Back from the Well: 3. Part Three


Home. Rodney walked through the old, familiar city, trying to remember what it had been like to live here, in this beautiful place, away from the constant fear of beatings, rape and death. How had they never appreciated the peace and beauty of Atlantis before – why had they always taken it so much for granted? The marines had secured the city and even John, prowling, restless, relentless John, was satisfied that it was safe. Even so, he had posted a dozen armed guards in the gateroom and instituted new gating protocols before he’d allowed any of the civilian staff to return. 


Some of the Atlanteans were in tears, while others just wandered around the place, looking bemused. Some people were laughing, excited, while for others it was all too much, and they retreated to their quarters for some time alone. Rodney went straight to his lab and paused in the doorway, Radek right behind him.


“What is it? Is it okay?” Radek asked, trying to peer over his shoulder.


“They trashed the place,” Rodney said quietly, unsurprised; the Karkarans had trampled roughshod over everything else in his life – why should this room be any different? Everything was a mess; chairs and tables upturned, spillages everywhere. Rodney stepped inside, hearing glass break under his boot. “Stupid, imbecilic savages,” Rodney muttered, finding equipment destroyed, computer screens in smithereens on the floor, naqada generators shattered.


“Ah well. We can tidy up,” Radek said, with a resigned shrug of his shoulders.


“Oh for god’s sake – look around you! It’s a complete and utter mess!” Rodney snapped, turning on Radek angrily, only to find himself looking into the same hero-worshipping eyes that had gazed on him so hopefully back on the plantation, and he bit back the tirade he’d been intending to unleash on the hapless scientist. “Yes. Of course,” he said, in a softer tone. “We’ll tidy up. Yes.”


“We’re home, Rodney,” Radek said, his eyes shining happily as he gazed around the room. “Because of you,” Radek added. “See, I said you would save us, Rodney and you did. We’re home.” He beamed a smile of utter sincerity and Rodney had a sudden memory flash of Radek, dressed only in a pair of ragged pants, his body covered in cuts and bruises, lying on his side, sick and wheezing, and telling Rodney that he’d save them. Rodney blinked the memory away, reached for an upturned chair, righted it, and sank down into it, feeling utterly drained. All his life he’d wanted people to recognize his brilliance but somehow, now it had happened, it didn’t mean anything. Instead of basking in the glow of Radek’s admiration it just felt like a burden, as if he somehow had to take responsibility for Radek’s good opinion and live up to it. He tried to say something, to answer Radek, but when he looked up at the other scientist all he could see was the half-starved, whimpering man who had huddled on the ground beside the well and sobbed throughout Rodney’s worst suffering, and the memory was so real and vivid that for a second it threatened to overwhelm him. Rodney got to his feet abruptly and walked out, leaving the lab in Radek’s insanely cheerful hands.


Rodney wandered along the hallways to Carson’s quarters – the rooms they’d all shared before this whole ordeal had begun – and paused in the doorway. Nobody was there – he presumed Carson was in the infirmary and god knew where John was, probably scouring the city looking for someone to fight, Rodney thought wearily.


Rodney pushed the door open and stepped inside, and his breath caught in his throat. Unlike the lab, this room was exactly the same as when they’d left it; clearly the Karkarans hadn’t used it. Carson’s quarters were bigger than most and comprised a small living room, a bathroom, and a bedroom off to the side. Rodney walked over to the bedroom and peered through the open door. Carson’s lamp lay smashed on the floor and there were signs of the fight that had taken place here that night. Rodney paused, crouched down on John’s side of the bed and touched his hand to the streak of dark red blood that still stained the floor; John’s blood, from where they’d hit his head with the butt of a gun.


“Rodney, are you all right?” a soft Scottish voice asked behind him. “Radek radioed me.”


“I’m fine.” Rodney stood up. “It’s just the same as when we left it, Carson,” he murmured.


“I wish I could say the same for the infirmary,” Carson replied, coming to stand beside him.


“The lab was a mess as well,” Rodney said. “Radek was being all upbeat about it and I wasn’t in the mood. That’s why I left.”


Carson put a hand on Rodney’s shoulder as they looked around the room, and Rodney knew Carson was remembering the events of that night, nearly a year previously, just as he was. The large bed they had shared was rumpled, the sheets pulled back, half of them trailing in a heap on the floor and Rodney remembered the shock of waking to find the Karkarans in the room. John had leapt into action, fists flailing in all directions, fighting against the intruders and there had been that loud crack as they hit his head and then he had gone down and Carson had been screaming as he tried to scrabble over the bed to get to him and Rodney had been caught in some kind of net and he kicked and fought but then there had been a loud crunch and everything had gone black…Rodney saw something lying under one of the upturned chairs and fished it out; it was John’s thigh holster. He remembered John with short hair and no scar, wearing a uniform with this strapped to his thigh, lying on the bed laughing at something Rodney had said, but that seemed like a lifetime ago and a different John altogether.


Rodney threw the holster onto the bed and turned and went over to the closet. He found his uniform hanging in there and swiftly divested himself of his Karkaran clothes, anxious to be rid of the last trace of that planet. He caught sight of his scarred back in the mirror, and his jaw tightened. He quickly pulled on his black shirt to hide the sight of it and then dragged his pants on – only to find they gaped around his thin waist and resolutely refused to stay up. Angrily, he searched for one of John’s belts and slid it through his pants and then tightened it viciously. Then he looked at himself in the mirror, longing to see the man he’d once been now that he was dressed in his old clothes – and his breath caught in his throat. Even with the uniform he still didn’t look like himself; his shirt hung off his shoulders and his pants looked as if they belonged to someone else entirely. He looked like a child playing at dressing up in his father’s clothes. Rodney gazed at himself sourly, hating the way his jaw jutted out and his cheekbones sunk in. The uniform didn’t feel as familiar as he’d hoped – it felt strange, heavy and constricting after so many months of wearing a thin tunic, when he’d been allowed clothes at all.


“Ah – Dr McKay. Nice to have you back,” Carson said, brushing Rodney’s shoulders with his hands affectionately, trying to lighten the mood.


“I don’t feel very back,” Rodney muttered.


“Well, at least our quarters haven’t been trashed,” Carson said, changing the subject as he gazed around the room again. “We can tidy up.”


“I wish everyone would stop damn well saying that!” Rodney growled, and he kicked the Karkaran clothes he’d just discarded out of the way, and turned and stalked out of the room and out of Carson’s quarters. “We can tidy up,” he mimicked under his breath as he strode off down the hallway. “That’s all it’ll take, just a tidy up, and then everything will be the same as it was, only it won’t.” He came to a sudden stop, his breathing coming in fast gasps, and he leaned against the wall and tried to steady himself.


“Rodney.” Carson ran down the hallway after him. “We could choose different quarters,” he said, crouching down so that he could make eye contact with Rodney.


“I don’t want different quarters, Carson,” Rodney said helplessly, still struggling for breath. “I just want it back to how it was before. You, me, John…nothing good like that ever happened to me before and it’s all falling apart. I can’t look at Radek without remembering the plantation and being thrown down against that bloody well and, and…and you’re walking around with the weight of the entire galaxy on your shoulders and John…John isn’t John at all! There are some things you can’t just tidy up, Carson.” He took a deep gulp of air, pushed himself to his feet again and ran off down the hallway, and this time Carson didn’t follow him.


Rodney walked around for an hour or so, trying to get himself under control. When he finally thought he could trust himself not to have another outburst he returned to the lab to find Radek overseeing his team of scientists in the clear up.


“Good. Great,” Rodney said tightly.


“McKay.” John appeared in the doorway. “I need you to start work on the gate defences,” he said tersely. “I want to know precisely how the Karkarans got round the gate’s shield and how we can stop anything like that happening again.”


“Fine.” Rodney was relieved to leave the lab and he followed John out into the hallway. “Our quarters weren’t trashed,” Rodney said, by way of conversation as they walked back to the gateroom.


“What?” John turned to look at him with a distracted frown.


“Our quarters. I mean…Carson’s quarters. They’re the same as when we left them,” Rodney said, wondering if John even intended sharing them again. It had been something that had happened by mutual unspoken consent the first time around – he and John were both spending every night there anyway that it seemed simpler to move all their stuff in. John made no reply, leaving Rodney with no idea where they all stood. “Did you find any sign of the Karkarans?” Rodney asked, as they entered the gateroom.


“Several of the rooms in the city are trashed and a lot of stuff has been stolen but there’s no sign of them apart from that.”


“So why did they leave?” Rodney asked.


“I don’t know. That’s what you’re going to find out,” John told him, striding up to the gate controls.


“Would this be before or after I fix the gate?” Rodney snapped.


“Well you’re the genius – I’m sure you can do both,” John replied, slapping a hand on Rodney’s shoulder and guiding him into his seat. Rodney flinched away from the touch, and John recoiled and charged off back down the stairs again without saying another word. Rodney gazed after him glumly.


“I don’t want to be a genius any more,” he muttered sullenly as he started to run his fingers over old, familiar symbols.


It took several hours for Rodney to figure out how the Karkarans had by-passed the gate’s defences all those months ago, but John wouldn’t let him even take a break until he had a working theory. Then he spent a few more hours working on a way to ensure it could never happen again. Rodney was convinced he’d cracked that a good couple of hours before John was convinced and the colonel made him go through it with him three times before he was finally satisfied that the gate was secure. After that, Rodney was exhausted – it had been a long time since he’d been forced to use this much grey matter and he was thrown by the sudden change of pace in his life. He knew he needed to sleep but he wasn’t entirely sure where to go. He still had his own quarters but he hadn’t even checked those out and had no idea what condition they were in. In the end, he found his feet wearily taking him back to Carson’s quarters, and he knocked on the door, uncertain if this was where he was supposed to be. Carson opened it and gazed at him with a worried frown.


“Sorry about earlier,” Rodney muttered contritely. “I was…in a panic. Am I allowed in?”


“Of course, Rodney.” Carson stood back and Rodney entered the room, and paused.


“So…you…uh…tidied up,” he mumbled, flushing slightly, glancing around. Carson had done a good job of it as well, he thought to himself. There was no broken glass, the bed had been completely remade with clean sheets, and even the dark red, dried bloodstain beside the bed had been scrubbed away.


“Well I thought the infirmary could wait until tomorrow – especially as all our patients are currently being cared for on the Daedalus. We need somewhere to sleep tonight after all,” Carson replied. “Have you seen John?”


“Yes…he’s…” Rodney twirled a hand around distractedly. “Well, you know, rushing around trying to keep things safe.”


“Aye. I thought he might be.”


Rodney was too tired to make conversation and too depressed about his deteriorating relationship with John to want to talk about it, so he just stripped off his uniform and crawled into bed. Carson undressed more slowly, and Rodney watched him, waiting for him to be done so he could turn the light off and get some sleep. He noticed a bruise on Carson’s thigh, and another on his arm, yellowing now, not recent, and he wondered if Carson had been hurt in that final showdown on Karkara and that made him feel even more out of touch with his lover that Carson hadn’t told him. Carson slipped into the bed beside him a few seconds later and put a questing hand on Rodney’s thigh. Rodney froze. Was this one of the reasons why it was all going wrong, he wondered? Was sex all they’d ever had in common and now that he was no longer in the mood, maybe there was nothing left? How long could he ask them to be patient, after all? And he had no idea when he was going to feel like being touched in a sexual way again – if ever.


“Sorry, Carson,” he said, brushing the hand away. “I’ll sleep on the side. Maybe when John comes in you and he…”


Rodney usually slept in the middle, but this way if John was actually still living with them and did come back to the quarters, then at least he and Carson could have some fun.


“Rodney – I didn’t mean to pressure you,” Carson said as Rodney shifted over. “You just looked like you needed some stress relief.”


Rodney closed his eyes, having no reply. He knew this must be confusing for Carson but it was confusing for him too and he had no idea how to deal with it. Back when they’d last shared this bed, Rodney had been up for anything. In fact both his lovers used to joke that he got an erection if they so much as touched his arm by accident when reaching for the salt when they ate. Rodney was a high-strung man and Carson was right – sex in one form or another had been a very efficient way of bringing him down and keeping him calm back in the old days and both Carson and John had been extremely efficient at using it for just that purpose.


Rodney fell into an uneasy sleep, from which he awoke with a startled gasp and a strangled cry when the door opened a few hours later, memories of the Karkaran invasion flooding back. He took a moment to focus and realized it was John.


“Easy, Rodney. Only me,” John said, stripping off his clothes and jerking a hand through his braid to release his hair. Rodney watched as John slid a knife under his pillow, and put his newly reclaimed P90 on the nightstand, then he slipped in beside Carson, turned his back on both of them and they all laid there, in silence. Was this the way it was going to be, Rodney wondered, remembering that warm, loving bath they’d shared back on Karkara. There was no lack of love here, surely – just too many no-go areas and three block-headed men who didn’t have the faintest idea how to navigate the complicated emotional terrain in which they were currently stranded.


Rodney woke again early in the morning to find the bed empty. He heard muted voices and gazed blearily across the room to see Carson, clad only in a pair of boxer shorts and an open bathrobe, standing over a seated John braiding his hair.


“Now we’re home I could cut this off for you,” he suggested.


“No,” John said curtly.


“Why not? It’s not really a standard military haircut…” Carson began.


“Because I have to go back to Karkara,” John told him.


“What?” Carson’s fingers stopped what they were doing and he gazed at John, aghast.


“Some of our people are still missing, Carson,” John said in a low, hard tone. “And I don’t leave people behind. I’m just going to stay here long enough to make sure Atlantis is safe and then I’m going back to Karkara and this time I’ll have Caldwell’s men with me and we’ll be sure to kick some Karkaran ass if they don’t give us back everyone they took.”


“Okay. I understand. Just be careful.” Carson’s fingers resumed their work, nimbly plaiting the hair so it hung down the side of John’s face. He finished what he was doing, tied it off, and then his fingers gently examined John’s scar. “You don’t need to keep this though,” he said. “Why don’t we schedule you in for some surgery to take care of it?”


“No,” John said, catching Carson’s hand in his own to stop the doctor’s probing.


“Why not? You don’t need that for your trip to Karkara.”


“I’m not getting rid of it.”


“But why?”


John paused for a moment, and then looked up at Carson with a dark expression in his eyes.


“Rodney won’t ever be able to get rid of the scars on his back,” John said, in a low, fierce voice. “Why the hell should I be able to get rid of this?”


Carson rocked back on his heels and stared at John. “John, you having a scar or not having a scar won’t make any difference to what happened to Rodney,” he said.


“No,” John said bitterly. “Nothing I do can make a difference to what happened to Rodney. It’s too late for that. Every time he looks at me I can see that.”


“John…he doesn’t blame you for what happened,” Carson said, taking John’s face in his hands and gazing at him urgently.


“Yes he does – and he should,” John rapped out.


“No. You’re wrong. He’s just having a hard time dealing with what happened to him.”


“Did he tell you any of what happened?”


Carson hesitated. “Nothing beyond the obvious, no. He doesn’t want to talk about it and there’s no reason why he should if this is the way he wants to deal with it.”


“Every time I look at him I can see those bastards and imagine them…damnit, I can’t forget the way he looked lying in that cage,” John growled.


“John, he honestly doesn’t blame you and you need to forgive yourself too,” Carson whispered, taking hold of John’s face and kissing his lips gently. John’s hands slid around Carson’s waist and he kissed him back, eagerly, hungrily. Rodney lay there, just watching them kiss, envying them their intimacy, and suddenly resenting the fact that they’d had four months alone together during their time on Karkara; while he’d been rotting on that plantation, they’d been sharing a bed, and making love, and becoming close, and now he felt left out.


He watched as John pulled Carson towards him and captured one of the doctor’s nipples with his tongue, latching on and sucking down hard. Carson moaned and put his hands on John’s shoulders and John slid his hands under Carson’s robe and tightened his grasp on him. Carson gave a little cry and John got up and pushed him against the wall, holding him there while he bit a line of kisses across his chest, leaving red marks in his wake.


“Ssh…” Carson whispered. “Don’t wake Rodney. He was stressed out last night and I want him to get his rest.”


“Did you try the time-honoured Rodney McKay method of stress relief?” John asked, with a wicked grin, as he pressed Carson into the wall, tangling his hand in the other man’s hair.


“Yes, I tried – he won’t let me touch him.”


John banged Carson’s head back against the wall with a thud that made Rodney wince. “Damn it…he should talk to someone. Heightmeyer…”


“He hasn’t asked to see her and he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to. Besides, she has a list of patients as long as your arm and demons of her own she’s struggling with,” Carson panted, squirming in John’s fierce grasp. John didn’t say anything, but he looked angry. He pulled Carson towards him by his hair, and devoured his mouth roughly, his hands moving furiously beneath Carson’s robe.


“I want you,” John said fiercely when he released Carson. “Now.”


“Fine – just keep it quiet so Rodney can sleep,” Carson whispered. John let go of Carson’s hair and strode over to the nightstand to retrieve some lubricant. Rodney closed his eyes, not wanting John to see that he was witnessing this, but John was preoccupied elsewhere. Rodney opened his eyes again and saw Carson swiftly stripping off his boxer shorts and bath robe, and then John was on him once more. He grabbed Carson bodily and turned him around and then shoved him against the wall, face-first this time. Carson fell against it with a clunk, and then John pounced on him, kicking his legs open and pushing him up against the wall. Carson rested his head on his hands and John slicked lube over his fingers and slid them fast into the doctor’s ass. Carson gave a little cry and his head jerked back and now Rodney found that he was fully awake, transfixed by the scene that was playing out in front of him.


John finger-fucked Carson for a few minutes, and then withdrew and slicked his hard cock with the lube before grabbing Carson’s hips with his hands and sliding home with a force that was one shade short of brutal. He slid one of his arms around Carson’s body to keep him upright and then proceeded to pound into him, back and forth, fast and hard. Rodney could feel the angry urgency that was radiating off the colonel and he had the distinct impression that this wasn’t about sex – this was something else, and he was surprised Carson had agreed to it. It was clearly consensual, but Rodney knew that Carson didn’t particularly like rough sex. Rodney, on the other hand, loved it, and he and John had frequently had quick, rough, down-and-dirty fucks that they both enjoyed, and afterwards they’d grinned at each other wildly, exhilarated, like they’d just shared a secret joke. Carson preferred slower, more sensual love-making though, and Rodney wondered why the hell he was agreeing to this. Perhaps he was enjoying it because his cock was hard, and John was stroking it in time to his savage thrusts, but Carson’s eyes were wide open, staring at the wall with a blank, resigned look on his face. John’s thrusting became more urgent, and he came with a muffled cry, burying his face in Carson’s neck to stifle the sound. His panting breath had a ragged, sobbing quality to it, and it was only then that Rodney realized that there were wet tears falling unchecked down John’s cheeks. John came to a halt, still buried deep inside Carson’s body, the tears still falling, silent and unnoticed, and John continued stroking Carson’s cock until Carson came too, and then they both stood there, panting, the urgency over. John withdrew from Carson’s body with a soft thwumping sound, swiping an arm over his wet face to remove all trace of the tears as he drew away. He stroked Carson’s hair and kissed Carson’s cheek, softly, gently, in stark contrast to the way he’d just made love to him, and then turned on his heel and left.


Only once he’d gone did Carson move. He backed away from the wall and Rodney noticed that he was shaking. He retrieved his bathrobe and put it back on, then sat down gingerly on the chair and wrapped his arms around his body, staring into the distance while he struggled to regain his composure.


Rodney didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t even entirely sure what he’d just witnessed. A part of him was jealous and a part of him was even turned on, mentally if not physically. He had loved it on the many occasions when John had pushed him against a wall, or back onto a table, and made fast and furious love to him, but this hadn’t exactly been like that. Part of him wanted to experience that again, but his body was resolutely uninterested, and, apart from anything else, he was too scared of the John he’d just witnessed to want him playing rough with him in his current state of mind. He felt too fragile, and his body felt too raw for Rodney to want to expose it to that kind of extreme sexual thrill. He watched as Carson got up and left the room, and a few seconds later he heard the sound of the shower running next door and Rodney closed his eyes again, wondering how the hell this was all going to end.






They were all so busy that they barely saw each other for the next couple of days, and then John left to go back to Karkara and Rodney hoped that he’d at least get a chance to speak to Carson now that they were alone together but Carson seemed busier than ever. He’d got his infirmary up and running again, and, even though he wasn’t a psychologist, he was doing his best to help Heightmeyer deal with her massive workload and as a result he was getting in late every night and he left early each morning. Not that that mattered because Rodney was busy himself; they were all working on an inventory of what had gone missing, and the Science team had the most equipment so Rodney was kept busy with that, in addition to overseeing the clear-up and trying to figure out why the Karkarans had left the city.


“Maybe they never intended to stay,” Radek said when they were alone in their lab, trying to fix the general Atlantis maintenance logs so they could at least see what systems the Karkarans had accessed while they’d been here in case that gave them some clue.


“Well then why did they?” Rodney asked. “Why didn’t they just leave once they’d got a new supply of slaves and plundered the place? Caldwell says they were still here four months’ ago, so they stayed for six – why leave after six?”


“Maybe that’s just what they do,” Radek shrugged. “Maybe they only ever stay anywhere for six months.”


“Oh for god’s sake, that doesn’t explain why…” Rodney paused and caught himself, feeling guilty as he saw Radek’s eyes widen in response to his irascible mood. Every time he wanted to snap, which was his usual working style, Radek’s eyes would gaze up at him, like a rabbit caught in a trap, and Rodney would see that skinny, sick man from back at the plantation, and hear those wrenching sobs and then he’d be back out by the well again and that was the last place he wanted to be. “No. Of course, maybe they do only stay in one place for six months,” Rodney said in a soothing, conciliatory tone, trying to keep calm. “But that doesn’t explain why they trashed the place when they left. Why not sell this stuff? Not on Karkara, obviously, because technology isn’t allowed there, but I’m sure there are plenty of other people who’d be interested in it – the Genii for example.”


“Well, they’re bandits,” Radek shrugged. “Maybe that’s just what bandits do.”


“Well maybe it is,” Rodney said, smiling through gritted teeth, trying to keep a grip on his temper. “But we need a better explanation for why they left the city because until we know why they left, we can’t be sure they won’t come back and somehow I don’t think the explanation ‘maybe that’s just what bandits do’ will satisfy Colonel Sheppard.”


“No,” Radek agreed. “What did you tell him, Rodney?” he asked. Rodney felt himself go cold. Surely Radek wasn’t asking him about what he thought he was asking him about? They’d neither of them mentioned the plantation and Rodney didn’t want to start talking about it now.


“What do you mean?” he asked, as kindly as he could, struggling to keep a grip on his emotions. Damn but he didn’t want to think about the rapes, and it was so hard to avoid thinking about them when Radek was standing right here and Radek had witnessed every single one of them.


“I mean about what happened to you back there,” Radek said, in a frightened whisper. “What did you tell Colonel Sheppard because when he came to rescue me I almost didn’t recognize him. I thought maybe you’d asked him to kill the people who hurt you, because he wouldn’t stop until they were all dead and he was like a crazy beast. I would never have thought Colonel Sheppard could be like that. I was scared that if I got in his way he’d put his sword through me too.”


“I didn’t tell him anything,” Rodney said, desperately not wanting to have this conversation. “I didn’t tell him to kill anyone.”


“Only…Ronon had me on the horse and we could have got away without a fight…but the Colonel wouldn’t leave it. He went after all the overseers. He wanted them all dead,” Radek muttered.


“He told me…” Rodney frowned. “He told me that his team made too much noise in the rescue, and that brought the overseers down to investigate and then he had to kill them to make sure they didn’t alert the guards at the big house.”


“Ah. Well. I was very ill and it was dark. Maybe I misunderstood what happened,” Radek muttered unhappily.


“What do you think happened?” asked Rodney, unsure whether he wanted to know the answer to that question.


“No, no – maybe it was that way. I just remember how he seemed possessed and hunted those men down to kill them. He was like some kind of one man killing machine with that sword, covered in blood…I was afraid of him. To tell the truth…I still am.”


“Yeah. Me too,” Rodney muttered. “Look, Radek, we don’t need to talk about this. We should get on with figuring out why the Karkarans left Atlantis.”


“You don’t like looking at me,” Radek said sadly. “You don’t like working with me. When you look at me your eyes pass over me as if you don’t want to see me clearly.”


“Don’t be absurd!” Rodney snapped, and then, with a huge effort, he tried to adopt his soothing voice once more. “I’m just tired. I’m not, you know, doing that thing with the eyes that you said.”


“And you keep being nice to me. You keep talking to me in that stupid voice like I’m a child.”


“Trust me, this is not the voice I use for children,” Rodney said. “And what’s wrong with being nice to you?”


“You aren’t behaving like you any more!” Radek protested, his face going red and upset. “You, Dr Mckay, you are not nice! You have never been nice! You snap at me and call me names – that is Dr Rodney McKay. He isn’t nice!”


“Oh thank you very much!”


“I don’t want you being nice! I want you to be how you were before! I don’t want you to look at me with those eyes and speak to me with that voice!” Radek was genuinely upset, and his hands were scrunched into fists at his side. “I was there too! They hurt me too! Just because I saw them hurt you doesn’t mean you should treat me like this. You will drive me away with all this ‘yes, Radek, you’re probably right, Radek’ stuff and that stupid voice and I don’t want to be driven away! You have to work with me and I have to work with you and I want things back to how they were before!”


He looked as if he was about to burst into tears and before Rodney could make a reply he turned around and ran out of the lab.


“We all want that, Radek,” Rodney muttered to the empty room.


He felt utterly drained by the argument and sat down with a heavy thump on the nearest chair and buried his head in his arms on the table. Atlantis hummed around him, serene as ever, but he felt as if he was barely holding himself together. It was like he was being dragged underwater and only his head was above the surface and he was struggling to breathe, and then he felt himself crying, big, shattering sobs that he couldn’t hold back. He’d cried before, back on Karkara, but those had been tears of sheer physical release at being safe and being held in his lovers’ arms once more. Now he cried for what had happened to him. Not to Radek, or to John, or to Elizabeth, or anyone else but purely and selfishly for what had happened to him. He cried because he was a proud man who had been stripped naked and sold, and he cried because he’d been whipped and beaten and hurt, and he cried because he’d been thrown over the wall of a well and raped, not once, but several times, sometimes two or three times in succession as if he was a piece of meat, and each time afterwards he hadn’t allowed himself the luxury of falling apart. He’d had to be the strong one, for Radek’s sake as well as his own, so he’d just got up and grabbed Radek and gone to do a full day’s work in the fields as if his body wasn’t sore and aching from the abuse and his dignity shattered into too many shards for him to ever gather it together again. He could remember the smell of blood and semen as it dried on his body and how he’d had to live with that smell all day under the baking hot sun because he couldn’t wash it off until the evening. He could remember how it hurt to pour the cold water from the well over his torn body, and how he couldn’t give into despair, not even when they broke his fingers one by one, or strung him up and whipped him until the blood ran down his back, because if he gave in then he’d give up and he couldn’t give up while he was holding onto the hope that Carson and John were still alive. But now it was all over, now they were all safe…now it was harder to keep going. Now he wanted to collapse and give in to all those emotions he’d only just been keeping at bay for these past few weeks, and he hit his fists on the lab table, over and over again, ignoring the raw pain in his hands, wanting it to hurt as much as he hurt inside.


Then the frenzy was over, and he just sat there, crying, for very long time. Nobody disturbed him – he wasn’t sure whether anyone came to the door of the lab and saw him, but nobody came in and he was grateful for that. He sat there, quietly sobbing for a very long time. Finally, the sobs subsided through sheer exhaustion because god knows the misery was still there, seemingly inexhaustible, but he just didn’t have the energy to cry any more. Then he just sat there, staring into space, because there was nothing left to feel. An hour passed, maybe two, and then he heard a voice on his radio. Elizabeth. Asking him to go to her office. That was fine. He could do that. Rodney slid off the chair and walked unsteadily towards the door. He didn’t care that his face had to be blotchy and his eyes red raw, or that his hands were bruised and cut in places. He just walked through the hallways, in a dream. People passed him by, and some looked at him and some looked away but nobody said anything.


He found Elizabeth sitting in her office and he went in, closed the door behind him, and sat down. He could see his reflection in the glass window in her office; he looked dishevelled and it was totally impossible for anyone not to know that he’d just spent the past several hours crying. Elizabeth gazed at him steadily for a moment and then smiled. She didn’t mention how he looked, she just treated him like normal, for which he was profoundly grateful.


“I was wondering how that inventory was coming along, Rodney,” she asked him in a soft, warm voice.


“Ah, the inventory. Yes.” Rodney gazed at a spot somewhere over her left shoulder for a long moment.


“Do you have any idea when it’ll be done?” she prompted gently. He dragged his gaze back to her and frowned, trying to concentrate on the question.


“I don’t know. Sometime soon I think. We…that is, Radek and I…we hit a hitch with the maintenance logs and that’s distracted me. I’m sorry if it’s taking too long. It’s…I’m feeling sort of…slow,” he finished.


“Well, that’s okay,” she said kindly. “I think we’re all feeling a little…slow…these days.”


“Good. Okay.” Rodney nodded. “Did you hear anything from Colonel Sheppard?” he asked her. Her lips gave that little quirk they always did when he called John ‘Colonel Sheppard’ so formally. She knew about the unusual living arrangement he had with John and Carson, although she’d never asked any of them about it directly. The entire base knew, but as far as Rodney was aware nobody had a problem with it – although he guessed that some of them had a hard time actually believing it. At first he’d hidden the relationship, finding it awkward, and they’d all been very careful to keep things strictly professional during their working lives. Carson though, was constitutionally incapable of living a lie, and when they were off duty he made his feelings towards his lovers very clear with little touches and the occasional kiss, which Rodney had at first found intensely embarrassing. He had no idea why now, looking back. So many so much more embarrassing things had happened to him on Karkara that the small matter of an affectionate kiss on the hair or cheek between lovers hardly seemed worth the paroxysms of embarrassment he’d initially suffered, early on in their relationship.


“As a matter of fact I did,” Elizabeth told him. “We heard from the Daedalus a couple of hours ago. They’re on their way home – and Colonel Sheppard is safe. Apparently they have some interesting news to share with us – but we have to wait until they get back to hear it.”


“Good.” Rodney nodded. “Interesting news? Well that’s very…interesting.” He gazed blankly at Elizabeth again and she got up, limped over to him, put her hand very gently on his shoulder, and squeezed.


“Stay for coffee,” she said softly. “I don’t want you to go back to work just yet.”


He nodded, and she poured some coffee for them both and handed him a cup. “When the inventory is done I’m going to ask everyone for a report,” she said softly. “People can tell me as much or as little as they want about their time on Karkara, but we do need some records, even if it’s just the basics. I very much doubt we’ll have any recourse to justice from the Karkaran government, but I want to investigate the possibility all the same.”


“Of course.” Rodney nodded. He sipped on the coffee and felt it warming him which was a good thing because he thought there was the vaguest possibility that he might faint.


“Have you eaten today?” Elizabeth asked him. Rodney tried to remember but found he had no idea which was very possibly the first time in his life that had been the case.


“I don’t believe so,” he frowned.


“Then let’s walk down to the mess hall in a minute,” she said. “You have hypoglycaemia remember, and you’re looking a little pale.”


His pallor was by no means the worst thing about his appearance, Rodney thought to himself, glancing at his reflection in her window again, but he realized that she was worried about him, and she was being nice and she was trying to take care of him without drawing attention to his suffering, and he was very grateful that she was so understanding.


“I am feeling hungry,” he lied.


“Good. We need to feed you up,” she said with a smile. “I could stand to gain a few pounds myself and that’s probably the first time you’ve ever heard a woman say that!”


He managed to smile at her, and the kind, sensitive human contact slowly began to warm him and the numbness dropped away and with it came back the misery but when he looked into Elizabeth’s eyes he saw that she understood in a way that Carson didn’t, and John didn’t, because their misery was of a different kind, and he knew then exactly what had been done to her and he knew she knew exactly what had been done to him and while they might never talk about it to each other, that didn’t mean they didn’t understand.


“I’m sorry,” he said, rubbing a hand over his red-rimmed eyes. “I know I look a mess.”


“It’s okay.” She smiled again. “We all have our bad days.”


“It’s just…stuff,” he said.


“Yes. Just stuff.” She nodded, and he felt better than he had for several days. It was as if he’d started to feel human again. Not everybody was like the Karkarans. These people, his people, the Atlanteans, didn’t view him as a piece of meat, as something to be sold and beaten and hurt. They hadn’t stolen his pride and dignity and robbed him of his humanity, but they could give him those things back, if he let them; and Elizabeth, with her quiet sensitivity was trying to do just that.


“When we’ve eaten perhaps you should find Doctor Beckett and get him to look at your hands,” Elizabeth suggested kindly, patting his bruised and scratched hands, and Rodney felt slightly ashamed of himself for creating more work for the already over-worked doctor but at least it would give him a chance to see Carson again and he realised he’d missed his lover and desperately wanted to talk to him. Maybe it was time to tackle the silence that had grown between them.


Both the tears and Elizabeth’s kindness seemed to work some magic on him, and after they’d eaten together in the mess hall he went to find Carson, as she’d suggested. The doctor was bouncing around his infirmary, looking both cheerful and energetic, much to Rodney’s surprise.


“Och, Rodney, what have you done to yourself?” he exclaimed, sitting Rodney down on the side of a bed and examining his hands.


“I just had…a bad moment. Carson…I really want to talk to you,” he said urgently.


“I need to check those fingers – make sure you didn’t break them all over again,” Carson said with a bright smile.


“Okay, but can we talk later, Carson. I really want to…”


“Just some bruising and a few scratches. You’ll be fine,” Carson announced, finishing examining Rodney’s hands in lightning quick time, and turning to grab some gel which he smoothed onto Rodney’s hands.


“Carson – when will you be back this evening?” Rodney asked impatiently. It seemed to him like Carson had been waiting for weeks for him to talk and now he was finally ready to do so, the doctor was brushing him off.


“Late, Rodney. There’s a pile of things to do around here. We still aren’t properly cleaned up and I need to finish going through our medicine inventory – we’ll need to get new supplies from Earth before too long because the Karkarans destroyed or stole so many of our stocks. Well there you go, Rodney. You’ll do fine now.” Carson finished with Rodney’s hands, patted him absently, then got up and bounded over to the other side of the infirmary to check on one of his other patients. He barely seemed to notice that Rodney was there so Rodney got up and left.


Rodney went back to their quarters and paused for a moment in the bedroom doorway, a little flash of memory washing over him. These rooms had other, happier, memories associated with them than just the night they’d been abducted; for instance there had been the night they first made love…Rodney leaned against the door, a slight smile hovering on his lips. Carson had invited him and John to his quarters for a meal. They’d eaten together before, so Rodney hadn’t thought anything of it, although he did remember thinking that Carson seemed nervous, and the meal had been extremely delicious, as if Carson had made a special effort in preparing it. Carson also pulled out all the stops with the wine, which was in short supply on the base, so Rodney remembered being pleased and surprised that Carson had somehow managed to filch a couple of fairly good bottles from somewhere. They ate in a relaxed mood, laughing and joking, and Rodney had felt happier than he’d ever felt in his life. He’d acknowledged to himself, in his most private moments, and often when his hand was wrapped around his own cock, that he was in love with both these men, but he would never, in a million years, have said anything to them. He’d have settled for either of them, had never expected to have both of them…in fact sometimes he still couldn’t believe that he *did* have them both. After the meal Carson had told them he had something to show them, and they had all got up and followed him to the bedroom.


“Hey, how come you get to have a room with a separate bedroom?” Rodney complained.


“These quarters are near the infirmary,” Carson replied with a shrug. “You lads all wanted quarters near the control room so I helped myself to these as they were going spare.”


He opened the door to the bedroom and John, who was a little way ahead of Rodney, laughed out loud.


“Damnit Carson, where the hell did you get that fuckoff great bed?” he asked, with a crooked little grin. Rodney craned his neck to see over their shoulders and caught sight of the enormous bed that filled a large part of the room. Carson flushed and mumbled something – to this day Rodney still wasn’t sure where he’d got the bed from.


“What on earth do you need such an enormous bed for anyway, Carson?” Rodney asked, in a somewhat cross tone.


“Well…” Carson put a hand on each of their shoulders. “I was kind of hoping that you’d both share it with me.”


Rodney stared at Carson, utterly aghast and completely speechless, but John merely let out a roar of laughter. “Carson Beckett, you sly old dog,” he said, sliding an arm around Carson’s waist. “Well, it seems a shame to let a good bed like that go to waste, wouldn’t you say, Rodney?”


“What? No! I mean yes! I don’t know what I mean. What are you both talking about?” Rodney stammered, knowing he had flushed as red as a tomato.


“I was hoping you’d want to, Rodney,” Carson said with an agonised look. “You’re always flirting with John, and, well…you and I spend a lot of time together so you can hardly be unaware of my feelings for you…”


“What? Flirting with John? When?” Rodney asked, bemused. “And yes I’m unaware! What feelings? Why…what…when did…?”


“Rodney, it’s a simple question – yes or no?” John said, cutting to the chase as usual. He leaned across Carson and ran a gentle hand down the side of Rodney’s cheek and Rodney felt a shiver of sheer sexual attraction run through him. “I think that’s a yes,” John said to Carson.


“Both of us, Rodney?” Carson asked anxiously. “Or is it just John that you want?”


“I…I…I…” Rodney gazed from one to the other, still completely befuddled.


“Just kiss him, Carson,” John urged. “You’ll soon find out. Otherwise we could be here all night and seeing this bed has made me damn horny.”


So Carson turned to him, put a hand around the back of his head, pulled him close and kissed him. Rodney was aware of John, standing behind Carson, his hands fondling Carson’s butt and he was aware of Carson’s soft lips against his own, and then he was melting into Carson’s embrace, melting into both Carson and John, and he felt as if he’d lost the power of coherent speech.


When Carson released him, the first thing Rodney saw was John grinning away behind the doctor.


“I think that’s settled then,” John said, grabbing both their hands and leading them towards the bed. Rodney went willingly, but he still felt like he was existing in some kind of weird alternate reality as John stripped off his shirt as if he was a child and then leaned in for a kiss of his own, a deep, devouring, utterly sexual kiss that made Rodney blush all the way up to the roots of his hair. Carson wrapped his arms around him from behind and undid his pants, and then suddenly he was naked and the two of them were now kissing over his shoulder and he could feel two hard erections digging into him, one from behind and one in front, and he was so excited he thought he might come there and then. Luckily he hadn’t disgraced himself; he had the feeling they were both more experienced than him though, as they pushed him down on the bed and silenced any more blithering on his part with their tongues and hands.


Rodney felt lost in a wonderland of beautiful, naked bodies. John’s chest was hairy and sexy, and Rodney ran his fingers over it like a starved man at a feast. He’d broken off from that only to run a hand over Carson’s thick, hard cock, noticing that John was longer and cut, while Carson was thicker and uncut, and he loved the contrast, loved both their cocks immediately. Then John was taking Rodney’s cock in his hand and that finished off any further coherent thought for awhile. He was vaguely aware of being pressed between two hard, handsome bodies, of being held in muscular arms and of having his cock sucked by warm, insistent lips. The next thing he remembered, John was holding him down, kissing him deeply on the lips while Carson licked his neck and kissed his throat…and then a lubed finger suddenly pressed against his anus and he bucked up in surprise.


“Hey…you can trust us,” John whispered, kissing his hair, his hand firmly stroking Rodney’s cock. “You do trust us, don’t you, Rodney?”


‘With my life’, his brain said, but no words came out of his mouth; he just opened his legs wider, allowing John to lift his ass up to meet Carson’s questing fingers, desperately wanting to feel Carson’s thick, hard cock move inside him, and he’d been rewarded a few minutes later when Carson had slipped on a condom and finally slid into his body. He’d come with Carson inside him while John jerked him off and kissed him, and then John had been inside Carson while Carson sucked Rodney and then…Rodney lost track of all the tongues and fingers and hard, pulsing cocks but he did know they made love for a very long time and only stopped when they were completely and utterly sated. He’d never had so many erections in one night and he remembered them all lying in a sweaty, exhausted heap on the bed, John behind him, his arms wrapped loosely around Rodney’s waist, Carson in front of him, his blue eyes gazing fondly at him, and Rodney had flung an arm over Carson’s thigh and that was pretty much the way they’d slept almost every night they’d spent together since.


Rodney savoured the memory of that first night, mentally reclaiming the bedroom back from the night the Karkarans had taken them; their first love-making was a better memory to dwell on. He removed his uniform and hung it up, then took a long shower and fell into bed. It had been an exhausting day and he felt wiped out and yet curiously optimistic at the same time, considering the circumstances. Somehow the argument with Radek and the long sobbing session had been cathartic. Like Radek, he wanted things back the way they were too, and now he saw that if he didn’t make an effort to make that happen then it wouldn’t happen and that was too terrible a thought to contemplate. So he just had to be brave and somehow work through this mess, however painful it might be. In fact Rodney suspected that it had to be painful – he doubted this was a situation you could skirt around. You had to just walk right through it, even if it felt treading on broken glass every step of the way. The alternative simply wasn’t worth thinking about though. He was aware of Atlantis, pulsing around him the way she always did and he allowed himself to relax for the first time since returning home. And this was home after all! He wasn’t back on that plantation on Karkara; he was here, with the people he loved, and that was something that was worth feeling happy about. He felt almost as if the city was his cradle and she was surrounding him, rocking him gently, trying to take care of him, and he fell into a deep, refreshing sleep.


He woke in the early hours with a vague, nagging sense of unease in his stomach. Something wasn’t right…Carson still hadn’t returned, and Rodney had a sudden fuzzy image of the doctor sitting in his infirmary holding a syringe. He wasn’t sure where it had come from but the image galvanised him into action, and he jumped out of bed, pulled on his bathrobe, and ran out of the door. The infirmary door was closed when he got there and he opened it silently and slipped inside. Carson was sitting on one of the beds, and, just like in his image, he was holding a syringe, filling it from a little vial, his sleeve rolled up to his elbow. Rodney shut the door loudly and Carson jumped and turned.


“Oh, Rodney! You startled me,” he said.


“Yeah. I bet I did,” Rodney growled. “What’s the matter, Carson – did I disturb your quality time with the happy drugs?”


“What?” Carson stared at him. “This isn’t…” he gestured towards the syringe. “It’s just a wee stimulant, Rodney, to keep me awake.”


“It’s an upper,” Rodney snapped, knowing he was right. “That’s how you’ve been keeping going and being so bloody cheerful these past few days. It’s a damn sight more than just something to keep you awake.”


“It’s…it’s only for a short time. While things are so difficult,” Carson said, dropping all pretence.


“It won’t solve anything and none of our problems will go away – you’ll just feel like you can fly until you come down with a crashing great bump after each hit,” Rodney told him in an angry voice. “Come on, Carson – you know that. You’re the damn doctor here. If I was taking that stuff you’d be locking me in a room and making me go cold turkey.”


Carson spread his hands helplessly. “Everyone is hurting so much, Rodney, and there’s so little of me to go around,” he whispered. “I can’t help everyone. I thought everything would be better once we got home, but if anything it’s worse. Atlantis is a city full of shadows and ghosts. We’re all wraiths now, Rodney, just a different kind of wraith. We’ve had the life sucked out of us; we’re just pretending to go on as usual but we’re all just drifting along, locked in our own little bubbles of pain.”


“You can’t mend everyone, Carson. That’s not your job,” Rodney told him, coming to stand in front of him. He swiped the syringe out of Carson’s hand and threw it angrily into the nearby waste basket.


“Well, it is kind of in the job description, Rodney,” Carson told him apologetically.


“No it isn’t. Not what you’ve been doing. You’re feeling so guilty because you weren’t beaten, or raped, or humiliated, or otherwise hurt back on Karkara that somehow you feel you have to make it up to everyone who was,” Rodney told him firmly. “Well you can’t, Carson. You just can’t. People are feeling lousy, yes, but they’ll just have to work through that for themselves! You can’t wave a magic wand and make it all go away, no matter how many drugs you take and how brilliant a doctor you are.”


Now, suddenly, Rodney understood why Carson had those bruises on his body.


“I saw you and John the other morning,” he said. “Against the wall.” Realisation flooded into Carson’s eyes and he flushed slightly. Rodney wondered how long this had been going on – it clearly dated back to well before they’d left Karkara. “I wondered why you let him do that to you when you and I both know that you don’t like rough sex. I thought he was using you and he was – but you were using him every bit as much.”


“He’s angry and he’s hurting. He needs the release and you can’t give it to him right now,” Carson said defensively.


“And you just want to be there for everyone to help make yourself feel less guilty about not having suffered as much as we did,” Rodney told him brutally. “Well it doesn’t help, Carson. It just makes you feel worse to the point where you need the happy drugs to keep going. What the hell point is there to that? Don’t you understand that we’d be lost without you? We need you to be you, not some junkie martyr who thinks he can take all our pain on himself!”


Carson looked down, away from Rodney’s searching gaze, his cheeks flushed with shame. Rodney stepped between his legs where they were hanging down over the side of the bed, and pulled Carson’s head towards his own, so their foreheads were resting against each other.


“I need you, Carson. Don’t do this again,” Rodney said fiercely, stroking Carson’s hair. “Promise me you won’t take the drugs again.”


“I…I promise, Rodney,” Carson muttered, his hands coming to rest on Rodney’s hips.


“Good.” Rodney leaned in for a kiss; he captured Carson’s mouth with his own and explored it softly, gently, sensuously. Carson sighed and leaned into him and they nestled against each other for a long time, kissing slowly. “I wanted to speak to you earlier,” Rodney said when the kiss came to an end. “I need you to make love to me, Carson. I need to feel you inside me again. I need to feel like I used to feel. I can’t be a hostage to what happened to me for the rest of my life.”


“Are you sure?” Carson’s hands stroked his butt affectionately, sending a shockwave of desire to Rodney’s groin.


“Yes. I’m very sure,” Rodney replied, his breath catching in his throat as his cock started to stir for the first time in nearly a year. “Come to bed.” He took Carson’s hand and pulled him off the infirmary bed, and they walked out into the hallway, still holding hands, and didn’t part until they got to their bedroom. Then Rodney pulled Carson close and kissed him again. Carson was shaking slightly, whether from the after-effects of the drugs, or from emotion, Rodney couldn’t tell, but he wrapped his arms around Rodney and returned the kiss eagerly. They moved apart only so that Rodney could divest himself of his bathrobe and retrieve some lubricant from the nightstand, and then he lay down on the bed, waiting while Carson quickly got undressed. Carson sat down on the bed beside him, leaned over Rodney and kissed him again, deeply and slowly. Rodney moaned and ran his hands over Carson’s solid back, enjoying the feel of that familiar skin under his fingertips. They kissed for a long time, pausing only to take in air and then going back for more, enjoying the sensuous pleasure that they hadn’t experienced for so long. Carson drew back and put gentle fingers on Rodney’s body, stroking him as if he was a cat. Rodney sighed – he loved being stroked and both his lovers knew exactly how to turn him on. Carson teased his nipples into little points with his fingers, and then his hand dipped lower, stroking a line down to Rodney’s groin. Rodney gasped as Carson’s fingers ghosted gently over his cock and trailed over his balls. He was relieved to find that he was now rock hard and Carson looked pretty pleased about it too because he lowered his head, took Rodney’s cock in his mouth and sucked. Carson was very good at giving head – Rodney had forgotten just how good – and his lover’s talented mouth soon had him gasping with pleasure. It was so good that Rodney nearly allowed it to go on too long, but eventually he pushed Carson away.


“I want to come with you inside me,” he told the doctor. Carson blinked.


“Are you sure, Rodney? I could just suck you off…” he said uncertainly.


“No. I want you in me,” Rodney said impatiently. This had to happen at some point, and besides, he was longing to feel Carson moving inside his body again. It had been so long. Too long. Rodney liked to bottom almost exclusively, and as John pretty much exclusively topped and Carson happily switched, they’d always been well matched, whether all making love together or in various combinations of two. Now Rodney was longing to become intimately acquainted with Carson’s meaty cock again. “Not from behind though,” Rodney said, because he was worried that might freak him out. “I want to be able to see you when you make love to me. I need to know it’s you.”


“All right. I’ll go slow. Just tell me if you feel any discomfort,” Carson said, stroking his hair and gazing deep into his eyes. Rodney nodded, and caught Carson’s lips with his own for another searching kiss. “I love you, Rodney,” Carson whispered when they finally parted. His lips nuzzled the side of Rodney’s neck and he sucked his way down to Rodney’s chest, murmuring as he went, his voice full of love and erotic promise. “You’re so hard…so sexy…” Carson said, his finger sliding into Rodney’s anus. Rodney loved being talked to like this during sex as much as he loved being stroked and petted, and he sighed and opened up to Carson. “I want you, Rodney,” Carson whispered, sliding a second finger into Rodney’s ass. “I want to feel you, warm and tight around my cock, Rodney…”


“Call me dautie,” Rodney said suddenly. Carson glanced up at him in surprise. “I like the way your voice sounds when you call me that,” Rodney explained, with a shy grin.


“Dautie,” Carson said immediately in a deep Scottish lilt, smiling up at him. “My dautie, my darling one…open up for me, dautie…let me inside…” His fingers were firm, sliding into Rodney with rhythmic thrusts that made Rodney pant with desire and long for more. Now he knew he’d been stupid to worry about Carson examining him back on Karkara. This man here, plunging his fingers into Rodney’s body so erotically, was his lover not his doctor, and this was being done entirely for pleasure; it was nothing like a clinical examination. Rodney opened up even more, moaning ecstatically, but Carson continued finger-fucking him for a long time, until finally Rodney nudged him with his foot.


“If you don’t get that big, hard cock of yours inside me sometime soon, Carson, then there’s no way in hell I can hold on,” he said impatiently. Carson gazed at him.


“Are you sure you’re ready?” he asked.


“I’m practically bouncing off the ceiling!” Rodney protested. “If you don’t do me within the next 2 minutes I’ll very likely expire.”


“Aye, dautie…very likely,” Carson said, with a slight roll of his eyes. “Okay. Just let me know if you change your mind.”


Rodney very much doubted that would be the case. He lifted his hips and placed his legs on Carson’s shoulders and Carson positioned himself between his legs and parted Rodney’s buttocks with his hands. They’d made a group decision, awhile ago, to dispense with condoms, as they’d all been tested before they came to Atlantis as a prerequisite for being on the team and none of them had any inclination to take other lovers. Carson nudged his cock into Rodney’s anus, and Rodney relaxed, any last fears he’d had melting away. This was nothing like being thrown down and brutally raped and it didn’t bring back any memories of the rapes either. Instead it just brought back memories of the many times Carson had done this to him before and how much he loved it and how very much he’d missed it. Carson slid in all the way and Rodney squealed loudly, loving the sensation. This was Carson after all, Carson who he loved and trusted. Carson paused, his body leaning over Rodney’s, his face just above Rodney’s face.


“Is this good, dautie?” he asked softly.


“Oh god yes,” Rodney whimpered, raising his face for a kiss, with which he was duly obliged. Carson stayed there for a long time, his cock embedded to the hilt within Rodney’s body, his mouth pressed to Rodney’s mouth, their tongues sliding ecstatically against each other, and then, finally, he drew back, slid out, and slid straight back in again. Rodney threw his head back, feeling the sweat drip down the side of his face. Oh god this was good! Carson started to go faster now, still keeping an even, steady pace, nothing too fast, nothing to spook Rodney or cause him pain, and Rodney reached down and wrapped a hand around his own cock and slid it up and down in time to Carson’s slow, measured thrusts. He looked up into Carson’s eyes as he made love to him, and Carson was whispering, “Dautie…my dautie…come for me, dautie,” over and over again, and then Rodney was coming and Carson stayed in him a little longer, until he came too, and then he carefully withdrew and threw himself down beside Rodney and took him in his arms so that they were lying there, face to face.


“I will tell you about it, one day,” Rodney said softly, resting his hand on Carson’s thigh and nuzzling the other man’s neck. “When I’m ready. I will tell you.”


“Aye, Rodney, I know. Take your time, dautie,” Carson whispered, his hand rubbing soothing circles on Rodney’s back. “Take your time.”






John returned a couple of days later and the senior staff all assembled in the control room to hear the ‘interesting news’ they’d been promised. Rodney was relieved to see that John was at least back in uniform, although the long Karkaran braid remained and the scar made him look as fierce as ever.


“I’m satisfied that we’ve brought back all of our people who are still alive,” John told the assembled room. “The rest are dead.” His jaw clamped down into a hard line, and Rodney could see that every muscle in his body was clenched and his heart sank. He had hoped that now that John had done all he could for the remaining Atlanteans that he’d put Karkara behind him and become the old, relaxed, fun-loving, teasing John that Rodney missed so much, but that didn’t look likely. Rodney sighed and gazed down at his own hands where they rested on the table.


“Some died as a result of the privations of their captivity,” John continued. “And the rest were fed to the Wraith.”


“What?” Elizabeth gasped, and Rodney jerked his head up to look at John in shock.


“The Wraith?” Rodney repeated blankly. “But we didn’t see any signs of the Wraith on Karkara.”


“Nope. That’s because the Karkarans struck a deal with the Wraith, a very long time ago,” John told them. “They would provide a steady supply of food for the Wraith, by way of people they stole from other planets, and in return the Wraith would leave the Karkarans alone. There was a Wraith zone to the west of Shalla, close to the gate, where the Karkarans left their little offerings.”


“How very organised of them,” Rodney muttered bitterly. John nodded his head in Rodney’s direction and made a little face.


“Yeah. Very organised. The Karkarans always make sure their Wraith fodder are plentiful and tethered close to the gate for whenever the Wraith want a little snack, so it’s nice and easy for the Wraith – no need to go hunting, everything just laid right out in front of them like a feast. Karkara is on the way to one of the big Wraith feeding grounds – it’s kind of like a wayfaring station between hyperdrive jumps – so this agreement worked out well for the Wraith.”


“Kind of like stopping for fast food,” Rodney said.


“Exactly,” John nodded. “The agreement went further than that though. The Wraith were concerned that if they allowed the Karkaran population to grow unchecked that eventually the Karkarans might develop enough to make weapons that they could use against them. So a condition of this whole agreement was that…”


“The Karkarans weren’t allowed any technology,” Rodney finished for him. “Well that’s all starting to make an ugly kind of sense. The Karkarans presumably agreed to this?”


“Oh yeah.” John nodded. “They thought it was a pretty good deal actually. They got to exist without fear of the Wraith, and all they had to do was agree to live in the middle ages.”


“My owner didn’t seem to know anything about this deal,” Carson ventured uncertainly.


“Most ordinary Karkarans don’t. They don’t see the Wraith – their government takes care of their deal with the Wraith, and it was struck such a long time ago that most of the people on Karkara have forgotten that the Wraith even exist,” John shrugged.


“Although, really, knowing what a touchy feely kind of people they are, I can’t somehow see them having any problem with this deal,” Rodney said.


“Exactly. And when the Karkarans first made this deal they used to send bandits out through the gate just to get victims to feed the Wraith…but in time, they got so good at abducting people that they had far more than they needed…and that’s when their thriving slave trade sprang up,” John said, in a cold, hard voice. “The bandits mostly live offworld – they get paid well and there isn’t any sanction against them using technology offworld – so that’s how they were able to develop the device that got them past our gate’s shield. In fact, they’re such magpies that they probably stole it from some of their other victims.”


“Did any of our people get fed to the Wraith?” Carson asked quietly. John’s jaw tightened again.


“Yeah. A small tithe went to the Wraith from every slave shipment. I’ve got a list of those we think perished out there in the Wraith zone.”


“What did you do, John?” Elizabeth asked. “I’m sure, knowing you, that you didn’t leave the situation there.”


“No.” John inclined his head and his Karkaran braid whipped angrily against the side of his face. “With Commander Caldwell’s help, we destroyed their gate…but not before we took ourselves a prisoner.” There was a grim smile on his lips that Rodney found alarming. “We’ve brought back a wraith – and a completely intact Wraith dart. It’s on the Daedalus – I’m going to arrange to have it transported straight into your lab, McKay.” John nodded in Rodney’s direction.


“A completely whole Wraith dart?” Rodney asked, excited. They’d had bits of a dart before, but never a whole, working ship and there was no end of information they could glean from it. He turned to Radek who was grinning back at him, just as excited.


“We need to study their propulsion systems and method of transportation first,” Radek said.


“No, no, no!” Rodney snapped, getting to his feet, noticing that Radek had a pleased smile on his face at being treated to such a familiar irascible outburst. “We need to get our hands on their database first. That’ll tell us everything about them. There might even be some medical data there that Beckett can use to understand their physiology better – that might give us some clue as to what can kill them…” Rodney and Radek left the room, still discussing the find in animated voices. It felt good, Rodney thought to himself, to be talking to Radek again and bouncing ideas off each other like in the old days. It was never going to be exactly the same as before but at least there were periods of time when he could relate to Radek as a trusted colleague and not the distraught man who’d cried beside him out by the well. Rodney had noticed that Radek was spending a lot of time with Katie Brown, and he was glad about that. While he didn’t think there was anything romantic going on between them – for now at least – he was pleased that they had formed a friendship and were able to help each other.


At the back of his mind Rodney knew he was throwing himself into this new research partly to avoid dealing with the whole John issue, and he also knew that at some point they’d have to deal with it or it’d blow up in their faces like a grenade, but for now he pushed the problem away and concentrated on his work instead. He didn’t see much of the colonel during their working lives because John seemed to spend most of his time with their wraith prisoner. Rodney still shared a bed with John, with Carson in the middle as Rodney’s safety buffer, but John’s angry, restless presence was like coarse cloth rubbing away at a raw wound as far as Rodney was concerned and he couldn’t handle it. Rodney felt as if he’d been healing before John had returned, but then John came back and suddenly everything felt tight and tense again. Rodney couldn’t even relax enough to make love to Carson when John wasn’t there; he felt too uptight. He avoided the Colonel whenever possible, making excuses not to be in the same room as him and hastily returning to work whenever he found himself alone with John in their quarters when Carson wasn’t there, even if it was the middle of the night.


This sensation came to a head a few nights after John returned, when Rodney dreamed he was back at the well. He was lying over that rough stone wall, and his thighs hurt from where the gritty surface was scraping them, and behind him someone was laying savage fingers on his ass, prising him apart…and, as he looked down into the water below, he saw a face gazing back up at him. He barely recognised the face – it was thin and pale and had unkempt, long hair and a straggly, untidy beard, but there was something about the eyes that Rodney thought he should find familiar. They were blue, and they were beseeching him, and as he watched the man’s mouth opened and he started to talk. At first his voice sounded as if it was coming from underwater, but then the words became clearer.


“Why did you leave me here?” it whispered to him. “Why did you leave me behind? They hurt me every day…and you just left me here to suffer,” the voice murmured sadly. Rodney could hear someone sobbing, and the sound of the loud, anguished tears grated on his nerves. “Shut up, Radek,” he muttered in his sleep. “If you could just damn well SHUT UP, RADEK!” A feeling of such overwhelming despair and misery swept through Rodney that he screamed out loud – and woke to find himself sitting up in bed, panting for air, howling uncontrollably. That was when he realised that the person crying hadn’t been Radek but himself.


“Rodney…it’s okay, dautie. You’re safe,” Carson said, sitting up beside him and wrapping an arm around Rodney’s shoulders. “Come on…wake up for me…” Rodney came to, shivering violently and realised his body was soaked in sweat. “All right, Rodney. Let’s get you towelled down or you’ll catch your death of cold,” Carson said, helping him out of the bed. John got up and turned on the light and Rodney caught that familiar, savage expression in his eyes as Carson walked him into the other room and got him a towel. He was too upset to go back to bed and they all sat around the table, sipping tea, while Rodney tried to calm down.


“What was the nightmare about, Rodney?” Carson asked gently, resting his hand on Rodney’s. “Do you want to tell us?”


“I was at the bottom of a well…or at least…it wasn’t me now – it was the man I was back at the plantation,” Rodney said, rubbing a tired hand over his eyes. “He wanted to know why I’d left him there. I was looking down at him…the way I used to look down at my reflection when…” He sighed and looked up, glancing from Carson to John. “The overseers used to rape me over the wall of the well,” he said quietly. “All I could see while they were raping me was my own reflection gazing back at me from the water at the bottom of the well, watching me being raped. That’s what I saw in my nightmare.”


John got up, his fists clenching and unclenching in response to what Rodney had told him and Rodney sighed. How could he ever tell them about what had happened to him with any degree of honesty if it always set John off like this?


“You mentioned Radek,” John said. “You were screaming at him to shut up.”


“Yes.” Rodney bit on his lip. “Radek was there when they raped me. He used to lie beside the well screaming his head off. I think it turned one of the overseers on.”


“Fuck.” John slammed his hand against the wall. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” he screamed. Then he disappeared back to the bedroom, got dressed, and strode back out into the living room again, making for the door.


“Where are you going, John?” Carson asked.


“I need to go and interrogate my prisoner,” John said, with a grim, mirthless smile. He slammed his hand against the door to leave, but it wouldn’t open. “What the hell is wrong with the damn door?” John asked. “McKay?”


Rodney sighed and got up, gathering his bathrobe tightly around his body. “Maybe you jammed the door mechanism when you thumped it like that,” he snapped at John. He examined the door but there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with it. He touched it and it opened easily. John brushed past him and literally ran off down the hallway. Rodney turned back to Carson.


“So much for telling you what happened,” he said wearily. “You know, I’m not sure all this psychobabble about getting things off your chest is such a good idea, Carson. I mean, it’s all very well talking about it but what if it just makes things worse? And I bet there’s nothing in the textbooks about handling someone who doesn’t want to hear the truth, even if you want to tell it.”


“Give him time, Rodney,” Carson said gently. “You were very brave tonight, but John loves you and he can’t bear hearing about how you were hurt, especially as he blames himself. I think his feelings just get out of control.”


“So he goes running off to take it all out on his wraith punchbag,” Rodney muttered. “You know, I never thought I’d actually ever feel sorry for a wraith.”


“Aye.” Carson shook his head sadly.


“I just woke up with the strangest sensation that I’d left a part of myself behind, back on that plantation,” Rodney told Carson, sitting back down at the table with a weary sigh. “Have I lost myself, Carson? Am I still back out there? Will I always be back out there?”


“No, dautie,” Carson said, putting an arm around him and drawing him close. “No. You’ve been doing so well. You’re like the old Rodney. You’ve even put on a few pounds and you’re starting to look and sound much like your old self. I don’t think you can ever escape what happened to you, and you certainly can’t forget…but you’ve been learning how to live with it and learning very well. I think the nightmare was just because you’re feeling unsettled since…” He broke off with a wince.


“Since John returned. Yes. I know.” Rodney nodded. “What are we going to do about him, Carson?” he asked despairingly.


“I don’t know.” Carson shook his head. “I really don’t know.”


They went back to bed, and Rodney laid a tired head on Carson’s shoulder but he didn’t dare sleep for the rest of the night in case the nightmare returned, so they just lay there, holding each other, until morning came.






Rodney was busy working on the wraith dart a few days later when he felt a strange sensation at the back of his mind. He brushed it away, but it remained there, nagging at him, until he took a step back from the dart and tried to figure out what the problem was. Something wasn’t right. In fact…something was badly, urgently wrong. Rodney had a sudden image of Elizabeth, standing on the Eastern pier…and he dropped his tools and ran for the door, leaving a surprised Radek behind. He ran all the way to the Eastern pier and when he got there he found Elizabeth standing by the balustrade, gazing sightlessly at the water far below, swaying towards it as if she wanted to throw herself over the parapet and jump right in. Rodney came to a fast halt, not wanting to surprise her into doing something stupid. At the moment she didn’t even seem to know he was there; she was just gazing at the water as if it was calling to her. Rodney took a step back and spoke quietly and urgently into his radio.


“Colonel Caldwell? This is Dr McKay. I need you to get a fix on the lifesign right at the end of the Eastern pier and prepare to beam her up on my command. This is urgent!”


“I hear you, Dr McKay. Anything I can help you with?” Caldwell asked.


“It’s Elizabeth. Just be on standby for a quick pickup,” Rodney said and then he severed the link and stepped out onto the pier.


“Elizabeth,” he said in a soft, soothing voice. She took no notice of him, as if she hadn’t heard him. “It’s a nice day for a walk,” he told her, taking a careful step forward.


“The water looks good,” she told him dreamily. “I was thinking of going for a swim.”


“That’s a good idea,” he agreed, taking another cautious step forward. “Why don’t we go together? I could get the puddle jumper…we could go to a beach. We wouldn’t want to swim in the water here because it’s too deep and cold.”


Her face swivelled around sharply and he saw the bitter pain in her eyes as they flashed at him and now he knew Carson and John had been feeling for all these weeks – so useless and at sea, not knowing how best to help.


“Don’t come any nearer, Rodney,” she told him, and her voice cracked as she spoke.


“I won’t.” He stopped where he was and held up his hands. He knew it was very important that people listened to you, and that they did what you said, and that they didn’t touch you unless you knew they were going to and you allowed them. When you’d lost control of what happened to your own body and then regained it again, small things like that made a big difference.


“I want to do this, Rodney,” she told him calmly. “I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. It makes sense. It’ll be quick and then it’ll all be over. I’m not really much to use to anyone like this so it’d be easier if I just left.”


“You were of use to me the other day,” Rodney told her carefully. “When I’d been crying. You were very kind to me. Do you remember what you said? You said we all have bad days. This is one of your bad days, Elizabeth, but it’ll pass. Tomorrow could be a good day but if you do this then you’ll never find out. Don’t do this, Elizabeth.”


“I really want to, Rodney,” she told him, her face crumpling. Her hands were gripping the balustrade railing so tightly that her knuckles were white.


“I know and I understand. You know I really do understand don’t you?” he said, taking another step towards her, so close that they were almost touching. She gazed at him again, something about his tone of voice connecting with her, and the dreamy look faded a little as she focussed on his eyes.


“Yes. I do know that, Rodney. Poor Rodney.” He took another step towards her, and put one of his hands over one of hers. “What did they do to us, Rodney?” she asked him, in a tone of such hopeless despair that he wanted to take her in his arms and hold her and keep her safe. Was this how John felt, he wondered? That urge to protect made even worse by the terrible burden of guilt that John had taken on himself. No wonder he was stomping around like a rampaging bull right now.


“They hurt us, Elizabeth,” he told her, acknowledging her pain because he knew she needed that, because he had needed it too. “But we’re stronger than that. They didn’t manage to break us, because we’re here, now. We got away from them, and we survived, and that’s made us strong. We are strong, Elizabeth, and we will get even stronger.” He reached out an arm, very slowly so she could see it coming, and then wrapped it around her cold, frail shoulders. “Come on. Come inside with me,” he urged her, wishing she’d release her tight grip on the rail. “We can talk about this.”


“Are you sure?” she said, her teeth chattering in the cool breeze. “Are you sure it wouldn’t be better if…” She gazed longingly over the rail at the dark water below.


“No. I’m sure. Trust me,” he told her, holding her in his arms now, trying to warm her. Her fingers opened, one by one, and she loosened her grip on the rail and allowed him to lead her back into the city. Much to his surprise, Rodney found Colonel Caldwell waiting for them just inside.


“Well done, Dr McKay. You did a good job out there. I can take this from here,” Caldwell said, reaching out a hand towards Elizabeth. She took the hand blindly, as if still lost in a dream.


“I don’t think that’s wise,” Rodney hissed. “I think she needs to see Doctor Heightmeyer or Doctor Beckett.”


“And I said that I’ll take care of it,” Caldwell told him, in a deceptively mild tone so as not to spook Elizabeth, but Rodney saw the determined look in the other man’s eyes and had to admit defeat.


“All right, but take good care of her,” he said as he gently passed Elizabeth over to the Colonel.


That little exchange bothered him all afternoon, so a few hours later he took a break from his work on the wraith dart and went to the Daedalus which was parked on the Western pier.


“How’s Elizabeth?” he demanded as soon as he’d been shown into Caldwell’s private cabin.


“She’s fine. She’s back in her room. Doctor Beckett gave her something to help her sleep,” Caldwell told him. “I was watching you out there, Dr McKay – you did an excellent job. Thank you for helping her.”


“She’s my friend. Of course I helped her,” Rodney bristled. “Look, I don’t know what game you’re playing here, Colonel. She’s been through a lot but she’ll get better. Don’t mistake what you saw today for weakness. She’s always been here for us and she always will be – the last thing she needs is to be replaced as our leader.”


“I agree,” Caldwell told him easily. “Your concern for her does you credit, Dr McKay but you’re misunderstanding me.”


“Am I?” Rodney narrowed his eyes and gazed at the other man searchingly.


“Yes,” Caldwell told him firmly but calmly. “When I got your message earlier I gave instructions to my crew about the transport and then beamed straight down myself, because this was Elizabeth you were talking about and I wanted to make sure she was safe.”


“Oh.” Rodney rocked back on his heels and surveyed the other man thoughtfully, realisation flooding in. “I see,” he said at last. “Or…at least I think I do. I thought you and she didn’t get along? You were always sniping at each other.”


“The way you and Colonel Sheppard are always sniping at each other?” Caldwell shot back. Rodney flushed. “Yes, Elizabeth and I have had our differences but she’s a fine woman and I admire and respect her greatly.”


“Okay,” Rodney said uncertainly. “But look, she’s in a vulnerable place right now. She’s hardly ready to…” he waved his hand around, unsure how to finish that sentence.


“It’s okay, Dr McKay. I know that. I won’t take advantage of her,” Caldwell told him, and his eyes flashed in annoyance, as if insulted Rodney would even suggest such a thing. “I did read the reports,” he added. “I know what happened to you all on Karkara.”


“Well…there were a lot of things that weren’t in those reports,” Rodney told him grimly, because he knew the report he’d written was factual to the point of banality, and he’d only given the most basic summary of his time on Karkara.


“I know that too,” Caldwell told him softly. Rodney’s head jerked up and he found himself flushing again under the Colonel’s strangely kind gaze. “I saw you when we first beamed you up, Dr McKay,” Caldwell told him gently. “You know, when I was 18 years old I was part of a team that rescued some prisoners from a Viet Cong jail and I’ll never forget them – they had the same look in their eyes that you’ve got and that Elizabeth has too. I have a pretty good idea what happened to you both, and you have my word that I will be a friend to Elizabeth, and nothing more, until such time as she wants or asks for anything else.”


“Oh. Right. Good.” Rodney ducked his head and gazed at his shoes, unsure how he felt about his eyes giving away his most painful secret to this stern, imposing man.


“I wouldn’t dream of asking for Elizabeth to be removed from her post,” the Colonel continued. “I’ve watched her and she inspires the utmost respect and loyalty from those in her command – and that, to me, is the sign of an outstanding leader. You don’t need to worry about her, Dr McKay. You’d do better to worry about someone closer to home.”


“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rodney flared, glancing up again to meet the other man’s steady, brown-eyed gaze.


“I mean that I know about the unusual living arrangement you have with Colonel Sheppard and he’s the one on the edge right now. You’d do better to turn your attention to dealing with him. I’ve just spent several days with the man and he’s a danger to himself and to others.”


“That’s not fair! He protected us all on Karkara and saved dozens of lives!” Rodney protested.


“I’m sure he did, but right now he’s out of control, and quite frankly I question his judgement at the moment. If you don’t take care of it, then I promise you that I can and will relieve him of his command,” Caldwell rapped out. Rodney stared at him, aghast. He knew that being relieved of his command would kill John, but at the same time Rodney couldn’t deny the little voice of reason in his own brain which agreed with Caldwell’s decision. John was dangerous – they were all feeling it right now.


“I’ll do my best,” he said, in a resigned voice. “Although frankly I think you over-estimate my abilities in this area.”


“I just saw you talk Elizabeth down from that pier so I’ve got tremendous respect for your abilities right now,” Caldwell told him with a smile. That compliment warmed Rodney a little and he left the cabin to return to his lab, wondering how the hell he was going to tackle John.


He’d only been back at his lab for a few minutes when he got a call from John.


“McKay – what’s wrong with the damn lights down here?”


“It’s the first I’ve heard of it – what’s the problem?” Rodney asked.


“I’m trying to interrogate the prisoner and the lights keep flickering on and off.”


“Haven’t you interrogated him enough?” Rodney snapped.


“Just get the hell down here and fix it!” John growled, cutting the link. Rodney sighed, and grabbed his tool kit and went down to the room where John was keeping the prisoner. He pushed open the door and stood there, blinking in surprise. The walls of the room were pulsing, not with the usual warm shade of Atlantean red, but with stripes of ugly, dark, charcoal black, and the lighting was dim and flickering, as John had said.


John was standing to one side, his knuckles bruised, his hair still tied in that tight Karkaran braid. The prisoner was sitting in the pen where they kept all their Wraith prisoners. He looked pretty much like any other Wraith – white face, long white hair, bad teeth, stylish leather coat.


“They must spend a fortune on tailors,” Rodney remarked to nobody in particular. “Although clearly they spend nothing at all on dental hygiene.”


John gazed at him blankly.


“Just making conversation.” Rodney pulled a face. The prisoner was being guarded by several marines with guns – John clearly wasn’t taking any chances. “So, what’s this one’s name?” Rodney asked as he went over to the lighting control panel.


“What?” John snapped.


“You always give all your pet wraiths a name. Steve, Bob…” Rodney shrugged. “What’s this one called?”


“He doesn’t have a name,” John replied tersely. “Can you fix the damn lights or not?”


Rodney put his instruments down. “Don’t talk to me like that, Colonel. I’m not your prisoner,” he said, glancing over at the wraith. The creature gave him a cool, utterly evil smile and licked his lips as if in anticipation of a meal. Rodney shivered. “Are you sure that pen is safe?” he muttered.


“It’s fine. Now, Dr McKay, could you please fix the lights,” John said, through gritted teeth, the effort to be polite clearly killing him.


Rodney thought about it for a moment and an idea suddenly occurred to him. “I think I know why the Karkarans left Atlantis,” he said suddenly, as it all clicked into place.


“What? Why?” John asked eagerly, coming close.


“It’s the city. The city drove them out,” Rodney said, thinking on his feet, his brain racing several steps ahead.


“The city isn’t sentient. It can’t drive people out,” John said dismissively.


“No, it isn’t sentient – but it does have all kinds of powers that we haven’t figured out yet. It can detect airborn viruses and lock people out of rooms, and it responds to certain people with the ancient gene and not to others. There’s every evidence that Atlantis is more than just a collection of buildings – albeit a rather beautiful collection of buildings,” Rodney mused.


“McKay!” John snapped, bringing him back to his argument.


“What? Oh yes…I’ve been having these strange experiences ever since I got back,” Rodney told him, speaking very fast. “I felt like the city was holding me, taking care of me somehow, and that’s what helped me in the beginning. Then I had this mental flash of Carson when he was in trouble, and today I saw Elizabeth when she needed help…and I’m pretty sure she had a similar mental flash about me a little while back, when I was in a bad way and she called me to her office. I think the city is telling us things. It’s like…it’s like it’s trying to heal us. I bet if you ask the others some of them will tell you the same thing. It isn’t much, just little flashes…”


“The city isn’t telepathic,” John said, shaking his head.


“Maybe not. Maybe not as we would understand the word at least…but she is in tune with us,” Rodney said slowly. “And I think…I think she likes us.”


“Even if this was true – what the hell does it have to do with the Karkarans leaving?” John demanded.


“Well, that’s just it. I don’t think Atlantis liked the Karkarans. In fact, I’m pretty sure she hated them. So she stopped responding to them. Lights went out, doors closed…they must have been pretty angry – we all know the Karkarans don’t like not getting their own way – that’s why they trashed the place. They couldn’t make the city work so they trashed it!” Rodney clicked his fingers excitedly. “Then eventually they gave up. They stole what they wanted to sell, and they upped and left.”


“I don’t know,” John said uncertainly.


“It’s the only thing that makes any sense!” Rodney exclaimed. “And no, I don’t think it’s a telepathic thing – it’s more of a mechanical thing, just mechanics that we don’t fully understand yet. The Ancients knew they were leaving Atlantis, for god knows how long, and they didn’t want it falling into enemy hands. They designed this as a defence mechanism – probably initially against the Wraith, but also against any other hostile invader. The city already had the protection of needing someone with the Ancient gene to operate it properly, and the Karkarans clearly didn’t possess that, but the place still worked, in a rudimentary way, even without that, so they were able to live here. In time though, Atlantis figured out that she really didn’t like these people very much, so she just stopped working for them altogether.”


“It’s possible,” John said slowly. “But if that’s the case why is she still on the blink now that we’ve returned?” He gestured to the dimly lit room.


“Ah well, that’s easy.” Rodney snapped his tool case shut and turned to John. “Right now, Atlantis doesn’t like you very much either, Colonel.”


“What?” John growled.


“I know – it’s hard to believe isn’t it? This city always worshipped you and opened up all her doors for you wherever you walked, practically serenaded you with music wherever you went, but right now, she thinks you really suck,” Rodney told him with a grim smile.


“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” John demanded.


“It means that if you don’t deal with that little anger problem of yours, then this city is going to stop working for you. No lights, no opening doors, no trips in the puddle jumper…she’s going to drive you out, John,” Rodney told him insistently. “The city must have powerful emotional receptor sensors somewhere – she knows who she likes and who she doesn’t, and even despite the fact that this is a wraith…” Rodney nodded his head at the creature in the cage. “I don’t think she approves of how you’re treating him.”


“I’m interrogating him!” John growled. “It’s necessary!”


“Is it? Then why didn’t you give him a name, like all the other Wraith you’ve held captive here?” Rodney demanded. “I’ll tell you why – because you’re not really interested in learning anything from this one. You just want to keep him here so you can beat up on him whenever your emotions get the better of you. You want revenge, John. You want to hurt the people who hurt you and the people you love – but you can’t because they aren’t here right now, so you’ll settle for whoever you *can* get your hands on and this Wraith will do because he was one of those who fed off our people on Karkara, and because god knows the Wraith are evil, life-sucking bastards and you don’t have to feel bad about venting all your anger and misery on them.”


John was standing there, looking as if he’d just been slapped across the face, his eyebrows drawn into an ugly frown over his forehead, his scar standing out livid in his flesh.


“Do you know what? I think we should give this wraith a name,” Rodney said, going over to the cage. “I’ve got a good name for him – how about Dorian? Did you ever hear the legend of Dorian Grey, John? Dorian Grey kept a magical picture of himself in his attic, and Dorian didn’t age but the picture did – the picture showed up every disgusting, evil thing that Dorian did. This Wraith is our picture in the attic. He’s where you come to vent all your anger and pain. He’s our little corner of Atlantis where we keep the thing that reminds us of our suffering back on Karkara and that’s why this room is shot through with that angry black colour and that’s why the lights aren’t working properly and it’ll only get worse unless you make it stop. It has to stop. You have to kill him, John. You can’t keep him here and just torment him like this. It’s destroying you.”


“I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, McKay, but we’re not killing him,” John said. “We need him. There are still things I need to know.”


“And has kicking him around this pen actually helped you learn anything useful?” Rodney enquired with a raised eyebrow. John clenched his fists. “No. I didn’t think so. You don’t want him to tell you anything – you just want to hurt him. And luckily for you, because of his remarkable ability to repair his body you can just keep coming back for more, over and over again. Well, it has to end, John. Right here. Right now.”


Rodney didn’t even know what he was doing as he stepped forward, pulled the gun out of John’s thigh holster, and stepped towards the pen.


“Rodney? What the hell are you doing?” John shouted, but it was too late, Rodney was moving too fast. He disabled the force-field around the pen and jumped inside, gun raised, and then suddenly he realised what an incredibly stupid thing he’d just done because the wraith was running towards him, hand outstretched, reaching for his chest, and Rodney raised the gun, then fumbled with it, and managed to let off a couple of shots which didn’t slow the wraith down at all if they even went near him, and now it was upon him, knocking the gun out of his hand with one swipe of his hand, fingertips reaching for Rodney’s chest and then he was falling…


“Rodney! No! Let him go, you fucking bastard!” Rodney heard a blood-curdling shout and he saw John leap over him, grab the Wraith by the throat, and pull it bodily away from him.


“Get away from him! Get your fucking fingers off him!” John was screaming, as he took hold of the wraith and buried his fist in its face. “You don’t fucking touch him! He’s mine! He’s mine, he’s mine, he’s mine…” He said it over and over again, as he threw punch after furious punch at the wraith – and despite its superior strength the creature stood no chance under the onslaught. John was possessed, manic, a whirlwind of frenzied fury, completely unreachable.


Rodney lay there, watching in horror as John completely destroyed the wraith, hitting it time and time again until it was lying dead in his grasp – and still John’s fist didn’t slow and he continued to punch it, his body heaving as he sobbed his mantra over and over again. Finally he came to a halt and slid slowly sideways, wraith blood splattered all over his fists. Only then did Rodney feel it was safe to go near him.


“It’s all right,” he said softly, crouching down beside him and putting out a tentative hand to touch him. John gave a choking sob and buried his face in his hands. He looked so completely desolate that Rodney reached out and put his arms around him, stroking him gently, as if he was a child. “I think he got the message that I’m, you know, yours,” Rodney said, managing to coax a ghost of a grin from John.


“He tried to kill you,” John muttered, as if that explained everything.


“Yes I know, but you were able to protect me,” Rodney said, because he sensed this was extremely important to the other man. “You saved me, John, and I’m safe. He didn’t hurt me.” He rocked John against his body, trying to calm him. “I’m fine. He didn’t hurt me. You protected me,” he said, over and over again. After a long time, the other man’s tremours subsided, and it was only then that Rodney looked up to see the shocked faces of the marines in the room. “It’s okay,” he told them. “I’m going to take Colonel Sheppard back to his quarters. You guys should clean up the room and get rid of the body.”


He helped John to his feet, put his arm around him, and helped him walk along the hallway back to their quarters. He sat him down at the table and went to get some water to wash the wraith blood from him and bathe his cut and bleeding knuckles.


“I won’t be any use at this,” Rodney warned as he brought the water over. “We should probably call Carson. I’m a really crap nurse.”


“You’re a really crap shot as well,” John said, and he sounded like the old John, who used to tease him all the time and that made Rodney smile. “Honestly, what is it with you and guns?” John said tiredly. “How many times do I have to show you how to tell one end of a gun from the other?”


“Poor John,” Rodney grinned. “Assigned to look after a whole city full of geeks.”


“Yeah, but you’re my geeks,” John said affectionately. “And I’ve become used to all the reams of technobabble and scientific weirdness that goes on around here. I like my geeks.”


“Clearly – enough to take two of them to bed,” Rodney replied, wiping some of the blood off John’s hand. John gave a little smile.


“Yeah,” he replied. “Just can’t get enough of all the boffin talk, even in the bedroom. Seriously though, Rodney – what the hell possessed you to walk into that pen? I mean, you know what the Wraith can do and you know how quickly they can do it.”


“I know,” Rodney sighed. “I guess I wasn’t really thinking straight. I just wanted you to see – to make you understand what was happening.”


“I understood,” John said quietly. “So, the city hates me huh?”


“Well…I’m sure she’s capricious enough to easily change her mind if you’re nice to her,” Rodney reassured him.


“And you?” John caught his hand in his where he was trying to wash his knuckles. “Do you hate me, Rodney?”


“No! Why would you even think that?” Rodney demanded.


“You don’t want me to touch you, you won’t let me make love to you, you avoid me, you won’t talk to me, you flinch when I come near you, you won’t even sleep next to me…” John listed his reasons and Rodney had to admit he had a point.


“I’ve been scared of you,” he explained and then almost wished he hadn’t said that when he saw the devastated look on the other man’s face. “You’ve been so angry…and I couldn’t handle that after Karkara. There were too many people who were angry with me back there. Always shouting at me and hitting me and hurting me. I just wanted some peace and quiet.”


“I’m sorry. I never meant to scare you,” John said softly and Rodney knew that he meant it. “I just didn’t know how to be close to you. You stopped joking around with me.”


“You started calling me ‘McKay’ the whole time, even when we were alone,” Rodney pointed out. “I never knew what kind of a mood you were in. It’s hard to joke with someone when you don’t know where you stand with them.”


“Rodney…I just need you to know…” John held his hand tight and gazed at him with those big hazel eyes of his, sincerity radiating from every muscle in his body. “I am so sorry. I know I let you down – I let everyone down but you most of all. I should have planned for something like what happened. I should have been able to defend you all better. You’re not soldiers – protecting you was my job and I screwed up, big time.”


“No, you didn’t, John,” Rodney sighed. “You couldn’t possibly have foreseen this. You’ve been a brilliant military commander of Atlantis and you’ve done a superb job. You’ve saved my life on more occasions than I count, not least about half an hour ago. I’m not the one who doesn’t forgive you – you are.”


John sighed and leaned back in his chair, nodding thoughtfully. “Well, I guess I can give that a try,” he said.


“Good.” Rodney nodded firmly. “As for the sex thing…John, you have to stop the rough sex games with Carson. It’s not really his thing. Oh he didn’t say anything – I saw the two of you before you went back to Karkara.”


“Did I hurt him? I didn’t mean to,” John said, an agonised expression on his face. “It’s just that with you…”


“I know, but then I like it when we do the whole rough sex thing,” Rodney told him quickly. “Carson really doesn’t.”


“Oh god.” John buried his face in his hands. “I guess I don’t even need the Karkarans to screw up my geeks when I’m doing such a good job of it myself,” he muttered.


“You didn’t screw us up,” Rodney chided. “We were all just freaked out and not acting like ourselves. As for the sex – I’ll have rough sex with you any time you like – in fact I’ll have any kind of sex with you any time you like – but I won’t have angry sex, John, so if you’re still angry then forget it.”


“I’m feeling better from talking to you,” John said quietly. “It’s not easy hearing some of what you have to say and I can’t promise I’m not still…a tiny bit wound up inside…” he inclined his head to Rodney with one of his ironic grins, “but I guess I’m feeling a bit more in control of myself.”


“Good…because we could, you know, clear the table and get down and dirty…if you’re in the mood?” Rodney offered with a grin. He wasn’t sure whether this was a good idea or not, but John was looking as sexy as hell right now, with his long hair looking adorably awry where some of it had escaped from the braid in his scuffle with the wraith, and with his black shirt torn open at the neck to reveal an attractive portion of chest. Also, he felt they needed to somehow cement this emotional catharsis and find a way back to themselves, while exorcising some old demons along the way.


“Ah, I bet you say that to all the guys who save you from certain death,” John teased.


“Yeah. I’m easy – what can I say?” Rodney grinned. He got up and perched on the table in front of John, put his hands on either side of his lover’s face and pulled him close, then leaned forward and kissed him hard on the lips. John came eagerly, willingly, his hands reaching for Rodney’s hips. Rodney twined his hand roughly in John’s hair as he kissed him, releasing the rest of the braid so that the long hair hung free around the colonel’s shoulders. John tried to push him back, but Rodney held him tightly by the hair, keeping him in place, and the colonel moaned and came back at him, fiercely, like a starving man needing sustenance, sucking down hard on Rodney’s lips. It had been so long since they’d kissed like this, and they were both famished for more, and couldn’t get enough of each other.


Then paused only for air, then went back in for another hungry kiss. John moaned and bucked against Rodney’s body out of sheer sexual need, his hands sliding around Rodney’s back, holding him tight. Rodney kept control of the kiss, going hard, keeping John captive with the hand he had wrapped in his hair. When finally he released the colonel, John was looking up at him with sex-glazed eyes. “You go get the lube,” Rodney said. “I’ll clear the table.”


“Fuck the table,” John said, in a low, husky growl, and he got up and cleared it with one sweep of his arm. The bowl of water and various half-empty coffee cups fell onto the floor with a clatter. “Clear enough for you?” John asked.


“Well, lacking a certain finesse but it got the job done,” Rodney hummed happily, swiftly divesting himself of his shirt and turning his attention to unbuckling his belt with hasty fingers. John disappeared to get the lube and was back within 5 seconds to find Rodney just finishing with his belt.


“What’s the holdup?” John demanded, and then he grabbed Rodney’s pants and ripped them from him bodily, along with his boxers.


“Again with the finesse!” Rodney complained, but he wasn’t complaining a second later when John got hold of him and threw him back onto the table. Rodney’s cock was rock hard by this point, and he was excited by the expression of total sexual abandon in John’s eyes. This wasn’t angry sex – it was hot sex! John released his own hard cock from his pants and then pushed Rodney back down on the table, grabbed Rodney’s arms, and thumped them down over Rodney’s head, holding Rodney as his captive on the table. Rodney gazed up at him, seriously turned on. John lowered his head down to his captive’s lips and kissed Rodney hungrily and Rodney pushed up against him with his face, unable to move his arms, needing to taste his lover. He could feel John’s hard cock pressing against his ass and genitals and he wanted him inside him. He wrapped his legs around John’s body and pulled him closer, and John kept Rodney in place with one hand, reached his other hand down between them and caught hold of Rodney’s cock with a hard, powerful hand that made Rodney cry out loud in pure ecstasy. John grinned, an evil, dirty grin, and kissed him again with such force that it sent Rodney’s cock into a paroxysm of need. John continued to slide his rough hand up and down the sensitive shaft until Rodney was screaming with need and then John removed his hand, slicked his fingers with some lube, and slid one deep into Rodney’s body before going in for another sexy kiss. Rodney moaned, feeling John’s hard fingers inside his body, and smelling the scent of John’s arousal.


“Get in me now!” Rodney panted. John raised an eyebrow.


“When I’m ready,” he said maddeningly.


“Oh god – what is it with you and Carson and the making me beg for it thing?” Rodney moaned, seriously frustrated.


“We just like those little mewling sounds you make when you can’t hold on any more. No fun if we can’t tease you just a bit until you make ’em,” John grinned, a lecherous, utterly evil smile, and his fingers picked up pace in Rodney’s body making Rodney whimper with need. “Yup…that’s the sound,” John said, removing his fingers and replacing them immediately with his hard cock. He took hold of Rodney’s hips and slid in hard, right up to the hilt, and Rodney cried out and bucked up against him, his legs wrapped around John’s back. “Feel’s good, huh?” John said, pausing and gazing down at Rodney.


“Oh for god’s sake, what do you want – a round of applause? Just thrust,” Rodney commanded.


“Oh yeah…very good…” John gave another evil smile and slid out slowly and then back in again just as slowly. “Mewl for me, Rodney.” He ran his hands over Rodney’s body and snagged a nipple hard between his fingers. Rodney cried out and twisted upwards and John moved his face down and replaced his fingers with his mouth, sucking down viciously on Rodney’s nipples, his mouth roving from one to the other. God but Rodney had forgotten how good this kind of sex could be! He met John’s roughness with his own, giving as good as he got, sliding his hands under John’s shirt and scraping his fingernails down John’s back. John laughed at him, and went back for another deep kiss, and then he started moving inside Rodney, pounding into him. Rodney had been afraid that John might go too easy on him and the last thing he wanted was to feel like he was some fragile piece of china that the other man was afraid of breaking, but there was no question of that happening, and John picked up the pace, thrusting powerfully into Rodney’s waiting, willing, utterly receptive body. Rodney loved the heat of it, and the raw sensation, and most of all he loved that this was John doing this to him; John grinning that wild, sexual grin above him, John alternately kissing and tormenting him with his fingers, tongue and teeth, John who he loved and who loved him in return…and John was hitting his prostate with every deep, unerring thrust and Rodney lost the capacity for coherent thought. Next thing he knew there was a bright light and a sensation of the most intense pleasure…and then John was lying on his body, his head resting on Rodney’s chest, his softening cock still inside him, and there seemed to be a significant amount of come on Rodney’s stomach so he knew that his orgasm had been very, very good and his entire body felt utterly and completely well fucked.


“Okay?” John said, moving his face and capturing Rodney’s mouth in a kiss – and this kiss was soft, gentle and utterly loving, now that the sexual urgency was over.


“Mmmm,” Rodney murmured.


“God I missed that,” John sighed. “You always come back at me and throw me everything you’ve got and it’s such a turn on.”


It was, Rodney thought vaguely, a bit like the sexual equivalent of their verbal sparring. The back and forth, the snark, the amused eye contact, and the daring each other on. He sighed and ran his hands tenderly over John’s back. “Me too,” he murmured. “Nobody knows how to do a good down and dirty fuck like you.”


They lay there for a moment and then Rodney felt like he was getting a crick in his leg and he pushed John away and they both stood up and surveyed the mess in the room. There was coffee all over the floor, one of the cups that had been on the table was smashed into smithereens, Rodney’s torn clothes were liberally scattered just about everywhere, and there was an upturned bowl full of water leaking towards the bedroom.


“Carson is so gonna kill us,” John muttered with a hangdog look in Rodney’s direction.


“Well, he’ll kill you because you got into a fight,” Rodney said, glancing at John’s torn knuckles. “And after he’s killed you he’ll probably just take pity on me so I’ll be fine,” he grinned, looking kind of smug.


“Well, I’ll just tell him that you started the fight and then he’ll kill you and fuss over me and bandage my hand,” John replied, pulling one of his faces at Rodney.


“Well, I’ll…”


“Who am I supposed to be killing?” Carson stood in the doorway and surveyed the scene in front of him, a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth.


“Him,” Rodney and John both said in unison, pointing at each other.


“Well I would, but the two of you are both looking so happy that I can’t bring myself to kill either one of you,” Carson said. “Although you might like to put some clothes on, Rodney, and I take it you have another injury for me to treat, John?”


John waved his bruised and cut hand in the air apologetically and Carson sighed. “What on earth is with you two and these endless hand injuries?” he muttered to himself, but he was grinning all the same. Rodney disappeared into the bedroom to get dressed and then returned to the living room to find Carson bandaging John’s hand. Rodney went to sit down and Carson shot him a severe look.


“You – clean up,” he ordered.


“But…” Rodney began.


“It’s your mess,” Carson told him sternly. Rodney sighed and did as he was told. Clearly the kid-glove treatment he’d been receiving from Carson was now well and truly over, and in all honesty, he was kind of pleased about that. This felt much more like old times.


“Hey, Rodney – bring some scissors over,” John asked. “When Carson’s done with my hand then maybe he can cut my hair?” He glanced at Carson with a raised eyebrow. Carson gave another of those utterly blissful little grins.


“I’d love to,” he said.


“I’ll be sorry to see it go,” Rodney said, bringing the scissors over to the table and pausing to run his hand through the long, dark hair in question. “It was kind of nice to be able to grab it and hold you in place.”


“Well you’ll still be able to grab it, only this time it will be shorter,” John told him patiently. “That way you won’t have an unfair advantage over me next time I’m trying to nail you to the table.”


Rodney grinned and cuffed John’s head affectionately and then returned to his chores. When he’d finished clearing up, he sat and watched while Carson cut John’s hair and then, in honour of what Rodney called John’s return to the civilised part of the Pegasus galaxy, Carson decided that a group meal was required and sent Rodney off to scrounge some wine from somewhere and John off to the mess hall to get some food for them to cook.


It felt like old times as they sat around the table, eating and talking. Rodney wasn’t naïve enough to think that all their problems were solved, or to imagine that his own issues had gone away, but he did think that the worst of it was over and the healing had well and truly begun. They told Carson about what had happened with the Wraith, and Rodney’s theory about the city turning on John.


“I had no idea you were so possessive,” Rodney said, as he recounted how John had killed the creature single-handedly while all the time screaming that Rodney was his.


“I am.” John shrugged. “Always have been.”


“But you’ve always been the fun, laid-back guy,” Rodney said, bemused. “To be honest, I thought this…us…the three of us, was just something you were doing to pass the time out here. I didn’t think you were actually…I don’t know…really emotionally involved.”


“Well, you’re wrong.” John shook his head. “I’ll admit…” he paused and then continued “Okay…I don’t like people knowing what I’m feeling so I hide it. I was always pretty damn good at hiding it too until we were shipped off to Karkara – and suddenly I didn’t seem to have any control over my emotions any more. When I saw you in that slave cage, Rodney, it was all I could do not to rip that slaver’s head off and carry you away. You have no idea how excruciating it was to actually have to count out money to buy you.”


“I noticed you didn’t haggle,” Rodney murmured.


“Half a zenari – you were a bargain! They had no idea how much I’d have paid to get you back,” John replied. “Then I had to show you to Carson so he could see which medicine to give you which meant I couldn’t get you covered up immediately and everyone could see you and that made me really angry.”


“I thought he was just checking out his wares,” Rodney said. “And I was worried because he seemed distinctly unimpressed.


“Just really upset to see the condition you were in,” Carson said softly. “I was so afraid we wouldn’t even get you home. When you ran forward and tried to grab me I was worried I’d have to hit you if there’d been any witnesses. I’m just glad there weren’t because I honestly don’t think I could have done that.” Carson put a gentle hand over Rodney’s where it was lying on the table.


“And you were shaking on the horse on the ride back,” John recalled. “I just wished we could have gone faster and I wished I could have told you who we were, but you were so out of it that I knew it would only confuse you and god knows what your reaction would have been. I couldn’t risk saying anything while we were still out in a public place. We’d had a problem with that before, when we were rescuing Dr Biro, so after that I was really careful.”


“Well you got me, and we’re back here, and it’s fine,” Rodney said, gazing at them happily. “Look, seeing as we’re all being honest with each other, I’d like to hear more about those missing months when we were apart, if you can bear to tell me, either of you?” He glanced from one to the other of them. “And when you’re done…there’s some stuff of my own I’d like to share. Would that be okay, John?” he asked the other man. “I don’t want to upset you…I just feel there are things I want you both to know.”


“That would be fine, Rodney,” John replied. “I might not find it easy, but I can handle it.”


They talked long into the night, sharing experiences and admitting to emotions that they’d never dared express to each other before. Rodney wasn’t sure why they had always been so afraid of saying out loud the simple truth that they loved each other, but somehow, after Karkara, it was a much easier thing to say. Rodney finally told them the full details about what had happened to him on Karkara, starting with the kitchens and then moving onto the plantation, and Carson sat there quietly, holding his hand throughout, while John rested a hand on the back of his neck and stroked his hair softly, although Rodney could feel that sometimes John’s hand was shaking. He shared it all, because he needed to. He told them about the rapes, about how often they had happened and how helpless he had felt at being unable to stop them. He told them about stealing food for Radek and about having his fingers broken, and he even shared with them his darkest moment, when he was hanging from the tree being whipped, and overhead the two moons shone down on him and how he thought he’d never see either of his lovers again and wished he’d told them how he much he loved them. Afterwards they all sat back and Carson poured them another glass of wine each and they gazed at each other, emotionally exhausted but yet somehow closer than they’d ever been. Rodney gently fondled Carson’s wrist, tracing the number that was tattooed there.


“I’ve done some experiments to see if we could remove them. It’d take a few sessions and would still leave some faded remnants so it might not be worthwhile,” Carson murmured.


“I don’t mind it. I don’t exactly want to be reminded of my time on Karkara but I can live with it. It’s sort of…a badge of honour,” Rodney mused, thinking how crazy that sounded when he remembered how much fuss he’d made when they first etched the number on his skin. “If you were going to do anything like this then I think John should be first in line to get that scar removed.”


“The scar is fine,” John said flatly.


“Yeah. Right,” Rodney snorted. “It must impair your vision at least a bit, John,” he added. “I know why you want to keep it and that’s all very noble and so forth, but it’s really not necessary.”


“It’s fine,” John repeated.


“Seriously – you can’t see as well out of that eye can you?” Rodney pressed.


“No, but I can live with it,” John replied.


“Because I have to live with the scars on my back? That just makes no sense,” Rodney said with a shake of his head. “My scars don’t stop me doing anything – they’re just there. You guys probably see them more than I do.”


“I thought you liked the scar. I thought you said it made me looked depraved,” John reminded him with a sly wink.


“You can look perfectly depraved with or without it,” Rodney replied. “You certainly behave depraved at times and I really doubt the scar will change that,” he finished with a lascivious smile.


“Will you at least consider letting me clean it up one day?” Carson asked.


“One day. Maybe,” John agreed. “Now, I’d like to change the subject. As we’ve been talking about some stuff we’ve never talked about before, I think I should tell you that I’m kind of a jealous person. I can feel myself getting pissy if you stand too close to Colonel Caldwell, Rodney, and Carson – sometimes I’ve even been jealous of your patients when you’re touching them.”


Carson laughed and Rodney screwed up his face as if seriously considering the question. “Colonel Caldwell? Well, he IS a fine looking man,” he mused, and then he grinned when he saw the scowl on John’s face.


“And talking of Carson and the infirmary – can I just say as well that I get really horny when you wear that white coat and have the stethoscope hanging around your neck?” John admitted, looking a little shame-faced.


“Ah, a medical fantasy!” Rodney slapped his hand enthusiastically on the table, much to Carson’s chagrin. “Well, you do look very sexy in your white coat, Carson,” he grinned. “Mainly I just like it when you fuss over me,” he sighed.


“That would explain why you sometimes make up wee complaints just so I’ll check you over,” Carson said.


“Ah, and I thought I’d fooled you into thinking that was just rampant hypochondria,” Rodney laughed, “and not my insatiable desire to have you fussing over me.”


“You’re both hopeless,” Carson said sternly, although Rodney could see by the way he was grinning that he was secretly flattered. “Now, speaking of fantasies…there’s a big bed waiting for us in there.” He nodded in the direction of the bedroom. “Unless you two wore yourselves out earlier?” he added.


“Oh, I think there’s still some life in me,” John grinned, “and we all know Rodney can get ramrod hard with just one touch.”


“That’s not true!” Rodney protested but John caught his mouth with his own and slipped his hand down to Rodney’s pants and Rodney’s cock immediately hardened under his fingers. “I rest my case,” John said when he drew away. He laughingly pulled Rodney into his arms and they followed Carson into the bedroom.


They took their time undressing each other, pausing for a kiss or touch here or there. John divested Carson of his shirt, while Rodney undid John’s belt, kissing his back as he worked. Then Carson removed Rodney’s pants and John removed Carson’s pants and Rodney wasn’t entirely sure who removed John’s pants but somehow, a little while later, they fell on the bed naked, and Carson got a couple of tubes of lube out and tossed them onto the bed. Rodney asked them if they could start off with one of his favourite positions and they laughingly agreed, and Rodney got onto his hands and knees. He had been wondering how he’d feel about being taken from behind after what happened at the well, but he wanted to try it all the same, and he told them his fears and they nodded, understanding, and agreed to take it slow.


Then John knelt behind him, and instead of sliding his lubed fingers into Rodney’s ass, as Rodney had been expecting, he slipped his warm tongue there instead. Rodney sighed in pleasure and Carson took his head between his hands and kissed him, lazily and sensuously, while John worked behind him, his quick tongue arousing Rodney to dizzying heights of ecstasy.


Eventually John drew away, and stroked Rodney’s scarred back with gentle, tender fingers, kissing his way along the scars, acknowledging them. Carson disappeared underneath him and lapped gently at his nipples, pausing every now and then to move his face up to meet Rodney’s and kiss his lips, slowly and lovingly.


Only when Rodney was mewling like a kitten, utterly aroused by all the attention, did John slide his lubed fingers into Rodney’s ass, lazily kissing his naked back as he worked until Rodney felt he was ready. Then Carson took up position in front of Rodney, feeding his thick, hard cock into Rodney’s mouth. Rodney sucked down hard, loving the feel of that powerful, solid flesh sliding between his lips. Once they were in position, John took hold of Rodney’s buttocks and slowly, infinitely slowly, slid his hard penis into Rodney’s ass. Once he’d pushed all the way in, John reached down and took Rodney’s cock in his hand and then they were all moving together in a graceful dance of sexual pleasure. Rodney sucked Carson rhythmically in time to John’s long, deep strokes inside his anus, and it felt so good, just like it always used to feel – better, because this time it meant so much more.


John’s hand slid back and forth along Rodney’s cock and Carson’s hard shaft filled his mouth for what felt like eternity, and he loved the myriad sensations he was experiencing; the warm skin of Carson’s cock stretched tight over the powerful hardness, the sheer thrill of having John’s long length sliding all the way into him and then all the way back out, over and over again. Then John was stroking his back and whispering something to him about how good his ass felt wrapped around his cock, and Carson was stroking his hair and calling him ‘dautie’ and then they were all coming, Carson in his mouth and John deep within his body and he was coming in John’s hand and Rodney felt utterly and completely lost in their love.


They made love gently, slowly, sensuously for a very long time, just like the first time they’d made love, and in some ways Rodney thought it was a bit like a first time, because it had been so long and so many things had happened to them since they’d last made love together like this and also because now they had no secrets and they’d all been honest about their feelings for each other. While Rodney wasn’t about to thank the Karkarans for that, he was grudgingly aware that the experience had ultimately brought him and his two lovers closer together.


When they were finally sated, a very long time later, they all sank down on the bed to sleep. Rodney reclaimed the centre position while John settled down behind him with his chest pressed against Rodney’s back and Carson nestled in front of them both, his blue eyes gazing at Rodney lovingly. Rodney rested his hand on Carson’s thigh and gazed back at him, enjoying the warmth and security of having John’s hands wrapped around his waist, holding him tight. It had been a long journey, back from the well where he’d lost a part of himself, but now, here in his lovers’ arms, he finally felt whole again.


The End


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