Chapter Four

To who it was to commented they couldn't see Rodney hitting Allina no matter how mad he was and it made him out to be a wife beater:

It was written as an expression of fear and anger at making him scared. It's a fairly natural response to lash out (or at least want to) to a person you love when they've put themselves in danger. Several child phycologists who are otherwise heavily anti-corporal punishment condone hitting a child as a natural human response when, say, the child has deliberately run onto a busy street; first, the parent is just glad the child is safe, then they're angry the child wilfully put themselves in danger, causing so much fear for the parent. I meant it as a warped expression of love – if he didn't care, he wouldn't have been angry at her for frightening him like that, and he wouldn't have hit her. I didn't see it as him hitting a woman, I saw it as him hitting someone who'd put themselves in wilful danger and frightened him at the thought of losing her.

And please, no flaming for the analogy.

Allina had been as heavily sedated as Carson would allow, given her condition, and he'd had a guard posted by her bed. He had agonised over whether or not to inform her uncle over the attempt she'd made on her life, and decided against it. If that was something she wanted him to know, she could tell him herself when she was in a better frame of mind.

Although she was sedated, she was incredibly distressed, something that was neither good for her nor the baby. Carson was reluctant to give her anything more to help her sleep for fear it would harm the baby. She seemed to respond well to having Rodney around, especially when he held her hand or made some other physical contact with her. That Rodney McKay had a calming affect on a person was something that amused Carson to no end.

Rodney seemed quite agitated himself, Carson realised. So he did care about her. Although Carson had kind of figured that out by the way he was kissing her when he'd found them in the hall. If she meant nothing more to him then a vessel for his child, he would have simply hauled her back to the infirmary and be done with her –he wouldn't have started making out with her there and then. And he wouldn't have stayed with her with that look in his eyes, that frightened, longing look. Especially not when he looked exhausted himself. The infirmary beds did absolutely nothing for his back.

Carson alerted Elizabeth to what had happened. He'd left Allina for half an hour and come back to find she was gone. It had been sheer good luck that he'd found her as quickly as he had, although by that time she had been more or less safe; Rodney hadn't looked like he was going to let her go anytime soon. Now that the immediate danger was fading fast, it was kind of endearing that he'd become so possessive of her. He was going to have a hard time convincing people that she meant nothing to him now.

"But she's alright?" Elizabeth asked.

Carson nodded. "Rodney thinks she feels guilty about her people dying, that she holds herself responsible, that's why she tried to – I think she needs to spend some time with Kate Heightmeyer."

"Agreed," Elizabeth said. She was grateful Atlantis seemed to have the support of what remained of Allina's people or there could be a huge fallout over this – even though Rodney had saved her life. "How's Rodney doing?"

"He's pretty agitated," Carson said. "She won't sleep when he's not there, and it's killing him."

Despite the almost-tragedy that had touched them, Elizabeth couldn't help but smile. She shared Carson's opinion that Rodney couldn't be acting the way he was in regard to Allina and not care about her. But then, that was typical Rodney – bluster and whine when he could afford to, doing whatever it took when danger was imminent. The same instinct that had caused him to step between Elizabeth and a gun was now causing him to stay by Allina's side despite his obvious exhaustion.

Elizabeth got Rodney in a corner to speak with him. She wanted to get him alone, but he didn't want Allina out of his side, so a corner would have to do. "Sounds like she gave you quite a fright," Elizabeth commented.

There was a flash of agitation in his eyes, but Rodney tried to compose himself. "Seeing people on the edge of death does that to me," he said huffily. "Remember Koyla?"

She remembered Koyla, and she remembered that Rodney had never kissed her, even though he'd had ample opportunity when they'd been on the balcony in the rain. She told him so. "Carson says you guys looked ready to rip each other's clothes of," she remarked lightly, omitting some of the more colourful phrases Carson had used.

Rodney flinched. "I was frightened, I reacted," he said in a small voice, like he would have kissed anyone he'd rescued from death. Elizabeth knew from personal experience that wasn't true.

"If you care about her, Rodney, there's no shame in admitting to it," Elizabeth said gently.

Rodney's eyes flashed hurt. "I can't," he whispered in a small voice. "She – I don't wanna go down that road again."

Elizabeth smiled sympathetically – and a little pityingly – at Rodney. Anyone could see how much he cared about her, maybe even loved her, but he was too stubborn and too protective of that heart of his to admit to it. "Then at least get some sleep. Proper sleep. In your room."

"Allina gets distressed when I'm not here," Rodney said, proof positive that she cared about her. It wasn't like Rodney to give up the opportunity to sleep on his custom-made mattress.

"Carson," Elizabeth called. The Scottish Doctor came running. "Carson, is there any reason why Allina has to stay in the infirmary?"

Carson looked confused, not entirely understanding what Elizabeth was getting at. "She needs rest," he said, "and she needs to be guarded to make sure she doesn't try anything. But she doesn't need to be watched by a doctor, if that's what you mean."

She smiled. "Good. Rodney, if you want, you can take her to your room."

Rodney looked floored. "I can't take her to my room!" he said indignantly. "People will talk." This defence was met with amused smiles. People were already talking, and once word got out about their little make-out session in the hall (which would become much more of a makeout session by the time the day was through), they would talk some more. Rodney looked over at Allina and raked his hand through his hair tiredly. Elizabeth's suggestion made sense. He couldn't sleep here, and he couldn't leave her to become agitated when he wasn't there. But even when they'd first gotten together, when he'd been a fool enough to think they could have a relationship, they hadn't slept together in the same space. He hadn't wanted to face John's knowing smirk in the morning about him being out all night, and now the idea just seemed foreign to him.

But he was exhausted, and couldn't bring himself to leave Allina to become agitated. Letting her sleep with him it was, then. "Fine," he agreed, and he sounded far less displeased with the idea then he was trying to put across.

Allina stirred when she was lifted into a stretcher. "What's happening?" she asked.

"It's OK, we're just taking you somewhere else to sleep. I'll stay with you," Rodney promised, and that seemed to settle her.

Allina was taken to the outside of Rodney's room, where he lifted her into his arms. "Not a word," he said threateningly to the two doctors who's carried her the way and were smirking knowingly. Christ, how had he gotten himself into this mess? She felt nice in his arms, especially when she wrapped her arms around his neck. She sure knew how to make him feel masculine.

He opened the doors to his room awkwardly – your mobility tended to be wrecked when you were holding something that weighed at least fifty kilograms – and carried her to this bed, glad no-one could see him doing this. He felt a tiny bit of disappointment that he was doing this for strictly practical reasons. There was something inherently wrong about carrying a woman to bed for the purposes of sleeping. "I'll be back in a minute," he told her, and rummaged around in his drawers for the sweatpants he slept in when it was cold. It wasn't cold now, but he didn't want to be exposed as he would be in his boxers. She'd already seen him naked, but he told himself that wasn't the same.

In the bathroom, he changed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt. He was surprised how nervous he felt. It wasn't like he was doing anything, just sleeping. Which isn't what most people will think, he told himself, knowing that by this time tomorrow, tongues would be wagging about the night Rodney and Allina had spent together and how no red-blooded male – which Rodney had proven he was, by getting her pregnant – would be able to spent the night with a woman like Allina and just sleep. To hell with that, people can think what they like. Rodney honestly didn't know if he physically had it in him to take advantage of the situation anyway. Now that he was in comfortable clothes and his comfortable, custom-made mattress was meters away, he was more tired then he realised, and the fact that there was a beautiful woman in his bed barely registered.

He crawled into bed next to her. She'd been drifting off to sleep, but she stirred when she felt the motion of him joining her. "It's OK, go to sleep," he instructed her.

"Rodney…" she murmured.

He pulled her close to him so her back was pressed into his chest. "I'm here," he said. "Go to sleep, I'm exhausted."

He would scarcely admit it to himself, but there was something very comforting about falling asleep with Allina in his arms.

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She felt terrific in his arms. He'd forced himself to forget how nice it had been to simply lie with Allina. The feel of her skin, his hand on her arm, her back pressed against his chest – their clothes didn't offer much resistance to the heat the were generating. The smell of her, the way her skin tasted as he nuzzled the back of her neck… she murmured appreciatively and reached for his hand, threading her fingers through his tightly.

Despite his earlier conviction that he was far too tired for sex, he was achingly hard. He held it off as long as he could, wanting to feel her body beneath his hands. She moaned and writhed under his touch, and feeling her gyrate involuntarily against him was doing nothing to kill his erection. Inside her shirt up her front to cup her breasts and down over her swollen stomach. The distortion, rather then being a turn-off, was vaguely erotic. He was still spooning her so he couldn't see her, but that didn't matter because he'd already memorised her body. He knew right now her lips were parted slightly as her breathing became laboured ; knew her eyes were open as if she could see as well as feel the experience and wanted to take as much of it in as possible ; knew if he slid his hand down he would be greeted with the response he wanted…

She gasped when he slipped a finger inside her. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. He wasn't surprised, everything felt so right at the moment that this was merely a natural progression.

Carson had put her in a hospital gown so it was easier to pull the material up to her waist rather then attempt to undress her completely. Impatiently, he pulled at her panties until he had the access he wanted. She was moaning now as he touched her, begging him to make love to her. He yanked down his sweatpants to his thighs and positioned himself behind her. "Rodney…"she pleaded with her tone.

He slowly penetrated her until he was buried inside her. He buried his face in her hair and whispered her name urgently. He wrapped one arm securely around her waist and his free hand he locked onto her hip for leverage. He stayed inside her for several minutes, barely moving, wanting to savour every moment. This was about more then just getting his rocks off. Almost reluctantly, he started thrusting slowly, the complete opposite to their last tryst. He got off on hearing her moan and sigh. Christ, he was so hot for her, he'd been fooling himself to think otherwise. "Allina," he grunted.

He took his time and made her climax before he let himself go. His mind revolted against the experience ending but his body got its way eventually. "I love you," he whispered urgently…

Rodney, half-awake as it was, jolted awake with the realisation that he hadn't been dreaming. His arm was wrapped tightly around Allina and he was still inside her. He'd thought he'd been having a fantastic, particularly vivid dream but no, he'd been so hot for her he'd actually managed to screw her in his sleep. "Oh, God," he groaned as he eased himself out of her and pulled his pants up. "Why didn't you stop me?" he asked.

His admonishing, mildly accusing tone made her flinch. She didn't turn around, not wanting to see the angry look she thought was in her eyes. "I thought you wanted to," she said in a small voice. Had she done something wrong again? Rodney had been so nice the last few days that she had let herself hope a reconciliation with him might be possible. Once again, she had misjudged his feelings for her.

Gently Rodney turned her onto her back. He sensed her agitation at what she thought was his rejection of her and something possessed him to softly brushed her tussled hair off her forehead and then kiss her there. "Of course I wanted it," he said, not bothering to try and lie. When you were so hot for a woman you managed to have sex with them half asleep there wasn't much point in denying it. "But I hurt you last time." He flipped onto his back and sighed, all promise of sleep destroyed. "I'll take you to the infirmary." God, he should have known better then to let her sleep with him. Stupid Elizabeth and her stupid idea.

"It doesn't hurt, and I want to stay here," Allina admitted shyly. She was delighted Rodney cared, and she wanted to enjoy the moment while it lasted.

Rodney bit his lip. He had been more gentle with her this time, actually, he couldn't remember ever taking sex so slowly. Maybe he'd just been too rough with her. And he did want to get back to sleep. Before he'd gotten all horny, it had been quite soothing to sleep with her in his arms. Not that he'd admit such a thing to her. "Tell me if it starts to hurt, and I'll take you down to the infirmary," he said sleepily. Without waiting for him to embrace her this time, she snuggled into his arms. Rather then reject her embrace, he returned it.

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Rodney had been hoping that someone – anyone – other then Carson would be on duty the following morning when he took Allina to the infirmary. She insisted she was fine, but he didn't want to take any chances. She didn't protest after that, secretly pleased that he cared. Last time, she had made her own way to the infirmary after she'd started to feel cramps in her abdomen; this time, he'd insisted on taking her even though she'd insisted she was fine. Well, she didn't insist too hard, because she didn't want to test his patience and make him stop caring… Allina was learning the first things about handling Rodney.

Rodney looked a little sheepish when he explained to Carson was had happened. He fingered his sidearm on the off chance the Scottish doctor really went off at him. Carson just gave him an odd look and proceeded to examine Allina, judging it to be more important then having a go at Rodney, which could wait until after Carson was done.

Rodney found it harder then he'd expected to watch Carson examining Allina. He realised it was just the doctor's job, but that didn't stop him from feeling a little possessive. He was beginning to accept that Allina had been with no-one but him, and that gave his ego quite a boost. God help him for such a chauvinistic comment, but he liked that Allina had only ever been his, and seeing her being examined so thoroughly by Carson made him want to get into a fight with the doctor.

Carson registered the bad vibes he was getting from Rodney. The arrogant scientist couldn't be jealous, could he? Carson was floored by the idea. But there Rodney was, practically glowering because another man was touching Allina intimately. If Carson wasn't a little insulted that Rodney thought so little of him, scientist to scientist, he would be amused at how much of a jealous boyfriend Rodney was acting. He made a mental note to tell Allina late, she could do with some empowering as far as Rodney was concerned. Although she seemed to be making headway with him all on her own. Rodney had brought her in himself, and he was acting a lot like a jealous boyfriend. Perhaps, for all that it could have ended in a great tragedy, Allina's attempt on her life had forced Rodney to acknowledge how much she meant to him.

"You're fine," he said reassuringly to Allina. He resisted the urge to chuckle slightly when Allina threw Rodney a smug I-told-you-so look. That told Carson two things; one, that Rodney had insisted on bringing her to him earlier, and she had insisted she was fine, which meant he'd been concerned for her beyond her insistence she was fine, and two, that she felt comfortable enough with him to gloat, just a little. "I want to talk to Rodney for a few minutes. Allina, can you wait outside?" Allina nodded and left the infirmary to wait outside.

"What happened?" Carson asked Rodney once Allina was out of earshot. "I thought I told you if you hurt her again –"

Rodney looked sheepish. "I was asleep," he admitted. "Well, half asleep – hey, don't look at me like that, you try sleeping with a beautiful women and see how well you resist temptation."

Carson smirked. Rodney was his usual indignant self. At least he'd acknowledged Allina was beautiful, that was something. "For what it's worth," Carson couldn't resist pointing out, "there's no reason why you can't have sex with her, you just have to be gentle. I think the last time was caused more by you being rough with her then her being pregnant."

He was enjoying watching Rodney become thoroughly flustered. "I have no intention of having sex with her again, last night was a mistake," he said with as much indignation as he could muster. "Hey, you won't tell anyone about this, will you?" he asked, his indignation replaced with concern for his reputation. Imagine what people would think of him when it got out that Rodney McKay was so sex-starved he managed to screw a woman in his sleep. He was already starting to feel embarrassed.

"You're secret's safe with me," Carson said, barely able to repress his smile. He couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Rodney, he was in such a bad head space when it came to Allina. Hopefully his attitude to her this morning was an indication of things to come. "Can you send her in for a minute?" he asked.

… "Did Rodney do this?" Carson asked, inspecting the nasty bruise on her cheek.

Allina cringed. "I don't think he meant to, he was angry," she defended him. She thought about the kiss that had followed him striking her.

Carson couldn't help but smile at the look on Allina's face. She really was in love with him, and he had the feeling that Rodney returned her sentiments, even if he was too stubborn to admit it yet. "He shouldn't have hit you, tell me if he does it again," he said, far calmer then he might otherwise have been to know Rodney had hit a pregnant woman – and hit her hard. "I can do something about this for you so it will heal quicker. Tell me, was this before or after he kissed you?"

"Before," Allina said, that dreamy look returning to her face.

"Ah," Carson said knowingly. "Here, this is going to sting a little," he said and began applying a cream to Allina's face. "I'm going to give you a little insight into Rodney. I'd say he hit you because you freaked him out. Rodney doesn't freak out easily, he whinges a lot but he doesn't lose his calm. If he freaked out, it was because he was scared of losing you – which means he cares a lot about you. And he's very attracted to you. That's why he kissed you, that's why last night happened. He's not ready to admit it to himself yet, but you mean an awful lot to him. You just have to be patient."

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For the next month, Rodney was the model of behaviour towards Allina. He was always there when she needed his support, both in terms of the pregnancy and when she was lonely and wanted some company. He discovered what Elizabeth had already discovered several months previously, like Allina was ain intelligent women with a desire to learn – not quite up to his level, but she made a damn good assistant and she liked being helpful.

But he never touched her sexually. He wanted to, and her swelling stomach didn't help matters – he couldn't believe how much of a turn-on it was to watch her and know she was carrying his son.

He felt bad about what had happened between them. He felt bad about his complete lack of control. He should not have let Allina get that close to him. He should have known better. He didn't know why exactly he felt so bad, because she seemed fine – she had accepted his profuse apology with some confusion as to why he was apologising, she had wanted it as much as he had – and she was constantly in his personal space, touching his arms, encouraging him to touch her swelling stomach. So he shouldn't feel bad. But he did.

To hell with it. He felt bad because he was aware of how attracted he was to her, and how much he cared for her. He remembered telling her, after they had made love by the lake on her planet, that he thought he was falling in love with her. He knew he had fallen in love with her. And that scared the crap out of him. She had already betrayed him, what was to stop her from doing it again?

Allina sensed Rodney's emotional aloofness and it distressed her deeply. She had thought the last four months – especially the last month – had brought her and Rodney closer. At the very least, she knew he wanted their son now. Sometimes, when they stayed up talking, he'd talk about his childhood and how he wanted to be a much better father then his own had been. He was optimistic about being a father. But being her partner – what was the term Elizabeth had given, boyfriend, husband? When it came to committing to her, that was an entirely different issue.

She scrounged up the courage to broach the subject with him. "Have I done something wrong?" she asked him one day.

He looked at her with some confusion. She hadn't done anything that had really annoyed him lately. Sure, she got stuff wrong from time to time but that wasn't anything that everyone did, so she was no exception. Actually, she had proven to be quite a handy assistant, despite her increasing bulk that was making her less and less mobile. "Apart from moving my papers yesterday, no," he said, and then he added, to make her feel better, "and there was no harm done there."

She bit her lip. "No, I meant… how I done something wrong… that you aren't interested in me… as a woman?"

That at least got Rodney's full attention. "No," he said firmly. "I'm just not interested."

She crossed her hands over her chest. That was a miserable excuse. She knew damn well he was interested from their friendly camaraderie – and their obvious attraction. And she told him so, which was a bad move. When confronted with the obviousness of his feelings, he was immediately on the defensive. He knew damn well he and Allina were a good match. They got on well, she was quite bright – and, more to the point, accepting of his vastly superior intellect, unlike some people, who tried to be his equal – she was helpful, and he couldn't look at her without wanting to take her to bed. But he had no intention of being in a romantic relationship with her – he had no intention of going down that road again. "OK, fine," he said. She wanted a confrontation, he would give her a confrontation. "I'm not interested in having you stab me in the back again."

She blanched when he put it so bluntly. She had honestly thought he was over her 'betrayal' – which she didn't see as a betrayal, just a choice between two evils, going against what she considered to be the core reason for the Brotherhood's existence, or hurting Rodney. For such a brilliant man, he sure was stupid when it came to matters of the heart. She considered telling him that, but decided it was an observation best left unsaid. "I did what I thought was best at the time!" she defended herself. "You're really holding a grudge over this, Rodney. Why can't you just get over it?"

"Because," he said coldly, his blue-grey eyes clouding over with memories of her betrayal, "it wasn't about the ZPM. It was about you lying to me. You let me fall in love with you, and all the while you were planning to double-cross me. How the hell am I supposed to trust you? Look, what we have, this is nice, isn't it? Being friends?" he asked desperately, really hoping she wasn't going to push the issue. Dumbly, she nodded. "Then don't push it. Don't cling, don't make me resent you," he said bluntly. He really hated the way she looked so dejected, but what was he supposed to do? Say everything would be alright just to make her happy? He was sure even Elizabeth wouldn't agree with that.

Thankgod, she left it at that, but she made her excuses to leave. He was glad to see her go. Normally he enjoyed her company, but if she was going to get heavy and clingy on him – well, he just wasn't up for that. He was fond of her and looking forward to being a father, but he didn't want to be with her. Well, he did, but that wasn't the point. He didn't know what exactly was the point, so he buried himself in his work.

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"What exactly happened?" Elizabeth said after the chaos from Rodney being brought back virtually comatose started to die down.

"Bloody McKay, always has to eat!" Aidan complained, his irritation at the brilliant scientist and his gluttony tempered by his concern for the man who had slipped into unconsciousness, occasionally interspersed by deluded babbling.

"What happened?" Elizabeth asked again, and patiently she extracted the story. Apparently the planet they had gone to specialised in what on earth would be close relatives of the marijuana-laced brownie, except from what Carson could deduct, what had been put in those brownies was a cross between LSD and cocaine, a hallucinogen and a stimulant. From what Teyla could work out, it was used to inspire artists, much like absinth had, and it was a planet who's culture prided itself on the arts.

They had offered the brownies to the newcomers in good faith, assuming that they would have some idea of when they had had too much, in much the same way the members of the Atlantis expedition would assume someone knew when they had had too much to drink. But not Rodney McKay. He saw something that looked – and more importantly, tasted – like chocolate brownies and ate as many as were available. Ate. And ate. And ate. In hindsight, John couldn't believe Rodney had gotten sick from the drugs in the brownies before he'd gotten sick from all that sugar.

Like alcohol, or most other drugs, too much of the drug in the brownies proved toxic for human – or close-to-human – physiology, and before anyone knew exactly what was going on, Rodney had very quickly become sick, feverish and throwing up in his body's desperate attempt to de-toxify, before becoming comatose. The elders of the village the team had visited were exceptionally contrite, but insisted that Rodney should have known not to eat to much. John was inclined to agree – he, Aidan and Teyla had abstained, as they tried not to indulge in the culinary delights of other planets entirely because something like this might happen – and made it clear to the elders that there would be no retribution from the armed-to-the-teeth newcomers. After all, it wasn't their fault Rodney was a glutton.

They brought him back to Atlantis and he was taken to the infirmary where Carson attempted to save his life. His liver, the organ that filtered toxins from the body, was taking the worst of it, and the rest of his internal organs quickly followed suit. "Honestly, I'm surprised he isn't dead yet," Carson admitted. At this, Teyla sheepishly piped up that according to the elders, everyone in the past who had overdosed – consuming even half as much as Rodney had – had died after a few days of agony. That didn't bode well for Rodney, but at least he had all the medical technology Earth expertise could buy.

For a week he was virtually comatose, slipping between bouts of unconsciousness where he whimpered in constant pain, and deluded babblings where his whimperings became screams. He kept calling for Allina, and she refused to leave her side except when Elizabeth insisted that she shower. She even took her meals and slept in the infirmary.

The funny thing was – and the reason Elizabeth didn't insist too hard that Allina get some real sleep in her own quarters – was that she appeared to be quite a soothing presence on Rodney. He didn't seem to be in as much pain – or at least his whimperings and screams were more subdued – and his heart rate wasn't quite as erratic. At one point, he cried out for her, and she held one hand in his, and brought his other hand his other hand to her stomach. The result was the biggest hope Atlantis had been given yet that Rodney would pull through with no permanent damage.

Allina was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, showing people exactly why she'd been the leader of the Brotherhood. While anyone who spoke to her could see she was nearly out of her mind with worry for him, she realised becoming hysterical would achieve nothing but have two seriously sick people for Carson to worry about. And that would be detrimental to Rodney's recovery.

"He's in a lot of pain," Carson admitted to Allina when she asked him, quite bluntly, for an assessment of his health. She was an intelligent woman, and sugar-coating the issue would do nothing but make her lose faith in him. "For what it's worth, you have quite a calming effect on him. You must mean a hell of a lot to him for him to be responding to you the way he is. If he ever pulls through this, he's not going to be able to deny that."

It was the 'if he ever' comment that troubled Allina. She didn't like to think about the possibility of Rodney not pulling through. Their relationship was a troubled one, but it was far better then not having him around at all. That thought sent a chill through Allina's heart. So she stayed by Rodney's side, offering what support she could.

After a week, to everyone's relief, he pulled through, waking up. At first, everyone was overjoyed – even the many people who had been very vocal about what an arrogant, abusive man Rodney could be. But, funnily enough, the most vocal of those people were the most troubled by the complete change in his personality. He was weak, too weak to pick fights with people. He was in too much genuine pain – as opposed to the mild hunger he liked to whinge about – to do anything but feel sorry for himself. And he didn't want to eat. That scared people more then anything else.

Allina didn't care. All that mattered to her was that Rodney was awake and he was going to be OK. Eventually. Carson warned he – and she – had at least a month of recovery to look forward to. That he had woken up only meant his body had managed to flush out enough toxins to operate again, and while this was a good thing, it meant that he was still a very sick man and it would take at least a month by Carson's calculations before he was healthy. That meant a month in bed, on as nutritious a diet as could be managed given the rations they had available to them.

Rodney didn't say much. He was pale and wan and had lost several kilograms while he was comatose. He was weak and in a lot of pain, and for the first time in his life, didn't feel like complaining. He just wanted to be left alone to sleep. He felt so tired, too tired to even feel embarrassed that, after a week in a coma, which was sleep 24/7, he should want to sleep some more.

He felt deeply embarrassed that he had to be wheeled to his room, but Carson would hear nothing of him walking there, and Allina backed him up. He went to say something about her having no say in his life, but since he had a very distinct memory of her staying with him – he'd always felt her presence, and it had always been welcome – he decided that would be out of line. He justified it by telling himself he was tired and sick and would put her in her place later.

In the mean time, he didn't have the heart to tell her to go away when it became obvious she intended to stay with him. He told himself it was because he didn't have the energy to fight with her. But he absolutely refused her presence was soothing. Not even when he asked her to sleep with him, in his bed, and not the mattress that had been laid out on the floor for her. "I'm used to having you close and I'm not in a state to try new things right now," he said gruffly, like his lame excuse was a perfectly reasoned medical explanation.

Allina thought Rodney's excuse was a lame one, but she didn't say anything. The last week had been a nightmare for her, but she knew Rodney had needed her. She would give him a little time to admit that. She could wait, secure in the knowledge that Rodney needed her – and he had a pretty strong bond with their son, too. Instead, she settled into Rodney's arms for the first decent night's sleep she'd had since he'd taken ill.

Rodney was falling asleep despite the pain he was in, and as he relaxed, he found a sense of clarity. He had never been much of a deep-thinker, preferring to apply his brains to the more set rules of science rather then the mysteries of the human phsycie. But now his thought came to him – or, rather memories. Memories of Allina being by his side constantly, her presence soothing. His pain had always been less when Allina had been around, close to him, holding his hand, holding his hand against her stomach, reminding him of their son, that he had to be strong for both of them.

He had a vauge feeling that a two-timing bitch didn't show such devotion in such trying time.

"Lina," he murmured sleeping, not believing how tired he was. "Were you always there? While I was sick?"

He had never called her Lina before, and she liked it. "You're still sick," Allina reminded him, not planning on letting him forget it. Carson was worried that Rodney might push himself, he'd always missed a week when he could have been solving the problems of Atlantis, naturally he'd want to catch up. Not while Allina had anything to say about it. Rodney wasn't working again until he was 100. "But yes, I was."

"Thankyou," he murmured, and unconsciously, pulled her closer against him. he liked having her near her.

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"Go away. I'm not hungry."

"Carson says you have to eat. I'm not leaving until you finish your food."

Rodney was beginning to understand why Allina had been elevated to position of leader of the Brotherhood. She knew how to get things done – insisted they be done. Like him eating, for starters. Carson had prescribed him a high-energy, high-carbohydrate diet so he'd regain his strength and weight. But for the first time in his life, Rodney had lost his appetite, and every mouthful of food was a chore. He just wanted to be left alone. "I'll eat later," he said.

He was lying, he had no intention of eating later, and Allina knew it. "Eat. Now. It's for your own good." Allina crossed her arms over her chest. "And the good of our baby," she added smugly. "You don't want him to have a sick father, do you?"

He glared at her. Bloody women, knew how to play the sentimental card. Dutifully, he began eating, muttering under his breath.

Allina didn't know what a tyrannical bitch was, but by the tone Rodney used, she took it to mean something endearing.

Over the next month, Allina watched Rodney like a hawk, making sure he followed Carson's diet and kept himself well rested. He did so without much complaint so long as she stayed with him and kept him company – something she wasn't exactly adverse to. They spent a lot of time together and grew very close. There were times she annoyed him to no end, the way she constantly nagged him to look after himself, but deep down, he loved that she was so attentive, that she cared so much. Several times, she had run interference between him and Kavanagh, who wanted the expertise of an extra scientist. No-one, but no-one was going to push Rodney. And no-one dared take on Allina when she did her leader-of-the-Brotherhood thing. It was becoming very apparent why she'd been elevated to leader of the secret organisation.

Rodney was touched Allina cared so much. Somewhere along the line, he had accepted that she had acted in good faith when she had taken the ZPM. It must have been a pretty crappy decision for her to have made. God knew he'd been forced to make some crappy decisions from time to time. Insisting Teal'c was a write-off when he'd been caught in the Stargate was one of her personal favourites. He wondered if that had been why Colonel Carter had been so aloof towards him, unable to get past his initial error of judgement. Vaguely, he had an idea that he may have done the same thing to Allina that Carter had done to him. And the idea made him feel bad.

One day they were sitting up in bed together. She was sitting between his legs, with his hands caressing her ever-increasing belly. By now, the entire population of Atlantis was used to their intimate, if somewhat unorthodox relationship. A few carefully posed questions to both of them had established that they weren't together, per se, only acted like it, the way they were constantly together, talking, laughing and holding hands like the lovers they weren't.

Her smell was intoxicating. The feel of her fingers laced through his was distracting. He couldn't keep his eyes off the exposed skin of her neck… almost involuntarily, he bent his had down to kiss the nape of her neck.

She shivered. It had been so long since Rodney had touched her intimately, at least the way she wanted to be touched. At least since their kiss in the hall after he'd pulled her off the balcony, and then, there had been aggression and fear in his kiss, not sweetness. "What was that for?" she asked.

"Sorry," he mumbled, immediately on the defensive.

He went to withdrew his hands from hers, but she held them tight. He had kissed her, of his own volition, with no provocation. Damned if she was letting him slither out of that one. "I wanted you to," she admitted shyly, her voice far more placid then the near-iron grip she had his hands in. She was far stronger then she looked.

He relaxed his hands when he realised she wanted him to hold hers. And that she'd wanted him to kiss her. "Yeah?" he asked, almost as shyly.

She turned her head to face him. "Yes," she said in a quite voice.

Gently, he kissed her. It was like their first few kisses back on her home planet, tentative, gentle, becoming passionate and all-enveloping. "Lina…" he mumbled breathlessly between kisses. God, he'd been so stupid to let it go on this long. He was in heaven. He began to feel light-headed and dizzy as his heart began to race…

His heart was racing! Reluctantly, he pulled away. "What's wrong?" Allina asked, wondering if once more she'd done something wrong.

Rodney smiled sheepishly. He dragged Allina's hand up over his heart so she could feel its beat. "My heart's not that strong yet, Becket says I have to take it easy," he admitted. He lowered his head. "I can't… be… then man you deserve… for a while." That was about the hardest thing he'd ever had to fess up to. Rodney McKay was not used to admitting to being inadequate, in any regard.

Allina kissed him on the forehead and settled back into his arms. "It's OK," she said. "You've been through a lot. You were very strong just to survive."

She always knew the right thing to say. He realised just how lucky he was to have her. He wondered if it was too soon to ask Jaca about their culture's equivalent to a marriage ceremony. Call him old fashioned, but he didn't want his son being born out of wedlock. Not to mention he wanted Allina for Allina's sake. But as she sighed happily and cuddled up against him, he forgot all about marriage ceremonies. All that mattered was that they were finally together.

THE END