Coming Home: 18. Synergy


John had another surprise in store for him at lunch.


“You want me to kneel?” Rodney said the words slowly, glaring at his top.


“I do, yes,” John replied, with that pleasant smile of his that Rodney was coming to hate.


“On the floor?” Rodney queried.


“Yes. Beside me.” John nodded.


“People will be able to see,” Rodney hissed from between clenched teeth.


“Yes they will.” John shrugged. “What’s the problem? Miko always makes her subs kneel when she’s feeding them.”


“Well that’s Miko! She’s not called the Dragon Lady for nothing!” Rodney protested.


“Plenty of other tops do it too,” John said, waving his hand around the room.


In fact, there weren’t any kneeling subs currently in the room. It wasn’t unusual for a top to require their submissive to kneel while being fed, but it wasn’t all that commonplace, either. Nobody would raise an eyebrow though – it was perfectly acceptable behaviour.


“Now, I want you to go and get the food, bring it back here, put it in front of me, and then kneel down beside me – and all without talking. You’re in deep submission and forbidden to talk to anyone except me during this meal. Understood?”


Rodney just stood there, glaring at him. Nobody would usually address a sub kneeling in deep submission unless given permission by their top, but John obviously wanted Rodney to be very sure about the rules. He knew there was no real point in arguing about it – John had made it very clear what today was all about, and Rodney knew that the sooner he gave in and did what he was told, the easier it’d be. But he was Rodney McKay, and he didn’t always take the easy route.


“You’re enjoying this far too much you know,” he growled at his top.


“And you’d enjoy it far more than you think if you’d just stop fighting it,” John replied.


Rodney was going to argue about that but he suspected John had a point so he just turned on his heel and went to get the food. He hoped and prayed that it would be a quiet day in the mess hall, with as few people to witness his deep submission as possible, but it was not to be. By the time he brought the big plate of food back to his top the room was heaving with people.


Rodney took a deep breath, and decided to do as John had advised, and stop fighting it. He put the plate down in front of his top, and then knelt down beside him without saying a word. John put a hand on Rodney’s shoulders and stroked softly, and Rodney quivered, his muscles relaxing as the caress eased some of the tension he always carried in his shoulders and neck.


“My beautiful sub,” John murmured, and Rodney looked up, startled by the praise.


John smiled at him, and pressed a forkful of food to his lips. Rodney took it and chewed slowly, gazing into space.


Teyla and Ford joined them. Teyla spared him only a fond glance before turning to talk to John. Rodney braced himself for Ford’s response but was surprised to see a look of envy in the lieutenant’s eyes, followed by a flash of longing as he cast a sideways glance at Teyla. Rodney realised how much Ford would love to be kneeling by her side right now, being hand fed, and he relaxed even more. John was right. When he stopped fighting it he felt so much happier.


Nobody placed him in a difficult position by speaking to him, and it actually felt relaxing not to be trying to eat and talk at the same time which was his normal mealtime pattern. In fact, it was relaxing not to talk at all. Usually he talked more than anyone else, and it felt like a respite to be ordered not to.


He found himself leaning against John’s knee, and nuzzling at John’s hand when it came down to stroke his hair and the side of his face, which it often did. He was so lost in the moment he barely registered anyone’s reactions to him, but when he looked up to take another mouthful of food, he caught the slightly stunned expression on Ford’s face. Clearly nobody expected even a top as strong and experienced as Colonel Sheppard to be able to publicly keep a sub as outspoken and difficult as himself in a state of deep submission.


For the first time, Rodney realised that he’d been given a gift. It was just one day, but John was giving him a chance to let go, and de-stress. He could spend an entire day in the submissive headspace and just enjoy the experience, without worrying about anything else.


Carson arrived a few minutes later, and Rodney thought he should probably be embarrassed that Carson, of all people, was witnessing his submission but he wasn’t. And Carson just rocked back on his heels, and smiled at him fondly.


“Ah, that’s a sight for sore eyes,” he said, sitting down at the table beside John. “It’s lovely seeing him so happy,” he said to John.


Rodney barely noticed the comment. He was lost in a little world of his own, and it was an extremely nice place to be. He was actually sorry when the meal was over – it had been a new experience, and while he didn’t want to eat every meal this way, there was something very relaxing about being given permission to opt out from all social interaction and just listen.


He found he had become much more attuned to John’s movements, noticing every rise and fall of John’s hand as he fed them both, eagerly anticipating every stroke and caress his top bestowed upon him, and acutely aware of the warmth of John’s thigh against his arm. When they finished the meal, John reached down, took hold of Rodney’s face between his hands, and kissed him softly and tenderly on the lips.


“Thank you, Rodney,” he said quietly.


Rodney felt his entire body tingle from the pleasure of being praised by his top, and he pressed his lips to John’s leather clad knee and kissed him there. Now he understood why Katie liked kissing Miko’s shiny PVC boots so much. There was something very erotic about kissing John’s leather pants – the smell was intoxicating for a start, and the fabric felt so cool and soft beneath his mouth. John stroked his hair, and then he took Rodney’s hand and guided him up, and they left the mess hall together, John’s hand resting on Rodney’s ass as they walked.


The afternoon passed in a similar haze. Rodney went to John without demur when he needed to pee, and was equally happy to visit his top on request and take John in his mouth again.


His body was starting to unwind, and he felt looser, and more relaxed. He had no qualms about John holding his penis when he used the bathroom, and he loved it when John made him kneel in front of him and open his mouth to accept his top’s hard cock. He liked having his mouth fucked, liked not being asked to do anything except offer his obedience and willing body, to allow John to do as he wished with him.


It was oddly liberating – Rodney didn’t know why, but it was so good to just surrender, without question. He lived so much in his head that it felt good to not have any choices – to give his entire self to John.


By the time he returned to John’s quarters, as instructed, later that evening, he was even enjoying the intrusive presence of the butt plug in his anus. It was evidence that he was John’s, and he loved the thrill that knowledge gave him. He also loved knowing that he was holding a part of John inside him, and that John’s come was still trapped, deep within his body.


John was waiting for him in his quarters when he arrived at seven p.m. and Rodney went straight over to the table and knelt beside his top, without saying a word. He spread his knees, lowered his head, and just knelt there, totally submissive. John didn’t say a word for several minutes, but Rodney didn’t look up. When John wanted to speak to him he would. All Rodney had to do was wait, and obey his top’s will.


“Very good,” John purred at last, and his fingers swept the side of Rodney’s face affectionately. “Now, we’re going to go one step further. I think you’re ready for it.” Rodney looked up, gazing at John happily. He trusted his top, and if John wanted to take him a step further then he was happy to take it.


John picked up a strip of black fabric from the table. “Close your eyes,” he ordered.


Rodney did as he was told, and John wrapped the blindfold around his face and tied it at the back.


“Comfortable?” John asked.


“Yes,” Rodney nodded.


“See anything?”


“No.” Rodney shook his head. He didn’t wonder what was coming next – he was so lost in his own subspace that he had surrendered all control. John was in charge, and John would do whatever he wanted, and Rodney was totally fine with that.


“I’m going to feed you – I brought some dinner from the mess hall,” John said.


Rodney nodded, memories of the tranquillity of lunch still fresh in his mind. He opened his mouth obediently whenever John touched the fork to his lips, and took whatever John placed on his tongue.


At first it felt strange, and it wasn’t easy for him to identify what he was being fed. Then he stopped trying – he just chewed, savouring each bite, and then swallowed. It was remarkable how much more he tasted his food being fed this way. He didn’t always know what he was eating, but he learned to appreciate textures and flavours so much more intensely by not being able to see his food.


He didn’t like everything John put in his mouth but he didn’t spit anything out. If John wanted him to eat it then he would, whether he liked it or not. John knew exactly the kinds of foods he liked and disliked, so if he was giving Rodney something he didn’t like then it was on purpose and Rodney had no choice in the matter. He was surrendering to his top’s will, and he felt completely serene, and nothing, certainly not a mouthful of food, was going to jolt him out of that headspace.


When they’d finished eating, John helped him to his feet and then undressed him. He went slowly, and Rodney was fully erect by the time he was done. He hadn’t been allowed to come all day, despite the many erotic things John had done to him, and he knew that he might not be allowed to come all night, either. It didn’t matter. He belonged to John. His body was John’s, to feed, and play with, to dress and undress and command as he wanted, and Rodney was very happy to offer himself up to him. If John didn’t want him to come then that was fine by him. John took his hand and ordered him to bend over.


“The table’s in front of you. Hold it,” John told him, guiding him into place.


Rodney obeyed, and he felt John take hold of the butt plug, and then it was being gently removed. His anus ached as John pulled it out, and Rodney gave a little gasp, but he didn’t move.


“Good boy. You wore this all day – I’m proud of you,” John said, stroking Rodney’s back affectionately. He helped him to stand up, and Rodney felt John’s come from that morning starting to seep out. That made his stomach do a little flip of pleasure. He loved knowing that he’d had that part of John inside his body for the entire day.


John took his hand and led him towards the bathroom, and Rodney walked with him, confidently, sure that John would guide him safely. John let go of his hand and told him to stand there, and Rodney stood still, waiting for his next order.


He heard the sound of rustling but he didn’t even try and guess what was happening. He was John’s. He belonged to John. He had been told to stand here and that was what he would do.


He felt John’s hand on his cock, and then a little snap as the cock ring was removed. He sighed in relief, grateful not to have it digging into his erect flesh any more.


“The rules haven’t changed. You still can’t touch your cock or your ass,” John told him, in low, soothing, firm tones. Rodney nodded serenely, perfectly happy with that.


John took his hand again, and guided him over to the tub. Rodney could feel by the warmth in the room that his top had drawn a bath. He heard John step into the tub, and then John helped him into the warm water too. The heat of the water caressing his skin felt strange when he couldn’t see what he was stepping into, but he trusted John and his top guided him safely into the tub.


He heard the sound of splashing water as John sat down, and then Rodney was directed down between John’s legs. Rodney sat in the warm water with a sigh, and John pulled him back so that he was resting against his top’s body, his shoulders pressed against John’s chest, John’s mouth nuzzling at the side of his face, his arms wrapped around Rodney’s body.


“This is good. This is so good,” John murmured into Rodney’s ear, and his fingers trailed sensuously over one of Rodney’s nipples, making him sigh and lean back against his top even more. He felt as if his entire body was starting to unravel and unwind, his shoulders loosening as he melted back into his top’s body.


“That’s it…just let go,” John whispered, his fingers soothing gentle patterns onto Rodney’s skin.


The blindfold heightened Rodney’s awareness of his top’s touch, just as being ordered not to speak at lunch earlier in the day had made him acutely aware of John’s every movement and gesture.


They relaxed for a long time, and Rodney felt as if he was floating away and John was his anchor, the only thing keeping him tethered to any kind of reality. The water was so warm and soothing, and John’s body was equally comforting, his legs and arms encircling Rodney as he lay back against John’s chest in the warm water.


When the water started to cool, John began washing him. He rubbed soap all over his body, moving Rodney this way and that to get better access to various parts of his body, bestowing little kisses on Rodney’s damp shoulders and neck while he worked. He took his time washing Rodney’s cock and balls, rolling them between his soapy fingers and making Rodney harden once more.


“I like how you’re so responsive to my touch,” John whispered. Rodney barely even registered the comment. He was John’s – of course his body responded when John touched him. That was just the way it should be.


He knelt forward at John’s order, and felt John’s soapy fingers deftly slide into his anus, cleaning him there, before washing him out with water. A little part of Rodney was sad that he no longer had John’s come inside his body, but it felt so warm and good to just allow his top to do what he wanted. Rodney rested his chin on the edge of the tub and relaxed even more. He felt so serene, so damn good. He didn’t think his body had ever felt this relaxed.


John helped him out of the bath, and then dried him, before leading him back into the bedroom. He guided Rodney onto the bed, lying him face down, and then Rodney felt the mattress move as his top straddled him.


He smelled scented oil, and then felt John’s fingers on his back, massaging the oil into his shoulders with firm strokes from his strong hands. Whatever knots were left in Rodney’s back soon dissipated as John kneaded them into submission.


He took his time, and he seemed to know exactly what he was doing, his long fingers unerringly finding any sore spots and rubbing them away. Rodney started to hum again, unaware that he was even doing it, and time became a haze of John’s fingers on his body, his own humming a contented backdrop to the delicious massage.


He felt John move further down, and then the oiled fingers were sliding into the cavity between his butt cheeks. He relaxed even more, opening up his legs wide, his anus loose, ready and waiting for his top’s attention. John slicked it open even further with his fingers, until it was wide and welcoming, and Rodney raised his ass with each inward caress, wanting to take his top’s fingers into him, and please his top any way he could.


Then the fingers withdrew, and he felt John settle down on top of him, his weight warm and loving. Rodney sighed into the pillow as John’s hands landed on top of his own. John slid his fingers between Rodney’s, entwining their hands, and then lifted his hips.


Rodney felt John’s hard cock slide into his oiled, open anus and come to rest deep within. The entry had been the smoothest Rodney had ever experienced, like two parts of a well oiled machine coming together the way they had been designed to.


John lay there, fully inserted in Rodney’s body. Rodney was so still, so serene and so attuned to John right now that he could feel the throbbing of his lover’s cock inside his anus, and his own heart seemed to adjust to keep the same time. He felt as if he and John had melded together and were now the same person, living, breathing and moving as one.


John kissed the back of his neck, his fingers still entwined in Rodney’s, and then he shifted his hips just a fraction, sliding out and back in with a smooth, gentle thrust. It felt exquisite. It wasn’t the hurried frenzy of more urgent couplings, but the long, slow, culmination of something much more meaningful.


They had made love with their hearts, minds and bodies many times before, Rodney thought, in that hazy headspace he was currently inhabiting, but this…this was like making love with their souls. He had, quite simply, never experienced anything like it.


John moved his hips again, oh so slowly, and then slid back once more, deep into Rodney’s body. It was almost non-sexual, if the act of making love could ever been called that. It went beyond sex though, for Rodney. It was the ultimate merging of sub and top, lovers moving as one, completely in step with each other.


“Mating dance,” John whispered, as if reading his mind. “That’s what Teyla calls it. I can see it now.”


It *was* kind of like a dance – a slow, intense, exquisitely choreographed dance, both dancers knowing their steps perfectly. Rodney allowed his top to lead, surrendering his body entirely to John’s control, trusting John to keep the beat.


They kept dancing for what felt like hours, their bodies moving as one, the air thick with the scent of oil. They were joined, John’s cock filling his anus perfectly, belonging there, as if it had been designed to fit Rodney.


Everything had a dreamlike quality – all Rodney was aware of was a beautiful, endless motion and their two bodies rising and falling, gently and slowly. Nothing seemed real except for the sensation of John’s body moving against his own. Their hands were joined, John’s on top of his own, just as John’s body was resting on his, and John’s flesh was joined with his, his penis moving so sensuously inside him.


Time passed – he had no idea how long – and then John was whispering in his ear. “Come for me. Come now,” and Rodney did. Without hesitation, without needing to touch himself. He just came on command, completely obedient to his top’s orders right to the end.


John was coming too, not in a wild, urgent climax, but slow and deep. Rodney was glad to once again have John’s come inside his body, where it had been all day, where it belonged.


John lay on top of him for awhile, still inside him, their hands still entwined, his head resting on Rodney’s back. More time passed, and when John finally slid out of him Rodney gave a little whimper of loss. John pulled him onto his side and then settled down behind him, wrapping his arms around him the way he always did after sex.


“I love you,” John murmured in his ear.


“I love you too,” Rodney whispered back. He felt the blindfold being removed but he didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t want to be jolted out of the delicious place in his head where everything felt so peaceful. “Feels so good. Want to stay here a bit longer,” he sighed.


John kissed the back of his neck. “That’s fine. Stay there. I’m with you.”


Rodney kissed John’s arm where it was wrapped around his neck, and then he just rested there, nestled against his top.


He could feel that energy flow, the beginnings of the lifebond or whatever it was, running sweetly between them, stronger than ever. He vaguely recalled Carson telling them that it wasn’t possible to cement a lifebond by accident, without meaning to, but whatever it was that they had was already pretty strong. How much stronger would a proper lifebond feel, he wondered?


“Can you feel it?” he whispered to John.


“Yeah. It’s always like that after sex,” John replied.


“Sometimes…sometimes I can feel it at other times. When we’re not having sex,” Rodney said. “Just…a hint of it.”


“Does it scare you?” John asked.


“A bit. You?”




Rodney felt John’s muscles tighten involuntarily and he got the strangest sensation of sadness – only he wasn’t feeling it himself – it seemed to be pulsing with the energy flow between them.


He turned in John’s arms and opened his eyes, gazing at his top sharply. The sudden input of visual stimulation seemed to short circuit whatever he’d sensed – or maybe he’d stopped being so attuned to his top as his own senses reasserted themselves, but he knew what he’d felt.


“Your parents,” he said softly, taking John’s face between his hands. “You told me they were lifebonded, and that’s why they both died together, but you never told me *this*.”


He placed his hand on John’s chest, frowning. He’d never been a particularly sensitive person – he wasn’t good at reading social signals, or people’s expressions, but this – this was different. This was John, and he had never been as close to anyone as he was to this man.


He closed his eyes again, concentrating on the energy flow once more, trying to block out everything but the beat of John’s heart under his fingertips. He zoned back into that hazy, peaceful subspace almost immediately, and there it was. A savage grief, walled up behind strong defences, hidden behind a mask of easy-going charm that fooled almost everyone.


He had a sudden sense of John, a young man, still at college, reeling from the double tragedy that robbed him of his parents, and struggling to find a way of dealing with the pain. There were years and years of keeping people at bay, avoiding any more heartache, but through it all was that constant, aching sense of loss.


Rodney thought of his own parents, killed in a car crash when he was eighteen. He hadn’t had the connection to them that John had had with his parents though. The only one he really cared about was Jeannie – and when he thought about *her*, his heart did a little flip.


“I felt that,” John said. “What was that? Not your parents?”


Rodney opened his eyes again, still stunned by what this link between them was revealing.


“No. Jeannie. I was thinking about Jeannie.”


“I didn’t know you cared about her so much.”


“She was my kid sister. I always looked out for her. I remember when my mom brought her home from the hospital – she was such a little thing, with a mop of blonde hair. I fell in love with her the minute I saw that scrunched up, red face. Of course I kind of hated her too – but that was how our family worked.”


They were silent for awhile, just gazing at each other.


“What happened tonight?” Rodney asked finally.


“I don’t know, but it was fantastic,” John replied. “You were fantastic.”


“It felt so amazing. I know I struggled with it throughout the day but by the time I got back here I was in that peaceful place in my head, and it just felt so good.”


“I could feel how easy it was for you once you got there. Everything just flowed,” John murmured. They leaned forward at the same time and kissed each other, a slow, mellow kiss.


“I had no idea anything like this existed,” Rodney said afterwards. “I just…I used to think the magazines and books made up all that romantic crap. Sex was always good enough without them inventing new, unattainable levels to it that mere mortals couldn’t reach. And then you came along and *this* happens and….”


“I’m with you on how crazy it is.” John shook his head. “I had no idea about any of this, either.”


“The lifebond thing freaks you out though.”


“Yeah. Kind of. I hated how it robbed me of both my parents,” John replied. His hazel eyes were oddly revealing – usually John’s eyes gave nothing away. Now though, Rodney caught a glimpse of a whole lifetime of sadness.


“We don’t have to talk about it again,” Rodney said soothingly. “It’s fine.”


“One day I suspect we’re going to have to talk about it.”


“We’re both total commitment-phobes, Rodney sighed. “You with your lifebond freakout and me with my moving-in-together freakout.”


“Yeah,” John grinned.


“It’s astonishing we’re together. I have no idea how that happened. The universe must have a sense of humour.”


“Yeah.” John looked like some kind of wounded animal – the expression in his eyes was so naked that Rodney wondered why he’d never seen it before. He doubted he’d ever be fooled by the John Sheppard mask again.


Rodney took hold of John’s head between his hands again and kissed him hard, trying to chase away the lurking demons. When he’d finished kissing him, Rodney pulled John close, and held him tight. They belonged together, each protective of the other, a partnership of equals, and he was glad that John Sheppard had finally allowed him to see into his soul.


They dozed, on and off, throughout the night, but every time that Rodney woke he immediately felt the energy flowing softly, sweetly between them. He wondered whether he’d always feel it from now on, like background noise, always there, just out of sight.


When they got up the next day he couldn’t believe how good he felt. His entire body felt loose and relaxed – and his shoulders hadn’t been so free of tension since he’d been a kid. John seemed to feel just as good, and Rodney found that while he wasn’t as attuned to his top as he had been the previous night, some of that sense of the two of them melding into one person remained.


When they went offworld a few days later, Rodney had a newfound confidence in himself. He and John walked in step as they went through the gate, and Rodney was aware of every move John made. He followed his top, stopped when John did, and obeyed every order almost before John gave it.


They walked for a couple of miles towards the Wraith base of operations that John wanted to check out. They went slowly, aware that they could run into the Wraith at any time. Rodney felt more at ease than he’d ever felt on missions, sure of himself in a way that he had never been before. It helped to feel John’s hand occasionally on his elbow, guiding him, or the little press of his thigh against Rodney’s as they walked. That gave him a sort of inner sense of calm.


Rodney noticed Teyla glancing at them occasionally, an intrigued look on her face, and when they stopped to take some readings she came to stand beside him.


“You have achieved synergy,” she told him. He raised an eyebrow. “When two people move as one during the mating dance? You have experienced that. I am surprised – I was not sure it was something you would ever be able to attain. He is so closed off, and you are so restless and volatile. I did not ever think you would be able to overcome those characteristics and truly merge. You must have a very unusual degree of compatibility.”


“I really have no idea what most of that means,” he told her, slightly miffed at being referred to as “volatile”.


“It is a good thing.” She bowed her head towards him, in a sign of respect he had seen her give only to John and Elizabeth before. “I am sorry, Dr McKay. I misjudged you – not for the first time, either. I have made the mistake I always advise others against – I allowed myself to be swayed by what you say, and not what you do.”


“Thank you. I think,” Rodney frowned, unsure if that was an insult or not.


“You must have great depths and compassion, to have drawn him out,” she said. “I did not doubt your love before, but I did think it was more a matter of sexual compatibility rather than an emotional, spiritual or mental connection. I was wrong. You are worthy of him.” She bowed again and then moved away, scanning the trees for evidence of the Wraith.


Rodney stared after her, feeling perplexed. He had no idea that any of what happened between him and his top in private was evident to anyone else, and it was unsettling. On the other hand, Teyla was often coming out with weird observations, and he doubted anyone else would have noticed anything different about how he and John were interacting.


They found the Wraith base – or rather they found where it had been. In its place was a massive crater. They barely had time to register that when Teyla saw several burly, faceless wraith warriors coming towards them. The first shots rang out almost simultaneously.


“Run!” John ordered the team, pushing Rodney away, back towards the puddle jumper. “Go tell Markham to get ready for take off. I’ll cover you!”


Rodney hesitated, turning back. “What about you?” he asked.


“I’ll be there in a minute. Go!” John said.


Rodney nodded, and shot his lover a glance before starting to run. He trusted John to get them out of this situation, but a part of him hated leaving him behind. He knew John would tan his ass if he disobeyed and insisted on staying, and he also knew that it was one less thing for John to worry about if Rodney did as he was told, but it was still hard to run off and leave John there.


He ran as fast as he could, aware of Teyla at his side, firing behind them as she went. He guessed she was under orders to protect him, as the weakest member of the team, when they were in situations like this. They made it back to the jumper and Rodney threw himself through the door. His neck was hurting like crazy and he had no idea why. He put up a hand to touch it, wondering if he’d taken a hit, but there was no blood there.


“Markham – Colonel Sheppard said to get ready for take off,” he yelled.


Markham’s eyes widened, and he slammed his hands onto the console. The engines hummed into life and Rodney turned, hoping to see John right behind him. His heart sank when nobody appeared.


“Where’s John? Is Ford with him?” he asked Teyla, fighting down a rising sense of panic. His neck hurt so much now that he could hardly think straight.


“I do not know,” she replied grimly.


“They were right behind us!” Rodney gabbled. “I don’t…oh shit!” He doubled up in pain as something stabbed into his neck, hard.


“Dr McKay? Are you injured?” She bent over him but he waved her away.


“John?” he gasped. She hit her radio immediately.


“Lieutenant Ford?” Rodney heard Ford’s strangled reply, followed by a burst of static. “Lieutenant – where are you? Is Colonel Sheppard with you? Is he okay?” Teyla asked, frowning at Rodney anxiously.


“I’ve got him…he’s…there’s….Look, I’m helping him back to the jumper. We’ll be there in a few minutes. Just be ready to go. We’ve got wraith on our tail,” Ford yelled.


Rodney drew his gun and ran to the door of the puddle jumper, his legs trembling and his neck still aching, to find his way blocked by Teyla.


“I will go,” she told him. “You will stay here.”


He considered arguing with her but at that moment he saw them, over her shoulder. John had one arm slung around Ford, and Ford was half-dragging, half-carrying him. Rodney’s heart did a flip – unsure whether to be pleased John was still alive, or worried about why he
was unable to walk by himself.


“What the hell happened?” he demanded of nobody in particular. “Is he hurt? Why is Ford carrying him? Damnit I should never have left him behind.”


Ford staggered into the puddle jumper and deposited John on the floor. Teyla slammed her hand on the door panel to close it and then turned to Markham. “Go! Now!” she ordered.


Rodney barely heard her. He flung himself down beside John and then stopped short, horrified. There was a huge, two foot long insect clamped to the side of John’s neck, its sharp, spiny forelegs sunk deep into John’s flesh, which was smeared with blood. Rodney rubbed the side of his own neck absently, dimly aware of why it was hurting so much, but too freaked out about John’s condition to freak out about how he was experiencing it to some extent too.


“John?” He grabbed the side of his top’s face to find two pain-filled hazel eyes gazing wearily back at him.


“I’m fine,” John muttered.


“Oh stop being such a damn hero. You’re patently not fine,” Rodney bristled. The puddle jumper took off, juddering violently as it swung upwards.


“We’re taking fire! Let’s get some altitude!” John barked.


“I’m trying, sir!” Markham said desperately.


The ship bounced, erratically, and then picked up some speed, moving with more fluidity. Rodney turned back to John.


“Cut it off me,” John growled, through gritted teeth.


Rodney hunkered down and took a good look at the creature attached to his lover’s throat.


“That might not be such a good idea, sir,” Ford said. “I tried shooting it off him back on the planet but it just made the pain worse,” he explained to Rodney.


“I know,” Rodney nodded, still examining the creature. Ford stared at him, with a puzzled look. “I felt it,” Rodney said, remembering the massive spike in pain. “Look, I don’t have time to explain. I don’t think cutting it off you is going to work any more than shooting it off you,” he told John.


“The creature just heals itself,” Teyla said, looking grim.


Ford glanced at her. “You know what this is?”


“I think so. My people have stories about such creatures. It is feeding off the Colonel’s strength – like the Wraith.


“You had to say that,” John muttered.


“Look, we’ll be back soon, John.” Rodney squeezed his top’s hand firmly. “Stackhouse – radio ahead as soon as we’re in range and tell Dr Beckett we have a medical emergency,” he yelled. “Carson will know what to do,” he said to John, refusing to panic just yet.


“Yeah. Good old Carson. He always knows what to do,” John mumbled, his eyes rolling back under his lids in a way that severely tested Rodney’s resolve not to panic.


Teyla fished out the medical kit, looking for something to dampen the pain until they got back, but there was nothing strong enough. Rodney just crouched there, at his top’s side, feeling completely useless. He gripped John’s hand even tighter as his lover drifted in and out of consciousness, trying to keep John with them. Over his shoulder he could see the stargate, and he let out a sigh of relief. They’d soon be back, and then John would be okay. Carson would make him okay and everything would be alright….


The ship whooshed into the stargate, and then there was a grating sound, and an almighty bang and Rodney was thrown across the floor. He landed up on the other side of the jumper, bruised and dazed. He looked up, horrified, to see that half the ship was missing – and in its place was the event horizon, rippling and blue. It looked as if it had materialised inside the jumper.


“Oh shit,” he muttered because this couldn’t possibly be good.


It wasn’t. Rodney swiftly figured out that the engine pods had been damaged on their escape from the planet and were unable to retract properly, leaving the ship stuck in the stargate. Stackhouse and Markham, who had been in the front of the jumper, were unreachable, demolecularised, and the back end of the ship was going nowhere.


They had less than 38 minutes to solve the problem before the stargate shut down – and they’d all die. And, just to add to the pressure, John was lying there, being eaten alive by a massive bug, with even less time than the rest of them.


All eyes turned to Rodney to save them, and he gazed back at them, panic-stricken.


“You have to find a way to close those engine pods manually,” John told him, from his position on the floor, his face much paler than Rodney liked.


“Yes, close the engine pods manually,” Rodney muttered, opening a panel in the side of the jumper.


They had managed to advise Atlantis of their predicament and he knew Radek was working on a simulation back there but even so – 38 minutes gave them so little time. He wanted to be by John’s side, but he was the only one who could fix the mechanical problem so he listened with one ear as Ford and Teyla discussed his top’s condition with Carson.


It didn’t sound good. In fact it sounded as bad as their general prognosis; there were dozens of control pathways in the panel he’d opened, and he didn’t have a clue which one would retract the engine pods.


Carson was telling Ford to pour water on the bug, and Elizabeth was telling him something that Radek had said to her, and his brain felt like it was about to explode.


He tried to concentrate on the circuitry, but next thing he knew a savage pain swept through him, sending him to his knees. At that exact same moment, he heard John scream in agony. Rodney knelt there, panting, as the pain subsided.


“What did you just do to him?” he asked accusingly when he got his breath back.


“Put salt on the bug,” Ford replied. “Dr Beckett thinks the combination of that and the water we just poured on it caused it to react like that.”


“Please don’t do that again,” John muttered weakly.


“Oh god, this is ridiculous!” Rodney said, his feelings of panic overwhelming him. “I can’t do this. I can’t concentrate on everything at the same time, and I can’t save us when you keep prodding him and making him hurt so much.”


“We have to get this thing off him or he’ll die!” Ford snapped.


“I know that!” Rodney yelled back.


“Knock it off,” John said quietly. Rodney glared at him. “There’s plenty of time to solve this thing, but you’ve got to stop using your mouth and start using your brain, Rodney,” John told him firmly, holding his gaze.


Rodney felt himself starting to calm down. John always knew how to handle him.


“Come over here,” John ordered. Rodney went and knelt beside him, and John gazed at him intently. “You can do this,” John told him. “You can save us, Rodney. You just need to concentrate and use that big brain of yours to get us out of this. I know you can do it.” His eyes radiated complete faith in Rodney’s abilities.


“I acknowledge the big brain thing,” Rodney replied, causing John to give one of those wry grins of his. “But how the hell can I concentrate when I can feel that thing eating you alive?” he said, in a strangled tone, fighting down that sense of panic again. What the hell was happening to them? He’d felt John’s emotions the other night but he’d never been able to experience John’s physical sensations before. “I can feel that thing in your neck,” he explained. “I felt it when Ford tried to shoot it off, and I felt that saltwater thing a minute ago.”


“It is the link. The pre-lifebond,” Teyla said. “It has grown stronger.”


John gazed at Rodney steadily for a moment, and then nodded.


“Okay. You can’t concentrate because you’re feeling some of my pain. I hadn’t realized that. I’m going to…I’m going to try and do something….”


John concentrated for a moment, and Rodney felt something snap inside, and then the pain he was feeling stopped, abruptly. It was replaced, almost immediately, by a sense of overwhelming loss. “What did you just do?” he asked, relieved not to be in pain any more but scared by how empty he felt. He bent over, clutching his belly, aching inside.


“He has closed down the link between you,” Teyla told him.


“Why? Why did he do that? Will we get it back?” Rodney asked, his eyes wide and panic-stricken.


“Rodney – go to work and get us the hell out of here,” John growled.


Rodney turned back just in time to see his top slide sideways, his eyes closed, his face twisted in a grimace of agony.


“John…oh shit…John?” Rodney slapped John’s face lightly.


John opened his eyes, and gave him the faintest hint of a grin. “You work better under pressure anyway,” he muttered, and then his eyes rolled back in his head.


“Oh god, he’s lost consciousness!” Rodney panicked.


“That is because you were lending him your strength,” Teyla said softly. “Now he has closed down the link, he is no longer able to fight the creature.”


Rodney gazed at her, horrified. “Why did he do that?” he whispered, feeling as if he had just been broken in two. “Why did he shut down the link?”


“Because he trusts you,” she told him calmly. “He trusts you to get us back safely. Now, return to your task, Dr McKay. Lieutenant Ford and I will take care of Colonel Sheppard.”


She was right. And so was John. He *did* work better under pressure and there was nothing more motivating than knowing that they had less than twenty minutes to live if he didn’t save them. Rodney took a deep breath and turned back to his work, his fingers spidering over the control pathways at top speed, trying to ignore the continued discussions between Ford, Teyla and Carson.


“Rodney.” Teyla interrupted him a few minutes later, and he frowned, dimly aware that she didn’t usually call him by his first name. “We think we might have found a way of saving Colonel Sheppard,” she told him.


He nodded, eagerly, still working, and she continued. “We think we can use the defibrillators to stop his heart for long enough to trick the creature into thinking he is dead.”


He frowned trying to take that on board *and* figure out how to get the engine pods retracted at the same time.


“Okay…okay…sounds good…wait a minute – you’re going to kill him?” Rodney stopped what he was doing, and turned to glare at her.


“Just for a few moments,” she told him swiftly.


“No…no…no.” Rodney crouched down, clutching his midriff again. “You’re going to kill him?” He crawled over to where John was lying, pale and lifeless, at the other end of the puddle jumper.


“It’s the only way we can think of saving him,” Ford told him. Rodney just sat there, gazing at his lover’s prone form. The bug attached to his neck swelled a little, its wings twitching, and made a chittering sound. Rodney shuddered.


“Dr McKay?” Teyla said, and he realized they were waiting for some response from him. He gazed at them blankly.


“Uh, we need your permission, doc,” Ford said. Rodney frowned, not understanding.


“Dr McKay – the colonel is unconscious so he is unable to give his permission for us to do this,” Teyla said softly. “You are his next of kin.”


“I am?” Rodney asked, bemused.


“It’s his collar around your neck, McKay,” Ford pointed out.


Rodney gazed from one to the other, his heart beating fast as he realized what they were asking. “You want my permission to kill him?” he said slowly.


“In order to save his life,” Teyla reminded him.


“Supposing we can’t get his heart beating again afterwards?” Rodney demanded.


“Then we’ll send him through the event horizon,” Ford replied. “He’ll be in stasis there until you get us all back to Atlantis.”


“If we cannot re-start his heart then I will take him through,” Teyla said. “Leaving you and Lieutenant Ford to resolve our problem here. Do we have your permission, Rodney?”


Rodney gazed at his top’s unconscious form, wishing John was awake to make this decision himself but his lover’s eyes remained resolutely closed. This was his responsibility – John was his responsibility. Rodney knew it wasn’t really a choice at all, but he had no idea how he’d live with himself if it didn’t work, and John stayed dead.


“Okay,” he said at last. He pressed a kiss to John’s dark hair, and then got up and returned to the circuitry he’d been working on. “Do it,” he ordered, staring straight ahead, trying not to think about anything else except getting them home.


He worked so fast that his fingers were a blur of action as he tried frantically to locate the control pathway he needed. Behind him, he heard them put the defibrillators on John’s chest. He saw John’s body jackknife, out of the corner of his eye, and he tried to remain focused, shutting out everything else but the problem at hand, trying not to think about the fact that the man he loved was dying just behind him.


He hated the way he felt so empty – he hadn’t paid the link between them all that much attention until recently. It just was, and it felt kind of nice, but now that it was gone, he felt an acute, gut-wrenching sense of loss.


He didn’t feel it when John died, and that hurt almost as much as the fear that they wouldn’t be able to revive him. He heard Teyla and Ford struggle to pull the creature away from John’s neck, then their frantic shooting as they killed it. Then, finally, Ford placed the defibrillators on John’s chest again. Rodney struggled to breathe.


“It’s not working,” Ford said, as he activated the defibrillators a second time.


“Then we must take him through the event horizon.” Teyla’s voice, hard and urgent.


Rodney stopped what he was doing for a second, to help them pass his top’s lifeless body through the wormhole, and then John was gone.


“Keep working, doc,” Ford warned him grimly.


“I am.” Rodney turned back to what he was doing. If he didn’t get this right then they’d all be dead in less than five minutes. He worked faster than ever, making minute calculations based on the results of his handiwork, each wrong connection giving him a clue as to where to look for the right one. And then, suddenly, he found the right control pathway – the engine pods retracted, and the jumper was free.


“Done it!” Rodney proclaimed triumphantly.


“Then why aren’t we moving?” Ford demanded.


“Inertia,” Rodney told him, trying to think the problem through in the fifty seconds they had left. “We need to blow the hatch. That’ll give us enough forward thrust to get us through the wormhole.”


They both gazed at the mechanism for blowing the hatch. Whoever pulled the lever stood a very real risk of being sucked out into space once it was blown.


“I’ll do it,” Ford said grimly.


They locked gazes for half a second, a grudging appreciation for each other showing in their eyes. Then Rodney nodded, and threw himself through the event horizon, crossing his fingers as he went, and hoping for the best. He’d done his bit and he couldn’t do any more. It was all down to Ford now.






John blinked.


“John. You have to go back.”


He wasn’t sure who was speaking but he had no intention of going anywhere. It was very still here, very calm and peaceful. He could feel a huge reservoir of pain waiting for him, just beyond the periphery of his vision, and he didn’t want to go back to that. He wanted to stay here.


“You can’t,” the voice told him firmly. He tried to focus on it. It was familiar but it had been so long since he’d heard it that he doubted it for a second.


“Dad?” he whispered. Gil leaned over him. John frowned. His father looked the same as he remembered – short blond hair, military cut, deep blue eyes. But…Gil was only a few years older than him, more his contemporary than his father, and that felt strange.


“It’s good to see you, son but you can’t stay here.”


“Is Adam here?” John tried to turn his head but he didn’t seem to have a head any more. He was just floating. It felt good.


“Here.” His other father suddenly appeared, hazel eyes laughing, the way they always used to. John gazed at them happily. He felt like he was seven years old again, safe with his fathers.


“Yeah. That’s a load of crap,” Gil told him. “You don’t belong here. You need to go back home.”


Home? John remembered any number of faceless digs, military quarters and other places he’d called home over the years but none of them had been places he ever felt he belonged. This place did. He could belong here.


“I don’t want to go. I want to stay here, with you,” he told them.


Adam grinned. “We love you too, kid,” he said. “That’s why we’re gonna kick your ass out of here.”


“Why? I did well. I made colonel. I remembered everything you taught me,” John told them. “I never left a man behind.”


“You kind of did,” Adam said.


“When?” John frowned.


“Right now,” Gil replied.


“We like him. He’s good for you,” Adam said, with a mischievous smile. “He keeps you on your toes. It was about time you found someone – Gil was despairing of you.”




Memories hurtled back, all jumbled up, but at their centre was Rodney, jaw thrust out obstinately, mouth settled in a crooked line, gazing at him with those vivid blue eyes.


Suddenly this soothing, seductive sense of peace wasn’t so appealing. Gil was right – he didn’t belong here. He didn’t care how much pain awaited him – he didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to be anywhere Rodney wasn’t.


He thought he saw Gil smile, but there was no time to say goodbye – next thing he knew he was tumbling so fast it was like he was in freefall. Then all around him he could hear noise, people moving fast, and someone was holding his hand so tight it hurt.


He was lying on his back on a hard surface, and his shirt was open. He tried to reach out to pull it closed, felt cool metal on his chest and a pain that ripped through his entire body, making him jack-knife a few feet into the air.


Damnit he ached. His neck was sore, and his chest hurt, and his hand was being held in a vice-like grip.


“He’s breathing…” Carson’s voice. “Stay with us, John. Fight man, damnit!”


John struggled to breathe. Everything hurt so much…and where the hell was Rodney? He sought desperately for the link that he remembered – the one connecting him and his sub, the one that would bring him back to himself – but it was gone.


He’d done something to it…what had he done? Oh god…he remembered now…he remembered cutting himself off from the warm, pulsing energy that flowed between him and his submissive, remembered that severing it had hurt so much, leaving him with a terrible, aching sense of loss. And now the link was gone.


He searched around frantically for it, looking for just a thread that would lead him back to Rodney, but he couldn’t see anything. Surely it wasn’t lost forever? Surely he could find it again?


His fingertips scratched around blindly in the inky blackness, desperately searching, but it was so dark, and he felt so cold and empty. He wrapped his arms around himself, and howled, silently. Without the link there was no way home.


He was lost.




End of Part Eighteen



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