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The Mark of the Dragon

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Rodney McKay grumbled under his breath as he stalked away from the research lab. The idiots working under him had no concept of the complex magic that went behind the engineering on a transport, and it showed in their work.

And they had to nerve to tell him that his theory was wrong!

Rodney punched a point on one of the said transporters with his index finger, wishing instead that he could poke one of his assistants instead. A rush of magical energy surrounded him as the transporter whirled to work and Rodney took a deep breath. He closed his eyes at the sensation of it, letting it calm him down. His own magic flared up in his soul and he touched his amulet briefly. The sapphire power gem flashed under his finger tips, before growing dull again as the magic deposited Rodney at his destination.

Sometimes, Rodney pitied the others, the non-mages, who couldn’t feel the power that vibrated through the city-palace that was the capital of the Kingdom of Pegasus. Atlantis was the most interconnected city in the world; her passageways and transporters making her look and act as one building instead of an entire city. She’d been constructed thousands of years ago by mages so powerful that they had ascended into beings of pure energy when they finished their work. Ancients.

Mages like Rodney held only a fraction of the power the Ancients once held, but it was enough for Atlantis to respond and welcome them. The kingdom had flourished around the city that had been its first discovery, and now Pegasus was a force to be reckoned with. There was no doubt in the mind of any nation that the kingdom that held the lost city of the Ancients was one of the most powerful.

Except, perhaps, for the Wraith Empire.

Rodney arrived at his rooms, carelessly discarding his outer robes and soft boots. With a sigh, he plopped down on his large bed, remorse showing that he had no one to come home to. Or rather, no one who wanted to come home to him.

A Consort by nature yet a Lord by action, his sister used to say. That was when they still talked, before she got herself claimed by a scholar he couldn’t stand and had a daughter he barely knew.

But such was the way of Lords and Ladies.

At times like this, when Rodney thought bitterly on his life and on all the people who had screwed him over, he could almost believe that he wasn’t jealous of his sister for having Kaleb. Or of his deputy scientist and best friend Radek for having Second Commander Evan Lorne.

Of course, at times like this, he wouldn’t be able to stay in denial long. He lived for the truth far too much. So, as he rolled over and stared at the empty right side of the bed, he inevitably found that he couldn’t ignore the white-hot pang of bitter longing that ran through him.

<o><o><o>

“You are not concentrating.” Radek was frowning, Rodney could tell that by his tone.

“Yes, I am!” Rodney protested, but they both knew that Radek was in the right.

With a groan, Rodney put down the device he was holding and brought a hand to massage his temple.

“You have not been sleeping,” Radek noted, standing just far enough out of Rodney’s reach to be safe, but close enough to be intrusive.

“Neither have you,” Rodney countered, just a bit more viciously than he had intended.

Radek, used to Rodney’s sharp tongue, just blushed a slight pink. His Lord had arrived home earlier that week from a long siege against the Wraith. It was to be expected that he’d not been given much time to rest.

The city had rejoiced at the successful return of its Dragonriders, but none more so than the Consorts whose Lords and Ladies carried the title. Then again, the unbonded Riders were always quick to find companions so more than just the partnered Consorts looked forward to the return of the enigmatic elite. No one refused a Rider unless they were already bonded. No one ever thought to.

Dragonriders were chosen at birth by their dragons. All children were shown to the dragon coven some point between their seventh and eleventh birthdays, when they were old enough to show some of their eventual personality yet young enough to still be trained to do what they were shown to be.

It was the dragons, the purest forms of magic in corporal form, that labeled a child future Lord or future Consort. It was the dragons that indicated the children with magic versus the children without and the track their magic was likely to follow. It was the dragons that chose their masters out of a very small group of Lord mages.

It is said that the King of the dragons himself tested Rodney, bringing a snout to the young boy’s forehead to the surprise of all those present as witnesses. The King had roared, shocking both the young Rodney and the onlookers. When the Prince dragon had flown in on and landed next to his father, everyone had been sure that Rodney was about to be chosen as the next heir apparent. Even the young King Jack O’Neill, the Rider of the King dragon, thought that the Prince was about to select Rodney as his master and the next in line for the throne of Pegasus.

But the Prince dragon had only given young Rodney a look and a sniff before snorting at his father. The older dragon had given his son a large-toothed grin, then he had bestowed upon the silent and slightly scared child a large sapphire gem, which the boy had taken with shaking hands. It was an indicator magic, engineering as it was one of the purest of gems, and a strong soul as it shone brightly to reflect the power young Rodney even then possessed.

The audience had murmured with disappointment as the King dragon opened his jaws to complete the rite. It was a fluke, they had thought, Rodney would be strong but no prince. Then the Prince dragon had stepped forward, shoving a wing to stop his father as he took the older dragon’s place, jaws agape.

Carefully, much more carefully than his father would have been, the Prince dragon lowered his open jaws to clasp gently on Rodney’s left shoulder. The witnesses’ had all shaken their heads at this showing of Rodney as a Consort, not the Lord they had expected in the brash child.

Then, suddenly, the Prince dragon had bit down hard, blood welling up from young Rodney’s torn shoulder as he pulled back and screamed silently at the pain. The Prince dragon had inhaled and, before anyone could react, he had blown a puff of magic onto the wound, healing and causing the bite mark to scar instantly.

Without another look at the boy, the Prince dragon had flown off in a flurry of dust.

Not even King Jack had been able to get an answer out of the King dragon at his son’s actions. Eventually, they had just given up.

But everyone soon knew that Rodney was special, different in some way. For some, this caused reverence. For others, it could jealous anger and resentment.

So, Rodney had grown and learned to hide his scar under thick outer robes. He learned to use his brain, to show people that he was worth more than marred flesh. He learned to use a loud voice and a belittling tone to cover his own insecurities.

Three years after the ceremony, the Prince dragon had chosen John Sheppard as his Rider and the kingdom had rejoiced. John Sheppard, now First Commander of the Dragonriders, had been named the heir to the throne, not Rodney.

No, Rodney had become a mage, and a damn good one.

And he was happy with that, he honestly was.

“Lady Elizabeth requested your presence,” Radek was saying.

“What?” Rodney asked. “Why would she…” he trailed off, realizing suddenly.

Radek gave him a sympathetic look. “Do you want me to join you?” he offered. “I am just as much at fault as you.”

“No,” Rodney was quick to shake his head. “It was my project. Besides,” he added as he looked out the laboratory window. “It’s getting late. You should go home, your Lord might get angry.”

“Evan does not–” Radek began to protest, but he cut himself off. “Goodnight, Rodney,” he whispered instead. “And good luck.”

Rodney said nothing as he left, but it took almost an hour before he mustered up the courage to go and face Elizabeth and the council.

“Mage McKay,” Councilman Hammond greeted as the secretary let Rodney into the meeting room.

Rodney just nodded silently, not meeting any eyes. He could feel them staring at him. King Jack and his Consort Daniel were there, surrounded at the table by the councilmen Hammond, Landry, Woolsey, and Elizabeth Weir. Even the prince was present, but of course he was. When not off fighting, he was being prepared for his eventual takeover as King, which included the council meetings that had to go with running a kingdom.

“Mage McKay,” Elizabeth began. “Do you know why you have been called before us?”

Rodney let out a breath he had not realized he’d been holding. He was nervous, he knew that, but he couldn’t let it affect him. “Yes,” he answered simply.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at him. “You are being charged with the destruction of millions of dollars and the loss of the life of a man under you. Do you accept these charges?”

Rodney winced and took a inhaled deeply, before nodding.

“Why did you abort the project?” Elizabeth asked slowly.

This must be hard for her, Rodney thought as he considered his answer. “The Arcturus Project was dangerous from the start. Though the readings seemed correct, the magic fluxuated every time the machine was turned on. It was unpredictable. The last test we ran,” he paused, struggling at the painful memories, “the last test we ran caused the sudden death of the mage Peter Grodin by a sudden influx of magical outburst.”

“Grodin’s death was unfortunate,” Woolsey cut in. “But the project could have destroyed the Wraith, and you destroyed it instead.”

Rodney scowled at the councilman. “I had no choice!” he protested venomously. “The magic had become out of control, if I hadn’t stopped it then it would have destroyed half the kingdom!”

“There is no proof,” that was Landry, observant as always.

“No,” Rodney deflated at the look in those eyes. The magical burst he had used to destroy the weapon had left nothing. It had taken a month for him to recover from the exhaustion of his soul because of it. “But I promise you, if the project was salvageable, I would have saved it. I spent years of my life on it.”

Silence reigned after that statement. Finally, King Jack let out a sigh. “Is there anything else?” he asked, the question directed to both Elizabeth and Rodney.

Elizabeth shook her head, but Rodney just stared at the far wall, feeling both anger and great sadness well up inside of him.

The King sighed again, even more audibly this time. “Okay then, you are dismissed Mage McKay. We will inform you of our decision by the end of the week.”

Rodney turned on his heels and left, barely noticing Consort Daniel’s reassuring smile. He broke into a run as soon as the doors closed behind him and didn’t stop until he reached the east pier.

The water of the Atlantean lake lapped at his dangling feet as he stared out at the setting sun and mourned at the death of a good friend. Elizabeth had a right to be angry at him, Peter had been her Consort. A good Consort, a good mage, a good friend. A better man than Rodney. Less deserving of the death he’d been given.

And it had been Rodney who’d badgered him into working on the project in the first place.

Rodney didn’t know how long he sat out there, only that suddenly he realized the stars were shining in the sky and he was no longer alone.

Rodney spun to face the one standing behind him, jumping to his feet so fast that he lost his balance and began to topple backwards into the dark water.

The figure grasped his left wrist, pulling Rodney upright. “Careful,” the man chuckled.

Rodney straightened, recognizing that voice. Prince John Sheppard stood in the moonlight, staring at him.

“I apologize, your highness,” Rodney said, trying to muster up some sincerity. He did not apologize often.

Prince John’s dark eyes glowed in the moonlight as he shook his head. “No formalities,” he commanded softly. “Call me John.”

Rodney blushed, realizing then that the prince, John, still hadn’t let go of his wrist. He tugged it, just slightly.

John’s eyes flashed and he tightened his grip. It was an invitation, in most circles. But John was Prince and First Commander of the Dragonriders. No, Rodney knew a command when he felt one.

With bewildered panic, Rodney let himself be dragged closer to John’s body. The Lord wrapped his free arm around Rodney’s waist, bending his head down a marginal amount so he stared straight into Rodney’s blue eyes.

It was too much for Rodney to take. He wasn’t a virgin, not for a long time, but it had been a while and never with someone even close to either John’s status or level of magical power. Rodney could just feel the strength of it roll of the prince in waves, caressing his body even as John’s lips found his own.

But why him? Why now? Rodney knew he hadn’t made a positive impression in the council room, why had the prince come to him?

Rodney let himself be ravished there standing on the pier. He barely moved under the feel of John’s lips, his stomach a knot of confusion and worry and guilt.

He didn’t protest as John suddenly stopped, but neither did he protest as the Rider walked them both to his suite. He barely registered as his clothes were stripped from his body, didn’t really notice as he was lowered onto a large bed.

It was as if his mind had left him. There was no thought, no discoveries and theories whispering in the back of his thoughts. There was just… nothing. He was unresponsive, floating in a haze of calm detachment.

John paused, hovering over his unmoving body. “Rodney,” he said, voice low. “Give me your permission.”

Rodney blinked at that, mind slowly trying to process John’s words. Permission? Why would the prince need to ask permission?

“Rodney,” John said again, but this time his tone was that of a command.

Rodney took a shuddering breath and nodded once.

That was all it took for John to descend on him again, mouth and hands working simultaneously. He slowed, studying the scars still visible on Rodney’s left shoulder, but they did not hold his attention long.

When, finally, later, he entered Rodney’s body, Rodney submitted to it, haze still swirling around him. John grabbed Rodney’s cock, bringing him to a jolted release just before the prince found his own. The Rider collapsed, then, on Rodney’s sweaty chest, head still raised and watching.

Rodney fell asleep with John on top of him, slipping into the land of dreams easier than he had in years.

<o><o><o>

“They are letting you off,” Radek’s voice was a mix of joy and disbelief.

Rodney nodded, having just heard the news himself. He couldn’t help the relief that spread through his whole body.

“Supposedly, Prince John and Consort Daniel were the most vocal in their defense of you,” Miko Kusanagi, the deliverer of the news, said with the smile of a gossip. “But even Lady Elizabeth said that she did not wish for you to be punished.”

“She did?” Rodney was stunned. He thought for sure…

“She knows it was not your fault, Rodney,” Miko said softly. “It was no one’s fault.”

Miko would know, she had been there after all.

“Congratulations, Rodney,” Radek said. “And Miko is right. Even the Lady agrees, you should stop with this blaming of yourself.”

“I’m–” Rodney started.

“No, you listen to me,” Radek cut him off. “You are an amazing person, arrogant yes, but you are the most brilliant mage I know and I know many. Stop. Blaming. Yourself.”

And with that, Radek took Miko and left.

The rest of the day found Rodney sitting on the east pier. He had not gone there since that night, five days ago, when the Prince had found him. He’d woken up alone that morning after and hadn’t seen John since.

But Rodney wasn’t thinking of him now. He was thinking of Peter and Elizabeth and Radek and Arcturus.

For the first time in over a year, Rodney could remember the project without the weight of guilt crushing him.

He felt free.

<o><o><o>

“You are coming to see the demonstration, yes?” Radek said, stopping by Rodney’s main lab.

Rodney blinked up at him. “What?” he asked, but didn’t stay up long to hear the answer. He ducked back under the mass of machinery, attempting to figure out how the convulsions affected the weaving of magic in the pumping device.

Radek tapped on the side, forced Rodney to come back again. “The demonstration, Rodney, half the city will be there,” he sighed in what must have been exasperation.

“Oh,” Rodney searched his brain. Right, the Dragonriders were giving a demonstration of their prowess. Rodney had been avoiding the hype all week.

“You must come,” Radek told him. “You have not left you lab in three days!”

“This is important,” Rodney protested. “I’m saving lives here.” An over exaggeration and they both knew it. The machine Rodney had been tinkering with was just something to alleviate the boredom while his mind began to tackle some of the most difficult theories on his list to prove.

“Sure,” Radek rolled his eyes. “Still, you are coming with me.”

And so, kicking and screaming, Radek took Rodney to the demonstration. They managed to get fairly good seats in the large stadium because of their status as some of the kingdom’s chief mages. The crowd was wild with excitement, anticipation evident in the air.

Finally, at last, out of the sky a colorful parade of wings could be seen. The Dragonriders swooped down from all directions, majestically diving and gliding over the audience. Rodney watched them, in awe despite himself, until a roar caught his attention and held it. A huge dragon dominated his vision as it’s massive wings took it into the center of the stadium.

Rodney barely remembered his ceremonial rite, but he could never forget the creature whose mark he still wore.

The Prince dragon flipped up and dove down, exciting the spectators as his rider stood upon his back, reigns in one hand, a single red rose in the other.

Rodney watched the man whom with he’d shared a bed several weeks before as the Rider performed gracefully under the eyes of half the city. Rodney even felt himself begin to get caught up in the movements, wondering what the prince and his dragon would dare to do next.

Until a final finale of color and light ripped gasps of joy out of the spectators lips. Then, the prince finished the show with a graceful ark, his Second and Third Commanders mimicking him on either side.

Rodney noticed, out of the corner of his eye, Lord Evan bowing to Radek who blushed besides him. But most of the crowd had their attention on the prince, who lifted the rose in his hand and threw it with a jab of his wrist.

To the civilians, it probably looked to be a random toss, but to all the magic-wielders it was a directed path, the rose being lifted by a powerful force that sent it directly to the stands.

Directly into Rodney’s lap.

The fans surrounding him glared at their missed chance as Rodney lifted the rose with shaking fingers. It wasn’t actually a flower, he could tell that immediately. The petals were made of red dragon claws, he deduced quickly, and the stem of a white fang.

Rodney looked up, both human and dragon Prince staring straight at him.

It was too much for him to handle. Ignoring Radek’s shout of protest, Rodney fled the stadium.

<o><o><o>

Rodney managed to avoid John for five days. Then the prince cornered him in his lab and he knew he was caught.

“Did I offend you?” John asked as he stalked closer to Rodney.

Rodney shook his head wordlessly, frozen in spot.

John frowned. He stepped closer.

Rodney’s mind caught up with him and he blushed, dropping the device he’d been working on onto the table. “I was not offended, you highness,” Rodney said carefully, wondering if in fact he had offended the Rider. “Simply honored, too honored actually. I don’t know what I did to deserve such a gift.”

“Did?” John frowned deeper. “You just don’t get it, do you McKay?”

Rodney started at the use of his last name. He shook his head again, very confused.

John sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair. “It’s like this,” he closed the distance between them then. “I really really like you,” his breath was hot on Rodney’s lips and Rodney fought to stay still, not to retreat.

“With all due respect,” Rodney said, his automatic defense flaring in his sarcastic tone. “You don’t know me.”

John chuckled. “No?” he said. “Maybe not, but I know more of you than you think.”

Rodney did take a step back at that. “But–”

“I know you hate to be ignored, but don’t wish for the amount of attention you received as a child. I know you doubt yourself and your abilities because you were not chosen to be a Rider, and I know you think your friends only like you for your power,” John was slowly but surely backing Rodney into the corner of the lab as he talked. “I know you are jealous of your sister, but angry at her for the life she gave up. I know you were in love with Lady Sam Carter until she was killed in a Wraith attack and I know that you’re lonely. I know that you’re allergic to bees and citrus fruits, that you comfort yourself by eating, and that you avoid the world by working. I know that you have stopped hoping, stopped dreaming of a better life for yourself.”

At some point, Rodney realized that he had closed his eyes, trying to shut out that low voice as it reverberated through his ears.

“I know,” John Sheppard had Rodney pinned now, “that my dragon loves you. I know so much about you Rodney, but I don’t know enough because every little thing I’ve learned just makes me more and more addicted.”

Rodney opened his eyes, wide and dazed. “I’m not,” Rodney licked his lips at the burning in John’s eyes. “I don’t deserve–”

John slammed his palms on either side of Rodney’s head and leaned close. He was angry now, Rodney could tell even as he tried to figure out why.

“Strip,” the prince commanded and his tone held no room for protest.

Rodney couldn’t move, couldn’t think. He didn’t understand why someone like John wanted him. Didn’t understand why he was so upset.

John growled and took a hand off the wall, ripping away Rodney’s robes. In no time, Rodney found himself naked and vulnerable to John’s roaming gaze.

Then, he was being turned around and told to brace himself against the wall.

John entered him with little preparation, causing a burn to spread through Rodney’s lower body as he was forced to quickly adjust. Rodney gasped against the pain as John thrust in him, once, twice. Three times.

Rodney lost count, his own erection straining up and tears dripping down his face. He was hard, oh so hard even under the brutal treatment.

He wondered, briefly, if he had in fact been wooed by the gift.

John came into Rodney and, with a sound much like a roar, he bit down on Rodney’s shoulder, covering a different bite scar.

He pulled out of Rodney the same time his teeth broke skin and Rodney gasped as sharp pain flared up. John unclenched his jaw and stepped away.

Rodney didn’t turn, didn’t move as he heard John’s breath hitch. He could already feel the bruises form over his body even as the path of blood trickled down from the wound.

And then John left without a word.

Rodney rested his head against the cold wall and brought a hand down to jerk himself off.

<o><o><o>

John didn’t come looking for him again, and Rodney immersed himself in his work. Three months after their first meeting on the pier, the Dragonriders were called away to fight. The Wraith had raided a border town called Athosia and the town leader Teyla had been desperate for help.

Radek was, as usual, distraught.

For the first time, Rodney felt a ghost of the same emotion course through him and he wondered why.

Rodney couldn’t get John out of his thoughts, now that he was gone. He denied it for several weeks, but that couldn’t last forever.

He began to ask questions, do his own research.

John rarely took a companion, his sources told him. Never showed much interest in anyone. He was an extremely well respected commander, popular with most everyone. His heroics against the Wraith were widespread, his personal life was not.

It was Radek that told him the most surprising. All things he’d probably learned from his Lord, a close friend as well as Second to the prince.

John liked the ocean, he liked going so fast he could barely breath; he loved his people and his dragon equally.

And he loved an unknown mage whom Evan hadn’t been told the name of. A Consort with a brilliant mind and amazing blue eyes. A Consort he’d hurt, John had told Evan, and who would likely never forgive him.

Rodney learned all this, and he found himself thirsting for more. But John was gone, and it didn’t seem like he’d be back anytime soon.

He wanted to ask his own questions, make his own assumptions to the man’s face.

He no longer had the chance.

The Riders were gone for half a year. After rescuing the town, they and the army had gone on to push the Wraith back and into their own territory. It had caught the Wraith by surprise, as did the biomagical weapon that Rodney, Radek, Carson Beckett, and countless others had been working on ever since the Arcturus Project failed.

Their absence was long, but when the Dragonriders finally came home it was with the head of the Queen Wraith and the empire in ruins. It was to victory celebrations and daylong parties. It was to the end of a ten thousand year war.

Rodney had contemplated John, his life, and his own feelings for six months, tossing and turning in his bed until his eyes caught the dragon-made rose on his nightstand. When he wasn’t working, he was sitting on the pier, rose clasped tightly in his left hand. Right hand stroking the new scar that had formed from the bite John had given him.

The night of the day the Dragonriders had returned, Rodney crept into the dragon stable and sat down next to a dragon he knew better than he should.

Said dragon curled its tail around him, head on its claws and eyes open.

“I think I love him,” Rodney said into the silence. “I don’t know why. I mean, I wasn’t exactly willing.” Rodney chocked at the thought. “But I wasn’t really unwilling either. He’s so much stronger than I am. You know. Every bit the Lord you made him.”

The dragon watched him silently.

Rodney huffed. “He, he’s been watching me for a while, right? But I wouldn’t let him get close. I didn’t let anyone get close.”

The dragon blinked once in agreement.

Rodney leaned towards the creature’s head and reached out a cautious hand. “I blame you. But you know that, don’t you?”

The dragon snorted and his head rose. He touched his snout to Rodney’s left shoulder, eyes the same dark as his master’s.

Rodney smiled into the darkness and stood.

A few minutes found him at the door to John’s suite. He knocked only once and it was opened, John’s surprise evident on his face.

“Rodney–” John began, but Rodney was already letting himself in. He walked slowly to the bed, touching the sheets with a hand that had spent six months holding the present the prince had bestowed upon him.

John touched to door to close it and approached him, slowly, hesitantly.

Rodney turned to him, eyes bright.

“I’m sorry,” John said, eyes full of so much hurt that it took Rodney’s breath away.

“I know,” Rodney said. He bit his lip, looking down then back up. “I can’t really say it’s okay. I’m not okay. You hurt me.”

John nodded, his entire appearance defeated. “I won’t bother you again. I just hope,” he paused, struggling. “I hope you maybe can forgive me someday.”

Rodney stood there and in that moment he made his decision. He stepped closer and buried his face into John’s neck. He relaxed only when John’s arms wrapped around him, holding him tight.

“Rodney-,” John cut himself off and lowered his face into Rodney’s hair.

Rodney smiled and breathed in that smell that was purely John. “Someday,” he agreed.

<o><o><o>

The next time, when John moved against Rodney, Rodney moved back. His mind was hazed over, but it was with passion and lust and love and all he could think of was John.

And as John shuddered through his climax, whispering “I love you” against his lips, well Rodney couldn’t imagine anywhere he’d rather be.

The next day, Rodney woke to John’s arms encasing him. He was warm and safe, but most of all loved.

John kissed him good morning, eyes boring into him. And Rodney could honestly admit that he was happy.

Three months later, a year since the first night on the pier, John claimed Rodney as his official Consort.

And, once again, the Kingdom rejoiced.