Hermiod’s plan worked perfectly. The Goa’uld that had been masquerading as Colonel Steven Caldwell was gone, incinerated in the Daedalus’ hyper drive, and the entire city of Atlantis was celebrating a job done well.
Steven didn’t feel like celebrating.
He had his own office on Atlantis, a courtesy provided by Dr Weir that felt somewhat like a slap in the face most days. He had made no secret of wanting the command of Atlantis back when they first reestablished contact with the expedition and the fact that Dr Weir had shown him his office, already with the nameplate showing his name and rank as commander of the Daedalus on the door, just minutes after the SGC made the official decision to leave Sheppard in charge was announced, stung.
Elizabeth could be vicious at times. Maybe that was why he liked her. He had a thing for vicious.
Speaking of vicious...Steven sighed as a figure appeared in his doorway.
“Colonel Caldwell? Do you, that is, can I talk to you for a moment?”
Steven rolled his eyes. It figured that Rodney was deferent to him only when there was no one around to see. “There’s no one else here, Rodney. You can drop the formality.”
Rodney nodded, his eyes wary as he stepped inside the office, the door sliding closed behind him. His hands twisted nervously in front of him. “You know, I didn’t even realise you had an office until now. It seems odd that you would have on and Sheppard doesn’t.”
“Sheppard has an office. He just chooses not to use it.” Steven didn’t go on to say that it was one of the many reasons he was better suited for the command of Atlantis, his willingness to actually play the game and do the paperwork. He still thinks that a military structure with him at the top and Sheppard looking after offworld teams and security - doing the running about that Steven was getting too old to bother with - would have been best for everyone. It was an argument that he’d had with Rodney before and not one that he would ever win.
That had stung too, Rodney’s staunch support for John Sheppard over him. Although the brass didn’t know it, Rodney McKay was a big part of the reason that Steven had wanted the command in the first place.
“How long?” Rodney asked, cutting right to the heart of the matter.
It was Rodney’s forthrightness that had attracted Steven all those years ago. Rodney had been back on US soil for the first time in a year after his stint in Siberia and Steven had been fresh off a bad mission when they crossed paths in a slightly seedy club just far enough away from the SGC to be discreet. Rodney hadn’t played hard to get or any of the other coy games that some of the other men in the club liked to play. He’d walked straight up to Steven, looked him up and down, and nodded just once. “You’ll do,” he’d said.
Steven had been amused as hell. He’d also been tempted as hell and once Rodney started pressing up close to him, that round ass teasing over his lap, he’d been beyond resisting. It was what he had come to the club for after all. It was just typical of Rodney that he came away with more than he bargained for.
A quick fuck had turned into a two year relationship that ended only when Rodney couldn’t say no to the chance of Atlantis. A relationship that had picked up again when Steven arrived in the Pegasus Galaxy just in time to save Rodney’s precious Major.
“I mean, have you had a snake in you this whole time?” Rodney continued. “Since the club, since we met? Is that why you went home with me? To get access to the finest mind in two galaxies? Because, let me tell you, I would never - -“
“You came on to me, McKay,” Steven snapped. As usual, Rodney had a way of getting right under his skin. “And no, it hasn’t been...they snaked me the last time I was in Earth.” Steven felt his jaw tighten at the memory of it. They had been waiting for him in his own home, had held him down and - - “it was just this last visit that I - “ he trailed off, not needing to elaborate. Rodney had worked for the SGC long enough, he knew the drill.
Rodney looked faintly sick. “So, when we...before you left. That wasn’t you that - -“
The memory of Rodney underneath him, hands that he had no control over moving over his pale skin, opening him up and - - Steven jerked out of the memory at the sound of Rodney retching.
“Oh God,” Rodney wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand. “Oh god.”
Steven knew how he felt. Rodney should just be glad that he didn’t also have the memory of the snakes’s thoughts, the way that he had teased Steven with images of what he might do to Rodney. What he might make Steven do to Rodney.
“I didn’t know,” Rodney continued, his voice small. “I didn’t know that it wasn’t you. How could I not have known?”
A lot of people back on Earth would have been surprised that Rodney’s first thought was of Steven. He knew what Rodney’s reputation was and he knew that’s people who didn’t know the real Rodney would have expected him to start throwing blame on Steven.
Stevn knew better than that. Steven wanted to offer comfort, wanted to tell Rodney that the Goa’uld inside him was aeons old, well versed at subterfuge and had succeeded in convincing every single member of his crew that there was nothing wrong but...Rodney wasn’t just crew. Rodney was...well, Rodney was something different. He was supposed to notice. Two years together and, ok, yes, they hadn’t seem each other for almost a year after Rodney left for Atlantis but they were still - - Rodney had said that he loved him which meant that Rodney was supposed to notice, goddamnit. How the hell was he supposed to ever trust Rodney again when he didn’t even - -
“I should have noticed,” Rodney said, cutting to the heart of the matter again. “I should have - -“ he looked at Steven, his stupidly blue eyes wide with hurt. “How do we get past this?”
Steven smiled sadly, pulled out a bottle of Scotch and two glasses from his desk drawer and poured them both a drink, offering the second glass to Rodney before he answered.
“I don’t know.”