Recipient: hoktauri

Pairing: McKay/Sheppard

Rating: NC-17

Word count: ~25,800

Warnings: mpreg, (very mild) dubious consent

Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis, the characters and universe are the property of the Sci-Fi Channel and MGM.

Summary: John gets interrogated mentally by telepaths and is forced to relive some very personal moments of his life in the Pegasus galaxy. Rodney doesn't leave his side and tries to come up with a plan to free John.

Notes: Dear hoktauri, I tried to keep as many of your requests in mind but I fear that I've stretched some of them a little. I hope that you'll still enjoy your gift fic. Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah! Huge thanks to my incredible beta-reader kay_greatness who's supported me, cheered me on and pointed out all the orthographical, grammatical and plot-related errors to me. You're absolutely awesome, hon! Without you I wouldn't have made it! The main plot takes place third-seasonish. I've attached a timeline to the end of the story for those of you who get a little lost on the way. It's very basic and doesn't give away any of the plot, so don't hesitate to use it!

6 months and 5 days prior

"I think we should have a child together," Rodney said matter-of-factly right after rushing into John's quarters.

"WHAT?" John stood perplexed at the door before finally turning around and taking a horrified look at the intruder.

"I said that I think we should have a child together. Yeah, I know I shouldn't know about your condition but, well, you didn't look all too peachy the last couple days and I've hacked your medical file before so it didn't seem to be such a big deal. Anyways, after long hours of considering I came to the conclusion that it's really just logical for us to father a child together. I feel obliged to pass my genius on to the next generation, but haven't found an adequate and willing female yet with whom I would even consider procreation. You're actually much better suited than most women I've come to know in my life. Well, besides Carter, maybe. But still, you're relatively smart so the chances of us having a stupid child are relatively small. Your good looks are a plus, too. I just hope our child won't inherit your horrible sense of direction. Oh, and your heroically suicidal tendencies. And your emotional repression," Rodney rambled on, unaware of John's rapidly building anger.

When he finally found his tongue, all John could force out through gritted teeth was, "Out!"

Rodney ignored him completely, too engrossed in his little prepared speech. "We don't need to procreate... naturally, you know. I could just donate my sperm so that Beckett can just.. um... insert it into your body or whatever."

"I said OUT!!!" John's vision turned red. His fists were clenched at his sides. Usually he didn't lose his temper this quickly, what with all his laid-back attitude and all, but THIS together with the building tension from the last days made him boil over.

"Right, um, just think about it, okay? Let me know if you're willing." Rodney fidgeted with his hands in front of his belly.

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY QUARTERS!!!" John all but shouted and manhandled McKay out of his room. He slumped against the closed door, an acrid burning racing through his veins, leaving a stale taste in his mouth.



John winces at the unpleasant memory and forcefully pulls on the hand on his temples that's elicited it. "Get the hell out of my head!" His voice comes out strained and a little brittle as he repeats almost the same words as in his flashback. Opening his eyes, he bestows the most menacing look he can manage right now on the man in front of him.

"I am sorry, Colonel Sheppard, but I will have to resume investigating your mind," Teldan states coolly, not loosening his grip on John's head but instead pressing his left hand on John's other temple as well. "Your mind is strong, much stronger than anyone I have encountered so far, but you will ultimately succumb to my will and provide me with the information I am after."

"No... I... won't," John forces out. The pressure on his mind intensifies rapidly. He tries with all his might to withstand it but damn, Teldan's will is more vigorous than the Wraith queen's.

"You will, Colonel Sheppard, you will," is the last John hears before being pulled into his own memories again.


6 months and 14 days prior

"Okay, if that's all, then you're dismissed." Elizabeth nodded at them.

John had been looking forward to the end of the mission debriefing and was just about to leap to his feet when he heard Rodney take a deep breath, a clear sign that he wasn't finished talking. He prayed for the health of Atlantis' CSO to not start on what he feared he would.

"Oh, there was one more thing that I think the Colonel forgot to mention." The mischievous tone in Rodney's voice could not be not heard.

Elizabeth cocked an inquiring brow.

"Rodney," John snarled warningly, hoping to dissuade him from telling her the embarrassing occurrences on Velar.

Unfortunately, Rodney was deaf and blind to his threat. "It seems that Velarian cats take a particular liking to our Colonel here."

"What do you mean, Rodney?" Dr. Weir asked, bewildered.

"McKay," John hissed, this time with more bite.

But Rodney had apparently decided to live a little more risky lately. "Well, at first it was only one cat who jumped onto his lap during our negotiations and demanded vociferously to be petted by him."

McKay looked a little jealous at the memory. John remembered that Rodney'd had a cat on Earth. He would have found his jealousy endearing if the guy wasn't about to make a fool of John.

"Little kitty soon wasn't the only one anymore. Seemed as if each and every cat from the surroundings had gathered to molest Sheppard. You should have seen it, Elizabeth! He was covered with cats all over his body, humping and licking him and making an incredible racket. We had to peel them all off and lock them up." He didn't look the least jealous at the end of his report and exchanged conspiratorial glances with the rest of the team.

Ronon just snort-laughed while Teyla tried to hide her amused smile behind a cough.

Elizabeth gave John a piercing look. "And you didn't find it necessary to inform me of such an unusual occurrence?"

John threw a nasty glance at Rodney. "No, I didn't. It was just cats."

But Dr. Weir wasn't having any of it. "So I assume this happens to you all the time?"

"Well, no, not really." This was how a deer caught in the headlights must feel like, he thought.

"Then I believe we both agree that we shouldn't treat it lightly and that you should go back to the infirmary and have Dr. Beckett give you a more thorough second examination after you tell him about the circumstances." Her look was steely, but underneath it he could clearly discern a spark of worry.

In the end, that sentiment made him oblige rather than anything she'd said. "Sure. On my way."

Sometimes her overly careful demeanour really annoyed the hell out of him. Not even Teyla had deemed the event serious and that spoke volumes. Although, actually, Teyla wasn't in the loop on everything and Elizabeth, naturally, was as commander of the expedition.

On his way to the infirmary, Rodney walked by his side in oppressive silence, a worried and apologetic air radiating off him. Of course, he'd adopted Elizabeth's worry. He was Atlantis' number one hypochondriac after all.

Shortly before they arrived at the infirmary, McKay broke the silence in a poor attempt at making things right between them and lightening the mood. "You know, I always thought you'd be a dog person."

John snorted. "I am. I hate cats." And wasn't that a poor attempt on his own part to use a lie to conceal his own confused feelings and thoughts. Steeling himself for further poking and prodding, he marched into the realm of the white-coated torturers, Rodney still on his heels.


2 hours prior

"Sheppard!" McKay came stomping like an elephant into the gearing up room where John was getting ready to leave for their mission.

Tying up his shoelaces with his boots propped up on the bench he sat on, John looked up at a very angry astrophysicist. "Hey, what's up, buddy?" He asked just for the heck of it. He already had an idea where this conversation would lead them.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing here?" McKay snapped, arms akimbo and glaring down at John.

"Getting ready for going to Skaldara," Sheppard answered innocently. They'd had this talk before but Rodney'd never looked as furious as now. Giving his second lace one last sharp tug, John dropped his feet on the floor and stood up to be at eye level with Rodney. He didn't want to have to look up to him when they were having this talk.

"You're supposed to stay on Atlantis and not be going on missions anymore in your condition! You don't only have your own health to keep in mind!" If it didn't sound so ridiculous, John would have thought that Rodney's eyes were sending out sparks right now.

"As if that was a novelty. I'm responsible for the safety of every fucking person on this base. And what I'm therefore supposed and not supposed to do is entirely up to me. Teldan explicitly asked for our team since he has the most trust in us. We don't want to endanger the trust of one of our allies, now do we?" John said defiantly and would have kicked his own ass for doing so. He usually didn't bother to explain himself. Especially not if he was attacked like that.

"So you'd rather endanger..." Rodney stopped, struggling for words and flailing his arms in John's general direction. "It could be a trap and we don't even have Ronon and Teyla with us to beat the shit out of them if the situation heads south."

True, Ronon and Teyla were on New Athos helping Teyla's people with the harvest. Teldan's message had come as a surprise and he'd begged them to come as fast as possible as they were experiencing some problems with their power supplies that their own engineers couldn't fix. Since only Rodney was really essential for the trip, Elizabeth and he had decided to not bother Teyla and Ronon. Actually, Elizabeth had wanted John to stay as well but like hell was he going to let Rodney go there without any of them.

"Maybe they freak at your new look. You know very well that not all our encounters in the last time have gone positively."

Yeah, John did know that. Still, he could just roll his eyes at Rodney's paranoia. None of those incidences had been really serious. In the end, he was a wary guy himself and his motto was 'better safe than sorry.' This time, however, he wasn't much worried. They'd visited these particular people several times already and they were one of the most peaceful guys that John had ever met.

"We've known them for almost two years now. They're as trustworthy as a Wraith plagued Pegasian people looking for a little support can be. Besides, Lorne and one of his men, Reed, are accompanying us. They're already waiting for us in the Gate Room so you better get geared up, McKay," Sheppard ordered strictly, not wanting to continue their discussion. He planned on getting this mission over and done with as quickly and smoothly as possible and being back home before dinner.

Rodney deflated a little, his look of anger changing to one of apprehension. "John, please, stay here. If you insist, we can just take another marine with us. I'd never forgive myself if I let you go now and something happened to..." Again, words failed the self-declared genius but his gaze and his motions were perfectly sufficient to get the meaning across.

Right, figured that Rodney wasn't really worried about him but about... John cringed internally and instantly stopped his train of thoughts. A wave of bitterness washed over him before he could suppress it.

Fuck his stupid emotions! Fuck Rodney! And fuck his damn condition!

"I'm not going to discuss this any further with you! We're leaving in five! Get your ass over to the Gate Room and get the fuck off my back!" With that, Sheppard bolted out, his guts twisting nauseatingly.



"Where is he?" Rodney growls, stomping and crashing through the corridors like a crushing horde of rhinos.

"I assure you, Dr. McKay, that Colonel Sheppard is well taken care of," his Skaldaran lapdog answers him while he tries to hold his pace.

"I don't care what you assure me! Sheppard missed his check-in and isn't answering my calls. I wanna see him. Right. Now." Rodney is furious. John never misses check-ins, no matter how occupied with flirting with the hottest female inhabitants or fighting the imbeciles he was.

Lorne follows him, a determined look on his face, weapon at the ready. Rodney knows that Sheppard's 2IC will be pretty pissed if something happens to his CO.

"Please, slow down," Forey - or was it Corey or Tory? - begs him in his disturbingly calm voice. "There is no need to rush. We will arrange for you to see Colonel Sheppard soon. Until then, I would suggest that you continue your work on our energy distribution."

"Fuck your energy distribution!" Rodney shouts vehemently. His face is flushed an angry red. "I want to see him NOW and I fucking will! If not, I assure you, that I'll blow up your goddamned generator and then you'll have a real problem because I promise you that you won't be able to fix it."

Rodney had been so engrossed in his work on the city's power generator that Lorne had had to alert him that Sheppard hadn't checked in. Naturally, McKay had dropped everything right then to go find the man while radioing him on the way. Lorne had tried to reach Reed. Rodney's worry had increased tenfold when they both got no answer.

Thank God that Rodney recalls the way through this maze to the main hall. After all, they'd been there several times and he remembers that Teldan wanted to take Sheppard there after they split the team. He shouldn't have allowed it, should have insisted on staying together the whole time. No, he should actually have been more adamant in their argument earlier. Sheppard shouldn't have gone on this mission in the first place.

A sharp wave of fear washes over Rodney. He'll never forgive himself if John or... anyone else gets hurt.

When they enter the main hall - Forey has apparently realized that he can't stop him - Rodney comes to an abrupt halt at the sight in front of them. When he regains control over his feet, he lunges forward and shouts, "Sheppard!" Strong hands grab his arms and bar him from going further. Beside him, Lorne's being held back as well. Then their weapons are removed from them. Fuck!

Sheppard is standing in front of Teldan, who's got his hands pressed on Sheppard's temples. And if that picture isn't already disturbing enough, John's pained expression only adds to the surreal situation.

"What the fuck is going on here?" Rodney demands to know. His voice is at least an octave higher than usual but he doesn't care at all. Panic rises in his chest. Jesus, what are they doing to John?

Forey steps beside him and says coolly, "Colonel Sheppard is being interrogated."

"He's being hurt!" McKay snaps back. "Stop it! Immediately!" He yanks his arms around, trying to surge forward once again, but the grips on his arms are like iron chains.

"No. The interrogation will continue until we have gathered all the relevant data. Colonel Sheppard is not experiencing pain. He is trying to resist, which is futile. As soon as he realizes this, the interrogation will be less discomforting for him," Forey informs them soberly.

Rodney scans Sheppard's body more thoroughly, lingering on his belly and thinking how in hell he could have ever persuaded himself that there was nothing out of the ordinary. Despite Sheppard's tense expression, though, he seems to be fine.

"What about Reed?" Lorne inquires with barely concealed anger and cocks his head into the direction of a lifeless figure on the ground. Huh, Rodney hadn't noticed the man earlier.

"We had to render him unconscious for he was attempting to thwart the interrogation," one of the guards holding them says.

"What kind of interrogation is this anyway?" Rodney snarls. "No one's talking."

At that moment, Sheppard throws his hands up and grips Teldan's arms.

"Sheppard!" Rodney shouts again and feels the hands on his own arms tighten forcefully.

"Rod... ney," John grinds out in a strained voice. Rodney can tell it costs him a lot to speak at all.

"Sheppard! Are you alright?" As soon as the question leaves Rodney's mouth, he feels stupid. "Scratch that. Of course, you're not alright." A blind man would see that. "Let me go to him! I need to go to him!" He demands from the guards, but they don't sway in the least.

"Rod... ney," Sheppard tries again. "Get the fuck... out of here. They're... fucking Vulcans. Mind-... melds."

Rodney gapes, jaw slack. Mind-melds? Holy crap! This is bad. Like really really bad.

"Are you people crazy?" His voice cracks. "You're fucking with his mind! John, hang in there! We'll get you out of the hands of these fuckers!" He tries to break free from the guards once more but they're not moving an inch.

"Lorne?" Sheppard asks.

"Here, Sir," the Major answers with concern in his voice.

"Take McKay... and Reed... and bring them back... to Atlantis. That is... an order. Understood, Major?" Sheppard speaks in the most authoritative tone he can muster.

Lorne glances at Rodney who shakes his head 'no', his eyes pleading him not to take the order. Hesitantly, the Major says, "Yes, Sir."

"No!" Rodney cries out. "No! You can't make me go, Sheppard, you bastard! I'm not military! You can't order me around like one of your compliant little soldiers! You hear me? I'm not leaving you alone here!"

Right then, Teldan opens his eyes and stares intently at McKay and Lorne, all the while not loosening his grip on Sheppard's head. "You are free to go. No one will hold you back from returning to Atlantis. But we will keep Colonel Sheppard until he gives us what we want. I assure you that he will not be harmed unnecessarily." He bows his head at the guards and suddenly they let go of their arms.

"You madmen are fucking raping his mind and telling me that he won't be harmed? Are you kidding me?" Rodney takes a step forward. No one holds him back this time, but the guards hover threateningly just beside him. He boils over with rage and sorrow. He can hardly imagine what it must be like for John to have somebody violating his privacy like that. John of all people, who is the most secretive man he knows.

"McKay!" Lorne hisses. "Maybe try not provoking them any further, huh?"

Rodney snorts but tries to get a grip on himself. His panic isn't helping them right now. He needs to think clearly.

When he focuses his gaze back on Sheppard and Teldan, he can see that whatever is going on there at the moment, John is definitely not fully conscious anymore. His hands have fallen back down to his sides and Teldan's eyes are closed again.

Good God! He needs to come up with something and he needs to do it fast!

Turning around to face Lorne who appears to be of two minds as to whether he should follow his CO's orders or not, Rodney says, "You go to the 'gate and call for back-up. I'll stay."

Lorne scrutinizes him, but Rodney can see that he's not far from being convinced. "But the Colonel ordered me to..."

"I don't care what the Colonel ordered," McKay interrupts determinedly. "He's trying to pull one of his self-destructively heroic stunts again and I'm not going to let him get away with it. I am not leaving him here alone."

Lorne looks at him for a little longer and whatever he sees there in his eyes finally makes him nod. Rodney's never been as glad as now that Lorne isn't one of the typical military dumbasses and actually uses his brain. "Okay. I'll leave Reed here. He'd only slow me down in his current state. Be back shortly. Take care!" Lorne turns around and takes off in a hurry. True to Teldan's words, no one tries to stop him.

Rodney hopes that the back-up will arrive soon. He has no idea what to do or how to free John on his own. He knows that the guards would pin him down and maybe even stun him like Reed - he wonders if they used a neck pinch on him - if he makes one false move.

So Rodney just resigns himself to watch closely, waiting for his time to come and feeling utterly helpless.


6 months and 9 days prior

John ran through the undergrowth as if hellhounds were after him. Firing another salvo with his P90, he jumped over a fallen tree. Sedative darts whizzed through the air but missed their target widely. Suddenly he was being dragged into an overgrown ditch.

He was relieved to see that it was Teyla's hand around his arm. Rodney was with them as well, thank God. They watched John take a deep breath. "Are you alright, Colonel?" Teyla asked without releasing her grip.

"Never been better," John drawled ironically. "Where's the big guy?"

"Ronon is checking the 'gate's surrounding," Teyla explained and finally let go of his arm after another couple of loaded seconds. "We should be relatively safe here until his return. This place is not easily visible from the outside."

She then turned around to keep a wary eye on every movement outside their little hide-out.

"What the fuck was that, by the way?" Rodney was still breathing laboredly from the run. Still, he managed to sound utterly exasperated. "Cats didn't cut it. Now it had to be a chieftain or what?!?"

"Pipe down!" John hissed. It wouldn't help them if Rodney's outraged insults brought them to their persecutors' attention.

"No, seriously, Sheppard, that guy wanted to lock you up because of your 'most appetizing scent'." Though Rodney now spoke in a lower voice, his indignation about what had happened was clearly discernible.

John himself wasn't quite sure what to think of the events. As first contact missions went, this one hadn't started bad at all. They'd met a few people in the woods who'd brought them to their tent village. There they'd been introduced to the chief who'd been kind and open. They'd sat and chatted a little before Teyla had started on the negotiations. John had been exchanging bored looks with both Rodney and Ronon, all three of them disliking this part the most of all.

Then the situation had gone out the window from one moment to the next when the chieftain had leaned forward and therefore closer to Sheppard, taken a deep sniff and practically climbed onto his lap. With dilated eyes, the man had breathed, "Your scent is most appetizing. We are meant for each other. I will keep you."

After disentangling himself from the guy, they'd tried to politely explain why that wasn't possible, only to have to listen to gibberish about how 'the nose knew' and that it was 'love at first sniff'.

When they'd gotten more insistent, the chief had become rather pissed and had set his guards on them, John in particular, all the while mumbling that John just had to 'get a good whiff of him naked as the day he was born' before he would feel the 'scent appeal' himself. Yuck. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Thankfully his team had agreed on that and they'd hightailed it, the guards hot on their heels.

"Ronon's approaching." Teyla's voice then brought him back to the here and now.

Not a second later, Ronon came to a halt in front of them. "I've led the guards astray. They're heading the opposite direction of the 'gate now. Only two men left there to protect it. Big mistake." His smile was almost feral as he patted his energy pistol tenderly.

"Alright, let's get out of here then," Sheppard said determinedly and took the lead. "This planet is weirding me out."

"You don't say," Rodney grumbled next to him.

As they made their way towards the 'gate, John couldn't help but think that the cat incident five days earlier and today's events couldn't not have something to do with each other. It simply couldn't be a coincidence.

He would have Carson check him thoroughly once again. Maybe he could find what had caused these strange occurrences this time.


14 months prior

"I'm sorry. What?" John thought that he'd heard wrong. In fact, he was almost begging inwardly that he had.

Dr. Beckett patted his shoulder slightly. "Ah said there seems to be a wee aberration in yer lower abdomen, laddie."

When he'd gone to the infirmary to have Carson run some tests on him because he hadn't particularly felt as fit as a fiddle as of late, he sure as hell hadn't expected this. He'd rather thought that Carson would diagnose indigestion or something like that.

"And by 'wee aberration' you mean there's something growing inside me that's not supposed to grow there," John stated much more calmly than he felt. His heart sank to the bottom of the ocean. For fuck's sake! He'd survived Afghanistan, the Wraith, the Genii and other hostile lunatics and gotten a life, a real life, and friends in turn only to get cancer now?

Carson nodded, although hesitantly. "Aye, but it doesnae appear to be a tumor."

With an almost audible thump John's heart leapt back into his chest. Not cancer? But what was it then?

His flummoxed look was enough to make Carson explain further. "There is a wee histoid mutation which slightly displaces yer bladder an' yer intestines. That is probably what causes yer discomfort. See here." He pointed to some spot of John's lower body on the scans. "The scanner doesnae show it as a tumorous neoplasia or as a foreign body. It rather seems to recognize it as harmless an' produced naturally in yer body although Ah hae ne'er seen anythin' like it so far."

John's head spun from all the information. "Can you remove it?"

"Ah'd rather nae try it. Ah guess this thin' has been growin' in ye for a while. It's directly connected to yer seminal duct an' yer prostate. Ah dornt want to sterilize ye, Colonel." A sorry smile appeared on the doc's lips.

Well, shit. John didn't have a good feeling about leaving this... whatever it was inside him and letting it grow. While it didn't cause him pain - just a slight pressure in his abdomen, the feeling that something was kinda off which had made him suspicious in the first place - it could in the future. He honestly considered having Carson remove it no matter what. In the end, he didn't really expect himself to become a father. Not anymore. He'd long since accepted it.

"Remove it," he shrugged.

"Son, Ah'd rather say we wait a wee longer an' see how it develops. Those Ancient scanners are much more sophisticated than ours. Ah dornt trust them completely, but so far they've always been right on detectin' diseases. Yoo'll hae weekly check-ups an' if ye notice any change, Ah want ye to come to me immediately. Do ye need anythin' to ease the pressure?"

Carson knew him well enough by now that he asked before he just prescribed him meds which he wasn't going to take anyhow. "Nah, I'll be fine."

Beckett nodded, unperturbed. "Alright. Ah'll search the database for any information about it. Ah'll let ye know if Ah find anythin'."

"Thanks, doc," John mumbled as he hopped off the bed and made his way to the doors.

"Yoo're welcome, lad," Carson answered, already bent over the scans again, making notes.

With a slight feeling of unease, John left the infirmary.


6 months and 6 days prior

Sheppard sat in his office listening to Lorne's report about the new training plans for the marines. To his shame he had to admit that he wasn't getting half of what Lorne was talking about. He just couldn't fucking concentrate. His thoughts seemed to have developed a life of their own, drifting off into directions he didn't want them to go when he was on duty. Or off duty, for that matter. Not to mention the things his mind came up with when he was asleep.

In the last couple of days, his level of irritation had increased significantly. He had more and more difficulty keeping up his laid-back attitude. His emotions were running higher than usual, boiling just beneath the surface and threatening to break loose.

Earlier when he'd been standing in line for lunch in the mess hall, he'd almost punched Zelenka for deliberately touching his arm and telling him in a low voice how glad he was that they'd managed to escape the chieftain's wicked plans. Instead, John had mumbled something about not being all that hungry and had beaten a hasty retreat.

But apparently not only he was behaving a little strangely lately. It seemed everyone was getting kinda touchy-feely around him, though they all knew that he wasn't a big fan of body contact. He tried to avoid people as much as possible so that they didn't have an opportunity to get too close to him.

Sheppard was well aware what caused this inconvenience and it freaked him out big time. Carson and he had agreed on treating the matter confidentially so as to not provoke even more blatant reactions from Atlantis' inhabitants - and because it was kinda embarrassing - and had therefore informed only Dr. Weir about his current condition.

Logically, he knew that he just had to sit it out. Carson had assured him that it'd end shortly, though how shortly he couldn't tell. If it wasn't so distracting to feel bothered and itchy and molested by his co-workers all the fucking time, John would endure it happily with a crooked smile on his face. As it was, he just wanted to hole up in his quarters and not see anyone until it was over.

"Colonel? Sir?" Lorne's concerned voice brought him back to their one-sided conversation.

He tried to sound as much in control as he could muster. "Yes, Major?"

"Are you okay, Sir?" His 2IC wrinkled his forehead inquiringly.

"Peachy," Sheppard replied with a lopsided grin. Before Lorne could press him on his momentary absence of mind any further, he asked, "Was that it? Or did you want to discuss something else with me, Major?"

Lorne squirmed a little in his seat. "Actually, yes, Sir. We wanted to go over the duty roster for next week."

John wanted to groan but suppressed it with much effort. He was fairly certain that he wouldn't be much help in that now. "You've made one already?"

"Sure, Sir." Thankfully, one could always rely on Lorne to do his homework.

"Great. Forward it to my email-account. I'll have a look at it later on," Sheppard instructed.

Lorne was visibly baffled. Understandably so, since they always discussed the roster. "Sir?"

"If that's all," John drawled with barely concealed impatience. He just wanted to be left alone. Right now.

"Okay," the Major answered in a somewhat bewildered tone. Getting up from his seat, he took an audible breath. A second later, a small smile appeared on his lips. When he reached the door, he said, "By the way, Colonel, I like your new aftershave." And with that he was gone.

John groaned in frustration and let his head fall onto his desk. Great, his 2IC was affected as well. It couldn't get any worse.



Lorne runs his heart out, cutting across country on his way to the 'gate. He doesn't give a fuck about the looks people in the fields give him as he passes by them. So far no one has tried to stop him which, frankly, is good for them. He isn't in the best mood right now - which is probably because his CO is being mind-fucked by their oh so friendly and harmless hosts - and he isn't sure if he wouldn't just wreak his ill humor on whoever dared to get in his way.

Colonel John Sheppard is the best CO Evan's ever had, that's for sure. He's also pretty damn sure that most of the military on Atlantis share his sentiment towards the Colonel. The man has saved their collective asses on numerous occasions - his 'leave no man behind'-attitude is legendary - and thus has earned the men's utmost respect.

The last couple of months have been crazy, Lorne admits as much. As his 2IC, Sheppard has let him in early on, although not by telling him all the details. Evan rates himself amongst the smarter guys in the military on Atlantis, meaning he thinks he's figured said details out himself. He noticed the glances months before, and honestly, he couldn't care less than if a sack of rice fell over in China. Or on any planet of the Pegasus galaxy. If they even had rice.

Thankfully, Atlantis' military is hand-picked and therefore not as dim-witted and intolerant as the prototype army guy is said to be. When people slowly became aware that Sheppard wasn't just exceptionally hungry lately but that there was more than met the eye, rumors started to spread.

It's crystal clear that juicy stuff like this can't be hidden from the blood-thirsty crowd for long. Especially not if the crowd consists of only a couple hundred often-bored marines and nosy scientists.

Thing is, the rumors hit close to home fast. Lorne suspects one of Carson's chatty nurses to be the reason for that.

Before long it was an open secret. Now everyone knows about it, but no one addresses it openly, which is a good thing because Evan doesn't want his CO to have to worry about trivia like gossip on top of everything. Evan's protective streak towards his boss is reaching paramount dimensions by now. Of course, he'll never tell the man. He wants to keep his job, after all.

Finally, Lorne reaches the clearing where the Stargate is situated. For a second, he thinks about how predictable it is that they're always on a clearing and that the tree line is always too far away to afford shelter.

He comes to a skidding halt in front of the DHD and starts punching in Atlantis' 'gate address. It's so automatic he can do it in his sleep.

A second later, the wormhole establishes and Lorne immediately gives his ID code.

His radio crackles to life. "Major," says Dr. Weir's voice in his ear, "you're early for check-in. Is there something wrong?" She sounds wary.

Lorne knows she wasn't overly excited about Sheppard's decision to go on the mission. In fact, he believes she probably feels as protective about him as Evan does. Because of that, amongst her many good traits, and because of her supporting Sheppard in the last couple months - he guesses that she's played a vital role in his CO's position upkeep - he harbors an even deeper respect for her.

"Dr. Weir, I'm requesting immediate backup, at least another squad of marines. Colonel Sheppard has been captured and is now being interrogated."

There is silence on the other end of the line. Lorne can imagine the shocked looks of everyone in the control room who's heard his words. He stares at the mesmerizing blue ripples of the wormhole, waiting impatiently for approval.

"What happened, Major?" Elizabeth sounds tightly controlled, but Evan knows her well enough by now to hear the worry in her words.

In short and precise sentences, he explains the situation to her. Afterwards, there's another silence. Evan is starting to feel twitchy. He wants to get back and fucking do something.

Then Dr. Weir speaks again. "Okay, Major, backup's on the way. I'll send you two more marines plus Dr. Beckett and..."

"Ma'am, with all due respect, I don't think that two more marines will be enough to fight the Skaldarans and free the Colonel," he interrupts her heatedly.

A sigh reaches his ear. "Major, we're not trying to fight the Skaldarans."

For a moment, Lorne thinks that Elizabeth is sometimes a little too peaceful, as she is right the fuck now.

Then she continues, "You say that everyone but the Colonel is free to go and that McKay is staying there of his own free will. Whatever they want from the Colonel and despite their unconventional methods - of which I don't approve at all - it doesn't sound as if they're out to harm somebody."

Lorne has to admit that her logic sounds reasonable. Still, he doesn't want to take any risks when it's about his CO's life. "But ma'am..."

"The situation clearly demands a diplomatic intervention," she cuts him short determinedly. "That's why I'll be coming as well. Expect us in about five to ten minutes."

With that the Stargate shuts down and leaves Evan thunderstruck. Just like that, Dr. Elizabeth Weir rises several notches in his estimation.


3 months and 10 days prior

"You've got quite some appetite today, Colonel," Keras stated observantly with a little frown.

John just nodded and dug into his food. Everyone else had finished eating. But man, was he hungry. What a luck that Keras' people had expected them today and prepared a feast fit for a king. Right now, he couldn't imagine a better mission than the biannual check-ups on planet 'Kid Kill'.

"He's been eating like a horse for weeks now," McKay threw in, helpful as usual.

"Rodney!" Teyla chided and slapped the astrophysicist lightly on his arm.

"What?" He asked incredulously, rubbing the spot on his arm Teyla's fist had kissed. "It's true! He eats more than me, which is saying something."

"I gotta very active metabolism," John shrugged and shovelled more salty fish into his mouth. Usually, cold-blooded animals and he weren't big friends, but this stuff here was not bad. To be honest, it was actually pretty good.

Keras scrutinized him closely.

"Seems your 'very active metabolism' can't handle all the food you're stuffing into you, Colonel. You've put on a little extra padding around the middle," Rodney teased mercilessly.

Teyla reacted with another scandalized "Rodney!" whilst Ronon made this inimitable sound of his which could either be grunting or chuckling. Or most probably both.

"So what?" Sheppard retorted with a full mouth. "You're the one who always mocked me for being a 'skinny bastard'."

"My friends," Keras broke in with his most calming voice, "we don't want to fight tonight. Your visit is a special occasion for us to celebrate life and growth."

His words went unheard as McKay just picked up where they'd stopped.

"That was before your new eating habits. Even that princess last week who's had the hots for you since she's first set eyes on you said that you'd grown fat." At this memory Rodney looked utterly malicious and Ronon's snort//grunt/laugh noises became louder.

Keras sighed resignedly.

Before John could retort something about Rodney's own 'extra padding', Teyla laid a soothing hand on his arm and stepped in. "That woman should have taken a look into a mirror and contemplated her own rather displeasing exterior before she commented on the Colonel's appearance. By the way, I find that a little more weight suits you just fine, John."

"Well, gee, thanks, Teyla." John bowed his head slightly in her direction. He'd noticed himself that he'd gained some weight over the last couple of weeks. His BDUs had become decidedly tighter and didn't threaten to slide down his legs at any moment anymore. A few more workouts and runs with Ronon were most definitely due, he decided.

McKay harrumphed and let the topic drop. After that, their talk turned to more pleasant themes like Keras' people's new institutions and regulations which were necessary now that people got older than 25 on this planet.

John mostly just listened and threw in one or two questions at some points, all the while indulging in more of the utterly delicious dishes.


5 months and 22 days prior

"McKay, put your hand in my back pocket," Sheppard hissed in a low tone.

"What?" Rodney's shocked voice was too loud in the quiet surrounding them.

John rolled his eyes. "Keep quiet! I'm not hitting on you here. There's a Swiss army knife in my left pocket. I can't bend my hands enough to reach it but your hands are further down. You should be able to get it."

"Right, knife, okay," Rodney mumbled absently as he fumbled clumsily between them. The ropes that were tied around their joined wrists tightened even more and chafed their skin.

John found that he didn't really care. The pain somewhat distracted him from Rodney's all too near presence. For Chrissake, after two weeks of avoiding and barely talking to each other they sat tied together in a shaggy tent, back to back, Ronon and Teyla a few metres away from them in an similar position.

It was too much. He'd been the one who'd established this kind of distance between them after that particular night that Rodney had suggested they father a child together. John hadn't known how to react other than to push him away. His feelings and his body had been quite confusing at the time. Thank God, it had subsided about one and a half weeks ago.

Still, the awkwardness had remained. No talking, much less bantering, during team meals, no quality buddy time on the pier, no chess games, no visits at the labs, no nothing. Instead, McKay somehow couldn't look him in the eye anymore without blushing to the roots of his hair and fleeing the room as soon as John entered it. So far McKay hadn't had the guts to apologize to him, although he obviously had realized that he'd gone overboard. And John wasn't keen on making the first move after Rodney's faux pas either.

Another factor that added to the uneasiness between them were John's dreams. He'd been dreaming about Rodney since the day they'd first met, but they'd sure as hell never been as lively and explicit as when his body had been in heat. Then, Rodney'd been fucking him in every possible position. Rodney rimming him before pinning him down on the bed and taking him savagely, against the wall with John's legs wrapped around Rodney's middle, on all fours with Rodney gripping his hips tightly and pushing into him fiercely, in the shower with John on his knees sucking Rodney's dick before being fucked, on a balcony overlooking their city with Rodney buried deep inside him from behind, on the Control Chair with John riding Rodney's cock. Every morning he'd woken up with dried come glued to his skin. After the first two pairs of soiled boxers, he'd taken to sleeping naked on top of his sheets.

The mere thought was enough to make his dick twitch with interest in his BDUs right now.

Fortunately, his subconscious had calmed down with the end of his cycle. Of course, he still dreamed of Rodney having his wicked way with him, but not every night anymore, and not with him coming in his sleep like a hormone-driven teenager.

Nevertheless, John found it incredibly weird to look at the Canadian after those dreams. Especially after the last one during his heat which had been particularly hot and vivid although he could only recall the feelings and no details at all. He was trying his best to pull himself together and have at least a functioning working relationship with him.

When McKay finally managed to get ahold of the knife, naturally not without having to grope John's ass in doing so, and shoved it into John's waiting hands, he whispered, "Sheppard, I realize that this is probably not the best moment but since you're not really able to run off and since I'm sick of our avoiding each other, I just wanted you to know that I'm sorry. I've screwed things up and now you're obviously pissed at me and... well, you know, I kinda don't like it very much when you're pissed at me and..."

"Okay," John took pity on him and interrupted Rodney's rambling, all the while trying to cut through the damn ropes. Damn, were they thick!

But McKay just continued, obviously too engrossed in his apology to realize that John had already forgiven him. "... and I just hope that it doesn't have any further consequences and that you can forgive me someday for taking advantage of... err... the situation. If it helps, I'm feeling really horrible about it."

Further consequences? Taking advantage? Right, Rodney was laying it on thick here. In John's book, the story was that Rodney asked, John declined with no involvement of further consequences or taking advantage of any kind, end of story.

"I said okay, McKay," John repeated himself slowly so that Rodney'd get it.

He heard McKay take a deep shuddering breath. "Okay? Really? Oh, great! That's great! So, we're, um, back to normal, right?" His voice sounded unsure and vulnerable.

John sighed. He hadn't wanted to go that easy on him but didn't find it in him to be so mean now. Not when Rodney was so open and timid. "Yeah, buddy. We're good."

Sheppard felt Rodney sag a little against him, tension leaving his friend's body. "Oh, thank God! I've thought I might have destroyed our friendship for good."

What a ridiculous thought. Actually, there wasn't much that John could think of that would result in the end of their friendship, if there was anything at all. Because of a lack of words, John nudged Rodney casually with his elbow to reassure him.

A not uncomfortable silence settled between them. John still fumbled with the knife and felt that he was almost through when Rodney opened his mouth again. "So, pier tonight? I'll bring beer."

"Rodney, we should get out of here first before making plans about tonight," he drawled slightly exasperatedly.

"I don't think that'll be much of a problem," McKay repeated and John could practically hear the smile in his voice.

A second later, he knew the reason. Ronon loomed above them with a shit eating grin on his face, a much more apt knife in his big hands than John's petty Swiss army knife. Figured.

"Need a hand?" Ronon rumbled deep-throatedly.

"Yeah, thanks," said John while Rodney mumbled, "Too kind of you."

They were rid of their ties in no time. Luckily the guards were stationed outside the tent, making it fairly easy for them to overwhelm them and escape. Naturally Ronon insisted on getting their weapons back - he'd never leave his beloved energy weapon behind - to which Sheppard had no objections. He didn't really want to leave their P90s and the C4 to those fuckers either.

On their way to the 'gate, Rodney ran beside him and didn't breathe nearly as heavy as he would have a year ago. He'd gotten pretty much in shape over time and John was a little proud of him. Okay, maybe a lot.

"So, tonight?" Rodney asked again. His voice sounded a tad strained but whether it was because of the physical effort or their just now resolved issues, John couldn't tell. If it was the latter, then John would make sure that they'd get over this stage soon.

Though still running from their captors, John couldn't suppress a tiny smile. Like Rodney he did still feel a little weird looking at Rodney because of those damned dreams, but they'd be fine given time. He wanted Rodney back in his life and this was the first step in the right direction. "Yeah, tonight."



And things were settled again.


3 months and 7 days prior

"John?" Teyla approached him gingerly.

They were the last of their team still sitting on their usual table on a balcony at the mess hall. While Teyla's plate was empty, his was still pretty full. He'd filled it to the brim and was determined to finish it.

Inhaling three almost-grapes at once, he glanced over at her and mumbled an inquiring "Hm?" before focusing on his dish again.

"John, is everything alright?" She sounded most sincere.

It earned her his full attention. After swallowing down the remnants in his mouth, he tried to appease her. "I'm fine, Teyla." And the thing was, he really was. He felt absolutely fine even though he'd developed weird new eating habits. Actually, he'd had that a couple times before over the years, though admittedly not as bad as now. But he knew that it'd cease given time.

At the moment, he had a strong craving for salty-sweet things, like not-quite-sardines with marmalade. It sounded absolutely gross but his taste buds danced a jig at the thought of it alone. Hm, he should check in the kitchen if they had some of those nearly-sardines left from yesterday.

"I've been watching you since we got back from M7G-677," she continued as if his interjection didn't count. "As someone who doesn't see you almost every day, Keras has drawn my attention to your increased appetite."

Keras. John hadn't particularly liked that conversation. Actually, he also hadn't really liked Keras' scrutinizing look on him. Formerly, the boy had looked at him almost adoringly and had even started flirting with him after their third visit.

But Keras wasn't the only one of his admirers whose behaviour towards him had changed. Where Princess Elloya had previously been glued to his side and had had hearts in her eyes in his surroundings, on their last visit she'd clearly distanced herself from him and gazed at his stomach warily from time to time.

Huh, well, seemed he'd let himself go too much. Damn. Losing weight was a bitch at his age.

When he didn't answer, Teyla picked up the thread again. "Over the course of the last few days you've eaten more than twice as much as usual, to say nothing of what exactly you ate. I've observed this change of eating habits in others before, but I'm at a loss as to why this affects you."

John wriggled about slightly on his chair, dropping a spoonful of blue jello mixed with peanuts. He most definitely didn't like the way their conversation was headed. "Teyla, it's just a phase. It'll be over soon. You'll see. I'll be my usual skinny self in no time," he smirked, though not quite believing it himself. He just didn't want Teyla to be worried about him. She already had her people's sorrows on her shoulders.

But Teyla was able to see right through him like no other and uncovered his little elusion effortlessly. She flashed him a brief and somewhat sad smile. "John, you're my friend. You know that, do you not?"

As per usual when they discussed personal relationships and feelings, he shifted uncomfortably and finally nodded when he realized that she wouldn't continue otherwise.

"I care about my friends, John. So please take my advice and go see Dr. Beckett," Teyla begged him in earnest.

There was a lump in his throat that made it hard to breathe. That always happened when he was directly confronted with his friends' affection towards him. Seeing the concern in Teyla's eyes, he finally managed to bring out, "Okay."

With a small sigh - relief? - Teyla smiled fondly at him. "Good. You should eat up now, John. We've got a meeting with Dr. Weir in fifteen minutes."

For the remainder of breakfast, they sat together in companionable silence.


6 months and 8 days prior

"You've got to be kidding me," John drawled because honestly, it was just too weird to be true. Even for Pegasus standards.

"Ah'm sorry, lad, but nae. Ah'm quite serious," Carson sighed.

"So you're telling me here that I've sorta turned into a girl or what?" John couldn't believe it. The doc must be wrong. He didn't even want to imagine the consequences if the Scot was right.

"Nae, yoo're still male," Carson corrected him and John could feel the tension start to leave his body when the doc continued, "at least on the outside. Inside yoo've got some... err... let's call it enhancements, shall we?" He smiled nervously.

"And those... 'enhancements'," John said, making rabbit ears in the air with his right hand, "happen to be girly, right?"

Carson shifted uncomfortably in front of him. "Well, aye. Ye could say that."

"Oh Jesus," John muttered and wished he'd just stayed in bed this morning. Then none of this weird bullshit would have happened.

Right. He snorted and began pacing the small space of Carson's office. "Why didn't you notice earlier?"

"Coz this possibility ne'er occurred to me before. Have ye ever heard of a man who's developed some sort of uterus? Coz Ah huvnae," he said defensively. "Well, an' maybe Ah've been a bit too careless about it when it stopped growin' an' the scans still didne indicate any health risks."

Carson looked incredibly guilty, but John knew that it was partly his own fault. When there hadn't been any more development and nothing apart from the growth of a new organ inside of him - which he had gotten kinda used to by then - had changed, he'd grown sick of their weekly check-ups and sort of decided on his own that monthly check-ups would suffice. If somebody had been careless, it was him.

"Ah dornt e'en know how it's possible. Ah huvnae found bloody anythin' in the database but Ah'm sure there must be somethin'. The scanner clearly doesnae seem to recognize it as somethin' unusual."

Awkwardly patting Carson's shoulder to tell him something he couldn't express with words, John flopped back down on his chair, trying to calm himself. He didn't quite know what to say. It was behind his grasp.

Carson frowned. "Hadnae ye told me the chieftain's exact wordin' Ah probably wouldnae have had the idea to examine yer sweat an' wouldnae have found the increased level of pheromones. Ah should have done that after the cats incident."

John put his head in his hands. Yeah, the cats incident. He didn't really like to be reminded of that.

Thing is, he knew that Carson blamed himself for not noticing it right then, although logically, he probably couldn't have figured it out at the time. The cats' noses had been far more sensitive and had smelled his pheromones while Carson's instruments had failed because of the low level. And well, it was still pretty brilliant to come from 'pheromones' to 'it's a bloody uterus' at all. The Scot really was the best doc they could wish for out here.

But God, he still couldn't wrap his head around the idea that his body produced sexual pheromones to attract men and signal them his body's willingness to procreate. How fucking crazy was that?

"What exactly does this mean now, doc?" John inquired and looked up again.

"Have there been any more changes? Anythin' unusual? Do ye feel kinda agitated?" Carson asked, his professionalism getting the better of his self-criticism.

"Um, yeah, kinda," John replied, thinking of his rather graphic dreams and hoping he wasn't blushing. Agitated summed it up pretty well.

"As Ah suspected," Beckett mumbled, "Ah believe that yer body is now, after adjustin' to yer... new organ, signallin' nae only to others through pheromones that it's ready to be impregnated, but also to ye. Yer blood pressure is slightly elevated. Ye already feel agitated an' Ah fear yoo're gonnae be more irritable day by day. There might be other symptoms as well. Yer senses will probably heighten as will yer level of pheromones. It'll most probably start to affect others on base so yoo'll have to prepare for unwanted advances."

"Wait a sec," John interrupted. His head was spinning with all the new information and the implications of what was happening with him. "You saying that I'm somehow going into heat? Like some even more fucked-up version of Pon Farr, fuck-and-get-knocked-up-or-die?"

Carson shrugged. "Ah'm nae sure what ye mean with Pon Farr, Colonel..."

Right, Carson wasn't in the nerd-fraction like Rodney and he. Rodney would have gotten the Trek allusion. No doubt.

"... an' Ah dornt think that yoo'll die if ye dornt get... um, impregnated, but gonnae into heat fits the bill pretty well," Carson finished.

Well, perfect. Why did shit like this always happen to him? "So what now, doc? Just go on as usual? Because I'm sure as hell not getting knocked up," he drawled with a smirk that he knew didn't reach his eyes. Apart from the sheer wrongness of his statement and the man-on-man thing - and something called DADT that forbid him this kind of thing anyhow - he certainly had no intentions of discussing sexual matters of any kind with Beckett. Or with anybody, actually.

"Ah'd say so, Colonel. Ye shouldnae go on missions, though, until yer cycle is over. Ah'll talk to Elizabeth about it," Beckett sighed, clearly not looking forward to that particular talk. At John's slightly alarmed look, he added, "Dornt worry, laddie. Ah'll treat it confidentially. Only Elizabeth will get to know. She's the expedition's leader, after all. She needs to know."

John nodded sharply. He knew that but he couldn't help feeling uncomfortable about someone else being aware of his state.

"Okay, Colonel. Ah'll continue to look for somethin' in the database. Ye come to me as soon as yer symptoms get worse. Shower as often as possible to wash away some of the pheromones," Dr. Beckett instructed him matter-of-factly. Then his face softened again and he lightly patted Sheppard on the shoulder. "We can manage this, son. It's only a matter of days, yoo'll see."

Yeah, but it'd come back again if they didn't find a way to get rid of it, John thought on his way out.

Sometimes he was tempted to believe that there really was some kind of a higher being who looked down on them and had a particular liking for playing pranks on him.



Carson still feels the cool not-quite liquid sensation in all his fibres when he steps out of the event horizon. Like always when he travels via the Stargate, he is overwhelmed with the sophisticated technical progressiveness the Ancients must have possessed to be able to have built a marvel like that.

Thing is, some doubts also always remain in his mind because even the Ancients weren't perfect and made mistakes - they've seen evidence of that often enough - so every time he comes out in one piece on the other side of the wormhole, he is pretty relieved.

Behind him, Beckett hears the 'gate shut down. He was the last to go through.

Elizabeth is standing beside him, grim-faced. Lorne is sporting the exact same expression. If Carson weren't so worried for his recent no. 1 patient, he'd feel sorry for the one to whom their looks are addressed.

The two marines salute to their superior, who returns it rather half-heartedly.

Lorne's eyes are fixed on Elizabeth. "Ma'am," he greets crisply. Beckett can see in the man's stance how highly Lorne regards her for her courage and her determination.

"Major, lead the way," Dr. Weir demands with an undertone that hints that she can see it too and reciprocates his esteem.

Lorne turns to Carson and looks at him questioningly. "Doc, you good to go?"

Suddenly Beckett is tremendously self-aware. He fumbles nervously with the straps of his medical emergency backpack and shifts from one foot to the other in agitation. With one last adjusting tug on the straps, he straightens himself and says, "Aye, let's go."

Then they're on their way, Lorne up front with Elizabeth, him in the middle and the two marines in the rear. Carson absorbs his surroundings busily. He doesn't often leave Atlantis so it's always pretty exciting for him to see different worlds, even if most of them don't look all that different from Earth. It's also a good distraction from the uneasy feeling in his stomach.

Until now, he's avoided thinking too closely about why exactly his presence on this mission might be necessary. He was having a rather calm day in the infirmary when Elizabeth's call came in. In fact, that was less than ten minutes ago. It was all pretty rushed afterwards.

They're approaching the settlement at a brisk pace. More and more people cross their way now. Carson swallows and holds onto his straps tightly. It calms him if he's got something to keep his hands occupied with.

The Scot swears he'll never forget the feeling of utter astonishment at diagnosing the virtual impossible. Colonel John Sheppard is, by all means, a medical wonder.

At the time, Beckett's professional amazement struggled with the blame that he hadn't been able to prevent it. While the Colonel usually is a very closeted man about his feelings, he couldn't hide that he wasn't all too excited about Carson's findings back then.

Thankfully, Sheppard's attitude has changed since then. Carson is dead certain that Rodney isn't completely innocent in the matter, though he doesn't know how exactly his two friends stand with each other currently. He guesses there's still space to go up, but it's none of his business. They'll take the next step whenever they're ready. Or they won't and only then will Carson make it his business. Those two can be more stubborn and dense than is good for them.

For their sake, he hopes they'll figure things out on their own. Since a lot is about to change for them in the near future, he hasn't given up hope yet.

Minutes later, their little rescue team marches through the settlement and at long last enters one of the larger buildings. They walk down a corridor which ends in a double-winged door.

Lorne looks at them in turn. Everyone nods their okay and Carson takes one final deep breath to steady himself. Then the Major opens the door.

Beckett gasps at the somewhat creepy sight in front of him. One of the Skaldarans is standing in front of Sheppard with his hands on the Colonel's temples. Beckett guesses that's the mental interrogation that Lorne's told them of. Beside them is a seething McKay. Reed, however, seems to have come to again. He gives them the thumbs up that he's alright.

When Rodney notices them, his eyes grow wide. "Elizabeth! Carson! What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to negotiate the Colonel's release," Dr. Weir informs him and with that, all of the other attendants as well. "Carson," she says, keeping her eyes glued to the scene in front of them.

"Aye," he responds, lowering his backpack and taking a step forward to the Colonel. Immediately, there are weapons directed at him and he stops dead in his tracks. In the blink of an eye, Lorne and the two marines are planted between the attackers and him, guns at the ready.

Carson gulps and then speaks, "Look, gentlemen, Ah only want to examine the Colonel. That's all."

"Let him proceed," a Skaldaran that Beckett notices only now orders the guards, hands folded formally in front of his tunic.

Warily, both parties slowly lower their weapons. Before the guy can change his mind, Carson makes his way over to Sheppard and digs out his medical scanner and a diagnostic lamp from his bag.

There's no contraction of the pupils when he shines the light into the Colonel's eyes. Instead, the pupils flicker constantly but don't seem focused on anything at all. Huh, interesting.

Beckett then runs the scanner over Sheppard's body but despite an increased level of adrenaline in the blood - due to the stress most likely - and an elevated brain activity - due to the mind interrogation, Carson suspects - all other bodily functions are within the norm.

"Colonel! Do you hear me?" Beckett's voice is loud and clear. He gets no answer.

Finally, he squeezes the Colonel's hand several times, but there's no reaction whatsoever. Just as he's imagined.

"Spit it out already, Carson! He alright?" Rodney asks anxiously.

"Aye, Rodney. The Colonel is well. It would seem that he is dreamin' but he doesnae react to visual, auditive or tactile stimuli," the Scot explains. "Ah dornt think that Ah can get him out of this state."

"That is the correct assessment, doctor," the Skaldaran from before confirms. "Strictly speaking, Colonel Sheppard is not dreaming, but rather reliving former experiences. It resembles the act of dreaming, but it is much more lucid. By linking their brains, Teldan has access to the Colonel's memories and can witness those of most importance for him by eliciting them to be replayed in the Colonel's mind. This process can only be ended by the interrogator, Teldan. Colonel Sheppard has tried to interrupt it several times and has even succeeded in reacting to outside influences. He has an exceptionally strong mind. Teldan was compelled to reinforce the mental connection to shield the Colonel completely from outside events."

"Do you think it could pose a danger to the Colonel's mind, Carson?" Elizabeth asks to get his opinion on the matter. For obvious reasons, she doesn't trust the Skaldaran's words alone.

"Ah cannae tell ye for sure, but Ah dornt think so. The areas of his brain responsible for long-term memory an' memory retrieval are overly active but nae dangerously so. As long as it stays at this level, he should be safe," Beckett states calmly.

"What's that supposed to mean, he should be safe? Can you even be more vague?" Rodney snaps.

Carson knows not to take it personally. Rodney is the one who's the most involved and also the most threatened. It's only Rodney's way of dealing with a situation that escapes his control.

"Dr. McKay, as Teldan has informed you before, the Colonel's life is not at risk as long as you all cooperate," the Skaldaran spokesman utters soberly. "However, if you do not, Teldan can cause Colonel Sheppard's brain or parts of it to cease functioning. This will ultimately result in a severe impairment of his mental abilities. You should not forget that Teldan holds complete control of the Colonel's brain."

Beckett can barely believe what he's hearing. These people must have enormous telepathic capabilities to have so much influence and be able to cause that much damage with their thoughts alone. It's incredibly horrifying.

He watches as Rodney turns white as a sheet beside him. "No," the astrophysicist grinds out. "No. You cannot do that."

"It is in our power to do so," the man for whom Beckett develops a passionate hatred responds coldly, "but we will only take this step if we consider it as absolutely inevitable. So far, this is not the case. Do not cause us to reconsider that."

Rodney slumps down to the floor, all power leaving his body. Carson is with him in an instant, patting his shoulder compassionately. "Carson, wake me up! Please! Tell me that it's all just a fucked up dream!"

"Ah'm sorry, laddie," Carson answers apologetically. It hurts him to see his friend suffer.

"I need to speak with you," Elizabeth then says to the Skaldaran, resolved.

The man inclines his head.

"Somewhere more private," Dr. Weir adds and casts a worried glance at Rodney.

Beckett understands her motives in not having this talk with Rodney around. The poor guy is already a nervous wreck.

"Come," the Skaldaran speaks and then leads the way to a door on the other side of the hall. Beckett is a little surprised at the man's sudden cooperativeness.

"Ma'am, I'll come with you." Lorne is already following Elizabeth eagerly.

"No," she instructs him. "You all stay here. I'll be fine on my own. Keep an eye on the rest," she says, but they all know that she means Rodney in particular. He's on the verge of doing something stupid in his desperation and they have to make sure that that's not going to happen. The threatening words are still very present in all their heads.

"Yes, ma'am," Lorne complies, though he looks as if he wants to split in half and have one part go with Elizabeth and the other stay with the rest.

Elizabeth shoots one last glance at Beckett before leaving the room behind the Skaldaran spokesman.

As the Scot tends to his friend to soothe him, he hopes desperately that Elizabeth will manage to resolve the situation. And hopefully quickly.


6 months and 4 days prior

'This is not good,' John thought as he ducked Ronon's fist and whirled around to avoid the next punch as well.

They'd been running like always, but afterwards John had still felt restless and all churned up inside. Yeah, he could doubtlessly say that his agitation had gotten worse over the last days. So when he'd wanted to use up a little more energy by sparring, Ronon had been on board, unsurprisingly.

And here they are, in hand-to-hand combat, Ronon fighting and attacking like the born warrior that he was and John striking back as well as he could.

Ronon's arms and hands moved so fast that they almost blurred before John's eyes. John felt kinda like a punch bag. Then again, it wasn't news that the Satedan could crush him with his little finger.

Usually, this very fact just encouraged him to keep going and give his best. But today, right now, John just wanted to end it and get away from the other man. Sparring in his state hadn't been one of his more clever ideas.

Ronon's naked arms were brushing his own, again and again. John felt like snapping.

Damn! He should have insisted on using the rods!

A second later, he regretted his truant thoughts when Ronon landed a fierce blow to his rib cage followed by another one to his clavicle.

"Not bad," John panted and started a counterattack, legs kicking and fists striking at warp speed.

But then a knee hit him full force in his abdomen and caused him to bend in pain. Suddenly strong hands yanked him up and shoved him backwards against the nearest wall. His breath was knocked out of his lungs as a sturdy body leaned heavily against him. A tattooed arm pressed against his neck and held him in place while the other arm brought John's hands behind his back, trapping them there between the wall and John's body. He couldn't move in the least.

John's mind raced. It was too close! Too much skin!

His body urged him to recoil and shake off the invader. With an enormous effort he fought down the panic that threatened to overwhelm him.

He wanted to scream and shout but only said in a tightly controlled voice, "You win. You can let go now, big guy."

Ronon didn't seem to feel like complying. He just leered at John and took a deep breath, his nostrils flaring. John's own eyes widened as he watched Ronon's eyes close and his friend's head tilt forward, nose against John's neck, sniffing at him.

Jeez, why didn't he think of it earlier? John was sweating like a pig. He must be reeking of his stupid give-it-to-me-pheromones. And Ronon looked like he was pretty high on them already. Oh fuck! John almost choked.

"You smell of sex," the Satedan rasped near John's ear.

An unpleasant shiver ran down John's spine. "Ronon, let go of me! Right. Now!"

"On Sateda, the winner in a training fight had the right of having the loser submitting himself to his conquerer afterwards."

John's pulse quickened. He didn't like the course their little talk was headed to. At all.

Ronon breathed audibly, clearly enjoying the scent. "You said it yourself. I am the winner," he mumbled, voice dropping by one octave at least.

The panic bubbled higher inside of John. He'd always known that Ronon's instincts ran deep and that the guy's self-control wasn't really the best. To see him so heavily affected by John's pheromones that he couldn't think properly anymore was scaring the shit out of John. He had to get through to him before it was too late. "Ronon, pal, you don't really want to push it, do you? Let me go and I promise I'll forget about this episode."

Ronon lifted his head and stared at John with dilated pupils. Seconds passed by without so much as Ronon releasing his grip on John in the slightest.

"Ronon," Sheppard spoke in his most insistent tone while keeping a tight rein on his panic-stricken feelings, "we are not on Sateda. There will be no submission whatsoever. A training fight is a training fight. No consequences. Period. Now, my friend, you will let go of me and we will both go to our respective quarters. We'll have a shower and meet up in the mess for breakfast and neither of us is going to speak of it again. Cool?"

As if attempting to clear the pheromone-induced fog in his brain, Ronon shook his head and finally drew his hands and arms back. He stepped several feet away from John and looked at him with an indiscernible expression. "Sorry."

John sagged against the wall in relief. Jesus, that had been a close call. He still felt keyed up, what with the persistent proximity to his friend.

Ronon seemed to sense it and stepped further away.

"'s okay, big guy. Already forgotten." John was aware that they both knew it wasn't that easy, but he wasn't going to hold it against Ronon and let it affect their friendship. In the end, he could have avoided it by not making such a thoughtless suggestion.

They looked at each other for a little longer, silently communicating in a way only soldiers among one another could. Then Ronon nodded and left the gym.

John sighed and slid down the wall. He'd get up in a minute to go back to his room and scrub the goddamned pheromones off his body.

He'd be more careful until it was over.


16 months prior

"McKay, fire it up!" Sheppard ordered as he was running into the Chair room.

"It'll take a minute!"

John threw himself into the dead Chair and glanced at Rodney, who was trying to coax the damn Mark Two naquadah generator to work. "We don't have a minute!" In the not too far distance, he could hear Wraith darts buzzing through the air.

"Look, this generator can only power the Chair, because it operates in a state of barely controlled overload." Rodney sounded exasperated and tense.

John knew the astrophysicist had been under a lot of pressure during the last two weeks - hell, all of them had, but Rodney probably even more so - and had in all likelihood not slept for days, but right now he couldn't allow himself to care. Too much was at stake.

"Just get the damn thing working."

"That's what I'm trying to do."

The noise of the battle surrounded them and made Sheppard feel utterly useless. He desperately wanted to join in the fight. For fuck's sake, this was his city, his people! He had to protect them!

Within seconds, he relived the most crucial events of the past year that had changed his life forever. Flying some Brigadier General to a secret outpost in Antarctica and being fired upon by an alien weapon, setting foot on Atlantis and feeling the hum of the city in his mind for the first time, meeting the Athosians and Teyla, awakening the Wraith and shooting his CO, feeling his life drain out of his body slowly and into the freaking bug on his neck, killing dozens of Genii during their attempted take-over, meeting his first ascended Ancient and being fooled into liking her, finding a ZPM only to have it taken away again, discovering that three Wraith hive ships were on their way to Atlantis.

He thought of all the people he had gotten to know. People who'd exceeded John's expectations of them, who'd made him believe in the good in man again, who'd been selfless and put their own lives on the line to save the expedition. People who'd come to be John's family over the course of time.

But in the end, all his thoughts came down to one single person. Rodney telling him to think of where they were in the solar system, Rodney being joyous like a little boy while John shot him in the leg and threw him off a balcony and Rodney getting out of it unharmed, Rodney flying the jumper in a zig-zag line, Rodney being overtly hostile towards Chaya, Rodney nagging and whining about his countless allergies and booboos, Rodney being so incredibly brave and shooting at the Wraith, asking 'What do I do now?' and saving John's goddamned life.

In this moment of clarity and introspection, John had an epiphany that didn't shock him in the least. He'd seen it coming for quite awhile but hadn't been willing to admit it. Dr. Rodney McKay meant more than a friend to him, more than anyone John had ever known.

He turned around briefly to look at the man who was still working like the devil was after him and tried to imagine a different life for them. One that was stable and safe and not under the constant threat of the Wraith or other enemies, one where they'd met under different circumstances, John not in the military and therefore able to be out and proud, Rodney winning a Nobel every year and loving him. They'd have a big house with lots of space and maybe even adopt a kid at some stage. Rodney'd be a great dad.

Thoughts of a happy family life flashed through John's mind just as he felt the power surge up underneath his palms. No. Their lives were right here, on Atlantis, where they belonged. While he would like to change some details, he'd never want to change who they were and what they did. This was them and right now he'd take care so that Rodney and his city would be safe again.

He was going to kick some serious Wraith ass.

"You've got power! Go!"

Immediately, Sheppard initiated the Chair and started firing drones at the Wraith darts. He'd see to it that they'd survive today and tomorrow and all the other days to come and that Rodney would get the chance to win a Nobel and be a great dad someday. Even if John wouldn't be the one at his side.

Rodney'd be safe. John would make sure of that himself. Whatever the cost.


6 months and 2 days prior

John woke up with the first rays of sunlight on his cheeks, feeling way more relaxed and well rested than he had in a long time.

It was over.

Smiling, he stretched lazily and then opened his eyes. Normally, he was awake within mere seconds but the last days took their toll on him. Yesterday had been the worst. He'd been feverish and quivery and wanton and completely unable to satisfy his lust. Carson had had to tranquilize him and restrain him to his quarters so he didn't climb the walls and throw his fists at pushy people.

He yawned. His belly itched. Yeah, not really a surprise here. He knew he'd see dried come if he looked down. He just hoped it was the last time he'd had a wet dream.

Just then John noticed a low burning sensation in his ass. Huh, that was new. He reached down to probe a little with his fingers and they slipped right in, making him moan lowly. Jesus, his entrance was pretty relaxed and sensitive right then.

He must have finger-fucked himself in his sleep while he'd been dreaming that it was Rodney's dick inside of him. Unfortunately, last night's dream was hazier than the others and he couldn't remember anything at all, but he was sure that it had been one hell of a dream. What he did remember, although only vaguely, was the intensity. It had been more vivid and frantic and had left him utterly satisfied. What a shame that he couldn't recall details. He'd have loved to replay them in his head some day.

He pulled his fingers back and stretched himself for one last time before he made his way to the shower. Crap, his room looked like a tornado had raged in it. Seemed that not only his dreams were somewhat foggy.

Since he hadn't gone running for days, it would have been great to start his day with a run then. Stupidly he'd overslept today and Ronon hadn't stopped by to pick him up since their last run and the following sparring session, which had ended fairly awkwardly. Well, he'd just have to live another day without it then.

John decided to pay Carson a quick visit before breakfast. The Scot was a little startled when he saw John marching into the infirmary. After his tests the doc attested him that he was as right as rain, just as he felt. No more pheromones, no elevated blood pressure, no increased sensitivity and also no other reasons for worry concerning his new body parts.

With a clean bill and a smirk, John made his way to the mess where people looked at him when he entered but didn't react in any other - inappropriate - way. Today was going to be a good day.

He grabbed his favorite breakfast food and walked over to the team table. They were all there already, even Rodney.

"Morning, guys," John said and plonked down on his chair.

Teyla smiled openly at him while Ronon just grunted over his food but flashed him a short smile as well. Rodney, however, flushed an unhealthy red, fiddled with his blueberry muffin and dropped it several times. He didn't look up at John or acknowledge his presence at all. Huh, seemed that they'd just reached a new level of awkward.

John felt his heart sag a little and his good mood diminish slightly.

"John," Teyla spoke softly, "it's good to have you back."

"Good to be back," he replied with his usual drawl and returned her easy smile. Now, if only Rodney had the guts to apologize to him sooner rather than later, then everything could get back to normal. As long as he didn't, they'd just have to suck it up. He wasn't going to make the first move. Nope.

But right now, with his heat over and finally in control of himself again, he would not let this cast a shadow on his good mood. Feeling pretty much on top of the world, John dug into his food with gusto and smiled to himself.


3 hours prior

"I don't like it, John," Elizabeth said and frowned, hands folded on her desk.

"I know, Elizabeth." John slouched in the chair opposite her. His arms rested loosely on his arched belly. He had known that she wouldn't be thrilled about his intention to go on the mission. "It'll be the last one."

When he didn't continue she leaned forward a little, looking him straight in the eye. "Last time you told me the same."

"Yeah. Kinda like déjà vu, huh?" He smiled slyly, then sobered up again and straightened himself. "Look, Teldan asked for my team. Teyla and Ronon are already out of the picture which leaves only Rodney and me. We'll take Lorne and a marine with us. We'll be back in no time. You'll see." He leaned back, a winning smile on his face.

Elizabeth sighed. "I'd rather you'd stay here in your condition. As far as I can gather, only Rodney is essential to the mission. He could just go with Lorne's team."

"No!" John gripped the arm rests tightly, his knuckles turning white. When Elizabeth cocked her eyebrows at his unusual outburst, he breathed in deeply and forced himself to calm down and release his grip. These stupid hormones! They were driving him completely insane. "Look, I'm not letting Rodney go there without me. As soon as I'm grounded, he'll be as well. Whether he wants it or not." And whether she wanted it or not. The words hung in the air unsaid.

He gave her his most determined look, hoping he wasn't too intimidating because that was something that definitely didn't sit well with her. In the end, she was the one who had the last word on gate teams. And while their team consisted of four members, John knew that both Teyla and Ronon were very capable of taking care of themselves on their own. Rodney, though, was something else entirely. Rodney was obnoxious, ingenious, rude, brutally honest, oblivious, brave, the embodiment of trouble and infinitely precious. He was his fucking best friend and they were a special team, Rodney and he, a double pack. It was either both or neither of them. He needed Elizabeth to get that.

"I see," she said after long seconds and gave him a steely look.

Sheppard could tell that she wasn't pleased about his tone but he couldn't change it. Rodney was fucking important. John wasn't going to let anyone else protect him and potentially fail. He also wasn't going to back off now.

"Fine. You can depart in an hour, Colonel."

John heaved a sigh of relief. The tension he hadn't realized he'd had before slowly bled away.

When he looked at her, Elizabeth's jaw was still set firmly but she didn't appear to be as pissed off as earlier. Instead, small worry lines around her eyes made John want to buck her up and not leave her in this mood.

"Thanks, Elizabeth," he told her completely sincerely. Pushing himself up and out of the chair, he drawled with a smirk, "It'll be a cakewalk."

She flashed him a wry smile and shooed him out of the room.



"Why are you doing this?" Elizabeth asks the Skaldaran - Forey, if she remembers correctly from Lorne's report - as soon as they're in the side room. "What has Colonel Sheppard done to you? Haven't our people been partners and even friends for almost two years?"

"So it would seem," the man bows his head before he continues in an even more steely tone, "but do friends withhold essential information? Information that could play a part in contributing to preserve and strengthen one's society?"

Elizabeth is puzzled. "I have no idea what you are referring to. But I can assure you that we didn't hold back any information of that great a value from you on purpose. And have you not done exactly the same of what you accuse us? Have you not held back the fact that you're telepaths?" Two can play that game. Fortunately, Elizabeth is very familiar with its rules.

"We do not share the knowledge of the existence of our mental abilities freely with just anyone. A long history of mutual trust is required before we let our allies in on it. It is an act of mere self preservation since we have had bad experiences before," Forey explains lengthy. "Nevertheless, the same does not apply to you. Our secret does not make a big difference to you whilst yours could mean a great benefit for my people. You just confessed that you have withheld it. Whether you did it on purpose or not does not play a role as the effect is the same."

A muscle twitches in Elizabeth's cheek. God, how arrogant! She wants to punch the guy badly but as a good diplomat, she knows that it won't bring her closer to her goal. On the contrary. Instead, she braces herself to argue in as resolved and serene a manner as her opponent. "In my assessment, purpose plays a huge role in the assignment of guilt. If we had known that you required information from us, we would have willingly shared it with you, had you asked and had it not involved armament."

"Your willingness to cooperate is of no use now. Teldan will soon have all the information that we need," Forey states. "If the Colonel's knowledge proves to be insufficient, we will consider performing a mental interrogation with someone else from your people. Perhaps Dr. McKay. He appears to be very knowledgeable. Or your physician."

"I will not allow it!" Elizabeth raises her voice on seldom occasions. Now is one of them.

"It is not a question of your permission. Your people have been given the choice to leave our planet. Yet they have stayed and even brought you and three other men with them. This might turn out to be very helpful in the end," Forey surmises in an overbearing manner.

Elizabeth is at a complete loss. At least, when it comes to peaceful solutions. The Skaldaran is indiscernible. Moreover, threatening her people isn't something she takes lightly. "Atlantis will worry if we do not report back in time. They're instructed to send backup, heavily armed and well trained soldiers, and they will not hesitate to do what's necessary to free us."

Actually, the last part isn't completely true - they're ordered to only use violence if it's inevitable - but sometimes one has to push one's luck.

"Let us hope that it will not come to that. I can assure you that we have no intention to harm you or yours at the moment. We hope that we can still be partners when all this is over," the man says loftily.

"We'll see about that," Elizabeth replies, not quite believing what she's heard. He can't honestly think that they could remain partners after this. "You've lost our trust in you by capturing and interrogating Colonel Sheppard and threatening us. I don't think that this'll be a good base for further relations."

A silence stretches between them. Obviously, her opponent doesn't have anything else to say either. One question remains unanswered, though. "You still haven't told me what information it is that you're after."

"I am not allowed to tell you this. If Teldan wishes you to learn the rest, he will tell you himself when he is finished with the interrogation." For a second, the Skaldaran's gaze becomes unfocused. Then he speaks, "Come now. We shall return to the main hall. The interrogation will soon come to an end."

The weight of her failed negotiation attempt sits heavily on Elizabeth's stomach. She has fought so hard against human stubbornness and obsolete attitudes to ensure John's position as Atlantis' military leader and has won despite starting out with a bad hand. She can't believe that she would founder with some petty aliens who happen to be obsessive cold-hearted telepaths.

Losing John is not an option. She won't delude herself. Without John, Atlantis wouldn't be the same. People on Atlantis wouldn't be the same. He is, without a doubt, the most important man whom people look up to, who gives them hope and strength to endure the most horrible dangers and grow beyond their limits in the process.

After the initial shock, people have accepted John's altered state quickly. To be honest, Elizabeth is quite astonished about it. She's anticipated more problems, but so far everything runs smoothly. Without John's knowledge, some of them have even started to make little presents and things to help ease everyday life in his future. She's seen some really talented handcrafts already.

A surge of pride washes through her at the thought. She'll take care that John will get to receive his gifts. She owes it to all of them.

"After you," Elizabeth demands with renewed enthusiasm.

"As you wish," Forey complies, bowing his head and leading the way.

Watching Forey's back, Elizabeth wants nothing more but to wrap her hands around the guy's throat. Or clobber him with a heavy object. Or, even better, take him hostage and force Teldan to let John go. But the risk that they'll harm the Colonel or the rest in revenge is too big to take. She'll have to settle for the mental picture.

As they return to the main hall, she finds herself saying a silent prayer for a positive ending without anyone getting hurt, something she only does when she's at her wit's end but still far from giving up.


3 months and 1 day prior

"Sheppard! Open the damn door!" Rodney all but yelled and banged on the door.

John was sure that shortly all of the personnel would be gathered outside his quarters to watch the spectacle if he didn't let McKay in soon. Steeling himself for the inevitable, he thought the door open.

Rodney's fist, obviously on his next descent to torment the Ancient entrance, stopped dead in the air. The Canadian looked a little taken aback at John's concession. A second later, he recovered himself and stepped resolutely into John's quarters. The door swished close behind him.

"Keep it short, McKay. There are people who do need to sleep from time to time," Sheppard snarled. He'd gone through this discussion in his head several times already and the outcome had never really been satisfying. To be honest, he wasn't even sure himself what outcome would be. Leaning against the wall with his most exasperated expression, he waited for McKay's tirade to start.

Predictably, McKay snorted and crossed his arms in front of his chest in defence mode whilst still managing to look like he was about to attack. "What crawled up your ass and died, Sheppard, huh? You've been avoiding me for days without any reason."

John opened his mouth to downplay it but before even one word could cross his lips McKay went on, "Oh no, don't you dare tell me that that's not the case! You don't show up in the labs or in the mess hall at your usual time, you barely look at me during briefings, you don't answer my calls, you cancelled our chess appointment on Wednesday and also refused to come to our team movie night yesterday. Now, I have no fucking idea what your problem is, but it has started to affect the team and you of all people should know that -"

"I'm pregnant," John blurted.

Suddenly it was so quiet in the room that one could have heard a pin drop. Of course, John could have broken the news to Rodney more gently, but he figured it served Rodney right to get to know it in the most shocking way since he hadn't been spared either.

With mixed feelings, John watched as all the color drained from Rodney's face and he literally staggered over to John's desk chair and fell into it. "You're... Oh... Oh my..." McKay's eyes were staring holes into the air.

Oh jeez! Only Rodney could make him feel bad for being just as straightforward as Rodney himself was.

After Teyla had begged him to go see Carson because she was worried about John, he'd done just that to calm both her and his own emerging thoughts. Beckett had looked nearly as shocked as John had felt when Carson had asked if John had forgotten to tell him about something that happened during his cycle. And that was when John had realized that the last night while he'd been in heat must have been real.

He'd spent the next few days brooding over the events of that fateful night but his mind had been frustratingly blank. Something else had occurred to him, though, namely that Rodney most likely did remember it because his brain surely hadn't short-circuited 'cause of being in heat like John's had.

With that in mind, John had avoided Rodney because he just hadn't known what he'd do if he saw the guy. He'd felt like strangling him for doing this to him more than once. On the other hand, he wanted to apologize because he had no fucking clue whether he'd forced himself on Rodney or whether Rodney'd given his consent.

To make it even more complicated, there was also a small part of John that was overwhelmed with joy that he was going to be a father and that it would be Rodney's and his child. John had always wanted to be a father - though he'd never anticipated THIS - but early on he'd resigned himself to the fact that gay men usually weren't prone to having children. He'd figured that he couldn't let this train of thought get the upper hand because it really was just wishful thinking and nothing else, if not only because of Rodney being straight - despite their encounter which took place under mind-altering circumstances - then also because of John being in the fucking homophobic American military.

Which brought him to the next problem. He was pretty sure that his superiors on Earth wouldn't take it well that black sheep Sheppard had somehow managed to get knocked up by a guy. He had no idea how to break it down to them in a way that wouldn't result in a court-martial and a dishonorable discharge. He could already see himself ending up as some kind of a guinea pig in a secret lab of some batshit crazy scientist.

To get back to the problem at hand, John still wasn't sure how to treat Rodney now with the knowledge that they'd not only had sex - which he couldn't even remember, for fuck's sake - but also that their night together had a lasting effect, so to say.

Much as he hated it, they had to talk about it. There was no way round it.

He sat down on the corner of his bed and leaned forward to slap Rodney lightly across the face who still looked rather shell-shocked. "McKay! Snap out of it!"

The slap seemed to get through to McKay, who visibly shook himself and then focused his gaze on John. His mouth opened and closed several times before he managed to speak again. "You... I... Uh, we... You sure?"

John sighed. He didn't have it in him to nurse a grudge against Rodney for much longer if he looked like that. "Yes, Rodney. Pretty damn sure. Beckett's run all of his tests at least twice."

McKay gulped and averted his eyes as he said, "And... uhm... do you want him to... err, that is, are you going to... keep it?"

It couldn't have been worse than being physically hit. John's voice was dangerously quiet when he answered, "Are you saying that I should have an abortion?"

If it was even possible, then McKay grew even paler at his words. Mindless stuttered syllables were the only thing that left his mouth.

"I will not have an abortion, McKay," John stated in a steely tone. He'd gotten rid of so many people in his life, killed them in the line of duty. No matter how inconvenient and problematic the situation was now, he'd never get rid of something that he'd wished for for so long, something that was a part of him and growing inside of him right this moment. For once, he wanted to create life. If he had an abortion now, he knew he'd never be able to look at himself in the mirror.

"Okay, good," Rodney replied somewhat nervously and fidgeted with his hands in his lap. "Good, because I don't want you to get an abortion." At the end of his sentence, he finally seemed to catch himself and looked John in the eye again.

Logically, John had known that Rodney wouldn't want him to get rid of the baby. It would have been in crass opposition to Rodney's monologue about what a superior mix their combined genes were months ago. Still, McKay's question had sorta caught him off guard.

"What do you want then, McKay?" Sheppard knew that the answer to that question was the crux. It would determine where his life was going to go in the future. He'd already made a decision for himself. He'd have this child, no matter what, and he'd love it and raise it. Now Rodney only had to decide whether he wanted to be a part of the kid's life or not. If yes, then John would do anything to stay on Atlantis, even if not in the Air Force anymore. If not, well, the answer to that was rather superfluous.

"I want you to have it," McKay said resolutely and looked straight in John's face.

John's heart sank. Okay, so much to staying on Atlantis. He shouldn't have had expectations to start with. Perhaps Rodney just didn't want to be reminded of his maybe-rape by having to see the kid on a regular basis. And John, too. Although they'd gotten along just fine for the last few weeks, it could well be that Rodney was just as good at repression as John was, but having the kid, the product of his repressed memory, around would be a constant reminder. From that point of view, John could even understand him. "Alright," he said, trying to keep the regret out of his voice. "I won't bother you with it. Don't worry about child support. I've saved money for quite a few rainy days."

For a second, Rodney just stared at him in horror. "Say what?"

John sighed, now clearly annoyed. Rodney'd spoken his mind. John had accepted. Case closed. Period. "You're out of it. Without any consequences. You can go on with your life, find yourself a nice blonde, big-breasted wife and have children with her."

"No," McKay replied indignantly. "Jesus, sometimes I wonder where your brain lopes off to when you need it most." He rolled his eyes. "You got me completely wrong, Sheppard. 'I want you to have it' translates into 'I want you to carry it to full term and not have an abortion.'"

"Oh." John was downright flabbergasted.

"Yeah, oh," Rodney mocked him. "Look, I'm not going to walk out on you here. Got it? This child is both yours and mine. I want to get a say in the matter of its education and well, all other facts of its life as well, actually."

Rodney looked endearingly determined and John's heart was maybe overflowing a little with relief and love. Maybe.

"Alright," he got out, but didn't trust his vocal chords enough to utter more without quavering. Instead, he nodded crisply. His future plans had just changed. Now he'd fight to stay.

Then Rodney's eyes grew wide. "Oh God! The Air Force! Fuck! They're gonna have your head for this!"

John grimaced. Yeah, he'd figured as much himself.

"Okay. Okay. We'll manage. We'll get you to stay on Atlantis," Rodney babbled, eyes roaming around restlessly before focusing on Sheppard once more. "Have you already talked to Elizabeth?"

"No." He'd planned to do it. Really. He just hadn't felt ready yet.

"Okay. We need to tell her. She'll do everything within her power to keep you here," the Canadian said reassuringly.

John had to look down to hide the small smile on his face. Without much fuss, Rodney had just taken over the reins and was now busy making plans on John's behalf. While John would usually be completely annoyed by that kind of behavior, right now it made him happy because it showed him that Rodney cared, if not quite the way that John would have liked, then still enough to want to keep him around.

They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, both engrossed in thought. John wondered at McKay's quick recovery. He'd figured that Rodney's freak-out would be epic.

A muffled groan startled John out of his thoughts. Rodney was hunched over, head cradled in his hands. "Good God! What a mess! I can't believe that this is really happening!"

Speak of the devil. John smiled crookedly. "Yeah, buddy, I know exactly what you mean."

Rodney raised his head again. "You know, after my apology, I thought that everything would go back to normal. I was so glad that you didn't hold that night against me."

John blinked. Huh? Apology? Hold that night against Rodney? Then a memory struck him. "When you say apology, you mean the one when we were captured, right?" He asked cautiously.

"Yeah, of course," Rodney replied in his how-did-you-ever-manage-to-pass-the-Mensa-test-voice.

"You... apologized for..." John gaped at him in disbelief and flailed his arms in a manner that could mean almost anything but he knew that Rodney'd interpret it correctly as 'THE night.'

"Why, yes, Colonel. What else should I have apologized for?" Rodney returned the question in bewilderment.

Oh boy. They'd completely gotten their wires crossed - again - but at least he now knew that he hadn't taken advantage of Rodney or else McKay wouldn't have apologized, right? "Your proposing to knock me up? Maybe?" John ruffled his hair. God, he hated talking about stuff like that. But now was confession time and he didn't plan on having another one anytime soon. Or ever again, for that matter. He gulped and continued, "Look, I don't remember it." He emphasized the last word.

Rodney groaned again and put his head back into his hands. "Oh God, I've got no idea if I should feel relieved or insulted by that."

John couldn't help but snort-laugh. Only Rodney would hit on the idea to interpret it as a personal insult.

"What? You think it's funny? Has one of your hook-ups ever told you that she'd forgotten about having sex with you? Because you apparently sucked? And I don't mean that in the literal way!" Rodney practically bristled with indignation.

At that, John virtually exploded in laughter. And it was the good one, oh yeah, his loud trademark hyena-laughter. Rodney's smug smile spoke volumes.

When John had tried to imagine this conversation in his head earlier, he'd definitely not anticipated this. No, not even half an hour ago he'd had a mess on his hands and no idea how he was going to continue from there on. Now everything looked different. He had Rodney on his side, both as a friend and as a father to their unborn child. Everything else would follow.

Together they'd find a way.


4 months and 18 days prior

"Colonel, Ah've found it!"

As soon as Sheppard heard Beckett's words over the radio, he started up from his chair and was on his way to the infirmary, leaving the boring as fuck paperwork behind without so much as a guilty conscience. It'd wait for him until he returned anyhow.

He ignored the looks people gave him as he dashed down the stairs and through Atlantis' corridors. Beckett had found it. That was all that mattered right now, because despite the cryptic message, John knew immediately what Carson had found.

John reached the infirmary in record time and barrelled into Beckett's office. He shut the door a little too forcefully and then sat down. Carson was already expecting him.

"Zelenka told me over lunch that they'd retrieved a section of Atlantis' database that they'd found awhile ago. Of course, Ah started searchin' that part as soon as Ah was back here. And there it was, the missin' piece of the puzzle." Beckett smiled proudly at his discovery.

John took a deep steadying breath. "And?" He tried to appear unperturbed but knew he wasn't quite successful.

"Yoo are even more related to the Ancients than we had thought," the Scot said slowly, enunciating the words as proper as his broad Scottish accent allowed him to.

Not sure what to think of that, John asked, "What's that mean, Carson?"

"That ye had a rare dormant gene which got activated an' caused yer body's transition. Not e'en all of the Ancients possessed it an' humans definitely shooldnae possess it at all. We are descendants of the Alterans who later split up into the Ancients an' the Ori. We are the second stage of evolution in whose genetic makeup this particular gene vanished completely. By the time the Ancients returned to Earth, only those who'd been given birth to by a male still had the gene. But they didne pass on the gene to the next generation unless it was activated. When the Ancients started to interbreed with humans, however, their bairns did inherit it." He made a short pause before he continued gravely, "Ye, Colonel, appear to be a direct descendant of one of those few Ancients who still had the gene when they came back to the Milky Way. This may also be the reason why yer ATA gene is the strongest we have encountered so far."

Sheppard was momentarily speechless. Okay, that was heavy, but reasonable after all. Beckett had had the hypothesis of him being more closely related to the Ancients for a while now. But there was one thing he didn't get. "What activated it?"

"Ah, see, there's the crucial point," Beckett began. "Only the Control Chair can activate the dormant gene. But as far as Ah can gather there's a mental component to it. The Chair doesnae just operate at random. The individual has to harbor a strong wish to father a bairn with another man. Ah'm nae sure if he needs to think about it when he actually sits in the Chair or if it picks up on it without conscious thought."

John heard Carson's last sentence in a blur. His brain was stuck with the appalling thought that now Carson knew. Knew the biggest secret of his life. The one he'd tried to hide with all his might over the last twenty something years and in doing so, had even agreed to marry once. He felt queasy.

Thankfully, Beckett noticed his discomfort and immediately thrust a glass of water in his hands which he drank greedily. "Dornt faint on me here, laddie." His voice was worried. "Ah'm nae gonnae judge ye for yer sexual preferences an' Ah'm also nae gonnae blether about it. This wee fact will stay inside these four walls, okay?"

It was almost scary how easily Carson had drawn the right conclusions. It was also scary that John sometimes lost control of his facial reactions lately. Nevertheless, he felt much calmer after he'd finished his water. "Thanks, doc. I appreciate it," he said lamely and put the glass down.

"Naethin' to thank me for, son," the Scot said with a soft smile on his lips. He gave John another moment before he asked, "Ye know, Ah wonder if ye can remember whether ye did or did nae think consciously about bein' a father when ye were sittin' in the Chair."

Up to date, there'd only been two occasions on which he had used the Chair. When he'd first come into touch with Ancient technology on the Antarctic outpost and during the Wraith's siege at the end of their first year. He was fairly sure that babies hadn't been on his mind in Antarctica. As to the battle against the Wraith... He thought hard. Then a short memory flash crossed his mind. Oh holy shit! No!

Trying to keep his expression in check, he harrumphed and slowly said, "There might have been one little stray thought..." He trailed off and rubbed his neck uncomfortably.

"Ah dornt need to know the details. Just when?" Carson conceded and just like that rose even further in John's estimation.

"During the siege." John calculated quickly. "About a year ago."

"Okay, an' ye first came to me about two months later an' yer cycle started about seven an' a half months after that. That means that the transition took about ten months to be completed." Beckett looked thoughtful.

They sat in silence for a while, both dwelling on their own thoughts. Carson mumbled something about further investigation as to how to stop the cycle when it began anew.

Sheppard was still creeped out by his body's changes but actually, this lay much higher on his bearable-list than turning into a bug. Nah, he definitely didn't want to go there again.

When he couldn't stand it any longer he said, "That all, doc?"

"Och, aye, Colonel," Carson seemed a little startled at John's words. "Ye can go back to yer paperwork now." A wicked grin appeared on Beckett's face.

John cocked a brow. "Doc, you shouldn't spend so much time with Rodney. He rubs off on you."

Carson laughed heartily. "Back at ye. And now go. Ah've got more urgent cases to take care of."

As he left, Sheppard felt kinda reassured. The news had, of course, shocked him, period, but it was nothing he couldn't live with. He'd survived worse. As long as no other drastic changes were waiting for him around the next corner, he'd be fine.



Teldan slowly emerges from Colonel Sheppard's last memory. He's somewhat astonished at Sheppard's rather complex and convoluted wit. To be honest, he hadn't thought that it would take him so long to find an information in a non-telepathic mind. He has just been disabused of this notion.

But finally, he's found it, the answer. It is rather disappointing. He'd hoped to find the key to invigorate his people, but instead has only gotten a method that isn't applicable to his people. To his partner.

'I'm sorry, my dear,' he thinks at him.

'So am I.' Dejection wafts through their linked minds.

Because Teldan knows that he's invaded the Colonel's privacy in a manner that the man finds inexcusable, he decides to at least reciprocate the act of sharing thoughts and memories with him in turn. He knows that it won't make up his debt but it will maybe help Colonel Sheppard understand his motivations.

Through their mental link, Teldan tugs on the other one's awareness and pulls it over into his own mind. Unfortunately, he can't communicate directly with him like he can with his partner or his people on occasion since the Colonel is no telepath and therefore not constituted to converse mentally.

The flood of memories he is showing to Sheppard is much more compressed and sorted than Sheppard's has been. It is easy and natural for Teldan to wander his own mind's paths, pick out the essential parts and pre-process them in a presentable way for someone else to relive them with him. What is new is that he has to keep the Colonel's limited mental abilities in mind so as not to overload the man's brain.

When he feels that he's elaborated on his reasons enough and also discerns a dawning sense of understanding in Sheppard, Teldan lets their mental connection abate until it vanishes completely. Then he lowers his hands.

Sheppard comes to immediately. He clutches his head and moans.

"John!" Dr. McKay's voice is unbearably loud in the silence which has arisen around them. "20,534!"

"Not prime," the Colonel rasps.


"Prime. Jeez, Rodney, give a guy a break, would you?"

"You're okay! Oh thank God, he hasn't maimed your brain!" Pure relief is written on McKay's face.

Teldan follows the exchange with interest. He is aware that Dr. McKay had some sort of breakdown earlier.

'He quietened down again with the help of the doctor,' his partner informs him mentally. Teldan nods in acknowledgement.

In the meantime, Dr. Beckett has stepped forward and started to examine Colonel Sheppard.

"Carson?" Sheppard appears to be genuinely surprised at his being here. In looking around, he spots another familiar face. "Elizabeth?"

"John, how are you feeling?" Dr. Weir asks at once.

"Fantastic despite a little headache. But what are you doing here?"

"Getting you out of here." The woman smirks somewhat ironically. Like Dr. McKay, she seems to be relieved about the Colonel's wellbeing.

'All of them are very fond and protective of each other,' Teldan remarks in his thoughts.

'Yes. It's most astonishing, considering that they don't know and understand each other as deeply as we do through our connection. They can never be sure of each other's sentiments and intentions unless they act upon them.'

'Or unless they talk about them. And even then, they're just able to lie.'

'Yes. Honesty seems to be a very important virtue in their society.'

'Like the ability to trust. And we've just violated them both.'

"Lorne!" Colonel Sheppard's voice cuts authoritatively through the air.

"Yes, Sir!"

"Am I wrong or did I not order you to take Rodney and Reed back to Atlantis?"

"You are not wrong, Sir, but Dr. McKay can be very adamant."

"Then maybe I ordered you to bring Dr. Weir and Dr. Beckett?"

"No, Sir, but Dr. Weir can be just as adamant as Dr. McKay," Major Lorne replies. "And with all due respect, Colonel, I wasn't very keen on complying with your order and leave you alone here in the first place."

Sheppard cocks his eyebrow. Before he can answer, the doctor then attests that he is in the best of health.

Teldan finds his time has come and steps in. "I must apologize. We have acted in a way that is inexcusable in your people's opinion. I have come to understand that and I am truly sorry. I just want you to know that at no point in time has your sanity been at risk, Colonel Sheppard. Forey has exaggerated our mental abilities slightly. I suppose he was worried illogically about my health though I had the situation under control the whole time. He saw the need to protect me by telling a lie when your armed people came to rescue you. Is that not so, Forey?"

"Yes, Teldan. I apologize," Forey concedes and bows his head slightly. A wave of guilt washes over Teldan's mind.

"My people and I are not able to do others' brains lasting damage. Though it is true that we can create a mental link with others, the underlying organic functions escape our control," Teldan says.

"Oh, that's typical! First threaten us with mental mutilation and then tell us that it was all just a big fat lie and that we worried for nothing!" Dr. McKay's face is getting redder and redder with each word. Teldan doesn't think that he's seen this particular color on somebody's face ever before.

'He's the most annoying man I've met,' his love's voice echoes through his mind.

'I agree, my dear. But he's also a very special human being with many good traits as well,' Teldan amends.

Dr. Weir shoots a warning glance at the man before she turns to Teldan. "I have to say that Dr. McKay has a point. I don't agree with your methods either."

"You see," Teldan continues with his explanation, "while they were not the best, we acted in good faith that the end justifies the means. It seems that we were wrong. We had not known then that your people value their mind's privacy so much. This is a concept that is unknown to us. I sincerely apologize for breaching your privacy, Colonel Sheppard. I hope you will forgive me one day."

"Wait, wait, wait," Dr. McKay throws in immediately. "Rewind. What exactly do you mean with 'the concept of valuing one's mind's privacy is unknown' to you?"

"We are telepaths. Our minds require a certain stimulation that only another one's mind can provide. Right after a Skaldaran's birth, a link between the newborn and all other Skaldarans is created to ensure the child's mental wellbeing." Teldan believes it is only fair to be so candid now. He's determined to regain the Lanteans' trust and as far as he can gather, honesty goes a long way towards doing so. His partner's mental confirmation only strengthens his resolve.

Dr. Weir raises one eyebrow in question. "So you mean that you're all sharing your thoughts at all times? Like a collective?" She pauses. "Like the Wraith?"

"No!" Forey almost shouts. "How dare you compare us to the Wraith?"

"Forey, compose yourself! Don't let your emotions get the better of you and dictate your course of action! I am sure that Dr. Weir did not intend to insult us." Teldan chides him but despite his harsh words sends soothing thoughts to him. Forey's indignation subsides slowly.

"Scary, huh?" Teldan hears McKay mumble to Sheppard. Over the course of the last couple of minutes, the astrophysicist has inched closer and closer to the Colonel so that they stand almost shoulder to shoulder now. "Ol' Gene must have met these people before inventing the Vulcans."

"Yeah. Maybe even hidden one of them in his cellar just in case," Sheppard adds under his breath.

Teldan understands the allusion only partly after having heard similar sayings while sharing Sheppard's memories but decides not to elaborate on it. Instead, he focuses on Dr. Weir's question, shaking his head no. "The mental connection between my people is very basic and only vague. There is a general awareness of the others. Only if we concentrate very hard or through touch, we can contact someone through the link, for example in case of emergency or to share experiences or thoughts. But there comes a time when every Skaldaran chooses one special individual with whom he or she wants to form a deeper mental link. Forey and I are connected in that way. Our thoughts can pass to the other unhindered." As if to underpin his words, Forey's affection for him surges through their link and caresses his minds. He returns the display of their deep feelings towards each other and then continues speaking. "This is also how I was aware of the outside events and Forey of my progress in the interrogation."

"Speaking of which -" Major Lorne begins but before he can say another word, Dr. McKay breaks in.

"What the fuck was that all about anyways? What gave you the right to violate the Colonel's mind like that?"

Dr. Weir adds in a much more composed manner, "Forey told me that you wanted to find some information in the Colonel's head that could benefit your people."

"Yeah, how I got knocked up as a man," the Colonel says with a lopsided smile. His right hand strokes his arched belly in what Teldan supposes is an unconscious movement as he looks at Teldan and Forey with an expression akin to sympathy on his face.

'He understands,' Forey states, bewildered.

'Yes, my love, because he knows what it feels like to want something one thinks one can never have. But that doesn't mean that he's forgiven us our actions already.'

"And you couldn't have... oh, I don't know... maybe simply asked in the old-fashioned way? With spoken words and all?" Dr. McKay's voice practically oozes with sarcasm.

"It is more complicated than that," Teldan starts into his next explanation. "Our society consists mainly of men. It is exceedingly difficult to procreate and maintain a certain population size when only one fifth is female. You must have been aware of this."

"Oh please," Dr. McKay snorts. "As if! We thought that you kept your women hidden away from the Colonel's charming womanizing ways!"

"We did?" Sheppard drawls with a raised eyebrow.

"Anyways, that doesn't explain why you couldn't have asked," McKay keeps pushing.

Teldan sighs resignedly. "When I shook hands with Colonel Sheppard as is common among your people, I sensed a second being in him, an unborn child. I shared my new knowledge with Forey and the others. We felt betrayed by you when we realized that you had not informed us of your men's ability to become pregnant."

"That's ridiculous!" McKay bristles.

Teldan chooses to ignore the insult. "In the end, it became apparent that our accusations were ungrounded. You have been unaware of our complicated situation and our desperation to find a viable method to impregnate our men. Furthermore, we now know that Colonel Sheppard's pregnancy is very special and uncommon amongst your people and that we cannot derive benefit from it as none of my people possesses the, what you call, ATA gene. Thus, you did not withhold valuable information from us and did not betray us. Again, I have to offer our sincerest apology once again in the hopes of your accepting it."

Both he and Forey make a low bow in an excusing gesture.

The Lanteans remain silent. For once, not even Dr. McKay has something to say.

Then Dr. Weir clears her throat and begins to speak. "We take note of your apology but it is mainly Colonel Sheppard who has suffered from your actions and therefore whose forgiveness you should seek."

"I see." Teldan has guessed as much. An idea starts to form in his head. If he's not mistaken, he's able to do the Colonel a favor, give him what the man thinks he cannot have. He's perfectly aware that he will have to breach Sheppard's privacy once more in the progress, but the result will be worth it, both for Sheppard and hopefully also for his people in regaining their esteem.

'Are you sure, my love?' Forey's thoughts sound a little doubting.

'I am. It's the least I can do. He'll most likely be thankful afterwards.'

'Then I shall endeavor to support you.'

"Okay, people, let's head home," Sheppard speaks up just then. Turning to Teldan and Forey, he adds, "I don't think that I want to decide on whether to forgive you or not right away." He pauses shortly. "You'll hear from us."

Then, several things happen in short order. Teldan and Forey step forward and simultaneously grab Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay by the arm, hindering them from retreating.

Dr. McKay utters an indignant "Hey!" while Dr. Weir calls "Teldan!" and Major Lorne shouts "Sir!" and raises his weapon along with the other Lantean soldiers.

"I am sorry, Colonel Sheppard, but I am not inclined to part in this manner."

"Teldan?" Sheppard says in a dangerously low tone. "What the fuck's the point of that?"

"What's going on?" Dr. Weir demands to know, sounding genuinely puzzled.

"Please order your men to lower their weapons," Teldan asks of Sheppard and ignores the woman's interjection completely. "I am not going to harm either you or Dr. McKay. While I am certain my course of action must seem drastic and unreasonable to you, I am also very certain that you will benefit from it."

"Teldan, I only haven't strangled you yet because of the fact that I am somewhat sentimental as of late and can even understand your screwy motives somehow. But if you intend to do what I think you do, then let me tell you that I won't show that much understanding afterwards," Sheppard says steely.

"If you are insinuating that I want to create another link between our minds, then you are correct," Teldan confirms. "This time, Dr. McKay will be included in the connection as well."

"Hey!" McKay struggles furiously in Forey's rigid grip. "Don't I get a say in the matter? I don't want to have anything to do with your psychic mumbo-jumbo!"

Teldan is momentarily taken aback. "I am not certain what you mean by mumbo-jumbo, Dr. McKay. However, I assure you that you will benefit from this sharing of memories as well."

Unfortunately, the Colonel hasn't done what he's been asked to do and his men's weapons are still raised. Teldan sends for help mentally and seconds later, several more guards enter the hall. Two of them approach Sheppard to take hold of him so that Teldan has both hands free. The others circle the rest of the Lanteans, keeping them at bay.

Then Teldan steps between Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard, ready to begin.

"Haven't you satisfied your pervy voyeuristic needs enough already?" Sheppard's words come out in an acrid tone.

Teldan cocks an eyebrow. "I assure you that I am not doing this to satisfy any of my needs, Colonel. I am doing this to give you something back that you thought lost."

Since he knows that Colonel Sheppard's recollection of the events he wants them to relive is only rudimentary and buried deeply within the man's mind, he decides to delve into Dr. McKay's remembrance and try to interweave both men's memories.

'May you do well, my love.'

His partner's supportive thoughts brush his mind and he indulges in the feelings they evoke in him for just a little longer. Then he braces himself and places his hands on the temples of Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard, establishing a connection between their minds.


6 months and 3 days prior

Rodney was in his room when his radio crackled and Sheppard's strained voice sounded in his ear. "Rodney!"

McKay stopped dead in his tracks. He'd just been about to power up his laptop to do some more work before turning in. "Sheppard?"

"Rodney, I need..." The man's voice cracked.

It threw Rodney into an immediate panic. The Canadian was well aware of Sheppard's condition and that Carson had had to confine him to his quarters as it had gotten worse over the course of the day. "Sheppard? Sheppard! What is it?"

"Rodney! I can't..." A deep breath and a distressed moan followed. "Please, I'm burning!"

McKay didn't think twice. "On my way, Sheppard."

He was out the door and on his way to his friend's quarters in no time. Logically, he should call Beckett and get him to give Sheppard more tranquilizers or whatever the heck else. McKay wasn't even sure what he was going to do once he got there or if he could even help him. But still, he didn't radio Carson because it had been him, Rodney, who John had called even though they were in a state of mutual avoidance right then after Rodney's not-so successful parenthood proposal. It was Rodney who John wanted to see.

Mere seconds later, he stood in front of Sheppard's quarters, banging on the door and calling for Sheppard. Suddenly, the door swished open and McKay found himself pressed against a wall, engulfed in a blistering heat.

Relief. Instant relief. Cold skin against hot skin. Rodney. He was here. Finally. It would get better soon.

Rodney felt completely taken by surprise. Colonel John Sheppard was the last man on Earth - or Lantea or wherever - who sought physical contact freely. Although, come to think of it, freely didn't quite fit since the man was in some kind of heat.

Thing was, Rodney was well aware that John's predicament didn't make him more touch-friendly. Quite the opposite, actually. Carson was very accurate when it came down to medical files. So why the heck did Rodney have a hot cheek pressed against his and arms like tentacles twined around his body?

"Uhm, Sheppard?"

If possible, the arms tightened even further around him. So. Not. Good. Rodney'd imagined situations like this far too often in the last couple of days, or years, actually. He was certain that Sheppard's pheromones were to be blamed for the current increase of his Sheppard-y dreams.

"Rodney," Sheppard's raspy voice breathed next to his ear. "'m so... hot."

"Yeah, you're most likely running a high fever, Colonel. We should get you to bed and cool you down."

With that, Rodney tried to push his friend away, but as soon as his hands made contact with damp, naked skin he startled and made his next mistake - right after being completely unaware of Sheppard's clothes-less-ness in his initial surprise. He took a deep breath.

Immediately, Rodney's senses were flooded with the intoxicating smell of Sheppard's pheromones. He bit his lip hard to stifle a groan. Oh jeez, the smell hadn't been as voluptuous when he'd been near Sheppard the last time.

Right then, Rodney wanted nothing more than to get naked himself and rub and slide against John's delicious body. Instead, he turned his head to the side in an attempt to breathe less sexed-up-John-laden air so as to compose himself.

"Come on, Sheppard. To bed with you," McKay said, his words reverberating in his own ears too high for his liking.

But Sheppard had apparently lost all of his former reservations. "Bed," he mumbled, but instead of going there he pressed his body even closer to Rodney's, their pelvises flush against each other.

Rodney's breath caught in his throat when he felt his friend's hard cock dig into his hip. Another wave of pheromones hit him and made it harder and harder to concentrate.

"Sheppard, please get off me," McKay almost begged. It had been a foolish idea to just stomp into the Colonel's quarters without taking precautions. He'd known that he wasn't immune to the pheromones.

To Rodney's horror, John then began to grind his cock against Rodney's stock-still body and make the most obscene noises. "Need," John panted and sped up his movements.

Skin. He needed more blissfully cool skin. Craved it. Now.

Without much fuss, Sheppard suddenly tugged on McKay's clothes. Rodney could hear his shirt's seams tear apart. He had to stop this. Right now!

"Sheppard! John," he used his friend's given name - something he rarely did - in the hopes of getting through to him. "John, stop it! This is not you! You're influenced by your body's increased hormone levels. You don't really want this."

"Please," John muttered, all the while trying to get Rodney out of his clothes and making distressed noises when it wasn't working.

Rodney grabbed John by his shoulders and pushed him several inches away. "John, don't. I don't know how long I'm going to be able to restrain myself. Your pheromones are too strong." He paused and looked deep into his friend's glazed eyes. "I don't want to take advantage of you while you're in this state. I'd never forgive myself." Another pause. Then he turned his gaze away and whispered, "And neither would you."

An overly warm hand reached out to grasp Rodney's jaw and forced him to look at the man in front of him once more. "Rodney, please," Sheppard spoke, sounding clearer than he had since Rodney'd set foot in his quarters. "You, Rodney... Need... you."

McKay stared at the shadow of the person he respected and valued more than anything or anyone else in his life. John was suffering. He was shaking slightly with his body's merciless need. Rodney could see that. Maybe it was his stupidest idea ever - for their friendship, it certainly was - but he couldn't just leave him like that. Not when he knew that John pushed away everyone else in his heat and that most likely, he couldn't find relief alone or otherwise the proud Colonel Sheppard wouldn't have asked him for help. Not even in heat.

Sighing resignedly, Rodney decided to take the risk. He'd just have to hope that they could somehow patch up the remnants of their friendship afterwards.

"Okay, alright. But it'll only be you who's going to get off. My clothes stay where they are, understood?" He'd gather up all of his self-control and the fear of losing the best friend he'd ever had. Hopefully, that'd be enough not to jump John and join in.

Okay. It was okay. Rodney wanted him. Rodney wouldn't push him away.

John sobbed with relief and clutched at him tightly again, burying his face in the hollow between the Canadian's neck and shoulder. John's hot breath and another waft of his irresistible scent made Rodney shiver. Oh boy, it'd be harder to resist than he'd anticipated.

Then John started to move his hips in circles again, purring with pleasure. The intense friction against his own dick didn't help Rodney stick to his resolution. He'd been hard from the moment John had twined himself around him. Now he almost ached.

Ignoring his own discomfort, Rodney decided that giving John a hand job would be the fastest way to get him off and that it would hopefully result in a minimum of awkwardness between them later. Guys did that to each other at times, even the military ones, didn't they? Sheppard wouldn't freak on him later, right?

So without thinking much more, he wrapped a hand around John's cock, stroked and slicked it with pre-come, fingers forming a tight hole for John to fuck into.

A desperate groan escaped John's mouth as he took the invitation and thrust into Rodney's fist.

Suddenly, Rodney was being whirled around and shoved vigorously through the room. He might have shrieked a little as he stumbled gracelessly, trying to keep pace. On their way, he bumped into several obstacles and heard them fall to the ground. He feared that John's guitar was one of them.

Then he couldn't care about unimportant stuff like that anymore as he tripped and lost his balance. In a heap of entangled limbs they fell to the ground, Rodney on top with John below him, weakening the force of Rodney's plunge. Before McKay could really realize what had happened, John had rolled them around emphatically. Something sharp dug into Rodney's back and made him cringe.

"Watch it, Sheppard! My back's hell already. No need to make it worse," McKay couldn't help but bite back. Just then he caught on to their new position. John was sitting in his lap in all his naked glory. His body glistened with a sheen of sweat. The small nipples beneath all that manly hair of John's were erect and begged for attention. John's nice but not too muscled belly lifted and lowered in a fast rhythm. Further down, Sheppard's gorgeous cock stood proudly in the air.

Rodney swallowed hard and licked his lips.

Rodney. Beneath him. Rodney's mouth. Kiss.

The clashing of their lips was like a force of nature and nothing like Rodney'd imagined. At first, he tried to fight it but couldn't hold it up for long. John's pheromones befuddled his brain. All straight thoughts and good intentions were drowned in his body's reaction to the onslaught of his senses.

They kissed as if there was no tomorrow. Teeth collided and bit, tongues sucked and licked, lips nipped and pulled. It was neither graceful nor skillful, but it turned Rodney on like nothing else ever had.

Why had he wanted to deny himself this again? He couldn't remember.

His hands roamed Sheppard's sweat-slick body, back, sides, arms, chest, thighs, ass, everything he could reach. John arched into the touch and yanked at Rodney's clothes urgently.

It all became a little blurry then as they rolled around on the floor, kissing and caressing fervently. Rodney's clothes must have got lost somewhere along the way as he found himself enveloped by an all-encompassing heat without any barriers between them.

All of a sudden, John's hot hand encircled both of their cocks and stroked them in the most maddening way. Rodney's scream of pleasure was swallowed by John's mouth.

In an effort to speak, Rodney pulled at John's damp and oh so silky hair, getting John to let go of his mouth shortly. He croaked out "Bed!" before their lips were glued together again.

Thankfully, his one-word demand had been registered because John then stood up and as soon as Rodney was on his feet as well, dragged him to bed by the wrist. John shoved him down, once again straddled his lap and picked up the action where they'd stopped at on the floor.

Rodney already sure as hell loved it when John was being all bossy and wanton in bed. It was hot as fuck.

John's body seared him with its unnatural heat. They were pressed together tightly, cocks trapped between them, and rubbing against each other's sweaty bodies. The air was laden with the heady aroma of John and sex.

More. He needed more. He needed it all.

A hand slid between their bodies and took hold of Rodney's dick. Rodney groaned. He was so far gone already. It wouldn't take much to make him come.

With kiss-swollen lips, Rodney watched as John sat up and looked at him intently with heavy-lidded eyes. Then John licked his tempting lips and all Rodney wanted to do was pull him back down and ravish them some more.

For a second, he was hooked completely with his besotted imagination. He came to again when he felt the tip of his cock being pushed against John's puckering hole.

Oh God! Oh yeah, how much he wanted to get in there, to fuck John.

But just then something leapt into his foggy mind at the thought of fucking John. Something important. His eyes widened. John could become pregnant if they had unprotected sex!

"Condom," Rodney brought out breathlessly and grabbed John's wrist to stop him from sliding Rodney's cock into him. "Lube," he added on the next breath. In any case, Rodney didn't want to hurt him.

"Can't... wait. Need you... now," John ground out and taking hold of both of Rodney's hands pulled them up above Rodney's head. Then John sank down in a smooth movement and impaled himself effortlessly on Rodney's dick.

They both cried out in pleasure. Rodney felt faint. His cock was buried balls deep in John's overheated and mind-blowingly tight ass. Oh fuck, it must be the best feeling ever!

He wondered briefly how it was possible to slip right in without any prep. John was slick inside. Maybe his altered body also featured natural lubricant for easier penetration?

But then all coherent thought fled Rodney's already muzzy brain as John started to roll his hips above him. Rodney's eyes rolled back.

God! Rodney felt so good inside of him. So right. He needed to move! Now!

Rodney's hands were still being held down when John started to move in earnest, lifting up and slamming back down at a dizzying pace. Mouth slack, Rodney's gaze was fixed on the spot where their bodies were joined. It was the hottest thing ever to watch his dick plunge in and out of John's body.

Rodney bent his knees and dug his feet firmly into the mattress, trying to get some leverage to thrust up into John's tight hole. It wasn't enough. He wanted to grab that delicious waist and fuck John for real.

"John, let go... hands... Need to... touch." Proper speech was far beyond his abilities at this point, but John understood nevertheless as his hands were freed only seconds later.

Immediately, Rodney clutched at John's waist and pulled him down forcefully at every upward thrust.

He must have hit the right spot as John started to scream and writhe atop of him, pure lust written on his face. "Oh God, yeah! Fuck me, Rodney! Harder!"

Rodney complied eagerly and intensified his strokes. He was in the throes of ecstasy with John surrounding him completely and filling all his senses.

"Touch yourself!" Rodney demanded, panting. He knew he wouldn't last much longer.

A slender hand wrapped around John's leaking cock instantly. It had always been one of Rodney's favorite fantasies to watch John jerk off while fucking him.

So close. He was so close. He wanted to come.

"Come, John. Come for me!" Rodney bid, pounding John's ass relentlessly.

"Oh fuck, yeah! Rodney!" John screamed and spurted all over Rodney's belly.

Rapture. Bliss. Release. He wanted it to never end, and to have Rodney come inside of him.

Rodney watched, mesmerized as more and more hot come shot out of John's pulsing dick. Jeez, he was only moments away from getting off himself.

John dropped forward and supported himself against Rodney's chest. With renewed strength he slammed down hard, impaling himself again and again on Rodney's cock at the furious pace that Rodney set. "Come on, Rodney! Come in my ass!"

"No!" Rodney all but shouted, a thought piercing his mind. He mustn't come inside of John!

When he felt his orgasm build only an instant later, he tried to shove John off of him, hands tugging on his waist. But John put all his weight on Rodney and was still riding him feverishly when Rodney's balls drew up, ready to shoot.

Desperately, Rodney gathered up all remaining power and finally managed to lift John up enough so that his dick slipped out of his hole with a wet plop. Just then he was coming, shooting his hot seed over John's ass and back and screaming John's name. Then, nothing.

Fingers reached behind, dipped into wetness, pushed it inside of him. Not enough. Fingers grabbed Rodney's cock, guided it into him for one long moment, then let it slip again. Yeah, better. That'd do. Next time till the end.

He must have blacked out briefly because when Rodney came to, John was snuggled up against his chest. His slowly softening cock was nestled between John's ass cheeks. A hand was playing lazily with Rodney's hair, the other was entwined with one of his own hands.

Rodney closed his eyes and revelled in the afterglow of what must pass as the orgasm of the millennium. He let his fingers glide through John's messy hair, content smile on his face.

John's scent wasn't as heady anymore as it had been earlier. The smell of sex and their semen filled the air. The pheromones were much more subdued and more pleasant than overwhelming.

As Rodney lay there huddling up to the person he loved more than anyone else in two galaxies, the fog in his brain started to clear gradually. His mind started to process and analyze again just as it was used to.

John. This was John lying here with him. John, his colleague, his team leader, his best friend. With whom he'd just had sex while John was in heat.

The realization nauseated him. What had he done? He'd taken advantage of his best friend who hadn't had control of himself anymore. Sure, John's pheromones were the reason in all likelihood, but he'd never let them count as an excuse for his debt.

Suddenly, Rodney couldn't bare the closeness any longer. He'd most likely just destroyed the most valuable thing in his life and had enjoyed it like little else. He felt sick to his stomach.

Gently but with determination, he shoved John off of him and got out of bed. The man seemed to be in a haze. He was lying on his belly, smiling quietly and pulling his pillow closer to hug in Rodney's absence. It made Rodney's heart hurt.

Calm. Peace. Satisfaction. Love. All for and because of Rodney.

The Canadian turned away, not able to face the placid look on John's face even one second longer. Instead, he picked up his tattered clothes and dressed as quickly as possible.

The room was a mess, John's belongings partly broken and scattered on the floor, but Rodney didn't really care. He had to get out of here ASAP.

He shot one last glance at John who quite likely wouldn't be his best friend any longer after tonight. He just hoped that their encounter wouldn't have even more consequences. He hadn't ejaculated inside of John and therefore the chance of pregnancy was low. He prayed that he was right because otherwise, John would most probably kill him, if he didn't do it anyhow after tonight.

Rodney sighed in sadness. He'd always wanted to get up close with Sheppard. But not like that. Never like that. It had been too big a price to pay and Rodney'd never have agreed to it under other circumstances.

But what was done was done. He couldn't change it. He'd have to live with it.

Turning away, he fled John's quarters and with it, everything that could remind him of what he'd done, but he feared that his thoughts of self-contempt and despair would chase him for a long, long time.



When John comes around, he's momentarily speechless from the intensity of what he's just experienced. It's been weird, seeing what had happened that night mostly through Rodney's eyes, only feeling what he'd felt with sporadic insertions of his own memories.

Rodney loves him. Just like he loves Rodney. There's no doubt about it.

And Rodney feels responsible for John's pregnancy and blames himself for having used him.

John wants to laugh badly but doesn't. How oblivious and stupid can two grown and experienced men with exceptionally high IQs be?

Very, obviously.

They've reproached themselves for having done something to one another that both of them had enjoyed. And on top of that, there's the whole altered body thing, what with the being in heat and pheromones and so.

Sure, it would've been great if their first time had happened under better circumstances - preferably with both of them fully aware - but the fact that they've both imagined it before, that they've both wanted it before, beats that unimportant detail down.

When he looks up, Teldan is watching Rodney and him intently. The room lays in utter silence. The tension is almost palpable.

Then Teldan breaks the quiet and says to them in a low and solemn tone, "Do not waste your chance!"

John's heart is beating staccato and the tiny tot inside his belly kicks excitedly when John turns to Rodney for the first time after their memory sharing. Rodney is already looking at him with a nervous and somewhat hopeful expression on his face.

For a few very long seconds, they just stand there and stare, seeing each other with new eyes now. And John realizes that they can be more than this. More than best friends sharing paternal duties.

They can be a family.

Of course, it won't be just sunshine and roses. Hell, no. DADT applies to them, although they live in another galaxy and as long as it isn't repealed, they'll have to be careful. But since he hasn't been chucked out of the Air Force on his ear after his superiors heard about his pregnancy, he is positive that they'll manage.

A smile tugs on the corners of his mouth. He notices the exact moment that Rodney becomes aware of it and then they're both smiling like crushing teens. His hand slides to his tummy and strokes it soothingly without conscious attention.

Eventually, Elizabeth's worried voice interrupts the intimacy of their trio. "John? Rodney? Are you alright?"

They nod at each other in a silent promise to continue this once they're back on Atlantis and behind closed doors, alone together. Then they turn to Elizabeth and the rest of the team, who are still being held back by the Skaldaran guards.

"We're fine," Sheppard responds and is a little proud of himself that his tone doesn't give away anything of his current giddiness at the prospect of having Rodney all to himself soon. Oh wow, this is better than riding a roller coaster or flying a Viper.

The guards lower their weapons and all the remaining tension leaves the room when their friends see for themselves that they're right as rain.

"Colonel?" Lorne asks warily, apparently waiting for orders as to how to proceed.

"We're heading out of here in a sec," Sheppard replies and gives a nod at his somewhat enhanced team in reassurance.

"I am glad that you choose to use the gift that has been bestowed on you," Teldan then says. He indeed looks kinda joyous.

But John can make out the sadness underneath it. He's seen the man's thoughts and memories after all. As happy as he might be for John and Rodney, Teldan grieves for his own partner and himself for not getting the same opportunity to have a family.

Though John's feelings towards the man are conflicting - which isn't a big surprise after Teldan's first sorta raped his mind and then made the best fucking excuse ever - but right now, he feels sorry for him and Forey. He knows that scientists on Earth are searching for a method of making male pregnancy a safe possibility - he's actually quite astonished that Beckett hasn't blurted it out already - but that the mortality risk for the pregnant man is still far too high to attempt it. Maybe they'll find a way in a couple of years. Maybe John's own pregnancy will even boost the matter somehow. But if they found it, they could not only help Teldan and Forey, but their whole people. And that's something that makes maintaining relations with them sound like a good idea to John.

"We'll contact you in a couple of weeks. Guess that Rodney and I won't be available for visits anytime soon, though," Sheppard says with a smirk. "But if I hear from my men that you've meddled with their minds, I'll be back and tell you exactly what I think of that. I hope I've made myself clear." His smile has disappeared and made room for a warning look.

"Yes, Colonel. Very clear indeed," Teldan replies and bows slightly. "We will refrain from 'meddling with your people's minds' in the future."

"Great. Now, can we please go home?" Rodney raises an eyebrow inquiringly and even taps a foot.

John finds Rodney's impatience endearing and can't hide an amused smile. "Yeah, Rodney. We're going home now."

"Perfect," McKay mutters and then he barks at the rest, "Chop chop, people! You've heard what the Colonel's said! To the 'gate! The cooks don't put food aside for late-comers and Zelenka's one greedy Czech." He grabs John's wrist and stomps off without fuss or quibble, completely ignorant of the variety of looks that are directed at him.

John just shrugs lightly and follows him. He's well aware of the main reason behind Rodney's rush. Well, besides the food. And he has to admit that he kinda likes bossy Rodney much more than is good for himself. Maybe they can elaborate on just how much later on.

For the sake of appearance - he has to keep up the air of authority in front of his men, after all - he tugs his hand free, but from the sight of Lorne's knowing grin, he knows it's in vain.

Ah, shucks! They've probably all been in on it well before Rodney and he, judging from the exact same expression on both Elizabeth's and Carson's face. Oh well, as long as they don't shout it from the rooftops they'll be fine, John figures.

Rodney and he are already at the door when Teldan speaks up once more. "All the best for you and your family, Colonel John Sheppard! Have a safe trip home!"

Teldan, Forey and the rest of the Skaldarans bow slightly in farewell. John wonders briefly if they should show them the Vulcan salute on their next visit.

But then Rodney's impatient "Come on!" brings him back to the here and now and with a sloppy wave he leaves the Skaldaran main hall, Rodney in front and the rest of their little party behind him.

Home, to Atlantis where dinner, closed rooms and the further exploration of Rodney's bossiness awaits him.

Oh, right, and presumably both a very entertaining and maddening life with the most annoyingly brilliant man and their certainly adorable genius kid as well.

*****THE END*****


16 months prior The siege

14 months prior Carson I (aberration)

6 months and 14 days prior Cats

6 months and 9 days prior Chieftain

6 months and 8 days prior Carson II (cycle)

6 months and 6 days prior Lorne

6 months and 5 days prior Rodney I (proposal)

6 months and 4 days prior Ronon

6 months and 3 days prior The 'dream'

6 months and 2 days prior Over

5 months and 22 days prior Captured

4 months and 18 days prior Carson III (database)

3 months and 10 days prior Keras

3 months and 7 days prior Teyla

3 months and 1 days prior Rodney II (confrontation)

3 hours prior Elizabeth

2 hours prior Rodney III (mission)

Present Skaldara