

Rodney looked at him with deep suspicion. "You're not taking what could potentially be a life-threatening situation here seriously at all, are you?"

"Well, nobody's suggested that I'm turning into anything non-human or that my brain's leaking out of my ears yet," John replied with a one-shouldered shrug.

Rodney made a strangled noise of disbelief at John's lackadaisical attitude and the nurse came back in with a covered tray, which he placed on an adjustable table and rolled in front of John. "Dinner, Colonel."

John thanked him and lifted the lid off as the nurse left again. As the smell of the food hit his nose, his stomach gave an urgent gurgle. John swallowed down the incipient nausea and went for the crackers next to his soup first.

Rodney gave him a concerned look. "You feeling okay? I can call Carson."

John waved him off as he ate a cracker. As soon as his mouth was clear, he said, "I'm fine, Rodney. Just sit down and keep me entertained here while they try to figure out what's going on with me."

Rodney looked dubious, but obediently sat back down as John ate another cracker. They seemed to be doing the job, because his stomach was settling down. Rodney then launched into a detailed explanation of what had gone wrong earlier that day and how exactly Bunson was going to be a dead man when Rodney finally tracked him down. John listened to him with half an ear as he ate his soup and salad, grunting at appropriate points to keep the flow of words coming. John had just fought off Rodney from stealing his fruit cup and had opened it up when Carson and Jennifer came back into the room with Woolsey trailing behind them.

"Have you finally finished rattling the chicken bones and figured out what's wrong with the Colonel here?" Rodney demanded of them with more asperity than usual.

Carson looked completely flustered as he scratched the back of his head. "Er, yes, I suppose we have."

Rodney gave him an incredulous look. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? You either have or you haven't!"

Carson shuffled his feet uncomfortably. John thought he looked like he'd eaten a live frog and was regretting it. Jennifer stepped up beside Carson and tilted her chin up. "At first we thought you had cancer because your blood tests came back with an elevated level of chorionic gonadotropin. While normally a sign of pregnancy in women, when found in men it usually signifies the rapid growth of a tumor."

Rodney's face grew grim and his eyes flitted over to John's face in concern. John felt bad about Rodney worrying about him, so he crossed his arms and prodded her with, "But?"

"But we didn't find any tumors," Carson replied, getting back into the discussion. He took a deep breath and visibly braced himself. "We found something else instead. Two somethings, as a matter of fact. They're er, fetuses. Yours and Rodney's actually, according to the DNA tests. To our best guess, it appears that you had an unexpected run-in with some unknown technology. The reason you fainted was because the fetuses have caused an increase in demand for your blood supply that your body hasn't caught up with yet and your blood pressure is running a little low as a result."

John's relief at getting positive medical confirmation that the implantation had worked was suddenly interrupted by a loud clatter as Rodney shot up out of his chair. John looked over at him and was taken aback by the utter desolation written on his face. "Go ahead and do what you have to, then. I'll be in the lab," Rodney muttered and then fled from the infirmary.

John sat back, blinking. Of all the reactions he'd anticipated, that had not been one of them.

Then Mr. Woolsey stepped forward and said briskly. "I'm glad Dr. McKay saw what the problem was so quickly. That was very commendable of him." He clasped his hand together and turned to both doctors. "I assume you'll let me know when the Colonel can resume his duties after the procedure?"

John looked at Carson's obvious discomfort and Jennifer's closed, pinched face and his stomach curdled. "Wait a minute. What procedure?"

"Colonel, you're pregnant. I'm going to have to remove the fetuses before they grow bigger and put more of a strain on your body," Carson said earnestly, wringing his hands.

"But, but," John stammered, totally thrown by everyone's reactions. This was not what he'd thought would happen at all. His hand went to his stomach. "How big are they? They can't be big enough to survive on their own!" he faltered, then continued uncertainly, "Can they?"

"No, Colonel, they're not mature enough to live once they're removed. The procedure will essentially be an abortion," Jennifer replied in a tired, washed out voice.

"But they're Rodney's kids," John said, disbelieving. "Why do you want to kill Rodney's kids?"

Woolsey held out a calming hand, "Now Colonel, it's not anything we would have preferred doing, but the fact of the matter is that your health is at risk here. Dr. McKay has already shown that he understands the matter, so do not concern yourself. The doctors here have assured me that the procedure will be…"

"But they're Rodney's kids!" John found himself shouting. Jesus, what was wrong with these people? He threw aside the covers and got out of bed, adrenaline fueling his anger as he got into Carson and Jennifer's faces. "You two were looking at them with the Ancient scanner, weren't you? I want to see! Come on! Let's go see Rodney's kids that you want to kill!"

"Colonel, I don't think you're thinking clearly here," Carson began, putting a hand on his shoulder.

John swatted it off. "Let me see them, Carson," he growled dangerously.

"Colonel," Woolsey said sternly, "this is clearly unnecessary…"

John whirled on him and thrust a finger in his face. "Don't tell me what's necessary you bureaucratic…"

"SHUT UP! ALL OF YOU, JUST SHUT UP" bellowed Jennifer, gesturing her hands outwards forcefully. In the ensuing shocked silence, she glared at Carson and Woolsey in turn. "He's one of the parents and he has every right to see them." She turned her attention to John. "Follow me, Colonel."

Too surprised to do anything else, John followed, as did Carson and Woolsey. Jennifer went to the Ancient scanning machine and typed a few things on the connected laptop. She tapped a button on the console as she said, "Look at the viewscreen."

John did as she directed and saw two small babies looking kind of like they were floating in outer space. Wow. There they were. His hand came up of its own accord to touch the screen and he did a quick count of fingers and toes. Awe and a little bit of fear washed over him. Somehow seeing them like this made it a stark reality in his mind that he was walking around with someone's children growing inside of him.

Jennifer came up beside him and pointed, "As you can probably tell by looking, this one is a girl and that one is a boy. They're both about the size of avocados right now."

John looked closer, and yes, he could definitely tell what each of their sexes were. As he watched, the girl grabbed hold of her umbilical cord while the boy's chest began jerking rhythmically. "What's he doing? Is he okay?" John asked a little worriedly, pointing at him.

"He's perfectly fine, just hiccuping," Jennifer answered.

Huh, thought John. "They do that before they're born?"

"Mm, hm," she hummed back as she watched the playback of the scan with him.

"They have really big heads," John commented. Rodney had a big head, yeah, but not like that.

A tendril of amusement drifted into Jennifer's voice. "That's normal at this stage of development too, Colonel."

A throat was cleared noisily behind them and John turned around to see Woolsey looking rather constipated. "Colonel, I realize that this is a little awkward, but surely you can see that they have to go. You cannot possibly expect to be able to go out in the field in your current condition, so it's really best for the expedition if you just…"

"No," John said firmly, crossing his arms.

Carson looked at him with hangdog eyes, "But Colonel, you're a man and men weren't built for this sort of thing. I know how you feel, but it would be better for you if…"

"I said, no!" John shot back, annoyed. Why weren't they listening to him? What the hell did they think gave them the right to make a judgment like that, to take away his power to make his own decisions regarding what went on with his own body? It wasn't like they were evil parasites bent on destroying Atlantis or anything.

Woolsey's expression hardened. "Colonel, I am going to have to insist that you reconsider going through with the procedure. It is simply too dangerous for you to continue on with this pregnancy, not to mention the fact that it would impinge negatively on your ability to do your duty to the city. "

Carson jumped in right behind him with, "Yes, Colonel, please, for the sake of your own health…"

"QUIET!" bellowed Jennifer, and this time Woolsey and Carson quailed at her absolutely furious expression as she directed an accusing finger at both of them. "Are you two complete morons? Neither one of you have any say whatsoever in whether the Colonel decides to keep them or not. Trying to force the Colonel to abort them against his will is violating every medical and human ethic that we have! I will not condone the violation of another person's rights like this, and if you continue to pressure him like this, I will be going to the the IOA and the SGC and whoever else I can think of about it! I am sick and tired of people around here sanctimoniously deciding which human rights they can blithely ignore because they're inconvenient to the expedition! It's not moral, it's not right, and it's not sane!"

John stood blinking in blank admiration of her rant as he watched both Carson and Woolsey gape like fish.

"Dr. Keller," began Woolsey once he'd finally found his voice again.

Jennifer stepped into his face rammed her finger hard into his sternum. "Not. Another. Word, Mr. Woolsey. You know as well as I do what a complete and utter creep you would be seen as if you tried this on a woman who'd gotten pregnant and wanted to keep the baby! This is the same. Damn. Thing." she gritted out through her teeth, jabbing him repeatedly with her finger to get the point of her last few words across.

Woolsey opened his mouth as if to say something, then appeared to think better of it and closed his mouth. Jennifer backed away from him, looking grimly satisfied.

Carson laid a hand on John's shoulder hesitantly. "Are you sure you want to do this, Colonel? I won't lie to you son, this is likely to be an incredibly dangerous thing that you're planning to do."

There it was, John's last opportunity to abandon this cockamamie idea. He took a steadying breath. "Yeah, I'm sure."

Carson's hand dropped away from his shoulder and he and Woolsey both grimaced at his answer but said nothing.

There was an awkward moment where everyone looked at each other, then Woolsey broke it with, "Is the expedition in any danger from this unknown device?"

Carson looked thoughtful. "We'll have to do a quick medical scan of everyone to make sure no one else has been affected, but off-hand, I'd say no. The person most likely to have also been affected would have been Rodney, but he just had his annual physical a couple of weeks ago and he's clear. And knowing Rodney, he most likely already has a non-gene user looking for it so it can be disabled."

"Very well, then," Woolsey replied, nodding once. He then turned to Carson and Jennifer. "Doctors, I trust you'll let me know when you've confirmed whether or not anyone else has been affected?" Carson and Jennifer both nodded and Woolsey then straightened his expedition jacket. "Thank you. Now, if you will excuse me, I have duties that I must attend to."

John watched was Woolsey turned and left the room. Jennifer then turned to him. "Since we've already tested you six ways to Sunday and confirmed that you're in otherwise good health, I'm going to let you go for now, Colonel. But I want to see you here every week for a check up." She gave a slight nod in Carson's direction. "This is a high-risk pregnancy given that you're over thirty-five, you're a man, and you're carrying twins. I want to stay on top of everything so we can catch anything that goes wrong as early as possible. This also means that from here on out, you're on light duty. No gate missions."

John gave her a quick nod. "Understood."

Jennifer gave him an equally sharp nod back. "Good. I'll have a nurse give you your clothes back and then you can leave."

"Thanks," John replied. He left them to go back his bed in the infirmary and waited for the nurse to show up, uninterested in participating in whatever pow-wow they were planning if the looks they traded back and forth signified anything. The nurse arrived promptly with his uniform and he dressed automatically. Now that the cat was thoroughly out of the bag, John was unsure of what to do next. None of this had gone like he'd thought it would. Rodney had expected him to get rid of them, as if they weren't important. John hoped desperately that that was just Rodney's default pessimism and that he'd be happier about it once it was plain that John wasn't going to wimp out on this.

Jennifer came back in as he was jamming his feet into his boots. "There are a few instructions I'd like to give you before you go, Colonel."

John leaned back against the bed and looked at her.

Her face was solemn as she returned his gaze. "With your blood pressure running low right now, you'll want to take it slow when getting up. The reason why you blacked out in the chair room was because you got up too quickly. Don't push it if you feel dizzy."

"Gotcha," John replied, nodding.

"Limit the amount of junk food in your diet. The fetuses demand a lot of nutrients during their development and if they're not getting it from your diet they'll pull it from you and you'll all suffer for that." She handed him a bottle of pills. "Even with a healthy diet, you'll need some extra support, so take one of these every day. They're prenatal vitamins."

John pocketed the bottle. "Okay."

She made a gesture to his abdomen. "From what I can tell, they're about four months along. You'll probably be able to feel them move soon, definitely by the fifth month. The first movements usually feel like fluttery sensations, just so you're prepared."

"Thank you. I appreciate that," John replied.

She fell silent and a long moment stretched between them. John felt his back tense up. Finally, she broke the quiet, saying softly, "You did this for Rodney, didn't you? You found some device that would allow you to do this for him."

John didn't so much as blink. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Jennifer crossed her arms and replied in that same, soft tone, her eyes shining. "Of course you don't. But if you theoretically had, why didn't you let anyone else try it first?"

John bit his lip, wondering what to say to that. Then he sighed. "If I did, theoretically, do this without giving anyone else the option, it would be because it was a one time extremely limited opportunity."

"Was this theoretical opportunity somewhere off-world?" she asked.

John paused and then gave an infinitesimal nod.

Jennifer closed her eyes and then nodded. "Okay." She then uncrossed her arms and opened her eyes, visibly pulling herself together. "You'd better go find Rodney and talk to him."

John put a hand on the back of his neck and said uncomfortably, "You and Rodney…you two could get back together. I hear he might be a dad soon and will need a mom for his kids."

Her face turned up in a wry, bitter smile. "Thank you, Colonel, but…I think that maybe that ship has passed. I've had it pointed out to me by several people in the last few months that the Rodney that I was in love with was someone I was trying to force him into being instead of who he actually is. Me and the untampered version…I don't know if it would actually work as a relationship other than friendship."

John wondered who the someones were that could have been so blunt with her. "I'm sorry."

"Me too," she replied. Then she put her game face back on and slapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Go on, get out of here. Come back in a week."

John did as he was told and left. Hopefully Rodney would still be in his lab. They had a lot to discuss.

John went to the labs, but Rodney wasn't there. Fortunately for John, Dr. Zelenka was still in the lab. "Hey, Radek, where's Rodney?"

Radek paused in his search through a box of unidentified bits to look up at him. "Colonel! Should you be out of the infirmary?"

"Dr. Keller just released me. Says I'll live," John shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets and leaning against a table.

Radek frowned at him. "Then why did Rodney call me in here and order me to start going through all the unidentified technology that we have studied in the last six months that only you were able to make do anything?"

John smirked. This ought to be fun. "Because I'm pregnant, that's why."

Radek leaped back away from the box. "Do predele!"

Yep, that was fun, thought John, barely containing his snickers.

Radek glared at him over the top of his glasses. "Very funny, Colonel. Next you will say that it is mine."

For some reason, that comment sucked all the humor out of it for John. "No," he replied, sobering and pulling one hand out of a pocket to scratch the back of his head. "Actually, Rodney's the lucky one. That's why I'm looking for him."

After blinking at him for a minute or two, Radek said wonderingly, "You are serious. You are truly pregnant?"

John nodded. "Docs think it was some sort of tech. That's probably why Rodney called you, to see if you can find it. But I wouldn't worry too much about it impregnating you. I seem to be the only one that's been affected." He kind of felt bad for sending Radek on a wild goose chase, but really, it was for the best.

Radek looked at the box he'd been looking in with chagrin. "Charming. You know, I miss the old days when I used to just have to worry about whether something was going to explode or not." Then apparently what John said caught up with him and he looked back at John. "The baby is Rodney's, you say?"

"Babies. There's two," John replied, holding up two fingers. He figured that he might as well get it all out there onto the Atlantis gossip vine. Pretty soon there would be no hiding it anyways.

Radek wiped a hand over his incredulous face. "That is…I do not know what that is."

"Yeah," John agreed, kind of feeling the same way at the moment. "Look, do you have any idea where he went? I really need to talk to him."

Radek shrugged. "He muttered something about locating some vodka when he left." His eyebrows jumped in sudden comprehension. "I understand why now."

Radek's comment gave John an idea where Rodney might have gone. "Thanks for that, Radek. I think I know where he went," he said and turned to go.

"Colonel? What are you going to do? With being pregnant, I mean." Radek asked.

John stopped and stared at the door as he answered. "Carry them to term, I guess. I'd prefer to only kill things that are trying to kill me back."

"Oh. Good luck then, Colonel," Radek's tone was gentle.

"Thanks," John replied and left.

John found Rodney where he thought he might, sitting on their pier with a bottle in hand, staring out into the ocean. "Hey."

Rodney didn't look at him, but instead asked bluntly, "Why aren't you in the infirmary? Don't they have something they need to take care of before they release you?"

John sat down next to him. "Maybe I don't want to have it 'taken care of'," he replied, making air quotes with his fingers.

Rodney's face grew grimmer as he continued to watch the waters lap at the edge of the city. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course you want it taken care of. No guy in his right mind wouldn't."

John tilted his head up to look at the second rising moon. "Well, maybe I'm not your usual kind of guy."

Rodney finally turned to look at him. "Just what are you trying to prove, Colonel? That you're the ultimate in martyrs? Don't feel obliged on my account! Go have whatever fucking procedure they want to do done and leave me alone here with my bottle." He thrust out the bottle in front of him so John could see it clearly. The liquid within sloshed.

John eyed the bottle. It looked like about a quarter of it was gone. "How much of that have you had?"

"Not enough," Rodney replied, and then turned away and took a drink. He made a face as the alcohol burned its way down his throat and then set the bottle back between his legs.

"Rodney, look at me, buddy." John said and then reached over to grasp Rodney by the chin and pulled his head over so that he could look him in the eyes. "I'm not letting the doctors get rid of them."

Raw misery was written large across Rodney's face. "I don't see why not. It's not as if you're built for that sort of thing. It's not as if they're important to the expedition."

John felt a tightness in his chest, and he gripped Rodney's chin more firmly. "I'm not getting rid of the babies."

Rodney wrenched his face out of John's hand and took another drink. "Carson and Jennifer were completely freaked out by it. This can't possibly be good for you physically. Horrible things could happen to you if you don't do the right thing and get them the fuck out."

John slammed a hand down onto the decking, suddenly furious. "Damn it, Rodney, I am not going to die and I am not going to let anyone surgically remove them until they're damn good and ready to survive on their own! How dare you think I would do that to a, a kid! So I'm a little inconvenienced! So fucking what? You honestly think that I'm that much of an asshole?"

"You can't want to do this! Why would you possibly want to put yourself through something like this?" Rodney shouted back.

John ran a hand over his head ruffling his hair and sighed, anger abruptly draining out of him. "Look…my job consists of killing people before they kill us, okay? Maybe, I don't know, maybe I want to bring some life into the world for a change." John then nudged him in the shoulder with his own. "And also because they're yours. This is pretty much your only chance at having your own kids. You think I'd want to mess that up for you? What kind of friend do you take me for?"

Rodney wiped a hand over his face and looked off into the distance. "This is going to be another one of your suicide runs, isn't it? You're not going to listen to word I say and you're going to go do whatever the hell you want."

John nodded. "Pretty much, yeah."

Rodney blew out a large breath and hung his head. "God, I hate you."

John grinned, knowing that he'd just won this battle. "Now, Rodney, that's no way to be talking to the mother of your children," he said chidingly.

"Oh, fuck you," Rodney groaned. "You're probably going to want your feet rubbed all the time and naming rights for this, aren't you?"

John considered it. "Hm. The foot rubbing does sound nice. Although I'll probably let you name them as long as you don't pick something stupid."

Rodney snorted, a ghost of a smile hovering on his lips. "Oh, please. You're looking at a man who spent his formative years being stuffed into lockers because my parents were idiots when it came to picking out boy's names. You honestly think I'd perpetrate that same horror on my own spawn?"

John smiled and shook his head. Then he bumped Rodney with his shoulder again. "Hey, Rodney."

Rodney looked at him warily. "What?"

John leaned in as if he were going to tell Rodney a secret and said in a low tone, "Guess what? You're gonna be a dad in five months time."

Rodney's face blanked out for a few moments, then he gave John a tentative smile.

"And you're getting one of each," added John conspiratorially. "A boy and a girl. Hope you haven't signed over that educational fund to Madison yet."

"Really?" Rodney asked softly.

"Really," John replied, standing up carefully. "So why don't you hand me the booze and quit trying to kill all those massive brain cells of yours for the night, okay?"

Rodney looked down at the bottle in his hand for a moment and then handed it over to John.

John found the cap close by and screwed it back onto the bottle and then he held out a hand to help Rodney up. "Now, let's get you to bed to sleep that off so you can be a productive astrophysicist tomorrow and start planning how you're going to take care of the little genius-ettes when they arrive."

Rodney took his hand and got up a little unsteadily, complaining, "Genius-ettes is so not a word."

John made a show of thinking about that. "You know, you're right. I guess I should call them Thing One and Thing Two instead."

Rodney began spluttering at him indignantly and John smiled at him patiently as he gently guided him back to his quarters.

John was impressed with the speed that the news traveled along the Atlantis gossip network. By breakfast the next day, everyone seemed to know if the all the pointing and whispering meant anything. Weirdly enough, by lunchtime the military contingent of the expedition seemed to have collectively shrugged their shoulders over the strangeness of their male military commander being pregnant and had started tentatively congratulating him. When he asked a few of them what they thought about it, he got back that this was the Pegasus galaxy and the pregnancy didn't top the weird-o-meter of things that had happened since they'd gotten here. John even started hearing rumors that the marines had already set up a betting pool about it. He was torn between being amused and relieved by their nonchalance.

Unfortunately the gossip was also hot enough that someone had apparently lain in wait by the gate to tell Lorne, Simpson, Ronon and Teyla as soon as they came through. John looked up from his computer at them as they all burst into his office as soon as their debriefing and physical were over with.

"Um, sir?" Lorne said anxiously as he stood in the doorway to John's office, the rest of them peering around him. "Is it true?"

John closed down the Sims game he was playing a little guiltily, before looking back up at his XO. "Is what true?"

Lorne scratched his ear, looking a little embarrassed. "That you're, well…expecting. Twins. By McKay. Because of Ancient tech."

John sat back deliberately and arched an eyebrow at him. "Well, we're not sure what kind of tech it was, actually, but the rest of it is true. Looks like you're going to be heading up the first contact team a while longer than I thought." He caught Teyla's and Ronon's speculative faces out of the corner of his eye and firmly ignored them.

"And you're going to carry them to term?" Simpson blurted out from behind Lorne. Her eyes blinked in amazement behind her glasses.

John picked up a stylus and began fiddling with it as he nodded at her. "That's the plan."

"Congratulations," Ronon said, and yes, that was a fiendishly impish grin he had on his face, John decided, his eyes narrowing.

"Thanks, buddy," John replied neutrally, wishing he were actually able to kick Ronon's ass just this once. He was positive that the Satedan was going to give him a never ending amount of shit over this.

Teyla gently pushed Lorne to the side and came into John's office. "When are you due?" she asked as she crossed her arms, one eyebrow lifting delicately.

"They think I've got about another five months to go," John replied warily. He then dropped the stylus back onto his desk and folded his hands together to give them all a stern look. "Okay, now that I've satisfied everyone's curiosity, I'd like everyone to leave my office so I can get back to work."

Simpson nervously complied, still blinking in amazement as she left. Ronon smirked at him and Teyla gave him a significant look before they turned and left and John knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was going to be in big trouble when those two finally managed to get him alone afterwards. He planned on avoiding that for as long as humanly possible. Lorne, however, stayed standing in the doorway.

John sighed and rubbed at his forehead. "Yes, Major?"

Lorne took that as permission to enter and he closed the door behind him before sitting down in the guest chair in front of his desk. "Can we speak off the record, sir?"

John raised a wary eyebrow, wondering what exactly Lorne wanted to talk about. "Go ahead."

Evan licked his lips nervously. "Uh, do I need to reshuffle the security rounds?" John looked at him, confused. Evan licked his lips again. "To, you know, make them more convenient."

John blinked at that. "Evan, I don't know what…"

"My mom's oldest friend is gay," Evan interrupted. "Actually, a number of her friends are gay. And I hung out with the drama and art kids in school. One of my best friends is bi and another is gay."

John felt a wash of cold go over him. "Evan…"

Evan continued to talk over him. "You've got interesting friends, too. I don't think I've ever met anybody quite like Ronon and Teyla before. And of course McKay is a good friend of yours."

John closed his eyes wearily and slumped in his chair, overwhelmed. He'd never suspected that Evan would have gaydar, much less gaydar that good. "I…the security rounds are fine, Evan."

Evan's expression was sympathetic. "I'm sorry. I thought since you'd done this, things had…"

Jesus, first Jennifer, now Evan. "What are you talking about?" John protested, "This was an accident."

Evan slanted a disbelieving eyebrow. "Right. Go ahead and pull my other leg. You hate paperwork and you locked yourself into this office with it about four months ago. You think I'm stupid?"

Normally John would be glad that he had such an incredibly observant XO, but right now he was just incredibly fucking annoyed to be caught out like that. "Christ," he swore.

"Look, John, I'm not going to say a word about any of this outside of this conversation with you," Evan said softly. "It's just that, well, the romantic in me was hoping things had worked out for you."

Goddamn it, did everyone know about this hopeless crush of his? He looked up at Evan with a bitter smile on his lips. "I always thought I was a pretty cool dude, Evan. Have I been deluding myself all these years?"

Evan quirked a wry smile in return. "Well, I've gotten to know you pretty well over the years. Anybody that isn't as observant would still think that you're pretty cool. Besides there had to be a reason why you put up with him besides his technical ability. You hang around him too much for that to be the case."

John sighed, a little relieved that not everyone was seeing him being all pathetic over Rodney. "Yeah, well, we're just friends. Is that all you wanted to talk to me about, Evan?"

Evan leaned back and smiled. "So, tired of the paperwork yet, sir? My offer to help out still stands."

Thank god, he'd taken the hint that John had reached his conversational limit on the subject. "Yeah, but it looks like I'm stuck with it for a while longer. I've been restricted to light duty for the foreseeable future."

Lorne locked his hands together in front of him and shrugged. "Doesn't mean I can't still help out."

John eyed him. "Is Woolsey starting to complain that I'm not as good at it as you?"

One corner of Lorne's mouth rose up in a half smile . "Not yet. But if we expect to keep you sane and him wallowing happily in paperwork, you're going to need help. Come on, you know you want me to."

John's resolve was crumbling. Really, he did honestly hate paperwork and these last few months had been absolute torture. "Well, I am getting a little behind on the command reports."

"I'll be by tomorrow morning and we can start sorting it out," Lorne replied cheerfully.

John huffed a small laugh and shook his head. "You're something else, Lorne."

Lorne looked at him with genuine concern. "If you need anything else while you're…" he waved a hand at John, presumably to indicate his current condition, "Just let me know, okay? I'll be more than happy to help out."

John tilted a bemused eyebrow at his XO. Sometimes it just amazed him at how easily Lorne rolled with things most days. He couldn't have asked for a better guy to have working under him. "I'll keep that in mind, Major, thanks."

"No problem, sir. Glad to help," Lorne replied, standing up. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go write up my mission report."

John waved him off with a flip of his hand. "Go on, get out of here. I've got work to do."

Lorne gave him a sketchy salute with two fingers and left his office. As the door closed behind him, John fell back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. If ever in his lifetime he had needed a drink, it was now, and he couldn't have one. "Fuck," he murmured.

That evening John slipped into the labs to drag Rodney off for a late dinner. "Hey, buddy, how's the head?" he asked, coming up behind Rodney as he was reading something on his computer. "Found Bunson and given him the smackdown yet?"

Rodney turned to him and John blinked at the freaked out look on his face. "Rodney?" he asked in concern. Had the stardrive started acting wonky again?

Rodney pointed at the screen with a shaking finger. "Did you know that ten percent of all pregnancies used to end in the death of the mother and frequently the child before modern medicine? And, and there are about a million things that can go wrong! Preeclampsia! Toxoplasmosis! Gestational diabetes!"

Oh god, Rodney's been reading medical articles on pregnancy, thought John. "Ooookay. How about you shut down the computer and we go get some dinner?" he replied, gently taking Rodney by the arm and tugging him away from the computer.

"You shouldn't be wandering around the city like every thing's normal! You should be the infirmary where they can monitor you! In a clean room!" Rodney gibbered as his hands made frantic motions on behalf of John's safety.

John sighed as he reached over and tapped the switch on the computer to turn it off. He was too late. Rodney was already in total meltdown mode. "You do know that I've had about a million tests done on me and they all say that everything is fine, right?"

"Everything is not fine! Just to begin with, you're a man! Who's going to have twins!" Rodney protested, not even noticing that John had shut down his computer.

John's eyebrows twitched. He did have a point there. "Okay, then, given the situation, everything is fine." He pulled Rodney a little closer to the door.

Rodney came with him, still gesturing wildly. "But this is Atlantis! What if you run into a team returning from a mission and they're infected with something?"

"I'll make a point to avoid everyone who hasn't been cleared by the doctors first," John replied patiently as he continued to herd Rodney through the door. He sincerely hoped that he wasn't going to have to put up with this for the entire remaining five months.

"What about if you get a cold? You won't even be able to take cold medicine!" Rodney squawked, gesturing to John's stomach as they walked down the corridor. "They're affected by everything you're exposed to!" He blinked as he thought of something. "Oh, god. Do you think that the Ancient tech will harm them?"

John rolled his eyes and pushed Rodney into the transporter. "So I'll avoid everyone who's got the sniffles, I'll avoid all the labs that have dangerous projects and I won't touch any unknown Ancient tech. You worry too much, Rodney." He reached out and punched where the mess hall was on the transporter map.

Rodney looked at him with wide blue eyes and flailed his arms. "We live in the Pegasus galaxy! It's impossible for me to worry too much around here! Shit that I wouldn't dream of in a million years happens on a regular basis in this place!"

John shoved him gently out the transporter and gripped both his shoulders firmly. "Rodney, look at me," he ordered.

Rodney's eyes locked on his and John could swear that he could hear the gears labeled 'panic' grinding away in that neurotic brain of his. "Yes?"

John said, very slowly and distinctly, "I'm fine. The babies are fine. I'll be seeing Dr. Keller every week to make sure that everyone stays fine. I promise not to touch anything weird, talk to strangers, go dangerous places, expose myself to any diseases, or do anything that will endanger me or the kidlets."

"What if you need to go out and do something stupid in order to save everyone?" Rodney asked in a plaintive voice. "I know you, you've got that self-sacrificing action hero thing going on."

"I'll delegate the doing something stupid thing to Lorne," John promised soberly. "He's always got some C4 on him and he's come back from the dead a time or two himself, I'm sure he'll be able to handle it. Trust me, Rodney. It'll work out."

Rodney made a small, unhappy sound, but his hands had quit flailing, so John counted that as a win. "So, can we go get some dinner? I need to eat soon or the nausea is going to kick in."

"You've got morning sickness?" Rodney asked as he started in the direction of the mess hall.

"No," John said defensively, speeding up a little as he walked. "I've just been getting a little queasy if I don't eat regularly."

"Do your thoughts get fuzzy too?" Rodney asked anxiously, keeping up with him.

John wished that he'd just kept his mouth shut. Now Rodney was just going to ramp himself back up over something else. "No. I don't have hypoglycemia, McKay. My stomach just gets a little upset, is all."

Rodney pointed a finger at him and danced around him a bit. "You do! You've got morning sickness!"

John stopped and huffed in aggravation. "I don't have morning sickness!"

"You ate the crackers first when you were in the infirmary to settle your stomach! You do so have morning sickness!" Rodney crowed.

"Jesus, Rodney, why the hell does it matter whether I have morning sickness or not?" John replied a little crossly. He pointed a finger back at Rodney. "Which I don't! My stomach's just a little off lately."

Rodney made kind of a helpless gesture at John's stomach and said uncertainly, "Because you're pregnant? And it's one of those things pregnant people do?"

John heaved a great sigh and put his hands on his hips, ignoring the pair of giggling woman that passed them. "What are you gonna do, Rodney? Ply me with crackers and ginger ale in my delicate state?"

Caught out, Rodney flushed and looked down at the floor. "Um…"

John sighed again. Honestly, he wasn't some fragile Victorian lady, but Rodney's impulse to coddle him like one was kind of…cute. "Look, if I eat on a regular schedule, it's not a problem. Which is why we're heading to the mess. So, if we can?" He raised his eyebrows and made motions with his hands towards the mess. "Now?"

"Fine," Rodney said, pouting just the slightest bit as he once again moved forward. John rolled his eyes and followed. Geez, this had turned out to be more talking Rodney off of one of his mental ledges than he'd had to do in a while. He'd forgotten how much work it was sometimes.

They made it into the mess hall and got in line for service. The smell of real turnip greens hit John's nose and suddenly he was slavering for them. Jesus, the food cravings freaked him out sometimes. He hated turnip greens. He took another sniff. They smelled like the best thing ever. He suppressed a sigh and pointed at them, saying, "Can I have a double helping of those, Corporal?"

"Sure thing, Colonel," the marine replied, his mouth quirked in a wry smile as he heaped up the greens on a plate. "Seeing as how you're eating for two, now. You want the sorta-buffalo or the almost-chicken to go with that?"

John felt his ears heat up. "Uh, almost-chicken, please."

The corporal dished some almost-chicken onto the plate and went to hand it to him. "Anything else, sir?"

"Nah, I'm good," John replied, taking the plate from him.

"If you find yourself having any cravings, Master Sergeant Peterson said to come on down and she'd see what she could do," the corporal said earnestly.

John's ears burned. "Uh, yeah. Thanks," he replied and then turned away and made his way to the nearest open table as fast as possible.

Rodney followed shortly with his own food and sat down opposite John. "So, um…" Rodney said awkwardly, pushing around something that looked, but tasted nothing like, a beet on his plate with his fork. "Have you uh, had any cravings? For anything?"

John paused in his enthusiastic consumption of the turnip greens on his plate. "No," he replied, setting his fork down and swallowing.

Rodney waved his fork around. "Because it's okay if you do. I'd even go get it for you. It just means that you're trying to get the proper nutrients, as long as it's something healthy." He gave John a beseeching look. "It doesn't mean that you're strange. Or anything, you know, unmanly."

John sighed. These were Rodney's kids he was carrying around. If catering to John's food cravings made him feel more connected to them, John could at least give him that, as awkward as it made him feel. "Okay, fine, I am having some cravings. Right now, I wouldn't turn down another bowl of turnip greens."

The second Rodney heard that he practically scampered off to the serving line and John shook his head in dismay. He watched as Rodney accosted the corporal dishing out the food while he dug back into the food on his plate. The turnip greens still tasted like ambrosia.

Rodney soon returned with another bowl of turnip greens and set it on John's tray. He then bounced on his toes and made a fancy presentation gesture towards the bowl. "There you go, one bowl of turnip greens. Very healthy, I might add. Lots of vitamins."

"Uh-huh," John replied noncommittally as he took a bite of his almost-chicken. It wasn't bad. A bit gamey, maybe. The turnip greens were better. He took another bite of them.

"I could get you some yogurt too," Rodney said anxiously, still standing. "It's got lots of calcium in it and it's good for growing bones."

John gave him a look. "Just sit down and eat. If I need more food, I'll let you know."

Rodney settled in his chair, still looking a little anxious. "Promise? Because I don't want to be accused of being a bad father and neglecting taking care of you while you're in this condition. You've got to tell me things because I don't necessarily think of how to take care of people on my own, I mean, it just doesn't occur to me, usually. You're, you're doing me a big favor here, enormous really, considering, and I really, really don't want you to feel that I'm taking any advantage of you in way. Oh and by the way, after I read today about the foot and back issues pregnant people have, I asked the massage therapist in the infirmary to teach me how to give foot and back massages, so if you need either of those in the future, just let me know. Or if you need anything, and I mean anything else. Anytime, day or night. You can wake me up if…"

"Rodney?" John interrupted, smiling sweetly.

"Yes, John?" Rodney replied.

"As a matter of fact, I do need you to do something for me," John continued in that same sweet tone.

Rodney perked up and scooted forward on his seat, ready to vault out of it and do John's bidding. "What? What do you need? Some pudding? A pillow? A…"

"I need you to shut up and eat your food!" John growled as he sharply pointed his fork towards Rodney's plate.

Rodney slumped back into his seat, his face falling. Then he straightened back up, picked up his fork and sniffed, "Fine," and skewering the really-not-a-beet while muttering under his breath, "The articles didn't emphasis it enough about what a hormonal bitch you would turn into."

John gave him the stink-eye to let Rodney know that he'd heard that little comment and ate another mouthful of the freakishly delicious turnip greens. He could tell already that he was going to have an uphill battle trying to convince Rodney that just because he was pregnant that it didn't mean he'd turned into a woman.

John had managed to avoid being alone with Teyla and Ronon for two whole weeks before they finally ambushed him. He had just left the mess hall when Teyla fell in step beside him. "Hello, John. I haven't seen you in a while," she said, looking seriously at him.

He eyed her nervously and sped up, hoping that he might possibly still escape. "Well, you know how thing get busy. In fact, I gotta …"

Ronon slipped out of the shadows of an alcove and placed himself on John's other side. "Come with us," Ronon finished for him as he gripped John's arm firmly.

Well, fuck. "All right," John allowed reluctantly. Ronon guided him to the transporter and soon the three of them were in Teyla's quarters. As the door shut behind him, John repressed a sigh, figuring that he was in for one hell of a browbeating.

"Please sit, John," Teyla said, gesturing to a cushioned chair, as Kanaan took one look at them, picked up Torren and left the room.

John knew better than to think that that was anything other than an order and obediently sat down. Teyla sat in another chair across from him and Ronon stationed himself at the door and crossed his arms. Okay, obviously he was in for an interrogation before the browbeating began, then.

Teyla placed both hands palm down on her lap and raised an eyebrow at him. "So what exactly did you find during your walk while I spoke with Eleta Dorono that day?"

Shit, she was good. John shrugged and put his hands on the arms of his chair. "What I told Ronon. Some Ancient building."

Her eyes narrowed. "You missed a check-in. What happened during that time?"

John kept his face calm. "I was late for my check-in. Building blocked my radio signals."

Teyla made an annoyed face. "You are arguing petty details with me, John. You found a device that placed those infants within you. The timing is too close for it to be anything else and it is also shortly thereafter when you suddenly started avoiding sparring with either of us."

John didn't know why they were even bothering to question him. They'd obviously pieced everything together on their own. He slanted an eyebrow and smirked at her. "Well, since you've got it all figured out, I guess I can leave then."

She pinned him with a look. "I am not done, John." She then took a deep breath and relaxed back into her chair. "What I do not understand is why you kept it a secret from us. Ronon and I both realize that the price Rodney paid to save us at the power facility was a high one for him. I would have been honored to carry his offspring in gratitude for what he had done and Kanaan most certainly would have understood my decision to do so. You did not have to take this burden upon yourself."

"There was no time, Teyla," John admitted to her quietly, dropping his hands from the arms of the chair into his lap. "It was running out of power and there was no way you could have made it there in time to do it."

"And so you took on the burden rather than lose the opportunity," Teyla concluded for him. "But why did you then keep it a secret for so long?"

John squirmed in his chair uncomfortably. "Maybe I didn't want people to get the wrong idea."

She looked puzzled for a moment and then her face cleared as she made some connection that John probably didn't want her to. "I see." Teyla regarded him sympathetically for a long time before finally saying, "Do you not think that raising children with him will also give people 'the wrong idea'?"

John blinked in surprise at her assumption. "I was planning on just giving them to him."

"You do not want your own children, John?" Teyla asked with some concern. She leaned forward laid a hand on his knee. "Just because they are also Rodney's is no reason to give up your tie to them yourself. I am sure that something could be worked out that would not endanger your job."

John worked his mouth soundlessly for a moment, struggling with what to say. He really liked the idea of sharing them with Rodney, but it simply wasn't possible. John didn't honestly think that he could survive that kind of relationship with a man who would never love him back. "I can't," he finally managed to get out. He made a helpless gesture, hoping that she'd understand without him trying to find any more words.

Her gaze softened further. "Oh, John," she murmured, gently stroking his knee in an attempt to comfort him.

John bent his head and wrapped a hand around the back of his neck, his throat uncomfortably tight with emotion. "It'll be okay, Teyla," he said hoarsely. "Rodney will eventually find someone to settle down with. Not having me involved will make it easier for him. He won't have to try to make any explanations about me if I'm not a part of their lives." He then stood up, signaling that he was done with this conversation.

Ronon's voice rumbled behind him from the doorway for the first time since they'd come into Teyla's quarters. "Why don't you just tell him how you feel about him?"

Damn it, was he that fucking transparent? It was a wonder he hadn't been thrown out of the Air Force with the way everyone in the damned universe seemed to pick up on it. John turned to look at him. "Why would I want to ruin our friendship? He's straight, Ronon."

"He's been looking for someone to have his kids for him," Ronon disagreed. "You're doing that now."

"I'm not blond and I don't have boobs, Ronon," John said sardonically. "I think those would be kind of a deal breaker for him." He sighed. "Look, I appreciate the concern here, but I'm fine with this, okay? I'm a convenient surrogate to carry Rodney's kids to term and when they're born that'll be the end of it. Let's just leave it at that."

Teyla stood and gently grasped his elbow. "I simply wish that you would think of yourself, John. This is going to cost you a great deal and you will get nothing from it."

John knew that. There were days when he felt so tapped out by what he gave away of himself to keep others around him happy and safe that he felt hollow inside. But all his wants and desires had proven to be either unreasonable or inconvenient and so he'd learned set them aside as things that would get in the way of his job. That he wanted to teach the little ones how to ride bikes and see them go on their first dates was just another inconvenient desire and one that he would eventually be able to put away with all the others. He shrugged. "What I want doesn't matter." He disengaged her hand from his arm. "I need to go. I've got a meeting with Lorne."

Teyla sighed, then nodded and Ronon moved away from the door. "You will tell us if you need anything, John?" she asked.

"Sure," John replied, nodding, and then he left. That he then had to go to his quarters and splash water on his face until he didn't feel like he was going to lose it anymore, John attributed it to the pregnancy and nothing more.

John was coming up on five months into the pregnancy when he reluctantly started coming to the conclusion that he was going to have to resign himself to Rodney driving him nuts with his constant attempts at coddling him.

"Rodney, for the last god-damned time, I can carry my own damned laundry back myself!" John protested futilely. "I'm pregnant, not helpless!"

Rodney continued to clutch the basket of John's laundry in a deathgrip, his chin raised stubbornly. "Colonel, may I remind you, again, that your center of gravity is slowly but surely moving away from the center of your body and that physics dictates that carrying loads in front of you will move it even further? Do you want to bellyflop onto your very pregnant stomach?"

"Hey!" Now that wasn't fair. Sure, John had developed a bit of a belly thanks to his passengers, but he was hardly huge yet, according to Jennifer.

Rodney rolled his eyes at him. "Oh, please, spare me the manly histrionics. I carried Teyla's laundry for her when she was pregnant and she never complained!"

John folded his arms over his chest and scowled. He'd heard a lot of the 'Well, I did X for Teyla when she was pregnant and she didn't pitch a fit about it!' argument lately. He wasn't sure at this point who he wanted to kill more, Rodney for saying it, or Teyla for letting Rodney be all awkwardly gallant towards her during that time. It had certainly given Rodney the wrong impression about what John would be willing to put up with in a similar situation. "Well, I'm not Teyla," John said through gritted teeth for the umpteenth time.

"You're right. She wouldn't have waited until she had absolutely nothing clean to wear and needed to do five baskets worth of laundry in order to have underwear that didn't stand up and walk on its own," Rodney replied with a superior sniff.

John's temper simmered a little hotter. Oh, that was the pot calling the kettle black, right there. "That's rich, coming from a man who's shirts get crunchy, they have so many food stains on them."

The counter-accusation bounced right off Rodney's thick head. "I'm not the one whose center of balance is moving and wants to carry shit that he shouldn't be. Now quit being pissy and let's go! You are not carrying your laundry and I am completely prepared to waste valuable time that I could be using in the lab in order to wait you out on this. I can stand here all day if I have to."

Upon hearing that, John knew that he was screwed. He sighed wearily in defeat and moved so that he wasn't blocking the door. "Next time I'm not going to tell you that I'm doing my laundry," he said crankily to Rodney as he walked by John.

Rodney snorted derisively as John fell in behind him. "Two words, Colonel. Security cameras. Don't think that I don't have a team of people monitoring you."

"Rodneeey!" John cried out, appalled. No wonder the man kept constantly showing up and treating him as if he were a fragile little flower. The fucker was stalking him via technology and his tattling minions.

"I'm still not entirely convinced that you won't go throwing yourself into the nearest suicide mission that happens along," Rodney shot back as he got into the transporter. "After all, your track record for avoiding them has been pretty poor so far."

"I swear, if you weren't the father of these kids, I'd be real tempted to shoot you right about now," John gritted out through his teeth as he hit the area where his quarters were on the map.

Rodney got that mildly dazed look of happiness on his face again and John temper cooled a little. It was too rare that Rodney looked that way and it warmed John to know that he'd been able to put that look on his face.

The door of the transporter opened and they stepped out into the hallway. This time John led and he opened the door to his quarters and waved Rodney in. Rodney headed to his bed and dumped the basketload onto the rest of the clean laundry that was already piled on it. John had a ton of folding and hanging to do before he could go to bed that night.

Rodney pitched the basket off to the side and dusted his hands. "Well, that takes care of that."

John grabbed a pair of shorts and began absentmindedly folding them as he drawled sarcastically, "What? You're not going to wrap me in bubblewrap and fold these yourself because I might get a hangnail?"

"Ha, ha. Don't be ridiculous," Rodney replied, picking up a t-shirt and folding it sloppily. "You do know that needing assistance right now doesn't cast slurs on your macho manliness, right? You're still as badass as you were before you got zapped with the mystery pregnancy machine."

"Have any luck finding that thing yet?" John asked meanly as he picked up a pair of pants and shook them out in preparation of hanging them. The fact that nobody in the science department had been able to find it yet was bugging the shit out Rodney.

"No," Rodney gritted through his teeth. He picked up another t-shirt and folded it just as badly as the first.

John snatched it from his hands and snapped open before folding it neatly. "Where the hell did you learn to fold laundry, McKay? Bubba's Mangle Emporium?"

Rodney huffed and started rummaging through the pile for socks to match up. "College, if you must know. I'm a bachelor, so sue me if I'm not Miss Suzy Homemaker here. Where did you learn, Mr. Anal Retentive?"

"That's Colonel Anal Retentive, and I learned in basic training," John replied as he pulled a bunch of hangers from his closet to put his uniforms on. "And being a bachelor is no excuse, I'm one too. What were you planning to do? Wear wrinkled clothes until you married a woman that had an iron?"

Rodney stopped what he was doing and dropped down onto the bed, looking gutted. "I guess so." He stared at the pile of clothes. "Maybe I should take laundry folding lessons. I think I've given up on dating."

John felt the familiar niggle of guilt as he watched Rodney fiddle with a sock. "Hey there, you'll find somebody, buddy. Don't give up hope."

"I had found somebody. Her name was Jennifer and we all know how that turned out," Rodney said somewhat bitterly.

"So you had a bad breakup. That doesn't mean you won't find someone else," John argued as he picked up another t-shirt and folded it.

Rodney gave a tired snort. "All of my breakups are bad, John. Let's face it. I'm lousy with women." He then turned his attention back to the pile of clothes and started pulling socks from it again.

"Well, sometimes you have to date a lot of them. It'll be worth it once you find the one that'll put up with you," John replied as he hung one of his button down shirts on a hanger and then put it in his closet. Giving Rodney dating advice had always been an exercise in masochism for John, but he did want the guy to be happy and a wife to go with the two kids seemed to be some sort of requisite for him.

Rodney matched up a pair of socks and balled them together. "Right. That would have been Jennifer. And she put up with me by not listening to a word I said that didn't agree with what she wanted."

John snorted and picked up another t-shirt to fold it. The problem with Jennifer had been that she was too much like Rodney. Sharp as a tack intellect-wise but embarrassingly awkward socially and with a tendency to demand that everything go her way. "Have you ever once tried to date someone who wasn't you with boobs?"

"Katie Brown wasn't anything like me!" Rodney protested.

John shook his head. "Someone who wasn't completely deluded about who you actually are, Rodney. Katie totally doesn't count. For that matter, neither does Jennifer. Somebody who'd still be good friends with you even if you broke up with them later."

Rodney thought briefly on that and then sighed. "That would be nobody then. All my former girlfriends hate me." He then frowned in thought and added, "Are you saying I should date my friends?"

John shrugged. "At least they'd know what you're like. They wouldn't have all those expectations of who they want you to be obscuring their view of you."

"Great," said Rodney glumly. "That leaves Teyla as my only option and I really don't think that's going to happen." He gave a small huff. "Unless I take up dating guys. My options would be slightly more open there. There'd be you, Ronon, Carson and Radek. Except Ronon's dating what's her face the marine and Carson is a huge mama's boy and as far as I can tell, Mrs. Beckett has hated me since the funeral. So, really, it would be just you and Radek. Practically an embarrassment of riches there."

John froze, astonished by the hurt he felt. Damn it, this must be the mood swings they talk about, he thought, blinking his eyes fiercely.

Rodney shot up off the bed and grabbed his elbow. "John, are you okay?" He gently pushed John toward his desk chair. "Here, sit down. You don't look so good."

John sat and reached up with one hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. He'd really rather be dealing with constipation than this shit. It wasn't like he didn't know that he wasn't Rodney's type. His distinct lack of boobs made that abundantly clear. Rodney's reactions to Chaya and those other women that had come onto John had given him the wrong impression initially, but eventually he'd gotten it. It was just John's usual luck and he had to suck it up here. Drawing in a deep breath, he stuffed the hurt back into his mental box and then dropped his hand away from his face.

Rodney wrung his hands worriedly. "Was it a dizzy spell? Do you need something? I can get you some water! I can call Carson!"

Bitter experience had shown John that giving Rodney something to do was probably his best bet at heading off this latest round of twittering protectiveness. "Get me a glass of water."

"Right, a glass of water, I can do that," Rodney repeated nervously and he disappeared into John's bathroom.

John took a couple more deep breaths to calm himself and Rodney came back with the water and handed it to him. "Here you go."

"Thanks." John took it from him and took a sip.

"Listen, you just sit here and I'll finish putting away your laundry for you," Rodney said, going back to the pile on John's bed and grabbing something off of it.

John frowned at him. "I can put away my own laundry, McKay."

Rodney clutched what turned out to be a pair of John's boxers to his chest and scowled back. "Did we not just have this conversation? I am not denigrating your masculinity here, you moron!" The scowl then faltered, as did his voice. "I just, I just want to help, is all. Would it kill you to let me do that? It's as close as I'm ever going to get to, well…"

Taking care of his own pregnant wife, John filled in, completing the thought. He sighed. If only one iota of that attention would be for John himself rather than just the kids. That was what he had issues with. All this attention and none of it for him, really. He felt like a selfish jerk for continuing to want something for himself out of all this. But Rodney was straight and this wasn't about him anyway. He was carrying these kids for Rodney's sake and John really had to do a better job at shoving all of his desires out of the picture. "Okay, fine, you can help. And I'll try to keep my urge to kill you for it under control. But you better hand over the stuff that needs folding to me because you really suck at it."

Rodney gave him a mulish look, then handed him the boxers, saying, "Then teach me."

"All right, but if you don't get it, I'm still not letting you fold," John replied to the demand and then demonstrated the Air Force way to fold boxers and t-shirts to Rodney's focused attention.

Unsurprisingly, since Rodney's ego had been tweaked, he made a concerted effort to learn and pretty soon he was doing an acceptable job at folding both kinds of items. John let him go at it and sat back in his chair. He took another sip of his water and as he set the glass back down, a disturbing motion occurred inside his abdomen. He yelped and almost tipped over the glass.

Rodney dropped the shirt he was folding and ran back to John's side. "What? What?"

John blinked down at his stomach and put a hand where the motion had been. "I, I think one of them moved!"

"You felt one of them move? You felt one of them move! Where? Do you think they'll do it again? Can I…" Rodney excited babbling ground to an abrupt halt and he stared at his hands where they were outstretched towards John's stomach for a moment before snatching them back. "Um, never mind," he muttered, flushing with embarrassment and looking disconsolate. "You probably don't want me to do that."

A baby had moved. Inside of him. It was surprising just how really fucking creepy it was to feel something living moving inside his body. John's thoughts automatically went to that scene in that one Alien movie and he had to swallow down sudden nausea. John looked up at Rodney and watched him shift back and forth on his feet anxiously, his hands clutched tightly to keep himself from touching John's stomach. John recalled one quiet night over at Teyla's place a while back when Kanaan had admitted with quiet despair over a cup of Ruus wine that he regretted never having gotten to feel Torren underneath his palm while Teyla still carried him.

This was a bad idea, thought John, even as he reached out and grabbed one of Rodney's hands. Rodney stroking his hands over any part of John's body as if he cared for him was going to break John, but he couldn't bring himself to deny Rodney this. He had every right to want this, to touch his children as they fluttered like butterflies under John's skin. For all his flailing and protectiveness, Rodney was still largely trying to respect John's physical boundaries. It was cruel to deny him this basic connection to the kids and John didn't have it in him to keep him from it. "Here," John said, pressing Rodney's palm firmly into the spot where he'd felt the movement.

Rodney stooped over him, almost holding his breath as John kept his hand firmly against his abdomen. They waited for a short period of time and then…"Oh. Oh, wow," Rodney said in an awed tone as the baby wriggled again inside John, weirding him out a second time. "It's…That was one of the babies, right?"

"Yep," John confirmed, letting go of Rodney's hand.

Rodney withdrew it with obvious reluctance. "Um, thank you," he said awkwardly. "You didn't have to do that."

John forced his best smirk onto his face. "No problem. Any time you want to cop a feel of your kids, let me know, okay?"

Rodney, still obviously flustered, replied, "Oh. Um, sure. I'll…" he then threw back his shoulders and continued, "I won't abuse the privilege, Colonel. Thank you."

Rodney turned back toward the task of folding laundry, while John lifted the cup of water back up to his lips, resolutely not thinking about how warm Rodney's hand had felt as it rested against his growing (and now wiggling, Jesus) stomach.

Something that John hadn't anticipated was that his already bad nightmares would get worse now that he could feel the babies doing calisthenics in there. After his third nightmare in a row where something gross and wiggly ate its way out of his body, John finally gave up trying to sleep at all and got dressed in sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt. He stared in the mirror at his image. He didn't look pregnant. He looked like he'd let himself go and had developed a beer gut. It was only when his clothes were off that he could tell that the growing bump was firm and purposeful, not fatty and jiggly.

He cradled a hand on the underside of the bump. "John, you stupid fuck," he stated at the mirror. "You need to stop freaking the fuck out. You knew what you were getting into when you lay down on that platform." His image continued to look back at him with barely concealed panic in his eyes.

He turned away from the image and ran a hand through his hair. "Damn it," he swore softly. Unwilling to sit and stare at the four walls, he left his quarters and started wandering the halls. His feet soon settled into a well worn path that was John's customary round when he couldn't sleep because a mission had gone bad and he felt the need to make sure that Atlantis was still standing and safe.

The circuit took him to the mess hall, and he was surprised to see Richard Woolsey sitting at one of the tables, coffee in one hand, staring at something on his laptop. He looked up from the screen and set his coffee down. "Colonel, shouldn't you be sleeping?"

John gave a tense one-shouldered shrug. "Can't. Is there any hot water?" Coffee still smelled gross, but tea would serve the same purpose of giving John something occupy himself with for a while.

"I believe there is," Woolsey said, looking over his shoulder at the coffee and hot water urns behind him. "Would you like for me to get you a cup?" he asked solicitously.

John gave a quick shake of his head. "I'll get it myself, thanks."

After he'd gotten himself a mug of hot water, dunked his teabag in it and poured a couple of sugars in, Woolsey said, "Care to join me?"

After a couple of brief arguments where Woolsey had tried to discuss with John the problems inherent in carrying the kids and John had replied with mute angry stares and then leaving the room, they'd not had any more contact with each other outside of official business. John gave him a long look, but Woolsey's expression wasn't pinched, so John guessed that he wasn't going to try that again and that it was safe enough. He came over and sat down across from him and began pushing the teabag in his mug under the steaming water with a spoon.

Woolsey seemed to collect himself and pushed his laptop aside before steepling his hands together. "Colonel, I realize that we disagree on your course of action regarding your current medical condition, but may I say that I, personally, find your dedication in seeing this through admirable. I'm not sure I could do the same, if I were put into your position."

"So, you're saying that wanting me to abort them was nothing personal," John replied bluntly as he shoved the teabag underwater again.

Woolsey made a resigned face and lowered his hands, clasping them together. "Yes, I suppose. My job here demands that I think first of the overall safety of the expedition and its mission rather than the individual." He sighed. "I have been thinking about it for some time and Dr. Keller did make a good point that it is your prerogative to do as you wish in this regard. My demand that you terminate the pregnancy was unethical and I apologize."

John paused in pulling the teabag out of his mug, surprised. That was something he hadn't been expecting to hear. He set aside the bag and looked straight on at Woolsey. "Apology accepted."

"Thank you, Colonel, that is very magnanimous of you. I am sorry it took me so long to realize the error in my thinking," Woolsey replied, genuine regret tingeing his voice. "It was unconscionable of me to put that kind of pressure on you to end the lives of your own children."

John felt as if he'd been suddenly ducked in ice water. His children. His children. He ruthlessly shoved the thought aside. They were Rodney's kids. John had just been convenient. He wrapped both hands around his mug and lifted it to his lips. After a careful sip of the still hot tea, he set down the cup, his hands still clasped around it, letting it warm his chilled palms. "Well, you know," he said lamely.

Woolsey nodded once at John's response and then reached out for his coffee. "Have you and Dr. McKay given any thought to how you want to handle childcare once you've delivered? You are both due parental leave, but that won't last forever."

John blinked. "Uh, I don't know about McKay, but I haven't gotten around to thinking that far ahead yet. I've got to get through this first," he said, gesturing to his expanding stomach.

Woolsey pursed his lips, then nodded. "Of course. This is a highly unusual and risky pregnancy and I can see that your concerns would be mostly centered there. But I recommend that the two of you start discussing your plans soon, because I will need paperwork for both of you concerning who the children should go to if both of you should be killed in the line of duty."

That came as a punch to the gut to John and he couldn't breathe for a moment. Unable to physically say something, he looked down into his tea and nodded.

"Also," continued Woolsey, "it may take some time to find suitable quarters for you, Dr. McKay and the children that are also close enough to the control tower. If you cannot find something appropriate close enough, I will need some time to juggle housing assignments if I have to displace someone to provide you with quarters that meet proximity requirements."

"I, ah," stammered John, stunned by the fact that Woolsey expected him and Rodney to shack up. He cleared his throat. "I don't think that will be too much of an issue. Don't move anyone on our account."
He took another bracing sip of tea. Jesus, he thought he'd not been able to sleep before this conversation.

Rodney came into the mess hall, blinking blearily. His hair was in disarray and he was wrapped in a worn blue bathrobe. "Why are you up?" he said, coming over to John's side and setting his hands on his hips. "Aren't you supposed to be getting your beauty rest?"

Woolsey raised an eyebrow and set his coffee back down. "Is there a problem, Doctor?"

Rodney squinted in his direction and waved a hand at John. "The problem is that he should be in bed."

"Have I mentioned that you've turned into a stalker lately?" John said snidely before taking a drink of his tea.

Rodney waved both of his hands in aggravation. "Well, somebody has to take care of you. You certainly don't do it!"

John turned his head and glared up at him. "I take care of myself just fine, Rodney. Been doing it for years now."

"Yes, and I'm continually shocked that you made it as far as you have, given that your usual mode of operation is to always look for the nearest grenade to jump on," Rodney shot back. He gave a sniff. "There's coffee?"

Woolsey, who had been watching the by-play between the two of them with a raised eyebrow, gestured toward the urns with his cup. "The night duty kitchen crew made it fresh a little while ago."

"Oh, thank god," Rodney mumbled and made a beeline for the urns. John ignored the look that Woolsey gave him and resumed drinking his tea.

Rodney came back with a large mug of coffee and sat down next to John, his shoulder brushing against John's. "Okay, Sheppard, really, why are you up? I was sound asleep when I got the call that you were wandering the halls."

Woolsey blinked at that statement. John sighed and reminded himself to not grind his teeth. "I couldn't sleep, McKay. That's the reason why most people get up in the middle of the night."

Rodney chugged down a couple of gulps of coffee and set the mug down. "What's keeping you up? Is it your back? Or are you having indigestion? I told you that you could call me if you needed a backrub or for me to run and get you antacids. It would be less aggravating that getting woken up by Miko and having to track you down, you know."

"I don't need a backrub or antacids, Rodney," John snapped at him. "I just can't sleep!"

"Well, something's keeping you up!" Rodney growled back. "How am I supposed to help if you won't tell me what's wrong!"

"Goddamn it, I'm having fucking nightmares, okay?" John snarled back.

In the sudden silence as Rodney stared at him with his mouth open, Woolsey cleared his throat awkwardly. "Excuse me, gentlemen," he said, and beat a hasty retreat with his laptop.

Rodney worked his mouth a couple of times and then finally managed, "Oh," in a small, apologetic tone. "Um, that's…oh."

John sighed and rubbed at his gritty eyes, feeling a little embarrassed. "Yeah." He really wished he could sleep.

He and Rodney drank their drinks in silence for a while, then Rodney coughed and said hesitantly, "If we were out in the field I would have just scrunched my sleeping bag closer to yours. That's always seemed to work in the past."

John turned to look at him, surprised. "You what?"

Rodney shrugged uncomfortably and fiddled with his mug, not looking at John. "You heard me."

"Huh," John said contemplatively. All those mornings that he'd woken up in the field with Rodney shoved up against him like he was trying to push John into the tent wall, and it had been because of John's nightmares. And here he'd been thinking that he slept better outdoors because of the night air or something. "I'd always just thought that you were a tent hog."

"I am not a tent hog!" Rodney protested. "I just…look, you whimper in your sleep when you're having a nightmare and it wakes me up. And I've found that if I don't scootch up next you, you just keep making noises and you're cranky the next day. So I'm just doing it in order to get a little peace and quiet and to not have you bitching at me in the morning. I wasn't trying to molest you or anything!"

Wasn't that just peachy. John wanted Rodney to molest him, thank you very much. "Never said that you were, McKay," John replied wearily.

"Oh," Rodney replied, brought up short by John's agreement with Rodney's assertion.

John slumped back into his chair and rubbed his eyes again. God, he was exhausted and would give just about anything for a good night's rest about now.

"You know… I could bring over a sleeping bag to your place and sleep next to you,-" Rodney said cautiously, as he slowly spun his mug around on the table with one hand. He then added rapidly, "In a totally platonic way, of course. Just so you could sleep. I wouldn't mind."

Despite himself, John actually gave Rodney's proposal some thought. Having Rodney's comforting bulk close by was tempting, even if it didn't go far enough in providing John with what he really wanted. Finally, his sheer exhaustion won out over his reservations. "All right, sure, come on over."

"Really?" Rodney replied, a pleased expression taking over his face. He then quickly wiped the smile off his face, cleared his throat and continued, "Right. Well, then. I'll meet you there in about ten minutes?"

John nodded his agreement and stood up. Rodney rose up alongside him and then gave him a curt nod. "Right. See you ten minutes, Sheppard."

Rodney turned and strode off to his quarters and John dumped the mugs into the dirty dish pickup area. He made a quick detour to supply to pick up a sleeping bag and headed back to his place. After clearing his floor, John rolled the bag out onto it, keeping his mind blank as to why he was doing this. He'd just finished laying the bag out flat when Rodney came through the door with a ground pad and his own personal hypo-allergenic sleeping bag that he insisted he needed for his allergies in hand.

John waved at him. "Hey."

Rodney gave an awkward wave back. "Um, hey." He took in the arrangement John had set up on the floor and then fussily spread his ground pad next to John's bag before rolling his bag out on top of it. He then straightened back up and clapped his hands together. "So," he said and then made a motion for John to go ahead and lie down.

"Right," John replied as he removed his hand from the back of his neck and knelt down on the floor next to his bag. He unzipped it and climbed in, zipping it up halfway before lying back to stare at the ceiling.

He heard a rustling noise and looked over to see Rodney remove the ratty bathrobe he was wearing to reveal a stretched out and holey t-shirt and a pair a plaid flannel boxers. Rodney then dropped to the floor with a grunt and got into his own bag. "You want to get the light?" Rodney asked.

"Oh. Sure," John said and dismissed the lights with a thought.

Rodney grumbled a little as he squirmed around to find the perfect position and John was sure that he'd start bitching about having to sleep on the floor instead of his bed any second now. But Rodney surprised him by giving one last satisfied grunt and then settling, his shoulder touching John's. Rodney's breathing then slowed and deepened and John soon found himself following him into slumber.

John had been sure that the next morning would be awkward as hell, but Rodney had merely grunted and gotten up when the alarm went off, rolled up his bag and pad and stowed them in a corner of John's room before slipping his bathrobe back on and staggering sleepily out the door. When John met up with him again in the mess hall for breakfast, Rodney seemed to be back to his usual grumpy self, mainlining coffee and bitching about the lemon poppyseed muffins.

For the next month, John tried his best to not cause a repeat performance of that night by generally avoiding Rodney and staying in his room when he woke up in a cold sweat, but he found himself getting very little sleep as a result. When he'd jerked awake from falling asleep over his turkey sandwich one afternoon and caught Rodney staring at him with narrowed eyes he knew then that Rodney had figured out what he'd been doing.

Therefore, John was not surprised at all when he opened his door that evening to see Rodney standing there with a DVD, a bag of popcorn, a change of clothes and a toothbrush. John glared at him.

"Oh, come on," Rodney said, rolling his eyes as he barged past John into the room. "Like I'm going to continue to let you be sleep deprived because of nightmares."

John slanted an eyebrow at him and crossed his arms. "Won't sleeping on the floor ruin your back?"

Rodney turned to look at him and tilted his chin up defensively, looking down his nose at John. "I'll live for the couple of days it takes me to find a bed big enough for the both of us. I've got a couple of minions scouting around the city for one. You needed a bigger bed anyways. Yours looks like it was made for a midget. Besides, the fact that the floor is flat and entirely lacking in rocks and roots makes it more comfortable than you'd expect."

Fuck, John knew that giving in that one time was going to bite him in the ass in the end. He knew well enough that when Rodney took the kids and found himself another girlfriend, John was going to be all alone again and memories of Rodney sleeping with him to keep the nightmares away were going to hurt like hell. "I'm fine, McKay. Go back to your own damned room," John gritted out, regretting ever having said yes that one night.

"Not happening," Rodney said briskly and he set down his clothes and toothbrush on John's chair, went over to John's computer, slipped the DVD in and cued up the movie. "I brought V for Vendetta. I figured that we could watch that to relax a bit and then turn in for the night."

"I don't want to watch a movie and I don't want you to stay the night, damn it!" John growled at him. One of the kids did what felt like a somersault and John put his hand over the spot where he'd felt it and swallowed a little queasily. That sensation was never going to stop freaking him out. Especially now that he was about six and half months along and the motions of the babies were becoming more easily felt as the days went on.

Rodney was immediately all over him like white on rice, patting his hands over John anxiously as he tried to make John sit. "You look like you're going to throw up. You're not going to throw up are you? Do you need some ginger? I can get you some ginger. Here, sit down, I'll just go…"

"I'm not going to throw up, Rodney!" John snarled, batting Rodney's hands off of him. "Will you just leave me the fuck alone? I can take care of myself!"

"Jesus, not this again!" Rodney snapped back at him, making an agitated gesture with his hands. "Look, for the eight thousandth time, needing help right now does not mean that you have to turn in your He-Man card!"

John was suddenly furious. He'd turned his body into a baby incubator for this guy, the least he could do was leave him the hell alone and stop torturing him with attention that was going to evaporate the minute John handed over the kids. "Shut up and leave me the fuck alone, Rodney," John said in a deadly low tone as he gave Rodney a no-nonsense look that left Rodney gaping. John then turned and stalked out of his room.

Once out in the hallway, John practically ran into the nearest transporter and hit the map randomly, not caring where he wound up. The transporter flashed and he came out into the hallway that he recognized led to Teyla and Kanaan's quarters. Seeing as how everywhere he went, Rodney's lackeys would report to their lord and master, he went to the door and rang the door chime. At least Rodney wouldn't immediately barge into Teyla's place without knocking.

Kanaan opened the door and upon looking at John's face, reached out and pulled him into the room. "Colonel Sheppard, you do not look well. Please, sit."

John allowed Kanaan to maneuver him into a chair and press a cup of tea into his hands. "Is Teyla here?" he asked, wincing internally at how pathetic he sounded.

"She has not yet returned from her current mission," Kanaan said, sitting down in the chair opposite John. "They do not expect to return until very late. Is there anything that I may do for you in her absence?"

"Is TJ already asleep?" John asked, avoiding the question. He wasn't sure why he was even here, other than the fact that he'd had to leave his own place or have a freaking meltdown.

Kanaan picked up a cup of tea and regarded him soberly. "Yes. I put him down about an hour ago."

John nodded absently and twisted the cup of tea in his hands as he stared at it. The silence built between them.

After some indeterminate time, Kanaan put down his cup with a soft click on the table. "Colonel…John. I am not a close friend to you as Teyla is, but even I can tell that something is troubling you. If you wish to unburden yourself, I am more than willing to listen. All that you say will be kept private between the two of us, I swear by the Ancestors and the life of my son."

John sighed heavily and twisted the cup in his hands again. "Yeah, thanks for that. Problem is, Teyla does most of the talking for me when we have conversations like this. I'm kind of crap at it."

One corner of Kanaan's mouth tilted up in amusement. "I see." He then leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, looking earnestly at John. "Let me see if I can exercise the same ability then. You are upset with Dr. McKay?"

John nodded, paused, shook his head, then shrugged.

Kanaan raised one eyebrow. "My respect for my beloved grows," he replied with some small amount of bemusement in his voice. "Let me attempt this again, then – you are upset with yourself because of something that Dr. McKay has done that angered you."

John dropped his head lower and gave a reluctant nod. "Yeah. I'm an idiot."

Kanaan tilted his head. "How so?"

"I should know better than to let stuff get to me," John mumbled into his chest.

"What exactly did Dr. McKay do that you lost control of your temper?" Kanaan prodded.

John set down his tea and got up to pace, needing to move in order to keep himself calm. "He's overprotective and smothering. Just because I've been having a few rough nights is no reason to start babysitting me!" he finished with a shout. Damn it, there went his calm. John ran a hand through his hair and stared out one of the windows, his other hand on his hip.

Kanaan got up and came up behind John. "You are carrying these children in reparation of a hurt done to Dr. McKay, correct?"

John gave a quick one shouldered shrug. "I should have been the one to turn off the power generator. If I hadn't been stupid, he'd never have gotten hurt like that. I owe him this."

Kanaan leaned against the wall, regarding John calmly. "Do you not also owe him the opportunity to care for you during this time?"

John turned to him and gestured angrily. "I'm not helpless! I've been taking care of myself for years now, I think I can manage this!"

"Teyla is of the opinion that you do not care for yourself at all," Kanaan replied, crossing his arms. At John's splutter of indignation he held out a palm saying, "I do not mean in the sense of caring for your bodily needs. You are entirely capable in that regard. What she means when she speaks of this is that you have no regard for your heart. You give to all and accept very little in return. A well that is not replenished with water from other places soon grows dry, John."

John blew out a breath and sat back down, his anger exhausted. He picked up his cup of tea and stared into it again. Eventually he said, "I'm used to feeling dry, Kanaan."

"I do not doubt that," Kanaan replied as he returned to his chair as well. "Nevertheless, it is unhealthy. Why are you so unwilling to accept the help of others, John? Are you afraid that if you show any weakness, they will leave you?"

John brought one hand up to rub the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Something like that."

Kanaan gave a brief nod, acknowledging that he'd heard. "Since it is my experience that people expect that which happens frequently to them, I can only say that am truly sorry that that has been the case for you. But has Dr. McKay abandoned you before as well, that you do not trust him now? It does not seem like him, from all the tales I have heard."

Alina. Norina. Katie Brown. Jennifer Keller. "It's kinda hard to explain," John said softly.

The door chimed and Kanaan sighed. "If you will excuse me?" John waved a hand at him to let him know it was fine with him, and Kanaan went to answer the door.

John heard Rodney's voice drift into the room. "Um, hi. I was wondering if John was here."

John set down his tea and covered his face with both hands. He hoped to god that Kanaan was able to get rid of Rodney, because John just couldn't deal with it anymore tonight.

"The Colonel is currently sleeping beside my son, Dr. McKay," Kanaan lied smoothly, keeping his body between John and the door.

"Oh," John heard Rodney reply back. "Um, can you possibly wake him up? I need to talk to him about something."

"I do not wish to risk waking Torren at this time," Kanaan said evenly. "I will inform the Colonel you were here when he awakes, if you would like."

"Um, sure," Rodney responded awkwardly. "That'll do, I guess. Uh, sorry to bother you."

Kanaan inclined his head slightly, accepting the apology. "Goodnight, Dr. McKay."

"Goodnight," John heard Rodney reply faintly as the door shut in his face.

"Thanks," John said, straightening up as Kanaan returned to his chair.

"It was nothing." Kanaan picked his tea back up and took a sip. He then cradled the cup in his hands and said, "You said earlier that it was hard to explain how Dr. McKay had abandoned you. It seems to me by his actions just now that he is attempting to stay by you, not run away."

John brought a hand up to rest on his expanding stomach. "He's not at the moment. But I fully expect that that'll change later." His other hand joined the first and he wrapped his arms around himself.

"I seriously doubt that he will no longer be your friend," Kanaan countered. "The two of you are each others' shadows. All know of this."

Yeah, they were friends, John thought bitterly. But he selfishly wanted more, so very much more. "Do you hang around your old friends as much as you used to now that you and Teyla are together?"

Kanaan's face saddened briefly. "Many of my old friends have been killed, but I understand your point. Yes, even if we both still lived with the rest of the Athosians, my interactions would change with my friends because Teyla comes first in my heart now. But I would still remain their friend."

John slumped back into his chair and stared at the ceiling, rubbing his stomach with both hands. He kind of felt like a heel for reminding Kanaan of all the friends he had lost to Michael's experimentation. "Maybe I'm just tired of turning into every couple's third wheel."

Kanaan's forehead crinkled in puzzlement, then smoothed as he parsed out the reference. "I was of the understanding that Dr. Keller and Dr. McKay had broken their liaison with one another."

John winced at his memory of the breakup fight. "Yeah, they have, but that doesn't mean that he won't find somebody else in the future."

Kanaan looked off into the distance, his lips pursed as he thought. He then returned his attention to John and asked, "Colonel…John, why are you really afraid to tell Dr. McKay of your love for him?"

John closed his eyes. Goddamn it. Did everybody know? "He's straight. It would get weird." Hearing Rodney's babbling rejection of him and likely subsequent avoidance would break him beyond repair and he wasn't whole to begin with.

"And yet you have done nothing to wean your affections away from him," Kanaan observed. "Why do you continue to hope?"

Yeah, John had no idea. He shrugged.

"Perhaps he is not as disinterested in men as you assume he is and some part of you recognizes this." Kanaan took a brief sip of his tea and continued. "Have you ever given that idea any consideration?"

John shrugged again. Even if Rodney wasn't straighter than a ruler, he pretty obviously wanted the whole domestic bliss thing and John's job just wouldn't allow that. His superiors would kind of notice if he moved in with Rodney and started picking out curtains and crap. "I don't think he'd be happy with what he would have to settle for if he did like me back that way."

Kanaan raised a challenging eyebrow. "A friend and help mate? A person who loves him enough take extreme measures to provide him with desperately desired offspring?"

John wiped his hands over his face and then dropped them over the arms of the chair. "A Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force that would have to pretend that they weren't together. We'd have to hide everything. I've known guys that have tried it. It's never seemed to work out well."

Kanaan lifted a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You make it seem so difficult. Is it really always like this among your people? To block each other from any chance at happiness at every turn?"

"If you prefer your own sex? Yeah, pretty much," John allowed, staring back up at the ceiling again.

Kanaan's hand dropped away from his face and he sighed heavily. "I do not understand. From what Teyla has told me, the number of people on your planet are uncountable, it teems with so many. You can clearly afford to let some of your people choose who they wish without regard to whether they may reproduce. And yet your customs are crueler than those of any planet here where the Wraith regularly cull our numbers down to frighteningly low levels and people must mate outside love bonds in order to maintain the health of the population."

John made a brief motion with his hands. "It's a religion thing, I think."

"I do not think much of your gods then," Kanaan replied with a wry eyebrow lift.

John huffed a tired laugh. "Yeah, me neither."

Kanaan commiserated with him in silence, sipping the rest of his tea. Eventually John sat up, picked up his own cup and polished it off. "Guess I'd better be going," John said reluctantly. "It's getting late."

"You do not have to leave, Colonel," Kanaan protested, holding out a palm to halt him. "There is room on Torren's sleeping furs for you if you wish. I would be a poor host to turn you out when you came here for refuge from Dr. McKay. It would not be an imposition, truly."

John thought about it. He knew if he left here Rodney would track him down again and the only other places that Rodney would probably stay out of was Woolsey's or Keller's quarters. And John couldn't think of any reasonable excuse that he could give to Richard or Jennifer for wanting to hide out at either of their places. "Thanks, Kanaan. I think I'll actually take you up on that."

Kanaan smiled at him as he stood up. "Good. I admit that I will feel better not having lied to Dr. McKay so much as stretched the truth somewhat."

John got up and followed him to the corner where Torren was sacked out on a pile of sleeping furs. The little guy lay there, blissfully asleep, untroubled by his dreams. John envied him.

Kanaan handed him one of the Athosian woven blankets and a pillow and murmured quietly, "Is there anything else you need for the night?"

John was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt already, so he was good to go. "Nah, I'm fine. Thanks again, Kanaan."

Kanaan bowed his head slightly. "You are welcome. Good night, Colonel. Sleep well."

"'Night," John replied, then toed his shoes off as Kanaan turned off the lights and left the room. He felt his way down to the furs and nestled against Torren's warm, limp body and flipped the blanket over himself. He counted TJ's breaths and pondered when he'd turned into such a coward that he had to hide out in someone else's quarters.

By dint of ducking and running every time he saw Rodney coming his way during the day, deleting the multitude of e-mails Rodney sent him, ignoring Rodney's calls on the radio, prevailing upon Lorne to run reluctant interference and hiding out at Teyla's place every evening, John managed to avoid Rodney for three whole weeks. The problem with hiding out at Teyla's place though, was that you had to deal with Teyla, thought John grumpily as he sullenly drank the tea she'd given him.

"John, this must stop," she said sternly as she dug out a spoonful of yogurt from the cup in her hand and fed Torren with it. "You cannot continue to avoid Rodney like this."

She was right, John thought. Just to begin with, the effort of evading a determined Rodney was difficult and exhausting, especially when one was pregnant. But the thought of having to talk to Rodney, of making up some lie to explain to Rodney why he'd blown up, of then letting Rodney close enough to start fussing over him again, trying to sleep with him again - he couldn't deal with it. He had enough on his plate already without having to deal with the emotional upheaval that Rodney's attention was causing him. It kept messing up his plan to treat the pregnancy like a friendly business transaction. Because Rodney – and John's feelings for Rodney – weren't the slightest bit business-like.

"You said you'd help me if I needed anything," John replied, evading the issue as he picked at the eggs Ronon had brought him from the mess hall.

Teyla gave a frustrated sigh. "That was before you decided that you needed to move in with me in order to avoid Rodney. He is my teammate as well and this is putting me in a very difficult position."

John huffed a put upon sigh. "Well, fine. I'll just …"

"Don't even think about it, Sheppard," Ronon growled at him, pointing a fork containing hashbrowns at him threateningly. "You're not moving in with me. Or anybody else. Suck it up and go talk to McKay."

John glowered at them both. "I've got a check up to go to," he replied tersely and left Teyla's quarters.

He arrived at the infirmary and Jennifer had him half naked and up on an examination table before he realized that he'd run from the frying pan straight into the fire. His first clue was when she visibly braced herself and said, "Before we begin your check up, I have a message I have to pass on to you." She pulled a sheet of paper out of a pocket, unfolded it and John stomach sank with dread as she cleared her throat.

"Dear Colonel," she began, "since you've left me no other choice of communication - and believe me, I've tried to approach this in an adult fashion prior to this - I've had to leave this with the one person you can't afford to ignore at the moment. I realize now that I crossed a line with you. I'd say that I was sorry, but you've blocked every single attempt that I've made so I have to assume that you don't want it. Fine. Be that way. To ensure that I won't cross that line again, I will henceforth cease any attempt to barge my way into your or your childrens' lives. You have made it quite clear that I am not welcome and so I will keep our relationship purely professional. I have set up the money I've been setting aside for their education in a trust fund dedicated to their higher education that will be available once they have completed high school. Try to at least put them in schools which will sufficiently challenge their intellect. I have also set up child support deductions from my paycheck that will be automatically deposited to your account once they've been born, so you're not stuck all by yourself with paying for their piano lessons and the therapy that they'll need because you are a passive aggressive bastard who won't talk things over reasonably. Sincerely, Dr. Rodney McKay, PhD PhD."

John felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He hadn't learned anything from Bunson. He'd done his best to avoid Rodney and now, apparently, he was going to pay the price.

Jennifer folded the paper back up and handed it to him. "When I first examined you, you said that you did this for Rodney. Did you change your mind?"

"No," John replied blankly as he took the paper from her. Jesus. Rodney had washed his hands of him. Him and the kids.

She crossed her arms. "Then why am I suddenly the go-between while Rodney passes you notes like we're all in high school again? Especially notes like that. In case you hadn't noticed, he just said that the kids were all yours. What the hell is going on?"

John scrubbed at his face with both hands while his stomach heaved. "I think I feel sick."

Jennifer handed him an emesis bowl, which he clutched to his chest miserably. "Colonel," she started to say sternly and then paused for a bit before continuing on more gently with, "John. If there is one thing I learned while I was dating Rodney, it was that he'd bend himself over backwards trying to be the person I wanted him to be in order to make me happy. And I've heard about him doing the same thing for the team, too. Turning himself into something better than he was before in order to gain your approval. He only does that for people he loves and respects. And it was only when I didn't listen to him and tried to force him to bend too far that he finally snapped and turned on me." She shifted and placed a hand on John's shoulder. "He was hurting really badly when he handed me that note. You need to talk to him about this. The both of you have been friends for too long for this to happen."

"Right," croaked John, his throat feeling constricted from all that he was trying to keep swallowed down. He cleared his throat then asked, "Do you mind if I reschedule my exam for tomorrow? I'm…I'm not feeling up for it at the moment."

Jennifer regarded him soberly. "Do you need to talk to Dr. Beyerl about this? It might help, you know?"

John's eyes lowered and he stared at the floor, not knowing how to reply. Talk. Right. He'd always been bad at that. "Maybe later," he eventually replied.

She frowned at that, but nodded acknowledgment. "Think about it, at least. He could give you some ideas on how to approach the issue with Rodney." She handed him his shirt. "I'll call Mr. Woolsey and tell him you're taking the day off on my orders. We'll try this again same time tomorrow?"

"Sure," John replied as he set aside the bowl and took the shirt from her. She left the exam room and John dressed mechanically and left the infirmary. He went all the way back to Teyla's place then stopped in front of her door, turned around and went to his own quarters and curled up on his side on his bed, clutching a pillow. He stayed there the rest of the day, too sick to his stomach to get anything to eat.

And when he woke up the next morning and Rodney still hadn't barged into his quarters, John realized with growing dread that he'd finally gotten what he'd been asking for. Rodney was leaving him strictly and entirely alone. John stared blankly at the opposite wall. He was such a fucking idiot.

At first John tried to call Rodney, not really knowing what he was going to say, but realizing that he really had to say something now. But John was finding that payback was a bitch, because Rodney ignored his calls just as efficiently as John had earlier ignored his.

Know that email was going to be a complete bust, he next tried to track Rodney down physically to talk to him. But the system Rodney had rigged to track John's every move was now being used by the scientist to avoid him with ease. John was rapidly becoming convinced that he'd never be able to make it into the same building with Rodney, much less the same room. It was enormously frustrating, and as their impasse crept into its second week, he felt the first beginnings of panic start to creep in. What if he couldn't fix this? What was he going to do with two infants on his own?

By the time the third week rolled around and John had still failed to get Rodney to talk to him at all, the panic had settled firmly inside John's bones and John found himself zombie walking his way through the day as he tried – and failed – to figure out what he was going to do.

Then Mr. Woolsey had called a department head meeting and John saw what might be his only break. He would finally be able to be in the same room with Rodney and hopefully he'd be able to break through the barrier of silence that the both of them had built up between them then. At least that was what John hoped. The thoughts of what would happen if he failed scared him.

So, as John sat across from Rodney, Carson droning on about something, he looked surreptitiously at Rodney and planned his approach. Rodney looked tired as he stared at the screen of his laptop, fingers tapping away at the keyboard. John stretched out a foot and nudged Rodney in the ankle with a toe. Rodney's eyes shot up away from the computer screen to meet John's and John gave him a beseeching look. Come on, buddy, it said. Give me another chance. The babies are yours. I never wanted to take them away from you.

Rodney's face iced over and he scooted his chair over so that John couldn't reach him again. John's laptop beeped and a message popped up on his screen. SAVE THE LOOKS. I AM NOT DEALING WITH THIS SHIT ANYMORE. DO WHAT YOU WANT, I AM DONE WITH THIS.

John's stomach churned unhappily as he stared at the message. It was uncomfortably like what Nancy had said during their last fight right before she walked out. Great. Rodney was divorcing him and they'd never even been married. Shit. John cleared out the message and then tabbed over to a document. Instead of notes on the meeting, it was labeled 'Things I have to do when the babies arrive' and was blank. It had been blank for the last several days since John had opened up it and labeled it that one sleepless night. Hesitantly, he put his fingers on the keyboard and typed 'hand in resignation'.

He stared at it, Carson's voice sounding like the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon to his ears, while he considered what that meant. He'd have to leave Atlantis because there was no way he could be a single father here. The job was just too damned dangerous and too likely to leave the children orphans. He didn't want to leave Atlantis. It was the only place that he'd ever found home. But what he wanted had never mattered when it clashed with the important things that he felt he must do and that counted double now.

He'd have to dip into his unused pay and his ignored trust fund and buy a house. A nice one, in a good neighborhood, with a yard, preferably fenced. He wouldn't have to find a job because he'd always lived simply and the trust fund alone would more than amply cover any living expenses he and the kids had even without the child support from Rodney.

He'd be a stay at home dad. He could probably even home-school the kids so that their love of learning wouldn't be bored out of them by conventional schooling.

And he'd be doing every bit of it by himself.

John pushed the laptop away from him, crossed his arms on the table and laid his head down on them, feeling dizzy, like he wasn't getting enough air. A baby kicked him in the left side and he gasped. He was going to fuck them up so very, very badly. Just like he had everything else in his life.

He may have lost some time there for a bit, because the next thing he knew, someone was shaking his shoulder going, "Colonel! Colonel! John! Can you hear me? Bloody hell, everyone just stand back and give the man some air, will ye? John, this is Carson, speak to me lad." Two firm hands gripped him on the shoulders and pushed them back, bring John's head up off his arms. Carson's concerned face swam into view and John blinked, trying to focus on him.

"Are you tracking me, lad?" Carson asked gently as he peered into John's eyes one at a time with his penlight. His voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well.

"I don't feel so good," John murmured. He was floaty and disconnected from everything and he seemed to be seeing everything from inside a tunnel.

"You don't look good from this side either, son. You're as white as a sheet," commented Carson. He then turned away from John and barked out, "Call the infirmary and get me gurney in here, stat."

John seemed to lose more time then, because suddenly he felt himself being lifted from the chair and then strapped to the gurney. He lost more time again and next found himself in a bed in the infirmary staring blankly at the IV bag feeding into the needle stuck in his arm.

Carson had been replaced by Jennifer and she looked at him with concern as she held his hand. "Are you with us again?"

John blinked and wet his dry lips with his tongue. "Yeah," he managed to rasp out. He felt like his head had been padded in cotton.

"Well, the good news is that we did some tests and nothing is physically wrong with you or the babies. You seem to have just collapsed from stress as far as we can tell. We've got you on light sedation to help with that and we're keeping you overnight for observation. I am concerned about one thing though. You've lost three pounds since your last weigh in. When was the last time you ate?" she asked.

John tried to think back and couldn't actually remember when he'd managed to choke down anything other than tea. "Um…"

Jennifer tilted an eyebrow at him and when nothing else came out of his mouth, sighed. "That's what I figured. I know you may not feel like it right now, but you have to eat. And if you're under this much stress, you also have to talk to somebody. If you can't talk to Dr. Beyerl, then find somebody else because stressing out like this is not going to help your health any." She patted him on the hand. "Now, I'm going to have a nurse bring you a tray of food. You will eat it, and then you'll get some rest, okay?"

"Okay," John replied meekly, and she let go of his hand and left the room. A nurse came back shortly with a tray and John forced himself to eat, despite his stomach's protests that it wasn't interested. He then pushed the tray aside and put his hands on his expanding abdomen. He felt one of the babies give a leisurely stretch somewhere in the vicinity of his kidneys. John guessed that the sedation was chilling them out as well, because lately they seemed to think that John lying down was the signal to start doing jumping jacks. He let his mind coast along in its medicated cloud and then drifted off to sleep.

Someone clearing their throat woke him up. John blinked his eyes and Rodney focused into view as John realized by the changing light from the window that it was substantially later in the day.

Rodney awkwardly raised one hand and wiggled his fingers at John. "Hi."

"Hey," John replied, blinking again as he sat up and wondering if maybe he was just dreaming that he'd woken up. Dreams could be tricky that way.

"So," Rodney said, putting his hands behind his back, "Um, Jennifer said that you had an anxiety attack. That you, uh, that you'd been under a tremendous amount of stress lately."

John wet his lips anxiously and nodded. He then clasped his hands into what passed for his lap currently and looked down at his blanket covered toes.

"Teyla threatened to beat me senseless if I didn't come talk to you," Rodney stated. "She was pretty damned convincing about it too, so I figured I'd at least stop by and say hi." He cleared his throat. "So, now that I've said hi, I guess I'll just…"

"Don't make me do this alone," John blurted out. He figured that if he was still dreaming he'd just segued into a nightmare.

Rodney gaped for a moment and then went, "What?"

"I can't do this alone. Please don't make me. I'll screw them up," John said desperately.

"Excuse me, but you snarled at me for months to leave you the hell alone!" Rodney cried out, his hands flashing out from behind his back to wave angrily at John. "I just gave you what you asked for!"

"I didn't want to take them away from you!" John shouted back, grabbing one of Rodney's arms by the wrist in an iron grip. "They're yours, okay?"

"They're yours too!" Rodney shouted back, "What was I supposed to think? You've got just as much right to them as I have! More, because you're carrying them! God, John, just what the hell do you want from me? To pretend nothing is going on until you can present them to me in matching blankets like they're Christmas presents?" He twisted his arm and broke out of John's grip and stepped back. "If I'd wanted that, I'd have hired a surrogate mother and already been done with the whole passing along of genes thing." He waved his hands in front of him, frustration pouring off of him. "I…I wanted a family, John. I thought that we'd be doing this together." He gave a harsh bark of laughter. "Besides which, I'm just as screwed up as you are. What makes you so sure that I could do it alone either?"

"You could find yourself another girlfriend…" John started.

"Because that's worked so well for me in the past," Rodney shot back, rolling his eyes. "Look, I don't want another girlfriend! I'd be just as happy - maybe happier! – doing the family thing with a friend. It seemed to work with Teyla, Ronon, me and you before. Right? Didn't we kind of make a family, as a group?"

"Well, yeah," John allowed. Could it really be this easy? Would Rodney seriously give up on women and commit himself to co-parenting with John?

Rodney then made an awkward gesture toward John and turned his gaze down toward the floor. "Teyla also mentioned something else when she was threatening me earlier. That, maybe you liked me. More than a friend would, that is. Um, is that true?"

John's brain seized up. He tried to say something, anything, to that, but words utterly failed to make it past his lips.

An awkward pause grew between them as John's brain continued to frantically squirrel around looking for words, any words at all. Rodney then started making jittery motions with his hands and he suddenly burst out with, "See, I told her that she was imagining things! It's not like somebody as hot as you are would go for someone like me who's well, maybe just a tiny little bit past his prime. Not like I'm over the hill or anything, I mean I've still got plenty of prime left in me! But even if you were into guys, which you obviously aren't, you'd probably go for those muscle bound morons with the washboard abs. But that's besides the point, because even though I kind of agreed with Teyla that there had always seemed to be a kind of thing between us, obviously Teyla's powers of observation were incorrect, and um, maybe mine too, because you're totally, completely, utterly straight. And we should both pretend that this conversation never happened and I'll just…"

John was briefly stunned by the realization that Rodney's rush of words seemed to imply that Rodney was attracted to him. Then he realized that he had to force himself to say something quickly before Rodney ran away and John lost what might be his only opportunity. "Teyla was right!" he blurted loudly over Rodney's panicked three hundred mile an hour babbling. Jesus, today had really been a banner day for him so far in the blurting department. John couldn't remember the last time he'd been this desperate to force the words out.

There was a crystal clear moment of silence between the two of them as they both looked at each other with wide eyes. Then Rodney cleared his throat and squeaked, "Really?"

John swallowed around the huge lump in his throat and nodded, his mouth dry.

Rodney then took a few halting steps towards John's bed, saying, "So this pushing me away thing – it was because you thought I'd find another girlfriend and take the kids with me?"

John nodded again, his hands gripping the blanket so tightly that his fingers were going numb.

"You want me to stay?" Rodney asked beseechingly. "With you?"

Once again, John nodded, starting to feel like one of those idiotic bobblehead dolls.

Rodney moved closer and brought one broad palm up and tentatively pressed it against John's cheek. "And you wouldn't mind me doing this?" he asked and then changed the position of his hand so that it pulled John's head closer to his and his thin mobile lips pressed against John's.

John's hands flailed briefly, then grabbed onto Rodney and pulled him closer as John threw every bit of body language he knew into telling Rodney the best way he knew how that he had absolutely no objections at all. Speaking without words, this he could do.

He could have stayed there forever, his lips attached to Rodney's, but both babies began to kick and John grunted when one of them gave him a particularly hard boot to his bladder.

"What? What's wrong?" Rodney demanded, anxiously running his hands over John. The baby that had set up a target on John's left side kicked against Rodney's hand as it pressed against John's stomach and he froze. "Ohhh," he said softly as the baby kicked his hand again.

John really did want take in his utterly gobsmacked expression, but baby number two kicked him in the bladder again and he couldn't deny anymore that he desperately needed to pee. "I really, really hate to break this up, but I gotta go drain the snake, Rodney. Thing Two is using my bladder as a damned trampoline," he said, gently taking Rodney's hand off his stomach and squeezing it before levering himself up off of the bed.

Rodney made a face at John calling one of the babies Thing Two and scuttled quickly around the bed to take John by the elbow. "Here, let me help you."

John sighed at the resumption of Rodney's brand of protectiveness, but didn't say anything, as much to not disturb this new understanding between them as because he really had to go take a whizz now. He quietly went along with Rodney accompanying him to the infirmary bathroom and after he'd done his business (and it kind of disturbed him that he had to find his dick by feel alone at this point of the pregnancy), let Rodney escort him back to the bed.

But when Rodney started to tuck him in, John had finally had enough and caught him by the wrist. "That's enough of that. We have to talk."

Rodney winced and his shoulders hunched over. "Right. You're still not helpless, I get it."

John shook his head impatiently. "Yeah, but that's not what I want to talk about." He then took a steadying breath. Unfortunately, his bathroom break had let his heady relief dissipate and brought him back down to earth. "Look, do you understand that we're going to have to hide…" he waved a hand back and forth between the two of them, "this? Because if we don't, my ass is out of the military and out of Atlantis."

Rodney scowled at him. "No, really? I thought we'd be able to make out in the mess hall. Of course I know that we've got to be quiet about this! I've worked for the American military complex for long enough to know all about that stupid policy!" He grabbed John's forearm and slid his thumb gently over the thinner inner skin next to John's wristband. "Remember when you told me once to pick a friend to have a relationship with? Well, you're the best friend I've got. Even better than Carson. I can't see him ever doing what you are for me. You're, you're worth it, okay? Besides, it's not like we don't have an excuse to move into a suite together, and what we do in there is nobody's business but ours, right? I'll even promise to bitch in public about the living arrangements cramping my dating prospects if it'll make you feel better."

John blinked at him, his chest tight with a feeling that he thought might be happiness. "You're serious? You want a relationship with me?"

Rodney got a sudden worried look. "Um, you don't mind, do you?"

"It's not just because of the babies, is it?" John asked, suddenly feeling a little worried himself.

"No! No, not just because of the babies," Rodney said quickly. "I mean, they do factor in, but they're not the only part of the equation." He rubbed his thumb against John's forearm again. "It's all of you. Together. The only reason I never tried with you before was because you kept throwing me off with all those women. And then I started getting serious about starting a family and didn't think I could get that with you." He then laughed and gestured towards John's stomach. "Now look! I never thought that would happen."

John ran a hand over it and smiled wryly. "Welcome to the Pegasus galaxy."

"Yes, yes, where there's weirdness around every corner," agreed Rodney. "At least this time it was something weird and nice instead of weird and bad."

John tilted his head and smirked. "You know, Woolsey asked me earlier about our plans on where we were going to live and how we'd arrange daycare and stuff."

Rodney sat up straighter and his face brightened. "You want to talk about that stuff now? Wait a minute, of course you do, you're a week shy of eight months along now, we don't have much time to get everything all planned out before they get here. And we're going to need double the amount of everything. And names! We need to talk about names!"

John grinned back at him, feeling bubbly and light.

In retrospect, John thought it was a good thing that he and Rodney had figured their thing out when they had, because the end of the pregnancy wound up pretty much sucking.

Two weeks after their conversation in the infirmary, John and Rodney had just finished moving into the suite of rooms they had picked out when John started feeling weird. He'd gotten used to his back aching and the indigestion, but this was something different. The feeling rippled across his stomach again. "Um, Rodney?"

Rodney's head popped up out of the box he'd been rooting around in. John thought it might contain pieces of a crib, he wasn't sure. The last arrival of the Daedalus had triggered a surprise baby shower for John and they were still sorting out all the crap the entire expedition had bestowed upon them. "Hm, what?"

John placed his hand on his stomach as he felt that rippling sensation again. "Something's not right. I think I need to go to the infirmary."

Rodney shot over to his side, caught his elbow gently and started babbling nervously. "Could they be ready to come out? Oh god, it's not time already is it? I thought you had more time!"

John made a face as the sensation came again. "Jennifer said they wouldn't be ready for another four weeks at my last check up."

"Okay, okay, okay," Rodney replied, blinking rapidly as he fumbled with his radio. "McKay to the infirmary! I need someone at my and the Colonel's apartment, stat!" He then pulled John over to the couch and said, "Lay down. They put pregnant people on bedrest all the time, maybe you've just overdone it."

Seeing as how Rodney had commandeered a whole squad of marines to move them, John really didn't think so, but he obediently lay down and tried not to panic. It wasn't time yet.

Rodney paced and wrung his hands until Jennifer showed up with a med team and a gurney. He grabbed Jennifer by the arm and hauled her in as soon as he opened the door and dragged her over to John. "He says something's not right," Rodney rapped out, shoving her in John's direction.

Jennifer frowned and leaned down to touch John's stomach gently. "What's the problem, John?"

"There's kind of a ripply, squeezy thing going on," John replied, making wiggly motions with his fingers over his stomach.

"Okay, then, we're going to get you on the gurney and take you to the infirmary and check it out," Jennifer said calmly and stepped back to let her team do its thing.

Once John was transferred over from the couch to the gurney and strapped in, they headed quickly to the infirmary and soon John was in the Ancient scanner thingie that had found the babies in the first place while Rodney shifted from foot to foot worriedly in the corner. Jennifer stared intently at the viewscreen for a while and then turned to both of them. "The placenta for the boy has detached a bit from the uterine-like organ. This has been known to happen from time to time with a multiple pregnancy and also when the carrier is over 35."

"Are they going to be okay?" Rodney asked anxiously. John wondered the same. "Is John going to be okay?"

Jennifer put out a soothing hand. "As things go, this is not too bad, nothing to get too worried about. But John will need to be on complete bedrest from here on out."

John didn't like the sound of that. "What do you mean by complete bedrest?"

She folded her arms and looked at him sternly. "I mean that unless you're going to the bathroom, you are to stay in bed, on your side, until it's time to take the babies out. The abruption is mild right now, but that can change for the worse very quickly. You're running the risk of hemorrhaging to death if you don't do as I say."

John sighed tiredly. There went his idea of christening "Rodney's" new bedroom with celebratory sex tonight. "I have to stay here then?"

She gave the viewscreen another judicious look and then shook her head. "No, if you'd prefer to stay in your new quarters that would be fine. I can stop by on a twice daily basis to check up on you. As long as you follow my instructions to the letter and it doesn't worsen, you should be okay there."

John felt himself relaxing a little at that. That didn't sound so bad.

A couple of weeks after they'd taken him back to the new apartment after the exam, John had come to the realization that complete bedrest totally sucked. "I'm bored," he complained to Rodney over the radio. He'd always been a pretty active guy and even with the pregnancy he'd kept up a walking program, even though lately it had been more like a waddling program. "I've finished my last sudoku puzzle, my book, all my comics, Teyla and Ronon are on another mission, and I've seen every single movie we've got about a zillion times now."

"It's only for another couple of weeks, John," Rodney said distractedly, the sound of keypads tapping away in the background.

"In a couple of weeks I'm going to be dead from boredom," John whined. He wanted Rodney to come entertain him, damn it.

"You can't die from boredom, John," Rodney replied. "Flying nuclear bombs into Hive ships, yes, you can die from that, but not boredom!"

"Come on, Rodney. You're not doing anything important. Radek isn't shouting in the background," John wheedled.

Rodney huffed. "Fine. Since your boredom takes priority over everything else short of a Wraith attack." The radio clicked off and John stared impatiently at the door, tapping his fingers against the mattress.

Rodney soon came through the doorway and put his hands on his hips. "Okay, I'm here now. Do you want me to do shadow puppets on walls for you, or something else asinine?"

John put out a hand. "Come sit with me."

Rodney rolled his eyes, but put his hand in John's and sat next to him on John's (wider and longer, wow, how had Rodney pulled that off?) bed. "Okay, sitting. Now what? Need your back rubbed?"

"That'd be nice," John allowed and rolled over to present his back to Rodney. The one really, really nice thing about moving in with Rodney was the backrubs. He knew exactly were to dig in those big hands of his to ease the now more or less constant ache in John's back. John sighed as Rodney found all the tight spots and eased them away with his competent hands. He was really looking forward to when he'd finally have an opportunity for Rodney to do much filthier things to him with those hands.

When John was feeling kind of puddled, loose and content, Rodney's hands moved away from his back. "Better?" Rodney asked.

John stretched and rolled back over to look at him. "Yeah, thanks." Thing One stretched as well, and John watched with bemusement as Rodney's eyes widened as the outline of a foot raised up on John's stomach.

"That doesn't hurt, does it?" Rodney asked, as he laid a fingertip to the center of the tiny footprint before it subsided.

John tucked his arm under his head and smiled. "Well it doesn't hurt per se, but it does feel weird." Thing Two started up the tango on his bladder again and he sighed. "Especially when they start kicking my bladder. Can you help me up? I need to go again."

Another really neat thing about living with Rodney was that John could now get a quick haul up when he was around instead of having to flop around like a beached whale every single time he tried to get up. Rodney got up and put out a hand to him and once John clasped it with one of his own, gave a mighty pull which made his biceps bulge in a manner that made John eye them appreciatively as he came to his feet. "Thanks."

Rodney smiled a bit shyly and then waved him toward the bathroom saying. "Go! You're not supposed to be on your feet long, you know."

"Yeah, I know, I know," John replied, rolling his eyes as he smiled back. He took about five steps toward the bathroom and suddenly pain ripped through his stomach. He fell to his knees, holding his stomach, panting.

"John!" Rodney cried out, and he went to his knees next to John, grabbed hold of John's shoulders and maneuvered him down so that he was lying on the floor. He then reached up to his ear and keyed on his radio screaming, "Carson! Jennifer! Come quick, John's down!"

Pain slammed through John again and he moaned as he clenched his fingers tightly around Rodney's hand. Rodney winced but said nothing and petted John's hair with his other hand. John focused on that instead of his worry that something was terribly wrong with the kids.

The door opened and Carson and Jennifer both ran in with a med team and gurney close on their heels. "What happened?" Carson demanded as Jennifer went to her knees beside John and immediately started checking him and the babies over with a portable medical scanner.

Rodney waved his free hand around frantically. "He just got up to go to the bathroom and then did that wheezing thing he does when he gets hurt and went down!"

Jennifer looked up at Carson with a serious expression. "The partially abrupted placenta has detached completely and the other placenta is coming detached as well. Both babies are showing signs of fetal distress. We need to get him into surgery and deliver them right now!"

"Will they be okay?" John demanded, still clutching Rodney's hand, terrified.

"They'll be fine, son, but you've got to let go of Rodney's hand so we can get ye on the gurney." Carson said calmly as he pried John's fingers off Rodney's hand. John reluctantly let go and Carson pulled Rodney away as the med team closed in around him and worked quickly to lift him and strap him into the gurney.

Once the gurney was lifted up and locked into place, Rodney grabbed John's hand again and John clutched it again gratefully. Rodney ran alongside the gurney all the way to the infirmary and stayed by John's side as he was prepped for surgery, although he looked distinctly queasy when they rolled John onto his side and gave him the epidural anesthesia.

He was forced to let go of John's hand long enough to suit up for surgery, and then John was wheeled into the surgery room and it was game time.

John couldn't see anything that they were doing to him because of the curtain they'd hung over him. He couldn't ask Rodney what they were doing either, because he was fixedly looking away from the action and swallowing convulsively. But he could tell there was plenty of action going on he tried to keep his breathing calm and trust that the docs knew what they were doing.

Then Jennifer popped up from behind the screening curtain with a wiggling baby girl that immediately started to squall. "Baby number one!" she exclaimed, and put her on John's chest before ducking back behind the curtain.

John stared down at his little girl, stunned. "Hey," he said softly. "Look, Rodney, a baby!"

"Really? I thought all this time that you were going to have puppies," Rodney replied. But the snark was ruined by enormous grin he had on his face. "Hello, Elizabeth. Don't mind your mother. He's a bit stupid sometimes."

"Hey!" John protested. "I'm not her mother!"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "You carried her, you're the mother. Deal with it."

John huffed at that, but was distracted from continuing the argument by Jennifer plopping a howling baby boy on his chest next to the little girl, saying, "Baby number two!"

John reached up and wrapped an arm around both of them. They were slimy, loud and perfect. "Hey, Devon. You were the little snot that kept kicking me in the bladder, you know that?" He listened to them howl a little more while Rodney snorted with laughter. "Wow, I can see they both got your lungs, Rodney."

"And your ears," Rodney replied with another snort of laughter. Then the nurses descended upon them and whisked both babies away to do whatever it was they did with newborns. John was still kind of fuzzy on that topic because he'd never really gotten that far in his reading on the subject.

There was still stuff going on behind the curtain, but John wasn't worried about that at this point. He'd done it. He'd made it through the experience and managed to produce two healthy kids for Rodney. He squeezed Rodney hand and grinned up at him. "Congratulations, Rodney. You're now the proud father of a son and a daughter."

Rodney looked down at him, his eyes bright with emotion. "Thank you, John. Thank you for everything."

John smiled up at him. "It was nothing, buddy."


John came into the apartment and shrugged off his jacket. "I'm home!" he hollered as he wrapped his jacket around the back of a chair.

Elizabeth and Devon came running into the living room in outfits that only small children and the truly colorblind could love, shrieking, "Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama!" They each attacked a leg and wrapped themselves around it.

John sighed with long suffering patience and smiled down at them, putting his hands on their heads. One of these days he would get back at Rodney for winning that particular battle. "Hey, squirts. Wanna let go of me so I can bend down and get kisses?"

They promptly let go and John knelt down on one knee and wrapped an arm around each one as they got on their tiptoes and gave him enthusiastic, slightly slobbery kisses on his cheeks. "We're glad you're home," Elizabeth said, patting him on the cheek while Devon threw his arms around John's neck and squeezed tightly.

"I'm glad I'm home too, sweetie." John replied giving each of them a brief squeeze and a kiss on the cheek in return.

Rodney came into the living room from the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel. "Hi honey, how was your day at the office?" he asked sardonically.

The annual debriefing at the SGC had been a hassle, as always, and John had missed his family. "Oh, you know, same old, same old." He released Elizabeth and hoisted the still clinging Devon onto his hip and stood up with a wince as his knees creaked a bit. "Jeannie sends love from the family and asked if we were on for Christmas this year. I said yes."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "It's going to be a zoo with the four kids."

"Maybe six," John amended, "She wants to invite Teyla's family too. And Ronon and Amelia if possible."

"God, we'll never get to sleep in," Rodney moaned theatrically.

There was that, John agreed silently. Still, he liked that Christmas at the Millers was like what John had always wanted his Christmases to be like; with shouting children, genially bickering adults, and a lot of love. "Yeah, well, sleep is overrated. They're growing up too fast for me to want to sleep through it."

Rodney gave him a fond look and leaned forward to give him a peck on the lips. "You big sap," he said when he drew back.

The door chime rang and Rodney had to quickly grab Elizabeth to keep her from answering it. He slung her up onto his hip as she giggled and opened the door himself.

Ronon, Kanaan, Teyla, holding little Charin, and Torren came through the door. Devon started squirming wildly in John's hold, shouting, "TJ! TJ! Want down, Mama! It's TJ!" as Elizabeth set up a corresponding excited squeal.

John and Rodney set both of them down and the twins quickly dragged off Torren by the hands, jabbering excitedly about some game that they wanted him to play with them. "Hi, guys," John said, waving a hand at them.

Ronon grabbed him and engulfed him in a bear hug, slapping him heartily on the back a couple of times before releasing him to Teyla. She pulled John's head down with her free hand and touched his forehead to hers. When she was done with him, John then turned and carefully touched foreheads with Kanaan.

"I trust that your trip to the SGC went well, John?" Kanaan asked once the formalities between them were over.

John shrugged. "Well, I'm back still in one piece, so I'd say it went okay." Landry was still a bastard, but he was used to that and now that he was technically in the Canadian Armed Forces it had become a lot more fun to thumb his nose at the man's pomposity.

"You owe me a case of beer, Sheppard," Ronon said with a grin.

John raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Carson finally managed to find his balls in a drawer and stammer out a proposal to Jennifer while you were gone," Rodney replied, crossing his arms.

Teyla slapped at Rodney with the back of her hand, looking faintly scandalized. "Rodney!"

"You bet that she'd wind up asking him first," Ronon reminded him.

John smiled, bemused, and reached up to scratch his head. "Damn, I did bet that, didn't I?" He chuckled, then said, "Okay, buddy, you win. Next case I get is yours. I take it she said yes to him?"

Teyla smiled widely. "Most definitively. I believe her acceptance was heard all the way out to the mainland. I admit that I do like your custom of presenting a token ring on bended knee. It was very sweet."

John grinned. "Figures that Carson would be traditional like that. I'm happy for them." He then reached out and nudged Ronon with a knuckle. "How about you, big guy? What about you and Amelia?"

Ronon smirked. "She's taking me to meet the family for your holiday that does that tree thing."

John gave a knowing nod. "Meeting the family for Christmas, huh? Good luck, then."

Ronon's smirk widened. "Thanks."

John then snapped his fingers and pointed at Teyla and Kanaan. "Oh, before I forget, Jeannie has invited you guys to come over with us for Christmas."

Teyla and Kanaan passed a quick glance between then and then Teyla nodded her head in John's direction. "We would love to join all of you for the holiday celebration."

"Great!" John replied, bouncing on his toes a little. He then nodded at Ronon. "And if you and Amelia want to swing by, you're invited too."

Ronon lifted an amused eyebrow. "I'll let her know."

Teyla came forward and laid a hand on John's arm. "We are glad that you have returned, but that is not the only reason why we came over. If you would allow us, Kanaan and I would like to take the twins for the night."

John looked over at Rodney who pinked up and looked sheepishly down at the floor. So, apparently Rodney had been moaning that he didn't get enough time alone with John again. He turned back to Teyla and drawled, "Sure. Do you want them now or after dinner?"

"We can feed them for you. I am planning to fix conturo," Kanaan replied with a slight smile.

John laughed, knowing how the twins would fall all over themselves for some of Kanaan's conturo. That stuff was the Pegasus equivalent of macaroni and cheese on steroids and they loved it as much as Rodney did, which was to say that they'd probably give up their favorite toys if they had to in order to get some. John looked over at Rodney. He was looking a little wistful at missing out on the conturo and John had to cover his knowing grin with a hand.

Kanaan's smile grew a little wider. "I will make enough that I can set aside some for you as well, Rodney. I remember that it is your favorite dish as well."

Rodney's smiled in surprised delight. "Oh! Um, thank you. That's, that's very nice of you."

John stuck his fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle that had Rodney sticking a finger in his ear closest to John and wincing. All the children came running back out into the living room and Devon piped up, "What, Mama?"

"Hey squirts, what do you say to going with Aunt Teyla and Uncle Kanaan to eat some conturo and then staying overnight with TJ?" John asked them conspiratorially.

The twins predictably began to squeal and jump up and down while clapping and John grinned broadly. "Okay then, let's go pack up some jammies, BearBear, and Kitty!" he exclaimed, and then shooed them back into their bedroom, following after them. There was a bit of a debate over what clothes they wanted to wear the next day, but John eventually got them to agree to outfits that didn't make his eyeballs bleed and they were good to go.

Because he hadn't seen the kids in a week, John opted to walk with them to Teyla and Kanaan's and then gave Elizabeth and Devon big smooches and a raspberry on the tummy before promising to come pick them up in the morning after breakfast. As they ran off to play with Torren some more, John turned to Teyla, Kanaan and Ronon, who was apparently staying for dinner as well. John hoped that Kanaan had a large enough pot for all the conturo he was going to have to make. "Thanks, guys."

"It is our pleasure," Kanaan replied. He then lifted an eyebrow. "You will return the favor sometime soon?"

John chuckled and then gave Kanaan a slap on the shoulder. "You got it. Sometime next week good enough for you?"

"That will work," Teyla replied in a satisfied tone and a sly look at Kanaan as Kanaan grinned outright and Ronon snorted with amusement. She then reached out and gave John a gentle shove toward the door. "Now go, spend time with your beloved."

John didn't need any further incentive and after a brief wave was out the door, walking briskly back to his place. As soon as he cleared the doorway Rodney launched at him and John's back thumped into a nearby wall as Rodney kissed the daylights out of him. When they finally came up for air, John said a little breathlessly, "So, missed me?"

Rodney paused in running a hand up under John's shirt to say caustically, "No, I jump every guy that comes through that door." He then licked up John's neck and whispered into his ear, "God, John, I have you to myself for the whole night. I have so many things that I want to do to you. I wish we were younger so I could do them all."

John cock jumped in his pants and he whispered back, "Well, pick a couple of your favorites, and I'll see what I can do."

Rodney groaned and then pulled John away from the wall, slipped behind him, and shoved him toward their bedroom. "Get in there and strip."

John pulled off his t-shirt, dropped it on the floor and looked coyly over his bare shoulder at Rodney who rolled his eyes and smiled before charging after John with out-stretched fingers. John whooped, dodged the dreaded tickling fingers and raced into the bedroom.

Rodney followed him into the bedroom, leaning against the door after it closed and watching John with avid eyes as John began to remove the rest of his clothes. Once John had toed off his shoes and socks, he tried to make a show of removing his pants and boxers, reveling in the way that Rodney looked at him like he was the only thing in the world that mattered.

After the last of his clothing had hit the floor and John had stepped out of the pile, he slinked over to Rodney and slid his hands under his shirt, purring, "Now it's your turn." He slipped Rodney's shirt up and off as Rodney lifted his arms cooperatively and then ran his hands down Rodney's chest as he sank to his knees in front of him.

Rodney made a choked noise and John leered up at him as he pulled on Rodney's pant leg, signaling him to lift his foot. Rodney quickly complied and John peeled of his shoe and sock, then did the same for the other foot. John then looked back up at him with intent and he slowly slid his hands up the outsides of Rodney's legs, then brought them together to briefly cup Rodney's cock through the material before undoing the buttons and zipper of his pants.

"You are so. Hot. When you do that," Rodney breathed out and John smiled dirtily at him as he pulled the waistband of Rodney's boxers out and down to expose Rodney's hard length. John then slowly, deliberately took it into his mouth down to the root as his hands pulled Rodney's pants and boxers down to the floor.

Rodney's head thumped against the door and he moaned, "Oh god, I love your mouth. I love your mouth so much, but it's been a week and I really want to fuck you, please, John, please, can I fuck you, please?"

John pulled off with a nice, slow slurp and then gently ran his stubbled jaw along the length of Rodney's cock. "Gonna take your time and open me up slow?" he murmured. John saw no need for quick and dirty prep if they had the whole night, after all.

"Yes, yes, anything you want," Rodney panted out and he reached down and hauled up John and french-kissed him hungrily. John hummed contentedly as he allowed Rodney to plunder his mouth with his tongue. It really got John's motor running when Rodney manhandled him like that.

Rodney knew it too, and after he broke off the kiss with a gentle bite to John's lower lip, he shoved John backwards onto the bed where he landed with a bounce. "Get the lube," he ordered, his voice husky.

John crawled across the bed to the nightstand and pulled out the bottle of lube from the drawer as Rodney got onto the bed behind him. John turned and gave him the bottle. "How do you want me?" John asked.

Rodney squirted a blob of lube onto his fingers. "Face me and put your leg up onto my hip. I want to kiss you some more."

John smiled and moved into position so that they were nose to nose. "I like the way you think."

Rodney gave a superior sniff. "You should." He then captured John's lips and slid his fingers into the crack of John's ass and teased his entrance slowly.

John relaxed into the attention, his tongue dueling with Rodney's as he reveled in the feel of Rodney's fingers playing him, circling around the edge, then dipping in briefly before circling the edge again. Rodney did nothing more than that for several long minutes until John finally broke and begged, "More, Rodney, give me more."

Rodney shifted position, getting a better angle, and bit gently into the tendon on John's neck as he slid a single broad finger in as far as it would go. John gasped and then shuddered as Rodney crooked the finger and firmly pressed against his sweet spot. Rodney then tormented him deliciously for what seemed an eternity with just the one finger. This was why John had obsessed over Rodney for so many years. He'd always known that those hands would be magic in bed. Once again, John broke and begged for more.

"Thought you wanted to do this slooooow," Rodney whispered tauntingly in his ear, but obliged John by ever so slowly working a second finger in with the first.

John focused intently on the feel of the stretch, his mouth open and panting. Rodney bit his neck again and John thought it likely that he'd have a heck of a hickey in the morning, but he couldn't really bring himself to care. Rodney then began to steadily pump his fingers in and out of John's body and John found himself helplessly pushing himself back onto them, eager to be filled with every thrust.

"You are so hot," Rodney rumbled huskily, pushing his cock against John's stomach as his fingers continued doing their job. He then mouthed John's neck and shoulder briefly before continuing, "I've never had anyone give it up for me like you do. Never. You're just…god, John."

John's heart swelled, hearing the love in Rodney's voice as he said that. "Always…you," he gasped out, trying in his own pitiful way to return the sentiment.

Rodney captured John's mouth in a devouring kiss and pushed a third finger inside him. The angle was wrong for Rodney to be able to hit John's sweet spot with all three fingers but John shivered with satisfaction all the same.

Rodney moaned as he worked his fingers steadily in and out of John's ass and his cock poked at the scar on John's stomach from the cesarean insistently. John thought that Rodney's patience would soon give out, but this time John had underestimated him. It wasn't until John broke off their frantic kissing and cried out, "God, Rodney, fuck me, fuck me now!" that Rodney pulled his fingers out and bodily flipped John so that he was on his knees.

John groaned as Rodney sheathed himself inside of John with one stroke and he squeezed his ass tight so he could feel every millimeter of Rodney's wide cock. It had been a long week away and he had missed this, missed them.

"Jesus, John!" Rodney cried out, and he grabbed John by the hips and began to pump into him forcefully, his patience finally, finally broken.

John braced his hands against the headboard, grunting as Rodney's cock slammed into him, as Rodney's balls slapped into his own. He was split open, completely owned, his ass taken by Rodney totally, just the way he wanted. The way he would always want. Everything slid away - his worries, his regrets, all of it, all. The only thing left was Rodney and the feel of his hands on John's hips, his cock filling John, deep, deeper, deepest. It went on endlessly and it was perfect.

Then Rodney's hands pulled on his hips, expertly canting them at a different angle so that Rodney's cockhead started pushing more directly into John's sweet spot, sending shooting sparks of pleasure throughout John's body that made him cry out and see stars. "Come on, John, yes, come for me, just this, just this, you can do it, yes, let me feel you," Rodney panted out as he suddenly went into overdrive, wildly thrusting into John, tagging him mercilessly.

Overwhelmed, John came, howling his pleasure out as spurt after spurt of come shot forcefully out of his cock and the muscles of his ass squeezed of their own accord around Rodney's wide, relentlessly moving cock. Rodney fucked him through all of it, tempo never breaking until John felt absolutely boneless and loose, his shudders reduced to mere twitches. Then Rodney shoved in one last time, burying himself to the hilt, his cock as hard as iron. He gave a gasp and shook as his cock throbbed, emptying himself into John.

"Oh god," Rodney said hoarsely and draped himself over John's back, his cock twitching with aftershocks inside John. "You should never leave. The welcome home sex will kill me someday."

"But what a way to go," John rasped in reply, his throat dry from screaming. Rodney was heavy, but John preferred to wait until Rodney's cock no longer twitched before putting up a fuss about it. He liked feeling them joined like this, the feeling of the aftermath of Rodney's pleasure.

They both stayed like that, catching their breath and letting the sweat cool on their bodies until Rodney's cock slipped out of John. John then gave him a nudge with his shoulder blade and Rodney took the hint and crashed down onto the bed on his side. John then let his knees slide out from underneath him and made a face as his stomach landed in the puddle of semen he'd left on the bed. "Ugh, wet spot," he complained.

Rodney rolled over and grabbed a handful of the towels that they kept under the bed for just such occasions and handed them to John. "Here you go."

John rolled off the wet spot and took them. "Thanks," he replied and wiped himself off with one, the bed with another and laid two more clean ones in the damp spot before rolling back onto it. "That's better," he said with a sigh as he pitched the soiled ones one handed in the general direction of the laundry hamper.

"We missed you, the kids and I," Rodney said as he laid a possessive arm over the small of John's back.

John crossed his arms and laid his head on them so he could see Rodney. "I missed you guys, too."

Rodney smiled sweetly and leaned forward to kiss him on the nose. "Have I told you lately that I'm glad you got pregnant? Even though I still haven't found the piece of equipment that did it. Radek insists that it was probably off world but the timing is a little off for that. I was here on Atlantis when you were most likely impregnated."

John grinned and shrugged. At least he could keep a secret from one person in his life. Even if it didn't really matter anymore. "Haven't a clue. But I'm glad it happened too."

The End
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