A/N: Here is the final chapter. After all, several years is more than enough time to wait for it. Enjoy!

Lorne remembered his first mission with McKay. It was in fact his first real mission in the Pegasus Galaxy. At the time, he couldn't understand how Colonel Sheppard, who even in that short time he had come to genuinely like, could stand to be around the obnoxious, irritating, arrogant, and altogether frustrating scientist.

As time went by, he realized that McKay genuinely was useful in the field for his scientific insight and abilities as well as in the city itself. Furthermore, he was a lot more brave than Lorne had ever thought possible when the chips are down.

He had watched McKay with Sheppard and had realized that not only did Sheppard have McKay on his team due to his usefulness, but that they were genuinely friends as well. Once again Lorne faced an enigma: how could military leader and all around likeable guy Sheppard be friends with the arrogant and caustic geek Rodney.

Over time, he had begun to understand it some, but the devastating picture he had seen right after they had restrained Canton spelled out what Sheppard saw in McKay more than anything he had seen yet.

Sheppard's body and head had been protected from all the chaos and danger by Rodney having covered him with his own body. He had even used his arm with its cast to shield not his own head, but Colonel Sheppard's.

This had meant that the bullet let off by Canton hit McKay instead of Sheppard, which is probably the only reason that the medical team had a reason to work on Sheppard now: a sobering and scary thought. Sheppard's previous injuries had been worsened and along with the loss of blood he clearly had an infection. However, all but his legs and been protected from the bombardment from the explosion. McKay's actions had protected Sheppard's vulnerable areas: at a cost to McKay's own wellbeing.

Luckily, McKay's injury was not as bad as Lorne had first thought. Of course, for a moment, Lorne had thought McKay was dead so that only meant so much.

McKay had been shot and his entire body had been barraged with small debris. None of the debris caused any major injury, but there were scrapes and cuts and later there would be bruises all over his body from them. The gunshot, on the other hand, had bled a lot and McKay had been unresponsive. Still, the medics were getting the bleeding under control and would be rushing to give him surgery as soon as possible to remove the bullet before it could cause more damage. McKay would be okay, eventually.

Lorne saw Carson look up from examining Sheppard and say, "He's stable. Let's get them both ta the medical bay now." A flurry of motion followed and soon both McKay and Sheppard disappeared with the medics in a rush.

Knowing that Carson had things under control for both Sheppard and McKay, and he would only be in the way if he lingered near them, Lorne turned to Canton who had only received minor injuries in the explosion, but was currently being glared at by a particularly angry Satedan. Although Ronon had refrained from touching Canton, Lorne had overheard him whispering that he better hope both men survived.

The way he said it had sent chills up and down Lorne's spine and though Canton had sounded emotionless during the conversation with Sheppard that they had overheard in the control room, Canton had noticeably paled and seemed to draw away from the angry man. Lorne, never one to waste the talents of the people around him, asked Ronon if he would like to help the two guards "escort" Canton to the brig.

Canton, though trying to hide it, obviously was fearful of the Satedan that he knew did not have the same qualms as the rest of the military on Atlantis. Still, Lorne knew that as long as Sheppard and Rodney stayed alive, Ronon wouldn't actually touch him. He had too much respect for Sheppard's wishes and leadership for that.

Although Lorne knew, even as Ronon stalked behind Canton as he was led away, that if they died, Lorne would be unable to stop Ronon from any vengeance he saw fit.

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Rodney felt himself pleasantly drifting in what seemed like a warm haze. The agonizing pain he had had in his side was a distant memory replaced with a soothing numbness. However, even in the wonderful bliss he was in, there was a discordant note like a buzzing fly that was continually bombarding Rodney's senses.

"Rodney, Rodney, come on lad. I nee ye ta wake up."

Rodney tried to ignore the irritating noise, but as it persisted he voiced his displeasure with a grunt that was to be interpreted as "GO AWAY."

Yet, apparently the voice did not speak grunts for it continued with, "Rodney, I nee ye ta open yer eyes."

Rodney gave the annoying noise, which he now realized was a voice, all the response he thought it deserved.

"Grmph."

Apparently the voice wasn't very impressed with that response as it still refused to stop. Realizing that the voice wouldn't stop until he obeyed it; he opened his eyes reluctantly. Thankfully the lights were dim, which allowed him to glare at the evil sadistic smiling face above him.

"Aye, that's much better." The face said as he stabbed Rodney's eye with a bright light.

Immediately, Rodney slammed his eyes shut as he began to consider ways he could make sure the evil man with the light was thrown into a black hole. Try to shine your light in that! He thought gleefully.

"Rodney, I still nee ta check yer other eye!"

You want me to willingly allow you to torture me with your piercing light! Rodney thought incredulously.

Spitefully, he shut his eyes extra tight. Yet, apparently the voice was more than ready to deal with that.

"Rodney," it said sternly in a tone that promised dire consequences if it was not obeyed, "If ye don' open yer eyes, I will find reasons ta draw yer blood every week for the next year!"

Somehow Rodney just knew the voice would follow through on the threat and reluctantly opened his eyes once again and was rewarded with the sharp light piercing his other eye. Rodney let out an articulate groan as he slowly blinked away the spots that formed in his eyes.

"How is he doing?" a softer voice asked the first.

"His eyes are reacting normally. I prophesy a full recovery."

Realizing the voices were talking about him and not appreciating that at all. He turned his eyes to glare at the two faces connected to the voices.

The softer voice, Teyla, his mind supplied, laughed softly and said, "I simply wonder if the rest of us will survive his recovery as well."

Carson laughed, while Rodney tried to decide which of the uncaring individuals he should glare more pointedly at first. However, this thought was interrupted as he noticed for the first time that John was occupying the bed to his side. He clearly was asleep, but his face showed no signs of pain and he did not look either pale or overly flushed with fever.

"How's Sheppard?" Rodney garbled out finally finding a reason to force himself to form actual words.

At the sound, Teyla quickly spooned some heavenly ice chips into his mouth, while Carson quickly went into full doctor update mode.

"He's doin' well, son. Yer actions saved his life. If ye hadn't covered his body with yers, he would most certainly have been hit in his chest and his system would not have been able to cope with that additional stress even if it didn' hit something vital. Yer the hero of the hour."

"Fine, fine, I said how is he?" Rodney shot back. Although always one to take acclaim for his scientific efforts, he wasn't sure how to take genuine praise for risking his life for someone else.

"His body's exhausted, but the infection is responding ta the antibiotics. Like ye, he needed transfusions due to blood loss. He had started bleeding internally again as well as tearing his stiches. Some quick surgery, though and a redo of the stiches, and he is once again on the mend. As long as he listens ta medical advice this time, he will be fine. Just like ye I might add."

Rodney grunted at this as despite the beautiful warm comforting feeling the drugs were surely giving him, he considered the fact he was also in the medical bay and that maybe he should get some information on his own condition as well.

"So...for what exactly did I need your services this time?"

"Well, ye got shot in the side and we had ta give ye surgery to remove the bullet before it caused more internal damage. Ye have bruises all over your back, legs, and arms as well as some cuts thanks ta yer explosion, but like I've been informed ye said, ye made the explosion more show than destructive. Yer broken arm, amazingly received no additional damage. All in all, ye are going ta be great. Though that is if ye listen ta me and don' overdo it because 'I have this important discovery and all the other scientists are idiots.'"

"I have never said that to get out of the infirmary!" Rodney said in outrage even as Teyla began laughing.

"Aye," replied the evil doctor with a grin, "Ye just used it as yer excuse when you collapsed after overdoing it and were deposited back in the infirmary."

As memories of that particular incident crossed his mind, Rodney decided it was the better part of valor to retreat and change the subject.

"So, where is Ronon?"

"He is with Sheppard, but I know he will want to see himself that you are better later," Teyla said with a warm smile as she thought about the fact even those two, whom everyone else on Atlantis thought had nothing in common, had come to care about each other in their own ways.

"Hmmm," Rodney sighed as he felt the pull of sleep that he had been fighting off became even stronger.

"Rest now, Rodney," Carson said as he dimmed the lights in this section of the infirmary.

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Several days later, John was sitting up in his bed, under strict orders not to even think of moving, contemplating the conversation he had had with Lt. Kevin Carver the man Canton had drugged. The drugs Carver had been injected with affected his memory more than John would have thought possible from simple drugs. Carver couldn't remember anything that had happened not only right before he was attacked, but for the entirety of the last month.

Despite the fact that Carver didn't remember guarding Sheppard and had been attacked himself, he still felt that he had let his CO down. John on the other hand, felt guilty that Carver had lost a month of memories due to being drugged while guarding him.

So, the conversation between them had started out very awkwardly. However, the genuine concern both men felt for the other soon helped them over the awkwardness.

John was happy to inform Carver that his two months of leave had been approved. Both he and his fiancé, Teuila, would be returning to Earth for him to recoup and recover completely. Carver was thrilled at the thought of seeing his family and introducing them in person to his love. But, Carver had made it clear he was also happy that he would be welcomed back to Atlantis afterwards.

John smiled as he thought how lucky he was to have men and women such as Carver under his command at Atlantis. He hoped that Carver's time on Earth as well as the travel time on the Daedalus, would give him the time he needs to recover from losing so many memories. Though, he knew that with Teuila Carver was in good hands.

John's thoughts were interrupted when Ronon wheeled Rodney into the section of the infirmary John had been confined to. Although released from the infirmary and allowed to sleep in his own bed, except for short walks, i.e. from bed to the bathroom, Carson wanted Rodney to remain in a wheelchair until his side had healed up a bit more to ensure that Rodney didn't stress it and cause any stiches to tear.

John smiled as he saw that Rodney looked much better than either of the last times he had seen him. The one being for a few seconds before he himself passed out after Rodney's laptop explosion and the other before Rodney was released from the infirmary when John himself was just finally beginning to stay fully awake for more than ten minutes at a time.

Although they had, as usual, had the beds beside each other in the infirmary, it seemed that life was conspiring against them for whenever the one was awake, it seemed inevitably the other was asleep, so they had not really talked at all. Of course, considering how much they had been sleeping those first days, especially John, it really wasn't that surprising.

Carson had told him that it was his body's way of telling him, "Yer a complete idiot who over did it, and now, I, as yer body am taking the decision making away from ye for yer own good."

"So, how is life outside these prison walls?" asked John as Ronon, who he had talked with last night, parked Rodney beside John before nodding at John and leaving the room in what John was sure was a hunt for another sparring partner.

The infirmary had practically a revolving door for soldiers that Ronon had taken his tension out on under the guise of "friendly sparring."

"The entertainment is much better out there as everyone is reacting to the fact you are not in fact an awful, accident causing human being, but the food is much better here in the infirmary. Also, Elizabeth told me to tell you that Canton has been transferred to the Daedalus and it will be taking off for Earth tomorrow morning."

"Good. And, how are people taking everything that has happened?"

"Well, as you know, Elizabeth made that big announcement that you were being attacked by a member of the Trust and that you were not responsible for any of the "accidents" that had occurred. She also made it clear that she as well as the rest of the command team had become aware of it, but had kept up the ruse only to draw out the attacker to ensure the safety of both you and everyone on Atlantis. She then went on to commend you yadda, yadda, yadda."

John smiled at Rodney's overdrawn theatrics throughout this, but then gestured for him to continue and get to the point he wanted: i.e. how the people of Atlantis were taking the fact that John was neither unstable nor out to destroy Atlantis.

"Well, in quick summary form, as given to me by Teyla and Lorne, most who have been here for a while, are victorious and holding the fact that they were right over the heads of others, and the others who were here for a while and doubted you have definitely been expressing feelings of shame. The new recruits who came in doubting you, have definitely rethought their views for the most part. However, Lorne also said, that some of them will probably need more time before they are fully on your side. In any case, for the sake of their own wellbeing, Ronon has been on a rampage recently, the new goons are doing better at keeping it under wraps."

"Wow, I can't believe you actually talked to Teyla and Lorne about this. It's surprising."

"Don't be too surprised. Both of them are tied up in meetings today, and they knew I would be coming here and they wanted me to pass on the information. Apparently, they felt that if left to me, you would have only learned that I have been saying, 'I told you so,' to any idiots who I even thought might have doubted you."

John laughed heartily before grabbing his side as it pulled on still healing wounds.

Catching his breath, John said with the smile still present, "Don't make me laugh."

Rodney, after realizing that John was indeed fine, smiled like the cat who ate the canary when he said, "And the best part, is that all my minions are in awe of my 'selfless, heroic actions in saving your life.'"

"Are you sure they are not just shocked that you did something against your own self-preservation?" responded John with a grin that belied any ill intent with his words.

"Nope, definitely in awe. They also are amazed, as are some of the military monkeys, by my superb acting skills when confronting Canton without letting him know that I was part of a plan."

"Right, acting skills. I could tell you were genuinely terrified to be in the room with him. It had nothing to do with acting."

"Of course you thought I was terrified. I was acting terrified. That is what acting is. Pretending to have an emotion, in this case terror, so people think you genuinely think you are feeling that way."

John shook his head with a slight smirk knowing that Rodney never would admit to the fact he was terrified. Although, it wasn't like John was about to admit he was, so he figured he should just let it slide.

"Speaking of you coming in with a plan…I…uh…haven't had a chance to thank you for it. I've been informed by many that not only did you take a bullet for me, but you also came up with the plan. So…ummm…you know…thanks."

John's awkwardness was only matched by Rodney's own at his words.

"Well, you know…we…uh…take turns…and…it was…mine…"

Both were silent as they couldn't think of anything else to say in the awkwardness that fell upon them.

Thankfully, they were interrupted by Carson.

"Ah, I should have known ye would have been back, Rodney, seeing as John is still here. Any trouble with pain since ye left?"

"No, of course not. I, unlike a certain Colonel, have been following your advice and taking my medication. I am a model patient and citizen."

John stuck his tongue out at Rodney while Carson wasn't looking, but otherwise kept silent. It was mostly true after all. Rodney was usually better at following medical orders than John was.

Carson just shook his head, before turning to John. "I actually came over here ta let ye know that I looked over yer last blood tests, and I feel confident I will be able ta release ye ta bed rest in yer room tomorrow. Provided that ye follow my directions as well as Rodney here claims ta."

John's face lit up at the prospect before nodding at Carson. "After the past few weeks, I can promise that I will be a model patient as well."

"I'm glad ta hear it."

At that moment, Rodney's watch beeped.

"I have to go. A test I was running just finished."

"What do ye mean, test?" demanded Carson. "I thought ye told me ye were following all my orders including the ones about resting and not working?"

"Oh…it was a…test...on a game! Totally non work related. Absolutely a resting activity. You know, nothing to do with Atlantis!" replied the suddenly agitated scientist who was currently demonstrating some horrible acting skills as he began to rapidly wheel his wheelchair away from the suddenly irate medical professional.

"Bye, Sheppard, I'll see you later," was his hasty goodbye as he rushed from the room.

"That man truly is the end all," said Carson with a hint of a smile peeking out behind the glare that was firmly attached to the figure rapidly leaving the infirmary. John simply smiled contentedly, glad for once to have the head medic's ire directed firmly at Rodney instead of himself.

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Lorne entered the room that was Sheppard's office on Atlantis. It was a room that he had seldom been in thanks to the fact that Sheppard himself avoided it whenever possible. However, thanks to Carson's strict orders about light duty and resting, John had discovered it was one of the safest places to hide out as few would even think to look for him there.

Lorne himself wouldn't have thought to look for Sheppard there. He only knew that was where his CO was thanks to Sheppard radioing him to come here to catch him up on all that was going on at Atlantis as well as update him on the latest, unfortunate report on Canton. Of course, from the way that Sheppard had told him to meet him there, you would have thought it was a deeply clandestine meeting.

"Did anyone follow you?" was Sheppard's first question as he leaned back in his rolling chair and had his feet up on his desk.

"No. You're safe from Dr. Beckett and all his 'lackeys' as you put it."

"Thanks. I've been following orders, but everyone seems to either doubt that fact or look at me as if I am currently dying."

"You did come pretty close, sir."

John shrugged as if he didn't understand why that made people act weird around him currently, but quickly focused on his goal.

"What happened with Canton?"

"Colonel Caldwell reported that a few days after he had been transferred onto the Daedalus for transport back to Earth, he was found dead in his cell. Apparently, he got ahold of cyanide and decided he would rather not be questioned at the SGC."

"Classic method of suicide. Any idea how he got it?"

"Officially, no. Unofficially, it looks like there is another member of the Trust on the Daedalus."

"Did we get anything from Canton before he was transferred?"

"We didn't get any names, but we did get confirmation that the Trust was behind him. Between what he did say and the search Zelenka and McKay did on all his computer equipment we were able to piece together a few things. Although he did not have a scientific background, he was extremely smart and capable. Apparently, he was contacted/recruited shortly after his wife died. During the time he was on leave dealing with her death, he was trained in computers and how to set up the sorts of 'accidents' he did. He also had been given a bunch of algorithms for more in depth things that were hidden deeply on his computer. From what we gathered, apparently, he felt he had nothing to live for after his wife died and the Trust took advantage of that. They saw a man that was extremely capable and intelligent that they could quickly train."

John felt a quick sense of pity for the man as he had also once felt that he had nothing to live for and understood how vulnerable that made you. Though, the fact that Rodney almost died twice because of Canton, as well as himself, definitely tempered any pity he felt towards the man.

"We will definitely need to be on guard for the Trust after this."

Lorne nodded, knowing that he along with the military on Atlantis were committed to not just that, but also the continued protection of Sheppard. They had his back.

After a moment of silence, John said, "You've done a great job handling everything, and I wanted to thank you for taking down Canton and helping protect me."

"Well, Colonel, what can I say, I really don't want to be stuck with your job and keeping you alive is the best way to do that. Second in command has a lot less paperwork and I usually don't have to deal with the bureaucracy of a civilian complex with a large military element. If I didn't want your job before, I can most certainly say after the number of civilian-military verbal fights I have had to break up while you have been out of commission I certainly don't want it now."

"Yeah, those are definitely things I have not missed with Carson's forced rest."

Lorne then preceded to update Sheppard on all the "wonderful" things he had missed while under Dr. Beckett's watchful thumb. Lorne smiled as he saw Sheppard clearly relaxing as he realized that everything on Atlantis truly was getting back to normal.

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It was a bright day without a cloud in the sky and once again everyone was gathering on the pier. Everywhere Elizabeth looked she saw smiling, relaxed faces and after the tense weeks, she felt her own smile widen at the sight of them. The shimmering water before her made her relax further as she rejoiced in the fact that Atlantis had not been permanently altered by the terrifying events that had happened. Both John and Rodney were in good health once again, and the people on Atlantis were more united once again; a fact Elizabeth greatly rejoiced in. She had feared that bad feelings would remain as people had sided with or against John.

Luckily, that had not been the case. Probably helped along by John himself.

Elizabeth's thoughts were interrupted as she felt Carson walk up behind her.

"I have ta admit," he said with a smile, "at first I was surprised that ye let John talk ye into this."

Elizabeth laughed softly, "Well, he was persistent; besides, he was right. Look at everyone. They are more relaxed than I've seen anyone since this whole mess began. John was right, everyone needed a fun day to boost morale."

"Aye, as a doctor, I agree. A morale booster is exactly what I would have prescribed and today is a perfect day for it."

Elizabeth nodded and smiled before both of their gazes focused on the jumpers that were lined up as if for a race, which was exactly what it was. Though of course, John had hailed it as "an opportunity to test jumper speed and maneuverability as well as ensure that the pilots had a better idea of what their ships could handle for when they were in the field."

Elizabeth shook her head with a smile even as she realized that there was indeed some truth to it.

"So, I heard that Rodney is actually the pilot with John as his copilot for this race."

"Yes, John said that he earned it after having saved his life and all." Elizabeth kept her other thought to herself that John was afraid of jinxing himself as it was an event like this that had started the whole mess. Shaking her head as if trying to rid herself of the guilt that the thought caused her, she added, "Besides, I think he believes it will help make the race more fair than if he was simply piloting himself as he is well known as the best jumper pilot on Atlantis even if he and Lorne like to argue about it."

"Aye, I can't even imagine tryin' ta do some of what he pulls off on a regular basis."

Elizabeth's response was interrupted as she heard each of the pilots radio in that they were in position. Smiling, she gave the signal over the radio for the race to begin and the jumpers were off.

Of course, officially, in all the paperwork that was sent back to SGC later, a test of jumper speed and maneuverability had occurred this day and it was reported in the most clinical and tedious of language giving no hint that Major Lorne had out raced the other pilots, while Dr. McKay, with Sheppard as his copilot, had managed to snatch third place. It also left out the ribbing that resulted between all of the pilots and copilots following the match. It did, however, include a small line that it was discovered that the puddle jumpers could fly upside down at top speeds without crashing…even if being piloted by scientists such as McKay. Of course, that had been a genuine accident.

THE END

A/N: So, ends this journey that took much longer than it should. For any of you who decided to finish it, you have my sincere thanks and promise I won't publish a story that is not already finished being written.