Second the Best

By Kat Reitz and Perryvic

"Maybe some year one of you Becketts will arrive on time!"

There was a cheery jeer of that from the doorman who opened one of the Hall's great gilded doors, pulling at it slower than he would have preferred. It was just to aggravate him, because Late was Late was Late, but it wasn't his fault that he had to get all the way to Italy and he hadn't been able to get a plane ticket that would have gotten him there sooner, soon enough to maybe be the first of his brothers to not arrive to their Choosing late.

But he was late, just like Aidan, Bruce, Alec, Iain and Nicol had been. And it left him doing what Iain had told him he'd done -- stumbling down the red carpeted stone steps, hurrying into a room that was already crowded with other boys his age, and children mingling in the great hall. It was just once a year, just once, and he couldn't manage to be on time for it. Shit on British Air, and shit on the Taxi driver who'd taken the bloody scenic route to get there.

Why Europe had to be stuck in the bloody dark ages and do the Choosing at some international conference rather than the admittedly more sensible way the Americans did it, with Centers and staggered Choosing sessions so there was time to actually make some sort of decision he didn't know. Well, okay, he did know because he'd sat through the lectures on multi-cultural diversity and fostering links and wider choice for the individual and social networking, but what it amounted to was a free for all of all Benefactors in Europe. And when it came down to it, he knew most people Chose within familiar cultural boundaries.

He slowed at the sign in console, punched in his details and waited for his official registration badge to be spat out and then used that code to look at the list of Companions. The amount of grayed out names already was not a good sign.

Chosen already. And yes, he knew there was a bit of a free for all, but it would have been nice to at least have the opportunity to... to really feel like he did have a choice. Sometimes Benefactors hoarded a group of little children around them, and that looked like what was happening now. There were little girls in pretty fluffy dresses and boys in tiny neat suits clustered in groups around particular Benefactors. There were other Benefactors who were sitting off to one side or the other or near the buffet table, talking to just one, probably planning on making their Choice already.

And all he had to fall back on, about how to handle that broad situation, was his father's lectures and his brother's scattered comments. To go in, rush in, mingle quickly, and see if anything 'caught his eyes.' Except picking a Companion was everything and nothing like weaving your way through a pet store with a handful of money and permission to take just one.

He wanted the One and so what if it was romantic and Alec called him a big softie? Alec wasn't the one who was going to be a doctor and saving lives and making his own way in the world instead of living off of their Companions earnings. Alec was going to have to do the military service. He would be doing medical service and very rarely did that link with the military. Usually only if there was a war in progress.

Okay, well he'd looked at some of the online files on the way over, enough to know roughly where to head. The whole turn up and look around thing just seemed a wee bit haphazard so he liked to be a little prepared.

He headed over to the zone that reflected his cultural group, keeping his eyes open.

They were from Australia, a few Americans (illegitimates born to companions of the American military, mostly), England, Scotland, Ireland, and Canada. A few of them had piqued his interest. There was a four year old from Canada, and thinking about it, Carson envied the Australian and Canadian benefactors the least. If he'd suspected his flight had been hellish, he could only guess how shite theirs had been. Maybe they'd show up even after he had.

Doubtful, but he could hope, while he walked past the tables and seating arrangements, looking towards the lone boys and girls who were standing, waiting to be Chosen.

He took his time looking and his eyes alighted on a young lad with wide blue eyes and a nervous look and he felt that moment of synchronicity that his older brother Bruce had told him about when he had Chosen Diana. Just a feeling , a knowing that yes, this was his Companion-to-be. Practically beaming he stepped closer.

"Hello there... What's your name?"

He pulled at his shirt sleeve, and twisted a little, staring up at Carson. Oh, yes, there were girls in the crowd, too, but he didn't have to worry about providing an heir right away. God knew there were enough Becketts in his direct family, and his brothers had all chosen girls, so the likelihood that his mother would have him hung was fairly low. He could make his choice without familial pressures sitting on him, because it was about being happy. It was about picking the person Carson knew he would eventually spend the rest of his life with.

"Rodney." His voice was firm, not questioning at all about who he was, and he shifted, half-stepped closer to Carson. "Hi. We're 'posed to be mannered today."

"Well, you certainly are that," Carson replied smiling at him. "My name is Carson, Carson Beckett. What sort of things do you like Rodney?"

He crouched down, got on level with the boy, while he waited for an answer, because that was better than looming over him. He was a weedy looking little thing, with a rounded face, and scruffy blond-brown hair. It was the eyes that pulled Carson in, though, the eyes and his confidence. "Math." He whispered it, and cracked a huge grin at Carson, before he added, " 'n the other boys are stupid."

"Are they indeed? You sound like you might be Rodney McKay, is that right?" Carson asked, half delighted. Of course he would pick the one with the highest foundation IQ result on file.

The boy tested brilliantly, and at his age, and he liked Math. That was the sort of thing Carson knew he could happily foster and help grow. He could afford to pay for the kinds of strenuous schooling that Rodney might want to follow. "Uh-huh. Where're you from?"

"Scotland," Carson replied. "It's a very beautiful place. A lot like Canada in some places and we have some of the finest centers available for Companion Training. Especially for things like Maths and Physics."

And if Rodney went to them he would definitely have to become a doctor to pay the extra fees. But it would be a waste to not send him somewhere like that. With his talents. "I rather like the sciences, though I am better at biology and chemistry."

"I have a chemistry set!" He rocked on his heels, back and forth, a nervous, happy sort of motion, pulling at his sleeve again. "It doesn't have, have anything in it. Nothing bad." He edged closer again, watching Carson.

"I had one of those... but my brothers used it to make a volcano for a project. I never even got to make anything explode," Carson said with a grin. Why did he even need to ask questions? He knew this was the right one.

A dark haired older boy slouching next to Rodney seemed to be watching him intensely and he wondered if the two of them were friends.

"Do you have many friends Rodney?"

"No." Rodney's mouth pulled down, and the fidgeting was endearing once Carson realized Rodney was eyeing the buffet table. "Ack... Acast? Said he wanted to be my friend."

"Acast?" Carson blinked a little. "Is that one of your friends from the centre?" Maybe he should take the youngster to get some food. He looked hungry.

"No. He's old like you. He left to play with paper." Rodney twisted a little, eyeing the table. "Can we get snacks?"

Play with paper... what did that mean?

"Sir, this Companion is Chosen, please step away," an officious voice said behind him and he felt his heart sink as he glanced behind him.

There was a lean, frighteningly tall man standing behind him, his age, just like Rodney had mentioned. He was tanned and tawny-haired, with eyes that matched, and his hands shoved in his pants pockets. That was ‘Acast,' probably, then, and that wasn't fair that Rodney had been already chosen.

"I am flattered that you like him. Rodney, perhaps we should get you off the showroom floor." His accent wasn't anything Carson was expecting to hear -- not Irish or British, or even one of those Australians. It was thick, Russian or something Carson couldn't place. The backwoods of Europe for sure, though.

"Wait!" Carson said before he really knew what he was going to say next. "I... uh..." How could he explain it? How could he say 'he's meant to be my companion to a complete stranger? "Are you completely sure with your Choice?"

But Carson needed the man to waver, needed him to think and say no because you only felt that way once. And Rodney was meant to be, because Carson could look at him and see the adult he'd become, the intelligent, sure of himself adult who was looking at both of them like they were mad.

The man smiled at him, and snapped his fingers. "Rodney, you need to come over here so this man here can take you out of the Hall."


He didn't have a say in the matter and neither did Carson. All he could do was watch while he was taken away from him. He'd blown it. He'd blown it by being late and if he didn't get a Companion this time then that would screw up everything because his father wouldn't help with the payments and he couldn't become a doctor and work some job to pay for whoever his Companion was going to be. It didn't matter who it was anymore. He'd missed his One. He knew it.

It came with a sinking feeling, and he leaned a knee against the cold, smooth flooring, put a hand down to steady himself. Bloody Hell. He should have flown in a day earlier. He should have been there when the doors to the hall opened. He should have done something differently.

Eventually he got up and sat at the table there a moment, contemplating what to do when a drink and a plate was put down next to him. He glanced up and it was the slouching messy haired kid who had been watching them. He didn't say anything else, just went back to his seat and settled into a slouch again.

"Thank you... lad." He was surprised at the thoughtfulness of the action.

He was older. He had to be edging up on six, which was the magical age where unchosen Companions were shifted into a fate of servitude and hard labor. Carson closed his eyes for a moment, trying to make himself shake off the sting of losing the One. He needed to choose, even if Rodney had certainly been his perfect Companion, and that Eastern European bastard had just walked off with him.

The boy shrugged. "It's okay. Something we've been taught," he said. He was all fluffy dark hair and gray eyes and really quite incredible elfin ears. His mother would no doubt vow he was a changeling child of the Shee if she saw him.

He sounded indistinct, at least held in American Custody for a while. Carson sat up, looking at him, and gestured him gently a little closer. "Aye? I suppose you have someone off filling in your paperwork, too."

"Nope," the boy said looking away a moment. "Not been Chosen. Again."

And he seemed all too aware of what that might mean to him. Carson leant forward and said "Well there's still time...?"

"You wanted Rodney." The boy jerked his chin towards the door, but he didn't frown. He just looked awkward, a little unhappy, and Carson could understand it. After all, there were apparently companions who were being chosen twice and he'd never been chosen once.

He almost felt like denying it, but considering the boy had watched it all, that would be a bit ridiculous. "He has been Chosen," he said as if that meant what he wanted was not an issue. "What is your name lad?"

"John." He shifted, and finally moved to slouch into a chair that was closer to Carson.

"Well, I'm Carson. Would you like to tell me a little something about yourself?" he asked, trying to focus on this Companion rather than the one that got away.

Except Rodney's answers were bright in his mind while he waited for John to answer him. He shrugged, and crossed his arms tight over his chest. "I like planes."

"Planes?" Carson said. Not something he had particular interest in but that didn't really matter. "In what way?"

"The..." John shrugged again. "Flying. Trips. How they work. I was gunna say math, but you might think I'm copying. But I'm not."

"I'm sure you're not John, "Carson said. "What would you like to do John, given the choice?"

Carson was trying to be interested, trying to fall for the boy with that same heart-tugging feeling that he'd had about Rodney, but it just wasn't catching, wasn't tangling into his mind. "I don't know. Something with planes, maybe?"

He nodded. "Would you be interested in being my Companion John?" He might as well do good with his Choice, and he liked the lad well enough.

He seemed like he was a nice boy, like he could grow up into something good and full of potential. It would be a waste to put him into labor, and maybe... Maybe, with time, he could learn to want John in a way that would be enough for them both.

John started to nod before he actually spoke. "Okay. I already heard you talk about yourself, when you were talking to Rodney. Scotland, right?"

"Aye, that's right. And those same institutes if you wish to follow your maths. And I would have no objections to following any path of interest to you John," Carson said gently. He knew he would be a better Benefactor than most.

"I just... want to be Chosen." By anyone, and Carson was anyone. And maybe he did want to go with Carson, because he'd been standing there the whole time, watching and not saying anything while Carson chatted up a boy who'd already been chosen.

"I understand lad." And he did, because he just wanted to Choose and for every Benefactor and Companion that made a perfect match there were far too many others that did not. "I will Chose you. You will be my Companion."

There was no sound of delight, no broad smile. John shifted a little, and slipped off his chair, and quickly one-arm hugged Carson. "I'm sorry."

And that nearly made his heart break for the lad. "No, John don't be. Things happen for a reason. This is the right decision, I don't ever want you to think otherwise."

There was a vague nod, and he kept John close, patted at his back. There was a whole mythology that he knew was built up against the idea of being someone's second Choice, and the boy had to be caught up in a miserable moment to be Carson's not-first choice, and happy to be chosen at all. It wasn't how things should have been for either of them.

But he'd given his word, and he wouldn't go back on it, and he would do his best to be a proper Benefactor.

"Come on lad, let's go see about the paperwork shall we?" he said.

They had a long time to grow together. He knew that. It would work out. Not because it had to, but because it simply would. They had years to get to know each other, and years for John to grow. He patted John's back lightly, and started to stand him up.

And when he got home and told his parents about the choosing, he wasn't going to mention the One that got away.

John loped up the stairs delivering the mail on the way. No one liked to leave it down in the lobby too long and it was his turn this week to deliver it when he came in according to their official rota. He also wanted to check up on Rodney because he'd skipped a meal, and he'd half appointed himself as protector to the geek incarnate, even though he had no reason to do so.

It made a sort of sense in his own head. It was drilled into him that his Benefactors happiness supplanted everything else and he knew Carson would be happy if Rodney was fine so...

He barely knocked on the door before he pushed it open. "Rodney? Mail Call."

"I got mail?" There. He was still alive, it sounded like, even if he seemed a little distracted and drifty. He'd probably been neck deep in who the fuck knew what. There were usually pieces of paper all over his desks, his bed, signs of his little side projects and his revision work. When John stuck his head in and stepped in, he shuffled papers together into a pile, clearing space off the other chair in the room.

"Yep. And me as well," he said tossing over an envelope. "Probably your next batch of additional requirements... you need to get Lady Angela to tell Kolya you're doing enough. No wonder you need help with Practicum."

"Hey, maybe I'll get another picture of houses burning." Rodney caught the envelope a little clumsily. "He wants to put me into military training for a year or two after he takes me Home. And there was something about bombs. And you wonder why I'm a mess in practicum. If I could get you to tutor me in Russian, you'd be doing that, too." It was a trade off, though. Rodney pulled him through math, explained a concept to John until it finally clicked. And it wasn't as if showing Rodney how to give a proper massage was a hardship.

"Well this..." and he brandished the letter " either telling me when I'm Going Home, or something else." He was just a little hesitant to open it. If he was going home then he was really going to have to try everything he could to win Carson over. Lady Angela was always telling them that love could spring from the smallest spark if fanned by enough effort and John knew he focused on practicum a little too hard because of all the things he studied that was likely to have the most impact.

Carson... doted on him, in his letters. John had read Acastus Kolya's English second language letters, and watched Rodney translate the Russian footnotes, and there was always a bubbling sense that, maybe, the man was crazy and that he definitely loved Rodney and wanted him in all the ways they were taught mattered. Carson felt more... more something else, something shifted slightly to the side of that. Doting, but not that head over heels feeling, or even the faux distance that other Benefactors tried for as some strange way of making the time apart easier.

"Trade you." Rodney joked it, and gestured with his letter before he slid a finger under one edge and started to rip into it.

He was pretty sure his Benefactor would trade him in an instant. "Nah, I think I'll keep mine." He opened the envelope. "Don't go downstairs if you can help it. The common room is filled with people swooning in delight over the news."

"What's on the news?" Rodney generally scorned the news channels, like he scorned and scoffed and shrugged his shoulders through history lessons, only perking up when scientists were mentioned.

"First Marriage of Male Companion to Male Benefactor. Or now Husband and husband I guess. Someone called Brass over in Vegas," John replied as he pulled out the letter.

"Really? They managed an heir and everything?" Rodney was slower to pull out his own letter, even if he was faster in opening it. There was a photograph tucked into the worn pages he'd been sent, and Rodney picked up the picture first. "So, are you Going Home?"

"Uh..." John was reading the letter quickly. Carson was a doctor now and apparently he had a choice of Going Home and joining him on his Benefactor service it what was looking like a military posting in the middle east, or that he had managed to secure a position for him to be entered into the military and trained as a pilot. The choice apparently was his. "Could go home, could go train as a pilot."

He wanted both.

He wanted to Go Home and he wanted to train as a pilot and the fact that he was being allowed to possibly fly some day instead of being cloistered off to be a bedroom furnishing like a lot of the Companions were...

Rodney startled, nearly dropping the picture. "You're kidding? You're kidding, right? Train as a pilot?"

"Yeah. My math scores are advanced enough. They could train me..."John was surprised to find himself hesitating. He wanted to belong to Carson, he wanted it to be incontrovertible and until he went home, then that wouldn't be the case.

Another three years... That was a long time. That was a hell of a long time, and until Companions Went Home they were in a strange grey area where they didn't really exist. But they did. But... flying. Flying. And Carson was going to let him, if he choose that. And then, ironically, Carson would seem like his second choice.

"And you could fly for -- for who, the RAF?" Rodney shifted forwards, and John saw a flash of the photograph. Kolya, naked to the waist, holding a bizarre looking gun, half in some tent. It was better than the picture of burning houses, John supposed.

"Possibly... I don't know. Carson seems to think his Service will be with the military heading off down towards the Middle East. Even if I train for 3 years, I could still be there with him for two." He sounded desperate even to himself. Wanting it. Needing it.

"So, you're. You're going to leave." Rodney sat back, hands loose in his lap. "I knew you'd do that eventually, I just didn't give it any thought. I mean..."

"Look, you're not going to be here much longer after I leave anyway," John replied. "You just got to remember to eat properly and relax some. I'll write as well. I'm pretty sure Carson will allow that."

Rodney looked down for a moment, and then back up at John, just at John. Sometimes John wondered what was going through his head, because Rodney didn't always blurt out what he was thinking. Just the sharper tongued, funny bits. "He's soft on you. I... god, you're going to leave."

He was. And he was going to miss Rodney a lot. More than he would ever have thought he could considering Rodney was everyone's first choice and he was everyone's last choice. "Hey..." He sat next to him awkwardly. "I don't forget my friends. No one could forget you Rodney."

"Everyone says that to everyone, John. But when you get Home to your Benefactor..." Rodney shuffled his fingers through his own envelope, and then stuffed everything, the letter and the picture away. "The world gets a lot bigger and a lot smaller at the same time. I know I won't hear from you again, and it's... I'll miss you. That's all."

"C'mon Rodney, don't say that." Truth was he hated the thought of never seeing Rodney again. "I promise I'll see you again."

He didn't make that sort of promise lightly, especially when he had no real authority to make it.

And John knew he had zip, nada. He went where Carson went, even if Carson was amazingly lenient with him. Most Benefactors jumped at the first chance to take their Companions home, but Carson wanted John to be happy, even if John just wanted to be enough for Carson. And to fly.

"Yeah. Maybe if you're flying I'll see you around sometime. Acastus has been trying to get into some diplomatic exchange that would get him to America." Where it was legal to take companions home before the age of sixteen, and that made John bet that the man would come to get Rodney as soon as he had proof that he was residing in America.

"He's a military guy... I will be as well. Who knows?" John replied and hesitated a moment before taking Rodney's hand. "I'm... gonna miss you too."

He wanted to break the rules, he wanted to kiss him goodbye even if he wasn't going right now, but that wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair to Carson or Rodney or even Acastus. That was why they always tried to be careful with Companions and how close they got, because it did make things complicated. Rodney looked down at their hands, and slid his thumb over the back of John's hand, watching the motion as he did it. Rodney played the Piano, as a side set of lessons, as much as he had to tromp down to the shooting range, and he had fingers that didn't seem well suited for any of it. Solid, big fingers for his age. "I'm pretty sure I'll be able to write, too. You know, after I go home. What're you going to do?'

"Write and tell Carson I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be a pilot. And then contemplate three more years of celibacy," John replied.

"Huh." Rodney shifted, leaned a little closer against John. "It's supposed to be worth it, all the training and the waiting. So when it finally does happen..."

"It'll be very good," John said and put his arm around the younger teenager. "Gonna make it really good so he'll want me."

That was the only dream he allowed himself. That maybe he could seduce Carson into wanting him, even if it wasn't loving him.

Rodney stuffed his envelope onto his desk with his free hand, and twisted a little, giving John the rest of his attention. "He'll want you. You're the best looking guy here."

"Looks aren't everything," John said. Or even enough. "You're the smartest guy here. Lady Angela is always telling us the sexiest part of a person is their brain. You're probably some sort of latent sex god."

"And you say 'latent' even after all of our practicum together. I'm screwed." Rodney mustered up a wry twist of his mouth. "I've been translating dirty Russian-language fantasies at the end of my letters for three months now. I can't live up to that."

John grinned. "Tell you what? Before I go... I'll make sure you're up to scratch okay? You just need to relax some more."

"The more you tell me to relax, the less relaxed I am." Rodney shifted, an almost nervous motion, and his knee bumped John's. "You have to tell me before you go. I want to be able to say good bye."

"Course I will Rodney," John said and maybe if the circumstances were right he might risk a little kiss to his cheek maybe. That couldn't be too wrong a thing to do. He looked around at the excited babble coming from outside the door. "Looks like we're going to hear all about this whole new marriage thing whether you want to or not."

"If you ever marry your benefactor, I want an invitation. And to help you pick out the dress." Rodney shifted, stood up quickly, but didn't quite let go of John's hand. Maybe he'd felt what John had been thinking, and it had made him nervous to do anything like that outside of practicum.

John snorted. "Yeah, that's never going to happen," he replied standing as well. "Let's go act surprised."

"Not even a short skirt with ruffles? I've seen your legs." Rodney pulled at him, took him a few feet closer to the door, and finally let go of his hand.

Somehow, if he was Going Home right away it would have been easier to leave the school and Rodney. But flying... flying might make it worth it.

Lady Angela had pulled him out of Practicum to give him the news.

It had been a slow chat over tea, more drawn out than her usual talks with him about his studies, what he was doing well in and what he was doing less than perfect in, more drawn out than her attempts to check that he understood his place in the world. She seemed genuinely... Genuine for once, Rodney decided. She'd wanted to make sure he understood the rules one last time, the expectations that rested on him, the guidelines that were going to steer the rest of his life.

He shoved another handful of books into a suitcase, because he was much more likely to want to read those books before the ones in the boxes got to him, and then leaned a hand against the top of the case so he could get the zipper to zip shut.

Acastus was coming for him.

It was early. Other Companions in his classes would be waiting years to Go Home, although he wasn't exactly sure where that would be because Acastus had been telling him it was something they would discuss in person. It meant a special dispensation for his ceremony, and then a plane trip somewhere and it was strange that the thing that he wasn't prepared for was how would John know where to send his next letter if he was moving and didn't even know where he was meant to be.

John's letters had meant as much as Acastus's letters. John told him about boot camp, and being up for 48 hours on coffee and adrenaline, and falling asleep standing up in a fox hole, and anti-terrorism training and tales of the people around him. Most of them seemed like good guys, guys who wanted to fly and excel, and didn't treat John much like shit because he was a Companion instead of just a normal guy. It made Rodney wish he was there with John, or headed that way himself. In America -- at least if they were in the same country, the chances of running into him were higher, Rodney supposed.

So he'd stuck one last letter in the mail to tell John that he was Going Home and he'd write when he got there.

He didn't want to lose touch with him. He really wasn't that good at forming friendships with just anyone. They irritated him with stupidity more and more as he accelerated further away from them all in ability. He was sure when John was there people hadn't been so stupid.

There was a polite knock on the door and Lady Angela entered. "Are you finished Rodney? Your Benefactor has arrived and awaits you in the Drawing room. I will arrange for your luggage to be taken to his vehicle."

His Benefactor was there. Rodney's stomach flip-flopped, and he swallowed, twisting away from the luggage on his bed. "Yes. Yes, everything is packed, and..." And he had his sheet music with him in one of the suitcases, which was stupid, but just in case he ran into a piano somewhere or something. Rodney wasn't sure.

He just knew that he didn't know what to expect, except that he'd done his best to look good, to pretty himself up, to wear his best clothes, because he was going to Go Home. He was going to be given a name and a mark and he was going to be Acastus's for the rest of his life.

It was what he had been trained for, what he wanted.

"Good." Lady Angela looked him over critically. "Yes, you'll do. Rodney, you've excelled in your classes, and I have no doubt you will excel at being a Companion. Remember to be respectful of you Benefactor and to let him dictate the terms of interaction. You will be attending a Ceremony in London so I suspect you will be driving there prior to Going Home."

"Yes ma'am." Dictate the terms of interaction. Not take control himself, she meant, because he was prone to that, seizing a situation. Rodney didn't 'Play well with others', but he was told that pretty often. He just didn't want to disappoint Acastus. After all, the man had paid for some pretty far ranging studies and some heavy certifications for Rodney, and in exchange all he'd asked was that Rodney learn to shoot a gun, play one instrument of his choice, learn Russian, oh, and not fuck up in any if the things that he asked to study in. But Rodney hadn't, so it had all been easy.

"If John mails me something, can you... forward it on to me or something?"

"Of course Rodney," she replied, though there was the faintest twitch of disapproval in her bearing as she led him to the drawing room.

A man in uniform was standing, looking at the art that adorned the walls, hands behind his back, and his bearing almost as trained as a Companion. He looked lean and muscled and his hair and eyes were dark has he turned at the noise.

"Captain Kolya, your Companion..."

He turned and smiled. "Ah Rodney...I have waited a long time for this day."

And he was tall, which the pictures Acastus sent never seemed to capture. Or the vague pock-marked look to his face, but even that seemed to blend away under the sharpness of his eyes. Rodney drew himself up as straight as he could, hands at his side, posture as perfect as he could manage. John had always been seamless, flawlessly beautiful with his posture, and Rodney had always felt like he was a huge fraud trying the same gestures and motions. "Sir." He stepped closer, and then knelt down. If Acastus had been seated, he would have done the same, or tried to serve him tea, but that didn't seem on the menu for the moment.

"You look well Rodney," Acastus said and there was the sensation of his hand brushing over his hair fondly. "I believe your last letter told me you were dying of frustration with the idiocy surrounding you. You appear to have recovered well."

He'd always been pretty frank in the letters, but that Acastus had actually, well, been reading them, and putting a face, a presence to the man he'd been corresponding with... Rodney tried to push down his nerves again, tried to make himself relax. "I found a few new books from the library to sustain me. Sir."

"You may call me Acastus, Rodney, as we have done in our letters," he replied. "You're eyes are beautiful. The photographs did not capture all that you are."

He was very tactile in his approach to familiarizing himself with him.

His fingers slid through Rodney's hair, tipped his head back so Rodney was looking up at him. At least he sounded... pleased, comfortable with what he was doing, while Rodney was a ball of knots trying to force himself to be the confident well trained young man he knew he was. He reached a hand out, steadied himself with fingers light against Acastus's hip. "I'm sorry, Acastus. I'm, I don't want to disappoint you."

"I don't think you could do that Rodney. You have studied hard and even now, you have benefited my ambitions. Up now, sit with me a moment. I would talk with you about why this has come so suddenly," Kolya said.

He steadied himself, stood up, and Lady Angela seemed to fade into the back of his mind as he followed Acastus to the sofa. He had wondered why Acastus didn't wait the one last year that was common, and Rodney was nothing if he didn't want answers to everything ever.

Acastus glanced at Lady Angela who withdrew with impeccable poise, leaving them alone. "The woman is good to read a hint that well," Acastus said before turning back to him. "Truthfully Rodney, it has been my intention to let you study through the Companion Institute until you had covered all aspects that appealed to you. However, recently an opportunity came up that could not be missed. And I will be frank, I believe that your presence as my Companion to be was important in getting me... getting us the position."

"Me?" He felt his cheeks burn red, because that was more than a little flattering that he'd gotten Acastus somewhere just by being himself and studying. "Really?"

"Yes. And I believe this assignment will be to your liking as well." Acastus always sounded a little formal when he spoke English. Rodney knew for a fact when he wrote in Russian there was nothing formal about him at all. "I am part of the Russian military, the Space forces. Elite. And there is a highly secret and confidential collaboration with the Americans taking place. I have been selected to go on my own record, and on your intelligence as a possible asset to the program. The program is called... the Stargate program."

"Stargate?" Stargate. Military programs always had titles that never lived up to their actual uses. There had been that Canadian base came during desert storm or shield, or maybe it was fox, called Canada Dry. Names didn't imply facts for the military. But. But, Space Forces. That at least meant satellites and telemetry and geosynchronous orbits.

Acastus placed his hand on his shoulder and turned him to he could look directly at him. "Rodney, they have a functioning stargate. A stable wormhole generated by alien technology that can access other planets!" It was said quietly but intensely. "Now perhaps the reason I give you credit is clear."

Wormhole. A real working... "Wormhole?" Rodney's breath caught in his chest, and he leaned forwards to hug Acastus because that was amazing and he was being given that as an opportunity!

"Yes." Acastus nodded. "I have seen tape of it. Most impressive and we get to be a part of the international team being assembled. You will finish your training with the world's pre-eminent minds, but it had to be now and early."

The fabric of Acastus' uniform was stiff, but he smelled good, a little vaguely like cologne and heat, and Rodney pressed his face against Acastus' chest since he was already that close, already hugging him. "Okay. That's, god, the best thing I've heard in a long time and I've been bored out of my mind and everyone else is stupid here, and I want to Go Home with you."

"At least I can promise you that you will not be bored where we are going. " Acastus said seeming to relish the contact. "And the ceremony is within a couple of days so there will not be a long wait. We need to discuss what brand you wish, and other details."

Just a couple of days. That was good, otherwise the anticipation would kill him. He wasn't patient, wasn't good at waiting for things to happen or biding his time. But most Benefactors seemed to understand that they couldn't take their companions out of schooling and then have the Presentation scheduled a month later. That way was the way of madness. "All right."

He hadn't even given the brand much thought, not until he saw he designs that Acastus was interested in.

"We will drive to London, and discuss it over dinner," Acastus said more formally. "There is the Kolya mark but we can individualize it if you wish. And decide where you wish it to be displayed."

He smiled then, seemingly happy with the arrangement.

Easy as that. Rodney shifted back a little, studying Acastus's face. It was hard to not feel happy at the prospect of everything his whole life had been aimed at going... well, right. Maybe he hadn't had any reason to be nervous after all, because he was going to get to work with the best of the best in the field. "I haven't given it much thought. Where would you like it?"

"A true Companion answer," Koyla smiled a little. "We should go. I have made reservations for 7.30 in London. Come Rodney."

And that it seemed was that. With those short couple of words, he turned and left the place that had been his home since he was four and pretty much all he had known and he did it willingly because he was Going Home.

And that was better than all the lessons and the cloistered upbringing in the world. It was hard for him to not think about Acastus's letters and the dirty footnotes at the bottom of them, full of insinuations and Acastus's fantasies that he entertained himself with when he was in the field doing whatever it was that the Space troops did. That apparently involved tents and burning houses, but it was the footnotes themselves that drifted into Rodney's mind while he sat in the
passenger side seat of the Mercedes.

They checked in to a rather exclusive hotel, had barely enough time to get ready to go out and Rodney found himself whisked away to a Benefactor run and exclusive restaurant. It was an opulent establishment and filled with the poised figures of Companions both working and attending.

"The Gilded Brand is a well known restaurant," Acastus informed him. "They are sensitive to our status."

Rodney stayed close, trying to not fiddle with his cuff links. The fact that the place was named 'The Golden Brand' said it all. The fact that the place was populated by couples, and the odd man and wife and companion match, was the other hint. "Ah."

They were ushered over to a table flawlessly, the moment that Acastus showed his Benefactor identification. "I somehow doubt that the lessons you had in catering skills will have prepared you for the sort of fare on offer here," Kolya said to Rodney as they settled. "Do you have preferences in terms of food?"

Food. That was such a simple question, but Rodney wasn't sure what the right answer was if there was a right answer. After all, he and food were deadly enemies. He'd been all of 8 when they'd realized his allergy to citrus, and it always seemed that he missed out on the best-smelling foods from the cafeteria because there was a hint of lemon. "Pastas. I really enjoy pastas."

"I am assured that they do a wonderful angelhair pasta here," Acastus replied, in his element. He wore the rank and privilege of the place as if he was born to command. "I myself will have a steak. They have a way of doing it I have yet to find equaled. A starter perhaps? Are you feeling hungry?"

"Yes. I skipped lunch to pack." And nervous, his nerves were still knotting up, but more with anticipation than fear, and that was better. Rodney sat up straight, pressed his back against the booth's silky fabric, watching Acastus's easy posture.

"Then look at the menu and decide your choice and ensure room for dessert. It would be criminal to not have one here," Kolya said passing over the menu. "Your Presentation is the day after tomorrow. It is notable event - there will be nearly a hundred Companions presented and it will take most of the day. Fortunately, we do not have to attend the entire day. We are in the evening session."

Session. Rodney tilted his head slightly, looking over the menu and trying to wrap his mind around what he knew about the steps of the presentation. There was the branding, and then the opening. Or, no. No, it was the opening and then the branding. Both of them made him a little worried, but it was all downhill after that. "Evening session, right. You said you wanted to talk about that?"

"Indeed. I wanted to check that you were well informed as to what would happen. You are young to be Presented and it is possible you might not have had all your classes," Acastus said, deftly ordering a drink for them both that wasn't alcohol for him and nothing involving lemon or citrus.

But it wasn't soda. Rodney missed the name for it, and guessed that he'd be faced with something fancy, and maybe sweet. "They do the... the big class next semester. The 'you're Sixteen and most of you will be Going Home now' course." He remembered it on the schedule vividly, actually, because it was usually when he had his piano lessons and getting the same patient woman teacher during a different time would have been impossible.

"I believe that would be the case. I have attended several as a guest... some in Russia, and a few here." Kolya paused as he sipped his drink. "The Presentation usually takes place with you naked. Up to the actual point of presentation, you will wear a formal robe. I will be wearing the formal Kolya outfit and we will both be clearly marked with our affiliations. It is a matter of pride."

Affiliations, well, that was a little more complicated than just wearing a robe, but Rodney knew that Acastus would be the one doing any marking. "How... if I'm wearing a robe, then are the markings on the robe or is it like paint?"

Kolya smiled a little. "I have seen it done with paint, but I have an heirloom cloak, embroidered with all of that. You need not worry about that. The cloak is only taken away when you go up onto the stage for the Opening."

That made his stomach twist a little. "I know it's usually an heirloom. But what, uh... Is yours like?" And what if they got it mixed up with some other family's? There were a hundred of them being presented, so surely a logistical mistake like that could happen. Or someone being struck with the wrong brand.

"The Kolya name is descended from one of the Twelve Benefactor's - Nikolai the Victorious. Nikolai was entrusted with the Russian part of the Great Empire. He conquered all that came to oppose the will of his emperor. Many were the times he was outnumbered though he had seven children who stood with him. Four were boys and 3 girls, and his favorite was a son also named Nikolai... or 'Kolya', Little Nikolai. It was Kolya who, when they were outnumbered in the depths of winter before one of the decisive battles, suggested to his father that they deceive the enemy by hanging lanterns in the bare forest trees and make them think the main force was elsewhere while they flanked them. The strategy worked and ever after the Kolya symbol has been a bare tree with stars hung in its branches."

One of the greater houses, the ones that could trace themselves back. Some Benefactors couldn't do that, didn't even try, but the sound of Acastus's voice, confident and relaxed, pulled Rodney into the story. "Cunning, for the time. I hope that doesn't mean the opener is a bare tree hung with stars."

"No, but it is carved piece of wood from that forest sheathed in silver and gold." Acastus answered. "Our family has prided itself on intelligence over brute strength. It is a point of honor to seek out the most intelligent match that we can find."

Carved wood. Rodney shifted, tried to not picture it too vividly, except... Yeah. That was going to hurt, but then he'd finally be over the having to be celibate thing. It was hard to not grin, and he stretched his hands apart about six inches. "So, this big, or...?"

"Longer but not too wide. We will ensure you are thoroughly prepared for it before you get there, though it will be painful Rodney, I am afraid to say. A short moment of pain, then they will brand you with the tree and stars which is unavoidably painful and deliver you to me. I will ensure you are well and the photographs for your legal companion identity will be taken. You may become Rodney Kolya if you wish, as you will be working rather than a house companion."

"I'd like to have your last name." That was what normal people had, after all, two names. Luckily there'd only been two other Rodney's at the school while he was there, and they weren't his age group.

"Then you shall. And after that, I take you home..." Acastus smiled. "And you will be my full Companion then."

He paused as a waiter came over and ordered their starters and main courses with practiced ease.

Rodney waited until the man was gone before he reached for his drink, before he said anything else. "Uh, your letters. The parts that I translated at the bottom, it, uh. I'm looking forwards to that." To the mental images it conjured up, of Acastus fucking him into the mattress, of sucking the man off, of hands and fingers and mouths, about all of the things Acastus had said he'd wanted to do to Rodney's ass.

"So am I," Acastus gave what could only be described as a smirk. "You are young so we will ease into it a little but...w ell, we will enjoy each other greatly."

It was moments like that that he wished he was John. That he didn't have... whatever it was that was missing that made it hard to interact as easily. Because he felt his cheeks burn before he took a sip of the drink -- which tasted like fancy malted milk -- and then shifted one leg, bumping Acastus's under the table. Seduction. He was supposed to seduce, be as good as he was good looking.

Kolya chuckled. "You don't have to worry Rodney. I find you very attractive. Always have." He sipped his wine. "I have the hotel for a week before we fly to America. I'm sure we will have time to get to know each other."

Rodney slouched back a little, grinning slightly. "All right. I'm just... nervous. Lady Angela gave me this speech about rules that need to be followed until the presentation, and I don't understand why a boy needs to understand the importance of the Madonna-Whore complex."

Acastus laughed. "If you prefer to think about it, think of it as the allure of the unknown. The temptation is great, but the reward will be better for the anticipation."

"I think there's been a lot of anticipation," Rodney scoffed slightly, taking another sip of his drink. There was an under tang to it, something that struck Rodney like maybe there was alcohol in it, after all. "I've had that picture of you coming out of that tent on my bedstand for the past year." He wasn't going to mention that it was there because he needed to feel like he had some company since John had left.

The Centre had been pretty lonely without John, because though they were all taught how to simulate interest and conversation, John was the only one who never sounded false. Who was interested.

"I am glad. Field work needs fitness."

Maybe he could help Acastus improve his English, because sometimes things he said didn't... didn't quite click right with Rodney's ears. His Russian was probably worse. "Well, you look very fit."

Acastus smirked a little. "Flattery, Rodney, will get you everywhere aside from breaking the rules prior to your Presentation. Though my self-discipline will be sorely tested."

Except that he was saying it, but Rodney wasn't particularly feeling that his Benefactor's self discipline would be tested. He took another sip of his drink, pushing down his nerves again, and decided to start asking Acastus about his last posting.

He remembered his lessons in conversation and what to do and how to be interested and as Acastus started talking, Rodney couldn't help but feel something. Or more precisely a lack of something.

He was nervous, wanting yes but something just seemed a little... two-dimensional. Nothing exactly wrong, but nothing particularly right either. But perhaps love took a while to get settled in. And perhaps he would feel different after his presentation.

Graduating as a pilot had so far been a week long affair. Event after event, most of which he had had to attend because he was in the Outstanding squadron and despite being younger than most other cadets, he was graduating with honors and first in his year.

His relatively few buddies were pretty sure it was because he didn't spend all his time getting laid, or getting drunk, and spent a lot of his time practicing, or hitting the books instead of having fun.

Though Companions had become pilots before, none of them had graduated top of their class before and that made John a little nervous. A lot nervous. He wasn't even sure if Carson had been informed or got the mail telling him when it all happened. Probably not.

And what happened next... was up to Carson, so it was like he was dangling twice over, wound up in nerves because the rest of his Squadron was going to break apart, be assigned into other groups, given stations. They'd go out and meet girls and get married, and he was on a completely different trajectory from them. He went where he was told in a completely different way than they did.

But he was still in the Airforce. He'd still made it.

He'd flown and it had been everything he dreamed of and he'd written and told Carson that many times and Carson had sent him a poem snippet in one of his letters that he said all pilots should know and he wasn't usually into that sort of thing, but he'd immediately looked up the whole thing, then stuck a copy on the notice board.

The ones who took a copy of it were without fail the pilots who loved flying.

He waited patiently in his dress uniform. It was a big contrast to another sort of ceremony he no doubt would attend in the not too distant future.

Carson had already expressed that John was a working companion, and he had a lot of freedom, but his old training, his wants were in contrast with that kind of freedom. He wanted to go home and do the traditional thing on the weekends and then go to work and serve duty and fly, and...

And he had the biggest smile plastered on his face as he stood there and waited for the ceremony that was as pompous as the Presentation would be.

It wasn't the largest of classes and he knew he was attracting some attention. Possibly he might be cautioned for his hair again but it looked good and he didn't spend hours doing it as one instructor said, because it was so instinctive to just do what Companions were taught to do.

But he half wished he wasn't the only one here without family or friends. Rodney would've come if he'd been allowed to. And Carson was probably getting mail months old out in the Middle East or something...

That was probably why he wasn't there. And Rodney... Rodney wasn't allowed to go, wasn't really allowed to travel. His Benefactor liked him in the lab where he worked and learned. And that was a damn shame.

Rodney would have loved to sit there and mock it all.

He would've mocked John most of all. He had found his confidence with his presentation and had discovered he already knew more than many of the scientists where he was and that made his letters and email witty, sharp and immensely entertaining.

The speeches were droning on, and on and all of them were standing waiting, impeccably turned out and still.

He managed the thousand yard stare for a while, before he let his eyes focus, before he started to look out at the families and the people watching and waiting attentively for it to end. There was Stack's girlfriend and his parents and his little sister, and there to the right was Ryan's pompous yuppie parents -- Ryan himself was all right, hilariously -- and on and on.

And in the back, his eyes finally caught and settled on a face.

It was very hard not to react. There was a moment of being convinced he was seeing things, and then he looked again and yeah, it was definitely him. It was Carson, and he was here and suddenly he was incredibly nervous whereas before he hadn't been that worried.

They'd started calling out names. He was going to be the last up because of his position in the class but that would give him time to adjust. What did it mean that he was there?

He'd been reading John's letters. It definitely meant that. Or someone had told him. He looked good in person, brighter eyed than he did in pictures, even if he was at the back, and John was struggling to not stare.

Did that mean he was coming to assign him to more training or was he... Going Home?

John was surprised at how much the thought affected him. He'd prided himself on learning to be self sufficient because he knew, always knew that he wasn't going to be enough for his Benefactor, if anything at all but Going Home still meant everything to a Companion. He couldn't shake all those years of conditioning.

They were streaming through the presentation of pilot's wings and he had to drag his attention to the front again.

Pay attention, honor the men around him by paying attention. He could talk with Carson after, if it was even Carson, if he wasn't hallucinating that it was Carson because he'd spotted everyone else's families in the crowd.

So he focused, paid attention, and heard his name called. Just John. John of nothing, from nothing, now a pilot.

Not even companion John yet, not really. He ascended the steps with perfect poise and a movement that had been the delight of any of the officers training them in parade techniques. He was aware of a room full of attention focused on him, even as he stood and received his wings and responded with a quiet thank you as the Air Marshall said, "Well done son."

Then it was applause and the flash of camera's capturing the moment for them all.

He was there. It was all his achievement, no cost to Carson, just permission granted and John had pulled himself through it. But he'd had letters and poetry and support from Carson, and maybe when he walked off the stage, he felt a little like he was drifting.

They were allowed then to mingle and be congratulated by friends and family. Some of his buddies congratulated him and he smiled and returned the pleasantries but he was looking for Carson, to find him and ...just find him.

And he didn't know what came next, but he wanted to find Carson. And since he was the last and they were mingling, no-one was in chairs any more as he wandered towards the back, eyes roving for Carson.

In the end it was Carson who seemed to find him. One moment nothing, the next those blue eyes, that could be a deep blue in the right light depending on the photograph, were watching him and so much brighter and alive.

"Hello John," Carson said in his soft accent smiling at him. "I'm sorry I didn't get chance to warn you I was coming... but I didn't want to miss this for anything."

"Hey." He reached for Carson, just vaguely, wanting to touch him. He was real, and he was there, and John was suddenly speechless. Because if Carson was there, then he would be Going Home. "I'm glad you didn't. Uh, for a minute there I thought I was the only guy up there without someone out here waiting."

"Aye, well if I'd got the invites a wee bit earlier, I would've been here for the whole week of presentations." His look was frankly admiring. "You look wonderful John, and first in your year... that's a great achievement. I'm so proud of you. Look at you..."

Carson touched him then, hands warm and gentle as he remembered even from all those years ago, and he was half torn about whether he should greet him as a Companion to a benefactor, or a newly graduated pilot to a proud family member.

The only reason he didn't drop to his knees was because it was really a bitch to get the creases in his dress uniform just right, and if he did that he'd have smudges in all the wrong places. But it was pretty sad that that was the only thing stopping him, and that he leaned into Carson's hand, the warmth of loose-spread fingers. "You let me do it. I wasn't going to waste an opportunity like this."

"I know John. I wouldn't expect other wise from you," Carson replied and gently touched his cheek. "I've come to take you home John. Well, the both of us will be moving to another assignment, but there is a place for you there as well as myself."

"A billet?" Or a room with Carson, because either could sound the same, but John wanted to work, wanted to fly. "I wasn't sure you'd want me to Go Home with you now. It's been a while..." And he was just caught up in a feeling of awe, letting Carson touch his cheek, savoring the feeling.

"You wanted to be a pilot. I wanted you to be happy," Carson said as if it was obvious. "Otherwise I would've taken you home as soon as I could. And I didn't want you in the Middle East...not that young. I felt too young for it myself. But my service is discharged now and I have been offered another position at Colorado. They believe they can make use of you as well... and yes, we will be in a billet together John. Where else would you be?"

And when he said it like that it seemed natural.

Natural and simple, like Carson really wanted him to be there, and John couldn't quite help leaning forwards to hug Carson, sliding an arm around Carson. He hadn't seen him in person in years, had barely interacted with him when he was Chosen, but the letters... The letters gave John a lot of hope that he could get a good Companion to his Benefactor.

Carson didn't push him away, or anything like that which he half feared might happen, but instead hugged him back and murmured "There lad, I know it's been a while coming and I'm sorry for worrying you..."

"The other companions I knew went home as soon as they were old enough, and Rodney went home before that." He flexed his arms a little, pressing close. Three years of his only contact being wrestling, after years and years of practicum training, and he could finally just hug someone again, feel the contact of body against body for all the comfortable reasons.

"I'd never leave you behind John," Carson said in a tone that made the words a promise. "Fortunately we're in the States now, and they have Presentations all through the year. There is one in Colorado in four days." He chuckled a little. "I am going to have to prescribe myself plenty of cold showers I think. You are the most... the sexiest man in this room and you're my companion."

Just four more days. Four more days, and they were going to Colorado, which had NORAD, and everything that implied, including the base and air wings attached to scramble, and he was first in his class, so there was no way they'd keep him grounded. "It's just four days." It was easy to smile, even as he processed the fact that he'd mentioned Rodney, and Carson hadn't even blinked. "I want to introduce you to the rest of the guys."

"I'd like to meet them. Especially the one who can belch the first verse of 'stars and stripes'," Carson said with a smile as he stepped back a little. "I'm pretty sure that's a minor medical miracle."

"I'm not sure how much of a miracle it is, but it's pretty impressive." John pulled away, and then politely reached to loop his arm in Carson's arm, so he could guide without dragging Carson around. Controlling without looking like he was, and it was good to feel that all of his old lessons hadn't slipped away from him.

Perhaps he'd need to go to a few refresher sessions, polish up a few skills but he was sure it would come back to him. Perhaps this wasn't going to be as bad as he had worried about after all.

Carson had accompanied John back to his billet surrounded by fresh faced young pilots packing up, getting ready for their first assignments. He was a wee bit worried that taking John into the highly classified arena of Cheyenne mountain might be a little much but the alternative was to leave him even longer and that really wasn't fair to him.

Apparently he was helping John pack, and although he had little to pack, because there were a lot of cadets now pilots wanting to congratulate him, it was taking some time. But he wasn't going to rush him.

It was John's moment of hard-earned glory. Carson had expected John to do well, but there was doing well, and then there was performing at the top of his class. And Carson had been told stories, more like warnings, about Companions who mingled too much, who were ashamed that they were companions and spurned their benefactors in embarrassment after years of 'passing' for normal. But John hadn't, and he wasn't doing that as he let Carson rifle his drawers quickly to box things up. Clean and tidy, which was funny because Carson had found cough drop wrappers and all sorts of strange things when he'd cleaned out his apartment in preparation of the reassignment.

Things were put away neatly. He did find a sort of box that had bundles of letters and printed emails wrapped tight inside it. He recognized his own handwriting on crumpled paper and it was oddly touching to think of John keeping them like love letters.

There were other bundles there, in a rapid style writing he didn't recognize and he had to admit it, he was intrigued.

After all, John knew him, and some of the students he'd gone to school with, but people tended to not keep in touch. It was just the way their society worked, a world of dyads. Two and two and two, with the odd marriage twisting things up and making it different. But even then, it was still a core unit.

John was standing on the other side of the room, talking with the parents of one of the other men there, so Carson could just breezily leaf through them to see who John was corresponding with.

They seemed mainly from one person. Or at least they were bundled together and Carson was worried for a moment he had stumbled on evidence that John might not have been as true to his Companion vow as he should've been.

He pulled on of the letters out, reading a snatch off of a random paragraph.

There was 'Dear John' at the top, and just beneath that the words started, all in that same sharp handwriting.

I miss having company. I can see you making a face when you eventually read this, too. You're surrounded by people who think you're the best thing since stuffed crust pizza. I have the smartest peers in the world, and guess what? Nine point ninety nine bar times out of ten, they're imbeciles. I'm not allowed to call them, that, though. The woman in who's given a free run of the system we're all working on gets uppity every time I correct her code. It's not my fault that she's created a groundbreaking, yes, but flawed piece of work.

But, company, yes. I miss you, and I wish you could see what we did here or that I could even tell you. I think I'm not a good companion at all, because if I were I don't think I'd miss or think quite so fondly of you as I do.

There, that was my go at for navel gazing for the year. Have you blown anything interesting up lately? How did that terrorism exercise go? Fingers and toes still all attached? Math class still going well?

And then it was signed very simply, in the same sharp script, 'Rodney'.

There was some degree of connection there, and obviously it was a strong friendship between Companions at the very least which was unusual because Companion invariably got scattered around and might never see their 'friends' again.

And he was just having a little prickle of thought. Rodney, and maths. Everyone being imbeciles. Huh.

He picked up another, the next in line wondering how John had replied to his distant companion friend. He only had the one side of the story, though, and it left Carson wondering if the other young man had a similar bundle of letters. There was the same greeting, and then Carson let his eyes skim over the words.

They really put burlap sacks over your heads and beat you? What the hell, that sounds like, well, that sounds stupid is what it sounds, except I've actually seen people survive bad situations because of training like that, but are you sure you're all right? I would've done what Reaks did, I think. The only reason you didn't pee your pants was because you were clearly dehydrated. I scoff at your faux bravery. Why are there no pictures of houses on fire, huh? That's a sign of a really... something. A really something something. He's ruminating in the kitchen right now, actually, and I should probably see what he's doing.

My excitement has been yet another near disaster at work, and Acastus coming home with this really horrifying head wound and a broken arm. You remember that this is what happens to you soldier-types, and watch out for your pretty face (and don't deny it. You haven't send pictures but I'm sure you still are). My other excitement has been navigating the grocery store by myself because we ran out of malted milk mix. I ponder at the striking difference between what I do at work and what I do at home. From the heights of discovery, to having my foot trod on by an overweight soccer mom pushing three screaming children sideways through an aisle in a bulging shopping cart.

Carson stopped reading. Dear lord in heaven. Where there could be plenty of people named Rodney in the world, the name Acastus was unique enough to notice. That Rodney. The companion he had wanted as his first choice...

And then of course felt horribly guilty about taking on John under such inauspicious circumstances. But John was his Companion and he made a vow not to regret that ever as that wasn't fair on either of them. But Rodney as John's friend. Perhaps they had been all along.

He tidied the letters away, and shifted his own letters to John on top of it, before putting the box into the bigger box for packing. Well. Well, it certainly didn't sound like John had broken his vows. More likely they commiserated about their circumstances. Carson almost wished he hadn't looked at the letters, because he had half-questions in his head about what had happened with the other boy and John...

John was there, sitting on the edge of the bed, watching him, hands folded loosely on his own knees, lips parted slightly as if he wanted to say something. Caught, then.

"I'm sorry John I...uh..." Carson felt a surge of guilt. "I was just packing and saw some of my letters to you. I shouldn't've read the others."

Officially there was no privacy for a Companion from his or her Benefactor but that seemed wrong.

It just struck Carson as something that shouldn't be that way.

"He's a good guy. Plays the piano well enough to be a professional. His benefactor got into some special top secret program because they wanted Rodney." There was a vague look in John's eyes, something Carson couldn't quite weigh. It could have been worry. "I used to tutor him in practicum, and he helped my chemistry."

He should play ignorant. There was nothing for John to worry about. It had been over twelve years since the Choosing and he could've quite legitimately have forgotten about the other boy. "That's nice. It's good that you have both stayed friends. I'm a bit worried about this terrorist exercise...I don't remember you telling me about that?"

"Oh." John cleared his throat a little, and Carson could see his eyes canting to the sky and sideways for a moment. "Uh, I was sure I told you about that, actually. It was just a basic part of the training, in case anyone gets their plane shot down..."

"And someone decides to put a bag over your head and beat you?" Carson said. "I think I would've remembered something like that John. Did this sort of thing happen often?"

"No, it was just a weekend. A 48 hour training exercise, about... three months ago?" No, John had ominously omitted that piece of information. "A little preparation goes a long way if the real thing ever happens."

"I'm really hoping it never does," Carson replied. "I don't like the thought of you being hurt. And not just because I'm a doctor. I've seen enough of that for real come into our aid station."

"Yeah." John's mouth quirked up, and he leaned down, fingers resting lightly on Carson's shoulder. "I'll try my best to never get shot down. Promise. Was that the last of the drawer?"

"Aye, pretty much." And god, John looked gorgeous when he smiled like that. He wanted to kiss him, but he was almost a little afraid to do so because he wasn't sure where it would stop.

But he wanted to, he really wanted to and he was somehow turning to face John almost on auto-pilot.

"I should race you to the parking lot, then." And that was what John was saying to him, but he was leaning down, and Carson wanted that, wanted to kiss John and taste him and just, just take a little hint of what was to come. Just a kiss, and the press of John's lips against his were slightly chapped, but warm, and he opened his mouth against Carson's.

And then it melted into the most red hot kiss that Carson had ever experienced. They were right about Companions, they knew their business but this was... John, and John was good at all of this, so damn good he wanted to taste more than lips.

He wanted to push John back onto the bed, and pull at his perfectly pressed suit and feel him, and get to know him in every way, and--

And someone wolf whistled. "Go John! I knew you weren't asexual!"

It was enough to drag him back to his senses a moment and come up for air. He glanced around. "That would be because he's my Companion," he said as his hand stayed on John, unwilling to let go.

"No-one believed me for a while." John laughed that, settling his hands at Carson's sides. "C'mon. Where're you staying?"

"Hotel in town." Carson said. "I thought we wouldn't hit the road until tomorrow. I'm still a wee bit jet lagged. Unless you want to attend the Ball tonight?"

"How do you feel about dancing?" And in all of their letters, that was something he'd never actually discussed with John. "Two left feet, or do you like it?"

"Dancing? Well... Benefactors have to have classes too. I was...okay at the dancing. I can find my around the floor without crushing too many toes," Carson replied. "But I really don't mind. If you would like to do it then we will."

John just grinned at him, lips a little red and mouth relaxed. "I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't be heartbroken if I confessed that dancing and me? We don't get along very well."

"I'm pretty sure John could manage the horizontal polka." There was more laughter, and John laughed while he twisted to turn to the young man who'd said that.

"You know, I'd have an answer to that, but your mother's just outside the door, and no-one wants to explain to her what you did to your gerbil when you were twelve, do they, Warren?"

They laughed again then at the expense of Warren now and Carson smirked a little at John holding his own with this crowd. "As a medical practitioner I'm deeply concerned for the trauma suffered. Of the gerbil of course."

One of the other guys there grinned, while John stood up. Time to go, then, collecting the boxes. "Yeah, we made a lot of playing Doctor jokes at John's expense, too. I hope I get to see you around again. I've put in for a posting at Andrews." He stuck his hand out at John. "Good luck, man."

Carson watched as John shook his hand and then half slapped him on the back, then the next guy, then the next. He was liked and considering he was a Companion and people had very funny idea's about Companions that was no mean achievement. He was pretty sure there were some things about training here John would never tell him, but he wasn't sure that ordering him to tell would help or what it might accomplish, but for now he was pleased to let John say goodbye to his friends and be the top of his class. He deserved that much at least.

Carson was nothing like John had feared he'd be.

They were still doing the 'getting to know you' dance, sure, and John expected to do that for months to come, but he sank pretty quickly into the idea that Carson was actually a really good guy, every bit as interesting and interested in John as his letters had seemed. Even if he had found Rodney's letters.

For a moment then he had wondered if Carson knew who Rodney was, and whether he would suddenly remember it wasn't John he had wanted after all, he was just the consolation prize.

But he didn't seem to remember so he relaxed a little. Dinner had been good. Decent food. A steak with everything and Carson insisting he not stick to a Companion diet for this night at least. It was a celebration for them both.

Now back at the hotel, he was wondering what the expectations were.

He still remembered the warnings that Benefactors and companions alike wanted things they shouldn't have until they were presented. And John did want, because Carson was handsome and appealing and he kissed like no-one had kissed him in years. There was a low warmth settled right in his balls, and John was tempted to name the half-hardness of his dick since it seemed like it was going to hang around for the next few days. There was always hand jobs, though, fingers and mouths. Just how far could he push it without it being too far?

He wanted to try out his training with something real, someone real and yet he didn't even know if Carson wanted him in the same room, or how he should be presenting himself, or what rules Carson wanted to use in their relationship. Pretty fundamental things to sort out.

Fundamentals he hadn't gotten the hang of during dinner. It had been casual, swapping stories, with Carson telling him bits and pieces about training in the middle east, embellishments on stories John had half-heard, but grasped onto more tightly with a face to watch and vocal intonations to hear. They could have been two close, very close, friends out to dinner for all anyone around them knew.

So, maybe he could just bring it up. Drag it into the open, except Carson was in the bathroom, and John didn't exactly want to knock the door open.

Perhaps he should do it Companion style. He should've gotten onto his knees the first time he met his Companion, no matter the circumstances and he hadn't. It was tradition and he hadn't followed what he should do. Perhaps he should do the job properly, and maybe Carson was waiting for that.

He started taking off his clothes.

It was easy to do that, actually. The very act of stripping his uniform off helped him get into the mindset he needed, even as he carefully hung it up in its zippered bag. Shoes were laid just beneath the hanging bag in the closet, and his underwear, socks and undershirt were folded up to be put back into the mesh laundry bag he'd decided to keep his dirties in.

He waited for Carson to finish showering and come back in, determine to start again, get this whole thing back on the track they discuss in innumerable lectures. Going Home, doing it right, getting things sorted.

Carson was humming as he came back in, one towel around his waist , another drying his hair.

John was already kneeling by the time Carson came in, comfortable in the position. His body was used to doing things that could hurt, and they'd all learned to kneel at a really young age, so it was far from a problem to wait, hands resting loosely on his knees.

It made Carson blink a little when he focused on what he was doing. "Uh...John?" he asked. "What are you doing?"

"Greeting you properly." And he shouldn't have said that, but he did, because he was allowed to be a little confused at Carson's confusion.

"I thought you... weren't doing that sort of thing?" Carson said. "You didn't at the graduation which was frankly a bit of a relief, so I thought you weren't following the traditional way?"

"Do you want me to not? I'm..." He could feel his cheeks flush, because hey, maybe he should have opened the bathroom door after all. "Just trying to figure out where we stand."

"Or kneel," Carson said dryly and walked over to where he was kneeling. "You're right, we haven't done this according to how we should have we?" He rested his hand on his head. "C'mon, lets get into bed and we'll talk about this."

Getting into bed, well, that was nice and to the point. "See, I like that decision." He shifted, stood up when Carson lifted his hand, keeping as graceful as he could manage. Face to face in bed, and while John didn't expect there'd be a lot of talking, well.

"I occasionally make good decisions, "Carson replied just looking at him. "You must have some sort of undiscovered charisma gene John. I've never seen anyone look like you do. Move like you do."

"Charisma gene, huh? Do you want to take a few samples and find out? I might be a mutant companion. Rodney always accused me of doing it to make him look bad." Carson was still looking at him, and John reached past him to push the sheets down. "Do I get to take your towel off?"

"Well I think that might be a fine idea," Carson answered with a smile. "We'll just have to remember where that line is we're not meant to cross."

Lean over it a little, certainly by the sounds of it.

"I think I can remember. But I've spent years celibate now..." And he had no idea if Carson had, too, but it really didn't matter. He sat on the edge of the bed, and reached out to lazily pull loose the spot where Carson had tucked the towel under itself.

It unraveled smoothly and fell away from Carson's body. John half smiled just a little. He didn't have to use any of his training in 'do not appear disappointed at your Benefactor's body.' Carson was in good condition and certainly had nothing to be ashamed about with regard to his cock.

He could probably laugh with him some day over the training that involved being presented with strangely shaped body parts and having to pretend they were the most wonderful thing he'd ever seen. Carson probably saw some of that as a doctor as well.

But for the moment, there was absolutely no pretending needed. John leaned in, sliding his hand up to rest against Carson's hip. His skin was smooth, with just a little give to it over the bone and muscle, and it looked like Carson groomed around his dick, because the hair was uniform looking, and tidy, and curling damply. Sex that involved showers could become a really fantastic thing, John decided. "Are you sure we were getting into the bed, or just on it?"

"Well...that's a good question, "Carson replied looking him over. "Seriously, are you sure you didn't want to be a male model instead of a pilot?"

"You could at least model for Eddie Bauer." John winked at Carson, and leaned in, close as he could, to press his lips against the edge of Carson's hip. Yeah, four days was going to be a long time, but maybe he could suck his Benefactor off. He wanted to.

Carson chuckled. "Remind me again what I'm not allowed to do?" he asked because John felt a palpable twitch when he kissed him.

"Been neglectful of continuing your benefactor education, huh?" He canted it to a tease, and kissed slightly to the left, intent on making his way to Carson's dick. "You can't fuck me until the presentation. That's it."

"That's it?" Carson asked. "Bloody hell John, we only met properly a few hours ago are you sure you want to be doing this?"

He definitely didn't have a Benefactor who was even a little stereotypical, John decided, and he leaned in, pressed his cheek against Carson's hip, and slid his arm around Carson's waist. "We've exchanged letters for years."

"Penpal letters do not necessarily predispose people to sucking someone off," Carson said. "Not that I'm wanting to stop you! No, don't get that idea I just... want you to be sure?"

"You're my Benefactor, Carson. I'm your Companion. I'm pretty predisposed to you to start with. And hey, you got me steak at dinner. That was a standard for the guys in my squadron." Well, or they liked to think it was standard. "If this is too quick for you, though..."

"No, no... I'm just..." Carson smiled and it made him look a lot younger. "I'm a bit amazed you're wanting to do it with me. Truth is John, if you weren't my Companion you would be totally out of my league."

But he was his Companion and that was the way things were and he was more than happy to demonstrate what a good deal he had with Carson being his Benefactor.

"If you weren't my Benefactor, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be in any league right now." He turned his head, pressed another kiss against Carson's damp skin. "I do want to do it."

"I'd be a fool to stop you," Carson replied and that seemed to be the permission he was waiting for. Time for all the practice to show its worth.

"Okay." So John went back to kissing his way sideways, still keeping the arm looped behind Carson's waist to keep himself steady as he finally pressed his lips against the head of Carson's dick. He wasn't cut, while John was.

Carson made a soft noise, not a throaty exclamation but an actual response that suddenly made this feel very real. This had to be good, had to be wonderful because this was the all important first that could set the tone for things to come.

And he wanted it to be a great tone. He wanted to have a life with Carson, a really good life, full of all the interrelations that they w ere supposed to have. He didn't want to be Rodney, confused and regretful, struggling with his place in the world and his Benefactor. John wanted to fly and he wanted to be happy, in that order. And he could be happy if his Benefactor was happy. So he shifted from just a kiss against the tip, to sucking, sliding his lips over the head and pushing back loose skin.

There had been trainers in the last year to practice with and he'd been told that he was good by even the very demanding teachers so he knew he could do this and the difference was that Carson's reaction were unfeigned, uncontrolled, just what he felt and that was incredible to think he was doing that to him.

"Oh bloody hell John... My knees are going to give out!"

He clenched his arm, pulling Carson closer while he pulled his head back, sucking hard. Clean, yeah, he liked that taste a lot better than plastic. Skin was pretty nice.

Kinda addictive when he got into it really and Carson was getting really hard now and that was a good sign he was enjoying himself. That and the noises he was making, and the muscles that appeared to be wanting to thrust at him that he could feel under his fingers.

They'd taught him how to string out a blow job for a long time, but it wasn't going to do it tonight.

He just wasn't good for it, not as long as the day had been and as much as he wanted to get Carson there. He didn't want to drag it out -- they could do that later. He bobbed up and down on Carson's cock, making a show of pulling back, leaving the shaft wet before he took it back into his mouth. Almost all the way, almost. He really still wasn't as good at getting it all in as Rodney had always been, but Carson was pretty comfortably sized.

"Oh dear god in heaven..." Carson managed and obviously managed to only hold back for a few more of those long sucks before he was coming hard in his mouth.

That had been something he'd practiced, too, with one of those fake phalluses and some goo that tasted supposedly like semen. John was more familiar with the taste from his own jerking off, from idly licking a finger, so it wasn't too surprising and at least he knew how to swallow and not choke, swallowing again and again until the urge to cough went away and he could pull back with dignity, leaving Carson's cock damp and slowly going soft in front of his face. "Hi."

Carson was panting for breath a little. "Now... now I need to sit down," Carson said. "If I'd known what that would've been like before you started, I would've insisted." He stroked at his hair. "That was fantastic."

"Even I wasn't sure what it was going to be like." John leaned back, licking his lips as he let Carson loose, shifted so Carson could sit on the bed, too.

"You haven't done that before?" Carson looked at him a bit startled even as he sat and patted next to him as an invitation to get closer.

John shifted sideways, and leaned back on his palms, slightly twisted towards Carson. "Who would I do it with?"

Carson looked at him. "It is forbidden even with other Companions?" he asked. "I thought that was just part of the ...literature."

"Got any other things from the literature that you think are myths that I should debunk?" John's eyebrows went up a little. He was half hard, but that could really wait. "Most of the companions were girls. So, everyone is trained like a girl."

"That's ridiculous..." Carson said looking horrified at the fact John had actually been made to be celibate until he was nineteen. "So you've never had anyone do that to you? Touch you, give you a hand job?"

"If no-one was looking, we used to swap hand jobs. It was more... a relief thing." And Rodney, but Rodney wasn't something he was going to keep bringing up and bringing up, unless his subconscious had gotten really malicious.

"That's something at least," Carson shook his head. "I may not be as good as you, but compared to nothing, I think my technique will stand scrutiny. Come and lie back on the bed. I'm going to educate you on what having a blow job feels like from the receiving end."

"This is much better than the whole awkward talking thing," John mused aloud. It was easy for him to squirm around, stretching back lazily.

"Aye well, by the time we get to that, it won't be quite so awkward," Carson replied even as he sprawled himself comfortably. "I feel quite privileged to be doing this for you."

He reached over to take John's cock in his hand to start with, gently feeling it and exploring just a little as he got into position.

John spread his legs, let his posture go loose. Fingers were a good feeling when they weren't his own. "This is much better than the ball. In case you were wondering."

"Well, you won't have crushed toes at the end of it," Carson murmured and looked up his body. "God, you're beautiful..." He lowered his mouth down onto John's cock, licking it a little before teasing it with his lips.

Just like that, right into it, tit for tat. John stretched a leg out, curling the toes of one foot before he placed it on the mattress to push his hips up. "Uhn..."

"Mmm," Carson practically hummed before sitting up. "Feels good doesn't it? And full penetration feels even better..." He went back to sucking.

"Full penetration?" John lifted his hips again, moving slowly. He wasn't going to lose control. "I've had daydreams about that..."

Carson lifted his head and chuckled a little. "I'd like to hear about that. What you think it will feel like?" He smiled and then started up again.

"Not sure. Maybe I can find out soon, huh?" He exhaled hard, rolling his hips up again, trying to not take control of the moment. He left his hands on the sheets, fingers wrapped up in the bedding.

"5 days," Carson murmured. "Or thereabouts. It feels good John, I promise you that." He sucked again, the sensation wonderful over John's skin.

"Kind of... huh, Jesus, kind of nervous about that, since Rodney was traumatized by his Presentation. Huh, that's so much better than a handjob." It was friction and wet and sucking and his whole body wanted to slide into Carson's mouth.

"That is the idea..." The moments when Carson withdrew his mouth were maddening with the air cooling and prickling down his cock. "I will make sure you are prepared properly. There is no need for it to be completely unpleasant then."

"I figured you would. You're..." John lifted his hips again, watched the obscene bob of his dick in the air, Carson hovering over him. "Not conventional."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Carson replied before he went down on him again in earnest this time. Sucking and moving, stepping up the pressure inexorably.

He was done teasing Carson, it felt like. He was done, and he was sucking at John like the world was going to end, up and down, leaving John trying to not shove up too hard, trying to not bump his hips too hard up, but there was still no touch of teeth. Definitely not the first person Carson had ever done that to.

It made sense. Benefactors had no restrictions like that. None at all and he was a decade older. If it had been tough being celibate for a few years, then more than ten would be a nightmare.

And it felt fantastic. Pleasure, fire and movement all merged as one.

There was training and training, apparently, hands on and he was benefiting from the skill Carson had with his mouth, the way he varied his pace and dragged it out, fingers slipping down to play with John's balls, and he was so damn close.

Carson moved with him as he pushed up and he'd never felt it so intense as he did then. He wanted to thrust, he wanted more than just the mouth and five days seemed an eternity away to fill the ache that grew with his need for climax. In the end he had to come and it was one of the most intense orgasm's he had experienced.

Drawn out and out of his control, which was how it was supposed to be. He gave his control over, let Carson take it and guide him and it was worth letting that slip like that, worth it all. To come down Carson's throat, and then to sag back against the sheets, sweaty and breathing hard. Yeah. so much better than the ball.

Eventually Carson crawled up the bed to join him. "You look like you enjoyed that," he murmured slipping his arms around him as he had done with Rodney when things were difficult. "I certainly did."

"I enjoyed it." John twisted in, trying to get comfortable with the idea that Carson was a snuggler. He hadn't done it in way too long, and it was going to take some getting used to.

"Aye well, I'm thinking that the main part of the awkward talking comes down to the fact that I want anything and everything we do to be something we both enjoy. Frankly I get uncomfortable if I think someone is doing something they don't want for my sake. So... I want you to promise me you'll tell me if something is not something you want."

"That's easy." John shifted, slid an arm around Carson in a way that didn't get it pinned between him and the bed. "If you really want me to be honest."

"I do." Carson said simply. "I'm proud enough to think I don't want someone having to fake enjoying something with me. If that makes me not a typical Benefactor then so be it."

"I don't think I'm going to have to fake it, but if something comes up, I'll tell you." John stretched, and let his legs tangle close to Carson's.

"That's reassuring," Carson said. "And I mean it about the Presentation. I wouldn't dream of anyone putting the Beckett family Opener in a man's arse without preparation."

"That makes me feel so much better. Because I've heard nothing but horror stories." Rodney had been a little prepared, but not much, and the branding had apparently been pretty rough, too. And afterwards, Acastus had pranced him around the ball's floor for an hour.

"From your friend Rodney?" Carson asked , getting comfortable. "It's not a pleasant experience - to be honest I really don't like the thought of you having to go through it, but if you don't you have no legal identity."

"It might be nice to have a last name. I think I'd like yours. It sounds very..." John stretched again, and pressed his fingers against Carson's ribs. "Braveheart, actually. But yeah. He's sort of up and down, and I'm glad he writes."

"Sounds like a good friend," Carson replied. "And I promise there will be no prancing around for an hour either."

Great friend. "I appreciate that. I'm sure my ass and where-ever the brand goes will appreciate it. Plus, you're supposed to rush home and have sex with me right away. That's in the books, too." John shifted one more time, almost cheek to cheek with Carson, and that was finally comfortable.

"That is only happening if you are not in too much pain," Carson said firmly. "Tradition is no excuse for cruelty. Where would you like your brand John?"

"Not sure. Where should it go? Not much training about where to prefer a brand. Rodney's is right on his ass. Lady Angela had hers on her shoulder." He wanted his... wherever Carson liked it best, because in that case, John didn't think he'd be seeing it anyway, let alone deriving pleasure from it.

Carson's hand stroked over his shoulder. "The shoulder. The... ass, though less painful in the initial burn is more painful because you can't avoid pressure on it. I can rub the area with a numbing agent. Don't tell anyone. It's not a large brand."

"I won't rat you out." He kept cheek to cheek, Carson's breath -- toothpaste and semen tainted -- gusting over his cheek. "Promise."

"It's a wee little stylized lions head. The original Beckett was son of one of the Twelve. The youngest of three actually and the other two were the warriors of the clan and Beckett was more scholarly and they say the son of one of the Fair folk, for he could do magic," Carson smiled. "Personally we take that part of the legend to be the fact he was more interested in sciences than most. The legends have him able to heal at a touch, and destroy enemies by dreaming them gone. He became a little like a Merlin to the Emperor and accomplished many marvels. For this, he was given a golden lions head to represent him and his brothers, those of warrior red. And interestingly enough, the gold was placed in dominance over the red."

"Yeah, well, I'd rather have a smart commander than Rambo. And hey, I've got a doctor here." He liked that idea, that Carson did have a tendency to be more caring. He was definitely that kind, because he was already talking about numbing agents, and John being honest with him, and John could go with it.

"That's right you do," Carson replied, resting a hand on John's hip a moment. "But we can discuss more about this tomorrow. It's been a long day.

Behaving himself had been a very distinct challenge even if it had only been for five days, because dear lord in heaven John was just walking around like the essence of sex. Every way he moved, the way he spoke, the way he looked at him with those eyes and when he smiled, it was enough to have him ready for action.

The oral sex, kissing and frottage had probably contributed to that as well. Yesterday he had nearly forgotten those lines completely and was well on the way to thinking nothing mattered aside from getting inside John and he's only just managed to come to his sense. His balls ached just from the memory.

It wasn't just the sex, though, and Carson was grateful for that. John was fun. John was bright and easy going, and he had a sense of humor that Carson liked the feel of, could play well off of. He'd been comfortable on the flight to Colorado, comfortable and self possessed. Carson had seen companions who acted shy, who were side-stepped from handling reality. John had calmly dragged Carson to the airport coffee shop, and ordered for them both, because 'airline coffee tastes like mud'. It was the little things like that that made Carson's hope for things really working bloom deep in his chest.

The house on the base was new to them both. They had time to settle in before he had to report for duty - finally a lab job rather than emergency surgery in the field, and in a few hours they would be at the presentation.

He had the registered Family brand ready, and John had made his personal choice of a pair of stylized wings to encircle the lions head, and he had the Opener as well, couriered direct to him from home and he was just making completely sure it was sterile and safe to use otherwise they would be using the plastic one he'd purchased in the city the day before.

That had been a stand-by in case the traditional opener didn't make it. But Carson was boiling the traditional one, in lieu of an autoclave. He really decided he needed to make that a priority, getting an autoclave for home. Just in case, because you really never knew when those were useful.

"So." John's voice startled him a little. Last Carson had known, John had been making the most of the hot water. "I think I have razor burn on my ass."

"You've shaved your ass?" Carson asked. "That's almost as exciting an activity as apparently trying to make ancestral sex toy soup."

He looked down through the water at the heavy looking silver Opener that look a lot like a thick spiral wand rather than a dildo. It had a rather interesting double helix grooving and patterning on the outside which seemed rather elaborate.

John leaned over Carson's shoulder, peering down into the pan. "That's going to have cooled off by the time it gets near me, right?"

"No John, I'm going to put a boiling hot piece of metal inside you," Carson replied mildly. "Of course it will. I'm going to try it out in a little while when it's cool. Make sure you are stretched enough."

"Really?" John leaned close, really close, and Carson wondered if John was even dressed, because he could feel the heat radiating off of his body. "I'd remind you that it's against the rules, but I'm all for this violation."

"I'm all for rules where they don't cause unnecessary suffering. Besides, I think a lot more Benefactors do this rather than not. There were anonymous surveys and statistics that I can't actually remember." He took the pan off the heat and then put it in the sink so he could run cold water into it and cool the item.

He caught sight of John in his peripheral vision, and saw that he was just in his boxer shorts, that he was definitely freshly washed and shaved everywhere -- which was almost a shame, but it was also standard for presentation. "Great. You could call it foreplay, I guess, huh?"

"My my...aren't we eager?" Carson said with a smile. "Look, if you haven't done this before, it will be tight and they don't ease you into it gently at a presentation. It pretty much just goes straight in ready or not. I want you to be ready and that means stretching those muscles." He rinsed off his own hand and then picked up the Opener, feeling a definite tingle which he could only assume was anticipation.

"I haven't done it before," John reconfirmed, eyeing it with more than a little wariness. "So, is this my cue to backtrack to the bedroom?"

"Aye well, odds are afterwards we'll be having another shower so... I want to take some time." He stroked down the object feeling the tingle again. "You know, there are legends about this thing. That it dates back to a gift from the original Beckett's wife, made by her to the family line. She must have been a very rich and powerful woman. And skilled too if she made it. It was reputed to bring fertility and indicate a suitable match. To be honest, if someone allows you to stick this into them then they are likely to be a pretty good match."

He grinned a little. "Lead on to the bedroom . You and I have an appointment with some lube and object of doom."

"You know that somewhere there's a benefactor with a really small penis who's pissed off that the family opener really puts him to shame." John moved casually, all smooth motions as he turned to head to the stairwell, while Carson followed after him with the dildo held in hand like a sword.

"It partially puts me to shame," Carson said examining the item. It had a small area next to the hook on the base that looked like a button. He seemed to remember one of his brothers saying it could move. Maybe there was some release catch that meant he could twist it and cause more pleasure.

He half ran up the stairs after John though. They didn't have all night to do this.

Carson wished he did, but he just had a few hours, not even all the time he wanted, because he had to put on his tuxedo and get John dressed and numb his shoulder up, but not too long before the branding. There was a laundry list of things to do, and John was faster up the stairs than he was, so by the time Carson reached the bedroom door, John was sliding out of his boxers.

He was smooth all over and Carson detoured to go get the lube and the oil. "They don't use lube, but they do use oil," he said. "Make yourself comfortable John and we'll get started.

John moved to stretch out on the mattress, on his stomach. And then he leaned up on his elbows for a moment, and grabbed a pillow to stuff under his hips. Carson had to approve of that motion, because it gave John a little bit of an angle, and something he could grind his dick against.

And with any luck he'd be wanting to do some of that. He sat down next to him, placing the opener on a towel and taking a small amount of oil and start to gently rub it in over and into John's ass. "Better get out those daydreaming thoughts John. Start getting that internal pornographic movie show running."

"If I told you what I was imaging, would you like that?" John shifted, stretched his legs a little, spread them open. His ass was small, perky, a little flat, and smooth even with the silly razor burn. Whoever's idea it was that Companions needed to be presented shaved should have been taken out and horse-whipped.

"I would very much like that," Carson agreed as he slid fingers down the crack and all the way underneath. "I like a good story..."

John sighed, and lifted his ass just a little to press back to the pressure of Carson's fingers. He wasn't even there yet. "I'm imagining you stroking yourself off while you do this, to start. I'm imagining that we skip he whole opener thing and do real sex instead..."

"That would be very lovely indeed," Carson mused as he kept his hands moving. "You have a wonderful ass. You know I always feel like a sell out to America when I say ass. We don't really say that so much over in Scotland but I guess I've picked up bad linguistic habits on my Duty."

"Hey, I spent a really long time hearing sheep jokes, and I'm American born." John pressed his face against the other pillow, and sighed against it. "That feels great."

"Mmmhmm. That the general idea." His fingers started creeping in and teasing at John's entrance, gently trying to slip inside. "I must confess to having considerable experience at doing this, though usually with gloves on. Who said the medical profession didn't have perks hmm?"

"I'm going to not-imagine that," John deadpanned roughly. He shifted, squirming up just a little against Carson's intruding fingers. "Huh, that's strange."

"Not painful?" Carson said still gently moving things. He used two to ease back and forward. "You know, there was this one guy over in Iraq who was very into this. He slept around a great deal, but I was more than happy to have him do this to me when we were meant to be watching a film. "

"Just this?" John shifted again, pressing a knee down against the mattress. He was almost squirming with it, and that was a delight That he was wring that reaction out of John. "Hn. Like it. Feels a bit much, kind of..."

"Like you want more but you're not sure if you can take more?" Carson asked as he started moving those fingers. "You are pretty tight right now John."

"It's been a one way street for a while." Carson twisted his hand, and John made a noise that sounded good, that sounded rumbling. "More."

"Easy now lad, we've got to spend a little time on this." He did move his finger more, and scissored them a little. "Just imagine that you are having good sex right now okay?" He smiled and added a little more oil. "And try and imagine what it will be like when I find your prostate."

"You're putting oil in my ass, Carson. Your dick should be a little more substantial..." But Carson was easing the way, working his fingers in and out as hard as he dared until the tight ring of muscle started to loosen up a little.

"Well, I shall give you no false modesty, it is more substantial," Carson said. There, should he go for three? John seemed reasonable comfortable with this. "Of course, this doesn't mean that you will be bottoming for the rest of your life. Unless that really is your preference. I like both actually - I'm not sure what Companions get told about that."

"'It's a miracle if your Benefactor is flexible.'" John quoted that at him, and rocked up against Carson's hand again. "I guess I'll find out, huh?"

"Mmm. What a waste to lock you into that one role. I thought I was pretty normal when it comes to being a Benefactor but I'm beginning to think I'm not," Carson said moving with him, picking up the pace a little. "That's it... that's it... I can try the opener soon.

"Well, the only example I have of one other than you is Acastus. You're... different than him. Mmm." John turned his head, cheek pressing against the pillow while he rocked back against Carson again. He was moving slowly, almost fucking himself back onto Carson's fingers.

"Rodney's Benefactor?" Carson asked letting John do that for a bit because lets face it he was finding it as sexy as hell. And John's suggestion about jerking off at the same time was looking more and more attractive. "Aye, well from what you have said I suspect he is the norm rather than the exception. At least in my experience of compulsorary Benefactor lectures."

"I like that you're the exception." John rolled his hips back, and huffed a laugh. "Hey, I'm doin' the work here..."

"Exactly," Carson teased a little then withdrew. "Lets give this a go shall we, do this nice and slow. " He lubed up and oiled the Opener and smiled a little. "This might feel a little large John. Tell me if it hurts."

"I will." He stared at John's ass for a moment, watched the stretched, reddened skin slowly go back to a normal puckered size, but all slicked up and ready.

"Okay then, here we go," he murmured and pressed the rounded silver top of the Opener very carefully into him, slowly but surely.

"Okay, that's bigger than your fingers." John's voice sounded low, straining, but he pushed back against Carson a little, taking it. "Go on, 'm good."

"Careful John," Carson cautioned, but he inched it in very gradually, pausing to let muscles relax. "How's that?"

"Big. Wiggle it a little?" John's voice was more ragged, stops and starts in his few words.

"Wiggling I can manage," Carson replied gently working the object and moving it around and then back and forward just a little bit. John seemed to be liking it. No actual exclamations of pain or discomfort.

"Yeah. Hn, that's really big..." And beautiful to watch sliding into John's ass, the skin protestingly tight around it as he worked it carefully in and out and then further in. His own cock would look so much better, but he had to at least get it in as far as it would go and tease John a bit with it so he'd be ready.

His fingers were slippery with oil on the loop at the bottom and his fingers slid over the raised button like area and in re-gripping the object he depressed it, and immediately felt a rush of something, some sort of energy run up his arm. What the hell...?

John had to have felt it, too, because he arched, went stiff and still, but Carson could only stare, because along the curled design of the thing, it was glowing a bright white. "What was that?"

"Bloody Hell..." Carson didn't know what to say. "Bloody... John, the damn thing is glowing!" He hesitated to touch it again, but it was inside John and he had to get it out. He reached and touched it again, and again that jolt of energy that went right to his cock. Not unpleasant, far from it.

John exhaled sharply. "Hell, hell of a vibrator, Carson. Thought this was ancient..."

"It is. It's centuries old, more than centuries. Jesus... when I touch it I feel... I need to get it out of you..." And he needed to not panic, because every time he touched it there were more of those waves of pleasure and sensation and images and if this was happening to him, then John would have it worse.

John exhaled hard, and started to draw his knees up, pushing back towards Carson as if he was inviting Carson to pull it out. "Feels..."

"I've got it, I've..." He pulled hastily and it came rapidly free, still glowing, still humming with power and he didn't know of anything outside a movie that could do that sort of thing. "Jesus."

John twisted, sitting down sharply on his hip because he apparently wanted to see it. "Fuck. What's it going? That's not from batteries, is it?"

"No... there have been stories, legends in the Family about love and the heir of the original Beckett surfacing through the generations but that's just...a children's story. This goes back nearly a thousand years to the Great Empire. And I can feel something too, see things. Did you?"

"Yeah." John looked a little stunned, staring at the opener. "I have no idea what I felt, though. Do you?"

"Not really. It started when I pressed this bit here and..." There was a click and the Opener stopped glowing. Carson stared at the ordinary looking silver metal object. "Okay, I'm...I don't know what to say. I don't think we'll be using this one tonight though John."

Because what if the Presenter hits that button and then it turns into the sword in the stone in my ass?" John blurted that, even as he leaned forwards to touch it.

Carson was so stunned at the visual that he started laughing. "Does that make me the once and future king for pulling it out?" he asked and the moment John touched it again it lit up, humming happily in his hand activated again.

"It makes you the Benefactor owner of a pretty cool family opener. Does the rest of your family know about this thing?" John wrapped his fingers around it, holding on this time.

"Well believe me, if that had happened to one of my brothers I would've known about it," Carson replied. "I can feel it but I think it's responding to you John."

John tested it, pulled his hand back. The light faded once he stopped touching it. "Why me?"

"A very good question, and one I think we'll have to test at a later date. Do you feel any different though?" Carson asked and privately he was having doubts that the opener was actually meant to be inserted in anyone. That would be an embarrassing Family legacy story. We spent a thousand years using a priceless artefact as a sex toy...

"Not really." John leaned his hand out, touched it again, and watched it light up. "Well, other than my dick is hard and I'm aching and this thing lights up in response to me."

Carson leaned over and kissed him. "So do I. Enough of that mystery today. Shall we finish you off with the one you will use tonight? Because we will not have long to get ready."

"Okay." John eyed the thing, though, kept his eyes on it and Carson couldn't guess what he was thinking, but at least he was smiling and he half-reached onto Carson when Carson leaned in. "Sure, yeah, we should."

"Back into your position again Companion mine," Carson murmured in his ear. "Can't have you hard when they do this later."

"They might think I'm weird." John laughed a little, turning over again, only reluctantly letting go of Carson. It was worrying, the light up Opener, but he really was on a time limit and he and John had all the time in the world to work on it. "I sort of feel... light. Drifting."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Carson said with a hint of anxiety creeping in as he reached to his neck to feel for a pulse. It felt fine but that didn't mean there wasn't something wrong.

"Yeah. Just... feel sort of loose." John stretched, but he did look back over his shoulder at Carson. His pupils were all blown out.

"Wow...Idon't think you'll be feeling any pain at all John. No drugs for you after all," Carson replied even as he got the ordinary Opener. "Ready?"

It wouldn't take long, he was sure of that.

It was sleek, a bright plasticy red, and very simple. John would be fine with it, and Carson honestly preferred it to the family one, which glowed and apparently had some strange intoxicating property. Because if John had been relaxed before, he was now lax.

There was no problem pushing it in after John's affirmative sound with none of the careful preparation he had needed before. It was a little smaller yes, but not that much and John was practically purring.

"Yeah, I could really get into this." John's voice drawled, and he rocked his hips back against the push of the plastic phallus.

"I'm noticing that much," Carson said angling it in different ways, looking for a certain spot wanting to see John's reaction.

But it all seemed to make John twist into him, made John gasp and rock against him, made John's dick weep. It was like Carson could do no wrong with the new opener.

He wanted to be doing that himself. He wanted to be thrusting into him and feeling his skin against his own. But at least he knew as he fucked John with the opener that John's first time like this was good. And unique of course.

He worked him up to a climax - John was insatiable for something harder and deeper it seemed.

He kept rocking back, pushing back harder, so Carson reached around him, tugging at John's dick, fondling his balls, because there was no point in leaving John hanging.

"Come on John...come now for me....come now," he murmured hoarsely as he tried to bring him to climax.

John shifted, pushed back hard, between the hand holding the dildo and Carson's hand, and then he did come, and it was almost a relief, because the sounds John made were amazing and his balls were going to be blue by the time the ceremony ended.

"You are insatiable...and also high as a kite," Carson murmured kissing the back of his neck. "You going to have problems with that later?"

"Hell of a way to get through a ceremony," John hummed. He arched a little. "I think I like the glowy thing after all. Just took a minute to catch up with me."

Carson was beginning to think that he might not have to be concerned about after the ceremony. The way John was he was likely to want to do something after the ceremony after all. At least he hoped so.

So, he needed to be honest. He needed to be honest and he needed to be open with Carson and all of that other bullshit that Carson, shockingly, actually meant. He needed to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, but when he'd said that he felt fine, what he'd actually meant that it felt like his insides were rearranging themselves and his nerves were creeping up his back, and he would have rather done a hundred more Air Force ceremonies than been standing outside of the hall with Carson adjusting the fasten on his ceremonial robe.

Right then, pretty much all he wanted to do was for Carson to stop playing with the fastening, and start playing with something else. It was like their slightly rule-breaking incident had left him ravenously hungry for more. And he was pretty sure that wasn't normal. Maybe Rodney was right even if he didn't really mean it when he called him a slut and a half admiring way. Maybe he was.

He wanted Carson, he wanted all of him and this Presentation seemed totally unimportant compared to that feeling.

"There now. You will look wonderful John." Both his and Carson's formal robes and cloaks were resplendent in crimson and gold lions heads.

"I..." John leaned in, reaching his hands out of the cloak. He had a tiny, pretty embarrassing gold tie-on G-string that was covering nothing and definitely barely holding his dick in the fabric, so he'd been trying to keep his hands down so the cloak didn't open up again. "I really want you to fuck me tonight."

Carson chuckled. "We'll see how you feel about after the Presentation. You might not be so comfortable then. I don't think it is the most enjoyable experience for Companions. I'm grateful to the ...thing, if it takes that part of things away."

That was going to be embarrassing. What if he came when they used the opener? No one had ever said anything about sexual pleasure being part of a Presentation. Rodney certainly hadn't.

He'd just have to see. Whatever happened, he guessed he'd bear through it because there wasn't any other choice. "Better than drugs. So, is this where we part ways, or?"

"Well I'm meant to be showing you off, we'll do that in a moment because frankly, they are all going to be gnawing on their livers in envy when they see you," Carson replied. "Then I leave you at the sage, there is a speech, and then they process you through. The opener and the brand. I had to hand those in already. So you ready to go make an impression?"

"Am I allowed to talk, or is all I can do is look hot and fawning? I can probably fawn pretty well." He was half-hard, still, and he really wanted to grab Carson's arm and drag him to a bathroom to get fucked, but he didn't have that option and if John knew how to do anything, it was how to control himself.

"You are allowed to talk although most companions are so anxious they tend to be a little quiet," Carson replied. "I can live without the fawning. I like you as you are. Strong, capable and yes, incredibly hot."

He smiled as he headed towards the ballroom that was filled with dazzling lights and colors as John caught glimpses of Benefactor formal attire competing for attention. Compared to many, his Red and gold looked rather subtle and tasteful.

There was one guy out in the crowd with an eyebleeding shade of green. Some of the companions there were like John was, wearing their cloaks and nothing else, and then there were other companions who looked, if not older, then less scared, and fully dressed along with their cloaks, even if 'dressed' could've been defined loosely. So, there were 'attendees', then, probably benefactors there as friends to other benefactors, with everyone showing off.

So John kept close to Carson, eyes skimming the crowd.

Carson was right, they were watching him right back, looking him over and approaching Carson to say hi and welcome him to the Colorado Benefactor community. Some watched close enough that Carson was prompted to put his arm around his waist casually to make it obvious that he was his. On the whole it was easier to stay quiet.

Oddly enough, it was the darker outfits that caught his eye. One was striking in being a black background with a silver thread tree and then the branches liberally adorned with diamond stars. It was striking and... he found himself blinking a little as the Companion wearing it turned.

He knew that face. He knew that face, the stubborn jut of the man's jaw, his eyes. His hair color had started to change, because John remembered it as a wheaty-blond, and it was starting towards a lighter brown now, too-long, much longer than it had been. But that was Rodney, off in the distance, looking at something that John couldn't follow, standing close beside another man, a taller man who, yeah, had to be Acastus. Just had to be. John still recognized him from the picture he'd sent Rodney.

"See someone you recognize?" Carson murmured in his ear and he wasn't sure how long he had been staring at Rodney like that.

“Yeah. That's, that's Rodney over there..." And sure, Rodney had a Colorado post mark, but he hadn't thought about it because America was a pretty big place and the odds of running into him were apparently more than John had suspected.

"Your friend Rodney? Well I would certainly like to meet him. " Carson smiled as he ushered them both over and confidently approached the Benefactor who had an unmistakable lean and tough look. "Excuse me? Would you mind if my Companion to be talks with yours a moment. Apparently they knew each other well."

The man flashed a wide, white-toothed smile at them, that was very polite, but didn't strike John as very honest. "Oh yes? Rodney?"

"It's my friend John. The one I write to." Rodney sounded reigned-in, like he wasn't happy to be there. He gave John a look, and a crooked smile that reminded John of the old Rodney.

The man's attention settle on John... and stuck there. A much more genuine smile replaced that of the polite one. "Oh, that John... Rodney, I don't recall you telling me that he was not one of your fellow scientists."

"No, John is military trained. Just graduated as a pilot - top of his year," Carson said with evident pride.

Rodney stepped forwards a little, just a little closer, smiling at John. "It's good to see you. So you're going to be down this way, now?"

"We get to report in to the base at Cheyenne Mountain," John said. "Carson's finally got a lab there as well as doctor duty, and I'm meant to be in with the military there somewhere."

"Oh now that is interesting," Kolya replied. "Perhaps we should make more thorough introductions as it would appear we will be working in the same place. Perhaps John will even be in my command and you will be working near Rodney's lab. My name is Acastus of the Family Kolya, Nikolai line."

"Carson, of the Family Beckett, McKay line," Carson replied. "John, why don't you and Rodney do a wee bit of catching up a moment while I talk to Benefactor Kolya here."

John nodded and stepped to one side a little so he and Rodney could speak more freely. "I had no idea I was going to see you here..." he said. "I mean I knew you were in Colorado but..."

"But it's a big state." Rodney stepped with John, and then a little more, as far removed as he could manage to get from the two Benefactors. "I've missed you. Oh, god, wait, this means you're being presented tonight, doesn't it?"

John nodded. "Yeah, I am. Don't worry, I'm okay with it." More than okay, more like wanting it which was all kinds of wrong.

But he wanted it done and over with so he could get onto the real thing, which was Carson on top of him, fucking him with more than toys and fingers. "You're braver than I was. Congratulations. Is he good to you?"

"Yeah he is," John murmured in a low voice. "He really is Rodney. Has yours... improved any?" It was like they hadn't spent any time apart and he was wanting to protect him again. Which wasn't his job any more, if it ever had been.

But he wanted to. He'd been too close to Rodney for too long to just shrug it off like nothing. Ten years was a lot of time when you were only 19, John decided. He watched Rodney shift, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I don't know. I..." He laughed then, too. "And that should say everything, huh? I don't know. You're going to love Cheyenne Mountain, though, depending on what level you're in."

"Carson's got pretty high clearance which will probably mean I'll end up with it as well. He's working for the SGC? That mean anything to you?" John asked and he wanted to touch Rodney, and there was something very very wrong about wondering in front of his Benefactor whether another Companion would agree to fuck him if he asked nicely. That glowy thing must've done a real number on him.

"You're kidding?" Rodney's eyes lit up, and then he was leaning up and hugging John tightly. "Yes! Yes! Hah, I'm going to get to see you at work!"

John grinned acutely aware of the scent of him, the feel of him just fitting neatly against his body. But Companions did not form relationships with other companions, not more than friendship. They both knew that.

"That mean I can bug you if I have math problems again?"

"Yes, but you might feel stupid doing it when you see just what -- well, I can't say anything, but, oh, god, it's going to be a relief to not be the only Companion working there any more. There was one of the Doctors, but she's..." Rodney waved a hand quickly, dismissing whatever he was going to say.

"I hope Carson and your benefactor are getting on okay. I'd really like permission to hang out with you like we used to." John said. "No matter what group I'm in with the military, it's gonna be difficult. They make assumptions about Companions."

"I know. You know I know, actually, from all the complaining I do..." Rodney leaned in, hugged him tight. "God, I can't believe this. It's like this isn't real. I still don't want to watch you get branded, but Acastus likes to come to these..."

"Networking," John agreed and he didn't want to let go, but he turned and glanced around and saw Carson looking at them both.

No. Looking at Rodney. Fixated on Rodney.

Suddenly some of the previous few days happiness took a severe hit of doubt.

Yeah, if Carson was going to be working near Rodney at all, then, then John didn't know what he'd do, but he'd always keep seeing himself as second choice, because he was, even if Carson did want him... if Rodney wasn't there. And Rodney seemed oblivious, because he flashed Carson a throw-away smile, and gave his attention back to John. "I guess I should let go of you, huh? It's just, it was good to see you again."

"Don't forget to cheer me on in a moment," John said as he stepped back because the music was starting and that meant he had to get ready in his position in the line. "If I don't see you after, then I'll see you up at the base."

"I hope for your sake you get to go right home. You'll feel better if you do..." He pulled back, gave John his space, and let his dark cloak fall closed again. "Good luck."

"Lets get you in line," Carson said to John. "A pleasure to meet you Acastus, and you Rodney," he said as they started to follow the throng of Companions to be to where they would line up . "Hopefully we will see you again shortly."

"We will look forward to it Dr Beckett," Kolya replied. "Enjoy your Companion."

John only had time to half wave at Rodney before he was whisked away.

And he wished that he hadn't seen Rodney, after all, even though he missed him, because of the way Carson had looked at him, only John knew he couldn't say anything about it because odds were Carson would be honest with him and say that yeah, John was second and he couldn't bear to hear that.

He just concentrated on Carson's hand, his touch and nodded and smiled when he asked if he was going to be okay, and to look for him because he would be there with him as close as he could be and then they could go home.

He drifted through the speeches and applause and before he knew it, the line was moving. No going back now.

Not that there was any going back at all, but his stomach was all twisted up and he still, still, stupidly, wanted to give everything he could to Carson, wanted to make him proud, because at least he wasn't stuck in Rodney's miserable state. Carson would, maybe, never really love him in that light of his life way, but he cared and he was sweet and the numbing cream had left John's shoulder pins and needles vague. If only his ass would be that vague, John decided, as he stripped off his ceremonial cloak and handed it to the waiting attendant, who took it from him.

He was now nigh on naked and he didn't have a problem with that. Rodney had always told him he was shameless for walking around the corridors at night without anything on, but they were encouraged to get comfortable being naked as it was expected they would sleep that way at least.

He knew he looked okay but he was conscious of people focusing on him as he moved forward step by step.

They all wanted to see some huge grotesque opener shoved in his ass, John knew. That was why they were they, and they were going to be disappointed that Carson had decided to leave that at home and go with plastic instead. He stopped in front of the masked man who was holding his opener, and bent as he'd been taught to do. Hands on knees, ready when the man slipped loose the string of his thong.

It was meant to hurt, it was meant to be sharp and unpleasant, but while it was tight and the feel of it was fast and hard, it just made him close his eyes and practically quiver in place. It was all ready surreal and distant to him and the swelling of applause when he was allowed to stand again and he was apparently half-hard rather than weepy or traumatized seemed like something in a different place. All he wanted was a good fucking right now. In front of everyone, he didn't care.

But he was pushed gently towards the next station, and the short line there, and he knew that he was standing with his side to everyone just then so they had to see the way his dick bobbed out. It took everything he had to not reach down and fondle himself.

There was the smell of seared flesh and before he knew it he was there, and the brand of lions head and wings was glowing red hot in front of him and they just matter of factly pressed it into his skin and it hurt, even through the numbed skin. He threw back his head a moment but made no sound because it might just've come out as a moan.

It burnt right down to his core, and hurt, and the sizzling sound and the smell was him, stayed with him when he stumbled forwards, almost tripping down the stairs. He just needed to keep going was all, and Carson would be there.

There was applause in his ears as he walked down and there was Carson, waiting looking anxious and reaching out to him.

"Easy John...easy...god, are you alright?"

"Yeah. Yeah, just..." Fine, just fine, because Carson was there, taking his upper arms, guiding him close. He wanted that closeness, yes, even if he was sure that he was still sizzling.

Most of the Companions around him were sobbing and on the verge of collapse as they waited to be process. It wasn't that it didn't hurt, it was more that the need was greater. He still wanted it more than ever. Over the hood of the damn car if he could help it.

"You were very good John. I couldn't help but be proud of you," Carson said as he supported him. "Compared to everyone else. Your Rodney's benefactor was most impressed."

"Your Rodney. He was, was supposed to be yours." He blurted it out, stumbling over the words more than his own feet, because he didn't care what any other benefactor thought of him.

"What?" Carson seemed surprised for a moment and then John's hopes crumbled a little even as he went on to try and reassure him. "John, you have to know I'm more than happy with the choice I made. I'm more than happy with you - never think other wise."

"You saw him, and just... I wasn't there. But I'm here." That wasn't where he was supposed to be, mentally, while he waited in line for his picture and his ID card.

"John, you are my Companion, nothing can change that," Carson tried to reassure him. "Look at me... look at me John..."

He looked and he wanted him more than ever. He was his Benefactor, no one else's.

"Jesus, you are still as high as a kite," Carson murmured. "Listen to me, I want you and I need you. You are my Companion, no one elses. I'm not looking to replace you or anything. In fact I really want to just enjoy you and hope you enjoy me as well."

"I just, I know I'm second, and..." John leaned into Carson. "And I just want you to be happy and I want to go home."

"Oh John..." Carson stopped him, and cupped his hands around his cheeks and pulled him into a kiss before moving a little. "I am happy with you, and we are going home, together okay? I want you, I always have. There is a reason for everything, and you are that reason."

But he still had that thought, that half-worry, because time had stopped for Carson when he saw Rodney, and, and... and he leaned into Carson as best as he could, eyes half-closed. "I want to be that reason. I wish I..." Just didn't know, because ignorance was bliss, and Rodney had no idea what he was missing out belonging to that bastard who was his Benefactor.

"Is your Companion ready?" one of the assistants prompted them both. "We have others to process."

"Come on John, and then we can go home."

John stepped forwards, drew himself up straight and tall and tried to wipe that vague sense of misery off of his face.

He managed to get a partial smile even as they took the photo's, printed him, hastily processed his identification. "His name please?"

"John," Carson said and looked at John "Do you want my name? John Beckett?"

"Yes." That was easy to say, without hesitation, because he did. He wanted to be Carson's, and he wanted to achieve for Carson, in Carson's name, with a need that pulled at him almost as much as the urge to get fucked. And after his outburst, there was no way that Carson would do it.

"John Beckett. Double T," Carson confirmed. It didn't take long before he was presented with his identification and with his Companion cloak again, and suddenly, just like that 19 years of his life had come to here and now.

"Shall we go home?" Carson asked softly.

"Please." He just wanted to go home. Go home and belong and try to fix things, try to keep Carson's attention and just... live.

It didn't seem too much to ask, even if he was going to feel secretly guilty for stealing Rodney's life even if it was by default.

On the way back, some of the shock had either set in or worn off because the tinge of melancholy was completely drowned out by desire. Desire to do more than sucking and fingers and maybe it wasn't normal, but the moment they were in the house again, his cloak was off and he practically pounced on Carson.

His Benefactor didn't stand a chance. Years of training suddenly came together with application and he didn't have to exert himself to get Carson keyed up enough to get past his reservations. Right now he was squirming trying to get into a position where Carson could take his time over fucking him as they had finally made it to the bedroom.

"Jesus John..." Carson seemed to be trying to catch his breath after another bone melting kiss. "Are you...sure?"

"Yes. I, I want to feel you. I want you to make me yours." And it didn't matter that Carson had applied a patch of surgical gauze to his shoulder, or that he still felt funny inside, all weird, because John knew that he wanted to get fucked, had to get fucked.

"You don't have to prove anything," Carson murmured even as his hands roamed. "Or perhaps it's me who has to prove something?" He was turning him onto his side, spooning behind him now.

John sighed, and reached a hand back, fingers curling over Carson's hip in as sensual a way as he could manage. "I'm sorry, I just, I keep thinking that..."

"Don't. I care about you a great deal John. You're a wonderful man. Beautiful, talented and intelligent. And you're mine. I can hardly believe how lucky I am." And his fingers were there preparing him again, and checking as well that he wasn't hurt.

"I'm not hurting. I feel... I feel amazing. That feels amazing, don't stop..." Don't stop, because he wanted more than just fingers, he wanted the full intrusion, he wanted Carson.

"I'm thinking your preference for top or bottom is pretty obvious," Carson chuckled and wouldn't be hurried no matter how hard he squirmed. But that moving and rubbing did hurry him along and before long there was a nudging with something hard and hot and then a pushing inwards even as Carson arms suddenly wrapped around him.

"Fuck, fuck, yes..." And maybe he was just that irresistible, but he could press himself against Carson, rocking his hips hard against Carson's, grinding his ass against the edges of Carson's hips because he wanted more, deeper, now.

"Uhnn... John..." Carson had obviously been expecting a go slow but John wasn't letting him. "Don't want to... hurt you..."

He wasn't hurting, he was wanting and wanting it right now.

Carson's dick was thick and warm-feeling, and John's own rocking back onto it made it feel ever better. But he wanted it, in and out and hard and fast, and he'd been wanting it that badly since Carson had put the Opener in him. "Not going to. Please, please..."

"Okay, okay..." And Carson went quiet even as suddenly things started moving in the way he had been wanting. Harder, deeper, faster and it was as fantastic as he imagined. He thrust back against him, he moved with him and just the motion made him blissfully happy and he hadn't even come yet.

He liked that, the motion of being fucked, of feeling Carson's arms around him, his body pressed against every part of John's back except the patch of skin where the brand had gone on his shoulder. But Carson was there, that close, kissing the back of John's neck while he rocked.

A lot of the tension flowed out of him now he was getting what he wanted, and Carson managed to make it go on longer than he thought it could ever last. Finally he murmured "I could get you on your front, do it hard, or finish up like this?"

Part of him did want it hard, because if slow and lazy like that had to feel good, then hard had to feel better, but he liked it, the closeness of it. "This is, huh, this is good, great, Jesus you feel good."

"Then we'll see what we can do from this angle," Carson said and he did move a little and the thrusts got hard as he wrapped a leg over his and pulled him right up against his body.

That was what he wanted, definitely. That was just what John wanted, to be that close, to have Carson wrapped all around him, and he only had to hold on and enjoy the ride, rocking back against Carson. It was hard to breathe steadily, hard to stay even a little bit in control, and what did control matter?

Nothing compared to the feeling and he took the risk and just let himself go. Let that last tiny bit of control slip away as he writhed and thrust with Carson. It couldn't be normal to feel like this. Or maybe it was a celibate adolescence catching up with him because he was seeing stars in his vision as Carson started the final frenetic thrusts preceding orgasm and then with a spill of warmth inside him, he realized that Carson had actually come.

It was amazing, all sorts of stunning, and his body moved with it, shuddered with it, rocking back against Carson because that was the moment he wanted the most. He could spend the rest of his life in that moment, spots in his eyes.

He might've even drifted out of it completely for a moment even as finally his body allowed itself to come again. It was all kinds of wonderful and he went completely boneless, his need finally sated.

Carson was panting a little and still holding him tight.

"Mmm." He sighed, rubbing his ass back against Carson's hips. His dick was still half-hard, and that felt good, too, but the wild need was gone at last.

"You are... insatiable..." Carson murmured kissing softly at the back of his neck. "I was... going to let you sleep tonight after the Presentation. Be considerate of your feelings and discomfort." He kissed him again.

"Comfortable now," John sighed, pushing back close to Carson's mouth, as close as he could get. "Waited years. Worth it."

"Aye, I think so too," Carson murmured softly meeting him half way with a kiss. "I think perhaps we should try sleeping now."

"Sleep..." John sighed against Carson's mouth, savoring the feel of Carson's lips loose against his. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I could sleep...."

"I would hope so lad, because there's not many men who could do more than that in one night without the aid of drugs," Carson chuckled against his skin. "We have a week to enjoy ourselves before we go to work."

A week to assert himself to Carson as someone he wanted more than Rodney, so that when they went to work Carson's eyes might not wander. John shifted, pressed close back against Carson. "Good."

From the contented sigh that came from Carson and the possessive way he pulled him into his arms, John was just starting to think, starting to hope that he might just pull it off.

Carson was trying very hard not to continually smirk as he started his new job. A week of pretty much mind-blowing sex when officially they were meant to be unpacking and settling in. John had obviously seen that as an excuse to fuck every where they put a box down.

As a consequence he had lost weight, pulled a few muscles and was genuinely amazed at how lucky he was.

John was amazing, and Carson got to better experience that with every moment that passed, because he was easy to be with, easy to interact with and get along with. He was, he was John. He liked books and kept pawing over Carson's collection -- between bouts of sex -- talking about them and learning about Carson as much as Carson was trying to learn about John and now...

Now they were both working underground, learning about space aliens.

Bit of a culture shock, and there really weren't that many Benefactor and Companion pairs working in top secret bases. Rodney had been right about that at least. It meant that John had to be posted at the mountain, where he had his new research lab and apparently was going to finally be using his training in genetics.

At long last. And John... John was going to have some options presented to him that Carson would have to clear, which... which bothered Carson, actually, because he wanted John to pick what he wanted without the 'clearance' stage, but as long as John knew it was for show that Carson had to sign anything, he'd be fine.

What bothered him most of all was that he knew John would have it rougher than most new recruits, and there wasn't much he could do about that. He wanted to protect him, though he knew John was physically more capable if it came down to it.

The pair of them had picked up ID badges and were being shown to their respective 'managers'.

John was going to report to a Cameron Mitchell, and Carson was looking forwards to meeting Doctor Lee. At least he was going to be able to work in the same facility as John -- if anything happened, which Carson acknowledged as his worst nightmare, he'd at least be easy to find.

John looked sideways, caught his eyes and smiled at Carson as they walked down the hall

"I hope we'll be able to meet for lunch. I'm picturing a fairly long orientation session," Carson said in a low voice as they tried to figure their way through the levels down to the SGC itself. "Probably longer for you as I doubt they'll let me off world. Actually I'm not sure what they have in mind for you John. Just choose what you want."

"No boundaries?" John kept checking that, kept asking things like that, and all Carson could really do was affirm that, really, no boundaries.

"No boundaries," Carson replied though he wanted to say, 'as long as you are safe'. "This is going to be a very interesting place to work. They have some big research projects at the moment."

"And, they contact space aliens." John deadpanned it, like it was a joke he didn't want to believe, but Carson had a feeling he was going to believe it by the time their sessions of getting around were over. The man leading them down the hallway stopped walking.

"Doctor Beckett, you'll want to follow the green line to the next right, and you'll be in the sciences. I'm going to take Lieutenant Beckett to see Colonel Mitchell."

"Thank you. I'll see you later John," Carson said, patting his Companion's arm in the language of familiar touch they had developed over the last week. "Have fun."

"I'll see you over lunch, if I can...." Or when they went home. Carson was sure he wouldn't lose track of John that badly. John lingered for a moment, just a moment, before he turned to leave with the man who'd been guiding them. Leaving Carson to walk the green line himself.

It was strange how quickly he'd become accustomed to John's almost constant company. Enough to feel a pang that he wasn't just there. But he had spent his whole life bar one week without that constant support and he could do it again.

He rounded a corner and found himself at what was very evidently the medical complex of the SGC. It took him a while to track down Dr Lee's office but he managed it, knocking politely on the door.

"Doctor Beckett? Come in, if that's you, I've been expecting..." Excepting something, Carson supposed as he pushed the door open. The man was rather much like what Carson had pictured, and smiling at him. "Oh, good. I was just reading over your file, Doctor Beckett..."

"I suspect it makes for rather uninteresting reading," Carson said with a faint smile as he entered the room and closed the door. "Compared to most of the staff here at the SGC."

He also knew he was young to be given this position, but he wasn't going to draw attention to that fact.

He was being given the benefit of the doubt, in a lot of ways, because he was a Benefactor, from a family that had a history of conducting itself honorably with the allies. "We have a lot of doctors who come here to work who aren't... don't seem prepared for the fact that sometimes they have to drop their projects to work on an emergency. So, yes, you're here as a geneticist, but if we go into code red, you've done enough field work that I see that you'll... function just fine."

"Aye well, they dragged me out with them on occasion in my Duty," Carson said. "An emergency is an emergency after all. I had the letter saying geneticist but nothing to indicate what exactly that was going to involved. Is there a specific remit?"

"We need someone to maintain a database of genetics that we keep, internal to the system. And to research on those genetics. Many those who participate in the program have... undergone experiences that have changed them on a molecular level." Doctor Lee waved a hand slightly.

"Am I expected to research those genetic anomalies?" Carson asked unable to keep the enthusiasm out of his voice. That sort of mutation could be critical to many treatments.

"Yes. You will also need to be ready to treat any that require immediate... well, to start you off, you have an office and a selection of mission reports to read. As a geneticist here, you'll be researching those anomalies and treating them when necessary." The man stood up, smiling at Carson. "We really try to specialize in achieving the impossible. But first, I'd like to introduce you to some of the scientists who work here, out of the medical field. They're just as likely to end up in the infirmary as the soldiers, so you might as well get to know them while they're, we're, standing on our feet and conscious."

"It makes for more interesting conversation at least," Carson said wondering if there were some catch to all of this because it seems too good to be true. He moved to follow Dr Lee.

"Something like that." Lee smiled at him, but it was a tight smile. "We have a good group of people here, and we all have the same goal. One of the things you're going to have to learn is to spot the mark a Goa'uld leaves when it enters the body -- in case you have to work in an emergency situation. All off-world teams are screened when they return, to make sure they don't transmit disease or carry parasites. But the science department has more standard types of injuries. Low level radiation poisoning, the odd fire or explosion, or electrical shock, you know."

He nodded as if he did know but privately he was wondering if he could cope. "I have a feeling there is going to be some culture shock involved, " he said. "Fires, explosions and even electrical injuries I have experience with. As well as gunshot and shrapnel. But I admit to not having had practical experience of some of the things you have mentioned."

"You'll learn. You've been trained on radiation poisoning if you worked in the Middle east?" That he pitched it as a question was worrying, but yes, at least he had. "Good, then the ins and outs of what we specifically face is your biggest worry. The Goa'uld inhabit human hosts against their will, and our techniques for ridding a human of them are primitive and make shift at best, but better than it used to be.:

Immediately Carson was wondering if there was a way to create something targeted to the creatures alien genetics to be rid of it. That was the beauty of the DNA. It was the key to every lock in the universe. "I look forward to reading the information on the process," he replied.

"Start to current. It's only when you realize how far we've come that where we are seems amazing." He led Carson down a hallway, towards another set of doors. "They're currently testing a Dial-Home device that we brought through the gate. It was disconnected from the gate it was originally attached for, and we're not to the point where we can yet realign a DHD to just any gate."

"Sounds complicated. I'm afraid my theoretical physics is a wee bit lacking ,"Carson admitted. "Do they need a DHD if they can use the gate?"

"Doctor Carter wrote a program that allows us to use our gate without it -- however, Doctor Kolya insists that it ignores a number of emergency signals that the gate naturally puts out, so we're trying to better reverse engineer it. And he's right, it does ignore some pretty important signals right now, so--" So, he pushed the door open, and it had to have been sound-proofed because Carson could only hear chaos.

For a moment he was looking around to see if there was some sort of emergency but as far as he could tell they were entering the lab zone where the cut and thrust of scientific development was free and creative and above all noisy.

"Is it always like this?

"Always." Doctor Lee seemed amused, or happy that everyone was arguing or shouting suggestions and orders, while two people were crouched down in front of the device, a man and a woman.

"Dare I ask what they are doing?" Carson murmured as he watched trying to get a feel for the place so he could tell when there yelling might hint as something to worry about.

"Well, that's Doctor Kolya there," and he gestured to the back of the man, "And that's doctor Carter." And he gestured to the back of the woman. "They don't get along, but it's very productive and they haven't broken anything yet. There's an office pool about when the sexual tension will break, but I suspect his Benefactor would break her neck."

Carson smiled. "Rodney.... My Companion trained with him. They were friends at the Cambridge Companion Institution. You're right, I've only met Acastus Kolya recently but he struck me as the possessive type."

His eyes were drawn to Rodney's figure and he felt half guilty and watching him without John there.

John was insecure because of Rodney. John thought he was second, but Rodney was someone that Carson didn't know, hadn't communicated all those years with. There was no reason for Carson to want him over the intelligent, eager young man who bore his brand.

"Oh, well, I'm glad they know each other. Sometimes I think Doctor Kolya is insecure because he's currently the only companion here. The lead Physician was, but..."

"Aye, I gathered that she died in the line of duty?" Carson said. He couldn't help it. Every time he saw Rodney there was a sense of sureness that he should be his.

But he cared deeply for John. He loved him even if he was waiting for the right moment to say it to him when John might believe it. He didn't want to hurt him any more.

He wanted to be worthy of the kind of intensity John gave to him, the bright want in his eyes. "She did, yes. Died due to injuries incurred treating wounded off world. She went valiantly."

And in front of them, Doctor Kolya and Doctor Carter looked all of three seconds from a cat fight.

"I'm telling you that if you put that crystal in that location, we're going to go blind from the sparks because it's WRONG."

"Then tell me why it's going to do that," Sam replied in an equally terse tone. "You can't just announce that sort of thing and not say way. There's no reason for this to overload here!"

"There's every reason! Look at the way the power conduits around it are functioning, for a start. You'll be leaving three separate channels with power flowing to them, and no clear connection made against them!"

It made Carson smile. It was that brightness, that snapping of thoughts that had attracted him in the first place and he wasn't as physically attractive as John but he had a sort of magnetic personality.

"I'm not blind Rodney. The power won't be flowing into that conduit because we haven't reinitialized the mechanism. That's the whole point!" Sam replied.

"This is way over my head," Carson murmured to Dr Lee. "Very impressive though."

"It doesn't matter -- the power source is connected, initialized or not! Look, just shove it in and prove me right!"

Obviously Dr Carter had had enough so she retorted. "Fine, I will," and promptly put it in.

For a moment it looked like she had been right and Rodney wrong and she was in the middle of saying. "There, see? There's..." when something shorted and there was a flash and a literal shower of sparks made him flinch.

"Bloody hell!" Carson said automatically moving forward.

"Hah! Hah, I told you, you stupid, stupid--" Rodney jerked back in the next shower of sparks, and stuck a hand out to grab the piece to pull it out, where they probably all should have fled.

The sparks stopped and Carson found himself standing there a little at a loss. "Uh...are the both are you all right?" he asked, aware he had pretty much run there.

"My fingers are suffering because Doctor 'I know what I'm doing, I'm the product of a public school education where they teach to the lowest common denominator' had to prove me right again, and..." And he turned and saw it was Carson, and went still.

Carson twitched a smile a moment. "Dr Lee, would it be all right if perhaps I made sure that Rodn- Dr Kolya's injuries and Dr Carters if she has any are dealt with?"

"Oh, yes, that's fine, if you're volunteering." Lee seemed to actually like that idea, and it might help diffuse some of the tension in the room. Rodney started to stand up, and Doctor Lee smiled at both of them as Doctor Carter started to stand, too. "Doctor Carter, Doctor Kolya, this is Doctor Beckett. He's just joined us as our new geneticist."

Carson waved just a little before moving over, briefly checking them over.

"It's just a few scorch marks," Dr Carter said.

"From an unexpected source and an unpredictable energy system," Carson said quickly looking over her hand. "And even if they are normal, I'm thinking you might want to have the burns covered otherwise they will be infected."

"If one of her limbs rots off, she gets partial disability. I think she's trying to cash in," Rodney deadpanned, but quieter now that Carson was that close. Sometimes benefactors made companions nervous, and Carson wasn't sure what they were told in Companion schools that made it so.

"Well I'm sure it will only take a few moments," Carson replied. "The Infirmary is this way yes?"

"Mm, back the way you came." He looked sideways to Doctor Carter, who looked half ready to protect, but he moved to follow Carson when he started to walk.

Carson hoped he wasn't coming across as too pushy, but it was as much to show Dr Lee that in the end people were at the heart of what he did. It wasn't far to the Infirmary and it was a busy looking place.

He wasn't going to go overboard and demand scans or anything but he did make a show of looking at Dr Carters finger carefully, putting on some salve and putting a dressing over one large blister. "There now, not so bad was it?"

No, thank you Dr Beckett," Sam said with a small smile as if she found the need for a dressing very much overkill. Of course she was one of the away teams so most likely she was more than used to burns and minor injuries. "I'll go back and see what the damage is while you see to Rodney."

Carson nodded and turned his attention to the companion who was waiting. "Now let's take a proper look at your hands Rod...uh, Dr Kolya. Sorry, I'm so used to John referring to you as Rodney I keep getting mixed up."

"Huh. I didn't think he'd talk about me much." He held his hands out, but was glancing around the infirmary more than at Carson. "This is sort of an ignominious way to meet you. Welcome to the SGC, I suppose."

"Thank you," Carson said and gently took his hands...and was totally unprepared for the jolt that contact gave him. He'd hoped there would be a quiet neutral reaction, something to persuade him that what he remembered feeling had been distorted romanticized memories of a over a decade ago. Rodney was still a teenager for gods' sake.

He glanced up at Rodney to see if he had noticed anything, not sure whether he wanted him to, or hoped he felt nothing.

After all, there was nothing to be done about it, and John... It felt as if he were cheating on John just by standing there with the other Companion. Rodney was quiet, though, even if his eyes shifted to watch Carson's fingers on his own. "So, you're Johns magnanimous Benefactor..."

"Aye. Johns very lucky Benefactor," Carson replied. "I'm very glad you're here, because he talks about you often. Even before we knew you were here."

He was pretty sure not even John was aware how often he said "Rodney once..." or "Rodney said..." or told him some anecdote of the two of them from back at the Companion Institute

But he did, and it made Carson glad that the two of them would hopefully have time to spend face to face. Rodney shifted, and he looked up at Carson, eyes a sharper, more alert shade of blue than Carson had expected. "He's going to end up assigned to a gate team, so hopefully I'll see him around. He's good company."

Carson nodded. "Let me just clean off these blisters a moment and then you'll be fine," he said as he smiled back.

He was not obsessed with another man's Companion. He wasn't cheating on his own Companion by half wanting another. It wasn't right, and he wasn't going to do anything aside from love his own.

There was nothing to not love about John, and everything to love, and he just needed to get his head on straight. It was like that girl he'd had a crush on early in his medical schooling. One of those people who were fine from afar, when they seemed impossible, and when the opportunity arose, well, it wasn't worth it.

Rodney was probably hell to live with, he decided as he wiped over Rodney's fingers, and Rodney watched all of his motions. After all, he'd been in the middle of that argument, and yes he'd been right, but there was being right and there was acting rational and not gloating like that. "If you're looking at genetics, you should look at Gate Team one's samples first. Just as a heads up."

"Any particular reason why?" Carson asked, though he was pretty sure that he knew the answer. He just wanted Rodney to keep talking.

"Because I like to hear Doctor Carter bitch about medical testing." Rodney's grin was crooked, wide-mouthed, and there was a bit of an air about him that he was a little boy pulling Doctor Carter's non-existent pigtails. "At once point, a Goa'uld integrated itself into her body, among other things. She can use their technology now, so there had to have been a genetic change, because their better weaponry doesn't respond to normal Tau'ri."

Unfamiliar words except out of dry reports. "I have to admit I am interested in this tendency for weapons and technology to be keyed to a genetic code," Carson replied. "Is there a test to see who can work what?"

"Nope. It's trial and error. Sometimes something won't work because it's broken, and sometimes it won't work because you don't have the... Gene, I suppose." Rodney waved a hand slightly, the one Carson had finished checking and sticking bandages onto the edges of his fingers that were slightly blistered. "Huh, Acastus is going to hate this. I didn't realize it was that conductive when I pulled it back out."

"I'm sure he'll be sympathetic," Carson replied already thinking that half the battle might be working out a solid defining test for various technologies so you could be sure if a device was functional or broken, and knowing who stood a chance. "And they are minor burns. Just a wee bit sore."

"Yeah, well... We have dinner with a senator tonight." Rodney's face scrunched up a little, and Carson could imagine that Rodney enjoyed events like that about as much as John liked it when he'd had his wisdom teeth taken out.

"Then perhaps you should wear gloves?" Carson suggested. "You work in a military base - they are bound to have dress uniform gloves here. Surely they will understand the hazards of your work?"

"There's a fine line around here between being a Companion and really being a Companion and being seen as fair game. You have to be the alpha dog in the pack just to not get taken out. John understands that." And there was a strange implication that Carson should, too, from the tilt of his voice. "Thanks for the patch-up."

"No problem," Carson replied stepping back. It explained a lot about why Rodney had been so forceful with his opinions with Dr Carter. He needed to be high enough to protect himself. He felt a sudden chill at the prospects for John. Was the only safe place going to be leading a squad? Because they wouldn't give a nineteen, going on twenty year old that, not for a goodly while. "You ever need patching up again Rodney, I'll be more than pleased to help you."

That brought another bare quirk of a smile to Rodney's lips. "Thanks. Thanks. I appreciate that. I haven't..." He waved fingers again, bandaged tips catching Carson's eyes. "Doctor Frasier was great. Really great. She had a son with her benefactor and he let her do what she wanted, and she was just really great." And it seemed like Carson was being held up to the standard of her, which since he'd been hired on as a geneticist and not a general physician was a wee bit disturbing.

"Sometimes it helps to have someone who understand the situation," Carson replied, wondering what had happened to the smiling youngster and boisterous Rodney of John's stories. "Anyway, I best get on to my lab, start delving into the mysteries of the universe."

"Good luck." He shifted, slipped off the examining table, and turned to see himself out of the infirmary. There was more going on than there seemed to be, and a lot of politicking to be done for someone so young. It was hard to think that Rodney was younger than John, and already holding a Doctorate. Maybe that was where the boisterous Rodney of John's stories had gone, eaten by Academia.

On the other hand John was a pilot at nineteen with the Companion equivalent of a Masters in Maths which was nothing to dismiss, so maybe he'd find out more as time went on. He turned to introduce himself to the other Infirmary members, hoping that John was not having any problems for being a Companion wherever they had him assigned.

He'd never seen guns that fantastic. Not ever, not even in training, and he definitely knew how to shoot a gun. And here he was, being issued his very own submachine gun, while he waited for the commander of the Gate-Team that wanted him to come down to the armory.

It wasn't being up in the air, but he'd been promised he'd have flight time. Off planet flight time, with a team that went off planet. The off-planet part was having as much trouble sinking into his head as the idea of a personal submachine gun.

John was trying not to grin inanely at everyone, because this had to be the best job ever. At least he understood now why Rodney's letters had been so sparse on work details because this was completely classified and then some. And he got to explore alien planets, he got to have shiny guns - okay, secretly that part of him was still about 12 - and he got to fly cool planes, or fighters which could go into space!

That was so much more than he ever thought he could do. And to think some Companions did nothing but stay at home all day.

That was insane. And he'd thought that flight school and all of that training and field work and schooling had been hard and fantastic at the same time. Now when the work day was over, he could go home to his Benefactor and feel like he'd really done something.

Colonel Cameron Mitchell smiled, and handed John a magazine for the gun. "Your commander is a real fan of firearms, so you'll be going down to the shooting range today after you meet the rest of your squad. You're gunna be the youngest guy there, but I think you'll be able to hold up on your own."

"Glad you think so sir," he replied. He'd done well in the field section of his air force training. "I wasn't sure if I'd be assigned to a squad immediately."

"We're at war right now, Lieutenant. Now, it's a pretty low key, calm war, but it's a war. Every mission we can put forwards is a great step for us. You're smart and there's no reason to have you sitting around getting acclimated. Now, Kolya's Stargate team is Gate-Team five. So, you're not going on first contact missions. But the work you do is important for our Intel and for maintaining our relations with our allies."

"Yes sir," he said nodding even as he loaded the clip, trying to appear calm and professional as he did so and put the safety on processing what he said. "You said Kolya sir? Is that Benefactor Kolya?"

"Yes. Do you know him?" Knew of him, but John wasn't quite sure how to progress. "There's a Doctor Kolya, too, Benefactor Kolya's Companion. He's a real pain in the ass, and I'm sure he'll be doing field work as soon as he's old enough. You have to be 19 before we'll put you in the field, so you've got two years on the kid."

John smiled a little. "Yeah, I was in Companion training with Rodney, and I've met Benefactor Kolya once," he said. "Rodney has a way about him but he's as smart as he thinks he is... sir. "

He was also faintly relieved Rodney wasn't going off world. He knew what he was like. Any sort of mystery and he want to figure it all out there and then. He neglected to mention the one time that he had seen his soon to be commander he had been naked and having a device shoved up inside his ass. Somehow he didn't think that would give the right impression.

There were some things that the normals just didn't need to know. Didn't seem to know, either.

"Oh, he's smart. Still doesn't make him any less of a pain in the ass. I figured you'd do better placed with the only other Benefactor on the base who isn't yours because he... gets your guys' system. Anyway, uh... how's your gun feel? Make sure you get a handle of the balance, it's a bullpup configuration, so the weight's at the back."

"Feel good sir," John replied with a grin. "Don't think it will take me too long to get my eye in for this one."

Colonel Mitchell seemed pretty cool. He had a mixture of determination, focus and laid back mellow going on which was pretty weird. But from the people he'd met here, weird seemed to be a survival trait.

If Rodney was managing just fine there, Weird was definitely required.

"Good. So, Lt. Beckett, what--"

"I'm sorry if I am running behind, Colonel Mitchell." John heard the man's voice before he saw him or heard his boots on the cool concrete floors. Accented, rich and that seeming-ease that Mitchell had. "Sergeant Bates was briefing me on our mission schedule for the foreseeable future.:

John immediately drew himself to attention. There were a whole lot of conditioned reflexes he had to the presence of a Benefactor that he had to be careful about.

"No problem Major," Mitchell replied. "Just getting to know the Lieutenant here."

It was a struggle to remember to salute rather than drop to his knees, because that was what his mind was telling him he should do. But he managed it.

Companions deferred, while soldiers respected with a different type of deference than John was completely willing to give. The fact that he didn't drop was something that made his stomach twist up a little. "Good. Lieutenant Beckett, I'm Major Acastus Kolya, Russian Space Forces. The SGC is a multicultural alliance at work, and I look forwards to having a new officer in my unit."

"I look forward to being in your unit sir, and hope I do not disappoint." John nearly winced. It was too easy to fall into the drilled in formula's of submission and serving they had been taught.

It didn't help that Kolya laughed, and slapped him lightly on the back. "Come along, Lieutenant. I want to see how well you handle a gun before you meet the rest of the unit. If that's all, Colonel Mitchell....?"

"Oh yeah, sure..." Mitchell waved them off. "Gotta go see if Daniel and Vala have killed each other yet. It's a Monday - they always try on a Monday."

John smiled as he turned towards Kolya, ready to follow him.

He half wished he could have followed Mitchell, because Kolya was watching him. He wasn't sure if he was sizing John up, or what, but it was pulling at him, making him want to defer. Acastus had that air about him that could have made any companion feel a little weak-kneed. "I take it that you and Doctor Beckett are settling into the area well?"

"Yes sir," John replied aware that he had quietened, was moving more smoothly and deliberately than he usually did. Companion Manners. "It has been a very interesting experience."

"I'm sure. You were... quite the spectacle at your presentation, Lieutenant. You don't know, I'm sure, but you're the talk of petty social circles that exist among Benefactors." He walked without even looking at John, casual and easy.

"I am?" John was surprised and then belatedly added "sir?". Surely people had seen Presentations before?

"Yes. You looked as if you were in ecstasy the entire time. It was..." Kolya gestured vaguely. "Well, I think most benefactors envy yours for his Choice."

That was ironic considering John knew Carson envied Kolya. "I was a little keyed up sir," he admitted. "Nineteen years is a long time."

He laughed, looking comfortable with himself as he led John down a side hallway, towards the dull thudding sounds of percussive shots. "It is. But you were truly a work of art on that stage. That kind of submissive ability isn't going to be a problem for you on missions, is it?"

"No sir," John said immediately. "That is most likely due to your Benefactor status. Companions have certain protocols that are reinforced regarding Benefactors."

"My Benefactor status?" The man turned a little, stopped in the hallway. "I was talking about your presentation, Lieutenant. What are you talking about?"

John hesitated. He wanted to say 'nothing', but that was obviously not going to fly. "Sorry sir, I thought you were referring to me now. I uh....sorry sir."

"You want to submit to me?" Another laugh, but it tipped a little darker than John would have liked, quieter. "Well, that's very interesting. I'm sure you'd be beautiful if you did."

John flushed. That wasn't what he meant and that was a hell of a thing to say to his commanding officer. "I didn't mean... Companions have certain reflexes around Benefactors sir."

"I know." He gave John a sharp, crooked smile, that didn't match the way his eyes seemed to rove over John's uniform, stripping it away. "I'm teasing, Lieutenant. A joke. I know Rodney says my sense of humor is a bit flat, but only sometimes do I understand how bad it is. Go on, the firing range is ahead."

He didn't dare open his mouth for fear of putting his foot in it, even as he stepped into a the firing range and waited for Kolya to give him an indication of what he would be firing. There were weapons in a rack he had never seen before, as well as handguns and P-90's.

He knew how to handle a handgun, and he supposed one of the rack weapons were something he'd have to ask after, but for the moment, he had the p-90 of his very own, and a clip for it. Kolya handed him a set of covers for his ears, and slipped his own on, in silent permission.

He took a moment, feeling the weight of the gun, squeezing off a smatter of test bullets to get the feel of it, and then concentrated. He felt the shots more than heard them and knew he was hitting in the centre rings. It was a sweet gun to have as standard issue. Nothing but the best.

"There we go!" It was muffled, and Kolya had to have been shouting for him to hear at all. "Not so tight to the body, though. The cases discharge down and you'll wound yourself if you hug it!" And then there were hands on him, manipulating the tilt of his elbow, the angle of his body.

He nodded and tried again on a clean target sheet and he had been right. The posture helped and there was a dead on cluster in the centre of the target and he forgot about his embarrassment for a moment. "Cool..."

"That's good! One more sheet. You're going to feel it shortly. Takes time to build up a resistance to it!" And he was probably going to end up cycling through other weapons before they left, too. There was a cool thing that looked like a, like a, well, it looked like of like a strange dildo, which made John really hope it was a gun.

That was one Opener type clone that he didn't want anywhere near his ass. "Yes sir!" he replied and repeated his performance again which was good in that it showed it wasn't a fluke. He stopped after that shot and pushed off his ear covers hoping he had at least impressed his commander.

It seemed he had, because the man was smiling, and nodding approvingly as he came towards John, taking his own off. "Good! Now get a revolver and a 'Zat down, and we'll practice with those. We use the 'Zats sparingly unless we know we have to."

A 'zat appeared to be the fearsome dildo look-alike and John examined it even as he brought it back. He startled a little when he managed to make it activate. "What does it do sir?" he asked curiously. Obviously a point and fire but did it have recoil? Was it some massive energy discharge?

"The first shot sends a victim into paralyzing pain. The second kills. The third disintegrates the body." He took it out of John's hands in a solemn-seeming motion. "If you can aim anything, you can aim this."

"Does it produce a single bolt of energy or a stream of it sir?" he asked, trying to get an idea of how it work. It seemed obvious but in his experience the obvious things were the ones that tripped you up.

One bolt. I'd have you fire at a paper target, but it would not mark the paper."

"Not the sort of thing you can exactly practice with then sir," John replied. "Do you wish me to use the hand gun?"

"Yes. It's much like firing one."

Handguns he knew he was a dead shot with. He had more experience with them than with guns like the P-90. He ensured it was loaded, slipped on the ear covers and then took his shots at the target. Even without a warm up he was dead on and he allowed himself a slight smile. If the 'zat was like a handgun, he could handle it. He was sure of that.

It was easy to do that, easy to lower the gun and turn to look at Kolya, catching sight of the man's smile again as he slipped his ear covers off. "Good. I think I can say I'm willing to have you on my unit now. Come along, and I will introduce them to you.:"

John smiled. Embarrassing introductions aside, it seemed he had pulled himself back from looking like a complete idiot in front of his new commander. Maybe it wouldn't be long until he went off world after all.

It had taken time to get used to it.

Not that he'd been given time to get used to it, no. He'd gone from hopeful and starry eyed to realizing that the world was a really complicated place and he had other duties to see to than the simple, oh, saving of the world and going home to be a Companion, in with all of his schooling and thesis work. No, he'd had to worry about lying and putting on a presentation, and it wasn't anything he was good at, wasn't anything he excelled at naturally. There was training, sure, but he always felt three steps to the left of where he should have been, always felt like he was losing his grip even when he had a firm grip.

A very firm grip, fingers clutching over the fabric of the man's pants. His back was pressed up against the hotel room door, and his head was resting part against wood because this guy liked to be in control, and Kolya had slyly whispered to him that Rodney was very eager to please, and very into rough play. And Rodney had smiled because it was what he was supposed to do. And he'd cleaned carefully before the meeting had 'happened', inside and out, shaved even though it itched like all hell, carefully combed his hair. It was starting to go brown-blond, so Kolya had him go to get it highlighted once a month.

His life was about maintenance. Maintenance of his body, his hair, his face, his clean-shaven look, his musculature, his mind. He couldn't just be a companion, one of the ones who let themselves go a little, a lot, but were still loved and loved back, no, he had to be, be perfect. His mind wasn't even good enough anymore.

"Oh like that don't you?" the man's voice said as he pushed close. "Not often I get Companion sex..."

The man smirked a little as the hold on him tightened. "Kolya must really want to impress me if he's letting me borrow you. I'm not stupid."

But he was, he had to be to know this was a gift with strings attached and to still take it.

Rodney exhaled, pressed his fingers in close against the man's dress pants, a downward motion with a rub before he started to try to fumble blindly for the man's zipper. "But you know what you want." And he could have kissed him back, but he waited. Some of them, men like that, did better when they thought he liked it but didn't want to participate eagerly. Because there was that feeling there, that they were forcing him a little, and they liked that, and Acastus had explained it all to Rodney once upon a time, but now it was more a functional theory than a conversation sitting on the sofa. Because Acastus was one of those men, and he knew that Rodney was 100 percent willing to please, but over time, Rodney had grown less willing, less flexible, and Acastus had seemed to like that, too. He liked to take 'sloppy seconds' when Rodney got home, liked to hear Rodney tell him what had happened, and then he'd curl behind Rodney in bed and sleep while Rodney wondered where he fit into the equation. He was like a proxy, a conduit, Kolya sticking his dick in other men's semen and loving it and it made his head hurt to try to understand.

"Yeah...I do." The man's eyes were blue and shifted from amiable and harmless to sharp and dangerous in a blink. He was a lot older than he was, older even than Acastus and he got the feeling that he was wrapped up in lies and deceit somehow, but it wasn't his job to unravel that. It was his job to do as he Benefactor said and if that meant being fucked by someone if Acastus gave his permission then that was what he would do.

"Yeah, get me ready...I want to fuck you..."

He barely had room to move, pressed up against the back of the hotel door like that, but he shifted his balance, shifted his knees, and slide with his back against the door to his knees. He could unbuckle the man's belt, let his pants hang loose, while he slipped a hand in to work into the man's underwear. Boxer briefs, tight to the body, grey. Rodney could already smell him, that warm-musk smell he was used to by then.

This was nothing like Practicum explanations of sex. It was nothing like even what he had done with John, illicit jerking off after hours. There was something mechanical about the process, none of the awe and wonder he had been taught about. He started to believe the warnings of falling too deeply, being overwhelmed by need were myths because though he responded it was hollow.

"Oh yeah... better." There was a hand gripping roughly in his hair and he wasn't even sure if he could remember the guy's name properly.

Hairy, Hairy, well, he was a hairy bastard, so Harry sounded right, clicked something in his mind, but he didn't need to talk, didn't want to talk when he was pulling the man's dick out, looking it eye to so called eye for a moment before he looked up and made a show of sucking on him. The show helped him, gave him time to mentally draw it out, gave him time to fantasize a little while he slurped along the man's dick. Average sized, comfortable and easy to suck down. The first few had been hard, because there'd been something a little mentally sacred about his fantasies and he hadn't wanted to taint them, but how could he taint something that was never going to happen? He fantasized about that feeling of falling, about what how he wished Acastus was, about John and now about John and his Benefactor together. They were just beautiful together, and he could almost see the way John lit up a little to see Carson. He wanted that. He wanted....

Fuck, he needed his hair in his god-damned scalp, not in that man's fingers!

He must've made a noise because he heard a rough laugh and the grip tightened. "You know...I think Acastus gets off on imagining what I'm doing to you. He had that look in his eye. He'll have to do something about that if he wants to play in the NID's sandbox. Harder, suck harder.."

Carson had been kind to him, gentle with him and kept alive that spark of hope that somewhere the whole Benefactor Companion relationship wasn't a lie. He'd seen John at his presentation and that image was one he turned to over and over for inspiration and motivation.

That was the epitome, really. That was how it was supposed to be, because there was something poetic about it, and it wasn't even the kind of poetry that Rodney hated.

He sucked harder, choked a little, and just kept on, kept going, jaw aching and lips stretched. Acastus said he liked the look, liked how Rodney got quiet when his face felt that abused.

"Stop..." Harry ordered in a rough tone. He backed up the command with a rough sharp twist to Rodney's left nipple. "Stop. Only got time for one orgasm tonight, and I'm not going to waste it on your mouth."

Rodney pulled back, breathing hard, and he lifted fingers to wipe at his mouth. "Sorry. I get carried away..." He kept one hand on Harry's dick, barely touching it, but waiting for the next order.

Harry seemed to be considering. "Y'know... you go into the military, you get used to a few things. Getting grabbed after light's out, pushed up against the wall in the showers until you work out how to be the one doing the pushing. It's all about rough hard and fast. You could die in the next few minutes so you gotta work with what you've got. After a while nothing seems quite as sharp and bright."

His hand moved with surprising speed and gripped Rodney around the throat tightly, pushing him hard against the wall. "I'm gonna fuck you like you're a raw recruit..."

Rodney swallowed, and his adam's apple pressed, caught against the man's tight fingers. Fuck, fuck, breathing was hard, and eking out 'Yes, sir' was harder, and he was glad that he was mostly naked already and that Acastus wasn't a huge freak about condoms, because he was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be in the picture.

He was dragged up, onto his feet and then the grip around his throat released and he found himself twisted and pushed up hard against the wall and hands ripping at his underwear, and then hands on his shoulders holding him still even as he felt the older man slide down the crack is his ass looking for a point of entry.

There was only one and it really wasn't that fucking hard to find, but it hurt, oh, fuck, hurt hurt when he pushed in hard, and Rodney didn't have to fake his pain reaction, didn't have to fake his struggle of trying to push away from the wall, of trying to get Harry off of him, but he didn't lash out, just wished he'd thought to pre-lube himself before he got there. He was going to have to start trying that. He was, yes, if he focused on that thought...

It was a way of controlling the situation is small way, because right now he felt completely out of control as the larger man held him there, pushed at him, thrust into him with a grunt of enjoyment every time. This was what he wanted. It wasn't what Rodney wanted but it was what his Benefactor wanted and that was something. Even if he hated it.

At least someone was getting out of it what they wanted. Because what Rodney wanted existed only in his head and he was pretty proud of his bright imagination because he was anywhere but there. He was back at school, he was on an airplane looking down, he was at work watching objects of impossible age light up, he was at home with a side of his Benefactor that didn't exist, but who cherished Rodney the way he'd always been lied to and told he would be, and he wasn't there, no, he was anywhere but there because he could still feel fingers tightening on his hips, bruising, crushing him up against the wall so there was no space between textured surface and his dick and all Rodney could do was hope he didn't lose his balance and fall because he couldn't brace himself like that and everything hurt.

He just wanted the guy to come and then he could go home, get patched up, whatever. He closed his eyes and let the jarring thrusts dissolve into warm liquid heat inside of him and Harry slow up and breathing deeply pull away.


Rodney let his fingers claw against the wall, trying to keep his balance. He probably had friction burn on his dick, and he was having trouble breathing, sucking in shudders of air that, well, he wasn't going to break down or give into emotion. There was no point, no-one to pick him up and shake him out and say 'you're okay, it's okay'. He took a half a step from the wall, enough that he could brace himself and fight against the kicked in the gut feeling, hesitant to move because sometimes, guys liked to admire their handy-work.

Harry it seemed, thought he was only worth a glance as he slipped on a uniform jacket. "You did good kid. You can tell your Benefactor that. I've got a meeting to be at."

Sure. Yeah. "Good luck." Rodney swallowed, barely managed to say that as he did step back, leaning hard against the wall now. Meeting. He probably felt great, his whole day made better for an opportunity to do something he probably didn't get a chance to do much anymore.

"Get yourself seen to," Harry said and left the room, leaving him on the verge of collapse, wondering what to do. He should go back to Kolya but...he hurt. A lot.

And Harry had been fast. And if he went home, when he went home, there'd be no sympathy, no, no treatment because it was all on his own head to maintain himself. And that was part of maintaining. Don't come back too injured, or get himself seen before he got there.

It wasn't the kind of decisions he wanted to have to make, not when he stumbled back from the wall, and thought about sitting down, and then decided against it because he'd just have to stand un again and he wouldn't want to. He bent, picked up his underwear and wiped his ass with it, cleaning himself up a little before he wandered to the corner of the room to retrieve the camera he'd placed earlier.

He could stop by the SGC infirmary. Doctor Frasier had been quiet when he went there for things like that, sympathetic and understanding. Maybe Carson would be on duty.

Carson tried to time his shifts to match John's away missions and right now it was pretty late and John was off with SG-5 on P3 something or the other and their day happened to be in the middle of the night for them so he was taking a quiet shift. His work was going quite well, they'd dealt with the latest off world medical emergency and he was just finishing up his first prototype test for the presence of Goa'uld DNA that could literally be done in seconds. Dr Lee had been very enthusiastic about that and planned to make it a post mission standard.

It was just the sort of thing he'd been hired to do, and it was his first big piece of proof that yes, he was excellent in his field and did belong there, because Carson could be honest with himself that he was feeling a wee bit out of his league there sometimes. Everyone else was really brilliant, and he sometimes felt he was lowering the standard of the discourse.

Admittedly he was young compared to most of them, but not many of them had had field experience and because of his Benefactor duty with the military, he had that much at least. He understood implicitly the need taking an intuitive risk to save lives, though frankly he would've liked the security of FDA approval that was never going to happen in a place like this. On the other hand it was where all the break throughs were taking place. Dr Biro was most likely going to have functioning nanites at some point in the near future and that would be a bloody amazing breakthrough.

He started to tidy up the area, checking that the few beds around him were stocked for emergencies that would, inevitably, happen. The sun rose and set, and members of the SGC came home injured. Sometimes he felt a little like one of those wives of fishermen from the stories his mother used to tell him, who sat in the window with a candle until their husband reached the shore. He was just waiting, either for the good news or the bad, same as they had done a hundred years ago.

And the odds of John coming back as a seal were actually just as high, given the bizarre nature of their line of work.

He was about to duck into his office when he saw Rodney shuffling into the infirmary, staying close to the walls, headed unerringly for him.

"Hello Rodney..." He paused and noticed the way he was moving and the paleness that indicated pain in his expression and moved to intercept him, give him some support. "Here lad, what's wrong? What's wrong?"

It was late for Rodney to be there in the first place. Carson knew he had a car, yes, because Rodney usually went home instead of waiting for his Benefactor to come back from a mission. "Had a rough night. I, uh, are you on duty?"

"Of course Rodney... here, come over to the bed here," he said frowning in concern, and hastily pulling the privacy curtains when Rodney reached the bed. "Lets take a look at you....what happened?"

"It's uh. It's... hard to explain." He started to unbutton his shirt collar, showing skin where Carson could see bruising rising up.

"Oh… oh that sort of rough night..." Carson swallowed a little. "Alright Rodney, I'll need to do an internal by the sounds of it. Are you alright with that?"

"Sure." And Carson had no idea who Rodney had had that kind of rough night with, because his Benefactor had been on another planet for the past 12 hours. Rodney started to finish shrugging out of his shirt. "Do you have a gown? My, uh, underwear didn't make it."

"Aye... aye, hold on," Carson said hastily grabbing one. "Here we are. Slip it on and make yourself as comfortable as possible on your front Rodney."

He didn't like the look of the bruises blooming on Rodney's pale skin.

And he seemed so calm about it. Rodney undressed, moving slowly, unselfconscious that Carson was half-watching him when he pulled the gown on, and laid out on his stomach. There were bruises on his hips, and one of them overlapped the branding scar on his ass.

It was all too obvious that this had happened to Rodney before and Carson found that very disturbing. Maybe Rodney was being unfaithful to his Benefactor. Maybe he'd been accosted by other people. He was more inclined to believe the latter. He put on a pair of gloves and prepared to give the rectal exam. "Rodney, I want you to tell me if you have pain or discomfort when I do this. I'm checking for tears."

"I'm already in discomfort, so I'm not sure how that's going to work as a ruler." Rodney folded his arms under his head, face tilted towards Carson.

"More discomfort then," Carson said as he eased his finger in. "Were condoms used?" He had to ask because if not he'd have to do a blood screen and that would have to be a rush job.

Rodney made a sharp almost-laugh. "No. No, he said he wanted to, to fuck me like a raw recruit, so..." The muscles on the back of Rodney's left thigh went tense. "Okay, okay, that hurts!"

"Sorry..." There was a tear and he'd have to clean it up a little. "Let me clean it up and then put something on it to numb the pain. I just need to check there aren't any more."

He did so, finding Rodney's prostate in the process.

It was easy to tell, because Rodney clenched around him tight, and he whimpered a little. "Don't, don't. My dick's all scraped up, it hurts..."

"Sorry lad," he murmured. "I'm done with that. Let me get something to take the swelling a pain down in there, then I'll see to your bruises and take some blood okay?"

How could anyone do that to him? "Rodney... was this an assault?"

"Acastus asked me to do it. It was one of his 'friends'." Rodney pressed his mouth against his forearm, and now he was starting to look shaky and uncomfortable.

"Your Benefactor asked you to..." Carson was genuinely shocked. It wasn't forbidden it was just something that conventionally most Benefactors did not do. It was a little like the old droit de seigneur. The monarch might still have the right to go and have sex with a bride on her wedding night but they pretty much didn't do it anymore. That meant all the possibilities of reporting this, getting Rodney protected were redundant. "Oh Rodney... I'm sorry."

Sorry because it meant there was nothing he could to stop this except treat him and take the pain away. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Do you think there is?" No. Not really, because it was within Acastus' rights to do what he wanted with Rodney, even as much of a waste as it struck Carson as being. And Rodney just laid there, calmly. Because he was used to it.

"Well, sadly much as I am horrified by the thought, if I did something like invoked an ancient Benefactor duel, I'd be very dead very quickly." Carson replied, being very liberal with the topical numbing agent. "So not a whole lot of use to anyone. But I can try and make this less painful for you. Or..."

No, not even the Benefactor's society of this area would do anything. It was legal. It was practically the only legal form of 'adultery' if there was express Benefactor permission. That had to be to account for marriages with a pair. Of course if it had been without permission then that was a very different matter.

"It's what Acastus wants." Rodney sounded dull and mournful when he said that. "So... so I do it."

It wasn't what Rodney deserved, Carson knew that much. He wished... but then where would that leave John?

"Did they teach you any ways to deal with it Rodney?" he asked. Maybe if it was something he had to do often then he could help with medical supplies of some sort. Things to help stretch him.

"It wasn't something we covered in practicum. Practicum was... Well, John told you. All of this great bullshit about love and service, and how to please."

And that was what John gave him all the time. And reveled in it to the point of insatiability. "It can be like that Rodney. But there are things you can do to make things more comfortable for yourself. I won't say that it will make you enjoy it any more, but I suspect it will stop you from being hurt so much."

He finished numbing and treating Rodney inside. "Turn over Rodney, I want to put something on your bruises."

Rodney shifted, moving sluggishly, and Carson couldn't quite blame him for being slow and sluggish about turning onto his back. "Okay. I'm open to ideas. Any help..."

"You need to stretch yourself more maybe use a butt plug. Self-lube. " Rodney would have difficulty buying supplies. "I will get some for you and send them with John when you meet him for dinner. Some numbing medications that can be pre-applied, things like that. I'll give you a package and John will explain them."

He leaned back on his elbows, watching Carson. "I, I appreciate it. I've been... winging it. It's not usually a problem, but this guy..."

"Rodney, if I can't help you by getting this stopped, then the least I can do is help make sure it is as bearable as possible," Carson replied as he put on fresh gloves and smoothed on salves to take down the bruising. Many of the medicines were derived from other worlds now and many were very effective. "I would suggest that you talk to your Benefactor about it, but I don't know how receptive he is."

"I'm supposed to do it, and take... care of any problems myself. It's, I'm not sure, either. I might try." Rodney tipped his head back, let Carson rub the salve over the bruising on his neck. He even sighed a little.

"Benefactors are meant to protect their Companions and Companions their Benefactors," Carson replied. "No exploit them. It might be legally permissible but this goes against the spirit of the Benefactor institution."

It went against anything Carson himself ever did, and it made him want to go home with John and check him over personally, post mission, when he did get home, just to assure himself that his own Companion was at least somewhat protected and safe still.

Rodney's mouth pulled down into a miserable line. "I wish I had what you and John have. He, he adores you."

"I know Rodney. I'm exceptionally lucky," he said. He didn't say anything about what might've been. "Hold still, I need to get a blood sample. Then you can go rest and I'll make sure that John has things for you tomorrow."

"I guess they haven't come back from the mission yet." Rodney left that dangling, and Carson was unsure if it was a statement or a question, but he was holding still.

"Not yet no. They're due back in a couple of hours," Carson said. John seemed to get on with Kolya as far as he knew. He expertly tapped for a vein and then carefully inserted the need and drew several vials of blood. "There now. All done. Take these creams - this for bruises, and this for pain inside okay?"

"Okay." Rodney took it, in a motion that vaguely reminded Carson of someone who hoarded. Like he didn't want the little jars to be taken away from him. "Thanks.:

"If you ever need any more Rodney, you just ask me... or John," Carson replied, trying to keep his growing anger under control. Selling Rodney out was bad enough. Not taking care of him was something else.

That was what a Benefactor was supposed to do. There was the privilege of owning this amazing, trained human being, but the give back on it was the care that was supposed to be taken with them, the attention. And that Rodney wasn't getting it made Carson uneasy about John being out in the field with Kolya, made him want to lavish John in attention, and somehow make it... right for Rodney. And he couldn't do that last one.

"I'll remember that."

"Good." He patted him gently, trying to reassure him in a way he wasn't sure was even possible. "I promise I'll do what I can for you Rodney."

And if Kolya stepped over the mark and made Rodney unfit for duty, he'd have him that way, that was for sure.

It was still the best job ever.

He'd stunk like hell, sure. That was what happened when you were tasked with helping a scientist catalogue some wildlife local to a planet. Because it was hot out, and Major Kolya was working on the busy part, the exchange of intel, leaving John with a scientist to protect and one other Marine to help him do it, while the guy merrily trudged through corrals and Fekteth shit. It smelled like raspberries and rot, and the Fekteth were pretty fugly critters on their own, fuzzy mammalian 'birds' that glided more than they flew. It was like big-bird if he'd had leprosy and wild feathers.

And John had been feeling high and fantastic when they rendevous'd at the Gate with no problems and stepped through, intent on meeting Carson to go home.

He was loving his job. Even if sometimes he got the shitty duty while the others did the 'fun stuff' but so far even that was great. He was quite often let guarding, or talking with locals because apparently he was good at that.

He headed towards the showers, and then there would be the Infirmary check up which was always fun.

It was usually more fun if Carson was there, because Carson would smile too much and ask too many questions and stroke the inside of his arm like he really had to look for John's veins when they just about rolled over and begged to be stuck for samples. Carson would love hearing about the Fekteths, and their biologist would have loved to have taken one of the 'kits' home with him, John had a feeling, but that was a huge no.

He knew Carson arranged to be on duty when he could to be there at the same time if he could, but he couldn't remember if they were late back or not. The others in the squad were keeping a distance from him occasionally tossing out good humored jibes about his stench even as they went off to get their post mission check up. By the time he had scrubbed up so he only stank of raspberries, rather than rot the others were out of the Infirmary.

He passed Kolya in the hallway, and the man threw him a smile as he walked on to his office. Mission report, right. John had only had to write one of those so far, and he was pretty glad he was getting eased into that part of things.

That's what happened when you were top of the heap. That heap was made of increasing paperwork. He strolled into the Infirmary and smiled when he saw Carson there and headed over to him. "Hey Doc, wanna do a checkup?"

But when Carson turned he had that thoughtful worried look that meant he was obsessing over something. He was starting to recognize those looks.

"Aye John. Up you hop, I'll be right there."

"I spent today learning about birds. How was your day?" Sometimes a little glib distraction helped Carson, so John followed his instructions pretty smoothly even as he asked that.

"Fairly interesting," Carson replied and John noticed him glancing around as if checking everything was okay. " Major Kolya okay with you in his team? I mean, he doesn't do anything to make you uncomfortable does he?"

"Sometimes he's a little overbearing, but most commanders are. Why?" It was a pretty strange question for Carson to ask.

Carson looked uncomfortable. "I'm worried about Rodney. I had to treat him today and..." The doctor lowered his voice. "And Kolya is not treating him well."

"What?" It made John sit up a little straighter, and he wished he hadn't because there was a needle in his arm already. "Ow, wait, what happened?"

"Shush... keep your voice down." Carson said, restraining him with a hand on his arm. "As far as I can work out he has been giving permission for other people to have sex with Rodney and they are not gentle with him. I think it must be for influence, I'm not sure. But he doesn't even take care of him afterwards."

"So while he was offworld, Rodney was off..." John made a quick gesture with his free hand that looked a lot like masturbation. "Where's Rodney now?"

"I think he's waiting for Kolya in the lab. I wanted to get him some supplies. I did say tomorrow but ... it did occur to me you might have a ...uh...butt plug in your locker after last week and..."

It amazed him that Carson could actually blush about what they did together. Half the time it was his idea.

"I might." He dragged that out a little, even as he nodded. Yeah, he had a butt plug because it felt good and some days at work weren't off world days, and because between them, he and Carson had some pretty fun ideas about sex. "I don't see how that relates to anything."

"He needs to ..uh...prepare himself a little more thoroughly. He might not become as injured. I need you to talk about it with him John, because I can't stop it." Carson said and it was obviously really really bothering him.

It bothered John, too, because Rodney was... Rodney. Rodney just wanted his Benefactor to really love him, and now Kolya was having him do things like that? John didn't even want to imagine having sex with someone who wasn't Carson. "What'm I supposed to say? I can't just..." And Kolya was his commander. How was he supposed to look the guy straight in the eye when he knew that Kolya wasn't just obnoxious and neglectful, which Rodney had always written about, but cruel on top of it?

"I want you to explain how he can prepare himself and use that plug. And to just let him know that we'll be here, that he's got someone who cares about whether he hurt or not." Carson said.

"If it ever goes too far I will report Kolya to the SGC but ...I can't right now. And I'm not going to do nothing to force that situation."

"What good does reporting it do?" As far as John knew, if a Benefactor wanted to hurt their companion, they could. It was a miracle that it had only recently been made illegal to kill a companion.

"If there is a breach of contract, any participants face an inquiry. If that happens word would get around and people wouldn't take up the offer," Carson said and sighed. "It's a weak possibility but better than nothing. Can you do that for me John? It's a little dubious if other Benefactors approach someone else's Companion."

"Yeah. I'll keep all of this in mind about the Major." John pitched his voice quiet, and looked around. "Are we almost done? Because I don't know how long it's going to take him to type 'And Lieutenant Beckett fell in Fekteth shit.'"

"I'll meet you at the car." Carson felt wrong, out of focus, angry and repressed at the same time, and John didn't know how to handle that when they were at work, so he hopped off of the table, and looked at Carson for a moment. "It's okay. Maybe just knowing he has friends will help."

"Thank you John, I appreciate it." Carson said relieved. "I just wanted to help him some more. But I can't and it doesn't seem right. I'll see you in a while."

"Sure." He could, and was going to head to the locker room quick, grab the butt plug, and hey, he had some lube in there, too, and he could get more of both. The plug would have to be sterilized, but Rodney could do shit like that in his sleep.

By the time he hunted down all the various things he needed, and tracked down Rodney, he was feeling a little short on time. Even so, he still paused at the entrance to Rodney's lab, knocking a little so he didn't surprise him.

Rodney seemed to startle a little, and then he went still, and turned his head. "Oh, John. Hey. I didn't know you guys were back yet."

"Not been back long," John replied and stepped in, closing the door behind him. "Carson wanted me to come and talk to you. You feeling okay?"

Rodney didn't answer until the door was closed. "No, not really. I feel like I was just raped by a guy that Acastus wants to blackmail."

"Shit Rodney..." And it was like back at the institute when other Companions went after Rodney physically and he would stop them and pick up the pieces. He deliberately went over and sat close to him. "I'm really sorry. You think we could... uh...deviously get back at the guy?"

"No." Rodney's mouth pulled down, and he saved the file he'd been working on. "It was taped. Acastus wants something from him, and he's got the blackmail material to get it. There's no way to get back at him. I mean, I... initiated it, I suppose."

"Because he told you to," John said. "Jesus Rodney. " He put his arm around him. "I'm really sorry."

Sorry he'd ended up with what should've been Rodney's life. "Carson's really worried about you. He sent me over with some stuff in case it happens again."

"When, not if." Rodney's shoulders were tight, but he still leaned into John a little, like he always had when they were just kids. "I hate this. I hate having to think about this when there are so many other things I should be thinking about."

"I know Rodney. It's a damn waste," he said exhaling. "Look, I brought these. Happened to have them around."

He didn't quite blush saying that to Rodney. They'd done a lot of Practicum naked for a start but it was a hint of a flush of guilt.

"John, you shouldn't have." Like he was really happy to be receiving the gift of a butt plug. John knew that he'd actually been thrilled, but he'd been getting it under completely different circumstances.

“Well, I'd sterilize the hell out of it, but if you get a heads up something is going to happen, it really loosens you up. Feels pretty good too," John admitted. "I kinda had a whole sensitivity thing going on there for a while. It's faded some now but... it felt damn good. "

Rodney looked at it, turning it between his hands. "Thanks. I'm willing to try anything. That was, that was rough. I hope I don't see the guy again, because it... I think he's the worst yet. Is this at all normal seeming to you, John? Is Acastus really an anomaly, because your Benefactor seemed upset."

"I honestly don't know if he is or Carson is," John replied. "I'm not sure everything with Carson is normal either." He chuckled a little "Let's not even go into the self-lighting Opener experience. But... I get the impression that most Companions and Benefactors are somewhere in between the extremes."

In reply to that, he got silence for a moment, and then, "Wait, your opener had a light in it?"

" it ...uh..." John hesitated. "Carson was worried about me getting hurt on the Presentations so, he wanted to try it out before we went. It was their Heirloom... lots of legends, you know the sort of thing. Anyway, it looked sort of silvery and he tried it and then it uh, lit up in my ass. And I think it vibrated or something as well. Whatever it was, it was responsible for me being turned on as all hell at the Presentation."

Rodney was staring at him, and holding a butt plug in one hand, and then he twisted a little and glanced at his laptop. "Can you bring it in or draw a picture? Because we have a whole collection of items that light up in the labs. Without any obvious source of power or on and off switch. Doctors Zelenka and Grodin collect them."

"I'll ask Carson. He said he hadn't heard that it had done that with anyone else. How do they light up?" John asked curious. "I mean, with just anyone touching them? Shit here, I nearly forgot the spare lube as well. I usually have some around in case..."

Carson was seized by the urge to fuck him at work or something.

"It's like Goa'uld tech. Except we don't know what gene it's responding to or who even designed it in the first place. There's a theory that it's the people who created the Stargates." Rodney reached and took the lube, too. "Which is much more interesting for me to talk about than what happened."

"Yeah, I figured that," John replied. "I just want you to know that... you know, I'm on your side and so is Carson okay? Think you need to know that."

"I'm glad someone's on my side." Rodney dredged up a smile, even as he started to pull away from John. "I need to go see if Acastus is ready to go yet. Thanks."

"No problem buddy," John replied. "Carson's waiting as well. You need something you just ask me okay? We'll get it to you."

He just didn't think Rodney would actually ask. Rodney wasn't the asking type, and he probably wanted to pretend that what had happened hadn't happened. But he'd been hurt, and Carson was a great guy to turn to for help, so... So, they knew. Finally. After working there for seven months or so, and it had to have been going on the whole time, even before then, but Rodney hadn't ever said.

"Thanks." Rodney gave a wave, and turned to leave John alone in the lab.

If they weren't Companion's then he'd have no hesitation getting Rodney the hell away from the man, and safe. But they were and there was nothing he could do about that except try and help him.

John just hoped that would be enough.

For every upside, there was a big downside. The upside of cool missions on alien planets was meeting new people, new species, making a difference. The downside - sometimes those people, or some of those people weren't particularly happy to see them.

Sure they'd had a few close calls before, a few times of adrenalin pumping close calls. He'd even saved the lives of his team a couple of times. Even knowing what he now knew about Kolya, things had been fine on their off-world missions and nothing seemed to have happened to Rodney for a while so he relaxed. Even so, he didn't know if Kolya had always watched him as much as he seemed to be doing or whether he suspected anything. What he did know was that he had been left, as usual making nice with the relatives of the Ferelin's leader, when some sort of rival militant faction swept down on them, seizing himself and a few of the relatives as hostages.

He'd killed a few, taken out a few more, enough to show himself as dangerous and when he woke up, he was pretty successfully tied up in somewhere that looked all the world like a medieval dungeon exhibit. He guessed that as he was unknown to them, he was the expendable one to be worked over for information. Not a particularly comforting thought.

And he'd been right. It wasn't particularly cunning and it wasn't particularly invasive as far as torture went. Hitting, beating him, a little choking, a lot of threatening, and he kept repeating what he could, hoping that either his team or another team would come for him, because he didn't want to die.

But right now they'd left him here, sore and aching, grateful that he had experienced some training in this sort of thing and wondering if Carson knew he was missing. He had to by now. Even not knowing how long he had been out, they were overdue in terms of hours. And he felt a bit sick as well but that was probably from the beating or the concussion. He just hoped to god he didn't throw up like this. It was going to be humiliating enough when someone showed up to rescue him.

He didn't need to be covered in his own vomit, too. But everything was really all knotted up in his abdomen and all he could think was internal bleeding or any of the other hundred things he read about over Carson's shoulder on the weekend. Stuff punctured, and leaked and all sorts of shit went wrong in a human body, didn't it?

It was a shame Carson wasn't there to tell him 'damn right'.

The irony of the situation was that Carson had been ready to sign him off this mission because he'd been feeling a bit tired lately and he'd said he wasn't much good if being a bit tired stopped him from working.

His damn arms and legs were hurting. They'd left him tied standing, presumably so they could come back and use whatever passed for a whip or a switch around here again. He could sag against the straps but it just wasn't comfortable.

It made his arms hurt, pulled at his shoulders and the line of his back. His knees hurt, too, locked stiff from too much standing. Apparently he should have listened to his body's bitching, because it must have been a subconscious attempt to, to forestall his torture. Maybe his own death.

John really didn't want to think about it, so he waited, listened for sounds like gunfire. Like gunfire. And was that cracking noise he heard gunfire?

It was either that or his spine cracking. It wasn't easy to see much in here. They ran to torches that were flickering pretty low right now and his eyes were a bit blurry because he couldn't wipe them clean. If he was lucky it was the cavalry. If he wasn't... then he'd started hallucinating and that wasn't going to do him any good.

The noises stopped. And still no one came.

Hallucination, then. It made John's jaw clench, made him tense up in a desperate attempt to get feeling in his limbs and get his head together. He could still clench and unclench muscles, and when he did get home, he was going to get Carson to run him the biggest bath ever and he was going to sleep in it, covered in hot water. When he got home...

"Lieutenant Beckett."

He tried to twist his head around but it was yoked in place. But he knew that voice and was ridiculously relieved. He was going to make it home... He was...

"Major Kolya - thank god sir," He tried for cool and nonchalant but even he could hear the quaver in his voice. "I was beginning to think you'd all bugged out."

And the silence was eerie as the torchlight flickered in the draft of the open door.

The guy was quiet sometimes, but that wasn't the time to be quiet. He circled behind John, and John couldn't see what he was doing. "The rest of the squad is upstairs, dealing with this place. What did they do to you?"

"Worked me over some, pretty unimaginative torture." It was okay to sound dismissive now because rescue was in sight. He guessed Kolya was examining the cuffs or something but he really wasn't as okay with this as he was trying to sound. He wanted to go home.

"Guess they would've got creative soon enough...." he trailed off feeling the man's presence close behind him. Very close.

Fingers reached out, traced over a stinging mark on his back where he was maybe, just maybe, bleeding from. He wasn't sure, and as long as he kept telling himself he was all right then he was all right. "I've wanted you since your presentation."

John froze. Dread settled over him like ice. "What?....sir?" He asked as if he hadn't heard him right and suddenly he was as panicked if not more so than he had been when they were working him over. He couldn't help but shiver at that touch.

"You're beautiful. So submissive, and yet you fight. Do you see your submission to your Benefactor as special, perhaps? Sacred?" Kolya let his fingers slide down, to John's pants. At least he still had his pants on, but he had a feeling he wouldn't for long.

"Major... Acastus... please.." John was very alarmed now. "I'm not your Companion, you can't do this!" The problem was tied like this he couldn't stop him. "I'm not yours, please, don't..."

"I can do this. I've seen how your Benefactor looks at my Companion. If I give him Rodney, he won't care how hard I fuck you. Does he fuck you hard?" He started to work John's pants down, and the belted fabric scraped at his hips, pulled his underwear with him.

"He doesn't want Rodney..." but even as he said it, he knew it didn't sound like he believed it and there was still a part of him saying this was a Benefactor and he was a Companion and...

Fuck that! He started to struggle, trying to interfere with what Kolya was doing, hoping one of the others would come after him.

They were his team, and they had to know he was down there. Had to, and there was no way any of those guys would leave him down there with Kolya trying to do that to him. "He does. He wants him. I'll pay for what I do to you with Rodney's service if you tell him, and then you'll have been claimed by another Benefactor and forsaken." His fingers slid down, reached around to clutch at John's hips, spreading his asscheeks apart with what felt like his thumbs. Fuck.

And that would leave him... nowhere. Even Rodney would be better off because a rejected Companion was a pitiful thing. But he couldn't imagine Carson would allow that, would do that. Not even wanting Rodney so much.

"No! No, he knows what you're like he'll know and then this time you'll've crossed a line because he won't agree!" John knew he was babbling but he had to distract him. He was yanking at the restraints desperately now. Kolya wasn't just threatening his virtue; he was threatening his life with Carson. He raised his voice hoping to be heard, one step away from bellowing for help.

"Then I'll kill him. He's so soft. Round face, lazy body, if I stabbed him in the throat he'd bleed and bleed and no-one would know who did it." He said it calmly, even as he pressed a dry finger against John's ass hole. "Should I use a condom? Are you as much of a slut as Rodney?"

John found himself so shocked at that mental image that for a moment that he froze. "You wouldn't dare and Rodney isn't a slut. You're the fucking bastard who makes him do all those things! He doesn't want to - what type of a Benefactor are you? "

His tirade was cut off by a sharp pain in his ass.

Fuck! Fuck, he was in him, on him, holding tight to his hips while he shoved against John. It had to hurt him, Kolya, but it was hurting John worse, and what kind of insanity was that? Nothing had ever hurt like that, not even when Carson had first worked the opener into him with care. "One who knows what he wants. I want to see you cry."

Instantly he vowed that was never going to happen, and did his best to fight him off. Only whatever he did seemed to make things worse, Kolya seemed more intent rather than put off. He knew how to fight. Maybe in a fair fight if he was lucky he could take Kolya but not when he was tied up. Somehow it was important to him that he didn't just let him have what he wanted.

"Never... gonna fucking cry for you..."

He wasn't sure he could do it for Carson and he'd want to.

He needed to focus past the pain, past, past anything he could, because Kolya was laughing, biting at his shoulders and neck, shoving hard into him and it did nothing but hurt, just pain and pain when he was already in pain.

His legs gave out somewhere in the middle of it and his struggles became weaker which seemed to only spur the other man on and somewhere in the whole of it he felt something very wrong inside of him and he couldn't even explain what it was, just that it made him want to curl up in a ball and die.

It felt horrible, impossibly horrible, like an organ had just curled up and died, or detached, or he didn't know what, but when the pain and shock finally came and he couldn't fight any more because he wasn't fully conscious, it was maybe okay.

Somewhere then it finished, and he wasn't aware of anything but pain. His arms released and he dropped to floor like a stone and curled there not crying, not crying because that was what he wanted and he wasn't giving him that, and then Kolya was moving him and he heard him call out that he'd found him, that the bastards had hurt him really badly and he needed to get back to the SGC.

Liar. But the image of Carson bleeding out was there and he felt like he wasn't going to make it. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong and he couldn't move.

He had to move, but he couldn't and everything was shutting down, which was not how a rescue was supposed to go, and--

Torture then. He knew it happened, but SG-5 wasn't first contact. They were usually sent to cleared worlds, worlds where alliances were sound and there was further exploration to be done. "Get him on the stretcher," he ordered telling himself that they had the finest surgeons here, technology that made even the best equipped hospital look like a tool shed. He wouldn't die and they could fix him.

He could see cuts and bruises on his torso - Kolya had wrapped him in his jacket, but he wasn't seeing a wound. It wasn't until he ran his hands swiftly and efficiently over his pants that he realize the blood was soaking them and he had a terrible suspicion what it might mean. It filled him with an icy fear and rage but he kept it together.

"We'll need scans ASAP, possibly surgery. Ask a team to prep," he said to one of the orderlies. "John, John, can you hear me?"

"Hzzwt?" It was a bleary slur, probably less than conscious, but John was responding to a familiar voice. The situation transferred smoothly from Kolya to Carson, with John being placed on a stretcher quickly, and the other doctors hurrying him forwards, leaving the military aspect behind for the moment. They could get their post-mission checks later.

"You're back in the SGC John, you're going to be okay," Carson said. "We're moving you now... go, that's it...Try and stay with us John if you can."

That was a lot of blood even for what he thought it might be. Maybe they had done something else, used an instrument of some description. They were moving fast and Carson knew he was barking out orders but no one was stopping him right now. They wouldn't let him operate on John but he could run the tests.

"On the bed. That's it. We need ultrasound and the portable MRI. He got some sort of internal injuries!" Carson called out, immediately moving to get John's pants off. "I've got to get these off okay?"

There was another slurring mumble, and John moved a little, trying to list a knee as if to help, and that emboldened Carson to finish the job quicker. There was bruising at his front, bruising at his stomach and hips, and the blood, oh, god, that was coming from his backside all right.

"Where are the scanners we...ah..." Carson cut off as he saw them brought over and put into position. He tossed the ruined pants to one side, trying to force himself to be clinical and sensible. He tried to clean up some of the blood. Way too much coming out. "John we're going to scan you okay? It might hurt some."

He gestured for them to get on with it looking at the screen.

"Uh-huhn." John was soft-limbed, pliant now, easy to manipulate, always willing to play along with medical things. He made Carson's head hurt, because the scanning...

"Oh, holy shit -- Doctor Beckett? Is that--" Carson had always liked Doctor Kusan, but he was always prone a little towards hysterics.

"What?" and then he focused, really focused on the screen and it wasn't like he hadn't seen that before but never on a scan on a man. The blood made sudden and obvious sense if what he was seeing was real.

John was having a miscarriage.

His John was having a miscarriage, and Carson's mind reached wild places, places that were only possible if you were part of the SGC -- planet-side exposures to technology beyond their ken -- but it was still horrifying to witness.

"Doctor Beckett. Doctor Beckett..." That was Biro's voice, her hands pulling at his arm. "I need you to wait in the waiting room. Now. I can't have you in here."

"No, no I can do this." Carson tried to pull himself together. "He needs me." How to explain that he was his Benefactor and this was his Companion and there were just something's that couldn't be explained to normals.

"Then stay to the side. No more touching equipment." She stared at the screen for a moment, and exhaled, "Christ."

He was pushed away as they crowded around the bed. "Lets get some blood into him, his blood pressure is dropping. " Biro was saying. "Someone set up the endoscope laser. If we're lucky we can do with without external surgery."

Carson stared at the screen again. The aborting fetus looked to be around early two months. He thought of John's tiredness and lethargy. The stomach bugs they put down to eating cold take out and...

How had this happened? They both had a medical work up when they joined the SGC before they even reported to their superiors. It wasn't there then!

John had been fine, and they hadn't been exposed to anything strange, unless they had been without them knowing. Carson started to mentally go over John's mission stories, and he couldn't quite help but stare at the screen and then John and then the screen.

He was worried it was some sort of parasite that masqueraded as a baby. And even knowing what they might have to do, he couldn't stop watching. His hands, gloves smeared with John's blood were shaking and he'd never felt more useless in his life when he heard John protest at the endoscope.

He should have been there, holding John's hands, and he finally stepped forwards, pulling his gloves off. Fine, fine. He wouldn't be a medical Doctor just then, but he could be the insistent, asshole of a Benefactor everyone expected him to be. That was his Companion and god help him, either a parasite or an heir, but most importantly, John needed him.

He was going to be at the top even while they worked below. He pushed in past them and reached for John hand as he was propped on his side. “Shush John, It's going to be fine...I'm here," he murmured in as soothing a voice as possible.

He could hear John whine, could hear him choke and struggle to stay together. That was what John was best at doing, soldiering on even when he didn't know what was happening to him. They could have been sawing off a leg for all John seemed aware.

He stroked his cheek, brushed back his hair, took note of the cut on his scalp. "I love you John," he murmured very softly over his ear even as they carried on and he knew it would hurt when they cauterized the hemorrhage and if they had to break up the fetal bundle to get it out.

John sucked in a sharp breath, tensing, and all Carson could really do was hold onto his hands. It was probably for the better, because he didn't think he could have a steady hand for that. And he couldn't quite watch the screen, or really process that it seemed as if John had some kind of uterus.

It was almost as it was built out of part of the colon and not usually open to it, like a pocket and there were links from the prostate and the rest of the reproductive system that were just crazy.

"Found it!" Biro said with triumph and there was a quick motion and a tissue sample receptacle was filled and covered. "Just got to seal the rip..."

It was then that John screw up his face and gripped his hands so hard i was obvious he wasn't going to stand it much longer.

"For god's sake, he's awake!" He wasn't sure if snapping that made them work faster or not, but at least it felt as if some protest has been lodged on John's behalf, even if the other man seemed all of seconds away from throwing up in shock all over them.

"I know Carson... just a little longer..." Biro snapped back even as John expelled a groan and his eyes closed, his grip going slack. Unconscious and Carson checked his pulse instinctively. He was okay.

"He's out," he said almost reproachfully. "What have you found?"

"His, the uterine mouth was open, probably from trauma. We'll run tests on the tissue to see what it was. I've never seen anything like this..." Biro's voice was all frustrated awe.

"He didn't have that when we joined. We all had the parasite scans," Carson said knowing he sounded dazed. "It has to be some technology. Didn't Hathor make a pouch in General O'Neill's stomach? Could it be Goa'uld technology? He must've been exposed to something..."

But John told him everything and he would've remembered something strange like that.

There wasn't a doubt in his mind that John told him everything, and the only strange thing John had come into contact with outside of the SGC was -- "Oh, lord, the family opener."

"What?" Biro looked up. "There has been a device?"

"Aye, but it wasn't from here. It was the family Opener for John's Companion Presentation. We uh... tried it out and it, well it lit up," Carson explained rapidly. "But it's been in the family for nearly a thousand years. We've had an unbroken line, which is pretty... unusual."

On the other hand if you had a device that could get men pregnant, maybe it wasn't so unusual a thing after all.

Fertile indeed. And given his family, if it did light up for every last one of them, would they have told him about it? No. "Can you go home and bring it in? He's going to sleep for a while and... and I think we've got the tear sealed."

He nodded. "Yeah I'll get it. Can you tell his team that he going to be okay?" He had no idea how he was going to tell John exactly what had happened. How did you break that sort of news?

That he'd been pregnant and now he wasn't, because he'd miscarried, because some stupid alien culture had decided to interrogate John, and, and he didn't even know exactly what they'd done to him, but he had his suspicions. He also suspected he was going to be taking leave time to be at home with John until he healed. It still didn't help him wrap his head around what had happened.


Carson nodded and backed up. He had nothing else he could do, but he could plan to take John home and tell him all the things he'd been saving until John needed to hear them, because if he didn't need to hear them now, he'd never need him at all.

There was no good way to wake up in the Infirmary. Well, it was better than not waking up, but right now as John drifted back to consciousness and the beeping, and monitor sounds he was thinking this was pretty bad. Various parts of his body were checking in in various stages of alert, and for a while he had to try and remember why he felt like a horse had kicked him in the groin and the kidneys. Then he really wished he hadn't tried because his immediately reaction was to panic and try and scrabble awake to get to safety.

But he was in safety. He was in the infirmary, even if he was in pain and even if there was a nifty IV line going into his arm. He was safe, because Carson was around there somewhere.

He was at least on the right planet, even if nothing else had gone right.

The memory was there, sharp and tactile. Kolya. What was he going to do? He couldn't just blow the whistle because Kolya would kill Carson, and he knew that wasn't an idle threat. But he wasn't sure if he could go back to that team, face the man who raped him and serve in that group. Because how could he explain that? Fuck.

He moved a little and opened his eyes properly.

Rodney was sitting there. Sitting there with a stack of papers balanced one his knees, and a tablet computer in his arms, but he was sitting there, and John hadn't really expected that. He'd been hoping for Carson, and that Carson wasn't there made his stomach twist and sink.

He was tempted to close his eyes and try again a little later but he had a feeling things wouldn't be better then. Instead he twitched a little wave with his outstretched hand and said "Hey Rodney," like nothing untoward had happened.

Rodney seemed to startle a little, but he still managed to mechanically slide the pen for his tablet tightly away into its spot. "John! You're awake, of course you're awake, how're you feeling, do you need any drugs?"

"Uh...I'll get back to you on that," he said trying not to think about it too hard. "Kinda tired. Where's..." If he asked it would seem ungrateful. "How long've I been out?"

"About ten hours now. Doctor Carter is poking at your opener with sticks as we speak, and Biro managed to walk Carson to nap in his office. I figured I could keep you company until he woke up again." Rodney was so nonchalant when he spoke, rattled off words, but he was nervous in motion.

Carson had been here. John relaxed a little. "Thanks," he managed and frowned. "Why is Dr Carter poking at my opener?"

"Because..." Rodney started to say more, but stopped himself, mouth still slightly opened. "I think you need Carson to tell you why. No, you definitely need Carson to tell you why. It can wait. What happened to you out there, John?"

"Same as happens in a lot of field missions. Good guys- or guy captured. Good guy randomly tortured until rescuers turn up," John said looking away from Rodney's eyes. "No big deal."

"John. You don't have to tell me, but you have to tell Carson." Rodney folded his tablet and the papers together, and leaned forwards, close to the edge of John's bed. "I saw you when you all came through the gate. Acastus carried you in, and you only had his jacket on."

And he couldn't tell Rodney it was his Benefactor that had done this. Violated one of the sacrosanct edicts of the Benefactor and Companion relationship. But they would know someone had assaulted him, they were experienced doctors. "Fine Rodney, they tortured me then raped me, is that what you want to hear?"

And yeah, he was sharp and aggressive and he didn't want to be but he couldn't help it. It was like there was a bottomless pit of rage there.

Because Rodney's Benefactor had done it to him, and he couldn't even tell Rodney that, and the memory-feelings of it still lingered in his mind, chewed at his thoughts. Rodney's mouth tugged down, lips parted, and his eyebrows were still drawn together. "What? No, I just, I thought--"

His head hurt and he sighed. "Shit... sorry Rodney. I don't think I'm going to be much good as a friend for a bit." He fell silent and then said "Or a Companion."

"Companionship isn't just about the sex." Rodney leaned in, reached for one of John's hands a little tentatively, leaving whether he completed the motion entirely up to John. "You don't even want to know what I thought. Sometimes I think I'm going crazy."

He took his hand, pathetically grateful for the contact and his moods were all over the damn place. "What did you think?" he asked feeling a wave of almost palpable depression seep over him.

His life had been so good, so predictable and fantastic and unpredictable at the same time, and now it felt like everything was swept out of his control. "Acastus came back from the mission all ramped up. It... I don't know."

He shouldn't've flinched, especially not with his hand in Rodney's but he did and fuck, Rodney might be clueless at something's but he might as well have shouted, 'Yes, Acastus raped me instead of rescuing me, your Benefactor, and yeah I bet he was ramped up."

Instead he bit his lip and turned his head away.

"I'm sorry." Which Rodney never said. He could have run over John's foot with a car, and he would have snarled at John for getting in the way, and now he said he was sorry for something he had no control over.

"Not your fault Rodney," he said quietly. "Carson can't know okay? He'll kill him." He knew Kolya would make good on that threat.

"Which him will kill the other him?" Rodney's mouth quirked up a little, and his eyes slid, lingering at John's stomach, which was bizarre. "Hey. I should probably get back to work. Do you want me to wake up Carson? He'll be excited that you're awake."

He should've said let him sleep but right now he felt as shaky as he ever had in his life. "Please...If he has time to come here." What the hell was wrong with him? His emotions were swinging all over the place.

He couldn't quite think straight, and Rodney had been offering understanding, comprehension, and John had snapped at him, and... "Not a problem." Rodney tucked his work under his arm, and turned from the bed, walking a little too-quick.

The really telling thing was there was this horrible tightness in his chest and throat and a burning in his eyes that he finally realized was him teetering on the edge of crying. Fuck that, he hadn't given Kolya the tears he wanted and he wasn't just going to let them go free. He hadn't cried since the night Carson Chose him when he was six - half with relief and half because he knew he was always going to be second best.

He was still second best. Good enough for a guy to fuck, rape, but not take home, or, or John didn't know. His head hurt, and Rodney had left, and he had a little too much time to himself before Carson came into the room.

He didn't want to look at him, because some deep part of himself had been trained that sex with another Benefactor without permission was worse than adultery.

"Hello love," Carson said softly coming over and immediately taking his hand. "How're you feeling?"

And what was he supposed to say? Was he supposed to snap, like he had at Rodney, or, or.... "I don't know." He shifted his fingers in Carson's hand. Carson had big thick fingers, not a particularly delicate-looking grasp, but John's hands were still bigger. So the arrangement felt a little absurd.

"I'm not surprised," Carson said sitting with him. "I was so worried when your team reported you missing. I wanted to come after you but they wouldn't let me. I'm sure it's all very uncomfortable about now."

Carson seemed so calm, so calm that John wondered if the other doctors there had even told Carson what'd happened. He'd had sex with another Benefactor, and that was, that was going to keep bothering him. "Yeah. It is."

His other hand and finger stroked at his forehead and the messy hair there. "You look worried John... you don't need to be worried anymore love."

He was going to have to work with Kolya for the rest of his time at the SGC, and John didn't think he could. But the other option was the brutal description that Kolya had painted him, killing Carson slowly. "Just. Hard to stop doing."

"I know...I know what happened to you," Carson said and hesitated. "And you are most likely feeling unusually emotional as well."

He knew? Did he know, or did he know, and John wasn't sure what to say to that, but he nodded. "Rodney... Rodney suspects. I couldn't say it, but he... I don't know what to do."

"Aye well, being tortured and raped can have that sort of effect on a person," Carson said. "John, you don't have to do anything. I need to talk to you about what happened."

Which was just what Rodney had told John to do, but it was shit advice coming from someone whose Benefactor treated them like a whore, who couldn't keep his hands off of things that didn't belong to him, who... "Sure."

Carson looked at him. "There was a complication. The reason you were bleeding so much." He sounded very hesitant.

He hadn't even really checked out his situation, but he suddenly was afraid of things like a colostomy, or, oh, god, because if that happened there was no way that Carson would stand him for long. Sure, he seemed supportive then and there, but... "Go on."

Carson seemed to be struggling for words. "...There's just no easy way to tell a man this. I'm not joking when I'm telling you this okay?" He took a deep breath. "John, the severe bleeding was because you were having a miscarriage. You were... inexplicably pregnant. Roughly two months."

"Inexplicably pregnant." John repeated it, turned the words over in his head for a moment. Logic said that Carson had clearly gone insane, but then again logic also would have said that there was no way that John had just been held captive on an alien planet. Logic and the SGC didn't mingle well. "I was pregnant?"

"Aye. I know it is very difficult to believe, and I was completely shocked as well. Originally I was thinking maybe it was some sort of parasite you'd picked up somewhere off world, mimicking a host fetus but..." Carson shook his head. "The tissue samples apparently came back as a match to yours and my DNA. They think it was the Family Opener. It responds much as some of the alien technology here does. "

Pregnant. Pregnant meant babies, meant an heir. He'd started to miscarry Carson's heir all over another Benefactor, because he did remember the moment when pain had intensified as a knot in his stomach and now his chest hurt, his fingers squeezed tighter to Carson's hand. That was what Rodney had wanted Carson to tell him. "I, I was pregnant? And it was ours?"

"Yes John," Carson looked serious. "That's why you might be feeling all over the place. Your blood chemistry would be a mess. I'm sorry love."

He swallowed, and stared back at Carson for a moment. Theirs. The one thing a male Companion couldn't provide, a blood heir, and he'd been doing it without even noticing, and now it was over? Was it even okay to mourn something he hadn't known he'd had? Because it was Carson's, and his, but Carson's, and he wasn't going to fall apart, because he'd spent way too fucking much time holding it together, not crying, not reacting when he should have, when anyone sane would have, when all he wanted to do was hold onto Carson and beg for forgiveness for something that wasn't even his fault.

Carson leaned down and kissed him a moment. "It's okay love. It's going to be okay...I promise. We'll go home and I'll take some time off and look after you."

He couldn't even tell Carson what had happened. Maybe he knew and maybe he didn't, but John slid an arm behind Carson's back, and just held on, held close. Later. He'd tell him later.

Five percent of all Companions committed suicide.

It wasn't really a secret. It was just something nobody talked about, and Rodney wondered sometimes if that number was actually higher and it was just getting swept under the rug a little. Because for every perfect, beautiful match, every John and Carson, every those guys they hear about in the news years ago, hell, and probably Benefactor Carson's own parents, there were people that didn't click. He'd never been able to shake that cold feeling, that hollowed out notion in his head because when Acastus looked at him, it wasn't the same as when other Benefactors looked at their Companions.

Rodney wasn't going to be a statistic. Acastus didn't hit him, didn't torment him. He just utilized Rodney's natural skills. He didn't love Rodney, but Rodney tried, and tried, because maybe some day it would click in Acastus' head and he'd regret what he'd made Rodney do for so long, and...

And Rodney didn't know. He knew he was probably lying to himself, but as a matter of survival, he couldn't give up. There was nothing else for him to do but become the best Companion he could be, because there was no getting out and there was no ending it and there was no, no way to be free. He was making the most -- like Carter and her DHD stand-in -- of what little he had to work with, and no-one else telling him how to correct the equations to better connect, gate or Benefactor, to him.

But it was on days like that, days when he came home knowing what had happened, when he came home and started dinner and then went upstairs to the study door, where he could hear the tinny sounds of sex on the computer speakers.

Acastus would be watching one of the recordings he made of one of the times he had sent Rodney to someone else, giving them permission to do what they wanted. Practically encouraging them to make it as bad as they wanted.

That seemed to get him off in a way that with all his hands on skills he couldn't manage. They were trained hard not to suicide, to feel fulfillment and purpose just in existing for their Benefactor.

Acastus was jerking off slowly to the recording of him with the NID guy.

It was getting very hard to feel even a little purpose and fulfillment any longer. Acastus got off on... that. On that. On Rodney hurting and he hadn't been there to pull Rodney together afterwards. Another benefactor had done that, a benefactor who was more than able to control himself and who'd never laid a hand on Rodney out of order. And Acastus had repaid all of that care Carson gave to anyone and everyone who asked him for help by raping John. Causing him to lose an heir, which he hadn't told Acastus. It was quiet among the scientists, probably one of the few secrets they could keep for any period of time.


The other man didn't interrupt what he was doing. He'd probably heard him approaching, or come into the house.

"Rodney. Fetch me a drink. Shortly... uhnn... I will need one." Acastus didn't even spare him a glance.

Because he really meant nothing to Acastus. The him-on-the-screen was a hundred times more fascinating to Acastus than the actual Rodney, the one who was watching his Benefactor steadily stroking himself off. They didn't train them for dealing with that. They were trained to deal with Benefactors who tried to subsume their personality, they were trained to have a will to survive, they were trained for a whole lot of useless shit.

That's all it was. That love and cherish and honor, it was all useless shit. He should have turned to get a drink for Acastus -- he drank Stoli Ohranj, and Rodney suspected it was just to make him flinch. But he didn't. He stepped into the study, watching over Acastus's shoulder. It didn't seem real, watching it like that.

It seemed like a badly made porn film. Really badly made with too little in the way of artful gasping and jerky clumsy movements and every time he saw that sort of thing, the first thought in his head was no wonder they despaired of him in Practicum. Compared to people like John who could walk like he was oozing sex.

He remembered the pain though and he wondered exactly what it was that Kolya saw in it. It wasn't sexy, but it was real and maybe it was about that.

Real pain. Really hurting Rodney, when he didn't at home. Or anyone really hurting, because he'd raped John. He'd hurt Rodney's best, only friend, and Rodney couldn't even ask why. But he stepped closer, and shifted to kneel beside Kolya's office chair, putting a hand on the other man's knee.

This was what he was meant to do. Offer to help, subtly, discretely. Show his submission and encourage his Benefactor to take him up on it.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to work the way they had always said it would. Kolya seemed put off rather than turned on and that was a hell of a blow to his pride.

He couldn't even do that right. His Benefactor would rather attack other people and jerk off to recordings of him than actually let him do that. And they never told him what came next, what you did when that failed because hey, that was a never fail. No-one particularly said no to an offer a blowjob, unless the offer was coming from Rodney. He let his hand slip off of Kolya's knee, but stayed where he was. He had a lifetime of that ahead of him. A whole lifetime, because Acastus wasn't but so much older than him, and Rodney couldn't really wrap his mind around the idea of decades of a life like that, instead of just almost three years. In three years, he was talking to himself inside of his own skull about suicide rates and how he wasn't going to be one, but much longer and he didn't know what to do, didn't know how to shift the dynamic.

"Acastus, dammit, look at me. Not, not the recording, at me."

"Rodney, you are disturbing my... focus," Acastus said. "I thought you did not enjoy the experience which is why I put it on while you were not here. But if you are so determined to contribute, then you may suck me off."

"I don't know why you watch it at all." But he shifted, reaching one hand out to slide his fingers over Acastus. There was really no wonder left to the human body anymore. He'd been full of interest and awe for about, oh, two months, before that dead inside feeling started to put a crunch on his caring, but he could try. Try and try. He crawled half under the desk to get in front of Acastus, to get between his legs, so he could suck his Benefactor off.

It was his job, his life and he hated not being good at something. And he had to be bad at this, there was no other explanation for it. He wasn't doing something right, he hadn't found the right formula or worked out how to balance the equation of their relationship. In physics it was simple. Put enough energy in, get a reaction out. Even inert elements could be forced to react and combined with sufficient energy fed into the system.

That made sense to him, and so he tried it because when that happened, the elements became something else, compounds with different properties and characteristics and Rodney saw no reason why that couldn't work for him as well.

The taste of Acastus' skin was familiar.

It was familiar, and so, too, was the way that Acastus's hands laid on his head, toyed with his hair. Acastus wouldn't let him just hack his hair off, and there was an ongoing joke in the lab now about him and Zelenka supposedly competing for worst shaggy hair. But Acastus liked it, and if there was something that Acastus liked, Rodney wasn't going to stop. He let himself sink into the familiarity of it, soaking in the taste as he lowered his mouth, sucking first at the tip. Just to try something new.

It seemed to get a little reaction and Acastus was already hard from watching porn and from whatever he had been imagining. After John... what he was sure he had done to John he had been as horny as hell, jacking off, fucking him repeatedly as if he was the teenager, not Rodney.

Was that what he wanted? Was it because he didn't fight like John had - he'd seen the thick bandages on his wrists where he had torn them up trying to tear free.

"Good. More Rodney."

So, because Rodney didn't fight enough, didn't struggle, he'd attacked John. It was a horrifying though, but he couldn't help but think it because it was there, in his head, on the screen. He sucked harder, trying to be enthusiastic, but he was sucking off the same cock that had been inside of John's ass, hurting John, causing him to miscarry his technology induced pregnancy. It was enough to make him gag.

He wasn't meant to feel anything for John. He certainly wasn't meant to judge his Benefactor with regards to another Companion but John had always been the strong one and it seemed so wrong to see him like that, half curled on his side, pale and drawn with pain and vulnerability asking him not to do anything because Kolya would kill Carson.

Fortunately, Acastus seemed to enjoy the convulsive swallowing that came with near gagging.

He couldn't do it. He really, really couldn't do it, had to, had to do something, tell Kolya that he knew what was going on in his head or something, but he kept sucking, picking up speed as best as he could, and trying to not really gag, trying and trying to just get Acastus off so he could say "I know you did it. I guessed it. You were sloppy."

It didn't take long. Long enough to coincide with the rough climax on the computer screen which made Kolya thrust and then groan a little as he orgasmed. And that apparently was that.

The whole thing was over just like that.

Rodney pulled back, breathing hard, shaking a little because he was working it up in his head, psyching himself up to say it in ways he never had to do with anything else in his life.

"I guessed what happened to John." He finally declared it when he sat back on his haunches, still partially under the desk, and wiped at the corners of his mouth. "What you did."

There was a moment of stillness before Kolya said. "Oh really? You have have you? Why don't you tell me what you've 'guessed'?"

"You brought John back in your jacket. You, you came back from that mission so wound up, and you're never that interested in sex, unless it's one of those recordings, and that's... that's still rape, too. That's what you like." And it suddenly dawned on him that the worst place to start that conversation was when he was crouched under a desk at Acastus' feet with absolutely no-where to go. Oh, he was a dead man.

Acastus paused and then started laughing. "Get up Rodney. For all your IQ points you can be very stupid sometimes. Are you only now working out what I like?"

"You're supposed to want me. You're not supposed to hurt other Companions, you..." He did shift, grateful to get out of a what could be a really bad position, but at least Acastus was laughing.

"I am a Benefactor. I have rights and privileges - Companions do not," he replied looking more amused than anything. "Admittedly, perhaps it was unwise but serendipity comes when you least expect it. And he will survive."

"You shouldn't have. You -- benefactors have the right for their companions to be unharmed. He was carrying an Heir." It was every legal argument in the book that he could think of, but he'd never thought that he'd have one of the benefactors that they warned people about. His Acastus.

"Don't be ridiculous!" Kolya snapped at him. "I have tolerated your attachment to John because he is a remarkably fine Companion. But you will not fabricate lies Rodney otherwise I will punish you for it."

“I'm not lying! You walk through a stable wormhole as part of your job, and you think I can make up things that are as crazy as our reality? I think the Beckett family opener is tech. It predates Goa'uld tech. Their family line has never broken. If you can make men pregnant, that's a pretty easy way to ensure the family line!"

That seemed to unsettle Acastus a little. "Tell me what you know Rodney. All of it," he said in a intense tone. All trace of laughter had gone.

Rodney wished he hadn't opened his mouth.

John was sleeping. Or he wasn't sleeping and he was feigning sleep again so he could half-watch Carson watch him. It left Carson unsure of what was going on in John's mind. He'd been raped, yes, and there was the physical injury that was complicated by the miscarriage, but John had to know that Carson didn't love him any less for what had happened.

Or perhaps that was the problem. That John looked at him like he was afraid Carson wouldn't love him for some reason. He took John's hand again taking his pulse and smiled a little. "I know you're awake John. You can't avoid me forever by pretending to be asleep."

"It was worth a shot." John cracked his eyes open, a slow motion. "Hey. You're still here."

John was sleeping. Or he wasn't sleeping and he was feigning sleep again so he could half-watch Carson watch him. It left Carson unsure of what was going on in John's mind. He'd been raped, yes, and there was the physical injury that was complicated by the miscarriage, but John had to know that Carson didn't love him any less for what had happened.

Or perhaps that was the problem. That John looked at him like he was afraid Carson wouldn't love him for some reason. He took John's hand again taking his pulse and smiled a little. "I know you're awake John. You can't avoid me forever by pretending to be asleep."

"It was worth a shot." John cracked his eyes open, a slow motion. "Hey. You're still here."

"It would be difficult to keep an eye on you if I couldn't literally keep an eye on you," Carson replied. "And where would be the point in avoiding talking to me if I wasn't here to avoid?"

He looked at John pointedly, hoping to find an opening to broach the subject of what was bothering him.

"Look..." John started to say that, or maybe that was all he had on his mind, because he went quiet again. "It, what happened..."

"There's something about it you are afraid of telling me or you think...will make some difference to how we are together," Carson said as John faltered. "I'm never going to stop loving you John. None of this was your fault. You can tell me anything."

He meant it, and he hoped that it was his earnest expression that would get John to be honest, because he didn't want to have to command John. He just wanted to help him. "You said you... knew what happened. Did Rodney tell you?"

Carson paused. "No," he said in a low voice. "But that means there is more than can be deduced from medical information....John, what happened?"

And John went quiet again, looking at Carson and then looking away. What Carson would've given to be able to read John's mind just then. "Okay. Okay. I don't know if I can stay with my unit anymore. And he told me he'd kill you if I told you what happened... But I can't go back to the unit."

And that was all the information that Carson needed to make conclusions. He straightened up, anger spilling over as he realized what it meant. "Kolya. It wasn't the Inshirans after all. It was him."

John gave a tight nod, tight-lipped. "Rodney guessed what happened. From, I don't know. Thin air and how his benefactor was acting. I, he's another benefactor and Companions get disowned for this..."

"You're worried about being disowned for another Benefactor raping you?" Carson was shocked. "John, you were tied up, you'd been tortured and he took advantage of the situation. This is not your fault!"

"I still..." John shifted his fingers a little, and Carson could feel his nervousness. "I should have done something. Yelled louder. We're supposed to stop things like that from happening."

"John. John, I can't actually see how you could. And I know where the blame lies," he said firmly. "Not with you. He could've killed you! He nearly did, and he killed our Heir who was a genuine miracle."

He couldn't let John feel this way.

"I shouldn't have gotten captured. I should've fought then, then I wouldn't be here and I'd still be, you'd still have an heir. I -- that's nothing I was trained for. I can submit and I can't imagine life without you, but losing a, I shouldn't have even been able to carry an heir, and they don't train us about what to do if another Benefactor hurts you."

"That's because it is my responsibility to protect you from other Benefactors," Carson replied lifting John's hand to his lips and kissing it gently and apologetically. "If anyone failed, I did because I had suspicions and did not demand you removed from his team. You are never going to be without be John, do you understand that. Perhaps we'll find a way to do this again, who knows, but there is time for that, plenty of time. But I will not let Kolya hurt you again."

"I'm kinda more worried about what he's going to do to you," John noted, voice quiet and serious. "When are they letting me out of here?"

"Do to me?" Carson realized the source of John's reluctance. "Ah. Is that why you've been so quiet?"

"Maybe. Look, I remember the dirty letters he sent Rodney when we were in school, the pictures, I know what he does with Rodney, and he -- I was, I was bleeding on him, and he just didn't stop. I passed out. Yeah I'm scared for you." John's voice sounded hard, not stammering even when he tripped over words, because he had to be funneling anger.

"I know, but I will get him dealt with. All I need to do is extract one legitimate DNA sample from when you came in. It'll be difficult, but I'm a bloody fine geneticist. If anyone can find it, I can and will. When I have that, I'll have him."

"And then what?" John's jaw was clenching a little. "Then you press charges, and he kills you."

"I press charges and because he killed an Heir, he doesn't get to challenge back," Carson replied seriously. "He gets stripped of Benefactor rank and jailed."

And he had. He'd killed Carson's heir, and he couldn't quite wrap his head around the idea that John had been carrying a baby and just soldiering on, unknowingly. Theirs, and that was gone now. John shifted a little, pulling at Carson. "And what happens to Rodney?"

"Rodney... Rodney will be reassigned. Usually to another Kolya member but I think in the cases of classified material they would have him assigned to a Benefactor who worked for the military," he said letting himself be pulled closer.

"I don't know." John pulled again, a subtle motion of want that was so easy for Carson to give into. "I just want you safe."

"And I want the same for you," Carson said. And John was in his arms and there, right there to kiss and hold and be thankful he survived when Kolya could've so easily have killed him to cover his crime. It made him suspect the reason he didn't was because he wanted more. He wanted the forbidden and the challenge.

He probably wanted John, wanted him as much as he could have, because John would fight whatever he did, and Kolya's own Companion wouldn't, because that was how they were trained.

John slid his arms around Carson, and he exhaled slowly. "I just want out of here. Sometimes I feel like the whole place is bugged."

"Soon love," Carson promised. "And it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. I'm not on duty and you are my Companion, I can kiss you here as well as anywhere else." He leaned in and tried to forestall more concerns from John with a tender kiss.

It was part of what John was trained to do, but like any knee-jerk reaction, at least it was a comforting reaction. At least Carson could comfort him. John's kisses were slower than they had been, careful and more filled with quiet desperation.

It was times like this he really realized the difference in age between them. John was still a teenager. A highly trained and wonderful teenager, but so bloody young to deal with all this. He didn't want John to feel so unsure and hurt. He loved him and wanted him to know it. He soothed and gentled him, touched him and murmured soft reassuring noises at him, feeling the break in him that needed to heal.

He just couldn't do it when John was so worried. Somewhere in there John had learned a need to protect, and Carson knew that that wasn't part of the usual Companion burden. He should have protected John, and now the best he could do was to get Acastus Kolya in jail for heir-killing.

And lord, that was going to be hell to prove in a Benefactor Court.

He couldn't put all of it down to the wacky blood chemistry. He was terrified every time Carson was out of his sight but in the SGC, because what if Kolya was there. What if Kolya came to visit him ? The doctors would let him come because why wouldn't they? Commander of his team who bravely carried him home.

Yeah right, sure.

He wanted to go home. He wanted to feel Carson there and start believing that he wasn't living a TV movie with bedside vigils.

And while Wormhole Extreme was a TV show, John didn't think they'd add the part about pregnant men anytime soon. Or benefactors. Or...

Or any of the desperately real things that happened in their lives, from missions to shit that he still couldn't comprehend. But if he could get Carson home, he had a chance of protecting him, of keeping him safe. Somehow.

Footfalls made him tense, even if they were quickly matched to Rodney when the other Companion stuck his head around the corner.

He was ready to go home. He could lie on his back now, he could walk and it was achy but better. Carson was just over cautious about things. "Hey," he said raising his hand in a casual half wave all the while wondering if that meant Kolya was around. "Haven't seen you for a bit."

"Yeah, well." Rodney's mouth was a thin line, and he pulled the chair close to John's bed. "You need to warn your benefactor, as soon as he comes back. Acastus wants to kill him."

John sat up. "What?" he said in alarm. " Why?" Where had all this come from. No one was meant to know.

Rodney wasn't meant to know, and all he did was shrug his shoulders tightly at John. "Because then he'd have you, that's why. Because he didn't plan for shit and didn't think it through before he hurt you and..."

"...crap." John sat for a moment horrified. "Fucking crap. Did he say what he was planning to do?"

"No! No, he doesn't have to say anything, it's all--" and Rodney gestured to his eyes, as if to say it was all there. "You need to get out of here. And I need to find Doctor Beckett."

"I need to find Carson," John said determined now, and throwing off the covers and pulling himself to his feet. At least they'd allowed him some pajama's even if he never wore them at home. "He's mine. This is... down to me."

"Because that works so damn well in Westerns." Rodney's jaw clenched, and he reached to take John's arm. "If I'm going to be accused of collaborating, I might as well help. C'mon."

"Rodney..." John glanced at him half wanting to shake him off. This was a big deal, a huge deal. Siding against his Benefactor. He'd never dream of asking Rodney to do that but here he was volunteering it. He let his hand stay there determined then that Rodney wouldn't have to suffer any more. He didn't deserve it. "Okay, help me out here. Is Kolya likely to try something at Carson's lab? Or is that too public?"

"I don't know. He's, it's tunnel vision. The last day or so at home hasn't been so good." Rodney started to walk, pulling at him or helping him walk. "Not as bad as your last few days, though."

"Are you okay?" John asked belatedly. "What did he do to you?"

Of course he would've done something to Rodney, he'd be stupid to assume otherwise.

"Doesn't matter. Just, just walk. He wants to kill your benefactor and the only reason he's still floors above us is because someone stopped to talk to him."

"Carson was going back to his lab. We need to get there," John said determined to move and get there as quickly as he could which was nowhere as quick as normal. "I'm sorry Rodney. If... if Carson can get him tried, he think you would be reassigned."

"He's my Benefactor." Rodney's mouth was a tight line as he helped John hurry, though, keeping him steady and maybe dragging him along a little. Rodney sometimes exaggerated, but if he was hurrying enough to drag John, then the threat was real.

"I know. You don't have to do this... help me," John replied only just keeping up. He needed to find strength from somewhere. He wasn't sure where though. He just hoped that Carson was in his lab.

"Shut up. Shut up. You're my friend and you're really the only person I trust, so just, I want you to be happy and alive, and you won't be either if he gets to Doctor Beckett..." They were almost there, and John couldn't hear any sounds of a fight.

They were going to be in time. Thank god. He could deal with Rodney when Carson was safe because that was all that mattered. They reached the door, looking in and to his horror he saw Carson working looking oblivious to the fact that Kolya was in the lab approaching him with such silence that he had to be planning to kill him.

"Kolya!" he shouted out, know that would alert both of them.

Rodney let him loose, but John could feel the other Companion hovering behind him. "Acastus!"

And the shouting was enough to get Carson to jerk, startle and turn towards the door, where he finally saw the threat that was coming at him.

"Oh Bloody Hell!" he exclaimed and out of all of them it seemed that Kolya was the only one armed with anything. A 'zat and the moment John saw that, it because obvious how Kolya expected to get away with it. Three shots and all evidence disintegrated.

He knew that Kolya would've looked, assessed them as a threat and then realized there wasn't anything he could do and turned back to fire at Carson.

The first energy bolt missed. Carson ducked the second and John started running towards him, even as Carson shouted "No John!" and took a hit straight on.

He could hear someone behind him and assumed it was Rodney as he ploughed into Kolya with all his strength.

He didn't knock him over, but he did shove him hard against a table, sending Carson's inbox skittering across the floor. Where Carson was, he wasn't sure. Maybe Rodney was getting him out of the way. Maybe, maybe, but as long as Major Kolya couldn't fire another shot at Carson, the second shot that killed...

All the time his training was clamoring at him - he was laying hands on a Benefactor. He was trying to stop a Benefactor.

One who he had trusted and had abused that trust.

He took an elbow to the face and staggered.

"I will... have you again..." Kolya hissed at him. "You can fight me all you want but I will have you!"

And he was going to kill Carson to do it. He was going to kill Carson, and he'd killed Carson's heir. That was something for John to focus on, that was something for him to bring to the front of his mind so he would stop the clamor of the other half of his training, because his Benefactor took precedence to all other Benefactors. Carson needed to be safe and not being shot at, and...

Kolya started towards him again, pulling his arm back to land a punch.

Of course, he didn't want to kill his prize. But John wanted him gone. Away, dead, whatever.

He tried to block the punch and mostly failed and in reeling back his hand grasped something heavy and glass and he just threw it with all his strength.

And it hit Kolya on the temple with a crunch that was distinctly audible. He dropped like a stone and John staggered still a bit stunned and dazed, just staring at what he had done.

Quick and simple, and the lab was quiet now, dead silent. He couldn't hear Carson and Kolya was as still as death on the floor. There was a reinforced waterbath laying beside his body, on of the small ones he'd seen Carson use for smaller controlled samples. The other benefactor wasn't moving, and John suddenly wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, because he'd only wanted Kolya to stop to back off, and now he wasn't moving.

He could hear Rodney's breath hitch, and he could hear another voice behind him, a throat clearing. "Hell of a scene to come into."

John glanced around, saw Colonel Mitchell and then stared at Kolya's un moving body again. And then it came crashing down on him what he had done. He had killed a Benefactor. He, a Companion had killed a Benefactor and by Benefactor Law that meant he was like a rabid dog. He needed putting down. They would make Carson do it. They would force him to do it or Carson would have to fight and win against any of the Kolya family who came against him. He would be killed.

He dropped to his knees, his hands shaking. "Sir. Please... you have to kill me before Carson wakes up," he begged Mitchell.

"I think I just walked into a movie," Cameron muttered, closing Carson's office door behind him. It was a small space for five people and one corpse and spilled equipment, and he kept close to the door. "No-one's killing no-one. Doctor Beckett, what -- holy shit."

"You don't understand," John tried again a little desperately. "I've killed a Benefactor. It doesn't matter the circumstances, there is only one judgment for a Companion that does that. They will make Carson execute me. Please Colonel. It doesn't matter that Kolya was trying to kill Carson, what matters is that I killed him and I don't want Carson to see the consequences."

And maybe they would give Carson Rodney as a replacement and then all the mistakes would be erased.

Everything would be just fine, and it was moving too fast for him. He wanted time, and he wanted to be at home, but he'd just killed a Benefactor, and Rodney was sitting there with Carson, watching, staring at him. "Just, take a deep breath. Doctor Kolya, is Doctor Beckett okay? Check his pulse, okay kid? Check his pulse, and I'll ,uh..." The commander moved past John, kneeling down to check Kolya's pulse.

No one had a pulse with a dent in the side of his head like Kolya did. He put his head in his hands a moment trying to concentrate. He'd blown it completely. Rodney would hate him because he'd killed his Benefactor, Carson would have to kill him, he'd lost the Heir and been with another Benefactor. Dying was seeming like a pretty good option right about now.

He very nearly reached for Cameron's gun and then stopped. He couldn't do that. Not take his own life. There was too much training in him to allow that.

It was better to stand there and watch. Watch Cameron kneel down and check, and then move over to Carson, shooing Rodney back gently. Rodney did move, circled around to crouch by Kolya. He was screwing up the crime scene, but John wasn't going to tell him not to. Rodney moved the water bath, and he pulled at Kolya, pulling him up sitting, back up against Rodney's chest, as close as he could get.

"C'mon Doctor Beckett, c'mon. I know it hurts but you need to come around right now..."

"Oh... crap..." Carson moaned and John let his head drop. It was too late. Too late to get out of this easy and he had glanced once and seen the look in Rodney's eyes and that was enough to convince him that he deserved what was going to happen.

"What the bloody hell happened?"

"Did Major Kolya shoot you with the Zat?" Cameron asked, still shaking Carson a little. "Just answer. Did he come at you with a Zat?"

"Well he missed twice before he nailed me, the bastard," Carson said holding up a hand to stop the shaking. "Where is he? You have him?"

John had just been paralyzed by everything happening at once. But the rules were absolute.

"He's dead. Lieutenant Beckett hit him with a water bath while defending you. I need you to get up and pick up the waterbath, all right? Because you did it, and not John, you got that?" He looked at Rodney over his shoulder, as if he was trying to work out where Rodney fit in it, but it was like Rodney wasn't even there. He was just holding his Benefactor close, face pressed against the man's hair, while John knelt shock-still and Colonel Mitchell tried to shake Carson up standing.

"I did...what?" Carson sounded a little dazed and John just couldn't speak or move because he didn't want to make it harder for him. He didn't understand what the Colonel was trying to do, because murder was murder and he couldn't see how they thought this would work. "Oh...oh aye, I see, of course."

He picked up the water bath handling it and John looked instead at Rodney and Kolya and it killed him inside to see him. When Carson came over towards him, towards where Rodney was kneeling and holding onto Kolya, Rodney shied back, pulling the corpse with him keeping him close. Because there was a different between defying your Benefactor and watching him be killed, and while Rodney had maybe been ready for the one, no-one was ever prepared for the other.

Colonel Mitchell crouched down, eyeing Rodney. "Hey. I need to know if you're going to go along with this. I know under your law that you guys are legally nothing, so... Who killed Major Kolya?"

John could see Rodney take a deep breath, but he still couldn't see much of his face. "Benefactor Beckett. Because he came at Doctor Beckett with a Zat."

"...that's not true..." John said. "Why are you doing this? It's not true, you know what happened."

"John, don't be an idiot love." Carson interrupted. "Kolya raped you, causing the death of the Beckett Heir, tried to kill me and I'm sure what happened was not meant on your part. You are not going to die because of ...him. Understand me? I have proof he did rape you, that was why I had paged Colonel Mitchell. Don't make me order you John. I've never wanted to do that to you..."

And he didn't want to step over a line his Benefactor didn't him to cross. "But what about Rodney?" he asked. "Look what I've done to him."

"He's..." Colonel Mitchell shifted closer, and Rodney scooted back a little more.

"Just, just leave me alone. Just let me think, dammit!" His voice rose, broke a little, and while John was usually stretching to remember that Rodney was younger than him, it was pretty obvious just then. His face was turning red, and he was clutching desperately tight to a corpse.

"I promise you John, I'll makes sure he's okay," Carson murmured and John nodded, becoming aware of how his face throbbed from Kolya's heavy punches and that he could taste blood.

"Then look after him. I'm okay," John said and it would've been more convincing if he hadn't been practically on the verge of suicide only minutes before.

Carson nodded a little and looked at Mitchell. "MP's will be here soon. They'll want to question me?"

"Oh, they'll want to question you. I'll place the call now." Mitchell glanced at John, and jerked his chin at Rodney. "If you can get him to let go, and if you two just got comfortable with the idea of hanging out and waiting for a while..."

"Aye, we'll do that," Carson agreed, steadying himself by leaning on John. "Thank you Colonel Mitchell, I owe you a great debt."

And he shouldn't, John considered, not over him. Why would a normal lie for a Companion? Most of them saw them as whores or slaves.

"Eh, call it a write-off. Sometime I'm gunna come through the gate and need a good surgeon." He didn't wink or anything to lighten the statement, and turned to open the door again. He probably wanted to call the MPs, intercept them. John wasn't sure, but it he left, and mostly closed the door behind them, leaving him and Carson barely standing and Rodney still hugging his benefactor's body.

Carson stroked at John's hair a moment before moving closer to Rodney. "C'mon now lad, let's put him down. There's nothing you can do for him now."

He was dead. John fixated on his body, unable to get the image away from his eyes even when he closed them. He was breathing raggedly and unsteadily, his skin clammy and pale trying to hide that as well.

He needed to be calm. He needed to stay calm, because he should have still been in a hospital bed and Rodney shouldn't have been there at all, and Carson had been working and it was all fine except for that one bizarre intrusion, that one thing. Kolya trying to kill Carson with a Zat.

And now he was dead. Rodney shook his head hard, and sucked in a breath. "I know! But he's, he's..."

"He was your Benefactor, I know," Carson soothed and wisely didn't even try to persuade Rodney Kolya had been an sadistic son of a bitch. "And he was yours, and you're scared now."

His head was throbbing now, his left eye swelling moment by moment until half his face felt numb. He'd wanted Rodney to be free but he'd never imagined himself as the villain.

He'd sort of imagined... An off world accident. A tree, maybe. Something Rodney didn't have to watch happen, that he only had to hear about second hand. Rodney tucked his face down against the side of Kolya's neck, and his shoulders started to shake.

But it was Kolya or Carson.

And he couldn't lose Carson. He'd given him his last chance when he really wanted Rodney.

"There lad, I'm sorry," Carson was murmuring and had his arm around Rodney and John felt himself sway so he shifted kneeling to awkwardly sitting, listening to his Benefactors soft words that weren't for him.

He'd just killed a man. He'd just taken a life, and it was a lot different than the usual self defense because Benefactors were important and they weren't supposed to be killed by mere Companions. It wasn't firing back at anything during the line of work. It was...

"I want to die."

And John wasn't sure if it was Rodney or himself who had said those words.

He could still smell blood.

It wasn't the blood that had killed him. Rodney knew that, logically, knew that some piece of his skull penetrating his brain and, well, maybe it had been the blood that had killed him, or the complete disconnect of electrical activity in his severed synapses that had done it. But he could still smell the blood because they were being 'held' until... Until something. He didn't know, because Carson had called the local Benefactor council, and Normals didn't know how to handle Benefactors and Companions in those moments when it really hit home that they had a separate set of laws and reality to function within.

So he and John were in a small, secure private room, locked away like errant children while the Council swooped into the place as far as the Generals would let them. And it was like he and John didn't matter, because they were property, chattel, and no-one asked them for their opinions.

The worst part of it was that he couldn't really stop crying.

For a long time John had just curled himself up in a corner, not moving, not talking, not doing anything. He was silent and unresponsive and there was a moment when he really started to believe that maybe he was dead as well because Kolya had been like that.

And John had just killed someone, even if it was Acastus. And Acastus had been going to kill Doctor Beckett, yes, but Rodney's mind still caught on some idea where... Acastus was alive, in jail. Where he belonged. Dead was irrevocable. Dead was never going home with Acastus and dead was never having a Benefactor to go home to, and Rodney's skull hurt as he crawled off of the bed to shake John. Just to check.

John flinched and looked at him startled as if the idea that someone wanting to touch him was beyond his comprehension. Especially Rodney.

"Hey," he said in a rough voice and then just stopped because he obviously didn't know what to say or do.

Rodney rubbed at one eye socket hard with the back of his wrist. "I feel like I'm twelve all over again. Hi."

"I didn't think you'd ever want to speak to me again," he said in a low voice. "You have a right to hate me."

"He raped you. He tried to kill your Benefactor." But Rodney loved him. It was simple, and even through all the horrible things Acastus had asked, ordered Rodney to do, he'd loved him. He'd just kept trying to find the thing that would make their relationship be what it was supposed to be, Benefactor and Companion, satisfied with each other, comfortable, complimenting each other, and it still felt like he'd failed somehow. Rodney swallowed, and pressed his fingers hard at one eye, rubbing. "He wanted you more than he wanted me. I just..."

"No." John shook his head. "He wanted that because it had to be taken. Because it wasn't willing. He didn't want to keep me, he wanted to... use force because I wasn't his. You couldn't give him that because you were his."

He rubbed hard as his other eye, sniffing snot back into his nose where it belonged. No, Acastus had tapes of other men having a free hand with Rodney, and he jerked off to them. "At least sit on the bed with me."

John nodded and shifted painfully and awkward to get to the bed. "Don't ever think you weren't good enough Rodney. You've put up with a hell of a lot, and now this."

"Yesterday, when I came up to get him for dinner, he was..." Rodney shifted to sit on the edge of the bed, one leg close to John's legs. "Watching one of the tapes. Jerking off to it. He didn't want anything to do with me."

John looked at Rodney and said what was pretty much the equivalent of blasphemy to a Companion. "That was his fault not yours Rodney."

It made Rodney hiccough, rubbing at his right eye again. It was still watering and with his luck he'd scratched it trying to stop the crying. "I should have figured it out sooner. Worked it out. Then he wouldn't have hurt you, your heir."

"That wasn't your fault either," John said sound surprised he even considered it. "Let's face it we're both fucked up here." He moved closer and then put his arm around him like he used to do back at the Institution.

It was easy to lean into him, breathing hard, trying to keep himself controlled. "What's going to, to happen to me?"

There was a long pause before John spoke in a strangely soft and gently tone. "Carson wants you," he said finally.

It was a stupid suggestion or even a joke for John to make, but Rodney couldn't help but feel a tiny bite of anger. "That's not really a funny joke."

"It's never been a joke Rodney," John replied, and for once there was no humor, no dry mocking tone or sarcasm in John's voice. Just the hint of something old coming to light. "He wants you. He always has."

"I've never even met him before you came here. He doesn't -- he, you know how he looks at you." Rodney shifted a little, swallowing.

"You have met him once before," John answered. "He... You were his first Choice not me. But Kolya had got there first. He... he chose me because he couldn't have you and he felt sorry for the kid who no one wanted and was looking at a life of hard labor."

"You're crazy." Rodney bit his bottom lip, and shot John a sideways look. "You're -- look, he loves you. Head over heels, every Companion wants to be you loves you. Just because Acastus hurt you doesn't mean he loves you any less." And he didn't need to make up wild stories that only made Rodney feel worse.

John just shrugged. "You can ask him. You were two Benefactors first choice that day. He even asked Kolya to reconsider. I remember it. And he still wants you now. It would've been better if Mitchell had killed me..." He stopped as he seemed to realize that was not the best thing to say.

"So I could be with Carson and are you crazy?" He twisted, and wanted to shove at John, but all he could do was stare. "You're not allowed to have a death wish like that!"

"Why the hell not?" John said with a spark of real anger. "In every way that counts I've fucked up. I've broken Benefactor law, I've had sex with another Benefactor without permission, I've lost the Heir to the line, I've failed to protect him and always I know that he's never going to be happiest with me. The 'dream' relationship is a sham. I love him, he doesn't want me."

"He does! I know how it looks when he, when he doesn't, when someone doesn't. He's willing to face murder charges for you." Rodney sucked in a shaky breath. "Men aren't supposed to have uteruses. This is proof of it. Your head is a mess."

"You'll see. He wants you. You'll end up with... with us." John replied. "He's already told me that. Even before all this."

"Because we're friends. Because he has a stupid soft heart and apparently a soft head if he's missed everything going on in your head." Rodney swallowed again, and it was harder than he'd suspected it to be, trying to stay in control. "Because I kept going to him for treatment. It's like I'm a wounded dog."

"For gods sake Rodney, don't you think it's hard enough to admit this without you telling me I'm wrong?" John replied in an explosive moment of frustration."Fuck. Just... you're my best friend. We came too damn close to breaking rules all the time for you to not know if I am lying. I'm not. I'm... just not. It's never been about pity with him, except with me. It's never been about picking up strays - apart from me. Everything you say about yourself applies to me okay? Just... I'm going to lose him, I know that. I've always known that."

Rodney started to laugh, but it hitched and tangled up in his chest. "He loves you. Just, stop degrading that because you're scared."

"Rodney." John stopped and shook his head and then settled for just stroking down his back comfortingly, though he could feel John's hands trembling as he did so. He hadn't seen John cry even once.

Never, and he was falling apart all over him. He leaned in, and mumbled, "We're idiots. You, me, both. For the record."

"Yeah, okay. I'll agree with that," John replied holding him closer, and he could feel the heat coming off of the bruising on his face. "Would you agree if Carson asked you if you wanted to be his?"

"Where else would I go? Are there even any other Benefactors in the SGC?" Rodney sucked in another shaking breath, and pressed closer to John. "Yeah. Then at least I could stay here. See you. Know that I'm not going to be whored out."

"You want to see me... I mean really?" John asked and it seemed really important to him somehow.

"Yeah." The edge of his mouth quirked up a little, almost a smile. "If you hadn't written to me. I don't know what I'd do."

It was the truth. It had kept him going through all the disillusionment.

John relaxed a little and then put his arms completely around Rodney, once again the protector. "If nothing else we'll have each other right?"

"Yeah." Except John was kidding himself if he thought he only had Carson. Rodney shifted an arm, pressing his fingers against John's back. "What time is it?"

"Late," John replied. "Or early. We've been in here a long time. Over twelve hours."

"That explains why I'm hungry." And probably why he couldn't pull himself together. Low blood sugar was hell on Rodney's brains. He squirmed around, still hugging onto John. "We should try to sleep."

John seemed to agree with him, and it was warmer next to John, and familiar and comforting from the institute. If he closed his eyes he could pretend just for a little while at least that this had never happened, and he was still there waiting to Go Home with a Benefactor who at least gave a damn whether he lived or died.

A Trial by ones Peers had a very singular meaning when it came to Benefactors. It made for swift no nonsense trails and very infrequently did a lawyer become involved because Benefactor Law was so specialized that there was someone on the Council who was a specialist and was paid by the council to be a specialist or they flew one in.

It meant, rather bizarrely that he had spent the last twelve hours, essentially being tried for murder, albeit in a very convivial gentleman's club way.

Judge Millander was currently considering the unusual circumstances, with a majority of time being involved in getting the requisite clearance for him and the Councilmen to try the case.

Of course, the problem with them getting clearance was something Carson was well aware of -- That they could apply to 'adopt' Rodney, now that they had the requisite clearance. He didn't think that would happen, but it made him glad that Rodney was kept out of sight by some quick-thinking SGC members. And John, too, even if he wanted to be with John, even if he wanted to be down where John was, tending to him. He shouldn't have even been out of bed, let alone up and trying to protect Carson.

"It has been concluded, based on your evidence, that Benefactor Acastus Kolya did indeed physically assault your Companion and cause the death of your unborn heir as a result of his actions." Even if the man was eyeing Carson a bit like he was a freak of nature as he said it. "As strange as the circumstances of that heir and the assault are."

"Aye," Carson agreed. "Strange circumstances are indeed a by product of working on this project it would appear. Once my Companion had confided the details in me, I set about looking for proof within the tissue samples we had preserved from the miscarriage. They had only been screen at that point for harmful pathogens. I discovered in the extracted tissue reproductive DNA that matched Benefactor Kolya's records. I had just paged his superior to report this when Kolya came after me with harmful intent."

"Simply by fact of the heir-killing, Benefactor Kolya forfeited his right to Benefactor rights. I believe this would have been found if there had been time to bring this to trial. As it stands..." The man cleared his throat, and shuffled through a few papers of legalese. "You were acting in self defense, even without the compounding right that you are granted to kill any Benefactor whosoever brings harm to an Heir. These 'Zats' are indeed formidable weapons, and you had no reason to believe he intended anything other than your immediate demise."

"My intention was to bring him to justice rather than to kill him," Carson explained again, though the forensic evidence had supported that his fingerprints had been on the waterbath. "Because I was aware that he was a trained soldier and I would not stand a chance if I chose to challenge him directly. I just... panicked and threw the nearest thing that came to hand."

He did not want to give the impression of focusing overly on vengeance otherwise they might conclude it was too dangerous to place Rodney with him.

"A logical enough reaction. If the council agrees, you will be absolved of all charges." The judge leaned slightly, looking down the row of Elder Statesmen among Benefactors.

“As it is your will Benefactors," Carson said formally. "I would also like to request that should I be absolved of all charges, that I be considered as a surrogate Benefactor for the companion Rodney Kolya."

Judge Millander was quiet for a moment, and then looked down the line. "It will be considered."

"Thank you sir. He was not well treated by Kolya, and as his medical doctor I found his physical health to be a concern. He has a friendship with my Companion as they studied together and I believe that would assist in making the transition." Carson put in. "I place the judgment in the hands of my fellow Benefactors."

"Please wait outside, and we will be with you after deliberating." And Carson had heard tales of the deliberations. They could go on for hours more, or end in seconds.

There was no point arguing, because he'd had his chance. He just hoped there was some food out there because if he looked anything like he felt, he was probably appearing like he was going to pass out or something. He wondered how John was, and Rodney as he left the chamber. Rodney had been so bereft, and John... he was really worried about John. He'd never seen him like that. He really wanted to die. And Rodney looked like he already had with Kolya being dead.

It had been miserable to see Rodney like that, yelling sharply at them and crying. John would be with him, Carson hoped, for both of their sakes.

There was nothing to do but wonder and wait and stand outside, wishing for food. When he was to the point where he was fantasizing about steaks, well.

This had all happened so quickly. In the space of a week his Companion had been raped, had a miscarriage despite being male, another Benefactor had tried to kill him - his nerves were jangling still from that hit from a 'Zat - and his Companion had killed him, practically tried to commit suicide in front of him and now he was being tried for murder but might come out of it with an extra Companion.

No wonder he was tired.

He wanted to go home and eat and pass out. Possibly he could pass out with a steak on his face, and it seemed like such an appealing option that he knew he had to be delirious from hunger and exhaustion. Carson hadn't slept much since John had been put in the infirmary. Now it was a waiting game. He was sure he'd be absolved, but Rodney...

Who knew who else might want to make a claim to him?

There were John's issues as well, that whole thing with being Second Choice and it was so deeply rooted he wasn't sure how that was going to go over. He guessed in retrospect, John had had a good 13 years to get it into his head that he was second choice, and to Rodney as well. He would never have believed a kid could remember that much but then John had been that bit older.

He sat down looking at his shaking hands. What the hell was he doing? Was he just exploiting the situation to get what he wanted or to save Rodney further hurt?"

There were other Benefactors who could have taken Rodney. Who could still, and if he did take Rodney, how would he balance the two without leaving one Companion or the other in the cold? He had to solve John's feelings of inferiority. Somehow.

He was also pretty sure that under ordinary circumstances, Rodney and John's relationship would've blossomed in it's own right. Maybe if... if it happened he could use that. It just seemed so ridiculous that someone like John could even feel a little inferior. He remembered the first time he saw him at the graduation and his jaw had almost literally dropped. Who was he to have this wonderful, intelligent person looking to please him?

And that was all John wanted to do. Please him, and he was disappointed that he wasn't Rodney, when John in and of himself was a beautiful brilliant man, a pilot at 19.

All he wanted for the both of them was that they should be happy. And perhaps the whole issue of an Heir wouldn't be an issue after all because of the family Opener. Some of his mothers far fetched stories were no longer far fetched or the fairy tales he had put them to be.

He wanted to take them both home, he wanted to hold them both, not just one or the other and if that was wrong, then so be it. He was wrong.

He was wrong, an abhorrence among Benefactors, perhaps, but he could at least try to make things right for them both. John and Rodney both.

And anything else he wanted could come secondary.

"Benefactor Beckett?" The door cracked open, and one of the lesser elders stood there. "Please enter the chamber."

He stood again, smoothing his hair back, which still had an annoying habit of popping up when he least expected it, and not in the artful disheveled way that John had, that really did give him the impression that he'd just been tumbled out of bed from red hot sex.

That wasn't the sort of thing to be thinking about when awaiting a verdict on murder.

He stepped into the 'chamber', and stood as elegantly as he could manage, in front of the Judge and the gathered council.

"Your situation and your request has been considered, Benefactor Beckett. Are you prepared for the council's decision?"

"I am," Carson replied. "I will abide by the decision of the Benefactor Council."

"The Council has absolved you of all charges related to Benefactor Kolya's death. It has also decided that the Kolya line owes to you in recompense a cost that is less than the total raising cost of Companion Rodney Kolya, for the death of your Heir." Which meant, which meant they didn't want to give him Rodney, or did it mean something completely different. "Until you can raise funds to pay the remainder of the raising cost to the Kolya line, Companion Rodney Kolya will be a ward of the Council."

He nodded, still trying to work it out. "How much additional cost needs to be paid?" he asked, trying to work out what assets he had available.

The Judge peered through papers again, shuffling them carefully. "$10,000, in either cash or a cashier's check. We will serve as a middle man for the transaction, as the Kolya line will undoubtedly not wish to deal with you directly. You can come to the council house to proceed, if that is what you wish, or you can take the monetary equivalent of the part of Companion Rodney Kolya's raising fees.""

"I will commit to raising fees for Companion Rodney Kolya," he said without even having to hesitate. He could access his savings and if he was being purely mercenary, Rodney would pay for that cost within months.

Easily. It was such a petty thing, and they were going to hold Rodney separate until he managed to pillage his savings account in the morning. "Noted. He will be taken to the council house immediately, then. The Transporting benefactor will accompany you to the location where he is located."

He nodded again. "My gratitude to the Council of Benefactors," he said formally, even though he knew it was a ridiculous formality they were insisting upon.

It was easy to step back to the exit, waiting for the 'Transporting Benefactor' to come around the table to join him. He looked vaguely familiar to Carson, but he'd probably spotted the fellow at John's presentation.

Either way, he just couldn't wait to get home with his Companion and just relax from what had to be one of the most bizarre and stressful days of his life to date.

John had a nasty feeling he was in shock. He wasn't exactly sure, but he had completely lost it when they came and took Rodney away because he had been sure, positive that Rodney was coming back with them and had made that into the one right thing in a very wrong day. Rodney and Carson had to be together and maybe he could still have Rodney at least even if he wouldn't be Carson's favorite and that sounded so damn childish and ridiculous but he was still feeling that way.

He should be waiting on Carson but instead his Benefactor was the one in the kitchen.

"Did they feed you while I was gone?" Carson asked patiently, as if he had asked once before.

"Uh. No? I think they... forgot us." Biro had probably gone off shift, and everything that had happened had probably left her too panicky to tell anyone that they'd been there. "Why didn't Rodney come back with us?"

"Oh for..." Carson sounded like he was raiding the fridge before coming in with a trayful. "I'm ordering something in as well, but eat something of that. If I'm feeling shaky, you definitely will be. Now, they are making me pay additional funds for Rodney to become a second Companion. I can't access those funds until the morning, and they have custody of him until then. So it's only for a night John."

John reached a hand out miserably for one of the sandwiches Carson had slapped together. "Tell him that. I killed his Benefactor, and now he has to spent a night in the council house. He wanted to come home with us."

It wasn't fair on Rodney. Carson hadn't seen him crying inconsolably for most of that time, hadn't had to live with giving him hope and then seeing the look in his eyes when he was taken away again. He'd think everything John had said would be lies.

"Aye, I know. Believe me, I tried. I argued for bloody hours." Carson said dejectedly. "Whether they were trying to prove a point or didn't believe me about the Heir and the male conception, I don't know. Either way, it was pretty much enforced to put me in my place."

"Kolya probably had friends on the council." John chewed, and swallowed, and leaned back against the headboard. He was shaky and exhausted, but what was a few more hours.

"Aye, he spent enough time using Rodney to gain influence, it wouldn't surprise me," Carson answered. "I want to know how you are though John. I didn't get chance to talk with you much about everything. Are you all right?"

"I ..." It didn't matter. It didn't matter, because Carson would have Rodney as soon as they went to the bank. "I don't know." He still wanted it to be the two of them, the way they had been, for forever, and that was selfish of him when he'd just killed Rodney's Benefactor.

"I'll take that as a no then," Carson replied. "First of all you saved my life John, without that warning he would've had me with the Zat. I want to thank you for that."

"You're my benefactor." There was no other way to think, because he loved Carson, and Carson didn't deserve to die because of what he'd done.

"And you are my Companion, and I have this sneaking suspicion you are sitting there thinking that I'm going to abandon you or trade you in for Rodney," Carson said. "I know it goes back to when I Chose you. I know all this time you've been thinking I did that out of pity, but John... you need to know this. I have never, ever regretted the Choice I made then. I have been stunned at my good fortune in having so wonderful a Companion. This is not a case of... 'I'd rather have', it's a case of as well as because I am selfish enough to want you both."

John's mouth twisted down, and he was trying hard to not frown around peanut butter. Want them both, well. What was he supposed to do with that? "I just want to know he's safe. And that you're safe. Everything else..."

"No, you're not doing that John," Carson said sternly. “What you feel is important, you being happy is very important to me. You understand?"

He understood that he was Carson's second choice. "But now you get to keep the Companion you wanted."

Carson sighed. "John, I want you. You are my companion and I'm not going to lie and say I never wanted Rodney. I know I did and I was initially disappointed, but that didn't mean that choosing you was the wrong decision. Everything happens for a reason and I truly believe I was meant to choose you." He sounded completely sincere. "The whole thing with the Opener - that certainly doesn't happen to just anyone in our family. It has to mean that perhaps we are a special match."

Or it was just something with Carson, and Carson would've thought he was a special match with anyone. "I want you to try it on Rodney." He chewed a little bit more. "Because he. he..." Needed to feel tied into it somehow. He'd feel like he was on the outside looking in when john was going to be the one like that.

"Look, John... I'm not intending to leave either of you out. What I really want to know is do you think you can share with Rodney. As equals, not one more favorite than another. You and he... you're both very different people, and I will love different things about each of you." Carson said seriously, leaning closer. "Without meaning to wax philosophical, my love is not a finite resource. I'm not using what I have for you to care for Rodney."

It was stupid, sure, but once Carson leaned in closer, John reached out and snagged a hand onto him, trying to pull him closer. "I could share." He could. He could, because he had the life that Rodney should have had, even if Rodney didn't believe it. And Rodney's life had been bad by comparison, and now that his Benefactor was dead... "I could share, and I really need to sleep. How many hours until the bank opens?"

"Felt like I was in there fro several decades," Carson answered with a smile. "About 9 hours I think. It's late."

And dark out. It'd been early when things had all started, and it had apparently circled back around to late, enough to make John tired despite his nap with Rodney earlier. "Yeah. How is this going to work? Getting Rodney, I mean."

Carson stroked at his hair a moment. "We go draw out the money or get a banker draft for the requisite funds, we go to the Benefactor Center and sign contracts and take him home," Carson said, making it sound very easy and sensible.

"Will he have to be branded again?" Because John hadn't heard of many 'transfers'. Usually companions foundered, or they went back into the system to work, teaching at the colleges and camps.

"Only if I say so, and I won't do that until Rodney decides if he wants to," Carson said. "If there was, it would involve a graft over the existing one. It's not compulsorary."

"So he won't have to be represented." It was a small thing, but telling Rodney that would go a long way to comforting him, John knew. He'd hated his actual, first presentation. It was just one more thing that might help make it work.

"No, the Presentation is as much about declaring someone a full Companion as linking them with their Benefactor. This is a I guess," Carson replied and then yawned. "Sorry, I think I do need to sleep now. And so do you - your bruises need attention as well before we sleep."

They probably did, and he wanted that attention from Carson, but John just nodded a little and worked on finishing off the sandwich he'd grabbed. Maybe he was greedy, just wanting things to stay the same, at the same time that he wanted Rodney to join them.

He couldn't have it both ways because if Rodney joined them things were never going to be the same again. But then, nothing ever would now he knew that much. He might as well go with the option that would turn out well for all of them.

It just hadn't stopped.

The day had stated to go to hell when Acastus had grilled him for information, when Acastus had kept him awake late in the night waxing poetic about his sexual desires as they actually were, just so Rodney didn't get his tastes wrong again. It had gotten better, or was it worse, when John had killed Acastus. Because it meant it was over and he'd never have to watch John tied up and held as a Companion against his will, fucked until he bled because the bleeding had apparently really turned Acastus on. And so had the idea of John bearing him an heir, and Rodney knew that John wouldn't stand that.

That Acastus was dead was a relief. That John had thought he could go home with John and Carson was a better relief. Because maybe he was intruding on their lives, yes, but Rodney was greedy enough to know he'd be safe there, at least. As a 'ward', now...

Rodney rubbed the back of his hand over his nose, and sniffed hard, trying to keep it from running again. As a ward of the Benefactor's Council house, he wasn't safe at all. He was the anti-safe, and it was just like being at home again. He'd stopped getting dressed again after the second time, and it was sort of silly that he even bothered the first time because one of the security at the house had realized he was there, and a Companion was persona non-grata to any norm who knew what they could get away with, let alone any benefactor. They were raised whores, except that they weren't, that Rodney wasn't. John wasn't.

John had been so sure that Carson would want him, but now it seemed like he'd been wrong. Maybe he'd changed his mind or John wasn't thinking straight because all the stuff that had happened had really fucked him up. He'd always been the laid back guy, never ruffled and Rodney had seen him go to pieces over these last few days. So maybe it wasn't a stretch to think he wasn't thinking straight.

They hadn't left him alone all night and he was really amazingly tired but he just had this nagging suspicion that someone would come and get him all over again the moment he tried to sleep.

So he didn't try to sleep and he didn't even want to be near the bed. His clothes were a wreck after Take Two, so he'd sort of put them in the corner and he was sitting on them in that corner, watching the door, just waiting. Just waiting. He'd stopped trying to clean up in the bathroom, too, because it didn't help and he didn't want to look even vaguely attractive. If he had sweat dried onto him, and semen, and he smelled, fine, fantastic, as long as everyone left him the fuck alone for just a little while. He was too intelligent for them to do that with over and over, had too many other skills for that to be what his existence boiled down to. He'd saved the planet! He was a leading scientist, and he was just a companion whose life meant as much to those benefactors as a, a gerbil's.

It was what he'd been trained to do, one man had told him, smile oddly gentle, fingers curling against Rodney's chin, before Rodney had tried to bite his wrist.

The door was opening again and oh god, not again. Surely the place had a limit on the amount of lube they had around. He didn't care if they hit him again, he wasn't going to do it any more because...because he didn't belong to any of them and logically that didn't mean he belonged to everyone. Before the Presentation they didn't belong to everyone so why should he now?

"He's in here," one of the security guards was saying.

And he'd know. He'd know just where Rodney was, even if he was eyeing the bed and briefly thinking of trying to crawl under it. That trick would have worked a lot better when he was 14, and less so while he was 18. He was too filled out to manage it, so he just pressed his back against the corner, and tried to not really brace himself for what he knew was coming. His ass felt all stretched out and out of shape, and his dick was raw, and he never wanted to have sex again, ever, because all benefactors -- excepting a few -- were insane perverts who couldn't, who couldn't...

"John?" His voice cracked, broke, but it was John stepping into the room.

"Jesus... Rodney?" And John was there, a few quick strides and he was there with him, touching him and trying some sort of John way of reassuring him.

"What the bloody hell has been going on here?" That was Carson's voice, raised and angry. "What have you been doing to him?! You made me leave him here overnight and this happens? You had my word as a Benefactor in front of a Council that I would be buying the rights to his Companionship and you treat him like this?"

The security guard raised his hands slightly. "Hey, I'm just here to escort you on and then off the premises. What you benefactors do to your pets is not my business." Except, he'd had a really good time, and Rodney knew he should probably get checked for STDs, but John was there and he wiped at his noise again, torn between clutching onto John and fending him off. John was in his uniform clothes -- probably to scare Benefactors off a little -- and Rodney hated to see that sharp air force uniform get messed up.

"You came back."

"Told you we would," John murmured. "Here, pull on some pants, you can borrow my jacket. Carson will want you home, away from here as soon as possible."

"I'm telling you, I will make an official complaint to the Benefactors Federation," Carson said and his usually soft gentle voice sounded exceptionally angry. "I will be demanding an investigation. John? Do you have him, can he walk?"

"Can you?" John asked. "I can carry you... I'm doing okay now."

"You just miscarried." He said it like he thought John was stupid, but Rodney wasn't sure if he needed the help or not, and he reached for John's arm to pull himself up, knees unsteady. "I just want to go home. I want to, want to..." Get dressed, yes, but his pants weren't in good shape, and he was barely standing upright. Twisting to pick them up off the floor, from where he'd been sitting on them, leaking on them, wasn't a good idea.

"Steady," John replied. "Carson, problem here."

The Benefactor came over and took a look at the situation before turning to the guard. "Go fetch me one of the complimentary robes from Benefactor chambers. And if you think about protesting, I might remind you I am a member, I am entitled and I can get you fired."

Obviously not happy, the security guard left. "I think I will be able to carry him John," Carson said. "You shouldn't lift too much yet."

"Told you." Rodney swallowed, and stayed clinging to John. "I'm, I'm tired? And I want to go home, and I don't even care where home is."

"You are Coming Home with us," Carson said. "You can nap in the car, and then we'll get you all cleaned up and you can sleep as long as you want Rodney. And eat too... have you eaten?"

"Wouldn't call it eating." Rodney stayed there, trying to stand upright and not mess up John's uniform at the same time. "I thought you weren't. Didn't actually... that John was wrong, and you didn't want to take me in. Because he went home and I..." And he was a little light headed now that he was standing up.

Carson looked appalled. "With your blood sugar? That's criminal." He rustled around in his pocket and handed him a power bar. "Eat this, and of course we want you."

He emphasized the 'we' even as he moved closer and reached for Rodney. "Let's get you out of here."

He fidgeted with the wrapper, struggling a little to get it open. We. We. He could go home with John and Carson, and intrude on their lives, yeah, but it was John.

"Sir?" The security guard stuck his head in, holding out a robe. "If you're ready to leave, I'll escort you out."

Carson took the robe and then very carefully put it around Rodney. "Here Rodney, I'm going to pick you up. John, do you want to get any of his things so we can deal with them?"

John nodded gathering up Rodney's clothes, regardless of how filthy they were.

Which was stupid, because he didn't want them anymore, and there hadn't been anything that he'd had on him when he'd been taken but his IDs. And they'd shredded his companion one, and oh, god, he was unregistered. That was the whole problem, and he needed to be registered. "They broke my ID..."

"Aye, I know. I have a temporary new one here, and we'll come back and get you a proper photographic ID, " Carson replied and then with a grunt of effort picked Rodney up. "Oof...well, you're not as heavy as I thought but I'm not trained like John is...let's go, hmm?"

Just like that, easy like that, when he'd spent all night miserable and scared and not really wanting to think about the door opening again. He felt childish being picked up like that, once he'd been wrapped in the robe, but as long as it meant getting out, he could protest about his wounded pride later. He still had the powerbar clutched in his hands, and he could give it a try in the car.

And he could see John.

John was walking beside him, constantly looking over at him with his worried expression on his face. He looked less haunted, but just as intense, only that intensity was now apparently focused on him.

By the time Carson made it to the car and literally put Rodney in, he was puffing a little with exertion.

"John, would you mind riding with Rodney?" he asked.

"Sure," John replied and got in next to him, the dirty clothes thrown in the trunk. "How you feeling now? You can sleep Rodney...we're not leaving you anywhere now."

Rodney slouched down, weight resting on the small of his back because it ached less that way, loose fabric something he pulled close over him while he started to munch on the power bar. "Okay. I'm, I really didn't think you were coming. No-one ever wants a second companion..."

"I think we established that Carson isn't exactly your run of the mill Benefactor," John replied with a smile, though Rodney wasn't completely convinced he was really okay with it. He had seen him the day before after all, practically suicidal.

People just didn't really turn around from that. Because as happy as he was to be leaving that place, he couldn't muster up the elation he might have felt, oh, a week earlier. Before he'd seen John cave Acastus's head in while trying to protect Carson, and before he'd spent one hell of a night at the Council house.

"Yeah." He sank down a little, seatbelt pressing hard against his chest, and ate slowly. He was okay. He was going to be okay. If he kept telling himself that...

Still, if he had to share a Benefactor, then he could think of no one better to share with than John. He'd always wondered why, as popular as John was he chose to be his friend.

"We'll get you home, get you cleaned up and Carson will take a look at you and then you can sleep and rest up," John said.

"Aye, and that applies to you as well John. You seem to forget that you probably have some sort of mild concussion as well." Carson added from the front seat as they set off.

"Told you," Rodney mumbled. The wrapper made a really pleasant crinkly noise in his hands, and yeah. Yeah, he needed sleep desperately.

The contrast was like day and night.

When they'd arrived at Carson and John's home -- which was nice, and clean, and more than a little homey-feeling -- Carson had helped him upstairs and John had run a bath. Bathing was heaven, even if he was sore and he'd been fucked raw. He'd always had a thing for water and good soap, liked the way the heat sank into his bones. It all blurred together a little, moment to moment to moment, but somewhere in there he'd been given food again, and now he was coming out on the other side of sleep, warm and on a comfortable mattress.

What was interesting was that he became aware that there was someone half sitting, half lying next to him, at least partially responsible for the warmth.

Apparently they were reading a book. And from the very slow turning of pages he was pretty sure it was John. It used to infuriate him at the institute that John would read apparently so slowly until he realized that when he did that he had in effect memorized what he was reading and would never have to look at it ever again.

Which had of course infuriated him in a completely different way, because John was hot and smart, and he'd turned out to be better at shooting things than Rodney was, and...


Rodney shifted a little, sliding a hand out. Acastus would sometimes sit in bed and work on mission reports, so the moment was actually fairly familiar. "Mmm."

"Morning," came John's lazy drawl. "Or nearly afternoon. Carson said to let you sleep yourself out. You've done pretty well."

"Afternoon?" So just catching up on the sleep he'd missed the night before. That was good. That was great, and Rodney shifted, hugging the pillow closer. "Mmm, comfortable."

"You looked it. And sounded it," John replied. "You snored. Carson reckoned you have a cold or something. All the shock and everything."

His hand was suddenly touching him then in a half gentle, half protective way. "You look better though. Hard to look worse I guess."

He pressed his face against the pillow, and sighed at the feeling of John's fingers lingering at the nape of his neck. "Yeah, well. It was free Rodney of the Late Acastus Kolya for sale, and there was apparently a run on supply."

"Carson is really pissed about that," John replied. "He doesn't usually get angry but he was about that. They had his word that he was raising the funds for the following morning and he is arguing that is like a Benefactor or more forcing a Companion pre-presentation." He could hear the smirk in John's voice. "I wondered why he made me get your clothes, but he's sharper than people give him credit for. I think he's had the forensic team look at it so he can get all of them fired for gross misconduct.

Which was a little bit of a comfort, no, actually, not so much of a comfort, because some day he was going to have to stop thinking about himself like he was a tradable good, and his ass was surplus value, and get used to thinking about himself the way he wanted to be able to think about himself. John's fingers lingered, and that was nice, and he really did just feel better. Warm and clean and sore, yes, from pulled muscles to everything else, but he was safe. "Okay. Can't argue against that. I'm thinking about buying a Chastity belt. How about you?"

"Might as well be in one. Carson is refusing to even attempt sex with either of us until we are all healed up," John said sounding a little bit mournful.

Rodney twisted, leaning up onto his elbow so he could peer at John. "Hey. Get down here. I want to talk to you on roughly eye level."

John put the heavy book down and sprawled himself out, long limbed and graceful in a way that Rodney had never managed to master. "Better?" he asked.

"Better." He sighed. John was familiar, and they'd always been taught that other Companions were a safety net for them if they had the opportunity. "Hi. I don't want to think about sex for a while. It's never been a great thing for me."

"It will be," John promised. "I mean, I still want it even after what happened, which I guess shows you how good I think it can be." He shrugged a little. "And we don't have to stop ourselves now. We're... we're a Companion-pair."

Which were rare things, and there was the subtle implication that John thought they were more than just two Companions who shared a Benefactor.

Which was... which was really a fantastic thought, if Rodney had the energy for it. Sex wasn't going to heal anything, but being able to be close to someone like John, an old friend, was pretty comforting. "Huh. I hadn't thought about that. Does this, I mean Carson, doing this, are you all right with it?"

There was a pause and John said. "We... talked. I am... it's just complicated. I think I'm more fucked up than I realized. But I definitely wanted you. It was just I couldn't see how one of us wouldn't get pushed out and I didn't want that for you or for me."

Rodney almost felt relief to hear that, and he shifted, looping an arm loosely over John's shoulders. The fabric of John's t-shirt was nice, soft and well worn, and Rodney lingered on that for the moment. "If you said you were one hundred percent okay with it, I'd be worried about you. This is your home. Your place. I don't want to push you out. And you're not second to me."

"And you're not going to be to me either," John replied. "I've, I've got issues over the whole thing going back to the choosing. I have a hard time believing that Carson really wants me. And I know he wants you. And then you have a hard time believing the other way around. Carson says we're both wrong and he wants both of us differently and that it's not a competition."

"I promise to not compete," Rodney murmured, voice a little lazy and low. "I mean it. I'm just... glad. To be here."

"Rodney, you compete against yourself if there is no one to compete with," John replied with a smile. "Anyway, I got to thinking about what he was saying, and you. Thought we could team up rather than compete. We always have got on well."

"I want to team up. We could make a great team." Rodney smushed his face against the pillow for another long moment, taking a deep, shaky breath. "When do they expect you back at work?"

"Another week." John replied. "I'm okay now, but Carson won't let me. Or you. Not until we're settled in." He hesitated. "You okay?"

He wasn't really sure, so Rodney stayed quiet for a moment before he shook his head. "My life's been pretty... pretty upside down for a while now. Not really."

John shifted even closer and then pulled him close, and it wasn't forbidden or something wrong any more. "I figured that. But it's gonna get better. I promise."

"Yeah. I know what Carson thought of what Acastus used me for, and he always treats you well, and you're my friend." And Acastus was dead. "Sometime I have to go back to the house and get my books and things."

"Yeah, we've got a few things to work out. Like whether eventually you want to be rebranded, take Carson's name or the name of the McKay line - something about people getting incestuous assumptions, get your stuff, get your new ID.." John said. "But that can wait."

"Mmm." He wanted to lay there, and halfway hold John hostage for a little while longer, limp against the mattress. "We should eat. I need time to think about the rest."

"You wanna risk my cooking skills?" John asked with a smile. "Carson had to go into work so we get to raid the cupboard or order out if you want."

"We can order out?" It startled Rodney a little, and he sat up, peering at John and leaning over him a little. "I mean, I can cook and I do, but Carson doesn't watch your weight?"

"No," John replied with a smile. "I guess he might offer words of nutritional advice every now and then but he likes food, and I guess he figures I burn it off. You never ordered out with Kolya?"

"We went to dinners. He liked to show off, but we didn't just... sit at home and order in, I guess." He liked the casualness of the suggestion, of not having to get dressed and prettied up, and shave himself because he didn't want to think about approaching anything down there with a razor. "We should. If we can."

"We can. Carson has set up a joint account with me, he'll do the same with you. A portion of our salary goes direct to him, but about a third goes into the joint account to do with whatever we want. " John grinned. "Pretty cool huh? So... I've got more than enough to spring for anything you want."

Rodney's could feel himself smiling as he leaned closer to John. "That's a dangerous thing to say. I have a taste for steak... and Rubins. And pizza. I'll really just eat anything."

"Pizza orders in best, and I can do steak, but I'd have to get some in," John said. "Pizza good for you Rodney?"

"Pizza is good." He was stretching to resist the urge to lay back down and pull John close against and just savor having another human being close who didn't mean him harm. It was like practicum all over again.

"Any particular type?" John said shifting slightly . "Hold on a moment..." He got up off the bed and padded out of the room and came back in, tossing a flyer menu at him. "They're pretty good."

Rodney rolled onto his back, and it struck him that, yes, he was actually naked in the sheets. And while that was a nice feeling, it was something he needed to think about because John was there, but now they were companions in the same house, so...

So his head was going to hurt. A lot, in the next few weeks, while he got used to that. "Huh. Any toppings you despise?"

"Anchovies - seriously not my thing," John said. "Carson eats them but..." The other man shrugged. "You can have one to yourself if you want."

"Not that fond of tiny dead fish on my pizza either." Rodney looked at the menu for a moment more, and okay, maybe he fantasized a little about some of the other stuff on the menu, but he handed it back to John before declaring, "Whatever you prefer. As long as there's meat and cheese."

"They do a helluva four cheese and meat feast," John said. "Want anything else while I'm ordering?"

He grabbed a phone and was dialing even as he came back and lay beside him.

"No, I think I'm good. I might get up and poke around to see what you have for a coffee maker. That was one thing Acastus could do right. Coffee." Rodney grabbed the pillows from the head of the bed, and half-leveraged one under John's head, whether he wanted it there or not.

"You get our coffee maker to work, and I'll cook you steak tomorrow," John promised. "The damn thing is broken. Either that or liquid tar is a setting."

"Maybe it's a Turkish coffee maker?" Rodney didn't move yet, and he fell quiet when the phone picked up and John placed the order. Once John hung up, he offered, "So, can I steal some of your clothes so we can take this down to the kitchen?"

"Yeah, or Carson. He said his might be a better fit," John replied getting up and walking over to a wardrobe. "Casual okay with you?" he asked flinging out random pants, t-shirts and underwear. "Stuff neither of us wear a lot. We'll get some new soon."

"I have good clothes back at the house..." But he grabbed up a t-shirt and boxer shorts and decided to stop there, because he could love comfortably like that for a while, as sore as he still felt. Time to get dressed, then, so Rodney shifted to crawl out of the bed, clutching the clothes. "I'm sorry that I doubted that you'd come."

"Understandable," John said as if it didn't matter. "I'm very ..untrustworthy guy." He smiled a little.

"No, you're one of the more reliable, honest people I know. I just didn't think...." Rodney sat on the edge of the bed, pulling the t-shirt on over his head. "That if Carson meant it, they would have, have done that to me, is all."

That made John smile. "You've always be sure about what you think," he said. "Maybe we can do something for when Carson comes home later. He's pretty tired as well."

"Any ideas?" It was still avoiding. It was still not quite at the heart of the matter, but the guilt of breaking a cardinal rule was something Rodney didn't have thee slightest to address. He wasn't a perfect courtly companion. He had every earmark of turning Not At All Attractive as he got older -- because no matter how many sit-ups he did, he'd always had a soft stomach, and John had always poked it when they'd been in school -- and he was brash and he fought with Normals tooth and nail for his place in society.

While John excelled and could be that kind of companion that made a Benefactor melt.

And he wondered why John couldn't understand that he worried about someone wanting him.

"We could try making him dinner. Between the two of us, we could probably make him something he'd like." John replied. "Otherwise, we have suggestions to watch TV and do whatever we want."

Rodney shadowed behind John as they went down the stairs. "Does that mean we can polish the pizza off ourselves? Because I can make a really fantastic chocolate cake."

"You can? That sounds like a great idea," John said enthusiastically. "He likes cake."

Right, then. John could be beautiful and graceful and sort of naturally pleasing, and Rodney could make cake.

"Fantastic." Rodney rubbed his hands together a little. "Show me to your cocoa powder."

Carson was sure he had yet to catch up on sleep, and he took it as a minor triumph he had submitted all the forms he had needed to, handed over Rodney's treatment as a case to the Benefactor Federation, and now all he had to worry about was what two abused Companions had been getting up to while he was out convincing the SGC that he was a reliable employee.

He opened the door and went in, and was immediately assailed by delicious smells. "Hey, who installed a restaurant in here?" he called out.

"Rodney baked cake!" John's voice sounded comfortable, well rested, and Carson wasn't really surprised to see John coming out of the kitchen and towards him down the hallway. "Hi. We ordered a pizza in, and then started cooking."

"Cake? What type of cake?" Carson asked and couldn't resist slipping an arm around John and giving him a 'thank god I'm home' kiss.

He had another three days off, plus his usual weekend, before he had to go back to work. So, five days to make sure that his Companions were all right. Rodney had a week, for bereavement, and then he'd have to go back to work, and John slightly before that. A day or two, and Carson knew he needed to check, but his head was killing him. "It's a strange chocolate cake that Rodney swears is tasty. The batter was good."

"Well it smells good," Carson replied. "I hope you didn't eat too much. Where is Rodney? In the kitchen?"

"Yeah. With the frosting." John shifted, slipped an arm around Carson's waist a little. "We had a quiet day. How was yours?"

"Busy. When you get back in, I need to test out a theory...I managed to light up one of the Ancient artefacts today. The only other person who can in the SGC is General O'Neill and...well, we don't see him much," Carson said as he headed towards the kitchen. "I think it is something genetic and I think you have it too. If you do...then this is a really big deal."

"How big a big deal?" When they turned the corner into the kitchen, Rodney was standing at the kitchen table, sliding a knife through icing to slather it over the cake, a seemingly mindless repetitive motion. "Rodney, hey. It's flat already."

"Mmm, just trying to get it to..." Rodney's head jerked up, and he seemed to startle a little. "Oh, uh, hi. The cake was actually supposed to be a surprise, so uh. Surprise?"

"It's a wonderful surprise," Carson said, genuinely touched at the effort they had been to he stepped forward automatically and rested a hand on his shoulder and then paused. It might be a little soon to start kissing Rodney. Well, he could ask. "Rodney, I usually give John a kiss when I come in, is it too soon for me to do that with you? It is fine if you're not ready."

There was a brief deer in the headlights look that hit Rodney's face, and that was his answer before Rodney even had to open his mouth. "I, uh..."

John shifted away from Carson slightly, and kissed Rodney's cheek, and the startled fear slid into a different kind of startled. "Hey, you don't have to do anything you don't want to, around here. Just, when it feels right to you, then do it."

"Then I'll wait until you are ready to kiss me,£ Carson replied. It was a shame, but he wasn't going to pressure Rodney. "I must say, the cake looks magnificent."

That got a slightly less unsure smile. "Good. You need to try some of it -- after, uh, dinner, of course, but that'll give the frosting time to really set." Rodney put the knife back in the bowl of icing. Carson didn't particularly remember buying chocolate frosting, so there was a good chance that it was from scratch, too. It wasn't exactly the kind of trouble he'd been expecting them to get into.

"Sheppard's pie," John grinned. "We figured you had a long day."

"Long long and even longer," Carson said wander over to get a cup of tea rather than coffee. The coffee maker didn't work after all. "But, very interesting. The big deal could be if I am right and not just looking to genetic keys for the technology as I am a geneticist, then I could isolated the gene which activates Ancient technology. "

"Huh. More effective than a password, wouldn't it be?" Rodney scraped the knife off on the side of the bowl, and Carson watched John stick his finger in the icing, tasting it before he turned to stick it in the fridge.

It was a little like being home Normally, Carson supposed. John opened the fridge and got his creme out before he could even make a motion for it. Except now there was Rodney, standing a little lost in the middle of the room/

"Definitely. It would guarantee in a galaxy of aliens out to get you that at least only you could use your weapons," Carson said. "Rodney, would you mind passing me the sugar there. I don't usually, but I'm feeling a wee bit in need. Are you two joining me with the shepherds pie? After the pizza?"

"I could," Rodney admitted, sounding a little shifty as he reached for the sugar. He moved to put the cake on the counter, too, tidying up a little.

"Should. You should. Here, I'll get the plates." It was something simple he'd shown John to make -- potatoes and meat and vegetables and a few herbs, but it was a taste of home for Carson, and John did know how to use it to full effect.

The endocrinologist was all...well yeah, you have a hormone imbalance but we're not going to do anything about it

"Good. It's nice not to eat alone," Carson caught the phrasing. "Should? Are you hungry Rodney?" He looked quizzically at them both.

"Still catching up on the last couple of days, I guess." Rodney took a plate from John and hovered close to him, and Carson thought he caught part of a dirty glance passing from Rodney, directed at John. And John grinned.

"He kept commenting on how good it smelled when it started to cook."

"Aye well, it's a simple recipe really. A dash of Lea & Perrins sauce really does the trick," Carson replied. "My mother used to make it. Of course she also knew how to make haggis which I think is more an exercise in bravery than a culinary delight. Either that or she was very bad at haggis."

He was watching the two of them. They were like...siblings. It was strange. He'd never noticed before how close they really were. They had disguised it well.

He wouldn't have surmised that, but to finally see them together and comfortable, not acting their parts in the SGC... It was nice to know he hadn't jumped to an impossible conclusion after all. Rodney bumped his plate against the edge of the pan, and John served him and the plate for Carson, and it just seemed to flow. Rodney was comfortable with John, even if Carson knew he made the young man nervous.

And it was no wonder he was nervous, after the night he'd had.

He took the plate and the healthy vegetables which mean John had to be suffering from pizza induced food guilt which made him smiled. "So what have the both of you be doing?"

"Cooking, baking, reading. Rodney slept until about 2 or so. There wasn't anything on TV." Rodney waited to sit down after John had, and ended up sitting across from Carson, picking up his fork a little nervously.

"No, there was plenty on TV. But 'Who's my baby daddy' and talk shows are pretty uninteresting."

He took a forkful, and it was great. Just what he needed. "Oh, I'm glad you managed to sleep in Rodney. I was a little envious, but I've taken a few days leave going into the weekend and hopefully we can get everything sorted that we need to do."

"About that. Uh, John and I talked a little about what comes next, but... What does come next?" He cleared his throat a little, and the spines of his fork slide against the plate before he took a bite.

"In what way Rodney?" Carson asked. "What do you want to know?" He had a half mouthful when he answered that.

"About... my last name, and about branding. And... everything else. Expectations." He cleared his throat a little again.

"Expectations?" Carson raised an eyebrow. "Well, I pretty much expect you to do what makes you happy. No tricks, no hidden agenda's. I like people to be happy, to be well and at their best. I wouldn't've become a doctor if I didn't really want that. I don't like to order people around which John tells me, makes me a poor excuse of a Benefactor really, but that's because I like to think if someone does something, they do it because they really want to, not because they have to. I don't mind if you argue with me, I may moan and complain about ...I don't know, clothes lying around but just as normal people in a relationship would. I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do, because if you do decide to do something, I will know it's not just duty. Does that make sense Rodney? You won't believe how long it took me to get that into John's head."

"About three, four months," John confirmed. He was eating a little, and then got up, pointing out, "Oh, and hey, the coffee maker is half fixed. Rodney says we should get an espresso machine, though. I'm thinking that's the right idea. Anyway, you can at least heat water with it now."

"That's pretty impressive," Carson said eating another mouthful. "Oh and the rebranding...only if you want to Rodney. And you're last name - it was suggested that maybe you used one of the other Beckett line names simply so we make it clear we are a non-incestuous relationship. Apparently they get a surprisingly high amount of that happening. If you want Beckett than that is fine by me, but on offer is the original Benefactor of our line, McKay, or the other brothers McLeod and McCoy. "

“I'll think on it. Which one, I mean." Rodney ate a little more, and then leaned back in the chair to watch what John was doing. He was heating up water for something, putting it through the coffee maker. "But why would my taking on Beckett mean it would be interpreted as incestuous?"

"Two tends to be partners, three is assumed as partners and child. But I'm willing to risk assumptions if you are," Carson answered clearing his plate. "That was wonderful John - a very pleasant surprise."

"I thought it might help to get a little more... like normal around here." Help Rodney, yes, but it would help John, too. He seemed happy to be home, even if he was up and doing too much.

"What do you usually do? I'm not impeding on any routines?" Rodney tipped that more like a statement than a question, and it made Carson wonder how much of Rodney's life consisted or routines.

"That's a good question," Carson smiled. "Well, the both of us go to work and I usually try and match shifts so we are home together. We come back, we eat. Sometimes John drags me out, or I do. Or we stay in, watch a film and just relax. Or argue about who is going to do the laundry. It's a flexible routine really. Sometimes I do some work at home and John goes for a jog because he doesn't get enough at work."

"I feel like I'm imposing." Rodney shifted to move or stand or Carson wasn't sure, even as John stuck a mug in front of him and sat back down. "Doesn't John want anything instead?"

"John pretty much has what he wants," John murmured as he sat back down, slouching.

"Haven't quite run to buying him his own jet," Carson answered feeling content now he had eaten. Comfort food, there was nothing like it. "Though he has a guitar somewhere."

"I feel like I'm imposing." Rodney shifted to move or stand or Carson wasn't sure, even as John stuck a mug in front of him and sat back down. "Doesn't John want anything instead?"

"John pretty much has what he wants," John murmured as he sat back down, slouching.

"Haven't quite run to buying him his own jet," Carson answered feeling content now he had eaten. Comfort food, there was nothing like it. "Though he has a guitar somewhere."

"I'm not that good at it, but I pick." John slurped at his Cocoa. "So, Rodney. Do you want to serve up the cake?"

It startled Rodney a little. "Oh, right. We might as well go completely for bloated and full, huh?"

"Aye, sounds like an excellent idea," Carson replied with a part smile. "I meant to ask you Rodney, did you ever see anyone else at the SGC turn on any of those ancient devices?"

"Carter, but she's Goa'uld only. General O'Neill, Doctor fluffy haired Jackson." Rodney stood up, and he took his cocoa with him to the counter where John had put the cake.

"Goa'uld or Ancient?" Carson asked. SG-1 were a conundrum in themselves with so many differing factors that it would be difficult to pinpoint one that was key.

"Ancient. O'Neill is ancient only, and the same with Jackson." Rodney rifled through drawers for a moment, and he found a large knife to cut it with just as John leaned back to direct him to the right drawer. "Why?"

"I managed to activate one today," Carson said. "If I can correlate the common genetic factor, there is a possibility I can make a serum that could give other people access to it. The Goa'uld technology is activated by a trace naquadah bonded organo-protein not really a genetic key as such."

It was proving a real bugger to synthesize. Fact was, playing host to a Goa'uld was the only way to do it at the moment. But he'd passed that one to the biochemists once he'd generated a Goa'uld test.

"So, you can turn it on?" That perked Rodney's interest a little, but he seemed intent on cutting the cake. "Good. We always need one more who can utilize it."

"If I'm right, I think John is going to be our strongest gene-holder," Carson said. "Based on what happened with the family Opener and... everything." It was still a difficult subject and not one he even really knew how to discuss.

"Are you..." Rodney paused, and shuffled plates around for a moment. "Are you going to try again?"

And it was a hell of a thing to be talking about. No time at all had passed since John had miscarried, and even in women there was a period of time that needed to pass before trying again. And Rodney had spent a night essentially being raped, and there they were. Eating cake and chatting away like nothing at all.

"I..." John looked sideways at Carson and took another sip of his cocoa. "Yeah. I want to."

"Aye well, we'll have to talk about that. I'm not entirely sure if the changes will carry a child to term, and there is plenty of time yet," Carson said. Truth was he had thought about it and wondered if, considering their line of work his older sister who was desperate for a child but unable to conceive, would accept a living fetal transplant. But John seemed keen to go through it and he wasn't sure if that was because he wanted to give him an heir or that he wanted to be a father.

And John just went quiet and rolled his shoulders a little. "Right. Yeah. Plenty of time." And lord knew what John was thinking, but he watched Rodney come back towards him with the cake.

"Your hormones are still all messed up," Rodney murmured. "Acastus's sister went crazy for, oh, about a year after she had Idos, apparently. Not the time to be making really big decisions yet."

"Rodney's right John. It would make it very difficult to do all the things you wanted to do before," Carson offered as he took the cake. It smelled delicious. He dipped a finger in the frosting a licked it. "Mm."

"Yeah, well, Acastus' sister is also a professional sniper. It didn't really put much of a kink in her step until about month five." Rodney sat back down, and his voice seemed a little off. "Apparently I can play devil's advocate to both sides."

Carson studied him a little. "Are you uncomfortable with the idea Rodney?" John had suggested that they should try and make the change with Rodney as well.

"Huh? No, just..." Rodney picked his fork up, leaning an elbow on the table. "We're trained to take what life throws at us. To roll with it and take... everything. It's just been a long, long couple of days."

"I'd rather talk about bad shit on TV and movies right now," John admitted as he used the spoon from his cocoa to cut through the cake.

It was probably a sensible suggestion. Carson nodded taking a mouthful of the cake. "Oh... that's wonderful Rodney," he managed after a moment of fresh cake related bliss. "You're right, lets just relax a little. We could watch a movie if you want, together."

"Rodney rifled through the cabinet earlier." Between the two of them, he and John had vast differences of movie taste. "I think we can find a few things."

"I've missed Monty Python," Rodney offered, mouth full of cake when he talked.

"I don't mind anything," Carson said. "Though we'll get some new ones when we are out I think."

"Best buy?" John suggested it with a wicked gleam in his eyes. He could window shop in that store for a bloody long time, just petting things and ogling their specs.

Carson smirked a little. "Aye. I think we deserve a little treating, all of us. It's been a very busy week."

Sometimes, he felt a huge pressure, a need to cry or something, and... he just couldn't. It was like he broke himself by refusing to let Kolya have that from him, that one bit of control left to him. It was at those times when he felt wild and uncontrollable.

And he wanted to, wanted to let go a little, let loose, let himself fall apart. But he could sit there, and watch Rodney sleep. Rodney had always slept like a pile of dead rocks. Still and unmoving except for the odd grumble, and he was a bed hog.

He wondered what would happen to him. Would they even let him on a team again? He knew he couldn't face his old team because they hadn't rescued him, because he would look and see Kolya there. Or was he going to be a freak to study? He didn't want that. He wanted to fly, he wanted to keep going through the gate because what they were doing was important.

Maybe he'd get on a new team. He guessed that he'd find out in time, when he got back to the base. It had been a blur, all of it, and all of the Normals had suddenly been very weird about him and Rodney. Like it had just hit them that Rodney and John weren't just prodigies, but property.

At least Carson treated him well. Would treat Rodney well.

Carson needed to be safe because if something happened to him, he would have Rodney. And vice versa though working at the SGC was meant to be safer, there had been lots of fatalities within the complex as far as he was aware.

He didn't mind being property to Carson, but he minded Kolya having Rodney. It was cruelty and a waste and he wasn't meant to think about that sort of thing about Benefactors.

But they weren't supposed to do that to people. Rodney should have been cherished and spoiled rotten, and he hadn't. He was two years younger than John, and he was definitely in a worse place than John had been at 18. At 18, John had already been on and off top of his class, with more friends than he knew what to do with in the academy.

He half lay himself next to Rodney, wanting the closeness there. He was worried about whether he could be the Companion that Carson seemed to want anymore. He loved him, and he wanted to be with him but he was frankly scared all his training would've been for nothing because of what Kolya had done. What if he couldn't deal with being tied up for example? Okay they hadn't done much of that but it had been fun when they had and...and what if he couldn't cope with being fucked again? He thought he wanted it but, what if...?

What if they got that far and he just freaked out? He didn't want to inflict that on Carson, and thankfully Carson hadn't asked or pressed for anything, but he would, and...

And it was a lot to worry about. And half laying beside Rodney slid the worry away, just a little, pushed it to the side. Rodney snored a little, but his face was mushed into the pillow, hair wild. And he seemed to be finally waking up, shifting one leg lazily against the mattress.

He turned his attention to Rodney, to watch him coming around. He was still feeling tired even though he'd woken up earlier than everyone else. He hoped it didn't freak Rodney out finding him there.

Rodney had been pretty blasé about it the first time, but there was no guarantee about it the second time. He shifted again, squirming and twisting to lay on his side, hugging the pillow tighter. And John just watched, waited until Rodney cracked one eye open blearily.

"Hey," he said softly and tried to think of a logical reason why he was there. There wasn't one so he just stopped at that point.

Rodney pushed himself up onto his elbows, and just looked at John for a moment before he slumped down and put his head back on the pillow. "Hi."

"Thought you might not be used to waking up alone, John murmured. "I can go if you want."

"No, 'm okay." Rodney stretched beneath he sheets, and nudged John with his knee. "What time is it?"

"Little after 9," John replied settling a little more. "Carson's sleeping in. I woke up a while ago."

"Huh." Rodney shifted, stretching to lay out flat on his back, and a motion of his shoulders made it crack a little. "Uhnf. Didn't sleep all that well after all."

"You didn't go off when we went to bed?" John asked a little worried. "I can leave you alone now if you want."

"No, I just..." Rodney smacked a hand up against the sheet from the inside, and pulled his hand out to tug at the bedding. "I miss home. I miss Acastus. I miss our bed and my things and just, it's stupid."

John reached out and touched him. "No one expects you to be fine right away." He wanted to apologies again but that would probably make things worse.

John got up and wandered out to pull on some pants and a t-shirt. He did that and still had time to write a note saying 'Hi Carson, Rodney and I are going to break into Kolya's place and steal back his stuff. Will get bagels on the way back. See you in an hour or so,' before Rodney appeared.

"I've said we'll be about an hour," he said as he grabbed the car keys.

"Okay." Rodney was wearing borrowed clothes again, but at least he managed to pull it off, and the weather had been comfortable and mild out. "I appreciate this."

"It's no big deal. You remember when we used to go out in Cambridge? " John smiled a little as they headed out the door. "I got you that 'Genius' T-shirt you could never wear because it wasn't appropriate."

"Still have it." Rodney lifted his eyebrows a little, and shoved his hands into his pockets as he trailed along after John. It felt a lot like old times.

"You could wear it now," John assured him. "Carson would find it funny. Maybe we can pick that one up."

"Yeah. You're not allowed to carry much weight, so no offering to lug things down the stairs." And maybe if Rodney had some of his things from home with him, he'd feel better, more together.

At least that was the plan. It wasn't that far to Kolya's place and the only reason John was taking a car at all was because they wouldn't be able to carry things back. It was in a different area and surprisingly grander than John had expected for a military base house. As they got out of the car, it suddenly occurred to him that hey, he might have to break in.

"Rodney, do you have keys?"

"No. Well, I did, but they took them from me at the Benefactor center. Along with..." Rodney waved a hand slightly. "There's a set hidden in the flowerbed."

John looked at him sharply. "What else did they take from you at the Center?" he asked.

"Cell phone, wallet, anything I had on me. Pen." Rodney clenched his jaw a little while he popped the door open, and stood up, staring at the house for a moment. "You know, if I'd been anyone else, any normal person, I could have gone to a police station and filed assault and robbery charges."

John had to agree with that. "There are times being property isn't a good thing," he said. But then he wouldn't have Carson. Or Carson have him. If it had come to legalities about his rape, it could only have been tried under Benefactor Law, and it was only the unexpected miscarriage that made it so severe. Kolya had been right, he could've easily paid off Carson for 'damages' or offered equivalent service in lieu with Rodney. And that would've been that. He waited for Rodney to find the door key to let them in.

"Most of the time for me, it hasn't been a good thing. If we weren't, everything... it all would've been different." Finding the key involved getting onto his hands and knees and digging under mulch until he found the key -- just the key, no box to hide it in, grimy and honestly in the dirt. "Got it."

"You would've been probably still at University," John pointed out and smiled. "Terrorizing academia."

"At least until I was older," Rodney agreed, blowing dirt off the key while he stood back up. "You, too."

"Maybe," John replied, though he knew there were no qualified pilots of his age with an equivalent of a Masters in Math. Most people hadn't even found their way to a lecture from the bar at his age. No wonder he felt old. "The physics and math groupies would've been all over you."

"I want groupies," Rodney groused, keying the door open. "Somehow I think all the history people would have them instead."

"Bastards," John said flippantly and followed Rodney in. It was ...a beautiful house, but ...sterile. His home with Carson wasn't beautiful, but it was homey and comfortable and it had personal touches scattered around like random pictures John had sent him over the years and once that Carson had sent to him. It never looked like you would be in trouble for moving something out of place.

This had that feel to it. Everything was clean and tidy, and Rodney breezed right through the living room and headed up the stairs.

"So, his sisters not likely to be here is she?" John asked, following him. It did feel a little furtive sneaking around here.

"Not yet." Rodney mounted the stairs quickly. "Nothing down there is mine. Anything I have is in the bedroom, or the study."

"Are we talking boxes full or...just a few things?" John asked. He tried to imagine if Kolya was the type to lavish Rodney with gifts.

"Couple of boxes. And I'm taking my clothes." Not lavish, then, and John wasn't sure what Rodney considered 'box' sized. The hallway was as sterile as the downstairs looked at first glance, and Rodney veered left into what looked like a study.

"Yeah, we're not exactly the same size are we?" John replied following him. "The place is pretty neat Rodney." It gave him slight guilt. He did clear up and keep things together like a Companion should but he'd been lax since the attack, for obvious reasons.

"Thanks. I actually hate cleaning." Rodney rolled his shoulders slightly as he started towards the desk, and started to open drawers, looking for something.

John wandered a little and then ended up half perched on the edge of the desk. "Anything I can do to help?" This had to be pretty hard for Rodney.

"Can you hit the shelf over there and see if there's any CDs marked 'R'? In marker on top of it."

"Sure," John said and wandered over and started sorting through the music. It was very eclectic, but one thing was for sure, they'd have to get Rodney a piano. He had played down his interest. John remembered him being good, but it looked like the music had become more and more important since he'd joined his Benefactor.

"Yeah, we're not exactly the same size are we?" John replied following him. "The place is pretty neat Rodney." It gave him slight guilt. He did clear up and keep things together like a Companion should but he'd been lax since the attack, for obvious reasons.

"Thanks. I actually hate cleaning." Rodney rolled his shoulders slightly as he started towards the desk, and started to open drawers, looking for something.

John wandered a little and then ended up half perched on the edge of the desk. "Anything I can do to help?" This had to be pretty hard for Rodney.

"Can you hit the shelf over there and see if there's any CDs marked 'R'? In marker on top of it."

"Sure," John said and wandered over and started sorting through the music. It was very eclectic, but one thing was for sure, they'd have to get Rodney a piano. He had played down his interest. John remembered him being good, but it looked like the music had become more and more important since he'd joined his Benefactor.

It was probably some type of escape, but John picked through the CDs -- some of it made him smile, and some of it just struck him as funny. A lot of classical, a lot of random rock and pop.

Rodney was on the other side of the room, rummaging through the desk itself, quiet while he did it. So John stayed quiet, too, half appreciating the CDs that had R marked on top of them.

He'd have to introduce Rodney to Johnny Cash and Carson's taste in music which tended a bit towards the folk and ballad, with a healthy dose of other random songs mixed in.

It didn't take him too long to sort them through and pile them up. It was strange how knowing someone's taste in music seemed to help.

But the fact that Rodney had a taste in music was... was sort of a good sign. He was just about to turn around and see what Rodney was doing when he felt the other Companion come up behind him, loosely hugging him. He had a container of DVDs in one hand. "I'm sorry."

John blinked a little. "What for?". That came totally from out of left field as far as he was concerned. Not that he was objecting to the feel of him there because he could move and react not like with Kolya there.

Rodney pressed his face against the back of John's head. "For what Acastus did. I can't remember if anyone's apologized for that, and someone should."

"Oh." John found himself trying to remember if anyone had or if he'd even expected an apology and came to the conclusion he had never even given the possibility a thought. "Thanks," he said awkwardly. It didn't take away what had happened but he appreciated it and oddly his throat tightened a little as if he was in danger of getting emotional.

"I should have figured it out sooner, told someone to not trust him with you." Rodney wasn't moving yet, just stayed where his was, and his arm tightened for a moment before flexing and relaxing.

He twisted around, not breaking the enclosure of those arms but needing to face him.

"Carson was already suspicious after he treated you but...up until then he hadn't treated me any differently. His control...snapped," John said softly. "It must've been close to...something he really wanted. That's nothing you need to apologies for."

"I'm still sorry. I still wish he hadn't done it. Then you and Carson would be okay, and you'd still be, you have no idea how surreal it is to say that you'd still be pregnant, but the Ancients were strange as far as I know, so..." He put his chin down on John's shoulder.

"I...don't even know if Carson wants that again," John admitted. "I don't know if the fact I want to is real or not or...weird blood chemistry." It felt right holding him like that, and it was a sudden thrill to think that he could kiss Rodney and let it be real for them both. He drew back just a little, hesitating uncertainly for a moment.

Rodney was so close and it would've been so easy to do that, and Rodney seemed to get the signal, to remember it from Practicum. He pulled back, tilted his head, and just pressed his mouth lightly against John's, unsure.

Then he could be gentle and tender and use that way of expressing the things he found difficult to say aloud. How much it meant that Rodney had been there for him, against the wishes of his own Benefactor. How much it meant that Rodney had told him and they had saved Carson's life though it had meant the loss of Acastus for Rodney.

How much it meant for him just being himself there and then with his lips burning against his and all those years of practice and theory fading away to something more natural and seamless.

No-one was watching or evaluating them for skill, and Rodney had developed a style completely different from how it had been when John had been with him in practicum. He leaned in, and somehow didn't let go of the DVD container he was holding, but he kissed back slow, soft-lipped, a quick slide of tongue against John's lips.

He let him in and his arms wrapped around him and he was desperate then for this to never stop, because this was someone who understood all the complexities of what it felt like to him and he never wanted to let go of Rodney. He was beautiful to him, he allowed him to have instinct a Companion shouldn't have that were a huge part of himself and that wasn't something he could let go.

Every touch of lip whispered tenderness to Rodney, more than physical passion.

And it was what they needed, what John needed. To be wanted but not in a throw down on the bed up or against the wall way, and Rodney seemed to respond to that, leaning into him closer, and only finally breaking the kiss when John could feel Rodney's erection pressing against his hip. "Huh. Hi."

You would've never made that second PHD if we'd been allowed to do that at the Institute," John murmured and smiled at him. There were no Benefactors here that Rodney might feel he would have to act a certain way for and he had still kissed him like that.

"I can still think while having sex," Rodney mumbled, and pressed a quicker kiss against John's mouth. "We should. Finish packing things up."

"Yeah..yeah, get that breakfast on the way back," John replied. There was no question that he wanted Rodney, and Rodney knew it. That went a long way to solving problems.

Not any of the big problems, but at least things could work. In the house, between the three of them, it could work. "Uh-huh. Breakfast. Do you want to help me bust up these DVDs when we get home, too?" He held the container aloft for a moment as he turned to half lead the way out of the study

"What's on them?" John ask as he scooped up the CD's he'd collected. He didn't want Rodney to destroy things he might've wanted to keep on reflection.

"The recordings Acastus had me make when I had sex with other men." Rodney said that as he stepped into the bedroom.

John winced a little. "I'm pretty sure there's some lighter fluid around somewhere. Can we set fire to them? Blow them up?

"I'm up for whatever creative means of destruction you have in mind. He used to..." Rodney threw the container down onto the bed, and veered for the closet door. Maybe if he kept in motion, he'd keep himself together. Or not start kissing John again. "He used to come home and masturbate to them. Because it was so much better than the actual me, apparently."

And no one but another Companion could understand the betrayal inherent in that. "Well, y'know having just kissed you I can say....he was crazy Rodney. Because there's no way the mind can be like that, not matter how good anyone is at visualizing."

"He could do anything he wanted, and I didn't fight back. But you fought back and I struggled with the people he wanted me to be with and..." Rodney leaned into the closet, pulling out military duffle bags. "And I still miss the bastard. I kept thinking I could fix him."

"Told you, he wanted to force someone. Me. You couldn't be forced because you were trained to submit to him," John said. "I don't blame you for missing him Rodney, day you're going to be angry about him."

"I'm already angry about him." Rodney untied the drawstring at the top of the big duffle bag, and held it open for John to put the CDs in. "The bottom two shelves of the bookcase are mine if you want to hold the bag open for me. Actually, maybe the cds should go on top of that."

"Sure, I'll do that," John said. "You know, I'm not really ill you know. I probably could lift things." Instead of standing around feeling useless.

"You had a miscarriage. That's a whole lot of bleeding and tearing and if you ever want it to be an option for you again, you can hold the bag for me and I'll load it with books. I can carry heavy things." Rodney's mouth twisted a little as he moved to the bottom bookshelf. "Well. You're a lot stronger than me, but you know what I mean."

" still sounds weird when someone says that," John admitted obediently holding the bag. "I don't really know what to say to people. To Carson, you...anyone."

"About what?" Rodney pulled three books out, thick tomes, and placed them careful in the bag.

"About the whole baby thing," John said. "Or lack of it. Because now I'm not sure that the reason I was practically orgasming through my Presentation was due to an alien device rearranging my insides, or that I really like it. Or what is stuff I really want, or if it's hormones or... whatever."

"So give it time and space, and then reevaluate it. Give the things you did before a test drive when you're okay with it again and..." Rodney rolled his shoulders, suggestion vague. "It's like questioning... do I actually like men, or is it something I've been trained to do as a Companion? I know I do, but I could question myself to the end of the earth and back as a metaphysical exercise."

"You know you're attracted to both," John said with a part smile. "Samantha Carter? Ring a bell?" He teased a little. "Besides, I want to try stuff with you. I liked Practicum, I was good at it and I always wanted to try out all of it, and I don't want to have that fucked up by some hang up."

"You were assaulted. That's not... a hang up." Rodney stooped, pulled more books out. It was mechanical, but it seemed like he had everything already organized for himself. Carson and John had a lot more of a mishmash going on.

"Feel like it. We'd only played around with the tying stuff, but it really was great," John said frankly. "And now...I guess it's more that I'm not sure and I don't like not knowing my limits."

More books were put down into the bag, and Rodney gestured for John to put it down. He started to clear the second shelf into another bag. If they put clothes on top of the books, it would definitely still be carriable. "I think I need to relearn mine.

"Can I help?" John asked hopefully. "I know Carson wants you to discover how much fun it can be."

He wanted that too. He wanted Rodney to feel like he had, wanting and needing, and receiving everything he asked for.

"Of course you can help." Rodney shot him a look like he'd just asked the most stupid question ever.

"Doesn't hurt to ask," John answered as he tidied up what was put in the bag. "I guess it'll be working out when we are ready next."

"I--" Rodney stopped himself, and ducked his head for a moment to put the last of the books into the second bag. "I have no idea how to figure that one out."

"We were pretty okay with the kissing," John pointed out. "How about we wait for the medical all clear and then maybe see if we can do something?"

"The medical all clear being your very careful Benefactor?" Rodney left the duffle bag of books on the floor, and twisted to open a dresser drawer. It wasn't made up of clothes so much as pieces of electronics. PDA, mp3 player, laptop in a soft case, a second laptop... "I, I could get very used to kissing you like that. Are we allowed to?"

"Our very careful Benefactor," John corrected. "And yeah... yeah, Carson is pretty happy with that. He'd probably enjoy watching as much as anything. He likes to look and admire, but as a prelude to touching."

Not as some strange masturbatory habit. John didn't know how he would have reacted if that was how his Benefactor preferred him, degrading himself with other men on recording. "Our. Right." Rodney started to carefully squirrel the electronics into the second bag. "I, I think I do want to be rebranded."

"It'll be a while before you can. Apparently they have to graft over the original, but it's a cool brand. Lions head," John reassured. "Although they might have something at the SGC that helps that along. But it won't be a full on Presentation. We could have our own."

"I hated being presented. Hated it. I think just the three of us would be much better." Well, the three of them and someone to brand Rodney because Carson could never do that himself if it caused pain. John knew himself well enough to know that. "I guess I have to pick a new Family Name to use before we go back to the SGC."

"You could be Beckett. Rodney Beckett. Or...Rodney McKay...that's got a nice sound as well," John replied. "I like the idea of you being individual, because you are."

"I like the idea of no-one thinking that I'm someone's kid." Well, he was someone's kid, but the not-knowing was just part of the system. Rodney gently laid his laptops into the bag, and then put in various power cords before he started to layer clothes on top. "McKay. That could be better. That way there's not two Doctor Becketts."

"Dr Rodney McKay," John tried experimentally. "Yeah, that sounds cool. I like that. McKay..." He'd never have thought about there being too many Doctor Becketts around. He smiled a little. "Are we done then Dr McKay?"

"Let me top the other bag off with clothes. I might as well try to take all of my clothes." But other than that, Rodney didn't seem to think he had entitlement to anything else there.

"Nothing else that is yours? This is light enough I think I could carry it without Carson getting pissed at me," John said putting the CD's in.

"Maybe. I mean, there's no point in trying to put the TV set or the sofa in a box, and you have them at your house. After this, it's all... functional things. And Acastus's things. I don't want his computer. I'm pretty sure the porn he had on it alone make the machine irreversibly damaged."

John immediately vowed to buy Rodney some stupid little things when they all went out shopping. Just so he could have 'things'. Fun things, things to play with. He was damn lucky to have experienced that already. "Yeah." He lifted the bag. No twinges. "C'mon, lets get back home."

"Before his sister shows up," Rodney agreed wryly, shoving a last handful of socks onto his own bag, and pulling it closed.

John had to agree, and if they got a move on, Carson wouldn't even be awake to know they had been gone. And if he knew his Benefactor at all, fresh bagels would easily distract him, and maybe Rodney too.

First day back was a momentous event for him and Rodney had no idea what to do.

He'd spent an hour getting himself redocumented at the front desk, new last name noted and a copy of his temporary ID made, his new SGC ID given to him. John had been all encouragement that morning -- encouragement and fruity cheerios floating in milk, offering Rodney a banana in a fairly coy manner, and Carson puttering around, making coffee. They had a couple of days to themselves, and Rodney figured they needed it.

And he needed to get back to work, which meant heading down to the labs as quickly as he could.

He got there to find Sam loitering around talking to Radek as if she was waiting for someone to turn up. And that someone appeared to be him. "Rodney," she turned and smiled at him. "Good to have you back. How are you?"

Fine. Fine, he was fine, no-one ever wanted a real answer to that question, so he shifted his laptop bag off of his shoulder like he always did. "Fine." He had no idea how it looked to the normals -- passed from Benefactor to Benefactor, like someone's dog.

"That's good. " She came closer glancing at his ID. "McKay? I thought you might be re-registered as Beckett?"

Rodney lifted the ID badge that he was wearing, and it was a vague gesture. "I thought two Doctor Becketts in the same workplace might be a little confusing."

"Sensible," Sam replied nodding. "Look...Radek's asked for help on the ancient technology now it seems that Dr Beckett can activate it and we've got some live samples here. The command are pretty interested in all of that because they want defensive capabilities as a priority. I know it's not wormhole dynamics, but you're good at getting things to work."

"Getting things to work. That's a really precise technical term, isn't it? Surprise surprise that this came through while I wasn't around to run the idea past. You're still angry that I was right about the DHD, aren't you?" He glanced over to Radek, trying to gauge if the Czech had actually had any part in the decision making process.

"Rodney, that was months ago and I was just glad we got it to work. It's made things a lot easier," Sam said in a placatory tone.

"Am needing competent help Rodney," Radek said unexpectedly. "But do not have time to stroke ego. Pairing with Kavanagh has put project way behind and there is much to do. Aside from devise cunning plans of assassination involving cafeteria spoons."

Sam cleared her throat and looked at Radek who shrugged unrepentantly.

"Given that that's the best idea I've heard around here in a while..." Rodney shifted, didn't let go of his laptop bag. "Fine, sure. I want to learn more about it anyway."

"Good. Good, they'll be asking your... Benefactor, Dr Beckett to concentrate on this theoretical serum he has postulated if he can find a strong gene holder," Sam said. "In the mean time, you might need to persuade him to turn devices on."

"John can. At least, we think John can." Rodney stood up a little straighter, still eyeing her. "Given what happened with the Beckett family opener."

: "Well, when he's back, we can test that idea," Sam replied and then tapped at her radio. "Gotta go. Have fun. Try not to blow up anything."

"No more than usual," Radek promised as she left the lab. "So. Cannot tell if you want this Rodney or not. You say no and then yes. Which is it?"

"I was just making sure she wasn't power-playing me. You miss a few days of work, and hey, who knows what can happen?" And he had to keep his place defined there.

Radek looked at him. "Rodney, I do not play games here. Not interested. Interested in science. If you are right I will listen, if I am right you will listen."

Which was nice in sentiment, but he couldn't even guess what the other scientist was thinking, even if he knew what Carter was thinking. "Right. That's how things should work here." Until he was shuttled off to a different assignment because Captain Perfect couldn't take criticism.

"And you do not believe in it," Radek stated. "Hmm. I could spend time trying to persuade you, but I will not. Because you believe that which is proved. Yes? We will work now and make own proof."

And he'd worked vaguely with Doctor Zlenka -- Zelempka? Rodney leaned and caught sight of his name tag, and decided it was a hell of way to spell something -- before, but there was working with someone and then there was actually working closely with someone. "That's fine by me. Where are you in the lab?"

"Come with," Radek said. "In the reinforced lab. In case of accidentally technology issues." He gave a quirky smile to that and stood, gesturing for Rodney to follow.

Oh. Great. Maybe it really was a step down in terms of position, but Rodney followed after Zelenka anyway. It wasn't as if he had a choice, and maybe it would be interesting work.

It took Rodney exactly 47 minutes to get into his first argument with Zelenka and for forty of those minutes he had been biting his tongue.The interesting thing was the way that they argued. He called Radek an idiot, which wasn't strictly fair, and Radek would call him an irresponsible child with so much brain common sense had been pushed out to make way for ego and then grab a pen and scribble why he thought Rodney was wrong - which was the principle difference between the Czech and other scientists. They thought that it was enough to just say "because I have more experience and you are a kid for Christ's sake!".

So then he would grab the pen back, or one of the others and start interrupting with his notations on the board and Radek would throw his arms up in despair and mutter and then filling in the bits he had missed in his excitement and the next thing they knew was that they were both looking at a completed...if messy solution.

Radek looked at the board, then at Rodney, then at the board again and he could see him running over the workings in his head doublechecking, triple checking and then finally just starting to laugh until he had to sit down.

" you long Kavanaugh and I were working on that?" he gulped in between attempt to stifle laughter."Five week...five...Oh God, I think hurt myself." He clutched his side and had to wipe at his glasses.

Five weeks. Five weeks was no small chunk of time to work out the power distribution system of what looked to Rodney like a soda-cansized piece of equipment. The Database called it an 'emanator', some kind of control system. But that just all the reason Rodney needed to decide he didn't want to turn it on at all. "Huh."

"And we have done it together in under one hour," Radek was still laughing. "This rate will have caught up by today! Here...look. This is Opener device of Beckett family." He gestured to one of the items out in the containment area.

"Carson's going to want it back," Rodney told him as he reached to pick it up. It was the traditional over-wrought, over decorated dildo used for a Family Opener. "And uh, I actually have no idea if it was sterilized between the house and here. Carson sort of brought it in, in a hurry..."

"Is sterile. We put in autoclave very carefully." Zelenka replied. "There are alloy test result.." He gestured to a laptop. "We are trying to find activation mechanism."

"I think it's genetic." Rodney turned it over in his hands, trying to remember what Carson had told him about it. There was a switch at the bottom of it, and he wasn't going to think about it in John, no, not thinking.

John who had enjoyed it. It was pretty sizeable as objects went and hey, unsurprisingly it didn't light up or glow when he was touching it. John might be disappointed. It would have to produce some sort of energy somehow so there would have to be a mechanism. If he could get into the...thing...If he twisted it and...oh...there it went.

He felt something catch and whirr quietly to life inside of it, and his hands tingled where he touched it. The blue glow was pretty soothing, tendrils of it seeping out of the filigree work.

"Oh, huh. Was there anything in the database about this one, or anything like it?"

Zelenka's eyes widened. "It never did that when I opened. Must be careful Rodney. There is a similar looking object. Dr Jackson is saying it may be origin of Opener tradition. Devices intended to preserve genetic ancient lines."

"No, really? What gave you the clue that it did that, the fact that John ended up pregnant?" But the idea of a similar-looking object, that caught Rodney's attention. More information was better. This wasn't just tech, it was personal.

"Here. Would be better if we knew more Ancient. Dr Jackson's translation here." Radek said frowning a little. "If is true and it effect only people with Ancient DNA then could be key."

"A privately owned key." And while he was trying to imagine the government attempting to seize a benefactor's opener, it could be a hell of a court battle. At least, and interesting one.

Rodney clutched it for a moment, and then set it down on the table in the hopes that it might turn itself off, while he twisted to read the explanation.

It was at once esoteric and technical and filled with notations for differing possible translations. What he did see was that there was in fact a programmed crystal in there. And that was more what he was talking about, what he understood.

But worrying there were not completely happy looking comments about male "fertility". 'For emergency use only'. Low conception rate. Side effects possible. Permanent alterations. This did not sound particularly like a risk free endeavor and it made it all the more tragic that Acastus had killed a successful fetus.

The permanent alterations part made him twinge a little, made him think that he'd have to talk to Carson about finding out if John still had all the workings inside of him. The side effects looked about what Rodney expected -- emotionality, physical health risks, blah blah blah.

No wonder John had been a bit all over the place, out of control. Carson needed to see this information. The Opener kept glowing stronger when he put his hand near it and he kept thinking involuntarily of Carson and John and what Carson must've done to John with it and it was incredibly vivid....and quick possibly coming from the device itself.

He took his hand away and the intensity of the fantasy faded a little.

Right. So, the damn thing has some kind of 'use me' imperative. The switch on the bottom had to have a way of deactivating it, too, and if he reached for it again, sure that that was all he was going to do. "For something with all of these warnings, it had a mind of its own."

"It is effecting you?" Radek asked. "Then you must turn off now. It will want to be used again. This will mean many of Beckett family will have Ancient Gene. Maybe it has to be certain strength?"

"Maybe. Look, it's not like I'm going to run off to the bathroom with it and have a go at myself." He was still too sore, physically, mentally, to really contemplate it. But Zelenka didn't need to know what had happened after he'd left the SGC's somewhat neglectful lockdown for a Benefactor Style lockdown.

Rodney picked it up again, this time intent on turning it off unused.

The glow faded and died even as Zelenka looked over his shoulder. "Hmm . Well, I think if nothing else it means you will make some work. These are devices we have some information on, here, and those are un classified. I will submit report on Emanator. You chose what to do next."

"I think I can do that." And maybe the shuffle to a new section of Science wasn't going to be such a bad thing after all.

Rodney wasn't sure when he'd become used to eating his meals with someone there but the lack of them talking, being there, passing him food and making sure he had something made lunch intimidating. He kept his head down and ate quickly, returning to the lab and working on an equation series to give him the parameter to possibly fix a device that seemed to have messed up its own programming.

It was interesting work, but even so for the first time that he could remember, he wanted to leave and go...go home. Where John was and Carson and... he missed them. It had only been a week he'd been with them and a day back at work and he wanted to see them both. He was out of there on time and managed to grab a ride down from the mountain to the base's housing, walking the last of the way a little briskly.

Trying to take his car would've been a little risqué, Rodney figured. It wasn't his car, it was one Acastus had bought and let him use, so until he managed to work enough on his own to buy a car, he was going to have to cope with the SGC version of hitch-hiking.

But it meant he was home, hurrying down the sidewalk and towards the still unfamiliar feeling front doors.

It felt strange. Odd. Because instead of opening the door and letting himself in and having to immediately start dinner and be lucky if his existence was acknowledged, John and Carson were there.

Maybe time without him there would've changed their minds about having him. Maybe they were relieved he wasn't there anymore. It was enough to make him hesitate at the front door. He didn't have a key, first of all, which was sort of a tenuous position to be in. And even though Carson was now his Benefactor, Carson didn't feel like he was Rodney's Benefactor.

So he hesitated outside for probably longer than he should've, and finally gathered the courage to ring the bell.

It was John who answered the door, looking a little like he'd just woken up or something from the state of his hair. But it often looked like that so it was difficult to tell. He smiled immediately. "So got to get you a key done," he said and didn't give Rodney time to react before pulling him in to a kiss.

That was the great, unexpected part, and he did startle, even as he leaned into John. It was good to be acknowledged, good to be welcomed home. "Hi."

"Thank god you're home. Carson won't let me do anything and I'm bored as all hell," John replied.

"I heard that John!" Carson called from out of sight. "Hey Rodney, I was just getting a drink. You want one?"

"Liquor?" Rodney asked half-hopefully, sliding an arm around John to hug him for a moment. "Today was strange. I missed you."

Carson chuckled. "I can make your coffee Irish if you want...or Scottish. Bad day?"

Not so bad now John was there holding him and Carson was bringing in a coffee for him. "You want a shot?"

"Sure?" He was used to drinking now and then, and anything to shake off the weirdness of the day. "Not bad. I set foot in the lab, and Carter reassigns me from Gate research to Ancient tech research, which… okay, I think I like Doctor Zelempka. Zelenka? Radek."

"He's a very nice man," Carson agreed. "Very intelligent. Ancient technology huh? Sounds interesting." He got out a bottle of whiskey and poor in a generous tot.

"Sounds cool," John replied

"We did some research on the Beckett family opener," Rodney said agreeably. "I managed to get it to turn on, too. But Radek couldn't."

"You did?" John looked very pleased as if that proved something.

"Did it do anything?" Carson asked sounding concerned. "You have to be careful Rodney, these things have unpredictable effects." He glanced over at John and then back at him as he passed over the coffee.

"It brought some..." Rodney waved a hand before he wrapped those fingers around the coffee mug, and stayed close to John as he meandered into the house, towards the kitchen. "Really hot fantasies to mind, actually. It tries to compel you to use it, but that's all."

"Maybe that was the reason for me practically imprisoning you in bed for a week," John said without sounding self-conscious.

"Never the less, I think I'll run some scans just in case it decided to rearrange your bodily organs without telling us," Carson replied and fetched his own tea. "John was bored enough to cook you know."

"Hey, I'm not bad at basic stuff. And I can do a pot roast with the best of them," John replied.

Rodney sipped at the coffee, and found himself grinning a little. "Wow. Coffee, food... I could get used to this. Actually, you're going to want to see the documentation on it. Apparently it does cause a permanent physical change. We're relying on Doctor Jackson's translation."

"They found some information on my Family Opener?" Carson asked. "Here... sit, sit, I need to hear more about this. What else did it say?"

John very haphazardly seemed to meander around sorting out vegetables and preparing them in that lazy looking way that nevertheless got them done.

Rodney liked how John managed to do that -- so effortless, so easy with himself. "What else? There's some side effects, and uh, I'm not sure what to say, actually, because it was just what we suspected."

"Preservation of a genetic line?" Carson said frowning. "Huh, interesting. It lit up very strongly for John.."

"And lit me up even stronger," John added giving Rodney a smirk as he tossed some carrots in boiling water. "Glowing Ancient alien ass toy...told you Carson."

"Aye, aye that you did John."

Rodney leaned his elbows on the kitchen table, and sighed, hovering over the coffee mug. "So, it was a long, interesting day." And nothing had changed, but everything had changed.

: "Sounds it," Carson said sympathetically.

"So how many times did you call someone an idiot?" John asked. "Because if its over six times, Carson owes me ten bucks."

"Oh, uh." Rodney took another sip of the coffee, and slouched into the chair a little while he mentally counted. "At least over six times. We had a few arguments over a different piece of ancient equipment, actually."

John grinned. "Told you."

Carson sighed and fished out ten bucks and put it on the table. "Rodney I'm sorely disappointed in you," he said in an exaggerated weary voice. "Now John will have money to support his illicit gym habit."

"As long as he doesn't start trying to be a pusher, who cares?" Rodney huddled closer to the coffee, and it was easy to let his eyes wander the space around him. Home. It didn't quite feel there yet, but it was a relief to come back to at the end of the day. It would get there, without question.

"Hey, I'm going to get you two couch potatoes out there with me y'know," John said bending over to looking in the oven a moment. “You might have to go off world at some point you know."

"Not bloody likely," Carson said immediately. "And Rodney's too young."

"Hey, I'm 18 now." Rodney sat up a little straighter, peering over at John. His ass was small, yeah, but his pants did a number on it when he bent over like that. And he'd been too strained and pissed off to ogle Sam Carter at work.

"See? Not too young. And if there was an emergency..." John trailed off looking back at Rodney and catching him watching his ass, giving a slight smirking smile at him as he straightened up to put the rest of the vegetables on.

"They'd bend the rules, aye... that's been done. I just worry," Carson said. "I've heard all about what happened to Dr Frasier."

Doctor Frasier. She was... Well, for a his first year and a half there, she'd been the only other person who understood the system as a Companion. "She was great." And kind, and actually listened to him, and all right, maybe he'd spent more time in the infirmary than he needed to, but. "Look, something horrible could happen right in the labs."

"Don't tell me things like that, I'm meant to be keeping you both safe," Carson said. "Not that that has gone particularly well recently but that is my job."

"Carson if you get hung up on that, we'd never do anything. Even being in bed is dangerous." John put in. More vegetables boiling, some sort of gravy being made as well. John had improved his skills somewhere along the line.

"At least, with ancient family openers it is." Rodney took another deep sip off of the coffee, and set it down. "Anything I can help you with?"

"Nah, Carson's barely allowed me to get up today. I wouldn't complain but there was no sex involved," John said.

"You need the rest. You haven't been sleeping well John," Carson chastised. "Honestly Rodney, sometimes I don't know what to do with him."

"John thrives on being active," Rodney shrugged. "Oh, that reminds me. Uh, tomorrow do you want me to find Colonel Mitchell and see, what, uh, where he wants to station you so you have a day or two to adjust to that before you go back?"

"That would be very cool," John said. "No idea what he's going to do with me. I'll probably get stuck in the SGC somewhere guarding a door or something."

Carson chuckled. "I doubt it John. Besides, Colonel Mitchell must have a favorable impression of you."

None of them needed to say the words 'considering he lied for you' but they were implicit nonetheless.

But, Rodney didn't mind. John was a good guy, and there wasn't any point of him... dying, being snuffed out like that for Acastus. Even though Acastus was Rodney's. Hell, if anyone had wanted to question Rodney, he would have agreed wholeheartedly that Carson did it.

"I think he does. And that's good."

"I wonder who he'll put me with though," John mused and then cursed a little as his gravy raged out of control. "Shit!"

"It's not a really John dinner if something doesn't get burned," Carson commented.

"And here I thought I'd entered the twig light zone." Rodney shifted and did stand up. Right. John could say he didn't need help, but he'd at least need help with that mess.

"It's just the gravy. Everything else is pretty much done here," John replied allowing Rodney to come help him out. "Just that last...detail."

"It's not burnt. Just sort of, okay, the gravy that bubbled over and is now on the bottom of the pot? That's burnt. The insides look good," Rodney encouraged, leaning over to smell it, and bumping shoulders lightly with John just because, well, because he could. Because he'd missed human contact.

"The world is saved," John replied and then decided that touch was enough of an invitation to kiss him again. In front of Carson.

Which, okay, he knew that Carson was easy going, but there was easy-going and then there was that kind of easy-going, but Rodney didn't stop John and couldn't quite help but lean into him because it was John and he kissed so well, so deeply passionate.

When he did finally surface and risked a glance over at Carson, he was looking particularly glassy eyed and zoned out.

And then he sighed. "You two are going to make it very hard to stick to my medical judgment, you know that?"

"That might be John's master plan." Rodney sighed against John's mouth, and had to make himself step back. "Okay, plates?"

"Plates," John agreed and turned away deliberately not answering the implicit question of whether it was his master plan.

"Aye, well I'm still not going to take chances with either of you so...the ban is still in effect," Carson replied.

"How about fooling around?" Rodney opened the cabinet to get three plates out, and looked back over his shoulder at Carson.

" know, that would probably be fine. If you felt like it," Carson made sure he qualified the statement.

"You know I do," John said easily enough and Rodney wasn't entirely sure that he might be trying to prove something to himself.

And maybe he was. Rodney wasn't going to be the one to say 'hey, didn't my Benefactor just rape you not long ago?' because, well. Because. And he'd had a hell of a night and the only sex he'd thought about had been in an esoteric way.

The worst thing that could happen was that they'd both freak out and so what? "I think I am. I'd like to."

"Well that might be a little something to try a little later," Carson promised. "After dinner though and if you change your mind, you just say."

Rodney set the plates on the counter, and tried to catch John's eyes as he answered, "Sure, of course. I'd just like to... try."

"And I'd like you to try," John murmured as he started draining off vegetables.

"This'll be the fastest eaten dinner ever," Carson predicted as he moved to set places. "Thank god I've got indigestion tablets handy."

"I didn't think John's cooking was that bad..."

John's cooking wasn't that bad at all, it was more of a joke than anything else. Sometimes Carson believed that if he hadn't burned something he would do it deliberately just to preserve what was now an in-joke. But tonight there was no lingering with clearing up and everything was sorted out and put away with an efficiency that betrayed the fact that John could move at speed.

He did make them just sit and talk a while about nothing to make sure they weren't going to do anything to dinner before suggesting perhaps some kissing might be in order. Maybe with each other first - and hopefully him second because he had yet to kiss Rodney properly and he was actually looking forward to it.

It was just... trying to work out where their boundaries were. Rodney was completely new to him, and John had been hurt and needed to re-learn where he was comfortable, so in a lot of ways it was like starting from scratch with the both of them.

And they seemed so comfortable with each other, even though they knew he was watching them sit on the bed in the master bedroom and kiss.

It seemed the best way to let them explore things because where as they might not say no to a Benefactor for that weird conditioned set of responses they appeared to have about submitting to their will and putting their needs first, they probably would to each other. Carson made himself comfortable on the chair opposite and resolved to enjoy watching.

John was kissing Rodney long and slow. He knew what those kisses were like, and how John would just lose himself in then to the point where sometimes he would worry he couldn't be getting enough oxygen.

It was different watching it from the outside, though. Rodney's hands -- not delicate, no, broad with big deft fingers -- clung to John's shoulders, the touch desperate instead of John's roaming touch. And they were still dressed.

Still, they didn't seem to be hesitant about kissing at least and it was particularly hot to watch as his own arousal informed him. He wanted them to go further - it was easy to imagine them doing more.

A lot more. It was easy to imagine them having sex, even if he hadn't ever looked Rodney over in that sort of way, yet.

Rodney pulled at the fabric of John's shirt, and then slid his hands down, apparently intent on pulling his t-shirt up. He leaned back, broke the kiss. "God. Hi."

"Hey yourself Rodney," John replied and Carson knew that tone of voice. That was John's 'horny as hell' voice, low and drawn out and he raised his arms to tug his top off.

And he could see the new tissue where he had been tortured prior to what Kolya did. He'd never talked about that either and he wanted to touch him, soothe away the hurt but he didn't want to disrupt the invitation John seemed to be sending Rodney with his eyes.

Later, after he'd watched them get a little headway, get a little comfortable with each other. Rodney was still sort of... unapproachable, Carson decided, but watching him with John was something else. It was no wonder that he'd wondered about their relationship when they'd been in school.

Rodney leaned in, hands skimming over John's chest. "Look at you. I'm pretty sure I don't have muscles like that."

"My...illicit gym habit remember?" John replied and flicked a glance over to Carson and then down to Carson's groin smirking at the evidence of his enjoyment in voyeurism. He did like to watch, but he itched to join in as well.

"Yeah. It's nice." Rodney slid a palm slowly up John's front, from stomach to one pectoral, and he stopped there to thumb a nipple. "I think I've forgotten how to do this right."

"There's no wrong way if you're enjoying it," John murmured and Carson felt his own breathing quicken and John stretched out practically displaying himself for Rodney and for him.

Rodney made a quiet noise of assent, and shifted, leaned back to strip off his own shirt. He was paler than John, and his scars were older, random marks of mistreatment over recent years. "No wrong way to do it, right. Right."

He had softer lines and Carson found himself wanting to feel the textures, feel the differences. Hard and lean, and softer and giving. There was something very attractive about that and the contrast of blue and gray eyes.

"You are... beautiful Rodney," John murmured and that was a revelation. John as protective and gentle. There was something very right about that. Something that maybe he hadn't felt free to be with him.

He wished he knew enough about what they'd been taught to wear that lack-of-freedom out of John, that feeling that he had to serve some greater purpose for Carson's sake, in all things. Even in bed.

Rodney laughed, and shifted to kneel over John's hips, the position playful. They still had pants on, after all, but Rodney moved a hand to stroke over John through his pants before returning attention to John's chest. His hands roamed, as if he couldn't believe he was doing it. "I'm used to hearing 'You're smart.' "

"Well, yeah that too..." John smiled. "But beautiful too... always have been." He moved his hips under that touch and smiled. "I want to show you how good it can be Rodney. So does Carson..." His eye flicked over to him a moment.

It was an invitation, and Carson felt like he could finally get out of the chair and perhaps insinuate himself in with them. Rodney twisted slightly, looking at Carson, and his eyes went a little soft as he looked back down to John. "That's the part I'm having trouble with."

"That it might feel good?" John asked even as Carson made his way over to the bed.

"It can feel good Rodney," Carson put in as well.

"That, and that I fit anywhere in between you two." That was a funny thing, the way that Rodney held he and John up in his head as some mental picture of a perfect Companion Benefactor pairing.

"I think you being between us is a perfect place," John replied and Carson settled on the other side of him.

"I would've thought it was obvious that we both want you Rodney," Carson added.

Rodney seemed to pause, and then he bit slightly at his bottom lip before he leaned a little, placing both hands on John's chest. "The two of you have been my self-sustaining fantasy for months now. Something to think about when, well, and now I'm actually here."

"I'm not used to being someone's fantasy," Carson said softly. "But maybe if you tell us what you imagined, we can do something for you."

John seemed very happy with Rodney sitting over him like that.

He seemed content to let Rodney do or not do what he wanted, and trailed fingers up along Rodney's arm in a way that Carson would've found pretty bloody encouraging.

Rodney flushed a vague red, and looked down at John. "Just, nothing really complicated. Just the two of you together. It's very vanilla of me."

"Vanilla is a very pleasant flavor," Carson replied and tentatively tried a stroke of his own over Rodney's back.

"It goes with so many things," John added still trailing his fingers.

"When kink starts to feel cliché, normal is very attractive." Rodney ducked his head a little, and pressed his back up against Carson's hand. Well, that wasn't freaking out. He seemed all right with it, then.

He stroked a little more, nothing forceful, nothing too pressing, just lazy motions of his hand even as he looked at John and then Rodney again. John's fingers wandered over Rodney's chest even as Carson moved so he could follow up the stroking with a kiss on Rodney's back.

He had a feeling that if they'd stripped Rodney naked and tossed him onto the bed, he would have been willing to move just as fast as they did. But this, simple touching and relaxing -- which John was quite good at, when they had days off -- left Rodney giving off a strained feeling. He was breathing a little harder, and grasped John's hand to bring it up to his mouth to kiss.

"Do you like that Rodney?" John asked in that low gentle voice that Carson was actually finding deeply attractive even as he pressed soft kisses over the back of Rodney's neck. If Rodney had only experienced cruel and hard, then they would give him tender and gentle at the very least.

It wasn't as if being lazy about it was any hardship for either of them. And it could keep John grounded, too. He shifted a hand, slid it around to Rodney's chest. Rodney kissed John's fingers, a slow motion, and leaned into Carson's hand. "Yeah. I could get used to this..."

"That is the idea," Carson murmured practically in his ear. "Endless touching, soothing over every inch of your skin, exploring you...feeling good." He rubbed a thumb over Rodney's nipple back and forth, feeling it tighten.

Johns other hand palmed across Rodney's pants in lazy rubbing movements.

"A couple of weeks ago, before... everything, we killed a Sunday afternoon doing this," John told Rodney. He shifted his hand, curved the fingers Rodney had been kissing over the edge of Rodney's jaw instead. "C'mon, lean forwards. Lay down. You're not that heavy. Or we could get naked."

"Naked and lying down...?" Rodney trailed fingers down to John's jeans, and started to work on the top button. "I could do that."

“So could I," John replied and arched into him making Carson smiled.

"Aye, I think I could go along with that," he said.

"We should, then." Rodney shifted, and leaned a little, back towards Carson. "But the pants need to go. Mine, yours..."

"I think I can help you there Rodney," and he ran his hands down to pull down his pants carefully. His touch caressed over his ass subtly even as he took a moment to loosen his own clothes.

It was an easy motion, but he'd been wondering about how it would feel to do that, to just touch Rodney a little, and how he might react. But there was no amazing dramatic moment, and Rodney shifted from his kneeling position over John's legs to squirm out of his pants entirely.

Then it was a simple case of one, two three of them naked. John still beneath Rodney and happy about it from the way he shifted, and Carson pressed up against him.

He still hadn't even kissed Rodney, and it struck him then as he pressed against part of Rodney's back, sliding an arm gently around him, while Rodney leaned down against John, kissing him again.

But he'd made a promise to wait for that until Rodney was ready to come to him. Until then he would have to kiss his skin, his back, his neck. John was making soft noises into the kiss, lip to lip and he wanted it.

It was quiet for the moment, slow-moving, and lazy. Just touching, just sliding hands over Rodney's skin, feeling muscles and the dips of marks on his skin, feeling Rodney's steadily quickening breathing.

"Feeling good?" he asked softly, not wanting to disturb him.

"I know I am, " John replied a little breathlessly when Rodney came up for air. "How... how sure are you on those restrictions Carson?"

Sadly, he was pretty sure, though all he wanted to do now was do something more. "They still hold John. But we have good imaginations."

Rodney exhaled hard, and he hung his head between his shoulders, breathing hard for a moment, and shifting a little between John and Carson. "Carson, uh..."

"Mmm?" Carson questioned. "Am I making you uncomfortable Rodney?" He hoped not because he already felt hard and it would be a disappointment to have to disappear to take car of it himself.

But if that was what Rodney said, he'd do it. He wanted things to move forwards, wanted Rodney to be that kind of comfortable with him. "No. Well, uh. Could you kiss me? It's sort of strange, just you back there and uh..."

"I'm more than willing Rodney. I just promised I would wait until you were ready..." But he seized the moment and moved a little so he could lean around to Rodney and kiss him. He'd be a liar if he pretended he hadn't wanted this, really wanted it. So he didn't rush it, just made it as genuine a kiss as he could, trying to learn what Rodney wanted most of all as he touched lip to lip.

It was funny how Rodney could be so open and calm when he was talking, and so wound up and nervous-feeling when he kissed Carson, the touch light, gentle.

Oh, there it was...the connection, the feeling of rightness he had just known would be there. That undeniable feeling that this was where Rodney should be, in his arms , kissing him., Different to John, but no less powerful. He couldn't imagine a world without John and now Rodney had made that world whole for him. He could kiss him forever, just like this, loving him, wanting him and it was just...right.

It was calm and easy, and Rodney twisted to get closer to him, hands lingering on John's chest. It wasn't right that his benefactor had mis-treated him, hadn't done right by Rodney at all, but Carson could start to mend some of those wounds. With John. "Hn."

"John's are beautiful," he murmured. And this was all about Rodney, this here and now. John would understand as he instigated it, set the tone for what they were doing.

"You want more Rodney?" John said looking up at them both.

"Yeah. Yeah, I do." And he looked a little off kilter. Better to move slowly and not do too much, than to not give it time to sink into Rodney's mind.

If Rodney sat up just a little more, forward a bit then John could suck him and he would be able to get to John and Rodney as he liked. He glanced at John who was either developing telepathy or thinking along the same lines, even as he kissed Rodney again and eased him gently forward into position and John took it from there.

With a smile and steadying Rodney with his arms, he lapped at Rodney's cock, now right in front of his even as Carson reached around behind Rodney, to find John's own erection and lazily fondle it in reward for what he was doing.

"Oh fuck. Oh, god..." Rodney leaned back against Carson, and his hands moved to touch John's head, stroking trough his hair, slow, easy motions. "Could get, hn, used to this..."

"That is the general idea," Carson murmured, rubbing over the head of John's cock with his thumb and seeing him move and groan with his mouthful. "Look's like John still like's that as well. The more you give John, the more you'll get..."

He smiled as John took a literal mouthful even as he reached with his left hand to tease at Rodney's nipple again.

Rodney made the best noise, arching into John's mouth and his hand and against Carson, rocking between the two types of touches, savoring them. He was relishing in it, eyes half closed as he simply moved.

Good, good that was what he wanted for tonight; Rodney to learn things could be good, things could not hurt, things could feel wonderful. He was hard himself, but he could feel pleasure at the responses of the two men he had in his bed. John pushing into his hand, his eyes half lidded with the concentration of sucking Rodney off, and feeling a hand there, teasing his ball, gripping and stroking hard enough to make him whimper.

And at the same time, he knew what John would feel like to Rodney. Talented, responsive, the heat of his mouth incredible to move into...

He wasn't there himself, but he might as well have been, because he could imagine it, and he could press against Rodney from behind, just holding him, stroking John a little faster. When they were both healed enough to do more, Carson knew it would feel fantastic.

It was more important to do this right now than set them all back with over eagerness.

John was flexing and tightening his muscles unconsciously in an effort to maintain control which was a quirk he didn't know if Rodney shared or not, but sometimes John needed a little encouragement to let go into orgasm. Perhaps it was a Companion thing.

"That's it John, feels good doesn't it. Feels like Rodney needs to come now...that good because you can both let go now, both come for me....I'm here, it's's feel wonderful, you know it will..."

He'd often reasoned it was the tone as much as anything that seemed to do it.

There was an odd chance that if he read the phone book in that tone, that permissive tone, he could have the same effect on John. But it worked, always did. A few more strokes, and John came into his hand, sucking harder at Rodney's dick until Rodney lost his pace, thrust a few times against John's soft lips, and came.

He wasn't quite fired up enough to come without someone touching him, but that was okay. Seeing Rodney just...relax for that one moment was worth it. Seeing John lie back, practically beaming was worth it, and he stroked and soothed over them both coaxing them both down from the high.

Rodney was breathing hard, leaning into his hands. "That was, that was, how dare you get better after Practicum. I always said you were being purposefully obscene with those bananas," Rodney bemoaned quietly, slouching to lay down against John's side. "Huh."

"It was a skill...a talent," John replied. "I have a lot of ambivalent feelings about fruit and vegetables as a result."

"You really didn't need to tell me that. I'm never going to trust a piece of fruit or vegetable in this house ever again," Carson replied, lying down on the other side. He decided he'd probably jerk off if John or Rodney fell asleep. It wouldn't kill him.

Rodney shifted, curling an arm over John's chest -- clearly he was more comfortable with John -- for a moment before he leaned up to reach for Carson, too. "I don't think he has to wander around deep-throating bananas anymore."

Carson found himself smiling delightedly at that and used his non-sticky hand to ruffle Rodney hair, and then John's. "Aye, he might not have to, but he might do it by choice."

"Okay, I admit, I've gotten over my fruit fetish days," John murmured looking at them both as if he couldn't believe his luck.

That was good. That was better than good, that was bloody fantastic. Half the trouble would be keeping them balanced, keeping John from thinking that he was less wanted than Rodney, or the other way around. "I could probably bring you back to them," Rodney offered, voice tipping slyly.

John quirked an eyebrow and then beamed at them both. "Y'know, I think we're going to have a lot of fun. I'm almost afraid to ask what that might involve..."

"I think I have too much of an overactive imagination," Carson added as fairly kinky fantasies danced around in his overheated imagination.

He reached down to his cock to give himself a lazy stroke, and Rodney's hand idled, slid down over Carson's stomach as if he was going to join Carson in the action. "Well, you have this amazing back, and I could definitely eat fruit off of it."

He closed his eyes trying to concentrate a moment, because he was so keyed up it wouldn't take much.

"Oh really?" John murmured. "So now we're talking about combining food and sex....I thought you paid more attention in those lessons....even if it was one of the few practicals we actually demonstrated. Up to a point.

"I'm thinking strawberries. The kind you leave in a bowl until they get drippy, right along your spine..." Rodney leaned over John a little, stroking Carson a little faster.

Carson closed his eyes a moment, imagining that and John laid out like that. "Oh God yes..."

"Now he has a fruit fetish as well," John said. "Rodney I think you're corrupting our Benefactor.

"Our." Rodney gave another stroke, a harder one. "Still getting used to that. But... wow."

"Our..." John replied and even as Carson groaned for that harder stroke, he felt John's lips close on his, the slightly different salty taste of his mouth and the moment when Rodney stroked again and he realized what that taste was in the kiss, Carson came, and came hard, shuddering with the long held back release.

It was almost too fast, but Rodney's hand lingered like John's lips. Aye, it would work. It would take time, but there was definite want there, with Rodney peering at him over top of John.

"Well...." It took a few moments to catch his breath. "I have to say...I'm not emotionally scarred for life by that about you two?"

"Not a traumatic angst wound to be seen," John said lazily as he drew back.

Rodney was peering at the semen on his fingers, and brought his hand up to his mouth. "No, I'm okay. This was, this was.... wow."

"Yeah, it was wasn't it?" John replied grinning at them both. "You wait until we're declared fit. You won't believe what we can do with that."

"You know, I think Rodney might like running things his way," Carson observed with a smile.

"I don't really have a way." Rodney locked at his fingers, then seemed content to lay his hand on John's chest, slouching down beside him. "But this was really... fantastic."

"I think we can do better," John replied looking over at Carson and he could see the 'thank you' there in his eyes and it made him smile because John didn't need to be grateful to him, it should be the other way around.

"Aye, and we will," he promised. "We've got time to practice even if we do have to go back to work soon."

"I have to go to work in the morning," Rodney reminded, and he seemed to be shifting to settle in to sleep. It was about time he decided to join them in bed, at least for the night. It was certainly a start towards something better.

John was used to weird looks. There goes the "Companion" looks, the sideways glances at his brand mark in the shower and the occasional hesitant, "Is that real?" question and "Didn't that fucking hurt?" which he generally smiled to both and said yes. But this time he was coming back after, hey, being pregnant, having a miscarriage and being tortured and raped. And the involvement in the death of his CO.

That was getting him some pretty weird looks and reactions. Most of the other marines didn't know how to react, looked uncomfortable and he wasn't looking forward to seeing Colonel Mitchell again. But here he was...trying not to look like he was nervous about being back and wondering what they were going to do with him.

He knew too much to just fire him. That was how the SGC worked, as far as John could tell. He'd been too involved in a lot, knew too much, had gone off world. People didn't up and volunteer to leave the sgc, so they'd have to do something with him.

John just didn't know what the hell they were planning.

Rodney hadn't been able to find out anything, partly because Carson had banned him from hacking the mainframe and rather surprisingly he had actually obeyed their Benefactor. Their....still took some getting used to, but Rodney was wonderful. And insatiable. They were practically counting the hours to what Rodney was starting to call Porn Day.

Eventually Carson would decide that they were medically up to par -- even if John suspected Rodney already was, and then some -- for that kind of sexual activity. Mentally...

Rodney was kind of weird about sex, reverent when John took things for granted, and flippant about things John wouldn't have been. But he was definitely getting comfortable with them, with living and sleeping and eating and everything else that John considered normal. He had a feeling that Rodney's 'room' was going to end up more of an office space than an actual room that he slept in. The sheets hadn't been turned down in two days, but there were books all over it.

He shifted a little, looking at his boots a little while he was waiting for the Colonel. There were times when he was not completely cool about the new development of Rodney being there. Usually when they were having an argument of some kind, or when he looked up in sex and Carson was looking at Rodney with that expression like he was witnessing a miracle.

Things like that tied him up in knots even though he was ridiculously protective of Rodney as well.

On a lot of levels, he guessed he'd liked things just fine they way they'd been. He'd liked it as just him and Carson, even if he wanted to keep Rodney there with them, too. If...

"Lieutenant Beckett, how're you doing?"

He looked up startled and saluted. "Fine sir!" he said automatically as Colonel Mitchell appeared to have materialized out of nowhere. As this was the SGC he wouldn't put it past him.

It was always a possibility. Or the man had just come in to the office while John was pondering about sex, and the impending break of Porn Day. "Good, good. All, uh..." He waved a hand slightly. "Healed up?"

"Apparently so sir," he replied. He'd had to endure a scan to make sure, and had seen the ultrasound of the weird new organ he'd grown.

He had a pseudo-uterus. It wasn't really sticking in his mind, any more than the fact that he'd been carrying a fetus in it and had lost it. And maybe as long as it kept popping up in his brain and then quickly slipping away, he'd be all right. There was nothing connected to the thing, which made Rodney suspect that after the initial time, the 'opener' would have to be used to start the process over again.

So, Carson had put the thing under lock and key, and John was tempted to lose the damn key for all of their sakes. "Good. How're you settling in with Rodney?"

"It's going well sir," he replied and he meant it. It was, it really was. He was the one with the mild jealousy problem.

And he'd get over himself in time.

"Good, great. It'll be good to have you all back and working again. Have you given any thought to if you want to continue in a gate team?"

"Yes sir. I would prefer that if it is possible," John replied actually managing to meet Mitchell's eyes to try and convince him of his sincerity. "I wouldn't want to have to remain in the base."

He'd probably never fly again if that happened.

If you ended up rounded, you ended up there forever. First you were grounded and then you weren't given opportunities because you're behind in experience and then because you're behind in experience, no-one wants to give you more and it was just a vicious cycle that John wanted no part of. "All right. Major Lorne's team had a fatality, and needs another member. I gave him a list of possibilities, and he mentioned that he liked your 'attitude' from what he'd seen of you before. It's sg-3."

"Sg-3 ...sir?" That was like a huge leap up the scale, even if he was stepping into dead man's shoes. It meant negotiations, actual contacts and exploration. He remembered Major Lorne but had no idea the Major remembered him. "Any particular clue what that attitude was sir?"

"I was going to say 'gung-ho', but you're air-force." Mitchell's mouth twitched in a smile, vague but there. "I know his team. I think you'll do all right with them. We've dissolved your previous unit, and will re-build it at a later date."

John swallowed a little. "Sorry sir. The others...they didn't know. It wasn't their fault." He still had a sense of obligation to his old team.

They'd been a team, and while that didn't mean he had to like them, it did mean he was supposed to stick by them. They weren't his friends from the academy, but they were people he'd trusted.

Mitchell cleared his throat slightly. "About that. We did some investigating, and decided that as a unit, there was something lacking in their personal integrity."

John hesitated. "Wait... wait, something had happened before? Or...." he asked. Lacking in personal integrity? What did that mean? Had they known something was wrong and just let it happen?

"Just, in the process of taking their statements, some... things came up. I've worked personally with Lorne and his team before. They're a good group." Good group, which John was getting a feeling was code for 'weird' or 'diverse' or 'casual with the idea of a Companion'.

"Will I have any specific duties within the group sir?" he asked trying to not think about that too much. So his previous group had had issues with Companions in the military and that was... that was pretty upsetting in a way. He'd saved their lives every now and then. How was that different to anyone else?

"That's up to Lorne when he meets you." Mitchell gave him another smile. "C'mon. I'll talk you to his office."

He nodded and then fell into step behind him as the Colonel led the way. Truth was this was pretty disorientating. He'd believed everything was fine with his first team and frankly that didn't say much about his judgment.

They headed down a corridor into one of the break room's where he saw a group lounging at least momentarily before they snapped to some form of attention.

"Major Lorne! Why-ever have I given you an office?" He veered into the break room, and John tagged after. Everyone had coffee, and there were papers on the table, and they weren't all men, which was possibly the first thing that struck him. The red-blond in fatigues looked as comfortable as the black guy -- Lieutenants, both of them, John noticed -- who was clutching his coffee cup and standing up in startled attention.

Lorne looked older than the woman and the other man, hair close-cropped, and his face was one that struck John as relatively open. Not jovial, but maybe close. "Not a damned clue, sir. You could have just tacked my name plaque over that vending machine right there, and I would've been a-okay."

"You know, I'll get that seen to immediately. But then all of the SG officers would want their own vending machine and there would be a whole heap of politics to deal with," Mitchell said in a drawl. "So, I happened to have a spare lieutenant rattling around. This is Lieutenant John Beckett and I've got a feeling the Major here is pretty keen to bring you guys up to full strength so you can get to doing some work around here."

John was watching them, taking in their reactions, trying to get a clearer idea of what people thought of him.

Ford was the black guy, and he looked John over -- not the sort of looking over that Kolya gave him -- and said, "Beckett, Doctor Beckett's -- oh! Oh, hey, you're doctor Beckett's companion, right? Cool. We haven't had a guy from the chair force for a while." And he was smiling when he said it -- that was the sort of ribbing John had missed.

"Hey, he's cute. You think we'll get better medical care if you're on our team, John?" The woman put her hand out -- Cadman, according to her uniform -- for John to shake. "I'm Laura Cadman. In case you get any funny ideas in your head, I'm every bit the explosives expert as Ford here, and I tap-dance."

"I always wondered why they called you the floorshow." Lorne grinned, and sat back down, with a look at Mitchell. "I looked over your record, Beckett. I liked how it read."

"Thank you sir," John said politely and then half grinned as he shook Cadman's hand and smirked at Ford. "Just for that, I'm gonna find a chair I can fly, just to prove a point. I can fly anything you've got."

"Well, we are a gate, team, but every time I say something like that, we come across something that does need flying. Now, I'm a marine trained pilot, Beckett, but we both know that doesn't mean much to you flyboys. Still, I'm actually looking to bring you on for your negotiation skills."

Mitchell seemed to be watching them while Lorne talked, and he finally stepped back./ "You three get to know each other, and let me know how it goes, Major."


They relaxed imperceptibly when Mitchell left, because he was still a colonel for all his laid back manner and it never did to really irritate anyone in SG-1. Still, John was feeling a little happier because, hey...someone who could fly as well. Marine trained pilot was still a pilot.

"You want me for negotiation skills?" John asked a little surprised and then belatedly added "...sir."

"And your proper use of titles." Lorne's mouth twitched a little, and he leaned back in his chair, taking a sip off of his coffee. "You seem to have a good sense of decorum and how to handle people. Now, for all that these two are explosives experts, they've also got cool heads, think well under pressure, and we've yet to start any inter-planetary incidents."

"Man, a lack of inter-planetary incidents always looks good on the resume," Ford chipped in. "The Major here on the other hand.. not sure he can say the same thing..." He smirked a little.

"C'mon Ford, that was an accident. How was he to know that refusing to give up his weapon was declaring he was impotent?" Cadman said with a grin. "Perfectly natural conclusion....though the rush of nubile young women...and men to "help" him with his little problem was a little more tricky."

Wow, that sounded like a hell of a mission. John couldn't quite help but smile, and bit down the comment that it was no wonder, seeing as the Major looked so good.

"We had a hell of a time extracting ourselves from that," Ford grinned, leaning forwards. "So, how old were you when you graduated the Airforce Academy? Rumor has it you were the youngest?"

"Only just nineteen," John replied. "Yeah, I think I was the youngest they've had there. Then I pretty much came straight here with my Ben- uh...with Carson."

Cadman smiled a little wistfully, and John couldn't quite work out what she was thinking or reacting to. Didn't have time to, either, because Major Lorne was talking. "So, pretty storied reputation you're bringing with you. Now, I'm expecting prodigy quality work out of you."

"You sure you don't have me confused with my fellow Companion Rodney sir?" John put in. "Because he is the prodigy around here."

"Rodney of the new last name I can't remember?" Lorne shook his head slightly. "Nope. Most kids are still in ROTC at your age, and I wouldn't trust them to command a unit of ants."

"Rodney McKay," John supplied helpfully. "So do you have specific idea's in mind for me sir aside from the negotiations?"

"Nope. We're a flexible unit, and we do a lot of playing it by ear. Why?"

"In my previous unit...I had a fairly defined role sir," John put in quietly. "I wasn't uh... allowed to do certain things."

Because he was a Companion, and Kolya had believed certain things were not appropriate.

"That's bullshit," Cadman cut in. "You aren't any different than the rest of us I knew we were at war with the Russians so long for a reason."

"Mm." John didn't know what to say. "I am a Companion though which can make some people react a bit funny."

"Hey, you might notice, I'm black, and she's a woman...and people get funny about that." Ford said.

"The only thing that makes you different is that you've got a really hot Doctor who did nothing but talk about you when he was stationed in the middle of nowhere and hell." Cadman jostled Ford slightly when he said that. "What? Hey, it's not my fault you worked with the guy before you were transferred here. 'Oh, god, why do all the good men have to be gay or devoted or both? Oh, god, why do all the mustache wearing fiends on a planet go for me?'"

"Because you look hot in a dress, Ford." Lorne grinned, cutting in on the falsetto mockery. "But, they both have a point. Okay, you're a companion. And that means some pretty strange legal things, and we're all just finally starting to get it, I think, but hell. Out in the field, you're a guy who graduated top of his class from the Airforce Academy."

"Thank you sir," John said. "And hey, I'm also got that hermaphrodite thing going on as well. Never know when that might be handy." It was best to just get it all out in the open straight off, make it light a flippant like it didn't matter.

"Right, well." Lorne tilted his head towards Cadman. "I guess I'll tell you what I told Cadman when she joined sg-3. If you want to get pregnant, I'd appreciate a heads up that you're gunna do it."

John shrugged and smiled a little. "I'll get Carson to send you a memo," he said an relaxed a little. "Apparently it's pretty dangerous and unlikely so I don't think it's likely to be happening any time soon sir."

"Okay. I'm not going to ask any stupid questions, and I'm gunna assume you've got a handle on all of those personal things. Cadman held a grudge about me asking her about tampons for, oh--"

"About a year," Ford pointed out.

Cadman smiled sweetly. "Just because I've stopped making a big deal over it doesn't mean I've forgotten anything Major," she said. “I can still booby trap your bedroll again. Never mess with an expert in explosives."

"Right." Lorne cut his eyes towards her, and cleared his throat. "So, uh. Any other questions?"

"No sir," John replied. "I'm pretty sure I'll pick up the rest of it as I go along."

"That's the spirit," Ford said putting down his coffee. "Because, the Major's going to be kicking our asses for a few days to make us into a team."

"How do you feel about morning runs?" There was a gleam in the guy's eyes, and John could imagine Rodney commending that it was an 'unholy gleam'.

"Before or after breakfast sir?" John answered just a little smugly. Rodney might mock his predilection for running or keeping fit but then Rodney wasn't going off world just yet. If he ever did he would be joining him on those runs, because he wasn't going to lose Rodney to being too slow to outrun danger.

"Before. Builds up an appetite." Lorne took another sip of the coffee. Yeah, he liked that idea. It was a lot better than starting the day in the firing range, with the smell of gunpowder and Kolya standing close to him, handing him weapons.

"Absolutely fine with me sir," John replied and Ford groaned.

"Traitor," he accused. "You're not meant to encourage him!"

"Hey, I like a good morning run." Cadman tilted her head back, draining off her coffee.

"Yeah, and a good afternoon run and a good night run, and a..."

"Nothing wrong with being in shape," Lorne pointed out even as John smiled.

Yeah, okay. He could get used to that. They seemed like a good group, and Lorne grinned a little. "So, we've got to get you the right patch, oh, and the team underwear, and uh..."

"WE have team underwear?" John asked in mock surprise.

"Conveniently colored 'bomb-disposal' brown for those tricky situations in the field," Cadman replied with a smile back.

Yeah, he was going to be all right. No hair-raising feeling, no initial misgivings.

"Trust me, they'll come in handy," Lorne declared.

John grinned a little, allowing himself to believe that things could be different and better after Kolya after all. And if it could here, then maybe it could for all of them; Rodney and Carson as well. All he had to do was give it a chance.

Friday. Friday when John had been granted a three day weekend and there were no horrifying emergencies on the horizon, and it was all very good and well possible that they could make it to Monday without the world blowing up meant just one thing.

It meant that Rodney had to be re-presented, and his nerves were a balled up wreck. It wasn't even a public presentation. No hundreds of eyes watching him, no, but it had to be taped. That had been a hell of an argument, trying to get Carson to understand why the idea of being taped freaked him right the fuck out, thanks, no ifs ands or buts about it. he was just getting comfortable with Carson, too, even if he was more comfortable with John. He could trust John as a friend and as a Companion, even if everything Carson did proved that yes, not all benefactors were horrible.

Carson was sweet and thoughtful, and interesting and argumentative in his own right, and nothing at all like Acastus, which kept the uncomfortable moments of 'Acastus would have' to only comparing the horrible things versus the really good way things were now.

And it was good, it really was. John seemed happier about things and he really wanted to belong with them both and Carson proved to have some definite idea's about that. He wanted the Family Opener involved, because he felt that with a little more conscious control he could concentrate on Rodney feeling good rather than the somewhat random impact it had had on John.

And Carson had giving him the option of whether he wanted John to do the actual presenting or himself.

Not that he'd made a decision yet. Either choice was fraught with symbolism, the likes of which Rodney never wanted to tangle with. If he chose Carson, then he was saying he wanted to be Carson's Companion in all of the traditional ways and that he was maybe looking to weasel John out. And if he picked John, then he was saying that he was against the patriarchy and god knew what else, except he'd be sort of stating that he was John's companion as well, and. And hell. He'd just been trying to keep his nerves and unsureness to himself.

Except for the part where he had to try to get the Family Opener back before he got home.

That was going to be the tricky bit. Worse came to worse, Carson said he would come and demand it himself, but Rodney hoped he could persuade Zelenka that the scary alien dildo was a perfectly appropriate thing to be taking home for the weekend

For a little bit of fun and hopefully none of the internal organ rearrangement that John had had. Even if that happened, well.

Well, Rodney just wasn't going to think about it. Or heirs, or anything that could make his head hurt, because that was Really John's right to do that, and every time it came up in conversation, John seemed to never want to do that again.

So, right. Approaching Zelenka was a start. He'd already halfway packed to go home, and was still hming and hawing over how to start it.

"You will be having a good weekend?" Zelenka said as he looked up from his laptop where he was looking at results from a strangely rotating sphere they had been examining.

"Yeah. The uh, representation deadline is coming close. So I'll be taking the Beckett line opener home with me."

Zelenka blinked and looked at him. "Excuse me? The Opener? The...give you an extra set of reproductive options Opener? No. Absolutely not!"

"Why not? It's tradition! It' -- look, if I have to mug you for the keys to the room it's in, I damn well will." He was pretty sure he could take Radek.

"You have said it will be used on you. " Radek seemed agitated. "You have read the information. It is dangerous Rodney! Last resort, not for sake of family pride."

"Carson thinks he can use it to rebrand me. Not for the other thing, because, look, none of us are all that interested in a family right now and the thing that happened to John freaked him right out, but I'm kind of uncomfortable with the idea of having hot metal pressed against my skin, over top of a skin graft to get rid of the other one." He shoved his hands in his pockets.

"I have greatest respect form Dr Beckett," Radek said cautiously. "But we both know that ancient technology is uh....unpredictable. Especially things that are inserted in ass Rodney!"

It was becoming a hell of a struggle to not turn red. "Look, just -- just let me take it. I'm not all that keen on the idea myself, so just hand it over."

"Fine. But if penis sprout wings then I have warned you," Radek replied as he got up reluctantly and headed to their "vault". "Hope you know what you are doing."

He hoped Rodney knew what he was doing. Yeah, fantastic, he was going to be re-presented and that meant a dildo up his ass, one that could possibly leave him pregnant, or get him that way, and that was a pretty daunting thought to have when he followed after Radek. He was too young to have to work all of that shit out. People his age were usually passed out drunk in a gutter or a party somewhere.

But he was a Companion, a Companion who was lucky that he was being taken on as a second when most were passed to a family for drudgery after their Benefactor died, or sent to work in the Institutes or training centers. He had John, he had Carson and they wanted him and he could make it through this. He'd made it through worse.

Radek unlocked the vault and drew out the box that now contained the Opener as if he was handling a dangerous weapon. It was a little bit weird to think of that and the fact he had been rattling around the Beckett ancestral home for centuries.

"So, hopefully Monday I'll show up, oh, not a hermaphrodite." Rodney held his hands out for it. "Because as willing as I am to encourage John to get back on that horse, I don't actually like horses."

He handed it over. "You want John to have baby but not yourself?" Zelenka asked. "...And I cannot believe I just said that."

Rodney closed his fingers tightly over the box. "Yeah. It's... Complicated. Just follow me for a minute. Imagine you had two wives. And at the time you picked your first one, you actually wanted the one who later became your second. And uh, life went on and they were friends, and then you got the opportunity to marry the second one, even though you really loved the first one. So, if anyone should have the honor carrying the heir, it should be the first one, not the second. It's..."

Oh, god, so complicated.

Radek was staring. "Sounds like cheap romance novel. But in those everyone live happy ever after." He frowned a little. "Dr Beckett wanted you, but got John. Now wants you. And there is... marriage if baby?" He appeared to think. "Then why has John been close friend if you are...competition?"

"I don't know. I was four when I was chosen. I don't even really remember it. We went to school together, and I didn't know what had happened until..." Rodney waved a hand slightly, tucking the box under one arm. "Welcome to the cheap romance novel that's my life."

Radek patted his arm. "Sorry. Just when I think I understand, I do not. Most would want to be rid of rival, not friends. Perhaps it is different for Companions yes?"

"John's pretty special. Doctor Frasier was, too. We're taught to serve our Benefactor, in all of the traditionally cheesy ways you see us portrayed on bad soap operas, and they did a lot more with their lives than that, but it's still there in your head. He probably wanted to make Carson happy, and didn't expect to be bowled over by my charming personality."

Radek smiled. "Yes. You grow on people. Like penicillin. Moldy but also life-saver. Go. Have good weekend. I hope this Presentation goes well."

"Thanks." Without getting pregnant. That, that was the important part. Rodney clutched the box close, and turned to leave the vault. He'd be home soon, and then, then it was just him and John and Carson/

And a video camera.

Part of the problem was that it was impossible to relax at home knowing what was going to happen at some point that evening. Their normal meal wasn't as laid back as normal and even John was looking a little tense, whether in sympathy with him or just in general, he wasn't sure. He'd seen the camcorder on the side and Carson was studying him.

"You know Rodney, we don't have to do it tonight?"

"No, I want to. I do. Just..." Rodney cut his eyes to the camcorder, and dragged his fork through the mashed potatoes that were really quite good, but.

"He doesn't like the idea of the recording," John said as he ate slowly.

"Aye." Carson grimaced. "We will only be recording the private presentation Rodney. We have to for it to be legal, so I can submit it to the Benefactor Council with clearance. Nothing else will be recorded, I promise that."

And he trusted Carson, because Carson really wasn't a porn guy. Not that Rodney had gotten onto his computer at around three am to check, but why would he be when John was there. When John was living porn. "They're just the ones I don't want seeing anything."

Carson looked at him. "Those particular Benefactors are being removed from office. I was going to tell you that when the decree was official, but the Federation of Benefactors has supported my appeal on the basis of forensic evidence."

"They're being removed from office and they know where you live," Rodney murmured, slouching a little before he licked potatoes off the back of his fork.

"Aye well, I've got a military bodyguard here, and believe me, no Benefactor would trust those would take a Pre-claimed Companion. It is not that dissimilar to molesting a pre-presentation Companion in our eyes," Carson said. "Though they tried legal trickery claiming that you were ownerless. Our representative reminded them my given word as a Benefactor was sworn in front of a convened Council and that I had in effect with the acknowledged need for compensation and my acceptance of you as Companion in lieu of that acted as a deposit of the type that is transferred at Choosing. Upshot is, they make a move on me, then the will lose their status at the least."

"Not really a comforting thought." He was going to just have to be allowed to worry, because that was something Rodney did. He worried about John and Carson and Acastus even when he didn't deserve it.

"Hey, worse comes to worse you know I won't let anything happen to either of you," John said. "C'mon Rodney, this is going to be good. It's what you wanted."

"Still want," Rodney admitted, reaching for his water. "I still want it. I'm just nervous."

"I can help you with nerves Rodney," John replied. "You know I can...And I can vouch for Carson's technique personally. It won't be like your first presentation."

Or the last time he had that kind of sex, but in the interim there'd been a lot of time with John and Carson, and a lot of stroking and petting. A lot of jerking off and sucking and it all felt very good, very safe. Very really fucking amazing. "I know."

"Aye Rodney, it'll be fine. And I believe it will save time with the grafts and the rebranding," Carson said soothingly.

John cleared his throat a little. "If that works Carson, I want you to consider marking Rodney and I with a Companion Pair sign."

Now that startled Carson; Rodney could tell that was the first he'd heard of that idea.

It wasn't the first he'd heard about the idea of Companion pairing, but it was the first time John had said it like that, and Rodney shifted, sat up a little. "You do?"

"...what he said..." Carson said. "You want a Pair sign?"

"A Pair sign means if anything happens to you Carson, though I sure as hell don't want to think about that, but if it did, we couldn't be separated on a reallocation," John said calmly. "And it's...something special."

Which was what John was, but Rodney wasn't so sure he was. If something happened to Carson, they'd only have each other, and it made sense, logical sense, but it was thick with implications. "But you want that? I mean, you'd be stuck with me forever as much as Carson..."

"Yeah. I want that," John replied meeting Rodney's eye's. "Look, okay...I know I haven't dealt with the whole thing in the best way but fact I've got this place in my head that has told me since we pretty much grew up together that you are mine. When I was training as a pilot, I used to react the same way to your letters and Carson's as if they were from some sweetheart. When it comes down to it I guess I was thinking in terms of either or...because I couldn't believe someone could get lucky enough to have both. But I guess I am. And I want to hold onto the both of you if I can."

And that tidily answered Radek's question for Rodney earlier that afternoon. "I, uh... I'd want that. To not have to, if something happened..." Lose everything all over again.

Carson looked disturbingly emotional at John's uncharacteristic declaration and he didn't quite sniff or wipe his eyes but it looked pretty close. "I would be honored to do that for us all. Assuming we can get the Opener to work that way. What do you want as a Pair sign?"

"Anything. I just want the underlying, the..." He wasn't good at it, he wasn't good at putting it to words the way John and Carson were. "What it means."

"How infinity loop?" John suggested. "Kinda Rodney's thing and...I could always pretend it was a propeller to the pilot guys." He smirked a little.

"Certainly nice and simple to visualize," Carson agreed.

"I, yeah, that's good. I'm sure it has philosophical leanings, but you know that mathematically it's greater than any defined number." Rodney slouched slightly, a more comfortable gesture.

"Sounds about the right sort of value to put on the pair of us," John said with a smirk, but his eyes were very serious as they looked up at him.

"Certainly in my opinion," Carson agreed.

"So, this is it. After we do this, you're both stuck with me..." And he wasn't sure why he was saying it, but they were still in the honeymoon part of things, Rodney figured. Even if it had so far lasted longer than his own period with his Benefactor.

"That's pretty much the idea Rodney," John said clearing up the plates as they appeared to have abandoned eating any more. "You know you want that."

"I do. I wanted to be here, hell, to be with or be you for years now." And now he was, and all of that comfort and ease that had been John's was his now. His to enjoy and live with, Carson and John.

That would be enough to see him through the unpleasant part of the "Presentation". He just kept flashing back to how much of a shock and how painful it was the first time, and how much he'd been shaking and wanting to be comforted and to not get any of that.

Acastus had dragged him forwards to have his picture taken, dragged him home, fucked him. No calming, no soothing, no tending, just the opener, then being branded, and then being fucked, one two three, and then Acastus had turned onto his side and fallen asleep.

Scarcely the fantasy he had dreamt of for all those years. And truth was, he still half though even with a little evidence to the contrary that it just couldn't feel good, no matter what John told him.

And now the plates were gone, which meant that Rodney had nothing to do, now, but eyeball John and Carson. "So, uh..."

"Why don't you have a relaxing bath Rodney, while John and I set up?" Carson suggested. "Take as long as you like."

Bath, right. Right. Rodney shifted, stood up. "Sure, yeah. I uh, you guys set up and I'll be out..."

"When you're ready," John said. He smiled. "IF we finish early then I'm coming in after you."

"I might be covered in soap. You have to give a guy a chance to wash off." And settle his nerves. Rodney eyed them for one moment more, and then he turned because he really had to calm down before he freaked out.

He was too close to it, and he could remember the lights on him, the loads of people watching, looking at him and it hurt.

The bath helped a little, but every now and then he'd hear Carson or John raise their voice a little, and noises like furniture was being moved around as well as comments like... "Do I look like a bloody interior decorator?" and "Yeah, really nice fire hazard there." God only knew what they were doing.

Rodney ran a little more hot water, and slouched down in the bath, until the water lapped at his chin. Before his first presentation, he'd shaved and cleaned furiously, desperate to be as perfect as he could manage. He sort of hated shaving, actually, and he'd let it start growing in just to see what it was like, and he wasn't going to hurry to look perfect this time.

Maybe it was a perverse desire to test Carson or just a way of making things different from how it had been.

"John! Where did you put the candles?"

"In the cupboard in the kitchen. Bottom left!" John called out.

So. Candles. There hadn't been candles before.

Of course, back home that could have implied that Acastus wanted to play with hot wax. And hot wax was probably someone's kink, but it wasn't Rodney's. He liked his wax not anywhere near his skin, hot or cold. Oh, god, his brain was just going to keep coming up with nightmare scenarios.

"I'm just going to go make alien sex toy soup," he heard Carson call out. "You go see how Rodney is doing. Take him the robe."

"Yeah okay," John replied and he heard padding feet head his way and a knock at the door. "How's it going in there?"

"Is the bubble bath Carson's? Because it smells very minty." He slouched a little more, and his knees popped up through the meniscus of the water.

"It's something eucalyptus and menthol," John said. "Can I come in? Or you want to soak a bit more?"

There was a novelty in John asking, in John even wanting to come in. Not John, but in someone wanting to come in in a non-threatening, calm way. "You can come in."

John came in carrying a thick long Companions cloak. "How're you doing? You looked pretty freaked at dinner. Not that you ate much."

"I'm nervous." And scared, and freaking, yes, freaked was a decent adjective to describe where his head was.

John came and sat on the edge of the bath. "It's gonna be okay Rodney," he said. "I promise. You want me to help get you ready?"

"Sure." He wasn't' sure what John considered getting ready, but it probably started with getting out of the hot water and drying off. The nape of his neck was wet, and the suds were starting to die off, anyway. "It's stupid to be nervous now. I'm not some quivering virgin."

"No...well, sometimes we get quivering," John teased lightly and grabbed a towel. "But a virgin no...well unless you mean to pleasure. Then you might be a virgin in that respect."

He squirmed, butt dragging on the bottom of the tub, and got his hands on the sides to haul himself out of the water and standing. "Every thing we do, I can't help but think about how Acastus did it differently."

"He did a lot of things differently," John said and waited for Rodney to step out before engulfing him in the towel. "Hopefully you'll replace things he did with good memories."

"I think I've already started." He stepped close to john, and then quickly crushed him into a tight embrace. "I can't believe you want to be companion paired."

"Well that's because you're an idiot," John teased him again. "Seriously, who else would I even think about pairing with?"

"Ford?" Rodney suggested, teasing back. He ducked his head for a moment, pressing his forehead against John's shoulder before he kissed the side of his neck. "I didn't expect that."

"Well, I like to surprise you guys occasionally. Just...don't make me express my...uh, feelings too often okay?" John said. "Not exactly comfortable with that."

"Do I look comfortable with the idea of you getting mushy on me?" Rodney shook his head even as he asked that, and reached to take at least half of the control of the towel from John.

"No, but you might use it as a weapon." John smiled at him. "You've got the cloak by the way...I get to be naked"

He didn't seem too displeased by the prospect..

"Why are you naked and I'm not?" Other than the traditional stripping nearly naked in front of a crowd part of the presentation.

“Because I've been presented. And you will be when you take the cloak off. I think it boils down to us having one cloak really," John said and then smiled. "C'mon, you've got to admit me being naked will be distracting."

“Very distracting. You should get naked now," Rodney suggested vaguely, buffing off his chest and stomach.

John let him go and then deliberately stripped off with very provocative movements. "Better?" he asked as he lounged against the wall.

Much better. Rodney exhaled, and gave a vaguely jerky nod, as he dried his arms and legs off quickly. "Oh yeah. I like what I see."

"We could go the whole way and...get out the massage oil." John said watching him and sound like sex was only seconds away. But he always sounded like that.

He could sound like that when Rodney was still making coffee and thinking about turning the sink on so he could wash his head off to get the crud of sleep out of his eyes. "And would this massage oil be for massages?"

"Maybe. For helping you relax some anyway," John said with another smile. "Less tense you are the better."

"I know this logically, but there's still..." Rodney shrugged his shoulders, and leaned to grab the cloak. "I don't know. We should just get to it. I can work this around in my head for years."

"We...want it to be special for you Rodney," John said quietly. "That's all. Remember, I was there when we were kids talking about what we wanted it to be like."

And while he knew John knew, there was knowing and... hearing it, actually, and Rodney shrugged the cloak tighter around himself. "I was so damn jealous of you, because you had everything I remember you talking about."

"Yeah well, I don't forget things," John replied as he stood upright. "It might not be exact, but Carson and I have done our best."

"Wait, wait. You tried to recreate that?" Candles and soft cloths and only now that they'd apparently set it up like that did Rodney realize that maybe his fantasies were, oh, a fire hazard.

"Well, we're not interior designers but...yeah," John said with a faint smile. "Got to admit, I think I prefer it to the Presentation hall. Wanna take a look?"

"Yeah. How's Carson going to start this?" He was almost reluctant to open the door, though, and let the steam out of the bathroom, but it had to be done.

"We'll just let him know when we're ready. He should have his robe on by now," John said and smiled.

He'd once upon a time talked about the perfect first time situation. And okay, maybe a lot of it had been influenced by the movies they were allowed to watch, and some books, yes. But Rodney liked comfort, pillows and warm light, and soft sheets, and he'd known that at the time without any question at all. He liked that, like he liked to slouch down in the bath until hot water covered him and his skin went from pinked to red.

He just hadn't expected John to remember and take it seriously, because when he stepped out of the bathroom, it looked a lot like a faux harem.

Soft lengths of cloth draped over and disguised every obvious surface. Somehow the bed was now in the living room and now draped over with soft cloths and what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of pillows in matching shades. The room was lit by candle light, warm and intimate, there was even an oil burner with something like sandalwood just wisping into the air a little and in the background, soft piano music was playing. In fact it sounded like John had put his CD's on random play.

Yes, he knew that one. He knew that one, and it was on the tip of his tongue, but it was low enough to not be intrusive. "Oh..." It was tacky, probably, but Rodney wandered further into the space that their living room had been transformed into, breathing in the smell. That was different. That was different in every good way.

"This probably looked better when in your memories when you were... what twelve?" John murmured and then raised his voice. "Carson? We're here."

"No, it looks, it looks perfect." Rodney stayed close to John, trying to catch sight of Carson and the camera. Carson was probably in the kitchen, but as cloth-wrapped as the living room was, with the lights out, it was hard to tell.

"Aye, I'm coming," Carson replied. "I've set the camera up so it will focus on the bed area so we can all be in it. Thank God for a tripod. Come on over."

"Okay." Rodney pushed down his nerves, and focused on Carson in front of him, John flanking his body as he walked forwards. "I'm ready." The quiet music, the smell of incense, the pillows and cloths. It made everything different from the last time, more closed in and intimate.

Carson was wearing the red and gold of his Family line, the same colors as his Companion cloak and it leant an air of ritual and importance to what they were doing.

"I have a wee bit of monologuing to do, so bear with me," Carson said switching on the camera and moving back in front of it. "I am Carson Beckett, of the Benefactor Line Beckett, third son of the Great Benefactor Family McKay. Today, in the presence of my Companion John Beckett in accordance with the traditions and laws of Benefactors, I am here to conduct and bear witness to the Presentation of a second Companion to my Family, who will be named Rodney McKay in honor of my Benefactor origins." He looked over and smiled at Rodney, obviously aware of how strange it must sound. "For this ceremonial Opening and Presentation, I will be using the Beckett Family Opener. Due to considerations, only those people granted an alpha level security clearance will be permitted to watch this recording of events." He turned to them both. "Rodney, if you would like to lie on the bed and make yourself comfortable, John and I will prepare you."

And was the camera going to be on the whole time? Rodney started towards the bed, and then on a second thought, slipped the robe off. He didn't mind being naked for them, but the camera there...

There was a click and Carson put a remote down. "There now...they don't need to see this bit," Carson said. "John, did you bring the oil?"

"Yeah, I've got it," John replied softly. "It's okay Rodney...we can do some editing and cut out anything you don't want people to see."

He shifted, crawling onto the bed on his hands and knees before he laid down. "I know, I know. It just makes me nervous."

"By the time we've done with you, you won't even care if it is on," Carson promised in a warm voice. "That's it lad.'re the one with the training, you start off."

"Sure." John sounded like he was smiling as he spoke and ironically the first dribble of hand warmed oil was up on his back, and John's warm hands soon followed

He'd been half promised a back massage, and now Rodney half-closed his eyes and turned his head to rest it on his folded arms. "Mmm."

The fingers stroked up and down his skin, pressing and rubbing into knots of tension that were sore from his anxiety and smoothing away the crackle of stiffness inside the muscle. John had been good at massage, he remembered there was always a rush to be a volunteer for him. It felt familiar and comforting, and not threatening at all even as he moved downwards little by little.

Slowly, slowly. If he kept his eyes shuttered, all he could see was reds and tans and browns, all he could feel was John and soft sheets, and all he could smell was the familiarity of detergent and the incense.

Somewhere along the line more hands joined in, different but gentle as well and it became difficult to tell whose hands were where exactly. A trickle of warm oil down his crack and there was hand on his as, kneading carefully.

Not there yet, and Rodney concentrated to not tense up. Because it was Carson and John, both of them, and neither of them ever wanted him hurt. Carson had comforted his hurts and John wanted to be a companion pair when him, and he focused on the solidness of the long term over the tiny short term possibility that one of them was suddenly going to turn out to be a freak with a fisting habit or something.

"You're tensing," John murmured. "Is it better if we talk while we do this? Carson did this to me on the day of my presentation. Kinda turned me into a sex crazed idiot."

"And he's never been the same since," Carson replied with a amused tone.

"Talking is probably good. I, I like the sound of your voices, anyway." As much as he liked the way John's fingers lingered, stroked back up his back for a moment.

Fingers dipped and moved down the crack and smoothed over his entrance, teasing. "You know, I've gotta know. Did no one ever find your prostate before Rodney?" John asked.

"Oh yeah. That one's not new. But I'm pretty sure it shouldn't be jabbed like an elevator door button." It was a trick that had gotten old, actually, these powerful guys working out their rape a companion fantasies, trying to force Rodney to 'enjoy' it. Fingers just teasing there, smoothing over, was enough to make his ass twitch, make him spread his legs a little.

"Jabbed?" Carson sounded horrified. "Heathens, the lot of them. It should be stroked and teased at first..."

"Carson is a champion at the prostate," John announced even as a finger got a little more insistent.

"Are you second place, then? Rodney turned his head a little, squirming and spreading his legs in a way that he hoped was suggestive enough for John to get the idea. He lifted his hips a little, pressing up against John's touch.

"My brother used to say, 'First the worst, Second the best," Carson replied with good humor. "Partly because he was second oldest. It's a kiddies rhyme."

"In that case, definitely second," John replied and slipped a slick finger inside of him, and out. Then in again and he was most definitely teasing him slowly.

Rodney exhaled, a hard huff of breath, and he lifted his hips to John's slow finger again. It was a familiar feeling, being penetrated, but this time it was slow and easy and Carson's fingers were still traveling his back, pressing slow strokes against his muscles.

"Feel okay?" John asked even as he didn't stop but continued. "If it doesn't, just say. I'm not into the pain thing, and neither's Carson."

"Never really seen the attraction to be honest," Carson confessed, still massaging.

"It feels good. It feels really good, and you're not allowed to stop." He shifted, spreading his legs a little more, trying to bend his knees to get some kind of traction. Nice and slow and lazy, the same way John kissed him.

Another finger was added and the movement back there became a little more serious and structured. And then those finger began lightly grazing over his prostate. Just enough to send a jolting burn through him that never felt like enough.

Carson chuckled a little. "You found something there John? "

John smirked. "I think it needs a little more examination."

He whined low in his throat, and tried to get up on his knees to push back against John's fingers, but Carson was very gently keeping him mostly flat to the bed.

"Is that feeling good Rodney?" Carson murmured, and the touching was moving towards sexual rather than just a massage. It was Carson's lips kissing his neck, his hair, his shoulders in slow easy contact, even as John continued with painstaking thoroughness.

He managed to breath out 'yeah' that time, wiggling back up against John's steady moving fingers, pressing up against Carson's lips, his fingers. "Feels..."

"Good?" Carson kissed him again and again as John slipped in another finger. "I'll be getting the Opener Rodney. I'll use it gently okay?"

"Sure." Sure, because gently by Carson was better than gently and detached from Kolya, and John's three fingers in his ass was making his stretch and burn and his dick was already weeping.

"Good lad," Carson said in a low voice and moved away a little, coming back after a moment. Then it was John lying next to him up close.

"Roll on your side you can hold on to me," John said as he moved onto his, facing him.

It was a damn shame that the fingers were gone, and that he was left stretched out, opened and waiting for the opener. "This is so much better than last time," Rodney sighed, shifting to wrap his arms around John like it was second nature.

"You know, I've got to agree with that," John replied, twining his arms around Rodney and then his legs. "I think we're pretty ready here Carson."

"Aye I can see that. You both look wonderful," Carson replied. "Here we go."

And then something larger was pushing into him, less yielding than flesh and a different texture. But no rough sharp tearing thrust, just a painstaking easing in.

It still hurt. There was still an aching feeling of being stretched just a little further than he liked, but John was curled against him, and he could press against John, hitching back against Carson just a little. There was a difference between discomfort and pain, and he was glad that his body still wasn't freaking out without his permission.

John chose that moment to kiss him until the pain disappeared under a haze of need and then, there was a sudden jolt that sent energy all through his insides.

"Oh, there we go..." Carson murmured as the light quality around him shifted. "Lets see how well I can control this thing."

He whimpered into the kiss, and clutched at John, because that, that felt amazing. It felt like it was touching him inside and out, and if he hadn't been clinging to John, Rodney wasn't sure he wouldn't have been able to not move.

"Yeah, I know how that feels," John murmured soothingly, even as Carson moved it back and forth in a way that made him want to shake apart or go wild with abandon. If John had felt like this at his Presentation it was a wonder that he didn't beg to be fucked in front of everyone.

Vivid fantasies filled his mind, what he wanted done, what he wanted to do, thick and intoxicating, eroding his time sense with sensation. He barely heard Carson saying, "Take now the old mark of the unworthy, and replace it with my own." but he felt the glow spread from his ass over his body and up to his shoulder.

It was strange, the way the old mark burned and felt good at the same time, and the way his shoulder burned and felt good at the same time, like the one scar flowed over to the second, and Rodney could only rock against John and feel the fantasies race through his mind.

"Yeah Rodney," John breathed in his ear as he slid against skin. "God yeah...ours now, mine now..." Then he was kissing him as if the world was coming to an end and he couldn't waste a second in hesitation, even as Carson moved the object carefully.

"This Companion is marked as my own," Carson said in a strong voice and his lips kissed the sensitive area where the new brand had appeared. "These two Companions have been granted the right to a Pair mark. Thus I will mark to them both."

And that sensation began again as he apparently concentrated.

The object was still in him, being twisted and shifted every so often, side to side, in and out, and he wasn't sure how Carson was going to control the marking over to John or even how he was working it, but Rodney clutched close to John and felt John start to squirm, too.

"John..." Carson said in a hoarse voice. "I need you to touch this as well."

John reached around behind him and his hand touched the Opener and the blue white light blaze and Rodney could see it crawl up over John to his arm, an intensity of light settling in the infinity loop they had decided on beneath the brand. It didn't seem to want to let John go, and he was more then squirming as the energy thrummed around the three of them.

"John..." Carson said in a hoarse voice. "I need you to touch this as well."

John reached around behind him and his hand touched the Opener and the blue white light blaze and Rodney could see it crawl up over John to his arm, an intensity of light settling in the infinity loop they had decided on beneath the brand. It didn't seem to want to let John go, and he was more then squirming as the energy thrummed around the three of them.

It didn't want to let John go, so it was either Carson or the fact that it was in Rodney's ass, but Rodney squirmed a little closer, watching the blue blaze over John's shoulder, pulling John closer. "Almost there, almost...."

"Oh god..." John had that ecstatic look on his face he'd had had at his Presentation and maybe it hit him stronger or John was just like that.

But then there was a pulling away, a leaving him empty and the light grew as the opener saw the light of day, making Carson look like some sort of strange deity holding a blazing thunderbolt of light in his hand.

And all Rodney could do was hold onto John and watch as Rodney touched something on it, that switch on the bottom, and turned it off. But it didn't turn off the feeling, the relief that mingled with want that mingled with an urge to touch and press and rub himself off against John's thigh.

"Oh...god, I need to be inside someone..." Carson murmured, obviously affected as well. "Rodney...can I...or John... one of you..."

"Hnh, tradition never felt so, god, so good? Do we have, have, oh, god, lube?" He wanted to be in John, and in him right of that was what John wanted, because he was twisting and pushing his ass against Rodney's dick.

Carson fumbled over the oil, splashing it practically in his hurry. " Oh god. Fuck. Mm." He was pushing into Rodney even as the oil trickled down over John's back.

"Hurry," John gasped. "Hurry...fuck."

It was hard to not whimper, hard to not push back against Carson and forwards into John. But he couldn't, wouldn't, and slipped his fingers into John before anything else.

John pushed back hard. "I'm okay...I'm okay, just do it. Just push into me..."

At the same time Carson pushed into him, with a restrained guttural groan.

And it had been a while, and there was always a difference between an opener and real sex, sex where the whole body welcomed it, and Rodney couldn't help but push back, exhaling hard, and moving his fingers in John a little more, before he struggled to slick himself.

John was wantonly demanding it, needing it and there was an electric atmosphere crackling between the three of them. "Now Rodney, " he practically growled.

It was hard to think when he was being fucked, though, when Carson was pushing in and settling into him, hands sliding over Rodney's side and back and down to his ass even as Carson started to move and Rodney tried to push into John.

It wasn't as easy as it looked, not with that distraction but even after the fingers John felt incredibly tight and Companions were conditioned to bottom on the whole, though they were taught the mechanics of the other in case that was a Benefactors preference. Usually it wasn't because they were conditioned to top in the same way.

Once he was a little in, John seized the initiative by literally impaling himself on Rodney in one bellowing shout of effort.

It was unexpected, and Rodney couldn't really react except to slide one hand to clutch at John's hip, and his other around John's waist, humping unsteadily against him because Carson's pace had him off, was hard to match, and every thrust of Carson into him made Rodney shake and his breath catch.

It wasn't harsh and violent like every other experience he had had. Or even the best had been just an awareness of moment, but this was something else. This was so much more than he had ever imagined. The sounds John and Carson were making. Even the sounds he was making himself, all bound up in the sexual need the Opener seemed to have let loose.

It still felt like he was one step apart from it, not quite in tune with them both, but it felt beautiful, and he was safe, and eventually he'd be able to let loose like John was. He could savor it, the feeling of John around him, John's ass against his hips, and Carson clutching tight at him.

He managed to relax enough with a beginning feel of the seeds of security, only very dimly registering the increase of blue white light filling the room around them. John seemed to be oblivious to everything except moving with him and Carson was murmured almost incomprehensible broken Scottish brogue in his ear as he moved as well.

The more John moved and the more Carson moved, the better it felt and the easier it was to fall into pace, to lose himself in the motion of John around his dick and Carson in his ass, and how fantastic it felt, how Carson's lips dragged against the skin behind his ear and made him shiver separate of the growing ache in his balls.

He was moving towards orgasm, but it looked like John was going to make it there first. After an endless time, he shuddered around him and cried out and at that point the room filled with a dazzling burst of light.

It swept through all three of them, tipping them over that edge into climax and in the dizzying burst of pleasure there was the strange sensation of hundreds of thousands of instantaneous images sliding into his mind in a way he didn't understand.

It was too much, too there, and he wasn't ready for it or that kind of mental feeling of orgasm hitting him at the same time as he hunched back hard against Carson and went tense.

He felt Carson give a slightly strangled cry of surprise and half collapse on him, before saying in the comparative silence, "Wha...what the bloody hell was that?"

"Pictures in my head. Which I'm going to assume is not at all normal," Rodney muttered, hugging his arms tight around John for a moment.

John was still shaking a little and groaned. "Lets not have sex under the influence of alien sex toys again," he mumbled into one of the many pillows. "My head is killing me."

"Your ass feels okay." He squirmed a little closer, and pressed his mouth loosely against John's shoulder. The skin was still warm, but it didn't feel scabby or dry or crisped like Rodney expected. He could get to like that, being wedged between them.

"Feels pretty okay from this side as well," John replied and Carson eventually moved.

"Aye well, that was at once fantastic and then disturbing," Carson said. "If I have visions when I'm...coming it's usually not about...that sort of thing. Whatever that was."

"Ice. And there was a squid... thing." Rodney shifted, feeling the ache of Carson pulling out, and it didn't leave him much inclined to pull out of John because John was warm.

"There were a lot of things, a little like gate addresses," Carson replied settling a little to one side of them. "Something important, and something that looked like a giant glowing crystal."

"There was a chair. I was sitting in a light up chair and fighting," John said quietly from beneath Rodney. " mind was flying in all different directions in space."

Rodney shifted, pulled out, and exhaled hard. "There has to be something to it."

Rodney shifted, pulled out, and exhaled hard. "There has to be something to it."

"Aye," Carson exhaled. "I have to admit, I've never had that distraction during sex before. It has to be something to do with the Opener, didn't happen when it was John and I together. Or just with Rodney and I, but when I tried to get all three of us for the Pair marking...then something happened."

"Hmn." Rodney kept his eyes closed, and sucked in a deep breath, nuzzling against John's shoulder. "I'll think about it later and just enjoy... this."

"Hmn." Rodney kept his eyes closed, and sucked in a deep breath, nuzzling against John's shoulder. "I'll think about it later and just enjoy... this."

"Yeah...always knew you were a genius Rodney," John replied. He didn't seem in any particular hurry to get Rodney off of him in any way and Carson had moved to the side and had his arms around them both.

"So Rodney, it was a good Presentation yes?" Carson asked and he seemed to genuinely want to know.

"Yeah. Yeah, I, uh... can't believe I've been branded on top of it, and it doesn't feel bad at all. Feels kind of good, still. And the, the sex..." Rodney stretched one leg out, and sighed quietly. "Felt good."

Carson kissed him gently. "It's always going to feel good Rodney, I promise you that," he said softly. "That's the only thing I'll ever require from you, from either of you. That you enjoy yourselves and do what feels good, not what you think I want."

It wasn't much as far as demands went.

As weeks went, the one since Rodney's rather dramatic induction as a Beckett Family Companion, had flown past in a blur.

Getting over the embarrassment enough to get the footage checked out had been one thing, but had revealed that the Opener was apparently a very versatile people of equipment. Apparently it had been deduced that they had all three been scanned, and affected by energy bursts.

It had meant that Rodney's alterations had lead to him easily being able to identify the newly activated gene by a simple before and after comparison. Carson had used some of the strong elements from John, but he'd finally managed to make an activation serum that he had tested and had to stay on late to present to the brass. He'd sent Rodney and John on home as he wasn't entirely sure how long they were going to keep him answering questions and the two of them had been scanned up and down by the Asgard prospecting for Ancient information implanted in their heads by the device.

He let himself in tired, but pleased. The presentation had gone really well.

Both of them, if he was technical about it, but particularly the one to the upper brass.

Since the presentation, Rodney had finally seemed to settle, had finally seemed to stop acting as if he expected John and Carson to lock him out of the house. It was going to take years, likely, to unwind all of the knee-jerk reactions that Kolya had encouraged, but Carson was more than welcome to tackle the task.

Once he closed the front door behind him, he was vaguely aware of noises. Quiet groans, the mumble of the TV on low.

He grinned slightly. It was times like this he realized that the fact they were a decade or so younger than him really showed. Rodney was insatiable, curious and John more than ready to indulge him as was he, and frequently did. He'd been pounced quite a few times, but he sometimes wondered how John had the strength.

"Rodney? Are you playing with John again?" he called out.

There was a showy-sort of sucking noise, and Carson heard a groan go with it. "No?"

"It's...more a kinda exercise in torture..." John's voice came in as if he was on the verge of drifting off to a very happy place.

"Not the vibrator again?" Carson asked as he wandered into the living room to see what they were doing.

It looked like things had started out very un-sexual. There were two bowls of ice-cream, and one of Rodney's books on the table. The Television was on to the news, turned down low, and there were clothes, shoes, socks, on the space in front of the sofa. And there was Rodney, mouth smeared in ice-cream, and John's dick looking equally chocolate-minty.

"Mint chocolate chip ice cream blow jobs?" he said and put down his files. He was impressed. He was pretty sure that was something Rodney had thought of himself.

"Kinda burns and is cold at the same time," John replied sprawled out, leg canted for easy access.

"Of course it's cold." Rodney wiped at the edges of his mouth, and let his other hand slowly jack John off now that he was sitting up a little. "It's ice cream."

"Aye, well the peppermint flavor will have some interesting effects as well," Carson said. "Don't mind me. I'm just getting a cup of tea."

Something like this usually meant that the pair of them would combine their resources for him later, so it wasn't so much a case of missing out as a warm up for the main event.

John groaned again. "You ate it all Rodney."

"I know. I should try ice cubes now," Rodney murmured, and he leaned back down, and god, that was a lovely sight. He was unabashed, looking at John while he took him in. Rodney always seemed to delight in their reactiveness.

Sometimes there was just as much pleasure in watching what they did, taking satisfaction and enjoyment in the fact that they were his - not slaves, but genuine Companions in every layered meaning of the term. There was a relief and lightness to John now that he hadn't had before, and Rodney was starting to crackle with that brilliance that he had seen right at the first.

"Ice cubes? No way Rodney..." John protested and gasped as Rodney's mouth moved on him again. " damn hot."

Earlier that morning, Rodney had been saying something about sex being quantitative as well as qualitative, and how one day he was going to collect data that could produce the perfect formulation for sex. He smirked around John's dick, and Carson had to reach a hand down to adjust himself because watching Rodney do that, and John's hands drift to the top of Rodney's head was a beautiful sight.

John was frankly gorgeous in sex, whereas he knew the rest of them had a more prosaic presentation to the whole thing. But the way he closed his eyes, arched his neck as if that would help somehow, and his hands tangled loosely in Rodney's fine hair was the equal of any high class porn flick he'd every seen, with added spice of being real and unfeigned.

Rodney never thought of himself as gorgeous, but he was. He was attractive, an undeniable presence that drew attention and to Carson, it was like some magnetic anomaly. He just couldn't take his eyes from him.

Together, well, when Carson watched them together he couldn't feel left out because when he entered a room their actions had an air of them putting on a little show, just for him. And it certainly worked.

He was never going to get that cup of tea.

From the way his mouth was going dry, he was going to need it but right now John was shifting his hips a little and then he gave that twitch and shudder he seemed to get before he obviously came with an explosive gasp.

Rodney always swallowed, always. So it wasn't particularly striking to watch the motions he made, the tip of his head, or the way his closed his eyes for a moment, and kept sucking on John even as he started to go soft.

"Oh god...Rodney, you're a genius," John groaned a little as he went loose limbed and the tension drained from him.

"Aye, he is that," Carson said finally approaching for his now usual kiss. John tasted sates and with the taste of mint chocolate on his lips, as did Rodney.

Rodney shifted, leaned forwards to kiss lazily at John's chest. "Both at work, and at home. I don't know what to do with myself."

"We'll think of something," Carson said, getting John to lift his head so he could sit down and then John mad his head comfortable in his lap, his messy hair too alluring not to touch. "Some of us have had a busy day."

"Some of us had a busy day trying to stop Rodney offering to get the Asgard jeans," John said sounding comfortable.

"Hey, no, I'm calling you a liar on that one. You're the one who was so uncomfortable with the fact that the asexual aliens don't wear clothes," Rodney growled, petting at John's chest with one hand.

"So not true Rodney. I'm the one with no problems roaming around naked. I just could see you wondering where their reproductive organs were all the time," John replied.

"Well, either way they had produce their report to the SGC from their scans of all of us - did they tell you any of their findings?" Carson asked, smiling at the pair of them.

"Sure, grill me when I'm still horny," Rodney sighed, all wrapped up melodrama even as he leaned back, still kneeling. "You have no shame. but it was actually a fairly strange report."

"I was hoping you might save that for me," Carson suggested with a half smile.

"They found implanted ancient knowledge," John said glancing up at him. "Coordinates of a defense outpost on earth, and I think Rodney had a lot of knowledge about it, you had something about where a viable power source was and I'm apparently getting end user stuff. How to shoot the damn thing." He shrugged a little. "Hermoid seemed to think that the three of us combined fulfilled failsafe requirements of intelligence, strategy, and moral compassion."

"Together we made up one creature of advanced evolutionary status. I'm not sure whether to be offended or proud." Rodney shifted, definitely on the move, moving from being over top of John to sitting naked on the sofa and pulling John's legs onto his lap.

"Aye, well they told me a little of that," Carson replied. "And that they apparently found a location of a viable power source to run that outpost from my head."

John looked very comfortable where he was. "Maybe you're meant to make sure we get things right," he said looking up at him. "Rodney is meant to figure things out and I guess I'm the one that points the weapons."

"I thought you said I was too young to go anywhere outside of the base," Rodney mused. He petted at John's thighs, slow lingering motions of happiness.

"You've always been special," Carson murmured. "And, the prototype serum based on the blood work of the three of us is now working. We have an ATA serum with a 50% success rate. They were very pleased with that."

"They should be," John replied. "You think they'll let us all go to the co-ordinates embedded by the Opener?"

He wasn't sure about that. It was probably a mission best forged by people with, oh, experience, but if it had ancient technology and they needed it used... Then, eventually.

"I don't know John," he admitted and stroked at his hair. "I really don't. But considering the state of things out there, well... they are very keen to set up a genuine planetary defense. At least that is what they said."

He was looking at them both wondering what he might interest them in doing. He was tired, but on the other hand, very happy.

It had gone well, and so had all of their checkups afterwards. The branding marks were still scars, but neither of them had commented on discomfort or pain, and that was all Carson had really hoped for with the branding. "We'll see. They're very... politic." Rodney slouched a little, and sighed.

"Something wrong Rodney?" he asked immediately concerned, turning towards the younger man.

"Mmm?" It startled him a little, and he petted at John's knee. "No, just, uh, I think I actually did eat too much ice-cream, and I'm never going to admit to that again."

John chuckled a little "I find that hard to believe." He stretched a little and Carson had to stroke down his side. He looked down at John and saw the smirk that meant John knew exactly what he was doing.

"No, I ate ice-cream," Rodney murmured. His hands kept moving, stroking at John's calves. "And a lot of it. A lot. I think next time we do this, I'm going with ice-chips."

"Come on...the orgasmic groans when you eat the ice-cream are worth their weight in gold."

John pointed out.

Carson chuckled a little. "You two... Okay, now I'm feeling left out."

"We can take care of that," Rodney suggested. And he scooted sideways on the sofa, towards Carson.

"Anything in particular?" John murmured.

"Surprise me," Carson said with a smile. They always did. He didn't know what he did to deserve Rodney and John, but he had them both and they had him.

"I'm stomach ill," Rodney be-moaned. But there was a different between Rodney very ill, and Rodney hamming it up. "I can't be creative like this. I'm all hard and worked up already."

"Oh aye, so you want to cut to the chase," Carson replied as John smiled. "What do you want Rodney?"

"I'm too worked up to chase, too," Rodney pushed a hand against John's knee. "I could do with, oh, a good fucking."

"A good one?" Carson said and smiled. "Well then. I think I can provide that. Did you bring lube or was it all ice-cream?"

"Nothing but ice-cream," John attested, shifting to squirm his ass against Rodney's crotch, in the process of scooting off of them. "Ooof, I think I can watch this one."

"Like you can keep your hands to yourself," Carson said. "Can you throw us some lube John?"

"I think I could manage that," John smirked.

Rodney shifted, squirmed until his thighs were against Carson's, and then he shifted, kneeling up and, oh, okay, Carson could go for that. Rodney liked to do that, take a dominant physical position even if he preferred the submissive act.

Carson was trying not to smirk at him with a half smile. "A wee bit of lap action then?" he queried.

"Just a wee bit," Rodney mocked back, voice gentle as he leaned in to kiss Carson. Carson was still dressed, but Rodney would take care of that.

"You are beautiful you know that?" Carson murmured looking up at him. "You really are."

"Mmm." Rodney only barely agreed, reaching to unbutton Carson's shirt. "You say that because you sleep with me."

"That's because I know the whole of you," Carson said, relaxing into the undressing. John wandered back in, and that was a sight that stimulate anyone, let alone the fact he was just wearing a mile and bringing in a tube of lube.

"You know I eat too much ice-cream, get eyestrain from work...."

"Enjoy long walks in the sunset, sex, hates porn, and likes lube," John filled in.

Carson chuckled. "Likes to bottom from on top," he teased. "To take advantage of his Benefactors inability to resist his Companions."

"What's to resist?" Rodney pressed fingers against Carson's chest, a gentle kneading before he reached down to start unfastening Carson's belt.

"You are like a cat," Carson commented. "John's just as bad, but you..." He smiled again and shifted so the belt came loose.

"Mm.You know you look pretty hot like thaT?"

"Who?" Rodney asked, popping the button at the top of Carson's pants. "Me or Carson?"

"Both of you," John replied lazily sprawling so he could see the both of them.

Carson moved obligingly so his pants could be pulled down enough. From the looks of it, they were going to do this with Rodney pretty much sitting in his lap. And it didn't take him long to feel ready enough to deal with that.

He liked the idea, and Rodney liked the idea of controlling things as much as possible, so it was a good even point. And John was watching. "I think the blowjob addled you," Rodney murmured, kneeling up for a moment to help push Carson's pants down to his knees.

"It's a medical fact that your IQ drops a fraction of a point for every blowjob you have," Carson teased trying not to smile too obviously. He had a gorgeous young man on his lap, another one watching him as if what he was seeing was the best thing ever. Things were looking pretty good.

"Hmn, hmn. I suppose the SGC will have the man the most of my massive intellect before it starts to show." Rodney leaned in again, pressed his mouth against Carson's in a loose kiss before he started to work Carson's underwear down, too.

Times like this he was pretty sure that Rodney actually liked him rather than was just grateful to him. That worried him sometimes because he wasn't so sure of himself that he could accept that Rodney and John who were very obviously besotted by one another, were equally besotted with him. Why would they be? What could he give them except a home?

Except that at nights, even if the other wasn't there John of Rodney curled up around him, and John had spent his lifetime trying to prove himself worthy of making him fall in love with him, and Rodney thought he was some sort of mythical form of Benefactor too good to be true.

God help them both if they ever worked out that he wasn't. But Rodney's expression was lazy, languid, and he kept pressing kisses against Carson, Soft, slow kisses while he curled fingers around Carson's dick.

It had occurred to him that perhaps this lingering sense of insecurity, because he knew he loved Rodney, and he loved John was what John had been feeling with all that mess over being second best. He could never be that to him. Neither of them were. They didn't compete with each other for his affection; they were different enough that loving one did not preclude loving the other.

That felt wonderful, warm fingers around his cock and undivided attention. Rodney felt different to John doing it. John was sure and confident in his touch. Rodney sometimes had a little hesitation that was rather endearing.

"Oh god Rodney, I won't take long here..."

He could feel Rodney smile against the edge of his jaw, mumbling, "Good. I'm all wound up, anyway. Where's the lube?"

"Here," John replied and leaned over. "Hey, can I help you out with that?"

Like Rodney was going to disagree to that sort of offer.

"Yeah, that could be good," Rodney murmured, leaning into Carson and lifting his ass so John could do just that.

Carson got to hold him and hear the slick sounds of lube, even as John smiled at them both and Rodney continued his stroking of his cock. It was just...a natural progression. He liked the sounds Rodney made when John did that to him, the expression on his face as he felt fingers inside of him. He liked most of all the way Rodney's eyes changed as his pupils dilated with arousal and the color seemed all the more vivid for contrast.

The blue seemed bluer, lips parted slightly as he breathed unevenly, rocking his ass back against John's fingers. And John didn't stay separate long; he leaned in, pressed kisses against Rodney's neck.

He knew John wouldn't be able to resist and he never forgot his lovers needs even after he had come himself, Carson had noted that.

The only thing that worried him was that Rodney might come before they had a chance to do anything.

Rodney rocked close against Carson, squirming a little more, twisting and breathing harder, while John just kept kissing at the back of his neck. "Ready?"

"I think I could be ready," Rodney breathed, nodding shakily. "Yeah."

"I'm definitely ready," Carson managed. He was hard and in need of some sort of relief. Only the prospect of Rodney's ass had kept him from coming already. "Please"

He pressed his cheek against the side of Carson's face, and shifted, starting to lower himself. John was still there, and now another hand wrapped around his cock, guiding him up against Rodney's hole.

"Oh my...god..." He exhaled as the tightness surrounded him slowly and surely, resisting the urge to thrust up, if only because he could feel John's other hand pressing him down so he wouldn't do that and hurt Rodney. John was very concerned about that.

"Easy does it," John murmured. "Easy...there we go..."

Rodney exhaled hard, almost a whine. "Hnn, oh, that feels good. Just..." Rodney pressed down against him, stayed all the way on Carson, and only after a moment started to move.

If the going down had felt good, the movement was beyond that. Rodney's weight pushed him in deeper than normal and that was enough to have him clutching desperately at Rodney and John to steady him. He could imagine this position becoming one of his favorites, most definitely.

Rodney's knees were spread to either side of Carson's hips, and it was close. It was a simple position, but so intimate when Rodney leaned into him closer, lifting his hips slowly.

He loved that he could see Rodney's expression, the way he was closing his eyes with ecstasy the exact moment that a bolt of pleasure earthed itself around his cock. He loved the fact he could see John there, looking down at him his hands drifting and wandering over them both.

Rodney had probably wanted it to be slow, lazy, but even if it started out that way it never ended that way, even with John's hands sliding over their sides, backs, stomachs.

One or other of them usually lost a grip on their patience or control, and then it was a flurry of movement and sensation and running frantically towards climax. He leaned back so he could arched his hips up, feel the pressure of John's hands against him and respond to Rodney's movement.

"Hn, just a little harder, you, that's so good..." Rodney's fingers stayed on Carson's shoulders, steadying himself while he rose up and then pushed back down against Carson's dick.

Adrenalin and sex endorphins made the awkward movements easier than he would've imagine because he had a real incentive to push and thrust. Next thing he knew though was John's strong hand sliding under him and literally lifting him to hit a angle he couldn't've done alone and that apparently set off fireworks in Rodney's brain.

He could see Rodney stiffen, muscles going tight erratically, milking around Carson's dick, and he still tried to move, to push down against him, but the rhythm fell apart.

Then somehow it was John who was setting the rhythm, easing him in one way, Rodney in another all with that smile as he just gave in and stopped even trying to think himself. Somehow that worked where they had struggled a little before. The motion was smoother, surer and everything felt like heaven.

Just a little more motion, that was all he needed, a little more thrust and clench, and Carson would be there, be where Rodney already was, rocking down shakily against him.

He closed his eyes and pushed for it, flexed into it with muscles that would be tired later but now wanted nothing more. John was murmuring soft words of encouragement, too soft to make out words, but the tone was soothing and sexy in itself and that combined with the sounds Rodney was making was enough to take him to the point of snapping his hips hard as he could, push for those extra thrust and from there into climax.

Everything focused into the moment, into the feeling of coming, the release and relief of it, the way Rodney's ass twitched around his dick and Rodney leaned forwards against him, pressing his half-hard dick against Carson's stomach and the smear of semen he'd left there.

"You know..." John's voice drawled. "For a moment I thought you two were working on a whole orgasm denial thing. I would've never bet you could've lasted that long Rodney."

"Me either." Rodney shifted, slouching hard against Carson if that was possible, and he turned his head to press lips against Carson's neck.

"Certainly the best way to come home from work," Carson said to them both, feeling the post orgasm haze settle over him. "Mmm. You two are too good to me."

He actually meant that, especially as John was wiping him off, cleaning him up as if that was normal as well.

"There's pizza in the oven," Rodney murmured "Keeping it warm. I think we're too good to you, too." Rodney squirmed, leaned up and pulled off of Carson in one semi-smooth gesture. "Mmm, I could go to sleep now."

Carson pulled him down afterwards so he could half sprawl over him in that extravagant way Rodney managed so well. "I'm not going anywhere just yet," he said. "Got to get my breath back."

John joined them on the couch as if it was perfectly natural. That was the good thing about it all, it seemed very natural.

They both seemed content to share. Rodney slid one arm over John's chest, sprawling over them both once the opportunity provided itself. "Good. I like it when you come home like this."

"I could get very fond of it too," Carson replied. He couldn't imagine why Kolya had ever wanted to hurt Rodney, to waste all that love that he obviously wanted to lavish on someone. And John, how was it no one had seen who John was going to become all those years ago. He leaned over and kissed him as well as a thank you. Neither of them were second best for all John had been second choice and Rodney had been second Companion. When it came down to it that was just a matter of timing, not of love. When it came to that, the only clear winner was himself.

Rodney shifted a little more, worming himself closer to both John and Carson, and dropped his strong chin down between the space where John's shoulder pressed against Carson's. They could stay there for a while, rest before he thought about food or getting up or showering and then going to bed.

It was a lucky thing for all of them that he'd been late to choosing that day. Second the best for all of them.