John did his best not to squirm as Gillespie brought the puddlejumper in for a landing. Apparently his game face wasn't as good as he thought, because once the jumper was down Gillespie looked back at him and grinned. "No offense, Sir, but you're not a very good passenger, are you?"
Sitting in the co-pilot's seat, Lt. Miller laughed.
"Very funny, you two," John said, but there was no real heat to it. Three months on Atlantis and he was getting somewhere with the Marines; if that meant they felt comfortable teasing him, that was just fine.
"I didn't reach for the barf bag once," he added, before leaning forward and calling up the day's flight plan on the HUD. Both Gillespie and Miller got serious as John went over last of the lesson with them and by the time they left the jumper, he was feeling pretty good about the way things were going.
The sight of Ford waiting near the jumper bay doors with a slightly concerned look on his face didn't alarm John too much; he knew Ford's expressions by now and whatever is going on wasn't too serious.
"Okay guys, same time, let's say, two days from now?"
"Sure thing, Major," Miller said and Gillespie nodded.
"What's up?" John asked Ford as the other two left the bay.
"AR-5 had a run in with some giant wombat things," Ford said, and John wondered if it was the time Ford had spent at the SGC that enabled him to say things like that with a straight face. "Everyone's okay but Mendoza broke his leg when one of them jumped him. He killed it, but went over an embankment."
"Well, I'm glad it wasn't worse." John ran a hand through his hair. "We can revise the team schedules later, after I've looked in on him."
The infirmary was quiet when John walked in. "Major," Carson said, coming toward him with a smile. "Lieutenant Ford told you about Mendoza?"
"Yeah, how's he doing?"
"Well, he'll be off duty for a while, but he was lucky; it's a simple fracture and a few scrapes and bruises from the fall."
"Can I see him?"
"Of course. He's through here."
"Hey," John said, once he reached Mendoza's bed. "How you feeling?"
"Like an idiot, Sir," Mendoza said, rolling his eyes. "Giant wombats...."
"Coulda been worse," John said.
"Coulda been raining?"
John laughed and pulled up a chair. "Yeah, that."
"Sorry, Major," Mendoza said. "I'm gonna be out of commission for a while and that means more...work for you."
"It's okay, Cesar," John said, reaching out and patting Mendoza carefully on the shoulder. "Dr. Stillman and I can work it out. You just need to rest up and get better."
Mendoza still looked guilty, but John distracted him by asking about the wombats and the rest of the mission. Other than the wombats it sounded like a nice planet, but they were still going to have to look elsewhere for a beta site.
As for Mendoza being laid up for a while...well, it happened in the field, which was one of the reasons the military had fought so hard to keep unis out of combat. The Marines had been the last branch to give in and it couldn't have been easy for the kid, John thought as he watched Mendoza doze off. And yet, he seemed, from what John had seen of him, to be a lot more comfortable with his situation than John was.
Maybe it was a generational thing--Mendoza was only twenty-two--or maybe just a personality thing; there were unis who liked it--thought of it as a calling or just got off on all the Sympathy Cycles. Mendoza was Catholic, maybe he'd bought into the idea that being a uni was a God-given gift. Then again, John had been raised Catholic and if he hadn't stopped believing when his mother died, discovering he was a uni would have been the final straw.
Their other uni, Dr. Stillman, didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, according to Elizabeth, she'd co-written an incredibly well-regarded book on the role of unis in myths and fairy tales. John liked her well enough and Rodney had even said, "she has some vague talent, although really, linguistics isn't exactly science, now is it?" But when she'd off-handedly said, "if you ever want to hang out and commiserate, Major," John had smiled tightly and backed off. It wasn't even a come on, but the last thing John wanted to do was voluntarily talk uni shop with someone; his monthly meetings with Heighmeyer were bad enough.
Blinking, he realized he'd almost dozed off. Mendoza was out and as John looked down at him one more time, he felt the weight of a responsibility that had nothing to do with being a uni settle across his shoulders.
* * *
Three nights later, he was woken out of a sound sleep by his radio. "Sheppard," he mumbled, coming awake fast.
"Major," Beckett said, "we have a situation."
Beckett instead of Elizabeth or Ford meant that the situation wasn't Wraith-related at least, and since it wasn't Rodney sounding panicky, it wasn't an Ancient tech issue either. Which pretty much left one thing.
"Where do you need me?" John said, reaching for his pants with one hand and a tube of lube with his other.
"Jesus," he said a few minutes later. "What the hell happened here?"
He'd expected to be called into the infirmary, but instead Carson had told him to come down to the holding area, where he found Carson, three Marines and Elizabeth.
Carson and one of the Marines both started talking and Elizabeth held up a hand. "One at a time, please?" she said.
"Corporal?" John said.
"Sir, he just...."
"What the hell?" Ford came in the door and then pulled up short. "Sorry, Ma'am."
For a moment, John seriously considered banging his head on the nearest wall. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward. "Never mind. We'll go over the sequence of events later. Right now, I need someone to get a mattress down here ASAP."
"John," Elizabeth began, as Carson touched his radio and started speaking quietly. "You don't have to...."
"Actually, this time? I do." He gave her a look. "And it's my call to make."
Clearly not liking it, she nodded.
"Okay, everyone out," John said.
Ford lingered and John looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"You sure you want to do this, Sir?"
"Is that a trick question?" John asked. "I can take it, if that's what you're asking."
"Um...no I wasn't...." He took a deep breath. "No, Sir. I'll just go now."
"Yeah," John muttered as Ford left. "You do that."
Two of Carson's orderlies brought down a mattress, some blankets, a case of Gatorade and a box of various supplies, but John kicked them out before he opened the cell door. With a quick thought to Atlantis, he turned the observation cameras off and then got everything settled and closed the cell door with himself on the inside.
"So, Sargent Bates, I guess it's just you and me."
By the look of him, Bates had been hit by a few fists before someone had the brilliant thought of stunning him somehow. Probably a Wraith stunner, John thought, stripping off his gloves. And thank God for that; hopefully I'll have some time to get into Sympathy.
He hauled Bates up onto the mattress and then started getting him out of his clothes. "And just how far gone are you? Did you think you could hold out until Mendoza was back on duty, was that it? Didn't want to go to a civilian or me? You stupid bastard."
Sighing, he pulled off the rest of his own clothes, and got the lube out of his pocket. After slicking himself up pretty generously, he settled down on the mattress under a blanket, pulling Bates close. Closing his eyes, he began to breathe deeply. He didn't know if it helped, but over the years, he'd been in this situation often enough that he had a routine.
"Wish I knew what you wanted," he said, running a hand down Bates' back. "Wish we'd had a chance to get to...."
"Fuck," Bates suddenly muttered, shivering under John's touch.
"Yeah," John said. "I'd guessed that much."
Bates' eyes flew open. "Not...not you."
"Yeah me," John said. If he hadn't had his hand on Bates' back, he might have been surprised, as it was, he was ready when Bates suddenly rolled over and pinned him, and he just went with it. John could feel the Sympathy coiling in his gut, tinged with anger.
"Don't want you," Bates snarled, shoving up against John.
"Too fucking bad," John snarled back and God, it was good to be able to say that even as he felt himself getting hard.
Bates raised a hand and John went tense, not sure if he was about to get hit or if Bates was going for his throat. If there was one thing over twenty years of Receiving had taught him, it was how to protect his neck, but Bates went for John's shoulder instead, holding him down as he rubbed off on him. His other hand was on John's hip, hard enough to bruise, but that was pretty much par for the course; John hardly noticed.
"Fuck you," Bates muttered and then again. "Fuck you...fuck you."
"You're not gonna...last that long," John gritted out through his teeth and if he sounded just a little smug, well, tough shit.
He was right too; Bates came against him with a strangled groan and now the cell smelled like come in addition to the faintly acrid smell of their sweat and the underlying hint of something else, something subtle John associated with male riders. He'd been told that there was no way he could really smell the complicated mix of chemicals that determined people's Cycles, but that was bullshit. Men smelled sharp, like fresh ground pepper, and women smelled warm and oddly dry, like sawdust in a hot room.
He didn't really have time to think about it though; his own orgasm hit him and as he shoved up against Bates, he turned his head and bit down hard on the back of Bates' wrist. Again he felt Bates' next move before he made it and again, John rolled with it, letting Bates push him onto his stomach.
"How 'bout now?" Bates snarled. "Think I'm not gonna last?"
It felt good when Bates shoved in hard. John tried to bite back a moan, but he couldn't quite and he heard Bates laughing harshly. "I can take you," John ground out, shoving back. "I've taken worse." He grunted as Bates bit down on the back of his neck, the sharp pain fueling both his anger and arousal. "Nothing you can do...hasn't been done already."
"Fucking proud of it...bike."
"Bet your ass...grunt." They were both moving hard and John knew that later he'd feel this not only in the obvious places, but in the big muscles of his thighs as well. "Call me anything...heard it all."
"You like it?" Bates slammed his hand onto the middle of John's back, leaving him pinned down. John figured he could probably (maybe?) get free, but really why should he? Bates was doing a pretty damn good job of pounding him into the mattress and John was in full Sympathy right now; it felt fucking great.
Which is why what he said next came as a bit of a surprised, even to John.
"Fucking hate it." John tossed his head and slammed a fist down onto the mattress. "Fucking hate being a bike...hate that everyone can just...climb on."
"Hate it too...don't want it like this." Bates bit him again, and this time, John fought it, twisting hard. "Fuckin' Cycles...don't want them...hate this!"
"Don't fucking...want it," John snarled, almost beyond words now. "Don't want you!"
And that was something he'd never ever said, something that broke the code. Unis were the last stop for some people; their services could literally save lives. There wasn't a culture on Earth that allowed unis to say no; in fact, it was an almost universal crime or sin. Even caught up in full Sympathy the way he was, John still felt like he should look over his shoulder to see if anyone other than Bates had heard him.
"Fuck," Bates grunted, and John wasn't sure if he was agreeing or if knowing John didn't want it made it all that better for him. Or maybe he hadn't even heard John.
It didn't matter, just having said it made things better, made the sex hotter, for John. He dug his fingers into the mattress and shifted a little until the angle was perfect. "Come on," he growled at Bates. "Put your...fucking back into it."
Clearly beyond words, Bates growled and grabbed John's hips. Somehow, he managed to fuck John just a little harder and now John couldn't think about anything; all he could do was feel. He was muttering "c'mon c'mon c'mon...you fucking bastard...c'mon."
Bates bit his shoulder again and the sharp shock of pain sent John over the edge. He came spitting out obscenities and pounding the mattress with a fist.
"Give it up," he snarled once he could speak again. "Give it up, Sargent!"
But Bates came anyway and John couldn't help smiling just a little as Bates rolled off and lay next to him, panting up at the ceiling. John rolled over too, reaching into the box to pull out a towel. He was Sympathetic enough that just the feel of rough terry cloth on his skin made him shiver a little and he scowled as he tossed the towel to Bates. No reason he couldn't get something out of this besides getting fucked. With that in mind, he reached into the box again.
"So how long's your Cycle?"
"Short, but rough."
"Kinda like you, huh?" Before Bates could react, John grabbed his bicep and shoved hard, rolling him onto his side. "Can you take it? Or aren't you man enough?"
He was pretty sure that, under normal circumstances, that kind of taunt wouldn't work on Bates, but now Bates just laughed harshly. "Are you man enough? I thought all you do is roll over."
"Yeah? Fine, lemme show you how fucking easy that is."
Surprisingly, Bates let John manhandle him until he was on his knees and elbows. John was turned on enough that his fingers were shaky but he tired to be at least a little gentle with the prep. He needn't have bothered, though; Bates pushed back hard against John's fingers.
"Want it like that, huh?"
"You gonna talk or fuck?"
"I'm Air Force," John said, tossing the lube back into the box. "I can walk and chew gum at the same time too." Just before he grabbed Bates' hips and shoved in fast and hard, John was pretty sure he heard a faint snort of laughter.
John wanted to draw it out, wanted to...to prove something he supposed. But he didn't always get a chance to fuck a guy when he was Recieving him and the weird anger they were both feeling drove him to really put his back into it. Bates was moving with him and when John dug his fingers in Bates' hips, Bates moaned.
He'll have bruises. Bruises I put there, And fuck, that was a hot thought. John had never really gone all possessive while Receiving but then again, he'd never Received anyone under his command before.
"Mine," he snarled. Shifting positions a little, he reached out with one hand and rested it on the back of Bates' neck.
"Fuck you," Bates managed to get out. He didn't make any effort to get away, but John had a feeling he'd pay for this later. Right now, though, he didn't care; he just kept his hand on Bates' neck and fucked him as hard as he could manage.
All too soon, Bates was coming and that was enough to send John over the edge too. "Holy shit," he muttered as he collapsed on Bates' back.
* * *
Bates didn't see John's tattoo until the second day. He had John spread out underneath him and was just about to fuck him again--third time? or was it the fourth?--and he paused. John, who'd been more than ready for another round, lifted up on his elbows, intending to tell Bates to fucking get on with it.
"What the fuck?" Bates said, pressing a finger hard against John's thigh. Before John could say anything, Bates laughed. "You've got motherfucking balls Sheppard."
"Yeah," John panted. "It's a...."
"Don't have to explain it to me," Bates muttered, and then he was shoving into John and John was dragging his nails up Bates' back and any thoughts of his tattoo or Bates' remark vanished from John's head.
Later though, as they gulped down Gatorade, Bates glanced at John's thigh again. "When'd you get that?"
"College," John said. "I went through a militant phase."
"Fight the power, brother." Bates stuck his fist in the air and John bit his lip until he saw that Bates was laughing. As John laughed too, Bates shook his head. "It really sucks for you, doesn't it?"
"What do you think?" John tossed the Gatorade bottle aside and pulled a Power Bar out of the box. "I'm a fucking good pilot but nobody gives a shit about that."
Thinking that he'd maybe said too much, he finished the Power Bar in a couple of bites and then reached out and grabbed Bates' arm. "Get over here, Sargent," he said.
Bates resisted and John tugged harder and suddenly, they were rolling around on the floor, each fighting to get the upper hand. John did his best, but for all that he was in the best shape of his life, Bates was a Marine. After about five minutes, John was pinned down and Bates was biting the back of his shoulder.
"Not this time, Sir."
"Shut up and fuck me," John snapped.
Bates did just that and for a short time, John was able to let himself go and forget about everything but the way Bates was pounding him into the mattress.
* * *
Bates had been right about his Cycle. About three days after it had started, he'd just finished fucking John when he yawned, rolled off John onto the mattress and fell asleep. John hadn't come, so he reached down and quickly brought himself off and then lay back, staring at the ceiling.
Falling out of Sympathy happened faster than getting into it. Within a half hour, John felt the familiar fatigue start up. The mild depression wasn't far behind and he sighed; knowing the chemistry involved didn't help all that much. Neither did the faint burn as his body worked overtime to heal itself and John snorted as he remembered Teyla's surprise at how quickly Earth people healed.
Right now, John would happily trade that advantage for the ability to go through life the way she did--free of Cycles, free to choose who she fucked, even free to not to fuck anyone. He couldn't even imagine it. Even before he'd known he was a uni, he'd known that he'd spend most of his life as a slave to his hormones.
"Yeah," he muttered, looking at Bates. "It really does suck. For both of us."