John's biggest mistake, arguably, was openly flaunting his pudding cup in the halls outside the mess. But he could hardly help the smug saunter, the cheerful look-what-I've-won! light in his eyes, fingers curled possessively around the chilled plastic, spoon upside-down and pressing just inside his upturned lips.
Pudding. An honest-to-god Hunt's Snack Pack. And it was all his.
He just barely resisted the urge to give Carson a wink and a hip-check as he strolled past the infirmary, knowing the Scot had gotten his own treat during the lunchtime lottery, but his position of leadership sadly precluded that sort of behavior. He was contemplating a secret Pudding Fancier handshake, though, when Rodney flung open his lab doors and paused on the threshold, glowering at him.
"Yes?" John asked around his spoon, giving the word a loose, slobbery quality that would've made him wince if he wasn't in such a damn fantastic mood.
"You realize you're glowing," Rodney snapped, and yes. Yes, it did seem rather bright in the hallway.
He slipped the spoon out and licked his lips. "She's very happy for me."
"We're all very happy for you, Colonel." Rodney lunged for him and John, alarmed, cradled his precious pudding cup to his chest. Only Rodney just grabbed his arm and jerked him inside the lab.
John backed warily away, and Rodney locked the door behind him.
"What were you humming?" he demanded.
"Uh, what?" John asked dumbly. He half turned, blocking his Snack Pack from Rodney's hungry eyes. The lab wasn't empty, but it was empty enough, and John didn't trust Rodney not to rip the cup right out of his hands.
Rodney tapped his foot impatiently. "I called you down here, you left your radio on, said something about strutting, and then..." he rolled a wrist.
John just arched his brows, aiming for his you're-on-something-aren't-you? grin, because there was no way in hell he was admitting to humming the theme from The Greatest American Hero. "It was really more of a stroll than a strut," he drawled.
Rodney's gaze dropped down to John's mouth, teeth biting into his lower lip. He seemed sort of expectant, and yeah. He was totally begging, eyes gone all soft and puppyish. It was a good look for him, but John wasn't buying it.
"Here's the thing, McKay. I'm not giving you my pudding."
From puppy to irritated monkey in zero point two seconds. John blocked out everything but the flailing and leant back against the nearest lab table, half-smiling as he spooned up another bite.
He really liked his handshake idea, he thought absently, almost hypnotized by Rodney's agitated fluttering. Although it would have to be fairly simple. For a doctor, Carson was surprisingly uncoordinated. And finger waggling was always a plus, but kind of ostentatious. He was just settling on a clasp, twist and reverse hand-slap when Rodney stepped quite a bit closer to him and.
"I'll. I'll... John." His voice went slightly husky and John cocked his head, hoping Rodney was finally winding down.
And then the tone, coupled with his last few words - really, the past five minutes of his rant now that he rewound them in his head, and how had John missed that? - nearly knocked the breath out of him, and he asked incredulously, "Wait. Wait, are you honestly trying to trade sexual favors for my Snack Pack?"
"No," Rodney snapped, but his eyes were shifty and his mouth was screwed up and he looked desperate for pudding.
Which wasn't all that flattering towards John given the nature of their conversation.
"Okay," John said slowly, nodding his head. "I'm—we're," he motioned between them with his spoon, "going to pretend that you didn't just proposition me over a tasty dessert—"
"I didn't!" Rodney cut in indignantly.
"—and I'm gonna go finish this," he wagged the cup, "in the privacy of my room." Or in front of the botanists.
With a low chuckle, John slipped out of the lab, mentally adding Will Trade Sexual Favors For Food down on his list of Rodney's adorable - yes, adorable - quirks, right in between Loses All Coherence Around Pretty Girls and Can Go On For Hours About Flux Capacitors.
It wasn't until the pudding was long gone, a sickly sweet aftertaste coating his mouth, that John realized he'd passed up sex for pudding. Sex with McKay, granted, but still. It didn't pay to be too choosy when you were stuck in another galaxy, and McKay was sort of hot in a pushy, smart-mouthed way and god. Pudding. Had he completely lost his mind?
Their mission to the Corn Planet - or Remulak, as John had instantly dubbed it upon sight of the natives - spun out of control faster than he could make a Conehead joke. And while they were waiting for Lorne and company to rescue them from the Giant Foil-wrap of Doom - which would most likely cook their bodies to moist and tender perfection alongside the enormous ears of not-quite-corn - John put some thought into the whole pudding-sex exchange scheme. Really, it was just trading one basic need for another. No biggie.
He couldn't help but wonder if it extended beyond pudding, though, and he asked McKay, casual tone in total opposition of the fierce chanting and high, hot bonfires surrounding them, "So. What if I had some pie?"
Rodney blinked at him, sweat beading across his forehead and upper lip. "What?"
John shrugged, shoulders lifting as far as they'd go with his hands tied behind his back. "If I had pie. Would pie be as effective as pudding?"
"What are you babbling about?" Rodney sounded genuinely confused. And uncomfortable. Probably because of the whole looming cannibalistic death thing.
"You know," John arched his brows meaningfully, "the whole 'Pudding Incident.'" At that point, he was kinda glad his hands were hidden, since for some reason the compulsion to use air quotes wasn't quelled by having his wrists lashed together.
"What. are you. I can't believe," Rodney spluttered, then managed to grind out, "You're bringing this up now why exactly? We're seasoned and basted and I'm starting to think I smell delicious and you want to chat about... about." He made a jerky motion with his head, and John didn't have to look to know that Ronon and Teyla were staring at them curiously. "And for the record, Colonel," he went on in a hiss, "I was in no way - no conceivable way - offering to perform sexual acts in exchange for your pudding cup!"
John didn't really believe him, of course, because hey, pudding, but he let it drop. "Okay."
Rodney huffed, then deflated, sinking back against his stake. "Okay," he echoed.
Later, after they'd been rescued by a carefully-not-smirking Lorne and cleared by Carson, John found himself wondering if pie would fall on an even keel with pudding. If they'd both get him a fast and messy handjob up against a lab table, or if pie was slightly lower on Rodney's roster, maybe only warranting a grope or heavy petting.
And then, later still, he wondered if the exchange was strictly contingent on Earth foods, and he wondered what treat would get them both naked and slick on any sort of flat surface, and he realized he was completely insane, because all of a sudden the mere mention of coffee - god. coffee - made his dick twitch.
This was how the original Flaunting of the Pudding Cup came back to bite John in the ass:
Botanists apparently held massive grudges.
And Lorne was very attached to Dr. Parrish.
John had also, at one point, made the huge mistake of describing his second-in-command as feisty and resourceful, which wouldn't have been all that bad if he hadn't been half-high on painkillers at the time and if he hadn't insisted on calling him 'Major Scrappy.'
Ronon, while no one - least of all John - doubted his loyalty to his team, greatly admired Major Lorne's tenacity. He also had a weird sense of humor.
And everyone knew that Elizabeth didn't have the slightest clue how to deal with Ronon, and his habit of looming over her with his bizarre melding of menace and amusement.
So suddenly there was a rule, and military and civilian heads - specifically John, Carson, Elizabeth and Rodney - were no longer able to benefit from the Daedalus mealtime lotteries of recently acquired Earth foodstuffs, allowing the lesser grunts and geeks more and better chances of winning.
Instead of the newly choreographed Pudding Fancier handshake, John passed Carson with a half-hearted wave and a commiserating sigh. The good doctor was nice enough not to blame him for their pudding-less state, which wasn't much of a surprise, but Rodney's bland acceptance of it all was worrying. And slightly creepy.
When he stepped into the lab, Rodney flashed him an irritated, impatient glance and used his pudding cup to gesture him over, and. Wait. Pudding cup?
"How did you get that?" John asked, eyes narrowed.
"Radek gave me his."
"I desire more than anything to see Rodney happy," Radek called out from behind a console, and there wasn't the least hint of sarcasm in his voice.
John arched a brow. "You didn't replace him with a robot, did you?"
Rodney snorted and turned back to his laptop. Bending down, he tapped a few keys rapidly with one hand and then jabbed at the screen with a smeared spoon. "You see that? That's security for Pier 29."
"All right," said John. He wasn't actually looking at the computer, though, more than a little distracted by Rodney's stance over the table. Rodney had a great ass. John tried really hard to regret that revelation, but there wasn't much point, was there?
John's gaze traveled up to Rodney's pinched scowl as he twisted a look over his shoulder. "Yes?"
"The security, Sheppard. It's out on Pier 29 again."
John grinned winningly. "Can you fix it?"
"Of course I can fix it! We've fixed it five times in the past week. The problem is that your yahoos can't keep their sticky hands off it and for god's sake stop staring at my ass!"
Zelenka made a choked coughing sound, and John held up a hand. "Whoa, back up there. My yahoos what?"
"You're familiar with Pier 29, aren't you?" Rodney asked testily.
Pier 29? Yeah. Oh yeah. Pier 29 was great. "So my yahoos," he stressed, "have been what? Cutting off security to neck at Look-out Point?"
"Are you actually amused by this?"
"To a certain extent, yeah." Plus, baiting Rodney was like the best game ever. John was only minutely disturbed that he got off on it.
"A certain extent, of course," Rodney snapped, "because nothing says fun like drunken Marines on a remote dock with limited communication and faulty fail-safes."
"Bad idea, right," John agreed amiably, which just seemed to irritate Rodney more, pudding cup going for a ride and spoon coming dangerously close to stabbing him in the eye, and really, how had he talked Radek into giving up something that tasty?
John cocked a hip against a lab table, leaning a hand onto the back of a chair and settling in for a good show, not actually listening to Rodney's words, but avoiding getting caught by judiciously timed nods and a practiced, self-effacing twist to his lips. There was a smudge of chocolate at the crease of Rodney's mouth, the left corner, and John was kind of disgusted. Mainly with himself, of course, because the thought of pudding and Rodney's mouth was playing havoc with his breathing patterns and Jesus. Dried food, spit, and chapped lips really weren't supposed to be sexy. He was sure of it.
And then Zelenka was whistling something that sounded a bit like Frosty the Snowman, but probably wasn't Frosty the Snowman, and it suddenly hit John exactly why the little Czech was in such a good mood and why Rodney had a pudding cup and he stumbled back a step.
It was possible - probable, in fact - that Rodney's pudding-sex exchange scheme wasn't exclusively reserved for John. And wow. Wow, he really didn't like that idea.
He gave Rodney a thoughtful frown and the scientist broke off mid tirade with a sharp, "What?"
"Nothing, just." He shook his head. "I'll talk to Bates about it, all right?"
"Right." Rodney gave him a suspicious, narrow glare. "Good."
"Good." John rocked back on his heels. "I'm just gonna..." He hooked a thumb over his shoulder, and Rodney's eyes narrowed even more.
"Um, leave." He risked a glance at Radek, who pushed his glasses up his nose and gave him a fairly innocent, quizzical look over the top of his computer, and his hair was a complete mess behind his ears - which wasn't odd or much different than normal, but it could very well have been sex-mussed and it took all of John's willpower not to yell at him to keep his hands and his pudding cups to himself and flounce away in a huffy fit.
As it was, he gave the dessert still clutched in Rodney's grip a pissy, meaningful glare before stalking out of the lab.
After nearly two years of off-world missions, John had pretty much perfected the art of Taking One for the Team. He normally didn't mind it, either - was occasionally perverse enough to enjoy it - but a public spanking had never been one of his kinks. Particularly if said spanking was being dealt by a stranger and not one of his team, since they were all too chicken shit and were happily letting him go it alone, stuffing their faces at the pre-spanking celebratory buffet. He glared at them as he was led onto the dais - why was there always a dais? - and Rodney had the gall to send him a wave and a cheerfully smug smirk.
The mission had smelled bad from the very beginning, when they'd been greeted at the gate by festively dressed puppets. Teyla had warned them that the Tarpei were considered physically expressive and eccentric by her people, but he'd figured she'd meant that in a French mime or Sad Tragic Clown sort of way. Possibly there'd be a whole lot of inappropriate touching.
He definitely hadn't been expecting an alien version of The Muppet Show, guest starring Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard and his amazing ass.
Apparently, submitting to an open-handed spanking was a sign of trust and heralded amiable negotiations.
Rodney had singsonged "not doing it!" over and over again under his breath until John was tempted to shoot him. Ronon had, as he often did, adopted his I'm-just-a-simple-caveman-lawyer expression, feigning confusion. Teyla had, of course, offered herself up as a sacrifice with the sort of small smile on her face that had John falling all over his southern gentleman self to assure her that he'd do it, and then he recalled that not only could Teyla kick his ass, she was tricky. But by then it was too late.
They'd let him keep his clothes, at least. Well, his underwear. And he was really regretting the whimsical mood he'd woken up with, since he felt fairly ridiculous in his multi-colored mini-jet boxers.
The hushed anticipation made his skin itch and it was oddly erotic, the stone he was lying across cold against his bare stomach, hot gazes - puppet and alien and Rodney - fixed on his backside, and for a moment he thought he'd been completely wrong and public spankings were one of his kinks. Until the Tarpei behind him - a smiley fellow who'd originally met them with a yellow and purple spotted, toothy puppet - used all his strength to slam the flat of his palm onto his ass. John's spine snapped straight and rigid and it hurt and any tentative sparks of lust were chased away by sharp, radiating pain.
He hissed through his teeth, cutting off any expletives, since he didn't think "you shithead, that fucking hurt" was very conducive to trust and amiable negotiations. And thank god the man seemed to sense he'd gone a little overboard that first time - John assumed it wasn't supposed to be a form of punishment - so the rest of the slaps were little echoes of dull throbs and it wasn't long before he was pulled off and taken away and given back his uniform and guns.
In a tiny, windowless room, he clutched his pants to his stomach and breathed through his nose a few times, pain pulling his skin with every movement - who knew his skin was that sensitive? And maybe if he hadn't been kind of out of it already, he wouldn't have sipped that drink they'd pressed at him "for the pain" and maybe he wouldn't have been blinking at the blank wall, pants still in hand, when Rodney came bursting in.
"Colonel, there's some sort of monopoly on the berries that taste like cheese whiz and what's taking you so... Colonel?"
John turned to him, head cocked. "Yes?" He felt a little muzzy. Not high or anything, just a little blurred around the edges.
"You've been in here for twenty minutes and you're still not dressed," Rodney pointed out irritably.
"No, not sorry. What the hell is wrong with you? You aren't—oh my god, they drugged you!"
His concern was sort of touching. Unfounded, really, but touching. "Relax, McKay." He rolled his shoulders. "I'm just a bit... loose." A minute ago, his ass was on fire. Now it was down to a semi-pleasant warm glow. God bless those puppet-lovin' Tarpeians. He grinned down at the clothes in his hands. "Hey look. Pants."
"Loose, right," Rodney snapped. "I honestly shouldn't be surprised, should I?"
John pouted. "I was spanked, Rodney. Spanked."
"Yes. We saw." Rodney stepped towards him and tugged the pants out of his grasp. "And now you need to get dressed before Ronon eats all the cheesy berries."
John nodded slowly, then leaned into Rodney, voice a clumsy hush. "I was bad."
"Oh, for the love of—"
"I told Ronon Radek liked him."
"Are you twelve? And really, Colonel, that's just plain mean—"
"And I replaced all of Radek's clothes with Kavanagh's, so he'd think he shrunk." John giggled.
Rodney stared at him incredulously. "Well, that's actually funny. Juvenile, but effective. You realize you're a dead man, right?"
John beamed at him. "My butt's tingling."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Of course it is."
Post-spanking time was a time of reflection. And John was sixty-eight percent sure Rodney wouldn't rat him out to Zelenka. The other thirty-two percent of him held a hand mirror up around corners and carried mace.
Still. He was unprepared for the attack when it came, and woke up in a supply closet with Dr. Zelenka looming over him, scarily backlit. His thick words, "I will not kill you," were somehow not very reassuring.
The good news was that Ronon and Radek got on famously.
The bad news was that Radek knew all about John's secret Rodney-coveting. He knew all about the pudding cups and the pie and he laughed his little Czech ass off about the whole jealous fit he'd pulled that day in the lab.
And he would neither confirm nor deny John's accusation of utilizing Rodney's pudding-sex exchange scheme, but the intensity of his laughter - almost manic, and interspersed with "oh, god, dying" and "you are serious?" - kind of tipped John off.
All that boiled down to blackmail, except Radek said, "When it suits me, I have strong distaste for blackmail," with an evil glint in his eyes, and John had obviously made an extreme tactical error when he'd decided to take the man on.
The day Major Scrappy and Dr. Parrish came back through the gate as cranky five-year-olds, tugged along by a few completely confused and slightly panicky marines, John realized he was in way over his head.
By the time Carson pinpointed the culprit as a plant spore that Parrish had smeared all over his hands - and consequently smeared all over Lorne, which John was not thinking about - half the botany lab had de-aged and escaped into the main halls, wreaking havoc, and John had the absolutely fabulous job of trying to figure out who was missing and where they could have possibly gone.
On his way to the control room, his radio crackled to life with a frantic, "Colonel?"
"When did we acquire... children?"
John paused mid-step. "Whatever you do, don't touch them."
"I don't think that's going to be a problem," Rodney growled. "No! Put that down! Are you—"
John heard screaming giggles, then McKay shouting, "Don't touch, don't touch! Sheppard, these rug rats better not have an alien communicable disease," and he switched directions abruptly, heading for a transport.
The crazy thing was, rushing down towards the labs, he kept picturing how adorable a kid Rodney would be, with large blue eyes and chubby cheeks; a stocky, petulant stance and wispy, fine brown hair. But he burst into the lab and found five gaping scientists and four giggling kids piled on top of a spread-eagled McKay.
"John," he coughed pitifully, "I'm dying."
John rolled his eyes. "You're not dying, Rodney. If the spores were still on their hands, you'd be pint-sized right now."
Rodney's head popped up. "You mean these," he gestured towards the children.
"Are botanists," John finished for him, nodding.
"Oh, well thank you for scaring the crap out me," he snapped, shoving the kids off of him and huffily getting to his feet. He jerked down the hem of his jacked and scowled at John.
John just gave him a cheeky grin. "Who wants ice cream?" he asked, and there was a chorus of me's that wasn't entirely comprised of kids and Rodney's eyes lit up and John really, really wished they actually had ice cream. Real ice cream, and not the lumpy kind they'd tried to make from that Athosian goat-giraffe's milk and sweet bark.
John sighed entirely too wistfully. Zelenka's laugh was entirely too knowing - and evil. And Rodney growled a little when he realized the ice cream was just a ruse to get the children out of the lab and quarantined in the infirmary. He didn't actually say that out loud, but it was relatively easy to guess.
For his own sanity, and because Radek was really starting to scare him, John decided that avoidance was the best possible move he could make. A little distance, and maybe he'd stop dreaming about Rodney and ice cream and twice-baked potatoes and those little baby carrots and - god - puppets, because apparently he was a horrible, sick, twisted bastard.
He didn't know if it actually took Rodney a week to figure out he was avoiding him, or if John was just that good and it took Rodney that long to track him down. He suspected, though, that he'd noticed the distinct lack of John in his vicinity right away, and just hadn't cared - which made him feel a little bit like a kicked puppy and wasn't that just pathetic?
"Are you pouting?" Rodney asked, balcony doors sliding closed behind him.
"No." His lips pulled even further down.
"You are. You're pouting and you've stopped harassing me about pie and I really have to wonder if the two aren't related."
"I wasn't harassing you, McKay." He glared off into the distance, the endless roll of navy black barely discernable from the star-dotted sky.
Rodney harrumphed loudly, sprawling out on the lounge chair next to his.
"I wasn't," John insisted, purely on principle, because of course he'd been harassing him. "And it wasn't pie. It was pudding."
Rodney chuckled dryly. "Right. Pudding."
John sighed and rolled over onto his side, bending an arm under his head and gazing curiously at Rodney. The scientist had his head tipped back, eyes closed, the blue glow of Atlantis curving under his jaw, shading half his neck. His chair was less than an arm's length away, and Rodney blindly reached out, palm open. John slid his hand over it, fingers fitting around his wrist.
Apparently, they both knew it wasn't about pudding.
"Radek told me you liked me," Rodney murmured, eyes still closed and lips curved up smugly. He tightened his grip on John's hand. "Radek also mentioned you think I'm whoring myself all over Atlantis for food."
"Ah, well." John grimaced. His hand was starting to hurt and wow. Rodney had a really powerful grip there.
Rodney's grin was all teeth when he finally turned to look at him. John might've let out a manly whimper.
"Care to recant that observation, Colonel?"
John squirmed out of his grasp, nervous sweat making his palm slippery. "You can't blame me for that, Rodney," he started placatingly, and he did not scramble cowardly away. But he did calmly slip off the end of his chair and circle behind it, thinking open, open, open desperately at the balcony doors.
Sitting up, Rodney idly pulled a small crystal out of his jacket pocket, smoothing it between his fingers, admiring it in the soft, suffused light. John was pretty sure he was screwed.
"So what you're saying is," John made sure his back was to the solid wall, "you didn't proposition me over my Snack Pack."
"Exactly." Rodney slowly gained his feet, giving John an oddly intent look. "Although no one could blame me if I had. It'd hardly be a chore, Colonel, and really - pudding."
"But you didn't." John warily watched Rodney stalk towards him, his movements almost carefully casual.
"Of course," Rodney went on, coming to a stop in front of John, pressing the hard tip of the crystal onto his breastbone, "that wouldn't be any sort of basis for inferring I go around offering sexual favors to just anyone."
"Of course not," John answered automatically. He had a horrible feeling he was falling into a trap, but Rodney's tongue slicked out between his lips and his eyes were as navy as the night beyond them and he thought to hell with it and kissed him.
Rodney's surprised squeak and stiffening of every single muscle in his body barely registered, his mouth soft under John's, lips parted just enough for him to taste the bitter mix of coffee and probably-not-lamb stew they'd had for dinner, the flat of his tongue rasping over the seam. But then a sharp, pointy thing digging into his chest had him hastily backpedaling.
"Hey, what the—"
"Sorry." Rodney stuffed the crystal back into his jacket, giving it an absent pat and John a sheepish quirk of his mouth.
And then big hands were pushing him backwards, sliding up under his t-shirt, warm on his belly, the dip of his spine, slipping down past loose pants, and John honestly hadn't believed he'd get anywhere without offering some rare, delicious commodity, so he'd stockpiled coffee grounds and there were three large chocolate bars hidden under his bed.
Gripping Rodney's biceps, pulling him closer and arching his neck and feeling hot breath on the curve of his jaw, John was really glad he hadn't actually had to trade for it, since he figured he'd need all the leverage he could get when he brought up the puppets.