First Sign of Madness

By Kat Reitz and Perryvic


Greg knew they didn't really have the people on to double up tonight. Catherine had the DB down on the strip, Sara was running with the sex guy who seemed to be a serial offender, Grissom had taken off to deal with the body in the dumpster with the fingers missing and Warrick was down taking a look at the electrocution in the suburbs, He knew there were about four other fresh cases in, but he'd still ended up with Nick on this apparent body dump of a DB on the outskirts of Area 51.

There'd been a time he thought a case up here would've been cool, but a lot of things had stopped being cool recently.

It wasn't that it wasn't interesting anymore. Work was still interesting, full of fascinating things and mental triumphs, but the... giddiness, Greg guessed wasn’t there. It was gone or tucked away or something, because he wasn't sure what to do. Nick probably still felt like that, after what had happened to him, and Greg knew that his experiences weren't even on par with Nick's. No way, no how. But it still hurt *him*, what had happened, so...

"Hell of a place to dump a body." Nick put the Denali into park on the flattest piece of off road he could find that was near the flashing lights of the police cars.

"Area 51 should have its own dumping zone," Greg replied. "Pretty stupid place to try to get rid of a body, on the edge of a military base."

He tried a slight smile because otherwise Nick would spend the rest of the shift looking at him worriedly and he couldn't deal with that right now.

The concern was great, fine, but he didn't know what to do with it any more than he knew what to do since that case. And cases were easier if Nick *wasn't* worried about him, if Nick stayed worried about the case.

Nick stepped out of the Denali, and closed the door behind him, peering towards the lights, the body, and where Brass was standing with a couple of officers with a man in a leather jacket. First on scene, first suspect.

It was a rule of thumb that was proven to be the case over and over again.

"DB or Area 51 guy?" Nick offered and he glanced at the body, floodlit, with David waiting to do his thing.

"I'll take Area 51 guy," Greg replied shying away a little from the evidence of pulped flesh on the guys face. He could do it. He could process that, but he had a choice not to. So he chose not to.

That was why Nick was there, and Greg wasn't yet up to being the brave little CSI who worked cases despite their personal distastefulness. He hadn't even been able to handle the burn victim after the lab explosion because the thought of what he had been through magnified over and over was just too much. If Greg didn't know better, Grissom put him on cases like that as a test.

"Sanders, this is *Doctor* Meredith Rodney McKay," Brass half-called towards him. "He found the body."

Meredith. Either the guy had had a really... uh... yeah, he wasn't going to finish the sex change thought. He bet there was pretty much no one on Earth who he'd let get away with calling him Meredith.

"Hi," he said raising a hand and then pulling on his latex gloves. "Dr. McKay, I'm going to have to process you for evidence." Dr. McKay had to be a safe bet.

The man eyed Greg. He had bright, blue eyes, and a receding hairline, and his jaw had a stubborn set to it. He certainly wasn't mister happiness, Greg could tell. He was probably going to be a pain in the ass even if he *wasn't* their top suspect at the moment, which he was. He held his hands out, and they were mottled in blood. "I had to move the body. You can ask the MPs at the gate."

"You moved the body?" Greg asked. "Where did you find it originally?" So there was swab for the fingers, under the names. Bag up the clothes. Yeah, that would be fun. Nick was not going to be impressed he'd have to process a different area of ground.

"Well, right there," he said with a gesture. "But I had to, look, do you understand what classified means? It means that we can't even be caught *dead* with it. So I, I rifled his clothes until I found everything that belonged in base."

Now that was going to be a problem. "....Okay." He was going to have to ask Nicky how this worked. Did the military do this? "I get what classified means. I guess it means that Detective Brass gets to speak nicely to your military guys and work out what we can test. Put your hands out and spread your fingers please."

He snapped a couple of pictures, still finding parts of him ached already. This was ridiculous. It should all be gone by now; the bruises and everything. It should be gone, put behind him like the trial was.

But he couldn't shake the last of it off, not when the night was cold. Or maybe it was all psychosomatic from seeing the guy who was beaten to a pulp over there. "That would be, oh, nothing. What you see there is what you can have access to. We were taking readings, split up, and when he didn't meet me back at the gate, I went looking for him." But he held his hands out, bloody fingers and all. It didn't look like he had any wounds on his hands, but he was definitely covered in victim blood.

"Uh-huh," Greg murmured as he diligently scraped under the nails, swabbed the hands and then looked up accidentally into those very bright blue eyes. And that really wasn't what he was expecting at all. Something strong enough to make him swallow his words for a moment.

He didn't look like a killer at all. He looked like someone with a miserable job, and somehow rifling through a corpse was part of it. "He was one of my assistants. He wasn't all that bright, but he was less brain-dead than the rest of the sycophants, and he had a sister who lives in Henderson and I have no idea what I'm going to do."

"Try and relax. The evidence generally takes care of it," Greg said suddenly seeing that same sense of bewilderment he knew he'd had. That feeling of wondering how it had happened. How had he gone from being fine to being in this mess? "I am going to need your clothes though," Greg added. "Sorry, but we'll have something you can change into downtown."

"Can we do the stripping naked thing downtown, too? Because I'm not a fan of standing in the middle of a high desert in my boxers." He sounded cantankerous, and Brass was standing off to the side, watching and smiling slightly.

"Yeah, but you'll have to ride in the back of a squad car."

"Sometimes he even puts the sirens on," Greg confided. "I expect Detective Brass wants to interview you some more as well. Get some more details. He'll make the arrangements about notifying people."

"Just tell the MPs at the gate where I'm going. Right now I *am* the person you'd notify." Rodney's mouth pulled down, and he shifted his feet almost nervously.

Sometimes Greg admitted that the snap judgment of this guy or that guy did it that they all made, Grissom's creed to the contrary, were wrong, but in this case he was pretty sure that this Dr. McKay hadn't killed this particular person.

For a start it would be spectacularly stupid to do so, and he was pretty sure he wasn't stupid. "We'll do that. I'll catch a ride with you back to process your clothes. I wasn't in the driver's seat tonight."

And had avoided being in it since he been forcibly dragged from it, out over smashed glass into the darkness.

Which brought him back to Grissom not letting him go solo. But Brass didn't comment on it. He even slapped Greg lightly on the back. "Okay, Officer Baker is gonna take you two back, and I'll get the scene cordoned off and talk with the guys at the gate." If it was at all possible, it was a location where they wanted to take the evidence and get it *away* from the scene, to someplace they could process it asap.

"Thanks Jim," Greg said and dutifully turned and called out to Nick. "See you back at the lab?"

After a couple of incidents where he had disappeared off of the radar for all of ten minutes and there had been a minor meltdown going on, he'd gotten used to just giving them a heads up on where he was going.

And that, that problem was completely out of his hands. That wasn't something he was doing wrong or needed to do differently, that was reliving the aftermath of Nick again, when everyone was all feelers and awareness in their tight knit group, smotheringly so.

McKay took a half step forwards, looking at Brass and then Officer Baker as he flanked him. "No cuffs? Not that I want them, but I also don't want to be one of those guys from an episode of Cops who gets smeared over the ground for breathing wrong."

"Well, we could always do that if that's what you really want," Jim said laid back. "But, you know unless you're up to confessing and making it a short night, we'll save that bit."

Greg smiled a little. They probably should be cuffing him, but Jim had an instinct that was rarely fooled. He wasn't even looking to charge him and so he wasn't giving any grounds for comeback afterwards.

"I'll make sure they don't do anything," Greg said easily enough. "Hopefully it'll be a quick trip."

"Great. It's not like my research is going anywhere." The man gave Greg a slightly leery look, but he kept his hands out of his jacket pockets -- probably out of fear of the police, which was nice to see for a change -- and walked with the officer carefully close. Greg knew he'd have to sit up in the front of the squad car, but that was always kinda cool.

With any luck Baker wasn't going to be looking at him, worrying about him, nonchalantly avoiding what had happened. He'd done okay before, he was fit enough to be back at work and he had someone to process who was edgy enough to make him feel calm in comparison.

He took shotgun and wondered if the guy was going to make it. It was weird, but underneath the nerves he seemed to be very decisive. Tougher than he looked maybe. Or maybe that was just in comparison as well.

Greg wasn't sure, and the scientist with the crooked mouth was sitting in the back seat, glancing around but quiet as they drove. Baker didn't try to make small talk, and that was okay. Greg just hoped it'd be a quiet night.


He wasn't ever alone anymore.

Except that he *was*, and there was no one to go 'McKay, shut up and take a deep breath', except he could *hear* it as clear as a fucking bell in his god-damned head, but he didn't tell anyone that.

And sometimes it was a voice cussing at the city, except it wasn't his voice *or* his city anymore. It wasn't even a city, it was ash. It was ash and broken up pieces of crystal and and, and Heightmeyer said it was normal. To be traumatized, but she looked at him funny. And hey, *she* was the one who'd developed a drinking problem since they'd come home, so she had not a single ounce of ground to stand on in her little speeches.

Boy she was going to have a ball when she got word of what had happened.

~Being a suspect in a murder is no joke ~ John's voice said in his head and he really wanted him to shut up and stop being captain... colonel obvious for a change. He was pretty much aware of that around the point he had stumbled over Myer's body when the idiot hadn't come back in with the data from recording station 3.

And he just knew the circumstances weren't going to look good. Recording station three was a sure indication of his displeasure and anyone in Area 51 knew that's where Rodney sent people who had pissed him off enough.

It was for general transmissions, looking for nonaligned life in the universe, blah blah, blah, busywork. Stellar white noise of the most uninteresting variety that, and Rodney had to admit, once in a while actually picked up something useful. From the radio of a passing truck or something. Usually it was good for base gossip.

But it was also the worst one to get to, set up on a weathered pile of large desert rocks that most scientists flinched from. Rodney had been a little surprised to find it didn't really bother him. Not after... after running for his life. For all of them running and surviving and staying one step ahead until the Daedalus could get there.

The CSI guy was holding out some clothes now they were in a room he was convinced people could see into. "You mind undressing? Sooner I get this done, the sooner you get to go home."

Yes he minded undressing. He minded, and the man didn't even know he was dealing with one of the world's finest scientific minds. He just thought he was dealing with a murderer, which... technically.

Technically. More than once. Probably more than most serial killers in the city, but it had been vast things. Bombs, and firing from the ship, and... things that were almost intangible in their weight until he closed his eyes at night. "Sure. Fine." Rodney shrugged out of his jacket first.

~Self defense Rodney. Never murder. You never murdered anyone.~ John's voice echoed in his head. He was sure he'd said that before the Fall. It was the memory haunting him.

The jacket was tagged and very carefully packed and labeled.

"You feeling okay?" the CSI asked. "You're looking kinda peaky. Don't want you passing out on me. My uncle Sven, he has problems with his blood-sugar, and I was always told to stand behind him at family things, to catch him in case he got dizzy or something."

"I'm hypoglycemic," Rodney said, the words coming out before he'd even really thought about it. "I've got a... power bar in my pants, but I guess that's evidence, huh? Can I wash my hands?" He started to unbutton his shirt. It was a loss. For all he cared they could run it up a flagpole -- he had *blood* on it.

"I've swabbed them, taken nail samples and photo front and back so yeah," Greg answered. "I'll have to take pictures of your torso and body. In case there are marks or evidence. Sorry. And I'll get you something from the vending machine in a moment okay? Once I've got the rest of this clear."

~Seems like a nice kid~ and he wished John's voice would shut up. Because that was something he'd said about Ford and that had gone really sour on them, nice kid or not.

"Sure." Rodney knew that the only marks on him were old. Old wounds, old familiar wounds. The gunshot from when the Wraith device had unhinged John, because, really, John had joked him about the stubble now and again, but mistaking him for Taliban was out of sanity there. Just right out. The arrow from the planet of the 'Oops, the wraith lied to us!' people. A hundred other accidents on the job in a city that was a danger on a *good* day. They'd had people crushed in innocuous equipment, killed in stupid ways.

Rodney supposed he was lucky, and took his shirt off, holding it out for the kid.

He took it, packed it away and then started snapping pictures and that was just horribly exposing. "Sorry about this," the CSI said apologetically and that had to be a good sign right? That he seemed sympathetic?

And he did. He really did which was just weird. "So what do you do at Area 51?" he asked as he continued taking pictures.

"That's a loaded question. I'm a contractor for the US defense department." He couldn't say any more. He could go on and on about his *theories*, the ones that weren't classified, the ones that he could publish publicly, and he was slowly being allowed to feed out his older theories, right and wrong, but it was a tight academic leash.

"High powered stuff huh?" He noticed the name tag said Greg Sanders and his hair looked pretty different in the photo ID. Messy. And fucking god, that was just ridiculous that someone styling their hair messy would tie him all up inside so easily.

"Bet it's classified right?"

"It's classified in ways you wouldn't believe. Hence me searching my assistant's body, and the blood." Rodney started to unbuckle his belt, and then paused long enough to toe off his boots. "It's not that we're *trying* to interfere, because believe me, when one of us gets killed it's a huge security breech pending, and if someone is trying to pick some of us off again, I'd rather not be next, but we can't have the county's finest picking through things."

"Wow." Greg Sanders looked up at him. "And you're in charge of the whole deal. Does that mean you're like alpha-geek in Area 51?"

The strange thing was that it didn’t sound like an insult, but more from the perspective of someone well used to geek-dom.

"I was head of... Yes. I guess that means I'm the alpha geek." In that spot. There was always Sam Carter, except that she still had a risk of having her skull blown open by an Ori, and it wasn't nearly as funny a thought as it had been years ago.

Boots off, Rodney shimmied his pants down. "As much as someone in a very catlike society can be alpha. I'm certainly smarter than the rest of the sycophantic hacks who work under me."

He saw the CSI raise his eyebrows at that assessment. "Guess you don't like them much huh?" He took the pants and bagged them as well.

"No, no, no, they're *nice*, but they're fawning and stupid. They don't have a grasp of some very simple things they *should* understand and it's... " Rodney waved a hand weakly, standing there in his smiley-faced boxers. "It doesn't matter. It's the usual academic sniping. I'm sure some of them will be fantastic at the work eventually."

He noticed the younger man stifle a snort. "You know, I'm pretty sure my boss thinks about the same about me. Nearly done."

More pictures, the flash of a camera behind him. "Got a few scars.... old ones?"

"A few years. Fieldwork with the military, with heavy machinery can be fairly dangerous." He was sure Greg could imagine some heavy computer system or laser guided tracking device sliding off of a sand dune and hitting him.

"Fieldwork can be like that... mind you labs aren't as safe as they could be either," Greg replied. "You know, Jim is going to have a hard time interviewing you if everything is classified. Not that *that* is any to do with me. I just collect evidence."

~He likes you,~ came that echo of a memory voice again.~You know he does....~

"Then I guess 'Jim' is going to have a hard time interviewing me. Because our work is classified. It's *Area 51* -- what did you people really expect when you went there? We make things that go boom in fantastic ways. Cutting edge of research and development. It's not a university particle accelerator." Rodney settled his hands on his hips, watching the CSI.

"Shame. I always thought the particle accelerators were kinda cool," Greg replied as he checked his picture. "Okay, you can wash up if you want and get dressed. I'll get you something from the machine. What would you like?"

"Anything without citrus." Rodney twisted to look for the sink. He'd wash his hands first, then dress. "Thanks." After all, it was going to be a long night. Just like debriefings.

"Allergies?" Greg answered tilting his head just a little. "Had a friend in college who'd pretty much die if he got a bit of kiwi fruit in anything. I'll make sure it's citrus free."

He didn't wait for a reply before ducking out into the corridor.

~Definitely likes you. I'm sure it's not standard procedure to feed the suspect. ~ There was a pause and then that wry tone that made him imagine that John was just leaning a few feet away from him smiling to himself.~Mind you I used to do that all the time~

If he wasn't careful, he’d start thinking he really *could* see John off to the edge of him, a hallucination at the edge of his vision. "Shut up. Shut up. Are you *trying* to drive me crazy?" Rodney turned the water on, hard and hot, and shoved his fingers under it. He was in shock, that was all.

~I thought you were telling me you already were. For working where you're working, for being here. If you're worried you went nuts and killed that guy and don't remember, you didn't.~ There was another pause. ~Of course you've only got my word for it. But I wouldn't lie to you Rodney.~

But he had. He had, because he hadn't come through the gate. He hadn’t come back.

"Yes, yes you would. Have." Rodney closed his eyes tightly, and depressed the soap dispenser a few times, jamming it to get enough on his fingers to get anywhere near clean. He *knew* he hadn't killed his assistant. Rodney was the kind of supervisor who threatened people with janitorial work. Death, death was always all too likely to happen without helping it along.

~I said I wouldn't leave you alone.~ His voice was soft and apologetic. ~This is the best I can do for now. I've apologized so many times Rodney, I don't know what else I can say~

"Just. Just stop. I can't deal with this right now." Because haunting him? Not the best way to solve the problems in Rodney's life for him. It was probably the worst idea, but it was also a very John idea.

Rodney turned the water off with his elbow, and grabbed a paper towel to dry his hands on.

"Uh, Dr. McKay are you okay?" And he really hated it when that happened. The CSI guy had heard him berating his noisy guilty anthropomorphized conscience, or whatever Kate had decided it was before she lost her own way. Sometimes if he tried really hard he could block it out for a bit. Shut the voice down.

"Fine." He kept his answer clipped before turning towards the --oh, nice. Orange jumpsuit. Fantastic. When they decided to book him for it because he'd been caught *talking* to himself, he'd already be dressed for the part.

"Sorry, it's pretty much all we have," Greg said as he put down some chocolate bars and a mug of coffee that smelled way too good to have come out of a machine. "I think they make it that color so no one wants to keep them. We pretty much always get them back."

He seemed to be ignoring the 'talking to self' thing, which was good.

"You're definitely going to be getting it back." Rodney shrugged into it. "Ugh, it's like a really badly tailored flight suit. I worked with one guy who never changed back into civilian clothes when he had the opportunity, just stayed in the flight suit. I think he liked what it did to his package."

He was surprised when the CSI grinned at him because he really did look really different with that smile. "These come with come with shapelessness in mind. One size fits all pretty much. I'm gonna go process your clothes and Detective Brass will probably be back soon to take your statement before you can go home."

"Great. Thanks -- for the coffee and... You didn't have to. I appreciate it." John in his head was probably absolutely wrong -- he was probably trying to avoid getting a lawsuit or something. Rodney sat back down at the table, reaching for one of the candy bars.

"You look like a guy who appreciates decent coffee," Greg replied. "And this is the good stuff. It'll keep you going all night."

~... was there a single word in that sentence that wasn't an innuendo?~the voice said sounding amused.

No. Not a single word, if you were a sex-obsessed Air Force Colonel's ghost. "Thanks." He'd have to... try to get the guy's number or something. Assuming he wasn't going to be spending the night in jail.

"See you later," Greg replied and as casual as if he was taking his clothes to the laundry rather than to provide evidence that he didn't commit murder he disappeared, even as the cop from before came in.

"Dr. McKay, glad to see the CSI's have finished with you," he said. "I'd like to go over a few things if I may? Have a seat."

"Already have one." Rodney took a sip of the coffee, keeping it and one of the candy bars close to him. It looked like Greg had dumped a couple of dollars of change into the machine for Rodney, which was okay because they were probably going to be there for a while.

"Yeah, I noticed." Detective Brass sat down himself. "So, let's go over what happened and fill in some details aside from the fact you tripped over the body, hmm? How did you know Dr. Myers?"

"I work with him. He's in my department." Rodney curled his fingers around the mug, watching the detective. Maybe they were trying to soften him up.

There was always the possibility this question and answer session wouldn't involve torture or the threat of it.

~Just be grateful he's not a Wraith~ John's voice said. ~You can tell that because he doesn't have much hair~

"So he works for you?"

"Yes. He's one of my assistants in the department." Rodney said it carefully, slowly, because hadn't he just said that Myers was in his department? So of course that should imply he worked for Rodney.

"And as a boss, how did you get on with him? Or with your other subordinates?" Detective Brass asked.

"I don't. They're all... " Rodney looked down into the coffee cup. "They're all varying degrees of sycophantic, and they're *supposed* to be the best and brightest, but some of them I wouldn't trust to take apart a flashlight. They're a little abstractly and *uselessly* theoretical for my tastes, with no abilities how to conceptualize their theories into reality."

"Uh-huh. So you pretty much don't like them as a group. How about Myers in particular? Was he more or less a sycophant than anyone else?" Brass questioned.

"Not notably either way. He *dropped* a piece of equipment last night, so tonight I had him observing one of the, uh, data stations outside of the base. It's menial busywork that no one likes to do." Rodney offered the detective a smile when he said it. Harmless punishment.

"So you knew exactly where he would be at a given time?" the detective asked.

"From eight until two. And so did *everyone* else, because he was complaining loudly enough about the 'indignity' of it. He's lucky his wages aren't being garnished for the... " Rodney trailed off, because you couldn't garnish a dead man's wages. Fuck. Myers was dead. "Look, we've had... people go after groups of us before. It's usually handled internally."

"So your MP's kept telling us. Repeatedly." He made a note. "Did Myers have any particular problems with anyone at his place of work?"

~He was screwing with Dr. Bimbo-airhead... or whatever you called her~ the voice in his head said helpfully. ~ And that Slavic guy who sounded like Zelenka on Prozac was also doing her. And I think the biochemist from level H. And possibly the scientist who you complain smells like cabbage.~

Did he actually know what the voice was saying or was it all just made up?

"He was sleeping with some, uh. I can't even remember her name, but she's black-haired, probably about five three, taller in heels, taller still if someone's hiked her up onto the desk, and well. She gets around and he got around with her as far as I knew."

Detective Brass lounged back. "How about you? You get around with her too?" He said it in such a mild tone it was almost shocking to realize what he had just said.

"No. I have something against catching STDs from people with a lower IQ than me." Rodney unwrapped part of the candy bar, and broke off a piece.

"How about from people with a higher IQ?" Brass asked

~Yeah right, like's that going to happen~ that voice said and it was the nicer comments that hurt the most.

That made him feel just how out of it he was really starting to get. "Also, not really an interest of mine. Look, I'm top of my field. The last person I slept with was under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and he's dead, so can we move on to your next bizarrely salacious line of questioning?"

"Military guy huh?" Detective Brass seemed unruffled by the revelation he was gay. "Okay, so this evening you sent Myers out as a punishment to this particular place. Tell me what happened next?

"I stayed in the base for the next six hours, going over test results with some of my smarter sycophants. Oh, and placed a call to one of my peers in Maastricht, about one am our time. Then around 2, I went out looking for Myers." Rodney ate another bite of the chocolate.

"Any particular reason why you didn't send an MP?" Brass queried.

~I suppose the fact you wanted to look at the stars isn't going to swing it huh?~ the voice said softly again.

"It was a nice night out and I thought I could stretch my legs and get out of the office. Sometimes I need a different environment to think in." And talking with Radek always made him nearly sick with nostalgia.

"So you decided to go check up on your missing scientist. What time should he have been back barring... getting killed?" Brass asked.

"About one, but. Phone call to Doctor Zelenka, and me taking it in my office, so I'd just assumed he should have been back somewhere in there."

"We'll ask the military to supply us with phone records," Brass replied. "So you went out. Why don't you tell me what happened after you went outside?"

"There isn't much to tell. I went looking for Myers over by data-station three, and he wasn't there. So I started to walk around in the general vicinity, yelling for him, and that's when I found him."

"By... literally... tripping over him?" the detective asked and he just seemed to have a permanent note of skepticism in his voice.

"No. No, I actually saw him from about a 45% angle above him from the top of a pile of rocks, and walked downwards to see why the hell he wasn't getting up. The flashlight on my P90 is pretty shitty, so I thought he was maybe looking at the stars." Rodney took another sip of his coffee.

It was... incredibly good coffee. Some sort of hand roasted each bean individually selected blend.

"Right. Looking at the stars," Jim Brass made it sound like no one in their right mind would do that. "So then what did you do?"

"I checked his pulse. Even though his eyes were wide open and someone had done their damnedest to smash his face in. And then I... then I took his equipment and recordings off of him." He glanced at Brass, trying to gauge what he was thinking.

It wasn't easy. The man had a more impressive poker face than Ronon. He could be thinking anything.

~... nah, he doesn't think you did it~ the voice echoed. ~I told you, my disciplinary meeting was a helluva lot worse than this. Even if technically we saved the day. ~

"Tell me again why you tampered with the body?" the detective asked.

"He had research and equipment on him that was classified. He was outside of the gated grounds of the base. Maintaining the classification level is very important." Rodney set the coffee cup down, trying to not mull over it too much.

"Did you do anything else except take the data and equipment?" Detective Brass asked, looking at him with narrowed eyes just for a moment.

"No. No, I just made sure he didn't have anything classified on him, and headed back to have the MPs call for help."

"Okay then," the detective shifted slightly. "Here's the thing... Area 51 doesn't particularly want us to keep you here with the riffraff of Vegas. So they're going to take custody of you until the investigation is through. Some sort of protective custody thing." He shrugged a little. "We'll take you back up to the base and pass you over. Sanders is processing your gear and he's still one of the fastest processors we have so we'll be getting back to you shortly."

"No, that's okay. I can buy new clothes, because I know damn well that blood doesn't... just doesn't come out." Rodney waved a hand a little. Protective custody was easy, something he was used to.

"Okay then... Officer Baker will take you back Dr. McKay. You want to finish your coffee first? It's going to take a few minutes for him to get here." The detective was standing then, collecting his jacket. "Sure, no problem. The coffee's good, actually. Do you know what kind it is?" And who the CSI was? Rodney was still shit with names, but he thought it was Sanders? Something Sanders. Rodney tapped his fingers on the table for a moment.

"Smells like Greg's secret stash of Blue Hawaiian. Must've brewed himself a pot to get him through the night," Brass said shrugging on his jacket. "He doesn't give just anyone that. Then again, maybe he couldn't be bothered to make a separate type."

The detective shrugged. "Too expensive for my tastes any way."

"No, no, there's a bean that's digested and then pooped out by some species of civet. *That*, that is coffee that is too expensive for anyone's tastes." Rodney smiled when he said it, and decided to make the best of it and go back to nursing his cup of coffee. Greg. He'd remember that.

"I'd say the people who could afford that, pretty much deserved to drink it. Whole new meaning to coffee tasting like shit. I'll get back to you with any new questions Dr. McKay." He paused at the door before turning and saying. "Really... Meredith?"

"I'm *Canadian*," Rodney said, because that was as close to an explanation as he could get.

"Well that explains everything," Jim said wryly and closed the door behind him leaving him alone.

~You know, this Greg Sanders isn't going to do anything until you're out of the frame. You could stalk him through the computers back at the base if you think it might be worth it. ~ John would never have been so understanding. Okay, maybe he would but... he didn't want him to be.

"Sure. Fine. I'll just listen to the voice in my *head*." Rodney ducked his head down, holding tighter to the coffee cup. He wished John wouldn't *encourage* him. He wished the John in his head would be weird and possessive in his death. No, John in his head was a pervert who probably wanted to watch.

~C'mon, you like sex. You *love* sex. It's good for you. You used to get this look after sex that....~ And there was a strong wistful feeling pouring through him ~Well anyway, y'know you could be a monk for all the action you've seen. And you're in Vegas.~

"Land of STDs and hookers. Oh, and drunk tourists." Rodney sat back in the chair, and he looked around -- but he was *not* looking for John, no way, no how.

~Cute guys with messy hair... ~ the voice drawled. ~Is it the hair? It's the hair isn't it? Was that what got you into me?~

Light banter and he'd never heard the voice in his head so clearly before. Not so clear, so constant.

Rattling around in there like he'd had a cell phone imbedded in his teeth.

"Yes, yes, it's the hair and the good taste in coffee. Can you please stop talking before I'm arrested as a lunatic."

~Just trying to be supportive McKay~ came the answer.~Not like I've got a lot else I can be doing. Never underestimate the power of hair product and coffee. Fine, I'll shut up. For god's sake eat when you get back~

And with that there was blessed silence in his head and Officer Baker at his door.


~*~

Time of death clocked in at around 12.30 am from Al's best estimates, and the phone records he managed to get released confirmed a telephone call between Dr. McKay and a Dr. Zelenka that went on for over an hour. Greg was obscurely relieved that it wasn't the other man because he liked him. He knew Grissom said not to get involved but there was just something about him that he connected to and he didn't want him to be guilty.

Greg was allowed to quietly cheer for at least *someone* to be exonerated, even if the guy's hands had been covered in blood when they'd met him. He was quirky, and he'd seemed exhausted and stretched a little thin, sure, but Greg liked it when his hunches turned out to be right.

Right now he was processing a lot of trace from the body, and he was willing to bet there would be *something* to build a case with, which meant he could... if he wanted to. Could maybe see if Dr. McKay was interested, but why would he be? No, stupid idea. He was a CSI, the guy worked in Area 51.

Area 51, full of classified information and obfuscation. He couldn't ever talk about his work, probably, and that was a whole realm of weird there. They'd never had to jump hoops like that with a Governmental agency before, not even the FBI. Greg figured he'd never see the guy again once he was released back to the military base, and that was that.

He guessed maybe the only thing he could do, if he had a follow up on it was to maybe leave it with the other guys to contact him. Put it out there and he'd not done that for a while. His confidence had taken a bit of a battering along with the rest of him and he hadn't asked anyone out, or even really gone out since. That was pretty tragic actually. All work and no play made Greg... pretty fucking depressed actually. Nothing to lose though, so he'd find a way to maybe drop a note, a hint, have a word. Maybe when they returned Dr. McKay's clothes or something.

But what to say? And it wasn't like any of that was something for him to be contemplating when he was looking through desert-based detritus. A 'hey, I thought you were hot, call me' probably was coming on too strong to accomplish anything but a restraining order.

"Hey Greggo," Nick leaned in the door. "How's it comin'? I've got the first DNA returns. Seems Dr. Myers wasn't alone up on that Weather station. We've got some XX intimate company going on."

"What was it? Hair or... ?" He twisted, eyeing Nick as he set down his tweezers.

"Pubic hair, saliva... the works," Nick replied and smiled. "Looks like your guy is off the hook." "He's not 'my guy,"" Greg replied. "Besides, I've got phone records telling me he was talking to a Dr. Zelenka in the time period covered by time of death."

"Yeah, but was he talking or just on the phone with the guy? I mean, it's not the first time we've had something weird like that happen." Nick lifted his eyebrows at Greg as he held the paper out. "So, we're looking to see if any of the signs of the struggle point to XY or XX."

"Apparently, though they don't want to release the recording, they do as a matter of course record every call, and there has been confirmation it was Dr. McKay talking... loudly," Greg answered. "I'm thinking either a little clandestine stargazing gone wrong, or some jealous partner or lover in on the act. "

"Did McKay say anything to you about possible other suspects?" Or a hint of a lead, maybe, and yeah, Greg knew where Nick was going with that.

"Not in the transcript of anything he said to Jim," Greg said, and this was all fine. Just work, just business. "We might have to go have another discussion with him, or his staff. But that's gonna take time to work out. I'm out of my depth with their security."

"I think we all are. I mean, at what point do you find a dead colleague’s body and take a moment to rifle it for anything that might be classified? I don't think I could do that to one of you guys." Nick leaned, looking down at what Greg was picking through. "Hey, is that a fingernail?"

"Yeah," Greg said unable to force a smile because he was thinking of how it felt to lie there on the street unable to see and the only way he could deal with it was by trying to be professional, to focus on the evidence on himself, the job, to not let everyone down. "Yeah, and not Myers as there were none ripped off."

"So... " Nick eyed the nail. "Any chance DNA might be able to get skin cells off of it?"

I'll take a look," Greg said. "What do you think we should do next?"

Carry on being a nonentity to Grissom, probably. Yeah. For fuck's sake, self pity wasn't attractive, and he really needed to pull out of it, start sleeping right, stop 'obsessing' over one event in his life. He'd been beaten up, not mentally tortured like Nick had been. He couldn't complain, or whine about it because it really was 'nothing'.

It was nothing and he knew he was just supposed to suck it up and move on, because Nick had, but Nick hadn't moved on half as cleanly as he'd pretended to. "Well, I'm all for going back to talking with the first witness and trying to get some more interviews with other people the guy worked with. That and test the fingernail there. It's a start."

"You reckon we could get him at his home address?" Greg asked. "Or shall we go knock on the door of Area 51 and see if he can come out to play."

It at least got a snort out of Nick. "What do you think is more effective?"

"Home address if Jim got it," Greg replied. "Or both... we're going to have to get into Area 51 at some point. You want to split up, see what we can get? They might have all the staff logged anyway?"

"They should have it all logged, but do you think they'll share with us?" Nick cracked a grin as he watched Greg bag the nail carefully, and label it. "How many times would they have to log 'little gray alien' in a week?"

"They might have DNA on file. In fact, I'm pretty sure they would as it's military," Greg said, considering that would make their life easier "If we get a profile up and no hit from CODIS we could get it up there for a match." He glanced at his watch. "I reckon we could knock on McKay's door though."

"You volunteering?" Nick nodded at him. "I can finish up here. Take a marked car with you."

"Yeah, okay," Greg replied. "I'll get a fresh DNA sample from him. There was something a little weird about his read out and ask a few questions." Nick, he noticed seemed to deliberately push him in the way of assignments that put him back in the saddle again. He was trying to help, even if he didn't always want to do it. Nick had hit someone on the crime scene of his beating, pushed to get evidence for him. Not that it mattered because they'd 'settled' and that was like admitting he was a murderer and there was truth to everything that kept him awake.

"Sounds good." Nick seemed pleased with himself, glad that Greg was agreeing to go interview a not-suspect on his own. "What was off about his readout?"

"Some of the alleles spiking in strange places," Greg answered. "It's possible it's contamination, or it's possible he's got quirky DNA, but on the off chance it is contamination, I need to get that rule out otherwise Grissom would have my ass." Not that Grissom seemed at all interested in him or his ass.

But that was seriously his problem, not Grissom's. "Okay. You go, we'll reconvene here and then call it a shift."

Greg pushed himself up, preparing to head out again. The interesting thing was, for the first time in a long time he was actually looking forward to tracking down a lead. And maybe that said way too much about his personal preferences in people. Either way, going there couldn't hurt, even if it wasn't quite mixing business with pleasure.


~*~

He didn't live close to the base.

There was no *reason* to live close to the base, because he'd had that mental discussion with himself. Yes, on one hand it was a secure location and thus in the event of an attack it was a safe place. On the other hand, it was a *target* for people like the Goa'uld, and if they came to Earth, it was one of the first sites to go up in flames, and Rodney knew that he'd do better in the hills.

Picking a house based on the probability of being able to escape out into the high desert in case of an extra terrestrial attack was probably not the sanest thing in the world.

He didn't get visitors, unless he counted the voice in his head who couldn't even do going insane right because by all accounts it should be persuading him that the he should go on a rampage or bathe in blood or something. That wasn't happening. Instead, the voice just drawled in that familiar way, sometimes there, sometimes not.

~You're still tired. You should take a nap with the cat. He's lonely. ~

The voice said things like *that*, and Rodney tilted his head, half-tempted to look for the source. "The cat is lonely. And how're you doing, huh?" The cat probably *was* lonely, if the level of cat toys in his bed was any sign.

He had a tendency to bring them in and leave them there if he was wanting attention from Rodney. Right now his pillow was sporting a furry mouse that squeaked and something blue and glittery with catnip in it.

~Yeah well, you pretty much know how I feel~ the voice replied~ As you're feeling it. Things'll get better though~

"What, it's only up from the rock rock bottom of things? Oh, wait, we're ingenious. We could always bore a hole down to the center of the earth. Welcome to the Stargate project -- where rock bottom is just a sign that you're not creative enough to dig your hole *deeper*." The disturbing thing was that John heard him, or the voice in his head heard him and was connected enough to provide interaction while he slapped margarine on his waffles and pondered: Toaster oven, or toaster proper?

~Look, yesterday, you were being questioned about a murder, and today you'll probably be let off so that's an improvement right?~

He knew it was his own mind because it was all incredibly obvious stuff. Toaster oven.

"It's an improvement because then I can spent all day talking with the voice in my head, which would only be disturbing if I hadn't done this before with Cadman." Oh, god, and that was something he'd never considered. What if John was *in* him somehow?

~I'm not in you Rodney~ the voice answered. ~Though I guess I am in some ways. Not like Cadman. Sorry, that didn't make much sense did it? Oh hey, a visitor. Bet it's the guy you were interested in.~

And with that the doorbell rang.

"Okay, but one of these times you're going to explain to me what the hell is going on other than you haunting me twenty hours a day and being psychic. I don't need a doorbell, I have John." And if he sounded a little bitter, well. He *missed* John, and he wanted a lot more than a voice in his head, so he was allowed to be bitter as he headed for the door.

~Come on, you can hear the car pulling up if you paid attention to your ears~ John's voice drawled in a teasing tone.

Rodney opened the door, and sure enough, there was the CSI who had given him some of the best coffee he'd ever had, standing and then turning to look at him.

"Uh... hey, CSI Sanders, sorry to bother you Dr. McKay... I just needed to see you for a follow up."

~Yeah, I bet he wants to follow up. He's pretty cute, Rodney.~

The urge to tilt his eyes skyward was immense, but he gritted his teeth and finally smiled at the CSI. "Follow up? When do you people ever sleep?"

"In about... an hour's time," Greg replied checking his watch before almost nervously smiling and dammit if Sheppard’s voice wasn't right, he was 'cute'. "Coming up on the end of shift. Mind if I come in?"

"No, sure, come in. Why not? I was just blearing my way through breakfast and contemplating what I'm going to do with a day off. They decided that locking me up on the base was just not *on* today, which was probably the smartest decision the base has made since hiring me back." Rodney turned, gesturing for Greg to follow him in.

“Thanks," Greg replied. "Uh, I wanted to get another DNA sample if possible. There was an anomaly in the DNA readouts that could be due to contamination and to clear you properly, I need to establish if that is your normal DNA. Otherwise evidence could be called into doubt."

~That'll be the ATA gene. I remember Carson telling me once, there were interesting profiles on people with ATA~

“That's fine. Does it matter particularly that you've caught me eating breakfast?" Well, dinner, but whatever it was, he was eating. "With everything I've been exposed to, you're lucky the reading didn't wave hello at you."

That actually made the other man, younger man he figured, laugh and then he looked surprised that he'd found it funny. "Nah, I'll swab your mouth and remember not to test the toast for a result. Uh, there was some other stuff as well... The evidence supports the fact that despite you being first on scene, you are no longer a main suspect, so we were wondering as Dr. Myers boss, if you were aware of any... issues, or liaisons?"

~The guy was a Don Juan the voice put in.~Never could see why though.~

"He got around. There's this one woman on the base who got around more, and together they probably created new STDs." He headed back to the kitchen, and Greg seemed to be following him.

~Yeah, and you called me Kirk~ John's voice said.

"We're going to be requesting DNA samples from your staff," Greg replied. "Could you give me her name? I could be important."

~So someone's left sticky little finger marks over your dead scientist~came the silent comment. ~Huh. Well I guess you geniuses can't be clever all the time~

And what was he going to say to that? "I could give you her name if I actually knew it. She has black hair, maybe five three? Petite, and she wears heels a lot."

"Narrows it down," Greg replied with a half smile. "Anyone you can think of as having a grudge, or issues you might know about?"

"I don't pay much attention to my sycophant's internal politics." He rolled his shoulders a little as he pulled open the door of the toaster oven. "It's a scientific community. They're all competing against each other."

"And you're not involved in that?" Greg asked mildly tilting his head just a little bit and god, his hair reminded him of John's. Messy and soft, with entirely too much hair product involved, but it made him want to touch it and compare.

"No. No, I did that in my younger years. I'm foremost in my field now. There's only one Rodney McKay, and the only scientist who could compete with me is Doctor Zelenka. And I've known him for too long to worry about him doing more than signing me up for a fruit of the month club." And even then, he'd probably quietly request that all citrus be excluded. He'd only do it so Rodney would anticipate packaged citrus doom through twelve months of pears, apricots, peaches and exotic bananas.

"Fruit of the month club?" Greg raised his eyebrows a little and there was a smile just flickering there, oddly showing how tired he was.

~You know, I'm pretty sure you never noticed that sort of detail on me,~ the voice pointed out. ~Mind you, we were always tired. Look, ask him out for coffee sometime after the investigation. You owe him a decent coffee.~

He probably did. "Yeah, it's a long story. Citrus allergy. Uh, what can I do to speed this up for you? You look pretty tired."

"I'll just swab your mouth," Greg said stepping closer, into his personal space. "Say 'ah' and I'll let you get back to breakfast."

"Ah." Rodney lifted his eyebrows a little as he watched Greg wave that swab again.

Greg deftly inserted the swab and in a second it was done. He watched as he sealed it deftly and pocketed the completed test. "Okay, thanks... " Greg said. "Do we need to talk to you about interviewing people at Area 51 or the military?"

"You'll have to go through the MPs, and they're going to end up trekking to your station unless one of you happens to have security clearance to enter the base." Rodney wished Greg only had to talk to him to arrange it all.

"I doubt any of us does," Greg replied. "Unless Jim did... he was military once. You never know. That's the guy who interviewed you earlier, but it definitely won't be me. Way too far down on the significance scale for anything as cool as security clearance. Uh... thanks. I better be going."

He seemed a little hesitant but he was still turning towards the door again.

~Ask him. He wants to say something but he can't. You're the case right now. Ask him~

"Sorry to make you come out all this way just because my DNA's a little wonky. Uh... " Rodney cleared his throat, shadowing Greg to the door. "Do you want to get coffee sometime? I feel like I owe you."

"I uh... " His eyes had lit up but he looked conflicted. "I can't right now. My supervisor would *kill* me but... uh... I mean you don't owe me anything I just.." The CSI cleared his throat. "Look if I give you my card so if you remember anything about the case you can call me... but afterwards, if you happen to have it around..?"

~Loopholes are wonderful things,~ the voice said smugly.

"Okay. Just to warn you, I'm pretty sure I'll still have it around after the case is over. Good luck navigating security clearances."

"Thanks. Thanks for your time Dr. McKay," Greg replied and Rodney watched him go, get back to his car and just sit there for a moment before leaving.

~Was I right or was I right?~

"Okay, you were right," Rodney murmured as he closed the door slowly, and locked it. "Happy?"

~Well, maybe a little because hey, you seem a little happier~ John's voice drawled ~You smiled. You haven't smiled for a long time~

"I haven't smiled because we lost the city and you're dead. *And* I'm trapped at Area 51 again. Us survivors are persona non grata back at the mountain. Yeah, that's a lot to smile about." And he was *talking* to the voice of the dead military commander of the most amazing fuckup of a mission ever.

~They need you, more than they know~ the voice replied. He noticed he didn't deny being dead though. ~I don't want you to be unhappy Rodney, I never wanted that for you. You're not the type to lose the will to live. Buck up McKay, c'mon. There are more chances out there.~

"I haven't lost the will to live. I've lost the urge to feel wonder about the world around me because it bites *back* when you least expect it. Well, when I least expect it. You, not so much with the expecting now, are you?" He reached for a plate, and decided to face down his waffles again.

~Not really an option~ came the reply and the impression of a sigh. ~Never got to keep what I most wanted anyway, so I'm more used to letting go I guess.~

"What did you most want?" There was no harm in asking, Rodney decided, as he palmed the card into his pocket and reached for a fork to get the waffles out.

~You~ There was a moment of terrible silence and then a whisper so quiet he couldn't be sure that it wasn't his echoing thoughts. ~Always you~

"I miss you." At least, he supposed, he had the comfort of John's ghost to talk to. Or his vivid hallucination of John's ghost. "It doesn't stop. I just... miss you."

~Yeah... yeah me too~ He sounded like those days in Atlantis when things had been too desperate to care about rules and they'd broken every single one until it was normal to wake with John murmuring in his ear, soothing, teasing, his voice in the darkness before they had to get up and face another day. Maybe that was why he was doing this.

John was his voice in the darkness, no matter what.

"Okay. As long as we both know. I, uh... I think I'm going to watch a movie and sleep for a while. Maybe pay some attention to the cat."

~Yeah, you do that... otherwise his next step will be to eat your hair or piss in your shoes~ the voice said faintly. ~Sleep well Rodney~

"Thanks." Maybe John was going to go quiet and maybe he wasn't, but Rodney knew he'd be there when he woke up.

John was always there in his head.


~*~

Open and shut cases were usually over and done with in a couple of shifts. The Area 51 murder had been dragged out and out by the wonders of interviewing with a military escort, but eventually they got there. It was almost prosaic when it came down to it with the jealous ex being the XX to smash his head in, after watching promiscuous XX do the dirty with Myers. Crime of passion, no real care or attention to concealing evidence.

It was sloppy, and she was taken into custody and that was that. The case had had a lot of promise to be bizarre and full of twists and it *hadn't* been. He'd just wished it had been more.

Nick had taken the pretrial and he was just... shunted off to one side doing some research for Catherine. He was seriously starting to wonder if he ought to talk to Doc Robbins about antidepressants or something because he was fed up of being this way, feeling lie this all the time as if his life had become two dimensional somehow.

Lab work was something that had to be done, yeah, and before the accident he wouldn't have had a problem doing it. It was good work, and it all contributed, but it didn't feel that way anymore. It felt like they didn't know what to do with him and that he was a liability in their eyes. And maybe he was.

The lab explosion, that had been an accident, but the 'swarm', Jesus... he'd run right into that. He'd been stupid and got his ass kicked and then sued. Things just went from bad to worse and as a cap to his crappy few months he'd just been bitten by a crazy lizard-people slaying chick.

Which if he was honest with himself was how he'd *expected* the Area 51 case to go, but no. No, now he was probably going to have to get forty billion tetanus shots, but it could wait until he got off shift. So while it as bad, it wasn't... that bad, he guessed.

Maybe it was time to take a vacation. Yeah right.

He’d need antibiotics as well. Right now he had a temporary dressing and the damn thing throbbed distractingly. Maybe he should take some time off after all. He'd been so worried about losing a grip on everything he'd rushed right back into things. His parents might've figured things out, he might've oh hey, drifted away from the team.

Which it seemed like had happened anyway, so what did it matter? Or, maybe he was taking it too personally. That was probably it. He was just off kilter, because things weren't *that* different from usual...

Until he heard an unfamiliar voice in the intercom. "This facility is under quarantine, by decree of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Do not attempt to leave the facility. People clawing at the doors like a bad horror movie will be shot."

Then in the background before the intercom shut down they just heard, "Was that really necessary?"

Greg groaned. Just when he thought his day couldn't get any worse. "What the... " He got up and headed to the corridor looking for someone, anyone to tell him what was going on. He couldn't remember if any of the other guys were in. "Hodges? What's going on?" he called out across the corridor.

"Do I look like I have any idea what's going on? It's probably the damn mold!" He gestured vaguely towards the work sink, and started forwards slightly, warily. Maybe crossing unnecessarily into the hallway was a bad idea.

"Please remain in your locations and you will be cleared one by one. This may take a while, and we understand that you have lives to get on with. Cooperation is the fastest way to clear the quarantine." It was the second voice, a vaguely exasperated sounding woman.

"Damn, I hate hazmat. I was clean in places I never even knew I had before," Greg answered, looking around. Better head back into his lab.

Just his luck that most of the others were out.

If they were lucky, Grissom would be in or headed in. He pulled a stool out from the table he'd been working at, close enough to the door that he could still see Hodges and the hallway.

He heard people approaching and leaned forwards. Okay, that wasn't the normal hazmat style of things. That was... holy crap that was military, and there was a guy with glasses looking at some files that he recognized as part of those he was working on with the Xena Warrior Lizard Slayer Princess case. There was some other guy there with something a little more than a handgun there, and....

Dr. Rodney McKay. They guy who never called.

Holy shit that didn't look good. The guy had some bizarre respirator on, and gloves covering his hands to the elbow. He glanced around, not seeing Greg and maybe not seeing anyone, and Greg could hear him saying, "Look, we can't just round them up. Because I really want them all coughing and breathing on each other and possibly spreading it, how about you? One by one, or, gather them in small groups for exposure testing."

"Hey... hey, uh.. Dr. McKay? Remember me? Greg Sanders?" He got up. "Uh, what's this about? One of the cases? Most of the others are still out."

"You know this guy?" the man with the more than police issue gun asked.

"Yes, yes, I know him. No shooting, all right? This is going to be fun enough for you all to cover up without bloodshed. Do you know where they *went*, Greg?" McKay took a step towards him, clearly inspecting him now. "We need to bring them back here."

"Look, if you tell me what case it was to deal with, I can tell you if they've been in contact. " He looked at the file. "Shit, it's the Lizard queen thing isn't it?"

That had been most of them all told.

"Was the body infected with something?"

"Ah... no. No, not the body," the bespectacled man said.

“Your whole suspect set, I believe, wasn't it Woolsey?" Rodney leaned, looking at the man in the glasses, peering at the seized paperwork. "So we need to know where they are. The other people in your team, not the suspects. They're being handled."

Greg groaned. "Okay, here... I'll show you the assignment sheets, and if you get hold of Grissom, he'll pull them all in. You'll need Brass as well. How serious is this?"

McKay tilted his head towards one of the men wielding one of those fancy guns. "This is serious. This is Area 51 serious. This is 'The Stand' serious, all right?"

Greg looked at him. "So... uh... one of them biting me earlier was a bad thing right?" he said faintly waving a bandaged hand at them all.

"Ouch, that's really bad," the woman said who seemed to have acquired a part of one of the spectrometers from somewhere.

"Break it to him gently Vala," one of the others said.

"Someone get a respirator on Sanders before he infects, oh, Woolsey here? I don't think the IOC would love us if we killed him." McKay waved someone towards Greg, and stepped back. "Then we need your duty roster. Does your boss have a cell phone? That might be quicker."

The respirator was shoved at him and he put it on, before he led them up the corridor and gave them the assignment sheets then his cell phone because it was just quicker. Then he sat down and wondered what he'd ever done to anyone to have this amount of shitty luck in a couple of months.

"What's this going to do?" he asked. "Are we talking fatal?"

"We're talking that we're not one hundred percent sure of the full progression of the disease." McKay flipped through the sheets, and handed them off to people, and the cell phone to the woman. "The hallucinations they had was mass paranoia. Their own physical changes, not so much."

"So... I could be looking at hallucinations?" Greg replied. "That doesn't seem too bad. Uh, I hope."

He glanced at the other man. He hadn't been interested after all, he hadn't called. "I'd offer you coffee again but it's probably contaminated."

"Oh, uh... " McKay glanced at him, and then over at the man who was starting to make calls on his own cell phone. "About that. This whole thing came up, and I haven't had down time that didn't involve reptilian creatures, so, uh... Viruses sort of trump everything."

Greg guessed they did. "Hey, it's okay. I'd rather not start running around hacking people up with a sword." He shrugged a little. "Sorry, I guess your going to be busy a while huh? Where are we going to be taken if we've got it?"

And he knew he had it. He couldn't not have it if he'd been bitten and it was potentially airborne.

"Uh, there's a base you'll be transported to. The doctors there are top notch... " 'There's a base' wasn't really reassuring, and it left Greg with a prickle of feeling that 'there's a base' actually meant 'there's this ditch where we're going to bury you."

"Except they don't know exactly what the disease does or how, or how to cure it," Greg finished off. "So I probably won't see you once they whisk me away right?"

If any of the others had it, maybe he would at least see them.

"No, I'm being recalled to the base, too. We sort of... consolidate when things like this happen. Best and the brightest, military's beck and call, etc." McKay twisted, looking up and down the hallway. "Stay here, all right? Don't make any stray moves. I have people to test, but you'll be going with us when we leave. Do you have any pets?"

"No. Some of the others do so make sure you ask them huh?" Greg answered. In some ways, he wanted him to be the only one, but then a selfish part of him just craved someone else there, which would be a shitty reason to hope someone else had a potentially incurable disease. "Uh... if it helps, my main qualification is in genetics. I did my thesis on DNA and retrovirus manipulation, if we're talking viruses.

McKay lingered for a second, and then turned to the man with the gun. "Get Sander's SSN, and see if you can start a clearance check on him when you get to a terminal."

"Yes sir Dr. McKay sir," the man replied with evident sarcasm.

"Cam... " the man with glasses said warningly.

"Daniel... " Cam replied in the same tone. "Okay, okay.. I'm sorry. If he hadn't been saying 'I told you so' for the entire trip.."

"Hey, I told you so. It was a bad idea then and it's a worse idea now, no matter what the medical research geniuses thinks. And look, I was right!" He waved slightly, as he stormed off into the department's building.

"Pleasant guy," the woman called Vala said.

"Come on Greg, you're coming to take a little trip with us to Colorado," Cam said. "You'll love it. There'll be Highly Classified clearance and underground bases and that's all cool right?"

Greg gave a brief laugh. "Yeah... yeah, cool," he said as he followed him. After all, it wasn't as if he had a choice.


~*~

It had taken a grueling fifteen hours to get everyone gathered back to a central location and tested. During those fifteen hours, Rodney had performed or overseen the testing, and had gotten into four cell phone arguments with Carson.

Now he only had to face the hard part -- the Public Face part, the explaining it in as few words as possible to those who'd been affected.

There were a lot of people there, and they were smart enough to work a few things out on their own so they weren't going to fall for smoke and mirrors. His best bet was to tackle their supervisor and go from there.

"So you want me to stand and look threatening?" Mitchell said behind him. "I could grimace every now and then if you want."

"How about you stand there and pet your P-90?" Rodney shot Mitchell a dirty look before he pulled the door of the office that the man had been confined to -- with some other ranking official who'd shown up uninvited. "Well, I'm sure both of you have questions."

"I'd like to know why most of the CSI department and half of the police force has been sequestered with no warning," the Under Sheriff said. "Do you have any idea what this will mean? Vegas will just... lose it."

"Vegas isn't going to lose it. Vegas," Rodney said carefully, "isn't going to find out about it. There was a chemical spill that had to be contained for the safety of the department if anyone feels a need to discuss what happened tonight."

"But that's not what really happened is it?" said the other older looking man. Grissom. The one Greg had talked about. "I want to know what's happened to my team."

"Mister Sanders was bitten by someone who was carrying a highly infectious disease." And seriously, how had he gotten the assignment? He was an astrophysicist first, and an engineer second. The scanner to test, he supposed, and how badly they needed Carson et al to stay back at Colorado. "Those people, who had been involved in a criminal investigation of yours, have been detained for observation, and have already been transported to a secure facility. Except for Mister Sanders, the rest of your team has been tested and cleared of carrying the infection."

"That's... good news," the under sheriff said and Rodney saw Grissom glance at him in irritation.

"But Greg has the disease." he half asked half stated and then focused on Rodney's eyes. "Where is he and what is his prognosis?"

"He's been transported to a secure facility for testing and treatment. We can contact you later about his prognosis if you're interested. But this isn't something we want handled by a local hospital. A stray needle, a lazy nurse, and we've got an epidemic. Because everyone here was cooperative tonight, Vegas is safe from having to face that possibility." He said it calmly, as calmly as he could manage, to both the under sheriff and the man whom he guessed was Greg's boss. It was a little like pretending to be Elizabeth, and he could imagine that John would be proud of him.

~You're doing good buddy.~ The voice had been quieter recently. Or maybe he'd been too busy to pay attention.

"I am very interested," Grissom replied. "Greg is one of my team. I want to know if his parents should be contacted, and his friends will no doubt want to visit or contact him."

He heard Mitchell clear his throat behind him in a clear 'like hell is that going to happen'.

"He'll be allowed to phone outside of the facility, but you have to understand that visits are going to be impossible. When I said secure, I meant *secure*, which means flowers and fruit baskets are right out. At any rate, I don't foresee this going on for too long." And he could make an effort to keep up on how Greg was doing.

"Dr. McKay... " The CSI Supervisor wasn't entirely happy with that, he could tell that much. "Please let the medical staff know that he was recently hospitalized following a severe beating. This might be relevant in some way to their investigations."

"I appreciate the information. We're going to take good care of him, don't worry." As to whether Carson was going to be able to reverse it, that was a little more hit and miss. On one hand, it was Goa'uld. On the other hand, it was *Carson*. "Is there anything else I can do for you gentlemen before we leave?"

"Just contact details for updates," Grissom replied. "I will talk to the rest of my team."

~Wow. No wonder the kid is starving for attention~ John's voice said. ~I wonder if he got visits before~

He could find out. He would find out, because this was something he'd been pulled into, but also an emergency that once he was there and in he was utterly useless with. It had been the same when John had been turned into an insectoid from that wraith girl's bite. Rodney twisted, looked at Cam, and then back to Grissom. "I'll leave you my personal cell phone, because there isn't going to be a direct way to contact Mister Sanders for a while. I expect all of you to do your part in keeping this quiet, as it is a Homeland security matter."

And he was Canadian.

"I understand," Supervisor Grissom replied and the under sheriff agreed even as he passed over the number. "I appreciate your time Dr. McKay."

Mitchell made a sort of impatient movement.

~Cam’s more laid back now. But I think he's getting worried about holding up the flight back.~ the voice observed.~Carson will be chewing on his sporran or whatever the hell it's called. He didn't do this one~

"Thank you. We'll keep you apprised of the situation." And maybe Carson hadn't *done* it, but he'd felt obliged to make excuses for the losers who had. Now they just had to hope that Greg and the others didn't turn into super Goa'uld or those old creatures they'd first inhabited.

~Unas, McKay~ drawled the voice ~Unas Just because they weren't ZPM's or anything like that you skipped over them~

It was a teasing mocking tone and he had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop from answering even as Mitchell ushered him out.

"Transport's meant to be leaving in 30 minutes. We need to get a move on," Mitchell said in a low voice. "And, yes, before you ask, we've picked up your cat."

"That was amazingly efficient of you. Fine, fine, I'm moving. I assume the cat's been picked up along with my equipment?" Or it would follow later. Rodney didn't care much, but his cat, well. He needed the companionship. Him and the cat, both.

"We've got everything," Mitchell replied. "And we need to get back. There's some sort of weird reports coming in that we need to be at base to deal with."

"Fine." Weird reports. Hell. Everything went at once, didn't it? Rodney picked up his pace, and knew that Vala and Jackson were already long gone.

~He'll be okay. Carson won't let him die~ the voice said. ~Rodney? It's going to be okay~

And that was so damn John that he wanted to scream and shout it was never going to be okay again. But instead he followed on to the flight back to the SGC.


~*~

Bored, Bored Bored. Super secret bases sounded interesting and maybe they were, if you were allowed to see more than one room. For the first week, things had been very alarming - quarantine protocols up the wazoo for himself and the other "victims”. But then somewhere along the line, he was moved into a normal "ward" because apparently a vaccine to prevent transmission had been developed.

Or so the nice Scottish doctor had told him. But suddenly, he was the only one there, and he was very bored and people kept looking at him anxiously. Apparently vaccines did not stop things if you already had contracted the disease.

And what the hell was the disease? No one had told him that, and he kind of wanted information beyond 'We're still processing your security clearance'. They could have given him a book, or something to do, or some way to call out of the base and contact his team.

So far, he hadn't seen anyone look like a lizard of any description. He'd had a fever but he was willing to bet he'd been to work with worse and that was probably responsible for the wild dreams he was getting. He still wasn't sleeping right, and he had to explain that no, that wasn’t a symptom of the disease.

He wondered if anyone had missed him. He couldn't say that aloud because that would be pathetic, but he still wondered. But the lab had gone on without him when he'd been in hospital. If they had the contact number would they bother? He needed something to do before he talked himself into hurling himself off the edge of his hospital bed.

It was quiet, and he was tucked away and he could see out to where he watched Dr. McKay a lot of the time. One thing he was sure of that Dr. McKay talked to himself. He could see that even through the soundproof glass.

Mouth moving the whole time, forming words, looks and gestures when he was in an empty room. It was sort of fascinating to watch, and he could at least *watch*, and try to read the guy's lips. It was pretty low key entertainment, but. Anything was better than nothing, and he had nada, zip, zilch, to entertain himself with.

He was pretty sure that he was talking to someone though, not just working things through. Maybe he was schizophrenic or something? It was definitely a person because he looked like he was arguing, disputing things, throwing hands up in disgust on occasion, It was very odd.

But even that eventually ran low on entertainment value.

He'd been thinking about dozing, when he heard the door to his area open.

Immediately he snapped awake and looked around. Someone who might talk to him, might bring him a book, or... anything. Even watching them would be good.

It was Dr. McKay. Great, there was always the chance he was dropping by for a chat. He'd done that a few times. He looked tired and unhappy somehow.

"Congratulations, Greg. You're going to be allowed to mingle more with the general population of the base, starting today. Your clearance came through." He pulled a chair up to the bed that Greg was sitting on.

"Does this mean people can *talk* to me now?" Greg asked sitting up. "Because... man, Rodney, I'm so bored I've counted every rivet and nut and bolt in this place."

"We have better things you can be doing than that. Someone's coming down from supply with a uniform for you to wear. The scrubs... " Rodney gestured vaguely to him. "Probably not conducive to people respecting your opinions in an argument. I've, uh, been volunteered to orient you to the base."

"Great!" Things were a little bit hanging out all over the place, and that wasn’t just the situation with the scrubs. "Orient away. All I'm picking up is that there's some serious shit going down at the moment. And I don't think my disease thing is it. Everyone's really on edge."

Rodney folded his arms over his chest, looking at Greg. "I'm probably not your favorite person right now, but you've been at least temporarily co-opted into Stargate Command. Welcome to the SGC, in Cheyenne Mountain."

Stargate Command. Greg tried not to laugh. "... Really Stargate command?" he asked. "And this is code for... what? A star shaped gate?"

He didn't understand why he was co-opted, unless things weren't so good with the disease. But he felt fine.

Rodney tilted his head slightly. "Wow, okay. Healthy dose of skepticism you grew in Vegas, huh? Have you ever seen that, damn, what did they call it, Wormhole Xtreme?"

"Everyone's seen... oh you're kidding me?" Greg straightened. "Seriously? You're telling me something that is the cheesiest sci-fi ever is *real*?"

Greg felt something unusual prickling at him, something he hadn't felt for a while. Excitement, interest and rather bizarrely a form of recognition which he had no idea where that came from.

Rodney lifted his eyebrows. "Names and events have been changed to protect the innocent, and plots, but it was a pretty good cover for the time, and *that* is a long story, but yes. It's real. It's really real."

"Okay." He was saying okay to aliens and strange things happening and okay, so maybe the others had laughed at him about his 'intuition' and that whole deal with the psychic but he'd had more than a few weird things happen when he was younger, enough to know he didn't know everything that was going on. "Okay... yeah. Uh, so not to be totally self-centered or anything, what's the real deal with me? Why's everyone looking at me like I'm going to grow a second head." He hesitated a moment. "I'm not am I? I mean, going to grow a second head, because Grissom reckons I talk enough for two anyway and I... er... I'll just stop talking."

"You were infected, through the bite, with a virus that came from a piece of research conducted in Pegasus Galaxy on the Atlantis Mission. We came across an enemy who was... not significantly different biologically from humans, except for the fact that they ate humans." Rodney made hand gestures that stretched Greg's incredulity almost more than his words did, while he talked. "The original point of the virus was to strip their DNA of the insectoid qualities and reduce them to humans. It... it was a bad idea, that was based off of a good gene-therapy idea that worked."

“... messing around with genetics is a lot more dangerous than tinkering with a live bomb," Greg said a little aghast. "It didn't behave as predicted? It's a retrovirus designed to... what kill aliens?"

"Turn them human. Well, the original one. Given that they'd decimated humanity in that galaxy, we played fast and loose with the rules. Doctor Beckett and the rest of us *meant* well. Hell, I signed off on it. We all did." He shifted, rubbed at his face, and there was a quick head cock that stopped, and silence. "Uh. This variant you were infected with was an SGC experiment to create, well, I'm not sure. Some kind of super human-Goa'uld mix. It's a horrible idea. The entire project's been canned."

Greg looked his bandaged hand and then back at Rodney. "Including me?" he asked wondering if this was the point where all those guys with guns were going to drag him off and quietly do away with him and that would be that. "I can't help noticing that I'm... you know, all alone here and there was a fair sized group of us."

"They had to be killed a few days ago." At least he didn't mince words, and call it 'ended' or terminated, or some other soft and fluffy words. "They had... the full depth of the Goa'ulds' genetic knowledge, and it subsequently drove them right off their rails. I know this means *nothing* to you, but it will in time. They're a parasitic species that seizes complete control of the host."

"Oh… fucking great." Greg said and exhaled. "So I'm going to turn into a weird hybrid and go nuts. Perfect end to a perfect year."

He was going to die and probably no one would ever know. Not his friends or family. "Anything I can do about it?"

"You're not going to turn into a weird hybrid and go nuts. Doctor Beckett has been monitoring you since the day of the bite. There are things we can do if it progresses that far. If you're honest with him and anyone else about your symptoms, we can *do* things. The other people involved in that case had been harboring the virus's effects for *weeks*," Rodney pointed out.

"Honest? Honest I can do. Accused of verbal diarrhea sometimes. Not so much lately but, uh... okay.." Not hopeless then. Okay. Okay, things could be done. "Thanks for being honest with me Rodney. Got to admit, I'm pretty scared, yeah, I know its not the thing to admit but.. uh... but I know you've got your own stuff going on and I appreciate this."

"Yeah, well. Everyone here has their own stuff going on. A lot of our intel from allies indicates that there's something *strange* going on out there. The System Lords and the Asgard are up in arms, but it's garbled. We're not sure. I'm *pretty* sure it's bad." Rodney lifted his eyebrows slightly, and pulled up a smirk at Greg. "Welcome to the SGC."

For some reason that made Greg laugh. "Not that I've heard from any of my friends but uh... I'm assuming this is why I signed my life away, so I can't tell them. Am I going to be allowed to go anywhere or do anything? I mean... do anything useful?"

"Oh, yes. Yes, that's not going to be a problem. You can call your friends in Vegas, of course, but we need to keep monitoring you for your safety. Anyway, with everything going on out there right now, it’s one of those tossups. "Am I safer in the mountain, or in the event of an invasion, am I safer *away* from the mountain?" "

"What are you doing? Staying or going?" Greg asked. He was pretty sure that Rodney would follow the best course of action. "I mean, you're the genius guy aren't you, and unless you've got a specific sort of death wish I would've thought that you'd know the best... "

He trailed off, realizing he'd said *something* wrong.

"I'm... staying." Rodney said it slowly, and shifted to stand up, like he had too much energy or was nervous and looking for someone.

"then I'll stay." He frowned a little. "Rodney? Did I say something uh... Look, I'm sorry. Please don't go unless you know, fate of the world and all that. If it's just because I said something wrong please don't. I mean, I wanted to spend more time with you, I just think contracting alien mutating virus was going a little far."

"You remind me in a lot of ways of someone I used to know." He shoved his hands into his pants pockets, watching Greg from his spot that was somewhat closer to the door. "Down to the 'bitten by a retrovirus infected creature' thing."

"What happened to them?" he asked. "Used to know doesn’t sound promising?" He really didn't want Rodney to leave.

"He actually recovered from that, with a lot of help. So, don't get your hopes down. I'll be back -- I'm going to see if we can get you some clothes and out of here."

"That would be great," Greg admitted. So, a 'he' who by the sounds of it was dead. This was like investigating a case, putting together pieces. He hadn't actually been referring to that, just the fact that that Rodney had looked miserable and hurt somehow when he said those words.

At least with Grissom or Nick, he kind of knew where he stood. Rodney was one of those enigma types who sort of drew people in, Greg guessed. Well, and talked to themselves when they thought they were alone.

In the mean time he was going to sit and think, and try and get his head around what was going on here, and if he had a part in it aside from cluttering up space.

And maybe he could get to see that real life Stargate after all.

~*~

It wasn't that he didn't know how to interact with people except for, oh, that he didn't know how to interact with people. But they'd decided that Greg was Rodney's problem to handle, Rodney and Carson, because they'd worked on something like that before -- and seriously, never mind that he *hated* biology and counted chemistry as biology's slightly less ugly cousin -- and... And. And, they were less important. Free to handle that.

It still didn't mean he knew what to do with Greg, even if he was getting him set up in quarters.

Greg reminded him just enough and too much of John. Messy hair, sometimes flippant and then a look in his eyes sometimes that just sucked him in.

~He's been hurt~ John's voice said.~And he hasn't quite shut himself off like I did. But he's working on it~

John's comments weren't that helpful really, not when he was trying to deal with the younger man and *not* think of these things. Greg was possibly the only person who walked with more of a slouch than John.

~Hey, I did*not* walk anything like that.~

Bullshit, he did too. Rodney tipped his head slightly, watching Greg peer down at his issued laptop, in his issued room in his issued clothes, where his issued phone hung on the no doubt issued wall. "I'm just next door. The quarters don't get any more lavish for longer periods of service."

"So I can knock on the wall if I can't sleep?" Greg said with a smile.

~You should just crawl into bed with him. He's all but putting up a neon sign Rodney~

"Yeah. I'm a pretty light sleeper." He could hear John snicker in the back of his mind. "I feel responsible for you being here, somehow."

"You weren't the one chewing on my hand Rodney," Greg pointed out as he poked around some. "Unless you are saying I arranged to be bitten just so I could be transported here, next door to you to further my evil plans of annoying you."

~Kiss him. C'mon McKay, he's lonely, so are you and you get cranky as hell if you don't get laid at least a few times a week. Which explained a lot about how cranky you were to start with~

Trying to get it on with a voice in his head was really hard. Rodney stepped closer, watching Greg poke around. "It would be pretty strange of you to do that. I'm pretty sure I'm not worth the possibility of carrying the genetic memory of an evil symbiotic race."

"Oh I don't know,” Greg said as he sat on his bed. "I'd say you were at least worth the memory of a mildly annoying symbiotic race."

He could hear John laughing in his head at that.

"I, uh. All right, it's been a while, and I know this is the worst time ever to ask this, but if you're in this program for a while, you realize there never is any time that's appropriate, there's only slightly less inappropriate timings, and uh, would you like a coffee?"

From the way his face lit up John's prompting had been right on the money. "Sure, yeah I'd like that.

"I think we can actually go off base, if you want to. It's Colorado Springs, though. It's only really worth venturing out into if you need fresh air and sunlight." Rodney's mouth twitched a little, and he added, "And you probably do, actually."

"Hey, I'm willing to bet the coffee is better out there than it is in here," Greg answered. "I used to buy Blue Hawaiian, which was a lot of money, but totally worth it. Perks you up and mellows you out at the same time. Needed that a few times."

"Is that what you made that time I was in the department?" It had been good, no question of that. Rodney tilted his head towards the desk. "Your paperwork should be in there. It'll do until you get an ID card."

"Cool." Greg bounced a little on his heels, apparently just eager to be doing something. "Got to admit, I thought the coffee window of opportunity had flown, y'know?"

"No one's ever said I had the best timing in the world. C'mon. I don't expect the world to end in the next hour -- just grab your paperwork and we'll say goodbye to Doctor Beckett on the way out."

~Oh I don't know, I think you had pretty good timing. You always managed to pull something out of your brain to get us out of trouble,~ John's voice drawled in his mind.

"Okay. He's a nice guy, knows a lot about genetics," Greg replied. "I'm guess maybe he had something to do with the original thing? He always looks guilty when he comes to see me."

"The wraith retrovirus was his creation, and what you've been infected with is based directly on his research. It was a horrible idea, but it was still based on his research, so... He feels accountable." Rodney rolled his shoulders slightly. "If Carson could feel guilty for Eve eating the apple, he would."

"Reminds me a bit of Nick," Greg replied. "He has a way of getting too involved. I...I guess I did...do too, despite Grissom talking about evidence and cases." He looked over at Rodney, waiting for him to lead on. "I guess with you being at the top of your fields, you've never really tried to impress someone or get their respect by being a complete idiot."

"No, no, I have." Rodney didn't have to reach to muster up a smile. "Trust me. Ask Carson."

"I will," Greg said smiling back.

~I think I can remember a few of those times,"~ John added with a smirk in his voice.~We shouldn't have waited. More my fault than yours I guess. C'mon, get him out of here before he explodes with excitement.~

It seemed possible that Greg would. He'd have to take him out for more than coffee. Coffee and... treats, coffee and cookies or coffee and a sandwich, to really make it worth the trip. Rodney turned towards the door and gestured with his head for Greg to follow. "Grab your papers, Greg."

Papers were grabbed and Greg stepped in close enough behind him that he could feel the warmth of his presence, and for the first time in a long time his body showed a spark of interest as they wandered along, Greg seeming focused on nothing in particular but his questions as they went along showing he wasn't missing a thing.

"Will you be surprised or less than surprised," Rodney half-asked as they headed towards Carson's working space, "When I tell you that the 'little gray aliens' are a highly developed and peaceful species."

"The Roswell grays? They're real?" Greg asked "That's cool! Well aside for the anal probing, whatever that was about. Always thought that was a bit weird."

"Never happened." Rodney waved one hand slightly. "Seriously, it never happened, which points to a human-based obsession with the ass. The Asgard have seriously better things to do with their time than stick probes up human asses."

"Wait, wait... the 'Asgard'... as in Scandinavian gods?" Greg looked awed. "Thor, Odin, Frey... all of them?"

~File said his folks came from Norway. Got to be his local superstitions~ the voice said. ~ *Naked* local deities at that.~

"As in Thor, Frey, Hermiod, and on and on. Odin's cloned memory probably died out hundreds of genetic lines ago, but I don't doubt that he once existed. Thor has been and is still leading them. They're really... well, I'm sure you'll meet them if something big comes up. Just don't stare. They don't wear clothes. When Hermiod worked on the Daedalus, it freaked Colonel Sheppard right out." A tiny, familiar jab at the John in his head for being more than a hint of the prude that Rodney had always been teased about being.

~Hey... he had no man-bits! Naked is fine but... no man-bits!~ John protested.

"Wow. Poppa Olaf would freak if you told him that.." Greg replied. "Colonel Sheppard? Is he someone you work with?"

"Worked. When we evacuated Atlantis -- yes, the lost city of Atlantis, you're going to find out a lot of human mythologies was rooted in fact, which means we're one of the least creative species to ever exist -- he stayed behind. The gate closed behind us, and I assume he died defending the city." John never told him that, because if he did Rodney supposed it would undo part of the whatever was rooted in his mind to have caused the mental hallucination in the first place.

Rodney leaned, and knocked hard on one heavy steel door. "Carson!"

It opened eventually and Beckett looked out. "Aye Rodney? Something I can do for you?"

"I'm taking Greg Sanders out to the surface for some fresh air and coffee. I figured since he's been under watch until recently, you'll want to know."

Carson nodded and smiled. "Hello Greg," he said giving the younger man a wave of sorts. "I'm sure that will be fine. If anything happens call me direct.”

Greg waved back and smiled as well.

"Will do. C'mon. On the way back, we'll stop by the ID office, where you can be issued an ID by a young air force man who doesn't have the clearance to even know what the symbols on your ID card mean. It's sort of fun." And Rodney got his kicks where he could. He waved to Carson, and headed towards the elevator.

"Cool. Later, I want to hear all the things you think are cool," Greg said "Because you must've come across some wild things."

"Wild things. I don't even know where to start. I lived for a few years in a city that rose up out of the ocean, that had been *deserted* by its designers over ten thousand years before we rediscovered it. We came across life-sucking vampires, power devices that might still change the world, uh... " So many things, almost too many things to mention.

"You know, I used to think I had a pretty cool job, but I've got a feeling it doesn't compare," Greg answered as they stepped into the elevator, and started ascending so quickly his ears wanted to pop.

Rodney worked his jaw for a minute, trying to get them to pop and release pressure. "I'm sure you have some stories that could make my hair stand on end. And on the bright side, you can talk about them in public."

"True. True… Well, hey I could gross you out in public, and you can tell me stories later," Greg said. "Mind you, it might put you off the coffee."

"Life sucking alien vampires, Greg." Rodney held his hand out palm first, and wiggled his fingers. "It left a hell of a scar if you survived." And he wasn't going to let the thought derail him to Ronon and Teyla. Ronon with his feeding scars, and Teyla with her sticks, and god that hurt sometimes.

"Decomposing body juice splashing in my face and mouth," Greg replied with a twist of a smile.

Rodney tilted an eyebrow at him, and countered, "Tentacle monsters."

~... and not even the good kind~ John said in his head.

"Really? Bad kind or good kind?" Greg asked.

"The bad kind. Bad movie sort of tentacle creatures. Teyla told us it was a native species, and when cooked properly tasted quite good. Unfortunately, it was impossible to *kill*."

"Sounds unpleasant," Greg replied. "Very impressive. Maybe I should just concede defeat before we start, huh?"

"I wouldn't. I mean, you have to have seen everything as far as crime goes. Tentacle creatures was pretty much my upper limit of bizarre." Rodney stepped forwards when the door dinged, and it was just to take him to another elevator.

"You'd probably find that in Vegas somewhere come to think of it," Greg replied. There was a period of time when they had to stop discussing it as they got his ID, and getting him actually out of the building.

But at least the relative silence was companionable. He could watch Greg, just watch and take in the way he moved and interacted with other people. It was hard to not feel bad about taking him away from his old life, but he could be as important to the SGC as the Harcesis had been.

He looked like he’d been set free, because as they made it out of the complex, he became more effervescent.

"I'd kill for food. Anything good around here? Hey, you ever go out in Vegas? Man, there was this place, I mean it looked like nothing on the outside, but it did the best Chinese ever."

"When we go back, you'll have to show me where it is. And, we will go back, or you can, and, but you know what I mean. Once we're sure of what's going on." He fished for his car keys. "Just, no one's sure when that's going to be, which reminds me that you can call your friends back in Vegas now."

"If you like Chinese, it's the best ever," Greg said. "CSI's know the best places. Cops know the best food as well. Jim sometimes comes in with these fresh donuts that are like a slice of heaven. He won't tell us where he gets them though."

~He beats you on the food obsession Rodney~ John said with an indulgent tone. ~You better feed him~

"Hey, I'm heading to the car already. See, I'm *going*, so just stop--"

Oh, fuck.

"Huh?" Greg said looking at him.

This was the point where he should gloss over or, wonder if he'd missed something but no.

~He's already got it figured~ John murmured. ~Look at his reaction. That's not a ... 'What the fuck?'. That's a 'aha!'~

"Uh, Rodney... I've got to ask bearing in mine all that stuff we can't talk about but... is there some... I don't know weird thing that you have conversations with or something?" Greg asked. "Technology or something?"

He wished he'd left his earpiece on when he'd left the place. "I, uh. No."

"So." Greg stopped and looked at him. "Seriously it's okay... what's the deal? Schizophrenia?"

"I wish? At least schizophrenia reacts to medication. My problem reacts to... everything. Bad movies, Johnny Cash music." He veered towards his car, and clicked the button to open the doors.

"So are we talking... what? Voices? Voice?" Greg asked again. "Rodney, it's cool. I don't want you to have to be careful around me. Especially if I'm going to start seeing things myself here."

"Voice, one voice." Rodney pulled the driver side door open, and closed it behind him once he'd sat down. "I've been trying to keep it low key."

"Okay." Greg seemed remarkably fine about it. "I won't make a big deal out of it. Seriously."

"I'm not sure if it's a psychological issue or a technological one. Atlantis was... " Rodney pressed his foot over the brake, and started the car. "Atlantis was alive. It's possible it was something that's been imbedded in me, or... "

"Voice of a city?" Greg asked. "I guess it doesn't matter... Hey, maybe I'll get in on the conversation as well huh?"

~He probably could as well~ John put in.

Rodney tilted his head a little. "Okay, but if the two of you start to talk over me, it might get awkward. Particularly if I'm driving."

Greg laughed again and Rodney had to admit it made him want to smile back. Day after day he'd been hiding his secret and then when it came out it was 'no big deal'. He'd managed so well. He had a feeling Carson suspected something but put it down to grief, but on the whole, no one knew.

And he'd just told Greg, nearly a stranger and it was such a relief it nearly made him dizzy, which was a bad thing when he was driving.

He needed to not be dizzy, he needed to concentrate while he pulled out of the base. "So, enough about voices in my head."

Greg smiled again. "You were thinking that was going to put me off right?" he said. "You know, I'm really really hoping I haven't misread this because this would be embarrassing, but.. uh, you're the first person I've been interested in, in a long time.”

"No, no, you're not misreading. I mean, it's been a while, and I'm not sure what signals really are anymore, but you're attractive and *smart*, but this whole thing could also be interpreted as a hostage situation, so... "

"Rodney, I was interested in you the first time we met," Greg replied. "Before any of this. I was trying to work out how to get you my number without compromising the case. My work colleagues had a field day over 'my scientist'... " He twitched a smile, and Rodney could see him turn towards him. "Not that I'm not hungry or anything, but if you told me I could have food or you tonight, I know which one I'd pick."

Rodney cracked a smile. "I'd pick food, too. Are you hungry, too? Because if you want coffee and real food there's a few places I can think of."

~You know full well what he was getting at McKay,~ John's voice drawled. ~That's got to one of the best come-on's I've seen in... since Lorne went after Teyla~

"Oh cake and eat it huh? In that case yeah... I'd like that," Greg replied with a grin.

Lorne trying to pick up Teyla *had* been spectacular, and she'd very politely demurred, and then Ronon had taken her aside and told him that if *anyone* was hitting on *anyone*... it was going to be Teyla making the first move on whoever. "You've been living off of base rations. Real food is a miracle after that."

"Then bring on the miracle," Greg declared extravagantly "Because you're right, the base food is artificially flavored cardboard."

"You get used to it after a while, but it *is* something of an acquired taste. I've had an on and off love affair with MREs and base food. Mostly off," Rodney admitted, looking for their exit.

"Now that I believe. While you drive us I will entertain you with Tales from Vegas because what some people do to themselves can be mind boggling," Greg replied. "And frankly if I don't talk about work right now, I've not got a lot of conversation stored up. Uh…let’s see. We've had serials I used to be in the lab though, DNA specialist, then I broke out of the place and retrained as CSI. Meant a huge drop in salary and I had to move to a pretty shitty apartment but I thought it was worth it...."

Greg, it seemed, could talk almost as much as people said he could. The difference being that he wasn't dull. And he was beginning to realize that a bit like Sheppard had been, he was smarter than even he had assumed. Even while he pondered that, John's voice had commented about him making bad associations with messy hair. The trip to the restaurant was at least interesting, and Greg had managed to tease bits of conversation out of him even as they waited for their meals.

Non classified conversation, of course. While he fiddled with the bizarre tiny spoon that had come with his mocha cappuccino. "So, Captain Caldwell tried *desperately* to take John's job. And it's one of those political office things that you watch and go 'No, are you crazy? You don't *actually* want that job. Trust me!' Except, they never do listen."

"He sounds like Ecklie," Greg replied. "And Ecklie is a piece of work. Everyone knows Grissom is the better CSI but Ecklie plays politics better. He likes the schmoozing."

"This was a case of one fancy impressive job being something he preferred over the fancy impressive job he already had," Rodney shrugged. "But, he came through for us in the end. Made the right calls, stopped looking at career goal posts. He's out in Washington DC now, and I bet he's glad for it. What did your Ecklie end up doing?"

"He's the over all Lab Supervisor. He and Grissom butt heads all the time. He couldn't get his head around the fact that Grissom didn't want the lab Supervisor job, because he's all about ambition, and Grissom's all about the 'oh hey that's cool' hands on stuff and doing the job at the ground level," Greg said and it was incredibly easy to see the hero-worship there. "He's the reason Vegas is number two in the country and we'd be number one if we had the budget they did."

"What kind of budget did you all have to work with?" Money sort of lost meaning for him, between the obscene spending of the SGC project as a whole, and living off world for so long.

"I've been holding out for a new spectrometer for about four years now," Greg replied. "City can't afford one apparently. And we should have more CSI's but we can't afford those, and most of the trainee's who're cheap can't stand the pace or... " Greg hesitated as if his thoughts took him somewhere he hadn't wanted to go. "When I was trying to get out in the field, Grissom told me to find a replacement. Man, I lost count of the ones who lasted a few days and left. One quit at the end of the shift."

"Sometimes it's just hard to find someone good to do the job. We had a lot of people who... well, it's not a job you can quit, but it's a job where you can panic and end up dead." He waved the little decorative spoon vaguely, while he dunked in his biscotti.

~No kidding. What always got me was the people who managed to get killed normally when there were so many serious ways to die. Remember that marine that fell out of the balcony looking at the damn view?~

"....yeah that can happen with us. Pretty much all of us have had the old near death encounters. Some more than most," Greg was saying.

"Want to share some of those, or is more substantial fair required?" Rodney gestured to Greg's coffee.

"I can talk while we wait," Greg replied. "Until recently, Nicky was probably our resident trouble magnet. Right now, I'm thinking that he might've shifted that on to me. Nicky... Jesus, Nicky had a stalker guy come after him. Threw him out of a second story window and then ambushed him at his home. But the worst, god the worst was when he was abducted and buried alive."

Greg literally shuddered at that. "We were against the clock to find him. Really up against it. "

"Abducted and buried alive?" That did stretch incredulity, but Rodney knew that things like that *happened* in life, fucked up things that were later made into made for TV movies. Of Wormhole Xtreme quality.

"In a Plexiglas coffin, with a webcam feed, and a gun to kill himself with. and then there were fire ants as well, and the coffin was rigged with explosives so if we found him it would take all of us out," Greg added.

That was Kolya-esque, but he couldn't mention that aloud. "What brought that on?"

"Revenge. Blamed CSI for his daughter being put away," Greg replied. "That's possibly one of the more bizarre things. Except for Lizard slayer bites of course.”

"Hard to top that one at this point, but I'm sure when you get back, the city somehow will. Roswell Grays in baseball caps robbing casinos or something." Rodney sipped at his coffee, and just... appreciated it. Let it sink in.

"Had a few of those," Greg answered. "Warrick knows the most about that scene though. He's one of the Vegas born and bred. Like Catherine."

"Are you going to call them when we get back to base?" He sort of hoped Greg would, just because it was important to have friends.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'd like that," Greg said, looking down at his coffee a moment. "Truth is I was feeling pretty isolated I guess. Probably not their fault or anything just... Well, anyway then this happened and I really am isolated I guess it's made me realize how different thinking it and experiencing it really is."

The voice in his head was oddly silent in response to that.

Death was about as isolated as you could get, Rodney supposed.

"You don't have to be isolated. Careful, yes, but not isolated. Sometimes, in a high stress environment like that, people... ignore you or lash out because you're an easy target, when they don't mean it at all. I know I did a lot of things and had a lot of things happen that brought on that response."

Greg toyed with his drink a moment. "Few months or so ago, we had a night were a gang was 'swarming' as Grissom put it, and 'fanny-smacking' as they called it. They were targeting random people, tourists in town mainly, beating and kicking them. They killed one that night, got a couple more and we were tracking them. I was in court most of the time but I did Grissom a favor and I... happened on them attacking an older man. I tried to get them to stop and I.. I saw one about to use a rock and then come at me with it and I ran him down in the car. I killed him. I just wanted to *stop* him but I killed him. Then they dragged me out of the SUV and beat the crap out of me." Greg grimaced. "But... I've just spent the last few months with the family of the kid I ran down trying to get me prosecuted, and sue me, threatening me and... I've been dealing with that alone. I don't think they realize... "

"Maybe they just didn't know what to do." He offered that quietly. "Or what you needed help with."

"Maybe not," Greg answered. "They've had their own problems. Catherine’s father was killed, there's been a serial killer out there driving Grissom nuts and I'm pretty sure he and Sara have gotten together. Warrick's got marriage problems, Nick... Nick is still dealing with his own stuff, and Jim isn't long out of hospital himself. I sound like a whining kid. Jesus."

~Everyone's got their own problems so they didn't look at his.~ John said ~Been there done that. You didn't know what to do with me sometimes, or what I needed help with but you were there Rodney. That’s the difference.~

Except he hadn't been there at the end and he hadn't been able to save the city, and that was when it had *really* mattered. Down to the wire. "So that makes your problems less legitimate somehow? You're cutting them all a break and yeah, maybe they need it, but it doesn't make what happened to you... less."

"Guess not. Worst bit is sometimes I believe I deserve it. Well, a lot of the time I do." Greg said. "But, that's way too depressing huh? That's what I don't like about it. I'm not who I am normally anymore. I used to be a fun guy. Can't say that any more."

"You could be a fun guy again, if you had people helping you out." At least in the SGC, no matter how bad things got, there was generally someone to turn to. Generally.

Greg shrugged a little, absently doodling with a finger he had dipped in coffee froth on the table. "Hey, believe or not, I've been lightening up since I've been with you."

"I'm usually a lot... lighter than I have been. A lot more fascination in the job, and a lot less... " Well, there was no way to describe the way he felt bogged down, but it had happened before and it would happen again. "Do you like Monty Python?"

"Who doesn't?" Greg smiled at him. "Sure I do-you?"

"I have the Flying Circus series on DVD. This is probably going to sound like 'Do you want to come over and see my etchings', but would you like to come to my quarters later and watch some with me? And maybe you'll feel more up to getting to know some of the other people in the unit."

"Yeah, yeah I'd love to," Greg replied with a smile. "And I want to see those etchings too sometime you know?"

He was just waiting for some comeback from Sheppard in his head but there was a pause and then,

~Rodney... look at what he's doodling.~

And it was seriously creepy, except he'd played that game before with Cadman, and when he saw it, leaned forwards a little, trying hard to not stare. "Greg... Uh, do you have a pen and paper on you?"

"Uh... " Greg patted his pockets and came up with an SGC pen and something that looked like the envelope some of his papers had been in. "Here we go."

Even upside down, Rodney started to scribble copies of what Greg had been writing. "You're doodling addresses. Let me get these down. I can explain it when we're in the car later, but this is amazing... "

"Addresses?" Greg seemed to look down at what he was doing with a frown. "But they’re just random shapes?"

~He hasn't even seen the gate yet. Doesn't know what the glyphs mean~

"They're glyphs." Rodney tilted his head, glancing at Greg.

"Glyphs... great. " Greg replied and shook his head. "Sorry, that doesn't clear anything up for me Rodney."

"Like Egyptian hieroglyphics?" He shifted, scooting his chair a little, eyeing the last one as he copied it down, and then slid the paper to Greg. "It corresponds to a location."

"..Ah... " Greg looked down at the marks. "So they actually mean something important?" He looked suddenly pale looking away from Rodney.

~He's just realized that it means he's got the disease like the others~ John pointed out and sometimes his voice could be useful. He usually missed things like that.

"It does, and look, you haven't tried to lunge across the table and kill me, so... " Rodney pocketed the paper he'd copied them onto, and leaned forwards a little so subtly wipe away the marks Greg had made.

"Well not yet any way. Guess I've got a little bit of time before I get that bad huh?" Greg gave a half smile. "Uh, maybe we should head back. Maybe pick up some takeout or something."

"We can get it to go." Rodney frowned at him. "Look, maybe it's manifesting differently."

"I'll try and let you know if you are looking scaly," Greg said with a wry smile. "Or if I go off looking for a Xena outfit."

"I keep forgetting that this sounds normal to me and it has to be scary as hell to you. It used to seriously other me, too." He wasn't sure whether saying that was helping or hurting Greg.

"You ever have something, well maybe not exactly like this but... something?" Greg asked and he was obviously trying to squash his panic.

"A few something’s that came pretty close," Rodney admitted. "And look -- I'm still here. You've got only the best care, and you're in good hands with Carson. I trust him with my life."

"That... kinda helps," Greg replied. "Knowing that someone else has been through something similar."

~Hey kid, some of us turned into bugs and recovered. Although pretty much everyone else going nuts from this thing is not a good sign~

Which was not what Greg needed to hear just then. "Our military commander had something similar happen to him. And he recovered, so... " So, there was the waiter, and Rodney flagged him down. "Uh, something's come up -- can we get it to go?"

The waiter looked a little surprised and then put on a fake smile and replied. "Certainly sir, I'll just get that arranged for you." He glanced between the two of them and practically smirked.

"Great," Greg groaned. "Now he thinks I'm dragging you off for sex."

"Technically since I drove here, it'd be me dragging you off. Driving." Rodney took a deep swig of his coffee. "I know you don't want to believe me, so I'm just going to keep telling you it'll be all right until you do."

"So you're dragging me off to have sex? Things are looking up,” Greg sounded happier somehow.

It caught Rodney off guard, and there was nothing to do *but* laugh when Greg said that. "Yeah, we could. After we update Carson about what's going on... "

"Okay, that's cool. Lets call that a plan for the evening," Greg replied smiling.

~He so wants you~ John drawled.

And was it seriously that easy? There was no way it could be *that* simple, which made Rodney wonder what could go wrong and how wrong it could go, or at what point Greg would decide that the fun joke was over and was he joking and Rodney was taking it all wrong by taking it as anything but a joke?

~He's not joking. Jesus McKay, you can be so insecure sometimes~ the voice drawled.

"I'm being mocked for my insecurity by the voice in my head." Rodney blurted it, putting a hand up to his face before he decided to just finish the coffee off. "I think we live in the twilight zone."

~*~

Each step was a mile stone. They'd gone out, they'd come back via the Infirmary, his arm stung a little from the blood tests but then they'd come back to Rodney's which was less Spartan than his room and had dinner and Rodney kept looking at him like he was going to spring a joke, and Greg knew he was looking at him much the same way because he'd flirted *hard* and Rodney seemed to have picked up on it and here they were. Tentatively trying to touch and work out how to break the ice and both of them were clambering over a huge pile of issues, but Greg wanted this. If he was going to die, he wanted to fucking well live, with an emphasis on the 'fucking well' if he could manage it.

Only it seemed that that pair of them had issues with talking a lot and not really saying anything so as he leaned forward to try a proper kiss, he wasn't completely sure he was meant to be doing it.

Because what if the signals were all wrong? What if Rodney didn't -- well, hell, he'd said it did. He'd said he did and when he leaned forwards he found Rodney leaning into him, reaching for him, and okay, then that was the right move.

It felt good to kiss again. It had been too long, much longer than any of his workmates would believe because things had changed. He wanted something a little more than a quick thrill, but he also knew the value of doing things before his time was up. He would never have come on so hard if the clock hadn't been ticking. There would've been dates, and dinner, and then kissing but right now he was lip to lip and god, he'd missed being this close to someone.

He wanted him, he needed him and his kiss touched that need even as he came up for air. "That's okay?” he checked in a low voice.

"That's great," Rodney murmured. His hands had moved, traveled, slipped to Greg's sides and his back, wandering and exploring.

"Cliché alert but I don't usually do this," Greg replied wondering if he sounded as much like a cheap slut as he thought he did. "I just... I really want you."

No, no he really did sound that bad. He covered his embarrassment by nuzzling in at Rodney's neck. It had been even longer again since he'd gone home with a guy. If he had a fantasy of any description for his work colleagues that he hadn't shared it was that he daydreamed Grissom or Nick had mysteriously woken up bi one night.

But, that wasn't going to happen. "I'm not the sleep with someone on a first date type either, but I think this could work out long term, so why not?" Rodney's solid fingers were resting against the small of Greg's back, pushing up at the bottom edge of his issued shirt.

"Yeah. Kinda what I thought," Greg murmured against his skin and awkwardly trying to unbutton himself and what he could reach of Rodney. Rodney tasted of some aftershave and musk and a surprisingly pleasant undertone and he forgot what was going on around him as he licked and sucked at him. He liked taste, he liked sound too, texture and touch. They were sometimes more important than devastating good looks.

He'd gone out with a girl once whose skin had tasted of fresh bread and honey. It was amazing and he'd begged her not to put on any perfume but...

Oh yeah. That was good... tasted good. Nothing sour about his skin.

Rodney was probably fastidious, and there was nothing off about his body chemistry, and he *groaned*, trying to help Greg with his shirt. "Don't stop. Jesus, don't stop... "

"You like this?" he murmured against his skin. "You want this?" He managed to get his hands under his clothes, start pulling at them in a messy uncoordinated way.

Messy and uncoordinated seemed to be all right, seemed to be something that Rodney either liked or didn't mind, because he groaned. "Yeah, fuck, yeah I like this, I like it a lot, don't you dare stop, here, let me get your shirt off."

Issued shirts it seemed were not the best quality because as Rodney fumbled with it, somehow there was the telling sound of cheap cotton ripping and Greg had to pause in his tasting and kissing to laugh. "Damn, that's a turn on... might as well rip it off... come on, that's got to feel good."

"Oh, god, I'm going to have to go back to the supply room and explain what happened." Rodney groaned, leaning back a little as he tried to just pull it Greg's head. "They really don't break away. It's just the seams."

"Don't care - feels good. Kinky." It felt like someone wanted him enough to rip through his clothes to get to him and if he was stretching it in his own head, then so be it. He fumbled with his belt and then tugged down his pants. "Bed," he mumbled against Rodney's skin. "Now."

"Not arguing," Rodney declared, pulling his own shirt off and yeah, they were a mess of half stripped off clothes, but it was, it was kind of nice. And Rodney wasn't bad looking naked.

The getting on to the bed turned out to be an exercise in elbow avoidance but once he was there, Greg tugged Rodney down to him. "Mmm… hey, you top or bottom?" Greg asked "Because... no, not that it's an either or, y'know, but I can switch and.."

He was somehow talking even as he latched his mouth around Rodney's nipple with great satisfaction.

"Jesus, uh, I have no idea at this point and if we have to toss a coin to decide, the voice in my head is going to start laughing at us both." Rodney's fingers pushed through his hair, and he shifted, pressing a thigh against Greg's dick.

"I don't want to be ridiculed by an invisible voice," Greg replied in a half mumble. "Oh, I like that... Yeah fine, fuck me. That's what I want."

Rodney chuckled a little, and he could feel the vibration as Rodney shifted, started to take a lead in things, and yeah, okay, lips like that along the side of his neck was wonderful.

He wanted someone to make him feel safe, to make sure he didn't lose it. He loved the feel of it, he loved the way Rodney kissed him and he shivered with reaction to his lips.

Rodney was focused on him, voice in his head or not, and okay, maybe it was weird of him and he felt a little slutty for it, but it was very seize the day of him, and Greg liked to do that. He liked the feel of Rodney's hands on his nipples, drifting over them, pressing and tweaking like he was testing Greg's preferences, which he probably was.

His preference was for contact, to be touched, and touch back. To feel skin on skin, the slip and slide of sweat. The burn of lips on skin, and something that didn't need thinking about.

He definitely wasn't thinking about it, and not thinking about it got easier when he felt Rodney's tongue slide over skin, the suck of lips at the join of shoulder and neck. "You taste so good... "

"We must have a taste thing going here," Greg managed. "Either that or something in the water... Jesus, yeah ... there... there." Rodney had one of his 'hotspots' which seemed to want to make him melt into incoherency straight off.

"Or because we just finished eating and I'm pretty fond of eating, anyone here will tell you that... " And Rodney didn't desert it. His hands wandered, but his mouth lingered, even when he got a hold of Greg's dick with one hand.

"Oh... oh, oh Rodney... fuck... " Greg squirmed. "Keep touching, keep, you know I've got a good mouth, gets too much practice at moving, I'm offering it as an incentive to... do something more. Please!"

Rodney lifted his chin, smiled at Greg as he hovered, half-touching Greg still, fingers light on his dick, and his breath heavy and warm against his neck. "More now? I don't want to move too fast."

"Can't be fast enough for me. We can do slow *next* time... " Greg cajoled. "Otherwise I'm going to be humping you the best I can."

He was so keyed up for it, maybe from stress, maybe from just wanting Rodney and the way he seemed to be enjoying him. He hadn't been touched in so long he just wanted to have more.

And more and more, and maybe one quick go was all he was going to get just then, because he was too wound up for slow and lazy and exploring. If he didn't feel an urge to get up and make himself a Xena suit in the night, maybe they could have a chill, lazy morning after?

"I can do fast, too."

"I bet you can," Greg found himself practically purring for fucks sake, but he didn’t care. "I want you to... I want you to do it so hard I can't remember what day it is... "

"I can't remember what day it is to start with." Rodney mumbled that against Greg's chest, slowly working his way down. "Hold on, let me get condoms, lube, uh... "

Somehow he attempted to aide and abet that task by providing encouragement with his own kissing and touching, reaching to stroke Rodney's cock even as he leaned to a side table, and nearly made him collapse off the small bed. Eventually though, he heard the telltale crackle and rustle of a packet and then a sticky sound.

"I'm glad I work well under pressure." Rodney's voice was a mellow chuckle, as he leaned back onto the bed, trying to regain his stable ground. Apparently by fisting Greg's cock, a little lube on his hand. "If you ever try to tell me that none of your coworkers hit on you, I'm going to call you a liar."

Greg had to think about it, which was hard considering. "Not, not really. Not for lack of trying... oh yeah, that's... that's good. Lack of bi-interested, you know?"

"In *Vegas*? Seriously?" Rodney tilted his head, looking at Greg with wide, curious blue eyes and it was probably the strangest thing that Greg had ever talked about in the middle of sex. "Bunch of posers. I seriously can't believe that. That's so... failing to live up to the city's advertising."

"Hey I used to get a lot of action, I just... " Greg shrugged. Somewhere along the line, things changed. "I save it up for something special." He grinned to show he knew it sounded tacky.

But Rodney grinned back, a little goofy and lopsided looking before he leaned back in to kiss Greg again.

"Mmm." Greg pulled him down. "You're definitely worth waiting for." He arched a little to rub against him.

It felt good, even if they were still moving fast, because Rodney was smiling at him, bright and quirky, and he knew that had been there but it was good to be the one to bring it out. "My ego is going to explode. Along with some other things. Uh, how do you prefer to do this?"

"Apparently... I'm easy," Greg answered with a half grin. "Limber enough for face up, pretty happy with face down if you want to get into it. Even sideways if that does it for you. Got a chandelier? I can try swinging from it."

Rodney hadn't seemed to notice his scarring, but he could see Rodney had a few of his own. Maybe he'd ask later, another time.

Maybe they could exchange stories of horrible things that had happened to them, while watching bad TV. Rodney shifted, kissed at him again. "Sideways is good. It’s been a while and I don't want to shoot for the moon and dislodge your hip or something."

Greg chuckled. "Go for it... shooting for the moon sounds like a fun trip."

It really, really did and he was itching to feel it.

Kind of all wound up with nowhere to go, except that Rodney was starting to move, shifting to get behind Greg, getting Greg on his side, and the appeal of the position started to sink in. He wasn’t face down and one with the pillow, but Rodney could run hands over his chest from behind him and twist at his nipples and stroke his cock, and neither one of them were pulling any prop themselves up acrobatics.

"Hey... hey, you know... good call," Greg managed as he got his breath back. He couldn't remember when he last did something with way. In fact he wasn't entirely sure that he had.

"I know you're really ready, but stretching it out a little might be good for both of us." Stretching and stroking and fondling, yeah. Rodney hadn't even gotten anywhere near his ass, but he was so ready for it.

"Rodney... c'mon, I'll end up coming before you do anything," Greg protested wriggling a little. "I'm an impatient guy."

Rodney pressed lips against the base of his neck, and shifted, his dick pressing hard against Greg's ass. "Just, just hold on... "

"I'm not going anywhere," Greg replied and concentrated on holding himself back until they really got down to it. Shame to ruin it, by leaving the party early so to speak.

"Mmm, good." Rodney shifted, and there was the sensation of lube on his ass, a little sloppy, being slathered over his asshole.

Greg just decided this was the time to take his mind off of the hook and go with the feelings. Pressure there, coolness warming through, fingers smoothing and working at things. It felt good. It felt incredibly good and he descended into a chilled out zone that sometimes he could drop into where he really didn't care what anyone did to him, as long as they kept on touching.

And Rodney touched great. He moved, pressed close to Greg's back, tasting and touching skin, and in places, there were no nerves. They were dead spots from the explosion, grafted on skin that never had all the nerves, but Rodney didn't skip over them. It was just one wall of skin for him, kissing and tasting while his fingers pushed into Greg.

The strange contrast of feeling and not feeling made him twitch here and there and he moved himself carefully on those finger. It had been a while. Last guy, he'd topped with... and that was Jesus, going back over a year or more. After Nick, after nearly losing him and okay, he hadn't done what Warrick had done and gotten spontaneously married but he'd needed someone there and than.

And it had been goofy and tense and maybe getting in with Rodney was a bad idea based on other times he'd had stress-sex, but at least it was *good* stress sex, and if he was dead in two weeks he wasn't going to have time for any massive angsting regrets. Just, just the feel of the other man slowly stretching his ass out.

[

He moaned a little relaxing into it. He just couldn't imagine Rodney going weird on him. Well weirder than the talking voice in head thing but at least he was honest. Not messing around, no playing about with maybes, just the truth. Yeah. He wasn't at work, he didn't have to be serious, or sensible, he could be the fun guy again even if it was a time limited thing.

Greg figured he might as well enjoy it while it lasted.

Rodney slipped his fingers out, and they lingered against Greg's ass for a moment, before they pried. *Finally*.

"I really... really hope something's going in there," Greg murmured. "I might just... self-destruct with disappointment if there isn't."

"No self destruction needed." There was a press, and that had to be Rodney's cock pressing against him, slowly, definitely in a condom.

He was making unconscious noises and gave into the pressure. The muscles in the back of his legs were twitchy, and he found himself shifting to get a good angle. "Oh.... yeah, yeah, Rodney that's good. Big... I like that, I *love* that... just, yeah, no that's okay... "

He talked too much, he knew that.

"Hnn, fuck... " Rodney moved, reached around Greg to pull one leg backwards to rest over his own legs, and that helped, helped because Rodney was slowly thrusting.

Greg exhaled as they managed to fit completely together. His mouth went dry and he closed his eyes a moment before saying. "Wanna try that... again? ..lots of times again... "

It burned inside and he could feel tight muscle stretching and getting comfortable until he felt the burn shift towards want and need.

"Lots of little times again," Rodney promised, shifting his hips, grinding up and in against Greg's ass for a moment before he pulled back to thrust in again.

And that just felt fantastic. And great, and wonderful and amazing and he was running out of words and he wasn't going to stop this to look up a thesaurus. Rodney would hold it there just long enough that his stomach would knot with anticipation, and then slide in a rush that felt like free fall.

"Yeah, Rodney... okay, you're a sex god, seriously, I'd worship you as long as you keep doing that... "

"Doing... Oh, oh, god you feel good, Jesus, hold on... " Rodney shifted, squirmed behind him, moved his angle somehow and wrapped a hand around Greg's cock. "Jesus."

He nearly melted but then they settled into a bit of a faster movement, together and there was a firm grip on his cock moving with them and this was the point where nothing mattered except that he move and keep moving and try not to come.

Moving and moving and moving, with Rodney moving inside of him, against him, up against his back, and moving, so much wonderful movement, until there was nothing left in the world but the movement.

He never wanted it to stop, but it couldn't go on forever and eventually the pace picked up, he shifted until every movement filled his head with fireworks, and he felt like he was running and running towards a climax. If he was making sounds he couldn't hear them over the roar in his ears and the thump of his heart and eventually he arched and climaxed hard enough to make him see stars.

When he sagged back, there was an awareness of Rodney there, behind him, and Rodney's hand on his dick, and Rodney's mouth on his neck, murmuring encouraging words against his skin.

"Holy cow Rodney... " Greg managed. He wasn't even sure Rodney had come, he'd been so wrapped up in the experience. "I'll... never walk again."

"Carson will kill me if I've crippled someone with my amazing sex prowess." Rodney sounded on the verge of laughing as he shifted, rocked his hips back.

"What a way to go... " Greg drawled trying not to laugh, and just feeling good in the post orgasmic haze. "Hey, you... was I a bit early? Mmm." He wanted to stretch like a cat and work the kinks out.

"Right on time, I think." There was shifting behind him, and he could feel Rodney start to sit up. "Let me get something to clean you up with."

"Not just a sex god but a benevolent one too," Greg half joked. It had been worth it, incredibly worth it and Rodney sounded like he was smiling and he turned to try and see that in the flesh.

He was. Wide and crooked, mouth loose and happy-looking as he patted Greg's shoulder. "Trust me, we'll both sleep better for me finding a wash cloth."

"Can I... " Greg felt a little stupid saying it but that had never stopped him babbling in front of Grissom "Can I stay? I think you were implying I could but, I wasn't sure and I just wanted to check, but I do really like the whole sleeping together thing, though I know not everyone does so... uh... can I?"

And it was like he'd caught Rodney off guard, but Rodney's answer was still, "Of course. Bed's big enough for two, and that's the only reason I wouldn't."

"Cool," Greg said and tried to motivate himself to move a little, and failing completely. He wasn’t sure if most people didn't want to stay or people just didn't ask but as Poppa Olaf said if you don't ask you don't get and he really wanted to get Rodney.

He asked, he was getting. He was still probably going to go crazy, but at least he had a nice run-up to the crazy.

Rodney came back, carrying a washcloth, still smiling. "You look comfortable.":

"I've lost the ability to move," Greg answered. "Bones have liquefied and I've completely incapable of doing anything."

“So offering you a spatula would not be amiss," Rodney guessed. He leaned over Greg for a moment, to kiss him, and that was a pretty good distraction from the wash cloth stroking over his stomach and squeezing vaguely over his dick.

"Mm... might be useful," Greg admitted, kissing back. "Hurry with the cleaning so I can get you here and kiss you until you go to sleep. That's always a nice way to go."

It shouldn't have surprised him when the wash cloth ended up on the floor in a hurry, and Rodney crawled up onto the bed with him. "That might be the best way to go."

"I'm pretty fond of it," Greg murmured as they managed to find a comfortable position together and he leaned in to make soft kisses of thanks against Rodney's skin. "Thank you. For the sex and for... you know, everything."

"When we get out of here, and I meant this in a not-comparing my workplace to a prison way, but sometimes, the similarities are very disturbing, uh, I, we could throw a little more variety in... "

Greg kissed again, and again. "Variety? I like the sound of that... tell me more... "

"More traditional things, that don't involve going to sleep immediately because there's a good chance that an alarm could go off at any moment, jeopardizing sleep attempts for the next 48 hours." Rodney kissed his again, drifting and lazy with it as he settled down beside Greg.

More kisses, tender rather than passionate brushed over Rodney's skin. "Alarms huh? Better go to sleep as soon as possible then," he murmured.

"Sleep... sleep I can do." Rodney reached an arm out of the bed, and swatted at the light switch. "There we go."

He kissed Rodney again, and curled in tightly. It was great to feel someone there in the darkness, to have that warmth and comfort there. He made his kisses softer and softer but in the end he wasn't sure if it was Rodney or himself who went to sleep first.

~*~

It was still a status quo born of stress and oddity, deep in Cheyenne mountain and strung together with work and research and getting Greg into the groove of the place, but Rodney was flexible. More flexible than he'd thought, actually, if the night before was any demonstration. Rodney shifted a little, and mashed his face into the pillow as he stretched. Yeah, that was nice.

Greg liked to curl around him but he wasn't feeling that telltale warmth just then. In fact... the weird thing was he could feel a weight over his legs, which was a bit freakish.

Okay, definitely time to get up, then. Rodney shifted, pushed up with his hands, and twisted to look behind himself to see *why* there was a weight over his legs.

There was a grunt of sound that appeared to be from Greg that came from his feet and as he twisted and looked he ended up frowning.

~This is a bit more than doodling gate addresses Rodney,~ John's voice said softly in his head.~Way beyond~

The sheets, the bed clothes, random surfaces were covered in glyphs and writing and diagrams and equations. Greg was sprawl naked over his legs, a pen in his hand, looking as if he had been up all night.

"Greg?" Jesus, Christ, no, no, that was not good, well, yes it was good and no it wasn't, so Rodney twisted slowly towards his friend. "Hey... "

Greg grunted a little "Wha... ? Sleepin'... " he mumbled "Tired."

"You're not sleeping. Here, give me that pen... " Before he stabbed someone, mostly Rodney, with it.

"Pen? What pen?" Greg looked surprised to find one in his hand and then passed it over, yawning. "Crap, I need a coffee. Everything’s a bit blurry." He squinted at Rodney. "I can see little blobs over everything. Squiggles. Even you."

Rodney got his fingers on the pen, and set it aside carefully. "Let's throw some clothes on and see Carson. He has good coffee, anyway."

"Wait wait... that's not my eyes," Greg sat up, his hair as wild and bedhead as any of John's more extravagant efforts. "Uh, Rodney? I think someone inked you in your sleep."

~He's right. And it was him of course. Heh, that's pretty cool.~

"You're enjoying this too much, John," Rodney murmured, tilting his head to the ceiling for a moment as he reached for Greg's shoulders. "C'mon. Pants are a necessary right now."

~Hey come on, at least there's no chance that some major revelation would've been eaten by chest hair, John pointed out. ~You know... bound to be interesting stuff there.~

"Okay, necessary pants... " Greg looked around. "Okay, now I'm freaked out. What happened last night?"

"Uh, we stole twinkies from the mess hall after I logged out for the night, watched some TV, had some good sex, and went to sleep. Between sleep and waking up, I apparently missed the painting party, and all of this is probably very important, only I can't read it to know."

"Hey *I* missed the painting party, so unless the Roswell guys have given up anal probes in favor of malicious interior design I... " Greg looked at his ink covered hands. "I guess it was me... wasn’t it?"

~Kid's smart,~ John drawled in what Rodney always thought of as his Lieutenant Colonel Obvious tone of voice.

"Right, which... " Rodney ran a hand through his hair, and handed Greg his boxer shorts. "It's not the end of the world. Really. We'll get you cleaned up and checked out."

"Not the end of the world, no, not unless I've been writing out the design to some sort of death star thing," Greg said with a faintly hysterical edge to his voice. "So it's pretty much proven now isn't it? I've got the thing and it's just taking its time to come out. None of those shots did anything more than slowed it down!"

"Just take a deep breath." He hopped into his boxers, getting closer to Greg. "None of the others exhibited signs like this, and I've got to say that writing on me in my sleep is only threatening for your sleep cycle."

"Yeah well I feel like I haven't slept at all!" Greg answered standing up and reaching for pants.

~Fun being the one calming someone down isn't it?~ the voice pointed out a little smugly.

"You probably didn't. You were pretty busy," Rodney pointed out, shifting to offer Greg a shirt.

"Great," Greg mumbled as he took it and pulled it on. "Any chance any of this isn't ... rubbish?"

~You do know that you've pretty much just outed your relationship here as well~ John pointed out, his voice sounding way too happy in Rodney's head.

"Huge chance. Big change. The likelihood that you're transcribing Goa'uld recipes for baked flounder are also high, but you specified 'not gibberish', not 'highly important'." Rodney twisted, trying to look at his back for a moment before he loosely put a shirt on. "I sort of hope it's not Goa'uld recipes."

"... yeah, me too," Greg replied. "Might be for roast children on toast or something." His smile looked a little wan. "Okay, let’s go get myself committed to the Infirmary and see if I've been writing anything of any good to you guys."

"Well, the Goa'uld don't eat children. More like... succulent roast rare animals, served by child-slaves in Egyptian garb. Spitted baby hippo, glazed in duck blood, maybe." He reached to get a hand on Greg, just to make a connection with him.

"You ruin the image I have in my brain here," Greg said, taking his hand, and yes there was a faint tremor there and he felt unusually cold.

It could have been exhaustion, or it could have been something a lot more sinister. "Meet one in person and your mental image will pale in comparison. Here, c'mon. We're going to see Carson *now*."

"Okay, I'm going.. going now," Greg answered and didn't actually let go of his hand as they left his room in search of the Infirmary.

It wasn't a search so much as a very pointed wandering that Rodney guided, worriedly pulling Greg along to the infirmary. It wasn't the first time that something bizarre had struck in the mountain, and at least it wasn't *contagious*.

Even so, they managed to get a few strange looks as they made their way down through the elevators and to the infirmary.

"Does Dr. Beckett not have any quarters?" Greg asked. "Because he is always here."

He was, and he was tucked over in a corner peering into a microscope of some description.

"Doctor Beckett has *very* predictable hours. Also, it's noon, Greg." Rodney had glanced at one of the clocks that they hung over doorways. "Carson!"

"Aye Rodney?" Carson answered without turning immediately and when he did he frown, "Bloody hell, you go out and get drunk and have an all over body tattoo?"

"I woke up and Greg was in a trance-state holding a pen in his hand. Whatever that virus did to him, it's coming out when he's unconscious or idle." Rodney pulled Greg forwards, offering him to Carson.

Carson raised his eyebrows a little. "Looks like it. Just on you hmm? Greg sit down lad, I'll…"

"Take some blood samples, I know," Greg finished even as he sat himself on one of the cots.

"On me, the bedding... " Rodney waved a hand slightly. "We'll get pictures and someone to decipher it later."

"Right. You know Dr. Jackson will be all over it, and Elizabeth as well,” Carson said. "Now Greg, are you feeling any different?"

"Uh, sorta tired as if I haven't slept," Greg admitted. "Well, more like I pulled a double shift or something."

"Headaches? Nausea?" Carson said even as he deftly took some blood.

He shook his head.

Rodney watched them, and watched Carson fill one vial and then a second after a quick tourniquet and alcohol rubbing. "Does that mean anything in particular?"

"No I just asked it for the fun of it," Carson said blandly. "There were common visits among those others affected to their doctors for sudden onset headaches or sickness prior to development. So far Greg hasn't show any of the symptomology common to the others, which can only be good news."

"But, I've definitely got something," Greg said gesturing to Rodney. "I mean, look at what I did."

"Aye, I'm looking, but the subconscious centers of the brain are a very different zone to the conscious mind effected in other patients Greg," Carson soothed. "It's a fundamental difference. It means whatever happens, we can be sure that it will be different."

"Look, it's not the fact I did that disturbs me, it's that I did it in my sleep and... to Rodney," Greg said. "Because that scares me. Writing is one thing but... what if it had been something worse?"

"If you try to stab me in my sleep, I think I'll wake up," Rodney deadpanned. "Look, it's manifesting itself completely differently. That has to be good. It could be because you didn't have direct exposure, but saliva to blood transmission."

"So it's mutated," Greg replied.

"Well if it has, then it is to the better," Carson replied. "I need to examine the virus structure again and compare it."

"Which you can do with blood samples, right?" Rodney tilted his head, peering hard at Greg. He seriously looked like he was freaking out, and Rodney had no idea what else he could do.

"Right, "Carson agreed, patting Greg on the arm. "It's nice to see Rodney has finally found someone who'll put up with him... so I can't let anything happen to you."

"I... uh... thanks I guess," Greg replied looking over at Rodney.

Rodney lifted his eyebrows a little, and cut his eyes up to Carson. "Carson's actually good with *all* of his patients."

"Just teasing you Rodney," Carson replied. "The incidences of this coming out are happening subconsciously, so perhaps we should get Greg to go see Kate or someone."

"Therapy for access to a hive mind? Are you kidding?" Rodney was struggling to not throw his doubt out there for Greg to feel, too, but it was damn hard. That woman hadn't been able to handle two consciousness in the same body. How was she going to cope with the weight of a genetic memory like that?

"Well, it might help," Carson said. "Perhaps if we can control the release of the memory it might stop coming out all over the place."

"I'm all for it if it can be controlled," Greg said. "Uh, but therapy? I don't deal with therapy that well. It just seems to stir things up."

Which Carson would say was why therapy existed, but Rodney groaned and put a hand over his eyes. "Mm, don't give him a reason to do it."

Greg looked at him "Hey, I know about my issues, I know where they all come from, I just... uh... Look, if it's going to be helpful I'll do it, but not if it's just therapy for the sake of therapy."

"Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of hypnosis," Carson pointed out.

"Hypnosis?" That was... new, almost, and Rodney sat up a little, trying hard to be as not-moving as possible, because the likelihood that he was ruining the marks Greg had made on him was pretty high.

"Aye, it induces an altered state of consciousness where the subconscious is accessible. It seems a natural consideration to ask Greg to elaborate on any useful information," Carson said. "Speaking of which... Rodney, I'll get a camera and some stills. We better record what he's been writing on you so you can have a shower."

"Thank you." He rubbed at his eyes for a moment, and then looked at Carson again. "Is there anything you can do for Greg right now, or is trying to get anything remotely resembling medicine out of you a disaster waiting to happen.”

"Well it might be good to give him a wee bit of a sedative so he can catch up," Carson agreed.

"I could do with a couple of hours sleep," Greg replied, looking like he needed more.

"Then we'll do that while we get some translations." Carson was already moving to get something to help. "It's very mild. Won't knock you out so you can't wake up ."

Greg smiled. "Yeah, that's okay. Had a few of those injections."

Back when he'd had the accident, and there were a few in Greg's past that Rodney could think of, from their conversations. "Just worry about getting some sleep, Greg. We can take care of the rest."

"I'll catch up with you later," Greg said even as Carson went for a vein with practiced ease. Sure enough in about thirty seconds his eyelids were dipping and a little longer and he was out of it.

"Must've been tired," Carson said turning to Rodney. "Probably burns up a lot of energy."

"He was clammy and shaking. I... am not good at this." Rodney rubbed at his face again for a moment, watching Greg as Carson idly pulled bedding up over him.

"You seem to be doing very well Rodney," Carson said. "John gave you enough practice after all."

"John gave me a series of heart attacks and then waltzed back *every* time except the last with this smug look and this 'Hi, I survived it again' attitude. There was never enough time to worry." Rodney swallowed, still watching Greg. Because this could turn out all right, or it could all go horribly wrong, and he was trusting Carson because in the end... it was a medical problem.

Carson nodded, and Rodney could see that he wasn't the only one that hurt because John wasn't there, though he doubted Carson had him in his head.

"Aye, I know." He exhaled. "Okay then, let’s see if Greg has pulled something out of his hat for us hmm?"

Rodney shifted, and stood up, stretching his legs. "Right. I think he wrote on the sheets, too. Just for your reference."

He supposed it was a good thing that he hadn't been laying on his back when they'd gone to sleep.

~*~

The SGC was a pretty cool place to be incarcerated. Now he was allowed to actually see what was going on, things were falling in to place. He seemed to spend a lot of time getting hypnotized which he only partially remembered doing. Then he'd go down to the lab where Rodney was and steal a laptop to email from or try and do a bit of work, and maybe help out.

The stupid thing was he kept thinking he was fine and he got tired really ridiculously easily other wise he would've said that he was fine.

At least he had the tiredness to tell him that no, he still wasn't fine. And he had mails from the CSIs to tell him that he was at least missed vaguely.

It sort of kept him grounded, in the face of reports of godlike beings who were getting their asses kicked by a mysterious force, and a hunt for weapons that were described in his nocturnal scrawlings.

He felt responsible when something happened to one of the teams, because it was what he said that sent them into danger. So he'd come and listen to Rodney being brilliant while he waited because if they did get anything, they always came to the lab first.

And SG-1 were due in from another mission any time now. Well, overdue, but that was practically normal.

Normal, according to Rodney, was if they were Running late *and* being shot at as they came through the gate. It was SG-1 who they'd built the Iris for, more than the general protection of Earth, but Greg had a feeling that was Rodney's professional jealousy talking there.

He was smiling a little - he seemed to do that a lot when he thought about Rodney, even when he was the other side of the room having one of his heated arguments with a Doctor Zelenka who had been flown in a few days back. At first Greg had assumed they didn't like each other as their first words had pretty much been a prelude to an argument where abuse and swear words were hurled at each other, but then he realized there was nothing further from the truth.

In fact, he had a feeling he really liked the Czech scientist because maybe it was all coincidence but he didn't notice Rodney talking to himself so much any more. Hardly at all in fact.

Maybe he was distracted, but he jerked his head a lot less, seemed less like he was bottling down vague rage in the middle of an argument with no one but himself.

And just then, he was leaned in shoulder to shoulder with Zelenka, reading over a data feed. Greg had some information on basic alien genetics from Doctor Beckett, but he had trouble concentrating on it.

It was weird. Actual functioning memory building mRNA for the Goa’uld and speculation that *that* complexity was responsible for the lengthy maturing process as a symbiote.

It wasn't exactly helping. And then there was the Asgard and as far as Greg could tell, they were screwed with 'Xerox' syndrome, and to top that there were the current big bads, the Ori who didn't *have* DNA.

"No, no Rodney. Must be wrong. Activity in that sector before I left to come here. Can not be nothing now. They would still be there," Zelenka said.

"Now they're *not*. And unless the Ori have suddenly suffered a blackout or found a way to completely cloak themselves, they're gone. Poof." Rodney made hand gestures when he argued like that, and it made Greg grin to watch. Yeah. poof. Like Aliens without DNA

[

"SG-1 are good yes, but not so good they can make Ori Gateships vanish where they are not," Zelenka said. "How reliable is the data feed? Because no system lords there either. Tok'ra information say they were allying to face fleet."

Tok'ra were just something else to get his head around. Greg speculated idly that maybe he hadn't gone nuts because he was tapping into Tok'ra memories but he knew he was fooling himself.

"Something going on?" he asked mildly.

"Whole groups of people we've been waiting to come to earth and kill us? Have started to disappear flat off the radar. And it's not... as if part of the universe is collapsing, because we're still getting data from our allies. It's just that the Ori and the system lords in that area are gone."

"Pretty weird," Greg agreed wandering over. "So, there's something out there bigger and badder than the Ori?"

Great, he'd thought they were pretty godlike. He narrowed his eyes at the information on the display. He didn't know much but the pattern seemed obvious. A broad almost linear band.

"God, don't tell me we've pissed someone else off.." came another voice and Colonel Mitchell wandered in. "You know, for once... it wasn't a bust. Guess what we found at that Goa’uld ancient site? A dusty old relic of... "

"A ZPM," Daniel cut in putting it down in front of the scientists. "Intact. We think."

"Daniel, you totally ruined my build up," Cameron complained. "So... want to know if it's still juiced. And hey, score a big one for Greg's head."

"A ZPM." Rodney echoed it, and started to stand up. "You're kidding? A real -- my god, give it, give it to me now, I need to test it."

He practically snatched it away and Greg grinned a little. Whatever a ZPM was it was good news.

"Yes, we uh... were correct in the assumption that Goa’uld sacred sites venerated relics of the Ancients, usually then absorbed into their own cult," Daniel was saying. "Teal'c said it was not uncommon for various system lords to make highly secretive trips to certain places with minimal escorts."

"Indeed Daniel Jackson. It was an honor to be chosen as guard for such a journey though all memories would be wiped of that period," the Jaffa replied.

"Yes well, this time we got a relic and the same hieroglyph that referred to this ZPM appeared on Greg's transcripts for a minimum of three other sites that were plundered and then something I would translate as Father /mother ZPM that we missed on P3x 6385."

"Is that a bad thing?" Greg asked.

"According to what we managed to salvage of the database, it would have been the equivalent of a... Battery recharger." Rodney clutched tight to the ZPM, and kept talking even as he walked deeper into the base. "So, we're in a race for power against someone who knows what they're looking for, and if they know what they're looking for then we can assume they know what to do with it."

"Yes, yes, more to the point, someone has those four items," Zelenka pointed out "Right now."

As if by telepathy most of SG-1 turned and looked at Vala.

"What?" she said looking around. "Hey, come on, I don't steal *everything*."

"Because some things are nailed down," Mitchell said dryly.

That got him a thump in the arm. "Look, it's more likely you've got a leak," Vala said. "Information comes out of Greg's head and somehow someone gets a hold of it."

"If it's the Trust I'm so not going to come into work on Monday," Cameron replied.

Greg was officially confused. "Okay, who's the trust and how could anyone get any idea of what I've been writing or saying. Not even I have a clue."

"It's been between Greg and me, or *written* on me, and we pass it on and... " Rodney turned in the doorway, glaring at them, "and the first one of you who suggest that I’m with the trust is severely mistaken. Now, I have a ZPM to test."

Greg decided following was a good idea and Zelenka moved with him as they joined Rodney.

"Much we can do with this if full," the Czech scientist said. "Perhaps leak happens after information transcribed. More likely. Or bugging. Should start there if were you."

Then Greg found himself being usher up the corridor. "Okay," he said to Rodney, "I wasn't following a lot of that. We've got something good finally, but something out there is getting stuff ahead of us?"

"Which SG-1 there assumes is because we've got a leak. Which is possible. It's not the first time, and I suspect that means a round of x-rays looking for Goa'uld is going to be ordered for everyone. Because they're finding things that you've scrawled out, or given under hypnosis, but someone else is getting there first if it's in the growing path of that damn void. I'm all for it being a crazy Ascended who's finally snapped and started cleaning up their messes." Rodney passed the ZPM carefully to Zelenka.

Greg watched the pair of them as they seemed to work instinctively together, obviously having done this sort of thing before.

"Would make change yes, " Zelenka said and saw Greg's puzzled look. "Glowy squid near god beings."

"....right. Glowy squid stuff." Greg tried to imagine that. He was quite proud that he failed.

"Dr. Jackson Ascended, then descended, then ascended... actually have lost count now." Zelenka said. "Might have missed some. Perhaps he enjoys coming back naked."

"I don't think anyone but the general and some of the women who work here enjoy Doctor Jackson coming back naked." Rodney shifted his hands, and together they started to slot the ZPM into what looked like a holder for it. "It's a higher state of being, though the benefits of that higher state can be argued. I nearly ascended once, I could have. I preferred to stay here."

"It was interesting time," Zelenka added. "For a while he was...nice to people. Somewhat disturbing however. He also apologized to me and brought me back from the dead. I order that sentence from the most miraculous to least."

Greg decided this was the point to sit down. "You know... anywhere else that would be either a cue for psychiatric problem or the start of a new religion."

Rodney laughed a little, and stepped back from the ZPM case. Seat. Battery-holder? Whatever the hell it was. "You get used to this kind of stuff. I would have made a bad ascended, anyway. Too much sitting around, going 'Ohm' and not enough action."

"And we know how much you like action Greg said with a grin. There was a click and the crystalline shape dropped down into a recess and Zelenka looked at the readouts and things lit up. "76.4% full Rodney!"

This was apparently very good news for some reason.

"One more warship with enough power to be useful. One more battery of attacks from the Atlantus base, if we need it... " Rodney shook his head a little. "We could have used this at Atlantis."

"We could've used many things at Atlantis. Back-up would've been best of all rather than leaving us in middle of Wraith attacks," Zelenka added more solemnly.

"What happened?" Greg asked and it had been something he'd never managed to ask before because Rodney got that look which he had started to connect to Colonel Sheppard and the fact he was dead and the whole talking to himself thing, and he didn't want to stir things up.

"Hive ships attacked. Many of them and it was bad," Zelenka said glancing over at him. "Back up from Earth could not come as there was Ori threat. Daedalus ship needing repairs. Big battle, long battle, many miracles performed by many people. Mainly Rodney and Colonel Sheppard’s team. Ancient battle spaceship flown and fending them off, like Star Wars yes? But too many. Ship went down nearly on the city, the Stargate broke so no evacuation. Only way out was Daedalus, but Daedalus needed cover to reach hyperspace with everyone who survived which meant person who could control Command chair had to stay and direct drones to keep ship safe until hyperspace jump. " Zelenka paused. "Colonel Sheppard knocked Rodney out and stayed. He was the only one who could stay there who gave Daedalus chance to escape."

“We still didn’t get everyone out. There was only so much oxygen, so much space on life support, no time to search the city for wounded, no time to find the people who'd died. We lost... a lot of people. I think the reason so many of us did make it out was because Darwin had whittled us down to the people who'd do anything in a crisis to live. You know, the uh, redshirts in Star Trek? A lot of them, people who were new or military without a crosscutting specialty, didn't make it. Cadman made it, and well she should as a tap-dancing explosives expert who could read code inserts." Rodney waved a hand a little as he hooked a laptop up to the control unit.

"Many of the originals made it. Some had gone to Alpha site before the explosion," Zelenka added. "Carson too, though he had not long come back from apparently Ascending. He couldn't remember his own name but could remember how to save lives."

"Dr. Beckett had ascended?" Greg asked, "But... " It was very hard to get his head around it.

"He had been killed in an apparent exploding tumor accident." Rodney stopped, and twisted to look at Greg. "I just realized this is like a bad movie."

"You have no idea," Greg replied rubbing at his forehead as a headache descended. "Is it possible, I mean you've told me Atlantis was destroyed but if you've thought people dead before and they ascended, couldn't Colonel Sheppard have ascended?"

"We hoped. But would've come back. It has been some time, and all of us agree that the Colonel would be thrown out of the Ascended plane," Zelenka replied. "He did not take to not interfering well."

"And with John's luck, they would have thrown him onto a planet, where I'm sure he's been assimilated by the Genii, or the vestiges of the Hoffans... " Rodney paused, glancing at his readings. "Or Chaya's planet."

"Ah the Colonel and his Ascended women," Zelenka smiled. "Until you made an honest man of him. Well, dishonest as there would be many lies about lateness to meetings and so on. John would be pleased to see Greg make you happy again."

Greg looked over at Rodney and nodded. "Well, you know... I try and he makes me really happy too." He felt abruptly very sorry for this John who had given everything to keep Rodney safe. He could understand the emotion at least.

"I, uh." Rodney blinked, looked between them. "More with the reminiscing, less with the fantasizing about my non existent sex life in another galaxy. See, I don't talk about what Radek did or didn't do with Miko in the botany lab, do I?"

"Is because you never caught us," Radek said smugly. "Or you went blind.”

Greg smirked a little at that. "If I ever get back to Vegas some day, I'll take you to see Lady Heather now she's back in business."

"From the traumatic scene that my mind blocked out, I *do* think it involved fern plants, so maybe that's a good idea. " Rodney grinned, and faked mock-startlement. "Oh, you meant me and not our resident sex obsessed Czech."

Zelenka chuckled a little. "I have heard that Vegas is city of sin. It sounded interesting."

"It really is. I'm sure she is well disposed to anyone from CSI," Greg said. "She has a thing for Grissom, my boss. There was a lot of speculation on exactly what they were doing."

"See, this is the kind of amusing story I can enjoy while we work of this data stream." Rodney nodded to Greg. "Go on. I'm interested."

"Well, the first time we met her was after a body dump of one of her employee's in a park. I was in the lab then, on DNA and trace and I got to help with pointing out the virtues of liquid latex - of which there are many, and testing... uh equipment that had been used. Anyway.."

Greg let himself ramble on about the various cases, because he was good at rambling and it had the effect of being at least a little interesting while they were working.

The scientists talked a lot when they were doing things that Greg knew they considered 'routine'. They were monitoring the cells, cell growth, cell openness, and it sounded to Greg like they were discussing an organism, not the cells of a pocket universe that provided energy.

When his story tailed off as they got a little technical, he found himself just wondering how close the analogies went. Was there an energy equivalent of DNA in the universe? Were there possible manipulations that were done on that level and...

Somewhere he drifted off and the next thing he knew was he was blinking, looking down at something he'd literally written on the desk. A diagram that looked weird and his head was killing him as if he'd done too much.

And Rodney was standing beside him, a hand on his shoulder. "Greg, Greg, hey... "

"....Shit." Greg looked at what he'd done and up at Rodney. "What... what is it?" It was almost pure math and diagram and it didn't look the same as a lot of other things he had written.

"Is not Goa’uld." Zelenka said looking. "Perhaps, not just Goa’uld genetic memory waking up yes?"

"Humanity doesn't have a genetic memory, so what the *hell* else was mangled up in that project? This is.... This is *new*." Rodney said it firmly, gesturing to the mess on the desk, but he kept a hand on Greg's shoulder as he said it. "It's *new*."

"It can't be," Greg looked at him. "I mean, it must be *something, someone elses* . I don't really know math, I know chemistry and I did sciences but not like you guys do it. It has to come from somewhere."

Rodney looked over his shoulder towards the ZPM. "C'mon, we'll figure this out. Back to Carson, and Radek, you'll get Elizabeth to translate that? I'm sure *that* is ancient."

"Great," Greg knew he was grumbling. "He'll take more blood and I'll have to go to sleep again." He was just really starting to feel helpless about what was going on and there was that quietly panicking dread of ohshitohshitthisisit! that surged up every now and then.

It was the same every time, and Rodney just frowned, and looked away for a moment. "Look, uh... You don't have to go to sleep again, and he keeps taking blood in the hopes that he'll figure out what you're tapped into.”

"But he's not finding it," Greg said frustrated. "He can't find it. He told me he didn't have the equipment that would see at that sub-genetic level here, not like he had before." He stood up and immediately regretted it, because the sudden pain was too close to having his head split by an axe, so much so that he was clutching at it with one hand ineffectually and groping for support with the other.

"I think I'm... gonna be sick."

He felt the ground start to slip out from under him, and barely felt Rodney catching him under the arms as he went down. "Someone call for the infirmary!"

And it was all too like being semi-conscious wheeled out of the lab explosions, or lying in the alley way, watching a light vanishing through eyes so swollen he couldn't see and waiting, waiting for such a long time for someone to come, and crap, headache and nausea that was what Carson had asked about and he just couldn't stay conscious. He tried, but he just couldn't and in the end he let the darkness take him.

~*~

One day, one day, his life would go something like a normal life. He'd get up in the morning and go to work at a normal hour, and there wouldn't be information telling him that there was an Ori Warship bearing down on them. Radek was en-route to Atlantus, along with half of the base, and they weren't sure what to do with Rodney. Send him there, keep him in Colorado? Rodney had finally snapped that at least he understood evacuations *if* they had to come to that protocol, and that the alpha site would need him if they were so desperate to keep him from going directly into the line of fire.

And oh, fuck, they were seriously playing with the 'what world leaders do we need' protocol, and Rodney could count on one hand how many times they'd done that one.

He didn't want to leave Greg who was in the Infirmary and his condition was deteriorating because Carson could not get a reading on what the virus was doing at a sub genetic level. The math and equations Greg was producing were... amazing and definitely ancient and apparently due to the fact the creators had used Carson’s ATA treatment as a carrier vector.

It didn't make sense to Rodney, but it was clearly what the worst case scenario from all of their genetic tampering came to in the end. Greg had finally demanded that Carson show him the research, so he could at least try to understand what was happening to him.

Surprisingly, he seemed to understand more of it than anyone would've believed, but though he managed to get up now and then, crippling migraines tended to send him right back to the Infirmary again.

Even though he was worried about the illness, he had a feeling a cure was going to be a moot point. This current situation was bad, end of the world bad. He wasn't sure how many drones Atlantus had left after O’Neill destroyed Anubis and his fleet, but the Ori were tougher. They had been taking over worlds, spreading their influence and finally they were coming to Earth and they didn't have anything aside from the Ancient Outpost that could work against them.

He didn't know what to do. A few weeks ago, he might not've even cared.

Now, though, he did. He'd had time to reconnect with the world a little, and it was harder to be so dismissive of humanity at large when a random stranger could so easily worm into his life and affect him. Rodney stared at his laptop, reading the feed of the last twenty four hours of the approaching Ori fleet and the growing 'white noise' that had started from the far sector of the galaxy and swept inwards.

It made no sense. It wasn't the Asgard, because they had already called in with their own mystery gaps in sensor readings. It wasn't the Nox because getting *them* to participate in anything was like getting blood out of a stone. The only thing he could think of was that maybe it was the long lost Furlings, because something was out there, and headed their way.

His head was quiet, and strangely that made it more difficult to think. In the time he had with Greg, the voice had faded little by little. Random comments stopped, all of the constant commentary gone. In a strange way he sort've missed it.

He missed the company, missed the feeling that John was alive somehow and still in his head, when logically he knew that wasn't the case. There was just the reality, and the question: Was the force cutting through the galaxy *good*, or bad? Just because they were killing their enemies off, it didn't mean anything.

Hell, it could've been the replicators.

"Rodney?" Greg had obviously escaped from Carson's clutches again, even if he looked unsteady. "It's like a ghost town out here. Someone said they will be in range soon."

And Greg was probably scared or weirded out and there was the possibility they would be killed before the virus got him.

He could hear, quiet and a couple of floors below them, the low-toned warning klaxons. "Yeah. They're evacuating. Base personnel are the last out, but you might want to grab your bag. I should head down." There wasn't anything he could do but watch the panic and argue facts, but.

"This is... like end of the world stuff isn't it?" Greg said in a quiet voice. "All my friends, family... your family, I mean... "

It was obviously bothering him a lot that it seemed more important than what was happening to him. "Is there anything we can do?"

"I called my sister. She doesn't want to evacuate. You can't even tell yours, they don't have security clearance... It... " Rodney closed his laptop, and moved to herd Greg out of the room. "C'mon. We can watch. What you take and what you don't take doesn't matter right now. Who you can or can't take doesn't matter. This is end of the world stuff, Greg. This is an Ori Battlecruiser coming straight at us, and senators *blaming* the program for bringing it here in the first place, which is completely false, they would have come and gotten us either way. We just wouldn't have been able to mount a defense. Soon the Atlantus base will fire back -- when it's in range. And the Ori will fire on Antarctica. I hope you're not that fond of penguins."

"Kinda liked the little guys," Greg replied even as he was herded. "All this crap coming out of my head and none of it is going to mean a thing."

That's the way it went. Sometimes even if you were smart enough that didn't make it into something that would kick-ass. They would have a live update in the ready room near the control centre. They'd know anything that was going on.

"None of us are specifically destined to save the world. What you did was buy us some time -- purely out of happenstance." Rodney shifted, slung an arm over Greg's shoulders. "I'm serious. The Atlantus base can put up a good fight. We can destroy the gate behind us if we have to."

Greg just nodded and seemed to take comfort in the way he was touching him even as they made it to the ready room.

"Atlantus base, returning fire. Apollo and Daedalus first engagements... Atlantus, status report?" He could hear the queries even as they entered the room and saw the massive spilt screen with a variety of views and representations of the space battle.

"General in the chair. Limited drone supply," Radek's voice replied. "Once they run out, will have problem."

Rodney waved vaguely to the face that was Radek's on the screen. "You can start to deploy the Atlantus backup generators. It has a charge to it." And from there, from there, well, Greg knew that the US had nukes, but were they gunna try to nuke the thing out of the atmosphere?

"Yes... if things get... " There was a visible thump and roar transmitted in the visual and Rodney felt Greg grip his arm. "Correction things are getting bad."

Alarms started going off at the SGC. "Incoming fire, incoming fire!" There was their own thump and the pair of them lost balance as the ground shook even down in the depth of the mountain. On the screens, the dwarfed earth space ships were being soundly trounced, even as the golden specks swarmed around the Ori battle cruiser. It wasn't good, it was definitely not good.

This was it.

Rodney started to get to his feet, trying to stay stable, and it seemed as if half of the people there were torn between staring and smartly trying to make a run for the gate.

"Greg, join one of the evac teams. You do DNA, fake being a doctor if you have to. You still know too much to lo--"

He would have gone on, but there were golden specks coming to the other side of the Ori battle cruiser now, and from out of nowhere bright green shots and no emanating point or ship to be seen.

"What's that?" Greg said, not even attempting to leave him. "Whoa... "

Something brilliant and white impacted the Ori shields, and clung to it, ripping it apart.

"Rodney? Is you doing that?" Radek asked from their now crackling transmission. "Nothing showing on scanners... their shields have just come down and it was not us... "

"Not my doing." Rodney glanced towards the general in the background, who had that unfocused attention he remembered from John. "I've been monitoring datastreams."

Whatever was going on was getting downright fast and dirty up there. The Ori weapons reoriented and Rodney could make out that there was some sort of shield getting pummeled but there was no sign of anything beneath it.

The Ori seemed resolute and was powering up one of their heavy shots, the targeting information pouring in from their sensor arrays in the Daedalus and Apollo..

"Evacuate the SGC," Radek was saying urgently through a distorting connection. "Go Rodney, they're locking on you there, they're... "

Firing.

At the split second, he realized they had fired, Rodney's mind filled with a deafening bellow of

~NO!~

And before he could feel himself dissolve into nothing, death and pain and then blank, their data showed whatever it was catching the beam instead of earth, instead of the SGC itself, and it kept firing back.

Somehow impossibly, there were explosions on the Ori cruiser. More than just a few, like it was being squeezed and fire was spurting out like blood, and then between one heartbeat and the next, it exploded, filling the screen with brilliant light.

He could hear cheering around him, clapping but he didn't know what had happened or how and there was a whisper of ~Rodney... ~ in his mind even as there was a sudden rumbling impact at the mountain again.

John.

John, and…and… invisible, and fighting back against the Ori, and a leak, and it all clicked at once for Rodney. He started to snap his fingers, even as the mountain suffered tremors with the aftershocks. "Sir, General, that was an ancient city. I think it tried to land somewhere nearby."

Hopefully, hopefully not *on* Colorado Springs.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," O'Neill said from the Atlantus base. "Caldwell, beam us the hell up and get us back over to the SGC. I want to know who is crashing an ancient *flying* city into my secret base for crying out loud. McKay, secure the area. Call it a meteor or something. We'll be home soon."

Greg frowned. "An ancient city? Rodney, I thought we were toast... what's going on?"

"Secure the area and call it a meteor. Seriously, I'm a civilian -- I thought lying to the American people was someone else's job. I'm taking a team, we're going to find it and investigate." Rodney twisted, and stepped out into the hallway, and caught sight of two marines. "You and you -- with me. Now. General O'Neill's orders."

Greg shadowed him, even as Carson made it up from the Infirmary. "What the bloody hell is going on Rodney?" the doctor asked. "Are you both all right?" He had a medical kit with him just in case by the looks of it.

~If I could walk away from that landing I'd call it a good one,~ came the long absent voice even if he sounded exhausted and weak.~Hi honey, I'm home.~

"You're home. You're home and you're still in my head, and that's actually *You*, John? Are you the city now, or are you *in* the city?" Because if a whole alien city had crashed, and it wasn't cloaked, they were going to have a hell of a time explaining that.

He could see Carson looking at him with some alarm and Greg holding him there looking at him as if asking what he thought he was doing.

~Still in the Chair. Body's stasis locked and shield is cloaked... uh, I'm not actually sure how alive I am Rodney. I just want to... see you.~

There was a need in his tone that had apparently been enough to drag him all the way from Pegasus.

"We'll get you out of there. We will -- Carson, what -- don't stare at me. John's in the city. That just crashed on it. He's in *Atlantis* -- apparently he felt he had to get here the hard way." And what it meant for the city, and, well, the horrible cover-up job was going to be up to someone else.

~I still have my cloak but the shields are down~ John replied again. ~ I'm sort've half buried in the mountain. ~

"If you say that was John then I believe you," Carson said. "It's not like it's any less believable than exploding bloody tumors. Lets go."

"Or rising from the dead because you thought good thoughts *too well*." Rodney almost grumbled that, but he nodded to the marines, and started towards the elevators to get to the surface. "Greg, if we can get in, you're about to see something amazing."

"I'm not staying behind," Greg said. "Definitely not. Not if it's your John."

~Hey, I'm your John~ John's voice murmured even as they started making their way out of the mountain. ~I've missed you so much.~

"If you've come all this way and spent all this time in my head, John, just to die dramatically as I finally get to you, I will hunt you down on whatever plane you end up on and throttle you." Rodney threatened it, and maybe it was edging towards hysterical but he was allowed to do that. They were going to have to go rock climbing to get to John.

~I'll only do that if my stasis fails. It's a bit like a refined version of the Aurora~John replied.~How long's it going to take to get here?~

"Until we can climb up there. Also, until we can find an *entrance* without you de-cloaking and scaring the populous of one bizarrely god-fearing town right out of their pedantic minds."

~I'll make a point of it,~ John replied ~I'm so tired. Really, really tired Rodney. Tell Greg and the SGC I'm really sorry I stole his information. I needed those ZPMs and the recharger. Works great, you'll love it.~

"I guessed it was you. Spying on me through my own head." Rodney started up the emergency ladder, unsure of anyone else was going to follow the man who was talking to himself at that point. "On behalf of myself and my pseudo ATA gene, I'd kill for a life signs detector right now."

It seemed Greg was coming with him and Carson, which made him grateful to the pair of them at least as they started the climb out of there. The marines were following on, and probably by the time they reached the city, the SGC command would be returning.

~Just head to the big ass hole in the ground. I'll tell you when you're getting close. I can see what you do. By the way you spend a lot of time looking at Greg's ass ~

And who could blame a man for appreciating a nice ass like that? "Well, I've never been mister subtle, have I? Also, you have no idea how relieved I am to find out that I *haven't* been going crazy." Hole in the ground, right, he could do that. They just had to get up high enough and navigate from there. And he wasn't going to look down/.

~Yeah, well sorry about that,~ John actually sounded sheepish ~Like I said, I'm not actually sure how alive I am and I didn't want you to get fixated on the idea you know? It's not been easy getting here~

"It's the weirdest thing hearing you talk to him like that," Greg said as they hauled themselves up a ladder

"Rodney, ask him if the Atlantis med-lab is still functional?" Carson said behind him.

"Strangely, he can generally hear things like what you just said," Rodney murmured, getting unsteadily to the steel 'landing' to take a quick breather. "But John, can you tell if it's still functional? Because if it is, Carson can do a lot for you."

~It's still functional... I... the city took a bad hit and we're self repairing, but the Infirmary is intact. Hey, Atlantis has got nanotech we never knew about, you'll love it. And it means he'll probably be able to do something for Greg too if what you were talking about has anything to go by.~

"That would be fantastic. Because I think we're all for as much preservation of life and avoidance of death as possible... " Rodney nodded to Greg and Carson, and then started up the next ladder set.

~Yeah, with you there~ John replied.~ I’ll be waiting when you get here~

Rodney realized with the amount of ladders they had to climb, it was going to be a long wait.

By the time the small group made it to the surface, where there was drifting smoke and devastation from the initial hit on the mountain, and a lot of dust in the air. They borrow a jeep and drove around to the backside of the mountain where the airstrips were and John hadn't been kidding. There really was a big-ass hole there, apparently filled by nothing.

Except, it was the city.

Rodney started towards it, trying to focus on what he was doing in the hopes that John would see where he was headed in relation to where John was. "That is a lot of crushed airplanes, John. We might have to blindfold you when we get you out of there, because if I were a pilot, I'd cry."

~Oh... crap. I didn't did I? I didn't detect life signs down there so I... god, the planes ~ John sounded traumatized by the fact and that more than anything convinced Rodney that it was really him. ~You're about to enter the cloaked zone Rodney. I've put a jumper down there for you otherwise it'll take forever to get to me.~

"Right. There's five of us coming to get you. Carson, myself, Greg, and two marines to manhandle you where you need to go. We'll just keep walking forwards... " Into the abyss, and he gestured for Greg to follow him just before he crossed the threshold of the cloak.

Greg was looking decidedly shaky but Rodney thought that was more to do with the climbing in his condition than fear because he stepped forward immediately and..

There she was, Atlantis buried in the mountain. Behind him he heard Carson make a choked almost weepy sound and he knew how that felt.

"....wow... holy fucking wow... " Greg whispered behind him. "Completely worth the climb."

Rodney wasted a few moments staring at Atlantis, and then started doggedly towards the puddlejumper. "I never thought I'd see this again."

"Aye, neither did I," Carson answered sounding misty and nostalgic. "I can't believe it... Atlantis here, on Earth."

They moved into the familiar confines of the puddlejumper and the displays came on around them.

~Rodney, it would be easier if you or Carson could fly it in,~ John said.~You know the way. I'll turn the lights on for you~

Rodney glanced at Carson, and then moved to get in the pilot's seat. It wasn't as if either of them were *good* pilots, and they were both going to be rusty, Rodney just trusted himself to be slightly less hysterical *while* he was being a bad driver than Carson would be. "Okay, everyone get in and sit down, strap yourself in if you can... " A puddlejumper, with the controls under his hand again.

It was like a dream, and maybe he had gone really nuts or something because he wanted this so much, wanted John and Atlantis to be real and that faint whisper of Ancient technology in his mind making flying easy. Well sort've easy. It did wobble some as they were taking off.

~I see you've not improved any~ John teased a little.

"Hey, three years without going anywhere -- let's see you drive a car after this, huh?" But the puddle jumper knew its own flight path, and Rodney wasn't going to take a scenic route when there was a pretty straight forward trip into the city pre-mapped out for him.

~Not going to be doing that for a while~ John said after a pause and as the jumper swooped down into Atlantis he murmured ~Welcome home Rodney~

It felt like coming home. It felt like it, the bizarrely delicate architecture like something out of a long-remembered dream. "We're here to get you out, John." The puddle jumper was heading for the docking bay, but Rodney knew where the chair room was from there. "You're still in the chair room, right?"

~Where I've been for three years, yeah~ John answered. The Jumper docked and the bay lit up, illuminating the place where he had spent so much time.

"This is incredible," Greg said as they came to a halt. "I feel like I know this place."

"Aye well, that's probably your ATA gene. Stand to reason if you are remembering ancient things, yours genetic code activated. Unless you had it to start with," Carson added as he unstrapped to disembark. "Is he in the Command Chair Rodney?

"Has been since we left the city." It left him with a sinking feeling. Either it was going to be something out of a horror movie, Rodney decided, where John was left more machine than man, or nothing at all, or he'd be just in shitty shape. For a really long time. Rodney docked the puddlejumper, and stood up.

~Stasis field remember? There are some things attached but I'm not moldering away like a zombie or something,~ John said evidently able to tell what he was thinking.~The trick is going to be getting it to shut down. I think there's some sort of security on it. It's... like a black box system, it's only meant to be recovered by other Ancients.~

"Has that ever stopped us before?" Rodney pointed out, as he moved to leave the puddle jumper.

~Kinda thought you'd think of something,~ John replied as they all exited out of the back and into the city.

Carson also knew the way and was starting to walk quickly, forcing the two Marines to get moving to ensure the way was clear and secure. Greg was trying to keep up with their pace but there was a temptation to get faster and fast, just to get there. Down the corridors, into a transporter, onto the right level.

Home, home, they were home, and he knew where the connectors to hook his tablet into the chair were, tucked away in the base, convenient and open to most types of technology, a little handy human ingenuity that he'd helped with.

Rodney didn't expect to see John like that, though. In the chair, yes, covered in a plastic green bubble, maybe, yes, no definitely he'd expected that, but...

~Yes, that's me..Hold on, I'll make it transparent because Carson will want vitals~ Abruptly the bubble became clear, and John was visible and the reason for his cryptic statements and doubt about whether he would make it back became obvious.

"Okay, that can't be good," Greg said looking at him. "He's still alive?"

~That's a yes and no~ John said .~Huh. I do look pretty bad don't I?~

There was blood everywhere, and large visible injuries with at least one with some metal fragment jutting out of the wound. He did look more than a little like a patchwork zombie.

"Yeah, you look pretty bad, John." Rodney put a hand on the protective shell -- and seriously, it clearly hadn't been doing its damned job if John was that much of a mess -- before he knelt down to try to set up the interface with the chair.

"I'll go make sure the Infirmary is ready, get a gurney to take him there on. If the equipment is working, it shouldn't be too bad. I'll need to operate though, and scan," Carson said. "John, how in the world do you manage to do this sort of thing to yourself hmm? Just don't crack it until we are ready, I'll need staff up here."

"Okay, work on getting staff up here. I kind of think he needs to get out of there ASAP." Rodney gestured to John through the clear shielding around him, and then went back to fiddling with alligator clips.

~I've been in here 3 years Rodney, I can wait a little while longer,~ John replied even as he got an interface going. Greg was looking around the room as he worked, looking faintly puzzled as if trying to remember something on the tip of his tongue.

"If you have an idea, Greg, I'm all ears." He was flying on nothing there, just trying to get the chair to even talk to him. It was as if all of his work in rerouting pieces of Atlantis to be open to other technology had shut down - which made sense, if there were nanites. In the presence of earth tech, the city would become more open to it, and in the absence, well, complete shut out.

"It looks familiar," Greg replied frowning a little. "I... don't know why but, it really does. Um… I've never done this before but maybe I can force something out? Would that help? If you have a pen and paper."

Rodney pulled up a note sheet on his table, and held it in offering to Greg. "Go for it. I need to think of how to get through the interface again, anyway."

The young man took it and then sat down on the floor just looking at the command chair for a bit, fiddling with his pen and from what Rodney could see, doodling pictures of eyes and twirly random things in the margin that might've been DNA or might've been something just random. He turned his attention to the interface and the next time he looked back, Greg was writing, drawing and seemed to be doing something.

He left him alone. He let him do it, didn't interrupt him, and focused on opening wires with his fingers, splicing and jumping connectors where he needed to. Greg was doing something, channeling something up, and Rodney wasn't going to argue with the evolved hive mind of the Goa'uld and random esoteric knowledge of the ancients.

Much.

Instead he worked on the familiar circuitry, looking at the new problem, glancing up every now and then to see John. He could see a blood drop still glistening and fresh, caught by stasis before it was going to fall and maybe it had been falling very very slowly for three years now.

But John was there, and he was talking but he wasn't fine, not at all and he could still lose him if this went wrong.

~I know Rodney. But it wouldn't be your fault. You need to know that. I know you think you could've done something if I hadn't knocked you out but I didn't know about this then~

"I can do this," Rodney murmured. "Do you *feel* what's happened to you?" Had it hurt like that for three years?

~It feels numb. Like a dream. Like it should hurt a lot, and one part of my brain says yeah it is, and most of me is going no, it doesn't. ~John replied. ~Rodney, you’ve gotta know... I came back for you. I need you to know in case you pop the cover and I don't make it, you need to know a lot of things. One thing anyway. That thing I had a problem with saying. Shit, I still have a problem with saying.~

"No, no, no, this is not going to e your deathbed confession. Chairbed confession. You're not allowed to have a deathchair confession because you're not dying!" And he knew. He knew because John had been in his *mind*, and he'd handled it, and he knew, he just knew that John did. It was enough.

~It's not a confession, it's just... I should've said. Greg told you he loved you within days of you getting together. That's what I should've done. I knew then I just... can't say stuff,~ John replied.

"That's because you're John." There was a spark, and Rodney jerked his hand back. Good. The connection was ready, then. Time to retrieve his laptop and see what Greg had managed.

~Thanks, I think~ John said in a wry mental tone. ~If I get out of this I'll say it when I'm not a disembodied voice in the darkness, and I'll kiss you in front of the first General we see. I promise~

Greg had his head down and was typing frantically, as if he was running out of time. His writing filled pages of text already and somehow he'd managed a recognizable diagram of the command chair there as well.

Rodney leaned in, watching the final pieces that Greg was laying down. In a technical sense, Rodney could read ancient. He was crap on the colloquial, 'Hi, how are you', but he knew schematics.

"There... " Greg said and pointed. "That's the field generator for the stasis pod."

He stopped typing and immediately clutched at his head. "Ow, fuck."

"Take the field generator out, take John out, and Jesus, Greg, here, just...." Rodney took the tablet from him, laid it aside, and carefully guided Greg to lay down. "You get the infirmary next."

"I'm okay... I'm okay," Greg replied, lying back and squeezing his eyes shut. "Felt worse after climbing up those ladders. You can get him out?"

"Yeah, I can. I can get him out. But I want to time it right and wait for Carson to come back with a medical team." Rodney could hook the tablet in, but Greg's scrawlings had helped clarify where the source was and from there...Rodney could make it work.

~I've got the Daedalus knocking, wanting to transport emergency personnel in. You want them in?~ John asked sounding infuriatingly calm about the whole thing.

"That's probably best," Greg agreed lying back and screwing his eyes shut. "Ow."

"Get them in here. I'll get you out, and then... everything is going to be okay." Maybe he was exaggerating, but. Rodney knelt down, hooking the laptop into the chair.

~Letting them in~ John murmured and there was the whoosh of air displacement as a whole mess of people beamed in.

"Hey, who parked this thing?" O’Neill said even as medical crew started setting up and then heading off down to the Infirmary after some arm waving directions from Dr. Zelenka.

"Colonel Sheppard. Could you mind backing up? I'm trying to get the stasis field to release... " Rodney gestured Zelenka closer. "And can someone get Greg some help? Get him down to the infirmary in here."

"Colonel Sheppard? Should've known," Jack replied walking over to look at John in the stasis. "He's looking pretty chewed up and spat out there. This thing flying on remote?"

~I'll remotely zap his ass~ John muttered. ~He went into stasis once, he should know the deal~

"I will help you GregSanders," Teal'c said pretty much lifting him from the floor with one hand.

Rodney glanced back, checked that Greg wasn't flailing, and then looked back to his tablet. "This thing has been flying with John's guidance. He's in stasis -- you remember that, right? And our reports on the Aurora? He's also threatening to 'zap your ass'. Sir."

"Oh is he? I'll remember that Sheppard," Jack replied addressing the chair. "In that case I can't be too picky about the landing as you're meant to be dead."

~Never stopped me before~ John said. ~I want to know what sort of a badge or patch I get for being a City pilot without a break for three years. ~

"This is incredible," Daniel was saying even as he looked around. "Atlantis here, on earth."

"More incredible than you'd first think," Sam answered from over by some consoles. "The place is powered up and there are records of... well, we know what happened to the missing bad guys now sir."

Rodney started to work on the code to deactivate the power. "Yes, yes, it was John. Who managed to spy on what was happening through my *head*, so he knew everything we knew, and can we just -- The stasis field is coming down now."

"If you say so," Jack said tapping his radio. "Medical team, are you ready in the Infirmary there or should we be doing a beam out to the SGC?"

"Aye, the place is functional and on line, equipment is working," Carson's voice come over the channel. "We're ready. On our way back up with a gurney now actually General. If you could tell Rodney to hold fire until we are there... ”

"You heard the man Dr. McKay.," Jack said. "No pressing the big red button until he gets here."

"Right." And he was going to do anything *but* look at that stasis-field held blood drop that, if he thought about it, possibly had been falling for three years.

Carson must've been literally on the way because they were there in a minute, getting right up next to the stasis field, doctors and orderlies poised ready. "We're ready now Rodney. Whenever you are."

"Okay. John, just hold on, we'll have you fixed up soon, right, Carson?" Rodney hovered, and finally keyed the sequence to go.

After that, it was all out of his hands.

There was a sizzle of energy, and the barrier disappeared. The blood drop fell followed by more even as he heard John finish a ragged breath and open his eyes to look directly at him as if that one movement had been the entire reason for his journey from a very distant part of the universe. Then it was all, movement and urgency because his eyes were closing and he hadn't been lying about being possibly, nearly , almost dead and there was Carson raising his voice in terrifying medical jargon and tubes, scanners everything being deployed on the move as they flew out of the room. Then all that was left was the drip drip of blood, three years old but crimson fresh slipping down the outside of the chair to mark what had just happened and Rodney had to hope to luck and trust it was going to be okay.


~*~

In some ways, being in the Atlantis Infirmary was all kinds of cool, and in other it was really no different to all of the other times he had been in the SGC Infirmary having his blood sucked looking for potentially fatal viruses. The problem was Greg couldn't really enjoy the experience because the last day or so had shown him that hey yeah, world saved which was cool and 'back from the dead' hero returning which would've been a lot cooler if it hadn't meant he personally was screwed.

And he really was because this was the famous John Sheppard, love of Rodney's life, subject of many an awed anecdote.

Back from the *Dead*, after three years of piloting a flying city in from another Galaxy.

The damn shame of it was that when, if, he was ever allowed back to Vegas, he wouldn't be able to tell anyone. That he'd fallen head over heels for a guy, but then, hey, like all of his luck, the guy's lover rose from the dead after crashing a city into the mountain that was a Norad base and you know. Relationship over.

Sort of story that drifted into Vegas every day. Boy met boy, boy contracts lethal virus, world nearly ends and... who was he kidding? He didn't have much to offer Rodney except pretty fantastic sex, which from the looking of Colonel Sheppard even with tubes and needles everywhere and semiconscious in the bed next to him, he could probably manage just by looking at someone.

Even so, he was resilient, he bounced back, though a little flatter and with less life each time and maybe he was doomed to become Grissom or something. That was a fate he might have to worry about if this apparent cure Dr. Beckett had worked up came to anything. Otherwise all this self-indulgent relationship angst was pretty pointless.

He had it sliding into his vein in a funky IV setup, because it could apparently *burn* his veins if it wasn't mixed with saline, hence the drip, and did he really want anything that *burned* his veins, period?

Probably not. But everyone seemed to trust Doctor Beckett, and hey, the guy had turned into some kind of energy creature and come back, like an angel who much more preferred meddling with humans than playing the harp.

He guessed if someone was going to stick something experimental in his veins them an angel guy would be the way to go. Apparently Carson was assuming depression was a side effect - Greg just didn't have the strength to tell him it was because he was going all teenage angst and trying to keep it to himself because it was pretty embarrassing.

He wanted to hate the John, the prodigal lover, but he found that difficult. Everything Rodney told him told him how great - while being annoying- he was.

And... damn, he was awake and watching him watching him back.

He waggled eyebrows at Greg, and lifted one hand in a very faint wave. "Hey. Where'd McKay skip out to?"

"Dr. Beckett told him he stank," Greg replied and that had been a fun conversation to watch. "So he's banned until he'd had a shower, some sleep in a way that he doesn't complain he's dying of back pain, and eat enough that he doesn't threaten to stab the nurses with his pen."

"He really threatened to stab the nurses with his pen?" John laid down, and looked at the ceiling. "You know, I didn't miss that. I used to carry power bars to throw at him."

"He did." Greg replied. "Uh, hey… I'm Greg by the way, Greg Sanders. Usually a CSI in Vegas when I’m not contracting viruses of doom."

Rodney had said John had been in his head but that might not mean he knew anything about him.

"Yeah, uh, I know." He turned his head, looking towards Greg, expression sly and lazy. "I'm the voice from Rodney's head."

Okay, that look confused him and he felt himself burn with embarrassment. "Uh. So, I never really was clear how that worked?" He said faintly.

It was almost as if he had been caught and watched cheating with Rodney.

"It’s an emergency protocol, like a black box. The city tried to connect me to... what it thought was another chair controller in a different city. But it was Rodney. I could hear and see anything he did, which was good because a lot of the flight? Was boring as hell."

"So you spent your time seeing and hearing what he could?" Greg asked uncertain. "I mean... shit, You didn't turn off when Rodney was uh... I mean, with me?"

Wow, that was awkward, really awkward. And it probably meant that Sheppard was a lot smarter than his lazy drawl suggested.

"Uh." Sheppard grinned at him, and the grin said it all. "If I say you've got a really nice ass, you're not going to stand up and try to beat up a crippled near dead guy are you?”

Considering he knew *exactly* what that felt like, no, no he wasn't. "Shit, look I'm sorry okay? I mean, I thought you were ... well, dead pretty much and cutting in isn't my style. I lo- I really like Rodney, but I know you guys have the whole history and either this virus is going to kill me or cure me and either way they won' keep me around here so ... uh…"

"Look, I was encouraging Rodney from when you had him in the holding room after that guy who worked for him was killed." John waved his fingers a little. "I've watched you two."

"That is... really pretty disturbing," Greg said, a little creeped out at the thought. He just liked to be prepared for that sort of scene. "When you say watched us, you mean *watched*? Even the stuff with um, the blue jello vodka shots?"

And numerous other things that proved that nerds and geeks had the best sex when they managed to get some.

"Yeah, although I never understood the allure of Radek's home brewed Vodka. Or maybe it's because I *know* he used socks in part of the filtration system when we were... Well, when the city was in Pegasus." John brought up another smirk. "So, uh, I watched."

"Oh god... " Greg groaned and closed his eyes a moment. He had no idea what this meant. "Why aren't you pissed at me? I don't really want to get my ass handed to me again. Had enough of that for a lifetime. I'll just back off okay? I'm not going to stand in the way of Rodney's true love."

"I'm a pretty irresponsible guy. And, uh, life isn't 'either or', you know? That's just what your parents want you to think." He shifted, laid one hand on his own chest. "Man, moving feels good. Rodney'll be the first one to tell you that we both got around. I never saw it coming."

"Yeah, he mentioned that a few times," Greg replied. "Wait, look are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Was John really saying, ‘hey, I was a disembodied voyeur, I like your style in bed, lets have a hot gay threesome just as soon as we're out of the ICU?’ Because there was subtext and there was putting it out there for anyone to pick up.

"I'm saying that I'm... probably not rejoining the SGC in the old capacity when we get out of here. Rodney's gunna end up back at Area 51, and Atlantis? Gotta park it somewhere that's not in the middle of a city." It was a pretty round about answer, and maybe that was a yes.

From what Greg knew, which wasn't much considering, but he knew there couldn't be many people out there who could fly a city, and at the least who had Sheppard’s experience of kicking ass all over the universe and there was a need for that. The studying could take place on Earth and yeah, Area 51 was more like a car park than a crater in the side of the mountain. It made a bizarre form of sense.

"I think you ought to talk to Rodney about this," he said finally. "Because, I used to think I had a flexible mind but this is throwing me."

"I miss the telepathy," John declared after a brief moment of silence. "Man. Okay. We should, when Rodney gets down here and panics over us a bit... ? We'll discuss. I'm pretty sure you're not gunna die. Not with the Atlantis medlab here."

"Is there some sort of hazard scale I don't know about where 'pretty sure you're not gunna die' is a good thing?" Greg asked and damn it he couldn't help but smile at Sheppard and he didn't *know* him. Knew of him, but this was the first time they'd spoken and their first conversation was about sex, or there abouts. That was pretty much... well like college actually.

"Oh, yeah. There's "Hey, that's starting to turn black around the edges, you should get that looked at", "the vaccine has a 50% mortality rate and you're happy about it' and, my favorite? "Just a fleshwound.' "

"You'd be surprised at how often that doesn't get used normally," Greg replied, looking around as he heard someone come in and could tell from the hurried footsteps alone that it was Rodney. He was also suspecting his drip involved a few extra chemicals to make things mellow for him.

That was all right, he guessed. Otherwise he might be flailing in circles, and if he and Rodney started getting wound up together they could probably power a windmill. "Hey, my favorite scientist... "

There was a moment where Rodney looked between them, but he seemed content to grab a wheeled stool and pull it up between their beds. "I'm glad you're both coherent and awake."

"Awake yeah, coherent might be a little more difficult," Greg said automatically glancing over at John.

"Yeah, I think Carson's got him hooked up to the Class A's over there," John added. "Personally, I'm jealous."

"It wouldn't be because you've had a 3 year malingering concussion *lurking* to occur, that Carson's watching, hmn?" Rodney folded his arms over his chest. "Both of you feeling better?"

"Uh, well I'm not the ones with holes in me, just a drip," Greg answered. "Don't think that counts. But less of a headache, yeah."

"I'm able to move," John replied. "Counts as a big plus. Miss being in your head though Rodney. It was never dull in there. Except when you got that bit of music in there for about two weeks."

Rodney grimaced a little, and cut his eyes over at Greg. "Radek mailed me the Eurovision CD. It's all bad."

"Obviously you two need help in the music front," Greg said looking at Rodney. He must feel like he had to choose or not offend them, like they were two attention starved cats competing to make him feel guilty.

John cleared his throat. "Greg and I've been talking some. He's freaked out by the fact I was kinda with you in the whole sex thing and he keep trying to run away nobly."

Rodney cleared his throat. "Uh. That's pretty unnecessary, Greg. You don't need to run anywhere. You can't right now, since Carson has that IV in your arm, but in general, uh... "

Greg looked at them both. "Wait a moment, have you guys talked about this before?" he asked suspiciously.

"Us?" John replied striving for innocence.

"I wouldn't call it talked, seeing as he's been in my head. But, uh... I know how John is. He doesn't, uh, mind might not be exactly what I'm trying to convey."

"So you guys really *are* proposing the hot gay threesome thing in Vegas?" Greg asked faintly.

"Uh, I hadn't exactly elaborated on that to Rodney," John admitted.

Rodney looked between them, and added, "Well, I mean, my work hours are weird and you know I've got a house that's kind of in the middle of no-where... "

Greg stared at them and lay back laughing. He didn't know what to say, but mainly he was so relieved he didn't have to give Rodney up he couldn't stop.

"You think he's okay?" he heard John say and considering John was the one dragged back from the brink of death, that made things all the funnier.

"Yeah. I don't think hysteria is a symptom of the drugs Carson has him on to fight the virus. Throwing up, yes, laughing, no." Rodney leaned in, hands on Greg's shoulders, and kissed him.

He'd resigned himself to losing this so it was all the sweeter for being unexpected and for the relief that he wasn't actually going to be alone despite all the evidence to the contrary. It was hot and he wanted Rodney so much in that moment he nearly pulled out his drip trying to move his arms to pull him in.

He didn’t expect to hear John chuckling, either, which might have been the best part of it all.


~*~

There was this bizarre paradox about not being able to move for three years and technically not actually experiencing three years. It had hurt, but not as much as being released from stasis and the recovery. Finally though, he was alive and able to move and released from the Infirmary and not a moment to soon because he'd been about to take over Atlantis and do a couple of spins around the planet because he'd been so damn bored.

Rodney pointed out that it probably wasn't the way to get their master plan underway, especially now Greg had come off of critical. Things had gotten a bit hairy there for a while. As Carson had pointed out, retroviruses were tricky wee buggers.

Usually they tried to recombine the DNA, but instead Carson had gone for some more pointed tactics, harsh antivirals groomed to target the retrovirus itself. It didn't change anything that had happened to Greg but it stopped it progress any further. Which was.... Which was good, John knew because the next step was apparently going nuts or developing physical symptoms. It meant that Greg was going to be allowed to return to his life, if he wanted to.

John was pretty sure he wanted to, just from the way he talked about his colleagues and friends a lot even if he seemed a little uncertain about how much they missed him. John was used to Rodney who had insecurities in some ways but who could be handled with attention and some light banter, but he wasn’t completely sure how to deal with Greg who had a mass of the damn things. For no good reason as far as he could tell. He was smart, funny, good looking and he'd taken all the change thrown at him pretty well, including the whole nearly dying thing.

Well, it hadn't thrown him for nearly the loop that he'd expected. The loop *John* would have been thrown for if it had happened to him. The fact that he and Rodney had a pre-existing relationship was really no reason to be insecure, either, because him and Rodney, they were... Rodney would call it 'fucked', probably.

He was open minded and since he had made good on his promise to kiss Rodney in front of the first general that came around - to which O'Neill had told him to at least warn him next time because too much saccharine made him throw up - things had been pretty good. But Greg was holding back. Definitely holding back as if he didn't believe they were really packing up the City to fly to Area 51.

That he was going to be *on* the city when it flew to Area 51. But Rodney said 'Why not be there -- it's one less airplane flight you have to worry about' and John figured that it was up to him to be the one to really convince Greg that it was going to happen.

Far as he was concerned, the more the merrier. There were scientists lining up out there waiting for them, and he was going to be working with the city in depth and getting to drag Rodney away from work some more.

"So Rodney, all packed?" he drawled. He loved being able to touch him again.

He loved that Rodney was right there and that he wasn't just seeing through Rodney's eyes and borrowing his life experiences. He was there, doing his own thing, and... it was freeing. "As much as I can be for having lived here this long. Is Greg packed?"

"Apparently, he pretty much had the clothes they gave him here," John said. "He was apparently packed in about 2 minutes."

Rodney smelled good, he'd missed *seeing* him. Touching him. The mental connection had convinced him that he could take the risk with Rodney, but he wanted the physical as well.

"So… you want to ambush him? He's pretty shaky tonight."

Rodney looked over to his own boxes, then nodded his head. "Yeah, he's mostly been over here with me. Is he in his room, or... ?" Yeah, John would've killed for omniscience again

"Yeah. He came back from seeing Carson a little while back. I think they were just talking," John answered. "If it were you doing I'd say that you were having a freak out."

"I've been running low on those lately." Rodney slipped his hands into his pockets, and tilted his head to look at John for a moment before he headed for the door. "C'mon. I've missed you. You probably know that."

"Yeah, I got that impression. I miss being in your head though. That was pretty cool... you know I learned a lot of physics while I was in there," John murmured.

"Yeah? What's the Meissner effect?" Rodney threw that out over his shoulder, as he knocked lightly on the door to Greg's room.

"C'mon, I knew about superconductors before I was in your head,” John was saying even as Greg opened the door.

"Oh hey guys," Greg said, looking distinctly tousled and he had some wild hair going on which made John smirk a little. Rodney must have a thing for hair. "I wasn't expecting you."

"We're kidnapping you to take you to Area 51," Rodney declared lightly, leaning in close to Greg. "Actually, we might as well get your things into the city."

"What, now? We’re really going?" Greg asked looking startled. "We... flying city?"

"Yeah, tomorrow." John replied. "Mind you we've got time... for other things?"

Rodney's smile twisted into a wicked smirk. "Not that John had a one track mind. But, we're really going, so I hope you're all packed because we roll out at Oh god o’clock tomorrow morning."

"Well I've got about one bag so it's done," Greg looked between the two of them. "Uh, you want to come in?"

"Definitely," John said with a slight smirk.

"I'd like to," Rodney agreed as he slipped in. "John said you were freaking out at Carson earlier?"

"In a manly way," John clarified with a smile as they closed the door behind them.

"Thanks," Greg said raising his eyebrows. "Okay I kinda was. I admit it. He told me everything was going to be fine - I got the impression he says that a lot."

"Usually he's right," Rodney pointed out mildly. "It's fine or you're dead, and if you're dead, it's kind of hard to notice that things aren't fine. Uhm... "

"Unless you're in a stasis pod," John said used to Rodney’s foot in mouth syndrome by now. "Greg, we came to see if you needed distracting."

"Uh-huh... I thought you two had an ulterior motive," Greg replied and John smiled again. Yeah, he wanted to but he was nervy about it.

"if you're comfortable with it," Rodney offered. "Because this could go the way of a bad after school special, and John and I aren't here to peer pressure you. We just, uh... "

"Want your body?" John suggested and smiled. "Okay, it's a bit unfair, because I feel I know you Greg at least as well as Rodney, but you don't know me."

"Well..I like you, I've just not really done the threesome thing before." Greg admitted. "I guess... I don't want to screw up."

"It's sex, not performance art. There's nothing to screw it up." Rodney's smile shifted towards more disarming, and John liked that look on Rodney. Watching out for someone else for once.

Rodney's protective streak came out in spades when it came to Greg.

"Particularly not with us. If you had any idea how haphazard we were the first time," John chuckled. "It's not just about performance Greg."

"I fell off the bed. It was an "America's funniest home videos' level performance. John nearly impaled… uh…yes well too much information." Rodney moved closer to Greg, still smiling. "It's about doing what you want to do. That's all you have to worry about."

"Then... okay, I'm pretty sure I can trust you guys," Greg said stepping back and John beamed.

Yes, he was going with it. "You definitely can Greg. Rodney won't let me do anything either."

"And, when we get out of here I meant it that I'd like to try some traditional things. Drag you around Vegas or the other way around, or whatever you prefer." He hesitated, and leaned in and kissed Greg, breaking down some of the nerves.

John could see some of the barriers coming down so he held back a little, admiring the view so Greg could lose some of that defensiveness and relax.

"Mmm... " Greg practically wrapped himself around Rodney as if the kiss had popped a bubble.

It was nice to watch, the two of them relaxing, even if he'd seen it before and from a slightly different more Rodney oriented angle to things. Rodney leaned back slightly, and glanced over at John. "Are you going to join us?"

"Thought I'd let you get a little into it first," John said coming closer. "But if that's an invitation... "

Greg smiled "Yeah. Yeah, that's an invitation."

"Well then," he murmured reaching to touch them both.

Rodney was familiar, and Greg was tentative, and John was more than happy with both familiar and tentative because it was *touch* and it was touch meant just for him. Well, the three of them, and it had seriously been too long. Rodney put a hand on the small of his back, and moved him towards Greg.

"It's been three years since I felt someone really touch my skin, " John said leaning forwards. "Greg, want to try a kiss?"

"Sure," Greg replied and he had Rodney's memories of what it felt like but it was different. Gentle, hesitant and then warming to something more.

Comfortable, like Greg was surprised that John knew how to kiss back, how to kiss at all. John must have struck Greg a little like a spaceman, given how they'd met. He put a hand on John's hips.

John knew how to kiss, how to coax heat to the surface. He and Rodney had had years of sparking and bouncing off of each other, but this was new and ... interesting. He felt himself respond, put a hand behind Greg's neck to support his head and touch his hair carefully.

And somewhere in there, things shifted, and it was just him and Greg kissing, and Rodney was, huh, Rodney was behind Greg.

He wanted to have them both, feel the both of them. They had different tastes and textures , touch and god, how did he get this lucky? Best to go with instinct. "Bed... Bed, now... "

"Bed we can do," Rodney murmured, and was he kissing Greg's neck? Jesus, that looked hot, Rodney behind Greg, steering him backwards.

It was all hot. Greg was making noises of appreciation and he was leaning into them both as they half fell on the bed together. That was better, that was good, he could touch them both. He wanted them, he wanted to draw them both in. He loved it, he wanted it and them.

"That's good, that feels goods.." Greg managed.

"Feels better naked," Rodney pointed out, pulling at the edge of Greg's shirt as he twisted to kiss John's mouth for a moment.

And that was Rodney familiar and all those intense live and death moments captured in one taste and flavor. "Naked's good," John agreed helping even as Greg raised arms so it could come off, revealing skin.

He had a really impressive build for his body posture, which John had noted to himself every time, goldfish like, that he and Rodney had had sex. Rodney moved his hips against Greg's ass, trying while he did so to get himself undressed.

John reached around and helped him, rubbing against Greg until he moaned in a low groan. He felt fingers tugging at his pants and pulled off his shirt.

"Now that's..that's a hairy chest John."

"Hairy as a bear," Rodney agreed. "There's a wraith feeding scar somewhere under the hair, but that is a story for a day when you're not half hard around, Jesus, Greg... "

"You know I'm getting the perks behind this multi-partner thing!" Greg said in between kisses. "Getting the best of both worlds. Mm.. You know, hair is good... not hair is good, and don't stop doing that.."

"Doing what?" John asked as innocently as he could from where he was roaming down Greg's body.

"Doing that?" Rodney pressed against Greg's ass, shifting, and his fingers brushed over John's as they explored.

John had bit of a thing for Rodney's hands. Maybe because they had saved their lives so many times but, he also knew how deft and sure they could be when Rodney wasn't gesturing violently with them.

"Yeah, yeah that…" Greg replied hazily. "Oh god, I'm in a porn movie. A good porn movie."

John grinned a little. "We missed out the two seconds of plot at the beginning. Which one of us is the random handy man?"

"I could be the electrician," Rodney murmured against Greg's shoulder. John was pretty sure that he was going to kiss his way down Greg's back, which meant that he had free reign with Greg's front.

"So that makes me the random sex opportunist as this is Greg's place," John teased. "I better get opportuning.."

He started working down with his mouth, even as Greg twitched and shivered uncontrollably.

"Oh ... god, the both of you," Greg managed moving between them both, not sure whether to push forward or back.

"Random sex opportunist... " Rodney shifted, started to kiss his way down Greg's back, down along his spine. "Meet, uh, random electrician, and random homeowner... "

"I'm thinking there's some type casting going on here," John said with a smile. "But I could get into the part... suck Greg's cock or something."

"You sure you're not the genius?" Greg managed, a little breathless already and John remembered that he was ridiculously easy to key up from Rodney's memories.

"John's brilliant in his own way." Rodney chuckled from behind him, and John couldn't see what Rodney was doing, but he seemed to be busy back there. "Mm, I like this idea."

"Rodney... Rodney, you know I can't work out words when you do that... when I'm a puddle of goo, I'm blaming you.” Greg managed even as he wriggled and then as John nuzzled around his groin, froze quivering until John's lips drifted over his cock.

Yeah, he liked that. He liked sort of working as a team with Rodney again, on something that was pretty new for both of them. They'd done a lot of things as a team before, but not tag-team sex. Rodney was kissing John didn't know what, but he felt Rodney's right hand reach around to stroke John's cock.

It was enough to make him hum with a low burr of happiness, which in turn had Greg moaning and gripping fingers in his hair, touching and smoothing it as if he had wanted to explore his hair for sometime. He tried not to smirk, but the hair never failed him.

It was damn good hair, and fingers moving like that felt *good*. Everything felt good after three numb-aching, dulled stasis-field years of existence. Greg's cock in his mouth felt good and Greg's hands in his hair, and Rodney slowly jerking him off.

He remembered Rodney and him teetering on the verge of death and destruction and seizing sex as if their time was always running out. He'd seen a little bit of that in Greg's responses with Rodney and known that despite all his apparent acceptance and optimism, Greg had believed he was going to die. They were so used to it that it wasn't unusual, but for Greg it probably was.

The chance to do something a little slower was good and he wanted to feel everything and with two there was no reason why he couldn't. He just had to get Greg nice and hard. If Rodney wanted Greg's ass then maybe he could ride him. Or something. They could daisy chain for all John cared, as long as it was all three of them. One of those politics of sex things, as Kate would've called it. And he definitely had Greg nice and hard, from the way he felt in his mouth, against his lips.

He smiled and looked up. "Liking that Greg? How do want it hmm? You're nice and ready... "

And recovered as they were, they probably didn't have the strength for two rounds.

"Yeah, fuck." Greg shifted his hips, bumping his cock against John's mouth. The bed was big, but not really big enough for *ease* with what John was planning. Not that that had ever stopped him back in Atlantis. "Please, let me do something to you... "

John grinned. "I wanna ride you while Rodney fucks you. How does that sound?"

He was sure it could be done, hopefully without crushing Rodney in the process.

"There might be a way to do that that doesn’t' involve crushing me to death," Rodney pointed out, shifting up, hand deserting John's dick for the moment.

"And here I was thinking that was part of the attraction," John replied, missing the touch. "Or I can go on the bottom. I'm tough. I've been celibate for three years."

Greg groaned. "Whatever we do, let’s do it now!"

John started to shift up, stroking where he'd been kissing before, and John could see Rodney kissing Greg's shoulder again. "Greg in the middle. Can you kneel for long?"

"Long enough," John promised. "Not going to last forever myself because *someone's* been fondling my cock."

"Someone's been sucking mine and doing unspeakable things to my ass," Greg said. “Rodney... how do you want me to... uh, sit on you?"

"Didn't I mention me not being crushed to death?" Rodney chuckled. "Uh, John on his back, you kneeling between his legs, Greg, and me behind you.”

"Oh... Oh right," Greg grinned a little. "Logistics."

John chuckled and sprawled out, deliberately showing off because he knew Rodney at least appreciated the view, even with his newly healing scars. "Ready when you guys are."

Rodney was helping Greg move, because the antibiotics had to have left him kind of wiped out. It was the same thing Rodney did for John, a vague quiet mindfulness that didn't draw attention to itself except that it was *Rodney* doing it. It was a pretty good arrangement because yeah, he could just sprawl there and enjoy it and no one squished anyone else.

He was still pretty flexible despite the stasis, so John spread his legs to make the right sort of area for Greg. "Hope you've got lube in here," he drawled.

"Oh yeah, nearly forgot.. Rodney?" Greg asked even as he settled in.

"What, you mean one of the side effects wasn't producing lube?" Rodney shifted, got off the bed, and picked a pair of pants off the floor. "Hold on, there's some in my room. And it's a three and a half foot run."

"You know, I've got some in my jacket pocket," John gestured to the pile on the floor. "I just can't be bothered to get up."

"Is that like military training? Always be prepared." Greg teased back taking John by surprised as he rocked his hips forward and rubbed slowly against him.

That was nice, yeah. That was definitely something he'd missed feeling and being exposed to. Rodney set the pants down, and reached for John's jacket pocket.

John glanced across at the 'aha!' and then smirked up at Greg who was leaning over him with that smile and his eyes big and dark in contrast to Rodney's blue and his own vacillating hazel that couldn't decide what color he really was. He wanted to protect him as he had Rodney because he got the impression no one else did.

And he was the lucky one who realized that and acted on it, as his touch and grip became more gentle and comforting in a way he didn't think of consciously.

Greg was leaning into it, seemingly comfortable for just him there, and didn't shift away when Rodney got on the bed again, reaching between them to slick Greg's cock. "Pocket lube. Only John."

"Hey, I'm thinking my forward planning is an asset," John said in a softer voice even as Greg stole a little from Rodney and started fingering at his ass. That was enough to get him arching for a better angle immediately.

"You've both shown fantastic on the fly thinking," Greg complimented. Rodney put a little more on Greg's fingers, and then John figured that Rodney was starting to work on Greg.

At least from the rapturous expression on Greg's face he assumed that was what Rodney was doing.

"Don't forget me Greg," John murmured. "I know Rodney can be distracting... "

"You have no idea... " Greg replied and John laughed.

"I really do Greg, I really do."

Greg cracked his eyes open, and grinned at John. "This is going to strain my concentration, I'm thinking. Okay, focus, Greg... "

"Yeah, focus, Greg," Rodney smirked, and Greg's hands shook a little while he reached to tease at John's ass himself.

"Much better," John murmured and closed his eyes to wallow in the sensation of being stretched. "Oh yeah... "

"You look fucking hot," Greg said in such awed tones that John nearly laughed.

"I think I have the best view." Rodney was leaning up against Greg's back, and John could see his sly smile as he did something with his hand that made Greg's hips hitch. "Okay, you two first."

"You heard the man," John said arching to get a good angle and then deciding that if he was going to do this he needed some support so he stole Greg's pillows and wedged them under his lower back.

"I'm... shit... " Greg was pushing into him, slow and sure with an expression of delight that distracted John from the burn and push until he was comfortable.

Oh, fuck yeah. Yeah, that was good and he hadn't felt it in way too long. There was no reason to not enjoy a slow easy push like that, or the way Greg groaned and put one hand on John's hip, the other reaching for his dick.

"Okay... that's good, what are you all muscles on the inside as well?" Greg asked before he stiffened and then seemed to melt as Rodney leaned into him and John could see them both including that little quirk of a smile Rodney got when he concentrated on something he enjoyed.

He'd missed seeing Rodney smirk and smile so much, missed seeing it from the right angle and not just catching glimpses of it in shiny surfaces and mirrors. "Mm, god. I think he is. Swore he never worked out, but I don't believe it."

John chuckled even as Greg pushed deeper. "Yeah, I have a secret stash of anal beads I work on in staff meetings... " he said and Greg huffed a laugh.

"I'm just impressed you know what they are," he said settling comfortably.

"John's not so secretly a huge pervert." Rodney shifted, moved his hips against Greg, and John could feel the jarring motion Greg made.

"He used to call me Kirk," he said as they got remotely together. "Never saw it coming... but I can see you both."

The time for talking was fading because though it started slowly he could feel Rodney move and Greg moved with him and there was something unbearably sexy about that.

It was like one of those, those perpetual motion machines with the clacking balls. Rodney moved and that moved Greg and Greg moved into him and he moved back and that moved Greg into Rodney, except it was either sex, and groans, and shifting hands and muscles, and Greg leaning in close over him to kiss him, and Rodney's soft running commentary of noise and sighs.

Somewhere the banter faded as they got down to some serious moving. Kissing Greg back, feeling his heat on him, hearing Rodney talk as he usually did in sex, even though sometimes it had been whispers in shared private places, dark and hidden. This wasn't hidden though and Greg was supple to mold to him and bed to Rodney and it was good. More than just good, but fucking good.

Emphasis, John decided a little giddily, on the fucking part. Because he could lift his hips a little with the pillow giving him cushion and Greg thrust harder, stroked him faster, and he wasn't going to last long, but probably neither was Greg since he was getting it twice over, and Rodney could be fast out of the gates when it mattered.

It was good just to roll with it, feel the weight press on him more and more as the thrusts got harder, deeper, reaching up and running his hands over Greg's skin and to Rodney's and between the two as the pace picked up and pushed him inexorably towards orgasm. It felt fantastic, that soaring sensation like he was flying growing with every push and god, yeah Greg knew how to move so every stroke felt different, and he was pushing back trying to tip himself over the edge.

Just a little close, concentrating on the thrust and the stroke and the feel of Greg's back under his fingers and Rodney's chest against the backs of his hands, and Greg's hand on his dick and Rodney's hand on his arm and fuck, fuck.

He lost control in a dizzying climb and freefall of climax as his orgasm bleached out mostly everything into jolts of pure pleasure until he felt Greg let go in an impressive frenzy, presumably driven to madness by Rodney. Rodney was very good at that and he knew he was smiling inanely even as he waited for the others.

It was like a perfect pool shot, racking up the balls from pocket to pocket, because after Greg stilled, made a few more thrusts, Rodney seemed to follow quickly, his motions the only thing jarring Greg's more languid moves of trying to not collapse on John.

It didn't matter if they did, because he felt so good that everything right then was fine. He lay back smiling to himself as the last of the moments pushed through him as well. That had definitely been worth it. Very much worth it.

It was a hell of a homecoming. No banner and no party, but he felt better than if they'd done that. He was where he belonged, and he had the city *with* him that time, and there was nothing they'd do to get rid of him after the stunt he pulled in their favor. He hadn’t been plugged into Atlantis for that length of time without having a few special tricks he was pretty sure they’d need him for regardless of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Behind them both, Rodney groaned and shifted probably pulling out to lie to the side. "Mmm."

Greg flopped a little to the other side, half covering him and he reached around for Rodney as well, wanting to pull him closer. That had been great, and he was tired in a good way, down to the bone and he felt like he could just lie here like this all night.

He might have to, since it seemed like Greg and Rodney were going to not move ever. Rodney was shifting, that hip and knee gesture that told John that yeah, he was settling in. "Aren't you glad you've already packed?"

"Really, really am," Greg murmured. "Because I don't think I'll ever be able to move again."

John chuckled, stroking his hand over Greg's skin and Rodney's. He'd spent three years looking and not touching - he had some making up to do.

A lot of making up to do. Sleeping and eating and resting and enjoying life again. He was going to have to rework how to drive, maybe get a nice car. He'd fly again, really fly, hands on the controls reacting with more than his thoughts in split seconds. He'd do a lot again.

And he wouldn’t have to do it alone.

~*~

There were times when Greg had been pretty sure that he wouldn't make it back here again, back to Vegas. In fact the way John flew a City starship, he'd been convinced he had been saved only to die a horrible crumpled death from the completely unnecessary acrobatics.

But they'd drifted to orbit for a moment and Greg realized suddenly that here he was being extraordinary. Living he dreams he'd had as a kid, although with a lot more added porn. Teenage dreams then.

Tonight though was his first day back, and despite the fact things were doing really well with Rodney and John, he was still a little uncertain of being back at work.

He'd been out of Vegas for nine *weeks*. That was seven weeks of cases missed and work missed, even though the government had given every excuse in the world to them for why he wasn't back yet. It hadn't felt like that long, but it had been. The seasons had shifted towards what passed for winter in Vegas. His apartment had been rented to some college chicks, and his stuff from the apartment was in storage, pretty neatly packed. Rodney and John had helped him dig clothes out, and the plan was to rent a u-haul to get it all to Rodney's place and unpack from there.

It seemed a little pushy to just move in like that but on the other hand, he had spent a lot of the intervening time literally pouncing John or Rodney or both in a surge of 'thank god I'm still alive!' hormones and arousal. He still technically got tired easily so he was on lab duty to start with or at least until the first multiples rolled in and Grissom had no choice and he had this weird thought in his head that they probably thought he'd been on vacation or something. Nine weeks was a long time unconnected with anyone.

He’d tried to stay connected with them. He'd tried and it hadn't really... worked. They'd been slow to answer his emails and he hadn't been able to tell them much more than 'still at the facility' because of the confidentiality agreements.

And that wasn't satisfying or good conversation and as long as he wasn't there, they couldn't discuss cases, and it wasn't as if any of them had a personal life that they talked about, so. So.

"Hey, Greggo. Long time, no see."

Greg turned and smiled a little tentatively as Nick stepped into the room with that familiar smile. "Hey Nick... wasn't sure if anyone would still recognize me," he said more than half serious. Nick looked good, his hair had finally grown some and he preferred him that way. "Did I miss anything cool?"

"You missed a hell of a lot." Nick seemed to be saying it in a mellow voice, looking at him. "I'll be honest, we kind of expected you to come back all hot and tanned looking, and instead you kind of look like a dead fish. You're really okay?"

"Well there was the whole nearly dying thing," Greg said with a partial shrug. "The... medical laboratory was underground so I was for pretty much most of the time."

It prickled just a little that maybe they thought he had been skipping out on work for fun. It had been amazing, yes but fun had been limited.

Awe had been pretty high, though. He'd seen *aliens*. He'd finally gotten to see the Asgard that Rodney had been talking about, one of the creatures who had once upon a time been his ancestor's *gods*. It was pretty earth-shaking, to find out that gods didn't wear pants.

"Did they ever tell you what you had?"

"A leaked bio-weapon got me. Well, a failed one obviously. The initial group were exposed accidentally and uh... yeah," Greg said with a shrug. He was allowed to say that much at least.

"They still making you take anything for it?" Two pills a day, until a year had passed, and it kind of fucked with his stomach, but yeah. They were watching his back, Just To Be Sure.

Greg nodded. "Couple of pills everyday to be on the safe side." He looked over at Nick gratified that he at least seemed to be interested in him. "For about a year. Hopefully less because they're not without their quirks."

"Yeah, I bet." Nick glanced at him again, and then sat down, still looking at him. "I've got some stuff coming in that you can process, if you're up to it. How long are you lab-bound? And, do you wanna go out for dinner or something after work? Catch up?"

"Yeah, yeah I'd like that," Greg said because Rodney wouldn’t be back until later and John was keeping weird hours with tests and experiments. "I don't know how long I get in the lab. I still get pretty tired. I just feel like I've missed stuff you know?"

"Yeah, you've missed a lot," Nick said agreeably. "It's probably going to be weird here for a few days, probably. The whole seizure of the lab thing that preceded them taking off with you didn't help."

"I wasn't particularly happy about it either," Greg answered, "And you're meant to tell me that it's been really boring here without me." He smiled a little. "It was pretty boring where I was - using me like a pin cushion was their only hobby I think."

"It was everything but boring here. Let's see, the quick rundown: Warrick's marriage is teetering, Catherine briefly dated a suspect, we've had the miniature killer dogging us, and Sara's in the hospital." Nick looked at him, and nodded again. "I have no idea where to start, but that's how things have been for you. Where're you staying? I went by your apartment, but... "

"But they chucked me out and I'm staying with uh, Dr. McKay," Greg said. "Sara's in hospital? Wait... what happened? Is she okay? I don't remember getting any emails about that?"

There was too much going on, that was for sure, and Sara had at least seemed to care when she'd arrived on the scene.

"We've been too damn busy. It was just... " Nick's mouth compressed. "Like what happened with me. Our crazy miniature murderer pinned her under a car in the desert. Her trigger was *bleach* of all things. Course case is coming up, but she's going to be ruled incompetent to stand trial.""

Greg shook his head. "Damn... I thought the emails from Grissom dried up a bit quick," he said. "But hey, I'm still the fastest lab tech in the west, even if I can't beat you guys out and about. I need the full low down on the other stuff though. Details because wow, I really have missed everything."

"You'll get details. Doctor McKay, huh? Crazy guy who came in and was part of the group that took you out of here? Maybe you had a better downtime than I thought." Nick's smile was sort of wane, though, and he stood up. "I'll get the stuff that I need to process. We can keep talking while we’re busy. It's three damn vacuum cleaner bags."

"Be still my beating heart," Greg replied dryly and was suddenly really worried about his friend. "Yeah, there were a few high points. While I was there Rodney's presumed KIA partner surfaced alive if not completely well. John's great as well. Uh, are you okay Nick?"

He didn't seem himself, as if he was a little flat and tired somehow.

Nick gave him questioning look at that. "Uh, maybe, maybe not? I mean, you get back here, we've been working overtime after overtime, this with Sara happened, we've got some new girl in who honestly, I want to choke to death, and I've been leaning on Hodges for moral support around here and that's a pretty bad state of existence."

Greg smiled a little. "You can go back to wanting to choke me to death if you want," he teased a little. "And if she's got you all riled up she's probably driving the others to murder. Just for that, your stuff gets to the top of the queue. I'm sure I'll be up to speed pretty quick."

He patted Nick on the shoulder and belatedly realized that was a habit he had picked up from Dr. Beckett of all people. Nick would probably get on really well with Carson, and that was a thought to play with. "Where're the others?"

"Processing. Wendy's actually out in the field. We've got a... it's a lot of DNA samples, and we're so short that she's getting field time. Grissom's out, but he hasn't really been *here*... " Nick clapped Greg's arm, and a little of the miserable tilt left his posture. "It's good to have you back. I'm going to get those bags."

"You do that - I'll be dusting off my old seat," Greg replied even as he entered the lab. The atmosphere was wrong. This wasn't the Vegas Lab he knew, this was it wound up and painfully tight and surely it couldn't be down to the fact that he wasn't there? Okay, he'd sent emails and taken the hint when answers were late or few and far between and just assumed that him being away meant little difference. But maybe it had. Wendy out in the field was a scary thought - Wendy could be a bit OCD about bodily fluids some time and sometimes that stuff just leapt out and got you.

That was kind of dire straits if they had her out there in a scene.

He moved, got himself sorting pans, and Nick came back to the lab soon enough, carrying the bags. Maybe he *had* made that kind of difference in the general mood of the lab and never knew it.

He'd thought he'd lost that fun edge, though he'd rediscovered it recently with John and Rodney. John was incredibly good looking, smart and laid back and would effortlessly join in any way to tease Rodney, and Rodney proved that he found smart as sexy but he was amazingly attractive and easy to provoke to an explosion one way or another. They were a dangerous combination because if he thought of something, Rodney could build it, and John was stupid enough to try it.

He had his gloves, he was ready to feel like he was more than a walking repository of Goa’uld knowledge.

And, he was. He was a CSI, and 9 weeks off work was kind of sort of more than a setback, but he was a good CSI with a lot of potential, and he knew it. One more hand in the lab to pull things together until whatever had happened with Sara and Grissom and Warrick and everyone else settled down or came to a close. He could be valuable to the lab again.

He grinned at Nick as he came back in. Nick and John would get on well considering Nick had been the one to go gliding. John really did have a passion for flying and maybe he could persuade Nick to come with them up there and listen to Rodney tell them how they were going to plummet to inevitable doom.

He grabbed a bag and started sorting carefully, the feel of it coming back to him. "Hey, this reminds me of my wannabee days when you gave me all that junk to sort through... " he commented. "Trying to put me off."

"Wasn't that when Grissom had you go dumpster diving for a soda bottle silencer?" Nick cracked a grin at him, wielding his tweezers oh so carefully.

"Hey, yeah... I ended up in the drain and came out with the evidence like some CSI super hero. And Jim and Grissom were too busy arguing with each other to pay attention," Greg replied. He'd forgotten that he was actually good at this. It was a little demoralizing spending time in a secret base full of people who worked at a genius level. In fact he seemed to be moving and processing even faster than normal.

Huh, he wondered if there were side effects of the treatment, or the virus itself for the better rather than just killing him.

Either way, he was moving just a little faster, fast enough that he was slowly, surely starting to outpace his half of the pile compared to Nick's. "You did. I kind of miss them arguing."

"They haven't been arguing? Man, things are in a bad way here," Greg said. "How is Jim then? Any more about his daughter?"

"Nothing." Nick rolled his shoulders slightly, and discarded another random piece of carpet crud into the tray for it. "Jim's actually been keeping it together around here. Grissom... hasn't. It kind of makes me glad that Warrick and Cath never hooked up, because dating your coworker is a horrible idea.

"There's still time," Greg answered and flashed Nick a grin. "If you weren't so Texas straight you would've never made it out of the lab with your virtue intact."

It was safe, he could say that sort of thing now because he was taken - in all possible meanings of the word.

Nick laughed. He actually laughed, and maybe it wasn't a 360 degree improvement, but it was a step up from where Nick had been earlier. "Man, aren’t you getting laid enough?"

"You have no idea how much I'm getting laid," Greg answered with a fake leer. "And I said would've. You're safe from me at least right now."

"Did I just hear someone laughing?" Catherine poked her head around the door. "I should've known. Someone let Greg back in the building." She smiled in that way that made him wish he really had seen her dance before she turned CSI. "Greg, I'm really, really glad you're back."

"I'm glad to be back." He was grinning, and he hoped it was contagious.

"It's good to have another hand around here even if he's lab bound. We're almost done with the bags from our triple, Cath, and we've got bupkiss. You come up with anything?"

"I have a hair," Catherine replied waving an evidence bag. "I was thinking I was going to have to sit on it with Wendy out, but... "

"But DNA is my thing," Greg said. He'd finished his bag. "Allow me... " It came back so easily to him.

"I see the wild hair is back," Catherine noted. "No color, but it looks good."

"Totally natural," Greg lied through his teeth. John had very superior hair gel even if he claimed he never used it. The strange thing was, it appeared that he didn't but perhaps it just worked by a weird form of auto-suggestion.

Wild hair, Greg had figured out, could be just as professional as flattening it out and trying to tame it. The hair dye, maybe not. He'd play with it, maybe get Rodney to agree to help, even if he was pretty sure Rodney would bitch about fumes in a mild way that he was used to now. All bluster and no heat.

"Natural like the Mirage," Nick agreed with a smirk. "Go on, I'll finish up here and you process that."

"Sure… dinner. After," he said. "And Cath you can come with me and tell me the gossip about Nick, because he's holding out on me."

He headed out of the lab looking around at her, starting to feel more at home again. Even more than he had before when he'd been on his own, flirting with everyone and everything.

It was still the lab, which wasn't the field, but it was work, and work was good, satisfying. He was smart in his own way, because John and Rodney couldn't run DNA and *he* could and he could make CODIS and trace *rock*. Everybody had their own field.

"Gossip about Nick?" Catherine looked like she was thinking hard while she held that bagged hair out to him. "Hmn. Let me think... No, not really."

He took the hair and started through the motions. "You disappoint me. I thought I'd come back and find Nick in love with someone or something. How've you been doing?"

It was like a familiar dance. Set the specimen, prepare it, make the solutions... yeah, he rocked.

He rocked and fell into the motions so easily. "I've been... pretty good." She smirked. "Still dealing with family things. What's your story, mister?"

"The Sanders abridged version? Nearly killed by deadly bio-weapon, found out the true meaning of lab-rat, fell head over heels into an unconventional but very hot relationship," Greg replied glancing up at her. "There we go three months in one sentence."

"It might work better as a Haiku," Catherine noted after a moment. "So, you're okay? Physically? And do I even want to know anything about your 'unconventional but very hot relationship?' Because we saw more than one of those go wrong while you were gone. Never sleep with a mother *and* her daughter."

"Wrong sex for a start," Greg said with an attempt at aplomb. "Brilliant doctor and incredibly hot pilot." He liked to surprise Cath, she needed it sometimes. "I'm cool. Not running on all cylinders yet, still got meds but I'm back in the game."

"So this is, what, your... " Catherine tilted her head, squinting at him. "Attending physician and the guy who flew you to that facility you were held at?"

"Nope, Dr. McKay is a astrophysicist and Colonel John Sheppard is a test pilot," Greg said and he knew he was ginning inanely. "It was a military based lab. All hush-hush."

It was seriously kind of hard to imagine a hot three-way with Cameron Mitchell and Doctor Beckett, and Greg twisted that around in his mind before dismissing it firmly. Yeah, he preferred his reality to Catherine's expected fantasy. "Sounds like. The last report we had on our suspects from the lizard people case was that they were all dead. Is that true?"

He nodded. It still scared him to think of that, because it was too close. "Yeah. Yeah, it... they couldn't stop it in time." They'd gone crazy when the knowledge of generations broke over them and overwhelmed their minds. He'd found Carson drinking himself quietly into a stupor one night over it, even if it hadn't been his work, and listened to the quiet confession of how he had done something that had led to all of this and what that had done to John and how close *that* had been.

It had helped Greg really grasp how close to the edge they'd all lived for a while, Carson and John and Rodney and Zelenka, out there in the flying city that John had brought to them, finally.

"But you're all right." She didn't ask that, she stated it.

"Score one for the CSI with the fantastic legs - that's you not Warrick by the way," Greg said as CODIS began its little genetic dance for him.

That made her grin a little, leaning to look at him. "It's going to be a few minutes. I'm going to se if Nick's found anything else for you to process while you're here, and you might want to call Wendy and tell her that she has help when she gets back in."

"Yeah, I'll do that," Greg answered. "Nick said... the thing with Grissom and Sara... " He tilted his head to indicate a general state of weirdness that he hoped covered everything somehow.

Catherine nodded. "The miniature killer targeted her, and we all found out that they, Grissom and Sara, were in a relationship. And had been for a while. She's still recovering in the hospital. Crushed bones and internal bleeding and... Grissom might as well set up camp in the hospital. He's just in the way when he comes to work."

Grissom hated hospitals. He came to see him once and Greg had recognized even then it was a big deal. "Yeah, had a feeling they were. I'll go see her after shift. Maybe him too if he's there. So they can see people get better right?"

"Right." Catherine smiled at him again, seemingly relieved that he was back. That was good. If just by showing up for work, he could make people's days better, then he was seriously on a roll. She turned to leave, and he had another ten minutes before anything came out of the system.

He smiled as he sorted stacked up evidence into piles, and decided he'd find some way to make Warrick smile when he came back in. He'd buy flowers for Sara and a book for Grissom and he go home to Rodney and John and listen to Rodney talk about the mysteries of the universe and whether they should actually get a cat and then smile at John because he knew John had been arranging one which would be theirs when it was old enough.

They'd probably have pasta and he'd threaten to make Poppa Olaf’s Rakfisk, which really was delicious right up to the point that he discovered it was actually fermented trout.

He could probably get them both to eat it, too, and finding out what it was might not even freak them out given the kind of things Rodney had mentioned they'd eaten when they'd been first separated from Earth, and...

"Hey, Greg." Nick was already smiling, slight and easy, when he came into the room with a new evidence bag. Condom. "Can you give this a swab and run it? I think our dude screwed up."

He put down the pen on the read out sheet even as he grinned. "Lets see if he left any of his guys up there for an identity parade," he said getting a buzz of feeling that meant he was on to a case breaker. His hand was a little cramped for some reason and he shook it out. "Vegas odds on this guy being in CODIS."

"Uh-huh, and Catherine has a hunch. If it's her hunch, he'll be in CODIS, and we can get this closed up and in Brass's hands nice and fast." Nick stepped closer, and turned around the sheet of scrap paper he'd set his pen on.

A circle of glyphs stared back at them from the page even as Greg’s eyes widened a little in shock at evidence of what was meant to be an impossibility for him now.

Nick looked at him with strangely speculative eyes as if realizing there was something going on and said softly,

"This is a pretty weird doodle, Greg."

Weird enough to be the end or beginning of everything.