- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Alternate Universe
- Episode Related
Ronon Dex stalked through the halls of Atlantis in search of his lover. Rodney hadn’t shown up for their weekly dinner date, and while it wasn’t unusual for Rodney to get caught up in his latest project and forget everything outside of his work-Ronon knew Rodney always made an extra effort to remember their dinners together. Life on Atlantis could be hectic and neither of them got as much time to spend together as they’d like. Having one night together where they could relax and reconnect was important to them.
Ronon felt a twisting in his gut at the thought. A feeling of foreboding had slowly been growing in him since he had returned to Atlantis with an unconscious Rodney in his arms, three days ago. He admitted to himself that tonight he was far more worried about being stood up than he would normally be. Maybe he was overreacting, but Rodney hadn’t been acting like himself lately. It wasn’t anything Ronon could really put his finger on but he knew something wasn’t right. Ever since Rodney had gotten sick on their last mission, his behavior had been odd.
Rodney tended to be closed off and irritable around most people. Few got to see the man Ronon had fallen in love with. Few realized how loving and amusing Rodney could be; they only saw his prickly exterior and the arrogance he wore like armor. This had never bothered Ronon. After all, everyone else’s loss was his gain. He knew what he had in Rodney. Rodney understood him in a way no one else did. They understood each other perfectly.
Lately however, Rodney’s whole demeanor had changed. He had opened up and become much more social. He smiled more and was showing off his more charming and caring side, a side that few people had ever seen before. He had even managed to charm several members of the hospital staff during his recovery. Ronon snorted to himself, everyone else was pleased with the “new” Rodney McKay, except Ronon.
Despite Ronon’s worry, no one else on Atlantis had a problem with Rodney’s sudden personality change. No one else seemed to see what Ronon did so clearly, something was wrong with Rodney. He’d tried to talk to Keller and Sheppard about his suspicions, but both had assured him Rodney was fine.
Keller had pointed out that all her scans of Rodney had come back clean before dismissing him from her office. She hadn’t even really listened. Ronon had been so frustrated by her that he’d been particularly hard on the new recruits. Neither Sheppard nor Keller had been pleased to have so many new members of the expedition beat up at one time. Ronon didn’t bother to pretend to be sorry.
As Ronon thought of Rodney’s recent behavior, he picked up the pace, suddenly desperate to see Rodney with his own eyes. He trusted his instincts and they were screaming at him.
He turned down the hall toward the lab where Rodney and several of the other scientists were working. He was almost running now. The sense of danger increased. As he entered, he looked around but didn’t see Rodney. He felt panic begin to rise up, but he ruthlessly pushed it down. He saw Zelenka working at his desk and made his way over to him.
He didn’t bother to greet the man. “Have you seen Rodney?” he asked gruffly. He didn’t allow the worry he felt to color his words.
Zelenka looked up, startled by Ronon’s sudden appearance then he shook his head. “He left over half an hour ago to meet you. You have a date tonight, yes?” he said.
Ronon felt his stomach drop. Where was Rodney?
“He never showed up,” Ronon said curtly. “I thought he was still working.”
Now Zelenka looked concerned as well. “No, I have not seen him since he left.”
Ronon’s heart began to beat rapidly. He forced himself to take a deep breath. Panicking wouldn’t help him find his scientist. He gestured toward Zelenka’s radio. “Call him,” he ordered. He didn’t have time to be polite.
Zelenka shook his head and gestured toward Rodney’s desk. “He left his radio he said he did not wish to be interrupted during his time with you.”
Ronon felt his hands clench. This was totally unlike Rodney. He never liked to be without his radio in case of an emergency. Sometimes he even wore it while sleeping. Faced with this further evidence, Ronon’s sense of urgency increased even more. Part of him wanted to run through the halls screaming Rodney’s name, but he forced himself to think rationally. It was only because of years of practice that he was able to control himself.
He grabbed Rodney’s radio and called Sheppard. “Sheppard, is Rodney with you?” he asked. Please be there, he thought.
“Negative,” John replied. “I haven’t seen him in a few hours.”
“He never showed up for dinner. He’s missing.”
There was a moment of silence from Sheppard, then he said, “Don’t worry, we’ll find him. He probably just got distracted that’s all.”
The next fifteen minutes were some of the longest of his life. Sheppard had several teams out looking for Rodney, but with every passing minute, Ronon was growing more worried. He had just left Rodney’s secret office that no one but them knew about — Rodney said he needed a place where none of the moron’s could find him, when unexpectedly Zelenka’s voice came over the radio, a very welcome sound. “Ronon someone just entered Rodney’s former quarters. That area had already been searched. There’s no reason for someone to go back there.”
It was Rodney, Ronon was sure of it. “On my way,” Ronon replied. He ran toward the nearest transporter as quickly as he could.
Ronon arrived at Rodney’s old quarters in record time. He was the first one there. He entered the room and was relieved to see his lover. That relief was short lived as he took a good look at Rodney.
Rodney was pale, and he stood in the middle of the room looking around in obvious confusion. Ronon felt his stomach drop. He reached for his radio and called for medical assistance. He knew the others would arrive quickly.
He approached Rodney slowly
Rodney turned and looked at Ronon. “Where are all my things?” he asked plaintively. “I came home and everything was gone. I don’t understand what’s happening. I think I’m confused. There’s something I need to do but I’m not sure what.” For a moment his eyes focused on Ronon, and they seemed to beg him for an explanation.
Ronon looked into Rodney’s big scared eyes but there was no recognition there. Ronon felt his heart clench with fear and love in equal measure. Seeing Rodney so lost, so childlike, was incredibly difficult. All the energy and intensity that Ronon loved was missing. Ronon shivered. It was his job to protect Rodney, and he had failed.
He reached out and gently pulled the man into his arms. “It’s going to be okay,” he said. “You don’t live here anymore, Rodney. You live with me, remember?” Ronon could hear the desperation in his own voice.
Rodney just shook his head seemingly not understanding what was being said to him. “What’s going on?” he asked in a small voice, but surprisingly he seemed content to remain in Ronon’s arms. Maybe there’s a part of him that does recognize me, Ronon thought. He could only hope this would pass and that Rodney would return to normal.
“Everything will be fine,” Ronon said reassuringly. He hoped that he hadn’t just lied to Rodney. Surely Keller would be able to figure out what was wrong. He’d seen the Earth doctors do some amazing things.
As he continued to hold Rodney, Ronon thought about the symptoms he was displaying. There was something familiar about all of this. A vague memory was stirring in the back of his mind. After a moment, the realization hit and Ronon gasped. All at once, Ronon was certain he knew what Rodney’s confusion could mean.
No, it couldn’t be, he thought. Rodney was far too young. Although, deep down, he knew grasping at straws. Ronon couldn’t deny the evidence right in front of him. Rodney was suffering from the beginning stages of the second childhood. Ronon fought the feelings of despair and anger that threatened to overwhelm him. He might be wrong. He needed to hold on to that hope. Rodney would need him to be strong for both of them. Ronon resolutely ignored the traitorous voice in his head that pointed out if he was right he would lose Rodney forever.
Just then Keller and her team came running into the room.
Keller rushed Rodney to the infirmary and began a battery of tests. Ronon sat with Rodney trying to keep him calm. After another hour, the confusion began to pass, and Rodney began making more sense again. He still wasn’t completely himself but he was more coherent. The last thing he remembered was leaving the lab to meet Ronon everything after that was a complete blank until he, in his own words, “woke up” in the infirmary.
He was understandably frightened to learn what had happened, but even so his reaction felt all wrong to Ronon. His responses were only shadows of what they should have been. A scared Rodney was usually loud. He complained through his fear, freely and loudly, even as he was using his big brain to solve the problem and save everyone. The Rodney sitting on the hospital bed was quiet and unnaturally still. He accepted the information he was given without much question.
Ronon could see the growing unease on Sheppard and Keller’s faces as they finally realized what Ronon had been talking about. Ronon felt a small sense of satisfaction, of vindication, but he couldn’t really bring himself to care all that much. All that mattered was that Rodney would get the care he needed. There was still hope that Earth medicine had a cure for the Second Childhood. He had to believe Rodney would be fine.
One look at Dr. Keller’s face when she returned with the results of Rodney’s scans tore all of Ronon’s optimism to shreds.
He saw Keller take a deep breath, and turn to Rodney as she spoke.
“There is a parasite in Rodney’s brain. As far as we can tell it is literally nesting inside his brain. It must be feeding off of Rodney somehow because it’s growing and spreading out. It must have been too small to show up on Rodney’s previous scans. It’s the only explanation I have for why we missed it.”
Ronon turned to look at Rodney. He looked a bit frightened but his expression was also distant as if he wasn’t fully engaged with the conversation. Ronon reflected that maybe it was for the best. If Rodney was in his right mind, he would be horrified at the idea of something living in and feeding off his brain. The last thing Rodney needed was to get agitated. Besides, Ronon was upset enough for both of them.
When Rodney didn’t speak, Ronon asked the question that was on everyone’s minds. “Can you remove it?”
Keller suddenly looked very young and uncertain as she hesitated. She took a deep breath and visibly schooled her features before answering.
“I really don’t think that’s an option right now. The parasite has tentacles that have spread out over the surrounding area. The chance of brain damage is unacceptably high. He could wind up a vegetable.”
Ronon closed his eyes for a moment as an intense wave of despair washed over him. From where he stood near the wall Sheppard spoke, “There has to be something you can do? You have to stop this.” Ronon heard the concern and growing desperation in Sheppard’s voice. It reminded Ronon he wasn’t the only one losing Rodney.
Keller nodded, and for the first time she looked directly at Ronon. “Ronon has told me that this looks like a disease he recognizes that usually only affected older people here in Pegasus called The Second Childhood. We can’t be completely certain it’s the same disease but it seems likely.
“There are many different treatments we can try. Radiation might kill it, and hopefully we can eliminate the parasite without damaging Rodney’s brain.”
Although he suspected he already knew the answer Ronon asked quietly, “And what happens if none of the treatments work?”
Keller hesitated again. “I’ve never seen anything like this, so I can’t be certain, but my guess is Rodney’s mental state will continue to deteriorate until-“
Just then Rodney spoke. “I’m going to die aren’t I?” he asked. Ronon could hear the fear in his voice, and when he looked over, Rodney’s eyes were clear and focused as he gazed at Keller. Wanting desperately to comfort him, Ronon sat on the edge of Rodney’s bed and took his hand, squeezing it gently. Rodney didn’t look at him but his handed tightened in return.
Keller looked steadily at Rodney. “That’s a possibility, yes, but we’re nowhere near that point yet. I’m not going to give up on finding a way to help you, and you shouldn’t give up either. You should try to get some sleep.”
Rodney nodded. He lay down and closed his eyes. Even in sleep he didn’t let go of Ronon’s hand. Ronon sat there watching him for a long time.
Things got worse over the next couple of days. None of the treatments worked. All the radiation made Rodney even more tired and sick, but the parasite remained stubbornly unaffected. In fact, the latest round of scans showed that the parasite was growing at an accelerated rate. Rodney’s episodes grew more frequent and longer in duration.
To make matters worse, Rodney also began to forget more and more between episodes. Each time he had an episode, when he came back to himself, another piece of him was missing. Ronon felt like he was dying by inches along with Rodney, but he didn’t allow himself to fall apart. Ronon was quickly losing hope, but he didn’t dare show it. Rodney needed him to be strong.
He sat with Rodney for hours, talking to him, reminding him of things he’d forgotten. Talking about all the things they’d do when — It was always when not if — Rodney got better. Ronon was hardly sleeping. He didn’t like leaving Rodney alone for even a few hours.
Both Sheppard and Teyla offered to take over, but he refused. More often than not, one of them would sit with Ronon. Teyla had been quietly supportive, and Ronon could see the sadness in her eyes. As a Pegasus native she understood better than most what was coming next. Sheppard hadn’t tried to talk to him much. Instead, he’d taken Ronon to the gym and they’d beaten each other until they were bloody and exhausted.
As much as he appreciated the support of their friends and teammates, Ronon just wanted to be alone with Rodney. He wished they could have a real conversation. There was so much he’d never gotten a chance to tell Rodney. Talking about feeling had never been easy for Ronon, and he regretted that he hadn’t told Rodney how much he loved him every single day.
On the morning of the fourth day since Rodney was taken ill, Ronon was woken up by someone’s hand on his face. Ronon jumped slightly and woke instantly but didn’t strike out. Sleeping with Rodney had forced him to break the habit, although it hadn’t been easy after years on the run.
Rodney was watching, and his eyes were clear and intent on Ronon’s face. As Ronon looked at him, he realized that Rodney was lucid and Ronon saw the love Rodney had for him in his gaze. Rodney had come back to him, and Ronon felt tears prickle his eyes. His wish had come true.
Rodney gave him a small crooked smile, and Ronon felt his heart flip painfully in his chest. It was the smile that only Ronon ever got to see.
“Hey there you,” Rodney said. “I’ve missed you.” He tried to sound cheerful, but he didn’t quite manage it. Ronon heard the fear and resignation in his tone.
“I’ve been here, but I’ve missed you too,” Ronon said, his throat tight around the words.
Rodney nodded. “I think part of me knows that even when I’m completely out of it.”
He looked down and said softly, “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you when you tried to tell me something was wrong. I really did think everything was fine.”
Rodney moved his hands around as he spoke, and Ronon gasped quietly. He’d missed the movement of Rodney’s clever hands. Rodney’s stillness had felt so wrong, so unnatural. Ronon felt something inside him begin to slowly unwind.
He reached out and took one of Rodney’s hands in his and kissed the palm. As always Rodney scowled slightly but didn’t complain. They both knew Rodney secretly loved it, no matter what he said.
“It’s not your fault,” Ronon assured him. “I could tell you really believed what you were saying. It was the parasite talking.”
Rodney paled. “I worked on updating some of the naquada generators, just a few hours before our dinner. I could have blown up half the city.”
Rodney began to shake, and Ronon got into the bed and pulled Rodney close. “Don’t think about the now. We might not have much time.”
Rodney took a big shuddering breath, but when he spoke, his voice was steady. “You’re right. We both know that I’m not getting better. At this rate, even if Jennifer does find anything, chances are it won’t be in time. I need you to call Jeannie and get her here. I’d like to say goodbye if I can. All of my paperwork is in order. You’re listed as my next of kin, and my will is up to date.
Ronon nodded, he knew all this.
“There’s something I want to talk to you about. It’s important. You know how much I love you and I’d do anything to stay with you. It’s looking like that won’t be possible.” He turned so he could look at Ronon directly. “When the time comes, I want you to let me go. I don’t want extraordinary measures and I definably don’t want to be a vegetable. Understand?”
Hurt exploded in Ronon’s chest, but he nodded and then tightened his arms around Rodney. Ronon was a warrior, he understood what Rodney was asking of him. Rodney wanted to die with dignity. If Ronon couldn’t keep Rodney with him, then he could at least give him this. Although, every instinct in Ronon demanded he fight even harder to keep Rodney alive.
Ronon felt anger rise in him. It wasn’t fair.
“I promise,” he said hoarsely, and he couldn’t keep the anger or the anguish out of his voice. Rodney was leaving him. He would be all along again. “Rodney,” he whispered, “please don’t leave me. I love you so much. I can’t do this without you.” Ronon hardly recognized his own voice. He sounded so lost and scared, even to his own ears.
Rodney held him closer and stroked his hair but didn’t answer. Finally, unable to hold back anymore, Ronon buried his face in Rodney’s chest and wept.
Late that night Ronon fell into an exhausted sleep and dreamed.
He was a small boy again and he was with his family in an unfamiliar place. It was cool and dark. In the distance, he could hear water rushing loudly, and when he looked up, he saw a large stone tablet. Next to it sat his grandfather smiling and laughing. Ronon knew that this was strange behavior for his grandfather lately. He had been sick and hadn’t been able to speak. Suddenly his father appeared before him. “Come, Ronon,” he said. “It’s time to say goodbye to your grandfather. He has very little time left. We mustn’t waste the gift the shrine has given us.”
Ronon woke with a gasp and bolted upright in his chair. He looked toward Rodney’s peacefully sleeping form and felt every protective instinct he had rise up. He was determined not to fail Rodney again.
He knew how to help Rodney when the time came. When his lover’s mind had slipped away again a few hours after their talk, Ronon had been bereft, convinced it would be the last time he would talk with the man he loved. Now, they had a second chance. He could give his lover one last day of clarity and the dignified death he wanted and deserved. He would do whatever he had to give Rodney, and all those who loved him, this gift.
It wasn’t difficult to get permission to bring Jeannie to Atlantis as fast as the Daedalus could manage it. Sheppard had anticipated the request and had already got the ball rolling, much to Ronon’s relief and appreciation. Luckily the ship was on Earth, so they moved the trip up a day, and Jeannie would be on her way in just a few hours. Getting permission to take Rodney to the Shrine, however, proved to me more difficult than Ronon ever imagined.
Talos, the planet that the Shrine was located on, was now occupied by the Wraith. It was one of their lesser used outposts, but there was still a good chance of running into them. The shrine was far from the gate, and even with a Jumper, he wasn’t sure how Rodney would handle the trip. Ronon was unwavering in his decision. He determined to fulfill Rodney’s wish no matter what it took. He had to do everything he could to give both Rodney and himself one more day together.
Both Woolsey and Keller were dead set against the trip. Even Sheppard looked skeptical. No one believed that what Ronon remembered had actually happened. He had been a child after all. Woolsey gently tried to suggest the memory was really wishful thinking on his part. It took all of Ronon’s self-control not to punch him. Despite the fact that he was Rodney’s next of kin, Keller insisted that he couldn’t take Rodney off world without her permission. He respected that she was doing what she thought best for Rodney, but she showed no respect for his place in Rodney’s life. Ronon didn’t think he was capable of hating anyone besides the Wraith, but he was close to hating Jennifer Keller.
However, he tried not to let it show because she held a lot of sway with Woolsey. Ronon was preparing to make a run with Rodney if it was needed. Woolsey couldn’t stop him from taking Rodney, but having the resources of Atlantis behind him would make it a safer trip. Teyla quietly let him know that she agreed with him, and he knew she would help him. But he was hoping that with Jeannie’s support, that it wouldn’t be necessary. He was certain she would agree it was worth the risk.
While they waited for Jeannie, Rodney continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate. Neither Ronon nor Teyla had ever seen the second childhood progress so quickly. The parasite’s effect on the brain was extremely unpredictable. Rodney had begun to have trouble speaking and eating. Ronon felt hyper aware of every minute that passed, bringing Rodney closer to his death.
Rodney still recognized Ronon sometimes, but there was no love in his eyes. He no longer remembered their life together. Having Rodney forget him, forget them, hurt far worse than he ever imagined. He knew this could happen, and had tried to protect himself, but in the end, he had still been blindsided.
Rodney had taken to calling for John whenever he was scared. He always seemed to recognize John, even when nothing else was familiar. Ronon was forced to watch as his lover turned to another for comfort. No one could explain why Rodney remembered his strong friendship with John but not his relationship with Ronon.
Ronon was grateful to John for his support of Rodney, but it was difficult not to be jealous. He still watched over Rodney as best he could, but he longed to be able to comfort Rodney, to hold him in his arms. ‘You’ll have a chance,’ he reminded himself. He just had to try to be patient even though they were running out of time.
The day Jeannie arrived dawned bright and clear. She had been dropped off at the first available gate in this galaxy because there was a very real chance the ship wouldn’t get her to Atlantis in time. Ronon was at the gate early, he wanted to make sure he was the first to speak to Jeannie. Ronon saw Keller enter the gate room, but he ignored her presence. She wouldn’t get a chance to poison Jeannie against him.
As soon as Jeannie stepped through the gate, he walked to her quickly. She was looking around, probably for Rodney. When she saw Ronon instead, her face fell but she walked over to him swiftly. He reached out and pulled her in for a hug. They held each other tightly, both taking comfort in the hug.
Then she pulled back and looked into Ronon’s face. Ronon felt all the air rush out of him as he looked at her. Her expression was so much like her brother’s, Ronon felt his heart break a little more, and yet her presence was surprisingly comforting. He was almost relieved to have another McKay here to help him. He saw Keller in his peripheral vision, hovering nearby, but she seemed reluctant to intrude on their moment. Ronon knew it was only a small reprieve.
Jeannie spoke and Ronon turned his attention back to her.
“Ronon, what is going on? You look terrible. I got an urgent message from the SGC telling me that Mer was ill and that I had to get to Atlantis as soon as possible. What’s happened? Has he had some sort of accident?” she demanded. Once again her resemblance to her brother took his breath away.
“It’s bad, Jeannie,” he said quietly. “Woolsey and Keller are waiting for you and will explain some of it better than I can. I know you’ll want all the information you can get. But I wanted to talk to you first.”
Jeannie searched his face and then nodded. She was visibly shaken, but then a look of intense determination crossed her face. Ronon recognized the McKay stubbornness when he saw it. “Tell me everything,” she said.
As Ronon followed Jeannie toward the conference room, he was treated to a sight he never thought he’d see again. An outraged McKay on the warpath. He stood back against the wall as Jeannie zeroed in on Keller. “I want to know what’s wrong with my brother. Don’t leave anything out.”
Keller proceeded to explain about the parasite and showed her a video from the security camera in the isolation room where Rodney was currently staying.
Jeannie was quiet and clearly fighting back tears. “He might not know me at all? Isn’t there anything else you can do?” she asked.
Keller looked sympathetic as she shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. All the treatments I’ve devised have been ineffective. Maybe if we’d caught it earlier,” she trailed off.
Jeannie’s eyes narrowed and anger filled her expression. “Ronon said he noticed something was wrong and tried to tell you. But you didn’t listen is this true?”
“Yes,” Keller admitted. “I didn’t recognize the signs. I was charmed by the new version of Rodney. Maybe if I hadn’t been, I would have seen it sooner.” Ronon could hear the contrition and sorrow in her voice. Despite their differences, he acknowledged that she cared for Rodney.
Jeannie snorted disdainfully. “You were charmed? Really, that’s your defense? That should have been your first clue. Mer has never been charming a day in his life. And for the record, my brother didn’t need to be charming or nice. He is brilliant and special. If you had any taste at all, you would have appreciated him for who he was. I want to see him immediately, and then we are going to talk about Ronon’s idea, and why you refused to respect his rights as my brother’s partner.”
Her heated declaration was met with an awkward yet resounding silence. It lasted several tense seconds, and then Woolsey recovered from his surprise.
As Woolsey tried to smooth over the awkward situation like the diplomat he was, Ronon let himself relax a little. For the first time since Rodney became sick, Ronon found himself fighting a small smile. He felt some of the enormous weight he was carrying lift off his shoulders. It felt good to have a McKay fighting at his side.
Ronon followed Jeannie into Rodney’s room. He had offered to give the siblings some privacy, but Jeannie had asked him to come with her, and he had readily agreed. He would gladly give her whatever support he could, and he never turned done a chance to be near Rodney. However, she told Keller bluntly to wait outside. The expression on Keller’s face before the door rolled shut was priceless.
Rodney was sitting in a chair staring blankly at the wall. It was a familiar sight these days, and, as always, fresh pain stabbed at Ronon’s heart as he looked at his love. He couldn’t imagine how difficult this must be for Jeannie. For Ronon, Rodney’s decline had been gradual. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be faced with the drastic changes in Rodney for the first time. He felt sympathy for Jeannie well up in his chest. As difficult as all this had been, he’d had time to accept what was happening. Jeannie had been given no such opportunity.
Rodney looked thin and frail. His formerly expressive face was mostly a blank slate, his eyes vacant. Worst of all, he barely moved. The stillness that had so bothered Ronon had only become more pronounced as the disease progressed. He looked over at Jeannie and found she was pale with shock, the pain and sadness written plainly on her face.
The reality of the situation only fully hitting now that she could see her brother in person. She stood frozen like a statue, and Ronon reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “Go on and talk to him,” he encouraged quietly and then moved away.
He stood in the corner and watched Jeannie try to interact with Rodney. She was clearly devastated as he showed no signs of recognizing her. “Mer,” she said, “it’s me, Jeannie,” her tone begging Rodney to recognize her.
Rodney stared blankly, and for a moment Ronon though he wouldn’t respond. Jeannie reached out and touched his hand, and he started and looked toward her. “Who are you?” The words came out slurred and tentative.
“I’m your sister, Jeannie,” she replied.
“Sister, I don’t have a sister,” Rodney stuttered. “Do I?” he asked flustered. He clearly didn’t understanding what Jeannie was telling him.
Jeannie’s voice broke. “Yes, you do, and my name is Jeannie,” she repeated with more conviction.
Ronon could hear the tears in her voice.
“Don’t be sad,” Rodney said slowly. “I don’t know you but you seem nice. I don’t want you to be sad.”
He reached over and patted her hand gently.
Jeannie closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. She visibly pulled herself together, and when she opened her eyes, she smiled at Rodney a bit tremulously and said, “Did you know I have a daughter? Would you like to hear about her?”
Rodney nodded. “I’d like that,” he said with a soft trusting smile.
Jeannie spent the next few hours sitting with Rodney. When food came, she helped him eat, helping him spoon the food into his mouth when necessary. Ronon could see how much seeing Rodney so helpless was hurting her, but she didn’t turn away. Rodney never recognized her, and after a while, Jeannie seemed to accept that he most likely wouldn’t.
While one of the nurses took Rodney to the bathroom, Jeannie came over to him, and there was a small mischievous glint in her eye. Ronon was glad to see to see it. “I was just thinking that when Rodney is himself again, he’ll be horrified I fed him.” She gave Ronon a small conspiratorial smile.
Ronon felt himself grin for the first time in what felt like forever. “The bitching will be epic,” he agreed. “But you know, deep down, he’ll be touched that you cared.”
Jeannie’s grin widened. “Yes, but the gratitude will be so far down under the mortification, I’ll probably never hear about it in this lifetime.”
Ronon chuckled and felt his heart lighten a bit. “That’s our Rodney,” he said softly.
Jeannie just leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder. They stood like that until Rodney came back into the room.
In the afternoon, Rodney became agitated and repeatedly tried to leave the room. Letting him wander would be dangerous, so Jeannie distracted him by singing a song in French. Ronon didn’t know what it was but it seemed to calm Rodney.
Jeannie looked over at him, and she must have seen the question in his eyes, because she said, “It was our mother’s favorite. She used to sing it to us every night. After she died, Rodney would sing it to me when I got scared. We had our differences, but he was a good big brother. Even when he couldn’t let himself show it, I never doubted that he loved me. Now to see him like this I just…” her voice trailed off.
Jeannie stood abruptly and rushed out of the room. With one last quick look at Rodney, Ronon followed her. The door slid closed behind him, and he found Jeannie standing in the hallway with tears streaming down her face. “I’m going to go back in. I just need a minute, please. I didn’t know it would be like this. You told me but… seeing him like this… I just I wasn’t ready. I can’t handle anymore.”
Ronon reached out and pulled her close. “I know,” he said. “I feel the same way sometimes. But we don’t have a choice, Rodney needs us.”
Jeannie looked up at him, her eyes still glistening with tears. “This shrine you want to take Rodney to… It’ll bring him back to us? You’re sure I’ll get to say goodbye before- before he dies?” Her voice broke on the last word.
“Yes,” Ronon said with completely certainty.
“Then let’s get what we need for the trip and go as quickly as we can. I don’t care what anyone says, I am not going to give up on saying goodbye to my brother.”
Ronon couldn’t agree more. Then something occurred to him. “You know he’s going to be pissed we couldn’t save him right?” he blurted out without thinking. Much to his pleasure, Jeannie gave a small surprised laugh, even while a few more tears started rolling down her face. Ronon didn’t comment on them as his own eyes filled with tears.
With Jeannie’s help, Ronon was finally able to convince Woolsey to agree to let them take Rodney to the Shrine. Woolsey wasn’t stupid, he had to know that Ronon would steal a Jumper if he had to and that Teyla and John would help him. John might have his misgivings, but Ronon knew he would insist on flying the Jumper to give them the best chance of success.
Woolsey insisted they needed a way to get past the Wraith safely. Truthfully, Ronon had been planning to just blast his way through, but as it turned out, John had already concocted one of his crazy plans. Ronon had never been so grateful for one of Sheppard’s plans.
They got Rodney to the Jumper, and Ronon was surprised to see Keller already there, waiting with a medical bag and a portable stretcher.
“I thought you didn’t believe,” he said.
“I don’t,” Keller replied bluntly. “But you might need my help. I’m still doing what’s best for my patient. Even if I think this trip is idiotic and unnecessary.”
Ronon nodded and turned away. It would be safer for Rodney if she came along, so he didn’t argue. Instead, he settled for ignoring her and sat down next to Sheppard.
The Jumper shot through the wormhole and into a thick cloud of smoke, hiding them for the Wraith sensors. The Shrine was three hours away from the gate on foot. It would take them a third of that time in the Jumper, but they would have a bit of a hike from the closest landing spot.
Ronon’s stomach was tied up in knots. Soon he would be able to see Rodney again, to talk to him and hold him. It was only the knowledge that it would be for the last time that kept him from feeling joy at the thought.
Sheppard landed the Jumper as close as he could, but the hike to the waterfall was worse than Ronon had remembered, and Rodney was weak and tired. The going was slower than he had thought. When they finally reached the entrance of the cave, Ronon’s heart began to pound in a combination of dread and anticipation.
For the first time, he felt a sliver of doubt. What if this didn’t work? He would have put them all in danger for nothing. He quickly pushed the thought away.
They entered the cave and Ronon sat Rodney on a stone to wait. Meanwhile, Keller and Jeannie were looking at some readings. Apparently, the Shrine was giving off some strange radiation. Ronon ignored them, his focus on Rodney. He didn’t care how the Shrine worked, just as long as it did.
It took about ten minutes, but suddenly Rodney clutched his head and let out a cry of pain. Ronon reached out to grab him so he wouldn’t accidently fall and hurt himself. “Rodney?” he said gruffly, his voice thick with suppressed emotion. “Are you with us?”
Sheppard, Jeannie, and Keller had come rushing over at Rodney’s cry.
Jeannie took his hand. “Mer she said how do you feel?”
When Rodney looked up, his eyes were clear and awareness and intelligence shone from them. Ronon felt a bittersweet Joy fill his heart. It had worked!
“Ronon? What is going on? Where are we? Why aren’t I in the infirmary? Am I better? Wait! Wait, I do feel better. How?”
Ronon laughed and leaned forward to kiss Rodney, cutting him off. He had never been so happy to hear Rodney babble in his life. It took a moment, but then Rodney responded, wrapping his arms around Ronon and deepening the kiss. Ronon lost himself in the taste of Rodney and the wonderful sensation of feeling Rodney’s body pressing against his own, and whole in his arms. He didn’t let himself think about how fleeting it would be. Instead, he focused only on his lover.
He didn’t know how long they stood like that before Ronon became aware that someone was poking him with their finger, and someone else was clearing their throat. Reluctantly, Ronon pulled away from Rodney with a growl.
He looked over to find Jeannie scowling at him, although he could see the amusement and affection in her eyes. “As lovely as it to watch you try to suck my brother’s tongue out his mouth, I’d like to spend some time with him, too.”
Much to Ronon’s satisfaction, Rodney needed to take minute to recover from the kiss before snapping his fingers and demanding impatiently to be told what was happening. Ronon explained as simply and quickly as he could.
As predicted Rodney did not react well to being told there was no cure and that he was going to die. Ronon had expected it and understood his reaction, but the intensity of Rodney’s anger still hurt him, although he tried to hide it.
Rodney must have seen the hurt in his eyes because he moved closer to Ronon and said, “Look, I’m sorry. I just… I thought I was gonna be OK, and now you’re… telling…” He shook his head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
Ronon looked away. “I thought this is what you would want. A chance to say goodbye to your family and then to die with dignity and honor. If I was wrong…” Ronon trailed off unsure.
“No!” Rodney exclaimed. “It’s good. I was just shocked. You know I react badly to surprises. I’m sorry I was an asshole. This is good.” He reached out for Ronon, and they hugged for a moment. “Thank you,” Rodney whispered for his ears alone. “This does mean a lot to me.”
Rodney stepped back and looked around. “So,” he said with a false bright smile, “do you have some kind of itinerary planned?”
Ronon nodded and replied, “I have ham and chocolate cake, your favorite.” A big part of him wanted to pull Rodney back into his arms and kiss him until their time was up, but he knew he couldn’t be selfish.
Rodney nodded, but he was looking over at Keller, who had gone back to staring intently at the readings from the Shrine.
Rodney turned toward her. “What is it?” he asked curiously.
“It’s the Shrine. There’s some sort of unknown radiation emanating from it. Honestly, I… I didn’t expect it to work. I expected nothing would happen and that would be that, so why did it? You don’t believe in magic shrines any more than I do.”
Rodney nodded. “Let me see the reading,” he said. He looked them over and said, “This is odd. This place isn’t powered up, is it? The energy readings are too low. Why would the ancients have an energy source behind a waterfall? There must be something else here.”
Sheppard, who was listening from nearby retorted, “Who knows? The Ancients were crazy short-sighted bastards, McKay. Why did they do anything?”
“Point,” Rodney agreed, but he didn’t take his eyes off the screen, already absorbed in the data.
Ronon looked at Rodney fondly before making a token attempt to gain Rodney’s attention. “Come on, Rodney! This is your party. Let’s have some fun!”
Rodney barely spared him a glance. “Hey, for me, this is fun. You knew who I was when you decided to court me. Just let me figure this out, and don’t you dare eat all the cake.”
With a sigh, Ronon abandoned the idea of food and came over to stand near Rodney. He always liked to see Rodney excited over science. He’d always found Rodney’s intelligence arousing, and if this was what made his Rodney happy in his last moments, then Ronon would accept it.
“Hey, it just spiked,” Rodney exclaimed. “It’s some sort of gamma radiation. This shrine, or whatever, definitely must have a power source, but it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
Suddenly, Keller grabbed Rodney’s arm. “Come with me.”
Rodney squawked in surprise. “What? Why?” Keller didn’t answer.
Ronon followed close behind, ready to protect Rodney if necessary. “What are you doing?” he demanded.
“I’m not going to hurt him, Ronon. I Need to check something,” Keller said, exasperated. She continued to pull Rodney to the mouth of the cave.
The instant they exited, Rodney clutched his head and groaned in pain. With a glare at Keller, Ronon lifted Rodney into his arms and carried him back to the stone. The moment they were back inside, the pain stopped, and Rodney grew quiet, still clutching his head. The other rushed over to check on him.
“Why did you do that?” Jeannie demanded angrily.
“To determine whether the parasite would expand rapidly back into his brain when we took him from the radiation source, and I think it did,” Keller explained. “I think the reason why his symptoms disappeared when we came here was because it contracted to protect itself. It’s sensitive to the radiation.”
“What does that mean?” Ronon demanded sharply. He wasn’t yet ready to forgive her for causing Rodney pain.
Keller sighed but didn’t back down. “That leaving this chamber will probably kill him. We can’t take him back to Atlantis. So we’re going to have to find a way for me to operate on him right here.”
Before Ronon could even react, Rodney yelled, “What? Absolutely not!”
Ronon turned and looked at Rodney, he could see the fear in his lover’s eyes. He thought about what Keller said and quickly realized what she meant. “You think it’s small enough you can remove it.”
It wasn’t really a question, but Keller answered anyway. “In theory, yes. I won’t know until I get in there.”
Rodney was shaking his head vehemently. “No no no! Did you hear me? I am not letting anyone drill a hole into my brain. It is not happening.”
For the first time, Ronon felt real hope rise in his chest. “Yes you will,” he said.
“Ronon-“ Rodney started to protest.
Ronon cut him off. “If it’ll save you, then you have to try.”
“But, Ronon, what if it damages my brain?” Rodney demanded.
Ronon reached out and put both hands on Rodney’s shoulders. “I know you’re scared. So am I. If we do nothing, you’re going to die. You have to do this for me, for us, please?” Ronon was begging, and he didn’t care. Rodney had to agree.
Rodney closed his eyes and took a deep breath and then looked at Keller. “Do you really think you can do this?” he asked quietly.
“Yes I do,” she replied. Ronon had to give her credit, she had to be frightened, too, but she sounded confident.
Rodney leaned forward and buried his face in Ronon’s chest for a moment before speaking. “Alright, I’ll do it. What do you need?”
Thank the Ancestors, Ronon thought. Rodney might actually make it through this.
From behind them, Teyla spoke, surprising him. “Rodney, I have an idea. I did not understand everything you said, but I heard you mention that the cause of the radiation is probably a power source of some kind.”
Rodney nodded, and Teyla continued, “If we find the power source, might you not remove it and then we can take it back with us? That way Doctor Keller could perform the surgery in the safety of Atlantis.”
Everyone stared at Teyla in shock, and then Rodney grinned widely. “You are a genius! Not as smart as me of course, but then who is? I could kiss you right now.”
Ronon felt the same way. If this worked he would owe Teyla, and Keller as well, for the rest of his life.
“Wait,” Keller interrupted. “The radiation is still dangerous. We need to make sure that we can handle that kind of exposure.”
Sheppard asked, “Will we have enough time to get back to Atlantis before it does permanent damage?”
Keller shrugged. “I can’t say for certain until we find it, but I think so. If we don’t find it, I will have to perform surgery here.”
Ronon felt a new stab of fear for Rodney, but he ignored it. Rodney would be fine. There was no other possible outcome. He wouldn’t allow it.
“Fine, fine,” Rodney said with a wave of his hand. “You get what you need, and if this doesn’t work, I’ll let you operate on me in a dark damp germ-infested cave. Happy?”
Everyone nodded, and Sheppard volunteered to get what Keller needed. She made him a list, and he and Teyla went back to the Jumper.
Meanwhile, Rodney was scanning the stone column. He bent down to feel along the bottom. “I think the radiation is actually coming from underneath this thing,” he said. “Ronon, help me cut away some of this vegetation.”
Ronon got out his knife and got to work.
When it was clear, Rodney lay down on his stomach feeling along the bottom with his fingers. “There should be an opening here if I can just find it. Ah ha! I feel something here like a depression in the stone. Everyone step back.” They others complied, but Ronon didn’t listen, instead he moved closer to Rodney just in case.
“Here goes nothing,” Rodney said and pressed down. The whole cavern began to shake and then the Shrine began to sink into the ground. Rodney almost lost his footing, but Ronon caught him and pulled him back away from the hole that had opened in the floor revealing a staircase.
“See, I knew it. I knew there had to be more to this place,” Rodney crowed in triumph. Ronon found himself smiling at his lover’s enthusiasm even as he fought the urge to roll his eyes. Rodney made a move to start down, but Ronon pulled him back.
Ronon took out his blaster. “I’ll go first,” he said sternly. Rodney glared at him but agreed. Rodney went over to his pack and pulled out a flashlight. He saw Keller doing the same from hers.
He looked over at a very anxious Jeannie. “You stay here and wait for Sheppard and Teyla. If there’s any trouble yell.” Jeannie nodded.
Ronon started down, and when he reached the bottom, it was pitch black. He moved the light around and turned to Rodney and Keller, who were just behind him. “Any idea what we’re looking for?”
There was a large console in one corner. Rodney looked down at his tablet and pointed towards it. “The energy seems to be coming from over there.”
They walked over to the console, and Rodney began working on it. “I think this is Ancient technology, but it seems to predates Atlantis. This is amazing.”
Ronon thought that if Sheppard were here, he’d make some sort of pun. There wasn’t much he could do so he just watched Rodney do his thing. After some poking, Rodney managed to get the terminal up and running and suddenly the room flooded with light. Ronon and Keller turned off their flashlights.
Ronon looked around. They were in a large cavern. Other than the walls being made of stone, it looked similar to every Ancient lab he’d ever seen. Creepily clean and well preserved. The only difference was that the technology was obviously more primitive than what they were used to.
Rodney was busy reading the screen and making all kinds of excited noises. They sounded very similar to the noises Rodney made during sex, and despite the urgency of the situation, Ronon felt himself responding. He clamped down on it tightly. It wasn’t the right time, but he wasn’t ashamed. It was Rodney making those noises after all, and Ronon was only human.
“It looks like this used to be a research outpost,” Rodney said excitedly. “They were doing genetics research and animal experimentation. Including the Iratus bug.” Rodney made a disgusted face. “Apparently there used to be a large population of them on this planet. I need to save some of this.”
Ronon was glad Rodney was excited, but they were here for an important reason. He needed to get Rodney back on track. “The power source first, remember?” he prodded.
“Oh, I found that already,” Rodney assured him. “The schematic is in here, and it looks like a more primitive version of the ZPM, only it uses a different form of power. One I haven’t seen before. Just let me record some of this before we remove it.”
Rodney looked at Ronon pleadingly. “It might help fight the Wraith,” he added with a slight smirk. There was a glint in his eye. He knew he had Ronon.
Ronon wanted to kiss the expression of Rodney’s face. He looked over at where Keller was facing away from them, looking at a panel on a wall nearby. He leaned forward and stole a quick kiss. Rodney gave him on of his special smiles.
“You’re going to owe me for this,” Ronon teased.
Rodney raised one eyebrow. “Really? What exactly will I owe you?”
“I’m not sure, but I know blow jobs will be involved. Once you’re well, I’m not letting you out of our bed for a week,” Ronon growled and kissed Rodney again. Rodney shivered in reaction.
When Rodney pulled back, he was breathless but he looked at Ronon seriously. “I might still die-“ he began.
Ronon shook his head. “You’ll be fine. We both have to believe that.”
Rodney looked into his eyes and nodded determinedly in agreement before turning back to his work.
“You have until Sheppard and Teyla get back okay?”
Rodney nodded. Satisfied, Ronon settled down to wait.
After another fifteen minutes, he heard someone coming down the steps. He took out his blaster and aimed it at the intruder. When he saw Sheppard, he lowered his weapon in acknowledgment.
“Did he find it?” Sheppard asked
“Yes, and a lot of other information, too. He wants to take it all back with us. I told him he had until you got back.”
Sheppard called out, “Rodney get the power source and let’s go.”
Rodney looked over his shoulder. “Just a few more minutes. There a lot of data here and this is a Wraith controlled planet. We might not be able to come back,” he protested.
“No, Rodney now,” Sheppard commanded. “Don’t you want to get that thing out of your brain as soon as possible?”
“Of course I do,” Rodney said indignantly. He looked over at Ronon who nodded encouragingly. With a sigh and a glare, Rodney complied. He pushed a few buttons, and a chamber opened up at the bottom of the terminal revealing what looked like a crystal a little bit larger than a ZPM.
Keller came over and looked at the readings as Rodney scanned it. “The radiation levels have risen a bit, but we should be okay long enough to get back to Atlantis and perform the surgery.”
Rodney grabbed his tablet and removed the power source carefully. Instantly everything went pitch dark again.
Ronon led the way back upstairs to find Jeannie and Teyla had everything ready to go. When Rodney reached the top of the stairs, he swayed almost dropping the module. Ronon reached out to steady him.
Keller came over quickly, but Rodney waved her away. “I’m alright. Just tired,” he assured.
“Your body’s been through a lot, and this trip has been too much activity given your frail health. I brought a stretcher with me. I think you should let us carry you to the Jumper. Save up your energy for the surgery.”
Rodney objected, but when he saw the serious looks on everyone’s faces he quickly agreed.
The group began the journey back to the Jumper as quickly as they could, Rodney still clutching the ancient power source in his hands.
They reached the Jumper in record time, and the ride back to the gate was accomplished in tense silence. Ronon was sure everyone else could feel the worry and anticipation in the air.
They weren’t even through the gate before Keller was requesting an emergency medical team and that an operating room be prepared.
As soon as the Jumper landed in the bay, Keller whisked Rodney away. Ronon walked by his side, holding his hand, but neither of them spoke. When they reached the operating room, Keller told him to wait, and Ronon helplessly watched Rodney disappear through the doors.
There was nothing to do but wait, and Ronon hated waiting. He hated feeling so helpless.
It was the longest hour of his life. Many of their friends on Atlantis wandered in and out, offering support as they all waited for news, but Ronon paid them no real attention. There was only one person he wanted to see.
Finally, Keller came through the door. There was a big smile on her face, and Ronon felt like he could breathe for the first time since Rodney had gotten sick.
“He’s going to be fine, Ronon. The parasite is out and it looks like there’s no permanent damage.”
Ronon felt lightheaded with happiness and relief. Without thinking he reached over and pulled Keller into a hug. “Thanks,” he said, sincerely, letting her go. “Can I see him?”
“He’s in recovery, but you can go and wait for him. It’ll be awhile before we move him.”
Ronon grinned happily and decided to visit their quarters first, there was something he needed to get.
Ronon sat at Rodney’s bedside for most of the night while his lover slept off the effects of surgery. He wanted to make sure he was there when Rodney woke up. He wanted to be the first thing Rodney saw. Ronon had some important things he needed to say, and he didn’t want to wait. He marveled at his own lack of nervousness. Truthfully, he had never been so sure of anything in his life.
Ronon was watching Rodney’s face, so he saw the moment those blue eyes opened.
“Hi,” Ronon said softly.
Rodney turned toward him at the sound of his voice. “Hey, I’m still alive. Imagine that. Did Jennifer get the parasite? Am I okay?”
Ronon pressed his fingers against Rodney’s lips. He felt a huge smile spread across his face as he replied, “She got it. You’re going to be fine. Are you in any pain?”
Rodney shook his head.
“I’m supposed to call the doctor now, but I wanted to talk to you first if that’s okay.”
Rodney nodded, but he looked confused. “Is something wrong?”
“No, everything’s fine. There’s just something I want to ask you. Don’t talk, just let me get this out.”
Rodney nodded and made a ‘go ahead’ gesture.
“Rodney, I love you so much, and when I realized you were dying, I felt like I was dying, too. Before Atlantis, before you, I was alone for a very long time. My life was nothing but fear and death. You helped to change things for the better. When I realized I was going to have to live without you, it was one of the most devastating moments of my life.”
He reached for Rodney’s hand and wove their fingers together. Rodney watched him intently.
Ronon continued on. “Having you here with me, healthy and whole, is like a miracle, and I’m not going to waste any more time. You are everything to me. It’s because of you that I know how good life can really be. I never want to have to imagine my life without you again.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small velvet box. He felt hope and anticipation flutter in his chest.
Rodney saw it and gasped.
“You agreed to let me court and win you in the ways of my people, and now I’d like us to be joined in the eyes of your people as well.” Ronon opened the box to reveal the ring within. “Will you marry me?” he asked.
Rodney gaped at him in shock. Ronon began to get nervous but then a huge smile broke across Rodney’s face and he was nodding enthusiastically. He reached for Ronon at the same time as he said, “Yes! Of course. Don’t be an idiot.”
Ronon laughed in pure joy, only his Rodney would insult someone while accepting their marriage proposal. He leaned down and kissed Rodney gently.
“I love you,” Rodney murmured.
Ronon didn’t know how he’d gotten so lucky. He didn’t know what the future would hold, but now he and Rodney had the rest of their lives to find out. He knew that together they could face anything.