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Oliver: Sheppard is looking pretty mellow.

Original Cindy: Correction: Sheppard is looking pretty laid.

Malcolm Reed: That's more than I can say for you, Cindy.

General chuckles. Cindy swats Reed.

Angela Moore: I ain't buyin' it. Sheppard's like a clam with a fat pearl, don't open up for nobody.

Oliver, mildly: You know that from experience, I s'pose.

Angela: Not nearly the kind you mean. He just don't seem to want friends.

The batch of them spills into the combination lounge and mess which is about the only place to be if you're not in your bunk. Given that the bunks are two safety hammocks slung in rooms smaller than the average closet, most stay there little as possible. Oliver suspects that that Roland fellow snoring by the starboard porthole has been sleeping nights out here.

Their conversation's object is of course already there, sprawled in one of the more comfortable chairs and absently nursing a mug of coffee. He smiles at them when they sit, not his usual distracted grimace.

He's a quiet one, John is. Like Angela said, easy enough to get along with so long's you don't push too close. He'll fool around with the guys, but damned if there's anyone onboard who's a stubborner hun dan about shelling out personal history. But that's fine; the rest of the time, ain't nothing more than a bit quieter than everyone else. Almost explainable, even, seeing he's assigned as wing commander. If no one knows piss-all about his backstory, they know he can eat Ice Planet in three minutes. They know this not only because it is one of the only things he has ever volunteered about himself, but also because they saw him do it after imbibing half a bottle of something potently local and lime-flavoured at the first of the refuelling points, where they'd brought on board the rest of the cargo of engineers, techs and a handful more pilots destined for the carrier Daedalus, waiting in an unstable sector way past the other side of the Core.

Today, though, John is mellow He's just a hair short of smirking to an obnoxious degree. The most hilarious thing is, he doesn't realise it.

Angela: Well, what have we here?

Reed: Quite a look on you, Major.

Sulu: It seems we have at last discovered the secret to cracking the elusive John Sheppard.

Angela snorts: Sex is medicinal, baby. That's no secret, it's a fact of science.

There follow the obligatory rolled eyes and brief ragging of the speaker. Sheppard utterly fails to be as irritated as he wants to be. Dark-and-mysterious pilot-man, brought down to the level of mortals by the sort of afterglow that has to mean he didn't get laid for way too long betimes. Involuntarily, Oliver's eyes flick over to the window, where something is written in smearing black ink on Roland's cheek.

 

Later, on the carrier, John hefts his bag and follows the directions that came with the room assignment, every turn taking him further from the mainstream of new arrivals. He finishes maybe three levels above the docking bay, at what has to be the high and far end of crew quarters.

Geez, John thinks, I wonder what I ever did to piss this O'Neill guy off. Or maybe it was someone on General O'Neill's staff. Probably. At a guess, room 412B will be a closet or in the middle of the non-coms' section or, his personal favourite, will have a line to the pressure-release manifolds and will brattle like impact day and night.

Four-fourteen, four-thirteen, four-twelve B. John hitches his duffle higher on his shoulder and switches the standard orientation flimsy to his other hand so he can press his thumb to the DNA-scanner on the lock. The orientation flimsy, which could just as easily be the same one he received on his first day at the Academy, is supplied with such useful information as the service's basic code of conduct, a plasticky-fake message from General O'Neill (well, his secretary, more like), and the contact information for the Daedalus' counsellor. There is of course no map to go along with the room assignment, for security purposes. But the door slides open for John's thumb, so evidently this isn't just someone's idea of a joke.

Doesn't fucking matter, John tells himself, and steps inside.

Or maybe not. "Holy mother-fucked blue mushrooms." John's jaw drops what feels like two thirds of the way to the floor. It's huge; there are drapes all over the walls, around the bed, which has posts. There's honest-to-god carpet on the floor.

The hell? This is not a fun-joke. This is someone thinking John's head is for playing with. And it is not, by any means, appreciated.

Behind him, the door slides open again. John whirls to confront the intruder—Mister Mastermind come to reveal the big, bad, evil plan. Mister Mastermind has another thing coming.

The first things John's brain locks onto are the rank insignia on the uniform collar and he snaps to attention, thinking Fuckfuckfuck, I am going to kill the back-born toadspawn responsible for this and trying to figure out how to tell his new commanding officer that no, he isn't a house-warming gift and get his face back under control. Then he looks up.

Jaw, meet floor again. "Jack?" John sputters incredulously, then clamps his mouth shut.

"Told you I'd give you a wave," General O'Neill says casually, hand making a brief arc before disappearing back into a pocket. John's self-restraint makes a break for the door right before it closes behind Jack. O'Neill. General O-fucking-Neill. Get a grip, John.

"This," John gestures jerkily at the apartment, "is not a wave. What is it, the concubine suite?"

"Funny you should say that," O'Neill drawls.

John boggles at him.

"Of course, I can have you reassigned to the pilot's barracks if you'd rather. All just a computer mix-up."

"I, um, um, what?"

Jack—fuck it, fine, Jack—shrugs, hands shoved into his pockets, and wanders over to look at an arrangement of pebbles in a bowl. "These are the Companion's quarters. Belike we won't have any visiting on this tour and I haven't, ah, attached my own, so..." Jack trails off, awkwardly. John is just the tiniest bit irrationally reassured, like maybe he'll get out of this without being cashiered.

John watches him pick up a stone from the pile and set it back down nervously. He turns to look at John.

"I couldn't very well be sneaking down to your quarters or vice-versa. This seemed like a reasonable solution."

John gropes for something to say. "How long...?" If Jack has planned this, so help him...

Jack is now re-stacking the careful aesthetic arrangement of the rocks into piles. "I recognised your picture in your dossier when I was going through personnel files in transit. I thought, lucky me." Jack grimaces and says more seriously, "I thought it was worth a shot."

John swallows. His head is buzzing like a loose backwash grating at full thrust. "I. Can I have some time to think about it?" It comes out a bit more pleading than he intends.

"Sure," Jack agrees instantly. "Absolutely. Just, you know, need to get you settled in someplace before too much longer." He stops halfway out the door. "You can find me, right?"

"Yeah." John nods.

Jack nods back and ducks out the door.

 

John stays where he is for a few minutes, looking the place over more thoroughly. That is definitely not a standard light fixture.

All right, focus. He needs to find him someplace to do that, where he can hammer out how to decide this rationally. So, first step: not here. Right.

John is still haunting the corridors an hour and a half later when he runs into one of the pilots who came in with him on the transport.

"Hey, Oliver," John greets him, then stops, stuck by an idea. "Got a fourth of copper?"

"Yessir. Here."

John catches it. "Thanks. Pay you back."

Oliver waves him off. "Don't worry about it. Hao ma, sir?"

"Hao a." John pulls on a fake smile and nods and keeps walking. He turns the worn copper bit over, thinking.

 

John is back in the suite when Jack wanders in. He pokes his head through the doorway first. When he sees John, he knocks on the frame to announce his presence.

John turns around. "C'mon in." Not that Jack really needs to be invited.

Jack nods his head a couple times. "Hi," he says after the automatic doors have done their whooshy thing and shut behind him.

"Hey."

Jack is obviously trying to restrain his curiosity. John smiles. It's kind of cute. John lets him make meaningless small talk for a while, not really certain about the etiquette of being propositioned by one's commanding officer, when it doesn't involve a desire to punch him in the face. At least, not a strong one.

"So I can redecorate, right?" John drops it like a pebble into the middle of the conversation and watches the silence spread out from it like ripples.

It is one of the loudest silences of John's life, and it lasts for a short eternity. Finally, Jack clears his throat. "Knock yourself out. Just be warned that we're a little low on supplies for interior decorating."

"I was mostly thinking of getting rid of the rocks. Kind of a bad idea on a ship that's probably going to get shot at a lot."

Jack's eyes narrow. "Are you impugning my skills as a general?"

"What, you actually think we're not going to get shot at?" John asks.

"Isn't that what they pay you for?" Jack retorts.

"Guess I know how you value your pilots." Curious, John sits down on the bed. He gives a couple light bounces and looks over at Jack. His lips are curved upward and there's a wicked sparkle in his eyes. He schools his face to an expression of haughty superiority.

"You can dodge. I know first-hand that those little fighters you guys go zipping around in are more manoeuvrable than this lump."

"Oh yeah?" John leans back on his elbows .

"I'll have you know I can fly just as well as any of you young upstarts."

Jack flops down on the bed beside John. His uniform jacket has been unbuttoned since John saw him last. He's wearing fatigues, but the rank insignia are still hard to miss. That's the only outward concession Jack seems to have made towards generalhood. His fatigues are wrinkled like they've been balled up in the bottom of a duffel for at least a week, giving him a nicely rumpled look. The standard black tee-shirt is faded and worn, soft under John's hand.

Jack's stomach shivers at John's touch. He's watching John from his position sprawled flat on the bed. Briefly, John considers tickling him, but the look he's getting from Jack's hooded eyes is probably enough to turn him into a human candle on the spot if he keeps it up much longer.

Instead, John rolls over on top of him. He buries his nose in Jack's collar and takes a nice, long sniff.

"Mnaugh," Jack says. John can't help it; he laughs.

"Shaddup." John can feel Jack groping around for something, but he's really kind of more interested in getting Jack to make that sound again. He's nipping up the side of Jack's neck and contemplating leaving a hickey—he still needs to get revenge for Jack's springing this on him, after all—when the pillow thumps him smartly on the head.

"Hah!" Jack exclaims, triumphant and grinning cheekily.

Oh, he's asking for it. John leans forward so that his thigh is pressing against Jack's trapped erection, pauses while the other man twitches, their faces close now.

"This means war, you know," he tells Jack very seriously.

Jack gooses him. "Cool."

John most definitely does not squawk, but he loses no time implementing his revenge. Soon, he has Jack's fatigues pulled half off, immobilising him nicely, though John's own jacket and shirt have somehow been lost. John presses teasing kisses to Jack's flat stomach: wet, sucking ones that have him arching into John's touch, little flickings of his tongue and teeth that make the muscles shiver.

Jack moans protest when John pulls away. John crawls up Jack's body and straddles his legs.

"Surrender yet?" he asks.

Jack grins up at him. Oh. "I think I can hold out a while longer."

John plunges into Jack's mouth, gods, incredible, and grinds their hips together.

"You sure about that?" John asks when they have to break apart for breath.

"Rutting tease," Jack pants.

John pretends to consider this. "I'm getting some mixed signals, here..."

"Try getting your pants off," Jack suggests, "or my hands free. Hey, there's an idea."

"Mm-hm." John thrusts again. Jack meets him and John throws his head back and crumbles in his own rhythm. He wants Jack's mouth, his cock, his hands on him now.

"Oh, gods, keep doing that," Jack tells him. "Just like...oh yeah."

John kisses him, chest to bare chest. Between them, they untangle Jack's arms. Good, good, good idea. Jack's hands wander up and down his back, pulling him closer.

"...pants," Jack manages, slipping his hands beneath the waistband of the offending garment.

John grunts and starts sucking on his ear. Beneath him, Jack whimpers, making John smile.

"Like that, do you?" Jack squirms, hands still firmly gripping John's ass. And...kneading. Guh. John laps at his neck and ear, nibbling delicately on the lobe, and wriggles his hand down between them. Button...zipper...ha!

John's fingers close around Jack's cock. The little noises Jack makes as he simply falls apart in his hands break something in his head. Jack shivers and comes all over them both.

"Jack," John finds himself repeating, "Ja—nngmk. Fuck yes; just like that." Jack's hand finds John's own erection and strokes it hard and slow, wringing out his brain cells and his orgasm.

John has just enough presence of mind left to collapse beside Jack not atop him. Jack sighs and slips an arm around his torso. Smiling irrationally, John allows himself to be snuggled into slumber.

 

The formal review of the troops is the next morning. It of course takes much less time than that for the gossip to spread. John grits his teeth and schedules the first series of flight drills once Jack has sauntered off to more General-y climes, or more likely to bug the bridge crew.

It's amazing how quickly things change, John muses. All the other pilots hate him because they think he's the General's fuckboy. That lasts until the first flight drill. Then they hate him because he kicks all their asses, too. Okay, so maybe he was showing off just a little. Not something he plans to do a lot of, as wing-leader, but he wants to make his point.

Everyone except for Geller, that is, who just seems to hate him.

"You're John Sheppard?"

"I'm Major Sheppard, yes, Lieutenant," John tells the short, determined-looking woman. If his reply is more than a little testy, well, he's tired of everyone saying his name like it's an accusation.

"I've got my eye on you. Don't think you can get away with using this. I've seen your kind before, and let me tell you, it's not pretty what happens to you. You might have everyone else too afraid to stand up to you, but I've got connexions at least as high as you do; I'll give you a fight before you take me down. So watch it, buster. And don't think this is going to make me like you," she adds at seeming random.

"Not much danger of that," John mutters, then louder: "While I appreciate your frankness, Lieutenant, you might find it advisable to be more circumspect when you're reaming out your superior officers in the future." She's a foot and a half shorter than him, but hell, she's asking for it. "If I knew your name, I'd be inclined to assign you to scrubbing out the plasma manifolds with a toothbrush. Unless of course someone's beat me to it."

"Sir!" She snaps abruptly to attention, saluting, as if remembering all at once that she's in a chain of command. "First Lieutenant Paris Geller, First Wing."

Geller's eyes are still boring into him like neutron laser drills. John returns her salute. Geller, Geller; he knows that name.

"I'm your co-pilot, sir; it's my duty to be frank with you."

And there it is. John resists his first impulse, which is to smile and reshuffle the wing rosters, as well as his second, which is to smack himself on the head. You wanted the best. Instead, he smiles at her as pleasantly as he can.

"Then I guess we'll both be more than punished soon enough. See you in an hour."

 

By the time they land, John can practically hear the steam boiling out from Geller's ears. Okay, not entirely unexpected. She jumps out of the X-wing and onto the deck with an aggressive sort of thump as soon as he pops the canopy. John follows more leisurely, some of the tension he's accumulated since lunch yesterday drained away.

John pats the high-density hull fondly and descends. He finds himself unpleasantly lapels-to-face with Geller. She glares at him.

"You're a competent pilot, at least, and a half-decent squad-leader. But if you hurt him, I swear I'll feed you your balls by shoving them up your ass into your oesophagus."

With that, Geller spins on her heel and stalks away, leaving John more confused than ever.