The thing is, maybe Rodney wouldn’t notice so much if Sheppard weren’t so pretty.
He stands there at the front desk each day with his artfully tousled hair that always looks so soft and touchable – despite the fact that he has to dump an ocean’s worth of hair gel into it to get it to stand up like that – and his mouth curving suggestively at every undergrad that comes in looking for a book or internet access. The man’s every move practically screams Rent Boy!
(Rodney really does try not to listen too hard when Mrs. Rosafi, the elderly professor from the social sciences department, starts in on Sheppard’s questionable after-school activities, but apparently all the innuendo has rubbed off on him anyway. And it’s not like Rodney’s usually looking or anything. Just sometimes he sees, is all.)
“Hey, buddy,” Sheppard says every morning, and sets a cup of contraband coffee on the paper-laden desk Rodney’s unofficially claimed as his own. It’s the one closest to the emergency exit, because Rodney knows how flammable books are, thank you.
“That is very important research, be careful,” Rodney snaps, but Sheppard doesn’t seem affected; he just grins like Rodney’s told him a great joke, gives a sloppy salute, and drawls, “Yes, sir,” as he walks off.
Rodney manages to wait until Sheppard’s out of sight before falling on the cup of coffee like a man possessed, but it’s usually a close thing. He’s not sure who Sheppard’s had to kill to get this kind of brew smuggled into the building – it tastes like ambrosia – still, he’s certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth when it has such amazing coffee in its hooves.
Sometimes, Sheppard stops by Rodney’s desk during the day with a paperback sticking out of his pants pocket, or a hardcover clutched under one arm. He sits on the edge of Rodney’s desk – despite Rodney’s squawk of outrage – and recites passages.
“I found Elizabeth’s stash of romance novels,” he’d said cheerfully on Friday, plopping down on top of Rodney’s very important calculations and stealing the pen out of Rodney’s fingers. “Listen to this: ‘Her breasts swayed with each powerful piston of his hips, her nipples tight, sparking pleasure down her spine every time they brushed the coarse sheets of her jungle lover’s bed.’ Jungle lover, Rodney. That’s sexy.”
Unfairly, in Rodney’s opinion, he couldn’t come out from behind his books for an hour after that little performance. Just watching Sheppard’s lips form the word ‘sexy’ was enough to have him hard and squirming in his chair.
It’s embarrassing and unacceptable, this high school infatuation with Sheppard’s admittedly attractive self. Rodney, after careful deliberation, decides it needs to stop.
John Sheppard hadn’t always been so hard to ignore, though. Rodney remembers when Sheppard had just arrived, fresh out of graduate school and with a resume just as spotty as the moldy cheese in the back of the staff room’s fridge. The gap between Sheppard’s undergraduate and graduate work was substantial, but even though Sheppard couldn’t account for it, Elizabeth was won over and pulled him on board almost instantly.
“This is ridiculous,” Rodney had argued at the time. “You turned down a perfectly good candidate with a PhD last week, but you hire this – this pretty boy?”
Now, Rodney looks back on that day and winces. He really should have seen it coming when the best insult he – him! Rodney McKay! Bane of all thin-skinned Physics students! – could think up was pretty boy.
The first few months, they’d kept to themselves. Rodney’s work only occasionally took him away from his desk, and even then he only went as far as Elizabeth’s office to have her look up a book for him. Life had been so simple back then. His days had gone by in a haze of equations, and no one ever tried to eat his turkey sandwiches on lunch break. Yes, he’s still bitter about that.
And then, almost half a year after being hired, John Sheppard got it into his (thick, stupid, heavily haired) head that Rodney McKay was fun.
“Hey, McKay,” he’d said happily one completely normal Thursday afternoon, ignoring Rodney’s indignant glare to hop up onto the desk. “Whatcha doin’?”
“Work,” Rodney had answered tightly. “Are you familiar with that concept? Shouldn’t you also being doing something which is not sitting on my grade book? Like, oh, I don’t know – what exactly do you do around here?”
Sheppard grinned brightly and leaned down closer to Rodney, eyes wide like he was about to reveal a really huge, really cool secret. “I,” he’d declared dramatically, “am a librarian.”
Right there and then Rodney realized two very important things – things which would make his life infinitely more complicated, things that he imagined “emo” teenagers around the world wrote depressing poems about while wearing all black.
- No matter who you are, you cannot dislike someone who can (and will) quote The Mummy on cue in a proper British accent. It’s just not done.
- John Sheppard’s smile made funny things happen in Rodney’s stomach.
“Elizabeth?” He pokes his head around the door frame tentatively.
Elizabeth looks up from her computer screen and favors him with a bright smile that does almost nothing to lessen the severity of her outfit. “Rodney, come on in.” She pulls her glasses off her nose and sets them on the desk in front of her. “What can I do for you?”
Once invited, Rodney flops down on the chair across from Elizabeth’s desk in prompt despair. “Fire John Sheppard.”
To her credit, Elizabeth doesn’t even seem fazed. “He’s a very important part of my staff, Rodney. Why would I fire him?”
“Because he’s annoying!” Rodney blurts. “He flirts with the students – there has to be some kind of rule about that; sexual harassment maybe? – and he always puts Physics books back in the Science Fiction section expressly to piss me off, I just know it. How am I supposed to concentrate on my work while he’s – he’s smirking all over the place? It’s impossible!”
Elizabeth arches her eyebrow knowingly, and Rodney feels his cheeks heating up.
“What?” he barks defensively.
“Nothing, Rodney,” Elizabeth says serenely.
“No, seriously – what?”
Elizabeth puts her fingers back on her keyboard and cheerfully ignores him until he leaves in a loud huff.
His first plan of action firmly put down, Rodney sits at his desk while everyone else is out to lunch and starts drawing up a bulleted list. It’s not the greatest or most detailed list he’s ever come up with, but it gets his point across.
- Try denial
- Accidentally push out into traffic
- Find a hot blonde substitute
The first two are crossed off almost as soon as he finishes writing them down – the first because of its already obvious failure, and the second because, oddly, the idea of Sheppard getting hurt makes his stomach lurch. That leaves only the last one, which is at once pathetic and intriguing. Professor Carter won’t give him the time of day, not even in French, but there is a new addition to the science department who’s curvy and sweet-looking, all pink cheeks and pencil skirts. Rodney remembers liking her when they met, thinking she wasn’t half-bad for a Biologist. No doubt she’ll be able to distract him from Sheppard’s manly wiles.
Mind made up, he sets the list aside. He almost manages to forget about it in favor of drawing elaborate red “F”s on his students’ exam papers until Sheppard comes by and leans over his shoulder for fifteen minutes, murmuring disparaging things about Rodney’s students into his ear and making Rodney’s breath speed up.
The date is horrible.
After Rodney’s fumbling attempts at asking Marlene out are accepted, they take separate cars to a local Italian restaurant called Vincent’s. Rodney spends the first five minutes once they’re seated looking over the menu and desperately trying not to remember the way Sheppard had perched on the edge of Rodney’s desk just last week, holding an Italian cook book in his hand, and mentioned that he liked Alfredo sauce best.
Marlene orders something that has a truly unfortunate amount of lemon in it, and then happily launches into a monologue on the properties of green algae. Rodney, who is never at a loss for words, finds himself unable to work up the proper vim and vigor such ridiculous dinner conversation would usually inspire in him.
“Incredible blah blah blah, classification debate blah,” he hears, right as a steaming plate of Fettuccini Alfredo is set down in front of him, and that’s when he knows his plan is doomed to fail.
“Have you ever had Chicken Francese?”
“No I have never had it, because I don’t want my throat to close up when I go into a sudden and horrifyingly severe bout of anaphylactic shock.”
“Is it all citrus or just lemons?”
A bemused hesitation. “All citrus.”
“Hey, wow, that has to suck. You want me to take that box of Earl Grey out of the staff kitchen? Bergamot’s a citrus, isn’t it? Man, I can’t believe Elizabeth left that there.”
The second conversation carried them through John’s intense “thing” about bugs (after a failed attempt on Rodney’s part to swat a mosquito), and the third jumped through too many topics to name, but settled, in the end, on all of the various reasons why Aquaman didn’t deserve to be in the Justice League.
How was your date?
Rodney stares at the familiar chicken scratch in dismay. When he glances over at the side of his desk where the pile of ‘to copy’ papers had been sitting, he sees the list is right out in the open; the various incriminating scribbles he’d subjected it to during the course of the day in an effort to convince himself Sheppard wasn’t worth the effort (before he’d taken all his courage in hand and gone to see Marlene) are in plain sight – including the ones that say ‘ridiculous muppet laugh’ and ‘how does he make it stick up like that???’ and ‘stupid molecule jokes’. There’s a little post-it attached with Rodney’s doodle of a spiky haired cartoon character peering over the edge of the paper.
“Oh,” he says weakly.
“Yeah,” someone drawls behind him.
Yelping, Rodney whirls around, both hands out. One of them catches Sheppard on the shoulder, and then, momentum slowed, trails over John’s bare throat. Rodney swallows, watches John’s throat bob when he does the same. They’re standing too close.
“Oh,” Rodney says again.
John’s eyes settle on Rodney’s mouth, dark with something Rodney’s still too scared to name.
“Have dinner with me tonight,” John murmurs, stepping even closer, until Rodney can feel their shirt sleeves brushing together, the air between their mouths damp and hot. He shivers, fingers curling in towards his palms against the need to touch; his knuckles graze the skin of John’s wrist.
Rodney closes his eyes and counts his breaths, keeping them even with considerable effort. “Where? When?”
“Pack up at five thirty,” John says, pulling away. Cool, unwelcome air rushes in between them. “Meet me at the front desk. I’m drivin’.”
As soon as John’s turned the corner out of his sight, Rodney shudders and reaches behind him to hold onto the back of the chair for balance. His knees feel a little wobbly with the memory of how John’s voice had gone all low and honeyed on the last few syllables, oh god.
He realizes suddenly that he is very much in over his head.
Elizabeth proves, once again, to be absolutely no help; Rodney’s seriously contemplating buying her a pair of half-moon spectacles, naming her Albus, and finally having done with it. Teyla, the quiet woman who practically lives in the social anthropology section, only smiles benignly at him. His students continue to fail miserably at the most basic laws of thermodynamics. Radek and Ronon spend the entire half hour Rodney’s visiting the language department laughing at him after he squeaks out, “Date!” and flaps his arms uselessly at his sides.
“You mock my pain,” Rodney complains after a while, but his heart’s not in it. Ronon just gives him a friendly whump on the back.
By five o’clock, he’s a man-shaped ball of nerves. He can’t even concentrate on his equations – which are way more vital than whether or not John Sheppard’s hair would be nice to wrap around his fingers. He packs up early since he obviously won’t be getting any work done, and heads out into the main atrium to lurk until five thirty.
Unfortunately, his lurking leaves much to be desired because Sheppard spots him as soon as he passes the doorway and sends him a wickedly edged smile.
Five minutes, Sheppard mouths.
Rodney turns on his heel and stares fixedly at the woodwork around the doorframe. It’s – it’s very interesting. Hard. Woody. God, even his vocabulary has turned against him now. Next, it’ll be his big, beautiful brain.
“Admiring the grain, McKay?”
“Mnrgh!” Oh, there it goes.
Sheppard laughs, catching Rodney’s flailing arm before it can do any real damage, pulling him closer by it. How the bastard manages to make it seem unplanned and smooth at the same time, Rodney doesn’t know, but suddenly his forearm is pressed against John’s stomach, and it’s warm and strangely intimate feeling every inhale right against the backs of his fingers.
“You really need to stop sneaking up on me,” Rodney admonishes, slightly breathless. “I might hit you or, or poke you in the eye. Very dangerous.”
John’s mouth turns up in a familiar, cocky smirk, even as he presses a little closer. “I’ll take my chances.”
Someone clears his throat behind them, and it’s then that Rodney remembers (a little wildly), right, middle of the library, public space – glass windows.
“Oh god,” he whimpers.
“Come on,” John says without a trace of embarrassment, and uses Rodney’s arm to tug him out the front door.
“Ah,” Sheppard counters, “I said ‘have dinner with me’. I never said we were going out for it.”
The house they pull up in front of is nothing special: white siding, dark gray roof shingles, azalea bushes underneath the first story windows, and a simple black mailbox with the house number stuck onto it. Somehow, Rodney had expected Sheppard’s house to be flashier. He’s kind of glad it isn’t, though, because it’s really hard to be intimidated by a gravel driveway and a worn-through welcome mat. The inside of the house is a different story, however.
It’s not Spartan exactly, but everything has its place, and the only things that don’t seem to be involved in some strange Sheppardian filing system are the books. Books, stacked up on the coffee table, shoved haphazardly into various shelving units in a way that suggests John’s only just managed to put them down, and even then it was a fight.
Rodney feels unaccountably charmed.
“Kitchen,” Sheppard reminds, tugging at Rodney’s elbow like an impatient child who’s being denied his favorite toy. Rodney follows without complaint, still slightly thrown. The kitchen is much the same as the rest of the house had been. The countertops are spotless save for the small bunch of bananas resting on their sides next to the coffee pot and the cook books lying open next to the stove – very specifically, Rodney notes.
“Did you plan this?” he accuses.
Sheppard throws him a fond, patient look over his shoulder and turns to lean against the island, hip cocked out, torso one long, lean line. “Yes, Rodney, I planned this.”
“Why did you plan this?”
That same patient look again, warmer this time. “I like you,” Sheppard explains slowly, unspoken duh tacked onto the end.
Rodney tries to take offense, but he’s never really been wooed before and it’s kind of flattering. “Oh,” he manages, stuffing his hands into his pants pockets to keep them still.
There’s an awkward moment of silence – or at least a silent moment when he feels awkward – and then Sheppard’s stepping towards him with intent. Rodney’s back is against the kitchen wall before he knows it and he can feel the light switch against his shoulder blades, but it doesn’t even matter because John’s lips are ghosting over his jaw and across his chin, only enough pressure behind each grazing kiss to have Rodney gripping at John’s waist and gasping out loud.
“Do you like me, Rodney?” John asks and presses a firmer kiss behind Rodney’s ear with just a hint of wet tongue, and all Rodney can do is moan, “Yes, yes, I want –” because, god, they haven’t even kissed yet and he’s already wound so tightly it feels as if he might break.
John’s mouth covers his a second later, lush and wet and a little bit messy. They don’t fit together right at first because John’s kissing like he’s thought about it, like he’s imagined this and can’t quite figure out the mechanics of the reality yet, but then Rodney remembers that he’s allowed to touch too, reaches up to twine his fingers in the hair at the nape of John’s neck, and they slot together effortlessly. It goes on for so long Rodney’s swaying dizzily by the time John pulls away, moaning and blinking his eyes open when their lower lips cling together for a second longer.
They stare at each other for what seems like an age, panting and pressed tightly against one another from shoulder to hip.
“Dinner?” John asks.
“Fuck no, are you insane?” Rodney demands.
“Pushy,” John observes.
“Shut up now,” Rodney says sweetly.
He twists John’s hair around his fingers, tugging so John’s head tips back and their mouths can meet again. John makes an agreeable sound and stumbles back, his arm around Rodney’s neck to pull him along. It’s a miracle they get to John’s bedroom without permanently injuring themselves or each other, but they manage it somehow and suddenly Rodney’s staring up the ceiling and John’s climbing into his lap with a slinky kind of feline grace, lips rubbed red and turned up in a pleased grin.
John’s hips grind down, a slow, controlled roll that feels so good Rodney can’t do anything for a second but grip John’s shoulders and hold on.
“I guess dinner can wait,” John murmurs contemplatively, pressing his lips to Rodney’s throat and sliding his hands up under Rodney’s shirt, clever fingers finding Rodney’s nipples.
Rodney squirms and shoves his hands down between them, fumbling John’s fly open and rubbing his knuckles rhythmically against the wet spot of fabric over the head of John’s cock until the fingers on his chest falter and John exhales a shaky, “Oh god,” against his collar bone.
There’s nothing graceful about it after that: John trips over his own feet getting out of his pants and Rodney manages to elbow himself in the thigh skinning out of his shirt, and neither one of them can stop kissing long enough to see where their limbs are going. After some cursing and manhandling, Rodney gets a fist around John’s cock and his teeth in John’s lower lip, biting down just hard enough that he can feel it when John groans and comes all over his hand and both their stomachs.
“Christ, John,” Rodney breathes, lightheaded.
As soon as he’s got his breath back, John whispers, “Let me, let me –” and shimmies off the bed onto his knees, pressing Rodney’s thighs apart and leaning in to nuzzle the base of Rodney’s cock. Rodney reaches for him and twines his fingers in John’s hair again, watching hazily as John’s red mouth swallows him down.
He lasts an embarrassingly short time (because, teeth – that’s just not playing fair), but John doesn’t seem to mind, milking him through it and taking everything Rodney gives him with soft, encouraging sighs and moans.
When Rodney can muster up the energy to drop his arm to the side and open his eyes – he hasn’t come that hard in ages – John’s hovering over him, naked and grinning wider than Rodney’s ever seen him grin.
“Incorrigible, arrogant little –” Rodney mutters, tugging John down into a languid, sated kiss, tasting himself on John’s tongue. “Mmm. Can’t we just order in Chinese or something?” he asks, slurred because John’s working on putting a mouth-shaped bruise just under Rodney’s chin.
John leans back, laughing, and looks so beautiful Rodney’s breath catches.
“Oh thank god,” John says, and then confides, “I can’t cook for shit.”
Rodney calls in sick the next day for the first time in six years, and the fact that his voice is scratchy from when he enthusiastically woke John up earlier that morning with a blowjob makes it easier to say, “Of course I feel horrible, but I just can’t come in today. I could be contagious, you know, and then the whole department might be at risk! Yes, yes, aches and pains, sore throat, the whole – yes, I have a doctor’s appointment for later today. No, I’m not sure if I’ll be in for the rest of the week,” without giving himself away, even though John’s bent double in the corner of the kitchen laughing so hard he can’t even make noise. A swift kick to the back of John’s knees and he goes tumbling onto the rug in front of the sink, wheezing with delight.
“You are such a bad influence,” Rodney tells him sternly when he’s hung up the phone.
“Psh,” John says, staring upside down at Rodney. Strangely, his hair looks more natural that way. “You need a little shaking up sometimes, McKay, even if you don’t know it.” He pauses smugly. “’Sides, you look well ravished, and that can lead to all sorts of problems.”
Rodney purses his mouth tightly against a smile, amused despite himself. “What sorts of problems would those be?”
Levering himself up by the countertop and slinking closer, John says, “Well. Someone might try to take advantage of your pre-ravished self. Less work, you know.”
“Would that someone’s name happen to rhyme with Bon Mepplard?”
“Maybe,” John allows, feigning innocence. He slides an arm around Rodney’s waist and reels him in, fingers inching up underneath Rodney’s borrowed sweatshirt over the small of his back. “But could you really blame him?”
Rodney hides his grin against the crook of John’s neck. “No, I guess not.”