Series: Moments Sacred and Profane

Title: MSP14: In Your Eyes Reflected

Author: Mice


Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Beckett

Warnings: slash, dark angst, hurt/comfort, character torture, violence

Spoilers: season one up to The Brotherhood

Rating: R

Summary: On an offworld mission, Rodney and Carson are captured. Very Bad Things happen.

Archive: If it's on your list, you can archive it. If it isn't and you'd like it, just let me know where you're putting it.

Feedback: Feed me, Seymour.

Website: Mice's Hole in the Wall


Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to many other people. But if they were mine, they'd be having very interesting adventures.

Author's Notes: In this story, I've tweaked the Brotherhood timeline slightly. Instead of two weeks, Atlantis has three before the events of The Siege 1 & 2. Beta creds to Abylity and zortified for their great help with this installment, as always.




Ri taobh nan sruthan coimheach

Shuidh mi agus ghuil mi


Beside the alien streams

I sat down and wept

            ~~Roderick Macdonald, from Daorach~~


"Over here, McKay," Geoff called out. "I think we've got some traces of naquadah."


Rodney looked up from the notes on the bench to see what Osbourne was shouting about. "I'll be there with the scanner in a minute." He turned to Carson and Ford. "I'll be back."


Rodney pulled the scanner from one of his vest pockets and trotted over to join Geoff. "What makes you think naquadah?" He looked at the scanner's readout.


"See the color of the rock here? It's one of the distinctive signs on the worlds where we find the stuff." Geoff pointed to a purplish vein in the stone of the outcropping.


Rodney hmmed. "I think you're right. There's not a lot here, but..." he waved the scanner around. "Over there maybe." He pointed off to the left, toward a crescent-shaped rise in the hillside. "The readings are stronger from that direction. Maybe we can get a mining team in and pull enough to refine for one generator."


"That could take a week," Geoff said, nodding. "We have enough time, though. If we get one of the Jumpers here to haul a few loads, we might be able to pull it off." They started toward the stronger reading.


Yesterday, Rodney had discovered there were three Wraith Hive ships heading for Atlantis. Today, he was poking around looking for rocks on some godforsaken dump of a planet. The locals there had heard about Carson's work on Hoff and said that if the Atlanteans wanted trade with them of any sort, they wanted Carson there to help them with a vaccine they'd been trying to develop for a disease unique to their planet.


Carson had been reluctant to come. He had shuddered at the mention of Hoff, not wanting to be reminded. Elizabeth had pointed out that if naquadah was in fact found on Bakla, they needed it, and desperately. It wasn't a point Carson could dispute, so he had agreed.


And so Rodney found himself running around the countryside with Osbourne. He nodded to himself. "Oh, yeah. This does look promising."


"Good, good," Geoff said. He scribbled some notes on his palmtop. "It's the first time I've actually seen it for myself. I've only seen photos before."


"Okay, we can radio Atlantis and have them get a mining team in here ASAP," Rodney said. "I want them working by nightfall."


Geoff nodded. "Well then, we've got about three hours. I'm beat. Where's the food?"


Rodney nodded back toward where Carson was sitting, talking to Ford. Teyla was out walking the perimeter with Sheppard, neither of whom were anywhere in sight. "MREs," he said as they walked. "We have the mac and cheese. My favorite."


Geoff made a disgusted face. "God, how can you eat that crap?"


"It's not crap. It's the U.S. military's finest." Rodney grinned at him.


"In other words, crap." Geoff snorted.


"What's crap?" Ford asked, looking at them as they walked up.


"MREs," Geoff said.


Carson nodded sagely. "Aye, crap."


"Could be worse," Ford said.


Carson and Geoff turned to him. "How?" they asked, in stereo.


"Could be the meatloaf. Looks and smells like dog food."


Carson grimaced and Geoff turned a slight shade of green.


"Meatloaf's not bad at all," Rodney said. He reached for the pack with the MREs in it. "How did it go today, Carson?"


Carson sighed, taking one of the MREs from him. "Well, it's not as desperate as they've made out. The disorder has a high mortality rate but it's not at epidemic level by any means. There seem to be some genetic links, which is why it's confined to this planet, thank god." He opened the meal and stared at it. "I can help them, though. And if you do find naquadah here, then it'll be well worth the time and effort. We won't make much progress in three weeks, though."


"The Baklavans seem like okay people," Ford said. Everyone turned and stared at him.


"Baklans," Geoff said. "Trust me, you don't want to try to explain the joke to them."


"No wonder Sheppard never lets you name anything," Rodney said as he opened his own meal. He sat at the bench with them. Carson's panic attack yesterday had left him nervous and on edge. He'd been very concerned about bringing Carson on an offworld mission, but the Baklans had asked for him specifically. It seemed his reputation preceded him.


"We need you back home more, Carson," Rodney said.


"Truth to tell, I'd rather be there than here." Carson sat next to him and Geoff and Ford joined them across the bench.


A few minutes later, Sheppard and Teyla returned. "Looks good so far," Sheppard said. "Any luck?"


Rodney and Geoff both nodded. "I think we've found enough indications to justify a mining team," Geoff said.


"Great!" Sheppard said. "That's great news. We should report back and get a team here tonight."


"That's what I was saying," Rodney told him, mouth full of food.


"God, McKay, that's disgusting. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full?" Sheppard pulled meals out for himself and Teyla.


"Usually she just told me to shut up," Rodney said, rolling his eyes. He stuffed another bite in his mouth.


"This is really exciting, though," Geoff said. "I can't wait to get started. I finally feel like I'm able to contribute something useful to this mission."


"Naquadah's certainly useful," Sheppard said, nodding.


"Great for blowing stuff up," Ford added, grinning broadly.


Teyla tilted her head. "This is the material you use in the generators that power the City of the Ancestors, is it not?"


Ford nodded. "Yep. And if you add it to explosives, it gives you way more bang for your buck."


She looked puzzled at the colloquialism, but just said, "This will be a very good thing, then."


"I don't think there's enough here for more than one generator," Rodney said, "but it's certainly better than nothing."


"I just hope we've got time to get the generator made and working," Carson said. "Losing one to destroy the nanovirus was a terrible blow."


"But necessary," Sheppard said, giving Carson a significant look.


Carson sighed and nodded. "Oh, I know, believe me. I just worry about the sacrifices we've all had to make."


Rodney quietly slipped a hand to Carson's lower back, rubbing absently. "We're all doomed anyway," he said. One naquadah generator wasn't going to make a real difference in the coming battle. It certainly wouldn't be enough to power the shield -- even with all their generators intact they hadn't been able to do that. What they desperately needed was a ZedPM, and they should be looking for one instead of piddling around with naquadah ore.


"Come on, McKay, you're the answer man. There must be something that'll work," Sheppard said.


Rodney nodded. "Yes. Find me a fully charged ZedPM. That'll work." Idiot.


Carson finished his meal then stood and stretched. "I've been indoors all day and I don't get much chance to enjoy the trees. I think I'll go for a walk." He looked over at Sheppard. "You say the perimeter's clear?" he asked uneasily.


Sheppard nodded. "Yeah, but stay sharp. Ford, you wanna go with him?"


"I'll go," Rodney said.


"Take your P90 with you," Sheppard told him.


Rodney snorted. "Like I'm gonna go anywhere offworld unarmed." He looked at Carson. The sidearm he'd been issued was strapped to his thigh, just as it should be. "Gimme two minutes to finish up here, Carson."


Carson smiled. "I can do that."


"You two play nice," Sheppard said with a grin. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."


Carson and Rodney both gave him a sour look. "I just want to go for a walk, Major," Carson said tiredly.


"If we didn't do anything you wouldn't do, we might as well not be seeing each other," Rodney snorted. He finished his meal and rose. "Come on, Carson." He gestured toward the treeline with his head.


"Stay in radio contact," Sheppard said.


"Yes, mum," Carson flipped back at him. They both grinned.


It only took a couple of minutes to get into the trees. Carson took a deep breath as they entered the forest, and seemed to relax a bit. His eyes flicked here and there, finally gaining a distant quality that Rodney suspected meant his thoughts were somewhere else entirely.


"What are you thinking about?" Rodney asked.


Carson didn't answer for a long moment but then he shrugged. "Home, mostly," he said.


Rodney slid an arm around his shoulders as they walked. "If we get through this, I'll find a way for us to get home," he promised. Carson sighed and nodded.


"I'm afraid we won't get through it." There was fear and resignation in his voice.


Rodney's gut tightened. "So am I," he said quietly.


Carson stopped and turned to look at him. "You know I love you."


Rodney nodded. "I know." They looked into each other's eyes then turned and walked on in silence.


It wasn't long before the Major radioed them with news that the mining operation was a go and a crew was on their way. "Excellent," Rodney replied. "We'll be back later. Osbourne can give them their mission briefing."


"Right. Sheppard out."


They found a quiet spot overlooking a clearing and sat until it was dusk, then slowly made their way back toward the campsite. Carson was going to have to walk the mile back to town the next morning to continue his work, but he'd claimed the exercise would do him good and that it was nice to be able to walk somewhere outside for a change. Rodney was going on about the miseries of hay fever when they heard gunfire in the distance.


"Major!" Rodney snapped into his radio, "What's happening?"


"Under attack!" Sheppard's voice shouted in his headset. "Get back here, we need your help!"


"Shit," Rodney said. He and Carson started running. The chatter of gunfire and a line of bullets in front of them stopped them. "Carson, get down!" Rodney shouted, shoving Carson behind a fallen tree. He dived after him and unlimbered his P90.


"Oh my god," Carson gasped as Rodney hit the ground next to him.


"Are you hurt?" Rodney asked.


Carson shook his head. "No. You?"


Rodney shook his head and peeked over the top of the stump. There were armed men moving toward them. He fired, spraying the area and scattering them.




"Stay down." He ducked back behind the log as shots zinged over his head. "Shit shit shit. We are in *so* much trouble." Rodney slapped his radio. "Major, we're in a world of shit here. We're pinned down behind a log about 300 metres from you."


He could hear gunshots in the distance, and they rattled loudly in his ear as Sheppard replied, "Wish we could help you but we're a little busy here ourselves. Just stay put and keep your heads down. We'll be with you as soon as we can."


"Right," Rodney said, and popped up to fire off more shots at the advancing enemy.


Carson was huddled next to him, gun held in both hands. "Is it always like this for you?"


"Most of the time," Rodney said. "Just stay down, okay?" Seeing Carson like that, armed and terrified, left a cold knot in the pit of his stomach.


"We're goin' to die, aren't we?" Carson asked.


Rodney poked his head up again and immediately ducked as bullets tore into the wood near his head. "Shit. Yeah, I'd say there's a pretty good chance of it."


"What can I do?"


"Keep your head down," Rodney snapped. "No way I want you getting it shot off." He popped up again and laid down more fire, taking out one of the approaching men. They were getting closer. He could still hear shots coming from the direction of their camp. This was not good.


Carson yelped and fired two shots off to their right. There was a scream as someone went down. "Ohgodohgodohgod," Carson panted.


"J-just try to stay calm," Rodney told him. He fired on men approaching from the left, injuring a third man.


"Is that the one?" he heard a voice shout.


More shots were fired at them, spraying chips of wood over their heads from the log that sheltered them.


"I think so," another voice replied, from off to the right, where Carson was watching intently. "They want him alive."


Rodney's gut twisted. He wasn't sure what was going on but it didn't sound good at all. He peered over the top of the log, not seeing anything moving. There was rustling to the left of him, and Carson shooting again to their right. He fired toward the sound, scoring another hit on the men approaching them.


"If you drop your weapons and surrender, you'll be unharmed," the first voice shouted.


"Who are you, and what do you want?" Rodney shouted back. All in all, not getting shot to death sounded pretty good right about now. Carson was silent next to him, breathing hard, a question in his eyes. "Just stay calm," Rodney hissed at him. "I'm gonna try to keep us in one piece until the Major can get to us."


"We know you're the Atlantean, McKay," the voice said.


Rodney cringed. "And?" He kept his head down, listening hard for approaching enemies through the gunfire in the distance.


"You're wanted by the Genii."


"Oh, peachy," Rodney muttered. He tapped his radio again. "Major, we've got a little situation here."


"Bullets, McKay!" Sheppard shouted. "They're sort of flying around here."


Carson fired again as they were rushed and both of them went down under a pile of heavy bodies. Rodney kicked one man in the knee and crumpled him as Carson fought desperately to keep a knife from plunging into his chest.


"Stop!" Rodney gasped. "Stop! We surrender! Don't hurt us!" He went limp and the next thing he knew he was staring down the barrel of a gun with his hands in the air. They dragged Carson over next to him and threw him to his knees.


"We don't need this one," a tall, auburn-haired man said. "Kill him."


"No!" Rodney shouted as Carson closed his eyes tightly, waiting for the bullet that would scatter his brains across the landscape. "No, don't! He's a doctor, a medical doctor; he's too valuable to kill. You -- you don't want to piss off Major Sheppard. If you kill him, Sheppard will hunt you down to a man. If you leave him alone, I'll do whatever you want. Just... just don't hurt him." He looked up into the man's eyes. "Don't hurt him," he pleaded. Carson was pale beside him, hands shaking as he held them over his head.


Rodney's heart sped like a hummingbird's wings. He wondered if he was about to have a stroke. Wouldn't that just add to the thrill.


A blond man nodded. "Maybe the Genii will pay more for two of them."


"They only mentioned McKay," auburn said.


"Worth a try," blond replied. "If they don't want him, we can kill him then or see if the Atlanteans'll buy him back. Makes no difference."


Auburn shrugged. "Okay. Works for me. Tie 'em both up."


Rodney could still hear gunfire in the distance as his hands were jerked behind his back and bound. Carson grunted as the men did the same to him. They were both dragged to their feet and marched off toward the Stargate.




When the enemy vanished into the night without so much as another shot fired, Sheppard was suspicious. They had three wounded, but no fatalities, and he couldn't raise McKay or Beckett on the radio after McKay had reported that he had a "situation."


"Stackhouse!" he shouted.




"You're in charge here. Get things under control and report in to Weir about the situation." Sheppard turned. "Ford, Teyla, you're with me. Last place I heard shots coming from was that way." He pointed toward the forest where Beckett and McKay had gone to walk.


They all hurried toward the last known location of their friends. Teyla sprinted ahead, and called out to them from near a fallen log in the rapidly growing darkness. "They were here," she said, pointing to a scattering of spent shell casings. "It appears that they were taken by several opponents."


"There's a dead one over here," Ford said, poking a bloody corpse with his foot.


"Who are they?" Sheppard asked.


"The clothes are local," Ford said, "but that doesn't mean jack."


Sheppard sighed and examined the ground near the log. "Looks like they headed for the Gate. Let's go. Maybe we can catch up with them."


Ford and Teyla nodded and they ran.


They slowed as they approached the clearing. There was no sign of anyone. "Damn." Sheppard went to the DHD. "Too bad these things don't have a redial button."


Ford rolled his eyes. "That would be too easy."


"For our enemies as well," Teyla said.


"Well, there is that," Sheppard agreed. "We need to talk to the Baklans. Maybe they have some idea of what happened here."




They'd been shoved through the Gate then handed over to the Genii, who promptly took them through the Gate again. Rodney had no idea if some kind of reward has given to the men who captured them, but it was immaterial. The look in the Genii officer's eyes chilled Rodney to the bone.


Now he and Carson were sitting huddled together on the floor of a bare cell somewhere in the vast bunker under the Genii's farming village. Carson's eyes were still wide with fear and Rodney wasn't any too steady himself. Anger was about the only thing keeping him together.


"What do you suppose they'll do with us?" Carson asked softly.


Rodney sighed. "I imagine they want me to build them a nuclear bomb. At least, that's what they wanted last time -- well, aside from the whole ZedPM thing."


"They don't even know what one is, do they?"


Rodney shook his head. "Clueless. These people don't even understand radiation. How are they supposed to comprehend Ancient technology?"


Carson leaned back a little into the stone wall and Rodney leaned with him. "Well it's a good thing they can't operate the stuff, then, isn't it? We'd be in a world of trouble if they could."


"We're already in a world of trouble." Rodney gestured to the barred door of their cell. "I know what they want with me. I'm worried about what they're going to do with you."


Carson sighed. "Well they stole enough medical supplies from us. Do they even know how to use half of what they took?"


"I don't know. Maybe they'll want you to teach them what the stuff does."


"I hope that's it," Carson muttered.


They sat silent for a long time. Rodney wasn't sure what time it was, or how long they'd been there. It was notoriously difficult to tell such things underground.


"Do you think they're going to feed us?" Carson asked.


Rodney's stomach rumbled. "I hope so. It's going to be hard for me to build a bomb if they try to starve me to death. I'll go into a hypoglycemic coma long before then." He was a dead man. They both were.


Carson gave him an uneasy look. "We should tell them about that."


"If we had anybody to tell."


"You can't build them a bomb, Rodney. What if they use it on Atlantis?"


Rodney sighed. "Even the Genii aren't that stupid. They understand the strategic importance of the city."


"Do you think they'll trade us for that Sora lass?" Carson looked almost hopeful for a moment. Rodney hated to dash it.


"No," he said, shaking his head. "Kolya made it clear that she was considered a casualty of war. Apparently, as far as he's concerned, she's dead and not worth retrieving."


"Lovely," Carson muttered. "Maybe he's not involved with this."


Rodney shrugged. "I doubt that. It feels like his fingerprints all over it." He said more softly, "He was going to bring me and Elizabeth back here, make us work for them."


"I hope the Major's looking for us," Carson said.


"I'm sure he is. It shouldn't take him that long to figure out who has us; at least I hope it won't." He shifted uneasily. "If we're lucky, we'll both still be alive by the time they find us."


Carson looked him in the eye. "Do you think they'll kill us?"


"When they decide we're not useful anymore, yeah. Probably." On that cheerful note, both of them fell silent again.


A long time later, a silent Genii guard brought them food. There wasn't much and it wasn't very good, but by that point Rodney's mind had started fogging and he really didn't care.


Carson regarded the food cautiously. "It could be drugged, you know," he said.


"Don't care," Rodney said through a mouthful. "If they really wanted to, all they'd have to do is hold us down and stick a needle in us."


"I suppose there's that," Carson said.


Rodney looked at him. "Eat while you can. We've got no idea if or when they'll fed us again."


With a nod, Carson started eating. Rodney pondered the idiocy of listening to the Bakla and letting Sheppard bring Carson along on the mission.


Not long after they were done, they were cuffed and taken from the cell by the same silent Genii guard.


"Don't you ever say anything?" Rodney grumbled.


The guard didn't make a sound. They were led through a maze of corridors and Rodney tried to memorize the twists and turns, but most of the hallways looked the same. Dull, dirty, and grey. There were unmarked doors here and there and they were escorted through one of them.


As Rodney suspected, Kolya was waiting for them. There were two other guards there and the room was bare except for a couple of chairs and large a bucket of water.


"Long time no see," Rodney said.


"Ah, Dr. McKay. I just couldn't stand to be away from you for another moment." Kolya chuckled, a dangerous sound. "I told you Sheppard made an error in judgment by leaving me alive."


Rodney nodded. "I'll be sure to tell him next time I see him. And what do you want this time, as if I didn't know?"


"You won't be seeing him again," Kolya said. "I can guarantee that."


Carson tensed. Rodney just shook his head. "I know you're a liar, Kolya. Your goons on Bakla were no match for the Major."


Kolya raised an eyebrow. "I have you, don't I?"


Rodney attempted nonchalance. "We weren't with my team when we were taken. If they told you Sheppard was dead, they were lying." He hoped he managed to look confident. He was sure Sheppard was alive but he knew what Kolya was capable of.


Kolya looked over at Carson. "You. I understand you're a medical doctor. What's your name?"


Carson stood there looking at him. "Carson Beckett," he said quietly.


With an amused look on his face, Kolya said, "Beckett. Ah, yes. I heard about your adventures on Hoff." Carson looked at the floor. "I suppose we can find some use for you." The tone of Kolya's voice left a cold stone in the pit of Rodney's stomach.


"Look, why don't we--" Rodney began.


"Shut up, McKay. You'll speak when I tell you to," Kolya snapped. "You're going to complete those notes you started when you were here last so we can finish our nuclear project."


"I really don't think--"


"I told you to shut up." Kolya gave a curt nod toward Carson and one of the guards grabbed him.


"What?" Carson yipped, startled. The guard dragged him over to the bucket, kicked his legs from under him, and stuck his head in it.


Rodney lunged toward Carson but was stopped by the guard holding his arms. "No!" He shouted as Carson struggled helplessly. "Stop! Okay! Whatever you want, just stop!" They were both going to die here and there was nothing he could do about it.


The guard holding Carson's head underwater looked to Kolya for a cue but Kolya stood, unmoving. The guard didn't move either. Rodney shouted and struggled, pleading for Carson's life, to no avail.


Carson's struggles slowly weakened then nearly stopped. Kolya gave a subtle nod of his head and the guard pulled Carson's head from the water by his hair.


The guard tossed Carson to the floor, coughing and gasping and spitting water. Rodney jerked again, trying to go to him. The other guard still held his arms tightly.


"If you value your friend's life, McKay, you'll do as I say without question." Kolya's voice was cold and hard. "Next time, I may not be so generous."


Carson was still coughing water from his lungs, gasping weakly on the floor. His eyes were closed, and all Rodney could think of was the river and Carson's still body caught in the eddy. He nodded to Kolya.


"Take him up to Aprell's office," Kolya said. "Make sure he has access to the necessary equipment, but watch him carefully."


The guard nodded and said, "Yes, Sir," then dragged Rodney away.




Carson's lungs still burned when they threw him back into the empty cell. He was exhausted and wasn't entirely sure where they'd taken Rodney. He huddled in a corner, arms still bound behind him, his head and shoulders soaking wet.


They didn't want anything from him. All he would be was insurance for Rodney's cooperation. He couldn't let the Genii know what they meant to each other. It was bad enough that he was being used as a weapon against Rodney as it was. If the Genii knew they were lovers?


It was beyond contemplation.


He lay there trying to catch a full breath, chest heaving. Near-drowning took a lot out of a body. It had happened to him once already, in the fire. The repeat performance in a bucket with someone holding him down left him shaken to his bones.


They would kill him eventually. He knew that. The only things he didn't know were how long it would take and what horrifying method they'd use to end his life. It would, no doubt, be agonizing and probably quite protracted. He just hoped they wouldn't make Rodney watch.




"It's the Genii," Sheppard said. "It has to be."


Weir leaned forward, resting her elbows on the conference table. "If it is, we should try to negotiate with them. Offer them Sora in return for our people."


"Won't work," Ford said, shaking his head.


Sheppard agreed. "McKay said Kolya told him Sora was a casualty of war. Apparently, as far as the Genii are concerned, she's dead. She won't be any incentive."


"We don't even know if they're still alive," Weir sighed. She looked like she had a massive headache. Sheppard didn't blame her. He had one himself.


"They know he has information they can use," Sheppard said. "They're not stupid."


"So you believe they've taken him to bolster their nuclear program," Weir said.


Sheppard nodded. "Yeah. I think Beckett was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If we're lucky, they're both still alive, but we need to mount a rescue mission ASAP."


"I agree," Teyla said. "The Baklans are desperate for Dr. Beckett's aid and have offered their assistance in recovering our people, as well as aid with the naquadah mining project. They have heard rumors of the Genii offering a reward for McKay on different worlds. Dakala has said that she believes it possible some of her people might have done this. Certain groups among her people feel they are being disregarded and civil strife has been known among them."


Weir let out a long breath. "If this is the case then yes, I agree. We need to mount a rescue mission." She looked sharply at Sheppard. "Please Major, bring them both home safe."


"We will," Sheppard promised, hoping he could fulfill it.




Rodney had been working for hours, discussing radiation and appropriate shielding with the Genii scientists. It wasn't just a stalling tactic, though it worked well for that purpose. He had no desire to die of cancer or radiation sickness if he managed to get out of this alive. Radiation shielding was pure self-preservation. He had no intention of producing mini-McKays, but he certainly didn't want his boys rendered unfit for duty.


It had taken building a makeshift Geiger counter to finally persuade them of the truth of his assertions. Now, he was being led down anonymous hallways again, hoping they'd bring him back to Carson.


He'd been uneasy since they'd been separated. It had been hard to focus with his mind on Carson, hoping he was all right.


Carson was huddled in a corner of the cell when they shoved Rodney back inside. At least this time, his hands weren't bound. Carson's still were, however, and he looked exhausted and cold.


"Carson," he said softly, hurrying over to him. He helped Carson sit and cradled him in his arms. "Carson, how's your breathing?"


"Don't, Rodney," Carson whispered. "We can't let them know about us. They'll just use it against you." He shivered a bit.


"You're cold. I can't let you freeze." Rodney didn't move away from him. He rubbed Carson arms, trying to warm them. Rodney wished he knew how to pick locks but there wasn't anything he could use, even if he knew how. The metal cuffs were tight around Carson's wrists but not so much that circulation was cut off.


Carson settled into him with a quiet moan. "My arms ache," he said.


"I'm sorry," Rodney whispered. "I'm doing my best to stall them but I'm not sure how long I can hold out. Today I made them build a Geiger counter so I could get it through their heads about radiation and poisoning. They've been working on lead shielding around their reactors since then."


"Well, it's a relief we won't be having a slow death of radiation or cancer, then," Carson said. "Assuming we live out tomorrow."


"I'm working on it," Rodney snapped. He cringed. "Sorry. God, I'm sorry. I'm freaking out here and I don't know what to do." He held Carson close. "Did you get any rest, at least?"


"No," Carson said. "I think they may be watching. Every time I was about to nod off, there'd be a bloody horrible noise to jar me awake again."


"Why are they doing this?" Rodney asked. "I'm cooperating. I'm doing what they want."


Carson closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't know. I wish I did."


"Kolya!" Rodney shouted. "I know somebody's listening here. We need to talk!" He looked around. There was no response. "If you want me to be able to design you a bomb, you need to let me sleep. That's not gonna happen if you're messing with us."


There was still no response, and Rodney sighed. "I'm doing what you want. Why are you doing this to him?"


Still nothing.


"I don't think that'll be of any use, Rodney." Carson was starting to feel a little warmer against his body.


"It was worth a try. I wonder if they'll feed us dinner?" Rodney said.


"Somehow I doubt it." Carson laid his head on Rodney's shoulder. The stone floor was miserably uncomfortable. There wasn't even a blanket.


"You'd think if they wanted me to do things for them, they'd treat us a little better," Rodney grumbled. "Food would be nice," he shouted to the walls.


"We have to find a way out of here," Carson said quietly. "There must be some way."


Rodney sighed. "I don't know what that would be, unless you have some hidden talent as an escape artist I'm unaware of."


Carson tugged at his cuffs. "No. Not really." Rodney squeezed him a little, placing a gentle kiss on his neck as he stroked Carson's back. "Please," Carson said. "Please, Rodney, don't give them more to hurt us with."


Rodney closed his eyes and pulled away a little. "I'm sorry, I just..." He took a deep breath. "I don't want them to hurt you. I'd do anything to keep them from hurting you."


Carson nodded. He shifted a little in Rodney's arms, biting back a quiet groan. "But there are things that aren't worth either of our lives. I don't think you should design their bombs for them but I'm more worried they'll want information about Atlantis." He looked up at Rodney. "What if they want to know things like how many Jumpers we have, or about our weapons?"


Rodney looked around, trying to figure out if they were being watched or if the cell was somehow bugged. He didn't see anything obvious, but who knew what the Genii were capable of? "I don't know if they know there's Ancient technology they can't use. They were rather... perturbed when they were informed that we were genetically closer to the Ancients than they are. I hope they don't want to know why we think so."


"Lovely," Carson said.


"I'm going to try to convince them that they want you to teach them how to use the stuff they stole. Maybe that'll keep them from hurting you again." Rodney spoke softly. "We have to find a way to stay alive until somebody rescues us."


They heard footsteps and fell silent, watching the door. Carson tried to move away but Rodney wouldn't let him. "Stay here," he said. "You're still cold."


Carson didn't move, letting himself rest in Rodney's arms.


Two guards appeared. One of them pointed to Carson. "You. The Commander wishes to speak to you."


"No," Rodney said. "You're not taking him. If you hurt him again, I'm not cooperating."


The guards ignored him, entering the cell. One dragged Carson to his feet while the other kicked Rodney in the ribs. Rodney grunted and tried to rise only to be kicked again.


They hauled Carson away. Rodney gasped in pain, his heart breaking at the fear in his lover's eyes.




Carson ached already from his arms being chained behind him for hours, and the guard jerking him along the hallway had strained his shoulder badly. This man, Kolya, had the look of a killer from what Carson had seen. He had no idea why the man would want to talk to him, though.


He was escorted into the same room as before. At least he thought it was the same room. Kolya was there, sitting in one of the chairs.


"Have a seat, Dr. Beckett," he said, gesturing. The guard shoved him down into the other chair and stood nearby. Carson looked at the bucket nervously.


"Dr. Weir told me that your people believe they are more closely related to the Ancestors than we are," Kolya said. "She said that some people among you possess a gene that enables them to use the technology of Atlantis more effectively. Is this true?"


Carson nodded. "Aye, it is."


"What makes you think that your people have this and the Genii don't?"


Carson shifted uneasily. "Have your people been able to activate any of the Ancient technology you've ever found?"


Kolya eyed him coldly. "Most of it is a mystery to our scientists," he admitted.


"You can't activate it without the ATA, the Ancient Technology Activation gene. You're either born with it or you're not. It's like a key to the lock they left on their gadgets."


"Your people aren't even from this galaxy. How can you claim you have it and the Genii don't?"


Carson sighed. "The Ancients were originally from our planet," he said. "They returned there about ten thousand years ago, after the Wraith drove them from here."


"You're lying," Kolya snapped.


"No," Carson said.


"How do you tell who has it and who doesn't?" Kolya stood and stepped right up in front of Carson. "Is there some sort of test?"


Carson nodded. "There is."


"Then you'll test our people." Kolya put a hand on his shoulder and Carson shivered.


"It takes time. Days."


"You're stalling." He gestured toward the bucket. The guard grabbed Carson and hauled him to his feet.


Carson looked Kolya in the eye. "Torturing me is only going to make me less effective."


Kolya raised a hand and the guard stopped. "And what do you need for these tests?"


Carson sighed, relief coursing through him. "A fully equipped medical lab. Your scientists may not have advanced enough equipment for me to do what's necessary."


"You may find otherwise," Kolya replied. "Remember, we do have equipment from Atlantis."


Carson tried to remember everything that had gone missing after the raid. "It's possible," he admitted. "I'll have to see."


"You'll be brought to a lab when everything is ready." Kolya turned and left.




Rodney paced the cell impatiently. What were they doing to Carson? Would they even bring him back? He stilled when he heard approaching footsteps echoing in the hall.


The guards shoved Carson back into the cell. He stumbled, arms still cuffed behind him, and Rodney caught him.


"Are you okay?"


Carson nodded.


"What happened?"


Carson watched as the guards walked away. "He asked me about the ATA gene. He wants me to start testing the Genii for it."


"Do you think any of them have it?" If they did, Atlantis would be in serious trouble.


"I really don't think so. I think the Ancients only interbred with humans on Earth because they were dying out before they Ascended."


Rodney nodded and helped Carson sit down. "Makes sense," he said. "At least now they have a reason not to torture you."


"I don't think either of us is safe, Rodney." He moved his arms. "They still haven't taken the cuffs off, and now my shoulder's bothering me as well. One of the guards strained it pretty badly when he took me from here."


"Did Kolya give you any idea what happens next?"


"I assume they'll come for me again when they've a lab set up. I don't know if I'll have the right equipment to do the testing, but they do have some things they stole from us." Carson sighed and tried to lean back against the wall, but grunted in pain at the contact.


"No," Rodney said, "lean on me with your good side. It'll be easier on you that way." Carson nodded and shifted his weight so that Rodney supported him. A few moments later, he rested his head on Rodney's shoulder. "Are you going to be all right?" Rodney asked. "I mean, after they almost drowned you?"


"Mostly," Carson said. "It depends on how dirty the water was. I could be at risk for a bronchial infection now, and I can feel there's water still in my lungs, but I'm not sure how long they'll keep us alive anyway. When they find out that none of them have the gene--"


"We'll tell them something else," Rodney said quietly. "Little bits of information for as long as we can. If you tell them you have it, they'll have to keep you alive."


"Maybe. But there are some things we can't tell them," Carson said. "We can't risk the city, or the others."


Rodney closed his eyes and held Carson. "I know," he whispered. "I know."


"Even if they kill us." Carson was solemn, determination in his voice.


"We just have to stall them." Rodney knew it wouldn't be that simple. It hadn't been during the storm. Here they were at an even greater disadvantage. He had no idea how Sheppard and the others were going to get into the bunker unseen, or how they would find him and Carson when they did. Getting out again without getting killed would be the hardest part.


"I'll do my best, mo leannan," Carson whispered.


"You'll do fine," Rodney said. "You could snow them for days."


"Once they know how to do the testing, they can do it for themselves. They won't need me." He looked at Rodney.


Rodney lowered his voice, not wanting anyone overhearing if the cell was bugged. "That's when you tell them you have the gene."


Carson shook his head, keeping his own voice equally quiet. "And if I tell them that, they're like to make me test anything they may have found. You know what I do to those things. What if they've found a weapon?"


Rodney huffed, frustrated. "Don't actually activate anything that looks like a weapon, then."


"If I can turn one thing on, they'll assume I can do it with anything else they have. I don't think that'll work."


"So tell them it's hard for you. That's true."


"I'd rather not tell them at all."


Rodney looked Carson in the eyes, one hand on his cheek. "If it's a choice between your life and activating whatever they've found, choose to stay alive." He hugged Carson. "Please, promise me you'll do that."




"Promise me!" Rodney hissed. Having to argue with Carson over this was twisting him up inside. If they killed Carson, he didn't know what he would do. He suspected it would be ugly. "Atlantis needs us both alive. I'm serious."


"You're the only one they really need," Carson said. "They have other doctors."


"No! Stop that! Don't say things like that!" He didn't want to hear this, didn't want Carson even thinking like this. Yeah, they were doomed, but he didn't want to throw either of their lives away without at least trying to hold out.


"I'll do whatever I must," Carson said.


"You *must* stay alive, do you hear me?"


Carson nodded. "If I can."


Rodney ran his fingers through Carson's hair. "I love you," he whispered. "I don't want to lose you." He rested his forehead on Carson's and closed his eyes.




Rodney wasn't sure how long they'd been prisoners. Neither of them had slept, and he was back with the Genii scientists. He thought they were night shift but wasn't sure. It was a different group than the ones he'd had constructing the Geiger counter, at any rate. These were equally stubborn and idiotic, but that seemed to be a general Genii trait from what he could determine.


Pragmatic idiots. Just what he needed.


Carson had been taken away a few hours earlier, still cuffed. He wasn't sure why they were keeping him that way. Perhaps they thought he'd get his hands on something and drug them. It was hurting him, Rodney knew. His shoulders would have been a mess by now even if one of them hadn't been wrenched.


He was currently showing them the errors of their equations, trying to explain in small words so they'd understand. He would make sure it took hours longer than necessary, because once they had the equations down, they'd want the notes he'd made last time he'd been in Genii hands elaborated on. He hadn't left them with enough information to correct all the problems with their program, and if he could, he'd dole out the information a drop at a time and let them discover the problems themselves.


It was risky, he knew. They might hurt him again, or Carson, but keeping the Genii out of the loop for as long as possible was necessary.


"No, no, no!" he shouted. "Look at this! The numbers are all wrong. You're never going to achieve supercriticality like this!" He jabbed his finger at the numbers on the screen. "Right here. Are you blind?"


The man glared at him. "You should be more circumspect in your criticism, McKay. There are a number of body parts that don't need to be functioning for you to do this."


Rodney suppressed a shiver and answered with a little less venom. "I'm serious. You have to pay attention. This stuff is important." He sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "And if you want me to catch your idiot mistakes, you need to let me eat and sleep. I'm getting dizzy. Really."


"You complain too much," another of their scientists said.


Rodney shook his head. "If I don't eat often enough, my blood sugar crashes. I could die from this. I get dizzy and disoriented then I pass out. If it's not taken care of by then, I could go into a coma and die."


The first scientist looked at him. "We'll see about that."


"Oh, fine," Rodney said. "You don't want my help, go ahead. Don't feed me. You'll be calling Beckett in to bring me back around in a few hours."


Science geek two sighed. "All right. If it will shut you up, we'll have some food brought down to you. Now get on with it."


Rodney nodded, satisfied.




The Jumper was cloaked and waiting behind the Baklan trade delegation heading for the Genii homeworld. It had taken the better part of a day to come up with the plan to make a foothold unseen. Flying from the nearest offworld Gate would have taken days.


Sheppard gripped the controls tightly, his palms sweating. It had been two days now since the Genii had taken McKay and Beckett. He eased the Jumper through the Gate between two groups of Baklans and headed skyward quickly, to avoid detection.


Getting in: they could do that. Getting out would be the hard part.




"They never let you out of the cuffs?" Rodney asked, alarmed.


Carson shook his head. "No. It's bad now. Really bad." He looked like he was in a lot of pain. Rodney helped him sit and had Carson lean on him to rest. He whispered in Rodney's ear. "I managed to get something into my sleeve. Maybe you can use it to pick the locks and we can try to get out of here."


They sat close together as Rodney eased his hand into Carson's sleeve. He found the small medical probe. "Oh good." He could feel that it would fit into the lock of the cuffs. "They didn't hurt you, did they?"


"No, just with the cuffs. I can barely move my hands now. I don't know how much longer I'll even be able to feel them."


Rodney slipped the probe into the lock and started wiggling it. He had no idea what he was doing but locks were relatively simple mechanical devices. Eventually he'd get the bits moved and the cuffs open. "Have you been able to figure out if we're being watched?"


"I don't think so. None of them have said anything about how we've been acting together in here, though Kolya's said he thinks you're... how did he put it... more solicitous of me than you were of Elizabeth when he had control of you in the city." Carson shifted uncomfortably. "He seems uneasy with that, and more than a wee bit perturbed."


"Yeah, well, we didn't figure he'd send flowers." He looked around behind Carson, taking the chance that they were unobserved.


Rodney sighed uncomfortably. "Lean forward a little if you can do it without hurting yourself too much. I need to see what I'm doing."


Carson nodded and leaned. Rodney worked with the probe some more, cringing as Carson suppressed groans when his arms were jostled.


"Sorry, sorry," Rodney whispered. "I'm doing my best here, but I've never picked a lock before."


It took about five minutes, he thought, before one cuff clicked and loosened. "Yes!" he hissed. "Hang on. I think I know what I'm doing now."


Carson whimpered a little, barely moving his arm as Rodney removed the loosened cuff. "Oh god, it hurts."


"I'm sorry. You know I don't want to hurt you."


Carson hissed and nodded again. "Get on with it."


The second cuff took less than a minute. "Come on, let me help you up." Rodney eased his hands under Carson's arms and Carson leaned on him, rising slowly to his feet. "Careful with your arms. Don't move them too much."


There were tears in Carson's eyes as he eased his arms forward. His teeth were gritted against the pain. Rodney held him close for a moment. "Come on, Carson, hold on. We might actually be able to get out of this mess, if we're lucky. All we have to do is get out of here and make it to the Gate."

"Aye," Carson said, his voice rough with pain. "It's not so much. Escape from a secret underground bunker and find the Gate without being seen or recaptured. Simple enough."


"You're taking the fun out of this," Rodney said, and kissed him before he eased back and let Carson stand on his own. "I have a lock to pick."


Carson grimaced as he tried to bend his arms, but Rodney knew their time was limited. Picking the lock was his priority. He could be there for Carson once they were out of this mess and safely back in Atlantis. He hurried quietly to the door, looking both ways down the hall. No one was in evidence.


They hadn't made any attempt to even look down the hall before. The Genii probably thought they had given up and didn't need to be guarded unless they were being moved from one place to another. Their mistake.


Rodney poked the probe into the locking mechanism. The Genii didn't seem to go in for electronic locks, but he could have picked one of those quickly and easily with a few wires and five minutes. This was a little trickier. "Look out Houdini," he whispered to himself, "you've got yourself some competition." He ignored the fact that the legendary escape artist had been dead for almost a hundred years.


This lock took closer to ten minutes, but by then Carson was standing beside him looking uneasily down the corridor. "Hurry up, Rodney. I don't think we've much time," he whispered.


"I know, I know. Working on it." A few more shifts and the bolt slipped back. "Yes! I am the Man!"


Carson smiled, pain still in his eyes. "Aye, Rodney, always. Now, let's be off." He looked down the hall. "Which way should we go?"


Rodney gestured to the right. "This way. Every time we've been taken out of here we were taken to the left, and that seems to lead deeper into the complex."


Carson nodded and followed. His arms were still held at an awkward angle and every time they moved at all, he would cringe or hiss. Rodney wished there was something, anything he could do for him. Aspirin would be good, but everything other than their clothes had been taken from them when they'd been brought to the bunker.


They moved as quietly as possible down the corridor. Major Sheppard may not have noticed, but Rodney had been paying attention in the field. He wished he had his P90. Even his pistol would do. Carson would be unable to do anything to defend himself, so it all fell to Rodney now.


He wasn't going to let the Genii take them again if he could help it.


They found guards patrolling the corridors every so often, but their silence served them well. Rodney had learned enough to know when to hide and when to move, and he did his best to help Carson along. They wandered the corridors for a long time, trying to find the way out.


"Dr. McKay. Dr. Beckett." There was amusement in the cold voice.


Rodney froze, pressing Carson to the wall behind him, shielding him with his body. "Kolya."


"I'm impressed. You've managed to evade some of our best men for well over three hours now."


Rodney shifted uneasily. "Yeah." A nervous laugh escaped his lips. "Well, you know, a couple of nights trying to sleep on a hard stone floor. No blankets. Carson kept in handcuffs. It was starting to feel a little unfriendly."


"I'm sorry you haven't enjoyed your accommodations, Dr. McKay." Kolya stepped forward. "They're about to get worse."


"Uh, I don't suppose we can discuss this."


Kolya gestured to the guards accompanying him. "Take them."


They were rough grabbing Rodney, and Carson cried out when they wrenched his arms around. It brought Carson to his knees, face twisted in agony.


"Stop hurting him!" Rodney shouted. "We'll go peacefully."


"You have no further options, Dr. McKay," Kolya said. "In attempting to escape, you've forfeited any considerations we were willing to give you." He looked at Carson, then back at Rodney. "Don't think I don't know about the two of you. Your behavior in the last two days has been telling."


Rodney's eyes widened and he clamped down on his reaction. "What do you mean by that?"


"Exactly what I said. You showed nowhere near this amount of concern for Dr. Weir when my strike force held Atlantis. Your perversion disgusts me, but your knowledge is more important than Genii custom."


Rodney swallowed. "Which is?"


Kolya gave him a look of the sort usually reserved for rotting raw sewage. "Execution."


"Oh, now really, you've got to be kidding!" Rodney struggled frantically against the guards holding him. "You can't do that to us!"


"I have no intention of executing either of you until you've given us what we want." Kolya gestured and the guards dragged Rodney and Carson down the corridor. Carson made small, pained sounds but otherwise said nothing.


"Sheppard will kill you," Rodney said. "You know that."


Kolya chuckled. "I'm not afraid of your Major Sheppard, Dr. McKay. The man's weak. He should have killed me when he had the chance."


The room they were brought to this time looked more like a medieval torture chamber than anything else. Rodney managed to remain standing despite his shock. He tried desperately not to think about what was going to happen here shortly.


He looked over at Carson, taking in the devastation on his face. "Kolya, don't hurt him, please," Rodney said, pleading. "I'll do anything. I'll tell you anything you want to know."


"Rodney, don't," Carson said.


"It's too late for that, Dr. McKay. You'll both be punished for your escape attempt and then you'll give us what we want anyway."


"No!" Rodney shouted.


Kolya struck Rodney across the face. "You'll speak when you're spoken to and not until. I have no interest in your pathetic whining. If we didn't need your knowledge and your skills, I'd have you both gutted where you stand."


Rodney caught his breath, shaking.


Kolya pointed to Carson. "We'll start with him." The guards dragged Carson to one of the walls and yanked his hands over his head. Carson bit back a cry of pain as they manacled him to the wall.


"No," Rodney said softly, then louder, "No. Please. Take me instead. I don't care what you do to me, but please, don't do this to him." His heart pounded, threatening to burst from his chest. He lunged, trying to free himself, only to be kicked to his knees.


He was cuffed and chained to a wall as the guards cut Carson's clothes from him. "What are you doing?" Rodney shouted, tugging uselessly against the chain.


Carson stood silently, eyes squeezed shut, shaking. Rodney wanted to kill all of them. One guard wheeled a cart over next to Carson. On the cart was a horrendous looking contraption sprouting wires and metal clips.


"Oh, no. No. Don't do that! Please!" Rodney took the chain in his hands, braced himself and threw himself against it with all his weight and strength, trying to pull it from the wall.


The guard plugged the thing into a socket up near one of the light fixtures high on the wall. The others attached metal clips to Carson's body and he shouted, eyes opening wide with pain.


"No!" Rodney screamed, throwing himself against the chain again.


"Men who fuck other men are an abomination," Kolya said. "An affront against nature. Such abominations should be destroyed for the good of the people. You have no idea how lucky you are that we require information from you."


"You're insane!" Rodney said. There was a crackle of electricity, and Carson screamed, his body jerking and spasming. He could smell the ozone and the faint odor of burning flesh.


Rodney lunged against the chain again, bloodying his wrists with his struggle. "Stop!" he screamed, "Oh god, stop!"


Carson went limp when the current was turned off, gasping, tears running down his face. Kolya turned to Rodney. "I have no intention of killing him just yet. He still has a purpose. But you will both understand that you cannot defy the Genii."


Rodney watched, horrified, as they shocked Carson again and again, screams torn from his body as he suffered. Rodney didn't feel the cuffs, or the blood dripping from his wrists and hands. He pleaded with Kolya, begging him to stop torturing Carson, but the man ignored him.


When they finally removed the clips from Carson's unconscious body, Kolya looked at him. "Now, Dr. McKay, it's your turn."




The floor was hard and he was cold. Very cold. Rodney opened his eyes slowly, moaning. His entire body ached, muscles burning, and he was disoriented. Carson was lying near him. Both of them were filthy, stinking of piss and shit, and dressed in thin red pajama-like clothing. It did nothing to hold in his body heat.


He dragged himself over to Carson, hands cuffed behind his back. Laying his head on Carson's chest, he listened for a heartbeat. Slow and steady. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.


"Carson." His voice was rough and strained, throat sore. Unable to hold himself up on one elbow any longer, he slumped. "Carson." Carefully, he eased his body on to his lover's, trying to get warm. Carson was chilled too, his skin cool and a little clammy.


"Please, babe, wake up." Shivering, Rodney molded his body to Carson's. He slowly caressed Carson's rough cheek with his own.


Carson stirred slightly, breathing out a soft moan. After a moment, he whispered, but Rodney didn't understand Gaelic. He laid his head on Carson's shoulder and wept.




The hidden cave that led into the underground complex was exactly where Sora said it would be. When they'd approached her about the situation, she was suspicious but unexpectedly sympathetic.


"Your people have treated me better as a prisoner of war than my own would have," she'd said. "And your people don't deserve what mine will do to them."


Sheppard had half a dozen special ops trained personnel with him in addition to Ford and Teyla. Petty Officer Henderson, the SEAL, had insisted on coming -- she'd demanded it when the announcement had been made.


As Sora had predicted, there were two guards on duty inside the cave, out of sight. They made short work of the men, leaving the bodies in a small cul de sac.


Carol Bentz had asked to come as well, knowing they might need a doctor before they left the planet. "I have a lot to make up for," she'd said. She was grim-eyed now, and determined, silent as the strike team made their way into the secure facility.


Sheppard used the lifesigns detector to avoid guards and patrols as much as possible. It wouldn't do to leave too many bodies behind. Broken necks avoided blood trails, but the objective was to get in and out with their people as quickly and silently as possible. There was enough hate between the Atlanteans and the Genii as it was.


The entrance Sora had spoken of was the one closest to where important prisoners were kept. She'd given them the most direct route in and out and they stuck as closely to it as possible. He was surprised she'd given as much information as she had, but grateful for every bit of it.


Their infiltration was swift and smooth enough to leave Sheppard anxious and uneasy. Things were going too well. He wondered if McKay and Beckett were even still alive. It would be just his luck that they'd get in, only to find one or both of them dead.


When they got to the cellblock they had to dispose of four guards, stuffing them into a storage closet. Henderson was ruthless and efficient and Sheppard told himself never to get on the woman's bad side.


They were fortunate that the Genii had few prisoners. McKay and Beckett were the only ones in the cellblock. What he saw in the cell left him shocked.


They were huddled together on a bare stone floor, dressed in threadbare red prison pajamas. Both were barefoot, their hands cuffed behind their backs. The cell reeked of urine and feces, and it was obvious the men had been forced to use one corner of the cell to relieve themselves. They were either asleep or unconscious, leaning against one wall.


Ford made short work of the door, dispatching it quickly with a lockpick gun. McKay startled at the sound, looking up. His face was bruised, pain etched in lines around his eyes and mouth. He said nothing but his eyes widened and he jostled Beckett awake.


Beckett moaned softly as he woke. McKay hissed a quiet "shh" and Beckett looked up. There was no mistaking the hope on his face when he saw them.


"Can you walk?" Sheppard asked quietly.


Rodney nodded. "About time you got here," he whispered.


Henderson and Bentz hurried over to them and helped them to their feet. Beckett seemed to be worse off than McKay, but both were able to stand on their own. Ford got the cuffs off them quickly. Sheppard could see that McKay's wrists and hands were scraped and cut, dried blood on them.


Sheppard gestured and they all moved out. Beckett and McKay moved with difficulty and McKay kept an arm around Beckett as they advanced along the corridor back the way they'd come. Beckett was holding his arms folded stiffly around himself, nearly in tears from pain.


Bentz was at Beckett's other side, trying to check him over as they moved, but he shook his head. "Later," he whispered. His voice was rough and exhausted. She nodded, putting an arm around him as well to help him along.


Sheppard kept an eye on the sensor. Teyla took point with him. Henderson and Ford flanked Beckett, McKay and Bentz while the other members of the strike team remained alert, P90s at ready. He kept the group out of the way of guards and patrols, but as they neared the corridor to the cave exiting the complex, they began to hear shouts and the sounds of running.


"Crap," Sheppard hissed. "Incoming." Ford and Henderson hustled the noncombatants out of the way, covering them as the rest of the group converged around the doorway. Beckett crouched in the closest corner, and McKay and Bentz crouched with him. McKay wrapped his arms around Beckett, protecting him. "Be ready to move when I say," Sheppard whispered. McKay nodded.


Sheppard indicated ten targets and sent M'buni and Tanaka out first, with O'Brien and Heinricks covering them. Garvey stayed with him, tense and ready, awaiting action.


He heard the sharp bark of P90s firing on full auto, and the shotgun retort of Genii weapons firing in return.


"Go! Go! Go!" M'buni's voice called out. Ford, Henderson and Bentz helped McKay and Beckett to their feet and Sheppard and Teyla ducked through the doorway, firing at the Genii guards.


"Move it!" Sheppard snapped. Ford, Henderson and Garvey covered the civilians as they ran down the hallway. More shots rang out, along with the shouts of the Genii. Beckett stumbled and McKay and Bentz grabbed him by his arms. Beckett cried out but regained his feet and kept running.


Sheppard led the way through the double doors and into the cave entrance. More guards were there, and he lobbed a grenade into the group that had been examining the dead guards. Henderson took fire, yelping, but continued moving, covering the civilians. Ford moved in closer to her, and they formed a flying wedge of fire that felled the Genii before them.


They had a quarter mile to cover between the cave mouth and the Jumper, the Genii in hot pursuit. Sheppard let Henderson and Ford lead, keeping the civilians close. McKay and Beckett were limping along as fast as they could, their bare feet slowing everyone.


Garvey went down hard, part of his face blown away. There was no way he was still alive. Sheppard fired back at the Genii pursuing them, scattering them into the trees. Henderson and M'buni lifted Garvey's body, carrying it between them. They'd leave no one behind.


They almost didn't make it. Most of them were injured by the time they got to the Jumper. Sheppard threw himself into the pilot's seat and heated her up, Ford right behind him in the co-pilot's chair. As soon as he heard M'buni's "All clear!" he shut the hatch and lifted off at top speed.




Rodney collapsed on the deck of the Jumper, one raw hand still tangled in Carson's shirt. Carson fell with him, stifling a grunt as he folded. "Made it," Rodney gasped, "I don't believe we made it." He put his arms around Carson, not conscious of the others around them or caring what anyone thought.


"Thank god," Carson said, his voice barely audible. He curled into Rodney's arms, shaking, silent tears running down his face. Rodney was vaguely aware that he was shaking too, but he didn't care. They were going home.


He ignored the hands on him, noting only that Teyla settled behind him, supporting him as he was supporting Carson. She was warm and smelled of sweat and blood. Bentz was talking to him but he didn't hear it. He nuzzled Carson's stiff, dirty hair, no longer even trying to hold back tears of relief and pain.


"You are safe." Teyla's soft voice was in his ear, arms around him and Carson. "We have all been very worried about you. We will be home very soon."


Clinging to his lover, he let himself cry.




Carol sat back and rested. She deserved it after what she'd been through in the last few hours. Carson and McKay had been examined and treated for electrical burns, ligatures, cuts, bruises, and dehydration. Carson had been developing a bronchial infection but was on an IV drip for it. Both were asleep now, and the soldiers who had gone on the mission to rescue them had all been patched up.


Garvey had been dead before they'd gotten him to the Jumper. She sighed and sipped at her coffee. It had been a long, very hard day. She hoped she'd never have another like it.


She watched as Drs. Zelenka and Osbourne came in. They spoke to Shel Tuchman, who pointed them in the direction of Carson and McKay's beds. They stood there for a few minutes, silent, just watching the two sleeping men. Osbourne spoke quietly to Zelenka, who took his hand. She frowned for a moment then stopped herself. The two had been through a terrible ordeal together because of her.


Her kneejerk reaction to the idea had almost cost Dr. Zelenka his life. It had given her a great deal to think about. She'd been blind to the deeper issues, even after having faced prejudice her entire life.


A shadow passed over Osbourne's face and he touched McKay's arm. McKay didn't stir. Zelenka spoke to Osbourne, and when Osbourne looked at him, she could see lines of sadness in his face. The idea that people cared so much about McKay still felt strange to her, but it was obvious the men were friends. Zelenka reached out to Osbourne and hugged him.


After a moment, Zelenka leaned down and spoke into McKay's ear, despite that he was asleep. A soft pat on the shoulder, and the men moved to stand by Carson's side. Osbourne took Carson's hand for a long moment, not moving his arm. Shel had probably told them what had happened.


Zelenka tugged on Osbourne's sleeve and the two looked down at Carson again. Zelenka laid his palm on Carson's chest and said something then they turned and left.


Carol sipped at her coffee again. Life changed people, sometimes a lot. She hoped it was changing her for the better.




Rodney was in Kate Heightmeyer's office. He'd been staying close to Carson since they'd been back, barely wanting to let the man out of his sight. Every time he was away from Carson he'd start to get nervous. His gut was currently churning. He was sure he had an ulcer developing.


"It's all right," Kate said. "Take your time with this. It was a horrible experience, and it'll take time to work through it."


"I realized something then," he said hesitantly, looking out her window at the deep blue of the sea that surrounded them. "When I was... when I was watching what they... what they were doing."


He heard her lean forward. "And what was that?"


Rodney looked at her. "I realized I'd rather die than lose him." It was a whisper, barely audible even to himself. It was hard not to be back in that room, watching the Genii torturing Carson. He shuddered.


"Have you talked to him about this?"


Rodney sighed and shook his head. "No. We... it's been a couple of days and we haven't said anything about it, either of us." It hurt too much. Even this hurt too much. It was like driving a knife into his gut, but Weir wasn't going to let him get out of the sessions. Besides, he'd started seeing Kate after Gall and Abrams' deaths and as far as he knew, almost no one was aware of it. He preferred it that way.


Kate nodded. "Eventually, I think you'll need to. Going through that together, it has the potential to tear your relationship apart but it could also strengthen the bond between you. It depends on how you choose to deal with it."


"I don't think I can talk to him about it."




He wrapped his arms around himself, shivering. "I keep seeing it."


She nodded. "This is very common. You're not alone, Rodney. You have friends who want to help, people who are here for you. And Carson is going through the same things you are. He's the one who will understand best what you've been through."


"They wanted me!" Rodney shouted. "They should never have touched him! It should have just been me!"


"You can't change what's happened," she said softly. "You can only learn to move forward. It's not your fault. The Genii were the ones who did this, all of it."


He buried his face in his hands.




Carson's arms and shoulders were still sore but he was moving much better now. Most of the visible evidence of what he'd been through was gone, but nightmares remained. He and Rodney had tended to stay close together when they weren't working since they'd been back. It was reassuring to have Rodney nearby.


He walked with him now and they chatted casually about their day. Rodney had asked him to look at something and, after being assured it wasn't more Ancient technology, he'd agreed to go with him. They stopped in front of a door. Rodney opened it and led him inside.


"Well?" he said. "What do you think?"


It was a flat, empty but for the furniture. A large glass window occupied most of one wall. "So, you're finally going to move into that larger place you wanted?" Carson asked.


"Take a look around," Rodney said. "Check this out." He moved to the glass wall and it opened onto a balcony.


Carson grinned. "Oh, that's a lovely view," he said as they stepped outside.


"Yeah, a couple of chairs out here and it would be great for watching the sunset, don't you think?"


"Aye, that would be very nice." They leaned on the railing, just taking in the view for a while. Rodney kept glancing over at him, a small smile on his face. Carson moved closer until they were touching, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. It felt good.


"Come see the rest of it," Rodney said, gesturing with his head.


Carson followed. There was a sizeable bedroom, a tiny bit of a kitchen, and a room that Rodney called the den. Bright and airy, the flat seemed very appealing.


"What do you think?" Rodney asked him again, as they stood in the living room.


"Oh, it's lovely. I think you'll be very happy here." Carson nodded, just turning slowly, taking in the ambiance. It would be a good place to visit with Rodney, a good place to spend the night together.


Rodney took him in his arms held him for a moment then kissed him gently. "I um..." He took a deep breath. "Carson, would you like to share this place with me?"


Carson blinked. "Rodney?" He'd not seen this coming at all.


An anxious expression filled Rodney's face, eyes tightening subtly. "I just... I mean, if you don't want to--"


He put a hand on Rodney's cheek, heart thundering. "I had no idea you wanted to," he said. "I know how you've been cautious about things between us for so long."


Rodney nodded, his weight shifting from one foot to the other. "Carson, we... I mean, with what happened and the Wraith coming, I don't know how much longer we have. We could be dead in two weeks. We could have died when the Genii had us." He swallowed and closed his eyes. "I thought we were going to," he whispered, his voice hollow. He looked back up, blue eyes bright and nervous.


Carson held him tighter. "Rodney--" he started.


"No, let me finish." Rodney took a deep breath. "I've... I've had roommates before, though not usually for very long. I tend to drive people away but you know that. But since I've been with you everything's different, and if this is my last two weeks, I want to spend them with you. Even if we're both working and don't have time to do anything but wolf down a snack and catch a nap, I want to be with you." He was speaking rapidly, barely taking time to catch his breath. "I almost lost you. More than once, all right? This last time... the Genii..." His voice cracked. "Please, Carson. Say yes. When I die, I want to know that we've given this our best shot. I want to know that we're together. I want you to know that you mean more to me than anything else, and... and that I love you more than my own life." Rodney was trembling, gazing into his eyes.


He'd never have imagined Rodney asking for such a thing, not in this lifetime at any rate. He wanted to be near the man, and sleeping in separate quarters had been a bit of a private annoyance to him for some time already. He'd never had the courage to ask Rodney himself, still thinking he might be moving too fast.


"Yes, Rodney," Carson said. "I'd be very happy to live with you." He was feeling a little dizzy, giddy even. He grinned. Rodney blinked then grinned back. Carson kissed him then said, "And I love you just as much, you know. A little warning would have been nice though."


Rodney's face opened into a broad, delighted smile, the first he'd seen since they'd found out about the Wraith hive ships. "I've already talked to Elizabeth," he said. "Let's go get our stuff."


"Right now?" Carson asked, astonished.


"Yeah, now. I told Radek and Geoff I was asking you. They're rounding up people to help us move in."


Carson chuckled, shaking his head. "Right enough, then. Let's go." He'd give himself time to get used to the idea later, when they were alone in their new home.


Whatever the next two weeks might bring, they would face it together.