Atlantis was no New York City, but the city of the ancients never slept. Neither, apparently, did Rodney Sheppard. Yawning, John headed into the science lab. “Time for bed!” he announced.
Rodney scrubbed his nose with a tissue and looked up from the array of equipment on his table, flashing lights, datapads scrolling through instructions in ancient, even an old fashioned pad of paper full of scribbles. “Bed, right. In an hour. I’m not remotely tired yet. I’ve just got to get this one equation balanced and I’m so close.” He flipped through a few pages of the notepad and jotted something down along the side. Then he snapped the tissue to his face and sneezed efficiently and quietly into it, even though they were the only two in the room.
“Bless you. See, even your body knows it’s late and shouldn’t be up all night working.”
“Ha-ha.” Rodney sniffed. “It’s just my allergies. You know I have awful allergies. They’ve been acting up all day. It’s probably all the dust on this equipment we unpacked today. Equipment I’m just an hour away from figuring out, by the way.”
“You can figure it out tomorrow, Rodney. Just like the rest of your team.”
“The rest of my team doesn’t have my levels of brilliance or determination.”
John’s hazel eyes flashed. “The rest of your team doesn’t have me as their top.”
Rodney looked up from his work at that. “Well, they’d better not. You’re all mine.” He actually looked so hurt by the idea that John swooped in and kissed him. His face pressed hard against Rodney’s, lips strong and moving with force and skill. Rodney submitted at once, relaxing into his husband’s kiss. John fingered Rodney’s collar and then the pendant hanging from his neck.
When Rodney pulled away from the kiss, John started to protest. Rodney was his—his to command, his to use, his to kiss as much as he wanted to. But Rodney seemed to have different ideas. Rodney wanted to work tonight. And, apparently, Rodney wanted to sneeze. “ehhg’tchhhh!” Or, more accurately, he needed to sneeze.
“Sure it’s allergies?” John asked, suspicious. Rodney looked exhausted, but John wondered if there might be more to it than that. “’Cause that sounded more like a cold sneeze to me.”
Rodney wiped his nose. “A sneeze is a sneeze, John. Of course it’s allergies. Don’t you think I’d know if—“ He paused for a brief second as John pressed his hand to Rodney’s forehead. Rodney sighed. “What do you think you’re doing? Look, even if this were a cold, which it isn’t, I wouldn’t have a fever. Fevers are more common with influenza and such.”
“What if it’s some alien cold that includes a fever?”
Rodney looked frustrated but he gave in to the man’s logic. “All right, but do you feel a fever, John?”
John dropped his hand. “No.”
“Obviously. Because it’s allergies. Now just give me an hour and—”
“Bed,” he interrupted. “Now.” It wasn’t an order. John could order him, but didn’t like to if he didn’t have to. The tone of his voice told Rodney he meant business.
Rodney looked longingly at his work then switched off the datapads and monitors in front of him. He initiated another kiss, and John kissed back with all the strength and passion as usual, sucking in Rodney’s upper lip and caressing Rodney’s mouth with his tongue. Rodney went weak as John’s arms wrapped around him. He reached up and rubbed a hand through John’s hair. John growled affectionately at the tender touch and smiled as his kisses trailed down to Rodney’s neck.
“It’s all I can do to keep from having you right here.” They’d made love in Rodney’s lab before, and none of the encounters had gone well. After the last time, Lady Elizabeth had forbade them from any further attempts unless absolutely necessary.
“So what’s stopping you?” It was John’s right to use Rodney’s body however and whenever he pleased. And if it took the offer of sex to draw Rodney out, then John would happily offer that bribe. John clipped his leash onto Rodney’s collar. That was his only answer. Rodney silently followed, walking to heal but sniffling all the way as though he thought John might not be able to hear.
Another sound reached John’s ears as they got to their quarters: Rodney’s stomach rumbling. John’s head snapped to the side. “Did you eat dinner?”
Rodney looked guilty and, somehow, hungry, as he shook his head.
“Why did I even bother asking?” He unclipped Rodney. “I’ll cook something simple. You…” His eyes trailed down Rodney’s body. The man was far too clothed. He liked seeing his Rodney naked as much as possible. He liked being reminded of how lucky he was to have what he had—the most brilliant man in Atlantis, yes, but also one who was hot and whose dynamic fit so perfectly with his own. Lifebond, marriage, collaring… sometimes all that mattered was that he loved Rodney and Rodney loved him right back.
Rodney seemed to read his mind and was already stripping off his clothes. He sneezed a couple times as he did so, seeming glad to be rid of the uniform with whatever particles of dust remained on it. “Gonna go take a shower,” Rodney declared. “Otherwise my allergies… huh… are bound to… huh-IHPHishhhh!” The sneeze was high-pitched and sprayed Rodney’s hand before he could even dig a tissue from the pocket of the pants he’d discarded.
“Good idea.” John cracked some eggs into a pan while Rodney retreated to the bathroom. The man was still in their quarters, but with several rooms and a door between them, it felt too far to John. He could hear water running and could hear more sneezes. Rodney blew his nose repeatedly with a spectacular honking sound. The Canadian scientist was starting to sound like a small flock Canadian geese.
John called him when the food was ready, but Rodney did not appear. John called again, louder, got no response. Concerned, he headed over to the bathroom and opened the door. Wearing nothing but his collar and pendant, Rodney sat on the closed lid of the toilet with tissues clenched tight in his fist and a bottle of green Nyquil pressed to his lips. He froze for a moment, swallowed down another gulp of medicine, and then he offered the bottle over as if they were sharing a bottle of whiskey. “Care for a sip? I hear this cocktail’s all the rage on the mainland.” His voice sounded a little deeper than usual and it was laced with a bit of congestion.
Staring at him, John just shook his head. “Did you or did you not tell me this was just allergies?”
“I thought it was,” Rodney admitted. “Before I took a shower and the steam loosened up my sinuses instead of clearing them out… eh-ah-ehhp’tshuhhh! Ktchhh!”
“And the reason you didn’t come right out and tell me when you realized it?”
Rodney looked up at him pitifully from behind a mound of tissues. “I could’t stob sdeezig.”
John moved in, pressing his hand to Rodney’s forehead again. It was warm from the shower, but not fever-hot by any means.
An eye roll from Rodney met this. He blew his nose with enough honks to clear his speech up a bit. “I told you, fevers aren’t likely with colds.”
“Just checking.” John helped him up. “All right. Go get into bed.” John motioned. Rodney headed over. And John slapped the curve of Rodney’s ass cheek as he passed, just as a reminder of what happened when John Sheppard’s sub withheld the truth.
Rodney made it to their bed and collapsed, face-first, upon it. The bed gave and sprang back up most of the way under his weight. Then it dipped down again as John sat down on the edge with a plate of steak and eggs. Rodney turned his head and eyed the meal warily. “What? Not hungry now?” John’s free hand was drawn to Rodney’s back and rubbed up and down the soft skin there.
Rodney shrugged and whined, “Now I’m too tired to eat!”
John’s hand continued to caress, though it kept being drawn to Rodney’s ass and the small bite marks John had left on it yesterday. He loved the look of them, loved the memory of making them, and loved the temporary bumps and indentations they left. He also loved the way Rodney seemed to relax as they were stroked. “Thought you said you weren’t tired.”
“Before that shower, I wasn’t. Now that I’m in our bed, all warm and relaxed…” A great yawn cut him off.
“Well, if Rodney Sheppard isn’t hungry, it must be a bad cold on its way. Maybe I should call Carson to have a look at you.”
The threat worked. “No way do I want two of Atlantis’ toppiest tops fussing over me at once.” Rodney hauled himself up and twisted around until he was leaning back against pillows and headboard. He opened his mouth and let John feed him from the plate. “Last thing I need is to wind up in the infirmary where I can’t do any of my work.”
“You won’t be doing any work tomorrow,” John said, watching the yellow of the egg yolk squeeze out as he tried to cut it with the side of the fork.
“Figures,” Rodney grumbled, eating what John fed him, bite by bite.
“Your work can wait until you’re feeling better.”
“That’s just it. It actually can. I spend so much time rushing around, trying to save the world. Right now there are no wraith ships on the monitors, no malfunctioning cloaking device, no Genii mercenaries taking over the city. I finally had time to uncover some of the Atlantian devices to try and get them to work. Now the other guys will get to have all the fun working without me.”
“Oh, I guarantee I’ll be able to give you something fun to work on.”
Only a weak smile answered John’s innuendo. Not a great sign.
John put down the plate and fork. Rodney needed to be fed, and he wouldn’t shirk his duty there. But Rodney also needed to be held and John had been dying to gather him in his arms ever since he’d heard that first little sneeze back at the lab. John quickly shed his clothes, something that was always more enjoyable when Rodney did it, but Rodney was busy coughing at the moment. Then John crawled into bed and pulled Rodney beneath the covers with him. Skin on skin contact was reassuring; it made John’s body relax just a little. It was hard to be worried about anything when you were hugging Rodney Sheppard; somehow things always seemed to work out when he was around, especially when you applied a little pressure. John moved closer.
At the same time, Rodney snuggled in close, nuzzling his face into John’s neck. His body tightened and jerked as he sneezed again. “ehh-Phxxshhhhh!” John felt a little wetness against his skin as Rodney sniffled, but John only hugged tighter. He knew how Rodney liked it and knew Rodney needed it. John closed his eyes and focused on Rodney. There was a surge of expectant energy and the Kaeira began to hum between them.
At once, Rodney pushed John back. The look of horror on his face made John’s insides twist. “What’s the matter with you?” Rodney asked in a squeaking voice, appalled. John tried to reach out to him, but Rodney threw off the covers, slid back, and tumbled out of bed. Though, like a cat, he landed on his feet. “I’m sick!”
“Yeah, I know. I was trying to help with that.”
“By sharing it? John, the Kaeira will just make you sick, too.”
He blinked back at Rodney. “That is the general idea. Split between us, the cold won’t be too bad. We share a lifebond so that we could share each other’s life.” Rodney stood, unmoving, unpersuaded. “Rodney, I’m your top. I get to decide how to use your body and I certainly get to decide how to use mine. If I want to help lessen your misery, that’s my right.”
Rodney coughed and rubbed his nose but didn’t move closer to the bed.
“I’m going to catch your cold anyway. You just sneezed on me. We shared a plate and a fork. And earlier we kissed…”
Softening at the memory of the kiss, or perhaps at John’s logic, Rodney climbed back into bed. They kissed again, this time slow and reassuring. John stroked Rodney’s cheek and placed a hand on the lower part of Rodney’s back. Rodney snuggled closer as the Kaeira hummed. They shared the warm, prickly buzz between them, feeling so connected it was almost impossible to imagine not sharing this lifebond.
It was John who pulled back, feeling a sneeze coming on. His nose twitched. His expression faltered. And his head snapped forward. “h’CHIHH! Cough!”
Looking guilty, Rodney reached over for some tissues. “Bless you, John.”
John coughed again and closed his eyes. “It’s just a cold. Nothing I can’t handle.”
John’s eyelids snapped back open. “What?”
Rodney shrugged and, though he looked sick, he didn’t look quite as miserable as he had a few minutes before. In fact, the hint of a smile played on his lips. “Well, if it were an especially bad cold, we’d have to stay in bed. Together. You’d have to take care of me and I’d take care of you.”
With a smile of his own, John raised a hand and felt Rodney’s forehead.
“Oh, for the last time, John, I don’t have a fever.”
“I think you do.” He kissed Rodney’s forehead and hugged the man so close in his arms that Rodney’s wonderfully hard erection almost hurt as it dug into his thigh. “I’m your t-uh top. And I say you h-have a fe… fever. Hahh-CHIIHhhh! Cough!”
Rodney nodded and, sniffling, rubbed tissues at his nose. “That means you do, too. We’d better call in sick tomorrow. Better stay in bed.”
“But think about all that work you have to do.”
“Mmmm.” Rodney nodded and tugged the covers up to keep them warm. He slid down and took John’s cock in his mouth. “Might be up all night… lots of important work to do,” he said around it.