The Geek's Guide to World Domination

with a forward on how to handle whiners because Goons hate to lose

by likethekoschka

dom·i·na·tion (da mE ne shEn), noun, 1 supremacy or preeminence over another 2 exercise of mastery or ruling power 3 exercise of preponderant, governing, or controlling influence

Geek's Addendum: Goons often believe that just because they carry the guns they are the dominant species. That, however, is a common fallacy and, as a seasoned and experienced Geek, you will often be able to use it to your advantage. Just because the Goons carry the heavy firepower, we Geeks are the ones that usually do all the heavy lifting… intellectually speaking, of course. (Note: If you are still actually carrying heavy equipment in the field instead of your assigned Goon, you need to pay particular attention to this addendum.) The old adage, speak softly and carry a big stick, wouldn't have been possible if there hadn't been a dominant Geek yelling loudly and designing a more effectively destructive stick in the first place. The key to Geek domination is letting your assigned Goon think he is the one in charge. That way when he screws up and needs his ass bailed out once again, you just have a bigger metaphorical stick to hold over his head, and you'll be able to tell him he's speaking way too softly when he's groveling for forgiveness when it's all said and done. Because if you learn nothing else from this guide, head these words– Geeks. Always. Win.

It seemed harmless at first.

Really.

Swear to God.

I mean, it was just a toy.

It was just sitting there in the lab in a pile of Ancient devices waiting to be catalogued later. Labeled 'nondangerous, function unknown'. Function unknown, my ass. Seemed perfectly obvious to me. Since I didn't have anything better to do while waiting for Rodney to tear himself away for dinner, I picked it up. It was metal with a round head, two arms, two legs and looked halfway between a toaster and a baby chimp. There were tufts of fur here and there clinging to it…what had survived ten thousand years. A toy…an Ancient child's toy.

I slid my eyes to the left. Rodney was berating some new geek who was torn between pissing his pants and having an aneurysm that would deliver him to a better place. Satisfied he wasn't watching, I thought the thing on. Metal lids lifted to show bright, neon blue eyes and the metal mouth opened to burble some gibberish. Ancient of course. I was making progress on reading it, but as for understanding the spoken form…no way. But it was Ancient, so it was smart. Its head swiveled to take in the fast talking, arm waving geeks, clicked for a few seconds, then said in slightly Canadian-accented English (Rodney's voice was the loudest and most prevalent by far…damn thing couldn't help itself,) "Identify child."

Okay. My fault. Totally my fault, but, hell, it'd been a long day…a long, boring day and…shit, I would've done it anyway. I pointed to Rodney with a grin and said, "Meredith Rodney, Junior." Of course, it really wasn't Junior but it made it that much worse, so what the hell?

Before I could stop it, assuming I would've even tried, it bounded from the table to the floor and waddled in Rodney's direction, a comforting but very affirmative voice booming, "Meredith Rodney Junior, you are loved. Meredith Rodney Junior, you are a valuable member of society. Meredith Rodney Junior, you are a very attractive and exceedingly tall boy. Well above the average percentile of your peers. Good for you."

The bedraggled body had made it to Rodney's leg and hugged it with just the right amount of 'you are valued' pressure. Rodney looked down, horrified. "Jesus Christ, it's a zombie Teddy Ruxpin. What…? Who…?" Narrowed eyes hit me. "You are dead, Sheppard. Dead." He shook his leg hard with no result. 'Teddy' was stuck to him like glue. "Dead."

"Your muscle development is impressive, Meredith Rodney Junior," it chirped, "but it could be improved upon with a running regimen."

"Ha!" I said triumphantly. "I guess those Ancient kids slurped up too many pudding cups, too."

"Dead," Rodney hissed again. He looked down again and I could tell he was trying to think it off, but it wasn't working. Maybe it couldn't be turned off until ego validation could be confirmed. I grinned. Plum-sized eyes were still glowing and metal arms were still locked in place.

"A high hairline can be an indication of intelligence and is nothing to be feared," it asserted.

Rodney's molten glare switched from me to Radek where it turned smug and, I had to say it, malicious. "Hey." He shook his leg again. "See that guy over there? That's Dr. Radek Zelenka. He is in so, so much worse shape than me. In fact he feels so unloved he cries himself to sleep every night and wets the bed to boot. If anyone's first in line for a little ego boosting, it's him."

Dr. Z barely had time to glare back before Teddy was attached to his leg and reassuring away. "Bed wetting often has a genetic component and there is no shame attached to it, but please do not drink anything after seven PM."

"You are most evil man alive," Radek snapped at Rodney. "Every time you open mouth a devil gets his pitchfork."

"Me? Evil?" Rodney mocked. "I think you're the Dr. Evil around here. You even have a Mini Me attached to your leg. Same hair."

Dr. Z slammed his electronic pad down and was starting towards Rodney. And I thought my joke might've gone a little too far. I fisted a handful of Rodney's lab coat and dragged him towards the door. "Uh…sorry about this, Dr. Z," I apologized with my most charming smile…which I've been told is pretty damn charming. Here was hoping. I yanked Rodney through the door and heard Radek resignedly explaining the meaning of Dr. Evil to the curious toy.

"It is movie, you see. Play acting. Like game. And Dr. Evil's purpose to dominate world." The toy had let go and was waddling in Dr. Z's wake as he walked.

"So goal of game is to rule world, yes?" Now it had a Czech accent. Rodney was right. It really was a Mini Me.

"Well, yes. And to destroy Dr. Evil's sworn enemy. A smug, loud mouth with poor fashion sense."

Glowing blue eyes turned in our direction right before the door shut between us. I let go of Rodney's lab coat and frowned at the Hawaiian shirt he'd picked up last time we'd visited. There were pineapples, bananas, and hibiscus flowers all in orange, green, red, and yellow. "Swearing off blue and black?"

He looked down. "What do you mean? It's casual Friday."

"Rodney," I said patiently. "It's Wednesday."

"Oh." He rolled eyes. "And after I wasted that great lack of team spirit speech, too."

Not that Rodney had team spirit in that sense, but God forbid he give up a chance to yell at a large group of people. That was almost better than coffee and chocolate combined. And maybe even an orgasm. I was afraid to ask.

"No one bothered to interrupt and tell you it was Wednesday?" I asked as we walked down the hall towards the cafeteria.

He raised eyebrows at me and snorted. "Okay, okay," I admitted. "Stupid question." Any geek with a sense of self-survival would rather take the 'no team spirit' speech as opposed to the 'you dare interrupt your dark lord and master' speech. Forget the Nobel…if Rodney could've strangled people from a distance ala Darth Vader, that would've made his lifetime.

I grabbed a tray and got in line behind Annie Granola, our resident biochemist, rampant vegetarian, and representative of PETA in the Pegasus Galaxy. I took a look at the serving trays. Yep, three separate kinds of meat…including squark burgers. Annie was already turning red. We could be here a while. I took the opportunity to hit up Rodney with the hooky suggestion that had been rattling around in my head all morning. "Hey, let's skip out on the rest of the day, snag a Jumper, and hit the beach on the Mainland."

"You lived in detention in high school, didn't you?" He craned his neck, saw Annie, picked up his tray and breezed past to cut in front of her as she sputtered in incoherent squark-loving fury. "I'll have four squark burgers, well done please. Unlike you cafeteria staff, I don't consider Salmonella a side order. Thank you."

Annie had turned purple. Rodney smiled blissfully. "That's a new color for you, Doctor. I wouldn't precisely call it becoming, but it is interesting…."

We ended up eating powerbars in the Jumper on the way to the Mainland while Rodney spelled out in great detail all the horrific administrative punishments that would befall the biochemist once he wrote her up for punching him.

"She missed," I pointed out. "And truthfully I think it was more flailing around from the seizure you gave her."

"I did not give her a seizure," he huffed, chewing the caramel bar bite vigorously. "Well….certainly not a Grand Mal seizure anyway. A Petit at best. She didn't lose consciousness, she didn't swallow her tongue and I don't think she wet her pants, but there was no way I was checking for that. And how is it my fault she is so sensitive? If you're that delicate, you need to live in a bubble with nothing but Smurf videos to interact with. Hmph." He offered me a bite.

I shook my head and grinned, "All I want is squarks with fricking laser beams on their heads. Is that too much to ask?"

"I'm hardly Dr. Evil." He took another bite and glared. "All my planet destroying devices work just fine, thank you. They never fail."

My grin spread wider. Only Rodney would be less offended by the Evil and more by the insinuation of failure to pull off mass destruction. "Nope, you're right. With that shirt today, I think you're more the Austin Powers type." I leaned across and gave him a kiss. The caramel tasted nice and Rodney didn't taste too damn bad himself.

He snorted but kissed me back. "Hooky. You are an entirely bad influence on me, Colonel."

"I try," I smirked and buzzed the beach before coming in for a landing.

Half a day of hooky…that's all it took for the enemy, ruthless as hell and more implacable than the Wraith, to get a toehold on Atlantis.

Half a goddamn day.

x x x x x

Playing hooky always seems to sound better in the conceptual phase than the actual execution. For one thing, the vision of frolicking naked with John in the waves pretty much went out the window when we arrived to find Lorne escorting Kavanagh and Coleman while they worked on some sensors we'd originally set up way back when the Sam-fish and his family were circling Atlantis causing our brains to explode with their whale song… the effects had been along the same lines of Brittany Spears singing at a frequency outside of the range of human hearing and one of her CD's being set on continuous loop. And even though we'd moved from that planet, we didn't want a similar event taking place on this one, at least not without some advanced notice.

Why were Kavanagh and Coleman working on the sensors together? Especially since they hated each other? Honestly, I wasn't sure. In all likelihood it was probably some sort of punishment I had dreamed up for one or both of them. Or maybe I was doing John a favor and he was actually punishing Lorne. Given the way the major sat pinching the bridge of his nose while the two members of my staff bickered about the proper tool to use for the diagnostic, it was what was happening whether John had planned it or not.

So much for hooky sex in the surf. And the backup of hooky sex in the woods was preempted when John heard suspicious insect buzzing. And even the nonsexual water play didn't happen since we had to move so far down the beach to get away from the yelling that we were in an area of rip tides. So we sat on the beach and John rubbed sunscreen on my back… and I rubbed some on his. And then he rubbed some on my chest… and I rubbed some on his. And then he got a little worried that my swim trunks might shift and that maybe he should rub a little sunscreen below the waistband… and I thought that was an incredibly sensible idea. And while he set to work doing that, I ran my hands along his back… just to be sure I'd sufficiently rubbed in the sunscreen that I'd applied there. And then he kissed me, and I kissed him back because… well, his hands were down my shorts and it felt pretty damn incredible and he smelled like coconut sunscreen and tasted like chocolate power bars and when you rolled all that together, it was pretty much a giant German Chocolate Cake of sexual gratification. And that had me deciding this whole hooky idea was one of the best he'd had in a long time…

…until Coleman came storming up the beach threatening to report me for sexual harassment if I didn't immediately assign someone else to work with Kavanagh.

John had rolled back over to his towel, arm over his eyes, and I glared at the woman as I waved a hand at my trunks. "You just interrupted me when I was about to have sex with my husband to threaten me with sexual harassment charges? Are you starting to see the gaping hole in this diabolical scheme of yours?"

The red flush that blossomed across Coleman's face let me know she hadn't realized what we had been doing but she quickly straightened her back and crossed her arms in defiance. Brave, brave woman, I had to give her that. "Well… regardless… you need to do something about Kavanagh."

"Don't you think that if I could do something about Kavanagh, I would have by now? In fact, I'm pretty sure you being out here with him is yet another attempt by me to do something about him."

"That hardly seems fair," she countered.

My hand motioned between me and John, who was now a good foot away from me trying to disappear into the sand. "Hellllooooo. Does this look fair? I'm off duty and I'm spending my time playing referee for you and Kavanagh instead other more enjoyable things."

"But what did I do to deserve this?" the scientist demanded.

"You didn't take part in casual Friday, and I've had just about all of this nonparticipatory attitude that I can stand."

"But…" she started, and I cut her off with a raised hand before she could correct me on the day of the week. I knew full well what day it was, and Sheppard's enlightenment had nothing to do with it. The truth of the matter was all my uniforms were dirty and John evidently hadn't had time to do laundry this week so I didn't really have anything else to wear besides his The Man, The Legend t-shirt. And the whole, 'whoops, it's the wrong day of the week ploy' seemed as good an excuse as any I could come up. I mean, I wouldn't want to make John look bad. Although, I couldn't exactly figure out why he still had plenty of clothes to wear.

Note to self: requisition additional uniforms so that I have a number equal to John's.

"Maybe next week you'll show a little camaraderie with your fellow expedition members and wear something a little less militant."

"Militant??? But you wear this exact same thing that I am every day."

"Not on casual Friday." With a final wave of my hand, I shooed her away. "Now run along and go annoy Kavanagh for a while. That is why you're here, after all." Coleman's glower had me shaking in my flip-flops as I absently picked a piece of sea grass from John's hair. "Oh, I'm sorry. Was there something else you wanted to bitch uselessly about?"

"You owe me for this, McKay," she gritted.

"I'm sure you'll piss me off soon enough to deserve it."

With a huff, she turned and stalked back across the sand. John sat up and watched her go, then turned back to me. "You do remember it's not Friday, right?"

"Of course." I flashed a knowing grin. "More importantly I remember what you were doing before she interrupted us."

"Funny how you can't remember that we own a laundry hamper, but you can remember that."

"The laundry hamper isn't going to do anything about what's currently in my underwear, now is it?"

"I seriously doubt it's going to do much with the underwear itself, either, seeing as it'll be on the floor instead," he snorted.

"Yeah, well, I didn't plan to blow the laundry hamper today. You, however, were another story…" With a frown, I finished meaningfully, "…until recently."

John blinked at me before rubbing his hands together eagerly. "Yeah, okay, so where were we?"

"Funny how you can keep up with where my dirty laundry is located, but not what you were doing to dirty it in the first place." I crossed my arms defensively and suggested, "Maybe we should get the little Ancient toybot to come and give you a daily affirmation about your short term memory loss. It's okay, Johnny," I mimicked, "never getting any for the rest of your life will allow you to concentrate on more important things, like hair gel and fabric softener."

"Now that was funny," he grinned in memory. "I'm going to have to start carrying a camera so I don't miss those expressions from you."

"Yes, it was hysterical having a mechanical munchkin proclaim my value to the world. As if I need that Radio Shack reject to know how important I am."

"It never hurts to have it confirmed."

"Especially in such a personal way." I rolled my eyes. "It was as touching as the time my father sat me down to tell me he loved me because my therapist at the time felt it would improve my self-esteem and, since he was paying her so much money, she must know what she was talking about even if it seemed a little hokey to him."

"You don't know that's the reason he told you that," John frowned at the thought.

"No, actually, I do," I justified. "He told me that was the exact reason."

John's deepening frown had my own softening a bit. He had this unshakable belief that everyone, deep down at the very least, adored me as much as he did. And that as much as they bitched and whined and threatened lawsuits, every one of them would be willing to take a bullet for me if it came to that. Of course, I knew the truth of the matter. The only way most of them would do that is if I strapped them on my body like Kevlar. And the irony is that John would be the first to cinch them to me during a situation if he thought it would keep me safe.

"You know… with me… how I," he struggled for the right words, a product of his own childhood dysfunction that he liked to pretend never existed. "… how I… you know… about you… right?"

But the thing was, with him, I really did know. Never doubted it for a moment. And as a man that used lots of words frequently and loudly, I found that I never missed them from John. At his growing dismay, I leaned over and kissed at the back of his jaw, then whispered, "I don't need confirmation with you. I feel it in my bones." I grinned against his ear. "Both the ones I was born with and the ones you bring out in me."

A slow, mischievous smile spread across his face and his voice became falsely chipper. "Meredith Rodney Junior, you are a valued member of society."

"Smart ass." The pinch to his ribs had him squirming but didn't stop the grin or the recitation.

"Meredith Rodney Junior, you are an exceedingly bright boy with much potential."

"The potential to smother you in your sleep," I reminded. "And not just the potential, but a growing desire to do just that, so if I were you…"

He cut me off with a kiss that warmed me more than the afternoon sunshine ever could, and when I let my arms fall open, he moved in even closer, using his own body to push me back onto my towel and rest heavily on top of me. "You are a very attractive boy, Meredith Rodney Junior." He shifted his hips against mine, causing me to grip them and hold him close. "And exceptionally well-endowed to boot."

My snort was met with another kiss, this one slow and meandering and full of everything he had tried to say before. But he pulled back enough to look me in the eyes and say softly, "Meredith Rodney McKay, you are loved… very, very, much."

"Not nearly as much as you, John Sheppard," I assured him. And just in case he didn't believe me, I decided to prove it.

Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance.

"I'll be right back," Lorne was yelling, enunciating the words loudly and clearly so that we could hear them from his position halfway down the beach. "I just need to talk to Colonel Sheppard for a minute."

The small moan on pleasure deep in John's throat was replaced by a growl as he sat up once again. Seeing that his advanced warning had worked, Lorne double-timed it the rest of the way across the sand.

"Sir, this is hopeless. I'm just not getting anywhere with these people."

"Ah, well, at least it's not just me with that problem today," he answered dryly with a glance at me, but I was too busy scowling at Lorne to respond. Unfortunately, he was too busy complaining to Sheppard to really notice.

"They won't listen to a word I say. Not that they could hear it anyway because all they've done since we left Atlantis is argue."

"Major, you're just not using the right tactics with them. Geeks are a complicated bunch. You have to apply a certain amount of finesse with them. But once you know how to manipulate them, they're putty in your hands."

"How?" Lorne asked desperately.

"Yes, Colonel, how?" I raised an eyebrow, curious to hear exactly how he thought he knew to influence scientists.

With an uncomfortable shift of his shoulders, he looked between the major, who was anxiously awaiting an answer as to how to get himself out the predicament he was in, and me, who was anxiously waiting to see how Sheppard was going to get himself out of the predicament he'd just made for himself.

"It's a very unique and private process between each individual geek and goon," he justified. "One that Lorne here is just going to have to figure out on his own."

"I see." My bland expression was met with an equally frustrated one.

"But Colonel…"

"Major, you're the second in command of military operations on Atlantis. Surely you can handle a couple of brainiacs with an attitude."

"I think we should throw in the towel, call it a day, and head back to the city," the major admitted.

"Yeah," John sighed, "I think you might be right." He stood and started shaking out his towel and I quickly followed suit.

"Thank God," Lorne mumbled and started to leave but John stopped him.

"Not so fast, Lorne. I was talking about me and McKay. You still have a sensor array to repair, and until that's done, you aren't going anywhere." When the man started to protest, John stood straighter. "That's an order, Major. No one on your team, and today those two are your team, returns to Atlantis until the repairs are complete."

"Yes, Sir."

Lorne started down the beach toward the two scientists and I started after him toward the jumper. John quickly caught up, draping an arm across my shoulder as we walked. "So what say we just set the Jumper down inland a little bit and finish our afternoon there?"

"Why? So you can manipulate me into being your docile house geek?"

"Well, manipulating a few key pieces was kind of the plan, although I'm not so sure I was looking forward to you being very docile as a result."

"Sorry, Colonel, but I know how to manipulate as well as the next person."

He snorted but kept his arm around my shoulders. "I'm not sure beating a person into submission has the subtlety required to be considered manipulation."

"And I'm not sure insinuating to Lorne that you have me wrapped around your finger is the way to get laid."

"I don't?"

"Not at the moment, no," I assured him.

But he wasn't about to be deterred. "Not even if I fly the jumper nude?" I stumbled, but it was purely because the sand shifted beneath my feet.

"No." My voice cracked slightly and I cleared my throat and told him again a little more firmly, "No."

This time, he ran his thumb along my jaw. "Not even if I let you fly the jumper nude?"

I stopped walking to consider that possibility but his triumphant grin had me walking stubbornly on. "No." I was made of harder stuff than that… unfortunately certain parts were betraying me and become harder than others.

He caught up with me again, wrapping his arms around me from behind and asking silkily at my ear. "Not even if we both fly the jumper nude?"

I closed my eyes and groaned, knowing I was so totally screwed… or at least would be soon. And that thought had me groaning again. "Get in the damn ship," I ordered, and he had my shorts taken off of me before the back hatch completely sealed.

A few hours later we were back on Atlantis, walking so close that we kept bumping into each other and grinning every time we did. That other Canadian guy… Charles, Chuck! That was it... was on duty in the control room and no one else was around. And I mean no one.

"Where is everybody?" John asked even as I checked my watch. It wasn't even that late, just past eight.

The gate tech shrugged and surveyed the room. "Huh, I don't know. I thought it seemed a little quiet."

John's curiosity turned to suspicion when he looked down into the embarkation area. "Where the hell are the marines?"

"Lieutenant Cadman pulled them off a little while ago. I guess they never came back."

"Never came back?" Sheppard tapped angrily at his radio. "Cadman this is Sheppard."

"Go ahead, Colonel," the marine responded.

"Would you like to explain to me exactly why there are no guards stationed in the control room?"

"You're back, Sir?" She seemed a little surprised by the news.

"Yes, I'm back." His growing irritation was apparent in both his voice and his expression. "But from the looks of things here in Control, the security detail you pulled away isn't.

"Oh, good, I'm glad you're here. We had a problem with a weapon discharging, Sir."

"Was anyone hurt?" he asked, his ire turning to concern momentarily.

"Only an Atlantean toilet," she confirmed, "but I felt it would be best if we pulled the various stations back and checked out each P90."

"And you left the gate unguarded to do it?"

"Well, Sir, there are no teams off-world at the moment, so seeing as the risk seemed pretty minimal, I thought…"

"No, Lieutenant, it's pretty damn obvious you didn't think. And if you don't have those men back to their stations within thirty seconds, you'll have plenty of time to think about how I booted your ass all the way back down to sergeant. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Sir. They're on their way."

"Good, because I'm already up to ten seconds. Sheppard out."

I grinned proudly at John. God, I loved it when he got all commanding. But before I could think of a sufficient way to reward his behavior, I noticed something on the control screen. "What the hell is that?"

Chuck pivoted, hands still in his pants pockets, to see what I was talking about. "I don't know." Leaning in over my shoulder as I brought up another screen, he observed, "It looks like section H of the city is being powered up."

"I know what it is," I snapped impatiently, even as I clicked sharply on the keyboard. "I just don't know why it would be happening. No one is supposed to power up an unused section of the city without prior authorization. And no one asked me for prior authorization, therefore, no one has prior authorization to power up that section of the city."

"So who did it?" Chuck asked curiously.

I brought up another subroutine. "I'm just about to find out." The screen popped up and I could see where the command had initiated, the workstation it revealed had my molars grinding. "Radek."

When I called him on the radio, I was answered instead by a slightly mechanical voice. "Greetings, Meredith Rodney Junior. Dr. Radek Zelenka is unable to respond to you at the moment. However, you should in no way consider the fact that he cannot answer you at this time as an indication that you are not worthwhile and valued. He is simply a very busy man."

"He's going to be a very busy man cleaning beakers and test tubes if he doesn't get his ass on his radio and answer me."

"Ah, Rodney, so you have returned."

"Yes, Radek, we've returned. Why is everyone so surprised by that? It's not like we were going house hunting on the Mainland."

"Well, it is just that when you and Colonel went off together, I assumed that it was for you two to…"

"What we were doing is none of your damn business. What is my business is why Section H is lit up like a Christmas tree and eating up our ZedPM."

"We have had several small… glitches since you were gone."

My anger was joined by a sharp spike of apprehension, which, in my life, seemed to go hand in hand. "Glitches? What kind of glitches?"

"You know," he evaded, "glitches."

"No, I don't know. Where are you now? I'm coming there."

"No, no. No need. We have it under control."

"Obviously you don't or there wouldn't be glitches anymore."

"Rodney, I am serious," the Czech insisted with a hint of his own exasperation. "There is no need for you come."

I narrowed my eyes. "Why don't you want me to come and help?" Normally, Radek would have been all over the fact that I'd skipped out and now he was left with all the heavy lifting, so to speak.

"Why are you so anxious to stop playing hooky with the Colonel?" he countered. "Surely little blue pill that makes little, tiny Rodney so happy hasn't worn off by now."

"I don't need any…" I started irritably then stopped and eyed John, who was down lecturing the newly returned marines who were standing at rigid attention. "Did Sheppard bribe you to not interrupt us?"

There was a pause on the other end of the radio. "I am not at liberty to confirm or deny any alleged exchange of goods for mutually beneficial results."

I knew it! John never trusts me to just take some time off; he has to make sure I follow through with a little extra insurance of his own. "However," Radek continued, "if he were to have offered some… incentive for you to stay home tonight, he would be required to pay said incentive whether you did or did not remain in bed. So, it is now up to you to decide if you will believe me that we have everything under control or cost Colonel a ridiculous number of Amazon orders for no reason."

And here was the second dilemma associated with playing hooky─ the ramifications of half a day lost at work and the disasters that occurred as a result of my absence. I knew that was going to be the case when I agreed to go, but I figured a sleepless night would be worth the time alone with John. Now I was being offered a get out of work free card… well, relatively free considering what I was sure was going to be a ridiculously high credit card bill this month, and I'd be an idiot not to take it. Right?

With a resigned sigh, I told Zelenka, "Fine. But if anything happens you can't handle, call me immediately."

I could picture the eyes behind his glasses rolling skyward. "Very well, if shoes come untied, I will call."

"I'll be monitoring things from my quarters, so I'll know what's going on," I warned.

"Good, then I shall not have to speak with you further tonight. Zelenka out."

John had finished up with his berating and was walking back up the stairs to Control. "So, I guess you'll be hanging out here for a while and helping with the repairs?"

I watched as the disappointed expression transmuted to surprised pleasure when I told him, "Nope. Radek seems to have it all under control. I'm heading home with you."

"Really?"

"Well, I can stay here if you prefer…"

His hand clamped around my bicep and he had us moving toward the exit with little more than a, "See you later, Chuck," thrown over his shoulder.

I should have realized nothing is ever as good as it seems.

x x x x x

"Rodney," I groaned, half annoyed and half resigned. I was also as limp and comfortable as a cat stretched out on the sun-warmed hood of a car. Post coital bliss…super charged bliss, in fact, and it would've been nice to have, I don't know, shared it with the one who'd inspired it.

"What the hell is he doing now?" Rodney was sitting naked at the desk, frowning at the glow of the computer screen in the darkness. "He can't be running a diagnostic on the star drive. That's not due for another five months at least."

"Rodney," I repeated, pulling the sheet up as a cool breeze blew in from the open balcony doors.

"Do you know how much energy it takes to run a diagnostic of the star drive?" His voice went up at least half an octave. "I don't care if it's the origin of every glitch past, present, and future. It's a decision that is discussed, debated, calculated unto death, brainstormed, voted on, and then ultimately decided by me and only me. What the fuck is he thinking?"

"Rodney," I gritted. Waves, warm bed, and the sleep that comes from the kind of sex that could've powered the star drive itself and the man would rather be checking up on Dr. Z than enjoying that. Although, give credit where it's due, I was surprised as hell he'd taken off early and left the lab in the hands of Dr. Z when the dreaded g-word was running amok in his precious city. And, trust me, Rodney considered Atlantis his personal property. The rest of us he graciously allowed to dwell in his own personal fiefdom.

But he had come home for the night and, by God, I wanted that night. The whole night. Every detail. Sex…hell, yeah…and I'd gotten that. But I wanted the rest of it. The warm weight against my side. The rise and fall of his chest under my arm, the heated snuffle and snort of his breath against my neck as he alternately snored and mumbled in his sleep. I wanted to wake up after the dreams….

There were always dreams.

I wanted to wake up after them to see him, feel him…the warm skin, the fly away bed hair, the unconscious roll of him onto his side to loop an arm around my neck and head, a leg over mine. I wanted to know he was there…really there and not so many godawful places he could've ended up over the years. Places far from me, far from this world, and far from life. When I dreamed, he knew it. Even asleep, he knew it…turned over, latched on to me, and took care of it—all without waking up. Some nights he half strangled me if the nightmare had my head coming up off the pillow and some nights I got away with a fairly benign drool stain on the back of my neck. I didn't care. Both were good. Great in fact, because he was there…he was with me.

I didn't get the same effect when I woke up to an empty bed and the sight of ass crack showing under the metal slat of an Ancient chair as he cursed at the computer screen.

This time I gave up on calling his name and threw a pillow at his head. I didn't miss. Guns, baseballs, pillows…I rarely missed with any of those things. "Dr. McKay, get your naked ass in bed. Now."

Flailing arms swatted the pillow to the floor and he turned to glare at me. "Perhaps you don't care if Radek plays with the city like a Vegas roulette table. Gee, maybe this section is the problem. No? Let's spin that wheel again. Well, I do care, because I am ultimately responsible. If he blows us sky high, whose name do you think will be on that SG report? Atlantis disintegrated. Probable cause: Dr. Rodney McKay. I will not…."

You pick your battles. I sighed, rolled over, slid an arm under the pillow and closed my eyes. Thirty seconds later a weight dipped the foot of the bed and Rodney climbed up between me and the wall and crawled under the sheet. He moved over until his side pressed against mine. I took my arm out from under the pillow and laid it across his chest. "Sorry," he exhaled and I felt his lips on my jaw. "It was a good day and a better night. Well worth disintegration and posthumous scientific disgrace."

"A great night," I corrected, opening my eyes and curving my lips. I kissed him back, nipped his lower lip, nuzzled.

"No 'you are a highly valued sexual partner whose prowess and size are currently beyond our puny capabilities of measurement'?'" he grinned.

"If you need that, then you either weren't here or weren't paying attention. And if that's what you can do when you're not paying attention, you'd kill me with the real thing," I snorted. One last kiss and I drifted off. I woke up once during the night then didn't wake again until morning with the McKay stranglehold firmly in place.

I grinned, fought back a sneeze as his hair tickled my nose and grinned wider at the thought that we'd never gotten around to doing laundry. It looked like it was casual Friday again today. A blue eye cracked at my small movement, blinked, then opened wide enough to glare. I knew it wasn't for me, but I responded anyway, "Good morning to you, too, Sunshine."

I got a quick, perfunctory kiss, an elbow in the ribs as he vaulted over me for the computer. "We're still alive and molecularly whole," he muttered, sounding almost disappointed despite his next words. "That's a positive sign." He tapped away at the keys for several minutes, then said, "Mmmmm."

"Dr. Z take care of things?" I yawned.

"He seems to have. I suppose he might be worth that massive Amazon charge after all." He closed the laptop with a snap. Before I could ask him what he meant by that, he looked at me. This time the glare was solely meant for me. "Laundry."

I rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. "So is it casual Friday again or Magnum PI day?" Mostly I did all of the laundry. If you learn nothing else in the military…shoot, fly, stay alive…you learn to keep yourself in clean uniforms. Rodney, however, seemed to believe in the laundry fairies or underpants gnomes or what the hell ever. Ninety-nine percent of the time I let it slide. But every once in a while, I liked to remind him a little appreciation was in order.

I never got it, but I did get recognition in the form of temper tantrums, ugly shirts, and a grumbled promise to keep up with his own dirty clothes. He never kept that promise, but that he actually made it? Rodney? Saying he would do menial labor that involved little to none of his enormous brain cell power? It counted. It definitely counted. And he meant it at the time…that time just never lasted too long.

After our shower…okay, maybe there were different ways to show appreciation…we dressed and headed for the door. Rodney had the shirt on. The shirt. The desperation shirt. The 'it's this or I go naked shirt.' Carson, tiring of the ten thousand sheep jokes I was sure, had had it made up for one of Rodney's birthdays. It had a picture of Rodney's cat, the furball from hell, silk screened on the front with 'I ♥ My Kitty' underneath. He grabbed his labcoat and buttoned it up as I snorted with laughter.

"Yes, it's totally hilarious that I'm subjected to humiliation due to the fact I don't have the support staff I need," he retorted.

"Support staff? What? A maid?" I said incredulously.

"Well, obviously I'm far too important to waste my time on menial tasks. You're the top ranking military officer of Atlantis, so your time is important to a certain extent, as well. Why not implement a…." That's when he smacked face first into the door. I might've been a little more sympathetic if it hadn't been for that 'to a certain extent' comment.

"Problem?" I drawled.

"Ow." He backed up and clutched his nose. "Ow ow ow ow ow. I've broken it. Have I broken it? Am I bleeding? Fix the glitches, my ass. And Radek better look for a new ass by the way because I'm kicking his entirely off his body. Into orbit where it will circle the planet like a new goddamn pasty Czech moon."

As quickly as he went from schnozz panic to dire threats of ass removal, I guessed he hadn't broken anything. Shaking my head, I tried palming the door open instead of thinking it open as Rodney had. Nothing happened.

Between wrathful mutters and delicate prodding of his 'broken' nose, Rodney pulled the plate off the panel beside the door. "I'll just switch the crystals around and…well, fuck."

I know what fuck means in several languages. The language of what we did the night before: pretty damn cool. The language of the Air Force pilot in his plane: your ass is grass. In the language of geeks it wasn't much different.

"Broken?" I asked while peering over his shoulder.

"Broken? No, not broken. Broken would be puppies and balloons and sundaes with cherries on top compared to this." He touched a crystal and sighed. The normal clarity of them was shot through with a haze of gray fractures. "These crystals are utterly destroyed, which leads me to believe that the ones on the other side are, as well. The entire door unit is, no doubt, a loss, although what exactly has happened to it….." He looked closer. "It almost looks like…no. No one has the capability to do that but me, a few members of my staff, and the Ancients themselves. It must've been a spontaneous reaction to whatever the hell Radek did to de-glitch the city." He narrowed his eyes, jammed his com in his ear. "Radek, your teddy bear better not be answering your calls now. What the hell did you do to my city?" There was no response.

I'd put my own com on and there was nothing but silence. I tapped. "Lieutenant Cadman, this is Shepphard. Respond." Still nothing. "Seems like whatever took out our door took out the coms too." I considered for a moment then brightened, remembering an occasion that had unlocked Rodney's door once upon a time. "I could think Fire…."

He cut me off before I could finish. "No. Then we'd still be trapped, only up to our necks in fire retardant foam." He quirked a crooked grin. "Not that that hasn't been enjoyable a time or two." The grin faded. "But not now. Not when there is Czech ass that needs kicking and my city that needs fixing." He kicked the door, then again--harder.

As he hopped around the room swearing to God and Einstein that his big toe was broken—luckily his nose was forgotten about—I went to my pack and pulled out a coil of rope. That was when he forgot about both his nose and possibly fractured big toe.

"Oh no. There is no way you're doing what I know your overly heroic, non survival oriented brain has in mind. Lemmings jump into the ocean, okay? Not you."

"I'm just going to climb down to the next balcony, go in, get out and get some help." I rummaged through the bag for the harness. "Not lemming-like at all. A girl in seventh grade gym class could handle it. Maybe even a geek who made it through geek boot camp," I grinned.

He scowled and went to peer over the edge of the balcony. "Oh dear God, do you have any idea how far down the next one is? It has to be ten stories. Twelve maybe."

As I hooked on the harness, I looked with him. "Three, Rodney. It's three."

"You have lemming-like visual perception as well." He glared then sighed, folding his arms. "This is the universe's way of punishing me for taking a day off. You're really going, aren't you? Goddamnit."

"Normally I'd say wait until someone notices we haven't shown up, but with both our door and the coms out." I shook my head. "Seems a little coincidental. A little off. I want to make sure these are glitches and not some sort of Wraith/Replicator infiltration."

"I know,. I know," he confirmed gloomily. "Don't think I haven't thought about that." He took another look over the edge and winced. "If you fall, I hope the last sight you see is Kavanagh and Beulah the cafeteria lady having sex on their balcony as you go by. You got me?" he said fiercely.

I kissed him quickly. "I won't fall."

I didn't. I made it to the balcony. I waved up and got the finger along with a shouted "Lieutenant Colonel Lemming, ladies and gentlemen!" Snorting, I tried the balcony door, for a nice change of pace luck-wise, it was unlocked. Not too many jewel thieves scaling the walls in Atlantis.

I had no idea whose place it was but I did see a full-size Lego Princess Leia in the copper bikini under construction, so I was able to swing the guess toward the more geeky of the geek side. There was no one home and I exited, hit the hall at a jog, and headed for the lab. No matter how Rodney might bitch and groan, Radek's brain was only a few cells off from being as big as his was. I'd send him to help with the door, find out why the coms were out, find some goddamn marines and find out what the hell was going on. Then I'd kick some ass right along with Rodney. This was Atlantis and this shit was not supposed to happen. How many goddamn times do you have to be invaded before you pay attention and do your fucking job? And Cadman…the more I thought about Cadman, the more I thought her ass was headed back to Earth. The gateroom fiasco was a fuck up I had absolutely no inclination to overlook. Yeah, she was gone.

I was ten feet from the lab door when I heard it…heard it and thought Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, you have fucked up royally.

"Demolecularization of the crystal lattices in Meredith Rodney Junior's door was very clever, Doctor Radek Zelenka," came the familiar chirpy voice. "Only someone as brilliant and intelligent as you deserves to rule the world."

"This goes without saying," came Dr Z's smug reply. "Doctor Heines, the weapons rooms are secure?"

"Yes, Doctor Zelenka. No one can gain entry but us."

"The captives are still contained and docile?"

"Yes, Doctor Zelenka," came another voice, just as worshipful. "The tranquilizing gas worked just as you said it would."

You can't hear a salute or a bow, but if you could, I swear I'd have heard something. Jesus, what had Teddy Ruxpin and I done? Rule the world? One goddamn Ancient toy and a Dr. Evil reference and Dr Z was out to rule the world? Holy shit. I pulled my nine mil and started for the door. I wasn't going to shoot anybody…except Ruxpin…these were my geeks after all. It was my duty to keep them out of trouble, not get them in it.

Which I so thoroughly had done.

"There is life sign outside the lab," Dr Z's voice said abruptly. "Quickly, the stunner."

And then I was gone, running full out. I may have caught something about only bright and curious boys listened outside doors, but rudeness was not a virtue. Or I might have heard Radek say, "Do not kill him yet." Yet. I decided I'd heard the Teddy version instead and kept running.

Geeks are smart, geeks are brave, geeks are not necessarily fast runners. I lost them, and at the same time found someone else. Three someones, fresh from the mainland from the sand covering them from the knees down. And fresh from the mainland meant out of the Ancient device's reach.

With my hand resting against the wall as I panted slightly, Kavanagh poked a finger in my chest. "I quit! Do you get me? Does your minute military brain comprehend what I'm saying? You can tell that balding, egomaniacal, hypochondriac who only has a body to function as life support for his mouth that I…."

I slammed one hand over his mouth and used the other to bend that finger back until he yelped. The first was for expediency, the second for what he'd called Rodney. I enjoyed them both. "Major, take Coleman and Kavanagh to the balcony above my quarters. Rappel down and get Rodney. He's not going to like it, but get him anyway." If they'd locked up the weapons, the geeks had most likely locked up the explosives, as well. And I imagined they were sending someone to guard our door at that very moment anyway.

Lorne looked confused. "Sir?"

"It looks like the geeks have taken over Atlantis, part of it at least. They've been brainwashed by some Ancient device. Everyone you see is a potential enemy until proven otherwise. The coms are out. Get Rodney and we'll meet in the gateroom." The gate tech had seemed fine. He certainly hadn't shot, zatted us, or used one of the Wraith pulse staffs we'd collected.

He blinked, managed to swallow that, and asked, "Where are you going, Sir?"

"To find out where they're keeping the others." And Ronon. Ronon could carry five geeks in each hand and probably stomp Teddy like a tin can. Unless I got to shoot the little shit first. And I really, really wanted to shoot it. "Oh, and Major?"

"Sir?"

"Tell Dr McKay it's Teddy Ruxpin," I grimaced.

Damn it to hell…Rodney was never going to let me live this down.

x x x x x

This day. This goddamn day. I hadn't even eaten breakfast yet and it already sucked out loud. And believe me, if you're going to be suspended over the ocean a good hundred meters up, it helps to have a few cups of coffee under you belt. Unfortunately, all I had was a fucking harness around mine.

"Just a little further, Doctor," Major Lorne called encouragingly from the balcony above ours and I could just make out the faces of Coleman and Kavanagh as I was hoisted up to join them.

And the worst part, the very worst part of the day so far, was that I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that this was going to be the best part of the whole thing. Moments from falling to a watery grave with a busted nose and broken toe and this was going to be the highlight.

Typical. So fucking typical.

But what did I expect? Given the fact that Lorne, not Sheppard, had shown up to deliver the news that Radek had developed a massive case of swollen-head syndrome thanks to that stupid mechanical self-help bear… the one John had activated in the first place… Well, I guess I wasn't that surprised that he'd found an excuse to let someone else haul my ass out of our room (which was supposedly under armed guard by now). That was the only way Lorne had managed to get me to even agree to dangle to my imminent death… it was the only way out and Sheppard was roaming the city looking for pockets of resistance to help us retake Atlantis from my goddamn staff.

Shock collars. I swear to God, as soon as this was over and everything was back to normal, I was implementing a shock collar policy for the entire science staff… and one for Sheppard, as well, since he couldn't seem to keep his ATA gene to himself.

"Christ, McKay, you could help a little here," Kavanagh complained down to me.

"And just what, pray tell, should I do? Flap my arms and fly up to where you are?"

"No, Sir, don't do that," the major pleaded when I flailed my arms to demonstrate the uselessness of that plan. "It'll just start you swinging and I'd rather not have to explain to Colonel Sheppard why I didn't bring you to meet him in the control room."

"As far as I'm concerned, if he wanted me to be there so badly, then he should have come and got me himself." I could just reach the bottom railing of the balcony and I grabbed on in order to keep from bashing into it. "It would serve him right to lose the one bright point in his miserable, pathetic life."

"I didn't realize the colonel was so unhappy, Doctor," the major challenged with another tug that brought me up several more inches.

"Oh, believe me, he will be. I'll make sure of that. After this experience, he'll wish he'd never had a lemming thought in his life."

"I told you," Lorne explained with a grunt as he pulled once again, "he went to find the others. Evidently it's a small contingent that's taken over the city from within."

I slipped my foot onto the edge and hefted myself to a stand, gripping the railing and not looking down. "I seriously doubt anyone is in so much danger that Colonel Sheppard couldn't come home first to brief me himself. Radek wouldn't hurt anyone. He may have lost his mind, but he's not psychotic."

"Radek wouldn't take over the city, either," Coleman pointed out as I threw a leg over the balcony. "It doesn't sound like he's in control here."

"No, it's that stupid toy." I shook my head in annoyance and bafflement. "What I can't understand is how it's the toy... what it's doing, exactly, and how so quickly. I mean, when it latched onto me, there was a part of me that felt good, like I could take on the world. But I sure the hell didn't feel like taking it over. If that's its purpose, then why not use me to do it? I would have had Landry feeding me bonbons and SG-1 detailing the Jumpers by now."

"I think you're putting too much blame on the device and too much faith in Zelenka. The man has the heart of a despot and, as much as I hate to admit it, the brains to do something about it," Kavanagh noted. "Let's face it; any one of us in the science division could have overthrown the military within the first month of the expedition if it came down to it. It's the other scientists you have to worry about."

"Hey!" Lorne protested.

But I waved him off. "No, he's right. Once they disarmed the marines…" and that's when it dawned on me. "The marines, Cadman pulled them off duty from the gateroom, from every station in the city, with that story about a weapon malfunction. She must be working with Radek. That means he has military support, at least some. Fuck, I have no idea how many we're up against. There's no way that damned bear could have gotten to everyone in a matter of hours."

I shook my head and climbed out of the harness. "And maybe you're right," I admitted to the pony-tailed man standing before me. "Maybe it's not the toy's idea to take over the city, but it's what's convincing Radek he can do it, and convincing the others to go along with him. We need to learn more about the damn thing so I can turn it off."

"We need to learn more about exactly what we're up against," Lorne reminded. "And we need to go meet Colonel Sheppard."

Pulling my life signs detector from my vest, I pointed toward the door. "It looks like we're clear for now. Let's head for the control room."

We didn't meet any resistance on our way to Control. And Chuck looked up from his station as soon as we walked in. "Dr. McKay, what's going on? Communications are down and my replacement never came to relieve me…"

I cut him off with a shove of his chair out of my way as I started accessing the city controls. "Radek's taken over. Consider yourself lucky that he probably doesn't remember you name else you would be one of his mindless technozombies, as well."

"Chuck," he stated with a hint of defense. "My name is Chuck, and it's a very good name."

"Yes, yes, I know that." Although, honestly, for over three years, I didn't and neither did most of the rest of the expedition members as far as I could tell. There are just some things you take for granted, and evidently the name of the gate tech is one of them. Besides, there were usually much more pressing items to contend with than someone's name, like the fact that Radek had somehow overridden my command codes.

"Son of a bitch! How did he… Elizabeth. He has Elizabeth's command codes." It would be easy enough to override those once Sheppard arrived. Two sets of command codes could supersede a single set, to preclude just such a problem as this, where one set was compromised. But until then, I couldn't do much of anything, except wait for John to show and stew about what he had done.

He showed up less than ten minutes later, jogging in with a, "Good, you're here."

I whacked him upside the head as soon as he was in reach. "Yes, I'm here. No thanks to you."

He glowered even as he rubbed at the back of his head. "It's not like I left you hanging…" When he realized what he had said and how I'd left our room, mainly because I whacked him again, he changed his wording. "Radek was sending guards. I could see them on the life signs detector. I had no clue what he was going to do to you. And considering what I found, it's probably a good thing you left."

"Why? What did you find?" Kavanagh asked in dread, no doubt picturing a pile of dead scientists being used to barricade the doors.

"Section H is full of people and being guarded by marines."

"How do you know?" I asked with my eyes narrowed.

"Because I saw them." When I slapped his head again, he grabbed my wrist. "Christ, McKay, cut it out!"

"You went into hostile territory without backup. You obviously need to have some sense beat into you."

My justification was dismissed with a shake of his head. "They never knew I was there. None of the marines on duty had a detector. Not that it would have done them any good, seeing as none of them has the gene."

"Did you know that at the time? No, I don't think so. I could have fallen to my death and you never would have known because one of your own men could have shot you or taken you captive."

"Look, if you two are finished with your own bizarre form of S and M foreplay, could one of you just say your safe word so we just focus on what's going on now." Kavanagh waved his arms to encompass the entire city.

"Fine," I grumped. "Enter your damn command code so I can fix this."

Once both of our codes were entered, I had access to the system. "Finally. Something is going right for a change."

But before I could do anything more, the large screen behind us stopped scrolling Ancient text to be replaced by Radek, his hand resting almost affectionately on top of the toy's partially tufted head, flanked by Elizabeth on one side and Cadman on the other. There were also several other scientists around the room he was transmitting from… Heines, Garangola, Leeman, Zellman, that guy that always smelled like flowers, the one that had knocked over my coffee cup last week, the woman who enunciated her words way too much… and a few others that I remembered had been present during the initial Teddy Ruxpin initiation. And that would have confirmed my conclusion except that not everyone that had been there when the machine was turned on was present. There was no Miko, no Miller, no Davidson… and that was tickling something in the back of mind.

But the thought of how the toy had been activated in the first place had me turning my glower from the screen to John and whacking him yet again.

"McKay," he growled, "I swear to God if you do that one more time…"

"You'll what? Turn on another goddamn toy?"

The anger was replaced with an abashed slump of his shoulder. "Crap, Rodney, I had no idea…"

But before he could finish his attempt at an apology, the toy addressed me. "Blame is never a constructive way to resolve conflict, Meredith Rodney Junior."

"Oh, but taking over the city is?"

"The city is just the beginning, Rodney," Radek informed me with confidence.

"Radek, this is insane. Even you are smart enough to realize you don't stand a chance in hell…"

"On contrary, Dr. McKay, I am more than smart enough to know what I am capable of accomplishing. It is you that has no idea what you are in for. You think you are God's gift to science, to city, to universe, but we shall see how you do without support that you take for granted."

"I don't need you, Radek. Sure, you have an idea from time to time that comes in handy once I work through the kinks, but nothing that justifies proclaiming you supreme ruler." I snorted. "I mean, let's face it, you're no Khan."

"And you are no Spock," he countered, before adding with a bit of glee, "Not when you don't have your Chekhov, or O'Hura, or Scotty. And especially when you don't have your Kirk."

Oh, now he'd stepped over the line. Attempting to take over my city was one thing, insulting my brilliance another, but threatening John… dead meat. I'd grind him up and feed him to my cat. And thank God she was locked up in our room or he'd no doubt have her in his lap stroking her like a bad Bond villain.

But before I could open my mouth to tell him those things, there was the sound of something bouncing across the floor. Looking down, I saw it rolling across the tiles to rest against my foot. I scooped it up and furrowed my brow.

A pawn.

A chess pawn.

John, however, was more interested in where it had come from. "Ronon," he breathed in relief. "Am I glad to see you."

But as soon as Radek spoke again, I knew seeing our teammate in the doorway wasn't a good sign. "Game on, Rodney." In fact, it was a really, really bad sign.

"Oh, shit." I grabbed for John, but not fast enough. Not fast enough to outpace the bullet from the nine-millimeter Ronon lifted and pointed at him. Supergeek, sure. Superman, not quite.

I tackled him to the ground as bullets started flying. "Where? Where did he hit you?" Because if Ronon aimed, he wouldn't miss. And evidently Radek didn't want John dead because if he did, Ronon would have made sure he was.

John ignored me, yelling at Lorne instead. "Hold your fire! He's under the control of the device!"

"Shut the damn door!" Coleman's shout had Chuck reaching up from where he was hiding under his workstation to trigger the lock down of the control room.

"Sheppard, where the fuck are you hit?" He rolled from his side to his back with a curse, revealing the blood already soaking his pants leg. "Oh, Jesus," I mumbled, digging frantically for the bandage in my vest. "Dead. You are fucking dead! Do you hear me, Radek? I don't care if you're under the control of the Ancients, the Wraith, or the goddamned Easter Bunny, I am going to personally tear you limb from insignificant limb."

The screen had turned off, so I snapped at Kavanagh. "Get communications online. I want Dr. No Fucking Clue to hear me and live in mortal fear of the moment I find his sorry ass.

"Rodney, it's not his fault," John tried to reason, biting back a groan when I tied the dressing tightly.

"The hell it isn't. He had Ronon shoot you. Shoot you. A few inches over and he would have hit an artery and killed you." I leaned in and applied pressure to try to slow the bleeding. "No one tries to kill you and lives to tell the tale. No one."

"You did," Kavanagh mumbled as he started working at the nearest computer.

"What?" I demanded in confusion but John was already pulling my attention back to him with a glare at the scientist.

"Ronon could have killed me, but he didn't." John laid his head back and closed his eyes as he croaked out, "He wasn't trying to kill me. Dr. Z's trying to throw you off balance so he'll have the upper hand."

"Well, he sure as shit succeeded with that plan." I sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves, and failed miserably. Which given the fact that John's blood was coating my hands really wasn't that big of a surprise. "We need to find Carson."

"I don't think that's going to be so easy," John told me as his face screwed up in pain and I knew exactly what he meant. Radek had basically told me himself. He had my support, my team… Ronon, Teyla, Carson… they were all with him. And now he was trying to take John from me, too. "Even if we find Beckett, if he's under the influence of Teddy he won't help unless Dr. Z tells him to."

And that's when something finally clicked… who was helping Radek and who was missing. "The gene," I told him in dawning realization. "It doesn't affect anyone with the gene."

"How can you be sure?" Coleman demanded.

"I can't, not entirely," I answered, irritated that I had to explain these things every time. "But given the fact that it really didn't do anything to me when it had the chance except make me feel pretty damn good for a few seconds, and that everyone we've seen so far that's working with Radek doesn't have the gene and anyone that I know was around the device with the gene is nowhere to be seen, it's a good assumption to go on."

"That's your problem, McKay. You always assume. You never take the time to know for sure."

At Kavanagh's statement, I threatened, "You want to put it to the test? I can turn you over to Radek and see what happens."

"You're going to need all the help you can get," he snorted before straightening. "There, we've got coms."

He was right. The fact that I could admit that Kavanagh was right only made me realize how royally screwed we were. "Tune your radios to channel twelve," I told them. It was the frequency I'd set up years ago so that I could chat…er, converse about important issues with John uninterrupted.

But before I followed my own directions, I called through the city channel. "Zelenka, enjoy the power trip while you can because it's about to come to an end. A very painful end if I have my way."

"Ah, Rodney," he responded cheerfully. "How is Colonel Sheppard?"

"John is off limits to you. Do you understand? You have a bitch with me, fine. But you leave John out of this. If you so much as mention his name again I'll…" John's hand found mine when my voice started to crack and I took it and trapped it under the one that was continuing to press into the wound.

"A bullet in leg is most painful, I am sure. And can be dangerous if not properly treated. I would be most willing to let Dr. Beckett tend to colonel. All you have to do is turn him over to me."

"All you have to do is go fuck yourself and your little robot, too."

"Anger and profanity is often used to mask psychological distress and emotional pain," said robot provided. "Would it not be easier to do as Dr. Radek Zelenka says, Meredith Rodney Junior?"

With a frustrated sigh at the sound of that name, I looked to John and murmured, "I don't know why I'm so upset that you were nearly killed. It would have just saved me the time when this is all over and I have to do it myself for that name alone."

The twitch of his lips cut through the pain on his face for a brief second before vanishing just as quickly.

"What is your answer, Rodney? Ronon is waiting right outside of door to bring Colonel Sheppard back to Carson for medical care."

My eyes met John's, questioning if I should take him up on the offer. John shook his head. "It's little more than a graze."

I nearly laughed out loud. "And this is little more than a human resources issue."

"I'm fine, Rodney. We stay together."

Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the chess piece where it had rolled under the console. Radek wanted to play, then by God, we would play. Taking a deep breath, I nodded in agreement with John's conclusion. "No deal," I told Zelenka through the radio before switching over to our private channel.

I let my eyes drift from John to Lorne, Kavanagh, Coleman, and Chuck. Not exactly an army. Hell, it wasn't even a full contingent on a chessboard, but maybe we could use that to our advantage. Some of the most effective gambits could be accomplished with just a handful of pieces and here was hoping I could do the same now.

Radek had already made his first move, now it was time for me to make mine.

x x x x x

"It's Dr. Z, Rodney. Fuzzy little Radek. He's saved our lives almost as many time as you, plays speed chess for massages, and flinches anytime he hears a gunshot. This isn't his fault. He'd never hurt one of us intentionally."

"And he didn't blow up a solar system in a McKay version of a hissy fit," Kavanagh muttered.

Rodney glared at him then turned back to be, sighed, and at least didn't whack my head. "I know. I know. I just wish I could blame him, because I really, really want someone to blame right now and Teddy Ruxpin just doesn't get it." He cinched the bandage that Lorne gave him tight around my leg, tight enough that my head clunked back against the floor and I saw black and yellow spots swim through the air.

But no field morphine. We all needed to be alert now. Every one of us.

"Hey." I blinked and saw Rodney's worried face inches from mine. "You back with us now? You all right?"

"Fine," I echoed, then confused, "Did I go some place?"

"For a few minutes." He was pale, but in control, but I could tell by Lorne's face that something was wrong. Something bad and he didn't want to be the one to tell Rodney about it.

I sucked in a breath. "Get me up. Prop me against the console at least so I can see what's going on."

Lorne hesitated. "We need to check for the exit wound." I looked down and from the blood puddling under my leg despite the bandage, I'd say the Major was right on target. "Oh fuck, I forgot. How could I forget?" Rodney said in self-recrimination.

"I don't know. Insane scientist taking over the city with the help of an Ancient teddy bear? It tends to be distracting," I grunted as they rolled me over gently. I heard Rodney swallow and Lorne say, "It's going to have to be packed," grimly.

They packed it. By the time they were done I did have morphine and Rodney was squatting with his head hanging between his knees, about three shades of green.

"You going to be sick?" Lorne asked matter of fact.

"No," Rodney cleared his throat. "Just give me a couple of seconds. His hand was fastened tightly around my other calf and he tried for a wobbly smile. "Doesn't look that bad. Honest. Had worse injuries stubbing my toe in the lab."

He always was the worst liar.

They gently dragged me over to a console to keep me upright and we all ignored the trail of blood I left behind me. "So, what…." The room spun and I did my best to ignore it. "What now? Stay here and make this our headquarters or head out another way? You know if they have Ronon covering one door, someone else is covering the other."

"This is the control room. This is where we need to be." Rodney ordered Kavanagh, "Help me pull the cover off this main console."

"What are you going to do?" Lorne asked curiously.

"Basically, reboot Atlantis." Rodney gave a grin, one of his slightly more evil ones. "That'll shut down any system blocks Radek has up. And when everything comes back up, I'll have the advantage. I'm quicker than he is when it comes to programming."

Because he was more reckless, but that recklessness had saved our lives more than once, so I didn't call him on it. "And," he added, "This guy here will disable the gate. Radek and his army of Ruxpinites aren't getting out of here."

"I don't think you need to worry about that," I said, trying not to grit my teeth as the morphine wore off slowly. "One Dr Evil reference and this is what we get. Radek wants to take over the world. Atlantis is our world. He won't give it up."

"True." He frowned. "But better safe than sorry. I was talking to you by the way." He snapped his fingers at the tech. "Shut the gate down and I mean damn near permanently."

"Chuck," the gate tech said firmly. "My name is Chuck ."

"Yes, yes. When weren't not on the edge of imminent death I'll make a note of that."

"Coleman. I'm leaving the database up, that's it. Go research Teddy and see what the hell is going on." She nodded and moved over to the database. "Come on, Kavanagh," Rodney snapped. "I've seen you destroy equipment we actually need in one piece several times. This should be a piece of cake for you."

Before Kavanagh could reply, there was a pounding at the door and the muffled voice through the metal. "I am Ronon Dex and I am an excellent shot. I am also quite skilled at hiding weapons on my person." More pounding. "I know that patience is a virtue, but I am getting pissed."

I could picture it now. Teddy toddling into the gym, saying, "What an excellent physical specimen you are, Ronon Dex. Your hair care regimen is time saving, leather clothes are quite durable, and eating with utensils is quite overrated in this galaxy." I almost wish I'd been there to see it. Almost.

"Oh Jesus." Rodney did something hurriedly to the innards of the console and sighed in relief. "Short of a nuclear bomb, he's not getting in."

I was glad he was occupied because I could feel the warmth pooling under my leg. The packing hadn't quite got it. Lorne saw the seeping red, looked at McKay, looked back at me and tried to decide who he was most afraid of. Before he could make up his mind, Rodney looked back at me, checking up, and saw the red drifting slowly across the floor.

"Oh no," he said quietly.

Apparently all coms weren't down as Radek's voice suddenly purred overhead. "What are you doing, Rodney? And how is the Colonel coming along? Ronon was quite sure where bullet was placed. I imagine your Kirk is in dire straits now. Perhaps is time you sent your knight out before you have no knight to send. Dr. Beckett will fix him up in no time. A little surgery, a little pain medicine, he will be right as rain."

"No," I said immediately. "If they want me so badly, Rodney, they want me for a reason and it can't be a good one."

His eyes followed the spreading puddle of blood and then met mine desperately. "He's going to bleed out," Lorne said determinedly. "Might be an hour, maybe two, but he's going to bleed out."

They tried. They tried repacking the wound, tightening the bandage around it. Nothing helped. Ronon might not have hit an artery but he damn sure might have nicked one. By this time I was fading in and out of morphine haze and unconsciousness. Occasionally when I opened my eyes I saw Rodney kneeling in blood, looking as desperate and backed into a corner as I'd ever seen him.

"Radek," he was calling.

"That is Dr Zelenka to you, Dr McKay," came the voice overhead like the overly smug voice of God.

"Fine. Dr. Zelenka. Whatever you want. I'll call you whatever you want. I need you to send in Carson for John." He swallowed and both his voice and pride cracked. "Please." Although where I was involved Rodney had long ago lost his pride. He wanted me alive. He wanted me with him. And he'd do whatever he had to do to accomplish that…things I'm sure he'd thought in the past, before me, that he never would've done.

"Give up my rook so soon? I think not."

"They…want…me," I slurred and grabbed his arm. "To defeat…you. Not…good."

"I want you too. Alive." He was gray now, far past pale. "And I'll get you back, John. I promise. I promise."

I might have felt his lips against mine or I might have imagined it, but the next thing I saw was Carson leaning over me, looking tired and annoyed. "You made it through surgery fine, lad…no thanks to the comments from the gallery." He glared at Radek carrying Ruxpin in the crook of his arm as they moved into view.

"Pain is character building," it said brightly to me. "And surrender teaches humility."

Oh Christ.

I was in Hell.

Actually I was in the infirmary. I looked for Rodney. I didn't seem him.

Not at all.

x x x x x

"You're doing the right thing."

Lorne's reassurances weren't exactly very reassuring at the moment. For one thing, John was out again, his head lolling on my shoulder as the major and I moved him to the door. For another, I was giving him up, turning him over the enemy, hopefully temporarily, but hope only goes so far. I was making a huge assumption that the ATA gene was somehow protecting those of us that possessed it from the of dark Sith mojo of the toy. But, let's face it; I had been wrong in the past. Sure it was rare, but it did happen from time to time. If it happened this time, I'd not only turned John over to the enemy, I'd turned him into the enemy, as well. I wasn't naive enough to think that his eternal love and undying devotion to me would be enough for him to overcome the control being exerted by Teddy.

And that brought us to the third reason I wasn't being reassured… I'd fucked up severely when I'd underestimated the power the toy held over Radek and the others. I never in a million years thought Radek would resort to violence, that Ronon would carry out orders to shoot John, that I'd fear leaving John in the hands of Carson, and look what that had got me─ an unconscious man in my arms and a blood trail across the control room.

"Really, McKay, it's for the best."

No, not very reassuring at all.

Leaning my cheek against John's head, I keyed my radio. "Rad…Dr. Zelenka, I'm going to open the door."

"Ronon is waiting, Dr. McKay." I could hear the victorious grin in the voice.

"And he's alone?" I clarified.

"Just as I said he would be."

"And you'll keep your promise? Carson takes care of John, Ronon doesn't shoot anyone else in the control room?"

"I give you my word, Rodney."

"Then as my friend and John's friend, I'll take it." In a kidnap situation they say you should remind the kidnapper that they've taken a person, a real person, not a nameless, faceless victim, but a person that means something, everything to someone else. I hoped it worked in this situation, to not only remind Radek who he was taking but who he was. A friend. Someone John and I had trusted to keep our secret in the early days. Someone who had risked his life to save ours in the past. Surely, hopefully, there had to be a little bit of that left in him.

But like I said, hope only goes so far.

"Colonel Sheppard will be well cared for."

I turned off my radio and addressed Lorne. "Just so we're perfectly clear, this isn't the right thing to do. It's the only thing I can do. There a big difference between the two."

With a nod of understanding he released his hold on John and took up his P90. I braced myself to take all of John's weight and he murmured against my shoulder. It could have been a grunt of pain, or it could have been an incoherent denial. He didn't want me to do this, knew they had plans for him to defeat me and I had no doubt he was right. But without him there really wasn't any me to defeat, so if I planned to stay in this game, he needed to go to Carson.

"Sorry," I whispered back. "Try not to go dark side on me. Okay?" Then I instructed Kavanagh, "Open the door."

Lorne surveyed the opening with gun at the ready before confirming that Ronon was indeed alone and then I stepped out to see our teammate standing beside a gurney. We made eye contact and it unnerved me a little to actually see Ronon in there. Not a brainless zombie with a blank stare, but the ever-present calculation, the underlying awareness, even a bit of the dark humor behind those eyes. Without a word, he took up a position on John's opposite side and we managed to get him situated on the cot. John was pale, so goddamn pale, and his hand was limp in mine, and I was giving him up. I was fucking giving him up.

"You know what he means…" I stopped and looked to Ronon again. If all those other parts of the Satedan were still in there, then somewhere was the part that understood what I was trying to say. Because I wasn't just talking about what John meant to me. "You know."

"Beckett's ready for him," he informed me simply and started pushing the gurney, pulling John's hand from mine as they moved down the hall.

"Dr. McKay, we need to resecure the door."

Lorne's reminder had me dragging my gaze from the quickly disappearing gurney. Quick was good. Quick meant he would reach Carson that much sooner. I backed into the room and the door slid shut as soon as I was inside.

"All right." I turned with shoulders squared and ready to take the next step. "Tell me what you've learned about the device."

Coleman brought up the schematics she'd found in the database. "It's actually not a toy."

"Obviously," Kavanagh scoffed. "It's not like you see a lot of Barbie dolls come to life and enforce a dress code of bikinis with high heels."

"Now, you see," Lorne observed. "Why can't we ever find something like that?"

"Look, do you two want to research this damn thing? Because I'd be more than happy to open and close doors instead."

Coleman's offer was met by a roll of Kavanagh's eyes. "Yes, because using the Ancient equivalent of Google to find information in their database is so difficult."

"Enough," I snapped back. "One more word out of you two that isn't requested and I'll promote gate boy over there to oversee the research."

"Chuck. My name is Chuck. And overseeing gate activities is a very important job."

"I wasn't saying it isn't important," I tried to placate. "It's just other things are more important at the moment. Like why half the scientists on Atlantis are trying to destroy me."

"Is that really different than any other day?" Kavanagh remarked.

I opened my mouth to respond then closed it with a frown. "You know, I don't have time for this right now. Radek has John, he has control of everything except this room, and he obviously has a plan, something we don't have and won't have until we know what we're up against. Now, tell me about the goddamn bear."

"It's a sort of developmental aid for Ancient children," Coleman continued. "It seems to work along the same lines at the ascension machine that you found, only the effects are more psychological than physiological. There's evidently a certain amount of confidence that is needed as part of the mental activation of the Ancient devices and when an Ancient child demonstrated a lack of confidence they employed the bear to provide positive reinforcement through game play to stimulate the confidence center of the brain."

"So why would it make Zelenka think taking over the world was a good idea?"

Lorne's question had me shaking my head. "It wasn't the device's idea; it was Radek's… at least accidentally. I heard him describe the whole Dr. Evil persona as play-acting and a game. The device must have taken that to mean that's the game Radek would have to win to boost his confidence."

Lorne raised his eyebrows at my explanation. "Isn't that a little extreme?"

"Yes, it is. And that may explain why it's affecting the people without the gene the way it is. This thing was designed by the Ancients for the Ancients. The gene must buffer it somehow while allowing it to run amuck with anyone who doesn't have it."

"If that's a valid assumption," Kavanagh amended.

"It's the only one we have to go on. Besides, if it's not, it doesn't really change things since we're still in the same boat with no alternative except to find a way to turn the damn thing off. Does the database say anything about how to do that?"

"Not that I've found," Coleman admitted.

I was afraid of that. Which probably meant we'd have to figure out some way to do it on our own. "Keep looking. I'm going to try to find a way to contact the people being held prisoner in Section H."

Lorne spoke up then. "We can dial the gate and contact Earth to ask for backup."

"I like that idea," Kavanagh supplied without being asked.

"And potentially risk the entire SGC falling under the control of it?" I shook my head vehemently. "No. The gate stays in lockdown and nothing goes through it until this is contained."

"You're just embarrassed to ask for help, McKay. For all we know, the reason the device didn't influence you is because it almost suffered an overload trying to contain your ego. And now you're risking all our lives as a result."

My hand flattened on Kavanagh's chest and pushed until he was leaning backward against the console. "Do you really believe this is my ego talking here? That I didn't think about opening the gate to Earth? That I didn't think of that as Sheppard lay bleeding on the fucking floor? That would have been the easy thing to do. Just open the gate and usher him through and there would have been a score of doctors right there waiting to take care of him. But that would have endangered everyone here and back in the SGC and contrary to popular belief, that's not something either one of us is in the habit of doing. So I swallowed my goddamn pride and begged Radek to make sure John was taken care of. And I'll put my ego up against your defeatist attitude any day."

Lorne was pulling me back away from Kavanagh with an appeasing, "Come on, McKay. Why don't you just come over here and take a breather? I think we could all use a little cooling off period before we get back to work."

"I don't care how long I cool down; we're not dialing the SGC."

"You're right. We're not dialing the SGC." He maneuvered me back over to where John had been sitting then, noticing the blood I was staring at, he dragged me toward another chair and sat me down. "It was just an idea but you're right, we can't risk the chance of spreading this off of Atlantis."

My eyes drifted back to the blood and I checked my watch. Ronon should have had time to get John to Carson by now. Keying my radio, I asked, "Radek, is John in the infirmary yet?" When I received no answer I looked to Chuck. "Are communications up?" I'd ordered them left open so that they could keep me apprised of John's condition. The gate tech's confirmation had me trying again, trying to follow the rules Radek had put in place. "Dr. Zelenka can you please confirm if Sheppard is being cared for?" Again, there was no answer. "Radek, come on. Don't do this. Just tell me if he's okay. Please?"

Silence.

"It's part of the game he's playing," the major pointed out. "Psychological warfare."

I snorted humorously as I scrubbed at my face. "And that's supposed to make me feel better how?"

"Look, Beckett will hook him up to some sort of monitor won't he? Maybe Coleman can tap into the equipment in the infirmary so you can at least keep dibs on him that way." When I looked up at him in partial amazement that he'd had such a good idea and partial hopefulness that it would work, Lorne gave a small smile. "I'll see what she can come up with."

When he wandered over to discuss the plan, I took the time to pull out the white pawn that I'd shoved in my pocket. Chess. I was amazed every time I stopped to think about it that this really was just a game to Radek. Only, with Radek chess was more that just a game. I mean, I liked chess, was good at it, enjoyed sitting down with John and blowing a few hours playing it. The fact that eventually we'd moved on to the strip version of the game just made it all the better. But Radek loved chess. Spent most of his free time playing the game and it made perfect sense that he'd use it as a model for his attempt at world domination. And that meant if I had any chance of defeating him, I didn't need to level the playing field, I had to level the playing board.

Okay, if I were Radek, who would be my pieces? He of course was king. His queen would be… Elizabeth. I could only imagine what the bear had told her. Negotiating is hard, Dr. Elizabeth Weir, sometimes it takes more than five minutes at the table before you throw up your arms in defeat, but do not worry because red is a very flattering color on you. Regardless, she had the command codes and the access he didn't and she allowed him to maneuver freely through the city until we stopped him. He'd admitted that Carson was his rook. And I had a feeling that what he'd just done was his own form of castling… he'd used Carson to draw out John. In his mind he'd just cost me my knight and had just moved him into a defensive position for himself as a result. So who was his knight? Ronon? No, the more I thought of it, the more I decided Ronon was his bishop. The piece was known as the messenger in other languages, the runner… he'd probably loved the thought of that little double meaning… and Ronon had definitely delivered a message that Radek wasn't fucking around when he shot John. Then who was the knight? It would have to be someone that had the ability to be versatile in his movements, someone that could block any attacks I might mount myself. Cadman maybe? She was obviously his military advisor, his lieutenant to my lieutenant colonel that he'd managed to remove from the board. I guess that left Lorne as my knight now. And I still needed to figure out how to use the other three I had at my disposal to counteract his pieces.

But before I could really stop and consider how to best utilize them, Coleman informed me, "I have a lock on the vitals monitor in the infirmary."

I stood and darted to see what she had found. Carson had tied the monitors into the mainframe years ago so that he could keep an eye on his patients no matter where he might be in the city. And right then there was one active, designator J. Sheppard, showing an elevated heart rate and low blood pressure. Shock. He'd gone into shock from the blood loss. Fuck, I'd waited too long. Maybe Kavanagh was right; I should have pushed him through the gate and the consequences be damned.

My grip on the chair in front of me had Coleman offering, "Dr. Beckett will take care of him."

I ignored her, sinking into the seat instead and watching intently as over the next forty-five minutes the stats slowly normalized. Lorne drew me out of the little world I'd entered that consisted of adjusting numbers and the sharp peaks and valleys of John's heartbeat.

"Looks like Carson has him stabilized. It must mean he's coming out of surgery soon."

I nodded my head; thankful that someone else had confirmed what I'd been trying to convince myself was the case. With an exhale of relief I ordered, "Whatever you do, don't lose that connection."

Then I set to work myself. I needed support. I needed to take away some of Radek's leverage over me. I needed pawns. And the best supply of them was locked away in Section H of the city. Coleman continued to scour the database with Chuck while Kavanagh and Lorne helped me try to find backdoors into where the prisoners were being held. The problem was, everything I tried, Radek somehow blocked it. At first I thought that maybe he had managed to bug the room, but even after we started writing the ideas instead of speaking aloud, he still found a way to shut us off.

"Damnit! There is no way he could have figured out to shut down the ventilation in Section G just because we were accessing a panel in Section H." I kicked the rolling chair, cursing yet again since I'd probably broken another toe. Sitting in the offending piece of furniture, I turned my attention to the vitals monitor still blipping reassuringly on the screen in front of me. I hadn't even realized I'd reached out a finger to rest against the staccato rhythm of the heartbeat until Kavanagh spoke.

"Heines was just working on that system last week. Maybe Zelenka has handpicked the people he has supporting him."

I shook my head, to clear it of thoughts of John and in denial of the observation. "I think he just got lucky with Heines. He was there in the lab when Sheppard activated Teddy. Everyone that was in the lab that doesn't have the gene is with him. And then he evidently sent the device to recruit the others that he needed… Elizabeth, Cadman, Ronon, a handful of marines. And anyone he didn't need or couldn't convert he locked up." My eyes drifted to Chuck. "Except you."

The gate tech's eyes widened in innocent surprise that I would accuse him of anything but I wasn't fooled. "Radek wouldn't forget about someone like you. He knew this would be the first place I'd come, to protect the gate and regain control of the city. But John was right; he's not interested in the gate. He wants to have the upper hand and know exactly what I'm doing and having you planted here is the perfect way to do it."

"Dr. McKay, you can't be serious. You actually think I'd help overthrow Atlantis?" He laughed nervously, looking to the others for support.

I waved a dismissive hand. "Maybe you're right, Chip. After all, you're just a lowly gate tech, it's not like that's worth worrying about."

"My name is Chuck; it's a very good name. And being the gate technician is a rewarding and valuable position that contributes greatly to the success of the expedition."

I pointed my finger with a triumphant, "Ah ha!" just as Lorne pointed his P90 at the man. "Holy shit, he's a spy!"

"That's how Radek had access to the coms as soon as we turned them on. You weren't securing the gate, you were reporting to him. In fact, that's what you've been doing this entire time."

"You might as well give up now, McKay. You don't have a chance of stopping Dr. Zelenka. And you're right, he doesn't want the gate because he doesn't need the gate to accomplish his goals."

Kavanagh was already locking down the gate and Coleman reported, "I've shut down his com link back to the lab."

Lorne was zip-tying Chuck's hands behind his back and I keyed my radio again and gloated, "Radek, I just took your knight out of play. Chuck won't be sabotaging everything I do now. What do you think of that, you big cheater?"

The voice that answered back wasn't the irritated one I was expecting. "Well, then, I suppose that means I will just have to make use of your knight instead."

The calm tone sent a chill through me but it was the way John's monitor flat lined that made my blood run cold.

"Radek, what did you do? What did you do to John? Radek, you better fucking answer me! Radek!"

But once again his only response was silence.

x x x x x

You don't often find yourself recuperating from surgery and coming out of anesthesia while being manhandled into a wheelchair, so that two big hands on your shoulders are the only thing holding you upright.

Rodney was shouting through the overhead com. He sounded furious and desperate…absolutely fucking desperate and I realized unhooking me from the monitor would look like a flat-line to him. No monitor, no vital signs. I had no doubt he'd hacked into the infirmary as soon as he'd turned me over to Ronon. Out of sight but not out of mind. Never out of mind. And as I didn't have a com, I couldn't let him know I was alive and still kicking. Well, alive and still puking. Did that count the same?

"Radek, you better fucking answer me!" Beyond desperate and for that I was going to be the first one to boot Teddy's ass into the ocean or wrap a little C4 around it's metal pot belly body.

The alarms on the monitor were screaming almost as loud as Rodney. "Radek!" Almost.

Goddamnit. I looked at Dr. Z, who calmly ignored the demands as he headed for the door, then to Carson, who was fiddling with the monitor to turn off the alarms. When he turned from the task he nodded minutely and I thought I saw something in his eyes, but it flickered so quickly I barely registered it. I hoped like hell Ronon didn't catch it. I didn't know what it meant, but I didn't want Team Ruxpin knowing about it whatever it was.

Carson snapped, "We could at least take a gurney. The man's barely conscious." Barely was right. I'd been barely conscious for almost seven or eight hours now, but between the morphine and the lingering anesthesia I wasn't having a good day. From the worried crease between Carson's eyebrows it had been touch and go otherwise I would've been bouncing back sooner…especially from the anesthesia. The puking was a common side effect he said. Common or not I hadn't enjoyed it.

I'd have suspected him trying to stall Radek by zonking me extra good after surgery, but Carson wouldn't do that. He wouldn't risk a patient even to stop a fascist teddy-bear-hauling maniac. He did try, 'he's running a fever. Give him a few more hours.' And that had worked for a while, right up until Teddy had perched on the edge of the bed and said, "His body temperature is the approximate equal of yours. Carson Beckett, lying is an unpleasant quality in a child. Please reflect on the error of your ways."

That was also about the time Rodney broke his own radio silence and did a bit of gloating of his own, and those two combined had Radek flicking his head toward Ronon.

While Carson supposedly reflected, I was unceremoniously lifted out of bed and put in the wheelchair still wearing nothing but a gown. I was grateful Ruxpin didn't remark on my body fat or lack thereof. I managed to stay upright for a good few seconds and then between my spinning head, numb leg, and desire to empty an already empty stomach, things went downhill.

I felt like a bowl of pudding slipping and sliding my way downward. "He will be fine," Dr. Z dismissed. "He has had almost eight hours and it will take us at least fifteen minutes to reach the chair room. I am sure he will be awake by then."

If hours hadn't done it, I didn't know why he thought fifteen minutes would, but he was a man with a mission.

"Although a full eight hours sleep is very important in the health of every child," Ruxpin added, no doubt for future fucking reference.

Radek…Radek looked the same. Still fuzzy. Still with the glasses absentmindedly being pushed up with one finger. If it weren't for the metal thing cradled in the crook of his arm and the fact he was dragging me to the Control Chair when I couldn't even sit up, I would've thought it was our Radek. The non-megalomaniacal Radek. Blue eyes blinked at me sharply behind his glasses and he said smoothly, "Today is day we find out that knights can fly, Colonel Sheppard. A true, as they say, red letter day. You will want to put this on your resume."

Assuming I survived it. Wait a minute. Fly? The Chair. He wanted me to….no fucking way.

"I am not flying the city for you, Radek," I said, my effort to sound determined a little undermined by the five-beer slur I had going on with my voice. Morphine, anesthesia remnants and they'd trust me to fly the city? That toy really was making them insane. Or not realizing it was playing with adults, it didn't realize there were real big fat fucking adult consequences to whatever it was doing.

"Yes, you will, Colonel. You will fly this city into orbit and it will be mine. This city, this world will be mine," he said triumphantly.

"Don't you mean ours?" rumbled Ronon from over my head.

"Everyone gets their turn, Ronon Dex," Ruxpin admonished gently. "Remember: Patience is…."

"A virtue," he grumbled obediently to finish Ruxpin's homily. "And I, Ronon Dex, am virtuous, well armed, and a dependable comrade in battle."

"But you still can't use a fork," I muttered as the hallway wavered before me. That one was for you, Rodney. I hoped he knew I was okay. I hoped like hell that he was okay, but if he hadn't been I imagined Dr. Z would've been so ecstatic that he would've blown apart Ruxpin's head with sheer waves of ego boosted joy. In fact….

Before I could finish the thought…and it had the tingle of an important thought…we were there at the chair room and we weren't the only ones.

Teyla was there, bound at the wrists and ankles and mad as hell in that zen-like way of hers. Cadman stood on one side with a stun gun and Annie Granola…goddamnit, what was her real name?…was standing on the other side with a smirk of pure triumph. "I knew it," she said. "I knew our day would come."

"Teyla, are you okay?" I asked.

"Better by far than you, I think," she inclined her head with worried gravity.

There was also a plexiglass tank in the room, the one from xenobiology. The transparent thing stood nearly eight feet high and was full of thrashing squark. The sinuous shark bodies combined with the tentacles where their mouths should be…it was a combination of James Bond and Alien. "What is that doing here?" I asked, although I had a very good idea.

Not that Teyla wasn't an animal lover….

But that all came later. Much, much later, although it probably really wasn't that long. It only felt that way. Ronon hoisted me into the Chair, my efforts to support my own weight not doing jack shit. It didn't light up, of course. I could sit here until I developed hemorrhoids and the damn thing wouldn't turn on, not if I didn't want it to. They could've tried Carson, but there was no way Carson could get the city out of the water much less into orbit. It just wasn't how his skills ran, but give him any Ancient medical machine and he could have it purring in minutes.

"Comfy," I drawled. "Get me a TV and a football game and we'd have a party."

Teyla immediately made a move to her left, graceful despite being bound hand and foot, only to be whacked behind the knees with the stunner by Cadman. It turned out Cadman wasn't the only one with a stun gun…or something even better. Whatever Radek slapped against my chest made me wish for the pain of being shot again. It went on and on, waves of nerve searing fire that I thought would never end. Finally it did and Radek smiled, the same smile I'd seen him use when he was about to give someone the smackdown on the chess field.

"Interesting device, yes? Similar to Goa'uld but this one needs no naquadah in your blood to work. Nor does it need a highly overrated gene. It just needs a power source."

"D battery?" I gasped before saying hoarsely, "You're supposed to threaten me first. Haven't you seen any Bond movies? Threaten then torture."

"Would it make any difference?" Radek lifted his eyebrows.

"No," I admitted, hand rubbing my chest desperately. "But it would've been a few minutes torture free while you rambled on and aimed laser beams at Big John."

"You are amusing. In small doses." The device curled around his hand hit my chest again and this time I went from wishing I'd been shot in the leg again to thinking I'd been shot in the head. I doubt I screamed. I doubt I had the control of my body to actual initiate something like that. And when it was over I wasn't ashamed to say I tried to slide over what few inches I had to spare to get away from Radek.

"Jesus." I coughed, voice raw. Maybe I had screamed. From the pale sheen under Teyla's soft brown skin where she lay on the floor, I may have. "I gave…you porn." Which was true. Rodney had made me dump all mine and Dr. Z had been the happy benefactor of the vast majority of it. You give a man all your porn and he tortures you? That's not right, that's not just, and it was pissing me the hell off. Which is probably why I took a swing at him. It didn't have much strength behind it and Ronon caught it easily.

"Let me break his arm," he grunted. "Never seen that fail to work."

I lifted my eyes to the neon blue ones of Ruxpin that regarded me with cheer. I'd turned him on. I couldn't turn him off and we were in a world of shit because I'd been a bored asshole.

"You are not breaking his arm," Carson snapped. "In the condition he's in I can't be sure what would happen, but I do know the man wouldn't be conscious and talking to you."

"Thank you for the advice, Dr. Beckett. We'll return to my method."

This time when I came around Carson was the only thing holding me in the Chair and Radek was sighing in mock disappointment, "You really will not comply, will you, Colonel Sheppard?"

"Dr. Z…." I took several breaths that pained every part of me. "You have to be in there. This piece of shit Christmas reject couldn't have buried you so goddamn completely."

His blue eyes glittered almost as brightly as Ruxpin's. "I think it's time for the tank."

Never in my life had I or did I expect to ever hear the words 'it's time for the tank' and it mean something good.

This time wasn't any different.

x x x x x

I had had enough.

I had been more than patient when it came to the fact that I had been hauled, literally, up off my balcony this morning just to get out of the damn apartment. I had been more than tolerant when I learned that Radek had taken over my city as a result of a practical joke John had played on me. And I had been more than accommodating when I turned the prankster over to him after he had our own teammate shoot him.

Because Radek was my friend. He was my goddamn friend. And friends deserved a little leeway from time to time, especially when they were under the influence of Machiavellian toys. But John was my life. Hell, he was more than my life seeing as I was about to risk my own just to find out what the fuck had happened to him.

Lorne stepped in front of me, effectively blocking the door. "McKay, I can't let you go out there."

I simply checked the clip in my nine millimeter and informed him, "I'm figuring I'm going to need all of these bullets but one more or less probably isn't going to make that much of a difference."

"Rodney," he tried again, "Sheppard will ship me back to Earth as a corporal if I let you do anything rash."

"He may not have any say in the matter," I snapped, pointing angrily back at the monitor readings a flat line on the screen.

"All the more reason why you shouldn't leave."

I moved to step around him. "Forgive me if I disagree with your assessment, Major."

He stopped me with a hand on my arm. "You know Colonel Sheppard wouldn't want you to run off on a suicide mission because of him. If you stop and think about it, you know that's the truth."

I didn't have to stop and think about it. I knew he was right about John wanting me to be safe even if he wasn't around to make sure I was himself. But Lorne was wrong about what I had planned being a suicide mission. You had to actually be alive to kill yourself and if the readings on that monitor meant what I feared they did, then my life was already over.

But before I could point that out, Kavanagh called to me, "McKay, you need to see this."

"I'm a little busy right now," I informed him trying to pull my arm free, but Lorne just tightened his grip.

"As much as I'd like to wish you sayonara on your kamikaze run, it might not be necessary."

Lorne did let go of me then and followed close on my heels as I jogged over to where Kavanagh was pointing at the screen. "The patient designator just changed."

Instead of 'J. Sheppard', it now said 'J. Chairfly'.

Coleman shook her head in disbelief. "That doesn't mean what I think it means. Does it?"

"Radek, you son of a bitch," I mumbled in my own amazement that he would think to do something so idiotic. "That's why he was running the star drive diagnostic last night and why he needed Sheppard so badly."

"Colonel Sheppard wouldn't actually fly the city. Would he?" Lorne's worried expression mirrored my own.

"He would if he were under the influence of the device," Kavanagh pointed out.

I shook my head. "He's not. Either John or, more than likely, Carson sent the message, which means they're immune to the effects of Teddy. Which just goes to prove I was right about the ATA gene providing some sort of buffer against the effects." I sighed heavily. "And, no, he wouldn't fly the city, not unless Radek held something over his head to force him to do it."

Lorne looked meaningfully to me. "Or someone."

He had a valid point. If Radek were somehow threatening me, then John wouldn't hesitate do what the Czech said, even if it involved flying the city all the way back to Earth, blowing up the White House ala Independence Day, then heading on over to L.A. to land us in the Playboy Mansion pool. But we were safe here in Control, especially since we'd taken Zelenka's secret operative out of commission. Which meant Radek must have a Plan B.

Narrowing my eyes at the restrained gate tech, I demanded, "What were you supposed to do?"

"Silence is golden," was his only answer as he turned away from me.

"And blood is red," I pointed out in return, pulling my sidearm once again and using it tap his shoulder and regain his attention. "Now then, I'm going to ask you one more time. What were you supposed to do?"

Like I said, I'd had enough.

"Dr. McKay," Coleman tried to reason behind me. "He's not thinking right."

"I can safely say, neither am I." I thumbed back the hammer on my gun.

"McKay…" Lorne warned cautiously and Chuck's eyes widened in alarm.

When I didn't respond, Coleman tried again. "You can't shoot him; he's under the influence of an alien device."

"On the contrary, I can shoot him very easily. Just as easily as Ronon shot John." I pressed the barrel against his thigh. "The real question is will I have to shoot him or will Chuckles here answer my question." I leaned in close and whispered loudly. "Just so you know, I'm not as good a shot as Ronon, so I make no guarantees about missing critical arteries."

Chuck looked desperately to the others. "You aren't going to let him do this, are you?"

"I'm going to count to one…"

"One?" he squeaked. "What happened to three or five?"

"Lacks efficiency. One…"

"I was supposed to override the locks!" the tech blurted frantically. "When Dr. Zelenka gave me the code word over the radio, I was supposed to override the door locks and a team of marines was going to come in and take you to the chair room!"

"And do what?" Lorne asked from my shoulder.

"They brought the tank up from xenobiology last night." I wasn't sure if his morose tone was disappointment that he'd just revealed their plan or that he wouldn't get to see it through to the end.

"The one with the squarks?" When Chuck nodded, I shook my head in amazement. "Oh, my God, he really is going to put laser beams on their head, isn't he?"

"No, he was going to bind your hands and feet and throw you in until Colonel Sheppard flew the city."

"Well, he can't do that now, can he?" Kavanagh noted almost as glumly as Chuck.

"He'd have a back up," Lorne said before I could voice my own concerns. "Beckett maybe?"

I shook my head. "I don't think so. He could still use Carson's gene, if necessary. He'd roll over pretty easily, very little threatening needed. No, it'd have to be someone who meant something to John… and me. Someone he considered one of my chess pieces." My eyes widened in realization. "My queen. He'll use Teyla."

And that's when the star drive rumbled to life.

"Shut it down," I ordered, "the whole goddamn city if you have to."

Kavanagh shook his head. "He's segregated the entire star drive system from the mainframe. He has it linked directly to the ZPM. The only way to stop it is to disconnect the ZPM from the city."

"And I'm sure that's under armed guard."

Coleman confirmed my suspicions. "I'm showing six life signs in the room."

"There has to be a backdoor to his system lockdown," I insisted stubbornly as I started scouring the systems. There was no way Zelenka was going to outsmart me. None. "A way to work around his firewall. All we have to do is find it."

There was a loud thunk and the entire city shifted. "He just disengaged the anchoring clamps," Kavanagh informed us needlessly. We'd all experienced this before. "We'll be airborne in a matter of minutes."

"Open up communications citywide." When Coleman nodded that it was done, I called through the open link, "Radek, you'll burn out the ZedPM. Then what are you going to rule over; a city that crashes into the ocean?"

"You lose Rodney," Zelenka called back gleefully. "I have you in check. There is no escape."

"Dr. Z, I'm doing what you wanted. Now, pull Teyla out of the tank."

John's voice. And as comforting as that should have been to confirm he was alive and well, given the strained and slightly drunken drawl and the fact he was bargaining for Teyla's life, it really wasn't as soothing as it could have been.

"John? Are you okay?" I couldn't help but ask.

"Compared to dead? Sure. Beyond that? I've been better." He evidently turned his attention back to Teyla. "Christ, Ronon get her out of there!"

"Once we are in orbit," he was told succinctly in a clipped Czech accent.

"Sheppard, you know what's going to happen if you fly the city," I warned.

"I know what's going to happen if I don't. Sorry, Rodney, he hasn't left me much choice."

I felt the city start to lift. Goddammit! I ran down all the possible ways I could think to hack his system and everything I considered led to a brick wall. He had it locked tighter than the hold that stupid bear had on him.

"Why doesn't Colonel Sheppard just turn off the damn thing that's controlling them?" Lorne demanded. "He was the one that turned it on."

"He tried," I justified. "I tried. It won't turn off. It's like it's waiting for something." And then I finally understood what had been nagging at the back of my mind. "Son of a bitch, it's waiting for the end of the game."

And I knew what I had to do. "I've been going about this all the wrong way. Lorne, come with me. You two stay here and try to find a go around."

Lorne followed me out the door. "Where are we going?"

"The chair room," I told him breaking into a run as the city started to gain momentum.

"But you'll play right into Radek's hand."

"Yes, that's the whole point."

We were intercepted halfway there by a band of marines who acted as our armed escorts the rest of the way. When we entered the chair room, Carson was insisting, "He's too weak for this."

Of course he was talking about John. He was nearly white, glistening with sweat from the exertion of flying the city, gripping desperately to the arms of the chair.

Teyla was flailing frantically in the tank, at least as best she could with her hands and feet bound, and the squarks were circling her legs, darting aggressively due to the agitation of their habitat. Ronon stood on the access scaffolding with arms crossed, simply watching his teammate as she fought to gulp air whenever her head surfaced.

"If this doesn't work, take down one of the guards and shoot the tank," I whispered to Lorne. The major looked at me with a 'yeah, right' sort of expression before I stepped forward. "Radek, enough of this."

"Ah, Rodney, so nice of you to join me at my moment of impending victory."

Teddy sat nestled comfortably in his arm, tilting his head quizzically. "Are you prepared to admit defeat, Meredith Rodney Junior?"

"Yes, actually I am." I'd thought I was trying to outwit Radek this whole time when in reality I needed to beat Teddy at his own game. And I now knew, the only way to win against the device was to lose to its charge. "You win, Radek. You beat me. I've been defeated fair and square."

The toy's eyes glowed cheerfully as it hugged Radek. "Hooray! Good for you Dr. Radek Zelenka! You are a winner! And winners do not urinate in their beds."

And with that proclamation, the eyes dimmed and it shut down.

Radek's beaming smile faltered, the pride turning to a moment of confusions as he blinked and looked dazedly around the room. On all sides of me the marines were doing the same, as were all the scientist and Cadman and Elizabeth. Ronon immediately reached into the tank to pull Teyla out. She sputtered and gasped and coughed, which had Carson quickly moving to tend to her.

"Ha! In your face!" I proclaimed smugly. "I knew that would work. I guess you weren't as smart as you thought you were."

Radek looked at the now inanimate device in his arms and tossed it away with a shudder as if it were too hot to hold. And everyone that had been under the influence of the toy seemed to be slowly realizing what had happened and trying to figure out exactly why they had done what they had done.

All except for one.

"No, wait! What are you doing?" Annie was yelling. "We had them on the ropes. We can't stop now. What's wrong with you people?"

You know, I'd been wondering why Radek, who trusted the Wraith more than Annie seeing, as he put it, no self-respecting Wraith would be caught dead trying to palm a block of tofu, would recruit her to help take over the city. Evidently, he hadn't… she had just joined up on her own, no Ruxpin rewiring required.

But before I could order Lorne to take her into custody for trying to overthrow Atlantis without being under the influence of an Ancient device, the star drive shut down.

"John!"

My worried call of his name went unanswered. The hands that had been in a bloodless grip on the chair were now limp like the rest of him, and even though the inertial dampeners held us firmly in place, I couldn't say the same about the city.

Atlantis was in freefall.

Evidently John had had enough of this day, too.

x x x x x

There was yelling. Lots and lots of yelling . Far away, but getting closer.

….'ll do?"

"I think we either crash into the mainland and die, crash against the ocean floor, rupture our shields and die, or shoot straight for the sun and die. Anyone not clear on the dying part?"

That would be Rodney and he sounded upset. Of course Rodney always sounded upset, but he sounded especially upset now. Upset, panicked, and hoping he updated his will.

"If you could stabilize the city and I get the clamps reopened, we'd have chance."

That would be Radek. He sounded less insane now. That was nice. Sanity is a good thing, John Sheppard. Always embrace sanity. I jerked my eyes open, but there was no Teddy spouting soothing sayings at me. It had all been in my mind. My fuzzy, drugged, tortured, not exactly functioning on all cylinders mind.

"Carson!"

That was Rodney again. I could see him vaguely through my lashes sitting in the Chair trying to land the city.

Boy, were we in some shit. Rodney still to this day couldn't fly a puddle jumper straight. Years and years and still nope.

Carson's hands were moving over me, checking my leg, the burn marks on my chest that had singed through the cloth, injecting more morphine and lifting an eyelid. "It's okay, Rodney. The Colonel's with us….more or less, aren't you lad?"

I smiled a goofy, drunken smile, tried to sit up and failed miserably. "Ow." Chest, leg, every ligament and nerve that could carry Radek's new version of electricity all howled in protest. Carson considered and gave me another half dose.

"John." There was such relief, utter and complete, and the same precise amount of panic. "I can't land the city. It's not like a jumper. It matters where I put it down. It has to go into the clamps…." He turned his head and snapped, "If someone could get them open!"

"I am trying. I am trying." Radek's fingers were a blur over the keyboard as Ronon untied a dripping Teyla. "If I…no…but that will…it can't be. Wait. This. This damn thing." His handy dandy John Sheppard Fry Daddy was sitting on the counter beside the computer. He tossed it to one side with one violent blow and apparently the emanations of power from it stopped interfering with the console. "HA!" Radek shouted. "Clamps are open."

As if we needed to hear it. We could feel it making waves that rocked the city. "Carson, up. Help prop me up." He hesitated but obeyed. "Rodney."

Panicked blue eyes hit mine as his hands clenched on the glowing arm rests. "It's too fucking big."

"You can do it. You said that the first time with me and we're cruising, right?" I grinned, high as a kite. Ronon groaned and Carson winced. Lorne studied his P90 in excruciating detail.

Rodney closed his eyes. "Okay, dying doesn't seem so bad now. Thanks for that."

I leaned against Carson. "Puddle jumpers don't care where they go. The city wants to go back to the base. It wants the clamps to fasten on. That is fifty percent of its purpose. You're trying too hard. Give the city the gene, give it the power, and let it do what it wants to do."

He squeezed his eyes tightly, took a deep breath, and relaxed. Well, for Rodney he relaxed. There were a few seconds of the usual terror, horror, and imminent death expectations and the city settled gently into the clamps which locked on.

"Piece of cake." I had a feeling my grin was even more loopy because Rodney came storming down.

"You did this. You turned on that piece of shit, maniacal, Satan possessed, Darth Vader, Svengali zombie bear from HELL and now you've been shot…." His hand hovered above the blood leaking through my bandage. "Oh Jesus."

"Um…and tortured." Radek ducked his head and locked hands behind his back. "So sorry, Colonel. So very very very sorry."

"Tortured?" Rodney, already red, turned a shade redder. "Shot, tortured, Teyla nearly fed to the squarks. And it's all your fault." With that he pointed at me, Radek, Ronon, Elizabeth and anyone else standing around, while getting progressively redder and redder. Then he made his way over to Ruxpin and began kicking it violently. "And your fault. Yoursyoursyoursyoursyours."

"I knew patience wasn't a virtue," Ronon rumbled as he knelt beside me. "Sorry about shooting you."

I waved a hand that immediately flopped to the floor. "Eh, I shoot you, you shoot me. One day it'll even out."

"I think we need to get him back to the infirmary," Carson said worriedly. "His leg is bleeding again and I'm not sure Radek's device interacted well with the drugs in the Colonel's system."

If anything, Radek's head hung lower. "Hey, Dr. Z," I mumbled encouragingly, "I turned it on. Rodney sicced it on you. It's not your fault. It's my fault mainly, Rodney's a little bit….we'll tell him a lot bit though." The air was golden and full of rainbows. Pretty. I liked it. "Maybe he won't gloat so much that he lost on purpose to win."

I heard the crunch of metal and glass and I had the feeling Ruxpin was down for the count. "I'll gloat all I want. It was a brilliant plan. By the way, Lorne, arrest Ms. Garangola there who apparently was under the impression the revolution had come." Rodney knelt beside me, pale and sweaty. The chair can do that to you if you use it too much. I wasn't too sure it was the chair this time. "You're bleeding." One hand was on my face, the other linking fingers with mine. "You're bleeding, you were tortured, blackmailed, kidnapped and the only goddamn thing I can really blame is a pile of bear shaped parts."

Radek took a step forward, although I'm sure he would've rather taken several back. "I am sorry, Rodney. I would never hurt the Colonel. I would never hurt Teyla. It came inside my brain and took away right and wrong. There was only win or lose."

"Yeah, the ATA gene buffered the hell out of it. It's not your fault." A sign of how exhausted and worried Rodney was, but he added ominously, "but it will be your fault later, so I'd skip lab the first few days I show back up."

Hands were lifting me to the wheelchair, Carson not even wanting to wait for the gurney, only more of them held me in this time. "John?"

I opened my eyes. Funny, they'd drifted closed and I hadn't even noticed. "It's 'kay, Rodney. Carson says….it'll be okay."

His hand was wrapped tightly around mine. "I just want you to know…."

"Rodney…I know," I said gently.

"No." He shook his head. "I don't think you do. I just want you to know," his eyes narrowed, "if you ever ever turn anything on in the lab without asking and getting permission in triplicate, I'm divorcing you and I'm leaving you the goddamn cat. I'm leaving you my explosive underwear knitting Nana. I'm taking half of everything you own including the Johnny Cash poster. Ripping the goddamn thing in half. I'm pasting your face on the smallest dicked male porn I can find on the internet, headed to my house in Hawaii and telling the surfer boys you're hung like a Vienna Sausage, and then I'm flying back to planet whatchamacallit and screwing Chaya's brains out just to show her what she missed when she chose your scrawny beef jerky piece of meat over mine." Infuriated blue eyes glared inches from mine. "Are we clear?"

I smiled beatifically and planted a sloppy kiss on his lips. "I love you too, Rededith Modney Junior."

And then I went to sleep…which every bear knows, a minimum of eight hours is required.

x x x x x

It seemed harmless at first.

A game of chess.

A simple game to let by gones be by gones.

Put the events that had happened the day before firmly in the past.

"Colonel, you can not move that way. The knight does not move in diagonal, it moves in L shape."

From my spot by the door I watched as John blinked innocently. "Today it moves diagonally."

Radek opened his mouth, closed it, ran his fingers through his hair that was already standing out more than it usually did, then asked hopefully. "Can mine move in diagonal also?"

"No," Sheppard informed him cheerfully.

Satisfied that that task seemed to be on course for success, I left to take care of a few others. I met Teyla and Ronon on the dock with the skeet launcher and a bag of Teddy parts. When they looked at me in confusion, I informed them simply, "I thought maybe we'd feed a few other things besides our teammates to the squarks today."

I loaded the first piece before turning to Ronon and asking if he was ready. He held his gun before him, already taking aim on the horizon. "I'm ready."

"Are you sure? Because I'm fairly confidence the salt water will destroy most of the components, but you pulverizing them with you gun first would definitely speed the process along."

"I said I was ready," he repeated.

Hesitating with the head of the toy I considered, "You know, maybe I should do something else with this part. This is where the central processor is located and I really shouldn't risk…"

"McKay, launch the damn piece!"

Confirming that the patience-is-a-virtue programming truly had worn off the Satedan, I pushed the button and the head went flying high into the air. Ronon tracked it for a second before firing and, as I'd hoped, the head was now little more than charred bits of metal drifting to the bottom of the sea.

"Teyla, he's all yours." Standing, I handed the bag and responsibility for destroying the remaining pieces over and left my teammates to take out any remaining resentment on the device responsible for the chaos that we were still recovering from.

I was heading back to check in at the labs when I ran into Lorne, Kavanagh, and Coleman geared up and making their way to the jumper bay. "Where are you three off to?"

"Mainland," Lorne explained with a sigh. "We never did finish the repairs on that sensor system."

"No, you three are taking the day off." My correction was met with confusion on the part of all three of them.

"But Colonel Sheppard made it very clear …"

I cut off the major with a raised hand. "Colonel Sheppard is currently recuperating in the infirmary, not to mention that he's sitting a little higher on my shit list right now than the three of you, so I'm superseding his orders. Besides," I told them as I raised my chin to dare them to gloat at my admission, "I couldn't have done what I did yesterday with the whole saving the city yet again without your help and that deserves some sort of reward in my book. So go paint or read or suck souls from the living or whatever it is you do for fun and entertainment."

"But what about the sensors?" Coleman asked a little wary of the offer I was making.

"I've already taken care of that." With a smug grin, I hitched my head toward Cadman, Chuck, and Heines, as well as one of the ATA marines to act as a pilot, who were trudging despondently toward the jumpers. "Give us a shout when it's repaired and we'll send someone to pick you up," I called cheerfully. "Eventually."

And with task number three taken care of, I decided to check in and see how the first was working out.

Radek had approached me while I'd been sitting with John the day before. John had been out for the count thanks to morphine and sheer exhaustion from being shot and tortured. Tortured. I shuddered every time I thought about it and had considered turning the damn device on the Czech who had wielded it more than once.

But then Carson had come in and placed a hand on my shoulder. "Radek is outside. I can't convince him to come in but he won't leave either. He's a might guilty over what's happened here today."

"Good," I told him, running a finger along the back of John's hand that I was holding.

"Rodney, I've studied the data you brought up on the device. Those members of the expedition that don't have an ATA gene didn't stand a chance against it. And you'd be wise to remember that it was luck of the draw that the gene therapy worked with you and not Radek."

"What's your point, Carson?"

"Just think of the mischief you would have caused if it had been the other way around."

He made a good point. As much as it pained me to admit it, Carson often did. Talk about your torture. With a sigh and final squeeze of John's hand, I stood and went out into the hall.

Radek immediately bombarded me with questions. "Rodney, how is Colonel? Carson says he will be okay, is it true? Does he need blood? I will donate as much as he needs. How about kidney? I have no plans for my spare."

I shook my head with a grimace. "Radek, enough. He's going to be fine."

Nodding in understanding, he started to pace. "Rodney, you have no idea how terrible I feel about the whole ordeal. I was not in my right mind. But that is no excuse. I would not blame Colonel if he wished to have me removed from the program, if he wishes to release me on mainland and hunt me like wild animal, if he wishes to…"

"Radek, I said enough. Look, Sheppard understands. Okay? He understands that you weren't in control of what you were doing, it was the toy. He doesn't blame you for any of it. Just like he doesn't blame me for what I did when I was under the influence of the chip."

With a nervous push of his glasses, he stammered, "But you did not… I mean when you had chip… there was nothing that you did…"

"Hello? Smartest man in two galaxies. I know I did something and I also know John has done everything in his power to keep me from finding out what that was. It's just the way he is."

"But Colonel Sheppard," he challenged. "He would do anything for you."

"He'd do pretty much anything for you, too… within the limits of decency. That's just how he is with family."

"Family?" Radek blinked in surprise. "He considers me family?"

"Don't get too emotional about it. He has really low standards." A small smile curled his lips and I stopped his smartass comment before he could say it. "Except when it comes to me."

"Of course." He straightened before asking, "So how do I show I am truly sorry for what happened?"

"Play chess with him… and lose."

"Lose?" He seemed genuinely shocked by the suggestion.

I shrugged. "Worked for me."

But the thing was, Radek hated to lose at chess probably more than he hated snakes. Because there was the fear associated with the serpents, whereas when it came to chess, fear didn't exist. He lost so rarely in that arena that he never approached a match with trepidation.

But all that was about to change.

"I thought you said your knight was to move in diagonal," he challenged in outrage.

"Not anymore," John told him with a flourish as he took Radek's bishop.

"But… you cannot… how can you…" he stood even as he sputtered in outrage, pacing back in forth in frustration as he tried to remember that he was supposed to be guilty over what he had done.

"I believe that puts you in check, Dr. Z." John leaned back against his pillow with a cat eating the canary grin.

With a growl, Radek tipped his king. "You are a petty, petty man, Colonel."

"I learned from the best." Hazel eyes drifted to where I stood in the doorway giving me a grin that was meant just for me.

Taking his pieces and placing them back in the box, Radek shook his head. "I suppose it was just matter of time. Too bad your better traits have not worn off on Rodney in exchange."

John stretched leisurely and placed his hands behind his head. "Yeah, well, it's the hazards of wedded bliss. So, I'll see you tomorrow for another match?"

Radek opened his mouth to disagree with John's assumption but I spoke before he could. "I'm sure he'd give his right kidney for the chance at a rematch."

Eyes narrowed in my direction behind his wire-rimmed glasses and he answered snippily. "I would not miss it for the world, Colonel."

"Well, then, seeing as you already lost to me at the whole world domination game, you really don't have a reason not to come back and lose to John at chess."

My gloating grin had him tucking his chessboard under his arm with a huff and storming out of the room.

John watched him leave before turning back to me. "You're really sure this is the best way to handle Radek?"

"Trust me, I know from personal experience, if you're pissed enough you forget how guilty you really are." I sat on the edge of the bed, using my hip to bump him over and make room for myself next to him. "Besides, I thought you were the one with the in on how to manipulate geeks."

"I thought I was, too, but then you threatened to divorce me… among other things."

"Eh, I could never divorce you. You know how upset the cat gets when we fight. She fills every shoe in the apartment with hairballs."

"She does that everyday," John pointed out, settling in comfortably against my shoulder.

"In your shoes, maybe. I'm talking about my own."

"Well, then, I guess I'm grateful for your manic depressive cat after all."

I sighed dramatically. "It's a shame really. Given Carson's extensive experience with livestock you'd think he could handle a cat with mental health issues."

"I heard that, Rodney," a Scottish brogue called from across the room.

"I'm just saying that as an experienced sheep whisperer you'd think you could branch out into other species."

"I leave all things psychological to Dr. Heightmeyer," Carson responded academically, "which is why I take no responsibility for your extensive neuroses."

"I'd say Heightmeyer's appointment book is going to be pretty full given the guiltfest that's taking place in the city thanks to me and Ruxpin."

John's morose tone had me shaking my head. "Look, I finally got Radek to stop offering up vital organs, I don't need you feeling responsible, too."

"When you get right down to it, Rodney, it was my fault for turning that damn thing on."

"Which is why you'll be atoning for your sins for a while to come. I plan to oversee your rehabilitation personally." I gave his a meaningful waggle of eyebrows.

"Really?" he grinned with a nuzzle to my jaw. "What did you have in mind?"

"Oh, I'm sure I'll come up with something sufficiently absolving to cleanse your soul of the taint of any wrong doing."

My lingering kiss had him grinning even wider. "I don't know, it sounds like this could be a win/win for both of us, no losing required."

"It certainly will be for me," I agreed as I ran my nose along his. "Seeing as I doubt I'll run out of clean clothes for a long, long time to come." He groaned and dropped his head to my shoulder as I beamed happily. "Who's the dominant, manipulating Geek in this relationship now?"

"You are," he declared grudgingly. "You wear the pants in our family. There, I admitted it. Are you happy now, McKay?"

"Deliriously so," I assured him with a kiss. "Especially since they're going to be clean."

Who needs the world when you have clean underwear?

…and someone to remove them with his teeth.

The End.