"So," said Rodney McKay, twirling his keys on his index finger, trying for a casual yet friendly tone. He nodded in the direction of Sam's (formerly his, and briefly their) front lawn, where two squat planters now flanked the bay window like evil botanic henchmen. "New landscaper?" he asked.
"What?" said Sam, distractedly, halfway through closing the door in McKay's face. "Rodney, it's nearly seven thirty, I have to be on base by eight. Let's get moving, here." She waved at Rodney's foot, which was resting just on the threshold, almost accidentally.
"I only ask," said Rodney, forcing a smile, "because I thought we'd worked out the alimony. I mean, paying for your new landscaper, that's off the table."
"Oh my god, Rodney!" Sam scowled. "I didn't hire a landscaper, okay? And I already told you, I don't care about the alimony settlement, so call off your arsenal of divorce attorneys." She blew out a breath and none-too-gently kicked at Rodney's foot, trying to dislodge it. "Look, you have Yoshi's crate and food and blanket and I'll see you on Thursday night when you drop him off. We can talk more then if you want."
"Wouldn't it be easier," said Rodney, pulling a thoughtful frown, "if I just -- stayed here. I mean, you'll be offworld anyway, I wouldn't be in your way and Yoshi wouldn't be as upset if he could stay at home. And I could -- I don't know -- keep an eye on the new landscaper, make sure he doesn't cut down the acacia trees or something."
"Never gonna happen, Rodney," said Sam, and pulled the door to, right over Rodney's foot.
"Ow ow ow, you she-devil!" yelped Rodney, hopping back. "I thought we agreed we wouldn't do this in front of Yoshi. 'Keep it civilized for his sake,' you said!"
"The cat's in the car already," Sam pointed out with a mean little smile, "and I'm late for work, so would you please?" She waved over at Rodney's idling Mercedes in the driveway. She turned her head towards the car as she gestured and Rodney saw that her short blonde hair wasn't as fluffy as usual over the crown of her head.
"Oh my god," said Rodney, suddenly realizing what was different about Sam this morning. "You had sex!" He was completely blowing the cool and casual act by this time, but he didn't care, because Sam was glowing and dewy and her hair was flat in the back and she had totally totally had sex last night. "You're sleeping with your landscaper!" he accused, pointing at her and then at the new planters. "Oh, this is so coming up in the divorce settlement talks next week."
Sam had flushed pink and was actively prising his fingers away from the doorjamb now. "McKay," she said, "go to work."
"We've been separated for what, ten days" -- "A year and a half," corrected Sam -- "whatever, a very short period of time and you're already sleeping with the domestic help? That's just. I thought you had more class, that's all," said Rodney, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, hurt and shocked and outraged, and not a little thrilled at having the moral high ground.
"He's not a landscaper, would you go the hell away?" grated Sam, and Rodney was so thrown by this unexpected admission that she managed to kick his foot free and pry his hands loose all in one swift motion. He stared at the closed door, listened to the snick of the deadbolt lock, and blinked stupidly.
This wasn't just a landscaper/landscapee dalliance, Rodney realized, dumbfounded. Samantha Carter, formerly Samantha McKay-Carter, had a new boyfriend.
"Yoshi," said Rodney, settling his shaky white hands over the leather steering wheel, "I don't know how to tell you this, but your mommy is a no-good cheating cold-blooded harlot."
Yoshi, penned up in his crate and already annoyed, yowled with discontent.
Rodney tapped his fingers on the wheel in thought, then voice-activated his car phone and dialed the office. "Good morning, Dr. McKay," said Elisha sweetly. "Extra shot in your latte when you arrive today?"
"No," said Rodney, backing the Mercedes out into the street and throwing it into drive. "No, I won't be in today. In fact, I won't be in until Friday. Make the necessary arrangements."
"But --" stammered Elisha, "this week, we can't --" Clearly Rodney had shattered her Monday morning routine; in spite of how much he paid her to be unflappable, this treatment from her workaholic boss had completely flapped her.
"Yes, yes," said Rodney, driving just down the block and pulling over into the nearest cul-de-sac. "McKay Tech will crumble to the ground without my constant care and attention, but could you make do without me for just this week? I have a very important --" He circled the cul-de-sac and parked so he was facing the main road, waiting and watching.
"Dr. McKay?" prompted Elisha.
"Friday," said Rodney, distracted. "Don't bother me before then. Put -- what's his name, the Czech, the fluffy-haired little man with the glasses?"
"Radek Zelenka?" Elisha provided fearfully.
"Yes," said Rodney, narrowing his eyes as Sam's obnoxiously shiny little divorcee-of-a-billionaire Porsche coupe drove past. "I mean. Yes. Zelenka. Put him in charge. Leave me alone. I have something more important to attend to this week."
He stabbed at the blue button, ending the call, and counted to sixty before kicking the car into drive and heading back down the street towards Sam's nest of infidelity.
Rodney had barely gotten his key in the lock when the door handle turned and opened of its own accord.
"Can I help you?" said a man's voice, and Rodney looked up to see a scruffy unshaven face topped by the sort of hair normally only seen on certain breeds of exotic birds and very socially backward grade six boys.
"Oh, I'm Rodney," Rodney said, saluting the interloper with his outstretched key. The man blinked slowly. "McKay?" Rodney added. "Sam's husband?" he clarified, a tad impatiently now.
"Thought she was divorced," said the man, scratching at his deranged hair, which only made it more deranged.
"Separated," Rodney corrected shortly. "We're still in the talking phase. There's Yoshi to think of, after all."
"The cat?" said the man, squinting doubtfully.
"You must be Sam's newest attempt to drive me away," Rodney said, narrowing his eyes at this slight towards his and Sam's beloved pet. "The one responsible for the hideous greenery out front there?"
"Yeah, that's me," said the man. "Didn't you just leave? I thought she said you left."
"Your name?" prodded Rodney. The man, as advertised by his hair, did indeed seem to be more than a little socially stunted. Clearly Sam wasn't after his mind, which should have made Rodney feel relieved but instead only made him tenser.
"Sheppard," said the man. "John."
"Listen, Sheppard," said Rodney abruptly, "Yoshi is very upset and distressed and whatnot. He'll only calm down if he's at home where he belongs."
Sheppard scraped the back of his hand up the side of his face, the scratch of his stubble audible in the quiet suburban morning. "Yeah, okay," said Sheppard. "I'll take him, it's cool."
"You will do no such thing," Rodney said, indignant. "I'm hardly about to give Yoshi over into the care of a person who is obviously ignorant of the basics of personal grooming! No, I'll stay here while Sam is away, with Yoshi. You," he waved his fingers at Sheppard, "you can go back to your important life of delivering pizzas or newspapers or whatever it is you do when you're not sleeping with my wife."
"I promised Sam I'd take in the mail," said Sheppard, blinking slowly. He really was an appalling simpleton, Rodney realized. The attraction was a complete mystery to him. "And water the plants."
"And skim the pool and mow the lawn, yes, I used to live here too. I'm perfectly capable of house-sitting," Rodney added.
"I guess you could stay and watch the cat, and I can do everything else," said Sheppard, after a long pause which had made Rodney hope for a slightly more astoundingly novel plan than the one being presented. "Yoshi's happy, you're happy, I'm happy."
"Ecstatic," said Rodney through clenched teeth.
Sheppard nodded slowly as he had done everything else, then stepped back to let Rodney in the house. Rodney was already throwing off his coat and breathing deep through his nose to catch the faint traces of Sam's scent in the air when Sheppard coughed and said, "Um. McKay? The cat?"
"Right!" Rodney said, clearing his throat and realizing that Yoshi was still yowling in the backseat of the Mercedes. "Yes. Of course."
"I'm gonna grab a shower," said Sheppard, yawning, padding barefoot towards the staircase. He was wearing a t-shirt over sweats that said 'USAF Grrls Kick Ass' across the backside, Rodney realized with disgust -- not only was he in pyjamas -- at nearly eight o'clock in the morning! -- but he was in Sam's pyjamas.
Clearly Sam had gone utterly mad with grief over the breakdown of their marriage, Rodney concluded with a sad headshake. He headed out to the car to rescue Yoshi from the indignity of the kitty crate.
Rodney was certain that once Sam came to her senses, she'd thank Rodney for being level-headed enough to keep an eye on her crazy-haired cross-dressing cretinous boyfriend.
Rodney was halfway through a box of pop-tarts he'd discovered at the back of the pantry when Sheppard slouched into the kitchen with a towel swaddled around his hips. With his hair wet and clean, wearing a sheet of white terrycloth instead of heather-grey women's active-wear, with his chest bare and glistening and showing its muscles instead of peeping erratically through the threadbare holes of an ancient t-shirt -- well. Rodney coughed up the piece of pop-tart that had lodged in his throat. Sheppard cleaned up pretty good.
"You okay?" said Sheppard, picking up the newspaper -- the sports pages -- and cocking one visibly David-lined hipbone up against the granite countertop.
Rodney flapped his hands, eyes watering, and managed a shaky thumbs-up. He forced his gaze downwards, only to find that Sheppard had crooked little toes which were weirdly pretty.
"So you and Sam, huh?" said Sheppard, flapping the sports section open and failing to notice Rodney's meltdown. "Can't really see that working."
"Yeah, well," Rodney rasped without thinking. "Me neither. I mean -- she's not very bright, but she's fantastic to look at."
"Pretty much the opposite of how she described you," said Sheppard, frowning at whatever he was reading, or possibly attempting to read. Rodney wasn't ready to assume complete literacy in this man.
"Sam said I was smart?" Rodney preened.
Sheppard tilted his head in agreement, barely paying attention. Rodney took the opportunity to study Sheppard's baser assets in more detail -- long lean lines, sharp jawline, hairy body, narrow cheeks freshly reddened from a close shave. Dark smudgy lashes framing hazel eyes. Pointed ears. Slender fingers. Sam had -- perhaps not gone completely insane, Rodney conceded. In fact, purely judging on a physical level, she had done quite well for herself.
"Is it serious?" Rodney asked, crumbling the last half of his pop-tart with nervous fingers. "You're spending the night and she's trusting you with our house, I can only conclude that she thinks it's serious."
Sheppard looked up again, chewing on his full lower lip for a moment before replying: "I think it's safe to say we're kind of at a crossroads. Could go either way at the moment."
Rodney blinked and fixed his gaze over Sheppard's shoulder. "I see," he said stiffly. "Yes. All right. Well."
"I'm going to go and get dressed," said Sheppard awkwardly, shuffling the paper together and pulling himself up straight. "I'll be up there for a while," he added unnecessarily.
It wasn't until Sheppard left and Rodney stood to get another cup of coffee that he caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the cabinet door and saw what Sheppard had seen -- that Rodney looked ready to cry.
Rodney frowned at his reflection for a moment, then opened the cupboard and extracted the sugar bowl. Sam had reduced him to this -- he, a dot com billionaire, making hundreds of thousands of dollars even in his idlest hour, an attractive virile man in his prime! -- she'd lowered him to forcing himself into the company of a man genetically skewed towards inhuman prettiness and subhuman stupidity, just to collect news he ought to have accepted long ago: that he and Sam were over. Really, truly over, even beyond the niceties of alimony settlements and feline custody battles.
As Rodney stirred a healthy dollop of cream into his coffee, he weighed his options: he could leave Yoshi to the moron's tender mercies and go on with his life…or he could stay and torment himself with four full days of living in the house that used to be theirs, sharing the company of Sam's vacuously attractive randomly-haired paramour. The choice seemed obvious.
Rodney tossed back three hot swallows of bitter coffee and smiled to himself.
The answer was secret option C: move on with his life, but take Sam's happiness with him.
Sheppard seemed surprised, though pleased, to come back into the kitchen and find Rodney not weeping into his breakfast pastries, but pulling out the entire contents of Sam's refrigerator.
"Whatcha doing?" asked Sheppard, now fully clothed again, this time in jeans and what appeared to be a man's button-down striped shirt. His sleeves were rolled up to reveal delicate-looking wrist bones on one arm and a somewhat suggestive leather cuff bracelet on the other.
"Cooking," said Rodney. "Can you chop peppers or are you purely decorative?"
"I can chop," conceded Sheppard, taking the bag of yellow and orange peppers that Rodney thrust his way. "Why am I chopping?"
"Chili," said Rodney. "My specialty. Our lunch."
"Aren't you a big important corporate…" Sheppard circled his index finger in the air vaguely. "Something? CEO or CFO or -- or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?"
"Yes," agreed Rodney, "only far less vulgar than either of those buffoons. Which is why I can spend a morning cooking chili and still earn half a million dollars in the process. Chop."
"Chopping," said Sheppard, pulling out a knife and a cutting board. He had to hunt for the board, Rodney noted with satisfaction -- a crossroads, indeed. "Yes, sir."
Rodney cradled an armful of other vegetables against his chest and waited until Sheppard shifted back enough that it was a tight squeeze between him and the kitchen island behind him. Rodney squeezed through, pressing his hips against Sheppard's denim-clad ass in the process.
"Whoa, sorry," said Sheppard, flattening himself against the counter in an unflattering way, suggesting that he thought Rodney needed a space the width of a Smart Car to navigate the kitchen.
Right, not a big casual toucher, Rodney noted, and began chopping as well. It was no problem, Rodney's best flirting was purely verbal anyway.
"So," said Rodney, turning an onion over twice. "So."
"So," said Sheppard agreeably.
"So," began Rodney again, and cut himself on his knife. "Motherfucker!"
"Here, c'm'ere," said Sheppard with a sympathetic hiss, hauling Rodney's bleeding finger over to the sink and sticking it under cold water. "Maybe I should do the chopping," he suggested, grimacing as they both watched Rodney's finger shed pale red droplets into the basin.
"Good, good," said Rodney, breathless and flushed, because Sheppard was holding his finger with one hand and his shoulder with the other and Rodney could smell the earthy oily scent of the leather cuff bracelet next to his face. "I'll find meat, I can fry meat."
"Sure you can," said Sheppard easily, patting Rodney like he was a clumsy toddler. "You do that."
"I made an atomic bomb when I was nine," Rodney said. "A non-working model, but -- well. I'm just saying, I've been known to have steadier hands."
"Huh," said Sheppard, sounding disinterested, turning away and back to his vegetables.
So far, Plan 'Seduce Sam's Vapid Man Whore' was not a resounding success. Rodney revised his mental schedule: perhaps he wouldn't get Sheppard into bed before noon after all.
The chili came out too hot. Rodney thought he might have been a bit distracted as he added the cayenne pepper, because Sheppard had chosen that moment to hop up on the countertop and kick his heels against the cupboard doors, like an overgrown child. It had been unpredictably attractive.
Whatever the reason, he and Sheppard manfully each ate four spoonfuls, grunting about how everyone else who said they liked spicy food didn't really like spicy food and how everyone else was, in point of fact, a bunch of pussies, and how one time Rodney had eaten curry that made his nose bleed and one time Sheppard had eaten hot wings that left a chemical burn on his fingertips, and um, hey, was there water in the fridge? And maybe there was some sour cream in there too, to just garnish the chili? And the heel of that loaf of bread, maybe if they just pressed the bread flat against their searing tongues the pain would subside and their eyes would stop watering and Sheppard started laughing an awful dirty honking laugh, and Rodney was torn between being appalled and weirdly turned on even as he desperately rubbed the surface of the white bread over his swollen blazing lips.
"This chili is just --" Sheppard wiped his wrist over his running eyes and snorted again, helplessly. "Ow, ow, my mucous membranes," he sniffed, grinning.
"I'm usually quite a good cook," Rodney said, torn between laughing and defending his tattered domestic honour. "Better than Sam at any rate."
"Oh, I have no doubt," said Sheppard generously. "I've experienced Sam's cooking firsthand."
"I'm so, so sorry," said Rodney, sincerely. "Was it the jelly salad -- the orange jello with the green olives and the pineapple and the shrimp?"
Sheppard chuckled and grimaced and went on to complain about another of Sam's culinary disasters, this one involving potatoes, spinach, and candied ginger, and while Rodney tried not to laugh and tried not to look Sheppard in the eye, he pondered the fact that he was failing pretty spectacularly at seducing Sheppard.
It seemed be going more in the other direction, Rodney realized bleakly, and Sheppard himself wasn't even trying.
'At a crossroads,' Sheppard had said; that sounded promising, like Rodney could sweep in and take Sheppard away from Sam without being accused of outright boyfriend-stealing. It implied some kind of unresolved tension, like either Sam or Sheppard wanted more and one of them was digging in their heels, like Rodney could provide the perfect catalyst for a break-up.
"Well, I said I'd mow the lawn and then there's a game Tivo'd that I want to watch," said Sheppard, rising to his feet.
"Wait, we didn't eat lunch, not really," said Rodney, scrambling out of his chair and trying to think of another way to delay Sheppard's departure.
"I'll grab some more bread, it's cool," said Sheppard, tearing a piece off the French loaf and sauntering out of the kitchen. "Later, Rodney."
"Later," echoed Rodney weakly, watching Sheppard go.
The problem, Rodney decided, was that he hadn't yet put his best foot forward. He checked on Yoshi (sleeping between the couch cushions in the living room, one paw flexing dreamily) and then headed out the door. He needed some supplies from his condo. Glancing at his reflection in the rearview mirror, Rodney decided he could use a haircut too. He called Elisha en route and told her to have one of the corporate stylists waiting for him at home.
"Why am I supposed to wear glasses again?" he asked of Elisha, merging onto the freeway and poking irritably at the non-prescription Gucci wire-rims that Seb the image consultant had foisted off on him.
"It's a public perception thing," recited Elisha airily. She'd apparently regained her zen center since the morning's phone conversation. "Seb says that it promotes the idea that you're successful, but not self-obsessed."
"Okay, but," Rodney demanded, "do they make me look more attractive, yes or no?"
There was a pause while Elisha judged his seriousness. She once again proved her worth when she came back with the correct, unvarnished truth. "Ditch the specs."
"Thank you," Rodney sighed, flicking the useless glasses off his face and into the passenger seat. "Anything else I should know?"
"Wear blue," she advised, "and try not to call her a dumb blonde."
Elisha thought he was trying to get Sam back, Rodney realized, blinking. He opened his mouth to correct her, but decided that she'd already gotten too close to the truth. Instead, he said a curt goodbye and concentrated on making it downtown and back before dinnertime.
The house had a back patio with an outdoor barbeque that Sam and Rodney had always been too busy to use, but Rodney dug out some old citronella pillars and a stainless steel ice bucket to chill the wine, and when he was through with it, the area looked quite pretty.
"What's all this?" asked Sheppard, stepping out into the backyard, his fist closed around the neck of a beer bottle. He glanced over at Rodney, newly attired in a blue button-down dress shirt, and his eyes widened. "You went home to change?"
"Just dinner -- to apologize for the incident with the chili," said Rodney, waving a hand in a gesture of dismissal. The dishes he had picked up from the caterer on his way back were piping hot, steaming gently on the patio table between the two place settings of his and Sam's wedding china.
"No need to apologize," said Sheppard, still wide-eyed. "You did all this?"
"Yes," said Rodney, and was promptly seized by a fit of honesty, "well, I paid for the caterer who did it."
"Damn," said Sheppard. "Uh, thanks?" But there was something a bit off about Sheppard, a weird skittishness that made Rodney worry that he hadn't set the mood properly, that Sheppard didn't get what was going on.
"Music!" exclaimed Rodney, and he dove for the little entertainment system he'd lugged outside. It was something generic, a Starbucks mix he'd picked up with his latte while he ran errands, but it sounded nice, like Rodney might actually know something about popular music. "Sit," Rodney ordered, pointing, then flushed and forced himself to rephrase. "I mean, if you want to sit, you could sit. There."
Sheppard sat, still radiating unease. Rodney hovered uncertainly before joining him. "It smells good," he said idly, stabbing at the plate of rosemary chicken and dropping a piece onto Sheppard's plate. "You like --"
--"If it's okay," said Sheppard, speaking rapidly compared to his usual drawl, "I'll just take this in and finish watching the game." He reached across and filled his plate with spoonfuls from the remaining dishes, then stuffed a roll between his teeth and went back in the house with his catered dinner balanced in front of him.
Rodney despondently blew out the citronella candle on the table. Clearly, he hadn't been obvious enough.
"You're --" Sheppard paused in the bathroom doorway, toothbrush hanging out of his foam-flecked mouth, and stared at Rodney. Sheppard looked over his shoulder, as though he might have wandered through a mystery door from the en suite bathroom and wound up somewhere other than the master bedroom. Sheppard blinked, looked back at Rodney, held up a finger in a gesture of delaying Rodney's response, and leaned back into the bathroom to spit into the sink and rinse his mouth. "Okay, so -- I think I'm already probably risking my skin with Sam by letting you stay here," said Sheppard, re-emerging and wiping his wet mouth on his forearm, "but letting you sleep in her bed is seriously going to piss her off. I mean, we're talking definite dismemberment."
Rodney rolled his eyes and flicked the covers back a little, just enough to show Sheppard the top of his bare ass. "I'm not exactly thinking about Sam's sensibilities at the moment," he said dryly. "Are you coming to bed or not?"
Sheppard looked over his shoulder again, this time as though checking for a hidden camera, or thinking that McKay could be addressing a third, invisible person. "Um," he said eloquently. "Wait."
"Oh, come on," Rodney exclaimed. "What are you, the densest man in the history of the universe? Does the effort you spend on growing all that hair completely impede any and all higher neurological functioning? I'm trying to get you into bed with me in the most blatantly literal way, and yet you still seem confused!"
Sheppard plucked at the waistband of his sweats (which were actually Sam's sweats) and frowned. His cheeks and ears were going pink. "I guess," he said, reluctantly, "I guess I have to admit I did see it coming this time." He rubbed the bridge of his nose with the side of his index finger. "But McKay, I --"
Rodney kicked back the covers and scrambled to the edge of the mattress. "No, no, you do not get to reject the naked man in your bed!" he said, irritated now. "And don't go feeding me some bullshit line about how you don't do guys because, a) you're wearing sweatpants that have pink writing across the ass, and b) the day Sam seriously dates a guy who might be, in any way, manlier than her, I'll die of the shock." He paused. "Also? Need I add, c) your hair?"
"It's not that," said Sheppard, feebly now, and ha! He was checking Rodney out, he was! "I just think that maybe Sam and me, or at least Sam and you --"
"It's just fucking," said Rodney, impatient. "Come on, I'll bottom, god knows Sam never lets anyone else be in charge, it'll be a nice change of scenery for you."
Sheppard got a funny twisty expression on his face, clearly fighting the appealing prospect of being in charge of sex versus the weakening sense that he should do the right thing. Finally he bit his lower lip -- he had to stop doing that, it was seriously screwing with Rodney's ability to think clearly, or at all -- and said, "Well, maybe if we do it in the guest room."
As revenge sex went, it completely shot to the top of Rodney's list -- which wasn't to say that it was particularly hot or vicious or depraved. At no point did Rodney pause to think about Sam's face when she found out what her pretty boyfriend had been up to while she'd been battling Earth's alien enemies, and even if he had paused to think about it -- well, vindictive satisfaction had been pretty far from his mind, because once Sheppard had made up his mind to do something, he obviously did it thoroughly and slowly and with devastating attention to detail. By the time he rose up on his knees over Rodney, by the time he pressed Rodney's thighs back and hooked Rodney's calves over his shoulders and moved until he was pressed tight against Rodney's entrance, by the time Sheppard exhaled shakily and bit his lower lip and then slowly, slowly, slowly eased the head of his cock inside Rodney's ass, Rodney could only form one coherent thought.
"You," he panted, as Sheppard pushed a little farther and deeper, "you have got to be much smarter than you let on."
Sheppard laughed and blinked the sweat out of his eyes. "Oh yeah?" he asked, voice gone rough and unpitched. "What makes you say that?"
"No one could be this creative in bed without some serious capability for lateral thinking," Rodney told him earnestly, and hooked his hands behind Sheppard's neck. Then Sheppard thrust sharply and minutely, like Rodney's words had raised a reaction, and Rodney lost track of what they were saying. "Oh my god, you need to fuck me now," he said, and Sheppard ducked his head and laughed and began to move his hips.
It wasn't until hours later, after he and Sheppard had both gone hoarse with happy sex noises, after Rodney had arched up and come while Sheppard fucked him through it, after Rodney had slid his fingertips down Sheppard's slick back, circled his hole and sweet-talked him into a final noisy climax, after they'd collapsed and laughed and then kissed and kissed, after Rodney had pinched the pointed tips of Sheppard's ears and Sheppard had squinted and scowled and retaliated by sticking his pinkie finger in Rodney's navel, after they'd drifted into a comfortable sleep and Rodney had woken in the middle of the night with a full bladder -- not until he was peeing and gazing dopily at his sleep-flushed face in the mirror, did it hit Rodney: he had done it, he had done what he'd meant to do.
It was then that Sheppard banged into the bathroom and stood alongside Rodney, peeing with a sigh of relief, and Rodney found himself glad to put the thought away. It had felt strangely uncomfortable.
"You're not a midnight sex person, are you?" Rodney asked, a little hopefully, "because -- and I'm sure you've noticed this -- with Sam, I had to choose between midnight sex and waffles in the morning and, well -- waffles, but my ideal thing would be to have both and if you're --"
Sheppard's head was tilting quizzically, his hair back to the terrifying state it had been in this morning when Rodney had seen him first, and Rodney covered his distress at the memory with a scowl and a barked "What?"
"Just thinking," said Sheppard, yawning, "you probably would be quieter if you had my dick in your mouth."
"Yeah, okay," said Rodney amiably, and followed Sheppard back to bed.
They didn't bother getting dressed the next day, waking late and lounging in the guest room eating waffles with Yoshi curled up between them. They wandered into the living room at some point and Sheppard watched more football while Rodney spread out the business section and bitched about every article he read, lying belly-down on the plush rug. Elisha contravened orders twice, calling Rodney's blackberry and sounding annoyingly pleased with Rodney's lackadaisical replies to her urgent questions.
"I told you not to call," he said, the third time. Sheppard had just set a steaming full mug of coffee on the floor in front of Rodney, right over the article he'd been ranting about, and now Sheppard was settling down astride Rodney's ass as though Rodney were a beanbag chair and not a human with back problems.
"I know, Dr. McKay," said Elisha breezily, "but Dr. Zelenka insisted that you review the schematics I e-mailed you, he says we need to have a firm draft in place for our bid presentation to the USAF on Monday and he's worried that you won't have enough time Friday to --"
"Oh my god, right there," groaned Rodney as Sheppard leaned forward with his elbow digging into Rodney's trapezius.
"But I can hear that you're busy," Elisha segued effortlessly, "so I'll just assure Dr. Zelenka that you'll review everything and have notes for him in plenty of time."
"Yes," hissed Rodney, and hung up. "Fucking Zelenka, expects every single weekend off so he can go rock-climbing." He groaned again. "Don't ever stop, this is seriously better than the thing you did with your dick and my prostate last night."
"My dick is a little insulted," said Sheppard, but his voice was low and purring and it suddenly occurred to Rodney that it had been hours and hours since they'd been naked together.
"Oh, well," Rodney said, "allow me to apologize," and heaved himself up so Sheppard rolled off his back, pinned Sheppard down by the hips and hauled Sam's wretched sweats down and off, and bowed his head to apologize as thoroughly as he knew how.
Rodney was looking for more lube on Sheppard's wonderfully vague directions ("In my duffel bag," he'd said, rolling his hips lazily and basically wagging his ass at Rodney, and Rodney, digging through black t-shirts and rolled up sweat socks and gore-tex-looking pants, had said, "Where in your duffel bag, it's like I've discovered the underside of a teenager's bed here?" and Sheppard had said, "To the left!" which wasn't even funny) when his fingers wrapped around the familiar nylon rectangle of a velcro flash patch. He pulled it loose with a tearing sound and found himself looking down at an American flag. Stuck to the underside was a vaguely triangular patch, also velcroed, and when Rodney tore it free and turned it over to see -- "Oh my god, they did it," he breathed, running the pad of his thumb over the little circle that topped the inverted V, then the raised embroidered letters spelling 'ATLANTIS'. "Oh my god," Rodney said more loudly, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up, turning his head to stare at Sheppard (who was still ass-up in the middle of the mattress, oblivious and writhing). "You're military!"
"What?" said Sheppard, halting his writhing and twisting around to see what Rodney was doing. "Oh, that. Yeah, that's how I know Sam, I thought you knew."
"You know her from the frigging Air Force?" Rodney asked, looking back at the contents of the duffel and suddenly recognizing the pants as BDUs, not just regular civilian cargo pants. "You know her from the SGC?" he added, disbelieving.
"Wait, you're not supposed to know about the SGC," said Sheppard, with an amazing lack of military tact. He had managed to get back into a sitting position, now cross-legged on the bed and watching Rodney, but still hard and a little distracted.
"I used to work for the SGC," said Rodney, dismissing Sheppard's concerns with a hand-wave. "Well, technically, I was on contract with Area 51 and got seconded to the SGC for some troubleshooting. That's how I met Sam -- and, incidentally, how I ended up leaving the military and starting up my company. So -- wait. You're in the Air Force?"
Sheppard lifted one shoulder, scratching at the hair on his belly. "Well, Rodney, USAF grrls do kick ass," he quoted casually.
Rodney flapped the Atlantis badge. "And you're stationed in Pegasus?"
Sheppard raised his hand in a mock salute. "Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, military commander of the Atlantis expedition."
"Commander?" Rodney repeated, voice going embarrassingly high.
"Is this turning you on?" smirked Sheppard. "Because I have my dress blues hanging in the closet if you want me to get all dolled up for you."
Rodney held up a hand, gesturing for Sheppard's silence while he absorbed this astoundingly new information. "Sam never told me you guys made it to Pegasus," he said, wonderingly. "How long ago?"
"Four years," said Sheppard.
"Holy shit," said Rodney, rubbing his thumbs over the badge again. "Holy shit, the Pegasus galaxy."
"Yeah," said Sheppard, clicking his tongue, bored. "Rodney?"
"Give me a second," said Rodney, tracing the gate symbol again.
"Rodney, the lube is over here, I forgot that I took it out this afternoon and put it in the nightstand."
"Shh," said Rodney, smelling the badge. It smelled like laundry soap and Sheppard. It didn't smell like a different galaxy.
"Rodney, I'm putting my fingers in my ass now."
"Hang on, just --" Rodney closed his eyes and pictured it, an intergalactic wormhole, the rush of energy it would take -- "holy Christ, you guys must have a ZedPM," he gasped.
"Two," said Sheppard. "Plus one here on Earth, and another powering an intergalactic cruiser, but we don't use it as much as we use the gate bridge Carter built us last year, makes it a shorter trip and cheaper on the electricity bills, too." There was a pause. "Rodney, if you're done getting off on sniffing my dirty socks, I'm just about ready here."
Rodney staggered to his feet, heavy and rock-hard and with his mind spinning, but then Sheppard was spread out on the mattress with his fingers in his ass and Rodney instinctively moved towards him, thinking greedily of zero point energy and gate bridges and, most of all, that Sheppard lived in a different galaxy.
"Four ZedPMs," said Rodney blissfully as he sank into Sheppard, as he began thrusting short and shallow and anxious.
"Hnh," gasped Sheppard, clenching the sheets and dropping his head down, "and, yes. Oh, fuck, we have a shield, our city has a star drive, we flew her last month, Rodney, you should see her fly."
Rodney frantically jerked Sheppard's cock because he wasn't going to last, not even for another minute, not with that image in his head, not with Sheppard's lean hairy thighs splayed under him and Sheppard making hot hungry noises. "Fuck, come already," Rodney grated, and Sheppard thickened and jumped in Rodney's hand and came spectacularly, Rodney following close behind.
Later, lying with Sheppard's head on his chest, trying to convince his heart to stay inside his chest, Rodney heard himself say in a small confessional voice, "I never got to step through the gate, I wish I'd gotten to do it just once."
"In Pegasus," said Sheppard, equally softly, "the gates are blue, they're -- it's all better than anything we have here, it's…"
Rodney unthinkingly kissed the crown of Sheppard's head, filled with a weird ache he'd never known before.
Wednesday passed much the same way as Tuesday had, though this time he and Sheppard managed to put on real clothes around noon. Rodney spent almost every non-nude minute pumping Sheppard for information about Pegasus, and though Sheppard resisted and made squinty faces and said things like, "McKay, it's classified," he did let tantalizing details drop: Atlantis was its own island; Sheppard had Pegasus natives on his gate team; and someone had figured out how to give the ATA capabilities via gene therapy.
"I didn't need it, natural carrier," Sheppard said, wriggling his fingers in demonstration, like Sam's toaster would glow blue in response.
"Oh my god, you're just -- that's really hot," said Rodney, hungrily.
"Wanna go and get groceries?" said Sheppard, probably hoping that Rodney would find something else to discuss once they were in public.
"Yeah, okay," said Rodney, mostly because Sam's stock of food was annoyingly healthy and he was suffering from chocolate deprivation. "We can buy more condoms."
Elisha called when they were in the middle of aisle five at Safeway, arguing over brands of salsa. "Still busy!" Rodney said, ending the argument by putting both brands in the cart. "I can afford the huge expense of two jars, just keep going," he told Sheppard as he covered the mouthpiece of the phone.
"Dr. McKay, it's the USAF, they need to meet with you today," said Elisha, urgently.
"What?" said Rodney, distracted by the swagger of Sheppard's ass as he moved further down the aisle. "What? No! The bid is due Monday, they can't bump the date up, we're not ready!"
"It's not about the bid," said Elisha. "They want you for a private consultation, they were very insistent that they needed your expertise." She paused, and when she spoke again, her voice was quieter and more intense. "Dr. McKay, I think that your wife might be involved."
Rodney froze in the middle of the aisle, his heart leaping into his throat. "Put me through to General Landry," he ordered, and Sheppard's neck snapped up at the name, his back going rigid with the first hint of military Rodney had seen from him.
Landry picked up on the second ring. "Dr. McKay, we sure could use your help on this," he said, and Landry was being polite -- Rodney's heart kicked it up another notch.
"I'm just -- I'm on my way," said Rodney, turning senselessly in circles, trying to remember which way the door was. Sheppard's hand closed on Rodney's wrist, pulling the phone free.
"General Landry, sir, it's Sheppard," he said, words close-bitten and his voice foreign. "Yessir, I'm here with McKay. Can you pick up my sub-Q transmitter signal? Daedalus still hanging out up there? Good, I'll get McKay someplace private and you can bring us directly to the mountain. Yessir, see you in a minute. Yessir."
And Sheppard grabbed Rodney's wrist again, hauled on him and dragged him back towards the customer washrooms, pulled him into a stall, and Rodney was halfway through saying, "Um, is this the appropriate time, Sheppard?" when he blinked and he was standing someplace fluorescent-lit and machine-noisy and stale-smelling. He had barely pivoted on his heel to gape at the starscape out the window, the gorgeous blue arc of the planet below, when he blinked again and found himself standing in the gateroom at Cheyenne Mountain.
"Dr. McKay, Colonel Sheppard," said General Landry. "Glad you could join us. If you'll join me in the briefing room, we'll fill you in on the situation."
All Rodney could think, as he tailed Sheppard into the briefing room, was that Sheppard should be glad that Rodney forced him to change out of Sam's sweats and into a pair of jeans before they went out.
The situation was simple, the solution obvious, the mechanics of execution so straightforward that monkeys or Zelenka could have managed it -- but between the time constraints for an effective rescue of SG-1 and the fact that Landry had put a cretin named Kavanagh in charge of the entire operation, Rodney was beginning to worry that he wouldn't pull the necessary miracle out of his ass in time.
"Get out!" he roared, and pointed to the door, when he realized that Kavanagh had managed to undo another twenty minutes' of progress with his interference.
"McKay, I don't take orders from outside consultants. I'm the foremost expert in Ancient tech and until General Landry says otherwise, I'm not going anywh--" Kavanagh stopped mid-sentence, and when Rodney could spare a second to look up, it was to see Sheppard walking Kavanagh out of the lab with a scary smile on his scary, beautiful face.
"Shit, shit, motherfuck--" Rodney muttered, typing and glancing at the clock, typing more and finally hitting 'execute'. He slammed down on his radio transmitter, barking to the gateroom, "That's it, that should be it, I'm almost positive that that's it, it should --"
"How sure are you, Dr. McKay?" asked Landry.
"How sure --" repeated Rodney acridly, tapping his fist against the table, "Twelve, okay? I'm twelve sure, execute the goddamn plan, it's a go!"
"Sir," interrupted Sheppard, "request permission to join rescue team."
"Granted, Colonel, get your ass down here with that device." Sheppard seized the Ancient device Rodney had just finished modifying and jogged out of the room with it, pausing just long enough to grin at Rodney and say, "So long, McKay."
"So long?" Rodney shouted with disbelief, and collapsed back into his swiveling chair. "Oh my god, I'm far too old for this bullshit." He wasn't even sure if he meant the last-minute miracle creation or the adrenaline roller-coaster of sleeping with John Sheppard.
All he could do was wait. Rodney blew out a breath of anxiety and poured himself a huge mug of coffee.
Seventy-three awful minutes later, Rodney was in the gateroom when the alarms sounded and they all heard Sam's voice over the com. "SGC, we're coming in hot, prepare to raise the shield!" she said, and suddenly the iris pinwheeled open and two, three, six, ten uniformed figures hurled themselves backwards through the event horizon, firing into the watery surface until it blinked into nothingness with breathless ease.
The gate team got to its feet, grinning and patting each other's backs, and Sam was limping and Sheppard's hair was weirdly flat in front -- wet, Rodney realized -- but they were okay and they were safe and Rodney slumped against the console with relief while Landry squeezed his shoulder and said, "Well done, McKay, well done."
Apparently it wasn't the sort of thing where everyone ran out and hugged each other, even though Rodney wanted nothing better than to press his nose into Sam's short blonde hair, smell the sexy breath of energy that waved off her skin after missions like this -- or, equally strongly, to wrap his arm around Sheppard's shoulders and squeeze and call him a stupid asshole for volunteering for the incredibly risky mission. First, the team had to go to the infirmary and get vetted before touching anyone or anything, and then they had to go through a lengthy debrief, and that would take hours and now Landry was saying things like, "We thank you for your help, Dr. McKay," and "Of course, we'll need you to sign a few non-disclosure papers before you go but otherwise you're free to leave the base now," and "Dr. McKay, I'm going to have to insist that you go with the clerk now."
So Rodney signed and nodded and got shuffled into an elevator and out into daylight, into a car and back to his condo where he stood stupidly outside the door because his keys were on the kitchen counter at Sam's house.
And, shit. Sam's house. Where, up in the guest room, there was an unmade sex-smelling bed, a wastebasket full of used condoms and wrappers. And in the living room, newspaper spread and crumpled over the floor, and in the kitchen, the remains of last night's ice cream sundae experiment, and somewhere in a patch of sunlight, Yoshi, who was supposed to be staying here with Rodney.
Suddenly, the state of the house -- obviously used and abused and even desecrated -- seemed not like the perfect revenge on Sam, but like a spectacularly selfish crime scene. Rodney called a car to his condo and checked his watch nervously. If he hurried, he could clean up and be out of there before Sheppard and Sam got back from the base.
With Yoshi bundled into the back seat of the Mercedes again, Rodney pulled up at his condo, cheeks still heated with exertion and delayed worry. He'd been ruthlessly efficient with his clean-up, sweeping away every sign of what he and Sheppard had been up to since Sam had left on Monday night, but now that it was safely accomplished, Rodney felt hollow and deflated.
"Come on, Yosh," he said, with a sigh, and hauled the crate out. Yoshi yowled. Somewhere out in the suburbs, Sheppard and Sam were probably walking through the front door of the house -- Sheppard probably a bit nervous in case Rodney hadn't been by to tidy up -- and they'd be riding the post-mission victory high, and Sam would turn to Sheppard with that cute ebullient grin of hers, and Sheppard would smirk back with that slinky look, and his arms would come up around her waist, and she would say, "So, we left things kind of up in the air on Monday morning," and Sheppard would lean in and kiss her neck and say, "Funny, feels to me like we're on pretty solid ground now," and they'd go into the master bedroom where Sheppard and Rodney hadn't fucked, and have perfect beautiful-people sex, and then they'd get married and have intergalactic children and --
"Oh, Yoshi, you're going to be the cat of a broken home," Rodney moaned quietly, extracting Yoshi from his crate and burying his face in the thick orange fur at the ruff of the cat's neck.
"Rrrow," said Yoshi, unmoved.
Rodney stumbled into his penthouse and flopped down on the couch without bothering to turn on the lights. For a day when he'd saved his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and the planet earth, this was kind of a depressing way to go to sleep.
"Mmmwhat," Rodney said into his blackberry, pushing the phone between his cheek and the couch cushion, licking away the drool at the corner of his mouth.
"You took off yesterday," said a male voice on the other end.
"Well," said Rodney, "didn't want to get in the way of your intergalactic baby-making."
"Uh. Okay," said Sheppard. "Rodney, I think there's something I should tell you about me and Sam."
"Spare me the details," said Rodney, hefting himself up and squinting at his watch -- seven-thirty in the morning.
"When I said we were at a crossroads?" Sheppard said, ignoring Rodney's request. "I should explain."
"Hmm," grunted Rodney, tuning out as much as he could.
"See, Atlantis -- we lost a couple of good people in the last little while -- and, well, one of them was our leader."
"Thought you were the leader," said Rodney, in spite of his determination to stop listening.
"No, Atlantis is -- was -- under civilian oversight," Sheppard explained. "Anyway, the IOA and the SGC think that Sam would be perfect for the job, but she's been resisting the offer. And they knew that we were old friends, so they sent me back here to sweet-talk her into coming over to Atlantis."
"Well," said Rodney, remembering Sam's blush and sex-hair, "good job on the sweet-talk, then."
"Nothing happened," said Sheppard, suddenly urgent. "Rodney, listen, I swear. We got drunk, we laughed, we fell asleep down in the living room, we woke up late and then you got there. Sam and I have never -- it's not like that with us."
"So you're not her -- her landscaper?" Rodney asked, blinking the sleep out of his eyes, abruptly awake.
"Well, I did go to the garden centre and help her pick out the planters," said Sheppard, sounding puzzled. "But -- not in a dirty way." He cleared his throat, and when he continued he sounded a little awkward. "Actually, I'm pretty much. Not into USAF grrls. Or, just, girls in general."
Rodney took a moment to contemplate this. "You totally knew I was sleeping with you because I thought you were sleeping with my wife," he pointed out. "Not that I'm in any position to judge, clearly."
"Well, you were just so cute. With the atomic chili and the citronella mood lighting and the -- being naked in bed." Sheppard was smiling now, Rodney could tell, even over the phone. "I didn't want all that effort to go to waste."
"Hmm," said Rodney, feigning indifference. "Very thoughtful of you."
"Plus, you know. Sex."
"Very good sex," corrected Rodney smugly.
"Yeah, about that," said Sheppard. "Sam finally agreed to come aboard, and one of her first jobs is to choose a new head of the science division -- something about Kavanagh quitting in a snit yesterday? -- and I might have mentioned that you might be interested."
"I might be," said Rodney, even as his pulse slammed from the heady thrum of excitement into the realm of incipient heart attack.
"Rodney," said Sheppard, teasing, "you were sniffing my Pegasus gear."
"Wait," said Rodney, clenching the phone so hard it hurt his knuckles, "if I come to Pegasus, do I still get to have sex with you?"
"Well, unless your dick can actually span the gate bridge," drawled Sheppard, "I'm pretty sure you can only have sex with me if you do come to Pegasus."
"Oh my god," said Rodney, and rubbed a hand through his hair. "Oh my god."
"Rodney," said Sheppard again, voice going low and curling sweet, "are you having sex right now?"
"No," said Rodney, and unzipped his pants. "But I could be. What are you wearing?"
"I'll give you a hint," said Sheppard. "They're grey, three inches too short, and they have pink writing across the ass."
"God help me, I'm starting to think that's hot," moaned Rodney, and stuck his hand inside his boxers. "Okay, take them off."
Three days later, Sheppard waved Rodney down into the shotgun seat of a little Lantean snout-nosed sublight shuttle he called a puddlejumper. "DHD," he said, pointing to the console between them. "There's no head on the ship," he continued, and rolled his eyes when Rodney gaped, "I mean toilet, McKay, jesus -- so you have to hold it until we get to the midway station, and then we have to kill forty-eight hours for quarantine protocol."
"Forty-eight hours?" said Rodney brightly. "I think I can figure out a few ways to pass the time. Unless this 'no head' rule applies there, too."
"Oh, most definitely not," said Sheppard with relish. "Wanna dial it up?"
Rodney nodded and eagerly began pushing the buttons for Atlantis's address. "You should have seen Radek's face when he was named acting CEO of McKay Tech," he told Sheppard with a fond grin, "you'd think he was about to faint from the pressure."
"He'll be fine," shrugged Sheppard. "He can rock-climb every weekend now, plus he can embezzle all your money and you'll be a whole galaxy away, you'll never suspect. Okay, press the big round one now."
Rodney pressed the blue Ancient 'enter' key and the wormhole roared to life. "I get to go through that," he told Sheppard brightly.
"Wait until you see her, Rodney," said Sheppard, his voice shifting into eager sincerity, "she's incredible, she's gorgeous, and she's ours." His hand slipped, almost accidentally, over Rodney's, over the curve of Rodney's hand on the round DHD button, and then he squeezed just a little, and the jumper rose in the air and moved forward, and Rodney kept his eyes wide open, not wanting to miss an instant.
Secreted in the back of the jumper, Yoshi released a plaintive yowl.
"You are not bringing your cat to the Pegasus galaxy," said Sheppard, on the other side, unloading the jumper and glaring at Yoshi's crate under one of the benches in the back.
"You want her to be an orphan?" said Rodney, wounded, laying his palm over his heart. Sheppard stared, steely-eyed. "Both her primary care-givers are leaving the Milky Way!"
"You have forty-eight hours to convince me," said Sheppard, and spread his legs meaningfully.