a/n: This is the last chapter in this fic!

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Dean couldn't breathe; every time let out a breath and then tried bring one back in again, the air entering his lungs became less and less. He struggled, trying to figure out what was blocking the passage, but his vision was dark. He struggled, but couldn't seem to move; there was pressure on his chest and something preventing him from moving his arms forward. He yelled, but his voice came out as a croaked muffle. His heart was fluttering in his chest—but not in the girly-good kind of way—and instead with fear. He struggled, the pain in his back was like lava fire, and he could feel something on his back pulling. But the panic inside of him would let him stop struggling; he was suffocating and he couldn't move to stop it!


Suddenly there was a bright light flashing in his eyes and he could breathe again; his lungs expanding as he gasped for desperately needed air. He coughed for a moment, pain racking through his body in the process. He felt hands lightly touch his neck and cheeks, they were a cool relief from his hot skin; he sighed and him panic abated with the familiarization of them.

"Johnny," he breathed out in relief, settling back down, his eyes slipping closed.

John gently ran his fingers through Dean's damp hair, placing gentle kisses on his temple. "Don't worry," John whispered soothingly in Dean's ear, "You're safe now; I won't let anyone hurt you again."

"It hurts," Dean whispered, a pained expression on his face.

"I know," John sympathized, he reached over and pressed a button on one of the machines. There was a beep and Dean gave a sigh. "Better?" John asked.

"Yes," Dean whispered.

"Okay, now just get some sleep, Dean." John told him, his fingers never leaving his lover's hair. "The next time you wake up, you'll fell much better—I promise."

"Mmm," was all that Dean could muster, the drugs already kicking in and a small snore leaving his lips.

John gave a small smile, but his eyes were filled with worry as his eyes glanced at Dean's exposed back. It was painful for John to look at, but the Colonel knew that it was way more painful for Dean. When they had found Dean, John had seen red—and not just the blood that covered Dean and the platform—but in his gaze; he wanted to kill every single person that had sat there and watched this haniss crime, and not to mention the person who had actually done it to Dean. The only real thing that kept him from going ballistic was the fact that Teyla and Ronon were at his side, and not to mention the sight of Dean strung up like that. At first John had been sure that Dean was dead. Lorne hadn't wanted to kill un-necessarily, so they came in with cloaked Jumpers and bombarded the villagers with knock-out gas.

It had been touch and go for a while, when they had first found Dean and brought him back to the infirmary; the blood loss and the trauma . . . Beckett had lost count of the slashes, and the stitches count had been well over a hundred, and the chances of infection were still high. Dean's back was going to be majorly scarred, but John didn't care, he still found Dean hot and would no matter what. John gave a low sigh as he leaned down and kissed Dean gently on the corner of his mouth; he was just fearful of the way that Dean may react.

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True to John's word, the next time that Dean properly woke up he did feel slightly more better; he wasn't sure how long he was in and out of consciousness, but every time he blinked open his eyes for a minute or two, John was right there. This left Dean feeling safe and reassured when his eyes slipped unwillingly closed again. John was there too now when he opened his eyes, his face on the bed next to Dean's. Dean didn't want to wake him; John's eyes were closed and he had bags under his eyes.

Dean didn't say anything, but instead shifted towards the Colonel painfully and placed a chaste kiss on John's slightly agape lips. Dean stared at John's sleeping face with sad eyes, their noses touching. Dean didn't know how long he had been out or in the infirmary, but he did still feel like shit and he hurt like hell. He eyes slipped closed again, his last sight of John snoozing face.

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The next time Dean awoke, it was to the feeling of pain. He found John holding his hand as a nurse removed the bandaging from his back and lathered the cuts with disinfectant and then smeared them with a solvent. He squeezed his eyes shut and gripped John's hand back; giving a grunt when the nurse touched an especially deep slash, and John winced in sympathy.

"It's almost over," John whispered to him.

About ten minutes later it was, and the nurse placed fresh bandages over the wounds. The ministrations left him exhausted; trying not to remember what each slash felt like, as the nurse seemed to touch each individual one.

"Don't you have a mission every once and a while?" Dean asked him quietly. "Not that I'm complaining." he quickly added and John couldn't help the smirk.

"Weir's taken me off active duty for awhile," John told him with embarrassment.

Dean looked at him with a furrowed brow. "Why?" taking John off duty didn't make any real sense to him.

"Because," John glanced away from him, "I snapped back on the planet and if Ronon and Teyla weren't there, I probably would have killed half of the locals."

Dean looked at him with bright eyes; he knew that killing people was wrong, but he had wanted everyone there dead too—and if he could have, he would have done it. And he didn't love John any less for it, probably loved him even more because of the fact.

"I don't blame you there," Dean agreed with him.

John looked at him with surprise. "Really?"

"Yup," Dean agreed. "You know, they were calling me a Demon and shit that came from the Gates of Hell to turn them to the dark side. That I poisoned their Land because I had to take a piss and accidentally did it on their Sacred Grounds." Dean snorted, "So you know what I did? I told them that I was a Demon and that I cursed them and that others were coming for me and that they'd kill them all."

John looked at him but said nothing, only blinking in surprise at what Dean said next.

"You shouldn't blame Major Lorne," Dean told him, his voice firm. "I was the one that took a piss on Sacred Grounds, the mob was after me. You shouldn't think that because I'm the General's son that I should be taken extra care of."

"That's not true," John denied. "I think that I'm gonna kick the ass of anyone who lets you get hurt, Dean Winchester, because I love you."

"The feelings mutual," Dean deadpanned. "But Major Lorne didn't do anything wrong; I took a different turn than they did, knowing full well that they wouldn't notice until it was too late and that more than half of the villagers would come after me."

John gave a sigh. "I know; Martin and Jane told me that with passion and concern." he admitted, "But it didn't change the fact that I was pissed about it."

"That's our job," Dean told him quietly, his eyes in shadow. "It's unpredictable what might go down off-world."

John's fingers combed gently through Dean's locks, his lover's eyes slipping closed. "I know," he whispered, his voice almost inaudible.

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The next day Dean was actually sitting up in the bed, and to himself, he would admit that it was a huge feat. The catheter was still in, Beckett not quite wanting him to walk around; scared that he'd pop a stitch. But Dean was able to eat some solid food, and it didn't matter what it tasted like because there was Earth food, then there was Earth hospital food, then there was the Atlantis food, and then there was the Atlantis infirmary food—yeah, so at the moment his stomach would take anything.

His back hurt and it ached despite the painkillers, and he wanted so much to lean back, to relieve his shoulders and lower back of the strain, but he knew that that would hurt a little too much for his liking. Dean set his fork down on the tray in front of him and shifted with a grimace on his face; trying to relieve that strain. Someone clear cleared their throat to his side, he looked up; expecting to find John back again, but instead found . . .

"Major Lorne," Dean greeted in surprise. "Don't tell me Weir took SGA-2 off the duty roster again because I'm out of commission?"

An awkward look flashed across the Major's face and Dean sighed.

"Jeez," Dean sighed, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Doesn't she know that you guys could probably function better without me?" he looked at Lorne, an embarrassed looked on his face, "Sorry, sir."

Lorne shook his head. "No need to apologize," he said. "Actually, I wanted to apologize."

This time Dean shook his head. "You have nothing to apologize for; I was the one that pissed on a Sacred Tree. Any way, I told Joh—Colonel Sheppard that." he quickly corrected himself, but by the raised brow that Lorne sent him, Dean knew that it was noticed. "Colonel Sheppard and I were friends when we were in High school," Dean explained. "We kinda joined at the same time too."

Dean waited for a surprised reaction or something, but Lorne only nodded his understanding. Dean was sure that it was probably due to the fact that probably nothing got past the Major, and Dean was sure that he had already knew about Sean and Patrick, and maybe even suspected about him and John.

"Well," Lorne started, "I guess I should probably let you get some rest."

"Thanks," Dean told him as he turned.

"You know, we don't function too badly with you on board." Lorne told him over his shoulder, a friendly smirk on his face; Dean grinned back at him.

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It was actually on the third week that Dean was finally able to walk around and the catheter was taken it out, it was also on the third week that Beckett let him out of the infirmary and back to his own quarters—though he was definitely not back on duty. He was given a thing of antibiotics and another thing of painkiller—for which Dean was very greatful.

It was also during that third week that John and his team were put back on duty, and that he had an appointment with the doc to get his stitches removed. There was well over a hundred of them and it took nearly two hours of laying on his stomach, scissors, tweezers and painful pinches and pulls to get them all out. At the end of it he was a sweaty mess, and Beckett let him cool off for about ten minutes before he put on the cream and new bandages on the more deeper slashes.

When he walked around it was with stiff shoulders and back; when he sat down to eat in the mess, he didn't let his back touch the chair; and when he laid down in his bed, he laid on his side. He didn't wear a Jacket and instead a thin long sleeve, so that the material wouldn't rub against his sensitive skin. Once a day cream had to be rubbed on his back; John would usually do it, but when he was on a mission he had either Sean or Patrick do it—and despite the fact that he had yet to look at his back himself, Sean and Patrick never did comment on that fact, and John didn't push it.

But it was on the fourth week that he finally pushed himself to do it; before, he was scared, he was still scared. Scared of what it would look like and how ugly it would make him. If even after having his back like this, he may still be beautiful to himself and to others—especially to John, or if he would carry this around with him like a weight on his shoulder for the rest of his life? Or if he would be able to finally, and actually live with it? One thing was for sure though, that he had learned from all of this, was that he was never ever going to take a piss off-world again—actually, he was never going to go to the bathroom off-world again, even if he was stuck on the other side of the gate for days.

He stood in his bathroom naked; droplets of water fell from his wet hair and trailed down his now scarred back. Dean looked at himself in the mirror; his front looked the same. He gave a smirk, watching his reflection as the corner of his lips turned upward. At first glance he looked the same that he always had, as he had always remembered—but then when he looked he saw that they seemed darker somehow, that there was something hidden deep. Dean knew what it was—a realization—a realization that he now knew something that he never really knew before.

Before, when he had been captured by the Goa'uld, and tortured for answers it had been different. They were parasites, monsters that had taken over the body and the mind of helpless Humans. It didn't really affect him, but now . . . These were Humans, who were not possessed, and had willingly flogged him. And even though it was because of there beliefs—for which Dean would never discriminate—it had hit him hard because he had accidentally urinated on their Sacred Grounds. It had hit him hard because they were Humans—people—people who had done this to him, who had caused him such pain. He knew that people had done bad things back on Earth; murders, rape, abuse, all of it, but Dean had never been involved with those, had never knew any of those people. But this had happened to Dean, he was the one that had been in their crosshairs, he was at the end of the flogging.

Dean gave an explosive sigh as he ran his fingers through his wet locks. Licking his now suddenly dry lips he turned around and peered tentatively over his shoulder. His skin felt stiff and he could feel the way that it stretched tightly. The instant his gaze hit the mirror, he wanted to tear it away again, but he forced himself to look. It was probably a little less worse than he had imagined it would be, but it was still bad.

He wasn't sure how many lashes there had been when he was tied up, and even now he couldn't—and didn't—dare count how many there was; some were thin, while other were deep, and most of the seemed to blend in with each other or over lap. Each wound was healed, but the scars left behind were puckered and pink, standing out on his tan skin. The lashes did expand over all of his back; a few thin ones were on the back of his arms, those ones he sure would heal with barely even a scar. The ones on his back though, that was a different story all together; they were puckered and thick, the scar tissue smooth and sensitive; for them to become thin and white scar that were barely noticeable against his skin, it would take years.

Dean tore his gaze away from the mirror as he turned back to the sink; placing his hand on either side, he leaned all of his weight on in, his head bowed. He squeezed his eyes shut tight, the muscles on his back working. He knew that even with the scars that he was still handsome, and that all it would take was just a little to get used to it. And that was just Dean; he knew that Sean and Patrick wouldn't treat him differently and that they were still his friends, but what about John? The other man hadn't really commented on his back, but had kept reassuring Dean that it would be fine, that they would heal. But then again John and he hadn't had sex since he got released from the infirmary, and that worried Dean. Maybe John didn't love him anymore and that was the reason why John wouldn't have sex with him.

Dean was fearful that John may not love him anymore, even after all that they had been through; the other things had been a mental challenge, but this one was physical. Did John still love him and find him attractive? Or was he still with Dean on the simple fact of pity or sympathy? So Dean, not really knowing what to do in this situation and having this being his only real relationship, avoided John; scared that the other man may want to break it off with him.

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John was really confused and hurt by this point a week later, but he wasn't angry with Dean in the least. This was what he had feared, that because of the scars that Dean would somehow think less of himself. John knew that Dean hated to be coddled, but the Colonel couldn't help it; when he had seen Dean so helpless looking and all of that blood . . . John just felt like Dean had somehow turned fragile. That was also the reason why John didn't have sex with him—even though he desperately, desperately wanted and needed and would love to have sex with Dean, very loving and very rough at the same time—but he didn't want to hurt Dean.

And that was when John realized why Dean had been avoiding him, and he actually slapped himself on the forehead as rushed down the halls of Atlantis to the gateroom. He couldn't believe that it had taken him all this time to realize how stupid he had been and he knew that he had to tell Dean so before the other man went on his mission. And at this point, John really didn't give a hot shit if anyone found out that he was totally and completely in love with Dean Winchester-O'Neill.

"Dean!" he called as he ran into the gateroom.

The gate hadn't been dialed yet and he saw Dean and the rest of SGA-2 standing in the middle of the room, checking each others gear. Dean turned to him, surprised that John had called him by his first name while there was this many people around—and Dean sent John that said as much. John ignored it and walked up to Dean, grabbing his sleeve and dragging him to the corner by the stairs. Dean came along reluctantly; his heart pounding inside his chest.

"John, what are you doing?" Dean exclaimed quietly, jerking his arm back.

"We need to talk," John told him, ignoring the slight hurt that came with Dean's withdrawal.

"We can talk after my mission," Dean told him turning.

"I love you, Dean." John called to him quietly, stopping Dean in his tracks.

Looking over his shoulder, Dean said quietly back, "I know," he turned back, but John wasn't finished.

"No, I don't think that you do." he had been descent enough to drag them to a corner, but Dean was being too difficult. "I love you, Dean, more than anything. When we were teenagers, when we joined together—I wasn't sure what I'd do when I got sent here, but that just made my appreciation and love fore you grow. When you got assigned here too, I couldn't believe it and I finally got to show you just how much I loved and missed you. But when Lorne came back four weeks ago without you; I didn't know what to think and knew that I would rip anyone's heart out who hurt you. When we brought you back, you just looked so fragile lying in that bed." John shook his head; unshed tears making his hazel green eyes shine. "I didn't want anything to ever hurt you again—not even me. You have no idea how bad I wanted to fuck you . . ."

Dean kept his back turned to John, his shoulders stiff with emotion. His head was down and his eyes pointed to the floor, he heard the gate dial and the horizon settle down. This was not the time for John to go all lovey-dovey on him, not when he had a mission and needed to concentrate. He had believed that John didn't love or find him sexy anymore, but as it turned out it was even more so now. Dean hated himself for thinking of John the way that he had, and for avoiding the man that he loved. But did John really have to go and say all of that right now? Didn't he care that they could still get kicked-out despite the fact that his father was the General of the SGC? Dean looked over his shoulder at John again, this time his gaze was full of understanding and love, a slight blush of embarrassment on his cheeks—Dean had no idea where the hell that came from. "We'll talk when I get back," he told his lover quietly.

John stared at him with the same gaze, and Dean turned back to his team who was waiting patiently in front of the gate. He started to walk when Lorne gave him a stern raised brow.

"Dean," John called.

Dean turned and John was there, crushing his lips against his. Dean stumbled at the sudden impact and grabbed John's arms to steady himself. Dean surprised himself by kissing John back, not caring that they were in the middle of the gateroom and that it was crowded with other military men. John pulled Dean close to him—or as close as he could get Dean with all of the off-world gear in the way.

Sean and Patrick shared a knowing look and smile before they stepped through the gate. And Lorne's raised brow turned from stern to just as raised brow and a shake of his head, before he fallowed Sean and Patrick through the gate.

John finally allowed Dean to pull himself back; he was slightly out of breath as he gave John one last look before jogging through the gate to join the rest of his team, hoping that Major Lorne wouldn't discriminate.

John didn't care about the consequences of this, the shit that Weir was going to give him, or the possible dishonorable discharge. None of that mattered as long as he and Dean were together again, and that the other man loved him just as much as John loved him back. John glanced around himself, now just noticing how packed the gateroom was and the weird silence as everyone stared at him.

John cleared his throat. "What are you all staring at?" he demanded. He put on his Colonel-face as he stared at the staff—or glared. "Get back to work!"

The End

note: I hoped you liked this as much as I kept getting writers-block during this fic. So please review the hell out of this fic, please!

If you didn't understand in the beginning when Dean was suffocating; it was just that he was on his stomach because of the slashes on his back, so he was face down in a pillow. So then when there was suddenly light, that was John yanking the pillow out from under him and Dean's head turning in the process. And the chapter before where Dean was being flogged and the old man said the Dean was "wearing the colour of their Land" he was just referring to the fact theat Dean's eyes are green.