Series: Moments Sacred and Profane - Season Two

Title: MSP20: Covenants of Flesh

Author: Mice


Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Beckett

Warnings: slash, angst

Spoilers: season one, The Siege 3, Intruder

Rating: NC17

Summary: Rodney and Carson visit some old, familiar places. Naturally, difficulties ensue.

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: The title is a phrase from a Seamus Heaney poem, Glanmore Sonnets X. According to Joe Mallozzi from SGA, Rodney's cat's name is Jane, so that's what I'm going with here. Beta by Pas, Cygnet, Heuradys, Lucia Tanaka, and kaytee4ever.




Stroke by

stroke my
body remembers that life and cries for

the lost parts of itself

            ~~Mary Oliver -- from The Sea~~


"I can't believe we're going home," Carson said softly. Rodney looked around the crowded Gateroom as Riordan dialed Earth. It wasn't just the command crew heading home; the gravely wounded and the bodies of the dead were going as well. The men who had assaulted Carson and Radek and Lin Yao were being escorted through in handcuffs. A few others who had decided they were unwilling to remain on Atlantis were also returning with them.


"I just wish I didn't still feel so strung out," Rodney replied. "Radek and Teyla and Lorne will probably let the place blow up while we're gone, and we'll get back with the Daedalus to find Atlantis has slipped back under the waves."


Carson shifted nervously next to him, but smiled anyway. "Aye, and then your bum'll fall off."


Rodney turned back toward Operations. "Don't blow anything up while I'm gone," he shouted up to Radek. Zelenka just grinned, squinty eyed behind his glasses, and waved.


"Don't worry, Rodney. I save that for you."


Carson edged a little closer to Rodney until they were standing shoulder to shoulder, almost touching. The Gate blossomed and Carson took a deep breath, straightening his shoulders. "Well, that's it then," he said. He looked into Rodney's eyes. "Home again."


Rodney nodded. Over the course of the last week, Carson still hadn't decided if he would be coming back to Atlantis, and that left Rodney feeling at loose ends. He wasn't going to give Carson up, but he didn't know if he could bear not coming back. For all the misery and danger they'd suffered, Atlantis had begun to feel like home. He knew himself here; knew his own capabilities and those of his people. He had friends here and a community. It was something he'd never really had back on Earth.


"All right, people," Elizabeth said. "Let's go home." She grinned and gestured to the Gate, then led the way through the puddle.


The disorientation was, as usual, brief, and Rodney found himself stepping into the Gateroom under Cheyenne Mountain. It felt almost claustrophobic after the openness of Atlantis. Carson was beside him a moment later, looking around in disbelief. Rodney wondered for a moment if the man was going to fall to his knees and kiss the floor. He sincerely hoped not. It would be terribly embarrassing, but then again, he'd be able to tease Carson about it for years.


A man Rodney assumed to be General Landry stepped forward. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "welcome home." He offered a hand to Elizabeth, and she shook it. Rodney blinked when he realized he was shaking with relief. Maybe that kissing the floor bit wasn't such a bad idea after all.


The wounded and returning personnel continued to file past them into the room, but Rodney and the rest of the Atlantis command crew were swooped up by that little bald Gate tech and Landry and ushered away before they'd had much chance to say anything else.


There would be a week of debriefing and choosing new personnel for the expedition. Rodney refused to think of it as 'replacing' his people; the mere idea hurt too much. As if he could ever replace Peter or the others. Carson looked over at him, breathless with wonder, a huge smile plastered across his face. Rodney wondered how long that would last once they'd been settled into separate quarters and hauled off for hours and hours of meetings.


Separate quarters because, hello, military base and the US military tended to frown on relationships like theirs, despite that it wasn't illegal or anything. Rodney was used to that sort of stupidity.


He wondered if his former next-door neighbor still had his cat.


"I imagine you'd all like to have a day to yourselves before the debriefings begin," Landry said, "so you'll be shown to your quarters and then transportation will be provided for you all to get off base, if you like, and just take it easy."


"General?" Sheppard said.


Landry shrugged. "Not usually SOP, but you folks have been through a year of hell and I'm sure you need some downtime." He turned to the Gate tech. "Walter, you want to show these folks to their rooms? I've got to deal with the Jaffa this afternoon." He shook his head. "I really do wish Teal'c would stick around for a while. He'd be able to make sense of all their political maneuvering." He grinned at Elizabeth. "I don't suppose you'd like a shot at it?"


Elizabeth chuckled. "Right now, General, I think I'd just like a real sit down meal that didn't come from an industrial kitchen."


Landry smiled. "I think that can be arranged."


The sergeant gestured down the hallway. "If you'll come this way." He and Landry started off down the corridor. "I hope you don't mind, but we've taken the liberty of getting some of your clothing and personal belongings from storage and settled them in your quarters."


"How about my cat?" Rodney asked.


The sergeant gave him a look. "Sorry, sir. Nobody said anything about pets."


"You wanna bring your cat back to Atlantis?" Sheppard asked, astonished.


"Of course," Rodney snapped. "That bimbo probably doesn't even still have her," he mumbled to himself.


"It's all right, Rodney, you can check later today if you want," Carson said. He patted Rodney's shoulder.


They went up several floors in an elevator and then down a maze of corridors. A little while later, the sergeant stopped in front of a door. He pulled a key from his pocket and opened it, then handed the key ring to McKay. "You gentlemen," he indicated Carson and Rodney, "are assigned to these quarters. There's a key for each of you here."


Rodney blinked. "Both of us?" Carson just looked poleaxed.


"I was given to understand you share quarters in Atlantis," the sergeant said. "If you'd rather I--"


"Oh, no no, that's fine," Rodney sputtered. "Just somewhat unexpected." Elizabeth grinned and Sheppard snorted. Rodney glared at him. "No comments from the peanut gallery. That specifically means *you* Major."


"So not saying anything, McKay," Sheppard said, his eyes agleam.


"All right then. I'll leave you Doctors to your day." The sergeant nodded and led Elizabeth and the Major away. Rodney assumed they'd be just down the hall.


Carson stepped into the suite and Rodney followed, closing the door behind them. He locked it for good measure. "Damn," he said. "It's weird to actually have to use a key."


"Aye, that'll take a bit of getting used to again," Carson said. He walked over to the table and picked up a piece of paper lying there, ignoring the small box that lay beside it. "Looks like they've got us scheduled solid until we're let loose at the end of the week." He waved the paper at Rodney.


Rodney took it and examined it. Starting at 0700 the next day, there were meetings and debriefings and personnel interviews and paperwork and god knew what else stuffed into every hour from 0700 to at least 2000 every damned day they'd be in the Mountain. It was a good thing they'd have today to themselves. He dropped the paper back on the table. "They said they had some of our stuff. I don't think I've worn real clothes since I got to Atlantis. I think it's time for a casual Friday. Is it Friday?"


Carson shrugged. "I've no idea, but that sounds brilliant. I'm sure it's Friday somewhere in the galaxy."


A brief exploration revealed both Carson and Rodney's clothes in dresser drawers and closets, as well as an assortment of photos and small personal items set out around the place. Rodney got into a pair of comfortable jeans and his 'I'm with Genius' t-shirt. Carson wore jeans as well, and a blue shirt that was... well, he looked nothing short of breathtaking. It certainly stole Rodney's breath.


"God, you look good," he said quietly, more than a little reverence in his heart. The blue made Carson's eyes electric. He could barely breathe, looking at Carson. Then Carson smiled at him and every last one of Rodney's brain cells died.


Rodney didn't bother talking; he just walked over to Carson and grabbed him and kissed him until Carson was as breathless as he was. Their arms were around each other and Rodney kissed Carson like a man starving for lips and tongue and something deeper that he couldn't even name.


"Clothes off, now," Rodney demanded in a growl.


Carson chuckled. "I just got them on."


"So what?" He tugged at the top button of Carson's shirt.


"So, I think we've got other things we could be doing now. We can do this tonight. Besides, I really do want to call my mum."


"You... buh... phone call?" Carson grinned, and there was an evil spark in those electric blue eyes. Rodney smacked the back of his head. "Asshole."


Carson grabbed Rodney by the shoulder and tossed him down on the bed. "Not."




"Och, and you love me anyway."


Rodney snorted. "Unfortunately, yes. Now about those clothes."


Carson leapt on top of Rodney and tugged at his jeans, popping all the buttons at once. "What about them?"


"Where did you learn that move?" Rodney raised his eyebrows. He pulled at the buttons on Carson's shirt, but his fingers were awkward with his excitement.


"What, are you complaining?"


"No no no," Rodney said. "Just curious."


"Dated a sailor once. Far more buttons than this on a uniform." He grinned, still evil.


Rodney frowned at him. "Why didn't you tell me you had a uniform fetish? I thought you hated the military?"


Buttons popped open and clothes went flying and Rodney hoped somebody had put some lube in one of the drawers next to the bed. "I don't have a uniform fetish, and I do dislike much of what the military does, but you must admit some lads just look good in those Navy uniforms."


"British or American?"


Carson shook his head. "Are you daft? British, of course."


Rodney tried to wrestle Carson under him, but it wasn't nearly as easy as he'd have thought. "Genius here," Rodney said. "Need I remind you?"


"How could I forget?" Carson had Rodney quite effectively pinned to the mattress and reached into the top drawer of the closest end table. "Oh, lovely. It's nice to see the SGC planning ahead for once." He pulled a bottle of lube out and showed it to Rodney.


"Oh, thank god," Rodney muttered. "I'd hate to have to call Sergeant Bald Guy and make him bring some to us under these conditions."


Rodney actually didn't mind being pinned under Carson at all. What he did mind was that Carson's hard cock was only milimetres from his mouth, but utterly unreachable no matter how he writhed. "Now, now," Carson said, "let's be patient for a moment."


"Patient? You obviously have no concept of the absolute torture you're putting me through here."


Carson looked down at him, catching his eyes. "Torture?" he asked innocently. The bastard.


Rodney growled. "Yes, you. With the blue eyes and that cock right there and the wrestling and-and the lube and -- Jesus H. Christ, Carson, let me suck you already."


Carson just laughed. "You've no patience in you at all."


Rodney stared at him. "Have we even met?"


"I seriously doubt I'd be waving one of my most precious parts in the face of a total stranger." Carson gave him the hairy eyeball.


"Sex!" Rodney shouted. "Now!"


Carson muttered something under his breath and shoved his cock in Rodney's face. "Here, then. This'll shut you up for a bit."


Rodney lifted his face and licked the head of Carson's cock and Carson hissed. Rodney grinned and then sucked it in, closing his eyes and making happy sex sounds. This was definitely better than staring at Carson's cock from slightly too far away.


"No appreciation for the finer points of foreplay," Carson grumbled. He yipped and thrust when Rodney swirled his tongue just so. "Oh, yes."


Rodney sucked, head bobbing and bouncing off the pillow with each stroke. Soft. The bed was nice and soft and it was comfortable and he was comfortable and oh god they were home and safe and nothing was going to try to eat them and Carson tasted wonderful and Rodney was unutterably happy with his life.


Carson was making blissful noises above him, legs pinning Rodney's arms to the bed. He struggled a little, but it was really just a token resistance. Carson was rarely a take-charge sort and Rodney actually rather liked to encourage that once in a while. It felt good to just lie back and let Carson have his way with him. Well, within reason anyway. The whole frustration and waiting thing wasn't in Rodney's overall game plan.


Rodney opened his eyes and saw Carson's hands fisted in the bedspread out of the corner of them. The expression on his face was indescribable, but it shot through Rodney's veins like a drug, leaving him shivering with want. Carson's head was down, eyes closed, his mouth opened as he gasped for breath. It was something like pain and something like ecstasy and maybe, at root, they were the same thing, because Rodney certainly thought he might die of it, watching his lover like that.


"Rodneyrodneyrodney," Carson chanted, his voice a whisper of breath through his lips. His hips moved in rhythm to Rodney's moving head and Rodney could taste the slick drops of pre-come as Carson grew harder and hotter in his mouth.


Rodney moaned and Carson gasped at the vibration, pulling out and away suddenly. "Not yet," he panted.


"Come back here," Rodney insisted. Carson shook his head and moved and the next thing Rodney knew, he was being rolled onto his belly. "Oh," he said, surprised. "Maybe not." Carson patted his hip and Rodney raised himself to his knees, face buried in his arms. He sighed, pleased, when Carson's hands caressed his ass and down his thighs, trailing along his sides and back. "Ohhh," Rodney mumbled into his arm. "Yeah."


Then Carson's hands slipped up to his cheeks again, parting them gently. The warmth of his breath moved against Rodney's skin and he shivered. A moment later, soft lips and the scratch of stubble moved in the cleft and Rodney moaned as the tip of Carson's tongue circled his opening. His cock twitched, balls tightening against his body. "Please," he moaned, barely breathing.


Carson 'mmm'ed and slipped his tongue inside Rodney, wet and hot and so damned good. Rodney pushed back against him and one of Carson's hands caressed his balls and pulled at them a little, bringing Rodney away from the edge.


Warm fingers slipped along his shaft and Rodney nearly purred, rubbing his face into the pillow as he moved. So much sensation in such a tiny amount of space and he was vibrating with need. He'd never been able to figure out how Carson managed to do that to him. He had, really, since the first time Rodney had laid eyes on him. Love had come later, but Rodney had always known he wanted Carson.


Soft nips on his buttocks and Rodney moaned again, eyes closed tight. He gasped when Carson's tongue traced patterns on his skin, slipping in and out of the cleft of his cheeks. The first time they'd been together had been quick and rough, and Rodney had believed he'd never have Carson again. He had never dreamed he'd end up here, like this.


"Please," Rodney whispered again. He reached back with one hand, fingers trailing along Carson's stubbled jaw. He felt so full, like his chest was weighted down with warmth. "Please."


"Rodney," Carson said gently. His lips moved against Rodney's thigh, soft and damp and tracing fire on his skin. He'd never felt so safe with anyone in his life as he did in this moment, deep under the Mountain. There were no crises, no Wraith bearing down on them, no shortages, no fears: just Carson, and the purity of sensation and arousal.


Carson kissed a trail along the curve of his hip, up his back and toward Rodney's shoulder as he covered Rodney's back with his body. He could feel Carson's weight and the warmth and substance of his chest pressing into him, one arm around Rodney's waist. Rodney sighed and slipped his hand along Carson's arm, covering it with his own. He felt Carson's slick hardness against him and wondered when Carson had used the lube -- but then, he'd been a bit preoccupied with that hot, wonderful tongue.


There were kisses on his shoulder and neck and Rodney shifted his knees further apart as Carson pushed against him and slipped into him. They both moaned, deep and throaty as Carson's slick shaft moved further and further inside with each slow, deliberate thrust.


"Oh, god, Rodney," Carson gasped. His hand tightened, spasming fingers in the muscle of Rodney's side. It was good; it was better than good, it was everything holy there ever was.


Not that Rodney believed in god, mind you, but Carson was close enough sometimes.


And then Carson was all the way inside him and Rodney nearly broke from how it felt. He shuddered as Carson moved inside him, arms tingling, head spinning. If he didn't know better, he'd wonder if he'd suddenly gone into hypoglycemic shock. His throbbing cock told him otherwise, and Carson's other hand was slick and pumping him and the next thing Rodney knew he was coming like there would never be another nanosecond. He gasped and cried out, voice muffled in the pillow. He bit down as Carson grunted and started pounding into him, teeth on Rodney's shoulder, biting, but not quite hard enough to bruise.


There was muffled Gaelic and Carson shuddered to a stop, his weight now fully on Rodney's back. Rodney's knees folded and they both collapsed on the bed, sweating and panting together.


"If you put that shirt back on," Rodney gasped, "I swear we will never leave this room."


Carson chuckled and kissed his cheek. "Daft bugger."


"Daft. That means 'genius' in Gaelic, right?" Carson swatted the back of his head. Rodney grabbed his wrist and kissed Carson's palm. "Have I mentioned recently that I love you?"


"No." Carson smiled at him, blue eyes alight. "I think we should clean up and see if SGC's been able to find Jeannie for you. Did she ever get your message, I wonder? And I do have to call my mum."


Rodney nodded. "Yeah, a shower would probably be in order. I don't think wandering the halls smelling like hot sex is really the best idea I've ever had."


"Not likely." Carson rose and they showered with only minor incidents of groping and kissing. Rodney thought it only fair -- after all, Carson had worn that shirt.


He had the temerity to put it on again when they got dressed. Rodney resolved to ignore it, largely because he was too tired to get it up again right now. When Rodney got dressed, he found a box on the dining table. Inside were two cell phones, one marked 'R. McKay' and the other marked 'C. Beckett,' with a phone number on each note. Along with the phones were lists of numbers that had been programmed into them. SGC was speed dial one, but he and Carson were each number two on the other's phone. Elizabeth and Sheppard were the others. Carson's phone had his mum's number in it. Rodney's had a 'J. Arsineau' listed.


"Jeannie?" he whispered. It was a Vancouver, BC area code. "Oh, god."


Carson came up behind him and put his hands on Rodney's shoulders. "Are you all right, mo leannan?"


Rodney was feeling a little light headed. "Phones," he said. "I think one of these numbers is Jeannie's." He handed Carson's phone to him. There were other papers in the box as well. He dug them out and looked at them. Bank statements for his and Carson's accounts and bank cards to access them with. He blinked. "Damn. I knew I had money before, but I think I'm rich again."


Carson looked over his shoulder after he tucked the phone onto his belt. "My god," he said. "I do think you're right. I'm not doing so bad myself. But... is that Euros or dollars?"


"Ummm... your bank's in Scotland. Euros, I think."


Carson nodded. "Fair enough. Just don't go losing all of yours on poker. You said you'd lost a fortune more than once at it."


"Uh, no. I really kinda doubt I'll be heading for any casinos if I'm with you." Rodney shook his head, still a little disoriented.


Carson slipped his arms around Rodney, holding him tight, his chin on Rodney's shoulder. "Will you be all right, speaking with her?"


Rodney took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I don't know," he admitted. "I haven't... I mean we haven't talked since she left home."


"And you were all of twelve at the time."


Rodney nodded. He closed his eyes. She was married, he guessed, given the last name. Or maybe divorced. Or maybe she'd even just changed her name because she didn't want to be a McKay anymore. He really could sort of understand that. "I have no idea what she's gonna say. If she'll even speak to me."


"She's your sister." Carson's voice was soft, with a slight undertone of 'of course she would,' and, 'that explains everything.'


"You should call your mom," Rodney said, working on his classic avoidance techniques.


"Aye, I will," Carson replied. "And you should call Jeannie. See if she wants to see you."


"Us," Rodney said and turned to look at Carson. "To see if she wants to see us."


Carson smiled.


A few moments later, Carson was on the phone babbling in Gaelic and Rodney didn't understand a word he said, except that he heard his name mentioned a couple of times. Carson was just about glowing, but there was an edge of tears in his eyes. Rodney wondered if everything was okay, or if he was just really really happy to talk to his mom. Probably the latter, he decided. Carson was kind of that way.


Rodney stared at his own phone, wondering if he had the guts to dial.




Carson stood with Rodney outside the apartment door. "Are you sure you want to do this, love?" He shifted his weight uneasily as Rodney knocked.


"Yes, yes, of course I want to do this. If I have her, they can't very well tell me I can't take her with me, can they?" Rodney scowled, waiting for the bimbo to answer the door. He knocked again impatiently.


A few moments later the door opened. A brunette woman answered the door. "Yes?"


"I came for my cat," Rodney said.


The woman squinted at him. "Oh, it's you. I thought you were leaving for good. You mean you meant it when you said you were coming back for her?"


Rodney snorted. "Of course I meant it. Jane's my cat. Why would I leave her with you forever?"


"Because you're an asshole," the woman said. She slammed the door in his face.


Rodney startled and then his shoulders slumped. "That went well," he muttered. He knocked again.


"You can't have her!" the woman shouted through the door.


Rodney bounced on his toes. "But she's *my* cat! You were just taking care of her for me!"


"She's mine now. Go away." The door didn't open.


"You can't do that!" Rodney insisted.


The woman opened the door and glared at him. "If you don't get lost, I'm calling the cops. Seriously. Take off. And take your friend with you. You two don't intimidate me."


"We're not trying to intimidate anyone, miss," Carson said desperately, trying to fix things and knowing it wasn't going to work. "Rodney only wants his cat back."


"Jane's settled in here. She loves me. I'm not giving her back. Get lost." She tried to slam the door again but Rodney'd got his foot in it. He yowled when the door slammed against it.


"Ow, ow, ow! Fuck!" Rodney spat. He reached for his foot. The woman put her hand on the top of his head when he bent over and she pushed. Rodney ended up on his bum on the ground, and Carson sighed and shook his head.


"I'm sorry we bothered you, miss," Carson said, helping his cursing lover to his feet. "We'll just be off now."


"Don't come back," she growled.


Rodney hopped along with Carson's arm still around him, cursing under his breath. "I just wanted Jane back. Is that too damned much to ask?"


Carson shook his head. "They're not goin' to let you take her through the Gate anyway, love. Really, it's better this way."


"No," Rodney said miserably. "It's not. She could have at least let me *see* her."


"Come on then, you need to let me look at your foot. Let's find a place for a sit down." He gestured to the park across the street. There were a couple of inviting-looking benches just back from the sidewalk.


"I want my damned cat back, bitch!" Rodney bellowed at the apartment building.


"Rodney, you're goin' to get us arrested if you don't calm down." He crouched at Rodney's feet and pulled his boot off. "Let me look at that and make sure nothing's broken."


"Not broken," Rodney muttered, angry, his arms crossed tightly over his chest.


Carson looked up at him. His face was twisted with pain and anger. "I'll be the judge of that, love. Last I recall your degrees weren't medical."


"How could she do that?" Rodney's voice was quieter, sad now. "I asked her to take care of Jane. I mean, I said there was a chance I wouldn't be coming back, but I really did tell her I wanted her if I did."


"She doesn't strike me as a very nice woman," Carson said. He pulled Rodney's sock off and looked at his foot. "Doesn't look like any major damage. Does this hurt?" He poked gently.


Rodney tugged his foot away. "Of course it hurts. I just got it slammed in a door. But it's not broken. Give me my sock and shoe back and let's get out of here."


Carson did, and sat on the bench next to Rodney as he put his sock and his boot back on. "What would you like to do now?" he asked. "I think we should probably arrange our plane tickets for Vancouver and Glasgow, don't you?"


Rodney nodded, sullen. "Yeah, okay. You're right."


"When is Jeannie expecting us, then?"


Rodney didn't look up. "I... um... I haven't called her yet."


Carson blinked. "You haven't? Why ever not?"


Rodney glared at him. "You saw what just happened. What if Jeannie doesn't want to see me? What then?"


Carson slipped his arm around Rodney's shoulders. "She's your sister, Rodney. And even if things were bad when she left home, you're both adults now. People change. You've changed."


"What if she has half a dozen squalling brats?"


Carson squeezed Rodney tugging him close. "Then you're an uncle half a dozen times over." He smiled. "You'll never know if you don't call. We can't come this far and you never speak to her."


"I don't want to be an uncle. Hell, I'm not even sure I want to be a brother." Rodney's eyes looked empty and he gazed off into the distance.


Carson's throat caught. "Give her a chance. Give yourself a chance."


Rodney pulled the cell phone off his belt and sat there, staring at it. "I wouldn't know what to say to her."


"Hello works."


"You know me. I'm no good at this."


"You've got much better at it over the last year. Trust me on that." Carson rubbed Rodney's back gently.


Rodney looked up from the phone and blinked at Carson. "Are you coming back to Atlantis?" He reached out and touched Carson's face, desperation growing in his eyes. "Please, tell me you're coming back with me. I can't do this without you."


Carson's heart stuttered in his chest. He'd been trying not to think about it yet, but he'd no idea how he would bring himself to leave Rodney. He sincerely doubted Rodney would stay on Earth with him.


"I will," he said. "I'll go back with you." And it was like an immense weight was lifted from Carson's heart, suddenly freed of constraints. Rodney looked disbelieving for a moment but then his face lit up. His fingers slipped behind Carson's neck and they leaned in, foreheads touching gently.


"Thank you," Rodney whispered.


"Why don't we go find something to eat," Carson suggested. "Then you can call Jeannie and we can get our plane tickets."


"Right," Rodney said. "Food. Tickets." They stood and he hissed but limped off at Carson's side.




Rodney held his breath as the phone rang. Carson was up at the counter, getting them some lunch. Rodney wasn't sure how much of the conversation he wanted Carson to hear, and the line at the counter was fairly long, so he probably had a few minutes.


"Hello?" a woman's voice answered.


"J-jeannie?" Rodney took a quick breath.


"Who is this?"


Rodney swallowed. "It's... um... it's Rodney."


"Rodney? Really? Oh my god."


"I... um... how are you?" God, he hated trying to talk to someone he barely knew, especially when it was his sister.


She took a stuttering breath. "Where are you? That... that video the US Air Force sent me -- it sounded like you thought you were about to die. Are you okay?"


"Yeah," he said, releasing a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Yeah, I'm okay. I'm in Colorado. I... um... would it be okay if I came to Vancouver to see you?"


"See me? When? I mean, yes. That would be good. I want to see you. Are you sure you're all right? You sound terrified."


Rodney closed his eyes and leaned his face in his hand as he spoke. "I just... you left when I was twelve, Jeannie. I had no idea if you ever even wanted to speak to me again."


"I do, Rodney. I have a lot of things to explain about that. I wanted to talk to you for years, but I wasn't sure how without having to deal with mom and dad, and you just dropped off the map when you took off for university. I mean you were what, fourteen?"


"Yeah," he whispered. "Look, Jeannie, I have to tell you something. When I come, I'll be bringing someone with me. He's... well, he's my partner, and before you freak out on me, I want you to know that if it's not okay to bring him, I'm not coming."


There was silence on the line for a moment, and Rodney's heart hammered in his chest. He could hear her breathe again. "Okay. That's okay. It... I mean, it'll take a little getting used to, but it's okay."


"Good," Rodney agreed. "I can handle that. Getting used to it. That's okay. It's better than some of what we've faced. I... I'll be here in Colorado for a week. I'll have the Air Force arrange a hotel for us, and we can meet you somewhere."


"Rodney, despite the fact that we haven't spoken in over twenty years, I'm still your sister. You and your... um... your boyfriend, you can stay with me if you want."


"I'm not sure that's the best idea. I mean I don't want to put you out. Do... do you have kids or anything? You're... um, you're not going by McKay anymore--"


"Divorced," she said. "No kids. I have a spare bedroom. It's okay, really. You shouldn't spend the money if you don't have to. I know what it's like."


Rodney shook his head as Carson came up to the table bearing two Coronas and a tray of burritos. "Money's not the issue, trust me. I just... I mean, what if we don't get along or something?"


"I think that's putting the cart before the horse here, Rodney. Just give it a try. If we don't get on, then you and he can find yourselves a hotel room, okay?"


"Um, okay," Rodney said. "I have your address. I'll call you when we book the tickets."


"Okay," Jeannie said. "I'll expect to hear from you soon." She took a deep breath. "I've missed you," she said softly. "I want to give this a try, okay?"


"Okay," he replied. "See you."


"See you." She hung up. Rodney stared at the phone for a long moment.


"How did it go, love?" Carson asked gently, setting the tray down and sitting across from him. "No guacamole, as you asked. No salsa. No lime for the beer."


"Thanks." Rodney flipped the phone shut and stuck it back on his belt. "I guess it went okay. She invited us to stay with her. She wasn't exactly jumping for joy about me bringing a man home with me, but she seems willing to work with it."


"That's all you can ask," Carson said. He unwrapped his burrito.


"What did your mom say, anyway?" Rodney unwrapped his as well and took a hit from his Corona.


Carson grinned. "Oh, she was all excited. She can't wait to meet you. She says we'll go up to Portree and you can meet the rest of the family as well. Mind, not all of them will be thrilled with me bringing a lad home, but most will be all right with it. They've known about me all my life."


"Really?" Rodney bit into his burrito.


Carson nodded. "Oh, aye. Family's family, where I come from. You don't reject somebody out of hand simply for being different."


"Must be nice," Rodney muttered.


Carson reached across the table and took Rodney's hand in his. "They'll love you. Trust me," he said reassuringly.


"Have you added fortune telling to your voodoo skills?" Rodney snorted.


Carson chuckled. "No. I just know my family."


Rodney shook his head and sighed. He didn't believe it, but he wasn't going to call Carson a liar to his face. At least he meant well. He ate, despite the knot of fear in his stomach about dealing with Jeannie.




"I'm really not qualified for this," Carson moaned, leaning back on the bed with a stack of files on his lap. Rodney sat next to him, a similar pile in his own. "All these people are more qualified than me." He picked up one file and waved it at Rodney. "Where do they get these people? I swear, they must have some kind of special breeding program."


Rodney snatched the file and slapped it back down into Carson's lap. "Oh, bullshit. You're more qualified than any ten of these people. You lived through the first year. None of these people has anything that can touch that. You've seen the Wraith. You've worked firsthand on their DNA. So shut up. I'm so not listening to you whine."




"Not listening." Rodney picked up another file from his own lap and opened it. "You know Elizabeth wants these things done by tomorrow."


Carson huffed, frustrated. "Any of these people would be supervising me anywhere else," he muttered.


"Talking bullshit again." Rodney didn't even look up.


"Rodney!" Carson shoved his files aside. "I'm not doing well here. I'd like at least a wee bit of sympathy."


Rodney paused for a moment then looked up. "What do you want me to say? If anybody other than you is in charge of the medical division, I'm not letting them lay a finger on me, so get over it."


"Bloody romantic," Carson muttered. He couldn't help but shake his head and chuckle. "If that's how it is--"


"That's how it is."


Carson gathered up the files and set them on the bedside table. "I had this conversation with Elizabeth earlier," he said. "She said some similar things."


"That's because they're true. Genius here, remember?" Rodney eyed him askance.


Carson sighed. "All right then. But how am I supposed to choose people for the expedition when I don't feel competent to judge their suitability?"


Rodney grinned wickedly. "Who's hot?" Carson snorted and swatted Rodney's chest with a file folder. "Oh, that's right, assault me. See if you get laid tonight."




Rodney rolled his eyes. "What specialties do you need? That'll at least narrow down the list a little."


"I've already done that." He picked up the stack again. "This is what's left. And they're all so bloody overqualified it's not even funny."


"Darts on a name grid?" Rodney suggested. "Flip a coin?"


"You're no help."


"No, I'm not. I have my own insurmountable mountain of paper here, in case you hadn't noticed."


Carson grinned. "We could trade."


Rodney just stared for a long moment. "Right. And then I'd have some botanist running the engineering division."


"I thought that was Radek's job?"


"Well yes, but it's the principle of the thing."


"I think we need a break," Carson said. Rodney looked over at the clock and nodded, setting his own pile of files aside.


"You're right." He rolled to his side and grabbed Carson. "I think hot sex is the best way to deal with the high pressure we're under at the moment."


"Daft sod," Carson snorted. "I was thinking more along the lines of dinner. It's late and I'm hungry. I'm surprised you've not been moaning about your blood sugar."


"Hmm," Rodney muttered. "Food, sex. Food, sex." He weighed the two in either hand. "You're right. Food." With an evil grin, he slid off the bed to his feet and held out a hand to Carson. "Coming?"


"Oh, aye," Carson said. He took Rodney's hand and let his lover pull him to his feet as well. "My eyes were almost crossing from the type anyway."


"Maybe you need glasses." Rodney looked at him. "You'd look hot in glasses."


"Right," Carson mumbled.


"Well, okay, so you look hot anyway, but glasses? Oh yeah." He tugged on Carson's hand and pulled him toward the door. "Come on, food waits on no man."


Carson sighed and followed Rodney out, wondering what he'd ever do without the man. Elizabeth and the Major were in the mess hall when they arrived. Carson and Rodney got trays and sat with them.


"Carson, Rodney," Elizabeth said. "How are things going with your selections?"


"Fine," Rodney said, while Carson said, "Terrible."


Elizabeth smiled. The Major chuckled behind his hand. "What seems to be the problem, Carson?"


"They're all so competent. I've no idea how to choose," he said.


Rodney picked up his fork and gestured with it. "I, on the other hand, have a classic stack of morons to winnow down to the least moronic. There were several dozen I rejected out of hand. I mean, please, when did we rewrite the laws of physics?"


"It's not like the stuff from the program's what they're teaching in colleges," Sheppard said. "Everything you do is classified Burn Before Reading."


Rodney nodded. "Well, yes, but still, these people have the collective IQ of your average jellyfish."


"Oh, they can't be so bad as all that," Carson said, taking a sip of his tea.


"Okay, so they're worse," Rodney grumbled. "Peons. Idiots. Sub-moronic dipsticks."


"I take it your winnowing project is proceeding apace," Elizabeth said, smiling.


"I shudder to think that some poor sheep died for their Ph.D. parchment." Rodney shook his head and dug into the chipped beef on toast.


"I'm sure they're not that bad, Rodney. Their governments chose the best they had--"


"Governments," Rodney snorted. "You can't trust them with anything. You ask for the best, and they just give you the people they want to get rid of. And you can't exile anybody further away than Atlantis."


"Honestly, Rodney, no one is doing that," Elizabeth said. Sheppard just shook his head, still grinning.


"Come on, Rodney, you're just still sore about being sent to Siberia," Sheppard said.


Rodney shook his head. "Technically, no. Atlantis, after all." He tilted his head and grinned at Carson. "And there are other benefits as well."


"I suppose that makes me the retirement plan, then, does it?" Carson said, smiling back fondly.


"God, I hope so," Rodney said. He slipped his hand onto Carson's thigh under the table. Carson blushed and tried not to fidget. Rodney didn't generally go for such displays, but then, they were with friends.


Elizabeth didn't say anything, starting in on her chocolate pudding. Sheppard poked Rodney's arm with one finger. "You're getting sentimental in your old age, McKay."


"Shut up," Rodney muttered.


"Not a chance," Sheppard said. "Looks good on you."


"You? Are so dead." Rodney glared at Sheppard, stuffing another bite into his mouth.


"Now, boys," Elizabeth said. "Do I have to call the principal?"


"I thought you *were* the headmaster," Carson said, grinning.


She chuckled. "I have the ruler to prove it."


"My slide rule is bigger than your ruler," Rodney snorted.


Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Way too old school."


"It has sentimental value," Rodney said defensively.


"Was that your one personal item?" Sheppard poked him again.


Rodney shifted his chair back from the table a few millimetres to avoid Sheppard's reach. "I am so not telling you what my personal item was," he said, blushing.


Sheppard's eyes narrowed. "Oooh. A challenge."


"That's it! That's enough," Rodney growled. "I'm not having this discussion. You and your collection of hair care products can go somewhere else." Carson was wondering what Rodney had taken to Atlantis himself now, and thought back to his first impression. Had Rodney really taken along some kind of sex toy? He closed his eyes and covered them with one hand. Rodney's hand swatted his thigh. "And you can stop speculating right now," Rodney snapped at him.


"Or what," Carson said, "I'll never see your slide rule again?"


Sheppard snorted, spewing his drink across the table.


"On that note," Elizabeth said, "I think I'll leave you boys to recess."




They pulled up near a nondescript small house in Kitsilano, not far from English Bay. Finding parking had been a bitch, but Rodney was more uneasy about everything else. Carson had suggested that he drive, saying that Rodney was probably too nervous, but Rodney countered with the 'wrong side of the road' argument. Carson had blustered a bit but given in, as Rodney knew he would.


 Carson pulled their suitcases out of the trunk while Rodney paced up and down the sidewalk, looking at the little stuccoed home. "It's not goin' to bite you, mo leannan," Carson said.


Rodney snorted. "No, but Jeannie might."


"She's your *sister*," Carson grumbled.


"Whom I haven't seen since I was *twelve*, hello," Rodney growled back. "God knows what she's going to think."


Carson handed Rodney his suitcase. "Well, she did invite us to stay with her. The least you can do is give her a chance. Don't be a prat."


"What if she hates me?"


Carson shook his head sadly. "You've no idea what she's going to say or do, so I say let's be at least a wee bit optimistic. If she slams the door in our faces, then you can whinge about her hating you."


Rodney snorted. "Go ahead, remind me that I never did get to see Jane."


"That's not what I meant."


He sighed. "I know, I know. It's just kind of a sore spot still."


"I know, love, and I'm sorry. If you talk to General Landry, perhaps he'll let you bring a kitten with you."


"It's not the same." Rodney pocketed the car keys and started for the building. "Come on. Might as well get the horror over with."


Carson followed along behind and Rodney looked at the address next to the door. "Okay. Don't blame me if this is a disaster." He set down his suitcase and knocked.


A middle-aged woman answered the door. She was tall, with dark hair to her shoulders. Her eyes were blue behind round, wire-rimmed glasses. "Yes?"


"Jeannie. Um... it's Rodney--"


She grinned. "Rodney!" She grabbed his suitcase. "Come on in. I have some coffee on for you."


"See?" Carson whispered. "I told you."


"Give it five minutes," Rodney muttered. Five minutes was more than enough time for everything to blow up in his face.


They trailed her into the house. She entered one of the bedrooms on the first floor and put Rodney's suitcase on the bed. "You guys can stay here," she said, gesturing for Carson to put his own suitcase down, then fell silent, staring at Rodney.


Carson set his suitcase down and Rodney stared back at Jeannie. "Um... you look good," he said.


She went to him and gave him an awkward hug. "I'm glad you're here," she told him softly. Rodney patted her back, equally awkward. They stepped away from each other. Rodney could smell the coffee brewing in the other room. "So I take it this is your boyfriend," Jeannie said, finally paying attention to Carson. She smiled shyly and offered her hand to him. "I'm Jeannie Arsineau."


Carson grinned at her and shook her hand. "Carson Beckett. I'm very pleased to finally meet you."


Jeannie shifted her weight uneasily. "Come on into the dining room. We've got a lot of catching up to do."


Under the strong aroma of coffee was a subtler scent of something cooking. "Yeah," Rodney said quietly. "I guess we do." The entered the dining room and sat at the table as Jeannie went into the kitchen and brought them coffee with milk and sugar.


"If you two want," Carson said, "I could go for a walk about the neighborhood, give you some private time."


"No," both of them said quickly. "No," Jeannie continued, "that's okay. I'm just glad you're both finally here." She smiled softly.


"Both of us," Rodney said, uncertain. "Sounded to me earlier like you weren't sure about it all."


She shrugged. "I've had a week to think about it. I've never had anything against it, I'm just trying to wrap my brain around the fact that it's you." Jeannie looked over at Carson for a moment and flashed him a quick smile. "And your boyfriend is cute."


Rodney reached under the table and took Carson's hand, looking at him and hoping for some reassurance. Carson squeezed and smiled at him, blushing. "It's all right, mo leannan," he said.


Rodney nodded. "I... um... I really don't know where to start," he said. He leaned a little closer to Carson, shoulders brushing together.


Jeannie's smile faded. "I don't either," she admitted. "After I left home, I got married, but that didn't last very long. Brad wasn't terrible, but we just really didn't get along." She shrugged. "I went to university and got my degree in law. I'm a prosecutor now for the Provincial court." She got up and poured coffee for everyone. "I'm busy, but I enjoy what I do."


 "Good, that's good," Rodney said, sipping from his mug. "I'm doing astrophysics these days. Carson here is a doctor." He squeezed Carson's hand.


"Where are you working?" Jeannie said. "CERN? Lawrence Livermore? The message you sent was pretty... unsettling. It didn't seem like you were somewhere normal."


"It's classified," Rodney said, "so don't even ask."


"Are you sure everything is all right?" Jeannie asked. "If there's some kind of trouble, I could see about getting you out of your contract. You could... you could come home, you know."


Rodney squinted at her. "Oh yes, because home was always so good to me." He snorted and Jeannie flushed, looking away. "Where we've been," he said, "despite all that's happened, that feels more like home to me now than Canada." He looked at Carson. "I have what I need."


Carson smiled at him. "Oh, aye," he whispered. "Indeed."


"And you're from Scotland? Carson, isn't it?" Jeannie asked.


Carson turned to her. "Yes, from Glasgow. I've a Ph.D. in genetics as well as being a medical doctor."


"We'll be going there after our visit with you," Rodney said. "Carson wants to see his mom and the rest of his family."


Jeannie gave them an odd look. "Must be nice. I haven't spoken to Mom or Dad since I left home, thank god."


And there it was, the elephant in the living room. "Why did you leave?" Rodney growled. He'd wanted to know for years. "You abandoned me. You left me with *them*."


Carson's hand slipped from his and he wrapped his arm around Rodney's waist. Jeannie sighed. "It's a long story."


"I'm sure." Rodney couldn't help the frown.


"I'm... I'm sorry I had to leave you," she said. "I was barely eighteen, Rodney. If I could have taken you with me, I would have. They didn't deserve to be parents, either of them. I don't know exactly what was going on with you, but I could tell it was horrible." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, resting her face in one hand. "I know you always thought they treated me better, but you have no idea what it's like to be expected to be perfect all the time."


"I'm sure you were terribly traumatized by being the one they wanted," Rodney interrupted, "and actually, these days, I do." The heavy expectations of perfection and pulling miracles out of his posterior were far too recent for his comfort. Jeannie might have had to deal with their parents' anger, but Rodney had to cope with everyone he cared about dying and the entire damned planet being sucked through straws by the Wraith.


She looked up at him at that. "I'm sorry. I had no control over how they felt or what they did. I hated them for the way they treated you." Rodney snorted and Jeannie continued. "Everything I did had to live up to their exacting standards. There was no room for me to have my own life, or even my own personality. I was expected to be an extension of who they were, what they wanted."


"I would have gone with you," Rodney said, torn between his anger and a frustrated longing for an impossible second chance. Listening to Jeannie was miserably difficult, but he needed to know. She looked distressed and he wasn't sure if that made him happy or if it upset him.


"I'm so sorry, Rodney, so sorry." Her mouth twitched and she looked about ready to cry.


Slowly, tentatively, he reached out a hand to her. He'd come so far; he had to at least take the chance. Jeannie took it, her grip surprisingly strong. "It was a long time ago," he said. "I can't exactly say I'm over it, but I'll live."


"What really happened to you?" she asked.


Rodney's heart froze in him and he could feel himself go pale. "I... Jeannie, I don't think I can talk about that."


"Aye," Carson said. "Let him work up to it, if he's going to."


She looked at him. "So he's told you."


Carson nodded. "He has."


"I don't even know you anymore," Rodney said. He felt helpless. It had been hard enough to talk to Carson, even with a lot of encouragement and some good incentives. "I haven't seen you in close to twenty-five years. I just don't know if I can trust you. Sometimes I'm still angry with you. It's not... it's nothing personal. Just... you know."


She nodded. "It's all right. We have a week. Maybe by then you'll feel more comfortable talking about it. I have some suspicions, but I could never really prove anything."


"Breathe, Rodney," Carson reminded him. Rodney rubbed Carson's arm where it wrapped around his waist. It was an effort, but he tried to focus enough to do as Carson asked.


"Right, right." There was too much happening all at once and Rodney was having a hard time coping. He'd stood face to face with Wraith and been less nervous.


"Are you sure the two of you'd not prefer to have me go for a bit?" Carson asked. He had that look in his eyes that he got when he thought he was intruding.


"Stay," Rodney said, his voice a little shaky. Carson was definitely not an intrusion here. More like a necessary lifeline to sanity.


"Right enough," Carson said. "I'll stay with you." There was a reassuring squeeze and Rodney thought maybe he could breathe a little easier.


Jeannie watched from the other side of the table, concern on her face. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't think you'd react this badly."


Rodney swallowed and said, "Carson's the only one I've ever actually told about it."


"Ah." She nodded. "Who was it? Dad?"


Rodney closed his eyes. He shook his head. "No," he whispered. His heart was thundering in his chest, dizziness rising in him. "Please, not right now."


Jeannie sighed. "Okay, sorry. Work habits. I'm too used to interrogating people."


"Yeah, well stop it. I'm not on trial here." He glared at her.


"Rodney," Carson said, "she's honestly not trying to be hurtful." He took Rodney's hand again.


Rodney deflated. "I know, I know." He looked up at her. "Can we change the subject now?"


"Of course." She took a deep breath. "So where did the two of you meet?"


Okay, so that wasn't quite such dangerous territory. Rodney relaxed a little. "A research post in Antarctica," he said. That, at least, wasn't classified. "It was about two years ago."


"Two years?" She looked interested. "Really? How long have you been together, then?"


"Most of a year," Carson told her.


Jeannie smiled at Carson. "Oh, that's nice. Rodney was never very close to anyone growing up." She looked over at Rodney. "I'm so glad you've finally found someone, then. Were you two planning on getting married while you're here?"


Rodney barely managed to not spew the hot coffee across the table. "You're kidding, right? You know that's not possible." Carson just looked shell-shocked.


She blinked. "You didn't have access to the news?" Rodney shook his head no. "Oh. God, you must have been so isolated. It's legal here now."


"Legal," Rodney said, his voice cracking. He'd never given so much as a thought to the idea that he and Carson might actually get married someday. It just hadn't been an issue. The very idea left a streak of fear down his spine.


Carson looked at him nervously, not saying anything. Carson's hand was sweating in his, though maybe some of that sweat was his own. "You really didn't know," Jeannie said.


"No," Carson whispered, then louder, "No, we didn't."


"I... we..." Rodney stuttered. "That's just... sudden."


Jeannie shrugged. "Our self-righteous neighbors to the south have been getting increasingly obnoxious about it," she said. "It was as much in reaction to that as anything else, but to be honest, the situation really was a violation of the Charter."


Rodney and Carson both sat quietly and Rodney let the idea sink in. He finished his coffee quickly, almost burning his throat. "I don't know what to say," Carson finally ventured. "I'd never thought about it." He looked at Rodney. "I know I wanted to be with you but... well I never thought we'd be able to do something like that." He blinked. "That's brilliant. Really."


"My head hurts too much to think about it," Rodney muttered. His heart was beating so fast he thought he might be on the verge of a myocardial infarction.


"I didn't mean to startle you," Jeannie said. "I guess I just thought you knew. I was sure the American military would at least let you watch the news."


Carson took a deep breath. "We've been completely cut off for the last year," he said. "Not anyone's fault. It was just a function of where we were."


She nodded, still looking suspicious. "That must have been some classified mission," she said.


"Not going there," Rodney snapped. "Honestly, you're the prosecutor here. You should understand the legalities we're faced with."


"I'm not prying," Jeannie protested. "I'm just trying to understand."


"What is it you've got in the kitchen?" Carson asked, obviously trying to defuse the conversation before it got more heated. "We've not had anything since breakfast and even though Rodney's fond of airline food for reasons unknown to god or man, they don't even feed you on planes anymore."


"I like it because the sandwiches are *safe*," Rodney said. "It's all bland and predictable. Not a lemon to be found anywhere. I don't have to worry about dying of anaphylaxis at thirty-thousand feet."


"There's that," Carson admitted. "But honestly, I'd swear you had English taste buds."


Rodney put a hand over his heart as Jeannie chuckled. "You wound me. I wouldn't touch steak and kidney pie if you paid me."


"And who could blame you," Carson said, smiling. Rodney breathed a little easier at the sight. Carson really should bottle it, Rodney thought. If it worked the same on everyone else as it did on Rodney, they'd make a million on it.


Jeannie smiled too. "You two are adorable together," she said. Rodney glared at her.


"I am *not* adorable," he said.


She snorted. "Yes you are, so shut up. And lunch is chicken soup with dumplings."


"Oh, that sounds lovely," Carson replied, not bothering to say anything about the slight to their manhood.


"There's no citrus in that, is there?" Rodney asked.


Jeannie looked at him. "Honestly, Rodney, do you think I could forget that emergency room trip when you were four? You almost died."


"Uh..." Actually, Rodney didn't even remember it. "Maybe not," he said.


"Mom and Dad threw a fit," she said, standing. "Come into the kitchen."


"They did?" Rodney asked. He and Carson got up to follow her. The food did smell pretty good.


She nodded as she took bowls from the cupboard. "They sounded like the worst thing about it was that you'd interrupted their dinner party." She scowled as she turned back and handed each of them a bowl. "For god's sake, you almost *died*. I never did forgive them for that." With a sigh, Jeannie turned to the stove and uncovered the soup. "Honestly Rodney, if I hadn't heard Mom bitch all the way through the pregnancy, I'd swear you were abandoned on the doorstep and they were forced at gunpoint to take care of you."


Rodney went cold inside at her words. "There were days when I wondered," he muttered. He'd always felt out of place, but had never been certain how early it had started.


She started ladling soup in to their bowls. "It was horrible. You were gasping and I was freaking out and they were fighting about who had to take you to the hospital."


Carson stood staring at her, his mouth hanging open in shock. "You're not kidding about this, are you, lass?" he said when he finally got his voice back.


Jeannie shook her head. "I wish."


He put his bowl down on the counter and put his arms around Rodney, standing behind him. Rodney had no idea how he felt, just standing there with the bowl of hot soup in his hands, shaking a little.


"You don't remember, do you," Jeannie said after a moment, staring at them both.


Rodney shook his head. "No."


"They ought to both be shot," Carson muttered darkly.


Jeannie shrugged. "Too late with Mom."


Rodney blinked and looked up. "What?"


"She died a couple of years ago. Uncle Harry told me."


"Oh." Rodney set the soup down. "I think I need to sit down.

Carson steadied him as they walked back to the dining table. Rodney sat heavily in his chair. "I'm sorry," Jeannie said. "I thought you knew. I guess I thought you knew a lot of things. I'm really mucking this up, aren't I?"


"I hated her," Rodney said, "but it's not like I was wishing she was dead. What happened?"


Jeannie carried two bowls out to the table and set them doing, going back for the third. "Ovarian cancer," she said. "Harry said it was ugly."


Rodney stared at the grain of the wood, too dizzy to think. Carson's hand moved in soothing circles on his back. "Breathe, love," he said softly. "Just breathe. I know it's a shock."


Rodney nodded. "Yeah, you could say that."


This had been a lousy idea. Why Rodney had ever believed this could work was beyond even his immense genius to understand. Carson's hands slipped up to his shoulders, massaging at the knots there and easing the tension in the back of his neck. "I'm so sorry, love," Carson whispered, leaning close. Rodney could feel his lover's breath on his cheek.


"I don't suppose you know anything about Dad," Rodney asked, not sure he wanted to know.


Jeannie laid out spoons and napkins on the table. "Last I heard he was still living in Toronto. I think he's retired now."


"Are there any other immensities that you think I should know about, while we're at it?" Rodney finally looked up at her.


"You mean aside from Quebecois independence?" she asked. He glared at her. "Just kidding."


"So not funny."


"The government's been getting more conservative, but considering how things have been going, it's not that surprising," she said.


He raised an eyebrow. "They'll let two men get married, but it's getting more conservative?"


Jeannie shrugged. "It's weird, I know. You'd have to be following the politics. I worry sometimes, but not enough to consider moving."


Carson finally sat down next to Rodney at the table and Jeannie sat with them. "Do you think you can eat something?" Carson asked.


Rodney looked at him. "This is me we're talking about." He picked up his spoon. "What's a little thing like a death in the family when there's food?" The words were only a cover for the seething emotions he could barely name, but if he could fake Carson out, he wouldn't have to talk about it.


Carson, unfortunately, didn't look fooled for an instant. "I know better than that," he said. "But you do need to eat. Last thing we need is a hypoglycemic episode when you're already upset, and tired from traveling."


Rodney took refuge in the chicken and dumplings. At least if he was eating, he wouldn't be expected to say anything, and the soup was actually pretty good. He inhaled the strong, warm aromas of chicken and herbs. It had been a long time since he'd had something cooked on Earth by a real human being, as opposed to MREs or the generic swill they served in the mess hall.


Not that he minded generic swill. It was usually safe and tended to be functional, which was about all he really cared about anyway. Still, now and then something nicer wasn't unwelcome. He let the warmth of the food seep into him, spreading from his stomach to his almost numb limbs.


"The soup's lovely," Carson said after sampling from his bowl. "It's a delight on a fine, soft day like this."


The weather had, in fact, been typically Vancouver -- cold and overcast with an intermittent light drizzle. It didn't really bother Rodney. With his fair skin, he tended to favor weather that wasn't going to fry him anyway. "It stays like this for months," he said.


"Same in Scotland," Carson told him. "But not so soft, really. The cold's a bit harsher."


"It seems like the two of you get along well," Jeannie ventured. "I'm glad to see that."


"We do," Carson agreed. For once Rodney was happy to let him carry the conversation for a while. He had too much to absorb and really didn't feel like talking. Carson would probably insist on checking him for a fever if he said so, though.


Jeannie smiled a tentative, careful smile. "How did you come to be together?"


Carson looked up from his soup for a moment. "Well, that's a long story," he said. "Rodney got it started, though. We've not always had an easy time of it, but we look after each other."


Rodney sighed. "You were always a master of understatement."


Carson smiled and patted Rodney's wrist. "I'm sure your version of events would be much more colorful than my own."


Parts of Rodney were shaking inside. Mom was dead. He'd always thought of his parents as the equivalent of some kind of eternal torment. Tartarus, maybe, or one of those idiotic Buddhist hells they had so many of. The sudden conceptual blank space of her death left him uneasy, but he had no idea what to think of it.


What made him really uncomfortable was the fact that at least half of him was glad she was gone. No matter how lousy your parents were, you weren't supposed to feel good about it when they died. He poked at the dumplings, not really listening to Carson and Jeannie talking.


The mix of relief and guilt felt lousy. The numb tingles in his brain didn't help at all either. It reminded him too much of the spin of the amphetamines he'd been on, and that scared him.


On some level he knew his hand was putting food in his mouth but he didn't really taste anything. He was vaguely conscious of nodding and grunting when he was addressed.  More than anything, he really just wanted to stop thinking, stop feeling.


"Rodney." Carson's voice finally registered. "Rodney, love, you're not with us. Talk to me."


"Sorry. Sorry. Just... distracted." He looked up and saw the concern in Carson's eyes. It was mirrored in Jeannie's expression, though half hidden behind her glasses.


"Are you going to be all right?" Jeannie asked.


Rodney glared. "Oh, peachy. I find out every day that Mom died."


"Rodney." She sounded helpless and a little uncertain. "I don't know how to do this anymore. I don't know how to talk to you or what to say. What can we do that'll make this work better?"


Carson sighed. "Perhaps Rodney and I should just go for a bit of a walk. That might give both of you some time to think before we get started again."


Jeannie nodded. Rodney wasn't sure. "It's probably cold out," he said.


"You have your anorak with you," Carson said. "We'll be warm enough walking."


"The beach is only a few blocks," she said. "Maybe a little fresh air would help."


"Do I look like the sort who likes fresh air?" Rodney snapped.


"You need it," Carson said, taking his shoulder. "Come on then."


Rodney thought about fighting over it but gave up without another word. Carson looked even more worried, but Rodney was at a point where he didn't care. He got up and put on his coat. Carson muttered their goodbyes to Jeannie, reassuring her that they'd be back in a bit, but Rodney stayed silent.


The walk down to the park along English Bay was short. He looked out along the waterfront, still disoriented by the sheer number of people in the streets and the sounds of cars and busses and conversations caught in passing. There were more people in plain view than he'd seen in the whole of Atlantis over the course of the past year.


The chaos of it left him feeling just a little dizzied, sounds moving in and out with the red-blue shift of passing vehicles and a siren in the distance.  Rodney tried to block it out, but he couldn't quite focus enough for it. Carson walked close by his side, shoulders rubbing against his own. "I'm sorry it's been such a rough visit so far," he said. "That's a right bugger to come home to."


Rodney cringed. "This isn't home, Carson; it's Jeannie's place. I only lived here for a couple of years when I went to UBC."


"You got your bachelor's here, then?"


Rodney nodded. "Yeah. I was barely sixteen when I graduated. Studied in the US after that."


A frisbee zipped by and a dog sailed after it, wagging its tail madly. Rodney watched as another dog chased it. A pair of women laughed at the dogs, one tousling the other's hair. They nuzzled briefly before the first dog ran back to them bearing the bright red disc.


He shook his head. "Legal," he muttered. "I guess it's gotten socially acceptable too."


The second dog followed, stopping briefly to sniff at Carson's ankles. Carson reached down and petted it behind the ears before one of the women called it away. He smiled and waved at them and she waved back. "I think it's lovely," he said.


"Just feels weird," Rodney said. He paused, slightly startled when Carson's fingers twined with his. "Are you sure you want to do that?"


Carson shrugged. "If they can be snogging in public, I can hold your hand."


"Oh. I suppose there's that." Rodney sighed and looked around, still nervous.


"It's not the same anymore, is it," Carson said. "None of it."


Rodney shook his head as they walked hand in hand along the waterfront. In the distance were the mountains, tall and snow-capped. "None of this feels like home," he said. "I'm not used to not having half a dozen crises screaming for my time and Radek ranting in one ear with Kavanagh screaming in the other." He frowned, shivering slightly. "I could have gone for years without knowing mom died."


"You did, love." Carson squeezed his hand. The quiet sound of gentle surf helped mute the noise of the people around him, a breeze playing around his ears. It wasn't really that cold.


"But I didn't know it at the time," Rodney growled. "I didn't want to know. I hate this. How can I be pissed off at her if she's dead?"


"Give yourself time," Carson said. "You've only just learned about it. Whether you stay angry with her or find a way to forgive and move on, you still need to let it sink in a bit. I'm sure it doesn't feel quite real yet."


"Oh, because forgiveness does so much good for the dead."


Carson tilted an eyebrow at him. "No. Forgiveness is for the living."


"I don't need to be forgiven." Rodney glared at him, but Carson's fingers didn't loosen in his.


"Wasn't saying you did. But it's easier to carry on with life if you forgive her someday. It doesn't mean you forget what happened."


Rodney bit back the urge to ask what Carson would know about it. He'd lost his father when he was just a kid, and that had to have been hard. "I don't know how to do that," he finally admitted. Seabirds wheeled overhead and scrabbled on the sidewalk for scraps and trash. The sea here smelled different than the sea around Atlantis; milder, he thought. Less tangy.


"Don't worry about it just now. What I do want to know, though, is if you think you'll be able to stay at Jeannie's place or if we should just get ourselves a hotel and be done with it." Carson's hand was warm in his, reassuring. It was the only truly familiar thing in his world right now.


He wanted to go back to Atlantis, but no matter what he did, that wouldn't be happening until the Daedalus departed, and that wasn't scheduled for another two weeks. "I'll be okay," he said, not sure if he was lying.


"Perhaps," Carson agreed, "but how are you right now?"


"Lousy. My life sucks, and totally not in a good way."


Carson tugged on his hand and pulled him into a hug. Rodney startled for a moment, feeling far too exposed. Heart pounding, he looked around. Nobody was paying any attention. He fought the urge for a second, then relaxed into it, resting his chin on Carson's shoulder. "I'm sorry, love. If there's anything I can do to help, you know all you've got to do is ask."


Rodney closed his eyes, fighting off the sting in them. His hands fisted in Carson's heavy wool sweater and he clung to his lover. "I wish I knew what to do."


"We'll work it out," Carson promised, still holding him, rocking him gently back and forth.


Rodney sniffled, hating himself for reacting like this. "I can hardly believe I share genetic material with those people," he said. "I mean, Jeannie, okay. Maybe I can deal with being her brother, but Mom and Dad? I swear she's right. I probably was dropped on their doorstep."


Carson's hands moved on his back, pressing through the coat. Rodney couldn't feel the warmth of them and that bothered him, but even just the pressure was a connection. Carson's breath was warm at his ear and there was the scratch of a nuzzle there. "It's all right to be upset," he said. "Hate her or no, she was still your mum."


"Like that's supposed to help."


"It just means you're goin' to react to it whether you want to or not. You're human, Rodney. Let go."


"Right. May I remind you we're standing in a public park?" Rodney pulled away from Carson's embrace. He took an angry swipe at his face with his sleeve. "So not doing that."


Carson didn't back down. "I know you're upset. You don't have to do it here, but you do need to let yourself deal with it. Just keeping it all in is only goin' to make you more miserable."


"Then I'll deal with it later, okay?" He turned and continued walking down the beach. "Maybe we should stop somewhere for coffee."


"If you like," Carson said. He gestured to the far side of the park, near the street. "There are some shops up there. It's likely there's coffee."


Rodney let Carson catch up and take his hand again. The cafe was small but pleasant, and there was a plethora of chocolate desserts available. "This seems like a good idea," he said. He ordered a latte and a piece of mocha cheesecake. Carson asked for tea and got a scone as well. They sat at a little table for two by the big front window, watching the people walk by.


"Life's a hell of a lot less complicated back in Atlantis," Rodney said.


Carson tilted his head at him. "Only if you're not counting the..." he looked around and lowered his voice. "The Wraith and the Genii and all the other miseries there."


"Even with that," Rodney said. Rodney gestured with his coffee cup to an occupied and unmarked black car parked across the street. "We have escorts."


"We do?" Carson looked alarmed.


"Calm down. They're just keeping an eye on us. Landry said there would be security."


"We need security?" Carson seemed puzzled.


"If you had any idea what kind of weird shit happens to Dr. Jackson when he's not offworld, you'd appreciate it."


Carson blinked. "Oh. Right enough then." He looked out the window nervously then stared into his tea. Rodney waved to the nice security guards. They were probably CIA. "Are you supposed to do that?" Carson asked.


Rodney shrugged. "No, but who cares?"


Carson sighed and buried his face in one hand. "You'll be the death of me yet, I swear."


Rodney stilled and stared at Carson, his stomach knotting. "No," he whispered. "Never."


Carson looked up, his eyes open wide in shock. "I'm sorry, love, I didn't mean it like that."


"I know, I know, I just..." He swallowed and took a deep breath. "Damn, this is hard."


Carson patted his hand. "We'll get through this, I promise."


"Easy for you to say." Rodney glowered. Nothing he said felt right. Every time he blinked his emotions were going somewhere else. He wasn't angry at Carson, he knew that.


"I'm not the enemy here," Carson said softly. "I only want to help."


"I know," Rodney muttered. "I'm sorry."


"D'you think we should be gettin' back to your sister when we're done here?"


Rodney shrugged. "Probably, but I'm not ready yet." He took a deep breath and shifted in his chair. It creaked on the floor. "Hell, I'll probably never be ready. I keep wondering what's the next bomb she's gonna drop."


"I'm hoping that'll be it for the trip," Carson said.


"Why do I worry that we're gonna get a call from Landry saying the Jaffa are massing to kick Earth's ass?" Rodney rubbed his temple, trying to enjoy the latte and cheesecake.


"Because it would get you out of having to deal with this," Carson said wryly.


Rodney gazed longingly at the black car across the street, wishing the MIBs would come in and tell him they had to go back to Colorado. Like that would happen. "Yeah, okay, so you're right." He wished Carson wasn't.




Carson eased into the bed next to Rodney. The day had been a little better after they'd got back from their walk. Rodney was a wee bit calmer and Jeannie didn't give them any more shocks or bad news. Carson had stuck close to Rodney the rest of the day, sitting so their bodies touched or brushing a hand against him when they moved around the room.


It seemed to help some. Carson knew Rodney was still more than a bit shocky at the long-delayed news of his mother's death.


"Come here," Rodney muttered, holding out one arm. Carson nodded and slipped under Rodney's arm, putting his own about his lover's waist.


"I'm here, mo leannan," he said. He nuzzled at Rodney's neck, laying a few soft, tired kisses there.


"How could she do that?" Rodney asked. "Just dump it all on me like that?" He tugged Carson closer, ignoring the kisses.


"To be fair, she did think you already knew."


Rodney grumbled. "And how was that supposed to happen? Osmosis?"


"She had no way of knowing you were in Russia or Antarctica, and you know as well as I there was no way to get a message to any one in Atlantis." He stroked his hand along Rodney's back, trying to ease the knots he felt.


"I guess there was no way for Uncle Harry to contact me anyway," Rodney sighed. "He didn't know where I was any more than Jeannie did."


"It seems you made it difficult for anyone in your family to find you."


Rodney's chin tucked against Carson's shoulder. "I didn't want any of them to contact me. Too many bad memories. Too much chance that Mom or Dad would try to suck me back into their vortex of misery."


"Vortex of misery," Carson mumbled. "That sounds pleasant."


Rodney snorted. "More like a sucking black hole of doom, really."


"Until I talked to Jeannie, I wasn't sure they could be quite so bad as all that. I'm afraid you've both convinced me, though." Carson's hand kept moving, caressing Rodney slowly. Rodney seemed to be relaxing a wee bit, but the entire day had left him wound tighter than a watch spring, so it wasn't that much, relatively speaking.


Rodney shifted a little in Carson's embrace. "You didn't believe me?"


"I didn't say that," Carson said. "But sometimes our perceptions of things can be a bit at odds with the reality."


"I wasn't lying," Rodney said.


"I never said or believed you were, love. I know that horrid things happened to you. I've never disputed that. Please don't put more into my words than what I said."


"Sorry," Rodney said softly. "It's been a bad day."


"I know, love. I know. But it's over now, and we can wake to a new one that'll be better than this." He kissed Rodney's neck again.


"You are disgustingly optimistic." Carson could hear the scowl in Rodney's voice.


Carson nuzzled Rodney's collarbone. "Aye; that I am. It's served me well too, for the most part."


"I hate this," Rodney said, more subdued now. "I hate not knowing what the hell I'm feeling. I'm just... I feel lost."  Carson knew how hard it was for Rodney to admit a thing like that. He moved his nuzzling up Rodney's neck and toward the sensitive spot behind his ear. "I'm not supposed to be upset that she's dead. I hated her. She wasn't quite as bad as Dad was, but neither of them were people I wanted to be around." Rodney tightened his arms around Carson. "Why do I miss her if I hate her?"


Carson sighed and fished around for something to say. "It's strong emotions that tie people together," he finally said. "And hate's as strong as love. If you'd been indifferent to her, you'd probably not miss her so. She was a constant in your universe, and it's... it's like there was a sudden supernova. When the blast glare fades, there's nothing left to see; just an emptiness."


Rodney snorted, his voice growing less steady. "I see you paid at least a little attention in your astronomy class. Who knew?"


Carson could feel the break coming in Rodney's body. His temperature was up and he was trembling a bit. It might be a few minutes yet, but at some point he was sure to let go. Even his words were more a barrier than actual irritability. When Rodney sniffled, Carson kissed his shoulder and petted him. "It's going to be all right, love. I'm here. Things like this, they're not easily understood, but you'll survive it. Trust me."


"I want to go back to Atlantis," Rodney whispered. "I understand things there. I understand the people there. This isn't home anymore. Atlantis is." He took a shaky, damp breath. "You are."


"Then you are at home," Carson said softly, "because I'm here with you. You'll be all right in a while, love. Just let yourself feel it, hard as it is. You need to. We've been through so much in the past couple of months. Too many deaths, and this one the worst of the lot. You never let yourself grieve for any of them properly, did you?"


"Funerals are just a bunch of stupid, meaningless words intended to fool the ignorant religious masses," Rodney sniffled.


Carson shook his head against Rodney's neck. "There's naught I can say to make it better, Rodney. I wish there was. I wish I knew how to help, but all I can do is be here for you."


And then the dam burst and Rodney wept silently on Carson's shoulder, his body shaking with his anger and his grief. Carson rolled a little until he was mostly on top of Rodney, letting his weight offer what comfort it could. Rodney's fingers moved on his skin, trying to find purchase, short nails scratching a bit. Rodney said nothing, just holding on. Carson whispered to him, not really saying anything, meaning only to reassure his lover that he was still there.


Slowly, Rodney faded into sleep. Carson held him for a long time in the dark before he, too, finally slept.




Jeannie stretched and sat back in her chair with her first cup of coffee. Yesterday hadn't gone too spectacularly well, but Rodney and his boyfriend were still staying with her. She hoped that meant it hadn't been a disaster. With Rodney, at least as she remembered him, a disaster would be out in the open.


She sighed as she looked up at the early morning sun streaking the wall opposite her. She'd taken the week off, clearing her calendar and shifting responsibilities to her minions, hoping Rodney would stay. He'd been so young and in such pain when she left, but there honestly hadn't been a damned thing she could do to help him out.


A stirring from the guest room caught her attention. "There's coffee," she said softly. Carson came out of the room looking rumpled and half asleep, wearing pyjama bottoms, a dark blue robe and a pair of old slippers.


"Thanks," he said quietly. "I'd prefer tea if I may."


Jeannie nodded. "Let me get the water started for you." Carson seemed to be a kind man. He'd done his best to calm Rodney's ruffled feathers all day yesterday, and some of it had helped. He had a wonderful accent, and gorgeous blue eyes. The few times he'd smiled he'd been quite striking. It seemed Rodney had actually gotten lucky.


She started the water and got a cup ready for him. "How did Rodney do last night?" she asked as she joined him again.


Carson sighed. "Not well, I'm afraid. He's not one to show how much he really hurts in front of others. Oh, he'll moan and whinge all day about anything minor, but when it really counts, he's tight as an oyster with a pearl."


She nodded. "I never meant to hurt him." Jeannie wasn't sure if she meant yesterday or when she'd abandoned him. Probably both.


"He's not sure how he feels about his mum's death, Jeannie. He's upset though. It'll be a while before he's himself again. And the last few months... to be honest, we all thought we were goin' to die. He saved everyone, but it took an immense toll on him. We're both exhausted, and I don't know how long it'll take for any of us to recover from that."


She looked at Carson like she would look at evidence. His face was careworn, with lines around his eyes and mouth that spoke of stress and strain. He carried himself like someone who'd barely slept for a long time. "And you can't tell me where or how or why," she said.


He pursed his lips and shook his head. "I wish I could. Your brother's a brave man, lass. He doesn't really believe it, but he's had more courage than anyone would have credited him with a year ago. He's done a lot of fine things, for all his bluster."


Listening between the lines, she knew they'd come much closer to dying than Carson was saying. "You lost a lot of people," she said.


"We did." His voice was soft, not quite shaking. The teakettle started to whistle.


"I'll be right back." She got up and poured him tea, bringing sugar and milk for him as she did. She set the things before him and he took the cup in both hands, inhaling the steam like it was a magical elixir. "I can see that Rodney's a mess from all that. How are you holding up?"


He paused for a moment, still breathing in the curls of rising steam. Looking up, he said, "Truthfully? Not well. I'll be glad to finally see my mum. I've been worried about her, and she gets so upset when she's worried for me. That last message I sent, it couldn't have been good for her."


"You worry about Rodney too, don't you?"


"Aye, I do. He can be a difficult man at times. He's not one to curb his tongue, but at least you know he's honest. The edge on his tongue keeps people away. It was a hard time between us while he was first trying to let me in." Carson's eyes fell to his cup again and he pulled the tea strainer from the cup, adding milk and sugar. He sipped and added a touch more milk. "We had a bit of a miscommunication, and it almost ended us before we'd really begun. I'd have regretted that always."


"He's never been easy to be around," Jeannie admitted, remembering how he always used to fight with everyone. "He's brilliant, but unless he's changed a lot, he's also very brittle sometimes. Mom and Dad always thought he was a freak because he was so intelligent. He didn't have an easy time in school either, skipping grades so often."


Carson nodded. "I can imagine. I passed up a few myself over the years. I'm still finding it hard to wrap my brain around the position I'm in. I'd have thought someone a good ten years my senior would have got it."


So Carson held a high position wherever they worked. That figured. Somehow she didn't think Rodney would settle for someone less intelligent or powerful than he was, wherever he ended up. "I'm sure you deserve it," she said. "You seem on top of things."


"Thank you, Jeannie. You're a kind lass, and softer spoken than your brother." He gave her a brilliant smile and sipped at his tea. Anything with hormones would probably melt at Carson's smile, she thought. It was no wonder Rodney had fallen for him.


"What's he like?" Jeannie asked. "I... it's been so many years. I don't even know him anymore."


Carson took several slow sips of his tea before he answered. "He's brilliant," he said. "Mostly he tries to keep people at a distance, but that's been changing in the last year. When you're isolated like we've been, with only a small population, and you're all in danger, most folks learn to work together. Rodney's always been a quick study." He shrugged. "He doesn't suffer fools gladly, or at all really. He's gruff on the outside and soft and a bit too sensitive on the inside. I think he's afraid a lot, but he does what he must despite that."


She could see the love in Carson's face as he spoke of Rodney and it warmed her. "Does he take care of you as well as you take care of him?"


Carson chuckled. "In his own way, aye. Some folks might think it a bit odd, but I know he loves me. He's saved my life at the risk of his own. He's sat with me and taken care of me when I was ill and injured. It's not something he shows to strangers."


"What happened to... I mean, if you can talk about any of it."


His face darkened. "He saved my life in a forest fire not long before we were together. I saved his as well. We were separated from the people we were with, and both of us hurt. I'd a terrible concussion. He pulled me from a river and helped me along." Carson took a deep breath. "There was another time when a friend of mine and I were beaten for... well, for being queer, really. Rodney was the one who finally stopped the men doing it. He was all in a rage about it."


Jeannie's eyes widened. "You got bashed?"


Carson nodded, his voice solemn. "Aye, but Radek got the worst of it. They nearly killed him. He was comatose for a few days. We were all worried."


"Radek's your friend, then."


"Aye, he works with Rodney. They're friends. Radek's his right hand man, a brilliant engineer. Little Czech bloke with a good sense of humor and just a lovely person."


Jeannie finally remembered to drink some of her coffee, which had cooled down a little during their conversation. "I'm sorry. I hope the men in question were punished appropriately."


He looked away. "They were." Taking a sip of tea, he collected himself. "And once--" he flinched and took a deep, steadying breath, "once we were captured by enemy troops and..." He closed his eyes, his voice breaking.


Jeannie got up and went to him, putting her arms around him. "Both of you?" He nodded silently, shaking. "Oh, god," she whispered. She wasn't sure she wanted to know anymore. "How long?" she asked.


"A few days," Carson whispered. "Long enough. It was... it was awful. It makes me shake just to think of it, and Rodney did what he could to take care of me, though they were hurting him too. It... it was him they wanted, not me." Tears shimmered in his closed eyes and she squeezed him tight.


"I'm so, so sorry," she said softly, stroking his soft, dark hair. He was solid with broad, sloping shoulders and strong arms. She could feel his fingers curling in the back of her robe, tightening as he trembled.


"It's so hard to even think of," he said. His voice shook as his body did. "I thought sure we'd both die there before they found us."


"It's all right," Jeannie whispered, helpless. "It's over. You're both safe."


His voice hitched and he pulled himself together with effort. "I'm... I'm sorry. I shouldn't go on like that."


"You've been through so much. I'm not surprised that you're reacting like this. Have you had any chance at all to work through some of this?" She stroked his back before he pulled away from her arms.


"Not really. About that time, things got worse, and that was when... well, that was when we all thought we'd die. For about three weeks, we'd nothing but fear and working round the clock to try and save ourselves. Rodney and Radek and I, we were all on stimulants to stay awake so we could do the work that needed doing. The week after that, we spent several days trying to detox. Last week in Colorado Rodney and I still weren't quite ourselves, and we had debriefings and a lot of other work to do, about ten or twelve hours a day." He shook himself. "This is the first time we've had so much as a chance to breathe."


"Wow," Jeannie said, a little dizzy from it all. "And you're both still on your feet?"


"Barely," Carson admitted. "We've two weeks before we go back. But that's no doubt why Rodney's reacting so badly to yesterday. It's all been hitting one thing after another for close to two months now, and the year before that was no great joy either." He sighed and took his cup between both hands again, staring into it.
"At least we've had each other. That's been a comfort."


She sat, just looking at Carson, raising her estimate of him considerably, and it had already been fairly high. "I'm glad you had that."


He looked her in the eyes. "I can't imagine what it would have been like for us if we'd not been together. I'm not sure either of us would have survived it. The stresses were overwhelming. I think everyone on the project is walking wounded right now, in truth." He drank deeply from the cup and set it down. "Rodney's a strong man, Jeannie, but that was like to break all of us. I'm not sure any of us are whole anymore."


"But you're both going back?" She didn't think she would, given what she'd just heard.


He nodded. "Aye, we are. I wasn't sure at first, but I love Rodney, and I'll not leave him. He loves the work there, and he's got friends, I think for the first time in his life. He'd not leave the place, and I can't so much say I blame him. It's a good lot of people, like family now. I think neither of us quite feels right... here."


She thought for a moment he was going to slip and tell her where they'd been, but the moment passed and he looked down into his cup again. "If there's anything I can do for either of you," she said, "all you have to do is ask. I swear, I'll do anything within my power."


"Thank you, lass," he said softly. "I appreciate it, but there's naught you can do when we're there. Though if you'd write to Rodney now and again, I think he'd like that. It might help him understand he's not alone here, even if he feels that way."


"You both just look so exhausted, Carson, and now I understand why. If you need to go back to bed, please do. Don't feel that either of you have to keep to my schedule. I'm perfectly capable of keeping myself occupied if you need rest." She put her hand on his and he smiled gently. "And if you need time to yourselves, just say so. I have a lot of things I could be doing outside the house."


"There's no need for that, but you're a kind and generous woman, Jeannie. I truly do appreciate that. Rodney's luckier than he knows."


She looked him in the eyes. "Yes, he is, and it has nothing to do with me."


Carson blushed. "Flatterer."


"I'm only speaking the truth. You seem just as strong as he must be, to have survived all that by his side."


He shook his head. "There are those that would call me a coward," he said. "Sometimes I think they're right. I'm not so brave as Rodney."


"From everything you've described, I would never go back to wherever it is you're going, even if the person I loved was going there. It sounds terribly dangerous." She hadn't ever been devoted enough to anyone to put herself in harm's way before. The very idea left her queasy.


"What we're doing, though, it's so important, you can't imagine. There are more lives at stake than you could ever understand." He took a breath and a sip of tea. "I wish I could tell you more, but I just can't. All I can say is that the work I do there is vital, and it's challenging, and having Rodney there as well only makes it more worthwhile to me. I wasn't sure at first that I'd go back, but I know if I didn't, I'd miss it. I'd miss the friends I've made there, and the challenge of the work." There was an intensity and earnestness in his eyes that was breathtaking.


Jeannie rose to fill her cup again. "I need more coffee," she said. "I'm going to make some breakfast as well. Any requests?"


"Anything would be lovely, my dear," he said, smiling. "I'm quite hungry, and I think the scent of it will bring Rodney out of his hibernation. It's about time he's up anyway."


She nodded and thought about what was in the fridge. "Omelets?"


His smile brightened to a grin. "Oh, aye. Real eggs and all, after so long without. That'll be a treat."


"What would you like in yours?" She grinned back. He seemed relatively easy to please.


"Oh, anything! Surprise me."


True to Carson's prediction, Rodney was up and rooting around in the kitchen for coffee about the time the first omelet was starting to sizzle.


"How are you this morning?" Jeannie asked.


Rodney stared at her, bleary eyed for a moment. "Fine," he muttered. "Fine. Coffee." She handed him a cup and poured some for him.


"You're not much good before caffeine, are you?"


He took a sip. "I've saved planets on less," he growled.


Jeannie chuckled. "I like your boyfriend."


"Good," he muttered. "I'm glad. Not that your liking him is relevant to anything in particular, but it's nice that you do."


She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Yep, still the same Rodney. "You were always the charmer. I hope you're good to him. It sounds like he's crazy in love with you."


Rodney looked up, seeming a little more awake. "I'll have you know he's in love with the greatest genius in... well... one of the greatest geniuses known to man. That in itself is worth something." He blushed. "And yes, I'm always good to him. Really. Just ask him."


"Your mouth and your ego are still about the same size, aren't they?" Jeannie laughed as she flipped Carson's omelet. "You want food?"


"Food? Do I want food? What kind of a moronic question is that? Of course I want food." He took another sip from his coffee.


Yes, Jeannie thought. It looked like today would go considerably better than yesterday. She slipped Carson's omelet onto a plate and started one for Rodney.




The previous day hadn't been too bad, Rodney thought. He and Jeannie had spent some time talking and trying to get to know one another. He was starting to think that perhaps it wasn't so strange they were related, that the same blood flowed in them. It was obvious that Carson and Jeannie had spent some time talking before Rodney had awakened because of some of the questions she'd asked, but it didn't really bother him.


Jeannie played chess -- badly -- and they were having a game together while Carson was catching up on some news. The TV sounded quietly in the background as he and Jeannie played, talking a bit as they did. Rodney had been profoundly uneasy with her at first, but had finally begun to relax with her.


His sister had been more sympathetic than Rodney had expected. His memories of her from their childhood weren't necessarily wonderful. Of course, at the best of times children were an annoyance to him, and that had held true when he was a child as well. The fact that Jeannie was a good six years older than he was really hadn't made much difference. She was intelligent, but not in the same league as Rodney. He'd often found her annoying back then and had resented the fact that their parents loved her while they despised him.


She genuinely seemed to want to understand him, at least as far as she was able. And she liked Carson, which helped immensely. If she hadn't, Rodney would have been all too ready to abandon her and head off for a bed and breakfast somewhere to spend time alone with his lover. That, in fact, might not be such a bad idea anyway, he thought. It was really weird sleeping with Carson in his sister's house. The idea of having sex where his sister might overhear was... problematic. Not to mention kind of disgusting.


It was, Rodney thought, conceptually just a little too close to incest for his taste.


He moved his queen's bishop, watching as Jeannie struggled with the new layout of the board. He'd have her in five moves, he figured, but he wasn't sure she'd figured it out yet. Rodney considered gloating but realized that if she didn't see it, the gloat would be wasted. Rubbing somebody's nose in his victory was really only good when they saw it coming and couldn't stop him.


Carson muttered to himself about a political report on the TV but Rodney wasn't paying much attention. Earth politics didn't interest him that much so long as they didn't interfere with his work. He couldn't care less who was in power where, or how they'd got there.


Atlantean politics, on the other hand, were another story entirely. Sheppard's promotion to Lieutenant Colonel was of immense import, as was Elizabeth's continued leadership of the mission. That had a profound impact on his work and his day to day life. Caldwell, on the other hand, made him nervous and he was just as glad Elizabeth had evaded Caldwell and Landry's plans to restructure the Atlantean leadership.


He wondered if he'd remember to call the Major by his new title. He'd been the Major for as long as Rodney had known him, and it was more like a name than a rank, really. Rodney snorted. Sheppard would probably make a big deal of it, too.


It wasn't like Rodney was going to go changing his name on Sheppard, after all. He wasn't expecting Sheppard to call him anything but McKay, or sometimes Rodney when he was really annoyed. Sheppard never called him Doctor, for instance. No, 'Doctor' was reserved for people who irritated Rodney or whom he wanted to intimidate and impress.


Of course, the Major irritated him too, but in a best friends kind of way, not in a mindless graduate student with failing grades kind of way.


Jeannie moved, just where Rodney had predicted she would. His plan was falling into place and the win was inevitable. He reached out to make his own move and the doorbell rang. Jeannie looked surprised.


"You expecting anyone?" Rodney asked.


"No," she said, rising. "I'll be right back."


"Anything useful happening in the world?" he asked Carson.


"A lot of tragedies since we've been away," Carson said. "Natural disasters the like of which haven't been seen in ages, I'm sure. A vast stretch of coast in Southeast Asia was devastated by a tsunami: almost a quarter of a million dead. It's astonishing."


"Sad, but ultimately not useful, Carson," Rodney grumbled. They'd spent enough time trying to save Earth from the Wraith. A measly quarter of a million wasn't even a drop on the bucket.


Carson glared at him. "There are moments when I wonder about you, love. Where's your humanity?"


"It's a matter of priorities, really," Rodney told him. "Let's face it, the idea of six billion of us just... here being sucked up like slurpees sort of changes one's perspective." The surprised yelp from the front door had him on his feet, hurrying to find out what had happened.


"Dad?" Rodney said, shocked. Jeannie stood in the doorway and Rodney jerked to a stop behind her, staring at their father. "What the hell are you doing here?"


The man bulled his way in past Jeannie. "That's what she asked me. A father can't visit his own children?" Rodney couldn't tear his eyes away. It was like looking at himself in a mirror in thirty years or so -- the same blue eyes, the wide shoulders. He was quite plump now, more so than Rodney had ever been, but there was no denying that Rodney was stamped from the same mold as the grey haired, balding man before him.


"Rodney, what is it?" Carson rounded the corner and bumped into Rodney's back. "Oh, my," he said softly.


Rodney turned on Jeannie. "Did you invite him? Did you tell him I was gonna be here?"


"No!" Jeannie yelped. "I had no idea he even knew where I lived!"


"In the room, here," their father snapped. "I'd appreciate at least a hello before either of you goes off on a tirade."


Rodney took a step back, instinct taking over, and found himself against the solid wall of Carson's chest. "Easy there, love. Don't trample me," Carson whispered sharply.


"Sorry, sorry." Rodney suddenly felt about seven again, and it was a bad feeling.  The last thing he wanted was to talk to, or even see his father.


"And who's this?" his dad asked, pointing to Carson.


"Carson Beckett," Carson replied. He eyed Rodney's father warily but offered a hand. "I'm Rodney's--"


"Why are you here, Dad?" Rodney interrupted. Oh yeah. Like his dad needed to know he was a fag. That would so help.


"Howard McKay," Dad said. He shook Carson's hand. "One of Rodney's friends, eh?"


Carson looked at Rodney, puzzled, and Rodney nodded. "Yeah, Dad. One of my friends." Jeannie gave him a sympathetic glance. Carson was obviously upset, but didn't say anything.


"Why didn't you tell me you were home?" his father asked. He scowled.


"How did you find out I was anywhere near here?" Rodney countered, trying not to jitter.


Jeannie added, "When did you find out where I live?" Their father closed the front door behind him.


Dad shrugged. "I got a message from the US military that you'd been assigned to some kind of dangerous duty, but you were well and would be visiting Jeannie. I called the number and asked them for her contact information because I wanted to see you."


Rodney blinked. "Landry had someone tell you I was home?" He couldn't believe his ears.


Jeannie turned to Rodney. "You didn't ask them to let him know?"


"No!" Rodney yelped. "God, why would I?" He looked back at his father, cringing, wondering if the old man was going to try hitting him again. Carson was still there, just behind him, a warm, strong presence.


"Why have you come?" Carson asked. Oh, thank god he was talking.


"I wanted to see my children," Dad told him, narrowing his eyes. He looked at Jeannie. "So, are you going to let me in and offer me some coffee, or are we going to stand here in the foyer all day?"


Jeannie shifted from one foot to the other for a moment and finally turned and gestured toward the dining area. "Come in," she said, sounding defeated.


They followed Jeannie, Rodney trailing behind his father and Carson right on his heels. "What was that about?" Carson whispered, angry. "Your *friend*?"


"Please," Rodney begged, "give me a few minutes to wrap my brain around this. We have more than enough reasons to hate each other. He doesn't need another one."


Carson sighed and shook his head. "All right, then. I don't like the sounds of this, though. After what he let happen to you, I'll not tolerate any abuse."


Rodney squeezed Carson's wrist, grateful for the support. "Thanks," he said. He maintained a slight distance from Carson as his father turned to look at them. "So," Rodney said, "I guess twenty-three years of not talking to you hasn't clued you in."


"Time changes people," his father said as he sat at the table. "I was hoping maybe you'd grown up some since you were fourteen. Toned down that mouth of yours."


Jeannie scurried into the kitchen, looking like she was going to choke. "I'll get some coffee," she said.


Rodney glared. "Yeah, Dad. Let's not forget where my mouth came from."


"You never did have any respect for your elders," his father muttered. "Where have you been, anyway, Rodney?"


Rodney took a breath as he sat at the table opposite his father. "I'm afraid that's classified."


 "You're not even working for your own government, are you?" His father gave a snort of disgust.


"The US Air Force signs my paycheck, but I'm part of an extremely important international project as a representative of Canada," Rodney said. "I'm the head of the scientific division." At least he could feel some pride in that. He wasn't sure how his father could find a way belittle his position.


"So building nuclear bombs for your grade six science project got you more than nearly being hauled off by the CIA," his father said. "Or are you working for the CIA now?"


"Still classified," Rodney snapped.


His dad turned to Carson. "So, Beckett, are you one of his underlings, then?"


Rodney could almost feel Carson glowering behind him as he put one hand on Rodney's shoulder. "No," Carson said. "I'm a medical doctor and a geneticist and I'm the head of the medical division."


Rodney's dad cocked his head. "You Irish or something?"


"Or something," Carson growled. Rodney could feel his lovers' fingers tighten, squeezing his shoulder. He hissed and Carson's grip loosened.


"He's from Scotland," Rodney said. Jeannie came out with a tray of coffee mugs, milk and sugar. "Thanks," he said to her softly.


Jeannie looked at Rodney, helpless misery in her eyes. "Sure," she said. She looked like she'd rather be dead than have Dad at her table.


"You're a long way from home, then," Dad said to Carson. "Why did you choose to come here if you've been wherever the hell it is that Rodney's been?"


"We'll be going there after we're done with our visit here," Carson said. Rodney could tell he was struggling to keep his voice neutral, but his accent was thickening with anger.


"Our family's supposed to be from there," Dad said. "McKay."


"Dad," Rodney said, "I really don't care at the moment, and I'm pretty sure Carson doesn't either. Is there a point to any of this?" Rodney poured milk and sugar into his coffee, not really noticing that he'd dumped in a couple more tablespoons than usual.


"I haven't seen either of you in over twenty years," his father snapped. "Isn't it reasonable that a man might want to know what happened to his kids?"


Rodney eyed him suspiciously. "Not like you ever gave a shit before, but I'm doing very well, thank you. I make a lot of money, which seems like it was all you ever cared about, and I have a position with a lot of power and respect. That's probably all you want to know anyway."


"I'm a Crown Prosecutor for the province now," Jeannie added, before their father could say anything else. "I enjoy my work."


Their dad raised an eyebrow. He looked at Rodney. "So you can't say anything about what you do." His eyes turned to Jeannie. "I hope you're not working pro bono."


"I'm a Crown Prosecutor, Dad, not a public defender." She rolled her eyes. "I should think that after all your years as a CPA, you could tell the difference."


"Did either of you ever get married?" Their dad's eyes searched them.


"I did," Jeannie said, "but it was only for about three years." Rodney just shook his head no.


Dad glared at him. "And why not?"


Rodney gritted his teeth. "I never met a woman I wanted to marry." The fact that he'd never met a woman who wanted to marry him wasn't something Rodney was about to say to the old man.


"Don't either of you meet anyone at work?" their father snapped.


Rodney gave Carson a look. Carson was barely holding his temper in check. "Still no women I want to get involved with," Rodney ventured. "Besides, radiation exposure. Reproduction isn't a great idea for me. And anyway, I can't imagine wanting to pass your genes on to another generation."


"That's really enough, Rodney. So this means the family stops with you two?" His father's voice was hard. "I can't believe you're going to let the family die out. And does this friend of yours really have to be here for a family conversation?" He gestured to Carson casually.


Rodney felt Carson jerk at the words. "All right," Rodney snarled, "that's really enough. Carson has every right to be here in a *family* conversation because that's what he *is*. He's a damned sight more family to me than *you've* ever been!"


"Family?" Rodney's dad shook his head and snorted. "He's just some work buddy of yours. That's meaningless. He's not your flesh and blood, like we are."


Rodney bolted to his feet. "No, he's not 'just some work buddy'! He's my lover, and you'll treat him with respect, damn it!"


Dad's eyes widened and his jaw fell. "You can't be serious." He sputtered for a moment.


Rodney grinned fiercely. "Serious as a heart attack, Dad. Me. Carson. Together. As in sharing a bed. As in living together. As in family." Everyone else in the room froze, waiting for the explosion. It wasn't long in coming.


Shaking, his father rose to his feet. "Why... you little..." He wheezed and pushed his chair back, rounding the table and coming for Rodney. "I can't *believe* you would say that to me. Do you live to ruin my life? Do you think I want a faggot for a son?" His face was turning beet red and he reached for Rodney but before he could get hold of his sweater, Carson had grabbed his wrist. Dad turned his fury on Carson.


"And *you*!" Dad bellowed, rising to his full height. He was still taller than Rodney, and that meant he was quite a bit taller than Carson. "How *dare* you turn my son into some *woman*! You put him up to this, didn't you, you cocksucking faggot."


Rodney barely saw Carson move before his dad was pinned against the wall, Carson's fists in his shirt. "I'll not hear you say another *word* about Rodney," he shouted. "I'll not put up with any abuse and I mean it!" Carson looked like he was barely restraining himself from beating Dad to within an inch of his life. "You haven't the right to say one bloody *thing* about Rodney, nor about me. He's no flesh and blood of yours. You're no father to him in any sense of the word, you're a bloody sperm donor and a shite one at that." Carson leaned back and took a breath, furious.


"Rodney," Carson growled, "go pack your bag. We're leaving. Now."


Rodney blinked in shock then nodded his head and ran for the bedroom. He could hear Carson talking to Jeannie. "It's no' your fault, lass, and I'm sorry, but I won't let Rodney be abused like this. There's been more than enough of it in his life, and this right bastard is responsible for the majority of it."


"Now just--" Dad's voice was shaking with fury. "I have no idea what he's told you, but he's a lying little shit. He's always been--"


There was a muffled thud and a yelp of pain. Jeannie gasped and Rodney came running back out of the bedroom to find his father sitting on the floor at Carson's feet, arms curled about his ribs, staring up at him.


"You're leaving, now," Carson snarled. He hauled Dad up by the collar and jerked him out of the room, dragging him to the door.


Rodney couldn't believe his eyes as Carson opened the door and shoved his father out. "If you come back, Jeannie here will call the constabulary, so off with you before I have another go at you!" He slammed the door in dad's face and turned the lock.


There was shouting and thumping from the other side. Carson took a deep breath and closed his eyes, leaning one hand against the door. A moment later, he said, "Jeannie, luv, call the police, would you? I don't think the old man's gonna cooperate."


Jeannie nodded and ran for the phone. "Carson?" Rodney said. He reached out and touched his lover gently. "Are you all right?"


"No," Carson said, his voice trembling. He'd gone pale as he leaned against the door, and Rodney's father was still outside, screaming obscenities and pounding hard enough to make the door shiver. "No, I'm not all right. I just assaulted an elderly man, and it's not exactly high on my list of things I wanted to do today. Now go pack. We're leaving."


Rodney nodded. "Okay, packing. I am *so* reading Landry the riot act when we get back to Colorado. His ass is gonna hang on our living room wall."


"Dear god, I hope not," Carson groaned.


There was a commotion outside and the sound of a scuffle. Carson and Rodney stood on their toes to peer out the etched half-round of glass in the top of the door. "Oh, my," Carson said.


Outside, the MIBs from the black car were attempting to restrain Rodney's father. They were both young, lean men in black suits with too-tight ties and dark glasses. One was waving a badge, and Rodney couldn't hear what was being said, but he heaved a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank god," he said. "They'll take care of it. Let's go get our stuff together."


Jeannie looked devastated. "I'm sorry, guys. I had no idea."


"It's not your fault, luv," Carson said. "I think we'd just both feel better if we were out of here, after that."


She sighed and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I can't fault you for that. But please," she turned to Rodney, "stay in touch, would you? I... I just want to know how you are."


Rodney nodded. "Okay," he said. He took a deep breath and gave her a hug. "I'm sorry. I'll call you later, when I'm a little calmer, all right?"


"Yeah," Jeannie said. "I'd like that."




Carson leaned against the railing of the little cabin they'd rented just outside the city. It overlooked the Straits of Georgia, with beautiful grey waters and an overcast sky. He'd spoken to his mum, who had said that of course they could come early, but they hadn't been able to book a plane out the same day so they'd chosen to fly out the next afternoon.


He sighed as he turned and went back inside. Rodney was staring out the window, arms wrapped around himself. "How are you feeling, mo leannan?" he asked.


"Like shit," Rodney said. He didn't move, so Carson went to him and slipped his arms around him from behind.


"I'm sorry about what happened," he said.


Rodney's hands slipped down to take Carson's arms. "Not your fault. I don't know why he makes me feel like a child."


"Because he's your da. You can't help it. Nobody really could."


Rodney looked at him, blue eyes shadowed. "I've faced down Wraith, Carson. Why the hell can't I deal with my dad?" He turned in Carson's arms and slipped one hand behind Carson's neck, tugging him in and resting their foreheads together. "I'm so sorry about what I said about you, telling him you were just my friend. I mean, really really sorry. That was so stupid of me."


Carson sighed and nuzzled Rodney's face. "I was hurt, but I do understand why you did it. The way he went off, you'd think you'd said you were a murderer."


"He's always been like that," Rodney whispered. "All my life."


"If I've anything to say about it, you'll never see him or speak to him again." Carson kissed Rodney's cheek gently. "I'll not have anyone abusing you like that, not ever."


"Thanks." Rodney's voice was soft and miserable. "I just... I should have been able to deal with him on my own. You shouldn't have had to get into it with him. You don't deserve to have to deal with him or fight with him."


"What's done is done, Rodney. It's over and it's all for the best, as far as I'm concerned. You don't need such rubbish in your life." Rodney pulled him close, arms around him, and kissed him hard.


Carson loved the heat of Rodney's mouth and the slow way his tongue tangled with his own. They stood together for a long time, just kissing. It was warm and comfortable, with not much arousal in it, but that was just as well. Both of them were emotionally exhausted. When they broke the kiss, Rodney looked deep into Carson's eyes.


"I'm never going to figure out what the hell I did to deserve you," he whispered.


Carson smiled. "You were just yourself." The grin Rodney gave him warmed him to the core.




Gaelic in the story:


Mo leannan -- my beloved