Disclaimer:The following story is a work of fiction. The characters and universe are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Sci-Fi Channel. This fic is meant solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes:lilyfarfalla asked for a pining John or Rodney, and this gave me the nerve to play with an idea that I have had bouncing around for some time. Complete AU from Sunday on as Carson Beckett did not die in the explosion and is still the Chief Medical Officer for the Atlantis Expedition. Jennifer Keller is not a member of the expedition and Sam Carter is still in charge. Rodney did break up with Katie after the events of Quarantine. Oh, and DADT does not exist in my universe, ever. Some lines of dialogue taken directly from the episode.
Summary: AU version of The Shrine "You're the only one that I would ask to do this, John."
John allowed himself a small smile as he and his team stood waiting for the gate to open. His team, and in fact the whole city, had experienced a trying couple of months and things were just beginning to slow down. Well, as slow as things got in the Pegasus galaxy, anyway. Between a mutant plant trying to take over one of the botanists, Ronon getting brainwashed, endless variations of themselves and the city, and then the replicator version of Elizabeth almost wrecking all of the city systems, they had all been strung out physically and emotionally. It was time to get back into some routine missions.
To that end, Carter was sending the whole team with Rodney, who had been asked to visit an off-world research station run by Dr. Nichols. The scientists there were studying the effects of global warming but in the course of their explorations they had run across an energy signature unlike anything that the Atlantis teams had encountered before. Thus the call for Rodney. The rest of them were just along for ride. Thank goodness for Carter, she knew just how important it was for the team to be in sync with one another again.
He let his smile broaden a little as he listened to Rodney bitch to Teyla about how arrogant Nichols is and how much he didn't like him because of that fact. His scientist was so smart that they didn't even have a scale to measure it, but he was also so blind to aspects of his own personality, that he didn't like in others, that it was laughable.
His scientist. He sighed. How he wished that Rodney was his, to hold, to touch, to kiss, to... Well, never mind, he didn't need to be thinking about that here and now. Rodney was his friend, the best he had ever had in fact, and John wasn't going to ruin that friendship by obsessing over something that he obviously couldn't have. Not that he had ever told Rodney how he feels about him of course; Rodney was just so obviously heterosexual that John never brought it up. He was tempted several months back when Rodney and Katie had finally broken it off but he wasn't interested being a rebound lover or in being rejected for that matter. So he stayed quiet and enjoyed the fact that Rodney seemed to have no serious interest in any of the female personnel on the city currently. Even his on again, off again passion for Carter seemed to have waned in the time that she had been in charge of the city.
The gate kawhooshing snapped him out of his contemplation of Rodney and he gave a jaunty little wave to Carter as he led his team through the gate.
Into hell. A suffocating, freezing hell. It took him a few moments to realize that he was underwater and then he kicked and stroked his way to what he hoped was the surface and air. His head broke the surface and he gasped for air for just a few moments before Teyla and Ronon came up, also taking in much-needed oxygen. A few breaths later he was still waiting for Rodney to surface and was just about to dive down to look for him, when Rodney came up choking and sputtering.
"I tried," he said between bouts of coughing, "to see if the DHD is intact but I couldn't get there. Give me a minute to catch my breath and I will try again."
"Let's get up out of this water and then I will try to find it and see if I can dial Atlantis," John said.
"Where"- cough-"exactly, are we supposed to go to get out of the water?" Rodney asked, with a bit of his normal sarcastic tone in his voice.
"Over there," Ronon replied. He pointed to the Stargate off to one side of the group. "It's the only place that I can see sticking up out of the water."
The team slowly made their way to the gate, Ronon reaching it first and easily pulling himself to the top of the gate. He reached down and pulled Teyla up next, then Rodney and finally John.
"Thanks, Big Guy" said John, as he sat and started taking deep breaths in preparation for reaching the DHD. After a few minutes he was ready and dived back into the water. By swimming down at an angle he easily reached the dialer and proceeded to dial home.
He rose back up to the surface as quickly as possible and treaded water while the gate opened below him. He activated his radio, mentally thanking the SGC for technology that was waterproof, and said "Atlantis, this is Sheppard. Do not lower the shield. The entire tower will be flooded."
"Ok Colonel," came Carter's voice. "What's your situation?"
"We are cold and wet. The Stargate's under water. The entire valley's flooded."
"And we're freezing!" Rodney interjected.
"You will have to wait until the water recedes to come back through, but what can we do for you in the interim?" Carter asked.
"Send a Jumper through so we can stay warm and dry until the water is gone." John replied.
"No problem, Colonel. One will be coming through shortly," said Carter.
"Acknowledged. Sheppard out."
While they had been talking, he had swam back to the gate and now allowed Ronon to pull him up once more.
"Why has the gate not closed yet Rodney?" Teyla asked a few minutes later.
"It's the water. The constant pressure's forcing the wormhole to stay active, which means we're gonna have to wait the maximum amount of time a Stargate can stay open -- thirty-eight minutes."
"Well, we've only got twenty-eight minutes left then," John said.
"I can't stop shivering." Rodney's teeth were chattering with the cold.
"You're letting all the hot air out of your mouth," said Ronon.
"All right, everybody. We'll be warm soon enough," said John, hoping to hold off any bickering.
"Well, I don't know," said Rodney. "I think I got wetter than you."
"Well, I think I got a little damp dialing the D.H.D." replied John, with more than a little sarcasm in his voice.
Teyla interrupted another potential argument and said, "The research camp was further up this valley. I'm a little concerned for Dr Nichols' team."
"You're right Teyla." John activated his radio. "Anyone at the research camp, this is Colonel Sheppard. Please respond."
After a slight pause where he heard nothing but static he tried again. "I repeat: this is Colonel Sheppard. Please respond."
"I'm pretty sure they're all dead," said Rodney.
"We can't know that for sure, Rodney." Teyla said.
"Look, you know the research team was studying the effects of global warming. They set up camp at the foot of a massive glacier up the valley."
"So, you're thinking the ice dam broke," said John.
"Right. I mean, the Ancients don't put Stargates on a flood plain, and I certainly don't think the tide just came in. That's probably why the water's so freezing." Just then, Rodney sneezed. "Oh! Oh, Ok. Ok, so now I feel hot and I'm still shivering."
Teyla leaned over and put her hand on his forehead. "Were you running a fever before we left?"
"I dunno. Maybe. I'm always running something." Rodney started to whimper.
John looked down at the water. "All right, I think the water's receded a little, so, uh..."
"So we're gonna be stuck here all night," said Rodney.
"In the back of a warm, cozy Jumper, all right? All you need to do is hold on for... I don't know... twenty-five minutes or so."
The Stargate finally shut down and a jumper came through the gate moments later, after Atlantis re-dialed. It only took the pilot, who John could now see was Lorne, a few seconds to hover by where they were perched on the gate and lower the ramp so they could transfer over. Inside two of Carson's nurses were waiting with warm blankets, dry clothes, and hot soup and tea in thermoses.
Fifteen minutes later, after they had all dried off, changed and been given a cursory check-up by nurses Peters and Downs, the team wrapped up in blankets and finished warming up with the still hot liquids.
John looked over to where Rodney was still shivering, his eyes barely open. "Hey Rodney, buddy, you doin' ok over there?"
"Mmmmn. Not really. Still feel hot... and cold... and sick." Rodney's words were slightly slurred and John watched with alarm as Rodney tilted to one side and would have fallen over if Ronon hadn't caught him.
"Rodney!" John shouted.
"Don't worry, Colonel." Peters shifted Rodney out of Ronon's arms and laid him down on the bench. "He is running a slight fever and the medicine I gave him probably just accelerated his exhaustion. You all should be taking at least a short nap as well."
Since John could feel his eyes start to droop as well, he refrained from arguing with her. Instead he went up to the front of the jumper and gave Lorne instructions to fly up the valley and scan the area where the science camp was to search for any survivors. Then, he returned to the rear of the jumper and lay down on the blankets Downs had arranged and almost immediately fell asleep.
He awoke and heard Carter's voice welcoming the team back to Atlantis, as he felt the ship land in the jumper bay. He stood with Teyla and Ronon, and stretched, then looked over to where Rodney lay, still apparently sleeping. Before he could ask Peters anything, the back of the jumper opened and Carson hurried up the ramp
"How long has he been unresponsive?" Carson asked.
"Since he fell asleep here in the jumper," replied Downs. "About 8 hours."
"Well, let's get him to the Infirmary. I want to get him under a scanner. The rest of you come along, too. You need a more thorough check as well."
"But, I feel fine Doc," John protested.
"All of you Colonel," Carson replied. "It won't take long."
The team followed Carson out of the jumper bay and Carter joined John on the walk to the infirmary.
"Lorne tells me that he could find no evidence of any survivors at the camp," said Carter.
"It would still probably be worth it to send a team through with a jumper in a few hours to double check."
"I agree." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "This does put weight to McKay's argument to take a jumper on missions whenever possible."
"Colonel!" John protested.
"Just kidding, Sheppard. I would never waste resources like that unless there were more valid reasons."
"You had me going there, Colonel. I think you spent a little to much time over the years with General O'Neill."
"You might be right," Carter replied. Then left him to enter the infirmary with his team.
A little while later, after they had all been check over again, they gathered by Carson at Rodney's bedside, where he was sitting up and smiling at everyone.
"Well Doc, will he live?" John asked.
It seems so, Colonel. I could find no fever, no evidence of hypothermia. In fact, nothing showed up on the scan at all.
Rodney looked up at all of them. "What about you guys?"
"We're fine," John replied. "Told ya' Doc."
"Yes Colonel, you were correct."
"Of course, we were not the ones who became unconscious," said Teyla.
"Yeah, well," McKay said. "I didn't get much sleep the night before, and I did skimp on breakfast, so..."
"You know... Carter says that she is considering your proposal to take a jumper on all of our missions." John said, a hint of laughter in his voice.
"She is? Well, of course she is. It is the most logical... You're just kidding right?"
"Yep." John couldn't quite hold back a smirk.
"Hmph! Hey Carson, can I go now? Feel a little silly lying here."
"I'm going to keep you under observation for a little longer. Besides, I ordered you dinner already," Carson replied
"Well, then, you can observe me eat, 'cause I'm famished!"
"Well, it's official," said John as he patted Rodney's leg. "He's better."
"It's time you three ate as well," added Carson. "You can visit Rodney later."
"See you guys," called Rodney as they walked out of the infirmary together.
Two weeks later, John regretted the easy way they all dismissed Rodney's illness as something minor. Although Rodney had appeared fine for many days after their watery adventure, he began to deteriorate after that. While at first, he just seemed more pleasant and easy going, which had John wondering about pods in the lower levels, he soon became forgetful and almost confused from time to time.
When Rodney was again examined under the ancient scanner, Carson found an almost tumor-like growth in Rodney's brain that turned out to be some kind of parasite. So far, nothing that they had with them seemed to even slow down the growth of the organism taking Rodney's intellect away from him. It got to the point where Carter was forced to have the SGC contact Rodney's sister so that she could have some input on his treatment.
After they all realized what was happening, Rodney requested that as few people as possible know about his condition. From that point on, John, Teyla, Ronon, Carson and Radek took turns keeping him company so that they could steer others away from him if he started drifting. John stayed with him most days until Teyla made leave to sleep or just take a shower. It only took one time of her spraying him with some perfume that Carter had given her for him to leave quickly when she started complaining about how he smelled or how worn out he looked.
So, John was currently lying in his bed, trying desperately not to fall asleep. Every time he did drift off, he was plagued with nightmares of losing Rodney, or still having him around but as a mindless vegetable. He wasn't sure at this point which option was worse. His friend's mind was so vibrant and active and so much a part of him, that he didn't think he could stand the thought of Rodney as a mindless automaton and he deeply regretted never saying anything to Rodney about how he felt about him. Now, unless Carson came up with a cure, it was too late.
As he gave in to the inevitable and started to drift off he thought he heard Rodney's voice calling, 'John, John!' and he sat up, almost sure it was one of his nightmares until 'John!' came again combined with the sound of someone pounding on his door. He then scrambled out of bed, thought the light on and ran to the door.
As he opened the door, Rodney pushed his way into the room and grabbed him by the shoulders. "You were there, and then y... you..."
"Rodney, I'm right here! What's wrong?"
"When I woke up, no one was there and I know... weren't you with me?" Rodney asked plaintively.
"Oh buddy, I'm sorry. I was with you but then Teyla made me go get some sleep. I thought Ronon would stay with you."
"I... I don't know," he paused looking confused. "I was alone."
"I'm sorry we scared you, buddy." At that moment, he heard Teyla's voice on the radio stating Ronon had needed to leave the room briefly and when he came back, Rodney was missing.
He watched Rodney walk over to his bed and almost collapse on it as he tapped his radio and said, "Call off the search parties Teyla, Rodney is here with me."
"Is he ok, Sheppard?" Ronon asked.
"He'll be fine, I'll take care of him," John replied, then sat next to Rodney on the bed and put his hand on his shoulder.
Rodney groaned and clutched his head. "I was... I got so scared. I was sure that... By morning what was left of my mind was gonna be gone."
"I'm gonna take you to your quarters, OK?"
Rodney started to cry, "John, John, I've never been so scared. I'm slippin' away. I'm slippin' away and I don't know how to stop myself."
John grabbed both of Rodney's arms and turned him so that he could look him in the eye. "Look, you're still here, all right? You're still here."
Rodney took a couple of deep breaths. "Right. I am."
"And I'm not going anywhere. Hell, you wanna hang out, you just... hang out here."
Rodney flopped onto his back and sighed. "I don't know what to do with myself. I'm... I'm sorry. I shouldn't... I shouldn't have woken you up."
"Look, it's a nice night out. Let's go and have some beer on the pier, OK?" John stood up and walked over and picked up his jacket and gave it to Rodney to put on then took some beer out of the fridge.
Rodney's eyebrows raised as he asked, "I drink beer?"
"Sure, all the time. Now let's go."
John led him out to their favorite spot on the pier, enjoying Rodney's company even though they said very few words to each other during the walk. By the time they sat down and dangled their feet over the edge, Rodney had calmed down and appeared more lucid. John cracked open a can and handed it to Rodney.
Rodney took it and sighed, "Do you really think it's ok for me to have this?"
"What could happen? You'll be fine."
Rodney stared down at the water between their feet. "I shouldn't have banged on your door like that. I feel ridiculous."
"John... I have something important I need to ask you."
"I need,,, I need you to promise me something."
John turned to look Rodney in the eye. "Hey Rodney, I'll do anything for you. You know that, right?"
"Yes, John I do, but I still need your promise."
"Ok Rodney, I promise."
"If... if I don't die when this thing has run its course and I am not... myself... I want you to..."
John wasn't quite sure where Rodney was going with this but it didn't feel good. "What Rodney?"
"You have to promise to give me... what is that term you military guys use... oh yes, mercy. Promise you will give me mercy."
"Do you know what that means, Rodney? Are you seriously asking me to kill you?" John's voice rose higher and higher as he asked the question, he just couldn't believe it.
"Yes John, I do know what I'm asking of you." Rodney answered quietly. "And I know it would be hard but I trust you to do what I ask."
"I'm sure Ronon would..."
"I am sure he would as well," Rodney interrupted. "But... You're the only one that I would ask to do this, John. I need to know that even when I forget who you are, you will still treat me better than anyone ever has in my whole life."
John looked up at that, surprised.
"It's true. You are and have been my best friend both here and on Earth and I need you to take care of this for me. Ronon would want to help me but he probably wouldn't be able to convince anyone else that it was what I wanted and if I was to sign something now, they could argue that I was not in my right mind. You, on the other hand, could convince Carter and everyone else, including Jeannie that you were only following my wishes."
"Rodney, I'm not so sure you are in your right mind, asking me this."
"Look John, I may have been freaking out earlier but, right now, I am perfectly clear when I say that my mind... my intellect, is me and I don't want to live as someone who is not me. Believe me, I've already forgotten more than most people will ever know, and I know that sounds... arrogant, but it is true."
"Yeah, that is arrogant but then again, so are you my friend." John said, really seeing his best friend for what seemed like the first time in a long while. He looked down and thought for a few minutes. This was almost like one of his nightmares, where he had to kill a friend to save others. It wouldn't kill him to do as Rodney asked, but he wouldn't be the same afterwards. Of course, his life wouldn't be the same without Rodney in it anyway. "All right Rodney. I promise that if worse comes to worst, I will do as you asked."
"Thank you John."
They sat quietly together for quite some time and then Rodney looked over at him. "Carson says it's gonna get worse now, almost by the hour. In a week or so, I won't even remember my own name. So I was thinking... How about we say goodbye now?"
" What d'you mean, no?"
"I mean I'm not saying goodbye."
" Well, I'm saying it anyway!"
" Well, I'm not listening!"
"But pretty soon I won't even know who you are!"
"Then I'll remind you."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean that I will remember five seconds later. I want to say goodbye while it still means something to me."
"You're stuck with me, Rodney. To the end. Just accept it."
"Yeah, but I..."
John shouted, "No! That's final."
"Fine." Rodney sighed and stared at the water again. "You're a good friend, Arthur."
John turned his head and looked at Rodney in disbelief, he held his gaze until Rodney broke down and started giggling. He tried to hold back but he couldn't refrain from laughing with him; and a night that started in fear, then descended into part of his own personal hell, ended with two good friends sharing laughter.
Three days later, that night on the pier seemed like a distant memory as the whole team, including Carter and Carson, suffered the wrath of Jeanie for not getting her to Atlantis sooner.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me my brother was this far gone?" she demanded.
"It happened pretty fast, Jeanie," John replied.
"But, I... I got a message from him just a couple of weeks ago. He seemed perfectly fine. He'd never been so nice."
"That would've been shortly after he became infected. We didn't know what was happening then," said Carson
"Frankly, Jeanie, we contacted you as soon as we became aware of the seriousness of his condition. In fact, the Daedalus dropped you off at the first available Gate in Pegasus because we were concerned that you wouldn't make it here in time," said Carter.
Jeanie turned to look at Carter quizzically. "What do you..." She trailed off as disbelief started to fill her eyes.
"We thought you deserved a chance to say goodbye," said Carter.
Carson proceeded to fill Jeanie in, on the parasite that was infecting Rodney and prepared her to talk to him. "In the last day or two his condition has worsened rapidly, there is a possibility that he won't recognize you."
She took a deep breath. "Ok, I understand. Let me see him now."
When you are done, we'll all meet in the conference room to discuss options. I understand that Ronon has something to tell us," said Carter.
John thought it was quite ironic later, as they gathered in the conference room, that the person who was the main topic of their meeting wasn't going to be attending. He looked over to 'Rodney's' chair, currently occupied by Jeanie, and couldn't hold back the wave of sadness that he felt. Carter started off by saying that Radek was currently keeping Rodney company so that Carson could attend the meeting.
"So, you said we had some options?" Jeanie asked.
"Yes, lass," Carson replied. "Dr. Biro and I have discussed surgery to remove the parasite and..."
"If you could operate on him, why haven't you already done it?" Jeanie interrupted.
"Because, if we did surgery it would be the equivalent of performing a lobotomy," Carson said gently. "It would save his life but he would end up with minimal capabilities, he would be like a very small child." He paused a moment to let that sink in. "All our energy has been focused on finding something to shrink or kill the parasite without harming Rodney."
"There is another way we might be able to save him," said Ronon.
The whole room turned to look at him in surprise as Carter asked, "Yes, Ronon? You said you had remembered something?"
"It took me a while but I remembered something that happened when I was about four years old. My Grandfather started forgetting things... people, places, simple tasks. My father told me that the disease was called 'Second Childhood' and there was only one way to cure it. We had to take him to a Shrine on a planet called Talus and there he would either be cured or he would die a quick death. There was no way to tell which would happen but we would take him there as a family. The world is one of the original worlds of the Ancestors. It took us about five or six hours to get there from the Gate, but since I was just a kid and my grandfather had to be carried most of the way, I figure we could make the journey much faster," said Ronon.
"Did your Grandfather recover?" Jeanie asked.
"Yes, he did. He lived many years and taught me everything I know about hunting and tracking."
"We should go as soon as possible then," said Teyla.
"Slow down a bit, lass," Carson said and then tuned to Ronon. "Not that I am doubting your word but, how can you know that this is the same thing? Or that this 'shrine' is even capable of healing anymore? It was a long time ago after all."
"You don't believe me," Ronon said flatly. "You think that I would make something like this up?"
"Nobody said that, Ronon," said John as he glared around the room. "They just mean, uh..."
"You were four years old, lad, are you sure you are remembering correctly?" asked Carson. "Do you really think that a magical shrine on some unknown planet can cure Rodney and make him himself again?"
"Did I say it was magic?" Ronon asked angrily.
"No, but you did say that a person supposedly afflicted with McKay's condition suddenly got well again," replied Carson. "It's a bit hard to believe."
"You can say I was too young to remember, but I know what I saw," said Ronon. "And we can do the same thing for McKay. We can take the chance to save him."
"How many times have we seen things that would appear to be miraculous happen with Ancient technology?" asked Teyla. "No one who hasn't experienced what we have would believe it."
"Teyla's right," said Carter. "There is no telling what the Ancients were capable of; we learn new things everyday about their achievements."
"Well, I'm convinced," said John. "I think that even a chance to get Rodney back is a chance worth taking."
"There is just one problem with the chance, Colonel," said Carter. "I just looked up the coordinates of the planet Ronon called Talus and it's not good news. It appears that the Wraith established a major outpost there during the Replicator war and it's still there."
Dismayed, John walked to over see the data on her screen himself. "Well, that could be a major obstacle."
"Yeah, well, that's never stopped us from going anywhere we needed to go before," said Ronon.
"You all could due before you even get to the shrine," said Carter
"I owe him this!" said Ronon, shouting out his frustration. "I'll take him myself."
"I'll go with him," said Teyla. "If you don't think it's worth the risk, you are wrong."
"Now just hold on," said John as he studied the details they had on the planet. "We know for a fact there are two Hive ships and ten thousand Wraith on the ground. If we're even gonna consider this we have to make a plan."
"Fine, let's make a plan then," said Ronon.
Jeanie had been sitting at the table, seemingly lost in thought but at that point she jumped up and said, "Now wait just a minute before you start making any plans. He's my brother and since he can't, it is up to me to decide what is best for him. Carson, if you do the surgery he has a good chance of survival, right?"
"Yes lass. But very little chance that he will have anything other than autonomic brain functions."
"And there is no guarantee that this shrine will cure him rather than kill him. Plus it would be dangerous to even try and get there?" Jeannie asked.
"Yes, but..." John started to reply.
"But nothing," Jeanie interrupted. "I'd rather have my brother alive, even if he has to be fed like a baby, than risk him dying now!"
They all just stared at her for a few moments and then John cleared his throat. "I need to talk to Jeanie alone for a few minutes." He watched as everyone left and then turned back to find Jeanie staring at him crossly. He reached his hand up to rub the back of his neck, feeling a bit awkward. He knew that he needed to convince her to try Ronon's plan but he didn't want to tell her what Rodney asked of him. "I'm not quite sure what to say to you Jeanie but, I know your brother would rather be killed instantly by an Ancient healing machine than live like a vegetable."
"But..." she started to say.
"No buts, Jeanie. You know your brother. You know how much he loves that brain of his and how much he enjoys bludgeoning everyone and anyone with his intellect. It's both the best and worst thing about him. Think about how he would want to live. Think about this from his point of view, not yours, not even mine. He wouldn't want to live like that or have anyone see him helpless."
"But, he's my brother and I've really only just got him back in my life."
"I know that." He crossed the room to crouch down by her chair. "But if he couldn't argue with you, couldn't make sarcastic comments about tofu or Caleb, would he really be Rodney?"
She laughed a little helplessly at that. "Damn you John Sheppard." Only you could make me laugh, cry and want to hit something all at the same time."
"Yes, well we all must have our talents. But seriously Jeanie, you know I am right."
"Yeah, that's the part where I want to hit you." She wiped her face dry and looked up at him with a wry expression. "Ok, let's get the others in here and get this insane venture planned."
John and his team entered the jumper bay and found Carter waiting for them with two Marines next to the ramp of the jumper.
"Rodney on board?" John asked.
"Yes," Carter replied. "Make sure you stick to the plan Colonel."
"I remember. No enemy contact. We'll be in and out before the Wraith even know it."
John entered the jumper and saw Jeanie and Carson sitting of either side of a confused looking Rodney. "Are you guys ready to go?"
"Yes Colonel," replied Carson. "Rodney doesn't understand but we are a ready as we can be."
Ronon looked over at Carson. "I thought you didn't believe that anything could happen?"
"Well, whether it does or not, Rodney needs a doctor with him now," Carson replied.
"All right, we're either gonna get away with this or we're not." John looked around at everyone. "If we don't, the ride's gonna be wild and it's gonna be fast, so I need everyone prepared." He activated the comm. "Jumper One standing by. Send the MALP through."
"Ok Colonel," replied Carter. There was a slight pause before her voice came over the radio again. "The MALP is clear of the Gate and they're firing on it from both sides of what appears to be a deep valley."
John started to lower the jumper into the Gateroom
"It's deploying smoke. You should have complete coverage of the area in five seconds."
"Ok. See you tomorrow," said John
"I hope so," Carter replied. "Atlantis out."
John flew the jumper through the gate and deployed the cloak as soon as they materialized on the other side. He could see the cloud of smoke was thick around the gate and he turned the jumper around in a circle to take a look at the two hive ships that bracketed the gate.
"Do you think they detected us before we were able to cloak?" Teyla asked.
"No, I think the smokescreen worked," John replied. "Hopefully they think we just sent the MALP through ahead of us and changed our minds when they blew it up." He pulled up the HUD to check the lay of the land ahead. "All right, I'm gonna just sweep the landing area. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes." It was a short flight to the valley where Ronon said the shrine was and when he got closer, the jumper detected a faint energy reading. So faint he probably would have missed it if he didn't know where to look. "All right, the landing area's clear. I'm taking us in."
It took them several minutes to disembark and give instructions to the Marines who would be guarding the jumper and then they made their way across the edge of a ravine with Ronon half-carrying Rodney along with him.
"Where are we going?" Rodney asked a bit plaintively as he looked around.
Teyla touched his arm to get his attention and then pointed up towards the waterfall just ahead of them. "Up there. Do you see? Behind the waterfall there is a cave, and when we get there you will be healed."
"I'm tired," was all Rodney said in response.
"I know you are but we will be there soon," said Teyla.
They all paused as they reached the entrance to the cave. Ronon turned and faced them. "My Grandfather was in the cave for a few minutes before he collapsed to the ground clutching his head, so I figure we will know in 15 minutes or so if this works." He took Rodney by both shoulders. "I know you do not understand me now but know that I will honor you as a friend no matter what comes of this."
Rodney just stared up at him, looking confused.
One by one Carson, Teyla and then Jeanie said what were basically their goodbyes to Rodney and John felt his throat start to close up. Even though he had backed this plan and believed what Ronon said, faced with the reality of Rodney's imminent death he only wanted to grab him up and take him somewhere safe, even though his condition was not something that he could protect Rodney from. He slowly walked over to Rodney, gave him a hug and then pulled back to look into his eyes. "This is me, doing what you asked me to Rodney. I just hope I don't regret it."
He turned away then and saw the others staring at him quizzically but his team knew better than to ask and the others left him in peace. Carson and Jeanie took Rodney by the hands then and led him into the main part of the cave.
Ronon walked over to a large column in the center of the open area. "This is where my Father had my Grandfather stand."
Jeannie approached with Rodney's favorite scanner in her hand. "Carson, I am picking up something. It resembles some type of audio signal"
Carson walked over and looked at the scanner. "Aye, it looks like sound waves of some sort, very low frequency though." Rodney had followed them over to the column and Carson looked down at the scanner again as Rodney got closer. "Look, the readings are increasing." Then he and Jeanie put their heads together and talked about why the reading had changed.
Rodney reached out and touched the column where it looked worn smooth and had some type of markings engraved in it. Suddenly, Rodney screamed and put his clenched fists to his head. Jeanie ran over to him and held him as he screamed again. She looked up at Ronon. "You didn't say anything about him being in pain."
"I didn't think there would be much," Ronon replied. My Grandfather never reacted like that. But then again he was Satedan so..."
"Do something," Jeanie demanded of Carson. "Help him."
But as Carson moved toward the two of them, Rodney stopped screaming and his whole body went limp. Carson gasped and quickly dropped down beside Rodney and felt for a pulse. "It's ok, he's still alive. He just fell unconscious, probably from the pain."
"So now what do we do?" Jeanie asked.
"We wait," replied Ronon.
Thirty minutes later John was just starting to get antsy when Rodney sat up and looked around. He stared at everyone, especially his sister and then stood up. "Would somebody please tell me where we are and what the hell we're all doing here?"
"He's back!" exclaimed John, laughing with relief as he patted Rodney on the back. Then he moved off as Teyla and Jeanie crowded in to hug him.
"This is the Shrine of Talus," said Ronon as he picked Rodney up in a bear hug.
"Ooof! Let me go you behemoth! And that name means nothing to me."
"It's a planet of the Ancestors. We brought you here," said Ronon setting Rodney down gently.
"Thank you, Mr. Information! Look, since when did he become Ronon the Explainer? And why am I not in the Infirmary, huh? What, am I better?" he asked and looked at Carson in disbelief. "I am better!"
"Aye, it appears so lad. But I want to get you back to Atlantis for a full scan to verify that," said Carson.
"How did this happen, I thought I was a goner?" asked Rodney.
"It was something Ronon remembered," said Teyla. "The Shrine cured his Grandfather long ago."
"And you couldn't tell us about this sooner?" Rodney asked with his usual sarcasm.
"No, I decided to wait just to make you suffer," replied Ronon with a slight smile on his face. "Sorry, McKay I only connected your illness with my Grandfathers recently."
"Yes, well," Rodney huffed a little. "Thank you just the same."
"Couldn't let you die, I would have missed your complaining about everything," Ronon said before he moved to the other side of the cave.
"Huh!" said Rodney. "Of course you would miss me. Someone has to be the brains of this team."
"Ok guys," said John. "Let's pack it up so the Doc can get Rodney back in his evil clutches."
"I'll remember that, Colonel," said Carson, laughing.
John leaned against a wall in the isolation room and watched Rodney sleep. Jeanie sat beside the bed, drinking coffee and staring off into space looking tired. John doesn't think she knows he is even there.
Carson walked up to the bed and checked Rodney's pulse. "Why don't you go and get some sleep lass? Someone will be around all night."
"No, it's ok. I'd like to be here when he wakes up," said Jeanie
"Well, it could be a while. He does love to sleep, our Rodney does."
"You should have seen him when he was a teenager," Jeanie chuckled.
"Who can sleep with all the talking?" Rodney asked as he turned his head to look at Jeanie.
"Hi Mer," said Jeanie.
"You still, uh... all there?" she asked as she gestured to his head.
Rodney smiled. "Well, there was so much to spare."
Jeanie smile with a rueful expression and Rodney turned to Carson. "Thank you."
"It's John you need to thank Rodney," said Jeanie and Carson nodded in agreement. "He convinced me to agree to Ronon's plan. Without him, we might not be having this conversation."
"John convinced you? Rodney asked.
"Yes, he was very persuasive," Jeanie replied. "He seemed to think that you would rather die than live without your full intellect. I wonder where he got that idea." She turned her head and stared at John who started to blush.
Rodney looked away from her and cleared his throat. "Huh. Um... well I have no idea."
"Well, I will go and let you sleep lad," said Carson. "I will probably release you in the morning." He walked to the back of the infirmary.
"I'll go too," said Jeanie who hadn't stopped staring at John with a speculative look on her face. "I need the sleep." She got up and walked to the door. "Oh, hello John," she said as if she had just seen him. "Maybe you should go over and talk to Rodney." John could hear her giggling after she went through the door.
"Hey buddy," John said as he approached the bed and sat on the edge.
"Hi John," Rodney said a bit quietly. "I know you must have put yourself on the line to convince Jeanie and I know you did it because of what I asked you on the pier that night. So, thank you."
"No thanks are necessary Rodney. I told you I would do anything for you." John turned his head, not wanting Rodney to see what was in his eyes. He felt Rodney's hand on his shoulder and turned back to him.
Rodney was looking at him with something like wonder on his face. "You would, wouldn't you John?" He shook his head. "How could I have been so blind?"
"I don't know what you mean, Rodney. You're my friend, my best friend, of course I would."
Rodney shook his head again. "No, don't deflect like that John. You love me, don't you?"
John looked away again, uncomfortably. "Of course I do Rodney. You're closer to me than family."
"But that's not all it is, is it John?"
"I don't..." John sighed and hung his head. He remembered then that he almost lost his chance to say anything to Rodney about how he felt. He looked straight into Rodney's eyes. "No Rodney, that is not all it is. I do love you, and not just like a friend loves a friend or like family. I love you and have for a long time now but I can stand being just your friend. So don't think..."
He broke off as Rodney shook his head once more. "John. John. John. Don't you get it? I love you too. I never would have asked what I did, if I didn't. I wanted to know that someone I loved took care of me. I just never thought you would be interested in a balding, overweight academic."
John smiled and relaxed his muscles, which had tightened in anticipation of rejection. "Don't talk about yourself like that Rodney. You are in good shape, with fantastic shoulders, you can always make me laugh and no amount of balding could detract from your perfect ass." John smirked a bit evilly at that.
Rodney laughed. "Never change John, I mean it."
"As long as you agree to the same."
"You might regret that later."
"I doubt it," John smirked again. "Care to seal the deal with a kiss?"
Rodney reached up and grabbed John's collar, yanking him down until they were nose to nose. "If I weren't stuck in here, I would do so much more that just kiss you," he said and then pressed his lips to John's.
John froze for a moment, then gave in to the pressure and opened his mouth for Rodney's tongue. A few mind-blowing minutes later he pulled back and rested his forehead against Rodney's. "Yeah," he said a bit breathlessly. "I think that works."
Rodney chuckled. "Just wait for tomorrow John, then I will really show you a few things."
"I'm looking forward to it." John pulled back from him and then straightened his rumpled shirt. "Do you want me to hang out for a while to keep you company or do you want me to leave so you can go back to sleep?"
"I'd let you stay but then I would be thinking about things I shouldn't, in Carson's domain. Why don't you come to my quarters tomorrow night after dinner?"
"It's a date." John bent over and gave Rodney a brief kiss. "Sleep well."
"Oh," Rodney yawned, "don't worry, I will." Then he closed his eyes and John walked out of the room, almost bouncing in anticipation of the next night.
As he stood outside of Rodney's room, John couldn't believe that he actually felt nervous. He had wanted Rodney for so long and now that he had the chance he was hesitating? He laughed a little at himself and then touched the door chime.
A moment later the door opened and Rodney reached out and dragged John by the sleeve into the room. "What took you so long?" he asked, a big smile on his face. "I finished eating an hour ago."
"Yes, well, some of us actually take the time to enjoy our food."
"Well, maybe there are other things that I like to take my time over." He leaned in and kissed John thoroughly and then pulled back. "Do we need to talk about this or can we just move on to the fun part of the evening and talk later?"
"Ummm... what?" John asked, a bit off balance. All he could think was 'yes! more.'
"Oh, good. No talking. It's over-rated anyway," Rodney said as he leaned in again and proceeded to prove to John just how mind-blowing he could be.
After kissing for several minutes, Rodney tugged on his shirt, trying to lift it up. John moved back a little, lifted his arms over his head and then when his shirt was off and hitting the floor somewhere, he grabbed a hold of Rodney's shirt to return the favor. He felt Rodney's big hands on his naked back for the first time and hummed with contentment at the feeling.
He tilted his head and started kissing his way over to Rodney's neck talking in between pressing his lips to skin. "I have" - kiss - "wanted this" - kiss - "for so long" - kiss - "Rodney." When he reached Rodney's ear he paused to lick and nibble a little before moving on finding a spot on Rodney's neck that made him shiver.
"Me too, John, me too. Why don't we get a little more comfortable, and by that I mean naked, and move this to a flat surface?" Suiting actions to words, Rodney backed away from John slightly, kicked off his shoes and unbuckled his belt.
John was quick to follow suit and soon they were lying on Rodney's bed on their sides, facing each other. John took the time to take in all of Rodney, now that he had the chance. From his broad shoulders, across his pale skin to pink nipples and down to his flushed, hard cock; every inch seemed to be begging for John's touch and made his mouth water. "You don't mind if I go first, do you?" Not waiting for an answer, John gently pushed Rodney onto his back and, starting at the 'shiver' spot on his neck, proceeded to kiss and lick his way down to Rodney's nipples. He lingered for a while there and then, almost reluctantly, moved down to Rodney's cock.
The entire time that he had been exploring Rodney, he was making the most erotic noises John had ever heard. Moaning, groaning and gasping to let John know what was working for him. But, those sounds were nothing compared to the indescribable sound that emerged when John's mouth hit his cock. John almost came from that moan and the full body shiver that followed it.
"John, John," Rodney chanted as John continued to lick and suck and mouth his cock. "Oh God, John!" After a few minutes, John felt Rodney's hands grab his hair and pull. "Stop John, stop!"
John looked up and licked his lips. "Why do you want me to stop, Rodney?"
"I want you to be inside me when I come."
John gave a full body shiver at that himself and then was thrown off balance as Rodney grabbed a hold of his hips and reversed their positions.
"My turn," said Rodney and John only had time for a breath before Rodney started kissing his neck. Rodney seemed to linger and lick and kiss much slower than John did, probably trying to prove how he could 'savor' something himself. When Rodney's mouth reached John's cock, he couldn't help the involuntary move his hips made, trying to get deeper into that warm, wet mouth. It wasn't long before he placed his hand on Rodney's head and said, "if you want me inside you, you better stop now Rodney."
Rodney pulled off and stretched up to reach the lube sitting on the table next to the bed. He handed it to John before getting on his knees next to him on the bed, thrusting his ass up into the air.
"Condoms?" John asked.
"We're both clean, Carson tests constantly, so I didn't think we'd need them but..."
"Oh, no. That's perfect." John squeezed some lube out into his hand and warmed it a little before dipping two fingers in and then rubbing them over Rodney's hole. He took his time, stretching Rodney carefully before he couldn't wait any longer since Rodney was making those erotic noises that John was quickly becoming addicted to. He rubbed the remaining lube on his cock and placed the tip on the brink of penetrating Rodney.
"God John, just fuck me now," Rodney started pushing back toward John trying to impale himself.
John took a deep breath and then in one steady push slid in to the hilt in Rodney's body. He had to pause for a moment because the feeling was so good and warm and tight that he just had to linger.
"John!" cried Rodney a hint of desperation in his voice. "Please!"
"Yes." John couldn't hold back any longer. He started to move, quickly finding a rhythm that the both liked, at least if Rodney's panted 'yes, yeses' were any indication. He adjusted his angle so that he was hitting Rodney's prostate and then stepped up his pace a bit, bottoming out with every stroke. "God, Rodney Fuck! I need to come!" he said, clenching his teeth.
"Yes, John! Fuck, just a little more!"
John let go of Rodney's hip and reached around to grasp his cock, stroking it firmly and that was all it took. Rodney made another indescribable moan and John could feel his muscles clenching as he came. That was John needed to come as well, hips riding out the motion until he collapsed on Rodney's back, spent.
After a few moments, John pulled out and fell over onto his side, pulling Rodney over to spoon in front of him. They lay there together, quietly, John just enjoying the feeing of Rodney's warmth. "I really would do anything for you Rodney, but I am glad that I didn't have to."
"Me too, John. I never would have known how good this could feel, being with someone that I love."
"I love you too, Rodney." He closed his eyes and fell asleep, content that he finally had what he wanted.