For once, the problem Rodney was working on was not a matter of life and death.
Actually, he wasn’t totally clear on the stakes – no one was in danger, he knew that, and it had something to do with a technology being developed by an outside company under contract with the Air Force, which was needed for a planned upgrade to the F304s – but he was more than happy to leave the pesky details to the SGC.
Still, it was important enough that they’d called him away from Atlantis, so he was trying his best to play nice with the so-called experts on the company’s payroll. He did his best not to call them all idiots more than a few times an hour, but he knew he only succeeded because they’d sent John along with him.
John, of course, had instantly charmed the other scientists – an overweight man named Anselm and a perpetually-scowling woman named Smythe – so thoroughly that they didn’t realize he’d coopted their lab assistants and interns, who eagerly accepted his command. They delivered coffee, supervised simulations, fetched paper and pens, and looked over equations. John also broke up arguments, often before they could really get going, and promised Rodney highly inappropriate favors when he really started feeling obstinate.
“Sheppard,” Rodney snapped, now, not looking up from the metal stress ratios he was working on.
“Yes, doctor?” purred John, in a low voice – he thought it was hilarious pretending to be an infatuated lab assistant. “Can I do something for you?”
“You can run some equations for me,” he said.
John grinned and took the note pad. “Yes, doctor.”
“And knock that off,” Rodney said, knowing John wouldn’t.
“Sure thing,” said John, with a wink, and sauntered off.
Rodney went back to his own work, and it took him a moment to realize that the other two scientists had come up beside him. “What?”
“All right, level with us, McKay,” said Smythe. “He’s a hooker, isn’t he?”
“What?” Rodney repeated.
“The uniform is a very nice touch,” added Anselm.
“Sheppard is a colonel in the United States Air Force,” Rodney growled. “He has earned every one of those ribbons.”
“I didn’t mean any offense,” said Smythe. “It’s just, he seems a little old to be a – what do they call it these days, a boy toy?”
“What?” said Rodney again.
“Come on,” said Anselm. “I’ll admit you’re in much better physical shape than I am, but you’re also no prize when it comes to personality – not that we are, either,” he added quickly.
“And that man?” continued Smythe. “Is way out of your league. So be honest, how did you get him to come with you? If you’re not paying him, then you’re some general’s favorite, to get assigned that kind of escort, right?”
“That is—” Rodney spluttered, just as John came up behind them.
“Hey,” said John, “you missed a number in this equation, I think it’s probably time for a break.” He held out the pad, then frowned when Rodney didn’t take it. “McKay?”
“I – I’m fine.”
“Yeah, ‘cause you don’t look fine. When was the last time you ate?”
John hooked a hand under Rodney’s elbow. “Just give us a minute, everyone, I’ll have him back to work.”
“One of the interns can take care of it, colonel,” said Smythe, suddenly. “You don’t have to do everything yourself, we won’t tell the general.”
“What general?” said John, blinking.
“We’ve worked with military contractors before,” said Anselm. “Always bossing around their minion. None of them had lackeys as high-ranking as you, of course, but even for something as top-level as this, making sure he eats seems pretty far below your pay grade.”
John blinked again. “What?” he said, then turned to Rodney. “You know I was kidding with the whole ‘infatuated lab assistant’ thing, right?”
“I know that,” said Rodney. “I’m just as clueless about this as you are.”
Smythe snorted. “I just want to know which general to suck up to so I can get a military detail like you, colonel.”
“I—” John began. “There’s no general. I don’t… I’m not actually here in a military capacity, strictly speaking. But Rodney and I have been a team for a long time, I wasn’t going to let him go anywhere without me.”
“Really?” asked Anselm.
John glanced sideways at Rodney, silently asking a question – and Rodney nodded, smirking.
“Well,” John drawled, “there’s also the fact that I went and married him.”
“You what!?” the two scientists chorused.
John grinned and took Rodney’s elbow again. “C’mon, McKay, let’s see about that snack.”
Rodney managed to keep a straight face until they left the room. “You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”
“Maybe a little,” John said, and kissed him.
Rodney kissed him back, still laughing.