The whole thing started when Yertel asked McKay, “If you have had trouble bearing fruit, there are many men in this camp who will be happy to help,” and Rodney said, “What? Oh, no, our fruit supplies are fine—actually, I’m allergic to citrus anyway so I’m bigger on you know, cake,” which turned out to be some sort of near-tacit admission of infertility on P6X-990.
“What the fuck, McKay!” John yelled. “I can’t take you anywhere!”
“How was I supposed to know men—” Rodney stumbled over the words, making a face”—gestated their young! It’s not like it’s my fault! And why do they think I’m the one ‘bearing fruit’ anyway! I’m obviously a pollinator.”
Ronon frowned at him. “I thought you were allergic to bees.”
John stared at Ronon and seriously, seriously questioned his hiring decisions, while Rodney sputtered, and Teyla put her hand on her face, sighing, “Maybe it will not make a difference either way. Children are celebrated in this galaxy but not all are lucky enough to have them.”
But later Yertel had put on his most severe-looking frown—which was saying something for a guy who looked like a Norman Rockwell grandfather at Christmas, balancing a three-year-old on his hip—and said, “I am sorry, Colonel Sheppard, and I know it is cruel in the face of Doctor McKay’s barrenness, but our people find it difficult to trust those who do not have the trust of children.”
“Really, it’s not that Doctor McKay is infertile,” John invented rapidly.
Brightening, Yertel said, “Oh?”
“Yeah,” John said, feeling Rodney’s glare burning into the back of his neck. “He’s just—you know. Waiting for the right guy to come along and uh.” John winced, imagining months of cold showers and electric shocks. “Make him with child. And stuff.”
Looking delighted, Yertel laughed, “Why did you not say so earlier! We have many virile young warriors who would love to help fill your doctor with their seed!”
Behind him, Rodney made a choking noise.
Well-timed, a group of strapping, sweating men tromped into the village, visible through the opened flaps of Yertel’s central tent. They were covered in dirt and clapping one another on their enormous biceps and doing a lot of ass-slapping that John remembered from high school gym class.
“They are usually very effective,” Yertel went on, generous. “My men have been known to preserve their essence so that those in need can be provided for in overflowing—”
“Oh, my God,” Rodney broke in, shoving John aside to say through gritted teeth, “Thank you, really, for the offer—but I fully intend on finding someone among my own people to bless me with their overflowing seed, okay?”
Yertel looked concerned. “Are you sure?” He motioned toward the crowd outside the door, many of whom were now peering in curiously. “Jaspar would be more than happy to take you to his bed and fill your womb.”
John bit down as hard as he could on the inside of his mouth and squeezed his eyes shut.
“I’m sure,” Rodney said, dreadful. “Now can we please talk about that naquadah instead?”
And maybe this just proved what John’s old CO said about him never learning, but he’d honestly thought that was the end of it—the best teacher’s he’d never known had graded for effort, so really, as long as McKay kept dropping in occasional, “Oh, sure, I had four people flood my womb just yesterday,” comments every time they visited Yertel’s people, he thought they were home free.
“Way to sound like a slut, McKay,” John muttered.
“Honestly, Rodney,” Teyla said, disapproving. “Four? You would be very sore.”
“That’s gotta be like throwing a pencil down a mine shaft at this point,” said Ronon, who had learned how to use Microsoft Excel for the express purpose of making a chart of all of McKay’s supposed donors, which he emailed to the rest of the team once a week, always to solicit an “I HATE YOU ALL,” email from Rodney an hour later.
Rodney threw a rock at Ronon’s head and went back to his readings, muttering about keigel exercises and naquadah purity and how he should have taken that fellowship at Berkeley.
“Colonel,” Yertel said to him later, over a casual dinner, “I was hoping to discuss with you Doctor McKay.” He looked sad. “And his trouble conceiving.”
“He’s real broken up over it,” John lied, seeing Rodney eat his twelfth Coreenian meat pie of the day out of the corner of his eye. Rodney said loudly, “I’m trying to eat for two here.”
Nodding sympathetically, Yertel said, “I can see that—but Colonel, do you not feel you have done him a great disservice?”
Yertel probably didn’t know about the code John had snuck into Rodney’s Ubuntu machine that re-routed all traffic to normal porn sites into a massive archive of smutty Disney drawings, so he said, “No?”
“Colonel,” Yertel said, gentle, “do you not think you have an obligation to help him with his troubles?”
John tried to imagine lining up potential impregnators for Rodney, and the only people he could think of were the particularly violent and trash-talky new marines with razor-sharp haircuts and an obvious case of the closeted gays.
It could only end in tragedy, so he said, honest, “I’m not actually sure what all I could uh, do to help him with said troubles.”
“My people are unhappy about Doctor McKay’s lack of child, Colonel Sheppard, and saddened by his failure,” Yertel went on. “You seem like a very capable leader and I am sure you’ve given seed blessings to many before.”
There had been one pregnancy scare, but mostly John remembered that involving expensive long-distance calls as Jennifer Conner threatened to twist his nuts off and stuff them down his throat until the second pregnancy test had come up negative.
“Okay,” John agreed. “Sure.”
Nodding, Yertel said, “Then in that case, I believe it would be in the best interest our two peoples’ continued ability to trade for you and Doctor McKay to combine efforts to receive the blessing of a child.”
John choked on his mouthful of berry wine hard enough that Rodney came over and tried to perform the Heimlich on him—with Yertel smiling indulgently the entire time.
“Well,” Rodney said when John told him about it later, “I suppose in terms of genetic contributors, it could be worse.” He’d looked John up and down. “At least our kids won’t be fat.”
Scowling, John said, “Thanks, McKay.”
“Although honestly, you’d be last choice in terms of responsible parenting,” Rodney went on, blithe. “I mean, you have the survival instincts of a gnat.”
“Just for that,” John snapped, “see if I douse your womb with my seed.”
“We must spend less time on this planet,” Teyla told him, looking vaguely ill. “I do not think it becomes you and Rodney to spend so much time discussing ejaculation.”
Ronon snorted.”Better update the list.”
“Oh,” Rodney retorted, “don’t bother—that’s a field he’s so totally not plowing!”
“Sowing,” Ronon corrected, and then, reconsidering, said, “Well, actually.”
“We are leaving,” Teyla told John, glaring. “Now.”
In terms of a stalling tactic, that was going swimmingly (“How does Doctor McKay’s womb fair this month?” Yertel would ask, and John would say, “Uh, great. I went at it twice just this morning,” and Yertel would give him extra helpings of desert for good behavior at dinner) until Rodney finally lost patience with the entire Coreenian village coming to him and giving him fertility dolls, herbs—offers.
“Okay, you know what?” Rodney shouted one day, throwing up his arms. “I’m pregnant. I am totally so so so pregnant. He—” pointing at John “—knocked me up good—are you all happy now?”
They were. They threw a party and invited everybody.
“John,” Carter said, cocking an eyebrow at him when she stepped through the gate.
“I didn’t do it,” John said, knee-jerk.
In the background, Ronon was showing pictures of his fabricated brood of six to Yertel, who pored over them delightedly.
“Why do they all wear pastel clothing with collars?” Yertel asked.
Ronon said, “It’s what we make kids wear among my people,” when he actually meant, “Because I cut them out of John’s golf magazines before he even had a chance to read them because I’m a jerk.”
“Actually, that’s the exact opposite of what I hear,” Sam answered, wry.
“I didn’t actually do it,” John revised.
“Oh good,” Sam said, mouth twitching. “I’d hate to have to write a report detailing—the way it was detailed to me—how you fulfilled your duty as a leader of your people to give Rodney rivers of your essence.”
“Ugh,” was really all John could say.
The party was kind of amazing in a horrible way, with people coming up to give Rodney wreathes of flowers and annoint his head with oils—which led inevitably to sneezing fits and Yertel freaking out about the baby. Which was how John ended up in a giant pink tent with McKay, holding a linen cloth and hearing instructions to “bathe your beloved’s head with cool water.”
“Well?” Rodney asked, expectant and reclining on a mountain of cushions.
John threw the towel at his face. “You’re such a dick.”
Rodney threw it back at him. “I got tired of the coffee clatches to discuss why my fields weren’t fertilizing, all right,” he said, rolling his eyes. “And anyway, shouldn’t you be happy that I’ve overcome the ‘winter of my childbearing years’?”
“No,” John said stubborn. “We’d just warp her anyway.”
“Please, we’re totally having a boy,” Rodney sniffed.
John figured maybe his high school guidance counselor had been right about him having trouble expressing his feelings, because it took him getting shot on P4X-001 a week later before he got himself to say, “You know, I actually wanted a daughter.”
“What?”Rodney said, looking frantic, his jacket red up to the elbows in John’s blood. There was a medical team coming in from Atlantis but John was lightheaded and getting further and further into orbit with every second. “You want a what?”
“A daughter,” he slurred. “I think a girl would be nice.”
Rodney stared at him for a moment before he laughed, slightly hysterical. “That would be such a bad idea,” he said finally, “can you just imagine trying to raise a girl? And then letting creeps date her and touch her hair and try to get in her pants?”
John looked at Rodney as seriously as he could with his blurring vision. “I do have a machine gun.”
“That’s a good point,” Rodney said, sounding slightly crazed, and that was when the medical team showed up with painkillers and pressure bandages and shoved McKay off of him.
John spent most of his time recovering driving the medical staff crazy, and after Keller finally tired of trying to placate him, she said, “Fine. You can go offworld again.” John had barely finished celebrating with a grin when she’d tapped her radio and said, “McKay—get Sheppard out of my infirmary.” Which was how John ended up, horrified, sitting in that pink tent again on P6X-990, listening to all a mix of women and men cooing indulgently as Rodney spun elaborate lies about his early pregnancy.
“Is this what you do all the time?” John hissed at him later, after Rodney finished telling hugely pregnant Coreenian men about his violent morning sickness and how John rubbed his feet every night.
Blinking, Rodney said, “Well, no. I only come to this substation to supervise every week or so.”
John scowled. “Did you tell all of them we’re having a boy?”
“We are,” Rodney argued.
“It’s too early to know that!” John complained. “And I don’t see why we can’t have a daughter.”
Rolling his eyes elaborately, Rodney said, “I promise: the next time, we’ll have a daughter, all right?”
“I guess,” John sulked, and then he said, “We should name the kid Han,” after which it became clear why his parents had finally settled on naming him “John,” because tribal wars over water sources were less vicious than arguments about what to name babies.
“Oh, hell no you are not doing that to our child,” Rodney said. “I’m carrying, I get to name the baby.”
“That’s not fair,” John pointed out. “I helped. I did all that flooding of your womb with my essence and stuff.”
Rodney waved his hand, dismissive. “Whatever—I’d die a thousand deaths before letting you name the kid Han. That’s a lifetime of getting stuffed into lockers waiting to happen.”
“Oh, I guess being named Meredith made you an authority on that sort of thing,” John shot back, even though he knew better.
“I was actually thinking about naming him Sam,” Rodney told him, imperious.
“Oh,” John said, “fuck no.”
And the conversation continued to devolve until they were dragging back into the gateroom at the end of a long day, Rodney pushing John’s wheelchair haphazardly as he shouted, “Why not! Sam is a great name! Sam is the name of my whale friend!”
John shouted back, “Do you think I’m an idiot! You are not naming the kid after your hopeless crush!”
Turning bright red, Rodney snapped, “It is not hopeless! She’s growing weaker to my advances daily!”
“You are such a whore, McKay,” John growled.
“I am carrying your child, you son of a bitch,” Rodney warned him, and the imprecation bounced off the cavernous walls of the gateroom in the utter silence that followed.
Sam cleared her throat over the citywide intercom, saying, “McKay, Colonel Sheppard—a private conference in my office, please?”
Keller was waiting for them outside of Sam’s office when they got there, sheepish and redfaced and still muttering about whose fault it was and no we’re not naming the baby Sam.
“You should have told me immediately,” Keller said, wringing her hands before she waved them indistinctly at Rodney’s midsection, distressed. “Who knows what kind of health risks you’ve put herself at all this time by not—”
“Dr. Keller,” Sam said, poking her head out of her office door, “Rodney is not actually pregnant.”
“It’s okay if you are,” Keller told them intensely, giving John a meaningful look. “Don’t ask, don’t tell doesn’t apply with the medical team.”
“But it does apply to the gateroom,” Sam cut in, giving Rodney a look. “Do I even want to know?”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Rodney tipped his chin, sniffing as he said, “He called me a slut.”
“You’re acting like one,” John muttered.
“Colonel Sheppard!” Keller squeaked.
“He really isn’t pregnant,” Carter repeated, giving Keller a worried look. “And Colonel Sheppard, I assume that you haven’t managed to disabuse the Coreenians of the notion that Rodney’s having your baby?”
“No,” John said, honest, but to be fair, he hadn’t been trying all that hard.
“So,” Keller asked Rodney, looking confused, “you’re not having a baby.”
Rodney rolled his eyes at her. “No, Keller—my body bears no fruit of Colonel Sheppard’s.”
“And if it did,” John rejoined, giving Rodney a meaningful glare, “I wouldn’t name the baby after a ‘whale friend’ because that is really tacky.”
“Wait,” Keller interrupted, “why would they think Rodney was pregnant?” And John could almost hear the click-click-click sound of dots connecting in her head as she shouted, “Wait—you mean the Coreenian males carry their offspring?”
“Oh, like anybody who takes lying ascended tramps for picnics can talk about being tacky,” Rodney shot back.
“How are you still not over that?” John yelled.
“Both of you shut up!” Carter said, and glaring until they subsided, she took a deep breath before saying:
“Dr. Keller, yes, the Coreenian males are the ones who carry their offspring—” Keller turned starry and opened her mouth “—but I can’t dispatch you to study their biology because Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay, to secure their cooperation for naquadah trade, had to convince them our people did the same thing, and we wouldn’t want to arouse suspicion.”
Keller gave John and Rodney a dirty look.
Sam then turned to Rodney and said, “McKay, I don’t care if you you think John’s exes are tramps or if you want to name your fake baby Starshine—don’t do it in my gateroom.”
Rodney gave her a narrow-eyed look. “You like me,” he said finally, satisfied. “Just admit it—the attraction is magnetic.”
“Ugh,” Sam told him, and turned to John. “And Colonel Sheppard?”
“I know,” John said, holding up his hands in defeat, “not in the gateroom.”
Sam rolled her eyes at both of them. “Now,” she said, “get out of my office.”
Aside from finishing all his emails to Rodney with, “PS: Han. Middle name, Solo,” and getting replies back with “re:PS OVER MY DEAD BODY,” John had mostly forgotten about the baby thing three months later.
Then he got a memo from Keller:
TO: r.mckay; j.sheppard
i saw the offworld roster for next week on the intranet yesterday and i thought i should send you two a note: i have no idea how coreenian biology works specifically (thanks guys), but in terms of human development, five months is high time to begin showing a baby bump.
Then McKay wrote back:
TO: j.keller; j.sheppard
SUBJECT: RE: coreenians
Oh, there is no way.
Also, just for the record: We’re NOT NAMING IT HAN.
Which belied the fact that Thursday saw Rodney in the infirmary stuffing a pillow under his shirt and letting Keller shape it—a completely creepy process that involved her frowning and punching at Rodney’s abdomen in a way that made John wince and think about back alley abortions.
“That looks really, really messed up,” he said.
“You’re telling me,” Rodney said, scowling. “What is this going to be—what twenty, thirty extra pounds?”
John made a vague noise. “You look fine,” he said, and tightened the last strap on his vest.
“Really?” Rodney asked, frowning at his reflection.
“Yes,” John sighed. “Can we just get on with it?”
The answer to that ended up being ‘no,’ because their arrival on P6X-990 was heralded with Yertel, flanked by a group of large-bellied cohorts—all of whom seemed determined to touch McKay’s (fake) baby bump.
“Uh,” John said, intercepting one, “look—our people have this big thing about touching pregnant people.”
Yertel frowned. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” John lied, experiencing vivid images of being chased out off of the planet when somebody touched Rodney’s bump too hard and two travel pillows popped out. “Don’t do it. It freaks me out. Really.”
“He’s very possessive,” Rodney said, breezy, striding off toward the makeshift refinery. “Last time somebody touched me, he beat three people to death with his bare hands.”
John vowed to smother McKay to death with the Han pillow, and gave Yertel a sickly smile. “It’s true.”
Yertel just nodded understandingly. “My Orin was the same the first time I was with child,” he said, comforting and putting a hand on John’s shoulder as he gave him a warm smile. “Besides—when it is your turn to carry the next baby, you would want Doctor McKay to be just as solicitous, correct?”
“Oh, sure,” John said, and decided his life had really gone off the rails at some point.
A month later, well into the tail end of McKay’s fake second trimester, Keller started muttering about renting children from the Athosians to pose as McKay’s spawn, which was funny until John really started to think about it.
“Even if we managed to scam somebody out of their newborn, nobody’s kid would really look like us though,” John said one day over dinner.
“Appearance isn’t necessarily set in stone genetically,” Keller said, pointing between them with a sort-of French fry. “There’s a lot of variation, and it helps that neither of you have anything that’s guaranteed to pass down from father to son like a cleft chin or something.”
“Which would have been sidestepped entirely if we were having a daughter,” John said, mostly because he couldn’t help it and not because he was bitter any more. He was used to losing arguments to Rodney, and most of them more important than this one.
Rodney ignored him and said, “Which would have been sidestepped entirely if you hadn’t offered me up to Yertel as breeding stock.”
“He already thought you were,” John said helpfully. “He just wanted to know why you were defective.”
“Oh, well,” Rodney said, rolling his eyes. “Then I guess I’m so lucky you managed to fix me with your magical cock.”
Across the table, Lorne stared at them in undisguised horror.
Teyla said to him, “I know. I do not know what to do about it, either.”
“I think it’s cute,” Ronon said.
Walking past, Carter muttered, “I don’t even want to know.”
And then McKay started sending him emails about the whole thing, which would have been creepy except it was McKay. “Given that you and Colonel Carter voted down my vote not to give the biologists run of the power grid this week, I am stuck sitting around modeling without any way to do tests which leads me to my primary point that once you work out the actual genetics of it, it’s likely that our offspring would have your coloring and hopefully my ability to not be a dumbass,” McKay had written, which of course deserved a response like, “You are a dumbass, tho,” from John, who’d backspaced away the “ugh,” at the end because it’d make McKay claw at his thinning hair.
“As some point, you two should be aware,” Teyla told John a week later, “among my people, there is a saying: urionum parath mio tember.”
John stared at her, and Teyla sighed, explaining, “Do not tempt the Ancients, John, for they have a wicked sense of humor.”
As usual, Teyla was right; par for the course in the Pegasus Galaxy, she was right in the worst way possible.
Sometime in late November, P1X-978 was culled.
When John and Rodney and Teyla and Ronon landed the jumper on the planet, it was to see smoke, steam, destruction and dead bodies—corpses piled around. They’d only traded with the people there once before, for turnips and onions and an herb that did the same thing as aspirin without any of the side-effects, but John had liked them, and liked their hoppy beers. So he gritted his teeth and said, “McKay, you’re with Teyla—search the village for survivors.”
The only remaining people found were hidden in the forest, and of the half-dozen only four made it after they were rushed back to Atlantis for medical treatment: an infant boy and a four-year-old girl, an older man named Namuth and a woman named Jeera, who wept quietly, constantly, and couldn’t seem to talk. The rest were buried at sea, and the girl—Kora—clung to John’s pant leg and choked out little burbling sobs until he couldn’t take it anymore and pulled her up, held her tightly to his chest. She cried a wet spot into his shoulder and John put his cheek against her hair, murmuring hushing noises into her ear.
Namuth and Jeera were welcomed with the Athosians, and one of the families offered to take the children, too. Yertel hadn’t lied about the value of children in the Pegasus Galaxy, and John had felt a surge of something jealous and selfish when he’d seen the Athosian’s eyes light up at the thought of a little boy, a little girl—so few refugees that came to Atlantis were ever children; the Wraith usually collected them first, and John had swallowed hard and put a hand over Kora’s head when he’d thought about where her sisters had gone, her older brother.
Kora had been attached to John’s leg since he’d found her—hidden beneath a pile of brush, curled tightly around the baby and shaking in fear, and when John went to ask her if she’d like to go with the Athosians, she’d promptly burst into hysterical tears and clutched at his shirt.
“Okay, you suck at this,” Rodney told him, which John thought were fighting words coming from a guy who’d sent out a citywide S.O.S. yesterday after he’d tried to braid Kora’s hair and had knotted it so disastrously a phalanx of women had to be called out to avoid the use of scissors.
“You’re not helping, McKay,” John told him, and turned back to Kora saying, “Hey—Kora, come on. They’ll have other kids! They can play with you. It’ll be great, you’ll see—and—”
“I want to stay with you,” she hiccuped, rubbing tiny fists in her eyes. She was wearing an oversized black t-shirt as a dress, tied at the waist with a ribbon Teyla had dug up somewhere that matched the ribbons in her braids—and sitting on John’s bed crying, she was the most dangerous foe he’d ever come up against.
John made a strangled noise and looked up at Rodney. “McKay.”
Rodney, who was juggling the baby and a scanner and a bottle, was having none of it. “You wanted a daughter,” he said, “you figure it out.”
“I didn’t mean it that way!” Rodney shouted, boucing the baby on his hip, an hour after that, watching John fill out ream after ream of custody paperwork. “I mean—you’re a totally unfit mother! You’re a suicidal manorexic who can’t maintain any long term relationships!”
“I don’t care,” John said. “I’m keeping her.” He frowned down at the form. “Have I had a blood transfusion recently?” he read, baffled.
“Twelve weeks ago,” Rodney supplied, and added, “Besides which, now that she’s scammed you into keeping her—she’s obviously going to scam you into keeping this one, too.” He thrust the baby out at John—wild-eyed—and said, “Look at this!” The baby gurgled, and batted at John’s face with one spit-slick fist before going back to gnawing on it industriously.
John looked thoughtful. “We could call him Han,” he said, brightening.
Rodney snatched custody paperwork away from him. “I’m not trusting you with this,” he told John, slapped the pen out of his hands, and took it all away, clutching it under one arm as he hauled Han away, muttering to the baby, “Can you believe that idiot? You don’t want to be named something that’s going to get you beaten up in the gifted and talented day care, do you? I thought not.”
“You better not name him Sam, Rodney!” John called after him. “I swear to God!”
“When I said we should steal some children to pose as your own for the Coreenians, I was joking,” Keller teased, and then blew a raspberry on Max’s stomach. “Weren’t we joking, Max?”
Max made a giggling noise of agreement, and John thought—not for the first time—that maybe it was that the Atlanteans were as helplessly in love with children as everybody else in the Pegasus Galaxy. It made sense, and why else would Sam have let the paperwork go through? Slipped it in, unnoticed, and batch-processed with all the other odd requests that flowed through the wormhole.
Kora, perched on the exam table and looking down at the baby, asked, “What does the name Max mean?”
“I’m not sure,” John admitted. “But I think Rodney named him after a scientist.” Kora stared at him, unblinking. “Remind me to explain to you what the word ‘dweeb’ means over dinner tonight, okay?”
She beamed at him. “Okay,” she agreed, and reached over, smoothing her small palm over Max’s forehead and cooing. “He’s so small.”
Keller, pulling Max into her arms to take him over to the scanner, said, “Actually, Max is just the right size for his age.” She nodded at Kora. “Would you like to come see? We can listen to his heartbeat.” And Kora was already busy exclaiming over the rapid-fire thump-thump-thump of Max’s heart rhythm when Rodney showed up again, balancing four inches of paper and wearing a sour expression as he said:
“Well, congratulations, you’re a mom, Angelina Jolie.”
John glanced at the top sheet of paperwork—it wasn’t for him at all, but instead, read things like, “Dr. Rodney McKay” and “Maxwell Benjamin McKay.”
“Angelina Jolie?” John asked, glancing up to catch Rodney’s annoyed expression.
“You know,” he said, “her and Brad Pitt—their It’s A Small World rainbow of adopted babies?”
John frowned. “I thought Brad Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston.”
“You never read anything I forward to you,” Rodney complained, and whistling loudly, he said, “Kora—tell that witch doctor to hurry it up; I’m starving and they’re serving spaghetti and meatballs tonight.”
“Dr. Jennifer,” Kora asked Keller, “What’s a witch doctor?”
“It means Rodney loves getting shots,” Keller replied.
At dinner, everybody kept stopping by to snuggle Max, to give Kora Welcome to Atlantis! presents, to tell John and Rodney congratulations. And Lucas, one of the newer biologists, dropped in to give McKay a snide look and offer John his babysitting services, which he’d suggested with a longing look, before Rodney had given him a hard shove and said, “I cannot believe you’re doing that in front of me, you shameless hussy,” to somebody other than John for once.
John made a face at him. “This is why there’s that rumor going around about us,” he pointed out, watching Lucas flounce away in a sulk.
“What rumor?” Rodney asked, and sighed, righted John’s collar. “How have you lived this many years without learning to dress yourself?”
Batting at his hand, John said, “You’re making it worse right now!”
That night, Kora had nightmares clear into dawn, and she was miserable and exhausted by the time the orange-pink sun started melting into the sky, her sobs fading into hiccups. And at half past four, Rodney let himself into John’s room with a still whimpering Max in his arms, looking crazy from lack of sleep, and John had sighed and said, “Okay, but this time only,” and taken them all to the jumper bay.
Nearer to the sun, it was warm and John turned off the jumper’s internal atmosphere and let the sky fill the tiny cabin, the light burning through the cockpit window as the jumper circled the city lazily. Beneath them, the water glistened, and by the time he had checked in with Lorne and Zelenka and had a briefing with Sam over the radio, Rodney and Max and Kora were all asleep, huddled together on a sleeping bag John had unfolded in the back compartment. They looked so comfortable that John put the jumper on autopilot and laid down next to Rodney, jockeying with Max for space to use McKay as a pillow.
“Their PTSD is going to kill us at this rate,” Rodney said, when John woke up, yawning, four hours later. “Also, your head is incredibly heavy.”
“You should have thought of that before you went and got us babies,” John mumbled, sitting up and rubbing his face, drowsy still, until Kora squealed and jumped into his lap, knocking him over as she told him about the birds and the clouds and the big fish—”Whales,” Rodney explained, “named Sam.”—she’d seen below.
It was another month after that, after Kora stopped jumping at every shadow and started asking questions, going up to tug at the sleeves of random marines and peer at them with her enormous brown eyes, that Rodney said, “Can you schedule a trip? I need to visit P6X-990 and do a survey of the progress,” and John said, “Sure,” without thinking twice. It turned out to be a grievous error of the kind that resulted in multiple trips to Heightmeyer’s office and a lot of undignified pleading on John’s part to Kora’s sensibilities, although he knew how unfair it was for him to ask that a four-year-old girl have any sensibilities at all.
“I’m just going through the gate to visit some old friends,” John tried, rubbing tears off of her flushed cheeks. “I’ll be back in three days—you can stay with Lorne. You love staying with Lorne.”
“Can’t you take me with you?” she wept.
“Kora, this is work—Rodney’s not taking Max.”
“But Max is just a baby,” she wailed, fisting her hands in shirt. Diabolical, John thought to himself.
“Kora,” John said, “no.”
She stared up at him, eyes watery. “Daddy—” John was killing whichever marine had taught her that one “—please?”
“No,” he told her, conflicted.
Kora cried some more.
“No,” he repeated.
She scrubbed at her cheeks, whimpering.
“God damn it,” John said.
“Clearly, I’ve lost control of this entire expedition,” Sam commented mildly, watching Rodney fit Kora with her very own baby tac vest and teaching her all the settings on the terrifyingly powerful mini-stunner he’d jimmied for her. John had argued with him about whether it was a good idea to give a four-year-old a piece of weaponry that could kill a grown man if used improperly, but Rodney had argued back that (a) he’d coded it to her DNA, so no one would be able to use it against her, and (b) without it, she might not be able to kill grown men, and John had been forced to cede to his better logic.
Looking shamefaced, John said, “It’s a safe trip, and she didn’t want to be left behind.”
“Oh, I’m not complaining,” Sam laughed. “If the anthropologists are right, this should increase our street cred tenfold.”
“Meanwhile,” Rodney said, breezing past with Kora now wrapped up in his arms, “this kills my street cred completely.”
John turned to Sam. “He never had street cred,” he explained.
“I knew that,” Sam told him, “now go—bring back some naquadah.”
Yertel nearly wet himself when he met Kora, and after John explained she was an adopted child, from a planet destroyed by the Wraith, Yertel became—if possible—even more solicitous.
“Now we find out they like orphanages,” Rodney muttered. “We could have avoided all discussion of you keeping me in a sling and breeding me entirely.”
“Okay, Jesus, McKay,” John snapped, putting his hands over Kora’s ears. “Not child appropriate!”
Shrugging, Rodney said, “We’re going to have to tell her where she came from eventually.”
“But we can do it without the words ‘sling’ and ‘breeding’!” John called after him, furious.
The Coreenians invited Kora to play with their own children, and John spent a lot of the time Rodney did system checks on the mining equipment they’d set up sitting in the shade with a lot of Coreenian mothers and fathers, listening to their advice. They murmured with him at her nightmares, and one folded his hand in her own, saying, “Sometimes I wonder if it is not selfish to bring children into a world so chaotic as this,” and John felt a pang deep in his chest that had him calling Kora over just so he could look at her, until she said, “Daddy, what?” like she was sixteen already or something.
“Two at once,” Yertel said to him and Rodney at dinner, “that is quite a challenge.”
“Well, Max is a dream,” John lied.
Last night Max had puked on every clean t-shirt John owned, which had sent him sheepishly to Lorne to borrow one. Which had then sent Rodney into a fit to rival them all when he’d sighed, reaching to tuck the shirt’s tag back in, and spotted Lorne’s name scrawled across it. What kind of freaking boyscout still labels all his clothes, John had thought darkly, listening to Rodney shout at him about sexually transmitted diseases and how could he and weren’t they sort of, in a way, parents together now? And didn’t John need to act like a better person? And what would Kora and Max think, to know half their adopted family was made up of 100 percent slut? In the background, Yertel and Orin had looked on, chuckling indulgently, and some of the younger husbands and wives had given John supportive looks.
John was starting to suspect that maybe the rumor going around about them wasn’t really a rumor.
That night, after Rodney had talked Kora to sleep with a discourse on why Brian Green was an ass, he was folding up his tac vest and getting ready to climb onto his own pile of cushions when John blinked at him and the world refocused.
Frowning, Rodney asked, “What? What? You look spooked.”
“I just figured something out,” John said, and stared at the ceiling. “Good night, McKay.”
The next morning, over a delightful breakfast of custard cakes, Yertel turned to Rodney and said, “You know, Dr. McKay, three children is not much more difficult than two.”
“Oh,” Rodney said, breezy even as John’s face went pale, “we’re working on it.”
Ever since their last trip to the Coreenian planet, Sheppard had been acting strange—or more strangely, anyway, Rodney thought, absentmindedly slapping Zelenka’s hand away from the console and refitting a crystal.
“Do you think Sheppard’s been acting weird?” he asked. “You know, since we got back from P6X-990 the last time?”
Zelenka stared at him, rubbing at his hand resentfully. “Weird,” he said, voice flat.
Rodney waved his hand. “You know—weird. Like, he’s gone all quiet.”
“Yes,” Zelenka deadpanned. “You and the Colonel adopted refugee babies and have become lesbians, but the quietness, that is what I noticed.”
After that, Rodney decided he needed a woman’s opinion, which severely limited his options when it came to having heart-to-hearts. Katie was still bitter and surprisingly mean about that whole dating misunderstanding, and talking to Sam Carter could only lead to her feverishly admitting her love for him now that he was no longer available—which, while hot, wouldn’t be all that productive on the whole. He’d gotten half a dozen e-books off of Amazon about broken families and knew that it’d only be giving Kora and Max more and more interesting things to go to the shrink over, and frankly, he didn’t need Sheppard throwing a shit-fit. He might think Rodney was the catty one but Rodney only knew one person who had both the access and the balls to mess with his personal computer, which was a complete overreaction on John’s part especially since Rodney had already explained that the thing with the hot scientist on P4X-291 was completely, totally an accident, and he hadn’t even really touched her boob.
“You’re sort of a woman,” Rodney said to Keller, cornering her in the infirmary. “I need some advice.”
“Wow,” Keller told him, looking genuinely astonished. “So, you’re gay by necessity, basically.”
Scowling, Rodney said, “Sheppard’s been acting weird, ever since we got back from P6X-990.”
Keller’s brows knit together, and she glanced down at her datapad, murmuring, “His bloodwork came back normal—why, has he been showing any odd symptoms?”
“It’s nothing medical, things are just...off,” Rodney said, squirming. “He’s been more laconic than usual—I read somewhere this could be post-partum.”
Smiling at him tolerantly, Keller set her computer aside. “Rodney, this is absolutely normal, you know.”
“No, ‘weird,’ by definition, is not normal,” Rodney explained.
“No, the ‘weird’ you’re referring to is very normal,” Keller said, settling down into a nearby seat. “Rodney, you two just made a huge life change, it’s perfectly understandable that you know, not everything would be the same.”
Rodney stared at her, uncomprehending, until Keller sighed and added, “McKay, you two are parents now, and parents the world over have learned what you are learning right now: kids change your sex life.”
“But we’re weren’t having sex,” Rodney said.
Keller rolled her eyes. “Sure, okay. Lie to your doctor.”
“Oh God,” Rodney realized. “I’m going to have to talk to Cadman about this.”
One of the only good things about having shared a brain and body with Cadman was that Rodney knew she’d spent a lot of her sophomore year of college wearing NARAL t-shirts and thinking she was a lesbian, and he could ask what the hell was going on with Sheppard without her getting all weird about it.
“Well,” she said, polishing one of her enormous, phallic guns, “I mean, he’s been acting kind of maternal, although I guess that could just be because you guys have kids now.”
“Maternal,” Rodney repeated.
Cadman nodded. “Yeah, the other day, he only made us do three circuits around the city instead of four because Sanchez was getting over a chest flu.”
Horrified, Rodney said, “Oh shit, I had completely forgotten he was a psycho.”
It was hard to keep that in mind when most of the time Rodney saw John these days was when they were coaxing Max into eating something or he wandered in to find John reading to Kora from a copy of Peter Pan, even though Sheppard knew perfectly well how Rodney felt about him sharing something that had so many screwed-up psychosexual undercurrents. It was also hard to wrap his mind around the fact that it was the first time Rodney had said a real live cuss out loud in more than a month.
“The funny thing is,” Cadman said, “I’ve literally been in your head, and I still cannot figure out what is wrong with you.”
“You’re not helping,” Rodney told her, and Cadman raised an eyebrow at him before setting down her gun and gun oil with a sigh.
“McKay, seriously, I’m not going to give you advice on how to make my commanding officer put out more frequently, okay?” she said, looking deeply disappointed at Rodney, as if she hadn’t had access to (and rifled through, the whore) his vast trove of degrading, unambiguously ambiguous pornography and expected better of him or something. “I don’t even have kids and I know that they kill sex drives.”
Rodney stared at her, appalled. “Why does everybody think we were having sex?” he demanded.
“Why else would you bitch him out about wearing Lorne’s shirt?” Cadman asked. “By the way, you gotta cut that out, the poor guy’s like, afraid to use his own shower after all the glaring you’ve done.”
“Maybe it is post-partum,” Rodney said, mostly to himself, as he ignored Cadman.
Sheppard was quiet over dinner, too, and spent most of it reading a two-months-old back copy of the Wall Street Journal and answering Kora’s questions about why Wendy dreaming about Peter and flying was such a big deal with, “Ask Rodney.”
Rodney ate three servings of bad lasagna and tried not to entertain too many doomsday scenarios of Sheppard drinking space bleach or carving the names of ex-girlfriends into his inner thighs or freaking out and finding some other excuse to drive suicide missions in the puddlejumpers.
Rodney caved the next day, wringing his hands and entertaining horrible visions of being a single parent, having to endure Kora and Max’s brave, red-faced and tearful gazes at Brownie events and Cub Scout retreats when they were the only kids there without a mom.
He kept having nightmares about the one episode of Full House he’d ever seen, were DJ tried to be cool about Uncle Jessie and Uncle Joey trying to take the place of her mother but it just wasn’t the same and how she grew up to be a fundamentalist Christian. Or maybe that was Kirk Cameron. Anyway, American primetime TV had taught McKay enough about parenting to know this could only end in tragedy.
Kora would grow up to turn into a self-hating anorexic and Max would turn tricks for cheap pharmaceuticals in Fremont and Jeannie would say things like, “I knew it. If only Colonel Sheppard—who is more attractive than you—had stayed around and kept your kids from going totally off the rails.”
“Look,” Rodney said, bursting into Sheppard’s office, “what is going on? Is there something wrong? Are you regretting getting Kora and Max? Because if you are—and you better not be, this was entirely your idea, Sheppard!—I mean, we can seek counseling or something.” He stared at Sheppard for a while, feeling awkward and lame, and added, “You’re not feeling more suicidal than usual, are you? I refuse to raise our children to be prostitutes with eating disorders.”
Sheppard just stared back for a while before he sighed and leaned down to a walkie-talkie on his desk, saying, “Brigham, thanks for the update.”
“You’re welcome, sir, Dr. McKay,” Brigham says, voice crackling through the radio channel and shaking with repressed laughter. “And if I find anything bigger, I’ll let you know.”
“Bigger?” Rodney asked, making a rapid mental U-turn. “What kind of bigger? Your grunts didn’t find a bomb, did they?”
John just did that thing with his eyebrows that he probably thought was ironic and said, “No. I sent punishment duty out scouting for real estate.”
Rodney felt his brows knit together. “Real estate?”
“I figure if you’re going to tell me that left to my own devices, I dress like I’m a ‘suicidal Ashlee Simpson fan,’” John drawled, dripping sarcasm, “it’s time we move in together and ruin the children more efficiently.”
Rodney said, “Um, what?”
“Don’t worry about it,” John comforted him. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon.”
He didn’t, which was why four weeks later, at the Athosian harvest festival, he swallowed his pride and asked Teyla for advice.
“Rodney, I know that self-reflection is not your strong suit,” Teyla said kindly, “but even you are not this, what did Lieutenant Cadman call it? Emotionally retarded?”
“I’ll have that woman killed,” Rodney vowed. “But look, aren’t you worried about him at all?”
Teyla looked away from where she and Rodney were sitting in a circle by the bonfire, to where John had Kora in his lap and a wretch of Athosian children at his feet, and was telling them the plot to the Golden Compass, his face bright with firelight, laugh-lines around his eyes.
“Yes,” she said, dry with sarcasm, “he does look to be in terrible pain.”
Rodney scowled at her. “Just because he’s happy right now doesn’t mean he’s going to stay this way. He’s been acting weird. Quiet. Like he’s thinking about something.”
Teyla cocked an eyebrow at him. “Rodney, John thinks all the time.”
“That is debateable,” Rodney said, making Teyla burst out into one of her rare, sparkling laughs, and by the time she managed to contain it to a giggle, she reached over to touch Rodney tenderly on the cheek, to say with deep affection:
“Oh, Rodney. I think John had simply realized that his life is changing. It’s not unusual to be reflective about these things—the question is, why aren’t you thoughtful as well?”
Rodney stared at her for a moment before shouting, “How does that cryptic shit help me at all?”
Keller wasn’t much more receptive the second time Rodney approached her to talk, so he ended up feigning an allergy attack.
“And anyway then he was like, don’t worry about it, I’m sure you’ll figure it out soon, which, hello, how stupid is that because I’m the smartest man in two galaxies and clearly he’s got to work on how he communicates with me because I can only bear his obnoxious condescension so long before I flip out and God, Kora and Max are going to be crazy enough without me pulling a Drew Peterson on them and it is really, really hot in here,” Rodney said, buzzing, buzzing, buzzing on the adrenaline rush of the epipen Keller had administered before he could explain he was faking an attack of hay fever, and not of a large swarm of wasps carrying oranges.
“I mean, really, what the hell does that mean anyway? Why does he want to move in together now? We live down the hall and everybody here lives in each other’s pockets and really, do we need to be any closer than we already are? I shouldn’t have to watch his and Lorne’s disgusting little clothing-exchange shenanigans and I can’t imagine that would be any good for the children also I didn’t even way I was suffering anaphylaxis, you be-damned sort-of-woman witch doctor!”
She glared at him, monitoring his blood pressure and over-tightening his cuff. “You said you couldn’t breathe and felt a seizure coming on,” she told him dispassionately, “but next time you come in with your airways closing up, I’ll be sure to get a written release.”
Rodney flailed at her. “What if my heart explodes! I’ll die! Then you’ll all die! And then I will rise up and make sure all of you die again!” He flopped back onto the gurney, moaning.
“I’ll cry a thousand tears in that case,” Keller muttered, messing with some knobs and twirly things on the monitor. “And anyway—insofar as your non-problem goes, I know a hundred women who’d die of joy to have their boyfriends step up to responsibility the way Colonel Sheppard is with your new family. Just be happy he’s ready to make a bigger commitment to you.”
“What?” Rodney asked, baffled.
Keller glanced down at him. “I mean, this is as close to married as you two can get here, isn’t it?”
Rodney’s low moan of “oh fuck” was obscured by the sound of the heartrate monitor shrieking in high-pitched alarm.
Six hours later, Rodney’s heart rate was still going at 130, too quick even for his liking, and none of the deep breathing exercises he tried helped. He couldn’t decide what he was most upset about, the fact that he’d gotten married without noticing or the fact that Sheppard had figured it out and hadn’t told him.
His giant brain kept coming up with elaborate and very detailed images of himself and Sheppard in happy gay domesticity—living in a 2,400 square foot energy efficient house in the suburbs of Vancouver and hissing at the local PTA moms every time they tried to touch John’s ass at the school bake sale. They would probably fight over the children’s schools—John would make some disastrously short-sighted argument about normalcy and public schools; Rodney would tear his hair out choosing between Montessori systems—and what was the appropriate time to introduce PC games into their lives.
Then there was the entire issue of how Rodney had managed to turn into some kind of Regency heroine—trapped in a loveless, respectful marriage with children and no sex, and by the time Rodney checked back in from that freak-out, John was glaring at him over a lab table.
“Have you heard a single word I said in the last five minutes?” Sheppard asked him, bouncing Max on one hip and frowning.
Blinking, Rodney said, “Yes?”
“Ah, domestic bliss,” Simpson sighed, walking past, sending Miko into titters. Rodney really missed when she was still enamored and terrified of him.
He pointed at Simpson. “You’re fired!” he yelled, and John said, “Rodney!” which left Rodney searching around desperately in his memory, and coming up blank before he tried, “Um. Yes, I can add it to the puddlejumpers?”
John glared. “I was saying how somebody changed my marital status to ‘lesbian, with McKay,’ Rodney.”
Before we had kids, that totally would have worked, Rodney thought bitterly. The magic was gone.
“What’s a lesbian?” Kora asked, pulling her head out of the Independent Women of the 20th Century book Sam had gotten her, because obviously, if Sam Carter was doomed to spinsterhood and killing off all her boyfriends by association, she was going to take Rodney’s kid with her.
“Ask Rodney,” John said, before Rodney could explain. “Are you going to fix this? Because none of the marines would bother.”
“Why do you always think it was my people?” Rodney complained, even as he mentally composed the most vicious email he could to Zelenka.
Rodney was miserably rearranging the furniture in their new living room for the fourth time in as many hours, looking at it distastefully from all angles. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t known he and John were gay together; this sort of thing was textbook. All they needed to do was go for a couples chest-waxing, and they might as well buy a house in San Francisco and argue about what kind of humane, shade-grown and fairly-traded coffee they were going to get.
The worst part was, Rodney reflected, shifting the end table an inch to the left, it looked like he was the twee one.
On top of that, Rodney was developing a horrible theory that all those stories he told the Coreenians about Sheppard fucking him three times and day and shooting come like a fire hose were only partially to facilitate intergalactic trade. There appeared to be, a little at least, wishful thinking behind it, not that Rodney had spent a lot of time looking of slings or anything, of course.
It wasn’t even that Rodney had never thought about it before. He was a heteroflexible guy (okay, a Kinsey 8.7), and John walked around like he spent most of his morning trying to decide which pant leg he wanted to tuck his giant dick into—it was obvious he didn’t spend it doing his hair. And then in addition to the obvious if incredibly shallow and South Beach physical charms, Sheppard had that annoying habit of saving Rodney’s life and challenging him to be a better person, which Rodney hated without reservation, but appreciated in a cosmic, holistic sort of way.
In the end, after the accelerated freak-out in Keller’s dungeon of whips and needles and then returning to his and John’s newly-acquired apartment, he’d stood in the living room for a good twenty minutes feeling startled.
He’d never thought he’d get married, at least not happily. He had no rubric for it, and after the disaster that had been Katie, he didn’t even have a good working hypothesis.
When he’d thought about being married, it involved an accommodating and gorgeous blond woman and a small army of housekeepers and nannies, people to smooth out the inevitable wrinkles—and now, here he was, pushing 43 with two children under ten with a suicidal flyboy in an alien galaxy populated by space vampires. They couldn’t even get their Ancient roomba to work, and even if Rodney had time to fix it, John made him do things like wipe down counters and bathe the children and make the bed anyway.
There would never be a blond woman, Rodney realized, nor any nannies. There would only be John, sending Kora in to jump on Rodney first thing Saturday mornings to get him out of bed.
And the biggest surprise of all was that he felt relieved about it.
Jeannie liked to send him emails about how he was going to die alone, unmourned, unless he found other people to fill up his life, and Rodney couldn’t quite bring himself to explain that between her and Teyla and Ronon and John he had all the family he needed, thanks. But he’d still felt a thread of tension, that faint, needling jealousy that Jeannie had Madison and Kaleb (although, Christ, an English teacher) and Rodney had a future as a Nobel prize winner and nobody to beam at him from the crowd with uncomplicated adulation.
Maybe that’s where his thought process had gone wrong all along, Rodney thought, moving like he was in a dream to shift the coffee table a half-inch back to the right.
John was the most annoying and complicated person Rodney had ever known. John brought annoying and complicated things like loyalty and brotherhood and yearning and lust and overwhelming affection into Rodney’s otherwise orderly existence—he’d brought with him people like Teyla and Ronon and now, Max and Kora on top of everything else. If John was in the crowd at Rodney’s Nobel acceptance speech, he’d be smirking, and his tux would be slightly wrinkled, imperfect and unimpressed, and maybe that was what Rodney had needed all along.
Any further thinking on the subject was promptly derailed when John walked into the room, carrying Max and herding Kora—who was covered in God-knows-what—toward the bathroom, saying, “I told you not to touch it, didn’t I tell you not to touch it?”
Everybody—Rodney had created an anonymous poll on the Atlantis intranet on the only place John never looked, ‘meeting schedules’—absolutely everybody on Atlantis thought that they were already dating. That Rodney was being a dick trying to pressure John back into their old sexual frequencies so soon after acquiring babies. That they were a foregone conclusion.
Rodney had managed to restrain himself from making question four, “Do you believe that, if given the task, Colonel Sheppard would be able to provide a waterfall of semen with which to impregnate you?”
Which always made Rodney think about how that waterfall happened anyway, about Sheppard pushing Rodney face-down on a bed, up against a wall, crushed him into a mattress with his body weight. It made Rodney think about John big and thick between his legs. It always—without fail—made Rodney whimper.
And now that the idea was there, it wouldn’t leave him alone, because if they were married, then Rodney was being cheated out of his due conjugal rights.
It didn’t fade, it didn’t change, and the more Rodney thought about it the more it felt some really depraved bareback sex was likely the missing piece in his weird, intergalactic Stepford life of the nicest suite in the city, the 1.5 children, the gorgeous not-husband who wielded a gun like nobody’s business.
Now that Rodney had gotten used to the idea of the hot, messy, sitting-awkwardly-for-a-week sex that they should have been having, it was starting to wear on him that Sheppard hadn’t seemed to have caught on yet.
He decided he needed a plan of attack.
So Rodney did what he did second-best: he talked.
He talked at length with glassy-eyed Coreenian husbands about how much he worshiped John’s gigantic dick. He talked loudly about how Sheppard fucked like a champion, a stud, a champion stud, and how after one marathon session, Rodney had taken a week off to sleep on his stomach, too sore and blissed out to move. He started making up random, physiologically impossible shit to say loudly just as John walked past him just to watch him walk right into a tree, a hut, a tent.
It was psychological warfare, but Rodney thought that if he couldn’t stop thinking about John’s cock, then it was only fair John had to think about it sliding into Rodney’s ass.
“Rodney, I do not think your new preoccupation with talking about unprotected sexual intercourse is very becoming,” Teyla said disapprovingly, a week into the campaign.
Ronon, less concerned, just smirked. “I always knew he had to be the class slut.”
Teyla punched him hard in the kidney before turning back to Rodney. “Think of your children—would you like Kora or Max to learn about intimate relationships this way?”
“Well, Kora and Max are never allowed to have sex, so it’s a non-issue,” Rodney said easily.
Teyla looked unmoved. “Rodney.”
“Fine. I’m doing it to bully John into sleeping with me,” Rodney sighed.
“Oh.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “In that case, you should describe having sex in one of the puddlejumpers. He would be weak to the combination of two of his favorite things.”
It took another six weeks, six days, thirteen hours, and two follow-up trips to the Coreenian planet, three thousand hours of talking about how John had flooded his man-womb with semen before Sheppard snapped.
Rodney thought, Finally. Jesus.
They were in the Coreenian village, and Rodney had been chattering brightly with a fair-haired young man, telling him in epic detail how Sheppard had once tied his hands to the headboard and left him in bed an entire day, returning only to go another round.
Sheppard had gone weird around the eyes, muttered, “If you’ll excuse us,” and dragged Rodney—pretty literally—by the pants back to their designated yurt, and Rodney had basked in the sly and knowing looks of the other villagers. Rodney’s faux-outraged litany of threats and indignant squawks of, “Sheppard! Colonel! What the hell do you think you are doing?” cut out when John all but threw him into the tent—shoved him down onto the pile of cushions and blankets in the middle.
“Sheppard!” Rodney protested, trying to push himself up, and then John just crawled right on top of him and whatever else Rodney was trying to say died in his throat with a squeak.
He could feel Sheppard’s knee pressed against the inside of his thigh, John’s holster hard through his pants. John, who’s job was to boss everybody around and who never bossed anyone around was holding Rodney down on the bed, hands hard on his shoulders—and it was enough to make Rodney’s head spin.
“You know what I think, Rodney?” John asked, breathless and hot.
“No?” McKay stuttered, flushing.
He could feel the lust that had coiled in the bottom of his stomach lengthening, stretching out to his fingers and toes, racing down his spine. This was better than the women with blond hair and tight stomachs, the appraising glances that wouldn’t find him up to par—this was John, who was already stuck with him, who obviously loved him, at least a little, and who was one of the most beautiful people Rodney had ever seen. How Rodney hadn’t taken advantage of this to begin with boggled the mind.
“I think,” John said, “that your obsession with talking about my dick—”
Turning and even darker color red, Rodney lied, “I most certainly do not—”
“—and how I spent all that time bending you over desks, shoving you against walls, putting you in slings,” John went on, grinning now, and oh yeah, Rodney knew his face all but screamed ‘caught!’ but that was okay, because John’s face all but screamed ‘yes!’ “All that elaborate storytelling about me filling you up and how slick and fucked-out you were?”
Rodney wasn’t just red anymore, he was hot, breathing hard, his dick tightening in his pants. He knew John could feel it, nudging against his leg, and Rodney couldn’t come up with one reason John was dragging this out—maybe payback. Rodney had gone through nearly 40 gigs of porn to come up with all the scenarios he’s described in the last half-dozen weeks.
“I think,” John said, close to Rodney’s ear, “maybe you were hoping I’d do it for real.”
Rodney heard himself babble something like agreement, but all the words flew out of his head when Sheppard kissed him like a drunk Catholic girl: greedy and wet and with teeth—100 percent slut, just like Rodney knew he would be.
And Rodney had been right about another thing: John Sheppard really did fuck like a champion.
Five years later:
Rodney knew that in the grand scheme of things, after all the times they’d been betrayed and John had been kidnapped by hot space vixens and Rodney had been ransomed etc. and so forth, that hyperventilating over a sleepover was probably overreacting. And yet.
“You really need lighten up, Rodney,” John said, helping Max into a denim jacket. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Not a big deal?” Rodney yelled. “How is our daughter being left in the company of that—that—that tiny Casanova not a big deal? I can’t believe you let her go! I told you I saw him kiss her, didn’t I? That he kissed her on the cheek?”
“Well, obviously she’s ruined now,” John said lightly, as if he hadn’t allowed their 9-year-old child to go on a three-day-long co-ed sleepover with a tiny, tow-headed manwhore. “Relax, McKay, his parents are both going to be there—what’s the worse that’ll happen? Spin the bottle?”
He hadn’t even considered that possibility! They probably didn’t even have that in Pegasus! They probably had spin the underage sexual advances game! Rodney made a series of choking noises.
John ignored him in favor of negotiating shoes with Max, who’d started treading the idea of footwear as the worst sort of parental fascism.
“Green sneakers?” John asked. “Or blue and orange sneakers?”
“No sneakers,” Max chose.
“Yeah, not happening, buddy,” John chided. “Red sneakers?”
Rodney blamed himself for raising a kid who’s favorite words were, “ABSOLUTELY NOT,” all capital letters evident, and there were times he seriously considered trading the little bastard in for another case of dessert wine from P5X-981. But there was always the off chance that John would get pissed and blue-ball him for a month, so Rodney usually put that sentiment in the pile along with buying Kora a chastity belt or selling the house in Eureka. His only comfort was that half the Atlantis population had paired off in one way or the other, and Rodney was no longer the most whipped husband in the city, thanks to Zelenka and his dominatrix fembot biologist wife.
“No. Sneakers,” Max repeated for John’s benefit.
“Buddy,” John warned him, “I don’t care if I have to chop off your feet to put them into shoes—you’re wearing them.”
Max turned to Rodney in despair, pleading.
Rodney shrugged. “I know that tone of voice, kiddo. You’re better off listening to him at this point.”
An hour later, Max had been packed off and shoved through the gate into Jeannie’s willing arms, wearing one red sneaker and one blue sneaker. “Only your kid, Mer,” Jeannie had laughed, giving Rodney a squeeze and John a quick kiss on the cheek before shooing them back onto their own side of the wormhole. “Now get out of here! Go on and enjoy yourselves.”
“If he’s mentally retarded or dead when we get back,” Rodney started, before John slapped a hand over his mouth and said, “Thanks, Jeannie! We owe you one!”
Jeannie and Max got a lift via Apollo back into Vancouver, and Rodney—with great trepidation—got into a small, black SUV with John, and regretted it not 45 seconds later, clinging to the armrests of his bucket seat and feeling his scream of terror elongate down the Colorado highway as they burned rubber toward Vail.
“You know what I was thinking about, Rodney?” John asked, too-casually.
“What?” Rodney asked, trying not to watch the road but unable to look away.
Part of him desperately needed to yell at Sheppard about driving like a maniac, and part of him was just glad that after weeks of awkward discomfort once John had realized how much the lodge in Vail had cost—“You paid $6.4 million for what?”—John seemed to have accepted it without any further proletariat tantrums. And anyway, what was the point of Sheppard if Rodney couldn’t treat him like a trophy wife, anyway? He’d been the only international genius of his caliber at the last Albert Einstein awards ceremony with a spouse that hot and only one second home—it was shameful.
John sped up a little again and Rodney whimpered. “Remember all that depraved shit you talked about when we were telling Yertel how I was knocking you up?”
Rodney swallowed hard. Of course he did. They’d done most of it. Twice. “No,” he lied.
“That’s too bad,” John said, sounding very sorry indeed, “I mean, we never even got around to the thing with the sling.”
“Oh,” Rodney said, faint. “The sling.”
“Yeah,” John agreed. “But I’m sure you were just saying that for Yertel’s sake.”
Making a noncommittal noise, Rodney nodded. “Yeah.”
“Well,” John said brightly, “I’m sure it’ll be easy enough to take apart once we get to the lodge.”
“What? No!” Rodney shouted, and then recovering himself, said again, “No, no, that’s all right. I mean, I guess we can just leave it. It can’t be that much of a distraction, right?”
John made an innocent face. “Well, it’s hanging right up in the middle of the room, if I remember the instructions right. Right in front of the big fireplace.”
Rodney said, “Unngh.”
“Although, I suppose we owe it to Yertel to at least try to give him another proxy-grandchild,” John said philosophically. “He’s only been complaining about how we stopped at two for like, five years now after all.”
Rodney was still stuck on “Unngh.”
“You look red,” John said, “maybe we should stop and let you rub some snow on your face.”
“Maybe we should stop so I can stuff some snow down your pants, you giant pervert,” Rodney snapped, unable to keep the grin off of his face, because now all Rodney could imagine was the snap of leather, the smell of it against skin, how John might look suspended there for Rodney’s appreciation, or how Rodney might feel mid-air, feeling the heat of the fire and knowing that for the next three days, the only appointments he had involved a lot of nudity and fucking.
“Now shut up and drive faster,” he instructed, and winking, John did.
What the hell did Jeannie know anyway? Clearly, Rodney was awesome at being married.