Coming Home: 4. Escalation


Rodney’s first visitor the following day was Sergeant Bates. The man arrived early, while Rodney was the only one in the lab.


“I have a proposition for you,” Bates said, smiling at him.


Rodney raised an eyebrow. “Another one? Because I responded so well to the last one,” he mocked, suddenly finding that he’d gone beyond caring at some point.


“You’ll like this one. Come and sub for me, Rodney…”


“If I’m not very much mistaken that *is* the last proposition,” Rodney interrupted. “Not even cunningly disguised as a new proposition.”


“Come and sub for me and I’ll drop the charges,” Bates said. Rodney stared at him and then burst out laughing.


“Oh, this is good. Let me get this straight, knucklebrain. You’re saying that if I agree to be your sub, with all the many attractions that offers, not least, as I recall, the fact you promised to tan my ass, then you’ll get me out of…oh, yes, having my ass tanned. Seems like a zero sum equation to me, pinhead.”


“Just offering.” Bates grinned. “You’ll give in eventually, Rodney.”


“What makes you assume that?”


“Because I’ll make your life a misery until you do. See you later. Around ten a.m. I believe.” Bates gave him a mock salute and then left.


Rodney gazed after him, sightlessly. Maybe Bates was right. In fact, maybe it would be easier to just give in. It would certainly be less wearying – all he had to do was say ‘yes’ and his current misery would come to an end. Of course he’d be throwing himself into the path of a new kind of misery but honestly, Rodney wasn’t sure he could bring himself to care. All the same, some innate obstinacy that went soul-deep with him kicked in. If he gave in now then Bates would win and besides, he honestly thought he might gag just at the *thought* of kneeling in front of the sergeant, and taking the man’s cock in his mouth, so the reality didn’t bear thinking about.


Rodney received his second visitor at five minutes to ten. He was just leaving the lab on his way to the punishment room and found Colonel Sheppard loitering outside. He ignored him, but Sheppard fell into step beside him as he walked.


“Can I help you, Colonel?” he asked.


“Just thought you might want company,” Sheppard replied.


“Not really, no,” Rodney said curtly.


“Well, you’ve got it anyway.”


Rodney sighed.


“Elizabeth did try and help you out of this one you know,” Sheppard told him as they walked.


“Yes. I do.” Rodney nodded.


“Why didn’t you let her help you?”


“Because it doesn’t matter,” Rodney shrugged, getting into the transporter. “None of it matters, Colonel.” Sheppard got in beside him and leaned back against the wall.


“I think it does. I think that’s the problem. I think it really matters. I think it matters so much that it hurts,” he said softly.


Rodney blinked. Did it? He felt so numb inside that he couldn’t tell any more. The door opened, and he got out without saying a word and strode along the hallway towards the open door at the end. His stomach contracted as he got closer. Sheppard was right – it did hurt. It hurt just as much this time as it had the first time, and it hurt deep inside. Rodney shoved the sensation down, searching again for the numbness. They reached the door, and Sheppard paused.


“Coming in to enjoy the day’s entertainment, Colonel?” Rodney asked, in a mocking tone. Sheppard shook his head.


“Not this time,” he replied softly.


“I’m surprised. You watched the previous times,” Rodney spat at him, feeling another wave of pain slice through him, raw and bitter. “I saw you.”


“I know, but not this time,” Sheppard said firmly.


“Why not?”


“Because now you’re on my team.” Sheppard patted his arm. Rodney felt something break inside, and the numbness fell away. He gazed at Sheppard blindly. Damn the man for making him care about what happened to him *now*, right when he needed not to care. “I’ll be waiting,” Sheppard told him, and then he stood up straight, outside the door, almost as if guarding it. Rodney didn’t have a clue what this all meant, and he didn’t have time to think about it, because it was ten a.m. and he’d watched enough bad movies to know what happened if you didn’t turn up for a punishment on time.


Carson called it the bearpit, and Rodney had developed a keen appreciation of what the doctor meant by that now. He’d never been remotely interested in public punishments, one way or the other, before he’d been subjected to them. They simply were, like coffee or taxes – they existed, but, unlike coffee or taxes, they had never impinged on his everyday world before. He’d only ever been to one – when his mom had insisted that he and his little sister accompany her to watch a local teacher being punished for drunk driving, something she had a thing about but only, Rodney suspected, because she was secretly hoping his father would one day be up on the same charge. Rodney had found the whole thing boring, and had spent the time reading a text book on particle physics and writing emphatic messages in the margins next to all the bits that were wrong. Jeannie, on the other hand, had been so freaked out by it that Rodney had been forced to take her to the park and buy her an ice cream afterwards to calm her down. His mom, as usual, hadn’t taken any responsibility at all, and as she was able to withstand Jeannie’s sobbing better than Rodney she just shut herself in her room until Rodney dealt with it, and didn’t emerge until he brought a much happier Jeannie home from the park, chin still smeared with chocolate sauce.


Rodney had never thought that he’d one day be in the same situation as that disgraced teacher. As a sub, he was happy to give his body to a top of his own choosing, for whatever pre-arranged and carefully negotiated erotic pleasure appealed to them both, but there was nothing erotic about being bent over and beaten by one of your own subordinates in front of a crowd of jeering marines and scientists from the *botany* department for god’s sake! Rodney glared at them all as he entered the room but that just seemed to amuse the marines who laughed out loud at him. Now he wished Sheppard *was* in the room, because the mood was uglier than it had ever been before, and he sensed that was because the colonel wasn’t there to calm them all down with one raised eyebrow, or a wry, warning, clearing of his throat.


Peter was standing by the frame, looking kind of anxious, clearly freaked out by the mood in the room. Rodney took a deep breath, and then walked over to him.


“Could we dispense with the whole reading me my rights thing?” he asked. “Because I’ve heard it twice now, and I could actually recite it back to you, and I have three different coupling systems to recalibrate by lunchtime and I’d really rather waste as little time as possible on this nonsense.”


“Well…okay,” Peter shrugged. “Just…I’m supposed to so if you’re asked you’ll have to say I did.”


Rodney rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” he muttered. He glanced up, and saw Elizabeth sitting, pale and remote, right at the back as usual. Her face was set in a cool mask that gave nothing away but her eyes met his and once again he felt a pang as he saw the hurt in them. He wished he could do things differently, but right now he wasn’t entirely sure he could change the way he was behaving.


Rodney moved his hands to his pants and undid them, then stepped over to the frame and leaned forward. Only when he was in position did he yank them, and his boxers, down to just beneath his ass – he wasn’t going to give the bastards watching the satisfaction of catching a glimpse of bare flesh, although some of them would see his face clearly enough and that was possibly even worse. Rodney turned his face to one side, and as he did so he caught sight of Bates, sitting right slap bang in the middle of the front row. The sergeant wasn’t joining in the catcalls, and he wasn’t smiling, either – instead, there was a grim, sickly kind of expression on his face, and Rodney felt a shudder run through his body as he realised that the sergeant was enjoying this in an entirely different way. Now Rodney missed Sheppard even more – he hadn’t been consciously aware of it before, but somehow he’d always caught the colonel’s hazel-eyed gaze during previous punishments, and he didn’t know why but that had anchored him. Now he felt all at sea. He closed his eyes to shut out the queasy feeling rising in his stomach.


The first swat landed a split second later and his eyes flashed open, despite his best efforts to give nothing away. Rodney didn’t mind a good, erotic spanking, and one of his tops had enjoyed hurting him way beyond that, for her own amusement, but at least he’d had a choice about that, and could stop it with a word. This wasn’t like that. He didn’t have a choice about this – this was simply designed to hurt – and it did. It wasn’t delivered with love and affection by someone he trusted and was intimate with – it was meant to punish, plain and simple. Rodney bit on his lip as the second blow fell, and he clutched the handles on the frame tightly, feeling his palms start to sweat. He didn’t mean to, but he found himself seeking out Bates’s face in the audience again. Bates had an intent expression in his eyes, and he was barely blinking as he drank in Rodney’s misery.


Rodney supposed he should be grateful that Elizabeth had only ordered the paddle – she had a whole array of implements at her disposal, ranging from the paddle to the cane to – and Rodney dreaded the thought of anyone ever being on the receiving end of it – the bullwhip. But right now, he didn’t feel particularly grateful. Twelve strokes suddenly stretched out into eternity, and he wondered what would happen if he tried to walk out. The frame had restraints but they had paid him the courtesy of not using them. Elizabeth would presumably just send armed guards after him to drag him back and make him take his punishment if he tried to escape. Rodney knew that he wouldn’t walk out in any case. On some level, he felt he deserved his punishment – not for hitting Bates but for the way he’d behaved towards Elizabeth, and, while he would never apologise to her in person, he could take this – he had pretty much walked into it head first after all.


Eight swats in, and his ass hurt more than he wanted to think about. He could hear Peter grunting with the force of each stroke and he was struggling to remain silent but he wouldn’t give his audience the satisfaction of a reaction. He remained where he was, as still as he could hold himself, gaze averted, just resting there like a dead fish on a slab. He was screaming inside though – yelling in outrage and pain. He had always been a noisy sub, and he enjoyed it when a top took him to places that finally made him shut up, accepting whatever was being done to him, totally under the spell of a sexually dominant partner, but staying silent in these circumstances was much harder. Rodney bit back a howl as Peter delivered the ninth stroke. Three more…three more. He saw Bates shift in his chair, his hand resting on his groin, rubbing there surreptitiously, and it was all he could do to swallow down the bile that rose immediately in the back of his throat. He swore, there and then, his mind hazy with pain, that he’d get his own back on the sergeant somehow.


The final strokes hurt more than he’d been expecting – he guessed he was nearing the limit of what his body could comfortably tolerate, and he knew that alone should be a warning to him not to push Elizabeth any more, but somehow, even knowing that, he doubted he would be able to stop and take himself off his current path of self-destruction.


Then, finally, it was over. Rodney took a deep breath, and pushed himself away from the frame. His hands were shaking as he pulled up his pants and fastened them, and although he wanted to get out of there as fast as he could, his legs felt like lead and he wasn’t physically able to bounce out of the room the way he had on the previous two occasions. He muttered something to Peter – he had no idea what, but it wasn’t Grodin’s fault that he’d pulled the short straw and got to be Elizabeth’s lackey on this, and then he walked slowly towards the door, surprised by how shaky he felt. He got to the door, face flushed from pain and humiliation, and was unaccountably relieved to find Sheppard still standing there, still in the same position, hands behind his back.


“Okay?” Sheppard turned as he heard the door open, raising an eyebrow.


“What do you think?” Rodney growled, pushing past him. His legs still weren’t working very well, and his mind felt fuzzy.


“Whoa!” Sheppard reached out a hand and cupped his elbow, holding him steady. Rodney wanted to wave him away but right now he wasn’t sure he’d stay upright if he did that, so he leaned into the colonel’s strong, lean body and allowed the man to help him down the hallway and into the transporter.


“Looks like it was bad,” Sheppard commented. Rodney closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. He wasn’t sure why he was feeling like this – he’d only taken two more swats than previously and he’d been fine then. Now he felt as if he was seasick, and everything was moving around him, making him unsteady on his feet. The transporter door opened and Sheppard put a hand under his elbow again. Rodney squinted at the hallway.


“This isn’t the way to my lab,” he said.


“No. It’s the way to the infirmary.”


“Well, I don’t want to *go* to the infirmary,” Rodney snapped. “I want to go to my lab.”


“I don’t care,” Sheppard said grimly. “We’re going to the infirmary.”


Rodney considered arguing but he really didn’t have the energy, and besides, Sheppard had that same look in his eyes that he got when he was out in the field, facing down wraith. The one that said he was in charge and nobody better argue. Usually he was so laidback that Rodney was surprised the military had picked him for a command post, but having seen the man in times of crisis he was beginning to understand that there was more to him than was usually evident on that ironic, unruffled surface.


They walked, unsteadily, down the hallway to the infirmary, and by the time they got there Rodney was feeling so ill he didn’t even mind when Sheppard picked up his arm and draped it over his shoulder, then put his own arm around Rodney’s waist and hauled him the rest of the way.


He was only dimly aware of Carson getting to his feet, a surprised look on his face as Sheppard carried him into the infirmary.


“My god what’s happened to him? Put him on the bed,” Carson ordered. “Rodney? Stay with us.”


“Ow, ow, ow!” Rodney yelped as Sheppard sat him down on one of the beds, making his sore ass blaze with pain.


“Go easy, man,” Carson chided, turning Rodney more comfortably onto his side. “Was it that bad?” He glanced at Sheppard.


“I don’t know – I was waiting for him outside,” the colonel said, spreading his hands. “But I don’t think it’s the punishment that did this. He was looking pretty pale beforehand.”


“Ah. I think I have an inkling…” Carson’s blue eyes swam into view. “Rodney – when did you last eat anything, son?” he asked.


Rodney tried to think about it. “No idea,” he croaked at last, and even ill as he was, he knew how weird that was. He *always* knew when he’d last eaten. His life revolved around food, coffee and work to the exclusion of just about everything else.


“Damnit, Rodney. You know what happens when you go too long without food,” Carson scolded, pushing Sheppard out of the way and going over to his desk.


“A power bar? You’re giving him a power bar?” Sheppard asked incredulously, as Carson returned and pushed something sweet and crumbly into his mouth.


“Aye. He’s hypoglycaemic – a wee taste of a power bar will help him more than any medicine,” Carson grinned. His hand came down on Rodney’s shoulder, and he stroked gently. “This isn’t like you, Rodney,” he murmured. “Not remembering to eat.”


“He is looking a bit thin,” Sheppard commented. Rodney tried to think about that. He was sure he *wasn’t*. Not that he’d looked in a mirror lately, but he was sure he was still as robust and well built as ever.


“Aye. I’d noticed that too,” Carson said. Rodney frowned and sat up, propping himself up sideways on one arm so he wouldn’t have to put too much weight on his sore ass.


“Don’t talk about me as if I’m not here,” he snapped. Carson glanced at Sheppard and grinned.


“See – I told you the power bar would do the trick,” he said.


“It’s a miracle,” Sheppard laughed.


“Well, if you’re both done, I have work to do,” Rodney muttered, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Carson put a hand on his shoulder.


“Och, I don’t think so, do you, laddie?” he said, shaking his head ruefully. Rodney sighed – Carson was a total martinet in the infirmary so he had doubted he’d get out that easily but even so, he decided to push his luck.


“I’m fine – I’ll go eat something and then get to work. Don’t make a fuss, Carson,” he snapped. “Sheppard – tell him. I’m perfectly able to get back to work.”


Sheppard shook his head, casting a sideways glance at the doctor as he did so. “You’re arguing with Carson? On his own turf? Good luck, buddy but you’re on your own with that one.”


Carson gave a little gurgle of laughter at that. “Come now, Rodney. Now I’ve got you here, I might as well give you a proper check up. I’ve noticed you’ve been looking tired lately. Are you sleeping well?”


Rodney bit on his lip and glanced at Sheppard. If he admitted to Carson about his insomnia then the colonel might take him off the team and he didn’t want that. He was already annoyed about the colonel finding out he was hypoglycaemic. The man must be thinking what a total liability he was in the field.


“I’m fine,” he growled. Carson’s blue eyes saw right through him.


“Well, you can stay here and keep me company for the rest of the day in any case,” he said firmly. “I want to do some blood work on you and I’m going to get one of the nurses to run to the mess hall and bring you back a proper meal. You can eat it while I watch just so I can be certain you won’t collapse again. Then you can lie down in here this afternoon and take a nap under my supervision.”


“I’m not tired,” Rodney complained.


“I don’t care.” Carson grinned sweetly. “Come now, Rodney – I’m having a dull day and it’ll be nice for me to have a patient to cluck over.”


“You don’t cluck. You terrorise,” Rodney scowled.


Sheppard grinned at him. “Man you like living on the edge. You know, Rodney, you do work pretty hard, and you could do with some down time. I’ll drop by your lab and let Radek know he’s in charge for the rest of the day.”


“No…oh for god’s sake,” Rodney growled, as Sheppard patted his arm and then, with a cheery grin at Carson, he left the infirmary. Rodney gazed after him forlornly. There had been something rather comforting about having Sheppard’s tall, commanding presence by his side and he found he missed him. He was suddenly aware that Carson’s blue eyes were fixed on him, with an assessing look.


“What?” Rodney snapped.


“Nothing.” Carson gave him a gentle little smile. “I’ll go and get you something to change into and then I’m going to do a proper examination, whether you like it or not. I want to check to see if there’s any damage after this morning.”


Rodney flushed and gazed at his feet.


“You’ve got friends you know, Rodney,” Carson told him softly, hovering close by, his hand reaching out to stroke Rodney’s shoulder again. “Friends who care if you don’t eat, and you can’t sleep, and you keep getting into trouble. If there’s anything bothering you – you know you can tell me, don’t you?”


Rodney looked up, his throat suddenly feeling dry, as if he was trying to swallow uphill.


“You’re right,” he muttered at last. “I do feel kind of tired.” And he leaned back on the bed, put his head down, and buried his face in the pillow so he wouldn’t have to look into Carson’s kind eyes any more.




John walked along to the lab, and went over to where Radek was working. The Czech scientist looked up, startled, and pushed his glasses further up his nose, in a familiar, nervous gesture.


“I just wanted to tell you that you’re in charge for the day,” John told him.


“Why? What have you done with Rodney?” Radek squeaked, looking concerned.


“He’s in the infirmary,” John told him. Radek gave a low hiss, and muttered something in Czech that even someone like John, with zero knowledge of the language, knew had to be an expletive. “Is there a problem?” he asked, frowning.


“No, no…no problem except one must ask why you are all so determined to ruin one of the finest minds of his generation with all this….” He spat out a word that John didn’t recognise and John noticed that some of the people in the room were listening in on their conversation.


“Do you have a few minutes?” he asked. “Maybe we could go to the mess hall and grab a donut?” He had noticed that donuts seemed to be a staple food for the scientists. Radek shrugged, and they retired to the privacy of the empty mess hall.


“I am not saying he is easy to work for – he is not,” Radek said, as he sat down at a table. John brought over the donuts and coffee, and sat facing him. “But genius is not without its price. He is short-tempered, and he expects more from us than I think we are capable of – or maybe it is just his way of coaxing brilliance from us…whatever it is, I have achieved more working with him for one year than I did in my life before.”


“Well that’s good,” John said, sipping on his coffee and gazing at the scientist thoughtfully. “Do all the other members of his staff feel the same way? I’ve noticed that none of them attend his punishments.”


“We would not!” Radek looked outraged at the idea. “When you have worked with him you cannot but respect his mind – we have no desire to witness what passes for justice out here.”


“You disagree with Elizabeth’s decisions to punish him?” John asked, frowning. Radek sighed.


“My Lady Elizabeth is very wise, and I respect her very much, but in this instance, yes, I disagree with her, but then I am always at odds with the authorities on this issue.” He gave a wan smile. “I was a political activist in Czechoslovakia, before the war,” he murmured. “I underwent many such punishments myself.”


“You’re a radical,” John said, sitting back in his chair and gazing at Radek thoughtfully. Radek grinned.


“I am, yes,” he agreed, and then his smile faded, and he looked anxious again. “But how is Rodney? You said he was in the infirmary?”


“He’s fine – apparently he just forgot to eat.” John shrugged.


“Rodney forgot to eat? It’s surely impossible.” Radek shook his head ruefully. “I have never known this to happen,” he told John, with a glint in his eye. John had a sudden sense of how well Radek knew Rodney, and for a second he felt a wave of resentment towards the scientist.


“Are you a top, Radek?” he asked bluntly.


“What?” Radek pushed his glasses nervously up his nose again. “What business is this of yours?”


It was a good question, and John struggled to find an answer. “I just wondered. You seemed worried about Rodney, so I thought….”


“No. No, no, no…do not go there, Colonel,” Radek interrupted him, looking kind of angry. “I do not top.”


“Oh. Right.” John leaned back again, feeling unaccountably relieved.


“I do not sub, either,” Radek said.


John frowned. “You switch?”


“No.” Radek looked uncomfortable. “I do not do any of these things – they do not appeal to me. I identify as non-dynamic.”


“Really?” John was a little shocked but he did his best to hide it.


“Also…I am not interested in Rodney in that way because he is a man.”


John gazed at him blankly and Radek flushed an even deeper shade of red. He leaned forwards and spoke in a whisper.


“I am monosexual.”


John did his best to keep his face non-judgemental because really it was no business of his if Radek only wanted to sleep with women, and he was cool with it in any case. He’d never actually met any monosexuals but there was quite a strong monosexual movement that had gained acceptance in the past few years.


“You’re mono?” he grinned. “Honestly, Radek, that’s not as big a deal as it was a few years ago.”


“No. But even so.” Radek shrugged. “I do not speak of it often – it has no bearing on my work and I have encountered prejudice so I prefer to keep my private life private.”


“Mono *and* non-dynamic? Man, you’re pervy!” John laughed. “Where the hell do you go to *meet* people, Radek?”


“There are clubs,” Radek shrugged. “It is easier now than it used to be, now that more people are prepared to admit that they do not identify in the traditional way, with dominant or submissive inclinations.”


“Are there any others on Atlantis?” John asked, curious. Radek shrugged.


“Not many, but there are always some. I thought to ask Elizabeth for permission to start a little newsletter, so that we could be open about our preferences.”


“Well I think that’s a great idea.” John nodded. “And I promise you that I’ll help you handle any negativity that you might encounter. I can’t stand that kind of crap. What you do in the bedroom is your own affair. It’s not for me but I don’t see what the hell business it is of mine.”


Radek smiled, and looked more relaxed than he had thus far.


“You work closely with Rodney,” John said, returning to the original topic of conversation. “Is there anything going on that we should know about?”


Radek thought about it for a moment and then shrugged, uneasily. “I think you are asking the wrong man,” he said.


“I’ve already asked Rodney but he just closes up like a clam,” John sighed.


“I did not mean Rodney,” Radek said quietly. “I think if you want to find out what is wrong with Rodney then you must first find out what is happening with Sergeant Bates.”


“Bates?” John frowned. “I thought I’d dealt with Bates. Hell, Rodney told me himself that Bates wasn’t giving him any trouble.”


“Maybe that is so, if Rodney says it is,” Radek said. “But Rodney is a proud man, perhaps the proudest man I’ve ever met, and I think he would not want a top such as yourself to know his problems. Yes?”


“Is there something you know that you aren’t telling me?” John demanded. Radek shifted nervously.


“It is Rodney’s business,” he said, finally. “That is all I wish to say.”


John considered this for a moment, but Radek looked very tight-lipped, and clearly wasn’t going to tell him anything more. John sighed.


“Okay – let’s leave it at that then,” he said, still none the wiser as to what, exactly, was going on with Rodney. Not that it was his responsibility to find out – he wasn’t interested in taking the man as a sub after all. No, the only reason he cared was because Rodney was on his team, and John always looked out for the people on his team.


John walked back to his office, feeling unsettled by the day’s events. For some reason he couldn’t get the mental image of a pale, tired-looking Rodney McKay out of his head. The scientist looked like a man running on empty – and utterly out of control at the same time. John wondered what the hell was going on in the scientist’s mind – from everything he’d heard, this wasn’t typical Rodney McKay behaviour, and he could only guess at how much it had to be costing such a proud, arrogant man, to end up on that punishment frame time after time. He remembered the way Rodney had stumbled, and how he had fallen against him, the warm solidity of his body against his own and the look in those blue eyes – combined sadness and a kind of guarded desperation. John felt his fists clench, and he sat down at his desk and slammed his hand onto his radio.


“Sergeant Bates – I’d like to see you please. Now,” he snapped curtly.


Bates looked his usual clean, sharp self when he arrived a few minutes later, in stark contrast to the city’s shambolic Head of Science, with his unkempt hair and scruffy clothes. Bates was every inch the professional soldier – parade ground ready, boots polished, everything shining. John gazed at him, wondering what the hell he was expecting to learn from this meeting.


“Sergeant Bates – I’m concerned about that punch Dr McKay threw at you in the briefing room,” John said cautiously. “It seemed…kind of out of character. Dr McKay’s main form of attack is his sharp tongue after all,” John said, watching Bates carefully. “So, I was wondering if you knew of anything that might have set him off.”


Bates frowned. “Such as, sir?” he asked.


“I was wondering if the two of you had argued recently, or if there was any animosity between you. I seem to recall making my feelings on that subject very plain right after the jello incident.”


Bates shook his head. “I can’t think of anything, sir,” he said. “To be honest I’ve hardly even seen Dr McKay since that time with the jello in the mess hall. Our paths don’t cross much.”


John sat back in his chair and considered the sergeant, saying nothing, hoping that would un-nerve the other man. A minute passed, and Bates started to look uncomfortable.


“Why sir?” he asked eventually. “Has Dr McKay made a complaint about me?”


“No,” John said slowly. “What makes you think he would?”


“Nothing, sir. Just that you seem to think there might be some kind of problem.”


“And is there?” John raised an eyebrow.


“Not with me, sir,” Bates replied, and there was something about the way he said it, with just the hint of an eyeroll, that made it clear to John that Bates was saying that if anyone had a problem it was McKay, and nothing whatsoever to do with Bates.


“So, you can’t think of anything you might have said, or done, that would have caused him to punch you a few days ago?” John pressed.


“Nothing beyond what you heard in that meeting, sir. To be honest, I’m not sure that Dr McKay is coping very well with the pressure of life out here. You only have to look at his appearance – the man is a mess.” Bates gave a conspiratorial little smile. “But then he’s a scientist after all, not a soldier, and he’s had no training for what we’re facing out here.”


“What are you implying?” John asked quietly. “Speak your mind, Sergeant – off the record.”


“Well, we’re in another galaxy, and we’ve come up against some pretty scary aliens, sir. I’m just saying that a lot of people might find that hard to handle and Dr McKay doesn’t strike me as being the most stable of people. Maybe he needs fewer responsibilities. You have to admit that it doesn’t look good when the Head of Science, the second in command on this expedition, ends up in the punishment room every week or so. Off the record…I’d say he was cracking up, sir.”


“Really?” John pondered that for a moment. Rodney was certainly desperate – but cracking up? The truth was that John felt more confident about Rodney’s behaviour offworld, with all that implied by way of scary aliens, than he did about the scientist’s conduct in the city. Offworld, Rodney had been brave, committed, relaxed and even pretty good fun to be around – it was only back on Atlantis that he played up.


“Yes, sir. Honestly, I’ve got nothing against the guy but I have wondered if he needs psychiatric help. I mean – the way he threw himself at me in the briefing room? It was kind of extreme. You were there – I hardly said anything that warranted that kind of personal attack. My first thoughts are always for the safety of the mission and the people we’re here to protect, sir.” Bates nodded firmly and John had no doubt that he absolutely meant that.


“You think Dr McKay is a liability?”


Bates hesitated. “Well, nobody’s denying he’s very smart, sir, but yes…I think he IS a liability. If it were up to me, I’d bench him for a few weeks, take the pressure off him. For his own good and the good of the expedition.”


“I see. Sergeant – I’m very much aware there was some bad blood between you and Dr McKay. Now, if you lie to me about this I will have your guts, Sergeant, and I promise you that it won’t be pretty, but if you tell me the truth then you’ll only get your ass kicked a little. I’m only going to ask you this once: have you bullied Dr McKay at any point since that day in the punishment room when I put you through your paces and made it very clear that he was deserving of your utmost respect?”


Bates’s mouth set into a hard line. “No, *sir*,” he practically spat. “I always follow orders, sir and you made your views on that day very plain, sir.”


“All right then, Sergeant. I’ll take you at your word. Dismissed,” John said. He watched Bates go, feeling as if he’d got nowhere, and he couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that he’d missed something. He slapped his headset again and called Corporal Hicks to his office. Bates was a hard nut to crack – but Hicks? Well, he was just a kid, and a pretty malleable one at that.


Hicks stood to attention in front of his desk a few minutes later and John sat back in his chair and surveyed him. He didn’t give the corporal permission to stand at ease, and the blond kid started to flush under his scrutiny.


“Corporal, I’m going to ask you a question, and I want an honest reply,” John told him. Hicks flushed even deeper and his voice croaked as he replied.


“I would always be honest with you, sir.” There was a wistful look in his eyes as he said that, and John remembered how cute he’d looked on his knees, with his head down, utterly submissive. Yes, there was no way this kid would lie to him – and even if he did, John would see through it without any trouble at all.


“You hang out with a little gang in your off duty hours I believe,” John said. “With Krettman, Bates and some of the others – yes?”


“Yes, sir,” Hicks nodded but he looked worried, clearly uncertain where this was heading.


“Have you witnessed Dr McKay being harassed in any way recently?” John asked. Hicks flushed a bright red, and looked a little ashamed of himself.


“No, sir,” he whispered. “And I apologised to Dr McKay about the way things were before. I didn’t realise it had gone too far. I was just…kind of joining in but I can see that was pretty dumb of me now.”


“What about Bates? Have you seen him harassing Dr McKay lately?” John pressed. Hicks shook his head vehemently.


“No, sir! In fact, I haven’t seen them so much as say two words to each other since that day you, uh, made things clear to us in the punishment room, sir.” Hicks was now flushing a shade that could only be described as vermillion. “Bates won’t let any of the others say anything, either – he glares at anyone who even looks at McKay in a funny way, and he gets kind of angry if anyone says anything against McKay – even in private. I’ve seen him almost get into fights over that.”


“Okay. Thank you, Corporal,” John sighed. He dismissed the kid and sat back in his chair again feeling completely demoralised. There simply weren’t any obvious answers here – unless he accepted Bates’s assertion at face value that Rodney was simply cracking up. Both Bates and Hicks were singing from the same hymn sheet, and while he wasn’t completely sure about Bates, he would bet his life on the fact that Hicks was telling him the truth. It was Bates’s behaviour that bothered him though. The man had just effectively briefed against Rodney, in the most subtle of ways, undermining him, calling his mental state into question, suggesting he be sidelined…and yet, Hicks was adamant that Bates not only didn’t have a bad word to say about Rodney when they were alone together, but also that he wouldn’t tolerate anyone else bad-mouthing him, either. It just didn’t stack up.


John sighed – maybe there was some kind of obvious answer to all this in here somewhere, but if so, it completely eluded him. There was little he could do except monitor the situation, and hope that if there was an obvious answer, it’d eventually make itself so obvious that it hit him upside the head, because right now he had nothing.




Rodney had a surprisingly nice day in the infirmary. Carson didn’t seem very busy – or if he was, he put his workload on hold. He joined Rodney for a meal which felt relaxed, not like a doctor/patient thing at all, but more like two friends passing some time together. Carson joked around with him and didn’t once mention his recent punishment, for which Rodney was extremely grateful. Rodney was still feeling pretty fuzzy after his hypoglycaemic attack and he didn’t demur when Carson insisted he take a nap during the afternoon. In fact, it felt really nice to get some sleep – he hadn’t realised just how bad his insomnia had become. Usually there was no way Rodney would have been able to sleep during the day, but Carson sat beside him, reading through some notes, and that was oddly comforting and before he knew it he was coming to, blurrily, to find that five hours had passed.


He should have realised that Carson wouldn’t let it go at that though. Only when Rodney had eaten another meal, and was feeling exponentially better, with a full stomach and several hours sleep behind him, did Carson lean forward, gaze at him with those knowing blue eyes, and start in on all the killer questions.


“So, how long have you had the insomnia, laddie?” he asked. Rodney winced. He always knew it was going to be bad when Carson started calling him laddie.


“It’s nothing. I’ve never needed much sleep,” he replied. Carson smiled, that tight, toppy little smile that said there was no way he would ever let Rodney get away with that kind of an answer. Rodney sighed.
“The past couple of weeks have been stressful,” he admitted. “I needed to get the generators online and I wanted to test a couple of theories about how the city worked which involved setting up some complicated experiments that you wouldn’t understand.” Carson grinned, completely unfazed by Rodney’s aspersions on his intelligence.


“Do you lie awake at night worrying about anything, Rodney?” Carson asked. Rodney gazed at him blankly. He thought of Jeannie, thought of Bates, thought, inexplicably, of Colonel Sheppard. “The Wraith maybe?” Carson added. Rodney snorted.


“No, Carson. I can promise you I never lie awake at night worrying about the Wraith,” he said, truthfully.


“I don’t know why the bloody hell not!” Carson exclaimed. “Those little buggers give me the heebie jeebies. It’d be natural enough if you were freaked out by them.”


“Well I’m not,” Rodney replied firmly.


“So what do you lie awake thinking about?” Carson pressed. Rodney felt his hands start to twitch anxiously.


“Just…I don’t want Sheppard to throw me off his team,” Rodney said, surprising himself by that admission. Some kind of a knowing look flashed into Carson’s blue eyes.


“And why do you think he would?” Carson asked quietly.


“Some of the things Bates said before I punched him.” Rodney shrugged. “And man, you have no idea how good *that* felt.”


“Ah. Bates. I wondered when he’d come up,” Carson murmured. “Is he bothering you, Rodney? Because if he is, there are plenty of people here who can take care of that.”


“I am perfectly capable of dealing with Sergeant Bates all by myself thank you very much, Carson!” Rodney growled. “Stop patronising me and don’t treat me like an idiot. I may be very many things but stupid is not one of them.”


Carson gazed at him thoughtfully. “You didn’t answer my question, Rodney,” he said softly. Rodney thought about telling his friend but he had a sudden flashback to Bates sitting watching him being punished that morning. He recalled the way Bates had been rubbing himself, getting off on his pain and humiliation. Damnit, he would get back at that bastard, if it was the last thing he did.


“No,” Rodney said, tilting his chin forward firmly. “Bates isn’t a problem. He isn’t a problem at all.”


Carson finally released him around seven, with strict instructions that he was not, under any circumstances, to go back to his lab. Rodney was fine with that – he had already decided that he was going somewhere else in any case. He arrived outside a door a few minutes later, and hesitated, steeling himself for what he intended to do next. He’d had enough of being pursued and harassed – it was time to turn the tables and start fighting back.


The door was locked, but that didn’t bother Rodney. He knocked first of all, and when there was no reply he used his knowledge of the city to open the door and then stepped inside. The room was in darkness but Rodney didn’t bother turning on a light. He just closed the door behind him, and went and sat down. He put his legs up on the table, feigning a nonchalance at odds with his wildly beating heart…and waited. The marines worked to a very strict schedule so he knew Bates wouldn’t be long, and, sure enough, the sergeant returned to his room ten minutes later. He didn’t turn on the light, either, just started tugging at his uniform collar to loosen it.


“Hello, Bates,” Rodney said softly.


Bates swung round, reaching for his weapon. Rodney gave a wry little chuckle and leaned back to switch on the light on the wall, flooding the room with light. Bates looked at him, an expression of total surprise on his face. That gave Rodney a buzz of pleasure, and he gave a wide grin.


“How did you get in here?” Bates demanded. “I left the door locked.”


“Oh, I know this city backwards,” Rodney told him. “I know just about everything there is to know about it – including how to bypass a few simple door mechanisms. So, you might want to be careful – with all the stuff I know, you really don’t want to piss me off.”


Bates gazed at him for a moment, and then his face creased into a broad grin too. “You wouldn’t do anything,” he said. “You’re soft, Rodney.”


“Want to bet your life on that?” Rodney asked, in a sinister tone. Bates’s mouth set into a hard line.


“Don’t threaten me, boy,” he snarled. “You’re just a sub running wild right now, and what you need is a hard top to bring you into line.” Then his expression changed, and he gave a twisted kind of grin. “The way I see it, you’re here for a reason right now, whether you’ve figured it out or not. You want what I can give you, Rodney.”


Rodney slid his legs off the table, fighting the rising tide of panic in his gut. Suddenly the whole ‘attack is the best method of defence – show up in his room and freak him out’ strategy wasn’t working as well as he’d expected, and he was acutely aware that he was stuck in Bates’s room with no one around if the sergeant decided to turn nasty.


“I told you,” Bates said, in a low, soft tone. “I told you that you’d come here. I knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away. Now get on your knees, boy, because I’m going to beat the shit out of you before I fuck you.” His hands went to his belt and Rodney got up, and edged nervously towards the door.


“I don’t think so,” he hissed, and then he tried to make a dignified exit, striding purposefully towards the door. He was nearly there when Bates got to him, caught hold of his arm, and spun him back.


“I said, on-your-knees,” Bates ground out, pushing Rodney down in the general direction of the floor. Rodney slammed his hand into the other man’s belly and broke the sergeant’s grasp, only for Bates to trip him as he tried to make another run for it. Rodney scrabbled around frantically on the floor, trying to get away again, but Bates was too fast for him. “That’s right,” Bates hissed. “On your knees, where you belong.” He grabbed hold of Rodney’s hair, pulled his head back, and then traced a finger over Rodney’s mouth. “Oh yes…cock-sucking lips…I’ll put them to good use,” Bates whispered.


“Stick your cock in my mouth and I’ll bite the damn thing off,” Rodney snarled, twisting helplessly in the other man’s grasp. The expression in Bates’s eyes made it clear he wasn’t going to risk that, but Rodney could feel his hardness against his cheek all the same, and it made him feel physically sick to realise that this was turning Bates on. “I saw you today, you sick pervert,” Rodney said. “Saw you when I was being punished…rubbing yourself….”


“What can I say?” Bates grinned. “The sight of you, ass up over that frame, makes me horny. Is that why you’re here, Rodney? Did it turn you on too?”


“Let me go,” Rodney hissed, and he was surprised when, a second later, Bates did just that. Rodney slumped to the floor but got up quickly. Bates watched him, still grinning, his eyes raking over Rodney’s body as if he was mentally undressing him.


“You are such a crappy sub,” Bates said. “I’m going to make you beg for it, Rodney. One day, you’ll beg me to allow you to suck my cock. It can be today if you want. Do you want it, Rodney. It’s hard for you.” His hand went down to the front of his pants and caressed the hardness through the fabric.


“If you want to beg me right now then I’ll let you suck me. Might be a good way of shutting up your whiney little voice.”


Rodney backed away towards the door, and Bates followed him, a dark, intent look in his eyes. “Did you know that Colonel Sheppard has serious doubts about your mental health, Rodney?” he said suddenly, in a sweet little tone. “I saw him today. My bet is that you’re going to be taking an enforced break soon – and my other guess is that the only way you’re going to be able to get your job back is if you start putting out for me.”


“What?” Rodney gasped, horrified.


“Yeah. It’s true. Sheppard and me had a nice, cosy little chat earlier. I told him that you’re a liability, and he agrees with me. If you still keep acting crazy then I’m going to have them confine you to your quarters for your own safety…and I’ll volunteer to be on the guard detail. I’ll keep you safe, Rodney, just as long as you’re a good boy for me. If you co-operate then I’ll get you moved into my quarters, and put my training collar around your neck. Once everyone knows I’m your top, and once you’ve spent a couple of weeks in here, tied to the bed, nice and meek and mild, then I’ll help you win your job back. I’ll even help you keep it, just as long as you’re a good little sub and let me fuck that soft ass of yours regularly. I heard you give pretty good blow jobs – I’m looking forward to getting one of those real soon.”


He caressed his cock again through his pants, and Rodney backed off towards the door, his chest constricting in fear and loathing. He scrabbled for the lock and felt the door whoosh open behind him, and then he was stumbling out into the hallway.


“Real soon, Rodney!” Bates called after him.


Rodney made it back to his own quarters, ran into the bathroom, and then threw up the meal Carson had made him eat.


“Oh shit,” he muttered to himself as he lay on the cold bathroom floor after having heaved his guts up into the toilet. “God you’re fucked. You are so fucked, McKay.”


Rodney spent the next few days doing what he did best when faced with any kind of enormous personal crisis – he buried himself in his work. He literally holed himself up in his lab and pored over the transcripts they’d copied from that Ancient temple. They weren’t written in Ancient, but in an Ancient numerical code, which was unusual, and for that reason alone, Rodney was pretty sure he was the only person on Atlantis who’d be able to decipher them. Elizabeth dropped by, fascinated by what he was working on, and for awhile things were like they used to be between them, as Rodney explained, in super-fast tones, why the code was so exciting, and Elizabeth smiled at his obvious enthusiasm and asked what even Rodney had to concede were fairly intelligent questions.


Four days later he bounded into her office, interrupting a meeting she was having with Sheppard, and threw his laptop triumphantly onto her desk.


“Eureka!” he said excitedly, bouncing around the room, barely able to contain himself. Sheppard grinned at him.


“Damnit but I really would love to play poker with you,” he commented.


Rodney grinned back at him. “I would lose, spectacularly, but on this, on being a brilliant genius capable of translating 10,000 year old Ancient numerical code language, on *this* I totally win and everyone else totally sucks,” he proclaimed happily. Sheppard rolled his eyes, still grinning. Elizabeth was busy looking at the data he’d placed in front of her, her eyes wide and fascinated. Rodney couldn’t even begin to contain the chirrup of pride that escaped his lips.


“These are all co-ordinates to planets with ZPMs?” she asked.


“Yes! ZPMs!” Rodney’s hands did a little dance of glee entirely of their own volition. “Of course, this data is 10,000 years old so who knows if the ZPMs are still there but at last we have a lead – and look, there’s three of them. Three potential ZPMs! When can we leave?”
He whirled around and addressed that last comment to Colonel Sheppard without pausing. The colonel placed a hand on his shoulder.


“Hold on, McKay… let me see the data first before you go saddling up the puddle jumpers,” he grinned. He kept his hand on Rodney’s shoulder as he bent over the laptop and Rodney took a deep breath, calming down from his previous level of high octane excitement. This was good! ZPMs! And maybe this discovery would help him get the respect he felt he deserved around this place.


“Well, we haven’t been to any of these places – so why don’t we start at the top?” Sheppard suggested. “RGT-9650.”


“Great. Fantastic!” Rodney slid out from under the colonel’s hand and bounced over to the door.


“Uh…not right this minute, Rodney,” Sheppard said, in that amused drawl of his. “We’ll need to prep.”


“Agreed,” Elizabeth said, nodding slowly. “Also, I’m presuming we won’t just encounter a ZPM sitting by the gate so you might be gone for some time – and that means you’ll need supplies, and I’m also going to suggest you take a squad of marines with you for backup. This is too important to screw up.”


“Yeah.” Sheppard nodded his head, in a maddeningly slow way, clearly considering all the mission requirements. Rodney sighed.


“Tomorrow then?”


“Six a.m.” Sheppard grinned at him again. “Good work, Rodney!” Rodney felt a glow of pride that warmed him from the inside out, and it was as if he was walking on air as sauntered back to his lab. This – this – was why he was on this expedition.


RGT-9650 was a planet of dense forest but it was at least sunny when they stepped through the gate. Rodney judged that the time was somewhere around early afternoon, which gave them a few hours to look around before it got dark. Rodney unearthed some directions to another ruined temple, etched into a way-stone by the gate, and that saved them several hours searching. The only difficulty was the large, bat-like creatures that kept making bomber dives on them every few minutes. They weren’t dangerous as such but they delivered a few nasty scratches to people’s heads and necks, and made proper exploration of the temple impossible. Sheppard and his team of marines were kept busy firing at them to scare them away, while Rodney and *his* team of scientists were constantly interrupted in their study of the Ancient ruins by the creatures. After one of them nearly bit Rodney’s ear, which Rodney complained about, vociferously, for a full ten minutes, Sheppard finally called for more backup. Half an hour later, another squad of marines came through the gate and Rodney stiffened as he saw Bates leading them towards the offworld team.


Bates barely looked at him though – as punctilious as ever when in the presence of others, he was every inch the professional soldier, saluting at Sheppard, and then ordering his men to sweep out and keep their guns ready to fire on the bat creatures.


Rodney relaxed. There was no way Bates would try anything out here, and he was too stoked up on the excitement of possibly being on the same planet as a ZPM to take much notice of the sergeant.


The day wore on, and the team spread out – the ruins were huge, and most of the etchings on its walls were some kind of religious mumbo jumbo that was much too recent to have been done by the Ancients, but Rodney was convinced there had to be something more if they just kept on looking.


As evening fell, they heard a noise from the direction of the stargate and Sheppard took a small team of marines to investigate. Rodney wandered down some old stone steps into a little ante-chamber and fumbled for his flashlight in the twilit room.


“Found anything?” a voice behind him asked.


“Not yet – the likelihood is that this room was used by some kind of elder, perhaps for robing ceremonies or secretarial work, and there’s therefore more of a chance that there’s some kind of secret message transcribed on the walls, rather than the hocus pocus we saw in the main chamber,” Rodney said absently, and then he froze, recognising that voice. An arm went around his waist from behind, and he felt lips press against the back of his neck.


“I’ve wanted to get you alone all afternoon,” Bates whispered into his ear. Rodney pushed back but only succeeded in dropping his flashlight, plunging the entire chamber into darkness. Bates laughed. “Such a klutz. I’m surprised Sheppard even allows you out on your own.


“Let me go,” Rodney said, in a tight voice, squirming in Bates’s grasp. He was a big man but Bates was a trained soldier, and his hard, toned muscles were more than a match for Rodney’s softer bulk.


“You’ve been teasing me,” Bates said. “You keep bending over to look at stuff written down by your feet, and I keep thinking about how good it’ll be to finally get my hands on that fat ass of yours and fuck it long and hard.”


“I told you that’s never going to happen,” Rodney hissed. “How much more obvious do I have to make it?”


“You’re the kind of sub who has to be railroaded,” Bates told him firmly, his lips brushing the back of Rodney’s neck again, making him shudder. “You don’t know what you want but you will when you feel my hard cock slamming into your ass. You’ll know then.”


“Do it then,” Rodney said angrily. “You keep on threatening so just do it. What’s stopping you, Bates?”


“I don’t want to take you by force, Rodney – there wouldn’t be any fun in that. No, I want to see the look in your eyes when you surrender to me. I want the joy of seeing you beg, on your hands and knees.”


“I don’t beg,” Rodney said haughtily. “And if you’re waiting for my consent then you’ll have a damn long wait because that’s never going to happen.”


“Oh I think it will,” Bates said softly. “Sheppard already thinks you’re crazy – and with the way you keep acting out it won’t be long before you screw up again and then I’ll insist they bench you – you’re clearly not safe to have around. I’ve got it all planned out, Rodney, and I can wait. It’ll be all the sweeter to wait, to wait until you have nowhere left to go except my bed. I can smell your humiliation now, can see just how good you’ll look on your hands and knees, crawling over to me and asking me to put you out of your misery and fuck you.”


Rodney stood there, just gazing into the darkness, numb. Would it be so bad, he wondered, just to give Bates what he wanted?


“I’m a lousy sub. You’d soon grow tired of me,” he said wearily. Bates’s arm tightened around his waist, and Rodney felt his semi-hard cock digging into his buttocks.


“I’ll train you up,” Bates promised. “I have a fine collection of whips. I can guarantee I’ll soon have you licked into shape.” And with that he ran his tongue over the back of Rodney’s neck, smearing saliva into his skin. “Soon, Rodney,” Bates promised. I give it a couple of days – a week tops. Then you’ll be mine.” At that moment there was a commotion outside, back in the main chamber. Bates pulled away, quickly, and then Rodney heard him push on further into the depths of the temple.


Rodney stood there for a moment, trying to collect himself. He reached up and wiped the back of his neck with his sleeve, feeling dirty, and then he felt a rising tide of anger so furious that he couldn’t stop himself from slamming his fist against the wall. The momentary pain brought him up short, and he gave a silent howl, but at least it distracted him from the memory of Bates licking his neck. Then he heard footsteps on the stairs leading down from the main chamber, and a second later a flashlight shone in his eyes.


“McKay?” Sheppard’s voice. “We have to get out of here. Quick – there are wraith ships out there.” The flashlight came close and Rodney caught sight of Sheppard’s worried hazel eyes. “Anyone else down here with you?” Sheppard asked.


Rodney didn’t actually consciously think about it, but if he had, he was pretty sure that he’d have given the same answer. He shook his head.


“No,” he said. “Nobody else. I came down here alone.”


“Let’s get moving then.” Sheppard ushered him back up into the main chamber, pushing him up ahead, clearly worried. The main chamber was empty, and the sun had almost set, casting the ruins in a shadowy light, making them look ten times more spooky than they had that afternoon.


“Great – you’ve found him,” Ford said, running up. “I’ve already taken all the scientists through the gate, Colonel.


“Good – everyone accounted for?” Sheppard asked, starting to jog out of the chamber and back towards the forest.


“Everyone except Bates, sir,” Ford said.


Sheppard came to a halt and glanced back at the temple. “Did you see him back there?” he asked Rodney.


Rodney shook his head again, glancing nervously back at the temple, hoping Bates wouldn’t appear. “Nope. I saw him leave when you first sounded the alarm, Colonel. He must have headed back to the gate on his own.”


“You sure?” Sheppard frowned.


Rodney nodded. The lie had already been told. There was no point backtracking now. “Positive.”


Sheppard tapped on his radio. “Sergeant Bates…” he began, but at that moment a wraith ship screeched overhead. “Run!” Sheppard ordered, pushing Rodney out of the way of the beam. Somehow they got separated from Ford in the melee, and it was just the two of them, zig-zagging through the forest. Rodney could feel his chest pounding and he was grateful that Sheppard seemed to know where they were going as he’d lost his bearings completely. Sheppard kept nudging him with a hand on his shoulder, and eventually they emerged into a clearing. Rodney saw the gate directly ahead but there was a wraith ship circling overhead.


“Run for the gate while I cover you! I’ll shoot at the ship to keep it away,” Sheppard yelled. Rodney hesitated. “Do it!” Sheppard commanded.


“What about you?” Rodney asked breathlessly, leaning his hands on his knees, too out of shape for such a long jog over such difficult terrain.


“I’ll be right behind you,” Sheppard said.


“Let’s run it together,” Rodney suggested, not liking the idea of Sheppard staying behind to be scooped up by the Wraith.


“No!” Sheppard yelled, over the screeching sound of the dart overhead. “Go!”


Rodney thought about it for a moment, and then shook his head. “Together,” he said obstinately, sticking his jaw out. Sheppard gave him an exasperated look and then, finally, he grabbed Rodney’s arm and they both started running. It was only a short distance to the gate but to Rodney it felt like miles as they ran, Sheppard firing furiously into the air the entire time. They got to the gate just as the wraith ship swooped towards them, its beam sweeping the ground. Sheppard pushed him through, and then tumbled in after him, and they arrived on the other side together, in a tangle of limbs.




End of Part Four



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