Dynamics by sastmk (OutOfLuck)
Art posted with permission from the artist
The Dynamics of Us
John flopped down on the bed naked, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. Rodney was taking his time drying off after the shower, and he'd be sure to complain that John's haphazard attempt at the same lead to damp sheets, but John was too distracted to care. He was still riding the high of three of the best damn orgasms of his life.
Teyla and Ronon's visit to the mainland had resulted in some private time off for John and Rodney, and they'd unanimously agreed to spend it in bed, together, doing all those things they had verbally teased each other with over the course of the day. Rodney's low, husky voice did things to John he'd never admit, because Rodney really didn't need one more weapon in his arsenal of turning John into a hot, horny mess.
Sex with Rodney was all kinds of amazing on a regular basis, but this night had definitely been one for the books. Every inch of John's skin tingled, as if it could still recall Rodney's touch, his mouth still tasted of Rodney, and despite being completely sated and exhausted, a part of him was still yearning for more.
Come to think of it, Rodney had gone pretty Alpha this time. Usually Rodney wanted John to fuck him—they only did it the other way around when Rodney was close to his rut which should be months away. Lately they'd been having sex more often too. Not that John minded in the least, and he got plenty out of it even if he was just a Beta. Still, something had been different, more intense.
John raised his hands to the ceiling, spreading his fingers wide, and stared at them. Touching Rodney had felt different too, in a slightly weird but fantastic way—like a small current of electricity had run between them. He'd enjoyed it, but a seed of concern had lodged itself at the back of his mind, waiting until John had a chance to examine the source of it.
"At least you had the decency to leave one side of the bed dry," Rodney noted wryly, interrupting John's thoughts as he crawled in next to him, careful not to hit any of the cold, water stained spots. John grinned, but barely huffed a reply. They were already turning into an old married couple after just six months of being together. Although, that didn't include the seven or so weeks they'd spent just having sex and pretending that's all they were after. The one saving grace of the dangers they faced was that they soon made you realize you didn't have forever to dance around the truth.
John glanced over at Rodney, just enough to see him sprawl over the bed on his belly, naked in the warmth of the room and sighing contentedly like a cat settling to sleep on a sunny porch. John smiled, pretty happy and content himself, and turned his attention back to his hands. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, there wasn't even a hint of anything blue or scaly.
In the few months since Ellia's bite and the freakish conversion he'd had plenty of nightmares about it happening again, despite Carson repeatedly assuring John there wasn't a trace of bug DNA left in his body. Waking up next to Rodney helped. John had missed him during the transformation, but the Alpha in Rodney and the bug in John hadn't cared much for each other. John wouldn't have forgiven himself if he'd hurt Rodney. But tonight the strangeness had been nothing like that creepy feeling of something slithering inside his spine. Instead of repelling, it invited John to touch.
Out of curiosity, John rolled over to his side and placed one hand on Rodney's conveniently exposed and deliciously round rump, sliding it over the warm skin and flesh that he'd dug his fingers into not too long ago as Rodney had pounded into him. The unusual sensation was still there, tiny sparks of pleasure filling John's palm and making him shiver—as did the low moan from Rodney that shifted into a muffled growl when John's fingers swept over the crease of his ass.
"Seriously?" Rodney groaned, but didn't stop him, "I know you have more stamina than I do but this is getting ridiculous, another round is going to kill me. And I need a minimum of four hours of sleep if I'm going to remain upright tomorrow." John chuckled and continued his exploration of Rodney, fascinated by how it felt. He idly thought that maybe he should worry about how his own stamina as well, but that was forgotten when Rodney let out another moan, longer and more needy, spreading his legs wider so John's fingers could roam between them. Contrary to his complaint, Rodney's cock was already swelling fast and peeking out from under him. This would indeed turn out to a record busting night.
John reached for Rodney's cock, caressing the silky skin, passing his fingers over the half hidden head. His insides were still faintly throbbing from before, but hardly unpleasantly. More like his ass just couldn't get enough of Rodney. John wanted Rodney inside him again, filling him, taking all of him, claiming him. The desire for it grew so fast that soon John couldn't fit another thought in, let alone realize that maybe this should have scared the hell out of him. But it didn't.
There was a scent in the air, warm, spicy, dizzying. John instinctively leaned into it, nuzzling the crook of Rodney's neck, rubbing his skin against Rodney's to make that scent stick to his own, and the act was both immensely satisfying and incredible arousing. Rodney languidly turned over, his mouth seeking John's jaw, licking the line of it, scraping it with his teeth on his way down John's neck. John's whole body shuddered with anticipation, and he reflexively lifted his head to give Rodney more room.
"Do it, please," John whispered, husky, greedy, yet not really sure what he was even begging for.
As soon as he said it Rodney froze, leaving only his hot breath caressing the place that should be in exquisite pain by now. Then he violently shoved John away and scrambled out of the bed, retreating to the far end of the room where he remained, staring at John with pure horror.
"You need to leave. Now." Rodney told him, quietly, but very sternly. John was too stunned to react. He couldn't understand why he'd been rejected, or why it hurt so much he almost couldn't breathe. Something was wrong with him.
"Leave!" Rodney screamed at him, with all the authority an Alpha could unleash, and by some miracle the sharp tone of his voice reached the last sane corned of John's mind and he fled, running blindly out of the door like the devil was on his tail.
Something was impossibly wrong.
As soon as the door closed behind John's naked back, Rodney collapsed to his knees, shaking, panting. He could still smell it in the air, the sweet, fragrant, almost irresistibly inviting scent of an Omega, unlike any Rodney had encountered. In spite of the vigorous sex they'd had not too long ago, his whole body ached and yearned to mate, in the all too familiar way that signalled the onset of a rut. It was too strong, too early, and could have only been initiated by prolonged proximity to an Omega close to or in heat. And as impossible as it seemed, there was no doubt that the source of that scent had been John. Even if he hadn't been under the influence of the rage of chemicals flooding his system, Rodney couldn't have explained what the hell had happened.
He had caught the scent on John once or twice before in the past weeks, faint, almost insignificant, easily ignored. Any of the resident Omegas could have easily transferred it onto John via an inadvertent touch. Or a deliberate one, Rodney thought with a fierce rush of jealousy, his heated blood shouting mine mine mine inside his veins, and Rodney hated it. He didn't want to own anyone, he had no right to no matter what his biology was trying to tell him. Right now, it was insisting that Rodney should find John, pin him down on the floor, fuck him hard, and sink his teeth into John's neck until he bled and submitted to his Alpha. Which even in Rodney's currently unstable opinion, and ignoring the fact that John was a Beta, was all kinds of wrong.
Slowly, fighting the haze in his head, Rodney crawled over to the nightstand and with shaking hands rummaged through the drawer for the emergency suppressants. He damn near picked the epinephrine pen instead—he really should learn to keep them in separate places—but finally managed to grab the correct autoinjector. Rodney climbed back into bed and stabbed the thing into his leg, releasing the drug, then curled up and waited for it to take effect. He loathed using the suppressants, they dulled his mind and senses too much, but he had to admit he was grateful for them now.
Then he slowly realized that John had just run out in a state far worse than Rodney's, without any clothes, and without any help for his condition.
Rodney remembered the abject terror of his first rut as a teenager, the fear of not being in control of yourself, the pain as the pressure to mate built up. He'd jerked off in secret until his skin was raw just because he was too embarrassed to tell anyone, and too afraid to go outside in search of help in case he ran into an Omega and ended up hurting them. Eventually his instincts had taken over anyway, and if it hadn't been for a chance meeting with a very astute and friendly Beta couple, who knows what would have happened.
John was alone too, suffering while dealing with something he was totally unprepared for.
The unpleasant numbness of the drugs started spreading into his body, allowing Rodney to shift his attention from just trying to remain lucid to what he needed to do to help John. Picking up the radio earpiece set atop the nightstand, Rodney calculated he could probably manage one call before he'd pass out, so he picked Radek. He'd get the message with the least amount of fuss, and would handle things discreetly, and hopefully swiftly.
John didn't know how far he'd been running along the dark corridors before his legs started to give out. At least by some twist of fate he'd avoided running into anyone, probably because subconsciously he kept taking turns that led farther away from the center of the city, and Rodney. With his final wobbly steps John aimed for the nearest wall and crumpled into a heap against it. He was naked, cold, and shaking from the exertion and shock, but now that he'd put some distance between him and Rodney he felt at least a bit better. The fog in his mind was fading too. He soon wished it hadn't.
The intrusion of truth was sickening, terrifying, and unreal. John felt like throwing up, and if that would have solved anything, he would have. Instead he fought it and kept everything down, simply because what he desperately needed right now was to be in control of himself and of his body again. There was something impossibly wrong with him, and he knew exactly what it was.
John been a designated Beta to a few Omegas, often enough to recognize the symptoms even if he'd never personally experienced them before. He'd gone into heat. Not yet full on, probably, if the descriptions he'd heard were anything to go by, but judging by Rodney's reactions and by how John felt this wasn't a mild case either. Rodney's rejection had left a terribly hollow pain in John's chest, but the rest of him was gradually catching on fire, craving, yearning, begging—but John wasn't going to just give in. Of all the fucking things to go wrong with his life, this had not been on John's top ten list but he'd dealt with worse. Like life sucking aliens, and almost turning into a bug.
Leaning his head against the wall, John closed his eyes and tried to slow his breathing down, then hugged his knees to his chest and forced his body to stop shaking. He should be heading for the infirmary, but John didn't have the strength to move yet. He had no radio with him either, so calling for help wasn't an option.
Suddenly John heard footsteps approaching, a determined and steady gait, and someone was talking quietly. For a second John considered making a run for it just in case the person was an Alpha, weak legs be damned, but as soon as John recognized the voice, he silently thanked his luck.
"I'm almost there, just keep the med team on standby at a suitable distance." John opened his eyes just in time to see Lorne round the corner and spot John. He'd clearly rushed here, since he wore pyjama pants and a t-shirt with his uniform jacket thrown over it, and no shoes. He had his radio though. "I'll call you if we need them, Lorne out."
Lorne stopped a few feet away from John. His hands were hanging loosely at his sides and his stance was purposefully relaxed to show he was no threat. Meaning he had assessed John's state to be unstable. He wasn't entirely wrong. "Colonel Sheppard, may I approach, sir?"
How very like him to treat John as a superior officer even in a situation like this. In some other circumstance John might have found that funny. He wanted to throw back a witty response, something to hide how vulnerable he felt at the moment, but the words wouldn't come.
"How's Rodney?" John asked instead. Lorne had to know, since only Rodney could have alerted anyone to what had happened, and instructed them to send a Beta after John.
"Sleeping it off, I assume," Lorne replied. He made no attempt to get closer, but his eyes were keenly on John. "According to Dr. Beckett he's taken emergency suppressants, and he'll be fine. Just needs to rest and wait it out. Dr. Zelenka will be staying with him for the time being."
"It's early," John remarked, half to himself. So he hadn't just imagined it, Rodney's scent, his response to John. The Alpha in Rodney had reacted to the Omega in John. Except that John was supposed to be a Beta, always had been. Until now, apparently. At least Rodney had another designated Beta besides John to rely on, and Radek was one of the few people who Rodney actually listened to.
"Yeah, that's what they told me," Lorne said, crouching down to John's level, smiling in that gentle way of his, but John could tell he was concerned. "But they weren't sure what happened to you." Not exactly a question, but the intent was there. Lorne just didn't want to pry for more information than John was willing to give. Yet talking to him seemed to help on some level, and John felt a little more composed. He'd always admired that quality about Lorne. John could make people feel relaxed with his laid back attitude, but Lorne actually made people feel at ease around him.
"Not really sure myself either," John replied, and laughed briefly. "One of the many wonders of the Pegasus galaxy perhaps."
"Why don't we let the Doc find out," Lorne asked. "Think you can walk?" He knew better than to offer a hand just yet.
"Give me a minute," John told him, and pushed himself up to his feet. He was swaying, but didn't fall. "I wouldn't hear the end of it if I had to be carried there like a princess." The attempt at humour was lame, but Lorne chuckled nonetheless.
"Unfortunately, I can't give you anything to help with the symptoms right now," Lorne said as he too stood up. "Doc said he can't risk using suppressants until he's sure they're not gonna do you more harm than good." He was looking at John expectantly, and after getting a nod of assent, Lorne walked up to him.
"Don't I just love being a special case," John sighed wearily. He was already a favourite amongst the scientists for his strong ATA gene, and this new development would only add fuel to the fire. Carson would be running so many tests on John he'd end up feeling like a human pin cushion afterwards.
"Sorry for not bringing any clothes either, had to leave in a hurry," Lorne said, smiling widely, like he always did. John wondered if it was hard for Lorne to keep acting like nothing too much out of the ordinary was happening, or if it all really came naturally to him.
Then Lorne removed his jacket and draped it around John's shoulders, careful not to touch him any more than was necessary. John still couldn't stop a soft moan from escaping his lips. The fabric against his skin felt so good, and he could sense Lorne's warmth and wanted to sink into it. That was all the invitation John's hypersensitive body needed to overtake his weakened mind again.
The heat hit back with a vengeance, and desire swallowed him whole. Lorne caught him before he fell, holding John up and against him, and it was too much to take—John's hands started frantically seeking skin, his mouth tried to taste it, but Lorne's arms around John were firm and tight so he couldn't move much. He still tried to grind his hips against the other man, desperate and too engulfed by the heat to have any shame.
"Please trust me," Lorne said softly and his words were calm, confident, reassuring, and though John barely heard them they washed over him soothingly. He trusted Lorne, with his life, couldn't he trust him with this? John felt a strong hand on his shoulder, sliding to where it met his neck. Lorne's fingers gently dug into the skin there, expertly finding a bundle of nerves that for a Beta meant nothing, but for an Omega in heat made the world melt in pleasure and bright colours. It wasn't nearly enough to satisfy the raw need of being claimed, but John still came so hard everything went white for a moment.
As the rush subsided, the heat fading into the background at least for now, John felt a whole lot better, and surprisingly unembarrassed. He'd been on the other side of this more than once, after all. You do what's necessary to help, and you make sure they know you wouldn't betray their trust in you. Lorne never would. So John simply rested his head on Lorne's shoulder, thoroughly exhausted. This wasn't something he could solve right now, so there was no point in even attempting.
"Should I call in the med team, sir?" Lorne asked, just as if John had suffered a minor injury in the field, nothing more, nothing less. "Two people, both Betas with appropriate training." Which was just a tactful way of saying they knew about the situation, and had experience in treating Omegas. There'd be no snide remarks about the mess John had made either. Trained Betas had their own code of ethics about these things.
"I think you'd better," John replied. He didn't have much choice, since his legs were done for. "Just make sure when Rodney wakes up, that they tell him that I'm fine." Maybe it wouldn't be the entire truth, but it would have to do until John had the chance to see Rodney face to face again. Before he could do that, John would have to do a lot of thinking. He'd miss having breakfast in bed together.
"Will do," Lorne replied and made the call.
"Shouldn't be this hard, it's all just chemistry," Rodney muttered to himself, and scraped the burned contents of the small frying pan into the trash, for the third time. He heard John turn off the shower—there wasn't much time left anymore. Rodney cursed quietly, and scraped faster. A genius like him should be able to make decent pancakes, especially since the batter was pre-made by people with more culinary talent.
Why he'd decided to make pancakes for breakfast in the first place, instead of just grabbing a tray and filling it with whatever the mess hall had to offer, was beyond him. Maybe he was sleep deprived after last night or something, or all that unbelievably hot sex had affected his brain in some weird way. Rodney hadn't gotten so thoroughly laid in years.
Whatever the case, while John had been out on his morning run, Rodney had made a dash for supplies and equipment—the mess hall staff had given him a few funny looks, and one very knowing grin, but had given him what he asked for anyway. The problem was that apparently Rodney just wasn't good at focusing on menial tasks like cooking. As critical to survival as eating was, Rodney would rather skip the preparation part of it and go straight for consumption so he could spend his time and energy elsewhere, but now the habit was working to his disadvantage.
He put the cleaned up pan back on the portable stove, and was just about to start his fourth attempt when John walked into the small alcove-made-kitchen. His surprise spoiled, Rodney's heart sank a little.
"Good morning," John greeted him warmly, wrapping his arms around Rodney's waist from behind and giving his cheek a quick kiss. He smelled of Rodney's shower gel and fresh peppermint, and by the feel of it had borrowed a pair of Rodney's sweatpants. Rodney had worn a pair too, and a sweatshirt. He felt a little hot in them, and they were covered in spattered grease and batter, but better the clothes than his skin.
"Good is a relative term," Rodney replied, and sighed deeply, but actually rather happily. It really had been an incredible night, if not the most successful morning. He switched the stove off and turned around to get a proper, toothpaste flavoured kiss, and John readily obliged. It was sweet, unhurried, and highly pleasurable.
"You know I didn't mean it literally when I asked if I can stay over for breakfast, right?" John said as he pulled away, grinning cheekily. There was a glint of hunger in his eyes, though it was a safe bet he yearned for something else than burned pancakes. It was that kind of look that had led to Rodney's downfall the previous evening. Not that it was uncommon for an Alpha to have a sexual, or sometimes even a romantic relationship with their designated Beta, but Rodney hadn't pictured it happening to him, or with John.
"No-one could have made that mistake, not with the way you said it," Rodney said, the tips of his ears heating up to match his already flushed face. By the time John had posed the question they had already shed most of their clothes, and speaking of things literal, John had already held Rodney by the balls. Now he had Rodney by the ass, his hands having drifted down from Rodney's waist to fondle what he had called one of Rodney's best features.
"So this is a special favour to me?" John asked in his irritatingly charming way while gently kneading flesh marked by the first stages of several finger shaped bruises, though to Rodney it seemed like there was an underlying layer to the inquiry. A hint of a serious wish.
"Maybe I just had a craving for pancakes this morning," Rodney replied, trying to sound casual while remaining cautiously ambiguous. He couldn't really logically explain the sudden urge to take care of John's breakfast needs, and the fact made him more than a little uneasy. But Rodney didn't want John to leave his side just yet. Even if this turned out to be nothing more than a one time thing, Rodney wanted for a moment longer to pretend that it wasn't. "I'm willing to share though, if you're interested," he added hurriedly. "I've got some maple syrup too."
"Can't pass up a sweet offer like that," John replied with a wide grin, and gave Rodney another wonderfully languid kiss. "But it might be better if I take over from here," he said, glancing at the mess Rodney had made. "Unless you prefer burnt crunchy bits over fluffy perfection." John rarely boasted without reason, and quite frankly Rodney was getting hungry, so he just gave up.
"Fine. You do the pancakes, I'll make more coffee, and then we'll have breakfast in bed," Rodney said. He decided he'd be better off making the most of what he had now, and worrying about the state of their relationship later. "And then, barring any emergencies, I'm going to have you for dessert."
"I'm looking forward to that," John replied and smiled, pulling Rodney tighter against him.
The pancakes turned out just as perfect as John had promised, and later on Rodney discovered that maple syrup went well with a certain hot flyboy too.
Rodney woke up in his own bed and not in the infirmary, which was a good sign, but he was still groggy from the last remnants of the emergency suppressants. The dosage in the injectors was always on the higher side, since they were meant to be used as a last resort, leaving Rodney feeling hung over, and his mouth as dry as a desert.
Someone had pulled a light cover over most of Rodney, and they must have opened the balcony door because a pleasant breeze was blowing in. The sheets in the bed had also been changed while Rodney had been unconscious, so his quarters smelled of nothing but clean laundry and fresh ocean air. In a way it was disappointing. Rodney already missed John's scent, and the smell of the pancakes John usually made when he stayed over.
Now that everything that had triggered his rut had been removed, Rodney's body chemistry seemed to have settled. He felt only mildly horny, but somewhat more irritated than usual, which was well above average for normal people. At least the latter could be fixed with coffee. What Rodney feared might be beyond repair, was his relationship with John. Memories of previous events came back in vivid flashbacks, forcing Rodney to open his eyes so he wouldn't have to recall John's stricken face.
It was full daylight outside, and bright enough inside to make Rodney's eyes hurt until they adjusted to it. The other half of the bed was empty now, but beside it was a chair, and in it sat a worried looking Radek. Rodney hoped it wasn't an omen of anything.
"How's John, what happened after he left?" Rodney mumbled and with great effort rose into a sitting position. His muscles were sore and stiff, a late reminder of just how far he'd pushed himself physically. "How long was I out?"
"John is fine, but what I need to know is how you are feeling, Rodney," Radek asked, in that tone he used when he really needed Rodney to take him seriously. Radek gave Rodney and his ego a lot of leeway as a fellow scientist, but not as his designated Beta. He might appear quiet and meek to some, but Radek was resilient and tenacious enough to stand up to Rodney when others couldn't. "Describing your physical condition will do for now," he said, then added a bit more gently: "Though you always have my ear if you want to discuss anything else."
Rodney groaned. Instead of answering questions, he wanted to get up, get dressed, grab some coffee and go see John, but since he probably wouldn't even make it all the way to the kitchen on his own had no choice but to comply with Radek's request. "I've been better. I'm tired, my muscles are a bit sore but that's mainly from the, um, exercise, and I know Carson's been poking me with needles because my left arm itches from the antiseptics wipes. My mind is a little hazy, but other than that I seem to be pretty much back to normal."
Radek nodded, apparently satisfied with the answer, and then he got up and headed for the small kitchen where Rodney's personal coffee maker and his stash of high quality beans would be. Radek had found out about them very early on, but had promised to keep things a secret for a ten percent cut of the coffee—Rodney had bargained hard for just five, but Radek had been adamant. He returned briefly, throwing a bottle of water on the bed, then went back. Radek talked while he prepared the coffee, and while Rodney got rehydrated.
"After you radioed me and explained the situation, I notified Dr. Beckett and Major Lorne," Radek called from the kitchen. "And Dr. Weir had to be informed of course. Other than that, only the med teams involved know about this, and no-one besides Major Lorne and I have any, um, further details." Radek paused, and Rodney didn't like the way he hesitated, like he was editing something out. "Only Major Lorne knows what exactly happened with John. But he made sure the med team got him to the infirmary safely.
Rodney didn't ask about the missing bits. He wanted to, but even if Radek had had the information, he wouldn't have talked. If it was something Rodney needed to know, John would tell him. John was okay for now, and that would have to suffice.
"You were unconscious when Dr. Beckett and his team arrived, and sound asleep when I arrived to replace them as your watch dog." The heavenly aroma of coffee drifted in from the kitchen, followed by Radek. "All in all you've been out for no more than ten hours."
Radek brought the mug straight over, and Rodney accepted it with pleasure. He shuffled to lean against the headboard, pulling the covers with him, more in case of coffee spillage than for the sake of decency. Radek had already seen all there was to see.
"Has Carson figured out what happened yet?" Rodney asked between hot mouthfuls of liquid heaven. He was being way too calm about this, but in the nearly ordinary moment smelling of fresh linen and coffee it was hard to believe he hadn't just dreamed it all.
"Not with certainty," Radek replied, and sat on the edge of the bed. "But he does have a hypothesis regarding John's recent transformation incident."
"You mean when he nearly turned into a bug creature from hell," Rodney said and shuddered. Life here was dangerous, Rodney had no illusions about that, but he'd never imagined he could lose John to something as insidious as that. He'd never hated being an Alpha more than then, for not being able to be there for John. "It's not happening again, is it?" Rodney asked. A cold fear was creeping up his spine, and the worry he'd been expecting to feel wasn't far behind. He gulped more coffee down to keep warm even though it burned on his tongue.
"No, no, nothing like that," Radek hurried to assure him. "But it seems there have been unexpected consequences." That he could speak of things as calmly as he did said a lot more about the severity of John's condition then the actual words he used, and it eased Rodney's mind a little
"Stating the obvious isn't helpful," Rodney replied irately, but for him that was just an expression of his relief. Radek smiled briefly.
"Then once you have recovered you may discuss this matter directly with Dr. Beckett, for I have no more information to offer," he said. "For now, John is stable, he is in good hands, and they are doing the best they can to help him. Would you like something to eat?" Radek inquired, changing the subject. "I hear you like pancakes?"
"I don't think I'm ready for anything solid yet," Rodney replied. He couldn't bring himself to confess that he'd become so accustomed to John's pancakes that none of the others held any flavour for him. But he wasn't above making other demands. "Maybe some toast later, with more coffee. And blue jello."
"In that case, seeing that you are awake and well, I will make a tour around the labs and then check on John. I'll be back a bit later with breakfast, and more information, so don't call and pester anyone while I'm gone unless it's an emergency."
"Fine, fine, I won't." Of course Rodney had intended to the moment Radek left, but knowing Radek, he'd have already instructed everyone to ignore Rodney's requests. "Just do me one last favour," Rodney said, and finished his coffee.
"Refill?" Radek asked, reaching for the empty mug.
"No, help me up, I need to use the bathroom."
Necessity had done a lot to override the awkwardness, but Rodney hoped he wouldn't have to ask Radek for help of the intimate kind any time soon. But now he had clean teeth, had comfy clothes on, and didn't have any urgent bodily needs to take care of. Radek had even been kind enough to make more coffee before leaving, once Rodney had settled back into bed as ordered. He was sitting on it and reading through project reports on his tablet, but his mind was elsewhere. Eventually Rodney just gave up and tossed the tablet aside. All he could think about was John.
He'd gotten a call from Carson—no doubt prompted by Radek, who knew exactly how impatient Rodney could get when he was told to be patient—that had been nothing but a hasty update on John's current condition, which was stable just as Radek had stated earlier. Carson had more tests to perform until he could say for certain what John's future would be. What their future would be. Rodney couldn't think of the two as separate anymore, didn't want to.
Falling in love had never been high on Rodney's list of priorities in life. Being the genius he was, and an Alpha to boot, the odds of meeting someone he'd be even remotely compatible with had dwindled from slight to near non-existent the older and smarter he got. Rodney had always been picky enough with his friends and even more so with his designated Betas, and more often than not it had been better to let them go before any mutual resentment formed. Any attempts at actual dating had been disastrous. To have hit it off with Radek, in their own particular way, had been a real stroke of luck. To have met John was beating the odds, not by a measly and inconvenient imperial unit of distance, but by light years. They weren't perfect together, they argued, the misunderstood each other, they made each other hurt with worry, but they fit, like two very complicated pieces of a puzzle. Now the shape of one was different, and the pieces were twisting apart.
Rodney drank up the lukewarm remains of his coffee, and set his mug on the nightstand beside his radio. He was getting hungry, but there was no sign of Radek and the breakfast he had promised, probably due to one of the unpredictable yet daily emergencies in the labs. Rodney considered going after him, for no other reason than the distraction it would offer, but that would be unwise. Some of the recent additions to the science staff were yet to be exposed to Rodney's regular levels of frankness and snappy comments, let alone the variety induced by weariness, hunger, and anxiety.
So he stubbornly fluffed the pillows a bit and lay down, facing the radio. Staring at it wouldn't make anyone call him, but Rodney found some comfort in knowing his connection to the world outside, to John, was close by. He shut his eyes and tried to will himself back to sleep. Maybe in a few hours all this would have gone back to normal.
Rodney lasted an agonizing two minutes. There was too much room in the silence of his solitude for the noise in his brain to spill over. Foreboding thoughts crept out from the corners of his mind and out into the open, and though Rodney did his best to ignore them, a few always snuck past his guard. He got up and started pacing around the room, but the shadows seemed to chase him, until he couldn't stand being alone with his thoughts anymore. He didn't care that his legs didn't want to carry him forward, or that he wasn't making decisions rationally. He needed to get out of this room before he'd go crazy.
John had lost count of how many times he'd come to in the infirmary, but this was the first it happened in the section reserved for Omegas. The ceiling looked about the same, the slightly uncomfortable bed was no different than the rest, and the dim light from the monitors beside it had a familiar hue—but there were walls and a door separating John from what lay outside. He felt isolated in more ways than one, and it made him restless.
John tried to get up, but decided against it as soon as the room started to swirl around him. Nausea pulled him back on the bed, where he lay for a long while, gasping for breath. His second attempt was much more cautious.
Reaching a sitting position and shifting his legs over the side, John stopped to assess his condition. His limbs were weak, his mouth was dry, and his senses felt somewhat dulled, emotions too, though that was hard to make judgement on. Then again, John had always been able to think rationally under almost any circumstance, so he wasn't quite sure how much he should blame on the suppressants. Carson had eventually deemed them safe for John to use, and the last thing John remembered from... whenever it was before he fell unconscious, was a nurse injecting John with something.
But the thing that kept playing on repeat was the memory of Rodney's terrified face. John wanted to erase that image, replace it, but the harder he tried to get rid of it the more it hurt. Even that pain was muted and it only made it worse. He needed to get this stuff out of his system fast, and he needed to see Rodney.
John took the risk of falling flat on his face, and slid off the bed and onto his feet. He almost made it. The ensuing crash of him hitting a nearby cart brought Carson in at a run. He rushed in to help John back into bed, then used the controls to lift the head of it up so John could sit more upright.
"I suppose I should have seen that coming," Carson said after making a quick check to see John was alright, and sighed deeply. "You're lucky you were only hooked to the life sign monitors, and not an IV," he noted, reproachful and worried. John hadn't even noticed the small pads on his skin, or the wires that had become tangled around his arm. He really wasn't at his sharpest, and as much as he hated to admit it, he wouldn't be going anywhere for a while. A nurse peeked in and brought John a bottle of water while Carson unravelled the mess, and John took it and thankfully drank half of it in one go. She asked if he was hungry too, but John just shook his head, so she left.
"What you gave me seems to be working like it's supposed to," he wearily told Carson, closing the bottle and pressing the cool container against his forehead. His temperature was up a bit and his head was throbbing, but so far it didn't ache. "Guess I really am an Omega now." Accepting the fact was easy. The suppressants had gotten John over the worst of the shock, and he generally tackled life's adversities with a realistic mindset.
"I kept the dosage low, since this was your first time, but I may have overshot a bit in my estimation," Carson replied, looking apologetic. He had a habit of doing that, as if he felt it was partly his fault that someone had gotten hurt or suffered. Omegas were more prone to being highly emphatic, and Carson was a textbook example of that—but he was also an example of how far an Omega could go, despite the prejudice they faced in so many areas of life. John would just have to wait and see how things turned out for him. His military career was likely to be over for one.
"Don't worry about that, Doc, I'm fine," John told him, and tried to sound sincere even if he avoided meeting Carson's eyes. He'd have to learn how to define 'fine' again, physically and mentally, but his military training would still be good for something. This would be just another task, another mission. Gather intel, decide on your strategy, execute your plan. Didn't matter if his life had just changed beyond what he could currently comprehend, the process was the same. But first things first. "How's Rodney?"
Carson was finished with the wires and reading the monitors so he turned towards John, hands settling on the bed's railing as if he was the one needing support.
"You need not worry my lad, Rodney is doing well. His reaction to you was strong enough to set off his rut, but fortunately the effect seems to have been short-lived. He had emergency suppressants at hand, and they worked to stave off the worst of the symptoms so he should be back to normal within the day. Your recovery on the other hand is harder to predict, since I have no precedence to go by. For a regular Omega, the first heat usually happens during puberty and lasts only for about a day or two. You do seem on your way out of it, and your more fully developed and balanced hormonal system will help with that, but I need you to stay here until I'm certain you're in the clear."
"Can I see him?" John asked, leaving out the pitiful 'please' that echoed somewhere deep inside him, beneath the layers of sedation and suppressants. Something else was stirring there too, a subdued yet undeniable longing, like embers waiting to bloom with fire again.
"No, I'm sorry," Carson told him with a pained frown. "And I think you know why." John could only nod in reply. It wasn't over for him yet. If he met with Rodney now, the results would be the same as before.
"Then just tell me one thing," John asked quietly. "Is the change really permanent?" Carson's face revealed the truth faster than his words.
"Aye, lad, I'm afraid it is."
For John, the confirmation came as a relief, and it was all the information he needed. He hated those in-between states, where all you could do was to wait and see whether the shit hits the fan or not. If this was his life from now on, then all he'd have to do was clean up the mess and keep living. He'd start with something simple.
"Can you give me something for the headache I'm about to have? And then give me something to help me sleep." He could have asked for more suppressants too, but John would rather do without. Carson made no offer to give him any either. He disliked using them as much as Rodney did, and though John had never questioned why, before this he hadn't completely understood it either. That was the choice all Alphas and Omegas faced; either agree to work with designated Betas, or let them put a suppressant implant under your skin. Not really a choice at all.
"Or course," Carson said, patting John on the shoulder before retreating. "There's just one more thing that needs taking care of, for the records. You can always choose another designated Beta later but—"
"Lorne." John didn't have to think about it twice. Teyla and Ronon had basic training too, for aiding Rodney on missions, and both would offer their assistance to John as well. The question that remained was whether John would ever be allowed to lead his team again.
"As you wish," Carson said, and at last he smiled a little. "I'll enter that into the database immediately, and fill out the necessary paperwork, you can sign them when you feel up for it. And, uh, I hope you don't find me too forward, John, but if there's anything you need to ask about being an Omega, please don't hesitate to seek me out."
"Thanks, Doc," John said. "I'll keep that in mind."
Only after Carson left the room John realized how tight his muscles were, how much control he had been unwittingly exerting over them just to stay still. To act 'normal', when all he wanted was to run out and find Rodney. The suppressants were beginning to wear off, and trying to resist the urge to leave made him feel slightly sick again. John rolled over to his side, clutching his stomach to stop another wave of nausea from spreading, and fought to endure. Accepting that he was an Omega was one thing, but accepting what it meant to bond with an Alpha, with Rodney, would be something else entirely.
Carson finally returned, and released John's from his pain as well as his consciousness.
Rodney had taken a detour through the mess hall, eaten a single bit out of a tasteless sandwich while ignoring people staring at his casual clothing. He had also successfully kept avoiding Radek who must be after him by now. But after endless seeming wandering Rodney's feet had led him to the one place he shouldn't have gone to but where he desperately needed to be.
And so he found himself stuck in the doorway of the small infirmary room where John slept. There were only three beds, more than enough for the low number of Omegas in Atlantis, unless all the dozen or so happened to catch some mysterious disease at once. Bound to happen at some point, Rodney thought wryly. John was in the bed closest to the entrance, a mere ten feet away, but somehow unreachable.
The place smelled disturbingly sanitary, like all traces of something human occupying the space had been wiped clean, masked with antiseptic odours. Rodney was getting increasingly queasy, and angry. But John was there and he was real, looking as he always did with that tiny frown that made it seem like he was expecting danger to strike him even in his dreams. Rodney loved that frown, he loved John. Yet an invisible wall had grown between them, built by Rodney out of his own fears.
He had felt helpless before, but not like this. There was nothing he could do, all lay in the hands of things as fickle and senseless as nature and biology and medicine—all words that Rodney had spat out as near insults in the past. Ironically, what Rodney deemed fit to call science held no answers for him, and there was no equation he could solve to save the day. There was just John, who Rodney realized he couldn't live without, but wasn't sure he could live with anymore.
Alphas and Omegas paired up for a reason, and it had nothing to do with love, or choice. People were forced onto each other by some stupid, leftover evolutionary trait that maybe once in the past had served the purpose of producing better offspring, but which had become useless and caused infinitely more problems than any benefits gained from it were worth. And once you took that final step, there was no turning back. Symbolic things like vows that could be forgotten and rings that could be lost or thrown away were nothing compared to the inescapability of exchanging biological markers that irreversibly branded you a pair. Bonding was for life.
John moved in his sleep, shifting a shoulder to reveal that inviting line of his neck, and bound by its spell, Rodney almost crossed the threshold. He quickly stepped back, allowing the door to close, but he could not walk away from it—not because the Alpha in him wouldn't let him, but because Rodney simply didn't want to leave. This could not be the end of it, could it? But there was always the chance that John would not want to bond with him, would not want to be tied to Rodney for the rest of their lives.
Pressing his forehead against the obstructing surface, Rodney tried to curb the panic stirring inside him, but it was becoming a losing battle.
"Dr. McKay," a calm voice called to him, and a gentle but firm hand touched his arm. Somehow it steadied Rodney, anchored him. Rodney turned towards the sound, and Lorne greeted him with a warm smile, while his concerned eyes took in Rodney's slightly dishevelled appearance. "You alright, Doc?"
"Not really, no," Rodney replied honestly, somehow disarmed by Lorne's presence. "Quite the opposite in fact."
"Dr. Zelenka's been looking for you, he's getting pretty worried," Lorne said, guiding Rodney away from the door, and Rodney let him. He was tired, and his mind was a mess. "And the more anxious he gets, the more he starts slipping into Czech. Soon none of us are going to understand a word he says."
Lorne kept chatting amicably as he steered Rodney away from the infirmary, along the corridors, and towards the mess hall. It was comforting to hear him babble on. Mostly about Radek. There'd been some rumours about the two, but Rodney usually didn't pay any heed to gossip, or other people's relationships, but now he was struck with a sudden pang of jealousy, thinking how easy it must be for two Betas to be in love.
"Do you love him?" Rodney blurted out, twisting the knife in his own wound. Lorne stopped in the middle of a sentence, but kept them walking.
"Yeah, I do," he replied after a while, flashing Rodney a softly happy smile. Rodney had seen John smile like that too. He wondered if he'd ever see it again.
"If you both changed, would you bond with him?" Rodney asked. Maybe if he dug the proverbial knife in deep enough, the pain would stop. Lorne pondered it for a while, frowning thoughtfully.
"Until something like that actually happens, it's not something I can answer easily," he said as they reached the mess hall. "But we can talk more about it once we grab something from the mess, Radek told me you haven't eaten yet." Rodney wasn't sure if the slip of Radek's first name was intentional, or if Lorne didn't mind now that Rodney knew.
Lorne scanned the hall, then seated Rodney at table in a quiet area and told him to wait while he went to get something for them to eat. As Lorne lined up for the short queue, not yet filled by the early bird shift—Rodney suspected they were several hours away from dawn, his assumption confirmed by the wall of darkness outside the windows—Rodney saw him call someone on the radio. By his smile, Rodney could tell it was Radek. How many times had John smiled like that when calling Rodney? What face did Rodney make when talking about John? Rodney hadn't thought much of it at the time, but no-one had been very surprised when John and Rodney had announced their relationship, as if it had been as plain as day to everyone else but them.
How would John look at him the next time they met? Would he be angry? Sad? Sorry that they had ever met?
Rodney's morose train of thought was interrupted by Lorne's return, and the loud growl from his stomach as he saw and smelled the food laid before him. Rodney's body promptly took over his mind, and he ate. He started with the coffee, ignoring the slightly burnt flavour and gulping it down for the caffeine. Then he had some of the scrambled eggs and toast and whatever they used to imitate bacon, things which the place seemed to serve at all hours. It was always breakfast to someone. Then some sweet juice of unknown origin that Lorne swore was citrus free, and finally three cups of blue jello, the last kindly offered by Lorne from his own tray.
"Feel better?" Lorne asked after he had cleared the dishes away and obtained more coffee for them. Rodney did, to some degree, and told him so. They both took a sip from their mugs and winced at the taste, then smiled, their secret revealed.
"No wonder Radek haggled so hard for ten percent of my prime beans," Rodney said, satisfied to have that little puzzle solved. Lorne grinned, clearly proud of his lover's triumph. "So how'd you two..." Rodney wasn't good with this kind of talk, and the whole friendship thing wasn't his forte, but he felt like he owed it to Lorne and Radek to at least try. Plus Rodney could use some advice, and it didn't hurt to have a softer transition from the topic of 'coffee' to 'how to make life altering decisions'.
"Designated Beta training," Lorne replied, taking another sip, and then setting his mug down with the unmistakable intent of abandoning the rest of the dark brew. "We both had clearance, but considering the special circumstances and not knowing what awaited us in Atlantis, most of the Betas selected for the Expedition went through the basic courses regardless of previous experience. Dr. Heightmeyer suggested that key members, Radek and I among them, take the advanced classes too. For me it was the third run, for Radek the first, but since he was nearly always too busy to attend, I ended up giving him extra lessons on what he had missed." Now that he mentioned it, Rodney recalled seeing Lorne around the lab a lot, and more often than not, Radek had been sharing his lunch with Lorne.
"Long story short, we grew to be friends, but at some point it became obvious to both of us that the interest we shared in each other was deeper than that." Lorne pause for a moment, and something shadowed his face. "We discussed it, fought over it, then decided to try and keep a professional distance. It was the easier choice when life here is what it is. But after one too many a colleague and friend lost, we realized this life's too short to keep thinking like that."
Rodney nodded silently—he understood their choices perfectly. He and John had gone through the same discussions, the same kind of arguments, had come to the same conclusions. There was no point in survival just for survival's sake, you needed to hold hope of something better.
"So to answer your previous question," Lorne continued, gradually regaining the light in his eyes. "Can't say I can imagine what it would be like if we suddenly turned into an Alpha-Omega pair, or how it would change our relationship and lives. But I do know that even though the bonding would definitely scare me—" Lorne's gaze shifted to somewhere behind Rodney, and there was that smile again. "—he'd be worth taking the risk to find out."
"As would you, miláčku," Radek said as he walked past Rodney, stopping beside Lorne and placing a hand on his shoulder. He leaned down, and Lorne turned to him for a brief, soft kiss, touching Radek's fingers with his own, and Rodney felt bad for ever thinking such happiness came easily.
Then Radek straightened up, and Rodney was sure he was going to get a lengthy scolding in Czech, but instead Radek held out his other hand over the table. In it was Rodney's radio.
"You take this, I will take Evan," Radek said, and Rodney could hear how tired he was. He must not have slept after Rodney had gone missing, and he'd already been up since before the whole incident with John. Perhaps Lorne as well. "You will wear it, and you will call us if you need us, agreed?" Because it was Radek, Rodney could read what was between the lines. Take the time you need to figure things out, but know that you are not alone. And don't you dare disappear again or I will steal all of your precious coffee.
"Agreed," Rodney replied, simply because resisting Radek would be futile, and Rodney wasn't giving away any more of his quality beans. He took the radio and placed it over his ear, then pushed his chair back and stood up. "I think I'll take a shower, get changed, and go sit out on the pier or something." With his blood sugar getting closer to normal, Rodney would be better equipped to handle the demons in his head. Panic would solve nothing. What mattered was that Rodney still wanted to be with John, and if John felt the same, they would work something out. Rodney would make a plan to make sure that happened.
"It's a good place for thinking," Lorne said as he too got ready to leave. "I'm sure you'll find your answers." And maybe a bit of Radek was rubbing off on Lorne, but Rodney got the distinct impression he was secretly saying that Rodney should to stop listening to his overly analytical brain for a second and hear his heart out. He had a point.
When they parted, Rodney glanced back at the couple walking away together. Maybe one of these days he'd hear their full story, and maybe, hopefully soon, he'd get to share his and John's with them too.
Losing people should never feel like a normal part of you life, but there were days when John was just too tired to even think of grieving. He had run out of the Wraith outpost alone after the explosion, had gone through the gate alone after sending everyone else through safely, had walked out of Elizabeth's office alone after giving his report on how the mission had failed and how the two Marine's had died, and alone out of the infirmary once Carson had patched him up, claiming it was a miracle the wound in his side wasn't deeper. The next thing John planned to do was to fall into bed, alone, and let his weariness overtake him. He wanted to see Rodney, but he didn't want Rodney to see him like this.
But when John returned to his quarters, his bed had already been taken. Rodney sat cross-legged in the middle of the narrow mattress, facing the door. He didn't greet John, didn't smile, he just slowly stood up and stared at him. In the darkness it was hard to tell whether he was angry, or anxious.
"How many times, John?" Rodney asked, voice hoarse with emotion. "How many times are you almost going to die before you actually do?" A ridiculous question with no answer, but that's how Rodney had been lately, and a lot of the blame fell on John. He'd selfishly pushed their 'friends with benefits' situation too far, letting Rodney get close when it was convenient for him, then backing away when the intimacy became uncomfortable, and Rodney must have started to think John was just using him. The truth was, that John's feelings for Rodney had not been that of a friend for quite some time, and it scared him. He needed to end this before it got out of hand.
"I'm not gonna say I'm sorry, I did what had to be done," John growled back at him, intending to make Rodney angry enough to leave, but Rodney wasn't even listening to him.
"How much longer do I have to pretend that you're just a friend to me?" Rodney practically screamed, and John was so shocked the words didn't register immediately. "To pretend you're just my Beta, just someone I have sex with, someone I couldn't care less about every time they decide to risk their lives because it's their duty, and definitely, not under any circumstance, the man I have fallen in love with!" Rodney stopped, and the sudden silence was almost deafening. John heard Rodney's breath, heaving, halting, and then a whisper.
John strode straight to Rodney and fell into his arms. They toppled over on the bed together as Rodney pulled him into a tight embrace, fingers grasping and pulling at John's shirt so hard something was tearing. John kissed him, taking his mouth almost violently while his hands attacked Rodney's clothing. They fought to get undressed, bruising and scratching each other in the process, desperate to remove anything that separated skin from skin. There was nothing sensual about it, no playful seduction or deliberately slow teasing, just the rush of being alive, together, driving them forward.
Finally naked, moving around frantically yet precariously on the narrow bed, their bodies aligned and thrust together. Hard with raw need, John pushed against the heat of Rodney's skin, the wound in his side a streak of pain. John's mouth only left Rodney's long enough to wet his fingers before shoving two inside him. It must have hurt, but Rodney just grabbed his arm and pushed him deeper and urged John to move his hand, spreading his legs to give him more room.
"Hurry," Rodney breathed against John's lips. "Need to feel you." His hips rose off the mattress as he tried to match the rhythm of John's hand. John pulled out and reached for the nightstand, yanking the drawer open so hard it came loose, spreading the contents on the floor. He grabbed the lube and poured some on his cock without looking, then quickly spread it around and threw the bottle away. John tried to be careful, but failed to be gentle. Rodney winced and hissed with pain, but wrapped his legs around John's to pull him all the way in. He was so hot inside, so tight around John, connecting him to Rodney, to something living, and everything else faded away.
John just clung to Rodney and fucked him, filling his senses with Rodney's warmth, his taste, his smell, the sound of his cries and moans, and how he held on to John just as fervently until they both came, all too soon. Rodney was first, clawing at John's back, his body going rigid and then lax, and as if he'd finally been given permission, John's orgasm followed, short and sharp, tearing an almost animal sound form him. With it John let go of any last pretence that this wasn't where he was supposed to be, who he belonged with.
"I love you," John whispered with his very next breath. "I love you, and may this whole world go to hell before I let go of you." He was tired of losing people, and he'd rather be damned himself than lose Rodney.
"I'm a scientist, I don't believe in Hell, and you'll never get rid of me that easily anyway," Rodney replied, raspy and out of breath, but happy. They both started laughing. Shuddering, uncontrollable, exhilarating, liberating—wrapped around each other, they laughed until they were wheezing for air. "Me too," Rodney said, breathing the words on John's lips. "I love you, John." Then they kissed, and showered, and kissed, and changed the sheets, and kissed, and curled up on the tiny bed and slept.
Comfort was something John had learned to do without in the military. He was a pretty low maintenance guy to begin with so he hadn't minded, but for a while now, the size of his bed had bothered him. It barely fit one person, but it had started to feel too big and somehow empty when he slept alone in it. The one in the infirmary felt even more so, and John was glad to be leaving it.
As long as the meds had worked, he'd slept soundly, and dreamlessly, but by the time the morning shift nurse had brought him breakfast John had already been up for hours. He'd put the time to good use though, making a mental list of things that needed taking care of, starting with appointing Lorne the acting military head of Atlantis, and once daylight broke, making calls to put things into motion. It wasn't any surprise to John that Radek picked up the call for Lorne, or that Lorne respectfully declined the position, claiming that John should hold on to it until official orders came through from the SGC.
John had also given a lot of thought to what he'd tell Elizabeth, how he could convince her, and the SGC, to let him stay. He didn't want to leave Atlantis even if he could no longer serve here in a military capacity. But he already knew that Elizabeth would accept John's change with the same pragmatic attitude as he did. John turning into an Omega was a minor setback in the grand scheme of things, and only meant that she'd have to factor that in when planning for the future of Atlantis.
But before all that, in the silence of the small hours of the night, John had thought long and hard about what he'd say to Rodney. In the end, the answer had been simple.
So John had made up his mind, about their relationship, about bonding, but there was no telling what the response would be. John hadn't seen Rodney since that night, and he wasn't answering his radio either, but Lorne had sworn he was fine and had delivered a message on Rodney's behalf: Meet me at my place.
Which was why John was currently busy dumping his hospital gown and changing into the civvies Lorne had brought him earlier, while Carson was giving Elizabeth the same lecture on 'the case of John Sheppard' that John had gotten this morning. He was pulling on his jeans and listening in on the conversation with one ear, waiting for it to be over. Elizabeth would want to have a few words with John too. She liked to connect personally with people, not a bad quality in a leader, but John would rather have that done and out of the way before going to see Rodney. He didn't want anything to interrupt them.
"So you've determined the cause of it?" John heard Elizabeth ask in the other room.
"Yes, and no," Carson replied. "We've yet to discover all the details, but we know the root cause and the main effects. As you know, the ABO orientation is a polygenic trait that is determined by the alleles, that is the by the different versions, of the genes affecting whether you become and Alpha, a Beta, or an Omega." John could picture the look on Elizabeth's face, politely patient, with a hint of an encouraging smile, and hiding her true thoughts. Even John had trouble reading her if she didn't want him to.
"And most people end up as Betas because the Alpha and Omega alleles are rare, and only activate when very specific combinations of them are inherited," Elizabeth interrupted efficiently, her diplomatic skills in full swing. They often made it hard to tell that she was an Omega too. "I am aware of the basics, Carson. What specifically is wrong with Colonel Sheppard?"
"There's nothing wrong with him as such," Carson replied eagerly, undeterred, and unable to hide his professional interest in the matter. "It appears that either being infected with the early version of the Iratus bug retrovirus via Ellia, or the treatment we administered, has affected some of Colonel Sheppard's ABO genes in quite a fascinating manner. Out of his unique set of ABO gene alleles, many are Omega variants, and though with his gene combination they should remain latent for some reason either the retrovirus or its cure have activated several of them, altering their gene expression, and the ensuing changes eventually altered his orientation."
John had cut Carson off sooner than Elizabeth, since he'd been in a hurry to finish his breakfast and get out. Once the news spread there'd be others equally interested in him, but John couldn't care less about his new status in the science community.
He finished putting on his t-shirt, light jacket, and shoes, and apart from one additional item John was almost ready. The last thing to go on was a wide black band of firm yet pliable material that housed some of the most sophisticated medical surveillance technology that wasn't of Ancient origin. Such a small thing to mark all that would be different from now on.
The monitoring bracelet was a device designed to measure the activity of John's scent and pheromone glands. The main excretion points were in places more likely to chafe, but according to Carson the sweat glands on the skin of his wrist put out minute yet sufficiently detectable amounts. The device should be able to pick up the small variances, and warn John if a heat was coming up. In addition to regular check ups he'd have to use it for the next year or so, to record his baseline and peaks, and help him consciously develop a feel for his cycle. John fiddled with it for a bit, adjusting the tightness until it fit nicely, but wasn't too loose to move about.
"Any chance that this is just temporary?" Elizabeth asked, pushing Carson to jump to the point.
"Finally!" John whispered under his breath, and strode to the door. He stepped out just in time to hear Carson's reply.
"No, it's definitely permanent. Once the genes activated, the changes they made in Colonel Sheppard's body formed a self sustaining cycle. The process was slow, which is why we detected nothing alarming until he actually entered his first heat, but his physiology has already been fully altered from a Beta to an Omega. By now, it would be like trying to reverse puberty ten years too late."
Elizabeth noticed John, and hurried to end the discussion. "Thank you, Carson, that'll be all for now. I'll read the rest from you next report," she said, giving him a small smile and a touch on the shoulder, subtly indicating that she needed to talk with John privately.
"Of course, Dr. Weir, I'll start writing it right away," Carson said, smiling widely, and made his exit. John hoped what Elizabeth wished to discuss wouldn't hold him here for much longer.
"He can't wait to share this with the world," Elizabeth noted as she turned to John, her smile becoming lightly amused. "But his enthusiasm and honest desire to help people is admirable, and I'm glad he's on our team. As well as you, John."
"Look, Elizabeth," John started, taking the lead to move things along. "I know me being an Omega means things are gonna be different, and while it might not make me happy to give up my position, or to give up my team, I can live with that." Elizabeth was about to comment something, but John had to finish what he had to say, to make things clear from the start.
"I'll pick as many designated Betas to watch me as you want, I'll wear the bracelet and let Carson run all the tests on me he wants, and I'll even agree to go to counselling with Dr. Heightmeyer if that's deemed necessary. But I want to stay here, on Atlantis, and, uh, with Rodney, if by any chance he'll have me. You do what you think you must, but that's where I stand on this. So..." John's ramble came to an awkward stop as he lost his pace. What had come out wasn't put as eloquently as he'd aimed for, but the gist of it had been there. Most of it anyway. He'd better not make such a mess of thinks when making his case to Rodney.
"Actually," Elizabeth replied, after watching John squirm uncomfortably for a while. "I've already talked with the SGC, and though they admit it is highly uncommon, they have agreed to let you keep your rank and your position for now, provided we take appropriate precautions. That's not to say they won't switch their opinion later, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Persuading them must have been one hell of a task," John said, frankly amazed. "You're sure this is what you want? You could have said you just need me for the ATA gene and let them discharge me." The military had maybe a dozen Alphas on active duty, and the number of Omegas could be counted with one hand. Compared to more stable Betas they were considered a risk, and the SGC could have discharged John on medical grounds alone.
"I won't deny that your strong ATA gene did weigh a lot in the negotiations, and it certainly helped me drive home the point that you are irreplaceable," Elizabeth said, "but that's not why I fought to keep you as the military leader of Atlantis." She slipped her hand into a pocket and pulled out a radio earpiece. She took John's hand and placed the radio on his palm.
"I know what you are capable of, John. Being an Omega will present some problems in your line of work, but they're nothing you can't overcome. Trust me on this." She would know, having overcome so much herself to come to Atlantis. She relinquished her hold, and John placed the radio over his ear. It felt familiar, and it felt right. "We may not always see eye to eye, but I trust you, and I know I can count on you to put the safety of Atlantis and the people here before anything else. That's all I'll ask of you in the future as well."
"Thank you." Wasn't much more John could say, so he didn't. But it felt good to know that he'd have Elizabeth in her corner if any trouble arose with the SGC.
"Now go," Elizabeth told him, and reading her current expression was easy. "We can discuss the terms of this arrangement later. I believe you have a more urgent appointment to keep."
"I do, and I better get to it," John replied, his mouth acting almost on its own and stretching into a happy grin. "I've kept him waiting long enough." John turned on his heels and started walking, then running. He was done waiting too.
Rodney had nearly finished forming his presentation when John arrived. He was so engrossed in his research that he didn't notice how the door to his quarters slid open, coded as it was by Rodney to unlock for him as well, but he became acutely aware of John's presence when one side of the wide mattress budged under added weight, and the pile of empty jello cups and power bar wrappers rustled quietly.
Looking up from his information-filled tablet screen Rodney had but a few seconds to notice that John appeared well, and happy, before John kissed him, leaning over the trash on the bed, hands cradling Rodney's face, his lips telling Rodney just how much John had missed him.
The tablet tumbled out of Rodney's hands and then he reached for John, fingers tangling into his jacket as Rodney made an embarrassingly whiny noise and melted with happiness. John was back, with Rodney, and his kiss was achingly familiar—the strength and tenderness and passion of it were the same as ever. Rodney could have kissed him forever, but an interruption was necessary before things went any further. Reluctantly he pulled away, but for a moment he got stuck just staring at John's smiling face.
"I wasn't sure if you'd smile like that at me again," Rodney said. Not the opening he had intended to use, but John seemed to appreciate it, since he smiled wider. "I mean, I have a plan," Rodney started anew, taking a more professional approach.
"Can't it wait for one minute?" John said, and tried to kiss Rodney again.
"I've been thinking, you see," Rodney said, dodging the attempt. He fumbled around for his tablet, and handed it over to John, who took it with a sigh and moved to sit on an emptier patch of the bed. As he scrolled through Rodney's detailed plan for their possible future together, Rodney went on talking. He'd ended up pulling an all-nighter and had drunk a lot of the good coffee. He was too nervous, too excited, and too high on caffeine to barely still, so silence definitely wasn't an option.
"I've come up with a solution that will allow us to be together even if we don't bond," Rodney said. John's brow arched inquiringly as he peeked over the tablet at Rodney, but he said nothing and resumed his reading.
"We can keep our separate quarters, so there won't be any problems with sharing our living space during ruts or heats. I could also start wearing the bracelet too, to minimize the risk of exposure in the beginning. And I've almost finished coding a new cycle tracking program, the existing ones weren't efficient enough, and this one will pull data straight out of our bracelets and medical records so it'll be up to date at all times. Here, you can take a look at the preliminary interface over here." Rodney reached to poke at the screen, opening the program. "And here's a sample graph of my cycle, yours will be added once we have enough data points for analysis."
"Rodney, I—" John tried to intervene, but Rodney was on a roll. He was desperate to prove to John that this was possible, that there were options between bonding and breaking up.
"I can probably hack the monitor bracelets to produce additional warnings too, about your heats for me, and about my ruts for you." John put the tablet down even though he clearly wasn't done with going through Rodney's presentation.
"I'm sure you can, buddy, but—" John's tone was getting more impatient, but Rodney couldn't stop. Maybe he was just delaying the inevitable and John had already made up his mind, but Rodney wasn't ready to give up yet.
"And I already keep emergency suppressants at hand, and you can do the same," Rodney hurried to tell John. "If we take the right precautions, there's no reason why we can't continue seeing each other, though we'll probably have to avoid each other a bit more than before, and—"
"Rodney," John called out louder and grabbed Rodney by the arms, hard enough for Rodney to come to a startled stop. As soon as he did, John's hold became gentler.
"Rodney, I want to bond with you," John said, slowly, evenly, sincerely, tenderly, staring Rodney straight in the eyes, and then silently waiting for the words to sink in.
"You do?" Rodney asked, baffled. He hadn't expected John to come to that conclusion. Maybe in the long run, but not less than two days from suddenly discovering he was an Omega. Rodney himself still had some doubts. Not about choosing John, but about the whole biological side of things. But the way John was looking at him... it wasn't the face of someone who wasn't absolutely sure about what they were saying.
"Not right now, and probably not until I've gotten more used to all the weirdness," John said, his hands sliding down to take hold of Rodney's. He did it a little awkwardly, and Rodney could have sworn John was blushing a bit. "But I don't need to have everything sorted out to know that bonding won't change how I feel about you. So would you, with me, I mean..."
John paused, just briefly enough to rub his neck with one hand and wince a little painfully like he always did when forced to talk about his feelings—and just long enough for Rodney's world to fall apart, rearrange itself, and then pull everything back together again around those two important pieces of the puzzle. They fit again, seamlessly, and Rodney realized that being an Alpha, or a Beta, or an Omega, had nothing to do with it.
"I was nowhere near this nervous when proposing to Nancy," John muttered to himself, and the inadvertent confession filled Rodney with so much happiness it was frightening.
"Yes," Rodney replied, and he'd never been more sure of anything in his life. "However you want me, the answer is yes." John's whole expression turned radiant, and Rodney came embarrassingly close to comparing it to a sun that lit up his life. Only John could reduce him to such clichéd thinking, and Rodney loved being able to resent him for that.
"Can I kiss you now?" John asked, inching closer while kicking and pushing aside the assorted remains of packaging in his way. Rodney simply grabbed the covers and gave them a violent flick, hurling everything, including the tablet, onto the floor. His guilt over possibly breaking anything was minimal.
Only if you promise that's not all you're gonna do, Rodney meant to say, but John had already skipped to the part where he agreed and claimed Rodney's mouth with his own, and all the words flew out of Rodney's mind. He didn't need them, he had his answer, and he had John.
There would be a time when they would let things lead to something more, something scary and exciting and profoundly different than having sex, or even making love. But this moment was for connecting like they always had, with the person they had chosen, who they loved for all they were. The faulty and flawed match that was the perfect fit.
It was a common misconception—especially among Betas of certain age or level of ignorance, and one eagerly spread by the entertainment industry because that kind of stuff sells—that the actual bonding event was something romantic, taking place under moonlit skies or in beds with silk sheets and rose petals. John had never bought into that, but he hadn't really been prepared for the reality either.
The timing for one thing had been difficult to arrange. An Omega's heat could trigger an Alpha's rut, but not the other way around. Nature must have thought it to be convenient, or perhaps funny, to let Omegas conserve their energy for bonding and have Alphas squander theirs in random mating attempts. Living the hectic life that they did, John and Rodney had found it extremely frustrating.
On top of that, full bonding took around five days, three out of which you spent in a mostly incoherent state with your main focus on mating as many times as you could, and the last two recuperating from fatigue. Privacy wasn't something you worried about either, not if you wanted someone to make sure you drank enough nutritional fluids so you wouldn't pass out. Not to mention that the bite itself was a health risk, so your vaccinations needed to be in order, the wound required tending to as soon as possible, and you needed shots of antibiotics to help prevent any kind of infection. That alone might have stopped Rodney from going through with it, if he hadn't been at the peak of his rut. The whole process had been tiring, but it was an experience John wouldn't have missed for the world.
Lying next to Rodney in the dark, in their new bed, in their newly acquired quarters, John revelled in the euphoria-like afterglow that was but a sweet echo of the pleasure he had felt during bonding. He touched his bandaged shoulder, sliding his fingers over the fabric covering what would become another scar in his collection. A physical mark of their bond.
"Does it still hurt?" Rodney asked, and just hearing his voice sent waves of warmth through John. The arm he had wrapped around John's waist moved closer to where John's was, stopping just on the edge of the bandages. John reached for it and placed it over the injury.
"Not much, it just aches a little," he replied softly. "But it's not just pain." There was a residue of pleasure as well, and the weight of Rodney's fingers over the wound, the touch of his Alpha, brought both joy and comfort to John. The haze of the heat had made him forget a lot, but John remembered the bite—Rodney's infinitesimal hesitation as his teeth scraped skin, the intense anticipation and those last lingering flickers of uncertainty when the only sane part of your brain tried to make sure you knew what you were getting into. Then there was only the pressure and the pain, and the indescribable bliss overtaking everything else. John remembered Rodney's arm draped over his shoulder, and how he'd held on to it as the bond formed and the feeling of belonging flooded in.
"Good," Rodney sighed with relief, but John could hear the Alpha in him purr with pride. The bond between them seemed to hum happily, John couldn't think of any other description. He'd never been so attuned to someone else's presence, and sharing this kind of connection would take some getting used to, but John had no regrets. He belonged to Rodney, and just as inseparably, Rodney belonged to him. They always had, and this would just be a new stage in their relationship. Nothing had been lost, only gained.
"Pancakes for breakfast?" John inquired. He might manage that in an hour or two, if he could persuade someone to get the ingredients for him. They'd slept for half the day, but John still felt tired.
"And the good coffee," Rodney said sleepily, snuggling even closer and resting his head on John's shoulder. "We should invite the others too," he added unexpectedly, meaning the watchful people in the next room. Lorne, Radek, Ronon, and Teyla had taken turns guarding them through it all and taking care of them, and had remained behind after the nurse assigned to them had left. "They're starting to feel like family, and not in a bad way."
For Rodney, it was a rare admission of affection, and John agreed with him whole-heartedly. They weren't just friends anymore, nor simply colleagues or team mates, but had formed their own kinds of bonds with John and Rodney. Family felt like the right word for what they'd all become.
"They do kinda grow on you," John replied, turning to nuzzle his nose in Rodney's hear, breathing in the last faint traces of his Alpha scent. It smelled like home. "You too." Once you grew to love him, Rodney stuck on you for good. The thought made John smile fondly.
"I love you, John," Rodney mumbled into John's skin, an even rarer thing to hear, and their bond sang until the emotion was an almost tangible thing that wrapped itself around them. And maybe from now on they'd no longer need to put those feelings into words at all—god knows neither of them was the type to often do so. But that's what gave the effort significance.
"Me too," John whispered to the man falling asleep beside him. "I love you, Rodney."
As he began to drift off to sleep too, John barely heard the last thing that Rodney muttered, but the quiet words and the tiny demand made John wish that morning would come soon.
"Make mine a heart shaped one."
Not every day would start off with pancakes, or end together in bed, but those had always been the days to live for.
~~~ End ~~~