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Your Words on My Skin

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The morning of his 18th birthday, John was woken by a stinging sensation in his left arm. If it were any other day he’d be far more worried, but he had been expecting it.

It had been the norm for a few centuries now that when someone turned 18, they would wake up with the first words their soulmate would say to them tattooed somewhere on their body. The tattoo could appear anywhere on the body and be any size.

John had seen his father’s, a simple ‘Thanks. I’m Grace.’ circling his wrist. His mother’s was on her side, and it matched with his father’s as it read ‘Sorry! Here, let me.’

He’d asked her about it once, while his father had been away on business, and she’d explained that “Patrick Sheppard crashed into my life when he crashed into me in that hallway.” She had been walking to class; he’d been late coming back from practice and had collided with her, knocking her books out of her arms. Then he had offered to pick them up. “And the rest, as they say, is history.”

The stinging became a burning in his upper arm and he swore under his breath. Of course he’d get his in one of the most obvious, most difficult to conceal places. He yanked the sleeve of his shirt back and saw a block of text imprinted on his bicep. And although it was upside down from his point of view, he could read the words as clearly as if they were right in front of him. In neat black letters, standing out from the angry red skin of his arm, were the words ‘Major, think about where we are in the solar system.’

‘Major’ meant military. It looked like the Air Force would be a good career choice for him after all.


Some two years earlier, one Rodney McKay awoke to the feeling of pins and needles in his wrist. Thinking this was normal and that he must have slept on it oddly, he thought nothing of it until he saw letters coming into focus, forming a question.

‘Did I do that?’

Of all the ambiguous statements he could have gotten, he supposed that wasn’t too bad.


It had now been roughly 16 years since he’d woken up with words on his arm. John had gone through university and earned himself a degree in mathematics, joined the Air Force and then spent a few years in Afghanistan. He’d even been married (and boy, had that been a mistake!). Divorced and with a black mark on his record, Major John Sheppard was currently flying General Jack O’Neill towards McMurdo.

It was supposed to have been an uneventful flight. Nothing but snow for miles around them, until something yellow came streaking through the sky towards them.


This was an information overload. The yellow thing had been a drone, an alien weapon. There were things called Stargates that allowed you to visit other planets, and an alien race called the Ancients that had built it all.

He was introduced to Drs Carson Beckett and Rodney McKay, the latter of whom was wearing a bright orange fleece and looked very irritated. He barely glanced at John before being called away again.

Dr Beckett was explaining about the Ancients when John made to sit in the chair. He barely heard the doctor’s warning as the chair lit up, coming to life underneath him.

Beckett stared at him, and then ran off calling for a ‘Dr Weir’. He came back with the general and two others, a woman in a red jumper (who he assumed was the aforementioned Dr Weir) and Dr McKay.

While General O’Neill told him off, John noticed Dr McKay was trying to say something, impatiently waiting for a chance to speak. He stepped forward to say something and John felt a spark of pain in his bicep as Rodney McKay said the words John had read every day for 16 years.

“Major, think about where we are in the solar system.”

John’s heart rate soared and adrenaline rushed through him at the simple fact that he’d found him. His soulmate. He didn’t even have to concentrate on what he’d been asked, as the model of the solar system appeared instantly, silver and shining and clear above their heads.


Rodney looked up at the glowing diagram suspended over their heads and didn’t even notice the tell-tale tingling in his wrist until Major John Sheppard spoke.

“Did I do that?”


Dr Weir, who had indeed been the lady in red, had just finished trying to recruit him for the expedition when McKay walked over to him.

He’d spent years imagining what he would say in this moment but now that it was actually here, words had deserted him. So he took a breath, hoped his voice didn’t betray his nerves, and said “Hi.”

McKay’s mouth twitched up at the corners and John tracked the movement out of the corner of his eye. While he wasn’t what people would call conventionally handsome, McKay was kind of… pretty, for lack of a better word. He had wide blue eyes framed by long lashes any woman would kill for; eyes that were assessing him, John realised, heat flooding into his cheeks, the exact same way John was looking at him. The orange fleece seemed to suit him and was snug around his broad shoulders.

McKay was full on grinning now but John refused to be embarrassed at the fact he’d just got caught checking him out.

“So, Major-”

“John.”

John, did Elizabeth manage to convince you to come with us?”

In all honesty, John still wasn’t sure whether or not he wanted to go to another galaxy. Dr Weir had explained that there was a chance the trip would be one way, that they might not be able to return to Earth once they’d gone.

But there was a part of him that was trying to drown out the doubts. They were going to another galaxy! The people he’d met seemed alright and as far as Dr Weir had explained, they genuinely needed him and his special gene. Then there was McKay.

He knew making this kind of decision based mainly on the fact that his soulmate would be there was an incredibly stupid thing to do, but…

“Yeah. Yeah, she did.”


McKay was arrogant. Arrogant and brilliant. John learned that fact within the first few days of establishing the Atlantis base.

Their relationship was by no means perfect. They’d underestimated each other; McKay hadn’t realised John “had a working brain under all that hair”, which stung, and John had underestimated McKay’s bravery and ultimately his loyalty.

But John loved seeing those blue eyes light up, seeing that arrogant smirk become a true smile, and knowing it was all because of him.

It would take a lot of patience and effort to make their relationship work, but John knew without a doubt that it would be worth it.