-by Taylor Dancinghands

Disclaimer: According Intellectual Proprty Laws, someone owns these ideas, characters, scenarios, etc. and whoever that is it's not me. I'm playing with 'em anyway. So sue me. (Actually, no, please don't.)

Part One: Singularity

God yes, it really was four AM. Dr. Carson Beckett rubbed at his eyes once more to blink blearily at the tiny numbers in the upper right hand corner of his laptop screen, but they did not change. He'd been here, immersed in these files, ever since the all-clear had been given and he'd returned to his office, driven by guilt and anxiety, to pour over every word the ancients had written on nano agents. Hours of study later, all he really knew was that he'd barely scratched the surface. As tired and unable to focus as he was, though, he was reluctant to call it quits for the night. He was damned if he'd let himself be caught so flat footed again.

Never again did he want to find himself powerless to do anything but watch as his friends saw their terrifying and imminent deaths draw ever closer. Never in his life had he felt so useless, and never did he want to feel that way again. The memory of Rodney's terrified cry as he flinched away from phantoms only he could see was seared in Carson's memory, as was the terrible anxiety on Radek Zelenka's face as he watched his friend prepare to die.

Carson leaned back in his chair and scrubbed at his face with his hands, drawing in a deep breath in an attempt to chase away those wretched memories, if only for a moment or two. He knew it was foolish to go on trying to read the ancient files. He was too tired to concentrate on the material, and furthermore he was scheduled to be on duty again in only four hours. He needed to at least try and get some sleep.

Sleep would not be easy in coming tonight though; that, Carson thought to himself as he stood, shrugging off his lab coat, was certain. He tended to eschew the many pharmaceutical solutions he had at hand, however, in favor of more traditional inducements. What he needed, Carson decided, barring the possibility of human companionship (which would have been particularly nice tonight), was a long, hot shower and a glass of warm milk.

Carson had been rethinking the human companionship piece of his life lately, and the issue returned to his thoughts as he made his way to the kitchens. It was strange to reflect now how it was that he'd worried, at first, that life on Atlantis would be too stifling and crowded. Carson knew all about life in little remote villages, and knew how it was that everybody inevitably came to live in everybody else's back pocket. Everybody knew everybody else's business in communities like that, and Carson had initially been concerned that he'd have a hard time getting any privacy.

Never had he imagined how lonely he would be.

The empty, half darkened corridors he walked along, on his way to the kitchen, seemed to reverberate sympathetically with his mood. It was little more than a subconscious concern over barking his shin on a chair in the dark that brought a few dim lights up as Carson entered the dinning room. He didn't think he'd ever been here so late all by himself before. The handful of lights he'd activated with a thought, as well as allowing him to avoid tripping over the chairs in his path, served to sketch out the vast size of the space and heightened the doctor's sense of aloneness even further.

It was the realization, shortly after they'd all settled in, that he was, potentially, everyone on Atlantis' personal physician, that first caused Carson to decide that he could have no intimate relationships here. The wisdom of this decision seemed to prove itself, he soon discovered to his dismay, as some of the people he was coming to care about the most turned out to be amongst the people he found himself patching up the most frequently.

In spite of his conscientious abstinence, though, Carson was coming to realize that the day on which he would have to assign Rodney and Radek's care to another physician was imminent anyhow. He cared too much for the both of them, regardless of whether they got any closer. If that was the case then, he asked himself, why not put an end to this wretched loneliness? The question resonated within him as he entered the kitchen and made his way into the pantry to find some milk.

==> ==> ==>

Rodney had begun, many long hours ago, staring out the window of his quarters to gaze at the twilight sky outside. As the sun had set however, and it's last glow had faded from the horizon, Rodney had found himself staring instead at his own reflection. It was nothing he really wanted to face at the moment, but he'd found himself unable to look away.

The minute he could comfortably assure himself that the mop-up in the ancient lab was being conducted sensibly, he'd fled back to his quarters to hide, like a criminal fleeing the scene of a crime. No, it wasn't the scene of the crime itself he was fleeing, but evidence -evidence of something he'd feared ever since he'd realized he was way smarter than most people.

He'd actually really lost it back there for a second or two. Seen things that didn't exist, ducked and flinched and screamed like a girl ­and all in front of everybody. Rodney McKay had been long aware of how great genius and mental instability often go hand in hand. Tales of brilliant mathematicians who started showing up for lectures in their pajamas, or ground breaking physicists who suddenly begin touting the merits of lining your hat with aluminum foil were common in the sorts of circles Rodney ran in, and there was often an element of 'There, but for the grace of God, go I' whenever he heard these tales told. It did occur to Rodney to wonder, from time to time ­and never during good times- whether that grace had perhaps passed him by.

There'd been a moment today (though perhaps it was yesterday, now) when he'd been fairly certain that it had.

It didn't matter that the hallucinations had been clearly caused by the nanovirus. The fact that it had happened, that he'd experienced it, was what was eating at his soul. It didn't even matter that he'd survived ... well, okay, he was glad he wasn't dead ­really, really glad, but he had no illusions as to what his life would be worth if he ever slipped, really slipped, and lost his possibly tenuous grip on sanity altogether.

Rodney was much too intelligent not to have become aware of his obvious social deficits long ago and, admitting to them, it ought to have been possible to address them and change for the better. He'd always made the excuse that he, as a genius, had better uses for his time, but the truth was that he'd always feared that examining his personal defects deeply would only reveal that they were the symptoms of a psyche which was only barely managing to keep itself together.

By that theory, Rodney knew, he should never have come here, and most certainly never accepted the post of head of the science section. That was what surely constituted his crime. In taking this position he had allowed Dr. Wier to place this entire station, and the lives of all the people on it, in the hands of a man who was possibly one false step away from a complete meltdown, and tonight this fact pressed upon him almost as heavily as his fear.

Well, after this fiasco the cat might at last be out of the bag. Everyone had seen his little freak out, including Carson, who was no shrink but must know a psychic break when he saw one, and Radek, who at the very least would be watching him very carefully now. He wouldn't miss a thing either. Radek was smart, maybe almost as smart as he was, though Rodney had no intention of letting anyone, much less Radek know he thought so.

Truthfully, Rodney had never worked with anyone as quietly brilliant as Radek Zelenka. Maybe it was just that he needed someone at least as smart as Radek to understand what he was saying most of the time, but when they really got going on something it was like they shared a common language, one known to the two of them alone. He knew people thought it was cute when he and Radek got to finishing each other's sentences, but it was a mercy to Rodney to have someone to whom he did not have to explain everything. He wasted so much time explaining things.

He had often wondered how Radek felt about him, but whatever his feelings had been before, they must certainly be different now. What a pathetic spectacle he'd made of himself, babbling out instructions and worse, his infantile 'hero's death' scenario, in a truly sorry attempt to establish some kind of legacy. If he had died, of course, none of the people to whom he passed this valuable legacy would, in all probability, have lived past the next forty-eight hours, making the entire exercise utterly futile.

God, what an idiot he'd made of himself. Radek would never respect him again. Who could?

For many long hours Rodney did nothing but sit there, staring through his own reflection, guilt and fear his only companions. Eventually, however, one of his little internal survival programs, critical habits installed many long years ago, woke up in Rodney to remind him that trauma, guilt and fear notwithstanding, he still needed to eat.

He couldn't, when he thought about it, remember when he'd eaten last and that was always a bad sign. He'd have preferred to choke down an energy bar and be done with it, but he knew he needed more by now and that meant a trip to the kitchen. He no more felt like leaving his quarters than he felt like eating, but the imperative to maintain his tetchy physical systems was undeniable. He *was* alive and therefore he *would* need to eat.

Hopefully it was late enough, Rodney thought as he headed out, that he'd meet no one on the way there or back. It was four AM, for Pete's sake. Who would be up at this hour?

<== <== <==

Rodney died before his eyes, screaming and convulsing, and Radek knew that he would be next, though he hardly cared now. He watched Ford shriek and strike at invisible phantoms before he went down and waited for them to take him, ... but they did not. Instead, inexplicably, he saw Carson fall next, crumpling to the floor in his hazmat suit, then Sheppard, and Dr. Wier ... he didn't know how they'd gotten here but none of that mattered because they were dead now.

It was then, as he stumbled, horrified and grief stricken, out of the lab and into a corridor strewn with bodies, that Radek realized that something far worse than death awaited him. Everyone, the inescapable truth fell upon Radek with a suffocating weight, everyone on Atlantis was dead. Everyone but him.

Radek Zelenka woke himself up with a terrified cry. Scrambling to sit up in the bed, he stared out into the dark of his room with wide eyes and wrapped his arms around himself in fear. His mouth felt as dry as dust and that, when he had finally stopped shaking, was impetus enough to move him from the bed at last. The water tasted flat and metallic in his mouth and he only drank a few swallows before setting the cup down to lean forward and rest his head against the cool surface of the mirror over his sink. He was aching with fatigue and he dared not go to sleep again.

God, what a nightmare. He'd not been so terrified by a dream since his childhood. Not that they hadn't encountered plenty of things sufficient to inspire nightmares in anyone since they'd come to Atlantis, but for some reason that inspiration hadn't born fruit for Radek until now. Unfortunately, Radek knew all too well why yesterday's misadventures had impacted him so. Yesterday he'd almost watched Rodney die.

He'd also made an utter fool of himself.

*"We will look at them together."* What kind of idiotic blither had that been? A feeble protestation against the inevitable, that's what, spoken in the forlorn hope of holding off a reality Radek had not been at all ready to face ­a reality without Rodney McKay. He might have given himself away with his foolish behavior, had Rodney not been so preoccupied with his death and then unexpected survival.

At least one person, Radek was fairly certain, had seen what lay at the heart of his futile protest. In what looked to be the last seconds of Rodney McKay's life, he had met the anguished gaze of Dr. Carson Beckett, over Rodney's shoulder, and known instantly. *He cares for him as much as I do.*

For a handful of horrible seconds Radek and Carson had known each other's secret dread and then, unexpectedly, all three of them had been spared. Now Radek knew about Carson, and Carson almost certainly knew about him, but Rodney, it was clear, was clueless.

How Dr. Rodney McKay could be so brilliant and yet so obtuse when it came to the feelings of those around him was a puzzle well outside of Radek's area of expertise. He could not stop his mind working at it, though, and the question tormented him on sleepless nights ... like this one. Enough then! He would not sit here in this room wrestling futily with his nightmares and the conundrums of his friend's psyche. He would do something constructive, something -anything- to take his mind off of all of this.

It would be simplest just to go back to the labs and pick up his work where he'd left off last night, but he'd need coffee before he could manage that. For coffee he'd have to go to the kitchen. Surely at this hour there'd be no one there to ask why he was up, would there?

Part Two: Coalescence

Carson had got himself a cup, found an open carton of UHT milk in the fridge and was just deciding to add a dollop of sweetened condensed milk as an indulgence when he heard a noise from the dining hall. It was the scuff of a chair, followed by a sigh which ended in a sort of quiet moan. Carson recognized the voice right away.

"Rodney?" he called, stepping out of the kitchen to glance around the dining hall. The scientist looked to have collapsed into a chair by the table nearest to the doorway. He sat now with his head in his hands and did not appear to have heard Carson at all. Of course, he'd almost certainly neglected to eat again, Carson sighed to himself as he reentered the kitchen just long enough to set his milk in the microwave and grab an energy bar.

Crossing the cavernous dining hall to reach the table where Rodney slumped, Carson pulled away a chair next to him and sat, dropping the bar on the table. The sound of the chair beside him being moved startled Rodney and he looked up suddenly, confusion on his face even as he recognized Carson. He recognized the energy bar as well, and the look on his face changed to one of understanding and gratitude as he tore the wrapper off and lit into it, all without a word.

Carson had figured out some time ago that many of Rodney's more ... awkward habits of personality were, in fact, survival mechanisms -his current behavior being a case in point. He'd be willing to bet that Rodney hadn't eaten in over twelve hours, and had found himself barely able to make it to the dinning hall. He'd likely had no energy for so much as a greeting, and as his doctor, Carson would just as soon that Rodney attended to his health before any social interaction.

"You know that's just to take the edge off," he admonished as Rodney gracelessly engulfed the last few bites of the bar. "I want you to have some real food ­a regular meal, before you leave here."

"Yes, yes," Rodney grumped as he chewed. "That was my intention all along. I just got a little woozy as I came in. What are you doing here at this hour, anyway?"

"I got to studying what the Ancient database had on nano agents," Carson confessed after a pause. "I hardly know a bloody thing about them and there's such a lot in that database. Lost track of the time, I suppose."

Rodney gave him a very hard look as he swallowed the remainder of his energy bar, as though there'd been more to what he said than what he had meant to say. And evidently there was.

"You know, Wagner, Johnson and Dumais were already dead before we even called you," he said. "and most of the rest of us were already infected. Even if you'd known everything in the database about nanoviruses, there was nothing you could have done at that point."

Damn, the man could be perceptive at times, though he should have known that Rodney McKay would be able to spot guilt a mile away. Guilt was something Rodney had much too much experience with. There were other things though, that it was clear, that Rodney had no experience with at all, and could not recognize even when it was happening right in front of his eyes.

"If I'd known enough to recognize that it was a bloody nanovirus when I got there, we'd have been able to figure out how to get rid of it before Hays died," Carson countered, not at all ready to release his own burden of guilt. "We'd have figured out how to get rid of it before we could have lost you."

That was much too close to things that Carson did not wish Rodney to guess, but Rodney's perceptive eye failed him here, as it always did, and the deeper meaning of this confession was lost to him, much to Carson's relief. To his further relief, he now heard the distinctive chime from the kitchen which let him know his milk was done heating.

"That's my drink," Carson said as he stood to fetch it.

*=^=* *=^=* *=^=*

Rodney shook his head as he watched Carson go. Naturally the man was feeling guilty, which was ridiculous really, because if anybody should have recognized that they'd all been infected by a nanovirus it was him. Nanotechnology was a hard science thing, his sort of thing, not a squishy science thing at all, which was where Carson's expertise lay. Of course Carson, being a doctor, was bound to feel badly whenever he lost a patient, whatever the cause and, being Carson, he just had to care too damned much for his own good.

Rodney had wondered more than once how someone so gentle and caring and kindly disposed as Carson Beckett was able to manage in the uncertain and often terrifying environment of the Atlantis mission. He'd been plenty naïve in his own way when they'd first come, especially on his first few away missions, but he'd learned a lot since then and his naturally suspicious nature had served him well. Clearly Carson had learned a painful lesson on Hoff, but nothing about his open hearted nature had changed, in spite of everything. The man seemed to be begging to have his heart broken again and the thought set off something painful within Rodney. He found that he very much did not wish for that to happen.

At last, Rodney began to feel the carbohydrates from the energy bar enter his blood system and the unsteadiness of his sugar crash began to pass. He had no intention of telling Carson, but he'd barely made it to the dinning room and might have passed out right there if he and his energy bar hadn't happened along. Carson cared for everybody, so it should come as no surprise that Carson cared for him as well, but it troubled Rodney that he should feel so very undeserving of it while at the same time feeling terrifyingly grateful.

He was spared further contemplation of this conundrum, however, by the unexpected arrival of Radek Zelenka.

The engineer looked to be barely awake, his hair even less ordered than usual and with deep circles under his eyes. It was the look in those eyes that told Rodney what Radek was doing here, far more than the word he muttered as he stumbled past Rodney's table on the way to the kitchen.

"Coffee." was what he said, but Rodney drew this more from the context than from the barely intelligible sound the little Czech had made. It was his nightmare haunted eyes, though, that told Rodney why a man who clearly needed sleep was here at four in the morning looking for something to keep him awake. Rodney had himself eschewed sleep tonight in order to evade such nightmares, though part of him was fully aware of the foolishness of such an attempt. He would have to sleep at some point, and the evil dreams would have him then, but if he could hold them off for one night, he would. The look in Radek's eyes made him glad that he had.

<|=|=|> <|=|=|> <|=|=|>

Radek was definitely not expecting to find the lights on in the dining hall, and seeing them, was definitely not expecting to find Rodney there, of all people. Rodney McKay was probably the very last person Radek wanted to talk to just now, however, so he determined to remain focused on his goal. He mumbled something about it as he passed but did not pause to see if he was understood.

He tried to avoid eye contact as well, but failed at the last, for he found he could not elude Rodney's gaze altogether, so determined was it. He all but felt Rodney's astute regard draw a fragment of truth from him, reluctant though he was to have it known. Still, although he was not pleased to have Rodney know that his sleep was troubled, there was one truth of Radek's ­very much on his mind tonight- which Rodney seemed incapable of discovering, and for that Radek was very grateful indeed.

It was now sanctuary as well as coffee that Radek sought in the kitchen, but his hopes were dashed again as he nearly strode head long into Carson Beckett, just stepping out into the doorway with a fairly full cup of some steaming hot beverage in his hands. Carson faded back as Radek swerved to the right and so a small disaster was averted, but a seemingly greater one occurred a moment later as Carson met his gaze full on.

A vivid memory of the agonized glance they shared earlier still echoed between them, and with it came the knowledge of how much they both still worried for the hypoglycemic scientist in the next room. Radek felt a sense of doom fall over him as Carson turned to set his cup down on the counter and reached over to touch him gently on the shoulder.

"Are y'all right , Radek?" he asked. Radek struggled for a moment to find a way avoid answering the question, or to avoid telling the truth, but found he could do neither.

"Too many unpleasant memories to sleep well." he answered at last, shaking his head. "I think that perhaps for the next few days I am better off drinking too much coffee and putting in too many hours in lab." He waited for Carson to deliver the expected medical dissuasions, but instead Carson only nodded.

"I may try that approach myself." he said with a frayed half a smile which suggested to Radek, alarmingly, that he was only half kidding. It suddenly struck Radek then, what nightmares their chief medical officer must be facing, if he had even slept at all tonight.

"How is Rodney?" Radek asked next, rather than pursuing this troubling line of thought.

Carson gave a bit of a long suffering sigh. "He's just forgotten to eat again, though I must say that he only does that when things have gotten especially dicey."

"Dicey," Radek repeated with a weak laugh, remembering far too vividly what Rodney had endured only a few hours ago. "I think I would have pissed myself. I nearly did just watching him. They do that to torture people, you know, pretend that they are about to kill them and let them live at the very last second."

"Aye," said Carson quietly, his gaze turned inward, no doubt visiting the same memories that haunted Radek. "But he's managing all right. He's braver that he thinks." Carson looked up then to meet Radek's eyes once again. "As are you." he finished.

Radek swallowed and felt an unexpected heat behind his eyes. "I ... must get coffee now," he said turning to flee like a coward into the depths of the kitchen.

Seeing as a whole pot of coffee was sure to be called for before the night was over, Radek set one of the pre-measured filter bags into the coffee maker, filled the carafe with water and stood back to wait. Naturally his thoughts turned to Rodney again as he waited, and recalling how Carson had mentioned that he hadn't eaten, Radek thought he might as well get something for Rodney to eat while he waited for the coffee to brew.

Radek, besides being a skilled engineer, was also a skilled subordinate ­a survival trait quite valuable in academic circles. As a result he'd thoroughly learned all of Rodney's (fairly prosaic) food preferences, and further, had learned what foods he turned to in his various moods. A post-traumatic Rodney would, he knew, want a mac and cheese MRE, and Radek also knew just where they were to be found.

^ ^ ^
= = =
* * *

Carson could see that he'd flustered Radek with his compliment, but not necessarily in a bad way. It was curious how Atlantis' two lead scientists seemed to be of such opposite temperaments. One hardly dared pass the least compliment to Rodney, for fear his head would explode, but Radek shrank from praise as though it stung, no matter how much he often deserved it. It was also true, however, that they were both possessed of great courage, deep down inside, and more than either of them knew, just as he'd said.

Carson had initially planned to head back to his quarters once he had his warm milk, but now he realized that as much as he needed the sleep he was sick of solitude. Furthermore, it was Rodney and Radek that he really wanted to be with now, and here they were. Was it really just coincidence that had brought the three of them together here tonight? Were Rodney and Radek as tired of solitude as he was?

Lost in the contemplation of these questions Carson wandered meditatively back to the table where Rodney sat. Rodney made no comment as Carson returned to his seat, and the doctor could not think of anything to say, so he sat and gazed down at his mug of hot milk, blowing on it a little to cool it. Rodney seemed to be similarly lost in his thoughts, his distant gaze too much, Carson thought with a pang, like the 'thousand yard stare' of soldiers who'd seen too many friends die.

Some part of Carson knew that what was needed was for him to place his arm around Rodney's shoulders, pull him close and tell him that it wasn't his fault, that everyone knew he'd tried his best, done what he could. He knew that, but somehow he could not break through the inertia, the doubts, the old patterns, to do it. How had solitude come to be a such an ingrained habit? Carson shook his head silently over his hot milk.

Radek stepped out of the kitchen just then, a cup of fresh hot coffee in one hand and an MRE in the other. He made his way purposefully to their table and sat on Carson's left, across from Rodney.

"He said you hadn't eaten," Radek said, glancing briefly at Carson but addressing Rodney, "so I thought you might like one of these."

Radek pushed the MRE across the table to Rodney, who reached out to take it, and for a moment their hands touched. They both hesitated then, seemingly reluctant to break the contact and Carson saw on Rodney's face a momentary look of such agonized yearning, and in Radek's eyes a flash of such wistful sorrow, that Carson thought his heart would break.

They drew their hands apart after only a moment and Radek's focus returned to his coffee and Rodney's to the MRE now in his possession.

"Hey, a mac and cheese!" Rodney exclaimed with quiet delight as he opened it. "I thought Kavanagh hid them all."

"Not from me," said Radek with a sly smile that went straight to Carson's heart (as well as a few other spots lower down).

Rodney paused in unpacking his meal to push the wrapper away with his left hand, leaving it to rest there on the table not far from where Radek's lay and he looked up to meet his eyes once again.

"Thanks, Radek," he said. "Really."

"Was only little thing." said Radek softly, gaze firmly lodged in the depths of his coffee cup. "I am glad you approve of my selection."

The three of them fell silent again as Rodney laid into his food, but it was still a lonely silence and it ate at Carson. Taking in this little interchange, hearing all that was not said and seeing all that was not seen, something simmering in Carson finally boiled over. It was impossible that the two of them should so clearly both care for the other and yet not see how much the other cared for him. It was impossible that he should feel so much for the both of them, and yet do and say nothing.

His heated frustration met the cold inertia of his fear and complacency, and they contested within him for a moment. Then his eyes fell on where Rodney and Radek's hands lay on the table still, centimeters apart but not touching, and the imperative to act burst through and found a voice.

"You'd think we lot would be sick of this, you would!" Carson said suddenly into the silence, surprised at the vehemence in his tone.

"Sick of what, exactly?" asked Rodney, having actually taken a moment to finish his food before speaking.

You've put your foot in it now, Carson thought to himself, swallowing nervously.

"Of being ...", he swallowed again, stealing himself for the worst, "of being sae lonely."

There followed another long silence in which both Radek and Rodney seemed dumbfounded by this pronouncement, but though neither spoke aloud, their looks communicated plenty. Rodney's said plainer than words, *and what, exactly, am I supposed to do about it?* And Radek's, just as clearly said, *do you not suppose that I have already had this thought, many times?* Here before him, Carson marveled, were the two allegedly smartest men on Atlantis, and both seemed determined to remain utterly blind to the other's affections. He gave way at last to exasperation.

"Oh for God's sake!" he cried. "Anyone with eyes in their head can see how the two of you long for each other. The only ones as can't are the two of you, ye bloody idiots!"

In unison, Radek and Rodney both turned from staring at Carson to staring at each other. Radek, Carson also noticed, was now blushing furiously while Rodney had gone quite pale.

"What?" cried Rodney, drawing his arms back protectively.

"Ma Buh!" gasped Radek, lifting his hands up to his mouth.

Carson watched for several long seconds (thinking to himself, geniuses, these two are both supposed to be geniuses), while the two scientists slowly worked it all out. On their faces Carson saw first confusion, which gradually became doubt, and which was replaced in turn by the inward frowns and furrowed brows of deep thought. He watched the wheels turn for a few moments more until first Radek and then Rodney looked up at the other with expressions of terribly cautious hope. Radek spoke first.

"How long?" he asked, his voice little more than a whisper.

Rodney looked down at his all but empty MRE tray again and then back up at Radek, still, from his expression, terribly uncertain.

"The first time we worked together," he said at last, not yet meeting Radek's eyes entirely. "I mean really together ... you know, the way it gets when we're really into something ... when, ... when you know what I mean before I hardly start explaining ... the first time that happened. That was when."

Carson saw Rodney swallow hard and finally look up to meet Radek's eyes, but on Radek's face the last of the doubt had vanished.

"Ano ... yes," said Radek, his voice colored with wonder. "For me also, that was the moment. I have never had that with anyone else. Never."

It was Rodney who reached his right hand out across the table but Radek soon met him halfway and as Carson watched their two hands met, touched tentatively and finally clasped firmly, each wrapped about the other. Now they gazed deeply into one another's eyes, their expressions both colored with desire and astonishment. Watching them, Carson became aware of a variety of very mixed feelings clashing within him, as the honest joy he felt for Rodney and Radek was accompanied by a not so small wrench of sorrow that, having found each other, the two scientists clearly had no need of him.

"Well," said Carson awkwardly into the silence, taking up his cup of warm milk and preparing to rise, "It looks as if my work here is done."

He had pushed his chair away from the table and was halfway up when a hand caught at him suddenly, seizing his wrist with surprising strength, and he heard Rodney cry, "Wait!"

It was Radek who had hold of his left wrist and Rodney was meeting his gaze now with an urgent question in his eyes.

"You ... you said 'we'," he said. "'We lot', in fact."

"Ano, that is true." confirmed Radek.

Carson let Radek pull him back down into his chair as he looked slowly from one to the other, heart in his throat.

"Aye," he said cautiously.

"'Cause see," said Rodney, "I would have said that anyone with eyes in their head could see how you and Radek were ... well, ... totally hot for each other."

Carson actually felt his jaw drop but was too undone to remember to close it again for several long seconds. Glancing at Radek now he found the Czech blushing furiously, but clutching at his hand even tighter.

"And I would have said," Radek replied, looking determinedly across at Rodney, "that anyone with eyes to see must surely have noticed the two of you constantly mooning after each other."

"I don't moon!" Rodney refuted vehemently, and Carson felt his heart lurch. "Now, um, ogling ... that ... you might have seen."

"Rodney?" Carson asked, nearly dizzy with astonishment.

For an answer Rodney reached out to take Carson's right hand with his left, holding it very gently at first, as though it were a fragile, or perhaps precious thing, then clasping it firmly.

Carson felt his heart race as he looked around the circle of his friends, saw Radek's and Rodney's eyes shining brightly, full of feeling, for him as well as each other. He had set out, only a little while ago, with some few hopes but, very carefully, no expectations. How little he had dared to even hope for this outcome, and yet, here it was.

"My word," said Carson, his voice quiet and wonder struck.

Part Three: Unity

Anyone who had entered the dinning hall at that moment might have easily drawn the mistaken conclusion that Atlantis' three chief science section heads were engaged in a séance, so intense was the silence as they sat with their hands clasped in a circle. It was Radek who broke the silence eventually, looking intently at the two hands grasped firmly in his. There was some element of hunger in his gaze, and that was what, perhaps, drove him to speak.

"I think it may be time for us to take this conversation elsewhere, yes?" he said, and then after a slightly awkward pause, "Unfortunately, my own quarters are ... barely fit for human habitation, I am afraid."

"I, ah," Rodney began, "I believe I have the largest quarters of anyone here."

"Aye," said Carson, "but I've got the largest bed."

There was a beat while all three of them took in the import of that statement.

"How'd you pull that?" Rodney eventually sniped, standing and so dragging Carson and Radek to their feet as well.

Carson shrugged. "Somebody else took all the larger quarters first. And besides, I sleep large ... when I'm sleeping alone."

"Your place it is then," said Rodney, a little breathlessly, and Radek nodded in concurrence. They quickly found, however, that there was no practical way for the three of them to walk down the corridor with their hands clasped as they were (and in addition, Carson and Radek both had drinks they wanted to take with them) and so, very reluctantly, they let their hands slip apart. As they traveled the empty hallways, however, first one then the other of them each succumbed to the desire to touch, and reassure themselves that it was all real.

So it was that as they walked Radek reached up to lay his hand on Carson's arm, ever so briefly, and Rodney leaned into Radek's shoulder with his own, seemingly in passing. Likewise did Carson lightly caress Radek's backside, moving on before he hardly noticed, and reach up to touch Rodney's face as they came to a stop outside Carson's quarters.

Carson smiled, his door opened, the three scientists slipped inside and the door closed behind them. Radek and Carson both set their mugs, containing coffee and warm milk respectively, down on the table near the door, but Carson seemed to be inspired into some kind of action related to his, as he next headed straight for a set of cupboards on an adjacent wall, and commenced rummaging with intent.

While Carson was thus engaged, Radek glanced around the small but tidily appointed apartment, as he had never been here before. Rodney hadn't either, but he was busy looking at Radek and after a moment the Czech noticed. Full of daring Radek turned to Rodney, lifted his hand up to cup his cheek in a tentative caress, and then more daring still, moved his hand around to the back of Rodney's head and pulled him down into a kiss. Rodney reacted with surprise at first, but then, genius that he was, quickly got with the program. Radek's eyes widened as Rodney deepened the kiss with astonishing intensity, but soon closed them again so that he could lose himself in the sensations of Rodney's lips and tongue dancing with his own.

When Carson finally extracted himself from the cupboards, a bottle of amber colored liquid grasped triumphantly in one hand, he was delighted to find the unexpected vision of Rodney and Radek fully engaged in a passionate kiss. His previous mission forgotten for the moment, he set the bottle down to watch. They found him watching when they came up for air, a smile of pure joy on his lips and eyes bright with desire.

Carson took up the bottle again when he saw that the other two were watching him, pouring a generous measure into his own cup and then, when he nodded his approval, into Radek's coffee as well.

"I thought it might help us to relax a bit," Carson said as he took as sip of his now spiked warm milk and then offered it to Rodney, "though I see that some of us aren't feeling a bit shy already."

Radek only blushed a little, reaching over to take up his cup, as Rodney accepted the drink from Carson and whooped a bit as he swallowed, taken by surprise by the amount of liquor in it. Radek only smiled warmly as he sipped at his doctored (doctored, indeed!) coffee and then watched with pleasure as Carson took the cup out of Rodney's hands and stepped forward to kiss him in turn.

Rodney knew better than to be surprised by now, and met Carson more than halfway, but there was confusion in his eyes as the kiss ended.

"You ... you're both completely serious about this, aren't you?" he asked at last.

"Why wouldn't we be?" asked Carson in return, taking up one of Rodney's hands with both of his.

Rodney's gaze moved between Carson and Radek, who'd stepped closer to lay his hand on Rodney's arm. It was uncertainty that possessed him, as much as the other two would have liked to.

"But ... people ... people don't like me," he confessed at last. "Especially not people that I like ... and really especially not ... not two of them?"

Radek sighed and looked up at Rodney, his expression a cross between affection and frustration. "Well, you have always said that most of the people you've worked with were idiots," he suggested. "While we, on the other hand, are most decidedly not."

Rodney tried to find a response to this but couldn't, or at least he didn't get a chance to before Carson put his own theory forth.

"I think its more that we've gotten to see a side of you that few others have before now," Carson offered, gazing into Rodney's eyes with great feeling. "And maybe it's a side of yourself that you've never seen before either." He shook his head, suddenly lost in thought.

"We all came on this journey thinking we were off to learn great things about the universe," he continued, speaking to himself now as much as to Rodney, "but we never thought about what we'd end up learning about ourselves." There was a troubled note in Carson's voice, suggesting that not everything one might learn about one's self were necessarily happy things.

"Carson, have you considered the possibility," Radek asked, stepping close to the doctor, "that you, too, are braver than you know?"

With these words Carson's gaze was drawn from Rodney to Radek and as soon as he had captured his eyes Radek moved to capture Carson's mouth with his own. Drawing in a sudden breath with the intensity of the kiss, Carson's hands roamed though Radek's flyaway hair, caressing his head and neck with gentle passion. When they drew apart they found Rodney gazing raptly upon them, eyes glittering with desire.

"My god, that was seriously hot!" he gasped after a moment.

His dark introspections utterly banished by Radek's kiss, Carson grinned. "D'ye think so, then?" he asked with a laugh. "I suppose I found it pleasant enough watching you and Radek, but I don't think Radek got to watch the two of us long enough last time. Let's give it another go, shall we?"

Rodney had time only to blink in astonishment before Carson's mouth was on his again, ravishing him in a manner most welcome. As the kiss deepened Rodney reached out to cautiously stroke the other man's cheek, lingering on the roughness of it, and he moaned quietly into Carson's mouth. Radek did indeed watch all of this with relish, but after several moments (particularly after Rodney moaned) he found it difficult to remain a voyeur. He moved, finally, to stand behind Rodney, leaning up against him, his cheek resting between Rodney's shoulders, and reaching around him with both arms to caress his chest and sides.

As Radek's mischievous hands moved over Rodney's nipples, hard under his shirt, Rodney gasped and drew back, reaching down to catch one of Radek's hands, as though to prove that he had really felt it there.

"This is really ... " Rodney spoke as though to himself, his voice far from steady as he gazed down at Radek's hand in is own. "We're really ... really going to ... you and me and him ... all of us ... together ... ?" Rodney swallowed and looked up at Carson, holding out Radek's hand as though it were something inexplicable, but that Carson would be able to explain.

Carson took up the hand that Rodney extended to him and kissed the palm of it tenderly, pausing to hear Radek sigh pleasantly in response.

"Aye, Rodney," Carson said with infinite patience as he began unfastening Rodney's shirt. "We're really going to, all of us together ... unless you'd rather not?"

"No, no!" replied Rodney, a little breathlessly. "Which is to say, yes, let's do carry on ... with ... whatever it is we're doing."

"You mean like this?" asked Radek from behind him as he reached around and tweaked both Rodney's now exposed nipples.

Rodney made an incoherent sound and one of his knees gave way so that Carson had to catch and steady him.

"Radek, luv, I think you've gotten a bit ahead," Carson said with a smile. "I was going to suggest that the both of you come and join me in the shower. I know it's been a long day for me ..."

"Hmm," remarked the Czech, nibbling Rodney's shoulder blades. "I suppose that would get everyone out of their clothes sooner."

"Aye, that it would." said Carson with a chuckle, reaching around Rodney to kiss Radek on the mouth, "But I was thinking that it would also help us to relax and move past some of some of the earlier ... unpleasantness we've all endured."

Rodney, still a bit dazed, nodded. "Shower is good," he said. "Where ...?"

"Follow me gentlemen." said Carson with a smile, leading the way to his bathroom. Upon entering, both Rodney and Radek both stopped in their tracks and gaped.

"Like I said before," Carson said with a proud smile, "the largest quarters were taken by the time I got to pick mine, but there were still plenty of places with other unique and ... attractive features." With a thought and a superfluous gesture, Carson opened the stained glass door to the more than spacious shower, beautifully appointed with the same brightly colored, patterned tiles which adorned the rest of Carson's cathedral of a bathroom.

"I suppose I did always harbor a hope that I might have a chance to share it some day," he finished a little sheepishly.

"Ma Buh!" cried Radek in awe.

"Sweet!" said Rodney with a wide, cockeyed grin. "Definitely worth sharing."

"Oh, I'm glad you think so," said Carson, stepping along side Rodney to wrap an arm around his waist and nuzzle his throat just a little. Rodney closed his eyes and leaned into Carson's body with a contented sigh.

"Are we to make use of shower, or just stare at it?" asked Radek, coming to stand behind Rodney and Carson, laying one hand on each of their shoulders.

"Oh, aye. Very well then," said Carson with a laugh. "Off with your clothes lads."

They undressed each other, sometimes removing an item of clothing from one while having an item of their own removed by another, and soon all of their garments were hanging on the row of hooks besides the shower. Carson thought the water on the moment Radek had deposited Rodney's boxers on the bench below the hooks, and of course it was the perfect temperature, instantly.

With a delighted grin Carson now took Rodney and Radek by the hand and lead them both into the shower, thinking the gem colored doors closed behind them.

The shower head was quite large and produced a wide zone of spray, broad enough to accommodate all three of them, and at first they all elected to simply stand beneath it's deluge, letting the water begin the work of washing away the cares of the previous day. Caressing all with equal attention, the water ran in rivulets through Rodney's short cropped hair and cascaded down his back and buttocks; it spattered and splashed onto Carson's broad shoulders, chest and belly, and it sheeted and flowed over the length of Radek's compact and wiry frame, clinging to him like a garment as he moved beneath the warming spray.

Rodney was the first to take in this vision, blinking through the water running over his face. "Wow," he said, slightly breathless.

Without seeming to open his eyes (and without his glasses there was some question of what good that would have done anyway) Radek stepped forward and began to kiss Rodney's face, holding it between his hands as his lips moved over Rodney's cheekbones, his ears, his jaw, his closed eyes and other places less distinct.

"Och, that's a lovely sight," sighed Carson quietly, reaching over to casually lay his hand on Radek's shoulder. He let it slip down with the water, caressing slowly down his back and then lingering to cup his hand over his perfectly shaped ass. Radek moaned and sank his teeth gently into the soft flesh beneath Rodney's left ear and Rodney, in turn, whimpered slightly and then reached over to hungrily claim Carson's mouth with his own.

Over the sounds of quiet, contented sighs and splashing water could now be heard the sound of someone muttering little broken phrases in Czech, muffled occasionally by various bits of Rodney's anatomy. The collected effects of these sounds and the other actions of the speaker were causing Rodney to squirm and writhe as he attempted to continue his pleasant contact with Carson's lips. Forced, at last to break it off, Rodney turned toward his tormenter, aggravation and lust glittering icily in his eyes.

"You ... !" he growled, by way, perhaps, of warning and then bent to attack Radek's lips and mouth with a vengeance. In addition to this oral assault, Rodney also reached across to posses Radek's body with his hands, grasping at him with all their considerable strength. They wandered as the kiss endured, until they found Radek's chest, and nipples, lingering over the sensation of pinching them gently between fingertips.

All of this had Radek making little helplessly happy noises into Rodney's mouth, which distracted Rodney entirely from what Carson was doing until he felt Carson's soap filled hands begin working on his shoulders. With hands both skilled and gentle, Carson washed every inch of Rodney's body, beginning with his shoulders and arms, and then moving down his torso, soaping and rinsing as they went. He did linger a bit over Rodney's by now quite rigid cock, and at that contact Rodney cried out and broke off his kiss with Radek.

As much fun as he was having with Rodney's privates, however, Carson remained intent on the task of washing Rodney's whole body, and so soon moved on down to his legs and feet, ignoring the plaintive whine Rodney made when he did. He moved on to Radek next, pausing only to refill his hand with soap from the dispenser. Rodney stood back to watch, smiling in anticipation.

Radek only closed his eyes and let his head fall back as Carson's hands moved to spread the soap over his body. Before long he was swaying slightly under Carson's ministrations, muttering in Czech again. Watching them, Rodney began whispering to himself, "God, that's hot. Amazingly hot. Ohmygod I cannot believe how hot this is ..."

It was not long before Carson, kneeling behind Radek and reaching around either side of him, came to focus his attention on Radek's cock and balls and Radek gave a loud keening cry as Cason's soap slicked hand briefly caressed his very hard flesh. Rodney felt his own twitch in sympathy as he watched, just as he heard a an involuntary whimper escape his throat.

Struck with inspiration as he watched Carson move his soap covered hands down Radek's thighs, Rodney now filled his own hands with soap from the dispenser and stepped around behind Carson, beginning, as Carson had done on him and Radek, with his shoulders. Carson hummed contentedly and stood to lean back into Rodney, having just finished with Radek.

Radek, having just had Carson finish with him, turned around to see what Carson was humming about, and smiled his approval. He too stood and took up a double handful of soap and began applying it tenderly to Carson's shoulders from the front. Before too long Carson was swaying and moaning quietly to himself as Radek and Rodney each applied themselves, respectively, to his front and back.

As Rodney was conscientiously soaping and washing the small of Carson's broad back, Radek was busy attentively washing the doctor's hips and belly. Hands still absently caressing Carson's buttocks, Rodney's attention, when he heard Carson groan aloud and felt him lean further back against him, was drawn to the sight of Radek, who had dropped to his knees again to address Carson's cock and balls. It was, in particular, Radek's graceful, slender fingered hands as they played over Carson's rather substantial member that drew Rodney's eye.

Carson gasped and sobbed a bit as Radek soaped and rinsed him but then, instead of moving on to wash Carson's thighs and legs, as he ought, Radek succumbed to temptation. He was a moment zeroing in on the rigid flesh before his lips, because he could not find it well without his glasses, but once he had it close enough to lick, he knew he had what he wanted.

Gasping hugely, Carson staggered backwards into Rodney (who only barely managed to hold him up) as Radek applied his mouth to Carson's cock. Reflexively, Carson's hands found Radek's head and grasped it, steadying himself as well as guiding the man's head up and down his shaft. Drawn to get a closer look, Rodney dropped to his knees himself to watch Radek's lips closed around Carson's hard flesh, caressing it's length again and again.

Rodney was transfixed by the vision, mouth slightly agape and eyes dilated. With trembling hands he reached up to grab Carson's ass forcefully and then, acting on a nearly animal impulse, bit him there, hard.

Carson yelped and staggered, nearly tripping over Rodney and pulling away from Radek. Shaking himself, he reached down to take Radek's hand and lifted him to his feet and then looked back at Rodney who remained crouched at Carson's feet, spray from the shower pouring over his head and grinning like the proverbial cat who ate like the canary.

"Ye bloody loon!" Carson said fondly. "D'ye suppose it's time to move on to the bed then?"

For an answer, Rodney pushed himself upright and nodded, his eyes sparkling with anticipation and moments later the flow of water from the shower head ceased. The three of them variously shook off the water that clung to them, or slicked it from their bodies with their hands and Carson opened the shower doors. Steam rolled out into the bathroom after them as they headed for the towels. They were Air Force issue and therefore too damn small, but they used lots of them, toweling each other dry with enthusiasm, and got the job done in no time, though not without leaving many of them strewn upon the bathroom floor.

The bed, in Carson's compact quarters, was only a few steps away and so they all stumbled out of the bathroom and tumbled into it, laughing and breathless with anticipation. They had barely come to a rest there when Carson moved, far more quickly than either Rodney or Radek would have guessed him capable of, seizing Rodney by the shoulders and pinning him to the bed. Crouching over the hapless scientist with a virtually predatory expression on his face, Carson struck, savaging Rodney's mouth with his own, then moved on to nibble and suck and kiss and lick his way down his neck and throat.

Radek lay comfortably on his side on one corner of the bed, observing all this with an entertained smile, but before long, naturally, observing proved insufficient. One of Rodney's feet lay near by, kicking and twitching from time to time in response to Carson's various assaults, so Radek grabbed it and began to massage Rodney's toes. Soon he was happily sucking and tonguing them, drawing them into his mouth and grazing them gently with his teeth.

Above him, Rodney had been reduced to babbling as Carson, while continuing to hold him pinned to the bed, had moved lower and was nipping at Rodney's nipples. Now Radek too sought a new venue, abandoning Rodney's toes and moving upwards, showering Rodney's ankle, calf and knee with kisses. His graceful fingers, moving in advance of his mouth, stroked their way up the inside of Rodney's thigh and elicited an entirely new sound from Rodney. Intrigued, Carson paused in his torments of Rodney's nipples and looked down to see what had caused it.

What he saw was Radek, who had crept up beneath him to lie, stretched along the length Rodney's left leg, licking and sucking at the tender flesh of Rodney's inner thigh, only centimeters from his rigid and weeping cock. The sight distracted him enough that he let up on Rodney's shoulders and moments later Rodney was up, clutching at Carson's face with both hands and kissing him soundly. Carson acquiesced to this and Radek paused in his labors for a moment to look up and watch.

He did not pause for long, however, and soon Radek had returned his attentions to Rodney's hard and trembling cock, just breathing on it at first, then lightly licking the head. Rodney moaned loudly into Carson's mouth, and then yelped and had to pull away from the kiss. When he felt Radek's mouth entirely cover the head of his cock Rodney sank bonelessly back to the bed, managing only to roll partially onto his side so that he could watch Radek suck him.

Carson settled down to watch as well, letting his hands wander over Rodney's skin as he took in the vision of Radek slowly engulfing the length of Rodney's flesh. Rodney was moaning aloud now, occasionally calling out Radek's name among other less coherent things. Carson's hands now wandered over the perfect contours of Rodney's ass, finding their way along the cleft there and finally to gently caress the tight puckered flesh of the opening that lay at it's depth. At the touch Rodney gave a little sob and shuddered all over.

"Is that all right Rodney?" Carson asked carefully.

"Oh god, yes, Carson, please, oh god yes please... " Rodney babbled.

"Would ye like me to fuck you?" Carson asked, leaning close to whisper the words into Rodney's ear.

"Oh god," Rodney choked, "Oh yes fucking is good, fucking me is very, very good ... "

"I'm glad you approve of the idea," said Carson with a smile, "but there is something I need to get. I'll be right back." As he slipped off the bed Carson bent to caress Rodney's shapely cheek with his lips, then reached over to give it a good pinch.

"Hey!" objected Rodney loudly.

"I'm only giving as good as I've got." Carson laughed as he opened a dresser drawer to extract a small bottle.

Radek had taken a break from his attentions to Rodney's cock, sitting back on his knees to watch Carson. Rodney's eyes, however, were on Radek and his own cock which stood up tall and slender from Radek's lap.

"Speaking of giving as good as I've gotten ..." Rodney muttered, and with no more warning than that he was upon him. The little Czech's eyes went quite wide indeed as he uttered a lengthy epithet in his native tongue.

Turning back to the bed, bottle of lube in hand, Carson was surprised but delighted to see Rodney with his face buried in Radek's lap and his derrière thrust high in the air, obviously ready for Carson's attentions.

Carson's own cock twitched with arousal at the sight and he quickly moved to mount the bed, hands returning to cup and caress Rodney's ass. Pouring a little lube into his left hand, Carson worked it along the cleft between the cheeks to finger at his opening. In response, Rodney's hands clutched hard at Radek's hips and he moaned loudly, a remarkable feat considering that he still had the better part of Radek's cock well down his throat.

Carson massaged the tight ring of muscle with lube slicked fingers and soon coaxed his way inside, causing Rodney to tremble with ecstasy, but not to cease in his attentions to Radek's cock. Radek, for his part, kept up a steady stream of largely incomprehensible phrases in Czech, English and engineering speak, one hand desperately clutching at the bedspread, the other caressing Rodney's head.

Before very long at all Carson has gotten a second finger inside Rodney and then a third and by then both of them were more than ready for what must come next. Rodney whimpered plaintively as Carson removed his fingers but the doctor wasted no time in getting himself into position and was soon pressing for admittance at Rodney's opening. He did actually pause in his attentions to Radek's cock as Carson slipped inside him, freezing in mid suck as he was penetrated, but only for a moment.

Now Rodney held his eyes shut tight, lost in the sensations of being filled by two cocks, but Radek's were focused intently on Carson. Biting his lip in concentration, Carson was slowly pushing himself as deeply into Rodney as he could, trembling with effort and ecstasy.

"Oh God tha's good, ... bloody brilliant, that is," he muttered in a broken voice, his brogue much thicker than usual.

Taking hold of Rodney's hips, Carson began at last to thrust gently into Rodney's eager flesh with an easy rhythm and now both Rodney's hands were fisted in the bed clothes while Radek's hand clutched at short cut hair at the back of Rodney's head. Looking across to meet Carson's gaze, Radek began to thrust into Rodney's mouth, matching the rhythm of Carson's thrusts into Rodney's ass.

Rodney wailed and moaned around the cock in his mouth and matched their rhythm, impaling himself on Carson's hard flesh as Carson moved within him. In their passionately locked gazes, Carson and Radek obliterated the moment of horror that they'd held between them with a moment of unprecedented ecstasy and this sent Radek over the edge at last.

Gasping and crying out incoherently in rhythm with his thrusts, Radek spent himself into Rodney's mouth and Rodney sucked him with gusto until his cries receded, swallowing every drop.

In the passing of his orgasm Radek slowly slumped over to lay on his side on the bed, gazing at Rodney with a contented smile and eyes half closed with satiation. Having finally relinquished Radek's cock, Rodney remained on his hands and knees, Carson's cock still moving unhurriedly inside him. After a moment Radek roused himself, taking Rodney by the shoulders, lifting him and pushing him back so that he could kiss him.

Having gotten Rodney where he wanted him, Radek now took Rodney's head between his hands and kissed the living daylights out of him. Carson was finding that Radek's rearrangement had him sitting back on his heels, with Rodney more or less on his lap, Carson's cock still deep inside him. Rodney's squirming and writhing all around him, as Radek plumbed the depths of his throat with his tongue, inspired Carson to shout with pleasure from time to time.

Drawing back from the kiss at last, Radek paused to take in the vision of the man he'd been kissing. Rodney was sitting back against Carson, his knees spread wide so that Radek could actually glimpse the root of Carson's cock moving behind Rodney's testicles, as he thrust it into Rodney's ass. Rodney himself seemed barely sensible, his mouth, with faintly bruised and swollen lips, slightly agape, his eyes all but closed, lashes laying over flushed cheeks. At the moment he was whimpering softly in response to Carson's cock moving inside him, and his own hard flesh stood out, hard and wanting, from just above where Carson's cock could be seen entering him.

As though he were far more blind than he was, Radek reached out to run his fingers down Rodney's chest and belly, groping to find his rigid and heated flesh. Having found it, he caressed it lovingly with those graceful fingers and leaned closer, kissing it lovingly and then drawing it into his mouth.

Rodney gave a strangled cry, thrusting uncontrollably and grasping fistfuls of Radek's fine hair in both hands. Behind him Carson screwed his eyes shut and grasped Rodney's shoulders with bruising strength. Quickly, the three of them fell into a driving rhythm and before long Rodney found his voice again.

"Oh, godohgodohgod!" Rodney cried. "Radek ... Carson, ... Oh my god,... I ... I'm alive! Oh God, I'm alive!"

Helplessly, Rodney convulsed and climaxed in Carson's arms, as Radek stroked him and sucked him dry. Moments later, Carson, seized by Rodney's orgasm while deep within him, cried out in his own release, sobbing with joy as he spent himself into Rodney's body.

Slowly, all three of them drawing long, deep breaths, Radek, Carson and Rodney disentangled themselves, until they lay still, and still breathing heavily, bonelessly limp on the bed.

"You know, ... " said Carson softly, when he had recovered a portion of his voice, "You know I love you both, ... I hope ... "

For an answer, Rodney burrowed himself into Carson's side, tightly wrapping his arms around the man, and Radek lifted himself up onto one elbow to lean over and kiss Carson's lips with tender passion.

"And I hope that you know," said Radek as he drew back from the kiss, "that it is the same with us."

"Oh, yes," said Rodney from somewhere under Carson's chin. "Definitely yes." Hearing the catch in his voice as he said this, Radek and Carson together drew him up to brush the tears from his cheeks.

"I'm okay," said Rodney with a sniff and a moist smile. "Its just that, ... you don't know how much I needed to hear that ... *I* didn't know how much I needed to hear that ... "

"I maybe had a little idea," said Radek. "I worried."

"Hush now, luvs," said Carson, reaching out to wrap his arms around the both of them. "All that's over with now, aye?"

"Ano," said Radek, "and it is you we have to thank for it."

"God yes, Carson," Rodney agreed emphatically. "You may have saved my life tonight."

"If I did, it was when I gave you that energy bar," Carson demurred, "And you owe no thanks to me, as I've helped myself as much as either of you. But," and Carson interrupted himself with a yawn, "I do have a bit of sound medical advice for the three of us right now. We all need to sleep."

Neither Radek nor Rodney felt inclined to object and so the three of them crawled under the covers together, Carson in the middle, because it was his bed. All of them dropped off to sleep immediately, but as endorphin fueled as it was, it was not destined to be a restful night for any of them.

Rodney's nightmare came first, making him believe that he was continuing to see nano-virus induced phantoms. Radek and Carson, wakened by his cries of terror, woke him in turn and held him until his trembling ceased. Then they made love again and this time it was Rodney fucking Radek while Radek fucked Carson.

A few hours later it was Carson who woke, weeping with horror, having had a dream far too similar to Radek's. Now it was they who comforted him, holding him till his tears dried and then they made love again, this time with Carson in the middle. Afterwards the three of them determined that it might be time to just give up on the idea of being able to make their respective morning shifts and so each of them took turns at Carson's work station composing emails asking Dr. Weir for a personal day. They were all fairly confident that she'd grant their requests.

That done, Carson, Radek and Rodney fell asleep in each others arms, each lulled by happy anticipations of a day spent with each other only, with no responsibilities or crisis to resolve, at least for a little while.

* * * *

Looking over the morning's emails in her office the next day, Dr. Elizabeth Weir was all to happy to grant three requests for personal days from three of her senior staff. In truth, she'd been considering ordering the three of then to take one, considering what they'd been through yesterday. It did seem odd, she reflected, as Rodney, Carson and Radek were all three generally loath to take any kind of rest from the work they did. She wondered what had inspired them to see the wisdom of taking time off, and glanced back at the three emails they'd sent, hoping to divine from the contents of their communications what that was.

Finding nothing there, she sat back in her chair to ponder for a moment, and as she did her eye fell on the key. It wasn't in the contents, of course, but in the message headers. It might have been only a coincidence that all three mails had been sent within a few minutes of each other, very early this morning, but then she noticed that all three had been sent from the same work station ­the one in Carson's quarters.

Elizabeth smiled broadly to herself as she sipped her coffee. No doubt this would mean some additional complications in personnel matters, but overall she was fairly sure that this was a positive development. All of the civilian staff had been under a lot of pressure lately, and division heads like Rodney and Carson most of all. They all needed more individual emotional support than a professional like Dr. Heightmeyer could offer and Elizabeth couldn't have thought of a better solution.

She was fairly certain that they hadn't meant to let her know, and she could easily go on pretending that she didn't, but sooner or later, she knew, one of them, probably Rodney, would realize that they'd tipped their hand this morning. She amused herself considerably imagining the look on Rodney's face on the day when he would finally confront her with the truth, but when Colonel Sheppard showed up for their morning briefing and asked her what was so funny she pulled her smile in and shook her head.

"Oh nothing," she said with her secret smile. "Private joke."


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