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Exclusivity and Damage Control

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Rodney was at Trader Joe’s five minutes before closing, the only time he’d had all week to buy some groceries. The last few days had been crazy. He’d barely been home and was all too aware of how empty his cupboards were, which was why he was annoyed when the guy with the spiky hair popped up from behind the display of tri-colored pasta and made him fumble and almost drop the jar of marinara he was holding.

“Dr. McKay?”

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” Rodney put the jar in his hand basket and walked around the guy, who looked vaguely familiar but not enough for him to expend the mental energy to figure out why.

“Can we talk?”

“No.”

Rodney made a quick pass through the bakery section, scooping up a couple packages of cookies. The annoying – but hot, he was definitely hot – guy trailed after him.

“I just need a few minutes of your time.”

Reporter, probably. And a crafty one. The others had gathered at the Hill, trying to catch the Senator coming or going, or one of his staffers. No-one else had staked out the Trader Joe’s by Rodney’s apartment.

“No.”

Rodney took his basket to the register, where the cashier girl had been looking pointedly at the clock. He glared back at her until she sighed and started ringing him out.

The reporter didn’t bother him again until they were both back out on the sidewalk.

“Let me buy you a drink.”

Rodney took a deep breath and stopped walking, turning to face the guy. “Look. I’ve been getting calls, threats, and propositions from journalists for days. Why on earth would I talk to you?”

“Because I know about Daniel.”

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Come with me.” Rodney led the way down M Street. They couldn’t have that discussion in a public place, which meant he’d have to bring a damned journalist into his home and see what kind of spin he could put on things. His team had been prepping various responses but hadn’t landed on anything definitive yet, at least nothing the Senator felt comfortable running with.

“Where are we going?”

“My place. And I’ll thank you not to say anything more about it where people can hear.” Rodney didn’t turn to look but he could practically feel the smugness radiating off the guy. “What outlet do you represent?”

“The Atlantis Sentinel.”

Well, fuck again. They were a pretty hard-hitting media conglomerate: print news, highly visible web presence including a vlog, an hour-long TV spot every weekday, and even a Sirius Radio channel. If they’d found out about Daniel they could blow the story wide open. Rodney supposed he should be grateful they came to him first.

He pulled out his phone and sent a quick group text. Lockdown.

“I’m John Sheppard, by the way.”

“Oh. Right. I should’ve recognized the hair.”

Sheppard wasn’t an anchor – they had the handsome, clean-cut guy with the dimples for that – but he was often filmed accosting people on the street. Rodney hated being caught out unawares.

His apartment was only a few blocks from the market. Third floor, street view. Rodney unlocked the outer door that led to the lobby, and then had two different keys to get into his own front door. Not to mention the alarm he had to disengage as soon as the door was open. In a city like DC it paid to be ready for anything.

“Nice place.” Sheppard wandered around, looking but not touching.

“Nice for a studio,” Rodney clarified. The rent was outrageous, of course.

He put away the groceries that needed to be refrigerated and left the rest in the bag on the counter. He may have been light on food, but there was one thing he still had in abundance. Rodney pulled out a bottle and two snifters, pouring three fingers of whisky and a couple drops of water in each.

There was no couch, just two easy chairs that faced the television. Rodney dropped into his usual one and indicated that Sheppard should sit in the other, handing him one of the snifters.

“So how do we make this go away?” he asked.

Sheppard sniffed at his glass and nodded appreciatively before even taking a sip. The man knew his whisky.

“You know we can’t sit on this,” he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. “It’s too big.”

“It’s not that big,” Rodney disagreed, even though it really, really was.

The rumor about Senator O’Neill’s affair had dropped earlier in the week and there’d been a media feeding frenzy that was still on-going. The Senator stood for family values and morality and was taking a big hit while his staff scrambled to do damage control.

“The Senator had an affair with another man while he was married to a woman. I’d say that was cause for alarm.”

Rodney scowled. “What does the Sentinel want from me?”

Sheppard leaned back in the chair. “We want exclusivity. Let Senator O’Neill tell his side of the story on our show, and only our show.”

Rodney sipped at his whisky and tried to make sure his face wasn’t giving anything away. That had been the plan Rodney had been shooting for. His team could only do so much; at some point the Senator would have to make a public statement. He hadn’t thought about exclusivity, though, and that was a good angle. That could be controlled. And it wouldn’t hurt to get in good with the Sentinel and make some of that influence work in the Senator’s favor.

“If Senator O’Neill were to agree to that, and I’m not saying he will, what assurances can you give me that he’ll be treated fairly and impartially?”

Sheppard drained his snifter and held it out to Rodney. “I’m sure we can come to an agreement. Provided you keep the whisky flowing.”

Rodney was pretty sure he could manage that.

Two Hours Later

Rodney was hanging half off the bed, chest heaving from exertion. Sheppard was hot, smart, and good in bed. It had been a while since Rodney’d been with anyone that was all three.

“You should’ve led with this,” Sheppard panted beside him. “Instead of wasting time on the whisky. Negotiations would’ve gone quicker.”

“You owe me a bottle, by the way.” Rodney tried to push himself up but his arms were like limp spaghetti. He wasn’t going anywhere. “And don’t think hot sex with you means you don’t have to sign an agreement before the Senator goes on your show.”

“Wouldn’t think of it.” Sheppard reached over and patted Rodney’s ass. “Speaking of exclusivity, are you seeing anyone right now?”

“That was a terrible segue.”

“And that wasn’t an answer.” Sheppard rolled over and ran his hand up the inside of Rodney’s thigh. “I suppose I could always dig deeper.”

His finger teased at Rodney’s hole, and Rodney huffed out a laugh. “Are you always this lame?”

“Answer the question, Dr. McKay.”

“No, I’m not seeing anyone.”

Sheppard kissed him, slow and languid, and Rodney’s cock twitched in interest. “Shall we open negotiations?”

Rodney surprised him by rolling them both until he was straddling John. “No negotiations. I have a list of demands.”

John seemed more than happy to meet them.

Less Than 24 Hours Later

“Sara and I separated several years ago,” Senator O’Neill said. He was dressed very casually, in slacks and a sweater, to help sell him as a laid back, honest guy who simply fell out of love with his wife and in love with a curator at the Smithsonian.

“That would be after the tragic death of your son, is that right?”

Evan Lorne and the Senator were sitting in the interview area, in leather chairs with a low table between them. Lorne had note cards but so far hadn’t had to look at them at all. Rodney hovered just off stage to make sure no questions were asked that had been put on the no-go list.

“That’s right. Losing Charlie…it took the life out of our marriage. Pulled us apart instead of bringing us closer together. It wasn’t Sara’s fault. My grief…I got lost in it. There wasn’t room for anyone else.” The emotion in his voice was real; he’d never had to fake his sorrow over Charlie. No matter how many gun control speeches he gave.

“And then you met Daniel.”

The Senator got a soft, affectionate expression on his face. “Danny pulled me out of myself. Showed me that the world was still turning, that there was still enjoyment to be had in it. He helped Sara and I get to a place where we can be friends again.”

Daniel was waiting just off camera, his hands clenched tightly together. Lorne didn’t use his full name, but they knew a photograph of him with the Senator would be shown on screen for the viewers at home. Daniel had been part of the damage control sessions, supporting the Senator just by being a quiet presence by his side. He was clearly as anxious as Rodney about something going awry in the interview.

“He’s doing great,” Sheppard murmured.

“Of course he is. I told him what to say.”

“You can’t fake that kind of emotion.”

Rodney wasn’t so sure about that, generally speaking of course, but he let Sheppard have the last word. Particularly since they had plans to get together again at the soonest opportunity for more vigorous, athletic sex. Rodney was already half hard just thinking about it.

“How does the revelation about your sexuality affect your platform?” Lorne asked.

“It doesn’t.” And now the Senator had a steely gaze for the cameras. “I have always been a supporter of LGBT rights, and a firm believer that family can encompass many configurations besides just man and wife. If there’s love, there’s family. Period.”

The Senator’s approval ratings spiked after the Sentinel’s interview. And when he and Daniel got married a year later it was the event of the season, covered exclusively by John Sheppard.

The best part for Rodney was peeling John out of his tuxedo afterwards. Exclusivity had its benefits.