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Payback Is an Unpredictable Bitch

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Looks like Atlantis has a new chief jello-fetcher, huh, Rodney?

Do seventh wives wear white to their weddings? What do you think, Elizabeth?

Hey, Carson, you want me to bring you back some gourds next time we go out?

Sheppard had been at it all morning, smug and insufferable, and payback was a bitch, Rodney reasoned as he chewed some "do my bidding and smile about it" weed.

It worked like a charm, too.

"I'll go get started cleaning your quarters, buddy," Sheppard said with a pat to Rodney's chest as he breezed out of Elizabeth's office.

Never mock a genius, Rodney thought with deep satisfaction.

Leave it to the rest of the team not to understand necessity when they saw it. Elizabeth trained her displeased squint on him. Carson crossed his arms over his chest. Teyla and Ronon closed ranks and glared. It was scientific curiosity,Rodney offered lamely. If they couldn't see that Sheppard had to be stopped, then he wasn't going to waste his time trying to explain it.

Still, there were four sets of eyes accusing him of being a jerk.

He sighed. "Fine. I'll go corral the Colonel and take him down to the infirmary."

"When you've done that," Elizabeth told him sternly, "burn that herb."

"Every last twig of it," Carson emphasized.

"Fine, fine," Rodney muttered. "Short-sighted—"

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "What was that, Rodney?"

He smiled weakly. "Nothing. Going now."

On the way, he tried to calculate how much cleaning Sheppard could have managed in the ten minutes or so he'd been gone. He was highly motivated and in excellent physical condition, so maybe he'd finished the vacuuming at least. Rodney wondered if it made him a bad person that he really hoped so.

"All right, Colonel, that's enough of the Merry Maids routine—"

Rodney stuttered to a stop, his mouth falling open.

Sheppard was, in fact, busily vacuuming, bending low to reach beneath the bed, paying special attention to nooks and corners where dirt might be hiding. He was also shirtless, for what reason Rodney couldn't imagine, although his bewilderment didn't stop him from staring at the play of muscle across Sheppard's shoulders and down his back. Sheppard was...Sheppard, and Rodney was only human, after all.

Sheppard straightened up and turned and broke into a goofy smile when he saw he wasn't alone. He switched off the vacuum.

"Rodney."

It was an adoring coo, and Rodney was beginning to understand that his plan to level the playing field was perhaps a teensy bit creepier than he'd initially realized.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

Sheppard looked confused. "Cleaning?"

"With your shirt off?"

"It's kind of warm in here."

Rodney glanced at the environmental controls. "It's a perfect seventy-two degrees."

Sheppard shrugged. "I like to be comfortable."

He lifted his arms over his head, arching his back, stretching with all the self-satisfaction of a spoiled housecat, treating Rodney to another rippling display of muscle. Rodney licked his lips, but his mouth didn't feel any less dry. Maybe it really was hot in here.

Sheppard gave him a sideways look, lashes brushing his cheek, and Rodney realized with a start that Sheppard knew he was watching. That was actually the point, it seemed. Good God! Sheppard was flirting with him.

"Okay, that's it," he declared. "We need to go see Carson. Right now."

Sheppard ambled toward him, all rangy hips and casual grace. "I'm not interested in Carson."

The smolder in his voice made his intentions perfectly clear.

Rodney took a step back. "Yes, well, you've never been interested in me either."

Sheppard came closer. "How do you know?"

"I just," Rodney banged into the wall, "do."

Sheppard hemmed him in. "You've never had any idea what I want."

Maybe if Sheppard had been grabby and frantic, Rodney's brain would have kept functioning. But the touch of Sheppard's mouth was soft and wet, teeth gently tugging at Rodney's bottom lip, and Rodney fell into it, utterly.

"Mmmm," Sheppard murmured sweetly when Rodney started to kiss back.

Sheppard's body was warm, half naked, and right there. Rodney shyly reached out to touch him, his chest and then his back, pulling him closer.

"That's it, that's good," Sheppard coaxed, moving to kiss his neck.

Sheppard tugged at Rodney's shirt, pulling it free from the waistband. He ducked his hands under it, lightly tracing patterns over Rodney's skin.

"Yes," Rodney said as if he'd been asked a question, turning Sheppard's face in his hands, kissing him deeply.

Maybe it wasn't the herb after all. Maybe his luck was finally changing.

Sheppard worked a knee between Rodney's thighs, and Rodney groaned out loud. Okay, really it was more of a whimper, a desperate, mewling little noise even, but Sheppard seemed to like it. He hummed appreciatively as he worked a place beneath Rodney's jaw, the place apparently, not that Rodney had ever realized this before.

Sheppard murmured against Rodney's ear, "You're a kind and wise man."

He sounded dopey and smiling, and Rodney went still.

"What?"

He really wanted to have heard that wrong.

"Generous and humble, too."

Rodney sighed. "Yes. Well. That settles that." He braced his hands against Sheppard's chest. "Time for that trip to the infirmary."

"But there's nothing wrong with me," Sheppard complained as Rodney manhandled him into his shirt.

"Trust me, Colonel." Rodney pushed him to the door. "When you call me humble without even a hint of sarcasm, that's not just wrong, it's disturbing."


"What took so long?" Carson demanded when they got to the infirmary.

His eyes went wide when he saw the mark on Rodney's neck. He gave Rodney a look that seemed to translate, just because I'm a doctor doesn't mean I won't hit you.

"No! I didn't! I wouldn't!" Rodney flailed with his hands. "He— We— Would you just fix him already?"

Carson didn't appear entirely mollified, but he did his thing with the needle. Rodney half expected Sheppard to punch him once the inoculation went into effect, because, really, he deserved it. But the minutes ticked by, and John appeared entirely unruffled, affable even.

"Are you sure it took?" Rodney asked, more than once.

"Yes, Rodney," Carson answered snippily. "I do know my business."

Rodney was tempted to remind him he'd said the same thing about Lucius' ointments, but he really did have more pressing problems on his hands.

"You're right as rain now, Colonel," Carson said. "Free to be on your way."

"Thanks, doc." Sheppard whistled cheerfully as he headed out.

Rodney trailed after him. "So, um—"

Sheppard turned. "Yes, Rodney?"

He was starting to sweat. "How much groveling is it going to take for you to forgive me? Ballpark estimate."

Sheppard waved his hand.

Rodney was genuinely confounded. "Does that mean you're never going to forgive me?"

Sheppard rolled his eyes. "No, it means we're even. I zinged you about Lucius. You got me back. We're square."

"Square?" Rodney repeated stupidly, trying to figure out if this was some new euphemism for two men kissing lustily against a convenient wall.

"See you later," Sheppard said with a wave. "I've got a training session for the new recruits I'm late for."

"But—"

He watched John continue down the hall and then trudged off toward the storage area. He had bags of herb to burn, after all. He wondered, as he often did, why his luck always seemed to skip "bad" and head straight for "abysmal." This was supposed to be his moment of triumph over Sheppard, and instead he was saddled with guilt, oppressed by knowledge he wasn't supposed to have, the starkly open set of Sheppard's face when he was turned on, something Rodney wasn't ever likely to see again.

Payback certainly was an unpredictable bitch.


Rodney kept expecting there to be more serious fallout, a delayed reaction of fury on Sheppard's part, but it never came. They ate dinner together as usual that evening, even watched a movie afterwards. Sheppard appeared genuinely unconcerned about the entire thing.

Rodney even brought it up a couple of times, "So...we are okay, right?"

Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Yes. Just like I said the other four thousand times you asked me."

He even let Rodney hold the bowl of popcorn. Clearly he was plotting something.

The next day at lunch, Rodney's suspicion sharpened when Sheppard got up to fetch dessert and asked, "You want pie?"

Rodney narrowed his eyes. "Why are you offering to get it?"

"Because you complain when I don't?"

"Well," Rodney said hesitantly. "Okay. Pie."

Sheppard shook his head as he walked off, and Rodney let out his breath. It's fine, he said we're even, it's fine. When Sheppard returned, however, he set down a fresh cup of coffee along with Rodney's pie, and Rodney eyed him warily.

"What?" Sheppard put his hands on his hips. "You complain about not getting enough caffeine, too."

Sheppard's insidious plan to punish Rodney with kindness didn't end with lunch. There was the chocolate bar Sheppard stopped by the lab to deliver, and the offer to do some extra gate-harvesting in his off hours, and all the questions he kept asking about Rodney's latest research project, letting Rodney ramble on for a good half hour about dark matter and time distortion.

It all finally became too much when Rodney was working on jumper 3, running a diagnostic on its sensors, which had been functioning erratically, and Sheppard poked his head inside, "You could probably use some help, huh?"

Rodney startled badly—he'd been thoroughly engrossed in his data—and banged his knee against the bench seat.

"Okay, that's it, Colonel! Just go ahead and put worms in my bed or hide my favorite laptop or whatever you need to do to feel properly avenged. This guerilla war of courtesy and cheerfulness ends now. I'm just waiting around for…whatever it is you're planning, for the niceness to end and the ambush to begin, and it's distracting me. In case you haven't noticed, this ten thousand year old city does require my full attention."

"Yes, Rodney, I know," John said with exaggerated patience. "You're invaluable around here, and we wouldn't survive without you. Did it ever occur to you I'm volunteering to help because anything that concerns the jumpers concerns me?"

"Oh. Well." Rodney became suddenly very interested in the tablet he was holding. "I suppose that's fine, then."

They got to work, and Sheppard did actually prove useful, offering several suggestions for improving the efficiency of the sensors. They finished the repairs in half the time Rodney had allotted.

He replaced the cover to the control panel. "Well, that's that." He straightened up, and Sheppard quickly looked away, but not quickly enough. "What is wrong with you?"

Sheppard put on an innocent expression.

"Don't even try it." Rodney pointed a finger at him. "You were checking out my ass!"

Sheppard shrugged. "What can I say? It's a nice ass."

It all clicked into place then. "Oh, God. You're not plotting. You're still high. Can that quack do nothing right?" He sighed. "Well, come on." He commandeered John's elbow.

"I'm fine," John insisted as Rodney hustled him along to the infirmary. "And you really need to learn to relax and enjoy the moment."

Rodney tracked Carson to his office. "Where did you get your medical training? Watching Marcus Welby reruns?"

Carson crossed his arms over his chest. "Hello to you too, Rodney."

"You gave John the inoculation wrong!" Rodney accused.

"I'm really fine," John interjected.

Rodney darted a dismissive look at him. "Oh, please, Colonel. Clearly you are not fine."

"What's happened?" Carson asked.

"Believe me," Rodney told him, "it's less scarring for everyone involved if you just take my word for it."

Carson sighed and led them out to the exam area. "All right, Colonel. Get up on the table and roll up your sleeve."

John did, and Carson drew blood.

"Why are you wasting time? Just give him the shot!" Rodney shouted.

"As much as I rely on your medical opinion, Rodney," Carson laid on the sarcasm, "I do need to perform the proper tests before I administer medication. I trust that's all right with you?"

"Yes, yes, fine. Whatever. Just make him normal again." Rodney pinched the bridge of his nose.

He was starting to get a headache and seriously beginning to see the wisdom in turning the other cheek.

Carson went off to his lab to check the sample. John idly swung his legs while they waited. "I'm honestly not under the influence of the herb anymore."

Rodney waved off his assurances. "We'll see what Marcus Welby has to say about that."

"I told you that you never knew what I wanted," John quietly reminded him.

Carson saved Rodney an awkward reply by returning with the results. "Well, Colonel, it appears that you are, in fact, fine. There's no trace of the chemical in your bloodstream."

Rodney gaped at him. "What?"

John hopped down from the table. "Told you so."

"That's it?" Rodney demanded of Carson. "That's all you're going to do?"

"No, Rodney. I'm also going to kick you out of my hospital." He made shooing motions.

Sheppard slung an arm across Rodney's shoulders and propelled him to the door. "Let's let Carson get back to work, huh?"

"Don't worry," Rodney told John as they went down the hall. "Just because Carson couldn't diagnose his way out of a paper bag doesn't mean we have no recourse. I'll check your blood myself, develop a more sensitive testing procedure if that's what we need. I'm sure once I have proof you're still suffering from the herb's effect I can talk Nurse Gordon into giving you the shot. She and I bonded after that incident on P3X-498. Apparently, her mother has a severe allergy to shellfish. And, you know, I still insist that my description of citrus fruit was perfectly clear. The Minorans really should have known—"

John abruptly veered into a nearby storage closet, pulled Rodney in after him and backed him up against a stack of crates filled with canned peaches. "You know, Rodney, getting laid isn't usually this much work."

Then John was all over him, kissing, his hands fisted in Rodney's shirt.

"Maybe the problem lies in your strong expression of the ATA gene." Rodney's babbling ratcheted up to a higher pitch when Sheppard started to suck on his neck. "Whatever it is, I'll fix it, I swear."

John sank to his knees, pushed up Rodney's shirt and kissed his belly.

When he started to unbutton Rodney's fly, Rodney cupped his jaw in his hand, made him look up. "Don't. Please."

John seemed genuinely confused. "You don't want your cock sucked?"

"I don't want you to hate me." Rodney's fingers shook as he stroked Sheppard's cheek. "I didn't stop to think about that before, but— I'm thinking about it now."

Sheppard's grin was quick and pleased. "I'm not going to hate you. But it's nice to know you care."

He opened Rodney's pants and went down, and well…the fact that Rodney was only human had already been clearly established. He moaned out loud and stroked John's hair. He'd always thought John's mouth was kind of pretty, and now he knew just how useful it could be, as well.

John licked along the shaft, smiling up at him, his eyes dark and bottomless and…clear.

Rodney stared. "Jesus, it's you."

Sheppard laughed. "Glad you finally figured that out."

"God!"

He came against Sheppard's lips.

John wiped his face on his sleeve, chuckling as he got to his feet. He leaned in and kissed lazily. He tasted like Rodney, and Rodney was pretty sure he'd just lost his title as the unluckiest man in two galaxies.

"Your true genius is for making things a lot harder than they need to be, you realize that, right?" Sheppard grinned softly.

"How was I supposed to know that your suddenly deciding to sleep with me right when I used the herb was just a coincidence?" Rodney insisted.

John leaned in, worried an earlobe with his teeth. "Well…not entirely."

Rodney stopped breathing. "Oh, God. I knew it! Now you're going to hate me. Now—"

"Relax, Rodney. I just meant— I never thought you were into guys. But then I kissed you, and you kissed me back, and I figured I'd been wrong about that, and, hey, why not just go for it?"

Rodney snorted. "Of course. That is what you'd think."

Sheppard pulled away and tucked Rodney's cock back into his pants and took him by the arm. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"To your room. So I can fuck you." He hesitated. "If you're good with that?"

Rodney swiped his hand, and the doors opened. "Just go for it isn't the worst plan I've ever heard."