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1.

There’s a classified ads page on the Atlantis intranet. John has no idea when it first appeared, since he’d probably been on Atlantis for about two months before he cracked open his laptop for the first time and it’d been another two months before he realized he had an e-mail address (and, consequently, 4683 unopened e-mail messages from various members of the science team), but ever since John found the classifieds, it’s become his favorite way of killing time while outwardly appearing to do paperwork.

Because stuff like this? It’s pure comedy gold.

Like, today, under the category of ‘Health & Fitness’:

WANTED: handcuffs, preferably mink-lined. Any color. Trades welcome. Confidentiality a must. Reply to Ad #092-C.

And under ‘Crafts & Hobbies’:

FOR SALE: twelve mint-in-package Star Trek TNG action figures. Will trade for any vintage Battlestar Galactica memorabilia. Inquiries can be directed to Dr. Brown in Botany.

“Trekkie, I knew it,” John mutters under his breath, and scrolls down. He’s slouched in his chair in the conference room with his feet propped on the table, which is sure to make Elizabeth do that thing where she silently wonders if John was raised in a barn, but he’s got five minutes before the senior staff meeting and this beats the hell out of playing minesweeper or solitaire.

Under ‘Food and Beverage’, he spots Rodney’s contribution:

URGENTLY REQUIRED: chocolate chip granola bars. Have access to Czech-brewed moonshine in exchange. Reply to chipme@atlantis.net.

And under ‘Business Services’, something John’s never seen before among all the requests for food, porn, geek paraphernalia, and liquor:

WANTED: Sperm donor. Must be intelligent and reasonably attractive. Terms of delivery are negotiable. Interested parties may inquire by leaving notices on this service.

John’s leg slips and kicks over his full coffee mug on the table. “Holy crap,” he blurts, and slams the laptop shut only to find that Rodney has just walked into the room and is frowning at John in a slightly confused way.

“Did you just have an accident?” he asks, seeming disconcerted.

“My foot slipped,” John snaps, as he pulls himself upright and begins to hunt for a towel.

“I’ve never seen you do that before,” says Rodney, not helping in the least.

“Stick around long enough, you never know what you’ll see,” John answers shortly. He’s using Elizabeth’s ornamental placemat from under her ornamental vase to sop up the coffee, and he’s pretty sure that’s going to earn him yet another exasperated sigh.

“Wait,” Rodney says, snapping his fingers and blinking. “You were looking at porn, right? I totally caught you looking at porn!” He lunges for John’s laptop and has it open before John can stop him. “You’ve been holding out on me?” he demands, indignant, and then frowns again when the screen fails to show him any breasts.

“It’s not porn, McKay, for god’s sake,” John replies testily, reaching for his computer.

“Holy crap!” Rodney shouts, just as Ronon ambles in the room. Ronon fails to have any reaction whatsoever, except to come around the table and look over Rodney’s shoulder at John’s laptop.

“Oh,” says Ronon, who can’t read English. “I thought you were looking at the sex pictures again.”

“This is better than sex pictures,” Rodney exclaims, waving his free hand in the air. “This is actual sex!” He pokes at the screen as though Ronon should be able to decipher whatever it is Rodney’s seeing in the shape of the letters.

“It is?” asks Ronon, perking up a bit.

“No it isn’t!” John protests, getting up and standing beside Ronon with some vague idea of getting his computer back.

“Terms of delivery are negotiable,” reads Rodney with a leer, somehow managing to make it the dirtiest phrase John’s ever heard outside of a military barracks. He waggles his eyebrows and starts typing madly.

“Hey, that’s my computer!” John protests, feeling the beginnings of panic.

“Oh, calm down, no one’s going to trace it back to you, we’re on a secured wi-fi connection,” Rodney says. “I just want to get a jump on this offer and you’re already logged in.”

“You’re going to donate your sperm?” John asks, baffled, the panic welling higher.

“This says that there’s a woman who wants to have sex?” Ronon asks, gesturing at the laptop, definitely interested now. “How much?”

“She’s not a hooker, you ape,” Rodney shoots back acerbically, “she’s a reproductively-minded woman who’s, you know, taking advantage of the huge genius sperm surplus here on Atlantis.”

“She’s a nutbag!” John shouts. “Rodney, you can’t be serious!”

“So it’s free?” Ronon asks, seriously.

“What’s free?” says Elizabeth, coming into the room.

Rodney closes the laptop abruptly, proving to John that he hasn’t yet gone completely insane, though of course John is the one fighting back a guilty blush. Ronon’s unperturbed as usual and is the one to answer Elizabeth. “Sex,” he says, “on the computer.”

“Please tell me that you two are not teaching Ronon about the wonders of the internet,” Elizabeth asks, smirking.

“Oh please, he’s a male with a hand and a rudimentary understanding of point-and-click, there’s no instruction necessary,” Rodney says, and Elizabeth holds up her palm to silence him.

“Just -- not in the conference room, please?” she requests, and now she’s giving all three of them the look. Then she notices her ornamental coffee-soaked placemat. “What happened to my Thai silk scarf?”

“The colonel had an accident,” Rodney answers casually, passing John’s laptop back into his hands.

“My foot slipped,” John says as Teyla walks through the door. “Can we just -- have this meeting?” he asks, dropping back into his chair. The sooner the meeting ends, the sooner John can try to talk some sense into Rodney.

2.

“No normal person would even consider bringing a child into this galaxy right now!” is how John opens the conversation. He’d meant to start with something more conventional, like “We need to talk,” or “About this morning,” or “Are you fucking insane?”, but this is what comes out of his mouth, loudly, in the middle of Rodney’s busy lab.

Apparently it’s not quite the non-sequitur John would have guessed however, because Dr. Simpson shouts, “My point exactly!” and Zelenka answers with, “Could be a crew member of the Daedalus or someone who’s reaching end of tour of duty soon!” Clearly discussing the new classified ad has already reached top priority for all of Rodney’s team.

“I meant you, McKay,” John clarifies. “How could you think about doing something like this?”

“What am I, a seahorse? I’m not bearing the young, Colonel, just providing the raw materials!” Rodney answers distractedly. “Look, could everyone stop arguing about this stupid advertisement and get back to work? We have --” he waves his hand around wildly -- “mysteries of the universe to unlock here.” He takes a bite of what looks suspiciously like a chocolate chip granola bar and finishes his rant around the mouthful of food: “Besides, it’s not as though any of you will end up on the short list.”

This, of course, sparks another spate of arguing among the physicists, so varied and noisy that John can barely make out the fact that almost every male scientist has already replied to the ad. John takes advantage of the chaos to move closer to Rodney. “I can’t believe you’d do this just to get laid,” he says, even though yes, he actually can believe it.

“What? Oh, don’t be so sordid,” Rodney scowls. “Sure, that’d be a bonus, but my intentions are nobler than that.”

“You’re saying that you’d just as happily ‘donate’ if it meant jerking off into a cup?” John tries, skeptical.

“Yes, very nice, Colonel, you’ve completely spoiled my appetite,” says Rodney, nonetheless finishing off his granola bar. “And for your information, if it weren’t for Carson’s narrow-minded definition of ‘critical medical operations’ I’d have had some of my boys frozen and in the bank for months now.”

“Bleh,” says John faintly, suddenly feeling a little green himself.

“But as it stands, this may be my best bet to reproduce and for the sake of humanity, I’m not forgoing that chance.” McKay clearly feels that this settles his end of the argument and gets back to his work.

“You will be forced to forgo, once she reads your offer,” says Zelenka as he buzzes past.

“Once again,” Rodney says loudly, for the benefit of everyone in the lab, “I am forced to announce that I am not -- I repeat, not -- Doctor Randy McSperm at Atlantis dot net.” He opens another granola bar. “And I’m not sorry I stole a bottle of your latest batch of moonshine, so stop starting malicious rumors,” he hisses at Zelenka across the lab bench.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dr. McSperm,” Zelenka answers innocently.

3.

By the time John gets near a computer again, it’s been two hours since the senior staff meeting and there are already fifty-three sperm donor volunteers in the classifieds. Some are circumspect inquiries, others are obvious practical jokes, and still others are posted by a few shameless souls who actually give their names (and their measurements).

He spots Rodney’s own ad in a second:

Sperm donor available, willing and able. I am the one you want: trust me. Reply to geniusgenes@atlantis.net.

John clicks on the e-mail link and types:

And what if she’s not worthy? – J

4.

“It’s semen, Colonel, not refined naquadah,” Rodney replies at lunch, dropping his tray on the table with a clatter as he sits down opposite John. “Granted, its provenance might make it more valuable than most, but --”

Teyla’s fork is hovering mid-air between her plate and her mouth. She’s very carefully avoiding eye contact with either of them.

“But you said this might be your only chance,” John prompts, only slightly bothered by Teyla’s obvious discomfort.

“Well, just based on my current lifetime radiation exposure tally and your nasty habit of exposing both of us to gamete-killing solar rays,” answers Rodney pointedly, “it could well be.”

“So what if she’s the mother of your only child and she’s got some sort of genetic deficiency?” John continues. Teyla’s begun eating again, but hurriedly, as though she expects to be called away any moment.

“Not possible,” Rodney answers, salting his orange peas.

“What do you mean, not possible? You’re the one always shouting about how everyone’s a moron but you.”

“That’s simply based on relativity,” Rodney reassures John. “Relative to me, you are all morons. But on an objective level, removed from my -- shall we say, um, lofty? -- viewpoint, everyone that SGC hires has capabilities far beyond those of the average person. Well, except Kavanagh, obviously. I suspect gross nepotism in that case. I mean, this woman, whoever she is -- she can’t possibly compete with my intellect, but her genetic contribution won’t be entirely without value.”

“So you think that she’s a member of the science team?” John asks. Teyla looks up from her careful study of her jello dessert, interested.

“Or of the science crew of the Daedalus,” Rodney agrees.

“It hadn’t occurred to you that she might be a marine? She might be Cadman!”

“Cadman’s bent on having little Scottish sheep-loving people-butchering offspring,” Rodney says dismissively. “Besides, the marines never go on the intranet. Their big gun-toting hands don’t fit onto the keyboards of normal computers.”

“Well, what if there’s something else wrong with her?” John asks, edgily. “Like, what if she’s a hunchback? Or if she smokes? Or she thinks it’s significant that you’re a Taurus and she’s a Capricorn?”

“Yes, because there’s an alarming superfluity of hunchbacked chain-smoking astrology-loving women on Atlantis,” says Rodney dryly, and Teyla makes a funny coughing noise into her tea.

This is John’s first hint that maybe Rodney’s not the only one being a little bit unreasonable.

5.

But really, when John takes some time to think about it, it’s still bat shit insane that Rodney (or anyone else, of course) would consider doing this. John has a bad feeling: something is not quite right.

With some difficulty, John figures out how to create an alias on the Atlantis server (a skill every scientist seems to have acquired seconds after the server was plugged in) and composes his own response to the crackpot ad. He tries to make it as mysterious as possible, wanting to be certain that Rodney won’t guess it’s him:

You want sperm? I got it. Reply to millenniumfalcon@atlantis.net.

He needs to know what they’re dealing with, for Rodney’s sake.

6.

John gets an e-mail message reply within five minutes. The subject heading is YOU HAVE GOT TO BE SHITTING ME, and it’s from geniusgenes@atlantis.net.

The message reads:

Since when do you have the slightest interest in propagating your lineage? Do you seriously think the universe needs another laconic flyboy with ten times more hair product than survival instinct? Besides, haven’t you sown your oats a few times already with assorted Ascended women of questionable virtue? And the ad said ‘intelligent and reasonably attractive’, not the other way around! I’m taking your post off the BBS. Consider this your last warning, Colonel.

The message seems oddly truncated without Rodney’s usual signature (a litany of his degrees, awards, and positions). John taps the space bar a few times until his laptop bleeps irritably at him.

Another message appears. This one has And… in the subject line.

The whole stealth Star Wars alias would totally have worked on someone who hasn’t had to listen to you talk about x-wing fighters on every single extended puddle jumper trip. You utter moron.

John makes a face at his screen that involves him sticking his tongue out, wrinkling his nose, and squinting his eyes, a face he honestly hasn’t made since he last lived with his parents, which is of course why Dr. Weir comes into his office at that exact moment.

“Talking to Dr. McKay?” ventures Elizabeth, deadpan.

John slams his laptop shut. “She’s got to be some sort of space hooker!”

“I -- just really don’t want to know, do I?” Elizabeth answers haltingly.

7.

P3X-889. John’s starting to formulate this theory about planets with the letter X in their designation, and how there’s an increased likelihood of John making it off those planets without losing either blood or dignity. His theory keeps getting shot all to hell, though, in kind of a literal way.

“Whoa,” John says, bracing his hand over the tear in his BDUs, feeling the sick hot seeping of blood between his fingers.

“Whoa?” Rodney shrieks, kneeling over him frantically. “Whoa?!

“And ow,” John adds thoughtfully. The bleeding is slow, he observes, so he’s fine except for the blinding pain and the dizzying shock.

“She shot you in the nuts!” Rodney explodes, trying to pry John’s fingers up while Teyla and Ronon circle them, keeping a look-out for the hostile natives. “She shot you in the nuts and you’re saying ‘whoa’ and ‘ow’?”

“Not in the nuts,” John corrects. “But uh -- wow. Pretty close.” He lifts his fingers to show Rodney that the bullet wound is actually just in the crease of his groin, about two inches to the right of his balls. It is, in fact, just a graze, so the bullet itself must have whistled between John’s legs. The thought of a bullet passing by so very close makes him a little faint.

Rodney slams a pressure bandage down over the bloody spot, hauls on it hard, and hunkers down to tie it tight around John’s thigh, just above the strap of his gun holster. “I think I’m going to puke,” says Rodney, who does seem pale under the mask of determination. “That was way too close.”

“You didn’t get this upset last time I got shot,” John observes, trying to swallow back his own nausea as the shock sets in. “And it was way more serious.”

“There is nothing more serious than nearly losing a testicle,” Rodney returns without a trace of humor.

“I got shot in the chest last time!” John protests warmly through the haze of sparkling fog.

Whatever Rodney says next is lost in the shushing sound that fills John’s ears, but it doesn’t matter because he’s saying it to Teyla and suddenly John is stumbling along with one arm around Rodney’s neck and the other around Ronon, and they’re headed for the gate.

8.

Later, John’s embarrassed that he went into shock over a little bullet graze (even if it was two inches away from his balls), so he shouts at Beckett and stealth-limps around the infirmary until he finds his pants (a little crusty and bloody, but better than blue scrubs). He’s halfway back to his quarters before he has the bad luck to run directly into Dr. Biro.

“Oh, no you don’t,” she says, and okay, John can admit he’s always been a little afraid of her ever since he found out how cheerfully and efficiently she does an autopsy.

“Beckett let me go,” John lies.

She clicks her tongue. “Come on, chickpea. Back to bed.”

“I want a sandwich,” John tells her earnestly, and hey! He’s totally high, how had he not noticed that?

“Indeed,” she replies amiably, and turns him around so he’s limping back towards the infirmary. “I can’t believe how much Vicodin Carson gave you.”

“There’s nothing,” John informs her, accepting her supporting arm without meaning to, “more serious than nearly losing a testicle.”

“It would be a crying shame,” Dr. Biro agrees.

9.

When John wakes up again, he’s acutely aware of the throbbing in his right thigh and he figures Biro got to Carson and told him about John’s little drug-addled flight attempt. Still, John appreciates feeling more clear-headed and is fairly certain that this time he’ll be able to escape cleanly.

“I put your ad back up,” Rodney’s voice says. John opens his eyes to see that McKay is sitting in one of the hard-backed plastic chairs that line the infirmary.

“Why?” John asks, sitting up and kicking the blankets back with his good leg.

“Because,” Rodney snaps, “it’s recently become apparent to me that it would be a shame if something happened to you before you --”

“--Spawned another laconic flyboy with ten times more hair product than survival instinct?” John offers with a half-smile as he struggles with getting his feet pointing off the mattress. He wants to tell Rodney that he’s not actually after reproducing, he’s more into figuring out what twisted soul would look for a sperm donor among the ranks of the Atlantis crew. But typically, Rodney doesn’t give him a chance to speak.

“I’m making a gesture here,” Rodney tells him, waving his hands. “Go forth and multiply, if that’s what you really want! I’m bowing out of the race.” He stands and takes John’s leave with a little prim nod.

And now there’s no point in telling Rodney anything, because it would seem that John’s managed to get Rodney away from the crazy lady without even meaning to. John closes his mouth tightly and slides down from the bed, favoring his left leg and ignoring the deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction that won’t go away.

10.

The next day, John gets a PDF questionnaire in his new e-mail from someone using a depressingly non-descript e-mail alias. Apparently 452643q3@atlantis.net wants to know all about John -- everything from shoe size to eyesight, from his religious beliefs to his plans for the future.

John really can’t be bothered to fill out the damn thing, so he closes the file and catches up on his weapons inventory instead. Still, he does feel a bit smug when he meets Rodney in the cafeteria for lunch and learns that more than half of Rodney’s physics team has received a politely worded reply asking them to go fuck themselves.

“But Zelenka got the questionnaire,” Rodney adds, “even though I can’t see the appeal. And Parrish, of all people, got one too. It’d serve this woman right if her child comes out all green and photosynthesizing.”

“Any pattern to the rejections?” John asks, curious in spite of himself.

“Seems completely random from what I can tell,” Rodney shrugs. “How about you?”

“Rejected,” John lies easily, giving Rodney his pudding cup and taking Rodney’s yogurt in exchange.

“Must be random, then,” Rodney mutters to himself.

“Um. Thank you?” John says, looking up from his tray.

Rodney actually seems a bit flustered for a moment, as though he hadn’t meant to say the words aloud. “Well, I just think that any sensible --” he begins brashly, then cuts himself off. “Of course, she wouldn’t know who you were just from --”

“You think she should pick me?” John asks, oddly flattered.

“Genetically speaking,” says Rodney, as though he’s about to launch into a lengthy explanation, but he stops there. “Well. Yes.” He digs into his pudding and talks around the mouthful of butterscotch. “I mean, if I’m not in the running.”

“You really feel some sort of moral obligation to --” prompts John, finishing the sentence with a wave of his spoon. “Madison doesn’t count?”

“Cherub-faced she may be, but don’t forget that my niece is half English major,” Rodney cautions with a moue of distaste.

“Someday your princess will come, Rodney,” John promises with a smirk.

McKay shoots John look of bemusement mixed with something John can’t readily identify, but doesn’t reply. Instead, he begins a diatribe on something idiotic he discovered in the botany lab that morning.

John eats his yogurt in comfortable silence, wondering if there’s a casual way of asking Rodney about his shoe size. He figures that he already knows pretty much everything else.

11.

Beckett’s keeping John off active duty for a week while his bullet graze heals, which is totally ridiculous. To prove his point, John goes for a run with Ronon. But by the time he’s made it up to the catwalks, John has the vivid sensation of someone pressing a hot poker along inside of his thigh and it’s not quite as ridiculous anymore for Beckett to keep him grounded.

“I thought maybe none of your women were fertile,” Ronon says while John grips the railing and tries to pretend he’s doing stretches instead of maintaining a grip on consciousness.

When the weirdness of this statement registers through John’s haze of pain, he manages to look askance.

Ronon shrugs in response. “I figured that your people wouldn’t let women come to such a dangerous place unless it was certain that they wouldn’t bear young.”

John takes a deep breath. “Now, I distinctly recall having an awkward conversation with you the week you came, about this exact topic.” It was truly horrifying, made all the worse by the fact that John couldn’t get a real banana and had to use a peach-colored squash-thing that Teyla had brought from the mainland. “Our people are pretty good at not having babies if we don’t want them.”

“You said it wasn’t foolproof,” Ronon says. “Besides, most of the women you brought here are too old for babies.”

A year ago, John might have argued this, but he’s been in Pegasus long enough now to observe the way the Wraith have affected human reproduction practices. On most worlds, it’s the teenagers who have children, because older parents have too slim a chance of living to see their offspring grown. “Men, too,” John concedes, feeling older than usual with the fiery stripe on his leg lighting up his nerves.

“At first I thought it was better this way,” Ronon tells John. “Warriors shouldn’t have children. It’s a weakness.”

“I’ve always thought so,” John agrees. Now that the flares of pain are ebbing, John can feel where he’s pulled some stitches, the fresh blood that’s seeping through the dressing.

“But then I realized that you can’t fight for a world where you have no future.”

John straightens his torso and catches Ronon’s gaze. “If you say the words ‘the children are our future’ I’m going to jump off this catwalk.”

Ronon’s grin only catches half his mouth. “You’re spending too much time with McKay.”

“Was there a point to all this?” John asks, a little shortly, because his damn leg really hurts now and he’s going to have to go and admit what he did to Beckett.

“I just mean that vengeance is a short endgame. And I’m okay with that.” Ronon slaps his open palm against the railing, averting his eyes. “But that’s just for me. Most of you need something to fight for, something other than the past.”

John holds his breath for three counts of three, thinking of Sateda, its emptiness and Ronon’s silence the first time he saw it. Compared to that, John considers his own empty childhood, the desert outside Kabul, his stay in Antarctica -- all this time, he’s thought that he and Ronon were two of a kind.

“I don’t want a baby,” John says, giving up on machismo because there’s no point when he’s watched Ronon take an arrow to the leg and keep running. He cups his hand over his wound and presses down, wincing.

“You should want something,” Ronon tells John, matter-of-fact. “Come on, let’s get you to the infirmary.”

12.

“Do you believe that the children are our future?” John asks Rodney in the physics lab, mostly to make Rodney choke on his mouthful of powerbar and watch him flail with his hands in the air.

Once Rodney swallows and treats John to a glare of death, he wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and asks, “Are you completely mental?”

John waits with a patient smile.

“Oh god, did your close brush with sterility actually make you insane?” Rodney pursues, going from outrage to panic in the space of a second. “Because if you’re seriously going to go around quoting Whitney Houston I may need to get some kind of restraining order.”

John settles on a stool beside Rodney and plunks his elbows onto the lab bench so he can rest his chin on his hands. It’s three in the morning and he’s still numb and cheerful from the painkillers Beckett injected into his arm before letting him go a second time. “I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs,” he tells Rodney earnestly.

Rodney’s eyes bug out and he launches off his own stool. “That’s it, where’s my radio? I need Heightmeyer to come down here. Do they still use straitjackets? They’ll probably have to sedate me, too.”

“Rodney,” John says, grabbing him by the arm. “Breathe.”

Rodney shakes his forearm out of John’s grip, but he does settle down. “Is there a reason you came to terrify me in my lab in the middle of the night?”

John isn’t actually sure why he’s here, except it’s a little bit of the painkillers and a little bit of the need to quote ‘The Greatest Love of All’ to Rodney and maybe a little bit of what Ronon said while John was in a suggestible state brought on by pain. “I got the questionnaire,” he admits.

“You said you were rejected,” Rodney says, eyes wide.

“I filled it out for you,” John continues. “I had to guess on your shoe size. Eleven?”

“Eleven and a half,” Rodney corrects, stunned. “Why would you --”

“Because you shouldn’t end here,” John tells Rodney, trying for casual and missing by about three semi-tones.

“Neither should you,” Rodney returns numbly after a beat.

John can’t quite explain what he’s realized: that even if John’s endgame is short, he likes the idea of knowing that Rodney’s isn’t. It’s sort of a future by proxy, and it’s not quite what Ronon meant, but John’s surprised to find that it’s good enough. It feels good enough.

“What happened to telling me I was crazy to do this?” Rodney asks bitterly, fading out of surprise into his usual self.

John lifts one shoulder. “That was before I thought it through.”

They both leave the silence between them for the space of a minute, which tells John that Rodney’s very tired and that John’s less high than he was when he came in the door. Finally Rodney claps his hands down on the lab bench and exhales briskly. “I need more coffee,” he announces, and heads for the coffee maker.

John leans forward and rests his head on his folded arms. He’ll just stay for a little while.

13.

Radek shakes John awake just as the sunrise is breaking through the windows. “You were working on a project together?” he asks in soft tones, tilting his head towards Rodney, who’s drooling on the lab bench beside John.

John stretches and groans at the throbbing in his leg. “No, just being idiotic.”

“Ah, the usual,” says Radek, and heads for his lab station without waking Rodney.

John staggers to his feet, rubbing his eyes, and decides to leave Rodney alone too. He’ll be horrible when he wakes, ornery from sleeping upright like that, grouchier still from having been left that way, and John knows when to avoid a situation like that. He leaves Radek and Rodney alone in the lab and makes his way back to his quarters to catch up on sleep.

His new e-mail account is quiet for several days afterwards, and for a while things are almost back to normal. Rodney comes up with a new way of shielding the jumpers that draws on the power of an attacker’s blast to strengthen the field. Elizabeth replaces the ornaments in the conference room with some of her least favorite tokens from her least favorite peoples, but she still enforces a ‘no feet on the table’ rule. Teyla takes advantage of John’s time off-duty and goes to the mainland to help with a new fence enclosure. Ronon makes no mention of their strange conversation. And Beckett finally agrees that John is fit for offworld duty again.

Which is, of course, when John gets an e-mail -- to his regular account -- from Heightmeyer, requesting that he make an appointment with her.

John’s first (insane) thought is that Ronon went to Heightmeyer. His second (accurate) guess is that it was Rodney who went, that Rodney told Heightmeyer that John was quoting 80s power ballads and committing sperm donor fraud and that he clearly needs professional help (which, okay, in that context it sort of sounds like John does).

He knows he isn’t getting off the hook this time, though, so John replies to the e-mail and makes an appointment with Heightmeyer for that afternoon.

He starts right off by saying, “Beckett has a heavy hand when it comes to Vicodin, so whatever Rodney told you --”

And Kate stands there with her hand frozen in a gesture towards one of her armchairs, looking stricken and shocked all at once, and John abruptly knows that Rodney didn’t go to Heightmeyer at all.

“I’m just going to sit down now,” John finishes meekly.

“Okay,” Heightmeyer agrees, nervous. “Uh, John. The reason I asked you here today is that I have a couple of papers I’d like you to sign.”

And when she explains, John realizes that he’s in a world of trouble.

14.

“I thought,” John snaps out to Rodney over the table before their pre-mission briefing later, “that e-mail aliases were confidential. I thought you couldn’t trace someone’s user identity from a fake account.”

“Why would you think that?” asks Rodney, baffled by John’s apparent stupidity.

“Because it’s sort of the definition of an alias,” John manages, feeling like his head’s going to explode.

“Well, yes. I mean, on the surface I suppose it is. But anyone who’s borderline competent with computers could search the intranet and find out which user created an alias.” Rodney is unconcerned. In fact, he’s blithely pouring himself some more coffee.

“Why do you bother with an alias then?” John bites out.

“Come on, I hardly use my own username to create an alias. I have a phantom user account for that,” Rodney says, in a tone that says, ‘everyone does, you ass.’ “You know, you trade Phil in IT for a phantom username, and you use it to --” It hits Rodney mid-sentence. “Oh, god, you used your own username to create millenniumfalcon?”

“Nobody told me about Phil in IT before!” John exclaims.

“Everyone knows about Phil in IT,” Rodney answers, irritably. “I thought you knew too!”

“Gun toting hands!” John cries in answer, waving his fingers in the air. “Not one of you!”

“Oh, god, so you used my identity on your account for that questionnaire?” Rodney says, catching on. “Like a crazy person?”

John is about to tell Rodney that it’s far, far worse than that, but Elizabeth has arrived with Teyla and they’re cheerfully talking about cattle husbandry and John’s panic attack seems out of place. He avoids Rodney’s gaze for the duration of the meeting, but Rodney catches up with him as they’re suiting up for the gate trip.

“Well?” Rodney asks, hands on hips, his gun holster fastened crooked so it’s sliding down his thigh.

“Well,” John says, pulling his tac vest over his jacket before he rips his badges off his shoulders.

“Well, you heard something, right? And it was based on my answers, not yours, so -- did I get picked?” Rodney prompts. His Canadian flag patch is stuck to the Velcro on his tac vest fastener.

“It was my username,” John stalls.

“Oh, please don’t tell me she found your name and swooned all over the place at the prospect of her ovaries meeting your sperm face to face,” Rodney groans. “This is because of my shoe size, isn’t it? You should have put eleven and a half, she thinks I’m not well-endowed enough.”

“That’s not exactly what happened,” John says. “And what the hell are you talking about? My feet are size eleven.”

“What -- really? Huh,” Rodney says, casting an appraising eye at John’s fly.

“McKay!”

“Your thigh holster is falling off,” Ronon says to Rodney, pushing between the two of them on his way out of the locker room. “And your flag is stuck to your vest.”

John watches Ronon as he goes out the door, then turns back to see Rodney fumbling with his holster, clearly agitated beyond the point of fine motor control. “Here, let me,” John says in a long-suffering way, and grabs the straps, and just.

Stops.

Rodney’s leg is hot under John’s fingers, solid and stable, his knee crooked as his foot rests on the bench for balance, and suddenly all John can feel is this overwhelming flood of relief. Rodney is here, he’s alive and vital and under John’s hand, he’s free and he fights for his survival and his life matters. It matters to John.

“Are you having a seizure?” Rodney asks, leaning in to scrutinize John’s face. “You’re not about to find the strength in loving yourself, are you?”

John grabs Rodney’s jaw, bends his head. Rodney’s lips are soft and wide and lopsided with surprise, but then they’re tightening, opening, pressing back, and John exhales hard through his nose because this is crazy and impossible and so fucking great that he’s actually thinking that Ronon might be a genius.

They pull back hastily when they hear a locker slam two banks over, and John bites his lips against a giddy smile as he bows his head to work on Rodney’s holster again.

“So, she really did choose you and that was some kind of consolation prize?” ventures Rodney, but it doesn’t sound like his voice. It’s quiet and tentative and almost scared.

John slaps Rodney’s knee as he finishes with the holster. “Come on, let’s go.”

He can hear the slight hesitation before Rodney falls into step behind him. John knows Rodney's already wondering if that really happened, if John really-- And to be honest, John feels the same way. If it weren't for the unfamiliar energy singing along the lines of John's nerves, the way everything’s suddenly brighter and more immediate and closer to his skin, he wouldn’t quite believe it either.

“I just need to know,” Rodney says, more loudly, as they head for the door, “which one of us she chose.” But thankfully the gate is in front of them and Elizabeth’s standing there waiting to say goodbye, and John thinks he just might get to put off this inevitably awkward conversation for a few more hours.

15.

It turns out that they have plenty of time to talk while they’re bound to a lodgepole in a ceremonial hut, back to back and hoping like hell that Ronon and Teyla are going to do that thing where they come to the rescue because Rodney’s useless and John can’t reach his knife from here.

“Does this rope look like hemp to you?” Rodney asks, and John has to take a moment to appreciate that Rodney’s really become much calmer offworld over the past few years. “Are we being held captive by a civilization of potheads?”

“For potheads, they sure can tie a hell of a sheepshank,” John answers, twisting his wrists inside the rope and only managing to skim off a layer of skin cells like a bracelet.

“Sheepshank?” repeats Rodney skeptically.

“We don’t do a lot of knotwork in the USAF,” John apologizes, and twists his hands again. His fingers brush against something soft and warm and he realizes that he’s touching Rodney’s fingers.

Normally Rodney would say something about John playing handsies in a life-or-death kind of situation, and normally John would retreat hastily and keep trying to struggle free, but Rodney’s skin catches John’s breath again, and they are both still, feeling that tiny point of contact.

Rodney’s hand shifts until John can count one, two, three wide fingertips pressed into John’s loose fist. The fingers curl, then release, stroking the soft skin inside John’s third joints, close-clipped nails blunt and neat against John. John exhales hard through his nose, then dips his chin to his chest with embarrassment as he hears himself. “Don’t you want to talk about your genius genes?” John asks, casting about for some distraction even as he curls his fingers in return.

“Not -- not really,” answers Rodney, almost breathless. He wriggles his hand a bit more and then the broad pad of the base of his thumb is there, moving in circles, catch and miss, against John’s palm.

“What about how I kissed you in the locker room?” tries John, who can’t quite believe he’s actually having difficulty coaxing words from Rodney McKay. Rodney, who’s now managed to get his fingertips interlocked into the webs of John’s fingers and is teasing the soft young skin there, rhythmically and slowly.

“No, I’m good with that,” Rodney reassures John as he continues to seduce John’s hand, which is curling and flexing in response, like a cat’s tail.

“The proof for Fermat’s last theorem and how Andrew Wiles stole the idea from y--” John breaks off abruptly, because Rodney suddenly gives up on subtlety and just clenches John’s hand, holding tight for the space of two loud shaky breaths (Rodney’s, John is pretty sure) before relaxing again.

“God, don’t talk about math, I’m indecent enough. I don’t want to wind up with a bondage fetish here,” Rodney murmurs.

John is ready to tease the hell out of Rodney for that until he shifts restlessly and recognizes that he’s pretty damn hard himself. He tries to let go of Rodney’s hand, half-heartedly returning to his escape attempt, but Rodney’s fingers won’t release him and they’ve started moving in small ellipses again, tracing the surface of John’s palm, its pillows and lines.

“This probably isn’t the best place for --” tries John finally, but he loses his train of thought almost immediately when he realizes that he’s got his eyes closed, to better focus on the amazing things McKay can do with just an immobilized hand. And that makes John wonder what McKay might do with both hands free, what he might create out of the whole of John’s body instead of the scant few square inches of skin he can reach right now, how McKay’s square serious fingers could take John apart, render him down into components, rewire him in some brilliant and unexpected way, and make John light up in whole new places.

Then Rodney stops moving, pulls his hand back. “You okay?”

John has to blink hard and rediscover his tongue before he can answer. He’s weighted and heated and only firing at about two percent on his verbal skills. “Yeah,” he answers, hearing the roughness of his voice.

“Your breathing,” says Rodney by way of explanation. “Has this really got you that worked up?”

“We need to get out of here,” John says, suddenly frantically pulling at their restraints.

“Please tell me that’s your big gay hard-on talking and not your heterosexual militaristic panic,” Rodney says, pulling and twisting as well.

John wisely doesn’t answer, and half a minute later he wrenches one hand free and goes for the knife they didn’t find in his tac vest so he can cut McKay loose. He hunkers down behind Rodney and saws at the rope, trying not to notice how good Rodney smells up close.

“I’m no good with mixed messages, Colonel,” Rodney says tightly, clearly confused, so John allows himself a very unmixed message: he pauses for a moment and leans in close, draws his mouth in a shaky line up to the point of hair at the base of Rodney’s neck. Rodney’s back goes arrow-straight as he says, “We need to get out of here.”

They find Teyla and Ronon in the next hut over, and their weapons are stacked up behind a third hut. John feels safe with a P-90 in his hands again, grounded and normal except for the way he’s wanting, aching all over. The butt of his gun is cooling his heated skin, but it’s not right and it’s not enough.

Enough has to wait until they’re through the gate. “Okay, let’s move,” he hisses, impatient with Teyla and the careful way she’s checking her ammo clip, with Ronon and his myriad blades, and with Rodney -- Rodney with his hands.

If they’re at all taken aback by John’s haste, John doesn’t pause to observe it, just takes their point and sprints out of the village. Behind him he hears Rodney saying, “What? What? Do I have food on my face or something?” in a defensive way, and he thinks maybe Ronon’s the one Rodney’s talking to, but John just keeps running until the gate’s in view.

“IDC,” he orders briskly because his is gone, is probably still lying in the dust back in the village, and he’s almost giddy at the thought, trying not to laugh while Rodney dials Atlantis and Teyla taps in her code. “Crap, who’s got a radio?” he asks, and Teyla shoots him a wide-eyed look of disbelief before handing him a handheld unit.

And then they’re stepping through the gate, they’re standing on the other side, and Elizabeth has that line of tension between her brows that means she’s torn between wanting to cry with frustration at her team’s ability to make enemies or with relief that they made it back whole and together. “Debriefing in the morning,” John announces, stripping off his tac vest and shuffling his gun from one hand to the other.

Then Ronon takes the P-90 from him, laying his hand on John’s shoulder in passing, and John might even take a second to look up and nod to Ronon, but mostly John’s thinking about need and want and how long it’s been since he’s let himself be this selfish. How good it feels, and how he’d forgotten.

“Okay, let’s,” John begins, turning to Rodney before recalling that, yes, they’re in the gateroom and yes, everyone’s sort of looking at John like he’s lost his mind. “Uh. Goodnight.” And he lets himself meet Rodney’s gaze for only the barest of instants, but it’s long enough that John knows Rodney will be on his heels as he leaves.

16.

“You’re not drugged, are you?” asks Rodney with his wrists up over his head and his body pressed into the wall of John’s quarters. “Turn on the lights, I want to see if your pupils are blown like a stroke victim.”

“You always know exactly the wrong thing to say,” John tells him fondly, and unbuckles Rodney’s pants with the hand that’s not holding Rodney’s wrists. “Now shut up, because we’re going to have sex.”

“Is this where I call you Colonel and you make me salute you with various body parts?” asks Rodney, but the worry’s gone from his voice and John thinks that Rodney sounds good good good when he gets all relaxed and horny like this. He pushes his nose into the space under Rodney’s earlobe and breathes him in while his palm fits itself around the perfect curve of Rodney’s cock. The motion makes Rodney’s breath stop and catch, and his hips move forward, pushing John back a little so they both almost overbalance.

“Let’s just,” John pants, dropping his hands and pulling at his t-shirt, taking a step back so he can strip more efficiently. It takes Rodney a second to catch on, but then he’s toeing out of his boots and hopping on one foot towards John’s bed while pulling off his socks, and John loves it, loves the awkwardness and normalcy and the way he and McKay keep bumping elbows and knees as they race towards --

This.

Everything seems to stop, suspended in breathlessness when they clamber naked onto the mattress and their skins collide almost accidentally, shoulder to shoulder and ankle to ankle, hip to hip and mouth to mouth. They are warm and a little sweat-sticky from the past half-hour and for a long instant they don’t kiss, just brush close and breathe each other’s air.

Then Rodney’s hand, the same hand that was driving John to insanity earlier, comes up and insinuates itself into John’s hair, not gently but urgently, tugging John so that his chin cants upwards and his mouth falls open and Rodney takes John’s mouth in the hungry way he takes everything he wants.

And it’s possible that John always resented that before now, resented that Rodney always wants things and shows it, that he takes and has this grand sense of entitlement like his appetites and desires hold more weight than anybody’s, and yes, John can vaguely recall it bothering him, but at this exact moment it seems like the greatest idea John’s ever had presented to him. And so he pulls back from the kiss, breathing hard, and pushes at Rodney’s shoulder, saying, “God, god, turn over, I need you to --”

And Rodney just goes, he gets his elbows under him and his knees, and just like that, John is being handed everything he’s wanted for so long that he stopped knowing he even wanted it: Rodney, under him, the arch of spine away from hips down into the butterfly of shoulder blades, the breadth and solidity of Rodney, his sturdiness and immediacy, and god, his gorgeous ass.

John takes it all, has it, and still can’t quite believe it somehow, even as he slides in tight, even as he hears the hitch and sigh and groan of Rodney’s voice. John has to promise himself more time, more of this next time, more of a chance to really let it sink in, that this is happening, but right now -- now, now -- John is quickly losing touch with linear thought.

Then Rodney’s talking, of course Rodney’s talking, and he’s saying things like, “Just, god, just like -- harder, right there, right there, yeah.” And John can do that, harder and right there, and that’s when Rodney starts to go to pieces under John’s hands, he fractures along planes that John never even knew Rodney had, breaks in places that have him saying things like, “Yes, you’re incredible, yes,” and “Can’t handle this, oh god,” before Rodney goes silent and still and then shivers hard. John gets his hand there just in time, in time to feel Rodney come, which pushes John right to the point of breaking himself, and the next thing he’s aware of, he’s collapsed with his face pressed into Rodney’s shoulder and Rodney’s saying, “Okay, you’re seriously misaligning my back right now.”

They separate and flop onto their backs next to one another and John can’t help but roll his head to the side and just grin at Rodney. “That was good,” he drawls, lazy and sated.

“Mmm,” says Rodney neutrally, but it’s the tone he uses when Zelenka gets a really good idea and Rodney’s trying not to show how much he likes it. “You’re really not high? I mean, you’re not about to start singing another torch song?”

“Not high,” John reassures him. “Though I can’t promise about the singing.” So they lie there and John listens to the roaring of his pulse, waits for it to subside to the point that John can make out the familiar sounds of the ocean against the east pier outside. "It was Heightmeyer," he says finally.

"You were thinking about my shrink?" Rodney asks, sounding like he’d like to be outraged.

“The woman who placed the ad,” John clarifies. He reaches across the space between them and takes two of Rodney’s fingers in his fist, squeezing. “Heightmeyer’s the one who asked for a sperm donor.”

It takes a minute to register, and then Rodney is abruptly tense. “Oh my god, I can’t have a baby with Heightmeyer!” Rodney babbles. “I know what she’s doing, she’s going to use my genes to try and reboot my personality. She’s totally given up on me, so she’s going to raise my offspring and do it right this time, and my kid will grow up with these disgusting balanced social views and he’ll have insights into human behavior and he’s probably going to be a Tarot reader or a sociologist or something!”

“Rodney, slow down a second,” John orders, easing onto his side and throwing an arm over Rodney’s hyperventilating chest, “It’s not what you’re thinking.”

“I knew she was giving me a funny look during our last session. I thought it was because I told her about my fear of mitten strings, but she was totally coveting my sperm!”

“She wasn’t,” John interjects firmly, pressing his mouth to the side of Rodney’s neck because it’s right there and looks like it needs attention. “She wasn’t coveting anyone’s sperm.” He pauses for a moment. “Mitten strings? Really?”

“Stop trying to distract me with your --” Rodney says, waving his hand in John’s face but not actually preventing him from kissing Rodney’s neck again. “I’m thinking here. You harlot.”

“It was for a study,” John tells Rodney, palming his hip. “She’s writing a paper on the reproductive instincts of males in dangerous workplaces and she was collecting data.”

Rodney lifts his head from the pillow to meet John’s eyes. “She what? That’s -- it violates all kinds of -- well, it’s got to be against the Geneva Convention or something.”

“She had a computer program randomizing the questionnaire responses and stripping them of any identifying data. It just spit out the names of applicants for her to contact so they could sign confidentiality clauses and releases,” John tells him. “It’s all above-board, but she needed the pretense to get the responses she wanted.” He winces, remembering the very professional way in which Heightmeyer had avoided saying anything like, “Colonel? You?”

Rodney digests this for a while. “So -- no sperm required.”

“Not by her,” John agrees, and strokes his hand up and down Rodney’s side.

“And no free sex,” Rodney adds, sounding more disappointed.

“I’m not exactly charging by the hour here,” John points out, a little irritably, lifting up his hand and wiggling it.

Rodney looks ready to snap back a typically insulting response but then his eyes go a deeper shade of blue and his mouth softens. “Do you think you could talk about math again?” he asks hopefully.

“That,” John says, grimly, “is gonna cost you.”

“I still have half a chocolate granola bar in the lab,” Rodney offers earnestly after a moment’s thought.

John drops his head back onto Rodney’s chest and laughs.