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Aug 22

Exhale and Inhale

M5R-697 – 0850AST

“… It’s not like they won’t come for me! We all saw you. I can hear Ronon right behind us, if you let me go I swear that I’ll convince him and my husband, my probably very pissed off and dangerous husband, to not kill you both. You must have heard of him from your Genii friends. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard-McKay.” Rodney shouted as he ran up the steep slope leading to the gate, half dragged by the woman beside him.

“I thought I told you to shut him the fuck up.” The leader of the nefarious pair said cuffing the woman on the head.

“He bit me, Varsh”

“And! What are you? Some soft little farmer. You are one of the Shipless! SHUT HIM UP!” The woman stopped dragging Rodney and slowed to his pace. She lifted her fist and twisted slightly.

Rodney stopped his half-hearted attempt at running and threw himself to the ground narrowly avoiding the fist that had been aimed at his head. He rolled and after sliding a few feet down the gravelly slope pushed himself to his feet. He started racing in the direction he could feel John was in.

He felt the gap between John and himself decreasing. Lungs burning and heart pounding he made the mistake of glancing back, John’s voice rang inside his head telling him off. Cursing, he slipped his ankle turning under him. He hit the ground awkwardly, his bound hands keeping him from break well. His arms twisted and trapped, his whole weight falling on the back of his hand, he felt his wrist grind and snap. Rodney felt the moment John saw him, a hint of relief seeping through their bond. Seconds later Ronon’s voice reached him as the large man began shouting for him to get up and move.

He began to push up, his teeth gritted, and pain shooting up his arm. Gravel clattered around him, the dust blinding him. Lifting his head and blinking dryly he saw a dirty boot descending.

– – –

“RODNEY!”

John raced forwards, a burst of speed taking him past Ronon, as Rodney crumpled to the ground only to be heaved upwards by his tied arms and dragged away by the cold-eyed man who had taken them by surprise shortly after coming through the gate. Moving with surprising speed and strength the man powered up the slope as his companion dialed the gate. As the team hit the slope Ronon over took John again and managed to get close enough to make a grab for Rodney’s boots, just as they slid through the gate. Ronon missed them and stumbled. The gate closed. And behind him John hit the ground hard.

“Teyla, dial the gate.” Ronon shouted the address that he had seen at her as he checked John’s pulse and tried to wake him up. After a few slaps to the face he stood and heaved the man over one shoulder. The gate began to dial but the last symbol failed to lock

“They must have dialed straight back out. We should return to Atlantis and see if Doctor Zelenka can retrieve the addresses from the DHD.”

Ronon nodded his agreement at her and she dialed the gate.

Atlantis – 0900 AST

“As always, Larrin, we are grateful for any information you bring us, but I must ask what you will want in return for it?”

Doctor Elizabeth Weir looked over at Lieutenant Colonel Evan Lorne as the woman in front of the tilted her head and smiled. Lorne stood halfway up the gateroom stairs, his sleeves rolled up slightly so a delicate tattoo could be seen encircling his left wrist

“Unscheduled gate activation. I’m receiving an IDC. It’s Teyla.”

Lorne quickly ran up the stairs and over to Chuck and told him to lower the shield.

Elizabeth neatly wrapped one hand around Larrin’s elbow and quickly escorted her up the stairs and in to the briefing room.

Teyla walked through the gate, quickly followed by Ronon, who carried John.

“Medical team to the gate room,” Chuck said in to his headset as Ronon lowered John to the floor. The on duty Corpsman rushed forward and began basic health checks.

“ Where’s Doctor Sheppard-McKay?” Lorne asked, heading down the stairs as the medical team arrived.

“Gone.” Ronon grunted.

“He was taken,” Teyla murmured before anyone could ask more “They came from nowhere and spoke to us for a while. They had a device they wished to show to Rodney. They said the Genii hadn’t been able to help them with it and had spoken of Rodney’s prowess with devices.”

“Should have been watching him better.” Ronon rumbled

“Ronon.” Teyla sighed “One of them led Rodney to a more shaded area to show him the device and moments later she had tied his hands and was heading to the gate. We fought with the other for a while but they had prepared well. There were many traps and he managed to slip away.”

Ronon helped the medical team lift John on to the gurney and followed them as they left.

“We could not catch up. John collapsed when the gate close behind them. We tried to dial the planet they had gone to but it would not engage.”

“Give Chuck the address and I’ll sent a team to look at the DHD.” Lorne ordered her. As she walked away he said, “Teyla, you did the right thing.”

Looking over at the briefing room he saw Larrin talking and walked back up the stairs to stand by the window. Watching the forthright women talk he wondering what bad news would come from her.

– – –

“I do hope Sheppard will be okay. Although it does seem my information comes a little … late,” Larrin pouted.

Elizabeth took a breath before asking, “You know who did this, and why?”

“Probably who and possibly why. But it has nothing to do with me. I have no reason to turn against you. I came to warn you as a courtesy.” She looked at Elizabeth for a moment and sighed, “And I was hoping to borrow one of your people who can operate the Chair. My ship has developed a quirk and all we can find out is that it is in the core memory and that we require an ‘Ingeniar’. ”

“It will depend on the nature of this ‘quirk’ and the information you have but I see no issue with that trade.” Elizabeth shepherded the other woman away from the window and into a chair before taking the seat opposite her. She gracefully gestured for her to begin talking.

Larrin took a deep breath and finally sighed, “There is a man we call Varsh. He killed the captain of his ship so that he could take control. In accordance with our laws he is allowed to do that, but then he began to kill those who were connected to the captain. Her lover. Her child. Her brothers. The council took the ship from him and he was exiled to become a planet dweller.” She paused and watched Elizabeth’s controlled stillness for a moment.

“He was always a … charming man and has never had a problem convincing people to follow him. Recently we have heard rumors that he is drawing others to him by telling them he has found one of the ancestor’s ships. It is no secret that your people are talented with the ancestors’ technology, and this galaxy is hardly short of people who would be willing to betray you. I have the address of the planet we left him on but I doubt he is there any longer. He is by no means a stupid man; ambitious, dangerous, violent but not stupid.”

Elizabeth and Larrin sat for a moment and eventually, when it was clear Larrin had no more to say, Elizabeth looked over at the window and motioned for Lorne to enter.

“One of our people trained in using the chair will come and work on your ship for one hour.” At Larrin’s look she added, “One hour, Larrin, no more. If they cannot solve the problem in that time you will have to find something better to trade. Old information is worth little.” Elizabeth said pointedly.

Lorne gestured for Larrin to follow him and led her off to the Jumper bay.

On the way he radioed Sergeant Stackhouse and told him to find a volunteer to go to the traveler ship with him and get to the Jumper bay.

– – –

“Bond shock is a dangerous condition and it is difficult to predict, Liz. I really can’t tell you anything more than that. Rodney and John have been bonded for a long time, they have a deep and profound connection. One of the deepest I have ever seen. They have been on different planets before, we have to hope that it was the shock of it that took him down. He might wake up on his own or only wake up if we bring Rodney to him.” Carson sounded heartbroken as he described the condition of one of his best friends.

“Is it possible that he collapsed because Rodney … because they killed him.” Elizabeth gently put a hand on Carson’s shoulder, the doctor blanched at her words, his thumb absently rubbing against the inside of his bare wrist.

“He isn’t fading on us. So no. If Rodney were dead then John’s system would be shutting down. Lowered brain activity, renal failure, possibly heart failure, depressed lung function. I would say Rodney’s alive but they have both commented that their connection to Atlantis is somewhat similar to the bond. That could be bolstering him for now. But then I would have though he would have needed to be in the chair for that level of connection.”

Carson sat down and took John’s hand in his. He brushed the man’s hair back off his forehead and tucked the blanket around him a little more tightly. He looked up at Elizabeth and in a slightly desperate tone said,“Rodney is alive, Liz. He has to be.”

– – –

Unknown –Unknown AST

“I know you are awake Dr Sheppard–McKay I also know that you must be wondering who I am. I am Varsh of the Shipless and you are going to help me with a problem.”

Rodney let his eyes flicker open and instantly regretted it as nausea washed over him. He looked over at the man and muttered,

“Can’t help you with that kinda problem. I already told you I’m married.” Varsh snarled, backhanding him. Rodney bit through his lip as he tried to catch himself on his already broken wrist. Turning on his heel Varsh marched from the room. Rodney reached out for John automatically and after a moment shut his eyes to focus on reaching out further. But he felt nothing and reached no one. Figuring it couldn’t make anything worse Rodney decided to play dead and steeled himself to react to nothing.

Atlantis – 2300 AST

“John. John can you hear me. If you can just squeeze my hand.”

John focused through the fog surrounding him and realized that someone was holding his hand. After another minute or so he managed to talk his fingers into curling, the joints aching and popping in protest.

“Good, that’s good. Okay when you’re ready I want you to suck on this straw and have a little drink.”

John felt something being poked between his lips and eventually he managed to suck on it and swallow the water.

“Carson?” he croaked.

“That’s right, John, you’re on Atlantis. Can you open your eyes for me?” Carson said softly taking the water away.

John tried to open his eyes but everything slid out of his grasp and he was floating again. Thick fog filled his vision and white noise filled his ears.

The fog beneath him thickened and without truly moving John was sat in a chair. The chair. A feather soft touch caressed his mind and a probing tendril threaded itself through and around the taut, ragged chord of John’s bond to Rodney. The presence slid along the bond soothingly, smoothing the frayed parts down.

“Hey, sweetheart, I know you worry but I don’t really have time for this.”

A feeling of humor filled John and the presence gently tugged on the bond pulling John along. “That’s kinda painful. Stop. ‘Lantis I can’t…” The tug became a heave, the heave became a tearing force ripping John from his physical form, behind him John felt his body begin to convulse as Atlantis towed him away.

– – –

“Hell, don’t do this lad. Crash cart!” Carson stood, John’s hand still clenched in his as he willed the man to stop softly convulsing and just breathe. “Come on. You were doing so well.”

As he tucked his finger firmly against the pulse point he instructed the nurse to get ready. “We won’t have much time if he starts to slip on us. Let’s prepare to go to life support.” Around him the medical team gathered tools and waited, each of them silently counting the long minutes.

– – –

At first John fought against Atlantis’ tugging wildly, but eventually exhaustion seeped through him and he slumped in to the welcoming softness of Atlantis’ phyonic presence, letting her drag him along. His strength was sapped by the sensation of a sucking chest wound echoing through him. The entity they knew as Atlantis petted him and an image of John dancing with Rodney, tucked together in a moment of private romance, hazily appeared in the fog. A soft rose glow around it and sensations of love, warmth and safety accompanied it.

“Always the romantic, huh?” He lazily lifted his hand and let his fingers trail through the image, contrail like marks appearing behind.

– – –

Carson sighed as John’s breathing stuttered and rattled back to normal and his heart monitor took up a steady beep. Pulling an eyelid up he flashed a pen light across it, sighed, rolled his neck and reached for the brain activity monitor.

Unknown –Unknown AST

“Doctor Sheppard-McKay, my patience is wearing rather thin. And I am not a man known for my great reserves of the stuff.” Varsh rumbled from his crouch over Rodney’s crumpled form. When the man below him failed to react Varsh slid a knife under the neck of his shirt and sliced it from top to bottom before peeling it off. He repeated the motion with the rest of Rodney clothes and slid one hand down the lightly muscled chest and on to his thighs, head tilting to follow the motion. The tip of Varsh’s tongue slid out and wet his lips hungrily. He slid his hand over Rodney’s cock and curling it slightly he cruelly tugged. He coldly laughed at the jerk that followed, he crouched there for sometime waiting for his prisoner to awaken.

His patience finally worn out he stood and strode across the room. Collecting a bucket from near the door he heaved the freezing cold water over the unconscious man. After a moment Varsh flung the bucket at the wall with enough force to shatter it beyond repair and stormed from the room.

Rodney opened his eyes and finally letting himself shiver he curled into a ball and whimpered. Somewhere on the edge of his consciousness he felt a twisted echo of something familiar. Weakly he reached out to try and touch the echo.

Atlantis – 2430 AST

“’Lantis, take me home. I don’t know why you’re showing me this, I don’t understand. Please, just take me home.” John begged as the phyonic presence once again hardened around him and cleared to reveal another wrecked and torn asunder Ancient ship, before projecting anger and desperation. At his begging Atlantis once again showed him the image of himself and Rodney dancing, the edge of desperation morphing to despair as Atlantis made the image darken, Rodney stepping back as John crumpled and thrashed on the ground until Rodney was gone and John faded into darkness. Despair turning to grief. An image of Atlantis appeared, her shield failing and systems crashing as the expedition members scurried like ants before a flood. Slowly the image of Rodney and John dancing reappeared and the entity projected hope towards John.

Swallowing, John hoarsely muttered.,“Point made, old girl. I’ll help you.”

Atlantis – 0600 AST

Elizabeth Weir sat at her desk with Colonel Lorne lounging against the wall behind her. In front of them Larrin slouched in a chair feet tucked up on the desk.

“We have warned you before, Larrin. Until you are prepared to give up one of your people to sit in the chair permanently as the manū0tenēre for your ship we can only patch and partially fix your ship. This technology simply wasn’t designed the way you want it to work.”

“And yet none of your people have made such a sacrifice for your city.” Larrin pulled her feet off the desk and leant forward to rest her elbows on it instead.

“We have many gene carriers capable of using the chair and we have many fine engineers capable and talented at working with this technology. You do not.” Elizabeth replied calmly. “We can address small glitches as soon as they occur rather than waiting, as you must.”

“So you would help one of my people become the manū0tenēre. I lose one of my crew and am still reliant on your people for engineering help. And how much would this cost me?” As she spoke Larrin rose to her feet and Lorne subtly moved to block her access to Elizabeth.

“Nothing, we have always offered to help you with this and as for relying on our engineers… How often do you really come to us with a hardware issue these days? But as you have been told before, I won’t train your people in the fine detail of Ancient engineering. To teach you that much about our systems would make me a fool.” Elizabeth replied softly but firmly.

Larrin glared at her for a moment before pacing down the room and back stopping in front of Lorne and speaking over his shoulder at Elizabeth.

“And giving one of my people the gift of manū0tenēre doesn’t worry you? That one of my people would know so much of the Ancients computers?”

“No,” Elizabeth replied simply.

Larrin looked at her in shock for a moment, her eyes widened in understanding and she paled abruptly.

– – –

At one of the more whole ships Atlantis paused and John felt her trying to coax something into happening. After a few moments the panel in front of them glowed and the engine systems came online. Atlantis’ familiar presence was joined by an unknown but similar entity. The two merged and separated, the new entity stroking John before being pushed off. John watched for a moment, as the two entities seemed to chat, emotions and impressions flashing too fast for him to follow before giving in and letting his eye slide shut wearily, his body and mind aching.

At the sensation of glorious hope John’s eyes shot open and he struggled upright, only to let himself fall backwards as Atlantis projected the sorrow of misunderstanding. Beneath him Atlantis flashed an image of a star map to the ship before shifting away.

– – –

Unknown –Unknown AST

Hours had passed since Varsh had last arrived to try and ‘convince’ Rodney to stop playing dead and in the silence Rodney stretched, bruised muscle cramping as he unfolded from his curled position. Shivering slightly he reached out and pulled his ruined jacket over his shoulders, hunching into the bit of protection it offered. Carefully he prodded at his broken wrist, the swelling was hard and the bruised skin was pulled taunt. 

As he dried himself off with a scrap of tee shirt Rodney reached out with his mind and poked the presence lurking at the edge of his reach. Like a scared animal the presence disappeared leaving Rodney grasping at nothing. Rodney frowned and carefully, stiffly pulled himself towards the wall. After a moment of scrabbling at nearly invisible edges, he popped a small panel off and slid a hand into the gap.

“Oh. Hello, ma chouette, no need to hide. Now let’s see how similar you are to your big sis.”

– – –

Atlantis – 0900 AST

“Are you certain? I thought…” Lorne stood beside John’s bed looking down at his friend and CO.

“It’s unusual for the symptoms to present this way, but we do know that… We know from…” Carson sighed uncomfortably and gestured vaguely at Lorne’s tattoo before finally saying. “The reports show that you had severely depressed brain function after… And while that bond wasn’t as old or well established as theirs it was strong enough that you shouldn’t be stood here. When we add to that the fact that Rodney and John have both noted that Atlantis somewhat mimics the bond they have, it is possible that she could sustain one of them if something happened to the other.” Carson said gently his brogue thickening slightly.

Lorne wrapped his hand over the tattoo, hiding it from view and watched Carson sadly as the man continued, “I can’t say for certain that Rodney is dead but given that John reads as clinically brain dead we must consider it a possibility. At this point I’m not even sure how he is still breathing; the scanner clearly shows no brain function.”

Looking around Lorne leant close and almost whispered. “Carson, just keep him alive. Atlantis is up to something, can’t you feel her distraction?”

“Aye, I can but haven’t you considered that it could be grief. It is hardly something that she is unfamiliar with. If you had lost so many wouldn’t you want to grieve alone?”

Carson slowly walked to his office motioning for the nurse on duty to follow him so Lorne could sit with his friend in private for a while. Lorne watched him leave with a broken look on his face. The fingers of his right hand gently tracing the tattoo on his wrist.

– – –

John was slumped into Atlantis, his breath coming in huffs, each one more ragged and rough than the last. His head lolled against his chest, pain resonating through his whole body from the center of his ribcage. His hands rested heavy in his lap and his eyes fluttered, barely opening before they slid shut again. The emotions coming from Atlantis had become a steady monologue of grief and loss, as though she had never before considered how many of her brethren had been lost in the war.

Around him Atlantis once more shifted and the fog cleared in front of him. Rodney crouched, naked, pressed against the cold metal wall of an Ancient warship. The tall, broad man who had snatched Rodney stood inches from him, a knife pressing slowly and steadily into Rodney’s shoulder. Blood was dripping from the wound with the sluggish flow of dehydration.

John’s eyes widened and he jerked himself from Atlantis’ hold only to collapse to the floor. John’s eyes widened when he realized that Rodney’s feet had passed straight through him.

Rodney jumped as the bond pinged and John felt him reach out, desperately trying to figure out where his husband was. The knife pushed in further and biting back a scream, Rodney, gritted out,

“I’ll fix it, I can find out what wrong. I’ll do it just .. Just don’t hurt him. I’ll do it, Varsh, I’ll do it.”

A look of confusion crossed Rodney’s captor’s face and then cleared as the man smirked. “Very well, Doctor Sheppard-McKay. You have three days before I find another way of catching your attention. I’m told you are a clever man, I am sure I do not need to warn you of the consequences.”

John looked up at Rodney in horror, from his position on the floor, as his bonded nodded and Varsh left.

As the door shut he felt Rodney reach out and embraced him mentally and projected a hope for wellbeing at him. John pushed back with promises of vengeance and rescue.

“God, John, how did he get you. You better have a plan.” Rodney muttered under his breath. John winced as he watched Rodney push himself to his feet and leaning heavily on the wall work his way over to one of the consoles lining the room. “Okay, ma chouette, play nice now. “

Exhaustion overtaking him again John let his head drop back. Atlantis gathered him up and as the fog thickened, John watched Rodney disappear and prayed that this wasn’t the last time he saw him.

Unknown –Unknown AST

Rodney looked round from his position at the console as he felt John’s presence fade and disappear again.

“What the hell is he doing to you, love.” Rodney asked quietly, before shaking his head and reaching in to the guts of the console. He flinched as his shoulder twisted and pressed a hand to the hole in his shoulder. He swallowed hard, and biting down the pain he began to rearrange crystals.

The console began to glow, flashing several times then turning off. With a huff of frustration Rodney rested his head against it and after a few breaths started again. After a few attempts Rodney turned to lean on the console and slid to the floor, one hand clutching his wound and the other pressed to the floor as he blinked to clear the dark spots from his vision. Lifting his hand from the floor he held it in front of him. Pressing on the tip of a finger he watched as the whitened skin stayed dimpled. “Water, I need water,” he muttered looking around the room.

Atlantis – 1100 AST

“’Lantis, you have to take me back. We haven’t got time for this. I need to get him.” John shouted desperately as Atlantis stopped at the warship she had awakened. She shushed him impatiently as she shared star maps and routes with the ship. The ship projected excitement and a sensation of preparing for war.

John watched in confusion, too tired to focus clearly but he desperately filed away as much as he could follow. The images of the planet they had settled Atlantis on were the only ones he recognized.

After a few moments Atlantis pulled away from the other ship with touch that was almost a caress before beginning to tow John home.

“What was all that about?” In response Atlantis showed him an image of two young women stood close, foreheads touching, identical bands woven in/to the fabric of their sleeves in a pattern John had seen every time he sat in the chair for long enough to pass out from exhaustion. Finally the women in the image moved and kissed softly and desperately. The women began to fade away and an image of a ship in battle appeared. The ship landed on a moon and all the systems turned off. One of the women appeared, she stood on the balcony of Atlantis, tears rolling down her cheeks as the Ancients abandoned the city. Leaving her alone.

“I don’t understand. Is that the ship we were on?” Around him Atlantis went quiet, drawing back and cutting off from him as she drew him home. Slowly John felt his strength returning and the sensation of a hole in his chest began to fade. His eyes grew heavy and he slipped into sleep.

– – –

John blinked slowly, his eyelids scratchy and dry. Above he could hear people talking over each other, a few times the bed was jostled or someone lifted John’s arm off the bed. Eventually he licked his lips and brokenly muttered, “I’m sleepin’ here guys. Stop with the poking.” He heard Carson huff with laughter as the talking and bustling cut off.

“Well, Colonel, it would seem that Rodney was right about those nine lives.”

A hand squeezed John’s shoulder, John forced his eyes open and looked at Lorne as his friend said, “Yeah, well, I’ve usually found that Rodney is right about most things he says.” Slumping into the chair next to the bed Lorne continued, “Sir, you really need to stop lazing about, I’m not filling in the ‘our CO nearly died, again’ paperwork for you this time.”

John frowned disapprovingly at Lorne before falling back asleep.

– – –

Atlantis – 1400 AST

“I need to go sit in the chair,” John said for the thousandth time, while weakly trying to push past Carson’s restraining arm and get to his feet. Every time he sat up he immediately flopped backwards on to the pillows.

“You can barely sit up in bed, and just came back from being dead! You’re hardly fit to be a going around exerting yourself playing with a super computer.” Carson and John stared at each other for a long moment.

“This is important.” John pleaded “Can’t you feel that ‘Lantis is trying to tell us something!”

Carson finally relented, his face softening at John’s words. “Fine, if you can get out of bed and make it in to the wheelchair you can have ten minutes. And I’m pulling you out the second any of your bio signs so much as flicker.”

John opened his mouth to argue but the Scotsman simply crossed his arms and stepped back, nodding his head to the wheelchair.

John heaved himself up off the pillows and pushed himself off the bed. More falling than standing, his knees buckling as his feet hit the ground. He slumped on the edge of the bed and pushed along it towards the wheelchair. Despite his protests Carson stepped forwards and slid his arm under John’s to help him along.

– – –

Slowly lowering himself in to the Chair John poked Atlantis’ phyonic presence and frowned when she ignored him. After a moment of thinking John pushed the image of him dancing with Rodney at her. He fast-forwarded to the part where Rodney lifted his head from John’s shoulder to catch his mouth in a kiss. Atlantis pushed the image away and replaced it with an image of a broken and bloody Rodney crumpled by a console and the image of John lying on the ground, a metallic floor under him and Rodney an arms reach away, gasping his last breath. Finally she showed him an image of her systems failing and the ship they had visited turning to tumble in to a sun.

“Whoa. No nononono, no dying, not for anyone. Just tell me where we found him. I know you know the system that planet was in. Tell me so we can work out the address. We get Rodney back and we all live happily ever after.”

Atlantis threw the image of John dying back up. “Okay, Okay. Look I promise, I swear, anything happens. If we are too late. If we don’t save him. I… I’ll come back, I’ll come back to you. I promise not to die in some strange place and leave you alone. I can’t promise I’ll survive without him but I’ll come home. I will come back to you. Please just tell me. Where is he?”

– – –

John sat up with a jerk, his breath coming in short labored huffs. He slumped, Carson grabbed him and carefully held him up. “Paper, a tablet, something. I need to write this down,” John garbled, rushing the words. Someone shoved a tablet in to his hands and he quickly drew a set of coordinates on to it before passing it back. “Gate address for there. ASAP,” he ordered, letting himself lean in to Carson heavily.

“I need to see Elizabeth.” He said twisting his head to look at Carson.

“No, you need to rest.” Carson replied sliding his arm around John’s shoulders to help him back to the wheelchair.

“I can rest later, I need to see her now. She has to know. To prepare. And Lorne. I need to … “ John grimaced with pain and pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. “Carson, it’s important. And I can rest while they figure out the address.”

– – –

Carson delivered John to the briefing room and then planted himself in a chair, almost daring someone to make him leave. Elizabeth sat at the head of the table and Lorne planted himself next to John, his hands neatly folded on the table in front of him, sleeves pushed up to reveal a delicate script tattoo running around his wrist.”

“How are you feeling? Should you be out of bed?” Elizabeth asked glancing at Carson who shrugged in a ‘what can you do’ kinda way. Lorne frowned at her and shifted slightly towards John defensively.

“ I’m fine.”

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him and after moment said to Carson, “And the translation of that would be…?”

“He’s okay to be out of bed if he uses the chair and actually rests instead of haring around like a fool.”

Lorne snorted and shared a look with John who looked at him innocently.

“Okay, I’m going to talk, you are both going to listen and then we go get Rodney back. Okay?”

Lorne and Elizabeth both nodded. Lorne pulled a voice recorder from his pocket and dropped it in to the middle of the table after switching it on.

“One of Rodney’s minions has the star coordinates of the location where Atlantis and I found Rodney. They are working out a gate address now.” Elizabeth opened her mouth but John spoke right over her. “When you brought me back to Atlantis she reached out to me phyonicly. I didn’t know she could do that without me being sat in the chair but there you go.”

“The running theory has always been that those with a bond mate, or those who have been bonded, use an extra part of their brain and it would seem Atlantis can connect to that.” John shrugged as Lorne nodded in agreement with him.

“It would also seem that Atlantis holds a connection to all the Ancient vessels that were part of her defense or offence. Believe me the dollar tour was a depressing mess of wreckage, I wouldn’t recommend it. We found one ship, which was partially functional, and she seemed to be able to get some information off it. Rodney was on one of the ships we visited shortly after that, he is being held by a man called Varsh. He wants Rodney to fix the ship. I don’t think he can.

Atlantis went back to the ship that she spoke to; I think she was directing it here. She was trying to tell me something about the bonded but I couldn’t really follow. She seems pretty certain that if Rodney or I die she’s going to…” John trailed off and they all sat in silence for a moment.

Elizabeth leaned forward and switched the recorder off. “Whatever you need, gentlemen.” She said softly before leaving.

“I’ll organize a recon team, I’m sure that a gang of blood-thirsty marines are already gathering around Ronon somewhere waiting for orders to go get our man.”

“Lorne,” John said “I’ll be in my office.”

As Carson started to argue, Lorne cut in saying, “I’ll make sure he rests, and uses the chair.”

Carson looked at Lorne with an expression which spoke volumes about how much he did not want to argue with the Colonel. After a few moments Carson nodded and pushed the wheelchair towards John. He left the room, taking great care to not touch Lorne on his way out.

– – –

“He’s alive, Evan, I have to hold on to that. I saw him, he was alive and we know where he is. I need you to make this all go smoothly, just be your usual efficient self and we’ll get through this.” John lounged behind his desk, feet up, his chair twisted to face Lorne, who was perched on an uncomfortable looking sofa off to one side of the room. The pile of paperwork that had been on the sofa was dumped on the floor in front of the desk.

“Sir… John, I need you to stay here. Let me and the Marines go get him. You look half dead, hell according to the Doc you were dead for a while back there. I need you to stay here and let me get on with my job.” Lorne let his head drop to one side and rest on his lightly curled hand as he waited for John’s response, his expression tired and resigned.

“Evan, I can’t stay here while you do all the hard work.” John quirked a smile at Lorne across the table before continuing, “Besides I’m the one who knows exactly where he is. I’m going with you.”

Lorne lent forwards and softly said, “Without Rodney, Atlantis will fall. If he had never come with us we wouldn’t have survived. Things are good enough now that maybe it will all hold together but it will be harder than ever. He knows her better than anyone else, he gets Ancient tech in a way no one else does and if he dies, we will fight every day and barely survive.” He paused taking a deep breath.

“But you? You are like ‘Lantis’ long lost son, if we lose you she’ll go dark. She won’t fade or shut us out. She’ll give up! I know she can form a bond with you, one that will hold you over. Nothing will replace Rodney if it comes to that. It doesn’t feel the same, it’s like part of you rots away. When you wake up, for the first few days it’s like you have been stabbed over and over. But slowly it gets better. I wake up every day and wish that I hadn’t. But Atlantis? She keeps me alive and functioning. She hates to loose her children. If anyone knows that it’s me.” Lorne’s right hand slid over his left wrist and gently he ran his thumb across the name on the underside. “But I need you to stay here and survive, whatever we find on the other side.”

John ran his tongue across his lips and sighed, “Evan… I can’t do that… you know that really.”

Around them Atlantis’ mental presence flexed and filled with sorrow at them. Lorne flinched sharply at the contact.

Unknown –Unknown AST

The door slid open and a thin arm appeared. It deposited a bucket of water just inside the room before the door slid shut. Rodney dragged himself away from the components he had scattered around him and crawled over to the bucket of water that had been dumped inside the door. He fought the urge to gulp down several large mouthfuls and instead caught a small handful and sipped it. Slowly he rinsed his broken wrist and hand before lowering it in to the icy water. Pulling himself up to the wall he rested against it and taking up another handful of water he closed his eyes and reached out for John. When the water in his hand was gone he thumped his head against the wall in frustration.

After repeating this a few times he gently washed the raw, inflamed wound in his shoulder, hissing every time he touched it. “Definitely infected,” he muttered.

– – –

“Okay, let’s try this John’s way then,” Rodney muttered as the console flared and died for the twentieth time. He pulled the crystals out, again, unhooked the wires and then, quietly murmuring endearments to the console, he patted it with his swollen hand, which was mottled with bruises. Taking a deep breath he began to plug the wires in to yet another arrangement, before feeding the crystals back in. Pulling himself up on to his knees he pressed a button on the top and crooned, “Come on, sweetheart, you know you wanna play nice. Just come online and work for a little while and I will… I will flirt with you for as long as you want!”

The console came online with a soft hum and after flashing for a few moments it settled down “Well, at least John didn’t hear me trying his method.” He huffed. Across the room a large screen flickered on and Rodney looked up at it for a moment before dropping his head against the console and whimpering, “Corrupted! Great!”

– – –

Several hours later Rodney arched his back and half rolled his shoulders before whimpering in pain and pressing a hand to the wound in his shoulder. “Really, very definitely infected,” he murmured,

“I wouldn’t concern yourself overly with that, Doctor Sheppard-McKay. You have a day and a half to fix my ship and you really don’t seem to be doing very well.”

Rodney barely had time to flinch before Varsh grabbed his injured shoulder and heaved him to his feet, as Rodney screamed. He twisted him so they were face to face and lowering his head to millimeters away from Rodney’s he whispered, “If you want to save him, work faster. Don’t think I haven’t seen you talking to him. If you fail I will destroy him and find another.” Rodney gasped in shock and then gagged at the rancid breath of the man in front of him. Varsh dropped him to the floor and walked away.

Rodney sat and when he was alone he quietly laughed. “He though I meant you, ma chouette.” Rodney suddenly sat up a little straighter and pulling himself to the console he muttered, “Show me where you hide your subspace transmitter.”

– – –

Atlantis –1730 AST

Lorne walked in to the ready room on Atlantis and stopped short at the sight in front of him.

“Sir, we thought we would take the initiative and prepare for the retrieval of the Doc.” A female marine with Major insignia on her uniform said, as Lorne looked around the room taking in the neatly packed selection of weaponry.

“You know, Cadman, you never do things half-hearted do you? I presume that you lot are ready to make war on this fucker? And should I be worried that Ronon isn’t in here?”

The Major turned back to her packing with a laugh, “I do know how to party, Sir. He went to get more power bars and find the Colonel. He was muttering something about the doc eating him if he didn’t have chocolate ones? And you only need point us in the right direction sir.” She replied with a hard edge to her voice.

– – –

Unknown –Unknown AST

Rodney shivered with cold even as sweat ran down his face. The crystal he was holding rattled against the console casing as he lifted it out of the machine. After putting it down he held his hand out in front of him and watched it tremor. “Come on, that’s enough now,” he slurred, staring at his hand until the tremor passed. He reached back in to the console and firmly pushed a large crystal down before rotating it slightly. The screen on the other side of the room cleared and then filled with orderly lines of code. “ Good girl, that’ll do nicely.”

He shakily pushed himself to his feet and staggered over to the first console he had fixed. “Okay, here’s hoping that this just works.” He typed a long series of Ancient numbers in to the console slowly with his good hand then waited. “Well I guess it was bit much to ask wasn’t it.” He snapped.

 

Atlantis –1900 AST

“Sir, Dr Zelenka is ready to send a MALP.” The gate technician on rotation announced over the radio.

Abandoning his dinner, Lorne raced out of the mess towards the Sheppard-McKay’s quarters, shouting for people to clear the way as he ran. Arriving just as John opened the door he slowed to a walk and waited to see if the man would fall over. Ronon walked out behind Sheppard and nodded to Lorne. Lorne grabbed the abandoned wheelchair from the corridor.

“Really?” John asked, as he let go of the doorframe and slowly began to walk toward the gate room.

“At the moment, sir, I am continually stunned that you are even moving.” Lorne replied snippily, leaving the wheelchair in favor of holding John up.

“Well you clearly don’t think I’m about to drop dead any more if you’re back to sir-ing me. I thought I’d managed to break you for a while there and Jack already told me that I don’t get a new XO if I break you.”

Lorne laughed while shaking his head. As they got into the transporter Lorne sent an ETA over the radio, and when they got out Ronon peeled off and headed towards the ready room.

– – –

“We are receiving telemetry. It’s a space gate.” The gate technician said.

Radek walked over and quickly typed on the laptop connected to the MALP before nodding in agreement.

“There is no sign of a ship on the visual transmission and it would seem the planet the gate was orbiting was destroyed some time ago, the whole region is filled with asteroids.” “ Radek said shaking his head.

“Atlantis told me he was there. I saw him,” John muttered desperately, leaning into the monitor.

“I’ll try asking, perhaps she’ll tell me something more.” Lorne said walking off towards the Chair room. John looked after him as though he wanted to follow but Elizabeth stuck her head out of her office door and pointedly pushed a wheelie office chair at him.

– – –

“I get the distinct impression that I just got to see the collective intelligence of the expedition be disparaged by a computer.” Lorne muttered to John when he arrived back in the gate room.

John hummed in agreement with a knowing smile. “Radek, how close is that space gate to the coordinates you were given?”

Radek looked at the untidy scrawl on his tablet for a moment before pulling up an ancient star map. “Ah, some distance, about two hours travel by Jumper,” The scientist eventually said holding the map up for them to see.

“Cadman, lets go with plan B,” Lorne snapped into his radio “Sir, I really don’t think you should come with us.” He said turning and offering the Colonel a hand up.

“I know you don’t, but I still am.” John replied as he started down the steps to the ready room. “By the way, what is Plan B?”

Unknown –Unknown AST

“…I will always love you.” Rodney stopped speaking and started stabbing buttons on the console “Okay, message…attached.” Rodney muttered typing on the console for a moment “Then the ID code for ‘Lantis” He frowned and typed again. “Then hit ‘send’.”

He waited. The console beeped and a red symbol flashed on the screen. Rodney slumped against the console and slid to the floor. He let himself lie in a crumpled heap for a moment before he reached into the console and tugged a wire out, he hissed as the movement made something in his wrist grate painfully. “And send!” he muttered stabbing the ‘send’ button again. The console beeped and Rodney quickly pushed the wire back in. There was a second beep and out of the corner of his eye Rodney saw a green string of symbols come up on the screen and he quietly went “Yay!” before leaning in to the console and shutting his eyes.

Atlantis –2000 AST

John walked in to the Jumper bay with Lorne only to be nearly swept off his feet by Ronon hugging him. “Hey, what’s with the hugs, big guy? And I though I told you to stop hanging ‘round with Cadman. She’s a bad influence, or you’re a bad influence on her, I’m not sure which is more true,” he said as the large man let go and patted him on the shoulder a few times.

Ronon shrugged at the questions, pulled John into the Jumper then pushed him in to the pilot seat. Just before Ronon could settle in to the co-pilot seat Lorne arrived and looked at him. Ronon carefully slid out of the way and sat in the seat behind John instead.

John twisted carefully and watched as a seemingly endless stream of Marines piled in to the back of the jumper, carrying what seemed like half the armory with them.

“Evan, are you sure we need the Browning M2s and the AT4s? It is a spaceship.” John asked shaking his head.

Lorne shrugged and pointed at Cadman saying, “The Major packed.”

“What can I say Sir? I know how to throw a party. Better to have more than you think you need,” she said, smiling and settling in to the chair next to Ronon.

“Did Zelenka say two hours?” Lorne nodded at John’s question. “God… Right huddle up you lot.” He raised the ramp and then after a moment’s consideration thought the door shut between the rear and fore compartments. At Lorne’s look he said, “That many marines in a small space? It’s gonna get ripe.” Behind them Cadman laughed.

“Control, we’re ready for departure.” Lorne said in to his headset while shaking his head.

– – –

“ Sir, I’m picking up something on the sensors.” Lorne said about an hour in to the trip.

“Yeah I saw it. The Jumper just pinged it.”

“Bringing up a scan on the HUD. Huh, well that got closer.” Lorne said in surprise. John frowned and pulled up the schematics for the ship.

“That is not the ship Rodney was on. He was in the engine room and the one he was in didn’t have a window there,” he said pointing. “And the ship Rodney was on barely had enough power for life support and the engines were completely disabled. This ship is fully online,” he said as the Jumper brought up a return ping from the ship.

“I think we should board her,” Lorne and John said at the same time before looking at each other and frowning.

– – –

John pushed the Jumper forwards and into the launch bay of the ship. He neatly landed in the middle of the bay. As they landed Cadman radioed the men in the back to let them know what was happening.

“Life support is functioning at 100%, and the external shield just went back up, no life signs out there,” John said after a moment on the ground.

“Sir, in the interest of bio-hazard control might I advise we open the ramp before the bulkhead?” Cadman asked when John twisted his chair around to stand.

“Seriously?” At Cadman’s rapid nodding he motioned for her to press the button to lower the ramp. After a moment he opened the bulkhead, Lorne helped John to his feet then through the main part of the jumper. “We need to have words with the guys in the mess. That is not natural,” John muttered. Beneath their feet the ship began to move and he quickly ordered the men to clear a path to the bridge.

– – –

The ship moved through the solar system without leaping to hyperspace for nearly three quarters of an hour before John felt the ship poke him in the direction of the view screen.

In front of them was the remnants of a huge battle, Wraith and Ancient ships floating damaged and abandoned in a field of debris. Latched on to one of the ships was a small vessel similar to a shrunken Endeavor shuttle.

“That’s the Yenedas launcher!” Ronon suddenly exclaimed, pointing at the shuttle.

“It’s Satedan?” John said looking at Ronon, who nodded explaining,

“It was used to explore our system but I though it was destroyed just before the Wraith came. We lost contact with it and assumed that it was destroyed by them as they entered the system.” The large man shrugged. “Perhaps it was taken by the Travellers when they came to look for survivors. It was based off some of their designs, they could have used it. It’s small enough to fit through the gate.”

John looked at it for a moment before asking the ship to pull up a scan of the other vessel. He studied it for a moment and then tapped his radio.

“Back to the shuttle boys and girl. Time to party.”

Unknown –Unknown AST

“I’m nearly done, I swear… Look, you see that screen. That being on means the main computer is running. I just need to figure out what’s wrong with the engine. Then I can fix it. A day at most.” Rodney babbled at his captor from his position hunched against a console.

The man, who had woken Rodney up with a kick to the ribs, smiled cruelly and sneered. “You are a poor liar, Doctor McKay-Sheppard. I have watched you stumble about begging this machine or that to work. You have no idea how to fix this do you? You have already passed my deadline. I don’t have the time to wait for you to stumble your way through fixing this ship. The Genii lied to me, you aren’t a ‘brilliant’ mechanic. You are an inept fool. Capturing you was a waste of my time.”

Rodney looked at the man in horror as he pulled a wicked looking knife out of his belt.

“Time to cut my losses and move on. Perhaps someone else will prove more successful. Do not worry, I’m not cruel enough to leave you to starve,” he said with a smile, crouching down in front of Rodney.

Rodney weakly tried to pull himself around the console and away from Varsh but the burning pain from his shoulder, his badly damaged wrist, and the constant shaking had made him too weak.

Varsh cupped Rodney’s face with one hand and pressed a kiss to his lips as he slid the knife under Rodney’s ribs and up toward his throat. He pulled it out and walked away.

Rodney gasped a cut off breath. He pressed a hand to the wound. Hard but not hard enough. He felt John enter the edge of his phyonic reach. Gasping a breath outwards he tasted blood in his mouth. It began to run down his chin.

He heard gunfire and shouting echoing through the ship. Desperately he tried to focus on breathing. His hand clutched to his stomach.

Puddle Jumper 3 –2200 AST

“You know what to do. Lets go get our geek.” Major Cadman said as she pulled the lever to lower the ramp in the Jumper. Turning she saw Lorne helping Sheppard to tighten his TAC vest, muttering to him in a tone too low to hear. Lorne nodded at her as she headed out of the Jumper and began ordering the marines to clear a route to the engine room. She heard boots clatter down the ramp. A loud gasp echoed behind her. Twisting she saw Lorne holding Sheppard up as Sheppard pressed a hand to just below his ribs.

“Let’s speed this up gentlemen,” she quickly announced over the radio, as Sheppard straightened up and bolted down the corridor, Beretta in hand.

– –

Rodney wheezed a breath and desperately tried to press harder on the wound, his hand slipping on the blood. He dragged another breath in, shorter than the last. The scientific part of his brain calculating the odds of survival for every centiliter of blood lost. Keeping count of how much shorter each breath was.

Mentally reaching out to John through the bond he latched on. Pulled him forwards projecting desperation. Urgency.

– – –

Feeling Rodney’s desperation, John pushed love and reassurance back at him as he slid down a stair rail to the same level as Rodney. He saw a tall man running down the corridor and fired at him, only stopping when the marines overtook him. They split up, some following the stranger and the others waiting for John.

John focused for a moment and then set off in Rodney’s direction. Doors on the ship shuddered half open seconds before he reached them and lights flickered weakly trying to light his way.

Bursting through the door into the engine room, John raced across the room and dropped to his knees at Rodney’s side pulling Rodney’s sticky blood-soaked hand away and replacing it with his. Beneath him Rodney whimpered and tried to move away.

“See, I always find you. Just hold still, it’s gonna be fine. Okay?” He leant forward and pressed a kiss to Rodney’s lips as a Corpsman arrived and quickly applied a pressure bandage. At the man’s prompting John pressed his hand back over the bandage. Listening to Rodney’s chest the Corpsman reached into his bag and produced a decompression kit. He caught Rodney’s hand, careful of the bruised and swollen wrist, and pressed it into John’s, telling him to keep a tight hold. Carefully measuring up Rodney’s chest he slid the needle in and after a relived look at the hiss he grabbed tape and quickly fastened the needle in place.

John lent forward to kiss Rodney again and heard him trying to speak. He lent closer and heard “Chair… manū tenēre.” John dropped back on his haunches in shock before shouting “Ronon, now!”

At John’s order a Marine bolted from the room.

Lorne dropped in to the position the Corpsman had just abandoned saying, “Hey, Doc, we’re gonna get you home now. Back to Carson’s careful care.”

Touching John’s arm to get him to look at him, Lorne shook his head to let him know Varsh had escaped and said, “I’ve got everyone ready to sort back to the Jumper.”

Ronon arrived and crouching next to John he slid one arm under Rodney’s knees and the other under his shoulders. Carefully he lifted him off the floor cradling him to his chest.

Crowded into the Jumper the marines squeezed in as far as they could. Giving their CO as much space as possible. Ronon sat next to John with one hand resting on Rodney’s knee and one shoulder pressed against John’s. Lorne set the Jumper down gently on the bay floor and lowered the ramp. Ronon smoothly lifted Rodney up and following John carried him to the Chair room and placed him into the Chair. As they watched the Chair glowed and the consoles in the room brightened then powered down.

“No, no. What are you doing,” John shouted rushing over to one of the consoles and trying to get it to reactivate. Behind him Rodney choked, “John…” and John quickly crossed back to him. He pressed kisses against his lips until he stopped kissing him back. Leaning away slightly John felt a final breath ghost across his face.

John wrapped his hands around Rodney’s shoulders and gently shook him. “Don’t do this, don’t leave me. I need you. Please.” His voice broke as in his head John felt the Bond, which had roared to life when he met Rodney, fade and dim. He sobbed once before catching himself and trying to control it.

Focused on Rodney he softly petted his face not even noticing as the ship began to push them out of the room with a series of pokes. Ronon and Lorne caught John between them and led the limp man out of the room. The door slammed shut and sealed. John broke free of their grasp easily and pressed himself against the door.

“John, right now it seems impossible. I can’t imagine losing someone you have had for so long. How much harder that must be. But you can survive. Life won’t seem worth it some days. I told you that. But you can survive. You have to live a good life and make the sacrifice worth it. You cannot give up.” Lorne leant against the door so he was face to face with John. But John had his eyes shut, his head down, forehead resting against the door.

“Evan. Take me home. Leave me alone and take me home.” John begged brokenly letting himself slide to the floor. He curled against the door as though wishing he could push through the metal.

Lorne and Ronon looked at their friend for a moment and then abiding by his wishes they walked away, leaving him to grieve in piece. As they turned the corner blinding white light seeped from under the Chair room door.

Storming onto the bridge of the ship Evan dropped into the weapons control seat and with cold, calm focus he fired first on the Ancient ship and then, after maneuvering forwards a little, he targeted the fleeing Yenedas Launcher and with a great deal of pleasure watched the drones swarm and destroy it.

– – –

It took a day to return to Atlantis in the warship via hyper drive. John refused to move from his vigil by the door and Ronon took up position just out of his sight. The marines moved like ghosts around the ship taking an inventory of what was where. When they arrived Lorne landed the ship on the west pier and quietly radioed to let Elizabeth and Carson know that Rodney hadn’t made it.

Evan walked down to the Chair room to convince his friend to let the medical staff and Radek’s team get into the Chair room and collect the body. When he arrived John was gone, the door was open and the Chair empty.

“Gate room, where is Colonel Sheppard’s life sign showing up?” he asked as he quickly made his way off the ship.

“Sorry, sir, Atlantis is hiding him from us.”

“Damn,” he muttered as he hurried across the pier and into the city, suddenly realizing where the man would have gone.

– – –

John stood in front of the Chair, one hand resting on the arm. Reaching out he touched Atlantis’ presence. Closing his eyes the world around him filled with fog. Atlantis sent him the image of two women dancing, parting and then an image she had never shown him, one of the women sat in Atlantis’ Chair and the other in the warship’s, the rooms sealed, light flooded from under the door. The doors opened and the women were gone. She showed him Rodney and himself dancing, and then parting. Rodney sitting in the chair but John walking away. Letting Lorne lead him off only to fade and die. Images filled his mind of Atlantis failing, but this time overlaying the grief and sadness Atlantis felt was the sense of Rodney waiting alone, grieving forever. The ship tumbling into the sun and finally Rodney fading.

Opening his eyes John staggered and tears silently trickling down his face he walked to the Chair and sat down. The chair span and as the door shut John saw Evan racing down the corridor shouting his name, a look of horror and grief on his face.

– – –

Evan slammed into the doors at full pelt hammering against them, screaming for Atlantis to open them. Light seeped around the edges and Evan hit the floor sobbing.

Atlantis –2 days later

“Dr Weir, Colonel Lorne? I’m receiving a subspace message through the Ancient relay,” the gate technician on duty announced over the radio.

Lorne cleared his throat before replying, “Go ahead and play it.” He lifted his head from the desk with a sigh, his eyes sunken and red. A few seconds later, Elizabeth sent the same request adding, “Private channel, the Colonel and I only.”

The message began to play, Rodney’s weak and hoarse voice immediately recognizable. Lorne sat up straight, reached for his tablet and began to transcribe the message.

“John, there is a part of me that wants to believe you will get here in time but I don’t know how long I can stall for. I’m going to die out here but I don’t want you to think I died alone.” Rodney paused, his breath rasping painfully. Lorne winced at the sound. “I don’t want to imagine you feeling that pain for the rest of your life. Every time I look at Evan I see that pain and I don’t… I’m not alone, I will never be alone. Remember that. ” Lorne abandoned his tablet and buried his head in his hands, shoulders shaking.

“I give you my mind, my all. Everything that I am. Everything that I could be is yours. John, we have lived our lives intertwined. Like all bonded I will miss nothing of your future because it will be our future. You will remember and live for me. When our souls meet again I will know you lived a good life. I will always love you.”

Lorne sat in silence for a long moment after the message ended. He felt a familiar presence brush at the edges of his mind comfortingly. Frowning he shook his head and then took several deep breaths before pressing a kiss to the tattoo on his wrist and then pushing back from his desk. He radioed the technician and asked for a copy of the message to be forwarded to him as he headed out of the office, tablet in hand.

– – –

“Carson?” Lorne lent in the doorway to Carson’s office and watched as the other man jumped at the sound of his voice. Quickly recovering Carson offered him a seat.

“You know no-one would think anything of it if you took me up on those sleeping pills,” the doctor muttered softly. “I can’t imagine what this must feel like.”

“John has. Had. Been leaving all his paperwork to me for years, so it’s not like that’s a sudden shock. I… I just hadn’t realized how much time he spent talking to the men, or just sitting where the officers could find him, or wrangling the scientists.”He smiled sadly leaning back in the chair. “I keep hoping that he’ll do a Jackson or that they both will but … it’ll get better. A couple more weeks and everyone will start to settle.” The two men sat across from each other body language awkward. Eventually Lorne dropped his tablet on the desk and rolled his chair around so he was sat next to Carson. Carson leant away carefully moving his arm to avoid touching him.

“There was a message,” Lorne said softly, flicking through screens on his tablet to the media player. “It arrived about half an hour ago. I didn’t want you to be alone when… Anyway…” He cleared his throat and hit play. Watching Carson’s face carefully he slid his hand across the desk, palm upwards, as the man began to chew his lip. Carson reached out and slowly traced the familiar cursive script of his own name on Lorne’s wrist.

Eventually Rodney’s voice petered out and Carson quietly said, “I’m sorry. I am so sorry that I’m not him. I remember everything that he knew, I love you as much as he did but I don’t know how to make this better.” Evan let his head drop heavily onto Carson’s shoulder as he curled his hand around the other man’s.

Epilogue

Warmth filled the phyonic plane as John and Rodney curled around each other, tendrils of emotions and light flowing from their shared mass. Two streams of data ran a few paces away from them, one with an image of the city above it, the other with the image of the warship.

“You broke Lorne!” John muttered accusingly as they looked over at where the man in question was leaning on the almost perfect replica of his bonded, head tucked firmly against his chest.

“Nope. Actually… Okay maybe I did.” Rodney replied with a frown. “To be fair I didn’t expect to have to watch people listen to my deathbed confession. Would it help if I said that I have figured out how to fix Carson and by extension Lorne?”

“Humm?”

“Well actually I’ve figured out how you can fix him but… Same thing really.”

“Okay, and how am I meant to fix him then? “

“Ascension machine, well actually it’s more of a DNA recoder. We couldn’t find a manual for it but we have… they have an inside man now. ” Rodney smiled at him before adding “You go sweet talk ‘Lantis into letting me alter the program.” At John’s look he added. “I’m going to go back to trying to get Radek to realize that we are literally ghosts in the machine, city…Ship.” he shrugged.

John smiled at him before brushing a finger over Lorne’s arm. The man twitched, John reached out and poked him in the junction where shoulder and neck meet. Lorne frowned and without sitting up muttered.

“Sir, if you poke me once more I swear I will make you do your own paperwork for a…” Lorne suddenly sat up. “You pair of bastards! I have to find Radek,” he shouted over his shoulder racing from the room. Carson watched him run from the room with a small frown on his face.

John laughed as Rodney muttered, “I almost feel insulted on Radek’s behalf that the Art Major managed to work that out first. I’ve spent days trying to communicate with him and you manage to establish contact with one finger!” Standing, John walked in to the flow of data and after a few moments he threw a line of symbols into other stream.

John drew back and looked over at Rodney, who was still sat on the floor pouting. Projecting amusement he pushed an image at Rodney showing him a memory from their wedding day. In front of them hovered a younger Rodney with a slight smile on his face and his hand wrapped around John’s. John sauntered back across the room quoting in time with the projection to say:

“As one we will live. Two bodies, two minds, two souls, one life. Everything that I am you are, all that you shall become is that which I will be. Intertwined, our futures will play out beyond death. I shall live on in you as you will live on in me. I bond to you now as I always have and always will.”

 

About the author

Pickingupellen

PickingupEllen is a fanfiction writer and fanartist from Scotland who no longer lives in the sticks.

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