lilyayl (lilyayl) wrote in gateverse_remix,
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lilyayl
gateverse_remix

Yet You Are More Than Traps Or Nets (The Longer and Uncut Remix)

Title: Yet You Are More Than Traps Or Nets (The Longer and Uncut Remix)
Author: lilyayl
Rating: All
Remixed Story: "He Came to My Hand like the Nesting Dove" by cupidsbow (scroll down)
Warnings/Notes: SGA. Vampire AU. This was written for the gateverse_remix. Thanks to cinaed and doublel27 for the beta. The title comes from Rilke's Sonnets To Orpheus. Be sure to check the comments for additional fic-bits.
Pairing: McShep
Wordcount: 5763
Summary: In which John is a half-vampire and Rodney is a vampire hunter ready to rid the world of evil, which, in his opinion, includes half-vampires. Also features Teyla, Elizabeth, Lorne, Ladon Radim, and Sora.


The sun rose hesitantly over the far edges of Atlantea, poking through the trees and mist with a pale, wavering light as though the sun knew it was not welcome in such a place. Teyla drank her tea as Halling related to her all that had happened during the night. Only two attacks, but they had been simultaneous so that John could only defend against one.

"Tireth and his family are captured," Halling said. Dead, he meant. The monsters harbored no survivors, save those whom they could turn or feed upon. Though, even among those few ever escaped the castle hidden far beyond Teyla's sight in the Queen's hated land. Once all the land, from the borders of Athos to the Sithoran River far in the east had belonged to Atlantea, but then the Queen had come. Now Athos was the borderland and Teyla feared that one day her home would belong to the Queen's forest.

Teyla thanked Halling for his report and drank the last of her tea. Elizabeth from the City and Ladon Radim of the Genii would both be arriving soon to conduct trade negotiations. If she wished to avoid any disputes between the two peoples, she would need to be ready at the table and early. Both Ladon and Elizabeth had the annoying habit of arriving long before the agreed time. As she turned to leave her morning post, Teyla noticed that the City delegation was already arriving, accompanied by a steady stream of steam puffs. She grimaced. Steam could mean only that Dr. McKay was also visiting and had insisted upon using transport device. Teyla did not relish the thought of enduring yet another of his long interrogations and rants concerning how 'tainted' is a false construct devised to obfuscate the inherent evilness of anything twisted by the vampires and was intended to make such evil sympathetic.

Dr. McKay circled too near the truth of Atlantea and Athos, not believing the prince-would-be-king was truly dead and hinting that the strange protector of Athos might actually exist as the stories suggested. The last thing anyone in Athos, or Atlantea for that matter, needed was for anyone in the City, but especially for Dr. Rodney McKay, self-proclaimed demon-hunter, to discover that John lived still. Elizabeth, the City's and Atlantea's steward knew and agreed that access to the knowledge should be kept limited. Outside the City rumors and stories filled marketplaces, transforming John into a heroic myth and a focus of hope. Teyla allowed the stories for that reason; if the people ever lost hope, they would truly have no chance to check the monsters and kill the Queen.

Teyla rinsed her mug and took in a deep, bracing breath before walking the lodge where the negotiations would take place. Mediating between Elizabeth and Ladon was difficult enough, even with their amusing facade of civility, without the added trial of Rodney McKay. She would require all the serenity she could muster for the next five days.

~~~

"Rodney, are you certain that this-- transport should be rumbling quite so much?" Elizabeth winced as they tumbled over yet another rock, glad she had not had time to eat that morning.

"The rumbling is just the steam escaping through the valves. I suppose I could--" he trailed off and began flipping through his notes. Elizabeth traded a glance with Evan Lorne, her personal guard during these regular negotiations and the leader of the City's navy in Marshall Sumner's absence. He rolled his eyes at Rodney's antics and kept the steering wheel from veering them too far off course. The steering wheel was new and deemed necessary after the punch-card programming failed and led to the destruction of nearly the entire library.

The sunlight was growing stronger, but the wind off the sea behind them guarded the early morning chill. Leaves were overcoming flowered branches, hinting at the coming heat. Elizabeth wished she could walk to the Athosian village. Such walks were often the only respite she received from her duties as the steward of Atlantea. John, who had never wished to be king, did little to help. He was too busy defending the borderlands and buying cows for Teyla to rent out to those who had been forced to abandon their crops and farms.

When the finally arrived, Rodney began to work on his machine and Elizabeth and Lorne continued on to the lodge. Inside Elizabeth was dismayed to see that despite leaving the City so early in the morning, they had still been beaten by the Genii leader and his guard. Ladon Radim did not even bother to suppress a knowing smile when he greeted her. Arriving first had developed into a good-natured contest between them and ensured that the week started off amiably. During the following days, she and Ladon would discuss trades, policies between their two territories, and problems both were facing. If only Ladon was not so set upon borrowing the City's weaponry, ships, and academics, Elizabeth was certain they could be good friends. She and Ladon joined Teyla at the small table and their guards left the room, staying within earshot of a yell, but not regular speech.

Teyla began. "Welcome Elizabeth, Ladon to Athos. We've met today at Elizabeth's request to discuss a trade of labor, knowledge, and goods." The traditional opening finished, Teyla motioned for Elizabeth to explain what she desired. Immediately Ladon began to shake his head and the long days of trading began. Elizabeth enjoyed these negotiation weeks far more than she knew she should, but Ladon was skilled in argument and Teyla ensured the discussion remained mostly calm, if not friendly. Without her influence, the discussions could become battles, both exhausting and worthless. When Ladon started listing his counter-demands, Elizabeth smiled. Discussions like these were why she so enjoyed government.

~~~

Outside, Lorne and Sora talked. Too many negotiations and tense, silent days had led to the necessity of conversation. Sora still despised Atlantea, blaming the Atlanteans for the death of her father who had helped with a military operation and for an entire litany of other things Lorne was careful to avoid in conversation. Instead they talked of the vampires, training techniques, art, and a common friend.

"How are you guys?" Lorne asked.

Sora deftly stepped over his actual question and answered, "The monsters raided an entire village several nights ago. Some lived due to some soldiers who were staying there overnight on their way to the borders. We can't keep defending when we lose soldiers in every battle. What use is the advantage of daylight if we do not use it?"

"We have tried," Lorne said and Sora snorted.

"Yes, by sending in small teams armed with faulty weapons." And he had just hit one of the sensitive topics. He agreed with her though, the military had not once fully committed to attacking the vampires. In one assignment he had barely missed, all the soldiers sent into the Queen's territory had died. Lorne still wondered, sometimes, if he had gone, whether or not the prince would have stayed behind, whether John would still be alive. "We need to send in a large, heavily armed number of soldiers during the day. We should burn all the forests in the Queen's territory and attack daily, beating the monsters back to the river and killing them," Sora continued.

"Does--"

"Yes." Sora interrupted him with a glare. She insisted upon keeping her personal life completely secret and unmentioned. That Lorne knew was a complete accident. "He thinks McKay should build a weapon to decimate the entire area."

"He likes to blow things up, doesn't he?"

"Do you think McKay could?"

Lorne looked out at where Rodney was sitting, surrounded by bits of metals and notes, and nodded. "Yes, in fact, I'm sure he already has plans, if not a prototype."

"You don't know?" Sora looked over to him, curious and Lorne shrugged.

"McKay's been really secretive about that lately. He does seem to be working on something big right now, though. He hasn't insisted upon being sailed over the mainland once in the past two months."

"I hope you are right," she said and Lorne changed the subject to a new exhibit at the City's museum and other banal topics. Their conversation meandered, covering a host of topics, but never delving very deeply. They were not friends, but for five days every thirty or so, they could pretend.

~~~

Ever since Rodney and Radek had built their first steam-automated machine transport, Rodney has dissembled and reassembled each part of the engine, couplings, steering mechanisms, and boiler enough times that he could now do so without much thought at all; his hands knew what to do. Rodney laid out SAM's steering system, interspersing them with spare parts from a box he had brought with him. Anyone who saw him would think him completely engrossed in his work, which meant that they did not watch their tongues. As Rodney slowly fixed SAM, he listened to the conversations around him. He wrote down relevant facts in his notebook. The dual attack of the previous night. Sightings in the south. And, of course, John, the dead protector of Athos and Atlantea. Teyla knew more, Rodney was certain, but she refused to share anything with him. She did not wish to believe she might have compromised her people and everyone else by trusting one of the tainted. Only John the Prince was dead.

He had learned of John's transformation nearly half a year ago. During a fact-gathering mission in the Queen's territory, he had been attacked by two monsters as pale as gravestones with wide mouths on the their hands. His fireshot had malfunctioned and they'd stolen his pack before he could retrieve his other weapons and defenses. He was going to die. Then, without any warning, a third figure appeared. Rather than join the monsters, he ripped them apart. The necks stretching and the pop of the spine still haunted Rodney's nightmares. Rodney had scrambled for his pack, grabbing whatever he could reach first, a bottle of salted water and a blue star. He was alive, but no human could pull a vampire's head from his body.

"Who are you?" he'd demanded. The figured stepped back into a patch of moonlight and Rodney dropped his star in shock. The face he knew well. "You're dead," he' d accused.

John Sheppard, the Prince of Atlantea, had only shrugged. "Not really." John's death had been a scandal of nearly epic proportions. In the days following the first attack and failure, pictures of all the fallen soldiers had appeared in the papers. Everyone from the control tower to the outermost reaches of the City had been outraged to learn that one face included was Prince John's. No one had known the overprotected and never-seen prince had disguised himself as a common soldier. The military commander, Jack O'Neill, had resigned, telling everyone he had not known, that he had assumed John was merely a disciplinary problem who constantly snuck away from the barracks. Rodney still thought O'Neill had been rather insincere and would not be surprised if the man had known John's true identity the entire time.

That was not the only time he had seen the tainted John. Nearly every excursion included a brief visit and maddening conversation. Also, gifts began to arrive in the City for Rodney. Dead vampires for study, rare books, and joya beans, which the Genii had stopped trading over a year ago. Rodney had dithered over the beans, especially, for a full day. Unlike the other gifts, the beans were frivolous, without an immediate use. He should not accept gifts from one he knew to be evil, but joya-- Rodney had missed that drink and could not imagine how any slippery slope into evil could begin with something so good. With each gift and encounter, his suspicions and worry grew. John seemed to be helping him, but why?

The gossip around Rodney began to drift off as the sun rose higher. Lunch would begin soon. With luck, Kenna would be the one in charge of the kitchens for the day. She had this stew that stars would kill themselves to taste. Delicious. Rodney finished the steering system and reinstalled it into SAM. The parts around him were now just a decoy and an excuse to stay should Elizabeth hint for him to return. He couldn't leave just yet. Hidden under SAM was his weapon. The weapon. He could destroy the Queen and all those near her with one carefully time explosion. He couldn't leave yet, because tomorrow he was going to save Atlantea.

~~~

When the bell rang, signally the opening of the kitchens for those who did not wish to or did not have the means to cook for themselves, Teyla smiled. She held up her hand as Elizabeth drew in a breath and said, "Lunch is being distributed. We will reconvene once the kitchens close."

Elizabeth did not continue her argument and stood. "Shall we?"

Ladon stood and motioned for her to leave first. "Of course."

Once they had left, Teyla stretched. The morning had been more peaceful than some, but she could tell that reaching an agreement this time would not be easy. The increased frequency in attacks had made both Elizabeth and Ladon less willing to compromise. Teyla wished she could join the two for lunch to observe them together and away from the negotiating table, but she had something more important to attend to. Kenna would save her a bowl and bread to eat afterwards.

~~~

"Such coddling, however, does not instill any lasting confidence in the trainees. You should--" Sora stopped talking as Ladon and Elizabeth exited the lodge. The two were talking, which was a good sign, but Lorne could see some stress already in Elizabeth's smile. He and Sora did not talk as they followed their leaders to the kitchens. Instead, Lorne half-listened to Ladon and Elizabeth. Ladon was talking about a book Elizabeth had lent him and about his disgust for the one character who turned out to be Elizabeth's favorite. They bickered over the character and the decisions he had made at some point and soon they were discussing the distinctions between lies and misdirection and the benefits of a utilitarian ideology. It was going to be a very long lunch. The only odd moment occurred when Ladon stopped speaking mid-point and stared at the mess of parts McKay had left around his transport. What did he see in that, Lorne wondered. Uses and opportunities, most likely, but then he remembered that Ladon had once been an academic like McKay. He wondered then, if maybe Ladon felt the same things while starting at McKay's transport that Lorne felt when he walked through an art gallery. A pang, the loss of a future left behind.

~~~

Teyla descended through the triple-doored corridor that led down from the supply room into the cellar so designed that no light could enter. John would not burn in the daylight, but the rays did weaken him.

"Teyla?" John's voice seemed weak. Teyla lit and lamp and frowned.

"Halling did not say you had been injured."

John scratched at the already healing cut across his collarbone. He had another gash down his leg. "They weren't serious. Besides, you had other things to worry about. What's Radim demanding this time?"

"At the moment, Academics." Teyla checked over John's wounds having learned long ago that they had wildly different definitions of serious.

"We can't. The City needs the --ow! Why'd you do that?"

"You did not even clean this, John. You cannot let the skin heal over a possible infection." She cut away more of the scabbed skin and poured out water over it to flush it clean. John hissed. "The salt is necessary," she said quietly.

"I know. Can't Radim send his people to the City to learn to do whatever it is he wants done?"

"Ladon does not wish to be shorthanded anymore than you. Attacks have become more frequent in his land and his borders are beginning to contract."

John cursed. "I have to kill the Queen. Without her--"

"How?" Teyla asked. "You have have already tried many times, have you not?"

"I am stronger now," John said. "I know them better too. I can't just keep waiting for them to attack. They'll just attack like they did last night, multiple places at the same time."

Teyla slid her hand down John's cut, urging the already swift healing process to quicken. "You are still only one man."

"No," John said, catching her gaze, "I'm not. Not anymore." He looked down at his hands and at the small slits, the closed mouths that crossed each palm. Teyla stood. She recognized this unnatural quietness; John had dropped into such contemplations often after his survival and after his first feeding.

"Dr. McKay arrived with Elizabeth this morning." The change in John was instantaneous. She could see that he had stopped looking at his hands and had started considering all the mischief and teasing he could accomplish. "Please do not torture him too much; he asks so many questions when you do."

John smirked and Teyla repressed a sigh. John courted Rodney like a schoolboy after his first crush, a dizzying mix of actually thoughtful gifts and teasing that accomplished nothing more than putting the recipient off-kilter. Still, she preferred that John think about Rodney than about his own taint. "Rest well," she said and she left the cellar, closing each of the three doors behind her before opening the next. John worried her; he was too restless and ready to attack. All he needed was an excuse, something just important enough for him to switch from the defensive to the offensive.

Teyla left the supply room and blinked at the bright sun. The warning bell for the kitchens rang and she quickened her pace. With luck she might even have some time to eat before the negotiations began again.

~~~

Rodney knew that he should have told Elizabeth that he was finished with the weapon, but the last time he had talked about any innovations in his hunting weaponry, the military had seized upon the weapons before they had been fully tested. With the scandal over John's death, everyone had wanted a victory. Without tests, however, no one had known that the fireshots would not work in humid conditions. Of the 16 men sent into the Queen's territory, only one had lived. The survivor, Aiden Ford, had brought traditional defenses and some explosives with him in addition to Rodney's weapon. Ford had resigned after returning to the City. Rodney had heard he lived among the Genii now and had even married one if the rumors were true.

Elizabeth quirked one brow and Rodney realized he had not yet answered her question. "No," he said. "I haven't completely fixed SAM yet."

"Teyla mentioned that several of her people would be delivering cattle near the shore tomorrow morning. You could accompany them." Her tone made clear that her suggestion was anything but. She thought he was still just constructing a prototype for testing and something discussed that morning must have made her more eager that his weapon be done soon.

"Teyla just wishes to avoid uncomfortable questions," Rodney scoffed, his mind stretching for some way to sway Elizabeth. "She can't bear the idea that Athos' so-called protector probably has a secret agenda." When Elizabeth tilted her head, Rodney rolled his eyes. "I know he exists, Elizabeth, and I know he is tainted. Just because a tainted still appears human does not mean they actually are. Don't you remember that mess with Sumner?" Lorne, next to Elizabeth stiffened and Elizabeth's expression blanked. Great. He had gone too far.

"Rodney."

"But SAM," he added weakly.

"I am sure you can finish your transport this afternoon. If you cannot, Lorne and I will bring it back to the City for you."

Rodney started to protest, but then sat back in defeated silence. He would leave tomorrow morning. Fine. That just meant he had to attack tonight. Rodney finished his stew quickly, burning his throat. He needed to leave right away if he hoped to reach the Queen's stronghold before dark. He refused to think about what would happen then. He would not have time to install his weapon or to get away.

If Elizabeth was surprised by his sudden lack of protests, she did not say anything. Instead she ate the peach Radim had brought her and talked of a pie her mother used to make with the fruit. When Rodney's bowl was empty, he left. Someone else could return his dishware to the kitchens; he had a Queen to kill.

~~~

When Ladon left to request some fruit from the kitchens before they closed, he stopped to study McKay's transport. The second glance affirmed his initial thoughts; the materials surrounding the device had to be a ploy of some kind. He could not imagine what in the transport would require so large a nut nor what would possess McKay to use such an archaic cover plate. He would ask Sora to watch McKay more closely in the afternoon; he did not wish to be caught off-guard.

The kitchens had a few early peaches already. Ladon made sure to swipe one while the attendant washed a small mound of cherries for him. Elizabeth loved peaches and perhaps eating one would make her more charitable in the afternoon. His people needed to learn how to create fireshots on their own, as well as the other weapons the City had designed with the vampires in mind.

Ladon was oddly pleased when Elizabeth smiled so broadly at the sight of the peach. If only she was not so selfish and stubborn about her resources and unwilling to see any issue other than from the City's perspective, Ladon was certain they could be friends. There was no reason for the relationship between the Genii and Atlanteans to be so contentious when they both faced the same threat. And yet, he could not even negotiate the most minor of trades with Elizabeth without Teyla present to moderate.

When they had finished their meal and were returning their dishware to the kitchens, Ladon noticed that McKay's transport was gone. He was comforted that Elizabeth seemed just as stunned as he. Whatever McKay was doing had been no plan of hers. "He said he was not finished," she said and that intrigued Ladon even more. Why would McKay lie to Elizabeth? He shelved the question, however, once they returned to the lodge and a long afternoon of discussions.

~~~

Sora peered out in the distance surrounding the village, while Lorne scoured every hiding place they could think of. Sora was certain Ladon would wish to know what McKay was up to and Lorne's behavior suggested that Weir was just as curious. They had been searching for over an hour and she was beginning to think McKay had just disappeared like starmen in all the old stories did, but then she saw the steam. It was barely visible in the distance; McKay must have done something to it.

"There." Sora pointed toward the south-east.

"He can't be that much an idiot," Lorne muttered and hurried to her side. He groaned and began to run down the hill. "McKay!!" If McKay had heard he gave no sign. Lorne jogged back up the hill where Sora still stood. "Weapons," he said. "We need fireshots, salted water, stars; what the hell does he think he is doing? Tell Elizabeth for me?" Sora nodded and ran for the lodge. Teyla did not wish for the proceedings to ever be interrupted, but this, Sora knew, was an emergency.

When she finally burst through the lodge door, Ladon was explaining exactly why his people could not travel to the City for studying. Sora interrupted him, her breathing labored. "McKay has gone to the Queen's territory," she said. She glanced to Weir. "Lorne has gone for weapons and soldiers."

"Are you sure?" Weir asked.

"Yes."

Ladon turned to Weir. "Do you know why Dr. McKay would do such a thing?" Weir shook her head.

"If you don't mind," Sora said to Ladon, "I'll go assist Lorne. If McKay angers the monsters, we could be attacked."

"Go." Sora hurried to the horses she and Ladon had brought with them and hoped Lorne knew how to ride. She was not going to run more that day if she could help it.

~~~

When the sun began to set, John left his cellar. The cuts, thanks to Teyla's influence, had healed completely. They did not even itch. Outside the sun was low, heavy on the horizon and very red. During his time his time as a soldier he had spent many long hours on the ships. He had learned to take comfort in such a sky. Clear weather was to come. John missed sailing the sea around the City.

The full vampires would not rise for an hour yet. Even the slightest amount of sunlight could render them completely powerless for days. John usually relaxed in that short span of time or made plans with Teyla. Tonight, however, he was going to find McKay. He smirked at the thought of meeting McKay again and messing with his mind. He was just so set in his mindset that John felt obligated to topple his paradigm.

Beyond that, though, Rodney McKay intrigued John. He was a walking contradiction. As an academic, McKay should spend most his hours indoors, studying all the archaic sciences and building devices for others to use. Instead, Rodney, like John, had escaped his expected captivity and used his own machines. John still laughed when he thought of the library crash Elizabeth had described to him. Only McKay, and those academics he goaded into it, used their own machines, tested their own theories and prototypes. Rodney was abrasive, yes, but interesting.

Besides, he was trying to destroy the vampires too. Granted he also thought that John should be destroyed, but John was confident they could overcome that barrier. They had worked well together the many times John had encountered him blundering through the Queen's woods. Together they could overthrow the Queen and all the monsters like her. Rodney just needed to stop the whole tainted business.

John entered Teyla's home through a hidden back door and listened to ensure she was alone before entering the main room. He heard only two voices, hers and Elizabeth's. He entered. When he did so, Elizabeth tensed. Every line on her face was taut and John's stomach hardened.

"What happened?" he demanded.

Teyla answered. "Rodney has gone into the woods, John."

"Alone," Elizabeth added.

"Excuse me?" John did not know why he was suddenly so livid, except that he was. Rodney's aim was horrible when he got tense; he should never be alone in the Queen's territory. "Which way?"

"South-east."

John was gone before Teyla or Elizabeth could say another word. The vampires would be awake soon. He had to find Rodney before then. Or else-- John shut down that thought and ran. The villagers and houses and trees all blended into a blur around him until all he could was what laid directly ahead.

~~~

Rodney was in trouble. Since the geography had not altered that much from the old maps, he had reached the castle as planned. He had not planned upon the weapon being so difficult to remove from SAM without damaging it nor had he planned upon entering the castle after the sun set.

The Queen tapped the tips of her fingers against her lips. Her palms were held together, but Rodney could still hear the click of teeth from inside each mouth. "Dear, dear, me," she said, almost laughing. Her voice rasped like sandpaper. Rodney swallowed hard and slowly moved his hand down the side of his weapon. Three buttons, five keystrokes and the weapon would shoot out a small bomb. The bomb would attach to the first surface it met and then explode. The explosion would throw out a mix of fire, salt, and water. The entire castle would crumble in the blast. The Queen would be killed. Five keystrokes.

Rodney did not want to die.

The Queen smiled and opened her hands, hinging them on her pointer fingers and thumbs. The mouths gaped hungrily at Rodney. His fingers slipped. Stars protect him; he was going to die. The Queen stepped toward him and Rodney backed up against the wall. He should reach for his fireshot, his star, something, but he couldn't move. He couldn't move. The Queen was reaching and then he heard a yell. An impossibly loud shout. The Queen jerked back and he could suddenly breathe again.

And there was John.

No matter how many times Rodney would think back to that moment in the future, he would never be able to explain exactly what happened. One moment the Queen and John were facing each other and then the next they were a blur of motion. He should have run, but he couldn't. He was transfixed. Then there was a scream, a terrible wrenching sound, and silence.

Rodney fumbled for his fireshot and shot several bullets into the Queen until her body burned from the inside out and blew away as thick ash. Then he turned his fireshot toward John. He did not know how long he stood there, his arm shaking and his finger refusing to squeeze the trigger. He stood there until John coughed and opened the one eye that was not swollen and said, "What the hell are you still doing here? Run! Before the Queen's minions find you!"

And somehow that made a decision for Rodney. He wasn't sure what exactly he had decided yet, but he knew something was changed. He dragged John out to SAM and put the boiler on full capacity. They were running for their lives.

He was saving John's life. "I have to be under some kind of a compulsion," he muttered. "As irrational as the idea is, it's the only possible explanation." Beside him John laughed and coughed. He slumped down to the floor and rested his head back against the seat cushion. Rodney reached and brushed his hair as he remembered his parents doing once upon a time for him. John half-smiled and that warmed something within him.

The stars were kind, because they only encountered one vampire during their escape to Athos. Rodney shot the creature while driving with an aim he had never had before. He hit the heart and the monster died. "Good shot," John said and that made Rodney feel ridiculously proud.

When they reached the edge of Athos, Rodney saw Lorne, that Genii woman, and several others, all armed and ready. They were running down the hill to meet him.

~~~

"I'm not leaving him," Rodney said again as he watched the others carry John toward the supply room.

"Rodney, perhaps we should let Teyla work in--"

"No," Teyla interrupted and she motioned to Rodney. "This way." John would want to see him, Teyla knew. She was still angry John had charged off so recklessly, but she could understand. Besides, Rodney had brought John back and that alone was enough for her. There was more to this pushy academic than she had first realized and he deserved to have his request met. She led him down through the corridor to the cellar room where John lied.

"Why did he save me?" Rodney asked as she began to inspect the wounds.

"He thought you were worth it," Teyla replied, softly so as to not stir John.

Rodney's hands flailed. "But he is a tainted and I'm just me."

Teyla looked up at him and smiled kindly. He truly was confused. "Perhaps you should rethink your assumptions," she suggested and she began to clean John's wounds. With her gift, they would heal. Not overnight, but in a few days he would be fine again. "Thank you for bringing him to me," she said.

Rodney sat down across the room. "I had to," he said and was quiet. Teyla worked and allowed him to think.

~~~

Ladon thrumed his fingers against a table and looked over to Elizabeth. "The Prince is alive and McKay has a weapon capable of killing a large number of monsters at once."

"This changes things, doesn't it?" Elizabeth forced herself to smile despite feeling completely wretched.

Ladon nodded. "Yes. It does, but that can wait until tomorrow. Did you read that essay I gave you last time?"

Elizabeth really smiled this time. "Yes," she said, thankful he had changed the topic. "I did not imagine you would care so much for the art of cooking." She was baiting him, teasing him into an argument.

"That is all you read in it?" he asked, his voice dripping with disbelief and Elizabeth sat back, ready to argue and distract herself until Teyla returned with news.

~~~

Rodney stayed after Teyla left and watched over John's body. He could see the swollen eye deflating. John was going to live. Why did that make him feel so relieved?

John groaned and Rodney stood. "Are you awake? Should I get Teyla?"

"Yes and no. Is there a bottle on the table there?" Rodney looked.

"Yes."

"I need that." Rodney handed him the warm bottle and then watched with gross fascination and disgust as John poured the contents into each hand. John sighed. "Better." He looked over at Rodney. "You saved me." He smirked.

Rodney snapped back to the moment. "Don't you dare do that again! Do you realize how heavy you are?"

"So I should stop saving your life?"

"Yes. No. Just stop risking yours."

John raised a brow. "I thought we tainted weren't really living. Just as bad as the vampires, I thought."

"Oh, shut up, like I'm not allowed to change my mind when presented with new and compelling evidence."

John laughed and in that moment Rodney realized what exactly he had discovered and decided hours ago. Until faced with the chance to kill John, Rodney had not realized how unable he was to do. Somewhere between saving his life and joya beans, Rodney had fallen for this strange, tainted prince. John was saying something sarcastic and annoying, but Rodney was not listening, because he could not believe what he was about to do, was doing. John's lips were warmer than he had imagined, more alive than he had thought possible. What in all the stars was he doing?

He was kissing John Sheppard and he didn't want to pull away. But then John, responding, reached up and Rodney jerked back before John could touch him. "No hands," he said. "Not yet."

"I see we still have a few trust issues to work out," John said and laid back in his bed. He looked disappointed. Rodney leaned back over the bed and hesitantly and quickly kissed John.

"But we're all right, right?" he asked.

John smirked that stupid smirk of his and drawled, "Yeah, we're just fine." Rodney grinned and leaned down to kiss John again.
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