Word Count: ~13,000
Summary: John doesn't like to be touched. Except by certain people. Rodney doesn't get it at first. Then he does. Includes: two druggings, one kidnapping, a stomach wound, a planet of gay warriors, pseudo-psycho-babble, team-bonding, and supply-closet sex.
The Mandeevans had wanted their weapons. The Ipsati had wanted the keys to Atlantis. The Corollians had wanted Rodney to bring their science into the 21st century -- about as likely as the spontaneous evolution of multi-celled organisms from the lint ball underneath his bed, even had they had his willing cooperation, and approached him with the appropriate awe, respect and reverence his intellect obviously deserved – which clearly they hadn’t – they had kept him barefoot and shackled -- shackled! His left ankle had been rubbed raw for weeks afterwards.
And now, now the Danpai wanted Sheppard’s gene, and clearly meant to acquire it in the most morally reprehensible manner possible (It’s been 7 days since our last kidnapping/drugging/participation in an embarrassing fertility ritual).
“Is it just me, or does this galaxy seem grabbier lately than usual?” asked Rodney as he paused to hoist a sagging John Sheppard more securely against his side. John just let his head loll onto Rodney’s shoulder by way of reply.
“Yes, yes, of course. Grabby McGrabby Pants,” Rodney agreed, gesturing to himself with his semi-free hand, the one holding John’s arm across his own shoulders. “But there’s getting the last donut through strategy, intellectual superiority, and the sheer logic of superior claim. And then there’s getting the last donut by luring it away from its teammates and plying it with drugged grain alcohol.”
“I am not a donut, McKay.”
Rodney didn’t bother disagreeing, just tightened his grip on Sheppard’s bony hip.
They were still about a mile and a half from the gate, and Sheppard wasn’t as light as he looked. Ronon would have hefted him without breaking a sweat, but Ronon’s skills were currently more usefully employed by looking and acting like a guy who was pissed as hell and exceedingly dangerous to know, and who could take out six of your best warriors before they got within three feet of him – which he was, so it wasn’t exactly taxing his acting ability. Teyla, in counterpoint, was busy cowing the natives with her zen-like calm and deadly accuracy. The two of them had some kind of bad cop-bad cop, or maybe crazy cop--steely-eyed sniper cop routine down. And Rodney certainly wasn’t complaining because it had proved highly effective up to this point.
This point being the one where Lt. Colonel John Sheppard gave up any pretense of actually assisting Rodney in the transport of his person. “I’m tired,” he breathed into Rodney’s ear, slumping so bonelessly against him that Rodney staggered, and they both went down. Hard.
“Colonel! A little warning?”
Sheppard only mumbled something unintelligible into Rodney’s chest. Gingerly, Rodney levered himself into a sitting position, Sheppard ending up sprawled across his lap. As he looked out into the sea of ominously and steadily approaching torches, he instinctively brought up a hand to cradle the back of Sheppard’s head.
“Come on, Colonel. This is no time to take a nap. What would Elizabeth say? You don’t want your marines finding out that you’re falling down on the job.” Rodney was running his hand through Sheppard’s hair compulsively now, jerking his head back a little on each pass, at the same time, working his other hand under John towards his thigh holster.
“You know, I wouldn’t mind a few extra hours of sleep,” he huffed, flipping open the release and yanking out the Beretta, “but do you see me snoozing? Of course, somewhere a little more comfortable and where you’re less likely to end up waking up as a portable sperm bank would be nice.”
John opened his eyes briefly as Rodney gave him a sharp shake, “ Tell Ronon --not..shoot…people,” he slurred before putting his head back down underneath Rodney’s chin.
Rodney was not panicking, not really. On a Pegasus normalized scale, this barely rated a 4. Except then John raised his head again suddenly, almost clocking Rodney in the jaw, his eyes wide and dazed, “ I don’t feel so good,” he said, right before he started shaking convulsively.
At some point, Ronon loomed out of the dark, grabbed John without a word, throwing him over a shoulder and running for the gate. Teyla yanked Rodney to this feet and they stood facing back on the path they had come from the village, as Rodney thumbed off the safety on his gun and thought viciously and with great satisfaction that John hadn’t told him not to shoot anybody.
In the end Rodney didn’t even have the chance to fire his gun. Teyla made judicious use of her supply of percussion grenades. Ronon dialed the gate and gave Sheppard’s IDC. And the three of them slid into the gateroom, surrounding Sheppard, and calling for Beckett.
It probably hadn’t started with that incident, but that was when Rodney first started to notice. The shittier things got in the Pegasus galaxy, the grabbier everyone got, the more standoff-ish Sheppard got, bothering less and less to hide the fact that he was deliberately avoiding shaking hands with the village elder, politely waiting for the next transporter, assigning Lorne to greet and debrief all new Daedalus personnel. Which, as a response to their most recent string of harrowing misadventures, made perfect sense. And certainly Rodney himself had never been the most enthusiastic participant in the endless rounds of ceremonial hand holding and cup sharing that only really seemed to serve as a particularly effective germ delivery mechanism, since they were invariably followed up by the two a.m. surprise attack. No, a normal response to the Pegasus welcome committee would have been to roll up the front mat and lock the door. So the first thing Rodney noticed wasn’t that Sheppard started touching most people even less than he had before, it was the way he started touching certain people even more.
He would routinely turn up in the lab a least once a day to lean briefly into Rodney as he looked over his shoulder. He punched Ronon in the arm both before and after runs now. And he took to greeting Teyla in the Athosian manner so often – pretty much every time he passed her in the hall – that Rodney had started to look for an abrasion mark on his forehead. This, of course, was just the baseline, safe-at-home, no threat of immediate and painful death level of touching. On missions, Sheppard’s tactile activity rose several notches: a quick tap to Ronon’s wrist, hand on Teyla’s shoulder, Rodney’s waist, manual checks to everyone’s gear that ended in business-like pats to the back or upper arm.
If it had stopped there, Rodney would have been content to file away this Sheppard specific Conservation of Contact principle, but it turned out to be an osmotic and insidious phenomenon. For one thing, the tactile compulsion had apparently worn off on Rodney to a certain extent as well, to the point where he would deliberately jostle Sheppard’s leg when he sat down with his tray in the mess, or grab Zelenka’s arm to get his attention. This disruption of his usually more circumspect physical behavior should have, he reflected, annoyed him more than it did. But the real problem was when Sheppard threatened to become more of a diplomatic liability on missions than even Rodney himself had always been.
The exceptionally well-endowed serving wench on P3X-783 had, of course, gotten a little too friendly with Lt. Colonel They-only-want-him-more-the-less-he-want
“Colonel!” hissed Rodney, firmly grasping Sheppard’s arm and tugging him back down. “Why don’t we sit down and finish this lovely,” here he wrinkled his nose in the direction of the pseudo-marmot and its penumbra of grayish turpentine-like sauce, “meal provided by our gracious,” a nod to the dour graybeards in leather and iron age instruments of torture lined up along the far wall, “hosts, and try to avoid another mission where we have to run for our lives in the middle of the night without any shoes on.” Rodney still missed those boots, his second favorite pair, sacrificed to the angry gods of RYT-002.
“I don’t need you to babysit me, Rodney!” Sheppard hissed back angrily. But he sat down readily enough and made no move to extricate himself from Rodney’s grip.
Rodney grinned smugly, “Oh, I think that’s exactly what you need me to do,” he replied.
Teyla quirked an eyebrow at both of them, but slowly eased her hand away from the safety of her P-90, apparently satisfied that the danger had passed.
Gradually, and without any explicit communication, they soon worked out that Sheppard could be coaxed out of his newfound mulishness, usually before irreparable damage was done, if one of them applied the right kind of pressure. Ronon’s brusque slaps to the back of the head proved to be the least effective, and Teyla was usually otherwise engaged, caught up in the actual business of negotiating for trade, so, again by unacknowledged and unspoken agreement, it became Rodney’s job to lean in just as the wizened old crone was holding out her ceremonial and religiously significant bundle of dirty beaded strings for Sheppard to fondle, and grab the wrist of the Colonel’s nearest hand
Sheppard slanted a glare Rodney’s way, but obediently reached out and ran his other hand quickly over the Ra-ha’at. Apparently, being aware of the conditioning stimulus didn’t make him any less susceptible to it, Rodney thought, enjoying the pleasant buzz of scientific discovery. The crone muttered a few words of some voodoo bonding and friendship chant – guaranteed to ensure lifelong goodwill between their peoples, or at least until one of their gods decided that all off-worlders should be killed instead—and Rodney released Sheppard’s wrist, rubbing his thumb briefly across the tendons as a reward for Sheppard not immediately wiping his hand on his pantleg after touching the artifact, which was greasy-looking and smelled of wet dog.
The console made a rude blatting noise, a noise that clearly meant, ‘you are all going to die in 3 minutes and 29 seconds when the hyper-cooled micro-source loses core containment and goes critical’.
“Get out!” Rodney screamed. And Teyla and Ronon took one, not particularly satisfying, step back apiece. “I’m not kidding here. This whole unit is about to go. There’s a small but critical leak in the generator. And when plasma levels get low enough, the tiny, tiny, massively unstable, ultra-compressed vacuum energy source gets too hot. And we all know what happens then, don’t we?” Rodney paused momentarily in his frenzied jacking of the security over-ride to yell, “Kablooey!” basically directly into Colonel Sheppard’s face. Which served him right anyway for standing so damned close, and for his annoying unconcern in the face of imminent death.
Sheppard, again annoyingly, remained unfazed. “And what are you doing to make it stop going kablooey, Rodney?” he asked very slowly, far too slowly in Rodney’s opinion, for the current timetable of 2 minutes, 42 seconds.
“Nothing! That’s what I’ve been telling you – there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I can only try to contain the damage by re-routing the power to divert the failure to somewhere slightly less. Fatal.” What Rodney didn’t say was that to come up with the necessary juice from the 10,000 year old toaster-oven would probably be roughly equivalent to generating matter from vacuum. “140 seconds, Colonel,” he said, meeting Sheppard’s eyes briefly. He must have finally made some kind of impression, because he could hear John going off to talk to the rest of the team, and a little bit later, Ronon and Teyla moving out of range. Thank God. “You too, Colonel,” Rodney said, without much hope, as Sheppard jogged back over to him.
“I need to know what the game plan is, McKay.”
“The game plan?!” Rodney asked incredulously. “The game plan where the quarterback throws the Hail Mary pass to win the game against all odds? We’re not playing that kind of game! How many times do I have to explain to you idiots that science is not --“
At which point, Sheppard stepped right up into his personal space and wrapped both his hands around the tops of Rodney’s shoulders, curling long fingers to press gently into the tight muscles at the base of Rodney’s neck.
This wasn’t supposed to work on him, Rodney thought vaguely, even as he felt something flutter and shift along his nerve endings. It was supposed to be the other way around. Evidently, there was some kind of transference thing going on. It had happened before, and now it was just continuing to spread. This Contact Principle clearly bore further investigation. The palliative effect wasn’t nearly as strong for him as it was for Sheppard, of course, who practically purred and showed you his soft underbelly. For starters, it didn’t really make the prospect of imminent death seem less imminent, but at least there was the consolation that there really hadn’t been anything he could have done, and even if he was a genius, no one could realistically expect him to get blood from a turnip, except in that case at least all the necessary raw biological materials were available, whereas here, quite literally, he had nothing…
“Oh my god, I’m a genius!” Rodney turned back to the console with renewed vigor. “How much time?” he yelled at John, frantically calling up the main control sub-routine for the microsource itself.
“1 minute, 14 seconds,” Sheppard replied promptly.
“Crap!” Rodney yelled back.
“Good thing you’re a genius,” Sheppard replied. And he sounded, Rodney thought, a little bizarrely and inappropriately smug.
In the end, it was an extremely close thing, because when were these things ever not extremely close. “Now!” yelled Rodney. And John literally heaved him away from the console, throwing himself on top of Rodney as the entire array of secondary routing relay circuits blew, sending a fine spray of crystal fragments raining down on them.
“I thought you were gonna stop things from exploding,” said Sheppard in his mock petulant tone, pushing himself up with an elbow to Rodney’s mid-section.
“Hah! Believe me, Colonel, you don’t even want to know about the explosion that this one prevented.” And Rodney couldn’t seem to stop the sloppy grin that was spreading across his face. But that was ok, because clearly Sheppard was infected too, and his grin was way dorkier than Rodney’s.
“Vacuum!” Rodney exclaimed happily.
Sheppard just nodded in affable agreement. He had crystal fragments in his hair. It looked a little like Christmas tree tinsel.
“Vacuum energy. Zero point energy. The beautiful efficiency of the process feeding itself: it’s practically a paradox of simultaneous transmission. God, I’m a genius! Now get off me.”
Still grinning, and with one last jab at Rodney’s solar plexus, Sheppard did.
The next time something went wrong (It’s been 15 days since our last kidnapping/drugging/unpardonable offense of a native deity), Lorne’s team failed to report in on time, and when Parrish’s transmission finally came through the wormhole an hour late, it was a mess of jumbled static with the clear sounds of gunfire punctuating the snatches of “…ambush…Genii……wounded….request……”
John, of course, had suited up approximately 10 minutes after missed check-in, and practically had one foot through the wormhole – figuratively speaking – by the time Rodney even got the call. Ronon came to get him in the lab, tossing him his tac vest, as Rodney scrambled the life signs detector and a couple of stray powerbars into his pockets. In the gateroom, Teyla took his 9mm, loaded the clip, checked the release, and buckled it back into his thigh holster, and then Sheppard looked up from his huddle of marines and said, “This is a military search and rescue operation. No civilian personnel.” And he was staring right at Rodney.
Ronon just said, “We’re your team, Sheppard,” in a tone that clearly meant the Colonel could take them all off-world with him, or he could engage in an embarrassing altercation in front of god and everybody, in which he would get his ass kicked, his intelligence belittled and his authority undermined.
Rodney’s little rush of vindication carried him through mission brief, jumper pre-flight, and aerial reconnaissance. In fact, it wasn’t until he was shot in the gut and bleeding out in the oozing green mud of TRW-692 that he remembered his serious and justifiable misgivings about being involved in military operations.
“Rodney. Fuck! Fuck!” Sheppard was saying, as he pressed his hands over the hole in Rodney’s abdomen. That turned out to be actually shockingly painful, and Rodney felt the edges of his consciousness dim a little.
There were several bursts of gunfire, none of which seemed close, and at least one large explosion. At some later point, John was snapping impatiently, “give me the…give me the goddamn –“ Ronon appeared suddenly, carrying the bottom half of Rodney’s stretcher and up close he smelled, oddly, like Kraft cheese spread and ketchup. There was more gunfire, but it somehow lacked urgency. He tried to summon up some righteous fury at the endlessly conniving and duplicitous Genii, but could only access a vague well of irritation related to having his death associated with such a festering backwater pit of a planet.
He didn’t remember getting to the jumper, but he could sense the initialization sequence coming online. Then John was there, running his fingers over Rodney’s chest and neck, up into his hair. This seemed to go on somehow forever. Both before and after this, a hand skimmed down along his jaw, the rough pad of a thumb briefly catching against his lower lip. The morphine dream tipped slowly into black, and right before he lost consciousness, Rodney’s last thought was, if Sheppard was back here with him, then who exactly was flying the jumper?
The answer to that question turned out to be Corporal Derrick Hanneman, barely legal, barely trained, and barely ATA-compliant. Rodney was glad all over again that he hadn’t been awake for the trip.
It was the Atlantis equivalent of early April, the air on the balconies starting to come in with that green scent from the mainland, and with it the kind of news that firmly quashed all optimistic thoughts of new beginnings. First, word came down that the Daedalus was discontinuing re-supply runs for the foreseeable future. The situation on Earth was too uncertain, the situation in the Pegasus Galaxy always unstable. Although Elizabeth assured everyone that the measures were temporary, it was easy to see in her exhausted face, the defeated slump of her shoulders, that they were really on their own.
It shouldn’t have been such a blow, at least not to the senior staff, the first wave. After all, they’d been cut off from Earth before. But there was somehow something worse about the deliberate decision; it felt like a rejection, a vote of no confidence. And to really ram the point home, the Wraith had picked up momentum, and the very next day SGA-3 stumbled into the middle of a full-scale culling on ATF-221 (It’s been 0 days since our last kidnapping/drugging/loss of strategic advantage).
They hadn’t been able to save more than a handful of refugees, and Sheppard had lost four men. Ten more were wounded, and Teyla and Ronon both were laid up in the infirmary. And, of course, the Wraith now knew they were still around – if not in Atlantis, then somewhere in Pegasus – and they would come looking.
In retrospect, Rodney should have seen it coming. He should have known Sheppard would take it personally – ridiculously, disproportionately, personally. And he should have known, somehow or other, that it would lead to this. But he was demoralized himself, and exhausted, operating on even less sleep than usual. And trudging back to his quarters from the infirmary (lab, infirmary -- Ronon was afraid of needles--, quarters, lab, mess, infirmary --Teyla hated hospital food--), he couldn’t stop thinking, for some stupid reason, about the little purple berries they had traded for on ATF-221 – the ones that tasted like licorice.
So he was unprepared – although, honestly, when would he ever have been prepared – to find Lt. Colonel John Sheppard sitting on the unmade bed in his unlit quarters. He was too tired to even effectively express his startlement, only muttering, “Jesus,” and stumbling back into the already closed door. Sheppard got up and came over to him quickly, then stopped about a foot away, with his head down. For a moment nobody said anything, and Rodney had time to notice that the Colonel was shaking, a slight tremor running through his entire body. Rodney had gotten to the point of opening his mouth – although with no idea of what was going to come out of it – when Sheppard moved in the last few inches and just pressed himself into Rodney.
“Rodney…please…please,” he whispered into Rodney’s neck, sounding sick, sounding wrecked, sounding like he had personally witnessed the wives been separated from their husbands, the parents being ripped from their children, the life being sucked out of the chest of a twenty four year old marine from Pensacola, Florida – which, actually, he probably had. And Rodney had absolutely no idea what Sheppard was asking for, but the answer, obviously, the answer was yes.
Rodney hesitantly brought both arms up around John, one at the small of his back, one at the soft nape of his neck, and Sheppard seemed to sag with relief, hiccoughing out a sigh. And Rodney clutched him carefully tighter, feeling elated, amazing, like the most brilliant man in two galaxies, that he could do this with his hands, that he could give this to John. This whole bizarre touching thing, he reflected, with the immediate feedback loop and the, whatever, transference, was actually an incredibly good idea, remarkably efficient for stress management. They had it down to a science really, and it didn’t require any special steps, no arcane meditation rituals, or obnoxious open-ended therapy questions like ‘how did that make you –‘
And then John was sliding his lips up Rodney’s neck to his jaw. He was kissing Rodney, on the lips, with his lips. And tongue. And even as Rodney tilted his head and opened his mouth he was thinking, Oh god, I should have known. All that excessive touching, all the conditioning had wreaked some sort of horribly derailed Pavlovian response in John – it was just Psychology 101 – Rodney should have been able to predict this. Even if he scoffed at the paltry pseudo-science of most psychological explanation, still he was a genius, and it didn’t take a genius to see that touch with comfort, with relief, with happiness even, a reward of some type, that it was only a small step –down a very steep slope—to associating that same source, however inappropriate, with another kind of relief, another kind of touching altogether. My god, he’d completely re-written Sheppard’s psycho-sexual map! But even as he was frantically wondering how the hell he was going to fix this, Sheppard sucked his lower lip into his mouth, then released it, huffing warm breath into Rodney’s face. “God,” he said, “God, Rodney.” And really, Rodney was never going to say no before, and he was never going to say no now. And he was certainly never going to say no as John slid gracefully to his knees, hands working at Rodney’s belt buckle.
Rodney McKay was one of the last few renaissance men: he was a theoretician and an experimentalist. And he knew that theory, even the most beautiful, flawlessly reasoned, impeccably formulated theory, had to bow in the face of empirical evidence. And so Rodney didn’t spend too much time worrying about the fact that he was straight, and that he’d never done this before. Instead, he experimented with rubbing his spit-slick thumb in little fast circles over the head of Sheppard’s cock, dragging the flats of his fingers up and twisting, pulling back, pushing down, hard, then soft, over the vein, again and again, tight around the base, circling the shaft – and Sheppard was arching up and off the bed, his mouth tipping open and his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
Obviously, it was no surprise to anyone that Sheppard was a cuddler. Rodney fell asleep with John’s face mashed into his collarbone, John’s right hand clutching Rodney’s hip. And when he woke up in the morning, John was gone.
Rodney was going to do something about it, he really was, maybe even break into Heightmeyer’s office and steal a book or two if he absolutely had to. But it kept falling to the end of the queue. There was, first off, the slightly more pressing problem of the Wraith and what to do about them. Which mostly seemed to entail gearing up the military to armeggedon-esque levels of preparedness, and sitting around waiting for Science to pull 43 miracles out of its collective ass.
By the time John came to him a second time, Rodney had spent an entire week forgetting there was even a Stimulus-Response problem to correct. He had no solution to deliver, and so he just did what he always did in those circumstances, he employed a series of stop-gap measures until he had more time to devote to the problem, or it went away by itself.
Of course, Rodney was not just a brilliant astrophysicist, he was also a superlative engineer. By the third week he had mastered jerking another guy off. And by the sixth week he could give a blowjob that had John coming in five minutes, or kept him on the verge for twenty.
When he passed him in the hall on his way to the second emergency science staff meeting of the day, and Sheppard growled, “We need to talk, McKay,” and steered him into the nearest supply closet with a hand to his elbow, it turned out to be a euphemism for something completely different. Sheppard was fresh from his special-ops/commando/ninja stealth training camp on the mainland, and he still had traces of grease paint on his face and dirt under his fingernails. He pressed Rodney back into the shelves of recycled paper napkins, deftly unfastening Rodney’s belt with his left hand while using his right to work open his own, and Rodney went from panicked to eager in roughly 15 seconds.
They were touching, bare skin to bare skin, from mid-thigh to lower ribs, and John lined them up and started moving his hips, rubbing off against Rodney’s cock, small rough circles against the inside of his leg, the crease of his thigh. He brought his hands up to thread through Rodney’s hair, and began to press unexpectedly gentle kisses along Rodney’s cheekbones, down the side of his face, swiping his tongue softly against Rodney’s lips, all while his thrusting became more and more frantic, Rodney rising up to meet him, holding on urgently to fistfuls of John’s shirt, his fingers brushing against the sweaty dip of John’s lower back. John’s mouth found his ear, tongue lightly tracing the rim at the same time he pressed in hard to the hinge of Rodney’s jaw with his right thumb, pivoting his hips against Rodney’s hips, sliding his cock along Rodney’s cock, and just like that, Rodney was taken apart, re-distributed; he was making some sort of desperate sound in the back of his throat; he was coming all over John and dragging him over with him, until they both finally stuttered to a stop.
“Well, Colonel..” Rodney said into the silence that followed John cleaning them up and the both of them struggling back into their clothes. “I’m glad we had this little talk.” But he hadn’t completely recovered even now, and his voice came out weak, a little shaky.
John grinned. “Me too,” he said, reaching forward to swipe a smear of black paint off Rodney’s cheek, and lingering to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. Then he was walking back out into the hall, winking back over his shoulder and calling out, “Keep up the good work, McKay. You can give me a progress report at our next meeting.”
Rodney was still processing that last brief touch of lips, and so he was several beats too late, declaiming loudly, and to the already closed door, “Right! Right! Of course! You too, Colonel!”
When four Wraith reconnaissance darts careened onto mid-range sensors, the orange alert protocols came on automatically, and Atlantis held its breath. Rodney watched with everyone else in the gateroom as the scouts criss-crossed the mainland, swooping in lower and lower passes over the former Athosian settlement. The four ships converged on the last known coordinates of the city of Atlantis, taking careful and repeated measurements of the empty ocean, and the inhabitants of the city of Atlantis continued to track their trackers – the four darts, the hive ship in geosynchronous orbit, the fleet 3 AUs away at the second moon – from a spot roughly 2000 miles south and east, tucked around the curve of the planet.
The darts eventually left, but the hive ship stayed, and so did the fleet. People were scared, on edge, unable to resume their normal duties, accreting in clumps along the main thoroughfares and in the common areas. People were whispering in the hallways. And Rodney really couldn’t take that on top of everything else.
“My god, you people really are that stupid!” he bellowed, causing a nearby Marine Biologist to actually jump a couple of inches into the air. “Do you actually believe the Wraith might be able to hear you? Through the shield? And several miles of atmosphere?!” Everybody glared, but then looked a little sheepish, and a little bit relieved. “Don’t you people have jobs to do?” Rodney continued, snapping his fingers for emphasis, oblivious to the briefly favorable change in mood. “Where are my scientists? Somebody better actually be getting some work done around here,” and he swept down the hall in search of his team – his science team. His other team, he knew, was holed up in the gym, alternating stick fighting, with incense assisted meditation, with blind-folded extreme hula-hooping for all Rodney knew, in an effort to keep Teyla in her own head and out of any Wraith’s, and any Wraith’s out of hers. And Rodney was here, in the lab, doing his damndest to devise a way to keep those fuckers out of all of their heads, permanently.
In the end, what they engineered was another stop-gap measure, but a stop-gap measure that was, honestly and objectively, a work of sheer brilliance. Radek, Miko and Simpson had come through in spades, working off Rodney’s original breakthrough with the looping micro-source. The power output was too small to work as the base for an effective weapon against the Wraith, but the self-amplifying trick of regenerating vacuum meant you had an almost undepletable battery. An undepletable battery that, due to the quantumly unknowable nature of its random recharging bursts, produced a constantly varying and, in principle, untrackable signal. An undepletable battery with an un-lockable signal that could be issued to all Atlantis personnel, and would mask the user’s electromagnetic signature, including – Rodney had made sure, even though he continued to refuse to believe in telepathy, just on principle – EM fields generated by the brain. With a few superficial adjustments to the expedition’s outward appearance (new clothes), and the design of their weapons and gear (Rodney was thinking something in a late Iron Age), a strict policy of ‘No cloak – No off-world joy ride’, and they could fly under the radar indefinitely.
There was, apparently, going to be a party later with a plan for Elizabeth to toast them all (it turned out that Kavanaugh had even managed to contribute a not inelegant molybdenum-monocarbide casing for the device). But Rodney was dead on his feet. Had been dead on his feet for the last three days. And the most that could reasonably be asked of him was that he make it to his own bed before he lost consciousness somewhere considerably less comfortable, less horizontal, and less likely to prevent irreparable damage to his psyche or his lower back.
They let him sleep for twelve hours. And then they came to drag him off to the team-building room. Teyla pressed her forehead firmly against his, her voice trembling with emotion as she said, “Rodney, I cannot express…” and closed her eyes and started over. “I will never forget this gift you have given me.” She was wearing the prototype PID on a chain around her neck, and it looked like some kind of expensive hippie jewelry. Torn between sheer embarrassment and debilitating grogginess, Rodney found himself mumbling, “I wish I could have done more.” And then Ronon grabbed him by the back of the neck with one hand and began shaking him like a newborn kitten --probably inducing widespread contusions that would later lead to stroke-- until Sheppard made him stop.
They had cued up some, no doubt terrible movie from the 80s, and they were all so clearly going insane from their long enforced down time on Atlantis, missing the chance to band together against hordes of hostile natives, that Rodney let them manhandle him onto the couch. It was equally clear that nobody actually expected him to watch the movie. So he didn’t, promptly falling asleep with his head in John’s lap, and his feet in Teyla’s, Ronon stretched out on the floor in front of the three of them.
He and Sheppard continued to have regular sex. And they continued, just as regularly, not to talk about it. Things, for once, were going ok (It’s been 40 days since our last kidnapping/drugging/non-recreational use of a deadly weapon). Everything was (mostly) functioning; the Wraith weren’t going to come for them in the middle of the night (at least not right away). And, on closer consideration, why the hell would he take steps to stop getting laid on a regular basis?
“Got your party pants on?” John asked, strolling into Rodney’s quarters. Rodney rolled his eyes as he snapped the buckles of his tac vest together.
“That joke really never gets old does it, Colonel?”
“Nuh-uh,” John replied, grinning.
The original homespun had given Rodney itchy dry welts in all his most tender areas – yes, thank you, he did have sensitive skin. Teyla had commissioned a much finer weave for him, with thread made from a different plant – somewhere between silk and cotton – and then paid extra for what passed for high quality hypo-allergenic dyes in Pegasus – at least it wasn’t a fungus Rodney was actively intolerant of. The combination added up to a set of garments that the Athosians wore for ceremonial and festival purposes. And so, yes, technically, every day Rodney was wearing his party pants.
John stopped him just as he was getting ready to buckle his thigh holster in place. “Let me,” he said, reaching for the leather strap and smoothing it into place around Rodney’s leg, never breaking his gaze as he brushed one hand a little higher than was probably absolutely necessary, making a production of drawing the strap through the buckle, his lower lip drawn between his teeth, his shoulder brushing Rodney’s chest. “There you go,” he said finally, but instead of stepping back, he just straightened slightly, coming to stand well within Rodney’s personal space, a smirk tugging at both corners of his mouth. And really, Rodney was not about to give him the satisfaction. Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, it turned out, in the right circumstances, and for the right people, could be quite the exhibitionist. But Rodney himself had no intention whatsoever of stepping through the wormhole with a hard-on his hand tailored, smoothly clinging Athosian formal wear would do approximately nothing to hide.
“Thank you, Colonel,” Rodney snapped, pushing Sheppard away with a firm shove to both shoulders. “Now, I believe we have an engagement off-world?” John seemed to wilt slightly at this rebuff, but quickly recovered, bowing Rodney to the door, and pestering him all the way to the gateroom until, beyond exasperated, Rodney grated out, “Yes! Yes, I’ll save a dance for you. Are you happy now?”