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I Gave My Heart to Know Such Things

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It wasn’t as if John had never met a pompous, know-it-all better-than-you arrogant bastard before. If his parent’s lifestyle in New England hadn’t given him the opportunity before, university and then OTC certainly had.

Granted, this one seems to like to complain, whine and congratulate himself all in the same breath, but as far as know-it-all better-than-yous went, Rodney McKay wasn’t the worst John Sheppard had ever come across. Not by far.

John had known who Doctor McKay was of course, sort of, in a roundabout technical way; he’d dutifully been briefed on the expedition’s senior staff once he’d signed on, and Doctor Rodney McKay is the Chief of Science, right hand of Doctor Weir when it came to all things… science-y. But McKay had quickly, firmly, unequivocally established his own importance once his heel hit the halls of the SGC.

He's in charge of the "Zero Point Module", whatever that was. It apparently entailed a lot of hand flailing and snide commentary to a Lt. Colonel Carter. It isn't John's place to interfere with any of that, so he just stays away from it all. Well, mostly. Sort of. He might have tried to be casual in his lurkful slouching whenever McKay and Carter are out in public, because if Carter is going to lay McKay out flat (her clenching and unclenching fists seems a pretty good indication), John wants to be there to see that go down.

But it never happens, and soon enough they're all gathered in the "gate room", standing before the "Stargate" and Weir is giving them one last chance to back out. No one does, which makes John feel marginally better about the mission as a whole. John was committed to the expedition, sure, but he's still here more on a whim than any sense of dedication. This gene he has compels his curiosity, but he can't honestly say he appreciates the scope of it all, not really. But these people, these faces he takes in side-long as he looks around the embarkation chamber, are set and determined. They know the risks. Welcome them, maybe. The payout might just be worth it.

Through science or -- hell, as far as John knows -- magic, the Stargate comes to life and a puddle of water is held in place. Cheers go up and they get the go ahead from Control. The first team steps through and disappears.

Too soon it's John's turn and he can't hesitate, the press of the line behind him won't let him. So.... There are bright lights and something that feels like sound, but isn't and it lasts an eternity and is over in a breath. And then, somehow, they're in Atlantis. Or, at the very least, they're no longer at the SGC and its dim and cool wherever this is. John stepped through the event horizon alone, but it seemed natural somehow that he ends up with McKay at his elbow. He doesn't know how McKay was so quick on his heels, but John suspects he jumped the line. They're supposed to file in in a certain order, and if McKay was up in the control room with the MALP telemetry, he should have been one of the later to step through. But the first wave is still filing in and McKay is here and already divesting himself of his overloaded pack. Shaking his head, Sheppard resettles the grip on his weapon and moves out.

McKay stays in lock-step with John while the other scientists shuffle to the side and take stock of the gray, slumbering city’s gate room. Supplies kept pouring in and soldiers fanned out, securing the immediate areas, but McKay couldn’t be bothered to wait when there was the chance to get to something first. So he's right there when Atlantis opens her eyes for the first time in ten thousand years for John. Fairy-bright lights carve each step of the staircase out for him and cast an ethereal glow out of delicate glass pillars to touch his shoulders.

John turns to him then, needing to share, to know someone else is here to see this with him. His voice is reverent when he tells McKay, “The lights are coming on by themselves.” McKay’s face is cast up, watching, bearing witness to it all.

And it’s then, for the very first time, that John Sheppard really sees Rodney McKay for Rodney McKay. He isn’t the random guy in the orange jumper asking him to picture where they are in the solar system while John sits in a terrifyingly magical recliner that he’s never seen anything like but that whispers through his veins like all the best parts of flying. He isn’t an awkward, DMV-worthy ID picture in an expedition situation report that gives Major Sheppard an all-to-brief synopsis of who Doctor Weir’s taking along with her, and now him. He isn't even the guy he's been subtly shadowing all week on base in the hopes a hot blonde officer will clock him spectacularly. And he certainly isn’t any one of the beige- or gray- or fatigued-clad bodies that crowded the halls of the SGC with their last second places to be and last second things to do and last second conversations to be had in too many languages for John to catch anyway.

No, Rodney McKay is the man with startled yet innately curious blue eyes that flicker from detail to detail to detail. He is the man whose mouth works soundlessly as an open assortment of emotions rush across his unguarded face, all coming back to a simple expression of wonderment. He is the man whose eyebrows crunch down in unvoiced questions he directs back at Sheppard. But the questions Rodney McKay asks aren’t “should we be doing this?” or even “is this really safe?” but are instead “what the hell are we waiting for?” and “isn’t this kind of the most amazing thing you have EVER seen?”

He is human and real and right here with John and something about that lays him out flat.

For the first time since that rocket-thing had almost taken out his chopper with General O'Neill, John believes this is really happening. Somehow, Rodney McKay and his naked, raw rapture makes it all real where no amount of NDAs, briefings, and file footage could. A different galaxy, an ancient city, an alien heritage. It's all real.

John instinctually answers yes to all counts of McKay's questions, moving them further into the city.

Once the command center has been identified and given the initial all clear, McKay sets up shop and declares himself king of all he surveys, drawing away the gauzy coverlets from the Ancient consoles with reverence but determination. He’s the first to interface his laptop with an Ancient terminal, head bending to catch everything that floods the screen. John chances a glance at all of it, but it’s pretty incomprehensible to him: numbers and letters in sequences that aren’t actual words, washing up in windows that spring one behind another in quick succession. But McKay seems fluent enough, his fingers flying across the keyboard, catching and sorting the information in some triage of organization that must make sense to him.

Things are still coming to life all around them, making John try to look everywhere at once. Lights winking and blinking, display screens sending up their arcane read-outs, the subtle bleeps and bloops of long unattended equipment gently asking for attention.

Later, though not much later, John learns that he, and the others like him, are doing this. The gene carriers are waking Atlantis up, initializing things that further initialize other things that trickle into a cascade of activity. She’s turned her sleepy smile towards him and his brethren, heavy limbs reaching out around them in a languid stretch, fingertips brushing against each of them in turn. You’re home, Atlantis whispers against them, through them. It tingles just under John's skin and thrums through his blood. He has absolutely no idea what to make of it; has never felt anything like this in his entire life. It’s amazing and wonderful, even a little intoxicating, and no small bit humbling. But it’s also a whole lot of terrifying and the grip on his P90 is just a little tighter for it all.

Other scientists finally filter into the area and McKay snaps his fingers and points, directing their attention where he wants it. The awe and wonder hasn’t left McKay’s face, but his clipped directions are succinct and to the point. He has a job to do and being impressed shifts to a subroutine. Right now? Shit has to get done.

John Sheppard may be a favored son, but McKay is the one who really understands what's going on. Sheppard's just the guy with a gene and a gun when all is said and done. McKay actually knows what to do.

But to be honest, Rodney McKay’s broach-no-bullshit bossy attitude puts John off. Rubs him wrong, makes him want to take McKay down a peg or eleven. But supremely (over-)confident authority has always put John off. How can they be so sure? So secure in their own rightness that there’s no room to question? To wonder ‘but, what if’? Especially when John feels like his own life has been nothing but second guesses and dubious successes. He’s always been a rebel without a clue, not exactly sure what it is he’s wanted, but knowing what you wanted of him? Well, that certainly isn’t it.

The impression McKay casts for himself isn’t helped any by that imperious, entitled tone to his voice, or the way he seems to blithely cut anyone down who dares to so much as voice a difference in opinion. Absolutely no one is safe from the bite of his scrutiny: certainly not his immediate colleagues. They take the most of it, in fact, shouldering his ire like a resigned Atlas; not John, his exploring buddy and personal Ancient double-A battery; not Doctor Weir, which admittedly surprises John, but which he’s glad to see she either simply shrugs off or indulges in with a broad, knowing smile that disarms McKay; and definitely not Colonel Sumner. In fact, McKay seems to hold a special disdain for the Colonel, giving the Marine his very best in sneers, eye rolls, and haughty put-downs. John may experience a tiny moment of schadenfreude over that, but would never admit that even to himself.

Rodney McKay’s spit-fire temperament, standoffish posturing, and hair-trigger catastrophizing are like a challenge issued to John, a gauntlet he can’t help but pick up. McKay pushes, John pushes back. McKay pushes harder, John all but shoves. McKay doesn’t seem to know what to make of John, which makes John smirk, which seems to further throw the scientist off.

Because it means John is winning.

He isn’t sure what he’s winning exactly, but subverting Rodney McKay’s expectations is worth it if only to see his eyebrows crash low over his bright blue eyes and slants his mouth at its odd angle.

But then the city is discovered to be under water, and power consumption is threatening the shield that’s holding back the ocean, and John, Sumner and a squad of soldiers are sent out to find a safe haven. There isn’t any time for pushing or shoving or smirking. John suddenly has his own shit to get done, and he even knows how.

When the recon team trucks back not even eight hours later, the situation has only gone from bad to Jesus Christ. They're leading an entire village of refugees with them, a good portion of their outfit has been taken hostage by an unknown hostile, and Major John Sheppard is "in charge" suddenly. And that has NEVER ended well, for anyone.

And the city is trembling, threatening to throw John right to the floor if he doesn't find his balance.

"What the hell is going on?" He asks desperately.

Weir pounds down the steps, grabbing his sleeve and hauling him around towards herself. "Major Sheppard, we were just about to abandon the city!"

Crates tumble to the ground and people start to huddle for balance. Someone shouts: "The shield is collapsing!" There's a huge jolt and John throws himself over Doctor Weir protectively.

He and Weir stand there, planting their weight to hold themselves upright while everything rattles against itself. He turns his eye up towards the control center, watching some of the scientists bracing themselves on railings or consoles, soldiers swinging their ordnance around like they could shoot the city still.

With big eyes they all look around, wondering if this is going to be it then? Is this all there's going to be?

But John saw the bent head of Rodney McKay still at work, would swear he heard the clack-clack-clack of the man's fingers pounding things out unforgivingly on a keyboard. And something about the man's posture, his hunched shoulders and curved neck, tell Sheppard that, no, this isn't it. This may not be good, but this isn't the end either. Rodney McKay won't let it be.

"Dial the gate! Anywhere! Hurry!"

"Wait! No!"

They're moving, the city. John shouts as much for all that people can hear him. And not just side-to-side, or Christ, simply imploding, but... up? He can feel the surge of gravity pulling down on him gently, like an elevator going up too fast. Others must feel it like he does; more than one person starts to look up expectantly.

He turns around, faces the big stained glass window behind the Stargate and Weir turns with him, her fingers still clutching at him tight as they brace each other. There isn't anything to be seen for a few moments more, the window dark and the city shivering around them. But then, there: dropping like a curtain from its final act, the water slides away and suddenly bright sunlight is breaking through the kaleidoscope of colored panes. In his arms, Doctor Weir is bathed in reds and oranges and golds. The relief in her smile is twice as brilliant.

"Oh my God," someone mutters behind them. The sound of water sluicing down crystalline spires is louder than you'd expect, or maybe it's just because there's so much of it. Atlantis is still rocking gently under their feet, but even that is evening out.

John rushes up the stairs and peers out another window there, Ford and McKay coming up behind him, Weir at his side. Water is still flooding out of the lower sections of the city, but they are definitely floating on the surface like some sort of giant space-snowflake.

"I wanted an extra day. It looks like we just got a whole lot more than that," Doctor Weir says softly. Ford claps John on the shoulder with a too-big grin and McKay makes some sort of happy buzzy sound from deep in his throat.

But John still has shit to do and people to save.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

"You are now head of the military contingent of this expedition," Weir tells him. "Form a team," she tells him. "And call me Elizabeth."

John stands on the balcony just outside of control, his hands braced against the railing as he looks unseeingly out towards the ocean. Well, Teyla was a natural inclusion, if she was up for it. She has the intel they needed and was kick-ass to boot. He'd already had a demonstration with her fighting sticks and hadn't that been embarrassing. And she was beautiful; that couldn't hurt anything whatsoever.

Lieutenant Ford would be a good addition, too. The kid was eager to prove himself to Atlantis and has already put a tremendous amount of faith on John's shoulders, but John has also looked over Ford's jacket: the kid knew what he was doing and did it well. A surprising amount of certs on a wide array of ordnance (some even alien, whatever a "zat'nik'tel" was), distinctions on his hand-to-hand, and demolition know-how. Not to mention the previous SG Team experience. Not bad for a first contact reconnaissance team. And it'd go a long way towards making a bridge between the Marines and the Air Force under....

Under his command.

Three was good. Three was small enough to be unimposing to any locals they ran across but still effective in getting the hell out of dodge and causing some real damage along the way if it all went to crap.

"McKay to Sheppard," his radio cracked. John reached up and tapped the com button open. "Sheppard here. Go ahead."

"Uh, Major, if you have a moment? I'd like to run some experiments that I think you'd be particularly suited for."

John rolled his eyes up, pushing himself off the railing and resting his hands loosely on his hips. "McKay, I've got stuff I've gotta do. Get someone else to play light switch."

"No, no, no," McKay rushed on, and John could hear the eagerness in his voice for the first time. That alone made John cock his head, intrigued. "This is-- this is really-- it's just that, it's pretty cool and I think you'd really get a kick out of it. That, and your skill-set in particular could be--"

"Okay," John said quickly, cutting him off mid-word as he turned towards the doors. Now he was just damn curious what could rile Doctor McKay up so much that he'd change out of his cranky pants to try and include John is something 'cool'.

"Where are you?"

"Really? I mean, of course. Lab 3," McKay said, and the excitement in his voice was unmistakable now.

John gave one of the techs on duty a brief nod as he passed through Control and turned down a hall, pretty sure he even knew where Lab 3 was. "On my way. Sheppard out."

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

After he pushes McKay, then throws things at McKay, then punches McKay, then shoots McKay, they get the idea to shove him off a balcony. "But one of the interior ones," McKay decides with a wave of his hand. "I'm fairly confidant in the shield's ability at this point, but I'd also like to not drown, just in case."

John's grin is bold. "Let's do it off the one over the gate room." He waggles his eyebrows theatrically and the idea must appeal to McKay because he holds up a pleased finger and turns them up a flight of stairs. They take them two at a time.

John has to admit, this is pretty cool.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

"Or it could just continue to feed off the gate's energy," Elizabeth concludes with dreadful certainty. The inky-black energy monster floods the gate room, pulsing down the corridors on either side. Teyla stands beside John with her shoulders drawn back while Grodin works his laptop. John licks his lips and fidgets his weapon. This is where he should be doing something, saving the day somehow. It's why he's here, isn't it?

There's suddenly movement off to the side and John looks, watching as McKay descends the stairs.

"McKay!" He calls after him, the scientist turning towards him just long enough for John to see he's got that shield on again. The one that had fallen off and in celebration, McKay had eaten three different MREs. But now it's back and as he takes the steps down, John can see a green light flickering over McKay's shoulders before the entity swallows him whole. John, Teyla, Grodin and Elizabeth all exchange tense looks.

Teyla rushes the banister, pointing. "It's working!" The creature is moving through the Stargate, draining from the room and trickling out of the hallways. Before the event horizon completely flickers away, they see McKay sprawled on the ground just behind the MALP. John moves first, but Elizabeth and Teyla aren't far behind him. Grodin brings up the rear. John calls for a medical team as they kneel around the downed man, but Elizabeth says McKay's breathing and then he seems to be coming around.

McKay's eyes try to track Elizabeth's face. "Did it work?"

"Yes. You did it, Rodney. You saved us." She curls her hand over his shoulder, smile both warm and grateful.

"Oh. Good." McKay's eyes drift across the faces above him before sliding closed again.

Relief crashes over John in a measure he didn't expect. He and McKay have spent the better part of two days together now, mostly just hanging out, but then trying to figure out what to do with this energy creature thing. And it isn't as if McKay's been a ball of sweetness and light or anything. He's been as always: smug and superior and snarky when he hasn't been spelling out their certain doom in calculated detail.

But he also thought John would get a kick out of shooting him and laughed maniacally when the bullet just bounced off, making John laugh too. McKay had said it was like Wonder Woman's bracelets, which had in turn lead to a rather spirited debate over Pre-Crisis and Post-Crisis bracelet construction, and who knew someone like Rodney McKay had the time to read comics? And it was like before: it's a human moment between them. Something real. Something tangible. Batshit crazy, to be sure (he did SHOOT at him), but real. Authentic. John isn't really sure when the last time was he had a moment like that. Longer then is probably good for him.

McKay had also just plugged an Ancient shield onto his chest and marched down into the belly of a space monster without hesitation to save them all and that's maybe the bravest thing John's ever seen anyone ever do. You can be trained to look your opponent in the eye and die protecting others under your command, but it's always been pretty much assumed your opponent's going to be human where he's come from. Giant space monsters? Not in John Sheppard's purview. Not until recently, anyway.

That took some balls that, frankly, John didn't think McKay had. He's humbled to be proven so wrong.

Medical rushes in and start to paw at McKay who, true to form, starts to bitch about the treatment. John figures he's going to be alright after all, then.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

"So," John drawls casually, leaning against a pillar as McKay shrugs back into his jacket. "They say you good to go?" His hands ride his hips as he slouches, watching McKay fuss with his collar.

"Yes. Seems I check out fine." There's a certain amount of scorn in McKay's voice, like he's disappointed they didn't find anything wrong with him.

Arching an eyebrow, John lets his head tilt to the side. "You'd rather be dead?"

"What?! No!" McKay shoots John a derisive look that clearly questions his intelligence. "I just, you know. Saved everyone." He juts his chin forward, hands coming to rest at his sides. "I think I deserve more than two aspirin and a slap on the back for my efforts."

"Well, maybe if you hadn't been staring at Doctor Poole's... 'stethoscope' the whole time, she'd've been a little more appreciative."

McKay's grin is nothing short of lascivious. "You have to admit, she's got a great 'stethoscope'." And it's such a guy comment, something right out of varsity football practice. Something John's sure he's heard more times than he can count in the barracks or officer's lounge. But for some reason, coming from the likes of fussy, exacting, difficult Doctor Rodney McKay, Astrophysicist Extraordinaire and Savior of the Day - it's hysterical. It's just so... so normal!

John huffs loudly into his chest, working at controlling himself, but the huff metamorphoses into a snort of sound that eventually ends up heehawing into a full-blown out-and-out laugh. The laughter of tension uncoiling across his shoulders, of them getting away with it, of blind relief. At this goddamn galaxy and its giant space monsters.

"Oh my God, is that how you laugh?" McKay's eyes are comically wide, his mouth turning up at the corner in a sarcastic twist.

John immediately goes on the defensive, sound dying in his throat. "You've heard me laugh." He tucks his hands up under his armpits, arms crushed against his sternum.

"Well, yes," McKay concedes easily enough, hand rolling as he moves away from the hospital bed and heads through the infirmary. John turns automatically to fall into step besides him. "But come on. There's laughing, and then there's that."

"You know...." John's two steps away from reconsidering his reconsideration, his hand lifting to wag a finger under McKay's nose. McKay bats it away affably, charging on.

"I mean, it's nice to see you're not completely perfect. That you have an actual, certifiable human flaw, that being you sound like a complete dork when you let loose--"

"Hey!" John's pretty sure he was just insulted. Except, wait. "Perfect?" What?

"Yes?" McKay just arches a cool eyebrow over at him, that contemptuous expression that asks if John's suddenly devolved into a moron back in place. "Cocky American flyboy, sly, over confident smile, come-hither hero complex, a dash of math thrown in," and then McKay adds his hands back into the conversation, whipping them around John's head. "And then there's your hair and your pretty-boy good looks, and if THAT wasn't enough, you've got the gene like some sort of slutty gene-wielding--"

"Hey!" Now John's sure he's just been insulted. He slaps a hand against McKay's chest, halting them both right in the middle of the infirmary. He does his best to menace over the scientist, drawing himself up to his full height. He leaves the one hand on McKay's chest but the other he uses to brush back his jacket and rests it firmly on his hip, thigh-holster now neatly framed. That usually does it for the civilian contractors: show off a little brute force to remind them of their high school gym class. But McKay just cants his head back, smug smile firm on his mouth. He isn't the least bit intimidated and goddamn if that doesn't bug the crap out of John.

Add a tally to Team McKay.

"You lads alright?" Beckett comes around some piece of equipment, hands poised for an emergency. Doctor Poole hovers just beyond Beckett's elbow but scowls when she sees it's McKay. Again. Still.

McKay shoots a hand up towards Beckett, but holds eye contact with John. "We're good, Carson. Major Sheppard was just sharing his mere mortal status with me." McKay cocks an eyebrow, daring John to argue with him, and something heated and challenging passes between them, zinging right through John and raising goosebumps on his arms. He pulls in a short, sharp breath through his nose and that seems to satisfy something in McKay, whose smirk deepens.

"Rodney." Beckett rolls the name out as both a warning and a beleaguered resignation.

McKay arcs an eyebrow, head tilting back and to the left infinitesimally. John bites his lips together and feels as if something significant is happening here. He could just walk away from this. Just shake his head and be done with McKay completely. Keep things at arm’s length, professional. Military Base Commander. Chief Officer of Science. Done deal.

John can even see it cross McKay's blue eyes, the stark challenge of it. That that's more or less what McKay expects to happen. That John can't take what McKay's dishing out, so rather than be shown up, John'll just walk away from it.

Well. Piss that.

John lets a slow, laconic smirk slide over his mouth, letting it touch his eyes. McKay narrows his own a fraction, smug expression faltering to show an interested curiosity.

"No worries, doc," John says towards Beckett, finally dragging his eyes away from McKay, to give the other man and his colleague some reassurance. He slides his hand around and cups the back of McKay's neck, shaking him companionably as he turns shoulder-to-shoulder with him. "I was just letting McKay know he had to perform at least two more miracles before he could even be considered for sainthood. Dying wouldn't hurt either, but he didn't seem up for that."

McKay turns wild eyes on John, mouth twisting down in an impossible angle. "What!?" Whether it’s the prospect of death in general or canonization in specific that works McKay up, who knows. Who cares. John just flashes McKay a cheeky smile. Score one more for Team Sheppard.

Beckett and Poole both break out into laughter at McKay's expense. Poole, in particular, looks delighted. McKay gives them a scathing glare, mouth thinning out and angling down even further if such a thing is possible. Which, apparently, it is. "Oh, yes, yuck it up, Doctor Bombay and Nurse Ratchet. Just remember this next time the city needs saving!"

"Oh!" Poole exclaims in her crisp little accent, fire in her eyes. "I'll 'Ratchet' you, you-- you--" She takes dangerous step forward, hands already balled into fists. McKay makes a sound high in his throat and takes a HUGE step backwards, hurriedly manhandling John around to use as a human shield.

Beckett quickly raises an arm, blocking her war path.

"Carson!" Poole makes a frustrated sound, turning towards him but pointing an accusing finger at her former patient.

McKay peers over John's shoulder, pointing his own finger back at her from somewhere around John's ear. "See?!"

Beckett has a dire expression as he shouts, "Enough!" His brogue rings loud, attracting the attention of the other medical staff that falls silent throughout the infirmary. "Rodney: out."

"But I didn't--"

"Out!"

"She-- I-- This is SO unfair!"

Now it's Beckett's turn to point, though it's more of a jab, towards the main exit.

John schools his expression, but the humor and success of the moment is bright in his eyes. Turning towards McKay, he firmly takes the man's elbow and whispers in sotto, "Before they break out the big needles." McKay huffs an indignant breath but gets with the program, moving along. John tries to smooth things over with medical by giving Beckett a nod and Poole his most winsome smile before piloting McKay out of the infirmary and back into the unsuspecting population of Atlantis.

"C'mon, let's get some dinner for the Big Hero."

"Ooh," McKay hums. "Maybe there's still pudding."

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

John brings Ford along with him when he tracks McKay down in the main science labs the next afternoon. There's still unpacked and unprocessed equipment precariously staged around the big room, ubiquitous gray plastic crates holding who-knows-what and tall computer banks sitting dark against walls. It's a busy place, people in their tan slacks, blue shirts and sensible sneakers moving around in a barely-structured chaos.

McKay is in the thick of it, tablet perched against his hip as he snaps his fingers twice and points from one wall to another. "Logistics, people. Doctor Zelemka--"

"Zelenka," a mussy looking man next to McKay interrupts absently, attention down onto his own tablet even as he pushes his glasses up his nose.

"What?"

"My name. Zelenka. En. Nnnn. Not em. You keep mispronouncing it."

McKay makes a pained expression, shaking his head. "Okay. Whatever. You. This man, here," he says with a hand-wave around the shorter guy like a dismissive Vanna White. "He was kind enough to design us a work-flow distribution map while I was occupied saving us all. It's colour coded and everything. And it's even quite good, really, in a sort of Communistic understanding of electrical engineering." Zelenka flashes McKay a narrow-eyed glare that McKay either doesn't see or just ignores. "So let's try to stick to it, hmm? You, what's your name?" He strides over to a tall, lanky guy with a strong nose and tight, curly hair.

"Gino Bonofigliano, geologist." The guy bobs his head, pausing in his pushing of an equipment laden cart.

McKay makes that pained expression again, adding a sour flair to his mouth-twist. "Yeah, you know what? I'm not even going to try."

Bonofigliano - Italian, John figures - pulls a droll expression, setting his jaw. He arcs thick eyebrows expectantly towards McKay.

"Yeah," McKay repeats with a glance down at his display. "This is bank Red G2. It's mapped to Lab 12 two halls over, but I like it better for 8. Anthropology does NOT need G2's kind of output." He stabs his finger at a couple of buttons, muttering about the real scientists needing their limited resources for the real science.

Ford eases an anxious expression at Sheppard from under his cap. "Sir?" It asks a lot in the single word.

"Relax, Ford. Trust me." John has a confident smile for the Marine. He waits for Bonofigliano to move on before he makes for his intended target. Ford just sighs, shaking his head as he follows in Sheppard's wake.

John calls out, "McKay."

The man's head snaps up, attention bright and intent. He takes in Sheppard and Ford, nodding absently but on the alert. "Major Sheppard. Lieutenant... You."

"Ford," he reminds drily.

"Hmm. Yes, of course. Something you two need?"

John cocks his head. "You gotta moment?"

McKay shoots a pointed, cranky look around the room. "No?"

"Sir," Ford says again from just behind John, a dismissive quality to his tone as he juts his hip and folds his arms. A clear waste of time, the angle declares.

McKay goes on the defensive, face scrunching up. "What? What's going on? Something wrong? Did you find something?" His eyes bounce staccato from Sheppard to Ford, growing wider by the second.

"Oh, God," McKay just blurts out, face now drawing down. "More escaped life-force sucking monster experiments? We don't have another personal shield! If your teams would just give us a chance to set things up properly! A day, tops. Is that really so hard to ask for? And then you can have all the daring-do adventure time you can handle and we could actually be in a position to get some work done without having to reroute power through the goddamn coffee maker to keep the city from being devoured!"

McKay's out of breath and has attracted something of an audience with his increasing volume. Alarm cuts a silhouette around McKay's solid frame, fraying the edges far too quickly. He's drawn his shoulders up, huddling them around his ears while he stomps around. John will have to work on that with him. McKay's body language is garbage.

Ford has a wide, wall-eyed look for John. It asks ’Is this guy for real?’ or maybe ’Are you serious?’ of his commanding officer. It's a pretty big look, so it's probably asking Sheppard both if not more. John has a subtle, placating hand motion for the young marine. Give him a second here to get this shit back under control.

"Alright, alright. Everyone just calm down. We're good. We're all good." John lifted both hands, patting reassuringly at the air in front of him. Several pairs of eyes - a good portion of them bespeckled - look towards John to make sense of Doctor McKay's impromptu Summer Stock performance of Chicken Little.

"No escaped life-force sucking monsters. Nothing at all, in fact. We're good, we're all fine. Though if there was, for God's sake, save the coffee." He throws his best Fearless Leader's Dashing Smile out there to put the masses at ease. For the most part it seems to work. Heads shake and a few wry chuckles even come up. That, or they're already inured to McKay's cataclysmic declarations, which really can't bode well in the long run. John'll have to address that too, maybe.

Once John's sure McKay hasn't tipped off a scientific riot and people are moving back into their unpacking patterns, John crooks a beckoning finger. "Doctor McKay, if I could see you now?"

Scowling, McKay looks out across the laboratory again, but jerks his chin towards a pair of off-set rooms. Personal offices, most likely. John, Ford and McKay move out of the main thoroughfare of people to set up their little tête-à-tête. Trios-à-trios? Whatever.

McKay turns and plants his feet imperiously, chin lifted at its most pugnacious angle while his arms come up to fold across the tablet he's drawn against his chest. "Yes?"

John reaches up and slaps the back of McKay's head. "God, you don't make anything easy, do you?"

McKay claps a hand to the back of his skull, eyes shocked wide into surprise. "Ow?!"

"Baby."

"Was there something I could help you with Major, or did you just want to bash me around some more?"

John just shakes his head, choosing not to rise to the bait and instead launches into it what he wants. "How'd you like a spot on AR-1?"

McKay's chin tucks down against his neck. "AR-1?"

"Atlantis Reconnaissance 1." Ford's grin is big and infectious. He rocks a little on his heels, sharing an excited look with Sheppard.

McKay just looks sour.

"SG Teams?" The 'duh' is loud and clear in Ford's inflection. "But 'AR'. Because we're in Atlantis. AR-1." He tries smiling his big smile again.

"Do I look like I have time to gallivant around the universe shaking hands and kissing babies?" McKay bugs his eyes, eyebrows smashing together.

"No one's asking you to shake or kiss anything, McKay," John says with a roll of his eyes. "But we're looking for ZPMs, yeah? We need those still, right?"

McKay's mouth pinches. "Yes, yes, of course."

"So?" Sheppard spreads his hands out, palms up.

"That's it? That's your entire argument? 'So'? Wow. No, really. I mean it, Major. Just... wow. Your powers of persuasion, simply astounding!" John jags his eyes hard to the left in an incomplete roll. McKay shoulders past John, eyes already back on his tablet. His fingers hover over something on its display, the dismissal obvious.

Sheppard and Ford close ranks around the hole McKay leaves in their trimutive. "Sir, I told you." Ford's voice is pitched low and hard. "He isn't really the... type."

"Type? What type? What do you mean by type?” McKay turns back, his face that ridiculously open combination of raw arrogance and fragile insecurity that so fascinates John.

"Oh, you know," Sheppard says with a calculated casualness. He folds his arms, slouching a bit into his stance. "That come-hither hero complex, dash-of-math, save an entire city type. The type of guy who wants to get out there first, before anyone else. AR-ONE." That's when John knows he's got McKay's attention. The idea of being there first, of laying claim before anyone else has the chance. McKay's mouth moves into a thoughtful draw.

"We need to find those ZPMs. Find all that abandoned Ancient... stuff. But," Sheppard shrugs a shoulder, sharing a knowing look with Ford who nods back. "You've got stuff to do here. Important stuff. Real, you know...." John looks around at the unpacking. "Important stuff. We'll just have to find another scientist." John jerks his head as if he's turning to walk off.

Ford tries to say: "I still think Doctor Spathis--" But McKay cuts him off, open palm in the air and more in Ford's face then it probably should safely be.

"Wait. Anna Spathis, from ESA? But she's just a chemical engineer!"

John has to remember that Ford spent quantifiable time at the SGC. Doctor Spathis is a tall, lean woman with shoulder-length blonde hair, bright blue eyes and big smile. Her resemblance to Colonel Carter is an easy enough parallel to draw, even if it's just a subconscious one. He tips his hat silently at Ford's machinations; Ford might not know why John wants McKay, but he's willing to play the field to get it to happen for him.

"That a problem?" John turns back, asking with that same calculated casualness.

"Uh, yes?" McKay's lip curled ugly. "Chemical engineering is a 'discipline' half a step from away madness: one foot in actual-for-REAL science, one foot in the fairy-lit world of Never Neverland where, where, where microbiology and biomedical manipulation carry actual weight against physics. Physical science should not be reduced to LEGOs and how best to clip them onto other things like goddamn poli-sci!" Now McKay's on a roll.

"Not to mention?" He swung a finger in a wide arc, encompassing not just Sheppard or Ford, but half the room in general. "I'm the local expert on Ancient technology. Hello? Genius here?" One blunt fingertip taps his temple, just in case there was any misunderstanding where the 'Genius' was located. "You're going to find a ZedPM, out there, without me? Yeah, right."

Ford tag-teams in. "But doc, you said it yourself: you're just so busy...." John could kiss Ford.

"Yes. Well." McKay pulled up short, shoulders drawing back as he thrusts his chest forward like a bantam rooster. "Maybe I could, you know, work out a sort of rotating schedule between off-world investigation and on-site R&D. We need those ZedPMs after all. For the good of the expedition as a whole."

John slides his hands into his pockets. He's so won this round.

"Who else would be on this team? This AR-1?" McKay asks.

"The Major, me, you and then Teyla." Ford points at John, then McKay, then himself.

"Teyla? Oh, well, yes, hmm. When do we start then? Right now? Because I could go right now. A little team-bonding exercise? I can go get Teyla, meet you two later...?"

Ford and Sheppard fold their arms respectively, sharing an indulgent smirk.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Teyla takes readily enough to using a P90 that John has no problem signing her off on one. McKay... less so. It isn't that he's intimidated by firearms, a small mercy John's grateful for, but his aim is just crap and once he's five or six rounds into its auto-fire, McKay's already-crappy-aim has pulled so wide it's not even useful as cover fire.

He does better on the single-shot beretta, so John sticks him with one of those and tells him to not give up on his day job.

"Har har," McKay sneers at the firing range.

Ford takes Teyla through some hand-to-hand stuff, but quickly just signs her off on that, too. Her methods aren't USMC, but they're effective as hell and are more than adequate. Then he spends an afternoon getting his ass handed to him as Teyla, in turn, tries to show him how to use bantos rods.

"They are not clubs, Lieutenant Ford."

"Aiden," Ford grins.

Teyla acquiesces with a playful smile. "Aiden," she repeats. "Nonetheless, you are leading with your shoulder and then dragging the rod after. Think of them more as extensions of your whole arm, to be moved as one." Teyla lets first the right then left rod swing in the crook of her thumb and forefinger in an easy, looping arc.

"I feel like I'm dual-wielding baseball bats."

Teyla's head tilted to the side as they circled the mat. "Baseball bats?"

"Earth game. Football's better."

"Ah, the Hail Mary players."

Ford grinned his big, infectious grin. "Yeah, those guys."

Again, McKay is a little less than adept at the hand-to-hand stuff.

"Oh my God!" McKay is shouting, crawling away from Ford on all fours as John comes into the gym to check on them.

John shoots McKay a dubious expression before looking over at Ford. "How's it going?"

Ford has already bounced back up, giving John a tight nod of acknowledgment.

Eventually McKay drags himself back up onto his feet with help from the wall, face beet red, sweat dark under his armpits and around the neck of his teeshirt. "His ankles were up around my ears! How is that even possible?!"

John plays out that lazy grin. "Yeah, Ford's rather skilled at the take-down."

Ford has his own teasing grin, but there's no mistaking the way his chest puffs at Sheppard's notice and praise.

"Wonderful." McKay's hands beat through the air as he lurched towards the bench. He grabs up a canteen of water and chugs like a frat boy.

"Don't make yourself sick," John patronizes.

McKay wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, flint in his eyes. "If I vomit, I'm going to aim for your shoes, Major."

It takes almost two full weeks, but Ford eventually signs McKay off as 'passingly adequate'. "He isn't going to be winning any wrestling matches anytime soon," Ford lets John know as they fill out the paperwork. "But he took to pressure points better than I would've expected.” There was a beat before Ford added: “He also whines a lot."

"I know, Lieutenant."

"I mean a lot."

John's pen paused as he lifted an eyebrow high.

Ford bent his head back to the form he was filling out. "Just sayin', sir."

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

John works at building his team's cohesion, its spirit. He catches them as individuals at lunch, gathers them all together for dinner. He builds a routine for them all of seeing each other every day whether it be a morning jog (Ford and Teyla), a sparring/training session (Teyla and McKay) or a shared joke after a briefing (McKay and Ford).

John's a great conversationalist in so long as you never want to talk about anything of actual consequence (like "family" or "feelings"), so he spends the first few days just prompting them into sharing a bit about themselves. McKay is, of course, McKay's favorite topic. Ford and Teyla are both tolerant if not indulgent, and John quickly learns how to derail McKay before he gets himself too wound up about how totally awesome he is. Still, for as arrogant and self-centered as McKay can get, there's an honesty to him that's refreshing and John doesn't think either Ford or Teyla have missed it. McKay says what he means, for good or for bad.

Teyla shares stories about the Athosians, about festivals found throughout the Pegasus Galaxy, about some of the quirkier customs they should probably adhere to, and then sings for them. It's lilting and wonderful and John loves it.

Ford recounts his rowdier days in Quantico basic, then his adventures at the SGC on a gate team, making Teyla laugh at his antics and McKay snort into his rehydrated mashed potatoes.

John tries to be fair, sharing a bit about himself too, but keeps it light and fobs any deeper inquiries (usually from McKay's quarter) off with a charming smile and a shrug. He tells them about how all he's ever wanted to do since he was seven was fly, about how he learned how to surf on vacations to California from his grandmother, how it feels when the world falls away on a really great Ferris wheel and it's just you with stars above and bright lights below.

Teyla is already calling Ford "Aiden" before they even suit up for their first off-world mission and McKay has stopped not-so-subtly checking Teyla's ass out, instead granting her the same level of attention he reserves for Elizabeth. They're already moving as a unit and that makes John proud.

Which is why John probably misses it at first. Admittedly, John never sees these kinds of things coming until it’s too late and usually biting him in the ass, but somehow McKay sneaks up on him.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

McKay produces a chess board one night after dinner, hesitantly sliding it out from under the table and poking it with a single finger before them all like a silent offering.

Ford raises his bare wrist. "Whoa, would you look at the time! Gotta report in for washing my hair, hearing my mom calling me, not here." John rolls his eyes but reaches over and slaps Aiden on the shoulder.

"Later, Ford."

"Sir." Aiden grins at the table, scooting out of his chair and bussing his tray. Teyla murmurs a goodbye, McKay dashing up a hand without lifting his eyes.

"It was just an idea," McKay says, already reaching for the wooden box like it’s no big deal.

John shrugs, looking into the bottom of his plastic cup. "Been a while since I've played."

"It is a game?" Teyla regards the box, tentatively reaching out to turn it around a bit. She finds the latch that keeps the box folded in half and fiddles with it until she's got it open and spread wide. She delicately lifts out a queen for examination.

McKay stills his hands, letting them hover instead. "You know how to play chess?" He seems skeptical, regarding John with that hard, doubtful expression of his. John shrugs again, no big deal, right? He's getting used to McKay underestimating him.

Then Sheppard flicks his eyes up to Rodney's. Competition is hot in their intent.

Rodney's eyes first widen, then narrow softly, a smug smirk tugging at his mouth. Oh, its slant says. It's on.

John let's Rodney explain the rules of the game to Teyla while he preliminarily sets up the board. He takes up one white pawn and one black pawn, holding both fists out towards Rodney to choose.

"What?" Rodney seems a little bewildered by this. "I'm always black."

Now it's John's turn to be confused. "What? You choose at random. So that it's fair."

"But I'm always black," Rodney repeats, as if that answers anything.

"That'd give you unilateral tactical advantage over your opponent. Like, always. Every time."

Rodney's eyes shift around. "Uh, yes?" Humor plucks at Teyla's mouth.

John shifts his fists over towards her. "Pick for McKay. He's a cheater."

"I am not!"

Teyla chooses John's left fist which, when opened, produces the blonde, unstained white pawn.

Rodney snorts harshly, snapping the piece up out of John's palm. "Whatever."

They take the game slow, ostensibly to keep Teyla up to speed and answer her questions, but really it's because they're feeling the other man out. Rodney develops his bishops early, fast and hard. It's not a strategy John's used to and it makes him reconsider his own. He plays up his knights, trying to isolate Rodney's rooks to get to the queen.

Rodney can of course play chess and chat like a fishwife simultaneously, which distracts John, which is no doubt its intended purpose. John throws a harried look up at Rodney after Rodney's rousing tale of some woman named Simpson stomping on some dude Kavanaugh's foot for questioning her exponential placement, but Rodney just smirks back.

Rodney's damn bishops chase John around the board so successfully, John misses when Rodney's knight moves into position for John's king. "Ha! Checkmate!" He crows, pistoning his fists over his head in victory.

John laughs. Not his heehaw laugh - he tries to keep that one under wraps if he can help it, but it's laughter and it's a good feeling. He extends his hand across the board and Rodney just looks at it for a second, arms still up in the air, clearly confused. Teyla looks between them, something soft on her face. Something understanding. Rodney takes John's hand awkwardly, looking more at it then John.

His palm is more square to John's rectangle, his fingers wider than John's own narrow digits. But they've each their own calluses, passion rubbed rough into their skin, which now catches tenderly against the other man's. Rodney finally looks up into John's eyes, smile a delight in his face.

Doctor Rodney McKay had become a real person to John on the day they set foot in Atlantis, but somehow, McKay became "Rodney", and Rodney became his friend. Not just a coworker or even just a teammate, but a real friend. John just never sees these things coming.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Objectively speaking, all of John's best, most successful romantic relationships have all developed out of already established friendships. This wasn’t to say John hadn’t indulged in a youthful indiscretion or torrid one night stand a time or two in the lulls of those successes. Major John Sheppard, USAF, likes sex, thanks. He likes it rough and tumble, he likes it soft and romantic. He liked the element of danger, so exemplified when he fucked into his co-pilot behind an equipment shed at Spangdahlem AB. But he also liked it sensual, like when he took a woman to Paris, France, and spent the entire four-day leave tying her up in satin scarves and bringing her to orgasm again and again and again.

But when it came to long term success, his three most noteworthy relationships had all be friends first and then lovers after that. Alison Bloom. Hank Ryan. Nancy Colbert. Nancy he even married, it seeming like the right thing to do at the time. And they made a good two years of it before things started to break down. Then they spent another two years pretending everything was fine before the last year when they just gave up.

After that - after Nancy - John keeps things simple, keeps things loose. He prefers the phrase "Friends with Benefits" to "Fuck Buddies", but he's been known to let his standards slide a bit when faced with a dry spell. Or Antarctica.

But Atlantis is something else. It isn't so much a military base or even a research facility as it's a commune. The population is small, the resources are limited, and they still don't have a way back to Earth. In a very real way, everybody is living in everybody else's back pocket. Not to mention they're at war with psychic space vampires who want to eat every last one of them, which just ratchets up the tension across the board.

To make a difficult situation even more trying, John is head of the military contingent in Atlantis. It drastically limits his choices in partners and means he has to take discretion to whole new levels. He's made strong inroads with the men and women under his command, earning their trust and respect an inch at a time. The last thing he needs to do is screw that all up by - well. Screwing.

It CANNOT be anyone even peripherally under his command. The shadow of favoritism or nepotism is too heavy. So that leaves the scientists, medical personal, and the various technicians and engineers of the expedition.

He lies in the blue light of his quarters one evening, not really sleepy but in bed anyway. Far, far below he can hear the sound of the ocean kissing the edges of the city and it should be soothing, even peaceful. Instead, it reminds him of their isolation.

He can't just hop a transport to the nearest big city, hit a bar, flash a smile and spend a few hours in the company of someone who isn't his own right hand and a bottle of lotion. Just forget for a while who he is, all the responsibilities, what it is he's been trained to do, and just revel in the feeling of sweat-slicked skin under his palms and the delicious sound of satisfaction purring in his ears. None of them can. What you see is what you get.

Burning low and soft in his belly is the ebb of arousal. The not completely unpleasant sensation of his clothes shifting over his sensitized skin. The dull throb of his half-hard dick in his briefs. It's an itch that's been growing slowly over the last few weeks and no amount of jerking off has helped. Because it isn't the orgasm he's chasing, those are easy enough.

He wants someone. He wants a friend with benefits.

Because he can only experience so much with his own hands, pretend behind his closed eyes. And he's pretty much played his repertoire through.

By nature, John isn't really a 'toucher'. Sure, he slaps McKay around a bit for being an under socialized dolt, pounds Ford's shoulder when the kid does something awesome, touches foreheads to Teyla when she's feeling particularly formal. But Elizabeth is the toucher. Not just the perfunctory stuff John manages, but real touches. Her hands linger on people's arms, grip shoulders firmly in validation and approval. Her fingers draw across your own when documents are passed around, a human contact in a bureaucratic sea. Little things, but important things. It isn't even sexual or manipulative. It's just another way she communicates. I'm here, her touches say. You're not alone; we're in this together, and together, we're going to make it through anything. They're comforting and strengthening and everything Elizabeth Weir is.

John indulges in a few seconds of fantasy, wondering wildly what it would feel like if Elizabeth's touches meant something else. How long it would take him to break her calm, collected control with his tongue, his teeth, her pale thighs bracing his head? Would she moan gently or scream her release when he sank into her? Would she clutch at his shoulders or rake her nails down his back?

The chemistry is there between them, certainly. But their respective positions are too important to too many others. Anything between them would compromise the expedition as a whole. Open far too many holes for exploitation. They both know that, even if they haven't put anything in so many words. No, Elizabeth has to stay off his list.

Palming his dick through his sweatpants, John lets his mind wander. Though he's never been particularly picky about gender, it would probably go over easier in their tiny community if he stuck to the expectations.

Still, turning his head towards the window where more stars then he could ever possibly count twinkle back at him, he stumbles over the idea of Carson Beckett. John's had Doc Beckett's hands on him. Skilled in their duty but tender in their ministrations. Carson isn't just a doctor, he's a healer. His genuine compassion is always right there on his sleeve, exposed for the world to see in those bright blue eyes. And, hello, accent. John can imagine it getting rough around the edges with lust, thick against the nape of his neck while Carson grips him around the waist. He suddenly wants to hear sweet, gentle Carson Beckett whisper absolutely filthy demands into his ear from over his shoulder.

John's cock surges up into his hand thinking about Carson's brogue breaking over his name. Yeah. That would work for him.

Teyla? Her amazingly lithe frame, her compact warrior form, straddling him as she took her pleasure. Because there's no question that Teyla's on top. She would be a moaner, he bets. Long, low keening sounds coming right up from the whole of her. But they'd be something lyrical, too, like the songs she sings. Luscious and rolling sounds spilling out of her mouth as her breasts swept over his chest. Café-au-lait skin a contrast against his own golden-toned hands, copper-rich hair damp and dark at her temples. She would wring everything out of John and then curl up small over his chest while he held her.

Christ. Christ.

He's just about to reach into his shorts for his dick when he hears "Coward!" from out in the halls. The walls of Atlantis are pretty soundproof all told, but doors are mostly made of opaque glasswork, and stuff carries through occasionally. Especially when people are shouting late at night.

John rolls out of bed, dressing his hard-on to the left, before crossing towards his door. But it's already opening and someone's coming through.

"What? Why's it so dark in here?" A hand waves over the crystal wall mounted sensors and light floods the room. John has to throw a hand up to shield his eyes.

"McKay? What the fuck?"

From what John can make out of him through his blindness, Rodney's frowning in his direction. He's also still in uniform. "Were you sleeping? But it's only--" He flicks his wrist to look at his watch. "Quarter to one." He makes a disappointed, tetchy sound.

John eyes are finally adjusting, so he lowers his hand and lets it ride his hip. "Is there an emergency?"

"What?" Rodney says again, frown moving from one of petulance to confusion. "No?"

"No one I need to shoot at?"

"No?"

John pours on his ooziest smile. "Then can you kindly explain why you're shouting down my hall and barging into my room at oh-forty-five hundred?"

"Oh," Rodney says, casual as anything. He hooks a thumb over his shoulder. "Zelenka and I were coming down to get you, but then he chickened out at the last second when he saw the halls were dimmed. Thinks that if we'd startled you awake, you'd do some sort of black op trained ninja attack on him." McKay's grin is sardonic, his head doing that superior head-waggle thing.

John's voice is rough. "I just might yet."

McKay sails a hand through the air disissively. Classic. "Whatever. Grab your shoes, let's go." He turns towards the door and goes back out into the hall. John just stands there, wondering what the hell is even going on.

A few seconds tick by before Rodney sticks his head back in, snapping his fingers. "Chop chop, Sheppard. Brilliance is upon us. Well, upon me, but I need you, so I'm willing to share a bit."

"Rodney!"

"What?"

They stare at each other for a while, each expecting compliance and getting a whole lot of silence.

Sheppard jags an eyebrow up and sets both hands on his hips. McKay huffs out a put upon sigh, coming back into the room.

"Look, it would take too long to explain, and you wouldn't get it anyway--"

"Try me," John snarls in interruption.

Rodney's hands come together like he's building something out of thin air as he talks. "I'm doing a thing with the Control Chair, but I can't be in it AND calibrating, and Zelenka's too afraid he'll sprout whiskers to take Carson's gene therapy, and Carson refused to leave his lab so he could continue coddling his stupid petri dishes, so I need you and this whole thing needs to be done at off-peak hours to conserve city power so will you grab your damn boots already?" Rodney isn't even out of breath. He's just looking at John like John's the one being unreasonable.

John looks behind him, back at his rumpled bed sheets, and the impossible dreams that lay crumpled in their wrinkles. "Let me get some real pants on, too."

Rodney makes that pleased little hum that John's come to associate with dessert and particularly satisfying mathematical equations. And now, apparently, being obeyed.

"But you owe me," John says, grabbing up his cargo pants from earlier that day. He shucks out of his black sweats and tosses them onto the foot of the bed. Stepping into his pants, his back is to McKay, so he misses when a licentious curve turns Rodney's mouth up. John doesn't turn around until he's fastening his button-fly and contemplating his boots to his sneakers.

Rodney's eyes are not-so-subtly level to John's ass. Or, where his ass was. Now they're not-so-subtly locked on John's crotch. Rodney makes that dessert-and-math hum again.

Huh.

John decides on his sneakers and Rodney snaps out of it. He isn't even embarrassed, but he might not know he was caught. Or might not care, it's hard to say. McKay impatiently rubs his hands together and steps back out into the hall, waiting for Sheppard to follow.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

It isn't like John's never had "relations" with team members before. He read Plato's Symposium in an intro class at college and Phaedrus' observations on lovers within the ranks had always resonated with him. Because, yeah, you WOULD fight harder for someone you cared for if they were right there with you. It's too abstract sometimes to fight for "God and Country" when you're shit terrified and gun fire is all around you and ground-to-air missiles are taking your goddamn chopper down. But fight for the guy you held shuddering beneath you last night? That was a no brainer.

But Rodney McKay? John can't imagine the guy doing anything by halves, which is just as appealing as it is a drawback. He's loud and brassy and John's not even sure if there'd be room in a bed for him, Rodney and Rodney's ego.

McKay has an exceptional ass, though, and John would be seriously remiss if he didn't note that. Round and lush, but not soft. Just... bitable. Grabable. Pinchable. Nice, broad shoulders, too. Wide hands with nimble fingers. A good, squarish face with a strong jaw. Maybe his nose is a little pointy, but it just adds character to his whole face. And that mouth has to be good at something other than having food shoved into it and obstinate declarations.

Besides, McKay was totally checking him out. Rodney talks a great big heterosexual game, but John Sheppard knows when he's being eyed up.

Rodney McKay meets enough of John's criteria to warrant a consideration. He isn't a woman, granted, which would make things easier if anything ever came to light, but that was more for others comfort than his own. Fuck DADT, anyway. They were in another galaxy, there were space vampires. He figures Phaedrus counts more here than anywhere else.

He starts a careful assessment of Situation McKay. John decides to kick things off with a little light flirting. Admittedly, it looks more like teasing, something reminiscent of tugging on a girl's braid during recess, but that seems an appropriate approach. Anything soft or, God forbid, sentimental and McKay would sniff it out and cast it out immediately. So John keeps it easy and maybe a little rakish, looking up at Rodney through his eyelashes when he can get away with it. They still almost always eat dinner as a team, and then John and Rodney will stick around the cafeteria for a game of chess after. Rodney almost always sits next to John at briefings, even if another chair is open. When something goes wrong in Control, John's taken to looking at Rodney to solve it as a growing matter of course. He drops by Rodney's lab a few afternoons a week to see if anything interesting's going on and to perhaps lounge against workbenches and walls attractively.

McKay's getting more reliable in the field, too, already having pulled their asses out of the fire a time or two (not dying in the vacuum of space with a bug attached to your throat endears a guy to you). He staunchly stood up for Teyla when Bates was looking for blood and resolutely shouldered a P90 to capture their first Wraith. He bitched, but he did it. And yes, he does try to steal a ZPM from a group of kids, but in the end McKay makes it not just right but better. Rodney isn't just going through the motions, he's committed to it - to his work, to Atlantis, to his team - one-hundred and ten percent.

But when Rodney talks about sex, usually in the context of how much he misses it and the exorbitant amounts of it he used to have (and, seriously, McKay is a TERRIBLE fucking liar), it's always always, always about women. But he plays the pronoun game too much to be convincing and occasionally his eyes will linger a little too long on some of the Marines when they pass by in full kit.

Preliminary results looking promising, John decides a little reconnaissance is in order.

Rodney always insists that his PT be carried out in a one-on-one, either with Ford or recently Teyla - no group, no audience. John makes an excuse to come down and watch McKay with Teyla, figuring Teyla's little split-skirt get up will do some of the work for him.

Teyla's taking it ridiculously easy on McKay, exhibiting patience with him that John knows Rodney is oblivious to. They're each using one bantos rod and she's working him through the forms face to face. John folds his arms and slouches against a wall, watching. Waiting.

"Seriously, if we're reduced to ME using a STICK, we're already done for. Finished. Finito!"

"Rodney," chides Teyla gently. Nodding encouragingly, she sets them up for another spar. She leads with her left, telegraphing for all she's worth, but Rodney is too busy flinching and she raps him smartly on the knuckles.

"Ow! Ow! Ow! Sonofa--!" Rodney drops his stick, snatching his hand to his chest and dances around. Teyla drops her chin and turns her face away. John can see her aborted eye roll.

John pushes himself off the wall, drawing his steps out into a predatorial lope. "Geez, McKay. Melodrama much?"

"The function of my hands are an incredibly vital element to the success of this expedition, Major!" Rodney spits the words out at him, face flushed pink from both exertion and indignation.

Bending down, John picks up Rodney's abandoned bantos and absently twirls it. "We should get them insured by Lloyds of London." His mouth turns up into a saccharine-laced smirk.

"Oh, ha and then ha again, Sheppard."

Really, Rodney shouldn't be this easy to wind up.

"Major Sheppard," Teyla admonishes in her dulcet way. "Doctor McKay is making excellent progress and is very, very diligent in his practice." Her smile is polite, but they can all tell she's stretching the truth a bit to save Rodney some face. Rodney lifts his chin in his trademark belligerent insecurity.

"I can see that," John retorts drolly. Feeling that the moment is ripe, John reaches over his shoulder one handed and pulls his teeshirt off. It's a showboat move, sure, making the muscles in his back and abs work, but once his face is free he can see he's got McKay's absolute undivided attention. He carelessly tosses the shirt onto the bench and reaches for another bantos rod.

Teyla, a calculating expression narrowing her eyes as she watches, turns to find a second stick of her own. She knows John's up to something, its writ big and clear in her face. Rodney is easy as hell to wind up to distraction but Teyla isn't so easily manipulated.

John goes through a quick series of warm-up stretches, pulling and twisting himself like a cat. He keeps a surreptitious eye on McKay and, if he thinks his attention might wander, John'll do a deep lunge or two more. Scissoring his arms across his bare chest one more time, he throws Rodney an indolent grin and squares off against Teyla.

He realizes he's in some deep shit about half a second too late. Like a prize fighter, Teyla tilts her head sharply, cracking her neck, and then just whales on John like a banshee queen. No preamble, no gentle lead in, not even a dueler's salute. She just launches herself at John and Holy Crap!

He doesn't have time to be startled, too busy defending himself and skittering out of the way of her twirling attacks. He tries to retaliate, but she knocks his sticks aside effortlessly. He tries for a feint but has to shunt himself sideways to avoid her thrust. Again and again Teyla comes at him and John has to work at his defense. The report of wood against wood is sharp in the room.

She takes a potshot at his head, forcing John to duck into a roll and pop up quickly at her three o'clock. Teyla pivots like a dancer, catching him flat across the hip in a crack of rattan and, Christ, she is serious about this.

Usually she'd stop then, explain how she was able to do that or what John had done wrong, but the gloves are apparently off. Teyla's eyes glint dangerously and John has to snap both his sticks up, crossing them over his head, to absorb a straight-down attack from her. The strength of it shudders down through his body, driving him down to one knee for balance.

Sweat prickles at his skin, quickly giving John a golden sheen. He can feel the burn and flex in his biceps and across his shoulders, down his thighs and even in his calves. He'd like to check in on McKay, but he has to concentrate completely on Teyla or risk some serious injury at her hands. Sticks. Sticks in her hands. Whatever.

Sheppard disengages with a quick step back, catching his breath and circling her. Like some sort of Shaolin Monk, Teyla calmly holds her ground in the center, watching him watch her as he cross-steps one foot over the other.

He isn't going to beat her at this, they both know that. She has too many years of experience on him and he's only held on this well because of his own combat trainings. If he could get in close enough, he could probably abandon the sticks and go for a grapple. Maybe not a full submission, but at least level the playing field a little. John's got the longer reach, but Teyla's superior skill easily discounts that.

Teyla dips her chin just a fraction, a challenging sneer curling her mouth. John answers with his own feral grin, teeth showing. She opens left, but as John moves to block, she quick changes to the right, bringing both sticks against his legs in rapid succession. He grunts as she drives him to his knees again, only able to avoid her step around behind him - no doubt to strong-arm around his neck, her favorite finishing move - by throwing himself backwards into her. It's not the most graceful of moves and gives him no advantage other than to make her spin away surprised or get tangled in him. He's left crouching on his toes, using his fingertips around the rod's handles on the ground to keep stability.

Now it's Teyla that circles John. He could drop the sticks now and just sack her, but she keeps him circling enough that he can't get adequate footing to launch from. The woman's no fool and has been a hunter, a warrior, since John was still escorting his mother's friend's daughters to their Summer cotillions.

He tries to stand back up but Teyla pounces forward, swinging in a precise arc where his head would have been. He's forced to keep low or get a crack to the skull. John crabwalks sideways and tries to lurch up again, but again Teyla isn't having any of that. He can feel the wind of her sticks as one whizzes over his head and the other passes to the left of his face. She has the high ground and plans on keeping it.

Alright. Getting his ass handed to him is counter-productive to what he was going for here, so John decides to go for broke. He gathers himself quickly, teeth grinding together, and flings his sticks to the side as he launches the entire length of his body toward Teyla. His arms come forward, aiming for the center of her mass, his head tucked low.

Teyla jumps right the fuck over him, her bare foot landing squarely on his back, and kicks him down into the mat. John gasps as all the wind is punched from his lungs, limbs landing akimbo. Teyla spins and drops to a knee, driving it right into the soft spot between John's shoulder-blades. Sure enough, she draws both sticks across his throat and yanks his head up and back against her thigh.

They're both panting hard, the sound of their breath loud and harsh in the now silent gym. When John's vision stops swimming, he's looking right up into McKay's face. Rodney's just standing there slack, mouth agape, color high in his cheeks, and eyes the size of saucers.

With a rather impressive hard-on in his loose sweatpants.

"Oh... oh my God," Rodney sputters.

Teyla gives John a pointed squeeze against his Adam’s apple before getting off of him. John just lets his head fall against the floor, still working on drawing in a full breath.

He is so never going to hear the end of this.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

"Ah, Major Sheppard." McKay draws the whole, short phrase out word-by-word, leaning back in his seat like some sort of magnanimous sovereign. Or maybe Londo Mollari, the comparison coming and going in a flash. And maybe McKay is: it certainly looks like he's holding court here at their usual table in the cafeteria. Not only are Ford and Teyla in attendance, but so are Elizabeth, Beckett and Zelenka. Every one of them is looking up at Sheppard with a flavor of amusement. Rodney's big smile is disgustingly arrogant for John's taste. Goddamnit.

John shuffles his feet a bit, holding his tray of lunch with a slouchy ease he doesn't really feel. "Did I miss my invitation? Or is this a private party."

"Oh no, please," Rodney says with smug graciousness, waving his hand towards an empty seat at the head of the table. "Join us."

"Yeah, hey sir," Ford grins eagerly, turning to follow John as he takes what is essentially the table’s "mush pot". A soft series of greetings wash over as people chime in, but none too distinct. They're all too busy watching and waiting. John sets his tray down, smile tight, as all eyes track his movements. It suddenly feels like 9th Grade all over again.

John flicks a glance down the line as he sets his silverware up and turns his coffee cup handle out. No one is being very subtle. Ford looks fit to giggle. Elizabeth is trying desperately to keep her expression in reserve, but the corners of her mouth are turning up under the strain and her eyes are brilliant. Teyla is serene, but her posture is impeccable, pride a palpable energy coming right off of her. Beckett and Zelenka just look like they're eager for the show to start, each leaning forward against the table, and McKay....

Rodney folds his arms and crosses one ankle over his knee, still reclined in his chair like the Raj of Atlantis.

Shaking his head, John looks down into his plate. He's got to nip this one in the bud before McKay runs insufferable over the whole thing. "Yes," John says in a long suffering sigh. "Teyla kicked my ass. Seriously. Thoroughly. Embarrassingly."

The entire table erupts into laughter - except for Rodney, who flashes daggers first at Sheppard and then around his cortege. John takes a measure of satisfaction from having robbed Rodney of his thunder, even at his own expense. He looks up at McKay coquettishly from under his eyelashes, deliberately popping a strip of dehydrated fruit roll into his mouth. Rodney narrows his eyes fiercely and then gives a bullish snort, looking away.

"Maybe you will be less likely to show off in the future, hmm?" Teyla's smile is teasing as she holds her cup aloft.

"Or just pick easier battles." Ford grins, ribbing John further with an added, "Sir."

Rodney regains enough of his composure to launch into a detailed, blow-by-blow play-by-play. His hands transcribe visuals of their own, soft flowing curves when detailing Teyla and harder, chopping angles when discussing John. Teyla, his voice paints in lambent glow. Her grace, her strength, her skill - her split-skirt. There's even a touch of awe to his storytelling. Teyla just dips her head bashfully; it's one thing to be proud of one's own accomplishments, it's another to have them retold in such revered detail.

For John, Rodney pours out every snide, acerbic and backhanded compliment he can muster. The picture of John he composes is of a high school jock trying to show up the academic decathlon champion when suddenly the geek's prayers are answered from on high in the form of Pallas Athena. He even makes fun of John's "absurd" hair and its relative "sadness" and subsequent "deflating" at John's humiliating defeat.

Carson and Radek laugh the hardest at Rodney's descriptions, maybe enjoying John's defeat as a vicarious victory over their own nerdy childhoods. Elizabeth is grinning broadly until she catches John's eye, and then she pulls it all back into a polite humor. Until it creeps up on her again and her grin is big once more.

John doesn't mind, not really. He thoroughly got his ass handed right back to him. Credit where credit's due and all that. He mostly just eats his lunch, taking his licks as they come, and letting Rodney have his moment in the sun. It's already at half-watt anyway, John having deflated it before it even started by just owning it. He can only imagine the lengths Rodney would be stretching himself to if John had giving him first crack like McKay presumed was his right.

"Don't let it get you down, sir," Ford says with a sympathetic clap to John's shoulder. "Just be grateful she's on our side."

John is heartfelt. "Oh, I am, Lieutenant. I am."

The table falls into laughter again.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Lieutenant Phelps tears something in his shoulder a few days later and Beckett takes him off rotation for at least two weeks. John shuffles scheduling around a bit, and then Ford volunteers for a double-shift that evening, filling the last hole in John's plan before the new schedule can take effect tomorrow.

"Listen, I owe you." John says to Ford as he sits behind his desk, sending out the updated duty roster with a red "notice me!" flag and the little box ticked that will report to John when each recipient has read the letter. God, paperwork sucks.

Ford tosses off a salute. "No problem, sir. Of course, if you're going to take a jumper out again soon for a little more planetary recon...."

John smirks, not looking up as he forwards the changes to various staff, military and civilian. "I'll probably be in the market for a co-pilot, yeah."

"Awesome." Grinning, Ford bounces once on the balls of his feet, bobs his head, and heads out.

AR-1 is already on stand down for a least a week as Rodney works on some stuff and Teyla and Elizabeth take a few days to the mainland. Things are still tense with the Athosians, but Elizabeth is determined to make amends and Teyla assures them all headway is being made by Weir's continued visits.

That ostensibly leaves John "in charge" of the city. Shutting the lid to his laptop, he heads up to Control again. Elizabeth's already said he can use her office while she's gone, to make things easier, but that feels weird. Like being in a fishbowl with all that glass. He doesn't know how she can stand being so exposed like that. What if she, like, has to pass gas? Pick her nose? Though if he thinks about it, Doctor Elizabeth Weir is too ladylike and proper to do anything so debase as fart or get crusty off world dirt-boogers, probably. So John just shuffles his hands into his pockets as he makes regular trips between the military wing and Control and hopes that if anything really hits the fan Campbell or Grodin will just cut to the chase and radio him.

When he comes around the stairs and into C&C proper, John is met with the sight of Rodney McKay's ass poised in the air, upper half of the man folded into a console. "Try now?" His voice is contorted, like something might be tucked into the corner of his mouth. Grodin stands behind the console, a tablet in his hands and a laptop on a stand just to his left. Peter reaches out, touching a few of the crystal dials and then looks at his tablet and laptop with a disappointed frown.

"Nothing."

"What?" Frustrated disbelief grinds through McKay's tone as he wiggles out. John tilts his head just a bit, unconscious how much he's starting. Once out, Rodney launches himself around the dead tech, brusquely pushing Grodin out of the way. He does the exact same thing Peter did, going through the sequence two more times before acknowledging that, yes, the console continues to be dead.

Rodney makes a disappointed sound, folding one arm across his broad chest and cradling his elbow in such a way so as he can chew on his thumbnail. McKay is lost in his own thoughts but Grodin notices John, nodding his head and offering a "Major Sheppard."

John feels caught out, snapping guilty eyes up at Peter before he plasters a great big nothing-to-see-here smile across his face. Peter narrows his eyes a fraction in confusion, but John doesn't give him time to think anything of it. Stepping up to the device, John sets his hands on his hips and looks down at the dead interface. "What've you got here, boys?"

"Don't know," Peter says with a shrug. "We can't seem to initialize it or piggyback an interface through already initialize consoles."

Without warning, Rodney reaches out across the console and snaps his hand closed around John's wrist, dragging John's hand off his hip and slapping it against the console. Rodney still hasn't even acknowledged John, just looking down at John's fingers splayed against the cool not-plastic with a grumpy frown. The console remains dead. "Damn."

"McKay?" John's voice hitches, and Grodin looks a bit alarmed. You just don't make grabby hands at a man with a loaded thigh-holster. But it isn't the manhandling John's objecting to, or even questioning. Or, rather, not the way Grodin's worried about. Rodney's fingers around John's wrist are a fantastic ice, so cold it burns. It's his thumb and the two first fingers of his hand around John's narrow wrist. The third finger is a ghost of icy-heat but not an actual point of contact. There's purpose in the grasp, no hesitation, nothing polite. And if not outright possession, then certainly a healthy amount of authority and blind privilege in it. Goosebumps break out all over his arm and John is grateful for his jacket.

Rodney looks up with an aggravated expression. "What? Maybe it would have liked his super-mutant-gene to our artificial ones."

"Your mouse genes," John teases with a lopsided grin. His heart is beating faster then he'd like, knocking up against his ribcage. He's positive Rodney can feel it at his pulse-point since McKay still hasn't let go of his wrist.

Rodney's mouth slides crookedly droll, pursing at the Cupid's bow. Secret to everyone but John and Rodney, Rodney presses his fingertips against the soft, blue vein running lengthwise under John's wrist. Immediately, John's entire right hand starts to tingle. John can't help the involuntary breath he pulls in through his nose, locking eyes to Rodney's. And then suddenly it's gone, all of it, everything, Rodney releasing his hold on John and back to business as he bustles around to the laptop and pounds something out on the keyboard. John draws his hand back slowly, stuffing it into his pocket where the hand fists.

"Look, it's got to do something, and the Ancient database clearly labels it for Control, so if we could just--"

"Keep me posted," John interrupts, feeling it safer to speak to Grodin. Rodney's already back in his own headspace anyway, eyes darting between code windows on his various displays. Peter just nods, looking down at the console with sigh, oblivious to everything that's shifted inside John. Changed inside John.

John checks in quickly with Chuck and then nods at the posted security before sauntering out into the halls. He takes a circuitous route, forcing himself to do an abbreviated security detail check-in, but John's ultimate destination has been his personal quarters since Rodney let go of him. Technically, he's on duty still. And not just on duty as Major Sheppard, but ON DUTY as in the buck stops right the hell here for all of Atlantis. But John is already stripping out of his jacket before his door is closed all the way.

He slaps a hand against the sensor, activating the door's lock as he drops the jacket right there on the floor. His breath is coming in ragged drafts over his teeth, his skin too tight. John feels like he is vibrating. For a second he considers his options, tries to keep a responsible head about things. Maybe he should go for a jog. Just run and run and run this out on the catwalks high above the city. Or, maybe he can grab a few of the grunts in the gym and finagle a match without humiliating himself too thoroughly. The shooting range? Yeah, maybe that. But then his hand drags up over his cock trapped behind his fly and that's the end of that.

Unclipping his holster, he checks the sidearm's safety and then lays them both on their designated shelf by his desk. He's hornier than shit, not an idiot. Gun taken care of, John moves further into the room, yanking off his teeshirt, undoing the buttons of his pants, tossing his mic onto the dresser. He gets impatient with his boots, yanking at the laces and getting them into knots he'll regret later, but right now - right the fuck now - clothes against his skin are just too much, and that includes goddamn socks.

Finally, gloriously, he's completely naked. His bare feet flex against the not-metal of Atlantis' floors and he can feel the city thrum up in the back of his mind like the insistent baseline of a particularly unrelenting piece of club music. Pulse, pulse, pulse.

He lies down and stretches out wantonly on his bed, late afternoon sun flooding the room as he runs his hands over himself. From behind his neck, down his chest, across his fluttering belly, his hands draw down. He skims his pelvis, hips jerking up of their own accord, his hands moving on to his thighs, avoiding his cock. It juts up from him, achingly hard and slick at the head. John is circumcised, as are most men his age from the US, so everything is laid sensitive and bare at the tip. He bets McKay isn't cut and just having that thought, the thought of Rodney's uncut Canadian dick, sends a surge right up John's core.

It isn't as if John hasn't masturbated to the thought of Rodney McKay before. You don't set out to seduce someone without first testing the picture in your head, make sure it's going to work for you. But it was always a vague shower scene, or maybe Rodney blowing John while John lounged back against the bed's headboard, his fingers carding through Rodney's hair. And, of course, Rodney's pretty ass and John's firm grip on McKay's hips as John drove himself in.

But this is different, something else. Something almost 'other'. New.

John has never objected to being the 'catcher', the one bent over a chair back or pressed up against the shower wall. It feels great and his good experiences far outweigh the ones that have been less than great. But John is just traditionally the 'pitcher'. As instigator, he naturally falls into that role, and people don't seem to mind. There had been that one quartermaster at Masirah AB who'd had a particular fascination with her strap-on that John had indulged, but that had been right after Nancy and John had felt like maybe he was making it up to women everywhere, in general, by letting a woman fuck him over her supply jeep. And again, it wasn't bad. It was even awesome occasionally.

Right now, though, John is as far away from the pitching mound as he could possibly get. No, what he wants, what his body craves, is possession. To be held down, to be taken, maybe even marked somehow. It's exciting, exhilarating, and overwhelming, his desire for it. It might be a little freighting, challenging his sense of masculinity, if he wasn't a shivering wreck with the want of it.

Eyes drifting shut, he lets his hand finally come to grip his cock. It surges up against his palm and John keens softly, back twisting against the mattress. He uses his own pre-come as lubricant, but it isn't enough. His hand still drags a little rough over the hot, sensitive shaft and it's absolutely perfect. Wildly, John thinks of Rodney's hand. If this was Rodney's hand instead of his stroking him, twisting just at the end. Rodney's palm is wider than John's, his fingers a little shorter and blunter, but far more articulate in how they can move. But it isn't Rodney's hand on his cock John wants.

John wants Rodney's hands on his hips and thighs, maybe one on his chest, pressing John down into the bed as he made a place for himself between John's legs. John draws his heels up onto the bed, letting his knees part and fall flat against the coarse bedspread. He feels exposed like this, but that only adds to everything, the shameful, raw demand curling hot across his face, flushing his chest and coiling in his dick.

He's been absently toying with his nipples, alternating between sharp twists and feather-light brushes with his fingertips, but as he rolls over gently onto his shoulder, his hand traces down his side and delves into the cleft of his ass. He really should stop, grab the lotion in his nightstand drawer. If he'd been thinking clearer, he would have grabbed it before he even laid down to avoid the whole conundrum. The cool slickness would make this a whole lot easier - but maybe John doesn't want it easier? That realization knocks another breath out of him and then he's pressing one dry finger up against himself, testing the theory. "Yeah," he mummers, because that's pretty perfect, too.

Pressing in, there's the pull and burn of dry flesh on flesh, but then it blossoms into something hedonistic: it’s pleasure in its most primitive form, just lust thrilling through his veins instead of boring old human blood. He thrusts his hips back, taking his finger into himself all the way up to the first knuckle and the groan he lets loose is long and low. God, yes. He pumps himself like that for a while, forward into his fist, backwards onto his finger, all the while imagining Rodney McKay braced over him. Rodney's sharp teeth on his earlobe, Rodney's sharp tongue against his throat, Rodney's hand thick in his hair to pull his head how Rodney wants it. Rodney's cock in his ass, thrusting deep into John, taking John.

He adds a second finger and that stings like a son of a bitch, making John shudder and hiss into his shoulder. He's never really been one for the bright flair of actual-pain, but right now? This is working unbelievably well for him. It's a hot prickle all through his ass, spreading like a wildfire across his lower back and thighs. John imagines it as a promise of intent -- he would be Rodney's, there for Rodney's pleasure first and his own secondary if not even tertiary. Rodney's a smart guy with lots of big ideas, John's pleasure might have to wait a while and right now, in this fantasy, that's fine. Better then fine.

John has no real idea what kind of lover McKay is, of course, so he just fills the picture in with Rodney's daily backhanded compliments, audacious tenacity and grabby hands. He'd muscle John around, maybe. Not just position John however he wanted, but thrust and push and manhandled him during the whole thing, everywhere at once, until John’s entire world was Rodney McKay. Would he talk during sex? John LOVES dirty talk, so sure, why not. John can easily turn Rodney's barbs about his hair, his intelligence, his leadership in the field, his sense of direction into something salacious.

The angle's all wrong, but John tries his best to crook his fingers, seeking out his prostate. Curling in on himself, he finds it less purposefully and more accidentally, biting out a thready cry at its discovery. "You can take it, can't you Sheppard?" Rodney would bait, his voice husky and sex-rough in John's ear. Hovering over John, pinning John's wrists over his head with his broad hands, the length and breadth of McKay's body pressing into him.

And that's what finally undoes him, that exact image, the precise culmination of everything John's been yearning for since Rodney slapped his hand against the dead console. It quick-time loops in his mind over and over as he jacks himself ruthlessly, fingers burrowing up deep inside. Rodney over him, Rodney holding him down, Rodney's voice a phantom in his ear. "You can take it, can't you Sheppard? Huh? Take it, Major. C'mon. Take me." Rodney over him, Rodney holding him down. "Can you do it? Can you handle me, Sheppard?" John is panting, writhing, eyes scrunched so tight that lights are going off behind them. He begs, "Yes, yes, please, yes, please!"

John's orgasm is like a crack of lightning, bright and brilliant along every nerve in his entire body. His spine jack-knifes, head rocking back and forth as he doesn't just moan or cry out but shouts his release. His toes curl! Semen jets from his fisted hand, shooting out at a velocity and quantity he probably hasn't experienced since he was sixteen. It doesn't just splash up on his stomach or out over the bedspread, but goes so far as to broadcast a few feet off the side of the bed, threatening his abandoned boots. The whole thing goes on for some time, John's body quivering and jerking against the last spits of his dick, until finally, finally, he stills his hands. He pulls them away from himself slowly, out of himself languidly. He lays there heavy, all that he can do for now.

His eyes are actually crossed when he finally tries to pry one open. The world shifts double until coming back into a soft, single focus, the sunlight still rich and gold and spilling through the window in a wide bar across the suite. Everything feels soft. Calm. Warm. Wrapped in a fluffy towel fresh from the dryer, maybe. His breath is fast and irregular, deep inhales that expand his chest, raspy exhales that jitter down his leadened limbs. John has had some really great sex, and even some impressive solo sessions, but this....

If Rodney McKay is even half as good as John imagines him to be, he'll be the fuck of a lifetime.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

It isn't as if John avoids Rodney for the next two days. Not really.

Okay, maybe a little.

So what if he takes his lunch early in the cafeteria? His day starts earlier when Elizabeth's away, not just fielding the daily senior staff meeting, but the rotating weekly meetings of the various sub-departments. And sure, he could leave those to the various second chairs, but John feels duty bound to show his face no matter how boring or over-his-head it all gets. He makes notes for Elizabeth on what he can follow ('Biars may have a good point about flora sampling - medicines? Get him with Beckett's staff?') and leaves snarkier commentary for that which he doesn't quite get, knowing Elizabeth will deny how funny she finds his observations ('Seriously, Adey: it's called chapstick. Find some. MAKE some. Stop licking your damn lips already! It's weird!').

He takes his dinners at his desk, thoughtfully provided by Ford, while he labors over the various reports of the day and addressing what can't wait for Weir's return. By the time he's done, he's mentally exhausted from having to keep track of so many details. He has never missed post-its as much as he has this week. His respect for what Elizabeth does is both new and redoubled from where it was before, and now he keenly understands her addiction to her little PDA. John checks back with Command one last time and then scrubs his way back to his room.

Where he purposefully does not think about sex, does not touch himself, does not in any single, possible way consider any single detail of Doctor Rodney McKay. He climbs into bed and thinks about vector spaces and trajectories and cool moves he hopes to pull off in a puddlejumper. How Zelenka has been hemming and hawing about running some tests when time allows. Thinks about how the biology department needs to get out in the sun, more. Pale, creepy mole-people with their over itemized lists. Thinks about how he should make security rotation a four-by-four instead of three-by-three. It'll mean a two shift overlap, but he'll make it work. He likes the idea of more rather than less when it comes to guys with guns against the Wraith.

He does not think about the way McKay's sharp blue eyes kept pinning John to Elizabeth's chair, how his hands played through the air as he went over first the science department's energy allocation as a whole, but in specific, the physics department's need for resources if they were going to make any progress anywhere. John does not recall Tuesday morning, his first real day In Charge but before the Wrist Grabbing Incident, where Rodney and Radek had bracketed a display screen, presumably to give a presentation but instead gave a public argument with fingers snapping and new Czech swears for John's lexicon.

He doesn't think about any of that as hard as he can.

Elizabeth, Teyla and their diplomatic contingent of six arrive back mid-morning Sunday. John, Ford, and Grodin meet them in the jumper bay. Elizabeth's nose and cheeks are pink with sun, her hair pulled into a quick ponytail. She has the satisfied air of a successful mission, so John gives her a warm smile when he offers to take her pack.

"Everything go well?" She asks, handing the backpack's strap over as she comes down the shallow gangplank.

"No one even blew anything up," John teases. Elizabeth's smirk is wry, but she turns back towards the jumper when Teyla emerges with several homespun satchels.

"The Athosians," Elizabeth explains, "have found wild growth of a wide assortment of edible roots and berries. Obviously, any sort of cultivated farmland has long overgrown, but the concentration and diversity of it all seems to suggest the Ancients relied as much on the mainland as we do."

Teyla handed several bags off to Ford while Grodin worked with the others to unpack the jumper. Reaching into the one she reserved for herself, Teyla lifts out a clay vessel and passes is over towards John. "Charin has begun making ellenberry jam. She wanted you to have some."

John's a little taken aback by that, surprise in his face. "Oh. Well. That's... that's very kind of her. I'll have to, uh, thank her next time I'm over there." He isn't used to gifts from little old space ladies.

Teyla and Elizabeth share a feminine exchange before the crowd as a whole is moving into the city proper. "Alright," Elizabeth begins, spinning the gears again that put her back in command. "I'd like the chance to shower and change, grab lunch, and then I'd like a full briefing at, say, 1330?" She looks from Sheppard to Grodin who each give her an affirmative nod. "Excellent."

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

The rest of the day is relatively uneventful. Elizabeth gets brought back up to speed (she agrees about both Biars' flower research and Lip Licking Adey. Beckett gives her some cream for her nose), Teyla parcels out a few gifts before giving the rest of the foodstuffs to the kitchen, and Ford, Zelenka and John take a puddlejumper out and do some very sweet barrel rolls in partial atmosphere. Radek doesn't even puke that much.

When dinner rolls around, John is still a little giddy with the flight maneuvers, so breezes into the commissary on carefree heels. He grabs a tray, notes the addition of a berry cobbler thing and takes up his allocated sampling. It's not really more than two or three bites, but it's not an MRE or rehydrated and that makes it ambrosia. Teyla and Rodney are already at a table, and John doesn't hesitate to throw himself into the seat next to McKay.

Rodney arches a cool eyebrow at Sheppard's jostling, but John just smirks around the spoon he's already worked into his mouth. Life is uncertain: eat dessert first. And before Rodney McKay can steal it off your tray when your attention is diverted. Rodney just huffs, shaking his head.

"Heard Radek only needed two of four barf bags this afternoon," Rodney says conversationally, picking up his sandwich again. "Off your game, Major?"

Teyla makes a sour face, kicking Rodney under the table. "Doctor Zelenka is--"

"Ow?! Did you just kick me in defense of Zelenka?! Because, really--"

John smirks again, using his fingernail to dig a seed out from between his teeth. "Baby." He knocks against McKay's shoulder with his own.

Rodney's mouth is already gearing up to launch into what would undoubtedly be a scathing comeback, but Ford is suddenly spinning the chair besides Teyla around so he can straddle it.

"Hey, guys!"

Everything is totally back to normal. Except for the not having sex thing, but John's still working on that. But all that other stuff? That weird “claiming” stuff? Totally cool now. Totally.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

It's later than usual, John an 'in bed by midnight' kind of guy typically. But he's shifty and restless and doesn't really feel like going to his quarters just so he can lie in bed and look out the window not being sleepy. Control checks out, third watch in full swing, so he just wanders the halls for a bit. He doesn't realize his feet have taken him to the science wing until the checkerboard pattern of rooms - labs with lights either on and spilling out into the corridor, or off but still blue LED-tinted from sleepy equipment - registers on him against the otherwise all over half light of Atlantis at night. He absently pokes his head into a few of them, noting who's awake and who isn't, when he catches movement down at the far end of the hall.

McKay is coming out of a lab, focus on his tablet, and turning up the hall. His steps are quick and take him around the corner and out of sight. John suddenly has a purpose, an agenda, his own steps picking up the pace as he follows. Coming around the bend, John notes this is one of those weird little short corridor cul-de-sac things. Three rooms break off from a central hub, two of the three archways dark. He hears movement in the center room, predictably the one still lit. Running a hand back to front through his hair, John affects an indifferent attitude, slides his hands into his pockets and saunters on.

Rodney has something going on two laptops and a desktop, left and right hands independently typing on different keyboards and okay, yeah, that's kind of impressive.

Slouching up against the archway's frame, John lets his head rock to the side and waits. Rodney shifts to the right, going to grab his tablet up again when he notices John with a start. He fumbles the device back onto the tabletop with a clatter while hopping in place.

"Jesus! Sheppard!" He clutches at his chest dramatically, head lolling and eyes rolling wide before they come back to John with a dangerous glint. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

"Yes, Mister Bond. I expect you to die."

Rodney shakes his head peevishly, snapping the tablet up from the counter and punching at its screen with an aggravated fingertip. "I'm more of a Roger Moore to a Sean Connery."

"You're more of a Q than a James Bond," John retorts flippantly, shouldering off the door frame and ambling on in. Rodney gives him a slant mouthed frown before taking whatever data he's collected from the tablet and inputting it into the desktop machine.

"Then don't call me Bond, Moneypenny. You started it. And shouldn't you be asleep, anyway? It's after two, I figured you'd be a pumpkin by now."

John gives an indolent shrug, not rising to the bait. He pulls a hand out of his pocket and reaches to turn one of McKay's laptops around so he can see the screen better. "I couldn't--" Without looking over, Rodney reaches out and slaps John's hand away. John instinctively flaps his hand back, making contact with Rodney's elbow. "I couldn't sleep," John finishes on a huff.

"So, yes of course, the next logical step after that was to come down here and pester me with your touching and flouncing and inconsistent characterizations."

John comes around to Rodney's side of the table, casual as casual can get, regarding the code on the screens like he knows what the hell any of it means. The slow burning tension of anticipation is already beginning to coil around the base of John's spine, fluttering light across his chest. "Sure, why not?" He puts on one of his best smiles when Rodney looks up, that peevish expression still dominating the man’s face. John's leans forward slightly, infringing just that tiny bit on McKay's personal space.

Rodney regards him for a heavy second, calculations slotting behind his polished-blue eyes. "Go away, Major Sheppard," he concludes, dismissing John with a flick of his wrist before letting the hand come back down on a keyboard. "I'm a very busy man with lots of important things to do." He locks his attention forward with determination.

"Really?" John drops his voice into a lower register, the turn of it provocative. He presses in a little further, his own hazel-green eyes taking in the line of McKay's throat. The way Rodney swallows hard and harsh, the tiny hitch in his chest as his breath catches.

McKay snaps his face around and John plays out a lush, lazy smile. Its intention is like a neon sign in Vegas.

"Really? Really. You're doing this? Here? Now? You're really doing this?" Rodney's tone is annoyed, even angry, which sends a flicker of worry across John's brow. Not what he was expecting.

"It's two in the morning, I can't sleep, you're interested...." John rolls a shoulder, tentative hand reaching out towards Rodney.

"Oh, I am, am I?" Rodney takes a purposeful step backwards, crossing his arms fractiously.

John lets his eyes travel down Rodney's body slowly. He catalogs the subtle indicators -- the rising flush on Rodney's cheeks, the pert points of his nipples against his loose blue shirt, his shallow breathing -- before pointedly dropping his full attention on the most tattle-tale indicator of all: Rodney's rather obvious, and developing, hard-on. John lets his head bounce to the side. "I'd say so, yes."

Rodney looks down like he's startled, hands dropping in a flurry to cover his betraying dick. "Go away, Sheppard!" Rodney moves around the table, putting it between them. "Important, important things!" But Rodney's eyes are jumping around John like they can't tell where to look first, the pink tip of his tongue coming out to touch his upper lip. John's not going to waste this opportunity.

"Rodney." John rolls the name out, teasing it along like he's disappointed. He sets his palms flat on the table, squaring off against McKay. Cat and mouse. Predator and prey.

Rodney's hands carve shapes out of the air between them. "Oh my God! Are you completely insane? Never mind the fact you're in the AIR FORCE, Major, this is a spectacularly terrible idea on every conceivable level even for you!"

"Is it?" John takes a single step to his right. Predictably, Rodney takes a step to his left. John fakes a step right, Rodney goes left, then John zags back the other way. Rodney keeps pace, he's no fool.

Taking a visibly slow, even breath, John lifts a hand off the table and makes a soothing gesture. "Look, Rodney. You're interested, I'm interested. Very, very interested. I like you, you like me. We’re friends. So why not solve two problems at once? How long's it been, hmm?" John arches an eyebrow here, wetting his own lips. To hear Rodney's bitching, it's been a criminal amount of time since he last got laid. McKay actually pauses at that, a considering dart to his eyes before they spring back up to John's. "I'm not asking for your class ring here, I'm just looking to... to get rid of a little excess energy. Relax a little. Maybe have a bit of fun." John produces his most charming smile, the one he perfected around his sophomore year of high school and has served him well since.

Rodney tilts his chin down at a pertinacious angle, hands flexing at his sides. "Do you know how long I've been contracting with the US military?"

"Uh... no?" John's smile falters. Wait, what?

"Almost twenty years now. Twenty. Years. Do you think I've never been propositioned by the likes of you before? Hmm? Highly classified, highly isolated research centers. Caged, over caffeinated, over educated researchers. Drafted engineers, MPs, and technicians tired of watching the dirt grow. Siberia. I know what a 'fuck buddy' is, Sheppard." Rodney hooks a thumb into his chest, dimpling his shirt. "And, sure, it's okay for a while. But then they get bored. I get bored. So everyone moves on to the next one. And the next one. And the next one. And then I got bored with that. So... no, Major. Just, no." Rodney waves his hand towards John, then the door, dismissively.

"I prefer 'Friends with Benefits'," John mutters mulishly. Rodney just snorts loudly, rolling his eyes condescendingly.

"Of course, don't think I'm not flattered." And that smug bastard has the audacity to look... smug. And bastardly. Rodney comes up onto his toes and bounces a bit, hands slipping into his pockets slick as can be. "This is me, after all and I'm a pretty outstanding deal. Looks, brains, incredible sexual magnetism -- the whole package. I can certainly see why you'd approach me first." His smarmy smirk wobbles. "You did come to me first, didn't you?"

"Okay, you know what?" John's pretty fed up at this point. Besides, he's always preferred action to standing around dithering about the details. And maybe he doesn't take rejection well. Who the hell does McKay think he is, anyway? John swoops around the lab bench in three long strides, grabbing McKay up by the biceps before he can escape. Rodney's mouth opens in a startled gasp and John grins down wolfishly. Then John’s kissing him, pushing his tongue against Rodney's, forcing himself in to make his very important argument, namely, that they should really be fucking right about now. Rodney starts to struggle, twisting in John's grip and lifting his hands up flat against John's chest to shove, but John rocks him off balance and marches him backwards until McKay's back is flat against the wall. There's equipment on either side of them, creating a nice little boxed-in effect. John thumps him against the wall a little harder than is properly necessary too, and Rodney makes a desperately wanton sound from the back of his throat that John delightfully swallows whole.

Rodney's still shoving against his chest but he's also engaging in the kiss, biting John back, pushing his own tongue into John's mouth, giving as rough and desperate as he's getting. They're fighting for dominance, growling their want against the other. Christ, yes, yes, yes John's body sings. He slides one hand up Rodney's shoulder, cupping the nape of his neck, letting his fingers scrabble against the fine hairs there. The man is an exquisite kisser; for as much tongue as McKay employs, it isn't sloppy or drooly. It's just hot and demanding and purpose driven. Arrogantly entitled like the man himself and John can't get enough of it.

Rodney's hands finally stop shoving and start pulling, hauling John up against himself. Their knees bump, their hips crash together and fuck, yes! John makes his own wrecked sounds, sinking all his weight against Rodney until they’re flush. Rodney presses a hand flat against the small of John’s back, pulling John down, pushing himself up, his hand an anchor. The heat of it, the strength of it as Rodney thrusts back up against John rocks him in place. He finally moves off McKay's mouth and kisses down his jaw, rutting up against Rodney's hip. McKay makes incoherent, breathy sounds of pleasure, hums and moans, hissing softly when John applies teeth to his throat. Then Rodney's hands are coming up, working just under John's jacket shoulders and he figures he's trying to take it off him. Naked! Victory!

John tilts back, panting and grinning and misses the cool cant of Rodney's pink-slicked mouth until it's too late. In one rushed, rough move, Rodney wrenches John's jacket halfway down his arms, reaching around John's back to twist the excess material into his fist. John's arms are effectively drawn back and pinned to his sides with little leverage for movement. Before he can fully process what the hell just happened here, Rodney reaches out and slaps at the door control. It whooshes closed with the quiet double-beep of a successful engagement of its lock. Well okay, John can work with this, sure.

He tilts his head to the side coyly, moving to lean in and take Rodney's mouth again but Rodney sweep kicks his feet out from under him, shoving John backwards with enough force to send him sprawling flat to the floor. John can't even pinwheel his arms. All John can do is land hard, startled and confused. He tries to scramble back, away from McKay, but Rodney kicks his arms out from under him quickly. John goes to roll sideways but Rodney is in the way, suddenly standing over him and dropping fast onto his knees, on top of John. He drops a shin each across John's upper arms, resting his ass heavily on John's sternum, then grabs his own ankles, locking his elbows straight. Rodney's knees squeeze in against John's head, pressing in against his ears. It's a submission hold to be sure, flavored by Teyla's training but far too intimate for the Athosian.

Rodney's crotch is just under John's chin and the smell of him, his musky arousal, hits John hard. John continues to struggle, buck up, arch and twist his back and shoulders for leverage, kick out with his legs to find purchase, but Rodney is this solid weight right in his center denying him all of that. His arms are locked into a T from his body, pinned past the elbow by Rodney's shins, so he can't even reach up with his hands and toss the fucker off of him.

"What the hell, McKay!"

But Rodney just smiles down at him in that infuriatingly superior, delightedly haughty way of his. "I can't believe you, of all people, Major, fell for that!" His chuckle was low and throaty and arrogant as all fuck.

John goes through another round of trying to throw McKay off, but Rodney just holds his place, exerting a downward pressure like a medicine ball. When John stills again, breathing heavy against McKay's goddamn ass compressing his lungs, Rodney just shakes his head loftily, clucking his tongue.

"Archimedes, Major Sheppard. Good ol' Archimedes. You're not going anywhere until I let you." John surges up again stubbornly, but it proves just as futile this time around, too.

"Care to explain to me what the fuck you're doing, McKay?" It isn't fear exactly, but a certain amount of anxiety is creeping around John. Not to mention a humiliating shame. A civilian contracted theoretical physicist just laid him out flat in his own command. Awesome.

Rodney just looks down at him thoughtfully, studying John's face framed by his wide thighs and bracketed by his knees. Taking one hand off his ankle, he traced across John's eyebrow and down the slope of his nose with feather-light fingertips. McKay's cock bumps softly against the underside of John's chin as it throbbed excitedly in his tan slacks.

"Do you know what I do to stave off the boring tedium of revolving door partners, Major?" His fingers brushed out along John's cheekbone, following the line up to his temple. "I get... creative."

"C-creative?" John's voice breaks roughly over the single word, breath still labored.

"Yes. Creative. Genius here, after all." Rodney's fingers play up into John's hair, blunt nails dragging across his scalp and despite the truly bizarre set up, it feels fantastic. John's eyes flutter closed briefly.

"Your mouth would be pretty around my cock."

That has John's eyes snapping open, looking up at McKay sharply. Sure, John's not above reciprocation or anything like that, but the way Rodney says that, it's not like anything John's heard before. Not directed at him, anyway. It's the tone one uses to appreciate a great sports car or a fast jet. Maybe an especially deluxe home entertainment system. Admiration of function and design, not his mouth.

Something must come across his face, because Rodney is chuckling again, that rich sound from the back of his throat that makes John's flagging dick stir. Rodney's fingers suddenly clutch in his hair, fisting it tightly, and John can’t help but wince in surprise.

"Yes. Down on your knees, hands behind you, my cock heavy on your tongue. Very pretty." Rodney twists his hand, turning John's face against his leg so that the long line of his throat is exposed. "I've never had a United States Air Force officer before. Which is kind of funny, if you think about it statistically; a French Armée de Terre sous-lieutenant liaising, once, for the IOA, plenty of fellow contractors, but never anyone with any stars or stripes worth taking notice of."

John wants to protest, shout how McKay is a fucking dead man and he better get the fuck off him right the fuck now. Clock McKay right across that smarmy mouth of his, wipe that crooked smirk right off. Show him who’s the fucking boss, right here right now. It’s fight or flight and he’s so full of fight he’s shaking with it.

Except, what John does is whimper into Rodney’s leg, eyes shutting so tight the skin around them almost hurts. Rodney makes his dessert-and-math-and-being-obeyed hum, giving John a full-body shiver because oh God. Oh God, oh God, oh God.

“You’ve been after me for, what, a month? Six weeks? Maybe eight? Of course I noticed, Major. It isn’t that I’m socially inept, I just don’t care enough to study the fickle intentions of my inferiors.” He paused to indulge in a smirk. “But I’m a scientist,” McKay goes on, calm as anything. Like he wasn’t still sitting on John’s goddamn chest or straddling his goddamn face. “And we’ve this whole ‘scientific method’ thing. Smartest man in not one but two galaxies, thank you.” He grips John’s hair just a little tighter. “Besides, you’re about as subtle as a fire alarm. With your slutty slouching and bedroom eyes and pretty, pouty mouth.”

John manages to find his voice. “I don’t—“

But Rodney’s retribution is swift. Shifting his weight up off John’s chest and flexing his hips forward, Rodney uses his hold in John’s hair to turn and crush John’s face right into his crotch, right into his dick and John has never been so effectively silenced before ever.

John knows this is his chance, the break he should be looking for. McKay’s weight is no longer centered on him, his balance up on his knees and not solid on his ass and so, more precarious. Which means John could twist or buck or lever himself up and in all likelihood flip McKay over. He could probably get Rodney prone if not all the way off, but even then, John could easily turn the tables back around.

McKay’s smell is everywhere, filling John’s nose, his mouth. Thick and musky and heady in his desire. The fingers gripping his hair loosen, almost petting the back of his head, cradling John there and oh God. Drunkenly, John nuzzles into Rodney hard cock, feeling its shape, its heat, against his cheek and jaw. A raw sound comes up out of his throat. He is the worst P.O.W. ever.

“I’m partial to spankings,” Rodney says gently, eyes warm and half-lidded, looking down at John fondly. “There are other things, more complicated things, but a good, solid spanking? No frills, no fuss. I’d draw you over my lap – you’d be naked, I’d stay dressed – and just use my hand. I don’t usually need more than that, but if you’d like, I could find a paddle. Most people can’t really handle the actuality of a paddle, though. The fiction of it is exciting, but actually landing across their ass?” He can only shake his head disappointedly, fingers tracing soft patterns against John’s skull. “Maybe you, though. Maybe you.”

Another full-body shudder ripples down John. He can’t even conceive of a time when he’s been this out of control. Not of his body, not of the situation, not of anything. It’s like being in a dead cockpit as the whole plane falls out of the sky – except maybe worse because he only wants more of it.

“But I’m good with my hands,” Rodney all but whispers down at him. “Excellent in fact. Hard, solid whacks that’ll leave your ass hot and the most amazing shades of pink and red.... I’d work in sets of ten, I think. Yes. Ten good, solid spanks. And then make you ask for the next ten. And the next ten. And then the next. We’d work you good and long, John. You’d be begging to be fucked when I was done.”

It’s the sound of his name -- not his rank, not his last name, his FIRST name –- that breaks John out of his worship of Rodney’s cock. McKay has never, not once, called him “John”. The intimacy of it devastates him, makes this more than he can handle.

Before the thought is even anything so tangible in his mind, John is heaving himself up against McKay. Rodney is still talking but it cuts out abruptly into a squawk as he tumbles right over John’s head and face plants onto the floor. John rolls out under him in a flash, launching himself onto his feet before Rodney even has the chance to scrape his chin off the deck.

“I-- You--!” John points an unsteady, accusing finger down at Rodney’s back. Rodney has one leg folded up under him, the other bent behind him at an awkward angle. He lays there for a second before dragging his hands under himself and pushes up off the floor with a painful groan.

John can’t breathe but tries anyway, sucking in great big gulps of air into his too-tight, too-small lungs. His face feels super-heated even as an icy chill takes over the rest of his body.

McKay blinks hard once or twice, managing to roll over, twist around, and look up at John. Experimentally he touches his nose. “Something wrong, Major Sheppard?”

With his finger still pointed down at Rodney, John tries to say something – anything. But nothing will come out. His tongue just makes a dry, clicking sound in his mouth.

Rodney pushes his nose around his face a bit and checks his fingers for blood. “Well, that was fun.” He casts an apprehensive glance up at John. “Go to bed, Sheppard. This never happened. Unless you’re going to beat the crap out of me in some sort of reaffirmation of your alpha-male status?” He pauses, eyebrow shooting up.

John just stands where he is, breathing too hard and pointing his forgotten finger.

“No? Great.” Rodney flaps his hand. “Go away, then. I have things I need to finish. If I haven’t slipped a disc.” McKay groans softly again, hand drifting towards his back as he moves into a better seated position on the floor.

Panting and sweating and shivering, John bites his lips together, finally drawing his hand back. He pulls up straight, his posture painfully perfect, before he pivots on his heel and reaches for the door’s control panel. He stands there with his hand hovering, looking at the neat little row of crystals. Every second stretches out around him impossibly long before he waves his palm over them. The door unlocks and whisks itself open.

Without looking back, Sheppard strides from the lab and quick-marches back out into the halls.

Chapter Text

McKay is true to his word: he acts as if nothing has happened.

But John is sketchy around Rodney, the months of comradery evaporating overnight. When Ford and Teyla ask McKay what he’s done, McKay throws his hands up with dismissive exasperation. “I don’t know, be my charming self?”

When they ask John the same thing, John is firm in his denial; McKay hasn’t done anything and everything is fine.

They’re can only conclude its John that’s done something but is either too ashamed to admit it or too embarrassed to confess (the second being more Teyla’s opinion: she’s seen how John’s been chasing Rodney and is hardly a fool. She keeps this one quiet to herself, though, having learned quickly of Earth’s more parochial social customs).

Things are rough in the next few weeks, John catching against the more jagged edges of Rodney’s acerbic personality, like he’s all but forgotten how to dance around the thorns to find the sincerity buried behind bluster. Ford is still more than half-convinced Rodney’s to blame, so in loyalty to Sheppard, inadvertently hurts more than he helps by second guessing McKay openly and often when off-world. It predictably makes Rodney bristle harder, ringing the discordant note in their quartet like a bell Teyla can’t unhear.

They’re caught out in a Culling. Sheppard and Ford fire on the darts, but all it does it draw attention to themselves. McKay forces them back to the jumper, where he cloaks them and the scattering of natives they collected on the way.

“We should be doing something!” Ford barks. Sheppard holds a grim silence, his hands still clutching his P90 while staring out the front view screen like an impotent sentinel.

Rodney’s expression is withering, lancing across Ford with ugly precision. “I’m sorry, did I miss something here? Did you happen to pack a tactical nuke in your back pocket before we left? No? Didn’t think so. So shut up, sit down, and be grateful to live another day, Lieutenant.”

Ford lunges up from his place in the co-pilot’s seat. Rodney flinches but stands ready with shoulders back and chin thrust up.

“Aiden!” Teyla shouts, rushing the small space between cargo and cockpit to stand between them. She looks expectantly to the back of John’s head, but he just stares forward.

“Coward,” Ford spits out, casting a harsh judgement up and down the scientist.

“What would you have me do?” Rodney shouts at the top of his voice, his indignant anger and fear rolling themselves together into a false bravery; he stepped up to Ford, crushing Teyla between them. “We came prepared to distribute aspirin to the local indigents, not stop a Wraith attack!” His hand cuts through the air, ending its parabolic arc in an accusatory thrust behind him.

“McKay!” Sheppard’s voice breaks like glass in the confined space, commanding all eyes to him. He looks past Rodney to the small knot of “indigents” huddling in the back, their terror and humiliation now another body between them. “Sit. Down. Shut. Up.” He snaps his attention to Ford, then McKay, then even Teyla. Everyone obeys, even those in the back taking to the benches.

Sheppard remains standing, turning back to face forward. The only sounds in the cabin are the occasional stifled whimper from one of the locals and the piercing whine of the darts outside. It’s two hours before Ford can safely engage the Stargate again. John stands the entire time. They all watch.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Teyla finds Rodney in his lab after breakfast. He, Zelenka and Kusanagi are all hunched over an exposed crystal-based circuit board.

Miko tries to suggest, “No, I do not believe it to--”

Rodney snorts, his head bobbing smugly. “Well no, you wouldn’t, because--”

“That is uncalled for!” Radek interrupts, jabbing a connector clamp towards Rodney’s face.

“What?! I didn’t even say it yet!”

Miko just hunched her shoulders, looking studiously down into her laptop.

Clearing her throat, Teyla smiles at the trio as they look up in unison. “Rodney, I do not mean to interrupt, but if you have a moment?”

“He has a moment,” Radek answers for him. Rodney rolls his eyes hard towards the man. “In fact, take him. Lose him.”

Rodney’s smirk knived arrogantly across his entire face. “Oh, because you were making so much progress before I came over.” He folds his arms, head tilting back pugnaciously.

“Doctor McKay?” Teyla interjects again, angling her head away from the workstation.

“Yes, yes,” Rodney answers with a quick finger snap. “Keep doing this,” his hand making an all encompassing circle around the parts scattered across the bench. “But try doing it right this time, okay? Thanks.” Radek sets his jaw, half a second away from launching into his own sharp retort. But engaging means Rodney won’t leave, so both Zelenka and Kusanagi just silently plead with Teyla to end their suffering.

Teyla’s smile is sympathetic as she follows Rodney towards the doorway. Once in the hall, she shakes her head. “You are too hard on them.”

“Please.” He snorts bullishly as he slides into his jacket, chin jutting out as he fixes the collar. “If this was the Best and Brightest Earth had to offer, then the SGC has really let itself go.”

The woman took in a deep breath and then let it out slowly through her nose. “Rodney,”

He sullenly zipped his jacket with an overly affected precision. “Look, I’m just saying.” A brief flash of quiet panic takes over Rodney’s face, the tremendous pressure he feels - constantly, incessantly - to keep everything up, safe and running on Atlantis. The firm belief that he’s truly the only one who can do it, and the stark reality that he could very well fail. Teyla has become familiar enough with its many variations that she rests a hand on his arm. He glances at it, then down into her face, before smiling wanly. He takes in his own breath before letting it out in one big gust. “What did you want again?”

“Oh, yes.” She lets her eyes wander away from Rodney, letting them trace an architectural detail of the hallway to buy herself a little time. “I couldn’t help--”

But she’s interrupted with a burst of static over the all comm channel. “Doctor McKay?” It’s Grodin.

Rodney taps his ear piece. “Go ahead.”

“Doctor Weir needs to be walked through those command routing numbers. Do you have a moment?”

He looks at Teyla expectantly, but she shakes her head and waves him off. “Yeah, be right there.” A rough frustration works its way around Rodney. “No rest for the wicked, hmm?” He tries to rally with a grin, but it’s brittle.

She reaches out again, taking both his arms to pull him towards her, her head dipping forward. He hesitates, but eventually returns the gesture, their foreheads touching. She holds him there until his feet stop shuffling and his shoulders come down from his ears; until he acknowledges he’s not actually as alone as the insidious voice of his anxiety tells him his is. When he looks up, it’s with a rare humility. “I gotta….” He mumbles, thumb hooking over his shoulder. She nods again, watching him head towards C&C.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

“Major Sheppard,” Teyla says, catching John coming out of a meeting with the various AR team leaders. It’s afternoon, and the sunshine is coming in bright bars from the narrow glass windows. He returns a pleasant but tight smile: he knows an ambush when he sees one. People are moving around them so John turns them to walk back into the now empty conference room. He notes the satchel in her hand with a questioning eyebrow lilt.

She raises it just a bit. “Charin has sent some of her cured wasal – those ‘tiny sausages’ you enjoyed so much before?” And she’s come armed, John grins cynically.

“Well, that’s great, and those are tasty, but—“

“We are going to eat them, and you and I are going to—“

“Don’t!” He warns, one finger raised. “Don’t say it.”

“We are going to talk.”

He lets his chin fall against his chest before he lifts his face, imploring her to believe him. “Teyla, there is nothing to talk about. Everything is fine.”

“And you are a liar, but I do not care, because you are my friend.” That catches John off guard. “We are going to get some bread from the commissary, we will take Charin’s first wasal of the season, and we shall make sandwiches out on the West pier.” Her chin tilts up in an angle she could only have learned from McKay. The comparison should have been reason enough for him to turn her down, but her smile is inviting and the hand on his warm. She’d called him a friend.

“Alright,” he relents. Because those tiny sausages are pretty tasty. He holds up another finger, but turns slightly to tap his ear piece with it. “Campbell, let Weir know I’m going to grab some lunch and then can meet up with her later this afternoon on the field unit updates?”

There’s a tiny burst of static. “Stand by,” Chuck relays. “Sounds good, sir.”

John spreads his hands. “I’m all yours.”

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

He has to admit, this is much nicer than the rations the base is on. Sure, they’ve been able to supplement a bit with trade partners, but Teyla’s little blanket with its smoked meats and cheese, the fresh bread, and a touch of ground mustard is definitely a step up from the chowline.

Teyla tucks another bite into her mouth as she looks out over the ocean. “The abandoned crops we found, it is hard work but they are coming around. And the wildlife is abundant on the mainland.” She motions for John to keep eating, which he has little problem obliging.

They’re playing a bit of a game and they both know. She’s waiting for him to get comfortable and open up. Barring that, she’s going to wait for him to get comfortable and try to catch him off guard. It’s not unlike sparing, each of them looking for an opening to exploit.

But jokes on her, John thinks. He hasn’t been comfortable in almost two months. Not since… that night. That he certainly does not think about often. Or all the ways it could have ended differently. He offers her a drink from his water canteen, which she accepts. “How’s Jinto getting on with that bow of his?” The boy had been very eager to show Sheppard just how much his accuracy was improving, and it was a safer topic to focus on then what Teyla wanted.

The woman grinned. “He improves daily. He is eager to prove himself.” She wiped at her mouth before passing it back. “You are a terrible influence on him,” she teases.

“Aw shucks, you sure know how to flatter a guy.” He pumps his eyebrows before taking his own drink.

They sit in companionable silence before Teyla pulls in a breath and John knows this is it. What smile lingers on him disappears as he braces for the attack.

“John, you and Doctor McKay continue to be… out of sorts?”

“We’re fine,” Sheppard says flatly, pulling on his sunglasses to scan the watery horizon.

“You are lying again.”

“Of course I am, but we’re not going to talk about it.” His raw honesty surprises even him and it flashes across his face quickly before he can catch it and tuck it back up behind his mask.

“I… see,” Teyla intones quietly.

They sit, John reaching for another wasal. “Yup,” he draws out before popping the tiny meat into his mouth. “We’re just dandy.”

“I see,” she repeats with more understanding then John is comfortable with.

They sit like that for a few moments more, John looking out over the ocean from behind his sunglasses while he purposefully chews, Teyla watching him hide from the truth.

“We cannot keep going on as we have been.” She says with quiet authority, giving little quarter to John’s denial. “You are distant and failing to engage. Rodney is… prickly. Aiden is too eager to right a wrong he doesn’t understand. And I… some days I just want to shake you all so hard by the ears, as if you aren't three grown men. We are making mistakes that we cannot afford. You are the leader. You must either fix this, or….” She lets the ultimatum trail off, because he knows what “or” can mean for them.

And she’s right. He knows she’s right. John had worked so hard to make them into a team, and then he did the exact thing he said he couldn’t do: fuck it all up by trying to fuck it all up.

The moment hangs heavy between them until he eventually makes a reluctant, agreeing sound low in his throat. “Yeah… I know. You’re right. I know.” It’s a hard confession to make, but for all his irreverence, John Sheppard has never been one to deny his responsibilities. Avoid them, sure, but not deny them.

Teyla presses the issue no further, finally hearing the discordant notes within him coming back into a harmony. She offers John another tiny sausage.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Things start getting better after his talk with Teyla, not that John would ever admit to anything. But he re-engages his team, the one he so carefully hand picked. They’re not exactly back to square one, but they’re back somewhere around square two or three. John makes it a point to re-emphasize old habits: he does a morning jog with Ford or Teyla (easy enough), he does afternoon drills with Teyla or McKay (awkward but manageable), and he makes sure to make small talk after briefings with McKay and Ford (frustratingly difficult at first as Ford and McKay don’t exactly trust each other anymore. but they still individually trust John, so he uses that as a bridge to bring them back together). He makes sure they have at least one meal together, either lunch or dinner. He steps back into his role as team leader instead of just phoning it in like he has been.

It’s not easy, and it makes John have to swallow a lot of emotional baggage he’s already refusing to unpack, but Teyla’s right; if he wants to keep AR-1 with its current roster, which he does, he has to make it work. So he does.

One evening, when most of them are done but McKay is helping himself to a second serving of reconstituted mash and Ford is bewildered how he can even eat that stuff, let alone multiple helpings of it, John brings out a deck of playing cards. Teyla is familiar enough with cards at this point she doesn’t need to have their purpose explained, but she looks on curiously.

“You know how to play Bridge?” John asks Ford and McKay.

Aiden’s bewildered face turns from Rodney to John, a new bewilderment on his fine features. “Uh, isn’t that an old person’s game?”

“Not at all,” John’s said soothingly.

“Yes,” Rodney said over him.

John glares briefly at McKay before turning to Teyla. “Remember ‘tricks’ from Poker? Take that idea, collecting tricks, but do it in teams of two, two teams to a table, and you aren’t allowed to discuss strategy with your partner during play, so it all has to be through code and subtle tells.”

Her mouth rolled out a challenging grin. “So who shall partner with who?”

Wetting his lips, this has been the question pressing on Sheppard’s mind too, since he decided AR-1 was going to form its own team building Bridge Club. Because he should probably partner with Rodney, to underscore just how fine they are now. But that’s almost too obvious, not to mention stupid, so he should probably play with Teyla? He doesn’t think he could keep Ford from--

“I’m with Teyla,” Ford says quickly, breaking up John’s train of thought. “I don’t know how this is played, but if it takes subtly to win, I’m with Teyla.”

Rodney affects insult. “Because I can’t be subtle?”

“Look,” Aiden says with insincere reluctance, a hand coming up to cover his heart. “I didn’t want to say anything, but since you brought it up….”

“Oh, it’s on Lieutenant.” Competition makes McKay’s cheeks flush.

“None of you know how to play,” John reminds them with restrained patience. “So before we start the dick wav-- uh--!” He shoots Teyla a panicked, apologetic look. She only smirks. “The trash talking, how about we learn the rules?”

“Already on it, Major.” Rodney says briskly, pulling his tablet up from near his feet. His fingers are quick against the screen, eyes darting across the display. Ford looks over his shoulder, trying to follow, but McKay curls the screen to his chest protectively. “Oh, no no no. You’re with Teyla, remember? Get your own rules.”

Teyla and Ford share an eye roll.

In the end, they all end up using Rodney’s tablet as a reference guide, despite his initial protest. John runs them through Calls, how to Bid, and gives them some basics tips on how to deal with the Dummy. Normally Dealer would rotate, but for the first few rounds, he acts as Dealer for them, though keeps play moving as if they were doing it themselves.

It doesn’t surprise John at all that McKay picks up on it all right away. But it does surprise him that Teyla is hot on his heels. She doesn’t always remember what the suits are called, but she always knows which are High and which to pass on, regardless. John and Aiden are the weaker set of their partnerships, despite John’s previous experience, and he spends a hot second grateful it isn’t Rodney and Teyla sitting across from each other because he and Ford would be dead in the water.

Like he does with chess, Rodney tries to chat the table up as a distraction, a skill John’s mother would both endorse and been proud of. Her ‘bridge banter’ was legendary in their gated community and once Rodney has a feel for the rules, takes to talk like a pro. Involuntarily, they are all brought up to speed on the fascinating work Drs. Chen and Simpson are doing with energy absorption rate against Wraith weaponry based on those personal shield devices they occasionally find around the city.

But Rodney has a trick he can’t imagine his mother used (or if she did, John certainly doesn’t want to think about): when Rodney wants to pass, he brushes against John’s foot with his own. When he wants to open, he’ll gently ‘step’ on his toe. When he needs a high card, he taps on the left side of John’s foot with the corresponding number. When he needs a card, he taps on John’s right side. It’s Footsie Morse Code and John is left with no other choice but to review every poorly conceived decision he’s ever made in his entire life that has inevitably brought him to this precise personal Hell.

He does not reciprocate McKay’s Footsie technique, but uses his fingers instead, briefly flashing numbers and calls disguised as shuffling his hand or rearranging cards. He’s a traditionalist like that.

Maybe it’s the Footsie throwing John off, maybe it’s just beginner’s luck, but Teyla and Aiden take 1650 to John and Rodney’s 1040.

“So that means we won?” asks Ford.

“Yes,” Rodney chews out. “That means you won.”

Aiden raises his hands over his head in victory. “Whoo! Old people games!” His cheer is loud, earning some wry looks from others in the cafeteria.

“Okay, yes, well clearly we’re doing this again tomorrow night,” Rodney chuffs, squinting at his tablet, either at the rules or the scoring or probably both.

Teyla grins. “Clearly.” She’s collecting all the cards and following John’s instructions on how to shuffle against her curved palms. While Ford is still riding high on his victory over McKay, Teyla looks up into John’s face, her expression softening. She still doesn’t really know what went wrong, but she sees him trying to make it right. She lets her appreciation show, and he ducks his head.

That night before bed, once Rodney has had the chance to thoroughly review all the rules and variations found in the data library, he sends out an email to all of them on all the things they did wrong and derides Sheppard as a terrible instructor. To John, he sends an excruciatingly long and detailed stratagem, planning for contingent after contingent, with Foot Taps and Nose Touches and even counted eye blinks. John honestly stops reading after the second or third page and just sort of skims the rest.

But he feels like he’s atoning for his sins, trying to make it up to all of them. He doesn’t need sex to survive, and in a galaxy with Wraith and Genii, he needs the former much more than he needs latter.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

"Your mouth would be pretty around my cock."

John is out on one of the many balconies feathering off of Atlantis’s delicate spires. He can feel the sun on his bowed head, feel the sea air move against his naked body. He’s kneeling, hands folded behind him. They don’t need to be bound, he knows how to obey an order.

His eyes are closed but he knows Rodney is somewhere nearby. Will be here soon. He’s vulnerable and exposed and terrified and thrilled in ways he’s never been until now, until Rodney. He can feel the burn of his blush spread over his face and down his chest. He can feel the surge of his dick as his cock and balls hang free from his body. He can feel.

"Yes. Down on your knees, hands behind you, my cock heavy on your tongue. Very pretty."

He’s waiting as instructed.

Sheppard hears the soft sound of the balcony doors opening, not quite metallic and not quite electric, but that unique sound that is Atlantis and her Ancient way of doing things. He recognizes the cadence of those steps.

Fingers brush just past his temple, caressing the shell of his ear before carding against his scalp. Gently the hand closes in his hair, using it to force his head up.

“Hello, John.” Rodney’s smile is both haughty and triumphant, the delight of his conquest bright in his eyes, and John bolts up into the darkness of his quarters, cry caught behind his teeth, already cumming. Shudder after shudder run through him, his hands fisting the sheet beneath him as he spends himself against his sweatpants.

John’s breath is ragged once he can catch it. “Well, fuck,” his voice cracking into the silence.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

“Did you get my email?” Rodney asks right away, before they’re even to the conference room.

“What?” Sheppard can feel the ghost of McKay’s fingers in his hair. He blinks in a micro-panic, trying to shake the feeling off.

Rodney looks confused, because what? “What?”

“What?”

“Oh my G-- My email? My cribbage email? Is there a problem with the servers?” He’s already raising his laptop to investigate. Maybe it’s not that Sheppard is a moron, but that there’s a legitimate excuse to be had on hand.

“Oh, right, yeah.” John swallowed around the dryness in his throat, forcing a grin. “I read some of it.”

They walk through the center of the conference room, partial to the left side of the semi-circle. “Some? Major, need I remind you of the almost six-HUNDRED point defeat we were dealt by the hands of a Marine and an alien. Maybe you’re used to failure, but I can assure you--”

“She’s not an alien, McKay.” He’s thankfully brought back to reality by Rodney’s ambiliviant socialization. Insult the Marines all he wants, but McKay isn’t going to put Teyla down.

McKay squints in derision. “Yes she is, she has Wraith DNA, but you know what I mean -- she’s not even used to playing cards, and yet kicked your ass. Because, look, page five is really where the plan starts to gain--”

“Page five?” Sheppard spikes an eyebrow.

Rodney pulls out his chair but pauses to look at John like he’s an idiot again. “Well, one through three was just set up, four is implementation, so yeah, pages five/six is where we really start to take advantage--”

John just lets out a low groan, drawing his chair out enough to slink into. “I’d say I created a monster, but you were pretty terrible before I even got here, so. Someone. Grodin. Kill me now.”

Peter narrows his eyes from his own seat, having not paid attention to the two of them until he hears his own name. McKay and Sheppard are usually so thick together, they’re nearly incomprehensible to outside observers. But seeing McKay’s pinched scowl, even he gets the gist and can muster a fair amount of sympathy for the Major.

“If we can not kill anyone until after the meeting?” Elizabeth’s tone is light as she joins the room from her office, her eyes pulling John up in his chair and pinning Rodney to his before he can accost Sheppard anymore then he already has.

The morning meeting is only half an hour, so the pace is quick. It’s really more of a check in for senior staff and administration to get its bearings for the day. But it’s one of the longest thirty minutes John Sheppard has ever had to sit through, pretending he isn’t distracted imagining the feel of fingers in his hair or hands cupping his chin in phantom preparation of blowing Doctor Rodney McKay.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

John reflects its not unlike high school, when you have more hormones than sense, and you have a crush on your lab partner. You still have to work with them and pretend everything is normal, but when they’re turned away to light the bunsen burner or whatever, your stupid teenage brain floods with half-formed ideas of lechery. Except he’s 36 and he and McKay aren’t in AP Chem. Even still, when they’re off-world and McKay is distracted by whatever, John’s mind floods with half-form ideas of lechery.

He keeps his shit together enough to not drive another wedge between the team, but his nocturnal emissions are gaining in steady regularity. It makes him want to constantly hang out with McKay, but keep him at an arm’s length just in case. Rodney notices, obviously, but since Sheppard isn’t willing to pick up the gauntlet he threw down (when awake, that is), he leaves it mostly unchallenged.

It’s only “mostly”, because John swears McKay is looking for excuses to have to touch him. Which is antithetical to his No Touching/Arm’s Length policy. But when the terrain is rough, John finds Rodney with an expectant hand extended, presuming on his assistance. Rodney has always been pushy when making a point, but instead of just shoving his tablet in John’s face, he’ll thrust it into John’s hands, trusting he’ll catch the device. He seems to hover closer than is strictly necessary when John is using the control chair and Rodney is directing him through system menus.

If John stops to really examine things with perspective, it’s technically no more and no less touching than it’s ever been. But as the slow realization of his ridiculous obsession truly starts to set in, every stray point of contact seems ten fold over.

Obsession? Infatuation. A crush. With a guy who wants to spank him. Christ.

When they’re not on active duty, they play bridge (the four of them) or chess (the two of them). Doctor Biars discovers someone snuck a compressed, cracked copy of Myst into the software library and that keeps everyone on base occupied for almost a month. John and Rodney sit side by side on the couch as they work through the Ages. They debate the pros and cons of Dick Grayson vs Damian Wayne as they walk the halls. John knows he’s in trouble but can’t stop himself.

For someone he’s trying to keep at bay, they bump elbows a lot.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

It’s after midnight and the city is finally winding itself down, second watch handing the reins over to third. It’s the time of night Rodney likes best, because it’s when there are the least amount of people rushing up to him with their asinine questions to distract him. It’s when he can use all the white boards at once and no one will bitch about it. When he can think out loud to himself and no one is around to think they’re capable of keeping up or -- worse -- try to contribute anyway.

It’s the time of night John came to him, came on to him, all those months ago.

He has to admit he’s a little disappointed Sheppard gave up so easily. Yes, the man had acted like a jackass for a few weeks after, but Rodney had been so sure it was all just some deep internal struggling, his machismo warring against a growing lustful curiosity, and that it was all going to end with a late night confession, a wistful plea for Rodney’s considerable talents, and a lot more than just making out in his lab.

McKay’s fingers hesitated over their keyboard, his eyes drifting away from the screen to that place against the wall. How many times has he looked there, lost himself to that 1 meter space between data racks, where he’d first tasted John? Had him flush against himself, firmly in hand? It had only been approximately seventeen minutes from kissing to upending, and yet, how many times has he pulled each of those minutes apart to experience every detail over and over and over? How many fantasies has he played out between those 17 minutes and 92 centimeters? How many times has it ended differently?

And how had he been so wrong about Sheppard? Rodney’s mouth worked into a disappointed frown. Maybe he’d come on too fast and too strong. Maybe he should have eased them into it. But Sheppard had come in, agenda as obvious a brass band and-- well. Rodney didn’t like surprises. Didn’t like the way Sheppard presumed. Didn’t like being put into a position where he wasn’t in control.

But he did like John Sheppard.

John Sheppard is ridiculously good looking. There’s no getting around that, though why would you want to? Unless it was to get around behind him, which-- Rodney cleared his throat, trying to bring his thoughts back to center.

John’s all long lines and lean muscles, cocky attitude that only American Manifest Destiny could engineer, that ridiculous hair of his that begs to be played with, the way sometimes his eyes are green like new Spring shoots and other times a rich brown, like polished wood -- but regardless of their color they’re always, always guarded. Brooding. Rodney had of course noticed right away, even as far back as Antarctica and coming around the corner to find Sheppard twisted up in the command chair with that stupid hyperactive ATA gene of his. It only got better the longer they were in Atlantis. Pretty, pretty Major John Sheppard.

“Well,” he says out loud, rolling his shoulders. “No matter.” Rodney flexes his wrists incrementally before setting them back to his laptop. What they have now is probably better anyway. It’s certainly less precarious to be caught playing card games then caught playing… other games. And he likes Sheppard beyond his pretty face. Admittedly, the Major is more clever than actually intelligent, there being a very distinct difference between those two things, but still. There are worse ways to spend an evening then hanging out with Sheppard.

With John.

Rodney looks back to that spot against the wall. He knows now that that had been the trigger point, having long since determined when things had gone from Tense But Still Manageable to Potentially Dangerous with a side of Possibly Broken Nose. Him saying John’s name out loud hand sprung something coiled up inside the man, bursting past reason straight into panic. Which is ridiculous, because it was just his name and Rodney was sure he’d said the man’s name long before he’d had him pinned down against the floor.

His dom voice wasn’t that good was it? Rodney took a moment to preen, because while he’d certainly been complimented on it before, maybe it had gotten even better? “I do face death on a regular basis now, so maybe that’s factoring in.” In quick succession, McKay catalogues each particularly harrowing experience he’s had since coming to Pegasus and mentally cross references it against his usual toppy repertoire. Yes, he concludes with a definitive nod. He must sound amazing by this point; no wonder Sheppard -- a scene virgin, by all indicators -- panicked.

Rodney shook his head again, fingers flexing hard against the desk. He had to concentrate, get this formula finished or Kavanaugh was going to whine again about how Rodney was locking up the compiler software and Christ did he hate when that man… well. Did anything.

A subtle alert pops to the front of Rodney’s screen making him double-take. He casts a furtive look across the lab, shoulders curling down over his monitor. Confirming what he already knows - that he’s obviously alone - he clicks through the notice.

It’s the geo-fence he set up around Sheppard’s lifesign. He’s out of his designated area at the wrong timestamp. By 01:45, Sheppard should be stationary in his quarters, the three hallways each direction around it factored in as a variable. Instead, he seems to be heading at a clip down corridor 11G, which is near the barracks and firing range? A frisson of anxiety spikes through McKay; his palms are already sweating. Is something wrong? He pulls up the recent alert logs from C&C, skimming them quickly. What could be wrong?

He doesn’t see anything that should have Sheppard running. So what…?!

He watches the tiny blue dot take a right, which now takes him down 9G. “Oh, wait.” Rodney pulls up the mapped overlay of John’s various jogging routes - this is one of them. His body sags in a fair amount of relief. But why was Sheppard jogging now? He taps into the security feed down in the residential quarters, pulling up an hour before and into the camera just down the hall from Sheppard’s door. He fast forwards until he sees Sheppard exit his room, a dark smudge of movement against the dim backlights of Atlantis’ evening half-power, dressed in a teeshirt, sweats and sneakers. Silhouetted in his door frame, he paused to run a hand through his hair (was it wet? Why is it so droopy?) before setting a loping pace for himself.

McKay tells the camera on 8G to push any movement in the next seven minutes to him directly, and sure enough, the confirmation pops up to show John going full out as he rounds that corner. Corridors G5 through 8 are mostly used for military storage and are straight aways, so that’s where Sheppard usually pushes himself the hardest when running alone. Rodney watches him, impressed as always with the economy of his movements. They’re fluid and practiced; not exactly graceful but each action moves into the next instinctually. He isn’t thinking, he’s simply doing. Since Sheppard’s unencumbered by tac-vest or weapon, he pumps his arms in a carefully measured piston, his hands flat for speed instead of fisted for conflict.

He pulls up a quick script, written weeks ago and refined through iterative use, to work the cameras along John’s various jogging paths. They’ll predictively feed directly to Rodney’s terminal seamlessly, using Sheppard’s lifesign as a correlation against his known routes. Simply triggering cameras by movement means you still lose the first .08 seconds and sequencing them losing a total .05 through 1 full second. This way, he can watch in real time without interruption.

Rodney slowly pulls himself up straight in his chair, arms folding casually across the broad expansion of his chest. He can feel that cool, quiet calmness edge itself around him, the collected control he can never quiet manage in his day to day, when he’s thinking too fast about too many things and everyone is looking to him to solve every problem, save every day, save them. It’s not detachment, it’s lack of distraction; it’s the ability to focus on one thing at a time, a rich luxury Rodney McKay’s own mind rarely allows him.

That constant drumbeat to do do do and think think think falls away and all that’s left is the complete resolve of his concentration and the effortless certainty of his own capabilities. Watching John centers Rodney in himself like few others things can do.

Sheppard breathing is steady, a three pace inhale to a three pace exhale. In a slow, almost languid gesture, Rodney pulls up the path in total from the Major’s front door to his current position. Based on rate and speed, McKay figures he’s been running just short of under an hour. “His stamina is remarkable.” John could easily be worked for hours with little concern of fatigue or worry of over taxation, traits Rodney hasn’t had the pleasure to exploit in a very long time. His dick surged against his pants as delightful image after image came unbidden into his mind.

“NOPE!” Like a cold bucket of water, Rodney makes quick work of shutting the whole thing down and scrubbing his ID from every system he made a request into. He’s been down this rabbit hole one too many times, and all it does is lead to intense sexual frustration. And reduced work output, though which of those two things is the greater crime, who’s to really say.

Rodney takes a deep breath and holds it.

In a perfect world, he would enjoy nothing more than to casually stalk Sheppard throughout his entire day until the want of him was too much and then Rodney would strip John naked and fuck him until they were both too stupid to care.

He lets out the breath.

But this is hardy a perfect world -- it’s not even his home world -- and John had obviously reconsidered the entire situation (poor cognitive follow-through on the Major’s part, equally as obvious) and now they had to be best friends who had to save Atlantis from the Wraith and maybe find a way back to Earth some day.

Rodney McKay swallowed hard. He shot one more look against the wall, and then down to that spot on the floor where for one perfect moment John Sheppard had surrendered to him completely. The cursor blinked at him accusingly from its long abandoned script window.

“Right,” his shoulders sagging. “Work.”

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

“Three hive mother ships,” Radek repeats but Rodney still can’t process it. Or rather, it’s not that he can’t process it: it’s that he can process it only all to well, along with every consequence that it will mean, every contingent easily considered and just as quickly abandoned, and just how entirely fucked they are, all at once, simultaneously. It’s the similitude that leaves him momentarily paralyzed.

They’re back in the lab and Rodney is already exhausted from NOT getting a ZedPM from Allina, despite another round of torture from the causal hands of Acastus Kolya, but there’s no time for that because apparently they have long range sensors? And they’ve discovered a fleet of Wraith heading directly for them.

“We’re all going to die,” Kavanaugh says breathlessly from somewhere over McKay’s shoulder.

What Rodney wouldn’t give to punch that man right in his face. In fact, Rodney’s body is thinking about it before the rest of him catches up; having turned on the taller man, his mouth is a contemptive slash, canting Rodney’s entire face down, making his glare shoot straight up. Because how DARE he give voice to Rodney’s panic. Kavanaugh swallows hard against McKay’s raw fury, not sure how he suddenly found himself at this cliff’s edge.

But anger brings Rodney back to life and his hands reach to pull the cabling off the laptop and snatch it against himself. “Zelenka, Muller, with me.” The Czech and German snap into action. “Kavanaugh--” The American pulls himself up with timid expectancy. “Go hide in a closet so that you’re out of the way of the actual work.”

Technically speaking, it’s Radek that discovers the reference to the orbital weapons platform, just as he’d been the one to discover the long range sensors, but Rodney assumes credit for both soon enough that it’s barely even noticeable. Radek takes a moment to appreciate the many ways he will make McKay’s life a living Hell at some later date, but in the meantime, just gets to work reviewing the schematics, looking for a way to use it.

Kavanaugh wisely stays out of Rodney’s way.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

John has just spent half a magazine into ‘Bob’ when Elizabeth comes over citywide. “Our plan to stop the Wraith Armada has failed. They will make it to Atlantis.” He knows she says more, can even hear it, but all John can think about is how does she know? How exactly has she come to this information? Because that’s a critical component to John Sheppard’s state of mind right now. Did McKay tell her this himself? Or someone else in C&C is piecing this together for them?

Is Rodney McKay dead?

‘Bob’ gives a dramatic speech about feasting on them before feasting on all of Earth, but John doesn’t care. He finishes unloading into the Wraith, too much all at once flooding through him. He finally turns to Teyla and she sees it bare in his face.

“Come,” she says quietly, collecting Ford to her with a glance. They leave the security detail to finish what Sheppard started. Because Teyla, more than anyone else in this city, knows this is only the beginning of the end.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

They’re in the last hall below the gate room, dodging around personnel when Sheppard hears the distinct sound of the chevron’s engaging. He breaks from a jog to a run, coming up the last half-flight of stairs when the Puddlejumper emerges through. He can see Miller and McKay through the viewscreen. Neither of them look good, but McKay in particular looks fractured.

But alive.

Just before the city engages its autodocking, Rodney looks down and sees the three of them. See’s John. His eyes plead for something. For what? John wonders.

For forgiveness.

Sheppard tries to give him a reassuring nod, but McKay just looks away hurriedly as the city lifts the jumper up and out.

“What do you think.…” Ford’s tone is hushed, but even he can’t finish the sentence.

John watches the ceiling iris closed around the ship. “Let’s find out.”

The story is a straightforward enough one and Peter Grodin is their first casualty, which stings because John really liked Grodin. But then Weir is asking him for his secondary code to confirm her self destruct order, and now Radek is loading a virus into the Ancient database, and then Rodney is dialing out to the alpha site and Chuck is calling for the an evac group to ready -- when suddenly the Stargate is dialing in, and the SGC is coming through, and a Colonel Everett is throwing his weight around like he has any idea what he’s doing, and what the fuck just happened?!

John doesn’t see Rodney or Teyla for the next 14 hours, Everett ferocious in establishing his chain of command. He really only sees Ford in passing as they set up railguns and train Marines new in their ATA gene on how to work Atlantis tech, but it’s at least something. When he does see Rodney again, it’s for all of five minutes, just long enough for Everett’s mindfield to be destroyed by a wave of targeted asteroids. Because of course.

Shit as that is, they make it through the first and second day. They manage that much. Only two more until the Daedalus is scheduled to arrive and maybe then, maybe after they’re all saved, he and Rodney might, because maybe he IS as big an idiot as Rodney is always accusing him of being, for waiting so long to…. But John never gets to a point where he can finish that thought because the first wave of the armada has arrived and it’s attacking. There’s no time to think, only do.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

When Rodney isn’t cajoling Carson to test the chair against the Mark II, he’s trying to repair the city from kamikaze darts and Wraith sabotage. After that, he’s tearing into Everett for cutting him out of the loop until - oh look! - they need the scientist to save the day and they’re trying to reprogram the Puddlejumpers to take autopilot commands. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he and Zelenka have to finish building 19th century nuclear bombs and he hasn’t slept in three, maybe four days and Carson isn’t in the chair this time but is instead giving them another round of stims. They do nothing to actually help his fatigue, but they do make him jittery as fuck and he swears his teeth itch. Zelenka is scratching like a tweaker, so he figures he’s not completely imagining it.

McKay is exhausted and strung out, which is undoubtedly why he misses the significance of “So long, Rodney.” He’s too busy running through everything he knows about electrical engineering, applied physics, naquadah generators and Ancient technology, all of which is not an inconsiderable amount, so WHY WON’T YOU WORK. “Wait -- Major?” He couldn’t possibly be thinking-- Rodney looks between the chair and John, because that idiot couldn’t possibly be thinking-- He snapped up his P90 and ran after Sheppard, not even bothering to radio for a military escort.

Carson is standing in front of the map when he skids into command, Radek and Elizabeth hovering near-by. “You let him go?!” Rodney turns on Elizabeth but she’s not having any of his bullshit. She only holds his gaze long enough to make her point before looking past him to the map. The sounds of battle are everywhere, a dull roar that almost fades into the background it’s so cacophonous.

“You know,” the radio crackles. It’s John’s hushed voice. “If this works, somebody might have to do it again.”

Elizabeth taps her ear piece. “Understood.” Has she lost her mind!? Carson, Radek and Rodney all look at her before looking back towards the HUD. The tiny blue dot weaves through the red ones and it’s everything Rodney can do to not shriek into the comm that Major John Sheppard, USAF, has to turn that jumper RIGHT around, right NOW, because Rodney can FIX THIS if they just give him a few more seconds, you stupid idiot flyboy, with your cock-sure smile, come-hither hero complex, and that dash of math thrown in. He can fix this and save everyone and they won’t lose Atlantis or Earth but most of all, he won’t lose John!

But they all just watch as the blue dot makes it final approach, disappearing straight up into the hive mothership. Carson drops his head as it blinks out.

It’s gone. John’s gone. Just… gone. The HUD displays an empty circle where they lost the jumper’s signal.

From his station, Chuck confirms. “Target has been neutralized.” Neutralized is the coy term the military uses for blown the fuck up, all souls lost. All of them, including the ones who never should have been there in the first place.

Weir’s voice shakes. “He did it.”

“Yeah,” Rodney whispers, Carson turning to him. “He did.” Shock makes his heart beat too fast and his skin icy. Because they still have two motherships to deal with but he just got John Sheppard killed by not fixing something in time.

But even that is short lived, because Sheppard is hailing them from the Daedalus?! And Jesus fucking Christ, Rodney is going to vomit. “Oh thank God.” Or maybe just lay here on the ground while he dies none too peacefully from major organ failure.

Except now he has a ZedPM he has to install so he can raise the city’s shields and he feels like a maniac with his itchy teeth. There’s no time no time no time.

There’s no time.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

“Stand down, Lieutenant. That’s an order!”

Ford, with his one mad eye and one obsidian, pilots the jumper through the gate.

“Can the Wraith see that?” Elizabeth turns to Rodney who’s still standing over the terminal. The city is cloaked and they just detonated a thermonuclear warhead directly above them and Rodney has no idea how to answer Elizabeth, so instead he just prays and if that isn’t just precious.

Caldwell radios down that the second armada is breaking orbit and McKay can confirm that. He can see their warp signatures pockmocking the space around the planet as they jump away. It worked. It probably shouldn’t have, but somehow it did, and oh God, they did it. Weir goes down to John in front of the stargate and Rodney just sits down hard, right on the floor.

“Rodney?” It’s Teyla. He tries to wave her off -- he’s not hurt, he’s just exhausted -- but the gesture is uncoordinated and he mostly just flaps his hand around his own head. She seems to understand though, and joins him on the floor. That’s how Carson finds them, side by side, legs stretched out akimbo, shoulder to shoulder. Alive. He considers joining them for a moment, but notices the cut along Teyla’s scalp. Sees the singed fingertips of Rodney. They’ve done their parts, now it’s his turn.

Radek is watching the power levels of the ZPM from his screen. “Rodney?” McKay reaches up behind him and slaps around the station above their heads.

The cloaking device disengages. They made it. Just not all of them.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

There’s no room in the infirmary for everyone who’s hurt, so Carson sends the walking wounded back out into the city once he and his team do all they can for them. Only the absolute most critical can get a bed or worse, teleported up to the Daedelus. The rest are shuffled out in stitches, bandages, and slings with painkillers and crutches. Teyla has a tiny little row of sutures just above her left eye and too many bruises to count. Rodney has an ointment for the electrical burns all over his hands and a sedative in his system after the days of stimulants. It immediately makes him loopy and Beckett extracts a promise from Teyla to get him somewhere safe before he collapses.

“Everyone says blue is sad, but blue isn’t sad, Teyla,” Rodney explains to her in a wispy voice, his eyes dilated wide and steps weaving. “I can feel blue; blue is just really, really mellow.”

“You can feel colors?” Her expression is one of amused disbelief as she hooks an arm into his to swing him back around from wandering away.

He hummed at her pleasantly, then he pet the walls. “Nice blue. So mellow.”

John is actually fairly unscathed all things considered, except for the haunted look that refuses to leave his eyes. Those that served with him after the storm are familiar with it, but this is much, much worse. He works with the rest of his men, bolstered with the Daedelus’ numbers, to secure the last of the city. His beautiful, fierce city.

When he finally feels he can listen to those demanding he rest, he doesn’t know where to go. It seems so prosaic to simply go to his room, but where else could he go? The doors along the long hall are all blown open, but he’s not surprised to see that. So many of the city’s systems are offline, ironically because of the ZPM and all their jury rigged work-arounds now at odds with the actual protocols trying to come online, doors and windows are opened everywhere in the city. There’s already a detail assigned to go and manually close anything facing the exterior, because all they need to do after all this is drown.

He passes several of his neighbors already passed out in their beds or on couches; privacy is something for another day. What Sheppard doesn’t expect is to see Rodney McKay tipped over onto his side in John's bed, or Teyla curled up small against his back.

Sheppard comes to stand over them, P90 still cradled in his hands. Teyla opened her eyes with difficulty. “His room, destroyed,” she struggles to say without slurring. That isn’t totally surprising either. There are multiple points all over the city damaged from weapons fire, sabotage or crashed darts. Teyla’s already setting her head back down against John’s pillow. “Carson said to stay with him. Came here. Resting.” John just nods, unclipping the weapon from his vest and setting it on the nightstand. He doesn’t even bother taking off his boots, just crawls in on the other side of McKay and extends an arm over the drugged man. He finds Teyla’s hand searching for his own. John’s last thought is of Ford before oblivion accepts him.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

Rodney has no business being the first one of them awake, but he has to explosively pee and there’s all this weight on him, but more specifically on his bladder and fuck, is someone trying to smother him? His eyes open in an uncoordinated sequence, everything blurry and disjointed before coming into focus but still just as confusing. He’s on his back looking up at a ceiling in Atlantis, he thinks its sometime in the afternoon, and someone is snoring in his ear. Slowly, with a stiff groan, he looks down the length of himself to find John Sheppard half-turned into him, head on his shoulder, one thigh crossed over his. It’s Sheppard’s knee that’s pushing up against his bladder, creating the emergency. He’s also the snorer. But then what…? He looks to his right and it’s Teyla. She’s playing little spoon, turned away, but just as tucked up against him and cradled in his arm. It’s her hair he’s practically choking on, a wild, russet mass in his face.

“Oh my God,” he mumbles. He has no idea how any of them got here -- maybe they’re actually dead after all? If they are, it’s ridiculous then how hard he has to pee in the afterlife. In a better frame of mind, he might take a moment and appreciate the significance of it all. Of the level of intimacy and trust literally draped across his body. Crow how he’s in bed with two of the hottest people he’s ever met, and they’re both wrapped around him like candy. But he has to pee so badly it hurts and he just can’t be bothered with sentimentality right now.

He yanks his arm and shoulder out from under Sheppard, the man giving one snorting honk before rolling over. Teyla’s a little easier, but only in comparison. She’s like a brick, refusing to even stir as McKay inadvertently pulls at her hair to get his wristwatch out.

He slithers down from the center and pushes up to stand. Then his knees buckle and Rodney drops to the floor in a heap. “Fuck!”

Sheppard sits bolt upright, already scrambling to reach for his weapon. Teyla moans, tangled in the pillow like she’s confused by the concept.

“McKay?” John has one hand on his gun but is looking down at Rodney mewling on the ground. He’s trying to push his knees up under him, get to all fours, but none of his limbs look like they want to cooperate. “McKay,” he repeats. “Rodney.” He’s like a sad starfish, flopping around like that.

“Pee!”

“Are… are you peeing now?” Is that what’s happening here?

“A little help?!”

“John…?” Teyla has figured out how to roll herself over and is blinking at the room.

“Oh God,” Rodney whines, giving up on vertical and pathetically starts dragging himself across the room.

John reaches over and pats at Teyla’s shoulder in what he hopes is an approximation of comfort and not just a sloppy slapping. “I got him.”

Everything protests, but John pulls himself out of bed, moving to stand next to Rodney. “C’mon, McKay.” Bracing himself, he hooks his hands up under Rodney’s armpits before hauling the man up.

“Oh God,” Rodney squawks. His neck can’t seem to support his own head, so it flops back against Sheppard’s chest.

Now John is vaguely worried. “Are you alright?” What are the signs of a stroke again?

“Do I seem alright, Major?!” It’s slurred, but if Rodney has the strength to bitch with such articulation, John figures it can’t be anything permanent. McKay’s feet kick out from under him, probably in an attempt to find purchase and stand on their own, but that isn’t happening.

All his consonants are carefully over rounded, like Rodney is just back from the dentist. “Stupid Beckett and his Uppers and Downers, but at least the colors are quiet again because oh my God.”

John steps around him, looping an arm over his shoulder and bares the other man’s weight. Rodney’s head rolls against his shoulder to face him, the smudged shadows of exhaustion sinking his blue eyes deep. But they dart hungry around his face, taking in everything they can in their limited frame. “Th-- thanks.”

“Don’t mention it.” John bites his lips together because he gets the distinct impression McKay isn’t just talking about hiking him up from off the floor. “Pee?”

“God, please, yes!”

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

It’s John who wakes the next time, McKay still on his back in the middle with Teyla curled into him. He has no idea how long any of them have been out, a day at least, and it’s impossible to tell what pains are from a week of hard combat and which are from sharing 1/3rd of a bed conservatively made for two. His arm is flung over Rodney again, hand brushing Teyla’s, and there are too many feet tangled against his to know for sure who’s who. Shouldn’t this be weird? Because it’s not. It’s more the absence of its weirdness that’s weird.

He’d wondered once if there’d be room in a bed for him, McKay and McKay’s ego, but turns out there is and then some.

It’s night, the moon’s cool light casting long, pale shadows across his quarters. He wouldn’t say he’s bright eyed or bushy tailed, but he’s awake enough that going back to sleep isn’t going to happen immediately. He untangles himself from Rodney and Teyla, trying to be as quiet about it as he can be. He’s just shouldered back into his vest and is turning to look for his radio when he glances down and sees Rodney’s awake and looking right at him.

John should give an affirming nod and move out, check with the city to see where they stand. Instead, he sits back down, holding Rodney’s gaze.

They stay that way, only looking, the world hanging heavy and ripe between them. Rodney moves his hand gently and takes up John’s. A million and one things are trapped behind that mouth of his, but all Rodney does is hold onto John. With care, John turns his hand over still inside Rodney’s grasp, to lace their fingers.

Now he can nod his affirming nod, ignoring the wetness suddenly blurring his vision. Rodney gives his own nod, quick little hints at more. John grip tightens. “You keep sleeping. I’m just going to check in with command. But then… then I’ll be back, okay?”

“Okay.” Rodney grips back just as fiercely.

“Okay,” John repeats, making it a promise.

Chapter Text

They’re on Earth for a month. It’s days of debriefings, a promotion for John, and then new personnel selection -- for department expansion, and… replacement.

New mission statements and new standing orders are drawn up. It’s a new lease on everything they ever made promises on.

The Air Force does them a solid after the second week and puts them up in a hotel. Rodney suspects that has a lot to do with Elizabeth, and he for one is absolutely in favor of throwing one’s authority around if it means getting away from scratchy sheets on too narrow bunks.

John visits with Ford’s cousin. He had tried to see Aiden’s grandparents, but the cousin had intervened. She is angry and bitter and John can’t blame her. His excuses are weak and he can’t muster the confidence to really set her at ease. He doesn’t even have to close his eyes to bring up the stark madness in Ford’s face as he defied them all to flee in a jumper.

She asks him if Aiden has misplaced his faith in John, and John’s pretty sure the answer is yes.

There’s a letter waiting for him at the front desk when he gets back to their hotel. It’s a room number, a time, and the initials ‘R.M.’ John takes a moment to frown at it, because the number is too high for the block of rooms he knows they have. This is a suite. But a flick of his wrist tells him he has two hours before… whatever?

John tucks the note into his breast pocket and takes the elevator, still wrapped up in his own thoughts from the day. Of his briefing that morning with Landry and O’Neill, of the stack of personnel files waiting for him to look over tomorrow since he’s going to keep his command, of Ford’s cousin's baleful glare. It’s only when he’s back in his own room that it dawns on him.

“Oh,” he sputters. Rodney wants to have sex tonight.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

With limited resources at his disposal, John’s done his best to look nice without making it seem like he tried too hard to do so: black jeans, black button down, navy blue sports coat. He showered and shaved, did the best he could with his hair. He wants to look like Peter Lawford from Ocean’s Eleven but suspects he looks more like a guido Sinatra hired to look intimidating on set.

This will be the first time he and Rodney have really been alone-alone since leaving Atlantis, and even those brief encounters had only been more hand holding in stolen moments between repairs, reports and the other sundry prep for the trip back to Earth. He’s got the little note out again, skimming the tasteful numbers marking the doors.

Once he finds the one he’s looking for, he glances at his watch. He’s four minutes early. Should-- should he knock? Should he wait the four minutes? Aren’t doms strict about orders being obeyed and being early would be disobedience? Unless that’s what he should do because then he’s being ‘naughty’ and needs to be punished? He shuffles from foot to foot, uncertain. Insecure? Or just nervous. How about all of the above for $500, Alex.

He mutters under his breath, “This is ridiculous,” and just knocks.

Whatever John was expecting, it wasn’t Rodney McKay in a Green Lantern shirt with a spoon half-hanging out of his mouth. He glances out into the hall, looking left then right, before grabbing John by the arm and hauling him in.

“McKay?” John asks a lot with a name, but pauses just over the threshold to take in the room. This is still Colorado Springs and this is hardly the Plaza Hotel, but this is still much nicer than what he’s got downstairs, what any of them have. It’s a living room, an office area, a small kitchenette and what he assumes is a proper bedroom beyond a closed door. It’s all creamy white and sandy beige with soft blue accents. Brushed metal fixtures. John has two full beds and a window that looks down into the parking lot. “What is-- why do you…?”

Rodney takes the spoon out of his mouth and John can see the pint of ice cream palmed in the other hand. “Room upgrade on General O’Neill’s authorization.”

“General O’Neill?”

“Yes.” Rodney shovels another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth and avoids direct eye contact.

“Does he know he authorized an upgrade?”

“He will? I mean, once he sees the bill, I imagine.”

John rubs at his eyes, drawing the other man's name out like an accusation. “Rodney.”

“I saved the world! I saved two worlds! I deserve a king sized bed, a bathtub with bubble jets and complimentary cable television, at the very least.” He clatters the half-empty carton onto a side table before dusting his hands, cheerfully indifferent to his own audacity.

John narrows his eyes a bit, bracing his hands on his hips. He takes in a breath and holds it for a long moment, letting it go with a resigned sigh and shake of his head.

This is nothing at all what he was expecting, and yet, is exactly everything it should be.

Because this was still Doctor Rodney McKay. And yes, John remembers only too vividly the way McKay had pinned him down and thrust his crotch right in his face, the cool and demanding intonation to his voice that has dominated John’s dreams for almost a year -- but it’s still Rodney. The man who will complain about literally anything if given half a chance, who’s hubis might as well be another member on his team, and for whom ‘difficult takes a few seconds; impossible, a few minutes.’

The man he is categorically, unconditionally in love with. “Huh,” he says to the idea, a grin playing out.

Rodney’s eyebrows come together. “Hmm?” He looks Sheppard over like he’s only noticing him for the first time, his head cocking to the side. Then he looks down at himself, as if only noticing that for the first time, too. “Oh my God, why do you look-- and I’m--” John just lets him work this one out on his own, leaving his hands on his hips as he watches and wait.

“I thought I’d get away earlier,” McKay explains, hands carving out shapes between them. “Have things ready. But Jackson wants to come with Phase II, and O’Neill thought I would help talk him out of it--”

“Rodney.”

“--but it’s not like I’m involved with the Humanities,” the ‘ew’ unmistakable in his voice. “So why he thought I’d be of any use, and it’s hours after I said--”

“Rodney.”

“So I’m practically having a hypoglycemic reaction by the time I get home, which really was only about five minutes ago anyway, so the least he can do is get me a better room, even if he doesn’t know--”

“MCKAY!” John arched his eyebrow.

Rodney surges forward, both hands coming up around John’s face to pull them together. “You are so fucking sexy.” And it’s that voice, that precisely controlled pitch that makes the hairs on the back of John’s neck stand up. It’s not a compliment Rodney’s offering, it’s a stated fact.

“I wanted to have a few things ready, start everything slow and easy. A few drinks, maybe dinner. But O’Neill is too worried about his Golden Boy to care I have this waiting for me.” Rodney leaves one hand on the back of John’s head, fingers weaving into his hair. The other traces an outline down his shoulder, his arm, coming to rest on his hip. His broad palm cups to rest on the small of John’s back, deliberately bringing him in until they’re flush. John’s mouth has gone dry and he can feel his heart pounding in his temples. How can McKay do this? Turn on a dime like this?

Do this to him?

John feels light headed, his breath suddenly only allowed entrance in slips. He reaches out and sets both his hands around Rodney’s waist, as much to reciprocate as to hold on for dear life. “I don’t know how any of this works,” he says in a small voice.

“We’re not ever going to do a single thing you don’t want. I’ll--” Rodney’s own insecurity dashing across his brow. “This isn’t just-- Because I think I-- no, I know I-- And if you never want to, that’s fine, because I’d rather, with just you, than anything else in the world.” His eyes skip over John’s face, so close to his own. It’s that same aching vulnerability and fear of rejection that has long fascinated John but sadly fits only all to well against Rodney McKay.

At least this part John understands. He edges in that last few inches, letting his lips brush against Rodney’s. “I said I didn’t know how; I never said I didn’t want to learn.” Then he presses their mouths together, almost chastedly. Rodney hums in satisfaction, and it’s so much like the first time, that night in his lab. John’s even wearing another jacket and he wonders if Rodney is going to tangle him up in this one, too.

Instead Rodney spins the dial to 11, tearing into John’s kiss with his own demands. His tongue swipes into John’s mouth and again, it’s driven with purpose and presumptive intent. It’s not an invitation to participate, it’s a To Do list. He holds John against himself firmly, hands like vices that Sheppard couldn’t escape from even if he’d wanted to. And fuck, he does not want to.

Their breathing is hard and bounces off the walls in counter-tempo to the wet sounds of their greed. John tries to grind himself against Rodney, but he deliberately holds John firmly in place, denying him. A pitiful sound came up from the back of John’s throat, and Rodney has the nerve to smugly chuckle.

John pulls his head back, ready to make some sassy comment -- but Rodney says “No,” and grabs the back of John’s head to force his mouth back. He can feel Rodney’s fingers twisting in his hair and John’s stomach drops out, because this is it. This is everything he’s fantasized about and it isn’t going to end abruptly because he woke up, alone in his room, and cumming against his briefs.

Hidden, lurking deep within, a small tumbler turns over inside of John Sheppard and he gets it. He can do this. Oh, he’s going to have to learn what to expect and what’s expected, will probably rebel against it and need to be reminded, but he gets it. Gets why people want this. Because he wants it. He does something he’s rarely if ever done: John yields. He sways into Rodney’s hands, against Rodney’s frame, against Rodney’s presumptive intentions. He gives himself over because he gets it now.

Rodney takes in a sharp breath through his nose, his eyes snapping open to look at Sheppard. But John is still just soft and pliant against him, still held in place to be kissed. The surrender. There. He knew it. God, Rodney feels drunk off it. He pulls his mouth away to heatedly whisper into his ear, “Very good, John.” He can feel the shiver ripple down the man’s entire body.

Pushing them apart, Rodney holds John at arm’s length and gives him a quick appraisal. He looks pretty wrecked, but in that delightful way Rodney could very easily get used to.

“If you need something to stop, say ‘stop’. We’ll work out more details later, but for tonight -- if you need it, say ‘stop’ and I will.”

John nods slowly, knowing he isn’t meant to speak quite yet. Not sure he could, really.

“Good. Now,” Rodney’s chin coming up. “Take off your clothes. You don’t have to be pretty about it, not yet. We’ll get there. But be quick.” He punctuates the last bit with a snap of his fingers.

That’s… a lot for John to try and unpack all at once. Not yet? Get there? Naked? And there’s that word ‘pretty’ again. It is a word John is wholly unfamiliar with in the context of anything to do with himself and it makes his perception of the world tilt just that little bit left of center. His fingers reach for the buttons of his shirt while he casts a look around the room. They’re still technically in the foyer, not even in the hotel room proper.

“Don’t worry about where you are, just do what I told you to do.” Rodney can see another shiver run the length of John’s frame and yes, he has to empirically conclude: his dominating voice must be awesome. He bounces on the balls of his feet, hands coming together behind him self-satisfied.

John undoes the buttons of his shirt before shrugging out of his coat, then said shirt, leaving him in the black undershirt and jeans while he toes off his shoes. Rodney makes his happy dessert-and-math-and-being-obeyed hum. When John hesitates again, Rodney motions arrogantly about him. “John, I’m not going to tell you a second time.” He places a finger under John's chin, lifting it slightly in emphasis.

John swallows and makes a very subtle nod of acknowledgement.

“Good.” Rodney says, bouncing again on his toes before turning towards the living room.

Was he supposed to follow? He wasn’t sure, but knew if he was, he was supposed to do it naked. He makes quick work shucking out of the rest, flexing his bare toes against the tile as he kicks away his socks. John looked up then, saw Rodney turn towards him -- and stopped. Because he’s naked and Rodney isn’t. Because he’s incredibly turned on by being called “pretty” and maybe he shouldn’t be. Because he’s in a hotel in Colorado on Earth and not dead a thousand times over on some alien planet because of space vampires and about to have sex with the Chief Science Officer of his space-base and maybe McKay is right about that Kirk thing. Because he thinks Rodney tried to confess he feels the same about him the way he feels about Rodney, but neither of them have actually said the words yet. So is this just a very elaborate Friends with Benefits? Because he feels too much, way too much, if that’s the case.

Rodney turns to find John looking lost and not a little vulnerable. And naked. So deliciously naked. But -- right, right, he reminds himself. Newbie. “John,” his said firmly but encouragingly. “Come here.” He held his out, offering it for John to take.

John takes his steps carefully, and Rodney is privately having an aneurysm because no one should look that good just walking, but he takes his hand. Their fingers twist together, Rodney squeezing gently.

He moves them to the couch and draws John down into his lap to straddle him. It’s a little awkward because John doesn’t know how to fold himself down like this; he’s too much leg to be elegant about it and too nervous to possess even happenstance grace. But Rodney is patient in a way John has quite literally never seen from him before. Rodney is constantly impatient about everything: people thinking too slow, tech not doing what he wants, food. But right now, he seems to have all the time in the world for John to figure it out.

Rodney asks, “Good?” His hands are already busy at John’s waist, his thumbs drawing lazy circles just inside his pubic hair distractingly.

“Yes?” John shrugs with one shoulder. Rodney's cargo pants are soft enough against his ass, but it still only underscores just how very naked, very exposed he feels in comparison. He rests his arms across the man’s shoulders, hands loose behind his neck. He’s having a hard time making eye contact.

“John,” Rodney says softly, catching John’s shifting attention with his steady gaze. “Just do as I tell you. Nothing more, and nothing less. I promise -- it’s a lot of fun. Disobey, and you’ll be appropriately punished.” He takes a measure of John before grinning. “Though even punishments can be fun, so I suspect you’ll push that button a time or two to get what you really want.”

“And what do I really want?” John settles himself a little deeper into Rodney’s lap, feeling the surge of his dick against his ass, the cargo pants a barrier between them.

“I could give you some boilerplate tripe about how you want order and discipline, how much you crave to submit, you miserable little bottom -- but we both know that’s stupid and besides you’re already career military who’s disobeyed enough orders to be court martialed like six times over and I don’t see you trying to hump Landry or Caldwell, so. No,” Rodney says over the horrified look of protest on John’s face.

“What you want is someone who’s willing to let you figure it out on your own but is also there to shoulder their piece of the problem. Who’s willing to challenge you but is able to meet the challenge themselves. Who gives as good as he gets from you,” Rodney said while pulling down on John to grind up against him. “Fuck, yeah."

Nevermind that’s maybe one of the most insightful things anyone has ever said to John, let alone about John, or that it fell out of Rodney McKay’s mouth, Rodney is working his hips for him, dragging him over the ridge of his fly and fuck, yeah. He hisses, fingers digging into the couch’s back.

“And,” John pants softly. “You think that’s all you?”

Rodney pulls John’s face down again, licking into his mouth while his other hand continues to work John’s hips. John helps, digging his knees against Rodney for leverage. “Yes,” is Rodney’s indisputable answer.

They set a steady pace, John grinding down, Rodney grinding up. John braces himself against the couch’s back while Rodney’s hands simply roam. Rodney wasn’t lying when he said he was good with them. They wander John’s back, twist a nipple hard enough he yelps, are featherlight against his ribs, play coy with the cleft of his ass. They're everywhere, all at once seemingly, and John is growing impatient. He wants more, more of Rodney, now.

“You know, this would be a lot easier if we were both naked,” John says while worrying a spot just behind Rodney’s ear.

“Would it?” Suddenly Rodney has his hands on his chest, under his knee, and in a way John could never imagine, has somehow flipped and rolled him in such a way he’s still on Rodney’s lap but now spread out horizontal. John throws his arms out for balance, but only manages to grab at the couch’s armrest. “That assumes you know what I want to do with you, John. Good, hold that. Yes.”

And Rodney spanks him. Hard. John can’t stop the startled yell that comes out of him. His hands involuntarily come back around to cover himself, but Rodney knocks them away. “I said hold the couch. Now: count,” Rodney says calmly.

“I-- one?”

Rodney’s hand comes down again and the sound rings in John’s ears.

“Two.” He can feel Rodney’s cock jerk up against his belly. The hand comes down again.

“Three.” It stings but doesn’t hurt, though the threat of it doing so lingers in the broad swipe of Rodney’s palm against his heated skin. Something about that builds its own heat inside of him, that potential withheld.

“Four.” The warmth is spreading from John’s ass to the rest of him, catching in the middle against the fever of his desire working its way up. His cock is stiff and leaking.

On “Five,” John has to bite off a moan while Rodney’s hand smooths itself over his skin.

“Do you want five more?”

“Yes,” John doesn’t even hesitate. Rodney arches a smug eyebrow but certainly obliges.

He counts off five more, but by two is already trying to rock himself away from Rodney’s hand and on three into the crook of Rodney’s bent knee. It’s a sharp pain that’s delivered by the sweat squeeze against the tip of his dick. Rodney smirks again over his head, catching the trick easy enough, but is willing to indulge if he can keep John across his lap like this.

It’s everything and more Rodney ever wanted it to be, has fantasized about while pulling himself off. John’s olive complexion is gold against his own pale Canadian offering, except where his hand has landed. There, John is a bright red and warm to the touch. He spends a few moments just caressing John when he’s done with the second set, letting the man squirm gently against him.

“One?” John’s question is naively hopeful and Rodney laughs out loud into the room, because he just knew John would be like this and Rodney likes maybe nothing more in the world than being correct.

He delivers a resounding slap, harder than any he’s given yet, and John cries out in shock. “Fuck!”

“You asked,” Rodney says smuggly, dragging his nails across the spot. John hisses and digs into the couch’s upholstery. “Come.” Rodney works his hands under him, getting him to stand. John sways just a little bit and Rodney sets a bracing hand on his back. He’ll save the lesson on sub-space for later, but yeah. Rodney loves being right.

Humming, he digs something out of his pant’s pocket while turning John towards the bedroom. He’d honestly wanted to play with him a little bit longer, but John’s ass is bright red and his eyes have a sleepy glazed look and his mouth is kiss-swollen and Rodney is done with being patient after ten months of waiting.

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

The room is dark and Rodney has prepped him and now he’s naked too and is laying out on his king sized bed looking at John where he left him at its foot.

His snap ends in a crook of his finger, beckoning John.

John’s mouth plays out a dark, seductive smirk, eyes casting up through his lashes. He sets himself to crawling up Rodney’s body.

Aneurysm! An aneurysm! Rodney has to fight to keep his composure. John cage's himself around Rodney, leaning down to kiss him. Rodney’s hands come up to guide him into a straddle, but there’s no cargo pants in the way this time to stop the inevitable.

“Remember,” Rodney pants after the first short thrust in. “If you want to stop, you just say--”

John drops his weight, forcing Rodney all the way at once and holy shit that hurts but holy fuck in an amazing way and John throws his head back in a lush growl and Rodney is actually convinced now he’s already experienced an aneurysm and this is just the last endorphin rush of his eminent demise.

John feels the sting of Rodney’s spanking each time he comes down against the man’s thighs, and Rodney can feel the heat of his work as a distinct temperature difference that drives him just that little bit more insane. His fingers dig bruises into John’s hips as he thrusts up, hesitation dispensed with.

“Back home -- oh God,” Rodney says, holding deep inside for a moment. “I’ll rig a hook over the bed, clip your hands over head.”

“Oh God,” John moans at the image. “Yes. Please?”

Rodney sneers, fucking up into him again. “I told you you’d beg,” and John can only whimper because he’s so hard, and Rodney is hitting that spot up inside of him and he hasn’t yet dared trying to touch himself.

“You can take it a little longer, John,” Rodney dismisses as if reading his mind. His knees hitch up higher, heels digging into the mattress. Rodney’s back arches as he drives himself in deep. “Fuck, you are so good, John. So good.”

“Rodney, Rodney please.” John has his hands braced on Rodney’s chest and at this point he’s practically seeing stars because if he doesn’t touch himself right now he’s pretty sure he’s going to die.

It’s the begging. God, it’s the begging. “Oh God, oh God, oh God,” Rodney repeats like a mantra, coiling up against John as he starts to come deep inside him. He braces one hand on John’s back, and wraps his other firmly around John’s cock, using some twisting motion that easily undoes him. John’s orgasm leaves him inarticulate, just broken sounds and heavy pants and there’s Rodney the whole time, whispering against his temple “I love you. Thank you. I love you.”

----- 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 ------ 0 ----- 0 ----- 0 -----

John stands over the gate room, giving Major Lorne one last nod before his team moves through on their first off-world mission.

“Did you have the chance to remind him again of your promotion?” Teyla teases, coming up to the railing.

“I figured once at our briefing yesterday was good enough. But I reserve the right for the debrief after,” John says with a lopsided grin, hands pushing his jacket back to find his hips.

She just shakes her head, smirk tugging at her mouth.

Rodney inserts himself between them with a speculative hum, eyes down on a tablet. “Look, Sheppard, your new pilots are apparently driving Radek insane with flight time requests, and while I personally find it hilarious watching him slowly go mad--” He looked up, fingers splaying around his head in delighted imitation of Zelenka’s hair. “I actually need him long-term. So, get on that?” He clucks a wink at Sheppard and lands a soft-punch against his shoulder, turning to hum at Teyla before taking the stairs down two at a time.

They both watch him go. "Well, he seems to be in a surprisingly good mood." Teyla says, folding her arms and turning back to share the joke with John. Instead, she turns to find John biting his lips together, color high in his cheeks, with a heated line of sight on McKay's... backside?

Her eyebrow spikes high. “Colonel Sheppard?”

“Uh!” He jerked his attention to her, and never has Teyla seen such a guilty expression on a grown man. “I should, uh.” He threw his thumb over his shoulder ineffectively.

“John!” she rushed his name in the hushed octave of conspiratorial scandal.

“What?” His hands came up to bat away at her accusations, but his wide eyed expression is confession enough for her. He swallowed, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Then....

Well. Then he just shrugged, hands casting themselves to his sides while cutting a wry what-you-gonna-do grin. He pumped his eyebrows, rocking back on his heel as he turned away. "Catch you later?"

Turning to brace herself against the railing, Teyla grinned out over the gateroom. "Finally."