Left Behind Illo

Through the Eyes of Those Left Behind

by Taylor Dancinghands

Part 1: Carson Beckett

    Misery and terror warring within him, Carson Beckett sat back in the control chair and tried desperately to hold both at bay.  Never had he felt so alone.  He had no way of knowing whether his two lovers were truly gone and probably never would, but he had little or no hope of ever seeing them again.  They'd gambled, as they had so many times before, but this time they'd lost, and lost badly.
   Telling himself that all Atlantis depended on him wasn't helping matters much either, as it just compounded Carson's sense of inevitable doom.  All of Atlantis had depended on Rodney and Radek making the right call on this deal with the Wraith and they'd been wrong.  Rodney had born the consequences of that failure first on the Wraith hive ship with Ronon, then Radek, as he had left with the Orion on what both he and Carson had known was a suicide mission.  Now he was left to deal with the continuing avalanche of collateral damage alone, and while he was committed to giving his all to protect Atlantis, and all aboard her, he had little hope that his all would be enough.

    Worse still was the very wrongness of the role he was being forced to take.  He was a healer, for god's sake, and if Atlantis were to be attacked by the Wraith he'd surely be wanted in the infirmary.  Instead, though, his ATA gene made him indispensable here, operating a weapon of mass destruction over which he had demonstrably poor control.  Poor control, said the logic of the moment, beat no control of the device that was likely to be their only hope of mounting an effective defense against the Wraith hive headed their way.  Not even Carson could refute that logic now, and so here he sat, mourning his lost loves and dreading the task, and the likely failure, that lay before him.

    Still, he feebly contested that logic with Elizabeth when she called, pettily wishing that she knew his agonies, even as he knew full well that she had agonies of her own.  He'd already had this debate with Teyla, and had already been appraised of shortcomings of relying on the cloak alone, but some part of him childishly hoped that by arguing about it the current unpleasant reality could be altered.

    His mind already interacting with the city's systems to some degree, Carson knew when the hive ship dropped out of hyperspace over their adopted world, and he felt his mouth go dry.  Any second now, he knew, they'd begin releasing darts and firing on the city, proving how futile their yearlong charade, and his hopes, had been.

    "Doctor Beckett, stand by," Teyla's voice came over his radio.  Carson wanted to cry, but instead he squeezed his eyes shut, searching for that place in his mind where, some three years ago, he had accidentally found and activated an Ancient drone device.

    "Receiving signal..."  He could not let himself listen or speculate.  The fate of the city depended on his concentration.

    "Atlantis, this is Sheppard, come in..."

    Carson's eyes flew open, his concentration shattered.

    "John?!"  The astonishment in Teyla's voice was no less than Carson felt in his heart.

    "They made it?"  Dr. Weir, countless light-years distant, yet still miraculously present, expressed equal incredulity, but her question raised another one that burned now in Carson's heart.  Who?  Who had made it and who had not?  He hung on Sheppard's every word as the Colonel gave his brief report, thinking -hoping with all his heart- that if they'd lost anyone he would say, right up front.

    "...So now would not be a good time to fire on us." 

    Carson immediately brought the chair upright, desperately trying to banish all thoughts of drone weapons from his mind, which of course always backfired.  Distracted by this momentary panic, he almost missed the colonel's next comment, and the additional comment that followed.

    "...wouldn't want to damage our new hive ship," Sheppard was saying, and then this instruction was clarified by another, heartbreakingly familiar voice.

    "Not any more than it's already been damaged, anyway," it said.

    Rodney!!  He was alive!  Carson shut his eyes tight, trying once more to hold his tears at bay.

    "Honestly, I don't think we traded up, either," Rodney's voice continued in his headset, so very welcome to his ears.  "It's only slightly less beat up that the Orion was, and we're barely able to fly this thing, much less fix it."

    "You lost the Orion?"  Elizabeth's question was more plainly curious than accusing, but Carson knew only more dread at this news.  Radek had been on the Orion...

    "She gave her all, ma'am," Sheppard reported.  "And she saved our collective butts in the process.  But we managed to get everyone onto the Daedalus before she went up."

    Here was a hope to clutch at and Carson did.  Now to learn what had become of...

    "And the Daedalus?" Teyla asked for him.

    "She's in tow," Sheppard reported smartly.  "She lost life support in the last exchange with the Wraith and so we've moved most of our people to the hive ship, but Radek and a repair crew are over on the Daedalus now, working to get her back on line."

    Staggering to his feet, Carson Beckett clutched at his shirt where it lay over his heart and felt the blood pounding in his ears.  Alive.  They were both still alive.  Needing suddenly to get away from the chair, from everything that reminded him of the bitter anguish of the last few days, Carson stumbled out of the room, ignoring the concerned queries of the technicians there.

    He had it in mind to get to the infirmary, which was where he belonged and where his lovers, along with the combined crews of the Daedalus and the Orion, were most likely to land first, but he had gone no more that a few dozen meters down the corridor when he felt himself break out in a cold sweat.  Instinctively moving towards the nearest source of fresh air, he staggered out of the hallway onto a mercifully close balcony and clutched at the railing for a second before emptying the meager contents of his stomach over the side.  He'd eaten little over the past few days, but still his guts continued to attempt to purge themselves again and again, long after their last contents had been consigned to the sea below.

    He remained, holding feebly to the rail as the sickness passed, knees too weak to support his weight at first, then pushed away, still determined to find his way to the infirmary.  Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Carson reentered the corridor, his legs none too steady, but unwilling to let his weakness stop him.

    His determination notwithstanding, only a handful of meters down the corridor Carson found himself leaning heavily against the wall, trembling violently and feeling his knees on the verge of giving way again.  The pulse pounding in his ears was so loud that he almost did not hear the voice calling his name at first.

    "Dr. Beckett?"  It was Teyla's voice, and then a moment later her hand on his shoulder, offering support.  "Carson, are you all right?"

    The words to make the lie he wished to tell would not come, and so he settled for an evasive truth, knowing all the while that the truth was there for her to see anyway.  "I will be in a bit, luv," was what he said at last.

    "Of course," she said, neither discounting his truth nor the evidence of the moment.  "May I accompany you to your quarters?"

    "I thought I'd better get to the infirmary," he replied.  "They'll be needing me there when the survivors come in."

    "Carson," she said and the doctor reflected on how it was that when Teyla gentled her voice, as she did now, it was an indicator of a hardening of her will, not a softening.  "Do you truly believe you are in a fit state to treat patients at the moment?"  She took one of his hands in both of hers, holding it up so that they could both see how it shook.

    "Aye, you may have a point," he confessed, suddenly close to tears again.

    "They will manage well enough without you in the infirmary today," she comforted.  "The crews of the Daedalus and the Orion are mainly suffering only from exhaustion and a little dehydration, and Dr. Chavous from the Daedalus will be there to help as well.  She will send Rodney and Radek to their quarters as soon as she has seen them.  You can wait for them there."

    Since all three of them were civilians, Carson, Rodney and Radek had not worried overmuch about who know of their relationship, but a lifetime of secretive habit and a natural reticence which they all shared had kept them discreet.  Their friends and teammates knew, or course, and it was rare moments like this that made Carson glad of it.

    He smiled weakly and shifted so that more of his weight fell on Teyla's supporting arm and less on the corridor wall.  "Perhaps that'd be for the best," he acquiesced with a small nod, letting her guide him down the hallway towards the residential section of the city.

    She came in with him when they got to his rooms, of course, settling him on the sofa with a blanket before she stepped into the kitchen area to activate his electric kettle.  Radek had retrofitted the thing to work with the Atlantis power grid as a birthday gift for him a few months ago and it had immediately become the most precious thing he owned.  He wondered if he would ever have been able to use it again if he'd lost Radek.

    "Can I make you a cup of tea, Dr. Beckett?" Teyla asked as the water heated.

    "I'd best have no more caffeine today," Carson answered her, "but I'd fancy a cup made with those dried flowers you brought me a while back.  They're in that tin on the second shelf..."

    "I see them," Teyla answered and before long Carson had a warm cup of stamista flower tea in his hands which he sipped at gratefully.

    "Thank ye, luv," he murmured as he felt the tea warm him and soothe his stomach.  "I do appreciate your going out of your way..."

    "It is always an honor to serve one who dedicates his life to serving others," said Teyla graciously, perching beside him on the sofa for a moment in order to rest her hands on his shoulders and touch her forehead to his, in the manner of her people.  "The personnel from the Daedalus and the Orion were just beginning to beam down to the city when I left the command center," she said as she rose again.  "I imagine that those for whom you wait will be here very shortly, so I will be on my way."

    She had taken no more than a handful of steps towards the door, however, when it opened, Rodney and Radek stumbling through it.  Rodney looked haggard, Radek worn and filthy, but there was a joyful light in both their eyes as they spotted Carson, and Teyla as well.

    "Rodney, it is very, very good to see you," said Teyla, smiling broadly and stepping forward to take him in a brief embrace, touching his forehead as she drew back.  Rodney blushed and looked away.

    "It's... really good to see you too," he said awkwardly but sincerely, and Carson could hear the fatigue in his voice.

    "And Dr. Zelenka!" Teyla moved to touch foreheads with Radek, who smiled timidly in response.  "Your courage will long be remembered in this city, rest assured."

    Now Radek blushed and scratched his ear nervously. "I... I do not know if my actions qualify as 'courageous'... exactly," he demurred.

    "I do," said Teyla authoritatively.  "Never in all my life have I known such brave souls as those I have come to know here, and never have I seen such acts of courage as in your actions -all three of you- in these most recent events.  It is an honor to know you all."  And with that, she departed, leaving the three of them alone at last.

    The door was hardly closed before Carson stumbled to his feet and the three men fell into each others' arms, each grasping clumsily at the other two, pulling them as close as possible.

    "Ah loves," Carson all but sobbed.  "I thought I'd lost you.  I thought I'd lost you both."  Rodney's mouth was on his first, desperate and hungry, while Radek's lips caressed his cheek.  Then Rodney drifted down to nibble at his jaw and Radek came to claim him, giving of himself, offering himself up entirely with his kiss.

    Carson was hardly surprised to feel the tears on his cheeks, but was astonished to see them on Rodney's as well.  When he touched Rodney's cheek to feel the moisture there Rodney ducked his head down to lay his face against Carson's shoulder, wrapping his arms around him and hanging on as if for dear life.  Glancing over at Radek, Carson saw that the man's glasses were fogged as well, and after a moment Radek removed them, tucking them into his vest pocket as he too buried his face in Carson's other shoulder and trembled in his arms.

    They stood that way for a long while, until Carson felt his legs begin to shake with fatigue and the others noticed.  "Damn, you're probably just as wiped as we are," said Rodney, reluctantly drawing away.

    "Yes, but we smell worse," said Radek.  "I have been dreaming of your shower Carson, almost as much as I have been dreaming of you."

    "Will you have us both then, luv?" asked Carson with a smile.

    The clothes were all in a nasty heap in the corner of their cathedral of a bathroom in no time, and the water was hot and ready for them as soon as they were standing at the shower door.  Rodney gave a purely wanton groan of pleasure and relief as he immersed himself in the steaming hot spray and Radek released a truly profound sigh.  Carson watched them both with delight, taking pleasure in their pleasure and remembering that only a few hours ago he'd been convinced that he would never see them again.

    He reached across to touch them both, to reassure himself that they were really here with him, and the two physicists (geniuses that they were) read the need in his touch and stepped close again to surround him.  Their hands moved on him, touching, caressing, comforting, and then they were washing him, soaping and rinsing every part of his body with loving attention, as though he were something precious.  Feeling his heart at ease for the first time in weeks, Carson turned to help Radek wash Rodney with equal care and attention and then he and Rodney took care of Radek.

    When they were all clean and dry all anyone had the energy to do was stumble to bed to sleep, though they all three wished otherwise.  It was with wistful, sleepy kisses that they bid each other good night, curled up together with Carson in the middle on the bed they shared.  He quietly reveled in the close, heavy presence of Rodney, his arm flung over Carson's chest and Radek, curled up against his side like a cat, and slipped off to sleep with joy only in his heart.


    Rodney woke them, shouting with terror in the dim, predawn hours.  There was no need to ask what specters had disturbed his sleep.  Carson had seen the smears of dried slime on Rodney's field jacket, and scrubbed it off his back in the shower last night. He'd studied the workings of Wraith 'cocoons', and knew that one of these had to have been part of his lover's experience while he'd been held captive on the hive ship, but couldn't imagine what new horrors lived in Rodney's memory now.  Radek, always quicker to wake than Carson, had already scrambled across the bed to Rodney's side so that he was surrounded by the two of them by the time Carson was up and thinking straight.
   "Hush now miláčku," Radek was murmuring into Rodney's ear as he gently caressed the side of his face.  "You are safe now.  We have you.  You are home on Atlantis and safe."

    Rodney woke with a despairing cry, his eyes open wide and staring with fright.  Carson thought the lights on just enough that Rodney could see them, and remember where he was.

    "You're all right now luv," he comforted, laying a warm hand on Rodney's trembling shoulder.  "Ye've made it home, safe and sound."

    Rodney gave a wretched sob and clutched at Carson's shirt, pulling himself in to bury his face against his shoulder.  They both held him as he wept, Carson hugging him to his chest and Radek pressed against Rodney's back.  They remained so for a long time as Rodney shook with sobs, waiting for the words to come that would be necessary for a proper catharsis.

    "Never... I've never..." he choked out, not yet quite able to get the words out.  "Never so scared," he managed finally.  "I woke up and I... I couldn't move..."

    Rodney's fists tightened in Carson's shirt again and Carson tried not to imagine how terrifying the experience must have been for his claustrophobic lover.  It was a moment or two before Rodney got his voice under control again.

    "And then I remembered why... and I just... I started screaming and I couldn't stop."  Rodney's voice was little over a whisper now, but at least he was able to string more than a couple of words together.  "Ronon tried to get me to stop... He kept telling me to breath and after a while I realized that I could... and so I... so I stopped then."

    Carson drew Rodney even tighter into his arms, feeling himself tremble with horror at what his lover had endured.  On the other side of him Carson could hear Radek murmuring softly -the dearth of vowels made him think it was likely Czech- and laying little kisses on Rodney's shoulder and the back of his neck.

    "That was when I realized..." Rodney whispered, fear still thick in his voice.  "That was when I realized that this was all my fault, that my... my incompetence lead me to allow the Wraith to plant spyware in Atlantis' computer system... that my negligence and... and arrogance lead them straight to earth... and that I probably deserved everything..."

    "Ne!" Strong hands were pulling Rodney away from him to face Radek.  "Not you alone!"  The guilt in the man's voice, Carson noted with sorrow, was not one bit diminished from the day he'd learned, that they'd all learned, how the Wraith had betrayed them.


    Carson had been in the infirmary when Dr. Weir had called him on his radio to tell him the news, and then a moment or two later Radek had called him and asked him to come to their quarters, saying nothing about why.  He found his lover furiously jamming clothes and equipment indiscriminately into a carry bag, clearly preparing to leave, though Carson had no idea why or where.  Radek had collapsed onto the sofa when Carson had finally grabbed him to make him stop and explain himself.

    "What have we done?" he'd cried, face buried in his hands as he sat.  "God help us what have we done?!"
    "I don't know, luv, and ye're not telling me," Carson had plead desperately, taking Radek's shoulders in his hands.

    "We gave them earth," Radek had all but sobbed, looking up at him in despair. "We gave them the earth and we gave them the means to get there, and Carson... we gave them Rodney as well."

    Tears had come then and Carson had held him close, trying not to think what that meant and trying to hold on to hope, however frail.  Radek's next words, however, had all but shattered that.

    "And now I have to go and try to fix," Radek had said wretchedly, words muffled against Carson's chest.  "I am the only one who can get the Orion's shields up, and make her weapons work, so that the Orion and the Daedalus can try to stop the Wraith before they get to earth.  I have to go; there is no one else and I... I am so sorry Carson."

    They'd both known, though neither one would say, that it was a suicide mission, and Carson Beckett had felt his hopes die in that moment, a thing he had never felt before in his life.  He'd never imagined that he would lose both his lovers, not all at once like this anyhow.  Some living, vital part at the heart of him had gone cold and dead then, and it had remained so until the moment he had seen his two lovers stumble together into their quarters.

  His lovers were alive, and that was a miracle indeed, but they'd both returned home wounded, in spirit if not in body.  Seeing now, how deep the wounds went, Carson prayed for the strength and wisdom to help heal them.


    "Was you and I both!" Radek was saying forcefully as Rodney blinked at him in confusion.  "You and I both who looked at data, and cleared it for distribution.  You and I both who were fooled by this 'gift' of knowledge."  Carson cringed to hear the self loathing in Radek's voice.

    "They knew just how to distract us and they... they played us like puppets," Radek's voice nearly broke with bitterness, "but you do not bear this alone Rodney.  We have both done this."

    "Radek..." Rodney's voice was rough with sorrow as he pulled the man back down to lie beside him, drawing him in close.  Carson could feel them both shaking, and wanted with all his heart to hold them both and take them away from this place of grief and guilt.

    "No, it doesn't matter now, luvs" he soothed.  "It doesn't matter.  All that matters now is you stopped them and you both came back to me alive, and that's a bloody miracle, no mistake."  Carson reached his arm across to lay over Radek's shoulder as he felt Rodney turn again to lay a soft kiss on his face.

    "Ye're the most brilliant people I've ever met, and ye've saved us more times than I'd like to think, but ye're still only human, lads," he said.  "Ye can't expect to go on forever wi'out ever making a mistake, and ye can't lose faith in yourselves when ye do.  We'd be truly lost then, aye?"

    Rodney's only answer was to kiss him, deep and urgently, and Carson smiled to feel the mood shift.  Here was where the healing would come.  Under his outstretched hand he felt Radek's body move restlessly, pressing against Rodney's, and then Radek took hold of that hand and began to kiss it, one finger at a time.  Rodney's hands were roaming his body now, fingers stroking down his chest, then reaching around his hips to grasp his arse.

    Sighing with pleasure, Carson thrust up against Rodney, feeling himself harden and feeling Rodney's answering hardness through their clothes.  Behind Rodney, Radek was now sucking each one of Carson's fingers into his mouth and then drawing it out, with torturous slowness.  Carson felt the heat of lust rising in him, in all of them.  Rodney's mouth was moving, hot, wet and hungry from Carson's lips down to claim his throat and then his shoulders with nips and kisses.  Radek had finally finished with Carson's fingers and since Radek's mouth was now free he leaned across to take it, drinking deeply the taste of his lover as Radek plundered Carson's mouth in return.

    This distracted Carson fairly thoroughly until he felt Rodney catch his nipple, through his shirt, gently in his teeth.  He gave a sharp gasp, pulling away from Radek, which allowed Rodney to get his hands under Carson's shirt and lift it away.  He cooperated, but then immediately turned to do likewise to Rodney, which was complicated by the fact that Rodney was already busy again, removing Radek's shorts (since he had come to bed, as usual, in boxers alone).  Things became rather muddled after that, but a few minutes later the clothes were all strewn about the bed and the bedroom and the three of them were naked together beneath the covers.  Carson was happily immersed in the sensations of skin against skin as his lovers moved with him, against him, along side him, caressing and grasping and embracing.  This was paradise, and Carson reveled in it.

    Face to face again with Rodney, Carson reached around to grab at Rodney's arse as Rodney had done to him, pulling their hips together so that their two hard cocks came to press against each other.  Now, however, without the mitigating layers of clothing, the sensations left them both shouting with pleasure.  In the silence that followed, Carson heard a chuckling coming from above and when he looked up he saw Radek, kneeling over the two of them, a troublingly diabolical look on his face.

    Grinning with anticipation, Radek reached down to wrap a graceful, slender-fingered hand around both their cocks and Carson realized with a pleasant shock that sometime during the clothing shedding melee Radek had gotten hold of the lube.  Clever, slick fingers stroked both their hardnesses together and in seconds both Carson and Rodney were crying out the names of deities that neither one publicly acknowledged any allegiance to.

    Radek would know better than to keep that up for long, Carson was certain, but was disappointed all the same when he let up.  Rodney too made an incoherent, dismayed noise when Radek lifted his hand away, but then blinked and watched, as Carson did, as Radek dispensed another nerdle of lube onto his hand and then proceeded to work it over his own jutting cock. Carson smiled to see Rodney's eyes glazed with lust, his lips softly parted, practically drooling.

    "Yes, Rodney," Radek said with an indulgent smile, "I am going to fuck you.  You," Radek now turned to Carson, "you should suck him."

    Carson always maintained that it was because Radek was an engineer (among other things, as he constantly reminded them) that he usually knew exactly what wanted to be done and how, when the three of them got naked in bed together.  Rodney and Carson both tended to go speechless and stupid under such circumstances, but the spatial logistics part of Radek's brain, if nothing else, remained active and functional in the face of the most astonishing distractions.  There was no doubt in Carson's mind that all their sex was the better for it, and such was the case now, as he realized that taking Rodney's hard cock into his mouth was just what he wanted to do.

    Radek's suggestion had also, it appeared, kick-started some part of Rodney's brain as well, for Carson saw him frown in concentration now as he sought for the words he needed.

    "Okay," he said, a bit breathlessly, "but I want to suck Carson too."

    "Well that is easily enough managed," said Radek with a smile, and Carson nodded, sitting up to push the bedclothes out of the way and then turning to lie alongside Rodney, head to crotch.  Sighing with anticipation, Carson ran his hands over Rodney's soft belly, combing his fingers through the curls of hair at the base of his cock.  He reached out his tongue to lick at the head of Rodney's eager flesh, tasting mainly the cloying sweetness of the lube at first.  Carson licked and sucked at Rodney's hard shaft until only the musky, warm animal taste of Rodney remained, then drew him in deeper still, chasing after that taste.

    As he did, Carson felt Rodney's lips on his own cock, kissing its length with loving attention.  He stifled the urge to thrust, placing his hands on Rodney's hips to forestall the same there.   Blinking to peer under Rodney's lifted knee, Carson enjoyed the sight of Radek's fingers, still slick with lube, working in and out of Rodney's opening, preparing him for Radek's cock.  By some delightful cosmic synchronicity, Carson felt Rodney take all of Carson's cock into his mouth just as Radek's cock was sinking into Rodney's arse, and the combined sight and sensations nearly undid Carson then and there.

    He groaned loudly around the hard pulsing flesh in his mouth and felt Rodney's hips buck reflexively in response.  Carson's strong hands held him firmly in place, though, and now he began to move his mouth up and down Rodney's cock, matching his rhythm to Radek's thrusts.  Rodney's whole body began to quiver under these assaults, and Carson could feel his moans, coming in rhythm with everything else, vibrating around his own hard and aching flesh.

    On top of all this, Carson was finding the sight of Radek's hard shaft, only a few centimeters away, penetrating and thrusting into Rodney's body again and again, positively mesmerizing.   He could hear Radek panting, crying "ano… ano," with every thrust, and wanted to touch.  Lifting his hand up to coat his fingers in the generous quantities of lube around the base of Radek's cock, Carson now reached around behind Radek to finger his opening, pressing first one finger into his tight heat, and then a second.

    Radek's rhythm faltered, his words devolving into incoherent sounds, but ones that both Carson and Rodney recognized.  At least, that was what Carson figured gave Rodney the idea, because a moment later he felt the sensation of Rodney chuckling around his cock and then blunt, spit slicked fingers at his own opening.  Taken suddenly by the determination to undo Rodney and Radek before he was himself undone, Carson opened his throat to take Rodney deep at the same time as he curled the fingers moving inside Radek just so…

    He felt Radek go rigid and then shudder violently, crying aloud with his climax, then a moment later Rodney released Carson's cock to gasp hugely and shout, and Carson tasted the salty musk of Rodney's spending on his tongue.  Carson sucked his lover dry with a smile on his lips and then, as he gently released Rodney's softening cock from his mouth, Rodney's was back on his own hard flesh, swallowing the length of it with gusto.  He moaned with delight at the sensations, feeling Rodney's fingers back at his opening, caressing and then penetrating, touching him as skillfully as he'd touched Radek.  Carson felt the climax come as he felt Radek's mouth on his, tasting Rodney there and devouring him in process.  He gasped and groaned loudly, filling Rodney's mouth with his seed, feeling his body pulse around Rodney's fingers buried within him.

    Carson lay in a sated daze for countless moments before he felt hands lifting him, pulling him up to lay facing the proper way on the bed, where it was easier for Rodney and Radek's lips to find his, and for him to find theirs.  He found himself in the middle again as the two scientists fell asleep on either side of him, which didn't take too long because they were still plenty exhausted.  Carson hadn't gotten all that much sleep either over the last few days, and there wasn't any place he'd rather sleep than between his two lovers, but to savor the moment he held sleep at bay for just a bit.

    It was worth staying up as long as he could just to listen to them breathe, the slow rhythm of their inhaling and exhaling playing counterpoint to one another in the dark.  Each new drawn breath was an affirmation in Carson's heart.  They were both alive, against all odds, and they'd beaten those odds to return to him.  Their latest misadventure had taken its toll, as they all did, but they'd survived it nonetheless, as individuals, and as three lovers, which was, in Carson's mind, the most remarkable miracle of all.

    Thinking of what awaited him in the hive ship orbiting above their adopted world, Carson took in the sounds of their quiet breaths, the sensations of the two warm sleeping bodies pressed up against his, to hold as memories that would sustain him through what was to come, he hoped.  This sense of safety, of warmth and love was transitory, he knew, and such moments were incalculably precious. Feeling sleep overcome him at last, Carson knew himself to be fortunate, in spite of everything, to have such memories to keep at all, and so it was gratitude that accompanied him to Morpheus' arms that morning, and that sense stayed with him for some time.

    It would sustain him for much, though not all of what was to come.

<*>         <*>         <*>

Part 2: Radek Zelenka

    They'd both tried to talk him out of going, and later, Rodney had done his manful best to try and talk Carson out of staying, but they both knew that they neither one of them had a leg to stand on. Carson hadn't even tried to talk Radek out of going with the Daedalus on its probable suicide mission, and though Rodney was never one to take the passive option, he'd known, as he confessed to Radek upon his return to Atlantis alone, that there would be no talking Dr. Carson Beckett out of his responsibility to his patients, no matter who they were or had been.

    There was no point in regretting this, as Carson's steadfast dedication to the ethics of his avocation were one of the things they both loved about him, and so the two scientists allowed themselves to become consumed with work (which was no difficulty with both a Wraith hive ship and the Daedalus to be put back in fighting trim) and spent short hours in their bed holding each other close and not sleeping at all.  Two days passed in this manner, fueled by caffeine and tinged with slow burning anxiety, until the day that Rodney came storming into the labs in such a state of distress that all the alarm bells went off inside Radek.  It was all he could do not to run to the man and pull him into his arms to ask what had happened to Carson.

    "The hive ship needs to be running and battle-ready yesterday," were Rodney's first words, snapped out as soon he had the other scientists' attention.  "We're heading back to the refugee station in ninety minutes, come hell or high water.  Chen, Coleman, Sanchez, you're joining Simpson's team on the hive ship.  The  hyper-drive and the weapons' power systems will be ready in an hour and a half or you're going with us."

    Us.  Radek's heart sank to hear it, though he knew he should not be surprised.  Even if the teams at work on the hive ship now, with the reinforcements Rodney was sending, completed their tasks them in time (and they probably would -they had a powerful motivator), Radek knew that the weapons systems would still require hours of highly skilled labor before they were ready.  Rodney now turned to address the software engineers, who were still working to improve the interface they'd need to control the hive ship's basic systems, issuing similar dictums to them, then he turned to Radek, taking him by the arm as he headed out of the lab.

    "Walk with me," he said, and Radek complied without question. 

    "There's a Wraith hive ship headed right for the planet where we left Carson," Rodney began without preamble as they progressed down the corridor towards their quarters.

    "Bože, ne!" Radek cried quietly, feeling his heart drop into his shoes.

    "If we take the hive ship right now we can get there before they do," he continued, explaining what Radek was just working out, "but if we wait till the Daedalus is ready..."

    Radek nodded, concentrating mainly on keeping pace with Rodney's hurried and longer legged gait.  It was easier than focusing on the welter of conflicting feelings in his heart.  Rodney's speed did not diminish in the least as they entered their quarters, as he tore through the place, gathering his field kit and pack, and all the various equipment and supplies he thought he'd need.

    "You will need help getting the hive ship's weapons on line, yes?" Radek said as Rodney raced about their quarters.

    "You can't come," Rodney answered him unequivocally, actually pausing in his flurry of activity to dump the bulging pack on the sofa and stand before Radek.  "I need you working on the Daedalus, to shave as much time as you can off their repairs, 'cause something tells me we're going to need them to show up and save our sorry asses and... and seconds could make a difference."

    For just a moment Radek could see how frightened his lover was, and remembered how frightened he'd been when he'd had to tell Carson that he was going on the Daedalus to stop the hive ships headed towards Earth.  He did as Carson had done then, stepping forward to take Rodney in his arms and hold him tight, kissing him with desperate passion.  It was Rodney who broke it off, drawing back so that Radek could see the deep unhappiness revealed in the man's face, and Radek had to pull him back in for another embrace.

    "Bring him back if you can, Rodney," Radek murmured into his ear, "but if you cannot, please bring yourself back.  Prosím, miláčku."

    "I'll do everything I can," Rodney promised quietly, "I swear."

    Rodney's eyes were a little too bright when they finally parted, and he turned away to shoulder his pack.  "I have to go now," he said, moving towards the door.

    Radek's throat ached, and for a moment he didn't trust himself to speak.  "I know," he said at last, and then, "I love you, Rodney."

    Rodney paused and reached back to touch Radek's face with his finger tips.  "I..." he began, "well, you know...  You too, I mean... I... I... love you, too... you know."

    "I know," Radek said again, even more softly, ducking his head to hide the tears which he knew would come any second.  "Tell Carson..."

    "I will," Rodney said, sparing him having to say any more, and then he was gone.  Stumbling back to sit heavily on the sofa as he watched the door close on his lover, Radek slipped his glasses off and finally gave way to tears.


    As before, it was too easy for Radek to lose himself in what was really a great deal of very critical work.  He was alone in the Daedalus' engine room sometime around four-fifteen the next morning when he heard a soft footfall and looked up to see Dr. Weir gazing over at the small island of light in the otherwise darkened room where Radek was toiling away.  He waited for the chastisement, knowing already that he was well off his best game, lack of sleep and an excess of caffeine having ruined his concentration, but none came.  It occurred to him then to wonder what it was that Dr. Weir was doing up and walking the empty corridors of the Daedalus at this hour, and it dawned un him that she was as beset as he was.

    There was even, perhaps, a trace of envy in her gaze as she watched Radek work, however ineffectively, for he had a mountain of tasks before him and she had nothing to do but walk the empty corridors of her city and wait.

    She nodded a brief greeting as he looked up from his work.  "Radek," she said, acknowledging him and, to some extent, their shared worries.

    "Elizabeth," he nodded back, his own voice rusty from his recent excesses.  Elizabeth's gaze passed over the room, and for a moment it looked as though she were about to offer some sort of encouragement, but then she seemed to think the better of it, and after another moment, she walked on.

    The Daedalus achieved sufficient readiness some hours later the next morning and Radek found himself firmly guided to the infirmary by Dr. Kusanagi, where he was given a sleeping pill by Dr. Biro and directed to his quarters.  He woke nine hours later, certain that they would have learned nothing yet, and quickly discovered that he was right, much to his further dismay.  He took himself to the mess hall where dinner was being served, made a valiant effort to partake of some kind of nourishment and was soon joined by Dr. Weir, who seemed to be facing a similar challenge.  Wordlessly, they dared each other, matched each other bite for bite, and soon found that they'd both consumed something like a decent meal.

    The Daedalus finally made contact late that night, reporting that the hive ship had been lost, along with the entire contingent of marines, but that Carson had been rescued and damage control had (hopefully) been accomplished.  This report was delivered to him by Dr. Weir who found him alone in the lab, staring at a schematic on his computer screen which he had not really been able to make any sense out of for hours now.

    The relief upon hearing that Carson was alive and homeward bound was evident in his voice as he thanked her for the news.  Far too many troubling questions remained in Radek's mind, as he left the labs for his quarters, for him to get any sleep, though he tried anyway.  He showered and crawled into the very empty seeming bed and lay quietly in the dark, wanting sleep badly, but unable to let go of his worries enough to get so much as a wink.

    It was a little after dawn that the Daedalus was finally close enough for Rodney to contact Radek on a private channel.  Radek had left his earpiece on the side table with his glasses, but was sufficiently sleepless that he heard Rodney's voice on it as he lay in the bed, and snatched it up instantly.

    "Radek?" Rodney's voice was wonderful to hear.  "I hope I didn't wake you up?"

    "I wish you had," answered Radek truthfully, "but it is very good to hear from you nonetheless."

    "Ah, right."  It did not sound as if Rodney had gotten any sleep lately either.  "Listen, I wanted to let you know that we'll be making orbit in about an hour or so," he went on, "and to make sure you'll be there to meet Carson when he beams down."

    "Rodney, what happened?"

    Rodney's sigh was too audible through the earpiece.  "A bunch of the Wraith regained their memories and hid it.  As soon as we left they killed all the marines and then they… they captured and interrogated Carson."

    "Ach, Bože!" Radek drew his knees up and bowed his head down to rest upon them.  "What… what did they do?"
There was a pause before Rodney answered, and when he did his voice was not quite steady.  "I don't… I don't know.  He hasn't been talking… not to anybody.  And Radek, I think… I think he hates me…"

    "What!?" Radek cried.  "Why?"

    "I can't go into that right now," Rodney evaded unhappily.  "Listen, I have to go.  They need me to stay and work on some stuff on the Daedalus, so I won't be coming back right away.  Just be there for Carson when he comes in.  Don't let him be alone, okay?"

    "No, I will not," Radek promised.  "And Rodney?  Come home as soon as you can."  Your home as well as ours, Radek thought to his lover as Rodney signed off.  He wished he knew what had happened to lead Rodney to think that Carson hated him, though he was sure that could not truly be the case.  With a troubled sigh, Radek rose from bed and prepared to face the new day.

    As the natural perversity of the universe would have it, however, Radek had no sooner made it to the mess hall to confront the idea of breakfast, than he got an urgent call from the Botany Department.  Apparently, Atlantis' extensive hydroponics system, which Radek was in charge of renovating and getting functional again, had sprung a catastrophic leak, and it ended up taking him the better part of an hour and a half to get the thing under control.  He'd tried to track Carson's whereabouts via his radio as he worked, and from this he learned that Dr. Beckett had beamed directly down to the infirmary, spent some time there getting checked over, and had then gone to his office.

    By the time Radek had extricated himself from the leaking hydroponic systems, however, Carson was no longer in his office and no one had seen him for half an hour or more.  Frustrated and half frantic, Radek headed for his last verified whereabouts
 first, finding Carson's office dark, and the door open.  There was something decidedly out of place there, though, Radek could not fail to notice.  The wall behind Carson's desk was empty of the handful of framed licenses, certificates and diplomas that Carson had placed there after he had finally gotten them from earth.  Now, their empty frames were stacked carelessly on Carson's desk and Radek felt his heart in his throat.  This was very bad.

    Radek left the infirmary and headed in the general direction of their quarters, no idea of how or where to look for Carson.  The man hadn't answered any of Radek's calls on his radio since he'd gotten back, and the infirmary staff had told him that he wasn't wearing one.  Radek hesitated to speculate as to why Carson had removed all of his medical certificates from his office wall, but it could not have been anything good.  It was an anxious hunch that inspired Radek to check out the first side corridor he passed that lead to a balcony, and it was there that he spotted Carson, one hand clutching, white knuckled, at the railing, the other grasping a sheaf of papers.  With a sinking feeling, Radek figured he knew just what those papers were.

    "Carson?" he asked uncertainly, not certain that the man even knew he was there.

    He did not answer at first, or even look his way, but Radek saw his shoulders slump as he drew near.  After another moment or so Carson spoke, though he still did not turn to look at Radek.

    "I'm a regular Dr. Mengele, I am," was what he said.

    "Ne, Carson," he cried softly, the words escaping him before he could even think.  It was so very, very wrong to hear Carson speak these words.  It made Radek's heart hurt.  "You must not say such things!  I know it cannot be true!" he plead.

    "I left them behind to die," Carson said after another moment. "I left all of them behind to be bombed by us or… fed on by the ones as had turned back.  I got away safe and I left my patients… They were completely helpless and I was the one that made 'em so!"

    Radek moved a step closer, able at last to reach out and place his hand on Carson's shoulder.  "Did you have a choice, miláčku?" he asked, certain of the answer already, but wanting to remind his lover of it.

    At last Carson turned to look at him, an agony of self doubt and guilt written large over his features.  Radek met his gaze with every ounce of the fierce devotion he felt showing in his face and after a moment Carson turned away from the rail and folded Radek in his arms.  Radek held his lover close, felt how he was shaking and felt his own heart ache for Carson's sake.  "Come home with me now, miláčku," he murmured when Carson's shaking had abated somewhat.  "Please."

    Carson nodded silently, and complied, the sheaf of certificates still clutched in his right hand.  It was not far to their quarters and fortunately the halls were not so busy at the moment.  They made it home without incident and Radek sat Carson on the sofa, stepping into the kitchen to start some water heating.

    "Can I make you a cup of tea?" Radek asked, more as a formality than anything, but he saw Carson shake his head, staring at his hands where they hung between his knees.

    Turning the kettle off, Radek returned to sit beside Carson, feeling more helpless than he could remember.  Never had he seen Carson so down that he didn't even want a cup of tea.  "Carson?" he asked again softly and not too steadily, carefully removing the precious certificates from Carson's hand to lay them on the table before them and smoothing them flat again.  When he was done he took up one of Carson's hands to hold between his own, clasping it gently, as though it were a precious thing.

    "I feel as though… as though I've lost my way," Carson said miserably at last.  "Somehow I… it seems as though I've gone from being a doctor and a geneticist to being a… a weapons designer, and I don't quite know how it happened… when I crossed that line…"

    Radek shook his head slowly.  "You would think it would be easier to tell the difference between being a doctor and the weapons designer," he said, "than between an engineer and a weapons designer, would you not?"

    "Aye, I suppose," said Carson.

    "As we worked together on deploying your retrovirus," Radek said, "you did not come to ask yourself how it was that I knew so much about weaponizing biological agents?"  Radek spoke softly, not meeting Carson's eyes.

    "I didn't…" Carson began, looking back at him curiously.  "I didn't give it much thought, I suppose.  The both of you know so much about so many things.  I never thought to wonder…"

    "I have not always had free choice," Radek said quietly, still not meeting Carson's gaze, still feeling shame and bitterness after all these years, "of what institutions or projects I was assigned to.  I thought I was through with all that long before I came here, and yet…" Radek shrugged his shoulders, wishing it was as easy to shrug off old guilts.

    He felt Carson's hand move in his, clasping his fingers firmly, communicating the support and forgiveness that Radek would not meet his eyes to see.  Radek bowed his head in gratitude and the two of them sat in silence for while.

    "I'd never want either one of you to believe that I thought the less of you for it," Carson began again at last, "but they don't make engineers or physicists swear an oath not to harm people.  The principles I've promised to uphold as a physician… they mean a great deal to me, and it feels to me like I've… I've failed them, monstrously."

    Radek listened in silence, gently stroking Carson's hand as he did.  He could not tell Carson if what he had done had or had not broken a vow he had taken, but he could maybe convince his lover that he was not alone.

    "It is true that no one makes engineers take a vow to protect human life," he said after a while, "but I have learned that in Canada, and some other countries, an engineer may elect to do so. Rodney has."

    "He has?"  The idea seemed to be as much of a surprise to Carson as it had been to Radek when Rodney had first told him about it.

    "Have you not noticed the ring which he wears here?"  Radek held up his right hand to indicate the little finger of it.

    "I had," Carson answered, "but I never thought to ask him about it…"

    "After we had first met in Siberia," Radek answered, "I did.  He is very proud of it, though I think he is shy to speak of it."

    "Why?" asked Carson.

    "It seems, I think, a little… sentimental for him to admit to openly," said Radek with a fond smile, "but it means a great deal to him.  The ring is of steel, and it means that he has taken part in a ceremony called The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.  The initiates are Canadian engineers who have sworn to uphold the highest standards of their profession, and to work only to the betterment of mankind."

    Glancing over at Carson, Radek saw the man slowly shaking his head in astonishment.  "I'd have never guessed," he said affectionately, "but it is very like him, bless the man.  He's a secret altruist."

    Rodney was not the only one, Radek thought to himself.  When Rodney had first explained the ring and the ritual to Radek, and seen the wistful envy in Radek's eyes, he'd told the Czech engineer, whose work he was already coming to admire, that as a member in good standing, he was entitled to recommend foreign engineers for the initiation.  He'd promised Radek then that at his first opportunity he would recommend him.  Though the opportunity had not yet arisen, Radek had no doubts that Rodney would keep his promise if he could.  It was just after the siege of Atlantis around a year ago that Rodney had reconfirmed this promise.

    "He wanted to take it off," said Radek, "his ring, that is, while we were completing Genii nuclear bombs.  He told me that he had promised himself that he would never work on such devices again, but I convinced him to leave it on."

    "How?" asked Carson, and Radek could see that his story had some resonance for him.

    "What we did that day," answered Radek, "we did to save Atlantis, and also to save Earth.  That was what I told him, because it was true.  We have all of us only done what we have had to -what was needed for us to survive and to defend the earth."

    He looked up at Carson to gauge the man's reaction, and while his look was unhappy, he did not seem to be refuting Radek's assessment.

    "If we had not built nuclear weapons," Radek continued, "Atlantis would have been destroyed by Wraith, and if you and I, Carson, had not developed retrovirus weapon then Rodney and I would have died on the Daedalus."

    "I know," said Carson, torn, "and I'll not regret that, no matter what the cost.  As long as you promise to be there to help me find myself again."

    For an answer, Radek reached his arm around his love and pulled him close.  Carson let himself be pulled, releasing a long sighed as he leaned into Radek.  There was an easing in Radek heart as Carson relaxed at his side, but there were more troubling issues he needed to raise with Carson before he relaxed altogether.

    "When Rodney called me this morning," he said after some companionable silence, "he said that he was… concerned… that you were angry with him for some reason…?  He would not say why…"

    Carson gave another long sigh, this one not so relaxed.  "Ah dear lord," he said, lowering his head into his hand, "I knew I should have said something to the poor lad, but I was too busy feelin' sorry for myself."

    Radek clasped Carson's shoulder firmly, offering absolution with the gesture.  Though he still did not know the particulars, this sounded like the sort of misunderstanding that Radek had suspected, and knew it would sort it self out soon enough.  "He also told me that you were held captive and interrogated by the Wraith, but that you would tell no one what was done to you?"

    Carson clutched his hands together anxiously as he answered.  "It wasn't so much really.  They didn't truly do me any harm.  They just… they took things out of my head is all, and there wasn't a bloody thing I could do about it…"

    Carson's words made Radek's heart ache again, and he pulled his lover close once more.  "I do not know if that is such a small thing, miláčku," he murmured sorrowfully.

    Carson did not answer, only letting Radek hold him in silence for another little while.  It was in that quiet that they both heard the door to their quarters open, and both looked up to see Rodney cautiously enter.

    His wary expression became painfully anguished the moment his eyes fell on Carson and Radek, and then an instant later he was turning to flee out the still open the door.  Carson was faster though, and was up and off the sofa, catching at Rodney's arm before he could make his escape.

    "No love!" he cried.  "You mustn't go, please!"

    Rodney's expression was desperately unhappy as he saw the door close behind him, but he let Carson lead him into the room, having apparently given up on the urge to flee, though there was still no hope in his eyes at all.

    "I don't blame you for hating me," Rodney said, before anyone could say anything else.   "You begged me not to fire on the settlement, and I knew... I knew it was wrong... But I had to... I had to... I'm so sorry."

    "Rodney luv, no," Carson cried, drawing in the man into a close embrace, though Rodney resisted a bit at first.  "I could never… oh love, I could never hate you.  Never!"

    Rodney gave a little sob as he fell into Carson's arms at last, wrapping his own around his lover.

    "I know you had to do what you did, luv," Carson soothed, "and I knew it then too.  All I did was make it harder for you, and for that I'm the one who's sorry."

    Rodney had his face buried in Carson's shoulder and when he spoke it was barely audible. "I thought... I was afraid we'd lost you," Radek was just able to make out.  "Then we got you back and I thought…" Rodney's voice went unsteady for a moment.  "I thought I'd lost you anyhow."

    "Hush now," said Carson, stroking his hand gently over Rodney's hair as he held him.  "Hush now luv.  You've not lost me.  Not like that; never like that."

    "That… that's good to know," Rodney said quietly, lifting his head at last.  "But what I don't understand is why I'm the one who's falling apart when you're the one who was tortured by the Wraith."

    "Now, I don't know if I'd go so far as to call it torture…" Carson began, but Rodney was having none of it.

    "So what would you call having the Wraith sift through the contents of your brain at will?" he cried, still overwrought, but now on Carson's behalf.  "A minor inconvenience?"

    Now Radek rose, crossing to where his two lovers stood, to bring them both back to the sofa to sit, hoping to calm Rodney down.  "Rodney," he asked, as one possible factor occurred to him, "do you need to eat something?"

    "Oh, probably," he said, collapsing onto the sofa, then, "what's all this?" as he noticed the scattering of Carson's medical certificates on the coffee table.  Radek had stepped into the kitchen and now returned to hand Rodney a power bar, and waited for Carson to answer for himself.  He soon saw that the doctor would need some prodding.

    "Carson had them with him when I found him out on the balcony earlier, Radek said, meeting Carson's guilty look steadfastly.

    "Carson, you weren't going to…?" Rodney asked around a mouth full of power bar.

    "Aye," Carson admitted softly, meeting no one's gaze.  "I… I might have done… if you hadn't come along when you did, luv."  Carson reached across to where Radek was sitting beside him and took his hand, but still did not meet his eyes.

    "Why?"  Rodney was incredulous.  "For gods sake Carson, you did everything in your power to help those poor bastards, even after half of them turned on you."

    "I know luv, I know," Carson said, taking Rodney's hand as well.  "I know we've all only done what we had to, but I just can't make it sit right in my mind.  When I go over everything that's happened, I can't think of a thing I do differently, but I can't shake the sense that… that I've somehow done something terribly wrong."

    No one had an answer for this, and so the three of them sat in silence for a while, each lost in his own unhappy thoughts.  It was to some place he had not been in a long time that Radek's thoughts took him.  It had been a lifetime ago, in truth, but Carson's bewildered guilt brought it all back with astonishing clarity.  Radek found himself speaking before he knew he meant to.

    "The feeling it does not really ever go away," he said, "but you will think about it less after a time.  Eventually you will know that you did do the right thing, but it can take a while."

    "Radek," asked Rodney, "what the hell are you talking about?"  Both he and Carson were looking at him curiously, and Radek knew that he'd never get out of admitting the whole truth now.  It was not really anything he wanted to revisit, but the look in Carson's eyes, hungry for any kind of hope for resolution, compelled him.

    "It is, you know" he began after a thoughtful pause, "much easier to have principles when you live in a free country."  This was something that Radek had been refraining from saying for some time now, for fear of hurting his lover's feelings, but they would never understand his story if they did not understand this.  He looked up to see their reactions and found Rodney frowning guiltily, but Carson was nodding in understanding.

    "Aye, I imagine so," he said.

    "Earlier today," Radek began hesitantly, "I told Carson that I have not always had a choice about what projects I worked on, but this is not complete truth.  I had a choice once, and the choice I made then set me on a path that I knew would take me to places... lead me to doing things that I would never be proud of.  I knew this when I made my choice because I knew... no, I hoped that at the end of that path I would find the kind of work I desired."  Radek fell silent then, staring down at his hands.  Sworn to secrecy by old masters long ago, Radek had never spoken of these things before, and now found it harder to give up these secrets that he had expected.

    "Will you come now and sit between us, Radek luv?" Carson asked kindly, scooting over to make room.  Radek drew a long breath as he settled between his lovers on the sofa, trying to think of how to explain the everyday realities of life on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, to these two fortunate men of the free world.  Still, he considered, the things he had in common with his two lovers must far outweigh the differences in their upbringing.  He would begin with that, and trust that they would never condemn him for what he'd done.

    "Today I am sure I do not seem to be an ambitious man, but when one is young, and just discovering for the first time how very much smarter one is that one's peers, who would not succumb to ambition?"

    There was an understanding smile in Rodney's eyes as he nodded, and in Carson's voice as he replied, "Aye, I remember that time myself."

    "In Czechoslovakia, under communist regime, there was only one path for anyone with any ambition.  It was a dangerous path, but all ambition is dangerous, one way or another, and all young men think that they will master such dangers easily. I was no different.  I joined the Komunistická Strana, that is the Czechoslovakian communist party, before I was at university even, because I knew it would be necessary for my future."  Radek shook his head slowly to think how this must seem now.  "I thought nothing of it at the time.  It was simply what one did."

    Comfortingly, Radek could feel Carson's arm around his shoulders, keeping him close and Rodney had taken his hand to hold it in support.  Drawing a long breath, Radek found the strength in his lovers' silent encouragement to go on.

    "In some ways, my life then was almost as perilous as my life here today," he continued with a wry half smile.  "It could be a matter of life or death to be noticed by the some persons, and not to be noticed by others.  In some assignments I must show my intelligence , and in some I must seem like an ordinary dullard.  If my duplicity was ever discovered by the wrong person, or if someone merely took a dislike to me, I could be disappeared -sent to work as little more than a prisoner in Sibir, or just killed, and no one would ever know."

    Reflecting on those times now, Radek marveled at how little he had worried about his fate then, and how ordinary it had all seemed.  Carson and Rodney, though, seemed troubled to hear this and Radek felt himself held even more tightly between his lovers.

    "When certain postings or positions were suggested to me by certain people, I knew I must take them," he carried on, "and this was how I came to leave home and work in Soviet Union.  It was after I had been there for some time that I began to hear rumors, stories about something Russians called 'speculative technologies facility', near  Tunguska, and I soon knew that this was where I wanted to be, but that certain price must be paid to get there."

    Radek paused, shocked by how hard it was to finally speak of this.  He closed his eyes and thought of his lovers, of the forgiveness their very presence promised, then drew a breath and confessed the truth, for the first time in his life.  "I have worked on some very bad things," he said at last.

    As if to reinforce that promise in the wake of his confession, Rodney took Radek's hand in both of his and lifted it to his lips.  The surprising eloquence of the gesture had Radek close to tears for a moment, but he swallowed hard and continued, as steadily as he could manage.

    "I... my work contributed significantly to the effectiveness of the Soviet arsenal of chemical and biological weapons during the years that I was assigned to that facility.  I had to be good, had to get results, but not too many...  It was what I had to do to attract the attention of the people who could get me position in Tunguska facility, and not to attract the attention of people who could get me killed."

    People and places that Radek had not thought of in years filled Radek's memory now, with startling clarity and Radek saw, as he had not then, the profound wretchedness of the life he had escaped.  "The men and women I worked with there, the medical personnel -I will not call them doctors...  You could never be like them, Carson," he said, adamantly.  "They were dead inside.  They... they had no souls any more.  And I... I had to fit in."

    "Ah, love..." said Carson, his voice full of sorrow, kissing Radek tenderly on the face.

    "I can never be proud of what I did there, but I am proud that I survived, and did finally arrange to be sent to Tunguska.  There were several... reorganizations at the facility after the end of communist era, but by then I had managed to make myself indispensable, and so was still there when you came, Rodney, after your falling out with SGC."

    "Okay," said Rodney after a moment of respectful silence, "do I even need to say what a good thing it is that you ended up in Siberia, Radek?"

    Radek smiled to himself and took up Rodney's right hand to touch the faceted steel ring on the little finger there.  "I do not know if the things that I have done would make me ineligible for this," he said a little sadly, "but I will not lie about it.  I have done what I have done, and I am not proud of all of it, but I cannot think of any better choices I could have made."

    "Honestly, I have no idea if they'll ask you about that," Rodney answered him, "but they shouldn't, and if I have anything to say about it, they won't.  I mean," Rodney continued, "I freely admit that I've had it better -way better- than a lot of people, and nobody who doesn't know the kind of life you've known has any business passing judgment.  I can't possibly judge you for any of the things you did that brought you here to us, Radek, but I hope you never regret them."

    "No, I do not think I will," said Radek contentedly.  "I do not think that there is anything that could change that now."

    In the silence that followed, Radek could feel Carson shift uneasily against him.  He had to know that they were both waiting to hear what he had to say, and after a while he cleared his throat, and reached out with one hand to smooth the wrinkled corner of his Medical License.

    "When they told me that there'd be hardships in coming here," he said at last, "I thought of hunger and hard work, and of dangerous conditions, but I didn't think about things like this.  I didn't think about the hard choices that come with living in a place like Atlantis."  Carson turned the paper so that it was right-side-up from his perspective, running his fingers over the seal at the lower corner.

    "It's quite stupid really, because medicine's full of hard decisions, as it is.  I was trained in how to make hard decisions, and when I look back at the things that I've done over the last few months, I see that I've done just as I was trained, and I think I made the right decisions."

    Radek, and Rodney beside him, both nodded adamantly and seriously, and Carson smiled in return.

    "But, what nobody tells you," Carson continued, sorrow coloring his voice, "is that making the right decision in a situation like this can still haunt you worse than all the wrong things you've ever done in your life."

    "Ano, that is true," said Radek, "but I think, in the end, that it is a good thing that you should feel haunted by such a decision."

    "And why is that?" Carson asked, puzzled.

    "Because if ever you do not feel troubled by such things, milacku," Radek answered him, "then you will have lost your way, for certain."

    Carson sat back in the sofa, his bemused gaze still on the license sitting on the table.  "So you're sayin' that the day I *don't* feel like chucking my medical degree into the sea is the day that I should?" he asked.

    "Lets not 'chuck' anything into the sea at all, shall we?" Rodney interjected.  "Can we at least try not to irritate the local sea monsters?"

    Radek had lost track of the full magnitude of the weight that lay on his heart until he saw Carson finally smile then, his dimples emerging for what seemed the first time in weeks, and he felt the weight lift, and a smile form on his own lips.

    "There," he said, smiling more broadly still for Carson to see, and lifting his hand to touch one of the beloved dimples with a fingertip.  "That is what I have been waiting to see."

    "Ah, luv," Carson sighed, happily pulling Radek into and all-encompassing hug.  "I can endure it all, every heartache, as long as I've the two of you to come home to," he said.  Next, Radek felt his face framed between Carson's powerful but gentle hands and then he was being kissed with the profoundest affection.  Radek drank in the kiss, letting his own fingers play over Carson's face.

    Radek turned back towards Rodney when the kiss finally ended, and found him wearing one of those wistful half smiles that came to Rodney on those rare moments when it seemed that the weight of the world mightn't rest on his shoulders forever.

    "Rodney," Radek said, welcoming his other lover home, as he had not yet, with his voice, his eyes and his arms.  "Thank you, milacku, for bringing him back, and for bringing yourself back as well."

    Rodney melted into his arms, nuzzling at the side of Radek's face and then finding Radek's mouth with his own to devour it, hungrily.  Rodney managed to say many things at moments such as this, things that the very same mouth found so very hard to say with words.  Radek heard and understood and let Rodney know with his own lips and tongue, but without any words of his own, either.

    Radek felt Carson shift in close behind him as he and Rodney kissed, and felt his arm reach around in front of him to caress down his chest teasingly.  The kiss tapered to a close and Radek released a long sigh of comfort and gradually growing desire.  "Now," he said with a happy smile, "now are you ready at last for 'welcome-home' sex?"

    "Aye, luv," said Carson, "and are you?"  Glancing over his shoulder, Radek spotted a certain glint in Carson's eye that sent a liquefying heat through every part of his body, except for one particular part, which hardened instantly.

    "Ooh!" said Rodney, his own eyes bright with anticipation as he glanced over Radek's shoulder to meet Carson's gaze.  "Let's you and me gang up on him!"

    "What?" Radek gulped, feeling a frission of arousal and nervousness course through his body.  He had not expected this, but when his glasses were lifted away a moment later, he surrendered happily.  He knew he would find nothing but joy and pleasure in submitting to his lovers' whims.

    Carson's arms now snaked under his shirt to lift it, but stopped halfway to take up molesting his nipples.  It was Rodney who picked up where Carson had left off, lifting the shirt over Radek's head and flinging it away, and then assaulting Radek with another ravenous kiss.  The force of Rodney's kiss pushed him back against Carson, and Radek went with it, pressing his body against Carson's with delight.

    Carson gave way with a sigh of pleasure, laying back on the sofa and pulling Radek back with him.  Now Radek could feel Carson's hardness pressing against his backside and Carson gave a soft grunt of arousal, lifting his hips to press himself more forcefully against Radek.  His fingers remained busily engaged with Radek's nipples, but now one hand moved lower to cover and clasp the hard flesh under the cloth of Radek's trousers.  Radek gave a wordless cry and thrust helplessly up against Carson's hand and then back against his groin.  Rodney, still kissing him enthusiastically, chuckled into his mouth and reached one hand down to toy with the nipple that Carson had left unattended.

    Moaning and writhing helplessly, Radek wanted to touch, but could not quite think how or what.  His hands, however, acting uncannily as if possessed of their own intelligence, were managing to untuck Rodney's shirt from his pants, much to Radek's satisfaction.  Free at last to wander over the broad expanse of Rodney's chest, Radek's hands touched to his heart's delight, and thrilled to feel Rodney shudder at his touch.

    "Okay, okay," Rodney murmured impatiently after a few moments, breaking the kiss at last to remove his own shirt.  "There, that's got that out of the way."  Rodney seemed about to pick up again where he had left off, when he noticed Carson.  The man was moaning and panting softly in Radek's ear, thrusting up against Radek's ass  in a slow but compelling rhythm as his hand worked its way under the waistband of Radek's trousers.

    "Whoa, Carson," Rodney said, removing Carson's hands from Radek's pants, much to his dismay.  "Getting a little ahead of the game here!"

    "Am I?" Carson said a little blearily.  "Bother."

    As much as Radek loved being at his two lovers' mercy, they did often have a difficult time getting organized to start with.  He lifted a hand to hide the smirk forming on his lips and spoiled it by snickering.

    "Quiet you," snapped Rodney, trying to suppress his own smile.  "We'll get to that eventually, Carson, but we need to torment him a lot more first."

    "Aye, I'm in favor of that," Carson said, "but I'm afraid I've put myself into a fair bit of torment already." He glanced down at where his trousers looked to be straining at the seams.

    Rodney rolled his eyes.  "Well for starters, I'd say you were wearing too many cloths," he said.

    "I think we are all wearing too many clothes," muttered Radek quietly.

    "Alright, alright," Rodney frowned. "He has a point."  Rodney's trousers, Radek was pleased to observe, did not look any more comfortable than his own.  To his credit, Rodney turned to assist Carson first, who was floundering a bit under Radek.  Radek saw no reason to take the initiative himself, as it was the other two who were supposed to be calling the shots, but cooperated when Rodney took his hand to pull him upright.  Rodney then applied himself to removing Carson's shirt as Carson attended to his right leg, which seemed to have gone to sleep from Radek laying on it.

    Rodney let himself get a little distracted after Carson's shirt came off, however, leaning in to kiss him lustfully and then moving his mouth gradually lower, first to suck at the corner of his jaw, then tongue the hollow of his throat, and eventually kissing his way down Carson's chest.  Radek settled back against the sofa to watch all this with delight, especially when Rodney's lips reached Carson's nipples and Carson groaned and arched his back in response.

    "Rodney, luv," Carson rasped, "that's not improving matters one bit."

    "I'll get to it," Rodney insisted, lips still teasing at Carson's nipples as he spoke.  Radek ran his tongue over his own lips, thinking how the hard little nubs of Carson's flesh felt under Rodney's lips and tongue.  Rodney's hands were as busy as his mouth, Radek now noticed, as they began to undo Carson's pants, freeing his hard flesh in short order.

    "Oh, god," Carson moaned as Rodney stroked his fingers along Carson's rigid sex, and Radek felt his own cock surge and press painfully against the constrains of his trousers.  More painful (but wonderful) still was watching Rodney drop to his knees between Carson's thighs and bend his head to brush Carson's hard and up-thrust flesh with his lips.

    "Bloody hell, Rodney!" Carson cried, his head dropping back against the couch.  Rodney was unfastening his own pants now, one handed, as the other hand massaged the base of Carson's cock.  Radek decided he'd finally had enough of passive observation, and began undoing his own trousers, but Rodney was not so preoccupied that he didn't notice.

    "Nah-ah!" he snapped, lifting his mouth away from Carson's cock just enough to speak.  "You sit on those hands and watch."

    Radek called Rodney something nasty in Czech and complied, even though he wasn't altogether sure that Rodney had meant his instructions to be followed literally.  Rodney had no sooner given those instructions than he had Carson's thick, hard cock in his mouth again, closing his lips around it and sucking noisily.

    Carson gave a strangled cry as Rodney went down on him enthusiastically, and Radek watched with fascinated agony.  Taking Rodney's head in both his hands, mussing his hair as he did, Carson regulated the speed of Rodney's rhythm, while Rodney sucked and took Carson's cock deep down his throat.  Now Radek's torments consisted not only of his constrained and neglected cock, and his forcibly immobilized hands, but his eyes could not chose where to focus their gaze.

    Certainly it was pleasant enough to watch Rodney's mouth moving rhythmically up and down on Carson's cock, but then there was also Rodney's hand working his own hard flesh, just above where Rodney's pants lay pooled about his knees.  In addition to these visual delights, though, was Carson's beautiful, beloved face as he drew near completion.  Head thrown back against the sofa, Carson's eyes were shut tight, his lips softly parted as he panted and moaned in rhythm with Rodney's motions.  Now Radek could see Carson clench his teeth -a sure sign of imminent climax- then his eyes flew open, his throat opening too, to cry out, "oh god…!" and then a wordless shout.  Carson released Rodney's head as he spent himself into his lover's mouth, his hips thrusting helplessly in the throes of passion, but Rodney rode all this out with skill, milking Carson dry with evident relish.

    Radek did not realize he was whimpering until Carson turned his head languidly to gaze into Radek's pleading eyes and said, "oh ye poor, wee lad."

    "Rodney," Carson said, his ebbing ecstasy having rendered him even more generous natured than usual, "we need to do something for poor Radek now; I do believe we've tormented him enough."

    Rodney, wiping a bit of drool from the corner of his mouth as he straightened, gazed over at Radek, assessing.  "Hmm," he said.  "You're probably right.  It's definitely time for the rest of his clothes to come off, at any rate."

    This Radek was very glad to hear, but he had to wait, naturally, for Rodney and Carson to get the rest of the way out of theirs first.  Rodney ended up doing most of the work as well, as Carson was still mostly caught up in post-orgasmic lassitude, and was capable of little more than leaning over to kiss Radek as Rodney worked on getting his pants off.  Radek's bone deep sigh of relief as his trousers were finally opened was converted quite suddenly into a yelp of arousal as Rodney licked Radek's newly freed cock from root to head.  His actions also had the result of attracting both Radek and Carson's attention, which was what he'd apparently had in mind.

    "What do you say we move this over to the bed?" Rodney now suggested.  "That's where the lube is, for one thing."

    This made terrific sense to Radek, who started to stand before he realized that his pants were still around his ankles.  Carson pulled him back to sit while Rodney removed them, and then the two of them escorted Radek to the bed.  Once there, Rodney went to fetch the lube from the bed stand drawer while Carson pushed Radek back onto the bed and began a gentle assault over Radek's whole body with his hands and his mouth.  Carson's lips and teeth were pinching and nibbling at his nipples and his hand was slowly stroking Radek's aching cock when he felt Rodney's finger, cold with a coating of lube, approach his opening.

    "Ano, prosím!" Radek cried helplessly, hoping that these lesser torments would be coming to an end soon, and he would finally get the fucking he craved.

    "Oh yes, Radek I am so going to fuck that incredible ass of yours," Rodney murmured as he pushed first one, then two fingers into Radek's tight opening.  "And Carson here," Rodney paused to make sure he had Carson's attention, "is either going to suck your cock let you fuck him with it, but that's up to him."

    Radek gave a helpless sort of sob and arched into Rodney's fingers while Carson thought about it, but it didn't take him long.

    "Oh I think I'd like to feel that long, hard cock of yours fucking my arse, I would," Carson said lustfully into Radek's ear, and Radek could only choke out, "ano, prosím," once again.

    "Oh yeah," said Rodney with an anticipatory grin. "Over on your fronts then, both of you."

    Carson was by now evidently recovered enough to discern where Rodney was going with this, and complied promptly, but Radek was still boggling a bit at the prospect of what was to come and soon found himself being manhandled on to his stomach by Rodney, with some help from Carson.  Moments later there were Rodney's slick fingers working their way into his body again and the contented groan from Carson, lying beside him, told Radek that Rodney was doing the same to him.

    "This is going to be so hot," Rodney was murmuring to himself as Radek felt three of Rodney's fingers now moving in and out of him, and thought pleasantly of the fingers of Rodney's other hand opening Carson up likewise.

    "Alright, luv, I'm ready for him," Radek heard Carson say a moment later, and then Carson was rising to his knees, and Rodney's fingers were being slipped out of Radek's ass.  Radek bit back his longing sigh, knowing that the sudden emptiness he now felt would soon be remedied, and he was not disappointed for now Rodney was helping him up to his knees and Carson was murmuring, "in ye get, luv."

    There was some shifting and jostling in order to get everything lined up properly, but a moment later Radek had his hands on Carson's ass and his hard and aching cock was poised at his entrance.  He pressed and was admitted, sinking gratefully into Carson's hot, tight passage.

    "Bože!" cried Radek loudly, "Oh, Bože!"  The sensation of being enveloped in Carson's body almost undid him right then and there, but he held himself still and waited for the first rush of pleasure to subside.

    "You ready?" came Rodney's voice at his ear and Radek felt the prod of Rodney's hard cock at his own entrance.

    "Ano, yes," Radek gasped, and then he was filled again, gloriously, and Radek cried out in wordless ecstasy.

    "Oh fuck!" shouted Rodney.  "God, Radek, your ass is incredible!"

    Radek appreciated the sentiment, and might have said the same of Carson, but he was lost to words, to any coherent thought save for his awareness of the moment, and that was more than enough.  His whole body was quivering with arousal and before he could even begin to thrust into Carson, or impale himself more deeply on Rodney's cock, Rodney was thrusting hard into him, pressing him deeper into Carson's body and himself deeper into Radek.  Then Rodney was drawing back, pulling Radek back with him and Radek could feel the tight muscle of Carson's opening caress the length of his cock from root to crown at the same time as he felt Rodney's cock slide out of his own body.

    Out and in again, each time Rodney's cock moved in him it brushed past the place that sent a warm pulse of ecstasy through him.  Each thrust into him sent his own cock plunging more deeply into the close, slick heat of Carson's ass, and his own cries were echoed by Carson, coming in the same rhythm only seconds later.  In and out again, penetrating and being penetrated, the firm caress of Carson's entrance along his cock, the internal caress of Rodney's cock stroking against his prostate, a shout of pleasure and desire, a gasped intake of breath, these things were all that Radek was aware of, all he could contain.

    Awareness of his impending climax would have required an awareness of time, of past or present, and Radek had none of these things.  It seized him when it came, suddenly and without warning, and then the white heat of ecstatic completion became his moment and his whole world.  His entire body was subsumed in the energy of his climax, sending it spasming helplessly between his two lovers, sending pulses of hot release into Carson's body and grasping Rodney's sex with pulses of that same energy.

    The energy seemed to catch fire with Rodney as Radek heard him gasp and then shout and then he felt the hot pulses of Rodney's spending within him.  Shuddering out the last of his orgasm, Radek lowered himself slowly to lie on Carson, who didn't seem to mind.  A moment later he felt Rodney part from him, to collapse at his side, breathing heavily but smiling widely.
    "God it's good to be home," he said, and Radek could not agree more.


    It was Carson who woke them later that night, and neither Radek nor Rodney was surprised.   The trauma he'd not been willing to admit to earlier had naturally intruded into his dreams and now he trembled and wept quietly in the arms of his lovers, confessing the awful violation he had suffered, at last.  Rodney and Radek knew just how to comfort him, though, and after a little while they made love again, and this time it was Carson in the middle.

    All three of them had been granted the following day off (Dr. Weir had rather insisted on it) and they took the time to care for one another, indulging each other however they could, and mostly just enjoying the rare opportunity for all three of them to share at each others' company.  There was strength in their triad, all of them knew, for when one was away, as too frequently happened (and as much too frequently was Rodney) there were still two remaining to care for one another. 

    The last few weeks had revealed some new hazards to their arrangement, for none of them had given much consideration to the possibility of losing two of the three of them, or how devastating such a loss would be for the one remaining.  In addition, they'd all discovered how little comfort there was to be had in the arms of a lover who was just as distraught about the fate of their missing the third.

    Still, all three of them remained deeply grateful for what they had.  Each one loved the other two with equal order and devotion, and so there was no question, really, of altering the relationship.  Though there were days of terror and sorrow, more often came the days of exhausting but exhilarating work and concluding such days in the arms of two lovers was the icing on the cake.

    Like life and Atlantis, their relationship was one of terrifying perils, and unparalleled rewards, and being who they were, neither Rodney McKay, Carson Beckett nor Radek Zelenka were likely to make any other kind of choice.


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