Alone In Your Mind, Part Two

~ Many thanks to Mice for the beta, sniffles, and squee.

Dinner was surprisingly normal. What passed for normal in another galaxy for a man whose head had been taken over by an ancient repair schedule and was apparently being accepted into an established relationship with the man he loved and his lover.

They talked about nothing important -- the things Rodney wanted to do in the lab while there was no one around to disrupt his work. The chances that the SGC would fuck up Weir's personnel requests. Whether or not any team John liked had even made it to the playoffs and if someone would think to let him know when they returned to Atlantis.

Skirting around topics that needed to be discussed, but no one seemed pressed to do that just yet. As such, dinner went smoothly and it was somewhat of a surprise when John stood up and took their empty plates away, and Rodney turned to him and said, "So. My place or yours?"

Carson was glad he'd finished eating, as he was fairly certain he would have choked.

"Oh, come on. You didn't think you were sleeping alone tonight?"

How the devil Rodney could be so calm about it, Carson didn't know. "I was trying not to think about it," he confessed.

Rodney's face fell, slightly -- but it was the put-on sort of disappointment, and not sincere. "You don't want to?"

"I do," Carson said, seriously. He watched as Rodney's expression changed to a smile without any hint of smugness that made him look like a boy. "But I think we should -- all of us -- talk, before we--"

"Talk can wait 'til tomorrow," John interrupted. "The only thing anyone has to say right now is whether you want Rodney to yourself tonight, or if we share."

It took Carson several moments to unswallow his tongue and get oxygen back into his lungs. How could they be so cavalier.... Well, then they'd had all day to discuss it, hadn't they? He'd holed himself up with his repair work and thought as little about it as he had been able to manage.

He realised John and Rodney were both watching him. Waiting.


"You've discussed this?" he found himself asking, probably to avoid having to answer the question.

"We didn't have a lot else to do all day," Rodney said, sharply. "What with us in different places waiting for someone to show up."

Carson glanced down at the tabletop. "I'm sorry. I--"

"None of that," John interrupted. "Just answer the question."

And there it was, wasn't it? Carson forced himself to look up at Rodney. "I do very much want to spend the night with you."

There was that smile again, the wide, beaming joy that Carson had fallen in love with. "That wasn't the question, actually," Rodney said. But it was clear it had been well said.

Carson cleared his throat, and had no idea how to say what it was he wanted.

He supposed it would be easier if he *knew*. He'd thought about being with Rodney, before. Thought about it quite a lot, even when he'd known -- believed, rather -- that it wouldn't ever happen.

He hadn't quite thought about John in the same way, beyond noticing the man's obvious attractiveness. He *did* have a nice arse. And he kissed like the devil himself.

And perhaps having him there would keep Carson from losing himself in Rodney.

"I...hell. I don't know."

"We could flip a coin?" John suggested. It didn't sound like he was concerned either way.

Rodney said, "We could all think of a number between one and the square root of negative one."

John and Carson both stared at him. "How is that going to answer the question?" Carson finally asked.

Rodney shrugged. "Whoever's the closest to the right number gets to go first?"

John's hand shot into the air immediately. "Twelve."

Carson just looked from Rodney to John and back again. He segued into a head shake which made Rodney give him a concerned look. "Fine. Both of you. Come on, then."

He stood up and walked away from the table, knowing they'd either follow him, or he'd have some peace for a night.

The walk back to his quarters was longer than it had ever been. He could hear John and Rodney behind him, footsteps ringing on the metal floor. None of them said a word and Carson hoped that they were as nervous as he was. It might have made more sense to hope they weren't nervous and that at least one of them would know what they were doing. But Carson didn't want to be the only one who tripped over his own feet trying to get undressed.

Undressed. His brain latched onto the word and spun slowly around. Yes, they'd already done this once. If fumbling at each other in the hallway could be considered having sex. But the notion of doing this deliberately made him feel like he'd never had sex before, at all.

He prayed to god this wouldn't go like his actual first time had. The fact that he and Seamus had survived the encounter at all was due entirely to Seamus' quick reflexes and the shatter-resistance of pyrex. They'd managed to have another go at it, though, and eventually figured out how it was done. Learnt to enjoy it, even, and that gave him hope that this wasn't going to be a bad idea.

"I still think boxers," John said as Carson reached his door. Carson turned and looked at him. "When you sleep, I mean. I can tell what you wear under your uniform."

"I'm still hoping for more of a 'sleep in the nude' outfit," Rodney said. "I find it more comfortable, myself."

And *that* image distracted Carson from whatever he might have said in response -- such as demanding to know how often they'd discussed what he slept in. He opened his door and went inside, and if they followed... they could find out for themselves.

Not surprisingly, they followed. Carson wondered whether to leave the lights low, or turn them up, and settled for half-lit. Adjusting them
with a quick thought, he hoped he'd guessed right. Not that he didn't want to see, but -- well, he was nervous and that was all there was to it.

Rodney clapped his hands, once. "Do we want to dive right in, or would anyone prefer a drink, first?"

"Oh, very romantic," Carson told him, rolling his eyes.

"And 'fancy a shag' is more romantic?" Rodney raised an eyebrow.

"I never said it was," Carson objected. "I'm just-- Nevermind. What... what are we doing?"

"Is that a logistics question, or a metaphysical one?" John asked. "I can answer the first one. The second is going to require alcohol."

"Er... logistics, actually," Carson said. "I was hoping to ignore the metaphysical aspects for awhile."

"Excellent!" John looked pleased. "Then I'd like to recommend -- first, we need something other than the bed." He pointed at Carson's bed, which was just big enough to fit two.

Rodney frowned. "Hmm. You're right. Maybe if we grab a couple of mattresses and put them on the floor? Not the best option, but--"

Carson walked over to the bed and pulled out the frame. The catch was hidden and impossible to locate unless you knew it was there -- and had the ATA gene for triggering the mechanism. But the schematic for expanding the bed frame was simple to understand. They'd still need another mattress, but they could steal one from next door easily enough.

He looked up to find John and Rodney staring at him.

"Do they *all* do that?" Rodney asked.

"I think so," Carson said. He didn't really want to call up the details for every bed frame in Atlantis. "Yours and John's do, which is... all that matters, I believe?" He also didn't want to know how closely Murdoc was following the conversation, given that the only schematics that had popped up were their two.

Rodney and John exchanged a look which Carson couldn't read. Then, "So let's go steal some mattresses," John said.

Rodney nodded, then grinned. "Isn't Kavanagh's room just down the hall?"

John made a face. "I am *not* having sex on his mattress."

"But we'll have to put it back before everyone returns from Earth."

"I... OK, a point." John nodded.

"There's dozens of rooms not being used at all," Carson reminded them. Why did he feel like he'd just acquired custody of two small children?

"And Weir said she might be able to find someone else to bring back and leave Kavanagh on Earth," John said.

"Oh, really? I did ask for a ferret," Rodney said. John gave him a look like he thought Rodney wasn't making any sense.

"Mattress," Carson repeated.

"I'll go. You two... well, don't wait for me. But don't spend it all in one place."

Carson double-checked the index in his head to make sure there was no Ancient technology that allowed one to vanish through the floor. Nothing obvious, but several promising entries that he'd have to look into -- possibly before John could get back.

John left, and Carson found Rodney staring at him. "Er... yes?"

"Wow," was all Rodney said.

Carson found himself grinning like a loon. "Aye. I find myself thinking the same thing. Are you--"

"If that sentence ends with 'sure you want to do this', I'm going to strip you down right here and fuck you until you stop asking stupid questions."

Carson blinked. He tried to find his voice. "...sure you want to do this?" he asked, quickly, knowing he was grinning eagerly and not really caring.

"Right," Rodney said, nodding with an air of determination. He walked over, stopped in front of Carson and took hold of Carson's shirt. Carson stood still, not sure if he really meant to proceed with such force -- but willing to allow it. He had other shirts. Not many, but enough he could spare one to Rodney.

But Rodney grabbed it by the hem and yanked upwards -- not tearing the fabric, but making Carson have to raise his arms fast to avoid being strangled. Rodney threw the shirt behind him onto the floor, then put his hands on Carson's trousers.

He half-expected some hesitation -- a last minute query if this were all right. But Rodney didn't even pause. He unzipped the fly and pulled them down, trousers and underwear together. Carson hurriedly stepped out of them, tripping over his boots and the fabric tangled around his feet. Rodney just pushed him down onto the bed, missing the mattress, and yanked his boots and socks off.

Carson didn't try very hard to crawl over onto the mattress half of the bed. He did try to roll over, off of his extremely hard cock so he wouldn't cause himself any damage before Rodney could have a chance at him.

After nearly throwing the last of Carson's clothes across the room, Rodney simply stood at the foot of the bed and looked at him. Carson had to fight the urge to cover himself. He had to fight it again as his door opened and John came in carrying a mattress. He paused just inside the doorway and stared.

"I found a mattress," he said in a casual tone that didn't at all reach his eyes. He was as tense as Rodney -- both of them standing there, still fully dressed, damn them. Staring at him.

John walked over and laid the mattress on the bed, then slipped off his jacket.

"Roll over," Rodney said, in a tone halfway between commanding, and gentle.

"Which direction?" Carson asked, shocking himself at being able to speak at all.

Rodney and John looked at each other, mouthed a few things Carson couldn't make out. John shrugged and Rodney nodded. "Onto your back."

Carson tried to swallow the whimper and he did as he was told. He wasn't sure where to put his legs -- feet on the bed, lay them out flat, go ahead and bring his knees to his chest where he really wanted them to be? As long as they stopped standing there gaping at him, and one of them got over here and did something, he didn't try to decide.

"Oh, yeah." John knelt on the bed beside him. Looking down at him, his expression was full of hunger. John reached out and placed a hand on Carson's chest, lighting running his palm down Carson's side. "Did anyone think to bring some lube?"

"The drawer," Carson said, pointing to the sidetable. He didn't want to explain why he had it. But they didn't ask, and John leaned across him to reach for it. Lying on top of him, and Carson had thought he was as hard as he could get. But John's weight on him, regardless that he was still mostly dressed, made his cock jump. He didn't fight back the groan, and John looked down at him, without moving away.

"Too heavy?" he asked, though Carson was pretty sure he knew exactly why he was moaning.

Carson didn't bother answering. He moved his hips, trying to get his legs up, and he felt Rodney's hands on his legs. Pulling them up, exposing him and pushing his cock not-so-inadvertantly against John. John handed over the lube and shifted just enough to reach Carson's mouth. He kissed him, then, even as Carson felt a finger, cool and slick, touch his arse.

He whimpered into the kiss. He opened his mouth to let John in -- didn't have to do a thing to let Rodney have him. His knees were pushed into John's side, and John's tongue was rubbing his own, pushing his way into Carson's mouth. The same way Rodney's finger was opening him up, moving inside him and making him need desperately to gasp for air.

He grabbed onto John's shirt, not extraordinarily glad he was still clothed -- but none of them seemed ready to stop long enough to fix that. He certainly didn't want to let John go, even though he wanted to feel skin. Feel more than John's mouth and Rodney's finger-- He gasped as suddenly there were two. Stretching him, now, and Carson arched his back, wanting to push himself down onto Rodney's hand.

"Oh, god, yes," John breathed, then began laying kisses all down Carson's neck and collarbone. Light, and quick, and almost not at all like the fierce kiss they'd begun with. It didn't matter, because it was all driving Carson crazy, anyway. When Rodney's fingers disappeared he was able to catch his breath, and his mind cleared just enough he could try to look to see what he was doing.

What he was doing, was removing his clothes. Dropping his shirt and trousers on the floor, then he was there, naked, and kneeling on the bed between Carson's legs. Carson couldn't help but whimper again, pulling his legs up even more, pressing John against his torso to let Rodney at him.

"Oh, *god*." John had turned his head and was watching. Still lying across him, but staring at Rodney. Watching as Rodney moved closer, and Carson could feel the head of his cock at his arsehole. John's breathing was growing faster -- odd that he could hear it more clearly than he could feel his own. Maybe he wasn't breathing at all.

"Oh, god, Rodney...." John was doing all the talking for him, so he didn't need to breathe. Rodney was just sitting there, not entering him. Carson tried to shift downwards, but he couldn't move with John still on top of him. He felt a hand -- not sure whose -- caress his thigh.

"Come on, already," John ordered, and Carson whispered a silent thank you.

Because Rodney did as requested, and pushed himself inside. Fucked him, oh so slowly and Carson was sure he would probably die before Rodney could fuck him properly. John was still talking, saying things that Carson thought might only be inside his head. Maybe John was reading his mind.

Carson moaned as Rodney pulled back out a bit and he thought seriously about killing him. Killing him and getting John to fuck him, if he'd promise to do so and not tease. But then Rodney was moving inside him again, and going farther this time.

"Oh, fuck yes," John said, and Carson realised that John was staring. *Staring* at him being fucked by Rodney.

He nearly came, right there. He had no idea why he didn't because he felt like the only other option was to explode into a thousand pieces. Rodney didn't seem to notice his problem, as he just kept moving god-so-slowly in and out.

Now John was the one whimpering. He reached down into his trousers, his weight falling for a moment fully onto Carson. Carson tried to reach over to help, happy to get a hand on John's cock. It took a bit of doing, given that he could barely think clearly or move with any agility at all. But he found his hand being wrapped around John's cock, and he began to stroke it. This was something he could do even without brain cells working properly.

Rodney was still going slow. In, out, like there was no sex going on at all and the man was just thinking. Carson lifted his head to get a better look, knowing that if there was the slightest bit of distraction on Rodney's face, he was going to make him pay.

But Rodney was staring at where Carson's hand was moving -- Carson slowed his hand down to match the torturous rhythm Rodney had set. Back and forth as Rodney thrust in and pulled out, until Carson couldn't be sure which of them was following the other. Ironic, then, that he would be torturing *himself.*

"Please, dammit," John begged, and he put his hand over Carson's. He began jerking himself off with a much faster stroke -- which Rodney did not follow. But it didn't seem to matter, because Carson was about to come, right along with John who was jerking himself off with Carson's hand. John was still staring at Rodney fucking him, and dear god how could Rodney just be there as though none of this was happening?

Carson gasped, and couldn't control the long, keening moan that crawled out of his throat. He was coming, and he didn't try to fight it, didn't try to muffle the noises like he'd once had to do. His body tightened, and if John hadn't been atop him he felt he might have flung himself from the bed.

He heard someone whispering; it sounded like a deep appreciation of what he was doing. That was fine, he was happy to do it. His every cell was vanishing into the ether and he was fairly certain from the sound of it that John's were as well. His hand was still gripped around John's cock, and he heard a sharp, loud shout.

"Oh, fuck," Rodney said, and finally -- finally, god! -- he began fucking Carson as hard as he ought.

Carson's orgasm was winding down, but he didn't try to move. He let his body collapse and just be there for Rodney to fuck as he pleased. His cock twitched at the thought as John rolled away. Not far -- he stood up and lost the rest of his clothing. Then he leaned over and gave Rodney a long kiss. Touched him, pinching a nipple and running his hand down Rodney's chest, to his stomach. Held him as Rodney's eyes began to roll up, and Carson could only lie there and watch.

Rodney made not a single noise as he came, though it might have been the way John's mouth never moved from his. Either way, there was a moment in which none of them were moving and the room was silent. Carson held himself still until the moment Rodney began to fall sideways. He pulled his leg out of the way and helped John guide Rodney down onto the bed. John followed, and the resulting pile made Carson wonder why he'd bothered expanding the bed at all.

There were kisses exchanged, and hands wandering and petting. But otherwise no one moved and before he knew it, Carson was falling
asleep in the tangle.

Waking up was a slow, extremely comfortable affair. There was a warm body nestled in his arms, a leg tangled in-between his, and absolutely no part of his body that was cold -- which meant that John had failed to steal the blanket during the night.

Rodney shifted a little, thinking that there was a reason why his brain was telling him he could stay in bed today. Nothing on the schedule... aha. Yes. No work for a month, because everyone had gone to Earth.

His eyes snapped open as the rest of the previous day flooded his brain and he found Carson's sleeping face only a few inches away from his own.

Oh. Oh, yeah. Not 'oh yeah' in a bad way, he hastened to assure himself. But -- wow.

He hadn't actually thought Carson would say yes. He'd been hoping, wishing for it since Antarctica and meeting him for the first time and hearing that voice and seeing those eyes and that ass. But he'd resigned himself to a world of 'no' until -- was it only yesterday? Good thing Rodney was genius enough not to have hesitated when Carson had agreed because if he had, Rodney would have to turn in his Mensa card.

Carson stirred and Rodney found his thoughts stuttering to a halt. God, he was beautiful. Handsome. Guys were handsome, sunsets were beautiful. Carson was handsome.

And sexy as anything, and Rodney wondered if it would be too much of a morning-after cliche to wake Carson and John up to have another round. Of course that would mean getting his arm back from under Carson's head and reviving it first so he'd have the use of it. That thought led to whether or not he would rather go to the bathroom, then get a cup of coffee, and *then* have morning-after sex.

Since he didn't have to prevent John from rushing off to work, nor field frantic calls from the lab of people saying that if he didn't get down there right now the city was going to blow up -- he thought he might just manage it today.

Plan made, Rodney leaned down and gave each sleeping face a kiss -- keeping his mouth closed because he might be having sex with them but that didn't mean he had to endure morning breath -- and eased himself out of the bed. Magically expanding bed, he remembered, and added it to the ever-growing list of things he had to make Carson show him and gripe about the fact he had to *make* Carson do it instead of sharing freely.

He might actually be able to get through his list in the next four weeks. They had time, and it wasn't like Carson was going to get away from him again. If he had to duct tape him to Rodney's ankle, he wasn't going anywhere without Rodney shadowing him.

Second-most important business of the morning dealt with, Rodney wandered out of the bathroom and over to the corner of Carson's room that served as a kitchenette. He had no idea what Carson had by way of coffee substitute -- Atlantis had run out a month ago, and didn't every scientist in his department have strict orders to bring back more -- but he knew there would be something that could charitably be called tea. Whether or not he wanted tea was another question entirely. He set water on the hot place to boil, and dug around to find three cups.

He only found two, so he made a mental note to steal Christie's coffee mug and bring it down here. He was getting the so-called tea ready when he heard noise from the bed. Glancing over, he saw John leaning over and placing a kiss on Carson's cheek.

Rodney just stared for a moment, not bothering to wonder why he was grinning like a sap. John looked up and his expression turned into one of eager interest -- because of the tea, Rodney knew. He'd spent enough mornings with John to know the difference between 'naked Rodney' and 'bring me that cup.' Though he pretended otherwise, John was just as addicted to caffeine as Rodney was.

"It's still seeping," Rodney said.

John opened his mouth to say something, paused, then frowned. "It's tea?"

"Go figure. The Scots never have learned how to be a civilized people." Rodney glanced at Carson, but he didn't stir.

"I thought tea *was* civilized," John said, getting out of bed and walking over to get the cup of tea, despite the fact it wouldn't be drinkable for another three minutes. Or ever, depending on what blend it was.

"Coffee is civilized. Beer, also. Fresh black tea from Tetley's, possibly. But the stuff we've been getting from the Athosian village? Is like pouring water over grass."

"So why are we drinking it?" John took a sip of his, then looked surprised. He stared into the cup as Rodney answered him.

"Because neither of us wants to go back to my quarters and get-- what? What's wrong?"

John was motioning towards Rodney's cup, trying to either pull it away from him, or dump it onto his head.

"What are you doing?"

"Taste it!"

He started to ask why, then figured it would be easier to taste, as directed. He did so, then took another taste. He swirled the water a bit, trying to stir it. In case that made a difference. Then he took another taste.

Rodney set his cup down on the table, and stalked over to the bed. He shook Carson's shoulder. Carson muttered, and rolled away from him.

"Wake up, Carson. Where did you get the instant coffee?"

Carson didn't stir. Rodney thumped him this time, not trying to actually cause damage. Yet. Carson muttered something distinctly cranky and rolled away farther. In the bed that was big enough for him to do so, Rodney noted again.

"Carson!" John snapped, having come over to assist.

Carson finally opened one eye. "Whuh?" He blinked at them blearily.

"Coffee," Rodney said.

"Do' wan any, thankee." Carson closed his eyes again.

"Where did you get it," Rodney asked again. "And why didn't you *tell* anyone?" It didn't really matter to Rodney that the instant coffee tasted like *crap* coffee. It wasn't good for instant instant coffee. It was more like instant coffee's third cousin twice removed.

It was the most coffee-like thing he'd had in weeks. He shook Carson again.

There was a moment when Carson didn't respond, and Rodney thought he might have to dump Carson out of the bed. But eventually Carson opened his eyes and looked up at them.

"What are you on about?"

"You have instant coffee," Rodney said. "And I'm deeply hurt you didn't tell us."

Carson was blinking at them again and Rodney wondered if he was really awake. He certainly looked more asleep than awake.

It occurred to him that a half-awake, naked Carson was possibly the most adorable thing he'd ever seen. But he told himself to focus. Coffee was *important*, dammit. Not as important as giving Carson a kiss, but at the moment he was irritated. He took another drink of his coffee and could feel the various caffeine-deprived systems in his brain waking up after a long, cold sleep.

"I don't have coffee," Carson finally said.

"Then what, pray tell, are we drinking?"

Carson took a moment to focus on the cups in his and John's hands. "Tea?" he said, obviously guessing. He rubbed a hand over his face and yawned. Blinked again and Rodney had a feeling that if he didn't keep Carson talking, he'd fall back to sleep.

"It isn't tea. It looks like tea, it was in a tin labeled 'tea', but it is clearly coffee. Not great coffee, to be sure. But coffee nonetheless. And we want to know where you got it."

There was a long moment when Carson just looked at them. Then he pushed himself into a sitting position, and stared at the cups in their hands. "Tea," he repeated.

"Clearly you aren't awake." Rodney sat down beside Carson and showed him the inside of his cup. He pulled at Carson's shoulder to bring him forward so he could get a sniff. Carson did so, then looked up at him. Eyes still half-open, and Rodney felt badly for not letting him go back to sleep.

Sort of.

Carson nodded and made as though to lie back down. John caught him, and kept him upright. "Just tell us where you got it, and you can sleep in as long as you like. Promise."

"From Teyla," Carson said, yawning again.

Rodney glanced at John, who looked equally confused. "She doesn't have coffee."

"No," Carson agreed, nodding. "Tea." Carson's eyes were closed again, and despite being held upright, he falling back asleep.

"Carson! Taste this." Rodney held the cup out. Carson tried to open his eyes, and after a bit, took the cup from Rodney. He sipped it, then nodded.

"Seeped a bit long," he said, giving the cup back.

"It isn't tea," Rodney insisted.

Carson finally opened an eye, and finally, for the first time all morning, looked awake. "Who was it warned me I was sleeping with morning people?" he asked.

"We're only morning people when we have our coffee," John said.

It took a moment for Carson to process this, then -- blessedly -- his face cleared. "Oh. Oh, the tea. Aye, Teyla said you'd like it. Tastes like coffee, if it's brewed right."

Rodney stared at him. John was as well, which made Rodney feel better about not having a fucking clue what Carson meant. Carson looked back at them, yawned, rubbed his face and sighed. "She gave me the tea a couple weeks ago. Said she'd tried to give some to the pair of you but you," he nodded at Rodney, "Turned your nose up as soon as the word 'tea' left her mouth. She said you'd hear about it eventually, and it would serve you right."

Rodney looked at John. "What did *you* do to piss her off?"

John shrugged. "Could be any number of things."

"So now that your great mystery is solved, might I be excused for a moment?" Carson nodded towards the bathroom.

"I still think you should have told us." Rodney took another drink of his tea as Carson scooted past him to get out of the bed. Damn, but it tasted like coffee. Almost. Close enough that Carson was going to-- walk away from them, bare-ass naked.

Rodney dropped his cup.

"Yeah. I was thinking the same thing," John said.

"We're brilliant," Rodney said.

"Because we decided to be here when he walked away like that?"

"Exactly." Rodney waited for Carson to come back out, because then he'd be walking towards them.

"I believe I was the one who figured out he wanted to sleep with you," John said with a smug tone.

Rodney couldn't believe he was trying to out-do him on *this*. "And I'm the one who made a pass at him first!"

"Which he didn't even realise was you making a pass!" John countered.

"That's not my fault! My point is, *I* decided he had a great arse and needed to be naked as often as possible. In my presence," he hastened to add.

"Only because I didn't even meet him until we were ready to come to Atlantis." John frowned at him.

"You don't really argue about this, do you?" Carson asked. They turned and Rodney cursed.

Carson was wearing a bathrobe. And looking at them like he was blushing red from head to toe, only they couldn't tell because -- bathrobe.

"We also argue about whether or not Radek would--"

Rodney elbowed John in the ribs. Too late; Carson's eyebrows had crawled straight up and his eyes had gone wide enough to qualify him for a manga publication.

"Ignore him," Rodney said. "Why are you wearing clothes?"

Carson looked down, as though making sure he knew what Rodney was talking about. He looked confused when he raised his head again. "Because I don't fancy wandering the hallways in my all-together?"

"We're having sex in the hallway again? Cool." John set his cup down.

"I meant, breakfast." Carson seemed a lot less poised than he had last night. Well, Rodney amended the thought, he'd only seemed poised once they'd got him aroused enough to stop stammering.

Rodney was about to cast his vote with John, when his stomach growled. Carson gave him a very slight but extremely amused grin. That, coupled with the thought he was reluctantly having about maybe not going so fast that Carson decided this was a horrible mistake, made him say, "We can do breakfast."

John nodded, though he looked disappointed. Then he brightened. "Sex in the mess hall?"

Carson made a choking sound.

"At the biologists' table," Rodney suggested.

"I just wanted oatmeal," Carson said, in a weak voice.

"Oh, not again." Carson set down his spoon. He'd got halfway through his oatmeal before John had flung a spoonful of his own at him. Warm oatmeal had landed right on his shoulder and stuck there.

John just grinned, evilly. It was a look Carson was definitely learning to associate heavily with the man.

"He just likes licking it off," Rodney said casually. He was sitting beside Carson, with John on the opposite side of the table. Both John and Rodney were completely and utterly naked -- which Carson found extremely distracting. He'd kept his robe on until they'd sat down -- at which point Rodney had pulled it open and down, and explained that it wasn't fair for him to wear a robe while everyone else in the room was naked.

"So I've noticed." Carson didn't try to wipe it off. He'd done that the first morning, and been faced with not only a severely pouting John Sheppard, but he'd had oatmeal flung at him from both directions.

It had all led to a very bewildering day -- they'd actually had sex in the mess hall, which meant Carson wouldn't be able to eat here ever again once everyone returned from Earth. They'd done some heavy petting in the hallway, and when Carson had suggested getting some work done in the gateroom, he'd been given front row seat to John and Rodney making out on the floor in front of the stargate.

He'd thought about dialing the gate, just to see how fast they could run. But he'd stifled the urge, and now -- with John leaning over the table to start licking him clean -- he thought perhaps he should have done it.

Not that he really minded having John's tongue all over him while Rodney made encouraging noises. But he wished something about this whole situation could have been something he'd not have been ashamed to tell his mother about.

He realised he hadn't given his family a single thought since he'd seen John and Rodney standing in the gateroom two days ago.

"What's wrong?" John looked up, half-lying across the table.

Carson shook his head.

"Carson?" Rodney touched his hand, briefly.

"Sorry, I-- just had a bit of...homesickness."

John raised an eyebrow. "While I'm licking oatmeal off your shoulder? This was something you did a lot, back home?" Despite his words, his tone was soft and serious.

"I was just wondering how I'd ever explain you to my mum. I think she'd.... No. After Josh, she'd likely just insist you both come for dinner, Sundays. But I don't think I'd be able to eat a single bite for fear what you two would be doing under the table."

John smiled. "I'd be very good at your mother's," he promised.

"In the car home, after, he'd be bad," Rodney said, matter-of-factly.

Carson couldn't believe they were sitting there, talking about impossibilities as though it were only a matter of time. As though either of them would ever really go visit his mum -- though of course John and Rodney could.

He pushed himself away from the table suddenly. Trying to hold back the rush of emotion, he felt Rodney take his arm and pull him over. John spun around to sit on the table in front of him, reaching out for Carson's other arm.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"Don't be sorry," Rodney said, and Carson found himself being pulled close. He let his head fall onto Rodney's shoulder and tried very hard not to cry.

The next day they were scattered around Carson's room. They'd determined that each of their beds could accommodate them all, but Carson's room had a window and was therefore the one they ended up spending the most time in.

John was sitting in one chair with his feet propped up on another, reading War and Peace. Rodney had no idea if he'd finished it once and was halfway through for a yet another time, or was still on his first reading. First Atlantean reading, anyway. Rodney was thinking about his latest version of the Theory of Unification -- and watching Carson sleep. Carson was proving over and over again that he was not a morning person; they'd quickly discovered that they had to let him go back to sleep after morning-sex, or he was grumpy all day.

As Rodney watched, Carson stirred and rolled onto his back. The blanket was wrapped around his hip and the motion had exposed his entire upper torso. The blanket was also nicely outlining Carson's lower half; Rodney decided this was better than unification. For now, at any rate. Until he could get his calculator and check some figures.

He let himself look at everything, taking his time. Curves of muscle, the jut of hip bone. The soft curve of his stomach and the wrinkle of fabric as the blanket was stretched not-tightly-enough over his genitals. Rodney thought about pulling the blanket back, even though he knew perfectly well what Carson looked like. Instead he let his gaze travel upwards, along Carson's chest and to his face.

With some surprise, Rodney saw that Carson was awake. He was staring at the ceiling, apparently unaware that Rodney was indulging himself. Rodney took advantage of the chance to look at Carson's face, thinking how he had never really been a beard man. He was rapidly changing his opinion, though.

Then he realised there was something odd about Carson's expression. He wasn't frowning, exactly, but he seemed intent. As though he were reading -- he looked like John did, only John had a book to stare at.

Oh. Of course. Rodney felt like a fool, and was glad he hadn't said anything out loud. "Hey," he said, quietly, not knowing if he would startle Carson or not.

But Carson just glanced over and raised an eyebrow. Rodney smiled.

"Morning, sleepy head."

Carson groaned and rolled his eyes, then pushed himself upright, scooting back to lean against the wall. Unfortunately he tugged the blanket up with him and let it cover his lap. Rodney frowned, but Carson seemed to miss the message.

"If people wouldn't insist on waking up at four in the morning," he began. Then he just shook his head. "It's a decent hour, now, for reasonable people to be waking up."

"What time is it?" The planet they were on had a 27 and a third hour rotation; no one had really adjusted to having an extra three hours and thirty three point three repeating hours every day. All the astrophysicists were still arguing over whether they should save up the point threes and have a longer seventh day of the week, or have a longer month once a year.

"It's nearly eight," Carson said. Rodney looked for the clock to verify the time; Carson shook his head and tapped his temple.

"That thing gives you the time, as well?"

"And temperature and, if I ask for it, a weather report. Don't," he added, giving Rodney a dark look. "I'm not asking. Go check the control center, if you want to know."

"Fine, be that way." Rodney sat back in his chair, pretending that he hadn't been about to ask. He was deeply envious, though. It hadn't occurred to him to ask what information was available on the maintenance interface. He'd had the impression it was just work orders and repair manuals. Even though Carson didn't seem to be enjoying it, Rodney thought that having all that information displayed right in your brain would be absolutely fantastic.

Wondering what other information there was, he gestured towards the ceiling and asked, "So. That's what you were looking at?" he asked, knowing he sounded as lame as it was possible to sound without asking someone what their sign was.

Carson nodded, and he looked tired. "Yes. There's a list. Murdoc and I are having a bit of a disagreement as to what counts as 'urgent' and what counts as 'get off your lazy arse and go to work'." He glanced over at them. "That's a paraphrase, by the way. It's not talking to me like.. like I thought it was, before."

"Oh." Rodney sat upright and tried to keep himself from bouncing out of the chair. "So what's up? We could do that this morning. I'm going with you, you remember."

Carson gave him a long, unamused look. "I thought you'd tell me to stay in bed, instead of running off to work," Carson said.

Rodney stared at him, confused. Instead of playing with brand new toys? "Have you *met* me?"

"I want you to stay in bed," John offered. They both looked at him and he shrugged. "Not really, but I thought someone should say it."

Carson was just still staring at them, disbelievingly. "For the last five days you two have barely let me get dressed, much less do anything that resembles a fair day's work. Or even a fair half hour's work. Now all of a sudden we're going on a field trip to the saline vats?"

"Is that where we're going?" Rodney tried to recall what the saline vats were. Had they encountered them yet? He didn't remember anything that could be described as a vat of saline.

He heard Carson sigh. "Yes, that's where we're going. The below levels, but in an area we've been to before and it checked out as safe."

"Excellent!" Rodney clapped his hands and leapt to his feet. "What do we need? Is there another one of those tool belts you have? I need something to take notes with. What are we doing? What are saline vats, anyway?"

He trailed off as he realised Carson wasn't even trying to answer his questions. After a moment Carson looked at John. "Is this why you wanted me here? So you'd have someone to foist him off on occasionally?"

John shook his head. "That's why I decided to invite him to bed with me. I figured when he got like this I could distract him more easily if I could just kiss him."

"Does that work?"

"Pretty well," John said. "Not so much when he really gets going. But if you can catch him early, you can sometimes derail him for an hour or so."

Rodney had his hands on his hips and was giving them both equally not-amused glares. It wasn't as though John wasn't telling the truth, but he was making it sound like it happened a *lot.*

"Excuse me," he tried to interrupt them.

"So, you'll be wanting to grab your laptop? Or would a datapad do as well?" Carson asked him, and Rodney *knew* he was asking just to distract him again.

"Datapad?" That sounded positively star trekkian. God! Transporters, datapads, ray guns! What would they find next? Androids? Giant, glowing balls of light that ate your head?

OK, maybe they could pass on that one.

"Datapad?" he repeated, since Carson wasn't even getting out of bed. "Come on! You can't just say something like that then sit there just grinning at me. If you made it up I'm going to be very unhappy."

"Um," John cleared his throat. "Actually, Dr. Myers' team found them about a week before everyone left. I guess in all the chaos, not everyone heard about it."

Rodney stared in disbelief at John. He glanced at Carson, who had also obviously heard about it. "Am I the only one who didn't know? Does it not say 'Chief Science Officer' on my uniform?"

"You're not wearing your uniform," Carson pointed out, giving Rodney's waist-region a nod. Rodney thought there was something a bit odd about Carson's quirk of a smile, so he glanced down. Right. He was naked.

"Hang on." John walked over and held up his hand to Rodney's chest.

"Hey!" Rodney yelped, as he realised John was holding a grease pencil. But he held still as John wrote on him. Reading it upside-down, he saw John writing "Chief Science Officer" on Rodney's chest.

Rodney grabbed the pencil once John was through, and John held still as Rodney wrote on him. "Head Dork (Acting)."

"Hey!" John protested. He started to wipe at the writing and Rodney slapped his hand down.

Then he looked at Carson, who shook his head and backed away -- which meant he got out of bed and left the blanket where it belonged. Rodney and John advanced and Carson continued backing up. He ended up against the wall, however, and Rodney and John moved forward, trapping him there.

John took the pencil from Rodney, which Rodney protested but allowed.

"This is very much not necessary," Carson objected.

"Hold still," John commanded.

Amazingly, Carson held still. Rodney wondered if it was because he knew it was inevitable, or if it was the particular way John had said it. Rodney peeked downward, to check.

Yup. Tone of voice.

John finished writing on Carson's chest, and stepped back so Carson could look down. Rodney grinned. It said "Chief Medical Officer and Maintenance," in big letters. Underneath, in smaller print, it said "Ass Property of JS/RM."

"It's a good thing you didn't use a permanent marker," Carson said sternly.

"Why is that?" Rodney gave him an innocent look, and tried to remember where he'd left any of his sharpies. He was losing them pretty much constantly, but Radek had a talent for locating them. Radek wasn't here, of course, which meant he'd have to wait.

"You know, instead of working on any repairs, I think I'm going to sit by the window and watch the ocean. For eight hours."

Rodney pouted. "If I promise not to permanently deface your skin, will you show me the saline vats?"

"No marker, no tattoos, no anything," Carson said.

"Piercings?" John offered.

Carson looked at him, briefly. "I've already-- Look, I'm telling Rodney that he--"

"Where?" Rodney asked. He hadn't seen any piercings, and he'd had several thorough examinations of Carson's body. Hadn't seen anything that looked like a hole or grown-over scar, either, but he hadn't really been looking for those. He started trying to check the obvious spots.

"Do you *mind*?" Carson snapped, pushing Rodney's hand away from his nipple.

"Not until you tell us where," Rodney said.

Carson folded his arms and glared at him. "You'll have to figure it out on your own. But right *now* I am going to get dressed and get to work. Whether you follow or not is your own concern."

He stepped around John and headed to his closet. Rodney looked at John, who looked back and waggled his eyebrows eagerly.

"It's good to have a goal," John said.

"I thought our goal was to have sex in every square meter of Atlantis," Rodney said. But he went over to the dresser drawer he'd stashed some clothing in. John did the same, and they all proceeded to get dressed. Rodney tried to focus on the fact he was finally going to get learn how some of Carson's gizmos worked and how he went about fixing them.

"Not his ears," John said. Rodney looked up in time to see Carson pulling his head away from John's hand. "Well, not his *right* ear at any rate." John was trying to crane his head around to see Carson's other ear.

Rodney nodded. "One down, twenty seven to go." It was a completely random number, but it sounded good. He knew that by the time they reached 'seven' they'd have forgot which number they were on, anyhow.

Assuming Carson ever let them get to 'two.'

"Stop that!" Carson snapped, hitting the modulator with the wrench.

"Stop what?" Rodney's voice came up the access tunnel at him, and Carson glanced down.

"Not you. The modulator isn't re-setting."

"So you hit it?" John asked from the hatchway below them both, sounding amused. "Is that in the manual?"

"Like you've never had to hit something to make it work?" Carson looked down, past Rodney. He could just see John's face as he peered up the tunnel.

He'd brought them here after spending all of ten seconds trying to talk them out of following him around. They'd been doing this for the last two weeks -- in between having sex in all sorts of places he'd rather not think about, and trying to get enough sleep they could have more sex.

Whenever there was some repair work Carson had to do, Rodney would leap up and find his tool belt and act for all the world like a six year old who'd been told he could help daddy in the garage. John, at least, made no effort to pretend he cared about the actual work. He said he was just coming along because it was more interesting than sitting alone in his room.

Carson knew he was really there to make sure no one got eaten by alien bugs; John was even wearing his side-arm. He'd tried explaining that Murdoc kept him away from things like the lab where the nanovirus had been kept -- and if he did have to go there, Murdoc would be able to warn him how not to release the things on accident.

But whenever he mentioned Murdoc, Rodney and John got weird looks in their eyes and seemed even more determined to follow him. So he'd stopped saying Murdoc's name and stopped trying to argue them out of following him. He'd even got a second tool belt from the maintenance workshop for Rodney to use. Not all the tools would work for him as he wasn't an official repairman, but Carson had simply removed those from the kit before handing it over.

It hadn't mattered -- Rodney never actually did any work until Carson had finished repairing the thing. He listened as Carson explained what he was doing while making the repairs, and he asked questions that demonstrated he at understood what was going on. But he never wanted to do any of the actual repair work himself.

As soon as Carson declared it fit, however, Rodney would swoop in and start pressing buttons and flipping switches. Carson had figured out quickly not to bother telling him what the thing did or how it worked. It kept Rodney more amused to play with it, so he and John would just sit back and let him.

Carson made sure not to try any repairs on things Rodney could blow himself up with.

So far things had gone more or less well. Rodney was happy, John seemed happy, and Carson didn't find himself thinking about home quite as often as he'd feared. He was a bit more tired than usual, but that had obvious reasons and ones he wasn't complaining about.

"Can I take a look?" Rodney asked, crawling up the ladder, pressing Carson against one wall. The tunnel was big enough for the two of them to be side by side, but the ladder itself wasn't. Carson sighed and hung onto the rungs, swinging towards the edge of the ladder while Rodney climbed up to look at the modulator.

"Don't fall," John said calmly, and Carson saw that he'd climbed into the tunnel, now, and was at the ladder just below where Rodney had been.

It occurred to him that there might be another place John wanted to add to their list of places Carson could no longer be in without blushing.

"What does this do?" Rodney asked, pointing to the em-detector.

Carson sighed, and didn't even bother double-checking the diagrams in his head. "It lets us know whether or not the level of helium in the atmosphere is too high."

"Helium?" Rodney frowned. "We've never detected any helium in the atmosphere; why would they need to regulate it?" He'd already stopped looking at the modulator and Carson wondered if he could squeeze past him to have another go at fixing it. Not yet, he guessed.

"This area of the city was often used for guests who needed the environments of their quarters to be adjusted for comfort," he began.

"That is *so* cool!" Rodney interrupted. "What else could they do besides add or remove helium?"

Before Carson could answer, John asked, "How do you know that?"

Carson looked down to find John frowning slightly at him. "It's in the schematics," he said. The same answer he gave every time one of them asked him how he knew something. Eventually they'd catch on, wouldn't they?

"But that's... doesn't seem like something a repairman would have to know."

"You have to know what a thing is and what it's used for, so you'll know if it's working properly."

John didn't look convinced, which didn't make much sense to Carson. But John didn't say anything, so Carson turned his attention back to the modulator. Rodney was still poking at it, and having no more success than he had. He waited patiently for Rodney to grow bored, so he could get back to working on it.

Life, John thought, was pretty damn good. Granted there were those life-sucking aliens to contend with and a constant diet of MREs and bizarre Athosian dishes, and the strain of being acting commander when really he still hated authority and didn't find that being one made him like it any better. The rooms were not all that comfortable, and there was no ESPN and the thing they called 'beer' was like drinking herbal tea.

But really, in spite of all that, life was pretty damn good. He got to save the world. He got to fly the coolest damn aircraft in the universe. He got to visit alien planets in a galaxy no one had ever even heard of a half-dozen years ago.

And he was sleeping with two really hot guys who were handsome, intelligent, and had evil senses of humour.

He and Carson were sitting at a table in Carson's repair workshop. Carson was fiddling with a gizmo, and they were both keeping an eye on Rodney, on the other side of the wide table, who was also fiddling with a gizmo. Different sort of gizmo, and Carson had named it when he'd handed it to Rodney to play with. John couldn't remember more than the first two syllables of the words he'd used, so he just called it the gizmo.

He couldn't for the life of him figure out what it did, and, it seemed, neither could Rodney. He'd been poking it, turning dials, making lights come on and go off. He'd talk to himself excitedly, then frown, then start again. John had given Carson a raised eyebrow earlier, wondering if he was going to offer Rodney any help. Carson had just grinned in a way that made John realise that something was up, and didn't say anything.

"OK, that's it," Rodney finally said, tossing the gizmo back onto the table. Carson stopped what he was doing and looked up. Rodney shook his head. "I don't have a clue."

Carson set down the tool he'd been using. He opened his mouth and Rodney raised a hand.

"Ah! No, wait. Don't tell me. I'll get this. I...." He looked down at the gizmo, glumly. "I don't have a clue. How does it work?"

"It doesn't," Carson said.

Rodney and John both stared at Carson, who just sat there looking for all the world like he hadn't just said what he'd said.

"Excuse me?" Rodney asked.

"It doesn't work."

"It's broken?" Rodney looked dumbfounded. John stifled a grin.

"No," Carson said, shaking his head. "It never worked. It's a dummy."

There was a long silence. Rodney looked down at the gizmo, back at Carson -- over to John apparently to check if he'd fallen into an alternate universe where everybody spoke their own brand of English -- then back at Carson. "A dummy."

"Aye. It's designed to be a model, to demonstrate what a real working unit would look like. The lights go on to make it look real, but it doesn't actually do anything."

John was impressed at how straight Carson was keeping his face. Rodney looked like he was about to leap over the table onto Carson. Rodney moved his jaw up and down a bit, and they both waited patiently. Eventually, Rodney managed, "You let me sit here for an hour fiddling with a dummy unit that doesn't work?"

"It doesn't even have internal components, except the lights." Carson was still remaining very calm. John found himself wanting to leap on him, too, but for a wholly different reason than Rodney probably wanted.

"You..." Rodney stopped. He tried again. "You--" he looked down at the dummy gizmo and picked it up. "An *hour*??"

Carson shrugged. "It kept you busy and happy and I got some work done." There was an ominous pause, then he added, "It was John's idea."

Which let John know just *exactly* how evil Carson was. How he'd ever thought the man was mild and gentle? "It was *not* my idea!" He turned to Rodney. "I swear!"

Rodney wasn't buying it. He was glaring at John, and folded his arms across his chest. Carson went back to tinkering on his gizmo, and didn't even crack a smile.

"It was *not* my idea," he said again because -- it really hadn't been. He reached over and poked Carson hard in the arm. "I am going to get you for this."

Carson raised his head and gave John an extremely innocent look. "You're denying it?"

"Of *course* I'm denying it! I had nothing to do with this! Rodney, I really didn't."

"Like you had nothing to do with the toothpaste incident?" Rodney arched an eyebrow at him.

"That was to get you back for pretending my football tape got "accidently" erased!"

"Which was my revenge for you sneaking in and erasing half of my equations from the desktop!"

"I saved those to disk, first. I mean -- I was just getting *you* back for getting friendly under the table during that meeting with Weir."

Rodney blinked at him. "That actually wasn't a joke. I really meant that."

"You *meant* to get me hard during a staff meeting?"

Rodney shrugged. "I was bored."

"So you thought you'd make me want to throw you down onto the table and suck you off while Elizabeth was talking about trade schedules with the Anergini?"

Rodney grinned happily. "Woulda been more fun, don't you think?"

John shook his head. And he'd been thinking how nice it was to have two lovers with an evil sense of humor? He wasn't sure what revenge to take with Carson -- it would take some careful thought. He looked over to see if Carson was showing any signs of breaking, and admitting the truth.

He frowned. Carson was concentrating on his gizmo, but his face.... He looked like he was having a conversation. He wasn't talking out loud, but he was making expressions that made John think he was watching a tv show with the sound turned off.

Or that he was watching someone have a telepathic conversation. John didn't like that at all. He knew that Carson could interact with that interface thing he called Murdoc. Why he'd named it after a villain from MacGyver, John didn't know. But he'd assured them it wasn't at all sentient.

So why have such a long conversation with it? John reached over and nudged Carson. "Hey. Turn that thing off for a second."

Carson blinked at him as though refocusing his eyes. "What?" He glanced down at the gizmo he was working on. "It isn't--"

"No, the interface. Murdoc. Turn it off for a second."

Carson just stared at him for a second without saying anything. His eyes looked sad. "It doesn't turn off."

"I know you can't take it off or de-activate it or anything. But just... turn off the screen and radio and whatever. Just for a bit." He wasn't even really sure why he was asking -- except that it creeped him out to be reminded that there was something in Carson's head besides Carson.

But Carson shook his head. "It doesn't turn off. The interface is always displayed."

"It's always on?" Rodney repeated. "The... stuff you see in your head, the list and diagrams and instructions?"

"It isn't always all of them on at once, but... yes. The display is always on."

"Even when we... Um..." How Rodney could be shy about saying the word 'sex' when he freely engaged in it, John didn't know.

"Always, Rodney." That explained the sadness in his eyes, John thought.

"Oh." Rodney subsided, and simply looked at him. He glanced at John, and John could clearly see the demand there. Fix this. Help me fix this. It was the same look he'd had when he'd come and told John that Carson couldn't go home. The same reason why John had agreed to help, agreed to stay on Atlantis, when all he could have said about Carson at the time was that they were friendly acquaintences.

What Rodney wanted, John tried to give him. Trouble was, he had no idea what they could do.

"It's all right," Carson said in what was meant to be a reassuring tone. The quiet upset was gone and he looked for all the world like there was nothing more wrong than a gizmo that wasn't working yet.

John reached over and took Carson's hand. "It never shuts off?"

"Well... if there's nothing left to do, then it would shut off. Until something needed repair. But that's only happened a dozen times or so. A city the size of Atlantis -- and there only one of me -- chances are I'll not get everything fixed." He shrugged as though it didn't bother him.

"It's already happened a dozen times?" Rodney asked, in that 'seizing upon an idea' tone he got.

But Carson shook his head. "Back when they had a full staff."

He was staring at his gizmo again, and John wondered if he or Rodney would be the first one to get the question out.

It was him. "How do you know?" John asked, trying to remain calm.

"Hm?" Carson looked up. Then he frowned, confused. "It's in the reports."

"*What* reports?" John asked.

"The maintenance reports."

"From... back when the Ancients lived here?" John clarified. Rodney was still gaping, speechlessly.

Carson nodded slowly, still looking confused. John looked over at Rodney to make sure *he* hadn't slipped into the alternate-English dimension. "And you didn't think to mention this?"

"Mention the reports? But they-- oh." Carson blinked. "Oh, no -- they've not got anything in them that would help. Just lots of 'we fixed this, we fixed that, Gjurshin broke his damn telescope again and we've asked Cuttler to take it away from him.' There's nothing about... the sort of things you need. History or culture or--"

"Gjurshin? Telescope?" Rodney interrupted.

"I don't know," Carson said. "That's what the report says, but I couldn't tell you any more than that. I don't have access to Atlantis databases, Rodney. Just the reports -- which were written for people who knew what they meant."

"Oh." Rodney nodded and sat back. "I guess it would be rather like trying to figure out a world's culture by reading the cliff notes from a single book."

John watched as they both dropped the issue. Carson was about to go back to his gizmo, and Rodney looked like he was going to jump up and find some other thing to play with. For a moment, John felt like the only genius in the room. He cleared his throat. When they both looked at him, he asked, "You can *read* the reports?"

After that, the schedule changed. They didn't let Carson do repairs unless he insisted they were urgent -- which they hadn't been, so far. They didn't have nearly as much sex, either, which John couldn't say he *liked* but as he'd been the one to help Rodney yell at Carson about it, he couldn't really complain.

Instead, for the last few days, they would get up early -- for sex -- then grab breakfast before heading to the archives. Then they'd sit Carson down and open up a database pretty much at random. Carson would start reading and Rodney and John would start typing. John was taking the straight dictation and Rodney was making notes about anything and everything that occurred to him about whatever Carson was saying.

Carson had explained how he *didn't* read Atlantean, that Murdoc was the one putting everything into Gaelic for him. John pointed out that Carson could translate from Gaelic to English. Then Carson had gone on for ten minutes about how limited the vocabulary was, that it was only words relevant to the maintenance work. Rodney had fielded that one, saying that even if he only translated every tenth, twentieth, or hundredth word, it would give the linguists enough to go on to figure out the rest, eventually.

So now they were spending their time going through as much of the database as possible. When they'd stop for a break every couple hours or so, he and Rodney would take turns glaring at Carson before deciding who got to run down for snacks.

The second time he and Rodney had played rock-paper-scissors over errand duty, Carson had piped up.

"There's a food and beverage dispenser right over there." He'd pointed to a flat panel on the wall. John had wondered if the phrase 'strangle you if you don't start telling us stuff' hadn't penetrated Carson's head. But then Carson had sighed. "No, it'd not be stocked any longer. Never mind."

He and Rodney had sent Carson out for snacks, that time.

Since then, John had to admit, Carson was getting better about saying things out loud. Not the translation stuff, but things that apparently Carson thought too trivial to notice. They'd walk down the hallways on their way back to Carson's room and he'd stop, and activate a panel or odd looking gizmo and explain what it did.

Rodney had taken to carrying about a datapad. John had taken to carrying around cough drops, because he'd figured out that positive reinforcement was probably helping Carson remember to share. One blowjob per Ancient secret revealed was a pretty fair trade -- especially since Rodney would get so aroused from watching them that pretty much every night ended in fucking.

Which generally led John back to the affirmation that life was pretty damn good. Even better, when Weir and the rest of the team returned, they'd find several months' worth of work done for them, and the geeks could go off and play with partially translated files for weeks to come. That would, he hoped, distract anybody from noticing that the three of them had moved in together.

Well, no, it probably wouldn't. But it would at least give folks a reason not to say a damn thing to their faces.

John hoped. He'd never been twisted up about the fact he was into guys -- kept it a secret when necessary, and didn't when it wasn't. And Elizabeth had done a good job of creating a pretty non-bigoted group of people who only cared who was sleeping with who because it was something to gossip about, and not because they thought it should stop.

He didn't know if that extended to group sex, though. He hadn't heard about anyone involved in anything like this before the team had left for Earth. Teyla had talked about her own people's acceptance of homosexual couples, but never mentioned groups.

John hadn't thought about it much himself after the first day. As the day of the team's return drew closer, though, he found himself thinking about it more. The only thoughts he found himself having involved it maybe not even working once everyone returned. So he distracted himself by pretending that giving Weir several gigs of translated information would stop anyone from asking why Rodney and John no longer slept in their own rooms.

There was always the alternative of them going back to a twosome. John didn't seriously think that would happen because -- Rodney wasn't giving Carson up anytime this century. Rodney didn't seem to have a clue, of course, genius that he was. He acted like this was just because it was fun, and because he'd been coveting Carson's ass for months. But John could see the funny, soft look in his eyes when he was watching Carson sleep.

And John wasn't going to give Rodney up without a fight that had no business being fought. He might not be twitterpated like Carson was, but this whole insane affair was the best thing he'd ever had, and he wasn't going to let bad attitudes, or even potential bad attitudes, ruin it for him.

But maybe if they could keep everyone going in a few new directions when they first got back, they could put off the shocked revelations and stares for awhile. Long enough that by the time anyone realised it, it would be too late to do anything about it.

Until then, he was going to enjoy himself as much as he could -- in as many places as he could while there was no one to threaten to drop him into the ocean for having sex on her desk.

The rest of the Atlantis team were due back in an hour. Carson stood nervously in the middle of his medical research lab, wondering why he was worried about it at all. So, the others returned, life went back to... not normal, but whatever it had been before they'd left for Earth. He had a few things to look forward to, at least. Dr. Weir was supposed to be bringing back five new staff for the medical team, including an emergency room doctor. None of the current doctors' speciality was really emergency medicine, and they'd proven over again how much they needed one.

Having a few more nurses would also help spread out the workload a great deal; having additional personnel would bolster everyone's departments. Rodney had been talking about it just the previous night, listing projects he had just waiting for people to assign them to. He'd talked about it for nearly half an hour before Carson and John got him into bed by simply starting without him.

That was something Carson was trying not to think about. Things were going to change. None of them had said anything about it, and Carson got the feeling they were each waiting for someone else to begin. They'd have to do it today, because they'd not be able to spend the night together without talking about whether or not they still were.

Right at the moment he was alone; John and Rodney had said something about needing to get ready for the team's return. Carson had been told to wait there -- given strict orders not to wander off alone, no matter what Murdoc said.

He had a bad feeling there would be water balloons or red dye involved in whatever the two were planning, so he'd been happy to stay out of it.

But that had left him alone to either think about what was going to happen, or to read the repair manual in an attempt to not think. Of course he had work to do as well, but he couldn't focus long enough to do any of his research. He'd neglected it for weeks, already. Finally he'd taken up pacing back and forth and wondering what on earth -- or Atlantis -- John and Rodney were up to.

The door slid open and John tumbled through, laughing and stumbling forward again as Rodney shoved at him. Carson bit back the words 'where the hell have you been' because god knew he didn't want to be the mature one in this affair. The *only* mature one.

His two lovers came to a stop, half-leaning on each other and still giggling like schoolboys.

"Am I allowed out of my room now?" he asked, not bothering to hide how testy he felt. There they were, not even acting like they cared that
tonight things might be going back to before. Of course -- they might not. They still had each other, didn't they?

John and Rodney both looked at him with equally startled expressions. "Er, yes? Why are you stuck here?" Rodney asked.

Carson folded his arms. "'And you're not to go wandering off anywhere, while we're out. That means no repairs, no just popping down to the workshop to fix something without me watching, no sneaking down the hallway to activate a communications panel no one knew existed and calling the next planet over for pizza.' Shall I go on, or just skip ahead to the part where I had to still be here when the pair of you returned?"

Rodney closed his mouth. Then opened it again, "It wasn't exactly--"

"It was," Carson interrupted. John and Rodney were still almost leaning against each other. Arms and hips touching like they were stuck in a cabinet, rather than in the middle of a laboratory. Carson felt irritated by the sight -- he brushed it off as nerves.

"Er, oh. Sorry, I didn't... actually mean you had to stay in here." Rodney looked thoughtful, then nodded. "No, I think I did." He grinned.

Carson wasn't terribly amused. "Well, now that you're here am I free to go?"

"You could have called," John said, tapping the radio on his ear. They'd taken to wearing them again just that morning. Trying to get back out of holiday mindset, Carson supposed.

"I didn't want to risk finding out what you were up to," he admitted. "In case Dr. Weir asks, I want to deny everything."

He'd expected a protest, or even mischievous laughter. What he got were two shocked expressions. John and Rodney looked at each other, seeming a lot more worried than any of their previous pranks should have warranted.

"You're not planning on bombarding the returning expedition with water balloons?" he asked, confused.

"Balloons? No..." Rodney's worried look gave way to a grin. "Ohh, that's good. Well, not so much given that the gateroom did flood, that one time. Wouldn't want them to think they'd come back to the wrong reality and everyone was drowning. But I like the way you think."

"Actually, we were-- should we show him?" John asked Rodney.

"I think it'd be easier." Rodney walked forward and took Carson by the arm.

"What are you doing?" Carson didn't fight him off, but he wasn't fully convinced he wanted to go with them, either.

"Showing you," Rodney said.

Carson let them haul him out of his lab and down the hallway. Neither John nor Rodney seemed willing to explain further, apparently thinking that showing him what they'd done would explain everything. They took him down the hallway and turned left at the intersection, heading towards the science labs.

They'd done something in Rodney's lab, then, and Carson guessed it had something to do with adding to John's list.

But they made another turn before then, and Carson consulted the map Murdoc gave him. There was nothing down this way but several of the scientists' quarters, and, further along, the pronan balconies. If Rodney and John were thinking of holding a celebration at sunset, this would make a bit of sense.

They walked past all the occupied quarters and made another turn. There was nothing down this way but empty rooms. At the end of the hallway was a transporter, but otherwise it was just a dead end. John and Rodney stopped in front of a door almost all the way down the hall, and Carson looked at the blueprints.

His mouth dropped open.

"Damn, you looked!" John said, pouting.

"It's..." The door slid open and they tugged him inside. Carson went, stumbling slightly. The room matched the blueprint exactly -- no surprise there, but he still wasn't sure he believed his eyes. The quarters along this hallway were for families, each of them with two, three, even four bedrooms. This one had three, as well as the front living area and a large, private balcony. There were large windows in one of the bedrooms -- he could see through the open door, part of one window. There was blue sky and sunshine streaming in.

He looked around and noticed two things right away. The first was that Rodney and John had already moved all their things in. The second was that they had moved *his* things in, as well.

"We were going to ask first," John began.

Rodney jumped in. "Then I decided that it would be more fun to simply do all the work ourselves so you'd feel obligated to give us both back
rubs as a reward for our hard labour."

"We... live here?" Carson turned around, slowly. There wasn't much by way of personal effects filing up the place; it looked quite bare, in fact. Smaller quarters would have felt more homey, but with three people sharing space...

He turned to them. John and Rodney were grinning again, and John was practically bouncing on his toes.

"You like it? We picked it out a few days ago. Seemed to be the best one down here and it's close enough to the transporter that it doesn't
matter that it's a bit farther away from everything." John was giving him a look that Carson had mentally dubbed the happy-puppy look.

"We... all three of us?" He'd expected a long, heartfelt discussion about matters. Perhaps even arguing, and saying very difficult things about not wanting to split anyone up but not being able to go on as before.

Instead they'd just moved, and everything was settled.

"Well... unless you don't want to?" Rodney sounded surprised at the idea.

"Oh, I do. I very much do." Carson looked around the room again, a bit surprised at how easy it was to say so.

"Come on and see the rest!" John bounced forward and took Carson by the arm again. "And no fair looking, this time." John gestured at his
head, and Carson happily removed the map from the display.

He let John drag him from the living room and through the entire apartment. Kitchenette, tiny but serviceable eating area. One room already taken over as Rodney's office, the other more or less empty but for a few bits of furniture. John said it was his to do with, or they could share. Carson didn't know that he needed office space in his home as well, but simply nodded and let John drag him to the next room. The bedroom had a large bed right in the center of one wall and to the side were the huge windows he'd seen before. The door to the balcony opened out from that room, and Carson let himself be pulled outside.

"Isn't this great?" Rodney asked, taking a deep breath. "All that fine salty air and cold wind, which is really perfect for someone with sensitive lungs but other people, I'm told, don't care so much about one person's comfort as long as the view is good."

He was grinning, so Carson took the faux-complaint as intended. "It's lovely," he agreed. "Reminds me--" He stopped, then forced himself to
say, "Reminds me a bit of home."

"Well, it is home," Rodney said in a blithe tone. "Not that you aren't welcome to rearrange your stuff, but may I remind you that some of us already did the heavy lifting and are still waiting for our backrubs."

"Rodney, none of us owns anything heavy to have been moved," Carson reminded him.

Rodney frowned. "Yes, well, but we still packed up everything and moved it. I think I pulled a muscle somewhere." He felt around his shoulder as if looking for the source of pain.

"I'll prescribe you a painkiller," Carson told him, unable to stop his sudden grin. Rodney pouted, so Carson just kissed him.

"Oh. Is that the painkiller? Because it might be working." Rodney looked thoughtful. "I think the dosage is too low."

"Do you, now?" Carson leaned in and kissed him again. When he finally let Rodney go, Rodney had a rather sappy smile on his face.

On his other side, John cleared his throat. When Carson looked over, John rubbed his own shoulder. "Ow?"

"Yes, all right," Carson said, and gave him two kisses of his own. He got an equally sappy grin on his face.

"See? I told you," Rodney said.

"All right, you win." John shook his head. He said to Carson, "I said you might want to be in on picking out the place."

Glancing over his shoulder, Carson shook his head. "No, it's perfect." The location really was excellent -- the transporter only a few moments' walk away, and the labs not far in case one felt like walking. The space was definitely welcome, although, "There's one next door a
bit smaller, only two bedrooms; this one doesn't seem like too much space?" He couldn't imagine what they'd even use the third room for.

Rodney and John grew still, wearing matching expressions of innocence and guilelessness. "No, we liked this one," John said.

"What are you up to?" Carson asked, looking at each of them closely.

Rodney glanced at his watch. "Hey, look, we have just enough time to break in the bed before Weir comes back."

"What are you two up to?" Carson repeated, even as he let them pull him back inside, towards the bed.

"Um, having sex? I know we're not naked, yet, but give us two seconds." Rodney demonstrated by taking off his shirt.

"What are you two up to?" Carson repeated. He didn't stop John from pulling his own shirt off, though neither did he help when John began
undoing his trousers.

"Rodney, John, what are you up to?"

Rodney was naked but for his underwear, now, and John was rapidly catching up. Carson ignored the fact that *he* was fully naked and being nudged towards the bed by Rodney.

"We're trying to have sex, but if it's going to be this much trouble, I don't think we'll bother." Rodney pushed him down onto the mattress and Carson rolled over onto his back. Rodney belied his words by lying down on top of him and kissing him, hands going right to his groin as though the foreplay had been waking him up that morning.

Which it probably had been.

"You know bloody well what I'm talking about," Carson said, getting only a few words out at a time. Talking became more difficult when Rodney and John started taking turns kissing him -- not to mention the fact it was getting more difficult to think. John was doing something
to Rodney to make him moan in a very lovely way.

"Did you want us to talk you through it?" John asked. "Right now, Rodney's got his hand on your cock. I'm playing with Rodney's ass. Pretty soon someone is going to be shouting."

He ought to concede defeat and let them get on with it. But Carson frowned at John. "If you think that distracting me will make me forget you two are up to something--" His head fell back and he swallowed a shout.

Christ, but a man ought to give warning before sticking his fingers up there. He tried to refocus on what he'd been saying, but Rodney -- or John, or maybe... oh yes, that was definitely the both of them. He made a very undignified whimpering sound and saw John smirk.

"Don't think this gets you out of answering," Carson managed.

"So you want us to stop?" John asked.

Carson lifted his head. "If you stop, I will go back to asking you what you've done, doing, or plan to do that you refuse to tell me about."

Rodney and John looked at each other. They debated silently, with head motions and shoulder shrugs. They left their fingers where they were, though, so Carson didn't have to yell at them. Not yet.

Well, then, it wasn't like his own hands were broken, were they? Carson reached over and ran a fingernail very, very lightly down the shaft of John's cock.

"Jesus Christ!" John leapt practically off the bed. He was right back at Carson's side, though, kissing him like swallowing Carson's tongue was the only way to save the city from certain disaster. Rodney was muttering something in that distracted, turned on beyond belief way he had and Carson reached out with one leg and wrapped it around Rodney's waist.

"Right, right," Rodney said, and he shifted around. Carson was hoping for a fucking, but didn't feel the need to argue when Rodney leaned down and put his mouth on Carson's cock.

For several moments everything was going perfectly well and Carson thought that maybe Rodney and John really did deserve backrubs, later. Not that he'd have denied them had they simply asked. But--

"John! Oh my god, look!" Rodney was sitting up, his hand on Carson's no-longer-being-sucked cock.

Well, so, they'd finally found it. Carson sighed and didn't object when John stopped what he was doing and scooted down to look.

"Why aren't you wearing the piercing?" John asked, after several long seconds of silence.

"I didn't want to explain it, now, did I?" Carson raised his head to stare at them. He swallowed as Rodney fingered him right where the piercing hole was.

"To who?" John asked, looking confused.

Carson raised an eyebrow. "Alien city, faraway galaxy, aliens and accidents and how many times have I stripped *you* down to get you into a pair of hospital pajamas?"

John looked abashed; Rodney grinned. "I thought you let the nurses do that."

"Yes, well, they're the ones I didn't need knowing I had a piercing, aren't they? The first time anyone inserted a catheter, everyone in the bloody infirmary would know."

Rodney made a face. "Can we not talk about catheters when we're in the middle of sex?"

"*You're* the one who stopped and who brought up the matter in the first place," Carson pointed out.

"You don't like the idea of having something shoved up your--" John began.

"Ow! OW!" Rodney whipped his hands down to cover himself. "Can we *please* not completely kill the mood, here?"

John laughed and waggled his eyebrows.

"Oh do NOT tell me you're that kinky," Rodney told him.

"Did I say anything?" John asked in a tone of innocence.

"You didn't have to. You had that look like you wanted to expand my boundaries and trick me into deciding it would be a good idea. But no one is putting anything *inside* my penis, thank you very much."

John held up his hands in surrender. "I suppose I'll just keep after you to let me tie up your--"

"Are we done now? I have work I could be doing." Rodney gestured towards the room he'd made into an office.

Carson pushed himself up onto his elbows. "What, Rodney, you don't care to have a bit of leather and--"

"That's it." Rodney stood up and stepped away from the bed. "When you two are through talking about exceedingly unarousing things, I'll be back. Until then, I'm going to go work on some equations."

John laughed; Carson looked at him. "I *have* a bit of leather we could use."

John's eyes went wide and he choked back his laugh. "You... oh yeah? I didn't see it when we packed up your stuff... unless... that small belt?"

Carson nodded. "I don't know where you've put it, of course." He looked around the room, wondering which drawers were his, anyway.

"You're just doing this to see if I'm serious about leaving," Rodney said.

"No, no," John said, waving a hand as he headed for the closet. "Go. We'll scream when we're done."

"And before," Carson said.

Rodney didn't look amused. "You're joking. You don't really... oh, damn."

John and Carson both looked at him. Rodney nodded towards the small clock on the dresser.

Weir and the rest of the team were due back in ten minutes.

John dropped the belt, and leapt back onto the bed. "Just enough time to get rid of these before we embarrass ourselves." Then he slipped
his mouth onto Carson's cock, and Carson realised he really *had* forgot to find out what the two of them had been up to.

They somehow made it to the gateroom, fully dressed and completely presentable, two minutes before the gate activated. Carson couldn't help but tug on his shirt once more, even though he knew that not only was it not long enough to hide anything, but that there really was no evidence remaining.

"Relax," John said. "No one will care that you got some while they were away."

Carson thought about hitting him -- and noticed that Rodney had rolled a large cart into the room. "What's that for?"

"Stuff," Rodney said, and he set it aside and joined them, facing the gate. Carson realised he must be expecting things for his lab.

The wormhole activated -- Carson noted that the terminology the Atlanteans used translated more or less literally into "whooshed." A second passed, and Dr. Weir walked through the event horizon and into the gateroom.

"Welcome to Atlantis," Rodney said. "We are your humble hosts." He put his hands together and bowed.

"Ignore him," John said. "He hasn't had any breakfast today."

Weir just grinned at them and walked up to stand before Carson and John. Behind her, people were following her back into Atlantis.

"I trust everything went all right in our absence?" she asked John.

"Everything went fine. No trouble at all. Unless you consider that we're almost out of oatmeal."

Carson coughed, then just smiled when Elizabeth gave him a curious look. But then he smiled again and it was very obviously the diplomat's smile. She reached into the bag slung over her shoulder, and brought out a small parcel wrapped in paper.

"Here, Carson. I brought these back for you."

"What--" He took it, and pulled back the paper. Behind Weir, people were just... milling. Making room for the rest of the expedition team, but not going anywhere.

Inside the wrapped paper were a half dozen scones. He looked up at her. "Are these--?"

She nodded. "Potato. I tried one myself, and they're not bad."

He was surprised. He'd listed them among the items he'd given Rodney, not really expecting to get them. Certainly not once Rodney and John remained behind in Atlantis. Obviously, Rodney had passed the list on to Weir. "Oh... Elizabeth, thank you."

"And you have enough to share," Rodney said, peering over his shoulder. "Excellent."

Carson gave him a dirty look. "I don't see how this wee batch is enough to share." He wrapped the paper back around them, knowing he'd end up sharing them with Rodney and John but there was no need to let them know that.

Dr. Weir stepped aside, then, and Katherine, his head nurse, stepped into her place. "Here, Dr. Beckett."

Blinking in surprise, he took the item she handed to him. It was a small iPod.

She grinned and said, "I've loaded it with all the new albums that came out since we came here, of the stuff you like."

Carson hadn't thought he'd be further surprised, but he was. "*Really*?"

"What is it, a thousand hours of bagpipe music?" John frowned.

Katherine shook her head. "No. Lil' Kim, Black Eyed Peas, Foxy Brown... I had my little sister help me pick the albums."

Carson couldn't believe it. He'd had discussions with Katherine about modern music, comparing their tastes and finding that they didn't quite overlap. He'd never thought she would remember so well what he liked, though.

He looked up to find John and Rodney staring at him. "You listen to hip hop?" John asked.

"It's too late to change your mind," Carson said, and thought that trying to keep his relationship with them a private matter might have been a good idea. He started to try to apologise without making things worse, but Rodney was smiling so hard he was practically beaming.

"Enjoy," Katherine said, and she moved out of the way of Dr. Stavish, who handed Carson a book.

"What in the world?" Carson took it, and turned it over. A Ian McEwan book he'd never seen before. "This is new?"

"Brand new," Stavish said. "Came out just a few days ago."

"This..." He looked over at John and Rodney, realising what they'd done. "You didn't have to--"

"Yes, we did," Rodney said easily. "I asked members of my staff to bring me back a few things. It would hardly be fair not to do the same for you, once John and I decided to remain here."

"Dr. Stavish isn't on my staff, though," Carson pointed out. "What are you--" John was taking the scones, iPod, and book out of his hands and setting them onto the cart Rodney had brought. And Dr. Stavish was walking away, and behind him was a woman he'd never met before.

"I'm Dr. Collin," she said, holding out her hand. "I'm your new ER doctor."

"OH! A pleasure, a very definite pleasure." Carson shook her hand. Then he realised she was holding out a small box. She shrugged, grinning. "It was my assignment."

He took it and opened it, discovering three tins of loose leaf tea. He looked up at her, then at Rodney.

"I might have assigned the things on your list to a few people," he said. He was looking at the crowd of people in the gateroom -- none of them making any effort to leave, but just all standing around. Looking at them.

"What have you done?" Carson asked, and Dr. Collins stepped away, to be replaced by a Private Roger Jefferson.

"Here ya go, doc," he said, handing over another book. Carson barely took it before Jefferson stepped aside to let another marine step into his place. Sergeant Anderson, it was, who handed Carson a small box. Carson peeked inside and saw a stack of DVDs. He didn't have time to pull them out to see what they were before John took them, set them on the cart, and Dr. Baturin stepped forward. He handed over two boxes of tea biscuits.

Then he stepped aside, and a marine Carson didn't know took his place. He was given another book, then another stack of CDs, then Margie Gibbons handed him a small photo album and gave him a kiss on the cheek, telling him it was direct from his cousin Muria. Carson opened the album and saw pictures -- none of which he'd ever seen before. All recent, then.

He tried to say thank you, but nothing came out of his mouth. Margie just smiled and moved away as John took the album out of his hands and set it on the cart. Susanna took her place and gave him something -- he didn't unwrap it, couldn't even begin to process what was happening. This wasn't ten items. This was dozens of people standing in the gateroom, waiting their turn.

He looked around, blinking rapidly against the tears forming, and realised that every single person returning from Earth was standing there, waiting.

Holding small gifts in their hands.

He looked at Rodney and John, and Rodney looked more smug than he had ever looked in all the time Carson had known him.

"I don't know what to say," he stammered, and he blindly accepted a few more items from people, who were all smiling and saying they hoped he liked them and Dr. McKay had been very, very explicit about what they should bring back.

He didn't even try to look closely, knowing that he was too near bawling as it was. Then Teyla stepped forward and she gave him a very tender look, and held out an envelope. He took it, surprised at its thickness. Turning it over, he read his name. Written in his mum's handwriting.

"I could not tell her where you were or why you could not go home, but I assured her you were safe and well. I am certain she believed me."

Carson nodded, still staring at the envelope. So thick, there must be a dozen or more pages inside. He looked up, knowing he was gone, knowing he was crying in front of everyone. But he couldn't help himself.

Teyla moved forward and hugged him, and he was able to hang onto her while he tried to get himself back under control. He felt a hand on his back, Rodney or John, and the silent support made it easier to finally regain his composure. For now -- he handed the envelope over to Rodney, to open it later, in private.

"She is a remarkable woman," Teyla said. "She speaks very highly of you."

"Aye, she does. Brags on me without the slightest provocation," Carson said, finding his voice with some difficulty.

"With good reason," Teyla replied, and she moved aside and the line began to move again. Carson could do nothing more than take what was handed to him and nod, trying to say thank you. But soon people were simply piling the items directly onto the cart and Carson was holding onto Rodney's arm.

Even the new team members were bringing things, people who didn't know him. Returning team members whom he barely knew, handing over gifts they'd brought back in their small bag alloted for personal items. He noticed a few people with items for John and Rodney, and was relieved they'd not gone without, themselves. But still...

"I don't understand," he finally said, watching as the cart was piled higher.

"If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have gone home at all," said Dr. Weir, and he turned, surprised to find her behind him. "Everyone is grateful, and this is a small way for us to express that."

Sandy Myers and Peter Grodin both nodded their agreement, as they added more things to the cart. "It isn't as though it were a hardship," Peter said in a gentle voice. Not like the hardship of never being allowed to return home, was clear, though unspoken.

Carson thought he was going to lose it, again, and clamped his jaw shut. Rodney slipped his arm around Carson's shoulders and pulled him in; Carson let his head fall against Rodney's and squeezed his eyes shut. The repair scroll was frozen, had been for several minutes with every item dimmed until he could barely read the words. Rodney's hand was on his head, holding him tightly, and there was another touch on his arm, a brief but tight squeeze.

He suddenly understood why Rodney and John had decided they needed quite so much space.

He pressed his face against Rodney's shoulder and tried very hard not to break down again. He could hear people moving away, still hear them placing things on the cart and John saying thank you on his behalf. He didn't try to let go, didn't care anymore who knew, who could see.

"Come on," John said, after a moment. "Let Rodney take you home."

Carson nodded and eased himself away from Rodney's embrace. Rodney kept hold of his hand, and pulled him away from the cart -- dear god, it was piled so high with gifts. Carson stared, then turned his head. He let Rodney pull him away, stumbling a bit as he tried to follow. It was hard to walk when it was hard to see.

He didn't hear anyone say a word as they left, and he hoped he'd not insulted anyone by not remaining to receive their gift.

"I was hoping you'd like them," Rodney said, quietly.

Carson nodded, fast. "I do. I do, I... just wasn't expecting anything like this." He blinked rapidly, trying to focus on Rodney's face. "You asked them all...?"

"Well, told, more like. Although no one argued. OK, I didn't even ask Kavanagh, but I didn't see him come through the gate, did you?" Rodney grinned, as though in triumph.

"That would explain the ferret cage," he said, forcing himself to joke. Better, he thought, than crying again.

Rodney just nodded. "It would, indeed." He leaned over, and gave Carson a light kiss on the cheek. They walked a bit more, then Rodney said, "You were kidding about not sharing the scones, right?"

Carson just smiled.

Weir sat down in her office chair, stretching her legs out and propping her feet on the desk. The month back on Earth had been... extraordinary. Wonderful. Harder than she'd ever expected.

She'd seen Simon, briefly. Long enough to have a painful and awkward conversation which ended with them saying their goodbyes. She'd expected it, but actually doing it had been hard.

She'd been able to immerse herself in work afterward, though, returning to the SGC and beginning the personnel selection for the new staff. She'd ended up with forty one new volunteers to supplement the original expedition -- and lost only three as people opted to remain on Earth. She had high hopes the new staff would fit in well and was looking forward to getting back to work.

John appeared at her doorway and she waved him in.

"So, how was your vacation?" she asked. He smirked, which told her everything she cared to know. She held up her hand. "Don't tell me. As long as nothing went wrong, I don't want to hear the details."

"Nothing went wrong," he said, in an obedient tone. He sat down in the chair opposite her desk, and she pulled her feet off it. "We did have one... well, several, interesting developments. But one I think you're really going to like."

She raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Tell me."

He was grinning like a kid. "We did some translation. Well, Carson did. That thing in his head translates stuff from Atlantean to Gaelic, and he translated--"

"Into English?" She sat up straight, her fingers itching to turn on the laptop on her desk and dive into the databases.

"Not everything," John said quickly. "But... enough, I think it'll get us a lot farther ahead than where we ever hoped to get this soon."

She opened her laptop and turned it on. John sat quietly as she looked at the files they'd copied over. She opened one at random, and found the Ancient script partially written in English.

It was several minutes before she finally tore herself away from it and looked up. "We have a full report of the things we did over the last month." John began, then he stopped, turning red. "I mean, with the Atlantis technology." He turned more red. "Work related."

Elizabeth forced herself not to laugh. "Excellent. I'll look forward to reading it."

Nodding, John stood up and stepped away from her desk. She thought about stopping him, then changed her mind and let him go. After the door closed, she opened her email to double-check her suspicions.

There was a room change notice, emailed to her by Rodney, dated three days ago. All she could think was, she really hoped she didn't find all three of them in the hallways.

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