x-x

Rodney, bolstered by the slight weight of the device in his bag, and the feel of the gun in his hand, sprinted toward the 'gate room, heedless of the people he passed, and of whether or not they noticed him. He thought he heard someone call his name – Lorne, maybe – but he ignored it. He knew what he had to do, and these others simply didn't matter. He had to get to the 'gate. If he could get there, he could get the hell out of here, and then he'd be safe.

When he reached the 'gate room, it was like they'd been expecting him. The Marines who were on duty had their weapons up and pointed at him. But it didn't matter. He shot the first one in the shoulder while he ran toward the 'gate controls, the second in the leg before that Marine could even react.

It was the third one who took him down.

Rodney stared up at the ceiling arching overhead, his vision filled with the calm blue light that was so typical of Atlantis. He couldn't breathe. Maybe he should panic about that?

"Medical team to the 'gate room."

It seemed like he should panic, like he would have, not that long ago, but something was different now. He wasn't sure what it was, but something had changed. He didn't feel panicked over his lack of breath. He was supposed to be doing something. Something important.

Right, the 'gate. He had to get to the gate. He tried to roll over, tried to move, but he couldn't. And maybe he should panic about that as well, but there were faces overhead, activity around him, someone calling his name, and his heart beat madly, filling his ears, and then nothing.

And then everything, as he felt himself hoisted up and flung over someone's shoulder, then the pain as they sprinted, probably toward the infirmary, every step an agony. Then even that started to slip away as he watched the floor blur by, and only then realised that he was riding, head down, on someone's shoulder. Lorne's. On Lorne's shoulder.

The voices got really fucking loud around him, and he was thrown, and tugged, and, and… And.

x-x

Rodney woke to a shock of pain, in the center of a circle of people. Jennifer, face composed but eyes panicked. Lorne, blood smeared across one cheek, hair on end. And John.

"John," he tried to say, but failed.

"You were in cardiac arrest," Jennifer said, her voice sounding like it was coming from the bottom of a tin can.

"Again," he thought, but "John," he tried to say, and he felt someone grasp his hand, saw John's worried face.

"You're all right," John said. "It's gone."

"How?" Rodney managed to whisper.

"When your heart stopped," John said.

"Colonel," Jennifer said, her tone a warning.

"They're bringing you into surgery now," John said, but there was more than that behind the words. So much more, and in a flash, Rodney realised that John – not the whatever that had been in John, and then, in the end, in him; but John himself – who cared for him. Just as he cared for John.

And that should be enough, he thought as he felt himself be moved, felt John's hand slip from his own. It should be enough.

x-x

Rodney stared at himself in the mirror he'd put up in his quarters. How the hell the Ancients had been able to get ready without a mirror of some sort, he had no idea. Maybe they had some sort of magical "whatever" that they used to check themselves over before they left for the day – a magical whatever that the Atlantis team would probably discover tomorrow and think was some sort of Ancient cat food bowl or something.

Anyway, he looked like crap. But he supposed that was only natural, after what he'd been through. It had taken him a good long while to recover from both being shot and the surgical aftermath. If he looked a bit pale, if his eyes seemed shadowed, well, then that was due to the physical injuries he'd incurred, and so be it. He raked the comb through his hair one last time, doing his best with what little God had left him.

He remembered waking after the surgery they'd done to remove the bullets from his body. He'd been alone. Then there were doctors, nurses. When next he'd seen John, it had been all very friendly, if a bit muddled by pain killers, but it was like it had been before everything had happened. John had told him they'd squirreled the device somewhere in the depths of Atlantis, with a warning in both English and Ancient. John hadn't given even a hint that they had anything more than a working relationship verging on friendship, and Rodney hadn't seen him since.

Rodney wasn't a stupid man, and he could take the damn hint. So he'd let it lie, let it go. John was his friend. Hell, he was more than that to him, and if it took sacrifice on his part, maybe on both their parts, then that's what it was. Nothing he could do.

John was military. If his career was more important to him than Rodney was, then Rodney could understand that. It sucked, it made him want to scream, to take John by the shoulders and shake him, but the reality of it was, if John had asked him to give up his own career and go off with him to do… something… surf Big Sur or something - who the fuck knew - he wouldn't do it. He couldn't. And if that made him a complete bastard, well, what a fucking surprise that was.

His self-incriminations were interrupted by a knock at his door, rather than its chime, which was odd, but he answered it.

John stood there, looking awkward, but he did his best to cover it with his typical bravado. "You look like crap. How are you feeling?"

"Good, fine," Rodney said, waving the man in. "And you?"

As the door shut behind him, John echoed, "Good, fine." He slid into Rodney's desk chair as if he owned it, somehow managing to slouch in apparent comfort despite its straight backed Ancient design. Looking up at Rodney, he said without preamble, "Jennifer and her team think they figured out how all this happened."

"What?" Rodney said, hands clenching. Only then did he realise he still held the comb.

"Jennifer figures it got in me same way as it did you."

The bite, Rodney thought.

"Through the bloodstream," John finished.

Rodney lowered himself onto the bed, pulling his legs up in front of him. He'd figured – known – that the thing had got into him when John had bit his lip, but he hadn't had any proof.

John held up his hand, and pointed to a tiny cut on one finger, nearly healed, a pink mark against his pale skin. "I must have cut myself on the device when I touched it. Maybe it was even designed to activate when a strong enough gene carrier was nearby, and it extended some sort of blade or something."

Rodney rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Damn it, I should have seen that."

"The blade?" John asked, clearly confused. "It had to have retracted –"

"The device," Rodney said quickly, leaning forward across his knees. "It wasn't Ancient at all." He waved a hand dismissively. "I mean yeah, it had what seemed to be a variety of Ancient script on it, but the form of the device was all off. Ancient stuff is all angles and points."

"Gothic," John said, echoing Rodney's thoughts.

"Hmm…" Rodney said, surprised, yet again, at John's knowledge. He kept forgetting how broad an education the man actually had, he kept it hidden so well. "Well, this was completely different," Rodney went on. "No spires, no points, no angles. The stupid thing was round! And the script wasn't right."

"Yeah," John said uncertainly, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, maybe. It's not like I remember."

"You don't remember?"

"Nothing after seeing the device on New Athos."

Which jibed with Rodney's own experiences. "Right, right," he said, suddenly getting it. "Like I don't remember anything after you bit me."

"Jennifer told me." John winced. "I'm sorry about that."

"It's all right," Rodney said. "Forget it." He only wished he could. "So some other group made that device, purposefully targeting Ancients. But it doesn't look Wraith. I wonder…" His mind spun through the possibilities.

John slid forward in the chair, closing the space between them. "You know you're the only person who thought there was anything wrong with me."

That snapped Rodney back to the present. "Yeah, well…" He let his voice trail off.

"How could you tell?"

Rodney tried to be evasive. "Noticed this, noticed that."

John stood and, in one smooth movement, sat down on the bed next to Rodney. "No one else noticed."

"I did," Rodney said, heart in his throat.

John gave him a soft smile. "There are some things I've noticed about you, as well." Reaching out slowly, he grasped Rodney's hand. "Stuff I've learned, too."

"Like what?" Rodney whispered, unable to do more than that. He was frozen in John's gaze, the centre of his universe suddenly the man before him.

"Like that it's way too easy to lose all this, Rodney." John's fingers traced along Rodney's palm as he said three simple words. "You. Atlantis. Home."

Rodney sat there in shock. This was not what he'd expected.

"If you're willing," John said, sotto voce.

Rodney stared into his eyes. Willing? John had no idea. Unable to say a word, Rodney nodded.

John's smile widened at first, then fell away. "We've got to play it kind of close to the vest."

"I'm not an idiot," Rodney shot out before he could stop himself. And he wasn't. He knew exactly what he was getting into, entering a relationship with someone in the military, and the idea of hiding rankled. But the idea of John? Somehow, he suspected it'd balance out.

"No kidding," John said, clearly amused at Rodney's comment.

Rodney couldn't help but smile at that one. Oh, and at the feel of John's hand in his own, and the promise of so much more. But he had to ask a question. "If you can't remember anything that happened, how did you even know I liked you?"

John smiled again, the rare one, the one that lit up his eyes. "No one else pays me as much attention."

"Oh," Rodney said, surprised that he'd revealed so much without knowing it.

"Yeah, 'Oh'," John said, tugging Rodney in for a kiss.

x-x

End

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