Ursula M. Beste (bluestarmuse) wrote in divergent_paths,
Ursula M. Beste
bluestarmuse
divergent_paths

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Lovers Stone [McKay/Sheppard PG-13]

Title: Lovers Stone
Author: kathryn_arwen
Fandom (Pairing): Stargate Atlantis [McKay/Sheppard]
Rating: PG-13
Category: Romance, Slight Angst, and oh yeah, Slash.
Spoilers: One could imagine this taking place after Before I Sleep, if they wanted to, but that's not really a spoiler.
Disclaimer: Don't own them [damnit!], just borrowing.
Summary: Sometimes things that are too good to be true, aren't. Sometimes they're even better.
Author Notes: I'd like to thank minttown1 for a most excellent beta. Really, she deserves sainthood...there are Comms out there for LJ Marriage [like marry_a_ljuser O_o;;] is there any for nominating a LJer to become a saint? +lol+ This thing is a little over 6,500 words and it's the longest I've ever written. To me, it's a monster; to others, not so much.

Also, I'd like to thank shetiger for bringing something to my attention when I wrote the first part. I hope it works for you now. +smiles+

I could be longwinded and talk about a thousand different things here, but I'll just let spare all of you that...this time. +evil grin+

Lovers Stone

Prologue: Nigh Perfect

It was a routine mission. Initial scans picked up a ZPM-worthy energy reading about five miles west of the gate. So they got the go ahead from Elizabeth, loaded up the jumper, and were off. Set down a couple hundred meters away from said power source in one of the few clearings they could find and hiked the rest of the way. The local forest reminded Rodney of evergreens and the temperature was in the mid-sixties. A little chilly, maybe, but otherwise perfect.

It was so perfect that Rodney felt a small thread of tension all the way down his spine. Which said something about him, now that he thought about it. Really, it’s a bad thing when a person expects things to go wrong more times than they go right. Thankfully, before Rodney could continue with that train of thought, they came up to the top of a hill and what else was before them but a set of ruins.

Really, if this kept up, Rodney was bound to have a migraine soon.

“Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and figure that’s where our energy readings are coming from, right, McKay?” John said, looking through a pair of binoculars.

Glancing down at the scanner to double check, Rodney replied snidely, “Why yes, how ever did you guess?”

Pocketing the binoculars, John looked at Rodney with a raised eyebrow and then motioned to Teyla and Ford to proceed ahead.

Walking down to the ruins was a simple procedure and within a couple minutes they were at what was left of the entrance, if the ornate pieces of the archway before them were any indication.

“Okay people, same M.O. as always. Ford, Teyla, you circle around the perimeter and check in every fifteen. McKay, you and I will enter the ruins, as per usual,” John stated, with a wave of his hand towards the archway.

Walking beside John, Rodney took out his scanner again to try to pinpoint the location of the energy readings. Making a couple of scanning passes, Rodney silently pointed to the left and walked to an overgrown pathway that was leading to a domed building of some kind. Entering said building, one could tell that part of the roof had caved in, and a shaft of light was pointing directly to a pillar, which is where the energy readings were coming from.

Groaning, Rodney said, “You have got to be kidding me.”

“What? What’s wrong?” John replied.

Turning towards John, Rodney exclaimed, “This, all of this.” Waving his hands to encompass the room, he continued, “This whole mission has been nigh perfect. In fact, if it weren’t highly improbable, I’d think this whole thing was a trap.”

“So, this means the energy readings are coming from that pillar, right?” John said dryly, with a smirk on his face.

“How can you be so calm about this?” Rodney huffed, crossing his arms, “I can’t be the only one used to something going wrong on our missions.”

“Well no, you aren’t. But,” John said, pointing towards Rodney, “I’m also not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. If something goes wrong, we’ll deal with it. Until then, why worry?” he finished, shrugging.

Tilting his head to the side and rolling his eyes, Rodney mumbled a “fine” and marched over to the pillar to look at it. Upon closer consideration, the pillar didn’t really look like a pillar at all but instead more like the standing stones that littered Britain’s countryside. Except for one deviation, which was the fact that towards the top of the approximately one and a half metre stone, there was an almost perfectly round hole.

Unable to find a way to open up the stone at the top, Rodney glanced down and saw writing carved around the bottom that was similar looking to Ancient. Kneeling, Rodney opened a vest pocket and grabbed a brush, something that Dr. Corrigan insisted he took with him for this very purpose. Brushing away dirt and dust that has accumulated for who knows how long, Rodney overheard over the radio Ford reporting in. Ignoring John’s answer and the resulting conversation, he squinted at the writing and tilted his head.

Tapping the tip of the brush on his chin, Rodney stood up and examined the circular hole closer. Rodney concentrated so much on it that he didn’t notice that John had moved until he appeared at the other side, smiling.

Startled, Rodney dropped his brush, glared through the hole, and demanded, “Aren’t you suppose to be standing at the doorway?”

Smile sliding into a smirk, John ignored the question and asked, “Anything yet, answer man?”

Picking up the brush off the ground, Rodney backed up a couple of steps and tried to massage the tenseness from his shoulder. Grumbling, he replied, “No, but if you could, I don’t know, not sneak up on me? That might help.”

John, also backing up a few steps, looked at the hole and said, “You know, this looks like it’s big enough for a person to put a hand through.” And proceeded to do just that.

“Major, wha…? Don’t--“ Rodney sputtered.

Looking at Rodney, John smiled innocently. “What? There is nothing to worry about, McKay. See?” he said, wiggling his fingers through the hole.

“Yeah, well, it could have chopped your hand off, for all you know!” Rodney replied, hotly.

John grinned. “Well that’s why I used my left hand.”

Throwing his hands in the air with a ‘why me?’ expression on his face, Rodney continued sarcastically, “So you would’ve been howling in pain and I would have to watch blood spurting all over the place, but that’s all okay because it’s your left hand. Yes, that makes it so much better. Thank you, Major, for that consideration.”

“Gee, Rodney, you sure do know how to take the fun out of everything.” John mock pouted.

“Fun? I’m fun…or have you forgotten the time I helped you set up that prank in Bates’s room? Or how about when I set up the laser tag, officially for ‘training purposes’,” Rodney said, with air quotes, “or…or that one time at the east pier with--“

“Okay, okay, you’re plenty fun!” John stated, exasperatedly.

Rodney huffed, “But that isn’t my point, Major. Didn’t we just have a conversation about five, maybe ten, minutes ago about how this mission is being a great mission, thus far? Do you really want to ruin it by, I don’t know, getting you hand chopped off? One would have thought that you would know what the word ‘caution’ means by now.”

“I know what caution means, Rodney.” John smirked. “I just like throwing it to the wind. One would think that you would know that by now.”

Rolling his eyes, Rodney mumbled, “Why do I even bother?” to himself and started analyzing the stone once more. Looking up, Rodney noticed something particular, namely John still having his hand through the hole.

“You can take your hand out of there now, you know,” he stated.

Looking at Rodney with a gleam in his eyes, John replied, “You know what? No. In fact, give me your hand.”

Standing up straight and looking John in the eye, Rodney asked, “What? Why should I?”

John smiled and said with a measured patience, “Just give me your left hand, Rodney.”

Looking at John with narrowed eyes, Rodney frowned. “Will you leave me alone to work if I do?” Watching John nod, he continued, “Fine, fine. But if bodily harm comes to me, I’ll--“

“You’ll nag me for all eternity, yes?” Seeing Rodney open his mouth with an angry retort on his lips, John hurriedly continued, “Come on already!” once again wiggling his fingers.

Rodney glared, annoyed, but put out his hand for John to take. John grabbed it and then pulled until both their left hands were encased in the stone. Seconds later, the stone lit up with a muted blue and red glow, until the colours merged into an almost royal purple. Looking back up, Rodney and John locked gazes and before Rodney could even open his mouth to say anything, everything faded to…

Chapter 1: Nothing and Everything

“White? Why is everything white?” John said out loud, twirling in a 360-degree circle. Everything was white and from the looks of it, there wasn’t anything but whiteness. In fact, now that he thought about it, it was reminding him of a movie he remembered seeing a couple years ago…What was it called? Cypher? No, wait, it was called Noth--

“Major John Sheppard?”

Whirling around, John came face to face with a woman. She had blue and silver hair, which reached to mid-back, and was wearing what almost looked like a black kimono, but the skirt only went down to just above her knees. What really made him raise an eyebrow was the fact that she was sitting with one leg over the other in midair. For a second he thought the word ‘magic’ but that quickly went away once he remembered that Rodney would just scoff at the idea. Speaking of which…

“Where’s Rodney?” John exclaimed.

“Dr. Rodney McKay is in exactly the same place as you.” she replied with a lyrical murmur.

Slowly turning around once again, John carefully looked for any sign of Rodney. Finding only unending nothingness, John glanced at the woman and impatiently said, “Let’s cut to the chase. What do you want?”

“I want nothing at all. It is you who are the reason you are here,” she calmly stated, floating as if she were riding on wind currents.

Suddenly, John felt like slapping himself because he’d forgotten one important detail. “The pillar...err, stone, whatever. Does that have something to do with this?” he asked, waving his hands around.

She smiled at him as one smiles at a slowwitted student that finally solved a problem, which didn’t really help to endear her to John.

“Yes, the ‘Kiviste Rakaels’, or what you would call” -- she paused, her eyes went blank for a moment and then -- “’Lovers Stone’ would be a rough translation.”

~

“Lovers Stone?” Rodney echoed, feeling absolutely dumbfounded. “What do you mean?”

With a patient smile, she explained, “The Lovers Stone is for two people who have feelings for one another to see what can be, since they already know what was and what is. You and Major John Sheppard are in love with one another, so the Stone was activated once you came into the building.”

Trying to wrap his mind over the fact that John returned his feelings, Rodney deflected by asking, “Activated? But nothing happened until we put our hands into the stone.”

Tilting her head to the side, she answered, “Ah, nothing you could see, yes. The initial activation is like a mental suggestion, if you will. Many people are hesitant to see a possible future, especially one with a beloved.”

“That explains why John was so willing to put his hand through the Stone, doesn’t it?” Rodney stated thoughtfully, tapping his chin with a forefinger. “He did seem kind of off, but at the same time, so was I, now that I think about it. It was influencing us so we’d put our hands in it.”

“Your left hands, yes.” She smiled gracefully.

“Why are our left hands so important?” Rodney asked, curious.

“Your left hand is closer to your heart.” Her eyes went blank again, and then she blinked and continued. “Does your planet of origin not have traditions in which one puts a ring on one’s left hand to signify a level of commitment? Those traditions came from the belief that one’s left hand leads to the heart, yes? It is the same principal.”

Eyes narrowing, Rodney asked, “You’re accessing our memories, aren’t you?”

Shrugging elegantly, she replied, “In order to show a possible future, I would need to know who you are. So, yes, I am accessing your thoughts. Worry not, for I will not harm you in anyway. It goes against everything I strive for in doing this.”

~

“What’s the point of showing a possible future? It’s not like you are telling us what will happen with any certainty,” said John, skeptically.

She smiled enigmatically. “You would not believe how many people talk themselves out of reaching for those that they love for various reasons. The two of you are a prime example, really. You are in love and yet you hesitate. Why? And please, do not insult my intelligence by saying” -- blank face one moment, talking the next -- “’it is against the regs’ or ‘people will think differently of me if they find out’. That may be true, but why let such things stand in the way of such a powerful thing as love?”

Taken aback by her impassioned speech, John stumbled over his words. “Well…I-- there are more reasons than those!”

Tossing her hair and standing, hovering really, she continued. “Yes, the Wraith. I have had others come here after they awoke, so I know of them well. But isn’t that more the reason? Love can be so fleeting.” She sighed, suddenly weary, and said, “My being here is to not shower you with words, but to show you what you can have if you just take the leap, as it were. Unfortunately for me, I can only do so much. I cannot make you do anything you would not want to; I can only be a guide for the path less taken.”

She glanced up, looked right into John’s eyes and solemnly added, “I can only hope that the both of you are as brave with your hearts as you are with your lives.”

With that, everything once again faded away…

~

Only for Rodney to become aware of the darkness of night and a warmth stretching across his chest. Looking to his left, Rodney found that the warmth was due to an arm. John’s arm, actually, and he was facing towards Rodney with a peaceful look on his face, asleep. Startled, Rodney sat up with haste, jarring John and waking him up.

Sleepily, John asked. “Are you okay?”

Leaning back against the bed, Rodney replied. “Yeah, I’m fine. How about you, are you okay?”

Rubbing at his eyes, John yawned. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Rodney replied, jumbling over his words. “It’s just the Stone, the whiteness, and…and that--”

John interrupted, bemused in a way only the tired can be. “Waitaminute, what stone?”

“I…” Rodney blinked, and looked towards the far wall. Of course, Rodney thought, why would she stick us in the same possible future? We’d be talking more about what she said than experiencing whatever she throws at us. Scanning the room, Rodney realized that by the looks of it they were back at Atlantis. Looking back at John, Rodney smiled wanly. “It’s nothing, just a really weird dream. I don’t even remember half of it, now.”

“Well then,” said John, tugging at Rodney’s arm, “why don’t you come back to sleep, maybe it will make you forget the rest of it. If not, come morning I’m sure we can figure out a more…creative way of getting rid of unwanted dreams.”

Rodney’s smile widened, looking at John being sly and sleepy all at once. Lying back down, he tentatively put his arm around John’s waist and said, “I suppose that makes sense, although I do hope that we can be creative regardless of unwanted dreams.”

John cupped Rodney’s cheek and lightly kissed him on the lips. Smiling, he sleepily murmured, “You can count on it.”

Watching John fall back asleep, Rodney’s last thought was a whimsical one: an impossible dream, to get everything that one wants…but a beautiful dream nonetheless. Then he, too, fell asleep.

Chapter 2: A Day in the Life

“John?”

Snapping out of his daze, John looked at Elizabeth and said, “What was it that you were saying?”

With a raised eyebrow, Elizabeth asked, “I was just wondering whether you feel there is anything else that needs including?”

John reviewed everything about the meeting so far while looking around the conference table. Catching Rodney’s eye, he watched him shake his head slightly with an undercurrent of affection. Turning back to Elizabeth with a smile, John stated, “Nothing I can think of,” with a shrug.

Elizabeth looked at John for a moment and then, slightly cheerful, said, “Well then, meeting adjourned.”

Getting up from the table, John walked to the doors where he met Rodney. Stifling a yawn, John mumbled a heartfelt, “thanks,” while glancing at Rodney out of the corner of his eye.

Walking down a couple steps, Rodney replied drolly. “Yes, well, someone has to look after you, especially when you’re half asleep.”

“Yes, and whose fault is that?” John whispered hotly, mostly thankful and somewhat disappointed that he only had a vague knowledge of this morning and not an actual memory, courtesy of the woman John decided to think of as ‘Blue’ for simplicity’s sake. It was probably a good thing that he didn’t actually know what Rodney felt, smelled, and tasted like, John figured. It would have been bad enough if he woke up beside him, instead of suddenly finding himself in a meeting after he last saw Blue.

Entering the transporter, John watched Rodney key in their destination and said, “Besides, why aren’t you falling over in exhaustion? You’ve had less sleep than I have.”

Rodney exited the transporter and glanced back, smirking. “You know, you always tease me about drinking eleven cups of coffee a day, and yet here I am, awake and alert. When are you going to learn that coffee is your friend, hmmm?”

John stopped walking and was about to reply to the effect of if he drank more coffee then Rodney would have less in the long run when a blue-shirt came dashing down the hall with the bellow of, “Dr. McKay!” traveling down to the pair.

Rolling his eyes, Rodney straightened away from the wall he had just leaned against and said, “Duty calls,” and then started to walk over to his fellow scientist.

John tugged at Rodney’s elbow before he could get too far, making him turn towards him with a lift of his chin. Smiling, John said, “Lunch, 13:00? I’ll drag you away from the lab if I have to.”

Walking backwards, Rodney smirked and replied. “I count on that about as much as you count on me to watch over you at meetings.” Then with an affectionate tilt of his head, he continued his turn, making a complete circle, and caught up to the other blue-shirt, laptop securely held closed in his right hand.

John’s last remembered thought was that for all that changed between him and Rodney in this supposed dream-world, a lot of it stayed the same.

~

Rodney blinked, and then reached up to rub at his eyes. Glancing at the computer’s clock in front of him, he found that it was close to 1:00 in the morning. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs, he focused his attention back on the code that he was working on, only to be interrupted by movement in his peripheral vision. Looking towards the doorway, Rodney found John leaning against a wall nearby, as usual.

John walked over with a fond look on his face and, placing his hands flat on the counter, asked, “Do I even have to say anything?”

Bemused, Rodney figured he’d let John win, just this once. Mostly. “I’ll leave without complaint, on one condition,” Rodney said, powering down the laptop and smirking, “We stop by the mess hall.”

Shaking his head in mock-exasperation, John replied playfully, but with an edge to it. “Food, work, where do I fit in, I ask you?”

Rodney’s smirk slipped into a more genuine smile, and standing up, he stared into John’s eyes and said, “I wouldn’t willingly risk my life and limb for food, or for everyday work. So I like to think you rank pretty high in the overall scheme of things.”

Rodney knew that when John looked down to his shoulder, he was visualizing the bullet hole that his dream-world self acquired on a mission. A bullet hole that, had Rodney not stepped into the line of fire, would have been directly over John’s heart. Tilting John’s head up by his chin, Rodney leaned in and kissed him lightly on the mouth, knowing they both needed this even if it was risky in the lab. Pulling back, he caressed John’s cheek and tried his best to put everything he couldn’t say into a look. John must have gotten the message, because he smiled and nodded, ducking his head.

Smiling, Rodney grabbed John’s wrist and dragged him towards the door. Once outside in the corridor, they started walking to the mess hall, and he said, lightly, “You know, maybe if we’re lucky there will be some of those Athosian meat cakes left. Those are really good, especially the ones with that vegetable they found on the mainland…What was it called?”

John snorted. “Ford called them tomatapples and it stuck. I swear, that kid can’t name stuff for shit. In fact, did I ever tell you what he tried to name that one bull-like animal on the mainland? Or no, wait, those birds” -- John snapped his fingers -- “the blue and purple ones? He named those…”

Rodney listened on bemusedly and tried not to wish this was all real.

~

John leaned in and kissed Rodney, with one hand moving across the blue fabric of his lower back and the other caressing his cheek. He wondered, briefly, whether Blue was going to stop this soon or allow him to have this moment. Deepening the kiss and slipping his hand under Rodney’s shirt, he wondered whether it would be crueler to allow him this or to take him away, right now. Have it cut away just when he got too close. Maybe next he’ll be in the mess hall or offworld on a mission.

Having Rodney back him up towards the bed, John decided that maybe he should just go with it, regardless of how bittersweet it would be. At least that way, he would have something to remember that would make this worth it. Taking his shirt off and then helping Rodney with his, John stopped thinking.

Chapter 3: A New Dawn, a New Day, a New Life

Rodney surged up out of the water, gasping for breath, only to find John bent over from laughter. Shaking from the cold, he stuttered out, “Oh you didn’t just…You-- Okay that’s it; you are so going to get it.” With that, he ran after John, who, after composing himself, pelted away like a bat out of hell.

Catching up to John was the easy part; if it weren’t for Elizabeth’s distracting him with a cry of, “John! Rodney!” John would have been a pain to actually grab onto. As it was, luck was obviously on Rodney’s side and he managed to get a hold of John’s arm. Half tugging and half pushing, Rodney managed to toss John face first into a wave.

Watching John stand up and sputter like he had moments before, Rodney crossed his arms, smirked, and said, “You know, you were right. Coming to the mainland for a day of relaxation was a good idea.”

~

Glancing towards the back of the jumper, John watched Rodney walk over and sit in the co-pilot’s seat. Twirling the seat around so he was partly facing John, Rodney stretched his feet out and asked, “Why don’t you let me take over and take a break?”

Smiling and shrugging, John replied, “Nah, not right now. I’m actually fine right where I am.” Catching Rodney’s skeptical look, he continued, “Really. This is…peaceful. Zen-like, you know?”

With a wary look, Rodney nodded and said, “Just tell me when you get tired, okay? We don’t need you falling asleep at the controls and slamming in a planet.”

John snorted and changed the subject. “How are Ford and Teyla?”

Trying to massage some tension from his neck, Rodney replied sardonically. “Ford still knows who he is and where we are, so I’m thinking the concussion isn’t too bad. None of the scratches that Teyla sustained look that deep, nor do they look infected, so it looks like she’ll be okay as well. All and all, it looks like we’ll live to see tomorrow.”

Shaking his head ruefully, John stated sarcastically, “You sure do know how to see the silver lining, Rodney.”

“Hmmm, yes, well, that’s one of the reasons why you love me,” Rodney declared, softly.

Locking gazes with Rodney, John murmured affectionately, “One of many.”

~

Half-asleep, Rodney lazily ran his fingers through John’s hair with one hand and traced nonsense patterns above his wrist sweatband with the other. Bemused, Rodney realized it sounded almost like John was purring in contentment.

~

Leaning on the rail that separated the control room from the gateroom, John watched Rodney dress-down some poor technician for some undetermined reason. After the tech scuttled away in fear, Rodney looked up at John, winked, and sauntered --damn him-- away in the opposite direction, directly in John’s line of sight.

~

Rodney stepped out of the bathroom to find that John wasn’t in bed and the covers were missing. Meandering through the bedroom door and into the den, he saw that the balcony door was open, which allowed a nice, warm, ocean breeze to filter through. Finally, Rodney walked outside and found John standing against the railing in nothing but the bedspread, looking outward. Figuring that it wasn’t something he allowed himself to do every day, Rodney went up to John, wrapped his arms around his waist, and watched the sunrise with him.

~

Dozing, John lay against Rodney’s chest, warm and comfortable. He listened to Rodney talk softly about what had been his favorite parts of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King when he had watched it in the theatre. Three times, actually…unsurprisingly. Not that John was any better; he saw it four times himself. Opening his eyes and looking up towards Rodney, John told him that his favorite part was Sam and Frodo, together until the very end, upon a lava-made island and the eagles swooping down to save them. They did that exactly how he how he envisioned it.

Rodney kissed his forehead and caressed his arm softly with his thumb, making him drowsy. John laid his head against Rodney’s chest again and closed his eyes, waiting for sleep to come. Not even a minute away from sleep, John heard Rodney murmur, “I love you”, the words fluttering in the dark like autumn leaves being carried on the wind. Chest tight with emotion, John did the only thing he could, which was tightening his hold around Rodney’s waist and whisper them back.

~

A thousand moments, a thousand days;
a thousand seconds, a thousand ways.
All passing on by;
with a blink of an eye.


~

Rodney blinked, disjointedly. Looking to his left, he saw a Genii soldier rush past where he was crouching, gun armed and ready, pointing at John. Rodney drew his gun and unlocked the safety as if it was second nature, aimed at the soldier, and fired. Running up to the man with his gun out, Rodney saw that the bullet had hit him in the upper chest area, and he kicked the gun away from the Genii’s outstretched hand. Pressing his back against a wall, Rodney assessed the situation.

It looked as if they were in a partly destroyed building of some kind. Ford was to his left, hitting a soldier in the face with the butt of his P90, and Teyla was fighting a woman with a knife and a stick in front of him. John was…not where he had seen him last. He must have gone through the doorway to his right. Creeping along the wall to the door, he heard gunfire. Whirling around the doorway with his gun ready, Rodney froze.

In front of him was Cowen, aiming his gun at John. John was on the ground, with his head up slightly and his hand searching for his gun. Between one breath and the next, Rodney fired twice, hitting Cowen once in the shoulder, which sent him spinning, and again directly over the heart. Not even waiting for Cowen to fall, Rodney rushed to John’s side. Looking at the damage, Rodney belatedly realized that the gunfire he heard earlier was three shots; all which managed to hit John in the chest and stomach area.

Rodney took a hold of John’s hand and squeezed hard, tears forming in his eyes. Suddenly, as if everything was going in slow motion, Rodney watched John look into his eyes with a deep sadness and breathe his last breath.

~

Dragging Rodney through the Stargate, John lowered him down onto the cold floor of the gateroom, and putting more pressure to his knife wound, barely registered Ford’s yelling that they have a medical emergency. Rodney was so pale from blood loss that John put his right hand on his neck to check for his pulse. Blood, black as the darkest night, poured our from under his other hand with each weak beat of Rodney’s heart. A wound to the liver, John’s mind supplied from -- of all things -- a barely remembered movie about an assassin.

If John knew anything, it was the fact that the bastard who knifed Rodney was one person he wouldn’t lose sleep over having killed, emptying the rest of the magazine from his P90 in doing so.

Finally, Carson and the rest of the medical team arrived in what felt like a lifetime but was, in reality, less than two minutes. Hoisting Rodney onto the gurney, the medical team rushed him to the infirmary, working on him as they went. John ran after them with, he knew, Ford, Teyla, and at least Elizabeth behind him.

Once he hit the infirmary, John heard the most unpleasant sound: the steady piercing whine of a heart monitor indicating to whom the one that it is connected to is flatlining. As John stood there, in the middle of the room, he watched Carson put the paddles of a defibrillator to Rodney’s chest, hoping to jump-start his heart. He continued watching as Carson tried the paddles seven times, desperation clear on his face, until one of his nurses laid her hand over his arms in a gesture telling him to stop.

John backed away in a mixture of horror and denial, and bumped into Teyla, who had tears running down her face. John continued to back up until he hit the wall and then he slid down, his left hand creating a streak of black, sticky blood to trail down with him.

The only thing that ran through John’s mind was, ‘Nononononononono--‘

~

NO!” Rodney yelled in desperation, but, interestingly enough, heard in stereo. Blinking twice, Rodney turned to his right and saw John staring at him, looking as broken and confused as he felt.

A blend of, “Oh my god, Rodney!” and, “John, you’re alive!” was heard jumbled together, followed by two people who desperately rushed towards one another. Once within arm’s length, they practically fused together, and fell to their knees.

Rodney clutched John tightly, breathing deep breaths to try to control his emotions. After a few moments, Rodney leaned back and looked into John’s sunlight burned eyes. Touching foreheads, Rodney couldn’t stop touching John, caressing a cheek, squeezing an arm, trailing a hand down his chest. Obviously John didn’t mind, since he was doing the same thing.

Breaking the silence, John murmured, “I thought I lost you.”

Rodney opened his mouth to reply, only to feel the curious sensation of someone other than John watching him. John must have felt it too, for they both broke eye contact at the same time to look around, and Rodney finally noticed that they were once again surrounded by the unnerving whiteness.

Not even a moment later, Rodney felt John freeze, and looked back at him, only to see John stare off to the right, anger coloring his face. Turning to look, Rodney saw exactly whom he was expecting to see, the woman in the black kimono. Strangely enough, Rodney felt too drained to be angry, unlike John, who was vibrating with rage.

Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, John stood up and exploded with, “Where the fuck do you get the right to play with people like this?”

Rodney stood up and placed a hand on John’s shoulder, partly in support and partly to make sure he didn’t attempt to hurt the floating woman.

Head held regally, the woman simply stated, “In order for the two of you to make the correct decision, you have to know all. That includes the bad with the good, and both of you know that there is always a chance either one of you could not come back each time you step through the stargate.”

Tilting her head to the side, she continued, “You have a saying on your planet of origin, ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’, yes? I hope that in experiencing everything that you went through here, you will take that to heart.”

Squinting in concentration, Rodney really looked at the woman, who seemed to be very heartfelt in what she was saying. Glancing at John, who seemed calmer after his outburst, he asked, “So what now?”

Smiling genuinely, she replied, “Now, I have a gift for you, one that I am sure you will appreciate.” And with that she snapped her fingers twice and the world faded away.

Epilogue: To Have Loved or Never to Have Loved?

Blinking, John realized that he was facing Rodney and staring into his eyes.

“Sir?”

Startled, John looked to his left and saw Ford and Teyla standing in the doorway to the domed building.

John watched Ford look back and forth between Rodney and him with a questioning look on his face and continued. “Teyla and I tried to contact both of you five minutes ago when it was time to check in, and neither of you answered. Is there something wrong?”

Shaking his head to clear it, John answered, “No, there is nothing wrong, Lieutenant.”

Teyla stepped forward with a look of relief clearly on her face and inquired, “Why are the two of you holding hands within that stone?”

Glancing at Rodney, he caught his eye and looked down at the Stone with a raised eyebrow. Both of them let go of one another’s hands simultaneously, and John tried to come up with an answer, beginning with, “Uhh…”

Rodney, in typical fashion, butted in with, “The writing at the bottom suggested we do so. Once we did, there were some weird noises and lights, which might have something to do with why we didn’t answer you over the radios.”

Beaming at Rodney for being the genius he is, John was about to agree when the Stone suddenly started to open up at the top. It split down the middle until about a foot under the circle and then it folded down, one side towards Rodney and the other towards him. Shortly after that, something started to come out of the top…Something that looked suspiciously like a--

“ZedPM!” shouted Rodney, eyes widened with disbelief.

Speechless for a moment, John glanced at Ford, who had a big grin on his face, and Teyla, who was looking at the ZPM with a startled yet pleased look upon hers. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, John looked back at Rodney, who was slowly, almost reverently, taking the ZPM out of the Stone. Watching Rodney look it over with a gleeful look on his face, John turned to the others and said, “Well it looks like it’s time to pack it up, kids, we’re going back to Atlantis.”

Teyla and Ford both turned around and exited the building, taking the lead. John stepped beside Rodney and heard him murmur, “Well, damn, this sure is some gift.”

John couldn’t agree more.

~

Once in the Jumper Bay, John shut down the jumper and stood up, bumping shoulders with Rodney, who grinned. In fact, everyone was grinning, joyous in the fact that they were able to bring home a ZPM. By the time they reached the open hatch, both Elizabeth and Dr. Zelenka were standing there, waiting for them.

The look on both their faces when they saw the ZPM was priceless, John thought, watching Rodney amble over to them with it in his hands, talking a mile a minute. After doing initial scans in the jumper, Rodney had figured the ZPM was about 75% charged, which definitely meant a go for the shields as well as plenty of other systems.

John smiled, leaned against the back of the Jumper, and tried not to think what he and Rodney went through for it.

~

Three days later, after the shields went up and the blue-shirts had conniptions all over the place trying to get various systems up and running, Elizabeth ordered Rodney to take off 48 hours, saying that Drs. Zelenka and Grodin could take care of the day-to-day stuff for that time. It was probably a good thing she did that, John reflected, considering he didn’t think Rodney had been asleep since they got back from Blue’s planet.

Unfortunately, that brought forth a dilemma, one which even after three days John didn’t know how to solve. The dilemma being, of course, the fact that he and Rodney haven’t spoken a word about what happened between the two of them on that planet.

Which is why he was standing outside of Rodney’s door, wondering whether he should knock. Just as he was about to raise his hand, the door opened with Rodney standing in the doorway, looking wary. Once Rodney realized that it was John, the wariness was replaced with a kaleidoscope of emotions, including anxiety, desire, pain, sadness, and love. In fact, John thought, love has been one of the emotions that he had caught fleeting glimpses of fluttering across Rodney’s face for a while now. John felt like kicking himself, because really, just how long had Rodney been in love with him?

Lost in thought, John was slightly startled when Rodney moved out of the way with a “Come in.” Stepping through the doorway, John scratched at the back of his head, nervous. Rodney noticed and smiled wanly, sitting on his bed. John scooted the desk chair over to sit in front of Rodney and sat down, trying to figure out what to say. Glancing up, John locked gazes with Rodney and said, “Two choices, ‘to have loved’ or ‘never to have loved’.”

Rodney nodded, and then blurted out, “Call me insane or whatever, but I choose ‘to have loved’.”

Smiling, John quirked an eyebrow and, sliding closer to the bed, said, “Really?”

With a lop-sided grin, Rodney leaned forward, stated, “Really, really,” and kissed John.

Fin. ^_~
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