Series: Moments Sacred and Profane

Title: MSP9: A Remote Important Region

Author: Mice


Category: Stargate: Atlantis, McKay/Beckett

Warnings: slash, dark angst

Spoilers: Poisoning the Well, Hide & Seek

Rating: NC17

Summary: Rodney finally talks about his past. So does Carson.

Archive: If it's on your list, you can archive it. If it isn't and you'd like it, just let me know were 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 from the poem excerpted at the head of the story. As usual, Abylity is the most amazing beta and story-bouncer ever. Thanks to Jenji for Shep-assist.




A Remote Important Region


If you don't know the kind of person I am

and I don't know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.


For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,

a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood

storming out to play through the broken dyke.

            ~~William Stafford, from A Ritual to Read to Each Other~~




Sheppard was lying on his couch, aching like he'd been run through a meat grinder. That was actually a lot closer to the truth than he was comfortable with. His last mission had almost been his last and the thought wasn't even funny. He was working, yet again, on 'War and Peace.' At least he'd have some uninterrupted reading time for the next couple of weeks. When the door chime sounded he opened it from where he sat, a little surprised to see McKay walk in, two cups in hand.


"How are you doing?"


Sheppard waved at a chair but McKay came over to him instead. "About as well as can be expected for a guy who's more stitches than body right now."


Rodney eyed the book. "Indulging in heavy lifting against doctor's orders, I see."


Sheppard snorted. "Like you've ever followed doctor's orders."


"Occasionally." Rodney smirked, a twinkle in his eye. Oh, right. That.


"Aside from that."


Rodney handed him one of the cups. "Brought you some coffee. Thought it might be a change from whatever Beckett's got you on. I know you don't share my taste for institutional food."


"Thanks." He sipped at the coffee. It was a close approximation of the way he usually took it. He hadn't realized McKay ever noticed. "Food is kind of a generous descriptor, there."


"I've heard people claim the same for MRE's. Never did understand anyone's objections." McKay sat in the chair.


"Freeze dried shit on a shingle is probably closer to the truth," Sheppard told him, his stomach getting a little twitchy just thinking about it. "I'd kill for a turkey sandwich."


Rodney chuckled. "You won't have to. Ford was planning on smuggling one in for you at dinner."


"Oh, that's good. I think I'm a little off with my Rambo moves today. You don't usually just drop in for social calls, McKay. What's up?"


"The barometric pressure. My sinuses are--"


Sheppard waved a hand at him. "Oh, Jesus, McKay, I don't wanna hear about your sinuses!"


"I can't just come by and visit a recovering friend?" Rodney's arms crossed over his chest.


"Nope." Rodney-annoying was infinitely more fun than 'War and Peace.'


"What kind of cold, heartless bastard do you think I am?"


Sheppard smirked. "The McKay kind."


"Sure, twist the knife." McKay put a hand over his heart, grasping the imaginary blade. "I'll just use it on you later."


Sheppard laughed then groaned. "Damn you, stop that!"


McKay grinned back at him. "Actually, I came to do something I should have a couple of weeks ago.


He tilted his head. "Oh? What's that?"


"Thank you for how you handled the situation with Overton." The smile faded from McKay's face.


Oh man, McKay was going there. "Look, all I did was review the case from my hospital bed and pass sentence."


"It was a good one, considering."


"Dr. Weir had better options," Sheppard admitted. "There's only so much you can do under the UCMJ in these situations. The brig and busting him back to Private was the best I could do."


McKay nodded. "I'm assuming standing him up against a wall and shooting him wasn't on the list." He sounded a little too eager for Sheppard's taste.


"Not for offenses against civilians." He shifted uncomfortably. "Look, McKay, this, um... this thing..."


"What 'thing'?" McKay gave him a peculiar look.


Sheppard shifted again, nervous. "You're... I mean, it's not going to effect our working relationship, right?'


"I can't believe you're asking me that." McKay looked surprised.


Now Sheppard was embarrassed. "Sorry. I just..."


"Major, have I ever made the slightest untoward gesture? Did you even guess before this happened?" McKay leaned forward, hands on his knees. He didn't seem angry, just mildly irritated. That, though, was pretty much Rodney's baseline, so it didn't seem particularly alarming.


"Well, no."


"Did it ever occur to you that you might not be my type?"


Actually, it hadn't. "Uh--"


"You think because a guy is interested in other guys he's interested in all of them?"




"Or that bisexuals, as I've so often had rubbed in my face, are allegedly unable to keep it in their pants?" Okay, so now McKay was working up a little steam.


"Wait a minute there, McKay! I never said anything of the sort." The conversation had taken a sharp turn toward the disconcerting on an entirely new level. He was used to being appreciated, and McKay... didn't.


"It sure seemed like you were implying it. As though I'm suddenly some kind of sexual predator." McKay's eyes were narrow and angry. "What, are you gonna refuse to leave me unsupervised with Ford and Teyla now?"


"Look, Rodney, you're my friend okay? That's not going to change. There's nothing wrong with *you.* It's just that I'm a little uncomfortable. Maybe that's something wrong with *me.*"


"I guess I'm still a little tetchy about it," McKay said. He leaned back, less tense.


"Understandable, considering the circumstances." Sheppard sighed and relaxed. That was one potential disaster cut off at the pass.


"I, uh, didn't take it well when Carson was attacked. Or the others." McKay shifted nervously.


He nodded. He'd have done something similar if a girlfriend had been attacked, really, though he had a very hard time seeing Beckett in those terms. The doctor wasn't even vaguely feminine. "Yeah, I wouldn't either." He paused for a moment. "So you don't think I'm hot?"


McKay laughed. "I think I can restrain myself." He rolled his eyes.


Sheppard, much to his surprise, wasn't sure whether he found that more a relief or an affront. "Oh."


"I can deal with the fact that you feel a little uncomfortable with this," McKay said. "It's okay, really. Understandable even. I guess after how you reacted to Overton, I didn't think it would bother you."


"It shouldn't, Rodney, and I'm sorry. I just need to work on it, okay?" He offered an apologetic smile.


"Okay," McKay said. "If you're all right with it, I might even drop by tomorrow. I'm sure you'll be needing more coffee at some point."


"Yeah. A little less sugar next time, would you? And maybe a donut if you can find one!" Sheppard grinned at him as he left. Okay, he could deal with this. Really.




Carson had just got home for the evening when Rodney came by. He hadn't been expecting to see him tonight. They'd not made any plans earlier in the day, though it certainly wasn't unwelcome.


Rodney swept past him on the way in and sat on the couch.


"What brings you, Rodney? I thought you were going to spend the night at home?" He went to sit next to Rodney.


"I just..." Rodney sighed and slumped. "I wanted to talk, I guess."


This piqued Carson's curiosity. "About what?" He laid a hand on Rodney's thigh.


Rodney covered it with his own. "Went to see Sheppard today." He seemed reluctant to say more.


"And what of it? Was he comfortable when you saw him? Did he need anything?"


"Depends on how you define comfortable," Rodney said, a strange expression on his face.


He let his thumb move gently on Rodney's leg. "You could be a little more specific, luv."


"He doesn't seem comfortable with me. He says it's just him and that he'll work on it, but he asked me if our work relationship would change now that he knows." There was disappointment in Rodney's eyes.


Carson slid an arm around Rodney. "I'm sorry."


"I couldn't believe it, Carson. He had the gall to ask me if I thought he was hot."


Carson couldn't help a snicker at that. "I assume he wasn't asking if he had a fever."


Rodney gave him a sour look. "I think he'd have hit the ceiling if I touched him."


"I thought, from what he did, that he's on our side?" Carson moved a wee bit closer to Rodney. If the Major was a more reluctant ally than they'd assumed, it could be trouble. Perhaps Rodney was beginning to rub off on him more than he'd realized. His life had got more complicated since they'd been outed. People he'd thought were friends had been treating him differently. Like Carol Bentz, some of them had been people he'd trusted. Now he wasn't sure who to trust.


Except Rodney -- for all his faults, Rodney could be trusted. He hoped Sheppard and Weir still could as well. For Rodney's sake, he hoped that list included Ford. Teyla he had no doubts about. There were no cultural reasons for her to be even mildly uncomfortable. She'd watch Rodney's back.


Rodney nodded, silent for a few moments. "He is. He's just not coping with it very well yet. Getting past the theory part of supporting us to actually knowing one of his team members is queer seems to be a bit of a challenge for him. I think he'll be all right, though. I mean Elizabeth's acting the same way, though she's more honest about it. I think with her it's probably more that it's us than that either of us is with another man."


 Carson nodded. "A bit awkward for her, I suppose, having two of her division heads in such a situation. She probably thinks it's more likely we'd conspire behind her back if we disagreed with her."


"Politics. That I can actually understand," Rodney said. "It's a reasonable fear on her part." He laughed. "Not that we wouldn't do it even if we weren't involved."


Carson grinned. "There is that. But she'd have a better chance to hear of it before we sprung it on her if it wasn't pillow talk."


"There are moments when seeing you on a pillow is all I can think about," Rodney said, his voice low and seductive. "Rare," he added, teasing, "but it happens."


Carson chuckled and shook his head. "You're such a romantic. Next it'll be heart-shaped boxes of jelly babies."


"Tom Baker," Rodney said, eyes alight. "My favorite Doctor."


"And here I thought I was." He poked Rodney with his elbow. "I rather favored Jon Pertwee myself. There was a Doctor with some class. Davison wasn't a bad chap either. Now, what was this about pillows?"


"You." Rodney leaned in toward him. "Pillows." He kissed Carson hard and deep, taking him into his arms and holding him tight. They were both panting when they parted. "Yeah."


It was a bit dizzying, and he loved it when Rodney kissed him like that. Carson sighed happily, nuzzling against his face with closed eyes. "Does that mean you'll be staying tonight?"


"Would you mind?"


Carson snorted. "Would I mind, he asks. You're daft, Rodney." He rested his chin on Rodney's shoulder. "You're always welcome to share my bed," he said quietly. "And my pillow."




Carson woke early with the sun through his window, though he didn't have to, it being Saturday and all. Rodney was still sleeping, quiet under his arm, back curled against his chest. His hair was going in all directions, looking for all the world like some terrier, his face soft and peaceful, the familiar crooked mouth relaxed. The rightness of it all warmed Carson through and he smiled. Just waking like this was a blessing.


He hadn't made any plans, hoping to just drift a little for once. Plans he made tended to explode, even on his days off, what with Gate expeditions always going on. He found it better not to anticipate having an actual holiday from work.


Rodney was likely to be off to his lab despite the weekend. It seemed nothing could really keep him from his fascination with shiny Ancient toys, particularly when he wouldn't be heading through the Gate anytime soon. Not until Sheppard was released for missions, at least. That would be a few weeks.


Rodney shifted and turned and yawned, starting to wake, and Carson ran a hand over his chest. It felt good. Rodney made a satisfied, sleepy sound then cracked his eyes open a little.




Carson smiled. "Morning. You really should wake up before you try to speak, luv. Vowels are useful."


Rodney moaned. "Carson, you're a dick." He rubbed his eyes with one palm.


"That's better. You sound a little less Welsh now." Carson chuckled to himself.


Rodney muttered something unintelligible and rolled to face Carson. Nose to nose, he looked in Carson's eyes. "You can't harass me before I have my coffee. It's against the rules." He kissed Carson.


"Well," Carson said afterward, "I didn't know we had that rule. Do we have rules?"


"That you won't have sex with me until I talk."


Carson shifted. "That's not really a rule, per se. It's more of a protection for both of us."


Rodney nodded. "I know. But still. I think no harassment before coffee should definitely be a rule."


"And what happens when we run out of coffee, then? Do I have to never harass you?" Carson smirked.


Rodney's eyebrows went up. "If I have to find arabica trees myself, we will *not* run out of coffee!" Carson laughed. "See? You're harassing me again. And I still don't see any coffee." Carson gave up, still laughing, and hugged him. Rodney returned the embrace. "Don't think I'm letting this go until I have my morning caffeine, Carson," Rodney said.


"Can you wait a little before we go off for breakfast?" Carson asked. "I'd really rather stay here with you for a bit. It's not often we have time in the morning to just relax."


Rodney was smiling now. "Yeah, you're right. Relaxing is good." He kissed Carson again. "That's even better, though."


Carson could find no argument with that.




Rodney had taken Sheppard the coffee he'd promised, and got roped into walking with him for a little while. Carson had insisted that though the Major was supposed to rest as much as possible, he also had to get up at least once a day and walk -- and that it should be further than just to the bathroom and back.


They were headed for the mess hall. Rodney thought it was probably a little far for the man, considering the shape he was in, but Sheppard had insisted. He was leaning on Rodney already. At least it seemed like Sheppard had gotten past the 'cooties' stage of coping.


"Come on, Major, let's get you into a chair," Rodney said, helping Sheppard ease down. Ford was at their side almost immediately.


"Let me get breakfast for you, Sir," Ford said.


Sheppard grinned at him. "Thanks, Aiden. And it's not sir when I'm not in uniform."


Ford chuckled. "Right, Sir." He hurried off for the chow line.


"I've already had mine," Rodney said, "but I could always go for a snack." A quiet murmur passed around the room, and Rodney looked up to see what was happening. Osbourne was entering, Zelenka moving very slowly beside him.  Geoff's arm was firmly around Radek and he was speaking softly to him. Radek nodded and gestured toward the nearest chair.


"I'll be back in a minute," Rodney said. "I need to go see Zelenka." He paused a moment. "Remember, John, what you've done will help prevent something like that happening again." He waved a hand toward Zelenka and Sheppard looked.


"Damn. I didn't realize he'd look that bad." Sheppard seemed shaken by the sight. "It's been a couple of weeks already."

"He was more severely injured than Carson was in the fire." Rodney's voice was soft and hesitant. He didn't like remembering or mentioning Carson's experience, or his own. "Concussions are really nasty, and he was in a coma for a couple of days, unlike Carson."


Sheppard nodded, silent.


Rodney got up and went over to them. There was already a small crowd gathering. This was the first time Zelenka had been out of his quarters since he'd been released from the infirmary. Osbourne hadn't let anyone in to visit, saying Radek had been too exhausted for company. He'd probably been right. He was currently shooing most of the gathering group away, albeit rather gently.


"Hey," Rodney said. Osbourne looked up at him.


"Rodney." He gestured to a chair. "Have a seat."


Zelenka looked up at him and offered a hand. Rodney took it and squeezed gently, then let go. "How are you feeling?" He looked exhausted and in pain.


"Not well," Zelenka said. "Geoff is making me insane." He looked up at Osbourne. "It's not like I would not like a visitor now and then."


Osbourne looked defensive. This was obviously an ongoing argument. "I want you to get well, Radek. You've been too tired until today."


"I think I should be the judge of that. Carson put no restrictions on visitors that I recall." Zelenka spoke a little more slowly than he normally did, but Rodney expected that. The vehemence was unusual though.


Osbourne started into it again. "Radek, please--"


Rodney held up his hands. "There's no need to argue about it right now, guys." He put a hand on Osbourne's shoulder. "Give him a little space, Geoff. Carson was miserable and bitched at me a lot when he was going through this, and Radek is in the same kind of shape. Let him be for a while."


Zelenka looked slightly surprised. So did Osbourne, for that matter. "Thank you, Rodney," Zelenka said. Osbourne huffed and nodded, relaxing a little.


"I'm sorry, Radek," Geoff said. "I have been hovering too much lately."


Zelenka nodded. "Yes, you have, milacku." He palmed Geoff's face, stroking a thumb along the edge of his mustache. "I know you only want to help, but sometimes, is a little too much." Geoff nodded.


Radek looked back up at Rodney. "Come see me later. You can tell me what's going on in the lab. And please, bring me something to do -- you cannot imagine how bored I am!"


"I'll do that," Rodney said with a smile. "I just wanted to see how you're doing. Take it easy, okay?"


Zelenka nodded. "I will, don't worry."


He patted Zelenka's shoulder gently and went back to see Sheppard.


"How is he?" Sheppard asked. He put a hand on Rodney's wrist. Leaning one elbow on the table, he looked painfully uncomfortable. Ford was sitting beside him, scarfing down his own breakfast like he hadn't eaten in a week. Rodney wondered where it all went in the skinny young Marine.


"Not great, but considering he was in a coma, I'd say this is pretty damned good." Rodney leaned on the table with a sigh. It reminded him far too much of when Carson had been hurt. Sheppard's hand moved to his shoulder.


"You okay?" Ford asked.


Rodney nodded, not saying anything. He looked up at Ford.


"I'm not sure you look okay." Ford was staring at him.


Rodney glared back. "Why thank you, Lieutenant. How delightful to be reminded that my side is still sore and it shows." The bullet wound actually only bothered him a little and hadn't been a problem for a day or so; it was just a diversion.


Ford frowned and shook his head. "Sorry. I thought maybe you were upset because Dr. Zelenka was reminding you about what happened with the doc before." Sheppard shifted his chair a little closer to Rodney's. He leaned an arm along the back of Rodney's chair.


Rodney froze. Damn, why did the kid have to hit the bullseye like that? He started getting up. "I think I'll be--"


Sheppard grabbed his arm. "You're not going anywhere just yet. I still need you to help me get back to my room."


He tried to brush Sheppard off. "Ford can help you."


Sheppard refused to let go. "Nope. You got me out here, you're getting me back home." Sheppard's gaze held his for a little too long.


Rodney sighed and sat. Sheppard's arm slipped from the back of the chair to Rodney's shoulder. His hand hung loosely, brushing against Rodney's arm. "Whatever."


He grabbed a blueberry muffin -- he'd made sure there was no lemon in these -- and another cup of coffee and sat while Sheppard finished eating, listening silently as he and Ford talked. He didn't respond to any of their jibes. Occasionally, Sheppard would reach out and touch Rodney's hand or his wrist, drawing his attention back to the conversation.


In the hallway, Sheppard leaned on him as they walked. He was quiet for a few minutes but then asked, "Why are you so upset about what Ford said?"


His first instinct was to snap, but Sheppard wasn't really in any shape to deal with it. Funny how he'd started thinking about that kind of thing since he'd been seeing Carson. "I just don't want to think about it. I don't want to remember it."


Sheppard nodded. "Yeah, that's kind of what I guessed. Beckett's okay Rodney. Nobody's gonna hurt him again."


"You don't know that," Rodney snarled. "He didn't think he was going to get hurt when this happened to Zelenka, either. He's too stupidly fucking optimistic for his own good."


"Hey, easy McKay. I'm not your enemy." Sheppard stopped walking, and since he was leaning on Rodney, Rodney had to stop as well. He looked Rodney in the eye. "Beckett's not an idiot. He's just a little more trusting than most."


"He's an idiot to trust anyone around here." Seeing Zelenka had struck a core of fear and rage Rodney had been trying to keep down since the sentencing. "How could he--"


"McKay." Sheppard took him by both shoulders. His gaze was intense. "Stand down. It's not going to happen again."


Sheppard was probably right. They'd still get the comments and the looks, but it was exceedingly unlikely anyone would try violence again and risk being shipped off to the mainland alone for a year. He took a deep breath and collected himself. "Let's get you back to your place. I have things to do."




Rodney was pensive and nervous when Carson found him at dinner, lost in thought but twitchy. He set his tray down on the table next to Rodney's and sat with him. "Penny for your thoughts."


"Do you guys even have pennies in Scotland?" Rodney looked up, still seeming disturbed.


"When we're not using Euros," Carson replied. "You seem a bit preoccupied."


Rodney sighed and nodded, then took a sip of his coffee. With a disgusted look, he glared at it. "Ugh. It's cold. I'll be right back." Cup in hand he hurried off to the table with the coffee pots. A moment later he returned. "That's better."


"You must be distracted if you're letting that stuff get cold." He tried to figure out what dinner was. It looked like something Athosian. He poked at it with his fork then tried it. It was much better than MRE's. Somehow he doubted Rodney would agree. There wasn't much institutional about it.


"It's nothing," Rodney said.


Carson looked at him. "Oh, don't even ask me to believe that. What's wrong?" Rodney just stared into his coffee. This wasn't good. Rodney *always* had something to say. He waited a little while, to see if Rodney would speak, but Rodney only kept looking over at him every so often. It was almost like he was checking to make sure he was still there.


Carson finished his dinner. "If you won't talk to me here, would you talk to me elsewhere?'


Rodney's face pinched a little, then he looked at Carson again. "Yeah. My place would do, I guess."


It wasn't long before they were at Rodney's quarters, sitting on his couch. Rodney sat on the far end, away from Carson.


"What's happening, Rodney? You've not been like this for a while now."


"I've been thinking too much." He shifted and crossed his arms protectively over his chest.


"What about, then?" Carson tried to move closer, but Rodney shook his head, so he stayed put.


"Zelenka. You. Some of the things you want me to talk about." Rodney's blue eyes were shadowed, uncomfortable.


He'd heard Zelenka had been out to the mess hall early in the day, and that Rodney had spoken to him. "Radek's doing well, Rodney. He's in no danger, and he's recovering nicely now."


Rodney nodded. "I know. It's just... I guess it reminded me too much of how you've been until recently."


That made sense. "It's all right, mo leannan. I'm fine now, really." Carson reached out but was again rebuffed. There was definitely more going on here than just Zelenka's recovery and Rodney being uneasy about the injury he'd had in the fire. "Tell me what else is bothering you."


"I'm not sure I can tell you about this all at once," Rodney said, and took a deep breath. "There's just... there's too much of it, okay?"


Carson nodded. He wanted very much to sit closer to Rodney, to touch him, but he knew right now it wouldn't be welcome. He'd just be pushed away again, and if he kept trying, he'd make Rodney even more reluctant to speak. "Whatever you need," he said. "Just say what you can. We have time enough."


Rodney shifted again, leaning forward a bit, elbows on his knees now. He looked down at the floor. "I don't know what to do around you, Carson."


Carson started to say something but Rodney stopped him. "No. Just... just let me talk. This is hard enough already."


Carson nodded. "All right."


Rodney continued, eyes on the floor again. "I don't know how to handle this... this... whatever it is we have. Nobody's ever treated me the way you do. I keep expecting to wake up and none of it's real, or you'll wake up and realize you're making some huge mistake, and it'll all be over."


"No," Carson said softly. "It's not like that."


Rodney looked up at him again. "Part of me knows that, but the rest of me still isn't sure. It's not your fault, okay? I've never felt like this before, and sometimes it's all just moving too fast. It's not that I can't adapt to change, it's that this isn't about intelligence or numbers or logic. I'm too far outside my field. There aren't any landmarks for me here."


He waited for Rodney to continue and nodded, settling back on the couch. That seemed to relax Rodney a bit.


"I didn't want to love you," Rodney whispered. Carson bit his tongue, not wanting to interrupt but desperately tempted. The thought that Rodney hadn't wanted to love him hurt. His fingers clenched into a fist as he listened, nails digging into his palm.


"I've... I've never loved anyone before. I never wanted to." Rodney's voice was still soft, shaking a little. "Hell, I've never even been able to spend a whole night in anyone else's bed without freaking on them, until I met you. It's a big part of why I've never been with anyone more than once."


Carson was astonished. He'd had no idea. He knew Rodney hadn't been with anyone more than once before, but that he'd never been able to spend the night with someone? It was inconceivable.


"All the evidence suggests that nobody's ever loved me before, either," Rodney continued. "So you can imagine that this is a very strange experience for me."


"I do love you," Carson said quietly, leaning toward Rodney. God, how many ways could the man break his heart? Just saying the words was taking so much out of his lover, and he deserved so much better.


Rodney nodded. "I know." He seemed shaken, and it took him a few moments to compose himself before he started speaking again. "This is really hard for me. I've never told anyone what I'm trying to tell you. It's all so hard to think about, much less to... to say out loud."


Carson reached out, offering a hand, and Rodney took it. "I'm here, mo leannan. I'm not going anywhere."


Rodney nodded and took another deep breath. "My parents, they hated each other. Fought constantly. They blamed me for all of it. I'd ruined their ideal lives by being born. They already had the child they wanted. I came along and messed up all their plans." He looked away, letting go of Carson's hand.


"I don't really blame my sister for it anymore," he said. "We've never been close, but she at least didn't hate me. She couldn't help what our parents did." Pain poured from Rodney's voice, his body stiff and shaking. "The only thing they ever really seemed to value about me was the fact I was intelligent. Freakishly so, according to them, but at least they thought I might come to something because of it. I wasn't normal enough for them, ever."


He paused, catching his breath. Carson was worried, as Rodney had begun to sweat. "Music was an escape for me. I always wanted to be a pianist. The idea of being up on stage, under the lights, playing music that moved people, doing something they'd care about, it was what I lived to do."


Carson nodded. "Aye, you said so a few days ago." He wasn't sure what the music had to do with it, but it seemed far more than had just been said.


Rodney looked at him, fear in his eyes. "No, Carson. You have no idea. What I told you the other day, what I just said, it's just the surface."


"What happened, then?"


"You asked me a while ago if... if I'd been..." He swallowed, unable to continue.


"If you'd been raped." Carson whispered it.


Rodney nodded. "Yeah, that. I was." His face crumbled and he looked quickly away. "I'm sorry, I just... I can't talk any more about it right now."


"Rodney?" Carson moved close, put a hand on Rodney's cheek.


"No. Please, Carson, just go. I can't do this right now. I need more time." He waved Carson's hand away, a note of panic in his voice.


Carson got up and crouched on one knee in front of Rodney, hands on his knees. "I want to help, luv. Don't push me away."


"T-tomorrow, okay?" Rodney motioned at the door, and it opened. "I swear, tomorrow. Just go."


Carson could tell Rodney was holding back a powerful wave of emotion. If he pushed, he might get to the bottom of it now, but he risked hurting his lover badly. He stayed where he was. "Are you sure?"


"Yes," Rodney hissed. Carson caught the flicker of light on tears starting to form.


"I'll go then," he said softly, "but if you want to talk later, or if you need me for anything -- anything at all -- I want you to let me know. I'll come to you, or you can come to see me, all right?"


Rodney nodded and gave his shoulder a push. Carson rose reluctantly and left.




Sunday afternoon, Rodney ended up out on one of the sunny balconies with Sheppard. Though Ford and Teyla had visited the Major earlier in the day, it was Rodney he'd asked to accompany him.


"You could have taken the opportunity earlier," Rodney told him.


Sheppard shrugged. He was moving a little more easily than yesterday. "Wasn't in the mood to go out until you got here, I guess. The afternoon sun's warmer anyway." Despite what seemed to be easier movement, Sheppard still leaned a bit on Rodney much of the way to the balcony.


They stared out over the water for a long time, Rodney sitting in silence. Eventually, Sheppard shifted a little closer, legs spread, his knee resting casually against Rodney's. "How's Zelenka doing today?"


Rodney sighed. "Not much difference. It'll take a while for him to get over being tired and moving slow. Carson... Carson did too." He'd been so worried about Carson, especially when he wasn't able to speak English. He'd tried not to let anyone know just how freaked he'd been about that. Much as Siwicki was okay, he hadn't wanted to discuss anything private with Carson through a translator. It had been difficult.


"Sorry," Sheppard said. He rested a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "I didn't realize then how hard that must have been on you." Sheppard's fingers moved gently in tiny, almost subconscious strokes. Rodney gave the hand an odd look, but didn't comment. "How's it going for you two?"


"I'm surprised you'd even want to know," Rodney said. "Doesn't that qualify as 'way too much information'?"


Sheppard made a face. "Hey, I'm not asking what you two do in bed, okay? I'm just still trying to figure the whole thing out. What a guy sees in another guy, you know?"


"It's not like you're interested. Why would you even care?"


"Just curious. I don't get it. I want to understand. Suddenly I have all these people on the station who came out, and it's a little weird for me, okay?" Sheppard shrugged, looking into his eyes and just watching. It was a little disconcerting.


Rodney nodded. He could sort of see where Sheppard was coming from. At least he was willing to try. "We're doing okay," he said, cautious. "As to what a guy might see in another guy, well, that really depends on the people involved. Same as what a guy might see in a woman -- except they're not usually looking for exactly same things. Tits on a guy are kind of poor form, you know?"


Sheppard laughed. "Oh, man, I so don't wanna go there!"


Rodney grinned. Sheppard's hand tightened on his shoulder. "I don't blame you. I don't want to go there either."


"But really, I mean, what is it you see in Beckett?"


Rodney looked away, Sheppard's gaze suddenly uncomfortable. "A lot of things," he said quietly.


"Well, like what?"


Rodney hesitated. "I don't think you'd understand, Major."


"Oh, come on," Sheppard teased, wheedling him for more. God, it was that stupid puppy-eyed look again. Damned bastard was trying to be *cute* and it so wasn't working on Rodney. Now, if Carson pulled it, he'd be sunk, but Carson wasn't the type to try.


"Stop it," Rodney snapped. "It's private."


Sheppard's face quirked into a wry smile. "How the hell am I supposed to understand this if nobody'll tell me?"


Rodney looked him in the eye with a hard stare. "And just what do you look for in the women you go out with?"


That took Sheppard aback. "Um... well..."


"Come on, Major, you want me to talk. How do you feel in the hot seat?"


"Well..." Sheppard paused. "I mean, obviously physical attributes come into it." He gestured near his chest.


"Aside from the obvious," Rodney sneered. Sheppard's hands found the bench, the edge of one brushing against Rodney's hip. It was probably just the most comfortable place for Sheppard's hand to rest to support his tired weight, though it seemed awfully close.


"Ummm... decent conversation? Some common interests? Potential to get laid?"


Rodney chuckled. "It's not so different, you know. Not in that kind of thing anyway."


"Oh, man, I told you I don't wanna go there. Let's not talk about your potential to get laid by Beckett. I *so* don't want to think about that!" Sheppard blushed.


"Hey, you started this." Rodney grinned evilly. This was better. He had some control here, and Sheppard was off-balance.


"Forget it, McKay. Forget I said anything." Sheppard's hand was on his wrist.


"You think I'm gonna let you off that easy?"


Sheppard cringed. "Come on, Rodney, spare me the x-rated blow by blow." He blushed more deeply, realizing what he'd just said. "Uh, forget I said that."


"You just keep digging yourself deeper," Rodney said, laughing. "And believe me, I wouldn't tell you if you begged me." Because there was nothing to tell, though he wasn't about to allow Sheppard to even imagine that. A man had to have some dignity. Rodney stood. "I think it's about time you got back to your place."


Sheppard groaned. "It's nice out. I want to sit here for a while longer." He tugged on Rodney's wrist, eyes never leaving Rodney's.


"I have things to do. If you wanted to be out here all afternoon, you should have asked someone who wasn't as busy as I am." Rodney smiled as he reiterated his own importance to the functioning of Atlantis. "I have reports to review, assignments to draw up for the next month, brilliant plans to come up with."


"It's Sunday, Rodney. Take a load off." He tugged again.


Rodney shook his head and tugged at Sheppard, urging him to his feet. "Come on, John. If you want a babysitter, get somebody else."


Sheppard made an 'aw, mom' noise but rose reluctantly. His arm was around Rodney's shoulder before they got ten feet. Rodney knew he wasn't that badly off. He filed it away with the other odd behavior he'd seen this afternoon. Maybe it would make sense later. Sheppard had been in his personal space a lot in the last couple of days. Maybe it was just some strange manifestation of his attempt to get comfortable with the sudden and obvious queer presence on Atlantis.


There were stranger ways to cope, Rodney thought.




When Rodney didn't come by Carson's place that evening, Carson went to him. Rodney, however, wasn't in a mood to talk about what they'd addressed the previous night. He did want company though, at least for a while, and so Carson stayed until late. They talked about safe things -- work, a little gossip, and a debate (though Rodney called it an argument) about the possible origins of the Wraith.


He slept alone that night and wished he didn't have to.


Mondays had never particularly bothered Carson. He enjoyed his work. Treating patients was only part of what he did. Genetic research was a large part of it and, increasingly, work on Wraith xenobiology. He spent a good deal of time when people weren't hurt -- which was actually most of the time, if he told the truth -- puttering about with mice and specimen slides.


When Barry Gates, one of the maintenance folk, came in that afternoon after breaking a leg in a fall, Carson was there to deal with it, as always. Unfortunately, Gates' reaction was nothing even vaguely akin to ordinary.


It started with a difficult attitude and worked its way up to a refusal of treatment from Carson.  When the words "fucking faggot" left the man's mouth, Carson called Carol Bentz in to deal with him, angry with both of them.


To her credit, Bentz had tried to apologize several times in the weeks since the attacks, but Carson had been too angry over Zelenka's injuries to accept the olive branch. He knew he'd have to get over the betrayal eventually, but Gates' attitude and her subsequent apology only served to aggravate Carson further.


By the time he saw Rodney, he barely had his temper under control.


"I don't know why he was makin' such a noise about it," Carson insisted as he sat. "It's not like I was going to do anything at all to him but set his leg!"


Rodney leaned back in his chair, ignoring Carson's anger. "You knew that being out would have repercussions. It's not just about violence Carson, it's about human stupidity and prejudice. I told you, this was why I didn't want to be out in the first place."


"I know, bugger it all to hell!" Carson shouted. People looked around. He took a deep breath, embarrassed at his outburst, and tried to calm down. In a quieter tone of voice, he continued. "But that doesn't mean I don't wish people were better than they sometimes are."


Rodney shook his head. "That kind of attitude'll never get you anywhere. You have to expect people to be shits. Once in a while, if they're not, you can act pleasantly surprised."


Carson snorted and leaned on the table. "Well that's right cynical of you, Rodney."


"Cynical's my middle name. I thought you knew that." His mouth quirked into that crooked, sardonic grin again. Carson shuffled his food around on his plate, not able to eat.


"I thought it was--"


Rodney grabbed his wrist. "Hey, not in front of anybody, damn it. It's embarrassing."


That got a chuckle out of Carson. "Ah, blackmail material for later."


"You? Blackmail? Perish the thought." Rodney didn't even attempt to sound innocent. "And if you ever even consider whispering it in my ear in bed, I'll send Ford after you."


Carson smiled. "That nice lad? I doubt that's much of a threat." He was glad he'd met Rodney rather than retreating to his quarters, as he'd considered. The banter was lifting his foul mood.


"You've never seen him gunning for the bad guys."


Carson shook his head. "No, and god forbid I should ever have to." His stomach was settling a little now that his anger was fading. He was still upset about what had happened, but perspective helped. He really should bring himself to talk to Carol about her lapse of confidentiality, he thought. They still had to work together, and more than two weeks was a very long time for him to be holding a grudge -- even a well-justified one.


"I haven't seen you angry often, Carson," Rodney said. He rested a hand on Carson's arm, sipping at the coffee in his other hand.


"No. It's not my habit. I'm sorry I've inflicted it on you."


"I'm not saying it's a bad thing. You should do it a little more often, actually. Just make sure to point it at somebody other than me." Rodney grinned.


"I'm thinking the Hoffans might not be a bad target." He grimaced.


"Considering how they used you, you're probably right."


It had been a terrible time for Carson, when he saw the result of all his hard work leading to the death of hundreds of thousands. "I can't put it out of my mind. It still rides me some nights."


"It's not your fault."


Carson shook his head. "It's hard to look at what I did and not think so."


"You fought them at every turn as soon as you realized what was happening." Rodney's face was sympathetic.


"Not that it did any good, did it?" The bitterness ate at his stomach, worse than the anger.


Rodney's hand tightened on his arm, his voice vehement. "You didn't have a say in how the entire fucking planet voted. They made that decision, you didn't."


"But I made it possible." He wanted to crawl under a rock.


"Look," Rodney said, "I'm done eating and it doesn't seem like you're going to. Let's get out of here. You need something else to think about."


Carson looked at his plate. He'd barely eaten anything. He looked up at Rodney, who tugged at his arm. "Aye, you're right then. I do. Is anything happening tonight?"


"De Lancie's playing some blues in that room over by hydroponics: the one with the great acoustics." Rodney smiled at him. "That's got to be better than this."


Carson smiled back, still half buried in his mood. "That does sound good."


Cpl. Jackson De Lancie, Rob Stackhouse's lover, was from New Orleans. He played some of the best Delta blues Carson had ever heard, with a voice strong and smoky as a good dram of 30 year Glenfiddich. His battered old acoustic guitar had seen better days, but its tone was sweet and true. He blew a mean blues harp as well, as the Yanks said, and had a couple in different keys resting in a glass of water next to him, keeping the reeds supple.


The times he'd heard the man had always left him wanting more, and the blues suited his mood while giving him reason to feel better. There were almost 20 people there, enjoying the concert and tipping pints of some kind of Athosian alcohol that, while no Black Cuillin, was vaguely reminiscent of dark ale. Carson didn't indulge, though he was a bit tempted. The last thing he wanted was to be a maudlin drunk, and it was likely after the day he'd had.


Tonight's performance was a mix of different blues styles, from what he could tell. Blues weren't his expertise, by any means, though Jackson talked about it sometimes on Thursdays. They sat in the back corner of the room, Rodney wrapped around him humming along with the tunes he knew. Despite Rodney's claims regarding his lack of musical talent, he had a good voice. Carson knew it from his shower singing, but this just reinforced the knowledge. He was a little surprised when Rodney joined in quietly, but his voice was rough and moody as the lyrics themselves.


Carson hummed along too, eyes closed, leaning back against Rodney's strength. They spent about two hours listening to the music before Jackson decided to break for the night.


"Gotta work in the mornin' just like y'all," Jackson said. "Next time, somebody else gets to play." He grinned and packed up, Stackhouse helping, neither of them visibly betraying their relationship. Both of them being military, it would make their lives hell.


They wandered the room for a few minutes, saying goodnight to people, and Rodney invited Carson back to his quarters. "We still need to talk," he said, "and I sort of skipped out on it last night."


Carson nodded, wondering if he'd be strong enough for what was sure to come, but his mood was substantially better than it had been at dinner. "All right then," he said. "We can talk. Are you sure you're wanting to do this tonight?"


"If I don't," Rodney said, "I'll lose my nerve and never say anything. You've made it clear that nothing else happens between us until I do." There was a nervous tone to Rodney's voice, and he looked about as they talked, watching for anyone close enough to overhear. There was no one around. "I'd rather not talk about it, but I-I want more than what we have." He moved closer until they were walking with shoulders touching. "I want to be with you."


"And I with you," Carson said, chest tightening. "You're not alone in that."


"So you see my dilemma."


Carson nodded. Rodney took his hand and they walked silently through the quiet corridors until they got to Rodney's.


They both fussed and fidgeted for a while, irritating each other, trying to get comfortable for what was sure to be an exceedingly uncomfortable conversation. As usual, they ended up on the couch, but Carson refused to sit at the opposite end.


"Zelenka's looking a little better," Rodney said absently. He refused to look at Carson.


"He is," Carson agreed. He shifted his weight awkwardly, trying to relax.


"Sheppard's been acting weird the past few days." Rodney looked over at him, confused.


Carson tilted his head. "Oh? How so?"


"I can't really put my finger on it, just... weird. It's like he's been in my personal space a lot more than usual. I don't get it." He shrugged.


"I've no idea why he might be doing that," Carson said. "What would be the point?" 


"That's what I want to know." Rodney sighed and cupped his chin in one hand. "I can't figure it out and it's driving me nuts."


Carson slid closer to Rodney. "Well, at least I've got a reason to be near you." He smiled and Rodney smiled back, though it was a faint one.


"I like it when you're nearby. John just confuses me." The small smile faded. "Everything's so fucked up lately I don't know what to think anymore."


"Me either," Carson said with a sigh. "After Gates this afternoon, I'm wondering how much more trouble I'm like to have at work."


Rodney looked him in the eyes. "They'll get over it."


"I'm not so sure," Carson said quietly. "What if things only get worse?"


"Now you're starting to sound like me." The faint smile was back again.


Carson snorted softly. "I thought that's what you wanted -- that I should be as cynical as you."


Surprise crossed Rodney's face. He reached out and caressed Carson's cheek. "No, not really." His thumb traced the line of Carson's cheekbone. "Careful, yes; cynical, no. It's... most of the time I'm glad you're not. I guess I just worry about you, about how you trust everyone too easily."


Carson leaned into Rodney's hand. "And I worry that you don't trust anyone, even when you should." He put his hand over Rodney's, holding it still. The warmth pleased him and he closed his eyes.


"I trust you." Rodney's voice was soft and quiet with an undertone of something Carson couldn't quite identify. "We'd never have got this far if I didn't." Rodney's arms slipped around him and Carson stilled in them, just letting the warmth wash over him. A moment later, Rodney moved away from him.


Carson sighed and opened his eyes. "I know."


"When it started," Rodney said, hesitant, "I had no idea."


"What, us?" Carson asked, puzzled. "But you're the one who came to me."


Rodney shook his head and looked away. "No. The... what happened to me."


"Oh." He waited, hoping Rodney would go on.


"God, I was so stupid." Rodney's eyes closed and he buried his face in his hands.


"What do you mean?' Carson's confusion rose.


"I never saw it coming. I had no idea what was going on, and by the time... by... it was too late." Rodney stiffened and sat up straight. His face was an emotionless mask, his voice quiet and cold. It made Carson shiver.


"I was seven when I started piano lessons."


Now Carson was totally lost. "What's that to do with it?"


Rodney turned an empty look on him. "If you'd listen, I'd get to it. Don't make this harder than it already is."


Carson nodded. "Sorry," he whispered. His stomach knotted. It seemed like Rodney was vanishing inside himself.


Rodney took a slow, deep breath and closed his eyes. "I begged my parents long enough, and they finally decided to send me. They found a private tutor, Mr. Carruthers. He'd trained several pianists who'd made a name for themselves over the years, going on to play with orchestras. I was so excited. It-it was the only thing my parents ever really gave me that I wanted." He shuddered. Carson reached out a hand but pulled it back, not wanting to interrupt.


"If I'd known..." The quiet hardness in Rodney's voice was alien. It was nothing at all like the man Carson had known for over a year now. "Mr. Carruthers had an intensive method of training, and required his students to spend weekends with him, hours a day, working on every aspect of the music, from reading it to finger positioning on the keys to transcription of music that he'd play. I loved it. I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house and let myself fall into that world."


Carson watched Rodney as he spoke. The colour was fading from his face, and he'd started trembling. It was hard not to reach out to him, but Carson held himself back, a feeling of unease growing in him.


"It started out innocent enough," Rodney continued. "He would sit with me on the bench, show me where to put my fingers. He told me... he told me I was gifted, that I was special." Rodney's eyes opened and he looked at Carson, nothing showing on his face. "You have no idea how much that meant to me. I was nothing but a burden to my parents. To him, I meant something. I was worth something."


Rodney paused a moment, but when he spoke again there was contempt in his still-soft voice. "I should have known better. I was supposed to be the fucking genius, but I didn't know -- I didn't understand." His voice caught and he fell silent for a moment then continued.


"He would touch me to correct my posture, to move my hands. Sometimes he'd rub my shoulders. He'd always ask first." Rodney shuddered, then whispered, "He'd always ask." A sharp swallow, then Rodney continued. Carson's stomach twisted. "Every time I was there, he'd tell me that I was his best student, that I had what it would take to be the best." He caught Carson's eyes. "I believed him."


"Eventually, it started feeling strange when he touched me. It... I didn't understand, Carson. I didn't have any idea what he was doing, or why, but he was the only person that seemed to care about me or think I was worth anything, so I didn't question it. I-I was learning so much. I was grateful to him for the time he spent with me, for the attention."


Carson suddenly knew that it hadn't been Rodney's father who'd hurt him. He wanted to vomit. "My god," he whispered.


Rodney nodded, shaking like a leaf. "He talked about how the ancient Greek scholars mentored their students, how we were carrying on 'an old and noble tradition.'" Rodney almost spat the words from his mouth. "He talked about the great minds we were honoring, and how--" Rodney choked to a stop, and Carson couldn't hold back the silent tears that were threatening to fall.


"He said... he said it was a gift he was giving me, that there was nothing to be ashamed of, and then he... he touched me, reached inside my pants and just..." Rodney shook his head sharply, continuing. "My god, Carson, I was seven," he whispered.


Carson buried his face in his hands and wept as Rodney kept talking. "The first time it happened, oh, god, it hurt. I thought I would die, but..." Rodney could barely get the words out. "...but part of it felt... oh my god, it felt good too." Carson looked up at him and there was nothing in Rodney's expression. His eyes were empty, soulless. It was like a knife in Carson's gut.


"I knew it was wrong. I went to my father and tried to... to tell him. I tried to explain but he ignored me. He-he said I should be glad Mr. Carruthers was paying attention, that he was a gifted teacher." Rodney took a long, deep, shuddering breath. "He sent me back. Over and over again for five years, he sent me back."


Carson reached out to him, but Rodney moved away from his touch. "I knew it was wrong, but he had what I wanted -- what I needed. He had the music. He paid attention to me. He-he..." Rodney's voice was almost inaudible, "...he made me feel good. It hurt like hell, but in the end, it always felt good."


His face wet with tears, Carson bit his lip to keep from crying out for Rodney's pain and his own rage at the man who'd hurt his lover. "About that time," Rodney said, "he'd found another student, a girl this time. He... I tried to face him then. I would have done anything for him. I thought... I thought he loved me, and god, how fucking stupid was that?


"I said I'd tell people what had happened, what he'd done. He said no one would believe me. They hadn't before, so why would they this time? He said I was just jealous, because all I had was technique -- that I didn't have the art for it. He said I would never amount to anything, but she would. And then he threw me out." Rodney turned away from him and Carson could taste blood as he bit down. Rodney was pale and shaking, and Carson finally touched him, one gentle hand sliding down his arm as Carson's tears fell.


"Stop it!" Rodney turned on him and shouted. "Damn you, stop it! Don't cry, you bastard! I don't want to feel this -- stop feeling this! I don't want your goddamned pity!"


Carson flinched but held his ground, his hand still on Rodney's shoulder through the outburst. "It's not pity," he said softly. "God, Rodney, it's not pity, it's-it's horror. How could he do such a thing to you, and you just a wee lad? Oh my god, all of seven." He clutched at Rodney's shoulder.


"Horror? You don't know shit about that, Carson! When have you ever faced something that tore you apart like that?" Rodney shoved him away. Carson knew Rodney's anger wasn't really aimed at him, but it hurt nonetheless.


With a deep breath, Carson faced him. "You don't know me so well as you think, Rodney. You don't know my life."


"Oh yeah? Tell me then, what the hell ever happened to you that would let you understand?" There was rage in Rodney's eyes now.


"Did you ever wonder," Carson asked, "why I never talk about my da?"


Rodney closed his mouth and blinked. "What does that have to do with anything?"


Carson sighed, tears still in his eyes. "Everything."


"Did he--"


"No," Carson said, shaking his head. "I loved my da, but I didn't have him for all that long. He died when I was eight."


Rodney's anger faded. "He did?"


"Aye. I told you a while ago that my parents, they were from Skye. They didn't have much. Mum taught harp and voice, and da drove a lorry. They moved to Glasgow before I was born so I'd have a better life than they did. I was their only child." He settled back into the couch.


"What happened?" Rodney's voice was soft now.


"There was a horrible smash-up one day," Carson said quietly. "Mum came to get me from school. She took me to hospital where the ambulance had taken him. He... da died in surgery there. I never saw him again. His body was broken too badly for us to see."


"But you've never said anything. All this time, you never mentioned it." Rodney seemed confused.


"There's been no need, before this," Carson answered. "I never had a reason to speak of it. But I keep him in my heart, Rodney." Carson pulled a thin wallet from his pocket and took a worn photo out. He handed it to Rodney, who handled it like some fragile insect's wing.


"This is you," he said, "with your parents."


Carson nodded as Rodney handed the photo back. "It is. That was on my eighth birthday, a few weeks before he died."


"You looked happy," Rodney whispered. It seemed beyond him that a child should be happy. Given his past, Carson wasn't so surprised at his confusion.


"I was," Carson admitted. "But it was years before I was again after da died. Mum, she worked so hard, tryin' to keep a roof over us, and food on the table. My auntie Morag came down from Skye for most of a year to stay with us after it happened." He looked up. "It was hard, Rodney, but I remember him with love and though I miss him still, I know he'd be right proud of me."


"Is that why you're a doctor?" Rodney asked.


"No." Carson shook his head. "I always wanted to be that, to help people, to make them feel better and take away their pain. His death had naught to do with it."


Rodney took his hand, gently brushing away Carson's tears with his other. "You do it well."


For Rodney to say so was an immense compliment, and Carson knew it. "Thank you," he said softly.


"So now you know," Rodney said. They sat silent for long moments, just looking at each other. Carson leaned into Rodney's palm.


"Rodney, that horrid, evil man, he lied to you. You know that, don't you? He only said those things to hurt you. An abuser like that, he'd say anything to serve his purpose."


"You're bleeding." Rodney's thumb moved carefully over Carson's bitten lip.


"I know. It's easy enough to put right." He tried not to think about how it ached, or how angry he was at Rodney's father for not listening to him, and at the man who'd raped Rodney over the course of years. "I'll be fine."


Rodney pulled Carson to him. "I-I'm sorry I yelled at you. It wasn't about you."


Carson nodded as Rodney took him in his arms. "I know, mo leannan. But you needed to talk about this. I needed to know. I can't help you unless I know." He put his arms around Rodney and he stroked one hand slowly through his hair.


"There's no help for any of this, Carson. I hate all of them -- Carruthers, my father, my mother. If my parents had listened, it might not have happened. If I thought they might listen, I might have gone to them earlier. I--"


"Rodney, don't torture yourself with mights and maybes. You're right to be angry with them. I'm angry with them myself, and god knows if I had this Carruthers in front of me, I'd strangle him with my bare hands." His heart ached for his lover.


"How can you still love me after hearing that?" Rodney held him tight. "Knowing how I felt about it? About... about him? Knowing how fucked up I am?"


"You were just a lad, Rodney. No child could understand the whole of it. You were trying to survive is all. There's no shame in trying to keep yourself whole. And you tried to put a stop to it, but what child can stop an adult from doing what he wants, if he's determined? That... that beast, he had all the power. You had nothing." It was no wonder Rodney had never been able to sleep a night in another's bed, nor ever loved anyone. Carson was astonished that Rodney managed to with him.


"It was sick!"


"You survived. You've even succeeded, against all the odds. We can put it behind us in time, if you'll just let me help you." He pulled back a little, looking Rodney in the eyes. "And yes, I still love you. More than I did an hour ago, even, for the courage you've had that I never knew."


"Carson..." Rodney's voice was a choked whisper.


"We'll be all right. I promise."


Rodney smiled weakly. "Still an optimist."


"It's my nature, I think." He took Rodney's hand and kissed his palm.


"I... Carson, I'm sorry. I'm exhausted. I feel awful. I need some sleep."


Carson nodded. "Do you want me to stay?"


Rodney shook his head. "No. I, um, I need some space. I'm still pretty shaky. I've... I've never told anyone about this before, and I'm not handling it very well."


"Are you sure you don't want my company, luv?" Carson wanted to be certain before he left. He wasn't sure that leaving Rodney alone was a good idea, but it was Rodney's choice, and his quarters.


"No," Rodney whispered. "I'll be okay. I just need some sleep. I'll be fine in the morning."


Carson doubted that.




Rodney leaned against the door with one hand after Carson left. He was still shaking from all he'd said and dizzy from the intensity of emotion sweeping through him. It was hard to choke back the flood but he did. He went into his room and pulled a power bar from his bedside drawer, not sure if he was sick to his stomach from hypoglycemia or from talking. In the end, it probably didn't matter.


He tossed his clothes on the floor and got into bed, willing the lights out. That usually gave him at least a little bit of a charge, knowing that he could do those things now, but he only felt misery. The food lay in his stomach like wet cement.


His bed was no reprieve, but at least Carson wasn't there to see him fall apart. He couldn't bear that thought. He was enough of a mess as it was -- Carson shouldn't see him like this, sobbing into his pillow. It exhausted him and he fell into a fitful sleep, but nightmares woke him, shouting, with images and sensations he didn't want to remember.


Haggard and headachy, he put his clothes back on. It was obvious he wouldn't sleep. Maybe he could down some coffee and work in his lab, he thought. One look in his mirror convinced him he didn't want anyone seeing him. The red eyes alone were enough to make a Wraith shiver. God, he was a hopeless mess. What Carson saw in him was impossible to imagine.


He'd just ripped himself open and spilled his guts on the floor, and he hadn't felt so awful since the day Tomas Carruthers had thrown him out. How sick was it that he'd thought the man loved him? How much sicker that he'd been convinced he'd loved the man who'd ra... done *that* to him? Hell, he couldn't even think the word as he stood there shaking.


Rodney staggered into his bathroom and threw up. He brushed his teeth, trying to get the acid taste out of his mouth, but the mint only made things more disgusting. He sat with his head against the wall for a long time, trying to shove the away the images that had decided to abandon the realm of nightmare and come after him while he was awake.


Reciting wormhole equations didn't work. Trying to map the power subroutines for the southwest part of the city didn't distract him. Counting backwards from ten thousand in primes didn't even put a dent in it. He kept feeling hands on him, hearing Carruthers' voice, remembering the man's naked body and what he'd been made to do. He drowned in it.


On his feet again, he wrapped his arms tightly about himself as he moved silently through the corridors. Thinking wasn't an option; his legs moved of their own accord. When he found himself in front of Carson's quarters, he leaned on the door chime. It seemed like forever before the door opened.


Carson looked almost as bad as Rodney felt. "Come in," he said. He didn't look surprised, just exhausted. Rodney entered, and Carson held him as the door closed. Rodney stood in his arms and shook.


"Come sit, Rodney," Carson said softly.


"Were you asleep?" He moved with Carson, who led him into the bedroom and sat him on the bed.


Carson shook his head. "No. There was no real hope of it after all this." Carson sat beside him, wearing only a pair of boxers. "I was worried about you. I didn't want to leave you alone like that." He tugged at Rodney's shirt. "Let's get you into bed. Maybe it'll be easier for both of us."


Rodney nodded. He kicked his shoes away, tugged his shirt and pants off, and lay with his back against the wall. Carson slid in with him and pulled the covers over both of them. Rodney reached out for him and held him as though something would snatch Carson away.


"It'll be all right," Carson whispered, caressing his side gently. "It was years ago, mo leannan. You're safe with me. There's naught to harm you here. It's all over now."


Ordinarily, Rodney would have snarled about the uselessness of platitudes, but the warmth of Carson in his arms, holding him, was helping. He focused on how Carson's skin felt on his, the now-familiar scent of his body, the sound of Carson's voice and his soft breathing. The scratch of Carson's bristly cheek on his was grounding, helping him stay in the moment. He didn't care what his lover was saying now, he just needed to hear it.


As dawn approached, Rodney faded into sleep.




They missed the morning briefing. The fact he and Carson both looked like death warmed over hadn't really helped. Weir was annoyed, but calmed some when she saw them.


"What happened, gentlemen?" She gestured to the chairs in front of her desk. "You look awful."


Carson looked at Rodney and Rodney looked back at him. The look on Carson's face said he wasn't going to say anything until Rodney gave him some idea of what their story was.


"I... umm... I had a really bad night last night," Rodney said.


She looked at him, appraising. "Would either of you care to tell me what happened?"


Rodney shook his head vehemently. "No."


"It was personal, Elizabeth," Carson said. "Please, just leave it at that."


She fixed Carson with her gaze. "Did you two have a fight?"


"No," Carson said. Rodney sighed, relieved that he'd taken up the discussion. "Far from it. It's not my place to speak of it, but I can say that I'd recommend he take the day off for personal reasons."


She nodded. "I'll take that under consideration. And you?"


Carson sighed and sank back into the uncomfortable chair. "I'm just tired. I'll be fine."


Weir folded her hands before her and leaned on her desk. "It's not my policy to interfere in the personal lives of my people, gentlemen, but I can't have this happening again. If anyone is going to miss a briefing, I need to know in advance, and I need to know why."


"This wasn't... predictable," Rodney said. His heart was battering against his ribs. The last thing he wanted was to explain things to her. She'd be recommending he see Heightmeyer or putting him under psychological observation, or some other nonsense. "I'm fine." He started to rise. "I'll be in my lab--"


She held up a hand and stopped him. "No, Rodney. The way you're looking right now, I don't think you're in any shape to be doing anything. I agree with Carson. You look like you need a personal day." She turned to Carson. "So do you."


"Elizabeth--" Carson started.


"No. I want both of you to go tell your people you're taking the day off and then I want you to do just that. You look like you could use a week's worth of sleep. I'll see you first thing tomorrow." She stood, giving Carson a significant look. "Now get out of here, and don't do this to me again."


They headed for the mess hall and Rodney said, "She's going to try and get it out of you."


"I know," Carson sighed. "What should I say?"


He shrugged. "You're the voodoo expert. Tell her something she'll believe that'll make her leave me alone."


"Rodney, I love you, but I'll not lie for you." Carson looked disturbed.


He grabbed Carson's elbow as they walked. "I'm not asking you to lie, I'm just asking you to... um... prevaricate. Obfuscate. Something. I don't want anyone else to know."


"I won't tell her everything, but I'll have to let her know something about it." Carson's shoulders tightened as they walked. "She's not like to believe you've whacked your head or anything."


"It could be arranged," Rodney muttered.


"Your head's too thick to damage that way," Carson countered, cuffing him on the back of the skull.


Rodney snorted. "Your confidence is inspiring."




Elizabeth found Carson late that afternoon. He was out near where the soccer games had taken place. Elizabeth found him sitting, staring out to sea. She watched him for a few minutes, silent. He looked exhausted and troubled.


He didn't realize she was there until she sat down on the deck beside him. "Carson."


He looked up, his eyes sad and preoccupied. "Elizabeth."


"You're not resting."


He gestured out at the water. "This is restful."


"I thought maybe you'd be sleeping." She'd rather hoped he was. She rested her elbows on her knees and gazed out with him.


"Rodney is. I couldn't." He sighed, clasping his hands in front of him.


"So what happened last night?" She looked over at him.


He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth, I can't tell you, except to say we had a very long talk. You'll have to ask Rodney anything else. Once he's had some rest, it shouldn't be affecting his work."


"It certainly seems to have done so today. And yours." She put a hand on his arm.


Carson sighed. "I'm going to suggest he talk to Dr. Heightmeyer, but I don't know that he'll listen to me. It was like pulling molars from a whale to have him speak to me, and I know him better than anyone." He rested his chin on his knees, arms wrapped around his legs.


"How bad is it?" Weir rubbed his arm soothingly.


"It's bad." He put a hand over hers and looked at her. She could see the pain in his face; something was obviously upsetting him a great deal.


"And what about you?" Her voice softened with her concern. "This is obviously affecting you as well."


He nodded. "It is, yeah. I'll be all right." His voice was quiet and she could hear the stress in it.


"It must have been very bad for you to feel this way." Elizabeth hoped that Carson would at least talk about his own problems. She liked the man and seeing him like this bothered her a great deal.


"I may be talking to Heightmeyer myself," he said. "I'm not taking it too well."


She looked at him curiously. "Is Rodney hurt?"


"Not in his body, no," Carson said. He looked back out over the water. "Please, Elizabeth, trust me. Don't ask him about it. Give us a little time. Things'll be better."


"And you'll be better?" She squeezed his arm, and his hand squeezed hers. "I hope this isn't something that's come between you."


"No." He shook his head. "Nothing like that. I think it's solved a problem, to be honest. It just has to settle a bit. It's a bit... a bit of a bad spot right now."


"How long have we been friends?" She shifted so her body faced him and drew her hand back. Changing the body language might get him to open up a bit. Sometimes she had to use her skills in situations other than high-level negotiations.


"About two years, I think? It's been a while." He closed his eyes. "Why do you ask?"


"When I first told you about this project, Carson, did you trust me?"


He looked at her and blinked. "Well, it was a bit of a stretch at first, what with aliens and traveling to other planets and all, but I didn't think you'd lie to me. I just -- Elizabeth, why are you asking these things?"


She leaned in toward him. "I can see that this is really bothering you, whatever you and Rodney talked about last night. I don't know what's going on, and I trust your judgment, but I'm concerned about you. It's not just about two of my department heads, it's about two of my friends. Even if you can't talk about what's bothering Rodney, I'd like to know if there's anything I can do to help you."


Carson shifted his weight, turning his face into the sun. "Thank you, Elizabeth. I appreciate that, I do, but right now all I can ask is that you let it be."


"You really care about him, don't you?" she asked softly.


He nodded. "More than I can say."


"He's a difficult man." It was an understatement, but she knew as well as anyone that Rodney had his good side.


He chuckled. "He's that, right enough. But he's worth the trouble of it."


"Sounds like love." She smiled.


"Aye, it is." Carson smiled back at her, his eyes lit.


"And what about Rodney?" She was fairly sure she knew the answer to that one.


His eyes closed, the smile still on his face. "For him, too. I think we both needed it. We were both too lonely."


"How long?" she asked, curious. He was relaxing now, his voice easier, shoulders less hunched.


Carson looked back out over the water. "About since that time he wasn't speaking to me," he said. "When you asked me what happened between us."


Suddenly, several things fell into place. "Some kind of miscommunication, I take it?"


He nodded. "And now you know why I couldn't say anything about it at the time. The last thing we needed was rumors about the station. I had no idea it would be so bad as it was, but Rodney, bless him, he was afraid of something like that."


"With good reason," Elizabeth said sadly. "I'm sorry, Carson. I picked every person here myself from the recommendations you and the others made to me. I checked personnel records, psychological evaluations, background investigations--"


"It's not your fault, Elizabeth," he said. "Out of two hundred people, it's easy enough to miss a few, and humans are unpredictable at the best of times. You don't always know how people will react to pressure, and I'm sure you didn't know before we had this mess who wasn't straight."


He had a point. No matter how thorough, evaluations and background investigations didn't reveal everything. She hadn't known about Carson or Rodney before Zelenka was assaulted -- nor had she known about Zelenka and Osbourne. The only thing that bothered her about the situation was that people were hurt.


The revelation that Carson and Rodney were lovers had surprised her, but she'd gotten past it quickly. The truth was, Rodney had been changing for the better since they'd arrived in Atlantis, and she suspected Carson had a good deal to do with it. She wasn't about to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.




Rodney sighed as he leaned on the railing of the balcony. He came here sometimes to be alone, and at the moment, he really needed it. He'd gotten a little sleep after Elizabeth had dismissed him and Carson, but most of it had been riddled with nightmares. Only the short hours he'd spent with Carson last night had been at all restful, and even that hadn't been enough to get them to the briefing.


Here in the late afternoon light, he hoped things might come clearer. Unfortunately, it seemed the only thing he could see was his past. He wanted to regret talking to Carson about it, but the man had been right. There was no way they could be on even ground together unless Carson knew.


And anyway, what was done was done -- he couldn't un-say any of it, couldn't slam the nightmares back into the box they'd been in for years. He had to face it all. That was probably what scared him the most: facing it.


He figured he'd start with some active avoidance. There had to be people around somewhere.


A long walk down a bunch of corridors found him at the mess hall, of course. It seemed the most logical thing, even though he hadn't exactly planned it. Food usually helped clear his head.


He sat in a corner with a cup of coffee and some blue jello, watching people moving in and out. Blue, that was his favorite flavor. Carson insisted there was no such flavor as "blue" but of course the mess hall provided it so, ipso facto, it had to be real.


There was nobody around at that hour he really felt like talking to. Everyone on the day shift was at work, and some of the eve shift people were just starting to get themselves together before starting their own days in a couple of hours.


The random soundscape of the mess helped loosen the grip of his memories. He let himself drift, half asleep over his coffee when Major Sheppard limped over. He was doing much better than the day before. Rodney was vaguely annoyed when Sheppard sat down next to him.


"I see you're looking chipper today," Rodney said, his annoyance creeping into his voice. "At least you don't need me to be your human walker anymore."


Sheppard chuckled and shifted the chair closer, dropping an arm around the back of Rodney's chair. "Blue today, eh?"


"Last time I looked, it wasn't your eyes that were injured, Major." Rodney picked up his spoon and shoveled a bite in, hoping Sheppard would get the hint.


"I like lime better."


Rodney glared at him. "Death on the hoof. Citrus allergy, remember?"


"I was talking about me, not you." Sheppard grinned at him.


Rodney grimaced. "So long as you keep it far away from me. Preferably in another galaxy."


"How bad is that, anyway? I mean, what if some woman kissed you after she'd had lime jello?"


Oh god, Sheppard was in one of *those* moods. "I'd pray she'd brushed her teeth first, and keep my epi-pen handy."


Sheppard just looked at him. "Oh. I'll remember that."


"Why? So you can warn people not to eat lime jello before they kiss me?"


Sheppard leaned into him a little, that stray hand brushing against his shoulder again. Rodney had no idea why Sheppard was invading his personal space all the time lately.


"Does Beckett know about that? The jello thing, I mean?"


Rodney stared at the major. "What the hell is with you lately? You're in my space all the time. You're asking me the weirdest questions."


"I am?" Sheppard asked, genuine innocence on his face. Rodney wasn't buying it for an instant.


"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were flirting with me, but that's patently absurd." He snorted.


Sheppard backed up, hands back in his own space now. "Oh, come on, McKay! That's... that's ridiculous. I'm straight! Why the hell would I be flirting with you?"


Rodney leaned forward, nose to nose with Sheppard. "That's exactly my point, Major Straight-boy."


"No way. I am *so* not flirting with you!" Sheppard was flustered.


Rodney went for it, triumphant. "Then what's with all the leaning on me lately when you didn't have to? And your arm around the back of my chair? And you *stroking* my shoulder with your fingers? What the hell is that if it's not flirting?"


Sheppard was indignant now. "Now wait a minute! I wasn't--"


"You *were*! You've been all touchy feely for like the past three days."


Sheppard's face went blank then a look of panic flashed across it. "I..."


"Spill it, John. What's going on in that scrambled brain of yours?"


"I'm not sure." Sheppard looked at him, utterly confused.


Rodney leaned back and sighed. "Look, this all started when I went to visit you the other day. You said you were trying to work on this uneasiness of yours. You don't have to ask me out for a date to prove you're not disgusted. Really." Sheppard just blinked and Rodney rolled right on. "Not that I'd date you anyway--"




Rodney stopped in midstream and stared at him. "What? Does that *bother* you? I don't believe you."


"Oh, come *on* Rodney, of course it doesn't bother me!" Sheppard had the look of a man in utter disarray.


"So why did you object? I mean you're really not my type, John." Rodney wondered what kind of reaction that was going to get.


Sheppard blinked again and stared at him for a moment. "Not your type how?"


Rodney laughed. "Oh, man, this is so about your ego, isn't it? You can't stand it that anything that's supposedly attracted to men isn't attracted to you."


"Well you have to admit that I'm better looking than Beckett!" Sheppard looked offended.


"In what way? How the hell do you know what I think is good looking?" Rodney had him now and wasn't going to let go.


"Well, I mean, all the women--"


"That's just it, Major -- all the *women* think you're hot -- the straight ones anyway. What makes you think you'd know the first thing about what a man wants in another man?" He grinned. "Or what I want in anyone?"


"Well... but... what's wrong with me then?" Sheppard's look of confused disappointment was delicious.


Rodney laughed. "Oh, let's see. For one thing, you're too tall."


"But guys are supposed to be tall."


Rodney nodded. "Yeah, and maybe I'd like to feel tall now and then too. Did you ever notice that Carson's a little shorter than me?"


"I, uh, I guess he is, but--"


"And you're too damned skinny. God, you might break or something." His grin widened.

"Now wait a minute!"


"Carson's got a good, solid build. He's got a nice, broad chest and some muscle on those bones of his. There's a lot of strength there that most people don't see. I'm not afraid of being rough with him if that's what we want."


"Hey! I'm muscular!"


"Like a toothpick."


"But Beckett's -- he's scruffy!"


"Did it ever occur to you that I might *like* scruffy? Maybe I like a little bristle on a guy's face? It's not like I'm trying to pretend he's a woman." There was shock in Sheppard's eyes at that. "You're just too damned *pretty* John. And let's not even talk about that hair of yours."


"Oh man, you *had* to start on the hair!"


"Demented gerbils would do a better job than whoever's cutting it now." Rodney laughed. "Am I beginning to get through to you? You're not everyone's idea of the ideal man, Major."


"And Beckett's yours?" There was genuine confusion in Sheppard's eyes.


"I've never had an ideal I was looking for, but Carson has a lot of what I like in a guy. I mean have you ever seen him naked? He looks great." Sheppard shuddered. "So yeah, he's a lot closer to 'ideal' to me than you are. And besides, you're straight. What do you care?"


"Oh. Right." Sheppard looked like it hadn't occurred to him.


Rodney was still laughing, finally feeling good for the first time in ages. "Thank you, John. I really needed that. Let me get you some coffee."


"Um. Uh. Sure, Rodney. Thanks. I think."




He had Carson laughing about Sheppard's confused flirting and their subsequent exchange that night. It felt good to laugh, and to see Carson doing it. Neither of them had laughed much recently. Carson still looked exhausted but the lines in his face were softer, as though the laughter had driven away some of his worry.


Rodney had decided earlier in the evening that sleeping with Carson was a reasonably good way to keep the nightmares back. He'd noticed they weren't so bad when he was with Carson. Even the couple of hours he'd had the night before were relatively peaceful compared to the times he'd tried to sleep alone in the past few days. He hadn't informed Carson of this yet but he doubted his lover would object.


They were lying together on Carson's bed, just relaxing, Carson still chuckling. "That must have been some sight," Carson said. "I wish I could have seen it."


"That's one opportunity that'll never come again," Rodney said with a cheerfully regretful sigh. He grinned at Carson. "I wish you could have seen it too. It was glorious -- as usual for me."


Carson snorted at Rodney and slid an arm around him. "And you'll not let anyone forget it, either."


"Of course not. I couldn't have that." Rodney moved over and settled in, resting his back against Carson's chest. He pulled Carson's arm around him.


"Are you staying tonight?" Carson asked, his voice soft in Rodney's ear.


"Definitely," Rodney said. "You owe me sex. Lots of it."


He felt more than heard Carson's chuckle. "I see." His voice took on a serious tone. "Are you sure you're ready, luv? Last night was a hard one on both of us. Much as I'm tempted, I'm also very tired."


Rodney looked over his shoulder at Carson. "Are you kidding? I am profoundly, desperately horny. I have been for weeks. If you don't do something about it, I swear I'm going to strangle you." That was the absolute truth. He wasn't sure about the emotional crap, but his body was certainly screaming for it. Not that he'd tell Carson about his uncertainties, especially if there was any chance of getting laid.


"Well, I suppose if you put it that way." Carson started nibbling on his ear, and Rodney's body reacted with a shiver that ran down his spine and straight into his dick. He caught his breath with a gasp and could feel Carson grin into his neck. "Like that, do you?"


"Oh yeah." Rodney's voice rumbled in his chest. He took Carson's hand and illustrated his interest. Carson made a very seductive growly sound in his ear and Rodney could feel him getting hard against one hip. He grinned. "Most definitely. And if you stop, I'll be forced to kill you."


Carson laughed and started sucking on his neck. His hand was moving in a slow and utterly, irresistibly delicious way along the length of Rodney's stiffening cock. Rodney moaned and pressed into his hand. Carson's lips and teeth and bristly face moving on his throat convinced him that his brain cells were dying by the millions. He arched his neck back, wanting more.


"Oh, god." Rodney was embarrassed at the whimper in his voice.


Carson just rumbled again and started nibbling a trail down his shoulder. His hands were moving in slow, torturous patterns along the front of Rodney's body, fingertips teasing. One ghosted softly up his throat, tickling along his chin and up to his lips, where Rodney licked at the fingers. Carson slipped two into his mouth and he sucked them sensually. This elicited more growls from Carson and a sweet, slow thrust against his hip. He decided he really liked it when Carson was growly.


Carson's other hand slid under his shirt, warm and strong. "You need to take this off," he whispered into Rodney's ear. Rodney just made a mumbly, content sound in the back of this throat. Carson tugged at the cloth. "Off."


"Mmm." Rodney let Carson's fingers slip from his mouth and helped pull his shirt off. They turned toward each other, devouring each other's mouths, Rodney's hands digging under Carson's shirt and stripping it from him. Skin met skin, warming with their quickening breath. "Want you," he gasped, as Carson licked his mouth.


"You have me," Carson said, his voice rough and aroused. He hissed and pulled back when Rodney took his lower lip in his teeth. "Och! Easy!"


Rodney remembered that Carson had bitten it badly last night. "Damn, sorry." He sucked it softly between his own lips instead, licking at it. Carson sank back and groaned, pulling Rodney on top of him. "Don't want to hurt you."


"Come here." Carson's hand snaked behind Rodney's head, fingers curling in his short hair, and he pulled Rodney down into a deep, passionate kiss. Their tongues curled together, wet and slick, caressing and pressing deep. He moved, tangling their legs together, the hot length of Carson's body against his own. They were both hard, rocking against each other, hands moving.


"Love you," Carson whispered. "Want to make love with you." There was something so intense in the way he said it that Rodney's breath caught. It left him dizzy and almost painfully in need. He slipped a hand between them and tugged at Carson's pants.


"Yes," he hissed, "god yes, fuck me." He dove back into Carson's mouth, kissing him hard, demanding satisfaction. Carson gave back as good as he got, his focus precise as a laser. Rodney had never realized just how intense Carson could be, how passionate the man was under his cautious exterior. It was wonderful.


They wrestled on the bed, nipping, sucking, pulling at clothes. It wasn't long before they were naked, bodies writhing in pleasure as they touched and explored. It hadn't been like this the first time. That had felt almost... accidental compared to this pure fire that ripped and flared between them.


What surprised Rodney the most was how different it felt. Sex had always been based on his body's needs before. Emotion never came into it. There was heat and lust and a good, satisfying fuck, but he'd never realized there could be anything deeper to it. Not after he'd understood what Tomas Carruthers had done to him.


Being with Carson, though -- it pulled at him in ways he'd never experienced before. There was more between them than need, though he certainly felt enough of it. The tightness in his chest and the curling, intense heat in his stomach and his groin were beyond physical want. The motion of his lover's body against his own was doing something to him that was at once beautiful and terrifying.


He wondered if this was what Carson really meant when he talked about love: this solar flare of feeling that started in his heart and radiated outward. He was flushed and tingling. Carson's thick, hard cock in his hand, Rodney stroked and listened to him groan.


He licked and nipped at Carson's neck, tasting the sweat that beaded there. "Want to feel you inside me," he whispered, sucking at Carson's earlobe.


Carson made a strangled sound and thrust into his hand. "Are... god are you sure? What happened to you, I don't--"


Rodney shook his head and looked into Carson's eyes. "It's not about that. Don't make it about that." He backed off a bit and took Carson's face in both hands. "I didn't have a choice then. I do now, and that's what I like, what I want. It's not some twisted psychological compulsion to relive what happened to me, okay?"


Carson looked slightly confused. "But why would you want to have that?"


"What, I'm not allowed to like how you feel inside me? How stupid is that?" He kissed Carson again, fierce, silencing the words forming on his lover's lips. "If everyone who ever had that happen wanted nothing to do with a penis, half the women on earth would be lesbians, and I'd be straight."


Carson blinked, then laughed, still a little breathless with his arousal.


"You worry too much," Rodney growled, grinning, his heart pounding maniacally. "Believe me lover, the only thing that'll hurt is if you don't give me what I want." He pulled Carson closer to him, wrapping both arms around him. Lover -- yes. That was what Carson was. It hit him with all the force of a tsunami, overwhelming him, and he shuddered as Carson held him, thrusting against him. "Want..."


Carson shifted his weight and rolled them, lying atop him, spreading Rodney's legs. They moved together, his hips between Rodney's thighs, Carson's burning hot shaft rubbing against his own and Rodney let himself pant and gasp, accepting everything. It felt good, so good.


"Slow," he begged, "make it last."


The grin on Carson's face was positively wicked. "I'll do that," he said, and Rodney had never been more convinced of anything in his life. "Make you feel so good, mo leannan."


"Hope you remembered the lube," Rodney said, grinning back.


Carson just moved down to nip and suck at one of his nipples. Rodney arched under him, moaning softly, eyes closed. He couldn't stop as Carson slowly mapped the topography of his body with lips and tongue, fierce and tender at the same time. The sensuality of it left him breathless, his heart full and pounding. He didn't know it could be like this, so deep and slow and profound.


Carson mumbled softly the entire time, encouraging, slipping from English into Gaelic. Rodney didn't understand a word he said, but the tone of it told him everything. If love made a sound, it lived in Carson's voice.


Slick fingers moved in the cleft of his cheeks, stroking and pressing gently. He groaned and called out, wordless, unable to think. They circled, teasing, touching but not entering, and he begged for more.


"Slow," Carson whispered, his voice harsh and panting, "you wanted slow." Rodney could only moan and writhe helplessly as Carson's fingers slid inside him. "Love the way you sound. Let me hear you. God, you make me so hard."


"Sogoodsogoodsogood..." It was, and Carson kissed him. He sucked at Carson's tongue, the heat between them rising, their breath heavy as Carson's body on his.


When Rodney felt the hard, thick heat of Carson's cock entering him, he groaned with pleasure and need. Gasping, he grunted with each slow, deep thrust. He held Carson's sweat-slick body to his own, fingers digging into the muscles of his back, and they kissed again, deeper this time.


Carson moaned into his mouth and pulled back for breath, whispering against his lips. More nonsense sounds, he thought, or Gaelic, but it didn't matter. Carson's body spoke more eloquently than words, hips sliding between his thighs, driving them both slowly, relentlessly toward the edge.


He loved how it felt, loved how Carson moved on him and in him. It was better than last time, so much better. He'd never known that loving the man he was with could make a difference. He came with Carson panting in his ear, still babbling, his rough stubble scratching against Rodney's neck. "Oh god Carson, oh god!" Rodney arched under his lover, rocked by the wild intensity of his release.


Carson gasped and grunted and started pounding into him, thrusting hard and deep. "Ohhhh..." Rodney almost came again as powerful sensation flooded him. "Love you," Carson moaned, "love you." He felt Carson stiffen in his arms, shuddering and coming and Rodney held him tight through the storm.


They lay together, slick with sweat and still joined, their breath slowing. He stroked one hand along Carson's back, languid with his exhaustion. The damp, glistening skin felt good under his palm and fingers. He traced the lines of Carson's muscle and ribs, moving with slow deliberation. Carson's half-closed eyes were tired but lit from within. Damn, Rodney thought, he was so hot like that. The warm fullness in his chest was still there. It made him genuinely happy.


Rodney grinned. "Wow." He trailed the fingers of his other hand through Carson's sweaty hair and licked a salty trail from shoulder to ear. "That was amazing."


Carson nodded, his movement betraying his own sated state. "Stay with me," he said softly, a ghost of concern in his voice. "Please."


Rodney kissed him. "I'm not nearly stupid enough to leave after something like that."


Carson grinned and chuckled, his eyes closing. "Good."




Czech in the story:


Milacku -- lover, true love